IMAGE: CNS photo/Carrie McClish, Catholic VoiceBy Carrie McClishOAKLAND, Calif. (CNS) -- A new
shiny truck is bringing food to senior citizens in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood and
A year in the making, the Mercy Brown Bag Program has
expanded, with the truck visiting several locales and offering assistance to seniors
faced with the high cost of rent and medication.
Krista Lucchesi, director of the program that is part
of the services of the Mercy
Retirement and Care Center, couldn't stop smiling as she looked at the vehicle
parked behind the residential care facility.
Having the truck "now is
kind of amazing for all of us," she told The Catholic Voice, newspaper of
the Oakland Diocese.
Staff and volunteers cheered the
truck as it arrived April 2 after a cross-country trip from St. Louis, where it
was built. Nicole St. Lawrence,
Mercy Brown Bag's assistant director, brought the truck west on a mission to help
stem the tide of senior hunger in Alameda County.
Most recipients enrolled in the
Mercy Brown Bag Program have an average yearly income of less than $12,000 in a county where
the annual median income is $82,000. Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is about
$1,663 a month, Lucchesi said. In such a costly environment, many seniors must make
difficult choices about buying food, medication or shelter in order to survive.
"Healthy food is usually
the first thing they will give up," Lucchesi said.
That's where the Mercy Brown Bag
Program comes in. The program delivers food to 5,000 seniors at 17 sites and through
45 social service providers. Most of the food that the program distributes
comes from the Alameda County
Community Food Bank.
Each registered person can take
home up to 20 pounds of groceries. Much of the food from a variety of food groups
can be considered senior-appropriate: low in sodium and easy to chew.
Contacts at the distribution
sites indicate which foods are more desired or more popular.
"Some sites say to bring rice
every single time and say, 'we are always going to want rice' or 'we love sweet
potatoes,'" Lucchesi said. "Whenever we can find them we try to make
sure we have certain foods available for that site."
Fresh produce makes up the
majority of the food delivered. The new truck is equipped with a system that
will lower baskets of produce to street level, making food selection easier. The
truck has a refrigerated area, allowing for the transport of milk and other products
that must be chilled.
The food truck, which cost about
$200,000, was paid for with donations from the Thomas J. Long Foundation and the Carl Gellert and Celia Berta Gellert
The truck is allowing the program
to reach up to 3,000 more seniors in need, Lucchesi said. "We are
currently building our route to see which areas are not as well served,"
The truck also will help address
new challenges facing seniors.
"We kept getting calls from
low-income seniors who are homebound and with little or no social support,"
Lucchesi said. "We used to be able to ask them, 'Do you have a child or a friend
or a neighbor who can come and get your bags for you?' People had some social
connections. But now the isolation is so much deeper and we are hearing more
and more from people who say they have no one who can come out to pick up their
bag, which makes us sad. So we have been trying to figure out how to get closer
to those folks."
The truck may also help address public
"We have been getting calls
where people are saying, 'I don't have any money to get on public transportation
to get to one of your sites.' They are really, really living on the edge. This
(truck) is a way to get food to them so that they don't have to go on public
transportation," Lucchesi said.
A formal dedication of the truck
took place April 19 and deliveries were to begin as soon as drivers were hired
is a staff writer for The Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Diocese of Oakland.- - -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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/EPABy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite the ongoing risk of
terrorism, Pope Francis planned to travel to Egypt as a sign of being close to
the people there, said Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman.
Heightened security is part of the "new normal"
in many countries, but even in the wake of the Palm Sunday attacks in Egypt, it
is the pope's desire "to go ahead, to also be a sign of his
closeness" to those affected by violence and all the people of Egypt,
Burke told journalists April 24.
At a Vatican briefing outlining some details of the
pope's trip to Cairo April 28-29, a reporter asked if there were any worries or
concerns about the pope's security.
Burke, speaking in Italian, said he wouldn't use the word
"worries" or concerns, but would say that "we live in a world
where it is now something that is part of life." He added, "However,
we move ahead with serenity."
The pope has requested that a "normal car" --
not an armored vehicle -- be used when he is driven from one venue to another,
Burke said. It will not be an open-topped vehicle, he added.
The pope will use a "golf cart," however,
rather than the open-air popemobile when he makes the rounds through the crowds
at the air defense stadium, where Mass will be celebrated April 29.
He also will use the golf cart for circulating among the
more than 1,000 seminarians, religious and clergy expected to attend an outdoor
prayer service at the Coptic Catholic Church's St. Leo's Patriarchal Seminary
in the Cairo suburb of Maadi April 28.
Burke said that after Pope Francis' private meeting with
Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, at the patriarch's residence April 28, the
two leaders will go together to the nearby church of Sts. Peter and Paul, which
had been bombed during a Sunday Mass in December 2016, killing 24 people and
injuring at least 45 others.
They will pray "for all the victims from these past
years and months, pray for Christians killed," Burke said.
The two will leave flowers outside the church, light a
candle and then have a moment of prayer for the victims from the December
attack, the Vatican spokesman said.
Soon afterward, the pope will go to the apostolic
nunciature, where he will be staying, and will greet a group of children who
attend a Comboni-run school in Cairo and later will greet more than 300 young
people who made a pilgrimage to Cairo to see the pope, he added.- - -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 email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, ReutersBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Mercy is a true form of knowledge that
allows men and women to understand the mystery of God's love for humanity, Pope
experienced forgiveness, Christians have a duty to forgive others, giving a "visible
sign" of God's mercy,
which "carries within it the peace of heart and the joy of a renewed encounter with the Lord," the
pope said April 23 before praying the "Regina Coeli" with visitors
gathered in St. Peter's Square.
"Mercy helps us understand that violence, resentment
and revenge do not have any meaning and that
the first victim is the
one who lives with these feelings, because he is deprived of his own
dignity," he said.
Commemorating Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis said St. John
Paul II's establishment of the feast in 2000 was a "beautiful
intuition" inspired by the Holy Spirit.
God's mercy, he said, not only "opens the door of the
mind," it also opens the door of the heart and paves the way for compassion toward those who are
"alone or marginalized because it makes them feel they are brothers and
sisters and children of one father."
"Mercy, in short, commits us all to being instruments
of justice, of reconciliation and peace. Let us never forget that mercy is the
keystone in the life of faith, and the concrete form by which we give visibility
to Jesus' resurrection," Pope Francis said.
- - -
Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS/ReutersBy Cindy WoodenROME (CNS) -- The Christian church today needs believers who
witness each day to the power of God's love, but it also needs the heroic
witness of those who stand up to hatred even when it means giving up their
lives, Pope Francis said.
At Rome's Basilica of St. Bartholomew, a shrine to modern
martyrs, Pope Francis presided over an evening prayer service April 22,
honoring Christians killed under Nazism, communism, dictatorships and
"These teach us that with the force of love and with
meekness one can fight arrogance, violence and war, and that with patience peace
is possible," the pope said in his homily in the small basilica on Rome's
Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis said he
wanted to add to the martyrs remembered at St. Bartholomew by including "a
woman -- I don't know her name -- but she watches from heaven."
The pope said he'd met the woman's husband, a Muslim, in
Lesbos, Greece, when he visited a refugee camp there in 2016. The man told the
pope that one day, terrorists came to their home. They saw his wife's crucifix
and ordered her to throw it on the ground. She refused and they slit her
"I don't know if that man is still at Lesbos or if he
has been able to leave that 'concentration camp,'" the pope said,
explaining that despite the good will of local communities many refugee camps
are overcrowded and are little more than prisons "because it seems
international agreements are more important than human rights."
But, getting back to the story of the Muslim man who watched
his wife be murdered, the pope said, "Now it's that man, a Muslim, who
carries this cross of pain."
"So many Christian communities are the object of
persecution today! Why? Because of the hatred of the spirit of this
world," the pope said. Jesus has
"rescued us from the power of this world, from the power of the
devil," who hates Jesus' saving power and "creates the persecution,
which from the time of Jesus and the early church continues up to our
"What does the church need today?" the pope asked.
"Martyrs and witnesses, those everyday saints, those saints of an ordinary
life lived with coherence. But it also needs those who have the courage to
accept the grace of being witnesses to the end, to the point of death. All of
those are the living blood of the church," those who "witness that
Jesus is risen, that Jesus lives."
Under a large icon depicting modern martyrs of the gulag and
concentration camp, Pope Francis prayed: "O Lord, make us worthy witnesses
of your Gospel and your love; pour out your mercy on humanity; renew your church;
protect persecuted Christians; and quickly grant the whole world peace."
During the prayer service, Pope Francis wore a stole that
had belonged to Chaldean Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, who was murdered in Mosul,
Iraq, in 2007.
Father Ganni's stole along with dozens of other items that
belonged to men and women martyred in the 20th and 21st centuries are on
display on the side altars at the basilica, which is cared for by the lay
During the prayer service, at which Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox clergy were involved, people who had been close to those honored as
martyrs at the shrine spoke.
Karl A. Schneider's father, the Rev. Paul Schneider, was the
first Protestant pastor martyred by the Nazis for opposing their hate-filled
doctrine. He was married and the father of six children.
"My father was assassinated in 1939 in the Buchenwald
concentration camp because he believed the objectives of National Socialism
were irreconcilable with the words of the Bible," Schneider told the
congregation. "All of us, still today, make too many compromises, but my
father remained faithful only to the Lord and to the faith."
The next to speak was Roselyne Hamel, the sister of French
Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered as he celebrated Mass July 26, 2016. The
Archdiocese of Rouen has begun his sainthood cause with Pope Francis' approval.
Father Hamel's breviary is preserved at St. Bartholomew's.
"Jacques was 85 years old when two young men,
radicalized by hate speech, thought they could become heroes by engaging in
homicidal violence," his sister told the pope. "At his age, Jacques
was fragile, but he also was strong -- strong in his faith in Christ, strong in
his love for the Gospel and for people."
His witness to Gospel values continues, she said, in the
reaction of Christians who did not call for revenge after his death, but for
love and forgiveness. And, she said, the family and local church have
experienced "the solidarity of Muslims who wanted to visit our Sunday
assemblies after his death."
"For his family, there certainly is pain and a void,
but it is a great comfort to see how many new encounters, how much solidarity
and love were generated by Jacques' witness," she said.- - -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 email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob RollerBy Mark PattisonWASHINGTON
(CNS) -- With religious persecution against Christians on the rise worldwide,
it is important for other Christians to stand in solidarity with them, said
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.
in the United States and elsewhere must raise their voices on behalf of
"the millions who are suffering," he said April 20 during a symposium
held in connection with the release of "In Response to Persecution, Findings of the Under Caesar's Sword Project on Global Christian Communities," a report
detailing the nature of persecution against Christians in different nations
across the globe. "Make it difficult for others to ignore," the cardinal said.
so, Cardinal Wuerl noted, may require Christians "to be aware" of the
persecution their fellow believers face on different continents.
one response should be to "continue to support the flow of material
assistance" to persecuted Christians through aid agencies like Catholic
Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international aid agency; Caritas
Internationalis, the Vatican umbrella agency for different nations' Catholic
relief organizations; or their counterparts run by other Christian denominations
we must, of course, continue to pray," said Cardinal Wuerl, who has just
had a new book published, "To the Martyrs: A Reflection on
the Supreme Christian Witness."
lamented the rise of intolerance in the Middle East. In Egypt, the cardinal
said, "all found a way, until recently, to live together. Under the rise
of ISIS ... things have just continued to get worse." He added he believes that,
despite last year's declaration by then-Secretary of State John Kerry that the Islamic State group had been responsible for genocide in the regions it controlled in Iraq and
Syria, most Americans are not aware of it.
is not a Christian crisis of concern only to Christians," Cardinal Wuerl
said. "This is a human crisis."
Philpott, a professor of political science and peace studies at the University
of Notre Dame and the principal author of the report, expressed surprise that few persecuted Christians resort to violence. He said there
were limited instances of Christian groups forming militias to protect their
people and property and, given the situations they face, that reaction may be
"understandable and justifiable."
outlined five contexts in which persecution exists: Islamic persecution, such
as applying Shariah law to Christians; communist persecution such as that found
in China, Vietnam and North Korea; state-supported persecution, such as in Turkey; religious hostility such as that seen in India; and the West's
reaction to a secularizing influence. Philpott quoted Pope Francis, who called the secularization "polite persecution."
these, there are nongovernmental actors like Islamic State; Philpott called
them "Little Caesars" who persecute Christians.
Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, Pakistan, a country where 3 percent of the country's
120 million people are Christians, said working together with the Muslim majority is the best course of action.
Pakistan's blasphemy law has resulted in the deaths of many Christians, Archbishop
Shaw said he does not want to have the law repealed, but he wants it modified
so mob justice is eliminated.
the story of a poor Christian couple working in indentured servitude at a brick
kiln in the country. Somehow, a rumor spread that the couple had blasphemed
Allah. Word got to the local imam, and "within 20 minutes there were 4,000
people" ready to exact their own justice against the couple, who had two
children. Soon, both were thrown into the kiln furnace and "within five,
seven minutes, they were both burned to death," the archbishop said.
Later, officials discovered that the Christian woman was pregnant, and that both
husband and wife were illiterate and could not have committed the blasphemy
of which they were accused. "They did not have a Quran in their
home," Archbishop Shaw said. "They didn't even have a Bible in their
archbishop said he gives the "two-F" instruction to his Catholics:
"Don't fear. Jesus said, 'Do not be afraid,'" he told his audience.
"The second F is do not fight, do not fight. No fear, no fight." He said
he encourages Catholics to "know your purpose. You were born in
Pakistan" for a reason, Archbishop Shaw added. "Know your religion
and your religious values, and express them in your life."
symposium also featured a 27-minute documentary, "Under Caesar's
Sword," which explored religious restrictions and violence in Turkey and
in India, along with glimpses of situations in Myanmar, Pakistan, Eritrea, Iraq
and Syria.- - -Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.
- - -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 firstname.lastname@example.org.