Archive for the ‘Catholic US News’ Category

Catholic CrossFit gym lifts Colo. priests

Denver, Colo., Sep 19, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic CrossFit gym in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, is bringing a whole new meaning to redemptive suffering.

Oversized white boards typical to CrossFit gyms hang on the walls of Divine Mercy Fitness. Not so typical to CrossFit gyms are the prayer intentions scrawled across the board alongside the description of the day’s workout.

“You can offer up your suffering during the workout for souls,” explained member Father Brian Larkin.

In addition to its prayer intentions board, other indicators of the gym’s Catholic roots include scripture verses along the walls and icons. An image of Divine Mercy serves as a backdrop to exercise equipment. Priests work out alongside laity, and members start each workout with a prayer.

Monsignor Tom Fryar, a member at the gym, described the atmosphere at Divine Mercy Fitness as spiritual and uplifting.

“It’s a supporting setting for people to come together and know they’re doing something good; not only for themselves, but beyond,” he said.

Divine Mercy Fitness started in 2008 in the house garage of owner Steve Smith. The current location opened in 2009 in an industrial section of southeast Denver. Besides daily classes, Divine Mercy Fitness offers Olympic lifting training, neuromuscular therapy and a “Women on Weights” program tailored for women battling osteoporosis.

Though the gym is open and available for all people, Smith told CNA he has a special outreach to priests and seminarians.

“They do so much work on spiritual formation and education; and a lot of times they don’t have the emphasis on their physical bodies,” Smith said. “We all know it’s soul, body and mind; and when you leave one out, the others suffer.”

“And so my goal is simply to have a place that is safe, in terms of dress, and is just appropriate for priests to be exposed to – versus (other gyms) where you have a whole bunch of inappropriate things going on.”

Fr. Larkin has been a member at Divine Mercy Fitness since day one, when he was still a seminarian. He told CNA he is grateful to have access to a gym that gives him a good workout without compromising his faith.

“As a Christian, it can be hard to go to the gym sometimes; especially as a priest,” he explained. “It’s almost like Divine Mercy is redeeming the workout culture.”

“I love to work out, I think it’s really important and I think it makes you happier and healthier. (But) some of the fitness culture – in fact, almost all of it in our country – is broken. It’s characterized by vanity and by lust, quite frankly. There can also be a pride that comes with physical fitness.”

Smith’s personal goal is to help 100 priests and seminarians get physically fit. So far, he’s had more than a dozen.

“The hard part is taking the time to do it,” he said. “We try to convince the priests who have a hard time to really come in.”

Another typical barrier to fitness, and CrossFit in particular, is cost. Membership at Divine Mercy Fitness has an initial fee of $250 for those who are new to the CrossFit movement. After that, membership costs $125 each month for access to the gym three times a week.

But, for priests and seminarians, membership is free. Smith pays out of his own pocket.

“There’s no way I could do it without Steve being so generous toward priests and seminarians,” Fr. Larkin said. “That wasn’t something we approached him about. It was his initiative and he’s being doing it since…they were still running the gym out of their garage.”

“I think the Church is healthier when its priests are healthier, so it’s a great service that Steve and his family are giving to priests.”

Msgr. Fryar said he can see the difference in his ministry since he started working out regularly at Divine Mercy Fitness several years ago.

“I’ve certainly got more energy to carry out my full days,” he explained. “Quite often, I start the day around 5 and hopefully get in bed by 11. Every bit of energy you can have, it all helps.”

Fr. Larkin echoed Msgr. Fryar’s comments.

“Working out helps me to be joyful in being a priest,” he said. “It helps me be the man I’m supposed to be to serve my parish.”

Smith is looking for donors to assist in covering membership costs of the priests and seminarians who walk through the doors of Divine Mercy Fitness. Those who are interested can find more information at

San Diego bishop remembered for Christian example in life, death

San Diego, Calif., Sep 18, 2014 / 06:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- San Diego’s late Bishop Cirilo Flores was “a man of the Beatitudes” with a deep affection for the people of his diocese, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said at the bishop’s Sept. 17 funeral Mass.

“We thank God today for the life of our brother and friend, Bishop Cirilo. What a beautiful example he was for all of us,” Archbishop Gomez said in his homily at Saint Therese of Carmel Church in San Diego.

“He showed us how to be a priest, how to be a bishop — and how to be a Christian,” the archbishop continued. “He tried to live with humility, simplicity and purity of heart. He tried to be a merciful man with a heart for the poor and vulnerable.”

Bishop Flores died Sept. 6 at the age of 66 at San Diego’s Nazareth House, a senior care facility. He had suffered a stroke in April and was still recovering from its effects. The diocese announced in August that he had also begun treatment for prostate cancer.

More than 1,000 people attended the bishop’s funeral Mass, including about 400 priests and 50 bishops.

Archbishop Gomez told the congregation that Bishop Flores helped teach Christians “the newness of life” even in his suffering and death.

“I think he was surprised by his illness but he took it well. His first trial came when he had the stroke during Holy Week and then, just recently when he learned that he had cancer,” the archbishop said.

“He was at peace when he learned that the cancer was terminal and could not be treated. He put himself in the hands of God,” he continued. “What a beautiful way to live and to die!”

Archbishop Gomez voiced sadness at the bishop’s death.

“We are going to miss him a lot. His smile, his peaceful way,” the archbishop said. “But we are happy for him, too. Because he has reached his goal! The goal that we are all striving for. The goal of Heaven, eternal life.”

“He wanted Jesus Christ to always be present to his people. So he went out to be with you, as often as he could.”

Bishop Flores was born in 1948 in Corona, Calif., 22 miles northeast of Orange, the child of Cirilo and Armida Flores. He has three brothers and two sisters, all of whom live in California.

He studied law at Stanford University and practiced law in Riverside and Los Angeles counties prior to entering St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo in 1986.

Bishop Flores was ordained a priest of the Orange diocese in 1991, at the age of 43. He served in several parishes of the diocese. He was then consecrated as an auxiliary bishop for the diocese in 2009.

In 2012, Bishop Flores was appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, becoming its head in September 2013 upon the retirement of Bishop Robert Brom.

Archbishop Gomez said that Bishop Flores’ last weeks “taught me to want to center my life more on loving God and loving others.”

He encouraged the congregation to focus on “bringing the joy of Jesus to others” and “getting to heaven and helping people to be with God – now and forever.”

“We entrust Bishop Cirilo to the welcoming arms of our Blessed Mother Mary. And we ask her to pray for all of us, that we might have the grace to follow his example and to always walk in the newness of life!” Archbishop Gomez said.

Bishops praise agreement on low-income child care bill

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2014 / 02:41 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference has praised federal lawmakers for reaching an agreement to reauthorize legislation that funds child care and job training for low-income families.

“Child care …

Bishop Tobin on divorce: Changes needed in approach, not teaching

Providence, R.I., Sep 17, 2014 / 09:43 am (CNA).- The dilemma of divorced and remarried Catholics should prompt consideration of changes in the Church’s approach to annulments and the Eucharist, but without compromising Church teaching, said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I.

“The challenge for the Church, of course, is how to maintain and proclaim the irrefutable teaching of our Lord Jesus that marriage entails a sacred and permanent bond between husband and wife, while also providing spiritual care for those Catholics who have fallen short of the ideal,” he said in a column written for the local diocesan paper, the Rhode Island Catholic.

“Although the teaching of Christ and His Church about the permanence of marriage is clear and undeniable, the lived reality is that many individuals, for a variety of reasons perhaps – personal, catechetical or cultural – are ill-equipped to fulfill the lofty demands of the law,” he said.

Next month, bishops the world over will meet with Pope Francis in Rome for a synod to discuss the Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization.

Among the topics to be discussed is the issue of whether divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed to receive the Eucharist, as well as the efficiency of the annulment process.

Church teaching holds that a second marriage cannot be recognized as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. Therefore, divorced Catholics who remarry without obtaining an annulment are “in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law” and should not receive the Eucharist.

Pope Francis has called for the synod to examine a “somewhat deeper pastoral care of marriage,” including the divorced and remarried, leading many to speculate on how the situation could be addressed.

In his column, Bishop Tobin pointed to the Gospel of Mark 2:23-28, in which the disciples were walking through a wheat field on the Sabbath and began eating grain because they were hungry, in violation of Jewish law. While the Pharisees condemned them, Jesus responds: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath.”

“In other words, while not denying the validity of the law, our Lord clearly placed it in a ‘pastoral context,’ exempting its enforcement due to the human needs of the moment,” the Bishop wrote.

“Could we not take a similar approach to marriage law today? Could we not say, by way of analogy, that “matrimony is made for man, not man for matrimony?” he questioned.

In his column, Bishop Tobin said that “understand(s) completely the arguments against taking a more ‘pastoral approach’ to this topic, primarily that to do so would betray the sacred teaching of Christ we are obliged to uphold.”

“I know that even within the current discipline, divorced and remarried Catholics, though barred from Holy Communion, are still valued members of the Church and that there are many ways for them to participate in ecclesial life,” he continued. “And I believe in the value of ‘spiritual communion’ as a truly worthwhile devotional practice for those unable to receive the sacrament.”

However, the bishop wondered whether these Catholics are being unnecessarily denied the “consolation and joy” of the Eucharist, a central part of the Catholic faith.  

“…the Church has taught the pre-eminent value of receiving the Holy Eucharist, and I keep hearing the words of Jesus about the Eucharist, words that are just as valid and important as His words about marriage: ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you’ (Jn 6:53).”

The bishop said that he has agonized over the many divorced Catholics who have left the Church, and questioned the “pseudo-Catholic politicians” who receive Holy Communion despite defying Church teaching on “gay marriage” and abortion in their legislative work.  

Part of the solution to the growing number of divorced and remarried Catholics sans annulment could be a simplifying of the “formal court-like” annulment process itself, Bishop Tobin suggested.

“Can we eliminate the necessity of having detailed personal interviews, hefty fees, testimony from witnesses, psychological exams, and automatic appeals to other tribunals?” he asked.

“In lieu of this formal court-like process, which some participants have found intimidating, can we rely more on the conscientious personal judgment of spouses about the history of their marriage (after all, they are the ministers and recipients of the sacrament!) and their worthiness to receive Holy Communion?”

In his conclusion, Bishop Tobin admitted that he does not have all the answers to the questions that have been raised, but expressed hope that the Holy Spirit guides the discernment of the Pope, bishops and theologians “who are a whole lot smarter and holier than I am” and who are wrestling with these issues before the synod.

Whatever changes are made, Bishop Tobin said he hopes they are at a universal rather than a diocesan level, for the sake of consistency within the Church.

But changes must be made, he emphasized.

“For the spiritual well-being of the divorced and remarried members of our Catholic Family, for the salvation of their souls, we’ve got to do something!”

Bishop Tobin’s full column can be read here:

Christ Our Life conferences a ‘shot of holy adrenaline’

Des Moines, Iowa, Sep 17, 2014 / 04:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy Spirit’s inspiration can strike at the most unexpected times – like while running on a treadmill.

That’s when Ellen Miller felt called to create the first regional Catholic conference for Iowa in 2010, the “Christ Our Life” conference. She ran the idea by her friend Marilyn Lane, who had felt similar promptings, and the two now co-chair the bi-annual weekend that serves as a “shot of holy adrenaline.”

“It is a grassroots effort – Holy Spirit inspired, definitely,” Miller told CNA. “It really came to my heart that Iowa needed a Catholic conference, one that would bring us all together to help us grow in our faith, to help us understand what we believe, live and celebrate.”

Perhaps most impressive about the conference is the well-known Catholic speakers it attracts. This year’s lineup includes keynote speaker Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Catholic youth speaker Mark Hart and Rwandan genocide survivor and author Immaculée Ilibagiza among several others.

Miller, who serves as a youth minister for her parish, said that while putting together a large arena event for thousands of people with big-name speakers seemed intimidating, she has always been one to encourage people to give their “yes” to the Lord.

“I always encourage my kids to give their ‘yes’, to remind them that so many things in life pull us to give our ‘yes’, but how many ‘yeses’ do we give to God?” she said.

A steering committee of 26 people help put the conference together. One of the most important parts of getting people to come to the conference, she said, has been a personal invitation.

“I have about 235 people who I call go-to people,” she said, “…they create that personal invite in the back of their church. And it really does take that.”

Around 5,000 people attended the last conference, and the Wells Fargo Arena allows for room for the event to grow to 10,000. The hope is to especially draw in families that will experience the conference together and grow in their faith.

“Our goal is to see families, whether you’re 10 years old to 110 years old, come to this beautiful celebration of God’s infinite love,” she said, “and then go home and share that mountaintop experience, something that you were all apart of so that you can go home and grow from there.”

Miller experienced this in her own family, when her son, who helped chauffeur some of the speakers around for the first event, decided to serve as an accountant for a non-profit charity in Africa after talking with one of the speakers and experiencing the conference.

“He really felt bold enough in the Holy Spirit to listen to those promptings, and now this is his fourth year in Africa,” she said. “If I wouldn’t have gone to that conference with him I would have thought, ‘What are you doing?’”

Because the event takes place over just two days, the schedule is pretty packed with speakers, adoration and Mass with the only “break-out” session times occurring during meal times. The speakers also try to strike a balance of being both educational and testimonial, Miller said.

“We try and keep the conference to a balance of both of those: that educational, learning aspect with the teachings of the Church and about the sacraments, and then the stories that make it real in our own personal life,” she said.

This year’s Christ Our Life conference will take place Sept. 20-21 at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. The cost is $25 for adults and $15 for students. Registration and more information can be found on their website:


US bishops praise continuing Civil Rights movement

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2014 / 02:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was “a monumental step forward” for human dignity, but continued work is necessary to fight the “destructive influence of racism,” said the …

Defense of all persecuted believers highlighted at DC summit

Washington D.C., Sep 16, 2014 / 06:45 pm (CNA).- Support of religious freedom for all those being persecuted was reiterated at a conference in the nation’s capital following outcry over comments made by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

Joseph Cella, sp…

American Catholic deacon and doctor assisting in Liberia Ebola outbreak

Providence, R.I., Sep 13, 2014 / 12:36 pm (CNA).- According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has infected at least 4,269 people, and claimed the lives of 2,288 as of Tuesday. It is the worst Ebola epidemic in history….

Mo. lawmakers override governor’s veto to pass pro-life measures

St. Louis, Mo., Sep 12, 2014 / 03:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Missouri legislature has overridden two vetoes from Gov. Jay Nixon in order to implement a three-day waiting period before an abortion and a tax credit for pregnancy centers and maternity homes.

Karen Nolkemper, executive director of the Respect Life Apostolate for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, said the votes for the two bills are “a public affirmation that all life matters, even that of the most vulnerable among us.”

Missouri’s Republican-controlled legislature on Wednesday voted 117-44 in the House of Representatives and 23-7 in the state Senate to override the Democratic governor’s veto of a bill that required a woman seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours after a consultation with a doctor before having the procedure.

Nolkemper said that women “should have sufficient time to reflect and consider alternatives to an abortion because abortion ends the life of a new and unique human being.”

“Many women are pressured into having an abortion by friends and family, but the 72-hour reflection period will protect woman as they make a difficult, permanent, and life-changing decision,” she added.

The archdiocese voiced hope that the waiting period will also give women “the opportunity to find the options they need to keep their babies.”

Missouri law, like about half of U.S. states, previously required a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, the Associated Press reports. South Dakota and Utah have implemented a 72-hour waiting period, though Utah’s waiting period allows exceptions for women pregnant through rape and incest.

Gov. Nixon had said that the waiting period expansion was “extreme and disrespectful” to women because it did not exempt cases of rape and incest, the Associated Press reports.

Pam Fichter, president of Missouri Right to Life, said the extended waiting period will give a woman more time to consider her decision, research “the dangers and consequences of abortion” and find more help and alternatives to abortion.

The abortion provider Planned Parenthood did not say whether it would challenge the law, which will take effect 30 days after the Sept. 10 vote. It said the law could require women to travel more or to spend more money on hotels.

Women seeking abortions could avoid the law by traveling to Illinois and Kansas, where the abortion is less regulated.

Fewer than 5,500 abortions took place in Missouri in 2013.

The state legislature overrode the governor’s veto on a tax credit bill by even wider margins. The tax credits could increase financial support for pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes and food pantries.

“We are happy that these tax incentives will give private donors greater ability to be generous in the donations they make to these important programs and organizations that serve Missouri women and children in need,” Nolkemper said.

Fichter said both bills would “work together to protect the women of Missouri” and “ensure that in this matter of life and death, they don’t make a decision that will have a detrimental effect on them both physically and emotionally.”

“Pro-lifers across Missouri are so thankful and pleased that these bills are going into effect,” she said.

FOCUS broadens missionary outreach with ‘Digital Campus’

Denver, Colo., Sep 11, 2014 / 04:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With missionary teams on 99 college campuses across the continental U.S., the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) has reached an impressive number of students in its 16-year histor…

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