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Today’s Video: Mary of the Cross Lenten Video Series Week 1

02/20/2018 - 12:11pm

Welcome to a Lenten video series, where this series will delve into the Christian mystery of human suffering through the eyes of Mary, Mother of Jesus.

A picture says a thousand words: St Patrick Stolen

02/20/2018 - 9:33am


Each year the St. Patrick statue at Holy Cross Immaculata is stolen by the Order of Ancient Hibernians, and will reappear during the St. Patrick Day’s Parade. Don’t worry, St. Patrick will return to his rightful place at Holy Cross after the parade.

U.S. bishops declare national call-in day to urge Congress to save DACA

02/19/2018 - 6:28pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters


WASHINGTON (CNS) — After the Senate failed Feb. 15 to garner the 60 votes needed to move a bill forward to protect the “Dreamers,” officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced a “National Catholic Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers” Feb. 26.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Senate was not able to come together in a bipartisan manner to secure legislative protection for the Dreamers,” the USCCB officials said in a joint statement Feb. 19.

“With the March 5th deadline looming, we ask once again that members of Congress show the leadership necessary to find a just and humane solution for these young people, who daily face mounting anxiety and uncertainty,” they said.

The joint statement was issued by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president; Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president; and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

“We are also announcing a National Catholic Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers,” the three prelates said. They asked U.S. Catholics “to call their members of Congress next Monday, Feb. 26, to protect Dreamers from deportation, to provide them a path to citizenship, and to avoid any damage to existing protections for families and unaccompanied minors in the process.”

They added: “Our faith compels us to stand with the vulnerable, including our immigrant brothers and sisters. We have done so continually, but we must show our support and solidarity now in a special way. Now is the time for action.”

By day’s end Feb. 15, members of the U.S. Senate had rejected four immigration proposals, leaving it unclear how lawmakers will address overall immigration reform and keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place.

Needing 60 votes for Senate passage, a bipartisan measure that included a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million Dreamers — those eligible for DACA — and $25 billion for a border wall failed by six votes. The final vote was 54-45. A bill the Trump administration was supporting was defeated 39 to 60. Two other bills also failed.

The U.S. House was pressing on with its own bill, which by mid-day Feb. 16 was not yet up for a floor vote. Described as “hard line” by opponents, it includes keeping DACA in place, funding a border wall, ending the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, limiting family-based visas, requiring employers to verify job applicants’ immigration status and withholding federal grants from so-called “sanctuary” cities.

The U.S. House and Senate will be in recess for a week following the Presidents Day holiday.

The bishops and countless other immigration advocates have urged members of Congress to preserve DACA and protect the programs beneficiaries by passing the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which has long been proposed. The bill is what gives DACA recipients the “Dreamer” name.

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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

Nuns withdraw from ministry in Mexican city wrought by violence

02/16/2018 - 6:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Francisca Meza, EPA

By David Agren

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — An order of nuns has withdrawn from an especially violent city after the parents and sister of one of the women religious were kidnapped and killed.

The Diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, where two priests were murdered Feb. 5, said in a statement that the nuns from the “Comunidad Guadalupana” (Guadalupe Community) had withdrawn because of a lack of security, leaving a school it operated in the city of Chilapa without staff.

Schools in Chilapa had suspended classes from September to December because of the insecurity, the statement said.

The nuns’ withdrawal from Chilapa is but the latest hardship for the Diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, which serves parts of southern state of Guerrero, where the heroin trade has exploded in recent years. At least six priests have been murdered there since 2009.

Two priests, Fathers Germain Muniz García and Ivan Anorve Jaime, were shot dead as they drove back from Candlemas celebrations with four other passengers, three of whom were injured.

State prosecutor Xavier Olea Pelaez said originally that the priests had attended the celebrations, where there were armed individuals from three states and that a criminal group and a neighboring state had shot the priests. Olea also said a photo, showing Father Muniz holding an assault rifle and posing with masked men, prompted confusion.

Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, who has had a tense relationship with the state government, rejected the prosecutor’s version of events as a “fairy tale,” saying the photo was at least a year old and likely taken with members of a community security force in Father Muniz’s hometown. The bishop said after speaking with survivors, who included Father Muniz’s sister, that there had been an “incident” on the highway coming back from the celebrations.

“What they’re trying to do is blame us,” Bishop Rangel said of the prosecutor’s statements. “According to them, we move among narcotics traffickers, hence the murdered priests.”

In a Feb. 15 statement, the state government said the priests were not members of a criminal group and confirmed details voiced by the bishop.

The priests’ murders highlighted a continuing dispute between the state government and Bishop Rangel, who has sought out cartel bosses for dialogue to calm the state and to allow his priests to serve poor and isolated communities sustained by planting opium poppies.

He also has spoken critically of alleged collusion between the cartels and politicians, the police and the army.

“All of Guerrero is controlled by narcotics traffickers. This is a fact,” Bishop Rangel told Catholic News Service. “The authorities themselves have been displaced.”

Chilapa has turned especially violent as drug cartels fight over the city, which is considered strategically important for transporting heroin to the United States.

At least 15 drug cartels are operating in Guerrero, according to state government spokesman Roberto Alvarez Heredia, who attributed the rising violence over territory and a burgeoning illegal heroin-supply business. He said the cartels engage in kidnapping and extortion because it provides quick cash to cover the “payrolls” for their foot soldiers.

Alvarez said the authorities “did not share” Bishop Rangel’s opinions and did not look well on his meeting with criminal groups, but they did “respect” the bishop and his office.

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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

Catholics urged to appeal to lawmakers in Congress to pass DACA bill now

02/16/2018 - 6:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) — By day’s end Feb. 15, members of the U.S. Senate had rejected four immigration proposals, leaving it unclear how lawmakers will address overall immigration reform and keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place.

Late that afternoon, Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, issued an urgent alert to Catholics in his archdiocese to raise their voices “to support the ‘Dreamers'” and contact their senators and representatives to vote for a bipartisan measure to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which is set to expire March 5.

“Time is running out for them,” he said in a statement. “Congress must pass bipartisan legislation that would provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers.”

Needing 60 votes for Senate passage, a bipartisan measure that included a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million Dreamers — those eligible for DACA — and $25 billion for a border wall failed by six votes. The final vote was 54-45. A bill the Trump administration was supporting was defeated 39 to 60. Two other bills also failed.

The U.S. House was pressing on with its own bill, which by mid-day Feb. 16 was not yet up for a floor vote. Described as “hard line” by opponents, it includes keeping DACA in place, funding a border wall, ending the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, limiting family-based visas, requiring employers to verify job applicants’ immigration status and withholding federal grants from so-called “sanctuary” cities.

“As Catholics, we believe the dignity of every human being, particularly that of our immigrant and refugee children and youth, must be protected,” Archbishop Wester said in his statement. “The sanctity of families must be upheld. The Catholic bishops have long supported undocumented youth brought to the United States by their parents, known as Dreamers, and continue to do so.”

Other Catholic leaders expressed decried lawmakers’ failure to provide protections for DACA recipients.

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, called it “deeply heartbreaking.”

“While thankful for the bipartisan majority support for protecting DACA youth, it is unconscionable that nearly 800,000 will continue to live in fear and uncertainty,” she said Feb. 15.

“As it has for more than 100 years, Catholic Charities will continue to stand with and advocate on behalf of migrants and others in need. Not because they are migrants but because they are children of God,” she said.

Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, echoed that disappointment, saying: “These young women and men have done nothing wrong and have known life only in the United States. The Dreamers who are enrolled at Notre Dame are also poised to make lasting contributions to the United States.

“We pray that our leaders will end the cruel uncertainty for these talented and dedicated young people who have so much to offer our nation,” he said. “Regardless, Notre Dame will continue to support them financially, maintain their enrollment, provide expert legal assistance should that become necessary and do everything it can to support them.”

The U.S. Catholic bishops individually and as a body have been urging Congress to protect DACA since September, when President Donald Trump announced he was ending the Obama-era program and told Congress to come up with a legislative fix.

Since 2012, DACA has allowed some individuals brought as minors to the United States by their parents without legal permission to receive a renewable two-year period of protection from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit. As of 2017, approximately 800,000 individuals had DACA status.

Since Trump rescinded the program, many immigration advocates have urged members of Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which has long been proposed. The bill is what gives DACA recipients the “Dreamer” name.

In Arizona in late January, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson and his predecessor, now-retired Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, urged passage of a “clean” bill, like the DREAM Act, to preserve DACA. Their commentary was posted on the diocesan Facebook page.

“While all would agree that reasonable border protection is needed and while clearly countries have a right to protect their borders, it is wrong to barter the lives of these young people by making their protection contingent on a wall or stringent border protection that is unreasonable and a waste of taxpayer’s money. Congress should pass the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill,” they said.

“We are at a moment in our nation’s history that could define who we are as a people. Traditional American values of fairness and compassion are in conflict,” they wrote. “This is a situation that is a moral test for our society; we must not fail.”

In a Feb. 2 letter to Arkansas’ senators and representatives in Congress, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor called for grass-roots bipartisan support for “a just and humane solution for the Dreamers whose fate is in your hands.” He, too, urged they pass a narrowly focused bill to save DACA.

“If enough members of Congress commit to focusing on a narrowly-tailored bipartisan solution, DACA-only legislation is possible (to) provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers,” he wrote. “They and their families who have worked hard and made valuable contributions to our country deserve certainty and compassion. Dreamers should not be used as a political bargaining chip for other legislative proposals.”

In a Feb. 2 op-ed in the Daily News, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, struck the same tone, predicting that if Congress tied the fate of these young people to a broader immigration reform measure backed by Trump, it would be “a recipe for getting nothing done, at least in the short term.”

“There are times that our elected leaders must act because it is the right thing to do as human beings. This is one of those times,” he said. “If the Dreamers are left unprotected, it will leave a stain on our nation’s character for years to come. If we pursue justice and welcome them as full Americans, it would be one of our finest hours.”


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ACLU Sues Ohio over Down Syndrome Abortion Ban

02/16/2018 - 5:06pm
Babies suspected of having Down Syndrome are frequently aborted; a new Ohio law makes such abortions illegal. Courtesy image.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit against the State of Ohio’s new law against abortion babies who may have Down Syndrome this week.

Filing on behalf of most of the abortion businesses in the state, including the two in Cincinnati and Kettering, the ACLU’s suit says that the law prevents women from “exercising their constitutionally protected right to abortion” and interferes with abortion businesses delivering “nonjudgmental, medically appropriate” healthcare.

Filed by the ACLU of Ohio; Cincinnati law firm Gerhardstein & Branch, LPA; and Planned Parenthood Greater Ohio, the suit names three “right” responses to a diagnosis of Down Syndrome:
“For many families, the right decision is to continue the pregnancy and parent a child with Down syndrome; for some, it is to give birth and place the child for adoption; and for others, it is abortion.”

The new Ohio law prohibits the third “right” response, the suit continues, violates the 14th amendment so-called right to privacy, and imposes an undue burden a woman’s right to have an abortion for any reason up until a child’s birth.

“Plaintiffs wish to continue providing safe and nonjudgmental abortion care to patients who hae knowingly and voluntarily decided to terminate their pregnancies, regardless of the particularl

reason for the decision,” says the suit.

Read the complaint here.

Sharonville Abortion Business Closed?

02/16/2018 - 12:19pm

Although barred from performing surgical abortions after its license was not renewed, the Sharonville Women’s Med Center has remained open for many months and pro-life groups posited that the staff was seeing women for pre-abortion visits before surgical abortions at the Women’s Med Center in Kettering, and possibly for the initial dose of abortion drugs. Both businesses are owned by Martin Haskell.

Mary Jo Suer of the Sharonville Respect Life Ministry and 40 Days for Life-Sharonville sent the following message to supporters on Feb. 15: I want to let you know that there has been no activity at the Women’s Med Center, Sharonville abortion mill last week or the days checked this week. Someone  called the abortion center to schedule an abortion and she was told there are no services in Sharonville. God is good! I believe that our prayers and witness have been instrumental in the closing of this abortion mill. The rosary has been prayed there weekly for the last seven years. Our Lord listened.

With these current circumstances, we decided we would not conduct organized rosary in Sharoville on Saturdays. Abortions are being performed at Planned Parenthood on Auburn Avenue in Cincinnati and Women’s Med Center in Kettering where late term abortions are performed. We were also told that chemical abortions are performed at the Planned Parenthood in Hamilton. This is a new service for that facility and we are trying to confirm.

40 Days for Life began on February 14. There are campaigns in front of Planned Parenthood in Cincinnati and in Kettering. Go to to get information and sign up to pray.

There are a few of us who will continue to monitor Sharonville to watch for any activity. The building is still on the market. In April, we are planning a prayer service in celebration of the closing of the abortion mill. I will keep you posted.

Thanks to all of you for coming to Sharonville to pray over the years. A special thanks to Dr. Stephen Brinn and LaRosa’s who have allowed us to be on their property to pray and sidewalk educate. They are truly a blessing! God bless all of you for your support of God’s littlest ones! Our work is  not done. Mary Jo


Nicholas Hardesty Seize the Moment for February: How to explain and defend the faith

02/16/2018 - 10:41am

Over many years of speaking and writing about religion, I have developed a few guidelines for explaining and defending the Catholic faith. Stick to these principles and you will grow as a catechist (a teacher of the faith) and an apologist (a defender of the faith).

Be informed: You can’t seize the moment if you don’t know your faith well. The Bible and the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” are the two best sources for what we believe and why we believe it. It’s time to get reacquainted.

First, find some dependable websites, such as or, and see how they explain and defend the faith. You don’t have to have all the answers yourself if you know where to look.

Next, whenever these sites reference a Bible passage or a paragraph from the Catechism, look it up. Then, read the surrounding passages. That’s how I started to familiarize myself with these works. You can learn a lot that way.

When you’re ready to dive in a little deeper, there are reading plans online that you can use to read the Bible and the Catechism in a year. Or, you can read the Bible one year and the Catechism the next year. This may sound like a lot, but it’s only a few paragraphs a day and it will build a confidence that will last you a lifetime.

There are also books that provide helpful introductions to the Bible and the Catechism. For the Bible, see “Bible Basics for Catholics” and “New Testament Basics for Catholics” by Dr. John Bergsma. For the Catechism, see “Catholic Update Guide to the Catechism” by Mary Carol Kendzia.

Be prudent: You can’t engage every person who has a question or comment about the church. There aren’t enough hours in the day for that. Instead, concentrate your efforts on what will be the most effective: private conversations with one or two people you already know. Sometimes an honest conversation with a stranger can be fruitful, too. It’s something you have to discern. But, trying to be a one-man army never works.

Stay on topic: Being prudent also means staying on topic. If you try to tackle too many issues at once, you won’t do any of them justice. Choose one topic and focus on it. That way you can give it your full attention, and you can keep yourself from getting too overwhelmed.

Stay calm: Stay as poised and composed as possible. Let the truth speak for itself. A calm and reasoned approach is always more effective than getting angry, raising your voice, and calling people names – even when what they say is very offensive.

Practice: You’re only going to get good at this by practicing. Look for opportunities to explain and defend what you believe. Seize the moment, whenever and wherever it occurs. It’s scary, I know, but I promise you: every question and encounter will make you a more confident Catholic.

Pray hard: Prayer should be a central component of sharing your faith with others. Pray that God will grant you the wisdom and courage to be an effective witness. Pray that the Spirit will open the minds and hearts of those you encounter. Pray with people, right then and there! God has promised He will give us the words when we don’t know what to say (Luke 12:11-12; John 16:13). But, we must pray.

Nicholas Hardesty develops new digital courses for Vocare, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s online catechist certification process. Contact him with new course ideas at

A picture says a thousand words: Seton National Dance Champions

02/15/2018 - 3:24pm

Today we celebrate Seton High School Small Varsity POM 2018 National Championship!

Florida school shooting an act of ‘horrifying evil,’ says Miami archbishop

02/15/2018 - 2:21pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giorgio Viera, EPA


MIAMI (CNS) — Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski urged community members to come together “to support one another in this time of grief” after a shooting rampage Feb. 14 at a Broward County high school left at least 17 people dead.

“With God’s help, we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations,” the archbishop said in a statement. “May God heal the brokenhearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil.”

In a late-night telegram to Archbishop Wenski, Pope Francis assured “all those affected by this devastating attack of his spiritual closeness.” “With the hope that such senseless acts of violence may cease,” he invoked “divine blessings of peace and strength” on the South Florida community.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing. He urged all unite their “prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation” of those affected by the violence in South Florida and for a society “with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence.”

Law enforcement officials identified the shooting suspect as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons from the school where he opened fire — Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. On the afternoon of Feb. 14, Cruz allegedly went on the shooting rampage shortly before school was to let out for the day. He was apprehended about an hour after shots were reported at the school.

The suspect carried an AR-15 rifle and had “countless magazines,” Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. He also told reporters that of the 17 fatalities, “12 people died in the school, two were killed outside the school, one died on the street and another two died at the hospital.” Several others were transported to the hospital. Details about the shooter’s motive were still being pieced together.

Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie called it “a horrific situation. It is a horrible day for us.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said, “This is just absolutely pure evil.”

Pope Francis was “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic shooting,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state said in telegram he sent to Archbishop Wenski on behalf of the pope. “He prays that Almighty God may grant eternal rest to the dead and healing and consolation to the wounded and those who grieve.”

“We are deeply saddened by the shootings in Broward County, Florida, and by the needless and tragic loss of life,” Cardinal DiNardo said in his statement. “May the mercy of God comfort the grieving families and sustain the wounded in their healing.

“Catholics and many other Christians have begun the journey of Lent today,” he said. “I encourage us to unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence in these last weeks and for a conversion of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace. I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence.”

Archbishop Wenski added in his statement: “This Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten Season that calls us to penance and conversion. With God’s help, we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations.”

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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

Human Trafficking: Part I Sex Trafficking Victims

02/15/2018 - 1:09pm

Part 1 of a 4 part series

The interstate highway system provides vital arteries for commerce. It is the circulatory system of America.

Pulsing along these multilane ribbons are trucks and vans and automobiles — all serving the travel needs of countless businesses and their customers — moving goods from supplier to user.

Sadly, not all of this commerce is legal and, surprisingly, human trafficking ranks third behind drugs and guns in generating illegal revenue, according to law enforcement officials. As interstate hubs, Cincinnati and Dayton are not immune and, police vice control officers agree, this growing scourge is among the most difficult of crimes to combat.

Cincinnati Vice Squad Specialist Nate Young said sex trafficking runs the gamut from organized crime to the neighborhood pimp offering his small harem of women to willing customers.

“A circuit exists and we have been exposed to it here in Cincinnati,” he said. Several years ago, an investigation uncovered a Cincinnati man “moving his girls from Cincinnati to Louisville to Indianapolis to Columbus to Dayton and back.” He also had connections to a man in Los Angeles, “and there was some exchange between them — high-end prostitutes ‘‘tricked’ from city to city.”

Even greater in scope, another standard circuit runs from Chicago to Cincinnati to Nashville to Atlanta to New Orleans, Young said.”These are traffickers in sex, working a handful of days in each city and moving on. They base themselves in hotels” and advertise their presence on Craig’s List, social media, and pornographic websites dedicated to the illicit trade.

When a city hosts a big sporting event or convention, the traffickers descend on it with girls for hire: supply and demand at its most perverse.

Sex trafficking also is found in massage parlors and nail salons, said Cincinnati Police Officer Carrie Smith (a pseudonym for a female vice squad officer who at times works undercover). Young said strip clubs offer another haven for sex trafficking although there are none in Cincinnati. Customers can even flip through the Yellow Pages and look under escort services to “hook up.”

“Massage parlors are getting a lot more attention, because some are not what they seem to be on the surface,” Smith said.

“We’re looking at places where women are getting their nails done and people are going in and out. You might see someone going in a back room, and there’s a living space back there. When you’re getting your nails done in say, Kenwood, and it’s $50, and then you go to this weird little salon and it costs $15 and people are working from the time the shop opens until it closes, that’s a signal that something isn’t right. We pay attention to those types of things that aren’t the norm.”

Young noted that while there are no Cincinnati strip clubs, nearby clubs can attract police attention. “We did an investigation that originated in the city that took us to a [since closed] club called Deja Vu in Clermont County.” Many of its employees were Russian, an indication even before local human trafficking was less rampant, that there was nothing typical about its business.

Drugs and Recruiting Mix

Those who recruit women (and, less comonly, men) into sex trafficking often search for drug addicts, or recruit young people by getting them hooked on narcotics. Once they come to the recruiter for ther next fix, he or she gradually introduces them to the sex trade, Smith explained.

“That element of dependency on the trafficker is one of the biggest problems these women face,” she said. “Several of the women we have spoken to in the last few years, have had the same beginnings; the same story.

“They were at a point in their really young lives where they were taken advantage of. We have heard from several women that the first time they were given heroin was by a parent, or someone else they were very close to in their house.

“What ends up happening if someone you trusts gives you something like that, is it makes you dependent… inviting the next person to give you the same thing you are already addicted to” and having to “earn it” with sex, she explained. “A lot of women decide it is almost like the beginnings of a relationship. They build trust in the recruiter. They become dependent on that person, who becomes their trafficker and takes advantage of them. But it starts, in a lot of cases, in their house when they’re 11, 12, 13. It’s sad.”

Young said that women find “all kinds of different avenues” for prostitution.

“You can stand on the street corner,” he said. “You can advertise on Craig’s List or other sites put there solely for escort services or dating sites. The true hard-core traffickers are in cyberspace looking for those people who are using the Internet to advertise, or they are out physically on the streets looking for girls or men who are in dire enough straits that they feel they can pull them into a trafficking situation.”

Law Enforcement Faces Trafficking Roadblocks

Trying to combat this issue presents law enforcement with a nightmare.

The victims are threatened and fear retaliation. They have committed felony offenses as part of their sexual enslavement and don’t trust police to forgive and forget.

And while most traffickers work out of hotels, most look the other way.

“My professional experience tells me there is no hotel I have never been in that has not had a victim of human trafficking operating out of it,” Young said.

“It’s a complicated issue. When you’re the owner or proprietor one of these lower-end motels, you’re scratching and clawing to maintain your rat-infested, roach-filled motel. You don’t want to turn down that 40 bucks. A lot of times they turn a blind eye because they’re trying to make ends meet. We don’t get much cooperation.

“With the upper-end hotels, their angle is they want to turn a blind eye because they do not want publicity. They don’t want to lose a contract with visiting teams for the baseball season because suddenly they’re a human trafficking hub. They don’t want to lose that pipefitters convention coming to town. They don’t want to have anyone perceiving them as having an issue with the trafficking element at their hotel.

“Generally, they won’t call us,” he said. “We know this because we have talked to them about putting up signage in their hotels relating to what human trafficking looks like. ‘If you see something, say something’; ‘Everybody’s a victim’ — all of that stuff. Everyone has respectfully declined having any type of literature or signage in their hotel talking about human trafficking and reporting it.”

Someone Sees Something: How to React

Police receive a lot of tips about sex trafficking from the public.

“We get a lot of anonymous information, which is good,” Young said. “We make an assumption it is from a citizen, but I’m sure it has sometimes come from hotel managers or people like that. They are also citizens. We even get tips from Johns who may say they ‘just seen this girl and she was in a messed-up situation and I think she’s in trouble’ — I’ve received text tips from that dynamic of people. Anonymous calls from family members of victims of trafficking come in, too.”

Cincinnati police are building datatbases from tips, phone numbers, electronic sources, and information provided by the national human trafficking hotline (1-888-373-7888) to help them track when traffickers and their victims return to the state. While these are long-term solutions, Young said that calls from the public are vital to helping vicitms every day.

“If you see something, call us right away and give as much detail as you can,” he said. If you’re not sure who to call, the national hotline will inform the correct local police departments or agencies, for a quick response.

“Never step in and intervene,” he cautioned. “Weapons are generally implied in these issues. When we talk about getting search warrants or intercepting the trafficker, there’s always a possibility of weapons.

“Instead we advise citizens to be the very best possible witnesses they can be, to get as much information about what they’re seeing and who they’re seeing and get it to us. General descriptions are great but license plates are of greater use. Look for tattoos or any key identifier, too.”

State and local policing

Cincinnati police, Young said, are juggling numerous human trafficking cases. “Right now, between labor and sex trafficking, we are working on three or four cases,” he said, along with another “three or four where we have some information, but not enough to really do anything with yet.”

State Attorney Mike DeWine’s office also has a general task force on trafficking. Some cities, including Toledo, partner with the FBI. While neither Cincinnati nor Dayton have an FBI task force partnership, law enforcement statewide frequently collaborate on large-scale trafficking issues.

“We have a continuous working group that meets monthly here,” Smith noted, “different agencies working on different cases. Sometimes it will go on in a place like a Blue Ash or Sharonville hotel. We work with a lot of different agencies. Criminals don’t necessarily abide by city boundaries. ”

Prayer to end Human Trafficking

Loving Father,

We seek your divine protection for all who are exploited and enslaved.

For those forced into labor, trafficked into sexual slavery, and denied freedom.

We beseech you to release them from their chains.

Grant them protection, safety, and empowerment.

Restore their dignity and provide them a new beginning.

Show us how we might end exploitation by addressing its causes.

Help us reach out in support of victims and survivors of human trafficking.

Make us instruments of your spirit for their liberation.

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Updated: Pope told Jesuits he regularly meets abuse survivors, journal reports

02/15/2018 - 11:20am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis told a group of Jesuits in Peru that he often meets on Fridays with survivors of sex abuse.

The meetings, which he said do not always become public knowledge, make it clear that the survivors’ process of recovery “is very hard. They remain annihilated. Annihilated,” the pope had told the Jesuits Jan. 19 in Lima.

The scandal of clerical sexual abuse shows not only the “fragility” of the Catholic Church, he said, “but also — let us speak clearly — our level of hypocrisy.”

The director of the Vatican press office Feb. 15 confirmed that the pope’s meetings with abuse survivors is regular and ongoing.

“I can confirm that several times a month, the Holy Father meets victims of sexual abuse both individually and in groups,” said Greg Burke, the director. “Pope Francis listens to the victims and tries to help them heal the serious wounds caused by the abuse they’ve suffered. The meetings take place with maximum reserve out of respect for the victims and their suffering.”

On his trips abroad, Pope Francis usually spends time with local Jesuit communities and holds a question-and-answer session with them. Weeks later, a transcript of the exchange is published by Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal in Rome.

The transcribed and translated texts from Pope Francis’ conversations with Jesuits in Chile Jan. 16 and in Peru three days later were released in Italian and English by Civilta Cattolica Feb. 15 with the pope’s approval, the journal said.

The Jesuits in Chile had not asked the pope about the abuse scandal, even though the scandal was in the news, particularly because of ongoing controversy over the pope’s appointment in 2015 of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who had been accused of covering up the abuse committed by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima.

Pope Francis met with the Jesuits in Santiago at the end of his first full day in Chile. Earlier that day he had met with “a small group” of people who had been abused by Chilean priests, according to the Vatican press office.

The meeting with the survivors and with the Chilean Jesuits took place days before Chilean reporters asked Pope Francis about the accusations against Bishop Barros and he replied, “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?”

The pope later apologized for the remark and, soon after returning to Rome, sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, an experienced investigator, to Chile to conduct interviews.

After the pope left Chile and flew on to Peru, the topic of abuse was even more pressing. In the context of a discussion about spiritual “consolation” and “desolation,” one Jesuit told the pope, “I would like you to say something about a theme that leads to a lot of desolation in the church, and particularly among religious men and women and the clergy: the theme of sexual abuse. We are very disturbed by these scandals.”

Abuse, Pope Francis replied, “is the greatest desolation that the church is suffering. It brings shame, but we need to remember that shame is also a very Ignatian grace.” In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, encouraged people to contemplate Jesus’ goodness and their own wickedness, asking for the grace to be ashamed.

The pope told the Peruvian Jesuits that it is a temptation for people in the church to seek a “consolation prize” by comparing statistics about abuse within the church and abuse within families or in other organizations.

But even if the abuse rate is lower in the church, the pope said, “it is terrible even if only one of our brothers is such! For God anointed him to sanctify children and adults, and instead of making them holy he has destroyed them. It’s horrible! We need to listen to what someone who has been abused feels.”

At that point the pope told the Jesuits in Peru, “On Fridays — sometimes this is known and sometimes it is not known — I normally meet some of them. In Chile I also had such a meeting.”

The abuse scandal is “a great humiliation” for the Catholic Church, he said. “It shows not only our fragility, but also — let us say so clearly — our level of hypocrisy.”

Pope Francis also told the Jesuits in Peru that “it is notable that there are some newer congregations whose founders have fallen into these abuses.” He did not specify which congregations, however.

In the “new, prosperous congregations” where abuse has been a problem, he said, there is a combination of an abuse of authority, sexual abuse and “an economic mess. There is always money involved. The devil enters through the wallet.”

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Lent is time to notice God’s work, receive God’s mercy, pope says

02/14/2018 - 5:35pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) — Lent is a time for Christians to get their hearts in sync with the heart of Jesus, Pope Francis said.

“Let the Lord heal the wounds of sin and fulfill the prophecy made to our fathers: ‘A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh,'” the pope said Feb. 14, celebrating Mass and distributing ashes at the beginning of Lent.

After a brief prayer at the Benedictine’s Monastery of St. Anselm, Pope Francis made the traditional Ash Wednesday procession to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill for the Mass.

He received ashes on his head from 93-year-old Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, and he distributed ashes to the cardinals present, three Benedictines, three Dominicans, an Italian couple with two children and members of the Pontifical Academy for Martyrs, which promotes the traditional Lenten “station church” pilgrimage in Rome.

In his homily, he said the church gives Christians the 40 days of Lent as a time to reflect on “anything that could dampen or even corrode our believing heart.”

Everyone experiences temptation, the pope said. Lent is a time to pause and step back from situations that lead to sin, a time to see how God is at work in others and in the world and, especially, a time to return to the Lord, knowing that his mercy is boundless.

Lent, he said, is a time “to allow our hearts to beat once more in tune with the vibrant heart of Jesus.”

Hitting the reset button, the pope said, requires taking a pause from “bitter feelings, which never get us anywhere” and from a frantic pace of life that leaves too little time for family, friends, children, grandparents and God.

People need to pause from striving to be noticed, from snooty comments and “haughty looks,” he said; instead, they need to show tenderness, compassion and even reverence for others.

“Pause for a little while, refrain from the deafening noise that weakens and confuses our hearing, that makes us forget the fruitful and creative power of silence,” the pope said.

Use the pauses of Lent “to look and contemplate,” he suggested. Christians can learn from seeing the gestures others make that “keep the flame of faith and hope alive.”

“Look at faces alive with God’s tenderness and goodness working in our midst,” the pope said, pointing to the faces of families who struggle to survive yet continue to love, the wrinkled faces of the elderly “that reflect God’s wisdom at work” and the faces of the sick and their caregivers who “remind us that the value of each person can never be reduced to a question of calculation or utility.”

“See the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair their errors and mistakes, and who from their misfortune and suffering, fight to transform their situations and move forward,” Pope Francis said.

But most of all, he said, “see and contemplate the real face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception. For everyone? Yes, for everyone. To see his face is an invitation filled with hope for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and resignation.

The invitation, he said, is to “return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy, who awaits you.”

“Return without fear to join in the celebration of those who are forgiven,” the pope said. “Return without fear to experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God.”

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UPDATED: Slated to Close, Toledo Abortion Business Secures Eleventh Hour Transfer Agreement

02/13/2018 - 4:39pm
More than 50 people prayed in front of Cincinnati’s Planned Parenthood abortion business for the annual Mini March for Life sponsored by Greater Cincinnati Young Adults for Life. CT photo/Gail Finke

By Gail Finke

UPDATE, 2/15: While the board of ProMedical Hospital Toledo approved a transfer agreement with the city’s last remaining abortion business, Capital Care, earlier this week, the agreement had yet to be written and signed as of this morning. Although such complex agreements generally take weeks to write, the “Toledo Blade” reported that the abortion company’s lawyer, Jennifer Branch, was vowing to complete on in less than two days to meet the 10-day deadline before the business’s deadline to receive a medical license expires.

After the ProMedica announced its decision, the Diocese of Toledo released this statement:

The Catholic community throughout the Diocese of Toledo is heartbroken today.
ProMedica’s decision to authorize the patient-transfer agreement with Capital Care Network, the only remaining abortion clinic in the metro Toledo area, endorses the taking of innocent human life.
We believe the aim of all health care providers should be to promote the healing and protection of all human life, not to facilitate the destruction of the most vulnerable in our community.
We lament this tragic decision.
We exhort all people of good will to join in recognizing and protecting the dignity and sanctity of each human person.

Bishop Daniel E. Thomas
Diocese of Toledo


The “Toledo Blade” reports that the city’s last abortion business, which seemed destined to close after a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court last week, secured an emergency care agreement with a local hospital.

Ohio law prohibits any ambulatory surgical center from receiving a license unless it has a written agreement with a local hospital to provide emergency care for clients. Will emergency rooms treat anyone who is brought in, their doctors on duty provide the care they judge the patients need. With a written transfer agreement, the hospital and surgical center agree in advance on what care will be given to patients, how it all be given, and who will provide it.

Capital Care, the abortion business, had not been able to secure a transfer agreement for years. While the business was allowed to remain open during the business’s appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, the decision to uphold the Ohio Department of Health’s denial of Capital Care’s license gave the business 10 days to make an agreement with a local hospital, although all had previously refused.
On Tuesday, ProMedica Hospital Toledo’s board authorized an agreement.

“Entering into this agreement aligns with ProMedica’s mission and values, including our focus on being a health system dedicated to the well-being of northwest Ohio and our belief that no one is beyond the reach of life-saving health care,” a statement issued by the board reads.

Pro-abortion groups cheered the announcement and the business’s lawyer, Jennifer Branch, said she would file the papers to stop the license from being revoked.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said that Capital Care had not met state standards for four years, and that it had injured numerous women in the past. ProMedica, he said, had bowed to pressure and reversed its previous stance.

“Behind closed doors, ProMedica chose not to support life-saving health care but instead to bow at the altar of abortion,” he said. “How many more babies will die at this clinic? How many more women will suffer from botched abortions? ProMedica violated the Hippocratic oath all doctors attest to which is ‘to do no harm.’”

On Monday, pro-abortion activists protested the Toledo hospital. A spokesperson told local media that ProMedica did not want to be forced to choose “a political stance that is both divisive and polarizing.”

Pro-life activists in Dayton and Cincinnati asked members to contact the hospital on Monday. Today Cincinnati-based Life Issues Institute issued the following response to the “We must be vigilant in prayer and loving in our actions in defending all life — from womb to tomb. Our march continues.”

In 2016, according to the “Blade,” Capital Care performed 898 surgical abortions, out of a total of 1,144 at the business. It is one of eight abortion businesses still open in Ohio; three of those eight are in the borders of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.


Today’s Video: Remember these three letters in Lent F P G

02/13/2018 - 4:33pm

FPG! F = Fasting, P= Praying, G = Giving.

So each morning when you wake up these next 40 days of lent think F P G and carry that throughout the day!

Check out today’s video on Lent!


Sisters from Minnesota Catholic schools play on separate Olympic teams

02/12/2018 - 8:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Adam Bettcher, Reuters

By Matthew Davis

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Few schools can claim an Olympic athlete among their alumni base.

Even fewer schools have more than one, especially from the same family. But Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood and St. Odilia School in Shoreview — both Catholic schools — are proud to make this claim.

That’s because Hannah and Marissa Brandt, graduates of both schools, play on women’s Olympic ice hockey teams competing in this year’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Hannah Brandt, a recent standout with the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team, is a forward for the U.S. Olympic team, which defeated Finland 3-1 on Feb. 11 and will play Olympic Athletes from Russia Feb. 13. Marissa Brandt, who was adopted as a baby from South Korea, used her birth name, Park-Yoon Jung, for the Olympics and plays defense for the combined Koreas, which lost 8-0 to Switzerland Feb. 10.

Hill-Murray and St. Odilia recognized the sisters’ achievements in the weeks leading up to the games. The St. Odilia school office has a display of the Brandts’ successes.

Brian Ragatz, St. Odilia principal, said students are encouraged knowing that these athletes sat in the same desks as they do. He said it “really inspires them a little bit more to go out and reach their goal, because it seems a little bit more attainable.”

Students at Hill-Murray held a red, white and blue dress-up day during National Catholic Schools Week. They wore the colors to raise funds for parents of Olympians to attend the games.

Hill-Murray had T-shirts and sweatshirts made to celebrate the Brandts. The school will also televise their games in the commons area.

Principal Erin Herman said the Brandt sisters excelled on and off the ice in high school.

“Not only are they great athletes, both Hannah and Marissa were outstanding students and all-around wonderful young women,” Herman said. “They are both humble and kind; you would not have known they were Olympic athletes when you met them in the hall.”

At St. Odilia, music teacher Carrie Northrop told the elementary school students about the schools’ two Olympians, whom she taught.

“This had been a goal of Hannah’s since she was a little girl. This was something she talked about when she was going through elementary school,” Northrop said.

Northrop said Marissa Brandt originally was more of a figure skater but chose hockey because of her closeness to her sister. Marissa Brandt had a standout career at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter before making the Korean team.

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Davis is on the staff of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Obituary: Sr. Rose Carmel, SFP Berberich

02/12/2018 - 5:17pm

Cincinnati – Berberich, Sr. Rose Carmel, SFP (nee Mary Margaret), beloved Franciscan of the Poor Sister, passed to eternal life on February 9, at the age of 93.

She lived a life dedicate to God and God’s people for 75 years as a Franciscan Sister of the Poor. During those years she served the Congregation and the people of God in a range of ministries including Social Services, Catechetics, Formation, Founding Member of the House of Prayer, Cosmetologist, and in most recent years she has been dedicated to Prayer Ministry and Pastoral Presence to her own Sisters.

She is survived by her Sisters in Christ, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, and her siblings; Ullainee Battigaglia, Joanne Somers, Victor Berberich and Carl Berberich, and her numerous nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her parents Margaret (Heindl) and Aloysius Joseph Berberich and brothers, Al J., Thomas H. and Joseph Berberich.

Visitation at St. Clare Chapel, 60 Compton Road, Hartwell on Tuesday, February 13 beginning with a Wake Service at 9:00 am until the Liturgy of Christian Burial at 10:30 am. Interment in the St. Clare Cemetery will follow the Liturgy. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Franciscan Ministries, Inc., 100 Compton Road, Cincinnati, OH 45215.

Today’s Video: La Salle at Kairos

02/12/2018 - 4:39pm

Kairos is a Roman Catholic retreat program for high school and college. Kairos is part of the larger three-day movement in America, ultimately derived from the Cursillo movement founded in Spain in 1944. As such, the retreat is a four-day, three-night (or three-day, two-night in some cases) residential retreat, with the aim of providing participants the chance to “contemplate God’s role in their lives”. Many high school students in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati experience this amazing time in the enrichment of faith. For some, it can be life changing. For others it can be another step in their journey with Jesus Christ.

As we approach Ash Wednesday, check out La Salle High School students immersing themselves in their faith.

La Salle Kairos 95 from La Salle High School on Vimeo.

Hunt for February: Coming back to the Catholic Church is as easy as following the light

02/12/2018 - 11:50am

Have you ever heard the expression, “Once a Catholic always a Catholic?” All of us know someone who never goes to church but thinks of them self as Catholic. We received that gift of Catholic identity from our family and from God.

Baptism came to so many as infants. Through the years we attended Mass with our parents, went to Catholic schools and lived in a parish community full of Sunday Mass, summer festivals, sports teams, serving Mass, singing in choirs and so much more. These experiences are forever a part of our great memories of growing up Catholic.

And then, something happened. The break began with our new independence. We leave the family and head off to college, a new job, a new circle of friends and social life. There is no place in our lives for church and God sits quietly in the background. He still loves us, we know that, it is just that other things and people fill our days and there just isn’t time to spend with God. I recently spoke with a young college student who left home for college in Houston, Texas. I asked if he was going to Sunday Mass. His response was surprising, “Oh no, there are no Catholic churches in Houston.” I honestly believe that he was sincere. In his new and exciting collegiate world, there were no churches.

Becoming an inactive Catholic happens gradually. In the hectic world of work, family and obligations, we forget about Sunday Mass and God’s place in our lives. Sunday has become another Saturday. We have two great days to catch up with ourselves. It is nothing against God or the parish down the road, we would just rather pray when we feel like it. We convince ourselves that God understands. God takes a back seat in our lives. Usually, at this point we start trying to find reasons for giving up on God: “the church has too many rules,” “the church doesn’t welcome everyone,” “Mass is boring.” But, we know in our bones that the real reason we do not come to God is that we have replaced Him with other things.

Not everyone slides down the slippery slope of apathy. For some there are good reasons to turn their back on the Catholic Church. An event in which we felt rejected or were treated unkindly by a priest or church community can fill us with anger and resentment. We may have done it to ourselves: An abortion, adultery, civil marriage outside the sacrament are few of the more common culprits. But, God never stopped loving us and wants only to restore our hearts to His heart. God has enough mercy and love to heal the ugliest wounds. In the words of St. Paul, ” …nothing can come between us and the love of Christ made manifest in Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:31). Nothing means nothing. That means that the door of God’s heart is wide open. He is waiting for us with more love and mercy than we can imagine.

At some point in our lives, we realize that something is missing. There is no peace. We are restless, unhappy, dissatisfied with all the thing we thought would make us happy. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you” said a famous sinner, St Augustine. We wonder what happened to us. For some of us it these thoughts come when we have children. We want them to have a strong soul that can withstand the world’s worst evil. Whatever the cause, we yearn to restore our relationship with God. We want to reconnect with the traditions, the values that we once knew as Catholics. We want to come home to church.

I have great news. It is so easy you will wonder what was stopping you. There is no long process, no forms, no hoops to jump through. There’s just an open door at every Catholic church on Feb. 27. It is called “The Light is on for You.” That evening all parishes will have caring and compassionate priests waiting to welcome you back through the sacrament of reconciliation (confession). Simply come to the priest and say, “I have been away from the church for a long time. Can you help me?” He will take it from there. Just like your Dad and Mom who waited for their child to come home with a light on at the door, God is doing the same thing.

At the Salesian Guild Dinner on Saturday, February 3, 2018, Jeanne Hunt was awarded the Communicator of the Year.

Jeanne Hunt receives Communicator of the Year Award from Salesian Guild. (CT Photo/Greg Hartman)Jeanne Hunt receives Communicator of the Year Award from Salesian Guild. (CT Photo/Greg Hartman)

Catholics observe day of abstinence and fasting on Valentine’s Day

02/12/2018 - 9:28am

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, along with Catholics around the world, will celebrate Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent in the Catholic Church in preparation for Easter (that will fall on April 1 this year). This is the first time Ash Wednesday has coincided with Valentine’s Day in 72 years (since 1945). It will happen again in 2024 and 2029. Ash Wednesday is an obligatory day of fasting (one full meal and two smaller meals that together do not add up to the one full meal) and abstinence from meat for Catholics. For Mass Times throughout the Archdiocese of Cincinnati click here

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr will celebrate Mass and distribute ashes at Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati on February 14 at 11:30 a.m.

During Lent this year, on Tuesday, February 27, archdiocesan churches will be open from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for Encounter the Peace of Christ, which is an initiative to encourage Catholics to attend confession. More information can be found at

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati is the 44th largest Catholic diocese in the country, with more than 450,000 Catholics, and has the sixth largest Catholic school system in terms of enrollment with more than 40,000 students. The 19-county territory includes 211 parishes and 111 Catholic primary and secondary schools.

For a refresher on the rules of fast and abstinence, click here