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The Annual Appeal contributes to a lasting difference

Salina — If you could make a lasting difference in the life of one person, would you do so?  

We all have an opportunity to make a difference in not just one life but many lives, young and old, by donating to the 2017 Catholic Community Annual Appeal (CCAA). This year’s CCAA,”The Lord is Good to all; He has Compassion on all He has made,” seeks to raise $1 million to help fund the day-to-day operations of our ministries throughout the Diocese of Salina. From subsidizing Catholic schools to funding youth and adult programs, the CCAA helps to educate young and old about their faith.

This year’s CCAA donors are encouraged to make one-time contributions or pledge a gift amount monthly or quarterly through the end of the year. As of Feb. 28, $573,630 has been pledged toward the 2017 goal. The 1,877 gifts received to date represent 10 percent of the households of the diocese. Four parishes already have met or exceeded their goals. But there is so much more to accomplish before the end of the year. 

This weekend, March 11 and 12 there will be an in-pew solicitation for the CCAA to give to people who have not had an opportunity to make a donation to do so. Pledge cards and envelopes will be available in all parishes for those who need them. 

All registered parishioners received a packet with a letter from Bishop Edward Weisenburger in February asking for their prayerful consideration and support of this important appeal. Those who did not receive a packet and would like to receive the above-mentioned packet can call the Office of Development at (785) 827-8746, or they can donate online at salinadiocese.org/development/catholic-community-annual-appeal. At the beginning of the appeal, Bishop Weisenburger shared an audio message at all Masses. The message in English and Spanish also can be found on the diocesan website. 

Here are the ministries that are supported through the appeal, “The Lord is Good to all; He has Compassion on all He has made:”

  • $200,000 for seminarians, deacons, vocations, priests’ continuing education
  • $154,250 for Catholic schools subsidies
  • $109,000 for Catholic education and formation
  • $132,500 for priests’ retirement
  • $126,500 for priests’ health care
  • $ 163,000 for diocesan administration
  • $ 50,000 for five national collections
  • $ 49,000 for Family Life and Natural Family Planning
  • $ 9,000 for Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas
  • $ 6,250 for Respect Life.

From ball diamond to Deacon

The Register

Salina — Seminarian Andy Hammeke’s spirituality was something that grew over time. During his fourth year of college, he moved into a house directly across from the Comeau Catholic Campus Center in Hays. 

“I’d come home from baseball practices and see people walking into daily Mass,” Hammeke said. “I didn’t have anything better to do and (seeing students go to daily Mass) started playing on my conscience, so I started going (to daily Mass) more regularly.”

Hammeke will take another step in his vocation when he is ordained a transitional deacon April 22.

The ordination begins at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral. All are invited. 

Hammeke has been studying at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Saint Meinrad, Ind.

Typically, a seminarian has one year of school left after being ordained a transitional deacon before his ordination to the priesthood.

A Hays native, Hammeke began his studies in 2012 after earning a bachelor’s degree at Fort Hays State University. 

Hammeke, 27, is the son of Curtis and Annette Hammeke of Hays, the grandson of Denis and Arlene Stastney of Dwight, Neb. and the late Norman and Jolene Hammeke.

He grew up in Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Hays and attended Thomas More Prep-Marian Jr.-Sr. High School. Upon graduating from TMP, Hammeke attended Fort Hays State University, playing baseball for the university.

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Fourth Sunday of Lent: Genesis renewed

This coming weekend, the fourth Sunday of Lent, we will hear the familiar Gospel of the man born blind who is miraculously granted sight by Jesus. As with much of the Gospel, there is literal truth found in this passage, but there are just as many deep spiritual truths that can be grasped only by those who truly wish to see. Indeed, the great church father Origin once wrote “to be holy is to see with the eyes of Christ, to see the world as Christ sees it, from God’s perspective.”  I’m left to wonder if perhaps Origin had this weekend’s Gospel passage in mind as he spoke this eternal truth.

In looking carefully at the biblical passage, one of the most significant points about the story is that it notes that the man was “blind from birth.” But the passage, in the original Greek language, uses the word “genesis” — as in, the man was blind from his “genesis.” Clearly there’s a double meaning here of both “birth” and “creation.” As an old friend of mine, Msgr. Daniel Mueggenborg, points out in his excellent book of biblical reflections “Come Follow Me,” that the text reveals that Jesus comes to establish a new creation, a new Genesis in each of us. 

Moreover, the gestures Jesus uses are striking. Just as God in the Book of Genesis creates Adam from the mud of the earth and places God’s own spirit in Adam, so now Jesus touches a new mud to the blind man’s eyes — a mud infused with Jesus himself (symbolized by spittle). Jesus, who describes himself as the light of the world, then sends this man who has journeyed in darkness his entire life, to wash in the waters of Siloam — a word that means “Sent One.” Here again, the “Sent One” is yet another term that always points to Jesus. And while it is significant that Jesus heals the man from his physical blindness, it is perhaps far more profound that in an encounter with Jesus the man is re-created and granted the ability to see — not merely physically, but as in to understand. 

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Columbaria dedication set for April 1 at Mt. Calvary in Salina

Salina — Hopefully, the third time will be the charm for the blessing of  the Mount Calvary Columbaria.

“The first time, everything wasn’t quite ready and the second time it was rained out,” said Nancy Jaquay, the manager of Mt. Calvary Catholic Cemetery. “This time it will happen, regardless.”

The public is invited to attend the blessing at 11 a.m. April 1 in the northwest corner of Mt. Calvary Cemetery, off of Iron Street in Salina.

Closed in 2005 to allow All Saints Cemetery the chance to become established, Mt. Calvary had few spaces left.

“I was getting calls continuously from people who wanted space at Mt. Calvary,” Jaquay said. “Father Frank Coady and I were talking that more people are going to cremation. We thought ‘Why not set up a columbarium for cremated remains?’ It would allow people to still be in the same cemetery as their ancestors and family members.”

Plans were made and in 2016, the columbaria — with six granite blocks and room for 504 inurments behind solid granite doors — was placed.

Since its opening, three sets of remains have been inurned. Additionally, about a dozen slots in the columbaria have been sold.

“Surprisingly, I thought the niches that would be sold faster would be ion the inside that face the altar and cross,” Jaquay said. “The people buried there wanted to be on the outside, looking over the cemetery.”

Bishop Edward Weisenburger said the new columbaria offers a way for Catholics to merge cremation with Catholic ritual.

“In our Catholic faith the cremains are to be treated the same as an intact body would be treated,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “ Cremation is an acceptable means of respectfully disposing of our bodies upon death, but the Universal Norms of the Catholic Church stress that the cremains are to be buried in the ground or placed in a mausoleum or columbaria, just as we would treat an intact body.”

For more information about purchasing a columbaria spot, contact call Jaquay at (785) 823-7221.

Motherhouse Dinner is a family affair

For The Register

Concordia — Yes, there was spaghetti, of course. And prize drawings and a bake sale and tours of the historic Nazareth Motherhouse. Yes, there was a silent auction and even a quilt sale, along with live musical entertainment, grab-bags and Easter baskets.

Yet what there was most of was family — cousins and siblings and nieces and grand-nephews and … well … family of every description, who came to the annual Spaghetti Dinner March 12 hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph for something of a family reunion.

Many arrived in big bunches of family, spanning three or four generations. Others came in ones and twos to remember an aunt, great-aunt or other relative who had been a Sister in Concordia.

“I never met her,” said one young woman of a great-aunt who had been a Sister and is now buried in the Nazareth Cemetery behind the Motherhouse, “but this place and these women were such important parts of her life … I just wanted to be here.”

She and her family were among hundreds of guests, along with untold volunteers, sisters and staff, who filled the Motherhouse for the spring fundraiser. 

Kitchen staff, buoyed by volunteers, served a record 625 dinners and the event raised $10,927 to benefit the ministries of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Musicians performing were the Bent Wind with a Kick, John Paul Breault, Sarah Jeardoe, Amber Rogers and Sheri Johnson.

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Tipton student wins poetry competition

Salina — Sarah Katsiyiannis, a senior at Tipton Catholic High School, was named champion of  Kansas State Poetry Out Loud Champion for the second consecutive year.

The competition, presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition. Beginning with school competition, winners advance to regional finals, then to the state competition and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, DC. 

At the Kansas state finals, which was held at the Salina Community Theater on March 4, six contestants each recited three works they had selected from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems. Katsiyiannis’ interpretation of “In School Days” by John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Nail” by C.K. Williams and “August 12 in the Nebraska Sand Hills Watching the Perseids Meteor Shower” by Twyla Hansen earned her top rankings for the second straight year.

Katsiyiannis competed at the national competition last year and is excited to return to D.C. to have another chance to compete.

“Last year’s experiences and the opportunities that blossomed from it made Sarah even more determined to reach Nationals again in 2017,” teacher and coach Cheryl Germann said. “She began vetting new poems to perform almost immediately after returning from the 2016 finals and spent countless hours practicing them; her passion for poetry is evident in both her dedication and in her performances.”

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Agricultural document presented, discussed

Russell —  Executives from Catholic Rural Life were in the Salina Diocese Feb. 25 to present “The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader” document and glean feedback from local farmers and ranchers.

Jim Ennis, Executive Director of CRL, presented the document to an audience of 55 at St. Mary Queen of Angels Parish in Russell.

Previously, Ennis gave similar workshops to farm organizations such as the Farmers Union in various locations. The workshop in Russell was the first to be given at a diocese. 

The document, which was presented, is a faith-based resource for leaders in food and agriculture. The goal is to integrate faith, food, and the environment for leaders in agriculture. It was inspired by a document “Vocation of the Business Leader,” which was published in 2012. Ennis, the Executive Director for Catholic Rural Life and also President of the International Catholic Rural Association (ICRA), said a similar document for agriculture was needed. He was told to compile such a document.

Beginning with a national symposium on Faith, Food and the Environment, in November 2014, and followed by an international gathering in Milan, Italy in June 2015, various focus groups and other stakeholders were encouraged to contribute their perspectives to the document. Pope Francis presented his encyclical “Laudato Sí, on Care for Our Common Home” in 2015. This also influenced the document “Vocation of the Agricultural Leader.”

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Catholic News Headlines

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Robert DuncanBy Rhina GuidosWASHINGTON (CNS) -- In Spanish, the word "encuentro" means encounter and in the modern church in the U.S., it refers to a series of meetings that will take place over the next four years aimed at getting to know Latinos and producing more involvement in the church of its second largest and fastest growing community. "The intent is for Latinos to have an encounter with the entire church and for the church to have an encounter with Latinos, understanding who they are, how they think, how they live their faith, so we can work together and move together and build a church together," said Mar Munoz-Visoso, executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. A recent report by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University commissioned by the U.S. bishops shows that more than half of millennial-generation Catholics born in 1982 or later are Hispanic or Latino. Those numbers alone call for the church to have a plan of how it will bring Latinos in the U.S. into the church's leaderships roles, its vocations and their role in society, Munoz-Visoso said. "You cannot plan the future of the church without having an important conversation about this population," she told Catholic News Service. "This effort is very important." While the numbers of Latinos in the church are growing, "there is a gap between the numbers of Latinos in the pews, and the numbers of Latinos in leadership, and the numbers of vocations, or (Latino students) in Catholic schools," Munoz-Visoso said. The first part of encuentro, as the process is called, started in early 2017 and it's the fifth such process of its kind. Encuentros in the U.S. church took place in 1972, 1977, 1985 and 2000, but the Fifth National Encuentro, also known as "V Encuentro," is expected to be the biggest one of its kind in terms of attendance. Participants first meet in small Christian communities at the local level to discern, dialogue, reflect about faith and the baptismal call, Munoz-Visoso said. Later in the year, parishes will hold parish encuentros of their own, which will later lead to diocesan, regional and finally a nationwide encuentro, set for Sept. 20-23, 2018, in Grapevine, Texas, in the Diocese of Fort Worth. The final part is a "post-national encuentro" that will include publishing a national working document about ways to implement what was learned during the process. Encuentro organizers hope the process will yield an increase in vocations of Latinos to the priesthood, religious life, permanent diaconate, an increase in the percentage of Latino students enrolling at Catholic schools, and create a group of Latino leaders for the church, as well as an increase Latinos' sense of belonging and stewardship in the U.S. church. At the fall 2016 meeting of U.S. bishops in Baltimore, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley expressed concern that the younger generations of Latinos "is a demographic that is slipping away from the church and I think we have a window of opportunity and the window of opportunity is closing." Many Latinos are "joining the ranks of 'nones,'" said Cardinal O'Malley, referring to the growing number of Americans who are choosing to be unaffiliated with any organized religion. "We have very few, relatively, Hispanics in our Catholic schools. They're underrepresented in our religious education programs, and I'm hoping that the outreach that is going to be done as part of the preparation for this 'encuentro' will make a difference," he said. Munoz-Visoso said Latinos are being courted by all kinds of groups, not just other church denominations. "And we are at this juncture in history where we have this dilemma, where the majority of the Catholic Church in the country is becoming Latino, but at the same time, more Latinos than ever are leaving the church," she said. "So, we have to address this situation because we have to really engage them, re-enamor them, their faith and make sure they're committed to their faith." For those wanting to become involved, they can contact their local parish to see if the parish is involved in the process. More than 5,000 parishes have signed up to participate, said Munoz-Visoso.Parish-level encuentros take place this May and June. Diocesan encuentros will take place in the fall in more than 150 dioceses with a total of 200,000 participants. The regional encuentros are slated for March-June 2018, with 10,000 delegates expected to attend. The regions conform to the U.S. bishops' 14 episcopal regions. Then comes the Fifth National Encuentro in Texas, which will have as its theme "Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God's Love." This is then followed by the post-encuentro working document.Alejandro Aquilera-Ttitus, assistant director of Hispanic affairs in the diversity secretariat, is national coordinator of the Fifth National Encuentro.The materials for the encuentro meetings were designed so they could be used by small and large groups, Munoz-Visoso told CNS, and there are dioceses that plan to use them with migrant workers in the fields, among prison populations, on university campuses, in prison ministry and in military services so that U.S. service men and women who want to participate can do so anywhere in the world. "The intent is for Latinos ... but we're inviting everybody (to participate), if they want to have it in their community," Munoz-Visoso said, adding that the website www.vencuentro.org has information about getting started.- - -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 photo/Edgard Garrido, ReutersBy David AgrenCUERNAVACA, Mexico (CNS) -- An editorial in a publication of the Archdiocese of Mexico City condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as "traitors" and called on authorities to castigate any company that provides services for fencing off the frontier. "What's regrettable is that on this side of the border, there are Mexicans ready to collaborate with a fanatical project that annihilates the good relationship between two nations that share a common border," said the March 26 editorial in the archdiocesan publication Desde la Fe. "Any company that plans to invest in the fanatic Trump's wall would be immoral, but above all, their shareholders and owner will be considered traitors to the homeland," the editorial continued. "Joining a project that is a grave affront to dignity is like shooting yourself in the foot." President Donald Trump ran on a promise of constructing a wall between the United States and Mexico and has signed an executive order to begin building the barrier on the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The Mexican government has repeatedly said it will not pay for any border wall. Security analysts say illegal merchandise mostly crosses through legal ports of entry and express doubts a wall would keep out drugs, as Trump insists. Catholics who work with migrants transiting the country en route to the United States express doubts, too, saying those crossing the frontier illegally mostly do so with the help of human smugglers, who presumably pay bribes on both sides of the border. Some Mexican companies have mused about working on the wall, though others such as Cemex -- whose share prices surged on speculation it would provide cement for the wall -- told the Los Angeles Times that it would not participate in the building of a border barrier. Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso has urged company officials to use their conscience when considering work on the wall, though the archdiocesan editorial said, "What is most surprising is the timidity of the Mexican government's economic authorities, who have not moved firmly against these companies." Desde la Fe has previously blasted Trump's proposed policies. In September 2015, it called Trump "ignorant" and a "clown" and blasted Mexican government passivity in defending its migrants as "unpardonable." Father Hugo Valdemar, Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman, told Catholic News Service some conservative Catholics in Mexico viewed Trump's positions on pro-life issues favorably and were still angry the U.S. ambassador to Mexico marched in the annual pride parade. But he said he knew of no one in Mexico that openly supported the U.S. president. "What we see from him is an authentic threat and an unstable person," Father Valdemar said.- - -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 Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Acknowledging correspondence and treating victims with respect is the very least church officials can offer, said survivors of clergy sex abuse. Never letting a letter or email languish unanswered was such a key "best practice" of showing care and concern for victims of sexual abuse by clergy and religious that Marie Collins, an Irish survivor, stepped down from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors over the issue. When it comes to whether an office should respond to a victim, "There's an amazing ability to take whatever is simple" and make it sound "as if it's highly complex," said Declan Murphy, who was abused as an adolescent by two Christian Brothers in Dublin in the 1960s. Murphy, who was in South Korea, spoke to Catholic News Service via Skype in mid-March. It's a "basic courtesy" to respond, even if it is just a brief acknowledgment of receiving the letter with a general time frame of intended follow-up. "That's the way most people work when they value and respect a person," he said. However, "if your starting point is not wanting to do it, you will drag in lots of reasons" to justify why writing back cannot or should not be done, he said. After 38 years of keeping his abuse hidden from everyone and "coping on my own," Murphy said he was back to relying on his own resilience, with the support of family, to make sure his voice was heard with repeated calls and arranging meetings with church leaders after he came forward in 2006. The most hurtful response he got, he said, was telling a high-level church representative about being raped for three years by two religious priests and "he looked at me in the eye and said, 'I can't help you,'" in "a cold and callous" way. That kind of dismissal only made sense, Murphy said, for someone who looks at the issue from a legal or organizational point of view, in which different people are responsible for their own separate jurisdictions -- and the problem gets volleyed back and forth over ecclesial lines. In every situation, he said, the thing that hurt most "was the fundamental lack of respect for me as a human being whose childhood was taken away." "No one can go back and fix what happened to me," Murphy said, and "I try to remain fair, articulate and balanced. But what I've seen is horrendous" when it comes to how people have responded to his coming forward. Murphy said he had three objectives in all of his efforts to reach out to the church: "Somebody to listen to my story; I wanted them to believe me and say 'I'm sorry'; and I wanted my costs back," meaning medical and legal costs incurred since 2006, the year his health broke down and he revealed the past abuse. The best responses he received, he said, were when someone said he was going to do something and then actually did it. Another time, the same person "sent a Christmas card. It was a small gesture, but it showed a human side." Church leaders and personnel should not be driven by legal concerns, fears of litigation or self-interest, he said, but by a pastoral compassion that asks, "What can we do to help you? Tell us what you need." Helen McGonigle, a lawyer living in western Connecticut, told CNS in a series of emails that she faced so many "obstructionist tactics at the local level in the secular legal system, what choice do we have but to turn to the Vatican, canon law and natural law," since the sexual violence against children is a crime against nature. McGonigle and her sister, who later died from a prescription drug overdose in 2005, were victims of late-Norbertine Father Brendan Smyth when he was assigned to Rhode Island. He was ordained and assigned to ministry in Northern Ireland, Ireland, Rhode Island, North Dakota and other places, despite the knowledge and complaints by other religious that he had molested children, as found in an independent Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry. He died in prison one month after starting his sentence for 117 counts of children molestation in Ireland and Northern Ireland over four decades. Because Father Smyth was a member a religious order, based out of an abbey in Ireland and was sent to multiple dioceses, McGonigle wrote to numerous jurisdictional bodies in her efforts to gain information and help. "I tried the local route in every imaginable way and felt the need to circumvent" the appropriate channels after letters went unanswered and questions and requests went unaddressed. Her civil suit was dismissed because of the statute of limitations. However, when recipient offices at the Vatican denied having "competence" in the matter and redirected her to other authorities, McGonigle said she felt "that an internal strategy of leaving survivors twisting in the wind seems to have been adopted by the Vatican." There is no way to know how many survivors are ever able to bring themselves to write or even bother, she said, which is why "those who do choose to write should be acknowledged in some way and provided some measure of assurance that their concerns are being listened to. After having been raped and our rights trampled upon, it is the very least these people could do. Are they beyond compassion?" The most helpful responses, she said, came from a priest in North Dakota who confirmed facts "in an open and candid way." In fact, she said when news broke in 1994 of Father Smyth's crimes, the Diocese of Fargo "went door to door in their outreach campaign." McGonigle said she wrote to church leaders, not to be "listened to," but to do "the right thing. I did feel it was right to make an attempt to do my part in exposing Smyth's crimes and requesting honesty and transparency" in her right to know the truth. The very heart of the correspondence, however, is not just about eliciting a reply letter, she said: "What survivors want to see is action, child protection, perpetrators prosecuted and removed." "Action goes a lot farther than any one letter," McGonigle said.- - -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 Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following the resignation of a prominent member and abuse survivor, a pontifical commission charged with addressing issues related to clergy sex abuse vowed to continue to seek input from victims and survivors. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the resignation of Marie Collins was a "central topic" of its March 24-26 plenary assembly, and it "expressed strong support for her continuing work" to promote healing for abuse victims and ensuring best practices for prevention. "Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors. Several ideas that have been successfully implemented elsewhere are being carefully considered for recommendation to the Holy Father," the commission said in a March 26 statement published by the Vatican. Among the main concerns addressed by the commission was outreach out to victims, an issue first raised by Collins shortly after she resigned from her position. In an editorial published online March 1 by National Catholic Reporter, Collins said an unnamed dicastery not only refused to respond to letters from victims, it also refused to cooperate on the commission's safeguarding guidelines. In its statement, the commission emphasized Pope Francis' letter to the presidents of the bishops' conferences and superiors of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, in which he called for their close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors. "The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programs of education, training and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse," the pope wrote Feb. 2, 2015. Commission members spoke again of their willingness to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicating a "guidelines template" to episcopal conferences and religious congregations, both directly and through the commission website, the statement said. - - - Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -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/ReutersBy Cindy WoodenROME (CNS) -- Pope Francis asked 45,000 children preparing for confirmation to promise Jesus they would never engage in bullying. Turning stern during a lively and laughter-filled encounter March 25, Pope Francis told the youngsters he was very worried about the growing phenomenon of bullying. He asked them to be silent and reflect on if there were times when they made fun of someone for how they looked or behaved. And, as a condition of their confirmation, he made them promise Jesus that they would never tease or bully anyone. The pope ended his daylong visit to Milan by participating in an expanded version of the archdiocese's annual encounter for pre-teens preparing for confirmation. An estimated 78,000 people filled the city's famed San Siro soccer stadium; the archdiocese expects to confirm about 45,000 young people this year. A boy named Davide asked the pope, "When you were our age, what helped your friendship with Jesus grow?" First of all, the pope said, it was his grandparents. One of his grandfathers was a carpenter, who told him Jesus learned carpentry from St. Joseph, so whenever the pope saw his grandfather work, he thought of Jesus. The other grandfather taught him to always say something to Jesus before going to sleep, even if it was just, "Good night, Jesus." His grandmothers and his mother, the pope said, were the ones who taught him to pray. He told the kids that even if their grandparents "don't know how to use a computer or have a smartphone," they have a lot to teach them. Playing with friends taught him joy and how to get along with others, which is part of faith, the pope said. And going to Mass and to the parish oratory also strengthened his faith because "being with others is important." A couple of parents, who introduced themselves as Monica and Alberto, asked the pope's advice on educating their three children in the faith. Pope Francis borrowed little Davide's question and asked the parents to close their eyes and think of the people who transmitted the faith to them and helped it grow. "Your children watch you continually," the pope said. "Even if you don't notice, they observe everything and learn from it," especially in how parents handle tensions, joys and sorrows. He also encouraged families to go to Mass together and then, if the weather is nice, to go to a park and play together. "This is beautiful and will help you live the commandment to keep the Lord's day holy." An essential part of handing on the faith, he said, is teaching children the meaning of solidarity and engaging them in the parents' acts of charity and solidarity with the poor. "Faith grows with charity and charity grows with faith," he said. Before going to the soccer stadium, Pope Francis celebrated an afternoon Mass for the feast of the Annunciation in Milan's Monza Park. The annunciation of Jesus' birth to Mary took place in her home in a small town in the middle of no where, which is a sign that God desired to meet his people "in places we normally would not expect," the pope said in his homily. Just as "the joy of salvation began in the daily life of a young woman's home in Nazareth," he said, God wants to be welcomed into and given life in the homes of all people. God is indifferent to no one, the pope said, and "no situation will be deprived of his presence." Tens of thousands of people gathered on a warm spring day for the Mass amid the new leaves and fragile buds on the trees of the park. Pope Francis used Milan's Ambrosian rite, a Mass that differs slightly from the Latin rite used in most parts of the world. Some of the differences included the pope blessing each of the readers and not only the deacon who proclaimed the Gospel, and the Creed being sung after the offertory, rather than after the homily. In his homily, the pope said that like Mary at the Annunciation, people today naturally wonder how God's promises could be fulfilled. "But how can this be?" Mary asked. The same question arises "at a time so filled with speculation. There's speculation on the poor and migrants, speculation on the young and their future," the pope said. "While pain knocks on many doors, while young people are increasingly unsatisfied by the lack of real opportunities, speculation is abundant everywhere." Finding and living the joy of the Gospel, he said, is possible only following the path the Angel Gabriel led Mary on when he told her she would bear God's son. People must remember the great things God has done and remember that they belong to the people of God, a community that "is not afraid to welcome those in need because they know the Lord is present in them." Finally, he said, they must have faith in the "possibility of the impossible," demonstrating the same "audacious faith" that Mary showed.- - -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.