Browsing News Entries

Under the radar: South Sudan needs media attention, immediate action

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carol Glatz

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is first of all a shepherd who makes seeking out the lost and forgotten his top priority. But he also knows that wherever he goes, the cameras and news coverage will follow.

He leveraged his pull on the media spotlight early in his papacy when he went to Lampedusa for his very first trip as pope, tossing a funeral wreath onto the vast, unmarked cemetery known as the Mediterranean Sea -- where thousands of migrants die each year escaping from economic distress, political crises or persecution.

His visits to the Central African Republic, refugee centers, prisons, homes for the elderly and ill have all been key stops in his mission to reach out to the neglected peripheries, encourage those who are suffering and the hidden heroes helping them, and wake up the world to their presence and plight.

South Sudan was meant to be next on that list, to red-flag the disastrous effects of civil war -- millions of people facing violence, displacement, chronic hunger and mass starvation -- and to nudge conflicting parties toward peace.

However, mounting doubts over security and how ready those parties may be for negotiation have put a boots-on-the-ground papal visit on hold. And now some Catholic aid and development agencies are wondering, with no pope, how does this tragedy get on the world radar now?

"With Donald Trump, Brexit and terrorist attacks happening in the news," outlets that are usually very receptive to covering humanitarian crises and efforts "don't have the space to cover them," Patrick Nicholson, director of communications at Caritas Internationalis, told Catholic News Service.

Despite the immensity of the tragedy, "it's really off the radar in terms of the world caring," he said, which is why "the pope raising awareness is absolutely crucial." Everybody's efforts to get the word out is still key, and Nicholson and his Caritas colleagues created after a recent visit to South Sudan to better show the human stories and lives at stake.

Sister Yudith Pereira-Rico, associate executive director of Solidarity with South Sudan, told CNS in Rome that her organization is promoting the hashtag #SouthSudanWeCare on social media to show the South Sudanese people that they will not be overlooked.

"The people there feel they are forgotten. There is no media attention and they always tell us, 'Please, don't forget to speak about us.'"

A member of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, Sister Pereira-Rico said she has spent the past two decades working in the poorest parts of West Africa "and yet I've never see the poverty like there is in South Sudan."

"My first time in South Sudan, in Malakal, I wasn't able to sing 'Hallelujah' in church" having seen the situation of the people. "Now, more and more, I can see that God is here."

Sometimes she and her colleagues can feel so powerless when faced with so many people in need, "but just being there" can offer comfort, she said. "A challenge we have as Christians is believing in the resurrection in these situations, knowing that there is a good end for human history."

Solidarity with South Sudan is an international network of religious congregations that was formed to train primary school teachers, health care workers, pastoral agents and sustainable farmers from all ethnic groups, learning tolerance and reconciliation along the way.

The NGOs do the emergency relief, "and we do development, teach values," Sister Pereira-Rico said.

The 28 nuns, priests and brothers from 20 different congregations and 20 nations living and working together in four different communities across South Sudan are a living witness of what harmony in diversity and collaboration look like, she said.

"We're like the United Nations," she smiled, and "we show people a new model of living."

The local church also provides the credibility, networks and infrastructure that relief agencies need to reach the most vulnerable, said Jerry Farrell, country representative in South Sudan for Catholic Relief Services.

"The church has an incredible reputation. It is battered and weary," like its people, but it never shuts down, it always sticks by its people, which is partly why it's so respected, he told CNS by Skype from Juba.

By working directly with parishes and religious orders, like the Comboni sisters, CRS can get food to 5,000 to 6,000 families in places where no one else has access, he said.

No matter how bad things get, the Catholic Church still is operating its schools, hospitals, clinics and programs all over South Sudan; the facilities may not look as nice as those in the West, "but they work."

"Peacebuilding is quiet, but relentless," he said, and it often does not make for an exciting or visual story.

Media often like to cover things such as the highly complex emergency airdrops to those who are stranded, but Farrell said reporters should be looking at the Catholic schools, like the ones run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

"It's not visually catchy, but that's the real story. That's where the future of South Sudan lies" as these schools provide basic care, nutrition and even vegetable gardens for the mothers to grow healthy food.

The other real story that should get coverage, he said, are the survivors. "The people here are incredibly resilient and one of the main reasons for that is they go to church" and are deeply spiritual people.

With aid from partner agencies, the church becomes a place people go to find basic supplies, safety, sanctuary and "spiritual nourishment because without that, aid is just a pat on the back," Farrell said.

"Things will be better. It will just take time because peacebuilding is meant to help South Sudan heal itself," he said.

As the Catholic, Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches work for peace from the bottom up and the role of political leaders is to help from the top down, he added, someday they will all meet in the middle.

- - -

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Scorsese says a boyhood of church and movies continues to inspire him

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass

By Cindy Wooden

QUEBEC CITY (CNS) -- Faith and films have been lifelong obsessions for director Martin Scorsese, obsessions that he said have given him moments of peace amid turmoil, but also challenges and frustrations that, in hindsight, he will accept as lessons in humility.

"For me, the stories have always been about how we should live who we are, and have a lot to do with love, trust and betrayal," he said, explaining that those themes have been with him since his boyhood spent in the rambunctious tenements of New York and in the peace of the city's St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, where he was an altar server.

Scorsese spoke June 21 in Quebec City at a joint session of the Catholic Press Association's Catholic Media Conference and the world congress of Signis, the international association of Catholic media professionals. That evening, both groups presented him with a lifetime achievement award for excellence in filmmaking.

Before Scorsese answered questions posed by author Paul Elie, conference participants watched his film "Silence," which is based on the novel by Shusaku Endo. The book and film are a fictionalized account of the persecution of Christians in 17th-century Japan; the central figures are Jesuit missionaries, who are ordered to deny the faith or face death after witnessing the death of their parishioners.

Although "Silence" was not nearly as controversial as his 1988 film, "The Last Temptation of Christ," Scorsese said the two films are connected and not just because an Episcopalian bishop gave him Endo's book after seeing the 1988 film.

Even before filming began on "The Last Temptation of Christ," which is based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis and explores the human side of Jesus, people were writing letters to the studio and producers complaining about plans to bring it to the big screen.

Recounting the story, Scorsese said a studio executive asked him why he wanted so badly to make the film.

"To get to know Jesus better," Scorsese said he blurted out. "That was the answer that came to mind. I didn't know what else to say."

If one affirms that Jesus is fully divine and fully human, he said, people should be able to look at his humanity.

But Scorsese told his Quebec City audience that his explorations of who Jesus is and what faith really means were by no means exhausted by "The Last Temptation of Christ."

"The journey is much more involved," Scorsese said. "It's just not finished."

In reading Endo's novel, working on and off for two decades to make the film and in finally bringing it to completion, Scorsese said he was "looking for the core of faith."

The climax of the film is when one of the Jesuits gives in and, in order to save his faithful who are being tortured, he tramples a religious image. However, the character believes that act of official apostasy is, in reality, a higher form of faith because, by sacrificing his own soul, he is saving the lives of others.

"It's almost like a special gift to be called on to face that challenge, because he is given an opportunity to really go beyond and to really get to the core of faith and Christianity," Scorsese said.

In the end, the priest "has nothing left to be proud of" -- not his faith or his courage -- and "it's just pure selflessness," the director said. "It's like a gift for him."

"I think there is no doubt it is a believer's movie," he said. "At least for me."

- - -

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

In lieu of visit, pope makes major donation to South Sudan charities

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carol Glatz

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With a trip to South Sudan postponed indefinitely, Pope Francis is sending close to a half-million dollars to help two church-run hospitals, a teacher training center and farming projects for families as a way to show the people there his solidarity and support.

Because a planned trip with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury couldn't happen this year as hoped, Pope Francis "wants to make tangible the presence and closeness of the church with the suffering people through this initiative 'The Pope for South Sudan,'" Cardinal Peter Turkson told reporters at a Vatican news conference June 21.

"He fervently hopes to be able to go there as soon as possible on an official visit to the nation; the church does not shut hope out of such an afflicted area," said the cardinal, who is prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

An official visit was meant to draw the world's attention to a silent tragedy, give voice to those suffering, and encourage conflicting parties to make renewed and greater efforts in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, the cardinal said.

Already in March, Pope Francis had expressed doubts about the possibility of making the trip, saying in an interview with Germany's Die Zeit newspaper, that visiting South Sudan would be "important," but that "I don't believe that it is possible." The pope approved the project funding in April, a month before the Vatican announced the trip's delay.

The initiative is meant to supplement, support and encourage the ongoing work of religious congregations, Catholic organizations and international aid groups on the ground that "generously and tirelessly" help the people and promote peace and development, the cardinal said.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war. But just two years after independence, political tensions erupted into violence and abuses. The fighting, displacement, insecurity and drought have led to large-scale hunger and malnutrition across the country. It's estimated that 3.8 million people have been displaced and at least 28 million are in need of food aid.

A papal donation of about $200,000 will support a program run by Caritas South Sudan, providing fast-growing seeds and farming tools for 2,500 families in areas where it is still possible to grow food.

Some $112,000 will go to fund Solidarity With South Sudan -- an international Catholic network, supporting 16 scholarships and a training program for primary school teachers. The teacher training center takes in students from every ethnic group so they can learn and later teach values of tolerance and reconciliation along with basic education.

A contribution of $150,000 will go to fund two hospitals run by the Comboni Missionary Sisters. Comboni Sister Laura Gemignani told reporters that they have extremely few resources to support their small staff and numerous patients.

For example, she said their hospital in Wau sees 300 patients a day -- 40,000 a year -- but there is only one doctor, who comes in every day and responds to every emergency.

"It's hard to pay his salary," she said, but he, the nurses and other staff stay on despite the insecurity and danger.

When they were told to evacuate because of intensified fighting, she said the staff said that as long as they had even just one patient to attend to, they would never leave.

Cardinal Turkson said, "The Holy Father does not forget the unheard and silent victims of this bloody and inhumane conflict, does not forget all those people who are forced to flee from their homes because of abuses of power, injustice and war. He holds all of them in his prayers and his heart."

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Holiness means being open to God, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being a saint doesn't require spending long hours in prayer, but rather living life open to God in good times and in bad, Pope Francis said.

Christians should live with the "hope of becoming saints" and with the desire that "work, even in sickness and suffering, even in difficulties, is open to God," the pope said June 21 during his weekly general audience.

"We think that it is something difficult, that it is easier to be delinquents than saints. No! We can become saints because the Lord helps us. It is he who helps us," he told the estimated 12,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

Pope Francis rode around in his popemobile, stopping along the way to greet pilgrims and kiss babies. One child casually waved goodbye to the pope as he was handed back to his parents.

In his talk, the pope reflected on the intercession of the saints, who are "older brothers and sisters who have gone along our same path, (gone through) our same struggles and live forever in God's embrace."

"Their existence tells us above all that Christian life isn't an unattainable ideal. And together, they comfort us: We are not alone, the church is made up of innumerable brothers and sisters, often anonymous, who have preceded us and who, through the action of the Holy Spirit, are involved in the affairs of those who still live here," he said.

Just as their intercession is invoked in Baptism, the pope continued, the church asks for their help in the sacrament of marriage so couples "can have the courage to say 'forever.'"

"To live married life forever; not like some who say, 'as long as love lasts.' No, it is forever. On the contrary, it is better you don't get married. It's either forever or nothing. That is why their presence is invoked in the nuptial liturgy," he said.

The lives of the saints, he continued, served as a reminder that "God never abandons us" and in times of trial and suffering, he "sends one of his angels to comfort us and fill us with consolation."

There are "angels, sometimes with a face and a human heart because God's saints are always here, hidden among us," the pope said.

Another sacrament in which the saints are invoked is Holy Orders, in which candidates for the priesthood lay prostrate on the ground while the bishop and the entire assembly pray the litany of the saints, he said.

"A man would be crushed under the weight of the mission entrusted to him but, in feeling that all of paradise is behind him, that the grace of God will not fail because Jesus is always faithful, he can go forward serenely and refreshed. We are not alone," the pope said.

Pope Francis told the pilgrims that Christians need saints who lived their lives "aspiring to charity and brotherhood" because without them, the world would not have hope."

"May the Lord give us the grace to believe so profoundly in him that we become images of Christ for this world," he said.

Before the general audience, Pope Francis met with members of the U.S. Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who will be inducted into the prestigious association Aug. 5.

"As many of you know, I am an avid follower of 'football,' but where I come from, the game is played very differently!" the pope said, referring to the fact that "football" refers to the game of soccer in most parts of the world.

The pope said the values of "teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence" aren't just important on the field, but are "urgently needed off the field, on all levels of our life as a community."

"Our world, and especially our young people, need models, people who show us how to bring out the best in ourselves, to use our God-given gifts and talents and, in doing so, to point the way to a better future for our communities," he said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Pope accepts early resignation of Vatican's first independent auditor

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just two years after being hired to help with the Vatican's efforts in finance reform, Libero Milone -- the Vatican's first independent auditor who answered only to the pope -- handed a request for his resignation to Pope Francis.

The pope accepted Milone's request, the Vatican announced June 20, after Milone personally presented it to the pope a day earlier.

"While wishing Milone the best in his future endeavors, the Holy See wishes to inform (everyone) that the process of naming a new director of the auditor-general's office will be underway as soon as possible," the Vatican's written statement said.

Pope Francis named Milone to fill the new position of auditor general in June 2015, more than a year after establishing special structures to oversee the Vatican's finances -- the Council for the Economy and the Secretariat for the Economy.

The auditor general has the power to audit the books of any Vatican office and reports directly to the pope. The auditing office currently has 12 people on staff.

Milone, 68, an Italian accountant and expert in corporate risk management, was born in Holland and educated in London. He was chairman and managing partner of Milone Associates and had worked for Falck Renewables, Wind Telecom and Fiat. Until 2007, he was chairman of Deloitte Italy and served three years as a member of the audit committee of the United Nations' World Food Program.

An independent auditor was a key part of the "separation of powers" necessary for reforming the Vatican's economic activity, Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, wrote in 2015.

"These reforms are designed to make all Vatican financial agencies boringly successful, so that they do not merit much press attention," the cardinal wrote.

No reason was given for Milone's request to step down.

In an interview in March with the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, Milone said the previous 18 months had been very busy because he had to learn the way things had worked and then oversee 120 offices and foundations that make up the Roman Curia or are associated with the Holy See.

The office had just been completing preliminary studies of all the major assets, finances and economic data of 2015 and 2016. "The next step is auditing the balance sheet up to Dec. 31, 2017, so as to be able to get ready for auditing the whole budget ending Dec. 31, 2018," he said.

He felt their efforts had paid off by bringing in "a new model of managing the budget and introducing the best international standards," adding that the real work in reform was, "first of all, cultural."

When asked if he had met with any resistance, he said, "more than real or actual resistance, often it was about being unaware" of more modern, integrated and transparent accounting standards. They did a lot of training to help people "overcome foreseeable difficulties," he said.

He said he never regretted accepting the job, which had been offered to him by an international headhunting agency, he said. "On the contrary, I will go all the way with great enthusiasm."

He said, "I am very motivated by the privilege of being at the service of the pope ... and to be able to do my small part of a decisive reform for the Vatican ... A reform whose full extent has perhaps still not been well understood."

Back in September 2015, an employee of the auditor general's office notified Vatican police that Milone's computer had been tampered with, the investigation into that tampering led to the second VatiLeaks investigation and trial, according to Vatican Radio.

That trial found Msgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, and Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, guilty of having roles in the leaking of confidential documents about Vatican finances and acquitted an associate and two journalists.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Pope: Don't pretend to be teens; help youths see blessings of adulthood

IMAGE: CNS photo/Giorgio Onorati, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) -- Instead of "pretending to be adolescents," parents must help young people see the blessing of growing into adulthood, Pope Francis told priests, religious, catechists and parish council members from the Diocese of Rome.

The belief that youthfulness is a model of success "is one of the most dangerous 'unwitting' menaces in the education of our adolescents" that hinders their personal growth because "adults have taken their place," the pope said June 19, opening the Rome Diocese's annual convention.

This "can increase a natural tendency young people have to isolate themselves or to curb their process of growth" because they have no role models, the pope said.

In his nearly 45-minute talk, Pope Francis reflected on the convention's theme, "Do not leave them alone! Accompanying parents in educating adolescent children."

The pope said the first step in reaching out to young people in Rome is to "speak in the Roman dialect, that is, concretely" rather than in general or abstract terms that do not speak to teens' problems.

Families in big cities such as Rome face different problems than those in rural areas. For this reason, the pope said, parents must educate their adolescent children "within the context of a big city" and speak to them concretely with "healthy and stimulating realism."

Families, the pope continued, also must confront the challenge of educating their children in an "uprooted society" where people are disconnecting from their roots and feel no sense of belonging.

"An uprooted culture, an uprooted family is a family without a history and without memory," he said.

Although social networking has allowed more people to connect and feel part of a group, its virtual nature can also create a certain alienation where people "feel that they do not have roots, that they belong to no one," the pope said.

"If we want our children to be formed and prepared for tomorrow, it is not just by learning languages, for example, that they will succeed in doing so. They need to connect, to know their roots. Only then can they fly high," he said.

Departing from his prepared speech, Pope Francis said parents "should make room for their children to speak with their grandparents," who have the gift of passing on "faith, history and belonging with wisdom."

Often disregarded and cast aside, grandparents must be given the opportunity to "give young people the sense of belonging that they need."

Pope Francis said parents, catechists and pastors must understand that adolescence is a challenging time in young people's lives where "they are neither children (and do not want to be treated as such) and are not adults (but want to be treated as such, especially on the level of privileges.)"

He also said he was worried about the current trend in society to view adolescence as a "pathology that must be fought" and that leads some parents to "prematurely medicate our youths."

"It seems that everything is solved by medicating or controlling everything with the slogan 'making the most of time' and in the end, the young people's schedules are worse than that of a high-level executive," he said.

Instead, schools, parishes and youth movements can take a pivotal role in helping young men and women want to feel challenged so they can achieve their goals.

In this way, "they can discover that all the potential they have is a bridge, a passage toward a vocation (in the broadest and most beautiful sense of the word)," he said.

However, he warned parents about people who may wield influence over their children, including aunts and uncles, and especially those who "have no children or who are not married."

"I learned my first bad words from a bachelor uncle," the pope recalled. "Aunts and uncles often don't do good things to get their nephews and nieces to like them. There was an uncle who would secretly give us cigarettes... things of that sort. And now, I am not saying they are evil but you must beware."

Young people, Pope Francis added, need educators that help grow within them "the life of the spirit of Jesus" and help them see that "to become Christians requires courage and it is a beautiful thing."

"I think it is important to live the education of children starting from the perspective as a calling that the Lord has made to us as a family, to make this step a step of growth, to learn to enjoy the life that he has given us," Pope Francis said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

New priests follow many paths to answering call to serve God's people

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Josephine von Dohlen

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After almost 12 years as an Episcopal priest, Deacon Jonathan Erdman entered into full communion with the Catholic Church along with his family in 2016 and a year later, he is becoming a Catholic priest.

He will be ordained a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter June 29.

This spring, 590 men entered the priesthood in dioceses throughout the United States, according to a report released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. The report is based on an annual study that the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate conducted for the USCCB.

Leading to his joining the Catholic Church, Deacon Erdman felt something in the background repeatedly calling him to the church, but he said he continually found new ways to distract himself.

"I think often when one hears God calling, a response can be thinking of an excuse," Deacon Erdman said in a phone interview with Catholic News Service June 14. "Moses said he didn't have the ability to speak, Jeremiah claimed he was too young, and even Peter asked Jesus to depart because he felt unworthy. I distracted myself with my work in ministry. I told myself that I was needed where I was."

He recalls teaching a yearly presentation on "What Is the Episcopal Church?" at St. Meinrad Archabbey and Seminary in Indiana. "One of my students joked that it seemed I wanted to be a bit more Catholic with each passing year," Deacon Erdman said.

Events such as the election of Pope Francis allowed Deacon Erdman to see the unity of the Catholic Church through devotion and prayer, gradually leading him to the doors of the Catholic faith.

The first time Deacon Erdman attended Mass while beginning the discernment process, it happened to be on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the namesake feast of the ordinariate of which he will soon become a part.

Based in Houston, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is similar to a diocese, but national in scope. It was established in 2012 by the Vatican earlier this year to facilitate and shepherd communities of former Anglicans wishing to join the Catholic faith while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage and traditions.

"I'm very grateful to Anglicanism for teaching me what to long for, for teaching me to long for Scripture, to long for the sacraments, to long for a faith rooted in tradition and reason, to long for Incarnated faith, and to long for true unity," Deacon Erdman told CNS. "I believe these desires pointed me in the direction that God has called me to go. I found these desires satisfied in the Catholic faith."

After his priestly ordination, he will serve the Community of Our Lady and St. John in Louisville, Kentucky.

Six months after Father Andrew Dawson entered the Catholic Church at Easter 2006, people began to ask him if he had thought about joining the priesthood.

According to the USCCB report on the ordinand class of 2017, 87 percent of men were encouraged by an average of four people to enter the priesthood.

"I remember very vividly sitting up in bed one night, bolt upright, thinking to myself, 'All these people have said these things and not one time have I ever said no,'" Father Dawson said to CNS June 14. "All I've done is make a joke of it, and just dismiss it. I realized that the reason that I hadn't been able to say no to anyone is because I was asking myself the same question."

The priesthood eventually became all that Father Dawson would think of in his free time.

Before entering the seminary, Father Dawson worked as an associate director at a Catholic youth camp, Sancta Maria, in Gaylord, Michigan. His experience working at the camp drastically influenced his faith life, as the camp began his intellectual conversion to the Catholic Church.

It was in the chapel at Sancta Maria that he truly came to experience the reality of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. "I didn't know what was happening, but I knew that what I was looking at was not what I had believed it to be previously," Father Dawson said. "I needed to go and investigate that'it was so powerful to me."

Father Andrew said he relates to St. Peter because of how St. Peter is both bold and terrified, both understands and doesn't understand, how St. Peter puts all his weaknesses out there and still the Lord uses him in a powerful way because of his openness.

Being in the Archdiocese of Detroit also has brought Father Dawson close to the late Capuchin Father Solanus Casey, who will be beatified in Detroit in 2017. Father Dawson wore a relic of Father Casey during his ordination and will serve at St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Father Steven Oetjen's parents, along with those of 80 percent of the new ordinands, were both Catholic.

They raised Father Oetjen and his siblings in the church, sending them to Catholic schools and Mass every Sunday. But it wasn't until Father Oetjen went off to study engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that he began to feel the call to the priesthood.

"Basically, I found myself thrown into this really competitive environment and a very demanding environment, with all the work of engineering it was very busy, very hard to find time for prayer," Father Oetjen said. "It was also the first time that I was on my own without my family and I knew that I needed to really start to make the faith my own and if I wanted to take the faith seriously, my parents weren't going to be there anymore to make me."

Desiring to make his faith his own, Father Oetjen became involved actively with the Newman Center at Carnegie Mellon and he saw in his friends a joy in living a life of virtue that he, too, wanted for himself. It was in the chapel at the Newman Center that he encountered the Blessed Sacrament.

"I found that there in the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar in the monstrance, it was the perfect place for me to go every day to encounter our Lord Jesus Christ and to just spend time with him in silence and to pray to him, telling him about all my struggles and challenges, asking him for grace," Father Oetjen said. "That helped me immensely."

This devotion to the Blessed Sacrament eventually revealed a little tug on his heart that Father Oetjen felt and discovered to be God calling him to the priesthood.

"Seeking the Lord out in silence and in prayer really filled a gap that was much needed in my life at the time, and it is always there, I always need to pray," Father Oetjen said. "But I also think it's a joy that is always going to be growing and it's a joy that doesn't mean that everything is always happy go lucky, all the time but even through ups and downs, its an underlying joy, it's a peace."

Like 43 percent of those ordained this year, Father Oejten finished his undergraduate degree before entering the seminary.

"I've really been in awe now that I'm able to celebrate Mass every day," Father Oejten said. "I'm looking forward to every day for the rest of my life, God willing, to being able to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass, to preach and teach God people to help them receive the sacraments as fruitfully as they can so that all the grace that God wants to give them can flourish in their lives."

Father Oejten was ordained June 10 in the Diocese of Arlington, and he will serve at St. James Catholic Church in Falls Church, Virginia.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Pope will visit Chile, Peru in January, Vatican announces

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will travel to Colombia in September and, the Vatican announced, he will return to South America in January for a visit to Chile and Peru.

The pope will be in Chile Jan. 15-18, visiting the cities of Santiago, Temuco and Iquique, the Vatican press office announced June 19. He then will fly to Peru and from Jan. 18-21, he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

The Vatican had announced in March that the pope would make a pastoral trip to Colombia Sept. 6-11.

No mention was made of a possible trip to the pope's homeland, Argentina. He has not returned to the country since he was elected pope in March 2013.

The Peru-Chile trip would be his fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. The September trip to Colombia would be his third to the continent.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Louisiana priest in Washington spends hours with Scalise at hospital

IMAGE: CNS photo/Frank J. Methe, Clario

By Christine Bordelon

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Father Tim Hedrick, parochial vicar of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie, was in Washington continuing his canon law studies when a news alert came across his phone June 14 that Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, had been shot.

"I immediately called and texted Jennifer (Scalise's wife) to let her know that I was here (in D.C.) and would go and be with Steve," Father Hedrick told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the New Orleans Archdiocese.

Scalise, his wife, Jennifer, and the couple's two children, Harrison and Madison, are Catholic and are parishioners of St. Catherine.

Father Hedrick said Jennifer Scalise, who was back home with the children in Louisiana, called for a police detail to pick up the priest from The Catholic University of America to take him to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where Scalise was being treated.

"He was already in surgery, and they brought me down to surgery and I actually got to watch the surgery," Father Hedrick said, who learned that several members of the surgery team were Catholic.

"They felt very comforted to know I was there, and they asked me to pray for them," Father Hedrick said. He was at the hospital for 12 hours that first day and was able to give the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to Scalise.

As of early June 19, Scalise remained in serious condition. Over the June 17-18 weekend, he was upgraded from serious condition. He has undergone several surgeries since he took a bullet to the hip early in the morning of June 14 while at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. Doctors at MedStar Washington Hospital Center said the bullet fractured bones, injured internal organs and caused severe bleeding.

Scalise and fellow GOP House members along with staffers and others were practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, which is played for charity. Four others, including Capitol police officers who were on Scalise's protective detail, a congressional staffer and a lobbyist, also were injured. The shooter, now identified as James Hodgkinson, died at the scene.

"Just being there as a familiar face" at the hospital has been comforting to Jennifer Scalise, Father Hedrick said. "(I am) one who can pray with her and pray for Steve. ... I prayed with him first."

Father Hedrick said he also has taken on the role of Jennifer's communicator of Scalise's condition with St. Catherine parishioners.

"Whatever updates she asks me to give, I do," Father Hedrick said. "She wants to thank everyone for their outpouring of support. She's strong. She's done great."

Scalise, who represents Louisiana's 1st Congressional District, had participated for several years in the congressional baseball fundraiser since being elected to office in 2008. The game, with the GOP lawmakers versus Democratic House members, went on as scheduled the evening of June 16.

Father Hedrick has been parochial vicar at the Scalises' parish since July 2014.

"I know him in my role as a priest and fellow (Archbishop) Rummel (High) graduate. And they (the family) come to church," he said.

Father Hedrick said he has been in Washington the past three summers studying canon law and has visited Scalise in his congressional office.

When Pope Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress in 2015, the congressman was able to secure tickets not only for wife Jennifer but also for Father Hedrick and New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond to attend

Since the shooting, Father Hedrick said has visited the Scalises every day. He was present when President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited Scalise in the hospital and learned the president had called Jennifer immediately after the shooting.

"The interesting thing about the Trump visit -- it was his birthday," Father Hedrick. "He left his birthday party with Melania to meet with Jennifer. When President Trump came in, he was so calm and caring and concerned about Jennifer and Steve. He promised to help them and support them."

Residents of Scalise's hometown of Metairie have shown their love and concern. On the evening of the shooting, St. Catherine of Siena held a short prayer service for the Scalise family and all those injured.

Several groups, including the Knights of Columbus, also were rallying to schedule blood drives on Scalise's behalf; he has had several blood transfusions. Archbishop Rummel High School, where Scalise graduated in 1983, planned a drive June 23.

Father Hedrick said Archbishop Aymond called Jennifer the day of the shooting and offered his prayerful support.

"That's the kind of support they are getting," Father Hedrick said. "It's a great comfort for her to know that people are praying for her back home. The president, archbishop and all these people, in the midst of the tragedy, are supporting her and praying for her."

Father Hedrick considers it providential that he was in Washington when Scalise was shot and in such close proximity to the hospital where he was taken. MedStar Washington Hospital Center is three blocks from Catholic University.

"I can see it from my bedroom window," he said. "It is comforting for the (Scalise) family but also for St. Catherine family that someone from their community is taking care of one of their own."

He said he also has gotten to know the Capitol police officers injured with Scalise on the baseball field, because they accompany the congressman to Mass when he is in Metairie. Father Hedrick is glad he can be there for them as well and said they were doing OK after the shooting.

Father Hedrick said Jennifer Scalise asked everyone to keep praying for her husband, the other who were injured, the medical staff and her family.

Scalise will remain in the hospital for some time and faces rehabilitation. The MedStar staff said other surgeries are necessary to manage abdominal and bone injuries.

"He's got great care," Father Hedrick said. "The doctors are taking care of him. It's just going to take time."

- - -

Bordelon is associate editor of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Eucharist is reminder of God's love, call to unity, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- The Eucharist is a tangible reminder of God's love, and receiving Communion is a call to work to build the body of Christ by loving others and shunning all that sows division within a community, Pope Francis said.

The Eucharist should "heal our ambition to lord it over others, to greedily hoard things for ourselves, to foment discord and criticism," he said June 18, celebrating the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. "May it awaken in us the joy of living in love, without rivalry, jealousy or mean-spirited gossip."

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. With an almost constant breeze cooling the warm Rome day, thousands of people -- including children who made their first Communion this spring -- gathered outside the basilica for the evening Mass and for the Corpus Christi procession later from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, about a mile away.

The 2017 feast day included two major changes from past practices. First, although Italian dioceses, like many around the world, moved the feast from a Thursday to a Sunday in the late 1970s, the Mass and procession with the pope at St. John Lateran remained on the Thursday until this year.

Second, instead of transporting the Blessed Sacrament on a truck in the Corpus Christi procession this year, it was carried on a platform held aloft on the shoulders of four men. Eight other men carried tall poles holding a canopy over the platform, a task made more difficult by the breeze.

The truck had made its first appearance in 1994 when St. John Paul II began having difficulty walking. He and now-retired Pope Benedict XVI would ride on the truck, kneeling or sitting before the monstrance.

Elected at the age of 76, Pope Francis walked behind the truck for the 1-mile procession in 2013. But beginning in 2014, because of his difficulty walking long distances and in order to avoid drawing attention away from the Eucharist, he met the procession at St. Mary Major instead of participating in it.

In his homily at the Mass, the pope said the Eucharist "is the sacrament of memory, reminding us, in a real and tangible way, of the story of God's love for us."

Just as the Israelites were called to remember how God led them safely through the desert, he said, "remembering all that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own personal history of salvation."

"Remembrance is essential for faith, as water is for a plant," Pope Francis said.

Remembering, he said, keeps people "mindful, never forgetting who it is who loves us and whom we are called to love in return."

Pope Francis said it seems that today people's ability to remember and be mindful is weakening.

"Amid so much frantic activity, many people and events seem to pass in a whirl," he said. "We quickly turn the page, looking for novelty while unable to retain memories."

But the focus on living for the moment, he said, often means living superficially and without a focus on "who we are and where we are going."

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the pope said, reaches people even in their "fragmented lives," reminding them how Christ was broken for their salvation and continues to offer himself in the "loving fragility" of the Eucharist.

"In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life's frantic pace of life," he said.

"The Eucharist is flavored with Jesus' words and deeds, the taste of his passion, the fragrance of his Spirit," he said. "When we receive it, our hearts are overcome with the certainty of Jesus' love."

At the same time, the pope said, the Eucharist is a reminder that Christians are not isolated individuals but are called to receive Christ's body together and to build up the body of the church.

"In experiencing this Eucharist," he told those at the Mass, "let us adore and thank the Lord for this greatest of gifts: the living memorial of his love that makes us one body and leads us to unity."

- - -

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at