Saturday, February 26, 2011

Morte D'Urban, by J.F. Powers


Morte D'Urban

A friend lent me Morte D'Urban by J.F.Powers. Powers was unknown to me before, and it turns out he is a Catholic novelist of significant skill. Fr. Urban is the hero of the book--a priest of the second rate Clementine order, Fr. Urban travels the country leading retreats and enjoys a reputation as a charming man, a dynamic preacher and a priest who is 'going places'. When he is assigned by his superior to a retreat house in rural Minnesota run by the practical and parsimonious Fr Wilf he takes the demotion with good grace and gets on with the job. Before long he is networking in the diocese, schmoozing wealthy benefactors and 'going places' once more.

Beneath the amusing but spare storyline a soul is being made. Fr Urban--who lives up to his name by being very urbane--eventually sees his plans unravel. Somehow it all never really amounts to much and when his dream of being elected provincial comes true he doesn't have the gumption to take the order into the heights he aimed for. In the process maybe he learns humility and a new trust in the strange ways of providence.

The book is somewhat uneven. The supporting characters intrude at times, and perhaps the cast and crew of the story are too varied, with minor characters neglected and other minor characters intruding. However, the whole thing works well enough and it is a story worth re reading. It's unfortunate that Powers is not better known and that he did not complete more work. This one novel has more depth than at first sight--like Brideshead Re-Visited it is the story of God's providence working its way out in the depths of one man's life, and the result is surprising, inspiring and not a little bit disconcerting.

J. F. (James Farl) Powers (8 July 1917 Jacksonville, Illinois - 12 June 1999 Collegeville, Minnesota) was a Roman Catholic American novelist and short-story writer who often drew his inspiration from developments in the Catholic Church, and was known for his studies of midwestern Catholic priests. Powers was a conscientious objector during World War II and worked as a hospital orderly.[1]

  • 1947 — Prince of Darkness and Other Stories
  • 1949 — Cross Country. St. Paul, Home of the Saints.
  • 1962 — Morte d'Urban - novel
  • 1963 — Lions, Harts, Leaping Does, and Other Stories
  • 1969 — The Presence of Grace
  • 1975 — Look How the Fish Live
  • 1988 — Wheat that Springeth Green - novel
  • 1991 — The Old Bird, A Love Story
  • 1999 — The Stories of J. F. Powers

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thinking With the Church; a profile of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

Originally published in the Catholic magazine, Catholic World Report's February 2011 edition.
A profile of Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis

By Jeff Ziegler

The Archdiocese of Detroit suffered steep losses between 1966 and 1976: in just a decade, the archdiocese lost 179 diocesan priests, 160 religious-order priests, and 1,439 women religious, according to statistics published in the Annuario Pontificio. In 1976, representatives from every US diocese met in Detroit at the Call to Action conference. They passed resolutions calling for women’s ordination, expressing anguish over Humanae Vitae, and affirming the group Dignity in its dissent from Catholic teaching on homosexuality.

In this inauspicious climate, a Detroit-area native, born in 1947 and the second of six children, persevered in the seminary and served as a priest. Decades later, Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis is lauded by some and vilified by others for his robust defense of Catholic teaching, particularly on marriage.

“I have always striven, since the time of my ordination, to be very loyal to the Church,” Archbishop Nienstedt told CWR. “I try to lead by example in teaching, preaching, and addressing pastoral concerns. I believe that I do think with the mind of the Church and my hope, as our episcopal leader, is that others will follow that lead.”


In a 2004 column, Nienstedt recalled that in high school he “dated quite regularly,” and eventually “[fell] in love with a rather mature and beautiful young lady.” But the future prelate renounced his desire for marriage and family and entered the college seminary, receiving his bachelor’s degree from Detroit’s Sacred Heart Seminary in 1969. “The first two years of my college seminary experience were very disciplined in terms of a rule of life,” he recalls. “We had grand silence and were virtually under a rule of discipline seven days a week. During my junior and senior years in college, things began to loosen up. With those changes, there came difficulties with seminarians going out at night and some even dating while they were still in the seminary.”

The archbishop then attended major seminary at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. “When I got [there],” he says, “there was a rather loose structure in place. But we arrived with Bishop (and later Cardinal) James Hickey, who began to enforce a rule of life for all seminarians. I think that I was very fortunate that the seminary culture of my time was so supportive of my vocational discernment.”

Ordained to the priesthood in 1974, Father Nienstedt served as an associate pastor before going back to Rome to earn a licentiate in moral theology at the Alphonsian Academy. In 1977, he returned to Detroit to become secretary to Cardinal John Dearden, described as a “leading liberal voice in the Church” in his 1988 New York Times obituary.

“Cardinal Dearden was a very shy man, and I believe that he has been misjudged by those who did not appreciate the depth of his centrist views towards issues in the Church,” Archbishop Nienstedt says. “Having been his secretary, I can say he personally always thought ‘with the mind of the Church.’” In 1979, at the age of 32, Father Nienstedt was named vicar general of the 1.4-million member Archdiocese of Detroit.

The following year, as Cardinal Dearden retired, Father Nienstedt began five years of work at the Vatican, where he served as an official in the Secretariat of State while concurrently working as a hospital chaplain, a boys’ high school chaplain, and a First Communion instructor. While in Rome, he also earned a doctorate at the Alphonsian Academy, devoting his dissertation to the subjects of in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer.

Upon his return to Detroit, Father Nienstedt served as a pastor and moral theology instructor before Cardinal Edmund Szoka named him rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, a position he held from 1988 to 1994.

“One of the most challenging assignments that I ever had was being named as the rector of Sacred Heart Major Seminary at a time when corrections were needed in its education and formation programs,” the archbishop says. “With the grace of God, such needed reforms did take place.”

“Nienstedt was always faithful to the Church because he was always striving for the truth,” recalls Dr. Mark Latkovic, who has taught at the seminary since 1990. “I remember three challenges that he had to face as rector: dealing with the refounding of the seminary…; overseeing the multi-million dollar renovation of the seminary; and fighting the occasional outside opposition to the seminary being an institution faithful to the Magisterium,” Latkovic said. “It took great dedication, steely determination, and a pastoral heart to meet all of them.”

“For the faculty at Sacred Heart, the archbishop chose people who supported and promoted Church teaching,” adds Father Daniel Trapp, who joined the faculty in 1989. “That support and promotion are taken for granted these days, but required more fortitude and direction when Sacred Heart was being refounded.”

“I remember that the rector gave clear directions about expectations for priest faculty: we were to eat with the students, be at the house liturgies, pray with the students,” Father Trapp says. “[Nienstedt] wanted us to form a strong community among ourselves and with the students. Seminarians look to see whether the seminary faculty members walk the talk. The archbishop was very regular in making his own holy hour in the Eucharistic chapel, after morning prayer.”

In 1994, Cardinal Adam Maida named Msgr. Nienstedt pastor of the famed National Shrine of the Little Flower Parish in Royal Oak. Two years later, Pope John Paul II appointed him auxiliary bishop of Detroit.


In 2001, Pope John Paul II named Bishop Nienstedt the shepherd of the Diocese of New Ulm. The west-central Minnesota diocese had been led for a quarter-century by Bishop Raymond Lucker, a member of Call to Action who had reacted to a 1997 Vatican document on women’s ordination with the comment, “How can we support that which has no reasons?” The following year, Bishop Lucker publicly called for the ordination of married men as a solution to his diocese’s acute priest shortage.

“I met Bishop Nienstedt at the airport and drove him to New Ulm when he first came to visit the diocese,” recounts Msgr. Francis Garvey, who supervised the diocese’s seminarians during Nienstedt’s tenure there. Calling Nienstedt “a very prayerful, sincere man with great pastoral skills,” Msgr. Garvey says that “in working under his leadership, one of the things that quickly became evident was that he was in charge, and being the insightful, hardworking person that he is, you knew you had to meet his expectations, but he was always professional and respectful. Some staff and priests did not accept this.”

“Archbishop Nienstedt is remembered with fondness,” adds Father Todd Petersen, the diocese’s vocation director. “He is a warm and compassionate man, a man of the Church, with a love of Christ. Unfortunately, he has his detractors. Without fail, though, they have an agenda, preconceived ideas, or a stance that is not exactly that of the Church.”

“He is a man who gets things done,” notes Msgr. Garvey, who credits Archbishop Nienstedt with launching the permanent diaconate and restarting Catholic Charities in the diocese. “From the day of his installation, he challenged all of us to join him in not eating meat on Fridays to promote vocations to the priesthood.… He instilled in all of us [an awareness of] the crisis we faced and a solution to the problem.”

“Archbishop Nienstedt took personal interest in the seminarians, calling them, sending them notes to encourage their continued discernment,” adds Father Petersen. “When any seminarian discontinued, he remained in contact. One returned and in fact was ordained in July.”

“My biggest and most profound memory of then-Bishop Nienstedt was the last confirmation at St. Boniface in Stewart [a town of fewer than 600 people],” says Alejandro Barraza, now coordinator of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Fresno. “The class consisted of a handful of young people. On the day of the confirmation, there had been a very bad snowstorm. We all thought he was not going to be able to come…but as bishop he felt that his sense of commitment was stronger than the weather, and he enlisted the help of his Lutheran neighbor to dig him out of the snow, and he made it to the confirmation on time. I was very impressed by his willingness to be present, even to a small group of young people.”

In his six years in New Ulm, Bishop Nienstedt addressed a wide range of topics in his diocesan newspaper columns, from the Decalogue and the sacred liturgy to poverty and immigration. Father Petersen tells CWR that Bishop Nienstedt

appropriately disciplined a priest who attempted concelebrating Mass with Protestant pastors, limited the use of general absolution by teaching about the personal encounter with Christ in the sacraments, and correctly taught about the bishop’s role in presiding at Liturgy of the Hours and Mass in retreats and pastoral leader gatherings. He was accused of contradicting his predecessor, Bishop Lucker. Those with a sense of the Church would realize that Bishop Nienstedt was teaching with the Church.

Archbishop Nienstedt, for his part, speaks charitably of his predecessor in New Ulm. “Bishop Lucker believed that some of the disciplines of the Church could change—for example, the ordination of celibate men only,” the archbishop said. “Yet, at the same time, he was very intent on making sure that the youth of the diocese were properly catechized. He also never allowed the tabernacle to be moved from the back wall behind the altar. He argued that our rural churches were Eucharistic chapels. There were many other helpful policies that this bishop put in place during his 25 years as ordinary. He told me, before he died, that he had always been a loyal son of the Church.”


Pope Benedict appointed Bishop Nienstedt as coadjutor archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2007. The following year, he succeeded Archbishop Harry Flynn.

Archbishop Nienstedt inherited an archdiocese with pockets of vocal dissent; in 2006, for example, 28 priests had blasted Archbishop Flynn for his support of a state marriage amendment. “I believe that the dissent and theological speculation of the 60s and 70s is on the wane,” Nienstedt says. “I have seen a coming together of priests, deacons, and seminarians to support the teaching Magisterium of the Church. I am optimistic for the future, knowing that the Church is always in a state of being reformed, being ever purified, being ever perfected. True, there continue to be dissenting voices within the Church, but I see a number of those literally dying out…I believe the new ‘springtime’ predicted by the great Pope John Paul II can be seen on the horizon.”

A harbinger of this springtime is the culture of vocations that has developed in the archdiocese over the past decade. The archdiocese, which boasts one of the highest ratios of seminarians to Catholics of any similarly large diocese in the country, has had at least 62 seminarians each of the past four years.

“My predecessor, Archbishop Flynn, was very intentional about getting to know the seminarians and their families and showing interest in them,” says Archbishop Nienstedt. “I have tried to do the same.… We encourage our pastors to be proactive in identifying young men whom they think may have a vocation. I have to admit that our younger priests are more intentional about this than some of our older priests.”

“Once a year,” he adds, “I have a retreat at our archdiocesan retreat house for those who have shown interest in pursuing discernment. This year, we had 22 young men make that retreat…I meet individually with each man.”

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as in the Diocese of New Ulm, Nienstedt has addressed problems, provoking the opposition of media and dissenting Catholics:

• Archbishop Nienstedt’s support of Courage, an organization that helps those who struggle with same-sex attractions to live chastely, provoked the wrath of the local Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities. “[Retired Archbishop] Harry Flynn came to us…in the late 1990s and asked us to serve as resource people for the Church,” the committee’s executive coordinator Michael Bayly told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Now “the archdiocese won’t even take our phone calls.”
• Under the archbishop’s leadership, the archdiocese issued a new speaker policy for all Catholic institutions in the archdiocese. “The speaker’s writings and previous public presentations must also be in harmony with the teaching and discipline of the Church,” the policy states. “A priest who left the ministerial priesthood without dispensation would not be eligible for consideration. Those in irregular marriages or those living a lifestyle at variance with Church teaching would also not be eligible.”
• A month after becoming archbishop, Nienstedt ordered St. Joan of Arc Parish to stop hosting its annual “LGBT Pride Prayer Service.” The Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities denounced the decision as “yet another volley of dehumanizing spiritual violence directed at GLBT persons and their families under Archbishop Nienstedt’s reign of homophobic hatred.”
• When the University of Notre Dame announced it would award President Barack Obama an honorary degree, Archbishop Nienstedt wrote “to protest this egregious decision.… It is a travesty that the University of Notre Dame, considered by many to be a Catholic university, should give its public support to such an anti-Catholic politician.… Please do not expect me to support your university in the future.”
• In 2010, the archdiocese stated that a “synod” organized by the local Catholic Coalition for Church Reform was not legitimate, and emphasized the “need to shun any contrary doctrines, and instead to embrace and retain, to safeguard reverently and expound faithfully, the doctrine of faith and morals proposed definitively by the Magisterium of the Church.”
• Archbishop Nienstedt has denied Holy Communion to Rainbow Sash Alliance members and students from St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict who publicly manifested their dissent from Catholic teaching on homosexuality. “With regard to the dialogue you request, it would first be essential that you state clearly that you hold with the conviction all that the Church teaches on matters of human sexuality,” he wrote the head of Rainbow Sash Alliance USA. “If you do not believe, then there cannot be dialogue, but only debate. The truths of our faith are not open to debate.”

In fall 2010, Archbishop Nienstedt faced vocal opposition because of his efforts to explain Catholic teaching on marriage and to encourage the passage of a state marriage amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. In September, with the assistance of an anonymous donor, the archdiocese mailed a DVD to 400,000 Catholic households. The archbishop’s efforts in defense of marriage were met with public criticism by Father Michael Tegeder, one of his parish priests, and Lucinda Naylor, the Minneapolis co-cathedral’s artist in residence.

“I defended my dissertation on the moral dimensions of in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer in 1984,” the archbishop reflects. “In 1984, I could not have foreseen the increasing distance that our society would move in a direction away from a natural law ethics, especially in regard to the legalization of so-called same-sex marriages, stem-cell research, and especially the question of late-term abortions.”

“In my recent attempt to catechize our Catholic people on the question of the theology of marriage, I have been quite surprised at the overt rejection to the teaching of the Church by a number of people who consider themselves good Catholics,” he added. “They appear to have been seriously impacted by the secularization of our time and the influence of the media. For example, when the media scooped the mailing of our DVD on marriage, the most hostile letters I received were within the first week of the media announcement. The DVD did not actually arrive in the homes of our Catholic people until later because we had sent it bulk mail in order to save money. This indicated to me that the people who wrote such negative commentaries had not even viewed the DVD before condemning it…I never thought that I would see in my lifetime a new persecution of the Church in this country. But there are signs around us that this is certainly a possibility.”

In the midst of these concerns, Archbishop Nienstedt continues to be praised for his care for individual souls. “One popular program that Archbishop Nienstedt established in the fall of 2007 when he was coadjutor archbishop is lectio divina, the ancient tradition of praying with Scripture,” says Father Dennis Dease, president of the University of St. Thomas. “The archbishop participates in these reflection-and-prayer sessions in our university chapel one Sunday evening a month during the academic year. That is an extraordinary commitment of his time and reveals not only his dedication to this time-honored practice, but also his pastoral concern for helping students find meaning in the Word of God.”

“I know that he truly cares about each and every [person] of the archdiocese, and wants to make sure that they are getting the spiritual nourishment that they need,” adds Father Alex Carlson, a newly ordained priest. “As a result of this, he tries to get to know all of the priests and seminarians so that he can know who is ministering to the flock.… He always came and celebrated a Mass for us and would have lunch with the seminarians afterwards. Eventually, it felt like he really knew me, and I know that he truly cares for my well-being, and the well-being of the people that I serve.”

Mary Ann Kuharski, director of Prolife Across America and mother of a seminarian, adds:

Wherever he is, he gives 100 percent of himself.… He’s found time to attend prayerful protests in front of abortion establishments, such as the new mega-million-[dollar] Planned Parenthood facility in St. Paul, as well as offer closing prayer at a recent 40 Days for Life rally. His priorities are clear and most everyone in this archdiocese knows it: he’s traditional, centered in prayer, and deeply committed to supporting family and life issues. I heard through the “seminary grapevine” that on the morning he was named archbishop, he was ringing the seminary doorbell at 6:00 AM to pray a holy hour with the seminary students, something he still finds time to do every month! … We are grateful and blessed indeed to have such a wonderful shepherd guiding us.

Jeff Ziegler writes from North Carolina. This article appears in the February 2011 issue of CWR.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

St. Mary's U of Winona & Mpls teams up with NPR's Fred de Sam Lazaro


PBS NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from what he calls the "global south," but lives in Highland Park, and has a new Winona-based funder: St. Mary's University.

It's not every journalist in these economically stressed times who can find a university benefactor, but for De Sam Lazaro (disclaimer: MinnPost board member), it's the second.

Fred de Sam Lazaro

Collegeville-based St. John's was an earlier partner for Under-Told Stories, de Sam Lazaro's reporting/teaching project. He would travel to places like Sudan, PBS viewers would see the results, and students at St. John's would get a literally real-world seminar every fall.

Why the move to St. Mary's? "I forgot to write in my contract that the president not die," de Sam Lazaro says.

He had a personal relationship with then-St. John's president Dietrich Reinhart, a dedicated internationalist who resigned in 2008 because of health concerns and died months later. "It happened during an economic downturn, the embrace of the program wasn't there any more," says de Sam Lazaro, whose relationship with the school ended last year.

St. Mary's is funding Under-told Stories at a bigger scale — about a quarter of the project, with the bulk coming from the NewsHour, he explains. The idea is to bring back material that is "valuable in the classroom, anecdotes that don't make it into stories. It's not the same as textbook learning — we speak plain English, and the method seems to appeal to students."

St. Mary's — like St. John's, a Catholic school — offered a couple of differences. St. Mary's Minneapolis campus is 81 miles closer to de Sam Lazaro's front door than Collegeville, and the grad-school student body at that Phillips neighborhood campus includes many émigrés from Under-told Stories countries. (The school also has a Nairobi campus.)

"On balance, it's certainly true that St. Mary's in Phillips is more reflective of the world we go to compared to St. John's, which is much less diverse," de Sam Lazaro says. "But on an intellectual level, there's appeal to both places. It was good to reach behind the 'Pine Curtain,' as they say [at St. John's], but at St. Mary's, the presence of students from around the world changes the interaction."

De Sam Lazaro — whose formal title is Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership — says he's out of country about eight to ten days a month. The Under-told Stories roster features stories from Pakistan, India, Israel, Jordan, Cambodia, South Africa and Kenya — and that was only the last half of 2010.

Not bad for a guy who worked for KTCA's "Almanac" for two months in 1985 before becoming PBS's upper Midwest bureau chief, de Sam Lazaro's eventual gateway to the world.

"We try to make the foreign less foreign," he says of Under-told Stories. "Why are we engaged with Malawi, with the Congo, what relevance is there to us as Americans, as Minnesotans? Not just in a moral vacuum, but in terms of economic and security interests, what opportunity there is for students. We also look at social entreprenuerialism as a way to look at the world's problems. We're not sugar-coating stories, but we're casting things as solutions-oriented." MinnPost, David Brauer

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Divine Mercy Conferences Feb 19 - 23 Fatherl Seraphim Michalenko and Paul Regan


The Core of the Divine Mercy Message and The Importance of Divine Mercy Sunday
Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, is an internationally recognized authority on the “Divine Mercy Message and Devotion”. He served for twenty years, including many years in Rome, as Vice Postulator in Saint Faustina’s Cause for beatification and canonization. Father Michalenko is a member of the Con-gregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception and resides at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The Marians have been the promoters of the authentic message of “Divine Mercy” since 1941 and are the publishers of the Diary of Saint Faustina in many languages.

Praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the Sick and the Dying
Paul Regan is a Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy. He is the founder of the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the Sick and Dying, a world-wide Eucharistic devotion given papal approval and a per-sonally signed apostolic blessing by Pope John Paul II. Paul is a frequent guest speaker on Catholic Relevant Radio and he is an EWTN participant in the Cenacle of the Divine Mercy. He is an esteemed conference speaker and he has spoken on the Divine Mercy message throughout the world.

Saturday, Church of Saint Anthony February 19 2405 1st Street North | Saint Cloud, MN 56303-4307 | (320) 252-0535
Talks: 12:30 – 2:45 p.m. Father Michalenko, MIC, will hear confessions at 3 p.m. and concelebrate Mass at 4:30 p.m.

Sunday, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity February 20 605 North State Street | New Ulm, MN 56073-1866 | (507) 354-4158 Talks following the 9:30 a.m. Mass Rolls and beverages provided

Sunday, Church of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton February 20 2035 West 15th Street | Hastings, MN 55033 | (651) 437-4254
Talks following the 6 p.m. Mass

Monday, Church of Saint Bonaventure February 21 901 East 90th Street | Bloomington, MN 55420-3801| (952) 854-4733
Father Michalenko, MIC, will be the main celebrant for the Mass Talks following the 8:45 a.m. Mass Rolls and beverages provided

Tuesday, Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine of La Crosse, WI February 22 5250 Justin Road | La Crosse, WI 54602 | (608) 782-5440 Talks 9:30 a.m. Mass: 12:15 p.m.

Wednesday, Church of Saint Joseph February 23 1138 Seminole Avenue, West St. Paul, MN 55118 | (651) 457-2781 (Paul Regan ONLY) Talk following the 7:30 a.m. Mass Rolls and beverages provided

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fr. Larry Richards to be Keynote Speaker at St. Cloud Men's Conference on Sat, Feb 26


The Diocese of St Cloud diocese having a Catholic Men's Conference on Saturday, February 26, from 8-4:30PM at St John's University. The keynote speaker is Father Larry Richards, who you may have heard on Relevant Radio. He is a very dynamic and direct speaker.
I believe the sign up ends today, Feb 14, but if you call the number below, and speak with a lady named Jan, I'm sure that arrangements can be made for extending the deadline.
Please register online or send your name, address, phone, email, parish name, whether you need special accommodations, and fee to:
Office of Marriage & Family / CMC
305 7th Ave N, Suite 100
Saint Cloud, MN 56303-3633
Questions: 320-252-4721

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Abp. Nienstedt: Letter to the Star Tribune on Abortion

Abortion editorial

Board got it wrong, board got it right

I write to express my concern and dismay regarding the Star Tribune's Feb. 8 editorial "Reject new limits on abortion rights."

I agree that reasonable people may differ over abortion based on health, moral, religious and privacy concerns. I cannot, however, agree with the idea that the taking of an innocent life is a woman's right.

The 1973 Supreme Court decision wasn't based on a "woman's right to choose" but rather on the right to privacy. I believe that it is misleading to suggest this decision affirms that, if a woman wants to have an abortion, taxpayers are expected to pay for it.

While it is reasonable to affirm a person's right to basic health care, it's also misleading to say that an elective abortion is a health issue.

Citizens do disagree on civil and legal matters, and when they do, legislative bodies react to their constituents. This is the process we are now seeing played out in Minnesota.

It's democracy at its best.


The writer is archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Crusader: Theresa Deisher once shunned religion for science. Now, with renewed faith, she is fighting human-embryonic-stem-cell research in court

Theresa Deisher was 17 years old the first time she saw a human fetus. Having graduated from the Holy Names Academy in Seattle, Washington, in 1980, she had taken
a summer job in the pathology lab at the city’s Swedish Hospital when a friend and co-worker miscarried in her fifth month of pregnancy. The fetus arrived fixed in
formalin, and Deisher helped to section it to determine the cause of the miscarriage. The body hardly seemed to be the remains of a sentient, soul-bearing human, as the faith of her upbringing had taught, recalls Deisher.

Instead, “It looked like a space alien,” she says. “I called it ‘the thing’ for so many years.”

Thirty years later, Deisher sees the unborn in a different light. She has reversed her views on embryos and become one of two plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in 2009, seeking to stop the US government from funding human-embryonic-stem-cell research. The courts hearing the case could issue a decision at any time; many, including Deisher, expect that the matter will end up before the US Supreme Court.

Deisher’s co-plaintiff, James Sherley, an adult-stem-cell scientist at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute in Watertown, Massachusetts, is well known as a provocateur. In 2007, he went on a hunger strike to protest against a decision by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge to deny him tenure, which he attributed to racism.

Deisher is less well known. A cellular physiologist educated at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, she spent 17 years in the biotech industry at companies including Genentech, Immunex and Amgen. Three years ago, she founded a tiny, privately held Seattle firm called AVM Biotechnology — the name is a loose abbreviation for ‘Ave Maria’ — which is dedicated to hastening adult-stem-cell therapies to the market, and to developing alternatives to vaccines and therapeutics made using cell lines from aborted fetuses. She has also launched a non-profit group, the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute, which among other things is investigating, as she puts it, “the potential link between human DNA in childhood vaccines and autism”.

Deisher, who is 48 and goes by the name Tracy, is smart, driven and committed. A devout Catholic and a divorced mother of two boys aged 9 and 12, she rises as early as 3:45 a.m. to ride an exercise bike while praying the rosary. She is casual and unpretentious, with a dry humour and a can-do attitude: she spent New Year’s Eve laying carpet in the 180-square-metre office space that her company recently moved into. See the rest of this important profile published in Nature magazine here.

The Skin Gun: Burn Victims Sprayed With their own Adult Skin Cells; One Healing in Four Days


Friday, February 4, 2011

274 Catholics from archdiocese attend largest March for Life ever in Washington


Archbishop John Nienstedt stands with Nancy Schulte, left, and Genevieve McCarthy, a senior at Providence Academy in Plymouth, during the rally on the National Mall before the march. Schulte works in the archdiocesan Office for Marriage, Family and Life, which organized the trip from the archdiocese.

It took a 26-hour bus ride, a student conference and a national march of more than 400,000 people for Nicholas Vance, 14, to realize the pro-life movement is more alive than he previously thought — much more alive.

“Before this, I thought, ‘Oh, wow, there’s only a couple of people I know who are pro-life,’” he said. “But when I see today, and see the hundreds of thousands of people who were walking with us and supporting life, I was just amazed that there are that many people who feel the same way — that abortion is wrong.”

Vance was sitting in the grass near the Library of Congress, the late afternoon sun backlighting the Capitol dome behind him. His coat was unzipped, despite the below-freezing temperatures. A parishioner from St. Joseph in West St. Paul, he was one of the 274 Catholics from the archdiocese who participated in the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 24.

The annual march commemorates the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states.

The march began with a noon rally on the National Mall where speakers, including members of Congress, urged marchers to support pro-life legislation. Marchers then walked along Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court building holding signs while praying, singing and chanting pro-life slogans.

Andrea Gibbs, 29, youth minister at St. Wenceslaus in New Prague, holds a “stop abortion now” sign while standing with members of her parish during the rally. She is excited to see her youth passionate about protecting life, she said.

The March For Life organization estimates the 2011 event was the largest march ever, exceeding the estimated 400,000 participants who attended in 2010, said its president Nellie Gray.

The archdiocesan group included marchers from 17 parishes, four Catholic high schools, and Community of Christ the Redeemer, a Catholic lay group whose members attend various parishes. The archdiocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Life sponsored the trip. Archbishop John Nienstedt joined the group for the rally on the Mall.

The first March for Life began in 1974, one year after Roe v. Wade. It fashioned itself after the marches on Washington that united civil rights activists in the previous decade.

As the annual march’s crowd has grown in number, it has also grown younger.

Bryan Kemper, the founder and president of the pro-life organization Stand True Ministries, estimates that 70 percent of the marchers are young people today. Most of the participants from the archdiocese were high school students and their chaperones.

Others included first-year theology seminarians from St. Paul Seminary and archdiocesan priests.

“Young people have a light in their soul that can be ignited in this kind of atmosphere,” said Mary Ann Porter, a parishioner at St. Henry in Monticello who accompanied her 16-year-old son, Luke. “This is about activism, which is in the heart of every young person.”

Pro-life preparation

The day before the march, students attended a daylong student conference hosted by Students for Life of America, a national organization that supports campus pro-life groups. Although most of the attendees were college-aged, Afua Paintsil, 16, a junior at Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in St. Louis Park, was glad she was there.

“I’ve learned so much,” she said over lunch on Sunday, after hearing the first four speakers.

Seminarians Jon Freidhof, left, Colin Easton and Blake Rozier walk with a pro-life sign during the annual March for Life. Friedhof studies for the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., Easton for the Diocese of Rockford, Ill., and Rozier for the Diocese of Duluth. They attended the march with other first-year theology students from St. Paul Seminary.

“I’m someone who learns well from being shocked, and I’ve been shocked a lot,” said Paintsil, who attends St. Mary of the Lake in Plymouth. “That’s how you have to teach our generation.”

She added: “We have a mindset that things aren’t a big deal; that it doesn’t concern me so I don’t have to worry about it. We are a pretty selfish generation.”

Yet, the conference drew 1,800 high school and college students, which may be the world’s largest pro-life student rally, SFLA executive director Kristan Hawkins told the crowd. Throughout the conference, speakers asked participants to stand up for the unborn children and mothers who have been affected by abortion. Students heard speakers who described the horror of abortion, the power of adoption, and what students can do to help save unborn children’s lives.

“We’ve been told that abortion is a complex question — it’s not,” Scott Klusendorf, president of the Colorado-based Life Training Institute, told the crowd. The only question that matters is, what is the unborn? If the answer is human — and science says it is — it’s wrong, he said.

Women do not undergo abortion by choice, Mike Schwartz, chief of staff to U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said in one of the afternoon breakout sessions. “Abortion is what happens when women run out of choices.”

Aly May, 14, and her mother, Maren, head toward the annual March for Life after attending Mass at the Verizon Center. A member of?St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi,?Aly is confined to a wheelchair because of a condition called spinal muscular atrophy. The Mays went to the march to remind others that being pro-life extends beyond protecting the unborn.

Pro-life U.S. congressmen Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.) also spoke at the conference.

“You will make a great impression on the Mall. It makes a difference to legislators,” Lipinski told the students, speaking about the next day’s march. “The pro-life movement is not going away; it’s only getting stronger.”

Friends having abortions

On Sunday evening, Hawkins presented the annual SFLA Defender of Life Award to Abby Johnson, a former clinic director of Planned Parenthood in Bryan-College Station, Texas.

Johnson left the abortion-providing organization in 2009, a year after receiving its employee of the year award. Johnson’s book describing her turn-of-heart, “Unplanned,” shot to the No. 8 bestseller on within 24 hours of its Jan. 15 release.

More than 4,000 abortions happen daily in the United States, Johnson, 30, told the students. “Who are we missing? Who’s not here because of abortion? Siblings? Cousins? Aunts? Uncles? Scientists? The first female president?” she asked.

Johnson urged students to speak out against abortion even though it can be unpopular.

“Guess what — your friends are having abortions,” she said. “They’ll never know they can reach out to you if you don’t reach out to them first.”

In Minnesota, 44 percent of abortions in 2009 were performed on women between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The statistics for 2010 have not yet been reported.

“Keep going. Keep fighting. We are going to be the ones who end abortion in this country,” Johnson said.

Attending Sunday’s conference inspired St. Wenceslaus in New Prague parishioner Steve Bohlke, 50, to make the decision to begin “sidewalk counseling,” or speaking to women entering a clinic for an abortion.

“It got my blood stirred up,” said Bohlke, who was a chaperone. Earlier in the day, he had heard speakers explain how to sidewalk counsel successfully, including what to say and what not to say, he added.

The conference also motivated St. Wenceslaus parishioner Mitch Gareis, 18, to be more passionate about the pro-life cause, and to be a leader, he said.

‘You will be the voice’

On Monday morning, the youth attended the annual Youth Concert and Mass for Life before heading to the march. Organizers split the event between two locations — the Verizon Center and the D.C. Armory — because it drew more than 27,000 thousand youth and adults, most of whom were Catholic. Members of the archdiocesan group worshiped at both sites.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston presided at the Masses. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, four archbishops — including Archbishop Nienstedt — 16 bishops and more than 200 priests were among those who concelebrated Mass at the Verizon Center.

“We will be the voice of those who were never allowed to speak, we will cast the vote that they were never able to make, and in about two hours we will march for those who were never allowed to take their first step,” said the homilist, Father Mark Ivany, parochial vicar at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Md.

He reminded those gathered that it wasn’t enough to just overturn Roe v. Wade, but that “our mission is to change the whole culture of our country.”

After the Mass, marchers made their way to the National Mall, picking up prepared posters dropped in stacks along the blocked streets. In the sea of people, marchers from the archdiocese recognized each other by their dark green knit hats embroidered with “March 4 Life, Jan. 2011” as they followed a blue flag with the archdiocesan crest.

Others held homemade signs, including some that pointed to adoption as an alternative to abortion.

“Thanks Mommy 4 Choosing Adoption,” declared the sign held by Divine Mercy of Faribault parishioner Tricia Anderson, 15.
St. John the Baptist in New Brighton youth minister Libby Dupont held a sign with a picture of her own 5-month-old adopted daughter, Magdalene, next to the words “Adoption is the answer.”

Seminarian David Gockowski, 24, described the march as “beautiful chaos.” It was the second time he had attended the national march. “Everyone is here representing their community, their church,” he said. “You realize that this is a great cause, and it’s bigger than we are.”

Attending the march and accompanying pro-life events made St. Joseph parishioner Micah Zimmerman, 14, think of abortion as a “holocaust,” he said. “I knew it was killing, but not like that,” he said. “Now I feel like doing something about it.” Catholic Spirit

Why Christianity lacks a Holocaust literature


Here’s a question that astute observers of the religious landscape find themselves asking these days, and which deserves a serious response: Why doesn’t Christianity have its own Holocaust literature?

By that, of course, no one means to minimize the absolute singularity of the Holocaust against the Jews during the Second World War, and the moral imperative of keeping that memory alive. Yet the question persists: Given the harrowing realities of Christian martyrdom during the 20th century, and the rising global tide of anti-Christian violence in the early 21st century, why isn’t there a budding genre of Christian analogs to Night by Elie Wiesel, or Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”?

(A rare example is the compelling 2010 French film “Of Gods and Men,” based on the assassination of a group of Trappist monks in Algeria in 2006. It’s too bad the movie wasn’t nominated for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the Oscars, which would have given it broader exposure to American audiences. The U.S. debut is Feb. 25.)

More broadly, why don’t attacks against Christians in places such as Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, India and Pakistan, to cite just a few recent examples, generate the same outrage among Christians in the West that similar oppression directed against followers of other faiths elicits among their coreligionists?

According to the German-based relief agency “Aid to the Church in Need,” fully 75 percent of all acts of religious intolerance in the world are directed against Christians. Yet in the court of popular opinion, the mythology persists that Christians are more likely to be the oppressors than the oppressed.

The most recent example of reticence came Tuesday, when the Foreign Ministers of Europe, meeting in Brussels, couldn’t agree on a specific reference to Christians in a declaration condemning religious persecution. The fact that Europe is the cradle of Christendom makes the omission not only ironic, but also an index of Europe’s ambivalence about its Christian heritage.

Without any pretense of being definitive, here are four factors I suspect are in play.

First, especially when it comes to Americans, the myopia of the broader culture is faithfully reflected in church circles. The roughly 67 million Catholics in the United States may represent just six percent of a global Catholic population of 1.2 billion, but you’d never know it by surveying most American Catholic books, blogs and newspapers, or even what’s bubbling in the pews. If something isn’t happening in the States, it’s often not perceived as a matter of Catholic concern.

Second, although Islamic radicalism has no monopoly on anti-Christian prejudice, it’s a primary incubator these days. As a result, concern for Christian persecution is often swept up into the broader politics of relations between Islam and the West, especially legitimate concern not to foment Islamophobia.

A recent controversy in the diocese of Springfield, Ill., illustrates the point.

In his Christmas Eve homily, Bishop Thomas Paprocki called the recent attacks on Iraqi Christians the latest chapter in a “centuries-long onslaught of Muslims against Christians.” Among other things, Paprocki appeared to support racial profiling in airport security, saying that if 83-year-old grandmothers get the same pat-downs and body scans as “Muslim Arabs from the Middle East,” then “we’re wasting a lot of time and money for nothing.”

“You can’t fight a war if you can’t identify the enemy,” Paprocki said.

The homily brought a Jan. 22 response from Viatorian Fr. Corey Brost in a local newspaper, arguing that “the vast majority of Muslims around the world live and preach” the values of peace and religious tolerance. Brost also warned that Paprocki’s argument could unintentionally stoke what he described as a spreading “hatred of Islam” in America.

Brost clearly endorsed Paprocki’s concern for Christians suffering persecution. Nonetheless, the dispute seemed to underline internal Catholic divisions, rather than to project a united front in defense of Christians in Iraq or anywhere else.

Third, some Christians in the West are hesitant about campaigns against anti-Christian persecution abroad because they’re often bundled with protests against purported anti-Christian bias at home, such as the so-called “War on Christmas,” or art exhibits, TV shows, and journalistic commentary which some pious souls find offensive. Other Christians find such complaints exaggerated, if not hysterical, and don’t feel represented by the people who voice them most loudly.

To put that point into Catholic terms, some people just don’t want to get behind the likes of Bill Donohue, whose Catholic League and its protests against the Smithsonian, “The Simpsons,” and other makers of culture both high and low, inspire applause in some quarters and a reflexive rolling of the eyes in others. In any event, the group is not in a position to speak on behalf of all Catholics about anti-Christian persecution or anything else.

A similar point could even be made about the U.S. bishops. Some Catholics these days read official statements from the bishops largely to find out what they’re supposed to be against.

Fourth, some social justice activists in the church find a specific focus on anti-Christian persecution overly sectarian. We should be in favor of religious freedom for everyone, they argue, not just Christians; and violence against anyone ought to engage our concern, no matter what their religious affiliation. They worry that a focus on Christians weakens the case for religious liberty by making it seem like special pleading or institutional self-interest, rather than a principled stand in favor of human rights.

These four points may add up to an explanation, but they are no excuse.

No matter what the causes, it’s appalling that the suffering of Christians around the world has not stirred the Christian conscience in the West to a greater degree. It’s especially shocking that American Christians have not reacted more strongly to anti-Christian violence in Iraq, given the responsibility the United States bears for creating the conditions in which that insecurity could metastasize.

Disappointment ought to be particularly acute among Catholics, since Catholicism prides itself on forming a communion of saints linked by bonds of solidarity that transcend both time and space.

Perhaps what the Christian world needs is precisely the call to conscience that a thoughtful, evocative Holocaust literature would elicit. May its moment come, and that right soon. National Catholic Reporter

Bishop Piche' Spoke and the Beth El Synagogue Congregation Applauded


On April 13, 1986, Pope John Paul II visited the Great Synagogue of Rome for Sabbath services. He became the first Pope – ever – to visit a synagogue. It was among a number of “firsts” for him in connection with the larger Jewish world which included making a formal Papal trip to Israel in March, 2000 and a visit to Auschwitz in 1979. He also issued in 1998: “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah.” The memory of Karol Jozef Wojtyla, the first Polish Pope – who lived through the Holocaust – is that of a good name which will endure throughout Jewish and world history.

In that spirit of Pope John Paul II, the Auxiliary Bishop Lee A. Piché, representing the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, visited Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park on January 29, 2011. He was warmly welcomed by the congregation and its Rabbis, Alexander Davis and Avi Olitzky.

Archbishops, bishops and other leading Catholic figures in the Twin Cities have long been visiting synagogues and paying their respects to their Jewish neighbors and congregations. Many Catholic institutions such as the Jay Phillips Center at the University of St. Thomas have long been involved in providing high level Jewish studies and dialogue between Catholics and Jews. The JCRC has for many years partnered with the Minnesota Catholic Conference (as well as with the Minnesota Council of Churches and Islamic Center of Minnesota) on Minnesota’s unique Joint Religious Legislative Coalition and with Catholic Charities, the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, and the St. Paul Area Council of Churches in support of Minnesota FoodShare. The relationship of Temple Israel and the Basilica of St. Mary’s – neighbors in Minneapolis – is a moving story of interfaith cooperation among congregations, as was the deep friendship of Rabbi Max Shapiro and Monsignor Terrence Murphy.

Building upon this foundation of Jewish-Catholic friendship in the Twin Cities, the JCRC (with the assistance of Father Erich Rutten of the University of St. Thomas) facilitated the giving of a d’var Torah (a commentary on the Torah portion) at a Beth El Synagogue Shabbat service. (Thank you to Beth El Synagogue and Rabbis Alexander Davis and Avi Olitzky for their openness and graciousness in providing their bima – pulpit – to Bishop Piché.)

Before even delivering the d’var Torah, Bishop Piché made a great and lasting impression upon the congregation – a Conservative synagogue founded in 1929 on the north side of Minneapolis. Rabbi Davis invited Bishop Piché to join the processional following the Torah which winds its way through the congregation at the conclusion of the Torah service. Following the Torah held by the Bat Mitzvah, Delia Koolick and the rabbis with the congregation singing a prayer, Bishop Piché exchanged warm greetings with congregants – many of whom were eager to shake his hand and welcome him to Beth El. Wearing his Bishop’s cassock, zucchetto (skull cap) and pectoral cross, Bishop Piché appeared as much at home in the Beth El sanctuary under the stained glass depicting Isaiah’s vision of beating swords into plowshares as he might be at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Metaphorically, it represents the distance traveled between Jews and Catholics in the Twin Cities. (Capture the scene in your mind’s eye because there are no photographs or videotape due to the observance of Shabbat prohibitions in the synagogue.)

Following the Torah processional, Bishop Piché ascended the bima and stood before the Aron Hakodesh – the holy ark – as the Torah was returned to it. Respectfully, the Bishop stood with the congregation as Etz Chaim (“Tree of Life” representing the Torah) was sung. From a few feet behind the Bat Mitzvah, the Bishop heard Ms. Koolick recite her special Bat Mitzvah prayer.

A few minutes later, Rabbi Davis welcomed Bishop Piché to the Beth El bima with his interpretation of a passage for interfaith relationships. (Please click here for comments from Rabbi Davis.)

Bishop Piché then delivered his d’var Torah – a talk/homily/sermon about the meaning of the Shabbat Torah portion. (Each Shabbat a different parseh – portion – is read in the synagogue chanted by the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and other congregants.) The Torah portion was Mishpatim which Bishop Piché interpreted with evident study and reflection demonstrating great erudition, faith, love for God and gentle flashes of warm humor. This brought smiles to the faces of a rapt congregation – there was barely a whisper, cough or sound as the congregants listened intently.

Here are a few highlights of the Bishop’s d’var Torah which does not do justice to the experience of hearing the d’var Torah at Beth El in the “House of God”, Beth El’s English translation. (Please click here for the text of Bishop Piché’s d’var Torah.):

  • Dayenu, it would have been enough to be welcomed to the synagogue but I’ve been given the honor of commenting on the “very word of God. This is truly a great honor.”;
  • I feel connected to you because we have a shared reverence for the word, the divinely revealed truth that comes from God;
  • The revelation and discussion of rules in the Torah portion – Mishpatim – stands out in our society where people increasingly flout the rules. Moreover, acceptance of rules also “implies a living relationship with the law giver” – this provides for closeness and communion with God;
  • The rules of Mishpatim are also an expression of a covenantal relationship with God. The rules of Mishpatim are also about “protecting and advancing the relationships within the human community – creating an environment of peace, trust and security in which human life can prosper.”;
  • The importance of the rules of Mishpatim in breaking cycles of violence and cycles of greed.

Take time to read the Bishop’s d’var Torah. This summary paraphrasing does not do it justice.

Concluding with the words “[f]or you welcomed the stranger into your midst today. Not only did you not oppress the stranger, but quite to the contrary you honored him.” Bishop Piché finished his d’var Torah. There was a moment of silence – then, a loud round of applause.

This is highly unusual – indeed, rare – during a Shabbat or holy day service for it is not consistent with decorum in the sanctuary on these days. Spontaneously, though, this reservation was temporarily set aside in favor of expressing deep appreciation for the special visit and important and indelible words spoken. Indeed, the Bishop spoke and the congregation applauded.

As Rabbi Olitzky noted:

“I was warmed to see how "at home" Bishop was speaking from the bima. There was a very present and strong connection to a sense of kodesh/kedushah (holiness) within our shared scriptural tradition--one that I'm not sure members of the Jewish community usually recognize. However, in Bishop Piche's presentation of the text, it was clear we are brothers in faith and in peace. And in the world today, for the Church to be a true friend of the Jewish community speaks volumes--some of which the Bishop eloquently relayed on this past Shabbat morning.”

In this vein, Father Rutten commented:

“Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have both been clear that we consider Jews to be our elder brothers and sisters in the faith.

While it is obvious intellectually that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, I suspect we don't know very deeply just what this means. My attendance at the Shabbat service gave me a greater glimpse at who Jesus really is. As Bishop Piché said, we begin to feel a great closeness to our Jewish brothers and sisters.

It is a tremendous joy when tensions are relieved and when strangers become friends. When the congregation applauded I felt a great sense of gratitude and relief and hope that even more can be done.

At this time, when it seems that tensions seem to be rising all over the world between people of differing faiths, it is important that we not allow extremists and/or the media to get in the way of face to face, neighbor to neighbor, relationship building.”

I had the honor of thanking Bishop Piché after his d’var Torah. I told the Bishop we were praying for the safety of all people in the Middle East during this time of upheaval including Christians who have been subject to persecution and terrorism in the cradle of Christianity where Christians have lived since antiquity.

Then it was my turn to smile as I presented gifts to Father Piché – first, a book by the great Rabbi and philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel (who marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham). Next, I told the story about Bishop Piché teaching me the name for Bishop Piché’s skullcap – zucchetto – Italian for “little gourd.” I then presented Bishop Piché with a skullcap which we, Jews, call a yamulke or kippah. And with a smile, Bishop Piché carefully removed his zucchetto and donned his kippah. Star Tribune

Georgetown's CARA survey reports on recent women religious vocations

The typical newly-professed woman religious is a 43-year-old cradle Catholic who prayed the Rosary and participated in retreats and Eucharistic adoration before entering religious life, according to a survey released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

583 major superiors of US women religious responded to the survey, which was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. 79% of superiors who belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (which is under Vatican investigation) responded to the survey, while 58% of superiors who belong to the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious (which emphasizes fidelity to the Magisterium and the wearing of a habit) responded. Only 31% of superiors of contemplative communities responded to the survey.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 84% of superiors reported no new religious professions in 2010, while 13% reported only one
  • 64% of newly-professed women religious came from families with four or more siblings
  • 13% of the newly professed are converts, typically from Protestantism
  • 62% are white, while 19% are Asian and 10% are Hispanic
  • 71% were born in the US, while 14% were born in Mexico, the Philippines, or Nigeria; the typical foreign-born newly-professed religious entered the US in 1993
  • 51% attended a Catholic elementary school, while only 26% attended a Catholic college; 7% were home schooled
  • 59% have at least a bachelor’s degree
  • 20% participated in one of the World Youth Days, and 6% participated in a Franciscan University of Steubenville conference as a high school student
  • 74% had attended a retreat before entering religious life, 65% regularly prayed the Rosary, and 64% regularly took part in Eucharistic adoration
  • the typical newly professed woman religious began to consider a religious vocation at the age of 20, was familiar with her institute for six years before entrance, and made her profession at the age of 43
  • 51% reported that a parent or family member discouraged them from entering religious life; only 26% said their mother encouraged them to consider a religious vocation, and an even smaller 16% said their father encouraged them to consider a vocation
  • 52% say they were encouraged by a religious sister to consider religious life, 44% by a friend, and 39% by a parish priest

    Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

  • Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Who says young Catholics don't go to church? In Texas they do!

    Where can you find a Catholic chaplaincy
    at an institution of higher learning that's looking to expand its church to seat 1,400, because the current 850 seats just aren't enough?

    South Bend, Indiana, perhaps? Well, no, actually: College Station, Texas, where the Catholic chaplaincy at Texas A&M, St. Mary's Catholic Center, is setting a new national standard for Catholic campus ministry.

    Aggie Catholicism is something to behold. Daily Mass attendance averages 175; there were closer to 300 Catholic Aggies at Mass on a weekday afternoon when I visited a few years back. Sunday Masses draw between 4,000 and 5,000 worshippers. There are ten weekly time slots for confessions, which are also heard all day long on Monday. Eucharistic adoration, rosary groups, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the traditional First Friday devotion are staples of Aggie Catholicism's devotional life.

    A rich retreat program is available, and each year some 1,250 students make or staff a retreat sponsored by St. Mary's. "Aggie Awakening," an adaptation of Cursillo for students, is one of the cornerstones of the campus ministry; other, specially designed programs include a silent retreat and a retreat titled "Genius of Women." In 2009-2010, 200 students participated in biweekly spiritual direction programs, and another 70 took part in the "Samuel Group," an exercise in Ignatian discernment that includes a commitment to curb what one campus minister describes as "unnecessary TV and Internet use." Two thousand A&M students, not all of them Catholics, have participated in introductory sessions exploring the theology of the body, and many have continued that exploration in follow-on study groups.

    Then there is service. Aggie Catholics participate in domestic and international missions, work with Habitat for Humanity, take part in a ministry to prisoners, and are involved in various pro-life activities. In fact, the 40 Days for Life program is an outgrowth of the Catholic campus ministry at Texas A&M; the national office of 40 Days is staffed by Aggie grads. The campus ministry also works with a local Life Center that helps mothers and families in difficult situations.

    All this energy has had a discernible effect on vocational formation and discernment. Since 2000, the campus ministry has averaged some nine students per year entering the seminary or religious novitiates; 132 Catholic Aggies have been ordained priests or made final religious vows in the past two decades. And then there is the vocation to marriage and family, which the campus ministry takes very seriously. Aggie Catholics are also a powerful witness to the rest of Aggieland: 175 new Catholics have entered the Church the past two years through St. Mary's RCIA program.

    The Catholic renaissance at Texas A&M is staffed by two full-time priests, three part-time and semi-retired deacons, one part-time priest, three full-time lay campus ministers, three sisters from the Apostles of the Interior Life, three part-time campus ministers, and four part-time student interns. That probably strikes many campus ministers as a rather large staff. In fact, the people who lead St. Mary's are stretched -- and they began where many others are today.

    Catholic campus ministry at Texas A&M is a striking example of "If you build it, they will come." The program is unapologetically orthodox. There is no fudging the demands of the faith. And yet they come, and come, and come, because Aggie Catholicism shows the campus a dynamic orthodoxy that is not a retreat into the past but a way of seizing the future and bending it in a more humane direction. The premise that informed Pope John Paul II's approach to students his entire life -- that young people want to be challenged to lead lives of heroic virtue, in which the search for love is the search for a pure and noble love -- is the premise that guides Catholic campus ministry at College Station.

    Texas A&M is a special place, culturally; in many respects, it seems to have skipped the 1960s, such that its 21st-century life is in palpable continuity with its past. That's a deeply Catholic cultural instinct, which St. Mary's has seized to build a program that is a model for the entire country. George Weigel, Inside Catholic

    Aggies? How come they call their students "Aggies?" Well, the official name of Texas A&M used to be "Texas Agriculture and Mining University," Texas' first public university, located in College Station, TX. That's why.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Abp. Thomas Gullickson, Papal Nuncius in the Caribbean, with sharp words about bishops who resist Summorum Pontificum.

    Archbishop Gullickson is originally a priest from Sioux Falls. He was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on 14 August 1950 and was ordained to the priesthood on 27 June 1976. He has a degree in Canon Law and speaks English, Italian, French and German.

    Archbishop Gullickson entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See on May 1, 1985 and has been appointed successively to the Diplomatic Missions in Rwanda, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Jerusalem and Palestine and Germany.

    Father Z's Emphases and Comments.

    Yesterday we saw with the help of Rorate and Messa in Latino that an Italian bishop had some things to say about other bishops who resist Pope Benedict’s visions and provisions.

    Today, our friends at NLM clue us in about the remarks of a Papal Nuncius concerning bishops and others who resist Summorum Pontificum.

    My emphases and comments:

    In his homily for last Sunday, January 30, 2011, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Antilles Islands, H.E. Most Rev. Thomas E. Gullickson [WDTPRS has written about the Archbishop before HERE. He is an American, a priest of Sioux Falls.], Titular Archbishop of Bomarzo, had some pointed remarks about bishops resisting the implementation of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum:

    Why, even three years after the issuance of Summorum Pontificum (just to name one example), are well-meaning lay folk still treated with such great disdain by no less than bishops, bishops in communion (of heart, soul, mind and strength?) with the Successor of St. Peter when they ask for Mass in Latin? Is this anything other than blind hypocrisy (the plank!)? [This is great... this should qualify him for instant promotion....] You tolerate no small amount of bad taste, bad music and caprice, while begrudging some few a port in the storm of liturgical abuse which seems not to want to subside? [And that "few" is slowly growing larger.] Can we be after His own Heart and not just claim to be members of Christ’s Body while still acting so at odds with the example set by the Holy One of God, meek and humble of heart? Such prelates are at counter or cross purposes to the sense in which the Church wants to go; they are ignoring what the Spirit is saying to the Churches and doing so with a backhand to some who are branded common and contemptible, but certainly not in the eyes of Christ… Let me say it more clearly! My issue is with the contempt shown for an outstretched hand, contempt such as would not be shown toward someone asking for some other benefit.

    When the Holy Father speaks of his will to see these two forms of the Roman Rite (ordinary and extraordinary) enrich each other, when he and others express eagerness for a recovery of the sense of the sacred in our churches and in how we worship, I am convinced that he has indicated the true nature of the rupture which has indeed occurred and needs to be mended or healed. You would think that those in communion with the Pope would seek to understand him and embrace his point of view. There is too much room for caprice and hence the need to reform contemporary Catholic worship. This is evidenced time and again, by way of one example, in the sense of helplessness many priests experience when confronted by musical groups moving into church with inappropriate repertoires, not to mention the dance and puppet troupes which should have been banished long ago. If a bishop does not want to discipline at least he can respect and foster those seeking good order. [This underscores how Summorum Pontificum was a huge gift to priests. It was the first document in a long time that actually did something concrete to help priests.]
    Archbishop Gullickson has spoken out repeatedly about both the usus antiquior and the reform of the reform; have a look at his thoughts here.

    He also implements these thoughts practically: In 2009, he began to exclusively celebrate Holy Mass ad orientem in the chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. See his detailed explanation here.