News Briefs: April 20, 2012

Lutheran congregations join with Catholics to defend religious liberty

Fort Wayne, IN–Church leaders, students and members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations in Fort Wayne expressed their solidarity with Bp. Kevin C. Rhoades and Catholics of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend to “stand together for religious liberty.” Gathering April 17 at St. Paul Lutheran Church, just a few blocks from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Fort Wayne, the Lutherans held a procession to the cathedral and on the plaza in front of it, they gathered in prayer and song with Catholics and Bp. Rhoades. They also presented letters of support and encouragement “as we stand together with (the bishop) on this issue of religious liberty,” noted the Rev. Charles Gieschen, academic dean of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, one of two Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod seminaries in the US The synod, which has its headquarters in St. Louis, has more than 2.3 million baptized members in 6,200 congregations. It has more than 9,000 pastors. Besides sharing the letters and signatures, Rev. Gieschen said, he wanted to assure “our brothers and sisters in Christ” of the synod’s encouragement and “our prayers in light of the recent US Department Health and Human Services mandate.” He was referring to the HHS mandate that most health plans cover the cost of contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can induce abortion. The mandate includes a religious exemption, but leaders of various Catholic and other faith-based organizations say it is too narrow and they will still be forced to provide coverage they oppose on moral grounds. “We are gathered here today to stand in defense of the religious liberty and freedom of conscience that individuals and institutions should enjoy unobstructed by government intrusion or coercion as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America,” said the Rev. Daniel P. May, president of the Indiana District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. ©CNS

Chinese bishops detained by government released on Easter

Hong Kong–Two Chinese bishops not recognized by the government were freed by authorities on Easter, church sources told the Asian church news agency UCA News. Coadjutor Bp. Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou, in eastern Zhejiang province, and Bp. Peter Jin Lugang of Nanyang, in central Henan province, were detained, respectively, for four weeks and for four days. Bp. Jin was taken away in early April by officials wanting to prevent him from celebrating the chrism Mass, which symbolizes a bishop’s communion with his clergy, and other Easter liturgies. The prelate was detained in a guesthouse and taken by four officials to several tourist spots before being released April 8, UCA News reported April 16. Bp. Shao was detained March 19. Local church sources said his detention included a “brainwashing” class on the country’s religious policies. Sources told UCA News that Bp. Shao was detained because he participated in the secret episcopal ordination of the bishop of Tianshui last year. His participation was seen by the government as “an act of defiance to the official church’s ‘self-election and self-ordination’ of bishops,” said the sources. They said Bp. Shao, 49, was escorted by government officials to Leshan Diocese, where he met the excommunicated Fr. Paul Lei Shiyin, ordained as a bishop without a papal mandate last June. Fr. Lei and the officials showed Bp. Shao some historic monuments, a church-run hospital, guesthouse and the construction site of the new bishop’s house. ©CNS

For Anglicans, being welcomed by church at Easter ‘glorious’ experience

Indianapolis–The journey to full communion in the Catholic Church “has taken a few twists and turns,” said a former Anglican priest who joined the church with his community during the Easter Vigil in Indianapolis. “But once you get to your destination, it seems so natural,” Luke Reese said. History was made at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral April 7 when 17 Anglicans, all members of the St. Joseph of Arimathea Society in Indianapolis, became Catholics according to rules established by Pope Benedict XVI in his 2009 apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus.” The document provided a way for entire Anglican parishes or groups to become Catholic while retaining some of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practice. Earlier this year, Pope Benedict approved the establishment of the new US Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, based in Houston, which functions like a diocese for former Anglicans in the US and Canada. In Indianapolis, the Anglicans were welcomed in the church by Bp. Christopher J. Coyne, apostolic administrator of the archdiocese. They are the fourth group of former Anglicans to join the ordinariate. “It’s glorious. I’m happy. I’m satisfied,” said Reese, leader of the society who is a husband and father of six children. He is in formation to be ordained a Catholic priest in the ordinariate. Bp. Coyne was happy to play a role in this historic event. “It was definitely an honor to welcome the families of the new Anglican communion here in Indianapolis,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to help them become a rich part of our local Catholic community.” Fr. Stephen Giannini, archdiocesan vicar for clergy, parish life coordinators, formation and personnel, served as a liaison between the Anglicans and the church as they sought to become Catholics. “It has been a privilege to assist the Anglican families who became members of the Catholic Church during this year’s Easter Vigil,” he said. “We look forward to continuing our support for these faithful Christians. It is truly a blessing for us all as together our faith is deepened by Christ’s peace in the Catholic Church.” ©CNS

Indianapolis bishop decries ‘attempted ordination’ of ex-nun as priest

Indianapolis–The apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis spoke out against the “attempted ordination” of an ex-nun to the priesthood. “I am saddened that the woman who attempted ordination and anyone who took part in this invalid ceremony have chosen to take such a public action to separate themselves from the church,” said an April 17 statement by Auxiliary Bp. Christopher J. Coyne of Indianapolis, who is overseeing the archdiocese until a successor is named for recently retired Abp. Daniel M. Buechlein. The Catholic Church frequently uses the term “attempted ordination” since it does not view the ordination of women as either valid or licit. The ceremony for Maria McClain took place April 15 in Indianapolis with a woman bishop from the group Roman Catholic Women priests presiding. Bp. Coyne called it “a schismatic group. This group has no valid connection to the Roman Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Indianapolis,” he added. “Any supposed ‘ordination’ this group performed has no relationship with the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church and is not valid.” McClain, 71, was a Mercy sister in Buffalo, N.Y., for 15 years before leaving religious life, according to the Indianapolis Star daily newspaper. Now married, she moved to Indianapolis in 1977 to become director of religious education at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis. ©CNS

Church to consider if prayer to wartime priest led to man’s recovery

San Francisco–The Vatican is working to authenticate whether the 1997 healing of an Oakland-area man with incurable cancer came about through the intercession of Fr. Franz Stock, a German Army chaplain to Paris prisoners of the Nazis. Such authentication is needed before the priest’s beatification can be approved. Fr. Stock was “the last human face” hundreds, perhaps thousands, saw before their execution. He is a symbol of reconciliation in France and Germany, where streets and schools are named for him and national leaders have honored him. A French postage stamp commemorating Fr. Stock was issued in 1998 for the 50th anniversary of his death from pulmonary edema. He died Feb. 24, 1948, at age 43, and his sainthood cause was opened decades later. Three months after doctors told a 33-year-old San Francisco resident he had incurable gastric cancer and had at most three months to live, he was declared cancer free in October 1997. Medical tests continue to show no traces of cancer. “The doctors were flabbergasted because he was diagnosed with stage-four cancer and they sent him home to get his affairs in order and die,” said Robert Graffio, canon lawyer for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and notary for the investigation. The archdiocese’s metropolitan tribunal investigated the man’s medical case and sent its report to the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes March 16. If the Vatican authenticates that a miracle occurred and his beatification is approved, Fr. Stock would be declared “blessed.” A second authenticated miracle would be needed for his canonization. ©CNS

Citing doctrinal problems, Vatican announces reforms of US nuns’ group

Vatican City–Citing “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life,” the Vatican announced a major reform of an association of women’s religious congregations in the US to ensure their fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality. Abp. J. Peter Sartain of Seattle will provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Vatican announced April 18. The archbishop will be assisted by Bp. Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bp. Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., and draw on the advice of fellow bishops, women religious and other experts. The LCWR, a Maryland-based umbrella group that claims about 1,500 leaders of US women’s communities as members, represents about 80 percent of the country’s 57,000 women religious. The announcement from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith came in an eight-page “doctrinal assessment,” based on an investigation that Bp. Blair began on behalf of the Vatican in April 2008. That investigation led the doctrinal congregation to conclude, in January 2011, that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregation in other parts of the world.” Among the areas of concern were some of the most controversial issues of medical and sexual ethics in America today. “While there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States,” the doctrinal congregation said. “Further, issues of crucial importance in the life of the church and society, such as the church’s biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teaching.” ©CNS

Vatican reaffirms willingness to help solve 1983 kidnapping case

Vatican City–Almost 30 years after the still-unexplained disappearance of a teenage girl who lived with her family at the Vatican, the Holy See continues to be willing to cooperate with efforts to solve the mystery, the Vatican spokesman said. Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi issued a three-page statement April 14 recalling how often Pope John Paul II appealed for the release of Emanuela Orlandi after her presumed kidnapping in 1983 and how top Vatican officials formally answered investigators’ questions then and in subsequent investigations carried out in the late 1980s and mid-1990s. The Vatican, he said, even allowed the Italian intelligence service to monitor calls to the Vatican switchboard and gave it access to the Orlandi family’s Vatican telephone line and to their apartment. The girl’s father was a papal usher. Because she lived inside the Vatican and no trace of her was ever found, Orlandi’s case has been an obsession for Italian conspiracy theorists, some of whom have tried to link the case to the Freemasons, the Soviets or to victims of the 1982 collapse of Italy’s Banco Ambrosiano, which had close ties to the Vatican Bank. Italian authorities recently began looking into the possibility that the girl’s disappearance had something to do with a Rome-based organized crime group. Fr. Lombardi repeated the church’s offer to allow the exhumation and transfer of the body of Enrico De Pedis, boss of the Magliana gang. He was shot to death in 1990 and, several years later, it was discovered that he was buried in Rome’s Basilica of St. Apollinare, which is considered Vatican property. Whatever connection De Pedis may or may not have had to the Orlandi case, Fr. Lombardi said the church has no objection to the inspection of the tomb and the reburial elsewhere of the De Pedis’ body “to reestablish the correct serenity corresponding to a sacred environment.” ©CNS

Prayer, not strategic campaign, is needed during crisis, pope says

Vatican City–When a community is faced with crisis, persecution and trouble, it should come together in prayer for strength from God, not formulate strategic plans to defend itself from difficulties, Pope Benedict XVI said. Unity is fundamental, he said, and the community needs to come together and ask “only to proclaim the word of God fearlessly in the face of persecution,” not to avoid tests, trials and tribulation. There was a festive atmosphere during the pope’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square April 18–two days after the pope turned 85 years old. Thousands of pilgrims sang “Happy Birthday” when a Bavarian band struck up the tune, and smaller groups of the 22,000 people present sang or shouted “Happy Birthday” in their native languages. The pope also thanked people for their well-wishes marking the seventh anniversary of his pontificate April 19. “I ask that you always support me with your prayers so that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I may persevere in my service to Christ and the church,” he said. During his main audience talk, the pope continued his cycle of talks on prayer. He looked at how the early Christian community prayed when the apostles Peter and John were released after being arrested for teaching in the name of Jesus. The fledgling community “raised their voices to God with one accord,” St. Luke says in the Acts of the Apostles, asking the Lord to note the threats being made against them and give them the power and courage “to speak your word with all boldness.” ©CNS

Suit seeks recalculation of eligibility for religious worker visas

Washington–Changes to how visas for religious workers are issued may have smoothed the system, albeit with added layers of requirements, but some workers have been caught short in a gap between old and new regulations. The Chicago province of the Society of the Divine Word, whose priests and brothers serve in 71 countries, and the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, whose members serve in Latin American countries, are seeking a court order to reopen perhaps dozens of cases in which applications were complicated by a change in how the federal government handles them. The result was that some workers have been prevented from completing their jobs in the US or held up in trying to continue to work in this country. In an amended lawsuit filed March 30, the religious orders asked the court to order the Department of Homeland Security to reconsider how they count the time religious workers spent out of the US, effectively returning to some individuals the weeks and months they spent out of the country. That time ended up counting against them in the process of applying for extensions of visas or for permanent residency. On March 8, the department of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, changed its criteria for calculating the time left on religious worker visas, a category known as R-1. Now, religious workers who leave the US during the period of an R-1 visa can get that time spent in other countries back on the clock of their five-year visa. ©CNS

USCCB appeals ruling that Constitution forbids religious accommodation

Washington–The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has appealed a federal judge’s ruling that the Constitution forbids religious accommodation in the delivery of services under a federal contract. The appeal challenges the decision of District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns, who said in a March 23 ruling that the Department of Health and Human Services violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution in delegating to the bishops’ conference the decision on which services to offer or not offer to foreign-born victims of human trafficking under a federal contract. The case, originally filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts in 2009, revolved around the legality of the government allowing the USCCB, through its Migration and Refugee Services Department, to decline to offer abortion and contraception services to trafficking victims under the contract. The USCCB joined the lawsuit in mid-2010 as a defendant-intervenor. Attorneys for the bishops’ conference also requested a stay of Stearns’ decision pending the appeal’s outcome. The request for a stay cites the likelihood that other existing contracts between the USCCB and the government were at risk of being canceled, thus harming those being served under them. Attorney Henry C. Dinger, representing the USCCB, told Catholic News Service April 18 that the appeal questioned whether the ACLU had standing to file the original case. He argued that the organization did not based on previous Supreme Court decisions that narrowly defines which taxpayers have standing to file lawsuits in certain kinds of cases. The second argument, Dinger explained, revolves around whether the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to allow the USCCB to limit the services it offered was an endorsement of religion. Dinger said it was not. ©CNS

Cleveland bishop will reopen 12 parishes in line with Vatican decrees

Washington–Bp. Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland said he will reopen 12 parishes as directed by the Vatican to promote “peace and unity” in the diocese. His announcement came a month after the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy overturned the closings of the parishes in 2009 and 2010 and said the churches must be restored for worship. Addressing the media April 17, Bp. Lennon said that appealing the congregation’s ruling to the Apostolic Signature, the Vatican’s supreme court, “would prolong the process for a number of years and would create more uncertainty and continue to divide our Catholic community. I now say it’s time for peace and unity in the Diocese of Cleveland,” the bishop said. The congregation’s rulings–detailing how the process outlined in canon law for closing a parish was not followed in the case of the closings–stem from appeals by parishioners who were assisted by canon lawyers. The decrees reversed the closings undertaken in a diocesan-wide reconfiguration plan that saw 27 parishes closed and another 41 merged to form 18 new parishes. Early reports said 13 decrees were received, but Bp. Lennon said he had received word on 12 parishes from the Vatican congregation. Seven of the parishes are located in Cleveland, two in Akron, one in Lorain and one each in the inner-ring suburbs of Bedford and Lakewood. Most of the parishes opened in the early 20th century to serve European immigrants. ©CNS

House member to Card. Dolan: Urge Congress to make poor a priority

Washington–A Catholic Democratic House member has urged New York Card. Timothy M. Dolan to call on Congress to prioritize the needs of poor and vulnerable Americans as the 2013 federal budget is debated. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., ranking Democrat on the labor, health and human services and education subcommittee, suggested in an interview with Catholic News Service April 16 that the US bishops, and Card. Dolan in particular, might do well to open a public campaign to protect programs aiding the country’s poor. DeLauro outlined her concerns in an April 13 letter to Card. Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The 22-year member of Congress cited the recent passage in the House of Representatives of the 2013 budget resolution that was written by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. She said the plan would be devastating to millions of out-of-work and low-income Americans. New York archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling told CNS the afternoon of April 17 that Card. Dolan had received the letter but had no immediate response. DeLauro told CNS that the budget deserved as much attention from Card. Dolan and the nation’s bishops as that being given in a two-week campaign in support of religious freedom June 21-July 4. The bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty announced the “fortnight for freedom” April 12, saying American Catholics must resist unjust laws “as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.” Budget issues have been addressed several times since early March by the USCCB. The bishops’ basic message has been that Congress should base budget decisions on whether they protect or threaten human life and dignity and if they promote the common good of “workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.” They have called for cuts in military spending to be on the table as well as consideration of new revenue streams to help balance the federal budget. ©CNS


The Mystery of Faith–The Rich Proclamation of Easter Faith

VENERATION--A priest held a crucifix during veneration of the cross on Good Friday. Immediately after the consecration at holy Mass, the priest said “The mystery of faith.” This is an invitation for the people to make an acclamation, a response to the mystery of faith now present in the Body and Blood of Christ; the people speak directly to the Lord himself now present in the Eucharist. (CNS photo/Michael McArdle, Northwest Indiana Catholic)
VENERATION--A priest held a crucifix during veneration of the cross on Good Friday. Immediately after the consecration at holy Mass, the priest said “The mystery of faith.” This is an invitation for the people to make an acclamation, a response to the mystery of faith now present in the Body and Blood of Christ; the people speak directly to the Lord himself now present in the Eucharist. (CNS photo/Michael McArdle, Northwest Indiana Catholic)

Since the introduction of the new liturgical texts for Mass this past Advent, we have become accustomed to new words and new expressions in our common prayer. Some of the changes in the Mass are obvious and readily noticed. But not all. There is one change that seems ever so slight and may even go unnoticed. After the consecration, the priest no longer says, “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.” Instead, he simply announces “The mystery of faith.” Attention to the theological reasons for this change opens us to a richer appreciation of the Eucharist.

Ever since the seventh century, the words “The mystery of faith” have been part of the institution narrative (i.e. the words of consecration). Before the Second Vatican Council’s reform of the liturgy, the priest would say these words inaudibly as part of the consecration of the wine. With the liturgical revisions of 1969, the formula was moved to its present position after the consecration of the wine and the priest was instructed to say the formula audibly “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.”

With our new liturgical texts, the priest now simply says “The mystery of faith.” Why the change? What is the meaning of this formula? What is its purpose in the canon of the Mass?

The priest’s words were shortened in the new missal text to render the Latin text (mysterium fidei) more faithfully. In fact, this shorter formula conveys more accurately the purpose of these words. These words are not an invitation to proclaim the mystery of faith. However, the response “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” does exactly that: it proclaims or declares what the mystery is. And, for that reason, it is no longer used.

Immediately after the consecration, in the anamnesis (memorial) of the Mass, the priest himself proclaims or declares what the mystery is. He recounts the death that Jesus endured for our salvation, his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven. But before he does that, he says “The mystery of faith.” This is an invitation for the people to make an acclamation, a response to the mystery of faith now present in the Body and Blood of Christ.

An acclamation is different than a proclamation. An acclamation is addressed directly to someone. An acclamation is spoken in the second person, whereas a proclamation is in the third person. In the new missal text, the people speak directly to the Lord himself now present in the Eucharist.

This distinction between proclamation and acclamation is clearly seen in the responses in the new missal. The people now have the choice of using one of three options. They may say, “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come again.” Or, “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.” Or, “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free.” Even when two of these formulas use the word “proclaim,” the whole formula itself is not a proclamation, but an acclamation, because the words in the second person are directed to the Lord.

The phrase “The mystery of faith” that invites our response after the consecration is one of the most powerful phrases in the Roman liturgy. The word “mystery” is a densely rich biblical word. It means God’s plan for the creation of the world and for our salvation hidden for all eternity and gradually revealed and accomplished in Christ.

The mystery is God bringing us to share in his own divine life through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. It is God reconciling and restoring the world in Christ (Eph 1:9-14). The mystery is Christ in the paschal events made sacramentally present. The letter to the Colossians speaks of the mystery as “Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2-3). Thus, Christ himself is the mystery.

When the priest says immediately after the consecration, “The mystery of faith,” he is drawing our attention to Christ, Crucified, Risen and Ascended, now among us. The words of the priest remind us that Christ is here among us to form us as his body “the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23). Thus, Jesus now sacramentally, truly and really in our midst, is bringing to completion in us the fullness of our redemption.

In sacrament, the Eucharist is the mystery of faith: Jesus accomplishing our salvation through his sacrificial death on the cross and his glorious resurrection. How can our hearts not overflow with wonder and awe! How fervent should be our spontaneous response to this great gift! Ultimately, the Eucharist, now present on our altar after the consecration, demands our response not simply in words of acclamation, but in a life that is a true proclamation of Easter faith.

Bp. Serratelli is the bishop of Paterson, New Jersey.


Pope inspires Alaska’s Catholic bloggers

As his college newspaper grew increasingly leftist, then-student Joseph Koss helped launch a campus newspaper with a conservative perspective. Fast-forward five years through law school, a revival of his faith and a move from the Detroit metro area to the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska in late 2009, and Koss was struck by the realization that again he’d lost his voice. This time he launched a blog, “Defend Us in Battle.”

“I was never really a writer. I don’t really even consider writing a strong point. I’m more of a commentator, trying to send a message,” Koss told the Catholic Anchor. “I’m trained as a lawyer. I’m trying to present facts and arguments to convince people of new ideas, or old. I’m an advocate of the faith.”

With the Vatican now embracing social media and the US bishops galvanizing the populace to speak out in defense of the church, cyberspace is ripe for evangelization. The Web delivers a pulpit and a boundless audience to bloggers like Koss on the Kenai Peninsula, and Tiffany Borges and Mindy Goorchenko in the Anchorage area.

They feel called to counter the pervasive misinformation, anti-Catholicism and immorality that’s competing for followers among the same worldwide audience, and they all feel inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s recent urging for the faithful to utilize the Internet as an untapped frontier.

“Our Holy Father encourages us to do it (blog), to be Catholic Online and to use the social networking sites for evangelization, and to share our joy and provide another voice in what can be such a degrading place,” said Goorchenko, a nurse and mother of five young children who still feels it is important to make the time to regularly blog.

“When I don’t feel like posting anything, I definitely feel motivated by Pope Benedict’s encouragement to keep doing it, to fulfill that mandate,” she said.

“We need to bring a soul to the Internet,” expounded Borges, whose new blog “Lox Populi” was picked up in its infancy by New Advent, a compilation of noteworthy Catholic blogs worldwide.

“Catholicism has to have a forum there (Online),” Borges added. “If we’re silent about topics that are uncomfortable or delicate, then the other side — for lack of a better word — wins.”

Proselytizing Online is simultaneously simple and daunting. Anyone can publish a blog, but to preach publicly about theology and church doctrine is to assume a certain amount of authority and accountability. One could be wrong. Or, one could be right and suffer the consequences.

Some of Borges’ relatives defriended her on Facebook. A priest rebuked Koss. But other priests have reposted his blog, and his writings have tallied up to 121,000 views.

“The hardest part is making sure that what I’m doing is godly and benefiting Christ, the church, the pope and my fellow Catholics,” Koss said. “Every blogger wants readers and has personal and ego-driven reasons for writing because they think what they have to say is important. When you’re dealing with the faith, you have an even higher calling, a higher duty and a higher responsibility.”

“It’s inevitable that the new evangelism will happen there (in blogs and social media),” Goorchenko said. “When I see somebody reach my blog from a country like China or Vietnam or a place that is hostile toward Christianity, that is very exciting to me.”

These emerging bloggers spread the Word in different voices. Borges’ “Lox Populi”, — the title is a play on the Latin words vox populi (voice of the people) with a nod to her love for lox — is witty and sassy yet jovial, a style she describes as “barroom apologetics.” She created the blog in January in part to continue the fun she experienced writing a Christmas letter. While her blog title and tone may be playful, in two months Borges has tackled rabble rousing topics from the Pill and feminism to homosexuality.

“There are moments when I think, ‘This is too crass or too scrappy,’ but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I believe it will be OK,” she said.

Koss, who grew up in a non-practicing Catholic family and rediscovered Catholicism at Ave Maria School of Law, mostly analyzes current events from a “militantly Catholic” viewpoint.

He strives to be a “warrior” blogging with a sincere desire to save souls, if even just one. The masthead of his “Defend Us in Battle” page features Saint Michael the Archangel and an ominous scriptural quotation.

One popular post of his in 2010 opened with, “We are at WAR. This is not puffery. Our souls and the souls of those that we love are in mortal peril.”

More recently, he posted, “I write what I believe, and I try and make sure that I align those beliefs with the heart of Christ and the mind of the church.”

Goorchenko takes an inviting personal approach to “The Devout Life” blog, infusing the fellowship of a neighborhood Bible study or parish social.

Since converting to Catholicism in 2009, the practiced “mommy blogger” fairly recently shifted from anecdotes about her five children to reflections on Catholic life.

She started “The Devout Life” as an outlet to share her observations while reading “Introduction to the Devout Life,” a manual by Saint Francis de Sales about living devoutly and growing in virtue while busy raising a family.

A recent post described her family’s commitment to forego electricity on “Wilderness Wednesdays” during Lent. Her blog currently functions as a virtual reading club discussing Vatican II documents.

“Many people who are curious about the church are not going to step into one. I write it for not only Catholics but non-Catholics who may be open-minded and interested in learning about the Catholic faith and spirituality,” Goorchenko said. “My purpose is to present a window into the daily life of a Catholic to explore how we live in the world without being of the world, and to convey the joy of being a Catholic and encountering Christ and the sacraments.”

Borges, a 2005 convert, said lay bloggers are uniquely suited for evangelization. Priests have an established following, but they must evaluate the risk of alienating members if their homilies are too austere. Journalists are censored by editors and media conglomerates. Bloggers, however, are unrestrained.

“This is a serious role,” Borges said. “If it’s not useful to someone, then it’s just detracting from time with my family and promoting my own opinion.”

Goorchenko agreed. “We have to remember that there’s a person on the other side (of the screen) who is using this technology to feel connected and find meaning in life. If we can make ourselves available in that strange Online space that is still relatively new to everyone, we have a special opportunity to connect with that human being and bring Christ to that person in some way,” she said. “It’s a whole new frontier.”

Posted with permission from the Catholic Anchor, official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Alaska.


Mercy gives $600,000 to communities

FEED PROGRAM IN MOUNTAIN VIEW--Carol Dow, Vice President of Nursing; Sister M. Cornelia Blasko; Diane Acklin, FEED Program; Janette Haynes, FEED Program; Jonathan Wade, President & CEO of Mercy St. Francis Hospital; Karen Simpson, Vice President of the Sister M. Cornelia Blasko Foundation, all posed for a photo at the presentation of the Mercy grant to the FEED Program in Mountain View, MO. (Photo courtesy of Mercy)
FEED PROGRAM IN MOUNTAIN VIEW--Carol Dow, Vice President of Nursing; Sister M. Cornelia Blasko; Diane Acklin, FEED Program; Janette Haynes, FEED Program; Jonathan Wade, President & CEO of Mercy St. Francis Hospital; Karen Simpson, Vice President of the Sister M. Cornelia Blasko Foundation, all posed for a photo at the presentation of the Mercy grant to the FEED Program in Mountain View, MO. (Photo courtesy of Mercy)

Health organization provides much-needed funding to vital community projects

Whether it’s much needed funds for domestic violence shelters, teen moms, families in crisis or counseling for those still suffering from the devastating effects of last year’s EF-5 tornado in Joplin, Mercy continues to respond to the needs of the communities it serves.

Beginning in 1988, Mercy has awarded Caritas grants each year–today totaling $9 million to communities across Mercy. This year, a total of $600,000 was awarded to almost two dozen community programs across five states. The grants include a handful of programs in Springfield and the regional area.

“When our Founder Catherine McAuley opened the first House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland, in 1827, the needs were great,” said Lynn Britton, president and CEO of Mercy across seven states. “The needs today in the communities we serve across the Midwest continue to grow, and we continue to find ways to serve those needs. It’s in our DNA to serve those who are economically poor and to work for change on their behalf.”

The money will provide everything from counseling for academically at-risk students to volunteers for a medical home for uninsured adults, bus passes and birth certificates for the homeless to vaccinations for new Americans. The breakdown includes:

Isabel’s House, Springfield, MO–$25,500, equipment and counselors to assist families in crisis

Hope Connection–Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Springfield, MO–$2,450, birth certificates and bus passes for homeless individuals

Care to Learn, Lebanon, Mo., Springfield, MO–$9,600, purchase of hygiene supplies for school children.

GOOD SAMARITAN CARE CLINIC— Jonathan Wade, President and CEO of Mercy St. Francis Hospital; Dr. Jon Roberts; Sherri Noble, Good Samaritan Care Clinic Administrator; Kent Smith; and Sr. M. Cornelia Blasko, Foundation Chair, posed for a photo in Mountain View, MO, as the Caritas Grant was awarded. Mercy has given $600,000 to surrounding communities. (Photo courtesy of Mercy)
GOOD SAMARITAN CARE CLINIC— Jonathan Wade, President and CEO of Mercy St. Francis Hospital; Dr. Jon Roberts; Sherri Noble, Good Samaritan Care Clinic Administrator; Kent Smith; and Sr. M. Cornelia Blasko, Foundation Chair, posed for a photo in Mountain View, MO, as the Caritas Grant was awarded. Mercy has given $600,000 to surrounding communities. (Photo courtesy of Mercy)

Rural Food Pantries, Lebanon, MO; Mountain View, MO; Cassville, MO; Aurora, MO; and Berryville, AR–$50,000, food supplies for food pantries

Mercy Community Connections and Mercy Resilience Groups, Joplin, MO–$47,500, Skills for Psychological Recovery small group programs for those impacted by the 2011 tornado

Rural Medical Care, Berryville, AR; Eureka Springs, AR; and Mountain View, MO–$31,000, facility expansion and pharmaceuticals

Vaccines for New Americans, St. Louis, MO–$28,200, vaccines for new Americans

Volunteers in Medicine/Mercy Medical Home Collaboration, St. Louis, MO–$24,400, medical home for uninsured adults

Mercy Road to Home, St. Louis, MO–$35,100, supplies and services to transition homeless men into permanent housing

Medication Assistance and Transportation programs, Oklahoma City, OK; Washington, MO; Ardmore, OK; Lebanon, MO; Berryville, AR–$74,400, prescription medication and transportation assistance for underserved patients

ALIVE Nights of Safety Program, Washington, MO–$15,000, supplies for domestic violence shelter

Good Samaritan Clinic, Ft. Smith, AR–$43,500, medical supplies and laboratory tests for diabetes patients

Kornerstone, Berryville, AR–$9,350, services and supplies for teen moms

C/SARA Foundation, Ardmore, OK–$30,000, education, collaboration and victim advocacy for children and adults experiencing crisis around trauma or abuse

Good Shepherd Community Clinic, Ardmore, OK–$20,000, diabetes supplies for clinic and patients

Wheel Chair Ramps, Ardmore, OK–$19,000, purchase of 10 permanent and 20 portable wheelchair ramps

Comadre Program, Laredo, TX–$75,000, wellness screenings for women

Casa de Misericordia, Laredo, TX–$20,000, fees and supplies in domestic violence shelter

Mercy Learning Center, Metairie, LA–$40,000, tutoring and counseling for academically at-risk students

The Caritas grant–named after the Latin word “caritas”–means charity. The $100,000 Catherine McAuley Area of Greatest Need grant, which is funded by Mercy corporate co-worker donations each year, bears the name of Mercy Founder Catherine McAuley. Co-workers have donated $550,000 since the grant’s inception five years ago. This year, the $100,000 grant will provide tutoring and counseling services in Louisiana as well as food supplies in rural communities in Missouri and Arkansas.

“We remain true to the mission of our Sisters of Mercy who have cared for impoverished women, children and the sick for almost 200 years,” said Britton. “We want to improve access to health care and reach out to the economically disadvantaged. This is about Mercy supporting the communities we serve.”

Mercy Springfield Communities is comprised of Mercy Hospital Springfield, an 866-bed referral center; five regional hospitals in the Missouri communities of Lebanon, Aurora, Cassville, Mountain View, and Berryville, AR; Mercy Clinic, a 500-plus physician clinic with 70 locations throughout the region; and Mercy Health Plans, the largest managed care provider in the region.

Mercy is the eighth largest Catholic health care system in the US and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 31 hospitals, more than 200 outpatient facilities, 38,000 co-workers and 1,500 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For more about Mercy, visit



Robe of Jesus

PILGRIMS TOUCH CASING CONTAINING ROBE REPORTEDLY WORN BY CHRIST ON DISPLAY AT CATHEDRAL IN GERMANY--Pilgrims touched a casing containing the "'Holy Robe" in the cathedral in Trier, Germany, April 15. The ancient town of Trier marks the 500th anniversary of the first public appearance of the Seamless Robe of Jesus, reportedly worn during, or shortly before his crucifixion. Some 500,000 pilgrims are expected to visit the relic through May 13. (CNS photo/Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters)
PILGRIMS TOUCH CASING CONTAINING ROBE REPORTEDLY WORN BY CHRIST ON DISPLAY AT CATHEDRAL IN GERMANY--Pilgrims touched a casing containing the "'Holy Robe" in the cathedral in Trier, Germany, April 15. The ancient town of Trier marks the 500th anniversary of the first public appearance of the Seamless Robe of Jesus, reportedly worn during, or shortly before his crucifixion. Some 500,000 pilgrims are expected to visit the relic through May 13. (CNS photo/Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters)

YOUCAT–Bestselling Catholic book in the world!

Youth Catechism passes 1.7 million in global sales; also No. 1 in US

April 16, 2012–In his foreword to YOUCAT–the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church–Pope Benedict XVI urges readers to “study this Catechism with passion and perseverance.” The book’s amazing, global popularity suggests that millions of Catholics have embraced the Holy Father’s call.

YOUCAT now ranks as the best-selling Catholic book in the world, with more than 1.7 million copies already sold around the globe. Not surprisingly, the Youth Catechism is at the top of Catholic-book sales rankings in America, Germany and Spain. Ignatius Press published the English-language edition of YOUCAT for the US.

“1.7 million copies sold worldwide–but that’s just the beginning,” said Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., founder and editor of Ignatius Press. “Young people are evangelizing their peers as well as deepening their own faith.”

“It’s been challenging at times to keep YOUCAT in stock,” said Ignatius Pres. Mark Brumley. “YOUCAT is quickly becoming the go-to book for young people to deepen their faith. Pastors, school teachers, and catechists are using it in their religious education classes and Confirmation programs. Parents, grandparents, and godparents are buying it as a gift for young people. YOUCAT is an outstanding gift to the Church.”

And work is continuing to expand the reach and impact of this landmark book. “A special institute in Germany, staffed by young Catholics, is organizing international study groups and preparing new YOUCAT-centered activities and publications,” Fr. Fessio said. “Like its big brother, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, YOUCAT isn’t a one-time publication. It’s a point of reference for young people around the world and a cornerstone of the New Evangelization.”

YOUCAT adapts the content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to a format intended to engage young people and young adults. It is an accessible and contemporary expression of the Catholic Faith, and served as the official Youth Catechism of 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid.

It explains:

–Doctrine–What Catholics believe;

–The Sacraments–How Catholics celebrate the mysteries of the faith;

–Moral Life–How Catholics are to live;

–Prayer and Spirituality–How Catholics should pray.

YOUCAT’s attractive format includes questions and answers, highly-readable commentary, margin photos and illustrations, summary definitions of key terms, Bible citations and quotes from the Saints and other great teachers. The questions are direct and honest, even at times tough; the answers straightforward, relevant and compelling.

For more information about YOUCAT, to request a review copy or to schedule an interview with Ignatius Press Editor Jesuit Fr. Joseph Fessio or Ignatius Press Pres. Mark Brumley, please contact Kevin Wandra with The Maximus Group at 678-990-9032 or


Beautiful, poetic ‘Exsultet’ provides salvation history


If you had the opportunity to attend and participate in the Easter Vigil Liturgy, you were privileged to hear proclaimed a very beautiful, poetic, and ancient prayer of the Church. I am referring to the “Easter Proclamation”, known also by its Latin name (the “Exsultet”).

In the recent translation of the Roman Missal, we see that this proclamation was also revised and if you listened closely at the Easter Vigil Liturgy, you know that this prayer now has an even more “poetic” tone and contains a variety of symbolic and interesting images.

Perhaps we can compare the singing of the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil Liturgy with the proclamation of news by the “town crier” in colonial times. His purpose was to “announce the news”, either by speaking or singing. At the Easter Vigil, the priest, deacon, or cantor becomes, in a sense, a spiritual “town crier”, who proclaims joyfully in song the good news of salvation and Christ’s Resurrection.

The Easter Vigil is seen as the holiest night of the year in the liturgical calendar. St. Augustine calls this celebration “the mother of all holy vigils”. Originally, the Exsultet was a hymn of thanksgiving which was sung to accompany the service of light. It continues to serve that same purpose in the liturgy today. The earliest form of the Exsultet is found in some of the oldest Easter homilies, written around the fourth and fifth centuries. According to liturgical historians, the version of the Easter Proclamation that was sung in certain churches of Rome in the seventh century and which became part of the papal liturgies in the 11th century is perhaps the best known and most beautiful form of this ancient text.

The revised text in the current edition of the Roman Missal is quite beautiful. The next time you find yourself in church, I encourage you to pick up the worship aid which your parish uses for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Hopefully, it includes the full text of the Easter Proclamation. Take time to carefully, reflectively, and prayerfully read this poetic “history lesson of our salvation in Christ”, from the Garden of Eden, to the hill of Calvary, and finally to the empty tomb. (On behalf of my fellow priests, please don’t read it during Mass, especially during the homily!).

This prayer, which is very rich, provides some excellent “food for thought” in preparation for Mass. It is a humble reminder of what Easter is all about!


Easter a time to revisit ‘first love’


“I hold this against you … you have turned aside from your early love.” –Rv 2:4

There is something special about first love. Typically, first love is most intense and most pure. First love is notable because it is the love that moves one to give totally, to abandon oneself to another, and to make pledges and promises that bind one in permanence. First love moves a couple to get married, a man to ordination as a priest, men and women to choose life-long service to the Church in a religious vocation, a person to become a Christian.

Jesus’ words, as transmitted by John in the Book of Revelation to the Church of Ephesus, could be taken to heart by each one of us. We might ask ourselves if we have maintained our “early love.” We might apply this to our relationship with God, or to our vocation.

It is important to remember what drove us and moved us to make a commitment, our greatest commitments, those that shape who we are. This occurs to me every year at the Chrism Mass when I ask our priests to renew the promises that they made on the day of their ordination. I am also reminded annually at the wedding anniversary Masses we celebrate in the Diocese, when dozens of couples stand in unison to renew their marriage vows. We intuitively realize that we need to periodically revisit and renew our first love.

This is also the likely reason that the disciples were instructed by the angel to go to Galilee after the resurrection (Mt 28:10; Mk 16:7). Following their own failures of betrayal and denial which contributed to Jesus’ suffering, God drew the disciples back to the place where they experienced their “first love,” the initial experience of encountering Jesus. Perhaps this renewed their memories, the purpose and the decisions that they made when they first responded to Jesus’ call to “follow me.”

The Easter season is a good time to “get back” to our first love—to revisit those times when we were affected by an encounter with Christ, the moments when we were moved by love to make a commitment. If you are a married person, go back to the days in which you, with joy, said “yes” to a proposal, or on your wedding day when you promised to be true to your spouse no matter what would come. As a priest or religious, revisit those days in which you made a “yes” to God to follow along a path you could not see to be of service to God and to His people. You were so moved by love that you did not care that you didn’t know precisely what that would entail, because you knew your Beloved would lead you where you needed to be.

Those were good days; those were the “Galilee days” of our lives. Time and our fallen nature tend to cause us to forget these moments. Failures and disappointments can also cause us to lose our confidence or doubt. But, as Jesus reminds the Church of Ephesus in the Book of Revelation, we have to maintain our first loves. They are moments of grace in which we experienced God and his love and hope for each of us in a privileged way. We have to remember our part and renew our commitment. I am sure this is why the Church allows us to renew our baptismal promises on Easter Sunday, too.

This Easter season, take time to go back to all your first loves; they are gifts from God, ones he wants to deepen and extend even as we get older.


On anniversary of Blessed John Paul’s death, Vatican focuses on WYD

PASSIONATE YOUTH--Young people wave signs saying "Ciao Papa" as Pope Benedict XVI left after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 1. (CNS/Paul Haring)
PASSIONATE YOUTH--Young people wave signs saying "Ciao Papa" as Pope Benedict XVI left after celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 1. (CNS/Paul Haring)

On the seventh anniversary of the death of Blessed John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI paid homage to one of his predecessor’s innovations: World Youth Day.

Greeting an estimated 5,000 cheering young people from Spain April 2, Pope Benedict said they were “the protagonists and principal recipients of this pastoral initiative promoted vigorously by my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, whose passage to heaven we remember today.”

The Spanish youths had come to the Vatican for the celebration of Palm Sunday April 1 and to thank the pope for visiting Madrid for World Youth Day last August. The Spanish delegation included the World Youth Day orchestra, which played during the papal audience.

While the pope was with the young people, Vatican officials and representatives of the Brazilian bishops’ conference were holding a news conference to talk about plans for the next international celebration of World Youth Day, which will be held July 23-28, 2013, in Rio de Janeiro.

Pope Benedict told the Spanish youths that the World Youth Day experience “can only be understood in the light of the presence the Holy Spirit in the Church,” who continues to enliven the Church and to push believers “to bear witness to the wonders of God.”

He told the young people, “You are called to cooperate in this exciting task, and it’s worth it to commit yourself to it without reservation. Christ needs you to expand and build his kingdom of charity.”

Each and every person has a vocation, a call from God that is the key to each person’s holiness and happiness, as well as being a call to create a better world, the pope said.

The missionary outreach of young people is set to be a key focus of WYD 2013 in Rio, said Vatican and Brazilian officials.

Aux. Bp. Eduardo Pinheiro da Silva of Campo Grande, president of the Brazilian bishops’ commission for youth, said the “days in the dioceses” that usually precede the main World Youth Day gatherings would be transformed into a “Missionary Week” when young Catholics from around the world travel to Brazil.

The youths’ time in dioceses outside Rio will still include a chance to get to know local people and customs, but Bishop da Silva said organizers felt–and the Vatican agreed–that more time should be devoted to catechesis, spiritual experiences and encounters that would help young Catholics from around the world learn to share their faith with others.

The news conference was held after a March 29-31 meeting of representatives of bishops’ conferences and movements from 99 countries. The meeting included a review of the Madrid experience and a discussion of plans for Rio.

Card. Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which coordinates the youth gatherings, said one of the chief criticisms of the Madrid gathering was that the vast majority of young people–about 1 million of them–were unable to receive Communion at the final Mass. Organizers said they had to close the tents where the unconsecrated hosts were stored after a storm.

The Canadian representative, Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who was director of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, said organizers must never forget that logistical problems at such an event have “pastoral and liturgical ramifications and consequences that last long after the event is over.”

He said questions still remain about why it wasn’t possible to get the hosts out of the tent, and even why so many young people with passes for the Mass weren’t allowed in.

“Whatever the real, legitimate circumstances were that caused these situations, let us do everything we can to avoid them in the future,” he told the meeting.

Card. Rylko said the Madrid experience will help the Brazilians be even more prepared for the unforeseen and unpredictable, but he also said, “World Youth Day is a pilgrimage and pilgrimages always bring challenges.”

The cardinal also was asked about plans for the Rio 2013 Way of the Cross celebration, one of the key moments of World Youth Day.

With the event still 15 months away, details are still being worked out, he said; however, the prayer service traditionally has been connected to the local reality–to the history, culture or suffering of the local people–so one idea is to have at least one station inside one of Rio’s “favelas” or poor neighborhoods.

Abp. Orani Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro said, “We’re still looking at how to do that.”


Evangelization faces challenge from Cubans who syncretize religion

SHRINE IN CUBA--Pope Benedict XVI waved after praying at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Cuba March 27. (CNS photo/Esteban Felix, pool via Reuters)
SHRINE IN CUBA--Pope Benedict XVI waved after praying at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Cuba March 27. (CNS photo/Esteban Felix, pool via Reuters)

In this Caribbean nation of 11.3 million, one of the greatest challenges to Catholic evangelization comes from Cubans who practice traditional African religions.

The fusion of diverse spiritual currents was occurring even before the Catholic Church began expanding throughout the world. When colonizers brought Christianity to the New World, it was expected that other religious systems would adhere to the mother Church.

In recent decades, however, the Church’s vision on this matter has been adjusted. The new approach has been inculturation of local populations. It is a process of welcoming traditional popular religious expressions and focusing on a gradual transition toward full communion via evangelization.

In Cuba, this syncretism of mostly animist African religions mixed with mainstream Catholicism is popular, said Jesuit Fr. Juan Rovira, who considers himself an “avid student” of popular devotion.

“The only real contact we have with them is when they come to church,” said Fr. Rovira, pastor of Holy Family Parish is Santiago de Cuba.

He told Catholic News Service March 29 that most popular devotees come to see him only when they need baptisms, funerals and a few other services. But he also said that some of them are very much in contact with priests. Most are required to be baptized in the Catholic Church before they can be baptized in their syncretic groups, he added.

When Pope Benedict XVI visited Santiago de Cuba March 26-27, some Cubans wore traditional African attire.

“Those seen at the papal events in their particular dress most likely were not there out of piety,” said Fr. Rovira. “So, I doubt the visit had any noticeable impact on them.”

He said Santeria, which identifies Catholic saints with African deities, is more openly seen in Havana. His last stay at the capital city coincided with the round-the-island pilgrimage of an image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Cuba’s patroness.

“I spent close to seven hours working the blessing lines, and many of the participants were clearly ‘santeros’ (Santeria members), wearing their garb, multicolored beaded necklaces, and all,” he remarked.

Fr. Raul Rodriguez Dago, a lecturer on Afro-Cuban religions at San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary in Havana and author of “El Santero Cubano,” considers syncretic devotees a large part of the Cuban Catholic Church.

About their status, he states: “Evangelization must be based on respect and should consider their values in order to open them to the Gospel with patience and perseverance, taking into account their degree of closeness to the Church.”

Fr. Rodriguez’s position has been widely supported by the Catholic Church.

For example, the final document of the Puebla Conference, held in Mexico in 1979, states: “The Latin American peoples’ religion, in its most characteristic cultural form, is an expression of the Catholic faith. It is a popular Catholicism.”

Several other documents released since then, although recognizing popular devotion, also have pressed for stronger evangelization efforts. These include the final document from the 1986 national Cuban church encounter in Havana, Pope John Paul’s 1988 statement during the Cuban bishops’ “ad limina” visit, and his 1999 “Ecclesia in America” apostolic exhortation.

However, Fr. Rovira explained that evangelization among syncretic devotees has been very difficult.

“This type of effort is a ‘pending task’ for us,” he said. “These are small cells of unknown levels of relationship among themselves and with the Church,” and spread across the country.

Asked why people need to combine different types of religions, Fr. Rovira explained: “It is said they have concrete problems in life for which they find no Church solutions.”

Those solutions might be based on known practices of divination, supposed communication with deceased relatives, and even the attempted manipulation of the forces of nature.