U.S. Church News

Catholic family offers a model for love, harmony among races, cultures

By Tyler Orsburn Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

David and Susan Coates, parishioners at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Washington, pose for a family photo May 19. Aaron, Stephen and Alexis all attend college, while Joshua, at front, is in middle school. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn) See WASHINGTON-FAMILY-MULTICULTURAL Sept. 17, 2018.

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a world that has embraced the CMYK and RGB color charts -- the hue models for color printing and computer screens -- many in the U.S. still see the world in black and white.

Among racial incidents that have made national headlines recently was actress Roseanne Barr's racial tweet about an African-American woman who served in the Obama administration. In Philadelphia, a Starbuck's manager called police on two African-American men who hadn't placed an order but were waiting for a friend. In Milwaukee, police were accused of tasering a black NBA basketball player over a parking violation at a Walgreens parking lot.

Msgr. Raymond G. East, pastor at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Washington, said racism is a worldwide phenomena and problem, and a peculiar institution in the United States.

"A sick society continues to be a sick unless there is some real healing going on, and you have to admit that you're sick," Msgr. East told Catholic News Service. "Racism hurts everybody. It hurts the perpetrators and it hurts the those victimized by it."

The U.S. Catholic Church first addressed human rights for blacks in 1889 when Kentuckian Daniel Rudd, he himself born into slavery, founded the National Black Catholic Congress. But, Msgr. East said, it wasn't until 100 years later that the bishops voted for their first pastoral plan that addressed racism, education for blacks in Catholic schools, and a way for black parishioners to engage in civil rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court did not make black and white marriages legal until the landmark 1967 civil rights decision Loving v. Virginia. That was 348 years after the first slave ship landed in Jamestown, Virginia. And just two short years before astronauts put a U.S. flag on the moon.

Now the new frontier for raising tolerant and inclusive people isn't the moon, but embracing multicultural families in our homes and churches. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center analysis, one in six newlyweds were married to someone of a different ethnicity in 2015.

David and Susan Coates met in Washington back in 1987. He's black. She's white. They both worked part time at Earl's Video Store, and when a customer accidentally left $5 in a returned VHS bag, David knew he wanted to share the good fortune with his workmate over some ice cream. They've now been married 22 years and have four children.

"My mom always had us believe that God made people for love," David said, describing his mother's race-and-culture philosophy sitting next to Susan on their living room couch. "If he (Jesus) came back and picked 12 disciples, He wouldn't just pick 12 white people, or he wouldn't just pick 12 black people, he would just pick 12 people that he loved and who would follow him, so you just follow Christ."

Susan grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania and didn't interact with black kids until junior high school. Introducing David to her family was quite a shock and unexpected, she said.

"When David came home to meet my mom and my stepfather, it was a challenge and an uneasy feeling," she said. "But over time things have changed. David and my mother have a wonderful relationship because of my stepdad -- he didn't see that barrier and treated David nicely and welcomed him into the family."

Msgr. East told CNS in jest that one sign God gave people to warn them not to interfere with a marriage was that those who criticized Moses' Egyptian wife for being different were stricken with leprosy.

"You (also) have that beautiful saying in the Book of Ruth that says, 'Your people will be my people and my people will be your people.' I think solidifies the larger enterprise of being a people," he said.

"No one really sees race as a problem in church," Aaron Coates told Catholic News Service from his parents' home. One of the Coates' children, Aaron is a student at Howard University.

"It's not until you go out into the streets. If churches would help give people the tools they need to help rebuttal those who want to be racists, I think that would be a good thing."

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

By Catholic News Service


Oliver Kelly, age 1, cries as he is carried off a sheriff's airboat in Leland, N.C., during his Sept. 17 rescue from rising floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. The storm, now a tropical depression, is poised to affect more than 10 million the week of Sept. 17. (CNS photo/Jonathan Drake, Reuters)

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. 14. And although the storm was downgraded from a hurricane to a Category 1 tropical storm, it still caused extensive water damage.

At least 24 people died in storm-related incidents, tens of thousands of homes were damaged and about 500,000 homes and businesses were still without power Sept. 17.

Prior to the storm, Catholic Charities of South Carolina was preparing to help those in need. Kelly Kaminski, director of disaster services for Catholic Charities, said the agency activated its Emergency Operations Center and disaster services team Sept. 10 and had been coordinating with county emergency management teams, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Catholic Charities USA.

It has been working with local partners to have water, cleaning supplies, baby items and other needed supplies readily available in areas along the coast.

Catholic Charities USA has set up its website donation page and text-to-give platform to help individuals and families impacted by Hurricane Florence. As it did in response to last year's hurricanes, the agency forwards 100 percent of funds raised to the local Catholic Charities agencies that serve the affected communities.

Those wishing to donate can text CCUSADISASTER to 71777 or call (800) 919-9338.

"We are praying for those affected by the storm," said Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. "Unfortunately, those most impacted by natural disasters are the individuals and families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

"But thanks to the generosity of our donors, the most vulnerable have their immediate needs met and the long-term recovery support they need to rebuild their lives," she said in a statement.

Catholic Charities USA said its staff members are prepared to deploy to local agencies that may need additional support. Its mobile response unit also is standing by to be sent to the region. The vehicle can be packed with nonperishable food items, health and hygiene kits and bottled water, all of which are ready for distribution. A trailer connected to the vehicle contains a washer and dryer that will allow survivors to clean their clothes. The mobile response unit also can be used as a field office.

Two charity organizations, Food for the Poor and Matthew 25, had teamed up and coordinated efforts with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh to distribute disaster relief supplies to the hardest hit areas.

Food for the Poor received three tractor-trailer loads of goods from Matthew 25: Ministries for the relief effort with water, hygiene items, cleaning supplies, paper towels and toilet paper to be distributed by Catholic Charities.

Daniel Altenau, director of communications and disaster services for Catholic Charities in Raleigh, said a disaster can be one of the most traumatic things a family can experience.

"We are working with local partner agencies to address the immediate needs of families across central and eastern North Carolina," he said.

Altenau said Catholic Charities was grateful for the support from Food for the Poor, noting: "We know that no one can recover from a disaster this big alone, and no single agency can meet all the needs of survivors. But, as a community, we can care for our neighbors in need."

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

By Rhina Guidos Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties but keep a street named after him. 

Stanford University announced the changes Sept. 13, saying in a statement that the saint, canonized in the U.S. during Pope Francis' apostolic visit in 2015, established a mission system that, while part of California history, it also was one that "inflicted great harm and violence on Native Americans."

Stanford said it has several "features named for Serra even though he played no direct role in the university's history."

Serra Mall, a main avenue on the university's Palo Alto campus, Serra dormitory and Serra House will be renamed, the university said, but Serra Street, will keep its name. 

"Revisiting how we think about historical figures is a challenging undertaking that requires care and humility," said Jeff Raikes, chair of the university's board of trustees in the statement released by Stanford. "With the passage of time, we gain new understanding of historical events, the people who shaped them and the effects of those events on others. At the same time, we know that all individuals' lives are imperfect and that any exercise to evaluate a historical figure by present-day standards has limitations."

Discussion over removing St. Junipero Serra's name on the campus began in 2016 and various groups, including Catholics as well as American Indian groups, provided input. Some argued that it was hard to judge the past by modern standards.

The committee tasked with looking at the issue in the end concluded that "whatever the underlying motivations," the mission system the friar established "subjected Native Americans to great violence and, together with other colonial activities, had devastating effects on California's Native American tribes and communities. It contributed to the destruction of the cultural, economic and religious practices of indigenous communities and left many tribal communities decimated, scattered, landless and vulnerable to subsequent colonization."

The recommendation to remove the saint's name from some features and not from others "reflected the complex nature of Serra's legacy and his lack of a direct role in the university's own history" said Raikes, the board of trustee's chair.

During his canonization Mass at Washington's National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Sept. 23, 2015, the pope praised St. Junipero Serra as a witness "who testified to the joy of the Gospel in these lands," one who left his native Spain to blaze trails to export the Gospel to other parts of the world.

The pope, however, months before the canonization, said that "grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God," during a visit to Latin America.

Update: Lumen Christi Award finalists examples of 'how to change world'

By Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Rich Kalonick, Catholic Extension

Randy Tejada of the Diocese of Caguas, Puerto Rico, is one of the finalists for the 2018-2019 Lumen Christi Award given by Catholic Extension. At age 21, Tejada has already been serving for five years as pastoral coordinator at his parish, an immigrant community facing many challenges. (CNS photo/Rich Kalonick, Catholic Extension) See EXTENSION-LUMEN-CHRISTI Sept. 18, 2018.

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension's finalists for its Lumen Christi Award show "what can happen when we build up and strengthen Catholic faith communities in the poorest parts of the United States,'" said Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension.

"If we all follow their examples, we can change our world," the priest said.

Lumen Christi is Latin for "Light of Christ." The award honors an individual or group who demonstrates how the power of faith can transform lives and communities.

The finalists, announced Sept. 12, include three "Dreamers," young people who are beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; two women religious and an order of religious sisters; the lay coordinator of an immigrant parish in Puerto Rico; the principal of the only Catholic school in the 25-county Diocese of Lubbock, Texas; and a priest who was orphaned when his police officer father was killed in the line of duty.

Another finalist is not an individual but a diocesan ministry -- the Office of Hispanic Ministry of the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi.

The Lumen Christi Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Chicago-based national organization, which raises and distributes funds to support U.S. mission dioceses, many of which are rural, cover a large geographic area, and have limited personnel and pastoral resources. Among other things, funds help build churches and assist with seminarians' education and training for other church workers.

The dioceses served by Catholic Extension nominate individuals and programs for the award.

The list of the finalists for the 2018-2019 Lumen Christi Award follows:

-- Randy Tejada, Diocese of Caguas, Puerto Rico. At age 21, Tejada has already been serving as pastoral coordinator at his parish, an immigrant community facing many challenges, for five years. He has helped lead the chapel's restoration with scarce resources, coordinates youth ministry for the diocese and, since the devastation of Hurricane Maria, he is helping in recovery efforts. Known as the "soul of the community," he wants to engage laypeople to serve migrants, children and other marginalized sectors of society.

-- "Dreamers" Efren, Mariana and Sebastian, Diocese of El Paso, Texas. They "exemplify service, action and the perseverance of all Dreamers," said Catholic Extension. Efren is a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church, just yards from the border, where he coordinates religious education for youth. Mariana, 16, is a youth minister and catechist at a local parish. Sebastian works with Hope Border Institute's Leadership Academy to inspire young immigrants through faith. "They represent a young, active and engaged church who are changing the face of faith communities, in El Paso and beyond."

-- Hispanic ministry of the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, which covers more than 37,000 square miles and is home to about 54,000 Hispanics. Currently, about 5,000 of them are connected to the Catholic faith and the diocesan ministry wants to reach more. Assisted by two Guadalupan Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit, Christian Brother Theodore Dausch has been involved with Hispanics for 20 years and coordinates the Office of Hispanic Ministry. Masses in Spanish have tripled in the past 25 years and are now being offered by 27 parishes.

-- Sister Marie-Paule Willem, Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Sister Willem has been a Franciscan Missionary of Mary for more than 60 years, serving in South America and in the Southwest region of the United States. Her focus is on social justice issues for the poor, particularly with immigrants, bringing them comfort, tutoring them and helping prepare them for citizenship in this country. The diocese, which shares a border with Mexico, is more than 65 percent Hispanic. As parish administrator at San Jose Mission Church on the Rio Grande, she serves 200 families and works with Hispanics at Holy Cross Parish in Las Cruces, whose Spanish Mass is standing-room only. She also launched a ministry for women incarcerated at a detention center that now serves 60 women weekly.

-- Msgr. Jack Harris, Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas. Since his ordination in 1974, Father Harris has been a teacher, coach and pastor, but his biggest outreach is prison ministry. "This seed was planted early," said Catholic Extension, when his father, a Little Rock police officer, was killed in the line of duty before he was born. His appreciation for the victim's viewpoint has helped him to forge bridges between the incarcerated, their victims and their families. He has spent the last 14 years as chaplain to death-row inmates at a supermax prison. Twice a week, Father Harris drives 250 miles to visit nearly 500 men who are locked down for 23 hours a day in a one-man cell. He talks and prays with them and offers Mass and confession.

-- Christine Wanjura, Diocese of Lubbock, Texas. A former teacher, Wanjura is the principal at the only Catholic school in the 25-county diocese. She never turns away a child who wants a Catholic education. She also wants the school to reflect the demographics of the primarily Hispanic diocese. Students come from as far as 70 miles away and even with a modest tuition, most receive financial aid. During her tenure, enrollment has grown by 20 percent. In her other role as superintendent of Catholic schools in the diocese, she works with parishes to create after-school programs.

-- Franciscan Sister Phyllis Wilhelm, Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin. For more than 40 years, Sister Wilhelm has served Ojibwe Native Americans in the farthest reaches of north Wisconsin. Since 2008 she has been pastoral associate of historic St. Mary Parish in Odanah, which is part of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe. Sister Wilhelm has worked to build community, incorporating Ojibwe traditions into the liturgy, fostering a group of Native women who are reclaiming the traditional beading craft, and increasing participation and lay involvement in all aspects of parish life.

-- The Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma. For 32 years, the sisters have served the school and church of St. Catherine on Tulsa's west side, which is surrounded by low-income neighborhoods and poor families, some of whom are refugees. They are elementary and middle school teachers at St. Catherine School, assist the parish and work in the community, run a Catholic girls club, serve meals to the residents and promote religious vocations throughout the diocese.

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