Today (09.26.07)

Today in the Diocese

    Mass, Newman Center, Angelo State University, San Angelo, Noon.


   Rev. William Cadigan, MSC (1971)

Today’s Readings

Ezra 9:5-9
Tobit 13:2-4, 7-8
Luke 9:1-6

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service 

CARA reports uptick in Catholic college seminarian enrollment figures

WASHINGTON — There is an uptick in the number of Catholic seminarians in undergraduate college programs, according to Mary L. Gautier, a senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington. For the 2006-07 school year, there was a total of 1,365 college seminarians, up from 1,297 the year before, and up from 1,248 — the lowest number reported in CARA’s 40 years of surveying — in 2004-05. The last time the number of college seminarians was this high was in 2002-03, when 1,376 students were enrolled. Still, the numbers have been trending downward over the past four decades. The 2006-07 number of 1,365 college seminarians is barely 10 percent of the number reported by CARA’s first survey in 1967-68: 13,401. The numbers are in the CARA report “Catholic Ministry Formation Enrollments: Statistical Overview for 2006-2007,” which was released Sept. 21.

Judge won’t force city to allow opening of Planned Parenthood clinic

AURORA, Ill. (CNS) — Pro-life groups opposed to the opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora welcomed a federal judge’s refusal to order city officials to let the clinic open pending an investigation of how the organization obtained its building permits. Abortion opponents have been protesting the new clinic because surgical and medical abortion procedures will be among the reproductive health care services performed there. Eric Scheidler, spokesman for the Pro-Life Action League, called the Sept. 20 ruling by Judge Charles Norgle of the U.S. District Court in Chicago “a victory for life,” though as the judge said the case is “by no means” over. In August the city of Aurora barred the opening of the clinic pending a review of the building-permit process. Planned Parenthood sought a federal court order to force the city to allow the clinic to open as scheduled Sept. 18, claiming that the city does not have a “legitimate municipal concern” but is “motivated solely by political opposition” to the clinic.

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Xavier students say Jena rally a chance to take stand against racism

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) — About 170 students from Xavier University of Louisiana were among thousands from across the country who converged on Jena, La., Sept. 20 for a rally protesting what they believe were excessive charges filed against six black Jena High School students for beating a white classmate last December. Local authorities estimated the crowd in the tens of thousands. Members of the Xavier University student government association who organized the three busloads of students who made the trip said their presence at the rally was important because the case of the teens, who became known as the Jena 6, highlights what they consider to be unequal treatment blacks receive from the criminal justice system across the country. “When I initially heard about it on Facebook, what happened to them seemed to be unfair treatment of some young African-American men,” said Gabrielle Jackson, 21, a senior psychology major from Houston and vice president of the student government association at Catholic-run Xavier.

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Copper theft at Colorado Springs cathedral part of nationwide trend

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CNS) — This summer when sections of copper drain pipes on the outside of St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Colorado Springs were stolen, the church became the victim of a crime that has become a nationwide trend. Around the country, thieves have been stealing copper to sell to scrap metal recyclers, sometimes fetching hundreds of dollars for each section they sell. Prices have soared on the commodities market recently, with copper going for more than $3 per pound. A church custodian noticed missing sections of the drain pipes on the outside of St. Mary’s Cathedral in June. Thieves tore out what was easiest to reach and grabbed about a half-dozen sections of the pipes along the west and south sides of the church, netting 7-foot sections at a time. The inside plaza that is locked at night was unaffected. The church’s loss, which was reported to police and the diocesan insurer, is estimated at $1,800, and the chances of tracing the stolen copper were slim.

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As companies outsource jobs, enslaving workers gets easier

ACAILANDIA, Brazil (CNS) — Around the world, men, women and children are drawn into forced labor, harvesting cacao in the Ivory Coast and sugar cane in Brazil, cutting timber in Peru, as sex workers in Europe and the United States, and as domestic workers in India. Lured by false promises, they sometimes end up in debt bondage after receiving an advance on wages that they are unable to repay. Employers often take their documents so they cannot leave, threaten to harm them or their families, or take them so far from home that escape is not an option. Much modern slave labor “connects to globalization,” said Mary DeLorey, a strategic issues adviser for Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency. “As (companies) outsource farther and farther away, there’s less accountability. It’s a race to the bottom as far as labor standards are concerned.” The International Labor Organization estimates that nearly 12 million workers worldwide are involved in forced labor or slavery — 9.5 million in Asia and the Pacific, 1.3 million in Latin America, 660,000 in sub-Saharan Africa, and 360,000 in Europe and the United States.

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Church-run groups helps Brazilian workers avoid slave conditions

ACAILANDIA, Brazil (CNS) — Francisco Neres was working on a farm about 80 miles from this dusty town in northern Brazil when a pole he was lifting touched a power line. The jolt of electricity left his hands and feet severely burned. As the wounds festered and one foot turned black, Neres and several other workers pleaded with the farm’s owner, a physician, for antibiotics. Days later, the doctor finally gave him a prescription, but no money to buy the drugs, although the men said he owed them 45 days’ wages. “He told us to plant a money tree and gather the money when it fell,” said Paulo Souza Lima, 31, who was working with Neres. The men finally pooled their money, a total of $15, flagged down a van on the highway and brought Neres to Acailandia, where doctors treated his wounds but were forced to amputate one toe. Penniless, the men found their way to the Center for the Defense of Life and Human Rights of Acailandia, a beacon of hope for workers trapped in near-slavery on farms in the state of Maranhao.

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Vatican official says climate change demands new cooperative strategy

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) — Addressing the United Nations, a Vatican official said climate change demands a new cooperative international strategy in order to avoid a “bleak future.” “Climate change is a serious concern and an inescapable responsibility for scientists and other experts, political and governmental leaders, local administrators and international organizations, as well as every sector of human society and each human person,” Msgr. Pietro Parolin, Vatican undersecretary of state, told the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 24. The Vatican, he said, believes protecting the environment is a “moral imperative” that requires collective action among nations. All states have a “responsibility to protect our planet and ensure that present and future generations be able to live in a healthy and safe environment,” he said. Solutions, he said, will necessitate not only technical adaptations but also a change in “selfish attitudes” toward consumption of resources. Msgr. Parolin spoke during a one-day U.N. summit on climate change attended by representatives of more than 150 countries. Its aim was to build momentum and consensus for a major U.N.-sponsored conference in December in Indonesia.

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Pope praises Nicaragua’s recent ban on therapeutic abortions

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI praised Nicaragua’s recent ban on abortion, saying the country had taken a pro-life stand against strong international pressures. At the same time, the pope said the move calls for increased assistance to women with problems during pregnancy. He made the comments in a speech to the new ambassador from Nicaragua, Jose Cuadra Chamorro, who presented his credentials Sept. 24 in a ceremony at the papal summer villa outside Rome. The pope said he wanted to express his appreciation to Nicaragua for its position on social issues, “especially respect for life, in the face of considerable internal and international pressure.” “It should be considered very positive that last year the National Assembly approved the revocation of therapeutic abortion,” he said. “In this regard, it is essential to increase the assistance of the state and of society itself to women who have serious problems during pregnancy,” he said.

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Vietnamese diocese boasts record number of new priests, parishes

THAI BINH, Vietnam (CNS) — The rural Diocese of Thai Binh in northern Vietnam has become the country’s latest diocese to boast record numbers of newly ordained priests and newly erected parishes. During the past year, “the diocese erected the greatest number of parishes since it was established in 1936,” said Father Dominic Dang Van Cau, secretary to the bishop of Thai Binh, in a September interview with UCA News, an Asian church news agency. Bishop Francois Nguyen Van Sang of Thai Binh opened 20 new parishes Dec. 3, 2006, and created six more parishes in early August, Father Cau said. Each of the 26 new parishes has more than 1,000 Catholics, he said. Creating new parishes is part of the three-year jubilee celebration marking the diocese’s 70th anniversary, Father Cau added. Currently, 36 of the diocese’s 90 parishes have no resident priest, and many individual priests serve more than 5,000 Catholics, he said.

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Catholics welcome life sentence for four convicted of killing priest

NEW DELHI (CNS) — Catholics welcomed the sentence of life imprisonment for four people convicted of murdering a Catholic priest eight years ago in the Indian state of Orissa. Ravindra Kumar Pal, 44, primarily known as Dara Singh, and the three others were convicted Sept. 22 for murdering Father Arul Doss, a priest of the Balasore Diocese, in September 1999. Singh and 12 other men have been serving life terms for burning to death an Australian missionary, the Rev. Graham Stuart Staines, and his two sons earlier that year. “Justice is done,” Bishop Thomas Thiruthalil of Balasore told the Asian church news agency UCA News after the court in Orissa handed down its verdict. The bishop said the church expected the outcome because of the solid evidence. Father Doss, a native of Tamil Nadu state in southern India, was killed the night of Sept. 2, 1999, when 15-20 people attacked him while he slept. The 35-year-old priest was in a hut in a remote Mayurbhanj tribal village where he had gone for pastoral duties. The attackers stabbed him with arrows and smashed his skull with a stone.

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Abbot Claude Ehringer, founding abbot of California abbey, dies at 98

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (CNS) — Benedictine Abbot Claude Ehringer was to be buried Sept. 27 among his fellow monks at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, which he founded and where he lived for nearly five decades. Abbot Ehringer died in his room at the abbey Sept. 17, two months shy of his 99th birthday. No cause of death was given. After retiring from his role as abbot in 1994, he lived a life of quiet contemplation at the hilltop abbey within view of the Pacific Ocean. He continued to counsel those who sought him out and to help lead Benedictine Oblates — laypeople who connect themselves to the abbey and to the spirituality of St. Benedict. When asked by a visitor in 2005 if his decades as a monk had been happy, he chuckled and smiled as if to say “of course,” and then added, “It’s preparation for better things to come.”

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Brazilian man recalls odyssey of slavery and escape

ACAILANDIA, Brazil (CNS) — Antonio Gomes dos Santos remembers the day, 11 years ago, when he was sold for the equivalent of about $80. Seeking work, he had drifted to this drowsy town in north-central Brazil’s scrubby farmland. The effort paid off when a man offered him a job, as well as food and a place to stay while he hired a few dozen other laborers. Gomes dos Santos waited for three days. Meanwhile, the recruiter “provided meals, drink and cigarettes,” he recalled. On the fourth day, he and 41 other men were loaded into a truck. Gomes dos Santos began to have doubts when he saw armed guards at the front and back of the vehicle. His fears were confirmed when they stopped in a town several hours away, where a buyer was waiting and they were sold into slavery. Back on the truck, they were told “you’re not going home again,” he said.

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Episcopal bishop submits resignation, is expected to become Catholic

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Saying that “an effective leader cannot be so conflicted about the guiding principles of the church he serves,” the Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande announced in a Sept. 21 letter that he intended to ask his fellow bishops for permission to resign. The letter from Bishop Jeffrey Steenson did not specifically state that he intended to become a Catholic, but said that “many of you already know of my love for the Catholic Church and my conviction that this is the true home of Anglicanism.” The 55-year-old bishop, who has headed the diocese based in Albuquerque, N.M., since January 2005, said his “conscience is deeply troubled about where the Episcopal Church is heading, and this has become a crisis for me because of my ordination vow to uphold its doctrine, discipline and worship.” The resignation came as the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, was meeting in New Orleans to consider a response to conflicts with the worldwide communion on issues such as the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of openly homosexual bishops.

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Filipino priest named a bishop while helping out at New York parish

CENTERPORT, N.Y. (CNS) — Chances are Msgr. Crispin B. Varquez won’t soon forget his experience as an assistant this summer at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport. During his working vacation in the Rockville Centre Diocese — and what was his first trip to the United States — the Filipino priest learned that Pope Benedict XVI was going to name him a bishop. On Oct. 18, he will be installed as the bishop of Borongan in the Philippine province of Eastern Samar. The diocese has a Catholic population of more than 400,000 and covers 1,675 square miles. It is a poor region where people depend on farming and fishing to survive. “I look forward to the challenge,” said Bishop-designate Varquez, who chose “humility and simplicity” as his episcopal motto. “I trust so much in the grace of God.” Bishop-designate Varquez, 46, came to Centerport from the Philippine Diocese of Tagbilaran.


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