Hospital systems contribute $200,000 to rebuild Haiti’s renowned St. Francis de Sales Hospital

Patients at St. Francis de Sales Hospital in Port-au-Prince have been treated under tents and tarps since the Jan. 12 earthquake. (CNS/Bob Roller)

A Catholic hospital in the earthquake-ravaged capital of Haiti is getting a boost in its effort to rebuild from two U.S.-based health care systems with strong Catholic connections.

Catholic Health East in Newton Square, Pa., and BayCare Health Systems in Clearwater, Fla., this week donated $100,000 each toward the reconstruction of St. Francis de Sales Hospital in the center of Port-au-Prince.

The CEOs of the two health systems said in a press release that rebuilding the hospital as quickly as possible is crucial to the recovery of the country as well as the health and well being of the Haitian people.

Additional grants and contributions of neary $50,000 from various foundations within the Catholic Health East system also were made to the reconstruction effort.

Despite losing most of its facilities during the Jan. 12 earthquake — including operating rooms and a pediatrics wing where up to 100 people died — the hospital has set up makeshift treatment facilities for victims. About 70 beds were moved from unsafe parts of the hospital compound and placed under tents and tarps in a courtyard. Prior to the earthquake the hospital had about 120 beds available for patients.

Several teams of trauma specialists from the United States have ventured to Port-au-Prince to assist their Haitian counterparts during the five weeks since the earthquake hit.

The two hospital systems are providing the funds through Global Health Ministry, a charitable program of Catholic Health East which has sent teams of health care professionals to Latin American and Caribbean nations for more than 20 years.

Several Catholic hospitals in the Tampa Bay area, including St. Anthony’s, St. Joseph’s Children’s, St. Joseph’s Women’s and St. Joseph’s Hospital North, are part of the BayCare Health System.

Catholic Health East is a Catholic health system co-sponsored by nine religious congregations in 11 eastern states extending from Maine to Florida.

Ash Wednesday reflection

Today is Ash Wednesday, and to help you get the season off to the right start we offer this reflection for the day by Basilian Father Tom Rosica, the head of  Salt + Light Television, Canada’s national Catholic television outlet.  Father Rosica recorded the series of Lenten and Easter reflections in 2008, beginning with this one, titled “It Took Forty Days.”

The entire series of reflections, which goes through the feast of the Ascension, is available here if you want to save them and come back during your Lenten and Easter journey this year.

Malassadas on Shrove Tuesday — yum!

Remember this from last year? Malassadas on Shrove Tuesday — yum!

Here in the eastern U.S. you still have a couple hours to enjoy them. Have at it!

Vatican statement on pope’s meeting with Irish bishops

Pope Benedict XVI and Vatican officials attend a closed-door meeting with Ireland's bishops at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI met with 24 Irish bishops at the Vatican during a two-day, closed-door meeting yesterday and today. The summit focused on the Irish church’s handling of sex abuse by priests against minors.

Here is the final statement the Vatican released this afternoon:

UPDATE: Our story: Irish-Vatican summit on sex abuse ends with call for courage, honesty


On 15 and 16 February 2010, the Holy Father met the Irish Bishops and senior members of the Roman Curia to discuss the serious situation which has emerged in the Church in Ireland.

Together they examined the failure of Irish Church authorities for many years to act effectively in dealing with cases involving the sexual abuse of young people by some Irish clergy and religious. All those present recognized that this grave crisis has led to a breakdown in trust in the Church’s leadership and has damaged her witness to the Gospel and its moral teaching.

The meeting took place in a spirit of prayer and collegial fraternity, and its frank and open atmosphere provided guidance and support to the Bishops in their efforts to address the situation in their respective Dioceses.

On the morning of 15 February, following a brief introduction by the Holy Father, each of the Irish Bishops offered his own observations and suggestions. The Bishops spoke frankly of the sense of pain and anger, betrayal, scandal and shame expressed to them on numerous occasions by those who had been abused. There was a similar sense of outrage reflected by laity, priests and religious in this regard.

The Bishops likewise described the support at present being provided by thousands of trained and dedicated lay volunteers at parish level to ensure the safety of children in all Church activities, and stressed that, while there is no doubt that errors of judgement and omissions stand at the heart of the crisis, significant measures have now been taken to ensure the safety of children and young people. They also emphasized their commitment to cooperation with the statutory authorities in Ireland – North and South – and with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland to guarantee that the Church’s standards, policies and procedures represent best practice in this area.

For his part, the Holy Father observed that the sexual abuse of children and young people is not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image. While realizing that the current painful situation will not be resolved quickly, he challenged the Bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve, and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage.

He also expressed the hope that the present meeting would help to unify the Bishops and enable them to speak with one voice in identifying concrete steps aimed at bringing healing to those who had been abused, encouraging a renewal of faith in Christ and restoring the Church’s spiritual and moral credibility.

The Holy Father also pointed to the more general crisis of faith affecting the Church and he linked that to the lack of respect for the human person and how the weakening of faith has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors. He stressed the need for a deeper theological reflection on the whole issue, and called for an improved human, spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation both of candidates for the priesthood and religious life and of those already ordained and professed.

The Bishops had an opportunity to examine and discuss a draft of the Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father to the Catholics of Ireland. Taking into account the comments of the Irish Bishops, His Holiness will now complete his Letter, which will be issued during the coming season of Lent.

The discussions concluded late Tuesday morning, 16 February 2010. As the Bishops return to their Dioceses, the Holy Father has asked that this Lent be set aside as a time for imploring an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in Ireland.

Eco-conscious university bans use of plastic water bottles

The Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., reports that the University of Portland has announced a new initiative to make its campus more sustainable: It will no longer sell or use disposable water bottles.

According to the Sentinel, the university is the first college or university on the West Coast to eliminate disposable plastic water bottles and joins more than 20 schools across the country that have taken that action.

The University of Portland takes seriously its commitment to be a good steward of the planet, said Holy Cross Father William Beauchamp, its president. “This will not only reduce the amount of waste generated on our campus but will help focus attention on the critical issue of sustainability and water rights.”

The university was founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1901.

Slogging through slush for snow treat in Rome

Privileged tourists enjoy the rare snow. (CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — “It’s SNOWING,” the 7:51 a.m. text message from CNS reporter Cindy Wooden proclaimed. I rolled out of bed and headed with excitement to St. Peter’s Square, a mere seven-minute walk from my apartment near the Vatican. But the snow wasn’t sticking yet, and turned into rain just as I arrived in the square.

Snow hadn’t stuck to the ground in Rome since 1986, so the chance to get snow pictures is not an everyday event.

After getting very wet, I stopped for coffee and breakfast treats at a nearby bar with friends. Just as I finished a caffè macchiato and a cornetto, it began to snow again. I headed back to the square, but it was just a slushy mess when I arrived.

At about 10 a.m. I decided to head home, dry up and hope that it would start snowing for real. It continued to alternate between rain and snow, but just wouldn’t stick. I came up with a backup plan to drag out a 500mm lens and bring a tripod back out to the square to make a close up photo of snow falling around the statue of Jesus on the façade of the basilica.

But as I walked up Borgo Pio, I realized the snow was starting to stick! When I arrived in the square at 10:45 a.m., it was falling heavily and sticking. Tourists with their umbrellas took delight as they snapped photos. Several large tour groups got an unexpected treat as they trekked with umbrellas through the wet snow.

The snow fell with gusto for a time, even obscuring the dome of the basilica and the statue of St. Peter himself. As the snow slacked off around 11:20, seminarians from the North American College collected slush from the cobblestones and pegged each other. Other young people also did their best to throw icees at each other.

Young people engage in a slush fight in the aftermath of the rare snowfall. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Although I didn’t get hit by a slush ball, my jeans were sopping wet. My cameras were in even worse shape. The viewfinders were completely wet and had fogged over and I could barely photograph. My wife came out to rescue me and my excessive load of gear.

As quickly as the snow had come, it was over. This was Rome’s biggest snow in 24 years, and it lasted just about 45 minutes.

A seminarian from the NAC prepares to toss a grande slush ball. (CNS/Paul Haring)

As I headed for yet another treat at the bar, I remembered National Geographic photographer James Stanfield talking about photographing snow in St. Peter’s for his book “Inside the Vatican” while dragging around his 600mm lens after photographing a Mass in the basilica.

I realized that history had repeated itself and I even had the big glass on me as Jim did in the 1980s. I had always admired Jim’s shot of the snowfall in St. Peter’s Square, and felt privileged to have the opportunity to replicate it in 2010.

I call it ‘snowmaggedon,’ you call it ‘snowpocalypse’

Someone is a fan of snow. (Photo/Julie Asher)

Whatever you want to call it, we here in Washington want to call the whole thing off. I guess the prognosticators got it right when they predicted the snowstorm that hit the Washington region last Friday would come back again, delivering an unprecedented blow and leaving the nation’s capital and the rest of the mid-Atlantic states paralyzed. Today,  the sun is shining and streets are melting, but the hills of snow will be with us for quite some time. And despite the thaw, it is not clear when public transportation systems will be fully functional.

 And now comes word that Vancouver,  the site of the Winter Olympics, is in desperate need of snow and the Games’ organizers are worried. News reports say snow is being trucked in from elsewhere in British Columbia. Have they considered importing it from D.C.? Hmmmm….