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Tuesday, 19 May 2015 09:26

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


 


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.

March 31, 2015
POPE NAMES BISHOP OF BYZANTINE EPARCHY OF PIANO DEGLI ALBANESI IN PALERMO
 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Father George D. Gallaro, 67, a priest of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Massachusetts, as bishop of the Byzantine Eparchy of Piano degli Albanesi in Palermo, Italy. Father Gallaro currently serves as professor of Canon Law at St. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Seminary in Pittsburgh and as judicial vicar of the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, March 31, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
George D. Gallaro was born January 16, 1948, in Pozuolo, Sicily. He received a bachelor’s in philosophy from the Seminario Diocesano Noto, Italy, in 1968. He received a certificate in liturgical theology from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Rome, in 1980, a doctorate in Eastern Church Law from the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, in 1981, and a licentiate in ecumenical theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome, in 1994.
 
He was ordained May 27, 1972, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and incardinated in the Greek-Melkite Eparchy of Newton in September 1987. He served as a parochial vicar and instructor of catechesis in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For the Melkite Eparchy, he served in the marriage tribunal (1982-1986), as a seminary instructor (1982-1991), secretary to Archbishop Joseph Tawil (1983-1990), judicial vicar (1986-1992), chancellor and eparchial consultor (1983-1992). He was a member and collaborator of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 1992-1994 and rector of St. Gregory Melkite Seminary in Newton from 1994-1996.
 
Bishop-elect Gallaro is the author of dozens of articles, dealing largely with issues from the perspective of Eastern Catholics, including ecumenism, marriage and Canon Law. He is a member of the Canon Law Society of America and the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches. He speaks English, Italian, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, some Albanian and Portuguese, and a little Arabic.
 
The Byzantine Eparchy of Piano degli Albanesi has been vacant since the retirement of Bishop Sotír Ferrara in April 2013.

March 30, 2015
EASTER VIGIL TO BRING THOUSANDS INTO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ACROSS THE U.S.

WASHINGTON — Thousands of people across the United States will be welcomed into the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter vigil, April 4, including a retired Marine captain who appeared on the cover of National Geographic, a woman from The Gambia now living in the Pacific Northwest and a woman from Pittsburgh whose faith journey has drawn her own mother back to the Church.
 
According to the 2014 Official Catholic Directory, there were 39,654 catechumens, or those being baptized, confirmed and receiving first Communion, and 66,831 candidates received into full Communion with the Catholic Church in the United States in 2013, the most recent year for which this data is available. Over 50 of the nearly 200 dioceses in the United States reported numbers for 2015 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
 
In the Diocese of Oakland, California, Aaron Tam, a retired Marine sergeant, will receive the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation and first Communion) at Easter Vigil, after twice having to delay his initiation into the Church due to deployments. Tam, who was seriously injured by a detonation during a tour of duty in Iraq, appeared on the cover of the February 2015 issue of National Geographic, dedicated to soldiers recovering from traumatic brain injuries. He is one of 349 catechumens in the Diocese of Oakland, along with 279 who are being received into full Communion.
 
Also in California, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest diocese in the United States, reports 1,828 catechumens being baptized this year.
 
Among the 665 adults to be baptized by the Archdiocese of Seattle, Amie Bensouda of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Sammamish, Washington, is a native of The Gambia. She was raised Muslim but exposed to the Catholic faith attending a school run by nuns, the only education available to her as a woman.
 
Among the 196 catechumens and 383 candidates in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, a woman named Becky is completing the sacraments of initiation after being baptized Catholic but never receiving a formal religious education. Becky will be confirmed and receive first Communion. Becky was accompanied by her fiancé through her journey, and they will be married in August. After she and her fiancé shared their experience with her mother, Becky made her first confession and her mother made her first confession in 25 years, March 16.
 
Also in Pennsylvania, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia reports 243 catechumens and 404 candidates for full Communion, the Diocese of Harrisburg reports 100 catechumens, and the Diocese of Allentown reports 96 catechumens and 256 candidates. In Ohio, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati reports 395 catechumens and 470 candidates, the Diocese of Columbus reports 232 catechumens and 300 candidates, and the Diocese of Youngstown reports 103 catechumens and 166 candidates.
 
The Archdiocese of Washington reports 623 catechumens and 694 candidates. The Archdiocese of Baltimore reports 207 catechumens and 400 candidates. The Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, reports 331 catechumens and 373 candidates. The Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, reports 94 catechumens and 103 candidates.
 
The Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, reports 600 catechumens and 700 candidates. In Florida, the Diocese of St. Petersburg reports 366 catechumens and 589 candidates, the Diocese of Palm Beach reports 228 catechumens and 493 candidates, and the Diocese of Orlando reports 491 catechumens. The Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, reports 126 catechumens and 257 candidates. The Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, reports 167 catechumens and 325 candidates.
 
In New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn reports 579 catechumens and 43 candidates, the Diocese of Rochester reports 139 catechumens and 152 candidates, the Diocese of Buffalo reports 86 catechumens and 128 candidates, and the Diocese of Syracuse reports 70 catechumens and 131 candidates. The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey reports 175 catechumens. The Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts reports 21 catechumens and 33 candidates. The Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, reports 85 catechumens and 82 candidates. The Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island reports 75 catechumens and 120 candidates.
 
In Kentucky, the Archdiocese of Louisville reports 225 catechumens and 296 candidates, and the Diocese of Owensboro reports 74 catechumens and 147 candidates. The Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, reports 57 catechumens and 166 candidates. The Diocese of Little Rock reports 226 catechumens and 341 candidates. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, reports 141 catechumens and 155 candidates.
 
In Louisiana, the Diocese of Lafayette reports 82 catechumens and 122 candidates, the Diocese of Shreveport reports 45 catechumens and 87 candidates, and the Diocese of Lake Charles reports 64 catechumens and 118 candidates. The Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi, reports 76 catechumens and 112 candidates. The Diocese of Austin, Texas, reports 317 catechumens and 419 candidates. The Diocese of Salt Lake City reports 257 catechumens and 142 candidates.
 
In Illinois, Diocese of Joliet reports 114 catechumens and 196 candidates, and the Diocese of Peoria reports 105 catechumens and 232 candidates. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, reports 208 catechumens and 217 candidates. In Michigan, the Diocese of Grand Rapids reports 190 catechumens and 249 candidates, and the Diocese of Marquette reports 34 catechumens and 42 candidates. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee reports 180 catechumens and 245 candidates. The Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, reports nine catechumens and 52 candidates. The Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, reports 18 catechumens and 77 candidates.
 
The Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, reports 105 catechumens and 250 candidates. The Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, reports 90 catechumens and 163 candidates. The Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas, reports 82 catechumens and 56 candidates.
 
More information on the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) process is available online: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/who-we-teach/rite-of-christian-initiation-of-adults/index.cfm

March 30, 2015
CATHOLIC HOME MISSIONS APPEAL STRENGTHENS CHURCH IN THE U.S.
 
WASHINGTON — The 2015 annual Catholic Home Missions Appeal will be taken up in many dioceses the weekend of April 25-26. This appeal helps to sustain nearly 45 percent of all dioceses and eparchies in rural, struggling areas in the country and in a number of U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.
 
Catholic Home Missions (CHM), Strengthening the Church at Home, helps to support evangelization, catechesis, seminarian education, lay ministry training, Hispanic ministry, and other pastoral programs for dioceses in need. The Appeal is a significant source of support to bolster domestic Catholic pastoral programs. “It can be surprising to hear about the great need of many of our dioceses here in the United States. For those who have never experienced life in a mission diocese it can be hard to imagine not having access to a priest or basic materials to teach the faith,” said Bishop Peter F. Christensen of Boise, Idaho, chairman of the  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions. “This collection supports our neighbors here at home and provides for their spiritual needs.”
 
Last year, the USCCB Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions approved more than $9 million in grants for 2015. The Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, is one of the 83 dioceses that received a grant. It is using CHM funds to provide basic catechesis materials to Spanish-speaking Catholics, to conduct a ministry program for deaf children and their families, and to support the work of a few priests on four Native American reservations serving over 24,000 people.
 
In the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, the Catholic population is less than 3 percent, and in rural areas, many priests serve three or four parishes. A grant from Catholic Home Missions funded St. Barnabas School in Birmingham, where the students are primarily African American and Hispanic and many are non-Catholic and from low-income families. The grant supports the school’s mission of providing high-quality education for all of its students, creates community, evangelizes, and helps bridge racial divides.
 
With a grant from Catholic Home Missions, the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, is training seven seminarians for the priesthood. They will return to the diocese to assist in evangelization efforts and pastoral tasks currently shared by only 36 active and 12 retired priests, across 14 counties, serving nearly 35,000 Catholics.

March 27, 2015
CATHOLIC, EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN BISHOPS VISIT TEXAS
DETENTION FACILITY, CALL FOR AN END TO DETENTION OF FAMILIES

 
WASHINGTON — Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran bishops visited with young mothers and children who have fled violence in their home countries and are now incarcerated at Dilley Detention Center in Dilley, Texas, on March 27. The faith leaders called upon the federal government to halt the practice of family detentions, citing the harmful effects on mothers, children and the moral character of society.
 
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, Texas, whose archdiocese includes Dilley, was joined by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, and Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, Texas. Bishops Michael Rinehart and H. Julian Gordy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also joined them on the visit. Since last summer, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has detained hundreds of families at detention centers in New Mexico, Texas, and Pennsylvania, under a new family detention policy aimed at families fleeing violence in Central America.
 
“After this visit, my primary question is: Why? Why do we feel compelled to place in detention such vulnerable individuals –traumatized young mothers with children fleeing persecution in their home countries?” said Archbishop García-Siller following the visit. “A great nation such as ours need not incarcerate the most vulnerable in the name of deterrence. The moral character of a society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable in our midst. Our nation’s family detention policy is shameful and I implore our elected officials to end it."
 
Bishop Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, added: “The detention of families serves no purpose and undermines due process. It especially harms children, who experience emotional and psychological harm from detention. The policy is a stain on the administration’s record on immigration.”
 
Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, Texas, said humane alternatives to detention exist and should be used for the population.
 
“The government should consider placing these families in humane alternatives to detention, where they could live in the community and access needed services, including legal representation,” Bishop Tamayo said. “The Church is ready to assist in this effort.”
 
Information on the USCCB position on family detention can be found at www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/position-papers/upload/Family-Detention-Paper_Final_-3-19-15-2.pdf

March 20, 2015
CONGRESS URGED TO ACT FOR PROTECTION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
AND CONSCIENCE RIGHTS IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


WASHINGTON — By its recent approval of the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA), the Council of the District of Columbia ran afoul of federal law and constitutional principles, says a letter sent to Congress by six members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on March 20. The bishops are asking Congress to rescind these two pieces of legislation.
 
A copy of the letter may be found online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/ADW-USCCB-letter-DC-bills-3-20-15.pdf
 
“At issue is whether faith-based organizations should be forced to support activity they deem morally objectionable, such as funding elective abortions through their employee health plans, and whether religiously affiliated schools should be forced to endorse behavior contrary to their faith and moral convictions,” said Hillary Byrnes, USCCB assistant general counsel. “The council’s actions also raise the question whether an employer should be forced to hire an employee who has publicly denounced its mission. Equal protection does not mean compelling individuals or organizations to promote activity contrary to their beliefs.”
 
Signers of the letter are Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston (chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities), Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska (chair of the Committee on Catholic Education), Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York (chair of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth), Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco (chair of the Subcommittee on Promotion and Defense of Marriage) and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore (chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty).

April 20, 2015
POPE NAMES FATHER MARIO DORSONVILLE-RODRÍGUEZ AUXILIARY BISHOP OF WASHINGTON
 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis named Father Mario E. Dorsonville-Rodríguez, 54, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington. Bishop-elect Dorsonville-Rodríguez serves as vice president for mission of Catholic Charities and director of the Spanish Catholic Center of the Archdiocese of Washington.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, March 20, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
Mario Eduardo Dorsonville-Rodríguez was born October 31, 1960 in Bogotá, Colombia, the only child of Leonor Rodríguez Hogar and the late Carlos Dorsonville Zarate. He attended the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1981 and a bachelor’s in sacred theology in 1985. He was ordained to the priesthood on November 23, 1985 in Bogotá. Following ordination, he served as parochial vicar of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Bogotá (1986), chaplain of the National University of Colombia, Bogotá (1987), pastor of San Jose de Calasanz Parish, Bogotá (1987-1991), and associate chaplain (1988-1991) and professor of ethics (1990-1991) at the National University of Colombia.
 
He received a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá in 1991 and a doctorate in ministry from The Catholic University of America in 1995. From 1992-1994, he served as parochial vicar of Good Shepherd and Christ the Redeemer Parishes in Arlington, Virginia, and as a lecturer at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. He served as a professor at the Hispanic Apostolate of Arlington from 1993-1994. He returned to Colombia to serve as chaplain and professor of ethics to the National University of Colombia and professor of pastoral counseling and catechesis at the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá from 1995-1996.
 
He served parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish in Arlington (1996), Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bethesda, Maryland (1997-2004) and St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Hyattsville, Maryland (2004-2005). He has served as vice president for mission of Catholic Charities of Washington and director of the Spanish Catholic Center since 2005 and as adjunct spiritual director for St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington since 2011.
 
He has served as a member of the priest council of the Archdiocese of Washington since 2000 and a member of the College of Consultors of the archdiocese since 2011. He was a member of the board of directors for Carroll Publishing Company from 2000-2003. He completed an executive certificate in non-profit management course at Georgetown University in 2009 and served as a mentor for newly ordained priests from 2010-2011.
 
The Archdiocese of Washington is comprised of 2,104 square miles encompassing the District of Columbia and parts of the state of Maryland and has a total population of 2,867,377 people, of whom 630,823, or 22 percent, are Catholic. The archdiocese currently has two active auxiliary bishops, Bishop Martin D. Holley and Bishop Barry C. Knestout, and one retired auxiliary bishop, Bishop Francisco Gonzáles Valer. S.F., who retired in 2014.

March 19, 2015
CATHOLIC LEADERS URGE CONGRESS TO PROTECT HOUSING AND
AGRICULTURE FUNDING THAT SERVES POOR AND VULNERABLE PEOPLE


WASHINGTON — As it makes budget appropriations decisions, Congress should protect funding to housing and agriculture programs that serve poor and vulnerable people, said leaders of national Catholic social service providers, as well as the bishops who chair the U.S. bishops’ committees on domestic and international justice issues, in separate letters, March 19.
 
In letters to the leaders of the House and Senate Subcommittees on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president-elect of Catholic Charities USA, urged greater resources for programs that assist the elderly, people with disabilities, veterans and others afford housing.
 
“As Catholics, we believe that housing is a human right, and that society has a shared obligation to ensure that individuals and families have access to safe and affordable housing,” Archbishop Wenski and Sister Markham wrote.
 
The full letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/housing-homelessness/letters-to-appropriations-subcommittees-from-usccb-ccusa-fy-2016-thud-approps-2015-03-19.cfm
 
In letters to the leaders of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, Archbishop Wenski, Sister Markham, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Carolyn Y. Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, defended funding to programs including international food assistance and nutrition programs to women, infants and children.
 
“We urge you to protect and fund programs that feed hungry people, help the most vulnerable farmers, strengthen rural communities and promote good stewardship of God’s creation,” they wrote.
 
The full letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/agriculture-nutrition-rural-issues/letter-to-appropriations-committees-from-usccb-ccusa-crs-fy-2016-agriculture-approps-2015-03-19.cfm

March 19, 2015
LATIN AMERICAN BISHOPS PETITION INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
ON HUMAN RIGHTS TO HOLD MINING COMPANIES ACCOUNTABLE
FOR ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL HARM

 
WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Canadian governments must hold mining companies from their countries that operate in Latin America to laws and standards that protect indigenous communities and vulnerable groups, as well as local economies and the environment, said representatives of the bishops of Latin America in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), March 19. The hearing was held in response to a petition filed by the Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano (CELAM) and other member institutions of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, which represents bishops’ conferences, religious men and women and Catholic relief agencies throughout Latin America.
 
Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Peru and Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of Guatemala represented CELAM, along with Father Peter Hughes and Enrique Pinilla of its Department of Justice and Solidarity. Bishop Donald Bolen, who heads the Peace and Justice Commission at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), as well as Archbishop Timothy Broglio, archbishop for the Military Services, were present at the hearing to express support.
 
A petition provided an overview of the issues pertaining to extractives in a number of Latin American countries, outlining calamitous public health and environmental consequences of mining operations by U.S. and Canadian multinationals. The testimony at the hearing focused on six countries, Brazil ,Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico, and focused on key themes including violence and criminalization of human rights defenders and the need for a new model of sustainable development. Written statements of support from CCCB and USCCB were also presented at the hearing. The USCCB, through the work of its Committee on International Justice and Peace, has long been concerned about the implications of extractives and mining operations throughout the world, especially in Latin America.
 
The U.S. government, joined by Canada, “must do more to support the claims and interests of these affected communities. It must require that U.S. enterprises operating in these regions abide by the same standards of care for human life and ecology as apply to their operations in the United States,” said Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chair of the USCCB International Justice and Peace Committee, in his letter of support.
 
The full text of Bishop Cantú’s letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/letter-of-solidarity-to-celam-from-bishop-cantu-re-iachr-hearing-on-extractives-2015-03-17.cfm
 

Others participating in the hearing were Bishop Roque Paloschi of the Amazonian Commission of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference, as well as David Lovatón, Legal Advisor, and Mauricio López , Executive Secretary of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network. (http://redamazonica.org/)

March 12, 2015
POPE FRANCIS NAMES NEW BISHOPS OF SPOKANE AND LEXINGTON
 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Bishop Thomas A. Daly, 54, as bishop of Spokane, Washington, and Conventual Franciscan Father John Stowe, 48, as bishop of Lexington, Kentucky. Bishop Daly has served as auxiliary bishop of San Jose, California, since 2011. Bishop-elect Stowe is vicar provincial of the Conventual Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Consolation, Mount St. Francis, Indiana, and rector of the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio.
 
The appointments were publicized in Washington, March 12, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
Thomas A. Daly was born April 30, 1960, in San Francisco. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco in 1982; a master of divinity from St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, in 1987; and a master of education degree from Boston College in 1996. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1987. After ordination, he served as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Loretto Parish, 1987-1992; teacher and campus minister, Marin High School, 1992-2003; part-time chaplain, San Francisco Police Department, 1995-2003; and parochial vicar, St. Cecilia’s Church, 1995-1999.
 
He became vocations director for the archdiocese in 2002 and president of Marin Catholic High School in 2003, serving in both capacities until Pope Benedict XVI named him auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of San Jose on March 16, 2011. He was ordained a bishop May 25 of that year. In Spokane, he succeeds Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, who was appointed archbishop of Chicago, September 20, 2014.
 
The Diocese of Spokane comprises 24,356 square miles in eastern Washington state and has a total population of 830,641 people, of whom 107,983, or 13 percent, are Catholic.
 
John Stowe was born April 15, 1966, in Amherst, Ohio. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University in 1990; a master of divinity from Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, in 1993 and a licentiate in sacred theology from Jesuit School of Theology in 1995. He made his solemn profession to the Conventual Franciscans, Our Lady of Consolation Province, August 1, 1992, and was ordained September 16, 1995.
 
Following ordination, he served as associate pastor (1995-1997), administrator (1997-2000) and pastor (2000-2003) of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in El Paso, Texas. He served as vicar general (2003-2010) and chancellor (2008-2010) of the Diocese of El Paso, while also serving as administrator of Our Lady of the Valley Parish (2006-2010). He was elected vicar provincial and has served as rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation since 2010. In Lexington, he succeeds Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, who was appointed bishop of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 24, 2014.
 
The Diocese of Lexington comprises 16,423 square miles in eastern Kentucky and has a total population of 1,588,319 people, of whom 41,914, or three percent, are Catholic.

March 10, 2015
BISHOPS CALL FOR PRAYER AMIDST ‘STARK REALITY’ OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION, VIOLENCE
 
WASHINGTON — People of all faiths are called to pray for victims of religious persecution and violence and work to protect the marginalized and persecuted around the world, according to a statement of the Administrative Committee of the U.S. bishops, approved March 10. The bishops said Lent is a time for prayerfully reflecting on suffering.
 
“Let us use this season to unite with our suffering brothers and sisters and pray for them and with them in a special way,” they said. “With hope, let us pray for the day when we can all share in the joy and lasting peace of Christ’s resurrection.”
 
The Administrative Committee is chaired by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The committee consists of the elected chairs of the 16 standing committees, the elected representatives of 15 geographic regions, the chairman of Catholic Relief Services and the elected officers of USCCB.
 
Full text of the statement follows:
 
STATEMENT ON RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION
ADMINISTRATIVE COMMITTEE
UNITED STATES CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS
March 10, 2015
 
Upon learning of the death of 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIL terrorists, Pope Francis called their murder a “testimony which cries out to be heard.” On behalf of America’s Catholic Bishops, we pause to listen and invite people of all faiths to join us in prayer for those facing the stark reality of religious persecution in the Middle East and elsewhere. The testimony of those 21 brave and courageous martyrs does not stand alone as thousands of families – Christian and other religions – find themselves fleeing from horrific violence.
 
We urge all people of goodwill to work toward protections of the marginalized and persecuted.  In union with the local Churches and the Holy See, we call upon our nation to: work with the international community to intervene and protect the rights of religious minorities and civilians within the framework of international and humanitarian law; address political and economic exclusion that are exploited by extremists; and increase humanitarian and development assistance.
 
Lent is a season to meditate upon the Cross and unite ourselves even more closely with Christ’s suffering. Let us use this season to unite with our suffering brothers and sisters and pray for them and with them in a special way. With hope, let us pray for the day when we can all share in the joy and lasting peace of Christ’s resurrection.


March 9, 2015
INCLUSION ACT RECEIVES STRONG SUPPORT FROM THREE USCCB CHAIRMEN
 
WASHINGTON — Three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gave strong support for the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2015. The Act would forbid the federal government, and any state receiving federal funds for child welfare services, from taking adverse action against a provider that, for religious or moral reasons, declines to provide a child welfare social service.
 
“Our first and most cherished freedom, religious liberty, is to be enjoyed by all Americans, including child welfare providers who serve the needs of children – the most vulnerable members of society,” wrote Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; in letters of support to Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the U.S. Senate, who introduced the bill.
 
Highlighting the inclusivity of the legislation, the chairmen noted, “Rightly, the Inclusion Act protects the religious liberties and moral convictions of all child welfare providers. No providers are excluded by the Act.”
 
Some religious child welfare providers, including in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, have been excluded from carrying out adoption and foster care services because the providers act on their belief that children deserve to be placed with a married mother and father. The chairmen said, “The Inclusion Act would remedy this unjust discrimination by enabling all providers to serve the needs of parents and children in a manner consistent with the providers’ religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
 
Stressing that the Inclusion Act respects the importance of parental choice, the chairmen remarked, “Indeed, women and men who want to place their children for adoption ought to be able to choose from a diversity of adoption agencies, including those that share the parents’ religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
 
The letters of support are available online at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Rep-Kelly-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Sen-Enzi-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf
 
A backgrounder on the Inclusion Act is available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Backgrounder-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf

March 6, 2015
USCCB OFFICIALS SAY SYRIAN REFUGEE CRISIS AT TIPPING POINT
 
WASHINGTON — The Syrian refugee crisis ­–now totaling nearly 4 million refugees– has reached a “tipping point,” in which countries in the region are no longer able to handle the flow of refugees across their borders, warned U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) officials who recently traveled to the Middle East.
 
“Without more international support, we will find Syrians fleeing extremists being turned away and forced back to danger,” said Anastasia Brown, interim executive director for USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS). “The global community, led by Europe and the United States, needs to increase its support in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
 
A delegation of USCCB officials which visited the region in late 2014, released their report March 6. Entitled “Refuge and Hope in the Time of ISIS: The Urgent need for Protection, Humanitarian Support, and Durable Solutions in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece,” the report looks at the plight of Syrians in the three countries, a growing trek for Syrians attempting to reach Europe.
 
The report highlights the gaps Syrians face as they attempt to find protection, with many traveling through Greece and Bulgaria on their way to Europe. According to the United Nations, many more are taking dangerous sea journeys in boats to reach the continent.
 
At the same time, countries bordering Syria and Iraq are showing signs of strain and imposing new policies at their borders. In recent months, Jordan has exerted more control over its northern border, denying entry to some refugees from ISIS-controlled areas, while Lebanon has instituted a visa policy for Syrians seeking to enter their country. While Turkey has kept its border open, refugee interviews are being scheduled for 2022.
 
“It was apparent from our trip that the protection space in the region for Syrians is shrinking,” said Matt Wilch, refugee policy advisor for MRS/USCCB. “People are becoming more desperate and are attempting dangerous journeys to Europe and beyond.”
 
Of special note is the impact the crisis is having on children, who number as many as 2 million—half the total of Syrian refugees. Among those are unaccompanied children who, according to the delegation, have a special claim on protection.
 
“The number of unaccompanied children and other vulnerable children from Syria and elsewhere is rising, yet there are few protection mechanisms in place to identify and rescue them from harm,” said Nathalie Lummert, director of Special Programs for MRS/USCCB. “What we are seeing is an exodus of the next generation in Syria, with little hope for their future.”
 
The delegation also expressed grave concern for the plight of religious minorities, who are targets of extremists in the region. Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, along with Yazidis, are at risk of their lives.
 
 “Without a dramatic response to this unprecedented humanitarian challenge, we will continue to see ongoing suffering and even death in this population, especially among the most vulnerable,” Brown said.
 
The delegation’s report lists several recommendations to address the crisis, including increased refugee assistance and resettlement. The full report is available at www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/upload/Refuge-and-Hope-in-the-Time-of-ISIS.pdf

March 6, 2015
CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES COLLECTION HELPS ‘JESUS IN DISGUISE’
 
WASHINGTON — The Catholic Relief Services Collection, scheduled to take place March 14-15 in many dioceses across the United States, aids more than 100 million people around the world including those affected by persecution, war and natural disasters, through the six worldwide agencies it supports. The collection’s theme “Help Jesus in Disguise,” provides an opportunity to echo the gospel call to assist and accompany the poor.
 
“The Catholic Relief Services Collection gives us a Lenten opportunity for global solidarity. We show our love of God and each other through caring for the poor and marginalized. This collection provides much-needed humanitarian aid, supports development projects that improve living conditions, and provides resources for immigrant and immigrant communities and advocacy programs,” said Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, chairman of the Committee on National Collections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “This collection helps to alleviate suffering in incredibly meaningful ways.”
 
Funds from last year’s collection helped Catholic Relief Services (CRS) provide housing and protection for people whose lives have been disrupted by violence in Gaza, Jerusalem and the Kurdish region of Iraq. CRS has also introduced peacebuilding programs in South Sudan, and continues assisting in rebuilding efforts in communities struck by natural disasters in Haiti and the Philippines. CRS is a leading provider of services and expertise in agriculture, global health and emergency response and recovery.
 
In addition, USCCB’s Office of International Justice and Peace (IJP) and Catholic Relief Services worked with the Church in the Central African Republic to raise awareness and advocate for those afflicted by violence and conflict. As a result of their intervention, the United States committed $101 million for Africa Union Peacekeepers and $30 million for humanitarian assistance. The number of African Union Peacekeepers was increased from 1,200 to almost 6,000. Through projects like these, IJP and CRS help the Church to stop violence and seek assistance for those in need.
 
The Catholic Relief Services Collection funds six Catholic agencies: Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. bishops; USCCB’s Department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), which helps resettle refugees in the United States; USCCB’s Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, which provides outreach and pastoral care for ethnic and cultural groups; USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, which advocates for poor and vulnerable people and works for international justice and peace; Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), which provides legal services for immigrants; and the Holy Father’s Relief Fund, which provides assistance to suffering people around the world.
 
More information on the Catholic Relief Services Collection and the projects it funds can be found at www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/catholic-relief-services-collection/

March 3, 2015
ARCHBISHOP WENSKI, BISHOP CANTÚ URGE PROTECTION FOR PROGRAMS SERVING POOR AND VULNERABLE

WASHINGTON — Decisions around the 2016 budget resolution should be measured against whether they protect human life and dignity, the poor and vulnerable and the common good, particularly workers and their families, said two U.S. bishops in a letter, February 27, to every member of Congress.
 
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, wrote, “The moral measure of the federal budget is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless, or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.”
 
Archbishop Wenski and Bishop Cantú chair the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.
 
The bishops expressed support for reduction of future unsustainable deficits and their impact on the economy, but said a just framework for a federal budget cannot rely on “disproportionate cuts in essential service to poor persons.” The bishops noted how Budget Control Act caps and sequestration have limited many domestic and international poverty-focused programs and cautioned lawmakers against using the reconciliation process to achieve savings by cutting health care, nutrition and other programs.
 
“As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad. We help poor families rise above crushing poverty, resettle refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, and reach out to communities devastated by wars, natural disasters and famines. In much of this work, we are partners with government, and our combined resources allow us to reach further and help more,” the bishops wrote.
 
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/letter-to-congress-from-archbishop-wenski-bishop-cantu-on-federal-budget-fy-2016-02-27-2015.cfm

March 3, 2015
SAN FRANCISCO AUXILIARY BISHOP MCELROY NAMED BISHOP OF SAN DIEGO

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Robert W. McElroy, 61, bishop of the Diocese of San Diego. Bishop McElroy has served as an auxiliary bishop of San Francisco since 2010. He succeeds the late Bishop Cirilo Flores, who died September 6, 2014.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, March 3, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
Robert Walter McElroy was born February 5, 1954. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1975, a master’s degree in American history from Stanford University in 1976, and a master of divinity degree from St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park, California, in 1979. He was ordained a priest for the San Francisco Archdiocese April 12, 1980, and named a monsignor in 1996.
 
Following ordination, he was parochial vicar of St. Cecilia Church in San Francisco, 1980-1982; and secretary to Archbishop John R. Quinn, 1982-1985. He studied for a licentiate in sacred theology at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, California, in 1985; and for a doctorate in sacred theology at the Gregorian University, Rome, 1985-1986. He studied for a doctorate in history at Stanford from 1986-1989.
 
From 1989-1995, he was parochial vicar at St. Pius Church, and was vicar general for the San Francisco Archdiocese, 1995-1997. From 1997-2010, he was pastor of St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo, California. He was appointed a bishop by Pope Benedict XVI on July 6, 2010, and consecrated on September 7 of that year.
 
He is author of “The Search for an American Public Theology: The Contribution of John Courtney Murray,” Paulist Press, 1989; and “Morality and American Foreign Policy: The Role of Ethics in International Affairs,” Princeton University Press, 1992. He also has been published in journals and America magazine.
 
The Diocese of San Diego covers 8,852 square miles in Southern California and has a total population of 3,236,492 people, of whom 998,127, or 31 percent, are Catholic.
 

 
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