Shopping mall evangelization?

From Glen Argan at the Western Catholic Reporter comes a link to a video of shoppers at a mall near Niagara Falls, Ontario, being surprised with a rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” These singers were not in choir robes — watch and see!  As our colleague said, “One might call it guerrilla evangelization, although I don’t know if that was quite the intent.”

Mourning in the papal household (updated)

Latest update: The pope knelt and prayed in silence before Manuela’s casket on Friday during a service held in the church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians in the Vatican.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said he was “visibly moved” and remained kneeling in silence for some time.

He sang briefly in very hushed tones, the paper said, and then greeted Manuel’s brother and other relatives who attended the service.

(Original post, Nov. 24):

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI is mourning the sudden and tragic death of one of the women who work in the papal household.

Manuela Camagni, 56, was walking with friends late Tuesday night when she was hit by a car. She died early this morning from severe brain injuries.

Manuela Camagni -- a member of the papal household who died tragically Nov. 24. (photo-Communion and Liberation website

Manuela was a member of Memores Domini, an organization of men and women from Communion and Liberation who have made promises of poverty, chastity and obedience.

A group of four women from Memores Domini care for Pope Benedict’s apartment.

The pope expressed his sadness for the unexpected loss of such a close collaborator in a short notice printed in the obituary section of the Vatican newspaper. He prayed for the eternal rest of her soul during a Mass celebrated with the rest of the papal household this morning in his private chapel, said an accompanying article.

Manuela joined the pope’s staff soon after his election in 2005.

He has a very close relationship with his “papal family,” as he calls them in his recent book, “Light of the World.”

Members of the papal family eat their meals together and often relax in the evenings watching DVDs, he said in the book. They celebrate the holidays and feast days together, even exchanging gifts, and “there is above all Holy Mass in common in the morning,” the pope said.

“That is an especially important moment in which we are all with each other in a particularly intense way in the light of the Lord.”

More people continue to seek help from Catholic Charities

Even though the government says the economy has turned the corner and things are slowly getting better, Catholic Charities agencies nationwide reported more people seeking assistance over the summer.

For instance, agencies saw a growing number of requests for assistance from the working poor (up 81 percent), families (up 71 percent), seniors (up 48 percent) immigrants (up 48 percent) and homeless people (up 45 percent), according to Catholic Charities USA’s Snapshot Survey covering the third quarter of 2010.

“The number of moderate income families continues to increase,” Linda McKamie of Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi, Texas, was quoted as saying in the most recent survey. “A group that in the past was not in need of the type of assistance we provide started to access our pantry and financial assistance — these families report a lost of financial assets due to the loss or lack of employment.”

A big concern facing local agencies is the loss of state funding for poverty programs. With less money coming in under government contracts, programs that provide employment training, child care, pregnancy counseling, emergency shelter to domestic violence victims, housing support, health services and food distribution have implemented significant cutbacks.

Local agencies don’t expect the trend to get better any time soon as many states face large deficits because of a loss in income tax revenues.

The economic challenges have led Catholic Charities agencies to look at ways to trim costs, consolidate services and raise additional money in new ways, all in the hope of continuing to serve as many people as possible, the most recent survey said.

Newspaper gives close-up look at Cardinal Wuerl

Washington Cardinal Wuerl at Vatican (CNS photo)

The Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese, provided in-depth coverage of the Nov. 20 consistory where Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl’s and 23 other prelates received their red hats.

The online edition includes stories on the ceremony itself as well as reflections by the new cardinal and reaction of Washington pilgrims in Rome. The print edition of the paper also includes background pieces on the new cardinal, a Pittsburgh native.

Two days before the consistory, Cardinal Wuerl spoke with the Standard’s editor Mark Zimmermann about his upbringing and his father’s example, saying: “My father was probably the most influential person in my life. He was a man of enormous integrity, a very kind but firm man.”

His father, Francis, worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a weighmaster in a marshaling yard.

One memory Cardinal Wuerl cherishes is of a Saturday morning when he was about to run out the door and play ball with his friends and he saw his father, just home from working the night shift, kneeling beside his bed and praying.  “I’ve never forgotten that scene. … That image will come into my mind as I go into my room to say my prayers,” he said.

The Standard also focused on Cardinal Wuerl’s reputation as a teaching bishop, pointing out that he is nationally known for his catechetical and teaching ministry. He co-wrote the best-selling catechism “The Teaching of Christ,” which has been translated into 13 languages, including Chinese.

At the cardinal’s boyhood parish, St. Mary of the Mount in Pittsburgh, a stained-glass window depicts the young Jesus teaching in the temple. Below the window is the inscription, “With gratitude, the Wuerl family.”

This fall, Cardinal Wuerl issued a pastoral letter on the new evangelization that he described as “retelling the story” and helping people to “hear all over again … the good news.”

The cardinal told the Catholic Standard that he sees the church’s new evangelization effort as “the defining pastoral initiative” in his ministry and that as cardinal he looks forward to “having a wider platform, a bigger pulpit, to proclaim the importance” of this work.

U.S. ‘ad limina’ visits expected to begin in late 2011

VATICAN CITY — Word around the Vatican is that U.S. bishops will begin making their next round of “ad limina” visits — their first with Pope Benedict — in late 2011, about a year from now.

The visits feature individual and group meetings with the pope, encounters with Vatican officials and prayers at the tomb of St. Peter. In a sense, they are “reporting to headquarters” sessions, and the pope’s speeches to each regional group are considered a highlight.

Theoretically, these visits are made every five years by heads of dioceses around the world, but they’ve been backlogged for some time, so the interval has lengthened. U.S. bishops last came for “ad limina” visits in 2004. That year, it took 10 months for all the U.S. groups to come through Rome.

If the Vatican holds to a similar schedule, that means the pope will be addressing U.S. bishops well into 2012 — an election year, by the way — on topics that typically range from internal church affairs to public policy issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Haitians ‘running scared’ from cholera


Illinois human services worker Brent DeLand says Haitians are “running scared” as they try to cope with a cholera epidemic that has claimed at least 1,415 lives since the outbreak began Oct. 19.

“Cholera is a bad disease, but it’s exacerbated by fear like I’ve never seen by the people before,” said DeLand, president of the board of directors of the Haitian Development Fund, who returned Nov. 21 from his most recent trip to the impoverished island nation. “People don’t understand it.”

DeLand, who first volunteered in Haiti in 1996, said confusion about the disease is widespread. That’s because Haiti has not had an outbreak of the waterborne disease in 50 years.

The first cases were reported in central plateau of Artibonite department. The Haitian health ministry has reported more than 23,000 hospitalizations from the illness. The actual amount of people affected, including deaths, is likely much higher, according to the United Nations, because information from rural areas are impossible to collect.

DeLand found Haitian medical staff in Sarthe, a community northeast of the capital of Port-au-Prince where the fund supports a medical clinic, unsure of how to treat the disease and how it spreads.

Cholera can kill a person within hours of the onset of symptoms because of dehydration. The trouble is that symptoms may not be apparent for several days. The disease can be treated with fluids and antibiotics. People who receive treatment quickly usually survive.

During his weeklong visit, DeLand and his Haitian colleague, Dr. Moise Cely, clinic director, treated just one person suffering from the disease. The victim, a woman, was stabilized and taken to a nearby hospital run by Doctors Without Borders. She had been carried to the clinic by relatives from her home about a mile away.

The clinic earlier had treated one other cholera patient, said DeLand, whose regular job finds him serving as assistant chief of the bureau of research and analysis for the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The disease has reached eight of Haiti’s 10 departments and the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the former French colony.

“People are scared for a good reason,” said DeLand, a member of Christ the King Parish in Springfield.

Catholic Workers open Giuseppe Conlon House in East London

A group of Catholic Workers and their supporters celebrated the formal opening of the Giuseppe Conlon House in East London Nov. 21.

Longtime Catholic Worker Ciaron O’Reilly is among the leaders of the effort. He has lived in Catholic Worker communities around the world and has been involved in nonviolent protests against war in Australia, Ireland and the United States.

A project of the London Catholic Worker, the new house of hospitality is offering shelter for undocumented refugees.

About 200 people attended the celebration at the house, which once was a Methodist church.

The house is named for the father of Gerry Conlon, who served 16 years in prison as part of the so-called Guildford Four and Maguire Seven. The two groups eventually had their convictions in connection with the Guildford pub bombings in the 1970s overturned after judges ruled the defendants were wrongly convicted. It turned out that the 1974 bombings at two pubs, popular with British troops, were carried out by the Irish Republican Army.

Giuseppe Conlon was arrested in London while seeking an attorney for his son in connection with the case after Gerry falsely implicated innocent family members during beatings while he was held in custody by British police, according to historical accounts. Giuseppe died in jail in 1980.