Would you like a side of faith with those fries?

Sharing a meal together was a gesture of community, solidarity and love even before Jesus asked his disciples to share in his body and blood during the Last Supper, but since then it has become a cornerstone of the Catholic faith. Sharing in the Eucharist connects the faithful not only to Christ, but also to each other.

CNS photo by Nancy Wiechec

Sitting down for dinner together is also a practice that many say can bring families closer to one another and helps them stay together.
Seeing the connection between food and fellowship, Elvira Go decided to open a Catholic-themed restaurant in her home country, the Philippines.

The Manila-based restaurant is the first of its kind in the Philippines, where 82 percent of the population is Catholic. Its name, Ristorante delle Mitre, is a take on the miter worn by Catholic bishops.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines endorses the restaurant, so it is only appropriate that the menu is designed to honor all bishops of the church and the restaurant is decorated with church memorabilia.

The menu features price-fixed meals for those looking to splurge, a budget meal that’s less than one U.S. dollar and moderately priced fare with Asian, Italian, Western and Filipino flare.

Sister Evangeline Paras, a Theresian nun, is the head chef at Ristorante delle Mitre. She told Agence France Presse, “We want to show the positive side of the church… I consider this another ministry of the church.”

Sister Evangeline first put her cooking skills into the service of the church when she managed a religious retreat house. Her talent impressed Archbishop Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, now retired as archbishop of Cebu, who then hired her as his personal chef.

“Cooking for God’s people has always been my calling,” Sister Evangeline told AFP.

Survivors, activists raise concerns about use of torture

(CNS/Reuters)

The use of torture by some governments continues and the practice is being challenged in a series of events this week in Washington.

The events mark Torture Awareness Month and are sponsored by groups such as the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, National Religious Campaign Against Torture and Witness Against Torture, whose members include faith-based leaders and Catholic Workers from across the U.S.

Demissie Abebe, director of the torture survivors group, said the events keep the focus on the impact of torture on human beings and give torture survivors the chance to explain how widespread the practice is by governments around the world.

“It’s all about educating the public so that they can wake up and stand up to speak up about this problem,” Abebe said.

Witness Against Torture has long advocated for the release of the 171 suspected terrorists still being held at the U.S. Army base in Guantanamo, Cuba. The organization maintains that American interrogators have used torture on detainees in Guantanamo and elsewhere in its anti-terrorism campaign.

The U.S. government has denied the claim.

The week’s events include a Witness Against Torture-sponsored procession of orange jumpsuit-clad protesters, representing the men held at Guantanamo June 23. Members will walk from the White House to the Capitol, with stops at the Justice Dept and the Supreme Court.

The Catholic University of America hosts a daylong workshop June 22 on contemporary applications of justice for torture survivors in post-war settings, an event sponsored by the torture survivors coalition. Activists and torture survivors will visit congressional offices June 23 to call for the U.S. to end support of countries that torture.

The week closes June 25 with a 12-hour vigil in Lafayette Park across from the White House.

“It’s not acceptable for a country like the U.S., a human rights champion, to send funding, to send aid to countries that are torturing its citizens,” Abebe said. “We know there is a long way to go.”

Catholic school alumnae play in FIFA Women’s World Cup

Several Catholic school alumnae are competing in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which kicks off June 26 in Germany.

On the U.S. team, forwards Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez both attended Catholic high schools: Our Lady of Mercy High School in Rochester, N.Y., and Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., respectively.

Their teammate, midfielder Shannon Boxx, is a University of Notre Dame graduate, where she helped her team win their first NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship title in 1995.

Striker Kelly Smith will be playing for England, but attended Seton Hall University, where she became the first athlete outside of basketball to have a jersey number retired.

Representing the Canadians, University of Portland alumna and forward Christine Sinclair set an all-time Division I goal-scoring record during her senior year at 39 goals.

Heather O’Reilly, a midfielder from the U.S. team, attended St. Bartholomew School in East Brunswick, N.J. Read about how the faith has helped this Catholic New Jersey native in her soccer career here.

New man in charge at bishops’ spring meeting

(CNS photo/Stephen Brashear)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Leading his first meeting as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York didn’t take long to place his distinctive mark on the proceedings.

“Let the record show I’m five minutes ahead of where Cardinal (Francis E.) George (of Chicago) would have been at this time,” Archbishop Dolan joked an hour into the meeting, referring to his predecessor as USCCB president.

The spring general assembly in Bellevue, near Seattle, did proceed at a brisk clip, with the bishops completing their public business an hour early the first day, June 15, requiring them to go into executive session. Among the actions the second day were votes approving a statement on physician-assisted suicide and revisions to the charter adressing child abuse.

Besides leading the meeting, Archbishop Dolan also served as its cheerleader, telling nearly every bishop who spoke that he had done a great job.

Asked about the brisk pace in an on-air interview with Telecare, the television station of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., which was broadcasting the meeting nationwide, the jovial Archbishop Dolan made another joke.

“There are coffee breaks to get to, and lunches, and dinners,” said the New York prelate who often makes fun of his own weight. “You can’t let the meeting get in the way.”

Lila Rose sees abortion as greatest human rights abuse

It goes without saying there are a lot of important causes that spur activism, but for Lila Rose, the abortion issue in the U.S. is paramount. Rose is the founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action, which currently focuses on investigating Planned Parenthood.

She was recently in the Diocese of Madison, Wis., for the annual dinner and auction of the Wisconsin Right to Life Education Fund. Coverage of Rose’s remarks is in the June 9 issue of the Catholic Herald, Madison’s diocesan newspaper.

“The purpose of laws is to protect people in this country. The purpose of laws is to protect the weak against the strong,” she said. “But what happens to a country, to a legal system when the law is turned against the weakest member of the society? That at the very heart of the system is injustice.”

In April Rose was in Washington to speak at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. She talked about becoming a Catholic recently, calling it the “best decision” she ever made.

Canada’s Novalis celebrates 75th anniversary

Our friends at Novalis, Canada’s premier publisher of religious books, resources and periodicals, are celebrating the company’s 75th anniversary this year.

A visit to the company’s website reveals books, magazines and resources for parishes and schools, but also “for people who are on their own spiritual journey,” points out is publishing director, Joseph Sinasac.

He said the Toronto-based publishing house grew out of a movement in ’30s, ’40s and ’50s for the development of lay Catholics. Its first product was a missalette for people in the pews to follow along with the Latin Mass. Today, he said, Novalis helps lay Catholics “understand how their own faith can guide and enrich their lives, whether at home, or in the workplace, or simply as citizens in the world.”

Novalis is planning a series of events around Canada to mark its anniversary. Keep track by following it on its Facebook page.

Charity bike ride aims to raise funds for pro-life groups

By Nicholas Grevas
Catholic News Service

At about 5:30 a.m. yesterday, Jimmy Becker and Michael Schaefer and a few others set out by bicycle from Covington, La., near New Orleans, and headed to Champaign, Ill. They are leading the third annual Biking for Babies tour. Check the site for video from the ride and a daily update. It’s an eight-day charity ride that aims to raise $15,000 for pro-life groups and crisis pregnancy centers. Becker and Schaefer are being joined by Stacy Hague, Eric Johannigmeier and Kevin Biese.

Along the way they plan to stop at parishes and radio stations to promote their event and increase awareness about the pro-life cause. The money they raise will go to three charities: the University of Illinois Students for Life, and a crisis pregnancy center in Illinois, called Living Alternatives, and a second pregnancy crisis center in Madison, Wis.

(Photo courtesy of Biking for Babies)

In 2008 Becker and Schaefer thought of the idea to do a pro-life charity ride, and in 2009 they rode from Carbondale, Ill., to Chicago. While other students enjoyed a welcome weeklong spring break, the two young men were out answering the call of Blessed John Paul II to “defend life and to change the culture of death,” as Becker put it in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service before this year’s ride began.

The event wasn’t always so easily coordinated. In 2010, the two led separate rides because Becker had graduated from the University of Illinois in 2009 and was working in campus ministry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Schaefer was still at Illinois (where he’ll be a senior this fall), and their respective spring breaks were at different times.

But this year they are on the road together with their three friends, knowing riding in the heat could be a challenge but hoping their commitment will inspire others to join them and help Biking for Babies grow into a long-standing tradition.

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