Friday, February 27, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 27

1. In case you missed it, Bishop John Wester said of the FCC vote on Net Neutrality yesterday, “The Internet is a critical medium for religious speech. Radio, broadcast television and cable television are, in large part, closed to noncommercial religious messages,” said Bishop Wester, who chairs the Communications Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “From the inception of the Internet until the mid-2000s, Internet service providers were not permitted to discriminate or tamper with what was said over those Internet connections. Today, the FCC restores this protection for speakers, protection particularly important to noncommercial religious speakers.”

2. During Lent, Pope Francis offers tips for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

3. Make sure you see and share the CRS Rice Bowl Lenten videos. We're sharing one a week on our social media.

4. As Black History Month comes to a close, make sure you see the people of African descent who are on the path to sainthood.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 26

1. Bishop David O'Connell of Trenton recently underwent an amputation of his foot after a struggle with diabetes. CBS3 in Philadelphia did this inspiring video report about his rehabilitation.

2. CRS Rice Bowl is one of the easiest ways people can give to people in need around the globe. Learn more about Rice and how you can start helping this Lent. It's not too late.

3. A recent profession class has people with very interesting life stories, including a sister who at one time worked with horses to learn how to help people with special physical needs.

4. Former ambassador Johnny Young retired yesterday after seven years as the head of Migration and Refugee Services at the USCCB. Read about his experiences both at the USCCB and in his extraordinary career.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 25

1. How's your Lenten journey going so far? Use our calendar to help keep you on track.

2. Pope Francis and the Roman curia are discussing superficial religiosity during their spiritual retreat.

3. In case you missed it yesterday, the USCCB spoke out about the vital need to protect religious minorities in the Middle East in the wake of horrific violence recently.

4. The bishops are concerned about the root causes that drive people to leave their homes and migrate to new places. The Senate Finance Committee is having a hearing tomorrow on trade deals and how they impact migration. In January, the bishops who chair the bishops’ Justice and Peace committees wrote a letter affirming the values that Catholics see as needing protection in such deals.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 24

1. In the wake of the brutal murders of twenty one Coptic Christians at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya, increased support to protect religious minorities and civilians should be combined with adequate humanitarian assistance and other assets, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

2. An interim final rule published by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services risks harmful effects on unaccompanied children resettled by the United States, according to comments filed by Catholic and Evangelical organizations and relief agencies. At issue is whether the rule adequately accounts for the religious and moral concerns of faith-based organizations. Regulations that may force those agencies to restrict their work could create an unmanageable backlog for services.

3. Archbishop Thomas Wenski, of Miami, wrote an op-ed in the Orlando Sun Sentinel about Pope Francis' upcoming encyclical on the environment. The USCCB's Cecilia Calvo looks at the Archbishop Wenski piece and Pope Francis' focus on combating a culture of waste.

4. Want to help Jesus in disguise? Join Catholics across the country by giving to the Catholic Relief Services Collection the weekend of March 14-15:

5. God loves you.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 19

1. Pope Francis spoke yesterday of the importance of ashes yesterday, saying, "We are limited creatures, sinners always in need of repentance and conversion. How important it is to listen and accept these reminders."

2. Bishop Denis J. Madden of the Archdiocese of Baltimore writes in America Magazine about prison addiction and how it impacts large numbers of people in today's cities.

3. Catholic News Service highlighted how Ash Wednesday and Lent have gone "high tech."

4. Make sure you use and share our Lent calendar to guide you along the way. .

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 18

1. Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Download this calender for daily inspiration and guidance as the journey begins.

2. As people get Ashes today, they are sharing photos on social media. Use #Ashtag, which is trending along with #AshWednesday and #Lent2015.

3. Pope Francis presided over Ash Wednesday Mass today in Rome.

4. Here are 10 Things to Remember for Lent from Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, former chairman of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.

5. God loves you.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Pope, Touchstone of Faith and Unity

(CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

By Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Early Sunday morning I watched our Holy Father, Pope Francis, give his Angelus talk – the comments he shares before praying the Angelus with the huge crowd – tens of thousands – gathered in Saint Peter’s Square each Sunday. Here, this enormously popular and revered successor to Peter spoke about the tenderness of Jesus, his loving compassion and at the same time our need to be caring and compassionate to our fellow human beings. The Holy Father clearly is admired not only by the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square but by people around the world. But apparently that admiration is not shared by all.

As I was watching the Holy Father on TV, my inbox was filling with a number of emails including an interview and an article by brother bishops who are less than enthusiastic about Pope Francis. Those emails reminded me of a much, much earlier time in my life when I first experienced dissent from the teaching and practice of a pope. As a young seminarian (20 years old) doing graduate work at The Catholic University of America, I read for the first time the encyclical letter of Saint John XXIII, Mater et magistra. Its teaching was not well received by some. One of the pundits offered the observation that became rather widespread in those circles, “Mater si, Magistra no,” – Latin for “Mother yes, Teacher no.”

Along with a number of my classmates, I remember being so scandalized by this rejection of the encyclical that we spoke to one of the priests at the seminary. He gently chided us for our naivety and pointed out that there has always been a current of dissent in the Church, some of it as high as the College of Cardinals. It was then that I first heard of Cardinal Louis Billot who was less than discrete in his opposition to Pope Pius XI who had condemned the political and religious movement, Action Française, which involved many people who longed for the restoration of the monarchy in France and a stronger role for the Church in civil government. In 1927, as the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it, Cardinal Billot “was persuaded to renounce his cardinalitial dignity.” Unhappiness with a Pope’s position on issues whether doctrinal, pastoral, canonical or as simple as clerical vesture, seems always to be present in some form. In 1963 Saint John XXIII again became the object of wrath of those who disliked his encyclical Pacem in terris, as did Blessed Paul VI for his encyclical, Populorum progressio in 1967 and certainly for his encyclical Humanae vitae in 1968. Dissent by some priests from the teaching in Humanae vitae led to their departure from priestly ministry.

On a much less important level, there was, nonetheless, considerable dismay among some in 1969 when the Secretary of State of Pope Paul VI issued an instruction concerning the vesture of bishops and cardinals. The effort to streamline and do away with things like the cappa magna (long outer garment of bishops and cardinals with a long, long train) upset some.

Even the short reign of Pope John Paul I was not without critique. Some wrote that they found his smile unbefitting a Pope since it diminished the gravitas (gravity or seriousness) of his office. One commentator lamented that this dear and kind Pope actually waved at people as he processed to celebrate Mass.

Then of course came Saint John Paul II. Everything he wrote had some critic whether it involved his social encyclicals such as Laborem exercens in 1981 or Sollicitudo rei socialis in 1987 or Centesimus annus in 1991 or his encyclical on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary effort, Redemptoris missio. There were some who continually criticized him for his travels even though he helped in his nearly 27 years as Pope revitalize the Church. Personally, I always found the criticism of Saint John Paul II particularly painful because I have such an affection and admiration for him. In fact, the brand new seminary in this archdiocese that was opened just a few years ago bears his name, Saint John Paul II Seminary.

I will not belabor the point by going through the critiques, challenges, disapproval and dissent that faced so much of what Pope Benedict XVI taught and published during his pontificate. Again, I find myself greatly perplexed at the negative critique of him whom I saw as such a good, brilliant and holy Shepherd of the Church.

Hardly then should we expect that Pope Francis would be immune from what appears to be something that “comes with the territory.”

One of the things I have learned though over all of these years since those early naïve days in 1961 is that on closer examination there is a common thread that runs through all of these dissenters. They disagree with the Pope because he does not agree with them and therefore follow their position.

Dissent is perhaps something we will always have, lamentable as it is, but we will also always have Peter and his successor as the rock and touchstone of both our faith and our unity.

Note: This entry first appeared on Cardinal Donald Wuerl's blog, Seek First The Kingdom and is reprinted with permission from the Archdiocese of Washington.

- See more at:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 13

1. A variety of resources to help Catholics observe Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, this year February 18, is being provided by the USCCB. With the theme “Raise Up. Sacrifice. Offer,” resources include video reflections on Lenten themes, a downloadable Lenten calendar with quotes from Pope Francis’ Message for Lent and other teachings and suggestions for taking an active approach to the three traditional pillars of Lenten observance: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

2. Last month, the Diocese of Burlington welcomed the blogging, social media savvy Bishop Christopher Coyne as their 10th bishop. Two weeks later, Vermont Catholic is now on Facebook.

3. Cardinals meeting at the Vatican discussed better ways to balance the responsibilities of local bishops and of the Roman Curia, said the Vatican spokesman.

4. In case you missed it, In a February 11 letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, urged the committees to intervene with the Israeli government regarding a plan to reroute the separation barrier through the Cremisan Valley in the West Bank. The plan, he said, ignores the rights and needs of the local community and would have “devastating consequences.”

5. God loves you.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 12

1. Congress should urge the government of Israel to halt unnecessary confiscation of Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank, a move that would help address the plight of Christian Palestinians in the Cremisan Valley and “renew hope for a just resolution to the conflict,” said the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the USCCB.

2. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone urged members of Congress to join in supporting the State Marriage Defense Act of 2015, saying, “Marriage needs to be preserved and strengthened, not redefined. Every just effort to stand for the unique meaning of marriage is worthy of support.”

3. Bishop Martin Holley, auxiliary bishop of Washington, celebrated a special Mass on Sunday, February 8 for the victims and survivors of human trafficking at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Photos by Matthew Barrick.

4. News.Va reports: "Pope Francis says the end goal of the reform of the Roman Curia is to harmonize work among the Vatican offices, to achieve a more effective collaboration and promote collegiality."

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 11

1. Catholic News Service reported on Pope Francis' talk about family responsibility, in which he said, "If a family that has been generous in having children is looked upon as a burden, something's wrong."

2.As we mark Black History Month, meet four American Catholics of African descent who may one day be saints.

3. In case you missed it yesterday, James Rogers was named executive director of public affairs here at the USCCB. “James Rogers brings a wealth of professional experience in public relations and communications management to the Conference,” Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, USCCB general secretary, said. “I am confident that his many gifts, coupled with his devotion to the Church, will be of valuable service to the bishops.”

4. Today is the World Day of the Sick. Pope Francis says, “Charity takes time, time to care for the sick and time to visit them. Time to be at their side”.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 10

1. James L. Rogers has been named executive director of Public Affairs for the USCCB. In this newly created role, Rogers will oversee the USCCB Office of Media Relations and will be responsible for the development and implementation of the USCCB’s external communications messaging, strategy and objectives. He begins his position on February 18.

2. USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz told people at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering today, “Our faith in Jesus Christ is more powerful than the throwaway society that threatens to overtake us. The farther you go to seek the forgotten, the closer you’ll be to the heart of Christ.” See more of his message at ToGoForth.

3. Tomorrow is the World Day of the Sick, which Pope Francis recently spoke about.

4. This past weekend saw religious houses celebrate open houses so people could see how they live their vocations. See a gallery here.

5. God loves you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 9

1. Pope Francis said today that protecting creation is a Christian responsibility.

2. The ongoing Catholic Social Ministry Gathering has great conversation happening on social media. Use the hashtag #togoforth.

3.Yesterday was International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking and more than 1,000 people were in attendance at a Mass in Washington. Watch this video from Bishop Richard Malone talking about trafficking as "a scourge of our time."

4. Pope Francis has told people to go into the margins and he did that today, visiting a shanteytown, much to the shock of the people there.

5. God loves you.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 6

1. Two recently enacted laws in the District of Columbia are “unprecedented assaults upon our organizations” and “violate the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association protected by the First Amendment and other federal law,” said representatives of a number of national and local organizations, including the USCCB, in a February 5 letter to Congress.

2. The annual Collection to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe will be held in most parishes on Ash Wednesday, February 18. The collection supports pastoral, educational and construction projects in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which were formerly under Soviet control.

3. The Sisters of Mercy profile our former colleague, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, and her struggle with cancer today. She says, “Mercy has jumped in from every corner to help me, in ways both large and small. I want for nothing.”

4. "Each one of us has a treasure inside," Pope Francis told young people during a Google Hangout. "If we keep it there, closed up, it will stay there. If we share it with others, the treasure will multiply with the treasures that come from others. What I want to ask of you is that you do not hide the treasure that each of you has."

5. God loves you.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 5

1. The Archdiocese of Washington released the following statement today: "It is a great honor and tremendous joy to welcome our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to the Archdiocese of Washington during his proposed pastoral visit to the United States in September. We rejoice with the announcement by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honorable John Boehner, today that Pope Francis will address a Joint Session of Congress, September 24, 2015. This historic event will be a time of grace for all of us. We also look forward to the official announcement of more details of the visit."

2. The pope said today that the Catholic Church must rid itself of the scourge of child sexual abuse. Also read the Catholic News Service story on this matter.

3. The pope held a Google Hangout with young people today.

4. There is a letter from Bishop Richard Malone calling attention to the messages of the movie "Fifty Shades of Grey," and referencing a memo from the Religious Alliance Against Pornography signed by several Catholic bishops. Bishop Malone says, "This is an opportunity for us to remind the faithful of the beauty of the Church's teaching on the gift of sexual intimacy in marriage, the great dignity of women, and the moral reprehensibility of all domestic violence and sexual exploitation." In case you missed it, Bishop Malone also recently highlighted the potential of National Marriage Week, which starts Saturday.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 4

1. Bishop Richard Malone says Catholics are presented with a opportunity to celebrate marriage next week.

2. Former Catholic Relief Services Board Chair and Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, frames the season of Lent by reflecting on our journey back to God.

3. Pope Francis said fathers must be examples of love and dignity for their children.

4. The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General has designated February 8 as an annual day of prayer and awareness against human trafficking. February 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 3

1. Pope Francis has approved the members of the 2015 Synod on the Family. U.S. representives include Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., conference president; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, host of the World Meeting of Families in September; Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston; and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles.

2. In breaking news this morning, Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero. Learn more about it in this story from Catholic News Service.

3. It’s the feast of St. Blaise, who is known for curing throat ailments. If you go to Mass today, you can receive the Blessing of St. Blaise. “Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from ailments of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

4. A documentary on the Second Vatican Council produced by Catholic News Service premiered at a Vatican movie theater last week. See the reactions in this new CNS video.

5. God loves you.

Monday, February 2, 2015

What You Might Be Surprised To Learn About Our New Religious

February 2, World Day for Consecrated Life, is a time for the Church to celebrate the gifts of men and women religious, especially during the Year for Consecrated Life, called for by Pope Francis. As in years past, the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocation commissioned a study of those who professed perpetual vows in religious communities in the United States in 2014.

Along with the statistical data of this report from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, this report gathered what could be called the surprising gifts of the Class of 2014. Heavily educated and diverse, respondents to the survey were asked to complete the prompt, "People might be surprised to learn that I..."

Here's what some of them said:

"...studied broadcasting before entering and I wanted to be a news reporter." - Sister Madeleine Schumacker, Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, Immaculate Heart of Mary Province

"...have had personal conversations with both "Weird Al" Yankovic and Richard Dawkins." - James Dominic (Alan Rooney), Dominican Friars (Order of Friars Preachers), Province of St. Albert the Great

"...was an engineer for 20 years before entering the Jesuits." - Thomas Frink, Society of Jesus, New England Province

"...started painting in oils at the age of 13. I worked for eight years in the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. I have a 44 year old son who has finally gotten used to the idea that  his mother is a Sister of St. Francis." - Sister Anne Marie Saphara, Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities

"...studied computer engineering for two years before entering the seminary. My goals before entering the religious life was to someday work at NASA." - Luis Cruz, Order of the Pious Schools (Piarist Fathers), Province of United States of America and Puerto Rico

"...graduated from Harvard University where I studied sociology and pursued pre-med requirements. Although I felt called to religious life from a young age, I was hesitant to share openly about it. It was not until I was engaged to be married that I knew for sure that God had made my heart to be totally His -- and He gave the grace to finally say yes to my religious vocation." - Sister Ann Kateri Hamm, Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal

"...practiced martial arts for 7 years and was a competitive runner prior to joining." - Alexandro Rubio, Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, Christ the Priest Province

" rock and alternative music. The wisdom, courage and depth of our elder sisters inspire me in my vocation and in my life of love and service to the people of God." - Sister Carrie Flood, Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

"...went to college at Harvard, taught at a university in Ukraine, and became a wine-maker my first year in the Order as a novice." - Ryan Thornton, Order of Friars Minor, Saint Barbara Province

"...was a software engineer that worked on the 4G network before I entered the convent. When I gave my two weeks notice, I was asked if I had found another job. My manager also offered me a raise if I would stay at my job. I told them I was going to enter the convent where I would have no money." - Sister Maria Jose Acosta, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

"...worked as a chemist before entering the Oblates and hope to continue teaching science as part of my future ministry." - Ryan Cronshaw, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Wilmington-Philadelphia

"...attended UCLA before entering religious life and discerned my vocation with the support of a beautiful group of friends I found there." - Sister Agnes Maria Pineda, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

"...begged the Lord to let me go to college before calling me to be a sister. Always a gentleman, He pursued me after I graduated." - Sister Dominica Bickerton, Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation

"...really love to shovel snow." - Sister Maria Benedicta Mantia, Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregration

Five Things To Remember On Feb. 2

1. Pope Francis announced yesterday he will visit the Balkan nations, which are still scarred from ethnic divisions and war.

2. Today is World Day for Consecrated Life. This Feast is also known as Candlemas Day; the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world.

3. Next week begins National Marriage Week. See the USCCB's resources for marriage and visit For Your Marriage for daily tips, blogs and much more.

4. Feb. 7-10 brings the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. Each year the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering provides and excellent opportunity for Catholic leaders to Connect, Learn, Pray and Advocate!

5. God loves you.