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Three priests to be ordained June 3

The Register

Salina — For the first time in nearly 50 years, three men will be ordained priests on the same date in the same location for the Diocese of Salina: 10 a.m. June 3 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. All are invited to attend.

Deacon Leo Blasi, Deacon Ryan McCandless and Deacon Justin Palmer have been studying at separate seminaries. Blasi, 53, is at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in suburban Milwaukee; the school focuses on second-career seminarians. Ryan McCandless, 35, is a student at St. Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind. Justin Palmer, 32, studies at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis.

Deacon Blasi, an Abilene native, entered the seminary in January 2013 after a career in the U.S. Army. Previously married, he has six children and seven grandchildren and is a member of St. Andrew Parish in Abilene. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College and a master’s through Catholic Distance University. His parents, Frank and Jeanette Blasi, live near Wichita.

He said he is looking forward to settling into parish life, starting July 1 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Hays.

“I am most looking forward to is being able to confer the Sacraments, to be able to serve the people,” Deacon Blasi said. “That is what these last five years has been all about.”

The support of those throughout the diocese during his seminary journey has been inspiring. 

“I would just like to reiterate how very grateful I am to the people of this great diocese, who placed their trust in me as I entered formation and covered me in prayers the entire time I have been in it,” Deacon Blasi said. “It is because of them that I am preparing to receive this honor and the privilege to serve them in the priesthood.”

Deacon McCandless said he is also looking forward to putting his years of seminary study into practice.

“One of the things that I believe has prepared me the most is the opportunity to preach,” he said of the last year. “I have learned so much in my first year of being in the pulpit, and I’m ready to engage the people of God.”

Deacon McCandless will start July 1 as the parochial vicar/asst. chaplain of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish-St. Isidore Catholic Student Center in Manhattan.

Deacon Palmer said he has enjoyed his final year of studies and preparation for the priesthood.

“This last year has helped me to grow in my practical experience of parish ministry,” he said. “Here at seminary we are assigned to a local parish for the weekends. This year I was assigned to St. Charles Borromeo Parish, where I gained much experience in preaching and baptizing.”

Deacon Palmer will be the parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina and St. Joseph Parish in Brookvill­­e starting July 1.

First Mass of Thanksgiving:

Deacon Blasi: 

  • 8 a.m. June 4 at St. Andrew Parish in Abilene, with a breakfast to follow. Both are open to the public.
  • 2 p.m. June 4 at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Wichita, with a reception to follow. Both are open to the public.

Deacon McCandless: 

  • 3 p.m. June 4 at All Saints Church in Wichita. Open to the public.

Deacon Palmer: 

  •  Noon at St. Wenceslaus Church in Wilson. Open to the public.

Two priests celebrate 25th anniversary

The Register

Salina — Two priests will celebrate 25 years of ordained service this month: Father Kevin Weber is pastor of St. Mary, Queen of the Universe in Salina. Father Damian Richards is pastor of  St. John the Baptist Parish in Beloit, St. Theresa Parish in Mankato, St. Mary Parish in Smith Center, Sacred Heart Parish in Esbon and St. Mary Parish in Glasco.

Father Weber was ordained a priest May 30, 1992 by Bishop Fitzsimons at Sacred Heart Church in Park. 

He said he finds parish work immensely rewarding. 

“I love it when I truly feel like I have helped someone, whether that was through prayers during sickness or death, marriage preparation or spiritual direction,” Father Weber said, “but I think I would have to say that preaching has been the most enjoyable aspect.”

Sometimes dubbed “the singing priest,” Father Weber said the idea of integrating singing into his homilies was introduced during the seminary.

“My instructors encouraged us to use different mediums to ‘draw the people in,’ ” Father Weber said. “Even though (singing) was not one of the mediums they suggested, I do enjoy  music, I find meaning in it.”

He said his mother and siblings say he was singing commercial jingles and songs once he learned to talk.

“So when I read a scripture passage and a song pops into my head, I do not ignore it,” Father Weber said. “I begin to play around with it and see if it can develop into a foundation to build a homily idea around.”

A farm boy at heart, he grew up on a farm near in Park.

“If I were not a priest I would still be on the farm,” Father Weber said, adding he makes regular visits to the family farm to assist his mother. “I enjoy the outdoors so much, planting and seeing the rewards, working with the animals, even though it can all drive me crazy when it doesn’t work right or come together.”


Home-sewn vestments

Story & photos by Karen Bonar

Salina — The soft whir of the Pfaff sewing machine creates the soundtrack of Lee Hartman’s days.

It softly hums on a quiet January morning as she sews the stole and chasuble for the priestly ordination of Deacon Leo Blasi, Deacon Ryan McCandless and Deacon Justin Palmer.  She didn’t set out to become the diocese’s official — or unofficial — vestment maker. It just happened.  Initially, Hartman said she began making vestments for the newly-ordained Father Frank Coady in the mid-1970’s.  At the time, Father Coady said women in parishes across the diocese would sew the garments for the parish.  “They were making polyester double knit vestments,” Father Coady said. “I got into (helping with vestments) because I realized I could buy good fabrics and pay Lee to sew them and still sell them for less than the catalogues. And they were better quality than the (vestments priests could buy) from the catalogues.”  The duo worked on three rounds of vestments for the Salina Diocese. They also made and sold vestments to priests in the Dodge City Diocese.


As a girl, Hartman said she was sewing her own clothing in grade school.  She said she and her first husband, Don Hamilton (who died in 1993), were goofing around one day.  “We went into a pawn shop and bought (a sewing machine) for $5 and I’m still using it,” she said of the Phaff sewing machine she started — and still sews all of the vestments with. “I’ve replaced parts over and over and over, but not the main motor. The motor is still going strong.”  She won’t sew with any other machine.  She deftly sews the stole, irons it, pokes it with a yard stick to turn it right-side out and hand-stitches the small opening to close it.  It’s a process she has repeated many times since she began making vestments for the Diocese of Salina in the 1970s.  “When I started the vestments, we took the whole basement and made a big sewing room down there,” she said.  In all, she has collaborated with Father Frank Coady to make three rounds of vestments for all priests in the diocese.  Each vestment takes about six yards of material. But for taller clergy — like Bishop Edward Weisenburger — Hartman said about seven yards of fabric are used.  She uses her trusty Phaff to sew the bulk of the garment. Each garment must be hemmed by hand, which takes about eight hours. In all, a vestment takes about 48 hours to make.  “A lot of times, when I’m having a little problem with something, I start to say the Our Father or my prayers to work me through it,” Hartman said.


Catholic school teachers from across the diocese attend national convention

St. Louis — More than 30  teachers and administrators from across the diocese attended the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Convention in St. Louis from April 18-20.

“The last time the convention was held that close to the Salina Diocese was 14 years ago,” said Dr. Nick Compagnone, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the diocese. “We started planning for the trip last year and opened the opportunity to all schools in the Salina Diocese.”

Every year the National Catholic Education Association holds a convention for Catholic School Educators. The convention is held during Easter week in a selected city. This year the convention site was held in St Louis.

The purpose of the convention was to celebrate the strengths of Catholic schools, acknowledge challenges as new opportunities and network with others who serve in the educational ministry.

“If anything, participants attending an NCEA convention are inspired by the fact that they are not alone, but part of a larger mission of the Catholic Church,” said Dr. Compagnone.

Attendees from Catholic schools in Ellis, Hays, Salina, Abilene and Manhattan traveled together to the national conference. They were among more than 8,000 other Catholic educators from around the country. The group, traveling by bus to St. Louis, received a prayer blessing from Bishop Edward Weisenburger before departing.

The convention provided opportunities to worship and share in faith, make connections and network with fellow educators and grow in knowledge through professional development. Sessions included: 21st Century Learners, Assessments, Catholic School Governance and Leadership, Curriculum Instruction, Catholic Identity and Marketing and Development.

The Salina Diocese was represented by a professional development session presented by Dr. Nick and Cindy Compagnone on the practices of Kindergarten Readiness. More than 300 attended this session.


Multi-generations celebrate sacraments in Munjor

Special to The Register

Munjor — A child receiving her First Holy Communion along with her cousin is not an unusual occurrence, particularly in northwest Kansas where many families can trace their history in the area back for several generations. What is slightly more unusual — perhaps slightly more special — is a child having her cousin beside her and each of them celebrating the reception of this sacrament in the presence of their great-grandmothers, who received the Eucharist for the first time in the same church nearly 80 years ago.

Such was the case on April 30 for Luca Albers and Logan Leiker, cousins and two of the three First Communicants from Munjor’s St. Francis Church. 


Logan’s great-grandmother, Mary Jo (Rohr) Braun, celebrated her First Communion at St. Francis Church in May 1938. Luca’s great-grandmother and Mary Jo’s younger sister, Betty (Rohr) Pfannenstiel, received the sacrament there in May 1940. Now, three generations later, the sisters reveled in the experience of seeing the seeds of faith, planted decades ago, bloom again on a snowy morning as their great-grandchildren received the sacrament.

“It is a continuity of my religion that she is being involved in,” Betty said of Luca’s first reception of Holy Communion. “And I hope that religion will mean as much to her as it does to me.”

While the sacrament itself has not changed in four generations, certain notable elements have. For example, physically approaching the sacrament is quite different in 2017 than in past decades

Mary Jo’s daughter and Logan’s grandmother, Sue Leiker, reflected on the differences between her 1967 First Communion and Logan’s.

“We would walk up to the front and kneel on the kneelers,” Sue recalled. “There would be a long row in front facing the altar. The priest and altar boy would start at one end and continue down the line. The priest gave us the host and the altar boy would hold a plate under it so the host would not fall to the ground and touch the floor. The priests always placed the host on our tongue as we were not allowed to touch it.”

The method of spiritual preparation has also undergone significant cultural changes. 

“I remember going to confession on Saturday before my First Communion and we couldn’t go out and play on Saturday or early Sunday before Mass because we could have sinned,” said Mary Jo.

Perhaps the most obvious change over the four generations has been the number of communicants from St. Francis parish that has ebbed and flowed over the years. Betty and Mary Jo had First Communion classes of between 25 and 40 students. Sue was part of a much larger class – 77 students. 

Sue’s son and Logan’s father, Landon Leiker, believes that the class of three students that Logan participated in has its advantages. 

“I think the smaller class size is a true virtue of the smaller community church we belong to as every child has a chance to be called upon with prayer and questions during their education versus the larger class sizes I grew up with.”

Karen Mondero, Betty’s daughter and Luca’s grandmother, acknowledges the declining numbers but believes it should lead to an outpouring of evangelization. 


Deacon Andy ordained

The Register

Salina — While the April 22 ordination of Andrew Hammeke was to the transitional diaconate, Bishop Edward Weisenburger cautioned against thinking of it as a small step.  “Ordaining men to the transitional diaconate is no mere humble stepping stone to what that matters,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “For you, Andy, it’s more a step on the way to something we pray and we hope will be your fuller calling — ordained priesthood. But it by no means lessens its significance for you or for our Church. ”  

In front of a crowd of friends and family at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bishop Weisenburger ordained Hammeke, 27, to the transitional diaconate. The ordination to the transitional diaconate is the final step before being ordained a priest.   “As you enter holy orders today, recognize this diakonia as the permanent foundation of your ministry,” Bishop Weisenburger said during the homily.  

In attendance were priests of the Diocese of Salina, along with Father Tobias Colgan, OSB. Father Colgan is the vice rector of St. Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind., where Deacon Hammeke will complete his final year of studies.  The rite of ordination consisted of five parts: the promise of the elect, the litany of saints, laying on of hands and prayer of ordination, investiture with the stole and dalmatic and receiving the book of Gospels.

Deacon Hammeke said the litany of saints was a powerful moment for him.  “While I was on the ground, hearing everyone invoke so many great saints who have gone before us, I felt like I was entering into something huge,” he said. “I had a broad picture of the universal Church.”


Seminarian recognition dinner is June 1 in Salina

Salina — The fourth annual “An Evening with Our Seminarians” will take place June 1 at St. Mary Queen of the Universe Parish. 

All of the diocese’s seminarians, several priests and Bishop Edward Weisenburger will be on hand to meet with guests.

The evening begins with Vespers (evening prayer) at 6:30 p.m., followed by a catered meal and a short program. The event is open to the public, but reservations are required. The cost is $50 per person, with reservations required by May 22.

“This event was started in 2014 as a way for me and those in the diocese to recognize and share the stories of the men studying for the priesthood in our diocese,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “Many parishioners across the diocese have been supporting and praying for these men as they continue their formation. This event is a way for these people to meet and visit with each seminarian and find out how called has called them to their discernment. The funds raised from the event are used exclusively for seminarian education. ” 

On April 22, seminarian Andrew Hammeke was ordained as a transitional deacon. On June 3, three transitional deacons will be ordained to the priesthood: Deacon Leo Blasi, Deacon Ryan McCandless and Deacon Justin Palmer. 

Katie Platten, the volunteer event coordinator, said that supporters many buy a table and fill it with family and friends. However, individual tickets are also available. It is a great way to meet not just the seminarians but also others from throughout the diocese. 

“The diocese is blessed to have so many men who are faithfully inspired to heed and follow their calling,” Platten said. “We also celebrate the many people who support our seminarians, and to see them coming together to honor each other is amazing. This event is an opportunity to meet our seminarians and offer our support and recognition of their gift of stewardship to our diocese.”

The Diocese of Salina currently has 12 seminarians in formation, with continued inquiries about the seminary from others, Weisenburger said.

“We have a great group of men, each with their unique story to share,” he said. 

Cost is $50 per person. For more information, contact Beth Shearer or Lois Yost at (785)827-8746 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Featured Events

Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, ReutersBy MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- Gunmen claiming to have links with the Islamic State group threatened to kill hostages, including a Catholic priest, who were taken from the southern Philippine city of Marawi May 23. President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao late May 23, but ucanews.com reported that many, including church leaders, characterized the imposition of martial law as an overreaction. As of early morning May 25, nothing had been heard of the whereabouts of the priest and the prelature's staff and some churchgoers who were taken captive. Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato appealed to Muslim religious leaders to intercede with the gunmen, who claimed to be Muslims, for the safety of the hostages who were reportedly used as "human shields" when the militants attacked the city. Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Philippine bishops' conference, said the terrorists "have threatened to kill the hostages if government forces pitted against them are not recalled." "As the government forces ensure that the law is upheld, we beg of them to make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration," he added. Initial reports received by ucanews.com said Father Teresito Suganob, vicar general of the Prelature of Marawi, and several staff of St. Mary's Cathedral, which was set on fire, were taken hostage. The gunmen also forced their way into the residence of Bishop Edwin de la Pena of Marawi. Bishop de la Pena confirmed reports that the attackers took Father Suganob, several of the prelature's staff, and some churchgoers. He said he received a call from "a member of Islamic State" who used his kidnapped secretary's phone and demanded a "unilateral cease-fire" in exchange for the life of the priest and the other hostages. "They want a cease-fire and for the military to give them access out of Marawi," said Bishop de la Pena. "Otherwise they will kill the hostages." In a statement on his Facebook page, Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle told the people of Marawi that no words could express the "shock, confusion, and sadness for what happened." Sending solidarity and prayers from the Archdiocese of Manila, the cardinal asked why anyone would hurt their neighbor. "We weep for you, for all Filipinos, and everyone in the world (whose) lives (are) ruined because of the violence," he said. "O God, forgive our contempt for life and human dignity." Archbishop Villegas said Father Suganob was performing priestly duties at the time of his capture. "He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict," said Archbishop Villegas. Fighters of the Maute group, which has vowed allegiance to the Islamic State, also burned several buildings, including the cathedral, a Protestant school and the city's jail. The bishop said the gunmen used the hostages as "human shields" as fighting continued with security forces May 24. In Marawi, the military confirmed that five soldiers were killed and 31 others injured in the attack on the city. At least two policemen were also reported killed. Philippine authorities refuse to release the number of casualties and fatalities as "clearing operations" continued. Duterte placed all of Mindanao's 27 provinces and 33 cities, roughly a third of the country, under martial law for a period of 60 days. Mindanao is home to an estimated 20 million people. Duterte warned that the martial law in Mindanao "will not be any different" from the martial law declared by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. "I'll be harsh," said Duterte. "I have to do it to preserve the Republic of the Philippines," he said, even as he assured Filipinos "not to be too scared." Ucanews.com reported that religious leaders and civil society groups, however, said there was no need for Duterte to put Mindanao under military rule. Filipinos have been wary of martial law since it was used by Marcos to remain in power for two decades, until his ouster in 1986. "Putting the whole of Mindanao under martial law is very dangerous and vulnerable to abuse," said Alih Aiyub, secretary-general of the Ulama Council of the Philippines. The Muslim religious leader told ucanews.com that "innocent people might be caught in the crossfire or might be arrested illegally by mere suspicion." "Fighting terrorism does not need the declaration of martial law, because our existing laws are more than enough to enforce it," said Aiyub. Bishop Jose Bagaforo of Kidapawan said the declaration of martial law could have been limited to Marawi City and surrounding areas, "not all of Mindanao." Redemptorist Father Amado Picardal, who works with basic ecclesial communities and the bishops' conference, said declaring martial law across Mindanao while only Marawi was attacked "is either idiotic or an excuse to expand dictatorial control." - - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNSBy Dennis SadowskiWASHINGTON (CNS) -- The 3,000 people attending the upcoming Convocation of Catholic Leaders are being seen as members of diocesan teams who will return home to act on what they see and learn while discussing the church's role in a changing social landscape. A combination guidebook and journal has been developed to help the delegates prepare for the gathering in Orlando, Florida, set for July 1-4. The 68-page book offers activities for the diocesan teams as they meet during the weeks leading to the gathering, allowing them to reflect and pray on Scripture and the teachings of Pope Francis, particularly his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"). "To get something done, we want people to have prepared as teams before they come in to get more out of (the convocation)," said Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and a convocation planner. "What you get out of this is what you put into it." The booklet is being sent to each registered participant to the invitation-only event. It also is available online to anyone interested in learning more about the convocation at bit.ly/2rR6OTY. Reyes told Catholic News Service that the guidebook encourages team members to plan which sessions to attend that fits with the goals of their diocese in building a church built on mercy and missionary discipleship. "In the ideal world, it's forming a team that brings together people from the peripheries who are not normally together. This book is what's going to help them think as a team before they get there. It gives them some things to reflect on together," he explained. "We're trying to make clear that this isn't the kind of thing you attend passively and that bishops and leaders are meant to be integrated in a conversation of the whole church together and experience the conference not as the bishops over there, the laypeople over here. It's actually meant to be everyone mixing together in conversation," Reyes added. The guidebook offers numerous Scripture citations and references to passages from the pope's exhortation. Delegates are encouraged to read some of the passages and pray about what they mean for their particular role in the convocation and the church at home. A separate section includes space for journal entries based on the discussion of each day of the convocation. The idea, Reyes said, is to allow participants the opportunity to reflect in the moment and then return to their writings when they return home. "It's spiritual preparation as well," Reyes said of the book. "It's deeply scriptural and there's a lot of "Evangelii Gaudium" as well as some other key church documents from the bishops. It's a lot of Scripture and a lot of Pope Francis." The convocation is meant to guide people to build the church that Pope Francis is calling people to shape, Reyes added. "We didn't want to create a program. This (convocation) is for people to design or think through together what mission looks like. Pope Francis says again and again, 'Don't do the same old things.' You want to think creatively. So we're not going to put together a program, but people are going to experience, hopefully, in a way that gives them a way forward, a vision for their own," he said. Meanwhile, more than $500,000 had been pledged to support scholarships for people attending the convocation. Reyes' department and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development have allocated $100,000 each in financial assistance. The Black and Indian Mission Office has pledged another $300,000. The goal of such scholarships is to allow diverse voices to be on hand in Orlando, Reyes said. "If there's a Francis inspiration in this, it's let's not just talk, (but) act," he told CNS. "So we are pushing action, action, action through proper preparation." - - - Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump spent 30 minutes speaking privately in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 24, and as the president left, he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said." The atmosphere at the beginning was formal and a bit stiff. However, the mood lightened when Pope Francis met the first lady, Melania Trump, and asked if she fed her husband "potica," a traditional cake in Slovenia, her homeland. There were smiles all around. Pope Francis gave Trump a split medallion held together by an olive tree, which his interpreter told Trump is "a symbol of peace." Speaking in Spanish, the pope told Trump, "I am giving you this because I hope you may be this olive tree to make peace." The president responded, "We can use peace." Pope Francis also gave the president a copy of his message for World Peace Day 2017 and told him, "I signed it personally for you." In addition, he gave Trump copies of three of his documents: "The Joy of the Gospel"; "Amoris Laetitia," on the family; and "Laudato Si,'" on the environment. Knowing that Pope Francis frequently has quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Trump presented Pope Francis with a large gift box containing five of the slain civil rights leader's books, including a signed copy of "The Strength to Love." "I think you will enjoy them," Trump told the pope. "I hope you do." After meeting the pope, Trump went downstairs to meet Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister. He was accompanied by Rex Tillerson, U.S. secretary of state, and H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. The meeting lasted 50 minutes. Tillerson later told reporters that climate change did not come up in the meeting with the pope, but that U.S. officials had "a good exchange on the climate change issue" with Cardinal Parolin. "The cardinal was expressing their view that they think it's an important issue," Tillerson said. "I think they were encouraging continued participation in the Paris accord. But we had a good exchange (on) the difficulty of balancing addressing climate change, responses to climate change, and ensuring that you still have a thriving economy and you can still offer people jobs so they can feed their families and have a prosperous economy." Asked how Trump responded to Cardinal Parolin's encouragement to stick with the Paris climate agreement, Tillerson said: "The president indicated we're still thinking about that, that he hasn't made a final decision. He, I think, told both Cardinal Parolin and also told Prime Minister (Paolo) Gentiloni that this is something that he would be taking up for a decision when we return from this trip. It's an opportunity to hear from people. We're developing our own recommendation on that. So it'll be something that will probably be decided after we get home." Tillerson also told reporters he did not know what Trump meant when he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said." The Vatican described the president's meetings with both the pope and with top Vatican diplomats as consisting of "cordial discussions," with both sides appreciating "the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience." "It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of health care, education and assistance to immigrants," the Vatican said. The discussions also included "an exchange of views" on international affairs and on "the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities." Because of the pope's weekly general audience, Pope Francis and Trump met at 8:30 a.m., an unusually early hour for a formal papal meeting. The early hour meant Pope Francis still could greet the thousands of pilgrims and visitors waiting for him in St. Peter's Square. Many of those pilgrims, though, had a more difficult than normal time getting into the square. Security measures were tight, with hundreds of state police and military police patrolling the area and conducting more attentive searches of pilgrims' bags. Reaching the St. Damasus Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, where the U.S. flag flew for the morning, Trump was welcomed by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, and a formation of 15 Swiss Guards. Accompanied by the archbishop up an elevator and down a frescoed hallway, the president passed more Swiss Guards in the Clementine Hall. Although the president and Pope Francis are known to have serious differences on issues such as immigration, economic policy and climate change, the pope told reporters 11 days before the meeting that he would look first for common ground with the U.S. leader. "There are always doors that are not closed," the pope told reporters May 13. "We have to find doors that are at least a little open in order to go in and speak about things we have in common and go forward." After leaving the Vatican, the president was driven across Rome for meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Asked by reporters there how his meeting with the pope went, Trump responded, "Great." "He is something," Trump said. "We had a fantastic meeting." Meanwhile, the first lady went to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu children's hospital -- right next door to the Pontifical North American College, which is where U.S. seminarians in Rome live. Trump's daughter, Ivanka, went to the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Catholic lay movement, for a meeting on combating human trafficking. The United States and the Vatican have long partnered on anti-trafficking initiatives, a common effort White House officials had said Trump hoped to discuss with the pope. The White House also pointed to a shared commitment to promote religious freedom around the world and to end religious persecution. The evening before Trump met the pope, the Vatican newspaper carried two articles on Trump policies. One, echoing the U.S. bishops, praised the Trump administration's decision to extend by six months the Temporary Protected Status program for Haitian citizens in the United States. The second article was about the budget plan the Trump White House released May 23. L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, noted that it contained cuts in subsidies "for the poorest segments of the population" and "a drastic -- 10 percent -- increase for military spending." What is more, the newspaper said, "the budget also includes financing for the construction of the wall along the border with Mexico. We are talking about more than $1.6 billion." The border wall is an issue where Pope Francis and President Trump have a very clear and public difference of opinion. In February 2016, shortly after celebrating a Mass in Mexico just yards from the border, Pope Francis was asked by reporters about then-candidate Trump's promise to build a wall the entire length of the border. "A person who thinks only of building walls, wherever it may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian," the pope said. Trump, asked by reporters to comment on that, said Mexico was "using the pope as a pawn," and he said it was "disgraceful" for a religious leader to question someone's faith. On the eve of the pope's meeting with Trump, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of an influential Italian Jesuit journal, noted that the differences between the two were drawing a lot of attention. However, he wrote, "Francis, the pope of bridges, wants to speak with any head of state who asks him to because he knows that in crises" like the world faces today "there are not only absolute 'good guys' and absolute 'bad guys.'" "The history of the world is not a Hollywood film," Father Spadaro wrote on his blog May 23. The pope's approach, he said, is "to meet the major players in the field in order to reason together and to propose to everyone the greatest good, exercising the soft power that seems to me to be the specific trait of his international policy." - - - Contributing to this story were Junno Arocho Esteves and Carol Glatz at the Vatican. - - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Mariana KarapinkaBy Mariana KarapinkaODESSA, Ukraine (CNS) -- When Anastasia Voinikova joined the local Ukrainian Catholic community more than 20 years ago, liturgies were celebrated at the basement of the Roman Catholic church. Later, in 2005, the community was able to purchase a private house and reconstruct it into a small chapel, which served as the cathedral for the Odessa Exarchate, which covers huge territory of southern Ukraine and at that time, Crimea. But about 10,000 Ukrainian Catholics lived in Odessa, and the chapel could not house more than 100 people at a time. On May 21, local Ukrainian Catholics blessed a new chapel at the outskirts of Odessa. With the help of Dutch and German aid agencies -- and some financial support from Ukrainian Catholics in the United States -- parishioners were able to buy abandoned Soviet-style construction materials and construct the chapel. The faithful were really engaged in this project, because they waited so long for more suitable place to pray, said Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Mykhaylo Bubniy of Odessa. "We dreamed of a golden-domed church," he told Catholic News Service. "This is very important in our circumstances in Odessa, where we are often not considered as a 'real' church. A dome is a sign." "It's hard to be a Greek (Ukrainian) Catholic in Odessa," said Voinikova, "because the Orthodox majority doesn't recognize us as a canonical church, they just reject us." For more than dozen years community members sought a parcel of the land from the local authorities to build the proper church, as allowed by law. But because of the harsh opposition from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church -- affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church's Moscow Patriarchate -- their demands were rejected. The Orthodox hierarchy considers southern Ukraine part of its "canonical territory" and objects to the right of other communities to establish their structures there. Roman Catholics and some Protestants have had it easier than Ukrainian Catholics, because those churches were present from the establishment of the port and the city. Ukrainian Catholics came later, explained Bishop Bubniy. "During the times of the Soviet Union and after Ukraine got independence, many people from the Western part of the country, who were traditionally Greek (Ukrainian) Catholic, moved to Odessa. We just followed our faithful, who invited us," he said. "But it would be wrong to say that only Western Ukrainians are members of our community," he added. "There are many locals who are joining our church." The May blessing of the new parish also included members of the Roman Catholic and Armenian Catholic communities; different Protestant denominations; even the apostolic nuncio to Ukraine. One priest who had worked in Odessa for 13 years said that opening such a small chapel in Odessa was a much bigger event than opening a huge cathedral in Western Ukraine. "Every church is a house of God, but for our city, new church is a true blessing," said Roman Catholic Bishop Bronislaw Bernacki, "because Odessa needs God's word, faith, and mercy." Bibhop Bubniy dreams of a parish "in every area of Odessa" and plans construction of a pastoral center with a school and kindergarten. The parish already has a catechetical program, but U.S.-born Father Roman Mirchuk, administrator of the parish, sees the real work as just beginning. "It is easy to build the church of stones, but much harder to 'build churches' in the hearts of people," he told CNS.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, ReutersBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If it seems hard to find God in this world, it is because he chooses to be with the defeated and dejected and in places where most people are loath to go, Pope Francis said. "God does not like to be loved the way a warlord would like, dragging his people to victory, debasing them in the blood of his enemies," the pope said May 24 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square. The audience began just after Pope Francis had met U.S. President Donald Trump. "Our God is a dim flame that burns on a cold and windy day, and, for as fragile as his presence seems in this world, he has chosen the place everyone disdains," Pope Francis told the crowd in the square. Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope looked at the Gospel of Luke's account of the two disciples traveling on the road to Emmaus after Jesus had been crucified and buried. In the story, the pope said, the disciples, are struggling to understand how such a fate could have befallen the man they had faith in: the son of God. Their hope was merely human, he said, and it easily shattered after such an unforeseen defeat of God, who appeared "defenseless at the hands of the violent, incapable of offering resistance to evil." "How much unhappiness, how many defeats, how many failures there are in the life of every person. In essence, we are all like those two disciples," he said. Just when life seems to be going well, "we find ourselves struck down, disappointed." But just as Jesus was on the road with the disciples, the pope said, he is also walking with everyone on their journey through life. "Jesus walks with all those who are discouraged, who walk with their head down," so he can offer them renewed hope, he said. But he does so discreetly, the pope said. "Our God is not an intrusive God." Even though he knows what is bothering the disciples, he asks them a question and listens patiently, letting them tap into the depths of their bitterness and sadness. Whoever reads the Bible will not find stories of "easy heroism, blazing campaigns of conquest. True hope never comes cheap -- it always comes through defeat." In fact, he added, the hope felt by those who have never suffered may not even be hope at all. The disciples initially didn't recognize God on the road because their hope had been in a victorious, conquering leader, the pope said. They only recognize him when he takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them -- exactly like he did with his own life. The church should be this way, too, Pope Francis said, by letting Jesus "take us, bless us, 'break' our lives -- because there is no love without sacrifice -- and offer it to others, offer it to everyone." The church needs to be just like Jesus, not staying in a "fortified fortress," but out where everything is alive and happening -- on the road. "It is there (the church) meets people, with their hopes and disappointments," listens patiently to what emerges from their "treasure chest of personal conscience" and offers the life-giving Word and witness to God's love, he said. This is how people's hearts are rekindled with real hope, the pope said. Just when the way seems blocked by "a wall ahead, Jesus is always next to us to give us hope and strengthen our hearts to go ahead, 'I am with you. Go on.'" Christ's "therapy of hope" is that despite all appearances to the contrary, "we continue to be loved and God will never stop loving us," the pope said. "He will walk with us always, always, even during the most painful times, even in the most terrible moments, moments of defeat. That is where the Lord is." At the end of the audience, the pope greeted pilgrims from Hong Kong on a day dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai. Pope Benedict XVI established a world day of prayer for the church in China on the feast day.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.