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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS May-24-2007

By Catholic News Service


Bishop Wenski testifies on immigration reform before House panel

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The problem that must be solved by immigration reform "is not the immigrants" but "the broken system," the former chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Migration told a House subcommittee. In testimony May 22 before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., urged lawmakers to produce legislation that would reform the current immigration system and respect the dignity and rights of immigrants and migrant workers. He spoke on behalf of the U.S. bishops about comprehensive immigration reform, joining representatives of other religious denominations in giving testimony to the subcommittee. Before the hearing, Bishop Wenski told Catholic News Service that one of the most important aspects of immigration reform is to ensure that policies would help unite families and not divide them. He expressed concern in his testimony that the current Senate bill would separate families by replacing the family preference system with a merit-based system and by capping the number of visas for parents of U.S. citizens.

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New York Cardinal's Scholarship Fund gets $22.5 million donation

NEW YORK (CNS) -- A New York philanthropist has donated $22.5 million to the Archdiocese of New York for its inner-city scholarship program, the archdiocese announced May 23. The donation, from former Wall Street investor Robert Wilson, will enable 3,000 children to attend Catholic schools in New York City through the scholarship program launched two years ago to provide needy students with partial- or full-tuition grants. Wilson, an 80-year-old atheist, told reporters after the donation was announced that he had no problem supporting a fund for Catholic school students. "Shunning religious organizations would be abhorrent," he told Bloomberg News. "Keep in mind, I'm helping to pay tuition. The money isn't going directly to the schools." New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan praised Wilson for his "historic and far-sighted support." After learning about Wilson's donation, another donor, who wished to remain anonymous, contributed $4.5 million to the archdiocesan scholarship program. Since it began in 2005 as a partnership with other New York scholarship programs, the Cardinal's Scholarship Fund has awarded 3,700 scholarships with a maximum individual tuition value of $2,100 per year.

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Arkansas parish tackles 'Catholic Extreme Makeover' on priest's home

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CNS) -- Call it a "Catholic Extreme Makeover." When parishioners at Christ the King Church in Little Rock heard about Father Udochukwu "Udo" Vincent Ogbuji's paralysis following a car wreck, they prayed for the priest's recovery. And when their pastor, Msgr. Francis I. Malone, challenged them to renovate a house in less than two weeks for the former Searcy pastor, they immediately jumped to work. "They really stepped up with incredible donations," said Sandy DeCoursey, the parish life/outreach director who oversaw the renovation of the vacant, parish-owned, two-story home. "The Holy Spirit is guiding this," she said. "The Holy Spirit is the project manager." Before Father Ogbuji, 38, was released from Baptist Rehabilitation Institute, Msgr. J. Gaston Hebert, administrator of the Little Rock Diocese, and Msgr. Malone agreed that the priest needed a home close to his therapists and doctors while at the same time being able to put his priestly vocation to work.

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Kansas diocese marks Rural Life Day with Mass, talk on resources

SALINA, Kan. (CNS) -- Convincing Americans how to be better stewards of their natural resources has been a 30-year quest for the Land Institute of Salina. "We need to turn things around right away," Ken Warren, the institute's managing director, told members of the Salina Diocese's Rural Life Commission at Rural Life Day activities coinciding with the May 15 feast of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers and rural communities. The day concluded with a Mass celebrated by Salina Bishop Paul S. Coakley at Immaculate Conception Church in Solomon. Warren said the best description he's read of what the Land Institute does is promoting "nothing less than the overthrow of agriculture as we know it." He was quick to say, however, that the institute does not disparage farmers. "It's a problem of agriculture," he said. "We've had it wrong for a long time." What institute founder Wes Jackson and his staff want to do is reverse the depletion of soil, water, oil, minerals and air.

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Seminary gets $2 million to endow chair in preaching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- A group of Catholic philanthropic organizations has given St. Paul Seminary $2 million to endow a chair in homiletics in honor of St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Harry J. Flynn. Gerald Rauenhorst, founder of Opus Corp., a Minneapolis-based national real estate development firm, and his wife, Henrietta, contributed personally to the endowment. Four foundations -- Opus Foundation, Better Way Foundation, Sieben Foundation and Opus Prize Foundation, each chaired by a member of the Rauenhorst family -- contributed the rest of the $2 million gift. The chair will be called the Archbishop Harry Flynn endowed chair in homiletics. Homiletics, the study of the art of preaching, is a standard course in all Catholic seminaries. Gerald Rauenhorst said, "Over the years our family has come to have enormous respect for Archbishop Flynn. We have all been particularly struck by his ability to consistently deliver homilies with passion, with intelligence and with great conviction."

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Vatican official visits Ivory Coast to offer pope's encouragement

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As the people of Ivory Coast struggled to implement a peace agreement, Cardinal Renato Martino visited the country, taking Pope Benedict XVI's encouragement and material support. Cardinal Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, visited the West African nation May 15-20 "at the request of the Holy Father," said a statement issued May 24 by his office. Celebrating Mass in St. Paul's Cathedral in Abidjan, "the cardinal encouraged the Ivorian people to continue on the path to peace and to promote national reconciliation," the statement said. In early March, President Laurent Gbagbo and rebel leader Guillaume Soro signed an agreement to end the skirmishes and division that had plagued Ivory Coast after Soro led an attempted coup against Gbagbo in 2002. Under the agreement, Soro became prime minister, and militias supporting the president and Soro's rebels were to begin disarming. Cardinal Martino's office said Gbagbo and Soro attended the Mass he celebrated in the cathedral and embraced each other in front of the entire congregation during the sign of peace, setting off "a long applause from the entire assembly."

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Pope supports Italian bishops' promotion of pro-family policies

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI gave his full support to the Italian bishops' efforts to promote public policies aimed at helping the traditional family. Addressing the annual meeting of the Italian bishops' conference May 24, Pope Benedict said the bishops' pro-family initiatives were "in full agreement with the constant teaching of the Apostolic See." The bishops have been criticized by some for "interfering" in Italian politics, and the president of the bishops' conference, Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, has been given a police escort after receiving death threats. Pope Benedict told the bishops that while the church respects the separation of church and state "we cannot help concerning ourselves with that which is good" for the person, created in the image of God, and for society. The gathering of some 1 million people in Rome May 12 to celebrate the traditional family and call for family-friendly policies confirmed the fact that Italians still believe in the family, the pope said.

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South African bishop discusses finding Jesus in HIV/AIDS care

KAMPALA, Uganda (CNS) -- Although no easy answers can be found in the suffering of people affected by HIV/AIDS, God is with them and their caregivers, said a South African bishop. "There are no easy answers to the suffering of the people, and those who tell the poor and the sick that there is a cure are hiding the truth," said Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustensburg, South Africa. "But the truth is that God is with us in all these suffering (people). I am not a specialist in HIV/AIDS, but I am simply sharing my story -- the story of my people," Bishop Dowling said during a series of talks on HIV/AIDS care sponsored by Hospice Africa in Uganda, a home-care organization. "I want to share with you how I have found the God of love in this ministry, because I truly believe God is with us to help us do his work." Jesus did not come to explain away suffering and did not tell people there is no suffering, said the bishop, but he wanted to feel people's suffering.

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Catholics in Canada, Latin America have much in common, says bishop

APARECIDA, Brazil (CNS) -- Canada's Catholic Church has much in common with its Latin America counterpart, including the challenge of "convincing people that because they are baptized they have an obligation to be disciples and missionaries," said Canadian Bishop Martin Currie of Grand Falls, Newfoundland. Migration, the environment and the church's relationship with indigenous peoples are other shared concerns, said Bishop Currie, who is part of the Canadian delegation participating in the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, meeting until May 31 in Aparecida. The biggest common task is developing a deep faith commitment among Catholics, he said. "We baptize very easily, people make their first Communion, get confirmed very easily," Bishop Currie told Catholic News Service. "But have we initiated them (so) they have a commitment to Jesus and the church? This is one of the serious questions that we're all facing."

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Priest to retire after 27 years heading historic Baltimore seminary

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- By his own admission, Sulpician Father Robert F. Leavitt was an unusual choice to lead St. Mary's Seminary and University in the Baltimore neighborhood of Roland Park. When the Connecticut native was named the 14th president and first president-rector in 1980, he was only 37. He didn't have any administrative experience and had only recently become a member of the Sulpicians -- the order of teaching priests who have run America's first Catholic seminary since its founding in 1791. Father Leavitt's mother and friends advised against taking the post at his alma mater, fearing the intellectual young man was better suited for the classroom than the boardroom. What made it all the more challenging was that many believed the seminary had reached a nadir in its proud history. Awash in red ink and suffering from declining enrollment, St. Mary's seemed without direction. Twenty-seven years later, Father Leavitt is preparing to step down as president-rector. He will leave St. Mary's in a much different condition than he found it. His fingerprints are everywhere -- from new buildings and programs to an endowment whose value has increased more than 15 times during his tenure.

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Relative hopes people will remember Blessed Preca's life, virtues

OTTAWA (CNS) -- Tony Vella, the great-nephew of Father George Preca, said he hopes the charismatic Maltese priest's life and virtues will be remembered long after his June 3 canonization. Vella called his mother's uncle, whom he knows as "Dun Gorg," a "pioneer of the lay apostolate." Vella, 64, of Kingston, Ontario, served Blessed Preca as an altar boy in his native town of Hamrun, Malta, and "used to see him pretty well every day," Vella said in a May telephone interview from Kingston. When Blessed Preca began his ministry, Malta, an island nation off the coast of Italy, was largely illiterate. Although Malta is Catholic, the faith there was mingled with superstition. As a deacon, Blessed Preca started "religious discussions" with sailors in the Grand Harbor area and began building relationships with local youths. Shortly after his 1906 ordination, Blessed Preca had what Vella described as a "very charismatic experience" that led him to spend three months alone, praying and meditating in a loft and pondering the Bible, especially the New Testament. A year later, he founded the Society of Christian Doctrine, setting up catechism centers to form faithful Christians.

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Irish priest relieved of ministry after compromising photo published

KILLALOE, Ireland (CNS) -- The Catholic priest from Feakle has been granted a break from ministry after a picture of him posing in just his underpants was published on the front page of the Irish edition of The Sun newspaper. On May 23, the day the photo was published, Father Michael Hogan, 56, issued a statement apologizing for "breaches and indiscretions in relation to my vow of celibacy" and said "these are serious matters that affect my vocation and ministry." Bishop William Walsh of Killaloe issued a statement saying that, at Father Hogan's request, he had granted the priest "a period of time out from his ministry in order to reflect on his position." Calling on the parishioners in Feakle to pray for their priest, the bishop said: "I am aware that his ministry as a priest has been characterized by a deep sincerity and compassion for people in their struggles. I ask that he be shown the compassion and understanding which he has always shown to others in their struggles." An undercover journalist from the tabloid newspaper obtained the picture of Father Hogan on a Web site used by Irish homosexuals to find sexual partners.

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Pope names North Americans to two Vatican offices

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has named several North Americans as members of two Vatican offices. He named Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, to be a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education. The congregation includes responsibility for Catholic seminaries, and Archbishop O'Brien is the former rector of the Pontifical North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome. Among other members of the congregation named May 24 were U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec. Also May 24, the Vatican announced a married couple as new members of the Pontifical Council for the Family: Carl A. and Dorian Anderson of Madison, Conn. Carl Anderson is the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.


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