The Dispatch

“We give them a stone!”

November 19, 2021 Amy Welborn 2

Ready for a revival? Earlier this week, the American bishops voted to push forward on a multi-year plan for “Eucharistic Revival” – rooted in concerns about Catholic engagement, Catholic adherence to beliefs about the Eucharist […]

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News Briefs

Pope Francis to bishops: The saints spread the Gospel, not a ‘social program’

September 23, 2021 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2021 / 09:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis invited Europe’s bishops Thursday to not just worry about secularization and a growing lack of faith, but to do something about it by introducing people to the joy of an encounter with Jesus.

“So many people are induced to feel only material needs, and not a need for God,” the pope said at a Sept. 23 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Certainly, we are ‘preoccupied’ by this, but are we really ‘occupied’ with responding to it?”

“It is easy, but ultimately pointless, to judge those who do not believe or to list the reasons for secularization,” he underlined. “The word of God challenges us to look to ourselves. Do we feel concern and compassion for those who have not had the joy of encountering Jesus or who have lost that joy? Are we comfortable because deep down our lives go on as usual, or are we troubled by seeing so many of our brothers and sisters far from the joy of Jesus?”

Pope Francis’ addressed 39 bishops from Europe during a Mass for the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE). The Mass marked the opening of the CCEE’s plenary assembly, which is taking place in Rome Sept. 23-26.

In his homily, Francis reflected on a reading from the Book of the Prophet Haggai.

“Those words – ‘Reflect on your ways!’ – are challenging because today, in Europe, we Christians can be tempted to remain comfortably ensconced in our structures, our homes and our churches, in the security provided by our traditions, content with a certain degree of consensus, while all around us churches are emptying and Jesus is increasingly forgotten,” he said.

He urged them to think about how many people have lost their hunger and thirst for God, because “there is no one to awaken in them a hunger for faith and to satisfy that thirst in the human heart, that ‘innate and perpetual thirst’ of which Dante speaks (Par., II, 19) and which the

dictatorship of consumerism gently but insistently tries to suppress.”

Pope Francis also warned about seeing the faith as “a relic of the past,” which he said happens when people have not seen Jesus at work in their own lives.

“Often this is because we, by our lives, have not sufficiently shown him to them,” he told the bishops and others present.

“God makes himself seen in the faces and actions of men and women transformed by his presence,” he said. “If Christians, instead of radiating the contagious joy of the Gospel, keep speaking in an outworn intellectualistic and moralistic religious language, people will not be able to see the Good Shepherd.”

Francis explained that people “will not see the One whose incredible passion we preach: for it is a consuming passion, a passion for mankind. This divine, merciful and overpowering love is itself the perennial newness of the Gospel.”

“It demands of us, dear brothers, wise and bold decisions, made in the name of the mad love with which Christ has saved us.”

According to Pope Francis, “Jesus does not ask us to make arguments for God, but to show him, in the same way the saints did, not by words but by our lives.”

The saints, he said, “were not concerned about dark times, hardships and those divisions that are always present. They did not waste time criticizing or laying blame. They lived the Gospel, without worrying about relevance or politics.”

With the gentle strength of God’s love, the saints “built monasteries, reclaimed land, enlivened the spirit of individuals and countries,” the pope continued. “They did not have a ‘social program,’ in quotes, but the Gospel alone.”

“Let us help today’s Europe, faint with weariness – this is the sickness of Europe today – to rediscover the ever youthful face of Jesus and his Bride. How can we fail to devote ourselves completely to making all people see this unfading beauty?” he concluded.


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News Briefs

$1.25M donation will transform University of Maine’s Newman Center chapel

August 28, 2021 Catholic News Agency 2
An artist’s rendering of the planned renovation of the University of Maine’s Newman Center chapel. / Courtesy of Pepperchrome

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 28, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Situated among fraternity houses along College Avenue, the University of Maine’s Newman Center in Orono, Maine could easily be mistaken for another Greek house.

Save for the sign out front displaying Mass times, and a “RUSH JESUS” banner on the side of the building, there is little that indicates the Newman Center is the spiritual home of the university’s Catholics. 

There’s no tower, no church bells, and no visible stained glass windows or other things one would typically associate with a Catholic church. 

But now, thanks to an anonymous $1.25 million donation, that will all be changing soon, as the center plans on breaking ground next year on a “truly Catholic” renovation of the building. 

“The spiritual state of the Newman Center is amazing. There is so much good happening there for so many,” Fr. Kyle Doustou, pastor of The Parish of the Resurrection of the Lord and priest at the Newman Center, told CNA on Aug. 27. The Newman Center is one of the churches in the parish’s cluster. 

The physical state of the building, however, falls short of amazing. In addition to the structural problems inherent to a building dedicated in 1969, the center is “impossible to heat efficiently,” and is liturgically problematic as the building’s chapel is open to the rest of the Newman Center, Fr. Doustou said. 

“With our new plans, the structure will be rebuilt to handle the Maine winters, reconfigured so that we have more space for all of our formation programs, and we will have a separate chapel with beautiful stained glass windows, statues, etc.,” Fr. Doustou explained. 

In addition to Mass, adoration, and other sacraments, the Newman Center is a place to “pray, study, play, and serve,” and is the closest Catholic church to the University of Maine’s campus. Fr. Doustou told CNA that the renovations will be key in establishing the church’s identity and helping with the mission of evangelization. 

According to the Diocese of Portland’s website, the planned renovations include a “quiet, beautiful narthex where one can transition into the presence of God;” different entrances for the chapel and for the main hall, a separate chapel “featuring a new sacristy, tabernacle, altar, ambo, and main crucifix,” a steeple with a bell, a Marian garden, and spaces for students to have meetings and foster community.

“The building is essential. We’re right on College Avenue, right in the midst of all the frat houses, right in the the midst of all the traffic and energy,” Fr. Doustou said.

The church building, he said, does four important things: It sends a message that the Catholic community exists at the University of Maine; it evangelizes; it “physically provides a roof over our heads as we engage in our mission” and, as the closest tabernacle to the university, “it houses the mysteries of God, particularly the Eucharist.” 

Fr. Doustou told CNA that it was particularly important that the chapel transform into a “truly sacred” place.

“[The chapel] needs to be a place where our students can experience something different, other-worldly, and supernatural,” he said. “They need a place that is quiet and contemplative to pray, but also one dripping in Catholicism so that they can learn the faith.”

Maine is one of the least-religious states in the country, and surveys have found that Mainers report praying less than any other state, and only 48% say they believing in God. The Pew Research Center reported in 2016 that 22% of people in Maine say they attend a weekly religious service, and barely a third of the state says that religion is “very important” in their lives. There are seven seminarians in formation for the diocese, and only two of them are Maine natives.

That, coupled with Gen Z’s apathetic feelings on religion, means that Fr. Doustou and the campus ministry staff at the Newman Center have their work cut out for them. But Fr. Doustou said that even so, he has “a little miracle happening on College Avenue.” 

“People often think I’m exaggerating about what goes on at the Newman Center. They see Maine as so secular,” he said. 

“I have multiple young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood, and two will likely go to the seminary next fall. I have young women discerning religious vocations. I have many young couples getting married and choosing to stay in the area because there’s such a robust Catholic community here,” Fr. Doustou explained.

“And it’s growing. You have to see it to believe it.”


The Dispatch

First the diagnosis, then the cure

August 14, 2021 Thomas M. Doran 20

Fewer Catholics are attending Mass. Fewer Catholics accept the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist, about the sanctity of unborn life, about the Christian’s responsibility to the poor and suffering, about marriage, about Jesus as the […]