No Picture
News Briefs

Peruvian marches against gender ideology attract 1.5 million

March 7, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Lima, Peru, Mar 7, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Under the theme “Don’t Mess With My Children,” more than 1.5 million Peruvians demonstrated on Saturday against gender ideology in the nation’s schools.

Organizers said that total attendance surpassed 1.5 million, at demonstrations throughout the country.

Among those present were Congress members Julio Rosas, Carlos Tubino, Nelly Cuadros, Juan Carlos Gonzales, Marco Miyashiro, Roberto Vieira, Federico Pariona and Edwin Donayre.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”es” dir=”ltr”>Los organizadores de <a href=””>#conmishijosnotemetas</a> anuncian que más de 1.5 millones marcharon en todo el Perú <a href=””>#4M</a> ????<a href=””>@Calderon_Martha</a> / <a href=””>@acamasca</a> <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; ACI Prensa (@aciprensa) <a href=”″>March 4, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//” charset=”utf-8″></script>

“Don’t Mess With My Children” is a campaign against recent attempts to promote a national curriculum of gender ideology, which teaches that one’s ‘gender’  is chosen and has no connection with one’s biological sex.

In January of this year, the Peruvian Bishop’s Conference told the government that it “urges the removal from the new National Curriculum those notions coming from gender ideology.”

At 2 p.m. on March 4, massive crowds gathered to march toward San Martín Plaza in the center of Lima.

The demonstrators, bearing various signs and slogans, marched down the main districts of the Peruvian capital.

Other cities throughout the country, including Arequipa, Trujillo, Iquitos and Cusco, also saw heavily attended demonstrations.

Fr. Luis Gaspar, episcopal vicar of the Family and Life Commission for the Archdiocese of Lima, stressed that “education as the first right of parents concerning their children is not negotiable.”

“We are in a war over morals, a spiritual war, and the battlefield is the minds of their children, and we are going to defend it till the day we die.”

Fr. Gaspar also invited the demonstrators to participate in the March for Life which will be held March 25 in Lima.



No Picture
News Briefs

Croatia will soon hold one of the largest Marian statues in the world

March 7, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Šibenik, Croatia, Mar 7, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A giant 55-foot statue of Our Lady of Loreto is in the works in the coastal city of Primošten, Croatia, which will be known as one of the largest Marian sites in the world when it is completed.

“This project is unique in Croatia and beyond,” stated the Municipality of Primošten, according to Total Croatia News.

“It has been an object of considerable interest and acclaim, and a blessing has been given by the Holy See and Pope Francis,” they continued.

The larger-than-life statue of Our Lady of Loreto is being constructed along the coastline of Primošten, a hill-city about 20 miles south of Šibenik. Primošten is known for its vineyards and beaches, and will now also be marked as the site of one of the biggest Marian statues in the world.

The citizens of Primošten are known to have a particular devotion to Our Lady of Loreto, and the townspeople hold a traditional feast in honor of Our Lady every May 9-10, with a festive procession around the boats and coastline.

On a clear day, the facing coast of Italy will be able to see the Marian monument after its completion.

The construction of the statue has been in collaboration with Cammini Lauretani, which works to connect the dots among Marian shrines across Europe, in a joint effort with the European Cultural Itinerary of the European Council Initiative.

Mayor Stipe Petrina of Primošten has been meeting with leaders from Cammini Laurentani in an effort to link Marian shrines in Italy and Croatia, with the overarching goal of creating sustainable religious tourism and development.

Their most recent meeting took place in Gaj hill, where the organizations were able to see the progress of the statue.

The Croatian municipality has yet to declare when the Marian site will be complete, although they did note that the statue is in the final stages of construction.


No Picture
News Briefs

This fleet of food trucks serves up respect for Austin’s homeless

March 7, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Austin, Texas, Mar 7, 2017 / 02:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Austin, Texas, like any hipster city worth its organic, non-GMO salt, is known for its food trucks.

There are about 1,000 food trucks that roam the streets of the Texas capital, offering barbecue, breakfast tacos, and gourmet grilled cheese to the masses of Pabst Blue Ribbon-swilling millennials who have recently flocked to the city.

But among them, and before them, there was Alan Graham and Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

Mobile Loaves and Fishes is a Christian non-profit founded by Graham and five other men that delivers about 1,200 meals and essentials from 12 food trucks to homeless people on the streets of Austin every night.

The ministry also recently started a village called Community First!, a place where the formerly homeless, volunteers and those desiring a simpler life live together in a village of tiny homes and recreational vehicles in what Graham calls “an RV park on steroids.”

In his newly released book Welcome Homeless, Graham recalls the story and the people behind his ministries, in his raw, straight-shooting, and often humorous voice.    

In October 1996, Graham, a convert to Catholicism, had gone tentatively on a men’s retreat. At first, he was counting down the hours until the “hugs and hand-holding” were over. The retreat was too emotional for his then-very intellectual faith.

But by the end, he experienced a profound change of heart and adopted a philosophy of “just say yes.”

Several yesses and a couple of years later, Graham and his wife, Tricia, found themselves having coffee with a friend who was telling them about an initiative in Corpus Christi, Texas, where multiple churches would pool their resources to provide food for the homeless on cold winter nights.

An entrepreneur at heart, Graham immediately envisioned a catering truck that could deliver meals to the homeless (this was before the food truck boom; at the time ,Graham called them “roach coaches”).

“I woke up the next morning knowing we could franchise it, and bring it to every church, every city, and every state to feed the homeless,” he recalls in his book. “This is how entrepreneurs think: one truck becomes a thousand.”

Through his church group, he recruited six more men to join him and invest in a food truck for the homeless (they started calling themselves “The Six Pack”). One of these men turned out to be an especially key player: Houston Flake.  

Socks and popsicles

Houston, who met Graham through the men’s group at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, was poorly educated and illiterate, but understood the Gospel like no one Graham had ever met.

Houston had experienced chronic homelessness throughout his life, and became a key tour guide for Graham and his crew, who were “clueless” about life on the streets as they began their ministry.

During one meeting, the group had discussed how great it would be if they could get phone cards (pre-cellphone times) to hand out to the homeless whom they would meet.

“Houston looked at us and said, ‘That is the dumbest idea on the face of the planet. They don’t need phone cards. No one wants to talk to them. They don’t want to talk to anybody. You need to put socks on that truck,’” Graham recalled.

To this day, socks are the most desired item on the trucks.

Houston also took Graham out to his “conference room” – to meet some of the homeless who were his friends. It changed Graham’s whole perspective on the population he was about to serve.

Not long after Mobile Loaves and Fishes began, Houston was diagnosed with bladder cancer and given mere weeks to live.

For his dying wish, Houston didn’t want to travel or eat a fancy steak dinner – he wanted to deliver 400 popsicles to homeless children on a hot summer day, a treat those kids rarely experienced.

“He wanted them to choose: Pink? Red? Blue? Purple? Green? He wanted to give that which they did not need but might want. He wanted to give them abundance in fruity, tasty, frozen form,” Graham wrote.  

That philosophy carried over to the food trucks. The people they serve are given options – PB&J, ham and cheese, tacos? Milk, coffee, orange juice? Oranges or apples? It’s a shift from the scarcity mentality found in soup kitchens founded in the Great Depression, to an abundance mentality that is possible in the most abundant country in the world, Graham explained. They are “the little bitty choices that people who live a life in extreme poverty don’t get to make often.”

The solution to homelessness is not just housing

Since the first truck run, the ministry quickly grew. Hungry people would chase down the food trucks as they saw them making their way through the streets of Austin.

The ministry has now expanded to the cities of San Antonio, Texas; Providence, Rhode Island; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. To date, Mobile Loaves & Fishes has served over 4 million meals, and with more than 18,000 volunteers, it is the largest prepared feeding program to the homeless and working poor in Austin.

But it didn’t stop there. A little over 5 years into the ministry, Graham envisioned an “RV park on steroids”, with the philosophy of “housing first”, which holds that the homeless need housing before they can solve any of their other problems.

However, Graham knew that mere houses were not enough. What these people need and desire, like everyone, is to be known and loved – they needed community. He envisioned a place where people lived life together, knew and cared for each other, sharing kitchens and gardens and conversation.

“It developed from this idea back in 2004, where we went out and bought a gently used RV and lifted one guy off the streets into a privately owned RV park,” he said.

Because of zoning laws and other issues, it took awhile to get the idea off the ground, but the Community First! Village project was finally able to break ground in 2014.

Today, 110 people, most of them formerly homeless, call the village home. Soon, there will be enough housing for 250 people. There are brightly colored tiny homes that would give HG-TV a run for their money, as well as recreational vehicles and “canvas-sided” homes (sturdy tents with concrete foundations).

The homes provide the basics – they are essentially bedrooms – while everything else is communal. There is a communal kitchen and garden and bonfire, and places everywhere to sit and have a conversation.



Our @mobileloaves_genesisgardens chicken coop was definitely a top destination for everyone visiting #CommunityFirstVillage today. We loved having y’all out here, and the chickens definitely loved all the attention! ???? #divas

A post shared by Mobile Loaves & Fishes (@mobileloaves) on Apr 2, 2016 at 2:21pm PDT


“It’s all centered on Genesis 2:15,” Graham said. “Just after God created the Garden of Eden, he took the man, and centered him in the garden to cultivate and care for it. And so the foundation for our entire philosophy of the community is centered on God’s original plan for us, to be settled, to be at peace with each other, to live in community, to be cultivating with the gifts that he has given us, and to serve him by caring for each other.”

What needs to change

The solution to homelessness, Graham said, is not going to be found in new government policies or agencies, but rather in Christians and other people who choose to take care of each other.

“I believe it’s like the old African adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’” Graham said. “We have to step in, the village should step in and care for its own. What we’re doing right now is abdicating that responsibility to our government, which … tries to resolve this issue transactionally, but I believe it’s a relationship issue. Our Kingdom desire is to be wanted by each other, not ‘if you buy me a house I’m going to be happy.’ That’s not where our happiness comes from.”

One of the foundational goals of the ministry is to change the stereotypes that people have about the homeless, so that they are seen as brothers and sisters rather than as other, Graham added.

He recommended that anyone who wants to help the homeless start building relationships with them –  say hello, ask their name, shake their hand, give them a sandwich or a gift card to Chick-fil-A. And then find an organization to volunteer with in your city.

“There’s a giant stereotype around the homeless, and we’re very good as Americans at stereotyping, and so the homeless population (is projected) to be drug addicts, mentally ill, criminals; they’re usually depicted as unkempt or that they don’t pay attention to hygiene, so we develop these preconceived notions that won’t even allow us to roll down our windows anymore to say ‘Hello’ or ‘God Bless,’” he said.

“Those things just aren’t true,” Graham said.

“We have five major corporate goals, and goal number one is to transform the paradigm of how people view the stereotype of the homeless. When we change that paradigm, it changes our culture so as to be able to go and love on our brothers and sisters.”

That’s one of his hopes for the book, and the reason he made sure to tell the stories of so many homeless men and women who have directly touched his life.

“What we want to do is spread the kingdom message of a better way to love on our neighbors, so I’m hoping the book will go broad and deep, and people will be inspired to go out there and begin doing what it is that we’re doing, that’s what I hope.”

Because “what’s happening here in Austin, Texas is nothing short of a miracle.”


No Picture
News Briefs

Vatican event to highlight key role of women in peace-building

March 7, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Mar 6, 2017 / 05:05 pm (CNA).- To mark International Women’s Day, the Vatican invited women from across the globe to discuss not only their work as peacemakers in a conflict-filled world, but their contributions to the Church as well.

“Women understand, intuitively and by experience, that other people need their attention,” Dr. Scilla Elworthy, co-founder of the organization “Rising Women, Rising World,” told CNA March 6.

This intuition is seen concretely in how women interact with their children, their families and the communities they are a part of, she said. This ability “is what makes them such incredible peacemakers and peacebuilders: that ability to step into the shoes of the other in compassion, and to actually listen.”

“You’ll notice that some women have this lovely presence that makes them very alive and very engaged and engaging,” which isn’t just the result of their intuition, but also of the five characteristics of what she called “feminine intelligence.”

A term coined by Elworthy and her organization, feminine intelligence, or, as she calls it, “FQ,” is something that represents the specific qualities that stand out in women, but that men can learn through observation and practice.

Defined by Elworthy, “feminine intelligence” first of all consists of compassion, as well as inclusivity, referring to the sense that “no one is left out.”

Another quality is nurturing, which means “looking after (and) caring for” people, she said. Finally, the characteristic that stands out for Elworthy as the most important is the ability to really listen to others.

“We all think we’re good listeners, but most of us are not,” she said, adding that “that’s the greatest gift we can give to another person, is to hear them, and it’s the fastest, most effective way to resolve conflicts.”

“To listen to the person we’re in conflict with, feed back to them what they’ve said, check if they’ve got it right, and then ask them to do the same with us” is one of the most secure ways to end misunderstandings and confrontations, she said.

Elworthy was one of four panelists at a March 6 press conference on the Vatican’s annual Voices of Faith (VoF) women’s conference, held every year on March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day.

First held in 2014, the VoF conference was established in response to Pope Francis’ call to “broaden the space within the Church for a more incisive feminine presence.”

Gathering women from around the world, this year’s VoF will take place at the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV and will gather women from around the world, including Syria and Burundi, to highlight the role women play in building a culture of peace within a world at conflict.

In her comments to CNA, Elsworthy, who is not Catholic but will be a panelist for a discussion on the topic of “Building Effective Leadership for Peace,” said the unique qualities women have at times risk of being lost in a society which, at various levels, often pushes them to be more like men.

“In corporate life, women are definitely expected to adopt a male, aggressive, competitive (attitude) and it doesn’t suit them, they get very stressed,” Elsworthy said, noting that “a lot of them are packing it in, they don’t like it.”

Politics is another field that can be “very harsh” for women, she said, explaining that women need to look for what she called a “deep inner power of the feminine,” but which is “not feminism.”

Instead, for Elsworthy this “feminine power” involves the five characteristics of her notion of feminine intelligence as well as “also the ability to self-inspect.”

This, she said, is where religion comes in, “because all the great religious traditions…demand that we spend time every day in silence.”

Also present at the news conference was Marguerite Barankitse, founder of the Maison Shalom foundation, which she established in response to the aftermath of the 1972 and 1993 genocides of both the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in Burundi as a means of ending the country’s cycle of violence.

In comments to journalists, Barankitse said that for her, even while the mass killings of Tutsis were taking place in 1993, being a Christian and going to Church “was more important than being Tutsi.”

She recounted that at one point during the genocide she had gone to the archbishop’s house in her village to seek refuge, thinking that because of Christianity’s emphasis on forgiveness, members of her parish community would be more balanced, but instead found that the people were filled with hatred.

After this experience and seeing the prejudice coursing through the country at the time, Barankitse said she decided to become teacher after genocide, because in doing so “I can teach children love and compassion.”

Barankitse said that some 60 percent of her family were killed by Hutus during the genocide, but that instead of retaliating, she wanted to establish the Shalom foundation in order to “create a new generation.”

Chantal Gotz, founder and organizer of VoF, also spoke at the news conference, telling journalists that part of the reason for establishing the organization, in addition to giving women a platform in the Church to highlight their contributions, was to break a somewhat negative image of the Church when it comes to women.

When VoF was founded, she said, a journalist had mentioned to her that while more space needed to be created for women in the Church, particularly when it comes to leadership roles, “we have no idea what Catholic women are doing in the Church.”

“The fact was also that four years ago, the image of the Catholic Church was always viewed in a quite negative way, nothing was highlighted on what is the Church doing in a positive way,” she said, adding that they are hoping to “bring new stories” to light showing what women already do.

Media is key in sharing these stories, she said, explaining that they hope to “highlight the positive, not just in Catholic press, but we also need secular press to spread the message of what women are doing and the great work that they’re already doing.”

Kerry Robinson, founding executive director and global ambassador of the Leadership Roundtable, was also present at the news conference. Founded in 2005 after the sex abuse crisis broke, the roundtable is made up of professionals from various fields and is dedicated to promoting best practices in the fields of management, finances and human resources in the Church.

In her comments to journalists, Robinson said she sees Pope Francis as “a reason to be hopeful” given his emphasis on mercy, the poor and his general closeness to people.

When it comes to women, she said one of the “signature motivations” for work of the roundtable is to ensure that their daughters and other young women have more of a voice and a stronger place in the future.

However, she said the push for women’s priestly ordination (which continues to be advocated for despite the fact that Pope Francis has already definitively closed the door) can be distracting from other initiatives that actually help women.

“The ordination question stops every other creative idea that could be implemented right away and nothing happens,” she said, explaining that “unless we bracket it,” none of the ideas for how to enhance the role of women in the present will be possible.

In her comments, Gotz said that finding ways to highlight the role of women and build them up within the Church is something that everyone should be responsible for, not just Pope Francis.

“We expect a lot from just from one person, from Pope Francis, and he was calling to all of us to bring in ideas of new initiatives,” she said, and pointed to VoF as an example.

The organization has not only enjoyed strong success, but also has the support of the Pope, she said, stressing that “we have to trust and we can support him in bringing in new ideas and not expecting that he has to change all of it by himself.”

Similarly, Barankitse said many wait for Pope Francis to act, “but what are the women doing?”

If we constantly wait for something to come “on a silver platter, we will never get it,” she said, adding that “it’s up to us women to support this extraordinary Pope, who is a blessing for our century, and we stand tall.”

But for Robinson, the discussion limited to just women, but involves the laity as a whole, including lay men, whose presence is also frequently missing from within the Vatican ranks.

She told journalists that as far as the Roundtable goes, it’s primarily a movement “to help the Church leaders, ordained and religious, avail themselves of the talent of laity, and that is very intentionally women and men.”

“That’s really our signature: to recognize that the talent and expertise of lay Catholics is an under-utilized resource that the Church can benefit from.”

In comments to CNA, Robinson said the “diversity” of having men and women work together “is a gift, and often we tend not to ensure that there’s true diversity at the tables of deliberation and decision-making.”

“Leadership Roundtable is about helping Church leaders avail themselves of the talent of laity, whether it’s laity who are CEO’s or captains of industry, or its emerging leaders like the talented young adults who are in colleges all over the world who love the Church and want to continue in a meaningful leadership way,” she said.

She stressed that “in no way would I want just women to be running things,” but instead it ought to be “our collective wisdom and experience that matters. It informs a better discussion and a better outcome.”

However, Robinson said she’s happy to see women “claiming their own” and stepping up in leadership roles in various sectors and professions, but noted that there’s still “a long way to go.”

Particularly in the Catholic Church, she said, opportunities need to be sought which ensure that “women and men together are seen as leaders, contributing to the discussion, being models of faith and excellence for younger generations.”


No Picture
News Briefs

Don’t shut US doors to refugees, bishops plead

March 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Mar 6, 2017 / 03:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With people fleeing humanitarian crises around the world, President Donald Trump’s new executive order halting refugee admissions is wrong, Catholic bishop and aid groups maintain.

“We remain deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban. While we note the Administration’s efforts to modify the Executive Order in light of various legal concerns, the revised Order still leaves many innocent lives at risk,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin stated March 6. Bishop Vasquez chairs the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration.

“The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal,” he said.

“However, based on the knowledge that refugees are already subjected to the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States, there is no merit to pausing the refugee resettlement program while considering further improvement to that vetting process.”

Bill O’Keefe, vice president for advocacy and government relations at Catholic Relief Services, said that “with the most refugees in the world since World War II, now is not the time for the world’s leader in refugee resettlement to back down.”

Trump issued a revised executive order on immigration and refugee admissions on Monday, revoking his old order that was blocked by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A 120-day ban on all refugee admissions remains in the revised executive order, and Trump capped the total number of refugee admissions at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017. In contrast, the Obama administration accepted 85,000 refugees in FY 2016, including more than 12,000 from Syria.

35,000 refugees have already been accepted this fiscal year, O’Keefe noted, which means that under the new policy very few refugees will be accepted from March through September.

“Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation,” Bishop Vasquez stated. “We have the ability to continue to assist the most vulnerable among us without sacrificing our values as Americans or the safety and security of our nation.”

There are several humanitarian crises around the world, O’Keefe said. The Syrian civil war, raging since 2011, has already displaced over 11 million and created almost 5 million refugees, but there are also large conflicts in Iraq, Nigeria, and Ukraine. Four famines in Africa and the Middle East are also worsening, he said.

With all this, “the U.S. needs to be increasing our humanitarian assistance and helping people where they are, as well as taking more of the most vulnerable people who are fleeing violence as refugees, and we can safely take.”

Although the order says that the 120-day ban on refugee resettlement gives the administration time to review the security of the program, the process is already secure, O’Keefe insisted.

“Refugees, though, are already subjected to extreme vetting to get here,” he said, adding that the process often takes at least two years and involves the work of 13 federal agencies.

The indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, featured in the first executive order, is not in the new one. Neither is the prioritization for refugee admissions for those of minority religions who suffer religious persecution.

O’Keefe praised the omission of both policies.

“Being a Syrian doesn’t predispose one to any of the things that our vetting system would look out for,” he said of there being no indefinite ban on Syrian refugee resettlement.

Also, religious-based persecution is already one of five criteria of vulnerability for those refugees who are being vetted for admission to the U.S., he noted, adding that some “local church leaders” have said that a special designation “wouldn’t be helpful” and “actually exposes them to greater danger.”

However, some have been pushing for a special refugee status for persecuted religious minorities, especially those in Syria.

Persecuted Christian minorities, including genocide victims, must have a “fair outcome” when looking to resettle elsewhere, Andrew Walther, vice president of communications and strategic planning at the Knights of Columbus, explained to CNA.

“As part of the review of the refugee admissions procedure, the UNHCR referral process for refugees should be closely scrutinized, and the serious inequities in the number of Syrian refugees admitted from communities targeted for genocide should be rectified,” he said. Refugees must first register with the UNHCR to be eligible for resettlement.

Yet although Christians make up only a small percentage of the Syrian population, the percentage of Christian refugees from Syria who are resettled in the U.S. is even smaller, Walther noted.

“The Obama administration policy was to prioritize these groups, but despite this they remain severely underrepresented in U.S. refugee admissions, so it’s clear that a fair outcome is even more important than a stated priority,” he said.

Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan of Antioch has warned that Christians hoping to be resettled in the U.S. or Canada have never even had the chance.

“I personally heard on several occasions  from  many of our Christian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, that their applications for refugee visas, either to the USA or Canada,  are without any response, if not refused by the consulates of the USA and Canada,” he stated.

Elsewhere in the executive order, a ban on entry by most foreign nationals into the U.S. from six countries is still in effect. The countries are Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan, while Iraq, which was formerly on the list, is now omitted.

Exceptions to the visa ban include refugees already admitted to the U.S., lawful permanent residents, those who received visas before 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 27 – the date of the original executive order – and those travelling on diplomatic visas.

Yemen and Somalia have “developing famines” and their own conflicts, so “it strikes us as cruel, actually, to restrict the number of people who can come,” O’Keefe said.

Catholic Charities, USA, whose affiliates partner with the government to help resettle refugees in the U.S., spoke out strongly against the temporary refugee ban.

“At the heart of the work of Catholic Charities is the Gospel mandate to welcome the stranger and care for the most vulnerable among us,” Sister Donna Markham O.P., president of Catholic Charities, USA, stated on Monday.

“Today’s executive order not only hinders that work, but also effectively abandons, for four months, the thousands of endangered refugees fleeing violence, starvation and persecution,” she said.

The group “is leading an ambitious $8 million campaign to support the work of local Catholic Charities agencies in caring for refugees.”


No Picture
News Briefs

Thousands pray for 13-year-old struck by falling tree in California

March 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Orange, Calif., Mar 6, 2017 / 03:39 pm (National Catholic Register).- On Friday, Feb. 17, a rainstorm was raging in Orange County, California. During a lull in the storm, at around 5:00 p.m., Teresa Johnston left to walk an elderly neighbor’s dog.

“She was always like that—making or doing things for our neighbors. She would pick flowers from one neighbor’s garden, and she would give them to another neighbor who was sad, had a trauma, or was sick. That’s why they called Teresa the ‘neighborhood’s sunshine,’” said Teresa’s father, Dr. Roch Johnston, D.C.

When Teresa failed to return home around an hour later, her parents, Roch and Vera, became worried. “She was always like clockwork: leave our house, go to the neighbors, walk the dog for 30 minutes, and be back 40 minutes after she left our house,” says Roch.

After calling the owner of the dog that she was supposed to have been walking, the Johnstons learned that their daughter had never arrived to get the dog. “That’s when our radars went up. Our first concern was that she had been abducted,” he says.

Frantically, the Johnstons searched their neighborhood for Teresa. “One of my sons and I ran through all of the different paths and trails where she walks, and we climbed over the very tree that struck her,” says the father of seven.

Transported to the Hospital

What the Johnstons hadn’t known was that their daughter was already at the hospital. Teresa had walked only a few minutes away from their home when the 60-foot tree struck her.  According to a Los Angeles Times article, a neighbor, who had heard the tree fall, came to Teresa’s rescue. While waiting in the rain for emergency response to arrive, the neighbor covered the unconscious girl with a blanket and held an umbrella over her. Firefighters removed Teresa from the scene without having to dig her out or to move any tree branches. Teresa was being transported to the hospital before her family even had an inkling that anything was wrong.

Unsettling Diagnosis

During their hunt for Teresa, Roch flagged down a policeman, who quickly verified that Teresa had been found, but he didn’t tell the Johnstons about the condition of their daughter. “We saw her in the emergency room just before they transferred her to CCU,” he recalls. “I felt faint when I saw her, and when they read the diagnosis, I almost passed out.”

The Johnstons learned that Teresa suffered multiple cranial facial fractures. On their YouCaring page, Misha Johnston, Teresa’s older sister, writes, “The base of her ocular orbit is fractured with possible damage to the optic nerve. There are fractures of her maxillary bone, her zygomatic arch, her mandible, her hard pallet, her clavicle, and possible compressions of her T6, T7, and T8. Also, there is intracranial bleeding in her right frontal lobe and right occipital lobe.”

The outlook looked bleak for Teresa, and she appeared to be declining because of swelling on her brain. The Monday after the accident, doctors took Teresa off the medical coma drugs, so she could undergo a five-hour surgery, which involved removing part of her skull to alleviate intracranial pressure due to excess blood. During the operation, doctors feared that she might have had a stroke—if this was the case, then it was likely that Teresa would never wake up from her deep comatose state.

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

Most of us have stories proving how God has protected us in our moment of need, so it can be easy to think that prayer will keep us immune from accidents and tragedies. Fr. Alan Benander, O. Praem, Dean of St. Michael’s Prep in Silverado, California, has kept many vigil hours at Teresa’s bedside. Her parents are Third Order Norbertines, so they are particularly close to Norbertine community of St. Michael’s. He told NCR, “Prayer does not make us immune from accidents and tragedies simply because sometimes it is not part of the Will of God that we avoid a given evil. God allows such evils to occur to us in order to bring about a greater good (e.g., the salvation of more souls).”

Fr. Benander continues, “Thus, for example, Our Lord Himself […] asked that the ‘chalice of suffering’ be removed from Him (though adding, importantly, ‘not my will, but Thine be done’). However, this chalice was not removed simply because that was not part of the Divine Will; the Divine Will allowed Christ to suffer in order that a greater good might be obtained, namely, the eventual glorification of Christ, in his Sacred Humanity, in the Resurrection and Ascension, and the redemption of the entire human race.”

Tragedy Becomes Catalyst for Conversions

Within hours after Teresa’s injury, thousands of people all over the of the world—including in Australia, Norway, France, England, Scotland, Czech Republic, Israel, Jordan and Brazil—began praying for the young girl, who is known for her smile and generosity. As messages started pouring in, the Johnstons learned that their daughter’s accident has been the catalyst for conversions. “I have family members who were away from the church for years and have gone to confession. One of my daughter’s teachers sent me a letter saying she had stopped praying because she felt separated from God. Now she’s back praying on her knees for Teresa.”

He continues, “Another lady told us that she got on her knees immediately and started praying for our daughter. She thought of another friend that has cancer and then another friend. Teresa’s accident is causing people to pray for others not just our daughter.”

The consistent presence of the Norbertine Fathers at the hospital has also impacted strangers. “Not only has Teresa been able to receive the graces of priestly blessings and the Sacraments, but, also, other persons, both Catholic and non-Catholic (i.e., other patients, visitors, even hospital staff and media), have had opportunity to receive the Sacraments, blessings, and prayers from us priests, and simply an opportunity to talk to a priest about God and the Catholic Faith,” Fr. Benander explains.

Because the Norbertine priests were there visiting Teresa, they had the opportunity to administer the last Sacraments to dying people in the hospital and console their families. “All these graces have been given to souls there precisely because of the situation involving Teresa,” Fr. Benander says.  

Teresa’s mother, Vera Johnston, writes on their YouCaring page, “There have been so many visible touches from above with His grace that bring us peace and consolation through this all. Our little queen is enthroned in the hospital bed, and God is using her now to shower His graces upon us all.”

Asking for the Intercession of Blessed James Kern

The family is asking that people pray for the intercession of Bl. James Kern, so that Teresa may have a complete healing. “At first, I didn’t want to leave anyone out, I wanted to pray to all of the saints for their intercession, but one of the Norbertine priests said that’s the wrong way to think about it. Whenever you pray for the intercession of any particular saint, all of the saints join in especially when this could be a miracle that could raise the canonization process,” Roch explains.

Bl. James Francis Kern (1897-1924) entered the Norbertine Order because he wanted to be a victim soul and to make reparation for a schism.

In 1916, while serving in the Army during World War I, he received a bullet wound in his lung that doctors thought would be fatal. He surprised them by living. Though he was still unwell, he went on to join the seminary of the Archdiocese of Vienna. “About this time, a sad event occurred in the Czech Republic. A group of Catholics separated themselves from Rome and founded the schismatic Czech National Church. Isidore Bogdan Zahradnik, a Norbertine canon of Strahov and a doctor of philosophy, also fell away and became a leader of the schism. […] James was deeply shocked by all this and decided to offer himself in atonement for Isidore,” according to, a Norbertine website.

In 1924, Fr. James Kern ultimately died due to his war injuries. On June 21, 1998, he was beatified by Pope John Paul. He only needs one more miracle to further his cause for canonization.

Eyes Open

As the Johnstons, and tens of thousands of other people, continue to invoke Bl. James Kern, Teresa’s condition has taken a turn for the better.

As of February 27th, Teresa’s sister Misha writes, “Teresa opened her eyes today—she is waking up!  And she was moving her legs and arms around a bit (and getting annoyed at the nurse shining lights in her eyes, hitting the flashlight away with her hand)! I spoke to her a bit (telling her the whole world loves her and is praying for her), not sure if she understood any of that, but she is waking up!  Thanks be to God!”

To help pay for Teresa’s medical expenses, visit her YouCaring page. As of Feb. 28, 1,154 donors have donated more than $95,000. 


This article was originally published by the National Catholic Register.


No Picture
News Briefs

He used to spit on those going to Mass – now he’s a priest

March 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Madrid, Spain, Mar 6, 2017 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After an anti-clerical childhood and adolescence, filled with hatred for the Church, Fr. Juan José Martínez says he discovered “that God exists and wants me as his priest.”

“Sunday mornings I would peer out of the balcony of my house, and when the people were going by on their way to Mass, I would spit on them. I told them that the Church was a sect that wanted their money,” explained the priest, who ministers in the Diocese of Almeria, Spain.

Fr. Juan José’s parents were not believers, and he had received no religious formation, but he said they did not raise him to be intolerant. In fact, he says he does not know where he got all those ideas, because the perception he had of the Church and God was that of a “multinational corporation with branches in every neighborhood to extract money, like a sect.”

“I was absolutely anticlerical, I was the first student in my school and the town of Carboneras, Almeria Province, to never be taught Religion because when I was 8 or 9, I chose the alternative course which was Ethics. In the following years, I went on convincing my friends to quit Religion classes and to take Ethics with me. In the end, my whole class ended up being taught Ethics and none of them Religion.”

But what he never imagined is that the end of his journey would be to help his friends to come back to the Church. Fr. Juan José remembers quite well that the first day he went into a Catholic church, “I went to make fun of those who had invited me.”

“It was in January 1995, some friends from class invited me to a Catholic Charismatic Renewal prayer group at the parish. Obviously I told them I wasn’t planning on going because I didn’t want them to brainwash me. For a whole month they persisted. I finally gave in – it was a Thursday in February 1995 when I went into a Catholic church for the first time.”

A golden box

A lot of his friends were there, and he was surprised because “they were all looking at a golden box at the back of the church. I didn’t know what it was, but I thought it was where the parish priest kept the money.”

That golden box was the Tabernacle.

Fr. Juan José says that he came to make fun of them because “I thought they were crazy. Inside, I was laughing at them a lot, but I was polite and concealed it.  But I decided to come back the following Thursday to laugh at them some more.”

And so one Thursday after another, Fr. Juan José was letting go of his prejudices against the Church and religion.

“The pastor seemed to me to be a very wise man who was helping the people,” he told CNA. And little by little, the love of God was penetrating his heart: “I was 15 years old and I started to sing at Mass, which meant I would attend Mass on Saturdays. I liked being in front of the tabernacle and little by little, I realized that God existed and loved me. I felt the love of God. The Charismatic Renewal group, which I had come to make fun of, helped me a lot.”

“My eyes were being opened and I saw that God was not a legend or story for the weak, but that he existed and that he was supporting and guiding me. I experienced that he loved me so much that he wanted me for himself and was calling me,” he recalled.

“I am yours for whatever you need”

Fr. Juan José had been baptized and made his First Communion because of his grandparents’ wishes, but he did not have a relationship with God after that. “I made my Confirmation as I was right in the midst of the process of conversion, and it was a genuine gift. That day I told the Lord, ‘I am yours for whatever you need.’ My mother came but my father did not. It was a unique moment in my life to receive the Holy Spirit and to put my trust in the Lord.”

For months, the young Juan José was resisting the call to the priesthood. “I told the Lord that I didn’t want any hassles and to quit talking to me. Until I had to make a decision and it was to follow him, becoming a priest.”

One Saturday afternoon when he was 17, Fr. Juan José told his father he wanted to go to the seminary. His father beat him and said that “he would be a priest over his dead body.”

“They did not understand that I would want to be a priest. In fact, my father offered to pay for me to go to college in the United States but (he told me) he would never pay for the seminary.”

In such a difficult moment, Fr.  Juan José recalled that all he could think of was the prayer of Saint Teresa of Avila: “Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you. All you need is God” and when his father stopped rebuking him, the young man gave him a hug and said to him, “I knew you were going to react like that, but I also knew that one day you’d understand.”


In fact, his father went so far as to threaten to report the pastor to the police if kept helping his son discern his vocation. “My father was trying everything, but the Lord is stronger,” he said.

To obey his father, Fr. Juan José could not start the seminary, and so he began to study teaching at the University of Almeria. For years he was patient, and continued to be faithful to his vocation to the priesthood. Until one day in May 1999, as he recalled, his mother told him that she had spoken to his father and that finally he would let him enter the seminary. “I began to cry and cry. I remember when I told the pastor about it he said “welcome” and gave me a great big hug.”

In September 2000, he finally entered the seminary.

In 2006, Fr.Juan José was ordained in the Almeria cathedral and his father even attended the ceremony. “In no way did he want me to become a priest, but he saw that I was happy and even though he was totally anticlerical, he decided that the happiness of his son came before his ideology and if I was happy, even though he didn’t understand it, he would have to accept it. “

In fact, he recalled that two years ago, “before dying, my father received the Anointing of the Sick. And it was I who administered it to him.”

“When somebody tells me he doesn’t believe in God, I always tell him that neither did I believe in Him, but I was mistaken, because I have discovered the genuine happiness that Jesus has given to me. If you’re not completely happy, ask the Lord to help you, because only He will give you the happiness that your heart needs.”