Category Archives: Church

30 years after Berlin Wall fell, Catholics seek to recognize heroic Eastern European sisters

2637D87F-E096-4914-9C4B-416EE7DAA5E2Zofia Luszczkiewicz, left, and Anna Abrikosova (Courtesy of the Sisters of Mercy, Krakow/Catholic Newmartyrs of Russia)

WARSAW, POLAND — When the Polish church filed a document with the Vatican this August, proposing the beatification of 16 members of the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Catherine the Virgin and Martyr, it was a vivid reminder of the hardships inflicted on religious sisters under communist rule in Eastern Europe.

The nuns, aged 27 to 65, all died martyrs’ deaths at the hands of Soviet soldiers in the northeastern Warmia region during the 1945 reinvasion of Poland, and were among over 100 killed from the St. Catherine order alone.

It was just one of numerous brutal episodes involving Catholic nuns that, three decades after communism’s collapse and the Nov. 9 felling of the Berlin Wall, many now hope will become better known. A full account is needed, some Catholics say, in the interests of historical accuracy, as well as to illustrate the virtues involved in acts of testimony and martyrdom, and to ensure that the courage and endurance of religious sisters are accorded proper recognition

Even today, however, the tight control exercised over media appearances means few religious order leaders are prepared to talk to journalists. Requests by GSR for comments on communist-era suffering from Poland’s Conference of Higher Superiors of Female Religious Orders received no reply.

“Certainly, the situation of nuns was different here than in neighboring countries — the worst sufferings were confined to the 1940s and 1950s, after which planned repressions were abandoned in the face of resistance,” Malgorzata Glabisz-Pniewska, a Catholic presenter and expert with Polish Radio, said in a late October interview with GSR.

“But the whole story has hardly been told, even now, and the sisters involved have remained in the shadows while attention focused on the persecution of priests. It should be an inspiration for younger members of religious orders, as well as for the church and wider society,” she said.

The assault on sisters

When Eastern Europe was overrun by Stalin’s Red Army at the end of World War II, the newly installed communist regimes moved quickly to neutralize the Catholic Church.

Historians concur that religious orders were seen as secretive organizations threatening the officially atheist Communist Party’s absolute power, so they became key targets for repression.

Hundreds of books have been published about the communist-era persecutions. A few used as sources for this story include a new Polish-language book by Agata Puścikowska, War Sisters; a two-volume book in Slovak, co-edited by František Mikloško, Gabriela Smolíková and Peter Smolík, Crimes of Communism in Slovakia 1948-1989; and a Romanian book by C. Vasile, Between the Vatican and the Kremlin.

In Romania, Catholic orders were banned outright in 1949, their houses closed and ransacked; and while most nuns were sent to labor camps, a smaller number, mostly elderly and infirm, were moved to “concentration cloisters.”

In Bulgaria, where orders with foreign headquarters had already been outlawed, the Eucharistic sisters saw their Sofia chapel turned into a sports hall, while over a dozen surviving Carmelite nuns were given heavy prison terms.

Up to 700 Catholic convents in what was then Czechoslovakia were seized in a coordinated action in 1950, leaving an estimated 10,000 nuns incarcerated in prison and detention centers.

Many had qualified as teachers, doctors and translators but were set to work as farm laborers, weavers and fruit pickers when they refused to renounce their vows. Others were sent to “centralized convents” such as Bilá Voda in Moravia, which became home to about 450 incarcerated sisters from 13 orders.

In places like this, the orders continued recruiting and training members in secret, putting them through novitiates under cover of regular jobs.

In other countries, habited orders were later grudgingly permitted, but only after their schools, clinics and care homes had been seized and many nuns killed or imprisoned.

In Hungary, the regime opted for quick overnight swoops like Czechoslovakia’s, trucking nuns to internment centers and withdrawing legal status from at least 60 orders.

A petition to the government deplored how nursing sisters had been peremptorily sacked and others offered bribes to abandon their communities. But Hungary’s Culture Ministry was adamant: The orders were “nests of anti-state agitation.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/world/ministry/news/30-years-after-berlin-wall-fell-catholics-seek-recognize-heroic-eastern

Free dental clinic in Maryland brings care to over 1,000 patients

Dental
2019 Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy dental event. Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

.- A free dental clinic hosted recently by Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., offered preventive and emergency dental care to more than 1,000 patients in need.

“The majority were uninsured, and probably had not seen a dentist in years,” said Deacon Jim Nalls, director of Family, Parish and Community Outreach for Catholic Charities of Washington.

Sept. 13-14 marked the fifth Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy, hosted by Catholic Charities, the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the Maryland State Dental Association Foundation.

Hundreds of patients waited in line overnight at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center in College Park.

One woman, 69-year-old Linda Frazier, stood in line for the clinic beginning at 6:40 p.m. the night before.

Frazier told the Catholic Standard that she was suffering from a painful tooth and had not received dental care in two years, since the last Mission of Mercy in Mid-Maryland. She said she cannot afford insurance and was grateful to have the opportunity to receive treatment through Catholic Charities.

Maryland does not include full dental coverage for patients on Medicaid, so low-income individuals and people without insurance often find themselves struggling to get the dental care they need.

Mission of Mercy originated in Virginia nearly 20 years ago, when Dr. Terry Dickinson, former executive director of the Virginia Dental Association, saw a major unmet need for dental care among low-income patients, seniors, and people with disabilities.

The first small event was held in rural Virginia with a group of dentists from the Virginia Dental Association. “It was widely successful,” Nalls told CNA. “The need was huge. People lined up literally overnight to get help.”

Today, he said, 42 other states have adopted the Mission of Mercy model, creating free dental clinics with volunteer dentists and support personnel to provide services.

Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C., heard about the clinics and wanted to start one of their own. They began in 2013.

This year, the clinic treated 1089 people, an increase of about 20% from the last time the event was held.

The Mission of Mercy event required hundreds of volunteers to run, including professional volunteers – dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and x-ray technicians – as well as general volunteers, who greeted patients, registered them, and directed them to the correct location.

Patients received both medical and dental screenings, as well as panoramic dental x-rays, Nall said. Volunteer dentists offered fillings, tooth extractions, cleanings, partial dentures, and crowns, among other services.

Dr. Mel Weissburg, who volunteered to do endodontic and root canal work, said the clinic’s dental care can change the lives of the patients being served.

“They are embarrassed because they have missing or cavities in their front teeth,” Weissburg told the Catholic Standard. “They get cleaned up, they get filled, and now they can smile. They can smile when they’re working, they can get a job. The socio-economic impact on that patient and their family, and their children and our society…goes a long way.”

Nalls said patients are extremely appreciative to be receiving care they otherwise could not afford.

“With tears in their eyes, they were grateful,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event. That’s why the volunteers keep coming back, it’s so rewarding to see the immediate response of the people that you’re taking care of, and that the need is so great…Why else would you sleep on a sidewalk overnight?”

One volunteer, Teresa Villanueva, said this is her third time volunteering at the event. She told the Catholic Standard that she is touched to see the suffering of those who do not have insurance.

“Every time they do these events, my heart is joyful,” she said.

Nalls said dental care is sometimes undervalued, both by individuals and the health care system in general.

“There’s no money in the Affordable Care Act for dental services,” he noted. “Dentistry is the red-headed stepchild of the health care industry. It’s treated as if it’s optional or something.”

In reality, he said, dental care is a “very important part of our holistic health” and can cause severe pain and difficulty functioning if problems are left untreated.

With the high turnout showing a continuing need for affordable dental care, Nalls said Catholic Charities will continue to hold Mission of Mercy events in the future.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to sometime soon – if the support system changes and Medicaid covers adult dental, we won’t need to do these,” he said. “But until they do, there’ll be a huge need, and we’ll continue to try to address it as best we can.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/free-dental-clinic-in-maryland-brings-care-to-over-1000-patients-53714

Richmond diocese to stop naming buildings after bishops

BishopOpening Mass for the synod of bishops on the family Oct. 8, 2015. Credit: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.

– In the wake of recent sexual abuse scandals throughout the U.S., the Diocese of Richmond has announced that it will no longer name buildings and institutions after clergymen and religious founders.

The new policy went into effect on Thursday, as six names were added to the diocese’s list of clergy with credible sexual abuse accusations against them. The diocese said the additional names reflect new information recently brought forward.

“Overcoming the tragedy of abuse is not just about holding accountable those who have committed abuses, it is also about seriously examining the role and complex legacies of individuals who should have done more to address the crisis in real time,” said Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond.

“The continued honorific recognition of those individuals provides a barrier to healing for our survivors, and we want survivors to know that we welcome and support them in our diocese,” he said in a June 27 statement form the Diocese of Richmond.

Schools, institutions, and parish buildings will from now on only be named after saints, titles of Jesus and Mary, mysteries of the faith, and the locations where the ministries were founded.

Buildings and institutions may no longer be named after bishops, pastors, or the founders of organizations. Rooms and parts of buildings that are already named are exempt from the policy. The archdiocese clarified that the new rules do not prohibit the placement of plaques which recognize historical figures or donors.

The only building that will require a name changes is Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School in Virginia Beach, which will return to its former name: Catholic High School.

“While the name of the school is changing, our mission remains the same, based firmly on Catholic teaching,” said Kelly Lazarra, superintendent of the Diocesan Office of Catholic Schools. “Catholic High School is dedicated to nurturing intellect, shaping character and forming Christian values.”

This move follows a nearly 10-year campaign by resident Thomas Lee, who says he was abused by a priest in the diocese and that Bishop Walter Sullivan covered up the abuse and allowed the priest to continue in ministry.

“This will go a long way in the healing process,” said Lee, according to WTKR.

Bishop Knestout issued a renewed apology to all those affected by clerical sexual abuse.

“It is my hope and prayer that the policy change is another way to continue to assist survivors of abuse in their healing, especially those who have, in any way, experienced the failure of Church leadership to adequately address their needs and concerns,” he said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/richmond-diocese-to-stop-naming-buildings-after-bishops-10055

Pope Francis issues norms for reports of abuse of minors, seminarians, and religious

St Peter RomeThe dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Credit: Luxerendering/Shutterstock.

– New Vatican norms for the Church’s handling of sex abuse, issued Thursday, place seminarians and religious coerced into sexual activity through the misuse of authority in the same criminal category as abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

The norms also establish obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, require that every diocese has a mechanism for reporting abuse, and put the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations against suffragan bishops.

Pope Francis promulgated the law May 9 via a motu proprio, titled, “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”). He approved its promulgation on an experimental basis for a period of three years. It will enter in effect June 1, 2019.

“The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful,” the pope wrote, stating that the primary responsibility for improving the handling of these issues falls to the bishop, though it concerns all who have ministries in the Church or “serve the Christian People.”

“Therefore, it is good that procedures be universally adopted to prevent and combat these crimes that betray the trust of the faithful,” he said.

The norms regard what are called, in canon law, “delicts against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue,” consisting of sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person; forcing someone to perform or submit to sexual acts through violence, threat, or abuse of authority; and the production or possession of child pornography.

The new law also concerns any actions intended to cover-up a civil or canonical investigation into accusations of child pornography use, sexual abuse of minors, or sexual coercion through abuse of power.

It establishes the so-called “metropolitan model” for the investigation of accusations against bishops and their equivalents, as proposed by Cardinal Blase Cupich at the November meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican February summit on the protection of minors.

According to the new law, the metropolitan archbishop will conduct the investigation into a suffragan bishop with a mandate from the Holy See. The metropolitan is required to send reports to the Holy See on the progress of the investigation every 30 days and to complete the investigation within 90 days unless granted an extension.

The metropolitan archbishop may use the assistance of qualified laypeople in carrying out the investigation, though it is primarily his responsibility, the norms state. Bishops’ conferences may establish funds to support these investigations.

The document emphasizes that “the person under investigation enjoys the presumption of innocence.”

At the conclusion of the investigation, the results are sent to the competent Vatican dicastery, which will then apply the applicable penalty according to existing canon law.

In the event a report concerns a major archbishop, it will be forwarded to the Holy See.

One article states that Church authorities shall be committed to ensuring “that those who state that they have been harmed, together with their families, are to be treated with dignity and respect,” be welcomed, listened to, and supported, offered spiritual assistance, and medical and psychological assistance.

The norms also introduce obligatory reporting, requiring that every cleric or religious man or woman who has become aware of an accusation of abuse or cover-up report it “promptly” to the proper church authority.

The ‘motu proprio’ also states that it will be required that every diocese create a stable mechanism or system through which people may submit reports of abuse or its cover-up. The exact form of the system, which could also be an entire office, will be left to the discretion of the individual diocese, but must be established by June 2020.

“Even if so much has already been accomplished, we must continue to learn from the bitter lessons of the past, looking with hope towards the future,” Pope Francis wrote.

“In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed,” he said, “attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church.”

“This becomes possible only with the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, as we must always keep in mind the words of Jesus: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing.’”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-issues-norms-for-reports-of-abuse-of-minors-seminarians-and-religious-94849

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amid continued Midwest flooding, Catholic groups step up to help

Nebraska photoFlooding in Bellevue, Nebraska, March 2019. Credit: Aspects and Angles / Shutterstock.

By Michelle La Rosa

Omaha, Neb., (CNA)- As devastating flood waters continue to rise in parts of the Midwest, Catholics are working to raise funds for both short-term aid and long-term rebuilding efforts.

“Please join Archbishop [George] Lucas in praying for all those displaced or otherwise affected by the ongoing flooding,” said the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska.

A special collection in Omaha this weekend will help fund recovery efforts. Parishes have been asked to evaluate needs in their communities and request funds for both immediate recovery needs and long-term rebuilding.

“Grants may be distributed to purchase water, food, shelter, cleaning supplies, tools, building materials, and tuition assistance for displaced employees,” said archdiocesan spokesman Deacon Tim McNeil said.

He added that funds can go not only to the immediate needs of parishes, but to help with broader community assistance.

Nebraska has been among the hardest-hit states by severe flooding in recent days, although several other Midwestern states have also been affected as a “bomb cyclone” tore through the region last week, bringing with it strong winds and heavy rain. The floods that have resulted have washed out roads, destroyed homes, and burst dams, compounding the damage throughout the area.

The majority of counties in Nebraska are currently under a state of emergency, as are nearly half of the counties in Iowa.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said the storm has already caused “the most extensive damage our state has ever experienced.” Repairing damaged infrastructure could take months, and agricultural losses in ranching and growing crops could reach nearly $1 billion.

As residents scramble to evacuate, watching their livelihoods wash away in front of their eyes, their neighbors are doing what they can to offer support.

Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska is currently holding a bottled water drive to help students at Peru State College, who have been displaced for several days and are facing contaminated water for the foreseeable future.

The organization is also accepting donations to aid those who are suffering from the flooding.

“It is at times like these that we are all called to help our friends, relatives and neighbors who are suffering,” Catholic Social Services said in a statement. “Please help us help those who have lost so much.”

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Elkhorn, Nebraska, is teaming up with Bethany Lutheran, Brookside, Peace Presbyterian and COPE to help with long-term rebuilding support for flood victims.

Proceeds from the March 15 Lenten Fish Fry at St. Patrick’s were donated to flood relief efforts.

Meanwhile, northwestern counties in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are in the path of the flood waters.

“The towns are preparing,” said Kevin Murphy, executive director of marketing and communications for Catholic Charities in the diocese.

He told CNA that the major highway in the area has been closed, as the Missouri River is expected to reach near-record flooding levels.

Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph could also be feeling the effects of the flooding in a very direct way – the organization’s satellite office in Buchanan County sits just about 5000 feet from the river.

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” Murphy said.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, head of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, offered his prayers as the floods continue, while also calling Catholics to participate in relief efforts.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and the damage caused by the flooding throughout the Midwest these past few days,” he said in a March 19 statement.

The bishop prayed “that those affected by the floods will find the strength to rebuild.”

“We trust that the Lord will console them in their suffering,” he said. “Let us answer the Lord’s call to love one another and generously support our neighbors in this time of need.”

He noted that Catholic Charities USA is collecting funds to help flood victims throughout the entire region.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/amid-continued-midwest-flooding-catholic-groups-step-up-to-help-64023

Religious superiors voice shame over child abuse failings

Shame photoCredit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

By Hannah Brockhaus

Rome, Italy,(CNA/EWTN News). Superiors general of men’s and women’s religious communities expressed sorrow Tuesday for sexual abuse committed within religious congregations and orders ahead of a Vatican meeting on child sex abuse.

The Feb. 19 statement noted the summit’s focus on “the sexual abuse of children and the abuse of power and conscience by those in authority in the Church, especially bishops, priests and religious.”

“We bow our heads in shame at the realization that such abuse has taken place in our Congregations and Orders, and in our Church,” the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the Union of Superiors General (USG) wrote.

“Our shame is increased by our own lack of realization of what has been happening,” it continued. “We acknowledge that when we look at Provinces and Regions in our Orders and Congregations across the world, that the response of those in authority has not been what it should have been. They failed to see warning signs or failed to take them seriously.”

The organizations said they hope the Holy Spirit will work powerfully during the Feb. 21-24 meeting on the protection of minors in the Church, and that they are ready to implement whatever is decided in terms of accountability for those in authority. Representatives of UISG and USG will attend the summit.

“New steps forward can be imagined and decisions can be made so that implementation can
follow speedily and universally with proper respect for different cultures,” they said, adding that “the abuse of children is wrong anywhere and anytime: this point is not negotiable.”

The same statement also said that the Church and wider society needs a “different culture” – one where children are treasured, and safeguarding promoted. They listed education, healthcare, formation, and spirituality, as areas in which the work of religious can help the Church safeguard children from sexual abuse.

It went on to say that the leadership provided by Pope Francis on this issue is “key,” and that they join with the Holy Father in reaching out to survivors and to “humbly acknowledge and confess the wrongs that have been done.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/religious-superiors-voice-shame-over-child-abuse-failings-63124

 

Pope Francis asks for prayers for Indonesia after deadly tsunami

Indonesia Tsunami photoOfficials look through the wreckage of damaged buildings in Carita, Indonesia on December 23, 2018. Credit: AFP/Getty Images.

By Courtney Grogan

Vatican City, (CNA/EWTN News). After a deadly tsunami struck Indonesia Saturday night, killing more than 200 people and injuring hundreds more, Pope Francis has asked for everyone to join him in prayer for the suffering victims this Christmas.

“My thoughts go out right now to the populations of Indonesia, affected by violent natural disasters, which have caused serious losses in human lives, numerous people missing and homeless, and extensive material damage,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus prayer Dec. 23.

“I invite everyone to join me in prayer for the victims and their loved ones,” he said, calling for solidarity and support from the international community.

The tsunami left at least 222 people dead and more than 840 injured, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho from Indonesia’s disaster management agency.

Researchers suspect the destructive waves were triggered by a volcanic eruption in the Sunda Strait between two Indonesian islands.

Pope Francis expressed his wish to be “spiritually close” to the displaced and “to all the people who are imploring God for relief in their suffering.”

The pope reflected on the importance of families being together at Christmas, but said he understood that “many people do not have this possibility, for different reasons.”

To people apart from their families at Christmas, Pope Francis extended an invitation to find a “true family” in the Catholic Church.

“Our heavenly Father does not forget you and does not abandon you. If you are a Christian, I wish you to find in the Church a true family, where you can experience the warmth of fraternal love,” he said.

Francis stressed that the doors of the Catholic community are open to Christians and non-Christians alike this Christmas. “Jesus is born for everyone and gives everyone the love of God,” he said.

The pope encouraged people preparing for Christmas to fix their gaze on Mary, who spent her months of waiting for Christ’s coming in service to her elderly relative, Elizabeth.

“The Gospel of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth prepares us to live Christmas well, communicating to us the dynamism of faith and charity,” Pope Francis said.

“A dynamism full of joy, as seen in the meeting between the two mothers, which is all a hymn of joyous exultation in the Lord, who does great things with the little ones who trust Him,” he continued.

May the Virgin Mary obtain for us the grace of living a Christmas centered, not on ourselves, but on Jesus and our brothers and sisters in need, Pope Francis prayed.
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-asks-for-prayers-for-indonesia-after-deadly-tsunami-83102