U.S. delegates say young people want mentors, a voice, unity

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Young people want trusted guides as they explore their faith and their vocation, said five young adults from the United States attending the Vatican’s pre-synod meeting.
The U.S. delegates to the Vatican meeting March 19-25 also said the 305 young adults from around the world want to see young people consulted more often in their parishes and dioceses. And, one said, in conversations with other delegates, he discovered that Catholics in other countries are not experiencing the sharp divisions that U.S. Catholics are.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent three delegates to the meeting: De La Salle Christian Brother Javier Hansen, who teaches at Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas; Nick Lopez, director of campus ministry for the University of Dallas; and Katie Prejean-McGrady, a wife, new mother, youth minister and a popular speaker from the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Chris Russo, a 23-year-old working in Boston, represented the Ruthenian Catholic Church. And Nicole Perone, director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, represented Voices of Faith, an international group that highlights the contributions of women in the church.
A topic that came up consistently at the meeting, Prejean-McGrady said, was young people’s desire “to find companions on the journey, to look for people to walk with them.”
“When you have personal relationships with people who are vibrantly living their faith, then you yourself are inspired to live your faith,” she said. And the relationship also provides a trusted source for dealing with concerns about topics such as sexuality or church teachings that may be difficult to understand, she said.
“‘Here’s a book; believe it’ – that doesn’t work with young people anymore, and we know that because they are consuming far too much media to where they are not going to read that book,” Prejean-McGrady said. “You have to talk with them, you have to walk with them, you have to love them and really spend time with them.”
Lopez noted that Pope Francis opened the meeting March 19 by telling the delegates that the church wanted to hear their opinions and their questions, even those they thought might make church leaders uncomfortable.
In ministry to young people, they need to know they can ask those questions and that “we are going to discuss them. Nothing is too radical. Nothing is out of left field,” he said. If a young person is struggling with something, that is all the reason needed to discuss it.
“Young people seem to live in this age of anxiety, meaning that in a world of seemingly endless possibilities, they are almost paralyzed because they have all of these different options and they want to go forth, but they want to make the right decision, and they want to do so without the fear of failure,” Russo said.
The accompaniment discussion was key for Perone, who counts herself blessed to have had the guidance and friendship of “a number of people, but especially women, really bright, faithful women who love the church and have dedicated their lives in service to the church.”
The preparatory document for the synod, which will be held in October, talks about “role models, guides and mentors,” she said, but a lot of young people do not know how to ask for such accompaniment, and many people do not realize they can offer that to young people.
In formulating suggestions for the bishops, Lopez said, “one of the main ones was having things like this pre-synod gathering more common in the parishes,” for example, by including young adults on the parish or diocesan council or creating parish or diocesan advisory committees of youth and young adults “and having those councils meet often.”

Founding Father of Priory dies

Father Xavier Colavechio, O. Praem., age 86, a member of the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey died March 22.
Father Colavechio was born on April 7, 1931, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Archibald and Catherine (McCrossen) Colavechio.
He graduated from St. Norbert College (SNC) in 1952 and earned graduate degrees in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, and from the Catholic University of America.
He entered St. Norbert Abbey as a novice on August 28, 1948 and was ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1955.
Father Colavechio taught at SNC for more than 15 years, known to most of the college students as “Rocky.” He later served as the rector of the Norbertine Generalate in Rome.
In 1989, Father Colavechio was one of the original members of the Norbertine Priory of St. Moses the Black in Raymond, where he served as administrator and pastor of Jackson St. Mary Parishand vocation coordinator until 2003.
In 2005, the Norbertine Abbot General appointed Father Colavechio to represent the order to a small community of priests who were seeking affiliation with the Norbertine Order. In addition to this, Father Colavechio assisted at St. Agnes Parish, Green Bay, and ministered at the Quad Parishes of Green Bay.
In his later years, he resided at St. Norbert Abbey, working in internal ministry.

Bishops on both sides of Mexico border criticize troop deployment

By David Agren
MEXICO CITY (CNS) – The Mexican bishops’ conference criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and issued a strong defense of migrants, saying the Catholic Church could not stand by “in the face of suffering by our brother migrants as they seek better conditions by crossing the border to work and contribute to the common good.”
The April 7 letter, addressed to people in Mexico and the United States and the presidents of both countries, echoed sentiments of U.S. border bishops by saying the frontier between the two countries “is not a war zone,” but rather an area “called to be an example of social connection and joint responsibility.”
“The only future possible for our region is the future built with bridges of trust and shared development, not with walls of indignity and violence,” said the statement signed by the bishops of 16 northern Mexican dioceses and the conference’s six-member presidential council.
“There is only a future in the promotion and defense of the equal dignity and the equal liberty between human beings,” the statement said. “Even more, Pope Francis has told us unambiguously: ‘A person who only thinks of building walls, wherever it may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel.'”
The Mexican bishops’ statement: “For the Dignity of Migrants,” followed Trump’s April 4 announcement to deploy troops to the border to thwart the entry of unauthorized migrants.
It also followed series of tweets from Trump criticizing Mexico for not stopping a caravan of Central American migrants from moving northward toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
The caravan stalled in southern Oaxaca state, some 260 miles from the Guatemala border, and its organizers and Mexican immigration officials have provided the participants – who included many women and children – with documents allowing them 20 days to leave the country or 30 days to regularize their immigration status.
Many of the more than 1,000 migrants participating in the annual Stations of the Cross Caravan, which travels through Mexico every Easter, spoke of fleeing gang violence in El Salvador and Honduras. Organizers say many more Hondurans that usual participated this year due to political repression in the country after a contentious election last November, which was marred by accusations of fraud and a violent crackdown on the opposition.
The number of Central Americans seeking asylum worldwide has surged by 990 percent between 2011 and 2017, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The bishops letter called for defending the dignity of migrants, saying “Migrants aren’t criminals, rather they are vulnerable human beings that have the authentic right to personal and community development.”
Trump’s tweets caused consternation in Mexico and promoted rare unity between the Mexican president and his fiercest critics.
“President Trump: If you wish to reach agreements with Mexico, we stand ready,” Pena Nieto said April 5 in a national address. “If your recent statements are the result of frustration due to domestic policy issues, to your laws or to your Congress, it is to them that you should turn to, not to Mexicans.”

King anniversary recalls bishop’s desegregation efforts in Mississippi

(Editor’s note: A story about this research project appeared in the March 23 edition of Mississippi Catholic.)
By Tim Muldoon
CHICAGO (CNS) – When Pope Francis addressed the U.S. Congress Sept. 24, 2015, he pointed to the witness of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., suggesting that a great nation “fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters.”
As we remember the 50th anniversary of his assassination, it is important to recall the hard work of social change that helped bend our nation in the direction of greater justice. The integration of Catholic parishes and schools in Mississippi provides an important window into the moral struggles that existed inside the church’s own institutions, and offers us lessons for today.

JACKSON –The August 6, 1964 letter issued by Bishop Gerow to be read at all parishes announcing that Catholic schools would accept all children, regardless of race, resides in the Diocese of Jackson archives. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

In the decade between 1955 and 1965, Mississippi was a hotbed of racial unrest, and Catholic schools and parishes were not immune. It was a period sandwiched between two racially motivated murders that drew national attention: the murder of the 14-year-old boy Emmett Till in 1955 and the Freedom Summer (or “Mississippi burning”) murders of three young civil rights activists in 1964. In Catholic parishes, groups of whites threatened blacks attending Mass at St. Joseph in Port Gibson; Sacred Heart in Hattiesburg; St. Joseph in Greenville; and many others.
Bishop Richard Oliver Gerow, head of what is now the Jackson Diocese, had been nurturing hopes for desegregation of his parishes and schools for years, keeping meticulous files of racial incidents. A realist, he understood that episcopal fiat could not undo generations of racial prejudice, and so worked slowly to develop collaborators.
One example in 1954 was in Waveland, where a parishioner threatened black priests sent by Father Robert E. Pung, a priest of the Society of the Divine Word, who was the rector of St. Augustine Seminary, the first black seminary in the United States. Father Pung composed a strongly worded letter to the man:
“And what did the priest come to your parish to do: just one thing – to celebrate Mass and bring Christ down upon your parish altar and to feed the flock of Christ with his sacred body. And that the majority of the parishioners looked upon the priest celebrating holy Mass as a priest of God and not whether he was colored or white is evident from the fact that last Sunday over three Communion rails of people received holy Communion from his anointed hands.”
He assured the man that these same priests would be praying for him.

Bishop Richard O. Gerow, pictured in an undated photo, headed what is today the Diocese of Jackson, Miss., from 1924 to 1967. He was a strong advocate of desegregation for Catholic parishes and schools in his diocese but in such racially charged times he promoted incremental change, to protect black priests and parishioners from retaliation. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Jackson Archives via Catholic Extension) See RACIAL-DESEGREGATION-MISSISSIPPI April 6, 2018.

Bishop Gerow kept an extensive file including this and many other racial incidents. In an entry from November 1957, he shares the advice he gave to a group of Catholic men who were distressed at the ill treatment of black parishioners. He wrote:
“We are facing a situation in which we as a small minority are up against a frantic and unreasonable attitude of a greater majority of the community. If we attempt to force matters, we are liable to do injury not only to ourselves but also to those whom we would wish to do help, namely, the Negroes. Imprudent action on our part might cause them very serious even physical harm.”
His position on desegregation was a delicate one, which attempted to balance a complex array of factors and forces:
• First, there were the pastoral needs of black Catholics in the region, some of whom had to travel to celebrate the sacraments and who sometimes faced verbal or physical threats.
• Second, there were the established parishes comprised mostly of whites, themselves a minority in a region that was dominated by Protestants.
• Third, there were men in both state and local government, not to mention law enforcement, who were sometimes hostile even to white Catholics, and so the presence of blacks in Catholic congregations was a further potential danger.
• Fourth, there were a growing number of organizations supporting the cause of integration: organizations such as the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as Catholic organizations, like the National Catholic Welfare Conference and the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice, or NCCIJ.
In 1963, Henry Cabirac Jr. of the NCCIJ began to force the hand of Bishop Gerow, when Cabirac called for integration of schools at meetings in Mississippi City. Responding to Cabirac’s advocacy that black families apply for admission to white Catholic schools, Bishop Gerow wrote in his diary of July 1 the following:
“My point is this: School integration is going to come in the course of time, but at present we are not ready for it. I feel that the first step is to create a better relationship between the two races.”
He wrote guidelines for sermons to be preached throughout the diocese on the moral demand of integration, but remained convinced that school integration would be dangerous for black parishioners. Nevertheless, only two days after this entry, on July 3, the bishop wrote that he had received letters from two black families requesting admission of their children to schools “which we have considered white.” He laments being in an embarrassing position, feeling that “a bit more preparation of our whites is prudent.”
No doubt the bishop was sensing great tension in the air. Only two weeks earlier, the field secretary for the NAACP, Medgar Evers, had been assassinated, and once again the nation’s attention was on Mississippi. The immediate aftermath of the assassination saw Gerow in a political role to which he was naturally averse.
He had been active in drawing together white ministers in the various churches in Jackson for some time, and in fact had arranged for a meeting that included black ministers only five weeks earlier. The groups had hoped that their combined voices might thaw the icy relationship between blacks and the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. But after the assassination, the bishop felt compelled to make a public statement which he shared with the press.
The opportunity to act decisively happened one year later, July 2, 1964, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act. Bishop Gerow issued a statement to the press the next day.
“Each of us, bearing in mind Christ’s law of love, can establish his own personal motive of reaction to the bill and thus turn this time into an occasion of spiritual growth. The prophets of strife and distress need not be right.”
On Aug. 6, the bishop published a letter to be read in all churches the subsequent Sunday (Aug. 9), indicating that “qualified Catholic children” would be admitted to the first grade without respect to race. He called on all Catholics to “a true Christian spirit by their acceptance of and cooperation in the implementation of this policy.” In a letter to his chancellor, Bishop Gerow describes this move as “more in accord with Christian principle than of segregation.” The following year, he desegregated all the grades in Catholic schools.
In recent months, we also have seen tragic examples of racially motivated hate crimes. Later this year, the U.S. bishops plan to release their first pastoral letter on racism in nearly 40 years. Mindful of the gifts that people of all races bring to the community of faith, and of the need to work towards a just social order, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, said at the launching of the racism task force last August, “The vile chants of violence against African-Americans and other people of color, the Jewish people, immigrants, and others offend our faith, but unite our resolve. Let us not allow the forces of hate to deny the intrinsic dignity of every human person.”
For ore than a hundred years, Catholic Extension has been serving dioceses with large populations of the poor, the marginalized and people of color, and have sent millions of dollars to ensure that they have infrastructure and well-trained church leaders that will form them for positive social change. Our dream is that these leaders will, in the words of Pope Francis, “awaken what is deepest and truest” in the life of the people, and ultimately be the catalyst of transformation in their communities.
During this 50th anniversary of Rev. King’s assassination, we are mindful of all those Christians who have gone before us in the struggle for a more peaceful and just society, so that we may be inspired by their example to confront and struggle with the pressing questions of our day. Bishop Gerow’s extensive efforts to chronicle the important period of his episcopacy remind us that we, too, live in the midst of a history that others will remember and judge in the light of God’s call to live justly.

(Tim Muldoon is director of mission education for Catholic Extension. Contributing to this article was Mary Woodward, chancellor of the Jackson Diocese, who assisted with the Bishop Gerow archive.)

Diario salvadoreño describe milagro del beato Romero

Por Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Representantes de la iglesia en El Salvador dijeron que esperarían un tiempo antes de dar más detalles sobre un milagro, aprobado por el Vaticano, que ha avanzado el camino para la canonización del beato Óscar Romero, pero un periódico salvadoreño publicó el 8 de marzo una nota de una mujer de 35 años que dijo que la oración de su esposo, pidiendo por la intercesión del beato Romero, le salvó la vida.
El periódico El Diario de Hoy, que publica la versión ElSalvador.com por internet, dijo que una mujer llamada Cecilia había tenido en agosto del 2015 problemas con su embarazo. Después de dar a luz, se le diagnosticó el síndrome HELLP, una condición potencialmente mortal que afecta a algunas mujeres embarazadas y daña el hígado.
La nota del periódico dice que un médico le dijo al esposo de Cecilia que su hígado y un riñón estaban dañados y, “si cree en algo, en un dios, pídale por ella, porque, así como está, lo más seguro es que se muera”.
El esposo dijo que se fue a su casa a rezar, abrió una Biblia que su abuela le había dado, vio una tarjeta con la imagen del beato Romero, y aunque había tenido una “aversión” por las oraciones de su abuela al arzobispo salvadoreño asesinado, rezó por su intercesión, según el periódico.
Aunque Cecilia estaba en coma, se recuperó por completo, dijo el periódico.
Los esposos le dijeron al periódico que sabían que era un milagro y decidieron no contarle nada a nadie, pero eventualmente confiaron en su párroco, quien aseguró la documentación para enviarla al Vaticano. El 7 de marzo, el Vaticano anunció que se había aprobado el decreto del milagro atribuido a la intercesión del beato Romero.
El beato Romero fue asesinado el 24 de marzo de 1980, mientras celebraba Misa tras varias denuncias públicas de violencia contra ciudadanos civiles, incluso muchos pobres, en el país centroamericano. Había hablado en contra de la injusticia hacia los pobres que llevaría a El Salvador a un conflicto que duraría 12 años y dejaría más de 70,000 muertos. Fue beatificado el 23 de mayo de 2015.
En una reunión el 6 de marzo con el cardenal Angelo Amato, prefecto de la Congregación para las Causas de los Santos, el papa Francisco firmó formalmente el decreto reconociendo el milagro necesario para avanzar la causa de santidad del beato Romero. No se ha anunciado ninguna fecha para su canonización.

Una joven mujer sostiene una imagen del Beato Oscar Romero durante una procesión del 7 de marzo en su honor en San Salvador, El Salvador. El Papa Francisco ha despejado el camino para la canonización del Beato Romero, quien fue asesinado a tiros el 24 de marzo de 1980, mientras celebraba misa. (Foto CNS / Rodrigo Sura, EPA)

Encuentro regional avanza el proceso de identificación de las prioridades del ministerio

Por Tom Tracy
MIAMI (CNS) – El director y presidente de Catholic Relief Services, Sean Callahan, dijo a varios cientos de líderes hispanos recientemente que son una parte vital de la futura “voz global” de la iglesia y del discipulado misionero.
“La afirmación que ves en las carteleras todo el tiempo es ‘Cuando ves algo, di algo.’ Pero para los discípulos misioneros, debe ser ‘Cuando ves algo, haz algo,'” dijo Callahan. “Necesitamos ser percibidos como los hacedores y hay una gran oportunidad en este momento para que la Iglesia Católica sea una fuerza por el derecho y la justicia en un país de personas que quieren justicia,” dijo.
Callahan, un veterano de 28 años de CRS, habló el 23 de febrero a más de 340 líderes hispanos reunidos de entre unas 30 diócesis que forman parte del Encuentro Regional del Sureste. Grupos de toda la región cinco se reunieron en Miami del 22 al 24 de febrero en Miami.
Una delegación de la Diócesis de Jackson asistió, llevando los resultados de las prioridades pastorales. Delegada Danna Johnson de Pontotoc San Cristóbal, dijo que la formación de la fe sigue siendo crítica.
“En el área de ‘Desarrollo de liderazgo y capacitación pastoral,’ una de las estrategias que se identificó como región fue la de incrementar la disponibilidad de programas de formación pastoral dirigidos a los latinos en los dos idiomas (inglés y español) o más, dependiendo de las necesidades de cada parroquia. Uno de los programas más éxitos en la región es el programa de educación teológica online en español CAMINO y también en inglés STEP, ambos del Instituto McGrath para la Vida de la Iglesia de la Universidad de Notre Dame. Diócesis como las de Carolina del Sur y Lexington, Kentucky han implementado este programa y les está dando muchos buenos resultados. Me entusiasma el hecho de que esta estrategia está muy conectada con una de las prioridades del Plan Pastoral de nuestra diócesis, ‘Formación de discípulos comprometidos,’” agregó Johnson.
Maria Isamar Mazy, feligresa de la Catedral de San Pedro en Jackson, sentía orgullo de tener la oportunidad de ser parte de una misión tan importante en la Iglesia. “Estos tres días me ayudaron a ver más a fondo las realidades y necesidades de nuestra Iglesia, no solo de aquí en la diócesis. Me dio mucho gusto y orgullo poder formar y ser parte de ese momento histórico para nosotros los hispanos en este país, no me queda duda de que nuestras voces son escuchadas.”
La hermana María Elena Méndez, MGSPS, asociada en la Oficina del Ministerio Hispano de la Diócesis de Jackson, siente que hay mucho que celebrar, pero aún queda mucho trabajo por hacer. “El Encuentro Regional me ayudó a incorporarme en el camino que otros han hecho para dar voz e identidad a los hispanos en este país desde la Diócesis de Jackson donde desarrollo mi misión pastoral como Misionera Guadalupana del Espírito Santo. Descubrí también los muchos dones, capacidades, talentos y retos que tenemos dentro de la sociedad y la Iglesia de los Estados Unidos. Estar a cargo del Proceso del V Encuentro en la Diócesis y, ser pate del equipo de la Región V, me ayudó a ver que hay mucho que celebrar y mucho que trabajar aun en nuestra comunidad. Ver nuestras necesidades reflejadas en los documentos regionales fue impresionante, porque no somos los únicos que estamos trabajamos para su transformación.”
Delegada Susana Becerril, feligresa de Nuestra Señora de las Victorias en Cleveland apreció la diversidad que se muestra en el V Encuentro. “El V Encuentro significó para mí un despertar a la realidad que miles de personas enfrenan día con día. Fue un Encuentro con la gran diversidad que existe en nuestro mundo. Me gustó mucho convivir con personas tan diferentes, cada uno/a con un origen y costumbres tan bonitos que me hicieron apreciar aún más mi cultura, ellos me enseñaron que están orgullosos/as de sus orígenes, tradiciones, y sobre todo, de su fe.”
Debido a que se han llevado a cabo encuentros a niveles parroquiales y diocesanos, se llevarán a cabo encuentros regionales en todo el país hasta junio. Lo que ha sido un proceso general de reflexión y acción de cuatro años culminará con el V Encuentro Nacional de la Iglesia Católica de los E.E.U.U., se celebrará el 20 al 23 de septiembre en Grapevine, Texas.

(Tracy escribe para el Florida Catholic, periódico de la Arquidiócesis de Miami.)

MIAMI – Participants in the regional Encuentro pray the Way of the Cross for Life during the Feb. 22-23 gathering. (Photo courtesy SEPI)

Eva Gonzalez, Hispanic ministry director from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., speaks Feb. 23 with Susana Becerrie of Jackson, Miss., at the Southeast Regional Encuentro. Held for the church's episcopal regions V and XIV, the gathering took place Feb. 22-24 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church's parish complex. On hand were 340 leaders from among some 30 dioceses in the Southeastern U.S. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy) See ENCUENTRO-REGIONALS-SOUTHEASTERN Feb. 26, 2018.

Piarist Father Rafael Capo, director of the Miami-based Southeastern Pastoral Institute, talks with Eva Gonzalez, Hispanic ministry director from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., Feb. 23 during the Southeast Regional Encuentro for the church's episcopal regions V and XIV. Held in Miami Feb. 22-24 at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish complex, it drew 340 leaders from among some 30 dioceses in the Southeastern U.S. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy) See ENCUENTRO-REGIONALS-SOUTHEASTERN Feb. 26, 2018.

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, speaks Feb. 23 during the Southeast Regional Encuentro for the church's episcopal regions V and XIV. Held in Miami Feb. 22-24 at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish complex, it drew 340 leaders from among some 30 dioceses in the Southeastern U.S. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy) See ENCUENTRO-REGIONALS-SOUTHEASTERN Feb. 26, 2018.

Retired pope calls criticism against Pope Francis ‘foolish prejudice’

By Junno Arocho
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – On the eve of the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election, retired Pope Benedict XVI defended the continuity of the church’s teaching under his successor and dismissed those who criticize the pope’s theological foundations.
In a letter sent to Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communication, Pope Benedict applauded the publication of a new book series titled, “The Theology of Pope Francis.”
“It contradicts the foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been considered solely a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete lives of today’s Christian,” the retired pontiff wrote.
The Secretariat for Communication released a photograph of the letter in which the final lines of the first page were blurred. While Pope Benedict said early in the letter that he hoped the 11 volumes would put an end to the “foolish prejudice” against Pope Francis, in the blurred lines the retired pope said he could not write a complete theological reflection on the 11 volumes because he had not read them and would be physically unable to do so in time for the presentation of the volumes to the public.
Msgr. Vigano read from the letter, including the blurred lines, during a presentation of the 11-volume series March 12.
The Vatican press office did not say why the lines were blurred, but said the Vatican never intended to publish the complete text. In fact, the second page of the letter – except for Pope Benedict’s signature, is covered by books.
Before reading the letter, Msgr. Vigano said he sent a message to Pope Francis and Pope Benedict regarding the publication of the book series.
He also asked if Pope Benedict would be “willing to write a page or a page and a half of dense theology in his clear and punctual style that (we) would have liked to read this evening.”
Instead, the retired pontiff “wrote a beautiful, personal letter that I will read to you,” Msgr. Vigano said.
Pope Benedict thanked Msgr. Vigano for having given him a copy of “The Theology of Pope Francis” book series, which was authored by several notable theologians.
“These small volumes reasonably demonstrate that Pope Francis is a man with profound philosophical and theological formation and are helpful to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament,” he wrote.
Pope Benedict has made no secret of his affection for and admiration of Pope Francis.
During a Vatican celebration for the 65th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s priestly ordination June 28, 2016, the retired pope expressed his sincere gratefulness to Pope Francis, saying that his goodness “from the first moment of your election, in every moment of my life here, touches me deeply.”
“More than the beauty found in the Vatican Gardens, your goodness is the place where I live; I feel protected,” Pope Benedict said.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)

U.S. Catholic schools pray, march during National School Walkout

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Catholic school students across the country prayed with their school communities for school shooting victims or joined marches protesting gun violence March 14 during the National School Walkout, a student-led response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. All schools in the Diocese of Jackson were out for Spring Break.
In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, more than 100 Highland Catholic middle school students, teachers and parents gathered on the school’s front steps in St. Paul for 17 minutes of silence and prayer. They lit 17 blue candles in memory of those who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and held signs in honor of each deceased individual.
“We’re honoring the lives that were lost,” said seventh-grader Maddie Haider. She and fellow middle school student Lily Anderson organized the prayer service. Students also wrote petitions, which were prayed in the gym following the time of silence outside.

Student Stefania Lutus lights a votive candle during a solidarity and remembrance service at St. Francis Preparatory School in the Queens borough of New York March 14. The 2,500-student high school community gathered to pray for the victims of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and for an end to gun violence. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) See CATHOLIC-SCHOOLS-WALKOUT-PRAYER March 13, 2014, and SCHOOL-WALKOUT-DON-BOSCO March 14, 2018.

“We’ve been learning about Catholic social teaching and the life and the dignity of the human person,” Anderson said. “After that shooting, we just felt that it needed to be fixed and thought that we’d do something about it.”
Other Catholic schools around the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis held similar observances March 14. Providence Academy in Plymouth also offered a symposium after school for juniors and seniors to discuss gun violence.
The decision to hold a prayer service for peace in the wake of the Florida school shooting was an easy one for students at Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis. Determining the place to have the service was even easier – the Blessed Mother Grotto, in front of Our Lady of Peace.
The prayer service was organized by students and led by the school’s campus minister, Dominican Father DePorres Durham, who told students this was the chance to recognize their pain and anxiety and “give voice to our suffering after the senseless act of another school shooting.”
The students and staff members who attended the prayer service, many wearing hoodies on a chilly but sunny morning, circled around the grotto on a high point of the campus overlooking the football stadium. They listened as the names of 27 schools impacted by shootings were read aloud and then were silent before reading reflections and praying the Our Father.
The presenters urged students to write a commitment to action and place it in a basket in the chapel. The suggestions included reaching out to someone at the school who may be experiencing difficulties or is picked on, expressing love and care to a family member, and more.
Danny White, a senior, said the prayer service was intended to show unity. “This was not about political action,” he said. “This was about standing in solidarity. As a Catholic school, we stand in solidarity through prayer and offering guidance from God.”
Father Durham said the grotto was selected because it is “a prayer place” and a site that has a long school tradition. “While this is obviously a very complex problem, one way we can begin is to simply treat each other better,” the campus minister said. “It begins with recognizing the dignity of everybody we live with and that we are responsible for each other.”
Students at Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School in St. Louis took to the streets for about an hour in support of the Parkland students.
Wearing orange arm bands or orange shirts, students, faculty and staff members marched about three-quarters of a mile carrying posters with messages such as “#StopTheViolence,” “Enough is enough” and “Blessed are the children.”
Posters remembered the victims in Florida and victims of gun violence in St. Louis. Freshman Malachi Davis made a poster with a photo of 17-year-old Nicholas Dworet from Parkland, accompanied by snippets of Nicholas’ plan after high school to pursue competitive swimming this fall in college.
The poster project drove home the harsh reality that Dworet “was really dead,” Davis said, adding that creating the poster “was hard. He didn’t deserve to lose his life. … I’m sure he didn’t wake up in morning thinking, ‘I’m going to die today.'”
He likewise couldn’t imagine the shooter “waking up thinking that he’s going to shoot another person and take their life. … It’s really sad. It makes me really think about life,” he added.

Presentation Academy students stand arm in arm on the sidewalk in downtown Louisville, Ky., after walking out of class at 10 a.m. March 14 to call attention to gun violence. They were among thousands around the nation who participated in a National School Walkout. (CNS photo/Marnie McAllister, The Record) See CATHOLIC-SCHOOLS-WALKOUT-PRAYER March 13, 2014, and SCHOOL-WALKOUT-DON-BOSCO March 14, 2018.

Students at Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, made prayer the focal point of their gatherings during the National School Walkout.
“Let’s pray for God to empower us to be the voices for those who cannot speak,” said Eileen Hart, moderator of the Celebrate Life Club at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell joined the students in prayer and said he was “deeply moved” to do so.

(Contributing to this report was Matthew Davis in St. Paul, Joseph Kenny in St. Louis and Jennifer Mauro in Trenton.)

Mississippi abortion ban signed, blocked

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Not even 24-hours after Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a new abortion ban into law, a federal judge issued an injunction against it. On Monday, March 19, Governor Bryant signed into law the most restrictive state abortion bill in the nation because it banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
The owner of the state’s only abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, filed suit immediately after Bryant signed the bill, claiming it is unconstitutional. An attorney for the clinic said a woman who was 15-weeks pregnant was scheduled for an abortion in the afternoon of March 20. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves granted a 10-day injunction, asking both sides to file briefs on whether he should next issue an injunction or open a trial in this case.
“We Catholic bishops of Mississippi wish to reaffirm the sacredness of human life from conception until natural death,” said Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of Jackson and Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III of Biloxi in a Feb. 8 statement. “With Pope St. John Paul II, we recognize abortion as ‘a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders.'”
The bishops issued their joint statement after the Mississippi House passed the measure 75-34 in February. The state Senate passed H.B. 1510 March 6 in a 35-14 vote.

Ron Leaderhook stands at the gate of Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Monday, March 19, at the same time Governor Phil Bryant signed into law the nation’s toughest abortion ban. Leaderhook, a member of Dayspring Baptist Church in Clinton, is part of the 40 Days for Life group who regularly pray and offer support to women at the clinic– the last abortion clinic in the state. (Photo by Maureen Smith/Mississippi Catholic)

In commending the state’s lawmakers, Bishops Kopacz and Kihneman also criticized lawmakers in Congress who let the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act fail in the House of Representatives.
In a March 16 podcast, Bryant had anticipated the suit against the new law but said he expects to win in court, no matter how high the case goes in the courts.
“We will go to the (U.S. Court of Appeals for the) 5th Circuit – which is traditionally more conservative on appeal – than some of the others around the nation. And if we go all the way to the Supreme Court, we are willing to do that,” he said.
The Supreme Court has ruled in the past against abortion laws involving babies who could not survive outside the womb, which would include the Mississippi ban.
“We are protecting the unborn children in this state, many of whom are minorities, many of whom are female, obviously who are, at 15 weeks, moving in their mother’s womb. They are kicking, they have developed taste buds, their eyelids are moving, their hands and feet have been formed,” Bryant said.
“This is a human being at 15 weeks and we are going about protecting women and minorities from being torn apart by one of these later term abortions,” he added.
The law does not exempt pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. There are only two exceptions to the ban: if an unborn child has health problems that would make him or her “incompatible with life” outside of the womb at full term, or if a pregnant woman’s life or a “major bodily function” is threatened by continuing the pregnancy.
The Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life organization, praised Bryant and state lawmakers “for their commitment to making Mississippi ‘the safest place in America’ for unborn children and their mothers.”
The organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, described Mississippi as being “at the vanguard of the growing momentum to bring our laws back into line with basic human decency. It is one of 20 states that have passed popular, compassionate legislation to stop cruel late-term abortions after five months.”
She continued, “Our nation’s permissive regime of abortion on-demand at any point in pregnancy established in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton has made the United States a global outlier and does not reflect the will of most Americans – especially where late-term abortions are concerned. Absolutely nothing was settled.”
Dannenfelser called the status quo on abortion “unjust” and “untenable.” “It is in states like Mississippi where the greatest progress toward righting it is being made,” she added. “It is about time the courts caught up.”
The afternoon the bill was signed, a member of the 40 Days for Life prayer team stood at the entrance to Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Ron Leaderhook, a member of Dayspring Community Church in Clinton, said he tries to show the love of God to everyone he meets there, whether it be staff or clients.
This is not the only abortion case making its way through the nation’s court system.
A case before the Supreme Court will consider if a California law that went into effect in 2016 violates the U.S. Constitution by requiring the state’s 200 crisis pregnancy centers to inform their clients, in specific detail, about the availability of free or low-cost abortion and contraceptive services and provide a referral number for them.
The law in question, called the Reproductive FACT Act, says centers must post such notices in areas where they will be clearly seen on paper that is “at least 8.5 inches by 11 inches and written in no less than 22-point type.” Centers also are required to disclose in their advertisements if they have medical personnel on staff. Some centers provide counseling and offer supplies of diapers, formula, clothes and baby items. Centers that fail to comply are subject to fines of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.

(Catholic News Service contributed to this story.)

Immigrants, advocates navigating post-DACA-deadline landscape

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The last government shutdown – well, threatened shutdown, anyway – seems so long ago.
The nine-hour “funding lapse” of Feb. 9, like the three-day shutdown that began Jan. 20, hinged on how Congress was going to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Donald Trump said he would end March 5. He also called on Congress to pass a measure to save the program, created in 2012 by President Barack Obama via executive order.
In the January shutdown, Democratic lawmakers backed down on their threat to keep the government closed until a DACA deal was reached. In the February funding lapse, Democrats and Republicans agreed to conduct a debate and vote on DACA in the weeks to come, as a six-week continuing resolution to keep the government funded through March 23 was overshadowed by the $1 trillion spending package of which it was a part.
The congressional sidestepping of DACA prompted the U.S. bishops to declare a “National Call-In Day to Protect Dreamers” for Feb. 26, one week before the program’s expiration date. The day resulted in thousands of phone calls to lawmakers.
That, in turn, was overshadowed by the Supreme Court declining that same day a request by the administration to bypass federal appellate courts and rule on whether the administration has the right to shut down DACA.
The justices’ action wiped out the March 5 deadline date, leaving DACA up and running at least until the high court accepts the case for the appeals court – and possibly renders a decision – or until Congress finally deals with it. The high court’s action only keeps DACA intact for those currently with DACA status; two federal judges have blocked Trump, saying the administration must continue to accept renewal applications for the program. The rulings do not make DACA available to those who had not already applied for it.
While the exact path ahead is unclear, at least there is a path.
“I think a lot of people feel a little insecure, they don’t feel safe and they’re unsure what’s going to happen because things are up in the air,” said Michelle Sardone, director of strategic initiatives for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.
“They’re feeling fear about whether or not to apply: ‘Will the government use information they have on me to use against me?’ If you submit your application with the application fee, will it be adjudicated or … will it be a waste of your money?” Sardone said. “Each person has a particular case. They should go to an accredited legal services provider to find out the best situation for them and for their family.”
“We just buried a man in his 60s who came from Ireland in a house with no electricity, no plumbing. He came over to the U.S. without a trade, became a pipe fitter and a coach,” said Mary Harkenrider, a member of the Southside Catholic Peace and Justice Committee in Chicago, which sponsored a forum March 1 to show support for the city’s DACA holders.
In talking to Catholic News Service, she used the example of this Irishman to illustrate what immigrants bring to this country.
“As a coach and a family man, he affected people throughout the city and across the country and at his funeral there were thousands of people who pay respect to this immigrant, who came to this country without a STEM education or highly advanced skills,” Harkenrider added. 
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Some arguing for the reform of U.S. immigration laws say preference should be given to the highly educated immigrants.
She added: “We would be amiss without the talents of the immigrants in our communities. … whether it’s the Irish or the Polish or the Hispanic. I think we have to continue to recognize our history and build on it.”
Chicago, Harkenrider said, is “a city of immigrants.”
Nor is Chicago the only town that can claim that mantle. Camden, New Jersey, is such a town. Mexican-born Monica Perez Reyes, 20, has lived there since her parents brought her to the United States at age two. They entered the country without legal documents. She has kid sisters born in the United States who are U.S. citizens. As for Perez, “I’m good for two years” with DACA.
She admits to frustration with Congress, though. “I’m kind of offended. They’re sort of playing around with my future,” she said. “And the manner they’re handling it, one day they may say they’ll do something to make it better like have a path to citizens, ship, but the next day they say they’re going to terminate it altogether.”
Perez added, “I know some people are scared, but I’m not necessarily scared unless something is set in stone. I have a plan A, a plan B, a plan C. If worse comes to worst, I have a plan; I’ll have to go to Mexico and make my new life there.”
She was accepted to study art at a California college, but her status as an immigrant without documents left her ineligible to receive scholarship money. So Perez is attending community college in Camden while planning to major in art therapy, working to make money to pay her tuition.

Activists and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, march up Broadway in New York City Feb. 15 during the start of their “Walk to Stay Home,” a five-day 250-mile walk from New York to Washington to demand that Congress pass a clean DREAM Act to save the program. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters) See SCOTUS-DACA and DACA-CALL-IN-ADVOCATES Feb. 26, 2018.

Another such town of immigrants is Pasadena, Maryland. Hector Guzman, 19, also born in Mexico, was brought here by his parents, he said, when he was a year old. A soccer goalie and midfielder, a German scout recommended he go to England to try out for professional soccer there. He had to decline. “I could get there on my Mexican passport, but I couldn’t come back,” he said.
Guzman has his own plan B. Like Perez’s, it involves going to a community college and working as a butcher and chef to pay tuition. He’ll add landscaping work as the weather warms. He’s starting up a small business already. At some point, he said, he’d like to open a restaurant, maybe several of them, “and maybe have a ranch or a farm.” He said the DACA process was easy.
Patricia Zapor, a CLINIC spokeswoman, said a January check of DACA applications showed the government was still processing applications from 2016. Renewals ordinarily took two to three months; Zapor said without DACA, immigrants in the country without legal permission cannot legally work in the United States.
Guzman said he’s not worried. “My parents are a little worried,” he said. An older sister, who like him has DACA status, “doesn’t act like she’s worried,” he added.
With the days winding down until Trump’s original March 5 deadline, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the upper chamber would debate a banking bill in early March, making no mention of DACA – deferred action, indeed.
How to deal with this interim period is “tricky, right?” said Ian Pajer-Rogers, communications and political director for Interfaith Worker Justice, which has more than 30 affiliated worker centers around the country.
“We have taken the position that only a clean DREAM Act will do with no riders or add-ons from the right – no wall, no border security measures. We’ll continue that. Where that leaves us with the party in power and the party that is trying to negotiate for our people, the Democrats, is less clear.” 
The DREAM Act he referred to stands for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. The bill is what gives DACA recipients the “Dreamer” name.
Anxiety among DACA families cuts both ways, he said. “What I’ve seen among the undocumented folks is a very willingness to self-sacrifice. Among the DACA recipients I’ve worked with they don’t want to trade their parents’ safety and security for their own. … I think you find the parents who are willing to say the opposite, almost. They’re willing to see more enforcement and risk detention if their kids are safe. We’re really going for the starting point that all are protected.”
“The more pressing thing might be the (Feb. 26) Supreme Court ruling,” Pajer-Rogers said, “that folks who are in detention can be detained indefinitely without bond. So if there’s something on the mind of workers today, it’s probably that.”