Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Feb. 7, 2016

"Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." -- Luke 5:10

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” — Luke 5:10

 

Feb. 7, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

     Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8

      Psalm 138:1-5, 7-8

      2) 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 11

      Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls his first disciples to follow him and join his mission to bring all people to God’s way of life.

His offer is convincing: Having the audacity to teach experienced fishermen how to fish, he demonstrates that if they follow his direction they’ll achieve a greater haul than they could attain themselves.

Jesus’ message is to all of us: Trust that by following his way you will draw people into his fold.

By contrast, a refrain we often hear in our social enterprises today, “Build it, and they will come,” is based on a belief in the pre-eminent power of our own will — through marketing.

However, any city planner will tell you: Build it in the wrong place and “they” won’t come, no matter how slick your marketing.

I learned how wise planning creates healthy, vibrant communities from my friend Joel, a longtime city planner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Indeed, communities hire planners to direct development and growth to best serve the people’s needs. Build to enhance their lives and they will not only come but they’ll participate.

No wonder Joel, also a devoted Christian, understands how to respond to the call to build and develop Jesus’ community. He knows that Jesus’ instruction to “put out into deep water” means to go where God is most needed.

Joel and his wife chose for their faith community not a well-established congregation but a small church in a struggling low-income neighborhood where the people were open to God’s grace and just waiting to be “caught.”

Indeed, Jesus’ way brought in a large haul there.

Joel showed me a small neighborhood park that he and fellow church members developed, with the city’s blessing, on city property across the street from the church.

A local landscape architect volunteered to design the park. Then at-risk teens from the neighborhood joined with the church youth group to do the landscaping with plants and materials donated by local suppliers. Children from the nearby grade school created and installed small outdoor sculptures, and other businesses contributed a sprinkler system and benches.

As the park became a center of neighborhood pride and activity, more people came to the church, drawn by the congregation’s embrace and care for its community.

QUESTIONS:

Following the ways of Jesus, by what means might you bring others to a life with him? What have been your most effective methods of evangelizing?

Telling the story of Catholic home missions in the U.S.

By Tyler Orsburn

WASHINGTON  — Today Catholic News Service launched its Catholic Home Missions Project, a project inspired by the canonization of St. Junipero Serra back in September.

More than 20,000 people attended the Sept. 23, 2015, canonization Mass celebrated by Pope Francis for the Spanish Franciscan at the Basilica of National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The Franciscan Monastery in Washington had a Mass of celebration the following day.

A painting of St. Junipero Serra hangs in the Santa Barbara Mission Archives-Library in Santa Barbara, Calif. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) See SERRA-IMAGES Aug. 17, 2015.

A painting of St. Junipero Serra hangs in the Santa Barbara Mission Archives-Library in Santa Barbara, Calif. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

St. Junipero Serra is credited with founding nine missions in California, and one in Baja California, Mexico. Friars under his tutelage founded many others across California, in a territory that was then part of New Spain.

Steven Hackel, a history professor at the University of California at Riverside who has written a biography, “Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father,” told CNS he thinks St. Junipero Serra as one of the little-heralded “‘founding fathers’ of the United States,” because he helped settle areas beyond the East Coast and was a contemporary of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Last spring we did a series of video stories on the life and ministry of St. Junipero and his evangelizing mission, and we included the views of some critical of the friar over his treatment of native peoples and their culture.

But what is a modern-day mission in the United States? Is it still just about evangelizing and baptizing? And how does the mission experience differ from St. Junipero Serra’s day in 1769 when he walked from Baja California, Mexico, and into what would become San Diego?

One difference is population density. No longer is west of the Mississippi River considered the Wild, Wild West. Another difference is cultural diversity. Native Americans no longer populate the landscape as they did in the 18th century. What would become the United States is now a mosaic of cultures that represents all continents.

Now, 247 years after St. Junipero Serra’s first mission was established in Southern California, the Catholic Church is firmly interwoven into the fabric of the land of the free and home of the brave.

Starting today — with stories, videos and photos — our reports on Catholic Home Missions take us to North Carolina, Texas, Idaho and Puerto Rico — four of the U.S. Catholic churches mission dioceses. The U.S. bishops’ define a “mission diocese” as having limited resources for funding both basic and essential pastoral works and ministries, and covering a vast territory served by small number of priests, religious sisters, lay ministers and other pastoral workers.

The vastness of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, is on full display. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth) See MISSION-CHURCH Feb. 1, 2016.

The vastness of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho, is on full display. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth) See MISSION-CHURCH Feb. 1, 2016.

From Raleigh, North Carolina, we share the experience of Iraqi refugees who say the church has helped them establish community in a new land; in Beaumont, Texas, we look at marriage, family life, and campus ministry at Lamar University; in Idaho, we talk to parishioners who drive nearly one hour to get to their church community two or three times per week and who say the time sacrifice is worth it for them and their family; and in Puerto Rico, we give an account of a physician-turned-priest who helps the disenfranchised struggling with poverty, drug addiction, cancer and mental illness.

According to the 2014 annual report on the U.S. church’s Catholic Home Missions Appeal, a national collection, 41 percent of all home mission dioceses in the United States received grants from the appeal. The report showed that U.S. Catholics contributed over $9.3 million for home missions in 2014; and the fund earned more than $1.6 million in income on investments.

Details about the Catholic Home Missions are available here.

The Catholic Home Mission Appeal this year is April 24, and always falls on the last Sunday in April. Jessi Pore is director of Catholic Home Missions, which is part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of National Collections and Office of National Collections.

“Catholics in the United States are incredibly generous to the needy dioceses here at home each year,” she told CNS. “Over the last 10 years, American Catholics have helped provide nearly $100 million to strengthening our church here at home.”

Mission dioceses interested in applying for grants must do so by April 1 of every year. A Catholic Home Mission subcommittee reviews the grants and makes decisions on funding in the fall based on review criteria, Pore said.

21ST-CENTURY MISSION CHURCH

St. Augustine Mission in the Pueblo of Isleta in New Mexico. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

First Communion in Cebu: ‘Jesus with me’

A girl receives Communion during a children's first Communion Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 30. The Mass included about 400 extremely poor children, some living on the streets. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

A girl receives Communion during a children’s first Communion Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 30. The Mass included about 400 extremely poor children, some living on the streets. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

By Simone Orendain

CEBU, Philippines — Row after row of fidgety children, mostly flanked by their parents, filled the track infield of the Cebu Sports Complex. A few children were eating snacks, some were walking quickly with their parents, perhaps to find the nearest bathroom. Others sang hymns, and many chattered away.

The children’s first Communion Mass at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress included about 400 extremely poor children, some of whom live on the streets.

I don’t know what I was thinking when I expected children at the Mass to quiet down and take on some sort of serene quality once they received the Eucharist.

They received Communion alongside their parents, and many did all the kid things that they had been doing beforehand. One girl bypassed the kneeler and the eucharistic minister altogether and was led back into place. Another boy darted back to his row, chomping on the host.

But as I looked around this low-level chaos, I noticed one tiny girl with her hands together in prayer, kneeling on the dry brown grass in her white tights. She was praying intently. Then she crossed herself and sat back on her plastic chair with a very serious, solemn expression on her face.

“They are from Tacloban,” said Jocelyn Ala, a church lector at St. Joseph Parish, sitting behind her. “They survived the typhoon.”

First communicants carry flowers during a children's first Communion Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 30. (CNS photo/Katarzyna Artymiak)

First communicants carry flowers during a children’s first Communion Mass at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines, Jan. 30. (CNS photo/Katarzyna Artymiak)

Ala, her sister and one other parishioner were taking care of the 10 children who all came to Cebu without their parents. She said the parents could not afford to make the trip. The children traveled to Cebu with the help of Dilaab, a Catholic foundation that seeks to catechize children, especially those from poor backgrounds.

Ala said all of these children’s families were intact after the Typhoon Haiyan ravaged its way across the central Philippines, killing or leaving missing some 7,300 people, mostly from the Tacloban area.

The little girl, 8-year old Joelle Marie Vito, told me she was “happy” after taking Communion because she had “Jesus with me.”

I pointed at her heart and I said, “Where, here?”

She nodded.

So then I asked what she liked about Jesus. She paused, thinking carefully for a good while, undeterred by Ala whispering into her ear.

“He’s smart … and he’s a really hard worker!”

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, a Public Peace Prize laureate

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, the Catholic peace organization, has been named a Public Peace Prize laureate.

The Washington resident learned of the honor last week from the Quebec-based organization sponsoring the honor.

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

“For me the most delightful part of it is that it acknowledges the fact that there are so many peacemakers all over the world who don’t get a lot of notice who are nevertheless doing worthwhile work,” she told Catholic News Service.

Dennis was named an awardee in the Global Peace and Reconciliation Internationally Reputed Peacemaker category. She shared the prize in that category with the Rev. Michael Lapsley, an Anglican priest from South Africa, who founded the Institute for Healing of Memories to help in reconciliation efforts in the former apartheid-ridden country.

Public Peace Prize laureates are chosen by the public. Individuals can nominate people for consideration and winners are chosen based on letters of support that arrive for each nominee.

“I’m really touched by it especially because of the way that they gather the comments of people from all over the world,” Dennis said.

The Public Peace Prize fosters greater recognition of the work of peacemakers and peace initiatives locally, nationally and internationally. It evolved from the online 24 Hours for Peace in 2013-2014 to celebrate Jan. 1, the World Day of Peace.

Among its partners are L’Arche International, Global Network of Religions for Children, Faith and Light International, International Youth Advocacy Foundation, Pax Christi International, Organization for Peace and Social Cohesion in Ivory Coast and several Quebec-based organizations.

“The goal of it is to be very grass roots, very engaging with people all over the world,” Dennis said. “Not only are there a lot of people doing peacemaking, but we need a lot more.”

Other 2016 recipients include:

— Suzanne Loiselle, a peace and justice activist in Quebec. She is being awarded in the Justice and Solidarity Activist and Peacemaker category.

— Antoinette Layoun of Quebec province, a former child soldier in Lebanon who today teaches people how to achieve inner peace through constructive, loving lives. She is being awarded in the Personal Peacemaker and Social Peacemaker category.

— Narine Dat Sookram, a native of Guyana now living in Canada, has demonstrated how immigrants can provide rich social and economic contributions to society. He is being awarded in the Social Integration and Community Peacemaker category.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings Jan. 31, 2016

"If I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." -- 1 Corinthians 13:2

“If I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” — 1 Corinthians 13:2

Jan. 31, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19

      Psalm 71:1-6, 15-17

      2) 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 or 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

      Gospel: Luke 4:21-30

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

A day after our family celebrated my husband Tommy’s birthday, he sat looking back through a collection of photos that we reprinted as a retrospective of his life to date. He enjoyed remembering again the highlights we tried to capture in just 30 pictures.

The birthday party was small — just our immediate family sharing brunch and the memories the photographs triggered: him as a child, our wedding, his school years, smiling with his Army buddies in Vietnam, good times with friends and posing with each of the children during special moments of their own lives. The most recent is of him hugging his grandson.

There also was a photo of the newspaper office where he began his career. It recalled his life’s work, mostly as an editorial writer, dedicated to advocating human rights and dignity, justice, common purpose for the common good and holding community leaders accountable. Noble work, but he suffered plenty of slings and arrows for his efforts in the public square.

Tommy would never call himself a prophet, but I’m sure he’s taken some comfort over the years from the message in this week’s Scripture where God tells the prophet Jeremiah that although he will suffer for speaking the truth, God will carry him through.

Looking at our family photos and listening to our children’s joyful recollections of life with their dad, I realized just how it was that God strengthened him to fulfill his fundamental vocation.

The key is in today’s second reading, in which Paul teaches the Corinthians that truth and goodness are manifested through love. Love bears, believes, hopes and endures all things, he says.

Tommy’s moral truths are based on his deep Catholic faith. He handed those ideals on to his children who witnessed the personal costs of his public stance. But they accepted his high standards because they also experienced him living those values in how he loved them and me and others — friends and strangers alike.

On his birthday, that’s what we celebrated in his life: the love. The newspaper clippings are in the family files, a record of Tommy’s fine writing and public commitment to make the world a better place.

But in his children, grandchildren and generations to come, it is the love that endures all things and that will never fail.

QUESTIONS:

What characteristics of Paul’s definition of love are hardest for you to sustain? How does a commitment to selfless love enliven your vocation to share the word of God?

Filipinos: spreading faith, at home and abroad

A woman prays while waiting to take Communion during a Jan. 27 fellowship night between 51st International Eucharistic Congress delegates and parishioners of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Cebu, Philippines. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

A woman prays while waiting to take Communion during a Jan. 27 fellowship night between 51st International Eucharistic Congress delegates and parishioners of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Cebu, Philippines. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

CEBU, Philippines — Throughout the week at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress, speakers have expressed how much Filipinos’ deep faith has struck them.

Cabbies play radio stations broadcasting religious messages: Bible verses, catechism and prayers. If they’re not listening to it, they’re talking about it.

Today a cabdriver kissed the cross on a rosary hanging from his rearview mirror and prayed the 3 p.m. prayer being broadcast. The other day, a different cab driver asked me what the congress what about and whether he could attend some sessions.

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron chats with Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu, Philippines, right, as Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergary of Pasig, Philippines, looks on before a Jan. 26 news conference at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron chats with Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu, Philippines, right, as Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergary of Pasig, Philippines, looks on before a Jan. 26 news conference at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said Filipinos — whose country is 82 percent Catholic — are now doing what the Irish did when they spread Christianity across Europe a few centuries after it started. And, he added, having them in the U.S. is helping keep the church alive.

But Filipinos don’t go overseas with the intention of being missionaries. They usually end up simply practicing their faith when they arrive in countries where they find better-paying jobs than what they could find at home.

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, said it was “a concern” that, like in his country, people have to go abroad to find decent employment.

“Although it’s a difficulty, it’s a grace of God,” he said. “I wish to tell Filipinos that … I want to encourage them as migrants to go to other parts of the world … especially with the view of giving good news to other people.”

That “good news” was very much present to Marianne Servaas, a Belgian who lived in the Philippines for seven years, working with an evangelical student organization.

As she spoke to the packed pavilion of delegates from 71 countries about her conversion to Catholicism while living here, she said, “The way Christ is present in you (Filipinos) is almost touchable. You opened my heart to receive joy in life itself, and more so your joy is related to thankfulness and humility. Please do not lose it … in your joy you are more human. And it is a gift to the world.”

Dark skies: A heritage we may not notice we are losing

TUCSON, Ariz. — Go outside on a clear night and count the stars.

Chances are you’re not seeing as many glittering points of light as you did as a child unless you live in a pretty secluded area.

John Barentine of the InternationalDark-Sky Association addresses the Faithi and Astronomy Workshop. (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)

John Barentine of the International Dark-Sky Association addresses the Vatican Observatory’s Faith and Astronomy Workshop. (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)

Humans, through all their progress, have lit up the planet so much that we’ve forgotten how magnificent a truly dark night sky can be. It’s only changed since 1879, when Thomas Alva Edison invented the light bulb.

The International Dark-Sky Association is working to alert and educate people, primarily in the United States and Europe, about the loss of the legacy of dark skies.

John Barentine, program manager at the Tucson, Arizona-based association, spent an hour at this month’s Faith and Astronomy Workshop sponsored by the Vatican Observatory, discussing how the natural night sky is under threat from the drive to light up the night in our communities.

By 2025 half of all U.S. residents will be living in perpetual twilight at night if current trends of electrification continue, Barentine said.

A slide produced by the International Dark-Sky Association depicts the advance of lighting across the U.S. since 1950 (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)

A slide produced by the International Dark-Sky Association depicts the advance of lighting across the U.S. since 1950 (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)

To illustrate his point, he showed before and after images of cities as seen from Earth orbit that are converting existing
street and security lights to energy-saving LED lighting. The photos showed how the blue-rich white LEDs obscure the landscape below. The International Dark-Sky Association fears that because LEDs use far less energy, cities will resist shielding the new lights to prevent photons from being scattered upward into the atmosphere.

Association staff members have worked with cities to show how LED lighting also can be a detriment to safety. The glare produced by unshielded lights actually limits a person’s ability to see what lurks in shadows, Barentine said as he produced a photo illustrating his argument.

The International Dark-Sky Association has developed model lighting legislation for cities, but has met with limited success. In places such as Tucson, where astronomy is a significant industry, standards limiting light pollution have been enacted.

However, Barentine noted, astronomers at Kitt Peak National Observatory 50 miles southwest of the city are more concerned that the glow of lights from ever-sprawling Phoenix 150 miles away now pose a greater threat to observing.

A professional astronomer, Barentine also pointed to studies that showed people exposed to a constant level of light — from cellphones, night lights or other round-the-clock lighting — have developed uneven sleep habits that can lead to other health issues.

Excessive night time lighting also disrupts the natural world. Migrating birds, which often use the moon and stars to guide their flights northward or southward, are among the animals most widely affected by bright lights. Scientists have discovered that birds often become confused by brightly lit buildings and fly around and around them until they drop from exhaustion. Sea turtle hatchlings are affected because they head onshore instead of to the ocean after birth.

The steps needed are difficult to undertake, Barentine admitted.

“It’s more than turning off the lights,” he said. “It’s getting people to think differently.”

Change will come through education and demonstrating how darkness benefits the planet, he told the workshop.

Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’, On Care for our Common Home,” even mentioned the need to turn off unnecessary lights, he added.

He also invited the workshop to join citizen science efforts focusing on the need to change lighting practices.

Barentine left workshop participants with five steps to consider:

— Identify dark skies as valuable.

— Improve lighting within your control.

— Talk with your neighbors about their lighting practices.

— Write or call elected officials to change public policy.

— Speak out.

“If we don’t know there’s a problem to be solved,” he said, “we won’t fix it.”

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