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14 schools being closed or merged by Chicago archdiocese

October 30th, 2014 Posted in National News Tags: , ,


CHICAGO — In a major restructuring, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced Oct. 29 that 14 elementary schools would be closed or merged at the end of the 2014-2015 academic year.

“This restructuring is the result of our ongoing efforts to strengthen and support sustainable Catholic schools over the long term,” said Thomas McGrath, chief operating officer for Catholic schools. “Although difficult in the immediate term, we know taking these steps will increase access for families and students to excellent Catholic school education, now and in the future.”

The closings and reconfigurations affect approximately 1,280 elementary students and 229 staff.

In an open letter about school finances published in the Catholic New World, Chicago’s archdiocesan newspaper, Cardinal Francis E. George wrote that aid to schools increased significantly in recent years, reaching more than $23 million in 2012. That level decreased with budget cuts but it still totaled $18 million in the fiscal year 2014 just ended.

“This level is higher than the archdiocese can afford and still remain financially healthy and has contributed to unsustainable operating deficits in the archdiocesan budget. These deficits stem from our ongoing operations and do not include expenses related to misconduct settlements,” Cardinal George wrote.

Parish contributions and archdiocesan assets have funded school operating costs to the tune of approximately $165 million over the past five years. The average cost of tuition in Catholic schools is $4,500 per student and in many schools the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

In May, officials in the Office of Catholic Schools met with at-risk schools with the goal of improvement by fall. The criteria to determine a school’s sustainability and potential for reconfiguration included: total archdiocesan aid of more than $300,000 annually; and/or total enrollment lower than 225 students; and/or total archdiocesan aid per student greater than $1,000 annually.

“Even with new scholarships, many of these schools were not able to grow in student numbers,” the cardinal wrote. “Supporting many low-enrollment schools, particularly those with demographic challenges, spreads our scarce resources very thin and limits our ability to invest dollars in strengthening viable school offerings for our students.”

Despite the increased costs of education and decreased resources, ACT scores continue to climb each year and the archdiocese’s school system, the largest private system in the nation, has more Blue Ribbon Schools than any other system in the country, Cardinal George wrote.

“We provide this vital service to our community with no direct public funding, saving Cook and Lake counties an estimated $1.5 billion annually,” he wrote.

Cardinal George said he wanted to make this decision on schools before his retirement and that Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, who will be installed as his successor Nov. 18, had been made aware of the closings.


Texas nurse who recovered from Ebola had prayers of her parish


BETHESDA, Md. — Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse who was the first person known to have contracted the Ebola virus in the United States, thanked God, her family and her medical team for her recovery Oct. 24.

Pham held a news conference in Bethesda after she was declared virus-free and released from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.

Texas nurse Nina Pham  contracted Ebola while treating a man who later died of disease and was admitted late Oct. 16 to a clinic at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. She visited the White House after she was discharged from NIH.  CNS/Reuters

Texas nurse Nina Pham contracted Ebola while treating a man who later died of disease and was admitted late Oct. 16 to a clinic at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. She visited the White House after she was discharged from NIH.

“I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today. I would first and foremost like to thank God, my family and friends,” she said. “Throughout this ordeal I have put my trust in God and my medical team.

“I am on my way back to recovery even as I reflect on how many others have not been so fortunate,” added Pham, 26, who grew up in Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Fort Worth, Texas, and where she and her family have been longtime members.

She was “thankful for everyone involved in my care,” she said, “from the moment I became ill and was admitted to Texas Health Presbyterian Health Dallas up to today,” when she was being discharged from NIH.

After she was released from the hospital, she paid a visit to President Barack Obama in the Oval Office at the White House.

Pham was involved in the care of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan prior to his death Oct. 8. Duncan contracted Ebola in his home country of Liberia and had traveled to the Dallas hospital where he was being treated.

The Centers for Disease Control initially said Pham’s contact of the virus was likely a protocol breach, but the nurse is said to have worn the required protective gear and is believed to have followed the hospital’s procedures.

She was kept in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian. Pham received a blood transfusion Oct. 12 from Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, who had been working with Ebola patients in Liberia when he contracted the virus in the summer. He recovered in an Atlanta hospital.

On Oct. 16, she was transported to NIH.

Pham is a 2006 graduate of Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth. When the school community found out she contracted Ebola, it organized a rosary service at the school’s chapel.

The pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, Father Jim Khoi, also asked for prayers for her. “She knows that everybody knew to pray for her, especially in this difficult time,” he told The Dallas Morning News daily paper shortly after Pham was found to have the virus.

“Her mom is very calm and trusts everything to God’s hands,” he noted.

Pham’s apartment was thoroughly cleaned after tests confirmed she contracted the disease. Her dog, Bentley, was put into isolation to be cared for and tested for Ebola. The dog has since been found to be virus-free. Pham said she looked forward to returning to Texas and being reunited with her family and her dog.

A second nurse who contracted Ebola, Amber Vinson, also has been declared virus-free, but news reports said she would remain in treatment in Atlanta until further notice. On Oct. 23, a U.S. doctor who just returned from treating Ebola patients was found to have Ebola and he is now in isolation at a New York City hospital.

In Arizona, the Crosier Fathers and Brothers announced Oct. 24 the community would offer a novena of intercession for protection from Ebola in conjunction with St. Theresa Catholic Church in Phoenix.

The novena was to begin Oct. 28 and continue for nine consecutive Tuesdays. Each evening service, lasting 30 to 40 minutes, was to have “a different theme of deliverance,” a news release said.

It said the novena is built on a prayer service featuring the solemn chanting of the “Haec Est Praeclarum Vas,” which was sung by the Crosiers in the Middle Ages to ward off the threat of the bubonic plague. That chant continued daily for centuries thereafter in Crosier communities.

“Given the widespread concern and fear of this deadly virus, we invite people to come together and pray for protection. We are drawing on an age-old Crosier tradition of reflection and intercession to Our Lady of Protection,” said Father Robert Rossi, a member of the Crosier Community of Phoenix and chair of the community’s Apostolic Presence Commission.

“The Crosier mission is to accompany people in their suffering, to stand with them and assure them that God has not abandoned them but is bringing about new life in some mysterious way,” he said. “We touch suffering with hope.”

Father Chuck Kieffer, pastor of St. Theresa, added: “While this type of prayer service is rooted in our ancient traditions, it is very relevant to what’s happening today.”


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Chicago’s new archbishop to live in rectory at Holy Name Cathedral

October 23rd, 2014 Posted in National News Tags: , , ,


CHICAGO — Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, who will succeed Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George in mid-November, told the priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago that he has decided he will live in the rectory at Holy Name Cathedral.

He said Oct. 22 that he made the decision in consultation with Cardinal George, Msgr. Dan Mayall, who is the cathedral’s pastor, and several Chicago priests.

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, who was appointed Sept. 20 to head the Chicago Archdiocese, pauses during an interview in Washington Oct. 6. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, who was appointed Sept. 20 to head the Chicago Archdiocese, pauses during an interview in Washington Oct. 6. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

The rectory is the former residence of retired Auxiliary Bishop Timothy J. Lyne, who died in 2013 at age 94. The living quarters are named for the late bishop.

Archbishop Cupich said that among other considerations, he wanted to live in a place where he can be most effective in serving all the people in the Archdiocese of Chicago. When his schedule permits, the archbishop intends to say daily Mass at the cathedral. The location also provides easy access to his office at Archbishop Quigley Center.


In deciding to live at the cathedral, the newly named archbishop said he also recognized the historical significance of the Archbishop’s Residence on Chicago’s North State Parkway. The three-story, red-brick manse has been the home of all the archbishops of Chicago since it was built in 1885 by Archbishop Patrick Feehan. Cardinal George has made his home there since 1997, the year he was named Chicago’s archbishop.

The residence is on the National Register of Historic Places as “a structure of significance.” It hosted St. John Paul II and two of his predecessors before they were elected pope, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the Vatican secretary of state who became Pope Pius XII in 1939, and Cardinal Giovanni Montini, who worked closely with Pope Pius XII, and became pope in 1963.

Archbishop Cupich, who will be installed Nov. 18 during a Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, said he plans to use his residence for official archdiocesan functions and to host guests.


He also announced that he will establish the Archbishop’s Residence Committee, which will study the best uses of the facility for the benefit of the mission of the archdiocese.


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Decision to house those monitored for Ebola ‘right thing to do,’ says Dallas bishop


DALLAS — Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell said that he followed the teaching of Christ and stepped in to house the fiancee of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan and three others for several weeks at a diocesan facility because when no one else would.

The bishop’s acknowledgement Oct. 20 coincided with the lifting of the 21-day quarantine for nearly four dozen people being screened for the Ebola virus with none showing any signs of the disease. It also capped nearly a month of a scrambling by local, state and federal officials in trying to both combat the virus and calm the public’s fears about its spread.

Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell answers questions from media Oct. 20 about what will happen to the diocese's building in South Dallas where Ebola victim Thomas Duncan's financee and her family were quarantined. The bishop's news conference coincided with the lifting of the 21-day quarantine for nearly four dozen people being screened for the Ebola virus, with none showing any signs of the disease. (CNS photo/courtesy The Texas Catholic)

Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell answers questions from media Oct. 20 about what will happen to the diocese’s building in South Dallas where Ebola victim Thomas Duncan’s financee and her family were quarantined. The bishop’s news conference coincided with the lifting of the 21-day quarantine for nearly four dozen people being screened for the Ebola virus, with none showing any signs of the disease. (CNS photo/courtesy The Texas Catholic)

During the time, two nurses who had contact with Duncan tested positive for the virus after his death. And with the growing health concerns, officials also faced a national public relations headache as they acknowledged missteps in the handling of the crisis, including not initially banning those self-monitoring themselves for symptoms from traveling or coming into contact with the public.

In between, there were various condemnations from nurses about the hospital staff not being properly trained to handle such a crisis, calls for travel bans to the United States from people from the four West African countries hardest hit by the virus, and prayer meetings and candlelight vigils observed at various churches in the Dallas area for Duncan and those impacted by the virus.

Still on Oct. 20, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, among other officials, spoke at an early morning news conference at the Dallas County office building, saying that 43 people being monitoring for the virus had not shown any symptoms of the disease and were free to return to their normal lives without fear that they carried or would develop the disease.

They also spoke about area residents being compassionate and welcoming of those who had been self-monitoring themselves or, as in the specific case of those who came into direct contact with Duncan, that they be accepted back into the society.

“There is no question that today is milestone day, a hurdle that we need to get over, but there are other hurdles to jump,” Rawlings said.

Duncan had traveled to the United States from Liberia in September to visit his fiancee and went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas after feeling sick. He was sent home, but was returned in an ambulance several days later and tested positive for the Ebola virus. He had been staying with his fiancee, Louise Troh, her son and two nephews in an apartment in an area of the city where many refugees from Africa make their home.

As Duncan was isolated at the hospital, officials planned to decontaminate their apartment, but the family could not be moved to a suitable location. That’s when the county judge and the mayor asked Bishop Farrell about finding a place for them. He and his staff worked with local officials to transfer the family from their apartment to a building at the far end of the Catholic Conference and Formation Center in South Dallas.

At a mid-morning news conference outside the gated retreat center, Bishop Farrell said that he and several other people, including Troh’s pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church, had spoken with the family earlier in the day.

He confirmed that local officials called him after exhausting alternatives for a suitable place willing to take the family. He said he debated for about 15 minutes before saying that he followed the example of Christ and said “yes.”

“I knew that they had tried to find other places and they just couldn’t find one. I was then moved by their dedication and concern. I, too, was concerned,” the bishop said. “I felt it was the right thing to do and am so pleased that we did.

“It is an example of what it means to care for our brothers and sisters, irrespective of where they come from, what race or what religion they are,” he said. “We help people because they are people. We help people because we are Catholic, not because they are Catholic.”

Diocesan officials canceled various retreats and meetings at the retreat center while Troh and her family were at the home on the property. He said the family remains there until they find suitable housing. The bishop said the county will properly clean the facility, but that because none of those temporarily housed there tested positive for the virus it did not have to go through hazmat cleaning.

On Oct. 19, about 150 health care professionals attended the annual White Mass at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in downtown Dallas, with Auxiliary Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel thanking and praising them for their works, saying they, like Christ, were healers.

After the Mass, Dr. Tom Zellers, a pediatric cardiologist and president of the Dallas Catholic Medical Association, said that the blessing from Bishop Deshotel came at a poignant time for health care workers in Dallas.

“Obviously we are trying to do the best we can for patients, both those who are sick and those who are well to keep them well and we had prayers for people affected by the Ebola situation here in Dallas,” Zellers told The Texas Catholic, newspaper of the Dallas Diocese.

Worshippers prayed specifically for Nina Pham, 26, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian and a Catholic, who contracted the virus from Duncan. She received plasma from Dr. Kenneth Brantley, who contracted the virus in Africa but survived after being treated in the United States.

Pham was transferred from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where she continues to receive treatment. Another nurse, Amber Vinson, 29, is at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, after also being transferred from Texas Presbyterian Hospital. She was admitted to Texas Presbyterian Hospital Oct. 14, after a weekend of roundtrip travel from Dallas to Cleveland on Frontier Airlines.

She boarded the plane for her return trip to Dallas after conferring with Dallas County Health officials and her family says she was approved for the return travel because her low-grade fever had not spiked to the level that would cause concern.

The news of her travel impacted not only the airline company, but people who were on the flight with her or on the plane that was in service for several days before it was decontaminated and parked in a hangar.

Her family has now hired attorney Billy Martin after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that she had been advised not to avoid public transportation while self-monitoring her symptoms.

Sedeno is executive editor of The Texas Catholic and Revista Catolica, the English- and Spanish-language newspapers of the Diocese of Dallas.

 — Dennis Sedeno

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Vatican nuncio at U.N. decries growing violence against children


UNITED NATIONS — Millions of the world’s children today are victims of armed conflict, pornography and sexual trafficking, and still more “are denied the most fundamental right to life,” said the Vatican’s nuncio to the United Nations.

“Prenatal selection eliminates babies suspected to have disabilities and female children simply because of their sex,” Archbishop Berardito Auza said Oct. 17 in a statement to the U.N. Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, which was discussing the rights of children.

He is the Vatican’s permanent representative at the U.N. in New York.

Archbishop Auza cited a report delivered a month earlier by Ambassador Anthony Lake, the executive director of UNICEF, who did not focus on any improved conditions for children but rather on the growing number of humanitarian crises that are severely challenging how countries try to provide children the protection they deserve.

“It is an unfortunate reality that every conflict, every outbreak of an epidemic, every natural disaster,” he said, “has the potential to roll back the steady progress the world has made in recent decades in reducing child mortality and improving access to nutrition, safe water and education.”

It is even more tragic “when such rollbacks” are caused by humans and specifically target and victimize children, he said.

“In recent years, almost 3 million children have been killed in armed conflicts; 6 million have been left disabled; tens of thousands mutilated by anti-personnel mines,” Archbishop Auza said.

“Too many children still lack sufficient food and housing,” he continued. In many countries “they have no access to medicines,” he said, and still other children “are sold to traffickers, sexually exploited, recruited into irregular armies, uprooted by forced displacements, or compelled into debilitating work.”

With regard to recruiting child soldiers, he noted that “this has spread in some regions where this phenomenon was not rampant and that there have been recent cases of children forced to commit terrorist acts like suicide bombings.”

“Eliminating violence against children demands that states, governments, civil society and religious communities support and enable the family to carry out its proper responsibility,” Archbishop Auza said.

He said the approaching 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family “offers an opportunity to refocus on the role of the family in development.”

It is a chance to reflect on what the family, which he termed a “primordial institution,” can do to face the multiple challenges threatening the children’s development in all countries.

He said the Vatican and its U.N. delegation “attaches great importance” to the commemoration.

In 1994 to mark the celebration of the International Year of the Family, St. John Paul II issued a “Letter to Families” in which he told families the love and acceptance they show for each other are society’s first-line defense against attacks on human dignity.

For its part, Archbishop Auza said in his remarks, the Catholic Church, “mainly through its more than 300,000 social and educational institutions around the world, especially in depressed and war-torn regions, will continue working daily to ensure both education and food for children, as well as the reintegration of the victims of violence into their families and into society.”

He also noted that the U.N. in November will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which he said “remains a prominent standard in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.”

The document, he said, “contains such fundamental principles as the protection of the rights of the child before as well as after birth, the family as the natural environment for the growth and education of children, and the right of the child to health care and education.”

The world’s governments and civil society in general “should encourage all initiatives and activities aimed at the promotion and protection of the rights of the child,” Archbishop Auza said.

In this regard, he said it was fitting that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was jointly won by Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girls’ right to education, and Kailash Satyarthi of India, who campaigns against child trafficking and child labor.

At 17, Yousafzai is the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize; Satyarthi, 60, is the first Indian-born winner.


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U.S. Catholic health care workers, dioceses respond to Ebola crisis


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Tabiri Chukunta has been trying to get the word out to the West African community in New Jersey that their families and friends in Liberia need to put on hold, at least temporarily, cultural traditions of greeting people affectionately and washing bodies of the dead.

For now, Chukunta, executive director of community outreach at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey — a long way from his Nigerian homeland — feels the educational campaign has been effective.

Read more »

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Life of newly beatified New Jersey nun called ‘recipe for holiness’


Catholic News Service

NEWARK, N.J. — More than 2,200 people packed the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark Oct. 4 to celebrate the first beatification liturgy in the United States.

Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth from Bayonne, was given the title “blessed” in a joyful ceremony conducted in three languages — English, Latin and Slovak.

People take photos of a portrait of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich following her beatification Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., Oct. 4. Blessed Miriam Teresa, a Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth who died at age 26 in 1927, is the first candidate for sainthood to be beatified in the U.S. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

People take photos of a portrait of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich following her beatification Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., Oct. 4. Blessed Miriam Teresa, a Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth who died at age 26 in 1927, is the first candidate for sainthood to be beatified in the U.S. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Blessed Miriam Teresa died in 1927 at age 26. Pope Francis paved the way for her beatification in December 2013 when he accepted that, through her intercession, Michael Mencer, a young New Jersey boy, was cured in 1963 of blindness caused by macular degeneration.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, was the principal celebrant of the liturgy. He was joined by Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark; Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States; Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson; Bishop Kurt Burnette of Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic; Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington; and six other bishops and more than 100 priest concelebrants.

The 20-minute processional included Mencer, now 58, and his family, members of Blessed Miriam Teresa’s family and hundreds of Sisters of Charity.

Blessed Miriam Teresa was born in Bayonne in 1901 to Slovakian immigrant parents. She was baptized and confirmed in the Byzantine Catholic rite. The young woman graduated with honors from high school and college, cared for her ailing parents until their deaths, and taught Latin and English in a high school run by the Sisters of Charity.

Although she hoped to join a contemplative order, Blessed Miriam Teresa was rejected because her poor eyesight made it impossible for her to sew vestments the nuns made to support themselves. She entered the Sisters of Charity in 1925.

At her Benedictine confessor’s request, Blessed Miriam Teresa anonymously wrote a series of articles on religious life, which he presented as talks to her fellow novices. Her health declined dramatically and she was allowed to make her final vows early, in anticipation of death.

After the young sister’s death May 8, 1927, her writings were published as a book, “Greater Perfection.” Father Benedict Bradley, the confessor, wrote: “I thought that one day she would be ranked among the saints of God and I felt it was incumbent upon me to utilize whatever might contribute to an appreciation of her merits after her death.”

Confidantes said Blessed Miriam Teresa described having a vision of Mary during college and an encounter with St. Therese of Lisieux while in the novitiate.

In 1945, the bishop of Paterson opened an examination into Blessed Miriam Teresa’s life and virtues; the Sisters of Charity established a prayer league in her honor; and, in 1954, the Paterson Diocese opened her cause.

In 1963, a sister in her community gave young Michael Mencer a small round prayer card with a strand of Blessed Miriam Teresa’s hair to bring home to his mother. The boy was rapidly losing his vision to juvenile macular degeneration and could no longer see what was in front of him.

As described by the lanky adult Mencer after the beatification Mass, he pulled the card out of his pocket on the walk home from school and was surprised to be able to clearly see the slender strand of hair. At home, he said it took a few minutes for his mother, a nurse, to understand he could see. “I have scars on my head from riding my bike into trees, but she kept me patched up,” he laughed, fingering his balding scalp.

Subsequent examinations by multiple ophthalmologists determined Mencer’s cure was medically inexplicable. Today, the middle-aged man wears glasses only for reading.

At the beginning of Mass, Cardinal Amato read a letter from Pope Francis declaring the Sister of Charity “blessed” by virtue of her “ardent adoration of the Most Holy Trinity” and “strenuous witness (that) is evidence of her evangelical love.”

The congregation burst into applause as a gold-framed oil portrait of the young sister was unveiled in the sanctuary and people in procession placed items on a table in front of it. Mencer carried a relic of Blessed Miriam Teresa and other members of her family, congregation and promoters of her cause brought flowers.

Deacon Stephen Russo intoned the Gospel in Slovak and English. In his homily, Bishop Serratelli said Blessed Miriam Teresa did the will of God with all her might. “Filled with the knowledge of sacred Scripture, she anticipated Vatican II’s emphasis on the word of God as the source of authentic spirituality for all,” he said.

“In our secularized age that often shuns solitude and silence, God is giving us, from among those who leave the world for Christ, a new blessed who was, in the words spoken at her death, a living ‘monstrance that silently showed forth our Lord to all who passed by,’” the bishop said.

Sister Barbara Connell, a Sister of Charity and one of Blessed Miriam Teresa’s promoters, told Catholic News Service the event was exhilarating. “I have difficulty wiping the smile off my face. You work so hard for something, it becomes part of your life and today it is a reality: She is declared blessed.”

Sister Connell said she hopes the beatification will help spread Blessed Miriam Teresa’s message that all people are called to holiness, wherever they are in their state in life. “If we do God’s will as we believe he wants us to do it that day, that is a recipe for holiness and that was Miriam Teresa’s recipe,” she said.


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Father Groeschel, author, retreat master and preacher, dies


TOTOWA, N.J. — Father Benedict J. Groeschel, who was a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a leading pro-life figure and popular author, retreat master and preacher, died Oct. 3 at St. Joseph’s Home for the elderly in Totowa after a long illness. He was 81.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Father Benedict. He was an example to us all,” said Father John Paul Ouellette, who is also a Franciscan friar and the order’s community servant.

Father Benedict J. Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and a leading pro-life figure, is pictured in a 2012 photo. He died Oct. 3 at age 81 after a long illness. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Father Benedict J. Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and a leading pro-life figure, is pictured in a 2012 photo. He died Oct. 3 at age 81 after a long illness. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

“His fidelity and service to the church and commitment to our Franciscan way of life will have a tremendous impact for generations to come,” he said in a statement released Oct. 4 by the order’s community office in the Bronx, New York.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated for Father Groeschel Oct. 10 at Newark’s cathedral basilica, followed by burial at Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark. The burial will be private.

“The Catholic Church and the Franciscan family lost a giant today,” said an Oct. 3 statement issued by Father Groeschel’s community.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Father Benedict but also relieved that God has set him free from the physical and mental suffering he has experienced over the past decade,” the statement said.

“Father Benedict was a brother and a father to everyone he encountered. In a world often overwhelmed with darkness, he was a man filled with hope, a hope that he shared with both the rich and poor alike,” the statement said. “Father Benedict was at home in every circumstance and every encounter.”

In January 2004, Father Groeschel almost died after a car hit him in Orlando, Florida. After a yearlong recovery, he walked with a cane and experienced weakness in one of his arms. But resumed his schedule.

In 2012, he retired from public life and was welcomed by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Totowa.

Father Groeschel had published a number of books on spirituality and pastoral counseling and founded the Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for clergy. He taught at Fordham University, Iona College and Maryknoll Seminary.

At the time of his death, he was writing a memoir to be published by Our Sunday Visitor called “The Life of a Struggling Soul. He also wrote numerous articles for various periodicals including First Things and Priest Magazine.

In the 1970s, he headed the Office of Spiritual Development in the Archdiocese of New York. For more than 30 years he was a regular on various programs on the Eternal World Television Network. He was host of EWTN’s “Sunday Night Prime” television for many years.

For decades he distributed food to hundreds of needy people in the South Bronx. His first assignment as a priest was as Catholic chaplain at Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, a residential facility for troubled children. After being there 14 years, he became founding director of Trinity Retreat in Larchmont, New York, a retreat house primarily for Catholic clergy and religious. He was there for 40 years.

He also was the founder of St. Francis House in Brooklyn, New York, for older adolescents. In 1985, he and Chris Bell founded Good Counsel Homes for young pregnant women in need.

Born Robert Peter Groeschel July 23, 1933, in Jersey City, New Jersey, he was the eldest of six children. He graduated from high school in 1951 and 10 days later entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Joseph in Huntington, Indiana.

The following year, he professed temporary vows and took the name Benedict Joseph, after the Franciscan saint, St. Benedict Joseph Labre.

He professed his final vows in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1959. He received a master’s degree in counseling from Iona College in 1964 and a doctorate in education, with a specialty in psychology, from Teachers College at Columbia University in 1971.

During his early years as a priest, he was invited to conduct a retreat for the Missionaries of Charity in India, which was the beginning of Father Groeschel’s long relationship with that community and his deep friendship with its founder, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.

In 1987, Father Groeschel and seven other friars left the Capuchins to form a new religious community, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, based in the South Bronx and dedicated to the service to the poor. The community now numbers 115 members. A similar community for women, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal also was formed; it currently has 35 members.

Father Groeschel is survived by two sisters, Marjule Drury of Caldwell, New Jersey, and Robin Groeschel of Glendive, Montana, and one brother, Garry Groeschel of St. Petersburg, Florida, and nine nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his brothers Ned and Mark.


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Phila. archdiocese sells three properties for $56 million


PHILADELPHIA — The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s finances took a major step toward good health with the announcement Oct. 2 of agreements of sale for three archdiocesan properties collectively worth an estimated $56.2 million.

Proceeds from the latest transactions along with the $53 million initial payment from long-term leasing of the 13 archdiocesan cemeteries completed last May and the sale of the archdiocesan nursing homes, projected to net $95 million after closing costs, will address three underfunded obligations of the archdiocese.

Collectively underfunded by $340 million in June 2013, those three funds plus the Lay Employees Retirement Plan include the Trust and Loan Fund, the Self-Insurance Fund and the Priests Pension Fund.

The lay employees’ traditional pension plan, underfunded by $142 million, was frozen last July as the archdiocese began to offer its employees a 403(b) employee-contribution retirement plan. At the end of fiscal year 2013, the plan had $522 million of assets against actuarially determined liabilities of approximately $664 million, a funding rate of about 79 percent. Funds in the plan are more than sufficient for immediate and mid-term payments, but the goal is to have it fully funded.

The property sales announced Oct. 2 include the 213-acre site of Don Guanella Village and Cardinal Krol Center in Marple Township, for $47 million; the 454 acres of the former Mary Immaculate Retreat Center, which is in the Diocese of Allentown, for $5.5 million; and a 55-acre tract of the St. John Vianney Center property in Downingtown, for $3.7 million.

The Trust and Loan Fund, which like a bank accepts deposits from parishes and makes loans to them for projects, was underfunded by $79.8 million as of June 30, 2013. A promissory note was executed in May 2012 that pledged archdiocesan properties to address the underfunding.

The cemeteries transaction produced $30 million for the fund, and $52.2 million from sale of the Don Guanella Village site and Mary Immaculate Center’s property should satisfy the current estimated underfunded amount of $49.8 million.

“We expect that the proceeds from these transactions should be sufficient to fully satisfy the remaining shortfall in Trust and Loan,” said Timothy O’Shaughnessy, chief financial officer of the archdiocese. “If the proceeds fall short of what is necessary, we will apply amounts from the sale of remaining pledged properties as needed.”

Proceeds from the sale of the Downingtown property will be put toward the Priests Pension Plan, currently underfunded by an estimated $76.3 million after an allocation of $11.5 million from the cemeteries transaction. The Self-Insurance Fund remains underfunded at $18.9 million after its allocation of $11.5 million from the cemeteries deal.

All the total underfunding of $95.2 million remaining in those funds conceivably could be covered by the sale of the six skilled nursing homes and one independent living facility of archdiocesan Catholic Health Care Services. That deal was valued at $145 million when announced last July.

An Oct. 2 statement by the archdiocese alluded to the possibility, saying the “underfunded balance-sheet liabilities will be further reduced upon closing of the transaction involving archdiocesan nursing homes. Specific allocations of the net proceeds from their transaction have not been determined.”

The property sales announced Oct. 2 are another step in the continuing efforts under Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to restore fiscal soundness to the archdiocese.

Early steps in 2012 included the sale of the archbishop’s residence in Philadelphia to St. Joseph’s University for $10 million and the priests’ summer home in Ventnor, New Jersey, for $4.5 million, which provided the archdiocese with funds for immediate cash flow.

Also over the past two years, the archdiocesan staff has been reduced by 25 percent.

Through such actions, the archdiocese stemmed its operational deficit. Audited financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 2013 showed a reduction of the core operational deficit to $4.9 million as opposed to the core deficit of $17.9 million reported for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012.

“None of these measures were taken lightly,” the archdiocese said in its statement, “but all were essential to maintaining the presence of the Catholic Church in the Philadelphia region and the good works accomplished through its various ministries.”

Gambino is director and general manager of CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Lou Baldwin, a freelance writer in Philadelphia, also contributed to the story.


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Year of Consecrated Life events to help laity learn about religious

October 2nd, 2014 Posted in Featured, National News


Catholic News Service

In an effort to help lay Catholics gain a deeper understanding of religious life, priests, brothers and women religious intend to open their convents, monasteries, abbeys and religious houses to the public one day next February.

“If you’ve ever wondered what a brother or religious sister does all day, you will find out,” said Dominican Sister Marie Bernadette Thompson in announcing the open house scheduled for Feb. 8, 2015.

Father Jim Greenfield, provincial of the  Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Wilmington-Philadellphia,, who is president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, discusses initiatives focused on bringing together men and women religious and families, particularly young adults, during an Oct. 1 press conference in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Father Jim Greenfield, provincial of the Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Wilmington-Philadellphia,, who is president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, discusses initiatives focused on bringing together men and women religious and families, particularly young adults, during an Oct. 1 press conference in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

The open house is just one of the events for the upcoming Year of Consecrated Life, which begins the weekend of Nov. 29-30, the first Sunday of Advent is Nov. 30. It will end Feb. 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated life.

The special year dedicated to consecrated life was announced by Pope Francis and is similar to previous themed years announced by popes such as Year of the Priest (2009-2010) or Year of St. Paul. (2008-2009).

The year also marks the 50th anniversary of “Perfectae Caritatis,” a decree on religious life, and “Lumen Gentium,” the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The purpose of the yearlong celebration, according to a Vatican statement, is to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past” while embracing “the future with hope.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, announced the Year of Consecrated Life events at an Oct. 1 news conference at the USCCB headquarters in Washington.

He said the scheduled events will provide an opportunity, especially for young people, to see how men and women religious live. He also urged heads of religious orders to let his committee know of activities they are planning so they can be publicized.

Sister Thompson, council coordinator of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, said the purpose of the open house gatherings will be to provide people with an encounter with men and women religious and also an encounter with Christ.

Sister Marcia Allen, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, and president-elect of Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said another initiative for the upcoming year is called “Days with Religious,” during which laypeople will have opportunities to join men and women religious in works of service throughout the summer of 2015.

She said these opportunities, to be announced locally, will not only give laypeople the chance to “work with us side by side” but will also enable them to become aware of the charisms of different orders.

Sister Allen said she hoped the experience would be a “coming together for the sake of the church’s presence” in the modern world.

The third major initiative for the year is a day of prayer scheduled Sept. 13, 2015.

“We will join hands and hearts with you that day,” said Father James Greenfield, president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, who noted that throughout that day people will be invited to join religious men and women for vespers, rosary or holy hours.

The priest, who is a member and the provincial of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales of the Wilmington, Delaware-Philadelphia province, said he hoped the year would not only encourage new vocations but also would allow people to “see our commitment with fresh eyes and open their hearts to support us with a renewed energy that stirs us all to embrace our pope’s ongoing call for the new evangelization.”

Although the year’s events are intended to give laypeople a deeper understanding of consecrated life, the men and women religious also said they will most likely benefit.

Sister Thompson said she hopes women religious experience a renewed joy in their vocation and Sister Allen stressed that by simply explaining their order’s charisms to others should give the sisters a deeper understanding and appreciation of their ministries.

“Whenever you think you are giving something you always end up receiving more,” she said.

Prayers intentions, prayer cards, a video on consecrated life and other resources are available at: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/consecrated-life/year-of-consecrated-life/index.cfm.


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