Daily Archives:March 16th, 2018

Franciscan Sister Eithne (Felicity) McCarthy called to eternal life

File picture of the old St Francis Convent Karamunsing where Sr Felicity (Eithne McCarthy) lived and taught in the late 1950s and 1960s.

PENAMPANG – Franciscan Sister Eithne (Felicity) McCarthy was called to eternal life on 4 March 2018 at the Convent of St Francis, Blackrock Road, Cork. She was 87.

Eithne McCarthy was born on 18 June 1930, the seventh of eleven children of Maurice and Annie McCarthy, in Co Donegal, Ireland, where her father had been temporarily assigned. The following year the family returned to Cork, where Eithne grew up. She is survived by her sisters Maureen and Sister Ursula and her brother Declan who lives in the United States.

Seeking direction about her vocation, Eithne made a novena to the Little Flower in the SMA Church near the convent. The Sisters had been making the novena for a postulant. At the close, on the Feast of the Little Flower, Eithne followed the Sisters to the convent and expressed her desire to enter.

Eithne entered the Congregation on 11 February 1951 in Blackrock Road and exactly one year later she entered the Novitiate at Altrincham receiving the name Sister Felicity. She made First Profession on 29 June 1953 and five years later she made her Perpetual Profession also in Altrincham.

Sister Eithne was trained in business studies, bookkeeping, shorthand and typing when she entered but after profession she was sent to do teaching training at Mount Pleasant Teacher Training College in Liverpool. She worked hard and qualified in 1958 and left for Borneo the same year. She taught in Jesselton (St Francis Convent), Tawau and Seria and was a popular teacher. Her file contains an email sent through Sister Ursula from a past pupil who wrote “I was a distracted student and most teachers had given up on me. You refused not to believe in me and you inspired me and turned me round academically. Your impact on me was immeasurably positive and I am so grateful to you for altering my life.”

When the Sisters were expelled from Borneo Sister Eithne spent some time teaching in Rochdale and Blackburn before being appointed as assistant superior and novice mistress in Broughton Hall. In 1983 she went to do a theology course in Maynooth, Ireland and was then appointed to Leyland as a parish Sister where she stayed for five years. She is lovingly remembered there today.

In 1989 Sister Eithne returned to Ireland and after three years in Prague House she moved to Dublin where she spent nine years in parish work. During this time she was also community leader and on three occasions she was elected as a Regional Councillor. Sister then returned to Blackrock where she was to spend the rest of her life. When her sister, Maureen, become too frail to live alone Sister Eithne went from Monday to Friday each week to stay with her and returned to the community at weekends. In time her sight and hearing deteriorated badly and when she became unable to continue, Sister Ursula took over the care of Maureen.

Almost blind and almost deaf Sister Eithne remained cheerful and active. She had a beautiful smile and a good sense of humour. She walked up and down the stairs and all around the house to keep mobile and at last she had the time she had often craved for prayer and reflection. She prayed every day for the General Leadership Team to be guided in all their decisions. She was always grateful for the least thing anyone did to help her

On Sunday Mar 4, Sister Eithne joined the community for Mass and lunch and was her normal self. After lunch she made the Stations of the Cross. When she did not go to the kitchen as she usually did to fetch her supper around four o’clock Sister Mary Coyne went to see if she was alright and found her dead in her room. She died as she had lived, quietly and with no fuss.

The funeral Mass for Sister Eithne was held at the Convent of St Francis on March 8 at midday followed by burial at St Oliver’s cemetery. – FMSJ website

The past seven years: a reflection on the Syrian Civil War

Destruction in Azaz Syria.  Credit: Christiaan Triebert Shutterstock/CNA

DAMASCUS, Syria, – Seven years ago, on 15 March 2011, the Syrian Civil War began. Since then, the conflict in Syria has forced more than 5.4 million people to flee their home country to neighbouring nations, such as Turkey and Lebanon. An addition 6.1 million Syrians are believed to have been internally displaced. And more than 400,000 have lost their lives.

“More than 11 million Syrians – that is larger than the population of New York City – have had their lives torn apart and fled their homes due to this long, long war,” said Tom Price, communications officer at Catholic Relief Services, in an interview with CNA.

“Children, who make up more than half of Syrian refugees in the Middle East, are paying the heaviest price. Many have witnessed violence and the loss of homes or loved ones; the vast majority have been out of school for years,” Price continued.

The conflict began when demonstrations sprang up across Syria protesting the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president and leader the country’s Ba’ath Party. In April of that year, the Syrian army began to deploy to put down the uprisings, firing on protesters.

Russia and Iran have been supportive of the Syrian regime, while western nations have favoured some rebel groups.

The civil war is being fought among the Syrian regime and a number of rebel groups. The rebels include moderates, such as the Free Syrian Army; Islamists such as Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State; and Kurdish separatists.

Neighbouring countries surrounding Syria have absorbed most of the Syrians fleeing the constant threat of death and destruction – a number which has now skyrocketed to the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis in the world.

“For years, countries in the Middle East have been hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees,” Price remarked, most of whom have landed in Turkey and Jordan, while others have fled to Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.

Turkey has experienced the largest number of Syrian refugees over the years, mounting to around 3.3 million registered in total.

For those who have retreated to Lebanon, Syrians often struggle to make ends meet. An estimated 70 percent of refugees are now living below the poverty line and the country offers no formal refugee camps. There are nearly 1 million Syrian refugees in the country, whose population is little more than 6 million.

Refugees in Jordan are experiencing similar situations. Around 93 percent of Syrians are living below the poverty line outside of refugee camps in exile. Iraq is hosting around 246,000 Syrian refugees and Egypt has seen around 126,000.

While life as a refugee is arduous, those who have decided to remain in their war-torn country are experiencing different hardships, under the constant threat of violence – mostly living in areas controlled by the government.

However, Price noted that CRS is advocating with the US to continue its efforts in expanding humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in the Middle East, adding that ending the civil war should be the ultimate goal.

“Most importantly, the United States should lead concerted diplomatic efforts to end the fighting in Syria,” Price said.

“Catholic Relief Services echoes the message of Pope Francis, who has pleaded for an end to the violence and the peaceful resolution of hostilities in Syria,” he continued.

UNHCR, together with other UN agencies, also noted that they have appealed the US for $8 billion in funding for refugees in Syrian and surrounding locations.

Kim Pozniak, the director of communications at CRS, also said that their organisation is working with “the bishops and Catholic Charities to assist those who’ve had to leave their homes and addresses root causes of migration in many countries, so more people do not have to migrate.”

As the years of conflict have passed, Syria is still seeing severe fighting, particularly in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, and along the Turkish border, with no end in sight.

While the war rages on, Pozniak noted the importance of not letting the violence become normalised over time, and urged Catholics around the world to support refugees through prayer and action.

“We’ve been called by Pope Francis to ‘share the journey’ with our brothers and sisters on the move due to violence and other hardships,” Pozniak told CNA.

“As Catholics, we must strive to overcome indifference to cries for help, especially in a crisis that’s lasted this long.” – Maggie Maslak, CNA/EWTN News

Vatican encourages youth participation in pre-synod meeting via facebook

World Youth Day in Krakow Poland on 6 July 2016. Credit: Jeff Bruno/CNA

VATICAN CITY – As the pre-synod gathering on youth approaches, Vatican organisers are inviting young people around the globe to join in the discussion through Facebook groups in six different languages.

The 2018 Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment will take place this October, but a pre-synod meeting with 315 young people from around the world will take place in Rome from March 19-24.

“With this path the Church wishes to listen to the voices, feelings, faith and even the doubts and critiques of the youth,” Pope Francis said in announcing the pre-synod event.

The goal is to hear from youth worldwide about their lives, situations and challenges, in order to prepare for the gathering of bishops on the topic this fall.

For those unable to attend the pre-synod meeting, Facebook groups have been set up  in six languages for Catholics to share their views. The Facebook groups, which were opened about a month ago, will close on March 16.

All young adults ages 16-29 are invited to virtually participate in the pre-synod meeting. After being accepted into the Facebook group, people will have an opportunity to answers questions which will be summarised and presented to the Holy Father.

To participate, members must have an individual profile, not a page representing an organization, group, or cause. The answers to the questions must also be limited to 200 words or a one-minute video sent to WhatsApp at (+39 342 601 5596).

One question discusses “the vocational sense of life,” asking, “Is there a clear understanding in younger generations of their having a personal call and specific mission in the world?”

On Monday [Mar 19], the pre-synod meeting in Rome will begin with a question-and-answer session with Pope Francis. Then participants will break into groups to discuss a variety of themes, like volunteer work, technology, and politics.

At the end of the gathering, notes of the various discussions will be gathered into one comprehensive concluding document, which will be presented to Pope Francis and used as part of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or “working document,” of the October synod.

The March event will also include opportunities for prayer, such as praying the Way of the Cross while touring the Roman catacombs of San Callisto, as well as entertainment. Palm Sunday Mass will conclude the week, celebrated by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square.

The focus of the event is divided into three parts: youth in the world, vocational discernment, and pastoral action.

Youth in the world will focus on defining who the younger generations are and what the culture is around them. The gathering will also discuss the choices the youth have made.

Second, the pre-synod meeting will consider how young adults respond to faith and vocations. It will analyse different vocational paths, the gifts of discernment, and how the Church may best accompany young adults.

Third, it hopes to encourage an inclusive pastoral environment where young people are responsibly involved in the community. It will explore possible tools and places, physical and digital, to aid the faith life of young people.

“This is a step the Church is making to listen to all youth,” said Stella Marilene Nishimwe, a young Burundi woman living in Italy who will be a participant to the pre-synod gathering.

“It will give us an opportunity to say everything that we think. This is an opportunity that we must really take.” – CNA/EWTN News

Human trafficking called ‘one of the darkest, most revolting realities’ today

Children at the Pope Francis Rescue Center in Malindi, Kenya, present their homework to Sister Benedicta, a counselor from Sisters of the Holy Family, and Sister Veronica Nyambura. (CNS photo/Lilian Muendo, courtesy GSR) 

UNITED NATIONS – Mely Lenario quietly described her harrowing journey from ambitious, naive rural girl trafficked to hopeless, drug-fueled urban prostitute, through slow rehabilitation to a new life as an outreach worker.

After she finished her story, hundreds of people in a UN conference room jumped to their feet in a sustained ovation.

Lenario spoke on 13 March 2018 on “Preventing Human Trafficking Among Rural Women and Girls,” a panel co-sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

As an 8-year-old, Lenario was abused by her stepfather in the Philippines. He threatened her at knife point after she watched him rape her sister. When she confronted her mother and neighbors about it, she was placed into a Jesuit-run orphanage for seven years.

As a teen, she accepted an offer of work and a free education from an elegant woman visitor who arranged transportation to Cebu, a city distant from her hometown. In Cebu, she was prostituted and forced to use drugs to stay awake all night and improve the glum demeanor that discouraged customers.

Lenario begged for release but was told she had to pay for the transportation and other expenses incurred by her traffickers.

She resigned herself to a life of prostitution. “I felt hopeless and worthless. I felt already ruined,” Lenario said.

Ultimately, she met compassionate women and men religious who introduced her to the Good Shepherd Welcome House in Cebu. With their help and five years of effort, she overcame her drug habit, finished high school and trained to be a nurse’s aide.

“I had to learn how to forgive myself and the people who caused me pain,” she said.

Lenario now studies social work and serves as an outreach counselor to trafficked women and girls at the Good Shepherd Welcome House.

“I want to give them hope. I want to be an inspiration and give voice to all the abused women out there. I want to show them that if I could change my life, they can, too,” she said.

The UN panel was a side event to the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

It focused on the contributions of women religious to prevent trafficking by providing educational and employment opportunities for rural girls, women and their families, disrupt the “supply chain” of the trafficking business, and help survivors tell their stories.

Trafficked women are “marginalised by an environment that can’t meet their needs,” Mercy Sister Angela Reed said. Therefore, anti-trafficking strategies must address the root causes of the problem, which include poverty, unemployment, discrimination, violence, rural isolation and lack of access to education, she said. Sister Reed is the coordinator of Mercy Global Action at the United Nations.

“Human trafficking is one of the darkest and most revolting realities in the world today,” said Msgr Tomasz Grysa, Vatican deputy ambassador. Vulnerable rural women and girls suffer “compounded marginalisation” and are at a “cumulative disadvantage prior to being trafficked,” he said. “Their dignity and rights are not adequately respected before they’re trafficked, something that makes them more susceptible to much worse violations of their dignity and rights later.”

Religious sisters are “going to the existential peripheries” to do heroic work, but they cannot do it alone, Msgr Grysa continued. Trafficking is “a global phenomenon that exceeds the competence of any one community or country. To eliminate it, we need a mobilisation comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself.”

Sister Annie Jesus Mary Louis, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, is executive director of Jeevan Jharna Vikas Sanstha in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. She said, “Sexual exploitation is big business, governed by the same principles of supply and demand as any commercial activity.”

The sex industry treats people like products and the sex trade has a supply chain of exploitation driven by demand and fueled by greed, vulnerability and deception. It is an illusion that women and girls freely choose prostitution, she said.

The supply chain can be disrupted and trafficking prevented when families have opportunities and feel like society cares about them, Sister Louis said. Families need loving accompaniment and rural women and girls should be protected with at least the same level of investment that is put into labor exploitation, she said.

The rural population is disproportionately affected by trafficking, said Mercy Sister Lynda Dearlove, founder of Women at the Well in London. Religious groups with long-term enduring local relationships have an advantage over large organisations in preventing trafficking, she said.

“Individuals hold the key to empowering women and girls,” she said. Large international funding groups sometimes create an unnecessary layer between donors and those in need, she said.

Sister Reed said women must be seen as anti-trafficking advocates. The Religious Sisters of Mercy help women share firsthand accounts to bring women’s voices into public policy discussions and prevention efforts. “We need to change the dominant narrative that trafficking is a random act” to an understanding that it is a sign of systemic marginalisation and oppression, she said.

Successful preventive approaches counter the vulnerability of potential trafficking victims, Sister Reed said. They include providing an adequate standard of living and quality education, fostering human attachment and a sense of belonging in adolescents, and supporting decent work and full participation in society for adults.

Sister Sheila Smith, a Sister of the Sacred Heart, who is co-founder of Persons Against the Crime of Trafficking in Humans in Ottawa, Ontario, described the mutual relationship between human rights and human dignity in the context of rural trafficking.

“We work tirelessly for prevention because we value each other,” she said. – Beth Griffin Catholic News Service

Stephen Hawking: a longtime member of Pontifical Academy of Sciences

Pope Francis greets Stephen Hawking during an audience with participants attending a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican on 28 Nov 2016. Hawking, the British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

VATICAN CITY – Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who said he did not believe in God, was still an esteemed member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and fostered a fruitful dialogue between science and faith.

The academy, which Pope Pius IX established in 1847, tweeted, “We are deeply saddened about the passing of our remarkable Academician Stephen #Hawking who was so faithful to our Academy.”

“He told the 4 Popes he met that he wanted to advance the relationship between Faith and Scientific Reason. We pray the Lord to welcome him in his Glory,” @CasinaPioIV, the academy, tweeted March 14.

The Vatican observatory, @SpecolaVaticana, also expressed its condolences to Hawking’s family.

“We value the enormous scientific contribution he has made to quantum cosmology and the courage he had in facing illness,” the observatory tweeted in Italian.

The British-born theoretical physicist, cosmologist and popular author died on 14 March 2018 at the age of 76.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster tweeted, “We thank Stephen Hawking for his outstanding contribution to science. As a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, he will be missed and mourned there, too.”

Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury tweeted, “Professor Stephen Hawking’s contribution to science was as limitless as the universe he devoted his life to understanding. His was a life lived with bravery and passion. As we pray for all those who mourn him, may he rest in peace.

Blessed Paul VI named Hawking a member of the papal academy in 1968. The academy’s members are chosen on the basis of their academic credentials and professional expertise – not religious beliefs.

Blessed Paul, the first of four popes to meet Hawking, gave the then 33-year-old scientist the prestigious Pius XI gold medal in 1975 after a unanimous vote by the academy in recognition of his great work, exceptional promise and “important contribution of his research to scientific progress.”

Pictures from the academy’s archives show the pope kneeling before Hawking, who was seated in a motorized wheelchair, to present him with the medal and touch his head.

Hawking had most recently met Pope Francis when he delivered his presentation on “The Origin of the Universe” at the academy’s plenary session on science and sustainability in 2016.

In interviews and his writings, Hawking asserted that God had no role in creating the universe.

Yet his avowed atheism did not keep him from engaging in dialogue and debate with the church as his work and contribution to the papal academy showed.

He also debated on CNN’s “Larry King Live” in 2010 with Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer — a philosopher and educator — over the scientific underpinnings of the beginning of the universe and the theological arguments for the existence of God.

Vatican astronomer, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, who has studied both physics and philosophy, told Catholic News Service in 2010 that “the ‘god’ that Stephen Hawking doesn’t believe in is one I don’t believe in either.”

“God is not just another force in the universe, alongside gravity or electricity,” he added. “God is the reason why existence itself exists. God is the reason why space and time and the laws of nature can be present for the forces to operate that Stephen Hawking is talking about.” – Carol Glatz, Catholic Herald

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