LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (OSV News) – Catholic faithful turned to prayer as tornadoes tore through several U.S. states March 31, killing at least 21, injuring dozens and devastating thousands of homes, businesses and schools. Amid the loss of life and property, Catholics in hard-hit Arkansas told OSV News they see a glimpse of God’s mysterious mercies. “Any time a natural disaster hits … it brings us to our knees, and not in a cute theological sense,” Father Stephen Gadberry, pastor of St. Teresa Catholic Church in Little Rock, told OSV News. “It levels the playing field and shows we’re not the big and strong individuals we think we are. We really do need community. Literally, overnight, enemies are working together in the same yard, getting past their differences. … We’re a pilgrim people, and we have to journey on together.” St. Teresa school principal Kristy Dunn, who lost her home to a tornado as a child, added, “The Lord is so good … and there is so much good in humanity. Praise God I’m able to see it up close and personal now.”
HOUMA, La. (OSV News) – Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, a former auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, was installed March 29 as the fifth bishop of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. “I put my trust in Jesus Christ because whenever he gives us a mission, he also gives us the strength and the wisdom to carry it out,” Bishop Dorsonville said as he was installed during a nearly two-hour liturgy at the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales in Houma.
During the Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, read Pope Francis’ mandate appointing Bishop Dorsonville as the bishop of Houma-Thibodaux. In the decree, Pope Francis asked the faithful of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux to welcome their new bishop “as a father to be loved and a teacher to be heeded.” Archbishop Pierre told Bishop Dorsonville that he will be made to feel at home in his new diocese “because you will find in this diocese many opportunities to continue your ministry as shepherd.” He also urged Bishop Dorsonville to “listen to the laity who have many gifts and much love for the Church” and serve as “both a brother and a father” to his priests.
THOMASTON, Conn. (OSV News) – The Archdiocese of Hartford is investigating a possible Eucharistic miracle after Communion hosts, distributed by a lay minister, seemingly multiplied during a March 5 liturgy at St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, where Blessed Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, had once served as pastor. Celebrant Father Joseph Crowley, pastor of the merged St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish of which the church is a part, described the incident in a March 12 homily livestreamed on YouTube as “one of those moments where God showed up in a very powerful, powerful way.” He added the occurrence showed St. Thomas Church “is a very special place” because of “Blessed McGivney’s life here.” At the same time, said Father Crowley, “the real miracle is the fact that we’re able to take simple bread and wine, and through the prayers of the church, through the hands of the priest, Christ is made present through transubstantiation. Our Lord then becomes the flesh and blood hidden under the mere presence of bread and wine.” David Elliott, associate director of communications for the Archdiocese of Hartford, told OSV News that the archdiocesan judicial vicar, Father George S. Mukuka, “has been looking into the possibility of a Eucharistic miracle” at the parish. Following the investigation, Elliott said, the judicial vicar will prepare a report for Hartford Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, “who will make a determination from there” regarding the event’s supernatural nature.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSV News) – Officials of the Nashville Diocese called news of a morning mass shooting and loss of life at a private Christian school in the city heartbreaking and “deeply sad and shocking.” Six individuals, including three children, were fatally shot during the mid-morning hours March 27, at The Covenant School in the Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville. The private, Christian school educates students in preschool through sixth grade and was founded as a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church. The shooter, identified as 28-year-old Audrey E. Hale, carried out the attack armed with two short barrel, magazine-fed tactical-style semiautomatic weapons, and a semiautomatic handgun. Hale died upon being immediately engaged by police officers who had responded to the scene. “My heart breaks with news of the school shooting at The Covenant School this morning,” Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville said in a statement posted to social media. “Let us pray for the victims, their families and the Covenant Presbyterian community.” Bishop Spalding celebrated the 5:30 p.m. Mass March 27 at the Cathedral of the Incarnation to pray for the victims of the shooting and the school.
VATICAN CITY (OSV News) – “I’m still alive,” Pope Francis joked to reporters who asked how he was doing as he left Rome’s Gemelli hospital April 1. The 86-year-old pope, who had been hospitalized since March 29 for treatment of bronchitis, stopped his car and got out to greet well-wishers and reporters waiting outside the hospital. He embraced a sobbing mother, whose daughter had died the night before. He reached out to the father, too, and holding their hands, he prayed with them. The pope then traced a cross on the forehead of each of them and gave them both a kiss on the cheek. Reporters present said he also signed the cast of a boy who said he broke his arm playing soccer. Before returning to the Vatican, he stopped to pray at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, a stop he makes before and after every trip abroad and a stop he also made in July 2021 after undergoing colon surgery at the Gemelli. “Pausing before the icon of Mary, ‘Salus Populi Romani,’ he prayerfully entrusted to her the children he met yesterday in the hospital’s pediatric oncology and children’s neurosurgery wards, all the sick and those suffering from illness and the loss of their loved ones,” the Vatican press office said.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has updated the procedures for investigating allegations of sexual abuse or the cover up of abuse, specifying that the leaders of Vatican-recognized international Catholic lay associations and movements have the same responsibilities over their members that a bishop has over the priests of his diocese. The updated version of “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (You are the light of the world), published March 25, also expanded the categories of victims covered by the regulations to include vulnerable adults. The original text spoke of the crime of “sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person.” The updated text read, “a crime against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue committed with a minor, or with a person who habitually has an imperfect use of reason, or with a vulnerable adult.” Oblate Father Andrew Small, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told Catholic News Service March 25, “Anything that expands the categories of those who should be protected is to be welcomed.” Father Small also pointed to the updated document’s insistence that not only must dioceses and bishops’ conferences have a “system” for reporting abuse or its cover up, they also must have “organisms or offices easily accessible to the public” to accept reports. Making the procedures “well known and publicly accessible is part of justice,” he said.
MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – A fire in a Mexican immigration detention center has claimed the lives of at least 40 migrants, who appeared to be abandoned by guards as flames engulfed their locked cells, according to a leaked video from the facility near the U.S. border in Ciudad Juárez. The tragedy provoked sorrow and outrage from Catholic leaders and laity working on migration matters in the United States, Mexico and across Central America, along with calls for a rethinking of immigration policy which criminalizes migrants streaming through Mexico toward the U.S. border. “The pain and suffering from abandoning their homes is already too much, and we cannot allow their transit through Mexico to become an ordeal for those who leave their family and country in search of a better life,” said a March 28 statement from the Mexican bishops’ conference.
MANAGUA (OSV News) – Imprisoned Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Álvarez appeared unexpectedly on Nicaraguan television March 24, more than six weeks after refusing to head into exile and being sentenced to 26 years behind bars. Pale, gaunt and dressed in blue, Bishop Álvarez was reunited with his brother and sister for a meal at the La Modelo prison, where he has been held since hastily being convicted in a secret trial of conspiracy for “undermining national integrity” and spreading false information. The appearance followed weeks of Catholic leaders and human rights groups demanding proof of life – with the last photos of Álvarez dating back to a Jan. 10 court date. He had previously been held under house arrest after being detained in an August 2022 raid on his diocesan headquarters.
MARKOWA, Poland (OSV News) – Kelly Lindquist was three months pregnant with their seventh child when her husband Ian was diagnosed with leukemia on March 24, 2021. That was the day when she learned about another family of seven, living in Poland at the beginning of the 20th century: Servants of God Józef and Wiktoria Ulma. They became the Lindquist family’s protectors throughout Ian’s disease. Ian Lindquist, an education scholar of Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, died of leukemia on May 5, 2022. His wife and their seven children made a trip to the Polish village of Markowa to thank the descendants of the Ulmas for prayers and the special bond the Lindquists’ felt throughout the battle for Ian’s life. “What I saw in Markowa is the Ulma family struggle, the evils that persisted around them and how they didn’t stop being good despite the evil,” Lindquist said. “And I found myself very grateful for their willingness to die for what is good.” “Kelly entrusted everything to God and for us here in Markowa it is a testimony we will never forget,” Urszula Niemczak, Wiktoria Ulma’s relative, told OSV News.