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Tuesday, 30 June 2015 11:47

(USCCB News Archives can be accessed at www.usccb.org/news/)
(For interesting commentary on Catholic issues go to http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com/)
 

 

SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CHURCH IN AFRICA AWARDS OVER $1.2 MILLION IN GRANTS

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on the Church in Africa approved 47 grants for a total of $1,205,236.00 to support pastoral projects for the Church in Africa. The Subcommittee evaluated and approved the grant proposals at a meeting held in conjunction with the USCCB Spring General Assembly in St. Louis, Missouri.

The funded projects focus on providing pastoral support to the rapidly growing Church in Africa. This often includes supporting the Church’s response in caring for migrants, refugees, youth and children, and those living in extreme poverty. Of extreme importance and a primary focus are programs for catechetical and leadership formation as well as those that build faith and strengthen families.

“The Church in Africa is fully alive and developing at a rapid pace. It is vital to assist Catholics there by providing urgently needed pastoral support,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington and chairman of the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa. “The people of Africa greatly benefit from proper training in pastoral care, leadership, and management. The support from the Church in the United States is integral to helping the Church in Africa become self-sustaining and meet the spiritual needs of its people.”

In Angola, the Archdiocese of Luanda and the Dioceses of Viana and Caxito received a grant for a formation program of the laity in the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people. With this grant, these dioceses will provide training, workshops, and retreats for pastoral workers, formation and training for migrant communities, and preparation of materials in different languages. It will help parishes to combat xenophobia and welcome and integrate foreigners into local parishes.

A grant was awarded in Ethiopia to support formation and training in the pastoral care of families. In light of the upcoming Synod on the Family, this program will provide resources and workshops to fully understand Christian marriage and the Church’s teaching on marriage. Topics will include challenges facing families in Ethiopia, understanding the sacrament of marriage as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, formation of laity on marriage and teaching children to grow in faith, and providing pastoral care for married couples.

The Diocese of Cape Palmas in Liberia received a grant to establish a Catholic women’s organization. This project will help promote the rights and dignity of women in the Church and society, unite Catholic women to work collaboratively, develop leadership skills and awareness of the country’s civil law, and promote natural family planning and healthy lifestyles.

These grants are funded by donations to an annual collection for the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. The Subcommittee on the Church in Africa oversees the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. The Subcommittee also allocates the revenue received as pastoral grants to African episcopal conferences and their regional associations in Africa.

More information on the work of the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa can be found online here.

June 30, 2015
VATICAN RELEASES SCHEDULE OF POPE FRANCIS’ VISIT TO THE UNITED STATES
 
WASHINGTON—Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to the United States is “a source of joy and gratitude,” said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to the release of the full visit schedule by the Vatican, June 30. Pope Francis will visit Washington, New York and Philadelphia, September 22-27. His visit will include addresses to Congress and the United Nations, the canonization of Blessed Junípero Serra and will culminate in his participation in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
 
“It’s a source of joy and gratitude for U.S. Catholics that Pope Francis will be visiting us this September,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president. “We look forward to journeying with him, whether in person, in prayer or via the media, as he goes out to the peripheries and shows us what it means to live as brothers and sisters in one family.”
 
More information on the apostolic journey to the United States is available at www.uspapalvisit.org.
 
June 26, 2015
SUPREME COURT DECISION ON MARRIAGE “A TRAGIC ERROR”
SAYS PRESIDENT OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE

 
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
 
The full statement follows:
 
Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.
 
The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.
 
Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.
 
I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.
 
Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.


June 24, 2015
ARCHBISHOP WENSKI URGES CONGRESS TO
ANSWER POPE FRANCIS’ CALL TO PROTECT CREATION


WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged Congress to answer Pope Francis’ call to protect creation and oppose legislation and appropriation riders that would reverse efforts to develop a national standard to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.
 
“The U.S. bishops stand united with the Holy Father in his call to protect creation,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, in letters to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, June 24.
 
Archbishop Wenski emphasized the importance of Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, released last week where Pope Francis “called on all people to care for God’s creation and our common home for the well-being of current and future generations.”
 
“Our Conference has long spoken out on the importance of prudent action to address the growing impact of global climate change,” wrote Archbishop Wenski. “As government leaders, we ask you to resist any effort to impair the development of a national carbon standard and instead to support our nation’s ability to address this urgent global challenge confronting the human family.”
 
His letter to Congress is available online at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/letter-to-congress-on-carbon-standards-2015-06-24.cfm
 

Archbishop Wenski along with Bishop Pates, former Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace also wrote a previous July 30, 2014 letter to the EPA expressing support for a national carbon standard: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/environmental-justice-program/upload/Comments-to-EPA-from-Archbishop-Wenski-Bishop-Pates-on-carbon-pollution-standards-2014-07-30.pdf

June 22, 2015
ON WORLD REFUGEE DAY, USCCB MIGRATION
CHAIRMAN CALLS UPON U.S. TO PROTECT SYRIAN
AND IRAQI REFUGEES AND DISPLACED

 
WASHINGTON — In comments made in conjunction with World Refugee Day, observed June 20, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, called upon U.S. officials to do more to respond to the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East stemming from conflict in Syria and Iraq.
 
“This is a crisis that continues to grow and has no end in sight,” said Bishop Elizondo. “We can no longer turn our heads away from the human suffering of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.”
 
The refugee crisis stemming from conflict in Syria and Iraq has reached historic proportions, with close to 15 million persons forced from their homes, many at risk of death. 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced and as many as 4 million reside in neighboring countries or have fled to Europe or other parts of the world, while over 3 million Iraqis are internally displaced.
 
Bishop Elizondo specifically cited the plight of religious minorities fleeing ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, particularly Christians. “It is clear that religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, are being targeted and need our moral and material support,” Bishop Elizondo said.  “The goal of ISIS is to eliminate these minorities from the region, a goal which should be strongly opposed and defeated.”
 
Bishop Elizondo cited steps the United States could take to assist the suffering, including an increase in resettlement opportunities for the most vulnerable refugees and additional assistance to displaced populations. To date, the United States has resettled less than 1,000 Syrian refugees.
 
“These refugees are themselves victims of terror and deserve protection. Our nation must take leadership in protecting them so that the rest of the world follows suit,” Bishop Elizondo concluded.

June 19, 2015
USCCB CHAIRMEN GIVE STRONG SUPPORT
FOR THE ‘FIRST AMENDMENT DEFENSE ACT’

 
WASHINGTON — Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, gave their strong support for the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which is a federal non-discrimination act.
 
The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against individuals and organizations based upon their religious beliefs or moral convictions that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.  For such individuals and organizations, the Act provides broad protections, including in the areas of federal contracts, grants, employment, and tax-exempt status. The bills were introduced June 17 in the U.S. Senate (S. 1598) by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2802) by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID).
 
The chairmen, in a joint letter of support to each of the sponsors, noted that “persons who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman are increasingly having their religious liberties jeopardized and even forfeited.”  Noting some examples of efforts to discriminate on the bases of religious beliefs regarding marriage and human sexuality, the Archbishops said, “It is becoming apparent that some who promote marriage redefinition do not support the coexistence and tolerance of different ideas in a pluralistic society but instead have a ‘comply or else’ agenda.”  Further, they indicated, “As a non-discrimination Act, FADA would protect these individuals and organizations from federal government discrimination.”
 
The Act refers to the recent exchange at the U.S. Supreme Court when the marriage cases were being argued, noting that “when asked whether a religious school could lose its tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage, the Solicitor General of the United States represented to the United States Supreme Court that ‘[i]t’s certainly going to be an issue’.”  Aware of this atmosphere, the chairmen in their letters of support for FADA said, “In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are very much needed.”
 
Encouraging passage of the Act, the Archbishops said, “The leadership of our Church will continue to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good.”
 
The letters of support for and a backgrounder on the First Amendment Defense Act are available at www.usccb.org/defenseofmarriage/defense-of-marriage-in-the-news.cfm.
 
June 19, 2015
ARCHBISHOP KURTZ EXPRESSES ‘GRIEF AND DEEP
SADNESS’ OVER CHARLESTON CHURCH SHOOTING

 
WASHINGTON — Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), responded to the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, with “grief and deep sadness,” June 19. He said the Catholic community “stands with all people who struggle for an end to racism and violence, in our families, in our places of worship, in our communities and in our world.”
 
Full text of the statement follows:
 
It is with grief and deep sadness that we learned of the tragic murder of Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney and eight members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. There have been far too many heartbreaking losses in the African-American community this year alone. Our prayers are with all those suffering from this heinous crime.
 
We join our voices with civic and religious leaders in pledging to work for healing and reconciliation. Our efforts must address racism and the violence so visible today. As the U.S. Catholic Bishops said in our pastoral letter on racism, “Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it demands an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society.”
 
The Catholic community stands with all people who struggle for an end to racism and violence, in our families, in our places of worship, in our communities and in our world. We must continue to build bridges and we must confront racism and violence with a commitment to life, a vision of hope, and a call to action.


June 18, 2015
ARCHBISHOP KURTZ WELCOMES POPE FRANCIS' ENCYCLICAL LAUDATO SI'

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, June 18.
 
Full text of Archbishop Kurtz’s statement follows:
 
Statement on the Occasion of the Promulgation of Laudato Si’
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 
With an open heart and gratitude I, along with my brother bishops in the United States, welcome Laudato Si’. In this beautiful and extensive treatment on care for our common home, the Holy Father calls all people to consider our deep and intertwined relationships with God, our brothers and sisters, and the gifts that our Creator has provided for our stewardship.
 
Drawing extensively from the teaching of his predecessors, the Pope teaches that care for the things of the earth is necessarily bound together with our care of one another, especially the poor.  This interdependency extends from the deep respect due every human person to all living beings and to the earth where we make our home. “Each creature has its own purpose…and the entire material universe speaks of God’s love.”84 The Pope uses the term “integral ecology” to draw our attention to a rich treasury of thought that people of faith bring with them to conversations about the human person and our environment. He states, “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”229
 
In Laudato Si’, the Holy Father invites us to reflect deeply on all points of human activity, whether we consider care for creation at the level of our individual choices or in the public square. The need for urgent action is clear and he appeals to us to become “painfully aware” of what is happening to the world and “to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.”210 The Holy Father makes it clear that we were given the earth as a gift from our Creator. It is our responsibility to avoid contributing to a culture of acquisitiveness, individualism, or exploitation.
 
Pope Francis repeatedly urges us to renewed and urgent action and honest dialogue about our environment – both social and ecological. “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together”48, both of which disproportionately affect our poorest brothers and sisters. Reflecting on inner city slums, lack of clean drinking water, and a consumerism mentality, Pope Francis asks “what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?”160 This question is at the heart of this encyclical and rightfully calls us all to work harder against the challenges the human family faces today.
 
Genuine efforts to true dialogue will require sacrifice and the confronting of good faith disagreements, but let us be encouraged that at “the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He does not abandon us…he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward.”245 May we help answer Pope Francis’ call in this encyclical, receiving his message and growing in responsibility towards the common home that God has entrusted to us all.
 
Numbers are reflective of the paragraph numbers in Laudato Si’.

June 11, 2015
U.S. BISHOPS VOTE ON CONFERENCE PRIORITIES, LITURGY OF
THE HOURS, PRIESTLY FORMATION AT GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 
ST. LOUIS — The U.S. bishops, gathered for their annual Spring General Assembly, voted on and approved a draft of their priorities for the 2017-2020 strategic plan and the “Program of Priestly Formation, 5th edition.” They also voted on English translations of the Old and New Testament Canticles.
 
In a 165-14-3 vote, the bishops approved a working draft of the Conference’s strategic priorities for their 2017-2020 planning cycle. Input shared by the bishops from the floor will be provided to the various committees as they write the final version. The resulting draft will be presented for approval by the full body of bishops at the November 2015 General Assembly. The priorities are:

  • Family and marriage
  •  Evangelization
  • Religious Freedom
  • Human Life and Dignity
  • Vocations and ongoing formation

The USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations sought the approval of the renewal of the recognitio granted to the “Program of Priestly Formation, Fifth Edition,” for an additional five-year period without any changes to the norms. The item was approved in a 179-1-1 vote.
 
The “Program of Priestly Formation, Fifth Edition,” is the set of national norms issued by the USCCB and confirmed by the Vatican that govern the education and formation of seminarians as priests in the United States. These national norms are based upon the universal norms for priestly formation that come from the Holy See. The accreditation of each U.S. Catholic seminary is based upon these national norms.  Approval of this item requires the majority vote of the members present and voting.
 
Also presented for a vote was the inclusion of the revised Canticles for the Liturgy of the Hours for use in U.S. dioceses. The Committee on Divine Worship submitted this item which was short of approval by 1 vote in a 165-5-3 vote. Bishops able to vote but not present will be canvassed for votes.
 
The revised English translations of the Old and New Testament Canticles would be used in the revision of the Liturgy of the Hours. This proposed revision has been prepared by Conception Abbey. The new translation renders the texts of the Old and New Testament Canticles in a style similar to the Revised Grail Psalms, with emphasis on sprung rhythms and faithful translation. The Canticles will help establish a unified style and meter among the tests included in the future revision of the Liturgy of the Hours.
 
Approval of this text requires an affirmative vote by two-thirds of the Latin Church USCCB members, with subsequent Vatican recognitio by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

May 10, 2015
CATHOLIC BISHOPS MEET WITH BLACK EVANGELICAL
LEADERS ON PRESERVING AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILIES

 
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the Catholic University of America hosted as part of its annual meeting an in-depth conversation with leadership of Black Pentecostal congregations. The conversation centered on the impact of poverty on African American families. Noted sociologist and author, Dr. Jacqueline Rivers presented an overview of African American family concerns and offered suggestions for church pastors and community leaders.
 
Bishop Jaime Soto, Chair of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development said “The debate of culture versus economics looms all around us but our people struggle because of a lack of hope and could care less about the winner of that argument.”
 
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the USCCB who attended the meeting noted, “The Black family is historically acknowledged as being the reason the African American community has been able to sustain some of the harshest treatment in the history of humanity”.
 
The meeting was attended by Catholic bishops and Black Evangelical bishops, ministers’ from around the country and distinguished academics. The meeting highlighted the 50th anniversary for the Moynihan report, a report that spoke of the importance of African American family stability.

June 10, 2015
USCCB PRESIDENT, COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL COLLECTIONS,
HIGHLIGHT SOLIDARITY WITH CHURCH IN HAITI

 
ST. LOUIS — The solidarity of the Catholic Church in the United States with the Church in Haiti goes beyond the over $100 million contributed by U.S. parishioners after the 2010 earthquake. It includes the development work of CRS, twinning relationships and the supporting of parish, diocesan and national efforts through the Collection for the Church in Latin America, said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) president and the chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Church in Latin America, in a presentation to the Spring General Assembly.  The presentation included an 8-minute video, which will be available online, showing the progress made and covered the work of Catholic Relief Services and many of the Church buildings being rebuilt or already dedicated.  
 
“The money Catholics in the United States gave us in trust has been well spent and we can show a lot for it. The people CRS served especially after the earthquake were comforted and helped. The structures we have built and continue to build are all hurricane and earthquake resistant and are now housing priests, sisters, brothers and serving as places of community building and worship,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and subcommittee chairman, in his update to the bishops. “We also need to start reflecting on what our next steps will be to continue helping the people and the Church in Haiti. It seems to me that we cannot say, ‘Good job, well done, and that is it!’ This rather is the time to say, ‘what is next? How do we keep this momentum going?’”
 
“This is an appropriate time for us to receive an update about all the progress that has been made and begin to consider options about how to continue supporting the humanitarian and reconstruction needs of our Haitian brothers and sisters,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of USCCB, in remarks before the update given by Bishop Elizondo. A USCCB delegation, including Archbishop Kurtz, visited several rebuilding projects in Haiti and attended the Vatican’s Day of Reflection on Solidarity with Haiti in January.
Bishop Elizondo highlighted the ongoing pastoral work supported in Haiti, stating, as an example, that the Subcommittee had approved a grant to help fund the National Youth Congress to take place in August that will help young people celebrate their faith and find new ways to be missionary disciples.
 
Emergency relief provided by CRS includes more than 10 million meals provided to over a million people, 10,000 transitional shelters, access to medical treatment for 71,000 patients, and help for 100,000 individuals to resettle in their communities. In addition to having led the rebuilding of the Saint Francis de Sales Hospital in Port-au-Prince, among its ongoing long-term projects, CRS is helping to train doctors, nurses and technicians, and to improve education and literacy among adults and children.
 
USCCB has awarded “nearly $23 million to 29 reconstruction projects through PROCHE, the partnership for reconstruction established with the Church in Haiti and sister churches. Ten buildings have been completed and there are 35 projects currently in progress. And this has been accomplished—although slowly and with great difficulty at times—with transparency and accountability,” said Bishop Elizondo.
 
The Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America oversees the Collection for the Church in Latin America and the special collection for the Church in Haiti as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. More information on these collections and the support to the Church in Haiti can be found at www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/latin-america/.

June 11, 2015
U.S. BISHOPS APPROVE USCCB PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT
ON RACE RELATIONS AT GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 
ST. LOUIS — The U.S. bishops approved a statement on race relations delivered by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), at their annual Spring General Assembly, June 10.
The full statement follows:
 
Statement of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky
President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
June 10, 2015

 
Gathering here in the city of St. Louis, so near to Ferguson, and looking ahead to Baltimore in November, I cannot help but think of recent events that have taken place around our beloved country.  We mourn those tragic events in which African Americans and others have lost their lives in altercations with law enforcement officials. These deaths have led to peaceful demonstrations, as well as violent conflicts in the streets of our cities. In every instance, our prayer for every community is that of our Lord in Saint John’s Gospel, “that they all may be one.”
 
Sadly, there is all too often an alienation of communities from those sworn to protect them. I respect the sacrifices made by police officers throughout the nation, who in their daily work are placed in harm’s way.  Let us pray that they suffer no harm as they carry out their duties, and that they always be guided in good and right action as they serve.
 
We join our voices with civic and religious leaders in pledging to work for healing and reconciliation. Our efforts must address root causes of these conflicts. A violent, sorrowful history of racial injustice, accompanied by a lack of educational, employment and housing opportunities, has destroyed communities and broken down families, especially those who live in distressed urban communities. Confronted by these realities, the familiar words of Blessed Pope Paul VI still resonate and continue to call us to action in our day: if you want peace, work for justice.
 
The Church has been present in these communities, active in education, health care and charities. Positive efforts are being made in collaboration with ecumenical and interfaith groups in communities where confrontations between individual citizens and law enforcement have taken place. Pope Francis calls each of us to work for a culture of encounter and has encouraged all people of good faith to reach out to those in their community and be truly welcoming of all.  Let the rich cultural diversity of our local communities be woven together in charity, hospitality and service to one another, to join us together as sisters and brothers.
 
The 1979 U.S. Bishops’ pastoral letter, “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” named racial prejudice as a grave sin that denies the truth and meaning of the Incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, the words of that letter still ring true: “Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church.” The bishops called for decisive action to eradicate racism from society and considerable progress has been made since 1979. However, more must be done. Let us again call upon our Catholic people to pray frequently in their homes and in their churches for the cause of peace and racial reconciliation.
 
Here we are in St. Louis where, in 1947, Cardinal Joseph Ritter integrated Catholic schools well before the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It shows that the Catholic Church can be at the forefront of promoting justice in racial tensions. It is time for us to do it again. I suggest five concrete ways in which the Catholic community can commit to ending racism and promoting peace, justice and respect for all persons:

  • 1. Pray for peace and healing among all people.
  • 2. Study the Word of God and the social teaching of the Church in order to gain a deeper appreciation of the dignity
        of all persons.
  • 3. Make a sincere effort to encounter more fully people of different racial backgrounds with whom we live, work and
        minister.
  • 4. Pursue ways in which Catholic parishes and neighborhoods can be truly welcoming of families of different racial
        and religious backgrounds.
  • 5. Get to know our local law enforcement officers. Let them know of our support and gratitude. And encourage
        young people to respect all legitimate authority.

Sadly, the present racial tension in the United States is not something new. It is the most recent manifestation of a relationship as old as the history of our nation, one marred by the tragedy of human slavery. Promoting peace and reconciliation is the only way forward. And we must constantly strive to achieve these goals, trusting in the Lord to lead and guide us, accompanied by his merciful love. May He help all of us to recognize the dignity inherent in every human being, for God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.”

June 4, 2015
2015 PETER'S PENCE COLLECTION: BE A WITNESS OF CHARITY

WASHINGTON — The 2015 Annual Peter’s Pence Collection will be taken up in many dioceses the weekend of June 27-28. Through this collection, Catholics have an opportunity to support the humanitarian and charitable works of Pope Francis that reach out to the marginalized and poor.
 
The theme for the collection is “Be a Witness of Charity,” emphasizing the need to show the mercy of God to others. Donations to this annual worldwide collection help the pope support victims of war and religious persecution, natural disasters, and those suffering around the world.  
 
“Through the Peter’s Pence Collection individuals can join with Pope Francis in providing much needed care and relief to those who find themselves suffering or on the margins.” said Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, chairman of the Committee on National Collections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “This collection is a way to be a witness to the love of Christ in unity with Catholics all around the world.”
 
More information about the Peter’s Pence Collection can be found at http://www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/peters-pence/collection/index.cfm

May 29, 2015
USCCB COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN WELCOMES REPEAL OF DEATH PENALTY IN NEBRASKA
 
WASHINGTON — The repeal of the death penalty in Nebraska represents a further step in the building of a culture of life, said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami. Nebraska becomes the 19th state to abolish the death penalty since it was reinstated in the United States in 1976.
 
Archbishop Wenski also expressed the Church’s prayerful solidarity with those impacted by violence and attacks on human life, and for the many families profoundly impacted by senseless acts of violence. “Even as we seek justice for these grave wrongs, our faith impels us to call for the building up of a culture of life where all human life is valued. We are a people of deep hope, even for the most lost souls among us. We continue to say that we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing," said Archbishop Wenski.
 
Archbishop Wenski also congratulated the Nebraska legislature, the Catholic bishops of Nebraska and the staff of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, Catholic Mobilizing Network and those dedicated to the repeal of the death penalty in that state.
 
The U.S. bishops have been advocating for an end of the use of the death penalty for over forty years and this year marks the 10th anniversary of their Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. They stand in solidarity with Pope Francis, who in March stated, “The death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed. It is an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, one which contradicts God’s plan for man and society and his merciful justice, and impedes the penalty from fulfilling any just objective.”
 
More information on the U.S. bishops' advocacy on this issue can be found online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/death-penalty-capital-punishment/

May 19, 2015
THREE NEW MEMBERS TO NATIONAL REVIEW BOARD ON CHILD AND YOUTH PROTECTION
 
WASHINGTON — The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) recently named three people to the National Review Board that advises on child and youth protection.  Mr. Donald Wheeler, a former federal investigator, Mrs. D. Jean Ortega-Piron, an attorney and child welfare services expert, and attorney Mr. Howard Healy were appointed by USCCB President Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville.
 
"The Church is grateful for the time and talent these individuals will bring to our shared work of ensuring safe environments," Archbishop Kurtz said.  "None of us has a more important responsibility than protecting children."
 
Donald Wheeler lives in the Diocese of Arlington and is a Senior Investigator with the law firm of Hunton & Williams, LLP.  He served for 30 years in various federal law enforcement and investigative positions with the U. S. Department of Labor and the General Accountability Office (GAO).
 
D. Jean Ortega-Piron lives in the Diocese of Joliet, retired from the Illinois Department of Children of Family Services in 2013 and continues to serve as a consultant on child welfare services.  While with that state agency, among other positions, she served as its acting Director and the statewide legal guardian for all the children in foster care in Illinois.  She is an attorney and has worked in the Office of Special Counsel for Child Welfare Services for the Governor of Illinois.
 
Howard Healy lives in the Diocese of Green Bay and is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Winnebago County Bar Association.  He is a partner at the Di Renzo and Bomier Law Firm and served in the U.S. Army Reserve as an Officer in the Judge Advocate General Corp.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the National Review Board during their meeting in June of 2002. The functions of the Board were revised slightly and reconfirmed in June of 2005 when the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was revised and extended. The purpose of the National Review Board is to collaborate with the USCCB in preventing the sexual abuse of minors in the United States by persons in the service of the Church.

May 19, 2015
POPE NAMES TWO AUXILIARY BISHOPS FOR DIOCESE OF BROOKLYN

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named two Brooklyn priests, Father James Massa, 54, moderator of the curia and vicar for evangelization; and Father Witold Mroziewski, 49, pastor of Holy Cross Parish, as auxiliary bishops for the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York.
The appointments were publicized in Washington on May 19 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
James Massa was born September 3, 1960 in Jersey City, New Jersey, and ordained a priest in 1986.
 
He attended the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York and earned a bachelor of arts degree in theology and history from Boston College; and a master’s degree in divinity from Yale University. He holds a doctorate in systematic theology from Fordham University.
 
Assignments after ordination included parochial vicar, Our Lady of Queen of Martyrs Parish,   1986; theology instructor, 1987; campus minister, 1990; chaplain, 1993; theology professor, 1993-2005; executive director of USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, 2005-2011; consultor, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, 2007-2015. He currently serves as moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Brooklyn since 2014.
 
Witold Mroziewski was born March 25, 1966 in Poland and was ordained a priest in 1991.
He attended the diocesan seminary of the Diocese of Łomża, Poland. He holds masters’ degrees in divinity and canon law, and a doctor of canon law degree from the Catholic University in Lublin, Poland.
 
Assignments after ordination included: parochial vicar at the Parish of Kadzidlo, Poland, 1991; pastoral services for the Diocese of Brooklyn, 1992; parochial vicar of Our Lady of Czestochowa-St. Casimir Parish, Brooklyn, 1993; administrator, 2000; and pastor, 2002. He also served as pastor, Holy Cross Parish, Maspeth, New York, 2013; judge of the diocesan tribunal, 2009-2015; defender of the bond, 2013-2015.
 
He was incardinated in the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2001.

May 15, 2015
U.S. NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT LEADERSHIP NEEDED, SAYS USCCB’S COMMITTEE CHAIR

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Bishops’ International Justice and Peace Committee has urged Secretary of State, John Kerry, to step up efforts to advance nuclear disarmament and insure the success of a multilateral conference being held in New York. The comments were made in a May 12 letter issued as the Ninth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) meeting continues at the United Nations. 


 “For most Americans, there is an assumption that the nuclear threat receded with the end of the Cold War. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth,” said Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee. “In a multi-polar world where there are risks of nuclear proliferation and even nuclear terrorism, it is imperative that the world move systematically and relentlessly toward nuclear disarmament and the securing of nuclear materials. Preserving the NPT is a cornerstone of this effort.”

The International Justice and Peace Committee also urged bold and concrete commitments to “accelerate verifiable nuclear disarmament, including taking weapons off ‘launch on warning’ status to prevent a catastrophic accident, deeper cuts in nuclear arsenals, ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and serious negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty and other prudent measures.”

The full text of the letter is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/nuclear-weapons/letter-to-secretary-kerry-from-bishop-cantu-on-non-proliferation-of-nuclear-weapons-2015-05-12.cfm

May 15, 2015
WILLIAM CANNY NAMED HEAD OF USCCB’s MIGRATION AND REFUGEE SERVICES

WASHINGTON — William Canny has been named executive director of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Canny succeeds Ambassador Johnny Young, who retired from the USCCB at the end of February after seven years of service.

“As world events, including an alarming rise in religious persecution, force thousands of families from their homes, we are especially grateful to add to the Conference's response Bill's unique combination of experience, expertise, and commitment to the Church,” said Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, USCCB general secretary, upon making the appointment.

Canny brings experience of over 25 years of service to the Catholic Church and to refugees and migrants through his previous positions at Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the International Catholic Migration Commission, as well as strong skills as a leader and administrator.

From 2010-2012, he served as CRS’ director of emergency operations, leading the emergency department in global prevention, preparedness, protection and response operations. Canny directed CRS’ initial response to the Haiti earthquake of 2010. From 2006-2009, he served as CRS’s country representative in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he led a staff of 200 and oversaw a range of activities which included programs in the areas of HIV-Aids, health, education, agriculture, disaster preparedness and response, forced migration, and human rights. From 1983-1997, he served in numerous positions at Catholic Relief Services that took him to manage and execute relief and development operations in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

From 1998-2004, Canny served as secretary general for the International Catholic Migration Commission, in Geneva, which serves and protects refugees, migrants and displaced populations around the world. Interventions included programs in war-thorn communities in Kosovo, Albania, Afghanistan, Indonesia and East Timor while at the same time advocating for rights-based policies and long term solutions in collaboration with Catholic bishops conferences around the world.

Most recently, he served as chief operations officer for the Papal Foundation, based in Philadelphia. In that role, Canny directed daily operations. The Papal Foundation has contributed over $110 million to the Vatican for initiatives aimed to alleviate poverty around the world, and provides grants to over 100 projects annually. In 2015, the Foundation provided Pope Francis approximately $15 million for charitable works and missionary programs.

He received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the University of Scranton; a master’s degree in public health from the University of Pittsburgh; and graduated cum laude from the University of Scranton, with a bachelor of science degree in human services.  

Canny will oversee USCCB/MRS efforts which include policy formulation and communication, advocacy, education, refugee resettlement, and other specialized services to at risk and vulnerable populations, such as victims of trafficking and unaccompanied minors. MRS is the largest non-governmental resettlement agency in the world.

May 15, 2015
USCCB CATHOLIC EDUCATION OFFICE URGES CONGRESS TO REAUTHORIZE
FUNDS FOR SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM BENEFITING LOW INCOME STUDENTS

 
WASHINGTON — In light of the hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a three sector program which provides funding for public, charter and opportunity scholarships for low-income students in the District of Columbia to attend private and religious schools, the USCCB Office of Catholic Education expressed support for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held the hearing on the issue, May 14, at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington.
 
“Today’s hearing is a welcomed first step in highlighting the transformative influence that parental choice can have in providing opportunities for students and their families,” said Sr. John Mary Fleming, executive director for Catholic Education of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
 
Since its inception, the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC-OSP) has provided an educational lifeline for nearly 6,000 low-income families in the District of Columbia.  The average family receiving a scholarship makes less than $22,000 per year; 97 percent of participating children are African American and/or Hispanic; and 88 percent of participating children live in zones where schools are designated as in need of improvement.
 
The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program was last reauthorized in the 2011 Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR).  The SOAR Act provides equal funding for the three-sector federal initiative that includes public schools in the District of Columbia, charter schools and the DC-OSP.
 
“The Catholic Church has unequivocally taught that parents have the right and responsibility to serve as the primary educators of their children. As the Second Vatican Council taught in its Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis, parents have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children and must enjoy freedom in their choice of schools,” Sr. Fleming said.
 
In a March 30 letter, Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Education wrote to House and Senate appropriators urging them to support the full authorized funding of $60 million in the Fiscal Year 2016 Financial Services Appropriations Bill. The letter can be found at: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/public-policy/upload/DC-OSP-Approps-Ltr-House-March-2015.pdf, and
www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/public-policy/upload/DC-OSP-Approps-Ltr-Senate-March-2015.pdf

May 13, 2015
BISHOPS’ INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE AND PEACE COMMITTEE
OFFERS POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR TARGETED KILLING BY DRONES

 
WASHINGTON — The practice of targeted killings by unmanned drones should be limited by international standards, be transparent and guided by an awareness of how the practice affects conflict around the world, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a letter to National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The May 11 letter from Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, noted the ongoing concerns of bishops around the “serious moral questions” raised by drone strikes, and shared a policy framework that had been adopted by the bishops’ committee.
 
Bishop Cantú wrote, “Since the United States has led in the use of armed drones, it should take the lead in advancing international policies, standards and restrictions on the production, use and proliferation of drones in general, and of armed drones in targeted killings in particular. As weapons technology becomes more sophisticated, the need for an internationally recognized ethical and moral framework governing their use becomes more urgent.”
 
The framework notes that drone strikes should occur only in areas of active protracted conflict where war has been declared or where there is multilateral agreement to take action, when a threat is imminent, and the use of force if proportionate and a last resort. It also raises concerns about the decision-making processes behind drone strikes, civilian casualties and the long-term fueling of hostilities toward the United States.
 
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/arms-trade/upload/letter-to-nsa-rice-from-bishop-cantu-re-drones-policy-framework-2015-05-11.pdf

May 12, 2015
U.S. BISHOPS TO MEET JUNE 10-12 IN ST. LOUIS; HEAR PRESENTATIONS
ON SYNOD, FAMILY, STRATEGIC PLAN, ENCYCLICAL THEMES

 
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will gather for their annual Spring General Assembly, June 10-12, in St. Louis. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, will present a summary to the bishops on the consultation of U.S. dioceses for the 2015 Synod on the Family. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., will give an update on the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which Pope Francis will attend on his September Apostolic Journey to the United States.
 
Alice and Jeffrey Heinzen of the Diocee of La Crosse, Wisconsin, will give one of three presentations by married couples on marriage and family. The Heinzens were observers to the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family. The other presenters are Lucia and Ricardo Luzondo, directors of Hispanic Outreach for Marriage Builders, and Claire and John Grabowski, Ph.D., members of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Curtis Martin, founder and CEO of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), will speak on messaging the Gospel to young people.
 
Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications, will unveil new digital resources available to U.S. bishops and dioceses. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, will lead a discussion on themes associated with the anticipated encyclical by Pope Francis on ecology. Archbishop Wenski will also give an update on a planned 2017 convocation by the Bishops’ Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person.
 
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, will present on the Conference’s marriage policy efforts ahead of the anticipated decision by the U.S Supreme Court. Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, MSpS, of Seattle will give an update on USCCB’s ongoing work in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. Bishop Elizondo, who chairs the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America and the Committee on Migration, will join Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, California, for an update on immigration reform.
 
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houson, USCCB vice president, will provide an update on the work to update the bishops’ quadrennial statement on political responsibility, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the bishops’ liaison to World Youth Day, will give an update on World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow. Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, will report on the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Summit, to be held in St. Louis ahead of the bishops’ meeting.
 
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, USCCB secretary and chairman of the Committee on Priorities and Plans, along with Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, secretary-elect, will lead a discussion on feedback on the bishops’ recommended priorities for the 2017-2020 planning cycle. The bishops will vote on the strategic priorities for the next planning cycle.
 
The bishops will also debate and vote on revised Canticles for the Liturgy of the Hours for use in U.S. dioceses and whether to seek renewal of a five-year recognitio from the Vatican for the Program of Priestly Formation, Fifth Edition.

May 11, 2015
USCCB COMMITTEE ON MIGRATION ISSUES REPORT ON IMMIGRANT DETENTION

WASHINGTON — The U.S. immigrant detention system, which treats vulnerable immigrant detainees as criminals, needs extensive reforms, said representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Center for Migration Studies, May 11, as they released a report and policy recommendations. They urged Congress and the administration to build a system that affords due process protections, honors human dignity and minimizes the use of detentions.
 
 “It is time for our nation to reform this inhumane system, which unnecessarily detains persons, especially vulnerable populations, who are no threat to us and who should be afforded due process and legal protections,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. Such vulnerable groups include asylum-seekers, families and children, and victims of human trafficking.
 
The report, “Unlocking Human Dignity:  A Plan to Transform the U.S. Immigrant Detention System,” was written and produced by the Center for Migration Studies (CMS), a Catholic-based educational institute that studies migration, and Migration and Refugee Services of USCCB.
 
“The presumption is to detain immigrants as a management, enforcement and deterrence tool rather than to make individual custody determinations based on family and community ties” Bishop Elizondo said. “This has resulted in the long-term detention of asylum-seekers, victims of human trafficking, survivors of torture, and, now, young mothers with children.” Statistics from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicate that as many as 34,000 immigrants are detained each day and over 400,000 each year.
 
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, member of the committee and chair of CMS, pointed to the availability of alternatives to detention, such as community-based case management models, which are proven to be both cost-effective and successful in ensuring that immigrants appear at their court proceedings.
 
“There are ways to create a humane system and also ensure that immigrants are complying with the law,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “But we have created a detention industry in this country which preys upon the vulnerability of our fellow human beings, the vast majority of whom are not criminals.”
 
Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies, pointed to the prevalence of for-profit companies, which view detention as a business opportunity, in administering detention facilities. “Detention policy, which directly impacts the human rights and dignity of persons, should not be driven by a profit motive. Detention wastes not only government funds, but the human potential of hundreds of thousands of persons each year,” Kerwin said.
 
The report, which contains recommendations for changing the current detention system, can be found at http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/upload/unlocking-human-dignity.pdf

April 28, 2015
USCCB PRESIDENT COMMENTS ON SUPREME COURT'S ORAL ARGUMENTS ON MARRIAGE

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments April 28, on the constitutionality of states defining and recognizing marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
 
Commenting on the oral arguments before the Court, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said, “Today is a moment of great consequence. Marriage is a perennial institution, with deep roots in who we are and in our nation’s culture and laws. Marriage is and always will be the union between one man and one woman. This truth is inseparable from the duty to honor the God-given dignity of every human person. We pray that the justices will uphold the responsibility of states to protect the beautiful truth of marriage, which concerns the essential well-being of the nation, especially children. Children have a basic right, wherever possible, to know and be loved by their mother and father together. The Church will always defend this right and looks to people of good will to continue this debate with charity and civility.”
 
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June.

April 27, 2015
POPE NAMES BISHOP OF SALT LAKE CITY AS ARCHBISHOP OF SANTA FE;
ACCEPTS RESIGNATION OF ARCHBISHOP MICHAEL SHEEHAN

 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, 64, as Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Michael Sheehan, 75, from pastoral governance of that diocese.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, April 27, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
John C. Wester was born November 5, 1950, in San Francisco. He earned a bachelor’s degree (1972) from Saint Patrick College, in Mountain View, California, and a master’s in divinity (1976) from St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, California. He also holds a master’s in spirituality (1984) from the University of San Francisco, and a master’s (1993) from Holy Names College, in Oakland.
 
He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco on May 15, 1976.
 
Following ordination, he held numerous assignments including associate pastor of Saint Raphael Parish in San Rafael, California (1976-1979). He served as faculty member, then director of campus ministry, and president of Marin Catholic High School, in Kentfield, California (1979-1986). He was appointed assistant superintendent for high schools for the Archdiocese of San Francisco (1986-1988), and administrative assistant to Archbishop John R. Quinn (1988-1993). He was appointed vicar for clergy in the Archdiocese of San Francisco (1997-2007).
 
In 1998, he was ordained auxiliary bishop of San Francisco and appointed to serve as vicar general. From 2005-2006, Bishop Wester served as the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese. On January 8, 2007, he was named bishop of Salt Lake City and was installed on March 14, 2007. He is chairman of the USCCB Communications Committee.
 
Michael J. Sheehan was born July 9, 1939 in Wichita, Kansas, and ordained a priest of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, on July 12, 1964. He was appointed bishop of Lubbock on March 29, 1993. Pope John Paul II appointed him as archbishop of Santa Fe on August 17, 1993 and was installed on September 21, 1993.
 
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe comprises 61,142 square miles in the State of New Mexico. It has a total population of 1,295,074 people, of whom 323,850, or 25 percent, are Catholic.

April 24, 2015
POPE NAMES HARRISBURG JUDICIAL VICAR AS BISHOP OF GREENSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Father Edward C. Malesic, 54, bishop of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and accepted the resignation of Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt, 76, from pastoral governance of that diocese. Father Malesic is a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and judicial vicar of that diocese.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, April 24, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
Edward C. Malesic was born August 14, 1960. He received a bachelor’s degree (1983) and a master’s in divinity (1987) from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg on May 30, 1987.
 
Following ordination, he served as assistant pastor of St. Theresa Parish in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania (1987-1989), and St. Rose of Lima Parish in York, Pennsylvania (1989-1992). He served as campus minister at York College of Pennsylvania (1989-1992) and Millersville University of Pennsylvania (1992-1996). He has served, first as administrator, then pastor at Holy Infant Parish in York Haven, Pennsylvania since 2004.
 
Bishop-elect Malesic holds a licentiate in Canon Law from The Catholic University of America. He served as an auditor in the ecclesiastical tribunal (1996-1998) and as defender of the bond and canonical consulter for the tribunal (1998-2000). He has served as judicial vicar and secretary of canonical services since 2006.
 
Lawrence E. Brandt was born March 27, 1939 in Charleston, West Virginia, and ordained a priest of Erie, Pennsylvania, on December 19, 1969. Pope John Paul II appointed him bishop of Greensburg on January 2, 2004. He was ordained a bishop March 4 of that year.
 
The Diocese of Greensburg comprises 3,334 square miles in the State of Pennsylvania. It has a total population of 665,682 people, of whom 144,169, or 22 percent, are Catholic.

April 23, 2015
USCCB OFFICIAL URGES CONGRESS TO IMPROVE IN-COUNTRY
REFUGEE PROGRAM FOR CENTRAL AMERICAN MINORS

 
WASHINGTON—The Central American Minors (CAM) program, a new initiative of the U.S. government which allows children in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to apply for asylum and humanitarian parole in the United States from their home countries, is a tool that helps save children’s lives, said a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) representative, April 23.
 
“This program is an important tool which offers protection to children threatened by violence from organized crime networks. It also prevents them from taking the dangerous journey to the United States at the mercy of unscrupulous smugglers. It could literally save their lives,” said Anastasia K. Brown, interim executive director for USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest. The hearing was held to examine the program and discuss outcomes.
 
The CAM program was launched in response to the unprecedented number of children fleeing violence in the northern triangle region of Central America. Almost 70,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in the United States from the region last year. It is estimated that up to 40,000 children could arrive in the United States in 2015.
 
Brown stated that the CAM program should be considered one part of a multi-dimensional approach to child migration from the region. Other elements, she said, include strengthening asylum and child welfare systems in neighboring countries and addressing the push factors, such as violence and the lack of opportunity, in Central America.
 
“The CAM program is not a substitute for a comprehensive approach which requires other nations, such as Mexico, to provide refugee protection to these children,” she said. “Moreover, we must not overlook the need to help these nations address the violence and poverty which drive children and families to make the desperate decision to migrate.”
 
Brown offered several recommendations to make the program work more efficiently and to serve those most in need, including assuring access to the program, assuring safety of children during processing and streamlining the application process.

She also urged members of Congress to not repeal current legal protections for unaccompanied children from Central America and to base U.S. policy on child welfare and refugee protection principles.
 
“In the end, U.S. policy must be based upon the best interests of these children, who are extremely vulnerable, and not upon enforcement measures designed to prevent them from migrating or to more easily deport them,” she said.  “To deny them protection and to return them to danger violates American values of due process and protection from persecution, not to mention international legal standards,” she concluded.
Her testimony can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/congressional-testimony/upload/Anastasia-Brown-Testimony-CAM.pdf

April 23, 2015
FAITH LEADERS REAFFIRM COMMITMENT TO MARRIAGE AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
 
WASHINGTON — A few days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the rights of states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, more than 30 religious leaders representing diverse faith communities throughout the United States have reaffirmed their shared commitment to marriage and religious freedom. An open letter entitled “The Defense of Marriage and the Right of Religious Freedom: Reaffirming a Shared Witness” was issued to all in positions of public service on April 23.
 
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), signed the open letter and was joined by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty; and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.
 
“We hope this letter serves as an encouragement to all of us, especially those dedicated to public service, to continue to promote both marriage and religious freedom as integral to a healthy and free society,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “Marriage as the union of one man and one woman provides the best context for the birth and rearing of children and should be specially protected by law. The law, when it upholds the unique meaning of marriage, is simply recognizing an objective reality, not constructing one: children always have a mother and a father and deserve to be loved and raised by both of them. Society should work to strengthen the unique bond between husband and wife, knowing that strong marriages build stronger communities.”
 
The religious leaders stressed the need for civility and mutual respect, writing, “Government should protect the rights of those with differing views of marriage to express their beliefs and convictions without fear of intimidation, marginalization or unwarranted charges that their values imply hostility, animosity, or hatred of others.”
 
The leaders close with a statement of their duty and love towards all: “In this and in all that we do, we are motivated by our duty to love God and neighbor. This love extends to all those who disagree with us on this issue. The well-being of men, women, and the children they conceive compels us to stand for marriage as between one man and one woman.”
 
The letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Open-Letter-on-Marriage-and-Religious-Freedom-April-2015.pdf and follows two previous open letters: “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment,” issued December 6, 2010, and “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together,” issued January 12, 2012, which are available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/ecumenical-and-interreligious-activities.cfm.

April 23, 2015
POPE NAMES GALVESTON-HOUSTON PRIEST AS BISHOP OF VICTORIA, TEXAS
 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Father Brendan Cahill, 51, a priest of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, bishop of Victoria, Texas, and accepted the resignation of Bishop David E. Fellhauer, 75, from pastoral governance of that diocese.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, April 23, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
Brendan Cahill was born November 28, 1963, in Coral Gables, Florida. He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master of divinity from the University of St. Thomas in Houston in 1985 and 1990, respectively.
 
Following ordination, he served as parochial vicar of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Houston (1990-1992) and Christ the Good Shepherd in Spring, Texas (1992-1998). He earned a master’s degree in Black Catholic Studies from Xavier University, New Orleans, in 1993, and a doctor of sacred theology from the Gregorian University, Rome, in 1998. He served on the formation faculty (1998-2001) and later as rector (2001-2010) of St. Mary Seminary in Houston. Since 2010, he has served as director of the Secretariat for Clergy Formation and Chaplaincy Services of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
 
Bishop-elect Cahill speaks English, Spanish and Italian, with a working knowledge of French and German.
 
David E. Fellhauer was born August 19, 1939, in Kansas City, Missouri, and ordained a priest of the then-Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth on May 29, 1965. He was appointed bishop of Victoria on April 7, 1990, and ordained a bishop on May 28 of that year.
 
The Diocese of Victoria comprises 9,609 square miles in the State of Texas and has a total population of 288,101 people, of which 103,428, or 36 percent, are Catholic.

April 22, 2015
CATHOLIC COMMUNICATION CAMPAIGN CONNECTS PEOPLE WITH THE CHURCH

WASHINGTON —The 2015 Catholic Communications Campaign (CCC) will be taken up in many dioceses the weekend of May 16-17. This collection helps support evangelization efforts at home and abroad through a variety of communications platforms, including the Internet, radio, print and social media.
 
In the Diocese of Lake Charles, half of the total contributions made for the appeal remain in this local church of Southwest Louisiana to aid the communications efforts, such as the Catholic Calendar, the diocesan website, radio ministry, and Glad Tidings, the weekly television program. From the 2014 collection, that amount was $14,433.40.
 
“With digital media taking an increased role in our daily lives, it is important that the Church continues using these new mediums as a way to connect with people. This collection makes many communications projects possible and breathes new life into our evangelization efforts,” said Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) CCC subcommittee. “Through this collection we can continue to bring people together and encourage discussions and conversations about the faith. Through the work of these projects, distance becomes a smaller obstacle to reaching the faithful.”
 
The USCCB-sponsored website For Your Marriage (www.foryourmarriage.org) provides advice and witness stories to help couples at every stage of their journey, from dating to marriage and parenting. Funding from the CCC helps ensure that couples continue to receive information and tools to strengthen their marriages and grow together in holiness.
 
In Ukraine, a CCC grant has assisted Catholic university students living amid violence and protests in Lviv and Kiev to be an active voice for peace and reconciliation. In Africa, CCC is assisting the Kenyan Conference of Catholic Bishops to develop a long-term plan that will provide Catholic content over a radio network and other evangelization resources to help the faith life in local communities to flourish.

April 14, 2015
ARCHBISHOP KURTZ PAYS TRIBUTE TO FORMER USCCB PRESIDENT CARDINAL GEORGE
 
WASHINGTON — Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, retired archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from 2007-2010, was an exemplary servant of the Church, distinguished by his kindness and intellect, said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of USCCB.
 
Cardinal George, who retired in 2014, died April 17, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 78.
 
Archbishop Kurtz’s statement follows:
 
“The death of an exemplary churchman such as Cardinal Francis George brings much sadness at a time of joy and resurrection. We find peace in knowing that, after so much suffering, he has been raised up with our Lord. As archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Cardinal George led as a kindly servant and unmatched intellectual, a man who encouraged everyone to see how God makes us all brother and sister to one another. I join with my brother bishops in thanking God for the gift of his witness and invite all to pray for the faithful repose of his soul.”

April 15, 2015
CATHOLIC LEADERS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR SMARTER SENTENCING, CORRECTIONS ACTS
 
WASHINGTON — Two pieces of legislation amount to a step in the right direction toward meaningful criminal justice reform, said the bishop who chairs the Domestic Justice and Human Development Committee of the U.S. bishops and the president-elect of Catholic Charities USA in two letters to the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee, April 14.
 
“Rigid sentencing policies for non-violent offenses are costly, ineffective and can be detrimental to the good of persons, families and communities. Prolonged incarceration contributes to family instability and poverty,” wrote Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Dominican Sister Donna Markham in their letter to Senators Charles Grassley and Patrick Leahy, supporting the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 (S. 502/H.R. 920). The bill would expand judicial sentencing options for non-violent drug offenses, permit certain drug offenders to seek sentence reductions, and promote recidivism reduction programs.
 
Archbishop Wenski and Sister Markham also voiced support for the Corrections Oversight, Recidivism Reduction, and Eliminating Costs for Tax-payers in Our National System Act of 2015 (CORRECTIONS Act, S.467), which promotes recidivism reduction by requiring lower-risk prisoners to participate in re-entry training programs with faith-based, community and non-profit organizations in order to earn up to 25 percent of their sentences.
 
“While these proposals are modest, they highlight the long overdue need in our country to reform our broken criminal justice system,” said Archbishop Wenski.
 
The Smarter Sentencing Act letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/usccb-ccusa-letter-to-senate-judiciary-on-smarter-sentencing-act-2015-04-14.cfm
 
The CORRECTIONS Act letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/usccb-ccusa-letter-to-senate-judiciary-on-corrections-act-2015-04-14.cfm

April 14, 2015
BISHOP CANTÚ URGES HOUSE SUPPORT FOR INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT
 
WASHINGTON — Violent conflicts in Syria, Iraq, the Holy Land, Libya, Nigeria and Kenya exemplify why Congress should support a bill that would advance international religious freedom, said the bishop who chairs the International Justice and Peace Committee of the U.S. Bishops.
 
“Passage of H.R. 1150 would be an important first step in improving the ability of our nation to advance religious freedom globally. It would signify the determination of the United States to promote and protect this most fundamental of human rights,” wrote Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, in his April 10 letter to the House of Representatives.
 
The Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2015 (H.R. 1150),  a bipartisan bill introduced by Representatives Chris Smith (R–N.J.) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), would protect religious freedom through increased interagency coordination; sanctions against countries, individuals and non-state actors; expanded diplomatic training and foreign assistance; and the reauthorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom through 2021.
 
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/letter-to-house-supporting-international-religious-freedom-act-2015-04-10.cfm

April 13, 2015
TWO STORYBOOKS TO HELP ELEMENTARY STUDENTS PUT FAITH IN ACTION
 
WASHINGTON — Two illustrated storybooks offer elementary school-aged children, their parents and teachers examples of how to put their faith in action and participate in solutions to important problems related to the life and dignity of others. The books provide much-needed resources in Catholic social teaching for this age group and are accompanied by age-appropriate learning resources.
 
“Green Street Park” is a story about a young boy, his family, and community, who learn to care for God’s creation and their own neighborhood by imitating the model of St. Francis of Assisi. In “Drop by Drop,” students at a Catholic school “journey” across the world to Burkina Faso, West Africa, and learn how a lack of water affects the lives of children there. The students learn about the work of Catholic Relief Services, see how the problem gets solved, and make a plan to help.
 
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has published the books through Loyola Press.  
 
“These beautifully illustrated books are a true treasure for parents as well as all educators in teaching children how they, as the followers of Jesus, can solve problems affecting human life and dignity in our backyards and half a world away,” said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the bishops’ domestic anti-poverty program.
 
Bishop Soto added, “The Story of ‘Green Street Park’ shows the practical beauty of Jesus’ words in Mark’s Gospel, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand.’ And ‘Drop by Drop’ is a beautiful metaphor for justice that will roll like a river. The story will help young and old plumb their faith as well as their imagination for the untapped resources of the Spirit seeking to renew the face of the earth.”
 
With “Care for God’s creation” a prominent theme in both books, they also serve as a resource to help families, parishes and schools prepare for the release of Pope Francis’ anticipated encyclical on environmental stewardship.
 
“These books help our children realize and understand the connection to their peers at home and around the world. It’s a perspective that is essential to growing into globally aware adults who care about their brothers and sisters everywhere and the environment we live in,” said Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian aid agency of the Catholic community in the U.S.
 
During the week of Earth Day, April 20-24, 2015, the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services will hold a social media contest and give away some free copies.
 
Also available are “black line masters,” or online educational supplements for teachers to use as worksheets with their classes, as well as “Pray Me a Story” reflections for use with the books.
 
The books can be ordered online at www.loyolapress.com/twofeetoflove.
 
Editors: Additional information about the books, along with images to download for sharing, are at www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/two-feet-storybooks.cfm.

April 13, 2015
BISHOP CANTÚ BACKS IRAN FRAMEWORK IN LETTERS TO KERRY, CONGRESS
 
WASHINGTON — The adoption of a framework for Iran’s nuclear program is a step “important in advancing a peaceful resolution of the serious questions that have been raised regarding Iran’s nuclear program,” said the bishop who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace Committee of the U.S. bishops in letters to Secretary of State John Kerry, April 8, and Congress, April 13.
 
“The alternative to an agreement leads toward armed conflict, an outcome of profound concern to the Church,” wrote Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico. “We welcome the most recent step the United States and its international partners has taken with Iran. We encourage our nation to continue down this path. Now is the time for dialogue and building bridges which foster peace and greater understanding.”
 
Bishop Cantú noted that Pope Francis prayed for the success of the framework as a step “toward a more secure and fraternal world,” April 5, and that the bishops’ International Justice and Peace Committee had long advocated for diplomacy and dialogue to ensure nuclear nonproliferation in Iran.
 
The letter to Secretary Kerry is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/iran/letter-to-secretary-of-state-kerry-from-bishop-cantu-on-iran-negotiations-2015-04-08.cfm
 

The letter to Congress is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/iran/letter-to-congress-on-iran-negotiations-2015-04-13.cfm

April 7, 2015
ORDINATION CLASS OF 2015 SHOWS INCREASE
IN NUMBER ORDAINED, REFLECTS POSITIVE IMPACT OF
SUPPORT FROM FAMILIES, CATHOLIC SCHOOLS, PARISH PRIESTS


WASHINGTON — The 2015 class of men ordained to the priesthood report that they were, on average, about 17 when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood and encouraged to consider a vocation by an average of four people. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say they were encouraged by a parish priest, as well as friends (46 percent), parishioners (45 percent), and mothers (40 percent). On average, they lived in the diocese or eparchy for which they will be ordained for 15 years before entering seminary. Religious ordinands knew the members of their religious institute an average of six years before entering.
 
The total number of potential ordinands for the class of 2015, 595, is up from from 477 in 2014 and 497 in 2013.
 
The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) gathered the date for “The Class of 2015: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood.” CARA collects the data annually for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. Approximately 69 percent of the 595 potential ordinands reported to CARA. These 411 respondents include 317 ordinands to the diocesan priesthood, from 120 different dioceses and archdioceses, and 94 ordinands to the religious priesthood.
 
The full report can be found online: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/ordination-class/index.cfm
 
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, found that the data gave reason for hope but also provide areas for further growth.

“It is encouraging to see the slight increase in the number of ordinations this year in the United States,” Bishop Burbidge said. “When asked about the positive influences they encountered while discerning the call, those to be ordained responded that the support from their family, parish priest, and Catholic schools ranked very high.”
 
Father W. Shawn McKnight, executive director of the Secretariat, cited educational debt as a growing concern. “Over 26 percent of those ordained carried educational debt at the time they entered the seminary, averaging a little over $22,500 in educational debt at entrance to the seminary. Considering the high percentage of the men ordained already having earned an undergraduate degree, it will be important to find ways to assist in debt reduction in the future.”
 
Among the survey’s major findings:

  • The average age for the Class of 2015 is 34. The median age (midpoint of the distribution) is 31. Eight in 10 respondents are between 25 and 39. This distribution is slightly younger than in 2014, but follows the pattern in recent years of average age at ordination in the mid-thirties.
  • Two-thirds (69 percent) report their primary race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white. Compared to the adult Catholic population of the United States, they are more likely to be of Asian or Pacific Islander background (10 percent of responding ordinands), but less likely to be Hispanic/Latino (14 percent of responding ordinands). Compared to diocesan ordinands, religious ordinands are less likely to report their race or ethnicity as Caucasian/European American/white.
  • One-quarter (25 percent) were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria, Poland and Vietnam. On average, respondents born in another country have lived in the United States for 12 years. Between 20 and 30 percent of ordinands to diocesan priesthood for each of the last ten years were born outside of the United States.
  • Most ordinands have been Catholic since infancy, although 7 percent became Catholic later in life. Eighty-four percent report that both of their parents are Catholic and more than a third (37 percent) have a relative who is a priest or a religious.
  • More than half completed college (60 percent) before entering the seminary. One in seven (15 percent) entered the seminary with a graduate degree. One in three (34 percent) report entering the seminary while in college. The most common fields of study for ordinands before entering the seminary are theology or philosophy (20 percent), liberal arts (19 percent), and science (13 percent).
  • Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a rate higher than that of all Catholic adults in the United States. In addition, ordinands are somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (45 percent, compared to 7 percent among U.S. Catholic adults).
  • Six in ten ordinands (61 percent) report some type of full-time work experience prior to entering the seminary, most often in education. Four percent of responding ordinands report prior service in the U.S. Armed Forces. About one in six ordinands (16 percent) report that either parent had a military career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Eight in 10 (78 percent) indicate they served as an altar server and about half (51 percent) reporting service as a lector. One in seven (14 percent) participated in a World Youth Day before entering the seminary.
  • About seven in 10 report regularly praying the rosary (70 percent) and participating in Eucharistic adoration (70 percent) before entering the seminary.
  • Almost half (48 percent) indicated that they were discouraged from considering the priesthood. On average, two individuals are said to have discouraged them.

April 2, 2015
FATHER RALH O'DONNELL NAMED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF
USCCB CLERGY, CONSECRATED LIFE AND VOCATIONS

 
WASHINGTON — Father Ralph B. O’Donnell has been appointed executive director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The appointment is effective July 1. Father O’Donnell, 45, is a priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, and has served as associate director of the secretariat since the beginning of the year. He succeeds Father W. Shawn McKnight, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, who has served as executive director since 2010.
 
“Father O’Donnell brings a wonderful blend of experience to the work of supporting clergy and religious life, from his service as a pastor to his work in vocations, the permanent diaconate and seminary formation. This will be a great benefit to the Conference, especially as the Church observes a year dedicated to the gifts of men and women religious,” said Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, USCCB general secretary, who made the appointment.
 
Father O’Donnell holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri (1993), a master’s of divinity from St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois (1997) and a master’s in spirituality from Creighton University in Omaha (2000). He was ordained on June 7, 1997. After ordination, he has served as associate pastor of Mary Our Queen Parish (1997-2001) and St. Vincent de Paul Parish (2001-2003) in Omaha, chaplain of the Omaha chapter of Legatus (2001-2011), vocation director for the Archdiocese of Omaha (2003-2008), pastor of St. Bridget and St. Rose Parishes in Omaha (2008-2011), director of the permanent diaconate for the Archdiocese of Omaha (2008-2011), vice rector/dean of students for Conception Seminary College (2011-2015).
 
The USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations assists the bishops in promoting, supporting and educating about the Church’s pastoral needs and concerns for the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. The committee, which is currently chaired by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, develops foundational documents and appropriate resources that promote the effective ministry of priests, religious and vocations. It also plays a lead role in the United States promoting the Year of Consecrated Life, which began November 30, 2014, and will close on World Day of Consecrated Life, February 2, 2016.


 

 
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