U.S. dioceses press ahead with ‘Moms in need’ initiative during pandemic

By Ann Rodgers
LOS ANGELES – Jada Fortunato was single, 19 and working her way through college when she became pregnant.
Statistically, that scenario often ends in abortion. Fortunato expected to sacrifice college to support her child. She didn’t have to make that choice, however, because a family friend told her about Mercy House, a support center for struggling families in the Archdiocese of Newark.
“Everyone was welcoming there,” said Fortunato, now 21, of North Arlington, New Jersey, as 2-year-old Giovanni babbled in the background. “When I was pregnant, I received assistance with food. And once I had the baby, I received a lot of help. I was getting formula, I was getting diapers, wipes, a car seat and one of those bouncy seats. I would definitely have struggled without their assistance.”

This logo is included in the materials for “Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service” from March 25, 2020, through March 25, 2021. The U.S. bishops are inviting the parishes in their dioceses to join in this national initiative, which Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said intensifies the church’s long-standing pastoral response to “the needs of women facing pregnancies in challenging circumstances.” (CNS photo/USCCB)

She was fortunate that someone in her circle told her where to find help. Because that connection is missing for many women with crisis pregnancies, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) created “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service.”
The initiative calls for parishes to inventory local resources for pregnant women and young families, reach out in friendship to those who are marginalized, identify unmet needs, create solutions, and make sure parishioners know where to direct women and families in need.
“It’s the sort of thing everyone can get behind because it’s something that unites us,” said Kat Talalas, assistant director of pro-life communications at the bishops’ conference. “We love all people, we care for the vulnerable. It brings people together and helps us focus on something really important, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of personal ideology.”
“Walking with Moms” was slated to launch March 25, the 25th anniversary of St. Pope John Paul II’s pro-life encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”).
The timing, it seems, could not have been worse. That month, much of the country went into lockdown due to the coronavirus. Parish activities shut down.
Some dioceses forged ahead, gathering information remotely. Others modified the initiative and many have suspended it until parishes are ready to move forward.
That’s all fine, because “Walking with Moms” was always intended to adapt to local situations, Talalas said. The secretariat of Pro-Life Activities has continued offering support, such as a COVID-related implementation webinar.
In the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Bishop David Walkowiak had just launched Walking with Moms when COVID struck.
“He sent the letter encouraging the priests to get involved and then everything — well, there was no follow up,” said D.J. Florian, director of the diocesan Office of Pastoral Services.
Next month, the diocese plans to pick up where it left off.
“October is a great time, with Respect Life Month already on the books,” he said.
For Charlene Bearden, coordinator of the Office of Family Ministry in the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, “Walking with Moms” answered her prayer for a ministry that would protect unborn children while supporting their mothers and families. A former corporate project manager with information technology skills, by February she had mapped a plan out for the diocese, customizable for each parish. Bishop Joseph Kopacz provided strong leadership.
“He is involved every step of the way. It makes a grand difference,” she said.
When COVID struck, Bearden worked from home on “Walking with Moms.” She sought intercession from Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman, a champion of social justice who Bearden had known, and compiled a 76-page resource on available social services.
She is updating it and will soon survey all parishes about their ability to move forward.
“I was never tempted not to continue with this project,” she said. “I just had this passion that it was something that had to be done and it was more necessary now than ever. What is a pregnant woman thinking now, when a lot of pregnancy care places suspended their services? They are really in need and where can they go?”
In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where Catholic Charities runs “Walking with Moms,” information-gathering also continued during lockdown, with help from a summer intern. Volunteers will continue the work.
“It meets a great need,” said Marion Ahlers, director of marketing and communications.
“It’s not difficult work and the payout — this may sound cliché, but the payout is eternal. It’s 15 minutes on the phone to understand what’s available, what services can be provided. It’s about getting information to people when they need it. And that’s huge.”
In addition to helping women and families, the inventory is helping Catholic Charities to identify unmet needs across the six-county diocese. “There isn’t a complete or consistent breadth of services across our region. We want to understand where the deficits are,” she said.
It is also strengthening the bond between Catholic Charities and parishes as parish leaders learn about the wide array of services the agency provides to anyone in need, she said.
In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Gina Vides, the parish engagement strategist for the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, has seen the need for grassroots networking.
A few years ago, Vides discovered that a large parish with a robust pro-life ministry was unaware of a stellar crisis-pregnancy center just down the road. The parish had been so busy with its own activities that it took no notice.
“Networking is so important and ‘Moms in Need’ pushes for it,” she said.
After pursuing networking in Los Angeles for years, she has advice for others.
While the inventory of social services must be far broader than crisis-pregnancy centers, it’s essential to listen to the directors of those centers. Their insights are so valuable that the Office for Life, Justice and Peace meets with them quarterly, Vides said. The pregnancy center directors emphasize that pregnancy itself usually isn’t the main problem.
For instance, the majority of women who have abortions in California already have children. Their biggest concern is how to care for them.
“Some women are afraid to lose their jobs,” she said. “Single women with children have one or two jobs and you’re afraid to tell your boss that you’re pregnant. You need to understand that you have rights in the workplace.”
A woman with a crisis pregnancy “needs more than counseling. She needs wrap-around services for herself, her unborn child, and any other children that she has,” Vides said.
Many programs that help pregnant women don’t carry the “pro-life” label, she said. The St. Vincent de Paul Society, which is active in many parishes, is a prime example.
“If you think of ‘Moms in Need’ and you’re not thinking of St. Vincent de Paul, then let’s promote them,” Vides said. “They regularly assist families with rent, clothes, shoes, beds, cribs. If you need diapers or milk, you call St. Vincent de Paul.”
In the Archdiocese of Newark, where Fortunato received help through Mercy House, Cheryl Riley had just taken a call from a woman who was contemplating an abortion due to economic stress.
“That’s why Mercy House was founded. Finances should never be an excuse for an abortion in the Archdiocese of Newark,” said Riley, director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office.
“They’re scared,” she said of the women who call. “How will I feed my baby? How will I get diapers? Sometimes they just need a package of wipes. That’s what we do.”
Mercy House will also step in with rental assistance and utilities. It provides bags of food, giving away 50 one day last week alone. If someone can’t get to Mercy House, Mercy House will send help to them. The staff also encourages parents — who typically aren’t married — to engage with a parish and have their babies baptized.
“Every parish knows that, if there is someone in need, they send them to us.”
Even as the lockdown lifts, Riley sees greater needs ahead. “We are going to see a lot of COVID babies,” she said.
While “Walking with Moms” is on pause in many dioceses, “COVID-19 has highlighted the great challenges for moms in need,” said Talalas, at the U.S. bishops’ conference.
“In many cases their situation got worse with the pandemic, at the same time that many agencies had to reduce services. There is an increase in demand for help and a greater need for parishes to coalesce around helping pregnant and parenting moms. We encourage parishes and dioceses and individuals to pick up the mantle for ‘Walking with Moms’ and make it a priority.”

Two Catholic women judges top short list as possible Supreme Court nominees

By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Two Catholic women judges are on the short list of possible candidates to fill the vacant Supreme Court justice seat after the Sept. 18 death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The judges are Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appellate court judge in Chicago, and Barbara Lagoa, a federal appeals court judge in Atlanta.
President Donald Trump told reporters the afternoon of Sept. 19, and rallygoers later that evening, that he intended to pick a Supreme Court nominee in the coming days, and it would likely be a woman.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, pledged hours after Ginsburg’s death that he would hold a vote on Trump’s nominee to fill the court vacancy despite blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death that February, because it was an election year.

Amy Coney Barrett is pictured in this undated photo. She is a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. A Catholic, she is on President Donald Trump’s list of of potential nominees to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant by the Sept. 18, 2020, death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (CNS photo/Matt Cashore, University of Notre Dame via Reuters)

To move Trump’s nominee through the Senate would require a simple majority vote. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said that if he wins the election, he should be the one to nominate Ginsburg’s successor.
One of the first names to emerge as possible contender for Ginsburg’s seat – raised while mourners were gathered on the steps of the court chanting, “RBG!” – was Barrett, a 48-year-old who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Court, based in Chicago.
The judge, a former law professor at the University of Notre Dame and a mother of seven, is not an unknown. She was viewed as a potential candidate for the nation’s high court in 2018 after Justice Anthony Kennedy retired, a slot that was filled by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Barrett, a former clerk for Scalia, was the focus of Senate grilling during her 2017 confirmation hearing to serve on the 7th Circuit, when she was asked about the impact her faith would have on her interpretation of the law.
When Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, asked Barrett if she considered herself an “orthodox” Catholic, Barrett said: “If you’re asking whether I take my faith seriously and am a faithful Catholic, I am. Although I would stress that my present church affiliation or my religious beliefs would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

Florida State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Lagoa speaks at the 30th annual Red Mass reception of the St. Thomas More Society of South Florida in Fort Lauderdale Sept. 26, 2019. She was the first Hispanic woman to be appointed as a justice of the state Supreme Court and currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. A Catholic, she is on President Donald Trump’s list of potential nominees to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant by the Sept. 18, 2020, death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy, Florida Catholic)

The other name that emerged as short-list contender for the Supreme Court – and quickly gained traction as a potential election boost for the Trump – was Lagoa, the 52-year-old Miami-born daughter of Cuban exiles.
Last year, Lagoa spoke at a Florida reception of the St. Thomas More Society after the annual Red Mass, which prays for lawyers and judges, at St. Anthony Church in Fort Lauderdale. She said her Catholic education instilled in her “an abiding faith in God that has grounded me and sustained me through the highs and lows of life.”
Lagoa, a judge of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, asked the audience if “one could be a strong advocate for one’s client and still be a Catholic?” She answered the question by saying faith was “more than going to Mass every Sunday, and to me at least, it means having a personal relationship with God that in turn informs how we treat others.”
She also gave the example of St. Thomas More and said he shows how legal professionals should not compartmentalize professional lives from spiritual lives to justify a lapse in faith or moral conviction.
“Perhaps it starts with reminding ourselves, even when it is hardest, of the dignity of each human being – even the most difficult opposing counsel – and it also starts with reminding ourselves that none of us are perfect and that we ourselves can contribute to or exacerbate a difficult situation,” she said.

Tom Tracy, who writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami, contributed to this report.

Hurricane destroys Louisiana churches, closes schools, displaces priests

By Catholic News Service
LAKE CHARLES, La (CNS) – Hurricane Laura destroyed six churches in the Diocese of Lake Charles, left a dozen others “highly compromised” and did heavy damage to chancery offices.
The diocese, in a report posted on its website, said that only one of six Catholic schools reopened Aug. 31, while the others needed at least some repairs before classes could resume.
The storm, which slammed southern Louisiana with winds of up to 150 mph in the early hours of Aug. 27, also left a diocesan rectory housing 20 priests, a third of them in active ministry, uninhabitable.
Some of the priests were able to relocate to rectories that sustained little or no damage, while others moved into Vianney House, a diocesan residence for people discerning a vocation, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in central Lake Charles and private homes.
Utilities, including power and water, in much of the region remained out Aug. 31.

Buildings damaged by Hurricane Laura are seen in an Aug. 30, 2020, aerial photograph in Lake Charles, La. (CNS photo/Drone Base, Reuters)

The devastation was widespread, according to Bishop Glen J. Provost, bishop of the Lake Charles Diocese.
The roof of the chancery collapsed during the storm, leaving the building unusable, and a diocesan building across the street from the chancery sustained minor damage with broken windows from the fierce winds.
“The city is a disaster. No houses, no business is left untouched. The chancery will be unusable in the foreseeable future. We have 39 parishes and seven missions. All suffered some damage,” Bishop Provost said.
Hurricane Laura was the most powerful hurricane to strike southwest Louisiana, surpassing the devastation of Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Audrey in 1957, the diocese said.
Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana began providing emergency relief within hours after the storm passed.
“We are here, we are open and we trying to meet the needs of the community,” the diocesan report quoted Mercy Sister Miriam MacLean, the agency’s director, saying.
“The Lord preserved Catholic Charities from any major damage for sure so that we can be up and operational,” she said. “We have a little bit of leakage in the roof and a couple of roll-up doors got a little damage, but we are blessed. We have a generator and the Religious Sisters of Mercy are running the office.”
The diocese reported that one of its newly ordained priests, Father Joseph Caraway, parochial vicar at St. Henry Church in St. Charles, used a chainsaw to clear a path so the Mercy sisters could return to their convent.
The priest then delivered food to homebound residents in the city, the diocese said.
The Knights of Columbus donated $150,000 to the Diocese of Lake Charles to assist with recovery efforts.
Bishop Provost rode out the storm at a parish in the northern part of the diocese.
“It is extremely important for me to live in my house in the diocese so I can be available to the priests and to the faithful,” said Bishop Provost, who has headed the diocese since 2007. “Some gentlemen from the cathedral parish bulldozed my driveway so that I could get to my house. Every tree in my yard, except maybe three or four, were downed. You can barely see my house from Lake Street because of all the downed trees.”
He reached out and offered prayers to all diocesan churches hours after the storm swept through the area.
The six destroyed churches are Our Lady of the Assumption in Johnson Bayou; Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Charles; Our Lady of the Sea in Cameron; Sacred Heart of Jesus in Creole; St. Eugene in Grand Chenier; and St. Peter the Apostle in Hackberry.
“Most of what I have witnessed so far has been wind damage,” Bishop Provost said.
He said Mass will continue to be celebrated when possible throughout the diocese.
“We appreciate everyone’s prayers. Bishops in other dioceses have sent word of assistance to us, so we appreciate the fellowship of the other Catholic dioceses throughout the nation. I have heard from bishops on the East and West coasts and especially in Texas and Louisiana,” he said.
As for the schools, only Our Lady Immaculate in Jennings was prepared to reopen Aug. 31. The diocese reported that Father Keith Pellerin, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Jennings, said that classes would resume at the school.
St. Louis Catholic High School in Lake Charles sustained severe damage during the storm’s onslaught.
“Father (Nathan) Long, rector of the school, reported that the roof of the administration building is, for the most part, blown off. Windows in various classrooms are blown in and there is roof damage at the gym,” Father Pellerin said.
Bishop Provost spoke with Principal Trevor Donnelly of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic School in Lake Charles, who reported minor damage to the building. However, the adjacent parish church sustained “substantial” damage. The parish rectory’s roof was significantly damaged, making it uninhabitable.
Volunteers were on hand Aug. 30 to clear trees and debris from the parish property.
Bishop Provost plans to visit as many parishes as possible to survey the storm’s impact firsthand.
Catholic Charities planned to distribute food, water and tarps to families in need. Sister MacLean said the dioceses of Beaumont, Texas, and Lafayette, Louisiana, will store donated supplies because her agency’s facility does not have enough storage space.
Bishop David L. Toups of Beaumont, Texas, helped deliver bottled water and also prepared meals to Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana despite having to assess storm damage in his diocese to the west. He said the damage in Beaumont was much less severe than in Lake Charles.
Sister MacLean also said people who were evacuated to hotels will need vouchers to remain there until other housing arrangements can be made. Long-term shelter will become a major need for people left homeless by Hurricane Laura, she said.

(Donations for relief effort are being accepted online at www.catholiccharitiesswla.com and www.catholiccharitiesusa.org.)

Knights of Columbus called to redouble efforts to fight racism, violence

By Catholic News Service
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) – Every day Knights of Columbus live out the principles of charity, unity and fraternity, and through this daily witness in society, they must redouble their efforts to combat racism, violence and hatred, the top Knight told his confreres.
“Living these principles,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said, “is the highest expression of patriotism today.”
He made the comments in an address the evening of Aug. 4 during the fraternal organization’s 138th annual convention, held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many of our fellow citizens are still treated differently because of the color of their skin,” said Anderson. “Whenever and wherever this happens, it is wrong. And it must be righted.”
Anderson recommitted the Knights to its programs in support of Native Americans and to foster an “honest recounting of their history.” He lamented the recent desecration of churches and statues of saints, especially St. Junipero Serra, whom he called a “heroic and saintly missionary.”
“Where others seek to divide,” said Anderson, “let us promote unity. And where racism festers, let us build fraternity.”
“Living in fraternity is what we do every day,” said Anderson. “It is this commitment to fraternity that gives us the strength to do the great works of charity that our times demand.”
The convention, which had as its theme “Knights of Fraternity,” officially opened with an evening Mass Aug. 4 celebrated by Hartford Archbishop Leonard. P. Blair at historic St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, where Father Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus and where his remains are interred.

Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, is seen Aug. 6, 2019, at the 137th annual Knights convention in Minneapolis. On Aug. 4, 2020, during the Knight’s 138th annual convention in New Haven, Conn., Anderson asked members to redouble efforts to fight racism, violence and hatred through their principles of charity and unity. (CNS photo/Tamino Petelinsek, courtesy Knights of Columbus)

The archbishop had news of his own to share: Father McGivney’s beatification will take place at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford Oct. 31.
The Knights expect COVID-19 restrictions to be in place on the date of the beatification, and are making preparations to broadcast the Mass to a worldwide audience so the public is able to join the celebration.
Ahead of the Mass at St. Mary’s Church, Anderson announced the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven will be transformed into the Blessed Michael J. McGivney Pilgrimage Center.
On May 27, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis, who met with the board of directors of the Knights of Columbus in February, had signed the decree recognizing a miracle through the intercession of Father McGivney, clearing the way for his beatification.
Once he is beatified, he will be called “Blessed.” In general, confirmation of a second miracle occurring through the intercession of the sainthood candidate is needed for canonization.
In his address, Anderson credited Father McGivney, as a “spiritual genius” for bringing men together as brothers who care for others through lives of charity.
Anderson suggested that Father McGivney’s beatification is timely since he understood well the pain of prejudice and discrimination as religious bigotry in the 19th-century targeted Catholics. However, the priest and his contemporaries identified a uniquely American way forward.
“They saw in the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment a path offered to them that could be found in no other country,” said Anderson. He cited a similar insight expressed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who placed hope in the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence because they constitute a “promissory note to … every American.”
Anderson also used his addressed to deliver the Knights’ annual report, which shows that Knights donated more than $187 million and volunteered more than 77 million hours of service valued at more than $2 billion.
The organization responded to the pandemic with the Knights’ locally driven “Leave No Neighbor Behind” program to help neighbors most vulnerable to the illness, as well as blood drives and support for food banks in the U.S and Canada. Other initiatives included million-dollar lines of credit to dioceses in financial trouble and financial aid to the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu hospital for children in Rome.
Those programs are being carried out in tandem with the Knights’ ongoing activities for the disabled via Special Olympics and programs to help the needy, including Coats for Kids and disaster relief.
Despite the economic downturn due to the virus, Anderson reported insurance sales of $8.4 billion over the past 12 months with agents adopting a virtual business model since the start of the pandemic. With nearly $27 billion in assets under management, he said, the Knights of Columbus is meeting both its financial obligations, and its charitable goals.
In April, the Knights of Columbus was one of six companies to receive the highest ranking in a Standard & Poor’s review of North American life insurance companies. The rankings released April 6 give the Knights an AA+ and in the categories of “outlook,” “business risk profile” and “financial risk profile,” the Knights are considered, respectively “stable,” “very strong” and excellent.
Others insurance companies among the six are Guardian Life Insurance Group and New York Life Insurance Group.
Anderson had a final word about Father McGivney’s beatification and how it is both a cause for joy and a call to higher standards of charity, unity and fraternity.
“We step forward together,” he said, “as Knights of Columbus – ‘Knights of Fraternity’ – to continue our great work.”

Catholic Extension receives 47 nominations for annual Lumen Christi Award

By Catholic News Service
CHICAGO (CNS) – Each year Catholic Extension, based in Chicago, asks the faith communities in U.S. mission dioceses to nominate individuals or groups for the organization’s annual Lumen Christi Award, and for the 2020-2021 award, it has received 47 nominees.
Latin for the “Light of Christ,” the Lumen Christi Award is the highest honor bestowed on a missionary working in the United States. It honors an individual or group working in one of America’s mission dioceses “who demonstrates how the power of faith can transform lives and communities.”
These 47 nominees for the 43rd annual Lumen Christi Award “are hidden heroes in our midst who are serving their communities selflessly to bring life and hope to the forgotten corners of our country,” Catholic Extension said in a July 27 news release announcing the nominees.
“These Catholic leaders have stepped up to the difficult task of helping their already marginalized communities battle the physical, mental and financial impacts of the pandemic,” Catholic Extension said.

The Lumen Christi Award is seen in this undated photo. On July 27, 2020, Catholic Extension announced the list of 47 nominees for its upcoming 2020-2021 annual Lumen Christi Award. (CNS photo/Rich Kalonick, Catholic Extension)

“This diverse group of pastors, sisters, brothers, lay leaders, deacons, and community groups show the enormous breadth of the Catholic Church across the country,” it added. A full list of the nominees, their profiles and why they were nominated can be found online at https://bit.ly/3gZ2yuv.
The group includes a priest who is working for migrant rights on the U.S.-Mexico border; a religious sister from Puerto Rico serving her community on the road to recovery from natural disasters; and an ecumenical community group selflessly supporting immigrant families affected by raids in Mississippi carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“During these trying times of COVID-19, this year’s nominees have proven to truly be heroes working selflessly in our midst,” said Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension. “These faith leaders have remained committed to their community and their mission, no matter the circumstances.”
Each Lumen Christi Award nominee receives $1,000 in support of his or her ministry, and the award recipient is given a $50,000 grant with the honoree and nominating diocese each receiving $25,000 for their own community and ministry.
The 2019-2020 winner was Mack McCarter, who founded Community Renewal International in 1994 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He had one goal in mind: to rebuild his home town of Shreveport by uniting individuals, churches, businesses and civic groups and to resurrect the foundation of relationships in neighborhoods.
Catholic Extension has been supporting the work and ministries of the nation’s mission dioceses since its founding in 1905. It raises funds to help build faith communities and churches in these dioceses, which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources.

Catholic prayer, meditation app Hallow sees huge increase in popularity

By Ian Alvano
WASHINGTON (CNS) – When the developers of the Catholic meditation app Hallow launched it in 2018, they hoped to attract young Catholics, but what is now the country’s No. 1 Catholic app has a bigger reach than that.
“It started as this focus on young adults but actually we’ve seen a lot more. … Parents and retired folks get really excited about it and start using it,” said Hallow’s CEO and co-founder, Alex Jones.
Hallow – https://hallow.com – has seen a dramatic increase in popularity and getting more and more users each day.

This is a rendering of the Catholic prayer and meditation Hallow App, which has experienced a dramatic increase in popularity. (CNS graphic/courtesy Hallow)

The No. 1 rating is based on “Apple’s algorithm, which they don’t disclose,” Jones told Catholic News Service in a July 21 interview. “It’s based on how many people have reviewed it in the last few weeks, how many people are downloading it, how many have viewed. We started off on the bottom of the list, went to No. 3, then jumped to No. 1 about six months ago.”
Hallow is based out of Chicago even though the company started off in California’s Silicon Valley. Creation of the app is integrated with Jones’ own faith journey. His family raised him as a Catholic, but he strayed from the faith in high school and college. He went to the University of Notre Dame but he was going through a “relatively dark time in life,” he told Catholic News Service.
After he graduated from college, he wanted to figure out what he believed in. One thing that had always fascinated him was meditation. He noticed that whenever he meditated, his mind would be pulled to something spiritual.
He said he’d ask priests, nuns and others in religious life if there was a specific connection between meditation and faith. They told him that indeed there was a connection: It was called prayer.
When he was growing up, Jones said, he only thought of prayer as a way to ask for certain things or that it was just basic memorization of words. He only felt that he was talking to himself and going through the motions.
A priest friend encouraged him to listen more during prayer, Jones said, and he began to study the Catholic faith more and he tried “lectio divina,” a meditative reflection on the Scriptures.
Jones said this process actually led him to tears and eventually brought him back to his faith.
“It was a beautiful combination of this deep sense of peace and love, deeper than any other secular mediation or mindfulness meditation. It was this deep sense of peace combined with this real purpose that calms our head space,” he said.
Jones recalled meditating on the Lord’s Prayer and the word that stuck out to him was “hallow” from the beginning of the prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” He knew what hallow meant, to make holy or sacred, but he didn’t know how it pertained to his life. He pondered if he should be helping others grow in holiness.
That’s how the Hallow app came to be.
“If Headspace and Calm can be successful helping people learn secular meditation and (be) done through an app’” he thought, “why can’t the same thing be done and be done better through teaching Catholic contemplative prayer?”
Headspace is an app that teaches you how to meditate; Calm is a leading app for meditation and sleep.
“It’s very important to us that everything on the app is 100% authentically Catholic and in line with church teachings,” Jones told CNS about Hallow.
He said the app’s developers have worked with priests, bishops and theologians to ensure they are conveying Catholic teachings correctly. He added that Hallow is a resource to people of all backgrounds, especially people who have fallen away from the faith. Its primary audience is Catholic, but users of the app include Protestants, Jews and even atheists.
It also is hard to ignore the impact of COVID-19 on Hallow’s popularity. According to Jones, there was a large increase in usage and downloads when Easter came around since everyone was advised to stay at home.
While the pandemic has been terrible and brought so much sadness to people’s lives, with loved ones and friends dying from COVID-19, Jones said, it provides us with an opportunity to work on our spiritual lives from home. The app has a “Family” feature that allows users to connect with family and friends and share prayers, reflections and prayer intentions with them even while being physically separated.
It also has a feature called the “Daily Minute Prayer Challenge.” Users are encouraged to build a habit of prayer by spending at least one minute in guided prayer with Hallow each day.
“The hardest part about praying is just doing it. It’s easy in the seasons of Lent and Advent when it’s top of mind, but over the summer when you’ve got a lot of other things going on,” Jones said, “it’s easy to fall off that. We do a bunch of things. You can set goals on the app. You can add members of your family and friends to the app to hold yourself accountable. You can set daily reminders.”
Hallow, which has over 5,000 five-star reviews, tries to be “an app that helps you disconnect from apps and technology,” according to Jones, which he admitted sounds like a contradiction.
But he explained that while other religious apps have users glued to their screen to read the Bible, Hallow allows its users to press “play,” close their eyes and listen to audio of a prayer.

Hallow App co-founders Alex Jones, Alessandro DiSanto and Erich Kerekes pose together for this undated photo. Hallow — a Catholic prayer and meditation app — has experienced a dramatic increase in popularity. (CNS photo/courtesy Hallow)

Loyola University Maryland removes Flannery O’Connor’s name from hall

By George P. Matysek, Jr
BALTIMORE (CNS) – Thirteen years after naming a new residence hall at Loyola University Maryland in honor of the Catholic author Flannery O’Connor, Jesuit Father Brian Linnane, the university’s president, removed the writer’s name from the building.
The structure will now be known as “Thea Bowman Hall,” in honor of the first African American member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
Sister Thea, a Mississippi native, was a tireless advocate for greater leadership roles for Blacks in the Catholic Church and for incorporating African American culture and spiritual traditions in Catholic worship in the latter half of the 20th century. Her sainthood cause is under consideration in Rome.
O’Connor, a Southern Gothic writer who died of lupus in 1964 at age 39, is recognized as one of the greatest short-story writers of her era, one whose work often examined complex moral questions.
Concerns about her use of racist language in private correspondence prompted more than 1,000 people to sign an online petition asking Loyola to rename the residence hall.

A residence hall formerly named for Flannery O’Connor at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore is seen in this undated photo. It is being renamed for Sister Thea Bowman. (CNS photo/courtesy Loyola University Maryland via Catholic Review) See FLANNERY-LOYOLA-RENAME July 29, 2020.

Father Linnane said it was a difficult decision and that the issue of O’Connor and race is very nuanced.
“I am not a scholar of Flannery O’Connor, but I have studied her fiction and non-fiction writings,” he told the Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan news outlet. “Particularly in her fiction, the dignity of African American persons and their worth is consistently upheld, with the bigots being the object of ridicule.”
The priest noted some of the new disclosures about O’Connor’s use of racist language date to the 1940s when she was a teenager.
“They don’t take into account any evolution in her thinking,” he said.
The priest still felt the need to be sensitive to concerns, especially from students, about O’Connor’s use of racist language and an admission in her correspondence that she did not like people of color.
“A residence hall is supposed to be the students’ home,” Father Linnane said. “If some of the students who live in that building find it to be unwelcoming and unsettling, that has to be taken seriously.”
He said he hoped the decision is not viewed as a wholesale repudiation of O’Connor’s legacy and noted that professors will continue to assign the study of her writings.
“We were looking to name the building for someone who reflects the values of Loyola and its students at the present time and whose commitment to the fight for racial equality – from an intellectual point of view and from a faith perspective – would be more appropriate for the residence hall.”
Loyola is undergoing a larger review of all the names of its buildings and a university committee advised him on the renaming proposal.
Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, a former Loyola professor who currently serves as the associate director of the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University in New York, is spearheading an effort for the university to reconsider its decision.
O’Donnell, an expert on O’Connor’s life and writings, who recently wrote the book, “Racial Ambivalence: Race in Flannery O’Connor,” agrees that one of Loyola’s buildings should be named in honor of Sister Thea, but that O’Connor’s name should not be banished.
She said O’Connor grew up in the virulently racist culture of the American South and could not help but be influenced by that culture. She also said the writer should be celebrated for opposing that culture and racism in her writings.
Over the course of her career, O’Connor became more bold and more outspoken in her opposition to the “inburnt beliefs” of her fellow Southerners and Americans, O’Donnell said.
“I find it ironic that her name would be removed from a Catholic, Jesuit university,” added O’Donnell, saying the author portrayed America and the human soul as deeply divided, broken and flawed, and “much in need of conversion and repentance.”
O’Connor held herself, her racist white characters and all white people up for judgment, O’Donnell said.
“She lays claim to America’s original sin of racism, seeks atonement, and she atones,” O’Donnell added, noting that even on her deathbed, O’Connor was working on a story about white racists who arrive at the difficult knowledge of their sin.
The Fordham professor wrote a letter to Father Linnane signed by more than 80 authors, scholars and other leaders, urging the priest to keep O’Connor’s name on the building. Among the signatories are leading American authors, including Alice Walker, Richard Rodriguez and Mary Gordon. Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, also signed it.
A July 27 statement from Walker is included in the letter saying that “we must honor Flannery for growing.”
“Hide nothing of what she was, and use that to teach,” the well-known African American novelist said.
The letter asserts that very few, if any, of the great writers of the past can survive the “purity test” to which they are currently being subjected.
“If a university (Catholic or otherwise) effectively banishes Flannery O’Connor, why keep Sophocles, Dante, Shakespeare, Dickens, Dostoevsky and other writers who were marked by the racist, misogynist, and/or anti-Semitic cultures and eras they lived in the midst of? No one will be left standing,” it said.
Father Linnane said most people in the Loyola community have responded “very positively” to the name change. He also praised Sister Thea’s efforts to eliminate racism and her work for justice.
“She lived a life of great holiness,” he said.

(Matysek is digital editor for the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the archdiocese.)

Catholic Charities pandemic assistance totals nearly $400 million

By Dennis Sadowski
CLEVELAND (CNS) – Scott Milliken has seen a lot of people come through the doors at the Father English Center’s food pantry during his years as CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, but not like the numbers since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March.
“We are feeding more people than ever,” he said.
Whereby in a typical month before the pandemic the program served between 5,000 and 7,000 people, agency statistics showed, the numbers rose significantly in the spring. In April it was 11,000, in May 21,000 and in June 25,000.
In terms of quantity, the amount of food distributed between March and July totaled 940,000 pounds, far beyond a typical month before COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, arrived. Milliken estimated the food to be worth about $1.6 million.

Milliken said the agency has seen demand for short-term utility payment and rental assistance and other needs skyrocket by 60% a month from pre-COVID-19 times. Since March the agency has distributed $1.8 million – on average about $1,500 per household.
The agency leader doesn’t expect things to change any time soon, especially since the July 31 end of the temporary unemployment benefit of $600 per week that was included in legislation passed early in the federal response to the pandemic.
“The increase just on Monday (Aug. 3), the phone was just ringing off the hook of people who need services,” Milliken told Catholic News Service. “They’re worried about losing their homes. Their worried about feeding their families.”
The response in the Paterson Diocese is part of nearly $400 million in emergency aid and services that Catholic Charities agencies nationwide have provided since March in response to the pandemic-induced economic recession.
“There are a lot of food and housing-related issues being met,” Dominican Sister Donna Markham, CEO and president of Catholic Charities USA, said.
Information gathered over the last two weeks by the umbrella agency for U.S. Catholic Charities operations showed that the clients seeking assistance comprise a broader demographic than low-income and poor households that traditionally walk through the doors.
Sister Markham said that among the 50% to 70% increase in the number of clients are people from middle-class families who lost their jobs as the pandemic surged during the spring. “And they are trying to figure out how they are going to eat and pay their rent or mortgage,” she told CNS.
Similar requests are being made beyond Catholic Charities, Sister Markham added.
“The whole charitable sector is being stretched to the limit. How long can that be sustained without some significant government support?” she asked.
Some of the need has been met by corporate donors and small companies that have stepped in to provide food in particular.
Sister Markham said elsewhere corporations such as Golden West Food Group in California and the Idaho-based Albertsons grocery store chain have provided millions of dollars in food donations.
At Catholic Charities of San Antonio in Texas, requests for food jumped from between 300 and 400 families per week to an average of 3,500 per week from April through June, said Antonio Fernandez, the agency’s president and CEO.
“It’s just never-ending,” he told CNS Aug. 4.
Through Aug. 1, the operation had distributed 490,000 pounds of food, much of it donated from grocery stores and corporate partners, Fernandez said. Agency staff members are planning to distribute food to 5,000 people – another 70,000 pounds –Aug. 8.
Food is just one area that has seen a sharp rise in demand. Rising numbers of people have sought legal services, assistance with income tax filing, emergency shelter and counseling, Fernandez said. Overall, the added needs have cost slightly more than $10 million, according to agency statistics.
Elvira Ramirez, executive director of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Stockton, California, said the rising number of cases in the largely agricultural region the agency serves has led a burgeoning need among military veterans and working families who face losing their homes.
“They are coming from all different directions. It’s definitely because of COVID that existing problems are getting worse. And now it’s about working families who are getting behind and their ability to support their families,” Ramirez said.
“It’s mostly agricultural and restaurant workers and domestic workers. It’s people who were probably on the edge and living paycheck to paycheck,” she said.
The agency has received support from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as well as local foundations to meet the increased need. However, Ramirez wonders how long the funds will last as the pandemic resurges in California.
Despite the difficulties, the agency leaders are maintaining a positive attitude.
“I tell our folks, ‘Let’s not get overwhelmed. Let’s see how we can help,’” Ramirez said.
Milliken in New Jersey said he sees “light in the people” who provide assistance as well as those seeking help.
“The people that we’re serving, they know that people care. There’s light in people who are providing donations to use so we can do what we do. There’s light in the staff. They’re essential employees. Our staff is on the front lines feeding and helping people, putting their own lives at risk, too,” Milliken said.
“Everybody’s worried, but there’s light in the good people of the world. The history of Catholic Charities has shown we come together as people and as a church to help those who need help.”

Archbishop Lipscomb dies; was ‘good bishop’ who ‘loved Mobile, its people’

By Catholic News Service
MOBILE, Ala – Retired Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb, who was ordained the first archbishop of Mobile, died the morning of July 15 at the Little Sisters of the Poor residence in Mobile after a lengthy period of physical decline. He was 88.

Retired Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb of Mobile, Ala., is seen in this undated photo. He died July 15, 2020, at the age of 88. (CNS photo/courtesy The Catholic Week)

Due to the coronavirus, his funeral Mass was private. It was celebrated July 21 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile. Entombment followed in the crypt at the cathedral.
Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile was the celebrant of the Mass, and Msgr. Michael Farmer, former vicar general of the archdiocese and current pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Auburn, Alabama, was the homilist. The Mass was livestreamed on Facebook.com/TheCatholicWeek and aired on Archangel Radio.
Archbishop Lipscomb was a Mobile native and served all of his priestly ministry in Mobile, including 28 years as archbishop. He was ordained the first archbishop of Mobile in 1980 after the Vatican established the Province of Mobile and raised the diocese to the Archdiocese of Mobile.
“Archbishop Lipscomb loved Mobile and its people,” Archbishop Rodi said. “As a native of the city, he devoted his life to bringing God’s love to many. He made an indelible mark in our archdiocese as a man of God, a good priest and a good bishop.”
During his tenure as archbishop, Archbishop Lipscomb served on various committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, numerous college and seminary boards, and the board of directors of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
He also served on national and international Catholic committees, including the Catholic Common Ground Initiative, the Catholic Health Association Committee on Ethics and Values, the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, the Southeast Regional Office for Hispanic Affairs and Vox Clara, the committee that advises the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments on liturgical translations in English.
Oscar Hugh Lipscomb was born Sept. 21, 1931, to Oscar H. Lipscomb Sr. and Margaret Antoinette Saunders Lipscomb. He attended St. Patrick Parochial School and McGill Institute in Mobile before studying at St. Bernard College in Cullman, Alabama, and the Pontifical North American College and Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood July 15, 1956, in Rome for what was then the Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham.

Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb of Mobile, Ala., is seen with Pope Benedict XVI in this undated photo. He died July 15, 2020, at the age of 88. (CNS photo/courtesy The Catholic Week)

Upon returning to Mobile, he served at St. Mary Parish and taught at McGill Institute and Spring Hill College. He was appointed vice chancellor of the diocese in 1963 and chancellor in 1966.
He also served as pastor of his childhood parish, St. Patrick in Mobile, from 1966 to 1971 as well as assistant pastor at St. Matthew Parish in Mobile and Cathedral Parish. After 28 years of ministry as the archbishop of Mobile, at age 76, Archbishop Lipscomb’s request for retirement was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.
Archbishop Lipscomb continued to remain active in Mobile, attending Masses and Catholic events throughout the archdiocese. He also loved McGill-Toolen Catholic High School athletics and rarely missed a Friday night football game. In 2008, the athletic complex at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School was dedicated as Lipscomb Field.
Archbishop Lipscomb was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Margaret Joyce Bolton, and her husband, Joseph. He is survived by his nephew, Joseph M. Bolton Jr. and his wife, Linda, of Daphne, Alabama; his cousin, Mrs. Raye White of Houston; and several nieces, nephews and cousins.

Regis Philbin dies; Catholic TV host logged 17,000-plus hours on tube’

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON – Regis Philbin, the Catholic talk- and game-show host whose career in television spanned six decades, died July 24 at age 88 of cardiovascular disease at a hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he lived.

Regis Philbin smiles during the Television Critics Association media tour in Pasadena, Calif., July 21, 2006. The popular TV host died July 24, 2020. He was 88. (CNS photo/Mario Anzuoni, Reuters)

Philbin is credited by Guinness World Records as having been on air more than anyone else on TV, putting the figure at more than 17,000 hours.
Philbin was a 1953 graduate of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and an avid supporter of his alma mater. He also graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School in New York, and was a generous benefactor there as well.
“Regis regaled millions on air through the years, oftentimes sharing a passionate love for his alma mater with viewers,” said Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, in a July 25 statement.
“He will be remembered at Notre Dame for his unfailing support for the university and its mission, including the Philbin Studio Theater in our performing arts center. … Our prayers are with his wife, Joy, and their daughters and Notre Dame alumnae Joanna and J.J.”
But Philbin’s greatest success may have been hosting the U.S. version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” for ABC for three years. Upon its debut, it became a phenomenon, lifting ABC to first place in the ratings race – and the Walt Disney Co.’s stock price in the process. “Millionaire,” while a game show, also is credited with spawning the “reality TV” genre that continues on network TV.
In 2007, Philbin won $175,000 on the Fox’s “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” and announced on the air that he would donate his winnings to Cardinal Hayes High School. The year before, he gave the school his $50,000 prize from winning “Celebrity Jeopardy” on another special episode for celebrities to win for their favorite charity.
“I think everything I am is the result of 16 years of Catholic education,” Philbin said in a 1996 interview. “The values that you learn as a kid stay with you the rest of your life. Certainly, those nuns and brothers and priests drummed enough of those values into us that it helped us tremendously.”
Funeral plans were not announced by press time, but in the same interview, Philbin addressed rumors that he wanted his ashes to be scattered over the Notre Dame campus when he dies. “That’s right,” he said. “I want to be there forever.”