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Faith & Parish

A parish turns to manufacturing

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The epic economic crisis in the United States has prompted dioceses and parishes to help its parishioners find work. Networking events, resumé-writing seminars, and career coaching are common activities. Unemployment remains highest among minority groups. But what if parishes actually created manufacturing jobs and produced goods in a sustainable, local manner? Can this actually be done?

One priest thinks so.

New Orleans Catholic Charities gets $15 million

NEW ORLEANS -- Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of New Orleans has received the largest single grant in its history -- $15 million from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation -- to oversee a collaborative of nonprofit organizations that will provide direct assistance, counseling and job force training to coastal Louisiana fishing families affected by the 2010 BP oil spill.

The grant, announced Sept. 7, was part of the original $100 million in funding that BP gave to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation in 2010 to establish a fund targeted to help oil rig workers and oil rig supply companies affected by the spill.

But because the demand for that funding was far less than anticipated, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation transferred $75 million to establish a "Future of the Gulf Fund," which will fund the efforts of local nonprofits to help people, wildlife and the environment in the Gulf Coast area, said John Davies, president and CEO of the foundation.

US priests form new national association

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A national organization of Catholic priests has been formed and is in the process of informing the U.S. bishops of its existence and preparing to recruit priest members from around the country.

Fr. David Cooper, a Milwaukee pastor and chair of an eight-member organizing core, said the new Association of U.S. Catholic Priests has two major goals: to reach out in fraternal support to brother priests and to create a collegial voice so priests can speak in a united way.

Chaput takes the reins in Philly

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PHILADELPHIA -- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was installed yesterday as leader of the 1.5-million strong Archdiocese of Philadelphia, placing the outspoken culture warrior at the helm of a once tight-knit bastion of American Catholicism that now faces a series of crises.

From a damning clergy sex abuse scandal to a strike by Catholic school teachers, the 66-year-old Chaput has his work cut out in restoring the spirits of Philadelphia’s faithful while not backing down from debates on hot-button issues like gay marriage and abortion.

But Chaput, who spent the last 14 years as archbishop of Denver, seemed to relish the challenge, combining both tasks with characteristic confidence in his homily at Thursday’s installation Mass.

“This church in Philadelphia faces very serious challenges these days,” Chaput told an audience of 1,700 that filled the Byzantine-style Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. “There’s no quick fix to problems that are so difficult, and none of us here today, except the Lord himself, is a miracle worker.”

Parish sheltering Texas wildfire victims

WASHINGTON -- Ascension Parish in Bastrop, Texas, has been serving as a shelter and a nerve center for relief efforts related to the ongoing Texas wildfires that have struck the state.

As of Sept. 7, wildfires had been recorded for 296 straight days in drought-stricken Texas. But in the recent surge of such blazes in early September, more than 1,000 homes in the state had been destroyed and four deaths were attributed to the fires.

"We're not turning anybody away," said Steve Venzon, one of four Ascension parishioners who are taking daily six-hour shifts in directing aid efforts at the church. The town of Bastrop and Bastrop County are in the heart of the fire zone in the 25-county Diocese of Austin, Texas.

Ascension started housing its first evacuees Sept. 4 but quickly filled up its parish hall. Evacuees moved to the parish's religious education building, where 50 people were staying, Venzon told Catholic News Service in a Sept. 7 telephone interview.

Detroit archdiocese launches $135 million campaign

DETROIT -- Strengthening the 270 parishes of the Archdiocese of Detroit is the No. 1 priority of the $135 million stewardship campaign officially launched Sept. 6.

Strong parishes make for a strong archdiocese and a strong church, Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said as the multi-year "Changing Lives Together" campaign was rolled out before an audience of priests and lay representatives from throughout the archdiocese, plus members of the media.

The campaign already has been conducted in a pilot wave of several parishes, but now will begin successive waves that will eventually involve every parish in the six counties that comprise the archdiocese.

Seventy percent of the funds collected -- $95 million, if the campaign reaches its target -- will remain in the parishes of those who donate to the campaign, to be used for whatever purposes the parishes themselves have identified, such as fixing roofs and boilers, establishing new ministries or enhancing tuition assistance.

Philly Catholic high school teachers on strike

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PHILADELPHIA -- As incoming freshmen began orientation for the new school year and the archdiocese prepared to welcome a new archbishop, Philadelphia Catholic high school teachers went on strike Sept. 6.

Other students at the 17 Catholic high schools in the Philadelphia Archdiocese were to begin orientation sessions Sept. 8 -- the date of the installation of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput as new archbishop -- and Sept. 9.

Most of the more than 700 striking teachers voted against the archdiocesan contract proposal presented Sept. 6.

"The main issue now and since the beginning has centered on job security," said Rita Schwartz, president of the Association of Catholic School Teachers Local 1776.

Archdiocesan high schools opened Sept. 7 and were to be staffed by administrators and nonunion employees, according to Mary Rochford, archdiocesan superintendent of schools.

"Every school has its plan and is ready to go," she said during a news conference after the strike was announced.

Richard McCarron, archdiocesan secretary for Catholic education, said the archdiocese had contacted the teachers' union and was willing to resume negotiations.

St. Vincent de Paul Society president steps down

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Mission Management

After six pivotal years, Joe Flannigan will step down as president of the National Council of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Those who have worked with Flannigan are quick to praise his outstanding leadership.

"Joe worked very hard to make the society's councils and conferences really feel connected to each other and to the National Council and the National Council to the International Council," said Sheila Gilbert, who was commissioned to succeed Flannigan -- the first woman to hold the position -- on Sept. 3 at the society's national meeting in Dallas. Gilbert, who has served as the society's national secretary, said Flannigan made these connections "by seeking dialogue, discussion and feedback prior to making significant decisions."

Chant may gain traction under new missal, but hymnody's place secure

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WASHINGTON -- Although the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal has eliminated the use of the word "song" from the General Instruction promulgated just eight years earlier in favor of the word "chant," don't be so quick to ditch those hymnals.

The hymns that have been part and parcel of Catholic worship are likely to continue for some time to come.

Va. quake appears to have hit churches hard

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WASHINGTON -- Historic churches in Washington, Maryland and Virginia were among buildings with the most serious damage after the unusual Aug. 23 magnitude 5.8 earthquake shook the region.

The temblor could be felt as far away as Detroit, north of Toronto and into Florida.

The archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore each reported damage to several churches. But in the Diocese of Richmond, Va., where the quake was centered near the town of Mineral, that town's St. Jude Church had the only reported damage in the diocese, and that was relatively minor, according to its pastor, Father Michael Duffy.

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July 18-31, 2014

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