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 News Briefs

NEWS BRIEFS Dec-28-2012

By Catholic News Service


Aim of partnership is to help faith-based groups serve people in need

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Around this time of year, various surveys try to measure agency-by-agency job satisfaction in the federal workforce. The White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships may be too small to be measured in comparison to a Cabinet-level agency, but if the mood at a Dec. 17 Brookings Institution forum is any indication, its employees couldn't be much happier than they already are. Panelists representing the office at the forum looked forward to another four years giving faith-based organizations a chance to qualify for federal funds to provide needed services, and, when funds aren't readily available, bringing America's diverse religious groups together to work collectively on challenging issues in their communities. Rev. Joshua DuBois, executive director of the office, traced the office's origins to the "charitable choice" initiative unveiled during the second term of President Bill Clinton's tenure in the White House. Rev. DuBois, a Pentecostal minister, said the administration of President George W. Bush focused primarily "on the dollars" that religious groups could obtain from the government to fund their service initiatives. The office doesn't manage federal grant programs but makes sure faith-based and neighborhood groups know about federal grant opportunities. The Bush administration, he added, also sought surer constitutional footing for the government's collaboration with faith-based organizations to allay church-state entanglement concerns. The Obama administration likewise has sought to secure firm constitutional grounds for its work with religious entities but has broadened the office's scope to include "people of no faith" as well as nonsectarian neighborhood and community groups, he added.

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Senegalese Catholic helps women get education to beat poverty

TAMBACOUNDA, Senegal (CNS) -- When she heard from the village chief that a 14-year-old girl was being forced to leave school and marry, Senegalese aid worker Constance Mbaye could think of only one thing to do. "I gave the chief my telephone number and address and told him to tell the girl that if she could escape and make it to the city, I would take care of her," said Mbaye, a Catholic who once thought she wanted to be a nun. She said the girl, Idiatou, fled her tiny village the same evening, walked five miles in the dark through forests and fields to the nearest road, then hitched a ride to Tambacounda, where she showed up in front of Mbaye's house the next morning. The event in 2007 marked the beginning of Femmes Entr'Aide, the charity Mbaye founded to help Idiatou and others like her study amid great obstacles in rural Senegal, where a 2012 UNESCO report shows 94 percent of women ages 15-24 have less than a lower secondary education. "They get married early, or their parents don't have the means to pay for school, or it is far and they can't get there," Mbaye told Catholic News Service in mid-December. "I grew up in the (Catholic) church and learned to help others when I can," said Mbaye. "I consider that my efforts to educate young women are part of what Jesus meant when he told us to love each other."

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Bishops described Christmas in besieged Aleppo, Syria

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Because of ongoing fighting in the city, Catholic leaders in Aleppo, Syria, canceled their traditional Christmas visits to local government officials, but the local governor dropped in on a meeting of bishops and priests Dec. 27 to offer his best wishes, said Bishop Giuseppe Nazzaro. The bishop, who is the Latin-rite apostolic vicar of Aleppo, said Gov. Mohammad Vahid Akkad, an appointee of besieged President Bashar Assad, expressed his appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas appeals for peace in Syria. After praying for peace in Syria in his midnight Mass homily, Pope Benedict expressed his concern Christmas Day for the "deeply wounded and divided" Syrian people. He called for "an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict." Bishop Nazzaro, in an interview Dec. 28 with Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said after six months of fighting in Aleppo and with no clear victor in sight, whether the government or the rebels prevail, "they will find themselves facing a mountain of human and material rubble." Although fighting continues, especially for control of the airport, Bishop Nazzaro said most Christians were able to enjoy a bit of "holy Christian joy" at Christmas. Because of the fighting and danger posed by snipers, midnight Masses were celebrated in the late afternoon Dec. 24, and Christmas Masses were either at 10 a.m. or noon.

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Bishop Edward T. Hughes, retired bishop of Metuchen, N.J., dies at 92

METUCHEN, N.J. (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Edward T. Hughes of Metuchen, N.J., who was described as an untiring and outspoken defender of life, died Christmas Day. He was 92. A funeral Mass was scheduled for Jan. 4 in the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi in Metuchen. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, will celebrate the liturgy. Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski of Metuchen mourned the bishop's death in a Dec. 26 statement, describing him as a "faithful and humble servant" of God. "Bishop Hughes was an untiring and outspoken defender of all human life and an implacable foe or racism and bigotry. His legacy to the people of Metuchen will be his uncompromising witness, given with gentleness but never wavering," Bishop Bootkoski said. Known as a strong advocate for Catholic education, Bishop Hughes also was a much-sought retreat leader, Bishop Bootkoski added. The spiritual leader of the Metuchen Diocese noted that, despite serious illness during the last year, Bishop Hughes participated in the diocese's annual Respect Life Mass and the ordination of three priests and continued to administer the rite of confirmation. "The whole thrust of Bishop Hughes' ministry was building up the faith in the people of God. He felt driven to preach the word of God and, like Blessed John Paul II, he showed us all how to endure suffering. He always appreciated and cherished the gift of life, given to him by God," Bishop Bootkoski added.


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