By Tom Tracy ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CNS)– With several Northeast states now joining major metropolitan regions in the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Ida-related disaster areas, Catholic Charities agencies are using virtual deployment systems refined during the coronavirus pandemic to maximize their outreach to those in need.
Prolonged power outages or record flooding are making quick disaster response access to the greater New Orleans and New York City areas an impossibility following the remnants of Hurricane Ida as it marched north after making landfall Aug. 29 in Louisiana.
Right now, disaster response teams are turning to digital workaround solutions using staff members well outside the disaster zones.
“COVID set the stage for being able to do virtual deployment: instead of a physical person on the ground, staff can assist by doing phone calls, setting up shared documents on the internet, and taking an administrative burden off the local staff,” said Kathleen Oldaker, senior director of disaster strategy for Catholic Charities USA.
As it did during Hurricane Katrina, Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is expected to serve as the central supporting role in recovery efforts in hard-hit New Orleans and Houma-Thibodaux.
“But we are also looking at possible virtual actions: a (staff) person in California or Indiana – if there is a way of doing things with our network that might require some bandwidth – can help the agencies on the ground can focus on their outreach,” Oldaker told Catholic News Service Sept. 2.
Hurricane Ida’s remnants delivered a deadly surprise punch in the Northeast, causing an estimated 41 deaths and flooding roads and cities after slogging across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut. The post-tropical cyclone reportedly dropped more than three inches of rain in an hour in New York.
Catholic Charities staff have learned that text messages can be a more reliable form of communications wherever cellphone signals are knocked out, which includes a large area of Southeastern Louisiana.
In addition, email communications for one disaster area can be managed through a related diocesan office of Catholic Charities. The email for Houma-Thibodaux’s Catholic Charities office, for example, was being intercepted this week by Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, Oldaker said.
Each year, staff members at Catholic Charities complete a training program called the “Applied Institute for Disaster Excellence,” a decade-old preparedness platform that can prepare a staff person with disaster experience in Maine, for example, to deploy to Louisiana.
But Hurricane Ida left infrastructures so badly damaged in places like Louisiana that teams will have to wait for electricity and water to come back online.
“What we are really seeing in this response is the neighboring agencies offering support from Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and Biloxi, Mississippi – they have had staff go and help Houma with assessments and seeing where they could do distribution sites,” Oldaker said.
In the South, Houma may have experienced some of the greatest wind damage following Ida, whereas New Orleans is mostly suffering from a damaged power infrastructure. Catholic Charities staff in New Orleans have been focused on checking in on residents living in senior care homes and other residential facilities there.
“The Catholic Charities agency in Houma is trying to get on their feet a bit in a place where you walk outside and the house next door is either destroyed or damaged,” Oldaker said. “We have a Houma-Charities staff member who lost a home down to the concrete slab there.”
In the Northeast, Catholic Charities workers spent Sept. 2 contacting agencies in the Mid-Atlantic states and New York and New Jersey especially, which took some of the heaviest flash flooding.
The rapid accumulation of rainfall from Ida’s remnants turned city streets into rivers, flooded basement-level residences and shut down subway services in New York.
“Right now, the agencies are not in assessment mode; we have heard of a flooded agency in one of our buildings in New York City; in the next day or two we will get a handle on the level of response,” Oldaker said.
Calls also went out to agency chapters in Pennsylvania, and parts of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Across the system, Catholic Charities agencies have been inundated with calls from Ida evacuees who mostly fled the Gulf Coast region to areas across the country.
“We even had a call from Paterson, New Jersey. They reported a few evacuees there and they were wondering what they could do to help,” Oldaker said of the Catholic Charities affiliate there.
“In Houston, Texas, alone, we got some 10,000 phone calls or requests from evacuees, with people lining up outside their doors even before they opened.
“People are sleeping in the car, finding hotels are not available, or the hotel bills are getting expensive for those who cannot go home for a few weeks. Those costs get pretty expensive pretty fast,” she added.
When asked what may be different about the emergency response in 2021 over past years, Oldaker said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic adds an additional burden to the crisis response and distribution work.
“Ten years ago, I would not have been ordering masks and gloves and personal protective gear – it wasn’t something we thought about, and in Louisiana it is something they are thinking about in terms of spacing evacuees and people having to wear masks in such high heat.”
“How do you balance response with safety, that is a new normal as we move forward with disaster work,” Oldaker said.
September, she said, is national disaster preparedness month and getting people prepared is a good thing “because you never know when what might look like just rain could be a big event. When a river washes out it is shocking how fast you can have water coming into your home.”
Patricia Cole, vice president of communications Catholic Charities USA, noted that contributions are critical right now and that 100% of the donation proceeds will be directed to the disaster areas following Ida.
For more information see: https://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/
NATION CHICAGO (CNS) – Father Andrew Liaugminas of the Archdiocese of Chicago, has been appointed to serve as an official for the doctrinal section of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The 37-year-old priest will serve with the congregation for five years and will support the congregation’s work promoting the church’s teachings on faith and morals. The oldest of the Roman Curia’s nine congregations, the CDF was founded in 1542 by Pope Paul III to promote and safeguard the church’s teachings throughout the world. Today, the CDF is responsible for fostering a greater understanding of the faith, aiding bishops in their role as teachers of the faith and answering difficult questions that arise on faith and morals.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick pleaded not guilty Sept. 3 in a Massachusetts court, where he is facing three counts of sexually assaulting a teenager in the 1970s. He was not taken under custody but was ordered to post $5,000 bail and have no contact with the alleged victim or children. The former high-ranking, globe-trotting church official also was ordered not to leave the country and surrendered his passport. His next court appearance is Oct. 28. The day before the arraignment, a former employee and a former priest of the Archdiocese of Newark filed lawsuits alleging unpermitted sexual contact by McCarrick for incidents in 1991. The Massachusetts case is the first time, however, that McCarrick has faced criminal charges for assault of a minor, which is alleged to first have taken place at a wedding reception in 1974 and continued over the years in different states.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The “present ills of our economy” invite Catholics to reflect on ways to propose new and creative responses to vital human needs in a post-pandemic world, said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in the U.S. bishops’ annual Labor Day statement. Acknowledging that the economy is showing signs of recovery despite the continuing pandemic, Archbishop Coakley said the current time presents an opportunity to “build a consensus around human dignity and the common good.” But despite signs of an economic recovery, he said in the statement released Sept. 2, millions of Americans continue to struggle financially because of unemployment, poverty and hunger made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. “There are still many uncertainties around this pandemic; however, we do know that our society and our world will never be the same,” the archbishop said. Archbishop Coakley credited and thanked the many workers “who have kept our country functioning during these trying times and worked under difficult and often underappreciated conditions.”
VATICAN VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While financial reforms in the Vatican are progressing steadily, cases involving corruption and malfeasance in the Eternal City are “a disease that we relapse into,” Pope Francis said. In a wide-ranging interview broadcast Sept. 1 by COPE, the Spanish radio station owned by the Spanish bishops’ conference, Pope Francis said changes made in the Vatican’s financial laws have allowed prosecutors to “become more independent” in their investigations. “Let’s hope that these steps we are taking … will help to make these events happen less and less,” he said. During the interview, the pope was asked about the Vatican trial against 10 individuals and entities, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, on charges ranging from embezzlement to money laundering and abuse of office. The charges stemmed from a Vatican investigation into how the Secretariat of State used $200 million to finance a property development project in London’s posh Chelsea district and incurred millions of dollars in debt. At the time, then-Archbishop Becciu served as “sostituto,” the No. 3 position in the Vatican Secretariat of State. Cardinal Becciu was forced to offer his resignation to the pope in September 2020, after he was accused of embezzling an estimated 100,000 euros of Vatican funds and redirecting them to Spes, a Caritas organization run by his brother, Tonino Becciu, in his home Diocese of Ozieri, Sardinia.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis offered prayers to the victims and families affected by Hurricane Ida, which devastated the southern and northeastern United States. Pope Francis also offered prayers for countless refugees fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s Aug. 15 takeover of Kabul and expressed his hope that “many countries will welcome and protect those seeking a new life.” “I assure my prayers for the people of the United States of America who have been hit by a strong hurricane in recent days,” the pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 5 during his Sunday Angelus address. The Category 4 hurricane made landfall Sept. 1, carrying 150-mph winds in Louisiana and knocking out power, water and cellphone service. The remnants of Hurricane Ida later struck the northeastern United States, causing an estimated 41 deaths and flooding roads in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut. Speaking about Afghanistan, Pope Francis said he prayer “for the internally displaced persons and that they may receive assistance and the necessary protection,” he said. “May young Afghans receive education, an essential good for human development. And may all Afghans, whether at home, in transit, or in host countries, live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbors.”
WORLD BERLIN (CNS) – German bishops are concerned that a decision guaranteeing German health insurers will pay for pregnant women’s blood tests to detect Down syndrome will lead to abortion. Matthias Kopp, spokesman for the German bishops, said that already about 90% of cases in which an embryo has an extra chromosome result in termination of pregnancy, reported the German church news agency KNA. He expressed concern that the prenatal test eventually would be applied on a routine basis. “We as a church are observing with concern that the new, noninvasive prenatal diagnostical test procedure very often does not follow therapeutic aims,” Kopp said. “On the contrary, in the view of the church, these tests promote an alarming trend in the direction of a regular selection.” What was needed was early information, counseling and support in which the issue of termination of pregnancy was not the focal point, he said. A joint federal parliamentary committee gave the approval for the change, which is expected to take effect in the spring of 2022, KNA reported.
LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) – The Catholic bishops of Nigeria have called on the priests and the lay faithful to make the Eucharist central to the life of the church rather than placing a premium on money or other transient things. In a statement at the end of their weeklong plenary meeting, they also advised priests to always ensure that “monetary matters do not distract the faithful or detract from the solemnity of the celebration.” Priests are to “celebrate the Eucharist as ‘servants’ of the mystery and not ‘masters’ of it,” the bishops said. In their Aug. 27 statement, the bishops also condemned the increasing insecurity and violence in Nigeria and called on the government to show respect for the sanctity of human life with a more strategic commitment to the fight against insecurity. The bishops urged government officials to take full responsibility for the prevailing culture of violence and impunity in Nigeria. “We recognize the efforts being made by government to fight insecurity in the land,” they added, appealing to the citizens to be law-abiding, vigilant, live by sound moral principles and shun violence and crime.
SEOUL, South Korea (CNS) – The mortal remains of the first three Korean Catholic martyrs have been recovered more than two centuries after their deaths, announced the Diocese of Jeonju. Ucanews.com reported that following historical research and DNA tests, it has been confirmed that the remains are of Paul Yun Ji-chung and James Kwon Sang-yeon, both beheaded in 1791, and Yun’s brother, Francis Yun Ji-heon, who was martyred in 1801. Bishop John Kim Son-tae of Jeonju made the announcement during a news conference Sept. 1. During his visit to South Korea in 2014, Pope Francis beatified the three along with 121 other martyrs persecuted and killed during the rule of the Joseon dynasty in Korea. Bishop Kim said the remains were recovered in March in Wanju, on the outskirts of Jeonju, near the burial ground of family members of another beatified person that was being converted to a shrine. “The discovery of the remains is a truly amazing and monumental event,” the bishop said, according to Yonhap News Agency.
Of God, Creator of the universe, you extend your paternal concern over every creature and guide the events of history to the goal of salvation. We acknowledge your fatherly love in a world torn by strife and discord, when you make us ready for reconciliation. Renew for us the wonders of your mercy; send forth your holy wisdom that it may work in the intimacy of our hearts; that enemies may begin to dialogue; that adversaries may shake hands and people may encounter one another in harmony. May all commit themselves to the sincere search for true peace which will extinguish all violence. Lord, make us instruments of your peace; Where there is hatred, let us sow charity; Where there is injury, let us sow pardon; Where there is error, let us sow truth; Where there is doubt, let us sow faith; Where there is despair, let us sow hope; Where there is darkness, let us sow light; and Where there is sadness, let us sow joy. O’ Divine Master, Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
(Bishop Joseph Latino delivered this prayer during a memorial service for the 10th anniversary of 9/11)
By Gregory A. Shemitz BLUE POINT, N.Y. – Father Kevin M. Smith, a veteran fire chaplain, trauma counselor and loyal friend to scores of active and retired firefighters in the New York metropolitan area, receives more phone calls in early September than any other time of the year.
Most of the calls are from firefighters who served amid the carnage and chaos in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
A fire chaplain with 30 years of service, Father Smith, 60, is commissioned by Nassau County, New York, to minister to members of the county’s 71 volunteer fire departments, many of whom work full time with the New York Fire Department.
He also is a member of the county’s Critical Incident Stress Management team, which provides support to firefighters and emergency medical services workers who are dealing with trauma associated with their duties as first responders.
Father Smith’s cellphone starts ringing and dinging with calls and texts from firefighters in the days leading up to and including the 9/11 anniversary. They come from front-line heroes who have been emotionally and, in many cases, physically affected by the cataclysmic event.
Father Smith – pastor of Our Lady of the Snow Church in Blue Point in the Diocese of Rockville Centre – can empathize with the callers. He, too, was a first responder at ground zero, arriving near the scene as the World Trade Center’s North Tower was collapsing, completing the total destruction of the two 110-story buildings and resulting in a mountain of crushed concrete, twisted steel and pulverized debris.
In an interview with Catholic News Service to mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, Father Smith spoke about his role as a chaplain on and after 9/11.
“I can’t believe it was 20 years ago,” he remarked. “There are days when it feels like yesterday.”
For Father Smith, Sept. 11, 2001, began at St. Rose of Lima Church in Massapequa, some 40 miles east of the city. An associate pastor at the time, he had been preparing to celebrate morning Mass when a parish secretary told him to turn on the television where he witnessed the second of two hijacked jetliners crash into the World Trade Center.
Several minutes later, his fire pager chirped, alerting him about the mass casualty incident.
After notifying his pastor that he was responding to the call, Father Smith jumped into his black Chevy Trailblazer – a vehicle with emergency lights and sirens – and headed toward the city. Along the way he picked up his younger brother, Patrick Smith, an off-duty New York City firefighter, and dropped him off at his firehouse in the Bronx.
When he eventually arrived in lower Manhattan, Father Smith encountered a surreal scene. The devastation was overwhelming.
“The whole place was filled with smoke,” he recalled. “There was a lot of stuff coming out of the air. Fire trucks and Emergency Service Unit vehicles were catching fire from the falling debris and exploding.”
Throughout the day and into the early hours the following day, Father Smith offered prayers, emotional support and assistance to firefighters and other emergency personnel. A trained firefighter, he also helped search for victims. As shaken first responders went about their business amid the mayhem, many asked Father Smith to hear their confessions.
“They wanted absolution before heading down to ‘the pile’ because you didn’t know what was going to explode next, what was going to fall down,” he said.
In addition to ministering to the firefighters, the priest blessed the bodies of many of the FDNY’s 343 fallen heroes, including Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, the beloved FDNY chaplain and first certified casualty of 9/11.
For several months following 9/11, Father Smith would commute almost daily from his parish to ground zero, where he continued to offer support to the firefighters.
He said his faith helped sustain him through the difficult work and grueling schedule. “Prayer, adrenaline and the Holy Spirit,” were the emboldening forces, he said, adding: “I had a sense that God was with me.”
Referring to his vocation as “a ministry of presence,” he said he spent time with the firefighters when they were working at ground zero and during their meals and rest breaks.
Father Smith was also present to the bereaved members of the fallen firefighters’ families. He estimates that he concelebrated 30 to 40 funeral Masses of firefighters, sometimes two or three in a single day.
“I knew a lot of the guys,” he said.
He also had been friendly with a number of people who worked inside the towers. One of his former parishes, St. Mary Church in Manhasset, lost 22 parishioners and alumni from its elementary and secondary schools, the majority of whom Father Smith had known personally. He concelebrated several of those funeral liturgies.
“I remember a year or two after 9/11 looking at a list of victims to see how many people I actually knew,” Father Smith said. “It was about 60. Sixty friends that I had contact with and knew their families. They were firefighters, guys from Cantor Fitzgerald and the other financial groups at the Trade Center.”
Like many emergency responders who served at the World Trade Center site on 9/11 and post-9/11, Father Smith developed health issues related to the toxic conditions of the environment.
“I have chronic sinusitis. I have sleep apnea. I’ve had some skin cancer,” he said. “All have been certified as 9/11-related.”
His brother Patrick, meanwhile, was forced to retire from the FDNY in 2006 with a 9/11-related illness.
Father Smith said he has proactively addressed the emotional scars that he bears from his time at ground zero. “I go to counseling,” he said. “It helps, especially on the (9/11) anniversaries. If you’re going to do trauma counseling, it’s not a bad thing to check in with somebody from time to time.
“The first couple of years, I’d have nightmares, flashbacks, a lot of that stuff.”
Father Smith’s 9/11 recollections also include positive memories of a time when people expressed their appreciation for the firefighters, police officers, construction workers and others who pitched in at ground zero.
“At night, when you left the Trade Center, there would be people on the streets with big signs saying: ‘Thank You.’ They’d hand you a bottle of water or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made by a school kid.”
Father Smith fondly remembers strangers chatting with and helping one another, a byproduct of the collective pain people shared and their desire for healing in the wake of the catastrophe.
He said he misses the post-9/11 period that was marked by a heightened degree of charity and fellowship, along with intense national pride and unity.
“You wish that some of the lessons we learned from 9/11 would have been passed on, like reaching out to one another, forgiving one another, being a little more patient with one another.”
The most important lesson, he said: “Cherish every single day.”
By Carol Zimmermann WASHINGTON (CNS) – In a late-night decision Sept. 1, the Supreme Court ruled against blocking a Texas law banning abortions at six weeks of pregnancy.
The 5-4 vote, issued with a one-paragraph unsigned opinion, said the challengers to the Texas law – which went into effect Sept. 1 – did not adequately address the “complex and novel antecedent procedural questions” in this case.
“This order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’ law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts,” the opinion said, leaving open the possibility that the state’s abortion providers could challenge it in other ways.
The Texas abortion providers had come to the Supreme Court with an emergency appeal to stop the law, but the court initially did not respond.
The Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, said the Supreme Court’s action marked the first time since Roe v. Wade that the nation’s high court “has allowed a pro-life law to remain while litigation proceeds in lower courts.”
In the Supreme Court’s decision, Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer in dissenting votes and each of them wrote separate statements expressing their disagreement with the majority.
A key part of the law that the dissenting justices took issue with is its emphasis on private citizens bringing civil lawsuits in state court against anyone involved in an abortion, other than the patient, but including someone who drives the patient to a clinic. As further incentive, the state law says anyone who successfully sues another person could be entitled to $10,000.
Sotomayor said the majority opinion in this case was “stunning.” She said that when the court examined a “flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”
Kagan similarly called the Texas law “patently unconstitutional,” for its emphasis on encouraging “private parties to carry out unconstitutional restrictions on the state’s behalf.”
Roberts said the “statutory scheme” involving citizens’ enforcement of the law “is not only unusual, but unprecedented.”
“The legislature has imposed a prohibition on abortions after roughly six weeks, and then essentially delegated enforcement of that prohibition to the populace at large. The desired consequence appears to be to insulate the state from responsibility for implementing and enforcing the regulatory regime.”
He also noted that the case is not shut, saying that although the court denied the emergency relief sought by the applicants, its order is “emphatic in making clear that it cannot be understood as sustaining the constitutionality of the law at issue.”
The law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, became effective at midnight central time Sept. 1. It is one of the strictest abortion measures in the country, banning abortions in the state after a fetal heartbeat is detectable. The law has an exception for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest.
“We celebrate every life saved by this legislation. Opponents of the law argue the term ‘heartbeat’ is misleading. They call it ’embryonic cardiac activity’ or worse, ‘electrically induced flickering of embryonic tissue.’ These attempts to dehumanize the unborn are disturbing,” the Texas bishops said in a Sept. 3 statement.
Abortion providers in the state had argued that the law would prevent about 85% of abortions in the state and will likely cause many clinics to close.
Two months after the law was signed, abortion providers challenged it in court, saying it violated patients’ constitutional right to end a pregnancy before viability, when a fetus is said to be able to survive on its own.
The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that states cannot restrict abortion before the 24-week mark. This fall, the court will take up a Mississippi abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Those appealing the state law filed a motion in late August that was denied by the district court. They turned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which granted their request to put the district-court proceedings on hold but denied the challengers’ request to expedite the appeal, which led them to seek emergency relief from the Supreme Court Aug. 30.
Scotusblog, which reports on the Supreme Court, said the Texas attorney general and other defenders of the state’s abortion law had urged the Supreme Court to stay out of the dispute, saying the court is limited in its power to grant relief before laws have actually been enforced. They argued that courts can bar people from doing something, but they have no power to “expunge the law itself.”
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CNS) – Con varios estados del noreste que ahora se unen a las principales regiones metropolitanas de la costa del Golfo como áreas de desastre relacionadas con el huracán Ida, las agencias de Caridades Católicas están utilizando sistemas de implementación virtual refinados durante la pandemia de coronavirus para maximizar su alcance a las personas en necesidad. Los cortes de energía prolongados o las inundaciones récord están haciendo que el acceso rápido a la respuesta ante desastres a las áreas de Nueva Orleans y la ciudad de Nueva York sea una imposibilidad luego de los restos del huracán Ida hacia el norte después de tocar tierra el 29 de agosto en Louisiana. Como lo hizo durante el huracán Katrina, se espera que Caridades Católicas en la Diócesis de Baton Rouge, Louisiana, sirva como el papel central de apoyo en los esfuerzos de recuperación en Nueva Orleans y Houma-Thibodaux.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Los “males actuales de nuestra economía” invitan a los católicos a reflexionar sobre formas de proponer respuestas nuevas y creativas a las necesidades humanas vitales en un mundo post-pandémico, dijo el arzobispo Paul S. Coakley de Oklahoma City, presidente de la Comité de Obispos de EE. UU. sobre Justicia Doméstica y Desarrollo Humano, en la declaración anual del Día del Trabajo de los obispos de EE. UU. Pero a pesar de las señales de recuperación económica, dijo en comunicado del 2 de septiembre, millones de estadounidenses continúan luchando financieramente debido al desempleo, la pobreza y el hambre agravados por la pandemia del coronavirus. El arzobispo Coakley reconoció y agradeció a los muchos trabajadores “que han mantenido nuestro país funcionando durante estos tiempos difíciles. También oramos por aquellos que perdieron o continúan sin recursos o ingresos.”
LES CAYES, Haití (CNS) – Semanas después del terremoto del 14 de agosto en Haití, la península suroeste del país todavía está marcada por funerales, réplicas y una búsqueda diaria de agua potable, comida y refugio. La gente ya estaba estresada por la situación en Haití, y el terremoto ha causado un estrés adicional a la gente además de la difícil crisis política, económica y social que ha hecho que la vida en Haití sea casi insoportable durante los últimos dos años.
CIUDAD DE MÉXICO (CNS) – El ministerio de migrantes de los obispos mexicanos ha desautorizado una propuesta del Instituto Nacional de Inmigración de México que establecería un campamento para migrantes y solicitantes de asilo atrapados en la ciudad sureña de Tapachula, cerca de la frontera con Guatemala. El tema parece haber generado cierta confusión. En un breve comunicado emitido el 2 de septiembre, el ministerio de obispos dijo que la idea de un campamento para haitianos en Tapachula fue propuesta públicamente al ministerio de migrantes durante una conferencia sobre migración “sin que exista ningún acuerdo o aceptación sobre este tema. En respuesta al Instituto Nacional de Inmigración, la oficina de México del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados dijo en un tuit del 2 que “el tema de los haitianos es complicado”.
By Carol Zimmermann WASHINGTON (CNS) – Catholic leaders, pro-life organizations, Republican members of Congress and several governors are among those on a long list of supporters backing Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and urging the court to reexamine its previous abortion rulings when it takes up this case in the fall. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its friend-of-the-court brief filed July 27, stressed that abortion is not a right created by the Constitution and called it “inherently different from other types of personal decisions to which this court has accorded constitutional protection.” Referring to the court’s major abortion decisions – Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court case which legalized abortion, and 1992’s Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which affirmed Roe, – the brief warned that if the Supreme Court “continues to treat abortion as a constitutional issue,” it will face more questions in the future about “what sorts of abortion regulations are permissible.” Other Catholic groups echoed the USCCB, which was joined in its brief by other religious groups and the two dioceses of Mississippi, in their support of the state’s abortion ban after 15 weeks. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, came before the court last year but the justices only agreed in late May to take it up in the next term. The case focuses on an appeal from Mississippi to keep its ban on abortions 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 brief filed by O. Carter Snead, law professor at the University of Notre Dame and director of the university’s Center for Ethics and Culture, and Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, said the Mississippi case “offers the cleanest opportunity since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 for the court to revisit its deeply flawed and harmful jurisprudence,” or theory of law, on abortion decisions. They also said the court’s abortion rulings have been “completely untethered from the Constitution’s text, history and tradition” and have imposed “an extreme, incoherent, unworkable and antidemocratic legal regime for abortion on the nation for several decades.” Similarly, a brief filed by the National Association of Catholic Nurses and the Catholic Medical Association urged the court to take itself out of the “arbitrary line-drawing that Roe and Casey engaged in while attempting to settle the abortion controversy.” “There is no nonarbitrary line during pregnancy that the court can draw,” the groups added, emphasizing that “the lives of unborn children are on a continuum toward adulthood from conception forward.” Other Catholic or pro-life groups that filed briefs supporting Mississippi in this case included the Thomas More Society, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, which joined other religious and civil groups, the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life and the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. The case, which is already getting a lot of attention, will be the court’s first look at the right to an abortion since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the court last year. The Mississippi law is being challenged by the state’s only abortion facility, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In announcing they would take up this case, the justices said they would only review one of the three questions presented to them: “Whether all previability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” In other words, they are focusing on the viability, or when a fetus is said to be able to survive on its own. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that states cannot restrict abortion before the 24-week mark. The ban on abortions after 15 weeks is more restrictive than current law.
SCOTCH PLAINS (CNS) – When U.S. runner Sydney McLaughlin crossed the finish line to win the gold in the 400-meter hurdles Aug. 3 in Tokyo, she had the cheers of fans supporting her from the New Jersey Catholic high school where she graduated four years ago. Fans at the watch party at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains jumped up and down and cheered for their fellow alumnae who broke her own world record in the event and narrowly beat fellow U.S. teammate Dalilah Muhammad, who was the defending title-winner in this event. Another local watch party was taking place in McLaughlin’s hometown of Dunellen, New Jersey. McLaughlin began her quest to win the gold medal in the event at the Summer Games when she smashed the world record in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. McLaughlin, who turns 22 Aug. 7, stunned the track and field world as a 16-year-old student at Union Catholic when she made the U.S. team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. On July 27, the last night of the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. She became the first woman to run the 400 hurdles in under 52 seconds – she set a new world record of 51.90.
TOKYO (CNS) – Hidilyn Diaz became the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal winner, set an Olympic record – and thanked her friends who prayed the Miraculous Medal novena. In a virtual news conference, the 30-year-old said she also prayed the novena and wore the medal. After winning July 26, the four-time Olympian praised God and lifted up Our Lady’s Miraculous Medal from around her neck while repeatedly shouting “Thank You, Lord,” reported the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines News. That gesture by Diaz went viral, CBCP News reported. After her win in the women’s 55-kg weightlifting – she had an overall lift of 224 kilograms – more than 493 pounds – she told the virtual news conference about the Miraculous Medal. “It is a sign of … my faith to Mama Mary and Jesus Christ,” she said. In a statement, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao congratulated Diaz on behalf of the Philippine bishops. “Her victory was captured through many lenses, and in one of those photos was her holding the gold medal and wearing a Miraculous Medal of Our Lady on her chest. We admire her devotion to the Blessed Mother as she carried in her victory her great faith in God. Hidilyn is a true weightlifter who draws her strength from her love for the country and a deep Catholic faith,” the archbishop said. “Congratulations, Hidilyn! May the Lord continue to bless you with perseverance.”
WASHINGTON (CNS) – After a week of historic and electrifying swimming events at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, two Catholic Olympians will return to their hometown of Bethesda having proudly represented their parish community, their schools and the USA. Katie Ledecky won two gold and two silver medals, and Phoebe Bacon had a strong fifth-place finish in the 200-meter backstroke. Both Olympic athletes attended Little Flower School in Bethesda, in the Washington Archdiocese, and are alumnae of Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, also in Bethesda. Three-time Olympian Ledecky, 24, now a 10-time Olympic medalist, is one of the most decorated female U.S. Olympians ever and also one of the most dominant female swimmers in history. One gold in Tokyo was for coming in first in what was a first: the Olympics inaugural women’s 1,500-meter freestyle swim July 28. Her other gold was her seventh gold in what is her signature event: the 800-meter freestyle race. “What a thrill it has been to watch Katie and Phoebe compete this week. Stone Ridge is incredibly proud of these alumnae athletes, not only for what they accomplish in the sport of swimming, but for the values and character they represent,” said Catherine Ronan Karrels, head of Stone Ridge School. “I am so proud of how they both swam in these Olympic games and how they represented the USA,” she said.
NATION WASHINGTON (CNS) – As indoor mask mandates are returning in areas of the country hard hit by a new wave of the coronavirus, U.S. bishops have been informing their dioceses of this new policy impacting Masses, Catholic schools and church events. This is particularly true in Louisiana where bishops have been announcing this change in letters to their respective dioceses or public announcements the first week of August. Their announcements followed the Aug. 2 statewide mask mandate issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards requiring anyone age 5 and up to wear a mask indoors in K-12 schools, businesses, universities and churches as the state tries to bring down the rising number of COVID-19 infections. The mandate is in effect until at least Sept. 1. Louisiana is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also is having record hospitalizations due to the impact of the Delta variant of the coronavirus particularly affecting the state’s unvaccinated. Despite a recent surge in vaccinations, only 37.2% of its residents were fully vaccinated as of Aug. 4. The state mask mandate also impacts Catholic schools that have already begun opening in some parts of the state. ST. MICHAEL, Minn (CNS) – It’s doubtful anyone matched Daniel Markham’s driving distance for the 6 p.m. Sunday Mass June 13 at St. Michael in St. Michael. He came all the way from Tinley Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, on a journey that began two days earlier, winding through Wichita, Kansas, and heading north through Iowa to the Twin Cities – all because of a phone conversation with the parish business administrator at St. Michael, Dave Ferry. Five years ago, Markham decided he wanted to attend Mass in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. After several years of waiting, dreaming, and planning, he got going the weekend of June 5 and 6 when he visited two states on the East Coast, Connecticut and New Hampshire. After coming back to his home in Tinley Park, he went to Wichita for a Mass June 12 and hopped in his car the next morning to drive to St. Michael. The day after Mass there, he went even farther north to visit Extreme Faith Camp near Pine River, about two hours north of the Twin Cities. Markham plans to write a book after finishing all 52 visits, with the last one taking place in July 2022. It will recount his visits not just to parishes but to ministries and organizations that intrigue him.
VATICAN VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Saying he was acting for the good of the unity of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis restored limits on the celebration of the Mass according to the Roman Missal in use before the Second Vatican Council, overturning or severely restricting permissions St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had given to celebrate the so-called Tridentine-rite Mass. “An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences and encourage disagreements that injure the church, block her path and expose her to the peril of division,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter to bishops July 16. The text accompanies his apostolic letter “Traditionis Custodes” (Guardians of the Tradition), declaring the liturgical books promulgated after the Second Vatican Council to be “the unique expression of the ‘lex orandi’ (law of worship) of the Roman Rite,” restoring the obligation of priests to have their bishops’ permission to celebrate according to the “extraordinary” or pre-Vatican II Mass and ordering bishops not to establish any new groups or parishes in their dioceses devoted to the old liturgy. Priests currently celebrating Mass according to the old missal must request authorization from their bishop to continue doing so, Pope Francis ordered, and for any priest ordained after the document’s publication July 16, the bishop must consult with the Vatican before granting authorization.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus wants to nourish the souls of those who are spiritually famished from the loneliness and anguish that come from life’s difficulties, Pope Francis said. “What does he not want? To be relegated to being considered a side dish – he who is bread – to be overlooked and set aside, or called on only when we need him,” the pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 8 during his Sunday Angelus address. The pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. John in which Jesus responded to those who doubted that he was the “bread that came down from heaven.” “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die,” Jesus said. Commenting on the passage, Pope Francis said bread is a basic necessity needed for survival, especially by the hungry who “do not ask for refined and expensive food, they ask for bread.” “Jesus reveals himself as bread, that is, the essential, what is necessary for everyday life; without him nothing works,” the pope said. “He is not one bread among many others, but the bread of life,” he said.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Hours before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, Pope Francis expressed his hope for the peace and safety of the country’s citizens. “I join in the unanimous concern for the situation in Afghanistan. I ask all of you to pray with me to the God of peace, so that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue,” the pope said Aug. 15 during his Angelus address. Only through dialogue, he added, “can the battered population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their own homes, and live in peace and security, in total mutual respect.” The Taliban, an extremist Islamic movement that ruled Afghanistan until ousted by a U.S.-led coalition nearly 20 years ago, began taking over large swaths of the country as U.S. forces withdrew. According to The Associated Press, Taliban fighters entered the presidential palace after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
WORLD SYDNEY (CNS) – Sydney catechist Caroline Fisher says writing a successful book for Catholic children has helped her spread a message of true love “too good” to keep to herself. The mother of three said her picture book, “Jesus Had a Body Like Me: A Theology of the Body for Babies and Little Ones,” is aimed not just at children but at those who read to them. She is passionate about sharing with readers that each of them is a gift, every soul is sacred and, to truly nourish the body, one must also nourish the spirit within. “God doesn’t make mistakes, and each of us matters to God and has been ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ made in his image and likeness for a purpose only we can fulfill, and nobody else,” Fisher told The Catholic Weekly, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Sydney. “If only people knew this and understood the reasons behind what the Catholic Church tells us what to do and what not to do, we would not see the levels of suicide, despair and hopelessness we are seeing in our society. “Teenagers in particular need to know this, but it’s never too early to connect the dots.” Illustrated by Kama Towcik, the book is based on the theology of the body teachings of St. John Paul II and aims to communicate the message of God’s self-sacrificing love to babies and the very youngest of readers.blessings of the Holy Family. … “We resort to the Holy Family and place under their feet our pain, anxiety, weakness and hopes.”
LES CAYES, Haiti (CNS) – The magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck Haiti collapsed the bishop’s residence in Les Cayes, killing one priest, leaving one missing and injuring Cardinal Chibly Langlois. Father Emile Beldor died of his injuries after the Aug. 14 quake. Father Jean-Antoine Coulanges is reported missing. Cardinal Langlois sustained arm and leg injuries; church sources say his life is not in danger. Voice of America reported that 18 people, assembled for a baptism, were killed in Immaculate Conception Parish church of Les Anglais. The Haitian civil protection service reported late Aug. 15 that nearly 1,300 people had been killed, more than 5,700 were injured and more than 30,250 families needed shelter. Those numbers were expected to rise as a tropical depression headed toward the island. The civil protection agency warned people to expect strong winds, landslides and flooding in addition to heavy rain and rough seas. At the Vatican Aug. 15, Pope Francis expressed his condolences and closeness to the Haitian people. “While I lift up my prayer to the Lord for the victims, I extend my word of encouragement to the survivors, hoping that the interest of the international community to help might move toward them,” the pope said during his Angelus address.
NATION WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Women’s Health Protection Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House June 8 “would invalidate nearly all existing state limitations on abortion,” said Jennifer Popik, director of federal legislation for National Right to Life. “This legislation would also prohibit states from adopting new protective laws in the future, including various types of laws specifically upheld as constitutionally permissible by the U.S. Supreme Court,” she said in a June 9 statement. The measure was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and in the House by Reps. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Lois Frankel, D-Fla., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. Blumenthal first introduced the measure in 2013 and has reintroduced it off and on over the years. The current measure has 48 Democrats as co-sponsors in the Senate; Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., are not co-sponsoring it. In the House, there are 176 co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats. Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said the measure “would essentially remove all legal protections for unborn children on the federal and state level. The Women’s Health Protection Act is, in effect, a no-limits-on-abortion-until-birth bill. Tragically, the only ones to benefit from such a law would be abortionists and abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood,” she added. HOUSTON (CNS) – The founder of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s program Angela House addressed a national webinar recently about what is needed most to help imprisoned women successfully transition back to their community and families. First is to understand “these are really just human beings and not evil-doers,” said Dominican Sister Maureen O’Connell, a social worker by training who also spent 13 years as a Chicago police officer and chaplain. Speaking during the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition webinar in May, she explained how other dioceses and community groups can provide similar guidance for the women, 85% of whom have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse in their lives. “It all started for me when I was a volunteer chaplain in Gatesville (women’s prison in Texas) and realized that the women who had been incarcerated two or three times basically needed a safe place to live when they left prison to get away from negative people, places and things,” Sister O’Connell said. Since 2002, she has developed a program of interventions focused on trauma-informed counseling, addiction recovery, employment readiness, and personal and spiritual growth including residential living at Angela House in southeast Houston, free for women recently released from incarceration.
VATICAN VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Agreeing with German Cardinal Reinhard Marx that Catholic leaders cannot adopt an “ostrich policy” in the face of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis still told the cardinal that he would not accept his resignation as head of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. “If you are tempted to think that by confirming your mission and not accepting your resignation, this bishop of Rome – your brother who loves you – does not understand you, think of what Peter felt before the Lord when, in his own way, he presented him with his resignation: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinner.’ And listen to the answer: ‘Shepherd my sheep,'” the pope wrote to Cardinal Marx. The German cardinal, who is only 67, announced June 4 that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Francis because he believed bishops must begin to accept responsibility for the institutional failures of the church in handling the clerical sexual abuse crisis. Pope Francis wrote a long reply to the cardinal June 10, and the Vatican press office published the letter the same day. “I agree with you in describing as a catastrophe the sad history of sexual abuse and the way the church dealt with it until recently,” the pope wrote. “To realize this hypocrisy in our way of living the faith is a grace; it is a first step that we must take.” VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Seminarians can learn more from the way their bishops, rectors, spiritual directors and formators live than from what they say, Pope Francis said. Noting the yearlong celebration underway dedicated to St. Joseph, the pope said all those responsible for the formation of new priests – primarily their bishops, but also staff at their seminaries and schools – need to have St. Joseph as their inspiration and model, caring for and protecting priestly vocations. During an audience at the Vatican June 10 with members of the Pontifical Regional Seminary Pius XI of the Marche Region in Ancona, Italy, the pope said that seminarians “can learn more from your life than from your words.” Therefore, he said, “may they learn docility from your obedience; diligence from your dedication; generosity toward the poor from the witness of your sobriety and helpfulness; paternity from your deep and chaste affection.” The pope also urged seminarians to seek out and visit elderly priests, who are “the church’s treasure,” but are often forgotten or isolated in care facilities. They possess wisdom and knowledge that has matured like “fine wine” and can help new ministers in solving their pastoral problems.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. Supreme Court said in a May 17 order that it will hear oral arguments during its next term on a 2018 Mississippi abortion law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The case is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The court’s term opens in October and a decision is expected by June 2022. Just after then-Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the law March 19, 2018, a federal judge blocked it temporarily from taking effect after the state’s only abortion clinic filed suit, saying it is unconstitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the block on the law. In commending Bryant for his signature, the state’s Catholic bishops, Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of Jackson and Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III of Biloxi, said: “(We) wish to reaffirm the sacredness of human life from conception until natural death. With Pope St. John Paul II, we recognize abortion as ‘a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders.’” In 2020, the Jackson and Biloxi dioceses filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s petition to the Supreme Court asking it to review the 5th Circuit’s ruling prohibiting the state from enforcing the law. The high court should clarify current law on abortion “in light of a state’s interests in protecting the sanctity of life,” the dioceses’ brief said. A number of states have passed laws restricting abortion that have been challenged in court by supporters of legal abortion. Pro-life advocates have been hoping one or more of those laws would be taken up by the Supreme Court as a way to challenge 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. The Mississippi case will be the first abortion case the court will consider since the Oct. 26, 2020, confirmation of now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s third pick for the court. His first two picks, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, were on the court when it took up its first major abortion decision since they were confirmed. The case was a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The court struck it down as unconstitutional in a 5-4 ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in knocking down the law. Kavanaugh and Gorsuch joined Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas in upholding the law.
The upcoming Mississippi case – it has been on the Supreme Court’s docket as a potential case since last fall – will examine the question of viability, specifically if a fetus can survive on its own at 15 weeks. Pro-life advocates were pleased with the court’s decision to take this case. “We applaud the U.S. Supreme Court for examining the Mississippi law,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, who stressed that so much more is known now about viability with advanced technology. Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League based in Chicago, said many activists see this as “an opportunity for the high court to overturn Roe v. Wade” or at the very least to “bring abortion policy in the United States in line with rest of the world, where abortion is strictly limited after 12-15 weeks.” Similarly, Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said the United States “is one of only seven countries – including China and North Korea – that allows abortions through all nine months of pregnancy.” “An overwhelming majority of Americans agree that this goes way too far,” she said. “In fact 70% think abortion should be limited to – at most – the first three months of pregnancy.” In a May 17 statement she added: “States should be allowed to craft laws that are in line with both public opinion on this issue as well as basic human compassion, instead of the extreme policy that Roe imposed.” Thomas Olp, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, a nonprofit national public interest law firm, said his firm, on behalf of Illinois Right to Life, has “argued against the now long-outdated science behind Roe v. Wade and urged the court to uphold the subsequent 14th Amendment rights due the preborn.” Activists were not the only ones to respond in favor of the court taking the case. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., chair of the new Senate pro-life caucus, tweeted May 17 that he was encouraged the court decided to hear it. “There is no constitutional right to abortion, yet for nearly 50 years since Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, more than 62 million children have been the tragic victims of abortion. It is long past time for the Supreme Court to right this wrong,” he said. O. Carter Snead, law school professor at the University of Notre Dame, said the court agreeing to take this case “signals the possibility that it may finally end its failed and constitutionally unjustified experiment as the nation’s ad hoc abortion regulatory body of last resort.” He said the court’s “tortured reading of the Constitution has undermined the rule of law, broken our electoral politics and resulted in a staggering number of lives lost. It is time once and for all for the Supreme Court to return to its role as faithful interpreter of the Constitution and to repair the damage it caused years ago.”
Updated COVID-19 protocols for the Diocese of Jackson
Editor’s note: The following is an abbreviated list of updated COVID-19 protocols from the diocese, as of April 30, 2021. JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson acknowledges that the size and demographics of each parish community, as well as the size and layout of church buildings and parish facilities, will shape the way their repective priests and parish leaders decide with prudence and care the way to implement these policies and norms. For Masses: • Social distancing will be at 3 feet rather than 6 feet. • Masks are still required. • Communion will be received in the hand, not directly in the mouth. • Hymnals and missalettes may be used in pews. • Hand sanitizer should still be used by parishioners upon entrance to the church. • Offertory should be collected using a basket placed in an accessible place, such as a table near the entrance to the church. • Bulletins can be handed out to parishioners at Mass, but we also encourage our parishes to email bulletins to parishioners using Flocknote. For meetings, gatherings, parish groups and outside groups, the local community will make the decision as to what it can accommodate in its facilities. • Awareness of safety protocols needs to be followed when serving meals. Meals should still not be buffet style or self-serve. • Social distancing should be observed in meetings, a minimum of 3 feet. • The local community can decide if it is safe and prudent to allow non-parish outside groups to meet in the facilities at this time. • The local community will decide the sanitizing and cleaning procedures needed at parish facilities. • At these gatherings, masks should be worn as the norm but the particular situation can be evaluated. Many parishes will be holding events for youth during the summer, including Vacation Bible School. These things should be kepts in mind: • Outdoor activities for children and youth will minimize the risk of exposure. • For trips, a preference should be made for local trips and trips of three hours or less, rather than long-distance trips. • Service projects are feasible, as long as safety procedures and protocols are kept in mind. • Meals and snacks should not be self-serve or buffet style. Individually wrapped snacks and food items minimize the safety risk. We want to thank all of you for your efforts in keeping our parishioners safe during the pandemic. We can modify our protocols and procedures as described above to allow more flexibility, but this is not the time to let our guard down completely. We will get through the summer months with the hope that things will continue to improve. These modified procedures will allow us more flexibility. We will be constatntly monitoring the situation as reality changes.
(For a complete list of updated protocols, visit https://jacksondiocese.org/public-health-concerns/. Bishop Joseph Kopacz continues to dispense the faithful from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass. Please stay home if you are feeling unwell or do not feel safe attending Mass. At this time, many parishes are still offering live streaming services.)
By Carol Zimmermann WASHINGTON (CNS) – When the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said April 27 that fully vaccinated people who wear masks can safely attend many indoor events such as worship services, the announcement likely did not catch many Catholics by surprise. That’s because most Catholic parishes nationwide have been having in-person indoor Masses since last summer, although often with limited congregation sizes requiring parishioners to sign up in advance. The setup of these Masses varies in each diocese and even at different parishes within a diocese. Some parishes are still following strict protocols; others are not requiring masks indoors, and some are offering indoor and outdoor Masses. Parishes are also following state and county health guidelines that determine how many people may attend indoor services.
At the beginning of the pandemic, most bishops issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, but in recent months a growing number of bishops have lifted that dispensation. Last fall, Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, lifted the dispensation, then reinstated it two weeks later because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the region. Also, across the country, many parishes that quickly figured out how to livestream their Masses last spring are now continuing to provide this service, even as their congregations are starting to return. A Catholic News Service reporter’s unofficial Twitter poll April 28 showed a mixed response about what Catholics planned to do for Sunday Mass the weekend after the green light for indoor worship was given – for those who are masked and vaccinated – by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director. Most said they would attend Mass in person, and the next largest number of respondents said they had barely stopped going to Sunday Masses in person this past year. Those who gave specific responses offered a variety of reactions, from saying their parish does a good job with safety protocols to not feeling comfortable going to Mass at their parish, since face masks are not required. One woman said her parish offers indoor, outdoor and livestream Masses and, for now, she would continue attending the outdoor services. John Kraemer, who attends Christ the Good Shepherd Parish in Saginaw, Michigan, said that as soon as churches reopened, he was “one of the first ones in the door.” “For someone who has a disability, it was important for me to attend no matter what. So, in that respect, other than when the parishes were closed, I never stopped going. Masked or otherwise,” he said in an email. A Twitter response from the Hawaii Catholic Herald, archdiocesan newspaper of Honolulu, said: “We’ve been back to in-person attendance for a while now here in Hawaii. Bishop Silva actually lifted the dispensation on attending Mass as of Easter Sunday, so you have to attend unless you have just cause, like a health complication.” Bishop Larry R. Silva wasn’t the only bishop to lift the Mass dispensation originally made at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dioceses in Texas, South Dakota and Wisconsin began telling Catholics this past fall that they were once again obligated to attend Sunday Mass unless they felt they could not attend because of health reasons or concerns. The trend continued in February when Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron announced he was lifting the dispensation for Mass on Sundays and holy days effective March 13. He said he would grant “particular dispensations” to those in need, including those at high risk of COVID-19. Churches in several states this past year defended their right to worship indoors or with fewer restrictions in court battles that ultimately were resolved by the Supreme Court. Most recently, a Supreme Court decision in late February allowed indoor worship services in Santa Clara County, California. Earlier that month, the nation’s high court had given California churches the go-ahead to resume indoor worship services with a ban on singing and chanting and a limit of 25% capacity. “Banning indoor worship and yet allowing people to gather at airports, personal services establishments and retail shopping is unconstitutional – and the Supreme Court has said so several times,” said Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose, the diocese in the county where the ban had been in effect. He said in a statement that he was grateful for the work of these churches in the county and their “efforts to uphold our right to worship” as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. “As we continue to protect the most vulnerable among us, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is still in effect. Parishes will continue to offer outdoor and livestream Masses wherever possible for parishioners who are vulnerable to COVID-19 or hesitant about indoor worship,” he added. He also urged the Catholic community to “move forward in hope, continuing all necessary safety precautions” and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when they could.