Eugene Boonie, a member of the Navajo Nation, fills up his water tank at the livestock water spigot in the Bodaway Chapter of the Navajo Nation, in Blue Gap, Ariz., Sept. 17, 2020. After a 5-4 Supreme Court decision struck a blow to the Navajo Nation’s request for federal assistance in securing water for the reservation June 22, 2023, Catholics who minister among Native Americans shared their thoughts on the historic water crisis facing the Southwest U.S. and the Indigenous populations who live there. (OSV News photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

MELVILLE, La. (OSV News) – Father Stephen Ugwu, the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Melville, Louisiana, is stable and recovering following a July 13 attack with a machete. The priest is at a hospital being treated for lacerations to his head and body. According to local media reports, a man wielding a machete attacked the priest at the church’s campus after Father Ugwu declined the man’s request, leaving Father Ugwu with cuts on his head and body. Melville police arrested the attacker and assisted Father Ugwu, a priest from Nigeria serving the Diocese of Lafayette. The suspect, identified as Johnny Dwayne Neely, 58, of Palmetto, is in custody, according to St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office. He faces charges of attempted second-degree murder, hate crimes and home invasion and a bench warrant. Based on words used by the suspect, Melville Police Chief Phillip Lucas told local media that he believed the attack was racially motivated. Blue Rolfes, diocesan director of communications, told OSV News July 15 that Father Ugwu’s condition was improving. He has some “serious wounds,” she said, but he is receiving the care he needs, and doctors are optimistic about his recovery. “He feels blessed to be alive and that his God protected him during his time of need,” Rolfes said.

ST. MICHAELS, Ariz. (OSV News) – After a 5-4 Supreme Court decision struck a blow to the Navajo Nation’s request for federal assistance in securing water for the reservation June 22, Catholics who minister among Native Americans shared their thoughts on the historic water crisis facing the Southwest U.S. and the Indigenous populations who live there. “People line up at a community well and fill up their water containers to take out to their homesteads to be able to have water for their families for the week, sometimes for days. If it’s an older couple, it might last a little longer,” said Dot Teso, president of St. Michael Indian School in St. Michaels, Arizona – which was founded by St. Katharine Drexel in 1902. “You can imagine if you were going on a camping trip and you’re thinking about water for the trip – these people have to think of this every day.” Arizona v. Navajo Nation came before the Supreme Court when the Navajo Nation asked for the courts to require the federal government to identify the former’s water rights and needs and provide a way to meet those needs. Seeking to protect their own interest in access to the Colorado River, the states of Arizona, Colorado and Nevada intervened in the suit. While the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona dismissed the Navajos’ complaint, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in their favor. Navajo Nation Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley in a statement the ruling “will not deter the Navajo Nation from securing the water that our ancestors sacrificed and fought for – our right to life and the livelihood of future generations.”

ST. PAUL, Minn. (OSV News) – An annual procession to Father Augustus Tolton’s gravesite in Illinois will be joined next year by pilgrims walking the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage en route to Indianapolis, the Diocese of Springfield’s worship director announced July 9. Father Daren Zehnle shared the news with more than 200 pilgrims who participated in this year’s procession from a parish in Quincy, Illinois, with ties to Father Tolton, to his gravesite almost a mile away. Father Tolton (1854-1897) is the first identifiable Black priest in the United States, and he was renowned not only for his holiness and preaching, but also for the considerable adversity he faced as a Black priest in the late 1800s. Pope Francis declared him “venerable” in 2019. Will Peterson, founder and president of Modern Catholic Pilgrim, the Minnesota-based nonprofit organizing the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, said Father Tolton is the first of six Black American Catholics on the path to canonization officially to be linked geographically to the national pilgrimage. He hopes others will be as well, as the national pilgrimage’s four routes will pass through cities where several of these “Saintly Six” lived and ministered, as pilgrims make their way to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress in July 2024.

ROME (OSV News) – Venerable Lucia was only 10 years old when she and her two cousins told their friends and family that they had seen the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917. Mary first appeared to Lucia, 9-year-old Francisco Marto and 7-year-old Jacinta Marto May 13, and the apparitions continued once a month until October 1917. The church has ruled that the apparitions and the messages from Our Lady of Fatima were worthy of belief. On June 22, Pope Francis declared Sister Lucia “venerable,” with a decree recognizing the Fatima visionary’s heroic virtues. Pope Benedict XVI waived the standard waiting period for Sister Lucia’s cause, opening it in 2008. The Diocese of Coimbra, Portugal, completed its investigation and forwarded documentation to the Holy See’s Congregation (since renamed Dicastery) for the Causes of Saints in 2017, the apparitions’ centennial year.

KYIV, Ukraine (OSV News) – With Russia’s war on Ukraine now approaching its 10th year – and the full-scale invasion surpassing the 500-day mark – OSV News traveled to Kyiv to meet with Bishop Vitalii Kryvytskyi of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kyiv-Zhytomyr, who shared his reflections on the war’s spiritual impact. Air raid sirens, soldiers’ funerals and endless work hours have become routine as Ukraine carries on with daily life while fighting a war for global values and security, said the bishop. Grief and confusion can break “even people really close to God,” he admitted. At the same time, “war takes off all the masks” and ultimately, the persecution inflicted by Russia against Ukrainian faithful mysteriously “crystallizes faith and faithfulness to the Gospel,” said Bishop Kryvytskyi, adding that he has learned to simply be present to those in the depths of wartime suffering. “People sometimes expect priests to have answers to all the questions,” he said. “And now we understand that our greater task is to be with our flock, even if we do not have answers for the questions, even in our hearts.”

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (OSV News) – A group of Brazilian missionaries announced July 3 they have left their post in Nicaragua, becoming the latest community of women religious to leave the country, where some Catholics are facing increasing persecution by the government of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The Sisters Poor of Jesus Christ posted their statement on Facebook, announcing the community’s departure from Nicaragua and its arrival in El Salvador, along with photos showing sisters getting off a bus carrying a crucifix. “We want through this statement to express our gratitude for the seven years of mission in the lands of Nicaragua, we appreciate the welcome of the church and its people during that time in which our charism remained in the country serving the poor in their multiple facets,” said the statement posted in Spanish and Portuguese on the Fraternidade O Caminho page. The sisters’ announcement, reported by Global Sisters Report, came just ahead of Reuters reporting July 5 that Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua – sentenced in February to 26 years after being accused of treason – had been released from prison late July 4. But Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Baez of Managua, Nicaragua, who has been living in exile in Miami for some time, tweeted July 5 that he has received no information about Bishop Álvarez’s reported release. In news reports, Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes of Managua denied July 5 that the bishop had been freed.