More tributes to Cardinal Foley (part 2)

(CNS/Paul Haring)

It was no surprise that, as soon as I posted links yesterday to some of the tributes being written for the late Cardinal John P. Foley, several new ones would come in:

  • Bob Zyskowski, associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn., writes movingly of the cardinal as a mentor (he hired the 22-year-old Zyskowski in 1974 to be news and sports editor at The Catholic Standard & Times in Philadelphia) and a friend (he baptized two of the four Zyskowski children). He recalls that the future cardinal taught “the truism that Catholic media have nothing to fear from reporting bad news” and showed him “how to love the church, warts and all.”
  • Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher at Our Sunday Visitor, was another close Catholic press friend of the cardinal. (My wife still chuckles when she remembers seeing the two of them laughing and trading stories over breakfast at a hotel coffee shop six years ago.) Msgr. Campion remembers his last visit with the cardinal three weeks earlier and says no one ever could miss seeing his profound faith.

He knew the importance of words

(CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — I first met Cardinal John Foley on the tarmac of Andrews Air Force Base in March 1984. Of course, he wasn’t a cardinal then. He was editor of The Catholic Standard and Times, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and he had just returned from serving on a U.S. government-sponsored mission to monitor elections in El Salvador. I was in Washington for a few weeks, and he was my assignment that day.

Msgr. Foley said the elections had been essentially fair and that the people showed a real enthusiasm for the electoral process. He backed that up with comments from some of the 100 or so voters he had spoken with at polling places. He said El Salvador needed more U.S. aid, but when I asked about President Reagan’s request for additional military aid, his answer surprised me: he said he would “hate to say yes” to such a request.

“As a priest, I’m not enthusiastic about recommending more arms,” Msgr. Foley said. “I felt great empathy with Archbishop Rivera Damas when he said, `All the arms come from outside the country, but all the victims come from inside the country.’”

Msgr. Foley impressed me that day as someone who gave real answers. He measured his words carefully, but didn’t hide behind them.

A few weeks later, we met up in Rome. I was a correspondent for CNS and now-Archbishop Foley had just been named president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Our paths would cross many times over the next 27 years, often at press conferences but more often at lunches at Taverna Giulia, one of his favorite restaurants in Rome.

Cardinal Foley took journalism seriously. He was an attentive and daily reader of Catholic News Service, and if he thought we wrote something good, he’d phone and tell us so. Occasionally, he’d weigh in with a criticism, which we took all the more seriously because of his absolute sense of fairness.

As a Roman Curia official, Cardinal Foley made an unusually good impression with the local Vaticanisti. He was a breath of fresh air at Vatican press conferences — straightforward, concise and witty. Many times I heard Italian reporters describe him with the single word simpatico, “friendly.”

And in fact, inside or outside the Vatican, he was someone who made friends quickly, because he was genuinely interested in people. He was a man of deep and cheerful faith, and I always considered him one of the Vatican’s most effective evangelizers.

Blessed Marianne Cope’s cause moves ahead; news on other causes

Icon of Blessed Marianne Cope by Margaret Girdwood. (CNS photo)

On Wednesday, we reported that the path to canonization for Blessed Marianne Cope has been clearedafter a Vatican congregation has confirmed a second miracle attributed to her intercession. The final step for her canonization is approval by Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican decision was announced Dec. 6 by the sister’s religious community, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse, N.Y., and by Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva. At the same time unconfirmed reports surfaced that an announcement will be made in mid-December about the approval of a second miracle attributed to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha’s intercession, which would clear the way for her canonization.

There also is news about other sainthood causes. In mid-November, Catholic New York, newspaper of the New York Archdiocese, reported that with approval from the Vatican, the cause for Bishop James A. Walsh has been formally opened, The bishop was co-founder in 1911 of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, better known as Maryknoll. A ceremony took place Nov. 9 at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan. According to Catholic New York, the cause for Maryknoll co-founder Father Thomas Frederick Price is pending in Raleigh, N.C.

In the Diocese of Peoria, Ill., the home diocese of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Msgr. Stanley Deptula, executive director of the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, announced that this Sunday there will be a Mass to close the investigation tribunal that examined an alleged miracle attributed to the intercession of the archbishop. It will be celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, All the official documents related to the case will be sealed for shipment to Rome at the Dec. 11 Mass.

“If the pope approves this alleged miracle, we could have the first beatification ever on American soil here in Peoria, Illinois,” said the foundation.

A tribunal of inquiry was sworn in last September to investigate the case of  James Fulton Engstrom, who celebrated his first birthday Sept. 16, 2011. His parents, Travis and Bonnie Engstrom, believe James is alive because of the intercession of Archbishop Sheen. On the day of his birth he was considered stillborn, though his mother had had a healthy pregnancy and experienced “a beautiful, short labor.”

James was without a pulse for the first 61 minutes of his life. It was only when doctors at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria were ready to call the time of death “that his little heart started beating.”

The archbishop’s cause was officially opened in 2002. The Sheen Foundation centralized its operations in the diocese in 2007.

Minnesota priest heard Lincoln’s call for Civil War chaplains

April marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and some folks might think there wouldn’t be much interest in Catholic-related stories about the War Between the States too far outside Washington or beyond the site of the major battles between North and South. But then along comes a feature from one of the Catholic newpapers in the Midwest.

The story in the Nov. 21 issue of The Catholic Spirit, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, describes how Father John Ireland of Minnesota tended to the spiritual needs of soldiers on the battlefield.

In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln called for priests to serve as Civil War hospital chaplains. Twenty-two answered, among them a young Minnesotan.

Read the full story here. The Minnesota Military Museum has an exhibit about the role of Minnesotans’ role in the Civil War.

Spending a week on a food stamp diet ‘humbling, difficult’

In this season o’ plenty, with Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas feasting ahead, reporter George Raine’s story in a recent issue of Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper, gives a perspective on those trying to subsist on food stamps. He interviewed a U.S. representative from the Bay Area about the week she and other lawmakers spent living on the $4.50 daily allowance for food stamp recipients.

Rep. Jackie Speier, who represents California’s 12th District in Congress, told Raine the experience was “humbling and difficult.” She joined other House Democrats in a “Food Stamp Challenge” the first week of November to call attention to the program facing possible budget cuts in Congress.

A Vatican II Catholic tells why he loves Mass

(CNS photo/Gregory A.Shemitz)

As everyone knows, the English-translation of the new Roman Missal will gets its first use in the pews at Masses this weekend. And along comes a timely reflection from one Vatican II Catholic about what he loves about the Mass, reflecting on what it has meant to him at various stages of his life, starting when he was an altar boy.

“At Mass – no matter where or who or how many people are in the pews or folding chairs – I feel affirmed in my choice to be part of this 2,000-year-old tradition,” writes Bob Zyskowski in a Nov. 18 posting. “Note that word ‘choice.’ Nobody is forcing me to be at church. I go because I want to. Because I get something out of it. And what’s affirming is that I feel part of something good and valued by others.”

Zyskowski is associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His reflection is on CatholicHotDish.com, “A Minnesota Flavored Catholic Blog” launched by the newspaper earlier this year.

“This isn’t an exercise in apologetics on behalf of the new Roman Missal,” he says. “I’ve read at least a dozen explanations explaining the need for the changes and just as many commentaries questioning those explanations. Frankly, neither matter. I’ll still love Mass.”

Also worth a look is a CNS story about Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley’s new pastoral, “Jesus’ Eager Desire: Our Participation in the Sunday Mass.” The full text is available on the website of The Pilot, the Boston archdiocesan newspaper. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput also offered his reflections on the first Sunday of Advent and use of the new missal in this letter to Catholics.

More than 25,000 youths and their chaperones descend on Indianapolis to celebrate faith, friendship, community

Kaleigh Gross of Atlanta attends youth conference. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway)

More than 25,000 Catholic youths and their adult chaperones are in Indianapolis for the National Catholic Youth Conference. Saturday is the last day of  what has been a three-day experience of prayer, community and empowerment for Catholic teens. Check out this photo gallery on the website of The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese.

According to organizers, one of the signature activities for the youths at this biennial gathering is trading – buttons, pins, caps and other souvenirs that represent their hometown or state. This year, for the first time, they’ll be exchanging bishops’ trading cards during one of the final events on the closing day.

More than 100,000 of the cards were printed and each teen received five bishop trading cards in his or her registration packet. A complete set includes 28 different bishops from all over the country.

“The whole idea of the bishop trading cards was to get into the spirit of the thematic park, Victory Park (named and modeled after Indianapolis’ Victory Field),” said Marlene Stammerman, director of Catholic Youth Ministries for the Indianapolis Archdiocese’s New Albany deanery in Clarksville.

“There is a whole dynamic of trading items at NCYC. Some kids trade buttons, cow bells, and almost anything. Trading the bishops and trying to get the card with their diocesan bishop on it gives the kids one more thing to negotiate with when vying for that favorite item. It’s a fun way for them to start conversations and make new friends.”

Bishops planned to autograph their trading cards for the teens on Saturday from 2-6 p.m. at Victory Park.

Backers of California’s Prop. 8 have standing to appeal ruling, says court

In a unanimous decision issued Nov. 17, the California Supreme Court ruled that the faith-based groups that sponsored Proposition 8, the state’s 2008 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, have the right to appeal a federal judge’s 2010 ruling it is unconstitutional, reports George Raine of Catholic San Francisco.

“Catholics are among the backers of Prop. 8 who appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal the ruling that it discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and gender,” Raine writes. “As the circuit court took up the issue, its judges needed to resolve a question: Do the backers of the proposition have the legal right to defend it in court when two elected officials, the former governor and the former attorney general, refused to do so?”

The Nov. 17 decision, Raine continues, “was a victory for ProtectMarriage.com, the proponent in the case, and it allows the 9th Circuit now to resolve the critical question in the case – whether or not Prop. 8 is constitutional – although it is expected the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final word.”

Andy Pugno, general counsel of ProtectMarriage.com., told Raine: “(The) decision is a critical step in our three-year battle to uphold marriage between a man and a woman.”

Looking at ‘musical legacy, faith’ of Bruce Springsteen

A New Jersey pastor who has had a long friendship with Bruce Springsteen held a workshop a few weeks back examining the “musical legacy and faith” of the singer-songwriter, according to a story by correspondent Christina Leslie in this issue of The Monitor, newspaper of the Diocese of Trenton, N.J. A crowd of about 150 — including Bruce’s mother, Adele — gathered for the session held by Father Kevin J. Keelen, pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Bayville.

“Every indigenous tribe has music. It’s part of being human,” the Augustinian friar said. “Tonight’s about Bruce and us. He evangelizes in a different way.” Citing lyrics from Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” the priest quoted St. Augustine: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, God.”

With anecdotes drawn on his friendship with “The Boss,” Father Keelen “wove a picture of a deeply spiritual musician whose faith is reflected in his extensive music portfolio,” writes Leslie.

One thing is clear: Chinese Catholics need prayers

After traveling to China in 2007, I came away having learned two important lessons: 1) Nothing is as it seems. 2) The more you learn, the more you realize what you do not know.

A Chinese security officer watches as Catholics pray at an altar during a 2008 pilgrimage in honor of Mary at the Sheshan shrine on the outskirts of Shanghai, China. (CNS/ Reuters)

This does not apply just to China, but to the Chinese Catholic Church, which, on one level, is locked in a battle with the Chinese government: church autonomy vs. government control.

Reports coming from China might indicate that Chinese Catholic leaders are caving in to government officials. For instance, last December the Asian church news agency UCA News reported on the Congress of Catholic Representatives, which some church leaders were forced to attend. The Vatican was critical of the assembly on many levels, including that Vatican-approved bishops were among officials elected to the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Catholic Patriotic Association, two bodies Pope Benedict XVI has said are not in line with church teaching.

Yet in that same 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics in which Pope Benedict criticized the two government-backed bodies, he said he recognized the difficult situation of bishops and priests under pressure from the government and added that the Holy See “leaves the decision to the individual bishop,” having consulted his priests, “to weigh … and to evaluate the possible consequences” of dealing with government pressures in each given situation.

In mid-July, the Vatican condemned the ordination of Father Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop of Shantou and said he automatically incurred excommunication. The Vatican said Father Huang “had been informed some time ago that he could not be approved by the Holy See as an episcopal candidate, inasmuch as the Diocese of Shantou already has a legitimate bishop.”

And today UCA News is reporting that the Shantou Diocese has three new priests. The report cites a source, unnamed, as saying that Father Huang might have struck a deal with a neighboring bishop to allow the seminarians to be ordained: Father Huang is still seen by the government as bishop of Shantou, yet he probably recognized the needs of the seminarians who had spent years studying to be priests, so he allowed them to be ordained by a Vatican-approved bishop.

Bishop Paul Pei Junmin (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Meanwhile, online speculation has considered the circumstances of Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning, whom China says was suspended from his posts as vice president of the Chinese bishops’ conference and as head of the Liaoning branch of the patriotic association for refusing to participate in Father Huang’s episcopal ordination.

Bishop Pei, who has Vatican approval, is rumored to have resigned from his posts, and some speculate that the Chinese government announced his suspension to save face. Some reports have said he is under house arrest.

What exactly is going on remains unclear, and those who do know are reluctant to speak for fear of repercussions. What IS clear is that, as they navigate the minefields of church leadership in China, the young church leaders continue to need the prayers of Catholics around the world.

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