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How the Diocese of Brownsville ensures detained children receive sacraments

Dallas, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 09:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Most, if not every, diocese in the United States has some sort of prison ministry. Most do not have a detention center ministry to tend to the spiritual needs of minors detained by the the U.S. Border Patrol.  

The Diocese of Brownsville, located in southern Texas along the U.S./Mexico border, isn’t like most dioceses.

While the diocese had been providing services to the detention centers for a long time, Bishop Daniel Flores told CNA that things started to change about four years ago when the number of unaccompanied minors detained at the border started to swell.

“We’ve always had numbers,” Flores said, but 2014 saw a major influx in the number of unaccompanied minors from Central America attempting to cross the U.S. border. This increase in the number of people sparked a realization that something had to be done to care for the unusually high number of people in detention.

"So our prison ministry, you know, kind of morphed into more of a detention center ministry,” Flores told CNA during a closed session with the media at the National V Encuentro conference in Grapevine, Texas on Sept. 21.

This “detention center ministry” would consist of teams who would go into the centers, determine who was there, and then create some sort of spiritual offering.

These teams would “develop opportunities to go in and either offer catechesis or say Mass or hear confessions” as part of an ongoing process to minister to those in the center. This process is “ongoing,” Flores told CNA.

While the diocese tries to have some sort of presence at the centers, this can be challenging due to changes in policy over time.

“The circumstances changes, because, I’ll be honest, the government sometimes changes the rules,” said Flores, “and we try to respect that but we also kind of ask questions” as to why the changes are being made.

Despite this, Flores said the diocese has “very good cooperation” with the centers and is able to address the needs of those who are detained.

“I think the people who work at the detention centers, for the most part, that I know, recognize that it’s important that these young people have access to somebody who can help them have hope and can follow up on their cases,” explained Flores.

This ministry, while important, is “really serious commitment of time,” and is carried out by priests, religious, and laypeople. Flores credited the laypeople who volunteer their time as those “who really make the effort.”

Flores also praised the Latin American apostolic movements that have taken root in the United States for assisting with this effort.

Each minor’s experience in the detention center is different. Some may be there for weeks, and others for months, depending on the circumstances of their case.

The diocese attempts to extend this ministry even after the minors are released from custody. Flores said that after a minor leaves the center, they will attempt to contact a group or charity (such as Catholic Charities) in their destination that will keep tabs on the minor once they arrive.

“It's good to get a phone call that's not asking 'where are your documents?',” said Flores.  “It's a phone call (asking) 'how are you doing, and can we help you with something?”

“That makes a big difference."

 

Mexican bishops call for solidarity with flood victims in Sinaloa

Culiacan, Mexico, Sep 21, 2018 / 06:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Mexican bishops' conference called for solidarity Friday with the thousands of people affected by heavy rains and flooding in Sinaloa state, which has been declared in a state of emergency by the authorities.

“In concern for the state of Sinaloa which is suffering from the damage left by the heavy rains over the last hours by the tropical depression19-E and its downpour September 19 and 20, we express our communion, joining in prayer,” states the Sept. 21 communiqué.

So far 11 out of Sinaloa's municipios have been affected, as well as several municipalities in neighboring Sonora.

The rains from the tropical depression have caused damage to homes, cars, and farmland, and the evacuation of about 16,000 people.

The bishops' statement indicated that over 32,000 acres of crops have also been seriously damaged in the Carrizo Valley and El Fuerte.

The bishops noted in their statement that “Sinaloa has always been in solidarity with our country in different contingencies and so we ask you to join, with a merciful gesture, a generous spirit and fraternal charity, the special collection in support of our brothers to aid and accompany them now and in the subsequent phases of rehabilitation and reconstruction.”

“We are entrusting to our Caritas Mexico the mission of receiving and transferring funds in order to respond to this emergency,” the statement says.

“We place our brothers in Sinaloa and Sonora under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” the communiqué concludes.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Pope Francis welcomes V Encuentro as 'instrument of grace'

Dallas, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 05:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis welcomed thousands of representatives gathered in Texas this week for the Fifth Encuentro, a national meeting of Hispanic-background Catholics aimed at encounter and leadership.

National V Encuentro is “an instrument of grace that has led to the conversion of many people's hearts and above all to the pastoral conversion of situations and to the pastoral conversion of local Churches, parishes, schools, and of all kinds of ecclesial encounters,” he said in a video message to the gathering.

National V Encuentro is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops from local to regional levels across the U.S. Delegates from 165 dioceses were selected for the event, and nearly 250,000 people participated in the local process over the past year.

Taking place in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20-23, the event is expecting as many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background. This year’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”

The meeting has five primary goals: to encounter the needs and aspirations of Catholics of Hispanic background; to promote leadership opportunities for them; to develop new ways to form and encourage them in their vocations; to invite all Catholics to accompany Catholics of Hispanic background; and to develop “initiatives that prepare Hispanic Catholics to share and celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ and to become leaven for the Reign of God in society.”

The first National Encuentro in the United States was held in 1972, and it is a process that has continued at local, regional, and national levels ever since. The most recent Encuentro prior to the Grapevine meeting was held in 2000, with a related youth meeting held in 2006.

The preparatory discussions for National V Encuentro have explored topics such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, community outreach, and the formation of lay leaders.

“I know that the experience of this Fifth Encuentro is a comfort to many immigrants living in situations of fear and uncertainty,” Pope Francis said in his welcome video message.

“The Fifth Encuentro has given them a greater sense of community, friendship, and support.”

Hispanics currently make up one of the largest contingents of the Catholic Church in the U.S., about 40 percent, and an even greater percentage of young adults in the Church.

Michigan announces investigation into seven Catholic dioceses

Lansing, Mich., Sep 21, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has opened an investigation into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the state.

The inquiry was confirmed 21 Sept. in a statement posted on the attorney general’s official website, and will include all seven of the dioceses in Michigan: Gaylord, Lansing, Marquette, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, and the Archdiocese of Detroit.

While the investigation was confirmed publicly on Friday, a spokesman for Schuette told local media that the process had been launched in August 2018.

"The Michigan Department of Attorney General has determined that a full and complete investigation of what happened within the Catholic Church is required," the statement from Schuette said.

"This investigation is and will continue to be independent, thorough, transparent, and prompt. My department and this investigation will find out who knew what, and when."

The department’s official website also gave details of how to contact investigators, saying they wanted to hear from anyone with “information about the Catholic Church that you think would help [the investigation].”

In a statement given to local media, Schuette’s office said that the investigation will cover accusations of "sexual abuse and assault of children and others by Catholic priests,” including priests from religious orders, in Michigan. The the investigation will cover a period of nearly 70 years, from 1950 until the present. 

It is unclear if the investigation will be limited only to allegations of abuse committed by priests, or if it will extend to all clergy and lay employees of the Church in Michigan. The attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for clarification on this point.

In addition to direct accusations of abuse, the attorney general will also examine “any allegations related to the cover-up of sexual abuse or assault” by Church authorities.

In response to the announcement, Catholic dioceses in the state both welcomed the investigation and pledged their full cooperation.

A statement released by the Archdiocese of Detroit, which serves nearly 1.5 million Catholics, said that they “looked forward” to working with state officials and said that the archdiocese would actively participate in the inquiry.

The Archdiocese of Detroit also stressed its “full confidence” in archdiocesan safe environment policies, which it said have been in place for 15 years. The statement called the investigation “the next phase of our commitment to transparency and healing."

The Diocese of Saginaw issued a similar statement which noted their own commitment to safeguarding procedures and welcomed “the opportunity to work with law enforcement authorities to determine if there is more it can do to protect children.”

The announcement of the investigation follows the conclusion of a similar inquiry led by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. A grand jury report into the sexual abuse of minors in six dioceses in that state was released in July. That report identified more than 300 alleged abusers and 1,000 victims.

The Michigan attorney general’s office is already conducting similar investigations into Michigan State University and the Flint water crisis.

In addition to serving as attorney general, Schuette is also the Republican candidate in the upcoming election for governor in Michigan. He is running against Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a former prosecutor and state legislator.

A recent poll by Mitchell Research showed Schuette trailing his opponent by 10 points. Real Clear Politics puts Whitmer ahead by an average of 10.6 points and currently predicts a “likely Democrat” victory.

Schuette’s seven-year record as attorney general has attracted criticism during the campaign, with his opponents saying that the attorney's social conservatism is out of step with Michigan voters.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a statewide ban on gay marriage, a policy Schuette publicly supported. In 2016, he joined a lawsuit challenging federal school guidance on transgender students.

More recently, the attorney general issued an opinion in July challenging the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s determination that existing state bans on sex based discrimination were also applicable to sexual orientation and “gender identity.”

Schuette said the Commission’s reasoning was “invalid” and in clear conflict with the “original intent” and “plain language” of the legislation.

On Sept. 19, the U.S. bishops’ conference announced a series of new policies in response to recent sexual abuse scandals. These included a new third-party reporting mechanism for making complaints of sexual misconduct against a bishop, with such complaints being forwarded to civil law enforcement when appropriate.

No sign of Italian priest kidnapped in Niger

Niamey, Niger, Sep 21, 2018 / 02:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- There has been no sign of an Italian missionary priest kidnapped in Niger Monday night, a member of his community said.

“We have no news of Fr. Pierluigi. There has been no claim by the kidnappers at present,” Fr. Mauro Armanino of the Society of African Missions (SMA) told Vatican news agency Fides.

“However, the kidnappers have obtained a first result: everyone is talking about them all over the world,” he continued. “With the abduction of a Western missionary, a group which is probably not even a big group, has managed to gain global visibility.”

Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, a member of the Society of African Missions, was serving in an isolated parish in South Niger, with few means of communication and transportation and little access to health care and water for residents, according to Vatican News.

The region has seen recent violence by jihadist groups. The Italian Foreign Ministry is investigating the case and has been in contact with the priest’s family.

Armanino suggested that the captors may be Fulani herdsman, mostly Muslim, who have increasingly clashed with local Christian farmers over scarce resources.  

Local sources told Vatican News the kidnapping could also be related to the priest’s strong stance against the local practice of female genital mutilation.