February 23, 2010

Bishops Call for Bipartisan Action to Advance Health Care Reform That Protects Human Life and Dignity

WASHINGTON — On the eve of the White House Health Care Summit, the U.S. Bishops urged Congressional leaders “to commit themselves to enacting genuine health care reform that will protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.” In their February 24 letter to Congressional leadership, the bishops also cited their longtime support of adequate and affordable health care for all, calling health care a basic human right.
The letter was signed by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chairs of the bishops’ committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life Activities and Migration, respectively.
The bishops urged the House and Senate to adopt legislation that ensures access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all; retains longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them; effectively protects conscience rights; and protects the access to health care that immigrants currently have and removes current barriers to access.
“We hope and pray that the Congress and the country will come together around genuine health care reform that protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all,” said the bishops.
For more information about the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ teaching on health care reform, visit www.usccb.org/healthcare.
Full text of the bishops’ letter follows.

February 24, 2010

The Honorable Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader

Dear Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), we strongly urge the congressional leaders from both parties meeting on February 25, 2010 to commit themselves to enacting genuine health care reform that will protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.  It is time to set aside partisan divisions and special interest pressures to find ways to enact genuine reform. We encourage the Administration and Congress to work in a bipartisan manner marked by political courage, vision and leadership.

The Catholic bishops have long supported adequate and affordable health care for all, because health care is a basic human right. As pastors and teachers, we believe genuine health care reform must protect human life and dignity from conception to natural death, not threaten them, especially for the voiceless and vulnerable.

We believe health care legislation must respect the consciences of providers, taxpayers, purchasers of insurance and others, not violate them. We believe universal coverage should be truly universal and should not be denied to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from or when they arrive here.

Providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority.

The U.S. Catholic bishops continue to urge the House and Senate to adopt legislation that:
  • Ensures access to quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all;
  • Retains longstanding  requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protects conscience rights; and,
  • Protects the access to health care that immigrants currently have and removes current barriers to access.
For details on the bishops’ positions on health care, please visit www.usccb.org/healthcare.

We will continue to work vigorously to advance true health care reform that ensures affordability and access, keeps longstanding prohibitions on abortion funding, upholds conscience rights, and addresses the health needs of immigrants. Dialogue should continue and no legislation should be finalized until and unless these basic moral criteria are met. Without commenting on specific proposals that may be brought to the summit, we will work to ensure that legislation meets these criteria and will oppose legislation that does not meet them.

We hope and pray that the Congress and the country will come together around genuine health care reform that protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.


Bishop William F. Murphy
Diocese of Rockville Centre
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Chairman, Committee on Pro-life Activities

Bishop John Wester
Diocese of Salt Lake City
Chairman, Committee on Migration

February 22, 2010

USCCB Liturgist: Welcoming Catechumens into Church a Job for all Catholics

WASHINGTON — During Lent candidates for the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) experience final preparation to become members of the Catholic Church.  The “Elect,” as they are called, rely on the whole Church to welcome them.Father Richard Hilgartner, assistant director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship at the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops offered ten things Catholics can do to welcome new members into the Church.

10 Things to Consider for the RCIA
  1. Pray
    Parishes post the names, and often times photos, of those preparing for baptism and reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church, so that the community can offer support. Parishioners can commit to pray for a particular member of the elect and let them know of this gift of prayer as they prepare for Baptism.

  2. Listen
    The journey of those in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) can be an example for all, as the Elect listen intently to the Word of God and take concrete steps to follow Him. Their steps can inspire, especially during Lent as Christians strive to follow the Lord more closely. Time spent hearing their stories and experiences can move listeners’ hearts. 

  3. Participate
    The RCIA process includes a number of public rituals in Lent: the Rite of Election, the Scrutinies, and the Preparation Rites. Many of these take place at Sunday Masses in parishes. Attending those Masses is a way to show support for the Elect.

  4. Attend the Easter Vigil
    The Great Vigil of Easter is the “night of nights,” the liturgy for Holy Saturday declares. It is the night during which the Church keeps vigil for the resurrection of Jesus.  It is during the Easter Vigil that the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are celebrated and new members are welcomed into the Church.  This “most blessed of all nights,” as the Exsultet on Holy Saturday proclaims, celebrates in ancient rituals the central mysteries of the faith. This celebration is long, but it is the heart of the Church’s worship and speaks clearly to fill participants with the joy of the Resurrection.

  5. Have a welcoming spirit
    In the weeks after their initiation, the newly baptized, now called “neophytes,” look for their place in the Church community. Parishioners can make them feel welcome by encouraging them to be part of an activity, a group, or a ministry.

  6. Witness
    The RCIA reminds people that God is present and active, that He continues to speak to all. It is a reminder that how you act, what you say, and what you do can reflect the presence of Christ. Being “witnesses” (see Acts of the Apostles 1:8) of what Christ is doing in one’s life speaks to others.

  7. Invite
    As witnesses, Christians are called to share their faith in some way. Sometimes it means noticing others who are searching, who might benefit from encouragement or an invitation to learn more about the Catholic faith. Evangelization calls for a member of the Church to share one’s faith. Just inviting a friend or neighbor to Mass can be a powerful statement that allows the Lord to reach out through this gesture.

  8. Get Involved
    The RCIA has many facets. Each depends on dedicated parishioners (along with the clergy, catechists, and other staff members) to facilitate, teach, lead, and serve as sponsors. There are many ways to shares one’s faith and gifts to become involved.

  9. Ongoing Conversion
    In addition to those preparing for Baptism, the RCIA also includes those already baptized Christians who are preparing for reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church. This can be celebrated any time. Those preparing for reception (and Confirmation and first reception the Eucharist) remind Christians that all are called to follow the Lord, who is always speaking  and calling people to repentance— ongoing conversion and a change of heart— resulting in more authentic disciples.

  10. Know Mystagogy is for all
    After celebrating the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, the newly initiated continue their formation in the faith in the period called Mystagogy (which means “interpretation of mystery”), when they reflect on their encounter with Christ in the sacraments and learn more about their faith. This period is ongoing and essentially what all members of the Church do throughout our lives: grow deeper in faith and relationship with Christ, constantly discerning his will.

February 16, 2010

Bishop Cistone to distribute ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass at Cathedral

Catholics encouraged to grow closer to the Lord through prayer, fasting and almsgiving during holy season of Lent

WHAT: Bishop Joseph R. Cistone will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass.

WHEN : Wednesday Evening, February 16, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.
The ashes come from blessed palms that were distributed last year on Palm Sunday and later burned. Bishop Cistone will bless the ashes and sprinkle them with holy water before the faithful come forward to receive the ashes on their foreheads, all are welcome to receive the ashes.

WHERE: Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption, 615 Hoyt Ave., Saginaw.

SAGINAW — Bishop Joseph R. Cistone will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption.

In the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

While Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, all Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass on this day to mark the beginning of the Lenten Season. During the Mass all are welcome to come forward to receive the ashes as a sign of repentance and mortality. The Sign of the Cross will be traced on each person’s forehead and a blessing will be said.

The Church emphasizes the penitential nature of Ash Wednesday and Catholics who are between the ages of 18 and 59 are called to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meaning they should eat only one full meal and two smaller meals without eating between meals. Also, all who are 14 and older are called to abstain from eating red meat (beef or pork), food made from animal fat, or poultry on those days and all Fridays during the season of Lent.

Ash Wednesday Masses and prayer services are being held across the Diocese of Saginaw. Individual parishes may be contacted for times.

February 5, 2010

Catholic Service Agencies Serving Haitians Call For Rigorous Safeguards In Protecting Haitian Children

WASHINGTON — In a letter to three Cabinet secretaries February 4, the heads of five major Catholic agencies serving Haitian earthquake victims outlined steps that should be taken to ensure the protection of unaccompanied Haitian children in the aftermath of the January 12th earthquake. 
The leaders of Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., and the International Catholic Migration Commission wrote on the topic of Haitian children, February 4, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“The compassion of the American people has been evident in their response to Haitian children who have been left alone after the earthquake,” the executives wrote.  “As social service providers with experience in handling unaccompanied children, we believe that certain processes should be established before such children are brought to the United States and placed in adoption proceedings.”
The letter outlined the following procedures to protect Haitian children:
  • The establishment of safe havens in Haiti so children would have security and proper care;
  • The assignment of child welfare experts to make best interest determinations for each child, including the best placements for children;
  • Family tracing efforts so that children could be reunited with their parents and families;
  • Placement in foster care with refugee benefits for those children whose best interest is served by relocation to the United States; and
  • Expedited consular processing for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with minor children in Haiti, as well as for those with approved petitions for family reunification.

The agency heads stressed that Haitian children who are not already matched with adoptive parents in the United States should only be brought to the United States after it is determined that it is in the interest of the child.
“Family reunification is an important goal and must be protected to the greatest extent possible, while placement with a guardian within Haiti will sometimes prove to be the appropriate course,” they wrote.  “If no family or appropriate guardian is found, and if it is further determined that it is in the child’s best interest not to remain in Haiti, the child should be considered for international placement.”
The executives concluded that, in the long-term, reconstruction funds should include resources to the Government of Haiti to provide protection to unaccompanied children who remain in Haiti.
Read the full text of the letter. 

February 1, 2010

Local Students Rock into Catholic Schools Week with Thicker Than Water

Students from seven local Cathoilc schools packed the Nouvel Catholic Central High School gymnasium this morning to kick off Catholic Schools Week with the Christian rock band Thicker Than Water.