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Rev. Walter Kedjierski Named as Executive Director of Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON— Rev. Walter Kedjierski of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York has been appointed as Executive Director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), based in Washington D.C.

Fr. Kedjierski will begin the new position effective June 3, 2019. Msgr. Brian Bransfield, USCCB General Secretary, made the appointment.

"Fr. Kedjierski brings to the Conference an abundance of knowledge and experience in the realm of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, both at the institutional and the personal levels,” said Msgr. Bransfield. "I am very grateful to Fr. Kedjierski for accepting this important position in service to the bishops and to the Conference. I am equally grateful to the Most Reverend John O. Barres, Bishop of Rockville Centre, for his kind consideration of the needs of the Conference and the Church in the United States.”

Since June 2017, Fr. Kedjierski has served as Rector/President of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York, where he first served as Vice Rector and Director of Diaconate Formation, as well as Director of the Sacred Heart Institute for the Continuing Formation of Clergy. Father Kedjierski is also the Director of the Diocese’s Office of Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs, where he served from 2007 to 2010 as Associate Ecumenical officer in charge of Relations with Muslims and Other Religious groups, and in which role he is a member of the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (CADEIO), the Long Island Council of Churches, and the Long Island Multi-Faith Forum. Father Kedjierski was a member of the board of trustees of the Inter-Faith Center of the Islamic Center of Long Island, in Westbury, NY, for three years. He has participated in sessions of the USCCB’s dialogue with the Orthodox Union of Rabbis in New York and facilitated numerous ecumenical and inter-religious dialogues, the latest being a dialogue on non-violence this past fall with Indian Hindu scholar Swami Nikhileswarananda.

Fr. Kedjierski attended the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, graduating with a Master of Divinity in May of 2002. After his ordination to the priesthood on June 8, 2002, he served in parish ministry until June 2016. In May 2011 he earned an Ed.D. in Inter-faith and Ecumenical Education from the Graduate Theological Foundation in Mishawaka, Indiana, and in August 2016, he earned his Ph.D. in Dogmatic/Spiritual Theology from the Graduate Theological Foundation’s Foundation House at Oxford University Program.

Fr. Kedjierski has additionally published several articles on theological and ecumenical topics in journals such as Homiletic and Pastoral Review and the Princeton Theological Review.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Diocese of Rockville Centre, Fr. Walter Kedjierski, Secretariat Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Monsignor Brian Bransfield

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

Bishops Urge That All People Count and Must Be Included in Census Efforts

WASHINGTON—Bishop Frank Dewane, of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Bishop Joe Vasquez, of Austin, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, issued the following statement in advance of the oral argument of Department of Commerce v. New York, before the United States Supreme Court regarding the importance of ensuring an accurate count for the U.S. Census.

“Our country conducts a Census every ten years to count the number of men, women and children residing in the United States. Census data helps direct more than $800 billion annually to key programs designed to advance the common good, strengthen families and reduce poverty. The Catholic Church and other service providers rely on the national Census to provide an accurate count in order to effectively serve those in need,” said Bishop Dewane.

“We urge for all people to be counted in the Census, regardless of their citizenship. Proposed questions regarding immigration status will obstruct accurate Census estimates and ultimately harm immigrant families and the communities they live in. Our society, rooted in the strength of the family, cannot risk missing this opportunity to give children and parents the tools they need to succeed,” said Bishop Vasquez.
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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Joe Vasquez, Committee on Migration, Department of Commerce, New York, United States Supreme Court, U.S. Census, society, family

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

President of U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Statement on Terrorist Attacks atMultiple Churches and Hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday

WASHINGTON—The following statement has been issued by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United StatesConference of Catholic Bishops regarding simultaneous explosions in Sri Lanka targeting the country’s minority Christian community as well as luxury hotels around Colombo on Easter Sunday morning. At least 200 people were killed and more than 400 injured inthe terrorist attacks.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“This morning in Sri Lanka a coordinated series of bombings killed hundreds of worshipers in Catholic Churches and others of all faiths in nearby hotels. The Churches were St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo and Zion Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa. This great evil targeted these churches as they were packed full of worshipers who were celebrating Easter, the day in whichChristians around the world celebrate the rising of the King of Peace from the dead. We offer our prayers for the victims and their families. And we join with all people of good will in condemning these acts of terrorism. This evil cannot overcome the hopefound in our Savior’s Resurrection. May the God of hope who has raised his Son, fill all hearts with the desire for peace.”

Keywords: Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, bombings, terrorist attacks, Colombo, Sri Lanka, CatholicChurches, Evangelical Churches, Luxury Hotels, Easter Sunday, Christians, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, Zion Church

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Media Contact:

Judy Keane

202-541-3200

 

 

Catholic Church in the United States Will Welcome Thousands of New Catholics at Easter Vigil Masses

WASHINGTON— Dioceses across the country will be welcoming thousands of people into the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil Masses on the evening of April 20th. As the culmination of the Easter Triduum, the Vigil celebrates the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While people can become Catholic at any time of the year, the Easter Vigil is a particularly appropriate moment for adult catechumens to be baptized and for already-baptized Christians to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Parishes welcome these new Catholics through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).

Many of the dioceses across the nation have reported their numbers of people who intend to become Catholic on Saturday to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Based on these reports, more than 37,000 people are expected to be welcomed into the Church at Easter Vigil Masses.

Prior to beginning the RCIA process, an individual comes to some knowledge of Jesus Christ, considers his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and is usually attracted in some way to the Catholic Church. Then during the RCIA process, which typically lasts nine months or more, a person learns the teachings of the Catholic Church in a more formal way and discerns that he or she is ready to commit to living according to these beliefs. Thousands of people have already passed through this process and are ready to take this step on Saturday in parishes throughout the country.

Two distinct groups of people will be initiated into the Catholic Church. Catechumens, who have never been baptized, will receive Baptism, Confirmation and first Communion at the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil. Candidates, who have already been baptized in another Christian tradition, will enter the Church through a profession of faith and reception of Confirmation and the Eucharist.

For example, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest in the United States, will welcome 1,560 catechumens and 913 candidates; the Archdiocese of San Francisco will welcome 174 catechumens and 175 candidates; and the Diocese of San Diego will welcome 306 catechumens and 806 candidates.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston will welcome 1,512 catechumens and 631 candidates. Among them will be Alfredo Acosta, who is experiencing both intense sorrow and joy over the past two years that led him to become a Catholic. He suffered the loss of his two younger brothers who passed away, but then he also celebrated the birth of his son, Benjamin, now 18-months old. “My wife Gricelda is a cradle Catholic. She was born into her faith. Then we baptized our son last year, so I wanted to be able to share our faith with both of them,” Acosta said. Other catechumens and candidates say they were also inspired by the witness of Catholics in their lives

Other archdioceses and dioceses report numbers as follows: Archdiocese of Washington: 455 catechumens and 183 candidates; Atlanta: 645 catechumens, 1,181 candidates; Dallas: 1,196 catechumens, 1,399 candidates; Fort Worth: 600 catechumens, 500 candidates; Corpus Christi: 130 catechumens, 43 candidates; Tyler: 101 catechumens, 190 candidates; Charlotte: 724 catechumens, 1,284 candidates; Venice in Florida: 148 catechumens, 120 candidates; Archdiocese of New Orleans: 152 catechumens, 161 candidates; Columbus: 173 catechumens, 227 candidates; Erie: 51 catechumens, 80 candidates; Baton Rouge: 158 catechumens, 300 candidates; Orlando: 514 catechumens, 482 candidates; Monterrey: 297 catechumens; Crookston: 7 catechumens, 33 candidates; St. Augustine: 174 catechumens, 315 candidates; Rockville Centre: 272 catechumens; Arlington, VA: 285 catechumens, 277 candidates; Salina: 33 catechumens, 88 candidates; Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: 205 catechumens, 319 candidates; Archdiocese of Newark: 411 catechumens, 58 candidates; Archdiocese of Oklahoma City: 262 catechumens, 324 candidates; Syracuse: 48 catechumens, 59 candidates.

The Archdiocese of Seattle reports 769 catechumens and 424 candidates; Salt Lake City: 227 catechumens, 107 candidates; Yakima: 255 catechumens, 40 candidates; Little Rock: 272 catechumens, 324 candidates; Archdiocese of Louisville: 185 catechumens, 191 candidates; Davenport: 63 catechumens, 85 candidates; Archdiocese of Denver: 462 catechumens, 348 candidates; Albany: 55 catechumens, 86 candidates; Archdiocese of Philadelphia: 196 catechumens, 267 candidates; Tucson: 136 catechumens, 179 candidates; Savannah: 80 catechumens, 231 candidates; Steubenville: 26 catechumens, 67 candidates; Gallup, New Mexico: 75 catechumens/candidates; Harrisburg: 92 catechumens.  

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati will be welcoming 322 catechumens, 403 candidates; Santa Rosa: 54 catechumens, 22 candidates; Trenton: 161 catechumens, 114 candidates; Honolulu: 197 catechumens, 184 candidates; Rochester: 62 catechumens, 112 candidates; Wichita: 123 catechumens, 234 candidates; Bridgeport: 71 catechumens, 210 candidates and Grand Rapids 171 catechumens, 186 candidates.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh reports: 101 catechumens, 161 candidates; Owensboro: 91 catechumens, 135 candidates; Lexington: 111 catechumens, 74 candidates; Archdiocese of Boston: 288 catechumens, 182 candidates; Covington: 65 catechumens, 121 candidates; Palm Beach: 152 catechumens, 464 candidates; Evansville: 81 catechumens, 94 candidates; Springfield, IL: 102 catechumens; 100 candidates; Manchester: 50 catechumens; Wilmington: 76 catechumens, 122 candidates; Archdiocese of Indianapolis: 330 catechumens, 465 candidates.

Additionally, the Diocese of Worcester reports 95 catechumens, 34 candidates; Belleville: 44 catechumens, 74 candidates; Lafayette: 63 catechumens, 93 candidates; Portland in Maine: 65 catechumens, 57 candidates; Houma-Thibodaux: 37 catechumens, 41 candidates; Yakima: 255 catechumens, 40 candidates; Youngstown, Ohio: 86 catechumens, 116 candidates; Des Moines; 97 catechumens, 131 candidates; Springfield, MA: 43 catechumens, 56 candidates; Paterson: 114 catechumens.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore will receive 227 catechumens, 410 candidates; Biloxi: 72 catechumens, 135 candidates; Green Bay, WI: 40 catechumens, 78 candidates; Shreveport: 27 catechumens, 94 candidates; Kansas City-St. Joseph: 160 catechumens, 155 candidates; Camden: 126 catechumens; Fall River: 43 catechumens, 65 candidates; Jefferson City: 100 catechumens; 165 candidates; Saginaw: 60 catechumens, 53 candidates; Cleveland: 251 catechumens, 270 candidates; Gary: 50 catechumens, 100 candidates.

The Archdiocese of Anchorage will also be welcoming 39 catechumens, 34 candidates; Bismarck: 16 catechumens, 44 candidates; St. Cloud: 17 catechumens, 40 candidates; New Ulm: 8 catechumens, 28 candidates; Great Falls-Billings: 38 catechumens, 60 candidates; Peoria: 82 catechumens, 196 candidates; Lake Charles: 61 catechumens, 141 candidates; Kalamazoo Michigan: 55 catechumens, 46 candidates.

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Keywords: U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil, Easter Triduum, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), catechumens, candidates, conversion, baptism, First Communion, Eucharist, confirmation, sacraments, Catholic, archdiocese, diocese

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Media Contacts:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3202

 

The needed antidote to apathy 

By Bishop Arthur Serratelli

In February 1915, only six months after the beginning of World War I, Lancet, a British medical journal, used for the first time the expression “shell shock.” This newly coined expression was used to describe the feeling of helplessness that soldiers felt after exposure to constant bombardment. The term was new, but not the reality. After every war, soldiers return from combat, suffering “shell shock.” 

Watching their comrades mowed down by enemy fire or left maimed and strewn on the battlefield, combatants become immune to feelings of connectedness and concern. Today, this phenomenon is becoming an epidemic. We are constantly being bombarded by bad news. The catastrophic and inhumane events that interrupt our everyday life are causing many people to escape from the brutality by becoming shell shocked. 

Terrorist attacks in Belgium, Syria, Africa, and in England; daily violence on the streets of Chicago, New York, Paterson; the massacre of our children in their schools and of believers in their churches, synagogues and mosques; the interminable disputes and rancor over immigration; allegations of racism and sexism; the incessant reporting of scandals, present and past!  Moment by moment these evils confront us. So fast does news travel that one story stumbles over the other with images of the dead, the wounded, the homeless imprinted on our minds. These problems do not admit of simple solutions. And, since we are more aware of them today than in the past and yet less able to find solutions, many, left numb and disillusioned, drift into apathy.  

In addition, newspapers, blogs and TV commentaries flash before us cause after cause, such as global poverty and climate change. “Every cause seems urgent, but nobody has the time, the energy, or the information necessary to make an impact. Knowing all the ways in which the world is flawed in a very real, raw, up-close kind of way without the ability to make any sort of important change is perhaps the most unwelcome symptom of the digital age” (Jamie Varon, “Generation apathy: How internet outrage is making us all numb and hopeless,” August 20, 2015).

Some Christians have drunk the hemlock of apathy. They are becoming more and more indifferent to evil in the world and, sadly, more and more detached from religion. Unconnected. Not invested. Religion may be good; but, when it comes to God, they have hung up a “Do Not Disturb Sign.” For them, weddings, funerals, First Communions, Confirmations, if even celebrated, are mostly social occasions. 

Apathy within the Church is far more devastating than outside the Church. The Church is the sign and sacrament of salvation for the world. It is an instrument in God’s hands. But if the instrument is dull and listless, it hinders God’s activity. When people become apathetic, something more is needed than telling them to be kind and compassionate. Such preaching falls on deaf ears and hardened hearts. What is needed today is the bold proclamation of the kerygma, that is, the love of God given us in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  

God is not apathetic. He is intensely passionate about his relationship with us and his world. He is the lover who pursues his beloved. He never gives up on us, despite our sins. He woos us back to himself (cf. Hosea 2:11). He did not turn his back on the evil of our world, but sent his Son to be our Redeemer.

 “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). In the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s love is a fact. In Jesus, God has begun the work of forgiving sins and recreating the world. And, he gifts us with the Holy Spirit so that, together with him, we make all things new. We are not helpless. We are not alone. Apathy makes people murmur a half-silent “No” to the world in which we live. But, faith in Jesus Crucified and Risen makes us shout a resounding “Yes” to God’s work of the New Creation. Faith is the antidote to apathy.


 

'Be still and know that I am God'

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer

How many Catholics will fill the pews on Easter Sunday 2019? Will this year see a noticeable decline in parishioners dressed in their Easter finest? Will the past year’s “Summer of Shame” – the publication of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the (now-defrocked) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick scandal, the Vatican’s tepid, tone-deaf response to abuse here and elsewhere in the world – take its toll on the Catholic Church in America this Easter?

Some Catholics have already left the Church. Quite publicly. Others have not yet taken that step; they’re simply shaken and disaffected. This is not one of those stories. I remain convinced that the Catholic Church is where I should be.

Of course, I was angry when the findings of the Pennsylvania grand jury on clerical sexual abuse of children became public last August. How could men entrusted with the care of souls egregiously harm innocent children? News of Theodore McCarrick’s most unholy life also disgusted me, especially the news that more than a few people knew that this high-ranking American prelate had preyed on people and said nothing. All in all, I felt betrayed and humiliated.

I have found some consolation since those first months of shock, confusion and revulsion. Peter Steinfels’ excellent analysis of the grand jury report in Commonweal Magazine helped. He showed that almost all the abuse cited took place decades before the U.S. Catholic bishops’ 2002 steps to protect minors. These reforms have made Catholic churches and schools among the safest places for children in the United States. Then, this past February, Pope Francis finally defrocked McCarrick and hosted a world summit on clergy abuse.

There is still much more to do to restore the priesthood and episcopate. Some members of the hierarchy here and in the Vatican appear genuinely concerned and are working to rid the rot that has seeped into the Church. Is it only window-dressing? Only time will tell.

What are average Catholics to do in the meantime?

This Lent, I found my answer in Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God!”

It is easy to walk away when things get difficult. Pointing to the failings of others on your way out may even offer a gratifying sense of self-righteousness. Instead of leaving the Church, however, I am choosing to be still. The Catholic Church is where I belong, despite the failings of many of her faithful, including yours truly.

Living as a faithful Catholic is not convenient or comfortable or popular today. It never has been. Ask the first pope, Saint Peter, who was crucified upside down. Or other martyrs to the faith of our past or present. Say the 21 Coptic Christians kidnapped and beheaded in Libya in 2015.

Yes, U.S. Catholics today face a crisis – our summer and winter and spring of shame, the failure of some priests and prelates, not to mention the Church and Her faithful’s place in an increasingly hostile secular culture. While today’s crisis pales in comparison to crises other Christians have faced over the millennia, it has led many to bouts of despondency. I am surely no exception.

But when I am “still” – when I trust that God has put the Church in charge of my spiritual well-being and try to follow Her teachings – I can handle whatever contradictions and confusions that the all-too-human leaders of the Church send my way. Or the challenges everyday life bring. Loss, suffering, humiliations or just plain exhaustion can’t keep me down for long. Instead of letting the scandal of sexual infidelity by a handful of priests and bishops dissolve this trust, I have resolved to be still and live more faithfully.

What does that look like? It means embracing all that the Church teaches, turning to Her sacraments, and doing so joyfully. It means being a light for others. As Saint Augustine said, “The measure of love is to love without measure.”

No, now is not the time to leave. Now is the time to stand confidently in defense of the Church’s eternal teachings. Now, today, this moment is the time to show it is possible to live consistent with Catholic teaching and desire the good of all around me.

So, as Easter season draws near with its promise of immense joy, I will be still, unwavering in my fidelity to a church that calls me to be a faithful, joyous messenger of love and hope. “Be still and know that I am God!”

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Issues Statement on Notre Dame Cathedral Fire

WASHINGTON—Amidst the devastating fire taking place at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Pairs, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement to the people of Paris.

The full statement follows:

“The horrific fire that is engulfing the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is shocking and saddens us all, for this particular cathedral is not only a majestic Church, it is also a world treasure. Noble in architecture and art, it has long been a symbol of the transcendent human spirit as well as our longing for God. Our hearts go out to the Archbishop and the people of Paris, and we pray for all the people of France, entrusting all to the prayers and intercession of the Mother of God, especially the firefighters battling the fire. We are a people of hope and of the resurrection, and as devastating as this fire is, I know that the faith and love embodied by this magnificent Cathedral will grow stronger in the hearts of all Christians.”

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops USCCB, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Paris, Cathedral of Notre Dame

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE PRESIDENT CALLS FOR PRAYER AND SUPPORT FOLLOWING THE DEADLY STORM IN THE SOUTHEAST

WASHINGTON—Following a severe storm that brought devastation to the Southeast, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed sorrow over the loss of life and destruction as result of the storm.

The full statement follows:

“I am greatly saddened by the reports of devastation and loss of life due to this past weekend’s storm. The heavy winds, rain and reported tornado has left a path of destruction in the Southeast expected to stretch as far north as New England. Several lives have been lost including those of three children. It is reported that tens of millions of people have been impacted by the severe weather.  

As we enter this Holy Week, let us pray for those who have lost their lives and for the loved ones they leave behind and ask the Lord to comfort the grieving and inspire neighbors and people around the country to respond generously in the recovery efforts. The gift of Easter reminds us to trust in the Lord who by his sacrifice on the cross and resurrection promises life everlasting.”
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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops USCCB, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Natural Disaster
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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

Catholic Home Missions Appeal to Support Essential Pastoral Programs to be Held April 27-28

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) annual Catholic Home Missions Appeal will be held in most dioceses across the country over the weekend of April 27-28. The Appeal funds grants to home mission dioceses -- dioceses and eparchies in the United States that are unable to offer their people the basic pastoral ministries of word, worship, and service without outside help.

“People across the United States long to grow closer to Christ but too many cannot access even basic pastoral programs,” said Most Reverend W. Shawn McKnight, Bishop of Jefferson City and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions. “The Catholic Home Missions Appeal helps dioceses overcome obstacles of geography, poverty, and limited resources, and fosters solidarity to help others experience the presence of the risen Lord.”

The Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions oversees the Catholic Home Missions Appeal as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. The Subcommittee funds a wide range of pastoral services, including those that focus on evangelization activities, religious education, and ministry training for priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers, and laypeople, as well as support of poor parishes across the country. The Subcommittee’s grants are funded by donations to the annual collection.

In 2018, the Subcommittee approved over $9.4 million in grants to assist dioceses and eparchies this year. Currently, more than 37 percent of all US dioceses and territories receive support from the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions. These funded dioceses are located across the United States, including the Deep South, Appalachia, and the Rocky Mountains, as well as in US territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.


More information about the Appeal, including what programs it supports and how the funds are distributed, can be found at www.usccb.org/home-missions. People who live in dioceses that do not participate in the collection can learn more online.

Richard Coll, Director of the Catholic Home Missions program, is available for media interviews.

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Keywords: USCCB, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Home Missions Appeal

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

Book Review: The Anti-Mary Exposed

By Andrea Picciotti-Bayer

Why are so many women so angry today?
 
Don’t get me wrong, confronting abuse, harassment, and unfair treatment demands a certain toughness and righteous anger. But more than the injustices of the day seem to be making women really angry. Dr. Carrie Gress’ thought-provoking new book, The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Femininity, offers a convincing explanation: We live in an age of the Anti-Mary.
 
It is well-accepted, at least in Catholic circles, that Mary brought a unique spirit into the world as the Mother of God. She is the anti-Eve, the New Eve. Gress builds upon this understanding and argues that “[i]f Christ is the New Adam and Mary the New Eve, it makes sense to consider that an antichrist could have a female complement.” This complement is an anti-Marian spirit that “animates an entire movement and the individuals engaged in it.” That movement is what passes for feminism today.
 
What does this “anti-Marian spirit” look like?
[A] woman in its grip would not value children. She would be bawdy, vulgar, and angry. She would rage against the idea of anything resembling humble obedience or self-sacrifice for others. She would be petulant, shallow, catty and over sensuous. She would also be self-absorbed, manipulative, gossipy, anxious, and self-servingly ambitious. In short, she would be everything that Mary is not. She would bristle especially at the idea of being a virgin or a mother.     
 
The description is bracing and familiar. I know this spirit. At my best, I struggle against it. At my worst, I am overtaken by aspects of it. We probably all are, women and men, as individuals. Gress, however, is arguing that this unattractive “anti-Marian spirit” has become something of a spirit of the age for far too many women today. The result is a prevailing anger. And a prevailing discontent.  
 
Gress finds the roots of the anti-Marian spirit in the early feminist movement of the 1960s. She recounts the movement's founding and the dramatic influence it has had on how women think about themselves today. Her history lesson is not glamorous.  It is not chic. It is downright ugly and reveals how "feminism" from its infancy indulged in the vice of envy.
 
Today, proponents of unfettered abortion have taken up the baton once carried by early radical feminists. They peddle the idea that a woman's developing child is a threat to her advancement, success, and happiness. Adherents of a toxic feminism do not “embrace the goodness that men have to offer society but view it as an evil that must be eliminated.” This anti-Marian spirit has rebranded and exalted as role models the “woman of folly,” Jezebel, and Lilith – characters referred to in cautionary tales found in Scripture and literature. Women under the spirit’s grip embrace the Marxist idea that divorces motherhood from the reality of being a woman. While rejecting the general idea of “goodness,” slaves of the anti-Marian spirit are encouraged to "find the goddess within."   
 
Fortunately, Gress’ The Anti-Mary Exposed is not mere commentary on our ailing culture. Rather, it is a self-help book for rescuing womanhood. So, what can modern woman do? How can we pull ourselves away from the “anti-Marian spirit” before being completely consumed?  
 
The antidote Dr. Gress prescribes is Mary -- our perfect model of Christian femininity. In Mary, we find a woman, not a goddess. She is sinless and perfect. She is not enslaved by vice. Her power is in her complete surrender to God. Mary’s meekness does not make her a doormat. As Saint Pope John Paul II observed, Mary “participated maternally in the tough fight against the powers of darkness that unfold during the whole of human history.”  
 
In short, she fights like a mom.  
 
The desires of women's hearts, Gress observes, "are to be beautiful, to be fruitful, to have their dignity respected, and most essentially, to be known and loved." Imitating Mary -- the perfect model of one who is "loved by God and who has an authentic relationship with Him" -- will satisfy these desires.  
 
The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Femininity is a powerful read. Gress cogently explores how radical feminism has unleashed a malicious "anti-Marian spirit," but leaves women and our culture a way out. Our embrace and imitation of Mary can rescue our culture, our womanhood. As Gress makes clear in this gem of a book, "[Mary] offers us the key to unlock the confusion about what it means to be women and what we need to do to find the true happiness that our souls crave."