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New Arizona law awards custody of frozen embryos in favor of birth

Phoenix, Ariz., Jul 19, 2018 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- A new Arizona law awards contested custody of frozen embryos to the parent seeking to “develop them to birth.” A Catholic bioethicist told CNA it was a “positive development” in an otherwise unusual ethical situation.

The law, which came into effect July 1, is first of its kind in the United States. It was partly inspired by a custody dispute over frozen embryos. Ruby Torres, a 37 year old woman from Arizona, and her ex-husband John Joseph Terrell created the embryos prior to Torres’ treatment for breast cancer, when she was told she was unlikely to conceive after radiation and chemotherapy. They married shortly thereafter, divorcing three years after she had finished cancer treatments.

Seven embryos were created and remain frozen in storage. Torres told the judge during divorce proceedings that she wanted the embryos,calling them her last chance of having a biological child. Terrell protested, saying he did not want to become a father or be responsible for supporting a child.

Last year, the judge ruled that the embryos should be donated, but not to Torres. She appealed this decision. The law does not apply retroactively to this case or other similar cases.

In other custody disputes, judges have ordered frozen embryos to be either destroyed, remain frozen until an agreement can be made, or donated for use in research purposes. Rarely have they been awarded to a person seeking to actually gestate a child.

Should an embryo be successfully carried tol birth, the Arizona law does not make the unwilling party liable for child support.

Critics of the law say that it “forces” people to become parents against their will. Dr. Ted Furton, director of publications at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said that this argument is the result of a mentality that considers embryos to be property, not human life.

“As soon as you produce embryos, the man and wife are parents,” Furton told CNA in an interview. “Parenthood doesn't happen later, it happens at that moment.”

“So, they're already parents. What they don't realize when they say 'I don't want to be a parent'--it's too late.”

Furton said that he thought the law’s recognition of an embryo as a human life and not as a form of property was a “very positive development” and a “good sign,” and that he is hopeful these kinds of laws would help people “to better understand that these are indeed human lives, and like every human life, deserve protection.”

New sexual abuse allegations leveled against Cardinal McCarrick

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA).- A Virginia man filed a police report Monday, alleging that from the age of 11 he was sexually abused and assaulted serially by now-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York when the abuse was alleged to have begun.

The New York Times reported July 19 the man’s allegation, that McCarrick began sexually abusing him in 1969, when the priest was 39 and the man, “James,” whose full name has not been reported, was 11 years old. McCarrick was reportedly a friend to the alleged victim’s family.  

The man says that he continued to be sexually abused by McCarrick for almost two decades, the Times reported.

The man claims that the abuse contributed to alcohol and drug habits that plagued him for years. He also says that he attempted to disclose the abuse to his father several years after it began, but was disbelieved, according to the Times.

In 1969, when the abuse is alleged to have begun, McCarrick ended a four-year term as president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, and became assistant secretary for education in the Archdiocese of New York. In 1977, he become auxiliary bishop of New York, and later became the Bishop of Metuchen, Archbishop of Newark, and, eventually, Archbishop of Washington.

Criminal statutes of limitation may prevent McCarrick from being charged with crimes relating to the abuse alleged Monday. A canonical statute of limitations, known technically as prescription, might also preclude the possibility that McCarrick face canonical charges for the alleged abuse, although the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is authorized to waive that statute in certain circumstances.

Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA Thursday that the archdiocese learned of these allegations only when the New York Times article was published.

The archdiocese has not heard from law enforcement agencies about this matter, or from the alleged victim or his attorney, Zwilling said, adding that he hopes the victim or his attorney will contact the archdiocese, directly, or through the archdiocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, an independently managed entity designed to assist victims of clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of New York.

A source close to McCarrick told CNA that he had not received any official notification of the allegation and is therefore unable to respond. The source said the cardinal is committed to following the processes put in place by Church authorities regarding the allegations.

On June 20, the Archdiocese of New York, announced that it had concluded an investigation into a different allegation that McCarrick had sexually abused a teenager, finding the claim to be “credible and substantiated.”  

The Vatican was informed of that accusation, and as a result, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, by order of Pope Francis, prohibited McCarrick, 88, from public ministry.

Since that announcement, media reports have detailed additional allegations, charging that McCarrick sexually abused, assaulted, or coerced seminarians and young priests during his time as a bishop. The Diocese of Metuchen and Archdiocese of Newark disclosed that they had recevied reports that McCarrick engaged in sexual misconduct with adults, and reached legal and financial settlements in two cases.

McCarrick is reportedly now living at a Catholic nursing facility administered by religious sisters. The cardinal has not been publicly prohibited from contact with minors, a precautionary step often taken when a priest is being investigated for an allegation of abuse against a minor.

The Vatican has not announced if McCarrick will face canonical charges related to the initial allegation of sexual abuse. Sources tell CNA that the matter is being addressed at the Vatican under the direct supervision of Pope Francis.

 

Government to update court on parental reunions as Catholics cite dignity of families

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Government officials are due in federal court Thursday to deliver a list of parents held in ICE detention considered ineligible for reunification with their children. The update comes as Catholics and other organizations continue to call for policies that prioritize the family.

While government officials insist that in some cases there may be security concerns about parents, prominent Catholics have called for end to the separation of families.

Dr. Joseph Capizzi, a professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America, told CNA that the “vast majority” of families in separation cases pose no threat to U.S. security. Instead, Capizzi said that Catholics should look to fix the reasons people are leaving their home countries for the United States. Otherwise, he said, there will be no end to the immigration issue.

Many of the parents are seeking asylum in the United States, citing violent or deprived conditions in their home countries.

Capizzi said the United States “needs always to couple our border policies with compassion for the dignity of families and of human beings.”

“As Bishop Flores [of Brownsville, Texas] said, we must join with other countries in Central America and address the ‘push’ factors that lead to the risky and numerous emigrations of so many people from those countries.”

“Until we look at this as a problem involving the unhealthy ‘human ecologies’ of these places, the U.S. will continue to face immigration issues.”

The government has until July 26 to reunite children currently in custody with their parents, but progress has been limited. Health and Human Services officials told a district court judge on Monday that they were unable to locate or identify the parents of 71 children in custody.

Appearing before Judge Dana Sabraw on Monday, Jonathan White, HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response, admitted that of the 2,551 children in federal custody believed to be separated they had only confirmed matches with 2,480 parents, 1,609 of whom are also in custody.

Efforts to reunite families have been hindered by the government vetting process for undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers, which relies on DNA verification and criminal background checks, but questions have been raised about the standards being applied.

The American Civil Liberties Union, acting for the families, asked Judge Sabraw to clarify what kind of crimes make a parent ineligible for reunification, noting that some, like petty theft, have no bearing on the ability to care for their child but may factor in judging eligibility.

Of the 46 children under 5 still in government custody, 22 are considered ineligible for reunion with parents due to safety concerns.

Government officials insist that these cases involve serious criminal history by the parent, including suspected child abuse, or instances where the child was brought to the United States by someone other than a parent.

Also Monday, in answer to concerns that the government was expediting deportations of separated families once they are reunited, Judge Sabraw ordered a halt to deportations of adult family members for at least a week after reunification. The order came in response to an emergency motion filed by the ACLU.

Despite some concerns about the pace of reunification, efforts to meet the July 26 deadline continue. Judge Sabraw has said that he is “very encouraged” and “optimistic” about the “real progress” being made. "Reunification can happen quickly and safely,” he said, noting, in reposes to government concerns about proper vetting procedures, that speed and safety are “not mutually exclusive.”

“HHS is responsible for this and can do it well."

Last week, the Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the USCCB issued a joint statement with Catholic Charities USA detailing their efforts to assist with the reunification efforts.

"As we have long done, CCUSA and Migration and Refugee Services of USCCB are lending our experience and expertise to support Catholic Charities agencies in their efforts to reunite families and care for immigrant children during this sensitive time,” the organizations said.

MRS and CCUSA said they were “strongly opposed” to the policies that resulted in families being separated, and they will “remain committed to working to ensure their safe reunification.”

“Protection of families is a foundational element of Catholic Social Teaching and this moment calls on all people of good will to lend a hand to reunite these children with their parents."

Ed Condon contributed to this report.

US bishops conference approves project funding for Africa, Eastern Europe

Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2018 / 12:28 am (CNA).- Subcommittees at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have approved more than $6 million for pastoral projects in Africa and Central and Eastern Europe.

The grants partner with local bishops’ conferences and Church organizations in dozens of countries to respond to specific needs within the communities.

“The Catholics of the United States show that we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Africa and recognize their courageous commitment to peace, justice, reconciliation, and Christian hope throughout the continent,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who chairs the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa.

The subcommittee recently approved 54 grants providing $1.4 million for pastoral efforts in Africa, which include religious formation, seminarian and lay leader education, evangelization, and family ministry. Money for the grants comes from the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.

Among the projects funded by the grants will be the establishment of child protection measures in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana. The new Child Protection Office in the diocese is organizing training sessions on the protection of children and vulnerable adults, safe environment creation, policy development and collaboration with government agencies.

Funding will also be given to the bishops’ conference in Rwanda, which is continuing its peace and reconciliation efforts after the 1994 genocide in the country by translating conflict prevention resources for use in local Catholic schools.

In Lesotho, a grant from the U.S. bishops’ conference will support Radio Maria in establishing three new transmitting stations, so that their educational faith programs can reach the entire national population.

In addition, the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe has approved $4.9 million in funding for 209 projects in 22 countries. Used to support the Church in nations that previously saw oppression under communism, the funding will go toward construction projects, formation of Church leaders, and education and evangelization efforts.

These include a seven-week formation program to help develop youth ministries in Romania, where only one-third of the parishes in the Archdiocese of Alba Iulia currently have youth programs, and the expansion of a homeless day center run by Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Rijeka, Croatia.

A rehabilitation center for children with cancer in Minsk, Belarus, will also receive a grant. The facility, run by Caritas, offers free housing and psychological support for poor families whose children are going through cancer treatment.

Youth summer camps for children internally displaced by war in East Ukraine will also receive funding. Caritas Donetsk will host two summer camps for 100 young people, who will be offered medical health care from professionals and spiritual care from priests.

“As the people of Central and Eastern Europe continue to build a new future after decades of repression, we are all inspired by the example of great hope they give to the world that it is possible to bring healing to the wounds of the past,” said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

“We can take pride that our steadfast support makes a significant contribution to all their efforts in renewing their communities and passing on the faith of their ancestors to the next generation,” he said.

The grants are funded by the annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, which is generally collected in churches throughout the U.S. on Ash Wednesday each year.

 

Planned Parenthood sues Idaho over new abortion law

Boise, Idaho, Jul 18, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Tuesday opposing a new Idaho law that requires abortion providers to report abortion-related medical complications to state authorities.

The Abortion Complications Reporting Act went into effect July 1. It mandates that abortion providers to report complications that occur during or after an abortion procedure. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands filed a lawsuit arguing that the law is unconstitutional and requires “invasive reporting that has nothing to do with protecting patient health care."

The act specifies 37 potential abortion complications that clinics must report to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. These include cervical perforation, hemorrhages, and endometritis, as well as any psychological or emotion conditions the patient discloses after the procedure, such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.

Patient identity remains confidential in the reporting process, but the physician must be identified. Other information, such as the gestational age of the unborn baby, and the mother’s age, race, and number of previous abortions must also be included, according to the law. 

Planned Parenthood, who filed the suit in Idaho’s U.S. District Court on July 17, stated that the law “violates constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection by arbitrarily singling out one particular medical procedure” and puts “patient and provider privacy at risk.”

“Previous laws targeting abortion rights have been struck down in Idaho and other states, with some courts saying there isn’t enough information about alleged complications of abortions to justify the laws,” reports the Associated Press.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research and policy organization founded by Planned Parenthood, 27 states require abortion providers to report post-abortion complications.

The text of the legislation cites the Supreme Court decisions Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reproductive Health, asserting the state’s “legitimate interest” in protecting women’s health from “the outset of pregnancy,” and its “legitimate concern with the health of women who undergo abortions.”

The stated aim of the law is to gather “essential” information to enable scientific studies and research on the safety of abortion.

 

Is this cross-shaped WWI memorial unconstitutional?

Washington D.C., Jul 18, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A petition has been submitted to the United States Supreme Court as part of an appeal to prevent the destruction of the Peace Cross, a 93-year-old war memorial because it is in the shape of a cross.

The petition was filed by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, following a ruling by the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2017 that declared the monument unconstitutional.

The cross, erected in 1925 by the mothers of fallen World War I servicemen, is located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. It bears a plaque listing the names of 49 residents of Prince George’s County who lost their lives serving in that war. The seal of the American Legion is prominently displayed at the center of the cross. The sides of the cross are inscribed with the words “valor,” “endurance,” “courage,” and “devotion.”

The monument was the subject of a 2014 lawsuit brought by the American Humanist League. The suit was originally rejected by the District Court, which held that it was “uncontroverted” that the maintenance and display of the memorial was not “driven by a religious purpose whatsoever.”

The American Humanist League appealed the case, and the Fourth Circuit found the memorial to violate the establishment clause of the Constitution, which guards the separation of church and state.

In a divided opinion, the circuit court judgment held that because the memorial was in the shape of a cross - “the preeminent symbol of Christianity” - it lacked any meaningful “connection” to national history and government and was inherently “sectarian.” The decision also held that even minimal expenditure by the Commission to maintain the monument “entangled” the state in religion and would lead “any reasonable observer” to conclude that the state was placing “Christianity above other faiths” or viewed “being American and Christian as one and the same.”

The petition to the Supreme Court argues that there has been no previous challenge to the shape of the memorial, which has been in continuous use by the American Legion as a site for patriotic events in honor of fallen soldiers. Moreover, the petition argues, it has never been used for a religious ceremony and the only known connection of the monument to a religious event was 87 years ago.

The monument has been under the management of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission since 1961, as part of its management of the roadway median where it is located.

Unless the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the cross must have its arms knocked off, be moved off public land, or destroyed completely.

Lawyers for the Park Commission argue that the cross was not erected to promote or convey a religious message, but to resemble the World War I cemeteries of Europe. They also point out that the “absolutist” approach taken by the circuit court decision would be immediately applicable to memorials across the country, including Arlington National Cemetery.

Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote a dissenting opinion. He and other dissenting judges noted that the decision, if it stands, would invalidate virtually any public display in the shape of a cross, including military medals, regardless of how longstanding the usage or neutral their purpose.

Public monuments with religious symbols have been repeatedly challenged by secularists, and the Fourth Circuit decision represents a split with earlier court findings which have recognized the passive nature of such memorials and the lack of religious intent by the state in maintaining them. It is expected that this divergence of judicial findings could make the case ripe for Supreme Court consideration.

 

Augustinians reach $1m settlement with sex abuse victims

Boston, Mass., Jul 18, 2018 / 01:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Order of Saint Augustine has reached a $1 million settlement with eight people who were sexually abused by two members of the religious order in the 1970s and '80s.

The victims' lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, announced the payment July 17, the Boston Globe reported.

“Because we are committed to justice in upholding the dignity of every person, and in a desire to promote healing, we have concluded the claims made against our Province,” the Augustinian Province of St. Thomas of Villanova stated. “At the same time, we continue to work diligently to ensure the safety and protection of all children and adults.”

The victims were five men abused by Fr. Robert Turnbull at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, 14 miles north of Boston, and three women abused by Fr. John Gallagher at St. Mary of the Assumption parish in Lawrence, 30 miles north of Boston. The victims were between the ages of 9 and 13.

Both Fr. Turnbull and Fr. Gallagher have died.

The Augustinians reached the settlement with the victims outside of court last month, after two years of negotiations.

One of Fr. Gallagher's victims wrote in 1992 to Cardinal Bernard Law, then-Archbishop of Boston, detailing the abuse she suffered.

Law was appointed Archbishop of Boston in 1984, and resigned Dec. 13, 2002, after reports revealed that he did not disclose multiple allegations of clerical sexual abuse to the police or to the public, or intervene to remove priests accused of sexual abuse from priestly ministry.

The sexual abuse scandals in the Archdiocese of Boston led to nationwide outrage regarding practices which failed to protect children from abuse in the Catholic Church.

In June 2002, the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops passed The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, known as the “Dallas Charter,” which established procedures and policies for addressing allegations of sexual abuse in the Church, and for fostering safe environments for children and other vulnerable individuals.

Don’t let Philadelphia shut down Catholic foster agency, appeal says

Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 18, 2018 / 12:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The City of Philadelphia is selectively targeting religious foster agencies that cannot place children with same-sex couples, and a federal court wrongly ignored the legal protections affirmed in recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions like Masterpiece Cakeshop, lawyers for the Philadelphia-based Catholic Social Services and several foster parents have said in an appeal.

“The city’s policy prohibits Catholic Social Services from placing at-risk children in available homes solely because the city disagrees with the foster agency’s religious beliefs about marriage,” the legal group Becket said July 17.

The legal group saw a contradiction between the city’s policy and its call in March for 300 more homes willing to foster children, 6,000 of whom are in the city’s foster system.

“This discriminatory policy has caused devastating problems for at-risk children,” Becket said. “Although Catholic Social Services has dozens of open homes available right now, city officials won’t allow any children to be placed in them because they think the agency’s religious beliefs, which drive its mission to help children, are outdated and need to change.”

City officials have said that the Catholic agency’s refusal to place children with same-sex couples violates the Fair Practices Ordinance that prohibits city contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker on July 13 denied a request for a temporary restraining order that would allow the agency’s foster care work to continue, saying that “the pool of foster parents and resource caregivers is as diverse and broad as the children in need of foster parents.”

In response to the appeal, Deana Gamble, a city spokesperson, said “We are committed to ensuring that government services are provided in an accessible way to all Philadelphians and we must ensure that the foster care services CSS provides are done so in a non-discriminatory way according the Fair Practices Ordinance and our contracts.”

Sharonell Fulton, who has fostered over 40 children in 25 years through the agency, is also a party to the lawsuit.

“Catholic Social Services has meant so much to me and to the children I’ve loved and cared for,” she said. “I don’t understand why the city is threatening to shut down the agency that has given hope and a family to so many children.”

According to Becket’s July 16 motion to appeal Judge Tucker’s ruling, the city’s action violates both Pennsylvania law and the U.S. Constitution. The motion objected that the U.S. district court did not cite recent Supreme Court religious liberty and free speech decisions like Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer.

A June hearing showed that the city policy is “directly motivated by religious hostility” and showed that “high-ranking City officials have criticized Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs,” Becket’s motion charged.

The Catholic agency has been “the target of coordinated actions by every branch of city government,” Becket’s motion continued. It cited the city council’s passage of a resolution against “discrimination that occurs under the guise of religious freedom,” as well as other actions.

For instance, the Philadelphia Department of Human Services commissioner summoned the Catholic agency’s leadership to its headquarters, accused them of not following “the teachings of Pope Francis,” and telling them it was “not 100 years ago.”

The city told the agency that future contracts would explicitly require agencies to certify same-sex couples and that the city “has no intention of granting an exception” to the Catholic organization. The motion to appeal charged that the refusal to grant an exemption failed to pass legal scrutiny, given the existence of other relevant secular exemptions. It added that the city targeted religious agencies, not secular ones, for investigation.

The Catholic program will be forced to close if the contract isn’t restored. It has asked the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to issue an order by Aug. 2. The new policy has already forced the agency to move two employees to other offices in the archdiocese, Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Windham praised foster parents like Cecelia Paul, who has fostered over 100 children, and is another plaintiff in the suit.

“Foster children deserve loving homes, and foster parents like Ms. Paul have been waiting with open arms to welcome them,” said Windham. “But the trial court allowed the city to continue its harmful policy – a decision we expect to change with this appeal.”

Catholic Social Services has worked in the city for more than a century and has partnered with the City of Philadelphia for 50 years. The agency cannot provide foster services at all without a city contract. The agency aids the foster families it works with through provision of resources, training and guidance. The agency does this work because of its religious beliefs, Becket said.

In 2017 the Catholic agency placed 266 children and aided more than 2,200 children in the Philadelphia area.

Catholic Social Services has not been the subject of discrimination complaints by same-sex couples. The agency says that it assists all children in need, regardless of a child’s race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

In March, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reported that both the Catholic agency and Bethany Christian Services had a policy not to place children with same-sex couples. In response, Bethany Christian Services changed its policy. The city works with 29 foster care agencies in all.

At the time of the March news report, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Heather Keafer said both groups’ positions was “deeply concerning,” considering the city’s ongoing effort to recruit more self-identified LGBTQ people to become foster parents.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has backed the city and has said the case could have consequences for similar cases in Michigan and Texas.

The conflict comes amid a strong political push to limit religious freedom protections. Millions of dollars in grants have helped fund efforts to argue against religious freedom considered discriminatory on LGBT issues and reproductive rights. CNA has recorded about $8.5 million in foundation grants earmarked for such purposes, including grants to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Catholic adoption and foster agencies in other states have been shut down or defunded because they do not place children with same-sex couples.

Oregon Catholic school leader charged with embezzling $50K

Eugene, Oregon, Jul 18, 2018 / 11:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A former advancement director at a Catholic school in Oregon has been charged with embezzling more than $50,000 from the school and its scholarship program.

Sean Jones, 42, was indicted on July 12 by a Lane County jury on numerous counts of theft, computer crime, and forgery.

Jones was the advancement director for O’Hara Catholic School in Eugene, Oregon, and served on the board of directors for the Open Door Foundation, which sponsors students from low income families at the school.

Eugene police said Jones embezzled $3,900 from the school itself and $50,800 from the scholarship organization. Jones has pleaded not guilty.

According to the local CBS affiliate, the authorities said, “It is believed that he used his position to forge documents and fraudulently obtain access to financial accounts in order to divert funds for his personal use during a three year period.”

The police also said the school and scholarship organization have given their full cooperation in the case.

“O'Hara Catholic School and the Open Door Foundation discovered fraudulent banking activity in May of this year. Since then, the foundation and the school have been working diligently with the Eugene Police Department on the investigation of this fraudulent activity,” said a joint statement by O’Hara Catholic School and the Open Door Foundation.

“While this has been a difficult time for the foundation and the school, we are grateful for the expertise and guidance from the Eugene Police Department and the Archdiocese of Portland.”

Chicago workshop seeks to expand immigrant-led ministry nationwide

Chicago, Ill., Jul 18, 2018 / 03:21 am (CNA).- A five-day training session in the Archdiocese of Chicago last week gathered leaders from across the country to learn about starting an immigrant-led service ministry in their dioceses.

The goal of the gathering, according to the archdiocesan website, was to “train diocesan, pastoral and lay leaders from across the United States on how to start this immigrant-led ministry for service, justice and accompaniment in parish communities to serve the needs of immigrants.”

Delegates from 11 dioceses attended the July 11-15 Instituto Pastoral Migratoria at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Created in 2007 by the Chicago archdiocesan Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity, Pastoral Migratoria seeks to respond to needs created by the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.

The parish-based ministry develops lay leaders who are able to identify and serve immigrants’ social and pastoral needs at a local level. In Chicago, more than 200 Hispanic lay leaders at 40 parishes are involved in the ministry.

The work they do is broad – from workers’ rights issues to financial literacy education to substance abuse awareness and prevention – “anything related to the immigrant community,” said Elena Segura, senior coordinator for immigration in the archdiocese.

“These are leaders who work in cooperation with professional organizations, who come to the parishes and provide the information and critical resources for people to learn and also to become positive members of society, to be integrated in this country,” she said.

Segura stressed that the program empowers immigrants to be leaders in their own parishes, “actors of their own development,” responding to the needs around them and transforming their communities.

“Immigrants have gifts and…they are people who are responding to their baptismal call to engage in bringing the resources needed in their parish communities,” she told CNA.

Often times, the immigrant leaders who are working to serve and accompany their brothers and sisters have themselves experienced a need for accompaniment in making the transition to life in the United States.

“It’s a journey of empowerment, it’s a journey of hope, it’s journey of compassion,” Segura said.

The July 11-15 training session is part of an effort to expand Pastoral Migratoria across the country. In the last year, the Dioceses of Kansas City–Saint Joseph and Stockton launched the program, and organizers hope to begin in three additional dioceses within the coming year.

“The ministry’s goal is to create a nationwide network of Catholic parish-based immigration ministries,” the Archdiocese of Chicago said in a press release.

Participants in the training session received formation and resources rooted in Catholic social teaching to help them implement Pastoral Migratoria in their home dioceses and form collaborative relationships with community partners. They visited Chicago parishes where this ministry is in place, and took part in a prayer vigil at a detention center. All sessions were conducted in Spanish.

Among the dioceses represented at the event were Atlanta, Des Moines, Kansas City–Saint Joseph, Little Rock, Los Angeles, New York, San Bernardino, St. Louis, and Stockton.