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Students need values from teachers, teachers need better pay, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY —Teaching is about giving young people, especially troublemakers, values and hope, and it is “an injustice” that today’s educators are paid so poorly, Pope Francis said.

In a world where it is already difficult for kids to find a decent point of reference, they must find positive guidance from teachers, who “are able to give meaning to school, studying and culture, without reducing it all just to passing on practical knowledge,” he said March 14.

Fourth-grade teacher Jessica Jones works with her class Oct. 20, 2014, at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Chicago.(CNS photo/Karen Callaway)

Fourth-grade teacher Jessica Jones works with her class Oct. 20, 2014, at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Chicago.(CNS photo/Karen Callaway)

“You have to teach not just about a subject, but also life’s values and habits” because when it comes to learning about a subject, “a computer is sufficient, but to understand how to love, to understand what the values and habits are that create harmony in the world, you need a good teacher,” he said.

The pope’s remarks came during a meeting with members of an Italian association of Catholic teachers, educators and school administrators in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall.

Addressing those in the audience as “colleagues,” the pope recalled his own experience as a teacher, saying teaching “is a really beautiful job” because it lets educators see their students “grow day after day.”

However, he said, it was “an injustice” and a “shame that teachers are poorly paid.”

“Teaching is a serious commitment that only a mature and well-balanced” person should take on, he added.

Young people expect a teacher to be “a guide, a compass, an answer” as well as someone who asks them “good questions,” he said.

The pope called on teachers to reach out to and “love with greater intensity” the kids on “the peripheries” of their school: those who do not like studying, who are labeled as “difficult,” who have disabilities, come other countries or face other problems and disadvantages.

“Jesus would say: If you love only those who study or who are well-educated, what merit does that have? There are those who try your patience, but we have to love them even more,” the pope said.

In addition to teaching “the contents” of a particular subject, teachers need to build an edifying relationship with all students, “who must feel welcomed and loved for who they are, with all their limits and potential.”

The pope encouraged teachers to renew their love for humanity because “you can’t teach without passion” and he asked they be “witnesses of life and hope. Never, ever close the door, open all of them wide so that students will have hope.”

 

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Our Lenten Journey, March 16, 2015

March 16th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:

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Our Lenten Journey | March 16, 2015

 

“Grant me, O Lord my God,

a mind to know you,

a heart to seek you,

wisdom to find you,

conduct pleasing to you,

faithful perseverance in waiting for you,

and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.”

— St. Thomas Aquinas

 

A good prayer from St. Thomas Aquinas to start the week.

 

TODAY’S READINGS:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031615.cfm

USCCB LENTEN RESOURCES:

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/lent-calendar.cfm

MAR.16

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Sals complete basketball playoff run with improbable state title

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Dialog reporter

and Jason Winchell

For The Dialog

NEWARK – As the seconds ticked away in Saturday’s boys state basketball championship final, Polytech’s Gabe Brown fired up one last three-point shot with about eight seconds to go. It kicked off the rim into the hands of Donte DiVincenzo. The Salesianum senior dribbled the ball upcourt, took a little hop-step and hurled the rock skyward. The buzzer sounded, and the Sals had successfully defended their state title from a year ago with a 52-45 win over Polytech at the Bob Carpenter Center.

DiVincenzo ran in a small circle and jumped into the arms of his waiting teammates as Salesianum completed what, for most of the season, seemed like an unlikely postseason run. The senior, who cemented his legacy at Salesianum, paced the winners with 23 points and 13 rebounds, both game-highs, and another banner for the wall in Father Birkenheuer Gymnasium. Read more »

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Our Lenten Journey, March 14

March 14th, 2015 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:

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Our Lenten Journey | March 14, 2015

 

“The gate of heaven is very low; only the humble can enter it.” — St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee and the sinner. What lessons can we take from this parable to better practice humility?

 

TODAY’S READINGS:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031415.cfm

USCCB LENTEN RESOURCES:

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/lent-calendar.cfm

 

MAR.14

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Hahn scores 29, leads Raiders to 15th state hoops title

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Dialog reporter

 

NEWARK – While many in Delaware’s high school basketball community had written in Ursuline Academy as the girls’ basketball state champion before Friday evening’s final, someone forgot to let Caravel Academy in on the secret. The No. 2 Buccaneers stayed remarkably close to the top-seeded Raiders, but they had no answer for senior Adrianna Hahn, who exploded for 29 points in Ursuline’s 53-41 win at the Bob Carpenter Center.

It was Ursuline’s first title since 2012, Hahn’s freshman year, and the school’s 15th overall. For Hahn, it was the realization of a goal that she personally and the team collectively had set a long time ago. After the game ended, the Raiders and their coaches lingered on the Carpenter Center floor until security asked them and their fans to vacate the building.

Ursuline junior Kailyn Kampert takes to the air while teammates Dakota Raymond (red shirt), Alisha Lewis, Adrianna Hahn and Sabriya Harris watch the final seconds tick off in the Raiders' 53-41 championship win over Caravel. (The Dialog/www.DonBlakePhotography.com)

Ursuline junior Kailyn Kampert takes to the air while teammates Dakota Raymond (red shirt), Alisha Lewis, Adrianna Hahn and Sabriya Harris watch the final seconds tick off in the Raiders’ 53-41 championship win over Caravel. (The Dialog/www.DonBlakePhotography.com)

“This has been our goal since the first day of the season, all 15 of us and the coaching staff,” Hahn said. “We’ve worked so hard, we accomplished so much, and I’m so proud. This is the best way to end it. I didn’t want to leave anything out on the floor. I didn’t want to regret anything. I wanted to give my 100 percent and remember this for the rest of my life.”

Hahn was on a mission Friday, scoring all 10 of her team’s first-quarter points despite Caravel employing a box-and-one defense and draping senior Ky’Asia Stanford on her. When it was over – 10 field goals, four assists, numerous crossovers and several drop steps later – Hahn cradled the state championship trophy that had been her main target since 2012.

Ursuline's Adrianna Hahn drives during the second quarter. She scored 29 points to lead the Raiders. (The Dialog/www.

Ursuline’s Adrianna Hahn drives during the second quarter. She scored 29 points to lead the Raiders. (The Dialog/www.

The Raiders were not at their best in the first quarter, which is when they are accustomed to putting opponents away. Caravel’s offense and ball control were lacking, however, and Hahn gave the Raiders a 10-4 lead after one quarter. Alyssa Irons came off the bench to drain a three-pointer early in the second, and it appeared as if Ursuline might finally have found its momentum.

Over the next three minutes, however, the Buccaneers stormed back, going on a 10-point run to take their only lead of the game at 14-13. Micah Morgan started the run with a layup, followed by another easy bucket from Stanford. The Buccaneers kept pounding it inside, with three more layups by Caroline Davis and two by Morgan.

Ursuline coach John Noonan let his team play its way through the point streak instead of calling a timeout. He said his coaching staff believes in letting the players figure things out on their own.

“They’ve overcome every obstacle all year, and that’s what we were saying there on the bench. Let the kids get out there and fix it. We say it in practice every day, fix it. We don’t believe in blowing timeouts. And that’s exactly what happened tonight. The kids just went out there and played basketball,” he said.

Hahn restored order after the last Morgan field goal with her own layup and a free throw, and the Raiders were on their way. They answered the Caravel streak with a 10-point run of their own, holding the Bucs scoreless for the last 4:23 of the half save for an old-fashioned three-point play by Grace Lange with 11 seconds to go.

An Ursuline player gives the state championship trophy a kiss after Friday night's win. (The Dialog/www.DonBlakePhotography.com)

An Ursuline player gives the state championship trophy a kiss after Friday night’s win. (The Dialog/www.DonBlakePhotography.com)

The teams played evenly throughout the third. When Caravel pulled to within 30-29 with five straight points, the Raiders responded by scoring 10 of the next 12. Seven of those were scored by Hahn, but eighth-grader Alisha Lewis also knocked down her only field goal of the night, and Kailyn Kampert drilled a big trey. Kampert hit six of seven free-throw attempts down the stretch to help keep Caravel at bay.

Kampert was an eighth-grader on the varsity roster when the Raiders won in 2012, and she tied her mother, Sue Manelski Kampert, with her second championship. Sue Kampert was a member of two state champions (1980 and ’81) during her storied career at Padua. Kailyn Kampert said this title means more than the one from three years ago.

“It’s so much better. Obviously, we’re 15 strong and every member matters, but playing for it, there’s no better feeling,” she said.

Noonan said “50 to 100” people had approached him in the days leading up to Friday’s matchup wishing the Raiders good luck, but that he wouldn’t really need it since his team was that good. After all, Ursuline had defeated Caravel by 20 in the regular season. He said that’s nonsense.

“Look, we all watch sports,” he said. “It never happens that way. You beat someone in the regular season, it’s a regular-season game. You beat somebody in the tournament, it’s a tournament game. The intensity level is off the charts.”

The future looks bright for Ursuline, which started a lineup that had one player each from eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12 grades. Hahn is the lone departing starter, and despite the huge hole that will leave, Noonan can look forward to having Kampert, Lewis, Maggie Connolly and Kryshell Gordy return. Gordy was instrumental in the state championship win, grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds, including six on the offensive end. Ursuline finished with a 23-1 record, its lone loss coming in the Diamond State Classic to a Pennsylvania powerhouse.

Kampert finished with nine points – all in the final quarter – and six rebounds. For Caravel, which finished at 16-8, Stanford led with 14 points before fouling out with 2:09 to go, while Morgan added 13.

Read more »

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Catholic Press group presents Sister Mary Ann Walsh with St. Francis de Sales Award

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ALBANY, N.Y. — Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh was surprised at her home at the Sisters of Mercy motherhouse in Albany March 12 when visitors presented her with the Catholic Press Association’s St. Francis de Sales Award.

“Her life of service to the Catholic press, the USCCB and the church is outstanding and a model for all,” said Rob DeFrancesco, president of the CPA and associate publisher of the Catholic Sun in the Diocese of Phoenix, in explaining the decision to bestow the award.

Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh has been presented the St. Francis de Sales Award for her work in the Catholic press and communications.  (CNS photo/courtesy Catherine Walsh, Northeast Communications for the Sisters of Mercy).

Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh has been presented the St. Francis de Sales Award for her work in the Catholic press and communications. (CNS photo/courtesy Catherine Walsh, Northeast Communications for the Sisters of Mercy).

Sister Walsh, the U.S. church correspondent for America magazine, stepped down last summer as director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“What a great honor,” Sister Walsh said in a note to Catholic News Service. “Once I moved from journalism to media relations, I thought such an honor was out of reach. I love the Catholic Press Association and the writing world. I am a writer at heart.”

She previously had been media editor and a Vatican correspondent for Catholic News Service and a reporter for The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, her hometown. She also has edited several books, produced two videos, written commentaries or op-eds for numerous publications and appeared many times on radio and television programs.

The honor from the professional organization representing members of the Catholic news media in the U.S. and Canada was presented by Salt Lake City Bishop John C. Wester, chairman of the Committee on Communications of the USCCB, and Helen Osman, secretary of communications for the USCCB.

In presenting Sister Walsh with a bronze statue of the patron saint of journalists, Bishop Wester quoted St. Francis, saying “nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”

DeFrancesco said the CPA board was unanimous in deciding to honor the life and work of Sister Walsh.

“We were contacted by at least two of our members urging us to consider honoring Sister Mary Ann Walsh with the St. Francis de Sales award,” he told Catholic News Service in an email. “It was a great idea. So we forwarded this recommendation to the St. Francis de Sales committee, who then recommended that the board honor Sister Mary Ann with the award.”

Osman said Sister Walsh was totally surprised by the presentation and that the sisters who live with her at the motherhouse were pleased they could pull off a celebration in her honor without the famously well-sourced nun catching on. Members of her family, retired Albany Bishop Howard J. Hubbard and other friends were among the guests who packed the community room at the motherhouse for the presentation.

Bishop Wester and Osman already had plans to visit their friend and former colleague when the CPA decision was made, so they were asked to present the statue.

The St. Francis de Sales Award is the highest award the CPA presents to an individual for “outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism” and is normally presented during the annual Catholic Media Conference. Tim Walter, executive director of the CPA, said a second “Frannie,” as the award is known, would be presented as usual during this year’s convention.

Walter explained that as nominations were being taken for the award, Sister Walsh was nominated, with a recommendation that the honor be given “in a timely manner” because of the nun’s declining health.

Sister Walsh has been battling what she called an aggressive form of metastatic cancer.

Walter said the CPA is proceeding with the voting process for the Frannie to be awarded according to the normal procedures during the convention, being held this year in Buffalo, New York, June 24-26.

Walter said the Frannie has been awarded outside the normal system once or twice previously. The most recent such honor was given to longtime CPA director Owen McGovern in 2006 after his retirement the previous year, Walter said. Other special recipients have included Cardinal Avery Dulles, in 2001, and Archbishop (then-Bishop) John P. Foley, in 1984.

Osman said Sister Walsh told her she didn’t think she would ever receive a Frannie “after she went to the other side of the house (from reporter to media relations). She was very happy.”

 

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San Jose bishop to lead Spokane diocese; Franciscan named to Lexington

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Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Thomas A. Daly of San Jose, California, to head the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, and Conventual Franciscan Father John Stowe to be bishop of Lexington, Kentucky.

Pope Francis has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Thomas A. Daly of San Jose, Calif., to be the new bishop of Spokane, Wash. (CNS/Diocese of San Jose)

Pope Francis has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Thomas A. Daly of San Jose, Calif., to be the new bishop of Spokane, Wash. (CNS/Diocese of San Jose)

Bishop Daly, 54, has been an auxiliary of the San Jose Diocese since 2011. Bishop-designate Stowe is a vicar provincial for his community and rector of the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio.

The appointments were announced March 12 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Daly will be installed in Spokane May 20. The date and time of Bishop-designate Stowe’s episcopal ordination and installation in Lexington has not been announced.

San Jose Bishop Patrick J. McGrath in congratulating Bishop Daly on his appointment called him a true collaborator and co-worker as “shepherd of the flock of the Lord.”

“I will miss Bishop Daly greatly, but I know that he will be a loving shepherd of the church now entrusted to his care,” he said.

Bishop Daly was born April 30, 1960, in San Francisco. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco in 1982; a master’s degree in divinity from St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, in 1987; and a second master’s degree, this time in education, from Boston College in 1996.

He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1987. After ordination, he served in various capacities, including parochial vicar, teacher, campus minister and chaplain over the first 16 years of his priestly ministry.

Bishop Daly became vocations director for the archdiocese in 2002 and president of Marin Catholic High School in 2003, serving in both capacities until Pope Benedict XVI named him auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of San Jose in 2011, becoming the diocese’s first auxiliary bishop. With his appointment to Spokane, he succeeds Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, who was appointed archbishop of Chicago last September.

For Lexington

Bishop-designate Stowe was born April 15, 1966, in Amherst, Ohio. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University in 1990; a master’s degree in divinity from Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, in 1993; and a licentiate in sacred theology from Jesuit School of Theology in 1995.

He made his solemn profession to the Conventual Franciscans, in the Ohio-based Our Lady of Consolation Province, in 1992, and was ordained a priest in 1995.

Pope Francis has named Conventual Franciscan Father John Stowe to be bishop of Lexington, Ky.  (CNS photo/Skip Olson, Cross Roads)

Pope Francis has named Conventual Franciscan Father John Stowe to be bishop of Lexington, Ky. (CNS photo/Skip Olson, Cross Roads)

Following ordination, he served as associate pastor (1995-97), administrator (1997-2000) and pastor (2000-03) of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in El Paso, Texas. He served as vicar general (2003-10) and chancellor (2008-10) of the Diocese of El Paso, while also serving as administrator of Our Lady of the Valley Parish (2006-2010).

He was elected vicar provincial of his congregation’s Province of Our Lady of Consolation based in Mount St. Francis, Indiana, and has served as rector of the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Cary, Ohio, since 2010.

In September 2001, he was one of 2,000 religious and lay leaders of various faiths across the United States who signed a statement urging Americans to deny any claim to victory by the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks that took place less than two weeks earlier.

“We can deny them their victory by refusing to submit to a world created in their image. Terrorism inflicts not only death and destruction but also emotional oppression to further its aims,” the statement said. “We must not allow this terror to drive us away from being the people God has called us to be. We assert the vision of community, tolerance, compassion, justice, and the sacredness of human life, which lies at the heart of all our religious traditions.”

In Lexington, he succeeds Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, who was appointed bishop of Harrisburg, Pa., in January 2014.

News of Bishop-designate Stowe’s appointment “brought me great joy,” said Bishop Gainer in a March 12 statement. “I welcome him as a brother bishop and wish him every blessing as he prepares to shepherd the wonderful Diocese of Lexington.” He added, “The appointment of a Conventual Franciscan friar is especially significant as the Catholic Church observes the Year for Consecrated Life.”

 

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St. Vincent de Paul members abducted in Syria

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been unable to confirm the number of its members abducted in Syria, as well as where they are being held.

“We’re waiting for news,” Helene Afriat, communications officer for the International Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris, told Catholic News Service March 13. She added that communication with people in the Mideast was “very difficult.”

She also said the Society has not been able to verify or confirm reports that those kidnapped were being threatened with decapitation and their children were being held in cages.

The Society announced on its website March 4 that “several colleagues,” along with “women and children,” were kidnapped in the province of Hassakeh in northeastern Syria.

The website announcement called for prayers and said, “At the moment we have no details, also the greatest caution is required on sharing this dramatic information.”

In an interview more than a week later, Afriat said nothing had changed.

“The surrounding villages have been evacuated, the people have fled, communication is very difficult and we have not been able to establish contact with our volunteers and correspondents working locally,” she said. “The people who reported these recent kidnappings were unable to give us more precise details.”

She said it is likely those abducted, all local Christians, might not have made their Society of St. Vincent de Paul membership known to their captors, so as not to “aggravate their already dramatic situation” and increase the threat to their lives because of their association to an international organization. She said the abduction took place between Feb. 28 and March 1.

Afriat also warned of the danger in circulating unverified claims.

“Given that human lives are threatened, we are exercising great caution in matters of information, and we will only communicate proven facts, so as not to present any additional threat to the lives of these people who are being held hostage,” she emphasized.

She said due to the numerous abductions of Christians in Syria by Islamic State militants in recent weeks, the Society presumed its members were also abducted by Islamic State, but this information had yet to be confirmed. She also said it was unclear whether the members were kidnapped from the city of Hassakeh during a brief incursion or from surrounding villages.

The city of Hassakeh is located less than 12 miles from the front and remains Syrian territory, under the control of the Kurds, said Afriat. However, the surrounding area sees daily fighting between Kurdish forces and Islamic State militants.

 

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Pope Francis announces a ‘Holy Year of Mercy’ — Dec. 8, 2015 until Nov. 20, 2016

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to highlight the Catholic Church’s “mission to be a witness of mercy.”

“No one can be excluded from God’s mercy,” the pope said March 13, marking the second anniversary of his pontificate by leading a Lenten penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“I frequently have thought about how the church can make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy,” he said during his homily; that is why he decided to call a special Holy Year, which will be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016.

Pope Francis gestures as he preaches during a Lenten penance service in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 13. During the service the pope announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis gestures as he preaches during a Lenten penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 13. During the service the pope announced an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2015, until Nov. 20, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The biblical theme of the year, he said, will be “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful,” an admonition that applies “especially to confessors,” the pope said with a smile.

Traditionally, every 25 years the popes proclaim a holy year, which features special celebrations and pilgrimages, strong calls for conversion and repentance, and the offer of special opportunities to experience God’s grace through the sacraments, especially confession. Extraordinary holy years, like the Holy Year of Mercy, are less frequent, but offer the same opportunities for spiritual growth.

The doors of the church “are wide open so that all those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness,” Pope Francis said at the penance service, which featured individual confessions. It was part of a worldwide celebration of “24 Hours for the Lord,” in which Catholic churches were staying open for prayer, eucharistic adoration and confession.

At each of the dozens of confessionals in St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as in simple chairs scattered along the walls, priests welcomed people to the sacrament. The pope removed his liturgical vestments and went to confession before putting on a purple stole and hearing the confessions of others.

“God never ceases to demonstrate the richness of his mercy over the course of centuries,” the pope said in his homily, which preceded the confessions. God touches people’s hearts with his grace, filling them with repentance and a desire to “experience his love.”

“Being touched by the tenderness of his hand,” people should not be afraid to approach a priest and confess their sins, he said. In the confessional, one has “the certainty of being welcomed in the name of God and understood, despite our misery.”

“The greater the sin, the greater the love, which the church must express toward those who convert,” Pope Francis said.

The Gospel reading at the penance service was the story of the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Every time one goes to confession, the pope said, “we feel the same compassionate gaze of Jesus” that she did.

Jesus’ love, he said, allowed her to draw near, to demonstrate her repentance and to show her love for him. “Every gesture of this woman speaks of love and expresses her desire to have an unshakable certainty in her life, that of having been forgiven.”

“Love and forgiveness are simultaneous” in the story of each person, just as in the story of the sinful woman, he said. “God forgave her for much — for everything — because he loved her much.”

Through Jesus, the pope said, God took the woman’s sins and “threw them over his shoulder, he no longer remembers them.”

Jesus’ encounter with the woman took place in the home of a Pharisee named Simon. Unlike the woman, the pope said, Simon “isn’t able to find the path of love. He remains stopped at the threshold of formality. He is not able to take the next step to encounter Jesus, who brings salvation.”

The Pharisee is concerned only with following God’s law, with justice, which is a mistake, the pope said. “His judgment of the woman distances him from the truth and prevents him from understanding who his guest is.”

Jesus scolds Simon, pointing out how the “sinful woman” has shown nothing but love and repentance, the pope said. “Jesus’ rebuke pushes each of us to never stop at the surface of things, especially when dealing with a person. We are called to look deeper, to focus on the heart in order to see how much generosity the personal is capable of.”

Pope Francis said he asked the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization to coordinate preparations for the Holy Year so that it would be “a new stage in the church’s journey in fulfilling its mission of bringing the Gospel of mercy to each person.”

 

 

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Court rules Milwaukee archdiocese’s cemetery trust part of bankruptcy reorganization

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CHICAGO — The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled March 9 that it would not violate the free exercise of religion to consider the Milwaukee archdiocese’s cemetery trust fund in its Chapter 11 reorganization proceedings.

The court overturned a July 29, 2013, ruling by Judge Rudolph Randa of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Randa said that applying the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to $55 million transferred from the archdiocese’s general accounts to a trust earmarked for cemetery maintenance would violate Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s religious freedom rights as trustee for the cemetery trust.

He cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, better known as RFRA, and the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause.

“It cannot be denied that this court’s decision, or a further ruling on appeal from this court’s decision, will shape the course of future proceedings in bankruptcy,” he wrote.

In overturning Randa’s decision, the 7th Circuit said: “Based on RFRA’s plain language, its legislative history and the compelling reasons offered by our sister circuits, we now hold RFRA is not applicable in cases where government is not a party.”

It also said that the First Amendment’s free exercise clause does not prevent application of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to the cemetery trust funds.

In 2011, Milwaukee’s archdiocesan attorneys filed a petition for a Chapter 11 reorganization of its financial affairs under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to provide a settlement to victims of past sexual abuse.

Chief Judge Susan V. Kelley of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin is handling the proceedings.

On Jan. 11, 2013, Kelley offered an opinion that neither the First Amendment nor RFRA protected the money in the cemetery trust. Attorneys for the archdiocese appealed her ruling to the District Court, which overruled her.

The Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which is seeking compensation for victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse, then appealed Randa’s decision to the circuit court.

The archdiocese in its appeal of Kelley’s ruling argued the committee acted under “color of the law,” thus making it “government.” The committee countered that it was not “government.”

RFRA says: “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,” unless two conditions are met, that it advances “a compelling government interest” and that it does so in the least restrictive way possible.

At various times during the past nine months, Kelley has told attorneys for the archdiocese and the committee that she would not proceed on certain matters in the archdiocese’s Chapter 11 reorganization until she heard from the 7th Circuit.

She has had the archdiocesan plan for reorganization since it was filed Feb. 12, 2014. Kelley said she couldn’t rule on it until she received the circuit court ruling.

“We have a ruling; now she can rule on the plan,” Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff for Archbishop Listecki,” said in a statement.”And in the plan the litigation is settled.”

When the plan was filed, Archbishop Listecki called it “the next major step toward ending the bankruptcy and returning our focus to the primary mission of the church; proclaiming the Gospel, worshipping more fully, and serving our sisters and brothers in need.”

The plan would provide about $4 million in abuse settlements and it includes a Lifetime Therapy Fund to provide help to abuse survivors as long as they need it.

It demonstrates a commitment by the archdiocese, according to the archbishop, to abuse survivors and to serving the people of God in southeastern Wisconsin.

“It’s time for us to get back to what the church is supposed to be doing. It’s time for the archdiocese to return its focus to its ministry. Outreach to and the support of abuse survivors will always be part of that ministry,” he wrote.

The 7th Circuit sent the case over the cemetery funds back to the lower court for further proceedings.

“Our decision does not resolve all the issues in the archdiocese’s complaint, nor do we make any finding as to whether the transfer of the funds to the trust was fraudulent, avoidable or preferential,” it said in its 38-page ruling.

Topczewski said the case was never about the fraudulent transfer of funds.

“The issue was is the money the property of the state or is it a separate trust?” he said.

Timothy Nixon, the attorney representing the cemetery trust, said the court made “a very narrow ruling on a technical legal issue.”

According to Nixon, it doesn’t change the status of the trust.

“As of today, the money is still in the cemetery trust. No court has ruled that it shouldn’t be,” he said March 10 in an interview with the Catholic Herald, which serves the Catholic community in southeastern Wisconsin.

Asked if the cemeteries would receive the care for which people paid, Nixon said, “Yes. We are confident that there will be money there. They’ll be taken care of.”

Topczewski concurred.

“The intention of the archdiocese is to continue to provide perpetual care for the archdiocesan cemeteries through the financial support provided by the Cemetery Perpetual Care Trust in the plan of reorganization,” he said.

Contributing to this story was Brian T. Olszewski of the Catholic Herald, a publication that serves the Catholic community in southeastern Wisconsin.

 

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