By Maria Wiering ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) – Despite the pandemic-related dearth of holiday parties and typical social engagements that – for many – stuff the weeks before Christmas, Jolene Gerads said she’s feeling a special excitement about this year’s Advent. There’s more time, more space, more energy, she said. In the past, she, her husband, Robert, and their four boys, ages 9 and under, spent the holidays traveling to different parts of the state to celebrate with both sides of the family. That meant that many traditions they started on the First Sunday of Advent – such as the Jesse Tree – petered out as Christmas drew near, and never saw completion. For the Geradses, this year’s quieter season of preparation at home means potential for greater focus and fewer distractions ahead of Christmas. Catholics across the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis may relate. With the COVID-19 pandemic upending daily routines and now some long-held pre-Christmas traditions, some are embracing the space created – both in their calendars and their minds – by fewer social obligations, an eliminated commute and more time at home. The First Sunday of Advent was Nov. 29. Busy Advents of the past pushed the Geradses to exchange their stationary Jesse Tree – which follows salvation history through tracing Jesus’ family tree, often through ornaments on a real tree – for a book with a similar idea, “Jonathan’s Journey,” which could accompany them on Christmas travels. The Jesse Tree didn’t work for her family, Gerads explained, because she never tied it to something already in their routine. Her successful Advent traditions, such as prayer around the wreath, are tied to things her family already does, like sharing meals. This year, the Geradses plan to turn off the lights right before dinner and light the Advent wreath in darkness, said Jolene, 34. Other families noted rooting some of their children’s Advent traditions in practicing selfless behavior. One common practice is putting a piece of straw in an empty manger each time a child makes a sacrifice, making a home for Jesus in their hearts as they make one for him in the creche. Gerads admires a friend’s tradition, where family members write down their sacrifices on paper and put them in a designated “stocking for Jesus.” On Christmas Eve, the stocking is emptied and their selfless deeds are read aloud. “There’s a lot of neat ways to dig into the season, since we have this extra time,” she told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Gerads is optimistic about this year’s Advent because the family observed an exceptional Lent, she said. When Masses were first suspended in March due to COVID-19, her family decided to “make a rich Lent” for themselves, and doubled down on their intentionality for the season. “We had nothing else to rely on,” she said of that Lent. “We didn’t have our normal ‘crutches'” such as external Bible studies or prayer groups. “We knew that this is what we have to work with right now, so let’s make it as rich as possible.” Observing Advent as a family – and the liturgical seasons year-round – helps to instill faith in children, but it’s also important for adults, Gerads said. Following the liturgical calendar makes their faith “not just a Sunday thing, not just a nighttime prayer thing,” she said. “It’s how we do life.” “We need to be so much more intentional about bringing the beauty of the faith, and the church and the traditions of the church and the liturgical year … to our children, and into ourselves,” she added. “When you enter into it fully, the Lord can give so much grace through it.” For Catholics who live alone, virtual Advent resources abound, many with opportunities to connect online for faith-sharing. Advent during “Covidtide,” as some have termed the pandemic, allows families to enter a type of “family cocoon” or period of dormancy, said Anne Nicklaus, 57, whose family belongs to Our Lady of Peace Parish in Minneapolis. “Like the plants that go to sleep in the winter, something is happening, and they are becoming recreated and renewed for something much greater in the spring,” she said. “And I think that can happen in their families. But it can’t happen if it’s crowded out with other things. In other words, we have to say no to something to make space for that greater thing that can happen.” The Nicklauses also focus on the penitential aspect of Advent, which, she noted, is made easier this year with the COVID-19-related restrictions. “Advent is a time of sacrifice,” she said, “but we are making room for something better.”
(Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.)
By Rhina Guidos WASHINGTON (CNS) – Horns blared near the White House just before noon Nov. 7 as major U.S. news organizations projected Democrat Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States, making him the second Catholic in the country’s history to be elected to the nation’s highest office. “Congratulations to our second Catholic President and our first female VP of African and Indian roots!” tweeted Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, shortly after organizations such as The Associated Press, The New York Times and Fox News announced Biden and running mate Kamala Harris had won the race. The projection came following the announcement from Pennsylvania officials that Biden had won the state’s cache of 20 electoral votes, putting him over the 270 electoral-vote-threshold needed to secure a victory. Running mate Harris becomes the country’s first female vice president-elect.
Though President Donald Trump’s campaign launched legal battles over votes in some electorally rich states and made allegations of fraud in vote counting, even the president’s supporters, such as Fox News, said in a newscast after the race was called that they hadn’t seen evidence of widespread fraud. Among Catholics, news agency AP VoteCast showed they were split between the two candidates, with 50% of Catholics backing Trump and 49% Biden, with most of the support coming from Latino Catholics, the second largest ethnic group in the church, who overwhelmingly cast votes for Biden. Some Catholics said they could not support the Biden-Harris ticket because both support legalized abortion. In reaction to announcement of the Biden win, Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said the president-elect and his vice president “support radical abortion policies.” She expressed regret their administration is expected to roll back “protective legislation such as the Hyde Amendment” and support taxpayer funding of abortion. But many Catholic organizations and even some bishops were tweeting or released statements of support for Biden shortly after news of his win. Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service, who is head of the Catholic social justice lobby group Network, said Catholics had responded to the president’s divisiveness and voted for a range of issues. “Catholics are not single-issue voters,” she said in a statement. “Our community looked at the entirety of Donald Trump’s divisive and harmful record and chose to elect leaders who will govern with empathy and concern for the most marginalized. Catholics rejected racism, hatred and division and embraced the politics championed by Pope Francis – a politics of love and inclusion.” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, also tweeted best wishes. “Congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden! We join in praying sincerely for his health and safety and that of his family,” Bishop Tobin wrote. “With the grace of Almighty God to assist and guide him, may he strive always to govern our nation with wisdom, compassion and moral integrity.” Faith-based organizations that closely work with the Catholic Church on immigration issues, such as Hope Border Institute in El Paso, voiced support for a new administration and urged the presumptive president-elect to pass comprehensive immigration reform, to stop the building of the border wall, end a policy that keeps asylum-seekers to the U.S. in Mexico as they wait for their cases to be settled in U.S. immigration courts and end family separations among migrants. In a letter the organization released Nov. 7, signed by Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director or Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, and Dylan Corbett, the institute’s executive director, they asked that special attention be given to immigrant issues along the border. “What we need now is moral leadership to bring us together and reject hate in all forms. As a fellow Catholic, we urge you to embrace the oppressed and vulnerable in our midst, who we believe are no less than the Christ knocking at our door,” the letter said. Biden was set to address the nation the evening of Nov. 7. Trump has not yet conceded the race. Instead, his campaign released a statement. “The simple fact is this election is far from over. Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states,” his campaign said in a statement released Nov. 7. “Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.” Trump had claimed victory a few hours after Election Day, telling voters at 2 a.m. on Nov. 4, “Frankly, we did win this election,” saying “we want all voting to stop,” prompting protests even from fellow Republicans who said that it wasn’t his place to make that call and that all votes needed to be counted. When he prematurely announced victory, the president also mentioned that “we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court,” over the election. But even supporters of the president and members of his party protested the comments. Mail-in votes postmarked by Election Day are accepted in several states and many are typically counted in the hours or day after the election, making it unclear what the president was referring to or what legal challenge he could possibly raise. By midday Nov. 4, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said the campaign had officially filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims to halt counting of ballots until it is granted “meaningful access” to the numerous counting locations “to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law. The “presidential race in the state remains extremely tight as we always knew it would be,” he said. Later in the day, the campaign filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Georgia and also announced it would ask for a recount in Wisconsin. Republican lawyers had already legally challenged how Pennsylvania and Nevada handled absentee votes.
Editor’s note: On July 24, 1990, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month to celebrate the long history and proud heritage of Black Catholics. In this edition, find articles and columns highlighting the rich history of the African presense in the church and a racial justice report from the diocese department of faith formation. Additionally, we will be beginning a series “From the archives” that will highlight Black History in our diocese, among other intriquing subjects. Black Catholic History is truly a gift.
By Richard Lane DETROIT – Transference of something from one place to another, or the movement of one thing to another. That is the medical definition of the word ‘gift’; an “action” or redirection of someone or something. A “gift” is also a relocation of a tendon due to a trauma or suffering, from one area to an infected area, for healing or strengthening of the weakened or affected muscle. Imagine waking up one morning as a 7-year-old child. You are happy and carefree, excited to learn more about the wonderful world you have been blessed to be born into. Your loving family cares about you and protects you unconditionally. Out of nowhere, though, someone comes and not only takes you away, but sells you into slavery at least seven times. You were given a name whose meaning is “favored/blessed/lucky.” You were forced to walk barefoot for more than 600 miles. Your innocence is stolen from you; your safety taken from you; your dignity taken from you; your childhood, your womanhood, your life stolen — and you have no idea why or how this happened. Yet your life and those after you would have a deleterious effect forever, yet you are considered to be a gift, a blessing, you are considered favored by God, but how do you understand as a mere child?
You later understand that your trauma is due to the color of your skin, which others have maimed, mutilated and tortured for reasons beyond your adolescent comprehension. Taken to a foreign land to people you have never seen, given foods you have never eaten and assigned a life you never knew existed, you are a “gift” or “blessing” to others. This is the story of one Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese Catholic saint of our church. Amid her suffering and pain, Bakhita (which means “blessing/lucky/favor” in her native tongue) saw the gift that was meant for her. She saw and encountered a transference from pain to power; from brutality to blessing; from slavery to salvation. She encountered Jesus within the Catholic Church. I ask you: Do you know the gift? In 1854, a child was born into slavery in Missouri. He was baptized and raised Catholic and at an early age encountered the “gift” that was before him in his Catholic faith. He desired not only to follow this gift but to become a “gift” to God by giving his life to the sacrament of holy orders as a priest, but he was not allowed to enter the seminary because of the color of his skin. Imagine the disappointment, hurt and pain of not being able to give your life to God totally just because of your race. Eventually sent to seminary in Rome and ordained a priest, he thought he would be sent as a missionary priest to Africa (due to the color of his skin), but was sent back to pastor a Black Catholic congregation in Quincy, Ill., where he would be known in derogatory terms using the n-word. Father Augustus Tolton became the first “gift” to the Black Catholic Church by being the first African American (Black) priest ordained for (not in) the United States. Father Tolton saw and encountered a transference from failure to freedom; from denial to destiny; from slavery to spirituality. Do you know the gift? In the fourth century AD, a man was terminated from his job as an official within the Egyptian government for being a thief and murderer. He gathered a group of 75 men who pillaged, plundered, robbed and raped throughout the Egyptian desert. This man was the biggest and baddest, the most imposing, figure of the time.
Upon coming to a monastery in the desert, he was approached by the abbot and later converted to Christianity. It took time for this marauder to come to grips with his true gift. He was able to convert the 75 criminals to join the monastery and they also became monks, yet he was not satisfied with his personal efforts. He was conflicted by his past and his present, not understanding why he was chosen, why he was considered a gift. Early one morning, a man named Isidore took him to a mountain and they sat and watched the sunrise. Isidore told him “just as it takes time for the rays of the light to break through the darkness, slowly does it take time for you to understand perfection in contemplation.” St. Moses the Black saw and encountered a transference from rape to repentance; from crime to contemplation; from murder to mystagogia. Do you know the gift? There has been a long, deep and rich history of African and African American influence in the Catholic Church. A Black presence in the Bible has been hidden and stolen from Christianity and it has only been since the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council that the church has not only identified this great gift but encouraged its celebration. From Ham, to Hagar, Cyprian to the Ethiopian eunuch, Pope Victor I to Pope Melchiades, Pope Gelasius (three Black popes) to Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, the Black heritage in the Catholic Church has been concealed. This kept Blacks, especially slaves, from knowing their history, their lineage, and their importance within the Eurocentric Catholic Christian tradition. From not allowing Blacks education, learning to read or even being considered as humans, this nation and our church were complicit in the abomination of slavery. Catholic slave owners were given permission by bishops to own slaves; in some cases, even local ordinaries owned slaves, to build their churches, forced labor for economic gains within certain dioceses. Catholic slave owners were mandated, if they owned slaves, to take them to church and allow them to “witness” Mass, but, in some instances, baptized Catholic Black slaves were denied the Eucharist due to the pigment of their skin. In 1990, the Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States saw a need for a new encounter and transference of the gift of Blacks for the church as a whole, and thus began the annual celebration of Black Catholic History Month. This month is set aside to specifically celebrate and teach the rich, deep history and contributions Blacks, those persons “of color,” and their allies have made to significantly impact the church as a whole: St. Katharine Drexel, St. Peter Claver, St. Martin de Porres, St. Maurice, St. Benedict the Moor, Sister Thea Bowman and Daniel Rudd, to name just a few.
In his address given to the Black Catholic Leadership in the United States at the Superdome in New Orleans, La., in 1987, Pope St. John Paul II spoke of the “rich cultural gifts” brought to the Catholic Church in the United States by almost 3 million Black Catholics: “Dear brothers and sisters: your black cultural heritage enriches the church and makes her witness of universality more complete. In a real way the church needs you, just as you need the church, for you are part of the church and the church is part of you. As you continue to place this heritage at the service of the whole church for the spread of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit himself will continue through you his work of evangelization.” The Black culture brings the richness of her movement, music, sounds and smells, shouts and screams, preaching and praise. It is the 150th Psalm exegetically and hermeneutically brought to life within the sacred liturgy; praising God in His Sanctuary; Praise for His acts of power and surpassing greatness; praising with sounds of musical instruments and liturgical dance. We see the ebbs and flows of an oppressed and enslaved peoples, brought free from bondages and slavery; free to worship; free to celebrate its liberation and deliverance from a systemic tyranny and oppression. The muscle of once proud and rich peoples, weakened and traumatically ripped away from their homes, lives, culture and almost their own existence, encounter a transference, a great gift … a gift by the Living God, who when encountered, provides not only a transference but a rich culture of the faith of a people, bound together by the sinews of their hopes and faith in the Promise of a God that assures His Gift of eternal salvation. Do you know the Gift?
(Richard Lane is an international Catholic speaker and founder of Richard Lane Ministries. His article appeared in the November 2020 issue of CatholicTV Monthly (Vol. 16, No. 1) and was reprinted with permission. Visit www.catholictv.org.)
By Dennis Sadowski CLEVELAND (CNS) – Prelates in the archdioceses and the diocese where Theodore McCarrick worked during his rise through the church’s hierarchical structure despite rumors of sexual impropriety welcomed a Vatican report regarding the onetime cardinal, saying it advances accountability and transparency regarding clergy sexual abuse within the church.
Church leaders in New York, Metuchen and Newark, New Jersey, and Washington said in statements Nov. 10 that while they had not yet read the entire 400-page report, they pledged to study it to better understand its implications for their jurisdictions as well as for the broader church. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, where McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and the first allegations about abuse were made against him in 2017, said the Vatican report “is a necessary step” in understanding the case surrounding the former cardinal. Cardinal Dolan credited the victim-survivors of the alleged abuse by McCarrick, now 90, who approached the New York Archdiocese with their concerns. “You took us at our word that we wanted to assist you and in so doing, you helped bring this matter to light, proving that anyone who has abused a minor, even a cardinal will be punished,” Cardinal Dolan said. In the Diocese of Metuchen, where McCarrick became its first bishop in 1982, Bishop James F. Checchio said in a letter to the diocese that the faith community had carried a heavy burden as the allegations were determined to be credible. “These burdens seemingly grew heavier with each day that followed as we learned the heart-wrenching truth of the crimes and sins of the past and wondered how Theodore McCarrick was still given greater responsibilities in the church, despite the rumors of his abusive actions with seminarians and young priests,” Bishop Checchio wrote. “While I am grateful to Pope Francis for ordering this study to arrive at the ‘truth’ of what happened, like everyone else, I am disgusted and appalled by what has taken place,” Bishop Checchio added. Meanwhile, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, where McCarrick became archbishop in 1986, called the report “a significant and powerful step forward in advancing accountability and transparency regarding sexual abuse.” “Beyond the victims themselves, failures by some leaders in the Catholic Church have wounded many, including the families and loved ones of victims and the faithful,” Cardinal Tobin said. “It is important to recognize that the church has made progress in responding to clergy abuse by implementing policies and programs to safeguard the faithful, especially the most vulnerable among us,” he added. Cardinal-designate Wilton D. Gregory of Washington said that disclosure of the action of church leaders in the U.S. and at the Vatican was essential to help bring healing, calling it an “an important, difficult and necessary document.” McCarrick became archbishop of Washington in January 2001, and was elevated to cardinal weeks later. He retired from his post as archbishop in 2006 at age 75. Cardinal-designate Gregory, who was installed as the archbishop of Washington in May 2019, pledged transparency and honesty in dealing with the abuse crisis that had shaken the country and the archdiocese. “By virtue of the simple fact that this investigation had to be conducted and this report had to be written, my heart hurts for all who will be shocked, saddened, scandalized and angered by the revelations contained therein,” Cardinal-designate Gregory said. The Diocese of Metuchen’s reaction to the release of the report included a detailed outline of events diocesan officials took to investigate McCarrick after allegations of sexual abuse against him became public in 2018. In response to those reports, the bishop said, Metuchen diocesan officials hired an independent law firm to oversee its own investigation and a review of its archives. The findings were sent to the Vatican as investigators there compiled the McCarrick report, he said. “In total, the report identified that seven individuals, who were adults at the time of their abuse, came forward to report allegations of abuse by McCarrick since the first allegation against him was received by the diocese in 2004,” the statement said. The diocese’s report also said that all abuse allegations were reported to local and state law enforcement authorities and the papal nuncio in Washington. The long-awaited Vatican report summarizes the actions of church officials, including earlier popes, that allowed McCarrick to rise through the church’s hierarchical structure to become a cardinal despite years of rumors of sexual impropriety. McCarrick used personal contacts, protestations of his innocence and a lack of church officials reporting and investigating accusations to become cardinal, according to the Vatican summary of its report. McCarrick resigned as cardinal in July 2018 after the allegations became public. He was dismissed from the clerical state in February 2019 by Pope Francis after a Vatican investigation into allegations that he had abused minors and engaged in sexual misconduct with adults. All four of the prelates in New York, Newark, Metuchen and Washington also urged anyone who has been abused by a priest, bishop or anyone else in the church to report their allegation to law enforcement and to church authorities.
(Contributing to this report was Mark Zimmermann in Washington.)
By Dennis Sadowski CLEVELAND (CNS) – New job in hand, Jim Richter was adjusting well to life in Minneapolis several months after leaving his hometown of Chicago. He was enjoying his fellowship at the University of Minnesota Medical Center despite the long hours and he was coming to realize his move was a good one. Sexually abused as a teenager by a South Side Chicago Catholic priest who had similarly assaulted other young men, Richter wasn’t expecting to hear more about the clergy abuse scandal in Minnesota. Then news broke about Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who eventually resigned in 2015 over accusations he had mishandled allegations of abuse against an archdiocesan priest. Criminal charges were initially filed against the archdiocese over this, but were later dropped. Archbishop Nienstedt also faced allegations he had engaged in sexual misconduct with adults as a priest and as a bishop, claims he denied. Richter said he felt he had been “assaulted” again when listening to news reports on the radio as he drove to work. The reports, he said, triggered a recurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD. “This was in the same sense being reminded that the church has lots of bad actors all over the place. That was something I did not need to be reminded of,” Richter told Catholic News Service. PTSD often occurs in a person who has experienced or witnesses a traumatic event. It can last for months or years with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions. Symptoms can include nightmares, unwanted memories, avoidance of situations that bring back those memories, anxiety or depression. Richter, who is now 49 and who continues to practice his Catholic faith, eventually sought counseling to cope with the disorder. He acknowledged that he can experience PTSD at any time – as can any survivor. “It could be the news, a book, a story someone is sharing,” he said. “Triggers are very real. Victim survivors talk about them. When we talk about them they can cause a momentary disruption in or thoughts or our feelings. Sometimes it can last a day or two. Sometimes they can last a whole season,” Richter added. Realizing he’s not alone, for the last three years Richter has helped facilitate what he calls “peace circles” – parish-based discussion groups primarily for clergy sexual abuse survivors but open to anyone interested in responding to the abuse crisis. Richter works voluntarily. He has consulted with victim assistance coordinators in the archdioceses of Chicago and St. Paul and Minneapolis. The circles offer a safe space – originally in person but now online because of the coronavirus pandemic – to any survivor wanting to discuss their experience. Richter’s recurring PTSD is not unusual. Mental health experts said sexual abuse survivors can experience ebbs and flows of PTSD and that it never quite goes away. “Everyone is different. So depending on an individual’s situation anything can trigger it,” said Deacon Bernard Nojadera, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection. The secretariat works with victim assistance coordinators in dioceses across the country to provide new information on how to assist abuse survivors who may need mental health services to respond to their traumatic experiences. When a survivor reaches out, Deacon Nojadera said, his office or the appropriate diocesan office acknowledges “this hurt that had occurred in their lives, extending an apology.” Most importantly, though, he explained, is to listen to what the person has to say. “We have an opportunity to continually building right relationships,” he said. Deacon Nojadera acknowledged that PTSD can recur and has seen it in his work with military veterans in the past. He said the church is prepared to help any survivor connect with mental health services and advice. Dioceses and eparchies have spent $143.8 million from 2004 through 2019 for therapy, living expenses and legal expenses for survivors, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The figures were included in annual reports detailing diocesan and eparchial compliance with the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” From 2004 through 2013, the data show, $70.8 million in payments for therapy for survivors. Beginning in 2014, the category was expanded to include living and legal expenses, with payments to victims during that last six years coming to more than $71.9 million. Victim advocates such as Tim Lennon, president of the board of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, told CNS others may shy away from church assistance, feeling that the institution that harmed them has no interest in making things better. No matter to whom a survivor turns for help, Lennon, a survivor himself, said each person deserves broad support to help them weather their trauma. Professionals in the church as well as professional psychologists almost always see an uptick in calls when a breaking story regarding abuse occurs. That happened in 2017 with the emergence of the #MeToo movement on social media following reports by dozens of women of their abuse by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report that chronicled abuse allegations against more than 300 priests and other church workers over a 70-year period, starting in 1947, in six of the state’s eight dioceses. “Any time abuse and church are in a sentence and it hits the headlines or is splashed across social media, we definitely hear more,” Deacon Nojadera said. The release of the Vatican’s report on a former U.S. cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, should be no different. Deacon Nojadera and diocesan victim assistance coordinators said they expect to hear from more survivors – some of them reaching out for the first time – after the report becomes public. The Vatican announced in February 2019 that Pope Francis had dismissed McCarrick from the clerical state after the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found him to have engaged in “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.” Professionals working with abuse survivors and survivors themselves contacted by CNS offered similar advice to those experiencing PTSD: remember you are not alone, that there are people – friends, family, mental health professionals, church victim assistance coordinators – who can guide you through difficult times. Tom Tharayil, director of the Office of Assistance Ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago, is among those who will await the calls from victims and non-victims alike. “These stories are never presented with a trigger warning,” Tharayil said. “What happens is they’re assaulted all over again.” His advice to survivors is to seek support from someone because having even a small network of people to discuss the challenges being faced will help in the healing process. Beyond friends, family and professional mental health counselors, another resource Tharayil refers survivors to is The Healing Voices website at www.thehealingvoices.org. Developed by clergy abuse survivors, the site seeks to assist people reconcile their Catholic faith with the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harm they have experienced. Despite the recurrence of PTSD, Tharayil said he has found that “most (victims), on balance would prefer the information comes out even if this means they will be retraumatized, if you will.” Victim survivors acknowledge that while a recurrence of PTSD can occur when high-profile news about clergy abusers breaks, it’s not all bad because “that helps raise community awareness,” Lennon agreed. “People begin to understand that it doesn’t just happen in Pennsylvania. It happens everywhere. It brings a lot of people forward,” Lennon said. Lennon told CNS he has received the support of his wife and twin daughters when he has a resurgence of PTSD. Lennon, 73, who no longer practices Catholicism, said he was raped by a priest when he was 12 while growing up in Sioux City, Iowa. He said he had repressed the memory for decades until seeing a demonstration about 30 years ago outside of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco calling on church leaders to address clergy sexual abuse. “It flashed back in my mind. ‘Oh, I was sexually molested by this priest for several months,’” Lennon recalled thinking. He said he also sought professional mental health assistance and been able to adjust to dealing with memories of the abuse he experienced. Heather Banis, victim assistance coordinator in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said managing PTSD is “about how to carry that burden differently” so that it does not become debilitating. A support system is a must, she told CNS. “It doesn’t always take the shape of a traditional family. It isn’t always as traditional as we might think. That’s OK. What matters is that you have it,” she said. Richter said his connection to the Catholic Church has enabled him to address PTSD when it rises anew. He said the peace circles he coordinates, while not with a formal church connection, can do the same for others. “I recognize that every day of my life is impacted by what happened to me when I was a teenager: the way I think, the way I see work, the way I approach others, the way that I talk. But it doesn’t define me,” he explained to CNS. Deacon Nojadera said that although the church has spent millions of dollars for counseling and other mental health needs of survivors over the years, the work of helping survivors heal is far from complete. He said dioceses and the USCCB continue to seek stronger responses to the struggles of survivors in the hope of rebuilding trust. “Will we ever eradicate this question of clergy sexual abuse and the inappropriate sins of the flesh? No. That’s part of the human condition. But our role, our mission, is to try to bring that down to as minimal as possible. And when it does occur, the church needs to know the importance of handling and stepping up to handle the situation in morally and ethically sound ways,” he said.
By Rhina Guidos WASHINGTON (CNS) – They came in tweets, news releases and Instagram posts from old friends, women religious and brother bishops in various languages congratulating Washington’s Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory. The news of the country’s first African American prelate to be elevated to the rank of cardinal Nov. 28 sparked joy, as well as commentary that it was something that should have happened long ago. “In elementary school, he asked his parents if he could become Catholic. Priests and Sisters in a Catholic school had inspired his heart. Today…look what the LORD has done….,” tweeted Bishop David P. Talley of Memphis, Tennessee, Oct. 25, the day the announcement was made public. The Archdiocese of Chicago, where the cardinal-designate chose to become Catholic as boy after attending a parochial school (even though neither of his parents was Catholic), said it was rejoicing over the announcement and touted the cardinal-designate’s experience and contributions during difficult times for the church.
“Cardinal Gregory, who came to the Catholic faith as a student in an archdiocese grammar school, went on to become a strong leader in addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the church and society,” the archdiocese said in an Oct. 25 news release. “In his years as president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops and beyond, he has been at the forefront of moving the church to repair the damage of child sexual abuse and confronting racism in all its forms,” the release said. Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago pointed out the meaning of the appointment, given that it comes as the U.S. faces increasing social strife. “While we take particular pride in this recognition of a dedicated priest, whom we are proud to claim as our own, we are also moved that Pope Francis chose this compassionate, thoughtful pastor when our nation and the world are in desperate need of healing and courageous leadership,” he said. On a more personal note, the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters recalled that the cardinal-designate “credited Adrian Dominican teachers at St. Carthage Grammar School in Chicago with inspiring him to convert to Catholicism.” “Archbishop Gregory, soon to be Cardinal Gregory, has long inspired us – and continues ever more,” the council said in a statement. “Archbishop Gregory’s appointment is a blessing beyond measure for the entire church. As the first African American to be elevated to the College of Cardinals, Archbishop Gregory will bring the unique gifts and perspectives of Black Americans and Black Catholicism to the global church’s highest ecclesiastical body. “As a prelate deeply committed to social and racial justice,” it added, “Archbishop Gregory will bring his courageous voice of integrity to the pope’s inner circle, speaking words of compassion and inclusivity.” The social justice organization Pax Christi USA said the message Pope Francis was sending to the U.S. Catholic Church was clear. “He has named the first African American cardinal in the U.S. in the midst of our nation’s reckoning with systemic racism, as millions assert that Black Lives Matter,” the organization said in a statement. Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, said in news release that he is “a pastor at heart” and “his wisdom, kindness and faith” will serve him well “as he takes on this new responsibility as a special adviser to the Holy Father and a papal elector.” “As our state and nation continues to grapple with racial tension, the appointment of the first African American cardinal in history also has special significance,” Kraska said, adding that “throughout his ministry,” Cardinal-designate Gregory “has sought to address wrongs and bridge differences.” On Twitter, Shannen Dee Williams, assistant professor of history at Villanova University, who specializes in African American, women’s, religious and civil rights history said that “the road to this appointment has been long” while the costs in the U.S. Black Catholic community had been tremendous. “While global #BlackCatholics still remain grossly underrepresented in the College of Cardinals, this moment MATTERS,” she tweeted. In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, then-Archbishop Gregory’s successor as head of the archdiocese, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, said: “Being chosen as the first African American cardinal from the United States indicates the pope’s awareness of the needs and gifts of the multicultural Catholic population throughout the United States. “As his successor in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, I am particularly grateful for his leadership, mentoring and fraternity.” Among his accomplishments, he said, the cardinal-designate is known for working closely with fellow bishops, clergy and women religious, promoting Catholic education, and fostering good relations with leaders of all faiths. “It is clear that the talents and accomplishments of Archbishop Gregory will be a part of his legacy as a leader not only in the United States, but also as a member of the College of Cardinals who attend to significant issues of dioceses throughout the world,” Archbishop Hartmayer added. Father Bruce Wilkinson, a retired priest from Atlanta, tweeted that while he was celebrating the moment, the church had to take a long hard look because after Cardinal-designate Gregory, “there will be none (no Black prelates) to follow.” “Did it have to take this appointment to send a message by Pope Francis to be a diverse and an inclusive church in America?” he asked on Twitter Oct. 25. “I’m not trying to rain on the parade, too much, but this is … one man in one position.”palliative sedation;” obligation of care for patients in a “vegetative state” or with minimal consciousness; and conscientious objection by health care workers.
By Julie Asher NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A Blessed Michael J. McGivney was “an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance” because of his “zeal” for proclaiming the Gospel and his “generous concern for his brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said in his apostolic letter of beatification of the founder of the Knights of Columbus. Representing the pope, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, read the letter in Latin during the Oct. 31 Mass of beatification for Father McGivney at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut. Beatification is a step toward sainthood. In his homily, Cardinal Tobin elaborated on Blessed McGivney’s attributes as a parish priest.
“Father McGivney’s life is an illustration of how a holy priest can provide that necessary and intimate connection so crucial in the life and mission of a parish,” the cardinal said. Blessed McGivney “knew the simple, indispensable requirement for a pastor: to love his people. He was with them in their sorrows, in times of death and bereavement. He was sanctified by doing what parish priests still do, day in and day out.” His parish was not bound by names on his church’s registration rolls, Cardinal Tobin said. “He was not a stranger to jails and hospitals. He fostered respectful relationships with other Christian churches and civil authorities. He was a bridge-builder who shunned walls.” In Blessed McGivney, “we see the face of a son of immigrants who gave his life in pastoral service of those most recently arrived in this country,” he said. “We meet the eldest of 13 children, who worked to keep families united in dignity and security; we are in the presence of an apostle who cared for victims of an epidemic before he himself died of the disease. “We praise God for (the) timeliness of this celebration because 130 years after his death, the brief life of this holy man speaks eloquently to our own path to holiness.” Jesus asks “each one of us to become a saint,” and “each one of us can certainly find encouragement in the life of Father McGivney, but none more than those of us who are called to become saints as parish priests,” Cardinal Tobin said. The founding of the Knights of Columbus “grew out of his ministry as a parish priest,” he noted. And “long before his exhausted body surrendered to disease, he died daily to his own desires,” the cardinal added, and “he laid down his life for his friends.” God is good for giving the church Blessed McGivney “at this moment of our common pilgrimage,” Cardinal Tobin said. “In a time of suffering and division, we glimpse his face among the ‘cloud of witnesses’ that urge us on. In Blessed Michael, we are reminded that life is not transactional, but a gift to be shared. “We appreciate that true worship is centered on a right relationship with God and others, particularly those on the margin of society, and that Christian unity is more than simply adherence to a common belief,” the cardinal said. “We accept that like him, God calls each of us – in our own day and our own way – to be vessels of mercy and so enter into our heavenly inheritance.” The beatification rite came shortly after the beginning of the Mass. After Cardinal Tobin read the rite in Latin, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, the Knights’ supreme chaplain, read the English translation of the letter. A giant tapestry of Blessed McGivney’s portrait was unveiled in the cathedral sanctuary. Michael “Mikey” McGivney Schachle, together with his parents, Daniel and Michelle, and several of his 12 brothers and sisters, carried a relic of Blessed McGivney and presented it to Cardinal Tobin. The relic was placed in the sanctuary and censed. Mikey, now 5, is the child whose in utero healing from a life-threatening condition that, under most circumstances, could have led to an abortion, was confirmed by Pope Francis; it was announced in May as a miracle that occurred through Father McGivney’s intercession. This miracle paved the way for the priest’s beatification. In general a second miracle is needed for canonization. Before asking Cardinal Tobin that the beatification proceed, Hartford Archbishop Leonard P. Blair welcomed those in attendance – and all watching from afar – to “the joyful celebration of the beatification.” The number inside was limited by COVID-19 restrictions, and those in the cathedral wore face masks and practiced social distancing. Thousands more, in the U.S. and around the world, participated by watching the EWTN broadcast of the Mass or a livestream of it on www.kofc.org. Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson read a brief biography of the Knights’ founder, saying that by establishing fraternal order he “presented to the church a paradigm” for an active and engaged laity. The priest embodied the order’s core principles of charity, unity and fraternity, he said. His holiness directed him toward parish life, “not away from it,” and did not separate him from others but “drew him to their lives,” because he knew his people’s hardships firsthand, Anderson added. Blessed McGivney (1852-1890), the son of Irish immigrants, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and was ordained a priest in 1877 for what is now the Archdiocese of Hartford. As a parish priest , he worked to improve the condition of his 19th-century Irish immigrant community in Connecticut. In 1882, while he was pastor at St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven, Connecticut, he founded the Knights of Columbus to provide financial support for widows and orphans and to keep Catholic men and their families close to their faith at a time of widespread anti-Catholic bigotry. He died of pneumonia complications at age 38 in 1890, during an outbreak of influenza known as the Russian flu in Thomaston, Connecticut. Some recent evidence, according to the Knights, indicates the outbreak may have been the result of a coronavirus. The apostolic letter of beatification also announced Aug. 13 as the feast day for Blessed McGivney – the day between Aug. 12, the day he was born, and the date of his death, Aug. 14.
By Carol Zimmermann WASHINGTON (CNS) – A divided Senate, in a 52-48 vote, confirmed Amy Coney Barrett as a justice for the Supreme Court the evening of Oct. 26 and soon afterward she was sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas at a White House ceremony. “The oath that I’ve solemnly taken tonight, means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences. I love the Constitution and the democratic republic that it establishes and I will devote myself to preserving it,” Barrett said after the outdoor ceremony. The 48-year old, who has been on the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit since 2017, said it was a privilege to be asked to serve on the Supreme Court. She said she was “truly honored and humbled” to be stepping into this role, which is a lifetime appointment. Barrett is now the 115th justice for the court, replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18. She is the sixth Catholic justice on the current bench. Thomas administered the constitutional oath to Barrett, who was to take the judicial oath in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court Oct. 27. Reaction to the confirmation was swift and just as divided as it has been since she was first announced as President Donald Trump’s nominee just weeks before the presidential election. Congressional Democrats took to Twitter to criticize the Senate for acting so swiftly on this vote but not passing a COVID-19 relief package. The Associated Press reported that no other Supreme Court justice has been confirmed on a recorded vote with no support from the minority party in at least 150 years, according to information provided by the Senate Historical Office. During her nomination hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett did not give direct answers on how she would vote on top issues but assured the senators that she would follow the rule of the law. “My policy preferences are irrelevant,” she said, Oct. 13 when asked if she had intended to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and she reiterated this same view when asked about abortion and same-sex marriage. On the opening day of the hearings, Republican senators adamantly emphasized that Barrett’s Catholic faith should not be a factor in questioning. And although it did not become a topic of questioning, it was mentioned even in opening remarks by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, He asked if Barrett would be able to set aside her religious beliefs to fairly decide legal cases, which she said she could. “I can. I have done that in my time on the 7th Circuit,” she said. “If I stay on the 7th Circuit, I’ll continue to do that. If I’m confirmed to the Supreme Court, I will do that.”
Barrett is now the first Notre Dame Law School graduate on the Supreme Court and the only sitting justice with a law degree not from Harvard or Yale. She graduated summa cum laude in 1997 and also met her husband, Jesse, there. The Barrett family lives in Indiana. The oldest child of the couple’s seven children is a current student at the University of Notre Dame. Amy Coney Barrett began working at the law school in 2002 as a law professor focused on federal courts, constitutional law and statutory interpretation. “On behalf of the University of Notre Dame, I congratulate Amy Coney Barrett on her confirmation today by the United States Senate as a justice of the United States Supreme Court,” said Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, university president, in an Oct. 26 statement. G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson dean at Notre Dame Law School, said the school is “immensely proud of our alumna, colleague and friend,” adding that for more than two decades the school has experienced Barrett’s “brilliant scholarship, her devoted teaching and her thoughtful, open-minded approach to legal questions.” He also praised Barrett’s “exemplary kindness and generosity toward everyone she encounters” and said that while the school community would miss her presence they would “look forward to witnessing these qualities as she serves on our nation’s highest court.” During the Senate Judiciary hearing, an open letter to Barrett signed by 100 Notre Dame professors was published online urging her to put a “halt” to the nomination process until after election. The letter emphasized this would allow “voters to have a choice” in the next judge on the nation’s high court. An editorial published online Oct. 21 by the National Catholic Reporter, an independent Catholic newspaper based in Kansas City, Missouri, similarly urged the senate to reject Barrett’s nomination. “We at NCR do not like the prospect of five of the six conservative justices being Catholic and worry what that says about our church. In America, however, there are no religious tests for office and no senator should oppose Barrett on account of her religion.” It went on to say it was Barrett’s “bad faith in discussing the law that warrants disqualifying her.” After the Senate vote, some Catholic bishops congratulated Barrett on Twitter. Bishop J. Strickland of Tyler, Texas, said in an Oct. 26 tweet: “Thanks be to God that Amy Coney Barrett was approved as our newest Supreme Court Justice. Let us pray that she serves always guided by the truth God has revealed to His people. Immaculate Virgin Mary intercede for her.” Similarly, Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, tweeted his congratulations and added: “Note to the Democrats. Justice Ginsburg was against packing the SC!” He was referring to a plan by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that has recently been touted by progressive Democrats to increase the number of justices on the court. New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond issued a more personal statement, pointing out that Barrett is from Metairie, Louisiana, and that her parents: Deacon Michael Coney and his wife, Linda, are members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie. “One of our own, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as an associate justice of the Supreme Court,” he said. “We pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead her and guide her in her service to our country.”
By Mark Pattison WASHINGTON (CNS) – Hurricane Delta deluged much of Louisiana with rain – as much as 15 inches reported in some areas – with damage tallies and estimates yet to be completed in the days following the storm’s Oct. 9 landfall. In Lake Charles, one of the hardest-hit areas, churches and schools that had been damaged by Hurricane Laura in late August took a fresh beating. More than half of the diocese’s 39 churches had tarps on their roofs after Laura, according to Father Ruben Buller, vicar general, and most of those tarps blew off during Delta, soaking those churches anew.
Father Buller told Catholic News Service that he estimated recovery efforts for those churches hit by both Laura and Delta have been set back by three weeks. In the meantime, the diocese’s six Catholic schools were to stay closed the week of Oct. 12 to allow for extensive inspections for damage. In a way, though, “we were very blessed,” said Father Buller, who doubles as “director of recovery” for the diocese, as “many of our parishes that did not receive damage the first time did not sustain damage” from Delta. Bishop Glen J. Provost of Lake Charles and Father Buller did not evacuate, nor did most of the diocese’s priests, Father Buller said. So many people heeded an evacuation order issued in advance of the hurricane, said diocesan spokeswoman Pamela Seal, that traffic on the highway leading to Houston, which ordinarily takes two-and-a-half hours, took 10 hours instead. “The interstate was a parking lot,” Seal said. Weekend Masses were celebrated at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Lake Charles despite low turnout – just 15 at some Masses. The cathedral had fresh but minimal damage, and was without power. “We still don’t have landline service,” Father Buller told CNS. The neighboring Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, announced the temporary closures of 23 schools, some just for Oct. 12, while others would be closed Oct. 12-13. The diocesan chancery also was closed Oct. 12. The diocese set up an Amazon “wish list” page with items people were in immediate need of, including tarps, disinfectant, hammers, jigsaw blades, ladders, extension cords and other hardware. The site can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/304ZQI8OD9592. “We beseech the good Lord for the safety of all families and their homes threatened by this hurricane,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishops, in a Nov. 9 statement. “We pray especially for all the first responders who courageously risk their own lives to assist those in need.” The Lafayette Diocese also was asking for donations to assist victims of both hurricanes. Donations can be made at https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=9fd2bc. Catholic Charities of Acadiana, which covers the Lafayette Diocese, also was seeking volunteers to aid disaster victims at https://www.tfaforms.com/4633555. The Louisiana dioceses of Shreveport and Houma-Thibodaux reported no damage. In Houma-Thibodaux, “while there was flooding outside of our levee protection system, all our church parishes and diocesan locations reported no flood damage or wind damage from the hurricane,” said an email to CNS from Lawrence Chatagnier, editor and general manager of the Bayou Catholic, the diocesan magazine. Hurricane Delta struck the resort city of Cancun, Mexico, Oct. 7 as a Category 2 storm. The storm toppled trees and power poles and wrecked the facades of some buildings, but didn’t do major damage, according to state and local officials. No serious injuries or loss of life were reported. Caritas Quintana Roo responded to the hurricane by providing food to families in shanties built on the outskirts of the city, which were built by people working in informal jobs, such as vending, and had arrived from impoverished parts of southeastern Mexico in search of employment. “In the zones with ‘invasions'” – as shanties are sometimes called in Mexico – “or ‘irregularities,’ where electricity isn’t officially connected, there’s no drainage, mud floors and small homes made of wood and laminate, there are many affected people,” said Miguel Gutierrez, director of Caritas Quintana Roo, in a WhatsApp message. Caritas belongs to the Diocese -of Cancun-Chetumal. Hurricane Delta added to the difficulties faced by Cancun, founded 50 years ago as a centrally planned tourist destination, only to see its main industry collapse due to the coronavirus outbreak. Caritas, Gutierrez said, had been assisting 14,000 households with care packages of food prior to the pandemic, but saw that number nearly double over the past seven months. He added Caritas was still attending to families flooded out in early October by Tropical Storm Gamma, which claimed six lives and dumped heavy rains on the Yucatan Peninsula, along with the southeastern states of Tabasco and Chiapas. Caritas in the Archdiocese of Yucatan and Diocese of Tabasco responded to Gamma with care packages and organizing collections of food, clothing and supplies for “people who lost everything,” said Sister Eduviges Palacios, director of Caritas in Tabasco.
(Contributing to this story was David Agren in Mexico City.)
La hermana Felician Marget Padilla habla con peregrinos en el centro de evangelización de la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud en Cracovia, Polonia, en esta foto de archivo de 2016. La Semana Nacional de Concientización sobre las Vocaciones es del 1 al 7 de noviembre de 2020 (foto del CNS/Bob Roller