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My People

Vol. 27, Issue 3, March 2014

"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." — 2 Chronicles 7:14


"We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world."
- St. Francis of Assisi

Lenten Message Focuses On Christ’s Poverty

Pope Francis challenges Christians to address Christ’s call to poverty and conversion during Lent. His Lenten message, dated December 26, 2013, follows:

“As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich’ (2 Cor 8:9). The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean for us today?

1. Christ’s grace

“First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal Himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: ‘though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor …’ Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; He came amongst us and drew near to each of us; He set aside His glory and emptied Himself so that He could be like us in all things (cf. Phil 2:7; Heb 4:15). God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is His love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls, and eliminates distances. God did this with us. Indeed, Jesus ‘worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by human choice, and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin.’ (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

“By making Himself poor, Jesus did not seek poverty for its own sake, but as Saint Paul says ‘that by His poverty you might become rich.’ This is no mere play on words or a catch phrase. Rather, it sums up God’s logic, the logic of love, the logic of the incarnation and the cross. God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety. Christ’s love is different! When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by John the Baptist, He did so not because He was in need of repentance, or conversion; He did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon Himself the burden of our sins. In this way He chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery. It is striking that the Apostle states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by His poverty. Yet Saint Paul is well aware of ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Eph 3:8), that He is ‘heir of all things’ (Heb 1:2).

“So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is His way of loving us, His way of being our neighbor, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbor to the man left half dead by the side of the road (cf. Lk 10:25ff ). What gives us true freedom, true salvation, and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness, and solidarity of His love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is His taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us. Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus’ wealth is that of His boundless confidence in God the Father, His constant trust, His desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to Him. Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in His being the Son; His unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor. When Jesus asks us to take up His ‘yoke which is easy,’ He asks us to be enriched by His ‘poverty which is rich’ and His ‘richness which is poor,’ to share His filial and fraternal Spirit, to become sons and daughters in the Son, brothers and sisters in the firstborn brother (cf. Rom 8:29).

“It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.

2. Our witness

“We might think that this ‘way’ of poverty was Jesus’ way, whereas we who come after Him can save the world with the right kind of human resources. This is not the case. In every time and place God continues to save mankind and the world through the poverty of Christ, who makes Himself poor in the sacraments, in His word, and in His Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.

“In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own, and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral, and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work, and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diaconia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination, and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury, and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity, and sharing.

“No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person - is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

“The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that He freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts, and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, Who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelization and human promotion.

“Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral, and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, Who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ Who became poor and enriched us by His poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

“May the Holy Spirit, through Whom we are ‘as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything’ (2 Cor 6:10), sustain us in our resolutions and increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy. In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe.”

Buying And Selling People

by Michelle Hough

(Editor’s note: This article was provided by Caritas.)

Almost 21 million people are the victims of trafficking. Credit Lane Harthill/CRS

I’m in Madrid wearing a pair of skinny jeans that cost 16 euro. “Great buy!” I thought when I got them last week. Now I’m at a trafficking meeting where people are discussing forced labor and now I’m not so sure. Just who was it that made these jeans?

Coatnet is an anti-trafficking network of 37 Christian organizations. Many also belong to the Caritas confederation. Caritas Internationalis acts as the secretariat for Coatnet.

“The International Labour Organization says almost 21 million people are the victims of trafficking. The vast majority are from Asia and are women.

Ombudswoman for Spain, Soledad Becerril Bustamente said at the opening of the meeting, “Labor exploitation has replaced the slavery of other eras.”

However, it’s not just a simple case of people being taken and being made to work against their will.

Chatting to participants from various parts of the world, I discovered that people walk into trafficking situations really believing that it will make their own and their families’ lives better.

Fr. George Sigamoney, director of Caritas Sri Lanka, says traffickers are very shrewd. “They identify local agents to speak with village women,” he said. “They give lump sums to the parents or husbands. They promise more money and a better future. They make them believe that they’re tourists. They take them to Thailand or Singapore and from there they’re taken to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon.”

Felix Kangama, from Caritas Mali, says traffickers come to villages and take girls, making them promises. They often end up trapped in places like Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. There they have their passport taken off of them.

Measures to combat trafficking range from asking governments to implement laws to simple awareness raising.

Fr. Hagos Hayish from Caritas Ethiopia says they have a project to ensure births are registered immediately. This prevents parents from changing the ages of their children and sending them abroad to work at a young age.

The sad truth is as long as there’s demand, there’ll be supply. Whether that be for domestic workers, factory workers, sex workers, or construction workers. In trafficking, people become merchandise in an international market.

Giuseppe Gulia, from the Italian Christian workers’ association ACLI, says, “Victims of trafficking are already victims before being trafficked. They’re merchandise. It’s key that they get more access to help and services. One service is justice.”

Pope Francis said last December, “Trafficking in human persons is a crime against humanity. We must join forces to free the victims and to stop this ever more aggressive crime, which threatens not only individual persons, but also the foundational values of society, as well as international security and justice, along with the economy, family structure, and social life.”

Pope Francis also mentioned the “throw away” culture which surrounds things such as trafficking.

I had my 16 euro jeans on my mind as I had breakfast with my trafficking colleagues this morning. I found myself sitting opposite Elena Timofticiuc from AIDRom – The Ecumenical Association of Churches in Romania.

She told me about one of the cases she’d worked on in Romania. They’re received a report of 100 Chinese women who were working many hours in terrible conditions in a clothing factory. They’d signed contracts with an agency in China with the promise of well-paid work in Europe. Even though AIDRom was trying to help them, they were too afraid to talk in case they were sent back to China. Elena said that working so hard for very little money had more or less become their ‘normality.’

Caritas Sweden’s George Joseph said, “People may think it’s best to avoid buying items made in places such as Bangladesh or China, where there are reports of worker exploitation and buy clothes made in Europe, but what they don’t understand is that it’s the same workers.”

Elena added, “There’s the demand for labor on the one side, the supply of labor force on the other, and the agencies in the middle. It’s a chain.”

Trafficking and forced labor are by nature clandestine and easy to ignore. But it’s about a global market, where people are bought and sold rather than goods. It’s easy to forget that globalization means that we’re all involved in this.

My jeans were made in Pakistan. A recent report said Pakistan ranks third in the Global Slavery Index. I can’t say whether my jeans were made by forced labor. But considering how little they cost, someone’s paying a high price somewhere.

Deathbed Conversions Inspire

by Michael Halm

Prayer attributed to St. Patrick

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

In her new book, Deathbed Conversions: Finding Faith at the Finish Line, Karen Edmisten tells of the famous and not so famous who came to God when near death. The stories show that such late conversions usually “don’t track in straight lines,” but are full of twists and turns.

“An honest-to-goodness deathbed conversion,” she says, “offers everything good storytelling demands: drama, pathos and sin, despair, chaos, confusion, love, enlightenment, and finally, redemption.”

As a convert herself from atheism at 35, she now says, “We Christians might discover a host of other feelings when we take a long, hard look [at deathbed conversions]: pity for people’s squandered lives, compassion for their black holes of despair, sorrow for the changes they missed, and happiness that could have been theirs had they submitted to God sooner.”

Mike Aquilina wrote, “I love this book. It has all the attractive power of the supermarket tabloids — big celebrity names, sex, violence, everything but aliens — but with the grace, eloquence, and profundity of Augustines’ Confessions.”

Carol Earls wrote, “It was so ‘good’ I simply could not put it down. It made me realize how fortunate I am to be a Catholic.”

She tells of Oscar Wilde, poet, writer, and out-of-control hedonist, whose deathbed conversion to Catholicism is just about completely ignored.

Arthur Simon Flegenheimer is a deathbed convert few have heard. He was better known as Public Enemy Number One “Dutch Shultz.” His parents were both German Jews who attempted to raise their son in their faith. As he lay dying in the hospital from gunshot wounds, he registered as a Jew. But early the next morning he unexpectedly called for a Catholic priest. Fr. Cornelius McInerney baptized him and gave him the last rites. He was later buried in a Catholic cemetery.

Actor Frank James “Gary” Cooper had an long-running affair with actress Patricia Neal that helped break up his marriage. He talked her into having an abortion, but two years before he died he converted to Catholicism. Within a month of Jimmy Stewart’s emotional speech for him at the Academy Awards he was dead from cancer, just after his 60th birthday. He was buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery, Southampton, NY.

Patricia Neal also died of cancer, but converted four months before her death, largely because of the surprizing forgiveness she eventually received from Cooper’s wife and daughter. She was buried in the Abbey lof of Regina Landis, Bethlehem, CT, where her friend Dorores Hart had become a nun.

Fr. Matthew Munoz says that his grandmother Josephine Saenz never stopped praying for her ex-husband, Marion Michael Morrison’s conversion. He was better known as John Wayne.

Fr. Munoz also said that his grandfather expressed a degree of regret about not becoming a Catholic earlier in life, explaining “that was one of the sentiments he expressed before he passed on, blaming “a busy life.”

His son, Patrick Wayne, tells how he called the chaplain and left them alone for fifteen minutes and could hear them talking. When the chaplain came out, he told me he had baptized Dad.

Alexis Carrel, the Nobel Prize winner, was an avowed atheist but he witnessed a miracle in Lourdes when Marie Bailly didn’t die of tuberculosis. He promoted eugenics for decades, but early the next morning she got up on her own and was already dressed when Carrel saw her again. She was healed. Later he saw a child regain its sight. Carrel refused to accept the possibility of a miracle for years and promoted eugenics. Nearing the end of his life, however, Carrel finally called his friend Trappist monk Alexis Presse and returned to the Catholic Church of his youth.

King Charles II suffered a sudden apoplectic fit and died four days later. On the last evening of his life he also was received back into the Catholic Church.

William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody is one of the most iconic figures of the Wild West. He because a Catholic the day before his death. It is believed that he was inspired to do so by his friend Sitting Bull, himself a Catholic convert, being instructed by Bishop Marty of Dakota.

Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stevens was baptized a Catholic by Fr. Arthur Hanley, chaplain of St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, where Stevens spent his last days suffering from cancer. In the same year, 1955, mathematician John von Neumann was diagnosed with cancer and died a year and a half later. On his death bed he told Fr. Anselm Strittmatter that Pascal had a point, referring to Pascal’s wager.

After artist Aubrey Beardsley converted to Catholicism he begged his publisher to “destroy all copies of Lysistrata and bad drawings . . . by all this is holy all obscene drawings.” Smithers, however, ignored Beardsley’s wishes and actually continued to sell reproductions as well as forgeries of Beardsley’s work. He died at just 25 from tuberculosis and was buried at Menton Cathedral cemetery.

Seven months before his death, agnostic journalist Heywood Broun converted to Catholicism after discussion with Archbishop Fulton Sheen. More than 3,000 mourners attended his funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Many other little known celebrity conversion stories can be found on the internet. Although not deathbed conversions those of Newt Guingrich, Jeb Bush, Vincent Prince, and Norma “Jane Doe” McCorvey are interesting. John Henry “Doc” Holiday is said to have been a deathbed convert because of Fr. Edward Downey and cousin Sr. Martha Anne “Mattie” Holiday.

Actor Alec Guinness, an Anglican, was filming “Father Brown” when he was mistaken for a real priest by a local child. Later when their eleven-year-old son was ill with polio, Guinness began visiting a church to pray and a few years later converted to the Catholic Church. A few years after that his wife also converted, only telling him afterward.

Black Elk, the Oglala medicine man, married his first wife, Katie War Bonnet. She and all three of their children became Catholic. After her death, he was baptized Catholic as Nicholas.

South Sudan At Crossroads

by Caritas Internationalis

(Editor’s note: This article was provided by Caritas Internationalis.)

Caritas has been providing basic aid kits to these women displaced by the recent fighting in South Sudan. Credit: Caritas

“We stand at a decisive moment in the history of South Sudan,” said the Catholic bishops of South Sudan and Sudan at the end of their meeting in the capital Juba. “Fundamental choices must be made about how we deal with our past and present history, about how we govern ourselves as a nation, about how state institutions serve the poor.”

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 800,000 have fled their homes since fighting erupted in mid-December.

“Our vision of a liberated nation in which all people will be equal and live in peace appears to be shattered,” said the bishops. “Brother fought against brother, leading to so much unnecessary death and displacement.”

The bishops urged South Sudan’s leaders to implement a ceasefire between the government and rebels. “The ceasefire signed on January 23, 2014 must be implemented in good faith. There are no excuses for not doing so,” said the bishops.

The bishops raised particular concern about the humanitarian situation in Malakal, the scene of recent fighting.

“The humanitarian crisis in Malakal is particularly acute and we appeal to all agencies, especially our own Caritas Internationalis family to support the vulnerable communities through all possible means,” they said.

Their concerns are echoed by Caritas. Doctors at the hospital in Malakal are reportedly overwhelmed by the huge numbers of people inside the hospital. They have no way of distinguishing between patients and those looking for shelter.

Beyond the immediate need to end hostilities, “there are no quick-fixes to the deep social divisions and trauma within our society,” said the bishops, calling for a process of truth telling about the violence.

The bishops highlight the causes of the current violence, which include the need for democratic reform, a lack of professionalism in government institutions, corruption, and nepotism.

“Where are our Mandelas and Nyereres? Where are those who will lead us in re-founding this newly independent nation,” said the bishops. “We must seize from the present crisis an opportunity to re-found our nation on democratic principles of dialogue, inclusion, and respect for diversity.”

They also called for the armed forces to be reformed and depoliticized. They urged for all combatants to respect international law on the protection of civilians.

“We deplore the manner in which children have been conscripted and recruited into armed forces during the current conflict. Children have no place in the conflict,” said the bishops.

South Sudanese Still Believe To Hope

by Joseph Kibiru

(Editor’s note: This article was provided by Caritas.)

A procession for peace in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.. Credit Joseph Kabiru/CAFOD

On my second day in the South Sudanese capital Juba, I have heard some of the stories of people escaping the violence that has engulfed the country. In the capital Juba, hidden from the hustle and bustle of a city slowly coming back to normal, are the stories of women and children who have borne the brunt of the suffering.

The streets of Juba can be deceptive to the stranger. They are full of life, signs of a city recovering from recent violent events. Gunshots which were a regular feature of life at night here, are slowly becoming rare.

In the dusty grounds of St. Theresa Catholic Cathedral, I sat with women as their restless children tugged on their arms or legs, wanting to do something more than just sit around and talk. The women told me that their world has been turned upside down by the fighting.

Stella Jacob, an 18 year-old mother of three, gave birth to her six day-old son, Thomas Sebit, on her own. I met mother and baby, plus her two other children, inside the Cathedral compound where they are sleeping on the floor, in an incomplete stone building belonging to the Sacred Heart’s Sisters.

Covering her new-born baby with a mosquito net, Stella told me how she had to flee with her two other children in the middle of the night on December 15 last year when she was 8 months pregnant. “I didn’t even know the baby was due when I went into labor, and the baby came before my mother could summon help,” she said. Stella’s husband had gone to the military barracks for recruitment when fighting broke. She doesn’t know if her husband is dead or alive.

Behind the violence and political posturing, it is ordinary lives that are affected. Mary Abdalla Labalua, a single mother of 12 children, only returned to South Sudan two years ago. She wanted to start a new life in her new country after living all her life in Khartoum in Sudan. She came back full of hope and bought a plot of land and built a new house. It was destroyed within two days of the fighting.

The situation is still tense. The ceasefire is fragile. People are not totally sure what is going to happen next.

I’m not able to travel far outside of Juba. But I have been able to speak on the telephone to Church partners in the town of Malakal. Sister Agnes Nyalik told me dogs and chickens were feeding on the rotting bodies of those killed in the fierce fighting for control of the town. I was told that floating bodies can be seen in the River Nile.

Doctors at the hospital in Malakal are overwhelmed by the huge numbers of people inside the hospital. They have no way of distinguishing between patients and those looking for shelter.

I was told food – mostly looted from shops and the warehouses of humanitarian agencies – are now being sold at exorbitant prices to anyone who is willing to venture into the streets of Malakal town.

I watched with pride from the comfort of my home in Nairobi as South Sudan peacefully embraced independence on July 9, 2011. Despite the horrors of the violence, the South Sudanese people still believe in hope, they still believe in their new country, they believe that peace and development is their future.

Caritas members have provided aid to people fleeing violence in St. Theresa Catholic Cathedral, including water and household essentials. Joseph Kabiru is CAFOD’s Africa News Officer based in Nairobi. CAFOD is a Caritas member for England and Wales.

Lifting The Lid On Human Trafficking

by Michelle Hough

(Editor’s note: This article was provided by Caritas.)

Anti-trafficking campaign by United States Catholic Bishops Conference (USCCB).

Traffickers of people are not necessarily violent men who use force against women. All the people I spoke to at a meeting of the Christian Organizations Against Trafficking Network (COATNET) in Madrid meeting said not much is known about traffickers in general. One thing’s for sure, they’re very astute.

Torsten Moritz from the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe said, “Whereas 10 or 15 years ago there was the idea that trafficking was about sexual exploitation and victims were snatched off the street, now it’s more subtle. It used to be about exploitation from day one. Now it’s a ‘slippery slope.’ People are found jobs and gradually paid less or not at all. They find themselves in a very grey area. This creates fewer problems for the traffickers as they don’t have to use brutal force.”

Lifting the lid on human trafficking is vital. Many of the organizations belonging to COATNET raise awareness and educate communities on trafficking to tackle this.

Talking about human trafficking

Rupa Rai from Caritas Nepal said, “We target the grassroots, communities where migration is common. We check people’s papers and advise them to migrate with a registered organization. We tell people to always go through Nepal International airport rather than overland if they’re promised work in India as everything will be checked.”

Lifting the lid on human trafficking is vital. Often organizations ask the help of people who’ve returned from being trafficked to raise awareness.

Felix Kangama from Caritas Mali, said, “We receive girls who’ve been exploited and we get them on the radio so they can tell of their experience and how it happened.”

Such awareness raising is vitally important. People often sign up with recruitment agencies in their own countries advertising well-paid jobs or they are ‘befriended’ by someone and taken abroad. Both methods lower people’s barriers so they are less likely to take precautions against exploitation.

Once abroad they may find themselves isolated as a domestic worker in someone’s house, working long hours and having their passport taken off them. Here are some other signs of trafficking from the US bishops’ conference.

Poverty is key

George Joseph from Caritas Sweden told me about Lourdes (name changed) who was trafficked to Sweden from El Salvador. Another Salvadoran woman befriended her and told her about great job opportunities in Europe. She had three children and a sick mother and desperately needed money.

On arrival, Lourdes discovered the documents the woman had provided were false. She was made to work daily 16 hours in a restaurant for 17 euro – some of which she sent to her family. The rest of the money she would have earned went to pay off her ‘debt’ to her traffickers. She was moved around a lot and told that if she tried to escape, the traffickers would hurt her children.

The surprising thing is that once she was rescued, she decided she’d like to migrate again. Knowing the pitfalls, she thought she could make a success of it the second time and be able to make enough money to support her family.

George Joseph said, “It’s the resilience of the human spirit. There’s nothing worse than your children going to bed hungry and you can’t do anything. With the money she was sending back, she could afford to feed her children and put them through school.”

The desperate poverty in some countries means that people are willing to risk exploitation and sexual abuse abroad rather than stay and not be able to put food on the table for their families.

People who fall prey to traffickers are often desperate to improve their own and the lives of people around them. If they are duped by traffickers, they feel great shame and sometimes don’t even want to return home.

Sadly, some people who are trafficked never do return home.

Fr. George Sigamoney from Caritas Sri Lanka told me the story of a young girl who was trafficked from Sri Lanka to Saudi Arabia. She committed suicide after being abused while working as a domestic worker in a family. The day before she died, she phoned her parents to say everything was fine.

Light to the Nations: A Christian Perspective on World News

Prayer to St. Joseph

O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in the spirit of penance in expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations; to gratefully and joyously deem it an honor to employ and to develop by labor the gifts I have received from God, to work methodically, peacefully, and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty to work; above all,with purity of intention and unselfishnesss, having unceasingly before my eyes death and the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain compliancy in success, so baneful to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee, O Patriarch St. Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity. Amen.

Consecrated Persons Are Vital Witnesses

VATICAN CITY (VIS) – After celebrating Holy Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, on the 18th Day of Consecrated Life (February 2), the Pope appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with thousands of people gathered below, despite heavy rain, in St. Peter's Square.

The Bishop of Rome, after thanking the many faithful and pilgrims for their presence, commented on today's Gospel reading, in which St. Luke narrates the presentation of Jesus in the Temple; an episode which is also “an icon of the giving of their lives by those who, through a gift of God, take on the typical traits of Jesus, chaste, poor, and obedient.”

“The offering of oneself to God relates to every Christian, because we are all consecrated to Him through baptism … making a generous gift of our life, in the family, at work, in the service the Church, in works of mercy. Nevertheless, this consecration is lived in a particular way by the religious, monks, consecrated lay people, who with the profession of vows, fully and exclusively belong to God. Totally consecrated to God, they are totally consigned to their brethren, to bring the light of Christ there where the darkness is densest and to spread His hope in the hearts of the disheartened.”

After emphasizing that consecrated persons are a sign of God in the various contexts of life and “leaven for the growth of a more just and fraternal society.” The Pope repeated the need for these presences, “which fortify and renew commitment to the spread of the Gospel, of Christian education, of charity towards the neediest, of contemplative prayer; commitment to human formation, the spiritual formation of the young, of families; commitment for justice and peace in the human family. Let us imagine a moment what would happen if there were no nuns in hospitals, no nuns in missions, no nuns in schools. Imagine a church without nuns! It is unimaginable. They are … the yeast that carries forward the people of God. These women, who consecrate their lives to God, who bring forward the message of Jesus, are great.”

The Church and the world need “this witness of love and of God's mercy. Consecrated and religious persons offer witness that God is good and merciful. … We must pray that many young people answer 'yes!' to the Lord who calls to them to consecrate themselves fully to Him, in the disinterested service of their brothers, who consecrate their lives to serving God and their brothers.”

(Source: Vatican Information Service)

hope is essential for peace

WASHINGTON — Bishops from Europe, South Africa, and North America, gathered in the Holy Land for an annual meeting, said that hope is needed to bring lasting peace to the Holy Land, January 15. Eleven countries made up the 2014 Co-Ordination of Bishops’ Conference in support of the Church in the Holy Land, which issues an annual statement following their meeting.

“We urge public officials to become leaders of hope, not people of obstruction,” the bishops wrote. They cited the words of Pope Francis encouraging peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians and expressed hope that Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land in May will promote hope in the region.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, represented the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the gathering.

The bishops wrote that they were encouraged by the hope of the people they encountered during the time in the Holy Land, including in Gaza, which they called “a man-made disaster.”

The bishops wrote, “As we leave the Holy Land, the bishops and people of the local Church remain in our hearts. They are not alone.”

Full text of the statement is available online:

(Source: USCCB press release)

Edge To Edge

Pray The News

“Let us search and examine our ways that we may return to the Lord! Let us reach out our hearts toward God in heaven!”

(Lam 3:40-41)

Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.

  • We pray that we will grow ever closer to Jesus this Lent.
  • We pray that we will imitate Jesus in His poverty.
  • We pray for the victory of the civilization of life and love over the culture of death.
  • We pray for an end to human trafficking.
  • We pray for an end to war and violence, abortion, euthanasia, and all attacks on life.
  • We pray for the people of Sudan.
  • We pray that Lent will be a time of deep, ongoing conversion.
  • We pray for those experiencing hardship because of the weather.
  • We pray for the sick and suffering.
  • We pray that we will follow the example of St. Joseph, St. Patrick, and all the saints.
  • We pray that we will serve Jesus by serving the poor, outcast, suffering, and marginalized.

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Copyright © 2016 Presentation Ministries
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Phone: (513) 662-5378

Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378,



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