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Betsy Kneepkens: Sending fifth son to college — where did the time go?

 A few shorts weeks ago, I was able to enjoy a picnic lunch with some old friends that have four kids under the age of six. As it happens with lots of little children, the parents appeared frazzled trying to keep their tots under control while holding a conversation with other adults.

Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

All I could say to them is, “Cherish this; time goes by really fast.”

I heard my parents say this numerous times, and now I find myself saying it every time I come across a young couple with kids. What I know now that I did not understand then is that when parenting you can be consumed by the feelings of exhaustion, stress, and unruliness. When these conditions happen, you lose essential time just being your kids’ mom and dad. I know I am guilty of such.

In a few short weeks, I will be sending my fifth — yes, fifth — and last son to college. Where did all that time go, or better said, what did I do with all that time? I have just one daughter left at home.

From the time I had any memories, I dreamt of being a mother of many children. Looking back, I now realize I obtained the larger family dream but wasted too much time organizing and scheduling their events. Being just a mom and dad, present with them, may have slowed things down for us. Unfortunately, it is too late to make up for that time I wasted running 100 miles an hour.

It is not fair to my son, but I refuse to look at him as a college student. He is an emerging adult, and I am struggling to let him go there. Right now, I am trying to cram in little memory moments for “us” to hold on to.

My son is a trooper, and he is mildly cooperating — bonfires, wiffle ball games, and walks along the Lakewalk. I’m not sure how much tolerance he will have for me trying to do this for his remaining weeks.

Having him be the fifth to go off to college, I have grown systematically better at suggesting what he needs to get done and when. I have often had to remember that even if it is my fifth orientation or fifth roommate selection process or fifth grad party, it is still his first. I know these kinds of details are essential to him, but I would rather spend that energy grasping at what’s left of our mother-son bonding time.

The easiest part of this college ordeal is getting the supplies my youngest son needs to set up his dorm space. The first lesson learned over the years is that whatever is packed for college will have to be brought home, and if he is not sure if he is going to use it, do not send it.

More is less. Items he will need, like bedding, laundry baskets, and towel sets, are purchased as birthday and Christmas gifts from the time he was 16. The slow accumulation of needed supplies keeps the pre-college bulk cost down and the stress of last-minute shopping to a minimum. For our first son we packed a couple of carloads. My motto now is if it does not fit in the trunk of our car, the item is unnecessary.

I have learned to expend little time and money acquiring material supplies for my college-aged children. Universities are equipped for almost everything a student would need, so I now consider essential things like a change of underwear.

Without having to worry about material stressors, my husband and I have used that time preparing our son for the inevitable college “experience” that you can’t pack in the car.

Looking back, my husband and I were a little naive when we sent our first couple of boys off to college. What we did do was underestimate the impact the culture would have on oldest children’s long-term worldview. Rightfully at that time, we worried about sex, drugs, and academic floundering, and it seems, from what we can tell, they managed those pitfalls reasonably well. What we did not prepare them adequately enough for was the battles of differing ideology.

We now know that part of our job as Catholic parents is to make our son aware of the strong leaning found on nearly every campus around the country. We need to help him navigate this reality and give him the tools to keep an open mind but also question those leanings using logic and reason. We need to prepare him to stand up for himself even at the peril of being called intolerant and lacking compassion or being perceived as narrow- minded.

Some of the more recent college “norms” that our son will become more familiar with are things like “safe spaces,” “my truths,” and preferred pronouns.

My fifth son’s perspectives on life come more from a logical, or reasoned perspective than a feeling point of view. In the current state of college culture, we have shared with him that he is going to struggle with how they address things. Logic and reason are a sound way to seek the truth, but for many on college campuses, that method is old-fashioned. We hope we have instilled ways to be a compassionate listener while standing the ground of reason.

We hope when he sees things like safe spaces, he realizes we are spending money for him to be uncomfortable and challenged. He might not feel “safe” when they question his thinking and therefore question his character, but the only safe space he needs to concern himself with is the place where he spends his life into eternity.

When the college introduces the notion of “my truth,” we hope our son understands that individuals do not own truth, that truth exists outside of ourselves. We do want him to seek truth throughout his life, but we want him to understand the only thoughts he can own are his perspective. If an academic authority encourages him to find “his truth,” he needs to realize that sort of thinking lacks reason and is counter to Catholic intellectual thought. God is Truth, he created truth, and that is not malleable by individual ownership.

Undoubtedly, he will be confronted with well-meaning individuals who will ask him for his preferred pronoun. On this issue, I know my son will struggle. We have explained to him that he needs to remain patient and loving. We are trying to encourage him to use opportunities like this to evangelize and propose the truth of God’s plan for male and female that is quite literally stamped into our DNA. As parents, we are still working on helping him share the Good News without creating a wall between him and those who disagree with him.

The days are numbered, and it is less than a month until we need to pack the trunk and send our last son on his way. Just merely typing this brings tears to my eyes and a lump in the throat.

With each son we sent away, the dynamics of the family have changed. My fifth son has been a glorious gift, secure in his conviction and deeply in love with his faith. I have admired his love of Christ, and he has inspired me to understand you must will the good of another even if you are put down or marginalized for it.

He is such a humorous young man and fills the house with unexpected thoughts that I can’t even imagine what our home will be like without him. With just a trunk full of college supplies, it won’t take long for us to say our goodbyes, and he will be on his next phase of life. I will, however, spend the 10-hour ride home thinking about how time went by so very fast and try to use my time a bit more wisely with my youngest child.

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.

Father Richard Kunst: If you are a crank or grump, read this

Both the Old and New Testament make it pretty clear that we are to love our neighbor, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that we have to like everyone. We are to love everyone, because every person is created in the image of God, but it is impossible to like everyone.

Father Richard

There is nothing sinful in not liking someone, and since we all have different personality traits, it is inevitable that some people will just rub us the wrong way. How we deal with that can be sinful of course, but not liking someone in and of itself is not a sin.

In saying this, I have to confess that there is a whole segment of the population I do not like. I do not like grumpy people. You know the type: people who never seem to be happy, people who have a negative outlook on almost anything and everything. There are a whole lot of people like that in the world, and when I speak of these people, I do not mean people who suffer from depression; that is a whole other matter. I simply do not like people who always seem to be unhappy and have a negative outlook on life.

And I am not the only one who doesn’t like grumpy people! Children are never drawn to a cranky person, but they are intuitively drawn to a happy and joy-filled person. There is nothing attractive about “Debbie Downers,” so please stay away from me if this description hits a little close to home.

What makes cranky, grumpy people even worse is if they are Christian. Those are the worst, because there is no room for anything else other than joy in Christianity. Sure, there will always be pain and suffering, but people who really get the “Christian thing” will always be joyful, even in the midst of adversity. The Catholic Church has never canonized a negative, grumpy pessimist; all saints have been joy-filled.

There is one particular passage in the Bible that most drives home the point that Christianity and crankiness do not mix well, and it is in the Gospel of John. The setting is the Last Supper, which means it is the day before Jesus was crucified, and he says this to the remaining Apostles: “As the Father loves me, so also I love you …. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete” (15:9,11).

It is the first part of this quote which is actually mind-blowing. The basic Baltimore Catechism definition of the Holy Trinity is that the Trinity is three Persons in one God relating to one another in love. We cannot fathom the love the persons of the Trinity have for one another, because we are finite creatures, so our ability and capacity for love is greatly limited. God, who is infinite and without limit and without sin, can love beyond our comprehension.

With this in mind, here again are the words of Jesus: “As the Father loves me, so also I love you.” Mind blowing. God the Son loves us in the same way God the Father loves God the Son. As you are reading this, think of the person in your life whom you have loved the most. No matter how much you have loved that person, it does not even come close to how much God loves that person, and every person.

Jesus follows up these amazing words with, “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be complete.” God wants us to be joyful, he wants our joy to be complete! Nothing will give joy more than knowing that we are loved by someone, but to know that we are loved by God in the same way the persons of the Trinity love one another is the cause of complete and utter joy.

So cranky, grumpy Christians are people I do not want to be around. To be a cranky Christian is to not take these words of Jesus seriously. How can we be negative on life if we believe and appreciate what Jesus is saying?

One of the greatest mystics in the history of all Christianity was the Spanish poet St. John of the Cross. This is how he put it: “Anyone who complains or grumbles is not perfect, nor even a good Christian.” So don’t be that person!

If you feel a little uncomfortable by this column, that’s probably a good thing. Be happy and joy-filled, because God loves us more than we comprehend.

Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. Reach him at [email protected]

Father Michael Schmitz: Can we have a sense of humor about God?

The Catechism defines blasphemy as “directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God — inwardly or outwardly — words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name.” My issue is that humor about God would seem to be blasphemy by this definition, even if it is not done out of hatred or anger towards God. This is particularly hard for me, because humor is an important part of all my close relationships, and it is very hard to have a meaningful relationship with the Lord if I have to exclude many kinds of humor from it.

Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

Thank you very much for your email and question. I am moved by your depth of thought and eloquence in expressing your question. It is clear you have put a lot of thought into not only this question, but in your investigating and interiorizing the faith.

I see a couple of questions rising to the surface in your question.

I initially wanted to examine the nature of humor. C.S. Lewis has a section in his book “The Screwtape Letters” where he discusses the various kinds of humor and how most levels of humor are less harmful than many serious people think they are. I would look at the way that most humor turns on incongruity or apparent paradox, and how we are more often laughing at the incongruity than we are at the content of the joke. But that still doesn’t get us very far in this discussion.

The expression “failing in respect toward him in one’s speech” is the key phrase here. Taking a look at it in light of what I think you are asking regarding jokes and being able to laugh with God, the crux would seem to come down to the definition of “respect.”

You and your friends can joke around and make fun of each other because there is implicit and explicit respect in your relationship. If there weren’t, the words you say to each other would be considered spiteful or rude or even cruel. But the context of the conversation is between people who have a good relationship and who respect each other. It is only because you respect each other that the ribbing and teasing is actually funny.

Expand this to parents. Parents have a natural and spiritual authority over their children. Therefore, children are to respect and obey their parents. Is it possible to love, respect, and obey someone in authority over you and still be able to joke around with them? It seems to be entirely possible. And it often happens.

There can come a time when sons and daughters joke around with their parents, even to the point of poking fun at their quirks or something silly their parents once did. (“Remember that time Mom fell into the lake trying to get into the boat? And how Dad couldn’t pull her into the boat, so he just called out instructions to her while she swam to shore?”) This is only funny if there is a healthy and loving relationship between parents and children.

More than this, humor, joking, teasing can even be something that grows and enhances the relationship; just think of the good that can come from sharing mutual laughter about our mutual family. But, once again, it is only an actual “joke” to the extent that genuine love and respect are present.

Now, when it comes to the Divine Being Who Is Lord of All, is it possible to have a sense of respect and a sense of humor?

Note that while we can make the analogy between the relationship we have with our earthly parents and our relationship with our Heavenly Father, God is still, well, God. Because of that, it would be wise to venture ahead with care.

Too many people dismiss the seriousness of this point by merely jumping to the “God can handle jokes about him” posture. Yes, God can “take it.” But that is not the issue. The issue is whether love, obedience, and respect are present in our speech and actions regarding God and all that belongs to him.

God is owed all awe and respect possible. There is no way that we could ever truly understand the depth of respect and reverence we owe to God. When I stop to think of the times when God revealed himself in the Old Testament, any temptation to reduce God to “buddy status” seems like absolute foolishness. The children of Israel begged Moses to be the one who spoke with God on their behalf because they were so struck with fear, awe, and reverence when God’s presence descended on Mount Sinai. Any half-hearted reverence on our part reveals that we have no real idea who God really is and who we are in relation to him.

Yet “relationship” is the key word. This same God of the Universe is also the Word Made Flesh who dwelt among us, so that we can be in real and personal relationship with him. He desires to make all people on earth his children, and he desires that his children come to him in loving trust as their Abba (“Dad”) in Heaven. And real relationships involve all of the elements of, well, real relationships. This would seem to necessarily involve humor.

God made humor. Satan did not. Satan can only distort the good of humor. Like any other good thing that God has made, learning to properly use this gift is essential to its flourishing. Therefore it seems to me that there can be, even with God himself, a good and joyful balance between a sense of respect and a sense of humor.

So, is there room for laughing with God?

Yes. There is room for this because a healthy relationship with God must be a real relationship. And a real relationship often (if not always) involves sharing what a person actually thinks, including what one finds odd or silly or incongruous. Of course, there is a limit. Not everything that one finds funny has a place in every relationship. The determining factor is knowing the reverence we owe to God and striving to make sure that our language always reflects the respect we owe him.

Father Michael Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Reach him at [email protected]

Bishop Paul Sirba: The family is God’s gift to creation

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has a prayer intention for each month of the year. For August, the pope’s intention is: Families, Schools of Human Growth. That families through their life of prayer and love, become ever more clearly “schools of true human growth.”

Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

Human growth means our growth as human persons made in the image and likeness of God. We are not objects or products but persons, a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, capable of knowing, self-mastery, and freedom. We enter into and are in relationship with other persons — with God.

We are made to live in community. The family is God’s gift to creation. A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. To quote the Catechism, “This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated” (CCC 2202).

Pope Francis has called us to live according to our dignity as persons of mercy. He has challenged us to grow in virtue by being merciful. There are so many ways for families through their life of prayer and love to be schools of true human growth. Parents may teach their children by charitable actions in which we come to the aid of our neighbors in their bodily and spiritual needs. From feeding the hungry, to clothing the naked, welcoming the immigrant, defending the unborn, instructing, advising, consoling, forgiving, and patiently forbearing with our neighbors, the possibilities for loving are endless.

Before all of the “back to school” ads take hold of us in preparation for September, let us pray and love as our Holy Father has asked us to do during this month of August.

Some practical opportunities for a family tune-up include Camp Survive, which is being held Aug. 5-9. Please pray for our young people. Another is the first annual Diocese of Duluth Catholic Family Camp at Sugar Lake Lodge, which will be held Aug. 25-31. This is time for your family to rest, recharge, spend quality time together, and have opportunity for daily Mass and Adoration. Please see our website for more information.

We celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a holy day of obligation, on Thursday, Aug. 15. Because she belonged to Christ, Mary lived in the Holy Family and the family of the Church as mother and our queen. She is the greatest disciple of Jesus and helps us in the task the Holy Father has placed before us. Her place in heaven, body and soul, gives her a privileged vantage point from which to help us in our human and spiritual growth.

A most beautiful prayer from the Byzantine Liturgy sums up not Mary’s absence but her presence in our human and spiritual needs. “In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death” (CCC 966).

Continue to enjoy these summer days in Minnesota with your family. God bless you!

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth

'Positio' for Father Flanagan's cause presented to Vatican congregation

The sainthood cause of Father Edward J. Flanagan took a step forward July 22 with the presentation of the "positio" to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, along with a letter of support from Omaha Archbishop George J. Lucas.

Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Neb., watches Omar Gutierrez June 18, as he ties a ribbon on one of the boxes of documents detailing the archdiocese's investigation for the sainthood cause of Irish-born Father Edward Flanagan, who founded Boys Town in Nebraska. The effort to have Father Flanagan canonized took a step forward July 22 with the presentation of the "positio" to the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, along with a letter of support from Archbishop Lucas. (CNS photo/Susan Szalewski, Catholic Voice)

The "positio," or official position paper, is a summary of the volumes of records that were sent to the Vatican by the Archdiocese of Omaha in 2015 and makes the argument that Father Flanagan demonstrated heroic virtue in his life, and thus worthy of being declared venerable by the pope.

Archbishop Lucas met with Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, prefect of the congregation, to personally endorse this step toward the eventual beatification and canonization of Father Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town.

"It has been a privilege to offer my support for the cause of Father Edward Flanagan at each stage of this process," Archbishop Lucas said in a statement. "I was able to share with Cardinal Becciu the encouragement offered to all of us in the church during this challenging time by the virtuous life and work of Father Flanagan."

The Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion is what is officially known as the "actors" for Father Flanagan's cause for canonization. The league has devotees of this cause in 20 countries and has over 40,000 worldwide followers on Facebook.

"On behalf of the league, we thank Archbishop Lucas for making this personal commitment to launch the review of the 'positio,'" said Steven Wolf, president of the Father Flanagan League. "The archbishop's visit to the Vatican speaks volumes to the importance of this cause for the Catholic Church."

When the Irish-born priest's cause was officially opened in 2011, he was given the title of "servant of God." The next step was the collection of documents about his life and ministry and the gathering of testimony gathered from dozens of witnesses who knew of his ministry. This is the material submitted to the Vatican in 2015 and now presented to the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

There are three more phases to pass through before Father Flanagan can be declared "venerable." First, the cause must be approved by the historical consultants of the congregation, then by the theological consultants and finally by the bishops and cardinals who are members of the congregation.

If the case for Father Flanagan's heroic virtue is upheld through the three stages, the congregation then would make a recommendation to Pope Francis that Father Flanagan should be declared "venerable."

In general, two approved miracles attributed to the intercession of the candidate are needed for sainthood -- one for beatification and the second for canonization.

- By Catholic News Service

Appeals court says Title X rule can take effect while suits proceed

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced July 15 it would begin implementing the Trump administration's "Protect Life Rule" to bar Title X funds from being used for promoting or providing abortion as family planning.

On July 11, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 7-4 decision said that even as court cases challenging it proceed, the rule can take effect. The ruling of the San Francisco-based court let stand its June 20 decision lifting injunctions blocking enforcement of the rule.

An emergency stay had been sought by some abortion rights advocates, including Planned Parenthood, and by 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

"We are greatly encouraged to see the 9th Circuit rule in favor of allowing President Trump's Protect Life Rule to take effect while it continues to be litigated," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.

"A strong majority of Americans have consistently voiced their opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion -- it is even unpopular among Democrats and self-described pro-choice Americans," she said July 15. "Without reducing Title X funding by a dime, the Protect Life Rule simply draws a bright line between abortion and family planning, stopping abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood from treating Title X as their private slush fund."

Represented by the Thomas More Society, a pro-life law firm based in Chicago, the Susan B. Anthony List has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the Protect Life Rule and the federal government in the cases brought against it.

Dannenfelser noted that the nearly three decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld similar regulations and is optimistic the Trump administration's rule will prevail in the courts.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, also welcomed the news the rule
can take effect.

"Abortion is neither health care nor family planning and therefore should not be funded by the Title X program. This regulation helps to get taxpayers out of the abortion business, without cutting resources for those in need, and is a victory for all Americans," she said.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, also praised the action by the 9th Circuit.

"Implementing the Protect Life Rule makes sense when you consider all the funds misused by abortion vendors to sell abortions to unsuspecting women," she said. "Planned Parenthood has violated the spirit of the Title X family planning program for years by collecting millions of dollars while they marketed abortion."

Hawkins added, "Pregnancy is not a disease cured by abortion, and ending the connection between abortion and family planning is a victory for common-sense health care."

According to the HHS Office of Population Affairs, the Trump administration's Protect Life Rule is based on the most accurate interpretation of the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, which enacted Title X. Section 1008 of this act states that "none of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning."

HHS said the rule requires "clear financial and physical separation between Title X funded projects and programs or facilities where abortion is a method of family planning. This separation will ensure adherence to statutory restrictions, and provide needed clarity for the public and for Title X clinics about permissible and impermissible activities for Title X projects."

"Planned Parenthood and others want to use public Title X funds to support their abortion services in blatant disregard of Congress explicitly and statutorily excluded abortion from the scope of Title X projects and funding," she added.Americans United for Life's president and CEO, Catherine Glenn Foster, said in a July 16 statement that under the rule, "no physician in America is being stopped from referring a patient for an abortion -- they just can't demand taxpayer funding to do so."

In a poll commissioned by Students for Life of America and conducted by The Polling Company/Woman Trend, 18- to 34-year-olds by a 3-to-1 margin said they preferred that their tax monies go to Federally Qualified Health Centers -- a government designation for centers that provide comprehensive health care services to underserved communities -- rather than to Planned Parenthood.

The Protect Life Rule's restrictions are like what President Ronald Reagan put in place in 1988. Planned Parenthood of New York City immediately challenged the regulations, claiming the denial of public funds violated their constitutional rights of free speech because the rules included a prohibition on abortion referrals.

In 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 the government had the right to establish rules that fund only family planning programs that do not “encourage, promote or advocate abortion.” When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he reversed the regulations.

- By Catholic News Service

Administration to apply 'third country' rule for asylum-seekers

The Trump administration announced the U.S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security are adopting an interim "third country rule" requiring immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to first apply for refugee status in another country.

A migrant and her daughter rest outside Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, July 14. As part of the legal proceedings under a new policy established by the U.S. government, they were returned to Mexico from the United States to await their court hearing for asylum. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

News that the rule was taking effect July 16 brought quick condemnation by Catholic and other immigrant advocates, including the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

And as it had vowed to do, the American Civil Liberties Union the same day filed suit against the regulation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which is based in San Francisco. Representing four California-based immigrant advocacy groups, the ACLU said the "crackdown" violates federal immigration and regulatory laws. ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt called the new rule the Trump administration's "most extreme run at an asylum ban yet."

Cardinal DiNardo called the new rule "drastically" limiting asylum "unacceptable," especially because it comes on the heels of the "misguided and untenable" actions by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to carrying out deportation orders for some immigrants.

"It is contrary to American and Christian values to attempt to prevent people from migrating here when they are fleeing to save their lives and to find safety for their families," the cardinal said in a July 16 statement.

ICE enforcement actions are creating fear in immigrant communities and now added to "to this climate of fear" is the administration's "further unacceptable action to undermine the ability of individuals and families to seek protection in the United States."

"The rule adds further barriers to asylum-seekers' ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection," the cardinal continued. "Further, while still reviewing the rule, initial analysis raises serious questions about its legality."

He urged President Donald Trump "to reconsider these actions, the new rule and its enforcement-only approach."

"I ask that persons fleeing for their lives be permitted to seek refuge in the U.S. and all those facing removal proceedings be afforded due process. All who are at or within our borders should be treated with compassion and dignity," Cardinal DiNardo added.

Other reaction to the third-country asylum rule included a statement from including Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

"Yesterday, Catholics around the world attending Mass heard the 'Parable of the Good Samaritan' and a message of love for one's neighbor proclaimed in the Gospel," Kerr said July 15. "Today, our nation awoke to the news of the president of the United States seeking to shut off access to safety and refuge for Central American families facing horrific violence, repression and poverty in their home countries."

"This is not the act of a good Samaritan -- instead it is an effort that does not honor the inherent dignity of those seeking asylum in our country," Kerr said.

The rule will not only have "a profound impact on Central Americans facing poverty and gang violence" but also will affect people from many other countries fleeing religious persecution and other forms of abuse," he said.

"Asylum is an internationally recognized life-saving process that is firmly embedded in U.S. law and history," said Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. "Attempting to subvert this process is a betrayal of American history and our legal system. Asylum-seekers need our protection, not another door slammed in their faces."

Gallagher's comments were included in a joint news release of reaction from several faith groups issues late July 15 by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

"As Pope Francis said last week in his return to the immigrant-receiving island of Lampedusa, we are called to be, as Scripture asks, 'those angels, ascending and descending, taking under our wings the little ones, the lame, the sick, those excluded.' Our call to care for others doesn't get much plainer than that," Gallagher added.

Kathryn Johnson, policy advocacy coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee, said that at a time of "multiple refugee crises across the world, the United States should be expanding U.S. protection for refugees, asylum-seekers and others seeking safety and taking in more of the world's persecuted people."

"Instead, she added, "this administration is shamefully putting more refugees' lives in danger through this and other attacks on our asylum system."

The new rule, being published in the Federal Register, says that "an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien's country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum."

- By Catholic News Service

Poor Clare marks silver jubilee; she traded in hoops for life of prayer

The last time Poor Clare Sister Rose Marie of the Queen of Angels hugged her mom or other family members was in 1994 when she made her solemn profession of vows to her religious order.

In June, when she renewed her solemn vows, more than 120 friends and family gathered to greet her at the Poor Clare Monastery of Mary, Mother of the Church in Alexandria. It was the first time she hugged many of her nieces and nephews.

"It was such a joy for all of us to celebrate this milestone in our sister's life. For someone to persevere for 25 years in a hidden life of prayer and penance is a proof of God's grace," said Abbess Mother Miriam Love.

"It helps confirm all of us in our vocation to serve the church with our prayer and with our lives," she told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.

Before entering the convent, Sister Rose Marie, known as Shelly Pennefather, was a basketball star -- in Catholic high school and during her college career at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. She played three seasons of professional basketball for the Nippon Express in Japan after graduating from Villanova.

Her skills on the court got a mention from Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge during his homily at the Mass he celebrated on Pentecost, June 9, when Sister Rose Marie celebrated her silver jubilee and renewed her vows.

"Having so many opportunities in front of her for a successful and professional career in basketball and to cling to what the world deems necessary for happiness, the Spirit of God proved to be more powerful than such allurements," Bishop Burbidge said.

"(This) allowed Sister Rose Marie to hear and to respond to God's voice inviting her to a radical new way of living in his presence within a community of sisters devoted entirely to the Lord and dedicated to prayer for his church and his people," he said.

Sister Rose Marie "asks for the grace to be strengthened in faith, hope and love and to persevere faithfully in her consecration," Bishop Burbidge said in his homily. "Together, we ask God 'to send the fire of the Holy Spirit into the heart of his daughter that she may always be one with him in loving fidelity to Christ, her bridegroom.'"

He added: "How blessed we are as her sisters, family members and friends to participate in this sacred liturgy and to thank God for the gift that Sister Rose Marie has been and remains to the church and to each one of us. I am sure that at the conclusion of this ceremony, we will all be able to say, 'There was no doubt that the Holy Spirit was here today.'"

After the homily, Sister Rose Marie came to the open communion doors to the right of the altar and renewed her vows.

After Bishop Burbidge asked her what she asks of God and the church, she replied, "I ask for the grace to renew my solemn vows, to be strengthened in faith, hope and love, and to persevere faithfully in my consecration."

After a prayer offered by Bishop Burbidge, Sister Rose Marie knelt before Abbess Miriam and placed her hands in the hands of the abbess and renewed her vows. Bishop Burbidge extended his hands over Sister Rose Marie in blessing and embraced her with the sign of peace.

Then, one by one, 40 to 50 members of her family extended the sign of peace.

As Shelly Pennefather, her basketball career took shape during three years at Bishop Machebeuf Catholic High School in Denver. She led Machebeuf to three consecutive state championships and a 70-0 record. When her family she moved, her final year of high school was at Notre Dame High School in Utica, New York. She led Notre Dame to a 26-0 record, making for a no loss record for her entire high school career.

Pennefather was named to the Parade All-American High School Basketball Team. She was a U.S. Olympic Festival selection in 1981 and 1983. She turned out for the USA Women's R. William Jones Cup Team in 1982 where she earned a silver medal.

Records she set at Villanova University (1983-87) include becoming the school's all-time leading scorer for both men and women with 2,408 career points; and the program's all-time leading rebounder with 1,171 rebounds. She received the Wade Trophy in 1987, given to the top player in NCAA Division One women's basketball, and is one of six Villanova women's basketball players to have her jersey retired.

During her off-seasons as a professional player with the Nippon Express, she volunteered at St. Teresa of Kolata's Missionaries of Charity mission in Norristown, Pennsylvania. She retired from basketball and entered the Poor Clare convent in 1991.

- By Elizabeth Bachmann / Catholic News Service

Census to go forward without citizenship question

In a July 11 announcement from the Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said he was ending his efforts to add a citizenship question to the census and would instead direct federal agencies by executive order to provide data about the country's citizens and noncitizens to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The White House is seen in Washington July 3. Although the Justice Department announced July 2 it would no longer argue to have the citizenship question added to the 2020 census, the Trump administration continues to look at all possible options to get the question included. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Although the Justice Department announced July 2 it would no longer argue to have the citizenship question added to the 2020 census, the Trump administration had continued to look at all possible options to get the question included."We are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population," Trump said, in a move that ended a legal battle that had continued even after the Supreme Court's decision to block the question was announced more than two weeks earlier.

A federal judge in Maryland who heard one of the lawsuits on the citizenship question had given White House officials until midday July 5 to provide a credible reason for including the question.

The Justice Department's decision not to move forward with the question -- "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" -- came in response to the Supreme Court's decision to block it from the questionnaire and amid pressing deadlines to begin printing the forms, which started July 1.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement that he strongly disagreed with the high court's ruling over the planned additional question and President Donald Trump tweeted that it was a "very sad time for America when the Supreme Court of the United States won't allow a question of 'Is this person a Citizen of the United States?' to be asked on the #2020 Census."

He also said he asked the Commerce and Justice departments to "do whatever is necessary to bring this most vital of questions, and this very important case, to a successful conclusion."

Earlier that day, the U.S. bishops praised the Supreme Court's decision June 27 to block the Trump administration's citizenship question stressing that "the inclusion of a citizenship question must ensure genuine reasons" for it.

The 5-4 ruling -- written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined in part by the other justices -- sent the case back to a lower court saying the administration's reason for adding the citizenship question "seems to have been contrived."

The day the decision was announced, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was asking his lawyers if they can "delay the census, no matter how long" until the "Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision."

Trump told reporters July 1 at the White House: "It's very important to find out if somebody is a citizen as opposed to an illegal."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' statement on the high court's decision said: "All persons in the United States should be counted in the census regardless of their immigration status." It also reiterated its previous statement on the issue by stressing that "questions regarding citizenship should not be included in the census. We hope that this view will prevail, whether by administrative action or judicial determination."

The statement was issued by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

The census case hit a potential twist in late May, a month after oral arguments, when newly submitted evidence from the files of a deceased Republican strategist put the citizenship question in another light: as a means to create an advantage for whites and Republicans in future elections.

Then in late June, a federal appeals court in Maryland allowed a lower court to study the background of these files.

The government had asked the Supreme Court to rule on the census dispute by the end of June, so that it can finalize the census questionnaire and get the forms printed in time for distribution next year.

During oral arguments about the added census question in April, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said: "There's no doubt people will respond less" to the census questionnaire with a citizenship question, a point which she said "has been proven in study after study."

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh said citizenship questions were common in other countries and had been on the U.S. forms over the years.

Both Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito said the decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to add a citizenship question -- for the first time since 1950 to improve compliance with the Voting Rights Act -- seemed reasonable. But Justice Elena Kagan said Ross' reason for adding this question seemed "contrived."

In its defense, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the information it would provide would help enforce the Voting Rights Act. When asked about the question leading to potentially less participation, he said: "There is always going to be a trade-off."

Lawyers for New York, immigrant advocacy groups and the House of Representatives stressed that the question would prevent noncitizens from filling out the census and have a negative financial and political impact on communities with large immigrant populations.

A similar argument was raised in a friend-of-the-court brief opposed to the citizenship question filed by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens in New York. The brief stressed that the added question would cause a "net differential undercount of people who live in noncitizen and Hispanic households" and would result in a "drastic and unwarranted reduction in funding in states and cities with large populations of such persons" and also would impact social service agencies.

In a USCCB statement issued on the day of oral arguments for the census case, Bishops Dewane and Vasquez stressed the importance of an accurate census count.

"The Catholic Church and other service providers rely on the national census to provide an accurate count in order to effectively serve those in need," said Bishop Dewane.

Bishop Vasquez said all people should be counted in the census, regardless of their citizenship and he said "proposed questions regarding immigration status will obstruct accurate census estimates and ultimately harm immigrant families and the communities they live in."

By one government estimate, about 6.5 million people might decide not to participate in the census with the added citizenship question.

The census is rooted in the text of the Constitution, which requires an "actual enumeration" of the population every 10 years. It determines federal funding for roads and schools, congressional districting and number of congressional representatives.

-By Carol Zimmermann / Catholic News Service

Pope mourns death of French patient after doctors withhold care

"Every life is valuable, always," Pope Francis tweeted after offering prayers for Vincent Lambert, a 42-year-old French man who died July 11, nine days after doctors stopped providing him with nutrition and hydration.

Pierre and Viviane Lambert leave Sebastopol Hospital in Reims, France, July 9. In early July, French doctors stopped life support of their son, Vincent Lambert. "Every life is valuable, always," Pope Francis tweeted after offering prayers for Vincent Lambert, who died July 11, nine days after doctors stopped providing him with nutrition and hydration. (CNS photo/Philippe Wojazer, Reuters)

"May God the Father welcome Vincent Lambert in his arms," the pope's tweet said. "Let us not build a civilization that discards persons whose lives we no longer consider to be worthy of living."

The Pontifical Academy for Life called the death of Lambert a "defeat for our humanity," and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, called Lambert a "martyr" in a tweet.

Lambert, who suffered serious brain damage more than 10 years ago, died after years of court battles divided his family.

Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, said in a statement, "With pain we heard the news of the death of Vincent Lambert. We pray that the Lord will welcome him into his home, and we express our closeness to his loved ones and all those who were committed to assisting him with love and dedication to the end."

Gisotti also reminded people what Pope Francis had said earlier about the case: "God is the only lord of life, from its beginning to its natural end, and our obligation is to safeguard it always and not give into the throwaway culture."

Since being involved in a motorcycle accident in 2008, Lambert had been variously described as being "minimally conscious" or in a vegetative state.

His wife and six of his siblings supported a recommendation made by doctors in 2013 that the provision of nutrition and hydration through a gastric tube should be stopped. Lambert was able to breathe on his own.

But Lambert's parents and two other siblings had fought the decision in courts, insisting as the Catholic Church does that nutrition and hydration were not extraordinary measures for prolonging his life.

Doctors at the clinic in Reims, France, where Lambert had been cared for, started withdrawing nutrition and hydration in May when a court ruled in his wife's favor. However, a few hours later, an appeals court reversed the decision and ordered a resumption of tube feeding and hydration.

In late June another court ruled that care could be discontinued; doctors began withholding nutrition and hydration July 2.

Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims, Pope Francis and several Vatican officials had made public comments about the case, emphasizing the church's position that while extraordinary means of prolonging a patient's life are not morally obligatory, in most cases nutrition and hydration are normal care and withholding them is a "serious violation of the dignity of the person."

- By Cindy Wooden / Catholic News Service