Briefs

NATION
WASHINGTON (OSV News) – The U.S. Catholic bishops’ latest annual report on child and youth protection shows abuse allegations are down, while safe environment protocols have taken root in the church – but guarding against complacency about abuse prevention is critical, as is providing ongoing support for survivors. On May 28, the bishops released their “2023 Annual Report – Findings and Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” For the period from July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023, the report found a more than 51% drop in historical allegations from those reported in the same period last year, from 2,704 in 2022 to 1,308 in 2023. The decrease was partly due to the resolution of allegations received as a result of lawsuits, said the report. Another milestone was the full participation of all 196 dioceses and eparchies in the Charter audit, a 100% response rate that was unprecedented. But the report found that over the past 10 years, the Catholic dioceses and eparchies in the U.S. alone have paid more than $2 billion in costs regarding abuse allegations. Total abuse allegation-related costs in fiscal year 2023 were up 99% over the previous year at more than $260.5 million. Suzanne Healy, chairwoman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board, emphasized in the report that as the church moves forward, it cannot risk “fatigue or complacency. We must remain vigilant.”

VICTORIA, Texas (OSV News) – The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s perpetual pilgrims’ second week included already iconic events – such as when Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York blessed the city with the Eucharist from a boat near the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor May 27 – and hidden moments – like when a man got out of a truck in the middle of Oregon, far away from any towns, and genuflected as the Eucharistic caravan passed. On a May 29 media call, the pilgrims shared other stories of encounter and conversion: On the California side of Lake Tahoe, a photographer for a secular news outlet – amazed by the masses of people turning out for processions – told the perpetual pilgrims that he was inspired to learn more about the Eucharist and plans to begin the process for becoming Catholic. Meanwhile, a woman who isn’t able to walk with the pilgrims has been joining each procession along the St. Juan Diego Route since Brownsville, Texas, on a retrofitted tricycle. Also in Texas, some perpetual pilgrims helped bandage a woman’s wounded leg at a homeless shelter, and then the woman – whose name is Hope – asked the pilgrims to pray with her. On the May 29 media call, the perpetual pilgrims acknowledged that their packed days can sap their energy, but explained each “amazing encounter” along their routes also reveals to them the impact that the pilgrimage is having.

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis announced that he is preparing a document on the Sacred Heart of Jesus to “illuminate the path of ecclesial renewal, but also to say something significant to a world that seems to have lost its heart.” The document is expected to be released in September, he said. The pope made the announcement during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square June 5. The Catholic Church traditionally dedicates the month of June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The document will include reflections from “previous magisterial texts” and it will aim to “re-propose to the whole church this devotion laden with spiritual beauty. I believe it will do us much good to meditate on various aspects of the Lord’s love,” the pope said. Meanwhile, in his main audience talk, Pope Francis continued a new series on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the church. He said the freedom Jesus offers with his Spirit has nothing to do with the selfishness of being free to do what one wants, but it is “the freedom to freely do what God wants! Not freedom to do good or evil, but freedom to do good and do it freely.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Although Pope Francis usually takes the month of July off – except for leading the recitation of the Angelus on Sundays – he will hold a consistory with cardinals in Rome July 1 for the final approval of the canonization of several sainthood candidates, according to the master of papal liturgical ceremonies. In late May, the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints said Pope Francis would be convoking the meeting of cardinals to vote on approving the canonizations of Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian teen and computer whiz; Blessed Giuseppe Allamano, founder of the Consolata Missionaries; eight Franciscan friars and three Maronite laymen who were martyred in Syria in 1860; Canada-born Blessed Marie-Léonie Paradis, founder of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family; and Blessed Elena Guerra, an Italian nun who founded the Oblates of the Holy Spirit. The date or dates for the canonizations could be announced during the ceremony.

WORLD
LOURDES, France (OSV News) – Surrounded by almost 15,000 military personnel from around the world, Airman 1st Class Quenton Cooper felt a deep sense of fraternity during a May 24-26 pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. Cooper was one of 183 American pilgrims who journeyed to Lourdes for the annual International Military Pilgrimage. Every year since 1958, the French army has invited soldiers from across the world to come together for three days of festivities, prayer, and fraternity in Lourdes, the frequented pilgrimage site where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858. “This trip has bolstered my spiritual life because it has reminded me that I’m not alone in my prayer life and that the church is not just located in one country, but it’s a community that extends all over the world,” Cooper said. “It is this reminder that no matter who we are, we need to thrive, and God will put us in.” For over 20 years, the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services have co-sponsored the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage, bringing both active-duty service members and veterans from across the world to seek healing through the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage also provides participants from a military background the opportunity to experience fraternity with the global church, said military chaplain Father Philip O’Neill.

SAN SALVADOR (OSV News) – A recent decision by officials in El Salvador to remove a painting of St. Óscar Romero from a prominent location in the nation’s main airport and move it to a secluded area, generated backlash from Catholics and opinion leaders, who have been critical of how the nation’s government is treating national symbols while trying to rebrand the country as a safe, tourist-friendly destination. The 18-foot-wide painting depicts scenes of St. Romero’s life, including a meeting that he had with people whose relatives had been abducted by the military. The painting was commissioned in 2010 to mark the 30th anniversary of St. Romero’s murder and it had been placed in a hallway of the airport’s departure hall, where it could be easily seen by passengers as they headed to their gates. It was passengers at the airport who noted that the painting was no longer at its original location and had been replaced with a poster that welcomes tourists to El Salvador, “the land of surfing, volcanoes and coffee.” Officials initially provided no explanation for the painting’s removal, sparking criticism from some Catholic leaders. Carlos Colorado, a Salvadoran-American lawyer who runs a blog about St. Romero, said that he was concerned that El Salvador’s current government was being dismissive of the bishop’s contribution to the nation’s history. St. Romero was the archbishop of San Salvador in the late 1970s, a turbulent period that led to a full-fledged civil war, in which more than 75,000 people were killed.

Civil Rights Pilgrimage gives Catholics new appreciation for African Americans’ freedom struggle

By John Feister , OSV News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (OSV News) — This Juneteenth holiday a group of Glenmary Home Missioners will have a deeper appreciation for the historic struggle of African Americans for freedom and equality in the United States. The federal holiday June 19 is a commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. at the conclusion of the Civil War.

The Glenmary group recently completed a mid-May pilgrimage through Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, stopping and praying at significant sites in the slavery era and the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, and to meet with contemporary community workers.

Thirteen of the 31-member pilgrimage group were Kenyan and Ugandan students in Glenmary formation; others were priests, brothers and lay co-workers primarily from the U.S.

“The point was to have an encounter, an opportunity for them to gain a better understanding of the Southerners they’ll be working with,” Father Dan Dorsey, president of Glenmary, told OSV News. “But the most important thing for me was that the participants had a profoundly spiritual experience, where people see Christ in the experience of others, whether that’s in a museum or in the people who continue to struggle for justice.”

Trip coordinator Polly Duncan Collum, Glenmary’s director of justice, peace and integrity of creation, echoed that sentiment. “It was a tour, and a time of reflection. But also, it was a connection between the past and the present in the meeting community organizers and leaders working for racial and economic justice,” she said.

She offered the example of a meeting with Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz and a multiracial coalition in Jackson, Mississippi, of which the Diocese of Jackson is a member.

In Birmingham, Alabama, pilgrims visited sites commemorating the 1955-56 bus boycott, a key moment in civil rights history. The yearlong boycott, started by the act of defiance by civil rights activist Rosa Parks, brought newly minted preacher the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., into a leadership position that would persist until his murder in 1968. (Parks met with St. John Paul II during his 1999 pastoral visit to St. Louis.)

Participants in a Glenmary Civil Rights Pilgrimage take photos in Canton, Mississippi, of the bed where Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman spent her final days in 1990. Sister Thea, the first African American to be a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, lived in her childhood home with a fellow Franciscan sister at the end of her life. She died of cancer March 30, 1990, at age 52. (OSV News photo/John Feister, Glenmary)

The pilgrims also visited Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, where a 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing caused the death of four child congregants. Across the street was Kelly Ingram Park, where months later police, seen on national television, viciously attacked child protesters with police dogs, fire hoses and water cannons. Today, sculptures and a civil rights museum commemorate those events. Interpreters helped the pilgrims to see the strategy of Civil Rights activists to engage law enforcement in the public eye. Repeatedly, though, the racist reaction was more violent than the activists had anticipated.

Pilgrimage participants later walked across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where marchers were viciously attacked by law enforcement in 1965 as the nation looked on. These were key events that eventually led to the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, championed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In Mississippi, the group also stopped to pray at the Canton home of Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman, whose cause for canonization is underway. Sister Thea (1937-1990), a key leader in the Black Catholic movement, worked for intercultural understanding in churches across the United States. She was the first African American to be a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Moses Ngund’u, a Glenmary seminarian from Nakuru, Kenya, said what struck him most was listening to the stories of Parks and Rev. King, “especially the way he advocated for a peaceful resolution.”

Seminarian Evarist Mukama was moved by being in the 16th St. Baptist Church, “where the four little girls were killed, innocent as they were, and the scene for their parents and friends. I asked myself, ‘Will there be any point where there will be equality for all?'”

When he saw a museum display of KKK robes, seminarian Philip Langford, a Texan from a multiethnic family, was brought back to a childhood experience.

“I actually have a memory of encountering the KKK,” he said, recalling a 2004 cross-country family car trip from Texas to Florida, with a gas stop in Mississippi. “Coming down the road a group of Klansmen were carrying a cross. I remember my mother immediately told me to lie on the floorboard. I was just reminded of all of that today. I can imagine how somebody who went through the Civll Rights Era, with all of the lynchings, would have responded to that cross.”

Langford added, “The most jarring thing for me was all of the hatred, and I would argue that it’s still there today. And I don’t know if I would say quieter, because it’s getting louder and louder.”

“Very much!” was Deacon Joseph Maundu’s response when asked whether he thought this pilgrimage might have an impact on his ministry. The deacon spoke of prejudice today: “When you know the history of a place, and then experience things there, you know it’s not about you. It’s about the issue, about what happened there. And you stop your own prejudices. We can sympathize with other people. I think this (pilgrimage) experience will give us a positive approach.”

The Glenmary Civil Rights Pilgrimage stops in Money, Miss., May 18, 2024, at the site of Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market, where in 1995 Emmett Louis Till, a Black teenager visiting from out of town, was falsely accused of flirting with the white woman proprietor of the store. He was kidnapped, tortured and killed. His mother, Mamie Till Bradley, brought his body home to Chicago for an open-casket funeral, which gained attention worldwide. (OSV News photo/John Feister, Glenmary)

Another stop in Mississippi was the Jackson home, now National Historic Landmark, of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evars. He was targeted and killed in his driveway by an assassin, his wife and young children close at hand. Another stop, outside of Greenwood, Mississippi, was the site of Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market, where Emmett Till, a Black 14-year-old, was falsely accused of flirting with and touching a white woman. He was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by her relatives.

One evening the pilgrimage group was hosted by Resurrectionist Father Manuel Willams at the Resurrection Catholic Missions of the South. The 81-year-old ministry has included a variety of educational and health care services to the local community and recently hosted volunteers from various Catholic universities.

Father Willams told the pilgrims, “The root of all ‘isms’ is the lack of proximity.”

Then he invited those gathered, which included a group of student volunteers from Misericordia University in Dallas, Pennsylvania, to be closer to the Montgomery experience by listening to veteran civil rights activists. He introduced a small panel, including former Carter White House staffer Doris Crenshaw, who has a history in civil rights from the time in the 1950s when she was vice president of the NAACP Youth Council, under the advice of Rosa Parks. She was 12 at the time.

“Our lives are in your hands,” she told the young women from Misericordia. All of the rights movements in the world were compelled by the women and the youth.” It was the only time the pilgrims were joined by an outside group.

The Civil Rights Pilgrimage ended in Memphis, Tennessee, where the group attended Mass at Christian Brothers University. Earlier in the day the pilgrims had been at the National Civil Rights Museum, built around the Lorraine Motel, where Rev. King was assassinated.

Father Dorsey implored those at Mass, “Listen to our pain. Listen to our hope. Listen to who we are. And just be present.” It was a church-driven fight for rights, he had said earlier. He echoed that at the end: “We must always have a vision of hope. We must never give in to fear. Let’s always be those people, our heroes, who in the midst of it all, stood up to incredible violence. Fear did not give way.”

On the road back across Alabama to homeward-bound travel from Birmingham, Mukama looked back on the weeklong pilgrimage and said, “What stood out to me was the struggle for freedom. That first was started by the Blacks who came here as slaves, and who have been slaves in most other continents. One of the quotes that really comes out clear for me is, ‘No one is free until everyone is free.'”

“The slavery, or segregation, or whatever else happened to Blacks is not just limited to the Blacks, but to the wider community of humanity,” Mukama added. “I’ve walked all the steps on this pilgrimage from first up until the last and that’s what stands out for me: Humanity needs to be free.”


John Feister, editor of Glenmary Challenge magazine, writes for OSV News from Cincinnati.

Synod report for U.S. shows growth, tensions and ‘deep desire to rebuild’ the body of Christ

By Gina Christian
(OSV News) – Growth, undeniable tensions and “a deep desire to rebuild and strengthen” the body of Christ have emerged as key themes in the latest synod report for the Catholic Church in the U.S.

Released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops May 28, the “National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Interim Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod” summarizes responses from more than 35,000 participants and over 1,000 listening sessions, with 76% of the nation’s dioceses and eparchies submitting reports to the U.S. synod team.

In addition, over 350 people met in some 15 listening sessions that focused on church life, social justice and vocations, while U.S. bishops also met for a synod listening session.

Launched by Pope Francis in October 2021, the first session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, organized around the theme “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission,” was held Oct. 4-29, 2023, in Rome.

This is the official logo. (CNS photo/courtesy Synod of Bishops)

Ahead of the concluding session of the synod, which will take place in Rome in Oct. 2-27, dioceses across the U.S. were asked to hold additional listening sessions during Lent 2024, following a request from the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops. Those responses were incorporated into the newly released synthesis.

In his introduction to the synthesis, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas – who serves as chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, and who has shepherded the synodal process in the U.S. – noted that “while no document could cover the full range of topics on the hearts and minds of Catholics” who took part in the listening sessions, the report showed the synodal journey has made progress in the U.S.

Among their insights, many of which were directly quoted in the report, participants expressed “two basic hopes for the church” – that it be both a “safe harbor” and a “fiery communion.”

As a “safe harbor,” the church can be a place “where the faithful are embraced, sustained and loved,” said the synthesis, citing one respondent who observed, “People come when they are broken. … At my parish, I feel I have a family there.”

That welcome must be more than “superficial,” the report said, pointing to parishes with numerous small communities and prayer groups as being “most successful” in reaching and integrating people from diverse backgrounds. With the church in the U.S. comprising “countless cultural and ethnic groups,” the report noted a desire “to promote interculturality, so that there is more unity between cultures that share the same church.”

At the same time, respondents described the church as a “fiery communion,” with the synodal process digging up a number of tensions within the church.

In particular, a lack of clear communication from church hierarchy and from media, both Catholic and secular, creates confusion and division over what it means to be Catholic – and hinders the church’s mission, said synod participants.

That uncertainty can be especially evident when trying to balance welcoming LGBTQ and other marginalized persons while making known the truths of the Catholic faith, said synod participants.

Catholic social teaching was “another area where division was keenly experienced,” with “conversations ‘on social justice and inclusion … filled with moments of profound pain and generational hurt,’” the report said. “Participants expressed concerns that the church has allowed the ongoing polarization and conflict (in civil society) to lead to a denial of the church’s social magisterium in many situations.”

The liturgy itself can be a flashpoint for tension, with the celebration of the Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962 (informally known as the “Latin Mass”) becoming “a focal point of broader debates about tradition, modernity, and the best ways to nurture faith across the diverse spectrum of Catholic belief and practice,” the interim synthesis said.

Another sore spot identified by participants was complacency in many parts of the church, which potentially stands to pave the way for “grave institutional sins such as sexual abuse and racism” – both of which remain “enduring wounds” that “continue to inflict pain today,” said the document.
Likewise, the sin of racism, and “the sin of enslaving Black people for the betterment of the church,” continue to haunt the church, the report said.

At the same time, the listening sessions revealed a commitment to the importance of evangelization, and the need for catechesis and formation to sustain such witness. Participants also articulated a desire to actively participate in the church’s mission, seeking greater co-responsibility for the laity (especially women and young adults) in that task through their “baptismal dignity.”

Both clericalism and a lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life were lamented, as was division among priests, with one priest participant sharing that clergy “need to be better at getting past the bitterness and different theologies and political preferences.”

Bishops who attended the listening session also highlighted polarization among priests, with some shepherds likening themselves to “the episcopal referee” among an increasingly diverse clergy, many of whom hail from other countries.

The interim synthesis concluded by noting that “a major theme” articulated by participants was “the deepening awareness of how our trust in God expresses itself in relation to our imperfect institutions within the church.”

“It was noted by many that the faithful ‘should not be embarrassed about recognizing that our church might be a little messy – it’s better not to pretend that we are the perfect institution, but that we belong to the perfect and one, true faith,’” said the report.

(Gina Christian is a multimedia reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) at @GinaJesseReina.)

City named for body of Christ, Alabama shrine and Kentucky’s Trappist monastery on southern route of Eucharistic Pilgrimage

By Maria Wiering
(OSV News) – The Gulf Coast, Deep South and the Blue Ridge Mountains set the backdrop for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s St. Juan Diego Route, which launches from the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and goes through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.
Beginning on Pentecost May 19, the Juan Diego Route is one of four National Pilgrimage Routes that will converge in Indianapolis ahead of the July 17-21 National Eucharistic Congress. The pilgrimage and the congress are part of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that launched in 2022.

The interior of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala., is pictured in a 2016 file photo. (OSV News photo/Jeffrey Bruno)

The 1,900-mile route will be traveled by six perpetual pilgrims accompanied by chaplains from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who will carry the Eucharist in a monstrance. While Catholics may join the pilgrims for legs of their journey, they are especially encouraged to join the route’s public events, which include Masses, all-night adoration and confessions, processions, talks, blessings, service events, picnics and social gatherings.

The route itself is named for St. Juan Diego, whom Mary appeared to in 1531 near present-day Mexico City and famously filled his tilma with roses and an image of herself that is still visible today. The following is a list of selected highlights from the pilgrimage’s Southern route. Find information for the full Diego Route at https://tinyurl.com/JuanDiegoRoute.

– Our Lady of San Juan del Valle, San Juan, Texas: After launching May 19 from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Brownsville at a Mass celebrated by Bishop E. Daniel Flores of Brownsville. the pilgrimage journeys from that U.S.-Mexico border city westward to San Juan and its national shrine, the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle, for Mass May 22. The shrine honors Our Lady of San Juan, a devotion to Mary that emerged in the 1600s in San Juan de los Lagos, Mexico, after a miraculous healing associated with an image of Mary.

Pilgrims following a monstrance being towed on a trailer make their way through the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, along the St. Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, May 19, 2024. (OSV News photo/Tom McCarthy)


– Corpus Christi Cathedral, Corpus Christi, Texas: The pilgrimage continues along Texas’ Gulf Coast, reaching Corpus Christi Cathedral May 26, for Mass and a mile-long procession. According to legend, the city was named for the “body of Christ” in 1519 when a Spanish explorer discovered its lush bay on the feast of Corpus Christi. From there, the pilgrims will continue through the Diocese of Victoria and Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

– Blessed Carlo Acutis Chapel, Beaumont, Texas: On June 2, the pilgrims stop at Christ Central Camp and its Blessed Carlo Acutis Chapel in the Diocese of Beaumont for talks, testimony and Eucharistic adoration with Bishop David L. Toups of Beaumont. Blessed Carlo, the namesake for the diocesan summer camp’s chapel, died in 2006 at age 15. He was known for his deep love of the Eucharist, and the U.S. bishops named the teenager an intercessor for the National Eucharistic Revival.

– St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans: The pilgrims continue east into Louisiana and through the dioceses of Lake Charles, Lafayette, Houma-Thibodaux and Baton Rouge, into the Archdiocese of New Orleans. They stop June 9 at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France for Mass with Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond and a procession in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Catholics have worshipped on the cathedral site since 1727, with the current church erected in 1794 and reconstructed in the mid-1800s. The cathedral’s namesake, St. Louis IX of France, was known to have ordered his day around Mass and prayer.

– Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Alabama: The pilgrimage continues through the Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi, where pilgrims will attend a blessing of the sea in Long Beach June 12. Passing through Alabama’s Archdiocese of Mobile into the Diocese of Birmingham, the pilgrims will spend June 20 at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, with Mass, confession, talks, a shrine tour, prayer with sisters from Our Lady of the Angels Monastery and a Eucharistic procession from the grotto to the main church. Under the leadership of Mother Angelica, founder of the Eternal Word Television Network, and her sisters, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and adjacent monastery were completed in 1999. The shrine chapel contains an 8-foot-tall monastrance for perpetual adoration.

– Abbey of Gethsemani, Trappist, Kentucky. The pilgrimage continues through the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the dioceses of Knoxville, Nashville and Owensboro, Tennessee, before entering the Archdiocese of Louisville. On July 4, the pilgrims will process to the Abbey of Gethsemani, for prayer, Mass and lunch. Founded by Trappist monks from France in 1848, the monastery was also home to American monk, mystic and writer Thomas Merton. Trappist monks – formally called Cistercians of the Strict Observance – are contemplative monks who follow the Rule of St. Benedict and generally maintain silence throughout their day. After leaving the abbey, the pilgrims continue into the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Indiana, converging with pilgrims with the other three routes ahead of the National Eucharistic Congress.

(Maria Wiering is senior writer for OSV News.)

BILOXI – Several parishes in the Diocese of Biloxi will host events, prayer, Mass and testimonies from the Perpetual Pilgrims that will be following Jesus along the entire southern St. Juan Diego Route of the Eucharistic Pilgrimage from Monday, June 10-14. For more information visit: https://www.biloxidiocese.org/eucharist. All are welcome. (Courtesy of Diocese of Biloxi)

Briefs

NATION
INDIANAPOLIS (OSV News) – A special track just for priests has been added to the schedule of the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis July 17-21, with speakers including two bishops and prominent theologians. The 90-minute “impact session” titled “Abide: The Priest Experience” will be offered on days two, three and four of the five-day congress. Day Two features speakers theologian Scott Hahn, founder and president of the St. Paul Center, and Father Brian Welter, executive director of the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska. Day Three features Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, chairman of the board of the National Eucharistic Congress Inc.; Dan Cellucci, CEO of Catholic Leadership Institute; Tim Glemkowski, CEO of National Eucharistic Congress Inc.; Jason Simon, president of The Evangelical Catholic; and Jonathan Reyes, senior vice president of strategic partnerships and senior advisor for the Knights of Columbus. Cellucci returns on Day Four, along with Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas. Meanwhile, the congress will also include a luncheon series for permanent deacons featuring Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Deacon James Keating, Deacon Omar Gutiérrez and Deacon Joseph Michalak. The congress is the pinnacle of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative of the U.S. bishops to deepen understanding and love for Jesus in the Eucharist.

ABBEVILLE, Louisiana (OSV News) – A first Communion Mass at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Abbeville, Louisiana, was disrupted May 11 after a teenager attempted to enter the church with a rifle. Parishioners prevented the young man from entering the parish where 60 children were preparing to receive their first Communion. Police took the suspect into custody, and moments of chaos were caught on the church’s live stream as they swept the premises to see if other threats were present. Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette commented on the incident, saying, “we are thankful to God that a tragedy was avoided at the First Communion Mass for the children of St. Mary Magdalen in Abbeville. The quick response of the Abbeville Police Department and alert parishioners is a great example of caring for the most vulnerable in our community. Let us pray for an end to all threats of violence to innocent human life.”

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pilgrims passing through the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica during the Holy Year 2025, going to confession, receiving Communion and praying for the intentions of the pope can receive an indulgence, but so can inmates in prison and those who work to defend human life or assist migrants and refugees. Fasting “at least for one day of the week from futile distractions” such as social media also can be a path toward a jubilee indulgence, according to norms published by the Vatican May 13. Pope Francis said he will open the Holy Year at the Vatican Dec. 24 this year and close it Jan. 6, 2026, the feast of Epiphany. But he also asked bishops around the world to celebrate the Jubilee in their dioceses from Dec. 29 this year to Dec. 28, 2025. The norms for receiving an indulgence during the Holy Year were signed by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the new head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court dealing with matters of conscience and with the granting of indulgences. The basic conditions, he wrote, are that a person is “moved by a spirit of charity,” is “purified through the sacrament of penance and refreshed by Holy Communion” and prays for the pope. Along with a pilgrimage, a work of mercy or an act of penance, a Catholic “will be able to obtain from the treasury of the Church a plenary indulgence, with remission and forgiveness of all their sins, which can be applied in suffrage to the souls in Purgatory.”

This is a model of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris made out of LEGO blocks. (OSV News photo/courtesy The LEGO Group)

WORLD
BILLUND, Denmark (OSV News) – As workers complete the rebuilding of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after a devastating April 2019 fire, LEGO fans can assemble their own model of the iconic medieval structure, thanks to a soon-to-be-released kit from the Danish toy manufacturer. On May 7, the LEGO group announced it is accepting pre-orders for LEGO Architecture Notre-Dame de Paris, which will be released June 1. The company also will issue a LEGO Art Mona Lisa kit Oct. 1, with both products forming a tribute to Paris’ best-known artistic treasures, according to LEGO. The Notre Dame model – which retails for $229.99 – consists of 4,383 pieces and measures 13 inches high and 8.5 inches wide, with a depth of 16 inches. “We wanted LEGO fans to retrace the architectural journey and evolution of this landmark during its construction, to encourage a deeper appreciation for its real-life counterpart,” said LEGO senior designer Rok Žgalin Kobe.

PARIS (OSV News) – Called a “consoling angel,” the sister of King Louis XVI decided to stay on the side of her family even when death was imminent for doing so in the midst of horrors of the French Revolution. On the 230th anniversary of her death under the guillotine on May 10, 1794, “Madame Elisabeth” is one step closer to beatification as the historical commission for her sainthood cause wrapped up its work May 2. The diocesan phase of her sainthood cause was reopened in 2017. Since then Father Xavier Snoëk, the postulator, has spared no effort to raise awareness of the noble lady. Father Snoëk called her “an original and very modern young woman … pious and exuberant at the same time.” Elisabeth never married and chose “a life of commitment to the service of others, rooted in faith.” She was 25 when the French Revolution broke out full scale in 1789. She could have gone into exile, but she decided to stay with her brother Louis XVI. In August 1792, the whole royal family was imprisoned in the notorious Le Temple prison. Elisabeth “put all her energy into trying to support family members,” Father Scnoëk said, explaining why she was called a “consoling angel.” “She recited a daily prayer of abandonment to God, and at the moment of her death on the guillotine,” he added.

TBILISI, Georgia (OSV News) – A Catholic aid worker in the nation of Georgia told OSV News that a proposed law targeting nongovernmental organizations and media would severely undermine care for children and the poor in that country. “I cannot imagine how (we will) advocate for the rights of the children, the rights of the people,” said Tamar Sharashidze, children and youth protection and development program manager for Caritas Georgia. The agency – part of Caritas Internationalis, the universal Catholic Church’s global federation of more than 160 humanitarian organizations – is a locally registered NGO that serves as the country’s largest social service provider. But that reach is now threatened by a renewed push to enact Georgia’s proposed “Transparency of Foreign Influence” legislation. The Russian-style law would label as “foreign agents” entities receiving more than 20% of their funds from outside donors, threatening both Caritas Georgia’s mission and the country’s hopes to become a member of the European Union. Sharashidze is one of thousands regularly protesting the bill, donning a mask and glasses to evade being tear-gassed by police. “This proposed law would limit the capacity of civil society and media organizations to operate freely, and it could limit freedom of expression and unfairly stigmatize organizations that deliver benefits to citizens of Georgia,” she said. “And the voice of the people is more and more loud. And we have hope that we will win.”

Faithful respond to Midwest tornadoes, help storm victims‘carry their cross’

By Gina Christian
(OSV News) – Parishioners in several Midwestern states are coming together to bring help and healing after tornadoes ravaged the area April 26-28, killing at least four.

The storms – which along with tornadoes dumped heavy rain and hail on Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas – claimed four lives in Oklahoma, including that of an infant, and caused widespread destruction.

“We have experienced a pretty devastating time here in the Elkhorn area,” said Father Tom Fangman, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn, Nebraska, in an April 28 video message posted to the parish’s Facebook page.

A drone view shows emergency personnel working at the site of damaged buildings in the aftermath of a tornado in Omaha, Neb., April 26, 2024, in this image obtained from a social media video. A tornado plowed through suburban Omaha demolishing homes and businesses as it moved for miles through farmland and into subdivisions, then slamming an Iowa town. (OSV News photo/Alex freed via Reuters) MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES.

A previous post by the parish that same day said there were “over 30 families who have come to us for help and the applications just keep rolling in.”

On April 26, the Omaha suburb was devastated by what the National Weather Service assessed to be at least one EF3 tornado, with winds ranging from 136 to 165 miles per hour. Drone footage from local television station KETV showed homes leveled to the ground, with roofs sheared and structural walls badly damaged in others. Train cars were derailed about an hour away near Lincoln, Nebraska.

One Elkhorn family’s escape is being called “miraculous.”

KETV in Omaha reported that a bedridden father, unable to shelter before the twister’s impact, was shielded by his wife and son, who lay on top of him as their roof was torn away. The man sustained non-life-threatening injuries. While the home has been reduced to rubble, two crucifixes and an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary remained intact, still affixed to the remaining walls. A GoFundMe page for the family, whose last name has been listed as Sturgeon, has been set up by one of the son’s co-workers.

St. Francis Xavier Church in hard-hit Sulphur, Oklahoma – where at least one person died and 30 were injured – withstood the storm, but a number of parishioners lost their homes, a staff member at St. Joseph Catholic Parish in Ada, of which St. Francis Xavier is a mission church, told OSV News.

The disaster is a call to serve – and to witness to the love of Christ, said St. Patrick Parish in its Facebook message.

The parish, which has set up a relief fund, is working in concert with other local groups to organize humanitarian relief, and convened an April 29 volunteer meeting in its school cafeteria.

“We need you. … We ask you to prayerfully consider how God is calling you to help and if you can be part of this,” said the parish in its post. “Lives have been turned upside down and people have nothing. Let’s be in this mess with them and help them carry their cross. And let’s show our community that life isn’t going on for everyone else but them. We are the Body of Christ.”

Gina Christian is a multimedia reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) at @GinaJesseReina.

Catholic Olympic champion swimmer awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

By Maureen Boyle
WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Adding another distinguished medal to her already sizable collection, Katie Ledecky – the most decorated woman in swimming history – was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on May 3 in a White House ceremony.

A native of the Washington area and a parishioner of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Maryland, Ledecky received the nation’s highest civilian honor, along with 18 other Americans who have “made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors,” according to a White House statement.

Ledecky, 27, is a three-time U.S. Olympic swimmer, a seven-time Olympic gold medalist, a 21-time world champion and a 16-time world-record breaker in her sport.

“Thank you, Mr. President and everyone at the White House today for this honor and an incredibly special day!” announced Ledecky, who also shared photographs of the event on her social media pages, following the Friday afternoon ceremony held in the East Room of the White House before hundreds of guests.

Ledecky was among 19 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. The group included Jesuit Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, an intervention and rehabilitation program for gang members in Los Angeles; Elizabeth Dole, a former U.S. senator, U.S. secretary of labor and president of the American Red Cross; Medgar Evers (awarded posthumously), a pioneering civil rights leader murdered in 1963; and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“Powered by faith, family, and teamwork, Katie Ledecky is a symbol of perseverance and strength with a heart of gold that shines for the nation and for the world,” President Joe Biden said before presenting the honor to the swimmer.

U.S. President Joe Biden presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Olympic champion swimmer Katie Ledecky, a Catholic, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington May 3, 2024. (OSV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

A graduate of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington, Ledecky plans to compete in her fourth summer Olympic Games July 26-Aug. 11 in Paris.

During the summer of 2012, Ledecky was a rising 15-year-old sophomore at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda when she was the youngest athlete on the U.S. Olympic swim team and won her first gold medal in the women’s 800-meter women’s freestyle race during the London Olympics.

Before she headed off to her inaugural Summer Games, Ledecky told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, that to calm her nerves she always prays right before a race.

“The prayer I say is the ‘Hail Mary,’” said Ledecky, adding that her faith and the sacraments give her a welcome opportunity to pause in her busy routine. “I also love going to Mass every week. It’s a great chance to reflect and connect with God. (My faith) has been a big part of my life since I was born.”

Although the medals, records, accolades and commercial endorsements have mounted up in the ensuing years, Ledecky is very much the same humble, hometown athletic phenom she was 12 years ago.

Following the Tokyo Summer Games, Ledecky returned to Stone Ridge in the fall of 2021 to a hero’s welcome, speaking to students and answering their questions for two hours. Wearing her new, shiny gold and silver swimming medals around her neck, Ledecky spoke about her Olympic experiences and her intense swim regime, while encouraging the students to work hard and follow their own dreams.

At the time, she told the Catholic Standard she was grateful for her lifelong Catholic faith – something she especially relied on during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it remained very important in her life, especially the during the difficult challenges of the global shutdown – which led to a year’s postponement of the 2020 Summer Games. She recalled attending Mass virtually every week with her family whom she hadn’t seen in person since December 2019.

“My faith is strong, and I realized more how important that is,” she said.

Ledecky told the students her proudest moments are not the Olympic medals, but rather the happiness she found in and the gratitude she has for the communities she has been a part of and which have supported her throughout the years – including her Catholic school alma maters, Stanford University, Bethesda and the entire Washington region.

“Yes, (the medals) are heavy, but they are small relative to all the hard work from my family, my parents (David and Mary Gen), my brother (Michael),” she said. “(The medals) are a great symbol (of the work). It takes a village. I wish I could give medals to all of you.” Ledecky began swimming at age 6 at her neighborhood community pool.

During her years swimming for the Stone Ridge Gators, Ledecky set many records there, and after her initial triumph in the London Olympics in 2012, she went on to even greater success at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. At the Tokyo Games, then 24-year-old Ledecky won her 10th Olympic medal for swimming, adding two gold and two silver medals to her collection. She also won the inaugural gold in the women’s 1500-meter freestyle swim, a first-time Olympic event.

At the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, Ledecky won gold medals in the women’s 1500-meter freestyle and 800-meter freestyle and silver medals in the women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay and 400-meter freestyle.

Following the White House ceremony, tributes flooded Ledecky’s Facebook and Instagram pages, with many followers offering their hearty congratulations for her recent honor. Other messages included those of support, pride and gratitude from individuals all over the United States.

In one Facebook comment, a mother wrote, “You are such an inspiration for my little girl! We are so lucky to have you as a role model not only in the pool, but outside as well. Congratulations, Katie!!”


Maureen Boyle writes for the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Briefs

NATION
CASHION, Arizona (OSV News) – St. William Catholic Church in Cashion, Arizona, was destroyed in an overnight fire May 1. The fire broke out just before 1 a.m. Local station Fox 10 Phoenix reported that firefighters arrived and found flames coming from the attic of the church. The roof of the church ultimately collapsed as firefighters fought the flames. “This is a devastating loss to this community,” Avondale Fire Battalion Chief Steve Mayhew said. Father Andres Arango, pastor of St. William, wrote on the parish’s website, “as many of you know, we had a major fire on campus very early this morning and it appears the church has been totally destroyed. Thankfully no one was injured and everyone is safe.” “An official investigation on the cause of the fire is being handled by local officials,” he added. “The campus is closed off during this investigation.” He wrote that “plans for a location for future Masses are currently being developed.”

NEW ORLEANS (OSV News) – The Louisiana State Police and the FBI are investigating whether Archdiocese of New Orleans officials – including previous archbishops – covered up child sex trafficking by clergy over several decades, with some alleged victims reportedly taken out of state to be abused and marked for further exploitation among clergy. On April 25, the state police executed a comprehensive search warrant on the archdiocese for documents related to a widening investigation into how the archdiocese has handled allegations of abuse. The warrant – a copy of which OSV News obtained following the document’s April 30 release – cites the felony of “trafficking of children for sexual purposes” as the reason for its sweeping access to archdiocesan records, including the diocese’s canonically required secret archive and archdiocesan communications with the Vatican. Probable cause for the warrant, based on the testimony of a state police investigator also assigned to the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force, details reports of clergy marking out victims for abuse on archdiocesan and out-of-state properties, with complaints ignored or paid off and withheld from law enforcement. The warrant also claims several unnamed New Orleans archbishops were aware of the abuse but overlooked or obscured allegations. A spokesperson with the Archdiocese of New Orleans told OSV News the archdiocese “has been openly discussing the topic of sex abuse for over 20 years. In keeping with this, we also are committed to working with law enforcement in these endeavors.”

Pope Francis greets members and new recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard at the Vatican May 6, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Loneliness causes tremendous harm, including to families, Pope Francis told international leaders of the Teams of Our Lady lay movement. “With your charism, you can become rescuers attentive to those who are in need, those who are alone, those who have family problems and do not know how to talk about them because they are ashamed or have lost hope,” he said during an audience with the leaders at the Vatican May 4. “In your dioceses, you can make families understand the importance of helping each other and forming a network; building communities where Christ can ‘dwell’ in the homes and in family relations,” he said. “Without Christian communities, families feel alone, and loneliness does a great deal of harm!” The lay movement, which formed in France in 1938 and has spread to numerous countries, is dedicated to improving married couples’ spiritual lives. Pope Francis said, “The Christian family is going through a genuine ‘cultural storm’ in this changing era and is threatened and tempted on various fronts.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Meeting members of the Swiss Guard, including 34 new recruits, Pope Francis thanked them for their dedication and generous service protecting the pope every day. He told them they stand out for their professionalism and their “kind, attentive, indeed scrupulous style,” during an audience at the Vatican May 6, ahead of the swearing-in ceremony for the new guards later that day. The men have built “a positive and respectful atmosphere in the barracks,” the pope said, and they show great courtesy toward “superiors and guests, despite sometimes long periods of intense and strenuous service.” Serving in the Swiss Guard, an enlistment that lasts at least two years, means it is “an important and formative time for you,” he said. “It is not just a period of work, but a time of living and relating, of intense fellowship in a diverse company.”

WORLD
CUERNAVACA, Mexico (OSV News) – A retired Mexican bishop known for brokering deals with drug cartel bosses was located in a hospital bed after being incommunicado for two days, though local officials say he was briefly abducted in an “express kidnapping” by unknown assailants. Retired Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza of Chilpancingo-Chilapa was reported missing April 29, sparking an outpouring of concern amid widespread violence in Mexico. The bishop has long been famous for trying to diminish violence in the southern state of Guerrero – which includes his former diocese – through dialogue with crime bosses and more recently helping to negotiate a peace pact between rival drug cartels. The Mexican bishops’ conference said in an April 29 statement that Bishop Rangel was hospitalized in the city of Cuernavaca, where he has resided since resigning as bishop of Chilpancingo-Chilapa in early 2022. The conference provided no details on Bishop Rangel’s condition or the circumstances of his disappearance. Morelos state prosecutor Uriel Carmona showed reporters a cellular phone picture of Bishop Rangel lying in a hospital bed and said officials were investigating an “express kidnapping,” in which victims are briefly abducted and robbed.

KYIV (OSV News) – The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has denounced Russia’s seizure of a Catholic church in Ukraine’s Kherson region, calling the structure’s rededication for the Russian Orthodox Church a “sacrilege.” The Church of St. Archstrategist Michael, located in the village of Oleksandrivka in the occupied Kherson region, was captured and joined to the ROC during Holy Week of the Julian calendar, said Major Archbishop Sviatslav Shevchuk. Construction on the church began in 2017, some 11 years after the formerly Orthodox parish was officially received into the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The seizure is part of a steady campaign by Russia to suppress the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, along with Catholicism in general and other faiths, in occupied areas of Ukraine.

Pope Francis grants plenary indulgences for National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, Congress participants

By Maria Wiering
(OSV News) – Participants in the National Eucharistic Congress and related National Eucharistic Pilgrimage now have opportunities to receive plenary indulgences, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced April 9.

“It is with gratitude to the Holy Father that we receive his Apostolic Blessing upon the participants in the National Eucharistic Congress, and for the opportunity for Catholics in our country to obtain a plenary indulgence by participating in the events of the Eucharistic Revival,” he said in a USCCB statement.

According to the statement, Archbishop Broglio, who also leads the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, had requested that a plenary indulgence be available to Catholics who participate in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and that “he or another prelate be designated to impart the Apostolic Blessing with a Plenary Indulgence” to the faithful joining the National Eucharistic Congress.

The requests were granted in two separate decrees by the Apostolic Penitentiary, an office with the church’s central administrative body known as the Roman Curia, which grants the use of indulgences “as expressions of divine mercy,” the statement said. Both decrees were approved by Pope Francis.
The congress and preceding pilgrimage are efforts of the National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative of the U.S. bishops that began in 2022 to inspire greater understanding of and love for Jesus in the Eucharist. Held in Indianapolis July 17-21 at Lucas Oil Stadium, the congress aims to bring together tens of thousands of Catholics for liturgies, devotions and well-known Catholic speakers.

Beginning the weekend of May 17-18, 24 young adults in four groups are traveling thousands of miles to the congress from starting points in California, Connecticut, Minnesota and Texas. Pilgrims in this National Eucharistic Pilgrimage plan to travel – often by foot – with the Eucharist in a monstrance, with stops along the routes for Mass and Eucharistic adoration at local parishes and national shrines. The “perpetual pilgrims” anticipate thousands of Catholics from across the country will join them at pilgrimage events or journey with them for segments of the routes.

Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, chair of the board of directors of the National Eucharistic Congress, told OSV News that the “tradition of giving an indulgence for pilgrimages and important celebrations is ancient.”

“We are grateful to the Holy Father through the Apostolic Penitentiary that offers this blessing to those who are seeking to grow in greater purity of heart through the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress,” he said. “These events will be great moments of conversion which this indulgence points to as we seek to be free from the effects of our sins. We are grateful for the Holy Father’s blessing on these events.

He added, “Pope Francis himself said that (the) ‘National Eucharistic Congress marks a significant moment in the life of the Church in the United States’ and he prayed that the National Eucharistic Congress would guide men and women throughout our country to the Lord who, by his presence among us, rekindles hope and renews life.”

According to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Indulgences are the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. The faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains the indulgence under prescribed conditions for either himself or the departed. Indulgences are granted through the ministry of the Church which, as the dispenser of the grace of redemption, distributes the treasury of the merits of Christ and the Saints.”

One may obtain indulgences for other people, but can only apply them to the souls in purgatory. One may also obtain the indulgence for oneself. But one cannot apply an indulgence to another living person; that person (unlike someone in purgatory) can still obtain one for himself or herself.

The plenary indulgence for National Eucharistic Pilgrimage is granted to anyone who participates in the pilgrimage between May 17 and July 16, as well as to elders, people with infirmities and “all those who cannot leave their homes for a serious reason and who participate in spirit with the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, uniting their prayers, pains, or inconveniences with Christ and the pilgrimage,” the USCCB statement said. To receive the indulgence, an individual must fulfill the usual conditions: sacramental confession, Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father.

This is an updated map showing the four routes of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage to the National Eucharistic Congress in 2024. Participants in the National Eucharistic Congress and related National Eucharistic Pilgrimage will have opportunities to receive plenary indulgences, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced April 9, 2024. (OSV News illustration/courtesy National Eucharistic Congress)

In granting the indulgence, the Apostolic Penitentiary requests that all priests with appropriate faculties “present themselves willingly and generously in administering the Sacrament of Penance” to pilgrimage participants, according to the statement.

The second decree of the papal blessing with plenary indulgence for the National Eucharistic Congress empowers Archbishop Broglio or another prelate assigned by him to impart it, following Mass, to the faithful participating in the congress. As is the case with the previous indulgence, Catholics must be truly repentant of their sins, be motivated by charity, and meet the usual conditions of sacramental confession, Communion and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father.

However, Catholics who “due to reasonable circumstances and with pious intention” cannot be physically at the congress may also receive the indulgence if they have participated in Mass and received the blessing through media communications.

“Through the efforts of the revival over the last two years, we have been building up to the pilgrimage and congress that will offer Catholics a chance to experience a profound, personal revival of faith in the Eucharist,” said Archbishop Broglio. “Pope Francis continues to encourage and support us as we seek to share Christ’s love with a world that is desperately in need of Him.”

The National Eucharistic Revival continues after the congress through 2025 with a “Year of Missionary Sending.”

(Maria Wiering is senior writer for OSV News.)

(Editor’s note: The Southern route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage (St. Juan Diego route) will be traveling through the Diocese of Biloxi between June 10-14. Visit https://www.biloxidiocese.org/eucharist and click on the button “Eucharistic Revival Procession (Across the Coast)” to view a schedule of events.)

Survivors shine light on immigrant communities’ plight with church abuse

By Maria del Pilar Guzman
(OSV News) – When Eduardo Lopez de Casas was abused by a priest during his school years, he could not bring himself to tell his mother what was happening, fearing it would ruin her faith in the Catholic Church. Having grown up hearing about her mother’s upbringing – and how she came to find solace in her faith after becoming an orphan at an early age in Mexico City – Lopez de Casas “did not want, ever, to come in between my mother’s faith because it was so strong.”

Lopez de Casas’ mother passed away in 2021, never hearing of her son’s plight with the abuse he had suffered at the hands of a man who was supposed to offer him guidance.

Now the vice president of the board of directors for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Lopez de Casas shared his story in the January webinar “Courageous Conversations: How Immigrant Voices Are Silenced in Church Abuse,” part of a speaker series hosted by Awake, a survivor support and advocacy organization that works to support survivors and educate Catholics on the issue of sexual abuse within the church.

The independent nonprofit was established in 2019 in Milwaukee by a small group of Catholics and recently broadened its focus. Its mission? To “awaken our community to the full reality of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, work for transformation, and foster healing for all those who’ve been wounded,” Catherine Owers, Awake’s community engagement specialist, told OSV News in March.

Owers said the Courageous Conversations episode speaks directly to the first part of the mission statement – awaken our community to the full reality of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church – as many people, when they think about abuse in the church and survivors of abuse, “they have this classic image of an older man, usually an older white man, who has abused the child, (such as) a priest and maybe the child was serving as an altar boy.”

While that is true in many cases, there are other kinds of survivors, Owers affirmed.

“People of color, women, survivors who have experienced abuse as adults, maybe not by priests but by other religious leaders, by religious sisters, by lay ministers,” Owers said, adding, “So, having these conversations, where we’re really highlighting the diversity of stories, I think it’s just so tremendously important.”

Aside from Lopez de Casas, the webinar also gave voice to Aimee Torres, a Filipino filmmaker from Los Angeles who was harmed by a priest when she was a child, and Susan Bigelow Reynolds, assistant professor of Catholic Studies in the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.

Reynolds, whose essay “’I Will Surely Have You Deported’: Undocumenting Clergy Sexual Abuse in Immigrant Communities” was published in the journal Religion and American Culture in 2023, said that, for her research, she examined the case of Peter Edward Garcia. A priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from the 1960s through the 1980s, Garcia targeted the children of undocumented immigrants for sexual abuse, threatening them with deportation if they ever told on him.

“(Garcia) served for a time as the head of Hispanic outreach in the archdiocese, which gave him a really unique, trusted status, particularly for recently arrived families,” Reynolds shared during the webinar. He would then “use families’ undocumented status to threaten these children effectively, children and teenagers … who feel an obvious and understandable sense of loyalty and fidelity to their families, into silence, to scare them not to report their violence,” she added.

Garcia was accused of abusing at least 12 minors in a period of 20 years. He was laicized in 2006 and died in 2009, according to records from bishop-accountability.org.

Reynolds pointed to power abuse and clericalism as chief contributors to the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as, because of these, perpetrators enjoyed immunity from criminal prosecution due to their position in the church.

However, clericalism does not operate in a vacuum, Reynolds said.

“Clericalism gains traction, gains force and power by trading on other structures of domination based on race and ethnicity and class and legal status and gender and age,” she said.

Torres can see the power dynamics at play in her experience of abuse. Growing up in a predominantly Catholic family of Filipino immigrants, she witnessed how priests held revered status within her community and how they were viewed as “little kings.” Inevitably conditioned by her culture, she did not report the abuse she suffered at the hands of a priest, a close friend of an aunt, between the ages of 8 and 12, until she was 17.

“The priest that abused me; he used his power as a priest over me because I felt, at the time, that I was doing something wrong,” Torres said. “At that point, you feel so small over somebody like this,” she added.

Because immigrants experience unique challenges associated with economic hardships, language and discrimination, among others, they become more vulnerable to potential acts of abuse.

Even before the death of her father at a young age, Torres’ mother, dealing with financial pressures, worked “full-time and lacked resources for child care,” leaving Torres and her sister in the care of her aunt.

“The priest that abused me, he would come over every Sunday after Mass at his parish and stay over at her (aunt’s) house, and that’s where the abuse happened,” she shared.

For Lopez de Casas, it was the language barrier that became the ultimate obstacle when he tried to report his first instances of abuse at school (this was before being abused by a priest). Wanting to know what was happening to their son, Lopez de Casas’ parents met with the school principal, counselors, and teachers. Not speaking English, they resorted to a translator.

However, “from the very beginning, even though I was very young, I did learn immediately at these meetings that, whenever I would say something, they would translate my statements to my mom, but they were very whitewashed … they would do it in a way that made me look bad and made the predators look sane,” he said.

This shaped how he would report – or not – future instances of abuse.
Responding to Reynolds’ call at the end of the webinar to look “harder for the stories” of immigrants who have suffered abuse within the church “and bring them to light,” Owers said Awake continues to work toward bridging “the gap between survivors and concerned Catholics who want to learn more.”

In an earlier interview with OSV News, Sara Larson, Awake’s executive director, said she has seen “so many survivors work so hard to disentangle their abuser and the things he or she said or did or the way that spirituality was used – disentangle that from their own spiritual life, their own understanding of God and, for some, their own relationship with the church.”

Awake has a “desire to be really survivor-centered,” and to “make sure that when people are engaging with abuse survivors, that they’re ready for that and have the training and an approach that’s not going to cause additional harm,” she said.

“(Survivors) are out there, and they are part of our community,” Owers said.

“We also want to continue to connect with church leaders and provide resources for them to help the church become safer, more accountable, and more compassionate,” she added.

(Maria del Pilar Guzman writes for OSV News from Boston. Notes: To reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline, call 800-656-HOPE (4673)

For more information about Awake, visit: https://www.awakecommunity.org/)