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Despite scheduling difficulties, Catholic football teams find a way to play

WARREN — “It was a crazy week,” Warren De La Salle quarterback Brady Drogosh said following the Pilots’ 38-29 victory over River Rouge Sept. 3. “We watched film before school, after school; I personally met with the coaches on my lunch hour to get ready, and the coaches did a great job getting us ready for this week.”

That’s what a Catholic League football player has to deal with when a game — in this case, a game against a team that reached the state finals in the past two seasons — materializes just 72 hours before kickoff.

Both De La Salle and Rouge suddenly found themselves without a “week two” contest when each school’s originally scheduled opponent dropped out just days before they were supposed to play. River Rouge couldn’t play Detroit Renaissance, which had a dozen positive COVID-19 tests, and De La Salle’s foe, Detroit Denby, was searching for a new head coach. 

“We lost our opponent last Friday (Aug. 27) and they lost theirs Tuesday,” Pilots coach Dan Rohn said. “Somebody else from Illinois (Peoria High School) was scheduled to play us as of Tuesday at noon, and they backed out at 1 o’clock, we ended up picking up Rouge.”

Rohn, who is also the De La Salle athletic director, and River Rouge coach and AD Corey Parker agreed to meet on the field rather than take a week off, and the result was a highly competitive, entertaining game before a packed house at Wayne State University’s Tom Adams Field.

“Corey and I have known each other, we’ve worked together for a long time, we’ve played against each other in a state championship in I think 2014 or 2015, so we just hooked up on the phone and we did the right thing for the kids, gave them an opportunity to play another game,” Rohn said. “We know we’re going to play great competition all year long, especially in our league, so it’s nice to come out here and get tested early in the season against an extremely athletic, well-coached football team.”

Warren De La Salle running back Rhett Roeser fights for first-down yardage against River Rouge. Brooklyn Butler has Roeser in his grasp.

“Both schools could have just taken a forfeit, but they found a good opponent and went and played them. I think that’s a product of some good administration,” Catholic League director Vic Michaels said. “Everybody knows how tough it is to schedule football games. We had hoped that the new MHSAA strength-of-schedule playoff scheme would have helped because that rewards teams for playing better opponents, but it hasn’t yet helped the big Catholic League teams, and really, all the good football teams out there.”

A similar scenario took place at Catholic League affiliate member Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett. The Knights were to play Flint New Standard Academy on Sept. 3, but when New Standard went into COVID quarantine, Liggett scheduled a replacement game against Detroit University Prep and beat the Panthers, 38-30.

Things may have worked out well for De La Salle on Sept. 3, but the Pilots had an even tougher time this week. They had originally scheduled a contest against Cincinnati Dohn, but MHSAA officials would not recognize that game since Dohn was not a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association. As of Thursday, a make-up game against a different school had yet to be announced on the team’s website.

That decision also affected Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, which was scheduled to play Dohn in the season’s seventh week, on Oct. 8. The Warriors have since found a replacement opponent in Chicago Christ the King Jesuit, but that wasn’t easy, coach Adam Korzeniewski said.

“I think when you look on paper, nobody’s schedule is tougher than ours,” he said. “We played (Macomb) Dakota, the largest school in the state; we played East Kentwood, the third-largest school; we play University of Detroit-Jesuit from Division 2; we play Traverse City Central, a Division 2 state semi-finalist; we play Country Day, the Division 4 state champion.”

Sherron Sutton, Rhett Roeser, Jeffrey Roskopp, Jack Yanachik and Alton McCullum celebrate in the end zone as Roeser’s long run gave De La Salle a three-touchdown lead over River Rouge in the third quarter.

Rice hasn’t backed down from scheduling challenging games, and Korzeniewski wishes more schools would take that approach.

“I don’t think everyone’s buying in,” he said. “I was very aggressive on Twitter. I asked, ‘Would someone please schedule up, like we do?’ Why would we have teams not jumping at that opportunity? We have a system that is broken, not enough people want to take a risk and play a tough opponent because it might hurt their ability to get into the playoffs.”

The larger Catholic League schools have long been at a disadvantage when it comes to finding suitable opponents in football. Each of the four Central Division schools — De La Salle, Brother Rice, Detroit Catholic Central and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s — are each playing at least one opponent from a neighboring state this fall. That’s risky, since COVID-19 still has a presence and might necessitate travel restrictions for the visiting teams.

“I think it shows that we need more teams in our league, and we need to change the playoff format in order to play more (regular-season) games like this,” Rohn said following the win against River Rouge. “It’s tough, because we beat each other up, and it’s going to put us in a position where we’re going to struggle at points unless we go and do it. I think it says a lot about where this area of football is, there’s a lot of great competition and a lot of great games.”

There is movement under way to bring several Catholic high schools from Toledo into Detroit’s Catholic League, and it could happen by 2023. While Catholic League officials strongly approved the concept in a voice vote last month, the plan will be introduced to the Catholic League Executive Board on Tuesday (Sept. 14). There is no action taken to be scheduled at the upcoming meeting.

“When we do add the Toledo schools — and I think that’s going to happen — that will fill a lot of the voids, especially with our Central Division,” Michaels said. “It’s a win-win, but some things still need to fall into place.”

Until the league expands, though, Catholic League football teams have no choice but to schedule any competition they can locate — often at the 11th hour.

“Our coaches will grind it out and see what we can find on the schedule, because we want to play games,” Rohn said. “We want to give our teams an opportunity to compete.”

Visitors leave Flight 93 National Memorial with ‘sense of awe’

Twenty years ago, an abandoned strip mine in western Pennsylvania transformed in one shocking moment into a national shrine, a living testament to the courage of everyday Americans faced with a life-or-death choice.

On Sept. 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco was hijacked by four al-Qaida terrorists. The plane's passengers, after learning about other hijacked planes that were flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon earlier that morning, decided to fight back and storm the cockpit.

At 10:03 a.m., the plane crashed into the site of the abandoned mine, a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Investigators later estimated the plane was traveling 563 mph when it hit the ground. The crash killed all 44 passengers and crew members, including the four hijackers.

Today, this site is a serene, starkly beautiful memorial, a combination of sights and sounds that offer a testament to the event that changed the profile of this part of Pennsylvania forever.

The dramatic events in the field about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh are sometimes hard to convey to those who don't remember them because, unlike the horrors in New York City and Washington, they didn't unfold on live television.

"I think the world and the nation sometimes really don't comprehend what happened here with Flight 93 because there weren't really any vivid live images or any live video associated with the site," said Stephen Clark, superintendent of the National Parks of Western Pennsylvania, which includes the Flight 93 National Memorial.

"We can all remember the jetliners going into the buildings and the Pentagon because we saw it on TV. What was different about Shanksville is most people only remember seeing an image of the smoldering outline and the smoke. What's happened is that over the years the memorial has kind of taken on its own spirit.”

The Flight 93 National Memorial site offers more than 400,000 visitors a year many different ways to learn and pay respects to the fallen.

A visitor's center includes a display of artifacts from the site, plus multimedia and interactive exhibits about Flight 93. The memorial plaza allows visitors the chance to walk beside the plane's final flight path and view from a distance the impact site, marked by a sandstone boulder, which can only be visited by family members of the crew and passengers.

One of the most dramatic elements is the newest, Clark said. Opened in 2018, the "Tower of Voices," a 93-foot-high concrete tower filled with 40 wind chimes meant to represent the voices of the fallen, offers a constantly changing tribute of sound that changes with the wind.

All of these elements combine for a unique experience that touches both the mind and the spirit. Clark said the memorial is a popular destination for people of faith who pay tribute to the fallen.

"Sometimes you'll see people praying on their own or you'll see small pockets of people praying silently and holding hands," Clark told Catholic News Service.

He recalled a recent visit by firefighters from New York City and Shanksville that also included family members of people who died in the twin towers and on Flight 93. The group spontaneously prayed the Lord's Prayer together.

"Visitors often come here not knowing what to expect -- they expect maybe to see a crater or parts of the plane -- and they end up leaving here with a real sense of awe," Clark said.

"The memorial fits within the palm of the landscape here. Everything just blends and nothing is out of place. I predict the number of visitors here is going to continue to increase as more and more people around the world become inspired by the story of the people honored here.”

The Flight 93 National Memorial is in the Diocese of Altoona/Johnstown, and each year the faithful in the area come together to honor the memory of Flight 93 at special events held around the area, according to Tony DeGol, secretary for communications for the diocese.

The 20th anniversary observances include Masses at both of the diocesan cathedrals. On Saturday, Sept. 11, Bishop Mark L. Bartchak will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona. On Sunday, Sept. 12, a special Blue Mass honoring local police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services will take place at St. John Gualbert Cathedral in Johnstown.

Bishop Bartchak and others from the diocese will also attend a community tribute on the evening of Sept. 11 in Altoona which will include speakers, special music and a Walk of Honor to pay tribute to local first responders, military members and Gold Star families, who had a family member die while serving in the military.

"The three components of the celebration are going to be faith, patriotism and civic pride," DeGol said. "We especially recognize the faith component is so critical because since 2001 it has helped us all as we've tried to cope with what happened that day and the lives lost on that day.”

To learn more about the history of Flight 93 and commemorations of the 20th anniversary, visit the national memorial's site at https://www.nps.gov/flni/index.htm or Friends of Flight 93: https://www.flight93friends.org/.

Texas bishops highlight state-funded program to help pregnant women

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Amid heated discussion surrounding the new abortion law in Texas, which bans abortions from six weeks, Catholic bishops have emphasized the importance of a long-running state program to help pregnant women.

"Texas has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in programs for pregnant moms and families," said a statement issued by the Texas Catholic Conference, two days after the new law went into effect.

The conference, which is the public policy arm of the state's Catholic bishops, was  referring to the state-funded program Alternatives to Abortion, which started in 2005. The program provides funds for pregnancy centers which offer counseling services and resources to women in crisis pregnancies.

"Hundreds of pregnancy and parenting support programs and adoption services in our state provide practical resources to women and families facing overwhelming circumstances," the group's Sept. 3 statement said.

The Texas Catholic Conference noted that "pregnant and parenting moms in need are in our parishes and our neighborhoods. As Pope Francis reminds us, our parishes must be 'islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference.'”

The conference also stressed that "everyone in the parish should know where to refer a pregnant woman in need.”

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone also highlighted state support for pregnancy centers in Texas in a Sept. 5 op-ed piece in The Washington Post where he said: "Texas gets this right.”

"The state is investing $100 million to help mothers by funding pregnancy centers, adoption agencies and maternity homes and providing free services including counseling, parenting help, diapers, formula and job training to mothers who want to keep their babies," he said.

The archbishop primarily emphasized the importance of Catholics speaking out against abortion and urged Catholics to particularly challenge Catholic politicians who support laws favoring abortion.

"You cannot be a good Catholic and support expanding a government-approved right to kill innocent human beings," he said.

Currently, there are 22 abortion clinics in Texas and more than 200 pregnancy centers.

Pregnancy centers provide free diapers, formula, clothing, toys, books, car seats, furniture as well as pregnancy tests, adoption referrals and nutrition and counseling resources.

One pregnancy center, Flourishing Tree Family & Pregnancy Resource Center in Aledo, Texas, is part of an outreach of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Terri Schauf, the Respect Life coordinator for the diocese, said: "Pregnancy centers are really at the forefront of pro-life ministry, helping women directly in need when they have a crisis pregnancy or an unexpected pregnancy.”

In an article last year in the North Texas Catholic, the online newsmagazine of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Schauf said it is crucial to have pregnancy centers around the diocese because clients often don't have the resources to travel far from home.

She also  said the diocese's Respect Life office is "putting our actions where the church's teachings are. We respect life from the moment of conception to natural death.”

The issue of when does life begin comes up with the new Texas abortion law that had been called the "heartbeat bill" when it moved through the state legislature for banning abortions when a fetal heartbeat could be detected at about six weeks.

The Texas Catholic Conference said the law's opponents have called the heartbeat terminology misleading, saying that what is heard is "embryonic cardiac activity" or "electrically induced flickering of embryonic tissue.”

"These attempts to dehumanize the unborn are disturbing," the state's bishops said.

Similarly, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York raised this point on a Sept. 7 episode of "Conversation with Cardinal Dolan" on SiriusXM's Catholic Channel.

Speaking about the Texas abortion law, which the Justice Department is expected to challenge in court, the cardinal asked: "When does life begin?”

He added that if the line is drawn at different stages in fetal development, then it's not really "a question of life; it's a question of convenience. It's a question of choice.”

"Choice is not an absolute value; life is," he added.

Use Gospel as a guide, not an ideology, pope tells Claretian Missionaries

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Gospel should never be used as a means to an end, wielded like an ideology, Pope Francis told representatives of the Claretian Missionaries.

They should use the Gospel like a "handbook" -- "a 'vademecum,' letting yourselves be guided every moment by the options of the Gospel and by the ardent desire to follow Jesus" and imitate him in prayer, working and suffering, striving single-mindedly for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, he said, making reference to the writings of St. Anthony Mary Claret, the missionaries' 19th-century founder.

The pope made his remarks during an audience at the Vatican Sept. 9 with Claretian Missionaries attending their general chapter in the Italian town of Nemi, 19 miles south of Rome. During the chapter, which opened Aug. 15, the congregation's delegates reelected Claretian Father Mathew Vattamattam to another term as superior general. Cardinal Aquilino Bocos Merino, a former superior general, also was present at the audience.

In his talk to the Claretians, Pope Francis said they must never separate their mission from contemplation and an ever-growing intimacy with Jesus.

They must not be afraid of "wasting time" in silent prayer and adoration before the Lord, he said. Boredom and busy schedules can never come in the way of encountering God's gaze, he added.

But, they must also go out into the world, going where nobody wants to go, where the light of the Gospel is needed and work side by side with the people, he said.

Their mission can never be done "remotely" by "looking out the window, observing out of curiosity from far away," he said. "We can look at reality from a window or we can commit ourselves to changing it," by transforming the world and by fighting to protect human dignity and respect basic human rights.

If missionaries are not aware of their weaknesses or fragility and they always try to be invincible, like "Tarzan of the apostolate," then it will never be possible that God reveals his power, the pope said.

The pope said that if they let themselves "burn" with God's love and rely on God as their only source of certainty, they will be men of hope and have nothing to fear.

What they should be afraid of, he said, is developing "spiritual schizophrenia" -- a worldly kind of spirituality where they depend solely on the strength of their "horses" and "carriages" in an obsessive search for well-being and power.

Jesus is the one who guides their life and missionary choices, he said.

Never exploit or use the Gospel as an instrument, "like an ideology,” he said, but as a handbook whose Gospel values show the way.

Three dead, others evacuated from Louisiana housing ministry after Ida

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Three residents of a housing ministry belonging to the Archdiocese of New Orleans were found dead following the wrath of Hurricane Ida, which left a slew of Louisiana residents trapped in their homes and without electricity days after its Aug. 29 landfall.

In the days after the hurricane, authorities rescued hundreds of residents of Christopher Homes, part of the archdiocese's senior living ministry that helps the elderly and those with physical disabilities rent affordable homes in the New Orleans area. But during the rescues, city officials expressed concerns about why residents of the buildings had not been evacuated.

"Residents are independent living tenants with leases, and before storm season, all residents were required to provide a personal evacuation plan to property management," said a Sept. 6 statement on the Christopher Homes website. "Without a mandatory evacuation order, Christopher Homes could not close the buildings for Hurricane Ida.”

The website said Christopher Homes "manages 21 apartment complexes with nearly 2,500 apartment units." The ministry said 268 residents were evacuated from six of the properties with help from civil authorities, but it didn't say when.

The agency said it had requested help immediately after the hurricane passed, though none came until after the first discovered death of one of its residents on Sept. 3, the website said.

The staff was "saddened by the deaths of three residents in properties in Orleans Parish," the statement said, giving thanks "for the care and compassion of the staff who stayed behind to help the residents who chose to stay.”

While all residents were encouraged to evacuate, Christopher Homes said, some residents chose to stay or "did not have the means" to evacuate without the help that usually accompanies a mandatory evacuation.

"Christopher Homes staff prepared and followed the city's directives to shelter in place with the resources available," the organization said. It also noted that the buildings had generators.

The residents who were evacuated have been taken to state-provided shelters until power is restored to the facilities and the homes are inspected for safety.

While the death toll of Ida is still being calculated, Louisiana has said the deaths of least a dozen people in senior housing or nursing homes have been attributed to Ida; some have lacked the electricity to operate some of the equipment they need to survive, such as oxygen tanks. Hundreds of thousands are still without electricity.

Detroit Stories Episode 19: ‘Serving God and Country’ (PODCAST)

Deacon Steve Morello was uniquely positioned to serve the Lord and the American people in the aftermath of the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001

(0:23) Deacon Steve Morello pondered and prayed about why God had brought him to his job, until one day, six weeks into his tenure as general counsel for the United States Army, when the answer became very clear.

(1:30) We learn about Deacon Morello’s background in law and what brought him to his position as the Army’s general counsel.

(4:06) We discover more about what the chief legal officer for the Department of the Army does, and what working in the Pentagon overseeing nearly 5,000 lawyers was like.

(5:50) Deacon Morello talks about flying to Virginia Beach on Sept. 10, 2001, for an onboarding seminar — and about his discovery there of the attack on the Pentagon the next morning.

(7:26) We discover the state of the Pentagon and the landscape to which Deacon Morello returned on Sept. 12. He shares about his responsibilities in recovering from the event, both as general counsel and as a deacon.

(11:44) Deacon Morello shares his experience assisting at Mass on the side of the Pentagon in the aftermath of the attack, and the profound encounter with the Lord he had through the eyes and experiences of the relief workers in attendance.

(13:48) Deacon Morello reaffirms the life-changing impact that Mass made on his ministry today throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Reporting by Dan Meloy; narration by Casey McCorry; production by Ron Pangborn

Listen to ‘Detroit Stories’ on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify or Fireside. Podcasts also will be posted biweekly on DetroitCatholic.com.  


Mexican bishops express sorrow after Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion

MEXICO CITY (CNS) ─ The Mexican bishops' conference expressed sorrow over a unanimous Supreme Court decision to decriminalize abortion, while other church leaders called on Catholics to "not to be indifferent" on issues of life.

The court ruled unanimously Sept. 7 to invalidate sections of a law in northern Coahuila state. The law imposed sentences of up to three years in prison for women terminating pregnancies; observers say the court decision sets precedent and will lead to decriminalization across the country. The decision also removed criminal sanctions for abortion providers.

The motion approved in the court, according to Justice Norma Piña Hernández, "concludes there are no public reasons with scientific support that allow equating the embryo with a person with rights."

She continued, "Prohibiting abortion in these circumstances ... implies giving excessive value to the state's interest in protecting the development of the pregnancy in the face of the intense impact carrying an unwanted pregnancy represents for the autonomy of women when there are not the vital conditions to do so properly."

After the court decision, the bishops' conference tweeted, quoting from a conference document published Aug. 12: "Those of us convinced of the value of life have no need for a murderous law such as the one that is being approved ... We hope that your option for life is not conditional on an ideology, rather is motivated by faith, hope and love."

Bishop Jesús José Herrera Quiñonez of Nuevo Casas Grandes, president of the bishops' life ministry, said in a Sept. 5 statement, "We remember that human dignity and fundamental rights are not a question of votes, rather recognition and respect."

"We remember that the human being, child of a father and a mother, whose life starts at the moment of conception, must be recognized in their dignity in all steps of life and deserves the same protection of the law in the face of actions that could threaten its integrity."

The court decision in Mexico, the country with the world's second-highest number of Catholics, continued a trend in Latin America toward the decriminalization of abortion. Women throughout the region have taken to the streets to protest issues of gender violence and abortion access in recent years.

In December 2020, Argentina decriminalized abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Mexico City decriminalized abortion in 2007, a move upheld by the Supreme Court the next year, and three of Mexico's 32 states have followed its lead. More than half of Mexico's states have approved constitutional prohibitions on abortion.

The court is expected to hear a case during September on the constitutionality of a law from the state of Sinaloa, which protects life from conception.

The Supreme Court ruled Mexico City's law constitutional based on the state being able to set local health policy, according to Rebeca Ramos, director of the nongovernmental Information Group on Reproductive Choice. This time, she said, the court "got the heart of the matter" and ruled on questions pertaining to the right to access abortion.

"Never again should a woman or a gestating person be criminally prosecuted. Today the threat of prison and the stigma that weighs on people who decide to freely interrupt their pregnancy is banished," said Justice Luis María Aguilar, whose motion to approve decriminalization was debated in the court.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not pushed for decriminalizing abortion, saying other issues take priority -- though members of his Morena party have approved decriminalization bills since 2019 in the states of Oaxaca, Hidalgo and Veracruz. He declined to give an opinion on the court case at his Sept. 7 news conference.

"We have Supreme Court justices, who are more liberal, (and) a broad and active feminist movement," said Bárbara González, a political analyst in Monterrey. "The justices want to win points with the people," she added, but also show independence in the face of accusations of submission to pressure from the president.

Polling on abortion shows a generational divide in Mexico, with a slight majority of people under the age of 50 supporting decriminalization. A poll by the newspaper El Financiero found 53% of Mexicans opposed decriminalization, while 45% were in favor.

Ann Arbor Dominicans’ new prioress set to follow in Mother Assumpta’s footsteps

In June, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist elected a new prioress; Mother Amata Veritas pledges to build on foundress’s zeal

ANN ARBOR — Since the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, were founded in Ann Arbor in 1997, the community of fresh-faced, enthusiastic young sisters have been one of the fastest-growing and vibrant religious communities in the United States. 

With 155 religious women now in eight states, Washington, D.C., and Rome, the community’s Spirit-led growth has been hard not to notice. 

Throughout their 24-year history, the Ann Arbor-based Dominicans have been led by Mother Mary Assumpta Long, OP, one of the congregation’s four foundresses and a driving force behind the community’s head-turning emergence. 

On June 22, the Dominicans elected a new prioress general to build upon Mother Assumpta’s foundation and lead the community into the future. Mother Amata Veritas Ellenbecker, OP, began her duties immediately upon being selected during the community’s general chapter.  

The sisters spent the day before the chapter in prayer and adoration, asking the Holy Spirit to guide the process. Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea offered a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit and witnessed the elections. 

Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea is pictured with Mother Amata Veritas Ellenbecker, OP, during a Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit in June. Bishop Boyea witnessed the Dominicans’ general chapter, during which then-Sr. Amata Veritas was elected to succeed Mother Mary Assumpta Long, OP.

Delegates were tasked with choosing the prioress general, as well as selecting a new general council and ruling on any adjustments to their constitutions, which govern the community’s way of living. This was the second general chapter for the Ann Arbor Dominicans; future chapters will be held every six years.

Leading with humility

Speaking with Detroit Catholic, Mother Amata Veritas said she was humbled and grateful to the Holy Spirit for the trust her sisters placed in her.

“I can honestly say nothing in my life prepared me to be prioress general, and yet, everything in my life has prepared me to be prioress general. This may seem contradictory, but it is true,” Mother Amata Veritas said. “I can see the hand of God in the experiences of my life and my religious formation that have prepared me for this position.”

She is especially grateful for the formation and leadership of Mother Assumpta and the community’s foundresses, “and for the formation I received from my family,” Mother Amata Veritas said. “Both have instilled in me a deep love of the Church, Our Lady and the Eucharist.”

Mother Amata Veritas entered the community in 2001 and made her final vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in 2009. She taught middle school and high school, and served as the community’s director of postulants for nine years. Most recently, she served the community’s mission in Houston as chancery of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.

Mother Amata Veritas (second from left top row) and Mother Assumpta (second from left bottom row) are pictured with the Dominicans’ new general council members, vicaress general Sr. Mary Michael Carlton, OP; second councilor Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen, OP; third councilor and secretary general Sr. Louis Marie Zogg, OP; fourth councilor Sr. Elizabeth Ann O’Reilly, OP; and bursar general Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen, OP 

“Since the elections I have begun to learn about the community in a whole new way,” Mother Amata Veritas said. “It’s one thing to be a member of the community, and it is quite different to lead it; it is the same life, but from a different perspective.”

Sr. Maria Guadalupe, OP, has known Mother Amata Veritas since day one. The two sisters entered the Dominican community in 2001, and both made their final vows together in 2009.

“I would say that from the very beginning, Mother Amata Veritas has had a zeal and enthusiasm for religious life, particularly as it is lived in our congregation,” said Sr. Maria Guadalupe, principal of St. Isaac Jogues School in St. Clair Shores. “A leader has to be an authentic believer in the mission of the organization.”

Learning from the first mother

As the new prioress general, Mother Amata Veritas plans to draw upon the example of her predecessor, Mother Assumpta, who will retain her title of “Mother” in perpetuity because of her unique role in founding the religious community. 

“When you live with Mother Assumpta, you see that she leads fearlessly, and she boldly trusts in God’s providence and is open to the movement of the Holy Spirit,” Mother Amata Veritas said. “She loves the Dominican charism and has lived it faithfully for decades, and has passed it on to us by her teaching and example. Prayer and faithfulness to the Lord are the basis of everything she does.”

After leading the community for nearly 25 years, Mother Assumpta and the other three founding sisters have seen the community grow in size and scope as God has prompted them. 

Mother Assumpta Long, OP, holds the Book of Professions as Sr. Peter Grace Weber, OP, signs her name after professing her perpetual vows July 22, 2020, with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor.

The order operates two thriving schools in Plymouth and Ann Arbor, Spiritus Sanctus Academies. Eighty-six sisters teach in 30 schools around the country, from elementary to university level, while 15 sisters are currently pursuing their teaching degrees. The community’s popular “Education in Virtue” program is used by schools and families across the country to foster virtue and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and a new online portal, Openlight Media, provides multimedia content for educators, families and individuals. 

“Mother Assumpta’s leadership of our community has allowed us to continue to respond to God’s call to live religious life authentically and joyfully, as we focus on Catholic education and the new evangelization,” Sr. Maria Guadalupe said. “All of this is a tremendous testimony to Mother Assumpta’s gift of self in serving as our prioress general for so many years.”

Prayer above all

Electing a new prioress for the first time in the community’s history was a process steeped in prayer, said Sr. Catherine Marie, OP, who first met Mother Amata Veritas as a postulant, when then Sr. Amata Veritas was her director. 

“When Mother Amata Veritas was announced as our new prioress general, we all knew that this was God’s generous response to our hours and months of prayer,” Sr. Catherine Marie said. “Not only has Mother served in leadership roles within the community for most of her religious life, which creates a beautiful continuity to Mother Assumpta’s leadership, but she also has the humility and docility to the Holy Spirit that is necessary to lead our community into this new phase in our history.” 

Left to right, newly professed Sr. Theresita, Sr. Irenaeus, Sr. Mary Andre, Sr. Mary Bernard, Sr. Chiara Luce, Sr. Mary Esther and Sr. Mary Consolata cut a cake after making their final vows in July 2020. 

Along with Mother Amata Veritas, a new general council also was elected and will include vicaress general Sr. Mary Michael Carlton, OP; second councilor Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen, OP; third councilor and secretary general Sr. Louis Marie Zogg, OP; fourth councilor Sr. Elizabeth Ann O’Reilly, OP; and bursar general Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen, OP.

While Mother Amata Veritas will spend much of her time in meetings and traveling to the Dominicans’ missions, her main role is discernment and prayer for the sisters under her care, seeking God’s will for the community. 

That’s the key difference between leading a secular organization and leading a religious community, Sr. Maria Guadalupe noted. 

“It’s the supernatural aspect of our life,” Sr. Maria Guadalupe said. “The so-called success of our community cannot be measured in this life because the ultimate measure of success for us is whether we make it to heaven, and how many others we bring with us.”

To that end, Mother Amata Veritas’ goals for the community are simple: she wants what God wants.

“I know that the community has a deep desire to proclaim the Gospel and work for the good of souls, and this is something that I am so excited about,” Mother Amata Veritas said. “I would like to continue to build on the solid foundation we have been given, continuing that radical openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit, to be at the service of the Church for the salvation of souls.”

West Virginia bishop urges vaccinations, mask-wearing to slow virus

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) ─ Becoming vaccinated and wearing a face mask are "genuine acts of love" that can protect friends, neighbors and "our own health" during the widening coronavirus pandemic, said Bishop Mark E. Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia.

Addressing Catholics across the state in an Aug. 27 video message, Bishop Brennan encouraged these steps as ways to enhance the health and safety of family members, friends and vulnerable people.

His message was released as the number of COVID-19 illnesses continued to rise, leading to more hospitalizations and deaths in the state.

Bishop Brennan also encouraged people to pray for those affected by the coronavirus and for an end to the pandemic, saying that everyone can choose to act boldly in the face of this "mortal threat."

He stressed that vaccines are widely available and give substantial protection to those who are vaccinated. Wearing masks in public settings and large indoor gatherings, he said, adds further protection.

"Some object that vaccinations and wearing masks interfere with their personal freedom. Our freedom is a very limited but real participation in God's freedom, and like God's, is meant always to be used to do good," he said.

"I urge you to choose to do good to your neighbor and to yourself by being vaccinated and wearing a protective mask in appropriate settings," he said. "No one among us would choose to watch a family member or friend suffer and possibly die if we had the power to stop it."

"We do have the power, to a great degree, to counteract a deadly virus by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask. As we continue to navigate through these difficult times, we pray for patience and a strong resolve to do what is best for everyone," the bishop added.

The video was released two days after Bishop Brennan asked the faithful to wear masks in all diocesan churches. Parishes were asked to place a sign at church entrances asking that those attending Mass wear a mask. Children younger than the age of 2 were exempted.

Parishes also began posting the message on social media by the end of the day.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported Sept. 7 high transmission of the coronavirus in 54 of the state's 55 counties.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, has repeatedly called on the state's residents to be vaccinated to stem virus transmission.

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Rowan is executive editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

Trauma of 9/11 is also felt by immigrant Muslim population

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A century or more ago, Catholics were discriminated against seemingly at will.

Signs saying "NINA" -- No Irish Need Apply -- the Ku Klux Klan burning crosses in front of Catholic churches, the police using a "paddy wagon," so named because of the prevailing view that Irish Americans were quick to get drunk and quick to get into trouble.

It took generations, but some Irish Catholics became police officers, police chiefs, and mayors. One even became president 60 years ago.

If history is repeating itself with U.S. Muslims, it's slow in coming. They've been looked on with suspicion by many Americans since the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001.

While much is being made of how most Americans are approaching the 20th anniversary of those attacks approaching, Muslim Americans who had nothing to do with the attacks -- and may once themselves have been refugees from terror, civil war and authoritarian government -- are bracing themselves for a wave of dread.

The chaos in Afghanistan -- which Congress gave the president carte blanche to invade a week after the terror attacks -- only adds more concern to a besieged minority.

A Council on American Islamic Relations report issued in April documented more than 6,000 incidents in 2020 dealing with Muslim "immigration and trauma and discrimination," said Huzaifa Shahbaz, an Islamophobia specialist who works with CAIR.

Maltreatment of Muslim Americans fluctuates, Shahbaz said. Now is one of those bad times. "I would say that now, based on our reporting, it is getting worse," he added.

At meetings of the U.S. Catholic-Muslim dialogue, tales of harassment directed at Muslims are told "all the time," said Anthony Cirelli, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and the staff person assigned to the dialogue. "You'd be surprised at the continuity of the challenges they have vis-a-vis the local community.”

Cirelli said: "We work with a lot of imams and a few are scholars. Part of the dynamic of dialogue is that we literally share what's going on in our work at the commencement of our meetings. Very often, the imams will tell us -- especially the bishops -- how they're coping with various threats to their community, etc., which is always heightened when there's an attack on the public.”

"9/11 is one of the hardest days for kids to be in school because of the bullying they face," said Nina Fernando, the Catholic executive director of the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, a Washington-based interfaith group committed to addressing anti-Muslim discrimination in the United States.

She cited a report from the Institution for Social Policy Understanding, which found that half of Muslim families with children in public schools reported being bullied in school. "One-third reported that a teacher or a school official was the bully," Fernando said.

The Pew Research Center, in its polling on religion, finds American attitudes toward Muslims to be a decidedly mixed bag.

Most Americans, according to Pew, know at least a few basic facts about Islam. In a 2019 survey assessing Americans' religious knowledge, about six-in-10 correctly identified Ramadan as an Islamic holy month and a similar share picked Mecca as the holiest city in Islam.

The same survey also asked Americans to rate their general feelings about Muslims and several other religious groups on a scale from zero to 100, with zero being the coldest, most negative feelings and 100 being the most positive.

On average, Muslims received a rating of 49 -- identical to the rating given to atheists, and lower than the ratings received by other groups. Catholics were rated at 60. Jews received an average rating of 63, and Hindus were rated at 55.

Americans' lukewarm feelings toward Muslims also are apparent in several other ways.

In a separate 2019 report, half of Americans say they do not think of Islam as part of mainstream American society, compared to 43% who say Islam is mainstream in America. On another issue, 44% of Americans think there is a natural conflict between Islam and democracy, although 46% say there is not.

At the same time, many Americans also recognize challenges that U.S. Muslims face. A majority of U.S. adults think there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims in the United States today and about half say that media coverage of Muslims and Islam is generally unfair.

Shoulder to Shoulder was founded in 2010, when anti-Muslim tensions were at a high point, with tensions ratcheted up with the so-called "ground zero mosque" near the former World Trade Center that was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, and the Florida Protestant pastor who had threatened to burn the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

"An attack on one community is an attack on all of us," Fernando said. Shoulder to Shoulder works with congregations of all faiths to counter anti-Muslim sentiment.

"We really want to equip faith communities" to counter the problem, Fernando said. "We believe faith communities are powerful agents of change.”

William Donohue, head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, put anti-Muslim bigotry in the context of historical anti-Catholicism.

"Surely there are anti-Muslim bigots in this country, and there are pretty good records on this in terms of violence against this -- innocent Muslims," Donohue said, but "I think they're in much better shape in the schools and the textbooks.”

He added, "It's fair to say from colonial times up to JFK, the problem of anti-Catholicism was visited on individual Catholics, in the schools and the workplace, without getting into great specifics.”

But Kennedy's election in 1960 put the brakes on anti-Catholicism directed against individual Catholics. Later, though, anti-Catholicism was directed against the church as an institution "and it all has to do with sexuality," Donohue said, starting with abortion in the 1970s to the clergy sex abuse crises of today.”

Donohue acknowledged his next comment was a generalization: “Jews are respected, Muslims are feared and Catholics are neither respected nor feared.”

Susan Silk, a psychologist based in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Michigan, also is a disaster mental health volunteer and trainer for the American Red Cross and has responded to traumatic events such as hurricanes, floods, airplane accidents, earthquakes, terrorism and school shootings.

Silk also has volunteered with an Arabic mutual-aid organization in Dearborn, Michigan, a significantly Arab suburb on Detroit's southwest border.

"Nobody leaves their homeland if everything is great," Silk said, which applies not only to Asia's Muslims but also to Latin Americans heading north toward the United States. "They had already experienced trauma and violence and hardship and that's why they immigrated to a large extent.”

Muslims came to the United States in hope of calm and security, Silk added, except that "after 9/11 they find themselves the victims of prejudice and violence for their origins. It was really a flashback to them to something that had already happened in their past," she said.

Near where Silk lives, she said that after 9/11 "there were restaurants that people, quote 'regular Americans,' boycotted" because they were run by Arabs. The Detroit area is also home to many non-Muslim Arabs who are members of Eastern churches, including Chaldeans, Maronites and Melkites -- a distinction that may be lost in the heat of emotion.

Silk cautioned against "the rumor-mongering that social media provides," quoting the adage: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

The best hope, Silk suggested, is in time.

"In the long run, I think that America has a pretty good track record -- not as good as we'd like -- of assimilation and accommodation, if people become a part of our community, once we get to know them,” she said.

"And (as) kids play together and go to the same schools, I think we become less fearful.”