2017 Year in Review

Archdiocese opposes "abortion sanctuary" city ordinance, major pro-life bill passes

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson reiterated that the archdiocese "will not comply" with a St. Louis ordinance that violates religious freedom. The ordinance, he said, is "a marker of our city's embrace of the culture of death."

St. Louis archdiocesan elementary schools were part of a suit claiming that ordinance 70459 violates their rights under the U.S. Constitution and several Missouri laws and that the ordinance's limited religious exemptions are vague and undefined and do not cover individuals affiliated with organizations that may be exempt. It also forces private businesses to include abortion coverage in their employee health plans, despite sincere objections by company owners.

Enacted in February, the city ordinance provides a protected class status to any woman who chooses to have an abortion and those who support her in that action — while also discriminating against those who promote pro-life alternatives, the lawsuit stated. The language also creates protections for anyone who has "made a decision related to abortion," even when the abortion is not their own.

Meanwhile, Missouri legislators during a special session passed a major pro-life bill protecting the health and safety of women and unborn children and providing protections for pregnancy resource centers. SB 5, which became law in October, also pre-empts local governments from enacting ordinances that adversely affect legal rights of individuals based on their views of abortion.

http://stlouisreview.com/bMw and http://stlouisreview.com/j0y

The Catholic response to natural disasters

Catholic Charities of St. Louis stepped in to assist in the long-term recovery efforts of those affected by flooding in the St. Louis region in May and a tornado in Perry County. Catholic Charities collected funds for immediate relief assistance and cooperated in Multi-Agency Resource Centers, where disaster victims sought assistance resources.

Catholic Charities USA assisted in recovery from three major hurricanes that struck the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast of the United States, causing billions of dollars of damage and hundreds of deaths.

Hurricane Harvey caused severe flooding in In Texas and Louisiana in August. In early September, Hurricane Irma battered the Caribbean islands before making landfall in southwest Florida. Hurricane Maria devastated several islands and made landfall on Puerto Rico. Nearly every building on Dominica suffered some damage, and the majority of Puerto Rico remains without power, months after the hurricane.





Saint John's Bible: Art for the modern age

The Saint John's Bible is meant to be a communal experience that ignites the spiritual imagination for people of all faiths around the world.

Inspired by handwritten, illuminated Bibles, world-renowned artist and calligrapher Donald Jackson proposed the idea of the Saint John's Bible to the Benedictine monks of St. John's Abbey and University in 1995. A team of calligraphers and artists created the 1,165-page manuscript, using the text and notes of the New Revised Standard Version translation. Each page took about eight to 12 hours to complete.

The art featured in the original Saint John's Bible are considered illuminations, images created with handmade inks and hand-ground pigments, made with fish oil, egg yolk and whites and silver and gold leaf embellishments. The works of art also are to illuminate our eyes to the depicted Bible verses.

After a yearlong tour of the Saint John's Bible in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, a seven-volume Heritage Edition was permanently installed at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis in December.


'The love of Christ impels us' | Bishop Rivituso's Episcopal ordination

Calling upon the model of Jesus the Good Shepherd for guidance, Auxiliary Bishop Mark S. Rivituso told the faithful of St. Louis he looks forward to serving the Church as the Archdiocese of St. Louis' newest auxiliary bishop.

"May I always conform my heart to the humble heart of the Good Shepherd, so that with you we can build up the Church in holiness and promote a greater peace and goodness for all we serve in our communities," he told those who came to his episcopal ordination May 2 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson was the principal consecrator, with Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Robert J. Hermann and Bishop Edward M. Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau as co-consecrators. Also in attendance were Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, Archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia and former archbishop of St. Louis; and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, along with numerous other bishops and priests from the archdiocese and across the country.

"It will be your duty not only to walk with the people you serve — to accompany them — but also to walk before them showing them the way to the Father, like Christ the Good Shepherd," Archbishop Carlson said in the homily.


Corpus Christi procession weaves among eclectic vibe of Delmar Loop

How do you bring Jesus to people along the Delmar Loop, with its eclectic mixture of culture, restaurants and shops?

March Him down the boulevard.

That's what the Oratory of Sts. Gregory and Augustine did on the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was an unofficial "hello" of sorts from the community, which celebrates in the Tridentine Latin Mass (according to the 1962 Missal). The oratory is the Loop's new neighbor.

Founded at St. Louis Abbey in west St. Louis County the oratory was transferred in May from the care of the Benedictines to All Saints Parish in University City. Msgr. Michael Witt serves as rector of the oratory, in addition to maintaining his role as pastor of All Saints.

Escorted by University City police, the procession started at the church and wove through the streets to Delmar Boulevard. With the Real Presence of Jesus leading under the shade of a canopy, the people in the procession prayed the Rosary, quite aware of the attention they were getting from patrons along the Loop.


Maronites celebrate Bishop Shaheen's 'extraordinary life'

Bishop Robert J. Shaheen, the first Maronite priest to be ordained in the United States and a priest and bishop in St. Louis for a half-century, died Aug. 9. Bishop Shaheen, who celebrated his 80th birthday in June, was the second bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, headquartered in St. Louis. He retired in 2013.

A celebration of the Divine Liturgy (funeral) was held Aug. 16 at St. Raymond Maronite Cathedral in St. Louis. He was buried from St. Anthony Maronite Church in his hometown of Danbury, Conn.

"We pray for the repose of his soul, and give thanks to God for all of the lives that Bishop Shaheen has touched in his extraordinary life" said Bishop A. Elias Zaidan, current bishop and successor to Bishop Shaheen.

Bishop Shaheen was known for revitalizing the LaSalle Park neighborhood on the near southside of St. Louis, where the cathedral is located. He led the parish through a large capital program, including the construction of a new church, rectory, hall and eparchal center over the years of his pastoral ministry.


Archbishop Carlson calls for peace after verdict

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson called for peace following a not guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley, who had been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death in 2011 of Anthony Lamar Smith. St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson issued the ruling after Stockley waived his right to a jury trial.

Protesters gathered in Downtown St. Louis soon after the ruling on the morning of Sept. 15. Media reports had warned of threatened disruptions if Stockley was found not guilty.

"If we want peace and justice, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness," Archbishop Carlson stated. "While acknowledging the hurt and anger, we must not fuel the fires of hatred and division. We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us. Violence does not lead to peace and justice — they are opposing forces and cannot coexist. I implore each of you to choose peace! Reject the false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence. We must work together for a better, stronger, safer community, one founded upon respect for each other, and one in which we see our neighbor as another self."

Several Catholic churches in St. Louis opened for prayer and conversation after the verdict was announced.



God's perfect creation | Eclipse a perfect opportunity to talk about relationship between faith and science

There's a scientific wonder to the precision in which eclipses occur, not to mention the ability of science to measure their occurrence hundreds of years in advance. St. Louis metropolitan area won't see another total solar eclipse until the year 2505 — and by then we'll all be long gone.

Catholic schools, parishes and even retreat centers spent much of the summer preparing for the historic day. Most Catholic school children returned to class the week before the eclipse, giving schools just a few days to teach them about how an eclipse occurs and practicing safety measures for viewing the sky.




Old, new frontiers cited at SLU bicentennial Mass

Frontiers were the focus as St. Louis University kicked off the celebration of its bicentennial Sept. 23 with the first Mass ever under the Gateway Arch along the Mississippi riverfront.

The Mass and associated festivities looked back at the university's founding by Bishop Louis DuBourg in the American frontier, and also looked ahead to the frontiers of the future. In the homily to more than 5,500 in attendance, Father Ronald Mercier, SJ, detailed the beginnings of the university, known then as the St. Louis Academy, in a small home located on what is now the Arch grounds. He noted that SLU alumni continue the Church's commitment to the Gospel, to inclusion, justice, peace and freedom. The university itself remained in St. Louis City when others fled, he added.

"Laboring with God, great things can occur," Father Mercier said. "With God, in seeking the truth, we not only transform lives, but also our city, county and world."

The altar was set up on the stage in front of the Gateway Arch grand staircase. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson was the primary celebrant, joined by several Jesuit priests as concelebrants.

After Mass, university president Fred Pestello said kicking off SLU's 200th anniversary with a Mass was a fitting way to give thanks for the history and to pray together for an exciting future.


Taize pilgrimage of trust: Hugs, high-fives help build trust, erase divide

Wearing red hats and purple dresses, a handful of women from Galilee Baptist Church on Delmar Boulevard in the Central West End of St. Louis waved and shouted while receiving hugs and high-fives from participants in the Walk of Trust who passed by their church.

The walk on the afternoon of May 28 was part of the weekend-long St. Louis Pilgrimage of Trust taking place in St. Louis May 26-29. The walk was intended to be a first step toward healing deep divisions in the community that have surfaced since the unrest in Ferguson.

The walk and pilgrimage were led by the brothers of the Taizé Community of France, in collaboration with churches of different Christian denominations.

The idea of holding the ecumenical Pilgrimage of Trust in St. Louis came from Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, who wrote a letter to the Taizé brothers, who have a charism of ecumenism and reconciliation. In inviting the Taizé Community, Archbishop Carlson underlined his concern for the need to rebuild relations between factions in the area, especially after the events in Ferguson following a police-involved shooting death in August 2014 that seemed to split the community.

The trust events were the culmination of a yearlong effort.


Jury rules in favor of Father Jiang and archdiocese

A jury in Lincoln County took little time April 6 to find in favor of both Father Xiu Hui "Joseph" Jiang and the Archdiocese of St. Louis in a civil lawsuit that alleged the priest had sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl in 2012. In the trial, the plaintiff sought more than $1 million in compensatory damages. The jury began deliberations just past 1 p.m. and returned the verdict just before 3 p.m.

A statement from the archdiocese reported that "the archdiocese and Father Jiang have steadfastly denied these allegations since they were first raised and are pleased with the jury's decision."

"Five years was a long time ... but by the grace of God, I made it through," Father Jiang said. "Hopefully, this has made me more spiritual and holier. I'm more grateful to God for the gift of priesthood than the day I was ordained."

The federal defamation case in St. Louis was settled out of court and dismissed in November. Part of the settlement included an apology from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) for "any false or inaccurate statements" related to the criminal charge against Father Jiang. The judge in that case ordered SNAP defendants to pay his attorney's fees of $25,150.

The defamation suit "was filed for the sake of the truth," Father Jiang said. "I'm so glad at the end of the day the truth wins out. SNAP issued a public apology, and rightly so."

Placed on administrative leave after the first allegation, in June 2012, Father Jiang, 31, returned to active ministry over the summer. He's been a priest for seven-and-a-half years, but has only about two-and-a-half years in active ministry.



Four men answer the call of God to serve as priests

At the Rite of Ordination on May 27, newly ordained Fathers Peter Faimega, Michael Lampe, Clark Philipp and John Schneier gave themselves wholly to the holy Catholic and apostolic Church.

In a two-hour Mass, the Rite of Ordination at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis took 45 minutes, changing the new priests' lives forever. After Mass and official pictures, each new priest conferred his very first blessing to Archbishop Carlson, now kneeling before them as they had knelt before him to be ordained.

"When you celebrate Mass, you hold in your hands the Bread of Heaven which is Christ — true food for the life of the world," Archbishop Carlson said in the homily. "May the Eucharist you celebrate always fill you with wonder and awe, immense gratitude and love as Christ passes through your hands, your voice and your heart."


Sister Ebo: The legacy of a gentle soul

Sister Mary Antona Ebo was remembered as a gentle soul whose legacy of standing for justice and equality will continue to live in others.

The Franciscan Sister of Mary was praised at a funeral Mass Nov. 20 at St. Alphonsus Liguori "Rock" Church in north St. Louis. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson presided at the Mass, along with Auxiliary Bishop Mark Rivituso, Bishop Terry Steib of the Diocese of Memphis (a former St. Louis auxiliary bishop), and about two dozen other priests.

Sister Antona, who marched in Selma, Ala., on March 10, 1965, as part of the civil rights movement, died Nov. 11 at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton. She was 93 and was a Franciscan Sister of Mary for 71 years. Among her other accomplishments, Sister Antona was one of the first three African-American women to enter the Sisters of St. Mary (now Franciscan Sisters of Mary). She also had a longtime ministry in health care, including being the first African-American woman to administer a hospital in the United States, at St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo, Wis.

She was involved in interfaith work and other social justice issues and often provided spiritual guidance and support to men and women answering their vocational calling. She visited Ferguson several times after the 2014 death of Michael Brown, where she told others that they must "raise the rug up and look at what's under the rug" in Ferguson.

Father Manuel Williams, a priest of the Congregation of the Resurrection and longtime friend of Sister Antona, said that Sister Antona modeled that spiritual as a disciple of Jesus, working for His kingdom throughout her life. Advocating for justice and mercy was always at the forefront, including in her work for racial equality and in other areas, including nursing and health care administration, hospital chaplain, spiritual director and pastoral associate. With a signature twinkle in her eye, and with a desire to "tell the true truth," as many recalled, Sister Antona lived to best of her ability the Lord's command to love others.



A look back at 2017 from Catholic News Service

With new administration, USCCB enters policy debates more often in '17

WASHINGTON — A new presidential administration and a new Congress kept the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as busy as ever in addressing public policy issues during 2017.

Hardly a week passed without at least one reaction, statement or commentary, all based on traditional Catholic social teaching, on a public policy matter from a USCCB committee chairman or other conference officers.

From President Donald Trump's January travel ban on the entry of people from certain Muslim-majority nations to the Republican-written tax reform legislation that continued to be debated in Congress in mid-December, bishops repeatedly laid out moral arguments on the importance of protecting human dignity at every turn.

The bishops issued an estimated 115 public statements and letters addressing public policy concerns through Dec. 12. That's more than double the approximately 47 public statements and letters released in 2016.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, told Catholic News Service that he and his fellow bishops didn't go out looking "to make a lot of statements," but that it became necessary to bring a Catholic perspective to policy stances being addressed by the White House and in Congress.

In #MeToo movement, Catholic Church can play role in discussion, healing

WASHINGTON — The wave of accusations of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault from Hollywood to Capitol Hill and many places in between in recent months has been described as a revolution, a moment and a time for national reckoning.

The accused — abruptly fired or resigned — have issued apology statements or denied wrongdoing. Those who have come forward — predominantly women, but also some men emboldened by the solidarity of the #MeToo movement — were named "Silence Breakers" by Time magazine and honored as its 2017 Person of the Year.

"We're still at the bomb-throwing point of this revolution," the Time article points out, stressing that for true social change to happen, private conversations on this issue are essential.

And that's where some say the Catholic Church has something to offer both from its lessons learned — and how it could do more — to support victims and foster healing.

As it continues its training, education, background checks and reporting, the Church must similarly "face the reality of sexual harassment," said a Dec. 11 editorial in America magazine, pointing out that what the Church went through with the abuse crisis shows "it is possible to begin turning even an organization as large and as old as the Church toward primary concern for victims. "

But the Church faces hurdles in just getting into this discussion, acknowledged Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School and consultor for the Pontifical Council of the Laity, noting that people can accept Church teaching on global warming or refugees but its teachings on sexuality "is the thing that gets people mad."

"We're part of that solution," she added, noting that the experience of the Church reaching out its hand and saying: 'We're here if you're suffering,' is very powerful."

Nuclear threat raises tensions worldwide

WASHINGTON — The ratcheting up of North Korea's missile testing, and fears that it also is advancing in its quest to launch a nuclear weapon, has gotten the attention of virtually everyone within range of any North Korean-fired missile and leaders worldwide, including Pope Francis.

On the Dec. 2 flight from Bangladesh to Rome following his visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh, Pope Francis said St. John Paul II's U.N. address from 1982 may be out of date.

St. John Paul had told the U.N. general assembly that deterrence could be judged morally acceptable as a way of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. At that time, the Cold War still raged, and deterrence was the norm.

The pope added his position is open to debate, but "I'm convinced that we are at the limit of licitly having and using nuclear weapons."

At a Vatican conference in early November, Pope Francis said today with nuclear weapons, "the threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned."

Pope Francis urged religious leaders from South Korea to dedicate their words and actions to building peace.

Disasters prompt Church to raise money for aid, recovery

WASHINGTON — In Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, California and Mexico City, recovery was slow and pain remained from a string of natural disasters as 2017 ended.

Hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes from August through December caused widespread destruction and claimed hundreds of lives. Rebuilding in the affected areas will take years to complete.

Catholic agencies responded with emergency aid and undertook fundraising campaigns to help people.

Perhaps no other place was harder hit than Puerto Rico, which was slammed in September by Hurricane Maria, the 10th most intense Atlantic storm on record. Electrical power was at 70 percent capacity and many communities continued to have no access to clean water in mid-December.

Elsewhere, Hurricane Harvey, swamped southern Texas and southwestern Louisiana as it ambled offshore in the Gulf of Mexico for days in late August, dumping more than 50 inches of rain on some communities. Catholic parishes and schools were among entities affected by flooding. 

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