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Catholic Relief Services envisions a world without need for orphanages

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Catholic Relief Services has released an emotion-filled video as a way of starting a conversation about the world’s orphanages. Read more »

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Lent provides opportunity for Catholics to focus attention on homeless

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON —Almsgiving is a Lenten tradition and Washington resident Ron Van Bellen says his volunteer work feeding the homeless honors his Catholic faith as he prepares for Easter.

The real estate agent and parishioner at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown was one of several volunteers dishing up dinner for homeless men and women lined up March 8 for the weekly St. Maria’s meals program sponsored by Catholic Charities each Wednesday evening.

Van Bellen took time to greet each man and woman who went through the food line before they made their way along the downtown Washington sidewalk to eat their dinner.

“Every time I volunteer I reflect on how my day went and how it related to my relationship with God,” he told Catholic News Service. “It does relate to Lent. We have to sacrifice and serve our brothers and sisters.”

Able Putu, a homeless man in a wheelchair, eats a meal on a Washington street March 8 prepared by volunteers of the St. Maria's meals program run by Catholic Charities. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

Able Putu, a homeless man in a wheelchair, eats a meal on a Washington street March 8 prepared by volunteers of the St. Maria’s meals program run by Catholic Charities. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

Van Bellen’s example of helping the homeless during Lent is a Catholic value that Washington’s Catholic Charities president and CEO, Msgr. John Enzler, would like to see spread across the U.S.

It’s clear in the Scriptures that fasting and penance goes beyond not eating meat on Fridays and giving something up during Lent, Msgr. Enzler told CNS. “It’s about making someone else’s life better with your service and your commitment.”

The homeless are among the world’s most vulnerable people and providing service to them during Lent is an ideal way for Catholics to live out their faith in a way that will make a real difference, he said.

Concerted efforts by religious and governmental organizations to address the U.S. homeless situation appear to be making a difference.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported a 3 percent drop in the national homeless rate from 2015 to 2016 and a 12 percent drop in the last five years.

HUD reported the 2016 national homeless population to be nearly 550,000.

However, the homeless rate rose from 2015 to 2016 in the District of Columbia and a few states, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oklahoma and Washington.

With more than a half million people still considered homeless, it’s an issue that all U.S. cities confront and there are varying solutions being employed to raise money necessary to address it in a consequential way, Msgr. Enzler said.

In its effort to fund anti-homelessness programs, Los Angeles County placed a proposal called Measure H on its ballot during its March 7 election.

If passed, Measure H would raise the sales tax a quarter cent. Ballots were still being counted as of March 16 to determine the outcome of the measure.

“There doesn’t seem to be a secret sauce, if you will, about how to completely eradicate homelessness,” Msgr. Enzler said. “But, it seems to me that we just don’t have enough case workers and social workers.”

He believes more people need to serve as navigators, mentors or coaches for individual homeless men and women.

“We don’t have enough people who can really step in and say, ‘I’m going to help this one individual,’” Msgr. Enzler said, “and say ‘it’s my job to help just that one person get a job and get a place to stay and stay with them. Mentor them through that process.’”

He has been encouraging volunteers in his Catholic Charities’ programs to make the homeless their focal point during Lent.

Pope Francis has long urged governments and Christians to recognize the dignity of the homeless and help ease their suffering.

Homelessness became more complicated in the nation’s capital this Lenten season, since the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library shut down March 4 for a three-year, multimillion-dollar renovation.

Many D.C. homeless men and women used that library branch as a day resource center, a place to get out of the elements during the daytime hours, to use the computer lab to look for work and to use the public restrooms, Msgr. Enzler said.

That closure inspired him to explore a partnership between the District of Columbia and other charitable groups to fund an official day resource center for the homeless, complete with a meal program, laundry and shower facilities, as well as job counselors, case managers and social workers.

It’s an idea that is still percolating with no commitments yet realized, Msgr. Enzler said.

It’s also an idea that Able Putu, a 37-year-old homeless Washingtonian who uses a wheelchair, would like to see come to fruition.

Putu said the library closure left him without a place to rest, use the lavatory and made him more vulnerable to being robbed during the daytime hours.

“I know a lot of people think the homeless are scum and aren’t worthy of anyone’s help, and maybe that’s true about some of them,” Putu said, “but it’s not true about most of us.”

Van Bellen said he had been one of those people with a negative opinion of the homeless before he started his volunteer work.

“I found out that those were misperceptions,” he said. “What I’ve discovered is the homeless people I’ve encountered here are sweet and definitely misunderstood. I wouldn’t have figured that out if I hadn’t exposed myself to them.”

 

Follow Chaz Muth on Twitter: @Chazmaniandevyl.

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Priests see difference between parish ministry and military chaplaincy

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Catholic News Service

SAN DIEGO — There is something distinctive about the chapel where Father William J. Brunner now celebrates Mass.

It floats. Read more »

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Washington Letter: Catholics’ clash over America’s Salvadoran policy in Archbishop Romero’s time recalled

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The upcoming beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero has inspired many U.S. Catholics to attend the May 23 ceremony in El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador.

A man armed with a pistol runs from a burning car as another, left background, throws a Molotov cocktail during violence that erupted at Archbishop Oscar Romero's 1980 funeral in San Salvador, El Salvador. Debate over U.S.-Salvadoran policy during the time of his murder has been recalled prior to his May 23 beatification. (CNS photo/Ulises Rodriguez, Reuters)

A man armed with a pistol runs from a burning car as another, left background, throws a Molotov cocktail during violence that erupted at Archbishop Oscar Romero’s 1980 funeral in San Salvador, El Salvador. Debate over U.S.-Salvadoran policy during the time of his murder has been recalled prior to his May 23 beatification. (CNS photo/Ulises Rodriguez, Reuters)

The long hoped-for event has also reminded many that Catholics and other religious groups implored the U.S. government to change its policy toward the Salvadoran government before and after Archbishop Romero was gunned down during a March 1980 Mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador.

Throughout the 1970s, the U.S. government paid close attention to political upheavals in Central America. Among the factors driving policy decisions were fears that the Soviet Union would gain influence by propping up communist regimes, as it had in Nicaragua after the Sandinista revolution. Populist movements in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador were sources of concern, said Tom Quigley, former foreign policy adviser on Latin America and the Caribbean to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It was a Cold War-driven policy, Quigley told Catholic News Service. Congressional and administration analysts feared the Central American countries would go the way of Cuba as it all but became a Soviet satellite following its 1953-59 revolution, he said, and the Soviets would gain a foothold in the Americas.

The administrations of President Jimmy Carter and later President Ronald Reagan supported military aid for the Salvadoran government to fend off insurgencies under the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, an umbrella organization of five guerrilla groups.

While he had previously been thought of as a supporter of El Salvador’s ruling class, when then-Auxiliary Bishop Romero became archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, he emerged as a champion for the poor and an uncompromising critic of a government he said legitimized terror and assassinations.

While the new archbishop had no affection for the rebels, he strongly opposed North American military intervention or aid to a government he saw as oppressive.

“Many U.S. Catholics cited Romero in arguing for a change” in U.S. policy, said Theresa Keeley, a historian of foreign relations and religion and a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University.

First the Carter administration and then the Reagan administration in the 1980s “characterized the Salvadoran government as centrist and in need of U.S. aid to withstand attacks from both the right and left,” Keeley told CNS.

Archbishop Romero used his pulpit to denounce actions of the government including its use of death squads and other violence and military occupation of churches, said Julian Filochowski, chairman of the Archbishop Romero Trust in London.

U.S. bishops and their policy staff listened to Archbishop Romero and began to lobby their own government to stop sending military aid to El Salvador, Keeley said.

Then-Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, who was president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, issued a major statement in July 1977 on persecution of the church in Central America. That was followed by congressional testimony on behalf of the church that same month, focusing mainly on the threats against the Jesuit community in El Salvador, following the murder of Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, Quigley said.

“No one was in any doubt, least of all those in the State Department or the White House, that the official (U.S. bishops’) position was highly critical of much of U.S. policy toward the region and was especially opposed to the provision of military aid to any parties in conflict there,” he said.

“Despite requests from religious groups that Carter end military aid to El Salvador as Archbishop Romero implored, the Carter administration continued with its request for Congress (for) $5.7 million for military aid to El Salvador,” Keeley said. “In fact, the Foreign Operations Subcommittee approved the administration’s request the day after Romero’s murder.”

Though the U.S. bishops were inspired by Archbishop Romero during his three-year tenure as archbishop of San Salvador, they were incensed by his assassination and it galvanized them to press their country’s leaders even harder to change course on Salvadoran policy, Quigley said.

Among U.S. critics of American policy, the bishops led the field.

“Local, national and international radio and television units interviewed (U.S. Catholic leaders) on what seemed at the time an almost routine basis,” Quigley said. “In 1980 and 1981 alone, (the U.S. bishops) issued no fewer than 14 official statements or letters expressing opposition to military aid.”

The Salvadoran civil war (1979-1992) brought more bloodshed to El Salvador, especially after Archbishop Romero’s murder.

In December 1980, four churchwomen — Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and lay missioner Jean Donovan — were raped and murdered outside San Salvador.

“It was really the murders of the churchwomen… that galvanized a larger number of U.S. Catholics” to begin protesting support for the Salvadoran government, Keeley said. A major guerrilla offensive in January 1981”did not see the kind of spike in activity as these murders did.”

The war also took a toll against non-combatants, including the Nov. 16, 1989, murder of six Jesuits and two women at Central American University in San Salvador.

“The U.S. government, in my recollection, had little to say about the several murders of religious in the region except for those who were U.S. citizens,” Quigley said. “The church, however, was active in pressing the human rights and religious freedom issues throughout the region.”

Despite reports of the savage murders of men, women and children in El Salvador, the U.S. continued to provide the Salvadoran government with weapons, money and political support into the early 1990s.

 

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Hundreds at Notre Dame honor memory of Father Hesburgh

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Catholic News Service

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Ryan Leahy of Chicago walked up to an employee on the snow-covered campus of the University of Notre Dame March 3 and asked her to take a photo of him and his family members in front of the school’s iconic gold dome.

Though the family reunion of sorts was chronicled with that snapshot, they came together for another well-known Notre Dame pillar.

Students wait in line March 3 outside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame  to pay their respects at a visitation for Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, former Notre Dame president. Father Hesburgh died Feb. 26 at age 97 in the Holy Cross House adjacent to the university in Indiana. (CNS photo/Barbara Johnston, University of Notre Dame)

Students wait in line March 3 outside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame to pay their respects at a visitation for Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, former Notre Dame president. Father Hesburgh died Feb. 26 at age 97 in the Holy Cross House adjacent to the university in Indiana. (CNS photo/Barbara Johnston, University of Notre Dame)

They traveled from different regions of the U.S. to attend two days of services honoring the life of their friend, Holy Cross Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, the longest serving president of the university, from 1952 to 1987, who died Feb. 26 at the age of 97.

As Ryan Leahy huddled with his brother Patrick and father James, both of who traveled from Yakima, Washington, they took a moment to discuss with Catholic News Service their family’s connection with Father Ted and his legacy.

“My father, who was Frank Leahy, the athletic director and head football coach here and Father Ted Hesburgh had a very interesting relationship,” said James Leahy, a 1969 graduate of Notre Dame.

When Father Hesburgh arrived at Notre Dame in the 1940s, the Indiana Catholic campus was best known for its football excellence, and when he became president of the school in 1952, he vowed to turn the university into great academic institution, “which of course he did,” James Leahy said.

“He and my father probably had conflict over the importance of football and academics,” James Leahy said, and the two men later concluded that both were important for the success of Notre Dame.

The Leahys were among hundreds of people who arrived at the Indiana campus on the cold and dreary day of March 3 to pay tribute to Father Hesburgh, who is not only credited with transforming Notre Dame into one of the nation’s premier higher-education institutions, he was considered a trailblazer in civil and human rights.

Father Hesburgh’s work with several popes and U.S. presidents was highlighted during an evening wake service March 3 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus.

When he was appointed to serve on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who created it, the priest “did not have much experience in this great scourge on American rights,” said Holy Cross Father Edward A. Malloy during the wake service. “But, he was a quick learner.”

Father Malloy, who succeeded Father Hesburgh as Notre Dame’s president and served in the post until June 2005, recalled an image of Father Hesburgh linking arms with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and singing, “We Shall Overcome”; his work on immigration reform; his realized vision to create an institute of peace at Notre Dame; and his tireless work for nuclear disarmament.

Throughout the course of his life, Father Hesburgh played a “providential role in the great events of our time,” Father Malloy told the people who packed the basilica for the wake.

A portrait of the late Notre Dame president was illuminated by flickering candles placed near the altar.

Faculty members, clergy, politicians, peace activists and Notre Dame alumni stepped up to pray in front of Father Hesburgh’s open casket, prompting Father Malloy to say how delighted he was to see such a cross section of society at the service and gathered on the campus.

His vision for great Catholic universities was a lifelong mission, Father Malloy said, and then quoted Father Hesburgh’s line that “a Catholic university is a place where the church does its thinking.”

The wake did not appear to be a sad event, but a celebration of life well lived.

Former President Jimmy Carter, his wife, Rosalynn, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were scheduled to speak during a March 4 tribute to Father Hesburgh, following a funeral procession from the basilica to the burial site at the Holy Cross Community Cemetery.

Above all, Father Hesburgh loved being a priest, Father Malloy said.

“He was a man of prayer,” he celebrated Mass every day and he would invite people of other religious faiths, atheists, Russian politicos and others to join him, Father Malloy said. “He tried to be a pastor to anyone who came into his presence.”

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A related video has been posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=grKZd0DGIOM.

 

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