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Privileged to serve the poor

There has been no small amount of words published on what many term “The Francis Effect.” While there is no exact definition of what this admiration for Pope Francis means, there seems to be a consensus that it involves the attributes of mercy, reconciliation, the dignity of all persons and perhaps above all else, a true encounter with the risen Christ found beautifully in the poor. Indeed, our Holy Father echoes the Gospel beautifully as he points to the presence of Christ in everyone. And yet Pope Francis’ witness is powerful in reminding us that Christ is found in a unique, wonderful and even redemptive way in the poor.

While this message is the bedrock of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe it nevertheless has been focused in a powerful way by Pope Francis’ words and actions. Indeed, his witness testifies to the truth that it is not possible to be fully alive in Christ without a concrete and sacrificial love for the poor. I believe it is for these and other reasons that he is admired by millions. I know they are reasons why I find in him an inspiration that actually points beyond him to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

With that in mind I would note that in the journey that brought me to Salina five years ago I was initially impressed by the mission and ministries of our small and rural diocese. We have healthy parishes, a solid priesthood, faithful deacons and religious, wonderful examples of lay leadership, strong Catholic schools, exemplary college ministries, youth ministry programs that serve as a model for other dioceses, and a clear voice advocating for life issues. As I looked carefully at our Diocesan Church, I quickly recognized that the area I most hoped to see grow was our direct outreach to the poor. Almost two years ago, and after much prayer, a single donor unexpectedly came forward in humility and faith, offering a gift that would profoundly renew the critical ministries of our Catholic Charities. While that special donor provided for the vast majority of our new facility, others have assisted in profound ways, such as with the solar energy system soon to be installed. What has resulted is a highly visible ministry that proclaims to the world our commitment and witness to the Risen Christ who is found wonderfully and beautifully in the poor. In this gift we have all been greatly blessed. 


Welcome home

Headquarters of Catholic Charities opens in new Salina facility

The Register

Salina — Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas is open for business at its new location, 1500 S. Ninth Street in Salina.  “As I reflected on today, I kept coming back to one particular scripture from Luke that says when someone is given a great deal, a great deal is expected of them,” said Michelle Martin, the executive director of Catholic Charities. “When someone is entrusted with an abundance, even more is expected of them. That’s an awesome task, because as you can see we have been so blessed.  “We have been so blessed to have so much given to us and as stewards, we’re looking forward to that challenge of living up to that expectation.”  Martin addressed a crowd of donors, supporters and board members March 25 at the blessing of the building. Following the blessing, a public open house was held.  “What (God) tells us not simply ‘Take care of the poor,’ ” Bishop Weisenburger said, reflecting upon Matthew chapter 25. “He says ‘When you do that you’re having an encounter with me.’ It’s a whole different, profound motivation.   “It makes me want to weep with joy at what we will be doing for the poor in this facility.”


From ball diamond to Deacon

The Register

Salina — Seminarian Andy Hammeke’s spirituality was something that grew over time. During his fourth year of college, he moved into a house directly across from the Comeau Catholic Campus Center in Hays. 

“I’d come home from baseball practices and see people walking into daily Mass,” Hammeke said. “I didn’t have anything better to do and (seeing students go to daily Mass) started playing on my conscience, so I started going (to daily Mass) more regularly.”

Hammeke will take another step in his vocation when he is ordained a transitional deacon April 22.

The ordination begins at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral. All are invited. 

Hammeke has been studying at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Saint Meinrad, Ind.

Typically, a seminarian has one year of school left after being ordained a transitional deacon before his ordination to the priesthood.

A Hays native, Hammeke began his studies in 2012 after earning a bachelor’s degree at Fort Hays State University. 

Hammeke, 27, is the son of Curtis and Annette Hammeke of Hays, the grandson of Denis and Arlene Stastney of Dwight, Neb. and the late Norman and Jolene Hammeke.

He grew up in Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Hays and attended Thomas More Prep-Marian Jr.-Sr. High School. Upon graduating from TMP, Hammeke attended Fort Hays State University, playing baseball for the university.


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  • By WASHINGTON (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan described the recent pledge from the Democratic National Committee's chair to support only pro-abortion candidates "disturbing" and "intolerant." The cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the Democratic party to "challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position." The cardinal's April 26 statement was in reaction to recent comments by DNC chair Tom Perez who said: "Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state." Perez went on to say in an April 21 statement: "At a time when women's rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country, we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice." Perez's statement came after a DNC "unity tour" rally in Nebraska, where another DNC leader and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, appeared April 20 with a former state senator, Heath Mello, the Democratic mayoral candidate in Omaha. The DNC tour was sharply criticized by pro-abortion groups for joining forces with Mello, who sponsored a 2009 state Senate bill requiring that women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before having an abortion. "The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women -- one of the most critical constituencies for the party -- of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid," NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in an April 20 statement. Sanders responded to the criticism by saying different views on abortion within the party were natural. Perez took this a step further saying he fundamentally disagreed with "Mello's personal beliefs about women's reproductive health." On NBC's "Meet the Press," April 23, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was asked if a Democratic politician could be pro-life. "Of course," she said, adding that she has "served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive -- my family would say aggressive -- position on promoting a woman's right to choose." Dolan, who offered prayers at the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 2012, had strong words for the Democratic party in his April 26 statement saying the party's "platform already endorses abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, even forcing taxpayers to fund it; and now the DNC says that to be a Democrat -- indeed to be an American -- requires supporting that extreme agenda."- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • By Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church needs laypeople with a missionary spirit, which means Catholics do not have to try to force members into a vocation that is the Holy Spirit's to give, Pope Francis said. The temptation to impose a vocation on laypeople as some kind of validation of their service in the church "worries me," the pope said April 27 during a meeting with members of Catholic Action. "What has happened many times in dioceses?" the pope asked. "A priest comes and says, 'I have a phenomenal layman who does this, this and that; he is a good organizer. What if we make him a deacon?' Stop! Don't give him a vocation that is up to the Holy Spirit to give him. Do not clericalize!" Catholic Action's meeting with Pope Francis kicked off a three-day forum designed to reflect on the theme "Catholic Action in mission with all and for all." Warmly greeted by some 300 participants from around the world, Pope Francis was presented with several meaningful gifts. Two members from Lampedusa, Italy, where thousands of refugees arrive each year, gave the pope an English copy of the Psalms and the New Testament found in one of the fishing boats used by migrants. After being told that the book was found with a folded page marking Psalm 55, a song of supplication in times of need, the pope reverently took the gift and kissed it. He was also greeted by a family from Bethlehem. The children, the pope was told, wanted to teach Pope Francis the Sign of the Cross in Arabic to prepare him for his visit to Egypt the following day. Bending over and attentively listening to the instruction of the twin siblings, Pope Francis placed his hands above their heads and thanked them. In his speech, the pope told members that a true missionary apostolate involves "going out" to those in need or who are far away from the church. However, in calling others to conversion, the pope said Christians must avoid the practice of proselytism or coercion, "which goes against the Gospel." "It makes me really sad to see people who are in ministry -- lay, consecrated, priests, bishops -- who are still playing the proselytism card. No! It is done through attraction. That is the genius phrase of Pope Benedict XVI," he said. The pope also called on laymen and laywomen to be agents of mercy to those who are far from the church rather than acting like "border control" agents. "You cannot be more restrictive than the church nor more papist than the pope," he said. "Please, open the doors, don't administer Christian perfection tests because you will only promote a hypocritical phariseeism." Prayer, formation and sacrifice are also crucial in preparing laypeople to become missionaries, otherwise, "there is no fruit," the pope added. Groups and movements like Catholic Action, he continued, must "take flesh" and be willing to serve within their dioceses while avoiding the temptation to become self-serving, which would otherwise remove them from their true calling.   "A Catholic Action that only pretends and does not take flesh isn't Catholic. It is action, but it is not Catholic. To take flesh doesn't mean what I want, it means what the church wants," Pope Francis said. Instead, he said, members of the international lay organization must continue to make their presence known in all areas of life, from the world of politics and business to prisons, hospitals and factories. "Do not become an institution of exclusives that doesn't say anything to anyone nor to the church. Everyone has a right to be evangelized," the pope said. - - - Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Jonathan LuxmooreWARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- France's Catholic primate has condemned the current presidential campaign as his country's "worst ever" and urged Christians to help prevent democracy from "losing its sense." "Left and right rivaled each other and had their radical wings, but there was also a center. Now, left and right have stepped back, and the main candidates are divided by other unclear criteria. I have the impression our voters are totally lost," said Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon. In an interview with Poland's Catholic Information Agency (KAI), published April 26, Cardinal Barbarin said France was witnessing "the twilight of its existing political system" as citizens sought out "leaders closer to the people in their economic and social realities." "Democracy seems to be losing its sense and being cast adrift by media shabbiness," Cardinal Barbarin added. "This has been our worst-ever election campaign, characterized by the unforgivable accusations, total critiques, violence, chaos and the misleading of voters." In the first round of French elections April 23, Emmanuel Macron, founder of En Marche!, a center-left political movement, and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, emerged as the two top vote-getters. They will face off May 7, when voters will choose who will be president for the next five years. Candidates from the mainstream Socialist and Republican parties will not be in the final round. Cardinal Barbarin said the success of Le Pen, who has vowed to take France out of the European Union and give French nationals priority over foreigners in jobs, welfare, housing and education, reflected a "destabilizing trend" also visible in other parts of Europe and the United States. He spoke of a "form of democratic terrorism," which stripped candidates of their dignity by establishing a right "to know everything, whether proved or unproved" about them. "It seems we're dealing with a democracy gone mad," the cardinal said. "Although statesmen still exist, they're unable to get through today's campaign mechanisms, where everything is decided by the art of winning. Those who win are just electoral animals, not competent, rational politicians." Catholics traditionally make up two-thirds of France's 67 million inhabitants, although only a small proportion attends Mass. In a book-length message last October, "Recovering the sense of politics," the bishops' conference said "weariness, frustration, fear and anger" in the country had fueled "profound hopes and expectations of change," but also cautioned against "a search for facile, emotive options." Cardinal Barbarin told KAI the Catholic Church should appeal to citizens not to vote "for people with pretty eyes, who can make stars of themselves with media support." "This is a time of decadence, and decadence means certain forms and structures are nearing their end," he said. "As Christians, we yearn for social order, peace and harmony -- a state based on principles of welfare and participation, where all can make contributions and citizens are subjects of the political community," he said. "But the problem in today's France is the rising disappointment and anger of those who feel ill-treated, rejected and forgotten."- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert DuncanBy Keanine GriggsVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' unique approach to teaching the faithful combines speaking clearly and simply with showing people what steps -- even small steps -- they can take to make a difference, a Vatican official said. "He is showing us a practical agenda for being a Catholic and being a Christian in the 21st century," said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, whom Pope Francis chose as one of two undersecretaries of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. "We need programs and possibilities of action in order to live our faith," Father Czerny said. The conversion Pope Francis wants people to undergo involves getting them to ask, "What is the next step that I could take to help our church and people to respond" to the needs of people and the demands of the Gospel? "He's not proposing a program or organization," the Jesuit said, but he is asking "how can you contribute to people being a little less marginalized and a little more integrated?" Father Czerny knows something about the experience of being a refugee and integrating into a new land. Born in 1946 in the former Czechoslovakia, he immigrated with his family to Canada. He entered the Jesuits in 1963 and in 1979 co-founded the Jesuit Center for Social Faith and Justice in Toronto. He directed the center until 1989 when he moved to El Salvador to help continue the work of six Jesuits murdered at the Central American University there. From 1992 to 2002, he served as the social justice secretary at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome before moving to Africa as founding director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network. In 2010, he came back to Rome to serve as an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. In January, the council became the foundation of the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The statutes for the new office specify that, at least temporarily, Pope Francis will lead the Section for Migrants and Refugees with the assistance of the undersecretaries, Father Czerny and Italian Scalabrinian Father Fabio Baggio. In an interview with Catholic News Service, Father Czerny said it is always tempting to look at big political and social problems like the refugee crisis and try to find "a formula or pattern that solves everything." But Pope Francis' personal style and his insistence on the importance of encounters between individuals send a strong message that human problems require human solutions. "Small steps do add up and they are the ones that touch us and transform us," so that individuals who set out to help a person in need end up realizing they were given an opportunity to grow in their faith, Father Czerny said. Pope Francis does not hesitate to name the issues and causes that individuals should place on their "moral agenda," he added. The pope's commitment to the poor and to the pressing migration and refugee scenario highlights his pastoral style, which shows us "how God is calling us to live the Gospel," Father Czerny said. Pope Francis' impact is so great because his approach speaks to the individual, the Jesuit said. The pope's words and actions focus on the "human element," speaking to and interacting with people "personally and individually." "Human problems don't seem to respond well to huge solutions," he added. Individuals, parishes and dioceses need to look for small steps they can take to promote "a real encounter and real integration" of anyone in need. Ultimately, those little steps help Christians "to rediscover our faith and to live it with greater joy." While Pope Francis is innovative in many ways, it is important to note the continuity of between Pope Francis and his predecessors, Father Czerny said. "All you have to do is visit the footnotes, and you'll see that some of his most striking phrases are quotations from Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II." Father Czerny said he hopes the legacy of Pope Francis will be that he "found a way of helping the church be both worldwide and very local" by using an approach that inspires individuals to live their faith "intensely and practically in a real way in so many different places."- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Tanya Connor, The Catholic Free PressBy Tanya ConnorWORCESTER, Mass. (CNS) -- The congregation, numbering about 50, gathered for their last Easter Mass together on the DCU Center's arena floor. The chaplain, Father George "Jerry" Hogan, borrowed one of their colorful boxes to use as an altar. The altar cloths and his chasuble sported circus images. Costume designers had sewn pieces of old elephant blankets together to make his stole. The backdrop suggested the reason for such an unusual liturgical environment: The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus had come to town to offer shows on Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. But it isn't all "fun and games" for performers and other circus workers, some of whom attended the Mass before the Easter shows. While "they've always performed during Holy Week," they are now going through the paschal mystery themselves, Father Hogan told The Catholic Free Press, newspaper of the Diocese of Worcester. The Ringling circus was nearing the end of its 145-year run and the workers, including frontline performers, were in a quandary about their future. They learned Jan. 14 that the circus was closing. Father Hogan, who has been national circus chaplain for 24 years after being appointed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recalled the anguish of the workers when they learned of show's fate just hours after he celebrated Mass for them in Orlando, Florida, where they were performing. His cellphone "went wild" at his winter home in Sarasota, Florida, where he ministers at St. Martha Parish, the national circus church, as shocked circus workers called him with the news they received: "We're closing." The 145th edition of "The Greatest Show on Earth" would be its last. The priest of the Boston Archdiocese had to ask himself, "How can I help these people?" Over the years, Father Hogan has dealt with five circus tragedies, three of which included fatalities, he said, but this was different. "First of all, you've got to deal with your own feeling, because you become numb," he said. Then you have to look past that to what God is calling you to do. It's more than hearing; it's listening, being physically present." Such tragedies affect not only those who get hurt, and their families and co-workers, but the managers and owners too, he said. He described Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment Inc., Ringling's parent company, as very caring when tragedy strikes. The same is true with the circus closing. "He's a very good businessman," Father Hogan said. "He didn't want to close. This is tough for him, too." Reasons cited for the closing included costs, declining attendance and battles with animal rights groups. Employees were to be helped with the transition. Ringling's Red Unit and Blue Unit each have at least 300 employees, about 100 of whom are performers, Father Hogan said. The circus runs two different shows simultaneously, for two years each, performing in various cities. Worcester was one of the last stops for the Red Unit, which was to perform its final show in Providence, Rhode Island, May 7. The Blue Unit's final show is May 21 in Uniondale, New York. "I will be with you all week in Providence," Father Hogan told Red Unit workers at the Easter Mass. "You'll grow. It's not the end of the world. You'll be able to survive this." In his homily, he told circus employees, "Easter is a time to celebrate Jesus' rising from the dead," and to celebrate with family. There had just been an Easter egg hunt for the children who travel with their parents, Father Hogan said. When old enough, they often perform, too. Some families have been in one circus or another for generations. Some performers from abroad are far from loved ones. During the intercessions, Father Hogan offered an intention for "all your family and relatives who you can't be with because you're working." He asked that God would watch over the people in the Red Unit in this time of transition, and also prayed for the Blue Unit. He likened his listeners to the beloved disciple in the Gospel, who was reflecting on what was important that first Easter. He acknowledged that the circus workers' life is totally changing and they may wonder, "How am I going to move from this show?" "This is a time to really talk to the Lord in prayer, like you're talking to another person," Father Hogan said. "You also have to listen. ... Be open to that experience."  A silver lining Father Hogan sees in the dark times people are experiencing is the reception of sacraments in Uniondale several days before the final show. He said a baby is to be baptized, 12 children are to receive their first Communion, five adults are to be confirmed and one is to be received into the church. - - - Connor is a staff writer for The Catholic Free Press, newspaper of the Diocese of Worcester.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.