• Bishop reflects on the pope's encyclical

    It is rare that a much-anticipated document lives up to its expectation, but having studied the encyclical of his holiness Pope Francis, Laudato Sí, I conclude that the document exceeds my expectations and actually gives the human community truths to ponder well into the future.

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  • Pope's encyclical detailed

    The earth, which was created to support life and give praise to God, is crying out with pain because human activity is destroying it, Pope Francis says in his long-awaited encyclical. La Tierra, que fue creada para apoyar la vida y alabar a Dios, está gritando de dolor porque la actividad humana está destruyéndo, dice el papa Francisco dice en su largamente esperada encíclica.

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  • Annual Appeal for 2015 continues

    Just over $900,000 has been donated or pledged toward the goal of $1.125 million for the Catholic Community Annual Appeal.

    Read More
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Prayer Cards for the Fortnight for Freedom

Below are links to downloadable prayer cards that can be used during the Fortnight for Freedom and beyond.  The cards are available in both English and Spanish.

English Mary Immaculate Our Lady of Guadalupe St Thomas More
Spanish Mary Immaculate Our Lady of Guadalupe St Thomas More

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Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Mary-Kate MartinBy Kevin WondrashMARSHALL, Wis. (CNS) -- There aren't many women in their mid-20s who would give up a teaching career and move to a southern African country to help young women leave a life of abuse and prostitution. But sometimes all it takes is one person to make a difference. Mary-Kate Martin, 28, a member of Holy Family Parish serving Marshall and Waterloo, is one such person. She is founder and executive director of Hosea's Heart, a nonprofit organization that works with girls in Swaziland to overcome sexual abuse by serving their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. The organization was named for Hosea, an Old Testament prophet whom God commanded to pursue and marry a prostitute as a reflection of God's passionate love. The prostitute, Gomer, keeps returning to a life on the streets and Hosea keeps pursuing her. "That's like God's love," Martin told the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. Martin's journey to Swaziland began when she was a junior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and "could not focus" on her schoolwork any longer. "All I could think about was Africa and it was something God kept putting on my heart again and again," said Martin, who was inspired by the work of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata." She put all of her schoolwork aside one evening and searched on the Internet for mission trips in Africa. Martin found one in Swaziland, a country roughly twice the size in area of the Diocese of Madison and with a population of 1.4 million. For two months during the summer of 2008, Martin tutored children at a school there. There she met a 12-year-old girl named Tenele who would change her life forever. Tenele was being physically abused by her stepmother during the day and sold for the use of men at night. "That's when God put his heart in my heart for her and she started calling me 'mother' and I called her my child," Martin said. Tenele was just one example of many girls in Swaziland who are sexually abused or forced into prostitution. After that summer, Martin knew she'd go back but was unsure when. "My burdened heart for Tenele and kids I met and left just grew and my life completely changed after that," she said. She returned to Swaziland the following summer and started looking for longer-term work there as she neared college graduation. After graduating in 2010, Martin moved to Swaziland for the next year to help more girls in trouble. "That was one of the most difficult years of my life," Martin said, as she would see the girls who were pregnant being expelled from school "and not being able to help." After she returned to the United States to teach at in La Crescent, Minnesota, Martin said she was "living with broken dreams" wanting to open a home for the troubled girls in Swaziland, but with no definite plans. Martin turned to prayer and before long her prayers were answered after meeting a friend from high school for coffee. Hearing her story, he suggested she start a nonprofit to help build a home for the girls. It became Hosea's Heart. Balancing her teaching job and trips to Swaziland in summers for the next couple of years, Hosea's Heart renovated a building and opened the home for girls. "Almost all of them (the girls) have been raped or sexually abused or completely orphaned," Martin said. "Our (goal) is to feed them spiritually, physically and emotionally," she added. The girls also receive counseling, which Martin said is usually overlooked in Swaziland, as well as food and clothing. All come through donations. There are nightly Bible study sessions, prayer or worship which the girls take turns leading. Hosea's Heart offers a workshop for girls in which Martin and several volunteers teach skills such as making jewelry or scarves that can be sold to help them escape prostitution. "They can get out of selling their body and sell something else," Martin said. Since quitting her teaching job in 2013, Martin has been living in Swaziland "indefinitely." She returns home once or twice a year for fundraising and time with family. Martin has the help of family members in the U.S. Her mother, Peg, serves as director of product development and training, and her brother, Garret, is media relations director. Current efforts focus on raising funds to build a new home for girls. Martin said the organization wants to raise $120,000 by December to buy the land and build a home that is large enough for the girls, staff and volunteers. Hosea's Heart also wants to start a program for young mothers who have left prostitution and have young children and need help caring for them. In Swaziland, Martin has the help of two staff members as well as a volunteer team that visits every summer. Martin said she feels like she is the "single mother of 15 girls." "I knew I would be the guardian, but I didn't know I would be the mother and deal with so much of the discipline," she explained. It's all for the girls and women though, and many of their lives are getting better. "They've been living so long without dreams," said Martin. Now they have them. - - - Wondrash is on the staff of the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Madison. For more information on Hosea's Heart go online at www.hoseasheart.org.  - - -Copyright © 2015 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/Jon Soohoo, EPABy Mike NelsonLOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Veteran Los Angeles Dodgers' announcer Vin Scully will likely retire after the 2016 season, his 67th announcing games for the franchise. The beloved 87-year-old broadcaster --- once voted by fans as the "Most Popular Dodger" of all -- said Aug. 28 he will return for one more season, but on Aug. 29 told a news conference at Dodger Stadium that "realistically, next year will be the last one." "How much longer can you go on fooling people?" smiled Scully, a lifelong Catholic who attended Fordham Preparatory School and Fordham University in New York, and now attends St. Jude the Apostle Church in Westlake Village, California. "So yeah, I would be saying, 'Dear God, if you give me next year, I'll hang it up.'" Scully began broadcasting Dodger baseball in 1950, at age 22, when the Dodgers were in Brooklyn. He became the team's lead announcer in 1953, and has served in that role ever since. He became an icon after the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958, with many Dodger fans insisting on bringing portable listening devices (starting with transistor radios) to listen to Scully, even though the game was right in front of them. Because of his advancing age and desire to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren, Scully has curtailed his workload in recent years and now only broadcasts Dodger home games and road games in California. And although he said he will miss the daily contact with his friends at Dodger Stadium and his fellow reporters, he added, "When I leave, I will leave." He noted that other longtime baseball announcers associated with some of baseball's most storied franchises -- the Yankees' Mel Allen, the Giants' Russ Hodges, the Cardinals' Jack Buck -- have come and gone. "And you know what?" he said. "They kept playing the games, and the fans kept coming. So I know I can be replaced." Scully has also called baseball games for national radio (CBS) and television (NBC), and in the 1970s and 1980s served as an announcer for nationally televised pro football, golf and tennis events. His resume includes dozens of World Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Games and no-hit efforts, including several perfect games. A multi-award-winner -- including National Broadcaster of the Year and Broadcaster of the Century by the American Sportscasters Association -- Scully was inducted into the broadcasters' wing of Baseball's Hall of Fame in 1982. In 2009, he received the Cardinal's Award from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for his service to the local church and community. "I think about my career," he told The Tidings, newspaper of the archdiocese, in a 2008 interview, "and all I can say is, 'Thank God who made it all possible.'" But during the news conference at Dodger Stadium -- where the press room was named for him in 2001 -- Scully displayed customary humility as he sought to minimize the fuss over his plans to step aside from the broadcast booth. "When it all boils down, I am the most ordinary man you've ever met," he said. "I was given an extraordinary opportunity, and God has blessed me for doing it all these years."  - - -Copyright © 2015 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/Danny Polanco, handout via EPABy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Initial results of the autopsy on the body of former archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was awaiting trial in the Vatican on charges of child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography, indicate he died late Aug. 27 of a "cardiac incident," the Vatican said. The results of further tests from the autopsy were pending Aug. 29, a Vatican statement said, and Vatican City State judicial authorities appointed three outside experts, including a professor of forensic medicine, to study them and issue a report. Wesolowski, 67, the former Vatican nuncio to the Dominican Republic, was confined to Vatican property while awaiting trial. His body was found at about 5 a.m. by a priest who lived in the same building, which houses the Franciscans who hear confessions in St. Peter's Basilica, as well as offices of the Vatican police force. Wesolowski was in front of a television, which was on, said Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman. Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, was scheduled to preside at Wesolowski's funeral Mass late Aug. 31 in the chapel of the Vatican City governor's palace, the spokesman said. Soon after Wesolowki's body was discovered, Father Benedettini said, officials from the Vatican police, medical service and court arrived for an "initial verification, which indicated the death was from natural causes." "The promoter of justice ordered an autopsy, which will be carried out today," the spokesman had said Aug. 28. "The results will be communicated as soon as possible." In the statement, issued less than four hours after Wesolowski's body was found, Father Benedettini said Pope Francis had been informed. The spokesman told reporters that Wesolowski had been in ill health and was under medical supervision at the time of his death. Wesolowski was to be the first person to be tried by a Vatican criminal court on sex abuse charges. The first session of the trial had been scheduled for July 11, but was postponed when he was taken to the hospital the day before after suffering "a collapse," Father Benedettini said. He remained in the hospital until July 17. The Vatican court had not announced a date for the continuation of the trial of the former Polish archbishop and nuncio -- Vatican ambassador -- to the Dominican Republic. In its official statement about his death, the Vatican referred to him as "His Excellency Monsignor Jozef Wesolowski," even though he was dismissed from the clerical state in June 2014 after an investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His appeal of the dismissal was denied, Father Benedettini said, "but was not officially communicated so as not to aggravate the situation" while he was awaiting the separate criminal trial. He was still listed as an archbishop in the 2015 edition of the "Annuario Pontificio," the Vatican yearbook. Vatican prosecutors listed five charges against Wesolowski, which included having "corrupted, by means of lewd acts, adolescents presumably between the ages of 13 and 16," in the Dominican Republic, where Wesolowski had served as a Vatican nuncio from 2008 to 2013, when he was accused of abusing adolescent boys. According to Vatican prosecutors, Wesolowski's crimes continued once he was brought back to the Vatican. While being investigated, the court said, he procured and possessed on Vatican City State property "and elsewhere," a "large amount" of "material from Internet sites" depicting minors under the age of 18 in sexually explicit acts or poses. He also was charged with causing "serious injury to adolescent victims of sexual abuse, consisting of mental distress" and of "conduct that offends religious principles or Christian morality" by repeatedly logging on to pornographic sites while in the Dominican Republic, Rome, Vatican City State and elsewhere.- - -Copyright © 2015 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 Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Eleven cardinals, at least four of whom will participate in the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October, have urged fellow church leaders to maintain the church's rules regarding marriage and strengthen Catholic education about marriage and family life. Their book, "Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family," is scheduled to be released in English in the United States Sept. 15 by Ignatius Press, which provided copies in advance to the media. With the contributing cardinals coming from Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, the essays include personal pastoral reflections as well as urge extreme caution in considering any plan to readmit to Communion Catholics who have divorced and remarried civilly without having received an annulment. While several of the cardinals insist that the media in general and many church leaders mistakenly tried to make it appear that the situation of the divorced and remarried was the primary focus of 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops, most of the 11 essays also discuss the problem. The issue is expected to be raised again at the world Synod of Bishops on the family Oct. 4-25. Italian Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, who was not elected by his peers to attend the synod, said showing mercy to such couples without requiring their conversion -- demonstrated by at least refraining from sexual relations with the new spouse -- "is the mistaken pity of an incompetent and/or weak physician who contents himself with bandaging wounds without treating them." German Cardinal Paul Cordes, the retired head of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," knows for a fact how long some church leaders and theologians have been seeking a possible penitential process or other procedure that would allow the divorced and remarried to receive Communion without an annulment or that promise of sexual abstinence. In the 1970s, he was appointed secretary of a task force set up by the bishops of Germany, Switzerland and Austria to find what he described as a "loophole of mercy." The experience, he wrote, proved that even "theological and canonical acrobatics" cannot defend giving those couples Communion while effectively teaching that marriage is indissoluble. Dutch Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk of Utrecht, who was elected to the synod, said it is neither pastoral nor merciful for the church's ministers to pretend that without an annulment a civil remarriage is anything other than "a form of structured and institutionalized adultery." But one change in church practice absolutely must occur, he said. After decades of weak catechesis, "true pastoral ministry" means presenting church teaching, "transmitting and explaining its foundations more adequately and clearly than we have done in the last half century." Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka of Prague, who was not elected to the synod by the Czech bishops, also placed at least some of the blame on the failures of the church's ministers. Too many Catholics, he said, have no idea what it means to give their word and make a vow forever. "The synod should never forget the past and present scandal of the basic destruction of the word" seen in the broken "promises of a large number of religious and priests in the latter half of the past century," he wrote. It is "a scandal that we must confess humbly in the presence of husbands and wives who, amid the thousand difficulties of their life in this era of degradation, are fighting to remain faithful to their promise, to their word, to the oath that they made to each other and to God." All of the cardinals emphasized the importance of marriage preparation and the fact that it cannot be just a weekend of talks a few months before the wedding. It begins in the family with real examples of love, care, self-sacrifice, sharing and celebrating together. Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments is automatically a member of the synod, urged the church's ministers to find committed Catholic couples to serve as witnesses to Catholic youths. "Even though deep down they desire an indissoluble union," he said, too many young people "cannot manage to believe that it is possible. This is a crisis of trust and faith in God and consequently a crisis of confidence in human love and in the human ability to be faithful." Venezuelan Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas, who is not one of his country's delegates to the synod, urged a renewed emphasis on how seriously the Catholic Church takes the vocation of marriage. "The church not only promotes, praises and defends marriage, but also celebrates it liturgically," he noted. "In fact, she considers it one of the seven sacraments, instruments and signs of grace and salvation for the contracting parties and their children, and gives it a legal structure so as to protect the rights and specify the duties of the spouses." While it is true that growing segments of societies across the globe no longer understand marriage the way the church does, that does not mean the church should "yield," he wrote. "The truth does not depend on acceptance by a majority. Neither does pastoral practice." The other cardinals contributing to the book were: Indian Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal of Trivandrum, who will attend the synod as head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; German Cardinal Joachim Meisner, retired archbishop of Cologne; Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja; Spanish Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, retired archbishop of Madrid; and Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, retired papal vicar of Rome.- - -Copyright © 2015 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 Catholic San FranciscoBy Valerie SchmalzSANTA CLARA, Calif. (CNS) -- Dr. Kelly Kao is no longer making a top salary as a Silicon Valley optometrist and researcher for Google Glass. Instead, Kao and her friends, motivated by their Catholic faith, are using their skills to help poor people see in the Far East and even California's San Joaquin Valley. In the past three years, the Catholic nonprofit See the Lord has brought eyeglasses, and vision health care to thousands of poor people in rural areas of Taiwan, the Philippines and Sanger, California. "I walked away knowing that God had a different path for me, knowing I was called to do missionary work at that point in my life," said Kao, now 30. Kao decided the day her mother died in February 2011 after a nine-year bout with cancer that she had to "love big" with her life. "There were a lot of people trying to talk me out of it," she said. When she quit all her jobs at age 28 in 2012, Kao was in full-time private practice, teaching at the University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry, and doing research for Google. See the Lord is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, young professionals who became friends through their faith and involvement in the San Jose Chinese Catholic Mission in Santa Clara. Kao, the only one who works full time for the organization, receives a small stipend as chief executive officer. "Every single person who needs prescription glasses we provide them with brand new lenses and frames. Prescription glasses, sun glasses, reading glasses -- free of charge," said Kao. Mission trip volunteers help pay for the eyeglasses distributed during each trip, said Henry Shu, the organization's chief financial officer. Local Taiwanese lens makers provide discounted rates for glasses and lenses, Kao said. "I think it is the work of the Holy Spirit. What can bring young people to do this kind of thing if it is not the Holy Spirit?" said Father Carlos Olivera, pastor of San Jose Chinese Catholic Mission. Since 2012 when incorporation of the nonprofit was completed, See the Lord has organized 12 mission trips with three more on the calendar for 2015. All but three of the trips have been to Taiwan where people in the rural mountain areas have little access to vision care. This year a U.S. trip is planned to New Orleans. The Bay Area Chinese Catholic community supports See the Lord, said Kao, who grew up in San Mateo and attended St. Luke Parish in Foster City. The Mid-Peninsula Chinese Catholic Community at St. Matthew in San Mateo, where Kao's father sings in the choir, is very supportive, as are St. Clare Parish in Santa Clara, and St. Joseph Church in Fremont, she said. Most of those served in Taiwan are poor children, elderly and disabled people who find it difficult or impossible to travel the three or four hours to a town to get their eyes examined and frequently could not afford glasses if they were prescribed, Kao said. While Taiwan has national health care, it does not include vision care and optometrists are reluctant to travel to remote areas, she said. "I was surprised by how nearsighted the children were;yet they did not even own a pair of glasses. I wondered how these children could function in daily life when they could barely see the largest shapes on the eye chart," volunteer Elaine Oetomo, a mission volunteer in March 2013, said in a testimonial on the See the Lord website. "People work out in the sun all day and have major sun damage or a tree branch has hit their eye and they have lost their vision," said Jean Young, See the Lord spokeswoman. See the Lord mission trips attract young adults, mostly Chinese Americans with some family connection to Asia, Young said. Many are not Catholic. "We have students who are interested in optometry who go on these trips. We have people who just have a heart for the mission," she explained. A mission trip team is usually 10 people. Each person must raise the $2,500 to $3,000 to cover costs for a 10-day trip. "They are not always Catholic, that's fine with us. We do Mass and we do prayers together. We don't make it a criteria that you have to be Catholic," Young said. "They can use their talents. It lets young students and young professionals actually serve," Kao said. About 1 percent of Taiwan is Catholic, Young said. Kao's deeply religious and loving Catholic mother is a big part of the story, because it was some comments her mother made a few months before her death cancer that started Kao thinking. "Her mother was like a saint, never complaining even though she was suffering," Young said. "She said to Kelly -- in Chinese, of course -- my one regret in life is I don't feel like I loved big. I wished I loved on a grander scale." The night her mother died, Kao said she had a vision of her mother asking her to use her talents on that grander scale. The next day Kao procured the website rights for See the Lord, although she said it took more than a year to get the nonprofit up and running. "They are great people with a dedication to the mission of the church, of Jesus," Father Olivera said. "They are good, good Catholics." - - - Schmalz is assistant editor of Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.  - - -Copyright © 2015 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.