Catholic press faces ‘double mandate’

By Julie Asher
ST. LOUIS (CNS) – Catholic communicators “have a double mandate: the First Amendment of the Constitution and the Gospel,” Greg Erlandson told the Catholic Media Conference in St. Louis.
Erlandson, former president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, (OSV) received the Bishop John England Award June 2 from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
“These are perilous times,” he said in his acceptance remarks. “We are looking at competing ideological agendas that too often are incompatible with the Gospel and that too often threaten the weakest among us – both born and unborn – the undocumented, the terminally ill, the poor and neglected.”
Catholic communicators’ vocation “is to be their voice,” said Erlandson. “Our vocation is to be the voice of the church. That is our responsibility and our privilege.”
Our Sunday Visitor, based in Huntington, Indiana, was founded 104 years ago “to be a voice for the church and the rights of Catholics.” he said.
He said that in that role, he “sought to defend the church’s right to speak out on all the issues of the day, to defend the church’s right to participate in the debates that animate the public square, but to do so without rancor or histrionics, to do so without blinders or defensiveness, but in the spirit of loyalty, honesty and intelligence that I hope has defined all that we published.”
In editorials and articles, OSV Newsweekly “has spoken out in defense of religious liberty and supported – both in court and in our pages – the opposition to the HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate regarding contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. We have addressed religious freedom issues worldwide, and defended the rights of migrants and refugees.”
The publication also has addressed the sex abuse crisis, he said, “both saluting the church for the policies it has instituted in the wake of the crisis, but also addressing the failures of leadership that occurred and that so wounded our church.”
He noted the publication’s defense of Catholic organizations “that have endured unjust attack,” he said, pointing in particular to Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency. CRS “has been the target of malicious and shameful witch hunts,” Erlandson said.
The England award is named for the Irish-born bishop of Charleston, South Carolina, who founded The Catholic Miscellany in 1822. As publisher of the newspaper, Bishop England defended separation of church and state, saying it was good for both entities. He also espoused freedom of religion. Presented annually, the award recognizes publishers in the Catholic press for the defense of First Amendment rights, such as freedom of the press and freedom of religion. It is the CPA’s highest award for publishers.
In 2015, Erlandson received the CPA’s St. Francis de Sales Award.
Mississippi Catholic production manager and creative services coordinator Contyna McNealy was recognized at this year’s Catholic Media Conference with a second place award for the design of the diocesan Saltillio Mission collection ad. Editor Maureen Smith attended the conference on behalf of the department of communications.

Bishop Cheri resting after heart bypass surgery

By Peter Finney Jr.
NEW ORLEANS – After suffering a mild heart attack, Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri of the Archdiocese of New Orleans underwent double bypass surgery June 1 at Touro Infirmary and is now recuperating at his residence.
“I’d like to ask everyone to keep me in prayer and try not to contact me because it’s better that I can rest and recuperate and get back to ministry,” Bishop Cheri said.
Bishop Cheri conferred confirmation at St. Joachim Church in Marrero on May 27, and he woke up early the next morning having difficulty taking deep breaths.
He was taken by ambulance to Touro, where tests revealed he had “a slight heart attack” and also had two blocked arteries.
“They said one was blocked over 90 percent, and that’s the one they call the widow-maker,” Bishop Cheri said. “It’s one of those silent killers.”
Doctors first tried to resolve the blockages through less invasive angioplasty but stopped the procedure when they determined the blockages were too great.
Bishop Cheri had to wait until June 1 for the bypass surgery in order to give his heart time to recover from the angioplasty procedure.
The bypass surgery went fine, Bishop Cheri said, but he had to spend a few extra days in the hospital because he got lightheaded after taking a particular medicine.
“I was born with one kidney, which complicates a lot of stuff,” Bishop Cheri said. “They’re trying to balance out what’s going on. It’s going to take time. I’ve just got to give myself time.”
Bishop Cheri said his recuperation of several months would be a challenge because he considers himself a “horrible” patient.
“Patience is not my middle name,” he said. “God is testing me. I’m grateful for all the prayers.”
Bishop Cheri spoke in Jackson earlier this year at the diocesan celebration in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black History Month.
(Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at

Bishop: pray for Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) – Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan urged people of faith “to turn their hearts and souls” to God and pray for the victims, the families and first responders following the worst mass shooting in U.S. history June 12.
“A sword has pierced the heart of our city,” he said in a statement.
“The healing power of Jesus goes beyond our physical wounds but touches every level of our humanity: physical, emotional, social, spiritual,” he said. “Jesus calls us to remain fervent in our protection of life and human dignity and to pray unceasingly for peace in our world.”
The shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando left 50 people dead, including the gunman, and 53 wounded.
Police said a lone gunman identified as 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen – opened fire inside the Pulse club in Orlando in the early morning hours. News reports said that Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, died in a gun battle with SWAT team members.
Across the nation, reaction from church and community leaders was swift, and in cities large and small, people organized candlelit vigils for the victims and their families the night of the shooting.
“Waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act,” he said in a statement June 12. “The merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.”
“Our prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” said Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich.
In Orlando, priests, deacons and counselors from the Diocese of Orlando and Catholic Charities of Central Florida were serving at an aid center established by city officials.
Throughout the day June 12, church personnel were helping victims and families “on the front lines of this tragedy,” Bishop Noonan said. “They are offering God’s love and mercy to those who are facing unimaginable sorrow. They will remain vigilant and responsive to the needs of our hurting brothers and sisters.”
In his statement, Archbishop Cupich expressed gratitude to the first responders and civilians at the scene of the shooting.
“In response to hatred, we are called to sow love,” he added. “In response to violence, peace. And, in response to intolerance, tolerance.”
In a letter to the Chicago archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, Archbishop Cupich said: “For you here today and throughout the whole lesbian and gay community, who are particularly touched by the heinous crimes committed in Orlando, motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence, know this: The Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand with you.”
He also urged Americans to “find the courage to face forthrightly the falsehood that weapons of combat belong anywhere in the civilian population.”
In Washington, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said in a post on his blog said that “the love of Jesus Christ will prevail,” and while all too often “it appears it that our civilization is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil.”
He said all people of goodwill must stand together “in making another impassioned appeal for peace and security in our communities and throughout the world.”
Another Florida prelate, Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, expressed his sorrow over the tragedy and also addressed the gun rights issue.
“Our founding parents had no knowledge of assault rifles which are intended to be weapons of mass destruction. … It is long past time to ban the sale of all assault weapons. … If one is truly pro-life, then embrace this issue also and work for the elimination of sales to those who would turn them on innocents.”
Bishop Lynch also said that “sadly, it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.”
Courage International, a Catholic organization that provides support for people who experience same-sex attraction, condemned “the atrocious violence” at the gay night club, adding that “in the face of such outrageous violence and loss of life, human words and explanations fall short.”
“So people of faith look to the everlasting mercy and compassion of almighty God, who ‘is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit,’” the group said, quoting Psalm 34.
The Courage statement also reminded people of what the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said 30 years ago about violence toward gay people: “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.”

Bear witness to authentic freedom in Christ

WASHINGTON (CNS) – “Witnesses to Freedom” is the theme of the U.S. bishops’ fifth annual Fortnight for Freedom, which opened June 21, the vigil of the feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, and closes on Independence Day, July 4.
The opening Mass was celebrated at 7 p.m. in Baltimore at the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with Baltimore Archbishop William Lori as principal celebrant and homilist. Archbishop Lori is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.
The closing Mass will be celebrated at noon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington will be the principal celebrant, and Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik will be the homilist.
“Zubik” is the name given to the court case brought by many Catholic and other religious entities, including the Pittsburgh Diocese, to challenge the federal requirement that all employers, including most religious employers, provide employee health coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients, even if they are morally opposed to such coverage.
The legal challenge, which the U.S. Supreme Court sent back to the lower courts May 16, has been a flashpoint in the U.S. church’s fight on religious liberty issues.
The Fortnight for Freedom is “based on love of country and of liberty,” according to the USCCB. The aim is to “encourage Catholics, other Christians and all people of goodwill to set aside two weeks to reflect on religious freedom,” it said.
The annual observance also gets to the heart of what Pope Francis said during his visit last September to the United States, the USCCB said, noting the pope “encouraged us to nurture, promote and defend the precious gift of religious freedom.”
This year the USCCB, along with Jesuit-run Stonyhurst College in the Diocese of Lancashire, England, is coordinating a U.S. tour of relics of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher to promote respect for religious liberty. Both were executed during the Protestant Reformation by King Henry VIII for their Catholic beliefs.
The relics will go to Miami, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Washington.
In addition, the USCCB is highlighting the Christian witness of 14 women and men – one each day of the fortnight observance, including:
– Blessed Oscar Romero, the slain archbishop of San Salvador.
– The Little Sisters of the Poor, the order at the forefront of the court fight against the contraceptive mandate.
– The Martyrs of Compiegne, France. The 16 Carmelites were guillotined during the French Revolution for defying the government’s suppression of their monastery.
– The Coptic Christians who were killed by Islamic State militants last year.
“Reflecting on the lives of these great men and women can show us how we might serve as witnesses to freedom today,” said the USCCB statement on the 2016 Fortnight for Freedom.
“It is remarkable to see the witness of so many martyrs throughout the history of the church who love the land and people of their birth, even as they are being persecuted,” it said. “We can emulate this in our work today to promote religious freedom in the U.S., as it is a piece of our efforts to contribute to the good of all Americans.”
Information about the fortnight and various resources to help plan local observances are available online at
The USCCB suggests several ways parishes can celebrate the fortnight, including by holding a prayer vigil for religious freedom, organizing a study group on religious freedom issues and hosting a parish picnic to celebrate religious freedom.

Memphis deacons share bond with Jackson families

MEMPHIS – Twenty-two men were ordained into the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Memphis on Saturday, May 21, by Bishop J. Terry Steib. In a Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, visiting clergy and diocesan deacons joined with hundreds of parishioners in the ordination ceremony. The men ordained from the Diocese of Jackson went through their formation program in Memphis with these men, traveling to Tennessee for classes. Instructors from St. Meinrad Abbey in Indiana would fly to Memphis to offer the classes.
The two classes of deacons became quite close. The candidates from Jackson attended the Memphis ordination. The newly ordained deacons from Memphis then turned around to attend the ordination of deacons in Jackson.

Friars to make pilgrimage on foot, will celebrate Mass, promote vocations

By Peter Finney Jr.
NEW ORLEANS (CNS) – The idea of making a walking pilgrimage in the United States took root about four years ago when Dominican Fathers Francis Orozco and Thomas Schaefgen were studying together for the priesthood.
They saw the movie, “The Way,” featuring Martin Sheen, who portrayed a father honoring his late son’s memory by completing the 450-mile Camino de Santiago, the “Way of St. James,” a pilgrimage route across Spain taken for centuries by pilgrims.
“We had both studied abroad in Spain, but we thought, why don’t we do something more local, something in this country?” said Father Orozco, chaplain of the Catholic Student Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. “We looked up places, and there really weren’t any established pilgrimages in the U.S., so we said, ‘Let’s make up our own.’”
From that seed sprouted “Friars on Foot,” a 478-mile pilgrimage on foot from New Orleans to Memphis, Tennessee, which will begin after the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church in New Orleans May 29 and arrive in Memphis June 29.
Folks can follow the two young friars and their travels at the website
Father Orozco, 33, and Father Schaefgen, 32, who is director of the Catholic Student Center at Tulane University, will wear their white Dominican habits and take small backpacks with water and other essentials such as sunscreen, but they will carry no money or cellphones.
“We want to do this very minimally,” Father Orozco told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. “We will not carry any money and we will sort of beg. We hope people will provide us with apples and granola bars. We don’t plan to use any money. We will carry ID cards and medical insurance cards in case that’s needed. We’ve compromised with our superior that we will have somebody update the website every time we reach a destination.”
The friars plan to stay overnight at Catholic churches or with Catholic families along the way, celebrating Mass and even giving history and vocation talks about the 800-year-old congregation – the Order of Preachers – whose earliest members were itinerant preachers, walking from town to town.
They will average about 16 miles a day. There are only two stops in Mississippi without Catholic churches – Pickens and West – and on those nights they probably will stay at a local Protestant church.
The friars are encouraging people to join them on the walk, if only for an hour or two.
“We will have a pilgrim rule, and part of it will be to the pray the rosary and the Liturgy of the Hours every day, but that won’t take up the entire time,” Father Orozco said. “If there are people with us, we can talk about whatever they would like to talk about.”
Since walking along interstate highways is prohibited, the Dominicans will take local and state highways. The pilgrimage route will basically track Highway 51 north to Memphis.
The pilgrimage will conclude June 29 at St. Peter Church in Memphis, the National Shrine of St. Martin de Porres.
So what do their families and their fellow friars think?
“As we progressed, the first reaction was the question ‘why’?” Father Orozco admitted. “Then it was just a matter of explaining. In many ways, I’m glad it’s taken four years to plan it because it gave them time to soften up to the idea. We presented this to the province a couple of years ago, and I think the vague response was, ‘These are young guys. Once they’re ordained priests they’ll forget about it.’”
“I bet some of the friars forgot about it,” Father Orozco said. “Some said, ‘I guess they’re really going.’ I had one student tell me, ‘You know, it’s very humid in Mississippi, right?’ By and large, 99 percent are excited about it.”
(Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.)

Jackson vocations office, New Orleans seminary both add staff

JACKSON – In February of this year Bishop Joseph Kopacz reorganized the Office of Vocations, forming a team to promote religious vocations within and outside the Diocese of Jackson. The office now has three employees, Father José de Jesús Sánchez acts as the director of recruitment, Father Brian Kaskie is the director of seminarians and Melisa Preuss-Muñoz is an administrative assistant.
Father Sánchez’s ministry is to travel throughout the diocese visiting Catholic high schools, parishes and colleges, to promote the priesthood as an option for young men, and religious life for both men and women. These visits provide Father Sánchez with the opportunity to discuss what it means to hear and follow God’s call.
Meeting with young adults enables him to discern who, among these young people, shows the interest and skills to enter into the religious life. He also continues to serve as associate pastor for the Catholic Community of Meridian.
In addition, Father Sánchez makes himself available to counsel those who find it difficult to hear God’s call, whether it be to the priesthood, religious life, marriage or single life. He commits himself to meet with the young people to talk about their dreams and God’s dreams for them. The end goal is to give young adults the means to evaluate themselves and God’s desires for them, so that they may reach holiness and help others to become holy as well.
Finally, if a young man decides to begin his priestly formation or a young woman, the religious life, Father Sánchez will help them apply to the seminary or religious community.
Father Brian Kaskie, director of seminarians, walks closely with those who are in seminary formation either at St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, La., where men pursue a college degree while going through initial discernment and at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans for graduate studies and final formation. Father Kaskie keeps in constant communication with the seminarians and helps to provide everything they might need during their years of discernment and formation.  He attends their evaluations and acts as a liaison between the seminary and Bishop Kopacz. He is also pastor of McComb St. Alphonsus Parish.
Melisa Preuss-Muñoz acts as a link between Father Sanchez, Father Kaskie, and the seminarians. She works in the chancery in Jackson. Her duties also include updating the vocations section of the website for the Diocese of Jackson, developing and distributing diocesan resources for religious vocations, and organizing and implementing various activities, such as Vocation Awareness Days, at schools.
“We are eager to answer any questions you may have about religious life and would like to help you in any possible. God calls us to the religious life in mysterious ways. If you feel you might hear the call or if you would like to speak with Father Sánchez about discerning God’s call, please call the office,” said Preuss-Muñoz.
Anyone can reach the Religious Vocations office by phone at 601-960-8484 or email at  Anyone can support the efforts to promote vocations by prayer and on social media by following Jackson Vocations on Facebook, Twitter (@jxnvocations), and the website (

Sister Josephine Uhll dies

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Josephine Therese



was celebrated Tuesday, April 12, at Sacred Heart Convent in Springfield. Sister Uhll died on April 9. Her legacy of service is the 40 years she gave to healthcare administration at St. Dominic Health Services in Jackson.
She retired in 1995 from her role as president and board chair, having overseen the growth of St. Dominic’s from a small hospital to a multi-institutional health system that remains today the only Catholic health system in Mississippi. One of her most cherished accomplishments was the development of St. Catherine’s Village, a life care retirement facility in Madison.
A memorial service to honor the life of Sister Uhll will be held at the St. Dominic Chapel in Jackson Tuesday, April 26, at 7 p.m.
She was born in Morrisonville, Ill., in 1918. Her earliest years of religious life were spent in elementary school education in Illinois and Minnesota. She made her profession of vows in 1937 at Sacred Heart Convent, Springfield.
Sister Uhll was a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. Sister Josephine Therese was preceded in death by her parents, sister Mary Jo Figueira and brothers Roy B., and James D. Uhll. She is survived by her Dominican Sisters; nephews James D. (Mary Ann) Uhll, David (Dena) Uhll, Robert (Debbie) Uhll, Thomas (Shirley) Uhll, and nieces Nancy Hay, Barbara (Connie Joe) Mason, and Sharon Therese (Joe) Bencze.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the St. Catherine’s Village Dominican Fund, 200 Dominican Drive, Madison, MS 39110 or Dominican Sisters Retirement Fund, 1237 W. Monroe St., Springfield, IL 62704.

Year of Mercy: Ministry of Mercy tackles suicide epidemic

ROSEBUD, S.D. (CNS) – A sad reality on a number of Native American reservations is the high suicide rate. That is especially true on the Rosebud Reservation in south central South Dakota.
In 2007 – at the height of an ongoing suicide epidemic – the number of deaths by suicide on Rosebud was roughly 13 times the national average, making it, according to one report, the highest in the world.
To help address this crisis, St. Francis Mission, a Jesuit ministry on this Lakota reservation, has started a suicide and crisis hotline.
For Geraldine Provencial, its director, her work has a strong personal motivation: “What inspires me to work with the suicide and crisis hotline is the experience I have had with suicides in my own immediate family. I lost a sister to suicide, a brother to suicide and my grandson’s mother to suicide, which has resulted in my taking care of my grandson today, who is 11 years old. He is my inspiration.”
Not having had support when she herself had to deal with these suicides is what spurs Provencial today to reach out to others on the reservation who are experiencing these difficulties.
“To work with this type of program takes courage because there is a lot of sadness that is part of the suicide crisis,” she told Catholic Extension magazine. “The hurt and pain that people are carrying within themselves does not go away when they take their lives. The pain just gets passed on to us family members, and we feel that for the rest of our lives.”
She relies on her faith to carry her through and help her find hope, so that, in turn, she can help others and “be there for them when those kinds of thoughts cross their minds.” She also has found that “faith is a huge piece in people’s recovery and helps them to find what they are seeking. The Catholic faith can give a person something they can lean on to find direction in their lives and better their lives.”
On the 24/7 hotline, she and her trained volunteers talk both with individuals who are contemplating suicide and with family members concerned that someone may be thinking about ending his or her life. “The hotline is providing that last grasp of hope. Some of the individuals will ask for prayers for strength to help them get through their most difficult time, which is part of the reason why they reach out to us.”
In emergency situations, “the main priority is to keep the person on the line and talking. This could mean being on the phone for a couple of hours,” she said. The responders work to identify the caller’s location and to get the tribal police to get him or her to the local Indian Health Services emergency room for mental health and support services.
“When people in crisis call,” Provencial said, “we never know what type of call it is going to be. Some of the callers just need someone to listen to them.”
Provencial also directs the Icimani Ya Waste’ (Lakota for “Good journey”) Recovery Center, where she facilitates a monthly, four-day program to tackle the family dynamics involved in addiction and holds recovery-related meetings and 12-step programs.
Drug and alcohol abuse, 10 times the national rate, is a major contributing factor to the reservation’s high suicide rate, and both are rooted in a larger bleak socioeconomic reality. The Rosebud Reservation has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country –  about 83 percent – and Todd County, where Rosebud is located, is the third poorest county in the United States. Domestic violence, sexual assault and gang violence also have been identified as major factors contributing to despair and suicide on the reservation.
Provencial is part of the first group of people whose salary Chicago-based Catholic Extension is helping to pay through a new Health Ministry Salary Subsidy Initiative. Started last fall, the initiative was made possible by an anonymous gift from a foundation.
Catholic Extension, an organization that supports the work and ministries of U.S. mission dioceses, has had a long-standing relationship with St. Francis Mission, going back to helping build the mission in 1910.
According to its president, Jesuit Father John Hatcher, the mission’s strong focus on healing ministries has come from asking the question, “Where are people hurting, and how can the church minister to them?” Addressing alcoholism and the suicide epidemic are top priorities.
“Through the hotline, we’ve been able to intervene with people who are in extreme danger of killing or hurting themselves or being hurt by someone else,” Father Hatcher said. “Once we’ve sent out emergency vehicles, we can follow up with them and continue the healing.”
(Editors Note: This article is one in a series by Catholic Extension to highlight some of the many corporal and spiritual works of mercy carried out in U.S. mission dioceses during the church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.)

Mother Angelica, EWTN founder, evangelist, dies

Irondale, AL (EWTN) – Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, P.C.P.A., known to millions around the world as Foundress of the EWTN Global Catholic 040116motherangelicaNetwork, died peacefully at 5 p.m., Easter Sunday, March 27, surrounded by the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Ala.
Known commonly as Mother Angelica, the nun started the network with $200 and no experience in television. It grew to be the largest Catholic media network in the world. Mother Angelica suffered a stroke in 2009, leaving her unable to speak. Her final years were spent in prayer with her fellow Poor Clares. A Mass of Christian Burial was set for Friday, April 1, at 11 a.m. at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville.