Browsing News Entries

BACK-TO-SCHOOL BLITZ

The first full month of the fall season wrapped up for Trinity League sports teams and individuals, and they continue...

SANTA MARGARITA SENIORS NAMED NATIONAL MERIT SEMIFINALISTS

Seven Santa Margarita Catholic High School seniors were named semifinalists in the 65th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. This honor...

Catholic school students in Bahamas show resiliency after Dorian

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tom Tracy

By Tom Tracy

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama (CNS) -- While many public schools in Grand Bahama remain closed some five weeks after Hurricane Dorian's landfall, Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy is back in session with a new daily schedule and newly refurbished spaces.

Principal Joye Ritchie-Greene said her school opened first, followed by other private schools and some public schools in the area. The academy also picked up a few students who transferred from local public schools along with at least two students who transferred from a Catholic school in Abaco that was demolished by the September hurricane.

Although it suffered storm-surge flooding damage, Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy was able to get a jump on post-Dorian renovations with restored electrical power Sept. 23 based on a provisional agreement with the electric company, allowing water-damage repairs to begin immediately, the principal said.

The academy's high school resumed classes Sept. 17, with earlier starting and ending times and the primary grades returned the following week.

Ritchie-Greene pointed out that hurricane preparedness and lockdown plans are a part of life in the Bahamas, but there also has been a bit of a learning curve in the aftermath of such a powerful storm.

To accommodate the many challenges students and their families are facing right now, the school adjusted its schedule to begin and end a little earlier each day and teachers have said the students are more productive with the changes.

"The shift in our schedule was originally to accommodate children who didn't have electricity at home, who didn't have running water, who were still living with family members and needed extra time to do personal things -- but we realized that they were more attentive at school," the principal said.

And while there were no hurricane-related fatalities among the faculty or student body, many have relatives or close friends who experienced these tragedies.

At least three faculty members and about seven or eight student families reported total loss of their homes and personal possessions. Several have taken some time off, and many took short trips off the island to regroup.

"In terms of the social-emotional aspect, we had counselors and psychologists on campus the first two days and we have had counselors speak at our general parent-teacher association meeting last week sharing with parents coping skills for themselves as well as for the children," Ritchie-Greene told the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Miami Archdiocese.

In addition, three primary teachers attended special training sessions for trauma and have been incorporating what they learned in their music and art classes. When the students came back, they were also greeted by a stack of pen-pal letters from students at St. Cecilia's School in Dallas.

"What we have found is that the children have been very resilient, sharing and talking," Ritchie-Greene said. "We thought it would have taken longer for them to settle in."

However, she added, soon after the school reopened, "it was as though the storm had not happened: Geography was being taught, history was being taught, physics was being taught -- teaching and learning was going on and so I was pleased with that sense of normalcy."

Ritchie-Greene said the schools in the Bahamas have clear hurricane guidelines and staff teams making sure everything is in place.

"You need to have a plan, you need to have members of the team knowing what is expected of them, but once the storm has happened, it also helps if you have persons above you who also know how to manage and act quickly," she added.

The aftermath of a hurricane forces you to put your life in perspective, Ritchie-Greene said, adding: "It really causes us to pause and think about what is most important and there is a somberness to people's moods (now) and people's emotions are raw. We need to be sensitive to that."

Put another way, she said: "I recognize that how I respond to what a parent is saying to me is so important because I recognize that we are just out of a very traumatic experience and people aren't thinking rationally."

- - -

Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Church must make 'preferential option for the Amazon,' bishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Edgard Garrido, Reuters

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As tropical forests fall victim to loggers, miners and ranchers, the Catholic Church must take sides to defend the Amazon region and its people, said a bishop whose Bolivian diocese has been ravaged by fire this year.

"Just like we had a preferential option for the poor, this is a preferential option for the Amazon," Bishop Robert H. Flock of San Ignacio de Velasco told Catholic News Service. The bishop, a Wisconsin native, is participating in the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon being held at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.

Between July and October, an area the size of South Carolina burned in his diocese in the northern Bolivian lowlands known as the Chiquitana region. That was nearly one-sixth of the entire diocese.

Villagers lost homes and crops, and at least three firefighters died battling the blazes.

Farmers and ranchers set fire to their fields every year to clear land and kill insect pests, but this year was worse than most because of a prolonged drought and climate change, Bishop Flock said.

Government policies to promote expansion of ranch land to increase beef production, combined with a national government decree authorizing controlled burning, contributed to the crisis.

The state of Santa Cruz, which includes the San Ignacio diocese, declared a state of emergency in August, but it was not until rains arrived during the first week of October that the fires finally smoldered out.

Indigenous people from San Ignacio de Velasco arrived Oct. 16 in the city of Santa Cruz, the state capital, after a monthlong protest march. Angered by the slow official response to the fires, they demanded that the government rescind the controlled-burning decree. They also called for agricultural assistance and public services like electricity.

The fierce fire season, especially in Bolivia and Brazil, came on top of steady destruction of the forest to make way for industrial-scale agriculture and cattle ranching. Those practices make wildfires more likely.

"Deforestation means less humidity, less humidity means drier conditions, and drier conditions mean more fires," Bishop Flock said. "More fires mean less forest. It's a vicious circle."

The evaporation of water from the leaves of Amazonian trees creates about half of the rain that falls over region, scientists have found. Forest loss therefore means less precipitation.

The Andean highlands to the south and west of Bolivia's part of the Amazon basin depend on rain from the Amazon forest, the bishop said. "So, if the forest goes, it will have a ripple effect on the whole Bolivian ecosystem and on the world."

Pope Francis underscored both that interconnectedness and the urgent need for action in his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si'" and during the synod.

"Integral ecology means you can't separate defense of the ecology from defense of the peoples, because it's their territory in the first place, their piece of creation, and their lives that are at stake," Bishop Flock said.

Development is necessary, because people need public services like health care and education, and they must be able to make a living, he said. But it must ensure that forests on which rural dwellers depend will be there for their children and grandchildren.

"The peoples of the Amazon are best placed to know what sustainable development means in their own home," Bishop Flock said. "We can't force Western models" on them.

The voice of the church "is important and it's worldwide," he said. "We have to say that this destruction of the Amazon and the violence against its peoples and defenders has to stop. The church sides with them."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Catholic priest murdered in Kenya, latest in string of killings

IMAGE: CNS photo/Fredrick Nzwili

By Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- A Catholic priest who disappeared from his family home was found dead in a shallow grave in southeastern Kenya a week after he was reported missing.

Police investigators and pathologists Oct. 16 exhumed the body of Father Michael Maingi Kyengo, 43. They said his body had been stashed in a sack.

Onlookers watched in shock as Father Kyengo's body was pulled from a seasonal riverbed. Police said he had been strangled and that his body had been disfigured.

Father Kyengo was a parish priest in Thatha at a parish in the Diocese of Machakos.

He had been staying with his parents at their home about 32 miles north of Nairobi before his family reported him missing Oct. 11. He had traveled there for his annual leave Oct. 1, said Father Josephat Kyambuu, another priest at the parish.

"I had heard not from him for two weeks. It hit me to hear of his death," Father Kyambuu told Catholic News Service Oct. 17. "He never said he was facing any threats."

The death is among a string of clergy homicides in recent months.

Father Kyengo's body was found after investigators traced his cellphone, car and credit card from a 25-year-old suspect, who was arrested and was being held in police custody. Police said the suspect took investigators to the shallow grave.

A local newspaper reported that as many as four people may have participated in the killing.

Father Kyengo had served as a priest in Thatha since his ordination in 2012.

Other Kenyan priests also have been killed during robberies as well as for their opposition to human rights abuses and strong stands against corruption.

"Many bishops and priests have been targeted for exposing evil practices. They are being killed for standing for the truth," said Father Nicholas Mutua, justice and peace coordinator in the Diocese of Garissa.

In some cases, authorities said, the clergymen were likely targeted by people who think they may be carrying large amounts of church funds.

In December, Father John Njoroge, a parish priest in Kiambu, 10 miles north of Nairobi, was shot dead by thugs who robbed him of the weekly church collection.

Four men had blocked the priest's car on a dirt road and demanded a bag containing money that he was carrying. The gunmen shot the priest through the windshield of the car in which he was riding, striking him in the chest.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

NEW PIECE ADDED TO MICHELANGELO’S SISTINE CHAPEL EXHIBITION

Over 25,000 visitors have experienced Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Exhibition currently on display on Christ Cathedral campus in Garden Grove. Exhibition...

GROWING IN A NEW WAY OF LIFE

In 1992, the U.S. Catholic Bishops published the Pastoral Letter “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response” and defined a Christian steward as...

Development proposals at synod raise questions about indigenous rights

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proposals for Amazonian development made by well-known observers at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon could conflict with the expectations of indigenous people unless they are included in decision-making, some synod participants said.

In his four-minute presentation to the synod on Oct. 15, economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University called for a common global plan for the forest and the peoples who live there. He proposed increased investment by the world's countries to preserve Amazonian forests, the creation of an international scientific panel, and action by governments to curb deforestation.

A week earlier, Brazilian climate scientist Carlos Nobre proposed taking advantage of modern technologies of what economists call the "fourth industrial revolution" to create a "bioeconomy" of sustainably produced items that would keep the forest standing. Processing Amazonian fruits and nuts, as well as crops like cocoa, can be more profitable than ranching, which is one of the main drivers of deforestation, he told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

Both proposals reflect a series of recommendations made in an essay titled "Scientific Framework to Save the Amazon," which was prepared for the synod by more than 40 scientists, including Nobre. The essay cites Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" and calls for countries to adhere to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

It also presents the proposal of developing "bio-industries" to produce foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and other products using forests as a source, and calls for companies to ensure that any products they purchase are sustainably produced.

Several synod participants worried that such proposals could sideline indigenous people from decisions about development, especially if their land rights are not secure. Local communities in the Amazon must have the power to decide what kind of development they want, they said.

The scientific framework essay links the proposed bioeconomy to concept of integral ecology described in "Laudato Si'." Critics, however, said that it put a price on nature and created the risk of privatizing forest resources that communities now view collective goods.

Others noted that although outside experts invited to the synod speak from their own perspectives, the rights of indigenous peoples have been a constant theme during individual presentations and small-group discussions.

People who questioned the proposals said Sachs and Nobre did not mention indigenous people's right to be consulted about projects affecting them, which is enshrined in international treaties. They also worried that outsiders could use development projects to benefit themselves instead of the communities from which forest products are taken.

Nobre told Catholic News Service that the proposal is still new and that the scientists involved have not conducted a formal consultation with indigenous groups. He said the idea is for communities to operate their own businesses and not to open the door to outsiders.

Although she did not refer directly to those proposals, Yesica Patiachi Tayori, a Harakbut woman from Peru, told journalists Oct. 16, "We don't want (the synod) to end in a mercantilist discourse."

Patiachi, who made that remark at the daily press briefing, was one of the speakers who addressed the pope in January 2018 during his encounter with indigenous people in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. On that occasion, she asked him to help her people defend themselves against "outsiders who see us as weak and insist on taking our territory away from us in different ways."

Inside the synod and at parallel events nearby, indigenous people have called for church leaders especially to support their efforts to obtain official rights to their territories. When they do not have legal title, they risk losing their land to land speculators, private enterprises like mining companies, or outsiders who engage in illegal logging, wildcat gold mining or other illicit activities.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has halted the demarcation of indigenous lands even where the process was underway. In Peru, hundreds of indigenous communities await titling.

Amazonian indigenous groups hope that the pope, as an internationally known figure, will amplify their demand for respect for their rights and territories, Gregorio Diaz, president of an umbrella organization of Amazonian indigenous groups, told CNS.

"The synod has to issue a strong message to governments that are making decisions (that affect) indigenous peoples," he said.

At a news briefing Oct. 14, he called for the church to stand up for indigenous people who risk assassination or who face criminal prosecution and imprisonment for defending their territories.

He also asked the church to help indigenous people "talk with the new gods of the developed world, (such as) Google, the International Monetary Fund, the European Economic Commission and the World Bank," and to encourage Amazonian governments to "sit down and talk with us."

Amazonian governors are expected to attend a meeting at the Vatican Oct. 28, Brazilian media reported.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Couple says adoption is a blessing, gift and 'roller coaster of emotions'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass

By Benjamin Wideman

KIEL, Wis. (CNS) -- After David and Maria Schuette got married in 2015, they wanted a family right away but months later they found out that infertility issues would likely prevent them from having children of their own.

"It was tough knowing that everything I thought about growing a family as a little girl ... it wasn't going to happen that way," Maria told The Compass, diocesan newspaper of Green Bay. "So there was a lot of pain and sadness over the loss of what we thought growing our family would look like," she added.

David agreed. "The pain we were experiencing was a combination of the infertility and the unknowns of adoption. Even when making the decision to adopt, we were fearful it would take five years, if it even happened at all. And we didn't know where to start or what the future would look like."

Now, it turns out the future is working out well for the Schuettes, proud parents of Isaac, 18 months old, and Eli, 8 months old, both adopted.

David and Maria, members of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Kiel, were at the hospitals for each birth and remain in close communication with their sons' birth parents.

The new parents, who are both 30, are thrilled to be growing their family, even if it occurred differently than they originally planned.

"The joy of parenthood isn't dependent on whether your child is your biological child. We have so much love and joy being parents to Isaac and Eli," said David, adding they are discussing adopting a third child.

Their adoption journey began in spring 2017.

At the time, Maria worked for the Diocese of Green Bay in youth ministry and religious education so she knew about Catholic Charities' work in facilitating adoptions.

"Catholic Charities was phenomenal in helping us understand adoption from a pro-life perspective," Maria said, which included "how to care and walk with birth mothers and birth fathers and what our role was in that entire process."

She said they received an email that Isaac's parents had been referred to Catholic Charities and that several other matches fell through before they connected with Isaac's parents.

"Four weeks later, Isaac was born," Maria said. "When Isaac was about 7 months old, we met another birth mother through a friend of a friend, and that's how we got two adoptions 10 months apart."

Although David and Maria were at the hospitals for each birth, the two situations were different.

Isaac was born with a congenital heart defect and spent 11 days in the hospital's neonatal intensive care.

"Isaac is doing great now," David said. "He's sort of a miracle baby. But the doctors weren't sure how his health would be when he was born."

David and Maria were able to be in the room with Eli's birth.

"We were very, very lucky to be at the hospitals for both of the boys' births and to be matched the way we were," David said.

Early in the adoption process, the Schuettes wondered about ongoing contact with birth parents.

"What if the birth parents wanted to come back and co-parent?" she recalled thinking. "That was really a bit scary."

However, after learning more and being in contact with both sets of birth parents, she now calls it "a very special relationship. We have a lot of respect for the birth parents. Both sets expressed before they had the boys that they would like to have contact."

Sometimes there are visits, sometimes text messages.

"We really give preference to the birth parents with how they'd like to be communicated with," Maria said. "We very much love them for who they are and who God made them to be and the decision they made to place their children with us."

David and Maria are pleased that their sons are close in age and feature different personalities; Isaac is outgoing, whereas Eli is reserved.

"We continue learning every day how to be parents," Maria said. "Whether we had the boys biologically or they came to us through adoption, they are God's children first and we are caretakers of them. We learn every day how to be better parents, how to be more loving, more patient, more giving. And we have a lot of fun in the process."

The Schuettes enjoy sharing those experiences with others. In part because they were public about the adoptions, Maria said about 10 families, who are also struggling with infertility and considering adoption, have reached out to them.

"The biggest thing I'd say to (prospective adoptive parents) is to give it a chance," said David, noting that both his youngest sister and paternal grandmother were adopted. "For the most part, people are very open and want to share their experiences and help others. And agencies do a great job of educating."

"Adoption is a great blessing and gift, but also a roller coaster of emotions," Maria said. "We tell families to trust and have faith that there is a child out there for you. Our family is a picture of that."

Maria also had a message for birth parents considering placing their child for adoption.

"Know that you aren't alone and that there are many, many people who love you and want to help you," she said. "Please don't be afraid to reach out for help. Know there are people there to support you every step of the way."

 - -

Wideman writes for The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

North American indigenous support Amazonian indigenous at synod

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- As the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon heard pleas to defend the rights of the region's indigenous people and of the land they hold sacred, indigenous leaders from Canada and the United States came to Rome to support them.

Accompanied by representatives of their nations' bishops' conferences, the North Americans said Oct. 17 that the struggle for justice, for recognition of territorial rights and for the defense of the Earth unite the indigenous peoples of North, Central and South America.

Sister Priscilla Solomon, an Ojibway and a Sister of St. Joseph Sault Ste. Marie from Canada, said the indigenous peoples of the Americas "have a very similar kind of spirituality, vision, values that teach us that everything is connected: not only people, human beings, but we are part of land. The land is us. The water is us."

Colonization is also a common experience, she said, and one that has left members of the First Nations and Native Americans impoverished, both materially and culturally since their languages, customs and spirituality often were suppressed.

Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan, who accompanied the group, said one task of the delegation was to look at the synod's "implications for our homelands," specifically as regards the treatment of native peoples and the ecological challenges present in North America.

But also, he said, "How are we impacted by what is happening in the Amazon" and "How are we implicated," especially in ties to or outright ownership of the mining and other companies extracting resources, polluting the land and waters and leaving entire populations deeper in poverty.

Rita Means, a longtime activist and representative on the tribal council of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, told reporters that as "a mother and grandmother," she feels driven to work for justice for her people and the protection of the Earth.

Like the Amazonian indigenous trying to protect their lands from the activity of various extractive industries like mining and logging, she said, the Lakota Sioux and others are fighting the encroachment on their lands of oil pipelines.

"Some of these extractive industries are very destructive to our homeland," she said. "Again, as a mother and grandmother, I guess I find that particularly painful."

She and her people have been "nourishing that 'turtle continent' (Earth) for many centuries and to see it being attacked in such a vicious and destructive way really tears at my heart," Means said. "The Earth is crying for our assistance and this is one call that we cannot fail to answer."

Rodney Bordeaux, president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said he wanted to show his people's solidarity for the Amazonian indigenous, who are experiencing "what happened to us 100-120 years ago" with people trying to steal their land to extract resources. For the Lakota, he said, "there was gold in the hills and they just stole our land."

Sister Solomon said she does not believe the Catholic Church should try to convert indigenous peoples to Christianity, "but where there is openness to knowing Christ and the teachings of the church, the church needs to be ready to offer that."

Bordeaux said the Bible presents Jesus as one who got involved in the lives of the people he encountered, so Christians should ask themselves "What would Jesus do today? Would he stand aside, quiet? I think we know the answer and the church knows the answer."

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]