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Chaput asks Notre Dame student for youth synod advice

Philadelphia, Pa., Jun 19, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput turned over his weekly Catholic Philly column to a University of Notre Dame student, who hopes an upcoming Vatican synod will encourage young people to take personal responsibility for the “decisive missions” of vocations and Christian discipleship.

“It’s a very exciting time to be a young American Catholic,” wrote Notre Dame senior Daniel Lindstrom.

In a brief introduction to Lindstrom’s column, Chaput wrote that “With a world synod of bishops focusing on young people set for this fall, listening to the young and those involved in guiding them is important. So this week, as in recent weeks, I’m turning over my column to someone who can speak directly from the experience of a young adult.”

Lindstrom, the graduate of a Philadelphia-area Catholic high school, wrote that despite the “trouble the Church faces today, much more hope is blooming.” He cited programs such as FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), the Culture Project, and other organizations for their work in helping to “establish and fortify pockets of young, faithful Catholic leaders.”

While these groups are important, and form Catholic communities, Lindstrom wrote, it was the sudden death of a residence hall director on Notre Dame’s campus that sparked the realization that while community is important, solitude is equally so. In the end, explained Lindstrom, a person will be alone with God.

“The priest’s words and God’s grace caused me to switch perspective for a moment,” said Lindstrom, “and imagine how I might rely on God’s embrace at my life’s end much differently than the way I do now,” in a community of Catholics at Mass.

“After all the vitality of these young years, when we near the end of our journeys, our discipleship will depend on our own inner lives,” Lindstrom noted. Our inner selves, he explained, are “vulnerable and exposed,” and are alone with Christ.

“It’s in listening with the ears of our hearts that we’re given the opportunity to say yes to God’s call,” said Lindstrom, and that this “personal yes” is the start of a person’s vocation.

“With renewed focus and zeal on the part of the Church, young people can claim their faith and set off of on faith’s great adventure.”

On Tuesday, a working paper for the synod was released that focused on questions about sexuality and gender issues, among other social and moral issues.

The synod will be held October 3-28, in Rome. Chaput is a delegate to the meeting.

 

Chicago Catholic Charities provides showers for homeless people

Chicago, Ill., Jun 19, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two weeks ago, Chicago's Catholic Charities opened hygienic services offering homeless persons showers and a place to do laundry in the city's River North neighborhood.

“Our guests will have comfort of a warm shower, toiletries, bedding, clothing,” said Monsignor Michael Boland, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“These small mercies which most of us take for granted can help preserve health and restore hope to those who live at the margins of society. They can be a first step toward a life of self-sufficiency.”

On Wednesdays, guests at the St. Vincent Center at 721 N LaSalle Drive may claim a 30-minute shower spot from 10 a.m. until noon. Each person is given soap, toothpaste, shaving equipment, deodorant, and a set of clothes. The clients will also have access to a washers and dryers.

A trial of the program began two weeks ago and it was officially unveiled June 18. Since it began, the scheduled spots have been booked solid. The operating hours will expand depending on an increase of volunteers.

There are more than 80,000 homeless people in the Chicago area, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Catholic Charities in Chicago has provided food and other social services to impoverished people five days a week, serving more than 250 people a day.

Matthew Shay, 27, a substance abuse counselor for Catholic Charities, administers the program’s intake. As a former addict and vagabond, Shay insisted that cleanliness influences positive change on a practical and symbolic level.

“When they give up hygiene, they’re mentally giving up and feeling hopeless,” he said, according to the Chicago Tribune.  

“So when you provide that to somebody who doesn’t have it, it provides a sense of normalcy that common Americans take for granted. It’s a simple pleasure for us – simple pleasures that are really a privilege.”

In the last three years, Pope Francis inspired Rome-based facilities to provide laundry and bathroom services. In 2015, bathrooms were opened at St. Peter’s Square to provide showers and haircuts to homeless people. Two years later, a volunteer run laundromat was opened in the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome.

 “The Pope’s Laundry” was opened after Pope Francis’s apostolic letter Misericordia et misera, challenging Catholics “to give a ‘concrete’ experience of the grace of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.”

Charitable works has been a major feature of Pope Francis' pontificate. The Pope has previously invited homeless men and women to dine with him and to experience the Sistine Chapel. Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics to attend to people on the “peripheries” of society, expressing the importance of the works of mercy.

“To want to be close to Christ demands to be near to our brothers, because nothing is more pleasing to the Father than a concrete sign of mercy. By its very nature, mercy is made visible and tangible in concrete and dynamic action.”

US aid to Iraqi Christians, Yazidis on fast track via Catholic Relief Services

Washington D.C., Jun 19, 2018 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The United States Agency for International Development has announced it is investing $10 million into coalitions led by Catholic Relief Services and Heartland Alliance to help rebuild Christian and other minority communities in Iraq who suffered genocide under the Islamic State.

“In Iraq, although the coalition has largely driven ISIS from the battlefield, much of Northern Iraq now faces the daunting task of repairing broken infrastructure and rebuilding a shattered social fabric,” said USAID Administrator Mark Green as he announced the funding at the Interaction Forum in Washington, D.C., June 14.

The announcement came one week after reports that Vice President Mike Pence was “incensed” over the “bureaucratic delays” in delivering aid promised to the Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq.

The United States government will stop using “slow, ineffective and wasteful United Nations programs and to instead distribute assistance through USAID in order to provide faster and more direct aid to Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq,” according to the vice president’s press secretary.

Pence has directed Green to travel to Baghdad and Erbil in the coming weeks to “report back with an immediate comprehensive assessment addressing any issues that could delay the process of aid distribution.”

Kevin Hartigan, Catholic Relief Services’ regional director for Europe and the Middle East, told CNA that “We are grateful for this new funding that provides greater assistance for Christians and other religious minorities returning to northern Iraq.”

“It will allow Catholic Relief Services to continue and expand the projects we began in 2014, working with Caritas Iraq to provide critical assistance to Christians, Yazidis and many other Iraqis of various faiths who had been displaced by violence and are now returning to their homes,” he continued.

Since 2014, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Iraq have served more than 300,000 Iraqis affected by the conflict through their offices in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, Dohuk, and Erbil.

CRS will use the most recent funds to “assist the Catholic Church of Iraq to help all war-affected families with the provision of shelter, emergency assistance and education and trauma healing for children,” said Hartigan.

Iraq’s Christian population was devastated by the Islamic State in 2014. Two thirds of the approximately 1.5 million Christians who formerly inhabited Iraq either fled or were forced out by the violence, according to In Defence of Christians.

“ISIS fighters used most of the 45 churches in the old city for shelter, target practice, and torture and, in the case of the Dominican church, as a place to hang their victims from inside the bell tower,” wrote Father Benedict Kiely after visiting Mosul last month.

Iraqi military forces regained control of Mosul from the Islamic State in July 2017; yet only ten Christian families have returned to Mosul’s old city, which had more than 3,000 Christian families in 2014, according to Father Kiely.

“Across the Nineveh Plain, where Christians trace their roots back to the time of the Apostles, many Christians have returned nonetheless,” noted Kiely.

Archbishop Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil said earlier this year that Christians are “scourged, wounded, but still there.”

As assisted suicide law is reinstated, critics say Californians 'deserve better'

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 19, 2018 / 04:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A California judge has reinstated the state’s assisted suicide law, making it legal for terminally ill patients to end their lives while a court case is resolved – a move some critics say targets the vulnerable.

“Assisted suicide limits choice for vulnerable people such as the terminally ill, elderly, individuals with disabilities, and anyone who relies on health insurance to cover treatment,” said Kristen Hanson, the community relations advocate for Patients’ Rights Action Fund.

“It creates perverse economic incentives for insurance companies to deny coverage and deprive patients of lifesaving treatment when lethal drugs are so much cheaper,” Hanson told CNA.

On Friday, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside, CA issued a stay putting the End of Life Option back into effect. The decision gives opponents until July 2 to file objections.

The law allows patients who have a terminal diagnosis of six months or less to receive fatal drugs prescribed by a doctor.

Last month, the law had been declared unconstitutional by Superior Judge Daniel Ottolia of Riverside County, who said the legislation was “adopted illegally” since it was passed during a legislative session limited to issues other than assisted suicide. 

Attorney General Xavier Becerra appealed Ottolia’s ruling in May, and fought over the past weeks to reinstate the assisted suicide law.

Becerra applauded the state appeals court’s decision, saying it “provides some relief to California patients, their families and doctors who have been living in uncertainty while facing difficult health decisions,” according to the LA Times.

However, patients’ rights activist Matt Valliere called the legislation a distraction from providing real health care to patients.

“The California experience is that assisted suicide is controversial and a distraction,” said Valliere, executive director for Patients’ Rights Action Fund, in a June 18 statement.

“Instead of assisted suicide we ought to focus on delivering real healthcare and treatment choices for patients facing serious disease,” Valliere continued.

The End of Life Option took effect in California in 2016 in the wake of the controversial case of Brittany Maynard, who in 2014 traveled from California to Oregon to obtain lethal drugs to end her life after a terminal brain cancer diagnosis. Within the first six months of legalizing assisted suicide in California, more than 100 people ended their lives.

Physician-assisted suicide is legal by law in the District of Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, and Colorado; and in Montana through a state supreme court ruling. It will become legal in Hawaii next year. A bill to legalize assisted suicide is under consideration in Indiana.

“In other states where assisted suicide has been legalized, we’ve seen some of the consequences: suicide contagion, doctors making mistakes in their prognoses, and clinically depressed people receiving assisted suicide drugs,” Hanson said.

“The people of California deserve better access to palliative care and hospice services, not assisted suicide.”

 

'Pro-life is Pro-love' – Conference aims to empower women

St. Louis, Mo., Jun 19, 2018 / 02:09 pm (CNA).- This month, hundreds of women will attend a pro-life conference aimed at empowering women through a uniquely pro-life approach.

“At this event by women and for women, we are coming together to proclaim that women’s empowerment cannot be attained by the oppression of other human beings,” read a statement on the Pro-Life Women’s Conference website.

“We are reclaiming the narrative of women’s empowerment; we are reclaiming our voice as the grassroots of the pro-life movement,” the statement continued, inviting women to join the conference for “three days of powerful presentations, fellowship, friendship, and fun.”

The conference, with the theme “Pro-life is Pro-love,” will take place in St. Louis, Missouri from June 22-24 at the St. Charles Convention Center. The event will include keynote speakers, breakout sessions and panel discussions.

Speakers will include Serrin M. Foster, president of the Women Deserve Better campaign; Pat Layton, author, speaker and life coach; and Abby Johnson, founder of the abortion healing ministry And Then There Were None.

The topics of discussion include pregnancy loss, self-care, post-abortion healing, and fertility, and will aim to highlight the dignity of women through a pro-life lens.

In addition to Mass, meals and social opportunities, the conference is also hosting an art contest, which will explore the inherent worth of human beings, placing a particular focus on the dignity, beauty and strength of women. 

This year’s event will be the third pro-life women’s conference. A 2017 event took place in Orlando, Florida, and a 2016 event was held in Dallas, Texas, drawing over 500 women. Registration for the 2018 pro-life conference is currently open.