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Slammed in 2005 by Katrina, tornado victims hold fast to faith

February 9th, 2017 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS — Vergie and Roger Davis of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in New Orleans East, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, have been through natural disasters of near biblical proportions before.

Vergie and Roger Davis, parishioners of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in New Orleans East, assess the damage to their home, which was destroyed by a tornado Feb. 7. Their home is about five blocks from the church. The Davises have endured a house fire in 1982 and flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but say their faith is intact. (CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald)

Vergie and Roger Davis, parishioners of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in New Orleans East, assess the damage to their home, which was destroyed by a tornado Feb. 7. Their home is about five blocks from the church. The Davises have endured a house fire in 1982 and flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but say their faith is intact. (CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald)

In 1982, an electrical fire broke out inside their three-bedroom home five blocks from the church, sending smoke billowing through the interior. The cleanup took 18 months.

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina breached poorly constructed federal levees, their house, for which they had just made their last mortgage payment, took on 4 and a half feet of water. They got back into their house in 2007.

And, then Feb. 7, a massive tornado swept through the neighborhood while Vergie took cover inside an interior closet.

“I’ve known this for the longest,where’s the best place for me to go,” she told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. “I knew the inside closet, farthest away from the interior walls. I saw lightning, and I knew it was time to jump in. I knew I had to hold on tight — you could feel it shake.”

After about a minute, when the noise stopped, she was able to pry the door open despite the debris pile at the bottom of the door.

She looked up and saw the sky. Their house had been destroyed.

The Davises were among 250 families in New Orleans East whose houses were either heavily damaged or destroyed by the powerful tornado, relatively rare in southeast Louisiana. Despite the wide swath of damage, officials reported no fatalities and only about a dozen injuries.

As the Davises assessed the damage Feb. 8 with their pastor, Father Geoffrey Omondi Muga, of the Franciscan Missionaries of Hope, they reflected on the trials they have endured over the last 35 years.

“Well, I’m a little numb,” said Roger, 74, grand knight of Resurrection’s Knights of Columbus Council 4547. “The only consolation I have is that we’ve been through this before, maybe not in the same way. (After Katrina) we had a house we could still rebuild and still had the structure, but this is a little bit different. I’m just glad everybody’s OK. There were no fatalities. That’s the biggest thing.”

Father Muga, pastor for 14 months, walked through the neighborhood to assess the devastation. He stopped at the heavily damaged brick home of parishioner Carol Adams, who told him the doorbell had rung mysteriously before the tornado hit.

“I went to the door and nobody was there,” she said. “My husband went to the front and I went to the back. All of a sudden I heard a ‘shhhhh.’ I told my husband, ‘What is that?’ We closed the door and came and laid down in the hall. Thank God.”

Asked how she could put this into perspective after sustaining 5 feet of flooding during Katrina, Adams said: “By the will of God. Start all over. Life goes on.”

“As I walk around, I think they are pretty shaken, but they are kind of absorbing it,” Father Muga said. “I didn’t see them in a frenzy. The police and firemen were here. Since they have gone through Katrina, I think they are not so much overwhelmed. But it’s a lot of damage.”

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans was among several agencies partnering with the Red Cross and city officials to establish an overnight shelter at a facility in a nearby park and offer case management and counseling services.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, operated by the archdiocese, dropped off 700 prepared meals and set up distribution of water and snacks at the park. It was considering setting up a distribution site closer to the damage zone.

“We’re still trying to get a handle on it,” said Jay Vise, director of communications for Second Harvest. “Every time I see more footage of it, it just seems bigger and bigger. Meteorologists tell us they’ve never seen this type of tornado. This is a Midwest, giant wedge tornado. You don’t see that down here.

“By the grace of God, no one was killed,” he added. “When you see the destruction from the air that’s 2 miles wide, it looks like somebody came through with a giant pencil eraser and wiped it out.”

As the Davises walked over felled beams, ribbons of pink insulation and shattered glass in their living room, they said they were not sure what they would do next. They do have insurance, but they may not want to rebuild a third time.

The couple said they’ll have to make a decision about coming back and rebuilding, the house will have to be torn down, or finding a house or condo in another part of the city.

The Davises said they will continue to hold fast to their faith. Vergie is continuing to recover from an aneurysm last summer, and their daughter had a recent battle with cancer.

Vergie wore a light blue shirt with a patch honoring Mother Henriette Delille, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family, a congregation of African-American sisters founded in pre-Civil War New Orleans who educated slaves and cared for the elderly at a time when teaching slaves was against the law. Roger wore his Knights of Columbus cap and shirt.

Vergie got her name because she was born March 24, the eve of the feast of the Annunciation of the Mary.

“Ask God to guide me as to which way to go,” Vergie said.

Before leaving their home, Father Muga joined hands with the Davises and offered a prayer.

“Almighty Father, we thank you for life,” he said. “We thank you for the gifts that you’ve given us to be your sons and daughter. … We lift Vergie and Roger up to you today and thank you for their lives, for sparing them.

“We pray that this tornado, this event, may bring us together as a family, as a community and may also bring us closer to you.”

 

Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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Cardinal Dolan: If sanctuary of the womb is violated, no one is safe

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York warned that if the sanctuary of the womb is violated, then other sanctuaries are at risk.

“Can any of us be safe, can any of us claim a sanctuary anywhere when the first and most significant sanctuary of them all, the mother’s womb protecting a tiny life, can be raided and ravaged?” he asked in his homily during the Jan. 26 opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The vigil always precedes the annual March for Life, which takes place on the National Mall.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, waves as he arrives to concelebrate the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 26. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS/Bob Roller)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, waves as he arrives to concelebrate the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 26. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called the womb “a sanctuary which beckons us, where we are safe and secure in our mother’s tender yet strong embrace, where the Creator himself assures us of protection and life itself, a sanctuary God has designed for us to protect our lives now and in eternity.”

He summoned up a montage of sanctuaries throughout human history, including those used by the Israelites, the sanctuary of the temple in Jerusalem where Mary and Joseph took Jesus each year, the use of cathedrals and churches as sanctuaries from violence, and the United States, first as a sanctuary for the Pilgrims fleeing religious violence in England, later for Catholics with little to their name but “clinging within to that pearl of great price, their faith,” and today’s immigrants and refugees.

When life in the womb is threatened, “should it shock us” that “such a society would begin to treat the sanctuary of the earth’s environment as a toxic waste dump; would begin to consider homes and neighborhoods as dangerous instead of as sanctuaries where families are protected and fostered; would commence to approach the poor as bothersome instead of brothers?” Cardinal Dolan asked.

Shrine officials estimated that 12,000 attended the Jan. 26 Mass, which was shown on three cable channels and broadcast on two radio networks. Among the faithful were 545 seminarians, 90 deacons, 320 priests, 40 bishops and five cardinals in a 20-minute entrance procession.

The faithful were squeezed more tightly than usual as pews in the left transept were blocked off so work crews could continue work on the shrine’s Trinity Dome, which should be completed by next year’s March for Life. The blockage resulted in the loss of “several hundred” seats, according to shrine spokeswoman Jacqueline Hayes.

Auxiliary Bishop Barry R. Knestout of Washington received applause when he announced near the end of the Mass that the starting times for three pre-March for Life Masses elsewhere in Washington the next morning would be moved up an hour to allow for longer lines in security checkpoints at the pre-march rally, as among those speaking at it now included “senior White House officials and a special guest.” No name was mentioned, but earlier in the day it was announced Vice President Mike Pence would address the March for Life rally in person. After a lineup of speakers, rally participants then march from the National Mall to Constitution Avenue, then up the avenue to the Supreme Court.

The weather changed overnight from the low 50s at the start of the Jan. 26 Mass to a more typical near-freezing temperature with stiff winds before a Jan. 27 morning Mass at the shrine celebrated by Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, USCCB secretary.

Archbishop Aymond’s homily sounded a similar theme to Cardinal Dolan’s in terms how acceptance of abortion is “used to justify” other disrespect for life at various stages, citing assisted suicide, euthanasia, the death penalty and the rejection of immigrants. Quoting from that day’s Gospel, Archbishop Aymond said, “Jesus says, ‘Let them come to me, let them come to me.’”

He received applause from a Mass attendance estimated at 3,500 when he cited the results of a recent study that showed “the abortion rate in the United States has hit a historic low since Roe v. Wade.” Archbishop Aymond said the study speculated on various reasons for the decline, but one was not mentioned.

That reason was “the witness of so many people for life,” he said. “Youth and young adults are strongly pro-life in our world and in our church,” he added to applause. “You are making a difference in the United States. You are changing our culture from a culture of death into a culture of life,” the archbishop said to more applause.

During the March for Life, and afterward in the marchers’ parishes and neighborhoods, Archbishop Aymond said, “we will continue to witness, and with God’s help, we will continue to be strong voices for the respect and the dignity of human life.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Retired Archbishop Schulte of New Orleans dies at 89

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Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS — Retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, who served as the 12th archbishop of New Orleans from 1988 to 2002, died Jan. 17 after several weeks in hospice care at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. He was 89.

Retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, who served as the 12th archbishop of New Orleans from 1988 to 2002, died Jan. 17 at age 89 after several weeks in hospice care at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa.  (CNS files)

Retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, who served as the 12th archbishop of New Orleans from 1988 to 2002, died Jan. 17 at age 89 after several weeks in hospice care at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa. (CNS files)

Funeral arrangements were pending, but the funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Archbishop Schulte will be buried in a crypt near the main altar of the cathedral.

“I think he brought a real fidelity to church teaching,” New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond said of Archbishop Schulte, who was leading the New Orleans Archdiocese when Pope John Paul II named then-Msgr. Aymond as auxiliary bishop of New Orleans in 1996.

“He also brought a sense of pastoral care,” Archbishop Aymond added. “He was very committed to Catholic education since he had been a superintendent in Philadelphia and knew a lot about it. He also helped to stabilize the finances in our archdiocese. He redid the structure of our administrative offices. That was something that was needed, and I thought he did it very well.”

Francis Bible Schulte was born Dec. 23, 1926, in Philadelphia. He was ordained to the priesthood May 10, 1952, and from 1960 to 1970 was assistant superintendent of Catholic schools in Philadelphia and then as superintendent 1970 to 1980.

He was ordained auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia in 1981 and was appointed bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, in 1985. He was named to succeed New Orleans Archbishop Philip M. Hannan Dec. 13, 1988, and was installed Feb. 14, 1989.

A year after Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes was appointed coadjutor archbishop of New Orleans in 2001, Archbishop Schulte officially retired Jan. 3, 2002. Archbishop Hughes immediately succeeded him.

“I don’t think there was a time in my life before ordination that I was not thinking of the priesthood,” Archbishop Schulte said in a 2002 interview with the Clarion Herald upon his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood and retirement as archbishop. “From a young age, it was always there,” he told the New Orleans archdiocesan newspaper.

Archbishop Schulte grew up in Philadelphia as an only child. His father, who ran the family pharmacy, died when Frank was only 11. His mother, Katharine Bible Schulte, named for Philadelphia heiress St. Katharine Drexel, who founded Xavier University of Louisiana, imbued in him a love for the church.

Archbishop Schulte said one of the highlights of his tenure was proclaiming to Pope John Paul II the virtues of Redemptorist Father Francis Xavier Seelos, a Civil War-era preacher and confessor who was beatified in St. Peter’s Square in 2000. Blessed Seelos died of yellow fever in New Orleans in 1867 while ministering to the German Catholic immigrants.

Archbishop Hughes said Archbishop Schulte’s biggest contribution to the Archdiocese of New Orleans was “to bring an organizational structure to the archdiocese. He was very consultative, and he introduced consultative bodies as genuine consultative bodies. He developed the cabinet structure. That basic structure I inherited and did very little tweaking of it.”

 

 

 

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Katrina anniversary: Odyssey brought many blessings for New Orleans priest

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NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — Like many of his brother priests, Father Dennis Hayes decided to take his chances and stay put as Katrina teased the Louisiana coast, hoping the storm’s Category 5 fury would spare his parish of St. Louise de Marillac in Arabi.

Surely Katrina would veer away at the last minute as so many hurricanes had done before. And even if the storm did cause some damage, thought Father Hayes, at least he would be available to his parishioners. Read more »

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‘Christian discipleship’ motivated Rev. Martin Luther King

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GARY, Ind. — For young Jaymee Dixon, the tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Holy Angels Cathedral “means a lot. It feels great to be a black person doing something.”

Dixon, 15, is a member of the Wirt-Emerson Concert Choir that performed at the eighth annual King tribute at the cathedral Jan. 11. The high school student said black history today is loaded with stories of young black people dying.

The cathedral event was held in observance of Rev. King’s birthday, Jan. 15. The federal holiday marking his birthday this year is Jan. 19.

Joyce Gillie Cruse, an adjunct professor at Xavier University and Loyola University New Orleans, gives the keynote address at the eighth annual tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary, Ind., Jan. 11. (CNS photo/Anthony D. Alonzo, Northwest Indiana Catholic)

Joyce Gillie Cruse, an adjunct professor at Xavier University and Loyola University New Orleans, gives the keynote address at the eighth annual tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary, Ind., Jan. 11. (CNS photo/Anthony D. Alonzo, Northwest Indiana Catholic)

Joyce F. Gillie Cruse, guest speaker at the tribute, addressed those deaths, some of which have become household names, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri.

Noting how Rev. King’s fight for all races and against a system that promotes racism and racial divide, Gillie Cruse said Rev. King’s “vision is still in the process of coming true” decades after the civil rights leader was slain in 1968.

Recalling the recent deaths of young black males, Gillie Cruse said, “There is something wrong in this country.”

While many in this country have blamed police actions for these deaths, Gillie Cruse said there are other issues to be addressed, issues that “make black males an endangered species.”

These issues, Gillie Cruse said, include a low percentage of black voters, black teen homelessness, failing school systems, high crime rates, and unemployment or jobs that do not pay a living wage. Also, she said, only 26 percent of African-Americans get married.

“We have some serious issues, and it’s not just the police,” Gillie Cruse said.

An adjunct professor at Xavier University and Loyola University in New Orleans, Gillie Cruse previously served in the Diocese of Gary, working with Gary cluster parishes on adult faith formation and evangelization.

“We need to do something,” she said. “What are we going to do for our children, to help them see a good future? We must re-assess the balance of our society and think out of the box.”

Gillie Cruse suggested opening 24-hour community youth centers, keeping schools open at night, having leaders who address these issues, and church members allotting 10 percent of their tithe to promote children’s programming, including money for college.

In short, Gillie Cruse said, “Do more than hear a speaker.”

Gillie Cruse encouraged her audience to “meet somewhere” to discuss challenges in society. “Do what you can to address these issues.”

The annual King tribute included several selections performed by the Wirt-Emerson Concert Choir, comments from local representatives, and orator Troy Patterson Thomas’ rendition of Rev. King’s iconic “I have a dream” speech.

Father Mick Kopil, rector of Holy Angels Cathedral, recalled the words of Blessed Paul VI, who said there could be no peace without justice. The Sunday afternoon tribute, Father Kopil said, honors the memory of a man “who worked among us for peace and justice.”

Father Charles Mosley, pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Hammond, noted a recent interview with civil rights leader Andrew Young, who said that Rev. King’s mission was not so much about changing the world as it was about changing a reality “of how African-Americans are seen.’

Citing low black voter turnout in the last election, Father Mosley said, “We need to change our reality, so we can move forward.” Instead of talking about racism or black lives lost at next year’s King tribute, the Hammond pastor said people should discuss their accomplishments and additional work to be done.

Father Mosley prayed for “new hope, new light” to help achieve Rev. King’s vision. “Bless us, guide us, help us become all you want us to be, so we can give glory to your name.”

In a Jan. 14 column, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote that the annual King observance is much more than a celebration of the civil rights leader’s service on behalf of the nation’s black community and other ethnic minorities. It’s also, he said, “a celebration of the power of religious faith working through believers who open themselves selflessly to that which God calls them to do in the world.”

“More than 50 years have passed since Martin Luther King Jr. stepped into America’s racial divide of the 1950s and 1960s. Although that divide has eased in some important ways, recent events show that much remains to be done,” the archbishop said in his column, posted on CatholicPhilly.com, the Philadelphia archdiocesan news website.

This year’s King observance “comes at a key moment,” he continued. “We should take advantage of it by reflecting on why King’s efforts to fight racial injustice bore such good fruit, and what his witness means for the United States today.

“It’s a moment for those of us who are Christians to re-examine our own lives in light of the Gospel, and to ground ourselves again in the same word of God that gave Martin Luther King the courage and perseverance to seek healing where sin had wrought racial conflict.”

In today’s secular society, “people can too easily forget” that Rev. King’s pursuit of justice for minorities “was fundamentally Christian,” Archbishop Chaput said. “The inspiration for his activism came not from a devotion to any political party or even set of public policy solutions, but rather from his understanding of Christian discipleship.”

He urged that celebrating the King holiday not only pay tribute to Rev. King’s “great service” but also be a reminder of the power of religious faith and the selfless acts that God calls all to undertake, “even when it involves suffering, difficulty and sacrifice.”

— By Steve Euvino

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Bishops vote to continue religious liberty work three more years

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Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Catholic bishops June 11 unanimously approved by voice vote a three-year extension of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, a proposal for a limited revision of their quadrennial statement offering guidance for election decisions and to continue to use current guidelines for permanent diaconate formation.

The votes came on the first day of the bishops’ June 11-13 annual spring assembly in New Orleans.

To keep down costs, especially since they had only three items requiring a vote, the bishops did not use electronic voting but simply expressed “ayes,” and in this case, no “nays.”

Prior to the vote about extending the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom for three years, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, the committee chair, compared the body’s work to the “humble beginnings of the pro-life movement.”

He noted that the March for Life, which began a year after the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, was initially a small gathering and now is the “largest pro-life march in the world.”

Organizers of these initial efforts, he said, didn’t expect changes overnight, but are now seeing shifts in opinion on abortion, especially as polls show how “young people are more pro-life than their parents.”

That effort, he said, has taken a lot of hard work in building bridges, policy work and teaching with pastoral sensitivity about the value of life.

“We find ourselves in a comparable situation with religious freedom,” he said.

Although the ad hoc committee was formed in 2011, the “need for its sustained work is at least as great as when it started,” Archbishop Lori told the bishops.

He noted it has gotten “off to a good start, but there is more work to be done.”

In a question-and-answer period, bishops voiced their support for the ad hoc committee. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle said that to stop it would “send a bad message to our own” and to those who oppose its work.

Others said the ad hoc committee’s efforts, particularly through materials it provides to dioceses, have been helpful. One bishop pointed out how lay Catholics have gotten behind the issue of religious liberty and hoped the momentum would continue.

For the U.S. church, chief among threats to religious liberty is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate that most employers provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs.

Another item the bishops passed was the vote for a limited revision of their quadrennial statement offering Catholics guidance for election decisions and drafting a new introductory note for it. The most recent iteration, in 2007, is called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.”

The revision and draft will be presented to the U.S. bishops at their annual fall assembly in November.

The introduction to the current statement on political responsibility reminds Catholics that some issues “involve the clear obligation to oppose intrinsic evils which can never be justified,” while others “require action to pursue justice and promote the common good.”

Since 1976, the Catholic bishops have issued a quadrennial statement linking church teachings to political responsibility. In October 2011, the bishops issued a new introduction to the document.

A note in the 2011 introduction clarifies that the document “does not offer a voters’ guide, scorecard of issues or direction on how to vote.” Instead, it “applies Catholic moral principles to a range of important issues and warns against misguided appeals to ‘conscience’ to ignore fundamental moral claims, to reduce Catholic moral concerns to one or two matters, or to justify choices simply to advance partisan, ideological or personal interests.”

Nine bishops’ committees: pro-life, migration, education, communications, doctrine, domestic justice, international justice and peace, cultural diversity, and laity, marriage, family life and youth are weighing in on the document signed by the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairmen of these committees.

In asking bishops to consider revising the document, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the USCCB’s vice president, noted that to do nothing to the document would leave out the magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and to start from scratch on a new version of the document would fail to acknowledge the work that went into the 2007 version.

The cardinal proposed a limited revision of the 2007 document, which the bishops unanimously approved. He also recommended the drafting of a new introductory note that would be submitted to the general assembly for possible approval. The bishops unanimously approved of that decision as well.

The bishops also voted to permit the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations to seek a renewal of Vatican approval, or “recognitio,” for the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. Vatican approval would be for another five-year period.

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