A parish in a Portland suburb helps scores of African immigrants as they settle in to life in this country.
The Open Arms and Helping Hands ministry based at Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie provides furniture, clothing, referrals and other aid that is especially important to refugees and immigrants.
“They have nothing,” says Deacon Jim Pittman, who founded the aid organization.
Open Arms and Helping Hands, under the St. Vincent de Paul Society umbrella, has 160 volunteers who collect and deliver goods. A large number of volunteers are former clients who feel deep gratitude.
The service area is vast — covering a quarter of Oregon, from the Pacific Ocean to the Cascade Mountains.
“How do you adjust?” Deacon Pittman wonders of the refugees. “You’ve just come into a whole new world.”
Many Africans in the United States have escaped violent and threatening situations. But they don’t complain. “They are very patient,” Deacon Pittman told Catholic News Service.
Open Arms and Helping Hands also supports two orphanages in Congo. Christ the King parishioners and others sponsor individual orphans and send medical supplies, construction gear and books.
Many children lost their parents to warfare and disease, including AIDS.
The organization has purchased 25 acres near Kinshasha. Plans call for a well, a new orphanage, a school and a clinic. Catholic identity at all the institutions will be strong and clear.
Congo is more than half Catholic. Most people speak French and Masses are generally celebrated in that tongue. Churches, with no air conditioning, can hold as many as 3,000 worshipers. Singing and dancing is a strong part of Catholic liturgy in many African nations and Mass often lasts two hours.
Deacon Pittman, who has traveled to the central African country twice, says U.S. Catholics could learn a thing or two about active participation.
Kinshaha, a little larger in area than metropolitan Portland, holds 16 million people, most of them young.
The deacon’s advice to people in the pew who encounter new immigrants at church: “It does a lot if the parishioners listen to their story. Treat them no differently than you would anyone else. If you have a question, ask.”
Christ the King introduces newcomers at coffee and doughnuts socials after Mass. But the idea is to make people feel as if they fit, not like oddities.
“We have to be aware that our brothers and sisters are suffering,” said Deacon Pittman, calling all his efforts a “mere Band-Aid.”
“When faced with the enormity of the world’s poverty, even that in our own community, the bad spirit can convince us that it is so large there is nothing that we can do about it,” he said. “Not true. Every moment of consciousness and each act of goodness toward anyone anywhere is a victory for God’s kingdom, and is God’s will being done, ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’”
Deacon Pittman concedes that money does not solve the problems. The key, he concludes, is dignity.
Pope Benedict XVI offered his prayers for the 33 men trapped underground in a gold and copper mine in Chile.
At the end of his Angelus address Aug. 29, the pope prayed that the miners remain calm as rescue workers begin an excavation process that could take up to three months to free them.
The workers at the San Jose mine near the Chilean city of Copiapo were trapped Aug. 5 when part of the mine collapsed; rescuers made their first contact with the miners 17 days later. The men apparently are in good health and supplies are being sent down to them through a narrow pipe.
The pope said, “I entrust them and their families to the intercession of St. Lawrence, assuring them of my spiritual closeness and my continual prayers so that they maintain their serenity in the hope of a happy conclusion of the work that is being carried out to rescue them.” St. Lawrence is patron saint of miners.
Also at the Angelus, Pope Benedict had special words of welcome for the 60 new seminarians beginning their studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
The students at the U.S. seminary sang for the pope “Ad Multos Annos” (“To Many Years”), wishing him a long life, and the pope responded with applause.
According to Catholic News Service, the pope told the seminarians, as well as English-speaking pilgrims, that he hoped their time in Rome would help them “to draw closer to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving.”
A national Catholic newspaper has become Poland’s top-selling weekly, outstripping its secular competitors.
Gosc Niedzielny (Sunday Guest), a 92-page tabloid owned by the Archdiocese of Katowice, was confirmed Aug. 23 as the country’s highest-circulation weekly with more than 144,000 copies.
Father Tomasz Jaklewicz, deputy editor, told Catholic News Service Aug. 26 that the paper had benefited from a vigorous chief editor, Father Marek Gancarczyk, and youthful editorial team, as well as from support by Catholic parishes nationwide.
He said the staff had made sure the paper is “contemporary and up-to-date in form and content and addresses the issues most preoccupying people here in an open, approachable way.”
ZKDP, the association that controls Poland’s press distribution, said Gosc Niedzielny, which runs local editions in half of the country’s 34 Catholic dioceses, had boosted sales by 5.5 percent in the past year, overtaking its nearest secular rival, Polityka, whose circulation fell by 2 percent to 142,000.
Father Jaklewicz said Gosc Niedzielny offered a positive sign to counter media claims that the Polish Catholic Church faced decline with falling priestly vocations and Mass attendance.
“Although the church has its problems and weaknesses, there are many good, hopeful things happening as well,” he said.
“The mainstream media generally paints a negative picture of church life and also reflects the secular perspective of Warsaw and other large cities. By contrast, we’re closer to the majority of society and not affected by anti-church pressures,” he said.
A Sister of St. Louis was killed and the retired pastor of a Malibu parish was severely injured when a car driven by Douglas Kmiec, U.S. ambassador to Malta, crashed into a drainage ditch in Southern California Aug. 25.
Sister Mary Campbell, 74, who was well known at Our Lady of Malibu Parish and taught at the parish school, was dead at the scene, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol said.
Msgr. John Sheridan, 94, pastor emeritus of the parish, underwent emergency surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles soon after the accident. He was in critical but stable condition Aug. 27.
Kmiec, 58, on leave as a law professor at Pepperdine University, remained hospitalized, but information about his condition was not available.
The highway patrol said the vehicle was westbound on Mulholland Highway at about 1:30 p.m. when it drifted onto a dirt shoulder and then hit a drainage ditch.
Both Kmiec and Msgr. Sheridan, who was seated in the front of the 2009 Hyundai Accent, were wearing seatbelts, but Sister Mary in the back seat was not, the highway patrol said.
Sister Brid Long of the order’s regional house in Woodland Hills, Calif., told Catholic News Service the three had attended a Mass and luncheon celebrating the 60th anniversary of the congregation’s arrival in the United States and were returning to the parish when the accident occurred.
A statement from Pepperdine University President Andrew K. Benton indicated prayers were being offered for Sister Mary’s family, students at Our Lady of Malibu School and the parish community.
“Sister Mary taught many sons and daughters of Pepperdine staff and faculty over the years and was much loved,” he said to Catholic News Service. “Her devotion to her students, her strong faith and compassion will long be remembered.”
Benton also said prayers will continue for Msgr. Sheridan and the ambassador.
The parish scheduled a memorial service for Sister Mary at 11 a.m., Sept. 1.
The highway patrol’s investigation was continuing Aug. 27.
Alaskans passed a ballot initiative Aug. 24 that requires abortionists to notify a parent before performing an abortion on a minor girl in Alaska.
Passage of Proposition 2 was a long-sought and welcome victory, particularly for parents and Catholics around Alaska — many of whom had collected petition signatures, waved signs on street corners and prayed hard to ensure the protection of parental rights.
“I was happy to see that common sense prevailed,” Anchorage Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz told the Catholic Anchor, archdiocesan newspaper, after the vote. “Parents, no matter where they are on the abortion issue, understood: to be parent is to be a parent. You have responsibility for your children and therefore you should be able to know what they’re doing, and not have other people take away the right to know.”
In fact, keeping parents in the dark about minors’ abortions, he added, amounts to “stabbing at the heart” of family life.
In marriage, Archbishop Schwietz said, “God has brought man and woman together to bring forth children out of their love for one another and then to care for those children, to prepare them for life. If their ability to do so is taken away from them, then the state is usurping, it seems to me, the right of parents and the power of God, himself.”
For a year leading up to the vote, the Catholic bishops of Alaska — Archbishop Schwietz, Bishop Edward J. Burns of Juneau and Bishop Donald J. Kettler of Fairbanks — rallied Alaska’s Catholics to support the parental notice initiative.
From Anchorage, Archbishop Schwietz sent letters to the diocese’s 32 parishes and published statements in the Catholic Anchor encouraging his flock to sign a statewide petition required for the ballot proposition, collect other signatures and otherwise “actively support” the parental notice initiative.
He prompted priests to address the issue from the pulpit and post notices in parish bulletins. Parishioners were urged to collect petition signatures on church property and in their neighborhoods.
Alaska’s Catholics helped collect more than 47,000 signatures for the petition, which was submitted to the state in January. Jim Minnery of Alaskans for Parental Rights, the local group that spearheaded the effort, lauded Archbishop Schwietz for his “decisive leadership” in rallying support and the “dozens of parishes” that participated in signature gathering.
“The support of the Catholic Church played a crucial role in our success,” he told Catholic News Service.
Once the state certified the petition, a ballot question was prepared for the August primary election. And the Knights of Columbus sprang into action. Councils from around the state, along with the national Catholic men’s group, raised more than $80,000 for radio and television advertisements in support of Proposition 2. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood and other groups poured over $800,000 into opposition ads.
As the August vote drew near, notices supporting Proposition 2 appeared in Catholic parish bulletins and prayers were offered at Mass.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is “an exemplary model of Christian virtue” who showed the world that an authentic love for others opens the door to knowing and being with God, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Marking the 100th anniversary of her birth, the pope sent a message to Sister Mary Prema, the superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation Mother Teresa founded in 1950.
The Vatican released the message Aug. 26 after it was read in Calcutta, India, at the end of a special Mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s birth.
In Calcutta, most of the Missionaries of Charity nuns gave up their regular seats in the motherhouse chapel to accommodate hundreds of pilgrims and volunteers who arrived for the early morning Mass.
After the Mass, the bishops, priests, nuns and visitors processed to Mother Teresa’s ground-floor tomb. Sister Prema handed Cardinal Telesphore Toppo of Ranchi a lamp, and he lit a candle to mark the beginning of the centenary celebrations.
Dozens of Missionaries of Charity novices gathered around the tomb and sang “Happy Birthday.”
In his message, Pope Benedict said celebrating Mother Teresa’s birth centenary “will be for the church and the world an occasion of joyful gratitude to God for the inestimable gift that Mother Teresa was in her lifetime, and continues to be through the affectionate and tireless work of you, her spiritual children.”
The pope said Mother Teresa was a living example of St. John’s words: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we must also love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection.”
He asked the order’s sisters, brothers, priests and lay members to let God’s love continue to inspire them to give themselves “generously to Jesus, whom you see and serve the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the abandoned” and to draw constantly from Mother Teresa’s example and spirituality.
After the visit to the tomb, Sister Prema read a message from the congregation, and the group processed to the motherhouse’s L-shaped courtyard. Sister Prema and Sister Nirmala Joshi, retired superior general of the order, released white pigeons and blue and white balloons amid cheers from those packing the balconies on the three floors surrounding the courtyard.
Similar events were planned worldwide, including at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Archbishop Lucas Sirkar of Calcutta said anniversary celebrations being held throughout India had brought “a ray of hope and joy to thousands of poor, underprivileged, disadvantaged, and marginalized in India,” especially as the nation struggles with violence, injustice and natural disasters.
The events were receiving wide media coverage, which was helping make the Gospel message better understood in India, he said in an Aug. 26 interview with Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and reported by Catholic News Service.
The sunrise was invisible, but the hundreds of people who showed up at Masses and prayer services on five South Side beaches in the early morning Aug. 21 took it on faith.
Between 50 and 100 worshippers came out at each of the sites for back-to-school services to pray for an end to violence. The services were organized by the Black Catholic Deacons of Chicago.
The Gospel reading recounted Jesus calming the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee, and Deacon Leroy T. Gill, who preached at the service on Oakwood Beach, said that was what God did with overnight storms before the services started.
Now Christians must call on God to stop the storm of violence that has enveloped our communities, said Deacon Gill, who serves at Holy Angels Parish. Christians must also put themselves forward to stop the violence.
“There is a storm in the communities in which we live and serve, and we know the only way to bring about an end to this storm is to call on the mighty name of Jesus,” Deacon Gill said in an e-mail before the service. “When you are out on the beach in the early morning, you are reminded of the beauty that God intended for this land. God did not intend for there to be so much trouble in the land.
“So early in the morning when the creatures of the sky are flying in peace and the sun is coming over the land, what better place and way is there to pray for peace in the land?” he added.
At the service, the deacon said, “This is not a call for attention. This is a call to action. Don’t tell me this problem is too big for the church. It’s not too big if we have faith.”
As of Aug. 21, Chicago had recorded just over 300 homicides in 2010. More than 50 of the victims were 18 years old or younger.
“I have done so many funerals for kids, and it hurts,” Deacon Gill said. “It hurts when you turn on the TV and another child has been shot. It hurts.”
Booklets containing information about violence and steps that people can take to stop it were distributed at all of the services.
“This is learned behavior,” Deacon Gill said. “These children were not born to kill. They learned it. And a lot of the time, they learned it in our homes. The hatred is in our hearts.”
At the end of the service, he and other ministers called forth police officers who were in attendance and blessed them, then blessed anyone else who came forward.
Deacon Gill said he had worried that bad weather would stop people from coming out. “So at 5:30, I talked to God, and said, ‘I’ve got to start setting up at 6 o’clock,’” he said.
By 6 a.m., the rain had stopped, leaving the services to start in the mist and the fog. The gray skies gave way by the time services ended to a patchy blue sky with peeks of sunlight.
Eileen Foggie, a Holy Angels parishioner, attended the service. She said God would hear the prayers rising from Chicago’s lakefront.
“I truly believe the Bible where it says if two or three are gathered in God’s name, he will hear our prayers,” she said to Catholic News Service.
As France continues its campaign to repatriate foreign-born Gypsies, Pope Benedict XVI called for greater acceptance of cultural differences and urged parents to teach their children tolerance.
Speaking in French to pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo Aug. 22, the pope said the day’s Scriptures were “an invitation to learn how to accept legitimate differences among human beings, just like Jesus came to unite men and women from every nation and every language.”
After praying the Angelus, he urged families to teach tolerance.
“Dear parents, may you be able to educate your children about universal fraternity,” he said in French.
The pope’s invitation came amid a government-led campaign to expel foreign-born Roma, or Gypsies, from France and dismantle illegal camps.
About 80 Romanian-born Gypsies were flown back to Romania Aug. 19, bringing the number of Gypsies expelled from France in August to about 200 people. More flights were scheduled for the rest of August and September, according to Romania’s Foreign Ministry.
The expulsions were part of a voluntary repatriation program in which the government paid each adult about $380 and each child about $130 to return to his or her country of origin, even though the Gypsies are members of the European Union. In 2007, Romania joined the European Union, which guarantees that citizens of member states enjoy freedom of movement.
The French government, however, demands that the Gypsies have work permits and prove they are able to support themselves.
Some human rights groups questioned the voluntary nature of the program since those who do not chose to return now will face a government order to leave the country with no monetary compensation.
The expulsions have been occurring for a number of years; in 2009, more than 10,000 foreign-born Gypsies were deported, according to the France-based advocacy group Romeurope.
France’s Interior Ministry stressed that the country was enforcing current rules against occupying land with no authorization.
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, criticized the dismantling of some 51 illegal Gypsy camps in early August, which pushed residents into “a precarious situation” that certainly impacted their decision to accept the monetary aid connected to their deportation.
“The ‘Gypsy Question’ is a serious issue for Europe because it involves the largest minority group in Europe: at least 12 million people, including 5 million children who must go to school,” he said in an interview with Vatican Radio and reported by Catholic News Service.
The archbishop said the European Union forbids collective expulsions and that the European Commission was studying the situation.
EU rules state “there can be no expulsions if there is no serious danger to security,” he said.
French law also obligates towns with more than 5,000 inhabitants to create special areas that are available to itinerant peoples, like Gypsies, he said.
“Therefore France itself is found to not have been following a law that was created precisely to protect these people” and to prevent the building of camps illegally, he said.
According to Amnesty International, about 20,000 Gypsies from Eastern and Central Europe are estimated to be residing in France, many of them in illegal camps. However, in a statement, Amnesty reminded French authorities that international law mandates that evictions, even from illegal settlements, should only take place after all other alternatives have been exhausted.
The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities is urging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support proposed legislation that would permanently forbid federal funding of abortion, states Catholic News Service.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 5939, introduced by Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., would “write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use taxpayers’ money to support and promote elective abortion.”
“Even public officials who take a ‘pro-choice’ stand on abortion, and courts that have insisted on the validity of a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion have agreed that the government can validly use its funding power to encourage childbirth over abortion,” he added in an Aug. 20 letter to House members.
As of Aug. 23, the bill had 166 co-sponsors, including 20 Democratic members of the House. It has been referred to the House committees on the Judiciary, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means.
Cardinal DiNardo said some people think the legislation’s position already is fully reflected in U.S. law, and “some wrongly assumed during the recent debate on health care reform that there was no need for restrictions on abortion funding in the new health legislation, because this matter had already been settled by the Hyde amendment.”
The Hyde amendment is approved annually as a rider to the appropriations bill for the Labor and Health and Human Services departments and applies only to funding through those departments, the cardinal noted.
Federal funds are prevented now from funding abortion by riders to various other appropriations bills, as well as by provisions incorporated into authorizing legislation for the Department of Defense, Children’s Health Insurance Program, foreign assistance and other programs, he said.
Gaps or loopholes in these protections have also been discovered at various times, requiring Congress to address them individually, he added.
“While Congress’ policy has been remarkably consistent for decades, implementation of that policy in practice has been piecemeal and sometimes sadly inadequate,” Cardinal DiNardo said.
The bill also will codify into federal law the Hyde/Weldon amendment, which prohibits federal agencies and state and local agencies that receive federal funds from discriminating against health care providers who do not perform abortions. That amendment has been included in Labor/HHS appropriations bills since 2004.
“It is long overdue for this policy, as well, to be given a more secure legislative status,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “No hospital, doctor or nurse should be forced to stop providing much-needed legitimate health care because they cannot in conscience participate in destroying a developing human life.”
The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said it was horrified at the intimidation of doctors and teachers by striking protesters and at the neglect of patients and pupils during an intensifying public sector strike.
“We are horrified that care is being denied to the weakest and most vulnerable,” the bishops said in an Aug. 20 statement signed by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, according to Catholic News Service.
The bishops urged those working in health and education to “give serious consideration to the poor, the vulnerable, the sick and the young people who are desperately striving for a better life by completing” their schooling.
“We call on all educators and health care workers, especially those who are Catholics, to examine their own conscience and action seriously,” the bishops said, noting that, while they support workers’ right to strike, “we call on you to recognize the rights of others to choose freely” whether or not to take part in the action that began Aug. 10 and intensified Aug. 19.
Rubber bullets and water cannon were used against public sector workers protesting outside several hospitals in Johannesburg, with both sides blaming each other for the violence that led to the hospitalization of at least seven strikers.
State hospitals were left understaffed until military doctors, nurses and soldiers were called in at the request of the health minister.
The national Education Department said Aug. 19 that it had received reports of incidents of assault, damage to property and intimidation at schools.
South Africa’s largest union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which has 1.3 million members, called the indefinite strike to try to force the government to meet its demands for an 8.6 percent pay increase and a bigger housing allowance. The state has so far refused to budge on its offer of a 7 percent wage increase and 700 rands ($95) a month housing allowance.
The bishops also urged South Africa’s Public Service Commission and Education Department to ensure that remuneration negotiations are scheduled for the beginning of the year so that teachers’ strikes can be avoided during preparations for final exams.