Briefs

NATION
NEW YORK (CNS) – New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said he was surprised and inspired by Ukrainians he met when he made a brief visit to Lviv, Ukraine. “I thought I would come to Ukraine and see great depression,” he told the Religious Information Service of Ukraine. “Yes, I see sadness and pain, but I am impressed by the vitality, hope and solidarity of Ukrainians.” On May 2, the cardinal and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Latin-rite archbishop of Lviv, met with the leadership of the Ukrainian Catholic University, families of displaced Ukrainians who found refuge during the war and student volunteers. The visit was part of a trip by a New York church delegation to visit and express solidarity with Ukrainian refugees, including those in the bordering countries of Poland and Slovakia. “I see Ukrainians welcoming internally displaced persons. I see Ukrainians giving their rooms and houses to those who have lost their homes, such as here at the Ukrainian Catholic University. I see Ukrainians volunteering and working on water, medicine and food supplies,” Cardinal Dolan told RISU. “I see people who are patriots. I see Ukrainians who do not allow evil to say the last word. Life will overcome darkness. Life will defeat death. There is no depression in Ukraine, there is hope. I feel encouraged to be here in Ukraine.” The cardinal told RISU he would pass on Ukrainians’ messages of gratitude for all the help they received from Americans. Nearly 12 million Ukrainians have fled their own country or been displaced from their homes in Ukraine since the Russian military invasion of their homeland began Feb. 24, according to the United Nations.

WASHINGTON (CNS) – After the Supreme Court ruled that Boston violated the free speech rights of a Christian group to fly its flag at City Hall, another group, The Satanic Temple, has requested permission to fly a flag outside the city building. The mayor’s office of the Boston has not commented on the group’s request except to say that is has been reviewing the court’s decision and also evaluating its flag-raising program. On May 2, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in favor of the city flying the flag of a Christian group. It said the city couldn’t deny the group the right to raise its flag along with other flags reflecting the city’s diversity. “Boston’s flag-raising program does not express government speech,” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer in the court’s opinion. “As a result, the city’s refusal to let (the group) fly their flag based on its religious viewpoint violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.” “This case is so much more significant than a flag,” said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group that represented Camp Constitution that owns the flag in question. “Boston openly discriminated against viewpoints it disfavored when it opened the flagpoles to all applicants and then excluded Christian viewpoints,” he added in a statement.

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Meeting with superiors general of women’s religious orders, Pope Francis arrived in a wheelchair – the first time he has used one publicly at the Vatican. The 85-year-old pope has been experiencing severe knee pain for months and told an Italian newspaper May 3 that his doctor had advised rest and “injections” into the knee; the Vatican has not clarified whether the injections would be cortisone, hyaluronic acid or another therapy typically used to treat joint pain or deterioration. When the pope met May 5 with members of the women’s International Union of Superiors General, he arrived in a wheelchair pushed by his personal aide, Sandro Mariotti. The women superiors were holding their plenary assembly in Rome May 2-6, focusing on the theme, “Embracing Vulnerability on the Synodal Journey.” Pope Francis handed the UISG leaders his prepared text but responded to questions rather than reading the speech. According to the UISG communications office, the discussion included the war in Ukraine, the need to offer long-term help to Ukraine and Ukrainians, the importance of discernment within religious communities, colonialism and the importance of being faithful to the founding charism of one’s order without being “rigid.” One of the tweets from the office said the pope told them not to be “frozen nuns.”

WORLD
ABUJA, Nigeria (CNS) – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told West African bishops he appreciated Pope Francis’ encyclical “Fratelli Tutti” for proposing some of the boldest and most radical ideas on securing human unity, peace and security. “Peace cannot reign in our region if it does not first reign in our communities and countries. Which is why I think that the theme of this summit is especially apt,” the president said in a message read by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The president’s message was delivered May 3 at the opening of the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa, meeting on the theme “Fratelli Tutti: Path to Build Brotherhood and Sustainable Peace in West Africa.” Buhari said the basis of the encyclical – “the idea that fraternity and social friendship are the ways to build a better, more just and peaceful world with the commitment of all people and institutions” – was especially needed in today’s times. He said people of faith should look upon diversity as a gift, not as a cause of conflict. “By offering concrete prescriptions on building brotherhood and sustainable peace anywhere, the encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’ rightly takes the position that this is not merely the business of governments and political institutions; it must also be anchored on our civil societies, of which the faith communities are an important constituency.”

LIMA, Peru (CNS) – Good Shepherd Sister María Agustina Rivas Lopez, who was murdered by terrorists during Peru’s political violence, was beatified May 7 during a liturgy in the same plaza where she was shot to death in 1990. The altar, adorned with local tropical plants and flowers, was set up outside the simple, red-roofed Catholic church in La Florida, a small town in the central Amazonian Vicariate of San Ramon. A reliquary, adorned with leaves fashioned from silver and containing relics of Sister Rivas, who was known affectionately as “Sor Aguchita,” was placed on a table before the altar. The offertory gifts included a basket of bread, a coffee plant, cassava tubers, cacao pods and fruit, all crops typical of the area. With her life and her death, Sister Rivas put her faith in peace, not in violence, Bishop Gerardo Zerdin of San Ramon told Catholic News Service. She also leaves an example of an “option for the Amazon, nature, the environment,” he said, and “a great urge to serve others. with a complete absence of economic interest.” In his homily at the beatification Mass, Venezuelan Cardinal Baltazar Porras Cardozo, who represented Pope Francis at the ceremony, highlighted Sister Rivas’ humility and willingness to serve others, her preferential option for the poor and her devotion to the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph from an early age. Her martyrdom, he said, highlighted “the senselessness of violence, crime, injustice, and the evil of ideologies in which human life means nothing. The indiscriminate use of weapons leaves only death and desolation; it does not solve real problems of human coexistence.”

Catholic University names street in honor of Sister Thea Bowman

By Richard Szczepanowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Officials at The Catholic University of America dedicated and blessed a campus street April 29 named in honor of the late Sister Thea Bowman, a noted educator and evangelist who studied at Catholic University and whose cause for canonization was opened in 2018.

“During her life, Sister Thea was a shining example of religious life, and she worked for social justice, racial equality and harmony among all peoples, especially in the Catholic Church,” said Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory who blessed the new Sister Thea Bowman Drive. “We are pleased to dedicate this street in her honor as a reminder that her life’s work still continues in the church and on this campus today.”

Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, right, and Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia, left, participate in the dedication and blessing of Sister Thea Bowman Drive at The Catholic University of America in Washington April 29, 2022. Sister Bowman, who died in 1990, is one of six Black Catholics who are candidates for sainthood. Her sainthood cause was opened in 2018 and she has the title “Servant of God.” (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Sister Thea died in 1990 from cancer at the age of 52. When she was 15, she entered the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, becoming the first and only African-American member of her order. When she took her vows as a nun, she changed her name from Bertha Bowman to Mary Thea Bowman, and pursued studies at Catholic University where she earned a master’s and doctorate degree in English.

For more than 15 years, Sister Thea was an educator on the high school and college levels. She then began her ministry as an evangelist, traveling the United States to urge priests, bishops and her fellow Catholics to accept her and other African Americans as “fully Black and fully Catholic.”
In addition to her evangelization work, Sister Thea helped found the National Black Sisters Conference to provide support for African-American women in religious life. In 1987, she also helped produce “Lead Me, Guide Me: The African American Catholic Hymnal,” the first such hymnal for African-American Catholics.

“While she went home to God more than 30 years ago, the impact of Sister Thea Bowman’s life is still felt in our own time,” Cardinal Gregory said in blessing the street next to the university’s Columbus School of Law. “By her words and example, she challenged everyone to follow the command of the Lord Jesus to love God with all of our heart and our neighbors as ourselves.”
Among those attending the dedication ceremony was D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who called the late nun “an extraordinary woman of faith.”

Mayor Bowser, who grew up in and continues to attend nearby St. Anthony of Padua Parish said that whenever anyone sees the newly named street, “they will be inspired to do more and to be better.”

The street dedication was recommended by the university’s Sister Thea Bowman Committee, which was formed to promote racial diversity on the campus and the wider community.

“In recognition of Sister Thea’s contributions and lasting impact as a religious sister, as an educator and as the conscience of the church, the university thought it important to honor her in a permanent and visible way by naming a street after her,” said Regina Jefferson, a professor of law at the university’s Columbus School of Law and chairperson of the Sister Thea Bowman Committee.
“We hope that the Sister Thea Bowman Drive will serve not only as a visible tribute to Sister Thea, but also as a constant reminder to each of us to … work together to make positive and meaningful change in our lives, our communities and the world,” she said.

Aaron Dominguez, the university’s provost, praised Sister Thea as “our righteous inspiration.”
“We celebrate Sister Thea by dedicating this road to her, a strong, Black Catholic woman who is in the process of navigating the path toward sainthood in the Catholic Church and whose legacy continues to call us to walk a road of solidarity and unity as one human family,” Dominguez said.
The motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wisconsin, sent a letter that was read during the dedication ceremony, that said they hoped that as people “move along Sister Thea Bowman Drive, you move with love and joy.”

(Szczepanowski is managing editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.)

Panel brings Sister Thea Bowman’s life and legacy to Georgetown audience

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Sister Thea Bowman, one of six Black Catholics known as a “Servant of God” now that their sainthood causes are being advanced, has plenty of lessons to impart from her life to Catholics today, said panelists at a Georgetown University dialogue May 4 that featured not only personal perspectives but was also peppered with song.

Earlier in the day, Jesuit-run Georgetown had dedicated a chapel in a building on campus in the name of Sister Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration.

Sister Patricia Chappell, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and former executive director of Pax Christi U.S.A. and former president of the National Black Sisters Conference, recalled her first encounter with Sister Thea in 1980 at an NBSC meeting.

Sulpician Father Peter W. Gray of Reisterstown, Md., displays a portrait he did of Sister Thea Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, at his home office in Reisterstown, Md., March 4, 2022. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

“She was all up in there throwing down with the rest of us,” Sister Chappell said, as she gave a demonstration of the signature part of the Aretha Franklin hit “Respect”: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me,” that the sisters were singing jointly.

Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington was an auxiliary bishop of Chicago in 1984 when he first encountered Sister Thea at a Saturday afternoon parish program on liturgy, culture and music. “I was just mesmerized,” he recalled. “She was just full of life. And I said to myself, ‘You can learn a lot from this woman.’”

Shannen Dee Williams, an associate professor of history at the University of Dayton and the author of “Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle,” only found out about Sister Thea in graduate school at Rutgers going though microfilm newspapers from the Black press.

“Sister Thea would call us to tell ‘the true truth’ and realize the greatest weapons of white supremacy is the ability to erase the violence and victims, and therefore we have to tell the true truth,” Williams said.

Asked what Sister Thea might say or sing were she living today, Sister Chappell replied with another song, a favorite from the civil rights movement: “Ain’t going to let nobody turn me around, turn us around, turn us around; ain’t going to let nobody turn us around. We’re going to keep on walking, keep on talking, marching up to freedom land.”

“Certainly there have been so many occasions in our recent history where we might think he’s (God) gone – it’s all over, our nation has collapsed. Our dreams are smashed,” Cardinal Gregory said, although he did not break into song. “But that song. And that’s one of my favorite songs: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he’s watching over me.’”

“Sister Thea understood it mattered who told her story that Sister Thea was not just a champion of racial justice but she stood against sexism, she stood against all forms of discrimination and oppression and so often sometimes we focus on her championing of the great diversity of us which is beautiful and all of that and it’s authentically Catholic but we forget that she was struggling,” Williams said.

“For so many people, we don’t know the history of the anti-Black admissions policies of the sisterhoods we haven’t had that many sisters of color and African American descendant sisters not because they weren’t being called but because they weren’t able to enter communities so it’s a story of lost vocations and just a reminder that generation of African American women and girls who desegregated those communities are forgotten,” Williams said.

Sister Thea died in 1990 at age 52 from cancer.

Leaked draft of Supreme Court opinion indicates overturn of Roe decision

By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court appears set to overturn its Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion for nearly 50 years, according to a leaked initial draft of a court opinion obtained by Politico and published online the evening of May 2.

Just minutes after the leak was published, reactions were fast and furious on social media, and barricades were erected around the Supreme Court. Many people gathered at the court in protest and some, including students from The Catholic University of America, were there to pray the rosary.

The draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, said Roe “was egregiously wrong from the start” and that “Roe and Casey must be overruled.” Casey v. Planned Parenthood is the 1992 decision that affirmed Roe.

Lights burn inside U.S. Supreme Court offices in Washington May 2, 2022, after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision later this year. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Alito’s opinion said the court’s 1973 Roe decision had exceptionally weak reasoning “and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division,” he wrote.

He also said abortion policies should be determined on the state level. 

Politico’s report says Alito’s opinion is supported by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett and that Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were working on dissents. It was not clear how Chief Justice John Roberts planned to vote.
The 98-page draft, which includes a 31-page appendix of historical state abortion laws, is an opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – a case about Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with the potential to also overturn Roe.

The fact that the opinion was leaked also caused significant reaction, because this is unprecedented in the court’s recent history, especially with such a big case.

A May 3 statement by the Supreme Court verified that the draft opinion reported on “is authentic” but that it “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

Roberts, in his own statement, emphasized the significance of the leaked document, which he said was a “singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.”

He also said that if this action was “intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.” He said he has directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.

Politico acknowledged that “deliberations on controversial cases have in the past been fluid. Justices can and sometimes do change their votes as draft opinions circulate and major decisions can be subject to multiple drafts and vote-trading, sometimes until just days before a decision is unveiled.”

“The court’s holding will not be final until it is published, likely in the next two months,” it added.
But that does not stop the firestorm of speculation and discussion.

A tweet from scotusblog, which reports on the Supreme Court, said: “It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the Justices and staff. This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin.”

Pro-life groups praised the court’s potential decision but some also questioned the motivation behind the leak and wondered if the court was being manipulated by this action.

A May 2 tweet by Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said her organization would “not be providing comment on an official decision of #scotus possible leak until a decision is officially announced.”

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr., a Catholic, is seen during a group portrait session at the Supreme Court in Washington Nov. 30, 2018. (CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters)

“We also believe that given the leak the court should issue a ruling as soon as possible. This leak was meant to corrupt the process. It is heartbreaking that some abortion advocates will stoop to any level to intimidate the court no matter what the consequences,” she added.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, also expressed some skepticism but also praise for the potential decision.

“If the draft opinion made public tonight is the final opinion of the court, we wholeheartedly applaud the decision,” she said in a statement adding: “If Roe is indeed overturned, our job will be to build consensus for the strongest protections possible for unborn children and women in every legislature.”

Those on the other side of the issue were similarly taken aback by the leak but also by the potential impact of the decision if it ultimately echoes the draft opinion.

American Civil Liberties Union tweeted: “If the Supreme Court does indeed issue a majority opinion along the lines of the leaked draft authored by Justice Alito, the shift in the tectonic plates of abortion rights will be as significant as any opinion the Court has ever issued.”

And Planned Parenthood said in a May 2 tweet: “Let’s be clear: This is a draft opinion. It’s outrageous, it’s unprecedented, but it is not final.”

During oral arguments in this case last December, a majority of the justices indicate that they would uphold Mississippi’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which was struck down by a federal District Court in Mississippi in 2018 and upheld a year later by the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

A 15-week ban is not a “dramatic departure from viability,” Roberts said.

The point of viability – when a fetus is said to be able to survive on its own – was key to the discussion because the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that states cannot restrict abortion before 24 weeks or when a fetus is said to be able to survive on its own.

In the draft opinion, Alito said Roe’s viability distinction “makes no sense.”

If this draft is adopted by the court, it means a ruling in favor of the Mississippi abortion ban. If it goes further to overturn Roe, there would be stricter limits to abortion in parts of the U.S., particularly the South and Midwest, with several states set to immediately impose broad abortion bans.

(Contributing to this report was Kurt Jensen.)

Nación y Mundo en Fotos

Refugiados ucranianos en Zaporizhzhia, Ucrania, caminan hacia un centro de registro para desplazados internos el 21 de abril de 2022, luego de llegar en un pequeño convoy que atravesó un territorio controlado por las fuerzas rusas. (Foto del CNS/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters)
Un participante en la cuarta Marcha Anual por la Vida de Virginia en Richmond, Virginia, el 27 de abril de 2022, lleva un cartel en español que dice “Reza por el fin del aborto”. (Foto de CNS/Michael Mickle, The Catholic Virginian)
Jefferson Guardado, de 10 años, interpreta el papel de Jesús en una de las Estaciones de la Cruz el Viernes Santo, 15 de abril de 2022, en Chalatenango, El Salvador en una Semana Santa en la que más de 12,000 salvadoreños han sido detenidos por el gobierno desde el 27 de marzo en un esfuerzo para combatir la violencia de las pandillas. (Foto del SNC/Rhina Guidos)
Una joven migrante haitiana que viaja con sus padres, buscando llegar a los EE. UU., se encuentra frente a un refugio temporal en una iglesia en Ciudad Juárez, México, el 20 de diciembre de 2021. La Diócesis de Nuevo Laredo advirtió sobre una “crisis humanitaria”  y emitió un llamado urgente de asistencia a medida que cientos de inmigrantes haitianos llegan a la violenta ciudad de Nuevo Laredo.
Estudiantes de la Escuela Católica St. Anthony en Washington asisten a la dedicación y bendición de la hermana Thea Bowman Drive en la Universidad Católica de América el 29 de abril de 2022. La hermana Bowman, quien murió en 1990, es una de los seis católicos negros que son candidatos a la santidad. Su causa de santidad se abrió en 2018 y tiene el título de “Sierva de Dios”. (Foto del SNC/Tyler Orsburn)
El obispo Thomas R. Zinkula de Davenport, Iowa, entrega el Premio Paz y Libertad Pacem in Terris a la Hermana Norma Pimentel, directora de Caridades Católicas del Valle del Río Grande en Texas, en la Universidad St. Ambrose en Davenport el 21 de abril de 2022. (CNS foto/Anne Marie Amacher, El Mensajero Católico)
Esta foto representa a un adolescente con problemas de ira. Parece que la ira está en un nivel epidémico en muchas discusiones y acciones en estos días. (Foto de CNS/Parentinglogy a través de Creative Commons)

Briefs

NATION
FLAT ROCK, Mich. (CNS) – In the year 1300, a priest was celebrating Mass in the convent of O Cebreiro, Spain. Lacking faith in the true presence of Jesus in the sacrament, the priest nevertheless recited the consecration prayers. Suddenly, the host he held in his hand turned into human flesh. Turning to the cup, the priest, incredulous, noticed not wine, but actual human blood. He fell in adoration. The incident, recognized by Pope Innocent VIII as the “Miracle of O Cebreiro,” is one of hundreds of eucharistic miracles in the Catholic Church’s history – incidents in which the supernatural reality of Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist became powerfully and physically apparent. The church teaches that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith, although a 2019 Pew study found that only one-third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. The Real Presence Apostolate of Michigan has been educating Catholics on the Real Presence since 2007 by offering a traveling exhibit about eucharistic miracles – instances in which the literal presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist have become physically manifest. The exhibit has 170 panels and all were on display in the vestibule of St. Roch Parish in Flat Rock at the start of Holy Week. Several parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit hosted the exhibit recently, and its next stop was Grand Rapids, Michigan, April 22-29.

NEW YORK (CNS) – Ukrainian Catholics in New York celebrated Easter with prayers that Christ’s triumph over death will also signify victory over everything evil happening in their home country. Bishop Paul P. Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut, was the main celebrant for the Easter Divine Liturgies April 24 at St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The parish celebrates services according to the Julian calendar. On the 60th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bishop Chomnycky said the situation there is coloring the whole Easter feast, as a cloud hanging over everything, but there is reason for hope. “In the resurrection, not only did Christ defeat death, but he also defeated violence, evil and mistruth,” he said. He said all Ukrainians are “putting our trust in the resurrected Christ that he will defeat evil in our country.” He also read passages from the Easter message of Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Writing from Kyiv, Archbishop Shevchuk compared the passion of Christ to the war in Ukraine. “We have become aware of how human nature remains fallen, how the devil continues to control human beings who have no God in their hearts. He who sows hatred and instigates war against one’s neighbor opposes the almighty.”

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In war, especially the current conflict in Ukraine, no one can claim victory, because all of humanity loses, Pope Francis said. During an April 23 meeting with a group of Italian pilgrims commemorating a miraculous image of Mary that wept, the pope said her tears are a sign of God’s compassion as well as his sorrow for humankind’s sins. Mary’s tears are “a sign of God’s weeping for the victims of the war that is destroying not only Ukraine – let’s be brave and tell the truth – it is destroying all the countries involved in the war. All of them.” War, he explained, “not only destroys the people who have been defeated. No, it also destroys the victor. It also destroys those who look at it as superficial news to see who is the winner, who is the loser. War destroys everyone.” More than 3,000 pilgrims took part in the pilgrimage, which coincided with the 500th anniversary of a miracle in which an image depicting Mary at Jesus’ side during the crucifixion shed tears of blood. The tears that Mary shed, as well as the miracles attributed to the image over the centuries, are not only a sign of God’s love for his children but also “Christ’s pain for our sins, for the evil that afflicts humanity.”

WORLD
KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) – A Catholic priest in Congo said Pope Francis will be visiting the country not only to reconcile it, but also to tell the world “about the conflicts that are tearing this country apart.” The announcement of the pope’s July 2-5 visit “sounded like the voice of the angel of the Lord to the poor shepherds in the region of Bethlehem: ‘I bring you good news of great joy, which will be for all the people,’” said Father Georges Kalenga, a member of the planning committee who is also second deputy secretary-general of the Congolese bishops’ conference. Father Kalenga told Catholic News Service that the pope will be visiting to reconcile a people blighted by the evils of “tribalism, regionalism and clientelism, the exclusion of political opponents, practices and discourses that weaken social ties, compromise national cohesion on several levels, particularly on the socio-political level.” Pope Francis will visit Kinshasa, the country’s capital, but he also will travel to Goma, in the east. Father Kalenga said Goma is “the place chosen symbolically for the pope’s meeting with the people who live in the eastern part of the country, bloodied for more than two decades by wars, rapes, massacres and all the other violations of human dignity.”

Smoke rises as residents walk near homes destroyed by lava deposited by the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in Goma, Congo, June 6, 2021. Pope Francis will visit Goma during is July 2-5 trip to Congo. (CNS photo/Djaffar Al Katanty, Reuters)

Smithsonian National Museum of African American Culture seeks to create a Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA exhibit

By Sister Thea Bowman Guild
WASHINGTON – Teddy Reeves, M.Div., Ph.D., curator of religion and co-interim head of the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC is delighted to have obtained one of Sister Thea Bowman’s most popular gowns.

Reeves contacted Redemptorist Father Maurice J. Nutt two years ago inquiring if he had an African gown owned by Sister Thea. At the time Father Nutt did not have one of Sister Thea’s gowns in his possession. As fate would have it, months later, Father Nutt was given a very popular gown worn by Sister Thea from Boston College professor emerita, Dr. M. Shawn Copeland.

With Dr. Copeland’s permission, Father Nutt gifted the gown to the NMAAHC as a way of promoting Sister Thea’s life and holiness to a greater audience. Father Nutt noted, “I think that Sister Thea would love being a part of the first national museum honoring the history, culture, and legacy of African Americans. In my estimation, Sister Thea Bowman is African American history and culture!”

The NMAAHC was also given permission by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration to use pictures of Sister Thea for the future exhibit. The museum is seeking to collect other items and artifacts of Sister Thea to make for a more robust exhibition. There is no date available on when the exhibit will debut.

(If anyone wishes to donate items belonging to Sister Thea Bowman to the Smithsonian exhibit contact Father Maurice Nutt at maurice.nutt@jacksondiocese.org. For more information on the Cause for Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman or to donate to the cause, visit www.sistertheabowman.com.)

NCEA speaker addresses impact of social media on adolescents

By Peter Finney Jr.
NEW ORLEANS (CNS) – The founder of an internet safety initiative warned Catholic school teachers and administrators April 20 about the appeal and impact of social media on today’s students.

Chris McKenna, founder of Protect Young Eyes (www.protectyoungeyes.com), told participants at the annual conference of the National Catholic Educational Association in New Orleans that the world has changed for children because digital technology has been designed slickly to grab kids’ attention and keep them hooked.

He said the ubiquity of online pornography and the sophisticated algorithms used by social media platforms to lure children and teens into inauthentic relationships with strangers and also encourage comparison envy have created unprecedented emotional challenges that can actually harm the brain.
“Please try not to start another conversation, ‘When I was a kid …’ because if TikTok existed when you were a kid, you would’ve been addicted, too,” said McKenna, a father of four.

Contrary to the common wisdom that kids are “resilient,” McKenna said that while children with developing brains are “incredibly adaptive,” the bottom line is that “trauma is trauma.”

“We live in a time, with digital doorways everywhere, where the opportunities for trauma to our young people are more prevalent than ever,” he said, noting that the digital pornography today is of a type far removed from the “2D” pornography of the 1970s.

While adolescents searching for their identity formerly found answers in family, friends and the church, McKenna said the digital world has multiplied places to turn for advice by a thousand.

“The brain operates according to a very simple principle: Whatever I feed my precious brain is what it learns to love, especially before age 16, and this is exactly when we give them all of their technology,” he said.

The technology of platforms such as YouTube – the most popular app with kids – TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram know the adolescent brain “full well.”

Snapchat does something very enticing to grab kids’ attention: A feature called “Snapstreak” provides additional rewards for keeping a daily chat going with another user.

McKenna said Snapchat developers have “figured out” that breaking the streak causes stress, and “if I’m a young person, I’m stressed out about losing that streak.” A hormone released inside the brain nudges the teen to release that stress by returning to the “safety” of Snapchat.

TikTok’s algorithm, McKenna said, “is like nothing else I have experienced on earth.” He said he found himself unconsciously intrigued by a video of a woman harvesting bees and he watched related videos for 90 minutes.

“Here’s how the dopamine system works inside TikTok – your feed studies you. Every twitch is a signal to that algorithm, and then it starts to feed you the most addictive form of that content so that you scroll endlessly. Anything that’s long – especially sitting in a classroom – is boring.”

McKenna said a Facebook whistleblower offered information that its sister platform, Instagram, was known to be “toxic to teen girls” who post “perfect” selfies and then get little response.

McKenna said there are some teens for whom social media can actually be a benefit because they can engage with others who have similar challenges or disabilities. Thus, measuring the overall impact of social media remains “complicated,” he said.

One thing is certain: Gone are the days when some of the worst moments of teenage life in dealing with adversaries are gone and forgotten within a few hours.

“When I was growing up, there were safe places,” he said. “When I got off the bus, I was safe. They couldn’t get to me anymore. If something dramatic happened at the football game, by the time Monday rolled around, it kind of fizzled away.”

“All of the things that used to create a reset for trauma when we were growing up are all of the things that accelerate trauma today,” he continued. “When kids go home, it’s shared, all weekend long. All summer long it gets shared. Imagine a world where social comparison impacts your self-worth.”

One of McKenna’s remedies is to delay kids’ use of social media.

“It’s not ‘no tech’ – we don’t want kids to be bubble-wrapped – but it’s ‘slow tech,’” he said.

Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Movie Review: Father Stu

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) – Positive priest characters are certainly a rarity in contemporary films. So Catholics will welcome the uplifting fact-based biography “Father Stu” (Columbia).

While deeply moving, however, this dramatization of the life of Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg) is also hard-edged, particularly in terms of its dialogue.

Yet that’s part of the point. The movie is fundamentally about God’s ability to use seemingly unpromising people to do his will, in this case a once-boozy ex-boxer.

With the continuance of his somewhat successful career in the ring rendered too dangerous by a medical condition, Stuart moves to Los Angeles and tries to reinvent himself as a Hollywood star. Instead, he winds up as a directionless supermarket clerk.

Mark Wahlberg stars in a scene from the movie “Father Stu.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Sony Pictures)

But things begin to turn around for him when he falls at first sight for Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a devout CCD teacher. Determined to win her over, he goes through the motions of becoming a Catholic, though an awkward confession and other interactions show that he has yet to be won over in reality.
All that changes after a motorcycle accident and a close brush with death during which he experiences the presence of the Virgin Mary. The result is not only a genuine conversion but a prayer-inspired realization that God is calling him to the priesthood.

Predictably, the news of this radical change in direction proves crushing to Carmen. It’s also a source of consternation to his emotionally abusive father, Bill (Mel Gibson), an implacable atheist, and his caring but equally unbelieving mother, Kathleen (Jacki Weaver).

A tribute to a future cleric who showed dogged determination and grit in the face of a series of apparently insurmountable obstacles, writer-director Rosalind Ross’s profile also showcases Stuart’s unconventional but effective approach to preaching the Gospel. And Wahlberg brings his striking, memorable character vividly to life, skillfully portraying Stuart’s odd combination of crudity and idealism.

Grown viewers will easily get past the earthy language with which the script is filled to appreciate the picture’s faith-inspiring core. But the persistent vulgarity, while justified in context, may prove more problematic for younger movie fans who might otherwise benefit from this portrait of a vocation.

Still, at least some parents may feel that the credibility lent to Stuart’s struggles by the saltiness of his starting point outweighs what would normally be objectionable elements of speech and behavior. If the outcome of that calculation were either increased zeal or, in particular, openness to journeying down the path Stuart himself followed, his hard-won spiritual triumph might be replicated in real life.

The film contains some physical violence, a bloody accident, offscreen premarital sexual activity, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, several milder oaths and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

(Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service)

Briefs

NATION
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Two members of a group called Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising said April 5 that five fetuses taken by the police a week earlier from the Capitol Hill residence of one of the activists were “proof of illegal abortions” being performed at a Washington abortion clinic. Activists Lauren Handy, 28, and Terrisa Bukovinac, 41, made the comments at a news conference. The same day, a group of 23 congressional Republicans wrote a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Robert J. Contee III asking for a thorough investigation of the remains “of five preborn children” and urging they not assume – “without conducting any medical evaluations” – that “each child died as the result of a legal abortion.” Handy and Bukovinac said the fetuses are from a box of medical waste they got from the driver of a medical waste truck at an abortion clinic, and they claimed the fetuses looked like they were from late-stage abortions. According to a Washington Post story and other news accounts, the two women described walking up to a Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services truck outside the Washington Surgi-Clinic, one of a few U.S. abortion clinics that does late-term abortions. They said they asked the driver if he had picked up anything from the clinic. The driver told them yes, they said, so they asked for a box. “The driver asked what they would do with the remains inside,” The Washington Post reported. “After they told him they would give the (fetal) remains a funeral and bury them … the driver gave them a box.”

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) – The attack in which Marianite Sister Suellen Tennyson, 83, was abducted from her convent in Yalgo, Burkina Faso, the morning of April 5 was conducted by at least 10 armed men, the Marianites of Holy Cross said in an electronic newsletter. The congregation said Sister Tennyson, the former international congregational leader for order and a native of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, was sleeping when the men burst into the convent, ransacked the living quarters and kidnapped her, leaving behind two other Marianite sisters and two young women who also live in the convent. “There were about 10 men who came during the night while the sisters were sleeping,” Marianite Sister Ann Lacour, congregational leader, said in the e-bulletin April 6. “They destroyed almost everything in the house, shot holes in the new truck and tried to burn it. The house itself is OK, but its contents are ruined.” Sister Lacour, who currently is attending a congregational meeting in Le Mans, France, said the Marianites have contacted both the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso and the U.S. State Department, and “they have assured us that this is a high priority case for them.” The congregation also has contacted the apostolic nuncios to the U.S., Burkina Faso and France as well as the Vatican’s secretary of state and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the U.S. The other two Marianites at the convent – Sister Pauline Drouin, a Canadian, and Sister Pascaline Tougma, a Burkinabé – were not abducted and did not see many of the details. “They think there were more men on the road. They have heard nothing from or about Suellen since she was taken.”

Sulpician Father Peter W. Gray of Reisterstown, Md., displays a portrait he did of Sister Thea Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, at his home office in Reisterstown, Md., March 4, 2022. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

VATICAN
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Artémides Zatti, a Salesian brother who was a pharmacist in Argentina and known for his care for the sick; the miracle clears the way for his canonization. During a meeting April 9 with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the pope also signed decrees advancing the sainthood causes of four other men and five women. Born in the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia in 1880, Blessed Zatti’s family immigrated to Bahía Blanca, Argentina, in 1897. At the age of 19, he was accepted by the Salesians to study for the priesthood. However, he was forced to abandon his studies after falling ill with tuberculosis. According to his biography published by the Vatican, he moved to the Andean city of Viedma to recover and, during that time, he made a vow to Mary to serve the sick and the poor for the rest of his life if he was healed. After his recovery, he made good on his promise and, after professing his vows as a Salesian brother in 1908, he worked at a Salesian-run hospital where he served for more than 40 years as a trained pharmacist, nurse and operating-room assistant as well as handling the hospitals budget and personnel. Blessed Zatti was diagnosed with liver cancer and died in 1951.

WORLD
NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) – The Nigerian bishops said lack of arrests in widespread attacks gives credibility to the idea that the government is either complacent or compromised. “Nigerians are sick of flimsy excuses and bogus promises from the government to deal with terrorists,” wrote Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Owerri, newly elected president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, on behalf of the bishops. “Considering the billions of naira appropriated for security and the fight against terrorism in recent times, it is difficult to imagine that a large number of terrorists, who unleashed terror on unarmed and law-abiding citizens can disappear in broad daylight without a trace. “It is indeed very hard to believe that our security apparatus lacks intelligence or the ability to fight and defeat terrorists in our nation,” the archbishop said. His April 4 statement came as the country was still dealing with a March 28 attack on a commuter train. Gunmen detonated a bomb on the tracks and opened fire on the train; when Archbishop Ugorji issued his statement, more than 150 people were still missing.

Three Marianite Sisters: Suellen Tennyson, Pascaline Tougma and Pauline Drouin, are pictured in an undated photo near the clinic where they serve in Yago, Burkina Faso. Sister Tennyson, 83, an American, was kidnapped late April 4 or early April 5 after armed attackers broke into the convent on the parish compound. (CNS photo/courtesy Marianites of the Holy Cross)