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Connections continue to build

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Special to The Dialog

 

Bishop Carlos Trinidad of San Marcos visits diocese as Solidarity Partnership nears 15th year

 

EASTON, Md. — Bishop Carlos Trinidad didn’t hesitate when asked the major issues that confront the Diocese of San Marcos, Guatemala: treatment of women, lack of opportunity for young people, and malnutrition.

Then he smiled ruefully as he acknowledged an overwhelming issue that he seemingly overlooked, one that fuels the three concerns he listed. “The poverty, it is always there.” Read more »

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First U.S.-born priest beatified

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Blessed Stanley Rother, Oklahoma priest and martyr, ‘lighted torch of hope for the church and world’

 

OKLAHOMA CITY — If the martyrdom of Blessed Stanley Francis Rother “fills us with sadness,” it also “gives us the joy of admiring the kindness, generosity and courage of a great man of faith,” Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.

The 13 years Blessed Rother spent as a missionary in Guatemala “will always be remembered as the glorious epic of a martyr of Christ, an authentic lighted torch of hope for the church and the world,” the cardinal said in his homily during the U.S. priest’s beatification Mass. Read more »

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Guatemalan bishops condemn lawmakers’ attempt to gut campaign finance laws

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GUATEMALA CITY — The Guatemalan bishops’ conference has condemned the country’s congress for gutting campaign finance laws at a time when accusations of corruption and electoral irregularities are implicating the president and others in the political class.

Protesters take part in a Sept. 14 rally against finance laws approved by congress in Guatemala City. Placard reads “Everyone get out.” (CNS photo/Fabricio Alonso, Reuters)

The bishops expressed “their condemnation of this unspeakable and arbitrary act, which promotes impunity and rewards corruption,” along with “their condemnation of one of the most ignominious acts committed by congress.” The document was published Sept. 14 and signed by conference president, Bishop Gonzalo de Villa Vasquez of Solola-Chimaltenango.

On Sept. 13, lawmakers in Guatemala quickly approved a law that softened penalties for campaign finance violations and limited the kinds of contributions that could be investigated. Those convicted of crimes could pay nominal fines rather than serve prison sentences.

Guatemala’s constitutional court provisionally suspended the law Sept. 14, but protesters had taken to the street anyway something encouraged by the bishops’ statement. Social media critics used the hashtag “Black Wednesday,” to mark the day the law was approved.

President Jimmy Morales, a comedian-turned-politician, canceled official celebrations for the Sept. 15 Independence Day, citing street protests. Such protests and investigations by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG, forced Morales’ predecessor from office in 2015 and helped pushed Morales, a political neophyte, into power on a platform of clean government.

Morales, however, has been caught up in scandals, including accusations his campaign did not declare all campaign donations.

The CICIG, established by the government and United Nations to pursue impunity after the country’s civil war, also has presented evidence of tax evasion against the president’s brother and son.

Morales recently tried to expel the CICIG commissioner from the country, a move condemned by many in Guatemala, including the bishops, but was blocked by the courts.

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Catholic leaders mourn ‘senseless deaths’ in trafficking tragedy

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SAN ANTONIO — The “completely senseless deaths” of 10 people who died of heat exhaustion and suffocation they suffered from being held in a tractor-trailer “is an incomprehensible tragedy,” said Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio.

Police officers in San Antonio work a crime scene at Walmart July 23 after eight people were found dead inside an 18-wheeler truck. Several others were hospitalized in critical condition and the death toll reached 10 as of early July 24. Authorities say the truck was smuggling immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico and Central America. (CNS photo/Ray Whitehouse, Reuters)

Police officers in San Antonio work a crime scene at Walmart July 23 after eight people were found dead inside an 18-wheeler truck. Several others were hospitalized in critical condition and the death toll reached 10 as of early July 24. Authorities say the truck was smuggling immigrants into the U.S. from Mexico and Central America. (CNS photo/Ray Whitehouse, Reuters)

“There are no words to convey the sadness, despair and, yes, even anger we feel today,” he said in a statement released late July 23.

Earlier in the day, San Antonio law enforcement officials found eight bodies inside the trailer of an 18-wheeler sitting in the parking lot of a Walmart. The eight people who died were among 39 people packed in the trailer and suffering from extreme dehydration and heatstroke. At least 20 others rescued from the truck were in critical condition and transported to the hospital. Two later died, and by July 24 the death toll was at least 10.

In a July 24 statement, the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration said the nation’s Catholic bishops joined their voices in mourning the loss of life and condemning the treatment of migrants, many of whom were from Mexico and Guatemala, in a suspected human trafficking operation.

“The loss of lives is tragic and avoidable. We condemn this terrible human exploitation that occurred and continues to happen in our country,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin.

“In a moment such as this, we reflect upon the words of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, ‘The defense of human beings knows no barriers: We are all united wanting to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman and child who is forced to abandon his or her own land,’” Bishop Vasquez said.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus called it “a horrific tragedy” and said it was being looked at as “a human trafficking crime.”

AP reported that James Matthew Bradley, 60, of Clearwater, Fla., believed to be the driver of the tractor-trailer, was a suspect in the case and had been arrested on charges of smuggling.

San Antonio is about 150 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The temperature in the Texas city July 23 was 101 degrees all day and well into late evening. The human cargo in the tractor-trailer was discovered after someone left the truck and asked a Walmart worker for water, AP said.

In his statement, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the community was praying for the recovery of the adults and children who were hospitalized. AP said that at least four of the survivors were between the ages of 10 and 17.

“Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Antonio has already reached out to our mayor and promised to offer whatever assistance is needed. We will do anything possible for these brothers and sisters and their families,” he said.

Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the tragedy was “a clarion call” for the nation to make immigration reform a priority.

“Everyone — the churches, law enforcement, state and national elected officials, civic organizations, charitable groups — has to prioritize the immigration issue and truly work together in new ways which have eluded us in the past for common sense solutions. No more delays. No more victims,” he said.

He recalled that when 19 people died in similar circumstances in a locked trailer in nearby Victoria in 2003, “the nation was stunned, and people of good will vowed to work diligently to ensure that something such as this would never happen again.”

“Unfortunately, law enforcement has reported an upsurge in these types of human smuggling and trafficking operations at the border in recent months,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

      Such incidents involve “increasingly desperate individuals seeking safety and a better life for their families placing their well-being and indeed their lives in the hands of reprehensible, callous smugglers and traffickers,” he said.

      “We pray for these victims and all victims of human smuggling and trafficking; that this monstrous form of modern slavery will come to a quick and final end,” the archbishop added. “God cries seeing this reality and many other situations such as this across our country and around the world.”

      In a separate statement, the Austin-based Texas Catholic Conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, joined Archbishop Garcia-Siller in mourning the migrants’ deaths and praying for the survivors.

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Solidarity and love across borders

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For The Dialog

Ss. Peter and Paul parishioners share their love with the people of Los Santos Reyes Parish in Guatemala

EASTON, Md. – When Fathers James Nash and Glenn Evers decided to send a parish delegation to the Diocese of San Marcos, Guatemala, last summer, they knew whoever went would be deeply affected by both the dire poverty and extreme faith of the people they encountered.

What they were not prepared for was how many parishioners, teachers, and school families of Ss. Peter and Paul church and school would want to be part of the delegation, or for the extent that the parish has embraced one parish and one school in Guatemala. Read more »

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Pope recognizes martyrdom of Father Rother, Oklahoma priest killed in Guatemala — updated

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, making him the first martyr born in the United States.

The Vatican made the announcement Dec. 2. The recognition of his martyrdom clears the way for his beatification.

Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, making him the first martyr born in the United States. Father Rother is pictured in an undated file photo. (CNS photo/Charlene Scott) See VATICAN-CAUSES-ROTHER Dec. 2, 2016.

Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, making him the first martyr born in the United States. Father Rother is pictured in an undated file photo. (CNS photo/Charlene Scott) See VATICAN-CAUSES-ROTHER Dec. 2, 2016.

Father Rother, born March 27, 1935, on his family’s farm near Okarche, Oklahoma, was brutally murdered July 28, 1981, in a Guatemalan village where he ministered to the poor.

He went to Santiago Atitlan in 1968 on assignment from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. He helped the people there build a small hospital, school and its first Catholic radio station. He was beloved by the locals, who called him “Padre Francisco.”

Many priests and religious in Guatemala became targets during the country’s 1960-1996 civil war as government forces cracked down on leftist rebels supported by the rural poor.

The bodies of some of Father Rother’s deacons and parishioners were left in front of his church and soon he received numerous death threats over his opposition to the presence of the Guatemalan military in the area.

Though he returned to Oklahoma for a brief period, he returned to the Guatemalan village to remain with the people he had grown to love during the more than dozen years he lived there.

He was gunned down at the age 46 in the rectory of his church in Santiago Atitlan. Government officials there put the blame on the Catholic Church for the unrest in the country that they said led to his death. On the day he died, troops also killed 13 townspeople and wounded 24 others in Santiago Atitlan, an isolated village 50 miles west of Guatemala City.

Many priests and religious lost their lives and thousands of civilians were kidnapped and killed during the years of state-sponsored oppression in the country.

While his body was returned to Oklahoma, his family gave permission for his heart and some of his blood to be enshrined in the church of the people he loved and served. A memorial plaque marks the place.

Father Rother was considered a martyr by the church in Guatemala and his name was included on a list of 78 martyrs for the faith killed during Guatemala’s 36-year-long civil war. The list of names to be considered for canonization was submitted by Guatemala’s bishops to St. John Paul II during a pastoral visit to Guatemala in 1996.

Because Father Rother was killed in Guatemala, his cause should have been undertaken there. But the local church lacked the resources for such an effort. The Guatemalan bishops’ conference agreed to a transfer of jurisdiction to the Oklahoma City archdiocese.

News of the recognition was welcomed in Oklahoma.

“This comes as a great joy to all of us here not only in Oklahoma, but I think it’s a great blessing to the church in the United States,” Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City told Catholic News Service Dec. 2.

He also called the recognition of the priest’s martyrdom a gift to the Catholic Church in Guatemala.

Archbishop Coakley recalled how both he and Father Rother are alumni of Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He remembered a ceremony at the school a few months after the priest’s death in which a plaque was erected in his honor.

“His witness has marked me from my earliest days in priestly formation,” the archbishop said. “It’s a blessing to be the archbishop now who has the opportunity to bring to fruition the work on my predecessor Archbishop (Eusebius J.) Beltran.”

Now-retired Archbishop Beltran was head of the archdiocese when the sainthood cause for Father Rother was officially opened in 2007.

Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, author of a 2015 biography of the priest, “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma,” wrote in an email that the martyrdom recognition was “an incredible gift not only to the United States, but to the universal church.”

“I am delighted and grateful that more people will come to know and be changed by his beautiful story,” Scaperlanda said. “Not only because of his death as a martyr. But even more significantly, because his life and his priestly service remain a testament to the difference that one person can, and does, make.”

Scaperlanda described Father Rother’s martyrdom as a “reminder that we are all called to holiness in our ordinary lives, and that holy men and women come from ordinary places like Okarche, Oklahoma.”

Describing the priest as a faithful man, Scaperlanda said he was called to serve in the fields of Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, alongside his Tz’utujil Mayan parishioners. “This is what his community remembers — that he was one of them,” she wrote. “And when their village suffered oppression and killings from a violent and brutal civil war, he remained one with them. He was truly the shepherd who didn’t run.”

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Editor’s Note: A CNS review of Scaperlanda’s biography of Father Rother can be found at http://tinyurl.com/glcxso2.

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Texas parish welcomes immigrant children ‘with a lot of love’

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Catholic News Service

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Almost every Sunday, more than 100 immigrant children under 18 years of age attend Mass at San Felipe de Jesus Church in Cameron Park.

Carmen Alvear and other parishioners from San Felipe de Jesus Parish in Brownsville, Texas, prepare a special meal for unaccompanied children from Central America who attend Mass at their church July 10. (CNS photo/Rose Ybarra, The Valley Catholic)

Carmen Alvear and other parishioners from San Felipe de Jesus Parish in Brownsville, Texas, prepare a special meal for unaccompanied children from Central America who attend Mass at their church July 10. (CNS photo/Rose Ybarra, The Valley Catholic)

The children, who are mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, entered the United States unaccompanied and are housed in shelters, or “centros de refugio,” for several weeks while arrangements are made to reunite them with relatives living in the United States or back in their country of origin.

So far, in 2016, more than 26,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America have been apprehended according to figures released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors have crossed into the United States in the last five years.

Marist Father Anthony O’Connor, pastor of San Felipe de Jesus Church, which is in the Brownsville diocese, said most of these children are fleeing from poverty and violence in their home countries. They come to the United States in search of a better life, but that journey is fraught with its own dangers.

“Most of them face some sort of difficulty on the way,” said Father O’Connor, who visits four different centros de refugio to hear confessions and visit with the children. “They often pass through moral and physical danger to get here.

“These kids have had to grow up fast,” he told The Valley Catholic, Brownsville’s diocesan newspaper.

“What they have been through, we can’t even imagine,” said Barbara Martinez, a parishioner of San Felipe de Jesus Church.

Father O’Connor and his parishioners have responded to the call to make the children feel welcome. A section of the church is reserved for them as they have to be seated together. The children have been attending Mass here for about a year.

“Everybody respects that space,” said parishioner Miguel Lopez, who serves as an usher. “People will stand in the back of the church rather than sit there.

“We are not afraid to admit we give them special treatment because we want them to feel special. … I see some of them crying as they pray. We know they are going through a lot. We feel their pain.”

“They are received with a lot of love and you can feel the presence of God’s love when they are here,” said parishioner Yolanda Castillo. “We feel blessed to have them be a part of our community.”

The immigrant children attending Mass at San Felipe de Jesus Church for the first time also receive a small gift of welcome, said parishioner Sergio Martinez.

“They are provided with a cross to hang around their necks and they wear them every week when they come to Mass,” he said. “I think it is remarkable how they come here with an open spirit.”

At Christmastime, the parishioners hosted a posada for the children and in July, they invited them over for a special meal featuring dishes from their home countries. Brownsville Bishop Daniel E. Flores was present for the meal and celebrated Mass.

Carmen Alvear, one of the cooks, researched the cuisine from Central America, hoping to, “get it right.” She said some of the children cried tears of joy and sadness when they saw the food.

“They told us they were happy and moved that we took the time to prepare the foods they like but it also made them miss home and their families,” she said. “I’ll admit, we cried with them.”

Guadalupe Gonzalez, another cook, said the children really enjoyed the food and many of them had “seconds and thirds.”

“The food is made with a lot of love,” said Claudia Gutierrez, a volunteer cook. “We wanted them to eat as much as they wanted.”

“I feel very happy and honored to be part of this community of faith,” said parishioner Francisca Rodriguez. “We’ve always been a very united community and having the children here has brought us even closer together because we all want the children to feel at home and we are doing everything we can for them.

“We know they are suffering and we hope hearing the word of God carries them through the week ahead.”

“We put ourselves in their shoes,” said parishioner Guillermo Castillo. “All their worries, all the obstacles they have overcome, their fears about living in a new country, missing their family … it is a sad reality, but we support them as best as we can by giving them love and understanding.”

Parishioner Marcos Garcia is relatively new to San Felipe de Jesus Church, having only joined the parish about four years ago.

“I am in awe of this community, of how generous and welcoming everyone is and I believe it comes from Our Lord, first of all and also from Father Tony,” he said. “He inspires us to serve and we pray for him constantly, that he will continue to have the strength to minister to these children.”

When asked if they had any reservations about the children joining them for Mass, the parishioners all replied, “No,” in unison.

“This is the house of God,” parishioner David Gomez said. “Everyone is welcome. On the rare occasion the children don’t come to Mass, we really miss them. We feel like a part of us is missing.”

 

Ybarra is assistant editor of The Valley Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Brownsville.

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Solidarity continuing its mission to the peripheries of the church

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Dialog Editor

 

During a short talk at a meeting of cardinals who were about to enter a conclave to elect a new pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio said he hoped the church would be less inward-looking, less self-referential.

The Buenos Aires cardinal called for a pope who would be centered in Jesus Christ and help the church go out to the “existential peripheries,” the outskirts of society to find the “joy of evangelizing.” Read more »

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Latest diocesan delegation travels to San Marcos on July 21

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Father John Hynes will lead the latest delegation from the Diocese of Wilmington to the Diocese of San Marcos, Guatemala, on July 21. He will be joined by six people for the nine-day visit, which includes a meeting with Msgr. Carlos Enrique Trinidad Gomez, the new bishop of San Marcos.

In addition to Father Hynes, who is the pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wilmington, delegates include Father Glenn Evers of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Easton, Md.; Christine Bauer of Christ the Teacher School, Glasgow; Nestor and Avelina Hernandez; Norma Lamb of Church of the Good Shepherd, Perryville, Md.; and Mary Jo Frohlich, a solidarity team leader.

Other activities scheduled include visits to parishes in El Rodeo, San Pablo and El Quetzal, the medical clinic in Catarina, Cristo Salvador School and a migrant hospitality center.

Frohlich said she hopes the delegation will help better connect the dioceses spiritually and emotionally. “It’s all about relationship. When we are in relationship, we are drawn to aid each other. This is mutually done by prayer and participation in each other’s mission.”

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Immigrants in diocese improving lives of families at home in Guatemala

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Dialog reporter

 

PRICES CORNER – More than 12 years in, the partnership between the dioceses of Wilmington and San Marcos, Guatemala, still produce dividends for Catholics in both countries, two priests said earlier this week.

Father Silverio Chum, pastor of San José in El Rodeo, Guatemala, is back in Wilmington through Nov. 3. One of the parishes he visited was St. Catherine of Siena, whose pastor, Father John Hynes, has been to San Marcos several times. Father Hynes served as the translator for Father Chum. Read more »

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