Placing ourselves in context

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
“I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world.” Socrates wrote those words more than 24 hundred years ago. Today more than ever these are words which we would need to appropriate because, more and more, our world and we ourselves are sinking into some unhealthy forms of tribalism where we are concerned primarily with taking care of our own.
We see this everywhere today. We tend to think that this lives only in circles of extremism, but it is being advocated with an ever-intensifying moral fervor in virtually every place in the world.  It sounds like this:  America first! England first! My country first! My state first! My church first! My family first! Me first! More and more, we are making ourselves the priority and defining ourselves in ways that are not just against the Gospel but are also making us meaner in spirit and more miserly of heart. What’s to be said about this?
First of all, it’s against the Gospel, against most everything Jesus taught. If the Gospels are clear on anything, they are clear that all persons in this world are equal in the sight of God, that all persons in this world are our brothers and sisters, that we are asked to share the goods of this world fairly with everyone, especially the poor, and, most importantly, that we are not to put ourselves first, but are always to consider the needs of others before our own.
All slogans that somehow put “me,” “us,”  “my own,” “my group,” and “my country” first, deny this. Moreover, this doesn’t just apply at the micro-level, where we graciously step back in politeness to let someone else enter the room before us, it applies, and especially so, to us as whole nations. For us, as nations, there is a certain immorality and immaturity in thinking first of all, and primarily, of our own interests, as opposed to thinking as citizens of the world, concerned for everyone’s good.
And the truth of this is found not just in Jesus and the Gospels, but also in what’s highest and best in us. The very definition of being big-hearted is predicated on precisely rising above self-interest and being willing to sacrifice our own interests for the good of others and the good of the larger community. The same is true for being big-minded.
We are big-minded exactly to the extent that we are sensitive to the wider picture and can integrate into our thinking the needs, wounds, and ideologies of everyone, not just those of their own kind. That’s what it means to understand rather than simply be intelligent. When we are petty we cannot understand beyond our own needs, our own wounds, and our own ideologies.
We know this too from experience. On our best days our hearts and minds are more open, more willing to embrace widely, more willing to accept differences and more willing to sacrifice self-interest for the good of others. On our best days we are gracious, big-hearted, and understanding, and, on those days, it’s unthinkable for us to say: Me first! We only put ourselves first and let our concerns trump our own goodness of heart on days when our frustrations, wounds, tiredness and ideological infections overwhelm us.
And even when we do revert to pettiness, part of us knows that this isn’t us at our best, but that we are more than what our actions betray at that moment. Below our wounds and ideological sicknesses, we remain riveted to the truth that we are, first, citizens of the world. A healthy heart still beats below our wounded, infected one.
Sadly almost everything in our world today tempts us away for this. We are adult children of Rene Descartes, who helped shape the modern mind with his famous dictum: “I think, therefore, I am!”
Our own headaches and heartaches are what’s most real to us and we accord reality and value to others primarily in relationship to our own subjectivity. That’s why we can so easily say: “Me first! My country first! My heartaches first!”
But there can be no peace, no world community, no real brother and sisterhood and no real church community, as long as we do not define ourselves as, first, citizens of the world and only second as members of our own tribe.
Admittedly, we need to take care of our own families, our own countries and our own selves. Justice asks that we also treat ourselves fairly. But, ultimately, the tension here is a false one, that is, the needs of others and our own needs are not in competition.
Athens and the world are of one piece. We best serve our own when we serve others. We are most fair to ourselves when we are fair to others. Only by being good citizens of the world are we good citizens in our own countries.
Putting ourselves first goes against the Gospel. It’s also poor strategy: Jesus tells us that, in the end, the first will be last.
(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX.)

Diocese well represented at regional Catholic conference

By Ruby Thomas
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – More than 500 Catholics from 10 dioceses across the country gathered at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville for the Interregional African American Catholic Evangelization Conference (IAACEC) June 10-12. The Diocese of Jackson sponsored the event. Will Jemison, director of Black Catholic Ministry, was a speaker and 42 representatives from the diocese attended. Bishop Joseph Kopacz presided at the closing Mass.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who celebrated the opening Mass June 10, called the gathering a “great blessing” and thanked those in attendance for their “commitment to the church and the announcement of Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Kurtz touched on the conference’s theme — “You Are My Witness” — and discussed the importance of leadership in the Gospel’s call to evangelize.
“We’re not going to evangelize unless we call forth and support leaders,” he said.
The conference provides a way for black Catholics to support each other, especially, he noted, “those who are on the edge” looking for their place in the world and wondering if they are being called.
The archbishop called on his listeners to cultivate the spirit of a “servant leader” who “feels chosen” and to feel their job is to witness to their encounter with Jesus.
Gatherings such as the IAACEC are important because they serve as a source of strength for the faithful, Archbishop Kurtz told participants.
“On our own we can’t do it,” said the archbishop. “We’re weak. We’re tempted to give up.”
The IAACEC, organized this year by the Archdiocese of Louisville Office of Multicultural Ministry, has been held 10 times since it began in the early 1990s.
Carrie Stivers, a member of St. Monica Church in Bardstown, Ky., who attended this year’s conference, said she drew strength from the gathering and others like it in the past.
The sense of togetherness she feels at the event is “inspiring” and stays with her long after the event is over, she said.
“Seeing all the black Catholics who share my belief makes me feel like I can keep going,” she said. “They inspire me to stay in the church.”
Stivers said she attended the first IAACEC and that the conference has been a part of her faith journey since. She said she always returns to her parish “on fire” and inspired to share her experience.
Dr. Eliza Young, a member of Christ the King Church, said the advantage of attending the event is the “support, love and insight” she receives from Catholics from different regions of the country. “It’s good for us to interact, to share opinions and ideas in order for us to grow,” said Young.
The event is also about renewal, she noted. “It renews my spirit, it renews my faith and it renews my insights into the Catholic Church,” said Young, following the opening Mass.
“Look at all the young people,” she said, pointing to a group of youth rehearsing for a dance performance. “I’m excited by the number of young people who are here. It lets us know our future is bright.”
Young noted that she was also encouraged to see people of other races at the conference. It meant, she said, that “we’re working together.”
M. Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry and one of the founders of the IAACEC, said the gathering “is a boost for the people as they anticipate the National Black Catholic Congress,” set for July 2016.
“It helps to keep the fire burning in such a way that people will want to go out and share with others about their relationship with Christ,” she said.
The IAACEC is important, said Turner, because it “provides an opportunity for people to look at their role of spreading the Good News and reexamining their relationship with Jesus.”
This could only bode well for the future of the church, considering the present “perception of declining membership” and closure of parishes, said Turner said.
The conference brought Catholics from the Archdiocese of Louisville together with those from the Diocese of Lexington, Ky.; the Diocese of Miami, Fla.; the Archdiocese of Baltimore; the Archdiocese of Richmond, Va., the Archdiocese of Cleveland, Ohio; the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio; the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio; the Diocese of Jackson, Miss.; and the Diocese of Memphis, Tenn.
In addition to Archbishop Kurtz, Bishop John Stowe of Lexington attended, as did Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of Jackson, Miss.
The conference included more than 40 workshops, including “We Can Build if You Know How to Give,” “Becoming an Inviting and Welcoming Church,” “Apologetic without Apologies” and “How to Reach Inactive Black Catholics.” Kuumba Camp for youth and young adults was a new addition to the conference this year.
Jackson diocese representatives came from Clarksdale, Fayette, Greenwood, Jackson and Natchez.
(This story was reprinted with permission from the Record, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Louisville.)

Supreme Court tie vote blocks temporary plan to stop deportations

By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – With a tie vote June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Obama administration’s plan to temporarily protect more than 4 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation.
The court’s 4-4 vote leaves in place a lower court injunction blocking the administration’s immigration policy with the one-page opinion stating: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.”
Legal experts have called it an ambiguous and confusing political and legal decision that leaves many in a state of limbo. It also puts a lot of attention on the vacant Supreme Court seat that may determine how the case is decided in an appeal.
Religious leaders were quick to denounce the court’s action as a setback for immigrant families and stressed the urgency of comprehensive immigration reform.
Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, said the court’s decision was a “huge disappointment” and a setback, but he said the focus now needs to be on how to fix the current immigration system.
“We must not lose hope that reform is possible,” he said. In a news briefing, President Barack Obama said the country’s immigration system is broken and the Supreme Court’s inability to reach a decision set it back even further.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin praised the court’s decision for making clear that “the president is not permitted to write laws – only Congress is,” which he said was a “major victory in our fight to restore the separation of powers.”
At issue in the United States v. Texas case are Obama’s executive actions on immigration policy that were challenged by 26 states.
The Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, said in a statement that “respect for human life and dignity demands leaders put people before politics.” Added Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston: “Our legislators continuously refuse to address immigration policies in a comprehensive manner.”
“I am deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision … putting millions of families at risk of being ripped apart,” said Dominican Sister Bernardine Karge of Chicago, speaking for the Washington-based group Faith in Public Life.
“The stories of immigrant families are intimately woven into the tapestry of this great country, and today’s decision threatens our nation’s commitment to justice and compassion,” she said, adding that she hoped the presumptive presidential nominees and Congress makes comprehensive immigration reform a priority.
Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. or CLINIC, similarly expressed disappointment in the court’s decision and said the responsibility is more than ever on Congress to come up with comprehensive immigration reform.
She said the court’s decision will put “millions of long-term U.S. residents in fear of law enforcement and at risk of mistreatment in the workplace, by landlords and from abusers due to threats of deportation.”
The case, argued before the court in April, involved Obama’s 2014 expansion of a 2012 program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and creation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known as DAPA.
The programs had been put on hold last November by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, upholding a Texas-based federal judge’s injunction against the executive actions. The original DACA program is not affected by the injunction.
The states suing the federal government claimed the president went too far and was not just putting a temporary block on deportations, but giving immigrants in the country without legal permission a “lawful presence” that enabled them to qualify for Social Security and Medicare benefits.
U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who defended the government, said the “pressing human concern” was to avoid breaking up families of U.S. citizen children, something echoed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, CLINIC, and at least three Catholic colleges, which joined in a brief with more than 75 education and children’s advocacy organizations.
When the case was argued before the high court in mid-April, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stressed that the 4 million immigrants who might be given a temporary reprieve from deportation “are living in the shadows” and “are here whether we want them or not,” adding that the government had limited resources available for deportations.
(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.)

Local advocates decry ruling

By Maureen Smith
GREENWOOD – Amelia McGowan, head of Catholic Charities’ Migrant Support Center, was disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to put a halt on new applications for immigrants seeking work permits and protection from deportation.
“Hopefully this is just a temporary setback,” said McGowan. She and her staff were so hopeful they would get a favorable decision, they hosted a workshop for parish leaders in Greenwood Saturday, June 18, to train them on the issue.
The Migrant Support Center partnered with Texas-based advocacy organization “United We Dream” to provide the free, eight-hour training. Speakers Carolina Ramirez and Adonias Arevalo presented an overview of DACA/DAPA, “Know Your Rights” training, screening for immigration remedies, understanding and combatting the unauthorized practice of law, and the importance of client engagements/retainers. United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. The network, made up of more than 100,000 immigrant youth and allies and 55 affiliate organizations in 26 states, advocates for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status.
Forty-two people from Clarksdale, Greenville, Greenwood, Jackson, Vicksburg and members of the Redemptorist community serving in the Delta attended the workshop. They included pastors, community leaders and catechists. “One of the problems we are having is that many people don’t even know or understand their rights,” said Nancy Sanchez, a staff member at the Migrant Support Center. She and McGowan said despite the Supreme Court ruling the center hopes to continue to offer training on immigration rights.
“We will keep working, keep collaborating. It is really important to build these networks and build and strengthen our partnerships,” said McGowan. Her office has been working for several years to educate not only the immigrant community, but also collaborate with law enforcement and the business community to make sure all the communities understand the complex issues involved. In an earlier interview, she explained that when immigrants are scared to report crimes or seek help, the whole community suffers.
Many immigrants in Mississippi live under constant threat of removal from the United States. The president’s proposed expanded Deferred Action program (otherwise known as “Expanded DACA” and “DAPA”) could have provided relief to many undocumented Mississippians by allowing them to obtain work permits and receive limited protection from deportation.
On June 24, the nation’s high court upheld an earlier ruling that determined President Obama did not have the constitutional authority to enact DAPA and expanded-DACA, two executive actions designed to provide temporary deportation relief and work permits for four million undocumented immigrants.
Immigrants granted protection in 2012 are not impacted by this ruling.

Community garden starts in Clarksdale

By Maureen Smith
CLARKSDALE – A community empowerment group based out of Clarksdale Immaculate Conception Parish is seeking volunteers for its first project, a community garden. The Community Engagers, led by Henry White plans to make use of a six-acre plot behind the old school on Ritchie Avenue.
White approached Father Scott Thomas, pastor, about starting a non-profit community empowerment group. The garden was the first project. “When he said he was willing to head it up, I was all for it,” said Father Thomas. “I love when parishioners are ready to take on a project like this one,” he added. White is a Delta native, but just moved back to the area and is ready to make a difference.
Local farmer Bowen Flowers has agreed to prepare the land for planting. White is appealing to parishioners and community leaders to subdivide and plant the plots and maintain the garden. He sent out a flyer seeking volunteers and donations of cash or seeds. “I employ my fellow Catholic brethren to stand with us to provide this wonderful opportunity to serve the poor and underserved residents of Clarksdale by offering affordable and healthy accessible food choices,” wrote White in the flyer.
White has been working on this project for some time, seeking help from both local and state resources. “He had a meeting at City Hall and has been speaking with other groups,” said Father Scott. “This could turn into a nice ecumenical effort, which would be great,” he said.
“Alcorn State University Farm Extension agency conducted a site visit and helped us develop a plan to pretreat the soil and prepare for planting,” wrote White in an email to Mississippi Catholic. “My pastor, Father Scott Thomas and fellow parishioners from Immaculate Conception and St. Elisabeth along with Catholic Charities-North West offered invaluable resource,” he wrote. “I thought nothing else could top my sense  pride in seeing a community pull together for the good to start and outreach campaign that would be beneficial to the Upper Brick Yard and essentially our bordering neighborhoods of Magnolia Courts and Willow Park Apartments,” he added.
White paid a visit to the community garden Sister Kay Burton, SNJM, coordinates in Jonestown.  Her garden provides residents a place to grow produce to sell at the Clarksdale Farmer’s Market and other venues. She and the children in her summer school program also plant their own vegetables along the edges. She said she was happy to host White to show him a sample of how her program works.
Anyone who wants to donate time, seeds or money can contact White at 443-939-0575 or by email at

Women in recovery build prayer labyrinth

By Andrew Morgan
JACKSON – The residents of The McCoy House for Sober Living, led by director Denise Marsters, built a prayer labyrinth on their property in June.
The McCoy House is a private home which offers a transitional living space for women dealing with addictions of any kind. All the residents have completed inpatient rehabilitation programs. The house gives them a place to stay in preparation for independent living. Many of the residents have dealt with various degrees of trauma, neglect and abuse. Part of their recovery is separating themselves from the destructive behaviors of their past and finding new, positive ways to live. The residents are required to work or volunteer during their time at the house and attend regular meetings to support one another.
Marsters hopes that the labyrinth, in addition to all that is offered at the McCoy House, will help the ladies deal with whatever issue they are facing, providing a meditative, contemplative exercise for them.
“They can take any issue they have in their heart, anything on their mind, and they can take it into the labyrinth with them and leave it there at the foot of the cross in the center,” Marsters explained. “A labyrinth is not the same thing as a maze, where the goal is to get lost and find your way out. Our path is clear and easy to follow, and the end destination is found in the center. With the labyrinth, whoever walks it has a chance to lose themselves without ever losing the path in order to find themselves.”
The practice of walking labyrinths has existed for many centuries, prominently exercised in the Medieval Church. Many notable labyrinths are found in some of the most famous churches and cathedrals.
The McCoy House labyrinth is formed out of twelve interconnected circles that wind inwardly towards the cross in the center. It was constructed with bricks taken from a neighboring property of the McCoy House, known as the Mercy House, named for the contributions of Sister Mary Paulinus Oakes, R.S.M. The materials for the labyrinth were salvaged. The inspiration for the labyrinth came to Marsters, in fact, when she went to visit Sister Paulinus in her order house.
“When I visited Sister Paulinus in Michigan they had a fabulous labyrinth, and sister and I agreed that such an addition would be beneficial for the McCoy House ladies. I took the very same, basic design, drew it on paper, and brought it back the House.”
Perhaps what is most remarkable is that the labyrinth was built entirely by the ladies of the McCoy House.
“They laid every brick themselves and it really is a testament to each of them and what they have accomplished here at the McCoy House,” said Denise Marsters. “How soothing it is for our ladies to behold and interact with something they built. It’s beautiful, and has been an absolute success.”
Donations to the McCoy House for Sober Living can be made online at For more information contact Denise Marsters at or 601-946-0578.
(Andrew Morgan is a rising sophomore at The Catholic University of America and a graduate of Madison St. Joseph School.)

Little Sisters named ‘witnesses to freedom’

Guest Column
By Sister Constance Veit, lsp
Each year since 2012, Catholics in the United States have observed the Fortnight for Freedom in preparation for Independence Day on July 4th. The theme set by the U.S. Bishops’ Conference for this year’s Fortnight was “Witnesses to Freedom.”
The bishops offered 14 men and women who bear witness to freedom in Christ – one for each day – for our reflection during the two weeks. Thirteen of these figures have already passed from this world into heaven and the majority of them are martyrs. The lone “person” who is still alive? The Little Sisters of the Poor!
We Little Sisters were shocked to find ourselves on a list of freedom fighters. I began to realize the significance of this when I read a reflection on the Fortnight by Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. “Reflecting on the lives of these great men and women can show us how we might serve as witnesses to freedom today,” he wrote.
“They love their country, yet this love does not surpass their love for and devotion to Christ and his Church … By pondering the lives of these exemplary Christian witnesses, we can learn much of what it means to follow Jesus Christ in today’s challenging world. We pray that over these two weeks, the grace of God will help us to grow in wisdom, courage, and love, that we too might be faithful witnesses to freedom.”
We realize that in light of our Supreme Court case we Little Sisters of the Poor have become a symbol of courage to many people. As the bishops’ list of witnesses for freedom demonstrates, countless Christians down through the centuries, and in our own time, have shed their blood and given their lives for the faith.
I am both humbled and embarrassed to find us listed in their company, because I truly believe that our courage is quite relative. Our suffering is of the type that Pope Francis recently called “polite persecution.” After all, we Little Sisters have not been imprisoned or had to resist to the point of shedding blood!
I have always found the parable of the useless or unprofitable servants in Luke’s Gospel rather unpalatable, but in light of our current notoriety I have come to appreciate it. This is the parable where Jesus tells his apostles, “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do’” (Luke 17:10). Like the useless servants in the Gospel, we Little Sisters have done only what we should have done in standing up for life and religious liberty.
We profess to be daughters of the church – how could we not uphold her teachings, especially when they touch on something as basic as the right to life? Surely, we never thought our cause would go all the way to the Supreme Court, but we believe that all happened according to God’s plan.
As I reflect back on the experiences of the last three years, I thank God for the vast cloud of witnesses who have supported us every step of this journey, beginning with our legal team at the Becket Fund, whose constant good cheer and professional expertise were heaven-sent.  They are the real heroes. We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the people around the world who offered their prayers and sacrifices for our case.
Finally, we are indebted to our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan, and to the generations of Little Sisters who have gone before us, many of whom persevered through much more trying circumstances than anything we have had to face, including religious persecution. If we are a beacon for our contemporaries in this struggle for religious liberty, it is only because we stand on the shoulders of giants.
(Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.)

‘Free State of Jones’ provides lesson in community action

Complete the Circle
By George Evans
This week I had an unusual movie experience. I went to see the “Free State of Jones” with Matthew McConaughey. It was a great movie. It made me wrestle with many feelings I have harbored for years. It solidified my current thinking and gave me some renewed hope that we can do better if we only commit to it.
I grew up in Vicksburg  and my predecessors were the victims of a brutal siege which terminated with civilians and soldiers eating dogs and cats to ward off starvation. Surrender of the city on July 4, 1863, after repelling numerous attacks by the armies of Generals Grant and Sherman, was the stuff of lore and stories from a young age emphasized by the surrounding National Military Park, the main roads of which were Union Avenue and Confederate Avenue.
As liberal and progressive as I have become in the ensuing years, there is still a small twinge of pain and hurt when I hear the South maligned. And then I look at the reality of slavery and its aftermath, lynchings, kluckers, Jim Crow and segregation and understanding that the institution of slavery was the cause of the Civil War and its awful carnage and slaughter I know that Biblical justice (Old and New Testament) mandate moving forward toward building a better South and a better U.S.A.
Free State of Jones helps remove the twinges of Old South romanticism so easy to embrace if one is white and rich as were the planters and slave holders. Cotton was like gold and slave labor made it that. Slavery also frequently gave even poor whites (and these were the great majority) a feeling of superiority toward someone.  Sin plays with us in some strange ways. Newt Knight of Jones County, Mississippi, deserts from the Confederate Army after the brutal battle of Corinth as the result of witnessing a very young kinsman being killed.
He goes back home to bury the youngster and gradually concludes that it makes no sense for poor whites who own no slaves to fight the battles for slave holders. As a deserter he is in the same class as a runaway slave and this shapes the movie. He joins up with a number of runaways and they gradually create a small but extremely resourceful army to protect the people of Jones and Jasper counties from the local Confederate troops ordered to confiscate food and goods from their own local people. Their efforts are surprisingly successful for the rest of the war.
I will tell no more about the movie for I hope that everyone reading this will attend and soon.  Movies of seriousness and character development don’t tend to stay long in Mississippi theaters. McConaughey is magnificent as Newt Knight and though I am not a movie critic, I thought the rest of the cast was also very good.
As we struggle today with all sorts of racial and economic problems like “black lives matter,” “economic inequality,” “failing budgets,” “corporate tax reductions,” Newt Knight and those who proclaimed the Free State of Jones at least suggest that coming together in solidarity and fighting for the common good of all men and women and not just for the wealthy and prominent is good for the spirit and the soul and can be successful. They appealed to General Sherman for help against the Confederates who they were already fighting, but were turned down, so they found their own way to protect their community.
With the political mess we face, the moral demise we have created, the tawdry remarks and attacks and ugliness which seem to attract folks and be effective, why not try to rally the troops in a peaceful but effective proclamation of freedom and goodness and graciousness? Why not answer our problems with solutions based on rightness and effective action?
If it can be done in Jones County in the midst of a terrible war and with little help, surely we can do better with all at our disposal if we only put aside self serving ambition and greed and embrace our discipleship as Jesus admonished us to do recently at Sunday Mass and put Him first. He will give us what we need to do it.  That beats cursing the darkness, complaining and doing nothing.
(George Evans, a retired pastoral minister, lives in Madison and is a member of Jackson St. Richard Parish.)

Organizers’ advice to World Youth Day pilgrims: Pack good walking shoes

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) – Young people attending World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland, may have to walk up to nine miles to and from one of its key sites, event organizers said.
“They’ll have to be ready for a long foot journey of several hours, but this has always been a feature of World Youth Days,” said Anna Chmura, WYD’s communications coordinator.
“There’ll be several designated routes, mostly from Krakow, and they’ll all be used heavily. But we’re confident the logistics and security have now been carefully worked out,” she told Catholic News Service.
The event, which runs July 26-31, is expected to bring 2 million people from 187 countries to the southern Polish city. They will be accompanied by 47 cardinals, 800 bishops and 20,000 priests. The July 30-31 vigil and Mass, on the fourth and fifth days of Pope Francis’ visit, will require nearly all of the participants to make the nine-mile journey to Campus Misericordiae, near Poland’s Wieliczka salt mine, Chmura said.
Buses will be available only for the 2,000 handicapped people registered for the event, elderly pilgrims and those with special needs, she added.
“Although we don’t have a final number for the buses, there’ll certainly be dozens, but the foot pilgrimage theme is central to the WYD,” Chmura explained.
“All registered groups from the various sectors will have their paths precisely indicated, to keep people moving and avoid logjams or safety hazards.”
The closing events include an evening prayer vigil July 30 at the campus as pilgrims stay overnight at the site. World Youth Day concludes the morning of July 31 with Mass and recitation of the Angelus before Pope Francis departs for Rome.

Where silence should reign: Pope will pray, not speak, at Auschwitz

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Tears and not words. Prayers and not greetings.
During his trip to Poland for World Youth Day, Pope Francis will go to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp. He said he wants to go alone and say nothing.
When Pope Francis speaks, he can delight fans and frustrate critics. He can wax poetic or be bluntly funny about human quirks.
But in the face of great suffering and horror, his first and strongest inclinations are silence, a profoundly bowed head and hands clasped tightly in prayer.
Pope Francis had asked that there be no speeches during his visit to Armenia’s genocide memorial June 25. At times, even the prayer service there with the Armenian Apostolic patriarch seemed too wordy. An aide gently cupped his elbow when it was time to end the silent reflection and begin the service.
The Vatican’s schedule for the pope’s visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau July 29 had him giving a speech at the international monument at Birkenau, just as St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI did.
But on the flight back to Rome from Armenia, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told Pope Francis, “I heard that you want to live that moment more with silence than words.”
The pope responded by reminding reporters that in 2014 when he went to Redipuglia in northern Italy to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, “I went in silence,” walking alone among the graves. “Then there was the Mass and I preached at Mass, but that was something else.”
Speaking about his planned visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, “I would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds – only the few people necessary,” he said. “Alone, enter, pray. And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.”
Father Lombardi confirmed June 30 that the official program had been changed and the pope would not give a speech at the death camp. But it is not that Pope Francis has nothing to say about the horror of the Shoah, the importance of remembering it and the need to continue fighting anti-Semitism.
“The past must be a lesson to us for the present and the future,” he said Jan. 17 during a visit to Rome’s synagogue. “The Shoah teaches us that maximum vigilance is always needed in order to intervene quickly in defense of human dignity and peace.”
In the book “On Heaven and Earth,” written in 2010 with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the future pope and rabbi discussed the Holocaust at length.
While the question “Where was God” is an important theological and human question, the pope said, “Where was man?” is an even bigger question. “The Shoah is genocide, like the others of the 20th century, but it has a distinctive feature,” an “idolatrous construction” in which the Nazis claimed to be god and embracing true evil tried to eradicate Judaism.
“Each Jew that they killed was a slap in the face to the living God,” the future pope wrote.
In a very formal, very solemn commemoration, Pope Francis visited the Shoah memorial, Yad Vashem, in Israel in 2014. He laid a wreath of flowers in memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis, clasped his hands and stood in silence before slowly walking back to his place. He met six survivors of Nazi camps, kissing their hands in a sign of deference and recognition of their suffering.
Protocol for the occasion required a speech and, led to the podium, Pope Francis spoke softly, reflecting on the question of “Where was man?” and how could human beings have sunk so horribly low.
In his speech, he prayed to God, “Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry, of having despised and destroyed our own flesh which you formed from the earth, to which you gave life with your own breath of life. Never again, Lord, never again!”
“Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man, created in your own image and likeness, was capable of doing,” he said. “Remember us in your mercy.”
After finishing the speech, the pope stood in silence at the lectern for almost three minutes, writing in the Yad Vashem guestbook.
His message: “With shame for what man, who was created in the image of God, was able to do; with shame for the fact that man made himself the owner of evil; with shame that man made himself into god and sacrificed his brothers. Never again! Never again!”
(Editor’s note: Mississippi Catholic would like to hear from any pilgrims from the Diocese of Jackson who are planning to attend World Youth Day. Send photos and reflections to