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November 4, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Feast with elephants
In the Christian heartland of Kerala, feisty church festivals are commonplace, but the celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima at St. Mary's Assumption Church in Kottekad remains unique. Emulating a typical Hindu pooram, or festival, when the deities are carried in procession to the temples on elephants to the accompaniment of traditional bands called "panchavadyam," a portrait of Our Lady of Fatima was carried to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church on elephants Oct. 20.
Anto Akkara/cns

Monks can sell caskets
A monk lays out and attaches the inner lining to a casket during the manufacturing process at St. Joseph Abbey in St. Benedict, La., in 2008. The U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 15 confirmed the monks have a legal right to sell handcrafted caskets by rejecting a request by Louisiana's board of funeral directors that the court overturn an appeals court ruling that said the monks can sell caskets without having to be state- licensed funeral directors.
Frank J. Methe/cns

Repeal death penalty

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Each autumn brings a new list of Catholic schools that have closed their doors or consolidated with another school or schools. Faced with ever-rising education costs and the emergence of free charter schools, it becomes more and more difficult to compete.

But look a bit north of the Philadelphia Archdiocese to Allentown to find a diocese that is bucking the trend.

It wasn't always that way — up until three years ago the Allentown Diocese had 15 straight years of declining enrollment and was down to about 12,000 students systemwide. Last year, the streak was snapped and enrollment was up by 120, according to James S. Friend Jr., Allentown's secretary for stewardship and development.

Allentown was the only diocese in Pennsylvania to show a school enrollment increase and the only diocese in the Northeast states to show an increase in elementary school enrollment.

It wasn't a fluke — this year's overall enrollment was up by about 1 percent. A modest increase certainly, but a big improvement over more than a decade of average declines of five percent annually. Allentown will be quite content if it can grow the system by 3 percent a year into the future.

Allentown Bishop John O. Barres established a Bishop's Commission of Catholic Schools, which was made up of two school pastors, one college dean of enrollment management, one college accounting professor, one public school grant writer and seven fairly aggressive business CEOs, and that latter group may have been key. If you want to sell a product, listen to people who know how to sell products.

The first item on the agenda was recognition that Allentown Catholic schools were a good product but they just were not being effectively marketed. Utilizing Pennsylvania Department of Education data, the Allentown Diocese trumpeted the fact that 97 percent of its graduates went on to a four-year or two-year college.

The high college admission rate was publicized through billboards that also mentioned a sweetener — there were transfer grants of up to $3,000 for students who transferred into the Catholic schools. One huge help is the dramatic increase in the state's Educational Improvement Tax Credits, known as EITC, and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits, or OSTC, funds received by school parents, through which businesses may offset grants to scholarships by Pennsylvania tax credits.

Repeal death penalty

CONCORD, N.H. — Bishop Peter A. Libasci of Manchester declared his support of a bill in the state Legislature that would repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire." What we must call for in a civilized society is not retribution but restitution," Bishop Libasci said at an Oct. 24 press conference in Concord, the state capital. A new effort is underway to repeal the death penalty in the Granite State, at least the third attempt to do so dating back to 2006.

Catholics acquitted

WASHINGTON — Five Catholics protesting U.S. drone warfare policies said they were stunned but relieved to be found not guilty of disorderly conduct for their roles in an Ash Wednesday demonstration at an upstate New York air base. DeWitt Town Court Judge Robert L. Jokl Jr. said he had not found "mens rea," Latin for guilty mind, in the actions of the five during the Feb. 13 protest at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base.

Tom Foley

Tom Foley dies

Former House Speaker Tom Foley, a retired Democratic congressman from Washington state who served in Congress for 30 years, died Oct. 18 of complications from a stroke at age 84.

Foley had been in hospice care at home much of the year after suffering a stroke last December followed by pneumonia in May. He served as House speaker from 1989 until early 1995. He was the first sitting speaker since the Civil War to lose a re-election bid, which he did in November 1994 amid the "Republican revolution." Foley, a Catholic, had differed with American church leaders on some issues, most notably abortion.

Missal in Spanish

WASHINGTON — Anyone who's familiar with the arduous, years-long process of getting English-language liturgical texts into use might be a bit surprised to learn that there is no comparable system for single-source Spanish translations of missals and other liturgical books. In the United States, priests celebrating daily or weekly Mass, a wedding or other liturgy in Spanish have a choice of using texts of the second edition Misal Romano approved for use by any national bishops' conference. Unlike the system for English liturgical texts, no multinational entity oversees the translations from Latin — it's just between the individual nations' bishops' conferences and the Vatican. In the U.S., which has never adopted an official Spanish translation, it's a matter of the priest's — or perhaps the local bishop's — preference whether to use the Misal Romano of Mexico, Argentina, Spain or any other Vatican-authorized translation. That could change as soon as next fall, if the U.S. bishops accept recommended changes on the agenda of their Nov. 11-14 meeting in Baltimore.

Vet's faith deepened

DUNDALK, Md. — U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. Leo Wojciechowski had just unloaded bombs targeting the Blechhammer synthetic oil refinery on the Nazi-occupied Czech-Polish border when he felt his B-24 shudder. Anti-aircraft fire had struck the nose gunner's plane during the Aug. 7, 1944, mission, causing it to lose speed and altitude as gasoline flooded the rear of the compromised aircraft. Wojciechowski and the nine other crew members had only one option: jump. It was a fateful step that would ultimately lead to more than a year of harrowing experiences inside prisoner of war camps for Wojciechowski — and, ultimately, a deepening of his Catholic faith.

Program remains

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia archdiocesan task force appointed last March to analyze the viability of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary's college division has unanimously recommended that the division remain open, the seminary announced Oct. 22. The panel also called for a strategic plan to be implemented over the next three to five years to provide a vibrant, sustainable house of formation and education for future generations of seminary students.

Archbishop Berhaneyesus Souraphiel

Ethiopian university

Ethiopian Catholic Archbishop Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa is pictured during his visit to Washington Oct. 24. The archbishop spoke to Catholic News Service about ongoing plans to finance and construct the first Catholic university in Ethiopia. The developing university currently offers social work and technology degrees in classrooms on rental property. The government has donated land for a campus in the capital city.

Christie won't fight

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey's governor withdrew his appeal of a state judge's ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry, saying through a spokesman that he "strongly disagrees" with the court "substituting its judgment for the constitutional process ... or a vote of the people," but acknowledged such marriages are now "the law." Republican Gov. Chris Christie's Oct. 21 decision came hours after same-sex couples across New Jersey exchanged vows at midnight.

Hispanic presence

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The fact that Spanish-speaking and Latino Catholics are fast becoming a major segment — already about one-third — of the Catholic population in the U.S. wasn't lost on a range of Catholic Hispanic leadership gathered Oct. 17-20 for a regional encounter. "This growth is a blessing, but also it comes with a lot of challenges: We need to find a way to integrate the Hispanic community in fullness into the life of the church in the United States," said Gustavo Valdez, a director of Hispanic ministry for the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., which encompasses the entire state of South Carolina. "We see the problem that the Hispanic community is growing in its own way and the Anglo community is trying to maintain parishes in the U.S., but we may not have that communion of communities, and sometimes we are trying to assimilate each other," Valdez said. Valdez was among more than 150 leaders in Hispanic ministry who met in St. Augustine to share their pastoral and communications strategies — including many social media and Internet-based tools — and to take up the challenge to help step up the pace and effectiveness of Hispanic church leadership across the country.

Persecution intensified

MANCHESTER, England — The persecution of Christians around the world has intensified over the last 2½-years, according to a review of religious freedom in 30 countries. Not only are Christians in the Middle East and Africa suffering increasingly from Islamist terror attacks, but they continue to endure severe persecution and hardship in Communist, Marxist or post-Communist states, said a 192-page report by the United Kingdom branch of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

No out for mayors

OXFORD, England — French Catholics criticized a Constitutional Court judgment denying local officials the right to opt out of conducting same-sex marriages. Antoine Renard, president of France's National Federation of Catholic Family Associations, charged that the court was operating under political pressure in issuing its decision. "This ruling could have dramatic consequences for religious freedom both here and abroad," he said.

Missionaries in Mongolia

PERTH, Australia — When Bishop Wenceslao Padilla arrived in Mongolia with two other missionary priests in 1992, there were no Catholics in the Central Asian country. His mission was much like that of the early apostles: to take Catholicism to a land that had not yet encountered it. Twenty-one years later, there are more than 900 Catholics in Mongolia, 71 religious priests and sisters from 12 congregations, four Catholic parishes and a 600-seat cathedral in the capital, Ulan Bator.

— Catholic News Service

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