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October 21, 2018 – Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ambition of James and John Mark 10:35-45 It is unimaginable that these two disciples, after having heard Jesus speak of the suffering he will endure, could ask such a question. Jesus’ response is a challenge for them to examine very carefully the consequences of following him. Prayer: With every challenge I face in doing your work, I must constantly remind myself that I am not doing it for my sake but rather in service to others and to you.

October 20, 2018 – Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Courage Under Persecution/Sayings About the Holy Spirit Luke 12:8-12 Jesus and the Father are one. To accept one is to accept both. To deny one is to deny both. Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid if they are challenged and persecuted. The Holy Spirit will be with them when they are called to defend their faith. Prayer: Spirit of the Living God, even in the darkest and most challenging times I feel your presence. Thank you for that constant and blessed reassurance.

Justice Department opens investigation into abuse claims in Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has received a subpoena as part of a federal grand jury investigating allegations of child sexual abuse and a cover-up of such claims, church officials confirmed Oct. 18. The subpoena "requires the production of certain documents," said Ken Gavin, archdiocesan spokesperson, and the archdiocese "will cooperate with the United States Department of Justice in this matter." The same day, the Diocese of Harrisburg released a statement saying it "will cooperate fully with this inquiry, just as it has with the Office of Attorney General's investigation," which resulted in the release last summer of a statewide grand jury report on allegations of sex abuse by priests and other church workers. "The diocese has worked to be open and transparent regarding the issue of child sexual abuse and its past," it said. News reports by the Associated Press say the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District, based in Philadelphia and led by William M. McSwain, had recently begun serving subpoenas in the new statewide probe. The Catholic Church in Pennsylvania consists of eight dioceses: the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the dioceses of Allentown, Altoona-Johnstown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. In its statement acknowledging it had received a subpoena, the Allentown Diocese said it "sees itself as a partner with law enforcement in its goal to eliminate the abuse of minors wherever it may occur in society." The federal investigation follows the release Aug. 14 of a statewide grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse in the church and decisions by bishops to conceal, transfer or shield alleged abusers. The 18-month investigation under Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro uncovered sexual abuse claims on a vast scale, detailing some 1,000 cases of alleged abuse by 300 priests and other church workers dating back 70 years. Most of the cases took place from the 1960s through the 1980s. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia was not part of that investigation. It had previously been investigated by a grand jury in 2005, which revealed alleged abuse by more than 60 priests over several decades, and again in 2011. The latter led to the conviction of Msgr. William Lynn, former archdiocesan vicar for clergy. He served most of his sentence before the conviction was overturned in 2016 by the state Supreme Court. Each grand jury report led to additional reforms in church policies for handling alleged abusers -- including posting the names of credibly accused clergy on the archdiocese's website -- and to an improved response to victims of abuse. In 2002, the archdiocese, along with most Catholic dioceses in the United States, implemented safe environment policies that mandated training of church workers and volunteers to protect children and youth, and educated children and adults appropriately to raise awareness of abuse and to make reports of suspected abuse immediately to law enforcement authorities. Also not included in last summer's grand jury report was the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, which was probed for clerical sexual abuse in 2016. As a result of that investigation, it too posted the names of credibly accused priests on its website. The practice was implemented in the other six dioceses only after the release in August of the statewide grand jury's report. The 23 jurors of that investigation culled a half-million documents and interviewed numerous people, including church workers and prelates, in producing their 884-page report. That led to only two indictments and one conviction of a priest. Almost all the cases in the eight dioceses are time-barred from prosecution and civil action under Pennsylvania's statutes of limitation. Legislation to open a "window" on the statutes, which would allow retroactive civil lawsuits to be brought for up to two years, passed overwhelmingly in the state House of Representatives earlier this year. But the state Senate did not bring ...

March for Life in January will emphasize 'pro-life is pro-science'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Next year's March for Life plans to fortify its pro-life message with science that proves life begins at conception and with a specific focus on stem-cell research. "Unique From Day One: Pro-Life Is Pro-Science" is the theme announced Oct. 18 by Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. The annual march is scheduled for Jan. 19 to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. "Our DNA is present at the moment of fertilization," Mancini said at the Capitol Hill announcement. "Sadly, society tries to ignore or block these facts. When President Obama was asked, 'When does life begin?' he replied that was above his pay grade." She was referring to Barack Obama when he was running for president and was asked in 2008 during a Dallas forum with evangelical pastor Rick Warren: "When does a baby get human rights?" Obama replied, "Whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity … is above my pay grade." "Science should always be at the service of life, not the reverse," Mancini said. She called for the passage of H.R. 2918, known as the Patients First Act, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services to support research on adult stem cells, not those taken from aborted babies. On Sept. 24, HHS announced that it had it had terminated a contract between the Food and Drug Administration and Advanced Bioscience Resources Inc., which has supplied fetal tissue from abortions occurring at or after nine weeks of pregnancy. At the same time, the agency announced an audit of all federally funded research related to fetal tissue. But pro-life leaders plan to pressure HHS to end more than $100 million in funding for research involving fetal tissue. "The mission of March for Life is to protect the baby in its earliest stages," Mancini added. "It's so important to have a foundation of human dignity for any kind of research." By the time an unborn infant reaches 18 to 20 weeks, "the science is very clear that you can perceive pain by that point in time," said David Prentice, research director for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony List. "These individuals do not need to be destroyed for healing." Prentice said adult stem cells "from many different sources -- umbilical cord blood, the liver" would be a suitable replacement. "Science speaks the truth because it illuminates the truth," said Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a radiologist and a policy adviser for The Catholic Association, who played the sound of a fetal heartbeat at five weeks of gestation. Abortion "was sold to us as a scientific advance, maybe the ultimate scientific advance," she said. But science has subsequently "opened our eyes, it has opened our ears," she said. And the term for fetuses sometimes used in 1973, "a ball of cells," she described as "a terrible perversion of medicine." Activist David Daleiden's undercover videos from Planned Parenthood clinics have made him a hero to the pro-life movement and have gotten him in substantial legal trouble in California, where the videos were taken. He and his Center for Medical Progress are defending against 15 state felony charges for conspiracy and invasion of privacy. The charges were originally filed March 28, 2017, by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. On June 21 of that year a Superior Court judge dismissed 14 of the 15 charges "with leave to amend," meaning they could be refiled. They were refiled June 30, 2017. Also on Oct. 4 of this year, a federal judge refused to lift an injunction banning the release of videos taken at a National Abortion Federation meeting. Nonetheless, Daleiden, after complaining about "jack-booted thugs" who raided his home and office when he was first prosecuted, played excerpts of the videos in which ...

October 19, 2018 – Memorial of Saints John de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, Priests and Companions, Martyrs

The Leaven of the Pharisees/Courage Under Persecution Luke 12:1-7 Do not be afraid, Jesus tells his disciples in today’s gospel. He comforts and reassures them. They must not let their fears keep them from openly living their faith. Though their bodies may die, their spirits will live eternally. Prayer: Lord, I place my fears in your hands, confident that you will show me the way to live boldly as your disciple.

'Every parish, rectory in hurricane zone' suffering, says church official

MIAMI (CNS) -- The physical impact of Hurricane Michael and the anticipated recovery period for parts of the Florida Panhandle appear to be on a scale of last year's Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to the church's top emergency management specialist in Florida. "The devastation is so large that we looking at couple of years at least in recovery," said Gabe Tischler, who is working full time on the Hurricane Michael response for the Tallahassee-based Florida Catholic Conference following the storm's Oct. 10 landfall. The event brought near Category-5 strength winds when it came ashore at Mexico Beach, Florida, near Panama City in the Florida Gulf Coast. "Every parish and rectory in the hurricane zone has suffered damage, and we are working to get RV units in place so the clergy can move out of the damaged rectories," said Tischler. As a resident of Tallahassee, he had to evacuate his residence and is now working remotely coordinating relief and volunteer efforts from regional dioceses, private individuals and corporate donors and state and federal authorities along with Catholic Charities agencies. Scarcity of lodging and housing -- both for residents and emergency responders pouring into the region -- are among the most daunting needs of the recovery efforts, he said, noting that emergency supply distribution centers have been set up or created at Catholic parishes in Florida Panhandle coastal towns of Panama City, Mexico Beach, Marianna, Apalachicola and Port St. Joe. To date, Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida has distributed an estimated million pounds of goods to 8,000 recipients at a distribution site at St. Dominic Parish in Panama City, considered part of the storm's ground zero. Portable toilets, satellite phones, portable laundry facilities and a communications vehicle are among the larger items arriving through private donors and church agencies. Cellphone communications has been nonexistent around the hardest-hit areas but that situation is expected to improve in the near future. The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee in collaboration with Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida has put out an online call for volunteers, noting that two-thirds of that diocese was substantial impacted by Hurricane Michael. The website notes that there is a need for at least 50 volunteers, seven days a week for the next few months at a Catholic Charities staging project at St. Dominic Church. Many of the volunteers are staying at their own cost at area hotels and church facilities in the Tallahassee area, organizers said. In addition, Catholic Charities USA has deployed a small team to the region, with several staff operating a portable laundry facility in Marianna, and another team that will deliver supplies and power generators to Panama City. The Knights of Columbus and individual Charities agencies around the region have also been mobilized to collection donations and send volunteers, Tischler said. "So many people have lost everything: homes, property and even their livelihood. The scenes of destruction are heart-wrenching, knowing that when we see a place where there once was a house, a family used to live there and are now homeless," Bishop William A. Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee said in an Oct. 12 letter to the diocese. A week after the storm came ashore, Hurricane Michael's death toll has risen to 29 across four Southern U.S. states. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump toured hurricane-ravaged areas of the Florida Gulf Coast Oct. 15. In the Miami Archdiocese, Catholic Charities was sending an initial team of four logistics and fact-finding staff on Oct. 17 to spend several days there helping to establish the distribution site in St. Joe, according to Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities Miami. The Miami team planned to be based at the St. John Neumann Retreat Center in Tallahassee through Oct. 21, when another Catholic Charities team from Central Florida was ...

Faith-centered primary care clinic takes place of Iowa abortion facility

BETTENDORF, Iowa (CNS) -- Before Planned Parenthood of the Heartland opened its Bettendorf clinic in 1999, pro-life advocates prayed fervently against construction of the facility and dropped religious medals into the earth on which it would be built. For the next two decades, they prayed unceasingly for closure of the clinic where abortions were performed. Prayers have been answered in what pro-life advocates call "The miracle on Happy Joe Drive." The Planned Parenthood building where unborn babies' lives were ended has been cleansed, cleaned and transformed into a faith-centered primary care clinic and a pregnancy support and resources center. While helping to paint the building's interior in calming cool colors, a painter told someone that she felt a sense of peace. Twenty years earlier, she had traveled to an abortion provider elsewhere but decided against having an abortion. She is grateful to be a mother to a young adult she chose to give birth to and nurture, pro-life advocates said. The figure-eight-shaped building that was Planned Parenthood now is home to Life & Family Medical Clinic, a faith-centered primary care clinic, and the Women's Choice Center, which provides support for pregnant women, new parents and their families. Both are pro-life ministries of Life & Family Educational Trust. Board members anticipate opening the new, direct primary care medical clinic in early 2019. Other clinics in Iowa provide direct services to members who pay a monthly fee, but this one will be unique in following the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The directives call for compassionate health care for all people, regardless of their ability to pay, and excludes prescription of contraceptives, sterilization procedures and recommendations or referrals for abortion. Davenport Bishop Thomas R. Zinkula recently toured the Bettendorf clinic with Life & Family board president Mary Jones, treasurer Beth Millea, Beth's husband, Dr. Tim Millea, and Linda Rubey, executive director of Women's Choice Center. "Bishop Zinkula's visit and knowledge of the clinic plans is critical to our mission," Dr. Millea told The Catholic Messenger, Davenport's diocesan newspaper. "If the clinic is committed to the 'Ethical and Religious Directives,' we want to be certain that the shepherd for the diocese is aware of that." The bishop also has provided the required written support for the clinic's plan to become an affiliate of the National Gianna Women's Center for Women's Health and Fertility. The center strives to help its national network of Gianna medical affiliates "provide pro-life, authentically Catholic health and fertility care to women and families," according to its website. The Gianna model "offers a natural alternative to artificial birth control, abortion and in vitro fertilization (IVF) and paves the way for the culture of life to flourish in parishes and communities around the country." Beth Millea said Life & Family purchased the 8,500-square-foot building from a business owner who bought it from Planned Parenthood. After the purchase, Life & Family requested that a priest conduct an exorcism of the building because of its past use. "What better way to salvage a building than to exorcise it and fill it completely with pro-life ministries?" Beth Millea said. Following the exorcism, Mary Jones "felt that God was in this place." Staff members marvel at how people entering the building, particularly those who had been inside of it when Planned Parenthood occupied the space, now feel a sense of peace that had been missing. Rooms where abortions took place and lives were disposed of were stripped to the studs and rebuilt. Walls have been painted in relaxing shades of blue. The building's two-tone exterior is light gray and blue. A chapel, painted in a lavender shade, has been created in what used to be a recovery room. The building sits at the intersection of Tech ...

October 18, 2018 – Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist

The Mission of the Seventy-two Luke 10:1-9 The Twelve were sent on a previous mission, and now Jesus is sending 72 ahead of him to prepare the way. They are to bring a spirit of humility and openness and to offer peace to those whose households they enter. There will be many challenges, but if they remain completely dependent on him, they will have all that they need. Prayer: I pray for release from the fear and anxiety that limits my trust in you. I pray for a spirit of humility in serving you and my sisters and brothers.

Pilgrim teens pray for those with mental illness

Eight Catholic teens ages 15-18 discerning vocations to the priesthood and religious life took a 70-mile pilgrimage through the Diocese of Portland, Maine, to pray for and raise awareness about teens struggling with addiction, depression or contemplating suicide. Although it was a privately organized event, priests of the diocese offered daily Mass and counsel to the young people during the four-day pilgrimage held Aug. 30-Sept. 2. The pilgrimage was the brainchild of the teens who are part of a Sabattus, Maine, discernment group that has been meeting Tuesday nights for the past year. It is led by Father Seamus Griesbach, vocations director for the diocese, who said, “Our group met one Tuesday night, and the guys told me they wanted to live out their faith more dynamically. I encouraged them to come up with some ideas as to how they might like to do that, and they came back to me and said they wanted to do a pilgrimage.” Pilgrimage intention Father Griesbach had walked part of the famous Camino de Santiago in Spain while he was a transitional deacon, and diocesan seminarians had previously walked on pilgrimage from Portland’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to a Catholic center in Bangor, Maine, hence “pilgrimage was in the air.” Father Griesbach advised the youth that their pilgrimage needed an intention for which to pray and sacrifice, and the group decided to offer their efforts on behalf of their peers experiencing addiction and depression, for those contemplating suicide and those who have lost a teen loved one to suicide. “These are problems we experience in this part of the country,” Father Griesbach said. “Additionally, the opioid epidemic is very much on people’s minds, so I encouraged them to go ahead with that intention.” Some of the teens in the group had been personally affected by suicide, including the pilgrimage’s 17-year-old leader, Patrick Carter of Vassalboro, whose 13-year-old cousin had committed suicide nearly a decade ago. Carter related, “It hurts when I think about it. I did not know him that well, but family members who knew both of us said we had a lot in common. I miss the relationship we could have had.” Carter added that the group wanted to do something positive to address the problem, but thought their efforts at organizing a fundraiser would fail. Hence, he said, “We thought prayer was the best approach. It was our way of reaching out with God’s grace to those who are suffering.” Matthew Sawicki, 18, another pilgrim, said, “It is a serious problem that is often overlooked. To be able to shed some light on it, and to offer up my prayers and sufferings alongside my friends, was an invitation I could not pass up.” The way to the cross The pilgrimage began at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Augusta and ended at St. John’s Church in Bangor, both beautiful churches with a rich Catholic history. The teens walked as many as 21 miles a day, and spent the night either in tents or parishioners’ homes. Twenty minutes of heavy rain greeted the teens as they left St. Mary’s, but the weather cleared and was ideal for the remainder of the trip. Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . Walking 12 hours a day “proved to be a lot harder than we thought, particularly the last five or six miles,” said Carter, “but it gave us the chance to offer our sufferings up.” As they walked they prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, the Angelus, the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. They carried a flag identifying that they were on pilgrimage; it featured a pilgrim shell surrounded by a turquoise ring, a color signifying awareness of the problem of addiction. Friendly strangers greeted them along the way, inquiring about their cause and offering gifts of food, water and cash. People in cars honked and waved. Carter noted, “The support we received made me realize that I can do a lot more than I think I can when other people support me.” Sawicki added, “I was amazed by the random acts of kindness ...

October 17, 2018 – Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Denunciation of the Pharisees and Scholars of the Law, cont’d Luke 11:42-46 Jesus rails against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They offer tithes not to serve the poor but to mask injustice and their lack of charity. He accuses the lawyers of using God’s law to oppress and abuse the people. Prayer: You have called me to your holy work, Lord. Help me to be just and charitable and to stand against injustice.