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This is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of June

Pope Francis at his general audience in St. Peter's Square on May 17, 2023. / Vatican Media

Denver, Colo., May 31, 2023 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of June is for the abolition of torture. 

“Torture is not past history. Unfortunately, it’s part of our history today,” Pope Francis said in a video released May 30.

“How is it possible that the human capacity for cruelty is so huge?” he questioned. 

“There are extremely violent forms of torture. Others are more sophisticated, such as degrading someone, dulling the senses, or mass detentions in conditions so inhumane that they take away the dignity of the person.”

The pope reminded the faithful that this is not something new. He urged everyone to “think of how Jesus himself was tortured and crucified.”

He added: “Let us put a stop to this horror of torture. It is essential to put the dignity of the person above all else. Otherwise, the victims are not persons, they are ‘things’ and can be mistreated mercilessly, causing death or permanent psychological and physical harm lasting a lifetime.”

Pope Francis concluded his message with a prayer: “Let us pray that the international community commit itself concretely to abolish torture, guaranteeing support to victims and their families.”

Pope Francis’ prayer video is promoted by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, which raises awareness of monthly papal prayer intentions.

PHOTOS: Thousands gather in Times Square for eucharistic procession in New York City

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

New York City, N.Y., May 31, 2023 / 09:05 am (CNA).

In what many are calling the largest eucharistic procession ever held in New York City, thousands of people took to the streets reciting prayers and singing songs of praise on the vigil of Pentecost, May 27.

The NYPD estimated more than 4,000 people took to the streets and processed through Times Square. Led by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat of the Archdiocese of New York, the procession brought together priests, nuns, and laity to pray for the forgiveness of sins in the iconic city and the world.

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

The theme of the procession was “¡Esta ciudad pertenece a Jesucristo!” — “This city belongs to Jesus Christ!”

The procession was organized by the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center located in the Bronx, which is part of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church. Participants started at Father Duffy Square in Times Square and after two hours, the procession ended at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Mass was celebrated.

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

With a bullhorn in hand, Espaillat shared intense words to the faithful, saying: “In the middle of New York is the cross of Jesus Christ!”

“And this is why we rejoice today. We rejoice because this is Pentecost weekend. And we know what happened on Pentecost, right? There was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

“And we would not be standing here if it were not for the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen?”

“So my sisters and my brothers in Christ, we rejoice today for the blessings that God has in store for this great city. I love this city! I love New York! And that’s why I’m here, because I want to pray for our city. Amen?”

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

He exclaimed in Spanish: “¡Esta es mi ciudad! ¡Esta es nuestra ciudad! ¡Esta ciudad es de Jesucristo!” which translates to “This is my city! This is our city! This city is Jesus Christ’s’!” 

Photojournalist Jeffrey Bruno, who happened to be in the city for another assignment and stumbled upon the procession thanks to an Instagram post, said: “I have never seen anything like that before, especially in New York.” 

One particularly moving moment Bruno captured was the crowded street, lined by the skyscrapers of Times Square, filled with the faithful kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament as it was being lifted high into the air.

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Father Shane Johnson, administrator of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church and director of the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center, told CNA: “​​To me, the number of people was secondary to the amount of real authentic faith that was so evident in those who were present. It was astonishing.”

“These moments of kneeling on the asphalt in the middle of a city street with our arms raised to God remind us of who we are as his children and how this city really does belong entirely to him,” he added.

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Johnson explained that while many view New York City as hostile toward Catholic events, such as protests held during pro-life walks in the city, the vast majority of people are respectful. 

“There is far more faith than might appear at first glance,” he shared. “When the majority is silent and a tiny minority is very loud, we get the impression that faith is moribund, but I’m convinced that our Lord’s victory in the hearts of his children is, almost all of the time, far greater than we realize.” 

Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Thousands of people gathered in Times Square for a eucharistic procession in New York City on May 27, 2023. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

“Most people like to see expressions of faith, even when they don’t understand them fully, and even in a city that’s often considered more famous for its sinners than for its many saints.” 

The eucharistic procession was organized as part of the Church’s National Eucharistic Revival. The next procession will take place on the feast of Corpus Christi, Sunday, June 11.

MLB player condemns Dodgers’ decision to honor anti-Catholic group; team announces day for Christians

Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. / Credit: Kit Leong/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 30, 2023 / 16:28 pm (CNA).

Amid increased boycott calls from prominent Catholics — as well as criticism from MLB pitcher Trevor Williams — for their decision to honor an anti-Catholic drag group, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced they will be hosting a “Christian Faith & Family Day” on July 30. 

In a Friday tweet, the Dodgers invited Christians to “stay after the game to celebrate and be part of a day of worship.” 

Dodgers’ ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw also invited Christians to participate, saying: “We are grateful for the opportunity to talk about Jesus” and adding that the team is “determined to make it bigger and better than it was before COVID.”

The last Christian faith event held by the Dodgers was in 2019. The team’s decision to bring it back comes amid widespread claims that their support for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence amounts to support for anti-Catholicism and anti-Christian hate.

Prominent Catholics across the country, including Major League Baseball pitcher Trevor Williams, have rebuked the Dodgers for honoring a group that mocks Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Catholicism. 

Williams, who pitches for the Washington Nationals, condemned the Dodgers’ decision in a Tuesday tweet: “To invite and honor a group that makes a blatant and deeply offensive mockery of my religion, and the religion of over 4 million people in Los Angeles county alone, undermines the values of respect and inclusivity that should be upheld by any organization.” 

“I believe it is essential for the Dodgers to reconsider their association with this group and strive to create an inclusive environment that does not demean or disrespect the religious beliefs of any fan or employee,” Williams said. “I also encourage my fellow Catholics to reconsider their support of an organization that allows this type of mockery of its fans to occur.” 

The controversy erupted last week after the Dodgers announced that they would honor “the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” a group known for mocking Catholicism, during their “Pride Night at Dodger Stadium” event on June 16.

The national drag group uses Catholic religious imagery and themes in protests and sexualized performances to raise awareness and money for LGBTQ+ causes. The performers call themselves nuns and regularly use the images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and women religious.

The Dodgers will be honoring the L.A. chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with a “Community Hero Award” before the June 16 game against the San Francisco Giants.

The archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, condemned the Dodgers’ decision to give the group an award, saying: “Our Catholic sisters devote themselves to serving others selflessly. Decent people would not mock & blaspheme them. So we now know what gods the Dodger admin worships. Open desecration & anti-Catholicism is not disqualifying. Disappointing but not surprising.”

After initially receiving backlash over the announcement, the Dodgers disinvited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, only to reinvite them — this time with an apology — days later.

In response, Bishop Robert Barron of the Winona-Rochester Diocese called for a boycott against the Dodgers. 

“Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in America, and we shouldn’t tolerate it,” Barron said in a tweet. “I’m a big baseball fan. I’ve even thrown out the first pitch at a Dodgers game. But I’d encourage my friends in L.A. to boycott the Dodgers. Let’s not just pray, but make our voices heard in defense of our Catholic faith.” 

In an official statement released May 24, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles condemned the Dodgers’ decision “to honor a group that clearly mocks the Catholic faith and makes light of the sincere and holy vocations of our women religious who are an integral part of our Church is what has caused disappointment, concern, anger, and dismay from our Catholic community.”

Adrian Alarcon, director of media relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, told CNA that Dodgers’ faith and family day announcement has not changed their position. 

In the archdiocese’s statement last week, they called on “all Catholics and people of goodwill to stand against bigotry and hate in any form and to stand for respect for one another and for the religious beliefs of our communities of faith.” 

As of today, Alarcon said: “Our position is the same.”

Liz Wheeler, a conservative political commentator and Catholic, responded to the Dodgers’ faith and family announcement tweet, saying: “How dare you try to pander to Christians because you need us as consumers while at the same time you HONOR an anti-Christian hate group that blasphemes Jesus with ‘Jesus and Mary striptease’ and ‘dildo dipped in drugs blessings’ & ‘semen’ filled chalices? You are grotesque.”

CatholicVote announced on Friday that it would spend $1 million on a television, digital, and billboard ad campaign to encourage Los Angeles residents to boycott the Dodgers. 

“Creating a ‘faith and family’ event does not balance the decision to honor a perverted, fake ‘nun’ group that exists to mock the Catholic religion,” CatholicVote President Brian Burch said in a press release. “The Dodgers have one path forward: apologize and stop honoring hateful anti-Catholic organizations.”

Two elderly pro-life activists beaten outside of Baltimore Planned Parenthood

null / Credit: pixelaway/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 30, 2023 / 15:50 pm (CNA).

Baltimore police are searching for a man who is accused of attacking and beating two elderly pro-life activists who were praying outside of a Baltimore Planned Parenthood abortion clinic on May 26.

According to witnesses cited in the police report, the unidentified suspect attacked a 73-year-old man and an 80-year-old man after engaging in a "debate" with one of the pro-life activists about abortion. 

The report, citing video surveillance of the alleged assault, states that the suspect was talking to the 80-year-old man, turned away from him and then turned back and tackled him over a large flower pot.

The report states that a second elderly pro-life activist ran over to help the victim. At that point the suspect shoved the second man onto the ground and struck his face with a closed fist while the man’s back was to the ground. The report adds that the suspect stood up and kicked the second man in the face “with extreme force” and then walked away from the scene.

Although the report provided to CNA by the Baltimore County Police Department redacted the names of the victims, Baltimore County Right to Life President Jay Walton identified the second man as 73-year-old Mark Crosby. 

“Mark [Crosby] is currently in the hospital being treated for the serious injuries he sustained,” Walton said in a Facebook post. “Please pray that Mark makes a full recovery and that the thug that did this to him is found and dealt with swiftly.”

The police report states that he was diagnosed with a large hematoma, hyphema, and head and neck pain but is in stable condition. An update provided by Walton on Facebook on Monday stated that Crosby returned to the emergency room because he is “bleeding from somewhere behind his right eye.”

Walton set up a GoFundMe for Crosby’s medical expenses for “the serious injuries he sustained,” which asks people “to help Mark [Crosby] recover financially from this terrible experience.” 

“For years, Mark has prayed in front of the Planned Parenthood in Baltimore City to let the scared, young abortion-minded women know that they are loved, that their baby is loved,” the GoFundMe states. “Please donate to show Mark how much HE is loved.”

As of Tuesday at 5 p.m., the GoFundMe has raised more than $9,000 of the stated $10,000 goal. 

The police report said the suspect is a white male who was wearing a gray T-shirt, blue jeans, and brown shoes at the time of the alleged assault. The report states that the man had brown hair and a full beard.

St. Louis Archdiocese reorganization will cut parishes from 178 to 134

Parishioners at Sacred Heart parish in Valley Park, Missouri, part of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, listen to a presentation about parish mergers at an October 2022 listening session. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Washington D.C., May 30, 2023 / 14:50 pm (CNA).

A new plan approved in the Archdiocese of St. Louis will reduce the number of parishes from 178 to 134 amid concerns about a lack of priests and shrinking Mass attendance, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski announced over the weekend.

The plan, called “All Things New,” closes 35 churches, merges their parishes into neighboring parishes, and merges 15 other parishes into five new parishes. The plan also creates a new parish for the Spanish-speaking community in St. Charles County. In the end, this leaves the archdiocese with 44 fewer parishes than it has now.

Some of these changes will be implemented as soon as August, but the plan will not be completed until 2026.

“As your archbishop, I have the duty to provide for the pastoral care of all people in the archdiocese,” Rozanski said in a video announcing the changes. “‘All Things New’ has called us to ask ourselves what our parishes, ministries, and institutions need to look like in order to effectively share the faith that is sustainable for our children and generations to come.”

The archdiocese covers the City of St. Louis and 10 surrounding counties.

One of the reasons for reducing the number of parishes is poor Mass attendance. The archbishop said that about 5,000 Catholics are either leaving or not reengaging with the Church after high school or college annually.

“Over the past decade, we’ve also seen fewer people attending Mass,” Rozanski said. “Our numbers should be growing. We have more baptisms than funerals. Nearly 1,000 people enter the Church each year. But in 2021, the number of Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis dipped below 500,000 for the first time since the 1960s.”

Rozanski also noted that many Catholics have moved out of the city and into the surrounding counties, but the parish lines have yet been changed to reflect that. He noted that in one example, there are 10 priests for about 18,000 Catholics in North County, but there are only three priests serving 18,000 Catholics in one parish in St. Charles County. The changes seek to make these ratios more proportional.

“We find ourselves with too few priests in large parishes and a disproportionate number of priests in small parishes,” the archbishop said.

Another problem Rozanski noted was the priest shortage. According to projections from the archdiocese, there would be more parishes than priests by 2025 if the archdiocese failed to make any changes. He said that 41% of active or retired priests are older than 70.

Before making the changes, the archdiocese held 350 listening sessions, with at least one in each of the 178 current parishes. It also considered feedback from 70,000 Catholics in the archdiocese who participated in a survey. Feedback was also solicited from 18,000 school parents, staff, teachers, donors, and community partners. The archdiocese also held focus groups and talked with civil and business leaders.

Rozanski said the feedback helped structure the final plan, which was approved by the All Things New Planning Committee. The committee included priests, deacons, parish life coordinators, lay leaders, and religious within the archdiocese. In addition to considering the feedback, they also looked into financial data and other information.

The plan makes changes to how the archdiocese uses resources, which the archbishop said puts pastoral services closer to the people and parishes to foster collaboration across parish boundaries. He said the changes will help the archdiocese more effectively go into the community and bring Christ to people.

“I pray this first phase of work will equip us to build new, creative models of ministry together,” Rozanski said.

Some Catholics in the archdiocese have been critical of the changes because of the extent to which they will shake up parishes. More than 3,000 Catholics in the archdiocese signed a petition that asked the archbishop to halt the plan about two months ago.

The petition criticized the structure of the survey and claimed it only allowed the faithful to answer predetermined questions without being allowed to address specific situations in their own parish. It also claimed the process would cause mistrust in Church leadership, which could drive Catholics away.

In his announcement, Rozanski acknowledged “the profound impact a parish community can have on us and how these good and faithful institutions have formed our families.” He said he wished the changes were not necessary but also maintained optimism.

State judge blocks South Carolina’s 6-week abortion ban 

null / Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 30, 2023 / 13:25 pm (CNA).

A South Carolina judge temporarily blocked the state’s recently passed six-week “heartbeat” abortion ban on May 26.

South Carolina’s heartbeat law, which bans abortion after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, which is often around six weeks, was signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, on May 25. The bill was set to take effect immediately.

The day after being signed into law, State Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman of Richland County, South Carolina, granted Planned Parenthood South Atlantic’s request for an injunction, temporarily blocking the heartbeat law.

For the time being then, abortion will remain legal in South Carolina up until 22 weeks of pregnancy.  

The South Carolina heartbeat law will remain blocked until the state’s Supreme Court reviews the case and issues a final ruling on whether the law violates the state constitution.

McMaster on Friday announced he had filed an emergency motion with the state Supreme Court, requesting the court to resolve the case as soon as possible.

“Moments ago, before 5 p.m., we filed an emergency motion requesting the S.C. Supreme Court to resolve this issue quickly. The life of every South Carolinian — born or unborn — is precious and it’s His gift to us,” McMaster said in a tweet.

Planned Parenthood argues in its suit that the South Carolina heartbeat law is unconstitutional because it “violates the South Carolina Constitution’s right to privacy and its guarantees of equal protection and due process.”

“In particular, the act is an attack on families with low incomes, South Carolinians of color, and rural South Carolinians, who already face inequities in access to medical care and who will bear the brunt of the act’s cruelties,” Planned Parenthood argues.

A similar heartbeat law passed in South Carolina was permanently blocked by the state Supreme Court in a 3-2 January ruling.

In its January decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the former heartbeat law “violates our state constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy” because “six weeks is, quite simply, not a reasonable period of time.”

Kelsey Pritchard, director of state public affairs at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told CNA that the temporary blockage of the South Carolina pro-life law “allows painful, late-term abortions to continue in South Carolina and delays the heartbeat protection from saving lives.”

According to Pritchard, the new South Carolina heartbeat law was specifically designed to withstand legal scrutiny. 

“Sponsors of South Carolina’s heartbeat protection crafted the measure to withstand a legal challenge and satisfy the majority of state Supreme Court justices,” Pritchard said. 

Additionally, the makeup of the state Supreme Court has changed slightly since January, with former state Justice Kaye Hearn retiring and David Hill replacing her on the five-person court.

Pope Francis elevates Las Vegas to a metropolitan archdiocese

The Vatican has announced that Bishop George Leo Thomas will be the first metropolitan archbishop of Las Vegas. / Diocese of Helena

Vatican City, May 30, 2023 / 06:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis created a new ecclesiastical province in the United States on Tuesday by elevating Las Vegas to a metropolitan archdiocese.

The Vatican announced on May 30 that Bishop George Leo Thomas will be the first metropolitan archbishop of Las Vegas. Thomas has served as the bishop of Las Vegas since 2018.

The new Ecclesiastical Province of Las Vegas will include the suffragan dioceses of Reno and Salt Lake City.

Las Vegas, which has had the notorious nickname “Sin City” since the 1930s, is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S.

The Archdiocese of Las Vegas has a total population of 2.3 million people, of whom 620,000 are Catholics, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In the Catholic Church, an ecclesiastical province is a territory consisting of at least one archdiocese and several smaller dioceses known as “suffragan sees.”

Formerly, the dioceses of Las Vegas, Reno, and Salt Lake City were all suffragan dioceses of the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of San Francisco. With the new changes, the ecclesiastical province of San Francisco still has 14 million people, 3.3 million of whom are Catholics.

The Diocese of Las Vegas was created in 1995 when Pope John Paul II divided the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas into the two separate dioceses of Reno and Las Vegas.

Thomas, 73, is the third bishop of Las Vegas. He was consecrated as a bishop in 2000 and spent four years as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle before John Paul II appointed him bishop of Helena, where he ordained Father Stu Long to the priesthood.

Originally from Montana, Thomas wrote a doctoral dissertation on “Catholics and the Missions of the Pacific Northwest” while completing his Ph.D. at the University of Washington. He also received a master’s degree in counseling and community mental health after being ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1976.

The Catholic Church in the United States now has 35 metropolitan archdioceses, including two Eastern-rite metropolitan archeparchies.

Sister Wilhelmina’s body placed in glass case after solemn rosary procession

Religious sisters of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, sing as the process with the body of their late foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, on May 29, 2023, at their abbey near Gower, Missouri. The sisters exhumed the nun's body on May 18 and discovered that it was apparently intact, four years after her death and burial in a simple wooden coffin. / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Gower, Missouri, May 29, 2023 / 20:02 pm (CNA).

The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, an African American nun whose surprisingly intact remains have created a sensation at a remote Missouri abbey, was placed inside a glass display case Monday after a solemn procession led by members of the community she founded.

About 5 p.m., dozens of religious sisters of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, carried their foundress on a platform around the property of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, reciting the rosary and singing hymns. Some of the thousands of pilgrims who visited the abbey over the three-day Memorial Day weekend followed behind.

The procession, held in bright, late-afternoon sunshine, culminated inside the abbey’s church, where the nun’s body was placed into a specially made glass case. Flowers surrounded her body and decorated the top of the case, where there is an image of St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus. The church was filled with pilgrims, including many priests and religious sisters from other orders. 

Sister Wilhelmina, who founded the Benedictine order in 1995 when she was 70 years old, died in 2019. Expecting to find only bones, her fellow sisters exhumed her remains on April 28 intending to reinter them in a newly completed St. Joseph’s Shrine, only to discover that her body appeared astonishingly well-preserved.

The sisters say they intended to keep their discovery quiet, but the news got out anyway, prompting worldwide media coverage and a flood of pilgrims arriving at the abbey in Gower, a city of 1,500 residents about an hour’s drive from Kansas City, Missouri. A volunteer told CNA that more than 1,000 vehicles came onto the property on Monday but no official count was available.

There has been no official declaration that Sister Wilhelmina’s remains are “incorrupt,” a possible sign of sanctity, nor is there a formal cause underway for her canonization, a rigorous process that can take many years. The local ordinary, Bishop Vann Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, has said that a “thorough investigation” is needed to answer “important questions” raised by the state of her body, but there has been no word on if or when such an analysis will take place. 

Sister Wilhelmina's body was reinterred in a glass display case inside the church of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in Gower, Missouri, on May 29, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Sister Wilhelmina's body was reinterred in a glass display case inside the church of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in Gower, Missouri, on May 29, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA

Before Monday’s procession, pilgrims again waited in line throughout the day for an opportunity to see and touch Sister Wilhelmina’s body before its placement in the glass case, where it will remain accessible for public viewing.

Among those who came on Monday were Tonya and William Kattner of Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

“You've got to experience the magic and the miracle of it,” Tonya Kattner said.

“It’s a modern-day miracle and it was just something we had to come to,” William Kattner said. “Especially with everything going on in the world today, something like this brings hope.”

Kate and Peteh Jalloh of Kansas City, Missouri, said it was a "blessing" to view the apparently well-preserved body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster at her abbey in Gower, Missouri, on May 29, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Kate and Peteh Jalloh of Kansas City, Missouri, said it was a "blessing" to view the apparently well-preserved body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster at her abbey in Gower, Missouri, on May 29, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA

Kate and Peteh Jalloh of Kansas City, Missouri, also didn’t want to pass up the chance to see Sister Wilhelmina.

“I strongly believe in the Catholic faith. I believe in miracles and I have never seen anything like this before. I’ve got a lot going on in my life and this is the best time to get that message from a nun,” Kate Jalloh said.

“It could take another hundred years for us to see something like this,” she added.

Janie Bruck came with her cousins, Kristy Cook and Halle Cook, all from Omaha, Nebraska. 

“I came to witness the miracle. I believe we’re in a Jesus revolution and he’s sending us lots of signs,” Bruck said. Kristy Cook, a former Omaha police officer, said she was surprised that Sister Wilhelmina’s body had no odor of decay.

The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, OSB, lies in the basement of the church of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus outside Gower, Missouri, on May 28, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA
The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, OSB, lies in the basement of the church of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus outside Gower, Missouri, on May 28, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA

The sisters have publicly thanked the many local law enforcement officers, medical personnel, and volunteers who helped manage the influx of pilgrims over the holiday weekend.

Among the volunteers was Lucas Boddicker, of Kearney, Missouri, who joined members of his Knights of Columbus council based at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in nearby Plattsburgh, Missouri, to guide visiting vehicles to a makeshift parking lot in an open field. Other knights from local parishes helped set up tents and handed out free hamburgers, fruit, and bottles of water.

“That’s one thing the Knights do pretty well,” Boddicker said. “They get the word out when we need manpower.”

Priests heard confessions in a large grass field for hours, some using trees for shade, as young children played on the abbey grounds.

Three religious sisters from the Poor of Jesus Christ order, based in Kansas City, Kansas, said they were inspired by seeing Sister Wilhelmina’s body. 

One of the religious, Sister Azucena, said she “wanted to cry,” while praying at the nun’s side. “I just had this feeling of peace and love. We share a vocation. Her fidelity to the Lord and her love, I could feel that there,” she said.

Jason and Jessica Ewell were excited to coincidentally be in town visiting Trish Bachicha (far right) when they heard about the discovery of Sister Wilhelmina's surprisingly intact remains. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Jason and Jessica Ewell were excited to coincidentally be in town visiting Trish Bachicha (far right) when they heard about the discovery of Sister Wilhelmina's surprisingly intact remains. Joe Bukuras/CNA

A married couple, Jason and Jessica Ewell, both of whom are blind, were visiting Kansas City, Missouri, from Pennsylvania when they heard Monday morning about Sister Wilhelmina’s body.

“It’s just kind of a neat thing to be a part of the beginning of this story,” Jessica Ewell said.

“I was asking for her intercession for children for our marriage,” she said. “A lot of people think ‘Oh, it’s the blindness,’ but no, it’s not that at all,’” she said.

“Yesterday I was kind of in a place where I said, ‘God, I need something right now,’” she said. “We always hear about these miracles. But they’re long ago and far away and always happen to other people.”

Trish Bachicha, Jessica’s mother, said she believes that God is sending a message. 

“He saying ‘I’m alive and well and I haven’t forgotten you,’” she said.

Editor's note: This story was updated on June 2 to correct the date that Sister Wilhelmina's body was exhumed.

Catholic ‘Shark Tank’: Startup founders pitch products with a purpose at SENT competition

Francisco Cornejo of Storybook is awarded the grand prize at “Catholic Shark Tank.” / Credit: Courtesy photo/SENT

Washington D.C., May 29, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

In a “Shark Tank”-style competition with a twist, Catholic founders recently pitched their startups and faced questions from a panel of judges while highlighting the importance of the Catholic faith in their businesses. 

The event was the culmination of the SENT Ventures Summit at The Catholic University of America last month, a gathering of Catholic CEOs and founders looking to foster connections and grow in their faith. 

Zak Slayback, a partner with the 1517 Fund, a venture capital fund supporting startups at early stages, is on the management team at the new Catholic investor group Catholic Angels, which hosted the event. 

Slayback told the National Catholic Register that the competition “provided a chance for faith-driven entrepreneurs to present their startups to an audience of aligned partners and investors.” The winner took home $5,000 cash for their business as well as “credits for various startup resources, swag, and direct opportunities with SENT’s Catholic Angels investor network.” 

The four early-stage startups selected as finalists were chosen out of more than 60 teams that applied to present at the competition. These four finalists told their stories to the judges, emphasizing their faith alignment, qualified team, user growth, the market for their product, and why the product works in today’s market.

Caring for the elderly

Nigel Mould, CEO at StackCare, talked about how his business was born out of the growing need to care for the elderly while preserving both their dignity and the peace of mind of caregivers. 

“StackCare delivers alerts directly to family members and/or caregivers, and we do it all without being intrusive, while being HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant, and making sure that we deliver on our core promise of dignity and independence for seniors and peace of mind for families,” Mould explained.

Nigel Mould, CEO of StackCare. Credit: Courtesy photo
Nigel Mould, CEO of StackCare. Credit: Courtesy photo

While their system is not a medical device, it does provide “insight to developing and/or potential problems: poor sleep, frequency or length of bathroom visits, skipping meals, activity levels, and much more.”

Mould said StackCare already has paid contracts in several states from Connecticut to California and is also establishing partnerships with paid installations at national home-care providers.

“The plea of the elderly in Psalm 71, ‘Do not cast me away when I am old,’ and the lack of caregivers today and in the future, for us is almost an invitation to use technology to allow seniors to age in place as they want to,” he said, “but at the same time letting families and caregivers know when they might need help.”

Reaching the Indian Catholic community

Tania Kottoor, founder and CEO of West by East, began her presentation by telling the story of a first-generation Indian-American woman who grew up in a Catholic community and also enjoyed watching Bollywood films, envisioning herself as a traditional bride in a sari. 

When her wedding planning actually came around, she discovered a shortage of traditional options both online and in the few stores that were hours away. This scenario is how her company, West by East, was born, Kottoor recounted. 

“Our customers can go to our website, they can select a silhouette, color, fabric; and then they can use their phone to take their measurements virtually in 60 seconds,” she said. “This allows us to capture their avatar, to create a 3-D rendering of the complete outfit on their actual body.”

Tania Kottoor, founder and CEO of West by East. Credit: Courtesy photo
Tania Kottoor, founder and CEO of West by East. Credit: Courtesy photo

“My co-founder and I have 20 years of experience in luxury fashion and manufacturing,” she said. “We both grew up in an Indian-Catholic community, as well as an immigrant household, and we realized that you need faith to succeed.”

“The values that we learned in church we brought into our business,” she continued. “Now, we have a crazy waitlist of over 2,000 folks, which equates to over half a million dollars in potential revenue. We have demand, but we’re at capacity. Now, we’re raising $1.2 million to be the market leader and to unlock that waitlist.”

She told the judges that their business has sold more than 1,500 units and 500 of those were to people of Catholic backgrounds. “We really lean into our own community to grow the business,” she said.

She hopes their business can one day expand to other diasporas like East Asian, African, and Middle Eastern communities. “I’ve seen so many brands come and go in the past few years,” she said. “No one’s doing it for other Catholics as well in all these diasporas.”

Making food safer

Paddy McNamara, the founder of Allera Tech, asked audience members to raise their hands if they knew someone with a food allergy. 

“Almost all of us do,” he pointed out, then he shared a near-death experience he had due to his tree-nut allergy. 

“It taught me that allergens are not just a problem for individuals with food allergies but [for] food manufacturers as well,” he said. “The average recall costs $10 million, and allergens are the No. 1 reason for recalls — so allergens are expensive. They’re also life-threatening.” 

He said that for some of these food-manufacturing companies, “their quality-assurance data is entirely pen and paper. So right now, someone on the floor writes it down, pen and paper, hands it to a manager, who manually types it into Excel, and then it’s put into a filing cabinet for five to seven years for FDA audit.”

Paddy McNamara, founder of Allera Tech. Credit: Courtesy photo
Paddy McNamara, founder of Allera Tech. Credit: Courtesy photo

Allera Tech is addressing this circumstance with a software platform to input, store, and analyze data. The system, he said, would replace “pen and paper, which is prone to error.” 

He explained that sanitizing and testing equipment for allergens currently takes a company about 15 minutes. 

“For a food manufacturer, an hour of down time equates to about $40,000,” he said. “Some of these companies do hundreds of tests per week.”

In the longer term, his company is attempting to shorten the time involved in testing. 

The company has several contracts with companies utilizing their software as well as a partnership with a top-10 food producer to build an allergen testing solution.

McNamara was raised Catholic but drifted from the Church. He had a turning point during volunteer experiences serving the poor in AmeriCorps for a year in Missouri and a few months in El Salvador. 

“It was the mystics like Thomas Merton and Teresa de Ávila that taught me how God sustains us through intense service experiences,” he said. “I found myself just always returning to the Catholic expression that I left.”

Family bonding over stories

Francisco Cornejo, co-founder and CEO of the “Storybook” app, and his wife and co-founder, Daniela Vega, came up with the business idea after their experience moving from Ecuador to Australia with their two young children, then ages 1 and 3, as Cornejo was completing his master’s degree. Due to their busy schedule, there was stress and anxiety at home. 

“Daniela realized that she needed to connect with the kids,” he said. “Through faith and prayer, she found out about infant massage and how this was such an important tool to connect through the importance of physical affection; and while she was practicing this with the kids, she used to tell them stories. She had an iPad and candles, and she’d create this fantastic bedtime routine.”

“The kids started to fight each other about who’s going to go first,” he said, “but, more meaningfully, that was the moment we started to really bond with them.”

Francisco Cornejo of Storybook. Credit: Courtesy photo
Francisco Cornejo of Storybook. Credit: Courtesy photo

Their award-winning Storybook app combines relaxation techniques like guided reading and infant massage with bedtime stories and music to improve families’ emotional well-being and physical health. The app is free to download with yearly subscription plans and also has partnerships with schools and health providers.

Their database of more than 100 original audio stories in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, including Bible stories, continues to grow and is for children ages infant through 12. 

“Seventy-nine percent of the parents using Storybook told us that their kids are sleeping better [and] are sleeping up to four times faster,” Cornejo said. “Eighty-nine percent of them told us that they feel more connected with their kids. We have been the No. 1 app in 90 countries. We have been called the ‘best for bedtime’ by Apple. We have surpassed 2.5 million downloads, more than 10,000 five-star reviews.”

And the winner is…

While the judges showed interest and appreciation for all the pitches, the Storybook app won the evening. “The Storybook team impressed our panel of judges with their ability to identify a real problem and bring Christ in a solution to their audience,” Slayback said.

Francisco Cornejo of Storybook is awarded the grand prize at “Catholic Shark Tank.”. Credit: Courtesy photo/SENT
Francisco Cornejo of Storybook is awarded the grand prize at “Catholic Shark Tank.”. Credit: Courtesy photo/SENT

Cornejo told the Register via email that “being among faith-driven founders was inspiring, and winning was a true blessing. It has already opened doors, leading to promising conversations with potential advisers and investors.” He also praised the SENT Summit, calling it “a unique blend of faith and business, a testament to the transformative work God is leading us all to undertake.”

Vega saw the win as “a deeply touching affirmation of our mission.”

“We know that God does not inspire the impossible; we are sure that our company is the work of God and that he uses our small forces to put us to work to rescue the family that today is so attacked,” she said. “This is more than a job for us — it’s a calling.” 

This article was first published May 18, 2023, at the National Catholic Register and is reprinted here on CNA with permission.

Post office in Kansas receives new name in honor of Father Emil J. Kapaun

Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass using the hood of a jeep as his altar, Oct. 7, 1950. Public domain. / null

Denver, Colo., May 29, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

After several years in the making, the United States Post Office in Herington, Kansas, will be changing its name to the Captain Emil J. Kapaun Post Office Building on May 30. This endeavor was first introduced in 2021 through a bill written by U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann, who wished to honor the life of the great Kansan and American hero.

“Father Emil Kapaun was a man of God who served Jesus and his country honorably,” Mann said during his speech on the House floor on Oct. 20, 2021.

The May 30 ceremonial day will begin at 11:30 a.m. CST with a memorial Mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Herington. The Mass will be concelebrated by priests from both the Salina and Wichita dioceses.

The renaming dedication ceremony will follow at 1 p.m. CST at the post office. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and Rep. Ron Estes are scheduled to attend the event. The public is invited to enjoy refreshments afterward and visit Kapaun’s Medal of Honor and Taegeuk, the Korean Medal of Honor, which will be on display.

Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas, on April 20, 1916. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wichita on June 9, 1940. Four years later, he began at the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Fort Devens (Massachusetts) and was later sent overseas to serve troops during the Korean War.

During his time in Korea, Kapaun regularly celebrated Mass, at times on the battlefield using the hood of a jeep as a makeshift altar. He brought the sacraments to troops, tended to the injured, and prayed with them in the foxholes.

In 1950, during the Battle of Unsan, Kapaun was captured along with other soldiers by communists. They were taken to a prison camp in Pyoktong, North Korea. While in the camp, Kapaun would regularly steal food for his fellow prisoners and managed to tend to their spiritual needs despite a prohibition on prayer.

Kapaun died on May 23, 1951, after months of malnutrition and pneumonia. He was named a Servant of God in 1993, his cause for canonization opened in June 2008, and he received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in 2013. 

In March 2021, his remains were identified by investigators from the Department of Defense. It was determined that the priest’s remains were among nearly 900 unidentified soldiers buried at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.   

Kapaun’s remains returned to his hometown of Pilsen in September 2021. Their arrival marked 70 years since the American hero had died in a prisoner of war camp at the age of 35.

During his funeral Mass on Sept. 29, 2021, Bishop Carl Kemme said Kapaun’s ministry as a chaplain was characterized by “a sacrificial and selfless love of others, especially his beloved fellow soldiers … The accounts of his service to his fellow soldiers in those last months, his fellow POWs, reveal so much of the man whose body we honor today with Christian burial. His love was simple, effective, selfless, and deep.”