Latest News Releases from USCCB
WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso from the Archdiocese of Hartford.
The announcement was publicized in Washington on December 15 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
The Most Reverend Christie Macaluso, D.D., was born in Hartford, Connecticut on June 12, 1945. He attended Saint Mary's Seminary in Baltimore where he earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a master's degree in Sacred Theology. He later earned master's degrees in psychology from New York University and in philosophy from Trinity College. In addition, he studied multiple languages and music.
On May 22, 1971, he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Assignments after ordination included assistant pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Hartford and St. Joseph Parish, in New Britain. He also served as a faculty member of St. Thomas Seminary College and was appointed dean in 1980. In 1985, he became rector and president of Saint Thomas Seminary. During that time, he also served as a weekend assistant at St. Francis Parish in Torrington and Sacred Heart Parish in Bloomfield. From 1991-1997, he served as pastor of the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
In 1995, he was named a prelate of honor, with the title of monsignor, by Pope John Paul II and was also named episcopal vicar for Hartford.
On March 18, 1997, Macaluso was appointed auxiliary bishop of Hartford and titular bishop of Grass Valley. As auxiliary bishop, he has served as vicar general of the Archdiocese of Hartford and moderator of the Curia.
In 2014, he was appointed rector of St. Thomas Seminary.
The Archdiocese of Hartford comprises 2,288 square miles and has total population of approximately 1,938,914 people of which 537,983 or 27 percent are Catholic.
Keywords: Pope Francis, Auxiliary Bishop, Most Reverend Christie Macaluso, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nunciature, Archdiocese of Hartford, vicar general, moderator of the Curia.
WASHINGTON—The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation (NAOCTC) has released its response to the most recent document produced by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Entitled, "Synodality and Primacy During the First Millennium: Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church," this work of the international dialogue was released in September 2016. It is often referred to as, "The Chieti Document," because it was finalized during a meeting in Chieti, Italy.
The NAOCTC, which is co-chaired by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop of Newark and Consultant for the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and by Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, prepared its response during its most recent meeting, which took place in Washington, DC, from 26-28 October. The response praises the Chieti Document "as the fruit of perseverance in fidelity to our one Lord. It is a fruit holding many seeds, potentially yielding a harvest for the countless members of our Churches who experience the division every day in their lives and pray for it to be healed."
The Chieti Document discusses the relationship between primacy and synodality during the first millennium Churches of the East and West. It specifically examines that relationship on three levels: the local, regional and universal. The NAOCTC response reflects upon each of the three levels and offers suggestions for further study and consideration.
The North American dialogue has responded to every agreed statement produced by the International Dialogue including those finalized at Rhodes (1980), Munich (1982), Bari (1987), Valamo (1988), Balamand (1993), and Ravenna (2007).
The Chieti document is posted on the Vatican web site here:
and on the web site of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople here:
The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation was established in 1965 by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America, now the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States, and by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, now the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Since 1997, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has been a co-sponsor.
More information on the work of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, including links to the full text of Statements and other documents, may be found at the respective sites of:
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States:
and The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
The response to the recent document produced by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, "Synodality and Primacy During the First Millennium: Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church," The Chieti Document of the international dialogue can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/ecumenical/orthodox/upload/Chieti-Response.pdf
Keywords: North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation (NAOCTC), Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, Catholic Church, Vatican, Orthodox Church, "Synodality, Primacy, common understanding, unity of the Church, international dialogue, The Chieti Document, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Metropolitan Methodios, dialogue.
WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered the following statement of solidarity with the people of California.
Full statement follows:
"On this holy day of the Immaculate Conception, we commit ourselves to the loving protection of Mary the Mother of God and patroness of America. Let us remember, especially, her sons and daughters in danger from the terrible wildfires in California, both those whose homes are in the fire's path and those courageous first responders and firefighters who are putting their lives at risk. Please find a moment today, whether after Mass or while gathered as a family around the Advent wreath, to pray a Rosary in gratitude for Mary's gifts to humanity and entrusting to her protection our sisters and brothers in the fire's path. I am sure all the faithful join me in saying: we stand ready to help in the recovery."
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, California, Mary, Mother of God, Immaculate Conception, Advent wreath, Rosary, humanity, protection, first responders, firefighters, recovery.
WASHINGTON— On Tuesday, December 12, the Catholic Church
will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas
and the Unborn. Celebrations in dioceses across the nation will be held
throughout the month of December to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. These events
seek to honor the accomplishments, hopes, fears, and needs of all families who
have come to the U.S. seeking a better life.
"As we enter the Advent season and Christmas
approaches, we are reminded of the unique role and importance of Our Lady of
Guadalupe, a unifier and peacebuilder for communities. We honor her role as
protectress of families, including those families separated and far from
home," stated Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Texas, and Chairman
of the USCCB Committee on Migration.
Over 55 prayer services, Masses, processions and other
events will be held in dioceses across the country as the Catholic Church
continues to accompany migrants and refugees seeking opportunity to provide for
their families. On December 12, 2017, a Mass honoring our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated by the Most Reverend Mario Dorsonville, Auxiliary
Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, at St. Peter's Church in Washington,
DC at 12:10 PM. All are welcome to attend.
For more information, please visit the Justice for Immigrants (JFI) website at https://justiceforimmigrants.org/lady-guadalupe-resource-page/ which has background material and scriptural information on Our Lady of Guadalupe in English and Spanish, a nationwide map of events, and community celebration ideas.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Day of Prayer, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville, Committee on Migration, unborn, pro-life, migrant and refugee services, Advent, mercy, unity, solidarity.
WASHINGTON— As Congress prepares to reconcile the House of Representatives and Senate tax reform bills, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, insisted that "Congress should advance a final tax reform bill only if it meets the key moral concerns . . ."
"According to Congress' own nonpartisan analysis, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bills recently passed by the House and the Senate raise taxes on the poor and cut taxes on the rich, violating basic principles of justice," wrote Bishop Dewane. "Congress has proposed a web of wide-ranging and complex changes to the tax code, yet is approaching the process at a pace that makes it difficult even for experts in the impacted areas to analyze effects."
According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the Senate and House bills eventually increase taxes on taxpayers in the lowest brackets, while at the same time maintaining tax cuts for higher earners, including the very wealthy. Bishop Dewane expressed support for positive proposals contained in both the House and Senate bill, such as doubling the Standard Deduction, expansion of 529 savings plans, increases for deductions for educator expenses, and the idea of expanding the child tax credit, though he urged a robust expansion that includes the refundable portions of the credit.
However, the Bishop highlighted serious problems that remain in one or both of the proposed bills: elimination of personal exemptions, repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual insurance mandate apart from broader health care reform, and failure to include changes that will protect against a steep drop in charitable giving, among others.
"Policy that is good for workers, families who welcome life, families who are struggling to reach (or stay in) the middle class, and the very poor, has by design been a part of our tax code for years," noted Bishop Dewane. "Any modifications to these important priorities of our nation should only be made with a clear understanding and concern for the people who may least be able to bear the negative consequences of new policy."
The full letter can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Tax-Conference-Letter-Congress-2017-12-06.pdf
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, tax reform bill, U.S. Congress, Joint Committee on Taxation, tax cuts, Standard Deduction, child tax credit, Affordable Care Act (ACA), charitable giving, tax payers, health care reform, families, poor
WASHINGTON—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case involves a Christian baker named Jack Phillips who declined in 2012 to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. State officials seek to compel Phillips to create such cakes under Colorado's public accommodations law. Phillips argues that the state's action against him and his bakery violates the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Commenting on the oral arguments before the Court, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following joint statement:
"Today's oral arguments address whether our Constitution's guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion will be protected by the Supreme Court. Americans of every creed depend on these guarantees of freedom from unnecessary government coercion. America has the ability to serve every person while making room for valid conscientious objection. We pray that the Court will continue to preserve the ability of people to live out their faith in daily life, regardless of their occupation. Artists in particular deserve to have the freedom to express ideas—or to decline to create certain messages—in accordance with their deeply held beliefs. Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged in the Obergefell decision in 2015 that people who oppose same-sex marriage 'reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises.' Creative professionals should be allowed to use their artistic talents in line with these decent and honorable convictions."
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June.
The USCCB filed an amicus curiae brief supporting Masterpiece Cakeshop, which can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/16-111-tsac-USCCB.pdf.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop Charles Chaput, Bishop James Conley, Supreme Court, religious freedom, religious liberty, freedom of conscience, marriage
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, expressed disappointment after the Trump Administration announced on Saturday, December 2, 2017, that the U.S. government is withdrawing from the process of the United Nations (UN) to develop a Global Compact on Migration. That process was begun when the UN General Assembly ratified the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants on September 19, 2016.
"Catholic social teaching on migration recognizes and respects the sovereignty of each nation, indeed each nation's right and responsibility, to ultimately decide how it will regulate migration into its territory," explained Bishop Vásquez. "The Church has long articulated that it is the obligation of nations to assure human rights for all migrants and special protections for vulnerable migrants, such as refugees, forced migrants, victims of human trafficking, and women and children at risk. Pope Francis has described such obligations as part of building 'global solidarity' on behalf of migrants and refugees. In fact, the Bishops continue to promote the international campaign initiated by Pope Francis, Share the Journey, as a sign of solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters."
"With a growing global concern about protracted forced migration situations, the UN process provides an opportunity for the United States to help build international cooperation that respects such rights and protections on behalf of those seeking safety and security for their families. Participation in that process allows the US to draw on our experience and influence the compact," said Archbishop Broglio. "Therefore, the USCCB encourages the Administration to reconsider its decision to withdraw from this process."
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Committee on Migration, United Nations, New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, human rights, human trafficking, women, children, Pope Francis, migrants, refugees, safety, security.
WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Archdiocese of Washington as the new bishop of Richmond, Virginia.The appointment was publicized in Washington on December 5, 2017 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop Knestout was born in Cheverly,
Maryland, on June 11, 1962. He attended Mount St. Mary's Seminary in
Emmitsburg, Maryland, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1988 and a
Master of Arts degree in 1989.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington on June 24, 1989.
Assignments after ordination
included: associate pastor, St. Bartholomew's Parish, Bethesda, MD (1989-1993);
associate pastor, St. Peter's Parish, Waldorf (1993-1994); priest secretary to
Cardinal James Hickey (1994-2004); executive director, Archdiocesan Office of
Youth Ministry, (2001-2003); priest secretary to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
(2003-2004); pastor, St. John the Evangelist Parish, Silver Spring (2004-2006);
and the Archdiocesan Secretary for Pastoral Life and Social Concerns
Named Monsignor by Pope John Paul II in 1999, he was then named moderator of the curia in April 2007 and assisted Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl in overseeing administrative affairs.
On November 18, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI named Msgr. Knestout Auxiliary Bishop of Washington and titular bishop of Leavenworth. He was ordained a bishop by then-Archbishop Donald Wuerl on December 29, 2008.
He has been a member of the Administrative Board of the Maryland Catholic Conference and the Episcopal Moderator of the American Catholic Correctional Chaplains Association. He serves as the Regional IV representative on the USCCB Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People as well as the Episcopal Liaison to the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference.
As of today's appointment, Bishop Knestout will be the 13th Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, succeeding the late Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo who passed away on August 17, 2017.
The Diocese of Richmond comprises 36,711 square miles. It has a total population of 5,118,519 people of which 222,283, or 4 percent, are Catholic.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout, Archdiocese of Washington, Diocese of Richmond, Cardinal Donald W Wuerl, Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo
WASHINGTON—With the goal of strengthening and supporting the pastoral work of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America awarded nearly $3.2 million in grants for 183 pastoral projects in the region for 2018. These most recent grants were made at the Subcommittee's meeting in November and bring the total awarded for pastoral grants 2018 to almost $7.2 million. Four other projects were awarded in response to natural disasters.
"Each year the generosity of Catholics in the United States is transformed into programs that nourish the faith of our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean," said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America. "This generosity sustains the faith for many marginalized and vulnerable people, like migrants and victims of natural disasters."
Instability in some areas of
Latin America has resulted in an increased number of migrants within the region
from countries like Venezuela, Colombia, and Haiti.
Projects in support of the pastoral care of migrants that received funding from
the Subcommittee include support to the Hermanas Misioneras de San Carlos
Borromeo in Ecuador and the Archdiocese of Santiago in Chile. The religious
congregation received a grant to support and integrate migrant families into
Ecuadorian society. Migrant families will receive spiritual support through
conferences, retreats, and catechetical formation. This project is anticipated
to reach over 1,500 beneficiaries. The Archdiocese of Santiago's Department of
Migration received funds to provide formation to 250 pastoral ministers, many expected
to be migrants themselves, to learn about their rights and how to defend them
and work on evangelization of other immigrants. The project will also create
booklets as supporting material for the ministers as they work in parishes.
Additionally, three grants were awarded to projects in Haiti to support rebuilding efforts of the Church in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Hurricane Matthew swept through Haiti in 2016, and the country continues to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake. A grant to the Diocese of Jérémie will be used for repairs and reconstruction of three church buildings and a grant to the Diocese of Anse-à-Veau et Miragoâne will be used for the reconstruction of two church buildings. These funds were awarded from the Hurricane Matthew emergency collection that was taken in most dioceses last year. In addition to grants to help with the reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Matthew, the Subcommittee also funded a project to rebuild a church destroyed during the 2010 earthquake. The funds for this rebuilding came from the Special Collection for Haiti which took place in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Other areas of funding for the Subcommittee's pastoral grants include seminarian and consecrated religious formation, prison ministry, youth ministry, and lay leadership training. The issues covered by these ministries are pro-life, environmental justice, ministry to indigenous and African-Americans as well as urban ministries, among others. "As it proclaims the Gospel of joy, the Church is called to develop ministries to all those in need, whether materially or spiritually, and thus the Subcommittee supports all the ministries available to the faithful," said Bishop Elizondo.
Grants are funded by the annual Collection for the Church in Latin America, taken in many dioceses across the U.S. on the fourth Sunday in January. The Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America oversees the collection and an annual grant program as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. It allocates revenue received from the Collection for the Church in Latin America as grants across Latin America and the Caribbean. More information about the Collection for the Church in Latin America, the many projects it funds, and resources to promote it, can be found at www.usccb.org/latin-america.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Committee on National Collections, grants, migrants, Latin America, evangelization, Collection for the Church in Latin America, Haiti reconstruction, Venezuela, Colombia, Caribbean, Florida, Archdiocese of Santiago, Diocese of Anse-à-Veau et Miragoâne, Diocese of Jérémie, natural disasters, Hurricane Matthew, earthquake, pro-life, environmental justice
WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Fr. Mario Alberto Avilés, C.O., up until now the Procurator General of the Congregation of the Oratory, as Auxiliary Bishop of Brownsville, Texas.
The announcement was publicized in Washington on December 4 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Father Aviles was born in Mexico on September 16, 1969. He joined the Congregation of the Oratory in Mexico City in 1986 and in 1988 he moved to the Pharr Oratory in Texas. He attended the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in Philosophy in 1998.
He was ordained a priest on July 21, 1998. He then earned a master of divinity degree from Holy Apostles in Cromwell, CT in 2000. Additional education includes a master's degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix.
Assignments after ordination include: parochial vicar, Jude Thaddeus parish in Pharr, Texas, 1998-2002; pastor, Sacred Heart parish in Hidalgo, Texas, 2002-present.
Other responsibilities include: deputy, Confederation of the Oratory, permanent deputation, 2000-2012; director of the Oratory Academy and Oratory Athenaeum, 2005-2012; member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, 2011-present; procurator general of the Confederation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, 2012-present.
The Diocese of Brownsville comprises 4, 296 square miles. It has a total population of 1,350,158 people of which 1,147,634 or 85 percent, are Catholic. The current bishop of Brownsville is Bishop Daniel E. Flores.
Keywords: Pope Francis, Father Mario Alberto Aviles, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Diocese of Brownsville, Congregation of the Oratory, Mexico City, bishop appointment.
WASHINGTON— As the U.S. Senate passed its tax reform bill, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called for Congress to fix fundamentally flawed tax policies as the House of Representatives and Senate attempt to reach agreement on a final bill.
The full statement follows:
"Today, the U.S. Senate passed its tax reform legislation, and it will now be reconciled with the House of Representatives' passed bill in an effort to reach agreement on the details of a final piece of legislation. Congress must act now to fix the fundamental flaws found in both bills, and choose the policy approaches that help individuals and families struggling within our society.
We are reviewing the final Senate bill and will soon provide analysis about key improvements that are necessary before a final agreement should be reached and moved forward. For the sake of all people—but especially those we ought, in justice, to prioritize—Congress should advance a final tax reform bill only if it meets the key moral considerations outlined in our previous letters."
The November 9 USCCB letter analyzing the House of Representatives tax reform bill can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-
The November 22 USCCB letter analyzing the Senate tax reform bill can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, U.S. House of Representatives, tax reform proposal, comprehensive revision, tax code, moral principles, tax policy
WASHINGTON—On World AIDS Day, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, Chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, along with Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, urge full funding of U.S. and global HIV and AIDS programs in the FY 2019 budget request. Their position was outlined in a letter sent to the Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The letter to Director Mick Mulvaney coincides with World AIDS Day, December 1, 2017. While acknowledging that great strides have been made regarding the AIDS epidemic, the letter emphasizes that any reduction in the funding of programs could have catastrophic life-threatening implications.
In 2000, only 685,000 people had access to HIV treatment. Today, roughly 21 million people have access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the past six years has seen a reduction of 56 % in new infections in children in Eastern and Southern Africa and a 47 % reduction worldwide.
Archbishop Broglio said, "At a moment when we are finally witnessing great success in turning back a disease that shocked the world only a generation ago, any cuts in funding would directly result in a reduction in the number of people living with HIV who are added to treatment each year, and could trigger a resurgence in the global epidemic."
"Despite enormous gains, millions of lives still hang in the balance", says Sean Callahan. "This also extends to 16 million children who have lost one or both parents due to AIDS related illnesses, and millions more children who are vulnerable because the disease has contributed to malnutrition, cognitive delays, stunting, lack of education or poor physical or mental health."
Their letter argues that it is critical the U.S. government continue to fund the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to at least 2017 levels. "Although we have principled concerns about those PEPFAR and Global Fund prevention activities we find inconsistent with Catholic teaching and do not implement or advocate for these activities, we support the lifesaving missions of PEPFAR and the Global Fund and urge robust funding for both programs."
The full text of the letter can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/usccb-crs-letter-to-omb-director-mulvaney-re-hiv-aids-programs-2017-12-01.cfm.
Keywords: Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Archdiocese for the U.S. Military Services. Committee on International Justice and Peace, Sean Callahan, Catholic Relief Services, Director Mick Mulvaney, U.S. Office of Management and Budget, U.S. global HIV/AIDS programs, Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), Eastern and Southern Africa, U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Global Fund.
WASHINGTON—To commemorate the United Nations International Day for the Abolition of Slavery on December 2, 2017, the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT) is asking seafood producers, distributors and seafood retailers to make public, through packaged product labeling, their efforts to fight human trafficking in their product supply chains. According to CCOAHT, consumers are not receiving enough information needed to make moral purchasing decisions.
CCOAHT, which is facilitated by Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, consists of over 30 national and international Catholic agencies working to eliminate the plight of trafficked victims. Its pursuit of ethical consumerism seeks to echo the Vatican's commitment to "proof" its own supply chains from slave labor.
To support the request for slave-free seafood labels, CCOAHT distributed a survey to its networks, asking consumers if slave-free labeling would affect purchases. Over 2,200 people responded and the results showed that 99% of consumers want companies to take steps to engage in ethical business practices, 98% want their packaged seafood to be labeled, and 97% said labels would influence their purchasing decisions.
"Catholics are becoming increasingly aware of the collective power they possess as consumers to press for positive change in the lives of those who catch our fish. As my CCOAHT colleagues have remarked, 'we are asking the seafood industry to do better. The companies that do will be supported by consumers'", said Hilary Chester, Director of Anti-Trafficking at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The consumer survey built upon a 2016 Lenten postcard campaign organized by CCOAHT. Members' networks mailed 15,000 postcards to U.S. seafood retailers urging them to examine their supply chains and commit to a product free of slave labor. CCOAHT members will highlight survey data in upcoming dialogue with seafood supply chain shareholders.
For additional details about Labeling for Lent, refer to: Consumers Want the Choice to Buy Slave-Free Seafood.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Coalition of Catholic organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT), Migration and Refugee Services, Vatican,United Nations International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, seafood producers, distributors, retailers, human trafficking, product supply chains, slave labor, seafood labels, ethical business practices, Catholic consumers, Hilary Chester, Lenten Postcard Campaign, survey data.
WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is offering online resources for prayerful preparation for Advent and Christmas. The daily suggestions for reading, reflection, and prayer during the Advent and Christmas seasons are now available online. In addition to a clickable online Advent calendar, with each click opening "doors" to a page of suggested reading, the online page also offers daily reflections, prayers, suggested activities and bilingual calendars that can be printed.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides the online Advent and Christmas resources at http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/advent/index.cfm and http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/christmas/index.cfm.
This year, in addition to the traditional bilingual calendar for Advent that can be printed out, the USCCB is also offering a second bilingual Advent calendar specifically for families, with daily suggestions for prayers and activities to do as a family in preparation for Christmas. Suggestions include creating a Jesse Tree, blessing the family Nativity, and taking time to learn about Advent traditions around the world.
Other Advent resources on the website include liturgical notes on the season, a commentary on the proper prayers of the Advent season from the Roman Missal, and prayers and blessings from the USCCB publication Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Also included are lectio divinas for the four Sundays of Advent.
For Christmas, in addition to the clickable calendar and the bilingual calendar that can be printed, there are lectio divinas for four feast days during the Christmas season—the Solemnity of Christmas; the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God; and the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The lectio divinas are also available in English and Spanish.
Advent begins on December 3 and continues until the evening of December 24 when the Christmas season begins. The Christmas season will conclude with the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 8, 2018.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, website, resources, Advent, Christmas, prayer, lectio divina, Roman Missal, reflection, families
WASHINGTON—Jonathan J. Reyes, Ph.D., has been appointed as Assistant General Secretary for Integral Human Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), based in Washington D.C. In the newly established position, Dr. Reyes will become executive administrator of the Office of Government Relations while also continuing to oversee the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD), which supports the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, the Subcommittee for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Committee on Religious Liberty, and Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.
Jonathan Reyes joined the Conference as Executive Director of JPHD in 2012. He will begin the new position effective January 1, 2018.
Msgr. Brian Bransfield, USCCB General Secretary, made the appointment.
"Jonathan is a proven administrator having worked successfully in the service of the bishops and the Conference in overseeing a broad area and numerous projects, including the 2017 Convocation of Catholic Leaders, the Task Force on Peace in Our Communities, the Immigration Working Group, Biblia in America, and Forming Consciences of Faithful Citizenship," said Msgr. Bransfield. "I feel confident that his extensive knowledge, experience and commitment to the Church's social mission and teachings will prove invaluable in advancing the issues impacting our most vulnerable sisters and brothers."
Prior to joining the Conference, Dr. Reyes served as President and CEO of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver from 2009-2012. During that time, he also served as Director of Social Ministry for the Archdiocese. His previous work in Denver included co-founding the Augustine Institute, where he was president from 2005-2008. The Institute is a Catholic graduate school that combines education in theology, Scripture and history with practical formation in pedagogy and leadership. From 2004-2005, he was vice president for campus ministry and leadership formation of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) in Denver. FOCUS is a team-based evangelization program aimed toward students on college campuses.
Among his other contributions to the social mission of the Church, Reyes oversaw the creation of Regina Caeli Catholic Counseling Services and Lighthouse Women's Care Center and completed the Guadalupe Community Assistance Center in Greeley, Colorado.
From 1998-2004, Reyes served on the staff of Christendom College, where he held senior administrative and teaching positions.
Jonathan received a doctorate in European History from the University of Notre Dame in 2000. He received a bachelor of arts degree in history from the University of Michigan in 1990. He is married and has seven children.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Jonathan Reyes, Ph.D., Msgr. Brian Bransfield, General Secretary, Assistant General Secretary, Integral Human Development, Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD), Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Subcommittee for Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
WASHINGTON—Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Communications, is urging the retention of an open internet in the wake of a Federal Communications Commission proposal unveiled last week that would repeal protections intended to keep the internet open and fair. The concept of an open internet has long been called "net neutrality," in which internet service providers neither favor nor discriminate against internet users or websites. Bishop Coyne continues to voice strong support for net neutrality protections in a statement in response to last week's proposed FCC action.
Bishop Coyne's full statement follows:
"Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members, essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment.
Robust internet protections are vital to enable our Archdioceses, Dioceses, and Eparchies, our parishes, schools and other institutions to communicate with each other and our members, to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities online, and to engage people – particularly younger persons – in our ministries. Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet. Non-profit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialized content."
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Christopher Coyne, Committee on Communications, Federal Communications Commission, Internet, net neutrality
WASHINGTON—— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement in response to today's bombing at a mosque in Egypt's North Sinai region. The bombing has left at least 200 dead and has injured at least 100 others.
Cardinal DiNardo's full statement follows:
"As President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I join with my brother bishops in unequivocally condemning the monstrous terrorist attack on innocent people at prayer in Egypt. Terrorist acts can never be justified in the name of God or any political ideology, and the fact this attack took place at a Mosque, a place of worship, is especially offensive to God. The Catholic Church in the United States mourns with the people of Egypt at this time of tragedy, and assures them of our prayerful solidarity. We join with all those of good will in prayer that these acts of terror and mass killings – these acts of grave evil – will end and will be replaced with genuine and mutual respect for the dignity of each and every person."
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Egypt, North Sinai, terrorist attack, grave evil, Mosque, prayerful solidarity.
WASHINGTON— Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called for amendments to the Senate tax reform proposal to "ensure a just and moral framework for all."
"The Senate bill doubles the standard deduction, which will provide tax relief to many. However, the 'Chairman's Mark,' as written, will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy," wrote Bishop Dewane. "Tax breaks for the financially secure, including millionaires and billionaires, should not be made possible by increased taxes to families struggling to meet their daily needs."
According to the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), on average, taxpayers making between $10,000 and $30,000 per year will see a tax increase in 2021. Significant tax breaks to the very wealthy—including millionaires and billionaires—are projected for the same year. In 2023 and 2025, average taxes will increase for those making less than $30,000, but they will go down for those making more than $30,000. By 2027, after most individual tax cuts are set to expire, average taxes will increase for taxpayers making less than $75,000, while decreasing for those making more.
Bishop Dewane expressed support for positive aspects of the bill, including the fact that the Senate plan does not repeal the adoption tax credit or the exclusion for employer adoption assistance programs. It also recognizes children in utero by allowing contributions to a 529 savings plan before birth. However, the Bishop highlighted serious problems with the legislation which include the elimination of personal exemptions (which "places a significant burden on larger families"), and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual insurance mandate apart from broader health care reform.
"The Senate proposal repeals one portion of the Affordable Care Act—the individual insurance mandate—apart from a needed comprehensive approach to health care reform, one that would protect against millions of additional people becoming uninsured and fix problems that pertain to affordability, protect unborn life, conscience and immigrant access," noted Bishop Dewane. "Tax reform should not become the vehicle for a partial health care reform that fails to address significant problems in our health care system while exacerbating other difficulties."
Bishop Dewane also highlighted a November 14, 2017 Congressional Budget Office letter that stated that a deficit increase of $1.5 trillion over ten years would require spending cuts as early as 2018, if other legislation is not enacted. "These cuts will almost certainly include deep reductions to programs that help those in need," the USCCB letter said.
The full letter can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Senate-Tax-Cuts-and-Jobs-Act-Letter-2017-11-22.pdf.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Senate tax reform, Joint Committee on Taxation, tax increases, adoption tax credit, adoption assistance programs, Affordable Care Act, tax reform, health care reform, protection of unborn, Congressional Budget Office, spending cuts.
WASHINGTON—On November 20, the Department of Homeland Security announced termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti. TPS is a temporary, renewable, and statutorily-authorized humanitarian migration program that permits individuals to remain and work lawfully in the U.S. during a period in which it is deemed unsafe for nationals of that country to return home. There are an estimated 50,000 Haitian TPS recipients living in the U.S.
Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), issued the following statement in response:
"Yesterday's decision to terminate TPS for Haiti is deeply troubling. As discussed in our recent delegation trip report, Haiti is not yet in a position where it can safely accept return of the estimated 50,000 Haitian nationals who have received TPS. This decision will devastate many families with TPS members, including those with U.S. citizen children. It will tear individuals from their loved ones, homes, careers, and communities. It will also have direct negative consequences for many in Haiti who rely on remittances for vital support.
Our nation has a responsibility to provide continued temporary protection until TPS holders' return and reintegration can be safely accomplished. Catholic Social Teaching recognizes a duty to not turn our backs on our neighbors in need. Scripture states: 'If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?' (1 John 3:17). Our Haitian neighbors, at home and abroad, need our compassion while their country rebuilds and recovers. Yesterday's decision ignores such needs.
The Administration has provided an 18-month period during which TPS recipients from Haiti can legally stay in the United States and prepare for their departure. While this time is appreciated, it will not remedy the protection concerns and family separation that Haitian TPS recipients will face.
Congress needs to find a legislative solution for long-term TPS recipients and enact legislation that keeps these families together.
Our prayers and continued support are with the Haitian people who have deep ties to our communities, parishes, and country. They are businesses owners, successful professionals, home owners, and parents of U.S. citizen children and most importantly, they are children of God."
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Committee on Migration, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Department of Homeland Security, Haiti, migration, families, children, Catholic social teaching.
WASHINGTON—The USCCB in collaboration with the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and Aid to the Church in Need announce the observance this Sunday, November 26, as A Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians. The Day of Prayer also initiates "Solidarity in Suffering," a Week of Awareness and Education that runs from November 26-December 3. The Day of Prayer on the Solemnity of Christ the King, is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedom and Christians around the world who are being persecuted in unheard of numbers.
"On the solemnity of Christ the King, I ask that the entire church in the United States come together in a special way for a day of prayer for persecuted Christians to express our solidarity with those who are suffering," says Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, during his annual address to bishops. In a statement to bishops, the cardinal added, "To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others. Rather by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all."
To support the observance of the Day of Prayer and Week of Awareness, a wide array of resources are available to assist parishes, schools and campus ministries. One of those resources is the Executive Summary of "Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith 2015-2017". The report was made available to all bishops during the November Plenary Assembly, courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need. Electronic copies of the report are now available at www.usccb.org/middle-east-Christians.
Additional resources on the site include:
For social media, we are using the hashtag: #SolidarityInSuffering.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), Aid to the Church in Need, Day of Prayer, persecuted Christians, solemnity Christ the King, Week of Awareness, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, oppression, Christianity, prayer.
WASHINGTON—The chairmen of the Committee on International Justice and Peace and Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as chairmen of the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate's Pastoral Social Committee, have issued a joint statement on the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
NAFTA—a trilateral commercial agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico—came into force in 1994, and has brought about many positive outcomes as well as some negative ones, especially for poor and vulnerable persons in the United States and Mexico.
The statement, entitled, "RENEGOTIATING NAFTA: Rebuilding our Economic Relationship in Solidarity, Mutual Trust, and Justice," restates longstanding principles and guidelines of Catholic Social Doctrine regarding international trade. The bishops remind all involved that:
"Trade must, first of all, benefit people, in addition to markets and economies. It is crucial that these complex and multifaceted agreements arise from a sound legal and moral framework that protects the common good and the most vulnerable."
Noting that trade agreements "have consequences beyond the economic sphere," the bishops of both countries offer in their statement criteria based on experience, as pastors, to help guide the renegotiation process so that it might serve as a "means of achieving the welfare and integral development of all."
The full statement is available in both English and Spanish at:
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Mexican Episcopate, Pastoral Social Committee, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), United States, Canada, Mexico, trilateral agreement, renegotiation, solidarity, justice, Catholic social doctrine, international trade, markets, economies, common good, development, vulnerable, moral framework.
WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Father J. Mark Spalding of the Archdiocese of Louisville as the new bishop of Nashville. Pope Francis has also named Father Shawn McKnight, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, as the new bishop of Jefferson City after accepting the resignation of Bishop John R. Gaydos.
The appointments were publicized in Washington on November 21, 2017 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Father J. Mark Spalding was born January 13, 1965 and was ordained a priest on August 3, 1991.
He attended St. Meinrad College Seminary in St. Meinrad, Indiana where he studied philosophy. He later attended the American College at Louvain in Belgium (1991) where he earned a degree in theology. He later attended the Catholic University of Louvain, where he earned a Licentiate of Canon Law in 1992.
Assignments after ordination included parochial vicar, St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral, Bardstown (1992-1996); parochial vicar, St. Augustine Parish, Lebanon (1996-1998); parochial vicar, St. Margaret Mary Parish, Louisville (1998-1999); pastor, Immaculate Conception Parish, LaGrange (1999-2011); pastor, Holy Trinity Parish, Louisville (2011-present).
Father Spalding also served as judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of Louisville from 1998-2011 and is currently vicar general for the Archdiocese, 2011-present.
Father Shawn McKnight was born June 26, 1968. He was ordained a priest for the diocese of Wichita on May 28, 1994.
He earned a master of arts degree and a master of divinity degree from the Pontifical College Josephinum (1993-1994) and later earned a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome in 1999. In 2001, he earned a Doctor of Sacred Theology also from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm.
Assignments after ordination include: associate pastor, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Wichita (1994-1997); pastoral administrator, St. Patrick Parish, Chanute (1999); chaplain, Newman University, Wichita (2000-2001); priestly service, St. Mary's Parish, Delaware (2003-2008); pastor, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Wichita (2008-2010); priestly service, parishes in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Washington (2010-2015); presbyteral council and college of consultors, Wichita (2000-2005); pastor, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita (2015-present).
Father McKnight formerly served as executive director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV) of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from 2010-2015. He has also held numerous academic, professional and academic society positions among them serving as director of Liturgy and director of Formation at the Pontifical College Josephinum.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop John R. Gaydos, who has served as the third bishop of Jefferson City.
Bishop Gaydos was born August 14, 1943 and will turn 75 this August. On June 25, 1997, Gaydos was appointed bishop of Jefferson City by Pope John Paul II. He was ordained as bishop on August 27, 1997.
He also served within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as Chairman of the Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry, now known as the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV).
The Diocese of Nashville comprises 16,302 square miles. It has a total population of 2,607,152 people of which 83,124 or 3 percent, are Catholic.
The Diocese of Jefferson City comprises 22,127 square miles. It has a total population of 920,234 people of which 81,958 or 11 percent, are Catholic.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Bishop John R. Gaydos, Father J. Mark Spalding, Archdiocese of Louisville, Nashville, Father W. Shawn McKnight, Jefferson City
WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers a Thanksgiving Day message to the nation with special gratitude for the gift of immigrants and refugees.
Full statement follows:
"As we do every year, we will pause this coming Thursday to thank God for the many blessings we enjoy in the United States. My brother bishops and I, gathered last week in Baltimore, were attentive in a special way to those who are often excluded from this great abundance—the poor, the sick, the addicted, the unborn, the unemployed, and especially migrants and refugees.
My brothers expressed a shared and ever-greater sense of alarm—and urgency to act—in the face of policies that seemed unthinkable only a short time ago: the deportation of Dreamers, young hard-working people who should be the lowest priority for deportation; the anxiety and uncertainty of those with Temporary Protected Status from countries like Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras, which are still recovering from natural disasters and remain ill-equipped to humanely receive and integrate them; and an unprecedented reduction in the number of people we will welcome this year into our country who seek refuge from the ravages of war and religious persecution in their countries of origin.
One common feature of all these developments is their tendency to tear apart the family, the fundamental building block of our, or any, society. These threats to so many vulnerable immigrant and refugee families must end now. My brothers have urged me to speak out on their behalf to urge the immediate passage—and signature—of legislation that would alleviate these immediate threats to these families.
Another common feature of these policies is that they are symptoms of an immigration system that is profoundly broken and requires comprehensive reform. This is a longer-term goal, one that the bishops have advocated for decades to achieve, and one that must never be overlooked. Only by complete reform will we have the hope of achieving the common goals of welcoming the most vulnerable, ensuring due process and humane treatment, protecting national security, and respecting the rule of law. We are committed to such reforms and will continue to call for them.
So this year, I give thanks for the gift and contributions of immigrants and refugees to our great nation. I also pray that next year, families now under threat will not be broken and dispersed, but instead will be united in joy around their tables, giving thanks for all the blessings our nation has to offer.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving all!"
Keywords: USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Thanksgiving Day, America, blessings, migrants, refugees, comprehensive reform, family reunification
WASHINGTON—On November 17,
2017, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee
on Migration, was joined by Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC),
Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) in sending a
letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, urging an
18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti.
TPS is a temporary, renewable,
and statutorily authorized immigration status that allows individuals to remain
and work lawfully in the U.S. during a period in which it is deemed unsafe for
nationals of that country to return home.
While the current designation
for Haiti is set to expire in January 2018, the Department of Homeland Security
is required to make a decision to terminate or extend TPS for Haiti by November
23, 2017. As noted by the partners: "[I]t would be premature and detrimental to
the country's redevelopment to return TPS holders to Haiti." The letter,
sharing insights from the recent USCCB/Migration and Refugee Services (MRS)
delegation trip to Haiti, explained that the country is still recovering from
the 2010 earthquake and subsequent natural disasters and is not currently in a
position to adequately handle return of its nationals who have TPS.
As discussed in the USCCB/MRS
trip report, Haiti's Ongoing Road to Recovery: The Necessity of an Extension of
Temporary Protected Status, an extension of TPS for the
nation is crucial for humanitarian, regional security, and economic stability
reasons. Consequently, the Catholic partners urged Secretary Duke to extend TPS
for Haiti to "allow the country to build upon the progress it has made towards
recovery and help ensure individuals' return and reintegration can be safely
The letter also reiterated the
Church's commitment to standing "ready to support measures to help ensure TPS
recipients and their families are provided the protection and support they need
while Haiti rebuilds."
Read the full letter here: https://justiceforimmigrants.org/news/catholic-partner-letter-dhs-urging-extension-tps-haiti/.
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe Vásquez, Committee on Migration, Migration and Refugee Services, Temporary Protected Status, TPS recipients, TPS beneficiaries, Department of Homeland Security, Haiti, refugees, migration, earthquake, natural disaster, prayers, legislative solution
WASHINGTON— Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, expressed "great disappointment" over the House of Representatives' passage of the deeply flawed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, calling on the Senate to work toward legislation that fixes the problems with H.R.1. The full statement reads as follows:
"It is greatly disappointing that the U.S. House of Representatives ignored impacts to the poor and families—including those who welcome life through adoption or have more than three children—and passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act without needed changes. According to the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), this bill raises taxes on the working poor beginning in 2023, and simultaneously gives large tax cuts to millionaires. The November 9 letter of the USCCB detailed the many deficiencies in the House bill, including the elimination of the personal exemption, which will hurt larger families, and the repeal of the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction, which will harm those with serious and chronic illness. While we are grateful that the House restored the adoption tax credit, it still repeals an important exclusion for families assisted by their employer to adopt children in need, and eliminates incentives for charitable giving. For families working hard for economic security, the bill eliminates the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, and tax relief for persons paying for tuition and student loans, as well as those who retire on disability, among other things.
While H.R. 1 takes an important step toward strengthening parents' ability to choose a school that best suits their child, its repeal of important provisions that aid both teachers and students in non-government elementary and secondary schools should be reversed.
The Senate is currently debating its bill, and the USCCB will release a more detailed analysis shortly. The Senate must act decisively to avoid the deficiencies in the House legislation, and craft a final bill that affirms life, cares for the poor, and ensures national tax policy aimed at the common good. Right now, the Senate bill does not eliminate many of the tax benefits that the House bill does, and this is commendable. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) wrote on November 14 that the $1.5 trillion deficit that is created over 10 years will require spending cuts, and much of these will likely come from programs that help the poor. The Senate bill does not include a needed 'above-the-line' charitable deduction, the omission of which will result in up to a $13 billion annual decrease in charitable giving.
Senate legislation has also been scored by the JCT as raising taxes on the working poor while giving large tax cuts to millionaires. In addition, the Senate proposes to cut additional tax benefits that help working families, and these must be fully understood. It is laudable that the Senate tries to incentivize paid family and medical leave, but the provision is designed to sunset at the end of 2019. Although the Senate bill further expands the child tax credit, the elimination of the personal exemption will cause a net loss for larger families.
The Senate must work to ensure a legislative process characterized by integrity, one in which Americans can fully understand the implication of tax proposals which will be voted upon. It must also seek to pass a law that demonstrates that our nation prioritizes care for the most vulnerable among us."
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, House bill, Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), working poor, personal exemption, medical deduction, Work Opportunity Tax Credit, tax relief, jobs, Congressional Budget Office (CBO), charitable deduction, adoption incentive, medical leave, child tax credit, poor, vulnerable.
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Denver, Colo., Dec 15, 2017 / 03:32 am (CNA).- What do a grilled cheese sandwich and the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe have in common?
Both bore what appeared to be images of Mary. One was determined to be authentically miraculous, the other was not. Not to spoil any secrets, but it’s not Our Lady of the Grilled Cheese that converted Mexico and continues to draw millions of people on pilgrimage every year.
But have you ever wondered just how the Church determines the bogus from the divinely appointed?
In his book, “Exploring the Miraculous,” Michael O’Neill gives readers a crash course of sorts in “Miracles 101” - including common questions about the importance of miracles, an explanation of the approval process, and descriptions of the various types of miracles found within the Catholic Church.
“This is a very rare book in that it tries to cover the entire spectrum of miracles within the Catholic Church,” O’Neill told CNA.
Catholics by definition are people who have to believe in at least two miracles, O’Neill said - that of Christ’s incarnation and his resurrection, two pillars on which the Catholic faith rests.
For modern-day miracles, belief is never required of the faithful. The highest recognition that the Church gives to an alleged miracle is that it is “worthy of belief.” Investigations of reported miraculous events – which include extensive fact-finding, psychological examination and theological evaluation – may result in a rejection if the event is determined to be fraudulent or lacking in super natural character.
Or the Church may take a middle road, declaring that there is nothing contrary to the faith in a supposed apparition, without making a determination on whether a supernatural character is present.
But while official investigations can take years, the mere report of a miracle can bring Catholics from long distances, hoping to see some glimpse of the divine reaching into the human.
And it’s not just the faithful who find miracles fascinating.
“It's important for atheists and skeptics, those people who don’t believe, they’ve got to have an explanation for the inexplicable,” he said. “There’s something for everyone.”
The universal nature of the experience of the miraculous is also what draws people from all belief spectrums to these stories, O’Neill added.
“We all pray for miracles of one sort or another. They can be these really sort of small things like praying for an impossible comeback in a football game, or it can be a lost wallet or wedding ring,” he said.
“But they can also be these really big things, such as our loved ones, they fall away from the faith and we want them to return, or somebody from our friends or our family is very sick and we desperately implore God’s help for them. It’s something that everybody experiences.”
O’Neills own fascination with miracles started in college, when for an archeology assignment he studied the miraculous tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Marian apparition to which he’d inherited his mother’s devotion. He had heard stories about miracles associated with the image, both from within his own family and from the larger Church, and he wondered how much truth there was to the tales.
He also started learning about the larger tradition of miracles within the Church, and was struck by how the Church has carefully investigated thousands of claims over the years, only to select certain ones that it eventually deems as of divine origin.
“I thought that was fascinating that the Church would stick its neck out and say these things are worthy of belief,” he said.
Although he continued his engineering studies throughout college, a piece of advice at graduation from Condoleezza Rice, who was serving as vice provost at Stanford University at the time, stayed with him.
“She asked what we were going to do after graduation, and her advice was to become an expert in something,” he said.
“And I thought about what would be a great thing to study? My mind went back to all those hours I’d spent in the library and my promise to return to it someday and I said you know what? I want to be the expert on miracles.”
For a while he kept his studies private - he didn’t want to be seen as the guy who was obsessed with weird things like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. But eventually, he realized that many people were interested in miracles and found them helpful for their own faith.
“It’s a way that people feel connected to God, they know that God is a loving father watching out for them, so it’s one of those things - a miracle is a universal touchstone,” he said.
“No matter how strong we think our faith is or want it to be, we always want to know that God is there for us, and miracles are that sort of element that bridges the gap between our faith and our connection with God.”
In his book, O’Neill provides descriptions and examples of every basic category of miracle within the Catholic Church, including healing miracles from saints in the canonization process, biblical miracles, apparitions, locutions (audible messages from God or a saint), miraculous images, Eucharistic miracles, incorrupt bodies (those that either partially or fully do not decompose after death), and stigmata (the wounds of Christ appearing on some living people).
The most popular kind of miracle, and O’Neill’s personal favorite, are Marian apparitions - when Mary appears in a supernatural and corporeal way to a member of the faithful, most often with a message.
There have been about 2,500 claims of Marian apparitions throughout history, and a major one that many people are currently curious about are the alleged apparitions happening at Medjugorje, about which the Church has yet to make a definitive decision of validity. Curiosity about Marian apparitions was also a large part of what spurred O’Neill to create his website, miraclehunter.com, where he files information about miracles in their respective categories and provides information on their origin story and whether or not they have been approved by the Vatican.
“The Vatican didn’t have a resource where you can find out what’s approved and what’s not, and what messages are good for our faith and what ones we should stay away from, so I tried to create a resource for the faithful for that,” he said. He’s now been running the website for more than 15 years.
O’Neill also loves Eucharistic miracles, because unlike several other types of miracles, whose validity are largely determined by faithful and reliable witnesses, science can be applied.
“They can check to see if it’s really human blood, and what type of blood, and in some cases you have heart muscle in these hosts that have turned into true flesh,” he said.
One of O’Neill’s favorite Eucharistic miracles occurred in Argentina while Pope Francis was still a bishop there.
It was August of 1996, and a priest in Buenos Aires, Fr. Alejandro Pezet, discovered a host in the back of his church, and so he took it and placed it in some water in the tabernacle to dissolve it. Over the next few days, days he kept an eye on it, and it grew increasingly red. The priest decided to present the case to Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, who ordered that the host be professionally photographed and eventually examined by a scientist in the U.S., who was not told the origin of the specimen he was testing.
The tests showed the sample to be heart muscle with blood type AB, the same blood type found on the Shroud of Turin.
“The scientist was an atheist and he said, why did you send me this heart muscle, what was the point of this? And they said it was a consecrated host, and actually that atheist scientist converted to Catholicism as a result of that study,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill also notes in his book that when considering miracles, it’s important to not go to extremes.
“The question of the role of miracles in our life of faith is an important one and requires avoiding two extremes: an overemphasis and credulity regarding the supernatural on the one hand and a denial of the possibility of divine intervention and a diminishment of the role of popular devotion on the other,” he wrote. Either way, obedience to the magisterium of the Church and their teachings on particular miracles is key.
Miracles are an important asset for the faith because of their ability to connect people with God, either as first-time believers or as long-time faithful who need a reminder of God’s presence.
“I like to think of miracles as a great way to engage young people, to get them excited about the faith,” he said. “They shouldn’t be the centrality of anybody’s faith, but it’s a way to open the door for people...so I think miracles can play a huge role in evangelization.”
This article was originally published on CNA May 8, 2016.
Denver, Colo., Dec 14, 2017 / 08:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic ethics and church law must be at the center of a merger of two major Catholic health care systems that, if approved, will create the largest non-profit health system in the country, an archdiocesan official says.
Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives and San Francisco-based Dignity Health announced the proposed merger Dec. 7.
They aim to create a new Catholic healthcare system, set to be based in Chicago. The combined health system will be run by the CEOs of both companies. It will include 139 hospitals, employ 159,000 people, and have a combined revenue of $28.4 billion.
The merger requires regulatory approval—and also scrutiny that it does not violate Catholic ethical and canonical norms.
Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco are among those responsible for analyzing the moral and ethical considerations of the proposed merger for the health systems based in their respective cities, David Uebbing, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA.
The USCCB’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” require that the merger of the healthcare systems receive a “nihil obstat” from the diocesan bishop in the places where the systems are headquartered.
Uebbing said the review process in Denver has already involved “an extensive, multi-month” analysis of the proposal and consultation with the bishops affected. The process has involved consultation with legal, canonical and health care ethics experts.
“A nihil obstat is a negative declaration that essentially says, ‘nothing stands in the way’,” Uebbing said. “A nihil obstat has limited scope, i.e., determining that there is nothing morally or doctrinally objectionable in the proposed corporate structure. It does not convey approval or agreement with the proposal.”
Both health care systems are sponsored by canonical organizations overseen directly by the Vatican, which, according to canon law, will also need to approve the merger.
A new name for the proposed system will be announced sometime after mid-2018, pending final approval from federal and state officials as well as Catholic officials.
The leaders of both health care systems said the proposed merger would be better for health care.
“We are joining together to create a new Catholic health system, one that is positioned to accelerate the change from sick-care to well-care across the United States,” said Kevin E. Lofton, the CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives.
He said the organization will have “the talent, depth, breadth, and passion to improve the health of every person and community we serve,” the Houston Chronicle reports.
Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of the San Francisco-based Dignity Health, said the merger will build upon a shared mission and will “expand our commitment to meeting the needs of all people with compassion, regardless of income, ethnicity, or language.”
“We foresee an incredible opportunity to expand each organization's best practices to respond to the evolving health care environment and deliver high-quality, cost-effective care,” he continued.
Currently Catholic Health Initiatives has hospitals in 17 states, while Dignity Health has facilities in 22 states, including those operating under brands such as U.S. HealthWorks, the Sacramento Bee reports.
CNA contacted Dignity Health, and the Archdiocese of Chicago for comment but did not receive a response by deadline. Catholic Health Initiatives was unable to respond to a request for comment.
In 2012 Dignity Health, adopted a new board structure and changed its name from Catholic Healthcare West, deemphasizing its ties to the Catholic Church. Then-Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco determined the changes were consistent with Catholic morals.
At the time, it was reported that the system’s Catholic hospitals would continue to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.
The system’s non-Catholic hospitals adhere to the system’s “Statement of Common Values.” Those rules prohibit abortion and in-vitro fertilization but not sterilization procedures like tubal ligations.
Catholic Healthcare West, later renamed Dignity Health, came under scrutiny following a 2009 incident at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, which is part of the health system. The hospital’s ethics board decided that a direct abortion could be performed on a woman who was suffering severe medical complications, in violation of Catholic teaching that direct abortion is inherently evil.
In December 2010 Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix revoked the Catholic status of the hospital after an investigation found both the hospital and its parent company involved in a pattern of behavior that violated Catholic health care ethics, including creating and managing a government program that offers birth control, sterilization procedures and abortion.
In January 2012 the health network’s CEO, Dean, said concerns about the system’s Catholic affiliation hindered potential agreements with other hospitals.
The expansion of Catholic hospitals operating according to Catholic teaching has drawn opposition from critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the MergerWatch project. Those groups co-authored a 2013 report that claimed the growth of Catholic hospitals was a “miscarriage of medicine.”
The report said the ACLU’s advocacy in the area was backed by various funders including the Arcus Foundation, which is a major funder of an influence campaign to restrict religious freedoms in areas that run counter to the foundation’s vision of LGBT advocacy and reproductive health.
Denver, Colo., Dec 14, 2017 / 04:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It was a chilly Thursday in December, with a dusting of snow on the ground. But that didn’t stop hundreds of poor and homeless people from packing the Denver Cathedral for what the pastor calls “the greatest day of the year” for the parish.
It was the Father Woody Christmas cash giveaway, the annual event when the cathedral hosts a prayer service and gives $20 - in the form of two $10 bills - to all of the poor and the homeless who attend.
The idea behind the two bills? It gives the recipients the option of giving one of the bills away.
“I got kind of a crabby e-mail about this event, saying ‘Why are you giving the homeless money, they’re just going to spend it on alcohol or drugs,’” Fr. Ron Cattany, pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of Immaculate Conception in Denver, told CNA.
“And I responded back with a line from Father Woody: ‘Everybody needs a little cash in their pocket at Christmas,’” he said.
It gives them a sense of dignity, and a sense of generosity, he added.
“What’s beautiful is that sometimes what you’ll see here...is one of the guys will come up and say, ‘Today’s my birthday, will you give me a bunch of (McDonald’s) cards so I can take my buddies out to lunch on my birthday?’ And of course you do that because even from where they are, they’re giving and sharing with other people,” Cattany said.
The event all started 28 years ago, when an endowment fund was set up in honor and in the spirit of Monsignor Charles B. Woodrich - better known as Fr. Woody - a Denver priest renowned for his generous spirit and can-do attitude.
During his time as a priest, he established school lunch programs for poor children, opened up the doors of his parish to the homeless during cold winter nights (most famously during the blizzard of ‘82), and would routinely give his friends on the street the coats off his back and the cash in his pockets. Today, the name Father Woody is synonymous with charity in the Denver community.
The attendees of the Father Woody giveaway often line up outside the cathedral for hours before the event begins.
On Thursday, they filled the pews to standing room only, and attended a prayer service before receiving their cash, along with hugs and greetings of ‘Merry Christmas’ from numerous volunteers from the Christ in the City program, Regis University’s Father Woody program, and several other groups and private volunteers.
“It’s so cool to be here with so many people who experience homelessness, and so many of them we can call our friends, and to know that God loves them the same and that they are so welcome here,” Emma Rashilla, a missionary with Christ in the City, told CNA.
“These are the people who are usually on the outside looking in, and now they’re on the inside, and it doesn’t matter if they’re Catholic or Christian,” or have no faith, all are welcome, Fr. Cattany added.
After they receive their money and McDonald’s gift cards, hot chocolate, new socks and homemade hats are waiting for them outside.
“It shows the real meaning of giving, of sharing gifts and showing your emotional and spiritual awareness of the real reason for Christmas which is that Christ is born that day,” Kevin, one of the attendees, told CNA.
“When you don’t have much to give, you don’t feel so jolly, but when someone gives you something, it makes you feel more generous,” he added.
“It’s people getting together and seeing old friends, (I feel) highly favored and blessed,” said Wilma, another attendee.
Odalis Hernandez, a senior at Regis University who was helping hand out colorful, homemade knit hats from the students in the university’s Father Woody program, said she was inspired to start helping people after seeing a movie about Fr. Woody.
“It’s something that I wouldn’t have done without the inspiration of someone like that,” she said.
Lovey Shipp, a spunky nonagenarian who worked as Father Woody’s secretary for several years before he passed away in 1991, still cherishes the many “Father Woody-isms” that she remembers. She has participated in every cash giveaway since its official beginning 28 years ago.
“Father Woody used to say, ‘service is the rent you pay for the space you take up,’” she told CNA.
“He taught people with money how to give. It’s not yours, it’s by God’s grace that you have it, you could be one of the homeless if he saw fit to do so,” she said.
She encouraged anyone who desires to help the homeless this season to “keep an open mind and have your heart match. That’s what Father Woody did.”
“Just give,” she added. “Give from the heart. And smile!”
Washington D.C., Dec 14, 2017 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, the Federal Communication Commission voted to repeal net neutrality regulations, which the U.S. bishops have called essential to fair use of the internet by for nonprofits and individuals.
“Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet,” said Bishop Christopher Coyne, Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Communications.
“Non-profit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialized content.”
The bishop’s statement was released on Nov. 28, after the FCC announced a proposal to repeal the protections, which were created in 2015. The rule was officially repealed on Dec. 14.
Net neutrality rules require internet service providers, like Comcast or AT&T, to provide equal access to the internet. This means internet providers cannot block, slow down, or charge for content from particular websites or web-based services.
For example, in 2007 Comcast was accused of providing slower internet service to subscribers who were using peer-to-peer file-sharing services. People using BitTorrent, which is a file-sharing network, claimed they had slower or blocked access when uploading files.
Net neutrality advocates have expressed concern that content providers who pay more money will be given better access to internet users, placing smaller companies and nonprofits at a disadvantage.
Bishop Coyne argued that fair access to the internet is critical for the Church to fulfill its mission in the modern world.
“Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members, essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment,” he wrote
Dioceses, schools, parishes, and other religious institutions, must have access to high speed internet to not only to communicate internally, but also to spread the Gospel through media, he said.
Strong internet protections help the Church “to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities online, and to engage people – particularly younger persons – in our ministries,” he said.
According to NPR, the FCC’s new chairman, Ajit Pai, said the regulations prevented companies from improving the internet by stifling investments, but net-neutrality advocates have said that ending the regulations will give too much power to internet providers.
“I have heard from innovators, worried that we are standing up a 'mother-may-I' regime, where the broadband provider becomes arbiter of acceptable online business models,” said Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, according to NPR.
Columbus, Ohio, Dec 14, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, the Ohio State Senate passed a bill that would penalize doctors who perform abortions, if the abortion is chosen “in whole or in part,” because the unborn child has received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.
The bill, which passed the Senate 20-12, will now be sent to Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has 10 days to sign the bill into law. The governor’s office noted that Kasich has called the measure “appropriate,” but has not yet confirmed that the governor will sign the bill.
Proponents of the law are optimistic that Kasich will approve the measure, given that the Republican governor has passed over a dozen laws which have limited abortion protections or funding in the past six years.
The law would charge physicians with a fourth-degree felony, and the potential of a revoked medical license, if they perform an abortion wholly or partially motivated by Down syndrome. Mothers would not face charges.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused when an individual’s DNA contains an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. Also known as trisomy-21, Down syndrome is a relatively common genetic disorder, affecting around one in 700 babies born in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has risen dramatically in recent decades, thanks to modern resources and healthcare. A 2011 study found that people with Down syndrome report high levels of happiness and personal satisfaction, as do their siblings and other family members.
However, data from a 2012 study have shown that 75 percent of women who are pregnant with a child who has received a Down syndrome diagnosis will terminate the pregnancy.
While the measure has caused some backlash from advocates for abortion, who wore shirts with the message “Stop the Bans” during the vote on Wednesday, pro-life groups in the state have applauded the bill as a victory.
“Every Ohioan deserves the right to life, no matter how many chromosomes they have,” said Mike Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, according to Reuters.
Because it is unclear how the motivating factors for abortion can be proven, there will likely be some legal challenges to the bill if it Governor Kasich approves it. The ACLU has opposed the bill, calling it unconstitutional.
Similar measures were passed in Indiana and North Dakota, but the Indiana law was revoked by a U.S. District Judge in September after a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU. The North Dakota law has not faced legal challenges.
Brownsville, Texas, Dec 13, 2017 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly 60 years after Irene Garza disappeared after going to confession in her Texas hometown, the last person who saw her – who was a priest at the time – has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
John Feit, an 85-year-old former priest has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Garza on Holy Saturday, April 16, 1960.
Irene Garza was a 25-year-old schoolteacher, former beauty queen, and figure in the McAllen Tex. Catholic and Mexican-American communities. Friends and neighbors remember her as a young woman of faith.
“Remember the last time we talked, I told you I was afraid of death?” Garza wrote to her friend mere days before her death. The letter was later published by Texas Monthly. “Well I think I’m cured. You see, I’ve been going to communion and Mass daily and you can’t imagine the courage and faith and happiness it has given me.”
Six days later, Garza went to go to confession at Sacred Heart Catholic Church before Easter services. She never returned. Her body was discovered days later in a ditch.
Later, police determined that she had been raped, physically restrained, and beaten for several days before suffocating to death.
Feit, who was a 27-years-old visiting priest at the time, was a main suspect early on in the case: he was the priest who heard Garza’s confession, and his portable slide viewer was found alongside Garza’s body.
Suspicion grew after Feit was charged and pled “no contest” to assaulting and the attempted rape another young woman, Maria Guerra. Guerra was attacked while she was praying at another church in a nearby Texas town only three weeks before Garza’s death.
However, Feit was not charged with Garza’s murder until over five decades later.
Feit left the priesthood in 1972, and afterwards married and worked for the St. Vincent de Paul charity in Phoenix.
After Feit left the priesthood, two priests told the authorities of their suspicions that Feit murdered Garza, with one claiming the priest had scratches on his face after Garza’s disappearance, and another saying that Feit told the priest that he had murdered a young woman, and offered details on how he committed the crime. At the time, however, the then-priest (who himself also left the priesthood) did not know the crime Feit described was Garza’s murder.
After the priests’ statements to authorities in the 2000s, the case was re-opened in 2015. Feit was arrested and charged in 2016, and the trial began Nov. 28, 2017 after several setbacks. He was sentenced Dec. 8.
Harrisburg, Pa., Dec 13, 2017 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would limit abortions to 20 weeks into pregnancy and ban dismemberment abortion, but Gov. Tom Wolf intends to veto it.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, criticized the governor’s pledge to veto.
“His extreme pro-abortion stance is radically out of step with Pennsylvanians as he prepares to face the voters in 2018,” she said Dec. 13.
The Susan B. Anthony List cited a 2013 Harper Polling survey that said 82 percent of Democratic primary voters in the state think abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the legislation, Senate Bill 3, by a vote of 121-70 on Dec. 12. Six Republicans opposed the bill, while 12 Democrats voted in favor.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 32-18 in February. There are likely not enough votes to override a veto.
Wolf opposed the bill, saying it violated the doctor-patient relationship. He objected to its lack of exceptions for abortion in cases of pregnancy by rape or incest.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I will veto <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SB3?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SB3</a> because I stand with every woman in Pennsylvania who deserves to make her own health decisions. <a href="https://t.co/QHoKydPy9a">https://t.co/QHoKydPy9a</a></p>— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) <a href="https://twitter.com/GovernorTomWolf/status/940739354355519488?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 13, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
“These women deserve our support, not to be maligned by politicians in Harrisburg for making medical decisions about their bodies for their families with their doctors,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.
Dannenfelser had another view.
“The Pennsylvania legislature just took a bold step to protect unborn children and their mothers,” she said. “We are encouraged by the legislature’s action and look forward to the day when all unborn children are protected under the law.”
The state currently bars abortions 24 weeks or later into pregnancy.
Backers of the bill cited progress in medicine that allows premature babies to survive earlier in pregnancy than before.
The bill would preserve current exemptions for when a mother’s life is at risk, or if she is at risk of a serious permanent injury, the Associated Press reports. It would not allow exemptions for rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities.
Dawn Keefer, R-York, said the issue should not be framed only in terms of women’s rights. Rather, she asked, “what about the rights of those pre-born women in the womb being exterminated?”
Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, characterized the bill as an attempt to control women “by imposing the views of some legislators on women, and I think that's wrong – that's morally wrong.”
The dismemberment abortion ban would in effect ban dilation-and-evacuation abortion, the most common method of abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy.
“Dismemberment abortion is completely inhumane, it's barbaric,” said Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York.
Federal legislation to bar abortion after 20 weeks has made some progress. On Oct. 3 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act late by a vote of 237 to 189, largely along party lines. It was expected to fail in the Senate.
Dannenfelser, however, claimed, “Momentum is building to pass a national ban on late-term abortion more than halfway through pregnancy.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 13, 2017 / 03:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While fires in southern California continue to threaten thousands of homes, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles reflected that God can be found even amidst the violent flames, if we just listen for his message.
“Always it is the same question: Where is God to be found when natural disasters strike and bad things happen to good people?” he said in a Dec. 12 column, published at Angelus News, the archdiocese’s multimedia publication.
“God is speaking in every moment, in every circumstance. But sometimes he speaks in a whisper. He asks us to listen, to have ears to hear.”
The Thomas Fire began on Dec. 4 in Steckel Park, near St Thomas Aquinas College in southern California. Within nine hours, strong winds pushed the fire to engulf 31,000 acres, moving at a rate of an acre per second, CNN reported.
The fire has destroyed more than 237,000 acres and more than 1,000 structures. More than 95,000 residents have been evacuated. The fire was only 25 percent contained as of Tuesday night and still poses a risk to thousands of structures in the Ventura and Santa Barbara County regions.
“The stories of loss are heartbreaking – families and small business owners who have lost everything,” said the archbishop.
These disasters often force people to turn to faith and science for answers, he said, noting how the fire has also prompted his own reflection of scripture.
Gomez recalled the story of the prophet Elijah’s encounter with God on the holy mountain. The prophet found that “the Lord was not in the fire,” but was in a “tiny whispering sound” after the flames went out. To encounter the Lord, he had to listen carefully.
In a similar way, the archbishop said, natural disasters can contain a message about the preciousness of life, which if heard, allows for greater solidarity in the suffering community.
While there can sometimes be a human tendency to separate ourselves from those in pain, he said, disasters break down the barriers of pride and enable opportunities for “extraordinary heroism and ordinary human kindness.”
“The Lord is in the fire!” Gomez proclaimed, noting that he has seen the presence of God in the volunteers of organizations like Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent De Paul Society.
“He is there in all these stories of sharing and self-sacrifice, in all those who are opening their homes to strangers, in all those who are risking their lives to save others.”
God has asked his people to comfort the vulnerable, he said, and encouraged Christians to be the ones who stand by the afflicted, weep with the sorrowful, and help rebuild the broken.
Turning to the Blessed Mother, he asked her to intercede for California that the community may recognize the whisper of the Lord.
New York City, N.Y., Dec 13, 2017 / 09:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Franciscan friar and EWTN host Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, passed away on the morning of Dec. 13, his community has confirmed.
Fr. Apostoli was a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and was a regular on EWTN programming, most recently as the host of “Sunday Night Prime.”
He also authored numerous books and was considered one of the leading experts on the Our Lady of Fatima apparitions.
“All of us at EWTN are saddened by the loss of our dear friend Father Andrew Apostoli, CFR. Father Andrew was a constant presence on the Network for nearly twenty-five years, particularly as the host of ‘Sunday Night Prime’ for the past five years,” said Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the EWTN Global Catholic Network.
Fr. Apostoli was born Joseph Dominic Apostoli on July 3, 1942 in Woodbury, New Jersey, and was the second of four boys. He first encountered Capuchin Franciscan friars at his parish in 8th grade and was inspired by their joy.
“I felt that the brothers were joyful and I wanted the joy that I saw,” he told the Catholic Herald in 2015.
He met Archbishop Fulton Sheen while attending high school seminary, and would later be ordained a priest by Archbishop Sheen on March 16, 1967. He would eventually become the Vice Postulator for Sheen’s cause for canonization.
Fr. Apostoli was a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in 1988, and was also influential in the founding of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal.
During his time in active ministry, Fr. Apostoli served as a teacher, retreat leader and spiritual director. He also wrote many spiritual books on subjects including Our Lady of Fatima and the Holy Spirit. His most recent book, “Answering the Questions of Jesus,” is a book designed to lead readers into deeper reflection on each of the personal questions Jesus asks in the Gospel.
Fr. Apostoli first appeared on EWTN on the “Mother Angelica Live” program in July of 1993, together with Fr. Benedict Groeschel, and taped his own series for the network in 1994, which first aired in 1995.
In 2012, Fr. Apostoli took over as host for EWTN’s “Sunday Night Prime” which had previously been hosted by Fr. Benedict Groschel, a fellow Franciscan Friar of the Renewal.
On November 10, Fr. Apostoli announced on the CFR’s website that due to declining health, he could no longer maintain a public schedule. Over the past month, the brothers have been posting brief health updates about the priest and asking for prayers.
In the morning of Dec. 13, the brothers confirmed that he had passed away.
“We always looked forward to his many visits to Irondale to produce programs,” Warsaw said.
“He was such a kind and holy man who always brought joy to the EWTN Family and who was a constant witness to the Franciscan spirit. We will certainly miss him.”
New York City, N.Y., Dec 13, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Nearly 200 sex abuse victims of clergy in the New York archdiocese have received compensation through a program the archdiocese says shows the Church’s willingness to reach out to and listen to victims.
“At a time when nearly every institution that involves minors has had to face allegations of abuse, the Church is now a model in how to respond to this horror,” the Archdiocese of New York said Dec. 7.
Since its program launched last year, the archdiocese has compensated 189 victims of archdiocesan clergy abuse in amounts totaling more than $40 million.
“By any measure, the reconciliation program has been a success,” the archdiocese said. “Many of the victim-survivors have expressed their gratitude that the Church extended an invitation, listened, and responded with compassion and understanding. All left knowing that the Archdiocese of New York was willing to make a genuine act of reparation for the harm that was done to them.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York launched The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program in October 2016.
The program was headed by Kenneth Feinberg, an attorney and mediator who led the September 11 victims’ fund. He has been assisted by his colleague Camille Biros. They determined issuance and amount of compensation to be given to victims.
The compensation figures are accurate as of Nov. 30. More than 200 individuals applied, and additional claims made before the Nov. 1 application deadline are still being processed.
The Church’s effort against sex abuse and its care for survivors are summarized in the report.
“The crime and sin of the sexual abuse of minors has surfaced in every segment of society – schools, families, Hollywood, sports teams, youth groups, government programs for youth, religion – really, any group or organization that brings adult and minors into contact,” the report’s introduction says.
“Fortunately, for the Catholic Church, such horrors are now mostly confined to the past,” it continues. “That does not mean our work is over. Prevention, education, and, yes, reconciliation with those who have been hurt remain an ongoing priority.”
New York City, N.Y., Dec 12, 2017 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Last Friday night, more than 200 people gathered for a Times Square fashion show in New York City. It wasn't in a fashion house or theater. Instead, the models walked in a unique venue: a Church. The special venue was only fitting: the models have special needs, and they modeled adaptive clothing brands and styles, raising money for charities that help children with disabilities.
"Organizing a fashion show for those with special needs reminds us that true beauty lies in our dignity as unique children of God" said Sean O'Hare, fashion show organizer, in a statement.
The show was held at St. Malachy’s Church on the West Side of Manhattan, and all proceeds from the show went to benefit the Special Needs Activity Center for Kids and Adults. Models, who have a variety of special needs, modeled outfits from dress designer Jovani, fashion brand Thursday Boots, and adaptive clothing brand Independence Day Clothing.
Because some of the models have sensitivities to loud music, shouting, or clapping, the show chose a novel soundtrack for its show: a live choir. The St. Joseph’s Choir, a Catholic choir based at the university parish at New York University, sang pop and praise songs as the models walked.
Along with O’Hare, former Miss America 2008 and Fox News Contributor Kirsten Haglund co-hosted the event.
Any fashion show, one of the most important elements, besides the clothes themselves, is the audience reception. At St. Malachy’s the models were met with overwhelmingly positive reviews.
"What a terrific night!” said Tracy Nixon, a mother and founder of a non-profit for those with Down syndrome, Gigi's Playhouse NYC. “My daughter and everyone from GiGi’s Playhouse NYC had the best time tonight!"
The positive reception of the show has even inspired organizer O’Hare to plan other fashion shows like this around the country under the name, “100 Million Strong.”
"According to the UN there are approximately 100 million severely disabled individuals around the world,” O’Hare explained. “We want to demonstrate that this a large community, but one with strength, fortitude and joy!"
He hopes these shows can help to raise money for local special needs charities, encourage other designers to consider adaptive clothing solutions for people with unique physical needs, and celebrate the special needs community around the nation.
Orange, Calif., Dec 12, 2017 / 04:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The trade in fetal tissue from aborted babies proved costly for two bioscience companies who will admit fault, cease California operations and meet the terms of a legal settlement close to $7.8 million in value for violating state and federal laws against the purchase or sale of fetal tissue.
“This settlement seized all profits from DV Biologics and DaVinci Biosciences, which they acquired by viewing body parts as a commodity and illegally selling fetal tissues for valuable consideration,” said Orange County district attorney Tony Rackauckas. “These companies will never be able to operate again in Orange County or the state of California.”
The Yorba Linda-based DV Biologics LLC and its sister company DaVinci Biosciences LLC reached the settlement with the Orange County district attorney’s office, the Los Angeles Times reports. Prosecutors began their investigation in September 2015 after the California-based Center for Medical Progress filed a complaint.
David Daleiden, project lead for the Center for Medical Progress, helped run undercover investigative reports into the illicit sale of body parts and tissue from unborn babies at Planned Parenthood clinics, fetal tissue companies, and leaders in the abortion industry.
“The DaVinci companies’ admission of guilt for selling baby parts from Planned Parenthood is a ringing vindication of (the Center for Medical Progress’) citizen journalism methods and accuracy,” said Daleiden.
“In light of the news that Planned Parenthood is now under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for the sale of fetal body parts, the next step is for Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties to be held accountable under the law for their seven-year-long aiding, abetting, and profiting in DaVinci’s criminal scheme to sell baby parts for profit,” he added.
The prosecutors’ complaint was filed in October 2016 in Orange County Superior Court, charging that the defendants’ business practices were unlawful, unfair and fraudulent.
The companies were accused of illegally selling cells from fetal brain tissue for up to $1,100 per vial, in at least 500 sales, between 2009 and 2015. Sales brought in more than $1.5 million from 2013 to 2015. Tissue was acquired from Planned Parenthood and other sources, the Orange County Register reported.
Beginning in 2009, the companies hired marketing consultants and launched an advertising campaign with summer sales and promotional discounts on fetal tissue.
State and federal law only allow charges for the processing and shipping of fetal tissue. Sale of tissue for profit is illegal.
Other defendants in the case were company principals Estefano Isaias Sr., Estefano Isaias Jr. and Andres Isaias.
Not much of the $7.785 million settlement will be in cash, however. DV Biologics will pay the county $195,000. About $7.5 million of the settlement is the estimated scientific value of donated adult biological samples.
The defendants will donate adult samples, tissues and cells to a nonprofit academic and scientific teaching institution affiliated with a major U.S. medical school whose name prosecutors did not disclose. They will also donate and transfer lab storage containers and equipment.
DaVinci Biosciences focuses on medical research for spinal injuries, sports injuries and degenerative diseases. DV Biologics provides human tissue to research facilities.
The companies’ purchasers included academic institutions and pharmaceutical businesses in Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada and the U.K.
Documents from financier George Soros’ Open Society Foundations were posted to the site DCLeaks.com last year, which appeared to show Planned Parenthood’s allies and funders engaged in a multi-million dollar damage control campaign to counter the fallout from the videos.
The document, apparently written weeks after the July 2015 release of the first Center for Medical Progress videos, cited a need to defend the reputation and credibility of the provider and to defend it against potential loss of federal funding.
Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 12, 2017 / 03:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, thousands of Catholics attended midnight Mass at the Los Angeles cathedral following festivities drawn from Mexican culture.
“This is always a special night for me. On this night, we know, in a beautiful way, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is truly our mother, who loves us and protects us,” commented Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, who said the Dec. 12 Mass.
“This year, we will be praying also for our brothers and sisters who are suffering because of the wildfires, and also for all those young people and families who are anxiously waiting for Congress to act on immigration reform, especially to help the Dreamers. We entrust everyone in our community to the maternal tenderness of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Archbishop Gomez said.
The festivities began the preceding evening with traditional Aztec and Matachines dances and a performance by a Oaxacan band.
Inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, many faithful brought flowers to the chapel which houses a half-inch square relic of the cloak on which is miraculously imprinted the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The relic was gifted to Archbishop John Cantwell of Los Angeles after he led a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the 1940s and is the only Guadalupe relic in the U.S.
The celebration moved into the church at 10 p.m. where a rosary was said, accompanied by the cathedral’s Spanish choir, before the Mass.
In 1531 on the Hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City, Our Lady appeared to Saint Juan Diego as an indigenous woman speaking in the native language Nahuatl. She asked Juan Diego to appeal to the bishop to build a church on the site of the apparition, as a place where the compassion of Christ could be proclaimed.
After the bishop demanded a sign, Mary requested that Juan Diego gather the roses growing on the hillside, despite it being winter. Collecting the roses in his cloak, Juan Diego presented them to the bishop only to have the image of Our Lady be miraculously imprinted upon his tilma.
Washington D.C., Dec 12, 2017 / 12:09 pm (CNA).- Folk music is known for its foot-tapping, hand-clapping, barn-raising style – but now, a group of Dominican brothers is giving the genre a theological twist.
Meet the Hillbilly Thomists, a group of Dominican brothers who have a new album coming out on Dec. 12, which they describe as an authentic human and religious experience.
“Music can be sacred, but it can also be simply human – which is also sacred, just in a less explicit way with lyrics and themes,” Brother Timothy Danaher, one of the vocalists, told CNA in an interview with four of the band members.
“The New Evangelization needs all kinds of music, both the sacred and the human, to get the attention of people going about their daily lives.”
The band consists of 10 members from the Dominican House of Study and St. Dominic’s Priory in Washington D.C. It began as a lighthearted project with a focus on traditional Celtic music.
“The band itself was started by a couple of friars in our province,” said Brother Jonah Teller, who sings and plays guitar in the band. It grew out of a group of brothers who would get together to play Irish tunes, he said.
At first, the project was a fun excuse for the brothers to get together weekly and enjoy music. But as it grew from Irish tunes to more folk and bluegrass, the band began to perform publicly, receiving gigs for Catholics venues outside of the house.
The name “Hillbilly Thomists” comes from a line delivered by Catholic author Flannery O’Connor. After her novel Wise Blood was released, she said people had identified her as a “hillbilly nihilist,” to which she responded that she was more like a “hillbilly Thomist.”
The album is eponymous – named after the band – and consists of 12 songs featuring instruments including the guitar, washboard, fiddle, banjo, and the bodhrán, an Irish drum. Eleven of the songs are covers of old-timey spirituals like “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” “Amazing Grace,” and “St. Anne’s Reel.” The album also includes an original song, “I am Dog,” written by Brother Justin Bolger.
When asked how music corresponds to evangelization, the band emphasized that humans are both spiritual and physical beings, and that their spirits are lifted by beautiful images and sounds, especially when accompanied by Scripture-based lyrics.
“I do think music can enhance evangelization if done right. We’re bodily beings, so beautiful images and sounds can be good for us, can help lift our minds to God,” said Brother Peter Gaustsch, who plays mandolin, piano, and guitar.
The Dominican order has released several albums of choir music, but the band hopes that this project reaches hearts of its listeners in a different way.
“There are so many great old songs in this tradition that speak of God's love, his mercy, his grace, and our hope in him,” said Brother Justin Bolger, who sings and also plays piano, accordion, bass, and guitar.
Among the songs on the album is “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” – an American spiritual which has been covered by artists including Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris.
The wayfarer – or traveler – is an important image in Catholic theology, one of the brothers said, and cited examples from St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.
“The poor wayfaring stranger is all of us,” said Gautsch. “There’s a strong theme in the history of Christian spirituality of our lives as a kind of pilgrimage to our heavenly homeland.”
“There's a loveliness and beauty that carries with it the longing for our heavenly home and the trials that can face us as we make our way towards the Lord, hopeful because of the promise of his love and mercy,” added Teller.
Gautsch said the song depicts the struggle that is part of carrying our individual cross and learning to rely on the graces Christ provides for the journey.
“Sometimes the way is hard and steep, as the song says – in fact, it inevitably involves the cross – but the path has already been trod by Christ, who goes before us to prepare a place for us.”
The album can be ordered online, and is available for download at iTunes and Google Play.
Chicago, Ill., Dec 12, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Marian devotion is intense among the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe each year on her feast day.
Not just her shrine in Mexico City. The Virgin of Guadalupe has a major place of honor in Des Plaines, Ill., a Chicago suburb.
“People make the journey to come, and they leave their flowers and their offerings. They light a candle,” said Father Esequiel Sanchez, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “They want to get here, they want to get to her. When you talk to the pilgrims, you see the genuineness of the people’s faith.”
Last year, despite cold and snow, 250,000 people visited the shrine for the Dec. 12 feast day, Sanchez told CNA. The shrine draws over 1 million pilgrims each year.
While most pilgrims arrive by vehicle, many people walk to the shrine either from Chicago or throughout the Midwest as a sign of devotion or mortification.
“They walk miles to arrive,” said Fr. Sanchez. They each have a story to tell. A 2016 pilgrim walked on his knees part of the final two-and-a-half miles to the shine.
People like him will say “my daughter’s sick, and I want Our Lady to help,” the priest recounted, adding: “the extreme of the expression only indicates the extreme of the concern for their petition.”
The shrine hosts a digital replica of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is the most visited U.S. shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the second most-visited in the world after Mexico’s Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Its origins date to 1987, when a group of Chicago-area Catholics decided to launch a mission to promote devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe using a special pilgrim statue from the shrine in Mexico City.
In 1995, construction began on an outdoor shrine in Des Plaines modeled after Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City, where the Virgin Mary appeared to the indigenous Mexican St. Juan Diego in 1531. The Virgin Mary left her image on his cloak, known as a tilma, and asked him to build a church on a hilltop.
The apparition helped inspire mass conversions of indigenous people to Christianity.
While devotion to the Guadalupe Marian apparition is strong among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, Fr. Sanchez said other Catholics in America are “beginning to appreciate her a little more, and honor her.”
“I think American Catholics are looking at the story itself, and how much it sounds like the gospel,” he said.
The Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. is promoting Our Lady of Guadalupe, and she has become an image for the pro-life movement as well as for women’s issues, the priest noted. Other ethnic groups are growing in devotion to her, including the Indian and Polish communities.
Sometimes the mortifications of the pilgrims are extreme. In severe cold weather, senior citizens will still walk through the snow.
“Here we don’t judge them. We just get them to Our Lady,” Sanchez said. “Our job is to make sure you get there safely.”
Sometimes safety is a concern.
Once, a group of pilgrims traveled on foot through the northern Illinois city of Rockford on their way to the shrine. They were holding a banner and singing songs. A group of people voicing anti-immigrant attitudes began to assault them, told them to get out of the neighborhood, and threw rocks at them.
“It’s not necessarily a wonderful experience,” Sanchez said. “They continued their pilgrimage and made it.”
The priest suggested the pressures of contemporary American culture also drive devotion.
“Whatever the country is feeling, the community is looking for hope,” he said. “We live in a time when people feel less welcomed, where people feel scared, and often the only thing they feel they can trust is their prayer, and the one thing that has got them through the hardest times of their lives thus far: Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
The feast day can create a major traffic issue, with 300,000 people in a 36-hour period. Planning begins months in advance, with the local police department helping to manage the situation.
There are 150 to 200 volunteers just to care for the pilgrims Dec. 11-12.
“Our job is to take care of the pilgrims when they come. They are trying to get to her,” Sanchez said, adding that they aim to help the pilgrims feel loved and well-fed.
“We make sure that the people’s experience is one that is very, very festive,” he said. “There’s a lot of music, a lot of serenading mananitas, a lot of indigenous dancing, what you see in other shrines.”
Sanchez said there is a strong custom in Mexican Hispanic culture of “mandas,” which means “promises” in English.
“People make promises to Our Lady of Guadalupe for a specific intentions or miracles or an act of gratitude,” he said.
“The problem is a lot of people here in the U.S. can’t go back to Mexico. There are immigration issues, economic issues, health issues, there are a lot of issues that keep them from going to Mexico City to fulfill their life’s promise to Our Lady.”
To help these pilgrims fulfill their promises, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City has offered them the same graces and indulgences if they visit the Illinois shrine.
Other pilgrimages come during the novena, the nine days before the feast day.
“On the ninth, we have a pilgrimage of truckers,” Sanzhe said. “They bring their tractor trailers, the truck, just the cab… and they decorate their trucks and they come to the shrine and they have a special Mass in which all their trucks get blessed.”
About 300 horseback riders come through for a separate blessing.
Devotees even organize through their occupations. The local landscapers’ union sought a special blessing and a Mass.
“It’s wonderful to see they’re finding Our Lady of Guadalupe, and how much that really helps them,” the shrine’s rector said.