U.S. Church News

Love of baking, culinary skills and prayer make religious brother a winner

By Richard Szczepanowski Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Andrew Biraj, Catholic Standard

Capuchin Franciscan Brother Andrew Corriente prepares a buttercream icing in the kitchen at his friary in Washington Jan. 9, 2020. The 31-year-old third-year seminarian was the winner of the fifth season of ABC's "The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition," where he was recognized as one of the nation's best amateur bakers. (CNS photo/Andrew Biraj, Catholic Standard) See BAKING-BROTHER Jan. 13, 2020.

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The oven timer dings, alerting Capuchin Franciscan Brother Andrew Corriente the chocolate layer cake he is baking needs to be checked.

A quick test with a toothpick tells him the cake needs about five more minutes in the oven, more than enough time for him to soften the butter that will eventually become the buttercream icing that will top the confection.

The enticing aromas in the kitchen at Capuchin College in Washington signal that Brother Andrew is busy creating another treat for the men who call the friary home.

Brother Andrew knows his way around a kitchen. In fact, he was crowned this year's baking champion on ABC's "The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition." The program, which aired during the month of December and concluded Jan. 2, is an adaptation of the wildly popular "Great British Bake Off."

Brother Andrew said he wanted to participate in the program "because I love to bake, and I wanted to learn from the others" who were part of the production. "They were very good, incredible cooks," the brother said of his competition. Several of them have since become good friends of his.

"The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition," now in its fifth season, features 10 amateur bakers who compete in a series of challenges in which they must produce outstanding baked goods. Contestants are eliminated one by one until a champion is selected.

Brother Andrew emerged as the victor after he and the other two finalists were charged with making three individual party desserts of their choice. He earned the crown with chocolate cookies with lime cream and blackberry jam, sponge cakes with fresh cream and fruits, and a puff pastry.

Brother Andrew was given the nod to appear on the show last June, but he applied for the program in 2017.

"In 2018, they (producers of the show) called me, but I said no because I was taking my final vows," he told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington. "They called me again this year, and I did it."

He said he spent the month of July "recipe developing and recipe testing" before traveling to London in August, where the entire season was taped over the course of that month. "Filming sometimes took up to 14 hours a day," Brother Andrew said. "I had to stay focused so that I could get my prayers in, Mass in and meditation in."

Although it was very hot in the kitchen where the contestants competed, Brother Andrew chose to wear his distinctive brown Capuchin robes as he baked.

"I love my life so much, and I wanted people to see that," he said. "My ability to bake is so tied to my way of life. Everything I have is from God, and I wanted people to see how all of that is integrated."

The friary where Brother Andrew regularly creates his bakery masterpieces is part of the St. Augustine Province of the Order of Friars Minor. The 30 men who live at Capuchin College are either studying nearby at The Catholic University of America, preparing for the priesthood, serving in various ministries throughout the Archdiocese of Washington or are retired.

Capuchin Franciscan Father Paul Dressler, the province's guardian and director of formation at Capuchin College, called Brother Andrew's appearance on the program "part of the new evangelization."

"Brother Andrew wanted to be on the show as a witness. He went to evangelize and put before the world the Gospel and our order," Father Dressler said.

Capuchin Father Tom Betz, the provincial of the St. Augustine Province, gave the nod and Brother Andrew was on his way.

"Brother Andrew brought attention to the goodness of God and the goodness of religious life," Father Dressler said.

He added that it is not unusual for a religious to be familiar in the kitchen. "Religious life has long been a source of nourishment," Father Dressler said. He also pointed to the ancient tradition of monks brewing beer, making wine and even giving coffee lovers everywhere the eponymous cappuccino.

"It is connected to the fact that all good things come from God," Father Dressler said.

In episode four of "The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition," Brother Andrew struggled with the challenge of creating a cheesecake tower with at least three tiers, with two of one flavor and one of a different flavor. As he struggled to construct his tower, Brother Andrew stopped, lifted his hands in prayer and uttered the word, "surrender."

Brother Andrew is a third-year seminarian. After studying filmmaking in college, the now 31-year-old native of California, "had a desk job in the entertainment industry," working for a talent agent.

"I was searching for other jobs, but never thought about religious life," he said. "A friend of mine from college became a nun, and when I went to see her profess her vows, I met a Capuchin." That spurred Brother Andrew to give the order a try. "I met the guys, and the rest is history," he said.

Brother Andrew regularly bakes for the residents of the friary and one of his specialties is "kouign amann," a French pastry made with multiple layers of buttery croissant pastry caramelized with slightly burnt sugar.

Baking, he said, "is in a way eucharistic."

"Jesus gave us himself in the bread and wine," Brother Andrew said. "For me, I put myself out there with my cooking. It is kind of a sacrificial love."

His interest in baking, he added, was spurred during his postulancy.

Brother Andrew said he finds time for prayer as he cooks. For example, in preparing meringue -- a confection made of whipped egg whites and sugar -- he discovered "the best way to time my stirring is by praying the Hail Mary."

The "guys," as Brother Andrew calls his fellow Capuchins, sent their favorite baker off to compete in London with "a really nice blessing and prayer." Brother Andrew's family -- mother Elna, father Rodel and sister Theresa -- flew to London to watch the finale.

When he won, Brother Andrew was sworn to secrecy; for more than four months he was not allowed to tell others that he had won.

The residents of the friary would gather each week to watch the show together, cheering their brother on. Father Dressler said it was akin to watching the Super Bowl. The friary, he said, exploded with whoops and shouts and cheers when Brother Andrew was named the winner.

In addition to his baking, Brother Andrew uses his culinary skills to help the less fortunate and the working poor. He and a group of brothers and lay volunteers cook and serve dinner every Sunday for the day laborers who congregate at a local Home Depot looking for work.

After he is ordained to the priesthood in two years, Brother Andrew is unsure whether his priestly vocation will permit him as much time to pursue his baking avocation. "God has already zigzagged my life in so many ways that I am open to anywhere he leads me," he said.

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Szczepanowski is managing editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.


Author hopes readers will reconnect to 'beauty, power' of the sacraments

By Denis Grasska Catholic News Service

CNS photo/courtesy Rose Rea via The Southern Cross

San Diego author Rose Rea holds a copy of her coffee-table book "Spirit and Life: The Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church" in this undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Rose Rea via The Southern Cross) See BOOK-SACRAMENTS-REA Jan. 13, 2020.

SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- Rose Rea's name may be on the cover of the book, but she downplays her role in the creation of "Spirit and Life: The Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church," published by Sophia Institute Press.

"I cannot take any credit. It was all inspired by the Lord," Rea said of the hardcover coffee-table book, which combines vivid photographs of sacred spaces and natural landscapes with an exploration of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, reconciliation, the anointing of the sick, holy orders and marriage.

Rea is given the "Created by" credit on the title page, but the idea came to her during prayer. And she continued to pray and fast, seeking divine guidance at each stage in the coffee-table book's development.

The Catholic mother of five likens herself not to an artist, but to a "paintbrush" wielded by the Divine Artist himself.

For each sacrament, "Spirit and Life" provides its readers with a scriptural passage and explanatory paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church; a historical commentary on that particular sacrament written by a church father or a pope; and a reflection penned by a contemporary Catholic.

"The entire book is meant to be a prayerful and artistic experience," explained Rea, who hopes the book's format enables it to offer something that will speak to all readers, whether they are practicing Catholics, fallen-away or non-Catholic.

The authors of the various reflection pieces, most of whom Rea had previously collaborated with as the founder and publisher of the Catholic young adult magazines Radiant and Valiant, include several names that are well-known in Catholic circles. Among them are pro-life advocate Lila Rose, author/blogger Kendra Tierney and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver.

"I made sure to feature reflections from men and women of every single vocation in life," Rea said, "so someone reading 'Spirit and Life' will be able to say, 'Yes, I relate to this!'"

For Rea, who grew up in a large Catholic family in North Dakota and today resides in the Diocese of San Diego, the sacraments are not just interesting subject matter for a book.

"They are my entire life. They are the answer to everything our heart longs for," she told The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego said. "When we learn the frailty of human love and that human beings will fail us because we are imperfect, it calls us even stronger to seek one who will not ever fail us, will not ever leave us."

The idea for "Spirit and Life" was first conceived during a time when many Catholics were feeling that they had been failed by their clergy.

It was 2018 and the Catholic Church was reeling from a resurgence of the clergy sex abuse scandal, sparked by the release of a grand jury report on decades of alleged sexual abuse in Pennsylvania dioceses and the revelation that then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, now laicized, had been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.

Rea had read reports that many Catholics were so scandalized by the sins of predator priests and the subsequent cover-up of their crimes that they were leaving the church. She wanted to remind them that the Catholic faith is rooted in Christ and his sacrifice, not in the sanctity of individual priests.

That was why she set out to create "Spirit and Life," which she says is all about "embracing the beauty and power of the gift of grace that awaits us when we encounter Christ in the sacraments -- each and every one of us."

Her hope is the book will inspire readers to return to the sacraments.

"We are all one body of Christ and, when one suffers, we all suffer; when we are well, we thrive," she said. "Everyone is needed and plays a vital role in our body of Christ, so I pray every day that the Holy Spirit moves and inspires hearts to come back."

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Editor's Note: More information about Rea's book can be found on the Sophia Institute Press website at https://www.sophiainstitute.com/products/item/spirit-and-life.

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Grasska is assistant editor of The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.

Update: Canadian communities recall friends, relatives killed in Tehran crash

By Andrew Ehrkamp Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Andrew Ehrkamp, Grandin Media

Family and friends embrace each other Jan. 11, 2020, at the Imam Hussein Islamic Society mosque in Edmonton, Alberta. (CNS photo/Andrew Ehrkamp, Grandin Media) See IRAN-CRASH-UNIVERSITY-EDMONTON Jan. 13, 2020.

EDMONTON, Alberta (CNS) -- If grief is a journey, this is the first painful step: searing heartache.

More than 2,500 people filled the Saville Community Sports Centre at the University of Alberta Jan. 12 to remember the lives of 13 Edmontonians and 163 others lost when Ukrainian Airlines International Flight PS752 was shot down by a missile shortly after takeoff from Tehran. All 176 people onboard were killed in the Jan. 8 crash, including 57 Canadians.

A day later, more than 2,000 miles away, a solemn vigil for seven students began with two students singing the haunting words of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence." Among those they remembered were Dorsa Ghandchi, a grade 11 student at Jean Vanier Catholic High School in Richmond Hill, who was traveling with her mother, Faezeh Falsafi, and 8-year-old brother Daniel. They also remembered Dr. Farhad Niknam, a dentist who was an adult English as a Second Language student of the York Catholic District School Board. Staff members and families connected to the board also lost loved ones.

The Edmonton victims were of Iranian descent, and their lives were recalled by family and friends at the memorial, which included Persian poetry and song. They were cherished as paragons of Iranian virtues -- education, patience, humor and a welcoming spirit.

They were physicians, engineers and students. One couple had just been married. Another entire family was lost. Pedram Mousavi and his wife, Mojgan Dansehmand, both engineering professors at the University of Alberta, were killed with their daughters Daria, 14, and Dorina, 9.

Hossein Saghlatoon said he has suffered other losses in his life, but the loss of Mousavi hits harder. Mousavi was his professor through his Ph.D. studies and, after graduation, they were partners in a company with other engineers.

"He was more than a boss or a friend to me. He was like a father to me. He was an important part of my life here in Canada," Saghlatoon said.

"I'm an immigrant, and I left everyone and everything I knew or had ... and he supported all the time all of us, every person who has been in his group. Everyone who, in any way, dealt with him, he was always supportive. He tried to help us, and we are missing him so much."

The university is a particular draw for Iranian students, and the campus as a whole has come together in solidarity at this time, said Mona-Lee Feehan, the Catholic chaplain at the University of Alberta.

"There's a huge sense of loss, but there's also a huge sense of pride at what has been happening on our campus, about the caring and people holding each other and people looking out for each other," said Feehan, who is also campus minister at St. Joseph's College, the Catholic college on campus.

"It's been an amazing show of concern and compassion that crosses boundaries of race, culture and faith."

Feehan added: "Things are created that are not the best for us, but we have the great capacity to choose good in all of those situations. In this instance, something bad has happened, and we've chosen the good."

The university memorial capped a week of remembrance, including a Jan. 11 memorial service at the Imam Hussein Islamic Society mosque, where many of the victims were regular worshippers. Amid the Muslim call to prayer, they hugged and shed tears. They paused at a memorial with photos of the victims and comforted each other in grief as they held tight to their strong Shiite Muslim faith.

"I don't know what I would do without my faith," said Mohi Mahmoudi, a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta who knew the victims and had initially planned to return to Iran over Christmas. She would have been on the ill-fated flight.

"We felt that we had lost everything after that news. It was not only friends, it was family. Our faith kept our hope that we can survive through this time," Mahmoudi said. "We all saw their pictures and we all thought we might have been on the plane. We ask God to help them through this devastating time.

"It is really a great loss for the Iranian community."

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at the Jan. 12 memorial. In his role as consoler-in-chief, Trudeau called the crash a "Canadian tragedy."

Trudeau promised a full investigation in the crash. After days of denial, Iran has admitted that the plane was mistakenly shot down with a missile amid rising hostilities with the U.S. government.

Mahmoudi said the Iranian community was devastated when they heard the news.

Among the victims was Shekoufeh Choupannejad and her daughters, Saba and Sara. The Edmonton obstetrician was well-known in the Iranian community and delivered some of their children.

"When everybody came here to Canada and needed to visit a doctor, she was there for everyone," Mahmoudi said.

Most mosque members knew the victims personally and their violent deaths came as a shock, said Ali Zakerhaghighi, president of the Imam Hussein Islamic Society.

"For these individuals, there is no doubt that they are blessed," Zakerhaghighi said. "Hopefully we can have the message of patience for their families and for their friends."

"I would say the faith of knowing that there will be life after death and all we do here, for our very short time, is to actually seek the plans for the hereafter. There is no doubt that this tragedy was something that will really take time for us to not to be emotional about anymore, but there is no way that will forget these people."

In Richmond Hill, Ab Falconi, director of education for the York Catholic board, called it a tragedy that so many "bright lights with so much to contribute" died in such a senseless way.

Falconi said the Catholic community is praying for all the victims and "in your grief, we do stand with you."

Board chair Maria Marchese expressed gratitude for the large number who gathered to remember victims "so young, with so much to give."

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Contributing to this story was Mickey Conlon in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

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Ehrkamp is news editor of Grandin Media, news website of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. Conlon is a reporter for The Catholic Register, Toronto.


Government urged to boost funding, strengthen security at religious sites

By Tim Swift Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Tim Swift, Catholic Review

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori speaks in favor of increased federal funding for religious sites during a Jan. 13, 2020, news conference. The archbishop was joined by Rudwan Abu-rumman, president of the Anne Arundel County Muslim Council; Nathan Diament, director of public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; the Rev. Alvin Gwynn; Baltimore City Councilman Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer; Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation; and Sen. Christopher Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md. (CNS photo/Tim Swift, Catholic Review) See SECURITY-RELIGIOUS-SITES Jan. 14, 2020.

PIKESVILLE, Md. (CNS) -- U.S. Sens. Benjamin Cardin and Christopher Van Hollen, both Maryland Democrats, joined Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and other local faith leaders to call for increased federal funding to strengthen security at religious sites amid a recent rise in anti-Semitic attacks.

"We are deeply disturbed by the recent apparent rise in anti-Semitism, in particular, the violent attacks that took place last year during the Hanukkah celebration in New York and on the kosher market in Jersey City," Archbishop Lori said at Jan. 13 news conference outside the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in Pikesville.

"I commend our Senate leaders for calling us together today to condemn these acts, but also to take concrete and necessary measures to do everything we can to protect the rights of all people," he said.

The senators are proposing to quadruple funding in next year's federal budget for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides assistance to religious and other nonprofit institutions that are potential targets for terrorist attacks. They were joined by Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat.

Stressing the need for the increase, Van Hollen said the FBI has reported anti-Semitic attacks rose 35% between 2014 and 2018. Speakers also cited attacks on mosques and Christian churches, including recent mass shootings in Texas.

If the proposal is successful, the program would provide an additional $360 million in security assistance each year.

"Religious institutions are targets. Europe's known this for a long time and their governments have participated in making these facilities safe for people to be able to attend," Cardin said. "We now recognize in the United States that we are similarly vulnerable with religious institutions being targets for terrorism."

Howard Libit, president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said the federal funds are greatly needed amid the threat posed by the rise in anti-Semitism. Libit said many members of Jewish congregations have had to give more to their synagogues to offset the increased security costs.

Rabbi Shmuel Silber of Suburban Orthodox Toras Chaim Congregation said he was saddened by the recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks, but he was hopeful in light of the support of the government and other faiths.

"We are emboldened and we will continue to shepherd our respective communities in our faith traditions and never bow to hate and bigotry," Silber said.

Last year, Maryland institutions received more than $3 million under the program. The fund supported Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Suburban Orthodox Toras Chaim, the Islamic Society of Annapolis and St. John Regional Catholic School in Frederick.

Sheila Evers, director of advancement for St. John Regional, said the school received $100,000 to upgrade its security, including adding magnetic locks, new lighting and a perimeter fence. Evers said the funds helped implement the recommendations of threat assessment conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Frederick Police Department.

Both Cardin and Van Hollen praised Archbishop Lori's efforts at forging stronger bonds among the interfaith community in recent years.

"He's been an incredible leader on bringing us all together, all the faith communities together," Cardin said.

Archbishop Lori said he would work with his colleagues at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to ensure that the bipartisan grant program, which began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, continues to grow.

"The concrete steps we support here are vitally important, but we also continue to put our faith in the simple act of coming together, standing side by side, to demonstrate that love will always be a greater power than evil," Archbishop Lori said.

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Swift is the social media coordinator for the Catholic Review and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Review is the news outlet of the archdiocese.

Encore: Catholic schools called 'essential, integral' to church's ministry

By Sydney Clark Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review

Students write essays during English class at Jesuit-run Loyola Academy of St. Louis middle school. The mission and foundation of Catholic education are directly related to evangelization, said Thomas Burnford, head of the National Catholic Educational Association. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review) See CATHOLIC-SCHOOLS-EVANGELIZING to come.

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The mission and foundation of Catholic education are directly related to evangelization, said the head of the National Catholic Educational Association.

Catholic schools are obligated to evangelize simply because that is the core and mission of the Catholic Church, according to Thomas Burnford, president and CEO of the NCEA.

"The apostles told the good news of Jesus Christ, and Catholic schools are an essential and integral ministry of the Catholic Church," he told Catholic News Service.

Nationwide, 1.8 million students are enrolled in 6,300 Catholic schools, he noted. Additionally, 80% of students are Catholic, and the remaining 20% are non-Catholic.

Despite the percentage difference, the mission of Catholic education is the same for Catholic and non-Catholic students, Burnford explained.

"The teaching of the faith, the way we witness the Catholic faith fully to Catholic students is the same for all students. All students are invited and welcomed to participate fully in the whole culture of the school, the formation of the school and the life of the school," Burnford said.

Evangelization is present within schools because students are presented with a Catholic worldview that reveals the reality of God and the Gospel through the curriculum, he said.

"In that way, we are evangelizing students by giving them a real understanding of the world and society. Everyone in a Catholic school is being moved along in the process of evangelization and outreach," Burnford said.

Acknowledging the inherent relationship between Catholic education and evangelization in the presence of faith, community and identity, Pope Francis in a June 2018 address said: "Schools and universities need to be consistent and show continuity between their foundational mission and the church's mission of evangelization."

He delivered the address to members of the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, which he established in October 2015 at the invitation of the Congregation for Catholic Education to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education.

In that same address, Pope Francis proposed a challenge to members of the foundation, which aims to renew the church's dedication to Catholic education, saying: "To fulfill your mission, therefore, you must lay its foundations in a way consistent with our Christian identity, establish means appropriate for the quality of study and research and pursue goals in harmony with service to the common good."

Elisabeth Sullivan, executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, identified roles within Catholic schools that help bring Catholic and non-Catholic students together. "I think Catholic schools have a unique opportunity to provide hope in a world that is increasingly beset by hopelessness. A world without God is a world without hope," Sullivan said.

Sullivan believes that Catholic education is uniquely distinct from other education systems due to its long tradition of conveying the inherent and inseparable relationship between faith and reason. Consequently, Catholic schools "restore what the industrialized model of education has stripped from the classroom -- an understanding of the meaning and purpose of things," she told CNS.

Catholic education asks the deeper questions, regarding the nature of something and its purpose, according to Sullivan. "Secular education can't offer that, can't decide on a meaning or a purpose, so it has to stay away, and therefore, it's incomplete," she explained.

Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, expressed a similar viewpoint regarding evangelization efforts within Catholic schools. Donoghue said because formation in a Catholic school is integral, students are not solely taught religious doctrine in a religion course.

"What we seek to do is bring forward the church's intellectual tradition and form their minds in all of the content and areas that they study. This is an excellent tool of evangelization because it exposes kids not just to Catholic practices, regarding prayer and liturgy, but also to a Catholic understanding of reality."

Donoghue is hopeful that Catholic schools will continue to fulfill their mission of bringing children and young adults into a relationship with Christ.

As populations shift, she said, many Catholic schools will be located in new areas, creating a changing landscape. However, Donoghue said that Catholic education in America has been around for centuries and "will renew itself by turning toward the church's own tradition and that can be the way forward in the future."

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