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Papal Foundation announces $9m in grants for charitable projects

The flag of Vatican City with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 2, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

The Papal Foundation announced April 28 they will be distributing $9.2 million in grants to dioceses in 64 countries in the coming year. 

This year’s grants will finance the construction and repair of church and school buildings, environmental initiatives and the education of children in need, among other projects. The organization cited Pope Francis’ call earlier this year to rebuild church buildings in the Middle East as a guiding factor in this year’s grants. 

The Philadelphia-based Papal Foundation’s mission is to serve the Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church through “faith, energy, and financial resources.” 

“The Holy Father has identified urgencies throughout the world, and The Papal Foundation is committed to working diligently to address his priorities to house, educate, heal, and feed individuals in need,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, chairman of The Papal Foundation Board of Trustees, in a statement provided to CNA. 

“In addition to providing for these basic human needs, The Papal Foundation is helping create the physical infrastructure to allow the faithful to receive the sacraments and practice their Catholic Faith.”

Among the projects that will be funded by the grants include the construction and repair of churches, chapels, libraries, laboratories and schools; the creation of a dialysis center in a Catholic hospital; the renovation of children’s centers; the purchase of surgical equipment for a Catholic teaching university; the education of intellectually disabled children and orphans; the housing of retired religious; environmental initiatives; and the fight against human trafficking and sexual explotation.

Eustace Mita, president of The Papal Foundation’s Board of Trustees, said that Pope Francis’ visit to the Middle East and his call to rebuild Catholic buildings in the region, as well as his message of a unified Christian community, influenced the work done by the foundation. 

“At The Papal Foundation, we are doing just that, funding projects and initiatives that support the Catholic Church’s presence in the Middle East and mission to educate children, offer vocational support for adults, and provide for medical needs in these countries,” said Mita in a statement provided to CNA. 

The buildings, said Mita, are “so much more” than the “physical manifestations of our faith” in the Middle East. 

“By responding to the Holy See’s requests, we are doing our small part to build the bonds of community Pope Francis referenced,” he said. “We are building connections between the hearts of the faithful and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Fire reveals pieces of Mission San Gabriel's past as it prepares for jubilee year

The interior of the fire-damaged Mission San Gabriel April 19, 2021, after new steel beams were installed to begin construction of a new roof. / Victor Alemán

Los Angeles, Calif., May 1, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Nine months after a mysterious fire ripped through Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, the historic church is still a mess.

The fire-blackened sanctuary walls hide behind layers of scaffolding. Pieces of peeling plaster remain. A temporary timber roof protects the 200-year-old interior from the elements, while a pair of scissor lifts shuffle around over the makeshift particle-board floors. Outside, contractors mill around the parish parking lot while the structure’s warped steel beams wait to be hauled away after being carefully unlodged over the course of weeks.

When the four-alarm fire struck in the predawn hours of July 11, 2020, destroying the mission’s roof and damaging most of its interior, mission officials and the local community were devastated. 

But now, as the mission prepares for its 250th anniversary, silver linings from the fire perhaps more valuable than the millions of dollars in damage it caused are starting to emerge. 

The mission church’s steel beams were warped by the intense fire. They had to be carefully removed and replaced by new ones last month. / Victor Alemán
The mission church’s steel beams were warped by the intense fire. They had to be carefully removed and replaced by new ones last month. / Victor Alemán

Behind those peeling layers of plaster, for example, workers have discovered painted walls with colorful designs that historians never knew existed. Beneath the sunken floors of the mission’s sacristy and tiny baptistery — crushed by the 150,000 gallons of water firefighters used to extinguish the blaze and save the mission from total destruction — previously unknown layers of old brick and slabs of stone mined from the San Gabriel Mountains have been unearthed.

Discoveries like these are handy tools to help historians understand the mission’s spotty past.  

For Terri Huerta, the mission’s historical director, the hidden blessings of last summer’s fire are becoming clearer every day.

“Mission San Gabriel has kind of been a sleeping giant,” she explained during a recent visit to San Gabriel. “It’s been here, but no one’s really had the opportunity, like we do now, to tell its story.”

In other words, the fire may turn out to be just the providential sign that LA’s oldest Catholic outpost needed to reconnect with its historical and missionary identity — and right in time to kickoff a “jubilee year” that Archbishop José H. Gomez is planning to mark its 250th birthday.

An unexpected opportunity

Telling the mission’s story has always been a challenge. The founding Spanish Franciscan missionaries were meticulous record-keepers — keeping track of everything from baptisms and weddings to crop yields — but after they were expelled in the 1830s, the newly privatized mission largely fell into decay under Mexican rule. Although it became a popular visitor attraction in the second half of the 1800s, its subsequent inhabitants did not always do a great job of keeping records. 

As Huerta admitted, the mission “has never really had a verifiable narrative.”

Few in this close-knit mission parish have taken the tragic fire more personally than Huerta. Since the ’70s, Huerta’s family has celebrated baptisms, weddings, confirmations, and anniversaries here. Her brother is buried in the cemetery on the mission grounds.

But now she is a first-person witness to how last summer’s fire is providing key insights into mysteries like what the church’s interior design first looked like, or how its design evolved over the centuries.

“We have learned so much about this building from the fire,” said Huerta. 

While researchers have long thought the structure was built with adobe bricks, the blaze has revealed that the natives and missionaries who worked together to build the mission actually used fired brick and mortar. 

Six wooden statues and a painting with a miraculous reputation damaged by the fire are in the process of professional restoration. The church’s original reredos and altar, which firefighters were able to save during the early morning firefight, also need to be cleaned and repainted. 

UC Riverside historian Steven Hackell is the chairperson of the mission’s Museum Committee. By forcing the removal of all of its surviving artifacts from the mission, the fire means his team can now develop a full inventory of those items, which include paintings, sculptures, books, and even liturgical vestments — and decide how and where to best preserve them. 

Like Huerta, he sees the work ahead as a special opportunity. 

“If you went through your attic and cleaned it up one day, you wouldn’t just put everything back where it was once the floors are dusted and the windows are clean,” Hackell explained. “You’d make decisions.”

Huerta hopes that some of those decisions will be formed by an advisory panel with art experts from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Getty Museum to guide the repainting of the church’s interior. 

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to be a little more methodical about deciding what the mission is going to look like after we’re done, and what educational opportunities we have to share with the public,” said Huerta.

The thousands of gallons of water used to put out the fire last July caused the floor of the mission’s sacristy to sink, revealing layers of stone and brick used to first build the church. No human remains have been found in excavations since the fire. / Victor Alemán
The thousands of gallons of water used to put out the fire last July caused the floor of the mission’s sacristy to sink, revealing layers of stone and brick used to first build the church. No human remains have been found in excavations since the fire. / Victor Alemán

Both Huerta and Hackell see the events of the last year as a much-needed jumpstart to the task of restoring the mission for future generations to behold. 

“We have this really unparalleled opportunity to not just restore the mission itself, but to more fully understand the material culture of the mission, which was so crucial,” said Hackell. 

Meanwhile, the mission is working on submitting remodeling plans to the City of San Gabriel, which include modern electrical and HVAC systems. 

The timeline for the restoration is still unfolding. Mission officials hope to have the new roof and ceiling fully installed by the time Archbishop Gomez celebrates the inaugural Mass for the jubilee year, slated for Sept. 11 (location still to be determined), and expect the mission to be “fully functional” by the end of the jubilee a year later.

A new generation of missionaries?

For Father Parker Sandoval, the San Gabriel fire and the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on parishes are signs that the church in Los Angeles is being called to a “new beginning.” It is why, in Father Sandoval’s words, the timing of the mission’s 250th jubilee this year is nothing short of “providential.”

“I think the state of San Gabriel Mission right now is how the whole Church feels,” said Father Sandoval, vice chancellor for Ministerial Services for the archdiocese. “This has been a traumatic year. And I think that image of the church under reconstruction following a disaster is an appropriate image of the whole Church right now.”

The July 11, 2020 early morning fire at San Gabriel Mission burned the roof and most of the interior of its sanctuary. / John McCoy
The July 11, 2020 early morning fire at San Gabriel Mission burned the roof and most of the interior of its sanctuary. / John McCoy

The idea of a “Jubilee Year” originally comes from the Book of Leviticus, in which God commanded Israel to observe every 50th year as a time of mercy — when debts were forgiven, people in bondage were set free, and lands were returned to their original owners.

Since the 14th century, the Church has celebrated jubilees at regular intervals. The pope can also proclaim “extraordinary jubilees” to mark special events or anniversaries or to fulfill a special need (the last was in 2000, celebrated as “The Great Jubilee,” marking the beginning of the third millennium since the birth of Jesus).

To each jubilee the Church attaches certain indulgences, which are opportunities for grace and mercy. They may involve pilgrimages, prayers, or charitable works.

In Los Angeles, the San Gabriel jubilee year is being organized around both senses of the word “mission”: Special events, parish initiatives, and pilgrimage opportunities are being planned, with the intention of educating Catholics about the mission’s past while forming them to evangelize in the future.

“The hope for this jubilee year is not simply to celebrate the past, but to raise up a new generation of missionaries for our time and place,” said Father Sandoval, who is overseeing planning for the special year under the tagline “Forward in Mission” — an adaptation of Mission San Gabriel founder St. Junípero Serra’s famous motto, “Always Forward!”

The year will kick off on Sept. 8 with an opening prayer service at San Gabriel Mission, followed by 40 consecutive hours of eucharistic adoration at 22 parishes around the archdiocese designated as jubilee pilgrimage sites (one in each of the archdiocese’s 20 deaneries, plus St. Catherine of Alexandria on Catalina Island and La Placita near downtown LA).

An opening Mass for the jubilee will be held either at the mission or the cathedral on Saturday, Sept. 11, and a closing Mass on Sept. 10 of the following year.

In between, the archdiocese will be promoting “pilgrimage walks” between missions, parish retreats, a historical exhibit on the mission at the cathedral, and a curriculum on local church history and evangelization for use in Catholic schools. 

For Huerta, the educational element of the jubilee year is especially important in the wake of recent attacks on statues of St. Junípero, Mission San Gabriel’s founder, fueled by narratives that depict the evangelization of California as an act of oppression.

“We have an opportunity to change the narrative,” said Huerta. One component of the mission’s renewal will be the creation and dedication of an outdoor sacred space on the mission grounds designed by local descendants of Tongva natives. 

Both Huerta and Father Sandoval believe there is little use in clamoring for the past, when the opportunities for the mission’s renewal going forward are so obvious. 

“We do not want to return to normal. We want to return to the Gospel, which calls us to better than normal, because normal was decline,” said Father Sandoval. “We can’t simply revert to business-as-usual, maintenance mode. This is the moment to be intentionally missionary.”

“Even in these circumstances, even in this disaster zone, we find something new.”

Louisiana diocese ends mask requirement at Mass, but bishop advises 'continued vigilance'

Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux. / Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.

Denver Newsroom, May 1, 2021 / 13:01 pm (CNA).

A Louisiana bishop has lifted mask requirements for Mass in several of the state’s cities, but he still encouraged parishioners to follow previous coronavirus regulations during worship.

“While masks will no longer be required for those attending Mass in our diocesan Catholic churches, I do still strongly encourage those at Mass to continue to wear masks, and also to socially distance themselves as best they can,” said Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, according to the Louisiana newspapers The Courier and Daily Comet.

The statement followed the decision of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who ended mask requirements on Wednesday. According to the bishop, parishioners in Terrebonne, Lafourche, and Morgan City will no longer be required to wear masks to attend Mass.

However, safety regulations, such as social distancing, capacity limitations, and masks, will still be required at Catholic school Masses.

“With the concerns regarding the virus still very much part of our everyday lives, we cannot lose sight of the importance of our continued vigilance because the pandemic’s hold on our state, country and world has not completely subsided, and the fight against this virus continues,” the bishop said, according to Houma Today.

“With the great many elderly, homebound, and immuno-compromised of our faithful unable to attend Mass, I am also maintaining that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains dispensed for all Catholics in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux at this time.”

Archbishop Cordileone: Catholics supporting abortion should not present themselves for Holy Communion

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore J. Cordileone. / Getty Images

San Francisco, Calif., May 1, 2021 / 10:05 am (CNA).

The Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore J. Cordileone, released on May 1, 2021 a pastoral letter about the worthiness required for the reception of Holy Communion in which he insisted that any Catholic cooperating with the evil of abortion should refrain from receiving the Eucharist.

“It is fundamentally a question of integrity: to receive the Blessed Sacrament in the Catholic liturgy is to espouse publicly the faith and moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and to desire to live accordingly,” wrote Cordileone. “We all fall short in various ways, but there is a great difference between struggling to live according to the teachings of the Church and rejecting those teachings.”

The letter, issued on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and at the beginning of the month honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary, comes on the heels of growing media coverage regarding whether President Biden should be admitted to Holy Communion within the Catholic Church.

Contained within his letter was a section specifically for Catholic public officials who advocate for abortion. “You are in a position to do something concrete and decisive to stop the killing,” he said. “Please stop the killing. And please stop pretending that advocating for or practicing a grave moral evil – one that snuffs out an innocent human life, one that denies a fundamental human right – is somehow compatible with the Catholic faith. It is not. Please return home to the fullness of your Catholic faith.”

Both the Washington Post and the AP published articles earlier this week which highlighted debate about whether Biden, a staunch promoter of abortion and funding for abortion but also a Catholic, would be asked to refrain from reception of the Eucharist.

According to the longstanding teaching of the Church outlined by the archbishop, formal cooperation and immediate material cooperation with evil, such as cooperation in the evil of abortion, precludes one from receiving Holy Communion. “The Church’s teaching and discipline on worthiness to receive Holy Communion has been consistent throughout her history, going back to the very beginning,” the archbishop noted.

“[T]he teaching of our faith is clear: those who kill or assist in killing the child (even if personally opposed to abortion), those who pressure or encourage the mother to have an abortion, who pay for it, who provide financial assistance to organizations to provide abortions, or who support candidates or legislation for the purpose of making abortion a more readily available ‘choice’ are all cooperating with a very serious evil,” stated archbishop Cordileone. “Formal cooperation and immediate material cooperation in evil is never morally justified.”

The Archbishop quoted St. Paul’s teaching in First Corinthians to explain the danger of receiving Holy Communion while cooperating with grave evil, an act long hailed in the Church as unworthy: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Cor 11:27-29).” 

He also included the testimony of early Church Father St. Justin Martyr who taught that, “No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes what we teach is true; unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.”

The debate about President Biden and communion hit a new high when the Washington Post published a story and tweet that described President Biden as “very Catholic,” sparking an impassioned response from Catholic leaders.

The archbishop's own response addressed the importance of witnessing to the truth about the grave evil of abortion. “For decades now western culture has been in denial about the harsh reality of abortion. The topic is swathed in sophistries by its advocates and discussion about it is forbidden in many venues.

“In the case of public figures who identify as Catholic and promote abortion, we are not dealing with a sin committed in human weakness or a moral lapse: this is a matter of persistent, obdurate, and public rejection of Catholic teaching,” he penned. “This adds an even greater responsibility to the role of the Church’s pastors in caring for the salvation of souls.

“It is my conviction that this conspiracy of disinformation and silence is fueled by fear of what it would mean to recognize the reality with which we are dealing.

“The right to life itself is the foundation of all other rights. Without protection of the right to life, no other talk of rights makes sense,” he said, noting that the science is “clear” on when this life begins. “[A] new, genetically-distinct human life begins at conception.”

Archbishop Cordileone was careful to emphasize that “abortion is never solely the mother’s act. Others, to a greater or lesser degree, share culpability whenever this evil is perpetrated.”

He noted that his responsibility as pastor and shepherd of souls required him to be clear on the both the gravity of abortion’s evil and the reasons why a person who procures, assists, or promotes abortion in any way cannot receive Holy Communion unless they first repent and are absolved in confession.

“Speaking for myself,” he said, “I always keep before me the words from the prophet Ezekiel…I tremble that if I do not forthrightly challenge Catholics under my pastoral care who advocate for abortion, both they and I will have to answer to God for innocent blood.”

At the end of his letter, the archbishop thanked those in public life who stand firm for the cause of the unborn. “Your bold and steadfast stand in the face of what is often fierce opposition gives courage to others who know what is right but might otherwise feel too timid to proclaim it in word and deed,” he opined.

Archbishop Cordileone also reached out to women who have had an abortion and others affected by it. “God loves you. We love you. God wants you to heal, and so do we, and we have the resources to help you. Please turn to us, because we love you and want to help you and want you to heal,” he posited, adding that those who have healed from abortion can become tremendous witnesses to the Gospel of Mercy. “Because of what you have endured, you more than anyone can become a powerful voice for the sanctity of life."

The archbishop of San Francisco concluded the letter by inviting all those of good will to “work for a society in which every new baby is received as a precious gift from God and given a welcome to the human community” and by invoking the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, as well as St. Joseph and St. Francis, patron of the archdiocese.

To read the letter in its entirety, click here.

As epidemic wanes, New York archdiocese schools plan for full reopening

Students in a classroom.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 1, 2021 / 07:01 am (CNA).

When the next school year begins, all Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York will be open for in-person learning for the full school week because new health directives mean the schools can operate without needing hybrid or remote classes for students.

“My goal and that of the Health and Safety Task Force is to commit all our collective expertise and resources to ensure all our schools will be open for five full days a week of in-person instruction for all students beginning in September 2021,” Michael J. Deegan, Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York, wrote in an April 20 letter to students' families.

“Your faithful commitment to our rigorous protocols has ensured the continued health and safety of our school communities,” Deegan said. “Our children have been learning and have been safe!”

The plans are still dependent on the rule and requirements of federal and local health agencies and on a low level of COVID-19 infections.

The Archdiocese of New York’s Catholic schools serve more than 67,000 students from Pre-K to twelfth grade, throughout the ten southern counties of New York State. Soon after the coronavirus epidemic arrived in the U.S. and devastated the northeastern U.S., the New York Catholic school system set up a Health and Safety Sask Force to help determine whether and how education should proceed in the novel circumstances.

Despite the coronavirus epidemic, the Catholic schools have been open for in-person, five-day-a-week instruction since September 2020. However, many schools are working on a hybrid model and alternate some students between remote learning and in-person education, the Staten Island Advance news website reports.

The superintendent's letter also gave guidance for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

The letter announced that fully remote students, “effective immediately,” will no longer be required to present a negative coronavirus test to participate in school events, graduation ceremonies and the Catholic sacraments.

Deegan noted the Centers for Disease Control recommendations have reduced social distancing requirements from six to three feet, which have allowed for schools to free up space for more students.

However, he said that the majority of Catholic schools would maintain the six-foot social distance guidelines because they are unable to meet CDC and New York State criteria for moving to a three-foot distance. Schools will consider the three foot distance standard only if this both allows for in-person learning every day and if six feet distance is able to be maintained during mask breaks.

Deegan wrote that schools with Health and Safety Task Force permission to reduce desk space to three feet will be “required by the state to have parent meetings and revise and submit their plans to the local health department as well as the New York State Department of Health and State Education Department.”

Deegan thanked the support of parents, students, pastors, and school staff for their work throughout the pandemic.

Santa Fe archdiocese to sell over 700 properties amid mounting abuse settlements

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi / Nagel Photography/Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Apr 30, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe intends to sell over 700 properties by year’s end to help pay for settlements to sexual abuse survivors, an examination of court records has found. 

An examination of court records by the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper found that the diocese has sold at least six properties over the past year and intends to sell 732 more by late July. 

Those first six sales generated $7.5 million for the diocese, the records show. According to the AP, among the buildings sold were several surrounding a Carmelite Monastery in Santa Fe. 

Of the many more properties to be sold by an auctioneering firm, most are small vacant lots, fields, or grazing land donated to the archdiocese by families, the New Mexican reported. 

In August 2020, the archdiocese listed the vacant St. Francis Cathedral School in downtown Santa Fe for $3.6 million.

The archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2018. At the time, Wester said there were between 35-40 active sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese. 

The New Mexican now reports that nearly 400 people have now filed claims of abuse in the archdiocese.

Throughout the bankruptcy process, some alleged abuse survivors have accused the archdiocese of transferring some properties’ ownership from the archdiocese to individual parishes to protect them from being lost in the settlement process. 

In October 2020, a U.S. bankruptcy judge ruled that lawyers for clergy sex abuse survivors can file lawsuits alleging the archdiocese fraudulently transferred the property and assets in order to shield them from being used for payouts, the AP reported. 

The archdiocese did not respond by press time to CNA’s request for further comment.

With 'message of hope,' consecration of California to St. Joseph coming to multiple churches

A detail from St. Joseph with the Child, by Francesco Conti (1681–1760) / Public domain

Denver Newsroom, Apr 30, 2021 / 17:04 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has declared 2021 to be the Year of St. Joseph, and Catholics will gather at multiple California churches on May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, to consecrate their state to the foster father of Jesus Christ.

Among them will be Father Donald Calloway, an Ohio-based priest of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and author of the book “Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father.” He encouraged others to take part the consecration.

“I am so excited to be participating in the Consecration of California to St. Joseph on May 1.” Calloway said on the website of BVM Blue Mantle, the group organizing the event. “In these very difficult times, we need a message of hope, and all families, marriages, men, women, children, bishops, priests, and nuns need to go to St. Joseph!”

One major event is hosted at St. John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa. It will begin Saturday May 1 with Mass at noon, followed by the consecration prayers at 1:15. The congregation will lead a procession with a statue of St. Joseph at 2 p.m.

Father Calloway will then deliver a talk and sign books at 2:30.

BVM Blue Mantle, LLC, describes itself as a group of Catholics “whose love for our Lord and Mary has inspired us to consecrate California to Our Lady, and now to St. Joseph.” While the group has invited all Californians to join them for the consecration at the Costa Mesa church, they encouraged others to involve their parish or take part at events at other churches.

Participating churches include St. Mary Catholic Church in Escondido, St. Ephrem Maronite Catholic Church in El Cajon, Star of the Sea Parish in San Francisco, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in San Diego, St. Anne Catholic Church in San Diego, and St. Andrew Catholic Church in Pasadena.

Blue Mantle encouraged those without access to Mass to pray the rosary and consecration prayer outside a local church.

The group invoked Pope Francis’ proclamation of a Year of St. Joseph.

“Let’s ask St. Joseph to help us to defeat the Culture of Death. Together we are praying for an end of abortion, euthanasia, (and) natural disasters,” Blue Mantle said. “As brothers and sisters in Christ, we will be praying for the sick, elderly, unwanted, and an end to the violence, sex abuse, drugs, alcoholism, (and) sex trafficking.”

Blue Mantle’s website is called Consecrate California.

Pope names new Colorado Springs bishop: a Nebraska priest 'fascinated by Jesus Christ'

Bishop-designate James Golka will head the Colorado Springs Diocese. / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Denver Newsroom, Apr 30, 2021 / 13:06 pm (CNA).

Father James Golka is Pope Francis’ choice to become the next bishop of Colorado Springs, and the Nebraska priest used his opening remarks for the diocese to encourage everyone to “become fascinated by the Lord.”

“I’m fascinated by Jesus Christ,” Golka said at a Friday morning press conference in Colorado Springs. “It’s a gift that God gave me as a boy. I remember as a second-grader getting my first Children’s Bible. I loved reading the stories of Jesus.”

“To hear about Jesus and what he did in the Gospels fascinates me. What made him respond to people the way he responded to them? What made him say what he said?” the priest asked. “He knew that in his person was the Reign of God. He knew his identity, and he acted out of it.”

“When you become fascinated by Jesus you cannot help but fall in love with him, and that has changed everything for me,” said Golka. “I invite you to become fascinated by the Lord… I can’t wait to see what he does with us.”

Golka said he was “incredibly humbled and excited” to join the Diocese of Colorado Springs. “I ask for your prayers; please be assured of mine.”

Archbishop Christophe Pierre announced the appointment the morning of April 30, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Friday. Golka currently serves as both rector of Grand Island’s Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin and vicar general for the Diocese of Grand Island, whose territory extends from the western Nebraska panhandle into central Nebraska.

He succeeds Bishop Michael Sheridan, 76, who has headed the diocese since January 2003. Under church law, bishops must submit their resignation to the pope upon turning 75.

Sheridan said he was happy with the appointment.

“Bishop-elect Golka has already shown himself to be not only a skilled administrator, but also a man of prayer,” Sheridan said in a statement from the Colorado Springs diocese. “I believe that he will serve the people of this diocese very well.”

Golka was born Sept. 22, 1966 in Grand Island, Neb. He is the fourth of ten children born to Robert and Patricia Golka. He graduated from Grand Island Central Catholic High School.

In 1989, he graduated from Creighton University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology. He served as a Jesuit lay missionary volunteer at Native American missions in South Dakota, including work on the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, then entered St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota. There, he earned a master’s in divinity and a master’s degree in sacramental theology.

He was ordained a priest for the Grand Island diocese on June 3, 1994. He served several assignments as assistant pastor and pastor. From 2006 to 2016, he was pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish and president of St. Patrick’s School in North Platte, Nebraska. He has served as rector for Grand Island’s cathedral since 2016. He was named vicar general of the diocese in 2018.

Golka, who speaks English and Spanish, has served on his diocese’s College of Consultors, the Presbyteral Council and the Personnel Board. He has been a pilgrimage director for Jerusalem and the Holy Land. He previously served as director of Higher Ground, a diocesan summer retreat for young people.

In a prayer before his remarks at the press conference, Golka gave thanksgiving to God and asked that God will guide the people of Colorado Springs diocese to “open our ears that we may truly hear your word for us, to know your will, that we might follow it faithfully.”

“Open our eyes that we may see your presence in each other, and your presence in the sacred mysteries that we get to celebrate in our Catholic faith,” the bishop-designate prayed. “Open our hearts that we might know your deep love and mercy for us.”

Golka said he was “terrified, shocked, humbled” at the prospect of becoming a bishop. But he emphasized “I trust the Lord fully.”

Commenting that people had asked what his agenda might be, he said: “I don’t have any agenda that I know of. I just think that together we discern what is the mission of God for the people of the Diocese of Colorado Springs.”

Golka’s ordination as a Catholic bishop is scheduled for June 29.

The Colorado Springs diocese serves about 187,000 Catholics out of more than 1.1 million people. Its territory includes the U.S. Air Force Academy. It is one of three dioceses in Colorado.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez welcomed the bishop-to-be.

“We pray that God will bless you and the Diocese of Colorado Springs with all the graces you need to shepherd God’s people and help them experience the joy of knowing him,” they said in a joint statement. “We are sure that you will find as we have that the Church in Colorado is filled with good, faithful and generous people. We look forward to working with you in our shared ministry to this great state.”

“We also wish to extend our prayers and gratitude to Bishop Michael Sheridan for his service to the Church and wish him well in his retirement,” Archbishop Aquila and Bishop Rodriguez added.

Kentucky priest "on cloud nine" after priestly faculties reinstated

St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro, Ky. Credit: Farragutful via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Denver Newsroom, Apr 30, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

An Owensboro, Kentucky priest says he is “on cloud nine” after receiving word that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had reinstated his faculties after he appealed his permanent suspension from public ministry. 

“When the letter [from the CDF] came, I was telling them I was almost afraid to open it  because you don’t know what the news is,” said Fr. Joseph Edward Bradley to 14 News on April 26. 

“I am so happy I can hardly talk,” he said. He said that it was the prayers and support of his “good friends” who got him through his suspension.

“After two years, it was getting more and more difficult,” said Bradley, as he waited for word on the status of the appeal.  

Bradley was in March 2019 temporarily suspended from public ministry following allegations he had sexually abused a minor in the 1980s. 

Another claim was made during the investigation into the first claim. Both claims are from when Bradley was the dean of students and principal at Owensboro Catholic High School. 

Following an investigation, the Diocesan Review Board substantiated the allegations. Bishop William Medley of Owensboro accepted the review board’s assessment and requested that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith make the suspension permanent. Bradley appealed the CDF’s decision.

Last week, the CDF informed the Diocese of Owensboro that Bradley’s faculties were “immediately reinstated” and that restrictions had been lifted— with one condition. 

“The Vatican decree notes ‘given the imprudent behavior of the cleric throughout the course of his ministry in education, the Congresso (Vatican body) imposes a penal precept (restriction) on the cleric, according to canon 1739, through which he is forbidden to enter any primary or secondary school for a period of five years,’” said an April 26 statement by the diocese. 

Bradley, who is 78 years old, was already retired from active ministry when he was first accused of sexual misconduct. He was working part time as a volunteer chaplain at Owensboro Catholic High School when he was accused in 2019. 

The pandemic stretched out the legal process while Bradley’s appeal was in limbo.

“It’s a universal church,” Bradley said. “It takes a long time for cases to be heard and especially during the pandemic. I just kept telling myself it will happen. I knew I was innocent and I just thought ‘it is going to happen.’”

In October 2019, the Daviess County Commonwealth's Attorney declined to file criminal charges against Fr. Bradley, saying that “there was not evidence to support the allegations, and it is passed [sic] the statute of limitations,” according to WFIE TV. 

Tina Kasey, director of communications for the diocese, told CNA on Thursday that as a result of the CDF’s decree, the appeal process is concluded and, from the diocese’ standpoint, “the case is closed.” 

Fr. Bradley is not currently, nor has he ever been, listed on the diocese’ list of clerics with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against a minor. 

Kasey told CNA that Fr. Bradley was not listed on the diocesan website due to the appeal that was underway. “We were waiting for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to render its decision,” she said. 

She added that “alleged incidents of more than 30 years past are complicated and difficult to fully substantiate.”

Pro-life former congressman: Catholics in politics need to be ‘different’

Former congressman Dan Lipinski / EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Washington D.C., Apr 30, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

A Catholic former Democratic congressman said that President Biden’s pro-abortion policies flout what it means to live as a Catholic in public life.

“Catholics should be different. We shouldn’t just be Democrats, Republicans, and follow the party line,” said former congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), in an interview that aired on Thursday night on EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.

“Catholics really have an obligation and an understanding of what the dignity of the individual means,” he added. “We need to live that out in public life if we are in office, or we’re just a citizen and we’re voting. We need to follow that.”

“Unfortunately, that’s not what we usually see, on either side of the aisle,” he said.

Lipinski spoke on the 100-day mark of Biden’s presidency. A former eight-term congressman from Illinois’ third district, Lipinski was known as the last reliable pro-life vote among House Democrats. He lost his 2020 primary to now-Congresswoman Marie Newman, who is Catholic and pro-abortion.

During Biden’s first 100 days in office, he began by issuing a statement in support of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide; Biden made the statement on Jan. 22, the 48th anniversary of Roe.

Several days later, the president repealed the Mexico City Policy, allowing for U.S. global health assistance to go to pro-abortion groups.

Under Biden’s presidency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is in the process of repealing rules to allowg abortion providers to receive Title X family planning funding. The administration’s proposal would also require that Title X funding recipients to provide abortion counseling upon request.

Furthermore, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is rolling back regulations of the abortion pill regimen, allowing for it to be prescribed and dispensed remotely during the pandemic.

Biden’s record on abortion “is what we expected,” Lipinski said on Thursday. “It’s not surprising, but it’s disappointing, nonetheless.”

Biden has also pledged to repeal the Hyde Amendment, allowing for taxpayer-funded abortion. The decades-old policy – which bars funding of elective abortions in congressional appropriations – was not included in the recent American Rescue Plan, a nearly-$2 trillion COVID relief bill that Biden signed into law.

Some House Democrats are pushing for Biden’s budget request to Congress to not include the Hyde Amendment, giving the green light for Congress to not include the policy in appropriations bills for the 2022 fiscal year.

“We need to save the Hyde Amendment,” Lipinski said, adding that he is encouraging Catholics to contact their member of Congress in support of the policy.

If Congress passes funding bills without the policy included, “I’m hoping that it doesn’t even get to the President’s desk,” he said; if it does, he said he hopes that BIden has “second thoughts” and vetoes the legislation.

Biden has also pledged to sign the Equality Act, legislation which passed the House and is currently in the Senate. The bill would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected legal classes in federal civil rights law.

Critics of the legislation, including the U.S. bishops’ conference, say it would codify transgender ideology in law, threaten the privacy of women, and force many people and organizations to support same-sex marriage and transgender ideology against their consciences.

Lipinski did vote for a version of the Equality Act in 2019, saying at the time that he opposed discrimination and would work to resolve religious freedom concerns in the legislation.

He did offer some praise for President Biden’s rhetoric in office, pointing to Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

“I have some hope there, because this is something that Republicans have been talking about, and I’m glad to see that. We need to do more to help families with children,” he said of Biden’s promoting the American Families Policy during the address. Biden’s $1.8 trillion proposal includes investments in a comprehensive paid leave program and child care, and an expansion of the child tax credit.