Pro-life Oklahoma Democrat turns her attention to religious freedom

Oklahoma State Rep. Rebecca Hamilton sees no conflict between her pro-life views as a Catholic and being a stalwart Democrat who has served 18 years in the state Legislature.

Oklahoma State Rep. Rebecca Hamilton (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Oklahoma State Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, a pro-life Democrat, has turned her attention to religious freedom issues.  (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

Hamilton, who represents South Oklahoma City, told Catholic News Service during a break this morning in the 2013 National Religious Freedom Conference in Washington that her pro-life stance evolved over time after a “powerful religious experience” in the 1980s.

It helped, she said, that she became Catholic in 2002.

Hamilton has cemented her pro-life credentials in the Legislature in recent years despite vocal objections from fellow Democrats and other supporters of Democratic politics. She said one labor official told her to keep her beliefs in church and out of the state Legislature when she shepherded one pro-life measure to passage.

All this after Hamilton worked for a stint for the National Abortion Rights Action League in Oklahoma. Back then, she said, she was hardly religious.

These days, in addition to looking out for her district, Hamilton’s focus is on threats to religious freedom that she sees emerging nationwide. She said it will take the Catholic community — a small minority in Oklahoma — working side by side with people of all faiths to be vigilant about legislative attempts to marginalize religious practice and educate the wider community that any threat to religion poses a threat to all.

One of her priorities: helping form a religious freedom caucus with other like-minded legislators to stop incursions on religious practice.

Hamilton was one of four panelists who discussed challenges to religious freedom during a conference session. She told the 150 people in attendance that her fear is that opponents of religion are becoming bolder in their attacks — verbal, through the courts and in state legislatures.

“You dehumanize a group enough, you marginalize a group enough, it becomes easy to do anything to them,” she said.

CNS will have a report on the conference tomorrow. (UPDATE: You can read the CNS report here.)

Pope’s Eucharist adoration prayers in English y en Español

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has two sets of prayer intentions for the worldwide, simultaneous Eucharistic adoration scheduled for Sunday, June 2.

(CNS/Paul Haring)

(CNS/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, presented the prayer intentions in Italian at a news conference Tuesday. The Vatican’s news aggregator website provided translations in several languages.

In English, the prayers are:

1. “For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity: May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing his Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’ That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.”

2. “For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, and slave labor. For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence. Also, for all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners, and those who experience marginalization. That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.”

Y en Español:

1. “Por la Iglesia, extendida en todo el mundo y hoy en señal de unidad recogida en la adoración de la Santísima Eucaristía. Que el Señor la haga cada vez más obediente a la escucha de su Palabra para presentarse ante el mundo siempre “mas hermosa, sin mancha, ni arruga, sino santa e inmaculada”. Que a través de su fiel anuncio, la Palabra que salva resuene aún como portadora de misericordia y haga que el amor se redoble para dar un sentido pleno al dolor y al sufrimiento, devolviendo alegría y serenidad”.

2. “Por aquellos que en los diversos lugares del mundo viven el sufrimiento de nuevas esclavitudes y son víctimas de la guerra, de la trata de personas, del narcotráfico y del trabajo “esclavo”; por los niños y las mujeres que padecen todas las formas de la violencia.¡Que su grito silencioso de ayuda encuentre a la Iglesia vigilante para que, teniendo la mirada puesta en Cristo crucificado no se olvide de tantos hermanos y hermanas dejados a merced de la violencia!. Por todos aquellos que, además, se encuentran en la precariedad económica, sobre todo los desempleados, los ancianos, los inmigrantes, los que carecen de hogar, los presos y cuantos experimentan la marginación. ¡Que la oración de la Iglesia y su cercanía activa les de consuelo y ayuda en la esperanza y fuerza y audacia en la defensa de la dignidad de la persona!”

Obama drone review welcomed, but international review still needed, bishop says

President Barack Obama’s announcement that he would place tighter restrictions on the use of drones against suspected terrorists was welcomed by the bishop who sent a letter May 17 to the White House and congressional leaders seeking a wide-scale public discussion on the use of the emerging technology.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, who chairs the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, urged the administration to fully consider the moral questions surrounding the use of drones as it refines its policy.

Bishop Richard E. Pates (CNS/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

Bishop Richard E. Pates (CNS/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

“The (White House) policy has raised a lot of serious moral questions and concerns,” Bishop Pates said May 28. “I don’t think it’s been widely discussed with the American public. It’s a relatively new revelation for the broader public. The letter itself and what we are addressing is the questions of civilians and those who are killed as ‘collateral damage.’ So we have to be very open about what is involved in the utilization of this (technology).”

Obama offered a strong defense of drone use to protect American security in an address at the National Defense University May 23, but also said it was time to review how they are being used. The U.S. showed it was not about to back off of their use, however, if today’s attack in Pakistan is any indication. Pakistani intelligence officials said a suspected drone strike killed four people including Waliur Rehman, who is considered the No. 2 leader in the Pakistan Taliban.

The Taliban denied he was dead.

The bishop suggested that Obama would do well if he took the discussion of drone use to the world on the path to developing international protocols.

“We think it is very important that it undergo international discussion and scrutiny,” said the bishop, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. “We feel that is very important because the technology soon will be widespread.”

Crew prepares to launch pilot-less drone combat aircraft from aircraft carrier in Atlantic Ocean off coast of Virginia May 14. (CNS/Reuters)

Crew prepares to launch pilot-less drone combat aircraft from aircraft carrier in Atlantic Ocean off coast of Virginia May 14. (CNS/Reuters)

The letter was about a year in development, first broached by Bishop Robert J. Cunningham of Syracuse, N.Y., who was looking for help in understanding the moral issues surrounding drone use. The diocese is home to the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, one of several U.S. centers where drone operators pilot the unmanned aircraft in their search for suspected Muslim militants halfway around the world. The base also has been the scene of regular nonviolent vigils and protests.

As questions were raised, the committee reached out to Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who urged the USCCB to move forward with the letter because of the U.S. role as the world’s leading user of drones.

The council itself is planning to examine the use of drones during a session at a conference it is putting together this fall.

Zach Sobiech, 18, singer of “Clouds,” dies

Zach Sobiech and his parents, Rob and Laura, parishioners at the Church of St. Michael in Stillwater, Minn., are pictured at their home April 24. (CNS/Dave Hrbacek)

Zach Sobiech and his parents, Rob and Laura, parishioners at the Church of St. Michael in Stillwater, Minn., are pictured at their home April 24. (CNS/Dave Hrbacek)

A couple of weeks ago, Catholic News Service ran a story of a young Minnesota man, Zach Sobiech, and the prayerful devotion of his family as he endured the final stages of osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

Zach, 18, died May 20 at his family home in Stillwater.

His parents, Laura and Rob, members of the Church of St. Michael, were at Zach’s side at his death. He also is survived by his siblings Alli , Sam and Grace.

The story by Dave Hrbacek of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, told of how Laura understood the feelings Mary had as she stood at the cross watching Jesus, her beloved son, die.

“Identifying with Mary’s suffering has been huge,” Laura told Hrbacek. “To meditate from her point of view, watching her son suffer, has just really brought me peace and shown me how to do it. … Mary was there for the whole thing, and there was nothing she could really do but be there.”

In December, Zach produced and released “Clouds,” a song about facing death. It’s been a viral hit on YouTube, with more than 4.7 million views. It climbed to the top of the iTunes chart after his death.

Numerous celebrities, including Ashley Tisdale, Colbie Caillat, Chris Pratt, Anna Faris, Jason Mraz, Sara  Bareilles, Jenna Fischer, The Lumineers, Rachel Bilson, Ed Helms and Phillip Phillips then joined in with their own video tribute to Zach.

Zach also decided to help kids with cancer through the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. The family has started the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund to accept memorial contributions.

The Sobiech family’s faith in God and strength to endure the unthinkable serves as an inspiring example for all of us facing difficult challenges in everyday life. Despite the sorrow they have felt since Zach’s diagnosis in November 2009 at age 14, the Sobiech family now knows he is with God.

May he rest in peace.

Priest, born and raised in South Africa, set to become U.S. citizen

Father Wayne Dawson, who is from South Africa and is currently serving in the Diocese of Monterey, Calif., is set to become a U.S. citizen May 23.

Father Wayne Dawson, a native of South Africa and administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Capitola, Calif., will take the oath to become a U.S. citizen May 23.

Father Wayne Dawson, who is from  South Africa and is administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Capitola, Calif., will take the oath to become a U.S. citizen May 23.

“I’m very excited about being a priest and I’ve very excited of being a citizen of America, a beacon of hope,” Father Wayne recently told Catholic News Service.

“As an immigrant you recognize the opportunities that America affords,” Father Wayne said. “What America offers one is that sense of the potential of no matter who you are, you are accepted and you are able to do things.”

He will take the citizenship oath with dozens of others near San Jose, Calif.

After the oath Father Wayne will join his twin brother, Redemptorist Father Ivan Dawson, as an American citizen.

Father Ivan will miss the ceremony because he is studying Spanish in Mexico until October.

The brothers are one of a few pairs of identical twin in the priesthood around the world. Father Wayne was ordained in 1998 and Father Ivan three years earlier. Father Wayne said that at the time of his ordination he was told there were only six other pairs of priest twins worldwide.

The brothers’ attraction to the priesthood began in the family home in Cape Town. Father Wayne said he was impressed with the Catholic Church’s work to break down apartheid and to serve black South Africans during a period when they were relegated to the status of second class citizens.

“That sense of always welcoming others and always being a welcoming community always resonated with young people,” Father Wayne said. “Many of us young people wanted to go off to the seminary to become part of that.”

Father Dawson currently serves as administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Capitola, a few miles down the road from Santa Cruz. He’s been at the parish for a year, but has served at parishes in the Monterey Diocese for five years.

Prior to that Father Dawson served in the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore. He had visited Portland several time to visit his brother assigned there by the Redemptorists in the early 2000s. Father Ivan introduced him to now-retired Archbishop John G. Vlazny, who invited him to serve in the archdiocese.

The cold, damp winter weather in the Pacific Northwest was a far cry from Cape Town. In 2008, he went on retreat with a priest friend on the central California coast and the weather reminded him of home. His friend encouraged him to contact Bishop Richard J. Garcia, who had been recently appointed bishop of Monterey. Bishop Garcia subsequently invited the South African to Monterey.

Father Wayne will be incardinated in the diocese Sept. 1.

He said the people across the Monterey Diocese have warmly welcomed him at the three parishes in which he has served since his arrival five years ago. Parishioners are planning a party for Father Wayne this weekend.

“I think the church in America is vibrant and dynamic,” he said. “One of the things I value about America is that sense of justice and I also value the way men and women work together. The empowerment of women in this country, I value that.”

Notes on peace and justice

North Carolina priest named Catholic Charities USA volunteer of the year

A priest who sees his ministry as a bridge connecting Catholics, non-Catholics and people in need in rural lightly populated southwest North Carolina is Catholic Charities USA’s volunteer of the year.

Father George Kloster, wearing vest, is pictured with a group of volunteers from his parish and others in 2012 as they repaired a home damaged by a tornado in Murphy, N.C. (Courtesy Catholic News Herald)

Father George Kloster, wearing vest, is pictured with a group of volunteers from his parish and others in 2012 as they repaired a home damaged by a tornado in Murphy, N.C. (Courtesy Catholic News Herald)

Father George Kloster, pastor of St. William Church in Murphy and Immaculate Heart of Mary Mission in Hayesville, will receive the award at the organization’s annual convention in September in San Francisco.

“I see what I’m doing as part of servant ministry,” Father Kloster, a native of Utica, N.Y., told Catholic News Service.

He said he was surprised by the honor because “I don’t really consider myself a volunteer.”

Father Kloster’s ministry extends from the Office of Economic Opportunity in Murphy, a program of Catholic Charities of the Charlotte Diocese. That office opened in 1998, about the time Father Kloster arrived in Murphy.

“I help bring parishioners and OEO together so there is a pool of people that OEO can turn to for help,” he explained. “It a very ecumenical organization. The two women on staff are Baptist. One our board we have a Lutheran pastor and a Methodist minister and others who are not Catholic.”

Catholics are a small minority in that part of North Carolina, which is home to lots of retirees and a growing Hispanic community. The total Catholic population of the parish and the mission is about 450 families. Most members are retirees who have moved to the area because of its natural beauty and mild climate, and they have the energy and time to volunteer, Father Kloster said.

The award comes as Father Kloster, 69, prepares for retirement in July. Parishioners offered to build a house for him if he stayed. He agreed and they did.

Lamb Catholic Worker gets start on movement’s 80th anniversary

Eighty years ago on May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin opened the first house of hospitality known as the Catholic Worker in New York. Marking the anniversary, adherents of the Catholic Worker philosophy in Columbus, Ohio, committed to begin offering hospitality and building a community in the city’s Eastmoor neighborhood.

Taking the name Lamb Catholic Worker, it’s the newest Catholic Worker community in the worldwide movement known for offering hospitality to homeless people, members often living in community and working on behalf of justice, most notably worker rights and peace.

Monica Siemer, one of the founders, told CNS May 15 that while the community has not yet welcomed anyone who is homeless, plans are moving forward to have volunteers settled in as many as three houses in the fall. The hospitality focus will be on non-English-speaking women and children.

“It’s been seven years in the works,” she said.

The community broke ground on a small community farm, in the Catholic Worker tradition, May 14, the eve of the feast of St. Isidore, patron saint of farmers.

ICCR campaign urges investors to consider companies’ human rights policies

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in New York has embarked on a campaign to help investors judge the human rights record of the companies in which they invest.

Called “Investing the Rights Way,” the campaign offers investors tools to help guide their investment practices.

The Institute for Human Rights and Business and Calvert Investments are part of the effort.

A copy of “Investing the Rights Way: A Guide for Investors on Business and Human Rights” is available free for download from the interfaith center.

A short video introduces the campaign. In it, the Rev. David Schilling, the center’s senior program director for human rights and resources, explains how it builds on the United Nations’ Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.

“Now there’s a new emerging global norm through the U.N. process that enables investors and other actors, companies, states, etc., to really move forward in creating a context of respect for human rights in communities around the globe,” Rev. Schilling says in the video. “So what we have done is an investor guide for this process that is trying to reach more mainstream investors who we think need to take up this initiative and look at their investments through the lens of human rights.”

Patron saint of farmers celebrated with Sonoran tradition, stew

Jim Griffith, an expert on some of the most fascinating historical people and events in the Southwestern United States, has been on something of a Catholic kick in his regular columns in the Arizona Daily Star, the Tucson daily newspaper.

AZbigJIMThere have been several pieces on Father Eusebio Kino, the Spanish Jesuit who established many of the missions in the region and, as Griffith points out, introduced the native people to cattle and wheat — the makings of a delicious carne asada burrito. (The Star is a secular paper, after all.)

This week he explains the devotion to St. Isidore, patron of farmers and farm laborers, among the people of the Sonoran Desert, which includes much of southern Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora.

“First, the Who. Isidore (1070-1130) was a pious farm hand in Spain whose boss complained that he spent more time praying than actually working in the fields. One day Isidore was seen praying as usual, while an angel walked behind the oxen and plowed the field for him.

The good saint also had the habit of feeding the birds with his employer’s wheat, after which the sacks of grain would be miraculously replenished. No wonder he became the patron saint of farmers and farm workers!”

He goes on to discuss the traditional observance of St. Isidore’s feast, which often focuses on praying for rain. And he couldn’t resist another food angle, describing a traditional stew made for the saint’s day.

Griffith, former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, (now incorporated into the university’s Southwest Center) has written seven books on Southwestern folklore and folklife.