Reflections on the March for Life

February 7, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Feb 7, 2017 / 09:51 am (CNA).- Two weeks ago, America witnessed a historic event. Tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C. for the 44th annual March for Life and heard from the highest ranking White House official to ever grace the March for Life stage – Vice President Mike Pence, along with top-ranking WH official Kellyanne Conway.

The day was a bit of a blur for those of us who were there, but in reflecting back on that historic event two weeks ago, I am reminded of the critical theme that we chose this year for the March for Life – “The Power of One.”

This year’s theme was conceived one night early last Spring during a “Tenebrae” service at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington D.C. The service, which means “shadows” in Latin, falls within the context of Holy Week, when Christians worldwide celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the passion, death and ultimately resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

At one point within the service, all of the lights in the cathedral except one – a candelabra with eight candles lit on the altar – are out. As meaningful lamentations from the Old Testament are read, one by one, each of the eight candles are snuffed out until the entire cathedral is pitch black. The darkness is stark and uncomfortable, but then everything changes. A single candle at the very top is lit, symbolizing Christ. It is notable and surprising how that one little candle creates an enormously different environment than the darkness. Literally, every square foot of that cathedral was touched by a little bit of light, and that little bit of light changed everything.   

“Even the smallest person can change the course of history” is a powerful line from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and this line truly encapsulates “The Power of One” theme.  

Working to build a culture of life can sometimes feel like we are working and living in the darkness. I experienced that darkness back in June, one day after the Supreme Court made two life issues-related decisions: The first essentially gave abortion clinics a pass, and decided to treat them differently than other outpatient facilities with regard to health standards and regulations. In the second ruling, a family pharmacy from Washington State, after battling for many years, was told that they either had to violate their consciences by filling life-destructive drug prescriptions or close up their business.

As a pro-life American who doesn’t identify with either political party, approaching the close of difficult years with the Obama Administration on life and religious freedom issues, these decisions were somewhat of a final blow as we looked towards possible continuation of such policies over coming years.

But as I reflected on those two decisions and the other trials that our nation was facing, I was reminded of that little candle and the power it had to light the entire cathedral. I had to remember that no matter who is President, who is in Congress or what Supreme Court decisions are made – as significant as they are – every single one of us has the power to make a change in this world, and there is always hope. Thus, the theme of this year’s March for Life was born.

On Jan. 22, Americans from every inch of this country gathered in our nation’s capital for the historic 44th annual March for Life, not only to commemorate that dark day when Roe v Wade legalized abortion in our nation, but also to celebrate life and the countless lives saved throughout the years since abortion was legalized.

The speakers for this year’s March for Life embodied “The Power of One” theme in a way I could have never imagined. Vice President Mike Pence joined us as the first-ever vice president to address the March for Life, alongside top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway – both of whom are inspiring role models, exemplifying how one person can truly change the world.

Abby Johnson shared her story of being a former Planned Parenthood director who became an outspoken pro-life advocate and founder of “And Then There Were None.” Benjamin Watson spoke about his life outside of the NFL as a father of five, a strong Christian, and a pro-life advocate in the public square. The youth presence at the March for Life is always incredible and this year we were thrilled to hear from Katrina Gallic, a student at the University of Mary. She spoke about the many buses her school brings every year to the March for Life and how, despite the blizzard of 2016, they continued as witnesses to life; even after getting snowed in on the Pennsylvania turnpike.

The March for Life is made up of tens of thousands of people who have the capacity to be the candle in a world that sometimes feels dark. This is the true power of one – every person has the power to be a light in this often dark world. We’ve been marching strong for 44 years, and this year, more than ever, there is so much opportunity for change. We will continue to march until a culture of life and respect has been restored in the United States; a culture where abortion is unthinkable and the inherent dignity of the human person is respected from conception to death.

 

*Jeanne Mancini is the President of the March for Life.

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An Indian woman became a nun…because of elephants?

February 7, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Orissa, India, Feb 7, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Nine years ago, Christians in the Kandhamal district of Odisha, India suffered the worst attacks against Christians in modern times in the country.

Around 100 people lost their lives and more than 56,000 lost their homes and places of worship in a series of violent riots by Hindu militants that lasted for several months.

But since the devastation, the local area has seen an “unprecedented” increase in religious vocations, including Sr. Alanza Nayak, who became the first woman from her area to join the order of the Sisters of the Destitute.  

Sr. Nayak told Matters India that she decided to dedicate her life to God through the poor and needy after she heard “how a herd of elephants meted out justice to the victims of Kandhamal anti-Christian violence.”

A tenth-grader at the time of the attacks, Sr. Nayak said she remembers escaping to the nearby forest so she wouldn’t be killed.

A year after the attacks, a herd of elephants came back to the village and destroyed the farms and houses of those who had persecuted the Christians.

“I was convinced it was the powerful hand of God toward helpless Christians,” Sister Nayak told Matters India. The animals were later referred to as “Christian elephants,” she added.

After completing her candidacy, postulancy and novitiate with the order, Sr. Nayak took her first profession on October 5, 2016, at Jagadhri, a village in Haryana. She is now a member in the Provincial House, Delhi.

On January 26, more than 3,000 people from Sr. Nayak’s village of Mandubadi, honored her with a special Mass and festivities.

Her mother told Matters India that she was “extremely fortunate” that God has called her daughter for “His purpose.”

Sister Janet, who accompanied Sister Alanza at the thanksgiving Mass, said that while materially poor, the people of the area are “rich in faith, brotherhood and unity.”

The congregation of Sisters of Destitute was founded on March 19, 1927, by Fr. Varghese Payyapilly, a priest of Ernakulum archdiocese. It has 1,700 members who live in 200 communities spread over six provinces.

The violence against Christians in the Kandhamal district has been religiously motivated. It started after the August 2008 killing of a highly revered Hindu monk and World Hindu Council leader, Laxshmanananda Saraswati, and four of his aides.

Despite evidence that Maoists, not Christians, were responsible for Saraswati’s murder, Hindu militants seeking revenge used swords, firearms, kerosene, and even acid against the Christians in the area in a series of riots that continued for several months.

While the intensity of the violence has subsided since the 2008 attacks, violence against Christians in Kandhamal has continued.

In July 2015, Crux reported on two unconfirmed reports of two Christians who were shot to death by local police in the district while they were on a hilltop, seeking out a better mobile phone signal to call their children, just one example of the ongoing hatred of Christians in the district.  

Rev. Ajaya Kumar Singh, a Catholic priest who heads the Odisha Forum for Social Action, told Crux that such violence is common in a place where the social elites are upper-caste Hindus and the Christians are largely lower-class “untouchables” and members of indigenous tribes.

“There’s a double hatred,” Singh said. “Because Christians are from the lowest caste, they’re untouchable, and because they’re Christians they’re seen as anti-national … they’re treated worse than dogs.”

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Proceeds of Vatican art project will go to children’s hospital in CAR

February 7, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Bangui, Central African Republic, Feb 7, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Inspired by Pope Francis’ trip to Central African Republic in 2015, a children’s hospital in the country will receive a substantial donation from the proceeds of a mercy-themed art project.

The project, entitled “Christo’s box, between Art and Mercy, A Gift for Bangui” was presented at the Vatican Museums in May 2016, during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

When the project came to the Vatican, Pope Francis made it clear that he wanted the proceeds to go to Bangui Pediatric Hospital in Central African Republic.

Pope Francis made a surprise visit to the hospital during his trip to the conflict-torn country in November 2015, and was struck by the lack of equipment.

“I felt great pain,” the Pope said during his Nov. 30 in-flight press conference returning from Bangui to Rome. “Yesterday, for example, I went to a pediatric hospital, the only one in Bangui and maybe in the country, and in the intensive care unit they do not have instruments of oxygen. There were many malnourished children there, many of them, and doctor told me that the majority of them will die soon because they have a very bad malaria and are seriously malnourished.”

On Monday, Vatican Radio reported that 200,000 euros ($215,000) were raised by the project and given to Pope Francis, who said the proceeds will be used at the hospital to care for all poor children “without distinction of religious belonging, because all children need care and attention.”

Christo, the artist, is a Bulgarian-born U.S. citizen and contemporary artist perhaps best known for his pieces that involve “packaging” or wrapping. Featured in the Vatican exhibit was a “packaged” fragment of Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens.’”

At the launch of the project, the then-Vatican Museums director, Antonio Paolucci, said that “Many years ago, Pope Julius II used Raphael to celebrate himself and his Church, (…) five centuries have gone by and another Pope is using a Raphael for a work of mercy to help one of the poorest and most marginalized countries of sub-Saharan Africa.”

Bangui Pediatric Hospital was also a beneficiary of a December 2016 concert in Rome.

The Central African Republic has suffered civil war since December 2012, when several bands of mainly Muslim rebel groups formed an alliance, taking the name Seleka. They left their strongholds in the north of the country and made their way south, seizing power from then-president Francois Bozize. Their president was in turn ousted in a negotiated transition in January 2014.

In reaction to the Seleka’s attacks, some Central Africans formed self-defense groups called anti-balaka. Some of these groups, mainly composed of Christians, began attacking Muslims out of revenge, and the conflict took on a sectarian character.

The Seleka declared an independent Republic of Logone in northeastern Central African Republic in December 2015.

Central African Republic held presidential elections between December 2015 and February 2016, resulting in the March 2016 inauguration of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, but violence continued nevertheless.

At least 29 people were killed during clashes between Seleka and anti-balaka forces in October 2016.

Thousands of people have been killed in the civil war, with hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes.

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Another resignation at SNAP as controversy continues

February 7, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Chicago, Ill., Feb 6, 2017 / 05:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Another leader of a controversial group representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse has resigned, denying that the resignation is related to a lawsuit that claimed the group was engaged in kickbacks and other unethical behavior.

Barbara Blaine of the Survivors’ Network of those Abuse by Priests resigned effective Feb. 3, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Blaine said a lawsuit filed last month against the Chicago-based organization had no bearing on her resignation and compared it to previous lawsuits she said had no merit. She said the discussions of her departure had been ongoing and it had been a great honor to serve the organization.

“Change however is inevitable,” she said.

In mid-January former employee Gretchen Rachel Hammond, who worked as a development director at SNAP, claimed to have been wrongly fired for raising objections to what she said was a kickback scheme. The former employee’s lawsuit alleged that the organization refers them to lawyers who themselves donate to the organization. It also charged that SNAP does not provide significant counseling help to abuse victims.

The suit further charged that SNAP is motivated by its leaders’ “personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church.”

Blaine flatly denied the lawsuit’s claims, saying: “The allegations are not true. This will be proven in court. SNAP leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the SNAP mission: to help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse.”

The lawsuit named as defendants SNAP, Blaine, past executive director David Clohessy, and outreach director Barbara Dorris.

Clohessy resigned as executive director effective Dec. 31, though the change was not widely known until after the latest lawsuit was filed. The former executive director, who had worked at the organization since 1991, also denied his resignation had anything to do with the lawsuit.

Dorris has now become managing director of SNAP.

In her resignation statement, Blaine said she founded the organization 29 years ago because a priest who had abused her remained in ministry and because she felt “immense pain” from the alleged abuse inflicted on her as an eighth grader by a priest who taught at her school.

“I knew there were other survivors out there and wondered if they felt the same debilitating hurt and if so, how they coped with it. I thought they might hold the wisdom I lacked. I looked for other survivors and asked if they would be willing to talk,” she said in a statement.

SNAP has run into other legal problems.

In August 2016 a federal judge ruled that the group made false statements “negligently and with reckless disregard for the truth” against a St. Louis priest to try to convict him on abuse charges.

The organization also sought to have the International Criminal Court investigate Benedict XVI for crimes against humanity related to alleged failures to stop sex abuse. Many critics considered the effort to be frivolous and the court rejected the request in mid-2013.

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