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Maronite bishop: ‘I hope the synod will focus on servant leadership’

Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn. / Credit: Joe Bukuras/CNA

CNA Staff, Oct 3, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

As a prelate whose Eastern Church is governed by synods, Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn has offered a vision of the Synod on Synodality as a meeting on “servant leadership.”

“Imagine if the Synod on Synodality was not named such, but rather was named ‘The Synod on the Church’s Servant Leadership’ and we would address together the question: ‘How can we as a Church, especially bishops, priests, and deacons in Church leadership, develop a closer following in the footsteps of Christ?’” he told CNA in an interview Sept. 28. 

Mansour added the question: “How may we as members of the Church be true servant leaders to our own baptized and to the world?” 

Mansour is not one of the 360-plus voting members in the upcoming October synod session, but several eastern bishops will be participating, including three Maronites — Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, OMM, Maronite patriarch of Antioch, head of the Synod of the Maronite Church; Bishop Mounir Khairallah of Batrun, Lebanon; and Archbishop Selim Jean Sfeir of the Archeparchy of Cyprus.

“Re-imagining” the synod’s brand as one on servant leadership can help the “average layman” but also Mansour himself to better understand it “through the visionary lens of Pope Francis,” he said.

Mansour said that reflecting on some of the “signature outreaches” of Pope Francis, the synod on servant leadership might focus on how Catholic humanitarian agencies may impact service to migrants, to those trafficked, and to those in the midst of war; how the Church may better outreach to nonbelievers, Muslims, Orthodox, Protestants, the disenfranchised, to those Catholics who feel far from the ministry of the Church, to all clergy, and to women in the Church and outside the Church.

“We could study the ways Jesus led and ask ourselves if we could lead more like him,” he said. “Thus in the vision of Pope Francis, I hope the synod will focus on servant leadership.” 

Reflecting on his own experience in the Maronite synods, Mansour said discussions have included topics such as pastoral concerns, the Particular Law of the Maronites, liturgy, humanitarian outreach, and electing new bishops.

“But as far as doctrine, dogma, or moral teachings, we don’t go there. Those are pretty much settled and they’re not part of our synodal discussions,” he said. 

The Synod on Synodality has been a cause for concern among some Catholics for its choice of particular discussion topics — such as women deacons, priestly celibacy, and LGBTQ outreach — and certain controversial participants such as Jesuit priest and LGBT activist Father James Martin. 

For his part, Mansour shares some concerns that participants in the synod may try to influence change in matters of Church doctrine or sacramental discipline, pointing out that some participants have publicly voiced their opinions in opposition to the Church’s teaching.

One of those voting members is the Swiss Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel, who said recently that he is in favor of women’s ordination and an end to mandatory priestly celibacy. 

“I am in favor of the ordination of women; it will also be a topic at the synod that will soon take place in Rome,” Gmür told the Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag on Sept. 24.

“To undo the clarity of faith and morals of the Church would neither be fair nor honest,” Mansour said. “In fact, it could betray the very purpose explicitly stated by those preparing the synod,” he added.

The synod might, however, suggest to Pope Francis better ways that members of the Church can serve those who disagree with Catholic teaching and are affected negatively by the present sacramental teaching on issues such as divorce and remarriage, or how to include more women in non-ordained roles in the Church, he said. 

“The synod should focus on good governance in the Church and not on controversial changes to discipline or moral teaching,” he added.

Mansour, who is supportive of Pope Francis’ decision to include the laity in the synod, noted that Pope Francis, “in his wisdom,” wants the universal Catholic Church to be governed by both a synodal approach and a hierarchical approach. 

One without the other can lead to “chaos,” Mansour said. The synodal and hierarchical approach, which has the pope as the final decision-maker, are a “good and sure” Catholic approach, he said.

“One without the other would do harm to the unity and clarity we already possess in the Catholic Church,” he said, noting that the role of the pope is “essential” for unity and clarity. 

“I hope the Synod on Synodality will help us better our servant leadership as Catholics. I also hope that the synod will not be tempted to suggest changes to the unity and clarity on faith and morals that Catholics have come to treasure,” he added.

The synod can be a “source” of progress for the Church in “deepening our unity” and servant leadership “or it can set us on a course that does harm to both,” he said.

“Like everything in life it is up to us. May we be guided by the Holy Spirit,” Mansour concluded.

New film ‘Mother Teresa and Me’ portrays the ‘human being behind the saint’

Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz as Mother Teresa of Calcutta in the new film "Mother Teresa and Me." / Photo credit: Curry Western Movies

CNA Staff, Oct 3, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).

A new movie weaves together the lives of two women experiencing self-doubt, but, in the end, both women meet the challenge of their vocations despite their personal struggles. 

“Mother Teresa and Me” tells the story of Kavita, a young woman who finds herself with an unexpected pregnancy. Battling whether or not to get an abortion, she returns to her hometown in India where her now very old nanny shares the story of Mother Teresa’s first days working in the streets of Calcutta. Learning how Mother Teresa faced many doubts after no longer being able to hear the voice of Jesus, Kavita is inspired.

For one night only on Oct. 5, the movie will be released by Fathom Events in 800 theaters across the United States.

Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz is the actress who plays Mother Teresa in the movie. She spoke with CNA about how she prepared for the role, what she learned from the saint she portrayed, and how her time in India inspired her to start a foundation.

Fritschi-Cornaz explained that the movie originated 14 years ago when she visited a Bollywood studio in Mumbai, India. While stuck in traffic on her way to the studio, street children began approaching the taxi and knocking on the windows.

“For the first time in my life I met street children and I realized this lack of perspectives,” Fritschi-Cornaz said. “I was tremendously moved and shocked.”

The actress said she knew she had two choices: Either ignore the pain she was experiencing or do something about it.

“For me, it was clear that I had to do something, but I didn’t know what.”

As she entered the Bollywood studio, a painting of St. Teresa of Calcutta hung on the wall. In an instant, Fritschi-Cornaz turned to ask the producer if they had ever thought of making a movie about Mother Teresa.

She explained that her idea was not to make a film about the saint, “but as this human being behind the saint who actually had the courage and the strength to get up every morning to face that misery.”

Unable to find an investor in Bollywood, Fritschi-Cornaz and her husband, Richard, decided to create the Zariya Foundation (Zariya means “source” in Urdu). The Zariya Foundation aims to alleviate the suffering of the poor, abandoned, sick, and dying and uplift the standards of health and education for the youth around the world, according to its website. 

The goal for the married couple was that the foundation and film would be “the source of inspiration for audiences worldwide. And, on the other hand, a source of financial support for the poorest children in education and health care.”

Shortly after that they discovered Kamal Musale, a Swiss-Indian filmmaker who wrote the script, and production began.

The film was entirely financed by donations, allowing all proceeds to be distributed to the poor instead of having to repay outstanding costs with the money generated by ticket sales. 

Fritschi-Cornaz shared that in order to prepare for the role she worked with the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation Mother Teresa founded in Calcutta, at the Shishu Bhavan, which is a home for children who are abandoned, physically and mentally challenged, malnourished, or suffering from other diseases. 

Additionally, the Swiss actress spent time with several of Mother Teresa’s relatives in Skopje, North Macedonia, which was once Albania.

She explained that the family members were all jewelers and gave Fritschi-Cornaz a cross.

“I wore this cross on the saree during the shootings and so I always had the family with me, which was very supportive,” she said.

Fritschi-Cornaz added that she spent time reading Mother Teresa’s letters where she wrote about her sufferings and doubts she experienced during parts of her life. 

“I was so touched and I thought, ‘This is really important for me to bring that into expression and to show people around the world what this woman did, how she suffered, but still she didn’t give up and she continued with her vocation, with her vision,’” she expressed.

She added: “And that really showed me that we actually, all of us, are able to do much more than we always believe.”

Fritschi-Cornaz said she hopes the film will “inspire a lot of people around the world, to keep their own dreams, to keep with their visions, and to stay with them, even in times of troubles and doubts” and that people will leave “inspired and full of hope and strength and new ideas.”

Watch the trailer for “Mother Teresa and Me” below.

National Eucharistic Congress opens ‘perpetual pilgrim’ application process

null / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Staff, Oct 3, 2023 / 09:40 am (CNA).

The National Eucharistic Congress on Monday opened its application form for young people to apply to become “perpetual pilgrims” during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, which kicks off during summer 2024.

The ambitious two-month pilgrimage will consist of four cross-country Eucharistic processions — a combined distance of 6,500 miles — converging in Indianapolis on July 16, 2024, at the National Eucharistic Congress, which is expected to attract thousands.

The general public is invited to sign up to join for small sections at different points of the pilgrimage; however, a group of four dozen full-time “perpetual” pilgrims will commit to making the entire journey, accompanied by priest chaplains for weeklong segments. Pilgrims will walk 10-15 miles each day, with major solemn processions on Sundays and Mass and smaller processions at parishes during the week.

Catholics interested in serving as perpetual pilgrims must be aged 19-29, in good physical condition, capable of walking long distances, and must agree to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church for the duration of the pilgrimage, according to the announcement.

The pilgrimage will begin during the feast of Pentecost, May 17–19, 2024, from four origin points: San Francisco in the west; Bemidji, Minnesota, from the north; New Haven, Connecticut, from the east; and Brownsville, Texas, from the south. The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage’s official website details each of the four routes along with the cities and dates.

The pilgrimage is being organized by the National Eucharistic Revival campaign in conjunction with Modern Catholic Pilgrim, a Catholic nonprofit dedicated to deepening the faith across the country through pilgrimages. 

Will Peterson, founder and president of Modern Catholic Pilgrim, told CNA on Monday that they already have a list of about 70 people who have expressed interest in becoming perpetual pilgrims and hope to solicit a total of “a couple hundred, if not 1,000” applications. 

Peterson said many, but not all, applicants will likely be college students and that the Congress plans to work closely with campus ministers at Catholic universities throughout the country to make sure students who might be interested receive the invite to apply. Kicking off the pilgrimage Pentecost weekend means many colleges will already be on summer break, he noted.

“Realistically, those who have two months to give over the summer period will oftentimes be the ones in school,” Peterson said. 

“But we’ve also had Catholic school teachers reach out with interest; and nowadays we have a generation that makes a lot more transitions in their work, so there might be a 25-year-old who feels called to leave their job and take a few months to pray on what the next step is.”

Peterson said they want pilgrims to be involved in helping to financially support the Congress but not in an “arduous” way. While there is no cost associated with becoming a perpetual pilgrim, and the Congress says it will provide housing and meals as well as a weekly stipend for basic expenses, perpetual pilgrims will be asked to take part in fundraising before the pilgrimage. 

Each diocese that the pilgrimages will traverse has appointed, through the local ordinary, a diocesan representative to the pilgrimage, Peterson said. The Congress is working with these representatives to identify parishes, monasteries, Catholic colleges, and other sites that make sense as places for pilgrims to stop, as well as identifying host families and other hosts to house small groups of perpetual pilgrims. 

The pilgrimage is being organized in conjunction with a three-year-long Eucharistic revival campaign by the U.S. Catholic bishops, which aims to inspire, educate, and unite the faithful in a more intimate relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist. 

The deadline to submit an application to become a perpetual pilgrim is Nov. 28. Interview and further screenings will follow, with final selection taking place in January 2024, the announcement said.

Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Kevin Birmingham, 51, passes away in sleep

Kevin Birmingham, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, passed away in his sleep Oct. 2, 2023, at age 51. / Credit: Archdiocese of Chicago

CNA Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 17:55 pm (CNA).

Kevin Birmingham, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, passed away in his sleep last night, the archdiocese confirmed on Monday afternoon. He was 51. 

Father Manuel Dorantes, the pastor at St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Chicago, wrote on the social media website X on Monday afternoon that he was “shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago Kevin Birmingham during his sleep last night.” 

“Please join me in praying for his soul and for his dear mother during this very difficult moment for her,” Dornates said. “He was about to turn 52 this week.”

A spokeswoman at the archdiocese subsequently confirmed to CNA that the archbishop had passed away in his sleep overnight. 

The archdiocese on Monday afternoon published an obituary on its website in which Chicago archbishop Cardinal Blase J. Cupich called Birmingham “a wonderful priest and bishop” and “a dear friend and valued colleague.”

Birmingham’s fellow auxiliary bishop Jeffrey Grob, meanwhile, described the late prelate as “genuine, personable, funny, and pastoral. He had a pastor’s heart.”

Funeral arrangements are forthcoming, the obituary said.

Birmingham was 25 when he was ordained as a priest, according to a 2020 article in the archdiocesan newspaper the Chicago Catholic. He grew up in Chicago Ridge “the seventh of 10 children in his family.” 

He attended Niles College Seminary and the University of St. Mary of the Lake, according to the archdiocesan website. 

He was ordained as a priest in May 1997 and again in his final role as auxiliary bishop on Nov. 13, 2020. He also held the title of Titular Bishop of Dolia.

Annual Requiem Latin Mass canceled at Westminster Cathedral in London after 50 years

null / Mazur/cbcew.org.uk.

CNA Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 17:35 pm (CNA).

An annual Requiem Mass that has been held at Westminster Cathedral in London, England, for more than 50 years has been relocated amid the continued restrictions on the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass issued by the Vatican.

The annual sung Mass had been hosted by The Latin Mass Society since 1971 for the repose of the souls of its deceased members and benefactors. Although the Mass was scheduled to be celebrated again on Saturday, Nov. 4, the diocese informed the Latin Mass Society that the celebration was canceled due to the restrictions in Pope Francis’ 2021 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes.

In the motu proprio, issued by Pope Francis on July 16, 2021, the pontiff directed bishops to designate specific locations for the Latin Mass but ordered that none of those locations can be parish churches. If the bishop wants to allow a parish church to continue its celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass, he must acquire a dispensation from the Holy See, which is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

A spokesperson for The Latin Mass Society told CNA that Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who presides over the Diocese of Westminster, told the society that the annual Mass “is not part of the cathedral’s pastoral provision for the Traditional Mass” and that the cardinal did not ask Rome for a dispensation so they could continue the annual tradition.

The Latin Mass Society relocated the Requiem Mass to Corpus Christi Catholic Church on Maiden Lane, which is designated as a diocesan shrine. It will be held on Monday, Nov. 6, at 6:30 p.m. Although the Requiem Mass cannot be held at Westminster Cathedral, Nichols did request a dispensation for the cathedral to continue its low Mass on the first Saturday of each month at 4 p.m.

“The cathedral is a parish church, so each Mass there needs explicit permission under the terms of Traditionis Custodes,” the Latin Mass Society spokesperson said. “He has asked for permission for the monthly Masses, and these continue while this is being considered.”

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Westminster told CNA that Traditionis Custodes “established new norms to govern the use of the missal” used for the Traditional Latin Mass, prior to “the reform of 1970.”

Despite Pope Paul VI granting the “English Indult” in 1971 to allow bishops in England and Wales to permit celebrations of The Latin Mass, the diocesan spokesperson said “appealing to indults and customs that predated Traditionis Custodes cannot have any force” because of the changes decreed by Pope Francis. 

“Some permissions have been granted for the continued use of the missal antecedent to the reform of 1970 by groups of the faithful in the Diocese of Westminster,” the diocesan spokesperson added. “These permissions are now under review by the Holy See. No permission was sought or granted for the particular Mass in question.”

The news has caused frustration among some of the faithful who often attend the Traditional Latin Mass and have worshipped at the annual Requiem Mass previously held at Westminster Cathedral.

Roger Wemyss Brooks, a 77-year-old Catholic who has regularly attended the Traditional Latin Mass since the early 1970s, including the annual Requiem Mass on many occasions, told CNA he is “distressed by the decision by our pastors to withdraw this precious Requiem treasured by supporters of the Latin Mass Society.” 

“Elderly Catholics like me depend upon the comfort of this annual Mass to compensate for the arbitrary withdrawal of individual traditional Requiem Masses,” Brooks said. “Twice this year I have known of lifelong adherents of the traditional rite to have been deprived of their Requiem at the time of their deaths. What we ask for is at least the kindness of what was liberally provided to our forefathers.”

Edward Windsor, who has served at the annual Requiem Mass for the last five years, told CNA that “one of the most important roles of being Catholic is to pray for the faithful departed.”

“In what way does the [cardinal] feel then, as if he is fulfilling his duty as our shepherd to lead us to Christ, to encourage us in our faith, by cancelling a Mass for the dead?” Windsor asked. “It shows rather that modernism has become more important than the actual sacrifice of the Mass.”

Since the issuance of Traditionis Custodes, the Traditional Latin Mass has faced restrictions globally. In some dioceses, bishops have been able to secure temporary dispensations for some Masses to continue in parish churches, but these dispensations are only temporary. In some cases, bishops have neglected to seek dispensations and have instead moved the Masses into locations outside of parish churches.

Rebuild and elevate: New Catholic center at Kansas State aims to bring students to God

The exterior of the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center at Kansas State University. / Credit: Jacob Bentzinger

CNA Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 17:15 pm (CNA).

There’s a quote from Jerome Tang, head coach of the Kansas State University (KSU) basketball team, that Father Gale Hammerschmidt likes. 

“I didn’t come to rebuild. I came to elevate,” Tang said after taking the team’s helm last year. (His team bowed out of the NCAA Tournament last spring after making it to the Elite Eight.)

Hammerschmidt, chaplain at St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center at Kansas State, said he thinks “elevation” is an appropriate word for what the Catholic community he leads is doing right now. On Jan. 28, the local bishop dedicated the Catholic center’s brand-new, $20 million church — a project more than two decades in the making.

But now that the new church is open, the real work of bringing the Catholic faith to students on campus can continue. The grand new church presents an opportunity to “elevate everything we do here at St. Isidore’s,” Hammerschmidt told CNA. 

“We know that the work is just now beginning. And if we’re going to create a beautiful space, we want to be able to do beautiful things in the space. And nothing is more beautiful than a soul encountering the living God,” the priest told CNA.

Hammerschmidt, a Kansas native and 1995 Kansas State alum, was ordained to the priesthood in 2012 and was assigned to St. Isidore’s in 2017. The Catholic center sits just across the street from the Kansas State campus, which is itself the lifeblood of the small city of Manhattan. There had been discussions about the need for a new church building for several years before he arrived. 

“I already knew that there was a need to build a new church. This is something that had been talked about for probably 20 years, honestly, even since right around the time that I was graduating from college,” Hammerschmidt told CNA. 

Father Gale Hammerschmidt. Credit: Jacob Bentzinger
Father Gale Hammerschmidt. Credit: Jacob Bentzinger

Part of the reason was that the population served by St. Isidore’s had outgrown the old space, which sat about 400 and was regularly filled to bursting on Sundays with overflow seating in the student center library. 

Grace Gorges, a K-State student studying graphic design, got involved with the Catholic community at the college as soon as she arrived at KSU. From the get-go, “the Masses were always crowded, always overflowing,” she said, adding that the fallout from COVID made things even worse when parts of the sanctuary had to be roped off for distancing purposes. 

The campaign to raise money for a new church was dubbed “Home Away from Home.” About $5 million had already been raised before Hammerschmidt’s arrival, and the campaign ultimately raised nearly $20 million for the project, he said. Some 1,500 individual donors contributed to the campaign. 

Nebraska-based lead architect Kevin Clark came to Manhattan in 2017 and began asking the community what they wanted their new church to look like. Countless students requested a beautiful interior, “traditional-looking in nature,” the priest said.

“We want this to look like a church that has been standing forever and will stand forever,” he recalled students telling him.

“We wanted to make sure that it was an epic-looking building” with an interior that would raise hearts and minds “to the beauties of heaven,” he said.

The congregation kneels during the dedication Mass for the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center at Kansas State University. Credit: Jacob Bentzinger
The congregation kneels during the dedication Mass for the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center at Kansas State University. Credit: Jacob Bentzinger

Given her involvement in the community and her interest in beauty and design, Hammerschmidt asked Gorges to serve on the building committee, which meant she would have a say in the church’s aesthetic. Gorges said she was invited to help design the church’s tile flooring. She researched churches online for inspiration and also drew from her personal experience of visiting numerous beautiful sacred spaces on a trip to Italy. 

Ridge Pinkston, a fifth-year senior when CNA spoke with him, studying medieval history, was also chosen to be on the building committee. He told CNA that the committee — which included Hammerschmidt, diocesan board member Doug Hinkin, and others — was given almost complete control over the look of the new church.

He said the committee had numerous meetings with the architect to figure out the look of everything in the new church — they spent an entire two-hour meeting designing the look of the altar, for example. He said the building committee “represented the body of owners” to the architect and designers, similar to how when a family builds a house, the architects and contractors consult them on how they want it to look. He said it was a “huge privilege” and a great learning process to be a part of the committee as a student. 

Despite his interest in medieval architecture, the churches that Pinkston primarily drew inspiration from were mainly stateside; most are located in the Archdiocese of Denver. They included the medieval revival-style chapel at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and Holy Ghost Catholic Church, both in downtown Denver. 

Ultimately, the architects and designers of St. Isidore’s produced a neo-Gothic interior with pointed arches that dropped many a jaw when it was unveiled. The interior also features numerous instances of vine imagery — an image of Jesus himself, but also a subtle nod to the college’s agricultural heritage. Evergreene Architectural Arts, a renowned design studio in New York, provided the decoration, Hammerschmidt said. 

Not everything in the interior is entirely new, however. Hammerschmidt said at the request of students, stained-glass windows depicting the seven patron saints of the seven original colleges at Kansas State (the university was originally Methodist-founded) were saved and incorporated into the new church. Among those saints are the church’s namesake, St. Isidore — an 11th-century Spaniard and patron saint of agricultural workers — as well as the namesake of the student center, St. Robert Bellarmine. A much-loved crucifix that hung over the tabernacle in the old church was also used again in the new church. 

The crucifix in the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center. Credit: Jacob Bentzinger
The crucifix in the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center. Credit: Jacob Bentzinger

Gorges said she loves the triumphal arch over the altar in the finished church, which draws one’s eyes toward the focal point of the crucifix, and onward to heaven. A beautiful church, she said, is “not the end-all-be-all by any means. But if it’s at all possible, beauty matters. And we should be trying to live that in our daily lives.”

Pinkston said his favorite design element in the new church, apart from the ceiling of the apse, is the new altar itself, which he said really strikes him as being designed in a way that calls to mind a place where sacrifices are made.

“Rightfully, that should be one of the most beautiful features,” he said of the altar.

The designers also took care to design the exterior of the church to match the native limestone buildings of Kansas State, in an effort to make the church an integral part of the campus it serves.

Bishop Gerald Vincke of Salina, Kansas, dedicated the diocese’s newest church on Jan. 28. The 14,000-square-foot structure can accommodate about 700 for Sunday Masses.

Bishop Gerald Vincke of Salina, Kansas, sprinkles holy water during the dedication of the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center on Jan. 28, 2023. Credit: Jacob Bentzinger
Bishop Gerald Vincke of Salina, Kansas, sprinkles holy water during the dedication of the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center on Jan. 28, 2023. Credit: Jacob Bentzinger

Hammerschmidt said daily Masses at St. Isidore’s were already attracting nearly 200 students on a regular basis. A key part of the Catholic center’s success, he said, is the presence of missionaries from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). FOCUS maintains a presence on college campuses with the goal of winning people to the Catholic faith through authentic friendships and forming others to go out and do the same through Bible studies, small groups, and retreats.

“We also work closely with the high schools in the state of Kansas, especially the Catholic high schools. And we have many strong Catholic high schools in our area. And so we just have students who, the first day they show up in Manhattan, they already know about us,” Hammerschmidt said.

In addition, he said, the Catholic center is in cooperation with the local Diocese of Salina and the nearby Diocese of Wichita, whereby Wichita — which has been blessed in recent years with large vocation numbers — sends a priest to serve as Hammerschmidt’s associate. Large numbers of students come to KSU from Wichita — Gorges among them — who get involved with the Catholic center thanks to strong word of mouth.

“It’s good for them to have one of their own priests looking after them … I think it’s working phenomenally well.”

Stained-glass windows in the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center. Credit: Jacob Bentzinger
Stained-glass windows in the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center. Credit: Jacob Bentzinger

Working at St. Isidore’s, Pinkston said he has gotten to know “the regulars” that came to the church before the rebuild, but now with the new church, he said he sees many more people coming in to pray whom he has never seen before. He also said it was inspirational for him to see a friend — a man who is joining the Catholic Church this Easter — weeping openly when he first saw the new church’s interior.

“That was really the first time I’d ever seen him express emotion … That’s definitely a huge blessing to be able to see that happening,” he said.

Hammerschmidt was almost overwhelmed by the support of the many students, alumni, and others who made the new church possible. Months on from the chapel’s opening, the 9:09 p.m. daily Mass is always well attended, with about 300 students attending regularly. As of September, St. Isidore’s has 40 student-led Bible studies with around 400 Bible study participants.

“The outpouring of joy and gratitude has been incredible. The number of people who we will just see walking through the church from out of town is unbelievable,” Hammerschmidt said.

“And then beyond that, we had so many more hundreds of people praying for the project, and we just have been supported unbelievably well.”

Hammerschmidt said he wants the students and community of Kansas State to take ownership of the magnificent new church and to use it for their spiritual benefit. 

“We want to let everybody in Manhattan and on K-State’s campus know that we built this church for them,” he said. 

“If they just need a place of encounter with God to just come in to be seated, to be immersed in the beauty and the silence and to just let God speak. That’s our hope. For the Catholics, for the non-Catholics, for the students, for nonstudents, just for anyone who needs a place to encounter the living God, this would be the place for them.”

Light from the stained glass in the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center. Jacob Bentzinger
Light from the stained glass in the new St. Isidore's Catholic Student Center. Jacob Bentzinger

9 quotes from saints about guardian angels

Credit: Petra Homeier/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

During the month of October, the Catholic Church celebrates guardian angels.

Guardian angels are instruments of providence who help protect their charges from suffering serious harm and assist them on the path of salvation.

It is a teaching of the Church that every one of the faithful has his or her own guardian angel from baptism, and it is the general teaching of theologians that every human person has his or her own guardian angel from birth.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their [angels’] watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’ Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” (No. 336).

Several of our greatest saints have also shared their thoughts on guardian angels. Here’s what they had to say:

St. John Vianney:

“Our guardian angels are our most faithful friends, because they are with us day and night, always and everywhere. We ought often to invoke them.”

St. John Bosco:

“When tempted, invoke your angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped. Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him; he trembles and flees at the sight of your guardian angel.”

St. Jerome:

“How great is the dignity of souls, that each person has from birth received an angel to protect it.”

St. Thérèse of Lisieux:

“My holy Guardian Angel, cover me with your wing. With your fire light the road that I’m taking. Come, direct my steps… help me, I call upon you. Just for today.”

St. Basil the Great:

“Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd, leading him to life.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux:

“We should show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father.”

St. Francis de Sales:

“Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit. Without being seen, they are present with you.”

St. Josemaría Escrivá:

“If you remembered the presence of your angel and the angels of your neighbors, you would avoid many of the foolish things which slip into your conversations.”

St. John Cassian:

“Cherubim means knowledge in abundance. They provide an everlasting protection for that which appeases God, namely, the calm of your heart, and they will cast a shadow of protection against all the attacks of malign spirits.”

This article was previously published at CNA on Oct. 2, 2022, and was updated on Sept. 29, 2023.

Thousands join Dominicans in Washington, DC, for rosary pilgrimage

A man prays the rosary during a daylong event on Sept. 30, 2023, in Washington, D.C., focused on praying and reflecting on the rosary to conclude a nine-month rosary novena. / Credit: George Goss

Washington D.C., Oct 1, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

A few thousand Catholics joined Dominican priests and sisters on Saturday for a daylong event in Washington, D.C., focused on praying and reflecting on the rosary to conclude a nine-month rosary novena.

The Sept. 30 Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage, which was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, included talks by Dominican priests, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, confession, and a vigil Mass. The pilgrimage was held one day before the start of the month of the rosary in October.

“I find it very spiritually enriching,” Jane Degnan, who traveled from Narragansett, Rhode Island, to partake in the pilgrimage, told CNA.

“The atmosphere here at the basilica really helps us to appreciate and grow in our devotion to the Blessed Mother and the rosary, [which enriches] our relationship with the Lord Jesus,” said Degnan, who added that her attachment to the Dominicans stems from having an uncle who is a Dominican priest and a cousin who is a Dominican nun.

A few thousand Catholics joined Dominican priests and sisters on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, for a daylong event at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., focused on praying and reflecting on the rosary to conclude a nine-month rosary novena. Credit: George Goss
A few thousand Catholics joined Dominican priests and sisters on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, for a daylong event at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., focused on praying and reflecting on the rosary to conclude a nine-month rosary novena. Credit: George Goss

The event began with a talk by Father Gregory Pine, a Dominican priest, on the Virgin Mary, which was followed by exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the upper church while confessions were heard in the various Marian shrines in the lower church. Nearly 20 priests heard confessions throughout the late morning and early afternoon.

Adoration concluded with Benediction, which was followed by another talk from Pine, this one focused on the rosary.

“The rosary imports to us a kind of contemplative stance toward the mysteries [of Christ] in union with Mary,” Pine said during his talk.

Pine explained how “all Christians are called to be contemplative.” He said our experiences in the present are meant to be carried into the next life, where we “couldn’t even imagine looking away” from God: “Heaven is contemplative.”

“It is precisely for this purpose you have been baptized and confirmed and commissioned for a life in this modern world,” Pine said.

Rather than attaching ourselves to material desires, the rosary “puts our minds and hearts in motion” and attaches us to something “that can truly satisfy [us],” Pine continued. “We can’t hang our hearts on anything less,” he said, adding that “apart from [Christ], we can do nothing.”

After Pine’s second talk, the Dominicans led pilgrims in praying the rosary. This was followed by a brief talk on the rosary by Father Lawrence Lew, another Dominican priest. The pilgrimage ended with a Vigil Mass.

A few thousand Catholics joined Dominican priests and sisters on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, for a daylong event in Washington, D.C., focused on praying and reflecting on the rosary to conclude a nine-month rosary novena. The Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage, which was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, included talks by Dominican priests, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, confession, and a vigil Mass. Credit: George Goss
A few thousand Catholics joined Dominican priests and sisters on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, for a daylong event in Washington, D.C., focused on praying and reflecting on the rosary to conclude a nine-month rosary novena. The Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage, which was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, included talks by Dominican priests, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, confession, and a vigil Mass. Credit: George Goss

Father John Paul Kern, the executive director of the Dominican Friars Foundation, told CNA that the pilgrimage was a good way to lead into the month of the rosary. He said “people were very excited” to partake in the pilgrimage and added that it serves as part of the Dominican “heritage of continuing to preach the rosary,” which has been an important part of the order’s mission for more than 500 years.

Kern, who said he was “very pleased with the turnout” for the pilgrimage, referenced the “powerful” depiction in the basilica of the Pentecost event, which shows the Blessed Mother with the apostles when Christ breathed the Holy Spirit onto them. He said that while praying the holy rosary, “we are gathered with Our Lady like the apostles.”

Prior to the pilgrimage, participants were encouraged to take part in a nine-month novena, which included praying the rosary on the 30th of each month and reciting a novena, which asks God to “pour out [the] Holy Spirit upon us as we meditate upon the mysteries of Christ contained in the most holy rosary.”

Kern said the Dominicans mailed out about 500,000 novena prayer cards to entities and about 100,000 at the request of parishes and individuals. He said he estimates there were at least 100,000 participants in the monthly novena.

One participant, Kyle Grimes, told CNA that the nine-month novena preceding the pilgrimage was a good reminder that helped serve in the preparation for the pilgrimage. He added that he was glad the Dominicans held an event like this.

“It’s hard to find a lot of events like this, especially [ones] that are just Dominican in nature,” said Grimes, who traveled from Baltimore for the pilgrimage.

The Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage was the first event of its kind held by the Dominicans at the basilica, but the organizers intend to make it an annual event.

Meet Julia Oseka: The 22-year-old U.S. voting delegate at the Synod on Synodality

Julia Oseka with Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia. Perez and other SCHEAP members selected Oseka as one of three Philadelphia delegates to the Synod on Synodality’s North American Continental Assembly. / Credit: Sarah Webb/Archdiocese of Philadelphia

CNA Staff, Oct 1, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

At first glance, 22-year-old Julia Oseka seems like your average college student. But the junior at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia majoring in physics and theology, a native of Poland, is anything but ordinary. Oseka is one of 10 non-bishop voting members from the United States and Canada who will be at the Synod on Synodality taking place at the Vatican from Oct. 4–28.

In 2022, Oseka became a student leader for Synodality in Catholic Higher Education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (SCHEAP), which is a coalition of Catholic universities, colleges, and Newman Centers in the Philadelphia area fostering student voices in the synod.

In April 2022, a large, intercollegiate listening session took place at La Salle University with representatives from all participating colleges and universities and Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia. Soon after this meeting, Perez and other SCHEAP members selected Oseka as one of three Philadelphia delegates to the synod’s North American Continental Assembly. 

In an interview with CNA, Oseka called her participation in the synod “very humbling.”

“I see it as really a sign that the Church is ready and is open to listen to people — and invite people — to be very active in those big decision-making and discernment processes in the Church,” she added. 

Julia Oseka is one of 10 non-bishop voting members from the United States and Canada who will be at the Synod on Synodality taking place at the Vatican from Oct. 4–28, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of Julia Oseka
Julia Oseka is one of 10 non-bishop voting members from the United States and Canada who will be at the Synod on Synodality taking place at the Vatican from Oct. 4–28, 2023. Credit: Photo courtesy of Julia Oseka

The Synod on Synodality will mark the first time a synod includes voting delegates who are not bishops. Nearly a third of the 366 voting delegates were chosen by Pope Francis, including laypeople, priests, consecrated women, and deacons. Fifty-four voting members are women.

Oseka, who calls herself a feminist and has said she dreams of being a physics professor one day, is the only female physics scholar in St. Joseph’s University’s prestigious John P. McNulty Program, which awards scholarships to women in STEM. She told CNA she finds inspiration in her confirmation saint, Thérèse of Lisieux, whom Oseka thinks is “so relatable. She was so young when she passed away and led a heroic life. She’s a doctor of the Church and a great woman.” 

Despite preparing for her monthlong trip and taking part in interviews for the media, Oseka has still managed to focus on her schoolwork and spiritual life. “I have been praying before. I am praying still. I’m doing my Ignatian examen daily and trying to pray different forms of prayer as well,” she shared.

Oseka won’t be the only young adult attending the synod from North America. Father Ivan Montelongo, 30, a priest of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, who was ordained only three years ago, will also participate. So will Wyatt Olivas, an undergraduate at the University of Wyoming and a member of the Diocese of Cheyenne, where he served as a catechist and music minister.

Oseka has said she believes women and LGBTQIA+ people should have greater roles in the Church. She told CNA that during campus-level synodal meetings organized by SCHEAP, she and her peers were touched by the “joys and hardships” that others voiced. And this is when she realized that “there are people in the Church who are underserved.” 

“They’re on the ‘peripheries’ as Pope Francis would call that — not a lot of attention or guidance is devoted to those people and young people are part of that group I believe, as many of my peers voiced that, and hope and wish for more spaces for them to be the now of the Church currently,” she explained.

Oseka said she hopes the synod “will facilitate openness to the Spirit.” 

“During the discussions lately with other synod participants something that really struck me is that we have to be open to the mystery and immerse ourselves in the mystery that is fundamental for all synod participants,” Oseka continued. “So I really hope that all of us will open our hearts for the surprises of the Spirit and will be brave enough to embrace those surprises.”

“I’m looking forward to what it will bring but I’m sure it will be filled with grace and the Holy Spirit among us,” she said.

Judge rules against rural Catholic community in dispute with local authorities in Michigan

Catholic families and other individuals share a common way of life on a five-acre property called Cottonwood Farm in Washtenaw County, Michigan. / Credit: Lucas Larson

Detroit, Mich., Sep 30, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Five Catholic families seeking to live out their Catholic faith together in rural Michigan received news this past week that could jeopardize their future at the historic farm where they live.

Judge Anna Frushour of the 14th Washtenaw County District Court ruled on Sept. 17 that Cottonwood Farm does not meet the local five-acre threshold to be considered a farm, allowing livestock. The judge said that her court cannot circumvent the zoning board’s decision.

Inshal Chenet of Cottonwood Farm attended the hearing to address what his attorney, Jason Negri, has characterized as “persecution” on the part of local township authorities. In interviews with CNA, Chenet and Negri said the judge’s ruling may have implications not only for the Cottonwood Farm faith community but also for all farmers in Michigan.

“It’s disappointing to see that a judge sees that a local township board of appeals has jurisdiction over whether a farm is actually farming under the Michigan Right to Farm Act. What happened is precisely the sort of outcome that the state Legislature did not intend to have to give that level of jurisdiction to a local governing body over ordinances,” Negri said.

Further aspects of the case will come up for another hearing in November.

Cottonwood Farm is 10 miles from Ann Arbor and has five historic structures. The main house dates to before 1833, when the surrounding Webster Township was incorporated by settlers from New York nearly 200 years ago. Next door is the Webster Historical Society property, which maintains historic buildings dating to more than a century ago.

Chenet, 29, a Catholic father and educator, joined several Catholic friends to form Morning Star LLC in 2019 to purchase Cottonwood Farm, where his family now shares the property with members and renters who share a vision of close cooperation, Catholic faith, and friendship.

Families have their own homes and there is a separate house for unmarried women and another for unmarried men. All of the residents, according to a court filing, qualify as low-income. Several of the men are engaged in construction. The community raises livestock and tends gardens. Members hold down jobs but share aspects of their lives with one another to emulate the earliest Christian communities. Curious outsiders, not all of whom are Catholic or Christian, frequently stop by Cottonwood’s gatherings, such as lectures, potlucks, and game nights.

The approximately 20 residents of Cottonwood, including children, are Catholics who attend various parish churches in the area.

During a morning visit, young giggling children run through the grass, swing from a rope hanging from a tree, and feed sheep. “This is the natural type of thing you don’t see if you live like most others,” Chenet told CNA. There are regular, unplanned social events where kids and parents gather. “If you go back throughout the vast majority of human history, this is what’s natural. This is what just happens,” he said.

Chenet and his wife, Monica, who have four young children, met at Wyoming Catholic College, where other Cottonwood residents also graduated. Parents at Cottonwood share in home schooling, which offers them opportunities for prayer and socializing that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

“That kind of organic community is what’s lacking for many people,” Chenet said, adding that he and his friends wanted a place where Catholics could live in close proximity. 

Monica Chenet said most of her best friends live in Cottonwood. “And I have plenty of friends off Cottonwood, but it’s really amazing to have people I can go to and pour out my heart and tell my troubles and receive their troubles in return … But this is an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything else.”

Monica also said that because so many curious outsiders stop by at Cottonwood potlucks, it affords opportunities for sharing their faith and evangelization. Characterizing Cottonwood as a village, she said, “It’s part of a vocation. I’m raising the next generation of Catholics. I don’t think enough people appreciate what that is and how important it is.”

The contention between Cottonwood and township authorities started in September 2021, when the township issued a zoning violation notice about the animals. The farm has weathered a yearslong appeal process, with the appeal rejected in August 2022, and another violation that called on the farm to either expand from its current size or send the livestock away. The township claims that the right-of-way alongside the road bordering the farm diminishes the total acreage that can be claimed for farming.

“Trouble with the authorities started pretty early on,” Chenet told CNA, adding that it was not initially over animals. “This is why I’m sure the animals are a pretext.” He said there are other farms in the area that typically have single-family homes. Cottonwood’s pastures and fields were in disrepair when it was purchased, but residents have gradually improved it.

When asked whether the dispute had anything to do with the neighboring historic village, Chenet answered: “I think that had a big part in it. Webster Historical Society wanted to buy this property, but they didn’t have the funds. The other problem is that the town hall is right there — its property abuts ours — so people on the township board can see what we are doing, a lot.” An online search revealed that Zoning Board of Appeals member Rick Kleinschmidt is also a director of the Webster Historical Society.

In an Aug. 17 court filing for Cottonwood, Negri wrote that while a zoning administrator told Chenet in 2019 that the township board did not like the looks of Cottonwood’s dumpster, an official said it “did not violate any specific zoning ordinance,” but “if it wasn’t moved, he would find an applicable public nuisance ordinance to apply to it.” Township Treasurer John Scharf lives close to Cottonwood and in sight of the dumpster, according to Negri.

Other objections emerged about Cottonwood’s milk cow, Prudence, and whether she was getting adequate care. The Humane Society determined that the cow was treated appropriately, while Michigan’s Department of Agriculture found that the farm conformed with accepted agricultural and management practices and guidelines. However, a March citation from the township, later affirmed by the Zoning Board of Appeals, claimed that Cottonwood was violating a local ordinance prohibiting farm animals.

Cottonwood then filed a legal answer claiming that the zoning ordinance is ambiguously worded and that Michigan’s Right to Farm Act allowing agriculture supersedes the local ordinance.

Negri wrote: “It is patently frustrating that, in an age when farming practices have diminished and food prices are rising, and more and more people are turning to home farming options for sustenance, Webster Township feels compelled to cite its own residents in an AG-zoned district who are relearning farming techniques and seeking to be more eco-friendly, healthy, and self-sustaining by trying to shut down their small farming operation on specious grounds.”  

In an interview, Negri told CNA: “This case has precedential effect for anyone who farms in Michigan under the Right to Farm Act if local jurisdictions can be the judge, jury, and executioner all the time. It’s a big problem.” He added that he expects the case will gain the attention of farmers and landowners across the state. 

As for Chenet, he told CNA that he will pursue his legal options and warned that “If someone has a farm and a township doesn’t like it, then that farmer will face officials prosecuting him who are also the jury. It would be like putting a fox in charge of a henhouse.”