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Religious Communities Receive $28 Million Toward Retirement Needs

WASHINGTON—In June, the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) distributed $28 million in financial assistance to 360 U.S. religious communities to help underwrite the care of aging members. The funding is made possible by the Retirement Fund for Religious collection, an annual, parish-based appeal benefiting some 30,000 senior religious and their communities.  

The latest appeal was held in most U.S. Catholic parishes in December 2018 and raised $27.7 million.

Known as Direct Care Assistance, the funding disbursed represents the bulk of financial assistance distributed by the NRRO. Religious communities combine these funds with their own income and savings to help meet expenses such as prescription medications and nursing care. Over the years, this support has helped many religious communities to stabilize their retirement outlooks.

However, many others continue to struggle with rising retirement costs and the growing number of elder members needing care. In response, the NRRO’s Management Committee increased the amount disbursed for Direct Care Assistance in 2019 from $25 million to $28 million, with the additional funding realized through investments and careful financial management.

“We are exceedingly grateful to concerned Catholics across the United States,” said Presentation Sister Stephanie Still, the NRRO’s executive director. “Their ongoing generosity to the Retirement Fund for Religious allows us to help communities who need immediate assistance in caring for aging members.”

Catholic bishops of the United States launched the Retirement Fund for Religious in 1988 to address the profound lack of retirement funding among the nation’s religious communities. Traditionally, Catholic sisters, brothers and religious order priests—known collectively as women and men religious—served for very low wages that did not include retirement benefits. Today, hundreds of religious communities lack adequate retirement savings.

The NRRO coordinates the annual Retirement Fund for Religious collection and distributes the proceeds to eligible religious communities. It also offers educational programming, services and resources that enable religious communities to evaluate and prepare for long-term retirement needs. The NRRO is sponsored by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, Leadership Conference of Women Religious and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Visit https://retiredreligious.org/ to learn more.
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Keywords: National Religious Retirement Office, NRRO, retirement, eldercare, U.S. bishops, Sister Stephanie Still, USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Collection

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Judy Keane
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Miguel Guilarte
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With miracle confirmed in Sheen cause, plans for beatification can begin

IMAGE: CNS

By Jennifer Willems

PEORIA, Ill. (CNS) -- With "overwhelming joy," Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria announced July 6 that Pope Francis had approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

"Now that the miracle has been confirmed by Pope Francis, the Diocese of Peoria can formally begin planning for the beatification of Archbishop Sheen, which will take place in Peoria," according to a news release issued by the Diocese of Peoria early Saturday morning.

The pope authorized the Congregation for Saints' Causes to promulgate the decree at an audience on July 5. In addition to affirming the miracle for Archbishop Sheen, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of one woman and six men, and enrolled Blessed Bartholomew of the Martyrs in the catalog of saints, which is equivalent to canonization.

The miracle concerns the healing of James Fulton Engstrom of Washington, Illinois, who was considered stillborn when he was delivered during a planned home birth Sept. 16, 2010. His parents, Bonnie and Travis Engstrom, immediately invoked the prayers of Archbishop Sheen and would encourage others to seek his intercession after the baby was taken to OSF HealthCare St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria for emergency treatment.

Just as doctors were preparing to declare that he was dead, James Fulton's tiny heart started to beat at a normal rate for a healthy newborn. He had been without a pulse for 61 minutes.

Despite dire prognoses for his future, including that he would probably be blind and never walk, talk or be able to feed himself, the child has thrived. Now a healthy 8-year-old, he likes chicken nuggets, "Star Wars" and riding his bicycle.

"It is truly amazing how God continues to work miracles," Bishop Jenky said in the statement released by the Diocese of Peoria. "I am so grateful that the Vatican acted so quickly after last week's transfer of Sheen's remains from New York to the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria."

Archbishop Sheen had been placed in a crypt below the main altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York after his death Dec. 9, 1979. After protracted legal proceedings, his remains were brought to Peoria June 27 at the request of his niece, Joan Sheen Cunningham, and now rest in a new marble tomb in the Peoria cathedral.

In a recent interview with The Catholic Post, Peoria's diocesan newspaper, Bonnie Engstrom said God had allowed the miracle to happen for his honor and glory.

"I really don't think it was given to us, for us," she said. "I think it was given to the church, for the church."

Although the date of beatification is not known at this time, Bishop Jenky "hopes and prays" that it will be announced soon. The statement said he continues to be hopeful that it will take place during the 100th anniversary year of Archbishop Sheen's ordination to the priesthood.

The El Paso, Illinois, native was ordained Sept. 20, 1919, at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria, and would go on to teach at The Catholic University of America in Washington and lead the Society of the Propagation of the Faith. Perhaps he is best remembered for his popular television show, "Life Is Worth Living."

He died in 1979 at age 84. His sainthood cause was officially opened in 2003. The church declared his heroic virtues and he was given the title "Venerable" in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. In general, two miracles must be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of a prospective saint, one before beatification and the other before canonization.

News about the beatification and the life of Archbishop Sheen can be found at CelebrateSheen.com.

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Willems is assistant editor of The Catholic Post, newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria.

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

At Capitol, faith-based organizations shine light on human trafficking

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At age 9, growing up in Cameroon, Evelyn Chumbow had dreams of coming to the United States, thinking she'd live like the characters in TV shows such as "The Cosbys" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," which she believed depicted life here.

When a relative offered her the opportunity to come to the U.S. through an arrangement with a family in her hometown, she was ready to embark on that life.

"I was just excited," she said. "I could never think that I'd come to the U.S. and become a victim of modern-day slavery or end up in foster care."

But that's exactly what happened and that's the experience she talked about June 26 to participants of a daylong human trafficking conference hosted on Capitol Hill by the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.

Participants, who lobbied U.S. lawmakers after the conference for tougher legislation to combat the problem, learned about its complexities and its global dimensions:

-- An estimated 40.3 million people are enslaved.

-- Of those, 24.9 million are in forced labor (including sex trafficking).

-- 15.4 million are in a forced marriage.

Chumbow, who was 11 when she became a victim of forced labor, fit many of the characteristics of trafficking victims: 25% of those trafficked are children and over 70% of those trafficked are women and girls. Chumbow thought she was coming to the United States to be adopted by a family.

Instead, she was in a group of girls brought in under one passport and then sent off to become a domestic worker in a house in Maryland, where, at age 11, she cooked and cleaned and took care of other children, receiving no salary. The relative who had made the arrangement, she later found out, had sold her for $1,000 to the household where she suffered a variety of abuses.

Unknowingly, she had been brought to the country illegally and didn't know where to go and what to do about her situation. Eventually, she escaped, helped law enforcement convict her abuser and embarked on a long journey of healing, which now involves educating the public about human trafficking.

There's a lot of "separation" of different aspects of human trafficking, but to address the problem holistically, those working to eradicate it need to look at forced labor along with issues of immigration and sex trafficking, the topic which commands much of the attention in human trafficking advocacy, she said.  

"I'm a survivor of labor trafficking," Chumbow said, but there were different abuses taking place and she also was dealing with an immigration situation.

Human trafficking can affect any number of vulnerable individuals, such as incoming immigrants from the so-called "Northern Triangle" countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, but also vulnerable people inside the United States, including those in tribal communities, said panelist Hilary Chester, associate director for the USCCB's Anti-Trafficking Program. She said legislation to combat the problem must take those and other factors into consideration. But enforcement, which would go a long way in solving the problem, is often lagging.

"Because there aren't good opportunities in their home communities or because there's a lot of criminality, there's a lot of impunity for the perpetrators in these communities," Chester said. "People are leaving, searching for other opportunities, which then puts them in front of exploitation."

Even those already living in the U.S. can face similar situations when they leave their support networks, their communities, which is exactly the situation that makes them more vulnerable, Chester said.

Conference organizers offered a wide range of human trafficking examples, which they said can involve modern-day slavery, as well as the exploitation of a person through force, fraud or coercion, which can include sex trafficking, forced labor, domestic servitude and any person under 18 involved in a commercial sex act.

Neha Misra, of the Washington-based Solidarity Center, said that even the popular image most people have about human trafficking can prove complicated.

"When people think about human trafficking, often they first think about sex, but they also think about criminal gangs and syndicates and that it's all underground, and it's not," she said. "It's all about the way we have set up our world economy, the greed that we can see, about how corporations run their businesses and how governments do not respect human rights and worker rights, and that is what makes people vulnerable. It's not just about criminal syndicates."

Most human trafficking around the world involves forced labor, said Misra, to produce items consumers buy on a regular basis.

For example, she said, a trafficker used a group of eight boys who had entered the U.S. as unaccompanied minors in 2014 to clean cages and do other tasks for a poultry farm, one of the largest egg producers in the country. The boys had been living in squalid conditions outside Columbus, Ohio, and paid $2 a day for their work, which included debeaking hens. The company said it was unaware that the subcontractor who brought in the workers was a human trafficker, and the company was never prosecuted for the crime.

"The company said, 'Well, we didn't know,'" Misra said. "Those workers are in your workplace every day. How can you not know that? You didn't know that there was abuse in your supply chain? If they don't know, it's because they don't want to know."

Citizens can demand that government hold those companies accountable, Misra said, and consumers can go online to look for information about violations.

In "hubs" of human trafficking such as Detroit, faith-based groups such Sisters of the Good Shepherd have tackled part of the problem by offering services to female victims of human trafficking, including counseling, housing, career training, prevention programs and even educating the community about human trafficking through its Vista Maria center, formerly the House of the Good Shepherd.

Bailey, a 20-year-old who participated in one its programs, attended the conference and credited the help she received at the Vista Maria center with giving her a new outlook on life and now counts herself among one of the lucky survivors of human trafficking. The young woman, who did not give her last name, shared her story of abuse at a young age, her parents' addictions, which led to a struggle of her own with drugs.

For years, she was involved in a cycle of addiction, sexual exploitation and depression. Vista Maria helped her with housing, counseling and toward a career path as a welder, which has helped her financially stand on her own.

"I am here today to educate all of you that there isn't one kind of story for sex trafficking," she said. "Without long-term treatment, I would not be where I am today. It wasn't that long ago that I didn't want to live because of my depression. Today, my future is very promising. Please help us pass laws that support girls and women who have experienced sexual exploitation and help them have a future beyond trafficking."

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

Pope meets Putin; two leaders talk about Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Vatican July 4, and the two discussed the ongoing wars in Eastern Ukraine and in Syria, the Vatican said. Russia plays a major role in both conflicts.

At the end of the 55-minute private meeting, Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, issued a statement describing the discussions as "cordial."

The pope and president, he said, "expressed their satisfaction at the development of bilateral relations," which included the signing in Rome July 4 of a collaboration agreement between the Vatican's Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital and pediatric hospitals in Russia.

Pope Francis and Putin "then turned their attention to various questions of relevance to the life of the Catholic Church in Russia," Gisotti said, as well a discussion of "the ecological question and various themes relating to current international affairs, with particular reference to Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela," where Russia has been supportive of embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

It was the third time Pope Francis and Putin have met at the Vatican. They met in November 2013 and again in June 2015. Putin arrived late for each of the meetings, including July 4 when he was an hour late.

When reporters entered the room after the two had met privately, Putin told the pope, "Thank you for the time you have dedicated to me."

"It was a very substantive, interesting discussion," he said.

In the traditional gift exchange, Pope Francis gave the Russian president a signed copy of his message for World Peace Day 2019 and an 18th-century etching of St. Peter's Square "so you don't forget Rome."

Putin gave the pope a large icon of Sts. Peter and Paul and a DVD of a Russian film about the artist Michelangelo.

After the meeting with the pope, Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister.

The ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine, where Russian-back separatists have been battling government forces since 2014, had been expected to be a major topic of discussion.

On the eve of the meeting, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow told Vatican Radio Italia, "Even though we are not aware of the program of the meeting, I can imagine that themes dear to the Holy Father, such as peace and safeguarding our common home, are likely to be on the agenda of discussion."

The archbishop also indicated it was unlikely that the visit would result in a long-awaited invitation for the pope to visit Russia, a dream that was particularly close to the heart of St. John Paul II.

Although an invitation from the government is essential, he noted, the Vatican would not plan such a trip without a separate invitation from the Russian Orthodox Church "and it is not likely the Russian president will invite the pope on his own without the backing of the Orthodox Church."

While Vatican-Russian Orthodox relations have steadily improved and Pope Francis personally met with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Cuba in 2016, tensions continue, including over the Vatican's support for the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Pope Francis' meeting with Putin took place the day before the pope was to begin a two-day meeting with the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, members of the church's permanent synod, its metropolitan archbishops and Vatican officials.

Announcing the meeting in May, the Vatican press office had said, "The Holy Father wishes to give a sign of his closeness to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church which carries out pastoral service both at home and in various places in the world."

The meeting, it said, would look at "the life and needs of Ukraine in order to identify the ways in which the Catholic Church, and in particular the Greek-Catholic Church, can increasingly dedicate herself to the preaching of the Gospel, to contribute to the support of those who suffer and to promote peace, in agreement, as far as possible, with the Catholic Church of the Latin rite and with other churches and Christian communities."

In 2016 Pope Francis asked Catholic throughout Europe to take up a special collection for people suffering from the war in Eastern Ukraine and he made a $5-million donation of his own. The ongoing "Pope for Ukraine" project continues to assist people in the warzone and those displaced by the fighting.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

Gudziak: Celebrate America's blessings, pray for its 'spiritual' strength

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia reminded clergy, religious and the faithful what a blessing it is to be an American this Independence Day.

In a July 3 statement, he thanked the Lord for allowing his ancestors to immigrate to America, where they encountered opportunity, lived with dignity, and developed their God-given talents. Born in Syracuse, New York, he is the son of immigrant parents from Ukraine.

He then turned his prayer away from the past and looked to the present and future of America.

"Let's pray this Independence Day for the moral and spiritual strength of our country," Archbishop Gudziak said. "There are many challenges to the founding principles of our country. Let us pray that each of us can continue upholding the openness, the welcome, the generosity, the open-heartedness, the willingness to help, that this country stands for."

He prayed that this country continue to grow in its independence and freedom from generation to generation.

Finally, he invoked a blessing on all the priests, religious faithful, neighbors, friends and relatives of the Metropolitan Diocese.

"May we always be worth of the freedom you have given us, may we always be responsible, and may we always live in peace and joy," Archbishop Gudziak said. "God bless America! Glory to Jesus Christ."

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

Midsommar

U.S. Bishops’ Chairmen of Migration and Domestic Justice Express Opposition to Proposed Rule that Would Lead to Family Separation and Housing Instability

WASHINGTON— Today, bishops from two committees at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) expressed their opposition to a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would lead to separation or housing instability for many families. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, FL, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, offered the following statements.

“The proposed rule would have terrible consequences for thousands of mixed-status families,” said Bishop Vásquez. “It would force these families to make a heartbreaking choice - endure family separation so that eligible members can continue to receive critical housing assistance or stay together and forfeit any such assistance. This choice between unity and stability is one no family should have to make. We urge HUD to withdraw this deeply concerning proposed rule.”

“The right to decent, safe, and affordable housing is rooted in the fundamental dignity of every person,” said Bishop Dewane. “By proposing this rule, HUD acknowledges the need for more housing assistance so that people in need won’t have to endure long waits for programs that are overwhelmed by demand. More must be done to address housing needs in this country, but it must not be done at the expense of mixed-status families.”
You can see the full comments that USCCB submitted in conjunction with Catholic Charities USA, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., and the Catholic Health Association on the proposed rulemaking by clicking here.

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Keywords: USCCB, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee on Migration, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Diocese of Venice

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

U.S. Bishop Chairmen Affirm SCOTUS Decision and Urge That All People Count and Should Be Included in Census

WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank Dewane, of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Bishop Joe Vásquez, of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, issued the following statement regarding last week’s decision by the United States Supreme Court in Department of Commerce v. New York, regarding the importance of ensuring an accurate count for the U.S. Census:

“We affirm last week’s decision by the Supreme Court that the inclusion of a citizenship question must ensure genuine reasons for such inclusion. We reaffirm that all persons in the United States should be counted in the Census regardless of their immigration status and reemphasize our judgment that questions regarding citizenship should not be included in the Census. We hope that this view will prevail, whether by administrative action or judicial determination.”

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Joe Vásquez, Committee on Migration, United States Supreme Court, Department of Commerce v. New York, U.S. Census

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Media Relations:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Annabelle Comes Home