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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Jul-12-2012

By Catholic News Service


Archdiocese reopens marriage, family life office closed years ago

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- The Office of Marriage and Family Life in the San Francisco Archdiocese, closed several years ago because of budgetary pressure, has been restored in the fiscal year budget beginning July 1. The archdiocese is in the process of hiring a director of the office, who must have experience in marriage preparation and other family life programs and be bilingual in English and Spanish, said Auxiliary Bishop Robert W. McElroy, who is helping to manage the program's revival. The director and an assistant also to be hired will be charged with supporting and supplementing marriage and family life matters in the parishes, as an archdiocesan liaison, he said. During the past 15 years, the number of sacramental marriages in the archdiocese, and across the nation, has fallen by almost 60 percent, an interim task force on marriage assembled by the archdiocese found. There is a constellation of forces behind the statistic, Bishop McElroy noted, including the growing secularization in society. Launching an office amid those challenges, as well as managing other ministries, including support for separated and divorced people, aid to the grieving and support for people after they're married, is a tall order, Bishop McElroy said, and so part of the director's job will be to find volunteers to assist. "The work of this office will be a lot of start-up work and work with volunteers, and it won't get done all at once," he told Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the archdiocese.

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San Francisco Archdiocese launches Spanish-language Catholic newspaper

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of San Francisco has launched San Francisco Catolico, a newspaper that will serve Hispanic Catholics in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties. Beginning July 15, it will be distributed at the 34 parishes in the archdiocese that celebrate Mass in Spanish. Bundles of the newspaper will be delivered to churches for distribution after Mass. The initial press run of 6,800 is estimated to provide a copy for nearly every Spanish Mass-going household. Published 24 times a year, the paper features 12 pages of advertising-supported content. Editorial content includes local news, features and photos, a local calendar of events, spirituality and opinion columns by local and national writers, Scripture readings for the two Sundays in each issue cycle, and national and world news from Catholic News Service. It also features news on topics of high interest to the Hispanic audience: immigration, education, health, family, and employment and the economy. The paper is produced by the staff of Catholic San Francisco, with Henry Quijano as part-time editorial coordinator. Quijano, a native of Madrid, Spain, is a veteran journalist with experience in the Hispanic press in Texas and California. San Francisco Catolico succeeds El Heraldo, a monthly paper that had been a longtime joint project of the archdiocese and the Oakland Diocese.

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New proposal would remove mandate's penalties for religious employers

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Saying that the U.S. Supreme Court's June 28 decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act "leaves intact a grave assault to religious freedoms," Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., announced July 10 that he would introduce the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act. The bill, which has 57 co-sponsors, would allow employers who have religious or moral objections to covering certain preventive services mandated by the health reform law to decline to provide them through their health insurance plans without facing taxes, penalties or enforcement actions for their noncompliance. The Supreme Court ruled June 28 that it was constitutional for Congress to require individuals to purchase health insurance under its authority to tax. Sensenbrenner said the health reform law "gives the federal government the tools to tax religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, universities and soup kitchens right out of existence" by imposing penalties of up to $100 per employee per day on employers who fail to provide services mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services, which include sterilizations and contraceptives, including some abortion-causing drugs. A religious institution with 50 employees, for example, could face penalties of up to $36,500 per employee per year, or more than $1.8 million per year, he said. "Obviously, if these taxes are levied and they are enforced, there will be no religious-affiliated institutions left in this country," said Sensenbrenner, former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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Running good for 'mind, body and spirit,' but also can promote a cause

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Running a marathon is "very healthy for mind, body and spirit," but it is also an excellent way to promote Catholicism, particularly vocations, said Father Rick Nagel of the Indianapolis Archdiocese. Father Nagel is director of the archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry. His office and the archdiocesan Vocations Office sponsor the annual Race for Vocations, which takes place within the Indianapolis One America Festival Mini Marathon and 5K each May in downtown Indianapolis. With about 35,000 runners, it is the largest race in the nation, according to organizers. The Race for Vocations is an example of how Catholic organizations across the country plug into secular marathons and other runs as well as walks to promote worthy causes and raise money for them by gathering pledges. For example, Catholic Charities agencies sponsor teams in a lot of major races around the country including the ING New York City Marathon, the Boston Marathon, the Chicago Marathon and the Race for Hope Half Marathon in West Virginia. Charities participants raise funds for the agencies' programs and services. Elsewhere, races have been used to promote Catholic education. This October the 40th annual walk/bike two-mile marathon for Catholic education takes place in Wabasso, Minn., in the Diocese of New Ulm. It begins with Mass at St. Anne's Church and is followed by a potluck dinner. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston plans to hold its eighth annual Steps for Students 5K Feb. 16, 2013, to help raise funds for area Catholic schools.

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Episcopal Church approves liturgical resources for same-sex blessings

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- In a decision that could strain relations with the Catholic Church and within its own Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church has approved liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex relationships. The church's House of Bishops voted 111-41 July 9 in favor of provisional use of the resources until the next General Convention, held every three years. About 80 percent of the church's House of Deputies gave their approval July 10. The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity called the decision "a huge obstacle on the path to Christian unity," saying it would affect the Catholic-Episcopal dialogue in the United States. Bishop Brian Farrell told Catholic News Service in an email July 12 that the decision jeopardizes the achievements of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission since 1970. After a six-year hiatus, the official Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue began a new phase in May -- known as ARCIC III -- to discuss the relationship between the local and universal church, as well as women's ordination, same-sex unions and actively homosexual clergy. Bishop Farrell acknowledged that Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury had already called for any province of the Anglican Communion that could not abide by the moratorium on the ordination of people living in same-sex unions to withdraw from the dialogue commission, which the Episcopal Church did. "Beyond this technical consideration, ARCIC III will continue, but it will have to seriously face the enormous challenge being posed by the internal situation of the Anglican Communion," Bishop Farrell said.

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Flooded India: Women, children, cattle jostle for space in relief camps

BANGALORE, India (CNS) -- Church workers have joined the massive relief work in India's northeastern Assam state, where flooding has left 126 people dead and affected nearly 3 million people. "The situation is still very grim, and over 70 percent of the affected families have no access to their villages," Father Theodore Purthy, director of the Tezpur Diocese's social service agency, told Catholic News Service July 12. "Many villages are still under water, and houses along with the possessions -- including cattle -- have been washed away," Father Purthy said as he returned to his base from remote villages to assess damage and to map out the church's rehabilitation program for those affected. "These villages remain marooned and inaccessible as even roads have been washed away," said Father Purthy. Heavy monsoon rains in late June, along with floodwaters from Bhutan, have inundated thousands of villages and submerged roads and towns in 23 of 27 districts of Assam state, which is traversed by the Brahmaputra River. Babita Alick, team leader for disaster management of Caritas India, the social action wing of the Indian church, told Catholic News Service that three medical teams led by doctors have been reaching out to villagers sheltered in relief camps run by the government in schools and other centers. "The conditions in the relief camps are appalling. Women, children and cattle are jostling for space in the camps. There is hardly any toilet facility in the camps with over 2,000 people," Alick said from New Delhi after visiting the flood-affected areas.

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Group trains runners for marathons, spreads pro-life message at events

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- How far would you go to defend life? Life Runners would go about 26.2 miles a race. Founded in South Dakota by running partners Pat Castle and Rich Reich, Life Runners has been promoting Catholicism and the pro-life movement through marathons in some of the nation's biggest cities since 2008. Castle said Life Runners came out of a prayer group the two men co-founded in 2007 called Life Group Devotions. They decided to create an "action arm" of their ministry. "We started with devotions from the beginning and then it dawned on us. We are training and running marathons, and we are looking for a pro-life 'action arm,'" Castle told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview from Sioux Falls, S.D. "There was none, I mean zero, organized pro-life teams represented in marathons. There are 5Ks all around but not at the major marathon level." Life Runners' goal is to participate in at least one marathon a year. In 2008, it was the Chicago marathon; in 2009, St. Paul-Minneapolis; in 2010, Sioux Falls, S.D.; and 2011, Kansas City, Mo. Castle said the group's five-member board chooses the location. They "look for fall marathons around the country and then decide where our mission is needed most," he said. Life Runners, now based in St. Louis, is made up of people who pray, run and raise money for pregnancy help centers and build awareness about the abortion issue.

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Xavier University grad shooting for medals at London Olympics

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- One-tenth of an inch puts Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parker above some of the best marksmen in the country. Fifty meters away from Parker, a bull's-eye less than the size of a dime has been pockmarked by his air rifle, signaling a trip to the Olympic Games in London. This is Parker's fourth time competing with his air rifle at the Olympics. "I'm a little bit more relaxed going into this. I know how to deal with some of the extra things the games bring now," he told Catholic News Service in a phone interview from Fort Benning, Ga. A Nebraska native, Parker grew up around sport shooting. His dad, Dale Parker, was a competitive shooter for much of his early life. At age 13, Jason Parker's parents bought him a competition air rifle, and he used it to climb the ranks in local and state competitions. He said his real breakthrough came when he attended Jesuit-run Xavier University in Cincinnati. The university had "just a great atmosphere. It was exactly what I needed during my life," he said. Parker said his scores increased dramatically under Alan Joseph, Xavier's coach. Not only did Parker end up making his first international team in 1994 as a junior at Xavier, but he also met his wife, Andrea. They now have two sons, Tommy and Wyatt, ages 8 and 5. "Shooting is a high-pressure event," Parker said, "so it's a sense of security knowing my family is right behind me cheering me on."


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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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