10 heroic Catholic stories from 2021

Eric Talley funeral outside Police officers watch as altar servers enter the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver for the funeral of police officer Eric Talley. | Ted Mast.

The Catholic Church has many heroic individuals, and CNA was fortunate to cover some of their stories this past year. We invite you to read about 10 heroic people and projects we covered in 2021—from doctors and healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, to underground bishops, religious, and refugees living in war-torn countries.

Afghan Christian’s plea to CNA: ‘You are my last hope’

Kareem* first contacted CNA on Aug. 24, amid the exodus of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. By that time, he had bid a painful goodbye to his family and joined throngs of other Afghan civilians at the gates to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The Taliban had killed his father and brother because both men, who were Muslim, had worked with allied forces during the war. In the frenzy leading up to the Biden administration’s Aug. 31 exit deadline, Afghan civilians—like Kareem—and their advocates turned to aid groups, well-connected insiders, and anyone else they could think of asking for help, before it was too late.

*Kareem is a pseudonym used to protect his safety.

Myanmar Catholic nun says Eucharistic adoration gave her strength to kneel before police

On March 8, Sr. Ann Rose Nu Tawng captured the world’s attention when she knelt before police in the city of Myitkyina, urging them not to use violence against protesters after Burma’s military coup. The religious sister said that the Holy Spirit prompted her to kneel between the police and protesters and that she drew her strength from prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.  Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, has experienced some of the worst violence as security forces continue to crack down on protesters of the Feb. 1 military coup.

Eric Talley funeral: Catholic father of seven ‘died a hero’ 

Police officer Eric Talley, 51, was reportedly the first on the scene in response to a gunman opening fire at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, on March 22. Talley, a Catholic father of seven, was one of 10 people killed during the shooting. Talley gave his life to save others, said Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila during the funeral Mass, which was held at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver.

Dan Lipinski calls for protection of 'most vulnerable' as he leaves US Congress

Dan Lipinksi, an eight-term Catholic House Democrat, said farewell to Congress in January after serving eight terms. Lipinski lost his March 2020 primary to new Congresswoman Marie Newman by fewer than 3,000 votes. He was known for being a reliable pro-life vote and one of the last remaining pro-life Democrats in the House, with a "B" rating from the Susan B. Anthony List and one of only two sitting House Democrats endorsed by Democrats for Life of America in 2020.

Pope Francis greets Colombian nun freed 4 years after kidnapping by Islamists in Mali

Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti, a nun from Columbia, was freed four years after being kidnapped by Islamists in Mali. Sr. Gloria, a member of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, was kidnapped in Karangasso, about 90 miles south of San, near the border with Burkina Faso, on Feb. 7, 2017. The kidnappers were going to take the youngest nun, but Sr. Gloria, who served 12 years before the kidnapping, reportedly volunteered to take her place. In October, after she was released, she received a blessing from Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Murdered British lawmaker was Catholic, pro-life

British lawmaker Sir David Amess died Oct. 15 after suffering multiple stab wounds at a Methodist church in southeast England. Amess, 69, was a Member of Parliament since 1983 and a member of the Conservative party. He was Catholic, pro-life, and reportedly a strong supporter of Catholic education and animal welfare. Amess was holding a meeting with his constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church when the attack took place.

More in US

‘I offer the pain I’m going through’: Shot Catholic bishop-elect prays for purification of S Sudan diocese

Fr. Christian Carlassare, the Bishop-Elect of Rumbek, was shot in both legs when two armed men fired multiple bullets at him after breaking into his room at the priests’ residence at Holy Family Cathedral in Rumbek in the early hours of April 26. He was later airlifted to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, for specialized treatment. He offered up his pain with the hope that God would purify his diocese in South Sudan.

Underground Catholic bishop dies in China

Bishop Andrea Han Jingtao, 99, a leader in the underground Catholic Church in China, died Dec. 30. Han was the underground Bishop of Siping. He was secretly appointed bishop of Siping in 1982, but his consecration could only happen in 1986. After being put under strict house surveillance in 1997, he continued to tend his flock under constant threat, convening secret gatherings and encouraging the laity to remain steadfast in faith and charity.

Catholic doctor honored for service during COVID-19 pandemic

Major Daniel E. O'Connell, MD, MPH, received this year’s Catholic Doctor of the Year Award for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A neurologist, O’Connell said his Catholic faith is integral to his medical career. O’Connell is also a medical officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, and, on April 4, 2020, he was asked to deploy within 24 hours to New York City, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He served at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, which he said was the second-most hit hospital in the city at the time.

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The Hero Art Project connects artists with families of healthcare workers lost to COVID-19

More than 100 healthcare workers have been honored in The Hero Art Project, a digital portrait art exhibit recognizing healthcare workers whose lives were lost to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years. Portrait artists were selected by family members of the healthcare workers with the help of ARTHOUSE.NYC, a digital art gallery. The portraits have been displayed in a variety of digital settings over the last year, including in the windows of large buildings, on digital kiosks at bus stops, and on billboards in the “Big Screen Plaza” at 29th Street and Sixth Avenue in New York City.

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