2010 Feature Articles Feed

Never see a need without acting: Australia's new saint

posted 6 Oct 2010, 07:39 by Stefan Gigacz

Pope Benedict will canonise Australia's first saint, Mary MacKillop, in Rome on Sunday 17 October. In preparation for the event, Caritas Australia's OzSpirit magazine has proposed a series of educational activities including a See Judge Act exercise based on Mary MacKillop's saying "Never see a need without doing something about it".

"Mary MacKillop chose to act when she saw a need," OzSpirit says. "Her actions, while challenged by others at times, have a long lasting legacy that is evident today."

"How will your group 'act' to meet the need identified?" it asks.


“Never see a need without doing something about it” (OzSpirit)

The spirituality of St Therese

posted 4 Oct 2010, 05:57 by Stefan Gigacz

St Thérèse of Lisieux was made the YCW patron in 1929 by Pope Pius XI. She was committed to the everyday, ordinary experiences of life, discovering God in them and offering her work and life to Him. In this way, the Pope, by making her our Patron, recognised how Thérèse's own story is an example for every Young Christian Worker.

Offering her daily tasks to God, known as her "Little Way", fits well with the YCW's See-Judge-Act.

The Saint's vision of finding God in the small everyday things of daily life, is given a practical tool in our Review of Life Method, helping us as YCWs to see where God is acting, and to act with Him, in our everyday tasks. St Thérèse's "Little Way" is nothing more complicated than recognising that holiness is not to be found only in dramatic martyrdom or major sacrifice, but in accepting the irksome little things and minor sacrifices which are part of each day.

This quiet acceptance of what goes against our will, "mortifications", or "offering it up" formed a major part of traditional Catholicism. We can, for instance, get up the minute the alarm goes off, rather than having another five minutes in bed; when the bus is late, or we are late for the bus, we can give that time to God, or do something useful with it, rather than huffing and cursing.

Most important of all, for YCWs, we can use our work as a way to holiness, whatever our work is - study, seeking work, or work itself.


"The Remains of a Burnt-out Love" - Relics of our Patron visit the UK( (YCW Impact)

Chicago's 'labor apostles'

posted 4 Oct 2010, 05:36 by Stefan Gigacz   [ updated 4 Oct 2010, 05:56 ]

As if the Vatican needs more offices, Pope Benedict XVI has just opened the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization to promote Christianity "in the countries where the first proclamation of faith has already resounded . . . but which are living through a progressive secularization of society and a kind of eclipse of the sense of God." He presumably means Western Europe because he says the target countries have "churches of ancient foundation."

Since at least the time of Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) Catholic leaders have been concerned about Europe’s secularization, including both the materialism of communism and of capitalism. Several of those leaders embraced the Catholic Action strategy as developed in the 1930s by Msgr. (later Cardinal) Joseph Cardijn in Belgium. The best-known expressions of Catholic Action include the Young Christian Students, the Young Christian Workers and, originating in Chicago, the Christian Family Movement. European leaders also experimented with the worker-priest movement, whereby some clergy took jobs in factories and shops to more directly influence workers.

- Bill Droel

The Working Catholic: Book highlights Chicago's "labor apostles" (Chicago Catholic News)

Identifying issues in Honduras

posted 20 Sep 2010, 06:31 by Stefan Gigacz   [ updated 20 Sep 2010, 06:51 ]

"The situation is getting very critical, at least in some parts of the country," writes Santa Rosa de Copán diocese lay volunteer, John Donaghy.  "Perhaps the powers in charge are feeling threatened.

Below we present some extracts from John's blog on his experiences in strife-torn Honduras in central America, and the use of the see-judge-act method by the diocese.


“Enough of the repression,” Honduran bishop, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos of Santa Rosa de Copán demanded, “we will not tolerate a single more death at the hands of the police and the military.”

Though he has been critical of the teachers at times, he noted that “the teachers shouldn’t continue to endure being clubbed - I have seen them bleeding. And I don’t think that those of us who have protested against the unjust Mining Law should continue shedding our blood in the western part of our country.”

“It is good that the people are peaceful, but we cannot put up with the images which we have been seeing.”

And that's how we are in Honduras these days.

From Thursday to Saturday I was with a group of lay leaders of the diocese in the second Catholic Social Teaching workshop. This one we spent on learning the “See, Judge, Act” methodology of Catholic Social Teaching, with three priests leading the sessions.

One group identified as weaknesses of the country – corruption, ungovernability (manifested by poverty, drug-trafficking, violence, and the lack of security in the country which the government is unable to control), and the radical bipartite political system, virtually controlled by the two major parties.)

Later this emerged as the list of the most urgent problems of Honduras:
  • poverty and its effects
  • the destruction of nature
  • the concessions (licenses to exploit) for mining and hydroelectric dams
  • ungovernability (violence and impunity)
  • migration
We didn’t go into much depth on the problems since this was more an effort to identify the reality and then look at some issues in light of Catholic Social Teaching.

But on the second night I showed a few videos I had downloaded – a 2008 video on climate change and its effect on Honduras, taken in Tomalá, Lempira, and one taken this year on the proposed dam in San Francisco de Opalaca, Intibucá, financed by a company owned by one of the wealthy elite.

Since it was late we had a short discussion. The concern about the severe weather here is real – the rains have affected crops in many parts of the diocese and so next year we may face more serious hunger. And the concern about the taking over of rivers for large hydroelectric dams by large companies is real.

And so we go forward, seeking justice.

- John Donaghy, lay volunteer with Santa Rosa de Copán diocese in Honduras


Honduras - ¿independent? (Hermano Juancito)

Lay people 'must make a difference': Brazil cardinal

posted 10 Sep 2010, 23:12 by Stefan Gigacz

Catholic lay people "must make a difference" in their cities and secular societ, Cardinal Odilo Scherer of São Paulo, Brazil has said.

This must come about "through the leaven, salt and light of the Gospel, introduced in social celebrations, in the realm of work and of the different occupations, in communications, in the management of economic and political life and in religious and cultural manifestations," the prelate explained.

He affirmed that "the Gospel and the Christian proposal of life and coexistence are 'Good News' for this urban world." 

For Cardinal Scherer, the Church "will not be able to exercise this mission in a proper way without an active and courageous participation of all her members: clergy, religious and laity."

"We are all missionary disciples of Jesus Christ," he said, "each one with his gift and competence in the Body of Christ, the People of God, which is the Church."

In particular, the cardinal added, the laity "are the apostles of the Gospel in the vast and complex secular world, in which they are citizens and members of the earthly city and, at the same time, members and disciples of the Kingdom of God."

"The mission to introduce the salt, leaven and light of the Gospel in the reality of this world is the duty of lay men and women," he said.

"In the diversity and pluralism of convictions and cultural visions, Christians have something particular to say and to contribute," the prelate affirmed, "so that the city will be better, more worthy and just for each one of its inhabitants and more worthy of God, who dwells in it." 

He concluded, "Let us ensure that Christian testimony, consistent with the Gospel, is positive and does good to the city."



Pope Benedict remembers Pope Leo XIII

posted 6 Sep 2010, 01:23 by Stefan Gigacz   [ updated 6 Sep 2010, 01:40 ]

Pope Leo XIII, who wrote the foundational social encyclical Rerum Novarum, was born 200 years ago on 10 March 1810 in Carpineto Romano, Italy. Pope Benedict paid tribute to the great pope, after whom Leon-Joseph Cardijn was also named, on a visit to his birthplace on 5 September.


The words and deeds of Pope Pecci revealed his deep religiosity; and this had a correspondence in his magisterium: Among his many encyclicals and apostolic letters, like the string of a necklace, there are those of a specifically spiritual character, dedicated above all to the growth of Marian devotion, especially through the rosary. It is a real “catechesis” that stretches from the beginning to the end of the 25 years of his pontificate. 

But we also have the documents on Christ the Redeemer, on the Holy Spirit, on consecration to the Sacred Heart, on devotion to St. Joseph, on St. Francis of Assisi. Leo XIII was especially close to the Franciscan family and he himself belonged to the Third Order. I like to consider all of these different elements as various facets of a single reality: the love of God and of Christ, which absolutely nothing must come before. And this his first and principal quality, Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci learned here, in his native town, from his parents, from his parish.

But there is a second aspect, which derives from the primacy of God and of Christ and that one meets in the public action of every pastor of the Church, especially of every Supreme Pontiff, with the characteristics proper to each one. I would say that precisely the concept of “Christian wisdom,” which already emerged from the first reading and the Gospel, offers us the synthesis of this position of Leo XIII -- it is not by chance that it is also the “incipit” of one of his encyclicals. Every pastor is called to transmit to the People of God, not abstract truths, but a “wisdom,” that is, a message that joins faith and reason, truth and concrete reality. Pope Leo XIII, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, was able to do this in one of the most difficult historical periods of the Church, remaining faithful to tradition and, at the same time, measuring it with the great open questions. And he succeeded in his efforts precisely on the basis of the “Christian wisdom,” founded on sacred Scriptures, on the immense theological and spiritual patrimony of the Catholic Church and also on the solid and limpid philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, which he appreciated in the highest way and promoted in the whole Church.

At this point, after having considered the foundation, that is, faith and the spiritual life, and therefore the general framework of the message of Leo XIII, I can turn to his social teaching, made famous and timeless in his encyclical “Rerum novarum,” but also richly expressed in multiple interventions that constitute an organic body, the first nucleus of the Church’s social doctrine. We take our cue from St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, which happily the liturgy has us read precisely today. It is the shortest of all the Pauline epistles. During a period of imprisonment the Apostle transmitted the faith to Onesimus, a slave from Colossae, who had fled from his owner Philemon, a wealthy inhabitant of that city, who, along with his family, had become Christian through the preaching of Paul. Now the Apostle writes to Philemon, inviting him to welcome Onesimus no longer as a slave but as a brother in Christ. The new Christian brotherhood overcomes the separation between slaves and freemen, and it triggers in history a promotion of the person that will lead to the abolition of slavery, but also to the overcoming of the barriers that had existed up until then. Pope Leo XIII dedicated his 1890 encyclical “Catholicae Ecclesiae” precisely to the theme of slavery.


Papal Homily for Visit to Leo XIII's Birthplace (Zenit.org)

Asian Laity Congress forgets Asian Church

posted 31 Aug 2010, 07:06 by Stefan Gigacz

Tomorrow, Sept. 1, the Korean Catholic church holds a big event, the "Congress of Catholic Laity in Asia." Some 200 clergy, religious and laity from various countries in Asia will take part in the week-long event, along with some 200 local Catholics. As a layperson in the local church, I am delighted and welcome the congress with my whole heart.

It will be a good opportunity for lay people in Asia to discuss realities in the continent and help the church of Asia discern "the sign of the times."


What has disturbed me, however, is the fact that neither the Korean church nor the Vatican consulted with the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, the FABC, the representative body of the national bishops' conferences in Asia with regard to the congress. I asked Virginia Saldanha, who recently retired from the post of secretary general of FABC Office of Laity, what she knew about the congress. She told me in an e-mail that neither she nor her successor have received any news on the event from either the Vatican or the Korean church, except that Archbishop Rolando Tirona, president of FABC Office of Laity, received an invitation in 2009.


I could not help but raise the question: Has the Vatican or its Council for the Laity forgotten one of the major teachings of the Second Vatican Council, "collegiality of bishops and laity"? I cannot help but say that the Vatican has made a critical mistake by ignoring such collegiality of the bishops and the faithful.

- Paul Hwang, Center for Asian Theology Solidarity


Bishop Kevin Manning defends unions

posted 16 Aug 2010, 19:28 by Stefan Gigacz

I was initially taken aback, some years ago, when an elderly Catholic unionist in Lithgow stated: “I learnt my practical Christianity through the union, for the union cared more for the poor and vulnerable than many Church organisations.”

And there was truth in what he said, for initially unions saw themselves as protecting the poor and vulnerable workers, those seeking work, immigrants and those suffering because of war and disorder in their own countries.
Because workers’ rights, like all rights, are based on the nature of the human person and on his transcendent dignity, the Catholic Church was never reticent to list these rights in the hope they would be recognised in juridical systems. 

In so doing, the Church recognised the fundamental role played by labour unions which “grew up from the struggle of the workers – workers in general but especially the industrial workers – to protect their just rights vis-a-vis the entrepreneurs and the owners of the means of production.” (Laborem Exercens, 20)

In her teaching the Church insists that unions are not a reflection of the “class” structure of society but should be promoters of the struggle for social justice, for the rights of workers.

- Emeritus Bishop of Parramatta Kevin Manning, who was also a YCW chaplain as a priest


Sr Jeane Devos founded the Indian domestic workers movement

posted 5 Aug 2010, 18:45 by Stefan Gigacz

In India, the National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM) has been able to improve the conditions of some two million domestic workers, whose rights have been traditionally denied. 

Founded in 1985 by Sister Jeane Devos, a Belgian nun with the Order of Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the NDWM is affiliated with the Labour Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of India, Asia News reports. 

“We broke a wall of silence, slavery and exploitation,” Sr Jeane, a Belgian nun with the Order of Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and a former YCS collaborator, said. “Our movement has grown and we can change the situation of domestic workers through solidarity, dignity, justice and empowerment.” 

The NDWM operates 53 branches in 23 Indian states. Its goal is to secure the recognition and protection of domestic workers. 

At present, the situation for many domestic workers is truly appalling, something that Seetha Lakshmi, a domestic worker in Dindigul (Tamil Nadu), knows all too well. 

“I was getting 50 rupees a month (US$ 1.1) and I was never treated like a human being,” she said. “I cried every day.” 

“In 1992, I heard about NDWM and so I turned to them. We talked about wages, hours, and days off. When I spoke to my employer about this movement, my situation improved,” she said. 

“Great things have happened to domestic workers,” Sr Jeane said. “We shall continue to move with faith in God and the Spirit that guides the movement.”


Land grabbing on the rise

posted 26 Jul 2010, 19:41 by Stefan Gigacz

We currently see the development of a land-grabbing phenomenon. Foreign companies, or even States, grab hold of the lands used by these peasants. Indeed, as some have destroyed their local farming systems and changed their eating habits, they are not able to provide food and raw materials to their populations anymore. They buy land in other countries and exploit them in order to export their resources to their country of origin, mainly agrofuels.

This phenomenon is disastrous for the inhabitants of grabbed land, as it deprives them of their means of subsistence and disrupts the natural balances they had built. On the other hand, it does not solve the problems faced by countries that lack land. Many scientists showed that small farmers are far more productive than big-scale agriculture: they use little energy and the food they produce is more nutritious. Besides, the biodiversity they protect offers them a better adaptability and resistance to climate vagaries.

- Claire Quintin, President MIJARC Europe


Young rural Catholics promote food sovereignty to protect biodiversity (MIJARC)

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