• 2018 CCAA

    The 2018 Catholic Community Annual Appeal has begun. This year’s themes are “We, though many, are one body in Christ”

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  • TOTUS TUUS 2018

    Parish registration for the Totus Tuus program is now open. Totus Tuus (Latin for Totally Yours) named after St. John

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Ordination will be live Aug. 22

By the Register

Salina — The Aug. 22 ordination and installation of Bishop-elect Gerald “Jerry” Vincke will be streamed live on the diocesan social media and website.

The ordination, which begins at 2 p.m. in Sacred Heart Cathedral, will be filmed by a Wichita production company, and shown on EWTN at a future, to be announced, date. The ordination will not be broadcast live on EWTN because events from the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland were already scheduled to be broadcast. 

The public is invited to Vespers (evening prayer) with Bishop-elect Jerry and the clergy of the Salina Diocese.  The evening will begin with prayer at 7 p.m., and be followed with a light reception.  All are invited to attend.  The bishop's ordination and installation Aug. 22 is, however, by invitation only and not open to the public, due to limited seating.

To view the live feed, visit the diocese’s website at http:\\salinadiocese.org.

All events surrounding and including the ordination are by invitation only, due to limited seating.

What you will see:

  • The new bishop will be presented his miter — the tall, pointed ceremonial cap that bishops and the pope wear. 
  • The bishop also will be presented his crosier, the pastoral staff that he uses during formal liturgies. It is symbolic of a shepherd’s staff, indicating that he is the pastor of the entire diocese and that its priests are an extension of his ministry. The word “pastor” is Latin for “shepherd.” 

Meet the new bishop:

  • The public will have an opportunity to meet Bishop Vincke at special prayer services. That service will be at  3:00 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria.

This prayer service will be held on Sunday, but is NOT a Mass and will not fulfil a Catholic’s Sunday Mass obligation.

Father Loren Werth, 87, served diocese for 62 years

The Register

Manhattan — In an overflowing church, surrounded by family, brother priests, community members, parishioners and friends, the life of Father Loren Werth, who was a priest for the Salina Diocese for 62 years, was celebrated.

Father Werth, 87, died July 30, 2018.  The Funeral Mass was celebrated Aug. 3 at St. Thomas More Church in Manhattan — the church where he was the founding pastor.  Diocesan Administrator Father Frank Coady was the principal celebrant at the Funeral Mass, and noted the following day was the feast of St. John Vianney.  “He was a priest not particularly known for his intellectual acumen,” Father Coady said. “(St. John Vianney) struggled in the seminary with his subjects, but he was such a deeply  human man that he connected with people. People stood in line for hours to go to confession to that priest.”

Father Coady said like St. John Vianney, Father Werth was deeply human and connected with a variety of people in his parishes and communities.  “It isn’t what you know when you are ordained that matters,” he said. “It’s what you do after that.”  Father Coady said when Father Werth was a seminarian from 1946-1956, the seminaries were not accredited institutions as they are today.  “He continued to read, he was faithful to going to continuing education, to retreats and to listening to tapes,” Father Coady said. “He kept himself up on theology and the Church.” 

Father Coady said sometimes Father Werth would joke about ‘getting my GED’ so he would have a formal degree.  Yet he loved to discuss the faith.  “Most recently, I remember he was the last two times he wanted to talk, it was about the decreasing numbers in the Church,” Father Coady said. “That bothered him deeply. He wanted to talk about ‘What did we do wrong that caused this?’ And ‘What can we do now to improve the situation?’ I don’t know that we came up with answers, but we talked about it.”


Catholic Charities fundraiser celebrates collaborations

The Register

Salina — Supporters of Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas were greeted with a surprise guest when they gathered July 22 for the annual fundraiser at the Salina Country Club.  Bishop-elect Jerry Vincke mingled with the crowd prior to the event, greeting attendees.  “Having the Bishop-elect there really brought an extra element of excitement,” said Michelle Martin, Executive Director of Catholic Charities. “Everyone I spoke to was delighted to meet him.”

The 13th annual fundraiser, which had a $100,000 matching challenge, hit the match. Final numbers are still preliminary, but Martin estimates to the event raised more than $312,000.  “We helped over $300,000 in services last year for rent, utilities (and additional financial assistance),” Martin said during her address during the meal. “That doesn’t include counseling or immigration, or any of the staff’s time. This is where (the money raised) goes — to help the individuals.” 

Catholic Charities serves the poor across the diocese’s 31 counties in northwest Kansas. Yet Kevin Carrico, who emceed the event, reminded the crowd of one important thing.  “This event is not about setting records,” he said, adding the morning’s homily from his home parish flowed nicely into the fundraiser. “(The homily) was about prayer and action. We all pray, but tonight is an example of action. I’m thrilled you’re all here to act.”

Martin said the 17 types of services provided at Catholic Charities focus on stabilizing two areas: families and finances.  “Financial problems are often the No. 1 concern of families,” she said. “That goes hand in hand with family strengthening.”  Last year, 6,500 services were provided to individuals across northwest Kansas.  “We minister to everyone that comes into our doors that is qualified for services,” Martin said. “We don’t just help Catholics.”

She explained those living in poverty often work at minimum wage jobs. If they add one dependent, they are considered below the poverty line.  “Most of the people we serve are one paycheck away or one incident away or one new family member away from becoming underneath the poverty statistics,” Martin said. 


Fourth generation baptized in St. Boniface Church, Vincent

The Register

Vincent — Quietly standing guard over the rolling hills of eastern Ellis County, St. Boniface Church in Vincent has been the site of numerous celebrations in its 111-year history. One of the most recent milestones to be witnessed by the parishioners in the simple country church was the baptism of Wyatt Merle Bliss in early July. 

While every baptism is a joyous occasion, Wyatt’s family had an additional reason to celebrate as his July 8 reception of the sacrament marked the fourth generation of the Huser family to be welcomed into the Catholic Church in the St. Boniface parish. The son of Taylor and Kasandra (Huser) Bliss, Wyatt joins his mother, his maternal grandfather Kevin Huser, and his maternal great-grandfather Leon Huser, in the list of the many family members who have been baptized in the parish with Kasandra.

“We honestly didn’t even realize it until that day when we were taking the picture of the four generations,” said Kasandra. “My dad said, ‘Hey! Do you realize the four of us were all baptized here?’ ”  Leon was baptized at St. Boniface in 1943. Kevin’s reception of the sacrament followed 23 years later in 1966, and Kasandra was welcomed into the Church in 1991.

The Bliss family now lives in western Ellis County, near Ellis, but Kasandra’s heritage as a parishioner of St. Boniface led the couple to decide to have Wyatt baptized in Vincent.  “This little church has been so successful over the years despite being small, so having four generations of our family baptized here was pretty special,” she said. 

Considering the mobile nature of today’s society, particularly the migration of people away from rural areas, having four generations of a family celebrate a sacrament in the same parish might seem unusual. However, in many of the towns in western Kansas, familial legacies in the Catholic parishes are common. 

Father John Schmeidler, OFM Cap., Pastor of St. Boniface Catholic Church and the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria, performed Wyatt’s baptism and agreed that there is something exceptional in the small rural parishes in the western part of the Salina Diocese as well as the role the sacraments play in the lives of the faithful in this area.  “There is a uniqueness here that has helped these parishes form communities,” he said. “They take pride in those communities.  “There is a sense that these people will stand with each other and support each other. Baptism is the entry into that community.”

New generations of western Kansas families, like the Husers, Blisses and many others, continue to carry those communities forward. Wyatt and all the newly baptized can rely on the rich Catholic heritage of those families and the broader communities to strengthen them along their journey of faith in the years to come.

Featured Events

Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters videoBy Rhina GuidosWASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a tweet, a U.S. bishop said he had spent the night reading a grand jury report detailing seven decades of child sex abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses and "it was like reading a horror book." Unfortunately, it was not a fictional account, wrote Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville early Aug. 15, a day after the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General published the mammoth document of more than 1,300 pages detailing accounts of the rape of children, secrecy by church officials and some law enforcement failures over 70 years. "It is real and lives were destroyed and faith shattered," Bishop Stika tweeted. He joined at least a dozen or so prelates outside of Pennsylvania who, via Twitter, TV or in person, at Masses for the feast of the Assumption, took time to express the same sorrow and pain that lay Catholics have been feeling and expressing. But many bishops also spoke about the added layer of what to do about the pain of a shattered trust between shepherds and their angry and pain-stricken flock that many say they now must fix. "This is extraordinarily painful, it is humiliating, it is nauseating," said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan during an interview with local CBS station WLNY in New York City. "This is a kick in the gut. I really worry about a loss of credibility, a loss of trust. There's no use denying it. We can't sugarcoat this. This is disastrous." Painfully aware of the anger Catholics are voicing after the revelations out of Pennsylvania, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley said Aug. 16 that something must be done right away. "The clock is ticking for all of us in church leadership, Catholics have lost patience with us and civil society has lost confidence in us," said Cardinal O'Malley in a statement. "But I am not without hope and do not succumb to despondent acceptance that our failures cannot be corrected." Transformation has to take place in the way the church prepares priests, "the way we exercise pastoral leadership and the way we cooperate with civil authorities; all these have to be consistently better than has been the case," he said, adding that "we remain shamed by these egregious failures to protect children and those who are vulnerable and affirm our commitment that these failures will never be repeated." At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, began a Mass on the feast of the Assumption Aug. 15 by making a brief reference to the developments. "Mary, our patroness, has guided the church in America through many difficult moments," he said. "Today, yet another moment of trial is upon us, a very serious crisis which has brought many of our people to the point of despair and anger and even the loss of faith." He said he offered the Mass asking for Mary's intercession, so "that the bishops of our nation might accomplish a renewal of trust in the church and its leaders across the land." "And no less I ask Mary's son, the Good Shepherd, for the graces of healing, reconciliation and justice for all the people of God among us, above all for those who have been abused and their families," he said. The report by a Pennsylvania grand jury of 23 people said the investigation of almost two years identified more than 1,000 people who say they were abused by some 301 priests, many whom are now dead. However, some living priests named in the report are disputing some of the information and claims in the document and challenged to have their names blacked out, or redacted. They will be heard by the courts in September. The grand jury said it was likely that more victims as well as perpetrators were not identified in the months-long investigation. Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns told The Dallas Morning News he felt "sick" reading the accounts, "knowing that this occurred at the hands of men that you knew and even worked side by side with adds to a dimension of disbelief." Bishop Burns grew up in Pittsburgh and knew some of those named in the report, The Dallas Morning News article said. Recalling one of the priests named in the report, Bishop Burns told the newspaper that the priest "was domineering, he was extremely bossy, he did not possess a shepherd's heart, from my perspective," adding that "now I have come to recognize that he not only had a different view of priesthood, he just had a double life. But like others, he never suspected the horrors that were taking place. Archbishop of Detroit Allen H. Vigneron said in an Aug. 13 statement, before the report became public, that it was disheartening, "for us once again to come face-to-face with moral failures in the priesthood, especially among us bishops." "These sins are marks of shame upon the church," he said. Though there may be the temptation to despair and think that change is not possible, "reform can only happen when hope lives," he said. "We must move forward with the conviction that God will not abandon his church. He wants her purified, cleansed of these sins and brought to new life," he said. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez urged prayers during the feast of the Assumption for abuse victims. "We are aware that this is a sad and confusing time for the church in this country," he said in his homily. "In recent days and weeks, we have heard new revelations about sin and abuse in the church. This is a time now for prayer and repentance and a time for examining our conscience, especially for those of us who are bishops and priests." Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, said in an Aug. 14 statement that it's time to hold accountable "morally and legally" those who allowed the abuse in Pennsylvania to occur, as well as those who hid alleged abuses by former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick. "Pledges of penitential prayer and actions on the part of church leadership are meaningless unless first preceded by contrition, confession, firm purpose of amendment and concrete actions of conversion," he said. - - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In the wake of a grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in six dioceses in Pennsylvania, a Vatican spokesman called the abuses described in the report as being "criminal and morally reprehensible." "Victims should know that the pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent," said Greg Burke, head of the Vatican press office, in a written statement Aug. 16. "Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur," he wrote. "The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors," Burke wrote and, as such, "the Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm." "The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements," he added. The statement, sent in Italian with unofficial English and Spanish translations, came after the Pennsylvania attorney general held a news conference Aug. 14 announcing a 900-page report detailing decades of child sexual abuse by 301 priests, who harmed more than 1,000 victims. In response the report, Burke said, "there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow." "The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the church and in all of society," the spokesman said.- - -Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy St. John Vianney ParishBy Kelly SankowskiPRINCE FREDERICK, Md. (CNS) -- For many parishioners of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Prince Frederick, the violence happening in Nicaragua is more than just headlines flashing across the screen. "The parish here is impacted by it a lot," said Father Dan Carson, the parish's pastor. "People (are) constantly asking about it." For 10 years, the parish has been working with sister parishes in San Juan de Limay and more recently in Esteli to build homes for the poorest of the poor in Nicaragua. The parishioners of St. John Vianney raise money to build simple brick and mud houses, which cost about $2,600 each, and then send the funds to their sister parish. Since there is so much unemployment in Nicaragua, Don Mueller, the parishioner who leads the project, said the group does not go down to build the houses themselves, but instead pays a foreman and two workers to do the building, assisted by the volunteer labor of the people receiving the house. Each house is 20-by-20 feet, which is roughly the size of a master bedroom in the United States, and has no electricity, indoor plumbing or running water. Nevertheless, Father Carson and Mueller both recalled how the people receiving the house say it is like a mansion to them, since they have often been living in three sided shelters made out of things like sticks and plastic bags. Since St. John Vianney began this work in 2008, they have built about 450 houses. "People who have nothing really treasure their faith, family and friends," said Father Carson told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington. "They have a joy that we don't in our country because we have so much stuff. They just appreciate the little things." Mueller takes about two trips per year down to Nicaragua, along with a group of eight to 12 other parishioners, to visit with the families whose homes have been built and to pray with the committee that helps select the families who are receiving homes. "Our only rule is it has to be the poorest of the poor, without regard to race, religion politics or anything like that," said Mueller. "The committee looks at everybody and decides who is the poorest of the poor." Their last trip was in January, and it was Father Carson's first time there, since he had been newly appointed to the parish. While they were there, he blessed the newly constructed homes. Mueller recalled the faithful dedication of the people who they have met in Nicaragua, who often live in remote areas. One man in particular whom they had met hiked three and a half hours with his guitar in order to get to the church to sing at Mass on Sunday. The group from St. John Vianney had intended to take another trip this summer, but could not go because of safety concerns. The housing program continues to operate, even though the parishioners from St. John Vianney are unable to go visit the parishes and families. In recent months, unrest in the country has increased, with police and paramilitaries killing people who are peacefully protesting the regime of the country's president, Daniel Ortega. Many of the protesters are young students. Since the protests began April 12, the death toll has reached 448, according to human rights groups in the country. Ortega has labeled Catholic clergy as enemies and those supporting them as terrorists. Bishop Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara of Esteli, whom the St. John Vianney group always visits when they go to Nicaragua, has been attacked and shot at on multiple occasions. As far as they know, the parishioners of their two sister parishes are still OK. "Bishop Mata has become a friend over the years," said Mueller. "He has been attacked and shot at and threatened by the government and that really hurts. I consider him a friend, he has been to the states, he has been to our parish, he has been to my house." To help their friends from afar, donors from St. John Vianney Parish sent $20,000 to Bishop Mata to be used at his discretion for emergency purposes, which they sent in small installments so as not to raise suspicion. Just a day after the money arrived, Ortega ordered the public hospital not to treat injured protesters, so Bishop Mata treated them at the medical school he had opened, with medicine bought with the money that St. John Vianney had sent. "He called it a miracle that the money had just arrived the day before," said Mueller. Now, the Nicaraguan government has declared any doctor who treats injured protesters a terrorist. St. John Vianney raised $464 for the housing project with a recent fundraiser at the parish picnic. Also, in solidarity with those facing violence, the parish is praying the prayer of St. Michael as the bishop and priests in Nicaragua say the same prayer. Father Carson remarked that the circumstances are particularly sad for such a poor country, where it is tough "to see the people that have nothing there hurt even more." - - - Sankowski is on the staff of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.- - -Copyright © 2018 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/Bob RollerBy Julie AsherWASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Aug. 16 announced three key goals and a comprehensive plan to address the "moral catastrophe" of the new abuse scandal hitting the U.S. church. The plan "will involve the laity, lay experts, the clergy and the Vatican," Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said. This plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November. He said the "substantial involvement of the laity" from law enforcement, psychology and other disciplines will be essential to this process. He also said that right now, it is clear that "one root cause" of this catastrophe "is the failure of episcopal leadership." In a lengthy letter addressed to all Catholics, Cardinal DiNardo laid out three goals just established by the bishops' Executive Committee in a series of meetings held early the week of Aug. 13. The first is a "full investigation" into "the questions surrounding" Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and retired archbishop of Washington. He said the Executive Committee will ask the Vatican to conduct an apostolic visitation into these questions "in concert with" a group of laypeople identified for their expertise by the USCCB's lay-run National Review Board who will be "empowered to act." With a credible allegation that Archbishop McCarrick abused a minor nearly 47 years ago and accusations of his sexual misconduct with seminarians, many have been asking how the prelate could have risen up the ranks of the church as an auxiliary bishop, bishop, archbishop and finally cardinal. Cardinal DiNardo described the second and third goals, respectively, as an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops, and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. The three goals "will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority and substantial leadership by laity," he said. "Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick," the cardinal said. "Those sentiments continue and are deepened in view of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. "We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report," he added. Cardinal DiNardo said the members of the Executive Committee "have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity and clergy, as well as the Vatican." In addition to this being presented to the full body of bishops at their Baltimore assembly, the cardinal said he will go to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them." "The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability," Cardinal DiNardo explained. He elaborated on each of the goals he described, starting with the "full investigation" of the Archbishop McCarrick case and questions surrounding it. "These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence," he said, and "so help to protect minors, seminarians and others who are vulnerable in the future." The bishops will "invite the Vatican to conduct an apostolic visitation to address these questions, in concert with a group of predominantly laypeople identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act," he said. He said the second goal "is to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier." "Our 2002 'Statement of Episcopal Commitment' does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops," he explained. The statement is in the bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," approved in Dallas in 2002, and revised in 2005, 2011 and 2018. "We need to update this (commitment) document," Cardinal DiNardo said. "We also need to develop and widely promote reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific options." The third goal has to do with advocating for "better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops," he said. "For example, the canonical procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent, and to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process," he said. He also laid out the three criteria for pursing these goals: "genuine independence," authority and "substantial involvement by the laity." "Any mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias or undue influence by a bishop," he said. "Our structures must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or from skewing their resolution." Regarding authority in the church, he said, "Because only the pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power." About the "substantial involvement of the laity," he said: "Laypeople bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology, and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces our commitment to the first criterion of independence." In closing, he said, "I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do." "Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership," Cardinal DiNardo said. "The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. "It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure." He said the U.S. bishops "firmly resolve, with the help of God's grace, never to repeat it." "I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust," Cardinal DiNardo said. He said the goals and plans outlined in his letter are "only the beginning." "Other steps will follow," he said. "I will keep you informed of our progress toward these goals." He asked U.S. Catholics "to hold us to all of these resolutions." "Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd."- - -Copyright © 2018 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/Jeffrey BrunoBy Steve LarkinWASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Chris Bell was working in Times Square in the late 1970s, he was shocked to repeatedly see young mothers entering crisis shelters with their children, and he decided that he had to do something. With the help of Father Benedict Groeschel, a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and his spiritual director at the time, Bell founded Good Counsel, a network of pro-life maternity homes. Currently, Good Counsel operates seven homes -- four in New York state, one in New Jersey, one in Alabama and one in Connecticut -- and works with other homes all over the country. It also is looking to both grow and expand its network. "Good Counsel is one of the founding members of the National Maternity Housing Coalition," Bell told Catholic News Service. "Most of the homes are small and limited in what they can do, but we can help find a place for any pregnant woman in the country." Bell said that any pregnant women can enter the maternity homes for free, and the homes will help provide them with opportunities to go back to school and find jobs. Good Counsel will even assist pregnant women with drug addictions or mental illnesses and help find suitable places for them. They also can help plan adoptions. Bell said that many women don't realize that they can choose the couple who would adopt their child and fear that the child will be placed in the foster care system. Bell said that many women who are told that their child will have genetic defects can benefit from maternity homes. "I don't know why the only response so many medical people have is to tell the mother to get rid of it if it looks like the child will have genetic defects," he said. "Especially in the United States, where we're rich and have the technology to help them." He told the story of a woman whose doctor told her that her unborn son had a defect in every cell in his body, and the doctor recommended she abort. She then called Good Counsel, saying "I just want to be a good mother." Good Counsel took her in, found a different medical facility for her, and prayed with her because she wanted to pray. When the boy was born, the fears of the doctor were unfounded. He had a hole in his heart, which required two surgeries, but by the time the mother left the home her son looked like any other one-year-old. Bell also told another story of a mother who already had a 3-year-old when she came to Good Counsel. When she told the father that she was pregnant, he kicked her in the stomach and she left him. Within her first few months, she had obtained a home health certificate, and, after having the baby and staying with him for a few months, she found a job. "When I think about where she was when she came to us and where she was when she left, it was a total turnaround," Bell said. Bell said he thought that media coverage was one reason for a lack of awareness about maternity homes. "I think the media has a strong bias against anything anti-abortion," he said. Despite that, he intends on continuing his work. "The question I ask: Isn't there enough love in the world for another baby? Where there's love, there's life, and where there's life, there's hope. We can change things by looking at one life at a time and one family at a time." - - - Editor's Note: Information about the Good Counsel network of homes can be found by going to goodcounselhomes.org or by calling (800) 723-8331.- - -Copyright © 2018 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.