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Postings by Katie Loftus

Pope Francis canonizes two founders of religious orders

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 12, June 2016 Categories: Mary and the Saints
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Pope Francis announced the canonization of Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad and Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski
Pope Francis announced the canonization of Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad and Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski.

Pope Francis announced the canonization of Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad, a Swedish-born Lutheran convert who established the Bridgettine order, and Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, who founded the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Making the announcement in St. Peter's Square, the pope explained that members of the faithful should use these newly canonized saints as examples for living a life rooted in Christ, even during times of struggle. 

Saint Mary Elizabeth (1870-1957) worked as a nurse in New York, which led her to reflect on her spiritual life. Guided by a Jesuit, she studied Catholic doctrine and was baptized. In 1904 she moved to Rome and with special permission from Pope Saint Pius X, she took the religious habit of Saint Bridget in the residence where the saint had lived, which was then occupied by Carmelites. Led by the Holy Spirit, she refounded the order of Saint Bridget in 1911. She has been honored by Israel for her efforts to save Jews from the Holocaust during World War II.

Saint Stanislaus (1631-1701) was born in Poland to poor and devout Catholic parents. In 1670, he founded the Institute of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. The three goals of this institute were: 1) to promote devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, 2) to offer prayers and sacrifices for the dead, especially those who were not prepared to die, and 3) to minister to the poor and the marginalized. Stanislaus dedicated himself with apostolic zeal to these charitable purposes until the end of his life.

Military priest commemorates Memorial Day

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 30, May 2016 Categories: Clergy
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Father Samuel Giese, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, standing alongside an armored personnel carrier during his 2005 deployment to Iraq as a combat area chaplain with the Army National Guard.
Father Samuel Giese, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, stands alongside an armored personnel carrier during his 2005 deployment to Iraq as a combat area chaplain with the Army National Guard.

As reported by Crux, Father Samuel Giese is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington who serves as a senior Army chaplain for the D.C. National Guard, with the rank of colonel. During the Memorial Day weekend, he honors veterans who’ve given their lives for their country during Mass. 

Father Giese has a special relationship with those who serve in the armed forces. He served in Iraq with the 155th Brigade Combat Team of the Mississippi National Guard, during a time when those soldiers not only faced the anxiety of war in that country but also worries about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in their communities back home.

“I think as Catholics, particularly as priests, we often talk about sacrifice. In situations like war, you have the opportunity to see people sacrifice for others, so it puts a lot of things in perspective, including Jesus’s sacrifice,” Giese said.

School Sisters of Notre Dame participate in UN conference

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 30, May 2016 Categories: Consecrated Life
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Sister Eileen Reilly at UNNGO in 2014
Sister Eileen Reilly at the United Nations Conference for Non-Governmental Organizations in 2014.

A delegation from the School Sisters of Notre Dame attended the 66th annual United Nations Conference for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from May 30 to June 1 in Korea. The theme of the conference was “Education for Global Citizenship: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together".

Sister Eileen Reilly, director of the SSND UN-NGO office, said, “We are hoping that our participation in this conference with more than 1,800 delegates from around the world will give us a deeper understanding of what it means to educate for global citizenship in our divided world.”

Along with Sister Reilly, Sister Gloria Hirai, of Japan, and Sister Lourdes Pangelinan, of Guam, also attended the conference and worked with diplomats, United Nations officials, policy experts, scientists, educators, businesses, trade unions, parliamentarians, and local authorities.

Throughout the conference, the sisters and their colleagues sought to promote change that empowers women, the young, and the poor and marginalized and addresses systems of poverty and injustice.

Read more here.

Priest celebrates sacraments under the big top

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 23, May 2016 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Fr. George "Jerry" Hogan, baptizes Bianca Marinelli during Catholic mass and sacraments of initiation at Circus Vargas in Burbank, CA.
Father George "Jerry" Hogan speaks with Ariyana Rivera, who was confirmed at a Catholic Mass at Circus Vargas in Burbank, California.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Father George "Jerry" Hogan is celebrating the sacraments with circus performers, allowing them to work around busy performance schedules and make time for their faith. Recently, 11 members from the Circus Vargas troupe—mainly the children of performers—took their next steps into the Catholic faith with Confirmation.  

Father Hogan understands that for many of the performers there is not much free time outside of practice and performing. He said, "They do three shows on Saturday and three shows on Sunday, so it's impossible for them to go to church." He has been ministering to circus performers for more than 22 years, and he even has circus vestments.

He is not alone in his suprising ministry. Sisters Dorothy Frabritze and Mary Seibert help to prepare performers and their children for the sacraments while on the road, and transform the center ring into a space suitable for Mass by adding an area for Baptism and an altar.

The performers are grateful to have Father Hogan to minister to them. Josue Marinelli, who received his First Communion and was confirmed by Hogan a few years ago, said, "My older daughter was also baptized by Father Jerry. It's kind of like a family tradition, which is hard, working in the circus because we're always traveling around. Luckily, we have Father Jerry to help us out."

Dominican sisters in Iraq refuse to stop serving

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Saturday 14, May 2016 Categories: Consecrated Life
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 A Dominican sister in Iraq poses for a picture at one of the many centers the order runs in the region
A Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena at one of the many help centers the order runs in Iraq.

The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have had a long, tumultuous history in Iraq, and now as many Iraqi Christians are fleeing the region, their role there has become even more important. Along with continuing their service work in the community, they are seen as a symbol of hope and resistance in an area full of violence. The mission of the sisters is to serve all Iraqis equally, no matter their religion. 

According to the Order of Preachers, the first Dominican priest visited Iraq in 1235, and in 1873, six French Dominican sisters set up a convent there. They've remained ever since--during World War I, when Christians were persecuted under Turks and their Kurdish allies, and after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when killing and looting became commonplace. Through it all, the sisters have not stopped serving the people 

They have set up schools, hospitals, urgent care centers, and maternity wards, and even trained nurses to work in the government health sector. While some of these buildings have been forced to close, others remain open despite constant bombing and ransacking.

Sister Maryanne Pierre, the manager of St. Raphael Hospital in Baghdad, said in an interview with CBS News, "This is my job to stay here to help people. ... It's our duty to stay here for all the people."

Whoopi Goldberg surprises nuns in habit on 'The View'

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 09, May 2016 Categories: Catholic culture

This week on ABC's "The View," actress Whoopi Goldberg surprised the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary in Harlem, New York, by showing up on air dressed in a habit like her character from her 1992 film Sister Act. She gave the order a $10,000 donation to stock their food pantry as well as a new car to help with transportation of food.

The sisters are one of only three orders of black nuns in the United States and recently celebrated their 100th anniversary.

Sister Gertrude Ihenacho is often told she resembles Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act and often gets asked for her autograph. She cried tears of joy when the Hollywood star came out on stage in a habit.

Sister helps Native American kids run up against diabetes

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 02, May 2016 Categories: Catholic culture

In the above video, CBS Evening News profiled Sister Martha Mary Carpenter, O.S.F., the principal of Saint Peter Mission School in the Gila River Indian Community, home to the Pima tribe, in Arizona.

Many there suffer from adult-onset diabetes, even children, so Sister Carpenter began to make lifestyle changes a part of the students' school day. Now, they run before classes each morning to stay healthy and keep energy levels high. She has even challenged the Federal government and modified the school lunch guidelines for her students.

"We don't teach subjects, we teach children," she said. "And we're giving them the skills, lifelong healthy habits. How to eat and how to inexpensively take care of yourself, good running shoes and take-off."

Rome's Trevi Fountain lit red in honor of Christian martyrs

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 02, May 2016 Categories: Catholic culture,Mary and the Saints
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 On April 29 in Rome, the Trevi Fountain was part of a graphic display of the persecution many Christians face around the world today
On April 29 the Trevi Fountain in Rome was part of a graphic display commemorating the persecution many Christians face in the world today.

This week, the Trevi Fountain in Rome was lit up in red in memory of the blood shed by Christian martyrs throughout the world. The Catholic News Service reports that the event was sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity that seeks to "draw attention to the dramatic issue of anti-Christian persecution" around the globe. 

The event included guest speakers, who shared stories of men and women who have died for their faith. Images of these martyrs were projected onto the fountain, including those of four Missionaries of Charity who were murdered in Yemen in March.

Through this visual representation of the plight of modern Christian martyrs, the church hopes to increase awareness of a growing worldwide problem. 

Catholic monks part of a secret mission to Islamic treasures

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 24, April 2016 Categories: Ecumenism,Church History,Scripture,Consecrated Life
More than 370,000 manuscripts were secretly smuggled out of Timbuktu to save them from destruction by militants. A monastery in Minnesota is digitizing the texts to preserve them.

The Benedictine Monks of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN, led by Fr. Columba Steward, O.S.B. and the staff at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Libray, are helping to preserve precious Islamic literary works that were threatened with destruction by militants in Mali, reports The Economist.

The secret evacuations began at night. Ancient books were packed in small metal shoe-lockers and loaded three or four to a car to reduce the danger to the driver and minimise possible losses. The manuscript-traffickers passed through the checkpoints of their Islamist occupiers on the journey south across the desert from Timbuktu to Bamako. Later, when that road was blocked, they transported their cargo down the Niger river by canoe. 

The man behind the project was Abdel Kader Haidara. In 2013 he put out a request for help to digitize the more than 370,000 manuscripts, including Korans, Hadiths, and studies on grammar and rhetoric, that were brought to safe houses. He received an answer from a monastery on the other side of the world.

Father Columba sees digitizing these sacred texts as part of the Benedictine tradition of literary preservation dating from the sixth century when St. Benedict of Nursia set down his Rule. “We had scriptoria for very practical reasons,” referring to the “writing places” of medieval European monasteries. “You can’t do theology without philosophy,” he says, standing in his own 21st-century equivalent. “You can’t try to be a self-sustaining monastery if you can’t take science seriously.” So, as a policy, any relevant text was copied. Over one and a half millennia, knowledge has been a matter of survival for the Benedictines, allowing one collective to pick up where another left off, in low times and in high. Today, thanks to machines, the library is copying more efficiently.

“Benedictines are fundamentally optimistic about the human project, says Fr. Columba. "That’s why we’re not frightened by science or novelty. When people look at what we’re doing with Muslim communities, they say, why do you do this? I say, this is the time God has given us. We can’t pretend we live in the sixth century when Benedict wrote his rule, or the 13th, or the 1950s. We live now. And part of the reality is cultures which are threatened trying to figure out how to work together on this fragile planet.” 

And so, "guided by a Christian teacher from the sixth century, monks of the 21st century archive texts about an Arabian prophet from the seventh." 

Deacon brings Jesus behind bars

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Saturday 02, April 2016 Categories: Pope Francis,Clergy
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Pope Francis blesses a prisoner
Pope Francis blesses a prisoner at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia in September.

The Catholic New World recently profiled Deacon Pablo Perez of Chicago. Perez is the assistant director of the Kolbe House, a ministry that trains male and female volunteers to visit inmates in Chicago-area jails. They offer bilingual Bible studies, Mass, and Communion services to those in jail. Kolbe House also ministers to families of the incarcerated, families of victims, and those released from jail or prison.

Perez was once a member of a gang and overdosed on drugs. He credits God with helping him get his life back and uses his story to help minister to inmates, saying, “He [God] did it with me. He could do it with you."

Jail ministry was not what Perez originally saw himself doing, but he could not escape God's plan for him. He says, “...I saw the power of the Holy Spirit moving in the church in jail. Part of me stays in the jail now, because their suffering has become my suffering.”

Priest nominated for Aurora Prize for work with refugees in Africa

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 27, March 2016 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Fr. Bernard Kinvi assists refugees in he Central African Republic. He was nominated for the Aurora Prize because of his work in the region.
Father Bernard Kinvi assists refugees in the Central African Republic. He was nominated for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity for his work in the region.

FoxNews reports that Father Bernard Kinvi, of the Order of St. Camillus, has been nominated for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, an annual international peace prize that honors those who put their lives at risk to serve others.

Father Kinvi was nominated because of his heroic rescue of more than 1,500 Muslims in the Central African Republic. He started a church and mission hospital three years ago in the northwestern town of Bossemptee, where fighting between Muslim and Christian extremists escalated in 2013. Despite being threatened for his actions, he has helped Muslims who were targeted find refuge in neighboring Cameroon.

He said, “I did not check their religion before helping them. I had in front of me human beings whose lives were in danger. It is my duty as a Camilian priest who has dedicated his life to the service of those who are ill and those who are suffering, even if it meant risking my own life.”

If he wins the prize, Father Kinvi plans to use the money to continue his work is Bossemptee. He was honored to be recognized, saying, “There are many priests and nuns who carry out the same type of work as I do. Just like me, they work quietly and do not seek recognition."

The winner of the Aurora Prize receives $100,000, and $1 million goes to the charity of their choice.

Priest to perform rock-gospel for Pope Francis

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 20, March 2016 Categories: Consecrated Life,Clergy
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Rev. Krzysztof Wtorek makes Sunday liturgies "rock" with his choir
Father Krzysztof Wtorek makes Sunday liturgies "rock" with his choir.

The Press of Atlantic City reports that Father Krzysztof Wtorek brings together God and music with his rock-gospel choir at Epiphany Church in Longport, New Jersey. With six women singers, he transforms traditional hymns into rockin’ beats with programmed bass and drum sounds. He also uses a keyboard and a Fender Stratocaster to move parishioners and touch their hearts with music.

Father Wtorek was a musician as a teen, but when he came to the United States in 1988 and entered the seminary, he thought his life as a musician was over. Instead, he has found himself creating updated arrangements of hymns, using a variety of instruments and computer software.

He will lead an international rock-gospel group of singers and musicians from the United States, Germany, and Poland this summer. The group will perform for Pope Francis at World Youth Day, which will be held July 25-31, 2016.

"This is really evangelization," he said of his music. "You can be happy. You can be peaceful. You can be meditative. I believe in that. I put my life into that."

Filipino priest receives award for environmental heroism

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 20, March 2016 Categories: Consecrated Life
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Fr. Edwin Gariguez received an award from Xavier University to honor his work protecting the environment
Father Edwin Gariguez received an award from Xavier University to honor his work protecting the environment. 

Vatican Radio reports that Father Edwin Gariguez of the Philippines received an award for environmental heroism from the Jesuit-run Xavier University in Cincinnati. He has battled against a nickel mine in order to protect Mindoro Island’s biodiversity and the indigenous people in the area.

Father Roberto Yap, university president, said that Father Gariguez's ministry is an inspiring response to Pope Francis challenge "to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."

Father Gariguez was also awarded a doctorate in humanities for his efforts. He received the award during the university’s graduation ceremony, where he also delivered the keynote address.

This is not the first time he has been recognized for his environmental efforts. He won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists, and he is the executive secretary of CBCP-NASSA, the social development, humanitarian, and advocacy arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.

'Standup Sisters' tell discernment stories

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 13, March 2016 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Barbara Einloth, a Sister of Charity, tells her story at a rehearsal
Sister of Charity Barbara Einloth tells her story at a rehearsal for the live presentation and radio program "Standup Sisters."

According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, four members of the Pennsylvania-based Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill presented their discernment stories to a crowd of parishoners, students, and community members at St. Sylvester Church in Brentwood, Pennsylvania, last week. They told stories about how they responded to God’s call and how they serve. Radio journalist Jennifer Szweda Jordan produced the program, called "Standup Sisters." 

Some sisters were shy about sharing their stories at first, but later realized the effect they might have on their community. “We rarely toot our own horns,” said Sister Barbara Einloth. "That might be a good thing and humble, but it doesn’t help people know who we are and what we do. This is an opportunity for people to get to know who we are.”

The women all share unique stories about working in nurseries and hospice care centers. Although they acknowledged the hardship that comes along with their calling, they understand the importance and beauty of it all. As Sister Barbara Ann Boss, president of Pittsburg's Elizabeth Seton Center, said, these experiences "teach you how to appreciate the joy and how to be with someone who’s suffering.” 

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Non-Catholics invited to confess as part of Year of Mercy celebration

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Saturday 05, March 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Pope Francis confesses before leading a penitential service in Saint Peter's Basilica
Pope Francis confesses before leading a penitential service at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

The Telegraph reports that as part of the Year of Mercy, a special confession drive in England on March 4 and 5, known as “24 hours for the Lord,” invited non-Catholics to speak to a priest and unburden themselves of things that weighed heavy on their hearts. A priest was available to talk with participants, but they were not bound to the formal steps of expressing penitence for their sins, and instead of absolution, they simply received a blessing. 

The idea was put forth by England's Bishop of Plymouth Mark O’Toole. He said, “Confession continues to be a priceless treasure in my own life, and I hope every Catholic can avail of its gift more deeply. Even if you are not Catholic, come and see. You are welcome in our churches, there will be time and space for prayer, and you can approach the priest and chat with him, and receive a blessing." 

This initiative is part of the Year of Mercy, which is centered on forgiveness. The church hopes that this gives both Catholics and non-Catholics an opportunity to receive mercy, while also inspiring them to show mercy to others. 

Filipino nun asks: "What would Leo do?"

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Friday 04, March 2016 Categories: Catholic culture
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Leonardo DiCaprio advocated for environmental protection during his Oscar speech
Leonardo DiCaprio advocated for environmental protection during his Oscar speech, an issue important to the church. 

The Catholic Herald reports that Sister Aloha Vergara of the Handmaids of the House of God in the Philippines is behind movie actor Leonardo DiCaprio all the way. Upon winning his first Academy Award in February, he made a plea on behalf of the environment and condemned the “politics of greed.” Sister Vergara recently attended a conference at which Catholic and Protestant religious and environmental activists denounced alleged human rights violations in a mining town in the northern Philippines. She said we need to “support those who speak for all those who are affected of corporate greed and the destruction of the environment,” including high-profile advocates such as DiCaprio.

Redemptorist Brother Ciriaco Santiago, convener of an anti-mining group in Manila, hopes that environmental issues will be important to citizens in upcoming national elections. He believes DiCaprio's message about the environment came at a perfect time, especially because the country's resources have been abused and health conditions have worsened. 

“Actions and programs that destroy creation [are] an attack on the Church’s mission; therefore, the Church should be in the front line to protect people who go against these plunderers of the environment,” said Lito Latorre, coordinator of the Philippine Redemptorists’ Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation program.

Monk's simple way of life makes the news

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 28, February 2016 Categories: Consecrated Life

WUSA9 News profiled Father Joseph Jensen, a 91-year-old monk at St. Anselm's Abby in Washington, D.C.. He is an author and teacher who has given his all to his faith. Father Jensen says, "God expects us to be doing something good in the world. All of us are given gifts and the gifts are not for ourselves; they're for other people, and we should be using them for that."

Learn about his way of life in the full video segment above.

Pope Francis calls for an end to the death penalty

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 21, February 2016 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Pope Francis
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 Pope Francis speaks during his Sunday Angelus
Pope Francis speaks during his Sunday Angelus about the imperative of abolishing the death penalty. 

CNN reports that Pope Francis called for an end to the death penalty, asking Catholic leaders to recognize the Year of Mercy by placing a moratorium on the practice for a year. 

In St. Peter's Square, he said, "I make an appeal to the conscience of all rulers, so that we can achieve an international consensus for the abolition of the death penalty, and I propose to those among them who are Catholic to make a courageous and exemplary gesture: that no sentence is executed in this Holy Year of Mercy."

The pope's remarks come as an international conference on "A World Without the Death Penalty" begins in Rome on Monday. Ministers of justice from more than 30 countries will attend to discuss the issue.

Pope Francis hopes the conference will help efforts to end capital punishment. "The commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty," he said.

Louisiana priest reaches lapsed Catholics with mobile confessional

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 21, February 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Clergy
CBS News interviewed Father Michael Champagne of Louisiana about his mobile confessional, a renovated ambulance. He wants to put Pope Francis's words into action and welcome back with open arms those who have left the church. Watch the full interview below. 

Nuns hope papal visit to Mexico brings indigenous people back to church

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 14, February 2016 Categories: Pope Francis,Consecrated Life
Vision 2016 Loftus 1 A banner of Pope Francis hangs in front of a store in San Cristobal, Chiapas
A banner of Pope Francis hangs in front of a store in San Cristobal, Mexico.

According to The Global Sisters Report, when Pope Francis visits San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, he will read from scripture and pray in the languages of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal, two ethnic Mayan groups, and he will address issues of inequality, indigenous rights, and migration, in what is Mexico’s poorest state.

Sister Manuela Hernández Núñez, a nun with Misioneros Crecares Diocesanas, says the pope's outreach to indigenous people is important since many have left the Catholic Church in recent years.

Sister Nora Gonzalez, a Tzotzil and a member of the order Hermanas de la Caridad de la Presenacion de la Santisima Virgen, adds, "If the people listen to him, maybe they will change and return to church because he has made it clear he is open to anyone. If they hear his call, their faith will get stronger. Right now there are many divisions and differences of opinion. Right now, I think everybody fights over everything. I believe the main message of the pope will be compassion and peace and coming together of both men and women of all faiths." 

Sister Núñez is inspired by the pope’s inclusiveness and hopes that his visit will help inspire others to come back to the church. "His visit will be a confirmation of faith," she says. "In that way, we will get stronger."

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