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Phoenix bishop gives ultimatum to hospital

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Updated: Dec. 17

The Phoenix diocese released the following statement Friday:

The Diocese of Phoenix has been in continuing conversation with Catholic Healthcare West about their Catholic identity and adherence to the teachings of the Church regarding their facilities within the Diocese of Phoenix. Late on Thursday, Dec. 16, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted was in receipt of further communication from Catholic Healthcare West officials. Given the ongoing communication and attempts to rectify the situation, Bishop Olmsted is extending his deadline until Tuesday, Dec. 21.

PHOENIX -- St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center here is on a Friday deadline for an ultimatum that could determine whether it can remain a Catholic hospital.

As of Thursday afternoon, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix was waiting for hospital administrators to respond to an ultimatum he had sent the month before. Olmsted has been in a dispute with the hospital over a medical procedure performed at the hospital last year that the bishop deemed an abortion.

Olmsted’s chief complaint is that hospital has “not acknowledged my authority to settle this question.”

His ultimatum: The hospital must comply with three demands or St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, one of the largest hospitals in the Phoenix area, would lose its Catholic status. The deadline is tomorrow, Friday.

Bishop says Mary appeared in Wisconsin, but who can say for sure?

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In 1859, a Wisconsin farmwoman recounted three mystical meetings with the Virgin Mary, who told her to pray for the conversion of sinners and teach children the Catholic faith.

On Dec. 8, the Bishop of Green Bay finally sanctioned Adele Brise's visions as both supernatural and “worthy of belief.” It was the first officially approved Marian apparition (the Catholic Church's term for paranormal appearances by Mary) in the United States.

Of the many questions kindled by Bishop David Ricken's announcement, two seemed particularly keen: How does the church investigate mystical visions? And why does it take so long to approve them?

Brise was 28, partially blind, and far from her native Belgium when she reported speaking with a woman wearing a brilliant white gown and starry crown who seemed to float above the fields.

The vision called herself “the Queen of Heaven,” and gave Brise a mission. “Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation.”

For the rest of her life, Brise did just that, trudging across the untamed frontier to catechize children, build a school, and found an order of Franciscan sisters.

Few friends, many enemies in diocesan down-sizing

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CLEVELAND -- Even before he was officially installed as the Roman Catholic bishop of Cleveland in 2006, Richard G. Lennon was already talking about the need to close churches.

“As painful as a funeral is, it’s there that you commend your loved one to God,” Lennon told reporters just weeks before his installation.

Those words, coming from an auxiliary bishop who had just closed scores of churches in Boston, sounded a death knell for dozens more in Northeast Ohio—and unleashed a small but shrill backlash across Lennon’s new flock.

The extensive downsizing is essentially over, although some of the closings remain under appeal with the Vatican. In the end, 50 parishes were closed. Vacant churches are up for sale, merged parishes are moving forward.

Now, Lennon must minister to a diocese where emotions remain raw.

Like many U.S. bishops in financially struggling regions, Lennon faced a rapidly changing church: too few priests and too few members for too many buildings.

Outline of new life

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27th and last in a series

Eighteen months ago, I started out on a reporting project that soon became a series and took the name “In Search of the Emerging Church.” Twenty-six reports later, looking back through scores of interviews, demographic data, anecdotes and personal experience, what emerges is the outline of new church life, much of it quite healthy, if less fastened than the church has been to traditional clerical structures.

In hindsight, the headline -- Emerging Church -- was, as headlines often are, at least inadequate, suggesting that something whole might be emerging in place of something else. The reality is more complex.

The reporting would take me to Ohio, New Jersey, New Mexico, California and Pennsylvania, and included interviews with experts both inside and outside the Catholic community. What precipitated the project was a conference in Florida in 2009, the culminating event of a four-year study, Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership, financed by a $2 million Lilly Endowment grant. The financing and the study have since been extended. The 1,200 people who showed up at the gathering, most of them lay, and the stories they told clearly demonstrated that change was under way.

Marriage: the second act

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Last May my wife left me. Packed up the car and drove with her father back to California, where we had been living prior to our relocation to Washington, D.C., for my job. We have been living on separate coasts since then, in separate lives, in separate realities. The only thing that binds us is the fact that we were married in the church and are still married, although neither one of us wears the gold bands that we had custom made from a small jewelry shop in Berkeley. I remember how excited we were when they were finished, trying them on and showing them off as we walked down the street arm in arm, even though they were very simple. Now, nothing is simple. Not our relationship, not our future, not our finances, and not our emotions as we try to make sense of the past several years.

Tips for a kid-friendly parish

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My daughter is squirming in my arms, as I unsuccessfully try to bribe her into behaving with Goldfish crackers. For a 20-month-old, she can fling them a pretty good distance. Meanwhile, my 3-year-old son has taken off, and I’m afraid he’s headed for the tempting plate of Communion bread waiting for the offertory procession.

Then I hear him: “Mama, I have to go poopie!”

Incoming president of bishops among those surprised by his election

BALTIMORE -- New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan was as surprised as anyone that he was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 16.

"I'm surprised, I'm honored, I'm flattered and a tad intimidated," Dolan told Catholic News Service shortly after being elected in an unprecedented departure from the USCCB's normal tradition of electing the conference vice president to the presidency.

He said he had no idea what was behind the bishops' 128-111 third-ballot vote to make him president instead of current vice president Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.

The election of Archbishop Dolan marks the first time since the bishops' conference was reorganized into its current form in 1966 that a sitting vice president who sought the presidency did not win the election. In two elections, circumstances dictated that the vice president did not rise to lead the conference.

In 1974, St. Paul-Minneapolis Coadjutor Archbishop Leo C. Byrne, vice president since 1971, died less than a month before his term ended.

Spurning tradition, Bishops elect Dolan as new president

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BALTIMORE – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 16 elected Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York as president of the conference for the next 3 years.

It was the first time in the modern history of the conference, since it was reorganized in the 1960s after the Second Vatican Council, that a sitting vice president who was on the presidential ballot did not get elected president.

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