Dioceses follow government’s lead, hunker down for Sandy

Rising water at New York’s Battery Park. (CNS photo/Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -– Dioceses along the East Coast followed the lead of federal, state and local governments in shutting operations Oct. 29, the day Hurricane Sandy was expected to make landfall, with New Jersey expected to be in the center of the huge storm.

Catholic Charities USA was working with its local affiliates along the East Coast on how to get necessary supplies and services to the affiliates once the storm passes.

“Reports from the National Weather Service make it clear that many of our agencies on the East Coast — from New York all the way down to Florida — will be feeling some impact from Hurricane Sandy and we stand ready to provide whatever support necessary to meet the needs of those affected,” said a statement from Samuel Chambers, Catholic Charities senior vice president of disaster operations.

“Since Hurricane Katrina, we have focused on being prepared for future disasters,” said a statement from Catholic Charities president Father Larry Snyder. “Not only are we early responders, but our presence in the community also puts us in a position to be able to quickly assess and provide support in the long term.”

Dioceses heeded the advice of governors and big-city mayors, who had declared a state of emergency in their respective jurisdictions, and shut down for at least one day with the possibility of extending their shutdown longer.

The Archdiocese of New York closed Oct. 29 “due to the decision by the MTA to suspend public transportation as a result of Hurricane Sandy,” said a statement on the archdiocesan website. The MTA is the Metropolitan Transit Authority; New York’s subway system shut down the day before. As for the possibility of continued closing, the statement added, “We will be guided by the decisions of the governor, mayor and MTA.”

The Diocese of Camden, N.J., which takes in southernmost New Jersey, announced it would be closed both Oct. 29 and 30. “There’s some kind of meeting in Atlantic City on Wednesday (Oct. 31); that’s not going to happen, Peter Feuerherd, diocesan director of communications, told Catholic News Service.

“The storm is coming, apparently, right over Atlantic City,” which is in the Camden Diocese, Feuerherd added. “Our parishes are all along the shore from Atlantic City down, all the way to Cape May,” he said. “Those beach communities are going to be hit hard. The governor (Chris Christie) has already evacuated those beach communities, (but) I’m not actually there and I can’t tell you whether people have actually taken the advice to get out.”

The Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., had already decided by late morning Oct. 29 to be closed Oct. 30 as well, according to Jim Goodness, the director of communications for the archdiocese.

“All of the schools of the archdiocese have been following the leads of the state,” Goodness said. “Parishes can certainly handle themselves.”

Still, “we’d certainly worry. We had several parishes that went underwater last year” from the rains of Hurricane Irene after it was downgraded to a tropical storm, Goodness told CNS. “Working with our property management people to mitigate (bad effects), however, they can hope that things can work out better this time than they last time.”

Since the worst of the storm wasn’t expected to come until sundown Oct. 29, diocesan representatives said it would be hard to assess any negative impact of Sandy until afterward.

The Diocese of Paterson, N.J., was also closing Oct. 29-30. Accompanying the Oct. 29 announcement on the diocesan website was a map showing Sandy’s path. New Jersey was the only state in all white while other states had at least a little green.

President Barack Obama returned to the White House from an Oct. 29 campaign event in Florida, and canceled a campaign event in Wisconsin to monitor the storm and be briefed on federal emergency preparedness activities.

Asked whether Sandy would have an impact on the Nov. 6 election, Obama replied: ”The election will take care of itself next week. Right now, our number-one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives, that our search-and-rescue teams are going to be in place, that people are going to get the food, the water, the shelter that they need in case of emergency, and that we respond as quickly as possible to get the economy back on track.”


Impending storm, early voting and feeling encouraged about our democratic process

Here in the region where it’s “All Politics” every year, it takes something enormous to knock the last days of the election campaign down the priority list.

The forecast for days of widespread weather misery, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, therefore is likely at least partly responsible for the huge turnout at early voting polling venues in Maryland and Washington.

(CNS photo/Reuters)

Polling places that opened Oct. 27 were inundated, overwhelmed by voters who were trying to get a jump on voting. Lines stretched for blocks. People reported standing in line for hours at polling places that initially had far too few voting machines.

In fairness, this was the first time for Maryland to have early voting in a presidential election. A constitutional amendment passed by the Legislature in 2007 and ratified by voters in the 2008 general election made Maryland one of 32 states that allow early voting.

At one of Maryland’s polling sites on the second day of early voting this weekend, it took me an hour and ten minutes to get through the line that snaked about halfway around a full block from the building.

But, far from being a tedious wait, it was an energizing exercise in civics. My neighbors in line were all strangers, but we became a little community of engaged voters during our hour together.

Since the line stretched far from the boundary near the polling place where politicking is prohibited, volunteers worked the crowd. They handed out literature – while not being pushy with those who didn’t want it — and happily paused to talk if asked about the various candidates and ballot issues they represented.

Maryland has some well-advertised ballot issues this year, including one redefining the definition of marriage to allow same-sex marriages and one approving a state version of the DREAM Act. But there are also a few that have been little discussed and that aren’t well explained in the literature mailed by the county.

So, we learned from the volunteers and from neighbors in line.

A passing volunteer explained the history of a measure to give police chiefs some power that currently is part of the police union’s negotiating options. While obviously interested in one outcome, she wasn’t strident and seemed to explain the opposing viewpoint with as little bias as her own.

One woman offered to tell us about a judge she knows: “You know how nobody ever knows anything about the judges on the ballot?” she started. “Well, for a change I know one of them. I can tell you about her.”

Inside the building, the crowds were handled efficiently and cheerfully. I listened as one poll worker helped a man with limited English ability in the booth next to mine get through the ballot. He clearly knew the issues and how he wanted to vote, but struggled a little with the computer logistics. The poll worker helped him with no indication of bias, no suggestion of condescending to him.

I dropped my ballot card in the bin, picked up my “I voted” sticker and headed home, feeling pleased that I’d been able to cross “vote” off my pre-storm to-do list. But more, I was encouraged that the democratic process was working.

Vatican Voices: Ralph Martin

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

By Greg Watry

VATICAN CITY — In the latest edition of Vatican Voices, Ralph Martin, a professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and an official expert at the Synod on the new evangelization, talks of the legacy of Vatican II and some theological fallacies that he says spread in its wake.

Click here:

Vatican Voices: Ralph Martin


For our print story click here: Misreading of Vatican II dampened missionary zeal, theologian says

For our video click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kyILAhx2KQ&list=UUDfNrxA5dMp0co1siQOLrjg&index=3&feature=plcp

Inside the synod: Seeking a church that can transform the world

By Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas
One in a series

Friday, Oct. 26, 2012

VATICAN CITY — We enter the last two days of the Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. It’s a time when the results of all the presentations, discussions, and recommendations come together in two documents:

  • The message.
  • The booklet of propositions to be given to the Holy Father for his post-synodal exhortation.

It is the final days as well for interventions by auditors and fraternal delegates who have not yet spoken.

The message is the public document that communicates, for all on every continent, the focus of the synod’s work done on the invitation of the Holy Father “in order to sustain and direct the preaching and teaching of the Gospel in the diverse contexts in which the church finds herself today to give witness.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, left, speaks with a cardinal before a meeting on the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican Oct. 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The image used in the message read to us today is “the Samaritan woman” who was thirsting for meaning and purpose, just as all of us. This synod challenges the church to intensify her efforts to revive and renew the faith as that which will satisfy our thirst. The encounter with Christ is what will give meaning to those searching.

The efforts of this synod will be realized, through God’s grace, when we become an even more welcoming church that gives witness by our love for one another. Holiness in the hearts of all believers moves others to discover the joy that comes in knowing Christ.

As the text of the message was read in varied languages represented by the bishops who formulated it, one could hear the conviction and longing in them that the work of the new evangelization, guided by the Spirit, will take hold in the church. My thoughts, as I listened, went back to the days after the Second Vatican Council, whose anniversary we celebrate in this Year of Faith. I remember the enthusiasm and new energy that permeated the church after that council. That defines the very same longing and desire of all gathered in the synod, a new Pentecost.

All want the church to be a joyous community that is the “bearer of light.” All want the church to transform the world, to permeate our society with the message of the dignity and worth of every human being. All want the church to be engaged in works of charity serving the needs of the poor, to support families, to care for the young, to re-energize all in the church that all might proclaim Christ and, by our witness, inspire others to meet Christ.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., second from right, attends a meeting of the synod Oct. 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The document speaks to many pastoral concerns. Before coming to the synod, I spoke to the priests serving on our Presbyteral Council. I asked them what concerns in their parish work should be brought to the synod. They expressed as pastors their deep concern for couples in irregular situations because of the failure of a previous marriage. I was encouraged to hear in the message the concern of the church. “To all of them (those in irregular marriage situations) we want to say that God’s love does not abandon anyone, that the church loves them, too, that the church is a house that welcomes all, that they remain members of the church even if they cannot receive sacramental absolution and the Eucharist.” We need to continue to explore  ways to respond to this painful situation for divorced and remarried in keeping with the Lord’s teaching on the indissolubility of the marriage bond.

The message speaks up strongly on the importance of religious freedom and the freedom of conscience. In far too many places around the world people still suffer and even lose their lives in professing their faith. The synod calls the world to a tolerance and respect for all religions and expressions of faith. That was certainly a recurring longing expressed in the synod.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, looking up from booklet, participates in an opening prayer during a meeting of the synod Oct. 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The message upholds the preeminence of care for the poor, “placing ourselves side by side with those who are wounded by life…. We must recognize the privileged place of the poor in our communities, a place that does not exclude anyone, but wants to reflect how Jesus bound himself to them. The presence of the poor in our communities is mysteriously powerful: it changes persons more than a discourse does…. The social doctrine of the church is integral to the pathways of the new evangelization…”

There is much to contemplate and reflect upon in this message. While the document has been translated into the five official languages of the synod — Italian, German, Spanish, French and English — effort will be made to make translations for many of the regions represented at the synod.

The experience of the synod reminds me of the need for us in the United States to learn different languages, which is common for people from around the world. It is important to emphasize language learning for the young. We remain much too content to know English, which is not sufficient in our global community.

As the religious and laity — many young, many women — spoke their interventions today, they covered again a wide range of issues, oftentimes speaking not in abstract ways but from their own concrete efforts and experiences, to make the faith live.

Chiara Amirante works in Rome with marginalized youth addicted to drugs and sex, those whose lives are burdened, unfree. She is working in the street where there is desperate need. She is inviting these young people to know Christ and find a freedom and joy that eludes them. She has had much success.

Cardinals and bishops from around the world attend a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization at the Vatican Oct. 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Dr. Ernestine Sikujua Kinyabuuma, a member of Focolare who is a university teacher, spoke of her work with college students. She spoke of sending a small text every day encouraging each other in the living of the faith. We need daily reminders. She spoke of her efforts with her students to lead them to Christ by her witness not by her words.

Some of the laity spoke of the need to awaken the laity, a sleeping giant. They have great talent and creativity. Entrust them with the task of awakening this new evangelization. As I listened I felt great hope that the laity, who hold a deep love for the church, have much to offer in the work of the new evangelization.

Many references, including one by Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, were made about the importance of the family in transmitting the faith. Clearly we need to do more to support families and help them address the many challenges they face.

I leave the synod grateful for the opportunity to meet bishops, religious, clergy and laity from all over the world, certainly the greatest gift. I leave the synod eager to instill a new ardor in the Diocese of Tucson, seeking new expressions and new methods of making the faith live which will draw others to Christ. I leave the synod with a determination to work with my co-workers in the vineyard of the diocese to encourage the coming to life of the new evangelization in this Year of Faith.

– – –

Bishop Kicanas, of Tucson, Ariz., is chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services and is a former vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Also a former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Communications Committee, he is blogging from the world Synod of Bishops this month by special arrangement with Catholic News Service. He was elected an alternate delegate to the synod by the U.S. bishops and became a full delegate when Cardinal Francis E. George was unable to attend.

Halloween costumes that aren’t a treat

Every Halloween, in the midst of costumed monsters, princesses and movie star look-alikes, there is also bound to be the occasional nun or priest costume with a twist. Costumed nuns might appear pregnant, sexy or as skeletons while priest costumes range from drunks to zombies.

But costumes mocking religious figures just aren’t funny, according to an article in The Valley Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.

“It’s a sign of disregard, of disrespect for people of faith,” said Sister Nancy Boushey of the Benedictine Monastery of the Good Shepherd in Rio Grande City, Texas, whose members wear habits.  “It takes an authentic call from God and makes a mockery of it, no matter what the faith is, whether it’s Jewish or Catholic or any other faith.”

Some might view these costumes as harmless fun, but Father Gregory T. Labus, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Edinburg, Texas, said they form minds in a nageative way, akin to the effects of watching inappropriate shows on television.

“I would say it’s a similar kind of case with costumes, especially with very young minds. Pregnant nuns or whatever, it’s disrespectful and it’s forming an impression that is not good. … Personally, I would say that Christian families should avoid that sort of thing.”

That’s not to say there isn’t a time and place to dress up like a religious, without the mocking edge, of course.

The priest pointed out that some churches and Catholic schools encourage children to dress up as their favorite saint for Halloween or the next day — All Saints’ Day. He said these costumes may entail respectfully dressing up as a priest or religious sister but “usually there is some catechesis that goes with it.”

Children in saint costumes. (CNS file photo)

With all the candy consumption and scary decorations that go with Halloween, it might be hard to get back to the holiday’s religious roots, which are outlined in the St. Anthony Messenger magazine.

The article reminds its readers that All Hallow’s Eve — the night before the celebration for All Saints’ Day — eventually was shortened to Halloween. The purpose of these feasts “is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the communion of saints, which reminds us that the church is not bound by space or time.”

It also reminds readers of something that might get lost in the Halloween frenzy — what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say.

It says through the communion of saints a “perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.”

That’s something to think about either in the costume store or long after the candy bars are gone.

Vatican Voices: Bishop William J. McNaughton

(Paul Haring/CNS)

By Greg Watry

VATICAN CITY — In the second podcast from Vatican Voices, Bishop William J. McNaughton, a father of the Second Vatican Council, talks about Vatican II and revitalizing the Catholic faith in the modern world.

Click here:

Vatican Voices: Bishop William J. McNaughton


For our print story click here: Fifty years later, a bishop remembers Vatican II

For our video click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90uKf6tr9AA&list=UUDfNrxA5dMp0co1siQOLrjg&index=18&feature=plcp

Vatican Voices: Cardinal Donald Wuerl

(Paul Haring/CNS)

By Greg Watry

VATICAN CITY — In the first of an occasional series of podcasts, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington talks about Catholic higher education and the rise of secularism in the West.

Click here:

Vatican Voices: Cardinal Donald Wuerl



For our print story click here: Cardinal Wuerl: Synod strives to turn back ‘tsunami of secularism’

For our video click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSupP8M2CNg