‘Catholics at the Capitol’ aims to inspire public policy participation

by Maria Wiering
The Catholic Spirit

ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s Catholics have a new opportunity to join their bishops and learn how to approach key policy areas through the lens of faith.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference is hosting the first Catholics at the Capitol event March 9 at the St. Paul RiverCentre and State Capitol Building in St. Paul.

The event is intended to be more than an issue lobbying day, said Jason Adkins, MCC executive director. He hopes participants gain a deeper understanding of how Catholic teaching can shape their approach in the public square.

“What we need to do is inspire, engage and equip Catholics as Catholics to participate in the public policy process, and that’s what this day is meant to do,” Adkins said.

Scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the day will include speakers Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., and Gloria Purvis Scott, a commentator for the Eternal Word Television Network and chairwoman for Black Catholics United for Christ.

The event will also include prayer, as well as issue and advocacy training on education, anti-poverty efforts, and defense of life. All of the state’s active bishops plan to attend.

The initiative is the first of its kind for MCC, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Minnesota. The organization has long participated in advocacy days including the March for Life and the annual Joint Religious Legislative Coalition Day on the Hill, but never before has it brought together people solely because of their shared Catholic faith.

“A lot of our bread-and-butter issues were covered by other advocacy coalitions or advocacy partners that we could funnel Catholics into,” Adkins said. “What changed is that not only do we need a distinctly Catholic and faith voice at the Capitol, but we (also) need to equip Catholics to engage the political process.”

After the morning program at the RiverCentre, participants will go to the State Capitol to meet in groups with their legislators. Adkins hopes that encounter is the basis for ongoing relationships between the lawmakers and constituents.

“There are so many barriers to participation in the public policy process: ‘I don’t know what to say; I don’t know who to contact,’” Adkins said. “Most Catholics don’t know who their state legislators are, so what we’re really trying to do here is not just to go and tell legislators what the Church thinks about an issue, but really help Catholics – on whatever issue they’re concerned about – be better public servants and faithful citizens.”

Adkins expects participants to be well-received by their lawmakers.

“Legislators want to hear from their constituents because they want to know what their constituents are thinking,” he said. “Sometimes issues are not on their radar, and their constituents bring those issues to their attention.

“This isn’t about pressuring legislators or imposing our will on them,” he added. “It’s actually a service to legislators … (to offer) our perspective as Catholics, as a member of a particular parish, of a particular community, about what serves the common good. And it’s definitely important for Catholics like anyone else in society to offer that perspective.”

Early bird registration is $20. Youth ages 22 and younger are free. Registration includes continental breakfast and a box lunch. Catholics interested in serving as district leaders are encouraged to contact the MCC. For more information, visit http://www.catholicsatthecapitol.org.


Who took religious vows last year? Over 200 Americans.

Washington D.C., Feb 4, 2017(CNA/EWTN News) - There were 216 Catholic women and men religious who took perpetual vows in the U.S. in 2016, and an annual survey has aimed to take their pulse.

Of the more than 200 who made perpetual vows, 81 sisters and nuns and 96 brothers and priests responded to the survey of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. The center analyzed the results in a report for the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

Among those who responded, the median age of newly professed men and women religious is 36, with the youngest at 26 and the oldest at 86. About half of respondents reported that they were under age 18 when they first considered a vocation to the religious life.

Among the questions answered were those about their devotional life. About 66 percent of the profession class named Eucharistic Adoration as one of their prayer practices before entering a religious institute, while a similar percentage named the Rosary or retreats. Almost 60 percent underwent spiritual direction, almost 50 percent took part in faith sharing or Bible study groups, while about one-third practiced the Lectio Divina devotional.

Almost 90 percent were Catholic since birth and 81 percent had two parents with a Catholic background.

About 66 percent of the newly professed identified as white, 16 percent as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, and 4 percen t as African/African-American/Black.

Another 67 percent were American-born, followed by those born in Asia then Latin America.

Sources of encouragement and discouragement were also examined in the survey. About half said a parish priest encouraged their vocation, while over 40 percent said their friends encouraged their vocation.

However, about half reported that some people in their lives discouraged a vocation, including parents, other relatives, or friends or classmates.

Only four percent reported that they had educational debt before entering religious life, averaging about $29,100. It took these vowed religious an average of four years’ delay to pay down there debt.

Overall, the CARA survey secured responses from 80 percent of religious institutes. Of these, 80 percent reported no perpetual professions, 12 percent reported one perpetual profession of vows, and only eight percent reported that two or more members made perpetual vows.

National Marriage Week USA, World Marriage Day Celebrate Gift of Marriage

January 31, 2017

WASHINGTON — National Marriage Week USA and World Marriage Day are opportunities “to celebrate the gift and blessing of marriage,” said the chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). 

“Promoting and strengthening marriage remains a pastoral priority of our Conference,” wrote Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, in a letter to his brother bishops. “Marriage, both as a natural institution and as a Christian sacrament, is an irreplaceable good for society and all people.”

National Marriage Week USA is celebrated each year February 7-14, and World Marriage Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of February, this year February 12.

The USCCB provides numerous resources in promoting, strengthening, and defending the gift of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman, including the websites For Your Marriage, Por Tu Matrimonio, and Marriage: Unique for a Reason. Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia and chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth encouraged participation in the “Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty,” an invitation to prayer and sacrifice for the protection of life, marriage, and religious liberty in the country. His letter and additional resources, including a homily resource and bulletin insert, are available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/national-marriage-week.cfm.  

A daily virtual marriage retreat for National Marriage Week is also available through Facebook: www.facebook.com/foryourmarriage. This year’s retreat draws from both Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2015) and the USCCB pastoral letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009).

The celebration of National Marriage Week in the U.S. began in 2002, originating from Marriage Week International. World Marriage Day, held the second Sunday of February each year, was started in 1983 by Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

President Donald J. Trump Recognizes National Catholic Schools Week

Today, the President issued a letter recognizing National Catholic Schools Week.


February 3, 2017

In recognition of National Catholic Schools Week, I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all of the dedicated Catholic school administrators, teachers, priests, and support organizations who work tirelessly to build and sustain quality Catholic schools across the Nation. 

The theme of this year’s National Catholic Schools Week is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service.”  I appreciate the many ways in which Catholic schools nurture devotion, impart wisdom, and minister to the 2 million students who enter their halls every day.  and to the diverse communities they serve. 

Congratulations for the tremendous work you have done to educate our Nation’s youth each and every day. Your continued and sustained efforts are vital to our success and prosperity as a country.



President and Vice President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Stand in Defense of All Faiths in Response to Executive Order on Refugees

“When did we see you a stranger and welcome you?”

Matthew 25:38

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB, have issued the following joint statement regarding the recent executive order on the new refugee policy announced by President Trump this past Friday. President Trump’s executive order suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days. The order also indefinitely stops the admission of Syrian refugees and for 90 days, bars individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Full joint statement as follows:

Over the past several days, many brother bishops have spoken out in defense of God’s people. We are grateful for their witness.  Now, we call upon all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.

The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice.  The Second Vatican Council in Nostra Aetate urged us to sincerely work toward a mutual understanding that would “promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.” The Church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors.

The refugees fleeing from ISIS and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom.  Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors.  They stand firm in their faith.  Many are families, no different from yours or mine, seeking safety and security for their children. Our nation should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil.  We must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm, but we must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends.

The Lord Jesus fled the tyranny of Herod, was falsely accused and then deserted by his friends. He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk. 9:58). Welcoming the stranger and those in flight is not one option among many in the Christian life.  It is the very form of Christianity itself.  Our actions must remind people of Jesus. The actions of our government must remind people of basic humanity.  Where our brothers and sisters suffer rejection and abandonment we will lift our voice on their behalf. We will welcome them and receive them. They are Jesus and the Church will not turn away from Him.

Our desire is not to enter the political arena, but rather to proclaim Christ alive in the world today.  In the very moment a family abandons their home under threat of death, Jesus is present.  And He says to each of us, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (MT 25:40).


USCCB Committee on Migration Chair Strongly Opposes Executive Order Because It Harms Vulnerable Refugee and Immigrant Families

WASHINGTON (Jan. 27, 2017) — President Donald J. Trump issued today an Executive Order addressing the U.S. refugee admissions program and migration to the United States, generally. The executive order virtually shuts down the refugee admissions program for 120 days, reduces the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States this year from 110,000 to 50,000 individuals, and indefinitely suspends the resettlement of Syrian refugees. In addition, it prioritizes religious minorities suffering from religious persecution, thereby deprioritizing all other persons fleeing persecution; calls for a temporary bar on admission to the United States from a number of countries of particular concern (all Muslim majority); and imposes a yet-to-be determined new vetting process for all persons seeking entry to the United States.

Regarding the Executive Order’s halt and reduction of admissions, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration, stated:

“We strongly disagree with the Executive Order’s halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope. We will continue to engage the new administration, as we have all administrations for the duration of the current refugee program, now almost forty years. We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones.”

Regarding the Executive Order’s ban on Syrian refugees, the prioritization of religious minorities suffering from religious persecution, Bishop Vásquez added:

“The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. This includes Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims from Syria, Rohingyas from Burma, and other religious minorities. However, we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”

Moving forward after the announcement, Bishop Vásquez concluded:

“Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops will redouble their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in this area of concern.”


Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis Offers Message on Immigration Orders

By Maria Wiering - The Catholic Spirit

“I know that many in our archdiocese are experiencing fear and anxiety after President Trump’s recent executive orders implementing his plans to expand and fortify the existing wall between the United States and Mexico, to increase immigration deportation and detention, and to punish cities and counties that choose not to cooperate with federal deportation efforts,” Archbishop Hebda said in a statement.

“This is clearly a moment for continuing our prayers not only for the immigrants and refugees who call our Archdiocese home, but also for our parishes who are discerning ways of responding to this situation and for our government leaders at all levels who are called to work for the common good,” he said.

Trump issued two executive orders Jan. 25. The first withholds federal funding from “sanctuary jurisdictions” that “attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” the order states. It also orders that other efforts are made to ensure the deportation of immigrants without documentation, starting with those who have been convicted of “any criminal offense.” The second order is for the building of a physical wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigration. News reports say that Trump is also expected to sign a temporary ban on refugees from some predominantly Muslim countries.

“The Catholic bishops of the United States have recognized that this is a moment for comprehensive immigration reform and have repeatedly called for collaboration between the White House and our lawmakers in the House and Senate to work together to this end,” Archbishop Hebda said. “While recognizing the right of countries to protect their borders and to regulate immigration in a way that is fair and promotes public safety, the Church has repeatedly underlined the importance of treating our undocumented brothers and sisters with the dignity that is theirs as children of God.”

He pointed to the words of Pope Francis, who “has repeatedly called for all people of the world to welcome the migrant and refugee, who are often fleeing violence and impossible living conditions.”

Archbishop Hebda also pointed to Pope Francis’ message for the 2017 World Day of Migrants and Immigrants Jan. 15, in which the pope “articulated that migrants need to ‘cooperate ever more closely with the communities that welcome them, for the good of their own children.’”

“We join the Holy Father in reaffirming our Catholic teaching on the dignity of each human life and commit ourselves not only to prayer but alsoto supporting efforts for those of various viewpoints to  come together to work for the common good, to make sure that our laws are just, fair and enforceable as well as compassionate, and to do all that we can to make sure families are kept intact, recognizing that families are the principal building blocks of a civilized society,” Archbishop Hebda said.

Archbishop Hebda's full statement.


Committee on Migration Chair Strongly Opposes Administration’s Announcement to Build a Wall at U.S.-Mexico Border, Increase Detention and Deportation Forces

January 25, 2017

WASHINGTON—President Donald J. Trump today issued an executive order to construct a wall at the U.S./Mexico border, to significantly increase immigrant detention and deportation, andto disregard/preempt/overrule the judgment of state and local law enforcement on how best to protect their communities.

The U.S./Mexico border, spanning approximately 2000 miles, already has roughly 700 miles of fencing and barrier that was constructed under the George W. Bush administration.  In response to the decision to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border, Bishop Joe Vasquez, Chair of the Committee of Migration and Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, stated:

“I am disheartened that the President has prioritized building a wall on our border with Mexico. This action will put immigrant lives needlessly in harm’s way. Construction of such a wall will only make migrants, especially vulnerable women and children, more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers. Additionally, the construction of such a wall destabilizes the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border. Instead of building walls, at this time, my brother bishops and I will continue to follow the example of Pope Francis. We will “look to build bridges between people, bridges that allow us to break down the walls of exclusion and exploitation.’”

In regards to the announcement of the planned surge in immigrant detention and deportation forces, Bishop Vasquez added:

“The announced increase in immigrant detention space and immigration enforcement activities is alarming. It will tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities. While we respect the right of our federal government to control our borders and ensure security for all Americans, we do not believe that a large scale escalation of immigrant detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals. Instead, we remain firm in our commitment to comprehensive, compassionate, and common-sense reform. We fear that the policies announced today will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country. Everyday my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches. The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families.”

Moving forward after the announcement, Bishop Vasquez noted:

“We will continue to support and stand in solidarity with immigrant families. We remind our communities and our nation that these families have intrinsic value as children of God. And to all those impacted by today’s decision, we are here to walk with you and accompany you on this journey.”


Diocese represented at annual March for Life in St. Paul

St. Paul - Bishop John LeVoir and hundreds of pilgrims from the Diocese of New Ulm were part of the several thousand people who descended on the grounds of the state Capitol on Sunday, Jan. 22 to protest abortion and urge lawmakers to protect unborn children.

The 44th annual MCCL (Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life) March for Life marked the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that have resulted in the deaths of more than 625,000 unborn Minnesota children (Minnesota Department of Health), and more than 59 million unborn babies nationwide.

During the brief program on the steps of the Capitol, MCCL Treasurer Cathy Blaeser announced MCCL’s 2017 legislative agenda which is: ban taxpayer funded abortions; defund Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest abortionist; require licensing and inspection of abortion facilities; and end abortions at the point when the unborn child is able to feel pain, which experts estimate conservatively at 20 weeks of development.

Legislative leaders in attendance addressed the large crowd and pledged their support for pro-life efforts. “Your pro-life majority in the Minnesota Senate will work with MCCL to bring about the day when abortion is unthinkable in Minnesota, and mothers and their babies are protected,” said Senate President Michelle Fischbach.

Speaker of the Minnesota House Kurt Daudt stated, “With your prayers and your work, I am confident that this year we can end taxpayer funding of abortion, we can defund Planned Parenthood, and we can provide the most basic protections for women by making sure that abortion clinics are licensed and inspected.”

“We must remain strong and we must never, never give up the fight for life,” declared House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin. “We must be unyielding, unwavering and unafraid to continue our work to end abortion.”

Minnesota’s pro-life Members of Congress Jason Lewis, Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer, and Collin Peterson sent written greetings to the March.

Click here for photos of the day.

Join the 9 Days for Life Novena for the Protection of Unborn Children

Sign up for the novena. Be counted. The bishops want to hear from you.

Each year the USCCB calls for a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. This year it falls on Monday, January 23, one day after the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. But why pray for just one day when you can do the Catholic thing – a novena?

Beginning on January 21, you can unite with other Catholics in prayer around the world by praying the 9 Days for Life novena. Go to the website 9daysforlife.com and download the daily prayers, or get the mobile app, or have it delivered to your inbox, or access it through text, Facebook, or Twitter. Gone are the days when the only way to deliver a message about prayer and penance to the whole world in an instant was with an apparition.

Each day of the novena will include a prayer intention, a tried and true Our Father, three Hail Marys, and Glory Be, a reflection on love, holiness, and the sanctity of life by Pope Saint John Paul II and others, and a list of suggested acts of reparation.

Perhaps the most powerful thing about 9 Days for Life is that you are not praying alone, even if you are physically by yourself in your own home. You are praying it with your fellow Catholics, and therefore with the Lord, who has promised that, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20.

Sign up for the novena. Be counted.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity January 18-25, 2017

At least once a year, Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (see John 17.21). Hearts are touched and Christians come together to pray for their unity. Congregations and parishes all over the world exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services. The event that touches off this special experience is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Traditionally the week of prayer is celebrated between 18-25 January, between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul. In the southern hemisphere, where January is a vacation time, churches often find other days to celebrate it, for example around Pentecost, which is also a symbolic date for unity.

The theme for the week of prayer in 2017, "Reconciliation – the love of Christ compels us", is inspired by verses from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5. The resources for the week have been prepared by members of different churches in Germany.

For further information about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity can be found through the World Council of Churches. . . and the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute. . . websites.


USCCB President Urges Encounters of the Heart in Message for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

WASHINGTON — The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, issued the following statement in relation to the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 16).

Full statement follows:

A Statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo

President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

 Since the time of the founding fathers, our country has been blessed with citizens who have had the courage to rise above the challenges of their day and call their fellow citizens forward in the unending task of building an ever more just nation. Today, we celebrate such a citizen, Martin Luther King, Jr. His inspiration guides us as we seek to build peace in our communities under the recent strain of division and violence. Recently, USCCB’s Task Force for Peace in Our Communities has examined and reported on how the bishops of the United States may improve their own contribution to this ongoing national effort.

While there have been real gains in our country, we must not deny the work before us to heal both old rifts and new wounds, including those created by the evil of racism and related mistrust and violence.  Society cannot continue this work if its members are unwilling to engage in encounters of the heart that honestly immerse them in one another’s lives. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday provides a wonderful opportunity to examine how well each of us is doing in walking together with others in true encounter and solidarity.

Dr. King reminded us that our obligations to one another “concern inner attitudes, genuine person-to-person relations, and expressions of compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify.  Such obligations are met by one’s commitment to an inner law, written on the heart.  Man-made laws assure justice, but a higher law produces love.” On this national holiday, may we think prayerfully about the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. King who directed his work toward both the structural and personal causes of racism.  As he urged the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “no, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream’" (Amos 5:24).


A Message from the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Response to Pope Francis’ Video Message During National Migration Week, January 8-15

WASHINGTON — The follow statement has been issued by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in support of Pope Francis’ video message issued today during National Migration Week. National Migration Week is an opportunity to recognize the contributions of immigrants, refugees, migrants and survivors of human trafficking in our communities as well as to highlight the work of the Church to serve and accompany newcomers. The theme for National Migration Week 2017 draws attention to Pope Francis’ call to create a culture of encounter.  Today, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles played Pope Francis' taped video message at the end of a Mass as part of National Migration Week celebrations. The video of Pope Francis' remarks can be found at the 56 minute mark in the following link: https://www.facebook.com/NOELDIAZESNE/videos/1716869905005089/  

Cardinal DiNardo’s statement in both English and Spanish as follows:   

This week, in large cathedrals and small parish churches across the country, people of faith are celebrating National Migration Week with prayer and sharing. This morning in Los Angeles, Pope Francis joined that prayer with a special video message.  It was an excellent reminder of how the universal Church gathers us, no matter our station in life, as one body in Christ.

In the days and weeks ahead, there will be intense debate over immigration reform and refugee policy. Ultimately, the question is this: Will our nation treat all migrants and refugees, regardless of their national origin or religion, in a way that respects their inherent dignity as children of God? Pope Francis reminds us we are all equal before God.  In equal measure, we are in need of and can receive God’s great mercy.  This is what makes us sisters and brothers, regardless of how we chose to divide ourselves. 

Achieving “one nation under God” has not always been easy, but each earlier period of immigration has ultimately strengthened our society.  Those who seek to do us harm must be kept from our shores, but those fleeing persecution in need of hope and ready to help us build a better America must be welcomed. We need not sink into the darkness of isolation.  Comprehensive immigration reform and a humane refugee policy are equally necessary and possible. We join our voice with the Holy Father and the universal Church in a continued witness to the love that unites us, praying for the strength to resist the fear that divides us.

Celebrating National Migration Week –A Message from the President and Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON — The following is a joint statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Vice President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on National Migration Week, taking place January 8-14, 2017.

Full messages as follows:

Beginning Sunday, the Catholic Church in the United States marks National Migration Week. The observance began more than 25 years ago as a way to reflect upon the many ways immigrants and refugees have contributed to our Church and our nation. This year, we are invited to create a culture of encounter where citizens old and new, alongside immigrants recent and longstanding, can share with one another their hopes for a better life. Jesus, Mary and Joseph knew life as refugees, so let us also begin this encounter within our very own families.

Migration is, more than anything, an act of great hope. Our brothers and sisters who are forced to migrate suffer devastating family separation and most often face dire economic conditions to the point they cannot maintain a very basic level of living. Refugees flee their countries due to war and persecution which inspires them to risk everything for an opportunity to live in peace. As Catholics in the United States, most of us can find stories in our own families of parents, grandparents or great-grandparents leaving the old country for the promise of America. Take time this Migration Week to seek out those stories. Let us remind ourselves of those moments when our loved ones were forced to seek the mercy of others in a new land.  

Americans have a great national heritage of welcoming the newcomer who is willing to help build a greater society for all. Fear and intolerance have occasionally tested that heritage. Whether immigrating from Ireland, Italy or countless other countries, previous generations faced bigotry. Thanks be to God, our nation grew beyond those divisions to find strength in unity and inclusion. We have kept dear the words of scripture, "do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels" (HEB 13:2).

This National Migration Week is an opportunity to embrace the important work of continuing to secure the border, to welcome the stranger and serve the most vulnerable—all components of a humane immigration policy.

Minnesota State Legislature begins with prayer

ST. PAUL - On Tuesday, Jan. 3, the 90th session of the Minnesota State Legislature began in the most powerful way possible: with prayer.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda (Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis) opened the legislative session by asking for God's blessing on all Minnesota legislators, and prayed that they would be "instruments of [God's] providential care"--especially by caring for society's most vulnerable. 

WATCH: Archbishop Hebda shares thoughts on offering opening prayer

The role--and responsibility--of Catholics to participate in the life of our state is ongoing. Each of us can follow Archbishop Hebda's lead and pray that God may guide and enlighten our elected officials. We can also do our part to ensure that our legislators are living up to their vocation of public service, and are seeking to work for the common good.

READ: The Vocation of the Public Servant

US Catholics Show Spirit of Generosity and Donate over $7 Million to Natural Disaster Collections in 2016

January 4, 2017

WASHINGTON — Throughout 2016 dioceses across the country participated in three emergency appeals, donating over $7 million for support in response to natural disasters.

“The generosity of Catholics across the country to these appeals is a beautiful act of solidarity and mercy,” said Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on National Collections. “Those affected by these disasters found themselves suddenly in situations of dire need, and, as a community of faith, we have been able to provide some measure of relief and hope.” 

In January 2016, the 2015-2016 Calamities Collection was created in response to storms that hit the south and mid-west regions of our country during Advent 2015 and in anticipation of additional natural disasters in 2016. To date, this collection has raised $3.2 million from dioceses across the United States. Funds are being allocated as follows:

  • 75% distributed to Catholic Charities USA to cover emergency assistance such as food, water, shelter, medical care and long-term recovery efforts.
  • 25% to the USSCB to support affected dioceses with rebuilding and reconstruction needs. The National Collections’ Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions has been tasked with administering the USCCB share of this collection.

In August 2016, the 2016 Louisiana Floods Collection was created in response to the extraordinary flooding occurring in southern Louisiana. To date, this collection has raised $3.8 million from U.S. dioceses. Funds from this special collection are being allocated as follows:

  • 80% to Catholic Charities USA for immediate emergency needs and humanitarian relief.
  • 20% to the USCCB to support the rebuilding and reconstruction needs of affected dioceses. The National Collections’ Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions has been tasked with administering the USCCB share of this collection.

In October 2016, the Hurricane Matthew Collection was created in response to the disastrous category 4 hurricane that struck large portions of the Southeastern coast of the United States and countries in the Caribbean, especially Haiti. To date, approximately $326,000 has been raised from U.S. dioceses with more funds anticipated soon. Hurricane Matthew Collection funds are being allocated as follows:

  • 30% to Catholic Relief Services for humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean in the form of water, food, shelter, and medical care, and to restore communities after widespread destruction.
  • 25% to Catholic Charities USA for immediate humanitarian efforts in the United States as well as for long-term recovery efforts.
  • 30% to the USCCB for pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church in the Caribbean. The National Collections’ Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America will administer the USCCB collection portion designated for church rebuilding in this region.
  • 15% to the USCCB for church reconstruction needs in the United States. The National Collections’ Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions will administer the USCCB collection portion designated for church rebuilding here at home.

Emergency collection appeals are called for by the president of the USCCB, fund allocation decisions are made by the USCCB Executive or Administrative Committee and collection funds are administered by the USCCB Committee on National Collections. For more information on these emergency appeals or any of the other national collections, visit www.usccb.org/nationalcollections  or call 202-541-3400.

National Migration Week 2017 to be celebrated January 8-14

December 21, 2016

WASHINGTON - National Migration Week 2017 will take place January 8-14. This year's theme is "Creating a Culture of Encounter." The celebration provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the contributions of migrants, including refugees, and victims of human trafficking in our communities.

With over 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes globally, the world is increasingly affected by migration. National Migration Week offers a time to educate Catholic communities about migration and to come together to encounter immigrants and refugees in parishes, dioceses, and communities.

"National Migration Week is an excellent opportunity to highlight Biblical tradition and our mission to welcome the newcomer," said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Migration. "While the observance is only a week long, it is a vital time to show welcome, compassion, and solidarity with our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters."

As part of the 2017 National Migration Week celebration, the Justice for Immigrants (JFI) coalition will be launching a new website that will feature news, background materials on migration policy issues, and ways for individuals to get involved.

The observance of National Migration Week began over 25 years ago by the U.S. bishops to give Catholics an opportunity to honor and learn about the diverse communities of the Church and the work that the Church undertakes to serve immigrants and refugees. The week serves as both a time for prayer and action to highlight the contributions of immigrants and vulnerable populations coming to the United States.

Educational materials and other resources for National Migration Week are available for download at www.usccb.org/nationalmigrationweek. Posters, prayer cards, and booklets are available through the USCCB publishing service at www.usccbpublishing.org.

A Christmas Message from the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

December 20, 2016

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) encourages us to visit the manger this Christmas and reflect upon how we can give of ourselves in the New Year.

Cardinal DiNardo has released the following Christmas message. A video version of his message is also available at https://www.facebook.com/usccb/videos/10154186175772285/

Full message follows: 

The Gift of Ourselves

My brothers and sisters in Christ, like the Magi and the shepherds before us, we are making our Christmas journey to see the new born savior. Centuries ago, gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh greeted the infant Jesus. People in need of God’s love rejoiced in the news of his birth and offered gifts of gratitude. This Christmas, let us also visit the manger and give the gift of ourselves. This gift arises from our desire and search for peace at this time and place.

We discover the fragile innocence of hope in the eyes of a new born baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Mary and Joseph welcomed this young hope, for Jesus made known, in his very Person, the promise of “great joy that will be for all people.” We can nurture that same hope today. We do this by greeting one another in love and charity, embracing civility and not letting our differences hide the dignity and beauty God has given each of us as his children.

Allow me to say a special word to our sisters and brothers who find themselves immigrants and refugees on Christmas Day. In you, we see the very struggles of the Holy Family. From the angel of the Lord, Joseph heard the call to “rise and flee” in order to keep Mary and Jesus safe from violence at home. The Catholic Church in the United States is praying for you and is working to welcome you as we would the Holy Family.

We remain a people in need of God’s love this Christmas, especially the unborn or unemployed, the suffering and sick, the lonely and the grieving. Let us pray the Holy Spirit will come upon us as he overshadowed the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation so that filled with the love of her Son, we will “proclaim the greatness of the Lord.” Merry Christmas!



Bishops’ Subcommittee Releases Marriage and the Common Good Video

December 19, 2016

WASHINGTON—The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage has released the final video in a series that highlights the unique meaning of marriage. Entitled Made for the Common Good, the video features personal witnesses and policy experts discussing the importance of marriage between one man and one woman for children and for society at large.

Made for the Common Good is designed to frame a conversation about marriage and its benefits for individual families and for our communities,” said Bishop Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee. “We all need to consider the importance of marriage, the unique partnership of a man and a woman, as the foundation of the family, and the foundation for our society. When marriage is not understood, supported, or valued – society suffers.”

Made for the Common Good is part of Marriage: Unique for a Reason, an educational initiative that promotes and explains the unique gift of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The other videos in the series are Made for Each Other, on sexual difference and complementarity, Made for Life, on procreation, and Made for Freedom, on the impact of the redefinition of marriage on religious freedom. A video in Spanish, entitled El Matrimonio: hecho para el amore y la vida, covers all of these topics as well. Each video can serve as a discussion-starter and resource for clergy, catechists, teachers, and other leaders.

These resources are available online at www.marriageuniqueforareason.org and are for purchase through www.usccbpublishing.org. A Made for the Common Good study guide is forthcoming.

Bishop Conley was recently appointed as chairman of the Subcommittee by Archbishop Chaput, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. Bishop Conley succeeds Archbishop Cordileone upon the completion of his second term as Subcommittee chairman.



A way forward on immigration

By Archbishop Jose H. Gomez
Catholic News Service

Editor’s Note: In the wake of the national elections, the Catholic News Service is posting a series of columns from leading archbishops on key issues facing the church and the new Trump administration. The following guest column was written by Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles.

The recent Dec. 12 (feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe), national day of prayer for migrants and refugees (designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) came at a time of fear, unrest and uncertainty in our country — especially for our immigrant brothers and sisters who are undocumented and their children and loved ones.

Everyone agrees that our immigration system is broken — and it has been for more than a decade. The blame cuts across party lines and we cannot find many examples of moral leadership or political courage to point to.

We are deeply concerned about the president-elect because of his drastic campaign promises regarding deportations.

But we also know that the outgoing administration has deported more than 2.5 million people in the past eight years — more than any other administration in history. And the vast majority of those deported are not violent criminals. In fact, up to one-quarter are mothers and fathers that our government is seizing from ordinary households.

That is the sad truth about immigration policy in America today. Our system has been broken for so long, our politicians have failed to act for so long that the people we are now punishing have become our neighbors.

Most of the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. have been living here for five years or more. Two-thirds have been here for at least a decade. Almost half are living in homes with a spouse and children.

[EarlierRacism is a disease that must be cured, by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory]

In addition, there are an estimated 1.8 million young people who were brought here as children by their undocumented parents. They are living in a kind of limbo — in many states they cannot enroll in college or get jobs.

This is the human reality of being undocumented in America. We have millions of people living on the edge of our economy and society, living in constant fear that one day without warning they will be deported and never see their families again.

And when you look into the eyes of a child whose father has been deported — and I have done that — we realize how inadequate our politics is.

Undocumented immigrants have become a kind of “scapegoat,” an easy target to blame for broader problems in our economy and society.

[EarlierWhat the pro-life community wants from the Trump administration, by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan]

Many of our neighbors today rightly feel vulnerable and unprotected — they are worried about jobs, wages, the decline of their communities, the threat of terrorism, the security of our borders. We cannot simply dismiss their concerns or label them as nativists or racists, as some have. What our neighbors are worried about is real and we need to take their concerns seriously.

But undocumented workers are not the problem. The real problem is globalization and deindustrialization and what that is doing to our economy, to our family structures and neighborhoods. This is not a “white working class” issue only, as the media reports it. Whites, Latinos, Asians, blacks and others are all suffering from the breakdown of the family and the vanishing of good-paying jobs that make it possible to support a family.

Right now, we need to stop allowing politicians and media figures to make immigration a “wedge issue” that divides us. We need to come together to study these issues and find solutions.

The truth is there actually is broad public consensus on a way forward.

[Earlier: Advancing the freedom to serve, by Archbishop William E. Lori]

There is broad agreement that our nation has the obligation to secure its borders and determine who enters the country and how long they stay. There is also broad agreement that we need to update our immigration system to enable us to welcome newcomers who have the character and skills our country needs to grow.

There is even broad consensus on how to deal with the undocumented persons living among us.

Virtually every poll has found overwhelming support for granting them a generous path to citizenship, provided they meet certain requirements, such as learning English, paying some fines and holding a job that pays taxes.

These basic points should form the basis for immigration reform that is just and merciful.

We have a consensus in public opinion. What we are waiting for is politicians and media figures who have the will and the courage to tell the truth and to lead.