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A Catholic take on food culture

May 19th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

Probably no one has expressed the place of food in life better than American writer and gastronome Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher.

“First we eat, then we do everything else.”

From a spiritual point of view, Catholics might say, first the Eucharist, then everything else.

Food is first and foremost sustenance. We need it to nourish our body.

But it is also ritual and heritage. Food connects us to our beliefs, our communities, our ancestors. Read more »

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Uniting prayer and exercise

February 13th, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

 

Prayer and exercise work well together, said the founder of a fitness program combining core strengthening and stretching with Christian prayer and meditation.

“No matter what exercise you do, just begin and end with a prayer,” said Catholic mom Karen Barbieri. “Offer that time up to God.” Read more »

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St. Vincent de Paul Society chef in Phoenix serves 4,500 meals daily

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Catholic News Service

PHOENIX — Chris Hoffman is cooking for 4,500 guests this holiday season, yet he’s cool as a cucumber.

“It should go well,” he said. “We did it last year and it went very smoothly.”

The confident executive chef runs the sprawling kitchen of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix. He credits his staff and cadre of volunteers with making his job practically stress-free.

Executive chef Chris Hoffman looks over trays of steaming sweet potatoes in the kitchen of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix Nov. 17. Society staff and volunteers prepare 4,500 meals a day and will do more for Thanksgiving and Christmas. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Executive chef Chris Hoffman looks over trays of steaming sweet potatoes in the kitchen of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix Nov. 17. Society staff and volunteers prepare 4,500 meals a day and will do more for Thanksgiving and Christmas. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

“I have a reliable staff. A reliable kitchen team,” Hoffman told Catholic News Service as he made kitchen rounds one week before Thanksgiving. “We do a lot of food for a lot of people.”

Beef stew simmered in a huge vat. Pork loin sizzled in a roaster. Large trays of freshly baked cookies were being pulled from hot ovens. Volunteers, who execute much of the food prep, were busy slicing and dicing a number of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The food would be dished out to the homeless population and to families in need at several dining rooms in the Phoenix area.

Preparing thousands of meals is nothing new for Chef Hoffman’s kitchen. The staff and volunteers accomplish it every day. The holiday menu though is special.

Hoffman said St. Vincent’s turkey-day feast will include more than 200 oven-roasted birds, 50 gallons of gravy, 2,000 pounds of potatoes, 2,500 pounds of stuffing, lots of cranberries and 4,800 slices of pumpkin pie.

His kitchen will also turn out holiday specialties such as sweet-potato pies, tamales and decorated cookies.

“I’m very fortunate to be part of the St. Vincent de Paul team,” the chef said. “We have wonderful volunteers, a wonderful staff, a staff that cares very much about our clients.”

He said he is grateful to the society, and not only because he’s head chef.

“St. Vincent de Paul helped me a number of years ago with my family.”

Raised in New York, Hoffman was cooking at an early age because his mother worked many hours. He said he learned more about cuisine from an uncle, a Catholic priest who enjoyed good food.

After receiving his degree in the culinary arts and cooking in several restaurants, Hoffman was hired by the Ritz Carlton in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Later, he returned to the States, resettling in Arizona with his wife and their infant daughter.

In a new state with his young family, “it was just hard getting back into the workforce,” he recalled.

The family had some setbacks, so he called on St. Vincent de Paul for assistance. The society provided him with food boxes, help with rent and utilities, and a car to use while he looked for work.

“I’m forever grateful for that help,” he said. “It’’s something that I will always remember and (it’s) why I’m here now.”

He worked as a chef at the Phoenician, a luxury resort in Scottsdale, before answering an ad for the executive chef position at St. Vincent’s in the summer of 2015.

As the chef moved around the kitchen during the interview, he stopped next to volunteer Joe DeLibero, who was busy breaking down a 50-pound bag of onions.

“Want some help?”” Hoffman asked, and he sharpened his knife and started in on the onions.

DeLibero, who volunteers in the kitchen two days a week, seemed immune to the eye-watering effluvium of cut onions. He worked methodically next to the chef.

When Hoffman was called away from the cutting board, DeLibero offered his thoughts.

“He’s a great chef and a wonderful person,” he said of Hoffman. “He shows a lot of respect for the workers and volunteers. And the food is really good.”

Hoffman joked that he’s a chef because he loves to eat, but what motivates him is the ability to provide people with a base necessity.

“I’m a chef because I love to feed people and see people smile and make them happy,” he said. “It’s a real good feeling to know that you’re providing for people.

“We’re not here to put out perfect food. We’re here to put out good food, nutritious food for our guests. And the main thing is, we’re kind to people. We help people.”

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Pope’s representative at U.S.-Mexico Mass: Borders should be bridges, not walls

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Catholic News Service

NOGALES, Ariz. — The apostolic nuncio to the United States celebrated Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border Oct. 23 offering prayers to break down the barriers that separate people.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre faced the immense steel border fence in Nogales as he and the bishop of Tucson and the bishop of Mexico’s Diocese of Nogales, Sonora, concelebrated the liturgy with people gathered on both sides of the border.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, gives Communion during Mass at the international border in Nogales, Ariz., Oct. 23. Dioceses Without Borders,  an effort of Mexico's Nogales Diocese and the U.S. dioceses of Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., organized the liturgy celebrated on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, gives Communion during Mass at the international border in Nogales, Ariz., Oct. 23. Dioceses Without Borders, an effort of Mexico’s Nogales Diocese and the U.S. dioceses of Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., organized the liturgy celebrated on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

The nuncio began the prayer of the faithful with a plea for unity.

“Jesus, we come before you today as your disciples, sometimes filled with fear and doubt, even suspicion,” he said. “We pray to dismantle the barriers within our hearts and minds that separate us, who are all members of your body.”

Following his words, young people led the congregation in prayers for “needed immigration reform,” for humane treatment of migrants who don’t have documents, and for “security and justice for all.” They prayed especially for migrant children, “who are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” and for all who have died in border violence, including border patrol agents, immigrants and innocent victims.

The Mass was the third such one this year along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. The liturgies were organized by Dioceses Without Borders, an effort of the dioceses of Nogales, Tucson and Phoenix to work collaboratively on issues that affect the church and people in the border region.

During his homily and afterward in an interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Pierre echoed the sentiments of Pope Francis in regard to borders and the care of migrants and refugees, who the archbishop said all too often are looked upon as unwanted and as criminals.

“Borders exist all over the world, and borders are not bad, but borders should not be just a barrier, should not be a wall, but should be a bridge between people,” the nuncio said.

“Anything that goes in the direction of understanding, helping each other, discovering the beauty of the other is what is necessary to covert hearts and transform the world,” he said. “It’s time to break the obstacles that exist between people.”

To cheers from both sides of the border, Archbishop Pierre ended his homily with, “Viva Cristo Rey! Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! Viva la iglesia santa!” (“Long live Christ the King! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe! Long live the holy church!”)

Archbishop Pierre is no stranger to the people of Mexico. He served as nuncio in Mexico for nine years before being appointed as the pope’s representative in the U.S. But he said this Mass was his first visit to Nogales, Arizona.

In what seemed to be a spontaneous moment during the service, five young people ducked under a barrier near the border fence to hold hands and pray the Our Father with those on the other side in Mexico.

They stayed at the border fence until the sign of peace, offering their hands to those on the other side.

Carlos Zapien, music director for the Diocese of Tucson, said the special Mass was a statement that “faith can unite people.”

Zapien’s original score “Misa de la Misericordia” “Mass of Mercy”) was used in the cross-border liturgy with choirs on both sides participating.

“Faith and music have no borders,” he said.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson said he was grateful for to Archbishop Pierre’s participation in the service.

“He represents Pope Francis, whose heart is along the borders of our world, caring for immigrants and refugees,” he told CNS.

“The nuncio’s presence is a reminder of our Holy Father’s great love for those who are suffering, for those who are in need. So this was a very special celebration here in ‘ambos Nogales’ (‘both Nogaleses’) as we pray together across walls united in our prayer for one another.”

Among the hundreds of people that gathered for the border Mass were those that serve the Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national migrant advocacy and service organization.

Bishop Kicanas expressed his pride in the group and in a group of young people, the Kino Teens, who work with the border initiative.

“Their enthusiasm, their spirit is a true blessing,” he said. “They believe in the Lord. They believe in the church, and to have these young people participating in our Mass here in ‘ambos Nogales’ was a true blessing.”

 

Follow Wiechec on Twitter: @nancywiechec.

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Ali known not just for prowess in ring but also for faith, generosity

June 10th, 2016 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

PHOENIX — Muhammad Ali leaves an indelible mark on the world not only as a fighter and athlete but as a man of faith, courage and generosity.

Pope John Paul II meets with Muhammad Ali in 1982 at the Vatican. Little did each know that they would later both suffer from Parkinson's, serving as public faces of the disease. Ali died June 3 at age 74 after a long battle with Parkinson's.  (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)

Pope John Paul II meets with Muhammad Ali in 1982 at the Vatican. Little did each know that they would later both suffer from Parkinson’s, serving as public faces of the disease. Ali died June 3 at age 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s. (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)

The three-time heavyweight champion and self-titled “The Greatest” boxer of all time died at a Scottsdale hospital June 3. He was 74.

In Phoenix, where Ali lived his last years, people recalled his kindness and bravery in his struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

“I’ve watched him face the disease with grace and humor, and he has inspired countless patients to do the same,” said Dr. Holly Shill in a statement from the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute. “We have lost a great warrior in the battle of Parkinson’s, but hope continues.”

Founded in 1997 by Ali and his wife, Lonnie (Yolanda), along with philanthropist Jimmy Walker and Dr. Abraham Lieberman, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center offers advanced treatments for Parkinson’s and other movement disorders as well as therapy and support for patients and caretakers. It is part of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in the Sisters of Mercy-founded Dignity Health network.

Patient Ida Stanford reflected on the center and its famous namesake in a Dignity Health video.

“I can’t imagine having Parkinson”s and not having place like the center,” she said. “Muhammad Ali stood up for what he believed in. He was one-of-a-kind and still is one-of-a-kind.”

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disorder that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans. Its symptoms — tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity and impaired balance and coordination — worsen over time.

According to The Arizona Republic newspaper, the former champ came to the Phoenix area in the mid-1990s seeking medical treatment for his condition. He lived quietly in the valley devoting time to philanthropy and making occasional appearances at charity and sporting events.

Ali made several visits to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s family dining room in Phoenix, according to the society. He and his wife would serve meals and mingle with the guests. The couple also made several donations to the charity.

“It mattered little that Muhammad lost his ability to speak, for he communicated to our guests through his heart and soul,” said executive director Steve Zabiliski in a letter to The Arizona Republic. “At St. Vincent de Paul, we will remember him for his grace, his kindness, his courage and his love. It’s what made him so special.”

His last public appearance was in early April at Celebrity Fight Night, an annual Phoenix fundraiser that has given millions of dollars to the Ali Parkinson Center and other charities.

A public interfaith funeral service for Ali was to take place June 10 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Born and raised in Louisville, Ali came from a Christian household. His father was Methodist, his mother a Baptist. He was named Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., a family name traced back to a white slave owner.

He started boxing at age 12.

In 1964, after grasping the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, Cassius Clay announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam. He took a new name, Muhammad Ali.

In his 2004 memoir “The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey,” Ali told the story of his “spiritual being.”

“It was after I retired from boxing that my true work began,” he wrote, observing that his religion and spirituality changed and evolved over years.

As a young man, he had questioned his Christian heritage and its portrayals of a white Jesus and white apostles. He said one thing that attracted him to Islam was that the faith had no images of God, angels or prophets.

“No single race should be able to identify with God through the color of its skin,” he wrote.

The Nation of Islam’s belief in black self-empowerment struck a chord with the boxer.

“When I became a Muslim, I was on my way to entering what I called ‘The Real Fight Ring,’” he said. “The one where freedom and justice for black people in America took place.”

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Ali refused induction into the Army citing religious grounds.

“I didn’t agree with the reasons why we were in Vietnam in the first place,” he wrote in his memoir. “I couldn’t see myself trying to injure or kill people whom I didn’t even know, people who had never done any harm to me or my country.”

His dissent cost the boxer his heavyweight title. He was convicted of draft evasion. His passport was revoked, and his fighting career came to a halt.

Many Americans looked down on the fighter, and he said the Nation of Islam turned its back on him. He discovered a new “spiritual home” in mainstream Sunni Islam and embraced Sufism, a mystical dimension of the faith.

Ali returned to the ring in 1970 and in 1971 his draft evasion conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court. He took his second and third heavyweight titles in 1974 and 1978. He retired in 1981 with a 56-5 record.

In 1982, Ali met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. They reportedly exchanged autographs. Little did each know that they would later both suffer from Parkinson’s, serving as public faces of the disease.

A 2003 meeting with the Dalai Lama left a marked impression on Ali. He said they both held a deep respect for people of different beliefs and agreed that spirituality should be central to daily life.

Ali and wife Lonnie established the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville to promote the fighter’s legacy and his six core values: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality.

In his 2004 book, Ali reflected on the afterlife and how he’d like to be remembered after death.

“What really matters in life is prayer, living right, and good deeds, because this life is just practice for our eternal life,” he wrote.

And on how he would like to be remembered: As the three-time heavyweight champion, as humorous, and as someone “who treated everyone right. … As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.”

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Advocates for migrants in Arizona, Sonora gather at border for ‘posada’

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Catholic News Service

 

NOGALES, Mexico (CNS) — Kenia Salas, about to play the role of Mary in a Christmastime commemoration popular across Mexico, said she imagines Mary as a woman of strength.

“I think she was worried about her baby,” Salas, 17, said before participating in the “posada” along the U.S.-Mexico border. “I think she probably was a little scared because she was about to give birth and she was in pain. But I also think she was happy. She knew what she was doing was for God, and that made her strong.” Read more »

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Pope Francis declares Blessed Junipero Serra a saint during Mass at National Shrine

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Catholic News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Here is a timeline of key points in the life and ministry of Junipero Serra, the 18th-century Spanish missionary to California. Pope Francis canonized the Franciscan friar a saint Sept. 23 during his visit to Washington. Read more »

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Christ at spring training: Catholic baseball players given the Good News

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Catholic News Service

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The crack of the bat is a sure sign of spring, one that calls Ray McKenna to the field.

“How’s the team looking this year?” he asked the top trainer for the Texas Rangers. “Anything we can do? Please let us know,” he told catcher Tyler Flowers of the Chicago White Sox.

Ray McKenna of Catholic Athletes for Christ talks with Kansas City Royals special assistant Mike Sweeney, right, and relief pitcher Ryan Madson before a spring training game March 10 in Surprise, Arizona. Madson is in the Rite of Christian Initiation program and will join the Catholic Church at Easter. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Ray McKenna of Catholic Athletes for Christ talks with Kansas City Royals special assistant Mike Sweeney, right, and relief pitcher Ryan Madson before a spring training game March 10 in Surprise, Arizona. Madson is in the Rite of Christian Initiation program and will join the Catholic Church at Easter. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

The Washington-based attorney was busy checking in with baseball players, coaches, trainers and fans at spring training camps in Arizona and Florida.

McKenna though was not dispensing batting tips or offering legal advice. He was there to make sure Catholic players have access to the sacraments and to share the good news.

A former minor-league baseball chaplain, McKenna is the founder and president of Catholic Athletes for Christ. He said the 10-year-old sports ministry has a two-fold mission of service and evangelization.

“The service is to provide the sacraments to the players so the players are able to practice their faith,” he said. Evangelization, he continued, “is simply a fancy word for going out and sharing the good news and telling people that God is good.”

McKenna said he saw a need for the formal sports outreach while working as a lay chaplain. He could impart spiritual messages and support to athletes, but he could not provide the sacraments.

“The result of that logically was that players were leaving the Catholic faith and becoming so-called non-denominational, born-again Christians and not understanding and receiving the fullness of our Catholic faith,” he said.

Catholic Athletes for Christ now has a cadre of priests it works with to make sure that athletes can go to confession and celebrate Mass at stadiums, club houses and practice fields, accommodating their game schedules. It also coordinates events with the Vatican’s Church and Sports office within the Pontifical Council for the Laity and with the Knights of Columbus.

Msgr. Ned Brockhaus, a priest of the Diocese of San Diego, is active with the Catholic group and is the chaplain for the Padres. He celebrates Sunday Mass in the Padres’ press room when they are in town.

A baseball fan since he was a boy, the priest considers himself a missionary to the sport. He said he helps players to “keep their faith alive” and give them some reason to come to Mass.

He said pro athletes have a lot of demands and pressure, and unique needs. “I try to help them in the unusual life that they lead.”

Spring training, the yearly passage to opening day, is just one stop on the Catholic Athletes for Christ’s annual agenda. The organization holds a yearly retreat for baseball players and is also working to build stronger relationships and initiatives with the national football, hockey and basketball leagues.

It has a program for middle school and high school athletes. With more than 100 chapters in formation, “it’s growing like wildfire,” McKenna said.

If baseball mirrors religion in its rituals, then for Catholics one might say that Mike Sweeney of the Kansas City Royals is a key evangelist.

Sweeney, the team’s former first baseman and now special assistant, was recently named to the club’s Hall of Fame. He is chairman of the athletes advisory board for Catholic Athletes for Christ and sponsors a Catholic baseball camp for kids. With his wife, he runs the Mike and Shara Sweeney Family Foundation, which supports youths and pro-life initiatives and encourages unity between Catholics and Protestants.

On a practice field in Surprise, Arizona, McKenna caught up with Sweeney and they chatted with Royals relief pitcher Ryan Madson, who will become a fully fledged Catholic at Easter. A talk given by Sweeney had inspired Madson to learn more about Catholicism and enter the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program.

Their conversation was interrupted by fans calling out to Sweeney for autographs. He graciously accommodated them, and with his signature added a Bible reference.

“We got a good Scripture for ’em,” Sweeney said as he signed and passed back a fan’s souvenir baseball.

McKenna watched most of the Royals-White Sox matchup from the Kansas City dugout. It ended with a White Sox 6-2 win.

On his second day in Phoenix, McKenna met up with Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, one of 22 bishops who serve on Catholic Athletes for Christ’s board. He was taking some vacation time and had tickets for that day’s game between the Chicago White Sox and the Texas Rangers.

When asked which team he was rooting for, Bishop Olson answered with prudence. “I’m rooting for a well-played game.”

“I am a loyal lifelong Chicago White Sox fan,” he admitted. But said as bishop of Fort Worth he also cheers for the Rangers. And his third-favorite team? “Whoever plays the Cubs,” he quipped.

McKenna, Bishop Olson, catcher Flowers, Msgr. Brockhaus and Jaime Reed, the senior director of medical operations for the Rangers, stood talking near home plate at the Camelback Ranch ballpark. The White Sox-Rangers game was to start in about an hour.

Reed said that he often prays the rosary using a knotted string made by his daughter. On his way to work or on the way to the ballpark, “it just kind of balances me a little bit, kind of put my priorities in the right place,” he said. “It lets me know that I don’t have to worry about a lot of things, but God’s got it under control.”

Flowers said he appreciates the work of Catholic Athletes for Christ and the chaplains.

“They do a great job helping us,” he said. “We can have Mass at the stadium at the majority of places we go.” He added that Sunday Mass is a “good refresh, a good reset” for the beginning of his week.

 

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Pope, in letter to Arizona teens, encourages their work with migrants

February 5th, 2015 Posted in Featured, National News

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Catholic News Service PHOENIX — Saying their letters had touched his heart, Pope Francis wrote a personal response encouraging teens in southern Arizona in their work aiding migrants. “These young people, who have come to learn how to strive against the propagation of stereotypes, from people who only see in immigration a source of illegality, social conflict and violence,” he wrote, “can contribute much to show the world a church, without borders, as mother of all; a church that extends to the world the culture of solidarity and care for the people and families that are affected many times by heart-rending circumstances.”

Marian Enriquez, a member of the Kino Teens, serves deported migrants in 2014 at the "comedor," the kitchen and dining hall of the Aid Center for Deported Migrants in Nogales, Mexico. Pope Francis wrote a personal letter to the Kino Border Initiative's executive director praising and encouraging the teens in their work for migrants. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Marian Enriquez, a member of the Kino Teens, serves deported migrants in 2014 at the “comedor,” the kitchen and dining hall of the Aid Center for Deported Migrants in Nogales, Mexico. Pope Francis wrote a personal letter to the Kino Border Initiative’s executive director praising and encouraging the teens in their work for migrants. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

The pope’s letter, written in Spanish and dated Dec. 19, was responding to letters he received from Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, and Kino Teens at Lourdes Catholic School in Nogales, Arizona. The Kino Teens support the work of the initiative advocating for more humane and viable migration solutions. “Your letter and the ones from the Lourdes Catholic School students have touched my heart, not only because of the drama they describe, but also for the hope they manifest,” the pope wrote in his letter addressed to Father Carroll. Father Carroll had written the pope about the Kino Teens and invited him to visit the border region in both Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, in the Mexican state of Sonora. The Arizona border with Mexico is one of the busiest for illegal crossings. It accounts for nearly 30 percent of all U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions. Twenty Kino Teens wrote letters to the pope describing their experiences living on the border and serving migrants. “He didn’t say whether he was coming (to the border) or not, but he sent a beautiful letter expressing his gratitude for the letters and his support for what the young people are doing,” said Father Carroll. “It was a wonderful response affirming the work of KBI and the Kino Teens.” Pope Francis is set to travel to the U.S. in late September and there had been rumors that he might make a stop along the U.S.-Mexico border. His only confirmed visits are to Washington, New York and Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. His full itinerary has not been announced, but the pope is expected to be in Philadelphia for the last two full days of the Sept. 22-27 families’ meeting. In addition to their letters, the Kino Teens produced a video for Pope Francis. It explains their advocacy work and their experiences at the “comedor,” the Kino Border Initiative the soup kitchen the serves deported migrants in Nogales, Mexico. The pope encouraged the young people “not to tire in their labor of edifying love of others and (their) embrace against discrimination and exclusion.”

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