New document offers ways to foster Catholic-Methodist relationships

By Dennis Sadowski
CLEVELAND (CNS) – A two-part publication emerging from the most recent round of dialogue between representatives of the U.S. Catholic bishops and the United Methodist Church offers practical helps and words of inspiration for day-to-day lives.
The work, “Catholics and Methodists Together,” reflects on commonly held beliefs, identifies areas of theological agreement, and provides a guide to shared prayers and worship services.
Published in two parts, the document “is really the spiritual fruit of the pilgrimage of faith that Catholics and Methodists walk on together,” said Father Walter Kedjierski, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
“It’s people of faith coming together and walking together,” Father Kedjierski said.
The document emerged from the eighth round of a dialogue that was established in 1966 between United Methodists and Catholics. The most recent round began in 2015 and concluded in 2020.
Bishop David P. Talley of Memphis, Tennessee, and Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church co-chaired the dialogue.
Participants included 10 Catholics and eight United Methodists who met twice a year in sessions hosted alternately by each denomination. Each of the earlier rounds of dialogue led to publications that addressed the Eucharist and ecology, common ecclesiology, ethical issues regarding death and dying, spirituality of the ordained ministry, sacramental theology and practice, and rights and responsibilities toward children’s education.
Bishop Johnson told Catholic News Service the new work passes on “the tradition and the goodwill and the understanding” between the two Christian denominations.
“It’s Christian. It’s Jesus. It’s based in God and the Holy Spirit. The things that we disagree about are so much less compared to the things that we agree on,” she said.
The document’s first part, subtitled “We Believe, We Pray, We Act,” underscores the importance of the churches’ shared recognition of each other’s baptism. It includes theological commentaries on the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the love of God and neighbor.
Through the exploration of prayer and common beliefs, the document is meant to touch “people within their faith lives and their day-to-day lives,” Father Kedjierski said.
Kimberly Belcher, associate professor theology at the University of Notre Dame, a participant in the dialogue and co-author of the first part, said the document was written largely with people in the pews in mind.
“What we are doing is trying to think about what matters for Catholics, for Methodists in their ordinary lives about ecumenical relationships,” Belcher told CNS.
Belcher said it’s the day-to-day relationships – which she described as ecumenical in nature – that the document is meant to address to help people grow in understanding and appreciation of each other: marriage of a Methodist and Catholic, children of such a marriage, Methodists who teach at Catholic schools and Catholics who teach at Methodists schools and more.
“The ecumenical relationships are much more on the ground more than we realize on a regular basis,” said Belcher, who was invited to join the dialogue as a younger theologian.
Bishop Johnson, the first woman United Methodist bishop to participate in the dialogues said she came to realize through her work the dialogues are important “because there’s so much more to talk about, so much more to share.”
The document’s second part, subtitled “Shared Prayers and Resources,” is a practical guide for Catholics and United Methodists to learn, pray and worship together, Father Kedjierski said.
It details shared traditional prayers, such as the Stations of the Cross, and includes examples of Scripture-center and everyday prayers. It includes templates for ecumenical prayer services for times of crisis, for people in need, including the poor, persecuted and refugees, for Christian unity and for peace.
Bishop Johnson played a major role in developing the second part of the work. She told CNS that throughout her 40 years as an ordained minister, she “fell in love with all the kinds of services we do and the congregations that are part of both bodies.”
“This is just the body of Christ,” Bishop Johnson said.
She also credited the collaboration between Methodist and Catholic humanitarian ministries in response to disasters, hunger, poverty and the needs of prison inmates for helping build bridges that strengthened the dialogues.

Bishop David P. Talley of Memphis, Tenn., is seen in this 2019 file photo. He co-chaired the eighth round of the dialogue between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United Methodist Church. (CNS photo/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register)

“The bridge keeps going further and further,” she said.
Belcher, the theologian, said the document’s explanation of the common aspects and minor differences found in prayers such as the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s prayer between the two faith traditions can become a learning experience for Catholics and Methodists. She suggested that joint study groups can develop among congregations whereby each prayer can be broken down into segments as little as two lines for discussion to help understand the basic foundations of Christian faith.
“We want Catholics vested in the flourishing of Methodists and vice versa,” Belcher said.
The dialogues are expected to continue. Plans are underway for a ninth round, but its future will depend on how the coronavirus pandemic evolves. Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton of Steubenville, Ohio, and Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr. of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church will be co-chairs.
In the meantime, the United Methodist Church will be facing a major decision in upcoming years as members around the world are expected to take up a proposal to split the denomination over what it has called “fundamental differences” regarding its beliefs on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.
Sixteen Methodist leaders from around the world signed a proposal in early 2020 that was to be voted on during the church’s general conference last May. However, the conference was delayed because of the pandemic.
If passed, the proposal would permit a “traditionalist” denomination to separate from the United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
The church’s Book of Discipline that outlines its law and doctrine does not allow pastors to perform same-sex marriages and prohibits “practicing” LGBTQ people from becoming ordained pastors. If the new traditionalist denomination is formed, the existing United Methodist Church would be able to repeal the prohibition of same-sex marriages and LGBTQ clergy.
Such an action would result in a major roadblock on the road to future unity between the Catholic Church and United Methodist Church. Catholic doctrine prohibits same-sex marriage and permits sexual relations only between a married man and woman.
If the split occurs, as observers expect, it is unlikely to affect the dialogues, however.
“We remain committed to our relationship with the United Methodist Church and pray for Methodists as they discern these important moral issues while upholding genuinely Catholic positions on them,” Father Kedjierski said.
Bishop Johnson said she expects the dialogues to continue.
“We’ll have to keep talking is all I can say, and we’ll have to talk with each other, and, with the grace of God, to help us through the different conversations,” Bishop Johnson said of the decision facing Methodist leaders.
Regardless of the Methodist outcome, Bishop Johnson said, “I firmly believe that God will make us one in the long run.”

(Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski)

Tackling racism is difficult work, but it must be done, says Bishop Fabre

By Ruby Thomas
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) – The work it takes to respond to the issue of racism in the church and the wider community is difficult and slow, but it must be done, said Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Speaking at the Archdiocese of Louisville’s online Archdiocesan Leadership Institute March 9, Bishop Fabre discussed “witnessing to the dignity of the human person as an antidote to the grave sin of racism.” And he shared six ways to respond to racism.

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La., chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, speaks Nov. 13, 2019, during the USCCB’s fall general assembly in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Typically, the institute draws parish leaders, clergy, staff and volunteers together for a daylong gathering of learning and sharing, but this one was presented via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bishop Fabre spoke to a group of 149 individuals, including Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, archdiocesan chancellor Brian Reynolds, clergy and individuals who serve in various ministries in the archdiocese.
During the first part of the day, Bishop Fabre discussed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2018 pastoral letter on racism “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.” As chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, he played a key role in drafting the letter.
His presentation posed the question: “How can we move forward in responding to issues of racism in the church and our communities?” This work is difficult and may be slow, but doing this work is “our call as a church and our task as disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Racism affects how “we experience the journey through life,” he said.
For some, that journey is one of “optimism, hope and advancement,” he said. For others, it’s one of “fear, dread, injustice and discrimination.”
Bishop Fabre shared six ways to respond to the sin of racism:
– “Recognize and respond to racism as a life issue,” he said.
“Racism attacks the human life and dignity of its victims. … To truly and authentically be pro-life, we must strive to dismantle in our own hearts as well as in society all attacks against the sanctity of life and one such attack is racism.”
– Seek to overcome individualism and encounter others who are racially different.
Racism “traps people into individualism, blaming others for the misfortunes they encounter in life,” said Bishop Fabre. He noted that the 2018 pastoral stated that only by “’forging authentic relationships can we truly see each other as Christ sees us.’” This can only happen, he said, “if we step out of individualism.”
– Accept the growing racial diversity in the nation and the church.
“The church in the U.S. has been enriched by many races and cultures. … We must believe and act upon the fact that there can be unity in our diversity,” said Bishop Fabre. He noted that racism is typically seen as a “Black and white” issue, but noted that in reality racism affects “people of all colors.” “Educating ourselves on the church’s teachings and catechizing the youth and adults must be a way forward,” said the bishop.
– Seek the conversion of one’s own heart.
Bishop Fabre said that while it’s important to work for civil legislation that protects people from racism, “as people of faith we must understand that it is ours to undertake a deeper task,” he said. “Each must examine our own hearts … or what we declare will be empty words.”
– Preach against racism. He urged members of the clergy to regularly preach against racism.
“We all know that preaching against racism will elicit a response, but we must … lead our people to a path of goodness, charity, justice and peace,” said the bishop.
– Pray for an end to racism.
“Rely on the power of prayer. Prayers are often dismissed in these times as having no effect, but authentic prayer keeps us honest about where we are in our fight against racism,” said Bishop Fabre.
In a question-and-answer session that followed his presentation, the bishop was asked to address “the pain and realities of the past year” in which Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, both African Americans, were killed in altercations with white police officers.
“We have to find opportunities as parish communities and as people to really hear stories and to learn and share our thoughts, as well,” the bishop said, adding that Jesus knew the power of stories and used them to teach his followers.
Taylor, 26, was fatally shot in her Louisville apartment March 13, 2020, during a police raid. No officers were charged in her death.
Floyd, 46, died while in police custody May 25, 2020. He was arrested after a store clerk alleged he had passed a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis. He was pinned down by then-Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck, and he later died after being taken to the hospital.
After Floyd’s death, Bishop Fabre invited parishioners of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese to speak to someone “racially different” to find out how Floyd’s death made them feel. Those whom he heard from said that in talking to others they finally started understanding the pain.
Asked what will generate “the needed passion” to respond to racism, the bishop that getting people to understand that racism is a life issue is a way to start.
“The more we can get them to see it as that it will hopefully generate a passion and hopefully we will have the same passion to end racism as we have to end all the other attacks against life,” he said, adding it also is important to preach about racism at church and teach about it in schools.
“Placing it before people in positive and constructive ways so that it becomes a part of our conversations” also is needed, he said, “so we can get passionate to see the injustices happening.”

(Thomas is a staff writer at The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.)

Primeras y duraderas impresiones en el amor

Por Maureen Pratt
Nos conocemos la historia de memoria: una pareja se encuentra, las chispas vuelan y es feliz para siempre. ¿O es eso? Pregunté a cuatro parejas casadas sobre sus primeras impresiones y qué o quién ayudó a que sus matrimonios prosperaran.
Martha González y Chris Fuller, casados por 28 años, se conocieron en el Centro Católico Universitario de UCLA y tomaron la misma clase de estadística. Pero el romance no era obvio para la extrovertida Martha y para el más introvertido Chris.”En todas las clases, me preguntaba: ‘¿Tienes un lápiz extra?'”, dijo Martha. “Eso es todo lo que decía. Estábamos juntos en el coro (del centro católico), nunca me habló. No pensé que le agradaba”. Luego, en un retiro invernal patrocinado por un centro católico, la pareja participó en el clásico “rompehielos”: una pelea de bolas de nieve. El siguiente fin de semana tuvieron su primera cita. El amor y la amistad profunda se basan en la fe compartida.”Siempre hemos marchado juntos en la fe”, dijo Martha. “Y la amistad es una parte integral del matrimonio. Chris es mi esposo, tenemos hijos, también somos mejores amigos”.

(Foto cortesia de BigStock)

Shirley y Sal Bertucci, casados 43 años, se conocían mucho antes de casarse. “Cuando tenía 5 o 6 años”, dijo Shirley, “recuerdo ir al restaurante del abuelo de Sal. Veía a su abuelo abrir ostras”.De adultos, Shirley y Sal asistieron a la misma parroquia cerca de Nueva Orleans, y Shirley enseñó en la misma escuela que la madre de Sal. Pero, a pesar de sus conexiones, el romance necesitaba una pequeña intervención. “Los niños jugaban a casamenteros”, dijo Sal. “Shirley estaba trabajando en el stand de mi madre en la feria, y yo dirigía CYO (Organización de la Juventud Católica). Los niños de CYO dijeron: ‘Tenemos la chica perfecta para ti.” El joven le dijo a Shirley que Sal también era “perfecta” para ella. Más tarde ese día, dijo: “Me reí con Sal, tendremos que hablar sobre la boda más tarde.” La diversión afable llevó a salidas con los jóvenes, familiares y amigos de CYO. Hoy, la familia, la fe, la risa y la comunidad siguen siendo fundamentales para su matrimonio. “Nos reímos mucho,” dijo Shirley. “Contamos nuestras bendiciones,”dijo Sal.
Julie y Marty Hanlon Rubio, casados 28 años, se conocieron en Yale. Las actividades aparentemente ordinarias les ayudaron a comprender las cualidades especiales de cada uno. “Cuando lavamos los platos juntos en la cafetería de nuestra universidad, noté que trabajaba duro en todo, se reía mucho y le encantaba hablar de política y religión.”dijo Marty. ” Me encantó su sentido de la diversión y su ambiente californiano,” dijo Julie. “Además, pude ver que era una buena persona en su esencia. Y amaba a su gran familia.” A pesar de sus ocupadas vidas profesionales, compartir las actividades diarias, como cocinar y cenar juntos, sigue siendo importante, al igual que las videollamadas familiares de los domingos con sus hijos mayores. “Realmente nos ha ayudado a mantenernos cerca,” dijo Julie.
Tom y Becki Racunas, casados 47 años, se conocieron en la universidad.”Cuando Becki entraba al sindicato de estudiantes, noté su sonrisa feliz y la forma en que la gente le respondía,” dijo Tom. Las impresiones de Becki sobre Tom también fueron positivas, ¡casi demasiado! “Cuando mi hermana vino a visitarme a la universidad,” dijo, “la arreglé con Tom porque era el único chico agradable que conocía”. Las buenas cualidades que notaron por primera vez en el otro se han mantenido verdaderas. “A la gente le encanta estar con ella,” dijo Tom. Me encanta eso de ella.” Becki dijo “Tom es mi mejor amigo, y, por supuesto, siempre he pensado que Tom era lindo.”
Atracción, amistad, familia, fe: después de la celebración del Día de San Valentín, el amor real sigue creciendo, ¡una bendición para las parejas que lo alimentan y para nosotros que los conocemos!

Joe Biden y lo que significa ser católico de raza blanca

Por Hosffman Ospino
Joe Biden es el segundo católico elegido como presidente de los Estados Unidos de América. Para ser más exactos, él es el segundo católico de raza blanca que sirve en tal capacidad. ¿Hace alguna diferencia que el presidente Biden sea católico y de raza blanca? Creo que vale la pena explorar la pregunta.
Desde que esta nación se estableció, los católicos hemos luchado intensamente para ser afirmados y reconocidos en medio de olas de sentimiento anticatólico que subsisten en lo más profundo del imaginario social estadounidense.
¿Podemos los católicos ser fieles a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos? ¿Podemos ser parte del contrato social estadounidense? ¿Podemos florecer en una nación de carácter protestante? Con el tiempo, la respuesta a estas preguntas ha sido sí.
Durante los últimos dos siglos, la gran mayoría de esos católicos luchando por ser afirmados y reconocidos, demostrando que tienen méritos para ser ciudadanos de esta nación como cualquier otra persona, han sido de origen europeo. Sus hijos y nietos adoptaron lo que pudiéramos llamar una identidad euroamericana de vivir y actuar, la cual se mantiene hoy en día.
El hacerse euroamericano de alguna manera exigió también hacer suyo el proyecto racial blanco. Tal proyecto como tal es ambiguo. Sin embargo, identificarse como personas racialmente blancas les garantizó a millones de católicos euroamericanos aceptación, voz y privilegios en una sociedad fragmentada por prejuicios raciales.
Identificarse como personas de raza blanca también tiñó por siglos las relaciones entre estos católicos euroamericanos y sus propios hermanos y hermanas católicos considerados como algo diferente a nivel racial.
Los católicos blancos — me refiero primordialmente a católicos euroamericanos, de piel clara y de habla inglesa en general — han obtenido grandes logros como grupo. Cerca del 55% de los católicos en este grupo racial tienen un título universitario o han hecho estudios a este nivel. La mayoría encajan en lo que pudiéramos llamar las clases media y alta en nuestra sociedad.
Por supuesto, no todos los católicos euroamericanos de raza blanca son altamente educados o han logrado sobresalir. Pero millones lo han hecho. La gran mayoría de líderes católicos que son reconocidos por su influencia eclesial y social son euroamericanos de raza blanca. Podemos pensar en obispos, presidentes de universidades, maestros y directores de escuelas católicas, académicos, personas de negocios y, como hemos notado, el actual presidente del país.
El estar de acuerdo o no con las perspectivas políticas del presidente Biden no minimiza el hecho de que él represente de manera particular la promesa y la ambigüedad de la experiencia de los católicos euroamericanos de raza blanca. Algunos lo ven como un campeón de ciertos valores católicos. Otros como la antítesis de los ciertos valores también católicos. Quizás los dos grupos tienen la razón.
La identidad religiosa del presidente Biden, tal como se manifiesta en su vida pública, es en esencia una expresión de lo que significa ser católico euroamericano de raza blanca. Al igual que millones de otros católicos euroamericanos de raza blanca, incluyendo muchos de sus partidarios y sus críticos, el presidente Biden es heredero del pacto que muchos católicos estadounidenses hicieron cuando aceptaron el proyecto sociocultural estadounidense, con sus fortalezas y limitaciones, y sus consecuencias.
Sin embargo, el presidente Biden representa un sector de la población católica estadounidense que está envejeciendo rápidamente y menguando demográficamente. El promedio de edad de los católicos euroamericanos es de 55 años. Cerca de la mitad de los católicos en el país, posiblemente menos, se identifican como personas euroamericanas de raza blanca.
El catolicismo estadounidense refleja, cada vez más las experiencias de comunidades hispanas, negras, asiáticas, indígenas y, todavía, euroamericanas. Nuestra realidad eclesial cambia rápidamente. El futuro del catolicismo estadounidense será más diverso a nivel racial y cultural. El reconocer que cerca del 60% de los católicos menores de 18 años son hispanos ya nos da una idea de ese futuro.
La pregunta que la siguiente generación de católicos estadounidenses nos debemos hacer en el siglo XXI, desde nuestra diversidad, es si tenemos que aceptar los términos del pacto que millones de católicos euroamericanos hicieron en las últimas décadas.
Tenemos la opción de hacer nuestro el proyecto sociocultural estadounidense, con sus fortalezas y limitaciones, con sentido crítico o asumirlo de lleno. Tenemos que decidir si queremos que todo aquello que está asociado con la idea de ser racialmente blanco, con sus dimensiones positivas y negativas, sea parte de nuestra identidad como católicos estadounidenses. Quizás necesitamos un nuevo pacto.
La manera como respondamos intencionalmente a estos dilemas seguramente definirá qué clase de experiencia católica estadounidense encarnará el tercer presidente católico de los Estados Unidos.

(El Dr. Hosffman Ospino es profesor de teología y educación religiosa en Boston College. Ha visitado varias veces el estado de Mississippi para dirigir talleres y ofrecer conferencias sobre inmigración, la familia y el papel de los Hispanos en la Iglesia católica de los Estados Unidos en enero y agosto de 2018.)

Pope establishes World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly

By Junno Arocho
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Pope Francis announced the establishment of a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly as a reminder of the important role they play as a link between generations.
During his Sunday Angelus address Jan. 31, the pope said the day will be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday of July to coincide with the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents. The first celebration of this day will be July 25.
“It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents because – as the prophet Joel says – grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream and have great desires, and young people – taking strength from their grandparents – will go forward and prophesy,” he said.
Highlighting the Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the pope said the recognition of Christ as the Messiah by the elderly Simeon and Anna is a reminder that “the Holy Spirit still stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly today.”

Ben and Isaac talk to their grandparents, Sue and Alan, through a window as they self-isolate at their home in Cheshire, England, March 22, 2020. (CNS photo/Martin Rickett, PA Images via Reuters) See POPE-ANGELUS-GRANDPARENTS July 27, 2020.

“Their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and safeguards the roots of peoples,” he said. “They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young.”
“Grandparents are often forgotten and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on,” he added.
In a statement published shortly after the pope’s announcement, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, said the yearly event was “a gift to the whole church” that emphasizes the pastoral care of the elderly as “a priority that can no longer be postponed by any Christian community.”
“In the encyclical, ‘Fratelli Tutti,’ the Holy Father reminds us that no one is saved alone. With this in mind, we must treasure the spiritual and human wealth that has been handed down from generation to generation,” he said.
Cardinal Farrell added that “today, more than ever, we are committed to making every effort to dismantle the throwaway culture and to enhance the charisms of grandparents and the elderly.”
The dicastery said Pope Francis will mark the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly July 25 with an evening Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. However, the Mass will be “subject to sanitary regulations in place at the time.”
“Closer to the world day, the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life will announce any further initiatives that will mark the event,” the statement said. “As of now, the dicastery is inviting parishes and dioceses around the world to celebrate this world day at the local level in ways that are suited to their pastoral context.”

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

Keep fighting, pro-life advocates told in virtual March for Life

By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Although the 2021 March for Life was far different from the previous 47 annual marches to protest the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion, organizers and rally speakers stressed that the smaller, and primarily virtual crowd, delivered the very same message.
It was simply “more somber and prayerful,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Defense and Education Fund, in the livestreamed broadcast of a group of pro-life leaders making their way to the Supreme Court after the virtual rally.
“We are symbolically marching,” she said of the group representing those who would have marched in normal circumstances, adding that this was a “unique moment to build a culture of life.”
The usual in-person march that typically draws crowds by the busloads was already going to be scaled back as many groups canceled their plans to come to Washington during the pandemic.

March for Life participants make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington Jan. 29, 2021, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

On Jan. 15, organizers officially announced the event would primarily be virtual, saying that increased security pressures for law enforcement officers around the U.S. Capitol – since the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and threats of subsequent violence by domestic terrorist groups – made it impossible to ensure security for march participants.
The message for participants, not muffled by coats, winter gear and crowds moving up and down to stay warm as in previous years, was a resounding cry to continue the fight for the unborn and to advocate for anti-abortion legislation.
The virtual rally was free of usual placards, but it included advertisements from various sponsor groups.
It also did not have the back and forth heated discussions that sometimes occur on the sidewalks or at the Supreme Court with those on both sides of the issue, but snippets of this discussion came up in the comments section for those watching the event on the YouTube link.
The comments section also revealed where many of the viewers were from with comments such as “marching with you” from Louisiana, California and Poland.
The rally began and ended with song and prayer with songs performed by Matthew West, a Christian recording artist and songwriter. The opening prayer was said by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and the closing prayer was said by Cissie Graham Lynch, granddaughter of the well-known Southern Baptist minister, Rev. Billy Graham.
The archbishop prayed for God’s blessing on the “pro-life movement in this nation,” and noted that even though its members were separated by distance, they were united by their use of their talents in building a culture of life.
He also prayed for pregnant women and for those who have been “wounded by abortion,” stressing the need to “walk with them in their time of need.”
The rally did not have the usual array of dozens of speakers from Congress but did include a handful of them addressing participants in pretaped messages. Two Democrats were among these speakers: Rep. Angie Hatton of Kentucky, who is the House minority whip, and state Sen. Mike Gabbard of Hawaii.
Hatton said there needs to be a bipartisan effort to end abortion, not just by outlawing the practice but eliminating the need for women to seek abortions by providing better health care, child care, adoption and social services. She said she is asking pro-life Republicans to also work for “pro-babies and moms’ legislation.”
Gabbard urged virtual rallygoers to recognize they are “on a mission together” and to do their best to preserve life “with love and compassion.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, who is a regular on the stage during March for Life rallies, pointed out that over the years there have been “significant pro-life setbacks – but pro-lifers absolutely refused to quit or go away.” He said that same spirit continues today as the movement faces “enormous challenges.”
Smith directed his comments to President Joe Biden and stressed that the unborn need the president of the United States “to be their friend and advocate, not another powerful adversary.”
Referring to Biden’s remarks at his inauguration that “the dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer,” Smith said those words can only have true meaning if the lives of unborn children are “must be included, and their precious lives must be protected.
Each year many people at the March for Life say they are impressed by the overwhelming youth presence at the march and rally. This year, Elizabeth Eller, student body president at Christendom College, a Catholic college in Front Royal, Virginia, directly addressed younger viewers, urging them to do everything they can for the pro-life movement.
“We can be the generation that sees an end to abortion,” she said.
Tim Tebow, a former professional football quarterback, told his story about how his mother, when she was pregnant with him, had been advised to have an abortion to save her life but she chose not to.
He urged virtual marchers to be willing to “suffer for and with the unborn.”
“We’ve got to do a better job of being all pro-life all the time,” he said. With a pep talk of sorts to the crowd, he added: “This is a hard fight and it might get even harder but stay in it.”
The rally and march, even in a different format, were not meant to be the end of any advocacy work.
As Mancini said in her closing remarks, the fight would continue in other marches to state capitols and in the work every day by people in the pro-life movement.

(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim)

Black Catholic is trailblazer in science; she has been geneticist for 56 years

By Karen Pulfer Focht
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNS) – As a child, Sheila Stiles Jewell played outside of the public housing where her family lived in Memphis. She felt one with nature weaving clover and catching bumblebees, not realizing that she was really feeding her curiosity for science and the natural world.
During the days of segregation, the Catholic Church recruited her family, living at Lemoyne Owen Gardens at the time, to receive a Catholic education. It was a noble act that she credits with much of her success today.

Sheila Stiles Jewell, a geneticist marine biologist, is seen at her home in Memphis, Tenn., Dec. 30, 2019. (CNS photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)

Working into her 70s, Jewell is a research geneticist at the U.S. NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Milford, Connecticut. NOAA Fisheries is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Science has made my faith stronger,” she said. “The DNA structure is amazing. It is beautiful and is evidence of what God can do and has done. Look around you, it is just wonderful!”
Women from her generation are underrepresented in the field of science.
Jewell would like to see more African American females enter the field of science. She speaks at schools and brings her sea creatures to show the students hoping to spark an interest within them.
“My faith has been an important part of how I persisted and persevered. I can’t imagine how I could have done it without my faith,” she said. Jewell still comes home often to be with family and together they attend Mass at St. Augustine Church in South Memphis.
She remembers the times as a child in the segregated South, when she went to Mass at a white church, she had to stand in the back, sit in the balcony at the movies, and drink out of separate drinking fountains.
“We came from humble beginnings,” she recalled. Her mother, a teacher, was her first role model. She instilled in Jewell that an education was the key to a successful life. “We couldn’t always realize our dreams because of segregation, but that did not keep us from striving to be somebody,” she said.
The people in the public housing where she lived always looked out for the children. “We were sheltered and protected, it was a village.” They were always encouraged to go to church.
Jewell studied science at Father Bertrand High School, where she was valedictorian. It was there that Sister Mary Kilian, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, encouraged her to go to college and major in biology.
She attended Xavier University in New Orleans, the only historically Black Catholic university in the U.S., and then accepted an internship in Milford. She was apprehensive about leaving all she knew.
That summer, her advisers convinced her to go on a 30-hour Greyhound bus ride to pursue new opportunities. Because she was Black, she rode in the back of the bus and even though the North was not officially segregated like Memphis at the time, there was nowhere to stay. Housing was not open to Blacks in the 1960s. Her advisers found a family for her to stay with.
She was the first permanent African American female employee in Department of Interior in the Milford marine biological laboratory, where she has had a 56-year career and is still working today.
“I had a passion for genetics. Early in my career, there were no role models in this male-dominated field,” she said. She studies shellfish, such as oysters, clams, scallops and mussels, and working on restoring this population through genetics and breeding for better survival and growth.
Women’s rights and civil rights have helped and brought a lot of improvement, though there are still some barriers today, she said.
She loves working with young people, “reaching out and reaching back,” she said. “If you have a dream, follow it, do what it takes, don’t be discouraged, don’t give up.”
Jewell was a trailblazer. This past fall she was inducted into the Memphis Catholic High School Hall of Fame.
For so many years, she drew on her faith. “If it were not for my faith, I would not have been as successful as I have been. God has been beside me throughout this journey. I could not have made this journey alone. I am so thankful for my faith, my family and my friends.”
When it has been difficult to persevere, “my faith has made a difference,” she added.

Poet Amanda Gorman is a light to us all, parishioner says

By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Long before she burst into the public spotlight delivering her inauguration poem, Amanda Gorman got a standing ovation from fellow parishioners of St. Brigid Church in Los Angeles for reciting a poem she wrote about the parish.
And on Jan. 20, at the inauguration ceremony of President Joe Biden, parishioners watching this young woman on their TV screens – addressing political leaders and the nation at large about courageously rebuilding the country – applauded her all the more.

Amanda Gorman recites a poem at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 20, 2021, during the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States. She is a parishioner at St. Brigid Catholic Church in Los Angeles. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

Floy Hawkins, former director of religious education at the parish for over 20 years, said her phone did not stop ringing after the inauguration, with friends asking if she saw, heard or knew about Gorman’s role.
“You see her? Look at that little girl!” fellow parishioners were saying because as Hawkins put it: “We still see her in a very endearing way.”
And even though they were thrilled for Gorman, parishioners of the historically Black church didn’t see her performance as a “solo act,” because Gorman has always been at the parish with her twin sister, Gabrielle, and her mom. Hawkins felt that sense of family when cameras followed Gorman joining her mother when she finished her delivery.
St. Brigid’s pastor, Josephite Father Kenneth Keke, also didn’t just see Gorman in that moment but felt she represented the entire parish in South Central Los Angeles – which is predominantly African American but now also has a growing number of Latinos, Filipinos and white parishioners too.
“We are a community; everyone here is important,” the priest said. “Whatever belongs to the parish belongs to everyone; in our parish, the success of anyone is the success of all.”
It’s also the pride of all.
“Parishioners are very much proud of her,” the priest, from Nigeria, told Catholic News Service Jan. 22, adding that he personally knew she would go far. “She is a very, very intelligent young lady. The first time I saw her, I knew that one day she was going to be very important.”
This pride is displayed on the parish website with photos of Gorman and the words: “We celebrate and congratulate Amanda Gorman: 2021 inauguration poet. Youngest in history.”
Hawkins told CNS that when she saw Gorman approach the podium and begin speaking, she was “in awe … to see such a young African American female be at such a pinnacle point of the world.” She also said it humbled her “from a spiritual perspective of God’s graces and mercies,” since she knew the national youth poet laureate from Gorman’s middle school days.
As adolescents, Gorman and her sister, went through a two-year training program at the parish and then received the sacraments of baptism, first Communion and confirmation on the same day.
When she graduated from high school to attend Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Gorman received a scholarship donation from the parish. The pastor said she always returned to the church when she visited home.
In recent months, he hasn’t seen Gorman, who graduated last year, but he also hasn’t seen many of his parishioners due to coronavirus Mass restrictions.
Hawkins, in her role at the parish which numbered 750 families prior to the pandemic, was impressed by the Gorman sisters from the start, saying they were brilliant intellectually and socially with quiet but confident personalities.
She also remembered Amanda’s speech impairment that caused difficulty in saying certain letters, which the poet has overcome and spoken about. Hawkins once overhead a student asking Amanda why she talked the way she did, and Amanda replied that it was just her East Coast accent.
“I was so happy when I learned she had acknowledged publicly that she had a speech impediment, what a release for her,” Hawkins said.
Gorman, who had been writing and developing her own style since she was a young girl, was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at 16, and it was around that time she wrote the St. Brigid’s poem that she recited at the end of a Mass commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The parish assistant choir director, knowing of Gorman’s work, had asked her to consider doing it.
That Gorman stepped up to the plate, then and now, is something Hawkins admires. When she saw her on the Capitol stage in her yellow coat and red headband, she knew Gorman had taken “ownership of the opportunity.”
“Sometimes people ask you to do something and you say: ‘Oh, I don’t know if I could do it,’” she said.
“I don’t get the sense that was her response when the first lady invited her to speak at the inauguration,” Hawkins added. “I believe she immediately said yes, as we are encouraged to say: ‘Yes Lord.’”
Hawkins prayed for Gorman before the poet introduced herself to the country as the “skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother” who can “dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.”
But as she listened to the 22-year-old’s strong, clear voice she said to herself: “Glory be to God. … Look what you have done in the world!” And she felt the strong connection too – that the poet’s description of finding light in dark times was something the people of St. Brigid’s knew all too well.
What a time for our Catholic faith and our African American culture, she thought.
She also was pleased that Gorman, named the National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, “didn’t minimize or dismiss” the insurrection at the Capitol just two weeks before but spoke of not losing hope when terrible things happen.
Her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” speaks in part of a country “bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free” and adds: “We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation.”
It ends with the promise of rebirth and reconciliation, saying: “Our people diverse and beautiful will emerge, battered and beautiful … For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Father Keke said the poem reflected “what we preach here at St. Brigid’s” about liberation and redemption. Her words on unity had a strong spiritual connection, the priest added.
The parish is planning to celebrate Gorman’s achievement in some small way soon and in a bigger way once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
“She is definitely a light, an inspiration to us all,” said Hawkins, who said the current buzz around Gorman simply validates who she is and will take her further than she ever imagined. She also has no doubt Gorman will continue to courageously move forward, but not alone.
“She takes God with her,” she said.

Home run king Hank Aaron overcame racism to excel on and off the field

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Hank Aaron, who was baseball’s home run king for 33 years, overcame racism to make his mark in the game he loved. Aaron died Jan. 22 at age 86.
Aaron, who became a Catholic while playing for the Milwaukee Braves, joined the Baptist faith later in life.
He never hit 50 home runs in a season, much less 60 or even 70 as other sluggers did; in his best season, he knocked 47 homers out of the park in 1971, when he was 37 years old. But it was his consistency that allowed him to amass 755 round-trippers over 23 seasons playing for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, and – after he had set the record – back to Milwaukee to play for the Brewers.

Atlanta Braves legend Hank Aaron throws the ceremonial first pitch to former manager Bobby Cox April 14, 2017, prior to the first game at SunTrust Park. The longtime home run leader died Jan. 22, 2021. He was 86. (CNS photo/Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

Aaron was not flashy or a self-promoter, either. But he was durable. After his rookie season in 1954, he played at least 150 games a season every year through 1968; this included seven years when the season was just 154 games. When he dipped to 147 games played in 1969, Aaron still socked 44 homers.
He had eight seasons of at least 40 home runs, 15 seasons in which he hit at least 30 – one of only two players to do so in the major leagues’ 152-year history, and 19 straight seasons in which “The Hammer” clouted at least 24.
Aaron and his first wife, Barbara, were received into the Catholic faith in 1959.
According to a Catholic News Service article from that May, they were baptized at St. Benedict the Moor Church in Milwaukee, along with their children, 3-year-old Gayle and 2-year-old Henry Jr. A third child, Larry, was baptized at birth.
“Mrs. Aaron said the Aarons first became interested in joining the church when their twins were born at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Milwaukee,” the article said. Both Larry and his twin were baptized, but the unnamed twin died.
The Aarons began their “instructions” in Catholicism shortly before Christmas 1958, and completed them when the Braves returned to Milwaukee from spring training, according to the story. “Mrs. Aaron said there are no other Catholics among family relatives,” it added.
In a 1991 interview, Aaron credited Father Michael Sablica, a priest of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, for helping him grow as a person in the 1950s, when baseball often reflected the prejudice and racism of society, especially that of the South.
“Father Sablica and I have been good friends for a very long time,” Aaron said. “He taught me what life was all about. But he was more than just a religious friend of mine, he was a friend because he talked as if he was not a priest sometimes. … He was just good people.” The priest was active in the civil rights movement, and encouraged Aaron to be more vocal about the things that he believed in but had yet to speak about publicly.
Aaron was known to frequently read Thomas a Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ,” which he kept in his locker. He and Barbara divorced in 1971, and Aaron remarried in 1973.
A native of Mobile, Alabama, Aaron had to confront racism anew when the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966. The on-field verbal abuse, hate mail and death threats fueled his desire to break Ruth’s 714-homer record – he ended the 1973 season with 713, which set up a torrent of abuse in the offseason – but also made him vow not to let home runs be his only business.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility to speak out on social issues, because after all, if I had not been a baseball player, I would probably be in the same position as a lot of my Black brothers, and so I feel like it’s my obligation to do these things,” Aaron said.
Aaron continued to speak out about racism and equity after his playing days ended in 1976.
A right-handed hitter, Aaron played briefly in the Negro Leagues before being signed by the Milwaukee Braves. In his early pro days, he hit cross-handed, meaning he put his left hand above his right when he was holding the bat, before a coach corrected Aaron’s swing.
Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, the first year he was eligible. In addition to his career home run totals, he led the National League in home runs, runs batted in and doubles four times each, slugging average and runs scored three times each, and batting average and hits twice each.

USCCB Statement on the Inauguration of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as 46th President of the United States of America

By Most Reverend José H. Gomez
LOS ANGELES – My prayers are with our new President and his family today.
I am praying that God grant him wisdom and courage to lead this great nation and that God help him to meet the tests of these times, to heal the wounds caused by this pandemic, to ease our intense political and cultural divisions, and to bring people together with renewed dedication to America’s founding purposes, to be one nation under God committed to liberty and equality for all.
Catholic bishops are not partisan players in our nation’s politics. We are pastors responsible for the souls of millions of Americans and we are advocates for the needs of all our neighbors. In every community across the country, Catholic parishes, schools, hospitals, and ministries form an essential culture of compassion and care, serving women, children, and the elderly, the poor and sick, the imprisoned, the migrant, and the marginalized, no matter what their race or religion.

Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announces Nov. 17, 2020, he is forming a committee to look at various policy issues with regard to the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden. The archbishop made the announcement at the USCCB headquarters in Washington at the end of the last day of the bishops’ Nov. 16-17 virtual fall meeting. (CNS photo/Screen Grab)

When we speak on issues in American public life, we try to guide consciences, and we offer principles. These principles are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the social teachings of his Church. Jesus Christ revealed God’s plan of love for creation and revealed the truth about the human person, who is created in God’s image, endowed with God-given dignity, rights and responsibilities, and called to a transcendent destiny.
Based on these truths, which are reflected in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, the bishops and Catholic faithful carry out Christ’s commandment to love God and love our neighbors by working for an America that protects human dignity, expands equality and opportunities for every person, and is open-hearted towards the suffering and weak.
For many years now, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has tried to help Catholics and others of good will in their reflections on political issues through a publication we call Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The most recent edition addresses a wide range of concerns. Among them: abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, immigration, racism, poverty, care for the environment, criminal justice reform, economic development, and international peace.
On these and other issues, our duty to love and our moral principles lead us to prudential judgments and positions that do not align neatly with the political categories of left or right or the platforms of our two major political parties. We work with every President and every Congress. On some issues we find ourselves more on the side of Democrats, while on others we find ourselves standing with Republicans. Our priorities are never partisan. We are Catholics first, seeking only to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and to advance his vision for human fraternity and community.
I look forward to working with President Biden and his administration, and the new Congress. As with every administration, there will be areas where we agree and work closely together and areas where we will have principled disagreement and strong opposition.
Working with President Biden will be unique, however, as he is our first president in 60 years to profess the Catholic faith. In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions. Mr. Biden’s piety and personal story, his moving witness to how his faith has brought him solace in times of darkness and tragedy, his longstanding commitment to the Gospel’s priority for the poor — all of this I find hopeful and inspiring.
At the same time, as pastors, the nation’s bishops are given the duty of proclaiming the Gospel in all its truth and power, in season and out of season, even when that teaching is inconvenient or when the Gospel’s truths run contrary to the directions of the wider society and culture. So, I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.
Our commitments on issues of human sexuality and the family, as with our commitments in every other area — such as abolishing the death penalty or seeking a health care system and economy that truly serves the human person — are guided by Christ’s great commandment to love and to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.
For the nation’s bishops, the continued injustice of abortion remains the “preeminent priority.” Preeminent does not mean “only.” We have deep concerns about many threats to human life and dignity in our society. But as Pope Francis teaches, we cannot stay silent when nearly a million unborn lives are being cast aside in our country year after year through abortion.
Abortion is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family. It is not only a private matter, it raises troubling and fundamental questions of fraternity, solidarity, and inclusion in the human community. It is also a matter of social justice. We cannot ignore the reality that abortion rates are much higher among the poor and minorities, and that the procedure is regularly used to eliminate children who would be born with disabilities.
Rather than impose further expansions of abortion and contraception, as he has promised, I am hopeful that the new President and his administration will work with the church and others of good will. My hope is that we can begin a dialogue to address the complicated cultural and economic factors that are driving abortion and discouraging families. My hope, too, is that we can work together to finally put in place a coherent family policy in this country, one that acknowledges the crucial importance of strong marriages and parenting to the well-being of children and the stability of communities. If the President, with full respect for the church’s religious freedom, were to engage in this conversation, it would go a long way toward restoring the civil balance and healing our country’s needs.
President Biden’s call for national healing and unity is welcome on all levels. It is urgently needed as we confront the trauma in our country caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the social isolation that has only worsened the intense and long-simmering divisions among our fellow citizens.
As believers, we understand that healing is a gift that we can only receive from the hand of God. We know, too, that real reconciliation requires patient listening to those who disagree with us and a willingness to forgive and move beyond desires for reprisal. Christian love calls us to love our enemies and bless those who oppose us, and to treat others with the same compassion that we want for ourselves.
We are all under the watchful eye of God, who alone knows and can judge the intentions of our hearts. I pray that God will give our new President, and all of us, the grace to seek the common good with all sincerity.
I entrust all our hopes and anxieties in this new moment to the tender heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ and the patroness of this exceptional nation. May she guide us in the ways of peace and obtain for us wisdom and the grace of a true patriotism and love of country.

(Archbishop José H. Gomez is the Archbishop of Los Angeles and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He released this statement on Jan. 20 through the USCCB.)