Providence, R.I., Oct 5, 2013 (CNA) - The poverty rate is deepening in Rhode Island and in response the Diocese of Providence is opening its arms even wider by way of its ministries.
While Pope Francis recently referred to poverty as a “scandal,” and called for a greater sharing among the world’s people of the planet’s vast resources, the Diocese of Providence has for many years led a successful, multi-faceted outreach effort to help meet the needs of the less fortunate in its midst.
Diocesan ministries continue to meet the growing need of the homeless, the poor, the disadvantaged who cannot afford to heat their homes, the elderly poor and young mothers and families.
That poverty is growing in Rhode Island was confirmed last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. The poverty rate was 13.6 percent — up slightly from the 2010 census — the highest in New England. The national average is 15 percent, the bureau reported.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said last week that being a Catholic does not mean having to choose between doctrine and charity, between truth and love. It includes both, he said, noting the array of diocesan ministries offered to care for those in need at all stages of life.
As the starting point for families in need, the diocesan Office of Family and Life sponsors The Gabriel Project as an outreach for women during and beyond pregnancy, said Director Carol Owens.
The program assists by providing material, physical and spiritual help and by offering resources through diocesan social ministry programs as well as government programs.
The needs of the mothers run from diapers to strollers, baby clothing to high chairs, Loiselle said. “We rely on donations from the diocese to help them.”
Hanoi Hernandez, 34, the single mother of three, works as a certified nursing assistant and hopes to earn enough money to attend a class to become an income tax preparer.
“It meant a lot (going to The Gabriel Project) because you know the first time you go that you are welcome,” she said. “Anything that I needed they provided. It is a lot of work. I am hoping to find a way.”
For those facing homelessness, so many men are finding their way to the diocesan supported Emmanuel House shelter in South Providence that it has been consistently strained to operate at its capacity of 35 each night for the past two years. The men start lining up to get inside for a hot meal and a mat to sleep on shortly before 7 p.m., seven days a week.
Bishop Tobin contributed to the shelter the proceeds from the diocesan Lumen Gentium Awards Banquet that honored lay people throughout the diocese for their volunteer work in their local parishes and in diocesan programs. The donation has enabled the shelter to remain open through the summer and not close in the spring at the end of the inclement seasons as it customarily does.
Dottie Perreault, the director of Emmanuel House, who at one time was homeless herself, said that from last winter until now, the shelter has seen more first-time homeless, especially following Hurricane Sandy last year.
“They are middle-aged people who always worked but were let go by their companies. Many were barely hanging on to their homes and were foreclosed,” Perrault said.
Emmanuel House opened in 2010 as a cold weather hazard shelter.
“I don’t know if I could sustain my sobriety without faith,” Perreault said. “All my staffers are in recovery on both sides of the fence. Our clients respect our judgment and advice. We find they discuss their problems with us instead of acting out.”
The Diocese of Providence’s Catholic Charity Appeal has also provided significant grants to the diocesan heating assistance program that provides immediate relief to those who cannot afford their heating bill and those in danger of utility shut-offs.
Keep the Heat On provides heating assistance to Rhode Islanders who have exhausted all other public and private forms of assistance, and has raised more than $1.5 million to help more than 5,400 Rhode Island families and individuals coping with financial struggles with oil, gas or electric bills since 2005.
“What started as a safety net to help those coping with rising energy costs seven years ago has become a critical heating assistance program for those Rhode Islanders with no place left to turn for help,” said Bishop Tobin.
Funded by grants from the Catholic Charity Appeal and donations from generous individuals and businesses who believe that no Rhode Island family should be forced to live without heat during the winter months, Keep the Heat On provides heat when all other assistance options are exhausted. Last year, the bishop awarded a total of $50,000 from the Catholic Charity Appeal to provide heat for those otherwise who could not afford this basic human need.
In the 2012-2013 heating season, the diocese assistance program assisted over 1,017 households with heating assistance, according to Jim Jahnz, Emergency Services coordinator of the Diocese of Providence.
“It was an incredibly trying time for Rhode Island families,” said Jahnz. “Over the past few years, we have seen a steady climb in the number of households that we have helped. There was a definite spike during the 2008-2009 heating season (coinciding with the height of the recession), but our numbers have steadily increased and are reaching the level of the 2008-2009 season again.”
Staff at the diocese’s St. Martin de Porres Senior/Multipurpose Center report increasing numbers of individuals seeking their senior services.
Established in 1970, the Center collaborates with more than 40 area agencies to serve the elderly, their families and the disabled.
“We predominantly serve the low income African-American and Hispanic population,” Esther Price, executive director. “Poverty does not come in a vacuum, we serve the children and grandchildren of our population. We advocate for them in every way. They are not going to hang on the phone for Social Security, pushing 1,2,3,4. We cut through the red tape. When we call or when we call and say we are calling for the diocese we get results for them.”
Need is deepening judging from the numbers of people coming to the food pantry at the center. Visitors to the pantry have increased in the past month, said Price.
Where the center would see 11 people a week earlier this year seeking food or clothing, the number has climbed to 30 people a week, and when the number children supported by each pantry user is multiplied, “all of a sudden I am saying, ‘We are going to need more food,” Price said.
Posted with permission from the Rhode Island Catholic, official publication of the Diocese of Providence.
Washington D.C., Oct 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As a weathered wooden writing desk tours the U.S., its drawers stained black with century-old ink, its presence helps bring the faithful closer to the saint who used it to pen “Story of a Soul” – Thérèse of Lisieux.
The relics, which also include a wooden pen and a small glass ink well, are a “very human and very intimate remembrance of the Little Flower,” said Father Andrew Small, OMI, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.
The tour of the writing instruments that the saint used in the last years of her life have served both as a means of teaching the faithful about St. Thérèse and as a way for the faithful to share their stories of the impact she has made in their lives.
People “just identify with her,” Fr. Small told CNA Oct. 3, adding that many coming to see the relics spoke about the comfort and friendship St. Thérèse provides “when people are most distraught.”
“This is a way we get closer to Thérèse, whom we know is close to God,” the priest said of the artifacts.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whom Pope Pius X in the early 20th century called “the greatest saint of modern times,” lived a quiet life, speaking in her spiritual autobiography of her desire “to be unknown.” She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 on Sept. 30, 1897 in the Carmelite convent of Lisieux, France, which she had never left after entering at the age of 15.
However, through her writings to missionaries and the distribution of her spiritual autobiography “Story of a Soul,” St. Thérèse’s “Little Way” of doing small things with great love has been an inspiration to Catholics around the world and made her the patron saint of missionaries.
The pen, ink well and lap desk that St. Thérèse used for the last three years of her life to write letters, prayers, poems, and her memoirs, including parts of her spiritual autobiography, were last used Sept. 8, 1897.
They are currently on loan to the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, visiting over 20 dioceses in the U.S. and leaving the Carmelite convent in France for the first time since the convent was founded. They will next be in St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 5-6.
St. Thérèse “knew that the way to purify herself and her faith was uniting herself with Christ in every moment of every day,” Fr. Small explained.
“Her ‘Little Way’ is to see every second of every minute of every hour as a moment when we can encounter Christ, most especially during the times of triumph and suffering and seeming despair,” he continued.
“It’s not easy to see the world this way – it’s the narrow gate that we hear about in the Gospel, or the Little Way that we read about in the Story of a Soul.”
This approach has drawn many close to the saint, Fr. Small said, adding that while touring the country with the relics, he has heard countless stories of the example St. Thérèse has shown people in some of the most difficult times of their lives, that “nothing could separate us from the love of Christ.”
“It’s almost overwhelming how Thérèse is accredited with accompanying people in the most terrible and awful moments of their lives.”
The artifacts have “very much personalized her in everyday life,” serving as a link to her life, Fr. Small continued, adding that they are “this incredible way of uniting people to the cell where she lived and died.”
“They feel already so very close with Thérèse, and this brings them even closer.”
“It’s very personal,” Fr. Small stated, and “it’s that proximity that makes people feel very loved.”
Fr. Small said that those who wish to leave intentions for St. Thérèse are given cards with her shield on one side. They can write their intentions on the cards, which are then placed next to the desk, and will be placed on the saint’s grave when St. Thérèse’s artifacts return to Lisieux.
Despite the saint’s “too-good-to-be-true” story, and her focus on love, meekness and childlike dependence upon God, Thérèse’s life and approach to spirituality can be an inspiration in difficult times, especially for youth of today’s world, Fr. Small explained.
“She had no sense, even in the darkness of her later years, that she was alone,” he stated, and her life demonstrated that “faith is not a fruitless or useless human exercise.”
“There’s nothing unreal or surreal about the Story of a Soul: it’s the story of every soul.”
Assisi, Italy, Oct 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The last living person whom the Bishop of Assisi saved from being killed during the Holocaust met with Pope Francis yesterday, thanking him for the Church's role in protecting her people.
“Thank you for what the Church did for us,” Graziella Viterbi, 88, told Pope Francis Oct. 4 at the archbishop's residence in Assisi, where her family fled as refugees in 1943.
“I thank you,” Pope Francis replied. “Pray for me.”
Before this exchange, the two had greeted each other, both saying “shalom.”
The two met in the “hall of divestment,” the room in the bishop's residence where St. Francis stripped off his clothes and embraced a life of poverty dedicated to Christ.
Pope Francis is the first Pope in 800 years to have visited the room, where many Jews stayed during World War II.
Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, of the Diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, said in his address at the meeting that in that very hall, his predecessor, Bishop Giuseppe Nicolini, had welcomed many Jews during the time of Nazi occupation.
Around 200 Jewish refugees moved to Assisi during World War II, where there had never before been a Jewish community. Viterbi's father, Emilio, moved his family there in 1943.
Emilio Viterbi had been a highly esteemed professor at the University of Padua, but lost his position there in 1938 when Italy's fascist government issued racial laws which excluded Jews from higher education and public office.
In 1943, the Viterbis moved to Assisi after Italy's armistice with the Allies. Assisi attracted many refugees as its location in central Italy was closer to the front lines. The north of Italy, including Padua, was at the time under Nazi control.
Bishop Nicolini, who was a Benedictine and had been Bishop of Assisi since 1928, built a clandestine network to help Jews, saving them from Nazi persecution. Very few Assisi residents were even aware of the some 200 Jews among the refugees in their city.
According to Graziella Viterbi, Bishop Nicolini “kept the authentic identity cards of all the Jews hidden in Assisi in a niche right behind his working desk.”
Bishop Nicolini managed the secret network together with his secretary, Fr. Aldo Brunacci; Fr. Rufino Nicacci, Franciscan guardian of the Church of San Damiano; and with Michele Todde, of a convent in the city.
More than 300 Jews were saved by the network, which disguised them in convents and monasteries, especially among cloistered women.
The network was spread across a wide area, including even Florence and Genoa, some 250 miles away. The late cyclist Gino Bartali, who was recognized this year as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel, reportedly served as messenger for Bishop Nicolini's network.
The network was completed by two typographers, Luigi and Trento Brizi, who printed false documents for the Jewish refugees. Viterbi recounted that the city's mayor, Arnaldo Fontini, cared for all her family's religious objects, “hiding everything in his garden.”
Vatican City, Oct 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On Thursday, 41 seminarians studying at the North American College in Rome were ordained deacons for their respective dioceses in the United States and Australia.
The 41 men lay prostrate on the floor of St. Peter's Basilica Oct. 3 while the Litany of Saints was prayed over them, before they made life-long commitments, promising obedience to their bishops, daily prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, and celibacy.
As he lay on the cold marble, Deacon Christopher Brashears of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City was overwhelmed by “surreal feelings” and “an immense feeling of joy (and) peace,” he recounted in an interview with CNA.
Deacon Brashears was blessed to experience the beginning of what Cardinal James Harvey, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul outside-the-walls, spoke of in his homily: “We, family and friends, pray that their joy will be one that grows with the years, that they will carry to the grave.”
Cardinal Harvey spoke of how the vocation to holy orders entails a life-long commitment to the Church, which is not without its challenges. “You surrender one of the most prized possessions that you have: your free will to the will of your superior, your bishop.”
“But by doing so, every function of your ministry is in conformity with the will of God in which you are nearest to Christ, victim-priest, who was obedient even unto death.”
“It is the final assurance of the tender embrace of Christ who reminds you in the Gospel, 'it is not you who chose me, it is I who chose you to go and bear fruit that will last.'”
Deacon Jonathan Ficara, newly ordained for the Diocese of Norwich, told CNA that he has felt the grace of Christ in his life in the years he has spent discerning his vocation.
“It’s incredible, the Lord’s grace and his mercy during those years. Those low points in one’s life oftentimes are the moments when the Lord touches you and fills you with his love, and that’s really what he did.”
Deacon Ficara had not always been interested in joining the seminary. He had been studying psychology at the University of Connecticut, where he was “very much immersed in ‘Greek’ life. I was a fraternity guy. And very active in the ‘Greek scene’ in a certain sense.”
When he was president of a fraternity, however, he felt the Lord’s call. “It was sort of subtle, like a whisper, in a certain sense. I was praying and I really realized that this was truly my vocation.”
Deacon Ficara’s mother Sandra, who traveled over 3,000 miles to be at her son’s ordination, said, “it’s been a long time coming. I’m extremely happy. I couldn’t wait for this day.”
Cardinal Harvey expressed similar feelings in his homily. “We at the altar, your families and friends, the whole Church, are filled with joy because God has once again manifested his might and his goodness” in choosing such men for service to the Church.
The cardinal went on to stress that the diaconate, and future priesthood, are truly vocations of “service to the word, service at the altar, service in pastoral charity,” which can only be strengthened by prayer.
“Through prayer, especially by praying the psalms, you learn from the heart of Jesus the secret of love for others: true love, how to touch people’s wounds without making them sting, how to dress those wounds without reopening them.”
Sandra Ficara noted how her son’s vocation had already yielded grace for their whole family and the wider community. “He’s helped us all individually when we have times of difficulty, and then he’s also there during times of joy. And I see that within the parish during his summer assignments.”
Fr. Gregory Galvin, vocations director for the Diocese of Norwich, agreed that the ordination of so many men is both a fruit and source of grace for the wider Church.
“It’s a great joy, but it’s a joy that not only rooted in seeing one of our own men ordained, but seeing all 41 men ordained, because that’s a sign of things happening across the country, and vocations are up and they’re up in our diocese as well, so it gives us great hope for the future and for the Church,” he told CNA.
The men were ordained by Cardinal Harvey, while Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and Cardinal Bernard Law, Archpriest Emeritus of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, assisted in choir.
Eight bishops and 300 priests concelebrated the Mass, said at the altar of the chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Rome, Italy, Oct 5, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Papal delegate overseeing the Legion of Christ has announced that the order's general chapter will commence Jan. 8, 2014, to establish new constitutions for the order and to elect its new leaders.
“The General Chapter should represent the whole institute and be 'a true sign of its unity in charity,'” Cardinal Velasio De Paolis wrote in an Oct. 4 letter to the Legionaries of Christ.
“The upcoming Extraordinary General Chapter comes at the end of a long journey of spiritual renewal and will have as its principle purpose the conclusion of the revising of the Constitutions.”
Cardinal De Paolis was appointed as governor of the Legion by Benedict XVI in 2010, after an apostolic visitation determined the order needed “profound re-evaluation.”
In 2006, the order's founder, Fr. Marcel Maciel, had been removed from public ministry and invited to a life of penitence and prayer, as it was discovered he had led a secret life of impropriety.
Cardinal De Paolis said in his letter that he “thought that it would be good to announce (the general chapter) on the day that the Church celebrates the memory of St. Francis of Assisi. Let us place this important event under the protection of the Poverello of Assisi.”
“It comes at the at the conclusion of a long journey of spiritual renewal and effort revising the Constitutions.”
The chapter is expected to last through February, and will consist of meetings held in Rome among a little more than 60 representatives of the Legion. One-third of these delegates will participate by virtue of their office within the order, while two-thirds will be elected by their peers.
Cardinal De Paolis reminded the Legionaries that “this Chapter’s 'main tasks will be the election of a new Government for the Institute and the approval of the new Constitutions' which will have to be presented to the Holy Father.”
He added that other questions will be considered, within the time constraints, and that any member of the order can freely send his wishes and suggestions to the general chapter.
In a statement accompanying Cardinal De Paolis' letter, the Legionaries asked “one and all to pray that Our Lord pour out abundant blessings on all of us during this Extraordinary General Chapter.”
The chapter will also concern Regnum Christi, an affiliated organization for laity.
“Let us prepare spiritually for this moment of grace,” Cardinal De Paolis exhorted the Legionaries, “begging for the Holy Spirit’s assistance and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession.”
“I hope the Lord brings you every good thing. I am keeping you in my prayers.”