Home » Posts tagged 'Florida'

Key West Catholic school struggles to reopen after hurricane

By

Catholic News Service

KEY WEST, Fla. — Robert Wright, principal of the Basilica School of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, reluctantly left town before Hurricane Irma made its historic landfall, knowing it wouldn’t be easy getting back to Florida’s southernmost tip later on.

Debris is seen Sept. 16 outside the Basilica School of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West, Fla., in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy)

Wright drove the Overseas Highway north toward the Florida mainland, braving 50-mph winds, to join his wife and five children who had evacuated to a relative’s home in Lakeland in Central Florida. Wright’s wife, Jessica, is a sixth-generation Conch, or Key West native.

“I had at first decided to stay and ride it out, but my wife wasn’t happy about that, and we have five children,” said Wright, principal of the school since 2013. “So I drove overnight to Lakeland.”

Ironically, Irma’s path shifted somewhat more inland, knocking out power where Wright and 10 family members huddled in a duplex for several days.

Wright’s fears about returning were well-founded. County officials only began letting residents head back to the lower Keys and Key West early in the morning Sept. 17.

Some days before that, Wright finally found a way back to Key West through a friend who works with a humanitarian aviation agency in Lakeland called Aero Bridge, which was flying post-hurricane relief and supplies to Summerland Key, near Key West. (The main airport in Key West was open only to military and governmental traffic at the time.)

He learned about the flight the night of Sept. 13, and, leaving his family in Lakeland, he boarded the flight the next morning along with his 120-pound dog and a couple of cases of Gatorade.

“It was a humbling sight to fly over the Middle Keys around Marathon Key, seeing the devastation,” Wright told the Florida Catholic newspaper. “I got into Key West, and my first order of business was to find fuel for my car.”

Wright found gas at a marina where his family keeps a boat. He also procured some drinking water, then set out for the basilica’s school. He spent six hours doing a full damage assessment, and spoke to the insurance adjusters and Miami archdiocesan staff working on a cleanup plan.

He contracted with a local company to begin the cleanup process beginning Sept. 18. He set Sept. 25 as the target for a full school reopening.

Meanwhile, the school began operating a half-day of free day care for area youngsters whose families didn’t evacuate and needed a safe place for their children while they recover from the storm. An estimated 8,000 residents remained behind.

“My goal is to open up the school as soon as possible, and I think that is one of the first things a community needs to return to a sense of normalcy,” Wright said.

With some 300 students, most of whom evacuated with their families in advance of Hurricane Irma, the Basilica School of St. Mary Star has been educating Key West children since 1868. The school enrolls students from prekindergarten (age 3) through eighth grade and stands next to the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea, in the heart of Key West.

Key West was not ready for an immediate, rapid return of residents. As of Sept. 18, water service was being rationed, available only four hours each day. Cellphone service was only recently restored, electricity remained out and gasoline was in short supply.

Wright also was visiting members of his staff, faculty and student families who were busy cleaning up homes. His own house suffered some minor damage, and he asked his family to stay in Central Florida until conditions improve.

Meanwhile, he said, Key West has been transformed from a beautiful resort to a beautiful state of neighbor helping neighbor, as restaurants offer free food to locals and people pitch in to clean up the island.

“It’s really is neat to see people dig deep and start to serve others,” he said. “Amidst the chaos there is great charity at work. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself in a bad situation. But when you see the generosity and care of neighbors, it’’s a very pleasant feeling, and it takes your mind off the road ahead.”

It will be months, even years, before the island returns to what it once was, Wright said. Locals point out that 2005’s Hurricane Wilma actually brought Key West more catastrophic flooding than Irma, which will be remembered by locals for its Category 4 winds.

“I have families asking how long this will take and wondering should they enroll elsewhere,” Wright said. He believes the city of Key West in general will lose some students as their families relocate after suffering heavy damage to their homes.

Many faculty and staff of the basilica’s school, however, were waiting for the Key West airport to open to commercial flights to return. The school has its own water wells, which are now functioning again.

“It’s important to focus on the beauty of charity and progress that these moments bring out,” Wright said. “The charm of the island has shifted from palm trees and tiki huts to the beauty of people serving one another.”

     

Tracy is a correspondent for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

Comments Off on Key West Catholic school struggles to reopen after hurricane

The Chainsaw Carmelite: Texas principal knows the joys of serving and severing

By

Catholic News Service

She inspired many when she rolled up the sleeves of her habit to clean up after Hurricane Irma with a chainsaw.

Carmelite Sister Margaret Ann Laechelin, principal of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School in Miami, holds the chainsaw she used to help clean up debris following Hurricane Irma. (CNS photo/courtesy Sister Margaret Ann)

After the local police department posted a video Sept. 12 on Twitter of Carmelite Sister Margaret Ann Laechelin trimming branches off a fallen tree with a chainsaw, she became an instant hit and a symbol of sorts for the hurricane-ravaged Miami area.

“People are making a big deal about the chainsaw, but I’ve already given my life to God and that’s what brings true joy,” not the fame that came after the airing of the video, said Sister Laechelin in a Sept. 14 phone interview with Catholic News Service.

But the community at Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School, where she is the principal, has been enjoying the fame and the attention it has brought to the suburban Miami Catholic school of 300 students in West Kendall, she said.

“They say ‘Sister, you’re famous. Can I have your autograph?’” she said.

The community needs every bit of levity it can find as it recovers from the damage wrought by Hurricane Irma, which led to the school’s closing because a cooling tower needs to be fixed before students are allowed to return. Inspired by the Carmelite’s example of contributing to the cleanup, families from the school have shown up to help clean around the perimeter, she said.

Though it’s not open for classes, the school has been helping the surrounding community, giving out ice (from its icemaker) and providing a place for others to charge their phones and regroup, Sister Laechelin said.

“There’s such joy in giving,” she said.

And that’s what she was doing when she decided to clear the tree from the road when a police officer, armed with a phone, happened to drive by and filmed her. Though you wouldn’t know it from the video, she had never really used a chainsaw before, but when she was faced with finding a way to clear the tree, she remembered some important advice from her students.

“I had to go on YouTube” to figure it out, she said, “but growing up in Texas, I did a lot of yardwork and my dad taught me to figure things out.”

Though she lives in Florida, she is a member of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart in Los Angeles, who also have a community of four women religious in Florida. Via FaceTime, she has been talking to them, easing the concerns of her community in Los Angeles, she said.

“Sisters, we stick together,” she told CNS.

They weren’t surprised at all. she said, by seeing her wielding the chainsaw and said, “That’s Sister Margaret Ann, she never sits back and jumps right in.”

Her family in Texas, however, was in “awe” when they saw her on TV, she said, and told her “I always thought you’d be famous, but not because of a chainsaw.”

The best lesson she can impart on her students from the situation, she said, comes from the Gospel.

“I want them to know that if they see a need, to step in and to help people, to help others, because God didn’t create us to be selfish and to care only for our little world,” she said.

Comments Off on The Chainsaw Carmelite: Texas principal knows the joys of serving and severing

U.S. bishops pray for ‘safety, care’ of all hit by two massive hurricanes

By

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops’ Executive Committee Sept. 12 prayed for “the safety and care of human life” after two catastrophic hurricanes and urged Catholics around the country to offer their prayers as well as financial support and volunteer help as they can.

Residents look at a collapsed house Sept. 12 after Hurricane Irma passed the area in Vilano Beach, Florida. (CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters)

“The massive scale of the dual disasters and the effect it has on communities, families and individuals cannot be fully comprehended or adequately addressed in the immediate aftermath of the storms,” the statement said, noting that “lives and livelihoods” were “still at risk in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean.”

Beginning Sept. 6, Hurricane Irma left hardly any place in its path untouched. The strength and size of the massive storm, with 120-plus-mph winds stretching 70 miles from its core, leveled entire islands in the eastern Caribbean, brought unprecedented flooding on Cuba’s north coast, devastated the Florida Keys, snapped construction cranes in downtown Miami and targeted cities along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Irma dwindled to a tropical storm as it neared the Florida-Georgia line early Sept. 11 and was forecast to die out over southern states later in the week. Officials in Florida and across the Caribbean, meanwhile, started to dig out and evaluate the full scope of the disaster Irma left behind. The death toll stood at more than 30 in the Caribbean and at 12 in the United States, as of Sept. 12.

More than a week earlier, Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Houston and southern Texas Aug. 25-30. In a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches of rain. Flooding inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. The death toll from that storm stood at 70.

“At this time of initial recovery, we mourn the loss of life, homes and other property, and the harm to the natural environment, and we pray for all those affected and in need of assistance” in the wake of the two massive hurricanes, said the Executive Committee, which includes the officers of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We also pray for the safety of, and in thanksgiving for, the first responders who are risking their lives at this very moment in care for their neighbors, especially those who are elderly, sick, homeless, or otherwise already in need of special assistance,” the statement said.

The Executive Committee’s statement followed by three days a statement from the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, whose diocese was hit by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

He called for prayers for the victims of Harvey and for those affected by Irma.

“At a time like this, when our endurance is tested, we implore God to direct us to yet unknown reserves of strength and human compassion for those suffering so deeply. May our manifestations of love and solidarity be lasting signs in the midst of this crisis,” he said Sept. 9.

The Executive Committee said it shared “Pope Francis’ trust that the Catholic faithful here in the United States will respond to the needs presented by these disasters with a ‘ast outpouring of solidarity and mutual aid in the best traditions of the nation.’”

“We encourage the faithful to respond generously with prayers, financial support, and for those who have the opportunity, the volunteering of time and talents in support of those in need,” it said.

Comments Off on U.S. bishops pray for ‘safety, care’ of all hit by two massive hurricanes

Bishop Dewane: House’s budget resolution puts the poor in jeopardy

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House budget resolution “will place millions of poor and vulnerable people in real jeopardy” because it reduces deficits “through cuts for human needs” and by trying to slash taxes at the same time, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee.

The U.S. Capitol dome is seen behind the entrance to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington. (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

The U.S. Capitol dome is seen behind the entrance to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington. (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

“A nation’s budget is a moral document,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “Congress should choose a better path, one that honors those struggling in our country.”

Bishop Dewane’s July 20 statement was issued in response to the budget resolution that was voted out of the House Budget Committee along party lines July 19.

The nonbinding Republican measure is a 10-year budget blueprint that calls for $621.5 billion in national defense spending, provides for $511 billion in nondefense spending and ties cuts to a major overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

It makes at least $203 billion in cuts over a decade in Medicaid, food stamps, tax credits for the working poor and other programs that help low-income Americans. The bill also would change Medicare into a type of voucher program for future retirees.

“The USCCB is monitoring the budget and appropriations process in Congress very carefully, and is analyzing the proposed House budget resolution in more detail,” Bishop Dewane said. “We note at the outset that the proposal assumes the harmful and unacceptable cuts to Medicaid from the American Health Care Act.”

The House May 4 passed the American Health Care Act to replace the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. The Senate effort to repeal and replace the health care law collapsed late July 17.

In the House budget resolution, “steady increases to military spending … are made possible by cutting critical resources for those in need over time, including potentially from important programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) that provide essential nutrition to millions of people,” Bishop Dewane said.

“This would undo a bipartisan approach on discretionary spending from recent years, that, while imperfect, was a more balanced compromise given competing priorities,” he added.

Catholic Charities USA also rejected the measure’s “dramatic cuts in key social safety net programs.”

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of the national Catholic Charities network, urged House members “to prioritize and protect programs that support and uplift the poor and vulnerable in our country.”

“While CCUSA supports the responsible use of our nation’s fiscal resources and has worked consistently to improve effectiveness in anti-poverty programs, reforms that seek only to cut our nation’s social safety net will further strain efforts to meet individual needs and risk pushing more Americans into poverty,” Sister Markham said July 20.

She made the comments in a letter to Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, who is chair of the House Budget Committee, and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, ranking member.

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, also wrote to Black and Yarmuth expressing her opposition to the budget resolution.

“As an organization guided by the social teachings of the Catholic Church, we firmly believe that the federal budget should be informed by moral principles and offer special protections for the poor and vulnerable,” she wrote July 18, the day the measure was unveiled.

“A budget must be fair and just and cannot be balanced on the backs of those among us who least can afford it,” Sister Keehan said. “We recognize that the proper role of federal spending programs should be to lift up the neediest among us enabling them to active participants in society.

“Unfortunately, the deep cuts in programs and services assumed by this budget proposal will severely reduce or eliminate access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, health care, education and other social supports that help lift families and individuals out of poverty and improve their health outcomes,” she said.

Comments Off on Bishop Dewane: House’s budget resolution puts the poor in jeopardy

Black Catholics at congress urged to ‘listen, learn, think, act and pray’

By

Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. — United by the words of the prophet of social justice, Catholic Church leaders urged black Catholics to become active, just disciples of Christ.

More than 2,000 converged on Orlando July 6-9 for the 12th National Black Catholic Congress where speakers — clergy, lay and religious — addressed a variety of topics and concerns facing black communities and families, while urging those present to take an active, enthusiastic role in living out the Gospel as just disciples of Christ.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, center, celebrates the July 9 closing Mass of the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla.(CNS/courtesy Nancy Jo Davis, National Black Catholic Congress)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, center, celebrates the July 9 closing Mass of the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla.(CNS/courtesy Nancy Jo Davis, National Black Catholic Congress)

During his homily at the opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Father Patrick Smith, pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Washington, spoke about the “ridiculous power of the Christ on the cross” and how our own suffering can be offered up to God as a source of healing for others.

It is important the community does talk about its struggles, the priest said, but it also must talk about the redemptive power of God on the cross. He added while “racism ultimately leads to death … a spiritual suicide in our souls,” the truths of the Gospel sets lives free.

“That is our anger, but also our source of hope,” he said. “You and I cannot appreciate the good news unless we first face and acknowledge the bad news.”

The roots of the Black Catholic Congress stem from 1889 with layman and journalist Daniel Rudd, who brought together 100 black Catholic men to exchange and discuss questions affecting their race for not just Catholic blacks, but blacks across the country, and unite for a course of action while standing behind the Catholic Church and its values.

The group met with President Grover Cleveland during its first congress. In meeting and uniting, Father Smith said the Catholic Church demonstrated and voiced how “black Catholic lives mattered,” just as other groups have done as they convened when a group has suffered, such as with the pro-life groups who proclaim unborn lives matter.

“Black Catholics are born from the same womb of the baptismal font,” Father Smith said, adding that those gathered for the congress did not convene to achieve higher status, but rather to insist on “inclusion” because black Catholics are equal members of the body of Christ.

“And also, more importantly, (we gather) to extort and challenge ourselves to do our part and accept the responsibility in our role in the Church that God has given us. … We gather to see how to effectively evangelize because eternal life is way too important.”

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, offered the opening keynote address that focused directly on the theme of the congress taken from the prophet Micah – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: Act justly, love goodness and walk humbly with your God.”

His first point reaffirmed the united community of disciples of Christ and the need of inclusion of all “children of God.”

“When Pope Francis speaks, he doesn’t speak to nations, races and tribes; he speaks to humanity invited to be disciples of Jesus. And we respond first and foremost to this,” Cardinal Turkson said. “For there is no Gospel for Africans. There is no Gospel for Americans. There is no Gospel for Italians or Europeans. There is one Gospel for all of us created in the image and likeness of God we seek to respond to. … God’s children all belong together. None are set aside, none should live on the periphery and none are excluded.”

To demonstrate the power of being a disciple of Christ, Cardinal Turkson spoke about the story from Exodus of the Israelites following Moses in the desert. He asked those gathered to envision facing the Red Sea with the waters of parted and a path sandwiched between two walls of water.

The cardinal joked “water is never concrete” and some might have questioned what would happen if there was a really big wind. But the example of the Israelites who choose to follow Moses and trust God to hold up the walls of water demonstrates the courage and attitude that modern-day Christians must hold to be baptized in Christ and become just disciples of Christ.

“That is what baptism is. It is not a nominal celebration. It is a decision to live dependent on making Jesus your everything,” Cardinal Turkson said, borrowing the words of St. Paul who said after his conversion, “The life I live now is no longer mine.” “Anyone baptized lives that life. … It is not until you surrender your life to Jesus that you will live as a just disciple of Christ.”

Justice, reconciliation and peace are tantamount to unite the church family of God. While Cardinal Turkson said challenges such as tribalism in Africa and racism and discrimination in America present struggles, the Catholic Church family is invited to live beyond divisions and live in communion as children of God.

“In this family of God we need to live justly,” he said. “When we respect the demands of our relationships, we are just.”

By Jean Gonzales, who is on the staff of the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of Orlando, Palm Beach and Venice.

 

Comments Off on Black Catholics at congress urged to ‘listen, learn, think, act and pray’

Bishops: 22 million people losing insurance under GOP plan ‘simply unacceptable’

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in its analysis of the Senate health care bill, said late June 26 the measure would leave 22 million more people without insurance.

“This moment cannot pass without comment,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

A protester demonstrating against the Senate health care bill is escorted away by police outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's constituent office in Washington June 22. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

A protester demonstrating against the Senate health care bill is escorted away by police outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s constituent office in Washington June 22. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

“Today, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the ‘discussion draft’ of the Senate health care proposal, indicating that millions of people could lose their health insurance over time,” he said in a statement issued in response to the just-released analysis.

“As the USCCB has consistently said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable,” the bishop said, noting he would continue to study the full CBO report. “These are real families who need and deserve health care.”

He added, “We pray that the Senate will work in an open and unified way to keep the good aspects of current health care proposals, to add missing elements where needed, and to not place our sisters and brothers who struggle every day into so great a peril on so basic a right.”

Meanwhile, the bill prompting the CBO review, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, drew opposition from Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. In a letter to senators June 26, Sister Markham urged senators to reject the bill and “craft a health care bill which truly expands coverage, reduces costs and respect human life and dignity.”

The bill in its current form “will have a devastating impact on the poor, marginalized and vulnerable in our country,” Sister Markham wrote.

While welcoming provisions in the bill to protect human life and increase flexibility to states in paying for health care, “a bill that rolls back gains in health care for the poor and vulnerable is deeply regretful,” the letter said.

“It is deeply shameful that instead of improving our health care system, the bill provides tax cuts for people making over $200,000 per year while at the same time demanding dramatic cuts or eliminating programs which help those most in need and most unlikely to afford health care,” the letter said.

The Senate released its Better Care Reconciliation Act in
“discussion draft” form June 22.

In a statement the same day, Bishop Dewane said the Senate version contains “many of the fundamental defects” that appeared in the House-passed American Health Care Act “and even further compounds them.”

“As is, the discussion draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the social safety net,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written.”

One part of the bill cuts the federal government’s share of funding for Medicaid to 57 percent of its cost over the next seven years. States have picked up the balance of the funding to date.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the government had guaranteed that its funding for adults newly eligible for Medicaid would fall to no lower than 90 percent of their costs. Many states expanded Medicaid coverage for all adults ages 18-65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Bishop Dewane criticized the “per-capita cap” on Medicaid funding, which would no longer be an entitlement but have its own budget line item under the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The effect, he said, “would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported.”

He indicated the Better Care Reconciliation Act at least partially succeeds on conscience rights by “fully applying the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill.”

However, the bishops “also stressed the need to improve real access for immigrants in health care policy, and this bill does not move the nation toward this goal,” Bishop Dewane said in his June 22 statement.

Comments Off on Bishops: 22 million people losing insurance under GOP plan ‘simply unacceptable’

Texas pastor named bishop for Florida diocese

By

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Holy Cross Father William A. Wack, who is a pastor in Texas, to be the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

Bishop-designate Wack, 49, has been pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, since 2009. He succeeds Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, who was named last November to head the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Pope Francis has named Holy Cross Father William A. Wack, pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, since 2009, to be the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla. He succeeds Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, who was named last November to head the Diocese of St. Petersburg. (CNS photo/courtesy Congregation of Holy Cross)

Pope Francis has named Holy Cross Father William A. Wack, pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, since 2009, to be the bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla. He succeeds Bishop Gregory L. Parkes, who was named last November to head the Diocese of St. Petersburg. (CNS photo/courtesy Congregation of Holy Cross)

The appointment was announced in Washington May 29 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The date of Bishop-designate Wack’s episcopal ordination has not yet been determined.

“Now I know for sure that God is merciful, having called this sinner to serve in this capacity,” Bishop-designate Wack said May 29 in a statement about his appointment. “The first words which came to mind when I heard of the appointment were, ‘Lord I am not worthy … but only say the Word … .’ With joy and zeal, I accept this appointment, and I am thrilled to begin service to God’s people as a bishop.”

“While I am very sad to be leaving the parish of St. Ignatius Martyr in Austin … I couldn’t be more excited to move in and get to work here in the diocese,” he added.

He said he has always loved being a priest. “For me there is nothing higher than the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist and the other sacraments,” Bishop-designate Wack said. “Over the past 23 years I have grown tremendously in my faith, through the very mysteries I have served.”

As a Holy Cross priest, he continued, “I know of the power of the cross of Christ, and the hope that it brings to all creation. We in Holy Cross strive to be ‘educators in the faith’ wherever we go, and I am happy to continue to do this in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

Bishop-designate Wack added: “While I embrace a leadership position in the church once again, I believe that I stand to learn much from the very people I will serve. We are all God’s children, for we have been given God’s Spirit. It is our sacred duty to celebrate and practice our faith together, and to make God known, loved and served in all that we do.”

“Father Wack is an exemplary priest who is well respected by his brother priests and loved by those he serves,” Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin said in a statement. “Father Wack has been of great help to me, and I express my deep appreciation to him for his years of service in the Diocese of Austin.”

“As the people of Pensacola-Tallahassee come to know him, they will see his love for the church and his desire to serve his flock with warmth and compassion,” he added.

Holy Cross Father Thomas O’ Hara, provincial superior of the U. S. province of the Congregation of Holy Cross, called Bishop-designate Wack “a gifted pastor and administrator who possesses an extremely welcoming personality.”

“He is quick to reach out to all, is strong enough to lead and humble enough to listen. Above all, he is an outstanding priest who is passionate in his faith and absolutely dedicated to serving the people of God,” Father O’Hara said.

Bishop Parkes said he shared in the joy of Catholics of Pensacola-Tallahassee getting a new shepherd, who with the diocese “will be in my prayers during this time of transition.” 

Since Bishop Parkes’ appointment to St. Petersburg, Msgr. James Flaherty has served as Pensacola-Tallahassee’s diocesan administrator.

Born June 28, 1967, in South Bend, Indiana, Bishop designate-Wack is the second-youngest of 10 children. His younger brother also is a Holy Cross priest, Father Neil Wack.

William A. Wack entered the novitiate for the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1989. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in government and international relations from the University of Notre Dame in 1989. He earned a master of divinity degree in 1993, also from Notre Dame.

He professed his final vows in 1993 and was ordained a priest April 9, 1994. His assignments after ordination included associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from 1994-1997. He was associate director of vocations for his congregation from 1997-2002 at Notre Dame; at that time, he also was with the Holy Cross Associates, 1998-2002.

He then spent six years, from 2002 to 2008, as director of Andre House of Hospitality in downtown Phoenix, which is ministers to the city’s poor and homeless. It runs a soup kitchen, which serves over 200,000 meals per year, and provides a small transition shelter for men and women; clothing and blanket distribution; and showers and lockers for its clients.

The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee covers about 14,000 square miles in Florida’s panhandle. Out of a total population of 1.46 million people, about 5 percent, or 67,316 people, are Catholic.

Comments Off on Texas pastor named bishop for Florida diocese

Catholic leaders meeting in Orlando seeks to bring ‘Joy of the Gospel’ vision to U.S. church

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — This summer’s Convocation of Catholic Leaders comes at a time when the U.S. Catholic Church is seeking how best to respond to a changing social landscape while bringing Pope Francis’ vision for a church that offers mercy and joy to the world.

Volunteers serve guests lunch in the main dining hall of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 2016 in Phoenix. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations will gather July 1-4 in Orlando, Fla., for the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" sponsored by the U.S. bishops.(CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Volunteers serve guests lunch in the main dining hall of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 2016 in Phoenix. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations will gather July 1-4 in Orlando, Fla., for the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” sponsored by the U.S. bishops.(CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Called by the bishops, the historic convocation will find more than 3,000 Catholic leaders — bishops, clergy, religious and laypeople — meeting July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida, to focus on how the pope’s 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), applies in the United States.

The pope’s document lays out a vision of the church dedicated to evangelization, missionary discipleship, in a positive way, with a focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged and unborn.

Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and a convocation planner, sees the gathering as a way for Catholics across the diverse spectrum of the church to unify in Christ.

“The beauty of it for us as Catholics is it’s not just another trade meeting,” Reyes said. “This is centered, as Pope Francis said again and again, in the encounter with Jesus Christ. That’s what holds us together. Even Catholics need a moment of unity these days. Not just our country, but we as Catholics need a moment of unity around Christ.”

The idea of missionary discipleship expressed by the pope has taken root in the work of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It’s the pre-eminent theme in the 2017-2020 strategic plan the bishops adopted during their annual fall general assembly in November.

Planning for the gathering, titled “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America,” has been underway for a few years. It is being called to examine today’s concerns, challenges and opportunities for action in light of the church’s evangelization mission, Reyes said.

“So we’re going to encounter Christ together, converse together, pray together, encounter one another and talk very practically about what are the challenges, what’s it mean to be missionary disciples at this moment and how do we go out and do it,” Reyes said.

Planners want people to mix and mingle and learn from each other during the invitation-only event.

“This group of people would never be in the same strategic conversations together if it weren’t for the bishops calling them together. They are in all kinds of ministries throughout the church. They are professionals in all the different fields, education, business, teachers. We have people from all socioeconomic groups,” Reyes said.

Such a gathering of bishops and key church leaders has occurred just once before within the U.S. church.

In 1917, in response to the country’s entry into World War I, the bishops met with a select group of leaders to determine how to respond to social needs emerging from the war. That meeting at The Catholic University of America in Washington led to the formation of the National Catholic War Council “to study, coordinate, unify and put in operation all Catholic activities incidental to the war.” After the war, the bishops met to make the council permanent and established the National Catholic Welfare Council, the forerunner to today’s USCCB.

“They were responding to a very different crisis, World War I. But there was a sense of the importance of the moment that the church of the United States had to come together under the bishops to find a way of going forward, a vision of hope for the country and to serve,” Reyes said.

Today, like the wider society, the U.S. church is grappling with how best to respond to rapid sociological changes: demographics including a rising Latino population and people leaving organized religion, an economy that has led to a smaller middle class, a broadening of the legal definition of marriage, polarization along ideological lines and technological advances that have changed how people relate with each other.

How to respond under the guidance of Pope Francis will begin to be discussed during the convocation. Each day has its own theme for participants to consider in light of changing church and social structures:

  • July 1: National Unity
  • July 2: Landscape and Renewal
  • July 3: Work and Witness
  • July 4: A Spirit of Mission

On days 2 and 3, plenary sessions will feature panel discussions pertaining to an aspect of the themes with nearly two dozen breakout sessions exploring topics influencing the church’s work.

Mass will be part of each day as well. The July 3 Mass will incorporate religious liberty as part of the bishops’ annual Fortnight for Freedom observance.

Reyes and planners, including the bishops envision the convocation as a starting point with Pope Francis providing the inspiration through his call to bring the Gospel to others.

“The Gospel is a pretty good thing to rally around,” Reyes told CNS. “You can build a lot unity out of it.”

Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

Comments Off on Catholic leaders meeting in Orlando seeks to bring ‘Joy of the Gospel’ vision to U.S. church

House’s health care bill has both laudable and troubling aspects, bishop says

By

 

WASHINGTON — The inclusion of “critical life protections” in the House health care bill is laudable, but other provisions, including those related to Medicaid and tax credits, are “troubling” and “must be addressed” before the measure is passed, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, who is chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, sent a letter March 17 to House members. It was released March 20 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Congressman Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, takes notes as he listens to House Budget Committee lawmakers deliver statements on the American Health Care Act during a March 16 hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA)

Congressman Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, takes notes as he listens to House Budget Committee lawmakers deliver statements on the American Health Care Act during a March 16 hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA)

Regarding life protections in the bill, Bishop Dewane said: “By restricting funding which flows to providers that promote abortion and prohibiting federal funding for abortion or the purchase of plans that provide abortion, including with current and future tax credits, the legislation honors a key moral requirement for our nation’s health care policy.”

Among the “very troubling features” of the bill are the Medicaid-related provisions, he said. Other aspects that must be addressed before the bill is passed include the absence of “any changes” from the current law regarding conscience protections against mandates to provide certain coverage or services, Bishop Dewane said.

His letter follows one sent March 8 to House members by him and three other bishops’ committee chairmen stating they would be reviewing closely the American Health Care Act, introduced in the House March 6 to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

The other signers of the earlier letter were: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman, Committee on Migration.

In his March 17 letter, Bishop Dewane said one area in the new bill that could be helpful, with “appropriate safeguards,” is an effort to increase flexibility for states and provide more options for health care savings and different kinds of coverage based on economic levels. But still, Bishop Dewane said, “efforts to increase flexibility must be carefully undertaken so as not to undermine” a given program’s “effectiveness or reach.”

In the House bill, Medicaid expansion would be repealed and replaced with a “per capita allotment.” Under the current law, more Americans became eligible for Medicaid, so long as their states opted into the entitlement program’s expansion.

The House bill’s “proposed modifications to the Medicaid program, a vital component of the social safety net, will have sweeping impacts, increasing economic and community costs while moving away from affordable access for all,” Bishop Dewane said.

He also cited the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of the bill that said “as many as 24 million additional people could be uninsured in the next 10 years for a variety of reasons.”

The U.S. bishops, he said, have stressed that “all people and every family must be able to see clearly how they will fit within and access the health care system in a way that truly meets their needs.”

The CBO estimates millions of people currently eligible for Medicaid under the law “will be negatively impacted due to reduced funding from the per capita cap” proposal, Bishop Dewane said.

“State and local resources are unlikely to be sufficient to cover the gaps,” he continued.

Congress needs “to rework the Medicaid-related provisions of the AHCA to fix these problems and ensure access for all, and especially for those most in need,” said Bishop Dewane.

He also pointed out that the House measure does not provide “conscience protection against mandates to provide coverage or services, such as the regulatory interpretation of ‘preventive services’ requiring contraception and sterilization coverage in almost all private health plans nationwide.”

The mandate requiring most employers to provide such coverage even if they are morally opposed to it, he reminded House members, “has been the subject of large-scale litigation especially involving religious entities like the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

Bishop Dewane outlined other provisions he said need to be addressed before the legislation is passed, including:

  • The new tax credit system, which “appears to create increased barriers to affordability, particularly for older and lower-income people when compared with the cost assistance” allowed under the current health care law.
  • The cap on the cost of plans for older Americans relative to plans for younger people would increase to a 5-to-1 ratio over the current 3-to-1 ratio. Studies show, Bishop Dewane said, that “premiums for older people on fixed incomes would rise, at times dramatically” under the House proposal.
  • A 30 percent surcharge for a 12-month period for those who do not maintain continuous coverage “presents a serious challenge.”
  • No longer any requirement for states to allow individuals seeking Medicaid benefits a reasonable opportunity to verify that they are either U.S. citizens or have a qualified immigration status. “This change would undoubtedly threaten eligible individuals’ access to essential and early medical care,” the bishop said.

The current federal health care law “is, by no means, a perfect law,” Bishop Dewane said, noting the U.S. bishops “registered serious objections at the time of its passage” in 2010.

“However, in attempting to improve the deficiencies of the ACA, health care policy ought not create other unacceptable problems, particularly for those who struggle on the margins of our society,” he said.

The U.S. bishops “look forward to working with Congress to address the problems found in the AHCA, to ensure that all people can benefit from comprehensive, quality health care that they can truly afford.”

Comments Off on House’s health care bill has both laudable and troubling aspects, bishop says

Trump visits Catholic school in Florida to show support for school choice

By

ORLANDO, Fla. — President Donald Trump visited St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando March 3 to show his support for school choice.

The president was joined by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott in a tour of the school that started with a visit to a fourth-grade class.

U.S. President Donald Trump chats with students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Fla., March 3. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also joined the president. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump chats with students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Fla., March 3. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also joined the president. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

The visit was called a listening session.

One of the tour guests was Denisha Merriweather, who attended a private high school through Florida’s voucher program, which she credits with turning her life around.

“We want millions more to have the same chance to achieve the great success that you’re achieving,” Trump said. The president also told school administrators that “the love you have for what you do is really fantastic,” The Associated Press reported.

In his address to Congress Feb. 28, Trump said that education was the “civil rights issue of our time” and urged Congress to pass legislation to fund school choice for disadvantaged young people, but he did not offer any details.

St. Andrew Catholic School, which opened in 1962, teaches 350 children from pre-K to eighth grade. On its website it says: “Our goals are simple: college and heaven.”

The school partners with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, or ACE,  which serves under-resourced Catholic schools.

A March 3 statement from ACE said the president’s visit gave the St. Andrew’s students “a historic opportunity to share their story with the nation.”

“We are acutely aware that the current political climate is among the most polarized in American history,” the statement said. “These divisions have real implications for relationships here in the St. Andrew community.”

It also stressed that “every family has the right to choose the best school for their child” and that “because of the parental choice program in Florida, this school will continue to empower families, form faithful citizens, strengthen the Pine Hills community, and provide children with educational opportunities.”

Comments Off on Trump visits Catholic school in Florida to show support for school choice
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.