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DISCIPLES IN MISSION

Length12 min.
Age GroupA - Adult
PublisherPaulist Nathional Catholic Evangelization Assoc.
TopicsEvangelization

Describes the Paulist mission of evangelization and the process (Disciples in Mission) of establishing an evangelization team for your parish.

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  • By Mark PattisonDRIGGS, Idaho (CNS) -- Father Adrian Vazquez bolted out of his rectory in St. Anthony on a cold November morning, brushed a thin layer of snow off of his Subaru Outback, started the engine and raced down the road to make the 50-mile drive to his mission chapel in Driggs. The scenery along the way was stunning, with spectacular vistas of the Grand Teton mountain range. Father Vazquez said he never gets tired of being surrounded by the rustic beauty of rural eastern Idaho. It's the amount of driving he does each week that wears on him. He makes the 100-mile round-trip drive to Driggs at least twice a week to tend to his flock. That's in addition to 30-mile-round-trip drive Father Vazquez makes to another mission chapel in Rexburg and the 85-mile-round-trip drive to another in Island Park. That's right, this priest is the administrator of Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in St. Anthony and three mission chapels located in about a 200-mile radius. Seem like an enormous job for one U.S. priest? It's not uncommon in U.S. Catholic home mission dioceses for a lone cleric to care for several faith communities spread out over great distances. "Some of our priests in our country put on 50,000 miles a year to get to these parishes so they can bring the sacraments and teach the word of God, as do other catechists and lay leaders," said Boise Bishop Peter F. Christensen. The early American missionaries also traveled extensively to bring Catholicism to small populations spread out over great distances, a tradition that helps keep the faith vibrant in rural areas today, Bishop Christensen told Catholic News Service during an interview in Boise. Some of today's priests travel in nontraditional ways to reach their faith communities. For instance, in Alaska, where the roads don't always connect to the towns, church leaders have been known to kayak to their mission chapels and others are required to fly, said Juneau Bishop Edward J. Burns. Shortly after Bishop Burns arrived in Alaska to assume leadership of the diocese in 2009, his new staff gave him a parish visit itinerary. When he asked what time Mass began at St. Francis Chapel in Tenakee Springs, they laughed and told him that it started when he arrived. "To go out to Tenakee Springs, I had to go out to the dock to get onto the float plane. ... It takes off and we fly 20 to 25 minutes out to the village," he said. "Well, the people there hear the float plane arrive ... so the people don't gather at the chapel until 20 minutes after the plane lands. So, the plane becomes the modern-day church bell." Spending many hours behind the wheel of a car does create hazards for priests in home mission dioceses, said Lynne Green, a parishioner of Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Driggs. The long hours of ministry and driving caused her former pastor to fall asleep at the wheel on his way home from Mass one evening, and though it ended up being a minor accident, it made Green aware of some of the vulnerabilities involved in this kind of pastoral care. "It's difficult," she said. "Our priests are stressed. A lot of them end up completely burned out by the time they finish with this assignment." The burden of distance doesn't just fall on church leaders. Many loyal parishioners, like Anatolia Romero of Shoshone and her family, drive 45 minutes or longer each way to get to church. Romero and her husband routinely work 12 hours a day as ranch hands but make the 45-minute drive to Jerome two to three times a week to attend Mass at St. Jerome Catholic Church, take their children to religion class, attend social events and help out with funerals. "I don't see the time as a sacrifice," she said following an October social function at the parish. "We need to be here. We need to be here for God. We need to be here for us. It's like home for us. It's where we belong." In some ways, the long travel times encourage parishioners to invest a deeper commitment to the church, said Father Rob Irwin, pastor of St. Jerome. Since it takes so long to travel to the church, these parishioners are not in a hurry to drive home, so they spend more time in the parish socializing, participating in other events, becoming active in the parish council, volunteering in social ministry or taking faith-enrichment classes, Father Irwin said. "It's a special privilege ... to have people come in from great distances, to experience this missionary faith," he said. "People make a choice to come and make a choice to be engaged and involved. We don't take them for granted. Neither do they take their faith for granted." - - - Follow Chaz Muth on Twitter: @Chazmaniandevyl.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Yara Nardi, ReutersBy Nancy BarthelROME (CNS) -- Thousands of people waited hours outside a Rome church to glimpse the mortal remains of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold Mandic, two Capuchins popular as miracle workers and known particularly for the long hours they would spend hearing confessions. Pope Francis asked the Capuchins to bring the relics of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold to Rome for the Year of Mercy, particularly the Feb. 10 celebration of Ash Wednesday and the commissioning of the official "missionaries of mercy." The hearse carrying Padre Pio's crystal coffin was about 90 minutes late getting to Rome's Basilica of St. Lawrence Feb. 3 because pockets and clusters of faithful repeatedly forced it to slow down as it drove from San Giovanni Rotondo, 235 miles to the southeast. Posters pasted up all over the center of Rome giving the detailed schedule for Masses, prayer services and other devotions feature a large photo of Padre Pio and a smaller photo of St. Leopold. In the celebrations, St. Leopold "is given the backseat, but that's been his life," said Capuchin Father Clayton Fernandes, secretary-general of the order. St. Leopold was a Croatian-born friar who ministered in Padua, Italy, and died in 1942. Father Fernandes said, "He was 4-feet-5-inches tall," and was known to prophesy and to levitate. While St. Leopold is well known in Croatia and around Padua, his fame pales in comparison to that of Padre Pio, who was born in 1887 and died in 1968. From 1918 to the very end of his life, Padre Pio bore the stigmata, wounds similar to those inflicted on Christ when he was crucified. "For 50 years, he bore the marks of Christ," Father Fernandes said, yet the marks disappeared as soon as he died. There were accusations that they were self-inflicted, but the Capuchin said doctors examined them when he was operated on for appendicitis and said they did not believe they were self-inflicted. "People realized that this was not just an ordinary guy; he had special gifts," Father Fernandes said. His primary gift was the ability "to read hearts, he could tell you what you were going through before you told him." He also was said to bilocate. "Padre Pio is special for all these reasons and more," Father Fernandes said. "Padre Pio has won the hearts of the people because he spoke to their reality, the reality of a family that struggles because of economic difficulties, because they have someone who is sick." "We need more Padre Pios today: priests, confessors, even laypeople who just take the time to listen to another and say, 'I'm interested in what you are going through. Maybe I can't do much, but remember, I think about you and pray for you.' This is precisely what Padre Pio did and continues to do," Father Fernandes said. At the same time, there are stories of Padre Pio yelling at people and being harsh with penitents. While Padre Pio was not always gentle, Father Fernandes said, he seemed to know what was needed to bring each individual to conversion. "He was tough," Father Fernandes said. People would flock to him, expecting him to work a miracle, "but they didn't want to change." "Conversion is a process that starts with me," he said. Padre Pio or any good confessor, spiritual guide or friend can help people on the path, but it takes a personal decision. "This is the secret to his success, you could say: He was able to look deep into people and say, 'Look, what you are asking for is not really what you need. You need something more' or 'you need something different,'" Father Fernandes said. He was like any good father, who knew that sometimes what a child asks for is not what the child really needs. The Capuchin also insists that Padre Pio "was not a one-man show." The other friars in his community and in his province supported his work and assisted him, especially in replying to the thousands of letters that would arrive each week. "They believed that he had a special gift from God, not that he was perfect." "There is one precise reason why Pope Francis wants Padre Pio and St. Leopold (at the Vatican for the jubilee)," he said: "It's because they are missionaries of mercy. And mercy as encountered in confession. These are two friars who spent the big part of their life in the confessional."- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • By BOISE, Idaho (CNS) -- In the 1980s, a wave of migrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries began to settle in Idaho. The agricultural industry made the state a prime location for these immigrants, who could work on the farms and ranches, often without having to know too much English or provide legal documents to secure employment. It also presented the statewide Diocese of Boise -- one of the Catholic home mission dioceses in the U.S. -- with a set of challenges. Before the big migration, Idaho had a predominantly white population and there was little need for Spanish-speaking priests, religious sisters or deacons. The church, schools and government were not prepared for their arrival, said Father Jesus Camacho, parochial vicar of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Boise, who was ordained in his native Mexico in 1975. When Father Camacho arrived in Boise in 1981, he was one of only two priests from Mexico in the diocese and there was no Hispanic ministry. He had been invited to come to Idaho by then-Boise Bishop Sylvester W. Treinen, who was trying to address the language and cultural barriers presented by the new Mexican arrivals, most of whom were Catholic and were looking to the church to meet their pastoral needs and to establish community. "There was a need everywhere for someone to translate for Spanish-speaking people into English," Father Camacho said. "In the very beginning, I was frequently invited by the police department, by hospitals, by schools, because there was not at that time the presence of bilingual people around." That wave of Latinos continued through the 1990s and into the 21st century. Hispanics made up about 10 percent of Idaho's Catholic population in the early 1980s and now it's more than 50 percent, according to the diocese's official statistics. The home mission diocese, with limited resources, had to adjust to the changing demographic, much like the rest of the country, but it happened earlier and faster in Idaho than in the country as a whole, said Bishop Peter F. Christensen, the current bishop of Boise. With the development of Hispanic ministries, the recruitment of more Spanish-speaking priests and a lot of grant money from the U.S. bishops' Catholic Home Missions Appeal, the diocese has been able to address the needs of its large Latino population, Bishop Christensen told Catholic News Service during an interview in Boise. "Having the Mass in Spanish and knowing there are more people like me, who grew up with these traditions in the church, makes me feel like I'm at home in my parish," said Esmeralda Orozco, a Mexican native living near Jerome. A majority of the priests in Idaho are now bilingual, but the diocese's adaptation went beyond the language barrier, said Father Rob Irwin, pastor of St. Jerome Catholic Church in Jerome. Though many of the younger priests in Idaho are natives of Latin American countries, Father Irwin grew up in Oregon in a traditional white American family. However, he has immersed himself in Hispanic culture, especially Latino church traditions. The day after Halloween, he went to the cemetery near his church with several Anglo and Latino families to bless the graves on the Day of the Dead. It's one of many Hispanic traditions that Father Irwin incorporates into his ministry and encourages participate by his Anglo parishioners. Pope Francis often talks about welcoming the stranger. He also frequently discusses the need for an accepting and diverse church. Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont, Texas, another U.S. mission diocese, told CNS that cultural preservation is as important as bringing together diverse communities within the church. "The challenge is to help people to realize that we are of one faith, one baptism and that we can enrich the church and each other through our cultural diversity," Bishop Guillory said during an interview in Beaumont. Like Boise, the Beaumont Diocese has a large Hispanic population, but the churches also have sizable numbers of African-American, Asian and Anglo parishioners, he said. In 1915, St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament founded three parishes for black Catholics in the Texas towns of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, the same year she founded Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. St. Katharine Drexel was a Philadelphia heiress who used her personal fortune to fund Catholic schools and parishes for blacks and Native Americans. Those black parishes are a symbol of the proud history the Beaumont Diocese has in serving diverse communities, said Father Lowell Case, pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Beaumont. There also is a vivid tradition of pastoral care to Native American Catholics in the mission dioceses of Gallup, New Mexico, and Juneau, Alaska, as well as others throughout the United States. Cross-cultural connection is encouraged in many of the U.S. mission dioceses. Father Jean Pauline Lockulu is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is serving as a priest in the Diocese of Juneau. While he shares his religious traditions with his parishioners, he said his faith is enriched by the cultural expression of the Native Americans who attend his church. A cross-cultural experience in church may be ideal, but it doesn't always pan out. Father Adrian Vazquez, an administrator of four faith communities in eastern Idaho, told CNS that he often encourages his Anglo parishioners to participate in the Our Lady of Guadalupe festivities, which is a traditional feast day in the Hispanic community. However, the priest manages to pique the interest of only a few white parishioners each year. "Many of the Anglos don't know that much about Our Lady of Guadalupe and feel like they would rather just celebrate their devotion to Mary on the feast of the Immaculate Conception," Father Vazquez said. The native of Mexico sometimes celebrates a bilingual Mass to accommodate all members of his church communities, mostly because his time is spread so thin that holding separate Masses in English and Spanish isn't always practical. "They come, but afterward they say, 'Father, we really would appreciate two Masses, one in English and one in Spanish,'" he said. "They do not totally reject it, but you see the expressions." Cross-cultural connection is not always easy, Bishop Guillory said. "I tell the pastors that it's something that they have to educate and promote," he said. "Because there is a certain amount of fear of a different culture and sometimes even prejudice. So, we have to break through that. "Once we break through that it's amazing in what happens," Bishop Guillory said. Culture often gets in the way of humanity, he said, "because we remain on the cultural level. A lot of times, that's all stereotypes and how we get below the cultural level to our humanity is in dialogue. Coming together, understanding, talking, etc." - - -Contributing to this story was Tyler Orsburn in Beaumont.- - -Follow Chaz Muth on Twitter: @Chazmaniandevyl.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore RomanoBy Carol GlatzCIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (CNS) -- When Father Alberto Melendez began ministering at the prison in this once-violent border city nine years ago, rival gangs ran criminal operations from behind bars. Riots broke out regularly; a 2009 tragedy claimed 20 lives. "There was no system of control inside," Father Melendez recalled. Inmates "were the ones giving the orders." Pope Francis will visit the prison, known as Cereso No. 3, during a day trip Feb. 17 to Ciudad Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas, and once held the dubious distinction of murder capital of the world. That is an image local leaders are eager to shed and a reality no longer reflected in crime statistics. The prison, meanwhile, has undergone renovations, and security officials say the situation inside has calmed considerably. The pope also plans to celebrate Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border while in Ciudad Juarez to draw attention to migration issues and will meet with some of the employers and workers from the maquiladoras, factories for exports that underpin the economy but cause complaints over low wages and questionable labor conditions. The prison visit is expected to draw attention to the shortcomings of Mexico's prison system -- the credibility of which was challenged by cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who tunneled out of a maximum security facility in July and was recently recaptured. Issues such as overcrowding, inmate control and corruption are rife, along with violence, according to an annual report on prisons from the National Human Rights Commission. Officials say times have changed in Ciudad Juarez, however, with the prisons there undergoing renovations, the most dangerous inmates being sent to federal facilities and U.S. certification being given last year. "It hasn't improved 100 percent," Father Melendez said, "but it's improved greatly." The improvements are hard to verify. The human rights commission's report from 2014 ranks prisons in Chihuahua state, which includes Ciudad Juarez, eighth among Mexico's 32 states. The Ciudad Juarez prison received a lower score in the report than it did in 2011. The report also found evidence of overcrowding there. Inmates interviewed by Catholic News Service spoke in the presence of prison staff and were unwilling to talk about any hardships suffered in Ciudad Juarez or other correctional facilities, though they said the work of the prison ministry had helped with spiritual matters. The Ciudad Juarez prison once symbolized the city's problems. It suffered 12 riots and 216 murders in 2010. Last year, there were no riots registered in the prison and only one homicide, according to Chihuahua state statistics. One prison official said the pope's visit isn't entirely about validating their improvements, however. "It's not an endorsement. It's a recognition of the work we have done and the inmate's good behavior, too," said Alejandrina Saucedo Hernandez, spokeswoman for the prison. "It's a way for forgiving all that happened in Ciudad Juarez and those involved," which includes the acts of "some of those on the inside." Father Roberto Luna, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish and former director of the diocesan outreach to the young offenders, echoed those comments on reconciliation, though he expressed skepticism on the claims of prison improvements. He stopped working in the juvenile facility due to disagreements after its control was transferred form the city's social work department to the state government. The papal visit is "a message for everyone to tell them, we can reconcile with those who did wrong," Father Luna said. "It's the year of mercy. ... We can reconcile with everyone, even those who did wrong." Father Luna, speaking of his time inside prisons, says inmates paid inflated prices for personal items on the inside -- $5 for a roll of toilet paper, for example -- while families often feed their imprisoned relatives because the food served on the inside can be inedible. "If you truly reform a prison, you do away with the businesses inside," Father Luna said. Currently, "all of the privileges you have inside, you pay for." Father Robert Coogan, an American priest and prison ministry director for the Diocese of Saltillo, said Mexican prisons have positive points, more evident prior to the crackdown on drug cartels and organized crime that began in 2006. He said compared to prisons in the United States, Mexican prisons have more family visiting days and conjugal visit privileges, and Mexican inmates spend more time outdoors and are able to leave their cells more often. Mexican prisons also aspire to rehabilitation -- a goal often not achieved -- which affords more access to work in prison workshops, artistic pursuits and educational opportunities. There are shortcomings, though. "What was terrible and what is still terrible is the judicial system," said Father Coogan, whose prison was controlled for a time by the Los Zetas cartel, to the point they painted his chapel over his objections. Pope Francis' message remains uncertain, though Father Coogan expressed hope that the plight of innocent people being put behind bars would be addressed, along with the stigmas facing recently released prisoners, several of whom live with him in an informal halfway house and face persistent police persecution. Attracting parishioners to prison ministry work also presents problems as many express fears of working with inmates, and those making donations offer low-quality items. "Don't give me anything you wouldn't give your mother," he told one person in rejecting a donation of beat-up Bibles with torn pages. Father Luna said he promoted sacraments in prison. He cited now-retired Pope Benedict XVI in calling sacraments "the seeds of faith." He said many young offenders have become part of his parish community. "I believe in rehabilitation," he said. "I saw many young people inside hurting. Now I'm welcoming them into the church. I'm baptizing their children. I'm marrying them." - - -Follow Agren on Twitter: @el_reportero.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/How Hwee Young, EPABy VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a video message one week before his apostolic visit, Pope Francis asked the people of Mexico for some time alone during his visit to pray before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. "I would like to ask -- as a favor from you -- that this time, which will be the third time I will step on Mexican soil, to leave me alone a few minutes in front of the image. That is the favor I ask. Can you do that for me?" he said in the video released Jan. 3 by the Mexican news agency NotiMex. The video featured men and women from different cities in Mexico asking the pope questions about the visit he has planned to their country Feb. 12-17. "I'm going to Mexico not as a wise man bearing things, messages, ideas or solutions to problems," he responded, but as a pilgrim in search of something from the Mexican people. "I am not going to pass around the collection basket so don't worry about that," the pope said. "But I will seek the wealth of faith that you have; I want to come in contact with that wealth of faith." Their wealth, he said, comes from the fact that they are not an orphaned people but one with a mother who "forged hope" in them. "You all know the joke of that Mexican man who would say, 'I am an atheist, but I am Guadalupan.' It makes sense," he said, because it reflects the feeling of "a people who does not want to be orphaned. There, perhaps, is the great wealth that I will seek. I will go as a pilgrim." When asked about his thoughts about Our Lady of Guadalupe, the pope recalled his visits to Mexico in 1970 and 1998, adding that "safety" and "tenderness" are what come to mind when thinking of Mary. "How many times I have been fearful of a problem or that something bad has happened and I don't know how to react and I pray to her. I like to repeat to myself, 'Do not be afraid; Am I not here, I, who am your mother?'" The words are those Mary said to Juan Diego when she appeared to him. Several men and women asked the pope for help in confronting violence brought on by corruption, drugs and human trafficking in the country. The "Mexico of corruption, the Mexico of drug trafficking, the Mexico of cartels is not the Mexico our mother wants," the pope replied, adding that people "must fight for peace, but not with war." "I would like to be an instrument of peace in Mexico, but only with you all," he said. "It's obvious that I can't do it alone -- I would be crazy if I said that (I could) -- but together with you all, (I visit) as an instrument of peace." Pope Francis also said he will visit as a "servant of faith" for the people, in the hopes that the faith may flourish in their private and public lives. "Our faith is not a museum faith and the church is not a museum. Our faith is a faith born from contact, from speaking with Jesus Christ, our savior, with the Lord," he said.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.