CNA Staff, May 19, 2020 / 10:01 am (CNA).- Priests and brothers of the Redemptorist community who live and work at a Houston parish have tested positive for coronavirus, leading the parish to close after having reopened earlier this month.
Five out of seven members of the Redemptorist community at Holy Ghost parish tested positive for COVID-19 this weekend, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Houston-Galveston. Two of them were priests.
“All Masses at Holy Ghost Church are canceled until further notice,” said the parish. “We ask you to please keep everyone in your prayers impacted by this illness.”
“While the individuals themselves are asymptomatic, they, and the other members of the community, are in quarantine in the residence isolated from the others. All members of the household have been tested and are awaiting results.”
The Masses were canceled the day after May 13, when another member of the community, Fr. Donnell Kirchner died at his parish home after possibly being exposed to the virus.
The community said one of the members who tested positive for the coronavirus since has regularly celebrated Mass since the parish reopened on May 2. They encouraged Mass attendees to monitor their health.
“If anyone has attended Masses in person at Holy Ghost Church since the reopening, we strongly encourage you to monitor your health for any symptoms and be tested for COVID-19, as a precautionary measure.”
The church has been in contact with the Houston health department and will be providing more updated information.
Parishes of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston were permitted to resume public Masses May 2. Requirements for reopening included a 25 percent capacity threshold in each church; wearing masks; social distancing; and church personnel properly sanitizing commonly used surfaces between each service.
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the pandemic has fostered numerous trials including illnesses, financial hardships, and isolation. He said that while the closure of the churches has helped stem the spread of the virus, there is now a need for spiritual nourishment among the community.
“I have heard the continued pleas of so many of the faithful and priests for access to the spiritual strength and nourishment of the sacraments after enduring so many weeks of stay-at-home orders. Therefore, I believe the time has arrived to look forward to how this local church can cautiously resume some of its essential activities,” he said April 29.
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“What’s the Eucharist?” Kent Shi, a 25-year-old Harvard graduate student, asked that question when he attended eucharistic adoration for the first time. The answer put him on a path to conversion. / Julia Monaco | CNA
Cambridge, Massachusetts, Apr 16, 2022 / 09:03 am (CNA).
One convert’s journey to Catholicism began with an invitation to an ice-cream social.
Another says he instantly believed in the Real Presence the moment someone explained what the round object was that everyone was staring at during eucharistic adoration.
For a third, the poems of T.S. Eliot — and a seemingly random encounter with a priest on a public street — led to deeper questions about truth and faith.
Their paths differed but led them to the same destination: St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they are among 31 people set to be fully initiated into the Catholic Church during the Easter vigil Mass on Saturday, April 16.
That number of initiates is a record high for St. Paul’s, a nearly century-old Romanesque-style brick church whose bell tower looms over Harvard Square.
A scheduling backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is partly responsible for the size of this year’s group of catechumens (non-baptized) and candidates (baptized non-Catholics.) But Father Patrick J. Fiorillo, the parochial vicar at St. Paul’s, believes there’s more to it than that.
“There’s definitely a significant segment of people who started thinking more deeply about their lives and faith during COVID-19,” Fiorillo said. “So, coming out of Covid has given them the occasion to take the next step and move forward.”
Fiorillo is the undergraduate chaplain for the Harvard Catholic Center, a chaplaincy based at St. Paul’s for undergraduate and graduate students at Harvard University and other academic institutions in the area. This year, 17 of the 31 initiates are Harvard students.
“Everybody assumes that, because this is the Harvard Catholic Center, that everybody here is very smart and therefore has a very highly intellectual orientation towards their faith,” Fiorillo told CNA.
“That is definitely true of some people. But I would say the majority are not here because of intellectually thinking their way into the faith. Some are. But the majority are just kind of ordinary life circumstances, just seeking, questioning the ways of the world, and just trying to get in touch with this desire on their heart for something more,” he said.
Fiorillo says welcoming converts into the Church at the Easter vigil is one of the highlights of his ministry.
“It’s an honor. It gives me hope just seeing all this new life and new faith here. So much in one place,” he said.
“When I tell other people about it, it gives them hope to hear that many young people are still converting to Catholicism, and they’re doing it in a place as secular as Cambridge.”
Prior to the Easter vigil, CNA spoke with five of St. Paul’s newest converts. Here are their stories:
‘This is what I’ve been looking for’
Katie Cabrera, a 19-year-old Harvard freshman, told CNA that she was excited to experience the “transformative power of Christ through his body and blood” at Mass for the first time at the Easter vigil.
A native of Dorchester, Massachusetts, she said she was baptized as a child and comes from a family of Dominican immigrants. Her father, who grew up in an extremely impoverished area, lacked a formal education, but always kept the traditions of the Catholic faith close to him in order to persevere in difficult times.
Her father’s love for her and his Catholic faith deeply inspired Cabrera, and served as an anchor for her faith throughout her life.
Growing up, however, Cabrera attended a non-denominational church with her mother. Because she felt the church’s teachings lacked an emphasis on God’s love and mercy, Cabrera eventually left.
“Even though I Ieft, I always knew that I believed in God,” Cabrera said. “So, I was at a place where I felt kind of lost, because I always had that faith, but I didn’t know what to do with it.”
After she arrived at Harvard, she accepted a friend’s invitation to attend an ice-cream social at the Harvard Catholic Center — “and that was like, sort of, how it all started,” she told CNA.
Once she was added to the email list for the center’s events, she felt a “calling” that she “really wanted to officially become Catholic” after many difficult years without a faith community.
Catholic doctrine about the sacraments was no hurdle for Cabrera, as she credits Fiorillo with explaining the faith well.
“There was a void that existed in my heart,” she said. “As soon as Father Patrick started teaching about marriage and family, theology of the body, and the sacraments, I was like, ‘This is what I’ve been looking for my whole life.’”
‘What’s the Eucharist?’
“What is that thing on the thing?”
Kent Shi laughs when he recalls how perplexed he was the first time he attended eucharistic adoration at St. Mary’s of the Assumption in Cambridge.
Someone helpfully explained that what Shi was looking at was the Eucharist displayed inside a monstrance.
“What’s the Eucharist?” he wanted to know.
For many non-Catholics considering entering the Catholic Church, the Real Presence can be a major obstacle.
Not Shi. He says that once the Eucharist was explained to him that day, he instantly believed.
Shi, 25, told CNA that he considered himself an agnostic for most of his life, meaning he neither believed nor disbelieved in God.
Between his first and second years as a graduate student in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, however, he accepted Christ and started attending services at a Presbyterian church.
One day in the summer of 2021, a crucifix outside St. Paul’s that Shi says he “must have passed multiple times a week for months and never noticed” caught his eye, and deeply moved him.
Shortly after, he accepted a friend’s invitation to attend eucharistic adoration at St. Mary’s even though he “didn’t know what adoration meant.” Unaware of what he was about to walk into, Shi asked a friend what the dress code was for adoration. His friend replied, “Respectful.”
And so, respectfully dressed in a button-down shirt and slacks, Shi sat in the front row with his friend, only a few feet from the monstrance. That’s when the questions began.
It wasn’t long after that encounter that Shi began attending Mass at St. Paul’s and the parish’s RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) program. Shi asked CNA readers to pray for him and his fellow RCIA classmates.
“There’s a lot of prodigal sons and daughters here, so we would very much appreciate that,” he said, “especially me.”
Poetry and art opened the door
For Loren Brown, choosing to attend a secular university like Harvard proved to be “providential.”
The 25-year-old junior from La Center, Washington, said he comes from a “lapsed” Catholic family and wasn’t baptized.
He didn’t think much about the faith until the spring semester of his freshman year, when, he says, Catholic friends of his “began to question my lack of commitment to faith.”
Later, when students were sent home to take classes virtually due to the pandemic, he had time to reflect and began to read some of the books they’d recommended to him. The poetry of T.S. Eliot (his favorite set of poems being “Four Quartets”) and the “Confessions” by St. Augustine, in particular, “pulled me towards the faith,” he said.
Brown describes his conversion as a “gradual process” which backed him into a “logical corner.” But a chance meeting with a priest also played a pivotal role.
One day in the summer of 2021 while walking back to his dormitory he encountered a man wearing a priestly collar outside St. Paul’s Church on busy Mount Auburn Street.
It was Father George Salzmann, O.S.F.S., graduate chaplain of the Harvard Catholic Center.
“He asked me how I was doing, what I was studying, and we immediately found a common interest in St. Augustine,” Brown told CNA.
“You know, there’s this great window of St. Augustine inside St. Paul’s and you should come see it,” Brown remembers the gregarious priest telling him. Salzmann wound up giving Brown a brief tour of the church, which was completed in 1923.
The next week, Brown found himself sitting in a pew for his first Sunday Mass at St. Paul’s. He hasn’t missed a Sunday since, a routine that ultimately led him to join the RCIA program that fall.
Brown says he now realizes that coming to Harvard was about more than majoring in education.
“What I wanted out of Harvard has completely changed,” he said. “Instead of an education that prepares me for a job or a career, I want one that forms me as a moral being and a human.”
‘I can’t do this alone. Please help me.’
Verena Kaynig-Fittkau, 42, is a German immigrant who came to the U.S. 10 years ago with her husband to do her post-doctoral research in biomedical image processing at Harvard’s engineering school.
The couple settled in Cambridge, where they had their first child. Two subsequent pregnancies ended in miscarriage, however. That second loss was overwhelming for Kaynig-Fittkau, who says she was raised as a “secular Lutheran” without any strong faith.
“It broke me and a lot of my pride and made me realize that I can’t do things by myself,” she told CNA.
She found herself on knees one Thanksgiving, pleading with God. “I can’t do this alone,” she said. “Please help me.”
She says God answered her prayer by introducing her to another mother, who she met at a playground. She was a Christian who later invited Kaynig-Fittkau to attend services at a Presbyterian church in Somerville, Massachusetts.
In that church, there was a lot of emphasis on “faith alone,” she said. But Kaynig-Fittkau, who now works for Adobe and is the mother of two girls, kept questioning if her faith was deep enough.
Then one day she stumbled upon a YouTube video titled “The hour that will change your life,” in which Father Mike Schmitz, a Catholic priest from the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, known for his “Bible in a Year” podcast, speaks about the Eucharist.
Intrigued, she began watching similar videos by other Catholic speakers, including Father Casey Cole, O.F.M., Bishop Robert Barron, Matt Fradd, and Scott Hahn, each of whom drew her closer and closer to the Catholic faith.
Familiar with St. Paul’s from her days as a Harvard researcher and lecturer, she decided to attend Mass there one day, and made an appointment before she left to meet with Fiorillo.
When they met, Fiorillo answered all of her questions from what she calls “a list of Protestant problems with Catholicism.” She entered the RCIA program three weeks later.
Recalling her first experience attending eucharistic adoration, she said it felt “utterly weird” to be worshiping what she describes as “this golden sun.”
A conversation with a local Jesuit priest helped her better understand the Eucharist, however. Now she finds that spending time before the Blessed Sacrament is “amazing.”
“I am really, really, really excited for the Easter vigil,” Kaynig-Fittkau said. “I can’t wait, I have a big smile on my face just thinking about it.”
The rosary brought him peace
Another catechumen at St. Paul’s this year is Kyle Richard, 37, who lives in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston and works in a technology startup company downtown.
Although he grew up in a culturally Catholic hub in Louisiana, his parents left the Catholic faith and joined a Full Gospel church. Richard said he found the church “intimidating,” which led him eventually to leave Christianity altogether.
When Richard was in his mid-twenties, his father battled pancreatic cancer. Before he died, he expressed a wish to rejoin the Catholic Church. He never did confess his sins to a priest or receive the Anointing of the Sick, Richard recalls sadly. But years later, his non-believing son would remember his father’s yearning to return to the Church.
“I kind of filed that away for a while, but I never really let it go,” he said.
Initially, Richard moved even farther away from the Church. He said he became an atheist who thought that Christianity was simply “something that people used to just soothe themselves.”
Years later, while going through a divorce, he had a change of heart.
Feeling he ought to give Christianity “a fair shot,” he began saying the rosary in hopes of settling his anxiety. The prayer brought him peace, and became a gateway to the Catholic faith.
Before long, he was reading the Bible on the Vatican’s website, downloading prayer apps, and meditating on scripture.
A Google search brought him to St. Paul’s. Joining the RCIA program, he feels, was a continuation of his father’s expressed desire on his deathbed more than a decade ago.
“I think he would be proud, especially because he was born on April 16th and that is the date of the Easter vigil,” he said.
Philadelphia, Pa., May 31, 2019 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- Among the greatest gifts the Church has to offer the secular world is a profound understanding of happiness, which does not rely on wealth, said a Villanova University economist in a recent speech.
Denver Newsroom, Mar 5, 2021 / 05:27 pm (CNA).- Department of Defense investigators have identified the remains of U.S. Army chaplain and Servant of God Fr. Emil Kapaun among the unknown Korean War soldiers buried in a Hawaiian cemetery, much to the surprise and joy of the priest’s relatives and devotees in his home state of Kansas.
“I just hope everybody is as elated as we are. It’s awesome to know that Fr. Kapaun will be coming home after 70 years,” Fr. John Hotze of the Diocese of Wichita told CNA March 5.
Ray Kapaun, the priest’s nephew, reflected on the news.
“There’s no words that can explain what the feelings are right now,” he said, according to KWCH News.
“I know there’s been a lot of miracles that have been attributed to him, or are in the investigation of being attributed to him, but I think everyone sees this as a miracle,” Ray said. “Because this is so unexpected. I mean, my family, we never thought we’d see this in our lifetime.”
The priest had been a chaplain during the Second World War and became known for his service in the Korean War with the U.S. Army’s Eighth Cavalry regiment. After he was taken prisoner, he served and ministered to other soldiers in a prison camp, where he died May 23, 1951.
The U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has determined that the priest’s remains were among unidentified soldiers buried at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, the Wichita diocese said March 4. Many soldiers’ remains had been moved there from North Korea in the 1950s and again in the 1990s.
Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita welcomed the discovery.
“It was a joyful and exciting surprise for the Diocese of Wichita that Fr. Kapaun’s mortal remains were recovered after so many years and we continue to look forward to his process of canonization in the future,” said the bishop.
Kapaun’s surviving family is helping to plan the transport of his remains and his final resting place.
Father Hotze, who serves as the episcopal delegate for Kapaun’s beatification cause, said the news of the identification of the priest’s remains was “easily one of the last things I expected.”
“We’ve always hoped that his remains would be found. It is something that has been on the back burner for everybody for so long. It is great news,” he said.
He reported that the chaplain’s cause for Catholic sainthood is in “a waiting phase” due to delays related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In 1993, Kapaun was named a “Servant of God,” the first step on the way to being declared a saint. To be declared “venerable” is the second step in the canonization process. A key meeting regarding his case had been scheduled at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in March 2020, but that meeting was postponed due to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy.
Hotze had high praise for the army chaplain, describing him as “an ordinary person who was able to do extraordinary things in service to his fellow men and women and ultimately that meant in service to God.”
“And that’s how he gave his life,” he said. “He truly followed the example of Christ. You can see Christ’s life, passion and death all rolled up into Fr. Kapaun.”
Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas in 1916. He came of age during the Great Depression. He was ordained a priest in 1940 and began ministry as a parish priest in his hometown.
During World War II Kapaun would offer the sacraments at the nearby Harrington Army Air Field until he became a full-time army chaplain in 1944. He was stationed in India and Burma for the duration of the war. There, he ministered to soldiers and served his unit with a selfless attitude.
He also gained a reputation for courage. After Kapaun’s jeep had been damaged, he would often ride his bicycle to meet soldiers even at the front lines. He would follow the sound of gunshots to find them.
After World War II ended, Kapaun studied history and education at the Catholic University of America. He returned home for a brief time as pastor of his boyhood parish and served at several other parishes. In 1948, the United States issued a call for military chaplains to return to service. Kapaun responded. He was then sent to Texas, Washington, and Japan before deployment to Korea.
During the Battle of Unsan in November 1950, Kapaun worked tirelessly to comfort the suffering and retrieve the wounded from the battlefield. One of the soldiers he retrieved was a wounded Chinese soldier, who helped him negotiate a surrender after he was surrounded by enemy troops. Kapaun was taken captive as a prisoner of war.
Even then, he helped others. Kapaun carried a wounded American prisoner who could not walk some 30 miles to a prison camp, though the soldier weighed 20 pounds more than the priest. The man could have been killed by enemy soldiers if he could not keep up with the march.
The priest was taken to prison camp number five in Pyoktong, a bombed-out village that served as a detainment center. The soldiers at the camp were severely mistreated and suffered from malnourishment, dysentery, and a lack of warm clothing to counter an extremely cold winter. Kapaun would do all he could for the soldiers. He would wash their soiled clothes, retrieve fresh water, and attend to their wounds.
The priest helped his fellow prisoners solve problems and keep up morale. He would stay up at night to write letters home on behalf of wounded soldiers. Many returned prisoners of war said his efforts helped them to survive in a harsh winter. For those who did not survive, the priest helped to bury their corpses.
Fr. Kapaun would celebrate the sacraments for his fellow prisoners, hear their confessions, and say Mass. On Easter Sunday 1951, about two months before his death, he held a sunrise service for prisoners.
When he developed pneumonia and a blood clot in his leg, the chaplain was denied medical treatment, which led to his death.
For his bravery at Unsan, Kapaun was posthumously bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor in a 2013 ceremony under President Barack Obama. The medal is the United States’ highest military award for bravery.
While the priest’s body was believed to have been buried in a mass grave on the Yalu River near the North Korea-China border, this was not the case. Instead, his remains had been returned to the U.S. in the 1950s along with hundreds of other unidentified soldiers, Hotze told CNA. He believes inquiry into his possible canonization led to information that Hotze helped lead to the identification of the chaplain’s remains.
“He was buried elsewhere in the prison camp,” said Hotze. “His remains were actually returned to the U.S. right after the Korean War, around 1954.”
A set of remains had initially been mislabeled as Fr. Kapaun’s, but investigators determined they instead belonged to a younger man in his late teens or early 20s, rather than to a 35-year-old priest. Further identification was difficult, in part to a lack of technology.
“He was interred at the national cemetery, as were many others, as an unknown soldier,” Hotze said. “Fortunately, the Department of Defense still actively tries to identify the remains of these unknown soldiers.”
Those involved in Kapaun’s canonization cause were told it could be a matter of time to identify his remains if they were indeed at the cemetery.
“And that’s exactly what happened,” said Hotze. “We’re thrilled.”
Every June pilgrims march from Wichita to Kapaun’s hometown of Pilsen. They make the 60-mile walk in commemoration of the priest and his march to the prison camps.
“People are inspired by what he was able to do,” Hotze said. “He was born shortly before the depression. He grew up during the depression as a poor Kansas farmer. The family had nothing. And he was able to make great things happen with nothing.”
“He used what he had, and put it in service to God and in service to others. I think he’s a perfect example for each and every one of us who strives to be a saint,” he said. “We can look at his example and realize even if we are poor, even if we are destitute, even if we have nothing in our own lives, we can still be a saintly person.”
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, who had introduced legislation to award Kapaun the Medal of Honor, also commented on the identification of the priest’s remains.
“I am glad that his family has finally been granted closure after Father Kapaun’s selfless service to our nation,” said Moran, according to the Wichita Eagle newspaper.
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