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Afghanistan: Pope launches appeal for fasting, prayers for God's mercy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) –– With increased violence unfolding in Afghanistan, Pope Francis appealed to all Christians to fast and intensify their prayers.

"I ask everyone to continue to help the needy and to pray that dialogue and solidarity may lead to the establishment of a peaceful and fraternal coexistence and offer hope for the country's future," he said, after praying the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square Aug. 29.

He said he had been following the news out of Afghanistan "with great concern.”

"I take part in the suffering of those who are grieving for the persons who lost their lives in the suicide attacks that happened last Thursday and of those who are seeking help and protection," he said.

The pope was referring to the Aug. 26 attack when a suicide bomber detonated an explosion among the crowds of people desperate to leave the country at the gate of the Hamid Karzai International Airport. The blast killed at least 169 civilians and 13 U.S. service members, who were set to withdraw from the country by Aug. 31. Thousands of Afghans were seeking to be evacuated as well. The Islamic State claimed responsibility, saying the suicide bomber was targeting Afghan collaborators with the U.S. army.

The pope said, "I entrust the deceased to the mercy of almighty God and I thank those who are striving to help" the people who have been through so much, in particular the women and children.

"In historic moments like this one, we cannot remain indifferent; the history of the church teaches us this," he said.

"As Christians this situation obligates us," he said, launching an appeal to everyone "to intensify your prayer and practice fasting. Prayer and fasting, prayer and penance. This is the moment to do so. I am speaking seriously: intensify your prayer and practice fasting, asking the Lord for mercy and forgiveness.”

Skyrocketing prices, roaming gangs complicate local outreach to hard-hit Haiti

Southfield-based group can’t send missionaries to Caribbean nation, hit by political upheaval and natural disaster, but can send aid

SOUTHFIELD It’s been a rough year for Haiti — a country that’s had its share of rough years. 

Following the shocking assassination of its president, Jovenel Moise, on July 7, the small, impoverished Caribbean nation experienced a 7.2-magnitude earthquake centered on the country’s southwest peninsula on Aug. 14. 

Amidst the country’s hardships, the Haiti Outreach Mission, a Southfield-based charitable organization that operates out of Mirebalais, a town that’s an hour-and-a-half drive northwest of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, is continuing to collect donations from parishes and individuals. 

Though the earthquake did not have the same impact at the 2010 quake that struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital and main population center, the aftereffects will be felt throughout the country, including in Mirebalais, said Dr. Dominique Monde-Matthews, a member of Corpus Christi Parish in Detroit and Southfield-based pediatrician who helped found the mission more than two decades ago.

“The major impact is going to be people migrating from the area that was affected toward Port-au-Prince and toward Mirebalais, where we work,” Dr. Monde-Matthews, president of Haiti Outreach Mission. “The hospital Partners in Health (a Boston-based nonprofit) has in Mirebalais may be overflowed with patients as well.” 

Partners in Health, a nonprofit health care organization founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, has done extensive work in Haiti since 1987. The organization’s hospital is the primary care facility in Mirebalais and the Centre Department of Haiti, with the Haiti Outreach Mission operating a 15-person staffed clinic in town. 

Haiti Outreach Mission volunteers Valerine McNeece, Sabrinia Charles and Marla Smith are pictured at the mobile medical and dental clinic operated by Haiti Outreach Mission in Hinche, Haiti. Haiti Outreach Mission hasn’t been able to send volunteers from the United States to Haiti since 2018. (Courtesy of Bill McNeese)

While the earthquake didn’t directly hit Mirebalais, it’s possible refugees from the area will go to Mirebalais, overwhelming the hospital, which in turn will send more people to the Haiti Outreach Mission clinic. 

Haiti Outreach Mission continues to finically support the clinic, Dr. Monde-Matthews said, raising $70,000 to $100,000 a year to buy supplies and support on-the-ground operations. 

“We are still supporting our mission by sending money so the clinic can operate,” Dr. Monde-Matthews said. “So there has been no stoppage in operations.” 

The issue, Dr. Monde-Matthews said, has been getting that money where it needs to go — particularly to the two priests who work with the clinic, who haven’t had an easy time getting to the bank. 

“There were some issues with gangs,” Dr. Monde-Matthews said. “With so much happening, it is hard for people to go about their routine, because they don’t know what’s going to happen.” 

The assassination of President Moise has added to the instability in Haiti, with rogue gangs patrolling highways and making travel between towns in Haiti a challenge. 

“I’ve been in contact with Fr. Rommel, a Catholic priest on the ground there. About once a month we communicate,” said Bill McNeece, vice president of Haiti Outreach Mission. “They are still trying to figure out how many people were killed or injured in the earthquake, but I’m happy to report it’s not at the level of the 2010 earthquake, because the area that was hit was not as heavily populated.” 

McNeece serves on the executive committee of Haiti Outreach Mission, which coordinates with six churches — Corpus Christi in Detroit, St. Blase in Sterling Heights, Our Lady of Victory in Northville, St. David Episcopal in Southfield, St. Clare Episcopal in Ann Arbor and St. Bernard in Billings, Mont. — to raise money to support the mission. 

Mass is celebrated at St. Louis Parish in Mirebalais, Haiti. St. Louis is one of two partner churches Haiti Outreach Mission works with in Mirebalais. In August, the parish suspended Mass following an attack on the neighboring police station. (Courtesy of Valerie McNeese)

Normally, the nonprofit organizes one mission trip a year, sending volunteers to assist with the clinic. But travel restrictions and COVID-19 have barred the organization from sending a delegation to Haiti since 2018. 

In lieu of a physical trip, the organization has been gathering donations to assist the mission, which is dealing with an increased caseload and rising prices; recent instability and disasters have decreased resources and increased prices. 

“We sent the Catholic priest $2,000 so he could buy food, but the problem is, Port-au-Prince has gotten too dangerous with what’s going on politically, so he has had to travel to the Dominican Republic to buy food,” McNeese said. “It’s better to give money for them to buy food locally, as opposed to sending them food, which tends to suppress the rice market in Haiti. Since Port-au-Prince is getting dangerous, he has to drive an hour to the Dominican Republic to get rice and beans.” 

The dual crises of political upheaval in the wake of the assassination and the migration of people from the site of the earthquake has led to an increased scarcity and higher costs of goods needed to run the Haiti Outreach Mission clinic. 

The mission works with Broken Arrow, Okla.-based Blessings International to make bulk purchases of the medical equipment for the clinic, and the cash deposits to Haiti Outreach Mission’s bank accounts help procure more local supplies. But roadblocks, roaming gangs and breakdowns in social structures have made everything more expensive in a country that was already economically depressed. 

“The needs will always be financial, because recently there has been such an increase,” Dr. Monde-Matthews said. “Everything has become so expensive in Haiti now. The clinic staff, especially the dentists and physicians, haven’t gotten a raise in some 10 years, so recently we decided to give them a raise to help them keep up with everything that’s gone so high.” 

Dr. Dominique Monde-Matthews sees patients at the Haiti Outreach Mission’s mobile medical and dental in Hinche, Haiti. Haiti Outreach Mission is expecting more patients will come to the mobile clinic and the organization’s permanent clinic in Mirebalais with refugees fleeing the destruction of the earthquake that hit the country this month. (Courtesy of Valerie McNeese)

On the ground in Mirebalais, the situation is less tense than in the capital or the countryside, but in early August, the town experienced an attack on its police station as gang members tried to spring members from jail. 

The Catholic church in Mirebalais is a half block from the police station, and Mass was suspended for three weeks. 

“They just began having Mass again on (Aug. 15),” McNeese said. “Clearly there are major concerns about the political stability and the infrastructure; there has been for three years.” 

The political upheaval has also weakened the infrastructure in the country, which has experienced sporadic power outages, spurring the need for the Haiti Outreach Mission to acquire more generators. 

“We just received some pictures from priests who are having trouble with their generator now, because they are seven or eight years old and have been in use so much,” Dr. Monde-Matthews said. “That would be something to add the list of things we need.” 

Haiti has been though much turmoil in the past three to four years, Dr. Dominque Monde-Matthews said, and while the financial support Haiti Outreach Mission receives from parishioners across the United States is vital, prayer always has been — and always will be — just as vital. (Courtesy of Valerie McNeese)

But above all the items Haiti Mission Outreach needs — from generators and antibiotics, to bandages and dental supplies — there’s one supply that can’t be held up by customs or stolen by street gangs: prayer. 

“The one thing I would like to add for people is, please send us your prayers,” Dr. Monde-Matthews said. “Haiti always needs prayers. I can’t begin to tell people about that. They have been hit so many times, by so many things. If anything, please keep Haiti in your prayers. I just feel so powerless sometimes, but I know if we have their prayers, we can do something.”

Support the Haiti Outreach Mission

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Archbishop Broglio prays for dialogue, respect for human life after bombing

WASHINGTON (CNS) –– Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, called for prayers and respect for human life following the bombing outside of an airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, that claimed the lives of 170 Afghan citizens and 13 U.S. service members.

The archbishop, who was in San Diego Aug. 27 to attend a diocesan convocation, said in a statement that he joined the assembled priests "to pray for the repose of the souls" of the lost U.S. soldiers "and the consolation of their families.”

"Together we beg the Prince of Peace for a time of dialogue and a profound respect for the priceless value of human life," the statement said.

The terrorist attack outside of the airport Aug. 26 occurred as hundreds of people gathered in hope of being evacuated on one of dozens of flights arranged in the days following the rapid advance of the Taliban as it regained control of the Afghan government. U.S. forces were deployed to facilitate evacuations and to keep order among the throngs of people.

The U.S. military has carried out two attacks on members of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, known as Islamic State Khorasan, which has claimed responsibility for the airport bombing.

President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden and several U.S. officials paid respect to the U.S. troops killed in the bombing as their bodies were returned home in a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Aug. 29.

Also in response to the attack, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said he was heartbroken by "the senseless loss of precious life.”

"Acts of terror are an attack against all of us and have no place in a civilized or just society," he said in a statement released by the archdiocese Aug. 26. "Please, I urge the members of our Archdiocese of Baltimore to join our Holy Father, Pope Francis and our global community to pray for peace and an open dialogue that creates a path to solutions and not to more death and suffering.”

He also urged the faithful to "remember all of the victims, their families and loved ones.”

Improving from COVID-19, Cardinal Burke grateful for medical staff, prayers

LA CROSSE, Wis. (CNS) –– Cardinal Raymond L. Burke thanked health care workers as well as people who have been praying for him as he continues his recovery from COVID-19.

In an Aug. 28 letter posted on his website, he said he would remain hospitalized as he begins what he described as "intensive rehabilitation.”

The cardinal did not disclose his location.

His letter credited hospital staff who have "provided vigilant, superb and steadfast medical care" during his hospitalization.

"For these dedicated professionals, too, I offer heartfelt thanks, as well as to the priests who have ministered to me sacramentally. To those who have offered innumerable rosaries and prayers, lighted candles, and requested the offering of the Holy Mass, I extend my sincere gratitude, and I ask the Lord and his Mother to bless all of you," the letter said.

He also said that his illness had united him with all people "suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 virus."

Citing the motto he took when he was named a bishop, "secundum cor tuum" ("according to your heart"), Cardinal Burke said his suffering, united with Jesus' suffering on the cross, "is truly efficacious in his Divine Plan for our salvation when accepted willingly and wholeheartedly.”

"United with Jesus Christ, priest and victim, I offer all that I suffer for the church and for the world," he wrote.

The cardinal's official Twitter account Aug. 14 indicated the 73-year-old prelate had been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 and was "being assisted by a ventilator." He first tweeted Aug. 10 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus that causes the illness.

The cardinal has not made it public knowledge on whether he was vaccinated for the 2019 coronavirus.

The Vatican had started offering all Vatican residents, retirees and employees the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech mid-January 2021. The cardinal was eligible for the vaccine as a member of the College of Cardinals and a member of the Apostolic Signatura, which he led as prefect from 2008 until his resignation in 2014.

Cardinal Burke has expressed concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines, including that it is "never morally justified to develop a vaccine through the use of the cell lines of aborted fetuses. The thought of the introduction of such a vaccine into one's body is rightly abhorrent.”

He also said that the "vaccination itself cannot be imposed, in a totalitarian manner, on citizens.”

In December, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, citing church teaching, said that when alternative vaccines are not available, it is morally acceptable to receive vaccines developed or tested using cell lines originating from aborted fetuses, in this case, including COVID-19 vaccines.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines did not use abortion-derived cell lines in developing or producing their vaccines, but they did in lab testing.

Cardinal Burke is a native of Richland Center, Wisconsin, in the La Crosse Diocese, and served as bishop of that diocese from 1995 to 2004, as archbishop of St. Louis from 2004 to 2008, and as prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Signature from 2008 to 2014.

While he was La Crosse's bishop, Cardinal Burke founded the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has been handling his correspondence during his illness.

While the cardinal often resides in Italy, he travels extensively and was in the United States at the time of sharing the news about contracting the virus.

Regina, U-D Jesuit off to a ‘nice start’ in Catholic high school XC invitational

DEWITT — “A very nice start.”

That’s how Gregg Golden summed up the beginning of the cross country season for Warren Regina after the Saddlelites won the girls 5000-meter varsity race Saturday in the Michigan Catholic High School Cross Country Invitational, sponsored for the 16th year by the Knights of Columbus.

He could also be describing the performances of the Catholic High School League squads from the Detroit area who showed up at the St. Francis Retreat Center in Dewitt.

The CHSL swept the boys and girls 5000-meter varsity and junior varsity races. Regina won the girls varsity and Dearborn Divine Child the junior varsity race.

University of Detroit Jesuit won both races in the boys division.

“I was pleased with the entire team,” Golden said, starting off with senior Grace Zdankiewicz, who ran 20:12 for third place. “She’s our leader. Her effort and consistency are there every time. We depend on that, and it’s nice to know that we can count on that.”

Senior Jessica Jarski “ran a terrific race (11th place, 21:62),” Golden said. “When she runs well, our team has a good day in general.” 

Junior Ella Jenkins (19th, 22:43) “did a good job and had an exceptional finish in her first race of the year.” Freshman Elizabeth Ambroggio (20th, 22:49) was a step behind Jenkins. “She beat her time in her first race (a week earlier) on a much harder course,” Golden said.

Senior Sam Brown (32nd, 23:31) “set the pace for the No. 3 through No. 7 runners,” the coach said.

Freshman Natalie Lentine and sophomore Gabby Fernandez came in 38th and 53rd respectively. 

Golden also had a good word for junior Zoe Bamford (20th, 26:22) in the JV 5000 and freshman Bella Farah (8th, 18:27) in the two-mile JV race. 

This was the fourth time Regina has won the Bishop’s Trophy, Golden said. “We look forward to it. There are some good programs (among the Catholic high schools) in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Jackson. We use it as a benchmark to see what we need to work on and improve.”

Girls 5000 meters varsity top teams

Warren Regina 1st, 85 points — 3rd, Grace Zdankiewicz 20:12; 11th, Jessica Jarski 21:52; 19th, Ella Jenkins 22:43; 20th, Elizabeth Ambroggio 22:49; 32nd, Samantha Brown 23:31; 38th, Natalie Lentine 23:39; 43rd, Gabby Fernandez 24:03.

Dearborn Divine Child: 3rd, 112 points — 10th, Lyndsey Aho 21:27; 12th, Kirsten Koss 21:56; 17th, Kathryn Kurtinaitis 22:35; 28th, Tess Scicluna 23:18; 46th, Lauren Post l 24:23; 52nd, Ella Slade 24:48; 71st, Terah Ceccarelli 26:28.

Boys 5000 meters varsity top teams

University of Detroit Jesuit: 1st, 75 points — 3rd, Alec Koscielniak 17:35; 16th, Josiah Graddick 18:20; 18th, Alvin Stanton 18:22; 20th, Charlie Christensen 18:26; 22nd, Danny Miller 18:32; 26th, Owen Dorweiler 18:37; 34th, Noah Mualem 19:05.

Novi Detroit Catholic Central: 2nd, 115 points — 8th ,Michael Ehresman 17:55; 15th, Josh Lassaline 18:20; 27th, Joshua Aleva 18:37; 29th, Jack Kelly 18:42; 41st , Owen Ryan 19:27; 46th , Ryan Illikman 19:48; 58th , Eugene Haley 20:20.

Boys 5000 meters varsity team standings

  1. Detroit U-D Jesuit 75; 
  2. Novi Detroit Catholic Central 115; 
  3. Lansing Catholic 117; 
  4. Jackson Lumen Christi 140; 
  5. Dearborn Divine Child 148; 
  6. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 161; 
  7. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 188; 
  8. Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard 205; 
  9. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 207; 
  10. Madison Heights Bishop Foley 230; 
  11. Warren De La Salle 249; 
  12. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 264; 
  13. Allen Park Cabrini 336; 
  14. Grand Rapids West Catholic 357; 
  15. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic 429

Girls 5000 meters varsity team standings

  1. Warren Regina 85; 
  2. Grand Rapids West Catholic 95; 
  3. Dearborn Divine Child 112; 
  4. Lansing Catholic 116; 
  5. Jackson Lumen Christi 128; 
  6. Clarkston Everest Collegiate 161.
  7. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central 181; 
  8. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 183; 
  9. Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart 188; 
  10. Allen Park Cabrini 230; 
  11. Portland St. Patrick 241; 
  12. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 264.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].

Post-quake Haiti: Funerals and a daily quest for food, water, shelter

LES CAYES, Haiti (CNS) –– Two weeks after Haiti's Aug. 14 earthquake, the country's southwest peninsula is still marked by funerals, aftershocks and a daily search for clean water, food and shelter.

"One of the things that really struck me two weeks out is the number of funerals -- everywhere you go there are funerals, as people are burying their loved ones, and it brings a sense of overwhelming grief when that many people pass away; it is very striking," said Beth Carroll, head of programs for Catholic Relief Services in Haiti.

She spoke with CNS by phone from Haiti Aug. 28, the same day that several funerals were scheduled for family members of at least two CRS staff in the Les Cayes region.

Carroll said that while visiting Les Cayes Aug. 25, an aftershock sent her running out of a building and triggered many others in the area to "reflexively scream and run out of their homes.”

"People were already stressed about the situation in Haiti, and this (earthquake) has caused added stress for people," she said, referring to the difficult political, economic and social crisis that has been making life in Haiti almost unbearable for the past two years.

The magnitude 7.2 quake killed more than 2,200 and injured more than 12,200 others. About 130,000 homes were damaged, including 50,000 which were completely destroyed, according to Haiti government estimates.

"It is very visible in the affected communities, where 90% of homes, schools and churches were flattened in the hot spots," said Carroll. "There is also significant damage which is less visible: a lot of water systems are damaged and no longer functioning, or the water is dirty and not usable." 

Staffers of CRS, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency, are operating under tarps at a parking lot near their operations center in Les Cayes following damage to their offices.

Dioceses around the country have held special collections for Haiti at the behest of the U.S. bishops' conference.

Following the tragedy, CRS has been focused on distributing emergency shelter and hygiene kits in concert with the Haiti government's thrust to help Haitians rebuild their lives at home and discourage them from relocating to tent cities or sleeping in the streets.

CRS maintains a stockpile of emergency supplies in-country and has embellished its earthquake response resources with goods from the U.S. military along with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations and World Vision, which works in Haiti but had no presence in the Les Cayes region.

Les Cayes is Haiti's third-largest city. Carroll said local hospitals and health clinics have done the best they can to treat the injured with their available resources and are moving toward normalcy following the crisis. They also moved many patients to other hospitals in the southern region or to Port-au-Prince.

A major concern in the Les Cayes region is damage to schools and the potential fallout for children, who already have lost significant time in the classroom due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Haiti's dysfunctional political situation and widespread food insecurity.

"We would really like to see how we can prevent a late start to the school year, and many schools aren't going to be able to accept children," Carroll said. "They really can't afford to miss further class time."

CRS is also working closely with the local Catholic diocese in Les Cayes as well as the regional office for Caritas Internationalis, which Carroll said recently lost its regional director to COVID-19.

Caritas has "started a very rapid response program, and we are supporting them and doing training with them despite the upheaval of a new (Caritas regional) director, an earthquake and a recent tropical storm (Grace) –– and yet they are still out there doing their project," Carroll said.

She said there is only speculation as to why Haiti has been spared so far from more cases of COVID-19.

"There are a lot of theories, including that the Haitian population is so young, and that people spent a lot of time outdoors in fresh air rather than indoors with recirculated air," she said.

Pope sets new norms for priests providing prayer services at basilica

VATICAN CITY (CNS) –– Pope Francis has approved a brief set of new norms for the Chapter of St. Peter's Basilica –– whose priest-members provide liturgical and pastoral service in the basilica –– that will only be in effect for one year while its statutes are being revised.

As part of the start of a full reform of the chapter, the pope approved a series of "transitional provisions" that will go into effect Oct. 1, the Vatican announced Aug. 28. The norms include limiting Vatican sources of income for the just under 30 members and specifying who is in charge of administering and managing different assets.

The Chapter of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican was established by St. Leo IX in 1053 for carrying out liturgical services starting with the original basilica. Its members also carried out pastoral activities and managed the vast patrimony of the basilica and its subsidiary churches as well as real estate and assets donated by benefactors or acquired by the canons.

According to the new norms, the chapter continues to consist of a college of priests appointed by the pope as canons, who "provide liturgical and pastoral service to St. Peter's Basilica" and who will receive payment from the Fabbrica di San Pietro that cannot be combined with any commissions or compensation "for services rendered in the Roman Curia and in other institutions connected with the Holy See.”

The chapter's coadjutors are also appointed by the pope with the same specifications as the canons regarding payment, and they will provide their services "in liturgical celebrations, in pastoral works and in other tasks that may be entrusted to them by the archpriest" of the basilica together with the chapter, it said.

The chapter's group of clergy had served as "guardians" of the basilica's Treasury Museum, which includes valuable historical religious objects, papal tiaras, funerary monuments, statues –– including an authentic copy of the Pietà, and valuable gifts donated by kings or royalty.

Now, "the administration and management of the economic activities connected to the Treasury Museum and the sale of religious objects is entrusted to the Fabbrica di San Pietro," which also hires all the employees of the chapter, the norms said. The fabbrica is the office responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the basilica.

The transitional norms, however, specify that the chapter will retain and administer the real estate and financial assets that currently exist, as well as the related revenues and annuities.

Vatican News said the new norms were intended to emphasize the liturgical and pastoral service of the canons in the basilica.

Pope Benedict XVI had told the canons during an audience in 2007 that the chapter had been working to "rediscover its true, original function that consisted above all in the ministry of prayer" so that the basilica can be "an authentic place of prayer, adoration and praise of the Lord.”

He said, "This is the proper nature of the Vatican chapter and the contribution that the pope expects of you: to recall with your prayerful presence at Peter's tomb that nothing can come before God; that the church is entirely oriented to him and to his glory.”

Catholic church in New Orleans is emergency shelter during Hurricane Ida

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) –– After the winds from Hurricane Ida peeled off the roof of the seven-story apartment building in Metairie, Louisiana, Aug. 29, St. Francis Xavier Church –– across the street from the apartment building –– was transformed into an emergency shelter for 34 residents, even though the parish had also lost electrical power.

Several parishioners live in the Metairie Towers apartment building across the street from the church.

Fr. Joe Palermo, the pastor, said he was initially notified of the emergency by the fire chief of Jefferson Parish.

"He said the roof had blown off," Fr. Palermo told the Clarion Herald, archdiocesan newspaper of New Orleans.

"He was called to the building because the sprinkler system was going off in the building, but water was also pouring in from the hurricane. The whole place is flooded. They say there may be six inches of water in the lobby.”

The priest said a number of residents had evacuated to other areas in advance of the hurricane, which left fewer residents at home. Fire officials were going door-to-door Aug. 29 to ask remaining residents to leave the building due to safety concerns.

"They called me and asked if we could put up everybody in some place, and I said, 'of course,'" Fr. Palermo said. "We talked about several buildings and we decided the church was the easiest place to get into because we had two Masses earlier today and would still be a little cool. We have water, blankets and bathrooms.”

Fr. Palermo said he expected the evacuees to spend the night. Church volunteers were there with flashlights.

"That's as far as we know, because the person from emergency services said that the hurricane is kind of stalled, and it's too risky to try to get people relocated," he said.

The joy of suffering: One family’s witness in the face of unimaginable heartache

On July 24 this year, the second anniversary of my final profession of vows, I had the privilege of joining two other Sisters in a visit to a former student’s house. Her father, Jim Weeks, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two and a half years previously, when she was in my class. Now, the family had just received a heart-wrenching diagnosis: the cancer had spread, and Jim was told that he had only one to three more weeks. 

The visit with the Weeks family during this time was probably one of the greatest blessings God has given me during my religious life. To be standing with this family, looking straight at death, and to see their faith and utter trust in God is a grace I will never forget. What struck me most that evening was Jim’s attitude toward this time, which he knew was his last on earth. While clearly grieving over the recent diagnosis, Jim expressed that losing someone we love, as his daughters were about to, is a part of life that he himself had experienced with his own parents, and he was glad that he could be home with his daughters, so that they, too, could experience the joy of that time.

The joy of the time of the last moments with a loved one, the last moments with their father! Every person I have shared this with — all themselves people of great faith — has been in awe of the tenacity of this statement! This was clearly not some sort of Pollyanna-ish approach to suffering. Jim was both clearly suffering from the loss with which he and his family were confronted and completely believing from his own lived experience that there would be joy in that loss. 

In the eyes of the world, all of this is impossible. Those who see with their own eyes instead of with the vision of God cannot comprehend how suffering can have any value, let alone that it can be coupled with true joy — that in fact true, deep joy often and sometimes only comes through great suffering. 

But as Christians, we know that we have a God who, in unimaginable physical and emotional suffering, experienced true joy — the joy of accomplishing our salvation that we might also share in the Beatific Vision that He enjoyed. We have a Mother who, in the unspeakable suffering of watching One — who she knew was not only her beloved Son but also her God — be brutally tortured and killed, rejoiced in that moment of pain that He had saved both her and us. In the Passion of Our Lord, both for Himself and for His Mother, joy did not come despite the suffering, but because of it!

As Jim Weeks saw, all those who suffer the loss of a loved one — or who grieve over any kind of loss — with the eyes of faith, are free to discover the joy that comes through suffering. Our suffering can be redemptive in this way, not only for others for whom we offer up our pain, but also and perhaps even primarily for ourselves. 

When faced with her father’s terminal diagnosis, Jim’s youngest daughter, my former student, reportedly quoted Blessed Chiara Luce Badano’s statement of faith during her dying days: “Jesus, if you want it, I want it, too.” If we truly make this prayer of Blessed Chiara Luce’s and MacKenzie’s our own, we will not be saying it as though to force ourselves to want whatever suffering the Lord might allow to come our way. Rather, we will be allowing ourselves to recognize “the joy held in store for us” through the particular cross He holds out to us with love, trusting always in the sweet joy of knowing His presence with us beneath it. 

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Protect human dignity from high-tech threats, pope tells Catholic lawmakers

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Lawmakers need to regulate and develop sound policies regarding today's digital technology, specifically targeting the problems of child pornography, personal data violations, cyber attacks on critical infrastructures and fake news, Pope Francis told Catholic and Christian legislators.

"Prudent legislation can guide the development and application of technology in the service of the common good," he said during an audience at the Vatican Aug. 27.

"I heartily encourage you, therefore, to make every effort to undertake serious and in-depth moral reflection on the risks and possibilities associated with scientific and technological advances, so that the international laws and regulations governing them may concentrate on promoting integral human development and peace, rather than on progress as an end in itself," the pope said.

Pope Francis was speaking to members and representatives of the International Catholic Legislators Network, who were in Rome for an annual conference. The network is an independent, nonpartisan initiative founded in 2010 "to bring together practicing Catholics and other Christians in elected office on a regular basis for faith formation, education and fellowship," according to its website. It has headquarters in Vienna and an office in Washington, D.C.

Those in attendance included Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, honorary patron of the network, and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II.

The pope told those in attendance that one of the greatest challenges today is making sure technology is used for the common good.

"The wonders of modern science and technology have increased our quality of life," he said, and it is important to encourage ongoing advancements and the new possibilities they open up.

However, technology cannot be left on its own "and to market forces alone without suitable guidelines provided by legislative assemblies and public authorities guided by a sense of social responsibility," he said. Otherwise, "these innovations can end up becoming a threat to the dignity of the human person.”

"By means of policies and regulations, lawmakers can protect human dignity from whatever may threaten it," Pope Francis said.

"I think, for example, of the scourge of child pornography, the misuse of personal data, attacks on critical infrastructures such as hospitals and the spread of false information on social media and so on," he said.

Another problem, he said, is the COVID-19 pandemic, which "continues to rage.”

"This terrible scourge" has resulted in more than 200 million confirmed cases and 4.4 million deaths as well as "immense economic and social devastation," he said.

"Although significant progress has been made through the creation and distribution of effective vaccines, much work remains to be done," he added.

He said, lawmakers and government representatives are "charged with serving the common good" and the challenge now is a holistic "renewal of your communities and of society as a whole.”

This requires more than "simply combatting the virus or seeking to return to the status quo prior to the pandemic; no, that would be a failure. It demands confronting the deeper causes that the crisis has laid bare and aggravated: poverty, social inequality, widespread unemployment and the lack of access to education," he said.

"In an age of upheaval and political polarization, legislators and politicians in general are not always held in high esteem. Yet what loftier vocation can there be than that of serving the common good and placing the welfare of the community before our personal advantage?" he asked.

"That must always be your goal, for good politics is indispensable for universal fraternity and social peace," he said.

Everyone is called to "foster the spirit of solidarity, starting with the needs of our weakest and most disadvantaged brothers and sisters," he said.

"If we are to heal our world so harshly tried by the pandemic and build a more inclusive and sustainable future in which technology serves human needs without isolating us from one another, we need not only responsible citizens, but also capable leaders inspired by the principle of the common good," he said.

The pope asked them to be "leaven for the renewal of minds, hearts and spirit, witnesses of 'political love' for the most vulnerable, so that, in serving them, you may serve him in all that you do.”