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Archmere Academy junior dies after car accident

October 3rd, 2017 Posted in Our Diocese, Youth Tags: , , ,


Dialog reporter

CLAYMONT – The Archmere Academy community is mourning the passing of one of its own. Anthony Penna, a junior, succumbed Oct. 3 to injuries he suffered in an automobile accident the week prior.

Anthony, 17, and his sister Gabrielle, a sophomore at the school, were injured the morning of Sept. 29 when the

Anthony Penna

Jeep Liberty he was driving collided head-on with an Audi on Kennett Pike. The siblings, along with the driver of the Audi, were taken to Christiana Hospital.

According to the school, the Penna family decided to remove Anthony from life support. All his viable organs were donated to the Gift of Life Donor Program, as the teen had wished.

As word of the accident spread on Friday, schools from across Delaware announced their support for the family. Prayers were offered for Anthony and 16-year-old Gabrielle, known as Gabby, at each of Archmere’s sports events over the weekend, which was homecoming. Other schools had prayers as well. Anthony was a member of the varsity soccer team, which tied St. Mark’s on Saturday afternoon. Gabby is a member of the cross-country team.

After his death was announced, fellow Catholic schools posted messages of support on Twitter.

The Penna family acknowledged the “unbelievable support during this difficult time” through a statement released by Archmere.

In addition to soccer, Anthony also was a member of the lacrosse program. He also was a bass in the school’s acclaimed Mastersingers. At St. Edmond’s Academy in north Wilmington, he was active in athletics and also in band, choir and theater. At his parish, St. Joseph on the Brandywine in Greenville, he was an altar server, lector, cantor and a member of the church choir.

In addition to his sister, Anthony is survived by his parents, Robert and Melanie; his grandparents, Ann Abke of Phoenix and Robert and Tirsia Penna of Wynnewood, Pa.; and extended family.

A public viewing will take place Oct. 6 at the Patio at Archmere beginning at 5 p.m. The funeral Mass will be Saturday, Oct. 7, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Joseph on the Brandywine, with burial following immediately in the parish cemetery.

In memory of Anthony’s love of music, the family is establishing the Anthony Penna Foundation at St. Edmond’s and Archmere. Donations will be designated to the fine arts programs at both schools.

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British baby Charlie Gard dies in hospice care


Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England — Charlie Gard, the British baby whose legal battle caught the attention of the world, died July 28, just over a week before his first birthday, his family announced.

Connie Yates, the baby’s mother, issued a brief statement saying: “Our beautiful little boy has gone, we are so proud of you Charlie.”

Charlie Gard, who was born in England with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome and was at the center of a legal battle that captured the world's attention, died July 28, just over a week before his first birthday. (CNS photo/family handout, courtesy Featureworld)

Charlie Gard, who was born in England with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome and was at the center of a legal battle that captured the world’s attention, died July 28, just over a week before his first birthday. (CNS photo/family handout, courtesy Featureworld)

Charlie, who would have turned 1 year old Aug. 4, had been transferred to a hospice for palliative care after Yates and his father, Chris Gard, said July 24 they had decided to drop their legal battle to pursue treatment overseas.

The couple wanted to take Charlie home to die, but a High Court judge decided it was in the child’s best interest to spend his final hours in the care of a hospice. He suffered from encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.

The situation had caught the world’s attention, including the attention of Pope Francis. The day the parents dropped their legal battle, Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said the pope was “praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering.”

“The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love,” Burke said.

Charlie’s parents, who live in London, had fought for eight months for medical help that might have saved the life of their son.

They raised 1.3 million pounds ($1.7 million) to take him abroad for treatment, but the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London had argued that Charlie was beyond help and that it was not in his best interests to be kept alive, triggering a protracted legal battle with the parents that led to interventions from U.S. President Donald Trump and from the pope.

At a news conference July 25 in Rome, Mariella Enoc, president of the Vatican children’s hospital, Bambino Gesu, said the hospital had partnered U.S. neurologist, Dr. Michio Hirano, to study Charlie’s case. In July, the hospital agreed with Hirano that the child’s illness had proceeded too far for treatment, which might or might not have worked six months earlier.

But “the plug was not pulled without having tried to respond to a legitimate request by the parents and without having examined fully the condition of the child and the opportunities offered by researchers on an international level,” the hospital said in a statement.

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Plaintiff in Roe v. Wade ruling, who later became pro-life and a Catholic, dies


KATY, Texas — Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff “Jane Roe” in the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion virtually on demand, died Feb. 18 at an assisted-living facility in Katy. She was 69.

The New York Times said a New York journalist named Joshua Prager, who interviewed her many times for a book he is writing about the Roe decision, confirmed that she had died. The cause of death was heart failure. Her funeral will be private, family members said.

Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff known as Jane Roe in the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling legalizing abortion in the United States,  died Feb. 18 at age 69. She is pictured in a 2005 photo. (CNS photo/Shaun Heasley, Reuters)

Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff known as Jane Roe in the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling legalizing abortion in the United States, died Feb. 18 at age 69. She is pictured in a 2005 photo. (CNS photo/Shaun Heasley, Reuters)

McCorvey became a pro-life supporter in 1995 after spending years as a proponent of legal abortion. She also became a born-again Christian. A couple of years later, she said she felt called to join the Catholic Church of her youth. Her mother was Catholic and her father was a Jehovah’s Witness. After instruction in the faith, she was accepted into the church in 1998.

“Losing a loved one is always a difficult time for a family. Losing a loved one who was also a public figure at the center of a national controversy brings additional challenges. It also brings additional consolations,” said a Feb. 19 statement from McCorvey’s family released by Priests for Life.

The family thanked the “many people across America and around the world who, in these days, are expressing their condolences, their prayers, and their gratitude for the example Mom gave them in standing up for life and truth. Though she was the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, she worked hard for the day when that decision would be reversed.”

McCorvey’s family said Priests for Life would be organizing memorial Masses and other services around the country “to give more people an opportunity to remember Mom’s life and work.”

Born in Simmesport, Louisiana, Sept. 22, 1947, Norma Leah Nelson was raised briefly at her family’s home in Lettsworth, Louisiana. The family later moved to Houston. McCorvey was 13 when her father left. Her parents divorced, and she and her older brother were raised by their mother, Mildred, who was said to be violent toward her children.

Norma married Woody McCorvey when she was 16. When she was pregnant with the couple’s first child, she moved in with her mother, alleging Woody had assaulted her. She gave birth to daughter Melissa in 1965. She struggled with alcoholism and came out as a lesbian. The following year, McCorvey became pregnant with her second child, who was put up for adoption.

In 1969, when she was 21 and became pregnant a third time, she tried to obtain an illegal abortion but had no luck as state authorities had shut down such operations. She was referred to lawyers seeking a plaintiff for an abortion suit against the state of Texas. The case took three years to reach the Supreme Court. McCorvey gave her baby up for adoption.

“I did sign the affidavit that brought the holocaust of abortion into this nation,” McCorvey said later. But “I found out about Roe v. Wade like everyone else did, in the paper.”

McCorvey said she was told that legalizing abortion would end back-alley abortions and “probably” put a stop to rape and incest. “They (the lawyers) had a hidden agenda,” she said. “They told me that they only wanted to legalize abortion in the state of Texas, but what they actually wanted to do was what they did, legalize abortion across the land.”

In 1994, after more than two decades of drug use and various jobs at abortion clinics, McCorvey said she began to change her mind about the abortion industry, especially when Operation Rescue moved next door to her workplace, an abortion clinic in Texas.

She was particularly enchanted with the friendliness of two little girls, Emily and Chelsea, who were the daughters of Operation Rescue workers. “I was on the pro-abortion side so long, I didn’t know how to react to kindness and love that all these people and the children were showing me,” McCorvey recalled.

She became disillusioned with her job admitting women for first- and second-trimester abortions. Each weekend, according to McCorvey, clinic staff had to perform enough abortions to meet a $40,000 quota.

“What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was tiring of the abortion movement,” she said, adding she was “fed up with the lies and the mistreatment of the women” coming in for abortions.

When she started counseling women that they were under no obligation to go through with their abortions, reducing the weekend numbers, she was fired, McCorvey said.

In 1995, while attending a church service with Emily and Chelsea’s family, McCorvey answered an “altar call” to come forward and publicly accept Christ. In August that year, she was baptized by the Rev. Flip Benham, then director of Operation Rescue National.

From there, increased contact with Catholic pro-life leaders both inside and outside the Dallas Diocese led to her decision to become a Catholic. She documented much of her conversion story in her 1997 autobiography, “Won by Love.”

After receiving instruction in the Catholic faith at St. Albert’s Priory at the University of Dallas, she became a Catholic Aug. 17, 1998. She received holy Communion and confirmation at a private Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Dallas and attended by more than 60 family members and friends from the pro-life movement.

“While pro-abortion advocates used Norma McCorvey to advance their efforts to legalize abortion in the early 1970s, she spent the last half of her life attempting to right the terrible wrong … visited upon the country” by the court’s decision in Roe and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.

“Norma became an outspoken advocate for protecting the lives of mothers and their unborn children. … (She) was a friend and valued ally in the fight for life and she will be deeply missed,” Tobias added in a Feb. 18 statement.


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Retired Archbishop Flores, first Hispanic bishop in U.S., dies


SAN ANTONIO — Retired Archbishop Patrick F. Flores, 87, the first Mexican-American bishop in the United States, died of pneumonia and congestive heart failure Jan. 9 at Padua Place Residence for retired priests in San Antonio.

The bishop, who dropped out of school to be a migrant farmworker, was known for his support for farmworkers, Mexican-American civil rights and his love of his culture and heritage.

The late Archbishop Patricio Fernandez Flores, retired archbishop of San Antonio and the first Mexican-American elevated to the hierarchy in the Catholic Church in the United States, is pictured in this photo from the 1990s. Archbishop Flores, 87, died Jan. 9 of complications of pneumonia and congestive heart failure. (CNS file photo)

The late Archbishop Patricio Fernandez Flores, retired archbishop of San Antonio and the first Mexican-American elevated to the hierarchy in the Catholic Church in the United States, is pictured in this photo from the 1990s. Archbishop Flores, 87, died Jan. 9 of complications of pneumonia and congestive heart failure. (CNS file photo)

A funeral Mass was scheduled for Jan. 17 at San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio with Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller presiding. The archbishop also will celebrate a Mass for the Dead Jan. 16 at the cathedral followed by visitation.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez described Archbishop Flores as his good friend and mentor and “a pioneer and role model not only for me but also for a generation of Hispanic priests and Latino leaders.”

He said the archbishop of San Antonio, who retired in 2004, “knew the struggles of Hispanics in this country, and he was a friend to the farmworker and a voice of conscience for dignity and human rights. He taught all of us to celebrate our heritage and traditions and encouraged us to share our faith and values proudly and to become leaders in our communities.”

Archbishop Flores, born in Ganado, was one of nine children and called “Ticho” by his family.

His younger sister, Mary Moreno, told Today’s Catholic, newspaper of San Antonio archdiocese, in 2004 that her brother would often walk up and down the road in front of the family home praying the rosary. “He was always very close to God,” she said.

He also had a light side, often winning dance contests with his sister Mary, and played a number of instruments and sang.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1956 in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston and was appointed auxiliary bishop of San Antonio in 1970. Eight years later, he was installed as bishop of El Paso, and in 1979, he was appointed archbishop of San Antonio.

He was a member of the Immigration and Refugee Department of the U.S. Catholic Conference, chairman of the Church in Latin America Committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and chairman of the Texas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

In 1987, he welcomed Pope John Paul II to the San Antonio archdiocese as part of the pope’s nine-city tour. The pope celebrated Mass for a crowd of 330,000 people in a field that is now the site of John Paul Stephens High School. The Mass still holds the record for the largest gathering in the state.

In an interview with Today’s Catholic newspaper in preparation for his retirement, Archbishop Flores said what he remembered most fondly of his time as archbishop was simply his life as a priest.

“I’ve spent 48 years as a priest, and I have loved it all. If I had the chance to start all over again, I would not hesitate. I might have prepared better academically and in some other ways. But I have literally found great satisfaction in simply being a priest, being a bishop is simply assuming additional responsibility.”

“I have found it very challenging and very satisfying. So I’ve been happy at it and will continue to be happy,” he added.

Following Archbishop Flores’ retirement, he resided briefly at Casa de Padres retirement center for priests of the archdiocese, but he spent the past several years at the Padua Place residence for priests needing medical assistance.

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For Florence Henderson, Catholic faith was her foundation

December 1st, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , ,



CINCINNATI — In her final interview, actress Florence Henderson told St. Anthony Messenger magazine that throughout her life, through good times and bad, her Catholic faith was her foundation.

Actress Florence Henderson is pictured on the cover of the January 2017 issue of St. Anthony Messenger magazine. In what was her last interview before her Nov. 24 death at age 82, Henderson told the magazine that her lifelong Catholic faith was her foundation. (CNS photo/St. Anthony Messenger)

Actress Florence Henderson is pictured on the cover of the January 2017 issue of St. Anthony Messenger magazine. In what was her last interview before her Nov. 24 death at age 82, Henderson told the magazine that her lifelong Catholic faith was her foundation. (CNS photo/St. Anthony Messenger)

“I don’t ever remember not praying. Bedtime prayers, the rosary, praying for friends, relatives, for the sick and for those who had died. It was a natural part of our lives,” she told writer Rita E. Piro, who interviewed the popular actress in August. The story appears in the January 2017 issue of the magazine, published by Cincinnati-based Franciscan Media.

Henderson, who died unexpectedly Nov. 24 at age 82, was best known for her role as Carol Brady in the 1970s sitcom “The Brady Bunch.” Originally broadcast from 1969 to 1974, the program has never been off the air and has been syndicated in over 122 countries. It remains one of the most beloved and most watched family shows of all time.

“I frequently am contacted by people who want to thank me for ‘The Brady Bunch,’” she told Piro. “Whether they grew up during the show’s original television run or are brand-new fans of the present generation, they tell me how important ‘The Brady Bunch’ has been in their lives. I wanted to portray Carol as a loving, fun, affectionate mother, and it seemed to resonate with a lot of people who maybe had the same situation I did growing up. To think that something I was involved in had such a positive effect on the lives of so many people is satisfying beyond words.”

Her most important role, though, she said, was Mom to her own four children — Barbara, Joseph, Robert and Elizabeth. “My children and their happiness have always been my greatest concern,” she said.

She described her children to Piro as “the nicest people you could ever meet” and “very spiritual people.”

“Being a mom makes you far more compassionate. You have more empathy for people, more love,” Henderson added. I was always taught to say thank you and I’m very grateful. And my kids have that quality, too.”

In the interview Henderson said that from time to time, she found herself questioning her faith, mainly in instances unrelated to her career.

As a new mother, the actress experienced repeated bouts of postpartum depression, Piro reported. During the mid-1960s, Henderson was diagnosed with a hereditary bone deformity of the middle ear and needed surgery to prevent deafness. Stage fright and insomnia also were present in her life.

“The loss of family and friends, especially her siblings, weighed heavily upon her, as well as a natural fear of her own mortality,” said Piro.

Born the youngest of 10 children in tiny Dale, Indiana, across the Ohio River from Owensboro, Kentucky, young Florence later moved with her family about 25 miles away to Rockport, Indiana.

Piro noted that little Florence was a natural at singing from age 2, but she “had little to sing about” growing up with her nine siblings in extreme poverty during the Great Depression. “But that didn’t keep her from developing a deep love for her faith,” which sustained her through life, Piro wrote.

Henderson was educated by Benedictine nuns and priests in St. Meinrad and Ferdinand, Indiana. (She had a priest in the family; her uncle, Jesuit Father Charles Whelan, taught constitutional law at Fordham University.) In the St. Anthony Messenger interview, Henderson talked at length about her first-grade teacher, Benedictine Sister Gemma.

After high school, with the help of a close friend and her wealthy family, Henderson was enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City — which launched her long acting career.

She made her debut on Broadway as the star of “Fanny” in 1952. She played Maria in the original version of “The Sound of Music,” also on Broadway. She starred in several touring productions, including “South Pacific” and “Oklahoma!” She made numerous appearances on television, in film and live music shows.

Henderson’s last television performance was with Maureen McCormick (who had played daughter Marsha Brady) on “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC Sept. 19. McCormick was a contestant, and Henderson took part in a Brady Bunch-themed performance. Henderson competed on the show herself in 2010.

In a 1994 interview with Mark Pattison, media editor at Catholic News Service, Henderson lovingly recalled her role as Carol Brady and “The Brady Bunch” legacy.

She said that perhaps because of her wholesome image, parents approached her to ask if certain TV shows were good for their children to watch. “They’re responsible for this little soul they’ve brought into the world and they wonder what’s being taught,” she told CNS.

“Very few people in our business have been a part of something that everyone seems to feel with great affection. They really love the characters. They love Carol Brady, everyone in it. And that it’s still going strong after so many years absolutely amazes me,” she said.

The show “represents what everyone wants in life, and that is a loving family, unconditional love, a place to make mistakes, to get angry, to be forgiven, to forgive,” Henderson said.

More information about St. Anthony Messenger and how to get the complete article on Florence Henderson is available at www.franciscanmedia.org/source/saint-anthony-messenger.

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Ali known not just for prowess in ring but also for faith, generosity

June 10th, 2016 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

PHOENIX — Muhammad Ali leaves an indelible mark on the world not only as a fighter and athlete but as a man of faith, courage and generosity.

Pope John Paul II meets with Muhammad Ali in 1982 at the Vatican. Little did each know that they would later both suffer from Parkinson's, serving as public faces of the disease. Ali died June 3 at age 74 after a long battle with Parkinson's.  (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)

Pope John Paul II meets with Muhammad Ali in 1982 at the Vatican. Little did each know that they would later both suffer from Parkinson’s, serving as public faces of the disease. Ali died June 3 at age 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s. (CNS photo/Catholic Press Photo)

The three-time heavyweight champion and self-titled “The Greatest” boxer of all time died at a Scottsdale hospital June 3. He was 74.

In Phoenix, where Ali lived his last years, people recalled his kindness and bravery in his struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

“I’ve watched him face the disease with grace and humor, and he has inspired countless patients to do the same,” said Dr. Holly Shill in a statement from the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute. “We have lost a great warrior in the battle of Parkinson’s, but hope continues.”

Founded in 1997 by Ali and his wife, Lonnie (Yolanda), along with philanthropist Jimmy Walker and Dr. Abraham Lieberman, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center offers advanced treatments for Parkinson’s and other movement disorders as well as therapy and support for patients and caretakers. It is part of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in the Sisters of Mercy-founded Dignity Health network.

Patient Ida Stanford reflected on the center and its famous namesake in a Dignity Health video.

“I can’t imagine having Parkinson”s and not having place like the center,” she said. “Muhammad Ali stood up for what he believed in. He was one-of-a-kind and still is one-of-a-kind.”

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disorder that affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans. Its symptoms — tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity and impaired balance and coordination — worsen over time.

According to The Arizona Republic newspaper, the former champ came to the Phoenix area in the mid-1990s seeking medical treatment for his condition. He lived quietly in the valley devoting time to philanthropy and making occasional appearances at charity and sporting events.

Ali made several visits to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s family dining room in Phoenix, according to the society. He and his wife would serve meals and mingle with the guests. The couple also made several donations to the charity.

“It mattered little that Muhammad lost his ability to speak, for he communicated to our guests through his heart and soul,” said executive director Steve Zabiliski in a letter to The Arizona Republic. “At St. Vincent de Paul, we will remember him for his grace, his kindness, his courage and his love. It’s what made him so special.”

His last public appearance was in early April at Celebrity Fight Night, an annual Phoenix fundraiser that has given millions of dollars to the Ali Parkinson Center and other charities.

A public interfaith funeral service for Ali was to take place June 10 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Born and raised in Louisville, Ali came from a Christian household. His father was Methodist, his mother a Baptist. He was named Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., a family name traced back to a white slave owner.

He started boxing at age 12.

In 1964, after grasping the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, Cassius Clay announced that he had joined the Nation of Islam. He took a new name, Muhammad Ali.

In his 2004 memoir “The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey,” Ali told the story of his “spiritual being.”

“It was after I retired from boxing that my true work began,” he wrote, observing that his religion and spirituality changed and evolved over years.

As a young man, he had questioned his Christian heritage and its portrayals of a white Jesus and white apostles. He said one thing that attracted him to Islam was that the faith had no images of God, angels or prophets.

“No single race should be able to identify with God through the color of its skin,” he wrote.

The Nation of Islam’s belief in black self-empowerment struck a chord with the boxer.

“When I became a Muslim, I was on my way to entering what I called ‘The Real Fight Ring,’” he said. “The one where freedom and justice for black people in America took place.”

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Ali refused induction into the Army citing religious grounds.

“I didn’t agree with the reasons why we were in Vietnam in the first place,” he wrote in his memoir. “I couldn’t see myself trying to injure or kill people whom I didn’t even know, people who had never done any harm to me or my country.”

His dissent cost the boxer his heavyweight title. He was convicted of draft evasion. His passport was revoked, and his fighting career came to a halt.

Many Americans looked down on the fighter, and he said the Nation of Islam turned its back on him. He discovered a new “spiritual home” in mainstream Sunni Islam and embraced Sufism, a mystical dimension of the faith.

Ali returned to the ring in 1970 and in 1971 his draft evasion conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court. He took his second and third heavyweight titles in 1974 and 1978. He retired in 1981 with a 56-5 record.

In 1982, Ali met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. They reportedly exchanged autographs. Little did each know that they would later both suffer from Parkinson’s, serving as public faces of the disease.

A 2003 meeting with the Dalai Lama left a marked impression on Ali. He said they both held a deep respect for people of different beliefs and agreed that spirituality should be central to daily life.

Ali and wife Lonnie established the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville to promote the fighter’s legacy and his six core values: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality.

In his 2004 book, Ali reflected on the afterlife and how he’d like to be remembered after death.

“What really matters in life is prayer, living right, and good deeds, because this life is just practice for our eternal life,” he wrote.

And on how he would like to be remembered: As the three-time heavyweight champion, as humorous, and as someone “who treated everyone right. … As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.”

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Father Groeschel, author, retreat master and preacher, dies


TOTOWA, N.J. — Father Benedict J. Groeschel, who was a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a leading pro-life figure and popular author, retreat master and preacher, died Oct. 3 at St. Joseph’s Home for the elderly in Totowa after a long illness. He was 81.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Father Benedict. He was an example to us all,” said Father John Paul Ouellette, who is also a Franciscan friar and the order’s community servant.

Father Benedict J. Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and a leading pro-life figure, is pictured in a 2012 photo. He died Oct. 3 at age 81 after a long illness. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Father Benedict J. Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and a leading pro-life figure, is pictured in a 2012 photo. He died Oct. 3 at age 81 after a long illness. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

“His fidelity and service to the church and commitment to our Franciscan way of life will have a tremendous impact for generations to come,” he said in a statement released Oct. 4 by the order’s community office in the Bronx, New York.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated for Father Groeschel Oct. 10 at Newark’s cathedral basilica, followed by burial at Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark. The burial will be private.

“The Catholic Church and the Franciscan family lost a giant today,” said an Oct. 3 statement issued by Father Groeschel’s community.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Father Benedict but also relieved that God has set him free from the physical and mental suffering he has experienced over the past decade,” the statement said.

“Father Benedict was a brother and a father to everyone he encountered. In a world often overwhelmed with darkness, he was a man filled with hope, a hope that he shared with both the rich and poor alike,” the statement said. “Father Benedict was at home in every circumstance and every encounter.”

In January 2004, Father Groeschel almost died after a car hit him in Orlando, Florida. After a yearlong recovery, he walked with a cane and experienced weakness in one of his arms. But resumed his schedule.

In 2012, he retired from public life and was welcomed by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Totowa.

Father Groeschel had published a number of books on spirituality and pastoral counseling and founded the Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for clergy. He taught at Fordham University, Iona College and Maryknoll Seminary.

At the time of his death, he was writing a memoir to be published by Our Sunday Visitor called “The Life of a Struggling Soul. He also wrote numerous articles for various periodicals including First Things and Priest Magazine.

In the 1970s, he headed the Office of Spiritual Development in the Archdiocese of New York. For more than 30 years he was a regular on various programs on the Eternal World Television Network. He was host of EWTN’s “Sunday Night Prime” television for many years.

For decades he distributed food to hundreds of needy people in the South Bronx. His first assignment as a priest was as Catholic chaplain at Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, a residential facility for troubled children. After being there 14 years, he became founding director of Trinity Retreat in Larchmont, New York, a retreat house primarily for Catholic clergy and religious. He was there for 40 years.

He also was the founder of St. Francis House in Brooklyn, New York, for older adolescents. In 1985, he and Chris Bell founded Good Counsel Homes for young pregnant women in need.

Born Robert Peter Groeschel July 23, 1933, in Jersey City, New Jersey, he was the eldest of six children. He graduated from high school in 1951 and 10 days later entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Joseph in Huntington, Indiana.

The following year, he professed temporary vows and took the name Benedict Joseph, after the Franciscan saint, St. Benedict Joseph Labre.

He professed his final vows in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1959. He received a master’s degree in counseling from Iona College in 1964 and a doctorate in education, with a specialty in psychology, from Teachers College at Columbia University in 1971.

During his early years as a priest, he was invited to conduct a retreat for the Missionaries of Charity in India, which was the beginning of Father Groeschel’s long relationship with that community and his deep friendship with its founder, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.

In 1987, Father Groeschel and seven other friars left the Capuchins to form a new religious community, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, based in the South Bronx and dedicated to the service to the poor. The community now numbers 115 members. A similar community for women, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal also was formed; it currently has 35 members.

Father Groeschel is survived by two sisters, Marjule Drury of Caldwell, New Jersey, and Robin Groeschel of Glendive, Montana, and one brother, Garry Groeschel of St. Petersburg, Florida, and nine nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his brothers Ned and Mark.


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Cardinal Szoka, former Detroit archbishop and Vatican official, dies


DETROIT — Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka, who rose from poor beginnings to reach the highest levels of service to the church, died Aug. 20 at Providence Park Hospital in Novi. The cardinal, who was 86, died of natural causes.

His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 210 members, 117 of whom are under 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.

U.S. Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka, pictured in a 2004 photo, died Aug. 20 at age 86 at Providence Park Hospital in Novi, Mich. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

U.S. Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka, pictured in a 2004 photo, died Aug. 20 at age 86 at Providence Park Hospital in Novi, Mich. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Funeral arrangements will be made public as they become available.

While his accomplishments were often larger-than-life, Cardinal Szoka carried lessons learned growing up poor in hard-working Polish-American communities with him as he served as parish pastor, chancery official, founding bishop of a new diocese, archbishop of Detroit and in high Vatican posts.

Then-Archbishop Szoka was installed to head the Detroit Archdiocese in 1981. He was named a cardinal in 1988, and was Detroit’s archbishop until 1990, when he began a 16-year tenure at the Vatican, serving under both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

In 1990, he was appointed president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See, the Vatican’s budget management office, and seven years later was named president of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State, a post he retired from in 2006.

Retired from active ministry since 2006, Cardinal Szoka had been living in Northville, and had recently been active again in the life of the archdiocese he once led.

“We mourn the loss of a dedicated shepherd,” said Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, the current head of the archdiocese, who had served as a priest under Cardinal Szoka in the 1980s. “For 60 years, Cardinal Szoka gave himself totally to his priestly service of Christ and his church. He has gone home to the heavenly Father with our prayers. May the Lord give him the reward of his labors.”

Cardinal Szoka considered his greatest accomplishment in the city of Detroit the transformation of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 1988, according to a 2011 interview during the celebration of his 40th anniversary of episcopal ordination.

And although he headed up one of the largest U.S. archdioceses and achieved acclaim for restoring the financial condition of the Vatican, he pointed to his role in setting up the Diocese of Gaylord in northern Michigan as the accomplishment that meant the most to him personally.

“When I came there, I had no place to live, I had no chancery office, I had no secretary. I had a territory, but none of the facilities I needed,” Cardinal Szoka told The Michigan Catholic, Detroit’s archdiocesan newspaper. “God really helped me, because when I think back on it now, it went much easier than you might think.”

His episcopal motto – “To Live in Faith” — was one the cardinal took to heart.

“It is the perennial challenge the church always faces, strengthening the faith of the people and helping them to live that faith fully and actively,” he once said.

Edmund Casimir Szoka was born Sept. 14, 1927, in Grand Rapids to Polish immigrants Casimir and Mary Szoka. His father had immigrated from what is now Belarus; his mother from Poland.

In the 1930s, the Szoka family, including an older sister, Irene, moved to Muskegon as his father sought sufficient work to support the family.

Young Edmund studied at St. Joseph Seminary College in Grand Rapids for two years, transferring to Sacred Heart Seminary College in Detroit for his junior and senior years. He studied theology at St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township. He was ordained June 5, 1954, for the Marquette diocese by Bishop Thomas Noa.

His first assignment was as an associate pastor at a parish in the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, then he served as Bishop Noa’s secretary and as a hospital chaplain. He also was named chaplain to the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base.

In 1957, then-Father Szoka went to Rome to study canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University. He returned to Marquette in 1959 and resumed his hospital and chancery duties.

As secretary to the bishop, in October 1962 he accompanied Bishop Noa to Rome for the first session of the Second Vatican Council.

In 1963, he was named the first bishop of Gaylord. To fund diocesan operations, he launched the Catholic Services Appeal, forerunner of a successful campaign he would start in the Detroit Archdiocese.

He was named to Detroit in 1981. During his tenure he expressed deep concern over the racism and poverty that plagued the city. In 1985, he sponsored Detroit Mayor Coleman Young’s membership as the first black member of the all-white Detroit Golf Club.

Then-Archbishop Szoka also had to deal with the financial difficulties of the archdiocese. His other challenges included handling two church discipline cases: one involving a woman religious who had become head of a state agency that paid for abortions among its activities, and the other involving a priest-theologian who had co-wrote a controversial book on sexuality.

In 1987, he hosted his friend and mentor, Pope John Paul, on a visit to Detroit and elsewhere in the archdiocese as part of a major U.S. papal trip.

In 1988, the year he was named a cardinal, he oversaw major changes at Sacred Heart Seminary with the addition of a graduate school of theology, plus a revamping of its undergraduate program and the addition of lay ministry programs.

It also was a year of controversy sparked by Cardinal Szoka’s decision, after several years of studies and consideration, to close several dozen parishes in the city of Detroit that had experienced declining membership.

It was one of the first large waves of parish closures in the U.S. After a plan to shutter 46 of 114 city parishes was unveiled, the final number closed was trimmed to 31 in 1989. Another five closed the following year. Outraged Catholics protested, rallied against archdiocesan officials and filed appeals in civil court in Detroit and church courts at the Vatican. Their appeals ultimately failed.

Cardinal Szoka also presided over pockets of growth in the archdiocese, including the opening of new parishes, including multicultural parishes.

In 1990, Pope John Paul named him president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See. Faced with a budget crisis, he initiated reforms that stanched a 20-year flow of red ink, and set the course for healthy balance sheets for the rest of his time in the position and for several years thereafter.

In 1997, he was named president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, informally the governor, which put him in charge of a wide range of activities such as the Vatican Museums, and the microstate’s mint, post office and police force.

Despite such major responsibilities, Cardinal Szoka said he accepted the appointments with humility.

“When I was in the seminary, my only ambition was to be a parish priest,” he said at the time. “But a priest is obedient. I did not go asking for these jobs”

On June 22, 2006, Pope Benedict accepted his resignation. In retirement, he returned to the Detroit. Until 2008, he remained a member of five Vatican congregations including the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Residing in Northville and aiding local parishes in the following years, Cardinal Szoka also participated in social and fundraising events to help support the local church.

Contributing to this story was the staff of The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Detroit Archdiocese.

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Sister Dolores Macklin, 83, worked for Catholic Charities in AIDS ministry


Staff reporter

ASTON, Pa. – Sister Dolores Macklin, a Wilmington native who spent 20 years of her ministry working with the diocesan AIDS Ministry, died Jan. 8 in Assisi House. She was 83 and had been a professed member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia for 61 years.

Sister Dolores began her AIDS work in 1988 when Catholic Charities first proposed a program that was scheduled to run for 11 months, according to a 2009 edition of Good News, a publication of the Franciscan Sisters. Her ministry with people with HIV/AIDS included creating support groups and bereavement groups for men, women and families.

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Archbishop Kelly, retired Louisville leader, dead at 80

December 14th, 2011 Posted in National News Tags: , , ,


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, who led the Archdiocese of Louisville from 1982 until his retirement in 2007, died peacefully in his sleep on the morning of Dec. 14 at his home on the campus of Holy Trinity Church. He was 80.

Funeral arrangements were not announced immediately.

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