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Beloved social media nun dies

February 25, 2022 CNA Daily News 0

Sister Catherine Wybourne, also known as the "Digitalnun." / Benedictine Nuns Holy Trinity Monastery Facebook

Denver Newsroom, Feb 25, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).
Messages from around the world have flooded Twitter as the beloved “Digitaln… […]

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‘An extraordinary legacy of service’ – Friends remember Andrew Walther

November 3, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).-  

Catholic and political leaders paid tribute to the late EWTN News president Andrew Walther on Monday and Tuesday. Walther, who died Nov. 1, was remembered as a communications strategist, an advocate for persecuted Christians, a faithful Catholic, and a husband and father.

Walther died on All Saints’ Day, from complications related to leukemia. He had become EWTN News president and chief operating officer earlier this year.

After Walther’s death, EWTN CEO and board chairman Michael Warsaw said that “Andrew Walther’s death is a source of great sadness for all of us at EWTN and for me personally. Although Andrew had only been in his role as President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News since June, he had already accomplished so much. He had also been a friend and collaborator for many years before joining the Network. His death is a great loss for all who knew him, for EWTN and for the Church.”

Jeanette DeMelo, editor-in-chief of the National Catholic Register, also remembered Walther’s work at EWTN News.

“In a year that has thrown us all extraordinary challenges, and in which he personally carried the burden of the illness that would take his life, Andrew remained calm and steady — even joyful — at the helm,” De Melo said.

“In less than five months with EWTN News his impact was wide, and his leadership will be greatly missed.”

Before he joined EWTN News, Walther was vice president for communications and strategic planning at the Knights of Columbus, where he had begun working in 2005. There he was instrumental in organizing the distribution of millions of dollars in aid to persecuted Christians, especially in Syria and Iraq.

In the Iraqi Christian town of Karamles, the Knights helped Christian genocide survivors resettle and rebuild.

Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic archdiocese of Erbil praised Walther’s work on behalf of Iraqi Christian survivors of the ISIS genocide.

“The persecuted Christians of the world had no greater friend than Andrew,” Archbishop Warda told CNA in a statement. “His knowledge and wisdom guided us in so many ways over these past five years.”

The White House also issued a statement of condolence for Walther on Monday.

“Our prayers go out to Andrew Walther’s loved ones and the entire EWTN family,” Sarah Matthews, White House deputy press secretary, said in a statement to CNA.

“He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of service to the Catholic Church and defending persecuted religious minorities throughout the world. May he rest in peace.”

Advocates for persecuted Christians said Walther’s role in the region was estimable.

Father Benedict Kiely, founder of an organization dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians in the Middle East, recalled that Walther made a concrete difference in difficult and complex situations.

“His influence in Iraq was astonishing,” said Father Kiely, a priest of the personal ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. “He truly had a passion for the persecuted and used all his considerable skills to raise the issue and provide support.”

Walther played a central role in moving U.S. policy in favor of protecting Christians in the Middle East, said Nina Shea, an expert on religious freedom at the Hudson Institute.

Walther organized a media awareness campaign, and directed a critical fact-finding report to prove that Christians had been targeted by ISIS for genocide in Iraq and Syria.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, director of the Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society at the National Review Institute, praised Walther’s wisdom and prudence in working with both the Church and the U.S. government for the common good.

Praising Walther’s “knowledge and experience and connections,” Lopez added that “honestly no one but God could ever know the extent of his interventions.”

“He was a problem solver, he was always seeing things many steps ahead. He had a wisdom about him that always seemed to me of the Holy Spirit.”

Robert Nicholson is executive director of the Philos Project, which advocates on behalf of Christians in the Near East. Nicholson said that despite Walther’s accomplishments in helping preserve Christianity in the region, he never sought the spotlight.

“Some leaders like to shout their achievements from the housetops, but that wasn’t Andrew,” Nicholson told CNA in a statement. “He was the guy working behind the scenes to build coalitions, catalyze other leaders, and find practical means for pursuing lofty ends.”

Catholic leaders agreed that Walther’s role was critical in helping preserve a Christian presence in the Middle East.

“There is nobody who worked harder and with more hope and perseverance on our behalf,” Archbishop Warda said.

“We may never know how many Christians are living safer, better lives in the Near East today because of this one man,” Nicholson said.

Lopez noted that “if Christianity survives in Iraq and Syria — the cradle of Christianity — it will be in no small part because of his efforts.”


The National Catholic Register contributed to this story.



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Irish bishops petition government to lift ban on religious gatherings

October 30, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Rome Newsroom, Oct 30, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- Irish bishops met with the prime minister this week to petition the government to lift the current coronavirus restrictions on public worship as soon as possible.

“We have been doing everything possible to keep our church buildings safe, and there is no evidence that the church buildings and church worship have actually been a source of contagion or spreading the infection, so I have to say that I was disappointed and I said that to the Taoiseach,” Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh said in a radio interview Oct. 30, after the meeting.

Public worship has been suspended in the Republic of Ireland since Oct. 7 due to an Irish government decree that placed the entire country under “Level 3” restrictions as a result of an increase in coronavirus cases. It is the second time that public Masses in Ireland have been suspended this year.

Archbishop Martin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel and Emly, and Bishop Dermot Farrell of Ossory met with Taoiseach Micheál Martin Oct. 28 to express their “great desire to return to worship as soon as possible.”

“The Archbishops emphasised that they are fully supportive of the Public Health messages but highlighted that the coming together in prayer and worship, especially for Mass and the Sacraments, is fundamental to Christian tradition and a source of nourishment for the life and well-being of whole communities,” according to a statement from the Irish bishops’ conference.

In the meeting, the bishops also stressed the “mammoth effort that has been made by priests and volunteers at parish level to ensure that gatherings in Church are as safe as possible,” as well as the “importance of gathering for worship as a source of consolation and hope at Christmas time.”

“We were hopeful when we left,” Martin said in an interview with LMFM Radio Oct. 30. “I’m hopeful that the Taoiseach will now bring our message to the cabinet … and the further health authorities.”

The Irish government has yet to announce any changes to the coronavirus restrictions, which are currently at “Level 5”.

Bishops in France also met with their prime minister on the eve of France’s second lockdown to discuss security measures regarding the coronavirus as well as the attack on Notre-Dame de Nice.

Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort of Rhiems, president of the French bishops’ conference, and Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris met with Prime Minister Jean Castex in Paris Oct. 29.

Arcbhishop Moulins-Beaufort had written to French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week requesting that public worship be allowed to continue during France’s lockdown and that Catholics would be allowed to visit cemeteries for All Souls’ Day.

The bishop also requested that the French government allow Catholic chaplaincies in hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons to continue to take place during the lockdown.

Other French bishops spoke out on social media. Bishop Marc Aillet of Bayonne wrote on Twitter Oct. 28: “It seems to me that freedom of worship is at stake, especially since schools remain open.”

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”fr” dir=”ltr”>Le Président n’a rien dit sur les lieux de culte, mais Mgr de Moulins Beaufort lui a écrit hier pour lui demander qu’en cas de confinement, les célébrations cultuelles demeurent. Il en va, me semble-t-il, de la liberté de culte, d’autant que les écoles restent ouvertes.</p>&mdash; Mgr Marc Aillet (@MgrMAillet) <a href=””>October 28, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”” charset=”utf-8″></script>

France’s lockdown went into effect Oct. 30 and will last until at least Dec. 1. Under the current restrictions, people are not permitted to go 1 kilometer beyond their homes, except for essential work or medical reasons. All non-essential businesses, including restaurants, are closed, but schools will remain open.

La Croix has reported that the French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin specified in a video conference with religious leaders Oct. 28 that churches will be allowed to remain open, however all religious ceremonies throughout the country, including public Masses, weddings, and funerals will be suspended from Nov. 2 until at least Dec. 1.

The French bishops’ conference and local dioceses have not made any official announcements, except to clarify that All Saints’ Day Masses will be allowed to take place.

Europe is currently experiencing a second wave of coronavirus cases which has led Italy and Spain to impose curfews and Germany to close all bars and restaurants for one month.

More than 1 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in France, where 35,823 people have died after contracting the coronavirus, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Following the Oct. 29 terrorist attack at Notre-Dame de Nice, a spokesperson for the French Bishops’ Conference, Vincent Neymon, argued for the importance of France’s churches to remain open for Christians.

“To close the churches would be to bend one’s knee in the face of this threat which seeks to sow anxiety among our compatriots,” Neymon said in a radio interview with RTL.


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‘Go fix those problems’: Why four Catholics are willing to serve in local public office 

October 30, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Denver Newsroom, Oct 30, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).-  

For 26 years, Kimberly Hahn homeschooled her six children. But once her youngest reached high school, he said he did not want to be home without peers and lonely.

And so, just two weeks before the homeschool year would have started, Kimberly and her husband Scott found themselves driving their last child to a Catholic boarding school in Pennsylvania.

“When we dropped him off and got home, I said to my husband: ‘Two weeks earlier I thought I was schooling for the year…what do I do now?’”

“And all he said was, ‘Maybe it’s time for politics?’”

The Catholic faith of newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been under intense scrutiny in the weeks leading up to her nomination, and even in years prior. In 2017, during her nomination hearing for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett was told by Senator Dianne Feinstein that “the dogma lives loudly” within her, “and that’s of concern.”

But devout Catholic politicians exist at all levels of government, not just at the Supreme Court or in Congress.

CNA spoke with four Catholic politicians at the state or local level about why they chose to run, and how their faith has influenced their political careers. 

Politics was a long-time interest of Hahn’s, one that was first piqued when she was 12 and served as an honorary page to her grandmother, who was a state representative in the state of Washington.

“I saw my grandmother in action. It was very inspiring,” she said. Hahn, a Catholic, is now serving her fifth year and second term as Councilwoman at Large for the city of Steubenville, Ohio, which her family has called home for 30 years. Hahn is the only council member elected by the city, while the other six members are elected by their ward.

“When it comes to Steubenville, I feel like there’s only so many times you can say, ‘Well, why doesn’t somebody do something about X, Y, or Z?’ Then I realized if I ran for council, I could do something about that.”

Steubenville is a small, rustbelt city with a population of roughly 18,000, located 33 miles south of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Ohio River. The city is home to Franciscan University of Steubenville, which tends to draw many faithful Catholic students. Hahn said she is hoping her work on the city council will convince more faithful Catholic families to stay in Steubenville.

“I really want to help build up our community in very practical ways, so that more faith filled people want to move there and build up the community of faith,” she said.

And to do that, she added, “you need good housing, you need good roads, you need reasonable bills for water and sewer. You need a good police force. You need an active firefighting force, an ambulance service, good schools so that everybody has the option. Public, Catholic, Christian, homeschooling – all of those are great options in Steubenville.”

The hours a Steubenville city council member puts in during any given week vary incredibly – Hahn said she works anywhere between 10-50 hours per week, depending on what is happening in the city. She gets $100 a week as a stipend; it is not otherwise a paid position.

The flexibility suits Hahn, who is also an author, speaker, podcaster, mother to six and grandmother to 19.

As she spoke with CNA, she was on her way to help care for one of her newborn grandchildren. In a way, she said, she sees her role as a councilwoman as an extension of her motherhood.

“It’s all about public service. It is not about fame and it’s not about money,” she said.

“Really, for me, it’s an extension of my motherhood, not in the sense of coddling, not in the sense of taking people’s responsibility on myself, but in how I communicate the love of Christ in a practical way by helping people with their water bills and their sewer bills and having their streets be cleaner and that kind of thing.”

During her campaign, she knocked on 7,000 doors. She talked to everyone she could across the aisle. “And some people said ‘Well, I’m a lifelong Democrat.’ And I said, ‘That’s okay, because if I get elected, I’m still going to represent you. What are your concerns?’”

One of the primary functions of a city council is to manage the city’s finances.

“Two years ago, for the first time in probably more than 20 years, we balanced the budget in the black,” Hahn said. They balanced in the black last year as well, and seem to be on track to do so this year, “even with all the COVID stress.”

“I love it,” she said of serving on the city council. “I find all of it fascinating. I really do. Reading about cathodic systems, about how often you should paint the inside of your water towers and what it takes to clean a digester or a plant – I actually find all of it fascinating.”

Kevin Duffy is a Catholic husband, father and freelance writer running for reelection for a second four-year term as a trustee of the Williamstown Township in Williamstown, Michigan.

“We’re the legislative arm of the townships. We don’t have day-to-day responsibilities, in terms of operation of township government, but we serve as a voice for constituents and a representative of the constituents. It’s like a smaller version of state legislature or Congress,” he told CNA.

The duties of a township trustee are not too time-consuming, he said.  “It’s one or two meetings a month, depending on what time of year it is,” he said. Sometimes it’s more, like during budget review. He receives a yearly stipend of about $5,000 for the position.

Before he ran for a township position, Duffy served in an appointed position on his county Parks and Recreation commission.

After an upbringing that “wasn’t great,” Duffy said he wanted to live a life of fulfillment and purpose for himself and for his family. His job pays the bills, he said, but he finds meaning and purpose in life outside of work – in spending time with his wife and children, in service to the Church, and in serving his community.

“It was…a desire to have an impact in my community. Your local government structure, like your school board or your city council, or in my case, our township board, has more of an impact on what happens in your everyday life than anything that happens beyond that,” he said.

A stark example of that in American life right now has been how each state has responded differently to the coronavirus pandemic, he noted.

“The decisions of our state government have a huge impact, at least here in Michigan, on how our everyday life is during this pandemic.”

Duffy said he is proud that as a township trustee, he helped bring back bus services to Northeast Ingham County.

“(O)ur local public transportation authority decided to cut service to those of us here (in) Northeast Ingham County,” he said.

“But there were people that did depend on it. There were folks that needed that to get downtown for jobs, or they needed that to get to their doctor’s appointments or whatever it may be,” he said.

“So, I wrote an op-ed and submitted to the Lansing State Journal and it got published.”

Within four or five months, transportation authorities had restored at least some of the bus services to the area.

“That was something I was proud of,” he said. “That was the one spot where I was able to help out a little bit.”

When it comes to Catholics being involved in civic life, Duffy said he would point them to Pope St. John Paul II’s oft-repeated phrase, “Be not afraid.”

“It can be a little scary, but we have a responsibility, and we as Catholics understand the idea of the common good, the need to serve everybody,” he said.

“We’re not called to be Republicans. We’re not called to be Democrats. We’re not called to be Libertarian. We’re called to be Christian, and we’re called to be servants of our fellow man, and to perpetuate the common good. I think that’s something that we need to get back to.”

Carlos Santamaria is a lifelong Catholic who is running for a state senate position for California’s 3rd district.

Santamaria had previously served as the vice chair for the Napa County Republican Party, but he said he felt called to do more after attending a leadership conference in Jerusalem last November.

“I spent over a week in the Holy City. And if that isn’t life changing, I don’t know what is,” he told CNA.

He decided to run for state senate, “especially when I came back and I found there were seven Democrats (in the state legislature) that were running unopposed.”

“I just wanted to represent my district. It was a calling. And I see so many anti-religious, anti-Catholic, anti-life (politicians),” he said, that he wanted to help bring about change.

One particular area of focus for Santamaria’s campaign is helping the homeless population. He plans “to use workforce development and career technical education to provide lifelong jobs and permanent housing” to people experiencing homelessness, and “to reintroduce these individuals into society before they go off the cliff into extreme, episodic homelessness, or chronic homelessness,” he said. 

He also wants to bolster small businesses, particularly those that are experiencing significant losses due to coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions.

“The current unnecessary Lock Down of our economy and small businesses has devastated many businesses and the lives of families in California,” Santamaria’s website says. “We need leadership that understands and supports small business rather than destroy them.”

Santamaria said he is strongly pro-life and pro-family, and that he plans on standing up for those issues, should he be elected.

“God put me here for a reason. If I can’t express my feelings about life and about the sanctity and the value of life, then I’m not using my talents and this platform the way I should,” he said.

Senator Susan Wagle has been president of the Kansas State Senate for the past eight years, and she was the first woman to hold the post. She has served in positions in both the state house and senate for the past 30 years.

A Catholic convert, Wagle joined the Catholic Church the same year she was first elected to the Kansas House – in 1991.

Wagle said she had been a teacher and a business owner who had not considered running for political office, but both her business colleagues and her husband kept telling her that she would make a great legislator.

There were important issues at the time, Wagle said, including rapidly increasing property taxes. She said she actually tried to convince other people she knew to run for office at the time, but nobody wanted to sacrifice the time.

The thing that kept Wagle up at night was not property taxes, but the late-term abortion clinic in her hometown of Wichita.

“When I’d lay my head down on that pillow at night, I could actually hear those babies cry from the Tiller clinic down the street,” she said.

“I could just hear the slaughter down the street in my mind, and I thought, ‘that has to stop.’”

George Tiller was the abortion doctor at the clinic, and it was one of the only clinics in the world at the time that was performing third trimester, post-viability abortions.

Wagle said she had unwittingly walked into the clinic years prior, earlier in her marriage when she thought she was pregnant. The clinic advertised free pregnancy tests, and these were the days before over-the-counter tests.

As she waited for her test results, she was counseled to get an abortion. Wagle said she noticed a world map on the wall that had yellow pins all over it. When she asked what the pins were for, she was told that they represented the women from all over the world that the clinic had come to the clinic.

“And as years later, I learned that the reason people were traveling here from around the world was because other countries didn’t allow third trimester abortion,” Wagle said.

Wagle was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1991. By 1997, Wagle had helped to pass the Women’s Right to Know Act, which was the first law regulating abortion in the state.

“I carried it. We had a pro-choice house and pro-choice Senate. So I was able to advocate that we need informed consent for a late term abortion, that women should be informed about fetal development, about the procedure. And so I passed the first pro-life bill in the state of Kansas,” she said.

“And since then, we’ve passed more regulations. But when I went into the legislature, the money from the abortion industry financed most of the legislators. So it was a challenge.”

Looking back on her years of service, Wagle said she believes it was a calling from God, and that she has learned much about how to get along with many different people of all backgrounds.

“I’ve learned our faith is based on our relationship with God, and then we bring it to those who surround us,” she said.

“I’ve learned how to work with people who are very different than me, who have different experiences, different perspectives. And you learn how to be very relational and very kind and very optimistic about the founding principles that we’re based on and combined with the faith that we are a people created by God,” she said.

“And there’s no better founding documents in all the world that have allowed the progress and the development of the human spirit than America,” she added.

Wagle, like Justice Barrett, is the mother of seven children – four of her own, and three of her husbands from a previous marriage. She said she sees Barrett as a woman of faith who is living up to her full potential.

“Amy is reaching her full potential. She’s a mom, she’s adopted children, she’s pursued a career, and she has made it very clear that she will interpret the law and not write new laws. And she’s the perfect advocate and voice for this moment in history,” she said, “…and we’ve seen where her faith is not a conflict, but that her faith makes her a very strong, successful woman.”

Wagle said she continuously relied on her own faith throughout her time in office. She said while she set aside specific times for prayer, she would also pray silently during meetings or legislative sessions. Prayers like “Lord, I need you right now” or “Please speak through me” or “Please help me to articulate this thought.”

“It was a constant reaching out for assistance,” she said.

Wagle encouraged Catholics who feel called to serve in public office to pursue that path, if they see changes that need to be made and if the right doors are being opened.

“Don’t hide from public office. We need people who have our values in public office as our advocates. So I would say pursue the path and listen to that still, small voice that says, ‘Go fix those problems.’”