• 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Friends with a martyr

The Register

Cawker City — In the cozy rectory behind SS. Peter and Paul Church sits Father Don McCarthy, with a myriad of items relating to his friend, Father Stanley Rother.  “It’s kind of like a shrine in here,” he said, looking around.  At the window sits a framed picture of Father Rother with Guatemalean children. He has a box dedicated entirely to correspondence from his seminary chum.  “He and I were close friends,” Father McCarthy said.  The retired priest will be among the throngs gathered Sept. 23 in the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. to witness the beatification of Father Rother, a priest for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. The beatification begins at 10:30 a.m. and seating is open to the public; no ticket is necessary.  Father Rother was gunned down in the rectory of his church in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala. He was considered a martyr by the church in Guatemala, and was formally recognized by Pope Francis as a martyr Dec. 2, 2016. The recognition by the pontiff cleared the way for his beatification.

Originally from Galveston, Texas, Father McCarthy attended seminary in San Antonio.  “Stan and I were not in the same class in the seminary, but we got to be good friends, due to working together in the book bindery and visitations at each other’s homes in vacation time,” Father McCarthy said.  Father Rother was two years behind him in the seminary. Eventually, Father Rother was asked to leave because of difficulty with Latin.  “All of the philosophy and theology textbooks and canon law were all in Latin,” Father McCarthy said. “That was the way things were then.”  Father Rother departed  during Father McCarthy’s final year of seminary.  “There were so many Oklahoma guys in the seminary with us,” he said. “Stanley was from Oklahoma. They were heartbroken when we found out he was asked to leave.”  Yet Father Rother didn’t give up on his vocation. Bishop Victor Reed found another seminary in Maryland.  “We kept in touch,” Father McCarthy said. “I used to visit in the summertime. I would stay at Stanley’s home and tried to help at farm work, but I wasn’t very good at it.  “When I was ordained in 1959, he and his mother came to Galveston for my First Mass. He was thurifer for my First Mass.”  In return, Father McCarthy acted as subdeacon for Father Rother’s First Solemn High Mass in 1963.

In 1968, Father Rother went to Santiago Atitlan on assignment from the Diocese of Oklahoma City-Tulsa (which is now the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City). Called “Padre Francisco” and “Padre Aplas,” he helped the locals build a small hospital, school and radio station. Father McCarthy said. He also taught the locals improved methods of farming and fishing. In spite of his difficulties with Latin in his first seminary, Father Rother translated the Mass and several parts of the New Testament into Tz’utujil, the language of his parishioners, Father McCarthy said.  “He and I stayed in contact when he went down to Guatemala,” Father McCarthy said. “He was very much a part of the community for years.”  The mission was about 10 years old when Father Rother arrived, with a staff of 10, Father McCarthy said.  “But gradually over the years, he was the only one left,” Father McCarthy said.  The Rother family and his friends knew the continued presence in Guatemala was dangerous.  “He knew he was on a death list,” Father McCarthy said. “(His family) encouraged him to stay, but he went back. He always said ‘The shepherd cannot run.’ I was always edified by his attitude. He could have stayed home and been safe, but he said ‘I want to be with my people.’ ”


Bishop Weisenburger serves as the promoter of justice for Father Rother

The Leaven

Bishop Edward Weisenburger serves as the promoter of justice for the cause for canonization for servant of God Father Stanley Rother of Okarche, Okla. The priest was murdered July 28, 1981, while serving at the mission of Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala.

As the promoter of justice, his role is to help the Church study and examine the life of Father Rother. The promoter, he said, is there to ask not only the “nice questions” but also to “ensure that all the facts are uncovered in the process and that all questions, including difficult questions, are asked.”

That role has included several trips to the mission in Guatemala.

“It’s always a very moving experience,” said the bishop, “especially to spend some quiet time in the room of the parish rectory that still has the marks of the bullet holes where Father Rother was killed.

“It has been turned into an unofficial chapel where people still slip in to pray.”

Having served as pastor of Father Rother’s home parish in Okarche, the bishop said he got to know members of the Rother family personally.

“When the cause began, I was a former pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Okarche, having served there from 1995-2002,” the bishop said. “Those were seven exceptionally happy years of my life. That parish has produced a host of vocations to priesthood and religious life.

“It should not be surprising that such a vibrant parish would produce vocations and now a potentially canonized saint.”

Last December, Pope Francis declared Father Rother a martyr, clearing the path for his beatification. On March 13, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City received word the beatification will take place Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City.

A biography of Father Rother titled “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run,” was published by Our Sunday Visitor in 2015.


You’re invited to the beatification

On Monday, Aug. 21, many Americans witnessed an extremely rare astronomical phenomenon, a total solar eclipse. The sun appeared to be darkened for a time as the moon passed between the earth and the sun, casting its shadow over much of the earth’s surface. The last time such an event occurred across the whole of the contiguous United States was in 1918. Thousands of people traveled great distances to experience this extraordinary phenomenon.

Perhaps it was an actual solar eclipse coinciding with the moment of Our Lord’s death that caused the darkness described in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon” (Mt 27:45). An eclipse of the sun is certainly an appropriate cosmic sign for the very moment when sin and death seemed to triumph over light and life. For three days, hope was eclipsed by despair. The Resurrection, however, proclaims Christ’s ultimate victory: the victory of life over death; the triumph of Divine Mercy over human sinfulness. Jesus Christ is the light of the world and this “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5).

On July 28, 1981, it must have seemed as if darkness had triumphed in the village of Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala. That morning, thousands of grieving parishioners gathered in the plaza in front of the massive colonial church as word spread that their beloved shepherd, Padre A’Plas had been killed. During the night, intruders had broken into the rectory and murdered Father Stanley Rother, the shepherd who didn’t run.

Hope seemed to have been vanquished by violence, love eclipsed by hatred. But, life and hope were indeed victorious. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church” as Tertullian wrote in the 2nd century. Father Stanley Rother’s witness of fidelity and pastoral charity have inspired countless Christians and non-Christians in Guatemala, Oklahoma and throughout the United States. Today, the Church in Santiago Atitlan is flourishing. The light of faith continues to shine brightly and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Catholic Church has officially recognized the Venerable Servant of God Stanley Francis Rother as a martyr for the faith. He is the first martyr from the United States, and on Sept. 23 will become the first U.S.-born priest to be beatified. In Oklahoma, this event is even rarer than a total solar eclipse! Are you going?

I invite all who read this to come to the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 10 a.m. to participate in the Mass and Rite of Beatification for Father Stanley Francis Rother. It will be a beautiful and historic event, but more importantly it will be the occasion for an abundant outpouring of grace and mercy upon our Church, our families and community and our nation. There will be ample parking and access. (And I promise that traffic will be far less difficult to manage than for a Garth Brooks concert.)

Come and see! 

Bishop Weisenburger's Statement on "DACA"

President Trump’s decision to end the DACA, (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) program is a matter of grave concern.  The immigrants in question were brought to the United States at such a young age that a great many have no memory or experience of any home but America.  These “DACA youth” currently live and work among us as contributing members of American society.  While DACA was never a permanent solution it did provide as many as 800,000 innocent people with a measure of relief from the constant fear of deportation, oftentimes to a foreign country where they have no family, no support, and no personal history.  Along with the bishops of our Nation, I stand in solidarity with these youth who have committed no personal crime and are now in grave peril of deportation to a foreign country. 

I believe we must acknowledge that immigration has become one of the most contentious issues in American politics.  However, many of our Nation’s greatest moments have been revealed when we have risen above contention and chosen the path of justice tempered with mercy.  It is in these moments that we have been a bright light for the rest of the world. I believe in America, and I believe in our legislators’ ability to carve out a just protection for these very vulnerable young people. While consensus on many aspects of a comprehensive immigration policy remains elusive, it is my hope that people of different perspectives can agree that immigrants brought to America as children should not be deported and sent back to a place they may have no memory of. It is prudent for us to call to mind the teaching of our Savior, “what you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.”  

I urge the people of the Salina Diocese to call upon our representatives in the United States Senate and House of Representatives to seek a solution that is both fair and generous—a solution that does not punish innocent children for the actions of their parents, but rather one that upholds America’s founding values and highest ideals. 

Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger

September 6, 2017

Statement from Bishop on Racism

Racism and bigotry are among the great evils of our age, and the resurgence of neo-Nazi and white-supremacist movements is profoundly troubling.  The follower of Jesus Christ can see something of God’s image in every human being. For this reason, people of faith must unite and speak truth to this evil in our midst.  Let us renew our firm commitment to truth, equality, and universal human dignity.

– Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger

White Mass to be celebrated.

Most Reverend Edward J. Weisenburger, Bishop of the Diocese of Salina, cordially invites you to celebrate a White Mass.

Wednesday, October 18th at 7:00 p.m.
at Sacred Heart Cathedral 
118 N. 9th Street
Salina KS

Traditionally a “White Mass” is celebrated for members of the healthcare profession.  Equally welcome are those who do not work or minister in the healthcare profession but wish to gather with us to pray for all healthcare professionals.  A reception will follow the Mass in the Hall of Bishops.


Featured Events

Catholic News Headlines

  • By Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Celebrating the feast of St. Matthew, the anniversary of the day when as a 17-year-old he said he was overwhelmed by God's mercy, Pope Francis said it was interesting how many Catholics today seem to be scandalized when God shows mercy to someone. In his homily at Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae Sept. 21, Pope Francis looked in depth at the day's short Gospel story of the calling of St. Matthew. The story, the pope said, has three parts: "the encounter, the celebration and the scandal." Jesus sees Matthew, a tax collector -- "one of those who made the people of Israel pay taxes to give to the Romans, a traitor to his country" -- and calls him to follow. Jesus looks at him "lovingly, mercifully" and "the resistance of that man who wanted money, who was a slave to money, falls." "That man knew he was a sinner," the pope said. "He was liked by no one and even despised." But it was "precisely that awareness of being a sinner that opened the door to Jesus' mercy. He left everything and followed." "The first condition for being saved is knowing you are in danger," he said. "The first condition for being healed is feeling sick." In the Gospel story, Matthew celebrates by inviting Jesus for a meal. Pope Francis said it reminded him of what Jesus said in the Gospel of St. Luke, "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance." But, the pope said, the Pharisees saw Jesus with Matthew and were scandalized that he would eat with tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees were people who continually repeated, "The law says this, doctrine says that," the pope said. "But they forgot the first commandment of love and were closed in a cage of sacrifices, (saying), 'We make our sacrifices to God, we keep the Sabbath, we do all we should and so we'll be saved.'" But, the pope said, "God saves us, Jesus Christ saves us and these men did not understand. They felt secure; they thought salvation came from them." In the same way today, he said, "we often hear faithful Catholics who see mercy at work and ask, 'Why?'" There are "many, many, always, even in the church today," the pope said. "They say, 'No, no you can't, it's all clear, they are sinners, we must send them away.'" But, Pope Francis said, Jesus himself answered them when he said, "I have come not to call the just, but sinners." So, "if you want to be called by Jesus, recognize you are a sinner."- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The shouts of joy and cries of despair that greeted Pope Francis' recent changes to canon law regarding liturgical texts appear to be exaggerated. The changes can be read as part of Pope Francis' efforts to promote a "healthy decentralization" of church structures, said Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai. "It makes clear the responsibility of the (bishops') conferences" in preparing faithful translations. "But this is, more or less, the procedure we have been following." "Just a few words have been changed" in canon law, so "we will have to see how it goes in the concrete," said the cardinal, who is a member of the international Council of Cardinals advising the pope on church governance and is a former member of Vox Clara, the committee that advises the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments on liturgical translations in English. The document, "Magnum Principium" ("The Great Principle"), was released by the Vatican Sept. 9. It changes two clauses in canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law: from "reviewing" translations, the Holy See now is asked to "recognize adaptations approved by the episcopal conference"; and bishops' conferences, rather than being called "to prepare and publish" translations, are now called to prepare them "faithfully" and then to approve and publish them "after the confirmation of the Apostolic See." In a note published with the text, Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary of the worship congregation, said under the new rules, the Vatican's "confirmatio" of a translation is "ordinarily granted based on trust and confidence" and "supposes a positive evaluation of the faithfulness and congruence of the texts produced with respect to the typical Latin text." Reactions varied widely. Steve Skojec, publisher and director of the blog OnePeterFive.com, called it "a ticking time bomb" and said, "When it comes to the liturgy of the universal church, episcopal conferences are quite simply out of their depth." Father Michael G. Ryan, the pastor of the cathedral in Seattle, who had led a campaign to delay implementation of the current English translation, asked in America magazine, "Will our bishops respond to this invitation and take a hard look at the woefully inadequate translation we are currently using? We can only hope and pray that their pastoral concern and commitment to liturgical celebrations that are both beautiful and intelligible will prompt them to walk through the door that Pope Francis has opened." Neither Cardinal Gracias nor Msgr. Markus Graulich, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, expect a change anytime soon in the English translation of the Mass. Pope Francis' document, however, could have a more immediate impact on what German- and French-speaking Catholics hear at Mass. The German bishops shelved their translation in 2013; they will discuss the new document at their general assembly in late September. A new French translation of the Mass already was under discussion by the Vatican and French-speaking bishops' conferences, but it has not yet been approved by the conferences and formally submitted to the Vatican. The new document "gives a little endorsement now to (bishops') conferences and, in that sense, it's certainly in the direction of what the Holy Father wants: that conferences take more responsibility and healthy decentralization," Cardinal Gracias told Catholic News Service Sept. 19. "The word 'fidelity' added (to canon law) is from 'Liturgiam Authenticam,'" he said, referring to the 2001 instruction on translations, which was issued by the worship congregation.The pope's changes to canon law confirm its teaching, although "minor modifications" are possible now. "I have a feeling this will open the door" to small national or regional changes, for example in the English text in Africa versus India or North America, the cardinal said. "My personal opinion is that it is very convenient to have one translation for the whole world, but if there are such serious difficulties, I don't think we should force them" to accept a unified translation. He, like Msgr. Graulich, cited the example of bishops in Africa who said that having the people respond to the priest, "And with your spirit" creates difficulties in societies still influenced by animism or belief in witchcraft. "The door is slightly ajar now for some variety," Cardinal Gracias said. The idea, though, that any English-speaking bishop would propose starting the English translation over again is "absolutely ridiculous," he said. The current Missal is "a great improvement" over what existed before, and "nobody has an appetite for big changes now." From a canon law point of view, the document "does not really strengthen episcopal conferences, but it tries to put on a better base the collaboration between the Holy See and the bishops' conferences, because there have been some problems in the last few years," Msgr. Graulich said. "It's a question whether the Holy See can really evaluate, as bishops' conferences can do, what is a proper translation." But, inserting the Latin word "fideliter" into canon law means the translation has to be done in accordance with "Liturgiam Authenticam," he said. "You are not free to make a translation that 'more or less' reports the text, but you have to do a translation that is as true as possible to the Latin original." At the same time, Msgr. Graulich said, the new law encourages collaboration between bishops and the Vatican in judging what constitutes a faithful translation into a specific language. The German translation that has been stalled since 2013 was "a very literal translation," he said. "If I as a celebrant don't understand what I read the first time, how will people in the pews understand it if they only hear it?" "You have structures of language in Latin -- and Italian and Spanish -- that we don't have in German," he said, referring to grammar and, especially, verb tenses. The obligation, which Pope Francis formally added to canon law, that translations be "faithful" to the Latin is the responsibility of the bishops' conference doing the translation, he said, "but then, as the Holy See has to confirm that, it is a second check. It's more check and balance" than shifting power. - - - Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS/L'Osservatore RomanoBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has endorsed an approach of "zero tolerance" toward all members of the church guilty of sexually abusing minors or vulnerable adults. Having listened to abuse survivors and having made what he described as a mistake in approving a more lenient set of sanctions against an Italian priest abuser, the pope said he has decided whoever has been proven guilty of abuse has no right to an appeal, and he will never grant a papal pardon. "Why? Simply because the person who does this (sexually abuses minors) is sick. It is a sickness," he told his advisory commission on child protection during an audience at the Vatican Sept. 21. Members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, including its president -- Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston -- were meeting in Rome Sept. 21-23 for their plenary assembly. Setting aside his prepared text, the pope said he wanted to speak more informally to the members, who include lay and religious experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, theology and law in relation to abuse and protection. The Catholic Church has been "late" in facing and, therefore, properly addressing the sin of sexual abuse by its members, the pope said, and the commission, which he established in 2014, has had to "swim against the tide" because of a lack of awareness or understanding of the seriousness of the problem. "When consciousness comes late, the means for resolving the problem comes late," he said. "I am aware of this difficulty. But it is the reality: We have arrived late." "Perhaps," he said, "the old practice of moving people" from one place to another and not fully facing the problem "lulled consciences to sleep." But, he said, "prophets in the church," including Cardinal O'Malley, have, with the help of God, come forward to shine light on the problem of abuse and to urge the church to face it. Typically when the church has had to deal with new or newly emerging problems, it has turned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to address the issue, he said. And then, only when the problem has been dealt with adequately does the process for dealing with future cases get handed over to another dicastery, he added. Because the problem of cases and allegations of abuse are "grave" -- and because it also is grave that some have not adequately taken stock of the problem -- it is important the doctrinal congregation continue to handle the cases, rather than turning them over directly to Vatican tribunals, as some have suggested. However, he said, the doctrinal congregation will need more personnel to work on cases of abuse in order to expedite the "many cases that do not proceed" with the backlog. Pope Francis told commission members he wants to better balance the membership of the doctrinal team dealing with appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He said the majority of members are canon lawyers, and he would like to balance out their more legalistic approach with more members who are diocesan bishops and have had to deal with abuse in their diocese. He also said proof that an ordained minister has abused a minor "is sufficient (reason) to receive no recourse" for an appeal. "If there is proof. End of story," the pope said; the sentence "is definitive." And, he added, he has never and would never grant a papal pardon to a proven perpetrator. The reasoning has nothing to do with being mean-spirited, but because an abuser is sick and is suffering from "a sickness." The pope told the commission he has been learning "on the job" better ways to handle priests found guilty of abuse, and he recounted a decision he has now come to regret: that of agreeing to a more lenient sanction against an Italian priest, rather than laicizing him as the doctrinal team recommended. Two years later, the priest abused again, and Pope Francis said he has since learned "it's a terrible sickness" that requires a different approach.- - -Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Francisco Guasco, EPABy MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop and a Caritas worker in Mexico said the situation was extremely serious after the Sept. 19 earthquake, and much aid would be needed. "The situation is complicated, because the first earthquake (Sept. 7) had already affected thousands of people in Chiapas and Oaxaca," Alberto Arciniega, head of communications for Caritas Mexico, told Catholic News Service Sept. 20. "The church is continuing to assist those dioceses, but with what happened yesterday, the emergency situation is being re-evaluated to get a more exact assessment of the aid that is needed." All the dioceses in Mexico were collecting food, water and other necessities for victims of the quakes, said Arciniega. He said they were seeking economic support from inside and outside the country. "We know it is a serious situation, and international aid is being requested," Arciniega told Catholic News Service. "Rehabilitation and reconstruction will take time and will be expensive," he added. "Thousands of people have been left homeless, and many churches have been damaged." The magnitude 7.1 quake that hit Sept. 19 was not as strong as the earlier magnitude 8.1 quake, but the second quake was centered in Puebla state, just southeast of Mexico City, as opposed to in the Pacific Ocean. Arciniega said Puebla and Morelos states and Mexico City were worst hit in the second quake. Arciniega shared audio of an interview with Bishop Ramon Castro Castro of Cuernavaca, in Morelos state. The bishop reported "many deaths" and "many churches damaged." He said one colonial-era church collapsed but added, "Miraculously, the priests escaped safely." Bishop Castro said parishes in his diocese had been collecting items to send to victims of the Sept. 7 earthquake in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Now those items -- if they were not destroyed in the Sept. 19 quake -- will be used locally, the bishop said, adding, "but it will not be enough." He said one priest was taken to the hospital with serious injuries after his church collapsed; another was rescued from the rubble. "There is a great deal of solidarity, thank God, but it is not enough. This is a serious disaster," Bishop Castro said. Economic aid is important for "people who have been left homeless, who have been left with nothing, absolutely nothing." "I am on my way now to visit the areas that have suffered the greatest damage, to try to convey a message of encouragement and hope," he said. Arciniega was in Oaxaca when he spoke to CNS. He said the Sept. 19 earthquake was felt there, but apparently did not cause damage. "People (in the south) are worried that the assistance will stop because the cameras and newscasts are focusing on Mexico City. There is fear that the aid will stop and the emphasis will be on the center of the country," he said. He added that it was raining in Tehuantepec, an area of Oaxaca damaged in the first earthquake. "That makes the housing situation more complicated. Not only did people's homes collapse, but now it's raining, so people are in shelters, they need food. They are setting up community kitchens. We are continuing to evaluate how much the diocese can do to help itself and requesting aid from other dioceses and from outside the country." - - - Contributing to this story was Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Jasso, ReutersBy David AgrenMEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Mexican church leaders offered prayers and urged generosity after an earthquake struck the national capital and its environs, claiming more than 240 lives -- including at least 20 children trapped in a collapsed school. The U.S. bishops joined them in prayer, asking for the protection of "Our Lady of Guadalupe, comforter of the afflicted and mother most merciful." The magnitude 7.1 earthquake Sept. 19 added to the misery of Mexicans who suffered a magnitude 8.1 earthquake 12 days earlier. That quake left nearly 100 dead in the country's southern states and left thousands more homeless. "We join the pain and grief of the victims of the earthquake, which occurred today ... in various parts of our country," the Mexican bishops' conference said in a Sept. 19 statement. "Today, more than ever, we invite the community of God to join in solidarity for our brothers who are suffering various calamities that have struck our country." Mexicans have responded to the earthquake with acts of solidarity. The telephone system was overwhelmed and traffic snarled as power outages affected traffic lights. In hard-hit neighborhoods, people poured in, armed with buckets and shovels to help clear rubble from collapsed buildings, where people were trapped. Others were quick to donate food and drink to those assisting. "Once again we are witnesses to the people of Mexico's solidarity," the bishops' statement said. "Thousands of hands have formed chains of life to rescue, feed or do their small part in the face of these emergencies." Caritas chapters across the country opened collection centers to help those harmed by the earthquake. In Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera asked all parishes in the impacted areas, along with priests religious and laity to "collaborate with the authorities in order to assist people that have been affected and show Christian solidarity," said an article published in archdiocesan newspaper Desde la Fe. Dioceses in Puebla and Morelos, south of the capital, reported widespread damage to churches. Caritas Mexico, the church's aid organization, reported at least 42 people dead in Morelos and 13 deaths in Puebla, where a dozen churches also collapsed. Damage was widespread in parts of Mexico City, where at least 27 buildings collapsed, said President Enrique Pena Nieto. A private school collapsed in Mexico City, trapping students ranging from kindergarten to junior high school. The Associated Press reported at least 25 students and teachers died, with others remaining unaccounted for. As often happens in disasters, authorities expected the death toll to rise, because people could have been trapped in buildings when they collapsed. At his general audience Sept. 20, Pope Francis prayed for victims and rescue personnel, invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico. "In this moment of suffering," he said, "I want to express my closeness and prayers to the entire Mexican population." Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City expressed his sympathy to the relatives of those who had lost loved ones in the earthquake. He urged parishes, religious and the lay faithful to work with government authorities to "aid people who have been affected and demonstrate Christian solidarity." The quake epicenter was in Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. Earthquakes usually affect Mexico City as much of it is built on a former lake bed and buildings sway in the soft soil, even though the epicenters are in distant states. That phenomenon allows an earthquake warning to sound, giving people approximately a minute to evacuate their buildings. The alarm did not sound Sept. 19, however. "It totally frightened me," said Pedro Anaya, a small-business owner. He decided to help, joining the hundreds of people hauling away debris from a collapsed apartment building in the trendy Condesa neighborhood. "I saw that my family was OK so I came to help," he said. - - - Contributing to this story was Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru. - - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.