ONLINE
OCTOBER 18, 2004

INSIDE
THIS ISSUE

Sisters say good-bye
to St. Rose Hospital
Presentation Sisters
to celebrate 150 years

Nun turns adversity into
ministry to refugees

The Church in Asia is
bursting with life
Religious groups ask Court
to stop juvenile executions

Pope’s beatifications of mystic and emperor stir debate

Bishop Vigneron demonstrates pastoral care of seminarians

2003 Financial Report for the Diocese of Oakland
Parents of soldiers killed in Iraq
to speak at parish in Lafayette
Lawyer, plaintiffs to address
SOA abuses
Priesthood Sunday
set for Oct. 31

Assumpta Award for
Brother Christopher Brady

Commentary:

•Open letter to politicians:
Address the crying needs of ordinary Americans

• Bishops, Catholic Charities comment on ballot propositions

Obituary

•Sister Dorothy Butler, S.S.

 

 

 

Official newspaper of the Roman Catholic
Diocese of Oakland, California encompassing all of
Alameda &
Contra Costa counties.

BISHOP
VIGNERON

FRONT PAGE
FRONT PAGE

Planning Commission gives green light to Cathedral site plan

By Voice staff

The Cathedral of Christ the Light passed a crucial bureaucratic test this month when the Oakland Planning Commission approved plans for the church building, plaza and offices at the downtown site.

The Oct. 6 vote was 6-0 with commissioner Clinton Killian absent. The public has 10 days to appeal the decision to the city council, but Lee Nordlund, spokesman for the Catholic Cathedral Corporation of the East Bay, said an appeal is extremely unlikely.

Several commissioners praised the design and the project, according to published reports. The cathedral complex, to be built at the corner of Harrison Street and Grand Avenue, will include a plaza, parish and diocesan offices, a rectory, a mausoleum, about 200 below-ground parking spaces and a meeting facility with food service, café and bookstore.

The cathedral design, by architect Craig Hartman, features a combination of wooden vaults and a sweeping, patterned glass exterior that will allow colors and textures of light to fill the interior. The cathedral will stand 126 feet tall and will seat 1,500.

Developers hope to break ground in May of 2005 and complete the project sometime in 2008. The total cost of the complex is estimated at $131 million.

“Fund raising is going well,” Nordlund said, “with gifts and pledges hitting 63 percent of our budget already, but we must raise another $12 million to break ground by May.”

A 142-foot bell tower in the southeast corner of the site and additional space next to the cathedral will also be built in the future if the corporation can raise $10 million above the current project cost.

Bishop Allen Vigneron said of the planning commission vote, “On behalf of all Catholics in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, we thank the City of Oakland for giving us a chance to build a cathedral for all the people of the East Bay for centuries to come.”

The former cathedral, St. Francis de Sales, was damaged beyond repair during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The cathedral community has been worshipping at St. Mary, Immaculate Conception – St. Francis de Sales on Jefferson Street since then.

With the construction of Christ the Light, Oakland will become the fourth Catholic diocese in California to design and build a cathedral. The others are San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Bishop Vigneron noted that the design of the cathedral “embodies the themes expressed by parish representatives from throughout our two-county diocese. Those themes included hospitality, accessibility, liturgical tradition and cultural diversity.”


Supreme Court refuses
appeal on birth control
insurance coverage

By Voice staff

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from Catholic Charities of Sacramento over a ruling that forces the organization to pay for employees’ contraceptive insurance benefits.

The Oct. 4 decision lets stand a 1999 California law requiring employers who provide insurance for prescriptions to include contraceptives in their coverage. Catholic Charities challenged the law on the grounds that it is a church-sponsored organization and cannot be forced to pay for something contrary to Catholic teaching, but the California Supreme Court found that Catholic Charities does not qualify for an exemption as a religious organization.

The California court said Catholic Charities fails to qualify because it offers secular services to the public without regard to religious belief and without proselytizing. In addition, the court said, Catholics do not make up a majority of the organization’s employees or a majority of those who receive its services.

The law, the California Women’s Contraceptive Equality Act, includes an exemption for “religious employers” but defines these as nonprofit groups who proselytize and serve primarily members of their own faith group.

Attorney Kevin Baine, representing Catholic Charities, said the implications of the ruling go beyond the law concerning contraceptives. It could mean that the state can force Catholic agencies to pay for abortions as well, he said.

Other observers say the U.S. Supreme Court decision could affect universities, hospitals and social service agencies run by churches of all faiths. The organizations have been required to cover contraceptive prescriptions while the case has been pending.

Catholic Charities could have avoided the force of the law by declining to offer prescription drug insurance to employees, but the organization refused to take this step, saying it was a matter of social justice and a religious duty to provide such coverage.

Twenty other states have laws requiring that contraceptives be included in prescription coverage for employees, and an appeal of a New York law is still pending in the state’s intermediate appeals court. Attorneys are likely to argue the case in December or January.

It is possible the U.S. Supreme Court could accept an appeal on the issue after lower court cases, such as the one in New York, are decided. The federal high court is often reluctant to accept appeals until lower courts in different jurisdictions have issued rulings that do not agree.

 


 

Pope declares
‘Year of the Eucharist’

By Peggy Polk
Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II on Oct. 8 declared October 2004 to October 2005 the “Year of the Eucharist” and urged Catholics to learn from the sacrament to become “promoters of communion, peace and solidarity.”

To open the observance, the pontiff issued the 40th apostolic letter of his 26-year reign, entitled “Stay With Us, Lord.” He addressed the 32-page document to Catholic bishops, clergy and faithful worldwide.

“Every Mass, even when celebrated in hiding and in a lost region of the earth, always carries the mark sign of universality,” he said. “The Christian who participates in the Eucharist learns from it to become a promoter of communion, peace and solidarity in all the circumstances of life.”

The Eucharist is the sacrament of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. It was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper and perpetuates his sacrifice on the cross.
The pope described the Year of the Eucharist as a “synthesis” of the two “Holy Years,” the years devoted to the Virgin Mary, the family and the rosary that he has called during his pontificate. It is, he said, “a sort of summit of all the roads traveled.”

“The lacerated image of our world, which began the new millennium with the specter of terrorism and the tragedy of war, calls Christians more than ever to live the Eucharist as a great school of peace,” he said.

The Eucharist, John Paul said, forms “men and women who, at various levels of responsibility in social, cultural and political life, make themselves weavers of dialogue and communion.”

While leaving it up to local churches to decide how to celebrate the year, the pope invited Catholics to make Sunday “a special day of faith,” cultivate the Liturgy of the Hours and devote time in the evening to “Eucharistic adoration,” praying before the tabernacle containing “the real presence of Christ” in the consecrated host.

John Paul said Catholics also should practice “service to others,” especially the sick, the elderly, the unemployed and immigrants.

“Why not make of this Year of the Eucharist a period in which diocesan and parish communities devote themselves in a special way to encounter the so many poor of this world with fraternal activism?” he asked.

The year opened formally at an International Eucharistic Congress Oct. 10-17 at Guadalajara, Mexico. It will close with a Synod of Bishops Oct. 2-29, 2005, at the Vatican.

World Day of Youth celebrations at Cologne, Germany, Aug. 16-21, on the theme of “We Have Come to Worship Him,” will also center on the Eucharist.

To open observances in Rome, John Paul was scheduled to celebrate a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the evening of Oct. 17, one day after the 26th anniversary of his election as pope.

“I feel as a great grace of the 27th year of my Petrine ministry, which I am about to begin, the power to call now all the Church to contemplate, praise and adore this ineffable sacrament in a most special way,” the pope said.


 

Trial dates set in clergy sex abuse cases

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

An Alameda County Superior Court judge has set trial dates beginning in March for five clerical sex abuse cases involving dioceses in Northern California. One of the cases is against the Diocese of Oakland.

The lawsuits will be the first to go to trial since Northern California clerical abuse cases were consolidated under Judge Ronald Sabraw earlier this year. They involve 13 plaintiffs in the dioceses of Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Stockton and Sacramento.

In addition to setting trial dates, Judge Sabraw ruled that plaintiffs’ attorneys can seek punitive damages in the Oakland case. Attorney Steve McFeely, representing the Oakland Diocese, said the diocese “may well take (the ruling) to the Court of Appeal. We will also factually make an argument that punitive damages don’t apply in this particular case.”

The 160 Northern California cases are known as Clergy III, while two groups of Southern California lawsuits, involving a total of nearly 700 cases, are called Clergy I and Clergy II.

During the Oct. 7 hearing, Judge Sabraw also threw out a case against the Diocese of Monterey that involved six plaintiffs. He found that the Church did not have enough information to suspect that a priest could have been guilty of abuse. Last month he threw out a case against the Diocese of Oakland for similar reasons. The priest in the Oakland case, Father Arthur Ribeiro, died in October 2000.

McFeely said the dioceses will ask Judge Sabraw to apply the same test to other cases in Clergy III, including some already set for trial. Attorneys will argue that the dioceses lacked timely knowledge of the alleged abuse and cannot be held responsible.

Applying the same criteria, the judge ruled Oct. 7 that another case could go forward because a priest in the Diocese of San Jose knew or should have known that a colleague was guilty of abuse.

The consolidated cases in California were brought under a 2002 state law that suspended the statute of limitations for one year for molestation claims, allowing plaintiffs to file hundreds of suits that were previously ineligible because the allegations were too old. The plaintiffs had until Dec. 31, 2003 to file.

The alleged victims are asking for damages from the dioceses, saying Church leaders failed to protect them against known abusers. The state also is bringing some priests to trial on criminal charges, but these cases are more recent than the civil claims, some of which go back several decades.

In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a California law suspending the statute of limitations for filing criminal molestation cases. The state then overturned convictions and dropped charges in about 800 cases, including some involving priests.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)


 

 

INSIDE THIS ISSUE



Sisters say good-bye
to St. Rose Hospital

 

By Barbara Erickson
Associate editor

When Sister Antoinette Yelek looks back on 40 years of service to St. Rose Hospital, she speaks with a sense of gratitude, along with regret at leaving the Hayward facility her order established in 1962.

“God has been so good,” Sister Yelek said during a telephone interview. “It’s been a very, very good experience for me and I will miss it.”

The St. Joseph of Wichita Sister is saying goodbye because her community has withdrawn from St. Rose, leaving the Oakland Diocese without a Catholic-run hospital. The facility is in the process of becoming a non-profit, community hospital.

The Sisters marked their departure with a special Mass on Oct. 5.

Sister Yelek had been a part of St. Rose since 1963, a year after it opened to serve the growing community in southern Alameda County. She was chief administrator of the facility until 1971 and returned in 1991 as head of the St. Rose Foundation, which helps raise funds for the hospital. In the intervening years she remained closely involved as a member of the hospital’s board of directors.

St. Rose opened with 150 beds, received accreditation in 1964, and by 1969 had expanded to its present size of 175 beds. As the surrounding population grew and became more diverse, the hospital added services: a pediatric clinic, a mobile community clinic, a breast care center, a tattoo removal project, and a program for underinsured and needy seniors, among other services.

Pediatric dental services and the mobile van have been “some of the most helpful” programs St. Rose initiated for the community, Sister Yelek said. She gives credit to the entire staff. “They have reached out to people; they’ve helped a lot of people get health care insurance,” she said.

The hospital is in the heart of a richly diverse ethnic and cultural community that includes Latinos, Asian Indians, African-Americans, Filipinos, Chinese and other Asians. “Understanding what their beliefs and needs are is extremely enriching,” she said. “We really learn what this world is made of.”

Care for the uninsured
True to its founding mission, the hospital has welcomed patients with scant resources – half are eligible for Medi-Cal or have no insurance – and has provided $8.4 million in uncompensated charity care annually.

“Many are undocumented,” Sister Yelek said, “and they have to have care.” Even legal immigrants face a difficult time learning how to use the health system and insurance, she said, and hospital staff support them through this process.

Over the years she has seen health care improve and finances, always a challenge, become even more difficult. “We’ve always struggled to keep things going,” Sister Yelek said, but now “it is more expensive to run a hospital” with new procedures and equipment.
“There is more you can do for patients,” she said, “but it is costing more.”

Sister Yelek, who was honored as the Catholic Charities Woman of the Year in 2000, is confident that the present staff will continue to serve the community in the spirit of its founders, at least for a while. Although the name will change, she said, the Sisters’ imprint will remain on the hospital. “But that will gradually change,” she said, “as everything does.”

Forty-two years of service
Her order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita, is dedicated to serving the needs of the people, whatever those happen to be. “We do a little bit of everything,” she said.

In the 1950s, when a group of doctors and a local priest began planning for a hospital in Hayward, the Sisters of St. Dominic from Everett, Wash., took up the challenge. They gave the facility its name, but then found that they had to abandon the project.

Since some of the Wichita Sisters were teaching in local schools, the planners turned to them, knowing that the order ran hospitals in the Midwest. With the support of local pastors, the Sisters managed to raise enough money to acquire 22 acres in Hayward and begin construction. They broke ground for the new hospital on June 19, 1960.

Sister Yelek was doing graduate work in hospital administration as the work began, and a year after St. Rose opened its doors, she arrived as administrator. By the time she left to help lead her community, the hospital was incorporated as a tax-exempt organization with a board of trustees and had a skilled nursing facility.

Today St. Rose has 800 employees and 200 physicians on its staff. Each year, more than 1,400 babies are born at the hospital, and more than 8,000 inpatients, 36,000 outpatients and 31,000 emergency room visitors pass through its doors.

It has been difficult for the three Sisters currently on staff to leave all this behind and move to new assignments, Sister Yelek said. “We feel sorrow. We’re not looking forward to it,” she said, “but we’ve known for some time that we would have to.”

St. Rose is a member of the Via Christi Health System, a Catholic organization with facilities in Oklahoma and Kansas, and the system decided several years ago that the hospital needed a California-based sponsor. When Via Christi was unable to find another Catholic organization to take the job, they decided to turn the facility over to the local community.

The hospital is now in the process of refinancing and creating the new non-profit organization to run St. Rose.

The St. Joseph of Wichita Sisters made their farewells during a week of special events. It would be a time to give thanks for the many good years and all the support they have received, but, said Sister Yelek, “It’s going to be hard all the way around.”

“We’ve been very blessed,” she said, “with the people, the parishes and the employees.” And, she said, “I feel good about the support that we’ve had from day one from the diocese.”

Presentation Sisters
to celebrate 150 years

Some Presentation Sisters and students outside St. Joseph School in Berkeley, founded by Mother Teresa Comerford in 1878. Mother Comerford was one of the original five Sisters who came to San Francisco from Ireland.

By Voice staff

The Presentation Sisters of San Francisco, who trace their roots to County Cork, Ireland, will celebrate the 150th anniversary of their founders’ arrival in California with a year-long series of events beginning Nov. 13.

An interpretative drama of the Sisters’ history from its founding in 1854 to the present will be performed at 2 p.m. in the Little Theatre of the former Presentation High School in San Francisco. There is no charge for tickets. Other events include a Mass on April 10, 2005, at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Berkeley, where the Sisters founded a convent and school in 1878.

Five Presentation Sisters arrived from Ireland in 1854 at the invitation of San Francisco Archbishop Joseph Alemany to teach Irish immigrants who poured into California during the Gold Rush. Within a year, three of the Sisters returned to Ireland and the remaining two Sisters established a convent on Powell Street where they opened a school for girls.

From 1857 to 1869 they also had a school for Black and Indian students.

In 1869 they established a convent at Taylor and Ellis Streets. Both convents were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, forcing the Sisters to live in various locations until Presentation Convent at 281 Masonic Avenue was completed in 1912. That convent remains the community’s Motherhouse, where elderly and infirm Sisters receive care.

The 1906 earthquake drove many homeless families to the East Bay. At St. Joseph Convent, 80 Sisters began sewing for the refugees. In three weeks they were able to clothe more than 150 adults and children. They set up a school in Oakland for refugee children and those orphaned by the quake.

Responding to the immediate needs of the poor remains the Sisters’ primary mission. Today 133 Sisters minister in schools, parishes, hospitals, and foreign missions. They direct community organizing, offer spiritual direction, and provide services for the elderly. They work in immigration and operate a safe house for women wanting to leave prostitution.

Nun turns adversity
into ministry to refugees

Bishop John Cummins congratulates Sister Nicole Nguyen after presenting her with the diocesan Medal of Merit last month.

By Sharon Abercrombie
Staff writer

Daughter of Charity Nicole Nguyen, founder and director of the Seton Senior Center, a meeting place for Vietnamese elders during the past eleven years, has retired from her post. “It’s because I’m lazy,” she explained, then she grinned broadly. Her gentle brown eyes twinkled merrily and her dimples deepened.

If the truth be known, the word, “retire,” isn’t in her vocabulary, whether the language be Vietnamese, French, or English.

At the end of this month, Sister Nguyen plans to join up with a team of physicians — former students of hers in Vietnam now living in Los Angeles – for a journey to their homeland to perform corrective surgery on children born with cleft palates. Sister Nguyen will serve as a translator for families and the medical staff.

Then she’ll take off on her own to visit family environs. It will be her first visit back to Vietnam since 1975.

And then? She plans to return to Oakland to work as a part-time translator in a senior companion program. “That is, if my superior lets me.” Her big brown eyes twinkled once again. And those engaging dimples deepened.

During her years as a Daughter of Charity, literally thousands of people – refugees, slum dwellers, young students, senior citizens – have drawn comfort from the gentle brightness shining forth from Sister Nicole Nguyen’s face.

Her longtime ministry to diverse groups of people is the reason the Diocese of Oakland recently awarded Sister Nguyen its Diocesan Medal of Merit. During a dinner fundraiser for the Seton Center Sept. 24, Mike Canizzaro, diocesan director of financial services, praised the nun “for your faith, leadership, generosity, service, personal integrity and loyalty to God, to the Church and to your diocese. We congratulate you as one who has made wise use of your God-given gifts and as an exceptional person whose unique talents have been directed to His service and the service of humanity.”

The petite nun’s God-given gifts have included juggling an expansive diversity of roles. Sister Nguyen began her religious life in Saigon during the late 1940’s by visiting the sick and poor in slum areas.

After completing her novitiate in the highlands of South Vietnam, she was sent to Los-Lez-Lille, France, in 1950 to earn a bachelor’s degree in home economics. When Sister Nguyen returned to Saigon she taught nutrition, sewing, infant and child care to poor women in a technical women’s school and also helped out at her congregation’s orphanage for Vietnamese and Amerasian infants.

In 1971, Sister Nguyen founded Regina Pacis Junior College in Saigon, the first such school for women in Saigon. Over the next four years, the school drew nearly 500 students to its business and home economics classes, recalls Sister Nguyen.

Her life changed drastically in 1975, when the U.S. Department of Education sent her to the United States to learn more about educational administration by touring American junior colleges. Barely four months later, during a visit to Washington, D.C., on April 1, she learned the terrible news that Saigon had fallen to the Communists.

“I was so depressed. I wanted to go back to Vietnam,” she recalls. But that wasn’t possible because she would have been jailed for her association with the U.S. government.

Distraught and homesick, Sister Nguyen found support from Sisters living at the House of Studies at Providence Hospital. They told the newcomer, “Don’t be sad. We came from Europe and made this our country. What we have, we will share with you. You, too, will be at home here.”

Nicole Nguyen didn’t know it then, but she herself would soon be offering similar words of comfort to hundreds of Vietnamese refugees like herself.

When the first wave of refugees arrived in the United States, Sister Nguyen joined up with a team of resettlement workers working with the United States Catholic Conference at Camp Pendleton in California. Instead of teaching home economics and childcare, Sister Nguyen was now filling out complicated government forms for refugees.

She found a full-time job in refugee resettlement work with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, where she stayed for the next few years. “We met the families at the airport, found apartments, bought chairs and tables, and took the kids for shots so they could go to school,” said Sister Nguyen. “I drove 200 miles a day.”

In 1980, Sister Nguyen earned a master’s degree in social work at San Jose State University and began working with the diocese there, helping not only Vietnamese refugees, but also those from Romania, Germany, Russia, South Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

“I always try to convince the immigrants to retain what is good from their culture and learn what is good in this new one,” she said.

In a San Jose newspaper article from several years ago, a reporter wrote, “Young and old, the refugees are warmed by Sister Nguyen.” When the reporter asked what she said to them, the nun answered, “I don’t know what we do, but they say that even if we only talk a few moments, they feel at peace.”

In 1990, Sister Nguyen brought her counseling skills to the Oakland Vietnamese Pastoral Center. It was a part-time position. “ I had too much spare time, so I made a survey of Vietnamese people to see what kinds of services they needed,” she said. Services to senior citizens soon rose to the top of the list. Sister Nguyen began shopping around for a service center.

She found meeting space at St. Anthony Parish in Oakland and received the go-ahead from the pastor to open a senior center there. So, with $300 in rent money from St. Joseph of Orange Sister Felicia Sarati, director of the Diocesan Ethnic
Pastoral Centers, Sister Nguyen opened the Vietnamese Senior Center.

During the first year, she prepared meals and transported the food to the center, all by herself. But as attendance increased from 10 to 80, and in recent years to 150, she recruited volunteers to help her.

Four years ago, “we finally outgrew the space.” The center relocated to a former Chinese restaurant near Lake Merritt. Daughter of Charity Sister Maria Nguyen, assistant director, has become the new director.

 

The Church in Asia is bursting with life

Bishop Cummins talks with Father Jin, pastor of Jilin City’s restored gothic-style Catholic Church, built by French missioners and turned into a factory by the Chinese communist government.

Young residents of Salesian Father Simon Lee’s Youth Center, which he calls “Mongolia’s Boys Town,” stand near traditional style gers they are helping to build in Ulaan Baatar. Each costs about $225. They serve as classrooms and dormitories.

Bishop Wens Padilla stands in front of his new cathedral in Ulaan Baatar. It is built in the circular shape of a ger, a traditional Mongolian house.

Bishop Padilla talks with toddlers in Missionhurst Father Gilbert Sales’s Verbist Care Center for 120 boys and girls.

Missionary Sister of Charity Ursela Sudhir visits in the ger of Altantuya and her son Sipriano, 15.

Bishop John Cummins hands out candy to children at a childcare center in Vietnam, operated by a Holy Cross Sister.

PHOTOS BY SEAN SPRAGUE

By Bishop John Cummins
Special to The Voice

It is easy to believe in the Holy Spirit when you visit Asia. The scene is varied. In many countries the Church is tiny, less than one percent of the population. The Philippines is an exception with Catholics in the majority. But everywhere one may go, the experience is one of life.

The psalmist brings to our mind familiar words, the renewing “of the face of the earth.” It is the poetry of spring, the experience of abundant and bursting life. It is the vision of vitality springing somehow from beneath or within.

But in life, as in nature, winter precedes spring.

In Vietnam, for example, there are no schools or hospitals allowed to the Church. I met a priest who waited 16 years as a deacon before he could be ordained. The cathedral rector in Nha Trang, a canon lawyer, challenged the government on the confiscation of the property around the church; for his efforts he received a message that he would be granted no visas to travel outside of the country.

China, of course, is notorious for its arrests of clergy and bishops. Hong Kong, now the Special Administrative Region of China, has 250,000 youngsters in its Catholic schools. Within seven years they are to elect outside school boards. The bishop realizes that this is an encroachment on their freedom and has expressed his objection to this invasion of the work of the Church.

The Church in Cambodia suffered the loss of its chancery building where every stone was dismantled. The seminary there now is being bought back, bit by bit.

Flourishing in Vietnam
Yet, the surging of new life is so apparent. In Vietnam, despite its restrictions, a cheerful and lively Religious woman who is the sister of our Sister Rosaline Nguyen, director of our diocesan office for Vietnamese care, has a kindergarten and day care for 170 children. She has a staff absolutely attuned to what she is about. Chapels are not allowed nor is any gathering for prayer; so her children pray in “a library.”

She works under a very conciliatory bishop. The relationship of the Church with the communist government of the region, once difficult, is now more gracious. Registering with the police for our stay was congenial beyond any kind of expectation.

Sister Rosaline’s brother, a Franciscan who serves on his religious order’s council in Rome with our Father Finian McGinn, commented to me that the police who were recording us in Vietnam had their children in the kindergarten of Sister Rosaline’s sister.

Faith grows in China
Northeast China was its own story. Together with Frank Maurovich, the editor of Maryknoll Magazine, I visited the diocese of Jilin. Three Mary-knollers, despite restrictions on foreign missionaries, teach English in the new university of 24,000 students in Jilin City.

Father Brian Barrons, a talented missioner from Lansing, Mich., was honored last year as teacher of the year. Fluent in the Chinese language, he co-hosts a weekly radio program that reaches a wide audience in a city of 2.5 million people.

We spent an hour with eight Chinese nuns, aged 83 to 89, who delighted us with conversation, tea and watermelon. All had been dispersed into factories and farms during the cultural revolution.

The cathedral in Jilin has been restored from its role as a warehouse. One thousand people come to Mass on Sunday, 100 on the weekday. The rector of the seminary told us he has 40 students for the priesthood and 40 priests ordained in the last five years.

“We are convinced,” he said, “that God loves the Chinese people.”

In Changchun, a city of 5 million inhabitants, we met cheerful Bishop Zhang Han Min of Jilin Province. He was very appreciative of what Maryknoll had done and is doing in China. After hosting us at lunch, he sent us off with a blessing: “May the Church in the United States grow in faith as it is doing in China.”

Five thousand new Christians were baptized in his diocese in the last two years.

Transformation in Mongolia
Mongolia is its own story of the oozing of life that comes from within the Spirit living in the community. In 1992, three years after its transformation from a Soviet puppet to a democratic republic, Pope John Paul sent Father Wens Padilla, a good friend who earned his Master’s Degree in Berkeley in 1985, to Ulaan Baatar with two other Missionhurst Fathers. At the time, there was not one Catholic Mongolian.
In 1994, the first group of 14 were baptized at the Easter Vigil; last year 50 were baptized. There are 210 Catholics in Mongolia today and an equal number enrolled in a two-year Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.

From the three original missionaries, the group has risen to 51, namely, 34 nuns, two Brothers and 15 priests from nine religious groups. The diverse team is very international, from Colombia, Congo, the Cameroons and Europe, but 35 of the missioners come from Asia itself — the Philippines, Korea, India, Bangladesh and Vietnam—another sign of God’s Spirit at work.

With the compassion of Christ, they reach thousands in need — abandoned children, school dropouts, released prisoners and homeless old folks—few of whom are Christians.

On a Sunday last August, we concelebrated Mass in the newly built cathedral with Bishop Padilla (he was ordained a bishop last year) and four of his priests. There were 230 at the second Mass of the morning.

About half of the congregation came up the center aisle for Communion. The others, worshipping non-Christians, came up the side aisles to be blessed by one of the concelebrants. One could hardly explain such a surge of life without some divine presence.

I think of St. Paul’s discerning the presence of the Spirit in love and also joy.

For example, at the meeting of the Asian bishops in Korea, I told the bishop of Infanta that I have visited De La Salle College in downtown Manila. His response was quick: “At the University of the Philippines, it is most difficult to pursue the course in social sciences. At the Ataneo (the Jesuit University) it is most difficult to pursue the course in languages. For De La Salle University, it is most difficult to find parking.”

In Vietnam, Sister Rosaline’s two elderly aunts, very close to my age, criticized my retirement. Both of them indicated to me that first of all that I was too tall to retire, but especially that I had all my hair. They did concede that at least it was white.

All of this exists in a leadership by the bishops that is jovial, easy, confident and congenial. My reason for going to Asia was the continuance of an invitation I have had since 1982, to attend the General
Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences which take place every four years.

The original invitation was extended by Maryknoll Father Edward Malone, who as chief administrative official of the FABC, helped organize the first plenary assembly of the FABC in Taiwan in 1974 and has quarterbacked all seven assemblies since then.

After 33 years on the job, he announced his retirement at the last meeting of the bishops last August in Korea. The bishops there universally praised the remarkable contribution this American missioner from New York City has made to the Asian Church.

Dialogue with world’s religions
Father Malone also published 110 major FABC documents, some of which focused on the Asian Church’s “triple dialogue” with the world’s great religions, with cultures and especially with the poor. I admired the Maryknoller’s talent for guiding serious discussion and debate while fostering a genuine spirit of congeniality.

The latter is remarkable considering the enormous diversity in language, culture and rite of representatives from 20 countries that stretch from the Philippines to Pakistan.

The bishops, who try to promote community by using English as a common language at their meetings, are great people for hospitality; they care for each other; they welcome those from outside as participants, not as mere observers — this time, me from the United States, Bishop Denis Browne from New Zealand and Bishop Adrian Doyle from Australia. They reverence Rome and Pope John II. At the same time they want to be very Asian.

We have much to learn from the Church in Asia. In a very special way we could appreciate the confidence they have in the meaning of faith, the hope they keep under the most oppressive kinds of situations, but especially their belief, feel and touch for the Holy Spirit. They really believe!

 

 

Religious groups ask Court
to stop juvenile executions

By Itir Yakar
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON—Death row inmate Christopher Simmons had the support of more than 30 religious organizations when the Supreme Court considered, Oct. 13, whether he and other juvenile offenders deserve the death penalty.

United by their conviction that juvenile executions are morally unacceptable, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and interfaith organizations have joined to end juvenile executions as a cruel and unusual punishment that violates the philosophies of their faiths.

The groups argue that minors’ developing mental capacities, inability to judge the consequences of their actions and potential for rehabilitation make the case for banning executions of juvenile offenders.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that when juveniles do engage in serious crimes, it is almost always attended by mitigating circumstances such as early and continual exposure to violence and family and social disruption,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a friend-of-the-court brief it filed in July with 29 other religious groups. “Society holds great hope for the reform of wayward youth.”

Simmons, who was 17 at the time he murdered Missouri resident Shirley Crook, would be no exception, the bishops said.

In the fall of 1993, Simmons and a friend broke into Crook’s home to burglarize her. Simmons decided to kill Crook when he realized that she recognized him. He and his friend bound Crook and drove her to Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County. Simmons then pushed Crook from a railroad trestle into the Meramec River.

At the time of his offense, Simmons was physically and verbally abused by an alcoholic stepfather, abused drugs and alcohol himself to escape his dysfunctional family environment and was impulsive, according to his lawyers.

A clinical psychologist retained by his lawyers diagnosed Simmons with schizotypal personality disorder, a condition that involves reduced capacity for social and interpersonal relationships, cognitive distortions, paranoia and magical beliefs.

“Allowing the execution of juvenile offenders, like persons with mental retardation, is a virtual guarantee that the least deserving will be put to death,” the bishops said in their brief.

Although they differ in their views about the death penalty in general, the religious organizations advocate rehabilitation and restorative justice in cases of juvenile offenders.

“There is a growing number of people in this country who really see that vengeance does not lead to healing,” said Diana Lion, director of the prison project at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. “Looking at what caused the crime in the first place is a much deeper level of looking at the safety and security of the community.”

The Supreme Court will decide whether executing Simmons or other juvenile offenders violates a prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment in the Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In throwing out Simmons’ original death sentence and resentencing him to life in prison without parole, Missouri’s Supreme Court argued it was influenced by evolving standards of justice and public opinion, coupled with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision to ban the execution of mentally retarded defendants.

In a 1989 case, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that there was no national consensus for banning the execution of 16- and 17-year-olds. The Simmons case reopens that debate. The high court banned the execution of 15-year-olds in 1988.

The United States is one of eight countries that have executed minors since 1990, along with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, and Yemen, according to Amnesty International.

Lawyers for the state superintendent in the case, Roper v. Simmons, argue that the Missouri Supreme Court did not have the authority to reopen a question that the U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled on.

“There is no magic in the age 18,” argue the states of Alabama, Delaware, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia in a brief they filed in support of the Missouri superintendent. “A teenager who plots like an adult, kills like an adult and covers up like an adult should be held responsible for his choices like an adult.”

For some of the religious groups, their advocacy on behalf of Simmons is part of a larger effort to end capital punishment altogether in the nation.

“We have a deep-held conviction that capital punishment is brutalizing to society and contrary to values we hold,” said the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA). “We obviously support the ending of the death penalty in the United States. Until that’s achieved across the board, we’d like to limit it as much as possible.”

Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said the death penalty is not fairly applied. “We believe there definitely needs to be debate and review, especially when we’re trying to preach nonviolence to the rest of the world in a post-9/11 era,” Al-Marayati said.

 

 

 

Pope’s beatifications of German mystic
and Austria’s last emperor stir debate

By Peggy Polk
Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY—Pope John Paul II has caused controversy with his beatification of a mystic nun whose graphic visions of the Crucifixion inspired Mel Gibson’s movie about the final hours of Christ’s life.

The pope also beatified the last Habsburg to rule the Austro-Hungarian Empire, even though his actions in World War I have been questioned for years.

Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich and Emperor Karl I were among five candidates for canonization whom John Paul declared blessed Oct. 3 at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Beatification is the last step before sainthood.

The pope has now beatified 1,338 people, more than all his predecessors together.

Critics of the new beatifications contended that the visions of the German Emmerich, a 19th century Augustinian nun, fueled anti-Semitism. They accused Karl I of serious character flaws and of permitting Austrian troops to use mustard gas during World War I.

Only about 20,000 pilgrims attended the Mass in the square, which can hold more than 100,000, but among them were the four surviving sons of Karl I.

As the pope, resplendent in green vestments, proclaimed each new blessed, their images in huge portraits were unveiled on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica. Proof that they have been responsible for a miracle will be needed for sainthood.

Emmerich, who died in 1824 at the age of 50 after many years of illness, is known primarily for her book “The Dolorous Passion,” on which Gibson based much of his recent biblical blockbuster, “The Passion of the Christ.”

But the Vatican excluded her visions as grounds for beatification because of the “unreliability” of their transcription by Clemens Brentano, a German Romantic poet who served as her secretary.
Instead, Emmerich, bedridden for the last 11 years of her life, was cited for her “heroic suffering,” her
“patience in bearing the weakness of the body” and her “firmness in faith.”

Karl I was described as “a friend of peace” and the only leader to support the “peace initiatives” of Pope Benedict XV during World War I.

Opponents of his beatification, however, described him as a weak and incompetent ruler and a womanizer who overindulged in drink. Defending him at a Vatican news conference, Italian Catholic historian Piero Borzomati said these were rumors circulated by Freemasons.

Bishop Vigneron demonstrates pastoral care of local seminarians

By Father Larry D’Anjou
Special to The Voice

You can take the bishop out of the seminary, but you can’t take the care of seminarians out of the bishop. This happens to be true for Bishop Allen Vigneron, who comes to the Oakland Diocese after serving as rector of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. Though he has left Detroit, he continues to demonstrate his pastoral care of seminarians – now for those preparing to serve the Oakland Diocese.

All 11 seminarians joined Bishop Vigneron and me for a two-day seminar at San Damiano Retreat Center in August. Our purpose was to help the seminarians get to know their bishop and vice versa. Additionally, it gave the seminarians an opportunity to pray and relax together before beginning another busy formation year.

Several seminarians shared their comments and overall impressions of the seminar. “It was a great joy and helpful spiritually for me to have a retreat with my brother seminarians, the vocation director and the bishop,” noted Peter Son Vo, a third-year theology student.

“I was deeply touched by the way Bishop shared his vision and spirituality of the priesthood. I felt much closer to him as a result of this quality time together,” added Aidan McAleenan, a fourth-year theology student..

The seminar program was a balance of prayer, worship, reading, and free time. The evening of our first day, we shared a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel. Eucharist was celebrated mid-mornings, and the afternoon of the second day was dedicated solely to personal prayer. Reading sessions were intermixed with periods of free time in which the seminarians socialized together, went hiking or spent time alone appreciating the beautiful surroundings of San Damiano.

A central component of the seminar was the four reading sessions with Bishop Vigneron. These sessions and the reading materials selected by the bishop got high praise.

“Our discussions and reading materials were enjoyable and at times stimulating,” noted Kenneth Nobrega, a second year theology student. “I appreciated Bishop Vigneron’s approach (to the readings), such close attention and analysis,” said Jim Sullivan, a third-year theology student. “I appreciated Bishop being very open to our comments, questions and insights.”

Among the readings we discussed was a chapter from Pope John Paul’s book of reflections on the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination entitled “Gift and Mystery.” As a group we reflected on the “wondrous exchange” which occurs between Christ and the one who offers his humanity to Christ as a priest.

This was followed by discussion about how following this path brings a profound measure of personal fulfillment to the one pursuing priesthood. We also reflected on the Holy Father’s writings about the relationship between the priest and the Eucharist, in which he states that the celebration of the Eucharist must be the most important moment of the priest’s day and the center of his life.

I shared how this statement has had growing personal relevance for me in my four years since ordination.

Bishop Vigneron suggested we invite our four newly ordained priests to a reunion with the seminarians. Fathers Mark Amaral, Ruben Morales, and Ken Sales arrived for dinner the second evening of the seminar. (Father Ismael Gutierrez was in Mexico.)

After dinner they shared their impressions of the first three months of ministry. “Blessed and busy” was the common theme. Though each experienced blessed moments of the Spirit, some warned that the hectic nature of parish life could adversely affect their prayer life. They advised the seminarians to carve out daily time in their schedule for prayer and to guard it carefully.

I remember well the intensity of those first three months of priesthood. I even became a bit concerned that the confessions of the newly ordained might frighten some of our seminarians from continuing formation! To my relief, though, the seminarians expressed their appreciation for the frank talk and for the opportunity to meet with the newly ordained once again.

After the closing Mass, there was a consensus among the seminarians that the seminar with Bishop Vigneron was a great success. Judging from their highly satisfied remarks, it looks like this will become an annual summer event.

Parents of soldiers killed in Iraq
to speak at parish forum in Lafayette

Three grieving parents of soldiers killed in Iraq this year will speak out for peace during a forum at St. Perpetua Church in Lafayette on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.
The speakers are Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville, Nadia McCaffrey of Tracy and Bill Mitchell of Atascadero. Sheehan and Mitchell lost their sons during the same mission in Sadr City on April 4. McCaffrey’s son died June 22 in Balad. Sheehan and McCaffrey are both practicing Catholics.

All three parents have been active in speaking out against war since the deaths of their sons.

Sheehan’s son Casey, 24, was a devout Catholic, who attended daily Mass. At the time of his death, he was an army specialist and first senior patrol leader.

Mitchell’s son, Army Staff Sergeant Michael Mitchell, was 25 and died seven days before he was scheduled to return home. He was to be married on Aug. 27.

McCaffrey’s son, Sergeant Patrick McCaffrey, was 34 and married with two small children. He enlisted in the National Guard after 9/11 to help with security efforts in the U.S. and did not expect to be sent overseas.

Lawyer, plaintiffs to address SOA abuses during teach-in at Berkeley parish

In advance of the annual demonstration at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation – the former School of the Americas – a concert, teach-in and benefit fundraiser will be held Oct. 30 at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Berkeley. The event begins at 7 p.m.

Nico van Aelstyn and Carlos Mauricio, both involved in trials of Salvadoran human rights abusers, will speak.

Aelstyn was lead trial counsel in a recent successful trial in Fresno of the key organizer of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Mauricio is a former Salvadoran professor, who survived torture and was a plaintiff in a successful 2002 Florida case against two Salvadoran generals.

Mauricio will speak of his vision to stop impunity and his cross-country bus caravan from the Bay Area to Ft. Benning, Georgia, the site of the Western Hemisphere Institute.

Each November the School of the Americas Watch holds a demonstration outside the institute, commemorating those who died of abuses in Central America and calling for the dismantling of the school.

 

 

Priesthood Sunday set for Oct. 31

By Voice Staff

Catholic parishes throughout the United States will rally in support of their priests during the second annual “Priesthood Sunday” Oct. 31, with special liturgies, prayers, dialogues and celebrations organized by lay people.

The National Federation of Priests councils established the event last year as a positive way to affirm the good works of faithful priests in light of the crisis caused by those priests guilty of sex abuse.

It is also way for Catholics to thank priests for their service to the community and to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The celebration is supported by a wide array of Catholic organizations.

An estimated 10 percent of U.S. parishes took part in the first “Priesthood Sunday,” said Father Robert Silva, president of the National Federation of Priests Councils. He predicted as many as 25 percent of parishes may be involved this year.

Father Silva said his organization encourages parishes to be creative in their recognition efforts.

Besides potlucks or receptions, he suggests banners hung outside church and biographies of parish priests in the Sunday bulletin. Some parishes are taking out ads in local newspapers.

 

Assumpta Award

Christian Brother Christopher Brady, principal of De La Salle High School in Concord, received the 12th annual Assumpta Award from San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, Oct. 7, at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Prior to becoming principal at De La Salle, Brother Brady, a native San Franciscan, served at Sacred Heart Cathedral High School in San Francisco and at Christian Brothers high schools in Sacramento, Pasadena, and Milwaukie, Ore. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees at Saint Mary’s College of California.