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Masks to be mandated in all Philadelphia archdiocesan schools

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) ─ The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is mandating that face masks be worn by students, faculty, staff and visitors in all archdiocesan schools starting Aug. 30.

The 15 archdiocesan high schools and 102 Catholic elementary schools are set to reopen for the fall term Sept. 8, with in-person instruction five days a week.

The archdiocese cited the continued spread of COVID-19 as the reasoning for requiring the face coverings as a safety precaution. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Aug. 20 that new cases of infection nationwide had increased 14% over the previous week.

Those not vaccinated against the virus are of particular concern. Children under age 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine yet, so they remain at risk of contracting the virus via its highly transmissible delta variant.

The directive was made by the archdiocese "in the interest of ensuring a safe return to school" and "following the advice of the CDC (and) the guidance of local health departments" in the Philadelphia region, said Ken Gavin, chief communications officer for the archdiocese.

Letters from senior administrators in the Office for Catholic Education explaining the policy to parents of elementary school children and families of high school students were sent Aug. 24.

Gavin said he hoped the directive would be temporary and added that the education office's leadership "will review this policy every two weeks based on the level of community transmission, which may vary county to county. As with last year, plans will remain nimble pending the evolving pandemic landscape. Flexibility and parent partnership will be key.

"Our goals," Gavin said, "remain to provide a safe learning environment while delivering a high-quality Catholic education."

According to information titled "Catholic Schools Onward" on the Office for Catholic Education website, other protocols enacted since the start of the pandemic include social distancing of at least 3 feet between people, frequent hand washing and surface cleaning, use of masks and the possibility of remote learning, depending on the individual school.

And while daily health and wellness checks are the responsibility of parents, schools will monitor students' temperatures at random.

The mask mandate may become a recommendation if COVID-19 infection rates drop in the region, according to the education office's leaders.

"We recognize that some individuals may support this decision and that others may not," wrote Sister Maureen McDermott, a Sister, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who is superintendent of secondary schools, and Irene Hannan, CEO of Faith in the Future Foundation, in their letter to parents.

"All of us are fatigued by the impact of the virus, but we ask you to continue to work with us as we navigate this pandemic. It has caused all of us to make sacrifices, but working together we successfully managed to keep school communities safe while allowing Catholic education to flourish last year. We promise to work equally hard this year to ensure that your child has a safe and successful school year."

They strongly encouraged all eligible unvaccinated individuals to receive the full dosage, joining the call by many civic and church officials, and Pope Francis, to do so.

The CDC reports that about 60% of the total U.S. population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 51% are fully vaccinated. The daily vaccination rate over a seven-day period ending Aug. 19 has risen about 17% over the rate of the previous week.

Still, many Americans remain fearful of the COVID-19 vaccine, and some are seeking a religious exemption for receiving a dosage.

According to a directive Aug. 18, no priests or parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese should sign a letter or form granting such an exemption.

The archdiocese "strongly recommends" that all Catholics receive the vaccine, "based on the facts that the COVID-19 vaccines and their development have been determined morally acceptable and that we all share a common ethical responsibility to the well-being of our fellow human beings," said Gavin, citing guidance on the matter from the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"Being vaccinated safely against COVID-19," wrote the USCCB, "should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good."

Should individuals seek an exemption for their own reasons of conscience, such a request "is not one for the local church or its clergy to validate," Gavin said, adding "neither the archdiocese nor its parishes are able to provide support" for exemptions.

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Gambino is director and general manager of, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

German bishop says he's skeptical about exempting priests from celibacy

OSNABRÜCK, Germany (CNS) ─ A German bishop who co-chairs the Synodal Path's forum on priests said he is "skeptical" about exempting Catholic priests from celibacy.

Bishop Felix Genn of Münster said he accepted that people were deciding not to become priests because they did not feel called to celibacy, adding: "Perhaps they will then choose another profession in the church."

The bishop spoke in an interview with the Bistumspresse publishing group in Osnabrück. His remarks were then reported by the German Catholic news agency KNA.

"As a bishop, I also see my responsibility to the universal church," Bishop Genn said in the interview.

He also expressed doubts about whether the forum would come to a clear position on celibacy. He said there was likely to be disagreement on whether it should be voluntary or compulsory.

The bishop called for a change in the status of priests, saying that they must, under no circumstances, continue to always have the final say. Church ministers must not be seen as untouchable, "as people where it seems inconceivable that they could also commit massive mistakes and even crimes."

Stephan Buttgereit, secretary-general of the Catholic Association for Social Services and co-chair of the Synodal Path forum on "Priestly Existence Today," said laypeople were also to blame for this exaltation. When a bishop visited parishes, he said, it was like the comic book characters Asterix and Obelix.

"The chieftain is carried on top of the shield, but there are people below him who lift him up; they could also just let him walk," Buttgereit said.

He said it would be disastrous if the issue of celibacy were blocked in the forum, where clerics have a majority. He said it was important not to "jump too short" but also not to completely reject celibacy, either. He added that the debate should also focus on what it takes to be able to live celibacy well.

The German bishops and a national council of laity designed the Synodal Path to discuss issues of power, sexual morality, priestly life and the role of women in the church.

The pandemic disrupted the schedule of the Synodal Path, which began in December 2019 and was scheduled to run for two years. The aim is to restore trust in the church lost in the clergy abuse scandal after the German bishops' conference released a study that revealed an estimated 3,700 cases of sexual abuse reported in the German church from 1946 to 2014.

Detroit Stories Episode 18: The Front Lines of Mental Health (PODCAST)

As society recovers from a year of stress and anxiety, Catholic Charities counselors ensure those who seek help are able to find it

(0:17) We meet Lisa Elia, a behavioral health therapist at Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, who introduces the symptoms of grief and loss that many teens and young adults have exhibited throughout the stretch of the pandemic.

(3:27) We learn more about the state of mental health across the nation before the onset of COVID-19, and how mental health care providers on the front lines of the pandemic are struggling to avoid burnout themselves.

(4:21) Lisa discusses the collective trauma people have experienced, with depression and anxiety spiking across all ages and demographics. She stresses the need to examine society in terms of trauma response and to refocus the way we think individually.

(7:24) Jackie Smith, clinical director at Catholic Charities, talks about how her team of therapists has seen a 30 percent increase in clients during the pandemic. She talks, too, about the need for new habits and routines to aid stability.

(8:44) Lisa shares her belief that many people have turned back to faith during these difficulties, and emphasizes that the pandemic has changed the way we turn to our own support systems and increase mindfulness in our lives.

(10:40) Lisa and Jackie stress the importance of talking about the losses in order to avoid minimizing our collective and individual experiences. In order to really get through something, they encourage, we have to feel it first.

(12:29) Jackie commends the team of therapists at Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, expressing her gratitude and amazement at this group of professionals who are committed to helping those in need.

Reporting by Dan Meloy; narration by Michael Stechschulte; production by Ron Pangborn

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

Hypocrisy in the church is 'detestable,' pope says at audience

VATICAN CITY (CNS) ─ Hypocrites are afraid of the truth, fearful of who they really are and incapable of truly loving, Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience.

What hypocrites do "is like putting makeup on your soul, like putting makeup on your behavior" and hiding the truth, the pope said Aug. 25 to those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.

All this pretending, he said, "suffocates the courage to openly say what is true and thus the obligation to say the truth at all times, everywhere and in spite of anything can easily be evaded," he said.

The pope continued his series of talks on St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians and focused on the dangers of the law by looking at the apostle Peter's "inconsistency" at Antioch.

Gentile Christians were free from the Jewish law, but there was pressure from people from Jerusalem that caused Sts. Peter and Barnabas to draw back from what the Gospel said.

That is why, in his letter, St. Paul condemns St. Peter "to his face because he clearly was wrong" by trying to appease critics who still observed Mosaic law and to justify his hypocritical behavior.

"Peter had been eating with the Christians of pagan origin without any difficulty; however, when some circumcised Christians from Jerusalem arrived in the city, he then no longer did so, because he did not want to incur their criticism," Pope Francis said.

"Watch out. The mistake was paying more attention to the criticism, to make a good impression than the reality of the relationships," the pope said.

This was serious in St. Paul's eyes, because other disciples imitated St. Peter, and, even though he did not mean to, "Peter was, in fact, creating an unjust division within the community" by not being transparent or clear about what he was doing, Pope Francis said.

In his letter, St. Paul "wanted to remind the Christians of that community that they were absolutely not to listen to those who were preaching that it was necessary to be circumcised, and therefore be 'under the law' with all of its prescriptions," Pope Francis said.

These "fundamentalist preachers," he said, "created confusion and deprived that community of any peace."

In his reproach to St. Peter, St. Paul uses the term "hypocrisy," which "the apostle wanted to combat forcefully and convincingly," the pope said.

Hypocrisy can be seen as a "fear of the truth. It is better to pretend rather than be yourself," he said.

Wherever people are living "under the banner of formalism, the virus of hypocrisy easily spreads," he said, mimicking the kind of strained, forced smile one might see -- a smile "that doesn't come from the heart," but comes from a person "who tries to get along with everyone," but, in the end, gets along with no one.

"Hypocrites are people who pretend, flatter and deceive because they live with a mask over their faces and do not have the courage to face the truth," he said. "For this reason, they are not capable of truly loving" because they are limited by their ego and cannot "show their hearts transparently."

Hypocrisy can be hidden at a workplace "where someone appears to be friends with their colleagues while, at the same time, they stab them behind the back due to competition," he said.

It is not unusual to find hypocrites in the world of politics, when someone lives one way in public and another way in private, he added.

"Hypocrisy in the church is particularly detestable. Unfortunately, hypocrisy does exist in the church and there are many hypocritical Christians and ministers," he said.

Jesus, too, condemned hypocrisy, Pope Francis said, asking people to read Chapter 23 of the Gospel according to St. Matthew to see how often Jesus condemned such behavior.

"Let's not be afraid to be truthful, to speak the truth, to hear the truth, to conform ourselves to the truth, so that we can love. A hypocrite does not know how to love," he said.

"To act other than truthfully means jeopardizing the unity of the church, that unity for which the Lord himself prayed," the pope said.

At the end of the general audience, the pope greeted athletes competing at the Paralympics in Tokyo. He thanked them for showing the world what hope and courage look like.

These athletes, he said, "show how pursuing a sport helps overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties."

May They Rest in Peace: Sr. Helen Therese Mayer, OP

Sr. Helen Therese Mayer, OP, died on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian, Michigan. She was 86 years of age and in the 66th year of her religious profession in the Adrian Dominican Congregation.

Sister Helen Therese was born in Detroit to Matthew and Helen (Simon) Mayer. She graduated from Dominican High School in Detroit; received a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in French from Siena Heights College (University) in Adrian; a Master of Arts degree in French from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and a Master of Pastoral Study degree in Pastoral Theology from Loyola University in Chicago. 

A Memorial Mass was celebrated Wednesday, Aug. 25, in St. Catherine’s Chapel in Adrian.
Sr. Helen Therese Mayer, OP

She ministered for 50 years in elementary and secondary education in Marblehead, Ohio; Rockdale, Wilmette, Chicago, Rockford, Lombard and Burbank, Illinois; Lansing and Brighton, Michigan. This includes two Adrian Dominican schools: 3 years at Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette and 4 years at Aquinas Dominican High School in Chicago. She also taught for one year at Siena Heights College (University). Sister served the Congregation for three years as the Administrative Assistant for the Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter in Illinois. She became a resident of the Dominican Life Center in Adrian in 2016.

Sister is preceded in death by her parents and a brother, Matthew Mayer. She is survived by her loving sister-in-law and her Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

Due to COVID-19 mitigation protocols, the Dominican Life Center is closed to all guests or visitors until further notice. All are welcome to participate in Sister’s wake and funeral via live stream at 

Rite of Committal (burial) for Sister Helen Therese was held on Thursday, 8/19/21, at 1:30 p.m. in the Congregation Cemetery.  A Memorial Mass will be on Wednesday, 8/25/21, at 10:30 a.m. in St. Catherine’s Chapel. The Ritual of Remembering will be held on Wednesday, 8/25/21, at 1:30 p.m. in the Rose Room at the Dominican Life Center. Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Anderson-Marry Funeral Home, Adrian.

Sister ministered in Michigan 3.5 years:

  • St. Patrick School, Brighton (1956-58): Elementary Music Teacher
  • Siena Heights College (University), Adrian (1969-70): College Teacher

Obituaries for clergy and religious who have lived or served in the Archdiocese of Detroit may be emailed to [email protected] Obituaries are printed as they are submitted, but may be edited for grammar and style. Detroit Catholic reserves the right to refuse or edit any submissions.

Regina senior runs for her cancer-fighting coach, sense of accomplishment

WARREN — “When I run, I have this feeling that I’ve accomplished something.”

Grace Zdankiewicz has been running since she was in third grade. Heading into her senior year at Regina High School in Warren, she can look back on a list of noteworthy achievements as the result of her grit and determination to succeed.

And more will come.

“She’s as tough as nails,” says Gregg Golden, starting his 25th year coaching cross country and track at Regina. “She works awfully hard. She makes coaching a lot easier.”

“I am aware of being No. 1 on the team,” Grace responds. “I want to lead by example.”

In the eighth grade at St. Anne, she ran two miles in 12:20 to win the Hanson’s Middle Schools Invitational.

Even before Regina started practices her freshman year, for extra training, she worked out with the boys at nearby De La Salle High School. She held her own and earned their respect. They gave her a nickname, “Fred.”

In the ninth and 10th grade, she played basketball in the winter along with cross country in the fall and track in the spring. She canned a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to help the Saddlelites win a district semi-final game.

Grace committed to concentrate exclusively on running in her junior year. “I wanted to train year-round,” she said. Her winter schedule had her competing indoors at venues such as Saginaw Valley State or Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti or at a showcase event in Geneva, Ohio. She spiced up her summer workouts with weekend races in invitationals ranging from Traverse City to Sterling Heights.

In the beginning, it was her mother, Annie, who inspired Grace. “She ran for the pure enjoyment of it. Even now she runs. I’d say she runs more than me,” Grace said. Annie is also one of Regina’s assistant coaches.

Then, there’s coach Gregg. “He inspires me so much. He has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. But sometimes he’s not able to run. So, I run for those who can’t always do it. Even on days when he has chemo, he’s with us by sending us messages.”

Golden has been Grace’s coach for almost as long as he’s been fighting the cancer, about four years. “He’s defying the odds,” she says.

In the spring, the coronavirus sidelined Grace for three weeks. “I got it fairly bad,” she says, “but I kept running through the whole thing by myself. The (Catholic League and MHSAA state) finals would start when I got back. I told myself that I couldn’t stop now.”

She has since received two jabs of the COVID vaccines.

She’s been unstoppable the last two years. In cross country, she won nine races last fall, including repeat victories in the CHSL finals and MHSAA regionals.

In track, Grace won the 1600-meter seven times and the 3200 five times. In both events, she won the CHSL championship and the MHSAA regional.

Last Friday, Golden sent Grace and seven teammates to the Lamplighter Invite under the lights at Livonia’s Ford Field. “It was a cool event,” the coach says. “We started at dusk and finished in the dark. It was the first time the girls had raced at night.”

Grace came in second with a 20:18 time. “I didn’t like running in the dark. I couldn’t see well. Combined with the hot, muggy weather, I felt dizzy,” she said.

But she found another source of inspiration.

She was 59 seconds behind winner Meghan Ford, a sophomore from Mason, who finished second in the MHSAA Division 2 finals last year, 13 slots ahead of Grace. “I knew I wouldn’t catch her tonight, but I will be up there with her” Nov. 6 at the state finals.

Golden was pleased with the team’s third-place finish, particularly that two of the team’s top five runners were freshmen: Elizabeth Ambroggio (22nd, 23:02) and Natalie Lentine (26th, 23:23). Sophomore Kennedy Roskopp came in 10th with a 21:07 clocking and senior Jessica Jarski, 19th at 22:16.

Rounding out Regina’s crew were senior Samantha Brown (33rd, 23:57), sophomore Gianna Switalski (58th, 27:44) and freshman Sofia Switalski (62nd, 28:47).

This Saturday, Regina will be one of 10 CHSL schools among 19 Catholic high schools in the Michigan Catholic Cross Country Invitational sponsored by the Knights of Columbus at the St. Francis Retreat Center in Dewitt, north of Lansing.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].

High court orders Biden administration to restore Trump-era border policy

WASHINGTON (CNS) ─ The U.S. Supreme Court late Aug. 24 said the Biden administration must restore a Trump-era immigration policy known as "Remain in Mexico."

The Migration Protection Protocols policy, or MPP, as it is is formally known, was first implemented in 2019 and required asylum-seekers be returned to Mexico to await adjudication of their cases.

Critics of the policy said these migrants regularly faced dangerous and inhumane conditions in Mexico.

The high court, in an unsigned order, declined to block an Aug. 13 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk reinstating the policy.

He blocked Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security from implementing a June 1 memo that formally ended the Migration Protection Protocols.

Kacsmaryk, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, whose jurisdiction is the Amarillo division, stayed his decision for seven days to allow the Biden administration to file an appeal.

The stay expired at midnight Aug. 24, legally mandating the Biden administration to reinstate the policy Aug. 25.

The administration said it will follow the law, while appealing Kacsmaryk's ruling.

It had sought emergency action from the high court to stay the judge's ruling, but the high court said the administration "failed to show a likelihood of success on the claim that the (Mayorkas) memorandum rescinding the Migrant Protection Protocols was not arbitrary and capricious."

President Joe Biden had called a halt to the protocols Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. The Mayorkas June memo formally ended the policy and allowed applicants with open cases to enter the United States.

An earlier challenge to this memo, filed by the states of Texas, Missouri and Arizona, was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court June 21.

Kacsmaryk's 53-page ruling came in a different lawsuit filed by Texas and Missouri. He said that in terminating the policy, the Biden administration had violated the Administrative Procedure Act, a law that dictates what procedures agencies must go through to implement certain policies.

Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., or CLINIC, said the Supreme Court's order will "deepen human suffering and continue to erode U.S. law and values at the U.S.-Mexico border."

"'Remain in Mexico' is an assault on human rights and U.S. asylum law," she said in an Aug. 25 statement. "Both are already under attack due to the Biden administration’s decision to keep Title 42 in place."

Title 42, is a provision of U.S. public health law that was activated by the Trump administration to expel migrants at the border, with the exception of minors, over COVID-19 concerns.

"Our message to the Biden administration at this critical moment is clear: We will hold you to your promise to restore the soul of America. To do so, you must take immediate action to end 'Remain in Mexico,'" Gallagher added.

CLINIC cited a February 2021 study by Human Rights First documenting over 1,500 cases of asylum-seekers and migrants -- including 350 cases of children -- who it said were "murdered, raped, tortured, violently assaulted or kidnapped due to forcible return to Mexico under this policy."

"The full picture of the human devastation caused by this inhumane policy is unknown, as the overwhelming majority of the tens of thousands of people affected have not been interviewed or been able to share their story," according to CLINIC.

In his ruling, Kacsmaryk, an appointee of President Donald Trump, said the states of Texas and Missouri are being harmed by Biden's reversal of the policy because when migrants are released into the U.S., they are using health care services, and because their children must be enrolled in U.S. schools, they are straining educational resources.

He also said that in his memo, Mayorkas did not acknowledge the rise in border crossings. According to The Texas Tribune, U.S.-Mexico border apprehensions for the fiscal year surpassed 1 million in June.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an Aug. 14 statement that "dangerous criminals are taking advantage of the lapse in law enforcement and it's resulting in human trafficking, smuggling, a plethora of violent crimes, and a massive, unprecedented burden on state and federal programs for which taxpayers must foot the bill."

He said Biden must act to end the "lawlessness" that he said is destroying our communities.

Australian legal scholar: Pell trial was vendetta by police, prosecutors

SYDNEY (CNS) ─ Victoria's policing and criminal justice systems erred so seriously in relation to Cardinal George Pell that it shows that not even victims of abuse or bona fide complainants, let alone an accused person like the cardinal, could rely on them, said Jesuit Father Frank Brennan, Australian legal expert.

The law professor and rector of Newman College at the University of Melbourne attended key parts of Cardinal Pell's trials and appeals and had access to court transcripts.

He became convinced that the cardinal was innocent of the historical sexual abuse charges brought against him and that he should never have had to face them.

In an exclusive interview with The Catholic Weekly, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Father Brennan was scathing in his assessment of the police work conducted under the former Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton and subsequent failures that saw Cardinal Pell imprisoned for 13 months until his release through a unanimous decision of the High Court of Australia in April 2020.

Father Brennan's latest book, "Observations on the Pell Proceedings," was published in April. His exclusive 8-page analysis by of the entire case will appear in the Sept. 5 September edition of The Catholic Weekly.

Father Brennan said he "cannot forgive" the actions of the Victorian Police and the Victoria director of public prosecutions in the cardinal's matter and believes they were the result of a political vendetta against the prelate.

These caused both the cardinal and his accuser months of unnecessary agony and had consequences for genuine complainants and victims of abuse, he said.

"All of us, including those of us in the church, but also victims and bona fide complainants, need to be assured that the legal system was doing its job," said the priest.

Father Brennan, an adjunct professor of law at the Thomas More Law School at Australian Catholic University, said the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had done the necessary work in shedding light on "deficient" management structures in the church that had put children at risk. But along with a separate Victorian parliamentary inquiry, this also resulted in an environment where the cardinal could become a scapegoat.

Upon his appointment as archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, Cardinal Pell had established the Melbourne Response in consultation with the Victorian Police and Victorian legal authorities, yet there was still a perception that he had failed to make necessary changes in the interests of children in the church, Father Brennan added.

"By the time it came to (his) trial, there's no doubt that a lot of people in Australia, particularly in some of the media, particularly in the Victoria Police, were looking for both a scapegoat and a victim," he said.

"Sadly, the two most senior judges of Victoria, the chief justice and the president of the Court of Appeal, I think were infected with the same sort of mentality that the juries had when they came to this case.

"They were not sufficiently dispassionate to look at the evidence and say there's no way at all that a jury could be convinced on this."

Father Brennan was commissioned by the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference to observe the court proceedings and report on them once a suppression order was lifted.

He said he became convinced of the cardinal's innocence when prosecutor Mark Gibson, whom he knew to be "an honorable man and a good lawyer," struggled in vain to find the six minutes when the offending against two choristers after a solemn high Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral was alleged to have occurred. But that was only one of the many serious problems with the case against the cardinal.

"You're left thinking of the enormous resources the police invested (when all they were) interested in was getting Pell charged," Father Brennan said.

"They knew that by getting him charged, they would have destroyed his reputation, and that's what it was, a sting operation."

While the case "did no favors" to Cardinal Pell or the Catholic Church, it also did not help victims or bona fide complainants, Father Brennan said.

The priest said he is appalled that both the cardinal and his accuser, known as Witness J, "were put through extraordinary agony of different sorts by incompetent policing and by a director of public prosecutions who should have known much better than to make a show trial of this one."

Despite some public differences on a number of issues, the Jesuit said that his relationship with the cardinal has grown "quite friendly" over the past two years.

"I would say that he is an honorable man, and having got to know him more as I did, I was left in even less doubt, if that was possible, that he could have possibly done what was alleged," Father Brennan said.

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Rodrigues is a reporter for The Catholic Weekly, Sydney.


Catholic Charities adult day center offers clients loving care, respite for caregivers

While clients are treated to a day of socialization and stimulating activities, caregivers get a chance to refill their own emotional tanks

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Four days a week, Dominic Perrino holds his wife’s hand and walks her into Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan’s Adult Day Center for a day of socialization and activities. 

The center, located at St. Lucy Church, provides Olga Perrino with stimulation and community in the form of daily sing-alongs, puzzles and kind caregivers. It also provides Dominic an opportunity for respite from the never-ending emotional and physical toll of caring for a loved one. 

Olga, along with four other clients who visited the Adult Day Center on Aug. 19, has dementia, and as important as it is for her cognitive health to be there, it’s just as important for their caregivers, who often are spouses, said program director Nikki Harvey. 

“You can’t be a good caregiver unless you get that respite or that break for yourself,” Harvey told Detroit Catholic. “If you are a full-time caregiver, you can’t be expected to put on a sing-along and do mentally stimulating activities when you are trying to pay your own bills and clean your house and run your own errands.”

Instead of putting their loved ones in front a television all day, clients can bring them to the center, where staff and other guests provide a welcoming environment, Harvey said.  

“Here, they are socializing, they are exercising, which means that they are typically going to be more tired at night,” Harvey said. “They are going to sleep well. It is just as important for the caregiver to get respite.”

The center at St. Lucy is one of two such care centers run by Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan. The other is located in Oakland County near Sacred Heart Parish in Auburn Hills. Since 1983, Catholic Charities has provided supervised daytime care and activities for adults who are forgetful, confused, or physically frail and need loving, supervised assistance during the day. 

Catholic Charities’ Adult Day Center in Oakland County has offered services to vulnerable seniors and their caregivers since 1983, the longest-running program of its kind in the county. Catholic Charities in Macomb County has provided adult day services since 1984.

The group does sing-alongs every day, and around once a month, a musician comes to perform for them. 

The current group is small, Harvey said. Operating as a staff of two with two consistent volunteers, the center is currently using a temporary single classroom, with a plan to move into the former YMCA day care space next door.

The center can accommodate any adult over the age of 18 who needs assistance, supervision or company, Harvey said. However, the average age of program participants in St. Clair Shores is around 75 years old, and all have some form of dementia.

The day care center is staffed by two full-time employees and two regular volunteers, and the group currently meets in a single classroom, with a plan to move into the former YMCA day care space next door. 

Every day, the group begins with a history lesson, breathing exercises and sharing of memories and stories. Harvey said activities are mentally and physically stimulating, such as card games, bingo, bowling and beach ball toss. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, clients would receive visits from Girl Scouts, and were provided with cooking and baking opportunities and animal therapy. 

“We sing every single day,” Harvey said. “Since we reopened, we have utilized technology a lot more. We used to do things pen and paper, but now we do (activities) on the TV.”

Olga Perrino has been attending the program for two years and doesn’t miss a day, Dominic Perrino said. 

“She loves it here. Not only do the people treat her well, but they are super nice and she enjoys it. They have a lot of activities that she does –– they paint; they exercise,” Dominic said. “We don’t socialize too much because it is hard for her, so this is good social time for her.”

Olga Perrino said she is not normally talkative, but “here I talk to everybody.” Her husband, Dominic, drops her off four days a week so that she can socialize and he can take a healthy break from the stress of caregiving. 

While Olga stays at the center, Dominic uses the time to see his grandkids and play golf. Caring for Olga can be challenging, Dominic said, as she often repeats herself and struggles to remember. However, he feels she is treated with dignity by the caregivers at the center. 

“Sometimes when you are in the lowest place, you find the best people,” Dominic said. “It’s not about the place; it’s the people who handle it. “

Olga thrives with socialization and told Detroit Catholic she enjoys the puzzles and singing. 

“I really like it here. I am usually not very talkative, but here I talk to everybody,” Olga said. 

While the program serves clients and their caregivers, it also provides an opportunity for the volunteers to give back. Cathy Campbell was looking for something to fill her time after retiring, and a friend alerted her to Catholic Charities. 

“My mom had Alzheimer’s, my dad had dementia, and I was an only child,” Campbell said. “If I had known there was a service like this at the time, it would have been so rewarding because the caregiver is tired 24/7. It is a hard job.”

Olga Perrino listens to the daily history lesson. The group does breathing exercises and shares memories and stories each day. Harvey said the center keeps activities mentally and physically stimulating, such as card games, bingo, bowling and beach ball toss.

Campbell said she strives to be the kind of volunteer she would want for her parents out of a care program like this one. 

“You want someone to be kind and gentle and understanding,” Campbell said. “It is about giving and giving from the heart. It is not about a paycheck — not at all.” 

Working with dementia and Alzheimer’s clients takes patience and understanding — including a willingness to listen to the same stories over and over, Campbell said, which is why it’s so critical for caregivers to get respite. 

“You need to have a quiet space for yourself for when this is all over with at the end of the day,” Campbell said. “Go get your nails done, go and turn on ‘Chicago PD.’ You have to take care of yourself –– that is the one thing you need in order to care for others.”

Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan’s Annual Celebration

In-person registration for Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan’s Annual Celebration on Sept. 11 at the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroit is sold out, but registration for the virtual livestream is still available for $25. 

This event will include a performance by Catholic singer, storyteller, and inspirational speaker ValLimar Jansen. Proceeds from the event support Catholic Charities’ offices and ministries throughout Metro Detroit, which serve an estimated 20,000 individuals each year. 

Anatomy of a pierogi: Inside the Sweetest Heart of Mary Pierogi Festival (VIDEO)

DETROIT — Ask anyone in Detroit where to get the best pierogi in southeast Michigan in mid-August, and the answer is the same.

That’d be Sweetest Heart of Mary Church on Russell Street, of course. 

For four decades, the historic Polish parish’s Pierogi Festival has offered mouth-watering food, traditional dancing and music, reverent liturgies and a small-town community feel. 

Catholics and non-Catholics alike travel miles — sometimes from out of state — to experience the best Polish fare Detroit has to offer. This year’s 40th Annual Pierogi Festival offered a chance for festival-goers to return to the church’s roots.