March 28, 2020 // National

News Briefs: March 29, 2020

Kathleen McChesney, advocate for abuse victims, to receive Laetare Medal

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI executive assistant and the first person to lead the U.S. bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection, will receive the 2020 Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame. “It is often the church’s darkest moments that call forth great faith and courage,” said Notre Dame’s president, Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, in announcing the award.

He said the university is recognizing McChesney’s efforts in response to the Church’s abuse crisis and honoring her “courage, tenacity and love for the church in a tireless pursuit of justice for victims, accountability for abusers and measures that prevent this crisis from continuing.” The announcement was made March 22, Laetare Sunday, which is the fourth Sunday of Lent. The medal, which has been given to Catholic leaders since 1883, is presented during graduation ceremonies, a date which is currently in question in the minds of many college students and faculty members due to coronavirus shutdowns. In a March 18 letter to the campus community, Father Jenkins said the university still plans to hold its graduation services on the scheduled date of May 17, but with students currently at home during the pandemic, a final determination on the graduation is to be made in coming weeks in collaboration with academic and student leaders.

Schools help families with school supplies, food in wake of closures

MINNEAPOLIS (CNS) — A traffic jam of sorts started at noon March 18 in the parking lot of Risen Christ Catholic School in Minneapolis. Principal Joelynn Sartell and a handful of teachers directed dozens of vehicles that pulled up to the parking lot. They drove up near the north door and a purple tent with the school’s name. One by one, cars, minivans and SUVs with parents and students came to place orders for school supplies and food. It was part of an effort to help the many economically disadvantaged families that are trying to navigate the recent school closure. Already struggling families face even tougher times ahead, which the school acknowledges and is trying to soften. “We have about 330 students; 90% of them fall into the category of low income,” said Mike Rogers, the school’s president, who also helped out in the parking lot. “Our families are already strapped (financially). Many of them have a situation of basically toxic stress all the time related to economic hardship.” In just the first hour of a scheduled six-hour distribution effort at the school, 64 cars came through to get school supplies, laptops and food from The Sheridan Story, a local organization that provides meals to schools like Risen Christ once a week. Rogers noted that one of the new hardships for families is no longer having two free meals a day at school for their children who attend.

All perpetual adoration chapels in Green Bay diocese closing amid virus

GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) — Due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay has ordered that all perpetual adoration chapels in the diocese be closed, and all public eucharistic adoration be suspended. This prohibition goes into effect at midnight March 20. Father John Girotti, vicar for canonical services and associate moderator of the Curia, sent the message out to all six eucharistic chapels in the Diocese of Green Bay March 18. Father Girotti also serves as Bishop Ricken’s delegate to the eucharistic chapels. The announcement came one day after Bishop Ricken ordered the suspension of all public celebration of the Mass and most other liturgical celebrations — including Stations of the Cross, a popular Lenten prayer practice. “The congregating of people is the problem,” Father Girotti told The Compass, Green Bay’s diocesan newspaper, in a March 18 interview. “There’s the problem of close quarters. Adoration chapels are very tiny,” he said. “You may have just one or two people, but they are right on top of each other. … It’s good to have a little more space.” The closing of the eucharistic chapels came about after several pastors in the churches where these are located expressed concern. However, while the chapels will be closed, Bishop Ricken asked that churches remain open for private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. Father Girotti acknowledged that people will express concern that “at the very time we need our eucharistic Lord the most, we’re keeping people from him. The answer to that is we are keeping the churches open.”

COVID-19 cases confirmed in Brooklyn parishes; include two priests

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) — The Diocese of Brooklyn announced March 19 that it has learned of at least 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, within several of its parish communities. All of churches in these parishes “have undergone or are undergoing a deep cleaning and sanitization, with approved disinfectants, following guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the diocese said in a statement. A day later, the diocese announced two priests had tested positive for COVID-19 and the diocese also closed all churches in the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, the territory covered by the diocese at noon March 20. All rectories also were closed for business at noon, and parish office business will continue by telephone only. “As a result of the closures, funerals, weddings and baptisms will not be permitted in church,” the diocese said. “This is because limiting them to 10 people is proving not to be feasible.” The sacrament of reconciliation will be limited to emergencies only, and spiritual counseling will be provided over the phone. The Brooklyn diocese canceled all public Masses as of March 16 until further notice.

A united humanity will rise from pandemic-stricken world, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As more countries continue to lockdown and isolate to stem the spread of the coronavirus, “we can only get out of this situation together as a whole humanity,” Pope Francis said. In an interview published in the Italian newspaper La Stampa March 20, the pope said that although Christians must live this moment in history with “penance, compassion and hope,” both believers and nonbelievers “are all in the same boat” and must confront the challenge together. “What helps us is synergy, mutual collaboration, the sense of responsibility and the spirit of sacrifice that is generated in many places,” he said. “We do not have to make a distinction between believers and nonbelievers; let’s go to the root: humanity. Before God, we are all his children.” Reflecting on the Lenten season, the pope said that acts of prayer and fasting are an exercise that “trains us to look at the others with solidarity, especially those who suffer.” The prayers being said throughout the world during this crisis, he added, were like the apostles in the boat crying out to Jesus amid the raging storm. Much like the disciples, there are many crying out today “who are drowning, who feel threatened, alone.”

Catholic-run soup kitchens serve carryout meals amid coronavirus

DETROIT (CNS) — As the new coronavirus spreads, many Catholic-run soup kitchens and food pantries are not sure what will come next. But one thing is certain: Their guests need them, and many say they will continue to serve food to those in need for as long as possible. In the Detroit archdiocese, although some soup kitchens have had to close down, others such as the Pope Francis Center, St. Leo’s Soup Kitchen and St. Christine’s Christian Services remain open, but with new sanitation procedures and processes for serving their guests meals. “Given the new concerns, we are doing carryout meals only, which we normally don’t do,” said Larmender Davis, executive director of St. Leo’s in Detroit. “We are trying our best to make sure that people who depend on us for maybe their only meal of the day are at least able to have one hot meal.” The Pope Francis Center, located next door to SS. Peter and Paul Parish, moved its operation entirely outdoors, setting up tents and stations serving hot coffee, juice and milk, in addition to hot meals. The center’s executive director, Jesuit Father Tim McCabe, said the center also has set up sanitation stations and portable toilets, but has had to shut down other services including showers, laundry and rotating free clinics such as dentistry and legal services. As businesses, nonprofits and families across the state practice social distancing, charities and programs offered to the poor have had to cut back on some services in an effort to keep clients, staff and volunteers safe, he said. A longer-term, and more pressing concern is that donations could dry up as need rises if economic stability is affected by the length of the quarantine. “The issue really is that, as the economic downturn happens, we are going to see fewer donations, and we will see a higher number of people experiencing homelessness as people lose their jobs, lose their income and then lose their homes,” Father McCabe told the Detroit Catholic, the archdiocesan digital news service. “We are bracing for numbers to go up, and we have to find a way for people to get their basic human needs met.”

Vatican issues decree for Holy Week liturgies with restrictions

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While conferences and meetings can be postponed for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter cannot, with the exception of the chrism Mass, said the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. “By the mandate of the supreme pontiff for the year 2020 only,” the congregation issued guidelines March 20 for celebrating the Triduum and Easter liturgies without the presence of the faithful. “Easter is at the heart of the entire liturgical year and is not simply one feast among others. The Easter triduum is celebrated over the arc of three days, which is preceded by Lent and crowned by Pentecost and, therefore, cannot be transferred to another time,” said the “Decree in the Time of COVID-19.” The decree was signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the congregation, and by Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary. Because the chrism Mass is not formally part of the Triduum, they said, a bishop can decide to postpone its celebration. Usually the Mass is celebrated in the Holy Week and includes a gathering of all the priests of the diocese to renew their priestly promises. During the Mass, the oils — the chrism — used in the sacraments are blessed by bishop and distributed to the priests to take to their parishes. Where public Masses have been canceled, the decree said, the bishops, in agreement with their bishops’ conference, should ensure that the Holy Week liturgies are celebrated in the cathedral and in parish churches. The faithful should be advised of the times for the celebrations, so that they can pray at home at the same time.

CHA joins other health care groups in identifying COVID-19 priorities

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Catholic Health Association of the United States joined 17 other national organizations urging the Trump administration and Congress to take immediate and coordinated action to address the critical needs of capacity and supply in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “America faces an unprecedented challenge with COVID-19,” said the March 18 letter to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House task force on the coronavirus, and congressional leaders. CHA released the letter March 19. “We know these are serious and significant times,” the group added, “but we also know that immediate, collective action — by the private sector and all levels of government — to address the critical needs of capacity and supply can help resolve this challenge.” The health care groups emphasized the need to increase medical capacity and testing, enhance the national supply of critical medical equipment, protect frontline care providers and technicians, and improve coordination in treating patients.

Knights of Columbus starts investment fund that follows USCCB guidelines

CLEVELAND (CNS) — A new financial product through the Knights of Columbus’ asset management and investment program is allowing individuals and institutions to invest funds according to Catholic values. The Catholic All Cap U.S. Index Fund is believed to be the first mutual fund comprised of common stocks with a low cost expense ratio, Tony Minopoli, president and chief investment officer of Knight of Columbus Asset Advisors, said. Investments through the fund will adhere to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines. The guidelines were developed to exclude from investment portfolios companies that offer either products or services that violate Catholic teaching. The guidelines govern six broad areas: protecting human life, promoting human dignity, reducing arms production, pursuing economic justice, protecting the environment and encouraging corporate responsibility. “This fund is for that individual or that institutional investor that is saying ‘I want U.S. equity exposure. I don’t want to think about the various sub-segments. I want something that complies with Catholic teaching and has low cost,’” Minopoli explained to Catholic News Service March 19.

Father Jason Espinal listens to a penitent’s confession during the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the schoolyard of Our Lady of Angels Parish March 21, 2020. (CNS photo/Ed Wilkinson, The Tablet)

Parents share ideas on how to make sudden onset of home schooling work

CLEVELAND (CNS) — With kids at home because schools are closed and online education on tap for at least several weeks, parents are wondering how to ensure that learning continues. For Catholic home-schooling families though, having kids learn at home is the norm. Longtime home-schoolers told Catholic News Service the current moment gives parents the chance to spend more one-on-one time with their children while teaching skills and creating memories to cherish for a lifetime. “You have to look at this as a blessing of the gift of time and opportunity for (parents) to reclaim the responsibility as primary educators of their children,” said Aimee Murphy of Holy Family Catholic Homeschoolers in Orange County, California. She began teaching her children at home 11 years ago. Two daughters are in college while sons, 6, 12 and 16 years old, are home-schooled. Murphy and other parents in the Orange County group acknowledged that as rewarding as home schooling is, it still requires “petitioning for the grace from God you need to carry on,” as well as patience and perseverance. Murphy, Tomi Carroll, of the VERITAS Homeschool Support Association in Bedford, Indiana, and Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur of Western Massachusetts Catholic Homeschoolers in Springfield, Massachusetts, recommended that parents step back and realize that there is no need to recreate the classroom at home. And while teaching kids at home can be challenging, Fagnant-MacArthur said, “it’s an enjoyable challenge.”

Update: Vatican says general absolution may be permissible during pandemic

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In places particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and with severe limits on people leaving their homes, conditions may exist to grant general absolution to the faithful without them personally confessing their sins first, the Vatican said. The Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican tribunal that deals with matters of conscience, including confession, issued a notice March 20 that while individual confession and absolution is the normal means for the forgiveness of sins, “grave necessity” can lead to other solutions. In a separate decree, the Apostolic Penitentiary also offered the spiritual assistance of special indulgences to people afflicted with COVID-19, to those in quarantine, to medical personnel caring for coronavirus patients and to all those who are praying for them. “This Apostolic Penitentiary holds that, especially in places most impacted by the pandemic contagion and until the phenomenon subsides, there are cases of grave necessity” meeting the criteria for general absolution, the notice about confession said. Determining what constitutes grave necessity generally is up to the local bishop in consultation with his bishops’ conference. But throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Vatican sought to limit the use of general absolution and encouraged increasingly strict definitions of what constituted an emergency situation.

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