A saint for those who bark (and meow)

Sister St. John, of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, holds Marlie during the blessing of the animals at the Franciscan Monastery.

Sister St. John, of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, holds Marlie during the blessing of the animals at the Franciscan Monastery.

WASHINGTON (CNS) -– A few fights broke out among the dogs, including the dapper ones who dressed up for the occasion. A parakeet was silenced by the cacophony of barks. The cats merely tolerated everyone else.

One pup couldn’t take the pressure, got loose and ran for freedom but soon was caught and forced to sit tight today during the blessing of the animals at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America.

On the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Franciscan Father Greg Friedman told the pet lovers gathered at the monastery the tale of St. Francis befriending a wolf in the Italian town of Gubbio, even when the angry townsfolk wanted to kill the animal.

“Francis was willing to befriend anything that God created,” said Father Friedman.

The saint’s message was one of creating peace and promoting harmony, he said. While that may not have gotten through to the barking dogs in the crowd, at least one pair of pets — a dog and a cat that arrived together in the same carrier — seemed to live in the Franciscan spirit.  For more photos, see our photo gallery on our Catholic News Service Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CatholicNewsService/photos/pcb.10152321613445723/10152321595360723/?type=1&theater

The synod by the numbers

VATICAN CITY — The extraordinary Synod of Bishops formally opens with Mass Sunday and begins its working sessions at the Vatican Monday morning.

Synod 2014Pope Francis is expected to attend all of the working sessions, along with 253 other people.

By the numbers:

– 191 voting members are expected: 162 attending because of the office they hold (114 presidents of bishops’ conferences, 25 heads of Vatican offices, 13 heads of Eastern Catholic churches, and 10 members of the synod council); three elected by the men’s Union of Superiors General; and 26 named by Pope Francis.

– Of the 191, 42 come from Africa, 38 from the Americas, 29 from Asia, 78 from Europe and four from Oceania and the South Pacific. The voting members include 61 Latin-rite cardinals, one Eastern-rite cardinal, seven Eastern patriarchs, 67 archbishops, 47 bishops, one auxiliary bishop and seven priests.

– The synod members will be assisted by 16 synod staff members and appointed experts (also referred to as collaborators), including one married couple. Members also will hear from and work in small groups with 38 observers (auditors), including 12 married couples.

– In addition, eight other Christian churches and communities will send delegates as a sign of their shared concern for the pastoral care of families today.

Participants in the 2012 Synod of Bishops in the Vatican synod hall with Pope Benedict XVI. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Participants in the 2012 Synod of Bishops in the Vatican synod hall with Pope Benedict XVI. (CNS/Paul Haring)


Pope Francis’ baseball moment

By now, more than 24 hours after it happened, there are probably only a few dozen people who haven’t seen Pope Francis bobble the baseball thrown to him from the stands — er, the crowd of pilgrims — at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square yesterday.

If you’re one who hasn’t seen it, watch this closely:

Here’s a better shot, taken by Claudio Peri and distributed by the European Pressphoto Agency:

Pope Francis reaches out to grab a baseball thrown by someone in the crowd as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square Sept. 24.  (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

Pope Francis reaches out to grab a baseball thrown by someone in the crowd as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 24. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

As you can see in the video, Pope Francis leaps and almost catches the high throw. According to Rafael Walter, who posted the “Popeball” video to YouTube, the toss was made by a member of the Koeppel family from St. Edward’s Church in Palm Beach, Fla., reportedly in the hope of raising money for their parish.

For anyone who knows baseball, the error is on the throw, not on the attempted catch.

CNEWA gets Raskob grant for clinics for displaced Iraqis

Aid officials have cited a need for hospitals for displaced Iraqi minorities who fled Islamic State fighters. (CNS/Sahar Mansour)

Aid officials have cited a need for health care for displaced Iraqi minorities who fled Islamic State fighters. (CNS/Sahar Mansour)

NEW YORK — The Raskob Foundation has awarded the Catholic Near East Welfare Association an emergency grant so it can open two additional medical clinics serving displaced Christians in Kurdistan, in northern Iraq.

The agency’s local partners have cited pressing health concerns for the 4,530 Iraqi Christian families living temporarily in the cities of Dohuk and Zahko. They are among Iraqi minorities who have fled advancing Islamic State fighters.

The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena will administer the clinics and will coordinate their efforts with Chaldean and Syriac Catholic priests responsible for relief efforts in Dohuk and Zahko, respectively.

Bishop Cupich named to succeed Cardinal George as Chicago archbishop

Archbishop Cupich (CNS photo)

Archbishop Cupich (CNS photo)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -– Pope Francis has named Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington, as archbishop of Chicago, succeeding Cardinal Francis E. George, who has headed the archdiocese since 1997.

The appointment was announced Sept. 20 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Archbishop Cupich will be installed in Chicago during a special Mass Nov. 18.

Cardinal George is 77, two years past the age when bishops are required by canon law to turn in their resignation to the pope.

The cardinal was first diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2006 and had a recurrence of cancer announced in 2012. In August it was announced that he was participating in a clinical research trial for a new cancer drug.

His health concerns have stepped up the process of searching for his successor as archbishop of Chicago.

In an April 11 news conference he told reporters: “It’s a question of being able to spend your entire energy on what is my responsibility as archbishop of Chicago. This is a position that demands a lot of constant attention.”

“Now it looks as if I’m going to have to be spending a little more attention on my health and so it’s just not fair to the archdiocese to have someone who may not be able to do the job as well as I believe it should be done,” he added.

Archbishop Cupich, 65, has been bishop of Spokane since 2010 after having served as bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, since 1998. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, he was born in 1949, the grandson of Croatian immigrants. He was ordained a priest for the Omaha Archdiocese in 1975.

In his ministry as a priest, he served as an associate pastor and pastor, teacher, seminary rector, and as a member of the staff of the apostolic nunciature in Washington.

The archbishop chairs the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe and is former chair of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Cardinal George is the first native Chicagoan to serve as archbishop of Chicago. He was born in 1937 and attended schools in Illinois before entering the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1957. He was ordained a priest Dec. 21, 1963. He was his order’s vicar general in Rome from 1974 to 1986.

The cardinal has often said that one of his goals is to live to see retirement since all of the other Chicago bishops died in office. His predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, died in 1996 at age 68 of pancreatic cancer.

A five-month bout with polio when Cardinal George was 13 damaged both of his legs, forcing him to use a brace on his right leg. He walks with a pronounced limp.

He was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2007 to 2010.

He was made a cardinal in 1998. Before his appointment to Chicago, he was archbishop of Portland, Oregon, and before that bishop of Yakima, Washington.

New Connecticut bishop plans to ‘repurpose’ residence

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut. (CNS photo/Greg Shemitz)

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut. (CNS photo/Greg Shemitz)

When he was installed as head of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, just a year ago, and Bishop Frank J. Caggiano urged his new flock to be builders of spiritual bridges. He used a famous image of his hometown — the Brooklyn Bridge — to describe how, like a physical bridge, a “spiritual bridge” pulls communities together draws Catholics closer to God, the Gospels and one another as members of the body of Christ.

“On my first day of ministry in your midst, I ask you to join with me hand in hand, heart to heart, to become builders of spiritual bridges with the help and grace of the Lord and his Holy Spirit,” he said in his homily during his installation Mass last September.

It’s been a busy first year for the bishop, and he recently made some headlines delivering his first “state of the diocese” address.  Among other things he announced plans to “repurpose” the nearly 9,000-square- foot bishop’s residence, as National Catholic Reporter put it, and use it once again for the diocesan seminary.

There are details to work out, but his announcement seems in keeping with Pope Francis’ spirit of simplicity and his example of poverty and humility.

The Fairfield County Catholic, Bridgeport’s diocesan newspaper, reported that in his Sept. 9 address at All Saints School auditorium in Norwalk, Bishop Caggiano outlined the pastoral, administrative and financial challenges facing the diocese, and said he expects to make a “state of the diocese” address a yearly event under his tenure.

His 50-minute talk was well received, the paper said, by the audience of 500 lay leaders, pastors and synod delegates. He was interrupted several times by applause and received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks. The diocese’s 350 synod delegates will soon begin their work “to help plan the future of the Catholic Church in Fairfield County.”

Walkers spent their summer taking pro-life message cross-country

This year’s Crossroads cross-country treks ended almost two weeks ago, but the participants who spent most of their summer walking from coast to coast on behalf of the pro-life movement hope their efforts will have a lasting impact.

Last year was Tyler Cutrer’s first Crossroads walk. He signed up “on a whim,” he said, but found it such a transformational experience, he was back this year for his second walk and has taken a full-time job with the organization.

Crossroads was founded in 1995 by Steve Sanborn, a student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, in response to a call by St. John Paul II during World Youth Day in Denver in 1993 — that youth around the globe take an active role in the pro-life movement “to establish a culture of life.”

It sponsors three simultaneous pro-life walks/pilgrimages across the United States; a fourth takes place in Canada.

Crossroads walker Caleb on southern route. (Photo/Crossroads blog)

Crossroads walker Caleb Courville on northern route. (Photo/Crossroads blog)

The northern U.S. route starts in Seattle; the central route, in San Francisco; and the southern route, in Los Angeles. All three walks, which this year were May 24 to Aug. 16, end in Washington, D.C., with a pro-life rally. The Canadian walk goes from Vancouver, British Columbia, and ends in the capital of Ottawa, Ontario, with pro-life rally there. Crossroads now hosts walks in Ireland, Spain and Australia, too.

Wearing “Pro-Life” T-shirts, walkers stop along the way to pray outside abortion clinics, speak at parishes and schools to raise awareness about abortion and promote the dignity of human life, and encourage others to get involved in the pro-life movement.

Walkers range in age from 18 to 25. This year a total of 35 participated. On each route, they are accompanied by an RV, and split into two groups that walk in a relay fashion, averaging 40 to 50 miles a day. One group takes the morning shift, from sunrise and to 2 p.m.; the second group walks from 2 p.m. to sunset.

As one group walks, the other cleans the RV, prepares dinner, and finds a camp site for the night. The whole group gathers for Mass each day. The walkers post photos of their journey and observations they have along the way on a blog. Each walk has a leader.

Cutrer, 23, led this year’s southern walk.

He said last year he led the northern walk. He had just graduated from college, and was “young, dumb and not keeping eye on future,” he told Catholic News Service. “I was nervous about what to do” after college, so he joined a Crossroads walk for personal reasons, thinking it might be “a good spiritual pilgrimage and a chance to be a part of God’s mission.”

“The walk completely transformed my entire outlook,” he said.

Cutrer, who is from Dallas and relocating to the Washington area for the Crossroads job, said he always considered himself pro-life but “had never pondered the issue” or thought about “how serious the battle is.”

After praying outside a Planned Parenthood clinic during the 2013 walk “and watching mothers walk in and out all morning, I had a very burning passion to do something about (abortion). … That is when I definitely became unconditionally pro-life and a witness.”

He wants to encourage more men to get involved in the pro-life movement, he said. “It is a much a man’s issue” as a woman’s, he said.

“My huge passion is to tell guys they shouldn’t be on the sidelines,” Cutrer said. “You hear countless stories of ‘my boyfriend drove me’ to get an abortion, ‘my boyfriend urged me’ to get one. Occasionally –- sadly — you’ll see a parent or grandparent bring them, but the majority of time you’re watching the boyfriend walk the girl to the door (of the clinic).”

“Men need to be pro-life” for women’s sake and to stand up for their unborn child, he added.

Molly Sheahan, 20, who is from Sacramento, California, and attends Franciscan University, walked the central route. It was her first Crossroads.

“I had several friends who had walked before,” she said. “I heard about it from a walker who came to my parish and was inspired by their witness, their joy, their passion for activism.”

As her group walked, people would turn out to encourage them to carry on.

That showed Sheahan people want “to see some kind of hope” that abortion can be ended and “walkers give them hope.”

“I’ve always very involved in pro-life movement,” she added. “When I was 9 I first heard about abortion and I was shocked it was legal and decided it would be my job to end it.”

At age 10 she wrote a letter to the editor about abortion and by age 12 she was already involved in a student pro-life group.

“More and more, young people are inspired to get involved in the pro-life movement,” Sheahan added, because they understand that “in the human level, it is the greatest human rights cause of our time.”

Crossroads walker Eric Zlatos, of Manassas, Virginia, has always been “staunchly pro-life.” The 2014 Ave Maria University graduate took the northern route.

Crossroads walkers visit the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. (Photo/Crossroads)

Crossroads walkers visit the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. (Photo/Crossroads blog)

“We don’t choose Crossroads, Crossroads chooses us,” he told CNS. The chance to participate “just fell in my lap.” He welcomed the opportunity “to be able to touch the lives of others one heart at a time, one step at a time.”

“I cannot event even describe” Crossroads, said Zlatos, 22. “It was an incredible experience.”

It might seem like you are not doing much walking on the side of the road, he said, but “young people at parishes and older people alike come up to us and thank us for (our) testimony and witness. They were very supportive.

“The media so skewed against our position, they often make it seem like most of America is pro-death,” he said, but Crossroads walkers experience “firsthand that is simply not the case. America is most definitely pro-life. … That was very encouraging to me.”

At one stop, he recalled, an elderly man tapped him on the chest and told him, “It takes a real man to wear this shirt,” meaning Zlatos’ Crossroads T-shirt.

That reaction was “very powerful, authentic,” he said, and shows Crossroads has an impact.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 750 other followers