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Viewpoints — ‘Whenever I use city water, I always pray’

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The routine of running a home with three children took on a new dimension for Makielah Conway when the Flint, Michigan, water crisis seeped into her residence. A full-time mom and part-time volunteer at Community Closet based out of Flint Catholic Charities, Makielah shares her typical day: Read more »

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Bishop decries shootings in Kalamazoo, Michigan, prays for victims

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Expressing shock and sadness, Bishop Paul J. Bradley of Kalamazoo offered prayers for the six people who were killed and two others who were injured by a gunman in the western Michigan city.

The bishop also called for an end to all forms of violence in a statement released Feb. 21, the day following the shootings.

People hug at a vigil after six people were killed in a random shooting in Kalamazoo, Mich., Feb. 21. Kalamazoo Bishop Paul J. Bradley decried the shootings and offered prayers for victims at a Feb. 22 Mass. (CNS photo/Mark Kauzlarich, Reuters)

People hug at a vigil after six people were killed in a random shooting in Kalamazoo, Mich., Feb. 21. Kalamazoo Bishop Paul J. Bradley decried the shootings and offered prayers for victims at a Feb. 22 Mass. (CNS photo/Mark Kauzlarich, Reuters)

Bishop Bradley presided at Mass for the victims Feb. 22 at St. Augustine Cathedral. Other churches either held prayer services or were planning memorial events for the victims.

Jason Dalton, 45, of Kalamazoo is suspected in the shooting spree that kept the city on edge for several hours. Dalton was arrested early Feb. 21 in downtown Kalamazoo without incident and was being held in jail. He was arraigned Feb. 22 on murder charges.

Police said the shootings appeared to be random. The first incident occurred about 6 p.m. outside an apartment complex in eastern Kalamazoo County, where a woman was seriously wounded after being shot multiple times. Four hours later and 15 miles away, police said, a man and his son were fatally shot while looking at vehicles at a car dealership.

The last incident occurred 15 minutes later when five women were shot outside of a restaurant, police said. Four of the women died while a 14-year-old girl was hospitalized in serious condition.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the six innocent people whose lives in this world were so mercilessly ended,” Bishop Bradley’s statement said. “May they live forever with God in the life of the world to come.”

The bishop also offered a prayer for the suspect, asking that God “show him mercy and change his heart.”

The statement also commended first responders for their work to keep Kalamazoo safe.

“May this Lenten season be a time for all of us to turn away from sin and be freed from the strong hold of evil’s influence so that we can live together in security and peace,” the bishop said.

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Catholic Charities agency helping Flint, Mich., residents during water crisis

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FLINT, Mich. — Following the discovery of lead in the city of Flint’s drinking water, relief organizations have been working day and night to provide safe water to those living and working in the community.

Standing at the front of the battle is Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties in the Lansing diocese. The agency that provides assistance to people in need, including counseling, substance abuse treatment, foster care and adoption services.

Vicky Schultz, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genessee counties in Flint, Mich., hands diapers and bottled water to Deborah Nettles Jan. 19. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said he has failed Flint residents but pledged to take new steps to fix the city's drinking water crisis, starting with committing millions in state funding. (CNS/Jim West)

Vicky Schultz, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genessee counties in Flint, Mich., hands diapers and bottled water to Deborah Nettles Jan. 19. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said he has failed Flint residents but pledged to take new steps to fix the city’s drinking water crisis, starting with committing millions in state funding. (CNS/Jim West)

Vicky Shultz, CEO of Catholic Charities, said the health and safety issues continue to be a “major crisis,” and the organization is distributing bottled water and gallons of water, as supplies allow, to families and individuals in need. Community members across the diocese are urged to provide aid in the form of donating cases or gallons of water, water filter kits and replacement filters, or monetary donations.

Water “is a basic need we have as human beings,” said Schultz. “We’re already dealing with poverty, huge unemployment in the city of Flint, and now we have water that’s not suitable to drink.

“The first population (affected) we know is babies. So when people come to our Community Closet asking for diapers … we’re making sure that everyone who leaves who has a child has the gallon jugs of water,” she said.

Lansing Bishop Earl A. Boyea said the city of Flint “has undergone many trials in recent years.”

“Often, its people have faced the temptation to lose hope, to surrender to despair. The water crisis again presents that temptation, but again the answer must be to find strength in the love of God and the support of men and women of good will,” he said in a statement.

“In this Year of Mercy,” he continued, “I also urge Catholics, and all people of goodwill, to continue praying for the people of Flint. With prayer and fasting, let us call down the power of God on this city.”

In April 2014, when the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, the city’s water source was switched from Detroit’s supply to the Flint River to save money.

According to the Detroit Free Press and other news accounts, the water from the river contains eight times more chloride than Detroit’s water and that the chemical, which is corrosive to metals, ate away at old lead-lined service pipes that connect to residents’ homes. It allowed lead to enter people’s water supply because officials put no controls in place to prevent that from happening.

Last fall, Schultz said, Catholic Charities, which is in the heart of Flint, knew the city was facing problems because the water not only changed colors, but smelled foul.

“We were being told … everything was safe,” she said, adding that because of what residents were told, they continued to use the contaminated water to make drinks and food, increasing their exposure to lead.

Residents also were exposed to chemical byproducts, E. coli and Legionnaires’ disease in the water. In mid-October, Flint reconnected to the Detroit water supply.

About 40 percent of Flint’s residents live in poverty; the average household income is $25,000.

The three soup kitchens run by Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties served more than 185,000 meals last year alone, according to Chrissy Cooper, the agency’s development specialist.

“It’s something I don’t think anybody expected it to be as big as it is now,” Cooper said, referring to the water crisis. “Now, we’re trying to understand all the consequences, and I don’t think we have yet quite grasped everything that’s going to come out of this problem.

“We want to make sure people who want to donate know how thankful we are and the people who need the water know how to get it,” she said.

When the lead scandal came to light, Catholic Charities switched to bottled water. Filters were then installed at its facilities. Schultz said it was disheartening to hear the news of the lead because Catholic Charities had been working with the city and the Salvation Army to help pay citizens’ expensive water bills. Prior to learning about the lead, the agency also was assuring hundreds of clients and employees that the water was safe.

“I think we’re just very disappointed that somebody really didn’t figure this out. It took a doctor having to do a blood test,” she added.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for Genesee County Jan. 5, and on Jan. 12, Snyder activated the National Guard to assist with distributing supplies at established water resource sites in the city. According to Shultz, the number of phone calls from people wanting to help has increased, but so have the number of calls from concerned clients.

“We’re all children of God, and we’re supposed to look out for one another,” she said.

By Cari Ann DeLamielleure-Scott, who

writes for FAITH magazine, a publication of the Diocese of Lansing.

 

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LCWR goes on with ‘normal life’ after mandate ends, official says

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said the organization is pleased to be “going on with our normal life, so to speak,” now that the Vatican’s mandate to reform the group has concluded.

Sister Sharon Holland told Catholic News Service that the leaders of the organization and Vatican officials reached agreement on several key issues under a mandate for reform issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in an atmosphere that promoted understanding and respect.

The mandate emerged from a doctrinal assessment by congregation representatives that began in 2009.

“The whole experience has allowed us to see the fruitfulness of a process that was carried out in a sort of contemplative way,” said Sister Sharon, vice president of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Monroe, Michigan. “It takes time to be quiet, to pray and reflect. We’ve seen both the power and the potential of respectful honest dialogue. We hope that we’ve all learned a good deal about the importance of listening well.

“Hopefully we’ve both experienced and shown the possibility of dealing with tension or misunderstanding or difficulties in a way that helps resolve, rather than allowing them to develop into polarization,” she added.

Sister Sharon’s comments came a month after the April 16 announcement at the Vatican that the reform process had successfully concluded. The announcement at the Vatican came the same day LCWR officers met with Pope Francis at his office for 50 minutes discussing his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel.”

Both parties released a two-page Joint Final Report the same day that outlined several reform steps already completed or that were to be undertaken by LCWR. Both also agreed to a 30-day moratorium for comment.

No immediate word was released by the Vatican May 15.

In a statement posted on the LCWR website May 15, the organization’s leadership said that when the findings of the assessment were issued in 2012, its board of directors decided to place all discussions in a context of communal contemplative prayer in order to discern how best to respond.

The statement was issued by Sister Sharon as president; Sister Marcia Allen, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, president-elect; Sister Carol Zinn, a Sister of St. Joseph, past president; and Holy Cross Sister Joan Marie Steadman, executive director.

The assessment of LCWR, whose 1,500 members represent 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States, was initiated after complaints were lodged by unnamed U.S. Catholic leaders.

Led by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, the assessment took three years to complete. Citing “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life,” the Vatican announced a major reform of the conference in 2012 to ensure their fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle was appointed to oversee the reform. Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, and Archbishop Blair were named to assist him.

Three years of what Sister Sharon called “intensive dialogue” with the congregation and the three bishops followed along with annual meetings with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Faith, which oversees religious life.

The LCWR leadership in its statement said all interactions with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the U.S. prelates “were always conducted in a spirit of prayer and openness.”

The leadership team credited Archbishop Sartain for his “sincerity and integrity” for encouraging the organization to continue in dialogue over the findings of the assessment.

“We engaged in long and challenging exchanges with these officials about our understandings of and perspectives on critical matters of faith and its practice, religious life and its mission, and the role of a leadership conference of religious,” the statement said. “We believe that because these exchanges were carried out in an atmosphere of mutual respect, we were brought to deeper understandings of one another. We gained insights into the experiences and perspectives of these church leaders, and felt that our experiences and perspectives were heard and valued.”

The statement also said that preparation for meetings with church officials was time consuming and “at times difficult.”

“The choice to stay at the table and continue dialogue around issues of profound importance to us as U.S. women religious had its costs. The process was made more difficult because of the ambiguity over the origin of the concerns raised in the doctrinal assessment report that seemed not to have basis in the reality of LCWR’s work. The journey in this unchartered territory at times was dark and a positive outcome seemed remote,” the LCWR leadership said.

The Joint Final Report outlined several steps that had already been completed or that were to be undertaken by LCWR. They included a change in one of the organization’s governing statutes, an agreement that its publications will be reviewed to “ensure theological accuracy,” and that programs sponsored by the conference and speakers chosen for its events will be expected to reflect church teaching.

In addition, the report said the bishops and LCWR leaders had “clarifying and fruitful” conversations about “the importance of the celebration of the Eucharist; the place of the Liturgy of the Hours in religious communities; the centrality of a communal process of contemplative prayer practiced at LCWR assemblies and other gatherings; the relationship between LCWR and other organizations; and the essential understanding of LCWR as an instrument of ecclesial communion.”

Sister Sharon explained that some of the concerns raised by the Vatican were being addressed by LCWR even as the discussions continued.

For example, she cited review of the organization’s publication as a positive step because “we want the highest quality of publication we can have.”

“I’m very hopeful for our relations going forward,” she said. “We’re all trying to build community with the church and one another. That’s the hope.”

The LCWR officials’ statement concluded by saying that they hoped the positive outcome of the assessment and mandate will lead to “additional spaces within the Catholic Church where the church leadership and membership can speak together regularly about the critical matters before us.”

“The collective exploration of the meaning and application of key theological, spiritual, social, moral and ethical concepts must be an ongoing effort for all of us in the world today,” especially in a period of change in a world “marked by polarities and intolerance of difference,” the statement said.

Sister Sharon told CNS the reform effort and its outcome will be discussed at LCWR’s annual assembly in Houston Aug. 11-15.

LCWR’s full statement is online at http://bit.ly/1EKah4d.

 

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Michigan priest named new bishop of Fairbanks

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Pope Francis has appointed Father Chad W. Zielinski, a priest of the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan, to be bishop of the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska.

The appointment was announced Nov. 8 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Zielinski, 50, is currently serving in the Archdiocese for the Military Services and is on active duty as an Air Force chaplain stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. The base is about 25 miles southeast of Fairbanks.

He will succeed Bishop Donald J. Kettler, who was named bishop of St. Cloud, Minnesota, in September 2013.

Bishop-designate Zielinski’s episcopal ordination and installation Mass will be Dec. 15 at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks. Vespers will take place the evening before at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

His home diocese plans to celebrate Masses of thanksgiving in the Diocese of Gaylord in January, but the details have not been finalized.

“I was completely shocked,” the newly named bishop was quoted in a news release on the Gaylord diocese’s website. “I just couldn’t believe it. It is nothing I have ever even thought about.”

The Catholic Anchor, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, reported that Bishop-designate Zielinski wrote to his parishioners at Eielson telling them he spent a long time praying in the chapel after he finally comprehended the pope’s request.

“My simple approach to this call in life is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind and serve my brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Fairbanks,” he told his parishioners.

According to the Catholic Anchor, he has chosen as his episcopal motto, “Illum Opertet Crescere” (“He must increase”). It is from the Chapter 3 of St. John’s Gospel. In the passage St. John the Baptist expresses his joy at the arrival of Jesus and he tells the disciples, “He must increase; I must decrease.”

Born in Detroit Sept. 8, 1964, to Donald and Linda Zielinski, Chad Zielinski is the oldest in a family of five children. He grew up in Alpena, Michigan, in the Diocese of Gaylord.

After high school, he entered the Air Force in 1982. While stationed in Idaho, he applied for admission to the seminary in the Diocese of Boise. He completed his studies at Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon, in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

In 1994, he returned to the Gaylord Diocese and completed his master of divinity degree at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. He was ordained a priest of Gaylord June 8, 1996.

After his parish assignments, service on the presbyteral council and an appointment as pastor for administrative affairs of the diocesan mission to Hispanics, then-Father Zielinski received permission in 2002 to serve as an Air Force chaplain.

Since then he has been on active duty. His deployments have included serving troops in war zones in the Middle East, the corps of cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and as vocation recruiter for the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services called Bishop-designate Zielinski “an exemplary priest.”

“His service as a recruiter of Air Force chaplains brought us into frequent contact,” the archbishop told the Catholic Anchor. “He later impressed me with his piety, zeal and immense kindness in his service at the Air Force Academy. The faithful in Fairbanks will find in him a shepherd after the heart of Jesus. I only regret losing a fine chaplain.”

Anchorage Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz, apostolic administrator of Fairbanks since Bishop Kettler was named to St. Cloud, said Bishop-designate Zielinski has the qualities needed to serve the people of Fairbanks.

“He has learned to work with people from all backgrounds, and do so under the stresses of war. Yet he is also humble and prayerful. I understand why the Holy Father chose him as a servant leader for Fairbanks,” the archbishop said.

Gaylord Bishop Steven J. Raica, himself ordained to head the Michigan diocese just three months ago, said he is inspired by the bishop-designate’s faithfulness, humility and devotion.

“Father Chad is an avid fisherman,” Bishop Raica said. “Our Lord seemed to favor fishermen when he called his first disciples — Peter, Andrew, James and John. They responded with a resounding ‘Yes!’ to our Lord’s invitation: “Follow me!’

“Now Father Chad has heard this invitation from the successor of Peter, Pope Francis, to join him on a unique mission as the bishop of Fairbanks. Father Chad has responded with his resounding “Yes.”

The Diocese of Fairbanks is the geographically largest diocese in the United States, covering close to 410,000 square miles in northern Alaska. Out of a total population of about 164,000, about 7 percent are Catholic, or 11,000.

 

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Michigan bishops call judge’s ruling on same-sex marriage ban ‘regrettable’

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LANSING, Mich. — A U.S. District Court judge’s March 21 ruling that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional does not change the fact “marriage is and can only ever be a unique relationship solely between one man and one woman,” said the state’s Catholic bishops.

“Nature itself, not society, religion or government, created marriage. Nature, the very essence of humanity as understood through historical experience and reason, is the arbiter of marriage, and we uphold this truth for the sake of the common good,” they said in a statement released by the Michigan Catholic Conference in Lansing.

“The biological realities of male and female and the complementarity they each bring to marriage uniquely allows for the procreation of children,” they said.

The Catholic conference is the public policy arm of the state’s bishops.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a Detroit-area couple who are raising three children together, filed suit in 2012 to challenge the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The law also prohibits same-sex couples from jointly adopting children; only heterosexual married couples are allowed to do so.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit overturned the same-sex marriage ban, which voters passed overwhelmingly in 2004, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution because it deprives same-sex couples the same rights guaranteed to heterosexual couples. He also said barring same-sex couples from adopting children was unconstitutional.

“Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage,” Friedman wrote in his 31-page ruling. “Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law.”

Friedman did not stay his ruling, and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a request for an emergency stay with a federal appeals court March 21 to prevent same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses immediately.

Late March 22 the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati granted the stay until at least March 26. Before the appeals court acted, however, several hundred same-sex couples went to county clerks’ offices around Michigan to get married.

With Friedman’s ruling, Michigan becomes the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage.

An AP story said that DeBoer and Rowse were not among the couples who went immediately to get a marriage license. The couple will get married, DeBoer told AP, “when we know our marriage is forever binding.”

In their statement, Michigan’s Catholic bishops said the judge’s decision “to redefine the institution of marriage by declaring Michigan’s Marriage Amendment unconstitutional strikes at the very essence of family, community and human nature.”

“In effect, this decision advances a misunderstanding of marriage, and mistakenly proposes that marriage is an emotional arrangement that can simply be redefined to accommodate the dictates of culture and the wants of adults,” they said. “Judge Friedman’s ruling that also finds unconstitutional the state’s adoption law is equally of grave concern.”

“Every child has the right to both a mother and a father and, indeed, every child does have lineage to both,” the bishops said. “We recognize not every child has the opportunity to grow in this environment, and we pray for those single mothers and fathers who labor each day to care for their children at times amid great challenges and difficulties. They deserve our constant support and encouragement.”

The bishops declared, “Persons with same-sex attraction should not be judged, but rather accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

“We rejoice with those brothers and sisters in Christ living with same-sex attraction who have found great freedom through Jesus’ call to chastity communicated through the church,” they said, adding that those struggling to live “in harmony” with church teaching on sexuality continue to pray and seek the Lord “with the help and guidance of the church.”

The Catholic Church teaches that sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful.

They also said they would work through the Michigan Catholic Conference and with other supporters of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage to appeal Friedman’s “most regrettable ruling.”

Signing the statement were Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron; Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing; Bishop Paul J. Bradley of Kalamazoo; Bishop Joseph R. Cistone of Saginaw; Bishop John F. Doerfler of Marquette; Bishop David J. Walkowiak of Grand Rapids; and Msgr. Francis J. Murphy, diocesan administrator of Gaylord.

 

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