Catholic Charities pandemic assistance totals nearly $400 million

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DACA ruling called ‘a beautiful moment’; concern about future remains

PHOENIX, AZ (CNS) – For Cinthia Padilla Ortiz, the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the DACA program was “an unexpected and beautiful moment” and left her feeling “that sense of hope in our community.”
“When I read the decision – there are moments where there are no words to describe the feelings,” the recent law graduate from Loyola University New Orleans told Catholic News Service.
“There was a mixture of feelings because I felt thankful and optimistic about this decision due to the fact that earlier this week we had a favorable decision on another civil rights case for federal workers who identified as part of the LGBT community,” she added.
On June 18, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling said President Donald Trump could not stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program with his 2017 executive order. DACA protects about 700,000 young people who qualify for the program from deportation and allows them to work, go to college, get health insurance and obtain a driver’s license.
The program was established by President Barrack Obama with an executive order in 2012 to allow young people brought into the country illegally as minors by their parents to stay in the United States.

Demonstrators in San Diego rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program June 18, 2020. In one of the most anticipated cases of the term, the Supreme Court ruled that same day against efforts by the Trump administration to end DACA. (CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters)

The court ruled that the manner in which Trump terminated the program was not correct. So although this has given DACA recipients time to breathe and renew their DACA status, the court’s decision also plays in favor of Trump, so the president could still end it if he follows different steps.
Law professor Laura E. Gomez at the University of California, Los Angeles said Trump could start the process over again to end DACA.
“President Trump was contending that since the program was made by executive order, all they had to do to rescind it was to announce via executive order that it was done,” said Gomez. “What the court said in this case was that it was not sufficient.”
“Because the program existed for eight years and those people who have DACA status have relied on the benefits of that law like work permits, the court said that since they have a reliance interest – they have relied on having that right to work in choosing their educational, training or via home and starting a family – because they have relied on that, the government has to rationally justify why they are taking that away,” she added.
“Yes, the Trump administration could say on Monday, ‘OK, we are going to rescind DACA and here is our 30-page memorandum. We have looked at it in detail and here is what we have come up with.”
Gomez said although there is a possibility that DACA could be rescinded, even Republicans were pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision, which indicates to her that Trump is likely not going to be taking down DACA before the presidential election in November.
However, Trump has already gone on Twitter and said he will immediately seek to resubmit the process to end DACA. He also said court decision has given him more power than anticipated.
For some college students, like Nelson Martinez del los Santos, the decision came with initial excitement and optimism, but soon the reality of what door it left open hit him, that door that leads toward DACA’s termination.
“I was sleeping, and my mother and sister run through the door screaming that they kept DACA,” said del los Santos, a junior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“I was very excited in that moment,” he told CNS. “Now that I educated myself and learned about what is actually going on, yes – the Supreme Court sided with DACA, but they, more or less, just did not agree with the way the Trump administration went about it.”
“I am just hopeful that the people of this country can see the humanity in this program,” he added. “As for my future, the DACA program is uncertain, but that is not going to stop me or anyone else in the DACA program in achieving what our parents came here to give us – that immigrant dream.”
Another thing to note in the Supreme Court decision was the lack of condemnation of racial bias by Trump in his DACA order; the ruling concluded there was no racial animus on the part of the president. Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was in the majority on the ruling, disagreed with this conclusion on bias and wrote a separate opinion.
“Not a lot of people have talked about the fact that even though 100% of the Supreme Court majority, the five justices in the majority, did the right thing but did not go far enough,” said Gomez. “If you look at Sotomayor’s opinion, she is both agreeing with Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts (who wrote the majority opinion) but is disagreeing with him.
“Out of the nine Supreme Court justices in the court, she is the only one who believes the decision should have allowed all the plaintiffs to continue with their lawsuits saying that the law was racially bias and discriminatory.”
“The lower courts’ judges, many of them, had agreed that there was plausible concern of racial discrimination,” she added. “The case had not gone far enough for the plaintiffs to introduce their evidence and have a full-blown hearing. If the Supreme Court would have ruled the way Sotomayor wanted it to, then that hearing would have been playing out just as we are getting up to the election.”
Ortiz noted that DACA recipients have lived in the United States for the majority of their life and identify as Americans, and are deserving of the moral support of their communities.
They have made positive contributions to this country. For example, a CNN article pointed out that an estimated 29,000 DACA recipients are health care workers. In addition, a 2018 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimated DACA recipients contribute $1.7 billion dollars in taxes annually.
“Dreamers, as a community, share a common collective characteristic – we all arrived in the United States when we were children,” said Ortiz. “Children should not be punished, held hostage or be a political pawn ever.”
“We are helping Dreamers who identify as American to stay at home and continue the natural progression of them becoming the best version that they can be and serve their community here in the United States,” she added.
Nelson said he wants people to realize there are good people in this program. DACA recipients have to be ideal American citizens, because any mistake can get them deported.
“At the end of the day, they are good people and they are people first before (they are) immigrants,” said del los Santos. “They are trying to do the best they can for their family. That is an idea that everyone can believe in and respect. A lot of what that looks like for people in Latin America is going to a country that has better safety, better opportunities, better quality of life and striving to maintain that while you are here.”
As she looks back, Ortiz said she had to overcome many financial and mental hurdles due to the limitations put on DACA recipients.
“I was an ‘A’ student,” said Ortiz. “I graduated with a 4.0 from high school as a distinguished scholar. My mind was set on Harvard University and subsequently Harvard Law,” and instead she went to law school at Loyola University New Orleans.
“Digesting the fact that I had to reinvent my dream, keep myself afloat with optimism and protect my mental health has been the biggest challenge of my life,” she explained.
“Some Dreamers gave up on their dream,” she said, but she was able to reinvent her dream.

Court says tax credit program can’t exclude religious schools

By Carol Zimmerman
WASHINGTON (CNS) – In a 5-4 ruling June 30, the Supreme Court said the exclusion of religious schools in Montana’s state scholarship aid program violated the federal Constitution.
In the opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court ruled that if a state offers financial assistance to private schools, it has to allow religious schools to also take part. Separate dissents were written by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
Roberts said the decision by the Montana Supreme Court to invalidate the school scholarship program because it would provide funding to both religious schools and secular schools “bars religious schools from public benefits solely because of the religious character of the schools.”
“The provision also bars parents who wish to send their children to a religious school from those same benefits, again solely because of the religious character of the school,” he wrote.
Sister Dale McDonald, a Sister of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the director of public policy and educational research for the National Catholic Educational Association, said she was happy with the decision, mainly because “it puts faith-based organizations on a level playing field” to be able to also take part in other opportunities.
And for the court to say these scholarship programs have to be inclusive, “that is a big victory,” she told Catholic News Service.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the court “rightly ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not permit states to discriminate against religion. This decision means that religious persons and organizations can, like everyone else, participate in government programs that are open to all.”
The statement from Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Michael C. Barber, of Oakland, California, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education, also said the decision was “good news, not only for people of faith, but for our country.”
“A strong civil society needs the full participation of religious institutions,” the statement said. “By ensuring the rights of faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve, the court is also promoting the common good.”
Advocates for school choice also praised the decision. “The weight that this monumental decision carries is immense, as it’s an extraordinary victory for student achievement, parental control, equality in educational opportunities and First Amendment rights,” said Jeanne Allen, founder and chief executive of the Center for Education Reform.
The case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, was brought to the court by three Montana mothers who had been sending their children to Stillwater Christian School in Kalispell with the help of a state scholarship program.
The program, created in 2015, was meant to provide $3 million a year for tax credits for individuals and business taxpayers who donated up to $150 to the program. It was helping about 45 students and just months after it got started, the Montana Department of Revenue issued an administrative rule saying the tax credit donations could only go toward nonreligious, private schools – explaining the use of tax credits for religious schools violated the state’s constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington is seen Jan. 19, 2020. In a 5-4 ruling June 30, the Supreme Court said the exclusion of religious schools in Montana’s state scholarship aid program violated the federal Constitution. (CNS photo/Will Dunham, Reuters)

The mothers were represented by the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit legal advocacy group based in Virginia. In 2015, these mothers sued the state saying that barring religious schools from the scholarship program violated the federal constitution. The trial court agreed with them, but the Montana Supreme Court reversed this decision.
The court based its decision on the state constitution’s ban on funding religious organizations, called the Blaine Amendment.
Thirty-seven states have Blaine amendments, which prohibit spending public funds on religious education. These bans date back to the 19th century and are named for Rep. James Blaine of Maine, who tried unsuccessfully in 1875 to have the U.S. Constitution prohibit the use of public funds for “sectarian” schools.
In oral arguments, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the amendments reflected “grotesque religious bigotry” against Catholics. Adam Unikowsky, Montana’s attorney, argued that the state’s revised constitution in 1972 does not have “evidence whatsoever of any anti-religious bigotry.”
The USCCB’s June 30 statement said the court “dealt a blow to the odious legacy of anti-Catholicism in America,” stressing that Blaine Amendments “were the product of nativism and bigotry” and were “never meant to ensure government neutrality toward religion but were expressions of hostility toward the Catholic Church.”
Justice Samuel Alito, in a concurring opinion in the case, highlighted the anti-Catholic origins of state Blaine amendments like the one in Montana and he even included an 1871 political cartoon from the political magazine Harper’s Weekly to show the bigotry toward Catholics at the time. The cartoon depicts priests as crocodiles slithering toward children in the U.S. as a public school crumbles in the background.
The USCCB also filed a friend-of-the-court brief, along with several other religious groups, in support of the plaintiffs, which said: “Families that use private schools should not suffer government discrimination because their choice of school is religious.”
A group of Montana Catholic school parents also submitted a friend-of-the-court brief stressing that state Blaine amendments “should be declared unconstitutional once and for all.”
Before the case was argued, Richard Garnett, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Program on Church, State and Society, said it could have major implications for education-reform debates and policies and it “could remove, or at least reduce, one of the legal barriers to choice-based reforms like scholarship programs and tax credits for low-income families.”

(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim)

Just as Paul proclaimed Christ, ‘so must we,’ says Birmingham’s new bishop

By Mary D. Dillard
BIRMINGHAM – The Diocese of Birmingham’s wait for a new shepherd came to a end Wednesday, June 23. The Mass of Installation for Bishop Steven J. Raica was celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Paul in downtown Birmingham.
Unlike the night before during solemn vespers, the sun was shining brightly as the clergy lined up outside the cathedral to begin the procession. Once all the clergy and servers were inside, the doors to the cathedral were closed so Bishop Raica could make the ceremonious knock. With the custom hammer, hand-made by Cathedral employee Philipp Szabo, Bishop Raica knocked on the door three times, after which Archbishop Thomas Rodi, Metropolitan of the Mobile Province, opened the door and welcomed Bishop Raica. Following his entrance, the bishop-elect venerated the crucifix held by Father Bryan Jerabek, pastor and rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul, then blessed those in the narthex with holy water.

Bishop Steven J. Raica shows the apostolic letter of his appointment from Pope Francis to head the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., during his installation Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham June 23, 2020. (CNS photo/Mary D. Dillard, One Voice)

Archbishop Rodi greeted all those present and thanked Bishop Emeritus Robert Baker for his service to the Church in Birmingham. He then asked Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, to read the Apostolic Letter of Appointment. After the letter was read, it was handed to Bishop Raica who carried it throughout the cathedral for all those present to see. The last part of the Rite of Installation followed with the nuncio and the archbishop walking Birmingham’s new bishop to his Cathedra, or bishop’s chair. Archbishop Rodi then handed a smiling Bishop Raica the crosier of Bishop Joseph Vath, Birmingham’s first bishop.
Concelebrating bishops included Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, Bishop Mark Spalding of Nashville, Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Bishop David Talley of Memphis, Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson, Bishop Louis Kihneman of Biloxi, Bishop William Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee, and Bishop Emeritus Baker.
Keys to a Christian life
Birmingham’s new bishop began his homily welcoming those present and acknowledging those unable to physically attend due to current pandemic restrictions. He also took the opportunity to thank Bishop Emeritus Baker for his “tenure of faithful episcopal ministry” in the Diocese of Birmingham. Of Bishop Baker, he said, “The priests, deacons, religious and faithful of Birmingham have been truly blessed by your dedication to ministry and your steadfast discipleship with Christ our Lord! I can already see that I have some big shoes to fill!”
He went on to assure the faithful that he is committed to being their shepherd “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.” As he continued, Bishop Raica highlighted three “keys” to help the Church of Birmingham “unlock the precise meaning” of the day.
The first key the bishop focused on was the “yes” that is required as witnessed through Mary, the Mother of Christ, and Mother of the Incarnate Word. He reflected on the “yes” saying, “The formal announcement of my transfer from Gaylord to Birmingham occurred on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation … That announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary is one of the most significant, and I dare say, the most revolutionary events in Christian history. No longer did we have to try to go and find God somewhere in the heavens, as if everything depended on our reaching out to a Mystery hoping that we might catch a glimpse of God. Rather, we are told, ‘The Word became Flesh.’ God’s Son, took our flesh. He came to find us!”
Bishop Raica expanded on his reflection by highlighting that Mary’s “yes” and subsequent conception of Jesus “opened for us a relationship that is now unbounded by time and dimension, but a reality that confronts us day in and day out.” He continued, “It allows us to see that a relationship with a person, whose voice we can know, invites us to know that our humanity is profoundly loved beyond anything we could ever imagine. It has profound dignity because each human being – especially in light of our recent civil turmoil and unrest, reflects the very image and likeness of God regardless of our age, whether we are unborn or in our waning years, the color of our skin or economic status. All are part of the one human family with a mosaic of experiences and cultures.”
The second key mentioned was “looking” for Christ. With the Mass of Installation being celebrated as a votive Mass of St. John the Baptist, Bishop Raica noted the saint’s words from the Gospel of John, “Look, there’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The bishop stressed that in any form of evangelization, the very first word is “look.” In fact, the bishop said that we must open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts, for the “One you have been waiting for … is here!”
The last key of “going forth on mission” is exemplified by the patron of the Diocese of Birmingham, St. Paul. It was Paul who became an ardent evangelist and his life has “become a point of reference in mission.” Bishop Raica told the faithful that as Paul proclaimed Christ, “So must we.” “Our faith doesn’t settle for minimums, but for real total engagement with reality. May we be bold to live up to the noble calling of becoming truly ourselves, what God has planned and purposed for each of us – people who are redeemed, joyful, fulfilled, and free,” he proclaimed.
Bishop Raica concluded his homily by bringing together the three keys that he says will “open the door for a fruitful life as a Christian here in the Diocese of Birmingham.” “To say ‘yes’ to God’s invitation, to ‘look’ and see Christ around us as the answer to our hearts’ deepest longing; and, to ‘go’ out and embark on a mission of witnessing God’s love by our lives … becoming a ‘missionary disciple’ offering hope to a world marred by violence, hate and lack of respect for others. That is a noble mission and one we should not shirk from each and every day, leaving a unique mark behind that says – through me, one could see Christ, know Christ and experience Christ’s love. A ‘yes’ to God’s invitation, to ‘look’ and see Christ around and with us, and ‘going out’ on mission. May God provide us with the grace and strength to live for Him each and every day!”
Bishop Raica succeeds Bishop Emeritus Robert J. Baker, who served the Diocese of Birmingham since October of 2007. Bishop Raica was born Nov. 8, 1952, ordained a priest Oct. 14, 1978, named as an Honorary Prelate of His Holiness in 1998, ordained and installed as Bishop of Gaylord, Michigan Aug. 28, 2014, and appointed Bishop of Birmingham March 25, 2020.

First chance to receive Eucharist at Mass in months leaves some in tears

By Catholic News Service
PORTLAND, Maine – A parish priest in Bangor, Maine, said he saw many Massgoers “in tears” as they took holy Communion for the first time in close to three months at a publicly celebrated Mass June 7, Trinity Sunday, at St. Paul the Apostle Church.
Father Augustine Nellary, parochial vicar of the parish, said he was “extremely excited to have some of our parishioners back in the church and celebrate the Eucharist with them. I saw many of them in tears as they received the Eucharist.”
Across the country, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles celebrated his first Mass with faithful present at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Attendance was limited to 100 people, on a first-come, first-served basis, following the guidelines and regulations set by the County Health Department and the archdiocese.
In his homily, Archbishop Gomez said: “Today marks a beautiful new beginning for the family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, as many of our churches are opening to celebrate the Eucharist for the first time in many weeks.”
On May 26, Archbishop Gomez told priests and parish staff churches in the archdiocese could begin to open to the public the first week of June if they implemented certain safety guidelines.
In recent weeks, U.S. dioceses have begun issuing plans for the gradual reopening of churches over several phases with the safety of congregants, priests, deacons and other parish staff foremost in the minds of Catholic officials – and with safety protocols in place, including required mask wearing and social distancing inside church, with seating in designated pews.
The gradual opening of churches or planned openings – with limits on congregation size – have for the most part come as cities and states announce a gradual reopening of a variety of what they deem as “nonessential” public and private entities, including churches, as the threat of COVID-19 has subsided – but not gone away entirely
Dioceses are still encouraging online giving to parishes, and Masses everywhere continue to be livestreamed.
In the statewide Diocese of Portland, Maine, the effort to reopen churches, even in a limited fashion, prompted creativity among clergy and parish staff. No more than 50 people could be in attendance, masks were mandatory, and temporary pew seating arrangements ensured social-distancing guidelines were followed. In addition, reservations were required to make sure capacity wasn’t exceeded.
But Catholics felt the regulations and protocols were small prices to pay for the opportunity to be together again.
“People were so very happy to be back at Mass. I told them how wonderful it was to have more people to pray with,” said Father John Skehan, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Augusta.
“We are grateful to God that we are able once again to celebrate and receive Eucharist together,” said Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland told Massgoers during his June 7 Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.
“How nice to see you this morning! Over these last three months, I have known that you are there, but it is nice to see some of you actually here with us this morning,” he added.
The bishop also described the work being completed at Maine churches after each Mass to keep those attending safe, including the sanitization of seats and pews, knobs, door handles, bathrooms, altars, musical equipment and other touched surfaces.
In Ontario, the provincial government lifted the blanket ban on services, allowing churches to resume public Masses and seat up to 30% of their capacity – the highest allowance in Canada – starting June 12.
Premier Doug Ford announced the loosening of restrictions June 8 as Ontario moved into stage 2 of its reopening plan. With Ontario churches reopening, Quebec is the only Canadian province yet to resume public Masses in some form.
But not all Catholic churches in Ontario reopened June 12. They will need to develop protocols to provide added hygiene, allow parishioners to maintain proper distancing and ensure that no more than 30% of the pews are occupied.
Bishop Ronald Fabbro of London, Ontario, said the news must be tempered with patience and health and safety remains paramount. “I ask for your patience. We have been working hard to prepare for the re-opening of churches, but we will need to make sure our communities can worship safely,” he said.
Robert Du Broy, communications director for the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall, Ontario, said some churches in the archdiocese are more prepared to open quickly than others. He said it will be left to individual churches to decide if they have the necessary number of volunteers and sanitary precautions and other safe-distancing measures in place.
Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, Ontario, said the reopening brings new challenges and the church will not look the same as it did pre-pandemic.
“We can expect instructions about social distancing, use of hand sanitizers and face masks, and how to receive holy Communion, among other things,” said Bishop Crosby. “We count on the goodwill of everybody to assure the safety of priests and congregation. Some of this will not be easy, but together we can do it.”
The bishops said their current guidelines for public celebrations of the Mass remain in effect for now: sign up to attend, physical distancing, contact tracing, hand sanitizing, no singing, and requiring masks for volunteers and all those who wish to receive Communion.
“We are grateful to all those who have worked so hard to make the necessary preparations, and to our parishioners for the patience and the responsibility toward others that they have demonstrated as they have returned to Mass,” Alberta’s bishops said June 9.
Back in Maine, Julie Ann Smyth, a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Biddeford, was one of those brought to tears by being able to attend Mass in church once again.
“As soon as the opening song started playing, I teared up. It was overwhelming to think about the past two months,” she said. “To return to the pew and to be with others who share your love of your faith, it was just so special.”

Contributing to this story were the staff of Angelus in Los Angeles, Mickey Conlon at The Catholic Register in Toronto and Andrew Ehrkamp of Grandin Media.

Bishops ‘sickened’ by Floyd’s death, say racism ‘real and present danger’

By Julie Asher
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. Catholic bishops said May 29 they “are broken-hearted, sickened and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes.”
“What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion,” they said in a statement about the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
In recent weeks, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African American man in Georgia, was fatally shot ,and three white men were arrested and are facing murder charges in his death. In March, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, died at the hands of white police officers when they entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient,” the bishops said. “It is a real and present danger that must be met head on.”
“As members of the church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference,” they said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy and justice.”
“Indifference is not an option,” they emphasized and stated “unequivocally” that “racism is a life issue.”
The statement was issued by the chairmen of seven committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; Archbishop Nelson J. Perez of Philadelphia, Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell of Los Angeles, Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago, Subcommittee on African American Affairs.
Floyd, 46, was arrested by police on suspicion of forgery. Once he was handcuffed, a white officer pinned him down on the street, putting his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes. A now widely circulated video shows Floyd repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.” He appears to lose consciousness or die and was later declared dead at the hospital.
The next day, hundreds of people protested at the intersection where police officers subdued Floyd, demanding justice for him and the arrest of the four officers involved. The officers were fired May 26 and as of midday May 29, local prosecutors filed criminal charges against at least one of the now former officers: The one seen putting his knee on Floyd’s neck, identified as Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The federal Justice Department promised a “robust” investigation into the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death.
Protests in Minneapolis have turned to violent demonstrations and lasted several days, prompting Gov. Tim Walz to bring in the National Guard May 29. The protests sparked similar rioting in at least a dozen U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, New York, Louisville, and Columbus, Ohio.
The bishops in their statement pointed to their “Open Wide Our Hearts” pastoral against racism approved by the body of bishops in 2018. In it, they said: “For people of color some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives.”
In their May 29 statement, the committee chairmen called for an end to the violence taking place in the wake of the tragedy in Minneapolis but also said they “stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged.”
They joined with Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Floyd “and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner.”
In anticipation of the feast of Pentecost, May 31, they called on all Catholics “to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit” and pray to “to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause.”
“We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the spirit of truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems,” the bishops said urged every Catholic, regardless of ethnicity, to “beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society.”
Here is the full text of their statement:
We are broken-hearted, sickened and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.
Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.
While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful nonviolent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.
As we said eighteen months ago in our most recent pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” for people of color some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option. As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue.”

Protesters in Minneapolis gather at the scene May 27, 2020, where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital May 25. (CNS photo/Eric Miller, Reuters)

We join Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Mr. George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner. We plead for an end to the violence in the wake of this tragedy and for the victims of the rioting. We pray for comfort for grieving families and friends. We pray for peace across the United States, particularly in Minnesota, while the legal process moves forward. We also anticipate a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and actual justice.
We join our brother bishops to challenge everyone to come together, particularly with those who are from different cultural backgrounds. In this encounter, let us all seek greater understanding amongst God’s people. So many people who historically have been disenfranchised continue to experience sadness and pain, yet they endeavor to persevere and remain people of great faith. We encourage our pastors to encounter and more authentically accompany them, listen to their stories, and learn from them, finding substantive ways to enact systemic change. Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States. Hopefully, then there will be many voices speaking out and seeking healing against the evil of racism in our land.
As we anticipate the Solemnity of Pentecost this weekend, we call upon all Catholics to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for a supernatural desire to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause. We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the spirit of truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems. Finally, let each and every Catholic, regardless of their ethnicity, beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society.

Editor’s Note: The full text of the bishops’ 2108 pastoral against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts,” can be found online at


WASHINGTON (CNS) – Dos encuestas separadas muestran que los estadounidenses confían más en su fe para ayudar a perseverar durante la pandemia de coronavirus. El Centro de Investigación Pew, en una encuesta publicada el 30 de abril, mostró que casi un cuarto de todos los estadounidenses dice que su fe se ha fortalecido durante la pandemia, mientras que solo el 2% dijo que se había debilitado.
NUEVA ORLEANS (CNS) – Citando las crecientes preocupaciones sobre el impacto financiero de resoluciones extrajudiciales por abuso sexual del clero y la pandemia de coronavirus, la Arquidiócesis de Nueva Orleans solicitó el Capítulo 11 la reorganización de las finanzas de sus oficinas administrativas el 1 de mayo en el Tribunal de Bancarrota de los Estados Unidos para el Distrito Este de Luisiana.
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Con las colecciones del ofertorio de la misa dominical prácticamente inexistentes durante la pandemia de coronavirus, las diócesis ayudan a las parroquias a encontrar ingresos, incluidos los fondos PPP, en fuentes de ingresos para ayudar a evitar que una crisis se convierta en una segunda crisis, en medio de la pandemia. La última indicación es que alrededor de 8,000 de las 17,000 parroquias de los Estados Unidos han solicitado préstamos con éxito.

COVID-19 coronavirus in USA, 100 dollar money bill with face mask. Coronavirus affects global stock market. World economy hit by corona virus outbreak and pandemic fears. Crisis and finance concept.

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) – El Papa Francisco en sus misas matutinas ha estado rezando por:
• Periodistas y miembros de los medios de comunicación que, a pesar de los riesgos, trabajan incansablemente para informar al público de la pandemia en curso.
• Los sacerdotes y los médicos que dieron su vida cuidando el bienestar espiritual y físico de los demás durante la pandemia de coronavirus son como Jesús, el buen pastor, que dio su vida por su rebaño.
• Familias de todo el mundo que han sido restringidas a sus hogares debido a la pandemia de COVID-19, el Papa Francisco incluyó la mención de víctimas de violencia doméstica.
• Los trabajadores, especialmente a aquellos pagados injusta o virtualmente esclavizados en la fiesta de San José el Trabajador, celebrada también como el Día Internacional de los Trabajadores y como el Día del Trabajo en muchos países.
CIUDAD DE MÉXICO (CNS) – Caritas Honduras ha pedido transparencia en la distribución de la asistencia COVID-19, que, de acuerdo con un creciente aumento de las acusaciones, se ha utilizado con fines políticos en el país empobrecido y plagado de corrupción. El padre German Calix, director de Caritas Honduras, dijo a Catholic News Service que el brazo caritativo de la iglesia quería una investigación para “probar o refutar” las acusaciones de suministros médicos que se compran a precios inflados y de funcionarios locales, responsables de proporcionar alimentos a las personas en cuarentena, que solo ofrecen asistencia a los afiliados al partido político en el poder.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – La vendedora callejera Marisol Maradiaga, que vive en la calle después de no poder seguir pagando el alquiler, juega con sus hijos en el 23 de abril de 2020, durante la pandemia de COVID-19. (Foto del CNS/Jorge Cabrera, Reuters)

SAO PAULO (CNS) – La conferencia de los obispos brasileños elogió un fallo de la Corte Suprema de que las mujeres infectadas con el virus Zika no podían abortar. “No corresponde a ninguna autoridad pública reconocer selectivamente el derecho a la vida, asegurándolo a algunos y negándolo a otros”, dijeron los obispos.
LIMA, Perú (CNS) – Los líderes católicos advierten que a medida que la pandemia de coronavirus se extienda a la cuenca del Amazonas, la región podría enfrentar una “tragedia humanitaria y ambiental”. Las personas indígenas que sufren violencia por sus esfuerzos para defender sus tierras contra mineros, madereros y acaparadores de tierras también corren un gran riesgo debido a COVID-19, según un comunicado de la Red de Iglesias Pan-Amazonas, REPAM. “El dolor y el lamento de la gente y la tierra se unen en un solo grito”, escribieron en la declaración, fechada el 18 de mayo.

A nurse adjusts an oxygen tank next to a tent for COVID-19 patients in the parking lot of a hospital in Lima, Peru, April 16, 2020. As coronavirus cases surge in Peru’s two largest LIMA, Perú – Una enfermera ajusta un tanque de oxígeno junto a una carpa para pacientes con COVID-19 en el estacionamiento de un hospital el 16 de abril de 2020. A medida que aumentan los casos de coronavirus en las dos ciudades amazónicas más grandes de Perú, Iquitos y Pucallpa, los líderes católicos estan luchando por encontrar formas de proporcionar a los enfermos la necesidad de salud más básica, oxígeno vital. (Foto del CNS/Sebastián Castaneda, Reuters).

Catholic women reflect on pregnancy, childbirth during the pandemic

By Katie Scott
PORTLAND, Ore. – At 8 a.m. on Easter, two days before giving birth, Jennifer Ratigan pulled into a hospital parking lot and waited for a physician’s assistant – donning full protective garb, including a face mask and shield – to reach through a rolled-down window to swab her nose for a COVID-19 test.
The hospital was preparing for a potential surge in coronavirus cases and was testing all mothers who’d likely deliver soon. Medical staff wanted to allocate equipment and health care workers properly.
Ratigan, whose test results were negative, understood the precaution. But the contrast between the strange early morning outing and her soul’s desire was acute and painful. She longed to be at Mass, to be among friends, to be watching her five children gleefully scramble for hidden eggs.
“It was emotional,” said the 42-year-old, a member of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Northeast Portland. “I felt sad and lonely.”
For pregnant and postpartum mothers, the pandemic has upended birth plans and altered expectations. It’s caused heightened uncertainty and twinges of fear. At the same time, many women, Ratigan included, say it’s intensified their awe of life and reliance on God.
“This Easter I needed the surrender prayer, ‘Jesus, I turn it over to you,’” Ratigan said.
On April 14, the Ratigan family welcomed child No. 6, a boy they named Luke. “It means ‘light,’ and he’s our light right now,” said his mother in a recent phone interview, the cries and coos of the newborn interrupting periodically.
Ratigan’s husband, Mitch, is a baseball coach, and before the virus, the couple wondered how the family would juggle baseball season with four sons who play and a baby on the way.
“When the pandemic started, it was a jolt into reality and the realization of how silly our little frets were before,” said Ratigan. After her previous births, she’d stayed in the hospital a few days. With Luke, it was a mere 24 hours. “It was very quick; they want to get people out,” she said. When her muscles ached, she reminded herself she wasn’t usually out of a hospital bed so early.
There have been many moments of pregnancy, pandemic and birth that she’ll never forget.
En route from the hospital, she texted Father Matt Libra, their pastor, asking if they could get a drive-by blessing. The priest came out of the rectory mask-clad and prayed over the family.
“That felt so very special,” recalled Ratigan.
A few nights ago, close family friends dropped off pizza on their doorstep and then stood across the street as Luke was held up and introduced.
“We are being really diligent and following social-distancing recommendations,” Ratigan said.
“No one wants to be responsible for getting anyone else sick. But that night I started to tear up. We will not ever underappreciate friendships.”
Prayer, thankfully, pays no heed to physical distance. “The many prayers of others have strengthened us through all this,” she said.
Because the coronavirus is new, it’s not yet clear if pregnant women have a greater chance than the general public of contracting COVID-19 or if they’re more likely to have serious complications. The CDC says pregnant women seem to have the same risk as those who are not pregnant.
There also currently is no evidence that the virus is transmitted in utero or through breast milk, said Dr. Judy Marvin, medical director of Providence Health and Services women’s clinics in Oregon.
Another impact of the virus is this: No doula in the delivery room. No post-birth hugs from her parents. No tender hospital moment of grandparents meeting their freshly arrived grandson.
“You have these expectations, and then – surprise – a pandemic is here and everything looks different,” said Angie Kelly, whose first baby was born on Palm Sunday.
She said of all the changes to her birth plan, keeping the baby, Tano Lorenzo Thomas Kelly, and her parents separate has been the hardest. First it was because of hospital limits on visitors, now it’s due to social distancing.
The lack of her anticipated support at the hospital meant “it was all the more meaningful to have such caring nurses,” said the 29-year-old.
Right now, Kelly and her husband are savoring this time with their son. “We’d be in the house all the time anyway,” she said with a laugh. “Instead of needing to turn down events or showing up late, we are able to just be with each other.”

Jennifer Ratigan, a parishioner of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Portland, Ore., wears a required mask as she holds her newborn son Luke during a doctor’s visit in late April, 2020. Echoing other Oregon Catholics, she said pregnancy and childbirth during the coronavirus pandemic intensified her reliance on prayer and reverence for life. (CNS photo/courtesy Jennifer Ratigan) See COVID-PREGNANCIES April 30, 2020.

The couple has tried to limit their news consumption, while staying mindful of the suffering caused by the pandemic. “I want to soak in this awesome, wild, new-parent time,” said Kelly, cradling her baby. “From where I sit, the world looks beautiful.”
Christina Fordyce, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Salem, is having a home birth for her second baby, due in August.
“It was such an amazing experience with our first that we wanted to do it again,” said Fordyce, 25. Now she feels especially relieved at the decision, which a growing number of women nationwide are making during the pandemic.
Some women have concerns about their own and especially their babies’ potential vulnerability to the virus in hospitals.
Though Fordyce’s birth plan may remain in place even if the pandemic lasts through the summer, her visits with the midwives have changed. The last prenatal appointment was over the phone, and for the previous one the midwife wore a mask and gloves and stayed just long enough to check her vitals.
“The visits usually feel so intimate and personal,” said Fordyce. “Both their experience and mine were so different.”
It’s also been a bit tough to parent a toddler while pregnant without the in-person practical and spiritual support of her parish community.
Lent as a “big part of the pregnancy was providential,” she said. “It’s a time to get on your feet spiritually and pick up prayer routines you may have dropped. I needed that more than ever.”
“Trust” is a word that keeps coming to mind, she added. “There are so many unknowns right now. It’s an opportunity to place more trust in God.”
Olivia is an Oregon Catholic who’s three months pregnant with her third child. She’s keeping her name private so she can share the news in person with her extended family, now separated by social distancing.
“We are close to a lot of my family, and we really miss seeing them, our kids really miss seeing them,” said Oliva, who is in her late 30s.
She’s not due until the fall, but public health experts, including the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have warned a second wave of coronavirus cases could appear around then.
“If we have to do social distancing and no one can come over, my husband may have to stay with the kids while I give birth,” Oliva said. “That’s a tough, sad reality to consider.”
“Even in the midst of these trials and the unknowns and the world changing so fast, life is a gift,” Olivia said. “I can celebrate the life in my womb in this moment. This baby in me is a source of joy in a strange time. This baby is a source of hope.”

(Scott is special projects reporter at the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.)