The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of the archdiocese will soon be celebrating the five millionth meal served at the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room.
Archbishop Jose Gomez and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will be thanking all those that have donated and continue to donate to the Dining Room and have made this milestone possible.
The Dining Room, which was started in November 1985, has been serving three meals Sunday through Saturday. The celebration will take place on Dec. 7 at 12:30 p.m. at the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room at 928 W. Commerce.
The St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room has operated through corporate, business, church and personal donations. When the Haven for Hope Facility opens in 2010, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will continue to serve the homeless by providing meals at the Prospect Courtyard. Donations to the Dining Room will still be needed for its future work with the homeless at their new location at Prospect Courtyard.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has not only fed the homeless of San Antonio, but has been feeding the working poor through 72 parish conferences throughout the Archdiocese of San Antonio for many years. Each parish conference provides groceries to families in need. The work of the Society is done primarily through its 1,300 volunteers with a limited staff of 15 at the Dining Room and the administrative offices.
San Fernando Cathedral held its annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Service on Nov. 25. Through prayer and music, leaders of various faith communities gathered to celebrate the common Thanksgiving holiday and provide the greater San Antonio community with the opportunity to give thanks.
Now in its 18th year, this year’s theme was: Grateful Hearts, Willing Hands. The service is an imaginative, inspiring celebration which brings together persons of various religions and ethnicities in a prayerful spirit of brotherhood and reverence.
Non-perishable food was collected for distribution to the needy.
Program participants included Winifred Barnum from the Bahai faith, Rabbi Barry Block from the Jewish faith, Rachel Epp-Miller from the Mennonite Church, Jeanne Goodlin from the San Antonio Community of Churches, Pastor Steven Lunning from Highland Park Lutheran Church, Rev. Chuma Okoli from Emmanuel AME Church, Annie Ruiz from SAMMinistries, Harinder Singh from the Sikh Research Institute, Florence Anderson from Christian Assistance Ministries, and Dr. Klon Kitchen from the Salvation Army.
More than 140 Christian leaders issued a joint declaration Nov. 20 pledging renewed zeal in defending the unborn, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman and protecting religious freedom.
The 4,700-word statement, called the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience,” was signed by 14 Catholic bishops, evangelical and Orthodox leaders and other Catholics. The document pledges the group’s “obligation to speak and act in defense of these truths” and stressed that “no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.”
Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, right, said the document echoed “what needs to be said” today and did so “with a collective voice.”
The document states that the signers “will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.”
On life issues, the declaration urges “all elected officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless and vulnerable among us.”
In its defense of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, it notes a progressive erosion of the culture of marriage due to infidelity, high divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births.
The document states that the “impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple-partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture” and it further adds that “no one has a civil right to have a nonmarital relationship treated as a marriage.”
On the issue of religious liberty, the document highlights weakened or eliminated conscience clauses that force “pro-life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions.”
It also notes the use of “anti-discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business.”
The documents signers urged the public to sign the online version of the document at http://manhattandeclaration.org. The document had more than 35,000 signers, according to the Web site.
A million twinkling lights illuminated the night sky at the University of Incarnate Word Nov. 21 as the university kicked-off the holiday season at the annual Light the Way celebration.
Special guests at the event included UIW President Dr. Louis J. Agnese, Jr., Archbishop Jośe Gomez, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and Tejano music legend Patsy Torres.
Light the Way activities began with Mass at 5:30 p.m. in Our Lady’s Chapel. After the service, the opening ceremony kicked off in the McDermott Convocation Center. Musical entertainment included the choirs of the University of the Incarnate Word, Incarnate Word High School, St. Anthony Catholic School and St. Peter Prince of Apostles Catholic School. The St. Anthony Catholic High School jazz band also entertained the crowd. Torres headlined this year’s event. Visitors were invited to bring a new unwrapped toy for the Elf Louise Toy Drive.
After the official switch was flipped, mariachis led the candlelight procession of guests through the campus to Central Market H-E-B for a complimentary reception.
Everyone is invited to enjoy the beauty of the University of the Incarnate Word campus decorated for the holiday season. The campus is open for self-guided tours through Jan. 6. This event is sponsored by UIW and H-E-B.
The Alexander House marriage ministry hosted its inaugural benefit dinner Nov. 19 at the St. George Maronite Church banquet hall. The event drew a full house in support of Greg and Julie Alexander’s efforts, especially their Covenant of Live Marriage Ministry.
Attendees also heard a spirited defense of marriage from the keynote speaker Father Bill Casey, superior general of the Congregation of the Fathers of Mercy and a frequent guest on EWTN.
More information on this gathering will appear in the Dec. 4 edition of Today’s Catholic, along with additional reporting on the U.S. bishop’s statements regarding marriage from this week’s general assembly in Baltimore. For more from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting, visit the USCCB Web site at http://www.usccb.org/meetings/2009Fall/#.
The U.S. bishops overwhelmingly approved a revision to the directives that guide Catholic health care facilities, clarifying that patients with chronic conditions who are not imminently dying should receive food and water by “medically assisted” means if they cannot take them normally.
“In principle, there is an obligation to provide patients with food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration for those who cannot take food orally,” says the revised text of the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” prepared by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine.
“This obligation extends to patients in chronic and presumably irreversible conditions (e.g., the ‘persistent vegetative state’) who can reasonably be expected to live indefinitely if given such care,” the new text adds.
The vote was 219-4 in favor of the revision Nov. 17, the second day of the assembly in Baltimore.
Deleted from the directives was a reference to “the necessary distinctions between questions already resolved by the magisterium and those requiring further reflection, as, for example, the morality of withdrawing medically assisted hydration and nutrition from a person who is in the condition that is recognized by physicians as the ‘persistent vegetative state.’”
The only substantive debate on the revised directives was about whether to use the term “permanent vegetative state” or “persistent vegetative state” in the document.
Some Catholic ethicists had argued that, because doctors consider a persistent vegetative state irreversible, artificial nutrition and hydration can be withdrawn from those patients.
Much of the ethical discussion of the nutrition and hydration question in recent years has focused on the case of Terri Schindler Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman whose husband successfully fought for the right to discontinue her feeding tube. Schiavo died March 31, 2005, 13 days after doctors withdrew nutrition and hydration.
“While medically assisted nutrition and hydration are not morally obligatory in certain cases, these forms of basic care should in principle be provided to all patients who need them, including patients diagnosed as being in a ‘persistent vegetative state,’ because even the most severely debilitated and helpless patient retains the full dignity of a human person and must receive ordinary and proportionate care,” the revised directives read.
An ongoing study of the causes and contexts of sexual abuse by priests delves into a broad assortment of factors, including societal trends, treatment approaches over the decades, the character of seminaries in different generations and even comparisons of when abusive behavior began in relation to ordination.
An interim report on the “Causes and Context Study” presented to the USCCB outlines a complex, multidimensional project. The full study, commissioned by the USCCB in 2002 as part of its response to the sexual abuse crisis, is expected to be completed by late 2010.
While specifics from the study were sparse, some of the general findings suggest there are close correlations between incidents of sexual abuse and events in society, particularly during the social upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s, the authors said.
Among the preliminary findings the researchers reported:
– There is little evidence that homosexuality is a factor in who sexually abused minors.
– The rise in sexual abuse cases in the 1960s and a decrease in the 1980s track with other behavioral changes during the same period, including drug use and rates of crime and divorce.
– The environment in seminaries during the period when a majority of priest-abusers received their education may be an influencing factor. In the 1940s and 50s seminaries were “closed and without any specific support for ‘human formation,’” the researchers said. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the presentation said, the environment was more open, an effect of the Second Vatican Council and resignations of many priests related to some of the council’s actions.
– Beginning in the 1980s when programs in “human formation” began and seminary candidate screening became more “nuanced,” the number of reported incidents of sexual abuse falls to between 20 and 10 per year. In 1970 the count was 164, they said.
– Diocesan leaders relied on the guidance of established treatment providers, especially in the 1980s, but those treatment approaches proved inadequate.
– The amount of time after ordination before a priest began sexual abuse has decreased, from an average of 13 years among priests ordained before the 1960s to an average of four years for priests ordained in the 1970s.
The cost of the study is estimated at about $1.8 million. The majority — about $1 million — is being paid by the USCCB, with donations and grants covering the rest. That includes a $283,000 grant from the federal government’s National Institute of Justice.
Religious orders may be shrinking in size and their members aging fast, but a study of their newest members offers signs for hope, said a Nov. 18 report to the U.S. bishops on a study released this summer.
The “Recent Vocations to Religious Life” study was conducted for the vocations conference by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
The study is not related to the Vatican’s ongoing apostolic visitation, an analysis of women religious in the United States. The vocations conference study was well under way when the apostolic visitation was announced in January.
Among the statistics cited:
– The number of men and women in religious life has decreased by 63 percent since the peak in the mid-1960s, from 23,000 priests to 13,000; from 12,500 brothers to 5,000; and from 180,000 sisters to 59,000.
– About 75 percent of the men and more than 90 percent of women religious are age 60 or older. Among men and women religious under age 60, only 1 percent are younger than 40.
Welcome to the inaugural post for “Timely Issues,” the Today’s Catholic blog. As the title implies, a major purpose of this blog will be to provide news and information in a bit of a more timely fashion than is possible through the every-other-week production cycle of the archdiocesan paper. Some breaking news, such as this week’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16-18, right, is generating quite a buzz in secular communications circles, and this format serves to provide a quick, truly Catholic channel for understanding this news through the eyes of faith. Three main areas from the gathering are examined below, with more to follow.
Despite the concern voiced by some bishops about the document’s pastoral tone and content, the USCCB approved a pastoral letter on marriage Nov. 17.
Nearly 100 changes in two rounds of amendments preceded the 180-45 vote in favor of “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.”
A key change made in the letter during the amendment process was the rewriting of language describing both cohabitation and contraception as “intrinsically evil.”
Instead, it calls contraceptive practices “objectively wrong” and “essentially opposed to God’s plan for marriage and proper human development.”
The document encourages the use of natural family planning, which the bishops say promotes “an attitude of respect and wonder … and fosters the true intimacy that only such respect can bring.”
In place of a section that said living together without marriage “is intrinsically evil and thus always diminishes the capacity for love,” the amended document quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church in saying, “Cohabitation ‘involves the serious sin of fornication. It does not conform to God’s plan for marriage and is always wrong and objectively sinful.’”
The pastoral letter also names divorce and same-sex unions as two other “fundamental challenges to the nature and purpose of marriage.”
The bishops say divorce conflicts with “God’s plan for marriage,” but the bishops added that in some cases, “divorce may be the only solution to a morally unacceptable situation, such as when the safety of a spouse or children is at risk.”
They also encourage those who have divorced and remarried civilly to “participate in parish life and attend the Sunday Eucharist, even though they cannot ordinarily receive holy Communion.”
The moves to legally recognize same-sex unions pose “a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society, striking at the source from which society and culture come and which they are meant to serve,” the bishops say.
To oppose the legal recognition of same-sex unions is not discriminatory nor a matter of fairness, they say.
The bishops approved the English translation and U.S. adaptations of five final sections of the Roman Missal in voting on the second day of their assembly.
There was some debate on the floor about a separate piece of the translations — the antiphons — which has not come to the bishops for consideration, but instead has advanced through the Vatican’s approval procedures without the consultation of the English-language bishops’ conferences around the world.
But the final five sections of the missal before the bishops passed with minimal discussion and only a handful of proposed amendments to the texts.
During the bishops’ spring meeting in San Antonio, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, this summer warned the bishops that if they failed to approve the texts by the end of November, they risked being shut out of the process by the Vatican.
The translations approved Nov. 17 will, like the previously approved sections, be compiled into a new missal for use in English-speaking countries. Bishop Serratelli said while the Vatican approval process moves along, dioceses will begin preparing to use the new missal translation when it is ready.
To help both priests and the laity prepare for the changes, the USCCB has posted catechetical materials at www.usccb.org/romanmissal.
Among the changes people will notice in the new translation is a rephrasing in the Nicene Creed. It will read, in part: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, … begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.”
That section of the Nicene Creed currently reads: “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, … begotten not made, one in being with the Father.”
In the “Ecce Agnus Dei,” (“Behold the Lamb of God”) the people will say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Currently, they say: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
The 15-page document, “Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology,” received overwhelming approval Nov. 17.
The bishops reject the use of eggs or sperm from “donors” — whom the document says are often paid and should instead be called “vendors” — as well as surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and human cloning.
The bishops express strong support for adoption, calling it “a wonderful way to build a family,” but do not endorse the concept of “embryo adoption,” in which a frozen embryo that would otherwise be discarded is implanted into a woman willing to give birth to and raise the child.
“Serious moral concerns have been raised about embryo adoption, particularly as it requires the wife in the adopting couple to receive into her womb an embryonic child who was not conceived through her bodily union with her husband,” the document says.
“The terrible plight of abandoned frozen embryos underscores the need for our society to end practices such as IVF that regularly produce so many ‘spare’ or unwanted human beings,” it adds.
Testing our new blog