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When the Church finds itself in times of trouble, imitate Mary, bishop says

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 05:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said that the Catholic Church is currently in a “very dark moment” in its history, and that Catholics should look to the example of Mary in reacting to the abuse crisis.

Speaking in a closed session to reporters at the National V Encuentro conference in Grapevine, Texas on September 22, Garcia-Siller was asked how lay people can work to engage fallen-away Catholics who were upset by the recent sexual misconduct scandals.

Rather than turn away from the crisis, Garcia-Siller said that “we need to face how people are dealing with it,” and not just have emotional reactions to the stories of sexual assault and harassment. Garcia-Siller acknowledged that the problem of sexual abuse has existed in the Church for a long time, “and painfully.”

Garcia-Siller suggested that people “have to evangelize” during this time, despite everything that is happening in the Church. He said he’s seen suffering in his own archdiocese, and he has worked to let the survivors of abuse know that he will be there for them. He compared the current abuse crisis to the crucifixion of the Lord.

“People are suffering for many reasons. It is the way of the cross,” he said.

“And Jesus was very bold about it. It is the way of the cross," he repeated.

The bishop shot down the idea of having to “re-evangelize” people who have fallen away from the Church during the crisis, saying that "somebody has to evangelize, (they don’t) need re-evangelization.” He said that they should work on ensuring proper formation for those who have already been exposed to the Church.

He cautioned against the mentality that people do not need to continually experience Christ. People “cannot grasp who he is and his work of love once,” and cannot be satisfied with one singular Church experience.

“We forget,” he said, “that the Holy Spirit will remind us who Jesus is and what is the work of the Kingdom.”

Garcia-Siller drew an example from Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s homily earlier that day, when the cardinal spoke of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the first “missionary disciple” of Jesus Christ, before the apostles.

In his homily, O'Malley said that Mary was courageous in her "yes" to the Lord, even when Jesus was on the cross.

"Mary was standing, a pillar of strength, courage and faith, even with her broken heart, she said 'yes Lord, your will and not mine,'" O'Malley said. 

Now, Catholics should strive to imitate Mary during “this time of pain and suffering,” including the victims of abuse, and “in mysterious ways, the perpetrators, and the bishops,” Garcia-Siller said.

“All of us, to cope with this, we'll be needed everywhere,” he noted.

“We need everyone, everyone,” he said, because the Church, as “the Body of Christ--when one hurts, everybody hurts. When one is joyful everyone should be joyful.”

“May we, by the mercy of God, carry on what He started.”

‘We’re brothers and sisters in Christ’: For Encuentro Catholics, immigration is personal

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When Miriam Joyce of the Diocese of Raleigh talks about immigration, her face folds with concern.

Her worry is not for her own wellbeing; she is a United States citizen. But she worries for her friends - they come from El Salvador, they have children, and soon they may have to go back to a violent, unstable country.

“One of my friends has a daughter that is 19 years old, and they came here here with permission, and now with what’s going on with the President now they have to leave by January 2019, in less than four months,” Joyce told CNA.

Her friends once had Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which was granted to El Salvador in 2001, following a massive earthquake in the country. TPS is granted for countries who are experiencing an ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or “other extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent people from safely returning home to the country.”

In January 2018, the Department of Homeland Security terminated TPS status for El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua.

“They’re always worrying that they’re going to get a knock on the door and it’s the government telling them it’s time for you to leave.”

Immigration is a tough topic no matter what the crowd. But when that crowd is the National V Encuentro, a gathering of Hispanic and Latino Catholics throughout the United States, the topic is undoubtedly emotional and incredibly personal. Many of the 3,000-some participants are immigrants. Or are related to some. Or are best friends with others.

Andrea Lerma tears up talking about her mother, who is still in Mexico. Although Lerma was born in the United States, she grew up in Mexico until she was 15 years old. She then moved to the U.S. to live with her uncles, whom she hadn’t met.

To Latino immigrants, Lerma said she would encourage them to “keep fighting for what you want, and don’t forget who you are, who your parents are, or where you come from, because that is going to help you to set up your goals,” she said. “And pray, because sometimes we forget to pray. We forget to give thanks to God for another day.”

Alejandra Brava, is a young adult immigrant from Vera Cruz, Mexico, is a DACA recipient who now lives in and works as the Hispanic youth and young adult minister for the Archdiocese of Denver.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era policy that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children. The program prevents DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” from being deported. It also provides work permits.

Brava said she was able to get a teaching job in the United States thanks to DACA, and it has allowed her to do what she loves.  

“I am evidence that I’m not here to hurt someone,” Brava told CNA. “I’m here and I came to study and I just wanted to do something with my life, I love teaching and I love doing ministry.”

While President Donald Trump has sought to end DACA, there have been legislative efforts to maintain elements of DACA in an immigration law, and DACA recipients may still submit applications to renew their status.

Brava said she hoped other Catholics would see immigrants as their brother or sister in the faith. “We’re human beings, there’s no difference. Legal status doesn’t make a person less worthy,” she said.

Many immigrants from Central and South America who come to the United States are Catholic, and Hispanics make up more than 40 percent of Catholics within the U.S.

Because of this, immigrants often look to the Church for help once they arrive in the U.S.

Alfonso Lara is the Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado. He said that parishes need to be intentional about welcoming immigrants, “not only with coffee and donuts but also having a committee to welcome them, realizing that they’re another human being coming to your country with a different experience of life and a different experience of the Church.”

He said he would encourage church leaders not to inquire about the legal status of immigrants, but to be “humans receiving humans.”

“We’re welcoming the stranger, that’s what we do,” he said. “When another person comes to church to have an encounter with Jesus, we need to respect that.”

Patricia Zapor is the director of communications for The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), which is a network of non-profit organizations that provide immigration legal services to their clients.

Zapor told CNA that there are many practical things that parishes can do to support and welcome immigrants in their parish.

“It could be something as simple as collecting money to help people pay the fees that go along with their applications," she said. Depending on the form, that could be anywhere between hundreds or more than a thousand dollars, which doesn’t include the fingerprint and background check fees.

“They might offer (language classes), or they might host a know your rights event,” Zapor said. CLINIC has resources about the rights of immigrants available in nine languages.

Immigrants often are not sure where to get started in the application process, and there are a “fair amount” of fraudulent companies out there that try to offer immigration services to unwitting clients, so providing proper resources and information is key, Zapor noted.

If a parish really wanted to get involved, they could host a refugee family, Zapor said.

Or they could host something as simple as a rosary with immigration-themed reflections, or a Las Posadas celebration, or other simple ways “of getting a community to think about immigrants and maybe have a conversation about them without being hammered over the head with the politics,” she said.

Ultimately, Catholics should acknowledge immigrants as fellow human beings who should be treated with care and respect, Brava said.

“We need to treat each other as brothers or sisters in Christ,” she said. “We have differences in culture, in ideas, in opinions, but at the end of the day, we believe in the same God. We need to value our neighbors, our brothers and sisters regardless of their status and immigration.”

 

Court strikes down Hawaii law requiring pregnancy centers to advertise abortion

Honolulu, Hawaii, Sep 22, 2018 / 04:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Hawaii law requiring pro-life doctors and pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion was struck down by a federal district court Thursday.

“Hawaii’s pro-life, nonprofit pregnancy centers offer free practical resources, information, and emotional support to women—no matter what choices those women make,” said Derald Skinner, pastor of Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor and president of “A Place for Women in Waipio,” one of the pregnancy centers involved in the case.

“We’re grateful that the state has backed off its unconstitutional attack on our ministry,” Skinner said in a press release. “Our doors remain open and we continue to offer love, care, and compassion for all women and their precious little babies in our community.”

The case involved a Hawaii law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to notify clients about state programs offering free or low-cost “comprehensive family planning services,” including abortion.

The law was challenged by Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor’s pregnancy center, “A Place for Women in Waipio,” as well as the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), which has five affiliated pregnancy centers in the state.

NIFLA was involved in a similar case over the summer, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in its favor in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra.

That decision, a 5-4 ruling in June, blocked a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to post information on state programs to obtain a free or low-cost abortion. The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court to be reconsidered, saying, “We hold that petitioners are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the FACT Act violates the First Amendment.”

The Hawaii decision, Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor v. Suzuki, cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in striking down the Hawaii regulation.

NIFLA President Thomas Glessner called the ruling “a major victory for free speech and freedom of religion.”

“Hawaii’s law was particularly egregious,” he said in a statement. “Not only did it force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion, it also compelled a church to promote abortion inside its building.”

The pro-life centers were represented in the case by Alliance Defending Freedom. Kevin Theriot, senior counsel with the alliance and vice president of the Center for Life, praised the court’s ruling.

“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates his or her beliefs, especially on deeply divisive subjects like abortion,” he said.

“In NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court affirmed that we don’t force people to say things they don’t believe. For that reason, the district court was correct to permanently halt Hawaii’s enforcement of Act 200’s compelled speech requirement.”

Bishop Cantu to Encuentro Catholics: Don't become spiritual tumbleweeds

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 11:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Hispanic community in the United States produces many fruits, but must be careful to water the roots, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, warned the crowd at V Encuentro.

Cantú, along with Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago, and three lay speakers on a panel, spent the morning praising the unique gifts of the Hispanic community in the United States, but cautioned against growing too complacent in their faith and ignoring the potential of young people.

Bishop Cantú, who is in the process of transferring to the San Jose diocese in California, related his experience living in Las Cruces with the current state of the Church in the United States and the Latino community in particular.

In Las Cruces, Cantú encountered a tumbleweed for the first time--a plant that had dried up and detached from its root system and literally tumbled away.

“I wonder sometimes, reflecting on a very changed world, a world that is changing before our very eyes--so rapidly and so drastically, said Cantú.

“I wonder and I worry, sometimes: Are we becoming spiritual tumbleweeds?” 

One risks becoming a “spiritual tumbleweed,” he said, if their roots are not sufficiently deep during a dry season, the bishop explained. He spoke during a panel for the National V Encuentro, a gathering of Hispanic Catholics throughout the United States.

“And the dry season is here, my friends, and it will be a long one,” said Cantú. Now is the time, he said, for people to “dig deep so that our roots may find water, that our roots may find living water.”

Cantú recounted a story from his time in seminary, when he accidentally genuflected when entering a row in a movie theater. He said that people today long for something sacred within their “spiritual DNA,” and when they do not encounter this, they end up treating the non-sacred objects things as if they are in fact sacred.

“People are not finding what is truly sacred,” he said, and “because they encounter you and me, that are supposed to show signs of the sacred, and maybe they don't see it.”

People should strive to tap their roots into the “living water” in order to produce sacred fruit, Cantú advised the crowd.

“The human heart still yearns for what is beautiful, for what is truly beautiful, for what is good, and for what is true. We have that. The church has what is truly good, what is truly beautiful and good. His name is Jesus Christ.”

After Cantú spoke, he appeared on a panel with three laypeople--Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services; Brenda Noriega, Young Adults Ministry Coordinator, Diocese of San Bernardino; and Wanda Vásquez, Hispanic Ministry Director, Archdiocese of New York--where they discussed the fruits that had emerged from the four-year V Encuentro process.

Vásquez said it was “amazing” how people came together, and how the eight dioceses in her Encuentro region were able to work alongside each other during the planning stages. She particularly highlighted how the more experienced people were able to share their expertise with younger members, and that while “we are a young church, but we also are an experienced Church.”

Cantú and Noriega both said that young Hispanics need to be included in leadership positions and reminded of their particular talents. Noriega first began working in Hispanic ministry for her diocese at the age of 25, and she reiterated that it was extremely important to “make sure young people are sat at the table” and given positions on things like parish councils.

Cantú said that he often encounters discouraged youth, and that he himself felt similar growing up in a time where “it was a liability to be Hispanic.” He said that when he was applying to seminary, he was praised by a religious sister for being bilingual and fully immersed in two cultures. This sister told him that he would be “a gift to the Church,” and that he hopes the larger Latino community will “never forget that you are a blessing to the Church.”

Callahan reminded the crowd to keep their doors open to the stranger, and to also be cautious about identifying only as “Hispanic Catholics.” He believes the Latino Catholic community has the ability to lift up the entire Church, and should take steps to build bridges with the rest of the Church in the United States.

He advised people that even though the attendees of the non-Spanish Masses at a parish may look different from them, they should go out of their way to interact with them and get to know them.

“Let’s build a united church, so we can start lifting up everyone in the Catholic Church in the United States,” said Callahan, to loud applause.

Cupich, who led the morning prayer, had a slightly more optimistic look on the future of the Church than Cantú. Cupich said that he feels the Church in the United States is experiencing a “new birth,” and the Latino community is a big part of this panel. The cardinal was critical of what he called an “overly rational, logical, cerebral” approach to God in American culture, and that “faith is not only about what we hold, but it is about who holds us.”

This, explained Cupich, is where Latino culture comes in.

“The Latino experience is reminding us that faith is not only about what we hold, but who holds us,” he said.

Cupich said that while like in any birth there are “pains” and “sacrifices,” but he is convinced that the Church, as well as non-Catholic Americans, “will one day look back at the contributi you (Latinos) are making to our faith, and yes, to our nation, and rejoice at the new birth that has taken place.”

 

Encuentro Catholics ‘heartbroken’ by scandals, but unshaken in faith

Dallas, Texas, Sep 22, 2018 / 06:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the so-called summer of scandals has hit the Church hard both in the United States and throughout the world, the faith of Catholics at the National V Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas, remains largely unshaken.

“We’re heartbroken from what we found out, because it doesn’t move my faith,” Rocio Portillo, an Encuentro participant from Las Vegas, told CNA. “It doesn’t move my belief in my Church, and I’m really proud to be Catholic and to be brought up in that faith and to bring that to my children.”

The National V Encuentro, held Sept. 20-23, is the culmination of a years-long process at the parish, diocesan and regional levels of listening to and empowering Hispanic and Latino Catholics.

The public disclosure of allegations of sexual misconduct against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick in June 2018 triggered a succession of public accusations that McCarrick had sexually assaulted or abused seminarians and priests over a period of decades, as well as a further accusation that he had sexually abused a minor.

Since then, numerous bishops in the United States and Rome have faced questions about when accusations against McCarrick had first been made known to Church authorities, and how he had been allowed to continue in ministry despite widespread rumors of his misconduct.

In the midst of this, a grand jury report detailing hundreds of cases of clerical sexual abuse in six diocese in Pennsylvania was published. While the scandals have not been the focus of the V Encuentro meeting, they have been mentioned numerous times in talks and among participants.

“My friends, we know that this is also a time of pain in our mother Church...as bishops, we have fallen short of what God expects of His shepherds,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Bishop’s Conference and head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said in his opening remarks at Encuentro on Sept. 20.

“For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed, and from you, the People of God. May God grant us the wisdom and resolve to reform and renew His Church. We will continue to support survivors of abuse in their healing. We also commit to stronger protections to ensure the evil of sexual assault and abuse of all kinds is rooted from the Church,” he said.

“Amidst this darkness, the Encuentro is a light that shines and illuminates the way forward. The enthusiasm, the passion, the love, and the joy of the Encuentro process is a means of grace, a gift to us as we rebuild the Church,” he added.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio also addressed the scandals in his opening remarks on Thursday, telling participants that they “are right to be heartbroken by the faults of your shepherds,” he said.

“In the reading of God’s word that we have just heard, Saint Peter tells us that we ‘share Christ’s sufferings,’” he added. “Let us pray to God for the victims of the crimes that led to this crisis. Do everything you can for the healing of all the victims of these abuses. And pray also for the perpetrators and for us, your shepherds.”

Fr. José Carlos, a priest from Hobbes, New Mexico, reiterated to CNA that Encuentro delegates have to be “a light in the darkness.”

Carlos Mendez, and Encuentro delegate from Los Angeles, told CNA that the scandals “would not reduce my faith at all, because I follow the Church, I don’t follow the deeds of other people."

Alfredo Portillo, Encuentro delegate from Las Vegas, told CNA that while he is saddened by the news of scandals that seems to come “every day,” he was encouraged by what he saw at the Encuentro meeting.

“I think this came at a perfect moment,” he told CNA. “And from this something new is going to grow, and it’s much needed. This is just a great moment for the Church in the whole world.”

Pro-life women say they were overlooked by Netflix documentary 'Reversing Roe'

Washington D.C., Sep 22, 2018 / 04:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A new Netflix documentary claims to show both sides of the abortion debate in the U.S., but pro-life advocates say the film depicts old stereotypes and ignores the many women leading the modern pro-life movement.

“In so many cases, it is women who are at the forefront of the movement to value and protect every human life. Sadly, that fact was left out of the documentary,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.

“Had it been included, viewers would have been given the chance to see that the pro-life movement is fundamentally pro-women, because every abortion harms both mother and unborn child,” she said in a statement to CNA.

According to Netflix, the new documentary “Reversing Roe” seeks to offer “candid and riveting interviews with key figures from both sides of the divide” over abortion. Created by filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, a major focus of the film is the historical development of today’s polarized political views on abortion in the U.S. The movie premiered on September 13.

The documentary includes interviews from abortion advocates including doctor Colleen McNicholas and feminist leader Gloria Steinem, as well as pro-life advocates such as Operation Rescue President Troy Newman and National Right to Life President Carol Tobias.

Critics of the film note that appearances by abortion advocates far outnumber appearances by pro-life advocates, and three of the four pro-life individuals featured in the documentary are white males.

Several prominent women in the pro-life movement say they were contacted by the filmmakers, and in some cases spent multiple hours or days talking to the camera crew, but were not included at all in the final documentary. In addition to Mancini, these women include Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of New Wave Feminists; Catherine Foster, president of Americans United for Life; and Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who runs And Then There Were None.

“What a waste of their time, actually, to spend two and a half days with me and these other amazing pro-life women and not to use any of that footage,” said Johnson, who founded And Then There Were None as a nonprofit that helps abortion workers leave the industry.

Johnson noted that diverse women were included among the abortion advocates filmed, but the pro-life perspective was largely limited to white men. She suggested that filmmakers were intentional in how they chose to portray the pro-life movement.

“Being a feminist and being pro-life – that those two things go hand-in-hand – that’s something that they outright reject because it does not fit the narrative that they have been trying to put forward for the past almost 46 years.”

She said advocates of abortion often present “this idea that the pro-life movement is out of touch with women and that it is only men who are speaking about abortion in the pro-life movement… That is not true, a majority of national pro-life organizations are led by women.”

Also overlooked was Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, president of New Wave Feminists, a secular, feminist organization that was removed from the official list of sponsors for the Women’s March on Washington 2017 because of its pro-life stance.

“When we look at these feminist issues through a pro-life lens, I think you get a very refreshing and different take, but they weren’t interested in a refreshing and different take - they were interested in the stale, old narrative that this is completely religious, that …it’s men trying to control women’s bodies,” Herndon-De La Rosa told CNA.

She said the film offers an outdated and inaccurate illustration of the pro-life movement, featuring pro-life leaders from the ‘80s and ‘90s and highlighting extremists who have been involved with abortion clinic violence.

“They didn’t have anyone who broke the mold, so it was very clear that a pierced, tattooed, purple-haired feminist didn’t fit the narrative that they were looking for,” she said, describing herself.

“To act as though this is only a religious issue or to act as this is only a male-dominated issue, it’s disingenuous to the American people and a big chunk of American women who do hold these pro-life views.”

How the Diocese of Brownsville ensures detained children receive sacraments

Dallas, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 09:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Most, if not every, diocese in the United States has some sort of prison ministry. Most do not have a detention center ministry to tend to the spiritual needs of minors detained by the the U.S. Border Patrol.  

The Diocese of Brownsville, located in southern Texas along the U.S./Mexico border, isn’t like most dioceses.

While the diocese had been providing services to the detention centers for a long time, Bishop Daniel Flores told CNA that things started to change about four years ago when the number of unaccompanied minors detained at the border started to swell.

“We’ve always had numbers,” Flores said, but 2014 saw a major influx in the number of unaccompanied minors from Central America attempting to cross the U.S. border. This increase in the number of people sparked a realization that something had to be done to care for the unusually high number of people in detention.

"So our prison ministry, you know, kind of morphed into more of a detention center ministry,” Flores told CNA during a closed session with the media at the National V Encuentro conference in Grapevine, Texas on Sept. 21.

This “detention center ministry” would consist of teams who would go into the centers, determine who was there, and then create some sort of spiritual offering.

These teams would “develop opportunities to go in and either offer catechesis or say Mass or hear confessions” as part of an ongoing process to minister to those in the center. This process is “ongoing,” Flores told CNA.

While the diocese tries to have some sort of presence at the centers, this can be challenging due to changes in policy over time.

“The circumstances changes, because, I’ll be honest, the government sometimes changes the rules,” said Flores, “and we try to respect that but we also kind of ask questions” as to why the changes are being made.

Despite this, Flores said the diocese has “very good cooperation” with the centers and is able to address the needs of those who are detained.

“I think the people who work at the detention centers, for the most part, that I know, recognize that it’s important that these young people have access to somebody who can help them have hope and can follow up on their cases,” explained Flores.

This ministry, while important, is “really serious commitment of time,” and is carried out by priests, religious, and laypeople. Flores credited the laypeople who volunteer their time as those “who really make the effort.”

Flores also praised the Latin American apostolic movements that have taken root in the United States for assisting with this effort.

Each minor’s experience in the detention center is different. Some may be there for weeks, and others for months, depending on the circumstances of their case.

The diocese attempts to extend this ministry even after the minors are released from custody. Flores said that after a minor leaves the center, they will attempt to contact a group or charity (such as Catholic Charities) in their destination that will keep tabs on the minor once they arrive.

“It's good to get a phone call that's not asking 'where are your documents?',” said Flores.  “It's a phone call (asking) 'how are you doing, and can we help you with something?”

“That makes a big difference."

 

Pope Francis welcomes V Encuentro as 'instrument of grace'

Dallas, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 05:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis welcomed thousands of representatives gathered in Texas this week for the Fifth Encuentro, a national meeting of Hispanic-background Catholics aimed at encounter and leadership.

National V Encuentro is “an instrument of grace that has led to the conversion of many people's hearts and above all to the pastoral conversion of situations and to the pastoral conversion of local Churches, parishes, schools, and of all kinds of ecclesial encounters,” he said in a video message to the gathering.

National V Encuentro is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops from local to regional levels across the U.S. Delegates from 165 dioceses were selected for the event, and nearly 250,000 people participated in the local process over the past year.

Taking place in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20-23, the event is expecting as many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background. This year’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”

The meeting has five primary goals: to encounter the needs and aspirations of Catholics of Hispanic background; to promote leadership opportunities for them; to develop new ways to form and encourage them in their vocations; to invite all Catholics to accompany Catholics of Hispanic background; and to develop “initiatives that prepare Hispanic Catholics to share and celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ and to become leaven for the Reign of God in society.”

The first National Encuentro in the United States was held in 1972, and it is a process that has continued at local, regional, and national levels ever since. The most recent Encuentro prior to the Grapevine meeting was held in 2000, with a related youth meeting held in 2006.

The preparatory discussions for National V Encuentro have explored topics such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, community outreach, and the formation of lay leaders.

“I know that the experience of this Fifth Encuentro is a comfort to many immigrants living in situations of fear and uncertainty,” Pope Francis said in his welcome video message.

“The Fifth Encuentro has given them a greater sense of community, friendship, and support.”

Hispanics currently make up one of the largest contingents of the Catholic Church in the U.S., about 40 percent, and an even greater percentage of young adults in the Church.

Michigan announces investigation into seven Catholic dioceses

Lansing, Mich., Sep 21, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has opened an investigation into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the state.

The inquiry was confirmed 21 Sept. in a statement posted on the attorney general’s official website, and will include all seven of the dioceses in Michigan: Gaylord, Lansing, Marquette, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, and the Archdiocese of Detroit.

While the investigation was confirmed publicly on Friday, a spokesman for Schuette told local media that the process had been launched in August 2018.

"The Michigan Department of Attorney General has determined that a full and complete investigation of what happened within the Catholic Church is required," the statement from Schuette said.

"This investigation is and will continue to be independent, thorough, transparent, and prompt. My department and this investigation will find out who knew what, and when."

The department’s official website also gave details of how to contact investigators, saying they wanted to hear from anyone with “information about the Catholic Church that you think would help [the investigation].”

In a statement given to local media, Schuette’s office said that the investigation will cover accusations of "sexual abuse and assault of children and others by Catholic priests,” including priests from religious orders, in Michigan. The the investigation will cover a period of nearly 70 years, from 1950 until the present. 

It is unclear if the investigation will be limited only to allegations of abuse committed by priests, or if it will extend to all clergy and lay employees of the Church in Michigan. The attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for clarification on this point.

In addition to direct accusations of abuse, the attorney general will also examine “any allegations related to the cover-up of sexual abuse or assault” by Church authorities.

In response to the announcement, Catholic dioceses in the state both welcomed the investigation and pledged their full cooperation.

A statement released by the Archdiocese of Detroit, which serves nearly 1.5 million Catholics, said that they “looked forward” to working with state officials and said that the archdiocese would actively participate in the inquiry.

The Archdiocese of Detroit also stressed its “full confidence” in archdiocesan safe environment policies, which it said have been in place for 15 years. The statement called the investigation “the next phase of our commitment to transparency and healing."

The Diocese of Saginaw issued a similar statement which noted their own commitment to safeguarding procedures and welcomed “the opportunity to work with law enforcement authorities to determine if there is more it can do to protect children.”

The announcement of the investigation follows the conclusion of a similar inquiry led by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. A grand jury report into the sexual abuse of minors in six dioceses in that state was released in July. That report identified more than 300 alleged abusers and 1,000 victims.

The Michigan attorney general’s office is already conducting similar investigations into Michigan State University and the Flint water crisis.

In addition to serving as attorney general, Schuette is also the Republican candidate in the upcoming election for governor in Michigan. He is running against Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a former prosecutor and state legislator.

A recent poll by Mitchell Research showed Schuette trailing his opponent by 10 points. Real Clear Politics puts Whitmer ahead by an average of 10.6 points and currently predicts a “likely Democrat” victory.

Schuette’s seven-year record as attorney general has attracted criticism during the campaign, with his opponents saying that the attorney's social conservatism is out of step with Michigan voters.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a statewide ban on gay marriage, a policy Schuette publicly supported. In 2016, he joined a lawsuit challenging federal school guidance on transgender students.

More recently, the attorney general issued an opinion in July challenging the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s determination that existing state bans on sex based discrimination were also applicable to sexual orientation and “gender identity.”

Schuette said the Commission’s reasoning was “invalid” and in clear conflict with the “original intent” and “plain language” of the legislation.

On Sept. 19, the U.S. bishops’ conference announced a series of new policies in response to recent sexual abuse scandals. These included a new third-party reporting mechanism for making complaints of sexual misconduct against a bishop, with such complaints being forwarded to civil law enforcement when appropriate.

US nuncio to Encuentro: Missionaries must first know the joy of Christ

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A missionary disciple is one who has encountered Christ personally and is then able to bring him to others, Archbishop Christophe Pierre said Thursday at the National V Encuentro.  

Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, addressed approximately 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic and Latino background gathered for the summit in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20. The event is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S.

This year, the National Encuentro’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”

Pierre said he believes, as do Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, that one must first encounter the person of Christ before one can become a missionary.

“For (Pope Francis), the whole missionary endeavour begins with an encounter with Christ,” Pierre said.

“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,” Pierre said, quoting the beginning of Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium. “Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

Benedict also began his first encyclical reflecting on the personal encounter with Christ which every Christian must have, Pierre noted.

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,” Pierre said, quoting Benedict’s 2005 encyclical Deus caritas est.

This joy of encountering Christ breathes life into the missionary, who is then able to go out and encounter God’s people, Pierre said.

A Church filled with “missionary impulse” is one that channels her “customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures...for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation,” Pierre noted, referencing Evangelii gaudium.

“Just as wind pushes against a sail and causes a boat to move upon the water, so too the Spirit of God pushes the whole Church to go forth into the world, attentive to the signs of the times and the needs of the people, jettisoning that which is obsolete,” Pierre said.

The missionary spirit which leads to a conversion of heart must be inspired by belief in the God and the Church, Pierre added.

“We have to believe in the Church, this is important today not to forget...believe in the Church who makes Christ incarnate in the culture and among the people,” he said.

This conversion of heart and a missionary spirit must happen within pastors and Church leaders as well, Pierre noted, as they listen to and learn from the different people whom they serve.

“People’s religious experiences, including those of the Latinos, are an authentic place of encounter with God,” he said. “Pastoral conversion means moving from mere conservation to a decidedly pastoral ministry. Pastoral and missionary conversion go hand in hand with a conversion of attitudes and a conversion of statues.”

A Church full of missionary spirit is one that accompanies people and remains united - in a word, a missionary Church has “synodality,” he said, something that can be seen incarnate in the mission of Encuentro.

“The Encuentro process has shown the effectiveness of synodality in the Church,” Pierre added. “Listening, speaking, participating by asking critical questions and discerning the path forward .if Communion is a sharing of the faithful in the mysteries of faith and mission of the church, synodality is a sign and fulfillment of communion.”

Another characteristic of a missionary Church is joy, Pierre said. It celebrates “even small victories in the work of evangelization” and is nourished by the Eucharist, the sacrament in which “Christ is among us, and the joy that he has won is preserved and shared.”

Finally, Pierre said, a missionary Church is one that is not afraid to go to the “peripheries”, both geographical and cultural, to encounter people and bring Christ to them.

“It is my sincere hope that as we gather for these days, we may be the church that Christ wants us to be,” Pierre concluded.

“With (Jesus) at the center of our lives, our conversations and our ministries, confident that with the Virgin of Guadalupe to accompany us and intercede for us, may we always move forward in hope, making known the joy of the Gospel.”