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Vatican official: With migration, cooperation is better than isolationism

12/11/2018 - 3:03pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Luisa Gonzalez, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican praised the adoption by more than 160 nations of a key agreement on global migration, saying today’s migration challenges are better tackled together than with "isolationist" stances.

The U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration "includes a comprehensive framework of best practices and policy instruments to increase international cooperation and sharing of responsibility in the governance of migration," Cardinal Pietro Parolin, head of the Vatican delegation, told government leaders.

The agreement, which is not legally binding, gives countries "the space to respond to their national circumstances and priorities, in full respect of international law and of the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their status," he said at the gathering Dec. 10.

"Its implementation will help all governments, as well as nongovernmental entities, including faith-based organizations, collectively to manage migration in a more safe, orderly and regular manner, something no state can achieve alone," said the cardinal, who is the Vatican secretary of state. The Vatican released a copy of the cardinal’s remarks Dec. 11.

More than 160 nations formally adopted the agreement Dec. 10 at an international conference in Marrakech, Morocco. The United States, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Chile and a handful of European countries were among more than a dozen nations that did not support the pact and its provisions.

Cardinal Parolin noted the refusal of some nations to take part in the conference or in the process of drafting the agreement. The Vatican, however, "is convinced that the enormous challenges that migration poses are best faced through multilateral processes rather than isolationist policies," he said.

While the Vatican supported the compact, he said, it will present "its reservations in due time, specifically on those documents in the compact that contain terminology, principles and guidelines that are not agreed language, including certain ideological interpretations of human rights that do not recognize the inherent value and dignity of human life at every stage of its beginning, development and end."

Nonetheless, the global compact is still is a "significant advance in the international community’s shared responsibility to act in solidarity with people on the move, especially those who find themselves in very precarious situations," he said, as it allows states to "improve their respective migration policies and, together, the international management of migration."

"As we have seen in recent years," he said, when challenges "are not managed well, crises can form, rhetoric can eclipse reason, and migrants can be seen more as threats than as brothers and sisters in need of solidarity and basic services."

"The Global Compact on Migration attempts to assist the international community to prevent crises and tragedies," he said. "At the same time, it also seeks to improve the governance of migration, which is bound to increase as the international community grows more economically, socially and politically interconnected."

The United Nations estimates that there are over 258 million migrants around the world living outside their country of birth, and, it said, that figure is expected to grow. The compact arose from the awareness that a more global and comprehensive approach was needed to promote the benefits of migration and tackle the risks and challenges facing individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination.

During a dialogue session at the Marrakech conference, discussing concrete ways to create partnerships and implement the pact, Cardinal Parolin said the Vatican urged the international community to help address the root causes of migration by being committed to fostering peace and development around the world.

While it is important to help make migration voluntary and safe, orderly and regular, people still should have the right not to migrate, he said.

Because the compact states, "We must work together to create conditions that allow communities and individuals to live in safety and dignity in their own countries," adequate responses must be given "to the adverse drivers of migration, most especially, violent conflicts and extreme poverty," he said.

"Situations of violence, inhumane living conditions, and economic hardship, as well as natural disasters and environmental degradation, affect not only those countries where they arise but also those countries of transit and destination," he said.

It requires more than just providing international development assistance and humanitarian aid, he said. It "also involves the commitment to the integral human development of every individual, providing each person with the basic conditions and opportunities to live a decent life.

"Few would leave if they had access to jobs, education, health care and other basic goods and services that are fundamental to every person’s fulfillment and basic well-being. Also essential to stability are the fundamental rights to be able to practice one’s religion freely, without fear of persecution or discrimination, as well as the right to political participation and freedom of expression," Cardinal Parolin said.

The other commitment the Vatican would like to emphasize, he said, is making sure all migrants, regardless of their status, "be guaranteed due process and receive an individual assessment that will determine their status."

"In the case of children and victims of trafficking, such measures are crucial if we are to respond adequately to their needs and be sure that they not find themselves in the very same situation that they sought to leave behind," he said.

Countries must also promote policies that favor family reunification and "prevent their separation throughout the migration process, while working toward ending the practice of detention, particularly of minors," he added.

Since migration very likely will continue in the coming years, "we consider it necessary to widen the regular and sure channels of emigration through generous and responsible policies, inspired by solidarity and co-responsibility," he said. 

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Consolation comes even in martyrdom, pope says

12/11/2018 - 2:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — God sends his consolation to those in need of reassurance, even when they are facing death, Pope Francis said.

Just like the early Christian martyrs, who sang as they marched to their deaths in the Colosseum, today’s martyrs still give witness to that same joy in the midst of suffering, the pope said in his homily Dec. 11 during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"I think of the good Coptic workers on the beach of Libya, slaughtered. They died saying, ‘Jesus, Jesus!’ There is a consolation within, a joy even in the moment of martyrdom," he said.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, in which God sends his messenger to "give comfort to my people" and "speak tenderly to Jerusalem."

This tenderness, the pope explained, is "a language that the prophets of doom do not know."

"It is a word erased from all the vices that drive us away from the Lord: clerical vices, the vices of a few Christians who do not move, who are lukewarm. They are afraid of tenderness," he said.

However, tenderness is precisely what God uses to console his people, like a shepherd who carries a lamb or a mother comforting her child, the pope said.

Pope Francis called on Christians to prepare for Christmas by praying for God’s consolation, especially in times of suffering, "because it is a gift from God."

God, he said, "is at the door. He knocks so that we may open our hearts and let ourselves be consoled and be at peace. And he does so gently: he knocks with caresses."

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Right to Life Action Coalition Strongly Supports Heartbeat Bill

12/11/2018 - 10:02am

Columbus, OH –Standing together with Ohio’s leading pro-family organizations, the Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio (RTLACO) today issued their strongest support for House Bill 258, the Ohio Human Heartbeat Protection Act.

Sponsored by Representatives Christina Hagan of Alliance and Ron Hood of Ashville, the legislation is poised to be moved through the final legislative steps during the Assembly’s “lame duck” session. It is expected to be adopted by the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee on Tuesday and is expected to receive a floor vote in the near future.

“We have been strongly supporting the Heartbeat Bill and now, with the addition to the Supreme Court of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, we see a great opportunity to significantly advance the protection of life,” stated Barry Sheets, legislative consultant for RTLACO. “Our members are excited to bring home the passage of HB 258 and establish protections for over ninety percent of unborn children that currently are killed in the womb.”

“We are calling on our state’s leaders, both Senate President Larry Obhof and Governor John Kasich, to recognize that Ohio’s unborn children need the strongest protections we can offer. It is important to the pro-life community, which strongly supports this life-saving bill, and we hope to see this week the adoption of the Heartbeat Bill.”

Obituary: Fr. Thomas Meyer

12/11/2018 - 9:45am

Reverend Thomas E. Meyer died on December 6, 2018. He was born on April 11, 1944 in Dayton, Ohio. He was preceded in death by his father, Robert T. Meyer in 2003 and his mother, Eileen (Gallagher) Meyer in 2009. Father Tom is survived by his loving brothers and sister, Robert M. and wife, Karen, of Loveland, OH, James P. and wife, Paula, of Lake Leelaunau, MI, Richard C., of Dayton, OH, Mary Ann and husband, Ed Bennett, of Hanover, IN, Joseph W. and wife, Carrie, of Dayton, OH. He is also survived by many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.

Father Meyer did his preparatory studies at St. Gregory Seminary and studied theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West in Norwood, Ohio. He was ordained on May 23, 1970 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in Cincinnati by Archbishop Paul F. Leibold.

Father Meyer received his first assignment on June 9, 1970 as Associate at St. Mary Parish, Greenville. On June 17, 1971, he was appointed Associate at Assumption Parish, Dayton and to teach at Alter High School. On June 15, 1972, he was appointed Associate at St. Charles Parish, Dayton while continuing at Alter High School. While at Alter High School, he was appointed as Resident Associate of St. Luke Parish, Beavercreek on July 7, 1978; Holy Angels Parish, Dayton on July 1, 1981; and Incarnation Parish, Centerville on July 3, 1984. On July 2, 1985, Father Meyer was appointed Pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville. He was appointed on July 5, 1989 as Pastor of Holy Angels Parish, Dayton and reappointed to another six-year term on July 6, 1995. On July 2, 2001, he was appointed Pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish, Delhi (Cincinnati) for a period of six years. He was appointed Pastor of St. Albert the Great Parish, Kettering on July 1, 2006 for a period of six years, and on July 1, 2012 he was reappointed to another six-year term. Father Meyer retired from active ministry on July 1, 2015.

The Reception of the Body was Monday, December 10, 2018 at 4:30 p.m. at St. Albert the Great Church, 3033 Far Hills Avenue, Kettering, Ohio 45429; (937-293-1191). Celebrant: Reverend Christopher J. Worland.

Mass of Christian Burial: Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at 12:00 noon at St. Albert the Great Church. Celebrant: Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati. Homilist: Reverend Gerald R. Haemmerle.

Burial: Tuesday, December 11, 2018 immediately following the Mass of Christian Burial in Calvary Cemetery, 1625 Calvary Drive, Dayton, Ohio 45409. Celebrant: Reverend Christopher J. Worland. (A reception will follow at St. Albert the Great Parish.)

Christ the King Church Dedicates Cross and Crown Atrium

12/11/2018 - 9:35am
The Cross and Crown Atrium is the newest building at Our Lord Christ the King Church. It links the church, school and parish center and is a powerful symbol of unification, knitting the parish community together in a physical and spiritual sense. The highlight is a large gathering space where parishioners can join in fellowship. (Courtesy Photo)The Cross and Crown Atrium is the newest building at Our Lord Christ the King Church. It links the church, school and parish center and is a powerful symbol of unification, knitting the parish community together in a physical and spiritual sense. The highlight is a large gathering space where parishioners can join in fellowship. (Courtesy Photo)

On Sunday, November 25 the Christ the King Parish community gathered together for a momentous occasion: the blessing and dedication of The Cross and Crown Atrium on the Solemnity of Christ the King.

The Most Reverend Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati, presided at the 5:00 pm Mass and then led a procession into the Atrium for the blessing and dedication. Reverend Edward P. Smith, Reverend Frank Voellmecke, Reverend Robert Obermeyer and the Reverend Mr. Donald Gloeckler were concelebrants. A reception in the Atrium followed.
The Cross and Crown Atrium is a new building linking the church, school and parish center. It is a powerful symbol of unification, knitting the community together in a physical and spiritual sense. The highlight is a large gathering space where parishioners can join in fellowship.

“Our parish’s feast day is a reminder of our 92-year heritage, so it was fitting to bless our newest building on the Feast of Christ the King,” said Reverend Edward Smith. During his homily, Archbishop Schnurr spoke about the establishment of the Solemnity of Christ the King in the year 1925. He said, “When many thought that God should be exiled from the affairs of the world—or at least marginalized to the point where He did not really matter—Pope Pius XI, in establishing this feast day, wished to remind us that Jesus is the world’s true ruler and judge.”

Since the parish’s founding in 1926, Our Lord Christ the King has been home to a vibrant Roman Catholic community. Its parishioners actively serve Mt. Lookout and the surrounding areas through a variety of outreach programs. Cardinal Pacelli, its Blue-Ribbon school, enrolls students from preschool through grade eight. For more information visit

The Most Reverend Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr blesses The Cross and Crown Atrium at Our Lord Christ the King Church in Mt. Lookout. (Courtesy Photo)The Most Reverend Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr blesses The Cross and Crown Atrium at Our Lord Christ the King Church in Mt. Lookout. (Courtesy Photo)

Obituary: Father Robert Conway CPPS

12/11/2018 - 9:23am

Fr. Robert Conway, C.PP.S., 93, died on December 8, 2018, in the infirmary at St. Charles Center in Carthagena, Ohio, where he made his home. He had been in failing health.

Fr. Conway was born on September 19, 1925, in Detroit, to Harold and Marie (Oberle) Conway. He later moved with his family to Roseville, Mich. He entered the Society in 1941 at Brunnerdale, the Congregation’s minor seminary outside of Canton, Ohio. On December 19, 1953, he was ordained to the priesthood at Mount St. Marys Seminary, Cincinnati.

Fr. Conway has served as a pastor, chaplain, educator, and missionary in Latin America during his 65 years as a priest.

After his ordination he served at Precious Blood Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Corpus Christi Church in Dayton.

In 1961, he traveled to Chile to minister in the C.PP.S. mission there. In Chile, he was active in parish ministry, ministered as a hospital chaplain, and was chaplain of the novitiate of the C.PP.S. sisters of Dayton, Ohio, who were also serving there. He served in urban Santiago as well as rural areas.

Fr. Conway returned to the U.S. in 1974 to attend graduate school. He received his Ph.D. from Loyola University in 1980. He was then appointed instructor and later associate professor at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Ind., which is sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. He taught at the college for nine years.

Fr. Conway’s later ministries included Hispanic ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in East Chicago, Ind.; visiting professor of Latin American studies at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind.; chaplain of a nursing home in Orlando; parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Sedalia, Mo.; chaplain to the C.PP.S. sisters in Dayton; and chaplain of St. Anne’s Home in Columbia, Pa.

Fr. Conway first moved to St. Charles in 1995. He returned to education ministry in 2003 when he became chaplain of Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Mich. In 2007, he was named chaplain and an adjunct faculty member of Ave Maria University’s Latin American campus in San Marcos, Nicaragua.

In addition to his other duties, Fr. Conway raised funds for the Catholic organizations. From 1996 to 2008, at weekend Masses in 107 U.S. dioceses, he preached on behalf of the Catholic organizations Food for the Poor, Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, and Cross Catholic Outreach. He returned to St. Charles in 2008, and spent the rest of his years there.

He is survived by a sister, Joan Lee, of Novi, Mich.; a brother, John (Loretta) Conway, Caledonia, Mich.; two brothers-in-law, James McClory, Royal Oak, Mich., and Stan Mullins, Eastpointe, Mich.; a sister-in-law, Mary Conway, San Diego; and numerous nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.

He was preceded in death by two sisters, Ann McClory and Mary Mullins; and two brothers, Joseph Conway and Fr. Thomas Conway, C.PP.S.; and a brother-in-law, Marion Lee.

Fr. Conway was “a faithful and holy priest. In his ministry, he continued to pour himself out, preaching on behalf of the missions later in life,” said his nephew, Msgr. Robert McClory. “He was always supportive of his nieces and nephews. As children, we were fascinated by the fact that he was a missionary in Chile for 14 years. We received letters and visits from him; his desire to serve the missions, wherever he was called, inspired us all.”

Fr. Conway was a tireless intellectual. He continued to read and write, researched his family’s history and kept apprised of current events in his later years. When asked shortly before his death to reflect on his 65 years as a priest, Fr. Conway said that he treasured the goodness of the people to whom he had ministered.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 2 p.m. on Friday, December 14, at St. Charles Center. Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., will preside, with Msgr. Robert McClory, Fr. Conway’s nephew, as homilist. Burial will follow in the Community cemetery.

Calling hours at St. Charles will be held on Thursday, December 13, from 1-5 and 7-9 p.m. with a prayer service at 7 p.m.

Memorial donations may be made to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Cincinnati Province.

Algerian martyrs bear witness to dialogue, peace, pope says

12/10/2018 - 2:24pm


By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The lives of 19 religious men and women martyred during the Algerian civil war are a testament to God’s plan of love and peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, Pope Francis said.

In a message read Dec. 8 at the beatification Mass for the six women religious and 13 clerics, Pope Francis said it was a time for Catholics in Algeria and around the world to celebrate the martyrs’ commitment to peace, but it was also a time to remember the sacrifices made by all Algerians during the bloody war.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, celebrated the Mass in Oran, Algeria, for the martyrs who were killed between 1994 and 1996.

Both Christians and Muslims in Algeria "have been victims of the same violence for having lived, with faithfulness and respect for each other, their duties as believers and citizens in this blessed land. It is for them, too, that we pray and express our grateful tribute," the pope said.

Among those who were beatified were Blessed Christian de Cherge and six of his fellow Trappists — Fathers Christophe Lebreton, Bruno Lemarchand and Celestin Ringeard as well as Brothers Luc Dochier, Michel Fleury and Paul Favre-Miville — who were murdered in 1996 by members of the Armed Islamic Group in Tibhirine, Algeria.

Their life and deaths were the subject of the movie "Of Gods and Men," which won the grand prize at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.

Several months after their deaths, Blessed Pierre Claverie, bishop of Oran, was assassinated along with his driver by an explosive device. According to the website of the Dominican Order of Preachers, his death was mourned also by Muslims who considered him "their bishop."

Pope Francis said that all Algerians are heirs of the great message of love that began with St. Augustine of Hippo and continued with the martyred religious men and women "at a time when all people are seeking to advance their aspiration to live together in peace."

"By beatifying our 19 brothers and sisters, the church wishes to bear witness to her desire to continue to work for dialogue, harmony and friendship," the pope said. "We believe that this event, which is unprecedented in your country, will draw a great sign of brotherhood in the Algerian sky for the whole world."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Surprise! Pope makes several impromptu visits

12/10/2018 - 2:14pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) — Pope Francis made surprise visits Dec. 7 and 8 to people receiving medical care far from their homes, to a dozen intellectually challenged young people and to the staff of a major Rome newspaper.

The late-afternoon visits Dec. 7 to the CasAmica residence for families with a member needing long-term medical care far from home and to Il Ponte e l’Albero, a therapeutic rehabilitation home, were part of the pope’s continuing "Mercy Friday" activities.

Pope Francis began the Friday visits to hospitals, clinics, schools and residential communities during the 2015-16 Year of Mercy to demonstrate that mercy involves concrete acts of kindness and solidarity.

Both the CasAmica and Il Ponte e l’Albero are on the extreme southern edge of Rome.

The Vatican said most of the guests at the CasAmica are Italian families, mostly from the south, who cannot afford to stay in a hotel or rent an apartment while their family members are receiving treatment for cancer, leukemia or other serious illnesses. A few of the families, though, come from North Africa and from Eastern Europe.

"The pope rang the doorbell and was welcomed by the personnel on duty, who were dumbstruck at the unexpected visit," the Vatican said. Some of the guests were in the kitchen and some children were in the playroom. "The Holy Father stopped to play and joke with them" before listening to the parents of some sick children and offering them words of comfort.

The visit to Il Ponte e l’Albero came in response to a letter from some of the young people describing "the daily difficulties that come from their mental disadvantages," as well as their desire and efforts to follow the programs their doctors have designed for them.

According to a Vatican statement, the pope sat with the young people, listened to them, responded to their questions and encouraged them. The parents of some of the young people heard the pope was there and arrived in time to embrace him and thank him for the visit.

His visit to the newspaper, Il Messaggero, Dec. 8 also came in response to an invitation. The newspaper is marking its 140th anniversary.

Pope Francis stopped at the newspaper’s headquarters in the center of Rome just after leading prayers for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In a video of the visit, posted by the newspaper, Pope Francis confirmed Il Messaggero is his preferred daily paper, even though, he said, "I’ve been advised against" reading it by some people.

"I wish you the best — another 140 years," he told the staff.

Pope Francis said journalism should be a service, "explaining things without exaggeration, always looking for the concrete."

Discover the facts, report them and then comment on them, he said. "This is the kind of information we all need."


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Salesian Guild going strong 75 years on

12/10/2018 - 12:30am

By John Stegeman

In a different age, members of the Salesian Guild of Greater Cincinnati would call out writers or reporters who published incorrect information about the faith, sometimes with public refutations.

These days the Salesian Guild is more cordial, with its whole mission wrapped up in annual event that serves as an opportunity for Catholic communicators to share a meal and be refreshed by each other’s company.

The Salesian Guild of Catholic Communicators of Greater Cincinnati will host its 75th annual meeting on Jan. 26 at The Summit Country Day School. The event will include Mass, dinner, keynote speaker, presentation of the Communicator of the Year Award and update on media law.

The keynote address will be delivered by Dan Hurley, who will speak about how civility can returned to our contentious conversations. Hurley is known most recently as the interim president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and director of Leadership Cincinnati. He is also interim host of WVXU’s Cincinnati Edition, a former reporter and host of Newsmakers for Local
12, and a Cincinnati historian.

Named for St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists, this unique organization with no dues or officers, meets just once a year near the saint’s feast day. The purpose is to foster fellowship among Catholics in communications-related fields.

“The Salesian Guild meeting is a wonderful opportunity to share fellowship, hear an inspiring speaker, and honor one of our own with the Distinguished Communicator of the Year award,” said John Kiesewetter, media reporter for WVXU Radio and member of the Salesian Guild’s planning committee. “Often, I’m surprised to see a longtime professional acquaintance or a fellow reporter at the dinner whom I didn’t know was Catholic.”

The Distinguished Communicator of the Year honor has been awarded since 1994, beginning with Daniel Kane, former communications director for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. It is given to the Catholic communicator who exemplifies the best in communication skills, whose work touches people in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and who brings religious values to life in his or her work. The 2019 winner had not been selected at press time.

Originally called the Greater Cincinnati Catholic Press and Radio Associates, the Salesian Guild was founded in 1944. E. Leo Koester and Helen Detzel of “The Cincinnati Times-Star,” and Robert Otto of “The Cincinnati Post,” were the founding members. Some years later, Msgr. Edward Graham, once editor of “The Catholic Telegraph,” gave the guild its present name.

“The objective of this organization is not to angle the news for the benefit of the Church, but to proclaim our belief in God and to honor the patron of journalists, St. Francis de Sales,” Otto said in 1949. That remains true today.

Early on, the gatherings were breakfasts, taking place after a morning Mass. Later, when rules were relaxed to allow Mass to be celebrated in the evening, the event became a dinner. Today it draws attendees from all walks of communications work in Greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.

“It’s a great way to meet fellow communicators who share our faith and values in a social setting away from deadline pressure,” Kiesewetter said. “I always come away from the evening inspired and renewed.”

To learn more or to register for the dinner, visit

Today’s Video: Taking it one step at a time

12/09/2018 - 12:59am

In today’s video, Bro. Casey discusses taking it one step at a time. Today is the Second of Sunday of Advent and we’re getting closer to Christmas, and times seems to rush by. In today’s world, we’re used to going online to purchase just about anything we want and receive it quickly, perhaps the next day. Yet, no one changes all at once. Growth takes time and patience. As we grow closer to Christmas and continue to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord, let’s not get overwhelmed by the length of the journey, but instead just take it one day at a time.

Take a holy pause and leave “Christmas Crazy” behind

12/09/2018 - 12:09am

Are you ready for the Christmas Crazy? We are down to the wire. Christmas is rushing into our lives sooner then we want. It seems like yesterday when we were eating turkey and believing we had all the time in the world to make Christmas. But not so! We are sadly remiss: still got to put up a tree, buy a gift for our eccentric, single brother in-law, send a card to all the people who have already sent us one. The holiday is pressing in on us and we are overwhelmed and in no mood even to think about God. We feel exhausted, overwhelmed and far from the source of the reason for this holy night.

We are in this together. We have sworn that next year will be different, but it is the same old wild drill. For so many (57 percent of Americans) Christmas has become a secular holiday with no spiritual significance. We know we are headed that way if we continue to buy into the demands of a picture perfect winter holiday. Is it possible to change our focus and regain a peace filled holiday?

I invite you to consider a holy pause. It is a short few minutes with God. It is an opportunity to step out of all the Christmas chaos, the endless demands, the rush of the season and into God’s presence. It is a decision to walk away from it all for a brief moment. We mindfully shut ourselves away from the noise of Christmas carols blaring on the radio, long lines at the cashier, online gift orders — and gently, quietly connect our hearts with His heart. Life cannot stand still, but we can. We must take to heart the invitation in Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

God wants to be honored by our gift of time. Rather than money, fasting, extra prayer time, what if we choose to eliminate all those things that grab up our time and keep us from God and give those saved minutes to God? Perhaps cookie-baking can be replaced by making fewer or a trip to the bakery. We could even trim our social calendar a bit because God desires us to honor Him with the expensive currency of time. This little amount that we seek out is a moment to engage in the quieting of our minds. the bowing our body and hearts and simply pause before Him. It is at that moment that everything changes, what seemed so important fades away in the light and beauty of His awesome presence.

There is a little time left in this Advent season to find Him. The Christmas season lasts long after the 25th. It is never too late to encounter God. He patiently waits for us and is not far away. God is within our hearts. Deuteronomy 30:11- 14 says it all: “…the word is very near to you… it is in your heart.” We must allow our hearts to marvel at the mystery of Emmanuel. Our spirit can settle into the idea that this Divine Source of Life took the incomprehensible journey from eternity into a humble, unassuming manger. In the luxury of our silence, we cannot see the chore list awaiting us, but only the miracle of Christ’s birth and the reason for it. If we are quite blessed in our time alone with God, we will know (even feel) the reality of the priceless gift of His presence. These little moments alone with God will change us. Our pinched grimace, the anxious frown seems to fade. It is the presence within, the peace that surpasses understanding that overtakes us.

Little Janelle kept pegging her Daddy to take her to church to see the “activity “ scene. He corrected her telling his daughter that it is called a “nativity “ scene. She responded, “ Oh no, Daddy. It is an activity scene: I hold Jesus and He talks to me.”

Perhaps it is time for us to join her.

Marking feast day, pope asks Mary’s care of families seeking refuge

12/08/2018 - 3:23pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) — In the heart of Rome, near streets of fancy shops already blinged out for Christmas shopping, Pope Francis prayed for Romans struggling to survive and for families in the city and around the world who face the same lack of welcome that Mary and Joseph experienced.

The pope concluded his public celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, by making the traditional papal visit to a statue of Mary erected in Rome’s historic center to honor Catholic teaching that Mary was conceived without sin.

The statue is located near the Spanish Steps and Rome’s most expensive clothing and jewelry stores; it is also next to the building housing the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Instead of making a speech near the statue, the pope composes and reads a prayer, and he leaves a basket of roses at the statue’s base.

In the prayer addressed to Mary, he said, "In this Advent time, thinking of the days when you and Joseph were anxious for the imminent birth of your baby, worried because there was a census and you had to leave your village, Nazareth, and go to Bethlehem — you know what it means to carry life in your womb and sense around you indifference, rejection and sometimes contempt.

"So, I ask you to be close to the families who today in Rome, in Italy and throughout the world are living in similar situations," the pope continued. He asked Mary to intervene "so that they would not be abandoned, but safeguarded with their rights, human rights that come before every other, even legitimate, demand," an apparent reference to rights of migrants and refugees and the right of nations to control their borders.

Earlier, under brilliantly sunny skies, some 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to recite the midday Angelus prayer with Pope Francis.

Before leading the prayer, he offered a meditation on the Bible readings for the day’s feast, highlighting the difference between Adam, who sinned and then hid from God, and Mary, who was conceived without sin and offered her life totally to doing God’s will.

"The ‘Here I am’ opens one to God, while sin closes, isolates, keeps one alone with oneself," the pope said.

"’Here I am’ is the key to life," he said. "It marks the passage from a horizontal life focused on oneself and one’s own needs, to a vertical life, reaching toward God."

Openness to God and to doing God’s will "is the cure for selfishness, the antidote to an unsatisfying life where something is always missing. ‘Here I am’ is the remedy to the aging of sin, the therapy for remaining young at heart."

"Why don’t we begin each day with a ‘Here I am, Lord’? It would be beautiful to say each morning, ‘Here I am, Lord, may your will be done in me today,’" he said.

Turning one’s life over to God and to doing his will does not mean life will be free of troubles and problems, he said. Mary’s wasn’t.

"Being with God does not magically resolve problems," he said.

In fact, the pope said, for Mary the problems began immediately. "Think about her situation, which according to the law, was irregular, and the torment of St. Joseph, the life plans that were overturned, what people would say. But Mary put her trust in God."

The "wise attitude" of Mary, which all Christians should try to imitate, is not to concentrate on the succession of life’s problems — "one ends and another presents itself" — but to trust in God and entrust oneself to him each day, Pope Francis said.


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San Francisco Archdiocese celebrates newly written Mass of the Americas

12/07/2018 - 7:40pm

IMAGE: (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz


SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — San Franciscans will celebrate the recently commissioned "Mass of the Americas" Dec. 8 for the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe at the archdiocese’s Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.

The liturgy, scheduled for 2 p.m., is the first new Mass commissioned for the cathedral since it was dedicated in 1971.

"The Mass embodies the way Mary, our mother, unites all of us as God’s children," San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said in a statement announcing celebration the Mass, which he said is a "simultaneous tribute to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe," whose feast days are Dec. 8 and Dec. 12, respectively.

San Francisco composer Frank La Rocca wrote the Mass, which includes music in Spanish, Latin, English and Nahuatl, the Aztec language Mary used when she spoke with St. Juan Diego in Mexico in the 16th century.

The Mass is sponsored by the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship. La Rocca is composer-in-residence at the institute.

The Eternal Word Television Network planned to broadcast and livestream the celebration.

An announcement for the liturgy said the style is of the long-standing sacred music traditions of the Catholic Church but incorporates traditional Mexican folkloric hymns to Mary.

It was composed for a 16-voice mixed chorus, organ, string quartet, bells and marimba, which is an instrument from Central America and South America. A professional choir known as Benedict Sixteen was to sing at the Mass.

Archbishop Cordileone originated the idea for the Mass as the "musical equivalent of mission architecture because it is rooted in the tradition and incorporate local elements in the creation of a new worship experience."

The Archdiocese of San Francisco said the Mass also was inspired by the calendar in which the feast of the Immaculate Conception falls on the Saturday before the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, offering a way to unify the Anglo and Latino communities of the Catholic Church.

After its first celebration, the Mass of the Americas will be taken on an international tour of cathedrals including to Our Lady of Guadalupe cathedrals in Dallas and Tijuana, Mexico.


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Christmas spirit in the air as Vatican unveils Nativity scene, tree

12/07/2018 - 5:11pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The annual unveiling of the Vatican’s Christmas tree and Nativity scene brought some much-needed warmth to people’s hearts as winter approached.

Hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 7 applauded as white curtains unfurled, revealing a 52-foot wide artistic representation of Jesus’ birth made entirely of sand and dubbed the "Sand Nativity."

The bas-relief sculpture, which weighed over 700 tons, was made with sand from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice.

Shortly after, as the sun set behind St. Peter’s Basilica, the sounds of "Silent Night" filled the square before the lights of the Vatican’s towering Christmas tree were lit.

The 42-foot-tall red spruce tree, donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, was unveiled at the Vatican’s annual tree lighting ceremony.

Among those present at the annual Christmas tree lighting were Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, patriarch of Venice; and Bishop Giuseppe Pellegrini of Concordia-Pordenone.

The "Sand Nativity" scene and tree will remain in St. Peter’s Square until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 13.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis met with delegations from the northern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, responsible respectively for the 2018 Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene.

Thanking the delegations for their gifts, the pope said the Nativity scene and Christmas tree are visible signs that "help us to contemplate the mystery of God, who was made man in order to be close to us."

The bright lights emanating from the Christmas tree, he explained, "remind us that Jesus is the light of the world, the light of the soul that drives out the darkness of enmity and makes room for forgiveness."

The soaring height of the Christmas tree, he added, also symbolizes "God who — through the birth of his son, Jesus — came down to man to raise him to himself and elevate him from the fog of selfishness and sin."

Pope Francis also reflected on the unique composition of the Nativity scene. Sand, he said, is a poor material that "recalls the simplicity, the littleness and frailty with which God show himself through the birth of Jesus in the precariousness of Bethlehem."

"The child Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, whom we lay in the manger, is holy in poverty, littleness, simplicity and humility," the pope said. "By contemplating the God-child who emanates light in the humility of the manger, we, too, can become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness."

Kicking off preparations to celebrate the birth of Christ was special exhibition in the morning of over 100 different Nativity scenes at the Vatican. The event, now in its 43rd edition, was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Dubbed "100 Cribs at the Vatican," the Dec. 7-Jan. 13 exhibition featured a wide variety of artistic representations depicting Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

In a statement promoting the event, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the pontifical council, said the exhibition of different Nativity scenes — a tradition credited to St. Francis of Assisi — was "a strong instrument of evangelization."

"So many people stop every Christmas before the mystery of God made man, represented with figurines — which in many cases are authentic masterpieces of art — to pray, to reflect and to discover the love of God who became a child for us."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju


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Feast of Immaculate Conception does not get weekend dispensation

12/07/2018 - 4:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON — Just last year, Catholics were required to attend separate Masses two days in a row for the Sunday obligation and Monday’s Christmas Mass. Now, they have a similar opportunity this year with the feast of the Immaculate Conception falling on a Saturday — Dec. 8.

The vigil Mass on Saturday evening is not a "two-for-one" Mass for both days.

Last year, the U.S. bishops gave Catholics a heads-up about the back-to-back Sunday and Christmas liturgies 10 months in advance in a newsletter issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship. It also referenced what would occur this year and will recur when Dec. 8 falls on a Monday.

The newsletter specifically noted that the Saturday vigil does not count for both the holy day and Sunday in the very rare circumstances when two of the church’s six holy days of obligation — the feast of the Immaculate Conception or Christmas — fall the day before or after Sunday.

"When consecutive obligations occur on Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday, the faithful must attend Mass twice to fulfill two separate obligations," the committee said.

There is dispensation from a holy day Mass obligation when other holy days fall on Saturdays or Mondays but this does not apply to Christmas or the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The U.S. bishops voted in 1991 to lift the obligation to attend Mass on holy days of obligation that fall on Saturdays or Mondays for three of the six holy days: the feast of Mary, Mother of God, Jan. 1; the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15; and the feast of All Saints, Nov. 1.

Most dioceses have transferred observance of the feast of the Ascension from the Thursday 40 days after Easter to the following Sunday.

The bishops’ committee has looked ahead to when these consecutive liturgies will happen again. In the next 12 years, Christmas will fall either on a Saturday or a Monday four times and the feast of the Immaculate Conception will fall on either of those days three times, including this year.

The Dec. 8 feast day has a long history in the United States. The U.S. bishops commended the nation to the patronage of Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception in 1846. Pope Pius IX approved their decision Feb. 7, 1847. Eight years later, the pope declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary, that she was conceived without original sin, to be an article of faith. It became a holy day in the U.S. in 1885.

The feast was celebrated in some monasteries before the beginning of the eighth century and became more widespread in the 18th century.

The divine worship committee’s newsletter emphasized the benefit of going to Mass on holy days even when they occur before or after a Sunday, stressing: "It would be hoped, of course, that Catholics foster a love for the sacred liturgy and hold a desire to celebrate the holy days as fully as is reasonably possible."

Or as one person responded on Twitter to this reporter’s announcement about the Dec. 8 obligatory Mass attendance on Saturday: "That’s correct! Daily Mass can be rewarding."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter@carolmaczim


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In times of trouble, hold fast to God, Capuchin tells pope

12/07/2018 - 2:25pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When storm clouds gather and the Catholic Church is tossed by the scandalous behavior of some of its members, Catholics must repeat what St. Francis of Assisi repeated: "God is and that suffices," the preacher of the papal household told Pope Francis and his aides.

"Let us also learn to repeat these simple words to ourselves when, in the church or in our lives, we find ourselves in circumstances similar to those of (St.) Francis, and many clouds will disperse," said Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa Dec. 7.

The preacher of the papal household leads the pope and Roman Curia officials in a spiritual reflection on most Fridays of Advent and Lent. For his 2018 Advent reflections, Father Cantalamessa said he would "set aside every other theme and any reference to current problems" and focus on each individual’s need for a personal relationship with God.

"We know from experience that an authentic personal relationship with God is the first requirement in dealing with all the situations and problems that come up without us losing our peace and patience," said the 84-year-old Father Cantalamessa.

At the suggestion of Pope Francis, Father Cantalamessa will lead a retreat for the bishops of the United States Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago as they continue to discuss and discern ways to handle the clerical sexual abuse crisis.

For the theme of his Advent reflections at the Vatican, the Capuchin chose a verse from Psalm 42: "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."

"People today are passionate in searching for signs of the existence of intelligent beings on other planets," which is "legitimate and understandable," he told the pope and Curia officials. "Few, however, search for and study the signs of the Living Being who has created the universe, who entered into its history, and who lives in it."

Yet while "we have the real Living One in our midst," he said, "we overlook him to search for hypothetical beings who, in the best of cases, could do very little for us and certainly could not save us from death."

A fundamental fact for those who believe in God is not only that he exists, Father Cantalamessa said, but that he lives and continually seeks a relationship with the human beings he created.

Many Christians see Jesus’ remark "Seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" as a promise that Jesus will give them everything they ask for, and then are "perplexed because we see this rarely happens," he said.

But the basic promise is "Seek me and you will find me; knock and I will open the door," Father Cantalamessa said. "He promises to give himself, above and beyond the small things we ask of him, and this promise is always infallibly kept. Whoever seeks him finds him; he will open to whoever knocks, and once someone has found him, everything else is secondary."

Father Cantalamessa recalled how, at the end of his life, St. Francis of Assisi was troubled by the way some of his friars were behaving. In prayer, he felt the Lord rebuke him with the words, "Why are you disturbed, little man? Did I not place you over my order as its shepherd, and now you do not know that I am its chief protector?… Do not be disturbed, therefore, but work out your salvation, for though the order were reduced to the number of three, it will by my grace remain unshaken."

According to a Franciscan scholar, he said, St. Francis was comforted and went around repeating to himself, "God is and that suffices! God is and that suffices!"


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Mass times for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception before 7:00 p.m. Friday, after 10:00 a.m. Saturday

12/07/2018 - 2:20pm

Mass times before 7:00 p.m. and after 10:00 a.m. in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Friday, December 7th

3:00 p.m. St. Lawrence (Price Hill)

4:00 p.m.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga (Bridgetown)
St. Ann (Groesbeck)
St. Teresa of Avila (Cincinnati)

4:30 p.m.
Mary Help of Christians (Fort Recovery)
St. Dominic (Delhi)
St. Joseph (Hamilton)

4:45 p.m. Holy Trinity (Coldwater)

5:00 p.m.
Holy Redeemer (New Bremen)
St. Martin of Tours (Cheviot)
St. Mary (Piqua)
St. Stephen (Cincinnati)

5:15 p.m.
Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains
Emmanuel Church Dayton
Holy Rosary (St. Marys)

5:30 p.m.
Guardian Angels (Mt Washington)
Resurrection (Price Hill)
St. Ann (Hamilton)
St. Charles Borromeo (Kettering)
St. Luke (Beavercreek)
St. Remy (Russia)

6:00 p.m.
Ascension Parish (Kettering)
Holy Trinity (Dayton)
Queen of Apostles (Begramo SI Lounge)
St. Albert the Great (Kettering)
St. Bernard (Taylor Creek)
St. Joseph (Fort Recovery)
St. Joseph (North Bend)
St. Louis (North Star)
St. Paul (Fort Recovery)

6:30 p.m.
Immaculate Conception (Celina)
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (Reading)
St. Augustine (Minster)
St. John the Baptist (Maria Stein)
St. Louis (Owensville)
St. Michael (Fort Loramie)

Saturday, December 8th

10:30 a.m.
Holy Family (Dayton)
Incarnation (Centerville)
St. Michael (Fort Loramie)
Wright State Campus Ministry (Dayton)

11:00 a.m.
St. Albert the Great (Kettering)
St. Denis (Versailles)
St. Francis DeSales (Cincinnati)
St. Ignatius Loyola (Monfort Heights)
St. John the Evangelist (West Chester)
St. Margaret of York (Loveland)
St. Michael (Mt. Orab)
St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus (Covington)
St. William (Price Hill)
Visitation (Eaton)

11:40 a.m. Holy Angels (Sidney)

11:30 a.m.
Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains
St. Francis Xavier Church (Downtown Cincinnati)
St. Gertrude (Madeira)

All Saints Church (Montgomery)
Immaculate Heart of Mary (Anderson Twp)
St. Bernard Winton Place (Cincinnati)
St. Boniface (Cincinnati)
St. John the Baptist (Harrison)
St. Joseph (Dayton)
St. Julie Billiart (Hamilton)
St. Mary (Arnheim/Georgetown)
St. Mary (Bethel)
St. Mary (Urbana)
St. Remy (Russia)
St. Vivian (Finneytown)

12:10 p.m.
Holy Family (Middletown)
Holy Name (Mt. Auburn)
Old St. Mary (Over the Rhine)
St. Rose (Cincinnati)

5:00 p.m. Annunciation Parish (Clifton)

Today’s Video: The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception explained

12/07/2018 - 12:04am

Did you know that Mary actually did know her child would save the world? In fact, she was saved around forty-seven years before Jesus died. Fr. Mike Schmitz simplifies the complex theology behind the Immaculate Conception in this video.

Deacon: From wildfires come acts of kindness for those trying to recover

12/06/2018 - 9:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Christina Gray, Catholic San Francisc

By Christina Gray

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — Deacon Ray Helgeson left his home in Paradise on the morning of Nov. 8 with his wife, Donna, for daily Mass at the close-knit Butte County town’s only Catholic church. They never arrived.

On the short drive to St. Thomas More Church, where the deacon assists at Mass and heads the parish’s adult faith formation program, the Helgesons saw billowing smoke and a nearby peak in flames. They continued warily in the direction of the church but were soon intercepted by emergency crews, who diverted them from what would become California’s most destructive wildland fire.

The Camp Fire burned more than 153,000 acres, destroyed more than 14,000 homes and caused 85 fatalities, with several people still reported missing as of Dec. 6.

The fire left more than 80 percent of Paradise residents, including the Helgesons, essentially homeless and had a devastating impact on St. Thomas More parishioners, with an estimated 640 losing their homes out of 800 on the official roster.

"This stuff really confuses you," Deacon Helgeson told Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He made the comments in a Nov. 28 phone interview from his son’s home in Citrus Heights outside Sacramento, a 90-mile drive from Paradise.

He and his wife arrived Nov. 8 with the clothing they wore to church that morning, a short supply of necessary medications and Deacon Helgeson’s breviary. Like many residents, they have not been back to the fire zone, where recovery efforts are still underway, but have confirmed that their home is gone.

"Stability for human persons is huge and we don’t have a place now to call home now," Helgeson said. "If your faith is weak, it’s going to be extra tough."

St. Thomas More Church and School were spared, but the parish hall and rectory were gutted.

Many displaced people have found refuge in the college town of Chico about 22 miles from Paradise. A campus Newman Center located a block away from St. John the Baptist Church has served as the spiritual and organizational epicenter for the displaced from St. Thomas More. St. John the Baptist is one of two Catholic parishes in Chico.

On Nov. 18, 10 days after the fire began, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto celebrated a Mass for St. Thomas More fire survivors at the center. On Nov. 25, the center offered a special Mass for St. Thomas More parishioners.

Jim Collins is a St. Thomas More parishioner and retired educator who is acting as commander-in-chief of a relief and communications center set up in the Newman Center hall. Collins, a Grand Knight in St. Thomas More Knights of Columbus Council 7772, is one of the few parishioners whose house didn’t burn.

Of the 107 Knights in the council, 69 lost their homes.

"This is really Job territory," Collins said. "That imagery is perfect here."

Collins and a small crew of fellow Knights spend their days tracking down missing parishioners, communicating with family members about their safety and whereabouts, helping find housing for survivors, distributing donated clothing, money and gift cards and raising money for long-haul recovery, he told Catholic San Francisco during a visit to Chico Nov. 29.

Collins pointed to rows of brand-new backpacks filled with toiletries, scarves and little luxuries. The included greeting card was signed by Deacon Dominic Peloso and his wife, Mary Ann Peloso, from the Church of the Nativity in Menlo Park.

"We’re buried in backpacks!" Collins said. "Just this morning, we got all of these backpacks and $9,000 in gift cards from your archdiocese."

Fellow Knights Bill Vichi and Greg Wright are longtime St. Thomas More parishioners who arrived to help Collins. Nothing in their words or manner betrayed the fact that both were made homeless by the fire as they greeted Collins with back-slaps and jokes.

Vichi later shared that he lost everything.

"Actually I’m not distributing gift cards here today, I’m getting them," he said matter-of-factly.

Wright had even less reason to smile but did so easily and often. He was a renter without renter’s insurance, among those worst off after a disaster because they lack resources to start over, Collins said.

"I will follow wherever the Lord directs me," Wright said.

Until Nov. 30, the Newman Center hall also served as an administrative home base for the Paradise parish. The effort was organized by St. Thomas More pastor Father Godwin Xavier, parish plant manager Greg Kidder and Deacon Helgeson. Kidder helped Father Xavier escape the rectory before it was destroyed and risked his own escape by taking the time to bring valuable parish records with them.

"Compared to what other people lost, mine is just little," said Father Xavier, who was installed at the parish only five months ago. "I don’t care about that."

On Nov. 30, St. Thomas More parish administration and relief efforts moved to Our Divine Savior, a Catholic parish in north Chico, at the Sacramento diocese’s direction.

Father Xavier said he intends to reintroduce the weekly night of "centering prayer" the parish offered each week in Paradise. "That could be healing," he said.

Zooba Zwicker, music director for St. Thomas More, and her husband, Clint Freedle, lost their home and his successful construction business in the fire. Still, she arrived to talk to Collins about music and logistics for the funeral of parishioner Larry Campbell Dec. 15. Campbell, who was terminally ill with cancer, escaped the fire with his wife but died two days later of a stroke.

Deacon Helgeson, who travels between Citrus Heights and his home parish three days a week for his pastoral duties, said the disaster has had its positive side.

"Something like this awakens something within us," he said. "It gives the Lord a chance to pull triggers within us of generosity, of kindness and of gentleness with others."

He said the fire and his faith have forged something new and unexpected in himself and other survivors.

"It’s an awareness of being without, but there is also a sweetness to it," he said.

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Gray is associate editor of Catholic San Francisco, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.


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Pope revamps Vatican City State structures, laws to boost oversight

12/06/2018 - 5:05pm

By Carol Glatz and Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis approved a new set of laws concerning the structure and governance of Vatican City State in an effort to simplify the many offices and activities of the world’s smallest nation and to boost oversight, transparency and budgetary controls.

The measures, issued "motu proprio," on the pope’s own accord, were published Dec. 6.

In his letter, the pope said the reorganization was necessary to make it "suitable to current needs" while ensuring its mission to serve the pope and the specific aims of the departments and activities within Vatican City State.

He said the time was right to "proceed with a systematic legislative reform enlightened by the principles of rationalization, cost-effectiveness and simplification as well as pursuing the criteria of functionality, transparency, regulatory consistency and organizational flexibility."

The pope approved the legislation that had been drafted by a working commission headed by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the governing office of Vatican City State. The new laws will go into effect June 7 and fully replace the law approved by St. John Paul II’s motu proprio in 2002.

While most of the new law reorganizes existing offices and departments, it "suppresses," that is, eliminates from its jurisdiction, the Pilgrim and Tourist Office, and it allows the Vatican pharmacy — run by the Brothers of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God — to maintain its "technical and administrative autonomy."

The new law aims for greater transparency with the creation of an oversight and inspection body.

"This new position will have the specific tasks of verifying that the norms, procedures and evaluation of cost-effectiveness and efficacies are being observed" within the different departments and offices, said a note accompanying the new law.

It also creates the general secretariat office, which will be under responsibility of the secretary-general of the office governing Vatican City State. The office will run the new oversight and inspection body, manage the "coordination of events" and take care of the central archives.

According to the legislation, the organizational structure of the governorate will remain substantially unchanged, yet will have greater responsibility in supervising the offices in Vatican City State. The changes that have been made to the operational structure were hoped to allow the governorate of Vatican City State "to operate effectively with regard to problems, emergencies and ordinary management." The legislation is also geared toward "a moderate decentralization" as well as a strengthening of internal audits, strategic planning in preparing budgets that ensures "greater and more efficient functionality."

While ensuring greater oversight and transparency, the heads of the governorate’s offices and departments will be responsible for their own "assigned objectives, workplace safety and data protection" without the obligation of consistently seeking approval from the general administration.


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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at