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Stewardship renewal weekend is Sept. 23-24

Salina — Stewardship is a way of life — more than just a sign up weekend. However, it starts and continues annually with the stewardship renewal weekend. Stewardship is a choice. Stewardship is a faith response endorsed by the bishops of the United States. This year, the Salina Diocese invites and challenges all members of the Catholic community to accept this faith response and renew their stewardship commitment to their local parish. Stewardship Renewal weekend is September 23 to 24 in parishes across the Salina Diocese. 

A Christian steward is someone who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with others, and returns them with increase to the Lord. As stated in the manual, “Stewardship – A Disciple’s Responses – a Pastoral Letter on Stewardship, the Tenth Anniversary Edition:” “Each member of the Church shares in the responsibility for its mission; each is called to practice stewardship of the Church.”  The life of a Christian steward is lived in imitation of the life of Christ. They reflect God’s love to all and give out of love. It is challenging. However, both here and hereafter, the life of a Christian steward is filled with intense joy.

The reward is not only sharing in the kingdom of heaven, but also being served and healed by those the steward has served and healed. Remember the parable of the loaves and fishes: Jesus ordered the disciples to distribute seven loaves and fishes among the crowd of many. Everyone ate and was satisfied and seven baskets were left over. As much as was given to others was returned to the giver.  Ideally, each person has grown over the year and is in a different place than the prior year. Therefore, every parishioner in the Diocese is given the opportunity to evaluate, update, and renew his or her stewardship commitment. This provides an opportunity to reflect on the many ways God has blessed a person’s life. So many blessings have likely occurred over the year. God’s blessing comes with no expectation in return. However, a person in love with God wants to give back.

God intends each person to play a unique role in carrying out his divine plan. The challenge is for each person to understand his or her role and then respond generously to God’s call.  Christian stewardship applies to everything — all personal talents, abilities, and wealth. The Salina Diocese, like many dioceses, refers to this as time, talent, and treasure.


Students appreciate opportunity to be heard by head of diocese

The Register

Salina — Listen.

That was the simple task Bishop Edward Weisenburger and Sister Barbara Ellen Apaceller, CSJ, undertook during three sessions with youth and young adults throughout the Salina Diocese.  “The objective was not for us to give them answers,” Sister Barbara Ellen said. “We wanted to listen to help us and the bigger Church meet their needs.”  At the Diocesan CYO convention in April 8 and Aug. 30 in Hays and Sept. 5 in Manhattan, the duo took notes as the youth talked. 

“It was very unique to be able to have the opportunity to speak with them on a personal level to talk about the state of the Church and the youth,” said Reese Leiker, sophomore at Fort Hays State University, and president of the Catholic Disciples at the Comeau Catholic Campus Center. “It is important for us to voice our concerns about things happening in everyday life, we’re trying to live out our faith on a college campus.  “Culture is hurting the youth and church and creating vice. How the Church and youth will take on these new challenges is one it’s never faced before. It has to go about it carefully and gracefully.”

In November of 2016, the bishop was tasked with getting feedback from the youth. The summary (please see above) was sent to Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill, Associate General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in advance of the 2018 Synod of Bishops, with the theme of “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”  Bishop Weisenburger expressed his great appreciation for what the young people had to tell him.  “Their candor, love for the faith and commitment to the Church are wonderfully refreshing,” he said. “Daily the media hits us with news of young people drifting from the Church. To hear the love for the Church as well as the zeal of such fine teenagers, college students and young adults was an experience of renewal for me.  Our future is bright.”


Respect Life Sunday is Oct. 1

The first weekend of October is “Respect Life Sunday” and I ask that all the faithful of our diocese join with me in offering prayers that our nation will come to a fuller appreciation of the sanctity of all human life, from conception until natural death. 

Whenever we speak of “Life issues” we must acknowledge that we are speaking of a broad spectrum of related issues, such as legalized abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty. Moreover, our prophetic voice in the world is most compelling when our position on these issues is clear and consistent. We recognize the face of Christ in every human being. Nevertheless, it also must be noted that the topic of legalized abortion, and the millions of innocents who have died, has a primacy of place. 

Thirty years ago I laid prostrate in prayer on the floor of a cathedral, just moments before my Archbishop called me forward and laid hands on my head, ordaining me to the priesthood. Next to me on that cathedral floor was my classmate — a friend of almost forty years now and a fine priest to this day. He is with us because his young, single birth-mother chose adoption over abortion. While little is known of her life, it seems she was young, single and troubled. But I would like to think that there were those around her 56 years ago who helped her, encouraged her, refrained from uncharitable judgment and simply helped her make the kind of decisions that resulted in a son whose life is wonderfully dedicated to God and the Church. Of course, even one child lost to such a cruel and unholy death as abortion is too many. And yet my grief is multiplied when I consider how many might have grown up to be your doctor, your teacher, your neighbor, your friend, or possibly your priest. 

Let us honor the dignity of their lives by speaking out in clear support of ending the legalized killing of our children. And again, as we lift up our prophetic voice as one, let our message have the greatest possible impact by the consistency of our belief: all human life (the unborn, the criminal, the elderly, the very sick, the mentally ill, the handicapped) — ALL human life, from conception until natural death, is sacred.

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! 

God’s mercy is present in the good, bad of life

Speaker shares his story of healing at annual Divine Mercy Radio banquet

For The Register

Hays — “How did I get here?” is a question many ask after hitting rock-bottom. 

“How did I get here?” is a question far fewer take the time to reflect on amid success, particularly in an industry that runs 24/7 and is driven every second by happenings the world over.  Brian Patrick, a 40-year veteran of radio and television and current host of EWTN Radio’s “Morning Glory,” has asked this question in both extremes at different points in his life. Now, looking back on a path filled with twists, turns and moments of abundant clarity, he answers that question with one word: “Mercy.” Patrick shared his message of “Mercy in Motion” at the seventh annual Divine Mercy Radio Appreciation Banquet Sept. 9 in Hays.

From the years of his youth in Pennsylvania to time spent at Father Edward Flanagan’s Boys Town on the outskirts of Omaha, Neb., and from his years spent addicted to illicit substances to his current work for EWTN in an office and studio overlooking Washington D.C.’s Capitol Hill, Patrick said his journey, while an improbable one, is a lesson of mercy in motion. He said his story mimics that of The Prodigal Son in many respects.  “I rejected my Catholic faith because I [thought I] knew better than what I’d been taught. That’s really what I did; I squandered the gifts God gave me,” said Patrick. “Finally, I knew I had to surrender to the power of God and surrender to His mercy.  “And surrendering is really joining the winning team,” he added with a smile.  That surrender came as part of a 12-step program. With Father Ray, a priest of the Precious Blood as his sponsor, Patrick took the first steps toward a new life — a life in and for Christ.

In their first meeting, “Father Ray asked how long it had been since my last confession,” Patrick recalled. “We started talking and three hours later he prayed the words of absolution, ‘All your sins are forgiven,’ and I realized that God’s mercy was far greater than my weakness.”   Patrick reminded the audience that God’s mercy is available for the accepting, but he warned, “Unless it moves through us and out to others, it stagnates. Unless I am willing to show mercy to others, it’s dormant in me. Mercy should flow in and out.  “Mercy works like love. The more we show mercy and the more we give it, the more we can take it in. How can we solve the bitterness and hatred in our world? By becoming vessels of God’s mercy.”  Patrick’s message to the nearly 200 audience members was that each person was in the room because he had experienced God’s mercy and he was aware of Catholic radio’s role in spreading that mercy to the world. His message to the members of the Salina Diocese at large was one of gratitude.  “I want to thank you for being true Americans,” he said. “You are the heart of this country.  “As we think back on Sept. 11 and as we respond to other challenges [as a nation], you are an example of how we all can live. This is where Americans shine.”


Divine Mercy Radio celebrates seven years on air

For The Register

Hays — Divine Mercy Radio celebrated seven years on the air with its annual Appreciation Banquet Sept. 9, in Hays. In addition to keynote speaker Brian Patrick of EWTN Radio’s “Morning Glory,” the event featured an update on the station and its newest expansion ventures.

“This past year we filed with the Federal Aviation Administration to build a 500-foot tower north of Ellis to expand the wattage of KVDM,” reported the station’s Executive Director Donetta Robben. 

“Currently, the application is under review. So, we’re waiting. If it’s God’s will that KVDM expand, it will.”

Robben also shared information on a new technology that is increasing the station’s reach.

“Recently Divine Mercy Radio began streaming on the Amazon Echo — a voice-activated device that is quickly gaining ground in the tech world,” she said. “To listen to Divine Mercy Radio on the Amazon Echo, all one has to do is say, ‘Alexa, enable the Divine Mercy Radio Skill.’  After the skill is enabled, anytime you want to listen to Divine Mercy Radio, all you have to say is, ‘Alexa, play Divine Mercy Radio,’ and the familiar voice of our spiritual director comes on the air saying, ‘This is Father Fred Gatschet with Divine Mercy Radio. Thanks for listening.’ ”  

According to industry forecasting, it is estimated that by 2020, 75 percent of American homes will have a voice-activated smart speaker like Amazon Echo.

In her message of appreciation to the listeners and supporters of the station, Robben stated, “Because of all of you … Divine Mercy Radio is continually seeking ways to reach more souls with the joyful message that Jesus Christ suffered and died so that heaven can be attainable for us. 

“Heaven is real and so is hell. It’s in everlasting life that the real climate change will take place! We need to reach as many souls as possible in our lifetime so that souls choose heaven for their everlasting dwelling place.”   

Divine Mercy Radio, an affiliate of EWTN, is broadcast on 88.1 KVDM in Hays, and on 88.1 KRTT in Great Bend. In addition to the over-the-air broadcast and the broadcast through Amazon Echo, listeners can tune in via the Listen Live feature on the station’s website, dvmercy.com, from anywhere in the world.

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

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.’ ”


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.


Featured Events

Catholic News Headlines

  • By Dennis SadowskiWASHINGTON (CNS) -- A prayer here, a share on social media there, a voice of support in a letter to the editor, even a get-to-know-others potluck. Supporting refugees and migrants can take many forms, and Pope Francis is hoping Catholics around the world will act over the next two years to encounter people on the move. In the U.S., the church's leading organizations have developed a series of activities, including prayers, that families, parishes, schools and individuals can undertake during the Share the Journey campaign the pope is set to open Sept. 27 at the Vatican. Share the Journey is an initiative of Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic charitable agencies. It is meant to urge Catholics to understand and get to know refugees and migrants who have fled poverty, hunger, violence, persecution and the effects of climate change in their homeland. In addition to Pope Francis' formal announcement at his weekly general audience, key church representatives, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, president of Caritas Internationalis, were to conduct a media conference the same day. U.S. partners in the effort are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA. The effort will give Catholics the opportunity to learn and explore Catholic social teaching on refugees and migrants, said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. operations for CRS. "Catholic social teaching has clear messages of caring for strangers, the importance of hearing their stories and understanding their needs," she said. Much of the effort will be focused on sharing stories about migrants and refugees, the struggles they face and why they chose to seek a better life elsewhere, said Kristin Witte, coordinator of domestic Catholic educational engagement at CRS, which is the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency. "The hope is that through the stories that are presented, the images presented, that people will be moved from their place of comfort to a place of encounter. That's what the church is calling us to. That's what the pope is calling us to," she said. The coalition of Catholic organizations has developed a toolkit in English and Spanish that includes prayers, suggestions for activities for families, prayer groups, classrooms and clergy, and utilizing social media with references to #sharejourney. "We're giving people clear direct ideas, not just in their neighborhood but to mobilize communities. To create an environment or an opportunity for action is critical especially at this time," Witte said. Mark Priceman, communications for the bishops' Migration and Refugee Services, said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that about 22 million people are on the move around the world, making the Christian community's awareness and response to their situation critical. The number of refugees to be admitted to the U.S. was capped at 50,000 by President Donald Trump for fiscal year 2017, which was to end Sept. 30. It is less than half of the ceiling of 110,000 set by President Barack Obama. A presidential determination on the number of refugees to be accepted for fiscal year 2018 was due by Sept. 30. Since 1996, the number of refugees admitted has fluctuated between 70,000 and 90,000 annually. The number of refugees to be accepted each year is determined by the president under the Refugee Act, which was signed into law in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. The act amended earlier law, created a permanent and systematic procedure to admit refugees, and established a process for reviewing and adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies. Share the Journey looks to mobilize people quickly. Soon after the opening, the campaign is calling for a week of prayer and action for migrants and refugees Oct. 7-13. Special prayers at Masses, prayer vigils, simulation exercises, school announcements, lesson plans and speaking events are among the activities suggested as ways to learn about people on the move. Similar activities will be taking place worldwide throughout the campaign, Rosenhauer said. "It is a reflection of the Holy Father's leadership, but it's also a reflection of the commitment of leaders around the church around the world," she explained. Nearly three dozen cardinals, archbishops and bishops as of Sept. 25 have pledged to participate in the campaign, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami addressed the concepts of the Share the Journey campaign in an op-ed column Aug. 28 in the Sun Sentinel in Broward County, Florida. "'Share the Journey' invites us to see through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye," he wrote. "As Pope Francis says, 'Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by but to stop. And don't just say, 'What a shame, poor people,' but to allow ourselves to be moved by pity.'" The campaign will take advantage of specially designated days throughout the year to raise awareness, including the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12; Lent; the church's observance of National Migration Week in January; World Refugee Day June 20 and the September 2018 United Nations meeting to consider two global compacts on refugees and migration. There also is an advocacy component to Share the Journey, Rosenhauer said, giving U.S. Catholics the opportunity to take what they learn about migrants and refugees and approach federal policymakers to better allocate international assistance to address the factors that cause people to flee. Together with Catholics worldwide, the U.S. organizers said they hope the campaign will begin to ease the burdens under which migrants and refugees live. "We're mobilizing the worldwide Catholic Church to serve," Witte said. "There are so many networks that the Catholic Church already has that we can infuse an opportunity allow them to live their baptismal call and to stand up for the most vulnerable." - - -Editor's Note: More information and a toolkit on Share the Journey is available online at www.sharejourney.org. Learn more about the international campaign at journey.caritas.org.- - - Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.- - -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 Matt FowlerVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The "revolting reality" of recent wars shows just how urgent it is that the international community act to protect religious minorities in situations of conflict, a top Vatican official told the U.N. General Assembly. "As all of us have seen, in the last several years in various blood-drenched parts of the world, war and conflict often provide the backdrop for religious minorities to be targeted," which shows the need to focus on safeguarding religious minorities in these situations, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister, said Sept. 22 during a U.N. session devoted to a discussion of protecting religious minorities in situations of conflict. Although every recognized faith group experiences some form of oppression globally, Christians remain the most persecuted, the archbishop said, citing findings from a number of extensively researched reports. The studies have shown that anti-Semitic attacks have also increased, most notably in Europe, while Muslims continue to face persecution from fundamentalists, he added. "Thirty-eight of the world's 196 countries showed unmistakable evidence of significant religious freedom violations, with 23 amounting to outright persecution," said Archbishop Gallagher. "When we survey the world situation, we see that persecution of religious minorities is not a phenomenon isolated to one region." Archbishop Gallagher listed some strategies that are essential for stopping the persecution of religious minorities. They included: -- Blocking the flow of money and weapons to those who intend to target and harm religious minorities. "Stopping atrocities not only involves addressing the hatred and cancers of the heart that spawn violence, but also removing the instruments by which that hatred actually carries out that violence," he said. -- Dialogue between religious followers to overcome the assumption that interreligious conflicts are unavoidable. "There is an urgent need for effective interreligious dialogue as an antidote to fundamentalism," he said. That dialogue must aim "to overcome the cynical assumption that conflicts among religious believers are inevitable, and to challenge the narrow-minded interpretation of religious texts that demonize and dehumanize those of different beliefs," Archbishop Gallagher said. -- Confronting and condemning the abuse of religion to justify terrorism and the killing of innocent people in the name of God. "Social, political and economic issues that demagogues can exploit to incite violence must also be tackled," he said.- - -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/Steve Sisney, Archdiocese of Oklahoma CityBy Tony GutierrezOKLAHOMA CITY (CNS) -- Wearing a red and black traditional Guatemalan shirt that had belonged to martyred U.S. priest Father Stanley Rother, Ronald Arteaga traveled from his village of Santiago Atitlan to witness the Sept. 23 beatification of the pastor he knew as "Padre Aplas." Even though Arteaga was only 10 when now-Blessed Rother was martyred in 1981, he remembers "he was always with the people of Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, and more than that, he identified with our indigenous population." The sleeves on Arteaga's shirt had to be rolled up because, as he recalled, Blessed Rother was a tall man. "He learned to speak Tz'utujil, the language of my people, and he always served the people most in need," Arteaga said. When Blessed Rother was killed, Arteaga recalled, it "broke the hearts of the entire village," but "we had hope that he would receive this honor and thanks be to God that this day has arrived!" An estimated 20,000 packed the Cox Convention Center from across the country and throughout the world to witness the beatification of the native Oklahoman who would become the first U.S.-born martyr. Ordained for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City in 1963, Blessed Rother went to the archdiocesan mission in Santiago Atitlan. He was gunned down in his rectory by three masked men in 1981. Pope Francis recognized the priest's martyrdom last December, making him the first martyr born in the United States and clearing the way for his beatification. "We're amazed at the size of the crowd and delighted so many people are interested in celebrating his life," said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City during a media availability. "He's a local hero whose reputation goes far beyond Oklahoma." Father Don Wolf, a cousin of Blessed Rother, made an appeal for continued support of the missions the martyr served in Santiago Atitlan and Cerro de Oro. "For the people of his parish in Santiago Atitlan and Cerro de Oro and all of us here in Oklahoma, he has led our eyes unwaveringly to the kingdom of God," Father Wolf said. It was for Father Wolf's ordination in May 1981 that Blessed Rother made his last visit to the United States, which Father Wolf said is a distinction that links his priesthood to his cousin's. "At ordination they invoke the saints ... at my ordination we had one," Father Wolf said. "It's an enormous inspiration and an enormous challenge -- the kind of service his priesthood embodied is the kind of service that I strive to." Francisco "Chico" Chavajay, program coordinator for Unbound Project in Guatemala, was only 1 when Blessed Rother was killed, but grew up in San Pedro, which is near Santiago Atitlan, knowing who "Padre Alpas" was and the impact he had on the community. "My family benefited from the hospital he founded because one of my sisters went to the hospital when I was 8 years old, and we didn't have access to a closer hospital," Chavajay recalled. "If it wasn't for his work, it would probably have been a different story for my sister." Chavajay now works for Unbound, an U.S.-based organization founded in 1981 by five lay Catholics, including one who had worked with Blessed Rother in Guatemala. Unbound works with children and the elderly in poor and marginalized communities throughout the world. In Guatemala, Chavajay is responsible for serving more than 60,000 families. "For us, he's like an angel we have in heaven to support this cause," Chavajay said. "We feel that Padre Aplas' hand and prayers in heaven are helping guide us in this life to continue bringing the Gospel and salvation to our brothers and sisters in need." Seminarians Estevan Wetzel and Ian Wintering from the Diocese of Phoenix traveled to the ordination with a group of fellow seminarians attending St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver. They were introduced to Blessed Rother's story through their Oklahoma brothers. "His ordinary 'yeses' came with a great faith that at the end allowed him to receive a martyr's crown," Wetzel said. Seminarians from Phoenix typically complete their Spanish immersion program in Antigua, Guatemala, which is near the Santiago Atitlan mission. Wintering hopes to visit Blessed Rother's shrine when he studies there next summer. He said he pulls inspiration from the slain priest's "humility and simplicity." "I know how broken I am, and how humble he was," Wintering reflected. "I seek his intercession because being a 'nobody' priest, he rose to glory by following God's will, and I hope to do that in my own nothingness." Sister Gabina Colo, local superior of the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist in Houston, brought her community to the beatification. "He was a missionary in Guatemala -- he gave his whole life to the people of Guatemala," Sister Gabina said. "Since we're from Guatemala, it encourages us to be missionaries here in the United States, so we can follow his example." Father Guillermo Trevino traveled from the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, for the beatification. Serving in an area that relies heavily on agriculture, Father Trevino was impressed at Blessed Rother's "ordinariness." The future martyr was raised on his family's farm about three miles from Okarche. "The thing is he was so ordinary, but he had great gifts. In Guatemala he'd be working the farm," said Father Trevino, finding inspiration in his example. In particular, he pointed to a line the late priest uttered that illustrates the devotion he had to his flock: "The shepherd cannot run." "Can I do this?" Father Trevino has asked himself. Dolores Mendoza Cervantes knew Padre Aplas in Santiago Atitlan. Her father, Juan Mendoza Lacan, helped him to translate the Bible into Tz'utujil, and was himself killed less than a year later on June 22, 1982. Dolores came to the U.S. at 16 because she had threats on her own life, but pointed out as a result of their efforts, "all the newer generations can read the language." She now lives in Danube, California, with her husband, Robert Cervantes. They said the government at the time considered teaching the Tz'utujil to read a threat. "Father Stanley and my father-in-law were brave enough to stand up to them," Robert said. "They knew they were going to be killed someday, but that didn't stop them from translating the Bible into Tz'utujil." - - - Gutierrez is editor of The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.- - -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/Dave Crenshaw, Eastern Oklahoma CatholicBy OKLAHOMA CITY (CNS) -- If the martyrdom of Blessed Stanley Francis Rother "fills us with sadness," it also "gives us the joy of admiring the kindness, generosity and courage of a great man of faith," Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.The 13 years Blessed Rother spent as a missionary in Guatemala "will always be remembered as the glorious epic of a martyr of Christ, an authentic lighted torch of hope for the church and the world," the cardinal said in his homily during the U.S. priest's beatification Mass. "Formed in the school of the Gospel, he saw even his enemies as fellow human beings. He did not hate, but loved. He did not destroy, but built up," Cardinal Amato said. "This is the invitation that Blessed Stanley Francis Rother extends to us today. To be like him as witnesses and missionaries of the Gospel. Society needs these sowers of goodness," he said. "Thank you, Father Rother! Bless us from heaven!" The cardinal was the main celebrant of the beatification Mass, joined by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and his predecessor, retired Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran, who formally opened the Rother sainthood cause 10 years ago. An overflow crowd of 20,000 packed the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City for the beatification of Father Rother, murdered in 1981 as he served the faithful at a mission in Guatemala sponsored by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. The evening before a prayer service was held at St. Benedict Parish in Broken Arrow.In Rome, Pope Francis said Sept. 24: "May his heroic example help us be courageous witnesses of the Gospel, dedicating ourselves in supporting human dignity." After praying the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pope recalled the "missionary priest, killed out of hatred for the faith, for his work in evangelization and the human advancement of the poorest in Guatemala."In Oklahoma City, before the Sept. 23 Mass began, the congregation was shown a documentary made about his life and ministry titled "The Shepherd Cannot Run: Father Rother's Story." Then Cardinal Amato, Archbishop Coakley, Archbishop Beltran and about 50 other U.S. bishops, over 200 priests and about 200 deacons processed in for the start of the beatification ceremony. Archbishop Coakley welcomed Catholics "from near and far" who traveled to Oklahoma "to celebrate the life and witness of Father Rother." He acknowledged the ecumenical, interfaith and civic leaders in attendance and those joining the celebration by watching live coverage of it on the internet, TV and radio. Before Cardinal Amato read the apostolic letter declaring Father Rother "Blessed," Archbishop Beltran gave some remarks, saying that little did Father Rother know that his growing-up years on his family's farm near Okarche "would mold him into the kind of man who would make great strides when he volunteered to go to Guatemala." "He struggled in seminary," the archbishop remarked, referring to the difficulty the priest had with learning Latin. He was nearly expelled because he had such a hard time, but he went on to be ordained for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City in 1963. Once in Guatemala to serve in Santiago Atitlan, he learned Tz'utujil, the language of the many Mayan descendants who were his parishioners. He helped translate the Bible into Tz'utujil. He worked side by side with the people "teaching them many of the agricultural practices he learned in Okarche," Archbishop Beltran said. The mission was about 10 years old when Father Rother arrived in 1968 and had a staff of 10, but the number of missionaries dwindled as Guatemala's civil war, which began in 1960 and lasted until 1996, intensified. Eventually, Father Rother's name appeared on a death list and he returned home. "His ways were very quiet and unassuming but eventually he began to receive death threats," the archbishop continued. "He made infrequent visits (back to Oklahoma). On his last visit (in 1981) he felt the need to return to his people no matter what the consequences." Friends recalled him saying, "The shepherd cannot run. I want to be with my people." Within three days of his return, three men entered his rectory in the dead of night and murdered him. "His saintly life has become well known beyond boundaries of Oklahoma and Guatemala and the faith of those familiar with his life has been greatly strengthened. How grateful we are to almighty God this day for the beatification of Father Rother," Archbishop Beltran said. Cardinal Amato followed the archbishop by reading the formal letter about the priest's beatification. When he concluded, a huge colorful banner was unfurled above the altar with a likeness of Blessed Rother and an image of his Guatemalan mission and the Oklahoma City archdiocesan coat of arms at the bottom. His feast day will be celebrated July 28, the day when he was fatally shot in the head by masked men. Relics of Blessed Rother, including a piece from one of his rib bones, were brought to the altar in a golden reliquary and set on a small table to the left of the main altar. Cardinal Amato venerated the relics and censed the reliquary. Rother family members then came up to the altar to greet the cardinal: his sister, Sister Marita Rother, a member of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, who lives at her community's motherhouse in Wichita, Kansas; and his brother Tom and his wife, Marti, who live on the farm where the martyred priest and his siblings grew up, located three miles from the center of Okarche. In his remarks, Archbishop Coakley said that on behalf of the local church in Oklahoma "and in communion with my brother bishops in the United States and Guatemala," he felt "profound gratitude" for the opportunity to help celebrate the beatification of a native son. "We are grateful for your (Pope Francis) recognition of the heroic witness of this good shepherd (who) remained with his people," the archbishop said. "He gave his life in solidarity with so many suffering individuals and family who endured persecution for the sake of the Gospel. We pray the church will experience a new Pentecost and an abundance of vocations to the priesthood inspired by the witness and aided by the intercession of Blessed Stanley Rother." He thanked Archbishop Beltran for formally opening the Rother cause, as well as the postulator, Andrea Ambrosi of Rome, who attended the Mass, and the many men and women who worked diligently over many years to advance the cause and "make known the holiness and heroism of this ordinary priest."- - -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/Alessandro Bianchi, ReutersBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The worst sin of all is not trusting in God's infinite love and not believing that God is always waiting for his sinning children to return to him, Pope Francis said. "He is always at the door, waiting for me to open it just a tiny bit to let him in, and to not be afraid" of past sins getting in the way of conversion, the pope said in a homily Sept. 24. The pope celebrated Mass in the Vatican garden's grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes for the Gendarme Corps of Vatican City State, as the Vatican police force is formally known. The Mass came ahead of the Sept. 29 feast day of the security service's patron saint, St. Michael the Archangel. Pope Francis told the police officers that the purpose of life is to seek the Lord and to convert, but one must realize it is God who takes the first step to encounter people. "Our God doesn't tire of going out to look for us, of letting us see that he loves us" even though everyone is a sinner, he said. God goes out into the world, sending his son among sinners, and calls out "Come!" the pope said. Even if people respond, "But it's so late" and there are so many sins, "for God it is never late. Never, ever! This is his logic of conversion." "He respects every person's freedom, but he is there, waiting for us to open the door just a little," the pope said. "The worst of sins, I think, is not understanding that he is always there waiting for me, not having faith in this love, distrusting God's love," he said. Later in the day, reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter's Square, the pope underlined the same theme based on the day's Gospel reading of the parable in which Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who goes out from dawn to day's end looking for laborers for his vineyard. And those who started late in the day receive the same equal pay as those who began early and did more work. It is difficult for people to understand God's logic, the pope said, because he is generous and offers salvation freely -- not because of merit or because the person worked for it -- but because it is a gift. "It's about letting oneself be amazed and won over by the thinking and ways of God," which, "fortunately for us" do not correspond to human ways and logic, he said. "Human thinking is often marked by selfishness and personal profit, and our narrow and twisting paths are not commensurate to the wide and straight roads of the Lord," the pope said. "He uses mercy," the pope said, "he forgives broadly, he is full of generosity and goodness which he pours over each one of us, he opens to everyone the limitless territories of his love and grace," which are the only thing that can fill the human heart with the fullness of joy.- - -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.