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Letters to priest reveal Jackie Kennedy’s struggles with faith after JFK’s assassination


Catholic News Service

DUBLIN — Newly released letters between former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and a Dublin-based priest reveal Kennedy’s struggles to keep her faith after her husband’s assassination.

The letters exchanged by Kennedy and Vincentian Father Joseph Leonard, who died in 1964, are set to be auctioned in Dublin in June. Excerpts were published in The Irish Times newspaper.

Caroline Kennedy, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr. are seen leaving the U.S. Capitol Nov. 24, 1963, after a ceremony there for the slain president Kennedy. The following day a funeral Mass was celebrated for U.S. President John F. Kennedy at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. (CNS photo/Abbie Rowe, National Parks Service, courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

One letter, dated January 1964, just weeks after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, revealed how the tragedy left Kennedy struggling with her Catholic faith. “I am so bitter against God,” she wrote, but added “only he and you and I know that.”

She explained that she did not want to be bitter “or bring up my children in a bitter way” and was “trying to make my peace with God.”

She wrote: “I think God must have taken Jack to show the world how lost we would be without him — but that is a strange way of thinking to me.”

Kennedy wrote in the same letter that “God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see him.”

She asked Father Leonard to pray for her and said she would pray too in an effort to overcome her bitterness against God. “I have to think there is a God — or I have no hope of finding Jack again,” she wrote.

Father Leonard taught at All Hallows College, the Vincentian seminary in Dublin, and first met a young Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in 1950 when she visited Dublin. The two struck up an immediate friendship and corresponded regularly.

The letters reveal that Kennedy often turned to Father Leonard at times of darkness. In 1956, she wrote to the priest after the birth of a stillborn daughter, Arabella, and said: “Don’t think I would ever be bitter at God.” She observed that she could “see so many good things that come out of this — how sadness shared brings married people closer together.”

The letters reveal that Father Leonard rekindled Kennedy’s interest in her Catholic faith. In early 1952, she wrote: “I terribly want to be a good Catholic now and I know it’s all because of you. I suppose I realized in the back of my mind you wanted that — you gave me the rosary as I left Ireland.”

She was 22 and told the priest: “I suddenly realized this Christmas when my sister and I decided — after not going to church for a year — that we desperately wanted to change and get close to God again — that it must have been your little prayers that worked — all the way across the ocean.”


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Allow Holy Spirit to lead, pope says, don’t try to block it


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians must recognize that they do not lead or guide the church, but that the Holy Spirit does and the Holy Spirit can be unpredictable, Pope Francis said.

“If, for example, an expedition of Martians arrived tomorrow,” and one said he wanted to be baptized, “What would happen?” the pope asked May 12 during his early morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Explaining that he really was talking about Martians, something unimaginable, he said he meant beings that are “green, with long noses and big ears, like in children’s drawings.”

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis said that if the Holy Spirit prompted the most unusual being to seek baptism, who would we be to hinder that person?

The pope focused his homily on the day’s first reading, Acts 11:1-18, which tells of the Apostles’ discussion, and consternation, over the Holy Spirit descending on a group of Gentiles at a time when the rest of the community of believers came from the Jewish tradition.

From the very beginnings of Christianity, the pope said, church leaders and members have been tempted at times to block the Holy Spirit’s path or try to control it.

“When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, ‘No, Lord, it is not prudent. No, let’s do it this way,’” he said. “Who are we to close doors?”

Many parishes, Pope Francis said, have ushers to open the church doors and welcome people in, “but there has never been a ministry for those who close the doors. Never.”

“The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God in the church,” he said. Jesus sent the Spirit after his ascent into heaven to guide the church and lead it forward into uncharted territory.

The Spirit “makes unthinkable, unimaginable choices,” the pope said. “And we Christians must ask the Lord for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit” in order to follow the Spirit’s lead.


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Girls have a busy week with eye on the postseason


For The Dialog


Playoffs begin Saturday in two of the girls’ sports, meaning there are some important lacrosse and soccer games this week. There is still a week and a half left in the softball regular season. In a change of format, this preview is separated by sport. Read more »

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Pope Francis to beatify Pope Paul VI on Oct. 19


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul VI Oct. 19 during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.

Pope Francis signed a decree May 9 recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Pope Paul, who led the church from 1963 to 1978, and authorized publication of the Oct. 19 beatification date, according to a Vatican statement May 10.

Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul Oct. 19 during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. The miracle needed for Pope Paul’s beatification involved the birth of a healthy baby to a mother in California after doctors had said both lives were at risk. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

The miracle involved the birth of a baby in California in the 1990s. The family’s name and city have not been released, but according to news reports, a pregnant woman whose life was at risk along with the life of her baby was advised by doctors to terminate the pregnancy. Instead she sought prayers from an Italian nun who was a family friend. The nun placed a holy card with Pope Paul’s photograph and a piece of his vestment on the woman’s belly.

The baby was born healthy. For Pope Paul’s sainthood cause, physicians continued monitoring the child’s health up to the age of 12 and everything was normal.

Pope Paul’s connection with the themes expected to be raised at the synod on the family Oct. 5-19 include the encyclical for which is he is most known, “Humanae Vitae.” The 1968 encyclical, usually described as a document affirming the church’s prohibition against artificial contraception, places that conclusion in the context of Catholic teaching on the beauty and purpose of marriage, married love and procreation.

When St. John XXIII died in 1963, Pope Paul reconvened the Second Vatican Council, presided over the final three of its four sessions and oversaw the promulgation of all of the council’s documents. He also led the process of implementing the council’s reforms.

Pope Paul VI was the first pope in the modern area to travel abroad, visiting: Jordan and Israel in January 1964; Lebanon and India in December 1964; the United Nations and New York in October 1965; the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugual in May 1967; Turkey in July 1967; Colombia and Bermuda in August 1968; Switzerland in June 1969; Uganda in July-August 1969; and Iran, Pakistan, the Philippines, Samoan Islands, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka in November-December 1970.

Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 in the northern Italian province of Brescia, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1920 and was named archbishop of Milan in 1954. Elected pope in 1963, he died at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo Aug. 6, 1978.


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Pope tells students he loves school because of his first-grade teacher


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis told about 300,000 Italian students that he loved school as a boy, as a teacher and as a bishop because it was a place where he met different people and where he was challenged to try to understand reality.

Pope Francis looks on as young people dance during an encounter with Italian students, teachers and parents in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 10. About 300,000 attended the event. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Meeting with the students May 10 in St. Peter’s Squareand along the wide boulevard leading to it, the pope said he has never forgotten his first-grade teacher. “I love school because that woman taught me to love it.”

“Going to school means opening your mind and heart to reality in all its richness and various dimensions,” he said. “If one learns how to learn, this is the secret, learning to learn, this will stay with you forever.”

The pope, who taught high school literature and psychology as a young Jesuit in Argentina, warned teachers that their students would be able “to smell” it if a teacher lacked the enthusiasm to keep learning.

The evening celebration of “the world of Italian schools,” an event sponsored by the Italian bishops’ conference, was designed to promote collaboration between the Italian church, its schools and the government and its schools. Italian comedians, actors, singers and students entertained the crowd in between speeches from the pope, teachers and Stefania Giannini, Italy’s education minister.

Giannini began her speech voicing the crowd’s prayers for the more than 250 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria in mid-April by the Boko Haram terrorist group. Pope Francis the same day Tweeted his concern for the girls: “Let us all join in prayer for the immediate release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria.” The Tweet included the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which is part of the international campaign to rally support for their release.

Addressing the students, teachers and Italian bishops, Pope Francis said a school is not “a parking garage,” where parents simply drop off their children. “It is a place of encounter along our journey.”

While parents are the first educators of their children and the family is the first place people learn to get along with others and value differences, he said, “at school we are socialized. We meet people who are different from us, different in age, culture, origin and ability.”

“Families and schools should never be in opposition,” he said, but they must work together for the good of the child. “This makes me think of a beautiful African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’”

The pope said he also loves schools because “they educate us about truth, goodness and beauty, which all go together. Education cannot be neutral, either it is positive or it is negative; it enriches or impoverishes; it helps the person grow or it suppresses or even corrupts them.”

In the end, he said, a mature person will graduate speaking “three languages: the language of the mind, the language of the heart and the language of the hands,” making sure their actions are well thought out and are motivated by what is true, good and beautiful.


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Pope asks priests to show mercy; wants faithful to ‘pester’ priests for guidance


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Always be merciful, just like Jesus, who came to forgive, not condemn, Pope Francis told new priests.

“Always have in front of your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who didn’t come to be served, but to serve and to look for and save those who were lost,” he said in his homily May 11, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

Pope Francis lays his hands on a newly ordained priest during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican May 11. The pope ordained 13 men to the priesthood during the Mass. (CNS photo/Andreas Solaro pool Reuters)

The pope’s remarks came during an ordination Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the pope ordained 13 new priests.

Most of the new priests, six Italians, four Latin Americans and one Korean, will serve in the Diocese of Rome. A 36-year-old new priest from Vietnam will serve the Diocese of Vinh in his home country and a new priest from Pakistan is part of the Order of Discalced Augustinians.

Pope Francis reminded the men that they were called by Jesus to continue his mission as teacher, priest and shepherd, and to serve the church and the people of God.

He urged them to read, reflect on and teach the word of God and to be a living example of what they preach.

Nourish God’s people with his word and doctrine, “which isn’t yours. You do not own the doctrine (of the faith). It is the doctrine of the Lord and you must be faithful to the Lord’s doctrine,” the pope said.

In their new role of administering the sacraments, including reconciliation, he asked them to “never tire of being merciful. Please! Have the same ability to forgive that the Lord has, who didn’t come to condemn, but to forgive! Have lots of mercy.”

He said it pains him terribly “when I see people who don’t go to confession anymore because they had been clobbered, yelled at. They felt that the doors of the church had been closed in their face. Please, don’t do this.”

He also encouraged the priests to show mercy.

A good priest “comes in through the door and the doors of mercy are the wounds of the Lord. If you do not enter into your ministry through the Lord’s wounds, you will not be good pastors,” he said.

Later in the day, the pope told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the “Regina Coeli” to pray that God “help us pastors always be faithful” to God and to guide his children with wisdom and love.

With Christ as their model, priests must lead their people by showing them the way ahead, they must walk with their flock by showing mercy and friendship, and walk behind their people to help those who are struggling to keep up or who have lost their way, he said.

But often the faithful need to poke and prod their priest to remind him to give them God’s guidance and support, he added.

“Pester your priests.” he said, much like a baby calf pesters its mother for milk and nourishment.

Pope Francis highlighted a metaphor used by St. Caesarius of Arles of the sixth century in which priests graze the fields of Scriptures, nourishing themselves on the rich teachings in order to, in turn, provide spiritual nourishment for their children.

The saint explained how the people of God have to fuss and nudge their priest to give them the “milk” of the Word of God, much like a calf nudges and “pushes its nose against the cow’s udder to get the milk flowing. It’s a beautiful image.” the pope said.

“This saint says that’s how you must be with priests: always knocking on their door, on their heart so that they give you the milk of doctrine, the milk of grace and the milk of guidance.”

“Bother them, all of us priests,” he said, like the calf “pesters the mother to give it something to eat.”

The pope also asked people gathered in the square to pray for vocations.

“Let us pray so that, even today, lots of young people hear the Lord’s voice, which always risks being drowned out by so many other voices.”

He also wished the world’s mothers a happy Mother’s Day. He led people in praying the “Hail Mary,” asking that all mothers be entrusted to Mary.


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Boys head into final week of regular season, eye playoffs


For The Dialog


This is the last week of the regular season for most of the boys’ high school sports teams and that means it is crunch time for these teams to show they want to be in the playoffs. Read more »

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Ursuline grad to represent Delaware next month at Miss USA pageant


Kelsey Miller, a 2010 graduate of Ursuline Academy and the current Miss Delaware USA, will represent Delaware in the 2014 Miss USA Competition, which will be held June 8 at the Baton Rouge River Center in Louisiana.

Miller, 23, attended Christ the Teacher School before Ursuline. She was a standout basketball player, earning second-team all-state honors in 2010, her senior season. A pair of severe knee injuries led her to pageants, and she was named Miss Teen Delaware in 2009. She won the Miss Delaware USA pageant last December and has balanced her charitable endeavors with her work at the University of Delaware, where she is a senior.

Miller, a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Wilmington, will leave for Baton Rouge at the end of the month to join the other contestants for two weeks of activities leading up to the Miss USA Competition. The pageant will be broadcast on NBC.

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Pope tells United Nations that respect for life, solidarity needed for development


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Meeting top officials of the United Nations, Pope Francis called for a “worldwide ethical mobilization” that would push technical programs for justice, peace and development further by promoting respect for human life, “fraternity and solidarity.”

“An important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is, in fact, relegated to the status of second-class citizens,” the pope said May 9 during a meeting at the Vatican with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and members of the U.N. System Chief Executives Board for Coordination.

Pope Francis shakes hands with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during a meeting at the Vatican May 9. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The board includes the directors of 29 specialized agencies and U.N. departments. The Vatican and Catholic organizations around the world work closely with many of them, such as the World Food Program and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. However, tensions also have arisen with some of the departments and agencies, particularly concerning population control programs and efforts to broaden access to legalized abortion.

While Pope Francis did not dwell on the tensions or mention any of them specifically, he insisted that the promotion of human dignity include a recognition that “life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death.”

The pope’s meeting with the board came just days after Vatican representatives were questioned by the U.N. Committee Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, particularly regarding the church’s handling of the clerical sexual abuse scandal, but also about the church’s opposition to abortion in all cases.

During the May 5-6 hearing, Felice Gaer, vice chair of the committee, had said that “laws that criminalize the termination of pregnancy in all circumstances can violate the terms” of the international treaty against torture and inhuman or cruel treatment. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, responded that the Catholic Church “condemns torture, including for those who are tortured and killed before they are born.”

At the May 9 meeting with the U.N. board members, Pope Francis said improving the lives and health of all the world’s people “involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the ‘economy of exclusion,’ the ‘throwaway culture’ and the ‘culture of death,’ which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.”

The U.N.-coordinated Millennium Development Goals made significant progress in decreasing extreme poverty and improving education levels in many countries, the pope said, but “it must be kept in mind that the world’s peoples deserve and expect even greater results.”

The key to continued improvement, he said, is to address “the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labor for all and provide appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development.”

Progress requires the cooperation of governments, international agencies, scientists and technicians, he said, but it will not occur without a broad commitment of individuals to solidarity.

“The gaze, often silent, of that part of the human family which is cast off, left behind, ought to awaken the conscience of political and economic agents and lead them to generous and courageous decisions,” he said.

People also must recognize that the spiritual, intellectual and material goods “which God’s providence has placed in our hands” are meant to be shared, including through charitable aid and “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state.”


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Ex-employee, wife, indicted in thefts at Gethsemani Abbey


TRAPPIST, Kentucky — A former employee of the Abbey of Gethsemani and his wife have been indicted for allegedly stealing more than $1 million from the abbey’s mail-order business.

A grand jury in Nelson County, where the abbey is located, returned an indictment May 7 accusing John E. Hutchins and his wife, Carrie Lee Hutchins, with 87 counts of theft. Nearly half of the alleged thefts involved taking more than $10,000.

The thefts allegedly occurred between 2008 and February of this year.

The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville reported on the alleged thefts on the day of the indictments, and also noted that Hutchins, in his defense, said he was the victim of a “cover up” and accused the leadership of the abbey of attacking him in an attempt to hide what he said was sexual misconduct by monks and others at Gethsemani.

The newspaper quoted Nelson County Sheriff’s detective Jason Allison saying investigators were aware of Hutchins’ allegations, but that they were irrelevant to the theft investigation.

According to Trappist Abbot Elias Dietz, who is also president of the abbey’s mail-order business, Gethsemani Farms, the abbey’s leaders discovered “improper financial transactions” in February and reported them to police.

Hutchins had been an employee in the bookkeeping office since 2007. The abbot’s May 7 statement, which was given to local news media including The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville said Hutchins was suspended when the improprieties were discovered and has since been fired.

The statement added that “this breach of trust has been harmful to the network of good will that exists among the monastery’s employees, neighbors, visitors and benefactors. With the help of professionals, the Abbey of Gethsemani is developing a new system of financial controls to reduce the risk of a theft of this nature from happening again.”

The attorney for John and Carrie Lee Hutchins told reporters that his clients will plead not guilty at their arraignment, which is set for May 26.

Forty-two Trappist monks live at the abbey, which was founded in 1848 and is the oldest continuously operating monastery in the United States.

The contemplative monks support themselves by making and selling cheese, fruitcake and fudge, as well as gift items.


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