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Catholic Charities conducts May diaper drive to honor mothers

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Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Wilmington, is hosting a diocese-wide diaper drive to benefit Catholic Charities Bayard House Diaper Bank. The diaper drive will continue throughout the month of May 2017. Donors can drop off diapers of all sizes, baby hygiene items, and gift cards at all Catholic Charities locations during regular business hours. They can also visit Catholic Charities website at www.cdow.org/charities to make a donation using a credit card. Please note Diaper Drive in the comments section. Read more »

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Fresno Catholics urged to be a light to community shocked by shootings

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FRESNO, Calif. — After three men were killed April 18 in a shooting rampage in Fresno by a gunman who was captured and admitted to the shootings, the Diocese of Fresno urged the local Catholic community to “seize this moment as an opportunity to live as people of light not darkness by rejecting the temptation to hate the hater.”

“Once again, our community is touched by darkness,” said the diocesan statement posted on the diocese’s website. “Family, friends, neighbors and the vast multitude of good and caring people in our community must now decide, once again, how we will respond to this senseless tragedy.”

A road is blocked by police tape April 18 after multiple victims were fatally shot in Fresno, Calif. Community members and faith leaders held a prayer vigil in the alley behind the Catholic Charities' Fresno Family Resource Center to honor the three shooting victims that were killed that day. (CNS photo/Reuters)

A road is blocked by police tape April 18 after multiple victims were fatally shot in Fresno, Calif. Community members and faith leaders held a prayer vigil in the alley behind the Catholic Charities’ Fresno Family Resource Center to honor the three shooting victims that were killed that day. (CNS photo/Reuters)

One of the three victims was shot at a bus stop near a Catholic Charities office and another was shot in the agency’s parking lot.

Kelly Lilles, executive director of Catholic Charities in Fresno, said: “Our hearts are heavy as we reflect on the wrong done to our community yesterday and the horrific events that took place as a result of one angry individual.”

The gunman, Kori Ali Muhammad, also was wanted in the slaying of a security guard in Fresno the previous week. All four victims were white. The Associated Press reported that Muhammad, who is black, fired 16 rounds in less than two minutes at four places within a block April 18.

Lilles said in a statement that she and the staff and board of directors of Catholic Charities were thankful for those who reached out to the victims and for the first responders on the scene.

She said the Catholic Charities team had come together for prayers for the victims and their families, for clients and each other. They also continued their work, opening their doors the day after the shooting for clients. “Nothing will stop us from being a light for our community and we will continue to be here even in times of great sadness,” she added.

The Fresno diocesan statement urged Catholics to reflect on what they experienced, stressing that “anger and outrage are certainly a natural reaction; yet, these feelings must also be experienced as an invitation to prayerful reflection.”

The statement pointed out that “in less than two minutes, three lives were taken for no apparent reason beyond an incomprehensible depth of hatred carried in the heart of one man.”

The diocese offered prayers for the deceased and their families and for the “conversion of souls that intentionally inflict acts of violence on innocent victims. May their minds and hearts be enlightened and opened to God’s love, mercy and forgiveness; and may we be prepared to walk with them when they seek reconciliation within our community.”

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Chicago cardinal bolsters programs to break city’s cycle of violence

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Catholic News Service

CHICAGO — Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich April 4 announced a new initiative to increase the work of anti-violence programs in parishes and schools and those run by Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Catholic Charities and Kolbe House, the archdiocese’s jail ministry.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago holds a letter from Pope Francis to the people of Chicago during an April 4 news conference where he announced an anti-violence initiative to increase the capacity and reach of current programs of the Chicago Archdiocese that address the root causes of violence. Pictured at right is Drew Hines, director of the Peace Corner Youth Center.  (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago holds a letter from Pope Francis to the people of Chicago during an April 4 news conference where he announced an anti-violence initiative to increase the capacity and reach of current programs of the Chicago Archdiocese that address the root causes of violence. Pictured at right is Drew Hines, director of the Peace Corner Youth Center. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The Chicago archdiocese also will seek out partnerships to increase programs that will help break the cycle of violence.

The cardinal announced the initiatives on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

With a $250,000 personal donation, Cardinal Cupich said the archdiocese will create the Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund that will provide funds for both new and existing neighborhood-based anti-violence programs. The money comes from donations he’s received to aid his personal charitable efforts.

In 2018, the archdiocese also will hold the first U.S. meeting of Scholas Occurrentes, a program active in 100 countries that brings young people together to meet and problem-solve. The gathering will involve young people from Cook and Lake counties.

The announcements came during a news conference at the Peace Corner Youth Center, which serves young people in Chicago’s violence-prone Austin neighborhood. As of April 5, 773 people were shot in Chicago in 2017 and there were 151 homicides, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Cardinal Cupich also invited people to join him on a Walk for Peace through the city’s Englewood neighborhood on Good Friday, April 14. Like Austin, Englewood is a neighborhood that sees frequent shootings and crime. During the walk, participants will take part in the Stations of the Cross and pause along the way to remember those who died by violence. Along the route, participants will read the names of those killed in Chicago since January.

The cardinal said he shared these plans with Pope Francis when he met him in Rome recently. Pope Francis was moved by the news and drafted a letter to the people of Chicago, which the cardinal read at the news conference.

“I assure you of my support for the commitment you and many other local leaders are making to promote nonviolence as a way of life and a path to people in Chicago,” the letter stated.

The pope said he will be praying for those who will participate in the Good Friday walk.

“As I make my own Way of the Cross in Rome that day, I will accompany you in prayer, as well as all those who walk with you and who have suffered violence in the city,” the letter said.

Cardinal Cupich’s announcement of new initiatives follows a yearlong process he initiated to learn about the scope of anti-violence programs already going on in the archdiocese.

While no program will completely eradicate violence from the city, the cardinal said, “just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something. It’s going to take one person at a time.”

During his process of learning about the efforts in the archdiocese, Cardinal Cupich said he heard of many ways parishes and groups want to respond but lack the funding to do more. The Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund is for them.

“I see this as seed money for these local initiatives,” he said. “There really is no niche fund to support their efforts.”

He stressed the need for partnerships in these efforts.

“I can’t do it alone. I need the help of others,” Cardinal Cupich said.

Duriga is editor of the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Helping others is the Bookers’ driving passion

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Dialog reporter

St. Mary of the Assumption couple being honored by Catholic Charities founded SmartDrive Foundation

WILMINGTON — Pete and Susan Booker have had the urge to serve others going back nearly 50 years in three states, and next month, they will be recognized for all of that service.

The Bookers, members of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Hockessin, will receive the Msgr. Thomas J. Reese Award from Catholic Charities at the organization’s annual tribute dinner on April 5. It recognizes those who have demonstrated “a deep commitment to promoting and restoring the well-being of people,” which is Catholic Charities’ mission. 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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Stock the Pantry food drive extended through March

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Catholic Charities is looking to communities in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland to help stock the food pantries throughout the Diocese, including the newest location in the Thrift Center in northeast pantryWilmington. The food cooperatives provide monthly distributions of food for enrolled clients who are at or below 200% of poverty. The co-op offers an ongoing, sustainable resource for savings.

Donors can contribute nonperishable food goods, personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies, and grocery store gift cards at all Catholic Charities locations during regular business hours.

 

Newest Pantry Location Opens This Spring at:

Catholic Charities Thrift Center

1320 E 23rd Street

Wilmington, Delaware 19802

 

If you need food assistance, call Catholic Charities Main Office at 302-655-9624 to make an appointment.

To learn more about our Food Assistance program, click here. 

 

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Catholic panelists discuss ‘Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump’

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Catholic panelists gathered to discuss “Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump” said it is difficult to get over some of the words the president-elect said during the campaign, and even before he was a candidate. But as his presidency nears, many of them said it’s important to find ways to work with him for the common good.

“When Donald Trump says things about women … I have a hard time stomaching those comments,” said Msgr. John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “We can still find a way, though, to listen and say, ‘How do we find common ground?’”

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks Jan. 11 during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. (CNS /Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks Jan. 11 during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. (CNS /Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Msgr. Enzler was one of five panelists Jan. 12 who addressed the role the Catholic faith can play as the country gets ready for the incoming Trump administration. Some Catholics such as Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Florida, expressed great optimism.

“We can have a lot of hope that he will protect life the way we want him to do … defunding Planned Parenthood, protecting life,” Rooney said. “Things like the insurance mandate can be brought into harmony of First Amendment rights.”

Yet others such as panelist Jessica Chilin Hernandez expressed uncertainty and apprehension of the days ahead. Chilin works at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, thanks to a work permit she has through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. President Barack Obama, through executive action in 2012, created a policy that allows certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children to have a work permit and be exempt from deportation.

Chilin is one of more than 750,000 people who signed up for DACA. During the campaign, Trump said he would kill the program and threatened mass deportations, sending those like Chilin into panic.

“I felt a fear unlike any other fear I have had before,” she said about the moment she learned Trump won the election. “The fear was visceral. … one thought that occupied my mind was that homeland security knows exactly where I live. It was hard to imagine myself having a future in 2017.”

Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. Operations for Catholic Relief Services, said now is a good time to review the principles of Catholicism and social justice, explaining that they don’t divide people and don’t say refugees or immigrants are enemies or a burden on society.

“What we have to do is lift up our principles,” Rosenhauer said. “The problem is deeper because our own Catholic people do not know those principles.”

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, said the country is showing a high level of ambiguity, fear, dysfunction and chaos.

“I think that challenges all of us as people of faith,” she said.

Now is the time to stand up for the stranger, the working poor, and anyone who needs of our kindness or help, and Catholic social teaching has a lot to say about it, Sister Campbell said.

Msgr. Enzler noted it is also important to understand that individuals can do much by performing kind actions toward others. People can start by asking: “What did I do today? It’s not an agency that can make things better but people,” he said.

Chilin said it’s important to keep in mind language that we use in daily conversation.

“Be conscientious of language,” she said. “Illegal is a racial slur. No human being is illegal and yet, in many circles, they use it to describe us.”

Panel moderator John Carr, director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, which sponsored the event, asked how Catholics can build bridges in “an angry country, a divided country.” There are a lot of people who feel under attack, he said.

“It’s important to see what role (Catholics) can play in divisions that have been created over the past year,” Rosenhauer said. “I was really struck by Cardinal (Joseph) Tobin and his homily at his installation where one of his key points was that our kindness must be known to all.”

It’s important to stand up for beliefs even when others disagree with them, she said, “but we have to find a way to do it with kindness.”

“We want to protect children in the womb. That’s something we can work with this (the Trump) administration and Congress on. … Senator (Jeff) Sessions said there would be no Muslim ban. That’s something we would support and work together on … then let’s be clear about the areas for disagreements.”

Msgr. Enzler said Catholics, particularly the church’s leaders, must also speak and raise their voices for the vulnerable, and strongly speak the church’s message.

Moderator Carr asked Sister Campbell whether she could offer any lessons about building bridges that she learned during the Nuns on the Bus tour last summer, a 19-day trip that a group of women religious undertook from Wisconsin to the national political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Its aim was to learn what people around the country were thinking about just before the presidential election.

Sister Campbell used the bus as a metaphor for the country. Some said the bus had made them feel as if they were welcome back into a community, a feeling they had not had in a long time, because everyone was welcome on the bus. She said she heard stories about poverty, lack of jobs and lack of access to health care that resulted in the deaths of loved ones.

“No one can be left out of our care,” Sister Campbell said. “We are a nation of problem-solvers, but we have sunk into extreme individualism.”

As Pope Francis has said, it’s about the people, and when people feel loved, they flourish and when they flourish so does the country, she said.

 

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Advocates of refugees, immigrants seek to calm postelection fears

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Catholic News Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the American people continue to unpack exactly what the election of Donald Trump means for the country, those who work with vulnerable populations such as refugees and immigrants have serious concerns and questions about what the future holds.

President-elect Trump made the issue of immigration one of the foundations of his campaign. He promised to round up those in the country without legal permission and deport them, and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; he also talked about enacting a ban on Muslims entering the country until a system for what he called “extreme vetting” of refugees can be put in place.

A creche titled "Jesus the Global Refugee" is seen outside Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch, N.Y., Nov. 27. The structure, designed as a refugee's lean-to, was created to call public attention to the biblical mandate to welcome immigrants and give shelter to refugees. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

A creche titled “Jesus the Global Refugee” is seen outside Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch, N.Y., Nov. 27. The structure, designed as a refugee’s lean-to, was created to call public attention to the biblical mandate to welcome immigrants and give shelter to refugees. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

In the days following Trump’s election as president, the Catholic Charities Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Diocese of Nashville began receiving calls from school counselors seeking assistance for how to talk with refugee children who are afraid of being sent back to the countries they fled. “These are calls we haven’t gotten before,” said Kellye Branson, Refugee Resettlement department director.

“We want to calm their fears,” Branson said, noting that anyone who arrived in the country through the refugee resettlement program is here legally and faces no imminent threat of deportation. However, “we’re kind of in a holding position, waiting to see what policy implications are for the future,” she told the Tennessee Register, Nashville’s diocesan newspaper.

The president has the authority to set the number of refugees accepted annually by the United States. President Barack Obama has raised it from 70,000 in 2015 to 85,000 in 2016 to 110,000 for 2017. Trump could reduce that number for future years.

Catholic Charities of Tennessee has decades of experience resettling refugees in this state. Since its founding in 1962, it has assisted refugees and asylum seekers and helped them assimilate to American culture and the local community. Catholic Charities has helped resettle 637 refugees in the Nashville area so far this year, including refugees from Congo, Somalia and Syria.

While the world’s refugees wait and hope to be resettled in a more stable and secure country, those who work with refugees in Tennessee are taking steps to clear up misconceptions about who refugees are and the rigorous process they must undergo to reach the United States.

Refugees are defined as individuals who have had to leave their home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution. They are targeted because of their religious or political beliefs, or membership in a particular social class.

Branson pointed out that the refugee resettlement program “is the most secure way of entering the U.S. It’s a lengthy process.”

First, a refugee reports to a representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. If a refugee is seeking entry into the U.S., he or she will undergo vetting from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the State Department. This involves extensive interviews and background checks, with a particular focus on any signs of radicalization or connection with a terrorist group, which would immediately disqualify that person from entry into the U.S.

Branson understands that Americans are concerned about national security and the integrity of the refugee resettlement program.

“We want it to be secure too,” she said. “The people resettling are fleeing the same people we don’t want to enter the country. We want to safely and humanely resettle the people who have been persecuted most throughout the world.” She also noted that less than 1 percent of refugees worldwide ever get resettled.

One positive outcome of the election so far, Branson said, is a surge in calls from people interested in volunteering with the Refugee Resettlement office. In the two days following the election, her office received about 20 calls from interested volunteers, the same amount they normally receive in a month.

“Now more than ever, Americans and longtime residents are needed to reach out to our new arrivals and offer a hand of friendship and welcome,” Branson said.

If newly arrived refugees can make personal connections with American volunteers, it can make for a smoother transition to a new culture, help them learn English and make them feel like a part of the community more quickly. “Developing those connections is a huge thing for our clients,” Branson said.

Donna Gann, program coordinator of Immigration Services for Catholic Charities of Tennessee, said her clients are anxious as well. “There has been an increase in calls wanting to know what’s going to happen now,” she said.

Maggie McCluney, a caseworker with the agency’s Immigration and Hispanic Family Services, echoed Gann, saying that since the election, “it is especially difficult to keep up with inquiries. Many clients are concerned about deportation and separation of families. There is a lot of uncertainty.”

If clients have their paperwork in order and are applying for citizenship, “we are hopeful that any process currently pending will continue without (increased) scrutiny,” Gann said via email. “The only clients we are really concerned about are the DACA recipients,” Gann said, referring to those who are currently protected under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Many immigrants in the country without legal permission who fall under that protection were brought to the United States by their parents as young children and may not even remember living in their country of origin.

More than 720,000 of these young immigrants have been approved for that program, which protects them from deportation for two-year periods and grants them work permits. Since DACA was created by executive order, it could be rescinded by executive order under the new Trump administration, which officially begins with Inauguration Day Jan. 20.

During his campaign, Trump vowed to undo what he called Obama’s “overreaching” executive orders on immigration. “If the threats come to fruition, then they could be under removal proceedings,” Gann said of those currently protected under DACA and DAPA, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program. “That will be an issue we will continue to review and fight hard against,” she added.

 

Laurence is a staff writer at the Tennessee Register, newspaper of Diocese of Nashville.

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The first Bishop’s 5K for Catholic Charities

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The first Bishop’s 5K race, Nov. 19 at Bellevue State Park in Wilmington, raised more than $7,000 for diocesan Catholic Charities. Richelle Vible, executive director of Catholic Charities. called the event very successful. “We were blessed with many new friends who had a chance to learn about Catholic Charities and those we serve throughout the diocese. … We thank everyone who participated [more than 300 registered], with a special “thank you” to Bishop Malooly and our board of directors.” Donations can still be made online at cdow.org/charities.

 

Running for Charities: Runners participating in the first Bishop’s 5K sponsored by Catholic Charities run through Bellevue State Park Nov. 19. The Dialog/www.DonBlakePhotography.com

Running for Charities: Runners participating in the first Bishop’s 5K sponsored by Catholic Charities run through Bellevue State Park Nov. 19. The Dialog/www.DonBlakePhotography.com

 

Runners from Padua Academy run the Bellevue course. wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Runners from Padua Academy run the Bellevue course. wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Walkers were part of the field at the 5K, including Bishop Malooly in a St. Mark’s High cap and a St. Elizabeth Vikings sweatshirt. wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Walkers were part of the field at the 5K, including Bishop Malooly in a St. Mark’s High cap and a St. Elizabeth Vikings sweatshirt. wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Ruth Lavelle won the women’s division with a 23:22 chip time.wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Ruth Lavelle won the women’s division with a 23:22 chip time.wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Matthew Querey, from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Wilmington, finished first with a time of 18:28. wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Matthew Querey, from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Wilmington, finished first with a time of 18:28. wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Andrew Cuocolo, 9, and Ethan Clark, 8, cross the finish line at Bellevue State Park Nov. 19. The two speedsters from St. John the Beloved Parish finished 68th and 69th in the field of 258 runners and walkers. wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Andrew Cuocolo, 9, and Ethan Clark, 8, cross the finish line at Bellevue State Park Nov. 19. The two speedsters from St. John the Beloved Parish finished 68th and 69th in the field of 258 runners and walkers. wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

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Candidates spar at Al Smith Dinner that raises $6 million for New York’s Catholic Charities

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Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — When Donald J. Trump stepped over yet another invisible line of the contentious presidential race Oct. 20, many of the 1,500 people at 71st annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation broke historic precedent to boo him.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan shares a light moment with U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the 71st annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City Oct. 20. The charity gala, which honors the memory of the former New York Democratic governor who was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party for the U.S. presidency, raises money to support not-for-profit organizations that serve children in need. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan shares a light moment with U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the 71st annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City Oct. 20. The charity gala, which honors the memory of the former New York Democratic governor who was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party for the U.S. presidency, raises money to support not-for-profit organizations that serve children in need. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Candidates Trump and Hillary Clinton flanked the host, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, on the five-tiered dais of the Grand Ballroom at the heavily secured Waldorf Astoria hotel for the charitable gala.

The event has been a traditional opportunity for speakers to poke good-natured fun at themselves, one another, and prominent guests from the worlds of politics, business and philanthropy without inflicting wounds.

In 1928, Alfred E. Smith, former governor of New York who was raised in poverty, was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for president of the United States.

Despite an introductory warning delivered as a humor-coated reminder of the evening’s ground rules by emcee Alfred E. Smith IV, chairman of the dinner, Trump veered from the safety of chuckle-inducing barbs and zings. He said she is “so corrupt” she was kicked off the Watergate commission. The room erupted in a crescendo of boos and shoutouts, as he lobbed one accusation after another that his opponent is deceptive and a Catholic-hater. “She is here tonight … pretending not to hate Catholics,” he said.

Decorum was restored when the Republican nominee recalled past Al Smith dinners as a special occasion to spend time with his father, developer Fred Trump.

Smith, a great-grandson of the foundation’s namesake, aimed jokes equally at both candidates and reflected the general discomfort of the electorate with them. He told Trump to watch his language because “even though the man sitting next to you is in a robe, you’re not in a locker room.” He advised Clinton to remain stoic in the face of insults during the evening by considering it a fourth debate.

Noting the proximity on Fifth Avenue of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Trump Tower, Smith said Trump’s appearance was historic, marking the first time the Catholic Church was not the largest tax-exempt landowner at the dinner.

Trump was greeted warmly with applause. He quipped that the huge event was a small intimate dinner with friends for him, but that it counted as his opponent’s largest crowd of the season.

Trump gave a shoutout to politicians in the room who formerly loved him, but turned on him when he sought the Republican nomination. He said the dinner gives candidates an opportunity to meet one another’s teams and those working hard to get them elected.

As he spoke, he pointed out chairmen of media corporations seated on the dais and among the assembly. As an example that the media is biased against him, Trump said Michelle Obama gave a speech that everyone loved, but when his wife, Melania, delivered the exact same speech, “people got all over her case. I don’t get it.”

Trump said he knows Clinton is very gracious because, if elected, she wants him to be her ambassador to either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Trump said the presidential debates were the most vicious in the history of politics. In a rare reflective moment, he turned to Clinton and asked, “Are we supposed to be proud of it?”

We need to stand up to anti-Catholic bias, defend religious liberty and create a culture that celebrates life, Trump concluded.

Trump sat down to mixed applause and boos. Retaking the microphone, Smith said,
“As Ronald Reagan would say, ‘There you go again!’” He noted the dinner raised a record $6 million.

The Democratic nominee was introduced to a standing ovation. Clinton said the fiery populist Al Smith would be proud of the money raised at the event, but if he saw the
“room full of plutocrats” gathered to celebrate his legacy, he’d be confused.

Clinton said she was taking a break from her rigorous nap schedule to attend, but the event was also treat for the guests because she usually charges a lot for a speech. She said she was a little amazed at the opportunity to speak, because she didn’t think her opponent would be OK with a peaceful transition of power.

Clinton said, “Every year this dinner brings together a collection of sensible, committed mainstream Republicans, or as we now like to call them, Hillary supporters.”

She said critics accuse her of saying only what listeners want to hear. “Tonight that is true. This is exactly what you want to hear. This election will be over very, very soon.”

Clinton said when Trump wanted her to undergo a pre-debate drug test, “I was so flattered he thought I used some sort of performance-enhancers. Actually I did. It’s called preparation.”

Trump has questioned her stamina, Clinton said, but over the course of three debates, she has stood next to him for longer than any of his campaign managers. She said Trump is so concerned about her health, he sent a car to bring her to the dinner. “Actually it was a hearse.”

Nonetheless, Clinton said if elected, “I will be the healthiest and youngest woman ever to serve.”

Clinton said one of the things the candidates have in common is the Republican National Committee “isn’t spending a dime to help either one of us.”

Turning serious, Clinton said it’s easy to forget how far the country has come. When Al Smith ran for office, she said there were rumors that he would forbid Bible-reading in schools, annul Protestant marriages and make the Holland Tunnel into a secret passageway to the Vatican so the pope could rule the country. “Those appeals to fear and division can cause us to treat each other as ‘the other.’ Rhetoric like that makes it harder for us to respect each other,” she said.

“We need to get better at finding ways to disagree on matters of policy while agreeing on questions of decency and civility,” she said.

Although the candidates shook hands across Cardinal Dolan at the dinner, he jokingly attributed his nascent cold at the benediction to having spent two hours seated between them, which he said is “the iciest pace on the planet. Where is global warming when you need it?”

He noted the funds raised at the dinner would provide grants for thousands of mothers and children who are most in need and least visible to society.

Dinner guests in formal attire sat elbow-to-elbow at gold-covered tables in the ballroom and its two balconies. The $3,000-a plate meal included a seafood trio appetizer, tournedos of beef and a chocolate dessert duet. Metropolitan Opera soprano Nadine Sierra sang the national anthem from the dais, set against the backdrop of a huge American flag.

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