May 26, 2011

Area High School Students Encouraged to say ‘YES’ to Week of Service in Saginaw

Youth Encounter Service (YES) is accepting youth applications for the weeklong service camp. Those in need of minor home repairs are also being sought.

SAGINAW — The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw is looking for a few good young men and women to participate in a weeklong service camp that allows high school students to learn about and fight poverty, while reaching out to the poor.

Youth will spend five days of their summer vacation, June 19-24, sprucing up yards and making minor repairs to four homes selected in the city of Saginaw. They will even get some help from the Most. Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, who is expected to spend time working at each location during one of the project days.

In addition to mowing lawns, trimming bushes and painting, YES participants will spend part of the week volunteering at various outreach organizations in the community. Evening activities include guest speakers, prayer and reflection on the experiences of the day.

“YES offers participants an opportunity to learn more about human dignity and the effects of poverty on their neighbors. Daily prayer and reflection help the young people develop a better understanding of their Catholic faith and the social teachings of the Church,” said Terri Grierson, Director of the Office of Christian Service.

“We have been taught that to find who we are we must give the total gift of self,” said Mark Graveline, Director of Youth Ministry. “The virtue of generosity leads us to God's plan for our lives. Students don’t need to travel out of the country or even their own community to do mission work and see Jesus in their brother or sister; the YES program has been providing this opportunity for our young people for many years.”

Those in need in the city of Saginaw, and unable to make necessary home repairs, may apply to have their home selected for the effort. Projects need to be such that they can be finished in one week and may include yard work, painting, and limited construction — such as fixing entry doors and locks for safety or installing new steps. Applications for home repairs may be picked up at any Catholic parish in Saginaw.

The YES program has been in existence for more than a decade and its success is due in large part to its dedicated volunteer supervisors, Nicole Bakos and Diane Seidel. Information and applications for those interested in participating may be found by clicking here.

YES is one of many ministries and programs supported by the Catholic Services Appeal.

May 25, 2011

MCC: 6% State Earned Income Tax Credit a 'remarkable improvement'

LANSING (MCC) – With the Governor reportedly scheduled to sign into law today legislation that overhauls the state tax code, Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO Paul A. Long offered the following comments on the component of the bill that establishes a six percent state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC):

“This is a remarkable improvement from where we were at the outset of this legislative session. While the EITC has been significantly reduced from its current 20 percent level, the fact that the credit has been preserved - in light of limited state resources - is a testament to the Legislature’s appreciation for the working poor of this state.

“Michigan Catholic Conference is especially thankful to State Representative Jud Gilbert, chairman of the House Tax Policy Committee, for his efforts to keep the EITC alive and for working within his caucus and across party lines to garner support. The Conference believes the state EITC would not have been preserved without the dedicated efforts of both Democrats and Republicans alike.

“Moving low-income workers and their children out of poverty through good public policy is a matter of justice. The inclusion of the state EITC indicates with certainty that this policy is a cornerstone for the working poor in the state’s tax code.”

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

May 23, 2011

Ordination to the Priesthood 2011

Video highlights from the May 20 ordination of Father Eddie Dwyer, Father Nate Harburg, Father Marcel Portelli and Father Bob Schikora at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption.

View a one minute montage from Ordination to the Priesthood below.

View Bishop Cistone's homily below.

May 18, 2011

Bishop Cistone addresses release of John Jay Report

Diocese of Saginaw restates measures which have been taken to protect children and youth

SAGINAW – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced today the release of a major study related to the issue of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

The report, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002, follows the comprehensive study published in 2004 on the Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002. Both research studies and reports were conducted and provided by the John Jay College for Criminal Justice in New York.

The Nature and Scope report provided information as to what occurred, including the number of abuse incidents, characteristics of the priests involved, and the financial impact, among other factors.

The purpose of the Causes and Context study was “to understand why the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests occurred as it did by integrating research from sociocultural, psychological, situational, and organizational perspectives.”

The Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, released the following statement:

“I welcome the release of the John Jay study on ‘Causes and Context.’ It is an important contribution not only to the Catholic Church but to the broader society as well in better understanding the tragic acts of abuse against minors and developing additional ways of protecting children and young people now and in the future.”

“I encourage people to carefully read the report in its entirety. Over the past decade, so much has been said and written about the terrible abuse of minors by members of the Church and of society in general. The John Jay report is unique in its scope and depth, and supports its findings with facts and data gleaned from clinical analysis, historical records, surveys, extensive interviews, as well as contributions made by experts.”

“I realize that each and every time such news and attention is given to this issue, many victims and survivors of sexual abuse relive the painful experience and memories. I express, once again, my sincere sorrow to the victims and survivors for the harm inflicted upon them and to all the members of the Church who suffer because of this evil and criminal behavior. I wish to assure them of my prayers and commitment to protect our children and young people now and in the future.”

The Diocese of Saginaw has programs and safeguards in place to help ensure the safety and well-being of young people. In 2003, in accordance with the mandate of the USCCB’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and Essential Norms, the Diocese of Saginaw revised its own Policies and Procedures.

The Diocese of Saginaw mandates all church personnel, as well as volunteers who work with children and youth, be subject to a criminal background check, attend VIRTUS training: Protecting God’s Children for Adults, and abide by the diocesan Standards of Ministerial Behavior Policy. Since 2003, more than 7,000 adults in the Diocese of Saginaw have undergone VIRTUS training, had background checks and signed the Standards of Ministerial Behavior Policy.

The Safe Environment Programs assist church personnel and volunteers to better understand the issue of child sexual abuse, how to prevent abuse, and how to report abuse in accordance with state law. In compliance with the Charter and diocesan policies, there are also programs for children and youth which teach them how to protect themselves and report inappropriate behavior. This includes participation in the Child Lures School Program and the Michigan Model for Health Education.

Since 2003, the Diocese of Saginaw has had in place a Victim Assistance Coordinator who seeks to provide pastoral care and outreach to all victims and their families. The Church of Saginaw hopes to provide healing and reconciliation to all those in need.

The Diocese of Saginaw is also assisted by a Review Board that meets regularly and advises the Bishop on policies and procedures for the protection of children. The Review Board is a confidential consultative body that is composed of six members — five lay people who are not employed by the church and one priest — who bring their areas of expertise in the protection of children to discussions and recommendations. The board also advises the Bishop regarding any allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy.

Under the direction of the USCCB Office of Child and Youth Protection, each diocese is subject to a yearly audit by an independent firm to ensure compliance with the Charter. Since the audit process began in 2003, the Diocese of Saginaw has been in compliance each year.

Those in need of assistance are urged to call or e-mail the Victim Assistance Coordinator, Janet Fulgenzi, OP, PhD, at (989)797-6682 or For more information about the Diocese of Saginaw’s child and youth protection programs, visit and click on the “Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal” link.

John Jay College Reports No Single Cause, Predictor of Clergy Abuse

WASHINGTON (USCCB)— A landmark study by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, which examined the causes and context of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church, concluded that there was no single cause or predictor of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. The report added that that situational factors and opportunity to abuse played a significant role in the onset and continuation of abusive acts.

“The bulk of cases occurred decades ago,” said Karen Terry, PhD., John Jay’s principal investigator for the report. “The increased frequency of abuse in the 1960s and 1970s was consistent with the patterns of increased deviance of society during that time.” She also stated that “social influences intersected with vulnerabilities of individual priests whose preparation for a life of celibacy was inadequate at that time.” Terry also said that neither celibacy nor homosexuality were causes of the abuse, and that priest candidates who would later abuse could not be distinguished by psychological test data, developmental and sexual history data, intelligence data, or experience in priesthood. The development of human formation components of seminary preparation for priesthood is associated with the continued low levels of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the United States, she said.

The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010 report by a John Jay College research team was made public May 18 in Washington. Terry presented the report to Diane Knight, CMSW, Chair of the National Review Board, a group of lay Catholics who oversaw the project and to Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Washington, who chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.

The study also found that the initial, mid-1980s response of bishops to allegations of abuse was to concentrate on getting help for the priest-abusers. Despite the development by the mid-1990s of a comprehensive plan for response to victims and the harms of sexual abuse, diocesan implementation was not consistent or thorough at that time. Yet, the decrease in incidence of sexual abuse cases by clergy was more rapid than the overall societal patterns.

Knight, a social worker from Milwaukee, lauded the work of John Jay. “Through its extensive processes of data collection and statistical analyses,” she said, “the researchers found that the crisis of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests is an historical problem.”

She added that “researchers also concluded that much of what has been implemented through the Charter is consistent with a model response to the prevention of child abuse. However, this in no way should lull us as a Church into complacency.”

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002 and has guided their response in dealing with sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

Bishop Cupich found hope in the documented progress that shows that “what we are doing works” in addressing child sexual abuse. He said that the inability to predict individual sexual deviance “makes the safe environments programs valuable and necessary.” He added that “the Catholic Church has taken a position of zero tolerance of any cleric who would sexually abuse a child.”

“Such a position protects children,” he said. “But it also protects the tens of thousands of priests who have suffered greatly in this crisis, all the while quietly serving with honor and self-sacrifice every day of their lives.”

The way forward for the bishops must be marked by humility and partnerships with others, Bishop Cupich said. “The shame of failing our people will remain with us for a long time. It should. Its sting can keep us resolute in our commitments and humble so as to never forget the insight we came to nearly a decade ago in Dallas. We cannot do any of this on our own.”

Established in 1964, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York is an international leader in educating for justice. It offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law.

Bishop will ordain 4 new Saginaw priests on Friday

SAGINAW - The Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, will ordained four men to the priesthood at 2 p.m. on Friday at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption.

The four include Deacons (pictured with Bishop Cistone from left to right) J. Marcel Portelli, Robert P. Schikora, Nathan E. Harburg, and Edwin C. Dwyer.

Following their ordination, the new priests will report to the following parish assignments, effective July 1,
  • Father Edwin C. Dwyer, to Parochial Vicar, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Midland. Father Dwyer also will assist Father Steven Gavit in ministry to Nouvel Catholic Central High School and Saginaw Valley State University Newman Apostolate.
  • Father Nathan E. Harburg, to Parochial Vicar, St. Michael Parish, Port Austin, and St. Mary / St. Edward Parish, Kinde.
  • Father J. Marcel Portelli, to Parochial Vicar, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Chesaning, St. Michael Parish, Oakley, and St. Cyril Parish, Bannister, with primary responsibility to St. Cyril Parish. Father Portelli will reside at St. Cyril Parish.
  • Father Robert P. Schikora, to Parochial Administrator, St. Denis Parish, Lexington, and St. Patrick Parish, Croswell. Father Shikora will reside at St. Denis Parish.

May 17, 2011

Catholic schools and parish education programs walk away with more than $71K from BIG Raffle Celebration

SAGINAW — There were some big prizes given away during the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan’s BIG Raffle Celebration this evening, but the biggest winner was Catholic education. Schools and parishes across the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw immediately took home more than $71,000 raised through the sale of more than 29,000 BIG Raffle tickets.

The BIG Raffle, which previously took place during the Bishop’s Charity Ball, has helped to raise more than $1 million for Catholic education since 2007.

The Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, drew the winning tickets of the BIG Raffle this evening. Ron and Marcy Hegenauer were on hand to hear their names called for the top prize, the choice of a new Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Cruze or $10,000. Dolores Lawrence won a trip for two to Rome; Amy Frillici of Alma won the $5,000 home improvement project, while Candi Nadolski of Bay City took home a laptop computer. Three tickets were also drawn for $1,000 cash prizes, and the winners of that drawing were Joseph Luplow of Saginaw; Scott, Kristine and Molly Nowak of Bay City and Mary McCarthy of Saginaw.

An estimated 280 people attended the inaugural BIG Raffle Celebration at Horizons Conference Center. The event was open to the community and the evening included an artists’ auction featuring Inspiring Benches, art cookies, door prizes, great hors d’oeuvres and beverages.

To view photos from the BIG Raffle click here.

The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw includes 105 parish communities and 22 Catholic schools located across 11 counties.

Bishop Cistone calls for special collection for 'Tornado Recovery' : 'I invite all our parishes to do what you can, when you can'

Bishop Cistone shared yesterday the following letter with the Pastors and Pastoral Administrators of the Diocese of Saginaw, calling their attention to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' call for a special collection for the victims of recent widespread tornado damage across the southeast:

Dear Pastors and Pastoral Administrators,

We have all seen the tragic news of the widespread tornado damage in the southeastern United States. Archbishop Rodi, the Archbishop of Mobile and Metropolitan of two of the hardest hit dioceses, Birmingham and Jackson, noted: “Recent tornados have inflicted devastation upon communities in several Southern states from Arkansas to Virginia, with Alabama, particularly the Diocese of Birmingham, suffering the worst damage and loss of life. As I write, the official death toll is now 298, with many more injured. The property loss has not yet been calculated, but it appears that the amount of damage is considerable…It should be noted that the damage from these tornados occurred mostly in mission dioceses that do not enjoy the blessing of substantial financial resources,” and funds collected “will be used to help individuals in need as well as in rebuilding and repairing damaged church-owned buildings.”

In the coming days, a Task Force will analyze the humanitarian and institutional needs of each affected diocese and work with Catholic Charities USA to allocate the funds received. Relying on the compassion and generosity of our people, the US Bishops Conference is encouraging a special collection for relief assistance. While recognizing other special collections which may be scheduled, I invite all our parishes to do what you can, when you can. All donations should be remitted to the Diocesan Christian Service Office. The CSO will forward these contributions to the Office for National Collections for “Tornado Recovery.” Please contact Terri Grierson, the Director of the Christian Service Office, if you have any questions (989-797-6650).

I ask that you pray for those who have lost their lives, those who are suffering physical harm and all the people who struggle to rebuild their lives

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Joseph R. Cistone, D.D.
Bishop of Saginaw

May 16, 2011

More than 29,000 tickets sold for inaugural BIG Raffle benefiting Catholic education, event tomorrow night

SAGINAW — There are some big items up for grabs during the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan’s BIG Raffle tomorrow evening, but the biggest winner will be Catholic education. Schools and parishes across the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw will benefit from proceeds of the more than 29,000 tickets sold.

The BIG Raffle, which previously took place during the Bishop’s Charity Ball, has helped to raise more than $1 million for Catholic education since 2007. Tickets for the drawing have been sold for $5 each in communities across the diocese and tomorrow night the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone will help draw the winning tickets.

Top prizes include the choice of a new Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Cruze or $10,000 Cash (McDonald Chevrolet), Trip for two to Rome (A-M Church supply), $5,000 home improvement project (R.C. Hendrick & Son), Computer Laptop (Yeo & Yeo CPAs & Business Consultants), and three $1,000 prizes.

The BIG Raffle celebration will be held from 5:30 until 7 p.m., on Tuesday, May 17, at Horizons Conference Center. BIG Raffle celebration and drawing tickets can be purchased through noon tomorrow by visiting the diocesan website, All are welcome to the event which includes an artists’ auction featuring Inspiring Benches, art cookies, door prizes, great hors d’oeuvres and beverages.

The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw includes 105 parish communities and 22 Catholic schools located across 11 counties.

Ordination of transitional deacons

Bishop Cistone ordained the Rev. Mr. Alberto Vargas (left) and Rev. Mr. Thomas Held (right) as transitional deacons Friday, May 13, at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption.

Click here to view more photos from ordination.

May 6, 2011

Bishop Cistone announces $5.7 million investment to support Catholic high schools in Bay City, Saginaw

‘Legacy of Faith’ campaign will provide students with superior environment for learning and formation as they grow into disciples of Christ, future leaders

SAGINAW — During an afternoon press conference at the Diocesan Center, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, announced the public phase of a major gifts campaign that will benefit two Catholic high schools located within the Diocese of Saginaw.

In a room full of campaign supporters and diocesan and school staff, Bishop Cistone stated that a combined $4.1 million had been secured for infrastructure enhancements at All Saints Central High School, 217 S. Monroe St., in Bay City, and Nouvel Catholic Central High School, 2555 Wieneke Rd., in Saginaw. An additional $1.6 million has been pledged for tuition assistance and school operations.

“Catholic schools remain our strongest means of forming, developing, and educating our Catholic youth,” Bishop Cistone said. “The strength of our Catholic Church is dependent upon our ability to provide quality and affordable Catholic education in a Catholic school setting. I am committed to making certain that there will be a strong Catholic school program in our diocese for generations to come.”

The infrastructure upgrades at Nouvel will take academic excellence to a new level with the introduction of state-of-the-art learning spaces and laboratories, the renovation of existing classrooms and the removal of the school’s temporary annex building. The phase one investment is $3 million.

All Saints will continue its renowned provision of innovative education, with building enhancements, including a new heating and ventilation system. The physical improvements are phase-one of a multi-phase renovation and expansion project that will provide students with a superior environment for learning and faith formation. The phase one investment is $1.1 million.

Both projects are designed with environmentally friendly building practices and materials, and are expected to be complete when students return to school in the fall.

The Legacy of Faith campaign started in June of 2008 with a feasibility study to identify priority needs. Campaign co-chairs helped to secure generous funds for phase one of the project; teachers and school staff were among the first to support the initiative.

As the campaign moves into its public phase, pledges can be made through the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan. A link to that website will be available at

The Office of Catholic Schools will continue to partner with parishes and schools to analyze and identify the infrastructure and educational needs of Catholic schools throughout the diocese.

There are 3,400 students enrolled in 22 Catholic schools located across the 11-county Diocese of Saginaw.

May 5, 2011

Bishop Cistone to host press conference tomorrow

Bishop Joseph R. Cistone will host a press conference tomorrow, May 6, at 2:00 p.m. He will announce a significant and exciting investment impacting Catholic schools and the local community.

Information will be posted on the DoS News blog following the afternoon announcement.

May 4, 2011

Bishop Cistone announces Mary Ann Deschaine as Superintendent of Schools

SAGINAW – The Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, today announced Mary Ann Deschaine will serve as Superintendent of Schools of the Diocese of Saginaw. She will begin her duties on July 1.

“Mary Ann has great passion for Catholic school education and continuous learning,” Bishop Cistone said. “I am delighted she will assist us in building upon the quality programs already in existence in our Catholic schools throughout the diocese.”

The search for a superintendent was among the first initiatives announced by Bishop Cistone following his installation as sixth Bishop of Saginaw in 2009.

Deschaine earned an Education Specialist degree from Saginaw Valley State University in 2010, a Master of Arts degree in education with a concentration in K-12 educational leadership from Michigan State University in 2004, a Bachelor of Science degree in foods and nutrition from Central Michigan University in 1985 and Montessori teacher certification from the Adrian Dominican Montessori Teacher Education Institute in 1999.

Since 2008, Deschaine, has worked as principal at Elms Road Elementary School in Swartz Creek. Previously, she worked as principal at Atkins Elementary School in Bridgeport from 2005-2008; a kindergarten teacher at List Elementary School in Frankenmuth from 2002-2005; as principal and first-grade teacher at St. Helen Catholic School in Saginaw from 2001-2002; and as directress and teacher at Midland Montessori School, Inc. in Midland from 1998 -2000.

Deschaine is a resident of Frankenmuth and member of Blessed Trinity Parish, where she has long served as a member of the parish council, faith formation catechist, and children’s liturgy of the word facilitator.

“I am honored and eager to serve the people of the Diocese of Saginaw, especially the children and families engaged in many wonderful Catholic school communities,” Deschaine said.

“I have tremendous respect for the personal commitment of Bishop Cistone to strengthen Catholic school education within the diocese. I look forward to developing relationships with the many key leaders of our schools and parishes, and especially with pastors, principals, teachers, staff members and school boards.”

There are 3,400 students enrolled in 22 Catholic schools located across the 11-county Diocese of Saginaw.

May 3, 2011

MCC: Statement on Welfare Reform Legislation

LANSING (MCC) – Michigan Catholic Conference released the following statement opposing legislation passed by the House Families, Children and Seniors committee today that seeks to reform the state’s welfare system by diminishing the number of caseloads and increasing the penalties for those found to be in noncompliance:

“It is regrettable that the legislation passed out of committee this morning will only create more cracks through which families and children will fall,” said Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy Tom Hickson.

“During testimony before the committee several weeks ago the Conference encouraged members to abandon plans to reform the Family Independence Program in light of the fact that the 2006 welfare reform legislation was determined to be working. Unfortunately, the committee has chosen to proceed with measures that will heighten the suffering many of our fellow Michigan citizens and their children are facing today.”

While the Conference recognizes the exemptions that are built into the legislation, and supports the income disregard increase that will allow recipients to work more hours while receiving benefits, it opposes House Bills 4409 and 4410 for the following three reasons:

1. The 48-month lifetime cap for assistance, and the retroactive nature of the legislation, if it were to be enacted, would mean some 12,600 families would immediately lose public assistance. This is akin to changing the rules in the middle of the game. Without any support mechanism built into the legislation for those who will lose assistance, it is inevitable that thousands of families and children will plunge into a dire situation.

2. The legislation shifts the penalty structure for noncompliance in the Jobs, Education and Training (JET) program to a three month ban for the first occasion, six months for the second, and a lifetime ban from public assistance for a third occasion of noncompliance. A lifetime ban on assistance is poor public policy for two reasons:
  • It fails to take into consideration those who are able to find employment but later find themselves in need of assistance due to job loss or any other unforeseen circumstance;
  • Only those with children are eligible to enroll in the Family Independence Program. The legislation fails to address the impact it will have on the children of those who have made repeated mistakes and will be banned for life from receiving assistance.
3. It is highly unfortunate that the legislation does not take into consideration the numerous counties in Michigan where the unemployment levels are up to double the state average. Where are jobs to be found in Lake County, for example, where over sixty percent of the property in the county is publicly owned? Simply put, there are no jobs in these areas, and those who will be kicked off of assistance likely do not have the financial means or ability to relocate immediately.

“Unless the above listed concerns are addressed, the Conference will continue to oppose this legislation on behalf of the most vulnerable residents of Michigan who have no other means to sustain a dignified quality of life,” said Hickson.

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

May 2, 2011

Pope Sends Prayers and Support to Tornado Victims

WASHINGTON (USCCB) — Pope Benedict XVI was saddened to learn of the death, devastation and suffering caused by the April 25-28 tornadoes across the Southern United States and sends his prayers and support to victims and those engaged in relief and rebuilding efforts, according to a message from the Vatican.

In a May 2 communiqué to Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, wrote:

“His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was saddened to learn of the tragic consequences of the devastating tornado which struck Alabama and neighboring states, and he asks you to express his deep solidarity and pastoral concern to those affected by this natural catastrophe. He joins all of you in offering fervent prayers that Almighty God will grant eternal peace to those who have died and consolation and strength to the homeless, injured and suffering. Upon the local civil and religious leaders, and upon all engaged in the work of relief and rebuilding, he invokes the divine gifts of wisdom, strength and generous perseverance.”

Sister in Rome: 'Something like this can only be explained by faith'

ROME - Sister Yvonne Mary Loucks, RSM, of the Diocese of Saginaw traveled to Rome for the beatification of Servant of God John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1.

Today, the day after the beatification, Rome is still packed with pilgrims and activity around the celebration of Blessed John Paul II.

There was a Mass in St. Pter's Square at 10:30 a.m. celebrated by Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State. About 300,000 people attended that Mass. St. Peter's Basilica was opened all night as people passed by the coffin of Blessed John Paul II, leaving piles of written intentions near him. You can be sure that we left the intentions of everyone in the Diocese of Saginaw when we went in to pray. We got in the line at 7:00 p.m., and at 10:00 p.m. we finally entered the
Basilica. It is remarkable how people still press hard to get a glimpse of him. There is truly a sense of his sanctity and of his prayerful concern for all who ask for his intercession.

At 5 :00 p.m. today, the official relic will be transferred to Santo Spirito Church, which is the Roman Church of Divine Mercy. Yesterday at the Beatification Mass, the nun who was cured of Parkinson's disease through his intercession, carried the relic up to the main altar. She had told her story of a complete cure during the vigil preparation for the beatification. She was almost completely debilitated with Parkinson's, and now she is completely healthy through Blessed John Paul's intercession.

It is awonder to us that people still have such intense devotion to Blessed John Paul even 6 years after his death. Without the gift of faith it would be odd to think of going to venerate the remains of a man who died and was buried six years ago. It is also odd to think that two million people from all over the world came to honor him at his beatification. Something like this can only be explained by faith, the very gift that he shared deeply with the whole world.

St. Valentine school to close, neighboring Catholic schools ready to welcome students

KAWKAWLIN — Following the recommendation of the local parish administrator, parish council, school committee and parish and school finance committees, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, today announced his acceptance of a collective recommendation to close St. Valentine School at Beaver upon the conclusion of the 2010-11 academic year.

The recommendation and approval come following a series of meetings of the school committee, parish council and finance committees, which determined the parish could no longer support the rising cost of operating the school.

In a “State of the School” address that was presented to St. Valentine parishioners and school families in February, data showed the per-pupil cost — with the current enrollment of 20 students — was more than $8,500. That cost was expected to rise as the projected enrollment for the 2011-12 school year was 13 students.

“While it is sad to close our parish school, we are thankful that our students will have the opportunity to continue their education at one of our neighboring Catholic schools,” said James Fielbrandt, who has served as principal of St. Valentine since 2002. “Our parents remain committed to Catholic education and the surrounding parishes in our community are generously supporting them.”

In a letter to St. Valentine parishioners, Bishop Cistone wrote, “I am most respectful of the 61-year legacy of St. Valentine School and grateful for the outstanding support of the school by this parish family. I hope that the parents and students currently enrolled in St. Valentine School will make every effort to continue their Catholic school education in neighboring Catholic schools which are prepared to welcome and care for them.”

St. Valentine School opened its doors in 1949 and has provided excellent Catholic education in the Beaver community for more than half a century. Plans will be made to hold a farewell gathering to give teachers, current and former students, families and parishioners an opportunity to celebrate the cherished history of St. Valentine School.

May 1, 2011

Sister in Rome:'The day was filled with celebration'

ROME - Sister Yvonne Mary Loucks, RSM, of the Diocese of Saginaw has traveled to Rome for the beatification of Servant of God John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1.

She reports: "On this day at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Pope John Paul II was beatified in all of the triumph and joy that can be imagined. Several million people from all over the world gathered for the event. The night before the actual Mass, many persons gathered in front of St. Peter's to spend the night waiting to get in to the Piazza the next morning. Pictures show the campers settling down for the night.

This morning very early there were many thousands of people already lined up to get in to the Mass. Many different languages could be heard as pilgrims hurried to get their places near the Basilica. The day was very hot and quite sunny.

At 10:00 the Mass began. The Vicar of the Diocese of Rome read a brief biography of the life of Pope John Paul and requested that the Holy Father proclaim him blessed. This the Holy Father did with great emotion. He said that by the power of his office he publicly proclaimed John Paul II to be blessed in heaven and he will be celebrated on October 22 every year. When the Mass began his image was covered. As he was proclaimed blessed, the cover was lifted and a thunderous applause occurred when the portrait was made visible. The image is a portrait of Blessed John Paul early in his Pontificate. It captures the vitality and love that he conveyed to everyone whom he met. It was a tremendous experience of the great joy of one universal

One outstanding thing occured at the time of the distribution of Holy Communion. At least 1,000 priests, many of them Americans, distributed the Eucharist to persons attending the Mass which covered approximately one full mile. It is estimated that two million people attended the Mass.

The day was filled with celebration. The evening brought the opening of the veneration of the relics. The casket of Blessed John Paul was brought up to the main body of the Basilica. Pilgrims began lining up to pray at the remains of the new Blessed immediately after Mass. This will continue through the night. We were in line for three hours to participate in this beautiful event. During that time we held all of the needs and intentions of the people of the Diocese of Saginaw in our hearts."