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Friends with a martyr

The Register

Cawker City — In the cozy rectory behind SS. Peter and Paul Church sits Father Don McCarthy, with a myriad of items relating to his friend, Father Stanley Rother.  “It’s kind of like a shrine in here,” he said, looking around.  At the window sits a framed picture of Father Rother with Guatemalean children. He has a box dedicated entirely to correspondence from his seminary chum.  “He and I were close friends,” Father McCarthy said.  The retired priest will be among the throngs gathered Sept. 23 in the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. to witness the beatification of Father Rother, a priest for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. The beatification begins at 10:30 a.m. and seating is open to the public; no ticket is necessary.  Father Rother was gunned down in the rectory of his church in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala. He was considered a martyr by the church in Guatemala, and was formally recognized by Pope Francis as a martyr Dec. 2, 2016. The recognition by the pontiff cleared the way for his beatification.

Originally from Galveston, Texas, Father McCarthy attended seminary in San Antonio.  “Stan and I were not in the same class in the seminary, but we got to be good friends, due to working together in the book bindery and visitations at each other’s homes in vacation time,” Father McCarthy said.  Father Rother was two years behind him in the seminary. Eventually, Father Rother was asked to leave because of difficulty with Latin.  “All of the philosophy and theology textbooks and canon law were all in Latin,” Father McCarthy said. “That was the way things were then.”  Father Rother departed  during Father McCarthy’s final year of seminary.  “There were so many Oklahoma guys in the seminary with us,” he said. “Stanley was from Oklahoma. They were heartbroken when we found out he was asked to leave.”  Yet Father Rother didn’t give up on his vocation. Bishop Victor Reed found another seminary in Maryland.  “We kept in touch,” Father McCarthy said. “I used to visit in the summertime. I would stay at Stanley’s home and tried to help at farm work, but I wasn’t very good at it.  “When I was ordained in 1959, he and his mother came to Galveston for my First Mass. He was thurifer for my First Mass.”  In return, Father McCarthy acted as subdeacon for Father Rother’s First Solemn High Mass in 1963.

In 1968, Father Rother went to Santiago Atitlan on assignment from the Diocese of Oklahoma City-Tulsa (which is now the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City). Called “Padre Francisco” and “Padre Aplas,” he helped the locals build a small hospital, school and radio station. Father McCarthy said. He also taught the locals improved methods of farming and fishing. In spite of his difficulties with Latin in his first seminary, Father Rother translated the Mass and several parts of the New Testament into Tz’utujil, the language of his parishioners, Father McCarthy said.  “He and I stayed in contact when he went down to Guatemala,” Father McCarthy said. “He was very much a part of the community for years.”  The mission was about 10 years old when Father Rother arrived, with a staff of 10, Father McCarthy said.  “But gradually over the years, he was the only one left,” Father McCarthy said.  The Rother family and his friends knew the continued presence in Guatemala was dangerous.  “He knew he was on a death list,” Father McCarthy said. “(His family) encouraged him to stay, but he went back. He always said ‘The shepherd cannot run.’ I was always edified by his attitude. He could have stayed home and been safe, but he said ‘I want to be with my people.’ ”


Bishop Weisenburger serves as the promoter of justice for Father Rother

The Leaven

Bishop Edward Weisenburger serves as the promoter of justice for the cause for canonization for servant of God Father Stanley Rother of Okarche, Okla. The priest was murdered July 28, 1981, while serving at the mission of Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala.

As the promoter of justice, his role is to help the Church study and examine the life of Father Rother. The promoter, he said, is there to ask not only the “nice questions” but also to “ensure that all the facts are uncovered in the process and that all questions, including difficult questions, are asked.”

That role has included several trips to the mission in Guatemala.

“It’s always a very moving experience,” said the bishop, “especially to spend some quiet time in the room of the parish rectory that still has the marks of the bullet holes where Father Rother was killed.

“It has been turned into an unofficial chapel where people still slip in to pray.”

Having served as pastor of Father Rother’s home parish in Okarche, the bishop said he got to know members of the Rother family personally.

“When the cause began, I was a former pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Okarche, having served there from 1995-2002,” the bishop said. “Those were seven exceptionally happy years of my life. That parish has produced a host of vocations to priesthood and religious life.

“It should not be surprising that such a vibrant parish would produce vocations and now a potentially canonized saint.”

Last December, Pope Francis declared Father Rother a martyr, clearing the path for his beatification. On March 13, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City received word the beatification will take place Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.

A biography of Father Rother titled “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run,” was published by Our Sunday Visitor in 2015.


You’re invited to the beatification

On Monday, Aug. 21, many Americans witnessed an extremely rare astronomical phenomenon, a total solar eclipse. The sun appeared to be darkened for a time as the moon passed between the earth and the sun, casting its shadow over much of the earth’s surface. The last time such an event occurred across the whole of the contiguous United States was in 1918. Thousands of people traveled great distances to experience this extraordinary phenomenon.

Perhaps it was an actual solar eclipse coinciding with the moment of Our Lord’s death that caused the darkness described in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon” (Mt 27:45). An eclipse of the sun is certainly an appropriate cosmic sign for the very moment when sin and death seemed to triumph over light and life. For three days, hope was eclipsed by despair. The Resurrection, however, proclaims Christ’s ultimate victory: the victory of life over death; the triumph of Divine Mercy over human sinfulness. Jesus Christ is the light of the world and this “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5).

On July 28, 1981, it must have seemed as if darkness had triumphed in the village of Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala. That morning, thousands of grieving parishioners gathered in the plaza in front of the massive colonial church as word spread that their beloved shepherd, Padre A’Plas had been killed. During the night, intruders had broken into the rectory and murdered Father Stanley Rother, the shepherd who didn’t run.

Hope seemed to have been vanquished by violence, love eclipsed by hatred. But, life and hope were indeed victorious. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church” as Tertullian wrote in the 2nd century. Father Stanley Rother’s witness of fidelity and pastoral charity have inspired countless Christians and non-Christians in Guatemala, Oklahoma and throughout the United States. Today, the Church in Santiago Atitlan is flourishing. The light of faith continues to shine brightly and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Catholic Church has officially recognized the Venerable Servant of God Stanley Francis Rother as a martyr for the faith. He is the first martyr from the United States, and on Sept. 23 will become the first U.S.-born priest to be beatified. In Oklahoma, this event is even rarer than a total solar eclipse! Are you going?

I invite all who read this to come to the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 10 a.m. to participate in the Mass and Rite of Beatification for Father Stanley Francis Rother. It will be a beautiful and historic event, but more importantly it will be the occasion for an abundant outpouring of grace and mercy upon our Church, our families and community and our nation. There will be ample parking and access. (And I promise that traffic will be far less difficult to manage than for a Garth Brooks concert.)

Come and see! 

Bishop Weisenburger's Statement on "DACA"

President Trump’s decision to end the DACA, (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) program is a matter of grave concern.  The immigrants in question were brought to the United States at such a young age that a great many have no memory or experience of any home but America.  These “DACA youth” currently live and work among us as contributing members of American society.  While DACA was never a permanent solution it did provide as many as 800,000 innocent people with a measure of relief from the constant fear of deportation, oftentimes to a foreign country where they have no family, no support, and no personal history.  Along with the bishops of our Nation, I stand in solidarity with these youth who have committed no personal crime and are now in grave peril of deportation to a foreign country. 

I believe we must acknowledge that immigration has become one of the most contentious issues in American politics.  However, many of our Nation’s greatest moments have been revealed when we have risen above contention and chosen the path of justice tempered with mercy.  It is in these moments that we have been a bright light for the rest of the world. I believe in America, and I believe in our legislators’ ability to carve out a just protection for these very vulnerable young people. While consensus on many aspects of a comprehensive immigration policy remains elusive, it is my hope that people of different perspectives can agree that immigrants brought to America as children should not be deported and sent back to a place they may have no memory of. It is prudent for us to call to mind the teaching of our Savior, “what you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.”  

I urge the people of the Salina Diocese to call upon our representatives in the United States Senate and House of Representatives to seek a solution that is both fair and generous—a solution that does not punish innocent children for the actions of their parents, but rather one that upholds America’s founding values and highest ideals. 

Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger

September 6, 2017

Statement from Bishop on Racism

Racism and bigotry are among the great evils of our age, and the resurgence of neo-Nazi and white-supremacist movements is profoundly troubling.  The follower of Jesus Christ can see something of God’s image in every human being. For this reason, people of faith must unite and speak truth to this evil in our midst.  Let us renew our firm commitment to truth, equality, and universal human dignity.

– Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger

White Mass to be celebrated.

Most Reverend Edward J. Weisenburger, Bishop of the Diocese of Salina, cordially invites you to celebrate a White Mass.

Wednesday, October 18th at 7:00 p.m.
at Sacred Heart Cathedral 
118 N. 9th Street
Salina KS

Traditionally a “White Mass” is celebrated for members of the healthcare profession.  Equally welcome are those who do not work or minister in the healthcare profession but wish to gather with us to pray for all healthcare professionals.  A reception will follow the Mass in the Hall of Bishops.


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  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Lawrence Bryant, ReutersBy Joseph Kenny and Jennifer BrinkerST. LOUIS (CNS) -- Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis called for peace following a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley. Stockley, who is white, was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death in 2011 of Anthony Lamar Smith, an African-American. St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson issued the ruling after Stockley waived his right to a jury trial. "If we want peace and justice, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness," Archbishop Carlson stated. "While acknowledging the hurt and anger, we must not fuel the fires of hatred and division. We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us." Protesters began gathering in downtown St. Louis soon after the ruling was made public on the morning of Sept. 15. Media reports had warned of threatened disruptions if Stockley was found not guilty. Protests turned violent, and more than 120 people were arrested Sept. 17 as protesters attacked police and broke windows, according to CNN, which also reported that a peaceful protest took place Sept. 18, not too far from the site of the previous night's violence. "Violence does not lead to peace and justice -- they are opposing forces and cannot coexist," the archbishop said in his statement. "I implore each of you to choose peace! Reject the false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence. We must work together for a better, stronger, safer community, one founded upon respect for each other, and one in which we see our neighbor as another self." Archbishop Carlson was to join other faith leaders from St. Louis for an afternoon interfaith prayer service for peace and solidarity Sept. 19 in downtown St. Louis. Two Catholic churches in St. Louis -- St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Nicholas -- opened for prayer and conversation after the verdict was announced. An invitation was extended to a regular peace and justice vigil held every Sunday at 7 p.m. on the stairs of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church. At St. Nicholas Church, about half a dozen people came for the regular 12:15 p.m. Mass. Father Art Cavitt, who is the pastor and also director of the St. Charles Lwanga Center in St. Louis, said he kept the church, located just north of downtown, open throughout the day Sept. 15 for anyone in need of a place to pray or seek pastoral care. The tensions that arose from Ferguson and what's happening now, Father Cavitt said, "say something about us, and our country and humanity and our needs. There's this festering that has been happening -- in our communities and in ourselves. It's more reflective of that, than a specific case that pushes a button." Reflecting on the Sept. 15 feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Father Cavitt said that there are people who, like the Blessed Mother, have been heartbroken time and time again, but yet keep saying "yes" through the lens of faith. "It is that witness of faith, that witness of the Gospel that will carry us through this day in St. Louis and whatever happens the next day as well," he told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper. Assumption Parish in O'Fallon offered prayers for peace and healing at a free evening concert performance by Christian singer-songwriter PJ Anderson Sept. 15. It was "a chance to join together as God's beloved coming to pray for our metro area and all cities (and) to resist situations that can pull us apart," said Amanda Suchara, media coordinator for the parish. Four Catholic high schools in St. Louis closed in anticipation of the verdict. By mid-afternoon Sept. 15, several hundred people were assembled at a downtown intersection near City Hall. Students and staff from St. Louis University were present at different points during the day. Father Christopher Collins, the university's assistant to the president for mission and identity, started the day at St. Louis University's School of Law, just a couple of blocks from the protest site. He and several other clergy members went to the street to pray for about half an hour. As a Jesuit, "you want to follow in a pastoral way -- to be where people are hurting and to be present," he said. "We called on God's love for all of us." A group of several dozen St. Louis University students connected on GroupMe and went downtown after their morning classes. "I came because it's the right thing to do. I want to stand with my community and protest what's going on here. It's not right," said junior Michael Winters, who is studying economics. "The sense of complacency that people have, in that these sorts of things happen and some people come down to protest, but then we just sort of let it slide. I think I'm guilty of this as well, at times," said junior Charlie Revord, who is studying sociology and economics. "Today is just a reminder that we have to keep up the pressure to try and make change," he added. "It's only going to come through coming together, having dialogue and really standing in solidarity with the people who are suffering." - - - Kenny and Brinker are staff writers at the St. Louis Review and Catholic St. Louis, publications of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.- - -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 Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To better prepare priests and pastoral workers to help meet the challenges families face today, Pope Francis is strengthening the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family and changing its name to the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and Family. The new institution is to expand and deepen the types of courses offered as well as take "an analytical and diversified approach" that allows students to study all aspects and concerns of today's families while remaining "faithful to the teaching of Christ," the pope wrote. The re-foundation of the institute was issued "motu proprio," on the pope's own accord, in an apostolic letter, "Summa Familiae Cura" ("Great Care for the Family"). Dated Sept. 8, the feast of the nativity of Mary, the letter was released at the Vatican Sept. 19. The original institute for studies on marriage and the family was established by St. John Paul II in 1982, after the 1980 Synod of Bishops on the family called for the creation of centers devoted to the study of the church's teaching on marriage and the family. While the central institute is based in Rome, there are branches around the world, including in the United States, Australia, Mexico and India. Given the newer gatherings of the Synod of Bishops on the family, those held in 2014 and 2015, and their call for a more pastoral and missionary approach to modern family life, Pope Francis wrote there is a need for greater reflection and academic formation in a "pastoral perspective and attention to the wounds of humanity" while keeping the original inspiration for the old institute alive. By amplifying the institute's scope in making it a "theological" institute that is also dedicated to human "sciences," the pope said, the institute's work will study -- in a "deeper and more rigorous way -- the truth of revelation and the wisdom of the tradition of faith." The anthropological and cultural changes underway affect every aspect of human life, he wrote, and that calls for a new approach that is not limited to pastoral practices and mission "that reflect forms and models of the past." "We must be informed and passionate interpreters of the wisdom of faith" in a context in which individuals find less support than they had in the past from social structures, relationships and family. "In the clear proposal of remaining faithful to the teaching of Christ, we must, therefore, look with the intelligence of love and with wise realism, at the reality of families today in all of their complexity, in their light and darkness," the pope wrote.Meeting with reporters the same day, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, chancellor of institute, and Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, president, said the pope's mandate to revitalize and strengthen the institute is a sign of how much he supports its work and wants it to make a greater contribution to the church and have a greater impact on society. All new statutes, structures and programs will be needed to help the institute fulfill its expanded mission, they said. Current personnel and faculty will remain, but there will be new positions and new hires to offer the expanded course work necessary to better prepare students, said Archbishop Paglia. For example, Msgr. Sequeri said, a course that addresses "the family and economics" is critical when so many family problems stem from financial difficulties. "There has to be a theology for the family that exists," rather than just a theology of the ideal family, he said. The church must respond to all the contemporary issues people struggle with. The church has such a long, rich patrimony of teachings that need to be "relaunched" to provide answers to new questions, he said, including gender theories and women's issues. "Mustn't the church participate in some way with its reflections" by being positive and proactive and "not just pull back," he asked. When asked whether having a more expanded approach to human sciences meant the institute would be hiring or collaborating with experts who have views not in line with church teaching, Archbishop Paglia said scientific reflection requires dialogue, including with those who are not Catholic. "It's obvious a scientific institute, precisely because of its nature, cannot be closed up in itself," he said. "Marriage is not a 'Catholic' question," he said; it concerns all of humanity. "And we cannot responsibly not enter into dialogue" with all those who hold dear the whole human family.- - -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/Gregory A. ShemitzBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although she died 100 years ago, St. Frances Cabrini is a shining example of "love and intelligence" in ministering to the needs of immigrants and helping them become integral members of their new homelands, Pope Francis said. Responding to "the great migrations underway today" the same way Mother Cabrini did "will enrich all and generate union and dialogue, not separation and hostility," Pope Francis said in a letter to Sister Barbara Louise Staley, superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which the saint founded. Mother Cabrini arrived in New York in 1889 to work with Italian immigrants, setting up orphanages, schools and hospitals in nine U.S. cities. Naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1909, she died in Chicago Dec. 22, 1917. The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were holding their general assembly Sept. 17-23 at the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago. In her work, particularly among Italian immigrants to the United States, Mother Cabrini "focused attention on situations of greatest poverty and fragility, such as the needs of orphans and miners," the pope wrote in his letter, which was released at the Vatican Sept. 19. Mother Cabrini also demonstrated "a lucid cultural sensitivity" by making sure she was in constant contact with local authorities, the pope said. "She undertook to conserve and revive in the immigrants the Christian tradition they knew in their country of origin, a religiosity which was sometimes superficial and often imbued with authentic popular mysticism," he wrote. "At the same time, she offered ways to fully integrate with the culture of the new countries so that the Missionary Mothers accompanied the Italian immigrants in becoming fully Italian and fully American." With dialogue and help integrating, he said, "the human and Christian vitality of the immigrants thus became a gift to the churches and to the peoples who welcomed them." While Mother Cabrini and the sisters had a specific mission to assist the immigrants and strengthen their faith, he said, Catholics today cannot forget "that is the vocation of every Christian and of every community of the disciples of Jesus." On a more personal note, Pope Francis told the sisters, "I assure you of my remembrance and prayers with deep affection, both because I have always known the figure of Mother Cabrini and because of the special concern I devote to the cause of immigrants."- - -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/courtesy AmericaBy Rhina GuidosWASHINGTON (CNS) -- A U.S. bishop vigorously defended Jesuit Father James Martin when a prominent U.S. seminary canceled an invitation it had extended to the well-known author, who was to speak about Jesus at an October event, after fringe groups unhappy with the priest's recent book about the church and the gay community mounted a series of attacks. Theological College, a national seminary at The Catholic University of America in Washington, said the cancellation, first made public Sept. 15, came after it "experienced increasing negative feedback from various social media sites regarding the seminary's invitation" to Father Martin. It did not name the groups associated with the attacks. "This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is -- not primarily for Father Martin's sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church," said San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy in a vigorous defense published by America magazine Sept. 18. "The concerted attack on Father Martin's work has been driven by three impulses: homophobia, a distortion of fundamental Catholic moral theology, and a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his campaign against judgmentalism in the church," wrote Bishop McElroy.The cancellation of the speech was not the first, Father Martin noted, even though that speech and others he was to give were about Jesus and not the book.In a Sept. 15 Facebook post, the priest wrote about the incident and said the attacks included "a storm of phone calls, emails and messages to Theological College, which included, I was told, people screaming at the receptionists who answered the phone. In the end, they felt that the expected protests and negative publicity would distract from Alumni Day." Father Martin was to speak at an Oct. 4 symposium celebrating the 100th anniversary of the seminary's founding."The organizers were all apologetic and in some cases more upset than I was. I know that they were under extreme pressure, and in some cases were overwhelmed by the rage that can be generated by social media: ill will based on misrepresentations, innuendos, homophobia and especially fear. Perfect love drives out fear, as 1 John says. But perfect fear also drives out love," Father Martin wrote. "Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity," the book that has driven the controversy, grabbed the No. 1 spot on Amazon's Roman Catholicism category Sept. 18. It has been endorsed by Bishop McElroy, U.S. Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and has a long list of endorsements from other notable Catholics. However, it also was recently criticized by Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal.Jesuit Father Matt Malone, editor of America magazine, where Father Martin is editor at large, defended the priest and the book, which has been approved by the Jesuits as being in line with church teaching, in a Sept. 16 statement. "Some elements in the American church," Father Malone said, "have taken it upon themselves to organize a campaign, not only against the contents of the book, but against Father Martin himself. In recent weeks, Father Martin has been subjected to repeated, calumnious attacks in social media and in print, involving invective that is as appalling as it is toxic. It is one thing to engage in spirited debate. It is another thing to seek to stymie such debate through fear, misinformation, or blunt censorship."Though Theological College, with the cancellation of the invitation made more than a year ago, was seeking to avoid controversy, it invited more attention. The news of the cancellation ended up appearing in the pages of major U.S. newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post over the weekend of Sept. 16 and 17. John Garvey, Catholic university's president, issued a statement saying the institution regretted any implication that the university supported the decision by the seminary, adding that "universities and their related entities should be places of free, civil exchange of ideas. Our culture is increasingly hostile to this idea." Garvey said it was "problematic" that groups within the Catholic Church demonstrate an "inability to make distinctions and to exercise charity." In his Facebook post, Father Martin, a consultor to the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, said the only thing he asked of the organizations that canceled his talks is that they be honest about the reasons for the cancellations. "Also, I want to say that none of these cancellations disturbs me," he said. "I've not lost any sleep over them. ... I want to say that Jesus is close to me in prayer. So I am at total peace." Thousands on social media, including high profile Catholics, voiced support for the Jesuit. After the Theological College invitation was rescinded, Holy Trinity Church, in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood, asked Father Martin if he could instead visit their Jesuit parish around the same time. "So I look forward to seeing you all in Washington," he said. Whether by coincidence or on purpose, on Sept. 18 hackers briefly took down the international Catholic daily LaCroix International after it ran the commentary "Catholic Cyber-Militias and the New Censorship" about the incident. - - -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 Marlene QuaroniNORTH MIAMI, Fla. (CNS) -- Thanks to Father Fritz Bellonce, pastor of Holy Family Church in North Miami, many people in the area around the church had hot meals after Hurricane Irma knocked out power to the community. "The stores and restaurants are closed," he said. "People are eating potato chips, peanut butter, crackers, canned food, snacks, whatever nonperishables that you don't have to cook. A hot meal, right now, is a welcome luxury." Father Bellonce learned from a previous hurricane-related experience. As a seminarian in 2005 at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary near Boynton Beach, he saw long lines of hungry, tired people waiting outside the few open restaurants in Palm Beach County after Hurricane Wilma struck. Before Hurricane Irma arrived, he got ready: He bought 200 pounds of rice, lots of beans, pork, chicken, turkey and cooking ingredients -- dishes that are popular in Holy Family's predominantly Haitian-American community. "I knew the first place people in need come to is the church," he told the Florida Catholic newspaper. "We share what we have. We practice what we preach." He prepared to serve even as Holy Family's circular church building suffered severe roof damage. "There's a hole in the ceiling, and a puddle of water was inside the gift shop," Father Bellonce said. "One of the seven air-conditioning units on the church roof blew completely apart." Volunteers arrived on Monday to help clean up debris on church and school grounds. In the Holy Family schoolyard, a group of young men from a parish organization, TAF-The Atoma (Greek for "unbreakable") Family, cleared heavy tree branches. Also clearing debris around the school were Holy Family School principal Doreen Roberts and her two granddaughters. So was assistant principal Casey McCoy. Father Bellonce, with the help of seminarian Alix Sylien from St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, rounded up volunteers to cook meals in the parish hall kitchen. Serving Holy Family was a natural for Sylien: It's his home parish, and he was assigned there during the summer. He delivered meals in his SUV throughout the neighborhood. "Many people don't have transportation to get to the church," Father Bellonce said. "Alix has been a great help." Those who did have cars, like Jean Beaubrun, picked up the hot food from the parish hall's kitchen take-out window. "This is a blessing," said Beaubrun, who carried three take-out boxes: for himself, his wife and their 9-year-old son. - - - Quaroni is on the staff of the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of Orlando, Palm Beach and Venice.- - -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.