Pope Francis’ closing speech: let Holy Spirit guide us

(These are excerpts from a provisional translation of Pope Francis’ speech from Vatican Radio at the closing of the Synod. The full text is available online at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/10/18/pope_francis_speech_at_the_conclusion_of_the_synod/1108944.)
I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”
And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:
— One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.
— The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”
— The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
— The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.
— The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…
Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).
And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! …
This is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord …
We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.
His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ…”
So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).
Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families. …
May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!
[The hymn Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given.]
Thank you, and rest well, eh?
(Reprinted with permission from Vatican Radio)
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Synod dynamics recalled Second Vatican Council

By Francis X. Rocca
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Even before the start of the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family, observers were likening it to the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65.
In both cases, an innovative and charismatic pope called an assembly in the first months of his pontificate, seeking to preach the Gospel in terms of contemporary culture and apply Catholic teaching with what St. John XXIII called the “medicine of mercy.”
As it turned out, history also repeated itself in the institutional dynamics of this year’s event, as bishops from around the world asserted their collective authority, leading the assembly’s organizers in Rome to revise some of their best-laid plans.
A classic history, “The Rhine Flows into the Tiber,” recounts the first tumultuous week of Vatican II, when bishops rejected the Vatican’s handpicked candidates for the commissions that would write the council documents.
“It was not a revolutionary act, but an act of conscience, an act of responsibility on the part of the council fathers,” recalled Pope Benedict XVI in 2013. Then-Father Joseph Ratzinger attended Vatican II as a theological adviser to Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne, Germany, one of the leaders of the bishops’ resistance.
More than 50 years later, bishops at the synod on the family reacted strongly after the Oct. 13 presentation of an official midterm report by Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest.
Cardinal Erdo’s report, which was supposed to summarize the assembly’s first week of discussions, made headlines with its strikingly conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and people in same-sex unions.
Immediately after the cardinal spoke, 41 of the 184 synod fathers present took the floor to comment. A number objected that the text lacked certain necessary references to Catholic moral teaching, particularly regarding homosexuality and cohabitation. Bishops also remarked on the midterm report’s scarce references to the concept of sin.
“Three-quarters of those who spoke had some problems with the document,” Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, told Catholic News Service. He called the report tendentious, skewed and without sufficient grounding in Scripture and traditional doctrine.
At a news conference Monday, Oct. 13, Cardinal Erdo distanced himself from the midterm report, identifying Italian Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, the synod’s special secretary, as responsible for a particularly controversial passage on same-sex unions.
Later that afternoon, the synod fathers divided into 10 working groups to discuss the midterm report and suggest amendments for the synod’s final document.
The midterm report was “seen by many as not being as balanced as it should have been,” Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington told CNS.
Cardinal Wuerl, one of 11 members of a team that drafted the synod’s final report, said one common objection was to the theological concept of “graduality,” which the midterm report used, among other ways, to suggest the positive value of “irregular” relationships such as cohabitation.
“You don’t see that in the final document because the small language groups said, ‘Yes, it was said, but it didn’t garner support,” the cardinal said.
The synod’s leadership, under Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who served as general secretary, planned not to publish the working groups’ individual reports but provide them only to the drafters of the final report, along with their approximately 450 suggested amendments.
But on Oct. 16, the bishops insisted that the working-groups’ reports be made public.
“We wanted the Catholic people around the world to know actually what was going on in talking about marriage and the family,” Cardinal Pell said.
On the same day, the drafting committee was expanded to increase its geographic diversity, with the addition of Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier of Durban, South Africa, and Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia. Just as bishops from a cluster of northern European countries had been leaders of change at Vatican II, some of the more outspoken synod fathers this year were from the English-speaking countries and Africa.
The synod’s final report, which the pope ordered published almost immediately after the assembly finished its work Oct. 18, featured many more citations of Scripture, as well as new references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teachings of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Synod fathers voted on each of the document’s 62 paragraphs. All received a simple majority, but three – on especially controversial questions of homosexuality and Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried – failed to gain the two-thirds supermajority ordinarily required for approval of synodal documents.
“What I think Pope Francis succeeded in doing was letting the synod fathers, letting the synod participants, actually come to a real consensus, even though it’s a weak consensus in some areas,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “The process worked, even though there were bumps along the way.”
(Copyright © 2014 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news services may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to, such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method in whole or in part, without prior written authority of Catholic News Service.)

Liturgical items top USCCB meeting agenda

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Liturgical matters will take center stage on the agenda of action items at the fall general meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, (USCCB) to be held Nov. 10-13 in Baltimore. Bishop Joseph Kopacz will attend the meeting.
There will be five liturgical items up for consideration. All are subject to amendments from bishops. All but one require approval of two-thirds of the bishops, followed by final approval from the Vatican.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is president of the USCCB, will deliver his first presidential address. He was elected to a three-year term last November. As is customary, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, also will address the assembly.
During the meeting, the bishops will choose a new secretary-elect for the USCCB, and vote for the chairmen-elect of five committees. A number of presentations will be made, including one on underserved communities and Catholic schools, and another on a recent pilgrimage of prayer for peace in the Holy Land.
The bishops also will conduct the canonical consultation on the sainthood cause of Father Paul Wattson. Father Wattson was an Episcopal priest who co-founded the Society of the Atonement, also known as the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement, to further Christian unity. He was received into the Catholic Church as were all men and women in the society at the time, and devised the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, still observed each January.
On the first day of the meeting, the bishops will concelebrate Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore in honor of the 225th anniversary of the establishment of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Baltimore was the first diocese founded in the United States. The bishops had similarly marked the bicentennial of the U.S. hierarchy in 1989 with a Mass at the basilica.
The liturgical items up for consideration:
— A revised translation of the ritual book “Dedication of a Church and Altar,” used whenever a new church is built or when a new altar is made. The revised English translation incorporates the modifications from the Code of Canon Law as well as bringing the translation into conformity with the Roman Missal, Third Edition.
— A first-ever official English translation of the ritual book “Exorcisms and Related Supplications,” revised after the Second Vatican Council, and promulgated in Latin in 1999 with an amended version in 2004. The main part of this book is the rite of major exorcism and includes an introduction outlining criteria for its use, which is always the decision of the bishop alone. While this text affirms the reality of evil in the world, it even more so affirms the sovereignty of Jesus to overcome any and all evil.
— A supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours of an English translation of the prayers used for the feast days of saints who have been added to the general calendar since 1984.
— Modifications to the Revised Grail Psalms, originally approved in 2010 by the Vatican. The USCCB Committee on Divine Worship recommended improving the translation and its “sprung rhythm” to make proclamation and singing easier.
The fifth liturgy-related item would authorize rewriting for later approval guidelines from its 1995 document “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities” in light of medical developments and increased awareness of challenges faced by Catholics today, such as gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease.
Other action items to be addressed by the bishops include the 2015 USCCB budget, the 2016 diocesan assessment, and a proposal to proceed on a revision to the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.”
In USCCB elections, Archbishops Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans and Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services have been nominated as secretary-elect. The five committees seeking chairmen-elect, and their bishop-nominees, are:
— Committee on Communications: Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas.
— Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church: Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington.
— Committee on Doctrine: Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, and Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit.
— Committee on National Collections: Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama, and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California.
— Committee on Pro-Life Activities: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles.
The secretary-elect and the chairmen-elect will serve one year in that capacity and then begin a three-year term.
The bishops also will vote on members for the board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and Catholic Relief Services, the USCCB’s international aid and development agency, as well as hear a presentation by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the CRS board, and CRS president Carolyn Woo on CRS’ work on capacity building.
Other presentations scheduled for the USCCB meeting:
— Underserved communities and Catholic schools, presented by Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, and Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church.
— The pilgrimage of prayer for peace in the Holy Land, presented by Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
— USCCB engagement with the church in Africa, presented by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington.
— The observance of the Year of Consecrated Life and the “Guidelines for the Reception of Ministers in the United States, Third Edition” and plans for their implementation, presented by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
— A status report on the 2013-16 USCCB strategic plan, “The New Evangelization: Faith, Worship, Witness,” presented by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, USCCB secretary,
— Separate reports by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and the USCCB working group on the life and dignity of the human person.
(Copyright © 2014 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news services may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to, such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method in whole or in part, without prior written authority of Catholic News Service.)

Vocations awareness week invites prayer, discussion

By Norma Montenegro Flynn, USCCB
WASHINGTON — The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, November 2-8. This observance, sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, is a special time for parishes in the U.S. to foster a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life.
Pope Francis, in his November 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, underlined the continued need to build a culture of vocations. “The fraternal life and fervor of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration,” Pope Francis wrote.
“A culture of vocations is one that provides the necessary support for others to hear and respond to God’s call in their lives,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “With God’s grace, we help build that culture through fervent prayer, the witness of our lives and the encouragement we extend to those discerning a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life.”
A 2012 study, “Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life Among Never-Married U.S. Catholics,” conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), highlighted the role community encouragement plays in the discernment process. (Full study: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/survey-of-youth-and-young-adults-on-vocations.cfm)
“The number three seems to be critical in making a difference in the life of someone contemplating a vocation,” said Father Shawn McKnight, USCCB’s executive director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “When three or more people encourage someone to consider a religious vocation, he or she is far more likely to take serious steps toward answering that call.”
Father John Guthrie, associate director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, adds that National Vocation Awareness Week should also focus on communities that are underrepresented among religious vocations today, especially Hispanics.
“While numbers of U.S. Hispanics pursuing religious vocations are picking up, they still lag behind the overall demographic trends,” said Father Guthrie. “Fifty-four percent of U.S. Catholics under the age of 25 are Hispanic, yet only 15 percent of students in major seminaries are Hispanic, and many of these were born in other countries. To reach this untapped potential, the Church must do far more to engage and support young people in these communities.”
Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration. It was later moved to Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. Last year, after extensive consultation, the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively in this effort. This will be the first year it will be held in November.
More information and resources for National Vocations Awareness Week, including a prayer card, suggested prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/national-vocation-awareness-week.cfm

(Copyright © 2014 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news services may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to, such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method in whole or in part, without prior written authority of Catholic News Service.)

Glenmarys celebrate anniversary

Cincinnati – On Oct. 19, the Glenmary Home Missioners held a brunch at its national headquarters honoring the society’s 75th anniversary. The brunch was held for Glenmarians and diocesan bishops/representatives of former and current dioceses where Glenmary served.
Attendees also celebrated a Mass to mark the anniversary. Glenmary is a Catholic society of priests and brothers dedicated to establishing a Catholic Church presence in mission areas of Appalachia and the South. Founded by Father William Howard, Bishop in Cincinnati in 1939, Glenmary is the only Catholic religious society dedicated exclusively to serving the spiritually and materially poor in the rural U.S. home missions.

National shrine home to story of late pontiff, saint

By Sarah McCarthy
WASHINGTON (CNS) – In the heart of the national shrine dedicated to one of the most revered figures in church and world history, a new exhibit pays further homage to the man who embodied the Catholic Church for more than 25 years.
“A Gift of Love: The Life of St. John Paul II” will have its inaugural opening Oct. 22, the pope’s feast day, as a permanent exhibit at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington. The 16,000-square-foot display features numerous artifacts and insights into the life of the late pope, including photographs and footage of him as a young priest in Poland.
The executive director of the shrine, Patrick Kelly, said the opening of the exhibit lends a “major catechetical element” to the shrine.
“We’re a shrine so we’re a religious site, but we have this great exhibit, and never before have the two elements been put together, where you have a shrine, but you have a major exhibit to the saint that the shrine is dedicated to,” he said in an interview with Catholic News Service.

A man looks at an exhibit at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington Oct. 7. The facility hosts exhibits and events relating to St. John Paul and to the history of the Catholic Church in North America. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A man looks at an exhibit at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington Oct. 7. The facility hosts exhibits and events relating to St. John Paul and to the history of the Catholic Church in North America. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A walk through the exhibit not only draws the visitor into the works and legacy of the beloved pope, but also offers a glimpse into the life of Karol Wojtyla before he became Pope John Paul. Included among religious artifacts such as traditional headgear worn by the pope is a pair of skis and tennis shoes that St. John Paul used when he was a young man.
Before it became a shrine, the building was home to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. The Knights of Columbus acquired it in 2011 and converted it into a shrine to keep with the original vision of the center, Kelly said.
“We decided it was appropriate to build a shrine dedicated to this great saint who embodied so many of the trials and tribulations of the 20th century,” he said.
One of the hallmark features of the exhibit is an interactive touch-screen display that provides information on St. John Paul’s travels while he was pope, which included visits to more than 100 countries. The device allows users to choose a specific country and learn more about the pope’s visit to that country through timelines, photographs and videos on the display.
“I think John Paul II had an authenticity that people recognized,” Kelly said. “I mean, he connected with people. People who were in a crowd of tens of thousands felt like he was speaking to them.”

A boy plays on an interactive exhibit at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington Oct. 7. The facility is a shrine and museum owned and operated by the Knights of Columbus. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

A boy plays on an interactive exhibit at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington Oct. 7. The facility is a shrine and museum owned and operated by the Knights of Columbus. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Other parts of the exhibit focus on the scholarly aspects of St. John Paul’s papacy and the works he put forth during his time as pope. Several galleries highlight his teachings through original manuscripts and encyclicals penned by the pope.
“Certainly we hope to draw Catholics and Christians, but I think all people of good will recognize that in John Paul II they had a person of extraordinary ability (and) intelligence,” he said. “His work to defend the poor, the needy, that’s universally recognized by people of all faiths and people of no faith, and I think they will be drawn to come here just to learn more about this great man.”
St. John Paul’s worldwide appeal is certainly manifested in the exhibit, which showcases gifts and letters from various international leaders. A silver box from President Ronald Reagan and a Christmas plate from Helmut Schmidt, the former chancellor of West Germany, are just a couple of the items on display.
Aside from the many physical representations of St. John Paul’s legacy housed in the shrine, Kelly said he thinks the exhibit will offer visitors a chance to connect with him on a spiritual level.
“I think what people will get out of coming through the exhibit is they will see how (St. John Paul II) responded to the Holy Spirit in his life and they can do that too,” Kelly said. “They can make a gift of themselves just in the way that John Paul II made a gift of his life to others, and to the church and to the world. … All Christians are called to do that.”
The exhibit is free and open to the public.
(Copyright © 2014 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news services may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to, such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method in whole or in part, without prior written authority of Catholic News Service.)
(Editor’s Note: More information about the St. John Paul II National Shrine and the permanent exhibit is available on its website, www.jp2shrine.org.)

Report takes deeper look at statistics about women’s religious orders

By Patricia Zapor
WASHINGTON (CNS) – A longtime trend of declining numbers of women in religious orders is unpacked a bit in a new study by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
In the report released Oct. 13, the social science researchers of CARA observed that the demographical story of women religious in the United States takes some disentangling.
Although past studies have talked about the rapid decline in the number of nuns in the country starting after the Second Vatican Council, “such studies did not provide the more nuanced narrative of what decline meant for the individual religious institute,” the report said. “How, for example, did religious institutes respond to declining membership?”
From a peak in 1965 of 181,000, the number of women religious in the U.S. has steadily declined to the current 50,000. That’s about how many sisters there were in the United States 100 years ago, said the report: “Population Trends Among Religious Institutes of Women,” by CARA staffers Mary L. Gautier and Mark M. Gray, and Erick Berrelleza, a Jesuit scholastic at Boston College.
CARA found that as their numbers declined, some religious orders reorganized their internal structures, while others merged with other religious institutes. Some have been bolstered by sisters from other countries or women who joined a religious order later in life. Others simply stopped serving in the United States.
“In the face of diminishment,” it said, “women religious have innovated by responding with new models when old models proved ineffective.”
That’s partly why the report refers to disentangling, Gautier told Catholic News Service. Some whole institutes disappeared from the Official Catholic Directory, a reference book published annually, whether by being folded into another organization, by leaving the United States or adapting in another way.
The report pointed to a flaw in assumptions about the growth in women’s religious vocations coming primarily in orders that are “traditionalist” – meaning for example, those whose members wear a full religious habit – while institutes whose members do not wear a traditional habit are declining.
“One of the most striking findings regarding new entrants is that almost equal numbers of women have been attracted” to both kinds of religious orders, the CARA report quoted. Gautier’s book categorized the two types of religious orders according to whether the organizations belong to one or the other of two leadership organizations, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and the Council of Major Superiors of Women (CMSWR).
The LCWR’s member organizations, which account for about 80 percent of the country’s women religious, had among them 73 postulants, 117 novices and 317 women who had taken temporary vows in 2009.
Although its member organizations account for a much smaller percentage of the nuns in the U.S., CMSWR organizations had about the same number of women in formation as did LCWR institutes, said Gautier – 73 postulants, 158 novices and 304 who had taken temporary vows.
Among other items in the report, CARA pointed to several institutes that stood out in the data for having a “slowing rate of decline” in number of members. When the authors dug a bit, they found that such slowing sometimes was the result of one community absorbing another.
It cited the merger of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, Massachusetts, in the mid-1970s with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Fall River, Massachusetts.
“It is not that the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield exhibited a sudden increase in new vocations, but rather these two mergers account for the upswing,” the CARA report said. “In such cases, the apparent slowing rate of decline is not related to an increase of new vocations; instead, it is these mergers that account for the increases in membership.”
There are some institutes that show consistent growth even without such mergers, the report said.
“These communities do not exhibit the growth-followed-by-decline pattern and seem to point to even further expansion into the foreseeable future,” it said. For instance, the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, was established in 1973 with nine members. The community has continued to grow gradually, and its membership will approach 100 by the end of the decade, the report predicted.
In some cases statistically significant growth actually represents very few people, Gautier noted.
Six institutes that have been cited in anecdotes and news reports as evidence of a reversal of the trend toward decline, have increased their membership by a combined total of 267 people since 1970. That number, the report said, is “too few to have an effect on the overall picture.”
“Whatever these institutes have done or are doing is unlikely to offset losses in the tens of thousands elsewhere. It is simply not enough.”
(Copyright © 2014 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news services may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to, such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method in whole or in part, without prior written authority of Catholic News Service.)

Seminary celebrates 125 years of prayer, work

By Peter Finney
COVINGTON, La., – The powerful oasis of prayer that is St. Joseph Abbey cannot be underestimated.
For 125 years, Benedictine monks have prayed, formed seminarians and directed retreats in south Louisiana. The 1,200 piney acres near Covington on which they pray and work – a pristine oasis amid suburban sprawl – are a tangible expression of the beauty of God’s creation, all at the service of prayer.

Bishop Emeritus Joseph Latino, seated in the first row at left, joined bishops from across the region for a Mass to celebrate the 125th anniversary of St. Joseph Seminary College Saturday, Oct. 4. (Photos courtesy of Franke Methe/Clarion Herald)

Bishop Emeritus Joseph Latino, seated in the first row at left, joined bishops from across the region for a Mass to celebrate the 125th anniversary of St. Joseph Seminary College Saturday, Oct. 4. (Photos courtesy of Franke Methe/Clarion Herald)

“The monastery has been a stable presence of prayer throughout all these years,” said Benedictine Abbot Justin Brown of St. Joseph Abbey. “The monks have been praying in southeast Louisiana for 125 years – every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That’s quite an amazing thing. Through that, we’ve offered not only to the seminary but to many other people a place for spiritual nourishment and retreat.”
The Benedictine community celebrated that rich, spiritual history Saturday, Oct. 4, with a Mass of Thanksgiving at 11 a.m. in the Abbey church. Bishop Emeritus Joseph Latino of the Diocese of Jackson, a 1963 graduate, joined principal celebrant Archbishop Gregory Aymond, a 1971 graduate of St. Joseph Seminary College for the Mass along with bishops from across Louisiana and Mississippi.
Other distinguished celebrants included three Benedictine abbots: Archabbot Justin DuVall of St. Meinrad Abbey, from which St. Joseph Abbey was established in 1889; Abbot Hector Sosa Paz of the Abbey of Jesus Christ Crucified in Esquipulas, Guatemala, established by St. Joseph Abbey in 1959; and Abbot Vincent Bataille, the president of the Swiss-American Congregation.
Prayer is the hallmark of any monastery, said Abbot Justin, who has served as abbot since 2001. The monks gather four times each day – at 6 a.m., 7 a.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. – to pray the Divine Office, and they celebrate Mass at 11:15 a.m. Quite often the monks are joined by neighbors who immerse themselves in the monastery’s spiritual rhythms.
“We have regulars – both Catholics and Protestants,” Abbot Justin said. “The psalms are all from the Bible.”

St. Joseph seminarians, including Andrew Bowden of the Diocese of Jackson, second from last in line, receive Holy Communion during the Mass. The seminary college has had record classes in the past couple of years.

St. Joseph seminarians, including Andrew Bowden of the Diocese of Jackson, second from last in line, receive Holy Communion during the Mass. The seminary college has had record classes in the past couple of years.

St. Benedict, who lived in the sixth century, called monks to do two things, Abbot Justin said – “to pray and to work within a community.”
“Prayer is central to our lives and the most important thing that we do,” he said. “But then, so is our work, and the work can take on many different possibilities.”
Preparing seminarians
The abbey’s primary work is the operation St. Joseph Seminary College, which was the reason the monastery was established in 1889 in a small town near Ponchatoula. Archbishop Francis Janssens asked the Benedictines to establish a monastery and seminary so that native clergy could be raised up. All seminarians from the Diocese of Jackson train at St. Joseph. Three of the nine current seminarians are there now.
The monastery moved to its current site in 1902, and following a 1907 fire, a large brick and steel building was constructed in 1908. The abbey church was dedicated in 1932, the same year that Abbot Columban Thuis became abbot. Abbot Columban served for 25 years, followed by Abbot David Melancon from 1957-82. Abbot Patrick Regan was elected in 1982 and served through 2001.
From its establishment, the abbey conducted a six-year program of seminary studies that included four years of high school and the first two years of college. After changes brought about by Vatican II, it converted to a four-year college program in 1964.
The K.C. Abbey Youth Camp opened on the abbey grounds in 1960, and the Abbey Christian Life Center opened for retreats in 1965.
Besides operating the seminary in conjunction with the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the abbey offers retreats, provides priests for parish ministry, operates a Pennies for Bread bakery, makes soap and hand-crafts simple cypress caskets. The abbey also has a cemetery available to the general public.
“The monastic life is a very simple life together,” Abbot Justin said. “The emphasis is on ‘together’ in the community. Unlike other religious, we take a unique vow of ‘stability of place.’ We stay and live within this community and this monastery all our lives. Each monastery is a family, and that is very much our charism.”
The connection to the surrounding community also is important.
“What I hear repeatedly from people is a sense of peace they feel when they cross over the bridge above the Bogue Falaya River, and come onto the abbey property,” Abbot Justin said. “Maybe it’s leaving a very busy, hectic world and coming to a place where the pace appears to be slower.”
Other festivities for the 125th anniversary include the Deo Gratias gala Nov. 1 in Covington; a Schola Cantorum Recital/Lecture by Benedictine Father Aelred Kavanaugh, music director Colby McCurdy and Benedictine Father Seán Duggan Nov. 9 at 3 p.m. in the abbey church; Music da Camera Nov. 30 at 3 p.m. in the abbey church; and closing vespers Jan. 28, 2015.
(Peter Finney is the editor of the Clarion Herald, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Maureen Smith also contributed to this report.)

Boys Town founder’s cause advances

Father Edward Flanagan, the Irish-born priest who founded Boys Town in Nebraska, talks with a group of boys in this undated photo. On March 17, 2015, three years to the day his sainthood cause was officially opened, the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb., will submit all documentation gathered for his cause to the Vatican. During a Sept. 15 presentation at the Great Hall on the Boys Town campus, Steve Wolf, president of the Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion, said the process was moving at "lightning speed." (CNS photo/courtesy Boys Town)

Father Edward Flanagan, the Irish-born priest who founded Boys Town in Nebraska, talks with a group of boys in this undated photo. On March 17, 2015, three years to the day his sainthood cause was officially opened, the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb., will submit all documentation gathered for his cause to the Vatican. During a Sept. 15 presentation at the Great Hall on the Boys Town campus, Steve Wolf, president of the Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion, said the process was moving at “lightning speed.” (CNS photo/courtesy Boys Town)

Synod explores family life in today’s world

By Nancy Frazier O’Brien
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Study after study has confirmed that those who are involved in religion and those who are married are healthier, physically and mentally happier and live longer than those who are not.
“The health benefits of marriage are so strong that a married man with heart disease can be expected to live, on average, 1,400 days (nearly four years) longer than an unmarried man with a healthy heart,” said Dr. Scott Haltzman, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
“This longer life expectancy is even longer for a married man who has cancer or is 20 pounds overweight compared to his healthy but unmarried counterpart,” Haltzman added. “The advantages for women are similar.”

A family is pictured on a field in 2013 outside their home in Nashville, Kan. The family and how it has changed in the last several decades will be under discussion when the extraordinary Synod of Bishops convenes at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

A family is pictured on a field in 2013 outside their home in Nashville, Kan. The family and how it has changed in the last several decades will be under discussion when the extraordinary Synod of Bishops convenes at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Couples with higher levels of religiosity “tend to enjoy greater marital satisfaction, fidelity and stability, with less likelihood of domestic violence,” according to a compilation of studies by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.
Religious belief and practice are also associated with lower divorce rates, lower levels of teen sexual activity, less abuse of alcohol and drugs, lower levels of many infectious diseases, less juvenile crime and less violent crime, the foundation said.

“Marriage and religion influence various dimensions of life, including physical health and longevity, mental health, happiness, economic well-being and the raising of children,” wrote sociologist Linda J. Waite and economist Evelyn J. Lehrer in a paper published in 2009 by the National Institutes of Health.
“We argue that both marriage and religiosity generally have far-reaching positive effects; that they influence similar domains of life; and that there are important parallels through which each achieves these outcomes,” they added.
In a 2012 interview, the late psychiatry professor Robert Coombs, from the University of California at Los Angeles, concurred on the positive effects of marriage. “Virtually every study of mortality and marital status shows the unmarried of both sexes have higher death rates, whether by accident, disease or self-inflicted wounds, and this is found in every country that maintains accurate health statistics,” he said.
As the extraordinary world Synod of Bishops on the family begins its work Oct. 5 at the Vatican, one of the challenges facing it will be raising awareness of the positive benefits of marriage on individuals, families and society as a whole.
“We know the numbers don’t lie about the impact divorce has on children,” Randall Woodard, an associate professor of theology/religion at St. Leo University in Florida, told Catholic News Service. “Nearly every social indicator is a lot lower (for those) raising children in a single-parent household, and I say that as a single father of three. A traditional family is not the only way to live, but it is the best way, generally speaking.”
Woodard said religious institutions may be uniquely suited to help families deal with their challenges.
“Churches provide tremendous support groups that can provide spiritual, financial and psychological help,” he said. “Being surrounded by people who share many of the same ideals can help reinforce others who may be struggling.
“Another way churches can help familial health is by knowing their own limitations,” Woodard added. “Many times people will come to the church with problems such as depression or other issues that are better resolved by medical professionals. Being that first point of contact can be very vital by encouraging them to seek medical help when necessary.”
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