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Baptism for mission, not only the remission of sins

If we want to know what the baptism of Jesus and our own baptisms are all about, we need to look to the prophet Isaiah, from whom the Gospel writers borrow in describing Jesus’ baptism.

Young adults make 'deep dive' into faith during 'ad limina' visit

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Supporting and supported by their bishops, 25 young adults from Minnesota and North Dakota made a pilgrimage "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- in mid-January.

The delegation of women and men, single and married, ages 21-35 flew to Rome with the bishops of Region VIII, who are required by church law to make the "ad limina" visits to pray at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul and to meet with the pope and top Vatican officials.

Many dioceses offer pilgrimages to coincide with their bishops' "ad limina" visits, but the Region VIII trip was different: Young adults were invited last May to apply to make the trip either by providing a letter of recommendation from someone who would attest to their leadership in evangelization or by writing a short essay on how Christ has worked through others to draw them closer to him.

While the region's bishops met Pope Francis Jan. 13, the young pilgrims met him two days later after the pope's weekly general audience. Two young men came bearing white zucchetti -- the papal skullcaps -- and the pope put each on his head, then handed it back as a souvenir.

Mychael Schilmoeller, 33, the pastoral care minister at St. Michael parish in Prior Lake, Minnesota, received special attention from Pope Francis. Noticing her belly, he asked when her baby is due. She told him, "St. Patrick's Day," and he blessed her unborn baby and gently touched her.

"I don't usually like people touching me, but it was a beautiful blessing," she said.

Schilmoeller said the bishops' invitation to young adults to join them for the "ad limina" is "a sign of hope, a sign of a willingness to listen to young people, a willingness to change some things, perhaps."

Vincenzo Randazzo of the Office of Evangelization of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis came up with the idea for the pilgrimage and presented it to Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, who, he said, responded, "Let's do it."

"I want everything we do to be an effort to evangelization," Randazzo told Catholic News Service. If the pilgrimage simply had a first-come-first-served sign-up policy, "we'd get the choir," instead of a mix of young adults who are or potentially are evangelizers of their peers.

Will Herrmann, a 30-year-old computer programmer and member of St. Bonaventure parish in Bloomington, Minnesota, was the newest Catholic in the group. He entered the church last Easter.

Although he was surprised to be chosen for the pilgrimage, he said he applied because "I wanted to dive into the deep end of my faith."

Speaking to CNS near the tomb of St. Paul, he said, "I feel like I married into this family and now I'm meeting the relatives -- the saints."

One thing the pilgrims have in common, Randazzo said, is how much of their time is spent online, including when seeking information about the faith.

As opposed to that "virtual reality," Randazzo said, "Rome has lots of stuff" with art and architecture and the actual places where Sts. Peter and Paul and a host of other saints lived, died and were buried.

Another pilgrim, Mary Evinger, 29, the director of religious education at St. Joseph's parish in Williston, North Dakota, is planning to bring high school students to Rome precisely for that reason.

"They're just on their screens, and just seeing an image isn't the same," she said. "You don't get that awe of being there."

"Being there" -- in the basilicas, the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum -- was a big motivator for Evinger to apply for the pilgrimage, she said. But she also wanted to be with the region's bishops and with Pope Francis.

Organizing the pilgrimage was part of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' ongoing response to young adults who wrote Archbishop Hebda an open letter in 2018 about what they want from the church, the archbishop told CNS.

The youthful pilgrims, the archbishop said, told the bishops they were making the pilgrimage "to pray for Pope Francis and then to pray for their bishops."

Most of the pilgrims already have completed university and are "trying to figure out where they are in the church now that they are working and living on their own," he said. They want to know where God is calling them to serve.

"It's no secret that one of the things that the church, at least in the United States, struggles with is young people drifting at times," Archbishop Hebda said, so when the region's bishops met Pope Francis, they assured him "there also were young people who were very much involved in the church, who loved him and certainly the way he articulates his ministry."

Randazzo said it is easy for Catholics to notice the scandals and the problems afflicting the church, but "it takes courage to recognize God is doing something incredible," and the growing faith of many young adults is one of those things.

 

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The greater the sinner, the greater God's love, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God shows the greatest love and compassion for the greatest sinners, Pope Francis said.

The Lord "has come precisely for us sinners and the greater the sinner you are, the closer the Lord is to you because he has come for you, the greatest sinner; for me, the greatest sinner; for all of us," the pope said in his homily Jan. 16 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Mark, in which Jesus' takes pity on and heals a leper who kneeled before him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean."

In saying "if you wish," the pope explained, the leper "attracts God's attention" and makes an "act of faith" because he saw that Jesus acted with compassion toward those who suffer.

"This was Jesus' mission," the pope said. "Jesus did not come to preach the law and then go away. Jesus came with compassion, that is, to suffer with and for us and to give his life. The love of Jesus is so great that compassion brought him to the cross, to give his life."

Pope Francis said that Christians should pray to God like the leper did -- by acknowledging their sinfulness and asking for mercy.

It is "a simple prayer that can be said many times a day. 'Lord, I, a sinner, ask you: have mercy on me.' It can be said many times a day, from the heart, without saying it aloud: 'Lord, if you want, you can; if you want, you can. Have mercy on me.' Repeat this," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Tabernacle retrieved intact from church destroyed by earthquake in Puerto Rico

Ponce, Puerto Rico, Jan 16, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Precariously resting on the edge of an altar leaning forward from the impact of the earthquake that struck Puerto Rico, a tabernacle was retrieved intact from a church in Puerto Rico and brought to safety.

In the early hours of Jan. 7, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the island, the last of a series of quakes that began Dec. 28. The earthquake left one dead, various people injured, serious damage to the infrastructure, and a power outage on the island. A state of emergency was declared.

 

Previo a otros temblores durante la mañana, fieles rescatan el Sagrario junto al párroco. Esto en la Parroquia Inmaculada Con emoción de Guayanilla que quedó destruida tras el fuerte temblor registrado en el sur de Puerto Rico esta madrugada. pic.twitter.com/lyWPYnWgpS

— El Visitante PR (@elvisitantepr) January 7, 2020  

Local Catholic media El Visitante, who had journalists on site, explained to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner, that the tabernacle was rescued from Immaculate Conception church in Guayanilla which completely collapsed from aftershocks. The town lies 8 miles west of Ponce, the epicenter of the earthquake.

El Visitante said the rescue of the tabernacle, and the Eucharist within it, took place at dawn, minutes before an aftershock left the church in ruins. “As if the tremor was waiting for the Eucharist to leave in order to continue the destruction.”

 

Templo de la Parroquia Inmaculada Concepción de Guayanilla se destruyó a causa del fuerte temblor registrado esta madrugada. Favor mantener la calma, orar y prepararse los 365 días. pic.twitter.com/ni9WqiV61w

— El Visitante PR (@elvisitantepr) January 7, 2020  

The tabernacle was in a chapel “in the left nave of the church. The early morning tremor destroyed the chapel, making the altar tilt forward. The tabernacle didn't fall to the ground. It was almost suspended in the air lightly held up on the leaning altar.”

The tabernacle was rescued by the pastor Fr. Melvin Díaz and Fr. Orlando Rivera along with the faithful. Rivera used to work at the church but now lives  in Peñuelas, a town near Guayanilla.

El Visitante of Puerto Rico said the hosts “had spilled inside the tabernacle” but were gathered up by Fr. Rivera while Fr. Melvin retrieved “the large Host used for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.”

“The faithful took the tabernacle and went out in procession over the rubble. The faithful with the tabernacle, Fr. Orlando with the ciborium and Fr. Melvin with the large Sacred Host. They went to the rectory a few steps from the parish to protect the Blessed Sacrament with all the dignity it deserves,”

“They were the heroes of the Eucharist,” El Visitante concluded.

 

A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Old school nuns

The broad cobblestoned street curved as you climbed, so I didn’t see the convent until I was standing before its huge iron gates. Its massive bulk loomed like a castle. Going to college in Rome felt grown up until the first time I went through the sweeping iron gates and up to the great wooden […]

The post Old school nuns appeared first on Catholic Digest.

Mexican bishops call for ending statute of limitations for sex abuse of minors

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 15, 2020 / 06:02 pm (CNA).- The bishops’ conference of Mexico has called on the country’s government to get rid of the statute of limitations in cases of sexual abuse of minors.

“We want to ask in the name of the bishops of Mexico for there to be no expiration for this crime,” Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera, president of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, said at a Tuesday press conference, according to the AP.

He added that the statute of limitations must be eliminated for cases of abuse of minors “since the wrong done lasts for the lifetime of the person who has been a victim.”

The bishops said at the press conference that 271 priests have been investigated in the past decade for sexual abuse, and 155 of those cases have been brought to civil authorities, the AP reported. Last February, Cabrera said that 152 priests had been removed from ministry due to incidents of abuse.

Current law in Mexico sets the statute of limitations for cases of sexual abuse against a minor at 10 years after the incident. Rogelio said the Church in Mexico accepts accusations of abuse up to 20 years after the victim becomes an adult.

The request from the bishops comes after a report released by the Mexican religious order Legionaries of Christ stated that since the group’s founding in 1941, 33 priests of the Legionaries of Christ committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children.

On Jan. 13, the order announced that one of its priests, Fernando Martínez Suárez, was dismissed from the clerical state after being found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Last month, the Apostolic Nuncio in Mexico, Archbishop Franco Coppola, gave out his personal email address and said that he would try to help anyone who contacted him about an incident of clergy sex abuse.

 

Amid Argentina food crisis, Caritas aims to help

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 15, 2020 / 04:51 pm (CNA).- Amid a continuing economic crisis in Argentina, the Catholic relief agency Caritas is working to provide food for thousands of families struggling to access adequate nutrition.

Bishop Carlos Tissera, president of Caritas Argentina, said the agency hopes to bring hope amid the suffering experienced by so many people in the country.

“Our model is Christ who came to serve with simplicity and humility,” he said.

For the past two years, Argentina has faced a deep recession, with inflation rates topping 53% last year. A recent report from the Argentina Observatory of Social Debt at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina found the rate of poverty at decade-high levels, with 40% of the population below the poverty line in the last trimester of 2019.

Last year, the Argentine Bishops' Commission for Social Ministry warned that the situation had reached a crisis level.

“In face of the severe increase in destitution, poverty, unemployment and the indiscriminate increase in the price of the basic food groups, we find ourselves in an emergency food and nutrition situation which essentially affects the most vulnerable, especially children,” the commission said.

Caritas Argentina has worked to alleviate the difficult conditions facing many families in the country. Between May and December 2019, the agency collected about $27,000, which was allocated to care for 755 children and 2,358 families at soup kitchens and other facilities in eight different dioceses.

From Sept. 27-Oct. 18 last year, Caritas distributed 810 tons of food, valued at $128.8 million and provided by the Ministry of Health and Social Development.

“The logistical deployment which this aid work requires stretched us to the max,” said Sofia Terek, the coordinator of Caritas' Immediate Aid and Emergencies Department. She added that “despite our volunteers' efforts, we still see a high percentage of people in poverty.”

“We think this is due to the fact that every day there are more people needing basic nutrition: the price hikes and the lack of work is making access harder for the growing vulnerable population,” she said.

 

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time Readings: 1 Samuel 4:1-11 Psalms 44:10-11, 14-15, 24-25 Mark 1:40-45

The post Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time appeared first on Catholic Digest.

ST. JOHN VIANNEY-When we do something we dislike

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time When we do something we dislike, let us say to God: “My God, I offer you this in honor of the moment when you died for me.” — ST. JOHN VIANNEY

The post ST. JOHN VIANNEY-When we do something we dislike appeared first on Catholic Digest.

Synod relator advises bishops on presenting Amazon apostolic exhortation

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2020 / 11:52 am (CNA).- Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the relator general of the Amazon synod, sent a letter Monday to some ordinaries indicating that the apostolic exhortation on the synod should be promulgated this month or the next.

“The draft is currently being reviewed and corrected and then needs to be translated. Pope Francis hopes to promulgate it by the end of this month or in early February,” Cardinal Hummes, who is also president of the Pan Amazonic Church Network, wrote in a Jan. 13 letter.

Among the works of REPAM is “protection for the 137 ‘contactless tribes’ of the Amazon and affirmation of their right to live undisturbed.”

Cardinal Hummes said in his letter that Francis is preparing the exhortation “to present the New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology as developed with the guidance of the Holy Spirit” during the Amazon synod.

According to Cardinal Hummes, the exhortation “is keenly awaited and will attract great interest and many different responses.”

The cardinal added that the pope wants ordinaries to receive the text “before it is published and before the world press starts to comment on it, and join him in presenting the Exhortation and making it accessible to the faithful, to fellow believers and all people of good will, and to the media, the academic world, and others in positions of authority and influence.”

Cardinal Hummes offered “some suggestions” to bishops on how to prepare well for the exhortation's release. “The purpose is not to generate publicity or attract attention. Rather, it is quietly to support you the Ordinary, in communion with Pope Francis, as you prepare to receive the Exhortation and pass it on to the People of God in your jurisdiction.”

“Accordingly, with greatest freedom, please make use of the suggestions insofar as they seem helpful.”

The cardinal suggested that “a useful way of preparing would be to read some of the relevant earlier documents referenced below.” He promised that a second letter with more suggestions would be coming shortly.

Cardinal Hummes' suggested reading for ordinaries is composed of: the Amazon synod's final document; Pope Francis' address at a meeting with indigenous people of Amazonia in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, Jan. 19, 2018; the pope's address at the opening of the Amazon synod, Oct. 7, 2019; his own address of the same day; the pope's final speech to the synod of Oct. 26; and Laudato si', the pope's 2015 encyclical on care for our common home, especially its fifth and sixth chapters.

The synod's final document called for the ordination of married men as priests, and for women to be considered for diaconal ordination. It presented the synod assembly’s reflections and conclusions on topics ranging from environmentalism, inculturation in the Church, and the human rights of indigenous communities in the face of economic, environmental, and cultural exploitation.
Four days before the final document was approved,  Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna indicated that it was to be written principally by a team chaired by Cardinal Hummes.

The cardinal noted that, of course, “there will be a celebratory and communications event” at the Vatican's synod hall when the exhortation is promulgated.

He suggested that ordinaries “may also want to begin planning a press briefing or a press conference or other event as soon as convenient after the publication of the Exhortation.”

“you may find it opportune to have the Exhortation presented by yourself along with an indigenous spokesperson if relevant in your area, an experienced pastoral leader (ordained or religious, layman or laywoman), an expert on climate or ecology, and a youth involved in peer ministry.”

Cardinal Hummes asked that the letter be kept confidential, and not shared with the media.

“Please do respect the guidelines,” he added.

The letter was published Jan. 14 by LifeSiteNews in English, and by Aldo Maria Valli in Italian.

CNA understands the letter to have been sent to “concerned bishops” around the world. It was not sent to all ordinaries.

Cardinal Hummes concluded his letter “with the sincere hope that his letter has been helpful.”

He asked for prayers that God the Father would “dispose the People of God in the Amazon and throughout the world to receive it with faith and hope, intelligently and effectively.”