Catholics of the Year 2017

Prophetic shepherds

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Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. CNS photo by Bob Roller

◗ My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the Church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas. At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering. In the end, the only response is to do good — for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light.” — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the wake of the Oct. 1 mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas that left 59 people dead and 546 injured.

◗ Policy that is good for workers, families who welcome life, families who are struggling to reach (or stay in) the middle class, and the very poor, has by design been a part of our tax code for years. Any modifications to these important priorities of our nation should only be made with a clear understanding and concern for the people who may least be able to bear the negative consequences of new policy. For the sake of all people — but especially those persons we ought, in justice, to prioritize — Congress should advance a final tax reform bill only if it meets the key moral concerns outlined above.” — Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in a Dec. 6 letter to the U.S. Senate on the tax bill.

◗ America has the ability to serve every person while making room for valid conscientious objection. We pray that the court will continue to preserve the ability of people to live out their faith in daily life, regardless of their occupation.” — Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap, of Philadelphia; and Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, commenting on the oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission before the Supreme Court in December.

◗ After a slew of violence this fall, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York posed the question via his blog, “What’s wrong? How is all this happening?” He answered: “Think about what we have grown used to,” the cardinal said, listing all the ways we have become what Pope Francis calls a "throw-away culture." Peace is found, he said, in the Church’s teaching that “no human person can be looked upon as a means to an end; no human life can be viewed as an object at our disposal; no creature has the right to ‘play the creator’ and decide who lives or dies. The Church has something to say to the nation; people of faith can be a light in this dark period.”

Disaster responders

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Sister Donna Markham. CNS photo courtesy Catholic Charities USA

◗ The Knights of Columbus in December pledged $1.4 million to help repair and rebuild churches damaged or destroyed by this year’s hurricanes. “The people in the affected areas see the revival of their churches as a spiritual joy and as an important signal of recovery for the larger communities that surround these churches,” said Carl Anderson, CEO.

Catholic Charities USA was a leader in assisting with disaster relief, collecting millions through parish collections, donations online and by mail, and launching a “text-to-give” option for donation directly from individual devices. “Hurricane Harvey will have a devastating effect on communities in its path. Thanks to the generosity of our donors we are able to provide the compassionate care and support to anyone — regardless of background or religious beliefs — to help them rebuild their lives, ” said Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO.

◗ The local efforts in Houston were exemplified by St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Community, which became a Red Cross Shelter for Hurricane Harvey flood victims.

The Diocese of Santa Rosa, California, began a Sign of Hope campaign following major wildfires that destroyed many homes and businesses within its boundaries in October.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced plans to support victims from the wildfires in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties that has caused untold destruction this December. Funds are being raised through the archdiocesan Catholic Charities office. Archbishop José H. Gomez reiterated the need to provide support for the victims, not least of which is through prayer “for an end to the fires and ... for the safety of our police, fire and emergency workers — and all those who are in harm’s way.”

Healers of the racial divide

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Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, responds to questions after being named chair of the U.S. bishops’ new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. CNS photo by Bob Roller

◗ Following up on 2016’s “Peace in our Communities Task Force,” led by Atlanta Archbishop Wilton E. Gregory, the U.S. bishops announced the formation of an ad hoc committee against racism in August, led by Bishop George V. Murry, SJ, of Youngstown, Ohio. “The key here is changing hearts; it’s not a matter of just changing external behaviors. It’s helping the Catholic community, all of us and not only the Catholic community but people of goodwill, to understand that racism is contrary to God’s will,” Bishop Murry told OSV in August.

Christ the King Parish in Nashville sought to foster dialogue through a parish series on racial justice in January. “We’re all coming from a place of faith. There’s a way for us to work together,” said Christ the King parishioner and recent Catholic convert Whitney Washington.

◗ In his November 2017 pastoral letter, “The Challenge of Racism Today,” Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., wrote: “Tragically, the divisive force of this sin continues to be felt across our land and in our society. It is our faith that calls us to see each other as members of God’s family. It is our faith that calls us to confront and overcome racism. This challenge is rooted in our Christian identity as sisters and brothers, redeemed by the blood of Christ.”

Holy witnesses

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Blessed Stanley Rother (top) and Blessed Solanus Casey. Courtesy, CNS photos

◗ The beatification of Father Stanley Rother is a first in two significant ways: It was the first beatification of a U.S.-born martyr and also the first for a native-born American priest. Said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect for the Holy See’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in his homily: “Father Rother, aware of the imminent danger to his life, prepared himself for martyrdom, asking the Lord for the strength to face it without fear. He continued, however, to preach the Gospel of love and nonviolence.”

◗ The beatification, hosted by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City — with notable involvement from Archbishop Paul S. Coakley and Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran — was held in the see city’s Cox Convention Center, where attendance far exceeded expectations.

Father Solanus Casey was known as a miracle-worker during his life. And his beatification had been awaited by thousands who have been involved in continuing his work and seeking his intercession since his death in 1957. Said Pope Francis of Father Solanus: He was “a humble and faithful disciple of Christ, tireless in serving the poor.”

◗ Blessed Solanus Casey is remembered for his work among the poor and forgotten — most notably in his ministry as monastery porter at Detroit’s Capuchin St. Bonaventure Monastery. From his office he offered spiritual counsel to all who sought him, often the forgotten and marginalized. They desired the help of his prayers and received blessings from his miraculous deeds. During the Great Depression, Father Solanus was instrumental in establishing a soup kitchen to serve the needy of Detroit — a ministry that continues today.

Fighters against the opioid crisis

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◗ In Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Bishop Edward Malesic wrote a pastoral letter to his rural diocese. “I write this pastoral letter to call the priests, deacons, consecrated men and women religious, and all people of faith within the Diocese of Greensburg to take action against the scourge of opioid addiction. With Jesus, who promises to remain with us, we can reach out in his name to help those who are hurting. We can let them know that they are not alone. We can remind them that they are loved. We can offer to walk with them side by side on the path to recovery. We can help them overcome the isolation and shame they may feel.” He’s also followed up with educational and prayer opportunities around the diocese.

Father John Mahoney, director of clinical services for Catholic Charities of New Hampshire, is on the front lines of the crisis. Noticing that people who were being affected by opioid addition were not coming to Catholic Charities for help, Father Mahoney decided to go to the people. “We decided to use the Christian model,” Father Mahoney said. “Jesus didn’t stay in a clinic or an office. He went into the marketplace and healed the people he met there. So we said, what about the families of people who are addicted? Is anyone reaching out to them?”

Champions of Our Lady

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Worshippers carry a statue of Our Lady of Fatima through San Francisco near St. Mary’s Cathedral in October. CNS photo via Debra Greenblat, Catholic San Francisco

◗ To celebrate the centennial, the World Apostolate of Fatima facilitated the tour of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima of 100 dioceses over two years, wrapping up in December. The tour was a nationwide call to prayer and penance, encouraging people everywhere to pray with increasing fervor for peace in our world, and numerous favors and graces have been associated with the image of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue. Said Our Lady of Fatima in 1917: “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”

◗ According to the World Apostolate of Fatima, “the purpose of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue tours was and still is to bring the graces of Fatima and Our Lady’s message of hope, peace and salvation to a world suffering under the weight of sin. Many graces and favors have been associated with the precious image. Parish priests who have hosted the image have reported long lines at the confessional and many people returning to the sacraments. Numerous conversions occur, especially when people spend personal time before the statue and look into her eyes. The statue has traveled around the globe many times, visiting more than 100 countries, including Russia and China.”

Witnesses to marriage

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Twenty-one couples celebrate their convalidation ceremony at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va., June 24. CNS photo by Tyler Orsburn

Love Saxa, a student group at Georgetown University that promotes traditional marriage, faced charges of hatred and intolerance by student LGBTQ activists in October for their support of the Church’s view that marriage can only exist between one man and one woman. After a very public dispute, the Student Activities Commission voted not to take action on Love Saxa, allowing them to continue to organize and promote its message — and that of the Church — on campus. “Love Saxa’s definition of marriage does not include same-sex couples, as we believe that marriage is a conjugal union on every level — emotional, spiritual, physical and mental — directed toward caring for biological children. To us, marriage is much more than commitment of love between two consenting adults,” said Amelia Irvine, president of Love Saxa, in her letter to the editor in The Hoya student newspaper called “Confessions of a College Virgin.” The group garnered widespread support across ideological divides in the Church.

Mary-Rose and Ryan Verret, founders of the Catholic marriage preparation ministry Witness to Love, use modern principles of psychology and the virtues to help facilitate communication and dialogue within relationships. Witness to Love is being used in parishes across the country as they work to prepare engaged couples for married life using a model of catechesis, evangelization, discipleship and parish integration. “I think over the next few years we will see a springtime for the Church through the Sacrament of Matrimony,” Mary-Rose Verret told the National Catholic Register in May.

Voices for immigrants and refugees

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Cardinal Tobin CNS photo by Bob Roller

◗ The decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September was met with outrage by the nation’s bishops, but perhaps none have a stronger collective voice than the bishops of Texas, who released a joint statement denouncing the decision. “We say, first, to DACA youth: regardless of your immigration status, you are a child of God. You are welcome in the Catholic Church. We support you and will advocate for you,” they wrote.

◗ In March, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, of Newark, New Jersey, stood with an undocumented immigrant facing deportation. In explaining his decision to do so, the cardinal said, “I can’t accompany the 11 million undocumented people in this country. What I hope to do is say, look, they’ve got faces, they’ve got histories and there’s a lot of advantage to leaving them alone.”

◗ Last month, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco attended similar hearings. In a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, the archbishop asked how we should treat immigrants or how we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes. “In a virtuous society — that is, one whose political, social and economic institutions allow all of its members to flourish — the answer to both questions is the same. Will we be such a virtuous society?” he wrote. “The decision is now before us. The character of our country will be defined by our answer.”

◗ Entities like the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC) are helping people navigate their legal rights. “We’re very much focused on improving the representation in immigration court. At the same time we’re also committed to expanding representation for immigrants who are going to be in removal proceedings,” Michelle Mendez, training and legal support senior attorney for CLINIC told OSV in May. This, she added, means training a lot of immigration advocates to become better litigators. Connecting immigrants with counsel is another challenge. Mendez said most Americans have no idea of the hurdles to legal residency, from the costs associated with visas to the lack of a path to citizenship.