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Early medical abortion increased 154% in past decade, CDC report finds

Ultrasound. / CDC/Jim Gathany, public domain

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 29, 2022 / 10:45 am (CNA).

Americans are increasingly relying on chemical abortion, or abortion by pill, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Early medical abortion increased 22% from 2019 to 2020 and 154% from 2011 to 2020, the CDC found when looking at 37 areas that provided continuous data on medical abortion during 2011−2020.

The federal agency reported that, in 2020, the highest percentage of abortions (51%) were early medical abortions performed at or before nine weeks’ gestation based on data from 46 areas. An additional 2.4% accounted for medical abortions after nine weeks’ gestation.

The CDC usually releases its annual abortion surveillance report around the Thanksgiving holiday, as it did this year. The report, which lags two years behind, shows abortion data for 2020 — the year the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation.

The CDC’s data relies on voluntary reporting from the central health agencies of 49 reporting areas (47 states; Washington, D.C.; and New York City). The incomplete data set excludes three states: California, Maryland, and New Hampshire. Together, those states account for approximately 20% of all U.S. abortions, the report said, citing the Guttmacher Institute.

Other limitations with the CDC data include incomplete information reported.

On medical abortion, researchers agree that its use is increasing. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive research organization once associated with Planned Parenthood, found earlier this year that this type of abortion accounted for more than half of all U.S. abortions in 2020.

A CDC spokesperson confirmed to CNA that early medical abortion, here, is defined as “the administration of medications (typically mifepristone followed by misoprostol) to induce an abortion” at or before nine completed weeks gestation, in accordance with the FDA’s labeling for mifepristone that was implemented in 2016.

She added that other drugs (“typically serial prostaglandins, sometimes administered after mifepristone”) also might be used with abortion after nine weeks gestation.

The increase in medical abortion comes before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted restrictions on mifepristone, a drug approved for use in medical abortions, in 2021. But the FDA’s move represented a continuation of 2020, when a federal district court blocked the FDA from enforcing its requirement that women seeking abortions must receive mifepristone in person rather than by mail.

Abortion by the numbers

According to the CDC, a total of 620,327 abortions were reported to the federal agency for 2020. This number represents a 1.5% decrease since 2019 (with 629,898 total abortions reported) and a 15% decrease since 2011 (with 730,322 total abortions reported).

The decrease comes after the number of reported abortions increased in 2018 and 2019.

The Guttmacher Institute, which offers more comprehensive data, counted 930,160 abortions in the United States for 2020. That number represented an increase — not decrease — from 2019, when it listed 916,460 abortions.

The CDC, while looking at the 48 areas that reported data continuously from 2011 to 2020, reported overall decreases during that time in the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions. Most recently for those areas, from 2019 to 2020, the CDC saw a 2% decrease in both the total number of abortions and abortion rate (number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years), but a 2% increase in the total abortion ratio (number of abortions per 1,000 live births).

For those same 48 areas, a total of 615,911 abortions were reported for 2020, with 11.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years and 198 abortions per 1,000 live births.

Of the states providing data, Florida saw the the highest number of abortions at 74,868, followed by New York (63,142) and Texas (55,132). Washington, D.C., had the highest abortion rate (23 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (498 abortions per 1,000 live births).

Balenciaga apologizes amid outcry over ad featuring sexualized children

null / Roman Zaiets / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 28, 2022 / 16:35 pm (CNA).

Top luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has issued an apology after outcry over the company’s recent ad campaign featuring young children surrounded by sexualized symbols.

In the ad, young children — appearing to be no older than 6 years old — hold stuffed teddy bears that are dressed in leather bondage gear, including fishnet tights and chains used in BDSM (bondage, discipline/dominance, submission, and sadomasochism).

 

The images went viral on social media, provoking public outrage over other disturbing elements in the photographic ad series, including court documents in one photo that reference child abuse and pornography. 

“The ads blatantly exploit the innocence of children to glamorize perversity and sell merchandise,” Mary Rice Hasson, director of the Person and Identity Project for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA. 

Balenciaga has since removed all traces of the ad campaign and deleted or hidden all of its Instagram posts.

Kim Kardashian, a frequent partner with the Spanish-based designer and wearer of its products, said Sunday she was “re-evaluating” her relationship with the brand.

“As a mother of four, I have been shaken by the disturbing images,” Kardashian tweeted. “The safety of children must be held with the highest regard and any attempts to normalize child abuse of any kind should have no place in our society — period.”

Kardashian said she would base her assessment on the company’s “willingness to accept accountability for something that should have never happened to begin with” and “the actions I am expecting to see them take to protect children.”

The company issued an apology on Instagram shortly after Kardashian’s reproof, stating it “strongly condemn[ed] child abuse” and that the “BDSM-inspired outfits” “should not have been featured in a photoshoot with children.”

“It was never our intent to include it in our narrative,” the post read. “We could have done things differently.”

The post blamed third-party entities for providing court documents of a real Supreme Court ruling on child pornography for the photoshoot. 

“All the items included in this shooting were provided by third parties that confirmed in writing that these props were fake office documents,” the post read. 

“The inclusion of these unapproved documents was the result of reckless negligence for which Balenciaga has filed a complaint.” 

The brand has since sued production company North Six, Inc. for including the legal documents in the ad for damages of $25 million.

According to Hasson, Balenciaga’s “thin apologies” are “calculating and ultimately meaningless.”

“Balenciaga and its elite designers had no qualms about surrounding children with perverse sexual images to push its products. They care about money, not morality,” Hasson said.

Social media activists have also drawn attention to disturbing content posted by the brand’s main stylist, Lotta Volkova, featuring photographs of children mutilated or held hostage.

Patrina Mosley, who formerly worked in leadership at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, told CNA that Balenciaga’s advertisements are part of a growing push to “normalize pedophilia.” 

Mosley currently serves as a national advisory board member for Project 21, a Black leadership network that promotes the voices of conservative and moderate African Americans. 

“From Jeffery Epstein to Balenciaga, elite society is telling us exactly what they want — and that’s to normalize pedophilia. We still do not have the client list of those who frequented Epstein’s pedo-island, and who knows how long Balenciaga has been incorporating insidious nods to child sexual abuse in their campaigns. This is evil and just flat-out satanic,” Mosley said.

“As adults we have a responsibility to protect children, and they are grooming our children right in front of our faces for the next phase of liberalization: pedophilia, or as they have already begun to call it, MAPs: minor-attracted people,” Mosley warned.

Balenciaga did not respond to CNA’s request for comment. 

Louisiana Catholic church community ‘rocked’ by reports of double homicide

null / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Nov 28, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, Louisiana, says its community has been “rocked” by news of a double homicide that local police announced Monday morning, amid an unconfirmed report that the victims were the parish’s former pastor and a former employee.

A local Covington man has been arrested and charged in connection with the murders.

“Our community has been rocked by this morning’s news of the double homicide in downtown Covington. Please join us for a Holy Hour in St. Peter Catholic Church at 7 p.m.,” the post on the parish’s website says. 

The Covington Police Department has yet to release the identities of the victims, whom the department said in a Facebook post Nov. 28 were “burned beyond recognition.” 

However, a local reporter posted online that the parish’s former pastor and an employee of his at the church were reported to be the victims by “multiple people with knowledge of the situation.”

CNA is withholding the names of the alleged victims pending confirmation from authorities. 

WGNO reported Monday that one of the victims may be a “long-time prominent member” of the community, according to “witnesses.”

Earlier on Monday, St. Peter Parish posted online: “We are aware of news reports of an apparent double homicide in downtown Covington. There is speculation about the identity of the victims, but until this is confirmed by the coroner’s office, we cannot speculate about their identities.”

“Please pray for the victims and their families while we wait for final confirmation,” the post said.

Police said that the bodies were found by police “in the 500 block of E. Gibson Street,” which is about a half-mile from the church.

On Monday evening, police announced that they had taken a suspect, 49-year-old Antonio Donde Tyson of Covington, into custody.

Tyson was charged with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of second degree kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of resisting an officer, and one count of illegal possession of stolen things. 

“We urge members of the public who may have knowledge of this incident to contact the Covington Police Department at 985-892-8500. Citizens can also submit tips anonymously through our free app, called ‘Covington PD,’” police said.

Police said that the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office; and the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office were involved in the investigation.

The police department will be holding a press conference Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 10 a.m. CST. 

This is a developing story.

Don’t let Christmas take you by surprise: lessons for Advent from the Church

null / Lisa Missenda / Shutterstock

Denver, Colo., Nov 28, 2022 / 06:36 am (CNA).

The First Sunday of Advent 2022 is Nov. 27, exactly four weeks before the Sunday of Christmas this year, and while the Church provides this time to allow you to be caught by the joy of the Incarnation, you can be easily caught by surprise that it is Christmas. To help remedy this surprise, the Church provides songs, signs, and symbols to enter into the season of Advent more fruitfully.

Here are three ways the Church teaches us about the meaning of the season:

Advent hymns

Many of the customary hymns for Advent highlight the movement of the soul toward what Pope Francis termed in a 2014 homily on Advent as a “horizon of hope.” No hymn epitomizes this better than “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” with its overtones of expectation and its mournful remorse over the state of man, captive to sin. The cultivation of hope and expectation is also seen in Advent hymns such as “O Come Divine Messiah” and “People Look East.” 

The commingled darkness and hope that God will fulfill his promises, a theme characteristic of Advent, deepens with songs like the Spanish carol “Alepun.” The lyrics of “Alepun” move the faithful into an experience of waiting with a pregnant Blessed Virgin Mary while the rhythm and percussion evoke donkey hooves clattering across the plains of Israel to Bethlehem.

Church decor

Advent is a season of penance marked by joy and, in many ways, a little Lent. This is why the colors of purple and pink — with their ties to penance and the Lord’s Passion, and the joy of Laetare Sunday when Lent is almost over — are the colors of Advent. But did you know that the deep purple of Advent has a blue hue to it to teach the faithful in symbol about the Marian heart of the season?

The lack of church decor also teaches about the penitential nature of the season. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the lack of flowers on the altar, the restrained use of instruments, and the absence of the resounding and angelic Gloria all lead to a deliberate emptiness.

The emptiness will first be filled on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and, later, flowers will be allowed on Gaudete Sunday as the first expression of the festivity of the coming Christmas.

Saints and solemnities 

Following the solemnity of Christ the King, Advent begins with echoes of the power of Christ coming in glory before it stretches forward to the humble beginnings of the mystery of the Incarnation.

This means there is a certain focus the Church helps people enter into even in the way the liturgical calendar is marked by very few memorials of saints: just five in the course of the four weeks, most of whom are deeply embedded in the celebration of and preparation for Christmas in various countries.

St. Nicholas is the best known of the five: the generous bishop whose gifts inspired generations of lore and giving. St. Lucy, whose desire to give charity to prisoners in the catacombs meant she wore candles in her hair to free her hands, is another well-known saint with connections to Christmas whom we celebrate in Advent.

The Church also shows forth the importance of Mary during this season, which places her Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, a solemnity and holy day of obligation, at the very beginning of the liturgical year. Combined with the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, the Church shows forth what God has wrought in a soul full of grace — a foreshadowing of the entire mystery of salvation in one soul.

Though there are many more signs and symbols that communicate the meaning of Advent, these can assist you as you enter the season of expectation, building anticipation for the celebration of Christmas so it doesn’t catch you by surprise.

Carlo Acutis comic book: Meet the teenager who loved the Eucharist

A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. / Courtesy of Voyage Comics & Publishing

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 27, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Carlo Acutis slid his books into his backpack when he heard the parish priest knocking at the door. The hoodie-clad teenager had just finished teaching his first catechism class by himself.

“Father Antonio, I ... I don’t know what to do!” Carlo asked for advice. “These kids don’t love the Mass like I do! How do I help them understand the beauty of the Mass?”

Placing his hand on Carlo’s shoulder, the priest pointed him to a picture of a church hanging on the wall. It was San Francesco in Lanciano, Italy.

“Inside it is a Eucharistic miracle that reminds me why every Mass is a miracle, even when it may seem boring,” the priest explained, referring to a miracle where the Eucharistic host visibly transformed into flesh and blood at Mass.

So begins “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” — a new comic book that tells the story of Blessed Carlo Acutis, a young millennial who used his knowledge of computers and technology to document the world’s Eucharistic miracles online and draw people closer to God.

“Meet Carlo, an Italian fifteen-year-old computer geek who loved superheroes and video games, but most of all, the Holy Eucharist,” the book’s description reads.

Inspired by that love, Carlo completed a Eucharistic miracle display and website before he died in 2006 from leukemia. He was 15.

The comic book rewinds time to tell the story of a seemingly ordinary teenager with an extraordinary devotion to God. Published by Voyage Comics and the Augustine Institute, the book’s pages burst with color and movement, inviting readers to walk with Carlo. You can purchase the book here for $6.99.

“[I] simply put myself into Carlo's shoes and wrote the comic book through his eyes,” Philip Kosloski, the writer of the new book, told CNA.

The 36-year-old, who currently lives in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, revealed his inspiration for the project.

“When I first heard of him a few years ago, I was fascinated by him and his life,” Kosloski said of Carlo. “He had a deep devotion to the Eucharist as a teenager and was blown away by Eucharistic miracles.”

Carlo had also impacted his life on a more personal level.

“I had a similar experience as a teenager when I learned about Eucharistic miracles and I saw the panels he created that were touring the United States several years ago, though at the time I didn't know they were by him,” he said.

In 2018, Kosloski founded Voyage Comics & Publishing with the mission to create exceptional entertainment, informed by Catholic values, that inspires people to live a heroic life. To prepare for his latest project, Kosloski said that he read every book he could find — and even contacted the Acutis' secretary in Italy. 

“The family had a chance to look over the script and they gave the ‘green light,’” he said.

The comic book depicts Carlo as a relatable teenager: a video game enthusiast, a caretaker of animals and the environment, a soccer player, and an admirer of superheroes. But he also stands out as someone who defends classmates with disabilities against bullies, helps the homeless and the poor, attends daily Mass, and lives by the motto “The Eucharist is my highway to heaven.”

In other words, a superhero worthy of a comic book.

A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the  founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. Courtesy of Voyage Comics & Publishing
A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. Courtesy of Voyage Comics & Publishing

Available for shipping in November, the book took roughly four to five months to produce. Kosloski said he had the help of experienced artists, such as Jay David Ramos. 

He called Ramos, the book’s colorist, “a rising star at Marvel Comics.” 

“He is a devout Catholic, originally from the Philippines, who is living in California and is a full-time comic book artist,” Kosloski said. “He has been part of the Voyage Comics team for the past few years and is always eager to color the lives of ‘superhero’ saints, taking a break from his normal work.”

Kosloski’s favorite scene in the book, he said, is a section that focuses on Acutis’ experience playing video games. 

“It is based off a real event in his life where he saw his friends get overly frustrated with video games,” he said. “He learned that video games need to be moderated and [that] was part of the reason why he limited himself to one hour of video games a week.”

A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the  founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. Courtesy Voyage Comics & Publishing
A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. Courtesy Voyage Comics & Publishing

For his part, Kosloski hoped that the book would speak to both Catholic and non-Catholic readers.

“I hope Catholics will see an enthusiastic teenager in the pursuit of the truth,” he said. “He found the truth behind the Eucharist and couldn’t contain his excitement at what he found. He had to spread his love, hoping the entire world would come to see the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.”

“For non-Catholics, I hope they see a teenager on fire with Christ's love,” he added. “He not only shared his love of the Eucharist but also served the poor and cared for what Pope Francis would call our, ‘common home.’”

He concluded: “His life shows that God can work through anyone, no matter their age.”

Meet the Catholic bishop who began a pro-life ministry for pregnant women in need

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City speaks to EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on July 21, 2022. / Screenshot from EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 26, 2022 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

When the U.S. Catholic bishops first launched a nationwide initiative to help pregnant women in need, the chair of their pro-life committee envisioned every parish becoming a pro-life hub.

“Our hope was … that every parish ought to be a place where any woman can come,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City told CNA. “And the parish would be really prepared to connect them with the best resources in the area — and hopefully, we have somebody that would walk with them through that process.”

Today, the bishops’ pro-life parish-based ministry, Walking with Moms in Need, promises to do just that — by encouraging Catholics to support and “walk in the shoes” of local pregnant and parenting women facing difficult situations. 

Naumann oversaw its launch in 2020 when he served as chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Now, two years later, the 73-year-old archbishop sees the ministry only gaining momentum after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a ruling that frees states to decide abortion policy. 

The pro-life issue is a personal one for Naumann. His father was tragically murdered, he disclosed, when he was still in his mother’s womb. She had a difficult pregnancy with him, as she did with his older brother. Growing up, he watched as his mother, who never remarried, worked as a Catholic school teacher and, then, a principal. 

“I could see the struggle that a single mother goes through,” he remembered. 

At the same time, he said, those circumstances “oddly, probably contributed to me becoming a priest.” He pointed to his parish priest, who took an interest in him and his brother because they grew up without a father. 

Naumann was ordained a priest in 1975, two years after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. He first took an active role in Catholic pro-life leadership when, in 1984, the archbishop in St. Louis invited him to lead the pro-life apostolate in that archdiocese. 

But, he urged, “It was an issue I always felt strongly about.”

A call to action

Speaking with CNA at the bishops’ fall assembly in Baltimore, Naumann recognized the overturning of Roe as a “significant” decision — and a call to action.

“Those states where they do have protective laws for women and children, that means they need to even have more support for moms and for their children,” he said of states that have restricted abortion. “I think Walking with Moms is very important in those states.”

Naumann also expressed concern about states that remain largely unaffected by the Supreme Court’s decision, including his state of Kansas, where a pro-life amendment on the ballot recently failed. He also worried about states enacting laws “maybe even more horrendous” than Roe v. Wade.

“In those states, it becomes very important too, because the children we can't protect with the law, we can [protect] with love and [by] surrounding the mother and the child with the support system,” he said.

Walking with Moms in Need, in part, began in anticipation of Roe’s reversal, Naumann revealed.

“We saw that that was a possibility,” he said, before adding, “But you know, frankly, I didn't think I would see it in my lifetime.”

“There was in my mind, why, if that happened, are we really prepared to support women — even more women and children,” he said. “And so I'm really glad we took that initiative and the Holy Spirit kind of guided us.”

He described how his own diocese is participating in Walking with Moms in Need: by making parishes aware of the resources available in addition to identifying the gaps where help is needed. 

“I've told our pastors, there's no excuse for any of our parishes not being able to connect women with the help they need and to be prepared to accompany them,” Naumann stressed.

He called the bishops’ pro-life pastoral plan “multifaceted,” with a focus on four areas: prayer; education within and outside the church; pastoral care, and advocacy. While much of the focus on abortion has been on the courts and legislation, Naumann emphasized the importance of building a pro-life culture.

“In the long run, we have to build a consensus within the culture that killing our own children is not the way we want to address difficult pregnancies,” he said.

Detroit bishop calls for penitential Advent after passage of abortion initiative

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit. CNA file photo. / null

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 26, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The archbishop of Detroit is calling on Michigan Catholics to spend the first two weeks of Advent doing penance following the passage of a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to allow abortion on demand.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron addressed a letter to all parishioners the day after Proposition 3 passed with 56.7% of the vote. 

“Abortion is now legal in Michigan at an unprecedented level, and millions of lives are at stake. We must pray and ask God for his mercy upon us for allowing this evil to happen in our state,” Vigneron wrote.

“For this reason, I want to invite all the faithful to join me in the first two weeks of Advent, from November 27 to December 9, in doing penance, giving alms, praying, and fasting. We must use these spiritual practices to make reparations for the great sin of abortion in our midst,” he said. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Jesus called on his followers to strive for “interior penance,” defined as a “radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed” (No. 1431). Through almsgiving, prayer and fasting, Christians can “express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others” (No. 1434).

This year, as part of the Detroit Archdiocese’s “I AM HERE” campaign, special eucharistic Holy Hours will be offered at 7 p.m. every day of Advent. The campaign was started in June in conjunction with the beginning of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Eucharistic Revival initiative.

The first Holy Hour will take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 27 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

In his letter, Vigneron also underlined the importance of offering pregnant women in need help during time of crisis.

“We also renew our commitment to accompanying women and families in need, with greater resolve than ever. This work is more critical now, as the unborn have been stripped of their basic right to life and their mothers face the harmful lie that the death of their children is a solution to their struggles. 

“In response to the passing of Proposal 3, we must step forward with no judgment, open arms, and effective resources to help women reject the ‘solution’ of death and empower them to choose life for their children,” Vigneron wrote.

He singled out the Walking with Moms in Need initiative and the Project Rachel as two important ministries that help pregnant women, mothers, and children, and those who have been harmed by abortion.

Christmas 2022: Small Catholic businesses offer meaningful gifts for all

Ideal for babies, toddlers, and young children, Little Saints Stories tell the story of a saint through simple writings and illustrations. / Francesca Pollio Fenton / CNA

Denver, Colo., Nov 26, 2022 / 10:00 am (CNA).

As we approach Christmas, it’s time to pull out the list of all those for whom you need to buy gifts. To help you check off your list, we’ve put together a list of Catholic businesses that offer meaningful gifts for your loved ones.

Litany NYC

Started by two friends with a passion for fashion, Litany strives to design their clothing as a way to draw one’s soul to God. This women’s clothing line caters to the “intentional and unique state of each woman as she blossoms into who she was created to be.” Each item is hand-sewn by a small team in New York, is made-to-measure, and is entirely supplied within the United States. You can find beautiful scarfs, blouses, dresses, purses, and more. One of their newer pieces is the Cana scarf, which was inspired by the Wedding Feast at Cana. The design aims to restore the significance of the vocation of marriage and remind women about the beauty of her vocation in any stage of life.

Telos Art Shop

From clothing to jewelry, Telos Art is a family-owned Catholic company that sells necklaces, rings, and earrings with the intention of pointing the wearer toward a “higher end.” This shop offers the perfect gifts for ladies who love to display their faith through jewelry. Items that can be purchased include stunning crucifix necklaces, Marian medals, saint medals, and more. They also have men’s jewelry!

Little Saint Stories

If you have littles ones on your list, then a book from Little Saint Stories would be the perfect gift. Ideal for babies, toddlers, and young children, these books tell the story of a saint through simple writings and illustrations. They serve as a great way to teach children about the inspiring lives and virtues of the saints from a young age. There are books on St. John Paul II, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Francis of Assisi, and more. In addition to the book, you can also get the accompanying prayer pal. These prayer pals are plush toys of the same saint your book is written about!

Abundantly Yours

With a mission to equip women to “grow deeper with Christ,” Abundantly Yours has the perfect gifts for that young woman in your life who loves her faith. The Remain in Me Journal, inspired by John 15:4, is a great option for anyone who enjoys prayer journaling or writing notes during the homily at Mass. The shop also sells handmade rosaries, plus stickers and magnets with inspiring messages that could serve as stocking stuffers!

The Catholic Woodworker

And for that special man on your list, The Catholic Woodworker is your place to go. This business strives to inspire men to live out their vocations as husbands and fathers through the rosary. You can find wooden rosaries and other devotional items such as crucifixes, home altars, and prayer cards. These handcrafted and masculine pieces are sure to inspire any man to grow in his faith.

Christmas is the perfect time to remind people of the true meaning of Christmas through the gifts we give. By gifting faith-based items to our loved ones, we can remind others that Jesus is the reason for the season.

‘Everyone’s vulnerable to an accusation’: Bishops respond to priests’ fear of false abuse claims

Left to right: Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Worth-South Bend, Indiana, and Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Reed of the Archdiocese of Boston. / CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 25, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

A recent survey of priests found growing distrust of bishops and major fears that they would not get their support if faced with false abuse accusations.

Eighty-two percent of priests responding to a survey conducted by The Catholic Project, a research group at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said they live in constant fear of being falsely accused of sexual abuse.

And only 51% of diocesan priests believe their bishop would support them during an abuse investigation, according to the survey, which was released in October. Meanwhile, only 36% are confident their diocese would provide the resources necessary to defend themselves during a legal investigation.

CNA discussed those survey results with bishops attending the fall general assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore earlier this month. During the annual gathering, the U.S. bishops marked the 20th anniversary of the Dallas Charter protocols the conference adopted in 2002 for responding to abuse allegations against clergy.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco called the survey’s findings “very troubling,” adding that bishops must “support the priests that are having difficulties and troubles” and “be compassionate and patient with them.”

Cordileone said the possibility of career-ending accusations is even greater in some parts of the country than in others.

“Priests are under a lot of pressure, and we need to appreciate that, especially in the climate in some states, like our own (California), that once again has lifted the statute of limitations. Now everyone’s vulnerable to an accusation,” Cordileone said.

Auxiliary Bishop Robert Reed of the Archdiocese of Boston voiced his sympathy with priests’ concerns, saying that priests live with the knowledge that they are “just one accusation away from retirement” and that in many cases, “if you are accused of something, that’s pretty much the end.”

Priests’ lack of trust in their bishop contributes directly to burnout. Young priests seem particularly vulnerable, with 60% of diocesan priests under the age of 45 voicing at least some level of burnout, according to the Catholic Project survey.

Connecting with and helping individual priests feel supported is a “challenge for bishops,” Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, told CNA.

“I think it is important,” Rhoades said, adding that he’s had to ask his staff for additional support “so that I can have time with the priests.”

Yet, when it comes to sexual abuse investigations, those challenges are further magnified. “You’re trying to be sensitive to the victim, alleged victim, and be there for them. Then there’s the priest,” Rhoades stated. “So it’s a really, really difficult thing to deal with, but we have to.” 

To Reed, the solution to priests’ distrust of bishops is “less administration, more personal contact.” In Reed’s opinion, there “has to be a missionary aspect” of a bishop’s work. “A cup of coffee, you know, with a priest, celebrate the morning Mass, go out to dinner, maybe stay over the rectory, that kind of thing.”

Though a bishop can work hard to improve the trust with his priests, there is “nothing you really can do” about the one-and-done nature of abuse accusations, Reed conceded.

For Cordileone, it depends on the priest in question and his track record. Cordileone said that if “it’s clear that he’s innocent, and he’s been a respected pastor his whole life … (the priest’s bishop) has to protect his reputation … even despite the vitriol he’s going to receive. I think that that’s one thing that can help to rebuild trust with the priests.”

Shannon Mullen and Zelda Caldwell contributed to this story.

Not just for students: Here’s what adults can expect at SEEK23 in St. Louis

Ryan and Sara Huelsing, parishoners at St. Joseph parish in Cottleville, Missouri, at a preview event put on by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students in St. Louis on Oct. 1, 2022. Ryan leads a men's group at his parish and both hope to get involved with FOCUS' Making Missionary Disciples track. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 25, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The upcoming Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) national conference is expected to draw 20,000 people to St. Louis for talks, workshops, entertainment, prayer, and worship, with the goal of encouraging and equipping Catholics to live and share their faith. The Jan. 2–6, 2023, gathering, SEEK23, will be the first in-person national conference for FOCUS since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eileen Piper, FOCUS’ vice president of lifelong mission, told CNA recently that a new conference track called Making Missionary Disciples aims to help adult attendees become equipped to better share their faith.

While most of FOCUS’ programming is geared toward students, the Making Missionary Disciples track is designed for priests, bishops, diocesan and parish staff, FOCUS alumni, parishioners, and benefactors who “long to see their parish, diocese, family, or community experience deep transformation in Jesus Christ and who desire to be a part of the solution,” the organization says.

“This really is a unique opportunity, and you’re going to get hands-on experience,” Piper told CNA.

“This is practical training. It’s made for you to take into your state of life — so if you are a leader in a parish, you are going to be equipped to be able to step into your work in the parish in a brand-new way.”

Eileen Piper, FOCUS' vice president of lifelong mission. FOCUS
Eileen Piper, FOCUS' vice president of lifelong mission. FOCUS

Piper said she, like many Catholics, has friends and family members in her life who are no longer practicing their faith. The Making Missionary Disciples track is designed for those who want to do a better job of sharing their faith, she said, not on “street corners” but primarily with people they already know and love.

“It starts to practically equip you so that you’re feeling more confident and more comfortable entering into faith conversations with those that you are already in relationship with,” she explained.

The track will feature speeches and workshops put on by nationally recognized Catholic speakers such as Father Josh Johnson, Sister Bethany Madonna, and sEdward Sri. Conference attendees will also be given time for prayer and fellowship, daily Mass, and networking opportunities, FOCUS says.

Through the workshops, “you’ll be working on your personal testimony, so you can just in a very comfortable way share your own story of how you like what Jesus means to you, and why it matters.”

Piper said as part of the conference they also hope to create opportunities for parish priests to connect “brother to brother” and discuss with one another what is working well in their parishes. She also said FOCUS will be offering a Lenten Bible study in 2023 for anyone who wants to participate, and they will be especially suggesting that SEEK23 attendees join in on it and invite others to join as well.

Since its founding in the 1990s, FOCUS has sent missionaries to college campuses across the United States and abroad to share the Catholic faith primarily through Bible studies and small groups, practicing what it calls “The Little Way of Evangelization” — winning small numbers of people to the Catholic faith at a time through authentic friendships and forming others to go out and do the same.

FOCUS has since 2015 been in the process of expanding beyond college campuses by creating a track designed to bring their relationship-based evangelization model to parishes. Almost two dozen parishes across the country, including one in the St. Louis Archdiocese, have FOCUS missionaries living and working there.

SEEK23 will be FOCUS’ first in-person conference since Indianapolis in 2019 and a smaller student leadership summit in Phoenix in the earliest days of 2020. Conferences for 2021 and 2022 were held online due to the pandemic.

Brian Miller, director of evangelization and discipleship for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, told CNA that St. Louis was chosen for SEEK in part because it is centrally located and convention-friendly, but also because the city is ripe for the kind of renewal that FOCUS aims to provide.

Beyond the young people and students who will attend SEEK, Miller said they hope to use FOCUS’ Making Missionary Disciples track as a launch pad for getting more mature Catholics excited about sharing their faith as well. He also said his office plans to host follow-up events for St. Louis Catholics to build upon what people will learn at SEEK about evangelization as well as provide them with resources to help them start Bible studies and small discipleship groups.

He said he hopes that as parishes in St. Louis “come together in their new parish realities” after an ongoing major merging and closing process, that “they have some common footing, some common training, and they have a common mission.”

SEEK23 registration is now open and costs $399 total for the full five days, regardless of whether you are a college or high school student or an adult. General passes for St. Louis residents cost $350. All registration options can be found here.