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Evangelization in (and through) the family

This is the last of three columns on the diocesan pastoral plan, “Stewards of Hope.”

To encounter Christ is to be made new (c.f. 2 Cor 5:17; Rev 21:1-5). I wonder if there is anyone whose heart does not long for something about their life that needs to be made right in the eyes of God? And the longing is even deepened by the way that, despite our best efforts, we find ourselves, time and again, “stuck” in some undesirable condition. This is more than just wanting to lose weight or win the lottery. These are the things that we desire in order to be a better disciple and more authentic believer. Moreover, these are the parts of ourselves that can only be transformed by the encounter with Christ. And it is not by magic but by mystery that this transformation happens.

Sometimes known as “the domestic church,” the family is one place where we are invited to such an encounter. In the family, like no other place, we are prompted to take a long, honest look at ourselves. In this familial honesty, we are sometimes humbled as we realize (and sometimes are inconveniently confronted with) our faults and sins. In the family we also experience the joy of faithfulness despite our failings. We experience not only truthful confrontation, but also we are invited to see ourselves through the eyes of those who love us and who see more to us than our sins — more than even we can see in ourselves. And thus, it is precisely here, in the faith-filled family, that we are empowered to be people of courage, hope, passion, creativity, curiosity and forgiveness.

Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia in September to participate in the World Meeting of Families. This builds on the discussions between the pope and Catholic world leaders last October at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome. The official title to that meeting was III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”


At an evening prayer service to begin the meeting, Pope Francis said: “Evening falls on our assembly. It is the hour at which one willingly returns home to meet at the same table, in the depth of affection, of the good that has been done and received, of the encounters which warm the heart and make it grow, good wine which hastens the unending feast in the days of man. It is also the weightiest hour for one who finds himself face to face with his own loneliness, in the bitter twilight of shattered dreams and broken plans; how many people trudge through the day in the blind alley of resignation, of abandonment, even resentment: in how many homes the wine of joy has been less plentiful, and therefore, also the zest — the very wisdom — for life. … Let us make our prayer heard for one another this evening, a prayer for all (Relatio Synodi no. 1).

The synod recognized that family life has many different manifestations. Certainly the traditional family of spouses with their children has a prominent place. There also remains widow/widower, single, divorced, divorced and remarried. Each of these are real and powerful forms of family. Each of these has its own struggles and a particular experience of loneliness. Each also has a unique gift to bring to the Church.

When one considers the way that family is a channel of God’s own incarnate life, it is easy to see how family becomes so prominent in the ministry of evangelization. You may remember Pope Benedict XVI and his summary statement that evangelization is about re-proposing the Gospel’s message of hope to others. What more opportune place to find a transforming message of hope than in the family?

From 2011 through 2014, family life was one of the major themes addressed in our diocesan pastoral plan, “Stewards of Hope.” During 2015 the life experience of the family will be, for our diocese, the main focus of evangelization. While any of the other “Stewards of Hope” themes would have a legitimate claim to our ongoing attention, the world and its attention to family will generate great possibilities for insight and openness to grace in this year.

Throughout 2015, our diocesan Office of New Evangelization will be providing parishes with ideas how the hope-filled, life-changing encounter with Christ can be recognized in and through families. Watch for more information that will be relayed by your parish Family Life Commission and/or Evangelization Commission.

Summing up the discussion among Catholic leaders in Rome last October, and looking forward to the next gathering this coming October, the bishops recognized these are not easy subjects. But, “in the collegial journey of the bishops and with the involvement of all God’s people, the Holy Spirit will guide us in finding the road to truth and mercy for all. This has been the wish of Pope Francis from the beginning our work, when he invited us to be courageous in faith and to humbly and honestly embrace the truth in charity” (no. 62).

So, as a family of faith, let us go forth. For we are all in this together!

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  • By Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will declare Blesseds Oscar Romero, Paul VI and four others saints Oct. 14 at the Vatican during the meeting of the world Synod of Bishops, an institution Blessed Paul revived. The date was announced May 19 during an "ordinary public consistory," a meeting of the pope, cardinals and promoters of sainthood causes that formally ends the sainthood process. During the consistory, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, formally petitioned the pope "to enroll in due course among the saints" six candidates for canonization "for the glory of God and the good of the whole church." Each of the candidates, the cardinal told the pope, gave "a convinced and coherent witness to the Lord Jesus. Their example continues to enlighten the church and the world in accordance with the perspective of mercy that your Holiness never ceases to indicate and propose." Briefly giving a biographical sketch of the candidates, Cardinal Amato said that during El Salvador's civil war, Archbishop Romero, "outraged at seeing the violence against the weak and the killing of priests and catechists, felt the need to assume an attitude of fortitude. On March 24, 1980, he was killed while celebrating the Mass." Reviewing the facts of Blessed Paul's life, Cardinal Amato highlighted how, as a high-level official in the Vatican Secretariat of State during World War II, the future pope "organized charitable assistance and hospitality for those persecuted by Nazism and Fascism, particularly the Jews." Pope Francis then certified that he had solicited the opinion of the cardinals, who agreed that "these same blesseds should be proposed to the whole church as examples of Christian life and holiness." Blessed Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated one day after calling on the government to end its violation of the human rights of El Salvador's people. While Catholics inside and outside El Salvador recognized him as a martyr immediately, his sainthood cause was stalled for years as some church leaders debated whether he was killed for his faith or for his politics. As Pope Francis told a group of Salvadoran pilgrims in 2015, even after his death Blessed Romero "was defamed, slandered, his memory tarnished, and his martyrdom continued, including by his brothers in the priesthood and in the episcopate." In February 2015 Pope Francis signed the formal decree recognizing Blessed Romero's martyrdom; the Salvadoran archbishop was beatified three months later in San Salvador. The Salvadoran bishops' conference and many Salvadorans had hoped Pope Francis would preside over the canonization in San Salvador, particularly because of the difficulty and expense of traveling to Rome. Others, however, argued that holding the ceremony at the Vatican makes it clear that Blessed Romero is a saint for the entire church, not just for the church in El Salvador. Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez told TV2000, the Italian bishops' television station, that he hoped Pope Francis would make a brief trip to San Salvador in January to pray at the tomb of by-then St. Oscar Romero. The pope will be in Central America for World Youth Day in Panama. Blessed Paul VI, who was born Giovanni Battista Montini, was pope from 1963 to 1978. He presided over the final sessions of the Second Vatican Council and its initial implementation. He also wrote "Humanae Vitae," a 1968 encyclical on married love, the 1975 apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi" on evangelization and "Populorum Progressio," a 1967 encyclical on social development and the economy. Speaking in 2013 to a group of pilgrims from Brescia, Italy, Pope Paul's home diocese, Pope Francis said his predecessor had "experienced to the full the church's travail after the Second Vatican Council: the lights, the hopes, the tensions. He loved the church and expended himself for her, holding nothing back." And, beatifying Pope Paul in 2014, Pope Francis noted that even in the face of "a secularized and hostile society," Pope Paul "could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom -- and at times alone -- to the helm of the barque of Peter while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord." Pope Francis referred to him as "this great pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle," who demonstrated a "humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his church." The other men and women to be canonized include: Father Francesco Spinelli of Italy, founder of the Sisters Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament; Father Vincenzo Romano, who worked with the poor of Naples, Italy, until his death in 1831; Mother Catherine Kasper, the German founder of the religious congregation, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ; and Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, the Spanish founder of the Congregation of the Missionary Crusaders of the Church.- - -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/HCSO, handout via ReutersBy HOUSTON (CNS) -- In response to the May 18 school shooting at a Houston-area high school, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the archdiocesan community would "unite to support and offer healing to those affected." "As a society, we must strive for a way to end such acts of senseless gun violence in our schools and communities," he added in a May 18 statement. The cardinal said he was "deeply saddened" and that his prayer and the prayers of Catholics in the archdiocese are with the "victims and families of those killed and injured in this horrific tragedy."In a separate statement as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal DiNardo said: "Our community and our local church joins an ever-growing list of those impacted by the evil of gun violence. I extend my heartfelt prayers, along with my brother bishops, for all of those who have died, their families and friends, those who were injured, and for our local community." The school shooting, occurring just three months after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, took place when a male shooter opened fire at a Santa Fe High School the morning of May 18 killing 10 people, most of them students. Another 10 were reported injured. A suspect taken into custody was identified as 17-year old Dimitrios Pagourtzis and another person of interest also was detained and questioned. Explosive devices also were found at the school and off campus.  The shooting was the deadliest in Texas since a gunman attacked a rural church late last year, killing more than two dozen people. "Sadly, I must yet again point out the obvious brokenness in our culture and society, such that children who went to school this morning to learn and teachers who went to inspire them will not come home," Cardinal DiNardo said in his statement at USCCB president. "We as a nation must, here and now, say definitively: no more death!"He prayed that "the Lord of life" would be "with us in our sorrow and show us how to honor the precious gift of life and live in peace.""We experienced an unthinkable tragedy at our high school this morning," Santa Fe Superintendent Leigh Wall said in a message posted to Facebook. "As soon as the alarms went off, everybody just started running outside," 10th-grader Dakota Shrader told reporters, "and next thing you know everybody looks, and you hear boom, boom, boom, and I just ran as fast as I could to the nearest floor so I could hide, and I called my mom." Another student told CBS News he ran behind some trees, heard more shots, jumped a fence and ran to a car wash. He said he saw firefighters treat a girl who had a bandage around her knee and may have been shot. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, said in a May 18 tweet: "Please keep the victims of the Houston-area school shooting in your prayers. Pray also for their family members and friends who now begin a tragic grieving process. For those killed, grant eternal rest unto them, O Lord, and bestow grace and strength to all in their community."- - -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/Paul HaringBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Every bishop in Chile offered his resignation to Pope Francis after a three-day meeting at the Vatican to discuss the clerical sexual abuse scandal. "We want to announce that all bishops present in Rome, in writing, have placed our positions in the Holy Father's hands so that he may freely decide regarding each one of us," Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz of San Bernardo said May 18 in a statement on behalf of the country's bishops. The unprecedented decision was made on the final day of their meeting May 15-17 with Pope Francis. Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops' conference, said the pope had read to the 34 bishops a document in which he "expressed his conclusions and reflections" on the 2,300-page report compiled by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and his aide, Father Jordi Bertomeu, during a visit to Chile to investigate the scandal. "The pope's text clearly showed a series of absolutely reprehensible acts that have occurred in the Chilean church in relation to those unacceptable abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse that have resulted in the lessening of the prophetic vigor that characterized her," Bishop Ramos said. After reflecting on the pope's assessment, he added, the bishops decided to hand in their resignations "to be in greater harmony with the will of the Holy Father." "In this way, we could make a collegial gesture in solidarity to assume responsibility -- not without pain -- for the serious acts that have occurred and so that the Holy Father can, freely, have us at his disposal," Bishop Ramos said. Shortly after the announcement, Juan Carlos Cruz, one of three survivors who met privately with Pope Francis in April, tweeted, "All Chilean bishops have resigned. Unprecedented and good. This will change things forever." The bishops will continue in office unless or until the pope accepts their resignations. The document in which Pope Francis gave his evaluation of the situation of the church in Chile was leaked May 17 by Chilean news channel Tele 13. The Associated Press reported that the Vatican confirmed the document's authenticity. The pope wrote in the document that removing some church leaders from office "must be done," but that "it is not enough; we must go further. It would be irresponsible of us not to go deep in looking for the roots and structures that allowed these concrete events to happen and carry on." In it, the pope said that "the painful situations that have happened are indications that something is wrong with the ecclesial body." The wound of sexual abuse, he said, "has been treated until recently with a medicine that, far from healing, seems to have worsened its depth and pain." Reminding the bishops that "the disciple is not greater than his master," Pope Francis warned them of a "psychology of the elite" that ignores the suffering of the faithful. He also said he was concerned by reports regarding "the attitude with which some of you bishops have reacted in the face of present and past events." This attitude, the pope said, was guided by the belief that instead of addressing the issue of sexual abuse, bishops thought that "just the removal of people would solve the problem." In an accompanying footnote, the pope said the bishops' behavior could be labeled as "the Caiphas syndrome," referring to the high priest who condemned Jesus saying, "Better for one man to die for the people than that the whole nation perish." The act of covering up cases of abuse, he added, was akin to the Latin American saying, "Muerto el perro se acabo la rabia" ("Dead dogs don't bite"). The document's footnotes included several details from the investigation made by Archbishop Scicluna, who is president of a board of review within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; the board handles appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse or other serious crimes. The pope said the report confirmed that, in some instances, the bishops deemed accusations of abuse as "implausible." But Pope Francis said he was "perplexed and ashamed" after he received confirmation that undue pressure by church officials was placed on "those who carry out criminal proceedings" and that church officials had destroyed compromising documents. Those actions, he said, "give evidence to an absolute lack of respect for the canonical procedure and, even more so, are reprehensible practices that must be avoided in the future." Following the document's release, Cruz applauded the pope's evaluation of the abuse crisis and of the bishops' behavior toward survivors of sexual abuse. "This is the pope that I met during my conversations in the Vatican," Cruz told Chilean news site, Emol, May 17. "I hope all (the bishops) resign and that the church in Chile begins to rebuild with true shepherds and not with these corrupt bishops who commit and cover up crimes, as the document states." - - - Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju- - -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: REUTERSBy Carol ZimmermannWASHINGTON (CNS) -- Royal wedding fever has caught on in many places, but it has a particular soft spot at Immaculate Heart Middle School and High School outside Los Angeles, the school Meghan Markle attended from seventh to 12th grade. The school is located more than 5,000 miles from St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in England, where Markle and Prince Harry's May 19 wedding is taking place, but the California school bridged this gap during an outdoor pre-wedding celebration May 15. Students waved British and American flags, toasted their famous alumna with glasses of lemonade, listened to student speeches and did a group dance all while local and international TV and print reporters mingled among them. The students at the all-girls school were thrilled for the 1999 graduate's big day but they were also proud of the humanitarian and activist work the actress has already done. "I know that I'm not going to marry a prince ... but it makes me feel like, as a woman, I can do anything, and I can be empowered by Meghan," seventh-grader Amina Brenlini told Reuters during the event, adding that Markle is her "biggest inspiration." In a speech during the celebration, Mia Speier, the high school student body president, praised Markle for her dedication to service. "The idea that someone like her, who has had an upbringing so similar to ours, will now be able to voice her concerns on a global platform as an internationally recognized figure is a story that impacts so many young women, especially the young women at our school," said Speier. Stella Lissak, middle school student body president said Markle's humanitarian work showed that "we at Immaculate Heart truly are women of great heart." Highlights of the speeches were posted on the school's website. The school, founded in 1906 by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, has mission-style terra cotta roofs and is located just a few miles from the landmark Hollywood sign. Many of the 674 students have been pretty excited to say the least about the royal wedding since the engagement was announced last November. At the time, the communication director for the school, Callie Webb, told Catholic News Service that some of the students had never heard of Markle and others knew every detail about her 15-month romance with Prince Harry, her engagement, her TV career, activism and now- discontinued lifestyle blog, The Tig. Early on, the school tried to put the engagement news in perspective, announcing when the news first broke in a Nov. 27 tweet: "Over 10,000 women of great heart and right conscience have graduated from Immaculate Heart, and we are proud to count actress and humanitarian" Markle among them. It posted a similar message that day on its Facebook account but added that as a global ambassador for World Vision Canada, Markle campaigned for clean, safe drinking water. And as a U.N. Women's Advocate, she has spoken up for women's rights and gender equality. In other words, the school had already been proud of its graduate for a long time. But they also are fully embracing Markle's upcoming role as Duchess of Sussex.To demonstrate their dedication, and also witness history, some students, alumnae and families will attend a wedding viewing party May 19 at the school that will start at the wee hour of 3 a.m. (PDT). - - - Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim- - -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/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Financial and economic decisions -- everything from where a family chooses to invest its savings to where a multinational corporation declares its tax residence -- are ethical decisions that can be virtuous or sinful, a new Vatican document said. "There can be no area of human action that legitimately claims to be either outside of or impermeable to ethical principles based on liberty, truth, justice and solidarity," said the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The text, "Considerations for an Ethical Discernment Regarding Some Aspects of the Present Economic-Financial System," was approved by Pope Francis and released May 17 at a Vatican news conference with Archbishop Luis F. Ladaria, congregation prefect, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the dicastery. Based on principles long part of Catholic social teaching and referring frequently to the teaching of St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, the document insisted that every economic activity has a moral and ethical dimension. Responding to questions, Archbishop Ladaria said it is true that Catholic moral theology has focused more on questions of sexual ethics than business ethics, but that does not mean that the economy and finance are outside the scope of Catholic moral teaching. For example, he said, over the centuries the church and the popes repeatedly have intervened to condemn usury. Pope Francis, he said, supported the development of the document, but the idea of writing it and examining the ethical and moral implications of the current economic scene came from "the grassroots." "At stake is the authentic well-being of a majority of the men and women of our planet who are at risk of being 'excluded and marginalized' from development and true well-being while a minority, indifferent to the condition of the majority, exploits and reserves for itself substantial resources and wealth," the document said. The size and complexity of the global economy, it said, may lead most people to think there is nothing they can do to promote an economy of solidarity and contribute to the well-being of everyone in the world, but every financial choice a person makes -- especially if they act with others -- can make a difference, it said. "For instance, the markets live thanks to the supply and demand of goods," it said. "It becomes therefore quite evident how important a critical and responsible exercise of consumption and savings actually is." Even something as simple as shopping can be important, the document said. Consumers should avoid products manufactured in conditions "in which the violation of the most elementary human rights is normal." They can avoid doing business with companies "whose ethics in fact do not know any interest other than that of the profit of their shareholders at any cost." Being ethical, it said, also can mean preferring to put one's savings in investments that have been certified as socially responsible and they can join others in shareholder actions meant to promote more ethical behavior by the companies in which they invest. In a statement distributed at the news conference, Archbishop Ladaria said that "the origin of the spread of dishonest and predatory financial practices" is a misunderstanding of who the human person is. "No longer knowing who he is and why he is in the world, he no longer knows how to act for the good" and ends up doing what seems convenient at the moment. "The strongest economic subjects have become 'superstars' who hoard enormous quantities of resources, resources that are distributed less than before and are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people," he said. "It's incredible to think that 10 people can possess almost half of the world's wealth, but today that is a reality!" Cardinal Turkson told reporters, "a healthy economic system is vital to forge flourishing human relationships." "To help generate such healthy system, this joint document reminds us that the resources of the world are destined to serve the dignity of the human person and must be commonly available for the common good," the cardinal said. The document takes aim at greed, not capitalism. In fact, it praises economic systems and markets that respect human dignity and promote human freedom, creativity, production, responsibility, work and solidarity. A healthy economy, it said, promotes all of those goods and realizes that the measure of progress is not how much money people have in the bank, but how many people are helped to live better lives. One key to judging how well the economy works is how many decent jobs are created, the document said. But too often selfishness gets the upper hand, the rich speculate and gamble, accumulating more money but not creating more jobs. "No profit is in fact legitimate when it falls short of the objective of the integral promotion of the human person, the universal destination of goods and the preferential option for the poor," the document said. "It is especially necessary to provide an ethical reflection on certain aspects of financial transactions which, when operating without the necessary anthropological and moral foundations, have not only produced manifest abuses and injustice, but also demonstrated a capacity to create systemic and worldwide economic crisis," the document said. The global financial crisis that began in 2007, it said, created an opportunity to review mechanisms of the economy and finance and come up with corrective regulations, but very little has been done. In addition to the immorality of usury and tax evasion, the document signaled out other ethically problematic practices or practices that require more regulation to ensure ethical behavior: for example, executive bonus incentives based only on short-term profit; the operation of "offshore" financial bases that can facilitate tax evasion and the outflow of capital from developing countries; "the creation of stocks of credit," like subprime mortgages, and credit default swaps; and the growth of the "shadow banking system."- - -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.