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Surprise! Chicago suburb is home to a major Guadalupe shrine

Chicago, Ill., Dec 12, 2019 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Marian devotion is intense among the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe each year on her feast day.

Not just her shrine in Mexico City. The Virgin of Guadalupe has a major place of honor in Des Plaines, Ill., a Chicago suburb.

“People make the journey to come, and they leave their flowers and their offerings. They light a candle,” said Father Esequiel Sanchez, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “They want to get here, they want to get to her. When you talk to the pilgrims, you see the genuineness of the people’s faith.”

The shrine attracts over 1 million pilgrims each year, and can draw 250,000 people on the Dec. 12 feast day alone, Sanchez told CNA.

While most pilgrims arrive by vehicle, many people walk to the shrine either from Chicago or throughout the Midwest as a sign of devotion or mortification.

“They walk miles to arrive,” said Fr. Sanchez. They each have a story to tell. A 2016 pilgrim walked on his knees part of the final two-and-a-half miles to the shine.

People like him will say “my daughter’s sick, and I want Our Lady to help,” the priest recounted, adding: “the extreme of the expression only indicates the extreme of the concern for their petition.”

The shrine hosts a digital replica of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is the most visited U.S. shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the second most-visited in the world after Mexico’s Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Its origins date to 1987, when a group of Chicago-area Catholics decided to launch a mission to promote devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe using a special pilgrim statue from the shrine in Mexico City.

In 1995, construction began on an outdoor shrine in Des Plaines modeled after Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City, where the Virgin Mary appeared to the indigenous Mexican St. Juan Diego in 1531. The Virgin Mary left her image on his cloak, known as a tilma, and asked him to build a church on a hilltop.

The apparition helped inspire mass conversions of indigenous people to Christianity.

While devotion to the Guadalupe Marian apparition is strong among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, Fr. Sanchez said other Catholics in America are “beginning to appreciate her a little more, and honor her.”

“I think American Catholics are looking at the story itself, and how much it sounds like the gospel,” he said.

The Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. is promoting Our Lady of Guadalupe, and she has become an image for the pro-life movement as well as for women’s issues, the priest noted. Other ethnic groups are growing in devotion to her, including the Indian and Polish communities.

Sometimes the mortifications of the pilgrims are extreme. In severe cold weather, senior citizens will still walk through the snow.

“Here we don’t judge them. We just get them to Our Lady,” Sanchez said. “Our job is to make sure you get there safely.”

Sometimes safety is a concern.

Once, a group of pilgrims traveled on foot through the northern Illinois city of Rockford on their way to the shrine. They were holding a banner and singing songs. A group of people voicing anti-immigrant attitudes began to assault them, told them to get out of the neighborhood, and threw rocks at them.

“It’s not necessarily a wonderful experience,” Sanchez said. “They continued their pilgrimage and made it.”

The priest suggested the pressures of contemporary American culture also drive devotion.

“Whatever the country is feeling, the community is looking for hope,” he said. “We live in a time when people feel less welcomed, where people feel scared, and often the only thing they feel they can trust is their prayer, and the one thing that has got them through the hardest times of their lives thus far: Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

The feast day can create a major traffic issue, with 300,000 people in a 36-hour period. Planning begins months in advance, with the local police department helping to manage the situation.

There are 150 to 200 volunteers just to care for the pilgrims Dec. 11-12.

“Our job is to take care of the pilgrims when they come. They are trying to get to her,” Sanchez said, adding that they aim to help the pilgrims feel loved and well-fed.

“We make sure that the people’s experience is one that is very, very festive,” he said. “There’s a lot of music, a lot of serenading mananitas, a lot of indigenous dancing, what you see in other shrines.”

Sanchez said there is a strong custom in Mexican Hispanic culture of “mandas,” which means “promises” in English.

“People make promises to Our Lady of Guadalupe for a specific intentions or miracles or an act of gratitude,” he said.

“The problem is a lot of people here in the U.S. can’t go back to Mexico. There are immigration issues, economic issues, health issues, there are a lot of issues that keep them from going to Mexico City to fulfill their life’s promise to Our Lady.”

To help these pilgrims fulfill their promises, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City has offered them the same graces and indulgences if they visit the Illinois shrine.

Other pilgrimages come during the novena, the nine days before the feast day.

“We have a pilgrimage of truckers,” Sanzhe said. “They bring their tractor trailers, the truck, just the cab… and they decorate their trucks and they come to the shrine and they have a special Mass in which all their trucks get blessed.”

About 300 horseback riders come through for a separate blessing.

Devotees even organize through their occupations. The local landscapers’ union sought a special blessing and a Mass.

“It’s wonderful to see they’re finding Our Lady of Guadalupe, and how much that really helps them,” the shrine’s rector said.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Dec. 12, 2017.

Voices: 'Our Lady of Guadalupe gave my family a miracle'

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 11, 2019 / 04:45 pm (CNA).- It was in December of 1991, while attending a novena in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Finbar Church in Burbank, that I learned that there existed a small piece of the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the city of Los Angeles.

The associate pastor at the time, Father Peter Irving, explained that this relic was stored at the archdiocesan Archival Center at the San Fernando Mission, and that he had requested it for the novena at St. Finbar. This tiny piece of the tilma is the only piece in existence outside of Mexico City. Being a devoted child of Mary, this fact providentially stuck with me.

Little did I know that Our Lady would save the life of my husband, Vicente, a decade later.

On Friday, May 3, 2002, my husband collapsed due to the rupture of a brain aneurysm. He immediately fell into a coma, flatlined en route to the hospital, and was given less than a 5% chance of surviving. He was 42 years old.

When we went to see him at the hospital, we were greeted by a medical team who took us into a private office and explained that he was gravely ill and that he would most likely not make it through the night. Two different priests went that night to anoint him. The neurosurgeon on call performed an emergency procedure of drilling a hole in my husband’s brain to relieve the pressure. The ventriculostomy drained his brain fluid and the blood from his bleeding brain into a bag. The doctor said that if he survived the night, he would attempt brain surgery.

Hundreds of people began to pray for his recovery. What followed was a series of one miracle after another.

Ian, a ten-year-old friend of the family, offered up his first Holy Communion on Saturday, May 4. Ian’s uncle was my husband’s physician and at the time that Ian was receiving Holy Communion, my husband miraculously woke up from the coma.

Through what I firmly believe to be divine intervention, my husband was transferred to Keck Hospital of USC where doctors were able to seal the brain aneurysm with a coil (a newly pioneered technique at the time) instead of open-brain surgery.

He spent the next four weeks in intensive care. He did not recognize anyone, not even me, his wife.  He developed multiple complications, and doctors at Keck wanted to wait for him to stabilize before placing a shunt in his brain, as he was draining more than 90% of his brain fluid into the external bag. 

I questioned several neurosurgeons about the idea of attempting surgery on such a sick man. They all said that he would definitely need such a surgery — to which I would reply that we were praying for his recovery without a shunt.

It was easy to see that we were praying: a Norbertine priest said Mass daily in his room, a priest of Opus Dei visited him daily, and the room was decorated with holy cards of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo and Saint Josemaria Escriva, among many others.

On May 12, Mother’s Day, the doctors came in to inform me that he had taken a turn for the worst. He had developed meningitis and they would not be able to place the much-needed shunt, which put him at greater danger of developing another infection.

To make matters worse, he was not responding to antibiotics. Nothing seemed to bring the fever down, so he was placed on an ice blanket in an effort to reduce his temperature. I asked again if the shunt was necessary and doctors told me that it was not only necessary, but urgent. I asked about his prognosis and the doctors were clear that he would likely never walk nor recognize people.

It was then that I remembered the relic at the San Fernando Mission.

Our family attended Mass at the mission and my husband was a Eucharistic minister. So I asked Msgr. Francis J. Weber, the archivist for the Archdiocese, whether he could bring the relic. He came to the hospital on May 15 and blessed my husband with the only piece of the tilma in existence outside of Mexico.

I was sure that Our Lady would work a miracle!  My husband had a tube coming out of his head and multiple IV’s. He was on an ice blanket. He had a brain infection, pancreatitis, and hepatitis, and he was not responding to treatment.

On Thursday, the doctor noted that my husband was draining only 50% cerebral fluid into the bag, only 25% on Friday, and nothing by Sunday. We had a miracle!

On Monday, a team of about 15 neurosurgeons and students came in to examine my husband and take a look at his medical record. Though he was not quite “out of the woods” and still in intensive care at that moment, the lead neurosurgeon said he did not have a medical explanation for the healing. 

The impossible became possible and my husband would not need a shunt. 

“Mrs. Cornejo, I don’t know who you prayed to, but if I ever need a miracle, I’ll be calling you,” the doctor said.

My husband began to recover by leaps and bounds and was home by June 6. We even went on to have another daughter after five straight miscarriages (all of which occurred before Vicente’s illness). We named her Frances Marie, because, after all, we could not leave the Blessed Mother out of her name.

Though he was not able to return to work, seventeen years later Vicente is a loving husband and a joyful father to five children, a devoted parishioner at Guardian Angel in Pacoima, and still a passionate musician.

I put my story into words because we have seen her intercession in our lives, and I look back at my life knowing that we are safe in His arms. Being blessed in a special way by this relic is still possible in this great “City of Angels,” and so I can tell others with confidence: Take your needs to her, she will always be Our Mother. 

That is why tonight, December 11, 2019, Vicente and I will be celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where the relic of the tilma is now permanently housed: to thank her and show our love to her.

 

 

This commentary was first published by Angelus News. It has been reprinted with permission by CNA.

Suspect arrested after arson destroys NJ church

Newark, N.J., Dec 11, 2019 / 04:33 pm (CNA).- A suspect is in custody after an early-morning arson destroyed a Catholic parish in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

James Mayers, who has been identified as a 26-year-old who lives in Franklin Lakes, was arrested shortly after a fire broke out at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish around 1:30 a.m. The fire completely destroyed the parish and was mostly extinguished by 4 a.m.

“An investigation revealed that James Z. Mayers entered the structure during the early morning hours of December 11, 2019, and purposely started the fire with the use of gasoline and a cigarette lighter. Mayers was arrested at the scene and treated by first responders for thermal injuries he sustained while starting the fire,” a statement released Wednesday afternoon by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Mayers will be charged with one account of aggravated arson and one count of burglary. It was not immediately clear what Mayers is accused of stealing. He is being held in the Bergen County Jail awaiting a court appearance.

Fire crews arrived at the parish quickly after the fire was reported and began working to put out the flames.

The township’s police captain, John Bakelaar, told to local media that “damage to the church is complete” and that “the fire was extensive.”

It is unclear if Mayers was a parishioner at Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament, had attended its school, or was in any way connected to the church.

Classes were canceled on Wednesday at Academy of the Most Blessed Sacrament, which is located near the parish building. The school was not damaged by the fire.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Newark thanked those who worked to fight the fire and who attempted to save the church building, “during frigid conditions.”
“We are moving forward to ensure parish life continues and we are currently identifying alternative sites for Masses, liturgies, and parish activities,” the archdiocese said.

“We ask everyone to please pray for all who have been affected by this incident.”

US education department may allow religious to receive federal student aid

Washington D.C., Dec 11, 2019 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- The US Department of Education is proposing to restore eligibility to members of religious orders for certain federal higher education student aid programs.

In a proposed rule announced Dec. 10, the agency said regulatory changes would “restore the ability” of members of religious orders to access certain federal higher education aid programs, “eliminating regulatory provisions that treat members of religious orders as having no financial need in certain circumstances.”
 
The agency said the rule would ensure that “otherwise eligible students and faith-based entities” wouldn’t be shut out of Title IV, Higher Education Act programs on account of their religious affiliation.
 
Currently, members of religious orders are considered, under certain subsidized federal student aid programs, to have no “financial need.” They are eligible, however, for certain unsubsidized federal aid programs.
 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the proposed rule change protects against religious discrimination in federal higher education aid policy.
 
“Faith-based institutions should not have to worry about losing access to federal programs due to their faith,” DeVos stated Dec. 10.
 
“These new rules will ensure a level playing field and will guarantee that individuals and institutions can continue to practice their faith and adhere to their values without losing the federal funding opportunities otherwise available to others,” she stated.
 
The proposed rule would also “eliminate arbitrary limitations” on religious schools’ participation in the federal Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, which helps low-income students prepare for college.
 
Students who borrowed money to pay for college could defer some federal loans if they are volunteering full-time in a tax-exempt organization, and their responsibilities include religious instruction or other religious duties.
 
The Department of Education said it issued the rule in light of the Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer that a church could not be shut out of a public grant program simply because it was a church.
 
The case was considered a significant ruling in favor of equal access of houses of worship or religious institutions to public grant programs, and against old state laws barring their eligibility for public grants simply on account of their religious status.
 
The rule was also based on the administration’s policy of promoting religious freedom, as outlined in President Trump’s May 2017 executive order on religious liberty, as well as October 2017 guidance from the attorney general on federal protections for religious liberty.

Archbishop Gomez asks prayers for Francis on his 50th anniversary of priestly ordination

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 11, 2019 / 03:50 pm (CNA).- As Pope Francis prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood Friday, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. bishop’s conference, is asking Catholics throughout the country to pray for the Pope.

“In honor of Pope Francis and in celebration of his service to the Church, I would ask that you consider encouraging the faithful in your dioceses to mark the Holy Father’s jubilee with special prayers for him in his priestly ministry,” Gomez said in a letter sent to U.S. bishops Dec. 5.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was ordained a priest of the Society of Jesus Dec. 13, 1969, in Buenos Aires. Four years later, he made his final profession of vows, and he was elected to the papacy March 13, 2013.

“May Jesus the High Priest continue to renew, increase, and strengthen in Pope Francis the graces received at his ordination as he continues to carry his priestly ministry in service to our Holy Church,” Gomez added.

Attached to the letter to bishops were prayers for the Pope to be said during Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours for Pope Francis. The attachment also included a note that while Dec. 13 is normally celebrated as the memorial of St. Lucy, the Roman Missal allows the celebrant of a Mass to use one of the Masses for Various Needs on this day, if “some real necessity or pastoral advantage requires it.”

“In the first section of these Masses (the Masses For Holy Church), the second Mass is For the Pope and would be appropriate to use in honor of the fifty years of priesthood of Pope Francis,” the attachment notes.

Pope Francis’ 50th ordination anniversary is also being commemorated with two Vatican stamps of the pope; one a painting of a young Fr. Bergoglio, and the other a painting of him as Pope Francis.

Sainthood cause advances for religious sister, educator who fought racism

Baltimore, Md., Dec 11, 2019 / 12:30 am (CNA).- In the race to see who will become the first canonized black American saint, one candidate’s cause has advanced: Mother Mary Lange, a renowned educator and founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first community of religious sisters in the United States for women of color.

In an announcement last week from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where Mother Mary Lange lived and served, Archbishop William Lori said that “I’m happy to say her cause is moving along.”

After meeting with Vatican officials about Lange’s cause last week, Lori reported that the paper arguing for her life of heroic virtue was nearly finished, and that the “positio,” another document arguing for her cause for canonization, was complete and being sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If approved, the document will be forwarded to Pope Francis, who would then be able to grant the title of “Venerable” to Mother Mary Lange.

Scant concrete details are known about the early life of Mother Lange. She was born Elizabeth Clarisse Lange sometime around the year 1784, most likely in a French-speaking area of Santiago, Cuba. Her parents were reportedly refugees who fled to Cuba from a revolution in their native Saint Domingue (in present-day Haiti), according to the Black and Indian Mission Office.

In the early 1800s, Lange emigrated to the United States from Cuba, and settled in Baltimore, Maryland, a popular landing spot for other French-speaking Catholic Haitian refugees at the time. She arrived in the U.S. well-educated and with some money to her name, indicating that her parents were also educated and well-off.

According to the Mother Lange Guild, Lange was living in Baltimore by 1813, and soon after realized that the children of her fellow refugees were in desperate need of education, something that was hard to come by for black children in pre-Civil War America.

Together with a friend, Marie Magdelaine Balas, Lange began offering free education to children of color from her home. In 1828, Lange was approached by a priest, Reverend James Hector Joubert, S.S., about officially founding a Catholic school for girls of color. Lange told the priest that she had been wanting to dedicate her life to God, and that she wanted to start not only the school but also a religious order of sisters for women of color. Permission was granted, and in 1829, Lange and three other women (including Balas) took their first vows as Oblate Sisters of Providence. Lange, who became the superior of the order, took the religious name of Mary, and became known as Mother Mary Lange.

The first paragraph of their order’s rule spelled out their vocation and mission: “The Oblate Sisters of Providence are a religious society of virgins and widows of color. Their end is to consecrate themselves to God in a special manner not only to sanctify themselves and thereby secure the greater glory of God, but also to work for the Christian education of colored children.”

“Our sole wish is to do the will of God,” Mother Lange once said of her order, according to the Oblate Sisters.

The school founded by the sisters, St. Frances Academy, is the oldest, continuously running school for black Catholics in the United States, and remains open today. By 1860, all children of color attending Catholic school in Baltimore were educated in schools run by the Oblate Sisters.

In 1843, the sisters suffered a blow at the death of Fr. Joubert, who had been their biggest supporter since the founding of the order. Combating poverty and racism, the sisters scrambled to shore up their order as some members left, and the Sulpician priests, the order to which Joubert had belonged, were no longer able to support the sisters.

“There was a sense of abandonment at the dwindling number of pupils and defections of her closest companions and co-workers,” the Mother Lange Guild states in her biography. “Yet, through it all Mother Mary never lost faith in Providence.”

During her lifetime, Lange and her sisters not only educated children of color, but they housed orphans and vulnerable elderly, and took in extra washing and mending and begged on the streets to support those in their care. In 1832, the sisters also cared for the terminally ill during the cholera epidemic. After the Civil War, the sisters cared for dozens of black orphans who were living in Baltimore. On February 3, 1882, after a long life of service to others, Mother Mary Lange died.

“Mother Mary Lange practiced faith to an extraordinary degree,” the Guild wrote of her. “In fact, it was her deep faith which enabled her to persevere against all odds. To her black brothers and sisters she gave of herself and her material possessions until she was empty of all but Jesus, whom she shared generously with all by being a living witness to his teaching.”

Lori added that Mother Lange was “a person who was in every way a pioneer” who “stood head and shoulders above the racism of her era.”

Should Lange be declared Venerable, the next step in her cause for canonization would be for a miracle through her intercession to occur and be approved by the Vatican.

China punishes families of those who speak out in America, Congress hears

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- A Uighur-American whose mother has been held captive in a Chinese detention camp was one of several witnesses to testify on Tuesday before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the unfolding human rights crisis in China. 

The hearing was titled “Authoritarianism with Chinese Characteristics: Political and Religious Human Rights Challenges in China” and was hosted by the Foreign Affairs’ Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and Nonproliferation.  

“Stop allowing China to take away freedom so totally in Xinjiang, in Tibet, increasingly in Hong Kong, and even here on your own soil,” said Ferkat Jawdat, a Uighur American who testified before the subcommittee. 

“Xinjiang security officials freely deliver threats, psychologically torture, and extortion, against your laws, to silence your own citizens here,” he told memebrs of Congress on Dec. 10.

“China is effectively taking the world hostage. Please do not let your voices be silenced. Begin to speak with meaningful actions,” he said in testimony that was published on the committee’s website.

Jawdat explained that while most of his family moved to the United States in 2011, his mother remained in China as she had been denied a passport. She has since faced the consequences of her son speaking out against the Chinese government. He said that he had been labeled a “terrorist,” and his other family members in China have been convicted of “bogus crimes” and sentenced to prison. 

His mother was sent to a re-education camp for Uihgurs. 

“On February 6th, 2018, my mother left me her last message on WeChat, the Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp and other messaging platforms that it does not allow in China,” said Jawdat. “She told me she was going to the ‘school’ – the euphemism the whole world now knows China uses for its concentration camps. She then disappeared.”

His mother was eventually released from the camp in June 2019. 

Jawdat was critical of how President Donald Trump has handled the situation in China, and pleaded with the president to “stop allowing China to silence you.” He said he hopes that Trump would sign the “Uyghur Act of 2019” into law before the end of the year, and that Congress will pass legislation prohibiting companies in the United States from using products produced by forced labor in the province of Xinjiang. 

“Find a voice that speaks of freedom and justice, like Reagan’s, to the world to end tyrannies. Do not succumb with envy for their rich autocrats who have stolen billions from their own people and treat their suffering as badges somehow making them ‘great leaders.’ They are tyrants who rule for life, secured only by the wealth they steal,” he said. 

The United States, said Jawdat, should “Rededicate (...) our commitment to ‘Never Again!’ by taking action to convince China to empty its concentration camps and dismantle, rather than export, its high-tech mass surveillance police state.” Additionally, he feels as though the U.S. should fund organizations that will expose the human rights abuses happening in Xinjiang. 

“The Chinese government is spending billions every year to spread its propaganda around the world,” he said. 

“We should counter its propaganda by denying it such unequal access here and empower those who tell the truth with more resources and manpower to ensure facts pierce through China’s fiction,” Jawdat said.

DC basilica attack leaves 'Mary's Shrine' shaken, and at prayer

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2019 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- A violent attack at “Mary’s Shrine” in Washington D.C. on Tuesday shook the community and prompted prayer and solidarity among staff and regular attendees.

“It was evil, it was tragic—it could have been worse,” Monsignor Vito Buonanno, associate rector and director of pilgrimages of the Shrine, told CNA.

“It’s happened before in other places—people have entered houses of worship and killed people there. That’s the only reason why, I think, we all say we’re grateful to God, it could have been worse,” Buonanno said.

On Tuesday morning at 9:14 a.m., the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department responded to a 911 call at the basilica, where a suspect had struck a female security guard with his vehicle.

The basilica’s rector, Monsignor Walter Rossi, spoke at a press conference inside the basilica’s upper church on Tuesday afternoon. He said the assailant pinned the female security guard between his vehicle and other vehicles at the basilica’s east parking lot. The attacker allegedly tried to run the female staff member over.

A male security guard confronted the attacker in an attempt to help his coworker, and was pursued by the attacker into the basilica. The guard was stabbed multiple times by the attacker, according to Rossi and Jacquelyn Hayes, director of communications for the shrine.

The assailant then fled the scene.

“I had seen them just minutes before, when I came in to work—I see them every day. Every day,” Buonanno told CNA of his regular interactions with the security guards.

“We wished each other a good day, and who would ever think, I didn’t even get back into my—I didn’t get into my office to take my coat off when this occurred.”
 
After the attacks, Rossi prayed with the victims before they were transported to the hospital, Hayes said. Buonanno joined him.
 
The startling violence at “Mary’s Shrine,” descending like a lightning bolt on a place of peace, shook the community.
 
“I can tell you I’ve been here for 13 years, and nothing like this has ever happened,” Hayes said.
 
Paul Rybczyk, a graduate of neighboring Catholic University of America, arrived at the basilica later in the morning after the stabbing. He told CNA he has been attending Mass at the Shrine for 50 years.

“It’s something that’s really close to me,” he said. Tuesday’s attacks were “terrible.”

“Both security staff members are extremely dedicated to us. They are quite personable to our staff and guests alike, and this incident had been quite upsetting for everyone here at the National Shrine,” Rossi said.

“This Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a place of prayer, peace, worship, and pilgrimage.”

Late on Tuesday morning, the Shrine’s staff gathered to pray.
 
“He [Rossi] not only prayed for our security guards who were victims, but he also prayed for the perpetrator,” Hayes said. “That is who we are here at the Basilica.”

Morning events at the Shrine were curtailed because of the crime scene, but noon Mass occurred as usual, albeit in the Blessed Sacrament chapel on the upper level, not in the crypt church as originally scheduled. Dozens were in attendance as Monsignor Buonanno celebrated Mass.

“We had a number of people who came up to me personally today and who expressed their grief, but their gratitude for the Basilica being here, and they indicated that they were in solidarity and prayer with us,” Hayes said.

Buonanno preached in his homily what he later repeated to CNA—that the Shrine is a “holy place that we know is Mary’s house.”

“We are very close here at the shrine. It’s more than just staff. There truly is a sense of family, and when something like this happens, all of us—the whole staff—reacted, so upset,” he told CNA.

After the stabbing, the attacker fled the basilica in a Lincoln Navigator and later barricaded himself in a house in the nearby neighborhood of Brightwood, during an ensuing standoff with police.

A suspect was apprehended by police after the standoff ended, and had lacerations to the stomach area from before his capture. He was familiar with at least one of the two victims, Hayes said in a written statement on Tuesday morning.

The suspect lived at the house with family members, said Jeffery Carroll, assistant chief of police with the D.C. Metropolitan Police’s homeland security bureau, in a press conference on Tuesday morning.

The stabbing was believed to be a “domestic” attack and not a targeting of the shrine itself, D.C. Metropolitan Police said on Tuesday.

“We believe there is some sort of a domestic relationship between the female victim and the suspect here,” Carroll said.

Monsignor Rossi went to the hospital to visit the two victims and speak with their doctors, but would not disclose their condition out of privacy concerns. Hayes said that she understood the victims are “stable.”

The shrine’s security personnel are not armed, Monsignor Rossi said, although “we are in the process of looking at that policy.” The shrine was already reviewing its security operation before the time of the attack, he said.

“We do have D.C. Police with us for special events, and on the weekends, and we are looking at our entire security operations even as we speak—before this even happened. This is unfortunate timing,” Rossi said.

Hayes later said that the shrine is currently “on a heightened security alert,” and although it has 50 security guards, “in today’s day and age, we are looking at enhancing our current security protocols.”

“A member of our family has been struck. So that’s difficult, but we are in solidarity,” she said.

In January of 2019, a group of demonstrators at a rally led by Nathan Phillips attempted to enter the Shrine to disrupt a Saturday evening Mass on the weekend of the March for Life, but the group was halted by security personnel.

 

Franciscan University forms partnership with Iraqi Catholic university

Steubenville, Ohio, Dec 10, 2019 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- A Catholic university in the U.S. has partnered with an Iraqi Catholic college to promote opportunities for scholarship, collaboration, and understanding between the two countries.

Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio and the Catholic University of Erbil (CUE) in Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Dec. 6.

“The agreement forges ties between the two schools and cities that include cultural exchanges, such as the visit this past September by Iraqi high school students to Steubenville,” Tom Sofio, a Franciscan University spokesman, told CNA.

“The agreement also allows for the development of language courses in Arabic and Aramaic to be offered to Franciscan University students, the pursuit of scholarship funding for Iraqi students to study at Franciscan University … and Skype sessions between students at Franciscan University and The Catholic University of Erbil,” Sofio added.

The document was signed by Father Dave Pivonka, president of Franciscan, and Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who founded the Iraq university in 2015.

Under the agreement, students from Iraq can receive scholarships to take Franciscan University courses in person or online, and, in turn, Franciscan University students will have opportunities to visit Erbil, study there, and better experience the culture of the Kurdistan region in Iraq.

Erbil’s Catholic university, only four years old, has 147 students and offers 10 programs, including pharmacy technology, accounting, law, and international relations, the Herald-Star reported.

The partnership will also explore avenues of catechetical assistance for the Diocese of Erbil, which could involve the collaboration of Franciscan University’s Catechetical Institute, Conference Office, and Wild Goose, a ministry led by the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular and founded by Pivonka. 

The partnership has been supported by Aid to the Church in Need USA. The organization also recently funded two of CUE’s computer labs, which especially benefit students in civil engineering or architecture programs.

Warda founded the CUE in 2015 to promote higher education and to help Christians displaced by the Islamic State. 

Some 125,000 Christians live in Iraq. The Christian population of the country has declined dramatically in recent years, as Christians fled the persecution of the Islamic State or were killed. The northern Kurdistan region in Iraq has about 4,300 Chaldean Christians, the Herald-Star reported, and several thousand more have fled to Iraqi Kurdistan since 2014.

Pivonka expressed hope that the partnership will be an opportunity for U.S. Catholic students to interact with Christians in other countries who have faced terrible persecution.

“Largely the Christians in Iraq have been forgotten. But they have much to offer us,” Pivonka told the Herald-Star this week.

“We talk about inconveniences in our faith. But in Iraq there are people who are dying for it. All of the (Iraqi) youth here have family members who have been killed. It’s just part of their faith.”

 

Peoria bishop announces novena for Venerable Sheen's sainthood cause

Peoria, Ill., Dec 10, 2019 / 02:38 pm (CNA).- Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria is inviting the faithful to pray a novena beginning Dec. 12 to "petition God unceasingly" that Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s sainthood cause may move forward.

Sheen, a beloved American evangelist and television personality who died in 1979, was set to be beatified Dec. 21 in Peoria, but the Holy See announced Dec. 2 that the beatification was to be postponed.

“I know how deeply saddened we all are about the postponement of the beatification of Fulton Sheen,” said Bishop Jenky said in a video message Dec. 9.

“But in these turbulent times when our faith is being tested...we need to remain faithful to prayer like Archbishop Sheen.”

The novena will begin Dec. 12 and include daily meditations on reflections from Sheen, Jenky announced.

In the days after the Diocese of Peoria announced the postponement, Catholics around the world reportedly led a grassroots effort to have “a million” Masses celebrated for Sheen to pray for his beatification to move forward.

Lo Anne Mayer, a Catholic in New Jersey who in 2017 helped to organize an effort calling on Catholic churches around the world to celebrate a special Mass on Sheen’s May 8 birthday, put the word out to Catholics to celebrate a special Mass for Sheen Dec. 9.

Dec. 9 marked the 40th anniversary of Sheen’s death at the age of 84. Catholic media outlets, including EWTN, helped to spread the word.

Sheen was born in Illinois in 1895, and was 24 when he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop of New York in 1951, and he remained there until his appointment as Bishop of Rochester in 1966. He retired in 1969 and moved back to New York City until his death in 1979.

The Peoria diocese initially attributed the Vatican’s decision to postpone Sheen’s beatification to “a few members of the Bishop’s Conference who have asked for further consideration.”

CNA reported Dec. 4 that it was Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester who asked the apostolic nuncio to the United States to delay the beatification, citing concerns about an ongoing state attorney general’s investigation into the dioceses of New York state.

New York’s attorney general began an investigation in September 2018 into whether any of the state’s eight Latin rite dioceses had covered up acts or allegations of clerical sexual abuse. Sheen was Bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969.

The Rochester diocese said Dec. 5 that it expressed concern about the advancement of Sheen’s cause “without a further review of his role in priests’ assignments.”

“The Diocese of Rochester did its due diligence in this matter and believed that, while not casting suspicion, it was prudent that Archbishop Sheen’s cause receive further study and deliberation, while also acknowledging the competency of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to render its decision. The Holy See ultimately decided to postpone the beatification,” the diocese said.

Monsignor James Kruse, a former Peoria vicar general, told CNA that Bishop Matano expressed his concerns in a Nov. 19 letter, after the beatification was announced, saying that he could not support the scheduled beatification and requesting that it be delayed.

According to Kruse, a copy of this letter was also sent to Bishop Jenky, Cardinal Angelo Becchiu, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Blase Cupich of Chicago.

Both Kruse and the Peoria diocese insist that Sheen’s life has been thoroughly examined and with regard to Sheen’s handling of the cases of two former priests accused of abuse, he “did nothing wrong.”

“Under the veneer of the Rochester diocese’s call for caution, more than an overwhelming majority of people would conclude that it is an unexplainable act of sabotage — a sabotage that simply hurts the faithful,” Monsignor James Kruse, an official in the Diocese of Peoria involved in advancing Sheen’s cause, wrote in a Dec. 7 op-ed.