• 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Reflections on the 2016 Election by the Catholic Bishops of Kansas


Missionary priests from India share memories, inspiration from St. Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity

The Register

While the prairies of Kansas are a world away from the streets of Kolkata, India where St. Mother Teresa began the simple ministry of the Missionaries of Charity, the Diocese of Salina has almost a dozen priests with direct experience with the newly-minted saint and her religious community.

“I shook hand with a saint. That is tremendous experience,” Father George Chalbhagam, C.M.I., said. 

He met St. Mother Teresa in October of 1995 when he and a group of priests visited the order’s headquarters and said Mass for the sisters. Following Mass, she greeted each priest and spent about 15 minutes with the group.

“I am so excited now as Mother is a Saint,” Father Chalbhagam said. “Saint Teresa had great respect for priests and priesthood.”

Father Gnanasekar Kulandai, H.G.N., said the order’s reverence for Holy Mass still leaves an impression on him today.

“In their sacristy I always saw a board hanging that read: ‘Priests of God,celebrate this Mass as if it is your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass.’ Until today I remember this prayer and pray before every Mass I celebrate,” he said.

Father Kulandai said St. Mother Teresa has a universal appeal.

“People of all religions respect and admire her. Even other religious people like Hindus and Muslims donate food and other charitable things to her communities,” he said. “The canonization of Mother Teresa will have a strong impact on the Catholic Church in India. It will help Christianity grow in the multi-religious country and it will encourage everyone who selflessly live a life of service.”


Hoxie’s Sister Rose Marie makes final vows to IHMs

Hoxie native, Chelsey Weber, joins Wichita sisters in teaching apostolate

Colwich — With joy, Sister Rose Marie Weber made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the hands of Mother Mary Magdalene O’Halloran Aug. 20 as she completed the final step in joining the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Wichita. 


A Hoxie native, Sister Rose Marie , 29, grew up in St. Francis Cabrini Parish. She was baptized as Chelsey Weber, and is the daughter of  Leonard and Donna Weber of Hoxie and the late Rose Weber. Her grandparents are Albertine Rajewski of Victoria, Katherine Weber of Oakley, and Robert and Alverda Moellering of Hoxie. 


Colby hosts Jubilee of Mercy Mass, events

The Register

Colby — ­­In order to begin the celebration of the Year of Mercy Mass, Bishop Edward Weisenburger announced that confessions would need to be suspended until after Mass so that the priests could get ready. Eight priests were hearing confessions in different locations throughout the church and even outdoors before the Mass and during the Rosary, which was led by the Bishop. Lines were long with young families, elderly and all ages in between waiting to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the Aug. 28 Jubilee of Mercy event.

Sacred Heart Church, Colby, was filled to capacity, with only a few seats available in the back of the entrance of the church.

Before Mass, while the Bishop was waiting for the concelebrating priest, he caught the eye of a young child looking toward the back of church. The Bishop smiled and sent a small wave, receiving one in return.

Voices blending in harmony began the Mass that included scriptures and liturgy focusing on God’s mercy.

During the homily, the Bishop noted that in Genesis, early people worshiped angry, vengeful gods that they feared.

“They couldn’t understand the Jewish God or that the Jewish people had a relationship with God,” he said, relaying that the Jewish people loved God and didn’t quake in fear of their merciful God.

He spoke about how Abraham was old and childless, yet believed God’s promise that he would have a child. He was obedient and was going to sacrifice that long-awaited child until God said, “Not only do you not owe me your first born son … I’m going to give you mine,” the Bishop said.

“Jesus doesn’t deny Judaism, He intensifies it. Jesus flips the normal invitation in today’s Gospel to people who can’t repay you.”


Popular radio show host to speak at annual banquet

By The Register

Hays — Broadcaster, journalist and author Al Kresta will be the featured speaker at Divine Mercy Radio’s annual banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 17 in the Little Theatre of Holy Family Elementary, 1800 Milner in Hays. His talk is titled, “The Absolute Necessity of Catholic Radio.”

Kresta was a Protestant pastor when he began working in radio. His radio program “Talk from the Heart” was aired in the 1980s and ’90s in the Detroit area. Questions from callers came in during the show which Kresta could not answer. In addition, Kresta’s life and spiritual journey took on a new dimension when he lost his left leg to necrotizing fascistis, a virulent infection often referred to as “flesh-eating bacteria.”

After an extended recovery, Kresta returned to broadcasting, this time as a Catholic radio broadcaster. Currently, Kresta is the host of “Kresta in the Afternoon,” heard from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday on Divine Mercy Radio, 88.1, KVDM in Hays and KRTT in Great Bend.

Tickets for the banquet are $50 and includes hors d’oeuvres with wine or beer as well a full meal and dessert. Tickets are available online at dvmercy.com, by calling the studio at (785) 621-4110 or going to Divine Mercy Radio at 108 E. 12th St. in Hays during office hours, which are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Catholic School ACT scores up in Salina Diocese

Salina — Catholic high school students in the Diocese of Salina continue to improve ACT college exam results, outperforming both Kansas and national averages.

Figures released Aug. 24 indicate a continued trend upward for Salina Catholic Schools. 

This year, the diocesan high schools’ average composite was 24.3. Scores for Kansas schools were 21.9 while the national average on the 36-point scale was 20.8.

 “The most important thing is to look at the trend,” said  Dr. Nick Compagnone, Superintendent of Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Salina. “We have been slowly increasing the scores each year.”

In addition to providing composite scores on the exam, the ACT measures performance toward college readiness benchmarks in English, reading, math and science. The benchmarks represent scores that would indicate a level of preparation needed to have at least a 50 percent chance of getting a B or above in entry-level college courses.

Less than a third of Kansas students – 31 percent – met all four readiness benchmarks in 2016, while the national average of 26 percent. 

“Many schools in the diocese, like schools across the nation, have been trying to improve college readiness,” Compagnone said. “ACT college entrance exams are just one indicator of our academic success of our Catholic schools. It is a testament to our teachers in grades PreK through 12 for their dedication in adhering to the mission of education our students’ mind, body and spirit.”

Catholic high schools in the Salina Diocese include Sacred Heart Junior/Senior High School in Salina, Thomas More Prep-Marian High School in Hays, St. John High School in Beloit, Tipton Catholic School in Tipton, and St. Francis Xavier in Junction City.

St. John High School, Beloit, receives state award

By The Register

Beloit — When St. John Catholic High School was awarded the 2015-2016 Kansas Department of Education Governor’s Award in April, it was the smallest of the award recipients, with 42 pupils.

“I was shocked,” Principal Marcy Kee said. “We’ve never qualified before. I thought it was a big honor.”

St. John was one of four Catholic schools on the list, but the only in the 1A division.

The list of 11 winners is impressive, she said. It includes eight Kansas City-area schools and Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Wichita. The only  other rural recipient was Hillsboro High School.

“We were the smallest,” Kee said. “Just because we’re a small school doesn’t mean we can’t excel.”

She is quick to highlight the importance of academics to their students. Their Scholars Bowl team won two back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2016. The school also participates in the Fort Hays State University Math Relays, where they are five-time champs.


Thielen family receives national farm award

The Register

Junction City — Susan Thielen and her three sons are the first farm family in the Diocese of Salina to receive the SS Isidore and Maria Exemplary Award from Catholic Rural Life.

The family received the award at Rural Life Days in Junction City Aug. 14.

When a friend told Thielen they were nominating her for an award from Catholic Rural Life, national, Catholic nonprofit organization, she dismissed it.

“I honestly blew it off and though ‘Go ahead and do it if you want but there’s no chance,’ ”  she said “We are not the typical farm family, but we are a family that is keeping the farm going.”

Thielen’s late husband, Joe, was a third generation farmer. He died in 2006 after a battle with cancer. 

“During the last year of his life, Joe was taking a lot of chemo, so he had a lot of time to think and plan things for the farm. The feedlot was one of his dreams,” Thielen said. “He made plans and signed up for programs and got the ball rolling. At the time of his death, we literally had to pick it up and figure out what to do.”

Thielen said the cancer diagnosis allowed the family time to plan how to transition the family farm from one generation to the next.

“People need to think about and plan farm succession before it needs to happen,” she said. “It’s not an easy thing, particularly for the older generation.”

During Joe’s last years, youngest son Kevin helped to transition the farm from his father’s management into the current operation. Joey, the oldest son, was nutritionist for a feed company until his father’s death. He then came home to take charge of the cattle operation. Matt, the middle son, was working for Kansas Farm Management System when his father died and he came home to take charge of the financial records and head up the crop production of this operation.


Importance of prayer, action presented at Respect Life Conference

The Register

Russell — “Put on your spiritual armor” and pray daily for pro-life causes, Amy McInerny, Executive Director of Human Life Action, told about 50 people at the Respect Life Conference Aug. 27 at St. Mary, Queen of Angels Parish.

McInerny said the pro-life battle is as much a spiritual battle as it is a political one. She highlighted the need to pray for strength to fight for cultural change, as well as praying for legislators involved in these issues first hand, and parish priests who are responsible for teaching Catholics the importance of respecting life. 

The morning session was presented by McInerny, Executive Director of Human Life Action (HLA), a Washington D.C. based pro-life education and lobbying group. The goal of HLA is to provide a simple way for the average pro-life American to easily become educated about and involved in the legislative process. HLA also works closely with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

McInerny emphasized the importance of not becoming fearful of the “culture of death” or intimidated by becoming involved in the legislative process. “Christians are a hopeful people,” said McInerny, calling listeners to move past their fearfulness and become involved in the legislative process. “Leaving policy and legislation to those who are interested is a luxury we cannot afford,” if lasting changes are to be made in American culture. 


"We are better together", Martin tells men

The Register

Hays — Featured speaker Curtis Martin said that 4 o’clock moment — when he chose Jesus Christ — came during his sophomore year in college.

Martin, founder and CEO of Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) spoke at the 2016 men’s conference for the Salina Diocese on Saturday, Aug. 13, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Hays.

It was the fifth anniversary of the conference, which had a packed audience of more than 350 men from throughout the diocese, along with 25 priests and the diocese’s seminarians. The conference has gained popularity each year and therefore was moved from Russell to Immaculate Heart of Mary Church this year to allow for the crowd.

Martin focused on a couple of verses in John, Chapter 1, about the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry. In the Gospel of John — written decades later — John remembers even the time of day he met Jesus Christ: 4 o’clock. Martin asked those assembled to either recall or think about  their decision to be “all in” for Jesus.

Cory Munsch from Hays, who was participating at his fourth men’s conference, said he remembers well his 4 o’clock moment.

“For me, that 4 o’clock moment automatically went to a time when I decided to start living my faith instead of just sitting on the fence and not doing anything, or being a Sunday Catholic,” Munsch said. “That 4 o’clock moment was a moment when I realized that there was more to my faith than I had been doing.”

Sam Mazzarelli from Westminster, Colo., who has been a FOCUS missionary for 10 years, told the men assembled that things change — lives change — after that 4 o’clock moment. But it’s not easy, he added.


Featured Events

Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Patricia L. Guilfoyle, Catholic HeraldBy Patricia L. GuilfoyleCHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) -- Justin Carr's future looked bright. He had just celebrated his 26th birthday, started a new job, and was getting ready to settle down with his high school sweetheart and start a family. But all that ended the night of Sept. 21, when a bullet shattered his skull. The next day, he was dead. Carr's death marked the most violent episode in nearly a week of protests in Charlotte that erupted after another man, Keith Lamont Scott, was shot and killed by police Sept. 20 in an apartment complex parking lot. Demanding justice in the police shooting, protesters marched through uptown Charlotte the evening of Sept. 21 and confronted police in riot gear. Carr was among them. "I need to make a stand," he told his mother when he called her from the scene. He said wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandmother, who had marched during the civil rights era. Less than an hour later, Vivian Carr learned her son was in the hospital, clinging to life. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have charged Rayquan Borum, 21, in Carr's death. Law enforcement officials Sept. 24 released video of the encounter between Scott and an officer; both men were African-American. Police say Scott was fatally shot after he made a threatening move with a gun. His family members say he had no gun, that he was reading a book and was not being aggressive when police surrounded him. Along with video, police released photos of a pistol and ankle holster recovered at the scene. Vivian Carr recounted her last memories of her son during a special prayer service Sept. 23 at Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church, where the Carr family has worshipped for three generations. Father Carl Del Giudice, pastor, organized the prayer service to give people a chance to share their feelings about the protests and the tragedy that had struck their parish family. Father Del Giudice gave Carr last rites before he died, and is ministering to the Carr family throughout the tragedy. "I know that my son died for a cause," Vivian Carr told a standing-room-only crowd at the church. "I just want to thank everybody for coming out and thanks for all of the love and support that everybody's given," she continued. "It's very, very, very hard for me. This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. But through everybody's love, support and my strength in God, I'm able to carry through this." Carr's two brothers praised him for standing up for people's rights and they defended his reputation from what they called false social media reports. Struggling to find words through his tears, Ellis Carr said, "They took my best friend. He was the best big brother ever." During the prayer service, people spoke of their fear of getting stopped by police or their sons getting racially profiled. Others begged people to get involved in the community, uniting to turn their anger into economic and political change. Father Del Giudice acknowledged people's anger and fear, but he encouraged them to lift each other up and bring their Catholic faith into the world, "uplifting and elevating others to do better, and honoring and recognizing who we are." Deacon Curtiss Todd similarly challenged people to "think and talk and act just like Jesus." He recounted his own experiences with racism while growing up in segregated Winston-Salem, including one incident at the local country club pool, which at one time was limited to white people only. He recounted how a little boy was allowed to bring his dog into the pool, but when a black employee accidentally fell into the pool that same day, "they immediately closed the pool, drained it, scrubbed it, disinfected it, before they would let people back in to it. What's the lesson I learned? That many whites see blacks as less than animals." Hatred, though, comes from the devil, who seeks to divide us, Deacon Todd said. Instead, people should look to Jesus as their example. "Develop a personal relationship with Jesus," he said. "Rely on God." "When we develop that personal relationship with Jesus, we begin to think, talk and act just like him. We have that relationship where we know what he would do in a certain situation," he said. "It doesn't mean turn the other cheek, let somebody walk all over you. It means, yes, you can protest but you have to protest within the range that God gives you." Carr's pregnant girlfriend, Tanae Ray, was the last person to speak at the prayer service. In her emotional remarks, Ray described how they had been close friends for years before they began dating in the ninth grade. Their relationship had been "on and off" over the years, but recently he had asked to marry her. Over the past few weeks, she said, "he was just so excited, the happiest I've ever seen him." When Carr told her that he was going to the protest, she didn't think he was serious. She said she regretted not stopping him from going. "I feel like I could have prevented it." "If I had known these were his last days I would have cherished it," she continued through her tears. "Now I'm carrying his son. Everybody's saying, 'It's going to be OK.' But it's not. I need Justin. Ain't nobody can take his place -- no brothers, uncles, cousins. I need him, and I don't have him," she wept. After his death, Carr's heart, lungs and liver were donated to enable other people to live, Vivian Carr said. "His heart beats on," she said. "He's already helped save three other lives." - - - Guilfoyle is editor of the Catholic News Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte.- - -Copyright © 2016 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/Diario Marcha, Handout via EPABy David AgrenMEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A priest abducted from his parish residence in the Mexican state of Michoacan has been found dead, the Archdiocese of Morelia confirmed Sept. 25. He was the third priest murdered in Mexico within days. State prosecutors say Father Jose Alfredo Lopez Guillen, pastor in the community of Janamuato, 240 miles west of Mexico City, died of gunshot wounds shortly after being abducted Sept. 19. His body was found wrapped in a blanket alongside a highway. Family members, meanwhile, discovered personal items strewn across the floor of his home, and one of two vehicles stolen from his parish was found flipped over along a highway, Mexican media reported. A motive for the crime is still uncertain, though family say they received no ransom calls as might be expected in a kidnapping case. State Gov. Silvano Aureoles Conejo erroneously told Radio Formula that Father Lopez was last seen on video in a local hotel with a teenage boy. The boy's family subsequently said the governor confused the priest with the boy's father. Cardinal Alberto Suarez Inda of Morelia also called the information false. "We pray for his soul," the Archdiocese of Morelia wrote on its Twitter account, confirming the death of Father Lopez. The abduction and murder in Michoacan continued a disturbing trend of attacks against priests across Mexico, though Catholic leaders are at a loss to explain the motives, which have included robbery, organized crime activity and possible conflicts with drug cartel leaders. The Catholic Multimedia Center has documented the murders of 15 Mexican priests in less than four years. On Sept. 19, two priests were kidnapped and killed in the Mexican state of Veracruz, though the stated motive of the crime has caused controversy. Veracruz state attorney general Luis Angel Bravo Contreras told reporters Sept. 20 that the "victims and the victimizers knew each other" and added that the attack was "not a kidnapping." "They were together, having a few drinks, the gathering broke down due to alcohol and turned violent," he said. Catholic officials in Veracruz rejected the explanation, calling it "an easy out" and saying it ignored the reality of a state notorious for crime and corruption. "We are hoping for more professional and careful inquiry, because this declaration the prosecutor is giving generates more doubts than responses to the issue of the murder of these two priests," said Father Jose Manuel Suazo Reyes, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Xalapa. "It surprises us how quickly they've concluded an investigation that requires more time and care." Father Alejo Nabor Jimenez Juarez and Father Jose Alfredo Juarez de la Cruz were dragged at gunpoint out of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Poza Rica, a Gulf Coast oil city consumed by crime in recent years, the Diocese of Papantla confirmed in a statement. Media reported the men were found Sept. 19, one day after their abduction, along the side of a highway with their hands and feet bound. They were beaten and had gunshot wounds, according to media reports. A driver employed by the parish also was abducted, Mexican media reported, but was found unharmed. Violence has struck Veracruz clergy previously. In 2013, two priests in the Diocese of Tuxpan were murdered in their parish. Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City encouraged prayers for the situation of so many clergy coming under attack. "For those that injure and defame the church or its pastors, may the Lord grant repentance for their actions and with our prayers provide a path to social reconciliation," he said Sept. 25 during Mass. - - -Copyright © 2016 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/Jonathan Ernst, ReutersBy Carol ZimmermannWASHINGTON (CNS) -- The expression "in like a lion out like a lamb" turns on its head when comparing the end of the Supreme Court's last term to the start of its new one Oct. 3. The end of the court's last term ended with a flurry of decisions on high-profile cases on abortion, immigration and contraception that had the rapt attention of Catholics and the general public alike. But as the court readies for its next term -- always on the first Monday in October -- that same sense of urgency is nowhere in sight. The court will take its usual load of about 80 cases, but it is not taking on cases likely to entice massive crowds to the building's white steps with placards and megaphones. "In previous years I've said: 'What a blockbuster year we have ahead.' But this year, not so much," said Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society, during a Supreme Court overview Sept. 21 at the National Press Club in Washington. Fredrickson and other panelists said a key factor to the lackluster cases on tap this term is because the court is still not functioning at full capacity since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia Feb. 13. Sept. 23 marks the 222nd day since Scalia's death and it also is the 191st day since Merrick Garland was nominated by President Barack Obama to fill that vacancy. If the seat remains vacant until a nomination by the next president, the court might go through the entire oral argument session without a ninth justice while the confirmation process occurs. The court is in "unchartered territory," said Kristen Clarke, president of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, noting the longtime absence of a justice has not happened in more than five decades. "I'm concerned about the integrity of the Supreme Court," she said, noting that it is in a "state of paralysis" without the ninth vote. Paul Smith, a partner at the Washington law firm Jenner & Block, who has argued multiple cases before the Supreme Court, similarly said the prospect of more four-four tie votes from this court makes it "unfunctional." But that view isn't shared by everyone. Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, law professor at Georgetown University's law school, said Scalia's absence is a notable, particularly since he was "a larger than life figure in the court." He didn't think the court was "dramatically hindered" by having one less justice, but he still said "the court is better with a full complement." Another factor to consider is whoever fills Scalia's seat could likely be on the bench for decades. Still, in its ever steady and slow fashion, the court will not change dramatically no matter who fills the spot. As Smith said, the court doesn't work that way and it doesn't like to override previous decisions. So far, the court has agreed to hear 31 cases and will add more after a late September conference. Nineteen cases are scheduled for oral argument in October and November and more will be added in the coming months. Key upcoming cases for Catholic court watchers are two death penalty cases and a religious liberty case about a church being excluded from a state's grant program. Cases the court might take up but hasn't decided yet include: challenges on voting laws from several states; another issue over the Affordable Care Act; trademark battles involving an Asian-American rock band and the Washington Redskins football team; and a high school transgender bathroom case. The death penalty cases from Texas will be argued in the court's first month. The case of Buck v. Stephens, involves Duane Buck, who was sentenced to death for the murders of his ex-girlfriend and another man in front of her children in Houston in 1995. A psychologist who spoke at the punishment phase of his trial said that because Buck is African-American, there was a stronger likelihood that he could present a danger to society. The court will examine if that part of his trial was ineffective because the witness who made this remark was called forth by the defense. But if the court rules in Buck's favor, he will only get a new sentencing hearing, not a new trial establishing guilt or innocence. The other death penalty case is Moore v. Texas, involving Bobby James Moore, convicted of killing a grocery store clerk during a botched robbery in 1980. Moore says he is intellectually disabled, a claim the state appeals court has rejected. However, his attorneys argue the state used outdated medical standards in their evaluation. Meg Penrose, professor of constitutional law at Texas A&M University's School of Law, said if either case ends with a 4-4 vote, both men will be executed since the lower and appeals courts ruled against them and these decisions will stand. Both cases are decades old and Penrose said they prove "if society is going to inflict the ultimate penalty, it needs to be sure it has done so in a just manner." Clarke, from the civil rights law group, said the stakes are high with these death penalty cases and she feels "unsettled that they will only be heard by eight justices." The religious liberty case before the court, but not given a date yet, is Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley about a religious preschool that was rejected from a Missouri program that provides reimbursement grants for the purchase of tire scraps used at the base of playgrounds. The church says its exclusion violates the Constitution because it discriminates against religious institutions. The state argues that it didn't violate rights saying the church can still worship or run its day care as it wishes, but the state will not pay for the resurfaced playground. Rosenkranz pointed out that both sides are relying on the Supreme Court's 2004 decision in Locke vs. Davey, which said that states do not have to provide tax-funded scholarships to college students who are pursuing careers in ministry. The church in the playground case said the grant they applied for had nothing to do with religion, like the scholarship did, while opponents insist the state simply should not be providing any financial support to religious institutions. At another Supreme Court briefing sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom, C. Kevin Marshall, a partner with the Washington law firm Jones Day, said how the court responds to the playground case will have a broad effect. He said the case raises religious liberty questions but is "less contentious" than last term's Zubik v. Burwell, which challenged the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive requirement for employers. As he put it: "We can get to basics here." - - - Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.- - -Copyright © 2016 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 Kelly SeegersWASHINGTON (CNS) -- As Pope Francis boarded the plane after his visit to Washington a year ago, he carried with him a book containing more than 100,000 pledges that people in the Archdiocese of Washington had made to "Walk With Francis" by either praying, serving or acting to improve their community. Leading up to the pope's visit, the Archdiocese of Washington, along with Catholic Charities, launched the Walk With Francis initiative, which encouraged people to prepare for the pope's visit by following in his example of love and mercy. People were asked to make pledges to pray regularly for the pontiff, to serve by caring for those in need and supporting charitable efforts, or to act to promote human life and dignity, justice and peace, family life and religious freedom, care for creation and the common good. In the months that followed, individuals, schools, parishes and other organizations made pledges to help their community in different ways. Many people posted their pledges on social media, using #WalkwithFrancis. The day before the pope arrived in Washington Sept. 22, 2015, the Walk With Francis pledges topped the 100,000 mark. The Archdiocese of Washington then compiled all of the pledges into a 400-page book that they presented to the pope as a parting gift when he left in late afternoon Sept. 24, 2015. At Little Flower School in Great Mills, Maryland, each class decided for itself how they were going to Walk With Francis. Students in the pre-kindergarten class pledged to act like Jesus toward one another, the second grade pledged to do an act of kindness every day, the fifth grade pledged to plant a school garden, the seventh grade pledged to pray the prayer of St. Francis every day, and the eighth grade pledged to do guided meditations on mercy. Patricia Peters, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade religion, saw the pledges that her students made go beyond the time leading up to Pope Francis' visit. Both the seventh and the eighth grade continued their prayers and meditations regularly throughout the year. In addition, two students from her seventh-grade class were inspired by the prayer of St. Francis to start a pet supply drive that now runs annually from the beginning of the year until the blessing of the pets on St. Francis of Assisi's feast day. "It was very affirming for me to be a part of it, to watch my students grow through the experience and to be able to be a part of the larger church in that way," Peters told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese. "It definitely strengthened my faith to be a part of that with my students." Several prominent figures in the Washington area also signed the Walk With Francis Pledge. Katie Ledecky, the five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist who attends Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, Maryland, pledged to help Shepherd's Table, Catholic Charities and Bikes for the World. John Carlson, a member of the Washington Capitals, pledged to "continue to work on my faith and become a better father every day." Erik Salmi, director of communications for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, said these pledges "helped bring some great energy to the campaign." At The Catholic University of America, students were encouraged to sign pledges after the opening Mass of the school year. Many of the students, such as James Walsh, still wear their "Walk With Francis" wristbands as a reminder of the pledges they made that day. "I like to keep it on as a good reminder ... to stay humble," Walsh said. Catholic University also had a "Serve With Francis Day," where hundreds of students went out to serve their local community. Salmi said the effects of the Walk With Francis initiative are hard to measure, because it is similar to when "you drop a stone in the middle of a pond and the ripples go pretty far and wide." However, he said he did know that all of the Catholic Charities programs benefited from having volunteers that joined them. The good deeds did not end when the pope left. Since his visit, more than 10,000 additional pledges have been made. Through the Drive with Francis initiative, the Fiat that Pope Francis rode in is being used to help those in need. There is even a new hashtag, #DrivewithFrancis, so that people can share on social media what they are doing with the papal Fiat. Two Fiats were used by Pope Francis during his visit to Washington and later the cars were donated to the archdiocese by Pope Francis and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The proceeds of the auction of one of the cars are being donated to various charities. A private donor who wanted to remain anonymous is letting the archdiocese use the second Fiat via the #DrivewithFrancis initiative to promote good works, activities and social service programs aiding the local community. The car has been parked at various events in the area, collecting food for a community food bank or baby items for a crisis pregnancy center in Washington. It was present at the Washington Nationals' Faith Day, where people could line up to make breakfast bags for the homeless served by Catholic Charities' Cup of Joe program. After the game, 550 Cup of Joe bags were delivered to Adam's Place shelter, which is run by Catholic Charities. "That seems pretty perfect for me in summarizing how His Holiness would want the car to be used," Salmi said. For the first anniversary of the pope's visit to Washington, Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Washington launched a "Walk With Francis 2.0" initiative for the Sept. 24-25 weekend, when people could renew the pledge or make a new one if they had not done it before. Parishes in the archdiocese planned to have pledge cards for parishioners to fill out during Mass and bring up to the altar. - - - Seegers is on the staff of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.- - -Copyright © 2016 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/Jason Miczek, ReutersBy Patricia L. GuilfoyleCHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) -- After two nights of violence in Charlotte, Bishop Peter J. Jugis called on men, women and children in the Diocese of Charlotte to join him in prayers for "peace and justice" for all victims of violence and for law enforcement personnel who have been victims of "unjust violence." "Let us pray for all men and women of good will to be instruments of harmony and the always-shining light of Christ in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and public places," the bishop said in a statement Sept. 22. The protests late Sept. 20 and Sept. 21, with the crowds swelling at one point to 1,000 people, followed the fatal police shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American, outside an apartment complex the afternoon of Sept. 20. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said while they were trying to serve a warrant on another person in the area, Scott approached them from his parked car carrying a handgun and ignoring their calls to drop it. In their statement, police said Officer Brentley Vinson, who also is an African-American, perceived an "imminent deadly threat" and shot Scott. Scott later died at a local hospital. Family members insisted that Scott was unarmed and was reading a book while waiting in the parking lot to pick up his son from a nearly school bus stop. Police said they recovered a weapon from the scene, not a book. Vinson has been placed on administrative leave while police conduct an investigation that includes eyewitness interviews and review of police video footage. When Scott family members took to social media to criticize police the evening of Sept. 20, people began to gather at the site of the shooting. By 11 p.m., the protest had swelled to about 1,000 people. When some protesters began throwing rocks and smashing the windows of several police cars, police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, but people continued to protest and block two roadways and, at one point, a nearby segment of Interstate 85, until early morning Sept. 21. Police arrested one person. More than a dozen police officers were slightly injured in the melee. Local television video also showed a few people looting and burning the cargo of a semi-truck that had stopped on the Interstate. Protests turned violent for a second night Sept. 21 in uptown Charlotte, about 10 miles away from the site of the fatal police shooting, with several people injured and several businesses vandalized and looted. One young man was shot in the head reportedly by another civilian. He was taken to the hospital and put on life support; he died Sept. 22. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police again used tear gas to try to clear the crowd, some of whom tried to block a section of Interstate 277 as they departed the protest area. "My heart bleeds for what is going on right now," said Gov. Pat McCrory, who declared a state of emergency late that night after a request from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney. The emergency notice triggered the North Carolina National Guard and the State Highway Patrol to assist local law enforcement in responding to the violence. "Let's pray for our city and let's pray for peace," added McCrory, who was Charlotte's mayor from 1995 to 2009. At a news conference Sept. 22, Putney said he would allow the family to view the footage, but it would not be released to the public. At St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, just a few blocks from the scene of the police shooting and the protests there, about 150 people gathered Sept. 21 to pray for peace. During the evening eucharistic adoration and benediction, Father Patrick Winslow, pastor, offered prayers for police and for people who have suffered injustice, as well as prayers for his neighborhood and the city of Charlotte. "Last evening we were all taken by surprise when two events collided here in Charlotte -- you could even say, in our own backyard," Father Winslow said. "One, the national ongoing concern about racism in law enforcement and, two, the incident of an African-American man who lost his life in an altercation with local police." "In times such as these, it is good to recall that light shines in the darkness, and it must shine through you," Father Winslow urged parishioners. "Knowing the genuine spirit of our parishioners, I am confident that you will embrace a path of peace, prayer and charity." History makes it clear, the priest said, that the light that vanquishes the darkness is not on the battlefield between nations or races, or "in the streets of Charlotte or any U.S. city." "The true battlefield is within the human heart -- within each of us," he said. "Injustice must be defeated" in the heart, the priest said. "This is where prejudice and unjust discrimination live. This is the place from which fear and darkness enter the world. And likewise, it is the place where it can be vanquished." He urged people to "storm and loot your hearts, not the streets, if you want true change for the good. Vanquish the enemy within and then you will truly help your neighbor." - - - Guilfoyle is editor of the Catholic News Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte.- - -Copyright © 2016 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.