February 24, 2011

USCCB Chairman Supports Wisconsin Bishops on the Rights of Workers

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, expressed his “support for and solidarity” with the Wisconsin bishops’ statement on the rights of workers.

In a February 23 letter to Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, Bishop Blaire wrote, “You and our brother bishops in Wisconsin are offering a timely reminder of what the Church teaches on the rights and duties of workers, including the right to form and belong to unions and other associations, and the obligation to address difficult problems with respect for the rights and needs of all. As you insist, ‘hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers.’”

“Catholic teaching and your statement remind us these are not just political conflicts or economic choices; they are moral choices with enormous human dimensions. The debates over worker representation and collective bargaining are not simply matters of ideology or power, but involve principles of justice, participation and how workers can have a voice in the workplace and economy.”

Recalling the teachings of Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II on unions and the rights of workers, Bishop Blaire praised the Wisconsin bishops for consistently sharing the “teaching of the Church in the midst of this controversy” and made a call to everyone involved to overcome differences and put the common good first.

“We pray that the leaders and people of Wisconsin—and across our nation—will respond to your “appeal to everyone—lawmakers, citizens, workers, and labor unions—to move beyond divisive words and actions and work together, so that Wisconsin can recover in a humane way from the current fiscal crisis.”

Read the full text of the letter.

February 23, 2011

USCCB Decries Refusal to Support Defense of Marriage Act

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issues the following from its Office of General Counsel:

“Marriage has been understood for millennia and across cultures as the union of one man and one woman. Today, the President has instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law reiterating that definition of marriage, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic President just fifteen years ago. The principal basis for today’s decision is that the President considers the law a form of impermissible sexual orientation discrimination.

“This decision represents an abdication of the responsibility of the Executive Branch to carry out its constitutional obligation to ensure that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed. It is also a grave affront to the millions of Americans who both reject unjust discrimination and affirm the unique and inestimable value of marriage as between one man and one woman. Support for actual marriage is not bigotry, but instead an eminently reasonable, common judgment affirming the foundational institution of civil society. Any suggestion by the government that such a judgment represents “discrimination” is a serious threat to the religious liberty of marriage supporters nationwide.”

Anthony R. Picarello, Jr.
General CounselUnited States Conference of Catholic Bishops

February 21, 2011

Bay Area Catholic Schools to consolidate—tradition of strong Catholic schools continues in community

BAY CITY — Following the recommendation of the pastors and pastoral administrators of Vicariate 4, Bay City and Essexville, and the Bay Area Catholic Schools Advisory Council, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, has accepted a recommendation to consolidate Holy Trinity (Bay City), St. James (Bay City), St. John the Evangelist (Essexville) and St. Stanislaus Kostka (Bay City) elementary schools—into three buildings, with the closing of St. Stanislaus School at the conclusion of the 2010-11 school year.

“These decisions are not easy to make,” Bishop Cistone said. “They cause sadness and require changes in peoples’ personal lives. They affect the lives of many people: our students and families, teachers and staff, parish communities and the Diocese in general. Careful, thoughtful and prayerful consideration was given to every aspect.”

Bishop Cistone went on to say: “I wish to assure all the faithful that I remain steadfastly dedicated to ensuring that a strong Catholic education presence will continue in the bay area community and throughout the Diocese. Some may ask, if this, indeed, is the case, why close schools? Unfortunately, current enrollment and financial challenges threaten not only the continued presence of individual schools but the very ability of the Church to provide affordable, quality Catholic education. I wish this were not so; but, it is a reality we all must face. Nonetheless, I remain optimistic that, by consolidating our resources, we will be better poised to not only provide but further strengthen Catholic education throughout the Diocese now and in the future.”

The recent recommendation and approval to consolidate came following a year-long Bay Area Catholic Schools (BACS) evaluation process which identified that nearly 80 percent of all school families and parishioners supported a consolidation. Information collected from parents, school staffs and parishioners further assisted the Bay Area Catholic Schools Advisory Council in determining the most significant factors to use in making a decision about which school building should close.

“It is very important that St. Stanislaus School families know that they will be warmly welcomed and their children well cared for in one of our neighboring Catholic schools,” said Michael Knoff, Bay Area Catholic Schools Administrator. “Our schools share a standard of faith-centered educational excellence; and, while it is difficult to close a school, the consolidation will position BACS to secure its future in the community.”

According to Knoff, there is enough space to accommodate the entire student body of St. Stanislaus at Holy Trinity, St. James and St. John the Evangelist elementary schools. Nearly all St. Stanislaus school faculty and staff will be retained through attrition.

While operating independently, St. Stanislaus School has provided an outstanding Catholic school education for thousands of children during its 100 year history. There are currently 30 preschool students and 43 students in Early 5 thru 5th grade. The total student population of Bay Area Catholic Schools (K-12) is 521.

The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw is home to 22 Catholic schools with nearly 3,500 students. School leaders, teachers and staff are committed to providing students a superior educational experience which includes faith formation, academics, athletics, the arts and community service. The tradition of excellence in educating disciples of Christ began in Saginaw in 1868.

February 15, 2011

Obituary for Fr. George H. Klimas

Local priest was classmate with John Paul II in Nazi occupied Poland

SAGINAW – The Rev. George H. Klimas, 90, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, died Sunday, February 13, 2011 at the St. Francis Home.

He was born on August 9, 1920 in Sosnowiec, Poland, son of Regina (Bonczkiewvcz) and Joseph Klimas. During the Nazi occupation of Poland from 1939 to 1945, he prepared for his vocation in Krakow’s underground seminary and was a classmate with Karol Wojtyla – who later became known to the world as Pope John Paul II (1978-2005).

Father Klimas came to the United States for his theology formation and enrolled at Ss. Cyril & Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 2, 1951 by the Most Rev. Stephen S. Woznicki at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw to minister in the Diocese of Saginaw. Father Klimas became a U.S. citizen on December 12, 1956.

Father Klimas first served as assistant pastor at St. Mary Parish in Alpena during the summer of 1951 and then as assistant pastor at St. Andrew Parish in Saginaw from 1951 to 1953. From 1953 to 1962 he served as administrator at St. George Parish in Saginaw and he was pastor at St. Dominic Parish in Metz from 1962 to 1970. He finally served as pastor at St. Columbkille Parish at Sheridan Corners in Ubly from 1970 until he was granted senior priest status (retirement) in 1976.

The funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, February 18, 2011 at St. Ignatius Church, 585 S. Third St., in Rogers City. The Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, and the Most Rev. Bernard A. Hebda, Bishop of Gaylord, will concelebrate. The Rev. Wolfgang Streichardt will preach the homily. Internment will take place at the St. Dominic Cemetery in Metz.

Visitation will take place from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 17, 2011, at the Beck Funeral Home, 229 N. First St., in Rogers City with a rosary prayer at 6:30 p.m. and vigil liturgy at 7:00 p.m.

Memorials may be given for Masses. Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of the Beck Funeral Home of Rogers City.

February 14, 2011

Top 10 Love Stories in the Bible

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been counting down the Top 10 Love Stories in the Bible on its Facebook page.

# 10: Tobiah and Sarah - A classic story of love at first sight, this couple overcame personal tragedy to establish a long-lasting relationship founded on prayer. (Tobit 7-8)

#9: The Woman of Worth and Her (Unnamed) Husband: A lovely poem praising a woman who can do it all! She and her husband have a wonderful partnership, using their gifts to the benefit of their family and community. (Proverbs 31:10-31)

#8: Hosea and Gomer – Though their marriage was fraught with infidelity and difficulties, their love story speaks to the healing power of forgiveness and its necessity in any loving relationship. (Hosea 1-3)

#7: Abraham and Sarah - No one can say that Abraham and Sarah had it easy. They faced a long move away from family, jealousy, and the challenge of infertility, yet their love was the foundation of a new people, living in covenant with the one true God. (Genesis 12-23)

#6: Moses and Zipporah - While in exile from Egypt, Moses married Zipporah, the daughter of the Midianite priest, Jethro, Though Moses was criticized for taking a foreign wife, Zipporah showed great respect for her husband’s faith and his mission. (Exodus 2, 4 and 18, and Numbers 12)

#5: Zechariah and Elizabeth - These parents of John the Baptist provide a model of lifelong fidelity and righteousness, living their marital love in the heart of their close-knit faith community. (Luke 1-2)

#4: Jacob and Rachel - Tricked into marrying her older sister, Jacob worked for Rachel’s father an additional 7 years to earn her hand in marriage. Jacob and Rachel remind us that true love always requires effort and sacrifice. (Genesis 29-30)

#3: The Bride and Groom in the Song of Songs - This young couple reminds us that passion is not a modern invention! After all, who could resist hearing their beloved say “you ravished my heart with a single glance from your eyes”? Their effusive love for each other speaks to the beauty of loving desire at the heart of a marriage. (Song of Songs 1-8)

#2: Joseph and Mary - Though this marriage definitely faced difficulties even before it started, their faith in each other and even more, in God, allowed them to face each hardship and create a loving family to nurture God’s own Son. (Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2)

Follow the USCCB on Facebook to see what the #1 Love Story in the Bible is.

February 9, 2011

USCCB: Permanent Ban on Abortion Funding Long Overdue

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — A permanent ban on abortion funding is long overdue, which is why the U.S. bishops support the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act (H.R. 3), said a representative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in February 8 testimony to the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee.

“H.R. 3 will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 35 years: The federal government should not use tax dollars to support or promote elective abortion,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“Since 1976 this principle has been embodied in the Hyde amendment to annual appropriations bills funding the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and in numerous similar provisions governing a wide range of domestic and foreign programs. It has consistently had the support of the American people.”

Doerflinger noted that support for the Hyde amendment is so broad that many have assumed it is already a permanent part of federal law when it is actually a rider on the annual Labor/HHS appropriations bill, applying only to funds under that act.

Doerflinger also highlighted the need for more secure protection for the conscience rights of health care providers who do not participate in abortion, citing the substantial role of Catholic hospitals in providing health care in the United States.

“If Congress wants to expand rather than eliminate access to life-saving health care, particularly for the poor and underserved, it should be concerned about any effort to attack the rights of these providers and undermine their continued ability to serve the common good,” said Doerflinger.

The full testimony can be found online at: www.usccb.org/prolife/HR3-testimony-2011-02-08.pdf

MCC: EITC is a 'Fertilizer' for Economic Gardening Efforts

LANSING (MCC) – Michigan Catholic Conference released the following statement yesterday opposing Senate Bill 103, legislation that would eliminate the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The comments below may be attributed to Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO Paul A. Long:

“While not unexpected, it is terribly unfortunate and alarming that the first target of this year’s budget deficit may be low-income working families living paycheck to paycheck. The legislative majority has stated since it took control this legislative session there would not be a tax increase to resolve the budget deficit – yet the first piece of legislation designed to address that shortfall represents nothing but a tax increase on the working poor. Michigan’s low income workers should not bear the burden of setting straight the state’s fiscal house.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit does more to lift low-income workers out of poverty than any other policy. It has enjoyed substantial bipartisan support at both the state and federal levels for several decades and can claim as its biggest proponent President Ronald Reagan. Well-documented and irrefutable research has confirmed the tax credit’s success in lifting children out of poverty (see here, pg. 7). Considering the Michigan Dashboard believes decreasing the number of children living in poverty will contribute to the state’s economic strength, Senate Bill 103 directly contradicts this objective by seeking to eliminate the state Earned Income Tax Credit.

“The state EITC is a pro-family, pro-work policy that reduces poverty, increases workforce participation among low-income families, and makes the state tax system fairer by offsetting disproportionate payroll taxes. It also contributes substantially to local economies and small businesses alike, thereby acting as a ‘fertilizer’ for economic gardening efforts. In order to continue moving low-income workers out of poverty, to encourage work and to address the high number of poor children living in this state, Michigan Catholic Conference looks forward to working with members on both sides of the aisle to preserve and protect the state Earned Income Tax Credit.”

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.

February 8, 2011

March for Life 2011 EXTRA!

Bishop Cistone talks about what it is like to be inside the Verizon Center during the Youth Rally & Mass for Life prior to the annual March for Life last month in Washington, D.C.

February 2, 2011

Bishop: 'You can be like Jesus right now'

The Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone is observing Catholic Schools Week by celebrating Mass with nearly 3,500 students from across the Diocese of Saginaw.

As part of his homily message, Bishop Cistone is sharing the story of St. John Bosco, who at just nine years old was called to lead and care for disadvantaged children with great gentleness and compassion. St. John Bosco, whose feast day was celebrated Monday, January 31, spent his life providing Catholic education, food and housing to hundreds of poor and orphaned boys and girls. Bishop Cistone told the boys and girls gathered for his first three Catholic Schools Week regional Masses that they, too, are called to share the love of the Lord with those they meet.

"Our Catholic schools provide students a superior education, but it is our ability to share the Faith that makes Catholic education a gift," Bishop Cistone said. "I pray that St. John Bosco, in his love for Jesus, will continue to inspire parents, teachers and especially students to live their Faith right now!"

Catholic Schools Week Masses that were cancelled due to heavy snowfall and school closures will be rescheduled.

February 1, 2011

A letter from Bishop Cistone during Catholic Schools Week

Editor's note: The following letter was sent to all Catholic school families, principals, faculty and staff, pastors and pastoral administrators from the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw.

Dear Members of our Catholic School Family,

With great enthusiasm and gratitude, we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, January 30-February 5, 2011. I am so proud of our wonderful students and the many contributions of all those who make Catholic education possible: dedicated principals, teachers, school staffs and volunteers, committed parents, pastors and pastoral administrators who provide excellent leadership, and, in a special way, generous parishioners and benefactors. Thank you for all you do to support Catholic education.

There is no better opportunity to teach the faith than in our Catholic schools, where Christ Himself is revered as the True Teacher. Since becoming the Bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw, I have committed a great deal of time, thought and prayer to our Catholic schools. Our Catholic schools are a treasure. Strengthening them remains a priority for me in my ministry.

Today, our Catholic schools face many challenges. Nonetheless, it is important that we continue to share the good news about all that our schools have to offer. In our classrooms, students learn discipline and how to live their lives in a faith-filled and moral way. As a group they perform among the top in the nation. They provide countless hours of service to such worthwhile causes as feeding the poor, visiting the elderly, and working with the disabled here in our diocese. They raise awareness of important social issues such as abortion and euthanasia. As scholars, athletes, artists and citizens they use their knowledge, gifts and many talents to change the world.

While there is always more work that can be done, we should be encouraged by what I consider signs of hope. This past year, one of our schools broke ground on a multi-million dollar expansion project after doubling the number of students in its school over the past six years. In the fall more than half of our schools reported slight increases in enrollment.
Our Catholic schools have so much to offer our children, our Church and our community. I continue to pledge my personal commitment to do everything within my power to maintain a strong Catholic educational program for our diocese. May Saint John Neumann, in his love for Catholic schools, guide and bless us as we work together to ensure that our schools continue to serve us for generations to come.
With prayerful best wishes, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Revered Joseph R. Cistone, D.D.
Bishop of Saginaw