CNA Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 15:55 pm (CNA).
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) this month signaled its support for an Oregon Episcopal church in a legal dispute over a homeless meals program that the church has run for year… […]
Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie during a visit to Unbound’s headquarters in November 2023. / Credit: Danika Wolf/Unbound
CNA Staff, Nov 28, 2023 / 15:25 pm (CNA).
The Catholic child sponsorship charity Unbound announced Tuesday that Jonathan Roumie, the actor who portrays Jesus in “The Chosen” TV series, has partnered with them to sponsor their 1 millionth child currently living in poverty.
Roumie, a devout Catholic, was cast as Jesus in the Christian-produced hit TV series “The Chosen” in 2019. He has since gone on to headline the 2023 March for Life and has partnered with the popular Catholic prayer app Hallow on numerous occasions, among other projects.
“Sponsoring a child is a direct expression of faith,” Roumie said.
“When you have the chance to participate in their life and, to an extent, be able to alleviate some of their suffering, it answers the call to bear one another’s burdens and serve each other through love. I’m excited to spread the word about the good work Unbound is doing and encourage more people to participate in a program that helps so many people around the world.”
Based in Kansas, Unbound was founded in 1981 by Catholics as an agency focused on putting resources directly in the hands of the world’s poor. Formerly the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), the agency today uses a network of thousands of sponsors to deliver personalized support to children, elders, and their families living in poverty in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
Dan Pearson, Unbound’s chief international program officer, told CNA in an interview that Unbound’s work is rooted in the Gospel call to view each person living in poverty as “infinitely important,” with inherent dignity and worth, and connecting them with people willing to help, many of whom are people of faith. He said he has seen the connections that Unbound fosters make real changes in the lives of the poor but also in the lives of their sponsors.
People who sign up with Unbound commit to supporting their “sponsored friend” — a child or elderly person living in poverty — with a donation of roughly $40 a month. More than 90% of the money donated goes directly into a bank account that is in the name of the sponsored child and, usually, his or her mother.
The funds can then be variously used to improve the child’s living conditions — such as providing better food and nutrition or enabling the child to attend school — with the goal of ultimately lifting the child out of poverty entirely.
“What you’re doing is you’re investing in the goals that that family has set for themselves. When a family enters the program, they identify their short-term and long-term goals. And as they check off those short-term goals, they set new ones to walk out of poverty,” Pearson explained.
“You’re accompanying them, and you’re investing in the plan that [the] mother has for her children,” he continued.
“The mother, she knows what her family needs and she can use that money effectively. She’s already nurturing and growing her family on just a few dollars a day, so she knows how to use a small amount of money very effectively for the betterment of that family.”
Unbound also facilitates letter writing and the exchange of photographs between sponsors and their sponsored friends in an effort to build personal connection.
Pearson said when Unbound discovered recently that Roumie was already a sponsor and was passionate about their mission, “it seemed like just a natural partnership to explore.” He said he hopes that more Catholics will consider sponsoring with Unbound, as the organization says it currently has 20,000 children and elderly people awaiting sponsorship.
“We’re just very excited about working with Jonathan, and at this time of year, it is the giving season when people tend to give to organizations that are here to serve,” Pearson continued.
“And we feel like Unbound has something special to offer because it’s not just helping someone who’s in need but also connecting on a human level. And we often miss that.”
Christmas Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 24, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Rome Newsroom, Nov 28, 2023 / 09:03 am (CNA).
As the preparatory season of Advent draws near, the Vatican has published the schedule of Pope Francis’ liturgies for Christmas 2023 through the Jan. 7 feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Most of the liturgies will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Following his custom in recent years, Pope Francis will preside over a Christmas Eve “Mass at Night” at 7:30 p.m. in the basilica.
On Christmas Day, he will deliver the traditional “urbi et orbi” (“to the city and the world”) blessing from the central balcony on the front of St. Peter’s Basilica. This blessing is given only on Christmas and Easter or on other exceptional occasions and includes the pope’s wishes for peace in the world.
For the vigil of the Jan. 1 solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the pope will preside over first vespers, also known as evening prayer. The prayer service will also include the singing of the “Te Deum,” a Latin hymn of thanksgiving from the early Church.
This year, Dec. 31 will also mark the first anniversary of the death of Pope Benedict XVI at the age of 95.
On Jan. 1, 2024, Pope Francis will preside over a Mass at 10 a.m. for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The first day of the year is also commemorated as the World Day of Peace.
For the solemnity of Epiphany, which is observed in Italy and the Vatican on Jan. 6, Francis will again preside at a Mass at 10 a.m.
And on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 7, Pope Francis will preside at a Mass in the Sistine Chapel, where he will also baptize the babies of several Vatican employees.
Among other pre-Christmas festivities, the Vatican will also unveil its Nativity scene and light its Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 9, one day after the Dec. 8 solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, when Pope Francis will mark the feast day by honoring the Virgin Mary with a prayer near the Spanish Steps.
Mid Vermont Christian School is suing the state over a ban from athletic competitions due to the school’s transgender policy. / Credit: Mid Vermont Christian School
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 27, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).
A Christian school based in Vermont filed a lawsuit against state officials after the school was banned from participating in the state’s sports leagues and a tuition program because of its policies related to transgender athletes.
The lawsuit, filed by Mid Vermont Christian School, a K–12 school in the town of Quechee, argues that the ban is a violation of the school’s First Amendment rights. It asks the court to readmit the school into the sports league and allow the school to participate in the tuition program.
Mid Vermont Christian School was banned from participating in the sports league earlier this year after its girls basketball team refused to participate in a playoff game against Long Trail School because the team’s roster included a biological male who identifies as a girl. Mid Vermont Christian chose to forfeit the game due to concerns about fairness and safety.
“The biological male on Long Trail’s team is taller than any girl on Mid Vermont Christian’s team,” the lawsuit states. “Available video of the biological male playing basketball, which showed the athlete repeatedly blocking girls’ shots, throwing elbows, and knocking girls down further underscored Mid Vermont Christian’s concerns.”
In response, the Vermont Principals’ Association expelled Mid Vermont Christian from sports participation, claiming that the school’s decision to forfeit the game violates the VPA’s policies related to gender identity, which bans “discrimination based on a student’s actual or perceived sex and gender.”
“Mid Vermont Christian school is ineligible to participate in VPA activities going forward,” the expulsion letter read.
Vermont’s Agency of Education subsequently refused to recognize Mid Vermont Christian School as an approved independent school, which prevented the school from participating in the state’s Town Tuitioning Program. The lawsuit argues that the school meets all requirements to access the program except for its refusal to adhere to the state’s nondiscrimination policies related to sexual orientation and gender identity, which the school says violates its religious beliefs.
“Vermont has an infamous record of discriminating against religious schools and families, whether it be withholding generally available public funding or denying them membership in the state’s sports league because they hold religious beliefs that differ from the state’s preferred views,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Ryan Tucker, who is representing the school in the lawsuit, said in a statement.
“The state’s unlawful exclusion of Mid Vermont Christian from participating in the tuition program and athletic association is the latest example of state officials trampling on constitutionally protected rights,” added Tucker, who serves as the director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “And egregiously, Vermont continues its blatant discrimination against religious schools despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makin that the government cannot exclude families from public benefits just because they choose religious education for their children.”
The lawsuit argues that the state agencies’ actions violate the First Amendment on several grounds, which include the school’s freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. It also claims that the actions constitute unconstitutional retaliation and violate the 14th Amendment’s implied right of parents to control the upbringing of their children, based on prior Supreme Court precedent.
Two families whose children are enrolled in the school also joined the lawsuit, claiming that they and their children have been negatively impacted by the state’s actions, which they say violate the Constitution.
“The students who choose to attend Mid Vermont Christian are currently losing out on valuable tuition reimbursement and being excluded from playing competitive sports and participating in academic competitions … whom we represent in this case,” ADF legal counsel Jake Reed said in a statement. “Vermont, through its education agency and sports association, has engaged in unconstitutional discrimination by requiring a Christian school and its students to surrender their religious beliefs and practices in order to receive public funds and compete in sports.”
Neither the Agency of Education nor the Vermont Principals’ Association responded to a request for comment from CNA.
CNA Staff, Nov 25, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).
This year, Catholics will be able to receive a plenary indulgence from Dec. 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to Feb. 2, … […]