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This parish is hosting a benefit concert for children with cancer

Charleston, W.Va., May 26, 2017 / 04:12 pm (CNA).- A young girl in Charles Town, West Virginia was undergoing treatment for bone cancer when she dreamed about meeting a beautiful princess.

She later identified that princess as St. Philomena, and when she eventually recovered from bone cancer after extensive treatment, her family attributed the recovery to the intercession of St. Philomena, who is known as the patron of difficult situations, especially for youth.

In honor of her experience, the Catholic parish of St. James in Charles Town, West Virginia is holding their second annual St. Philomena Medical Benefit Concert, which will aid cancer victims and their families.

“The people of St. James have done their best to provide support to alleviate the strain that families naturally feel during these difficult times,” stated Angie Cummings, a member of the parish.

“Many have reported that, as they have done their best to exercise the faith during these trials, they have felt the presence of God grow stronger in their lives,” she continued.

Over the years, multiple individuals in the St. James community have experienced cancer, including three children, and many have lost family members to the disease.

St. James Catholic Church will donate all of the proceeds from the benefit concert to the Father McGivney Medical Assistance Fund. Founded by the local Knights of Columbus, the fund will be used to help out with medical expenses for local cancer patients.

The concert will feature the world-famous Irish band Scythian, with other music groups such as New Tides, the Santiago Mountain Band, and Holy Trinity Choir.

The benefit will take place on Saturday, June 10 at St. James Catholic Church in Charles Town. The doors will open at 6:15, and all tickets can be purchased online at Eventbrite.

More information can be found at RadioHeart Media.

Military chaplains help traumatized soldiers, but who helps them?

Washington D.C., May 26, 2017 / 03:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As military veterans and victims of violence are treated for psychological trauma, the emotional wounds of missionaries and military chaplains might be overlooked, but are just as present.

And with mass shootings, suicides, and acts of terrorism on the rise, more and more first responders like policemen, firemen, hospital workers, and clergy will “continually bear the brunt” of experiencing these horrors.

That's according to Monsignor Stephen Rosetti, a psychologist and former president of the St. Luke Institute, who spoke to CNA.

“The priests are helping others, and the question is who helps them?” he asked.

Monsignor Rosetti led the St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., an organization that provides psychological care for priests and religious in need of treatment for mental illness, addiction, and other disorders.

Part of the institute’s ministry is helping military chaplains and missionaries who have served in war-torn areas, but also religious who have ministered to victims of trauma at home – amidst events like natural disasters and mass shootings.

Military chaplains suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental illnesses related to their ministry shared their struggles with the Washington Post last year. Repeatedly serving as a listening ear for the dark problems of soldiers, combined with experiencing the horror of battlefield combat and seeing the dead bodies of friends, can take its toll on a priest’s psyche.

“Just about all” priests and religious returning from a war-torn areas will need “some sort of support,” Monsignor Rossetti noted, like a “detoxing” in their transition from a stressful environment to life back in the U.S.

However, a few will require special attention, he said. These are cases where someone has experienced a particularly appalling atrocity or ongoing violence or stress, “almost too much for the human soul to bear.”

“I think especially of missionaries who are in violent areas,” he said, those who have witnessed “mass murders” or “unbelievable poverty and disease.”

For any clergyman traveling to a poor or war-torn area, “we try to train them as best we can to deal with such trauma” before they depart, the monsignor said, “but sometimes the situation is just so horrible that there’s a real human toll to it.”

Trauma – inflicted especially through acts of terrorism, mass shootings, and suicides – is on the rise, he said. The suicide rate in the U.S. is the highest in decades; the number of mass shootings are also on the rise.

Catholics cannot act as if the first responders like parish priests or military chaplains won’t be affected, he insisted. We must “help train them” to deal with trauma, he said, noting the need for “qualified laypeople” in fields like psychology.

Also, he added, “I think we shouldn’t isolate our chaplains.” Rather, we should be working to connect “first responders” like police, emergency medical technicians, hospital nurses and priests, who can talk about their experiences with each other and “support each other,” he said.

Tragedies can make or break someone’s faith, he added. If a person who has experienced trauma is treated with professional psychological care and a network of support, it can help sustain one’s faith and not break one’s spirit.

“Unspeakable sufferings do challenge our faith, and in times when our faith is a little bit too glib, it kind of bashes that and challenges it,” he admitted. “So these kind of events really challenge us to move deeper into the Lord’s passion and eventually, hopefully, His resurrection.”

“It can build up your faith in a new, deeper way, or sadly sometimes people lose their faith.”

 

This article was originally published on CNA June 5, 2016.

Francis calls Don Orione Sisters to be 'missionaries without borders'

Vatican City, May 26, 2017 / 11:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Addressing the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity on Friday, Pope Francis spoke to them about their charism for evangelization, especially to the poor, encouraging them to be joyful in their mission.

“You are called, and are by vocation, 'missionaries'; that is, evangelizers, and at the same time you are at the service of the poor. Sisters, be missionaries without borders,” the Pope said May 26 at the Vatican's Consistory Hall.

“To all, but especially to the poor, in whom you are called to recognize the flesh of Christ, bring the joy of the Gospel that is Jesus Himself. To all, show the beauty of God's love manifested in the merciful face of Christ. With this beauty fill the hearts of those you encounter. Closeness, encounter, dialogue, and accompaniment are your missionary approach. And do not let yourselves be robbed of the joy of evangelization.”

The Little Missionary Sisters of Charity are holding their 12th General Chapter in Rome throughout the month of May. They are also known as the Don Orione Sisters, after their founder, St. Luigi Orione. The Italian priest founded the order in 1915 to perform works of charity among the poor, orphans, the aged, and the handicapped.

Pope Francis thanked the sisters for their apostolate “in the various activities of youth ministry, in schools, in homes for the elderly, in the little 'Cottolengo' institutes, in catechesis and oratories, with new forms of poverty, and in all places where Divine Providence has placed you.”

Mission and service “help you overcome the risks of self-referentiality, of limiting yourselves to survival and self-defensive rigidity” and “make you take on the dynamics of exodus and giving, of coming out of yourselves, of walking and sowing,” he reflected. “For all these purposes, it is vital to nurture communion with the Lord” in prayer, he added.

“In the Church, mission is born of the encounter with Christ … The centre of the Church’s mission is Jesus. As His disciples, you are called to be women who work assiduously to transcend, projecting towards the encounter with the Master and the culture in which you live.”

Missionaries must be “bold and creative,” the Pope said. “The convenient criterion of 'it has always been the case' is not valid. It is not valid. Think of the aims, the structures, the style and the methods of your mission.”

“We are living in a time when we need to rethink everything in the light of what the Spirit asks us,” Pope Francis maintained. “This demands a special look at the recipients of the mission and reality itself: the look of Jesus, which is the look of the Good Shepherd; a gaze that does not judge, but which grasps the presence of the Lord in history; a gaze of closeness, to contemplate, to be moved, and to stay with the other as often as necessary; a deep look of faith; a respectful gaze, full of compassion, that heals, frees, and comforts.”

This gaze “will make you courageous and creative and will help you always to be in search of new ways to bring the Good News that is Christ to all.”

He also said that missionary must be free, “without anything of his or her own. I never tire of repeating that comfort, lethargy and worldliness are forces that prevent the missionary from 'going out', 'starting out' and moving on, and ultimately sharing the gift of the Gospel. The missionary can not walk with the heart full of things (comfort), an empty heart (lethargy) or in search of things extraneous to the glory of God (worldliness).”

“The missionary is a person who is free of all these ballasts and chains; a person who lives without anything of his own, only for the Lord and His Gospel; a person who lives on a constant path of personal conversion and works without rest towards pastoral conversion.”

A missionary must also be “inhabited by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit Who reminds the disciples of all that Jesus said to them, Who teaches them, Who bear witness to Jesus and leads the disciples, in turn, to bear witness to Him. The missionary is asked to be a person obedient to the Spirit, to follow His movement.”

This obedience should lead them “to become capable of perceiving the presence of Jesus in so many people discarded by society,” he said. “You too, dear sisters, be in this sense spiritual people, let yourselves be led, driven and guided by the Spirit.”

Pope Francis said a missionary's spirituality must be based on Christ, the Word of God, and on the liturgy. A 'holistic' spirituality, involving the whole person in its various dimensions, based on complementarity, integrating and incorporating. It allows you to be daughters of heaven and daughters of the earth, mystical and prophetic, disciples and witnesses at the same time.”

“Finally, the missionary is required to be a prophet of mercy … Your charism of service to the poor demands that you exercise the prophecy of mercy, that is, to be people centred on God and on the crucified of this world. Let yourselves be provoked by the cry of help from so many situations of pain and suffering. As prophets of mercy, announce the Father’s forgiveness and embrace, a source of joy, serenity and peace.”

“Along with the other institutes and movements founded by Don Orione, you form a family. I encourage you to walk the paths of collaboration with all the members of this rich charismatic family … Cultivate between you the spirit of encounter, the spirit of family and cooperation.”

Francis concluded by offering the Visitation as “an example for your mission and for your service to the poor.”

“Like the Virgin Mary, go on your way, in haste – not the rush of the world, but that of God – and, full of the joy that dwells in your heart, sing your Magnificat. Sing the love of God for every creature. Announce to today’s men and women that God is love and can fill the heart of those who seek Him and who let themselves be encountered by Him.”

 

Dozens of Egyptian Christians killed in bus attack (Updated)

Cairo, Egypt, May 26, 2017 / 09:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An attack on a bus carrying Christian pilgrims in Egypt on Friday killed at least 28 people, including children, and injured at least 22 more.

The AP reported that, according to the Egyptian government, the bus was stopped and attacked by gunmen in the desert south of Cairo, en route to St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in Minya, Egypt. Witnesses reported seeing eight to 10 gunmen wearing masks and military uniforms, who fired on the bus.

Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of the UK, tweeted on Friday that he had spoken to the Bishop of Menia, and confirmed the attack.

The May 26 attack is the latest in a string of violent incidents where Coptic Christians in Egypt have been targeted. Twenty-nine were killed when a chapel adjacent to St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo was bombed in December.

The Islamic State released a threatening video message after that attack, saying, “Oh crusaders in Egypt, this attack that struck you in your temple is just the first with many more to come, God willing.”

Later in the winter, several more were killed in a series of murders in Egypt’s Sinai region, and ISIS affiliates there claimed responsibility. Hundreds fled their homes in the face of the violence.

Then on Palm Sunday, 45 were killed in two separate attacks on Masses: A bomb was detonated inside St. George’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta, which killed 28, while a suicide bomber detonated outside of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria – where the Patriarch of Alexandria Pope Tawadros II was saying Mass – killed 17 including himself.

Egypt’s president Abdul Fattah el-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency following the April 9 attacks, and Friday’s attack fell within the time frame.

A checkpoint near St. Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai region was also attacked in April, resulting in one dead and four injured. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack.

Church leaders offered prayers following the May 26 attack.

A Vatican telegram offered the condolences of Pope Francis.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the barbaric attack in central Egypt and of the tragic loss of life and injury caused by this senseless act of hatred, Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this violent outrage,” the telegram said.  

“He assures their grieving families and all who have been injured of his ardent prayers, and he pledges his continued intercession for peace and reconciliation throughout the nation.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Va. said in a statement that he is once again “deeply saddened by news of violence against innocent people of faith.”

“This attack reminds us again of the horrific persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and their courageous witness to their faith,” he continued. “I ask that all the faithful in the Diocese of Arlington and people of good will join me in prayer for the victims of today’s attack.”

He asked for the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace, “for an end to violence and religious persecution throughout the world.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., blogged about the attacks, saying, “Our response to this most recent atrocity is to turn to our Lord Jesus Christ, whose eternal love triumphs over suffering and evil and turns the darkness of death into the dawn of new life.”

“(W)e are all one human family. We are all in this together and we must all stand together in solidarity against such violence and evil,” he said, stressing that while we may be tempted to think that our efforts at change are futile, “we can look for opportunities to speak out, to awaken consciences and urge a change of heart.”

“At the very least, we can persevere in prayer,” the cardinal said. “Let us pray for the gifts of the Spirit to strengthen us and also to touch the hearts of all to stop the violence and so that toleration and genuine peace reigns in every land.”

 

Editor's note: Updated with reactions from Church leaders.

What can we learn from the newest priests? Encourage vocations

Washington D.C., May 26, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Members of the newest priestly ordination class in the United States were closely connected to the Church growing up through their Catholic school or parish, according to a new survey of the 2017 ordinands.

“They’re much more likely than Catholics in general to have attended Catholic school. A third of them have a relative who’s a priest or religious. They come from pretty active Catholic families,” Dr. Mary L. Gautier, co-author of “The Class of 2017: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood,” told CNA.

“They have more opportunity to be aware of and around priests,” she added.

The annual survey of ordinands is conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA).

This year’s survey featured 444 respondents, 343 of whom are entering the diocesan priesthood, from 140 dioceses. 101 of the respondents are entering the religious priesthood. The survey was conducted in March 2017.

According to the U.S. bishops’ conference, CARA compiles data every year for the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

The average age of ordination has continued a slight, yet steady downward trend in age from 1999, as the 2017 class average was 34 years, down from 36 years in 1999. 16 was the average age the ordinands first began considering the priesthood.

Most of this year’s ordinands – 82 percent – were “encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life,” most often by a parish priest, although others reported being encouraged by a friend, family member, parent, teacher, or parishoner.

That “staggering number” should spur the faithful to be aware of their role in encouraging vocations, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, chair of the bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, stated in response to the survey.

“That statistic should motivate all the faithful to be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit, who may wish to use them to extend the invitation to ordained ministry,” he said.

Conversely, almost half the respondents (48 percent), including 60 percent of those in religious life, reported being dissuaded from entering the seminary by someone else.

Encouragement of young men to enter the seminary is indeed a “very important” factor in their decision, Gautier said, encouragement “from family, friends, the parish priest, the teachers in the school, all of that makes a difference.

Seminarians were more likely than the average Catholic child to be involved in their parish and attend Catholic school, according to several statistics taken together.

“Between 40 and 50 percent” of the respondents went to Catholic school at some point in their life – anywhere from kindergarten through tertiary education -- and almost six in ten (59 percent) received religious education at their parish, “for seven years, on average,” the study said.

They were much more likely than the average Catholic adult to attend Catholic school, especially as they grew older.

Half of respondents attended Catholic grade school (K-8), 11 percentage points higher than the national average of 38 percent among adult Catholics. 41 percent of respondents attended a Catholic high school compared to the national average of just 19 percent, and 40 percent attended a Catholic college, much higher than the national average of 10 percent among adult Catholics.

Many ordinands were involved in their parish, either in their prayer life and/or through ministries.

Three-fourths were altar servers at their parish, and 52 percent of respondents served as lectors at Mass. 43 percent were Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Almost four in five regularly prayed at Eucharistic Adoration and almost seven in ten prayed the rosary.

And many were involved in group prayer, as almost half attended a regular prayer group or Bible study. Almost half “participated in parish youth groups,” and 34 percent were part of Catholic campus ministry or a Newman Center in college.

Regarding family life, the ordinands had an average of three siblings in their family, and are “very unlikely to be only children,” Gautier said. They are often the oldest siblings in their family, but in 2017 more respondents were middle children than were oldest children in their families.

Demographically, the class did not reflect an increasingly large Hispanic Catholic population in the U.S., and this is a challenge for vocations directors, Gautier acknowledged.

Seven in ten respondents were Caucasian, while only one-fourth were foreign-born. Meanwhile, the Hispanic Catholic population is growing, making up 34 percent of the overall Catholic population in the U.S. and 46 percent of Catholic Millennials, according to Pew Research in 2015.

“I think vocation directors are aware of the challenge and are actively working to increase vocations in the Hispanic community, but it’s not reflected in the numbers of ordinands, at least this year,” Gautier explained.

43 percent of the respondents listed an undergraduate degree from a college or university as their highest education level before entering seminary, and 16 percent said a graduate degree was their highest level. Those in religious life were on average more highly educated, as the vast majority (86 percent) of respondents in religious life had received an undergraduate or a graduate degree, compared to 52 percent of diocesan ordinands.

Almost one third (28 percent) of the respondents “carried educational debt, which averaged $28,318, at the time they entered the seminary,” the study showed.

Of those who carried such debt into seminary, they “were able to reduce it to an average amount of $25,830 which is 9 percent less than when they entered (unadjusted for inflation),” the study showed.

Respondents who were in religious life were actually able to reduce their student debt by almost half (46 percent) while in seminary, as almost three-fourths of them received assistance for this from their religious community. Meanwhile, the average debt for seminarians preparing for diocesan priesthood increased slightly.

Pope taps Bishop Angelo de Donatis as new Vicar of Rome

Vatican City, May 26, 2017 / 04:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday the Vatican announced that Bishop Angelo de Donatis had been chosen by Pope Francis as the new Vicar of Rome, who will oversee the administrative needs of the Roman diocese, including its clergy.

In addition to naming him Vicar of Rome, Francis also named Donatis an archbishop, according to the May 26 Vatican communique on the announcement. 

He will be taking over for Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who has held the position since 2008, under Benedict XVI. Currently also a member of the Council for the Economy established by Pope Francis in 2014, Vallini previously served as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from 2004 until his appointment as Vicar of Rome.

Bishop Donatis was born in Casarano, in the Nardo-Gallipoli province of Italy, in 1954 and served as a priest for the diocese until the early 1980s, when he was incardinated as a priest in Rome.

Well known and loved among Romans and expats alike, Donatis was appointed an auxiliary bishop for Rome by Pope Francis in 2015.

While the Pope is the official Bishop of Rome, the Cardinal Vicar is hand-picked by the Pope after consulting with priests, bishops and cardinals who serve in and around Rome, and is charged with the spiritual administration of the diocese.

According to canon law, every Catholic diocese must have at least one or more vicar generals, however, the Vicar of Rome serves more as a “de facto” bishop due to the Pope’s heavy workload with his various responsibilities and commitments.  

The man who holds the position also serves as the Archpriest for the papal Basilica of St. John Lateran.

A decree instituted by Pope Paul IV in 1558 also holds that the Vicar of Rome must be a cardinal. Since Pope Francis has already named him as an archbishop, it's likely Donatis could be added to the list of 5 prelates who will get a red hat during the June 28 consistory. 

There is also a Vicar General for the Vatican City State, who is the Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica and is charged with looking after the spiritual needs of the small country. This position is currently held by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who was tapped for the role by Benedict XVI in 2005.

Donatis, after working in various parishes throughout Rome, was in 1990 named Director of the Office of the Clergy for the Diocese of Rome, a position he held until 1996. He was then named as Spiritual Director at the Pontifical Roman Seminary.

Since 2003 he has served as the parish priest for St. Mark the Evangelist parish, located near Rome’s famous Piazza Venezia, and was also named the Assistant for the diocese of Rome’s National Association for the Family of Clergy.

In 2014 Pope Francis selected Donatis to preach the Lenten spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia during their weeklong retreat in Ariccia. A year later he was named auxiliary bishop.

After the conclusion of their spiritual exercises in 2014, Pope Francis thanked Donatis for accompanying the Curia and for planting “the seed of the Word of God” in their hearts.

“The Lord will seed the rain and that seed will grow and bear fruit,” he said, but added, “we must also thank the sower, no? Because you were the sower and you know how to do it!”

Donatis was ordained a bishop by Pope Francis himself, who during the liturgy connected the ordination to the opening of the Jubilee of Mercy, which at the time was still a month away.

“At the beginning of the year of Mercy I ask you as a brother to be merciful,” Francis said, adding that “the world needs mercy so much. Teach priests and seminarians the path of mercy; with words, but also with your attitude.”

“The mercy of the Father which is always placed in the heart, never hurts anyone,” he said, adding that “this is what I wish for you: mercy.”

Donatis chose as his episcopal motto the phrase: “Nihil Caritate dulcius,” meaning “Nothing is sweeter than love.”

His coat of arms includes a shield bearing the image of the lion of St. Mark the Evangelist at the top right, named for the parish he has led since 2003, on top of the color red, symbolizing both blood and love.

Below the shield is a pomegranate – the fruit that in the Bible is a symbol of the blood poured out by Christ and the martyrs. The background of the image is silver in reference to the purity and transparency of the Virgin Mary, to whom Donatis entrusted his episcopal ministry.

How a nuns' home is helping girls freed from sex trafficking

Baton Rouge, La., May 26, 2017 / 03:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The numbers are staggering. Each year in the U.S. alone, some 300,000 minors are victims of sex trafficking.

In Louisiana, state estimates indicate that about 40 percent of juvenile victims are being trafficked by their primary care giver: a mother, father, foster parent, uncle, a mother’s boyfriend.

Father Jeff Bayhi has heard unspeakable stories of sex trafficking victims over the years.

That’s why the pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Zachary, La. has worked to open Metanoia Home, a Baton Rouge-area shelter for sixteen women under age 21.

Caring for the victims are four Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy from India, Nigeria, the Philippines and Madagascar.

“They’re not there as social workers or therapists,” but as mother figures, Fr Bayhi said. “They’re going to be there, and be a safe place for these children to be. To be loved, to be nurtured, to be made felt special again in the sight of God.”

The project is modeled after the initiatives of Sister Eugenia Bonetti. The Milan-based Consolata Missionary sister heads the Slaves No More association. She has trained responders to help trafficking victims. Her former students work around the world.

“We have worked with her a great deal,” Fr. Bayhi said of Sr. Bonetti. “She has been here and addressed our legislature. She’s our model.”

Given the grim reality of human trafficking, thousands more people are needed to follow that model.

Trafficking problems in Louisiana are often attributed to its 15 million annual tourists who visit the state, especially New Orleans. The interstate highway that passes through Southern Louisiana runs across the country from Florida to California.

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services reported that more than 350 trafficking victims were found in 2015, and nearly 450 in 2016. Half of the victims were children, the CBS affiliate WAFB reports.

Young victims come from families that are not intact and have little supervision. Those raised by someone with a drug or alcohol addiction face some of the greatest risks.

Even so, traffickers target girls and women from all backgrounds.

“We have kids being seduced out of our high schools,” Fr. Bayhi said, citing the case of a 17-year-old senior at a white suburban high school who trafficked two 13-year-old freshman girls.

He said traffickers can target their victims through convincing them to engage in “sexting,” sending sexually explicit photos via phone.

“After that stuff gets out, these people own you,” he said. Other forms of blackmail can involve drugging the victim and filming her in a compromising act.

What do trafficking victims need?

“They need a safe place to be made human again,” said Fr. Bayhi. “When you’re 15 years old, and you’ve performed 3,000 sexual favors, you’re no longer a person, you’re nothing more than a receptacle in your own eyes.”

“Our response is the religious sisters who are there,” he said. “These nuns are the heroes. How do you pay people in eight hour shifts to convince a 15-year-old who has been abused that they really love them? You can’t do it. That’s why the nuns are just so incredibly important to this.”

The nuns of Metanoia Home will have the assistance of other professional volunteers including physicians, nurses, social workers and educators to complement their own expertise in helping victims.

“We need to get them stable, we need to get them to believe in themselves. We need to reconnect these children with God,” Fr. Bayhi said, noting that the house is open to anyone regardless of religion.

The potential beneficiaries could have very different experiences. Recovery for a 17-year-old victim who was trafficked for three months will be much different than for a 14-year-old who has suffered for four years in captivity.

“We will want the children to finally have someone in their life that we trust,” said the priest. Metanoia Home aims to help victims recover from their experience and re-integrate into society.

Increasing efforts are being made to work against human trafficking in Louisiana. Anti-trafficking programs in the state include special training for police officers to help them recognize victims of sex traffickers, rather than treat them as criminals. Fr. Bayhi praised the collaborative work between legislators, the governor, law enforcement, members of the judiciary and state agencies.

In January a delegation of Louisiana anti-trafficking leaders attended Pope Francis’ Wednesday general audience, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards led the delegation, which included Fr. Bayhi.

“It’s really a tragic circumstance and we have to really do much better in Louisiana and around the country,” Gov. Edwards told Vatican Radio in January.

Father Bayhi told CNA that the delegation had a very brief moment with Pope Francis, who thanked them and encouraged them to continue. The delegation spent considerable time with Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, whom Fr. Bayhi described as the Pope’s anti-trafficking point man.

The priest commented on inhuman trends in society that he sees as creating a breeding ground for trafficking.

“The sad fact is, there’s a market,” he said. Older men seek out little girls or boys as young as 12.

“One of the things I think you have to understand: human trafficking is not a problem. Human trafficking is a symptom,” he added. “We live in a society where we determine who has the right to be born. We live in a society where we get to decide who dies and when, with our elderly. And now there’s some recent things about Planned Parenthood, we’re talking about selling baby parts and making $52,000/week on baby parts.”

“For God’s sake, we have so devalued the dignity of human life that by and large as a society we see human life as a matter of profit, pleasure or possession,” he said. “Human life has become a commodity. Human trafficking is one more aspect of that.”

In January Fr. Bayhi told Vatican Radio that internet pornography is not a victimless crime.

“Someone is there making those kids do that stuff,” he said. “They are not there voluntarily and you’re paying the money that makes it worthwhile to kidnap these kids and force them into that. You may have never picked up one of these children on a roadside but you make that possible.”

The priest suggested to CNA that the Church and the U.S. bishops’ conference could engage in more education and outreach efforts to help trafficking victims.

“We need to respond to the needs of these kids,” he said, urging people to recognize the signs of trafficking.

“Someone 35 years-old with four 16-year-olds around him, shopping at Wal-Mart, if they’re hanging on him like he’s the best thing since sliced bread, something’s wrong with that picture. Something’s really wrong,” he said.

A Church response could involve the observance of the Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, an ex-slave from Sudan. Her feast day coincides with the Feb. 8 International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

Fr. Bayhi suggested priests should be taught about human trafficking and how to preach about it. For their part, the U.S. bishops’ conference could dedicate more resources to anti-trafficking work.

As for Louisiana’s Metanoia Home, the nuns moved in on May 20. They are prepared to be mothers to young women in need.

Metanoia Home’s website is http://metanoia-inc.org.

 

Pope urges sisters to be 'missionaries without frontiers'

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity who are holding their 12th General Chapter in Rome this month. The theme of their assembly is focused on the need “to give oneself completely to God, to be completely given to one’s neighbour: missionary disciples and joyful witnesses to charity in the suburbs of the world”.

Listen to our report:

In his words to the sisters, Pope Francis noted that their institute, founded by Don Luigi Orione, is dedicated to caring especially for the poor and most marginalized members of society.

Thanking them for the work they do, the Pope urged them to be "missionaries without frontiers", bringing God’s love and mercy to all they meet.

Be bold and creative

Missionaries, he said, are called to be bold and creative people, capable of rethinking “the goals, structure, style and method” of their mission. We are living, he stressed, in a time when “it is necessary to rethink everything in light of what the Spirit is asking us”.

Be free from all ties

Pope Francis said missionaries are also called to be free and able to live with nothing but the word of the Lord to sustain them. He urged the sisters to free themselves from all material or emotional ties which hinder them from setting out on their missionary journey.

Be led by the Spirit

As missionaries, he continued, you are called to be filled with the Spirit, letting yourselves be guided as you bring the Gospel to the most unlikely places.

Be prophets of mercy

Finally, Pope Francis told the sisters they are called to be prophets of mercy, letting themselves be provoked by the call for help from so many situations of pain and suffering. Together with the other institutes founded by Don Orione, he urged them to work together in a spirit of encounter and cooperation as they share God’s love and forgiveness with all who are searching for Him in today’s world.

(from Vatican Radio)

New video shows graphic discussion of aborted baby parts

Washington D.C., May 26, 2017 / 12:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Preview footage released recently by the Center for Medical Progress appears to show participants at a national abortion convention casually discussing the skulls, eyeballs and other baby body parts they encounter in abortion procedures.

“An eyeball just fell down into my lap, and that is gross!” says one panelist in the video, to laughter from the crowd.

“When the skull is broken, that’s really sharp!” another says.

The footage also appears to show a person acknowledging, “We certainly do intact D&Es,” a presumed reference to dilation-and-extraction, or partial-birth abortions, which are illegal under federal law.

Planned Parenthood employees also appear in the footage discussing baby organs that are given to biotech firms for money.

“They’re wanting livers,” one abortion provider says. “Sometimes she’ll tell me she wants brain,” another medical director says.

The Center for Medical Progress – an investigative journalism group – released the undercover footage, which it says was collected at the 2014 and 2015 National Abortion Federation conventions.

It’s the latest in a series of videos the group has released. Previous videos have appeared to show employees in the abortion industry discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies and talking about altering abortion procedures in order to obtain the best “specimens” of baby parts.

Other videos have also appeared to show employees setting abortion quotas at some clinics, and suggesting that they decide how to handle babies born alive after botched abortions based on “who’s in the room” at the time.

The Center for Medical Progress videos have given great momentum to efforts to end state and federal taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, which receives about half a billion dollars in federal funds annually, about 40 percent of its operating budget. While this money is forbidden by law from funding abortions, critics charge that these rules may not always be followed, and that any federal funding frees up other money for abortions.

In January 2017, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives Select Investigative Panel investigating fetal tissue procurement released its report declaring that there are abuses and possible criminal violations in the area. The procurement of fetal tissue for profit is illegal.

Although a dozen states opened investigations into the organizations involved, they did not find legally admissible evidence of wrongdoing.

Backers of Planned Parenthood have charged that the videos were deceptively edited, a charge Daleiden has strongly contested, releasing the full videos to support his claim.

Daleiden is currently facing criminal charges for filming people without their consent in California. He claims that he is protected as an undercover journalist.

 

 

Romania takes step toward marriage defense amendment

Bucharest, Romania, May 25, 2017 / 07:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Romania’s lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The Chamber of Deputies passed the measure by a vote of 232-22, with 13 abstentions.

If approved, the amendment would change Paragraph 1 of Article 28 of the Romanian Constitution to say: “The family is founded on the freely consented marriage between one man and one woman, on their equality and on the right and duty of parents to assure the growth, education and training of their children.”

The proposed amendment began with a signature drive, initiated by the Coalition for the Family, which collected 3 million signatures from Romanian citizens in support of the constitutional language.

It has also garnered support from Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical leaders, along with legal groups such as ADF International and the European Center for Law and Justice.

The measure has already been approved by the Romanian Constitutional Court as satisfying all requirements for a constitutional amendment.

It will next go to the Senate. If it is approved there, it will become a referendum to be voted on by the Romanian people.

Romania is not the only country in the region to consider a defense-of-marriage amendment. Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and Slovakia all define marriage as the union of one man and one woman within their constitutions.