Olympic briefs

SCOTCH PLAINS (CNS) – When U.S. runner Sydney McLaughlin crossed the finish line to win the gold in the 400-meter hurdles Aug. 3 in Tokyo, she had the cheers of fans supporting her from the New Jersey Catholic high school where she graduated four years ago. Fans at the watch party at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains jumped up and down and cheered for their fellow alumnae who broke her own world record in the event and narrowly beat fellow U.S. teammate Dalilah Muhammad, who was the defending title-winner in this event. Another local watch party was taking place in McLaughlin’s hometown of Dunellen, New Jersey. McLaughlin began her quest to win the gold medal in the event at the Summer Games when she smashed the world record in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. McLaughlin, who turns 22 Aug. 7, stunned the track and field world as a 16-year-old student at Union Catholic when she made the U.S. team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. On July 27, the last night of the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. She became the first woman to run the 400 hurdles in under 52 seconds – she set a new world record of 51.90.

U.S. runner and gold medalist Sydney McLaughlin celebrates Aug. 4, 2021, after breaking the world record to win the women’ 400-meter hurdles final at Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

TOKYO (CNS) – Hidilyn Diaz became the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal winner, set an Olympic record – and thanked her friends who prayed the Miraculous Medal novena. In a virtual news conference, the 30-year-old said she also prayed the novena and wore the medal. After winning July 26, the four-time Olympian praised God and lifted up Our Lady’s Miraculous Medal from around her neck while repeatedly shouting “Thank You, Lord,” reported the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines News. That gesture by Diaz went viral, CBCP News reported. After her win in the women’s 55-kg weightlifting – she had an overall lift of 224 kilograms – more than 493 pounds – she told the virtual news conference about the Miraculous Medal. “It is a sign of … my faith to Mama Mary and Jesus Christ,” she said. In a statement, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao congratulated Diaz on behalf of the Philippine bishops. “Her victory was captured through many lenses, and in one of those photos was her holding the gold medal and wearing a Miraculous Medal of Our Lady on her chest. We admire her devotion to the Blessed Mother as she carried in her victory her great faith in God. Hidilyn is a true weightlifter who draws her strength from her love for the country and a deep Catholic faith,” the archbishop said. “Congratulations, Hidilyn! May the Lord continue to bless you with perseverance.”

Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines poses with her gold medal and Miraculous Medal after winning the gold in women’s weightlifting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics July 26, 2021. Diaz became the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal winner and set an Olympic record. (CNS photo/Hidilyn Diaz, Instagram, via CBCP News) Editors: best quality available from source.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – After a week of historic and electrifying swimming events at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, two Catholic Olympians will return to their hometown of Bethesda having proudly represented their parish community, their schools and the USA. Katie Ledecky won two gold and two silver medals, and Phoebe Bacon had a strong fifth-place finish in the 200-meter backstroke. Both Olympic athletes attended Little Flower School in Bethesda, in the Washington Archdiocese, and are alumnae of Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, also in Bethesda. Three-time Olympian Ledecky, 24, now a 10-time Olympic medalist, is one of the most decorated female U.S. Olympians ever and also one of the most dominant female swimmers in history. One gold in Tokyo was for coming in first in what was a first: the Olympics inaugural women’s 1,500-meter freestyle swim July 28. Her other gold was her seventh gold in what is her signature event: the 800-meter freestyle race. “What a thrill it has been to watch Katie and Phoebe compete this week. Stone Ridge is incredibly proud of these alumnae athletes, not only for what they accomplish in the sport of swimming, but for the values and character they represent,” said Catherine Ronan Karrels, head of Stone Ridge School. “I am so proud of how they both swam in these Olympic games and how they represented the USA,” she said.

Katie Ledecky of the United States gets ready enter the pool for the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle final during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics July 28, 2021. The 2015 graduate of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md., won the gold medal in the Olympic debut of the event. (CNS photo/Marko Djurica, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – As indoor mask mandates are returning in areas of the country hard hit by a new wave of the coronavirus, U.S. bishops have been informing their dioceses of this new policy impacting Masses, Catholic schools and church events. This is particularly true in Louisiana where bishops have been announcing this change in letters to their respective dioceses or public announcements the first week of August. Their announcements followed the Aug. 2 statewide mask mandate issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards requiring anyone age 5 and up to wear a mask indoors in K-12 schools, businesses, universities and churches as the state tries to bring down the rising number of COVID-19 infections. The mandate is in effect until at least Sept. 1. Louisiana is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also is having record hospitalizations due to the impact of the Delta variant of the coronavirus particularly affecting the state’s unvaccinated. Despite a recent surge in vaccinations, only 37.2% of its residents were fully vaccinated as of Aug. 4. The state mask mandate also impacts Catholic schools that have already begun opening in some parts of the state.
ST. MICHAEL, Minn (CNS) – It’s doubtful anyone matched Daniel Markham’s driving distance for the 6 p.m. Sunday Mass June 13 at St. Michael in St. Michael. He came all the way from Tinley Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, on a journey that began two days earlier, winding through Wichita, Kansas, and heading north through Iowa to the Twin Cities – all because of a phone conversation with the parish business administrator at St. Michael, Dave Ferry. Five years ago, Markham decided he wanted to attend Mass in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. After several years of waiting, dreaming, and planning, he got going the weekend of June 5 and 6 when he visited two states on the East Coast, Connecticut and New Hampshire. After coming back to his home in Tinley Park, he went to Wichita for a Mass June 12 and hopped in his car the next morning to drive to St. Michael. The day after Mass there, he went even farther north to visit Extreme Faith Camp near Pine River, about two hours north of the Twin Cities. Markham plans to write a book after finishing all 52 visits, with the last one taking place in July 2022. It will recount his visits not just to parishes but to ministries and organizations that intrigue him.

Daniel Markham prays during Mass at St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael, Minn., June 13, 2021. Markham is traveling around the U.S. on what he calls a “52 Masses” tour. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Saying he was acting for the good of the unity of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis restored limits on the celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Missal in use before the Second Vatican Council, overturning or severely restricting permissions St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had given to celebrate the so-called Tridentine-rite Mass. “An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences and encourage disagreements that injure the church, block her path and expose her to the peril of division,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter to bishops July 16. The text accompanies his apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of the Tradition), declaring the liturgical books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council to be “the unique expression of the ‘lex orandi’ (law of worship) of the Roman Rite,” restoring the obligation of priests to have their bishops’ permission to celebrate according to the “extraordinary” or pre-Vatican II Mass and ordering bishops not to establish any new groups or parishes in their dioceses devoted to the old liturgy. Priests currently celebrating Mass according to the old missal must request authorization from their bishop to continue doing so, Pope Francis ordered, and for any priest ordained after the document’s publication July 16, the bishop must consult with the Vatican before granting authorization.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus wants to nourish the souls of those who are spiritually famished from the loneliness and anguish that come from life’s difficulties, Pope Francis said. “What does he not want? To be relegated to being considered a side dish – he who is bread – to be overlooked and set aside, or called on only when we need him,” the pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 8 during his Sunday Angelus address. The pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. John in which Jesus responded to those who doubted that he was the “bread that came down from heaven.” “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die,” Jesus said. Commenting on the passage, Pope Francis said bread is a basic necessity needed for survival, especially by the hungry who “do not ask for refined and expensive food, they ask for bread.” “Jesus reveals himself as bread, that is, the essential, what is necessary for everyday life; without him nothing works,” the pope said. “He is not one bread among many others, but the bread of life,” he said.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Hours before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, Pope Francis expressed his hope for the peace and safety of the country’s citizens. “I join in the unanimous concern for the situation in Afghanistan. I ask all of you to pray with me to the God of peace, so that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue,” the pope said Aug. 15 during his Angelus address. Only through dialogue, he added, “can the battered population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their own homes, and live in peace and security, in total mutual respect.” The Taliban, an extremist Islamic movement that ruled Afghanistan until ousted by a U.S.-led coalition nearly 20 years ago, began taking over large swaths of the country as U.S. forces withdrew. According to The Associated Press, Taliban fighters entered the presidential palace after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

SYDNEY (CNS) – Sydney catechist Caroline Fisher says writing a successful book for Catholic children has helped her spread a message of true love “too good” to keep to herself. The mother of three said her picture book, “Jesus Had a Body Like Me: A Theology of the Body for Babies and Little Ones,” is aimed not just at children but at those who read to them. She is passionate about sharing with readers that each of them is a gift, every soul is sacred and, to truly nourish the body, one must also nourish the spirit within. “God doesn’t make mistakes, and each of us matters to God and has been ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ made in his image and likeness for a purpose only we can fulfill, and nobody else,” Fisher told The Catholic Weekly, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Sydney. “If only people knew this and understood the reasons behind what the Catholic Church tells us what to do and what not to do, we would not see the levels of suicide, despair and hopelessness we are seeing in our society. “Teenagers in particular need to know this, but it’s never too early to connect the dots.” Illustrated by Kama Towcik, the book is based on the theology of the body teachings of St. John Paul II and aims to communicate the message of God’s self-sacrificing love to babies and the very youngest of readers.blessings of the Holy Family. … “We resort to the Holy Family and place under their feet our pain, anxiety, weakness and hopes.”

LES CAYES, Haiti (CNS) – The magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck Haiti collapsed the bishop’s residence in Les Cayes, killing one priest, leaving one missing and injuring Cardinal Chibly Langlois. Father Emile Beldor died of his injuries after the Aug. 14 quake. Father Jean-Antoine Coulanges is reported missing. Cardinal Langlois sustained arm and leg injuries; church sources say his life is not in danger. Voice of America reported that 18 people, assembled for a baptism, were killed in Immaculate Conception Parish church of Les Anglais. The Haitian civil protection service reported late Aug. 15 that nearly 1,300 people had been killed, more than 5,700 were injured and more than 30,250 families needed shelter. Those numbers were expected to rise as a tropical depression headed toward the island. The civil protection agency warned people to expect strong winds, landslides and flooding in addition to heavy rain and rough seas. At the Vatican Aug. 15, Pope Francis expressed his condolences and closeness to the Haitian people. “While I lift up my prayer to the Lord for the victims, I extend my word of encouragement to the survivors, hoping that the interest of the international community to help might move toward them,” the pope said during his Angelus address.

An injured woman is assisted in Les Cayes, Haiti, Aug. 15, 2021, following magnitude 7.2 earthquake the previous day. (CNS photo/Estailove St-Val, Reuters)