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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Aug-4-2009

By Catholic News Service


Working paper outlines information being sought from religious orders

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Orders of women religious in the United States will be asked to complete a comprehensive questionnaire that looks at six areas of religious life in preparation for a series of apostolic visits set to begin in January. Topics to be considered are outlined in a working document distributed July 28 to the 341 leaders of the religious congregations to share with their members. The topics are related to the life and operation of the orders: identity; governance; vocation promotion, admission and formation policies; spiritual life and common life; mission and ministry; and finances. Members of the orders are being asked to reflect on the working document. A separate questionnaire based on the working document will be distributed to superiors general Sept. 1. Distribution of the questionnaire Sept. 1 will open the second phase of a comprehensive study of U.S. institutes of women religious announced in January and ordered by the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life under its prefect, Cardinal Franc Rode. Known in Latin as an "instrumentum laboris," the July 28 working document will help the orders prepare to answer the Sept. 1 questionnaire, said Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the apostolic visitator charged by the Vatican with directing the study.

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What message should Catholics send Congress on health care reform?

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the House of Representatives headed out of Washington for a five-week summer recess, with the Senate soon to follow, members of Congress were vowing to listen to their constituents' views on health care reform. But from a Catholic perspective, what should the American public be telling their representatives and senators about what promises to be the hottest topic when Congress returns after Labor Day? "We need health reform that respects the life and dignity of every person, from conception to natural death," said Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association. "That means the unborn, it means the patient with multiple sclerosis, the patient with cancer, the young mother, the addicted, the mentally ill, the dying patient and the frail, frail elderly." In an Aug. 3 interview with Catholic News Service, she decried the "deliberate distortions" about health care reform being circulated by "those who for whatever reason don't want health reform to succeed." The worst of the distortions, Sister Carol said, is that CHA and Catholic Charities USA are "working at cross-purposes" with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the abortion issue in health reform. All three groups are sending a clear message that health reform must be "at least abortion-neutral" and must include conscience protections for health care professionals and institutions that do not want to participate in abortions or other morally objectionable medical procedures, she said.

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Maryknoll farm's bounty supplies seven food pantries serving the poor

MARYKNOLL, N.Y. (CNS) -- At this point in the summer, lots of backyard gardeners are delivering produce to nearby front porches. Some of them are doing it under cover of darkness because their neighbors have had their fill of zucchini and eggplant. But at the 1.4-acre Pachamama Farm at Maryknoll headquarters, the neighbors are clamoring for produce and the volunteer farmers are happy to oblige. Last year, Pachamama Farm produced 25,713 pounds of organically grown vegetables and fruits that were distributed at no cost through seven food pantries in Westchester County, where Maryknoll is located. This year's yield is likely to equal or eclipse the 2008 totals, according to Maryknoll Father John Hudert, the farm's director. Pachamama means "earth mother" in Quechua, an indigenous language spoken in Peru, one of the countries where Maryknoll missioners serve. The Food Bank for Westchester estimates that 200,000 of the county's 954,000 people are hungry or at risk of being hungry.

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Two hundred years of faith: Sisters of Charity celebrate bicentennial

EMMITSBURG, Md. (CNS) -- Peering through a glass display case, 9-year-old Gloria Whitfield was impressed with an old letter that rested on a 19th-century wooden writing desk. Composed by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the May 3, 1803, note, written in a flowing black script, was addressed to one of the saint's daughters on the girl's birthday. "May almighty God bless you, my child, and make you his child forever," it said. Establishing an up-close connection with the first U.S.-born saint was a thrill for Gloria, a parishioner of St. Timothy in Centerville, Va. The youngster was equally impressed by a locket with St. Elizabeth Ann's hair, relics and other historic artifacts on display at the visitor center of the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg. "It's cool," said Gloria. "She did a lot for Catholic schools. She helped a lot of people." Gloria was one of about 1,000 people from across the country and around the world who converged in Emmitsburg Aug. 2 to celebrate a special Mass honoring the 200th anniversary of Mother Seton's arrival in the small town. The celebration also commemorated the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph -- the first new community for women religious in the U.S.

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British bishops say proposed EU directive could oppress Christians

LONDON (CNS) -- Britain's Catholic bishops have said a proposed European Union equality directive could force Christians to act against their consciences. In a joint submission for a public consultation on the proposed Equal Treatment Directive, the bishops of England, Wales and Scotland said the directive could become an "instrument of oppression" and that its provisions were "wholly unacceptable." The directive is designed to ban discrimination across the 27-member bloc on the grounds of sexual orientation, age, religious belief and disability. The provisions of the directive would extend beyond employment law and the provision of goods and services and also would regulate social conduct. In their submission to the U.K. Government Equalities Office, made public July 31, the bishops said the directive could stifle religious liberty and freedom of expression. They said they would be powerless to stop witches from reserving the use of church property, for instance, or from insisting that people at church events behave in a way consistent with Christian teaching.

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Mexican bishops criticize federal police for drug raid during Mass

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Mexican Catholic bishops' conference has criticized federal police for bursting into a Mass in Mexico's western Michoacan state to apprehend an alleged drug-cartel lieutenant. "We make an energetic protest against the lack of respect and the violence exercised on the part of the forces responsible for guaranteeing the security of all persons in our nation -- principally in the state of Michoacan -- by interrupting a religious act ... at the moment in which holy Mass is celebrated," the bishops said in an Aug. 3 statement signed by Auxiliary Bishop Jose Gonzalez Gonzalez of Guadalajara, conference secretary-general. "Nothing explains this kind of action inside a religious place and much less in these moments where Mexico is noted internationally as an insecure and violent country," the bishops said. The Aug. 1 raid marked the first time that police officers have burst into a parish to arrest suspects linked to organized crime, said Father Mateo Calvillo Paz, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Morelia, which is in Michoacan. The raid also highlighted the increasing vulnerability of church officials and the faithful of being caught up -- inadvertently or not -- in the ongoing federal crackdown on drug cartels.

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Honduran bishop says wealthy elite were behind ouster of president

EUGENE, Oregon (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop in western Honduras said members of the country's wealthy elite were behind the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya. Bishop Luis Santos Villeda of Santa Rosa de Copan also said the country needs a dialogue between the elite and Honduras' poor and working-class citizens. "Some say Manuel Zelaya threatened democracy by proposing a constitutional assembly. But the poor of Honduras know that Zelaya raised the minimum salary. That's what they understand. They know he defended the poor by sharing money with mayors and small towns. That's why they are out in the streets closing highways and protesting (to demand Zelaya's return)," the bishop told Catholic News Service. In a July 30 telephone interview, he said it is misleading to consider Honduras a democracy, either before or after the June 28 coup. "There has never been a real democracy in Honduras. All we have is an electoral system where the people get to choose candidates imposed from above. The people don't really have representation, whether in the Congress or the Supreme Court, which are all chosen by the rich. We're the most corrupt country in Central America, and we can't talk about real democracy because the people don't participate in the decisions," he said.

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Allentown's new bishop speaks of signs of times, new evangelization

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (CNS) -- Allentown's new bishop July 30 expressed gratitude for his parents' "heroic sacrifice and courage for Christ and the church" and spoke of the "signs of the times" and a new evangelization. "There are so many signs of hope on the horizon of the 21st century. Together, we in the Diocese of Allentown will read the signs of the times so that we can discern the will of the Holy Spirit with the guidance of Peter," said Bishop John O. Barres. "Now is the time for that springtime. Now is the time for evangelization -- using every means of modern technology at our disposal to spread the Gospel. And at the heart of evangelization is catechesis," he said. His remarks came after the closing prayer of his episcopal ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena in Allentown. The Mass commenced with the ringing of bells and the entrance of the Knights of Columbus honor guard, followed by a procession into the cathedral that included three U.S. cardinals, more than 30 bishops, and hundreds of priests and deacons.


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