• 1
  • 2
  • 3

New development director begins work across the diocese

The Register

Salina — For Beth Shearer, her new position as the Director of Stewardship and Development for the Salina Diocese is one that melds more than three decades of professional experience with her faith.  “This is a way for me to merge a lifetime of fundraising/development experience with my Catholic faith,” Shearer said. “It’s humbling to be in this position, when you are able to merge your life experiences with your faith.”

The primary task of the office of development and stewardship is to The primary task of the office of stewardship and development is to guide the philanthropic efforts that will fund the current and future needs of the Salina diocese.  Shearer has been in the Chancery in a consulting capacity since March 15. She is familiarizing herself with the diocesan operations, and will begin meeting with people across the diocese starting June 1.

“I am going to get to know the individuals in the diocese who are giving to the diocese and why they do that,” she said. “I want to get to know what people’s philanthropic goals are, and then match those to the philanthropic needs of the Salina Diocese.”

Pamela Sullivan, Chancellor for the Salina Diocese, said Shearer will continue the stewardship and development work that many throughout the diocese are familiar with.  “Several of Beth’s first endeavors in her new position will be to contact our faithful donors throughout the diocese to solicit, receive and manage donations, bequests, endowments, current and deferred gifts on behalf of the diocese, its parishes, schools, agencies and ministries,” Sullivan said. “Beth will also be creating a campaign to promote legacy giving across the diocese, which will include workshops in our parishes diocesan-wide. Our hope is to have Beth nurture strong and healthy rapport with donors and potential donors throughout our entire diocese.”

A parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Salina, Shearer has lived in Salina since 1981. Her first development job was at Marymount College.  She was also the Executive Director of the YWCA of Salina, Director of Development for Kansas State University — Salina, Director of Development for the Kansas Pediatric Foundation and a consultant for Betty Johnson & Assoc., as well as Paul J. Strawhecker Inc.

She has two adult sons: one in Florida and one in Wichita.

“Beth brings tremendous experience to our Stewardship and Development Office,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger said. “As a local Catholic she also has a rich understanding of our Diocese and people. I believe she will be a great blessing for us.”

St. Isidore Day: Annual gathering held in Washington

Washington — About three dozen gathered May 15 to celebrate St. Isidore Day, which included Mass, blessing of flock and field, lunch and agricultural tours.  The day began with Mass with Bishop Edward Weisenburger at St. Augustine Church.

Pat Klozenbucher and her husband, Duane, were among the group. Retired farmers, the duo heard about the gathering. “We enjoyed just about everything,” Pat Klozenbucher said.  Following Mass, Bishop Weisenburger blessed seeds for attendees.

Don Martin, who lives in Hanover, attended with some corn seeds.  “We had sweet corn and when we got home from the activity, we planted a couple rows,” he said. “The seeds were blessed, and then we had a wonderful rain the night we planted them.”

Martin said he attended the event once before when it was in Hanover. He and his wife, Susan, are parishioners at St. John in Hanover.  They went with the group to the farm of James and Trudy Cole in Washington, where Bishop Weisenburger blessed the fields. 

Father Richard Daise, moderator for the Rural Life Commission, said he was talking with the Cole family after the bishop headed back to the parish.  “I said ‘It would be nice if you had cattle,’ ” Father Daise said. “And he said ‘I have some buffalo.’ So (Father Brian Lager) and I got to bless the buffalo.”

Following lunch, the group embarked on two agricultural tours: Fairview Mills, which is owned by J-Six Enterprises and KSDS.  Father Daise said Fairview Mills is a corn cob processing facility. The cobs are used for a variety of animal bedding.  “I am like a third grader, I soak it in. It was fantastic,” he said, and added he blessed the processing plant during the tour.

Martin said they always wondered what went on in the processing facility.  “They work that 24 hours a day,” Pat Klozenbucher said. “They don’t waste any part of the cob. They use every bit of it.”

Following the tour of Fairview Mills, the group went to KSDS. Previously known as Kansas Specialty Dog Service, the organization trains service dogs.  “It’s still ag-related, but a rural Kansas industry,” Father Daise said.

Martin said the day was a reminder of the importance of rural life and jobs.  “Farming and ranching is the lifeblood of our community here,” he said. “I ­ thought it was very nice we could have God’s blessing on the benefits of the life here in rural Kansas. This reminds us how important it is and to ask God’s blessing on all who work to make our food possible to us.”

The next event hosted by the Rural Life Commission is Rural Life Day. It will be held in Wilson on Aug. 20.

Unanswered prayers

Throughout her journey with Cystic Fibrosis, double lung transplant, Junction City native Becky Keating deepens her relationship with God

The Register

Junction City — When Becky Keating tells her story, she always starts the same way.

“I always teach about the beauty of unanswered prayers,” the 27-year-old said. “This all came about because God didn’t answer my initial prayer.”  Born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), her body produces an excess of mucus, which builds up on the lungs.  She uses her journey as a starting point on Sunday nights when the high school youth gather at St. Francis Xavier parish. 

“Just because your prayer wasn’t answered does not mean that God isn’t listening,” she said. “I preach to the kids all the time that no matter what you do — you can pray 600 Hail Marys and go to Confession every day … you can go to (Lourdes,) France. If (being healed from CF) is not God’s plan, no amount of negotiating will change that.”  At 14 or 15 years old, she said she first learned about St. Bernadette and of the healing waters in Lourdes, France.

While she would not visit the site for nearly a decade, she was convinced that a visit to the location where bathing in the water would cure her CF.  “I thought I’d be cured if I went to the grotto,” she said. “I wouldn’t have to be in the hospital or miss my friend’s birthday parties. I’d finally be normal.”

It was during high school that her team of doctors first tossed out the words “lung transplant.”  Keating’s answer was immediate and firm: No.  “I thought there was a miracle waiting for me in Lourdes,” she said.  Yet she did not go to France. Not then.  Instead, she graduated from St. Francis Xavier High School in 2008 and went to Benedictine College in Atchison.

“I got to get to go to college, which is something most CF patients never have the chance to do,” Keating said. She added that many people with CF are hospitalized three or four times per year. Additionally, the daily routine often consists of three hours of chest therapy to keep airways clear.  “I inherited my father’s pure stubbornness and went to college and loved it,” she said.

Yet her lungs didn’t.  Her body kept producing mucus that coated her lungs. By her senior year, they were functioning at only 20 percent.  “I thought Lourdes needed to happen now or it wouldn’t happen at all,” Keating said.

The parish community at St. Francis Xavier, as well as friends in Kansas City, rallied around Keating and her parents, Jeff and Joan. Tickets were purchased and the trio went to Lourdes, France in 2012.  “It’s beautiful,” Keating said. “You drive in and feel hope floating around in the city.  “I remember my dad pointed out the grotto and a feeling leaped out of my chest.”


Three to be ordained permanent deacons

The Register

Salina — On June 10, Bishop Edward Weisenburger will ordain three permanent deacons who will serve in the Salina Diocese.  Michael Brungardt of Oakley, Michael Robinson of Clay Center and Thomas Schrick of Colby will be ordained at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina. All are welcome.

This is the third class of permanent deacons that will be ordained within the diocese, said Father Frank Coady, the director of deacons. The first class of seven men was ordained in 2009, the second class of 10 men was ordained in 2013. 

Permanent deacons assist throughout the diocese in several ways: service, ministry of the word and assisting with the liturgy.  “Preaching is a big part of their ministry,” Father Coady said. “Often deacons will organize or run scripture study groups. They also are involved in RCIA because it’s a preaching/teaching ministry.”

Another visible area is assisting at Mass: proclaiming the Gospel, preparing the altar, introduce the sign of peace and the dismissal at the end of Mass.  “Part of their liturgical function is they can baptize, do funerals without Mass and do weddings without Mass,” Father Coady said.  

The process of becoming a permanent deacon is similar to discerning the seminary.  “We do the same psychological testing we do on seminarians,” Father Coady said, “and a lot of the same discernment process we use for potential priests is used for potential deacons. It’s a serious vetting process.”


Kansas lawmakers consider axing school tax credit

Members of the Kansas Legislature have much to concern themselves with this year. A long-term fix to the state’s budget woes continues to elude lawmakers’ grasp. Proposals for major changes to tax and health care policy are on the table. Yet for some legislators, there is no issue more pressing than the need to kill a program that allows a small number of children from low-income families to attend the private school of their dreams.

In 2014, the Legislature passed the first school choice program in the state of Kansas. Under this law, children from low-income families can receive scholarships financed entirely by private donations that they can use for tuition at private schools. Donor corporations receive a tax credit from the state, but no taxpayer dollars go to the private schools.

It is telling that when taxpayers want to use Medicare or Medicaid at a private or religious hospital, nary an eyebrow is raised. But the idea of even indirect public support for private schools causes all too many politicians to run for cover. This may have something to do with the fact that public hospital interest groups are not fighting medical choice tooth and nail to the tune of millions in political campaign contributions.

Kansas’ nascent tax credit scholarship program has so many limitations on it that most Kansas kids have not been able to participate. For a sense of how small the program is, consider that there are almost 500,000 public school students in Kansas, while only 188 tax credit scholarships were awarded in 2016. Donor corporations received $553,000 in tax credits, while the state spent $4 billion on K-12 public education.

Yet rather than expanding the program, some very determined political activists and their allies in the Legislature are attempting to shut it down before it even gets off the ground. Everyone has to make a living, but when it’s your job to deny low-income, mostly minority kids a chance at a school that could change their life, maybe it’s time to reassess your career path.

Modern times are marked by unprecedented levels of consumer choice in almost all sectors of the human endeavor. Yet when it comes to parents being able to pick the school that is best for their kids, K-12 education is stuck in a time warp. Unless you have the financial means to pay for both private school tuition and taxes for public education, your kids are supposed to go to the government-run school that the government tells them to attend, much as a century ago.

Now, 188 kids have been given an alternative. A door to actual choices for parents and children in Kansas has been cracked open. Unfortunately, it is in very real danger of being slammed back shut.

Michael Schuttloffel is the Executive Director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, based in Topeka. 

Bishop celebrates annual Mass of appreciation for religious sisters

Salina — About 30 religious sisters from across the Diocese of Salina gathered May 17 at Sacred Heart Cathedral to join in prayer and celebration for religious life.  Bishop Edward Weisenburger, along with nearly a dozen priests from the diocese, celebrated Mass. During his homily over the Gospel of John, he emphasized the importance of everyone as “the priestly people of God.”  “As I was reflecting on this vine and branches … I think sisters, every time you take care of someone who is poor, you connected the branch to the vine,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “You fulfilled the call to be a priestly people of God.”

He said the task of the priestly people of God is to express love in a non sacramental way.  “When each of us lives up to our vocation and we connect people to God we are being the priestly people,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “Every time you are with someone you work with someone in need, every time you are in prayer for someone, you are connecting the branch to the vine. You are fulfilling your vocation as a priestly people of heaven.”

Sister Carolyn Teter, a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia for more than 60 years, said she has not been to the annual Mass of recognition and appreciation for all religious sisters serving in the diocese for several years.  “It was a joyful thing to see the bishop and priest and sisters,” she said. “I didn’t realize there were so many sisters in habit. It was neat to see.”  Four habited sisters from  Missionaries of the Eucharistic Heart of Christ the King serve the Hispanic community in Salina. Two habited sistsers from Missionary Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer and St. Bridget serve the Hispanic population in Hays.

Sister Betty Maschka, CSJ, said she always enjoys the annual event.  “We really appreciate (the bishop’s) appreciation,” she said. “The bishop is always very gracious and has something inspiring to say.”  The annual Mass and luncheon provides an opportunity for the sisters and priests to gather in a non-working capacity, which she said is nice.  “I think it’s important because we do work together, but don’t often get together to celebrate and pray together,” Sister Betty said.

Seminarian recognition dinner is June 1 in Salina

Salina — The fourth annual “An Evening with Our Seminarians” will take place June 1 at St. Mary Queen of the Universe Parish. 

All of the diocese’s seminarians, several priests and Bishop Edward Weisenburger will be on hand to meet with guests.

The evening begins with Vespers (evening prayer) at 6:30 p.m., followed by a catered meal and a short program. The event is open to the public, but reservations are required. The cost is $50 per person, with reservations required by May 22.

“This event was started in 2014 as a way for me and those in the diocese to recognize and share the stories of the men studying for the priesthood in our diocese,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “Many parishioners across the diocese have been supporting and praying for these men as they continue their formation. This event is a way for these people to meet and visit with each seminarian and find out how called has called them to their discernment. The funds raised from the event are used exclusively for seminarian education. ” 

On April 22, seminarian Andrew Hammeke was ordained as a transitional deacon. On June 3, three transitional deacons will be ordained to the priesthood: Deacon Leo Blasi, Deacon Ryan McCandless and Deacon Justin Palmer. 

Katie Platten, the volunteer event coordinator, said that supporters many buy a table and fill it with family and friends. However, individual tickets are also available. It is a great way to meet not just the seminarians but also others from throughout the diocese. 

“The diocese is blessed to have so many men who are faithfully inspired to heed and follow their calling,” Platten said. “We also celebrate the many people who support our seminarians, and to see them coming together to honor each other is amazing. This event is an opportunity to meet our seminarians and offer our support and recognition of their gift of stewardship to our diocese.”

The Diocese of Salina currently has 12 seminarians in formation, with continued inquiries about the seminary from others, Weisenburger said.

“We have a great group of men, each with their unique story to share,” he said. 

Cost is $50 per person. For more information, contact Beth Shearer or Lois Yost at (785)827-8746 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


New priests have historic ties for Sacred Vessels, First Mass

Salina — After they ordained June 3 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina, Deacon Leo Blasi, Deacon Ryan McCandless and Deacon Justin Palmer will celebrate their First Mass of Thanksgiving June 4. 

Deacon Blasi has several special connections. St. Andrew Parish in Abilene, where he has been a parishioner since 2004, gifted a chalice and paten to him. They were left to the church by Father John Moeder, who died in 2012.  Deacon Blasi’s siblings and children chipped in to have the chalice and paten refurbished. He also had his wedding ring re-cast and affixed to the stem of his chalice.

When it was time for him to head to St. Meinrad Seminary in St Meinrad, Ind., the Kellers hosted a party.  “They bought dinner for the whole parish house and then surprised me with a gift a pewter chalice with a personal inscription,” Deacon McCandless said. “It was such a touching gift and an affirmation of their confidence in me of calling to be a priest.”  He said he is looking forward to seeing the couple at his Mass of Thanksgiving.

In addition to the special pewter chalice, Deacon McCandless was recently granted permission to acquire a chalice from the diocesan archives. The chalice, which was a gift to Msgr. Christopher Roche from his home parish in Corofin, Ireland. Msgr. Roche came to the Diocese of Concordia in 1908 and served in Esbon, Mankato,  Jewell City, Formosa, Burr Oak, Smith Center, Ogden, McDowell Creek and Abilene. He was also a military chaplain at Fort Riley during World War I.

Deacon Palmer said a special historic tie of his Mass of Thanksgiving is the location: St. Wenceslaus Church in Wilson.  His great-uncle, Father Maurice Ptacek, celebrated his Mass of Thanksgiving in the same church 55 years ago, on  June 4, 1962.  “Unfortunately, I don’t remember ever meeting him, because I was young when he passed away, but I have heard many stories about him from my family members, who have also sent me pictures of his First Mass,” Deacon Palmer said. 

Featured Events

Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, ReutersBy CAIRO (CNS) -- Christians in Egypt "are getting to this idea that we could be a martyr at any moment," the spokesman for the nation's Catholic bishops told Catholic News Service. The spokesman, Father Rafic Greiche, also lamented the number of children killed in an attack on a bus carrying Coptic Orthodox Christians to St. Samuel Monastery in southern Egypt May 26. At least 26 people, many of them children, were killed when masked assailants attacked the bus. Dozens of others were injured. "It is too early to say who is behind it, but certainly terrorists, and the security forces are now scanning the area" to find the culprits, Tarek Attia, Interior Ministry official, told Sky News Arabia, an Arabic-language television station, May 26. He said three cars carrying the masked gunmen had attacked the bus at roughly 10:30 a.m. in the southern governorate of Minya, a traditional stronghold of Egypt's Christian community, which accounts for a tiny percent of the country's mostly Sunni Muslim population. At the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, expressing Pope Francis' prayers and solidarity after the "barbaric attack." "Mindful in a particular way of those children who have lost their lives, His Holiness commends the souls of the deceased to the mercy of the Almighty. He assures their grieving families and all who have been injured of his ardent prayers, and he pledges his continued intercession for peace and reconciliation throughout the nation," the telegram said. The attack marked the latest in a series of deadly attacks on Coptic Christians, whose church was founded by St. Mark the Apostle in the first century, and whose community represents the largest of the Middle East's Christian minorities. On April 9, two suicide bombers attacked St. George's Cathedral in Egypt's northern city of Tanta and St. Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria. Those attacks killed and maimed dozens in what was the deadliest attack against Christians in Egypt's recent history. A nationwide state of emergency has been in place since. In a widely publicized visit to Egypt soon after the April attacks, Pope Francis addressed the terrorist violence carried out in the name of a fundamentalist reading of Islam. Pope Francis frequently has said there are more Christians being martyred today than during the persecutions of the church in the early centuries of Christianity. And, using the term "ecumenism of blood," he has noted how Christians divided into churches and denominations are united in mourning for their members killed not because they are Orthodox or Catholic, but simply because they are Christian. The pope paid tribute to the Coptic Orthodox Church's modern martyrs, praying before a memorial in Cairo marking the place where 29 people were killed and 31 wounded in December by a suicide bomber. He told Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, "Your sufferings are also our sufferings." After the May 26 attack, the Coptic Orthodox Church released a statement saying, "We extend our condolences to all the affected families and are suffering with the entire country due to this evil and violence." "We hope for the necessary procedures to prevent these kinds of attacks, which degrade the image of Egypt and cause so much suffering to Egyptians," the statement said. Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak of Alexandria sent condolences to Pope Tawardros and "all families of all the martyrs," reported the Egyptian paper, Al Masry al Youm. Ashraf Sultan, Egyptian parliament spokesman, told Sky News Arabia, "This is an attack on the entire society and affects us all." And Egypt's top authority on Islam, Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, said that "such attacks can never satisfy a Muslim or a Christian."  In Washington, Cardinal Daniel N. Di Nardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared the May attacks with previous attacks, noting that, again, children were murdered as they traveled to church. "Though our grief is unbearable, our unity grows all the more strong. That unity is the way to peace," he said, sending prayers and condolences to the Egyptians. Other church leaders around the world also reacted. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem expressed the condolences of churches in the Holy Land. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, offered prayers and said, "This attack reminds us again of the horrific persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and their courageous witness to their faith." An Egyptian Interior Ministry statement said unknown assailants driving three four-wheel-drive vehicles had attacked by "randomly shooting" the bus carrying the Copts, and that an official count of the final toll was underway. Local media showed grainy images of bloody bodies strewn on sandy ground, indicating many of the slain had fled the bus trying to escape the assailants' bullets. Later, the media showed images of the wounded being taken to hospitals and reported that el-Sissi was calling for an emergency security meeting to address the attack. El-Sissi had instructed authorities to take all necessary measures to attend to the injured and arrest the assailants, the local media reported. Asked about government assurances that security in the country would be tightened, Father Greiche told CNS: "It is now time for action, not just words." - - -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) -- Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump spent 30 minutes speaking privately in the library of the Apostolic Palace May 24, and as the president left, he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said." The atmosphere at the beginning was formal and a bit stiff. However, the mood lightened when Pope Francis met the first lady, Melania Trump, and asked if she fed her husband "potica," a traditional cake in Slovenia, her homeland. There were smiles all around. Pope Francis gave Trump a split medallion held together by an olive tree, which his interpreter told Trump is "a symbol of peace." Speaking in Spanish, the pope told Trump, "I am giving you this because I hope you may be this olive tree to make peace." The president responded, "We can use peace." Pope Francis also gave the president a copy of his message for World Peace Day 2017 and told him, "I signed it personally for you." In addition, he gave Trump copies of three of his documents: "The Joy of the Gospel"; "Amoris Laetitia," on the family; and "Laudato Si,'" on the environment. Knowing that Pope Francis frequently has quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Trump presented Pope Francis with a large gift box containing five of the slain civil rights leader's books, including a signed copy of "The Strength to Love." "I think you will enjoy them," Trump told the pope. "I hope you do." After meeting the pope, Trump went downstairs to meet Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister. He was accompanied by Rex Tillerson, U.S. secretary of state, and H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. The meeting lasted 50 minutes. Tillerson later told reporters that climate change did not come up in the meeting with the pope, but that U.S. officials had "a good exchange on the climate change issue" with Cardinal Parolin. "The cardinal was expressing their view that they think it's an important issue," Tillerson said. "I think they were encouraging continued participation in the Paris accord. But we had a good exchange (on) the difficulty of balancing addressing climate change, responses to climate change, and ensuring that you still have a thriving economy and you can still offer people jobs so they can feed their families and have a prosperous economy." Asked how Trump responded to Cardinal Parolin's encouragement to stick with the Paris climate agreement, Tillerson said: "The president indicated we're still thinking about that, that he hasn't made a final decision. He, I think, told both Cardinal Parolin and also told Prime Minister (Paolo) Gentiloni that this is something that he would be taking up for a decision when we return from this trip. It's an opportunity to hear from people. We're developing our own recommendation on that. So it'll be something that will probably be decided after we get home." Tillerson also told reporters he did not know what Trump meant when he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said." The Vatican described the president's meetings with both the pope and with top Vatican diplomats as consisting of "cordial discussions," with both sides appreciating "the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of religion and of conscience." "It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of health care, education and assistance to immigrants," the Vatican said. The discussions also included "an exchange of views" on international affairs and on "the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities." Because of the pope's weekly general audience, Pope Francis and Trump met at 8:30 a.m., an unusually early hour for a formal papal meeting. The early hour meant Pope Francis still could greet the thousands of pilgrims and visitors waiting for him in St. Peter's Square. Many of those pilgrims, though, had a more difficult than normal time getting into the square. Security measures were tight, with hundreds of state police and military police patrolling the area and conducting more attentive searches of pilgrims' bags. Reaching the St. Damasus Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, where the U.S. flag flew for the morning, Trump was welcomed by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, and a formation of 15 Swiss Guards. Accompanied by the archbishop up an elevator and down a frescoed hallway, the president passed more Swiss Guards in the Clementine Hall. Although the president and Pope Francis are known to have serious differences on issues such as immigration, economic policy and climate change, the pope told reporters 11 days before the meeting that he would look first for common ground with the U.S. leader. "There are always doors that are not closed," the pope told reporters May 13. "We have to find doors that are at least a little open in order to go in and speak about things we have in common and go forward." After leaving the Vatican, the president was driven across Rome for meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Asked by reporters there how his meeting with the pope went, Trump responded, "Great." "He is something," Trump said. "We had a fantastic meeting." Meanwhile, the first lady went to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu children's hospital -- right next door to the Pontifical North American College, which is where U.S. seminarians in Rome live. Trump's daughter, Ivanka, went to the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Catholic lay movement, for a meeting on combating human trafficking. The United States and the Vatican have long partnered on anti-trafficking initiatives, a common effort White House officials had said Trump hoped to discuss with the pope. The White House also pointed to a shared commitment to promote religious freedom around the world and to end religious persecution. The evening before Trump met the pope, the Vatican newspaper carried two articles on Trump policies. One, echoing the U.S. bishops, praised the Trump administration's decision to extend by six months the Temporary Protected Status program for Haitian citizens in the United States. The second article was about the budget plan the Trump White House released May 23. L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, noted that it contained cuts in subsidies "for the poorest segments of the population" and "a drastic -- 10 percent -- increase for military spending." What is more, the newspaper said, "the budget also includes financing for the construction of the wall along the border with Mexico. We are talking about more than $1.6 billion." The border wall is an issue where Pope Francis and President Trump have a very clear and public difference of opinion. In February 2016, shortly after celebrating a Mass in Mexico just yards from the border, Pope Francis was asked by reporters about then-candidate Trump's promise to build a wall the entire length of the border. "A person who thinks only of building walls, wherever it may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian," the pope said. Trump, asked by reporters to comment on that, said Mexico was "using the pope as a pawn," and he said it was "disgraceful" for a religious leader to question someone's faith. On the eve of the pope's meeting with Trump, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of an influential Italian Jesuit journal, noted that the differences between the two were drawing a lot of attention. However, he wrote, "Francis, the pope of bridges, wants to speak with any head of state who asks him to because he knows that in crises" like the world faces today "there are not only absolute 'good guys' and absolute 'bad guys.'" "The history of the world is not a Hollywood film," Father Spadaro wrote on his blog May 23. The pope's approach, he said, is "to meet the major players in the field in order to reason together and to propose to everyone the greatest good, exercising the soft power that seems to me to be the specific trait of his international policy." - - - Contributing to this story were Junno Arocho Esteves and Carol Glatz at the Vatican. - - -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: EPABy Rhina GuidosWASHINGTON (CNS) -- Worried about the fate of some of their students, more than 65 college presidents representing U.S. Catholic institutions asked for a meeting with the Secretary of Homeland Security to talk about immigration policy. "As leaders of Catholic colleges and universities, we are dedicated to educating students from all backgrounds. In keeping with this commitment, many of our institutions are home to young men and women who are undocumented and have met the criteria for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). We are deeply concerned about the futures of our undocumented students," said the May 23 letter addressed to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. In the letter, they cited incidents in which DACA recipients have been placed under immigration detention, including a case in which one of them was deported, and said that "recent actions and statements by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about young people who met the DACA criteria raise many questions about the safety of our students." They referred in particular to a tweet from ICE that said: "DACA is not a protected legal status, but active DACA recipients are typically a lower level of enforcement priority." Addressing Kelly, they said: "implementation of immigration enforcement policies falls under your discretion. We respectfully request a meeting with you to better understand how enforcement agencies are approaching DACA holders." John Gehring, Catholic program director at Washington's advocacy group Faith in Public Life, which along with the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities helped coordinate the effort, said there were worries because of "aggressive enforcement tactics we're seeing around the country." And since Kelly is Catholic, they wanted to convey to him that "the Catholic community is concerned with these aggressive actions," Gehring said in a phone interview with Catholic News Service. He added that the culture of fear those aggressive actions have created is "unacceptable." The list of signers includes the presidents of The Catholic University of America in Washington, Trinity Washington University, as well as Villanova, Gonzaga, Fordham, Loyola and Santa Clara universities. The college presidents say they want to "clarify" the administration's stance on the special status granted to the students via the Obama-era's DACA policy that allowed minors who had been brought into the country without proper documentation a temporary reprieve from deportation and a work permit, if they met certain conditions. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump said he would do away with the DACA policy. As president, he said he would decide what to do about the policy "with heart" and has said that it's a "difficult" decision to grapple with. Some of the recipients are "absolutely wonderful kids," he said in a February news conference, but then immediately also said that some DACA recipients are "gang members and they're drug dealers, too." The college presidents said that as the academic year concludes, they worry about what the future brings because "many of these students will leave our campuses for internships, summer programs and jobs. Our prayer is that they return." They said they want to meet with Kelly to discuss the administration's policies and request that he take steps to protect their immigrant students who are at risk of deportation. Gehring said the Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged receiving the letter. The students for whom the college leaders are advocating are known in immigration circles as "dreamers" because of a bipartisan bill called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, that failed to pass in 2010. It would have granted residency in the country for some unauthorized persons brought in to the country as minors, if they met certain conditions. "Our shared faith calls us to protect the most vulnerable among us," said the letter signed by the college presidents. "Over the years, we have opened the doors of our colleges and universities to dreamers and advocated for comprehensive immigration reform so that they and their families can live safe, full lives in our country." Jesuit Father Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University New Orleans, said sending back young men and women to countries they don't know is "morally wrong," particularly when they contribute much to the U.S. "We are committed to doing everything we can to protect these students. We urge Secretary Kelly and President Trump to do the same," said Father Wildes in a news release about the letter. Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, said her institution would stand in solidarity with "dreamers" and other immigrants. "No nation can claim greatness by treating our youth as dispensable because of conditions for which they are not responsible," she said. "We reject as cruel and immoral, and will resist to the greatest extent possible, any government effort to harm our students and their families." John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, said the Catholic Church has always stood with immigrants but particularly with the young and with families seeking a better life. "In our time, some of those young people are university students who have qualified for DACA protection," he said. "While the need for immigration reform is evident, we hope that policymakers will pay particular attention to the integrity of the family, the importance of work and the dignity of the human person." Others spoke of how Catholic higher education traditionally "has welcomed students on society's margins," and recalled the pope's words during his apostolic visit to the U.S. in 2015 when he said immigrants provide "many gifts" to a nation.- - -Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.- - -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/Tyler OrsburnBy Dennis SadowskiWASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump's proposed fiscal year 2018 budget sent shivers through social service, education and environmental communities, prompting church leaders and advocates to question the administration's commitment to people in need. The leaders repeated in interviews with Catholic News Service that a budget is a moral document that reflects the nation's priorities and that they found that the spending plan revealed May 23 backs away from the country's historical support for children, the elderly and the poor, and protecting the environment. Their concern focuses on the deep cuts -- totaling $52 billion in fiscal year 2018 and $3.6 trillion over the next decade -- in international aid, senior services, health care, hunger prevention, job training, air and water protection, and climate change research. The cuts essentially are paying for a corresponding $52 billion boost in military spending. "We say there's a human component here. It's not just about defense. It's not just about deficits," said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. "Too often we think the budget is a number. It's not. Right behind those numbers are human beings and they look like you and they look like me," he told CNS. Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, echoed Bishop Dewane's contention, saying she was "profoundly disturbed" by the White House plan. "You can't have people who are suffering and expect them to bring themselves out of poverty when we cut off their access to food and health care and job training. It's absolutely ridiculous," she said. "Clearly, it's saying where the values are of this administration. And their values do not align with our values as people of faith who are charged with looking out for those among us who are most in need," Sister Markham added. But rather than directly engage the White House, officials at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and other agencies are planning to turn to Congress, which they see as a firewall to minimize the depth of the cuts being proposed. They have four months of work before a budget must be in place Sept. 30, the start of the next fiscal year. Democrats in Congress, as expected, have opposed the change in spending priorities. Many Republicans have as well, describing the plan assembled by Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget and a Georgetown University graduate, simply as a starting point. That still worries social service administrators such as Gregory R. Kepferle, CEO of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County in San Jose, California. "By just presenting this extreme case, it's a classic negotiating ploy (to) be as obnoxious and extreme as possible and then move to the middle," Kepferle said. "It still means devastating cuts to the poor and more money for the rich. It's a breathtaking transfer of wealth from the poorest of the poor to the wealthy." Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, is so concerned about the budget plan that he has undertaken a day of fasting and prayer on the 21st day of each month from now through December 2018 when the current session of Congress ends. Bishop Pates said the effort, organized by Bread for the World, for which he serves on the board of directors, is a time-honored tradition in the face of injustice. "In addition to the lobbying efforts, we really feel that prayer and fasting and relationship together as a religious community is very important," he said. A look at the numbers provides insight into the concern that prompted such action. Through fiscal year 2027, the budget outline incorporates more than $800 billion in reduced Medicaid spending envisioned in the House-approved American Health Care Act, which is under review in the Senate. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, will see $192 billion in reduced spending over the decade. In Trump's plan, deep cuts are proposed for teacher training, after-school and summer programs, Women, Infants and Children nutrition assistance, and the Senior Community Service Employment Program. The $200-million McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program and the $3-billion Community Development Block Grant program are among the better-known programs slated for elimination. The Environmental Protection Agency would lose $2.5 billion, about 31 percent of its current budget. Plans call for reducing support for research and development, the Superfund cleanup program and the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Funding for international climate change programs would end. Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, said it appears that the administration values business profits over people's health. "There's this sense that if it's hurting business then it's a bad regulation," Misleh said. "I certainly think there are undoubtedly some regulations that can be scaled back or done away with, maybe environmental regulations that outlive their usefulness. But I also think that can't be the only criteria whether we judge a regulation is good or bad. "How these regulations impact people should be the first priority and whether business can afford them or is truly detrimental to business is another conversation," he said. "As Catholics, we should be concerned about how these environmental rules and regulations impact people." Some proposals in the budget have long been sought by Catholic advocates. The fiscal year 2018 plan includes $1.4 billion for charter schools, private schools and other school choice initiatives. Another provision would prohibit funding for any agency that offers abortion services even though federal funds cannot be used for the procedure, as current law requires. If adopted, the proposal would end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. "A great country does not send money to those who kills its children," Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said in a statement, supporting the budget provision. "It's appropriate not to force taxpayers to subsidize abortionists and it's logical to exclude Planned Parenthood from health programs. Abortion is not health care." Still, there are overarching concerns about the impact of the budget on people who are least able to fend for themselves. "Adding money to the military is not going to solve our problems," said Lawrence Couch, director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Washington. "In the long run this is untenable. Eventually people will not tolerate that type of situation where they are not at the table." Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, said cuts in Medicaid funding are particularly troublesome because nearly half of such spending supports senior citizens and disabled people. "If (the budget is) implemented as proposed I think many people will kind of fall through the cracks," he said. "I do have a certain hope and confidence as it goes through the legislative process that people will realize that the proposed budget needs significant modification." When it comes to international aid, a spokesman for Catholic Relief Services said foreign aid cuts ultimately could affect national security because poverty and desperation would expand. Bill O'Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy at the agency, called on Congress to protect nearly $60 billion in diplomacy and development aid. O'Keefe cited the McGovern-Dole food program as one that has made a difference in the lives of children at a small cost. In a region of Honduras, for example, the program provides 90,000 children with a lunch at school, allowing them to attend classes and reducing the likelihood they will join a violent gang, O'Keefe said. "It's not just lunch," he told CNS. "It's providing opportunities for kids to go to school, get a quality education and for the community to engage in the school in a way that's good for the community." In the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Patrick J. Raglow, executive director of Catholic Charities, predicted people will feel the pinch of reduced services. While the agency does not receive federal funds outside of refugee resettlement and natural disaster services, Raglow expects that it will be counted on to provide broader assistance particularly in rural communities if the proposed budget remains substantially untouched. He suggested that funding will have to be sought elsewhere to meet existing needs if the cuts go through. "It means you have to engage the (wider) community differently to sustain the community you're serving. We have to be faithful to God almighty, not to Uncle Sam almighty," Raglow said. "It does mean you have to get off your duff and get out of your office and you've got to make some asks," he added. "Resources are available. You just have to go out and find them. But we shouldn't sit there and crawl under our desk because of this budget." - - - Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.- - -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/Ruthie Robison, Mississippi CatholicBy Ruthie RobisonDURANT, Miss. (CNS) -- A downpour of rain didn't dampen a dedication and blessing ceremony of a monument to honor the lives of Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill, who were slain in their Durant home Aug. 25, 2016. They were both 68. A crowd of about 100 gathered the afternoon of May 20 in Durant's Liberty Park to pay tribute to the two sisters, who both made a lasting impact on the community in which they resided for the last 15 years of their lives. Sister Merrill was a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth based in Nazareth, Kentucky, and Sister Held belonged to the School Sisters of St. Francis congregation based in Milwaukee. The two nurse practitioners worked at Lexington Medical Clinic and attended St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lexington, located about 10 miles west from their home. "It was wonderful to see so many people come here from around the country," said Franciscan Father Greg Plata, pastor of St. Thomas, who led the service. "Even though it was a horrible day weather-wise, that did not deter from the joy of the day that we come together. I think that every time I go that way, (the monument) will be a place for me to stop and say a prayer and be thankful to God for these two amazing women. It's just a great way to remember our sisters." Rodney Earl Sanders, 46, of Kosciusko, Mississippi, later confessed to fatally stabbing the two women and stealing their car. He was charged with capital murder, burglary and grand larceny. Among those at the memorial service were Durant city leaders, family members and longtime friends of Sisters Held and Merrill, staff members and patients of Lexington Medical Clinic, and parishioners of St. Thomas. Durant Mayor Tasha Davis and Jackson Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz were featured speakers, and there were songs, prayer, Scripture readings and the unveiling of the monument. "I know it is a sad event that we're here, but they were such wonderful people," said Davis, as she welcomed the crowd. "The Bible teaches us to give honor where honor is due, and we can all agree that it is befitting to honor these two ladies who left an everlasting mark on the city of Durant and Holmes County as a whole." Before blessing the monument, Bishop Kopacz spoke of the sisters' service to their communities. "Just as from the heavens the rain and the snow come down and accomplish what they're sent to do, so Sister Paula and Sister Margaret came to these communities, accomplished God's mission and returned to life fulfilled in heaven," he said. After the unveiling, several people in attendance shared sentiments about Sisters Held and Merrill. Mary James, who worked with the sisters at Lexington Medical Clinic, said that she and the other staff members at the clinic were truly blessed to have known the two women. "They took me under their wings, and we became family," she said. "The sisters' angelic presence was so great. We miss them daily. ... Whenever we get a little down or teary-eyed, we remember these words, 'Let love win.' If the sisters were here today, they would probably say something like this: 'There's no love like forgiveness, and there's no forgiveness without love.'" Sister Held's brother, James, spoke of her love for the people of Durant and Holmes County. "We always tried to convince her to come back to the Midwest," he said. "We never could convince her to come back, and we missed her. She loved you so much, and she stayed and she gave her life for all of you." Sister Merrill's family was unable to attend the ceremony. Connie Blake, a longtime friend of Merrill's and an associate with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, spoke on behalf of the family. "Sister Paula was my friend for over 49 years," she said. "One thing she said she always wanted to do was to follow what we've all been asked to do, and that's to love one another and to care for one another, and indeed that was her life's work." Blake said she and Merrill's family are humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support they continue to receive. Sisters Held and Merrill "would be astonished and somewhat embarrassed by all of this attention," she said. "Paula and Margaret were quiet, humble and simple women, who lived out their passion to serve the underserved in Mississippi." After a closing prayer and blessing by Father Plata, a memorial Mass was celebrated at St. Thomas, followed by a fish fry. "I think it isn't just their deaths that are important, it's their lives," Sister Tonya Severin, vice provincial for the Western province of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, said later. "They lived with the message of Jesus, that we are to give of ourselves in loving service to others, and that's what they did so unobtrusively." - - - Robison is a contributor to the Mississippi Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Jackson.- - -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.