• INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier lawmakers passed a pilot program initiative to grant 1,000 low income children access to a high-quality prekindergarten education. The proposal, HB 1004, which passed the Indiana House of Representatives, 93-6, and is expected to also pass the Senate by the end of April. The Church supports the measure.

    The bill, authored by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis; Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville; and Rep. Shelli Vandenburgh, D-Crown Point, initiates a preschool pilot program for 1,000 students in five counties across Indiana. The plan targets low income children who would receive a voucher to attend a state approved, high-quality preschool program.

    “We have done a lot in moving education and education reform forward. The greatest need where we have not done a lot is the area of early childhood education,” said Behning. “There is no question. Indiana is behind the rest of the nation in providing early childhood education especially to children of poverty.”

    Under the bill, eligible students would come from families at 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is $43,567 for a family of four according the federal Health and Human Services Department. According to Behning, the state budget is allocating $7 million for the pilot program. Students selected for the pilot program would receive $6,800 to attend a high-quality preschool program.

    Behning said it also the intent of the state to maximize Title I, and Head Start money, prior to using the state money to pilot the program. HB 1004 also creates an early childhood advisory panel to track data and create accountability.

    Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville, said she got involved with this issue when she was approached by business and community leaders in her area that told her the state needed to be involved in early childhood education.

    “This is an initiative that business and community leaders have taken the lead on,” said Crouch. “This is about the future of our business development, future economic development, and the future of our children.”

    Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, said, “I’m glad to see we have a starting point for early learners. We’ve been talking about this for several years. I’m very supportive of the plan.”

    Leaders from the business community around Indiana spoke in favor of the legislation. Mark Gerstle, vice president of community relations for Cummins Engine, said the research their company had conducted showed that 67 percent of kindergarteners in southwestern Indiana did not pass the kindergarten readiness test.

    Gerstle told lawmakers that Cummins piloted a three-year program on early childhood education and their data showed a “total correlation” between kindergarten readiness and graduation.

    “Our goal is 100 percent graduation rates for high school. And like 60 percent going on to a two- or four-year college. For us it is a business prerogative because we are trying to hire people,” he said. “Cummins, like Lilly and others have put a lot of money into this.”

    Gerstle said that the findings of the pilot showed that 100 percent of the kids who got the early childhood education were ready for kindergarten.

    Connie Bond Stuart, regional vice president for PNC Bank of Indianapolis, also testified in support of the bill noting that PNC bank has committed $350 million over multiple years to assist in early childhood initiatives. Highlighting the significant body of research showing the positive results, Stuart said that for every $1 invested in early childhood education renders a savings of $16 in later remediation. Stuart said, “Every child deserves a chance to be prepared to learn and ultimately be successful with a productive life.”

    Mike O’Connor, state director of government affairs for Eli Lilly and Company, also in favor of the plan said, “We can’t get to where we need to be without statewide early learning initiatives.” O’Connor said there wasn’t a silver bullet in terms of producing a quality workforce, but if there was reaching children in those first developmental years would be the closest thing to it. O’Connor said, “Looking at early childhood development as a business value proposition, investment in early learning nets immediate and long lasting results.”

    Glenn Tebbe, Indiana Catholic Conference executive director, said, “The program outlined in HB 1004 will provide needed assistance to families who may experience more obstacles and whose children are often without sufficient opportunities that benefit their social and cognitive development,” said Tebbe. “Public policy should maximize the quality of educational opportunities for all children by ensuring that all parents have access to and the financial capability to exercise the right to choose the school they believe is best for their children.”


    Posted on March 5, 2013, to:

  • The “Spring” issue of Today’s Catholic Life is available at parishes across the diocese. Pick up your copy and see what springtime has to offer — rebirth and renewal with gardening and home improve­ment, Easter traditions and spiritual spring break adventures.

    Click here for the digital file

    Click here for more information on Today’s Catholic Life Magazine.


    Posted on February 26, 2013, to:

  • Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Agostino Vallini, papal vicar of Rome, walk together as they leave the pope’s audience with priests of the Diocese of Rome in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 14.

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) — During his almost eight-year pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI impressed the world as a teacher, guiding Catholics to the sources of the faith and urging modern society not to turn its back on God.

    Citing his age and diminishing energy, the 85-year-old pope announced Feb. 11 that he would be resigning effective Feb. 28 and would devote the rest of his life to prayer.

    As pastor of the universal Church, he used virtually every medium at his disposal — books and Twitter, sermons and encyclicals — to catechize the faithful on the foundational beliefs and practices of Christianity, ranging from the sermons of St. Augustine to the sign of the cross.

    Having served in his 30s as an influential adviser during the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, he made it a priority as pope to correct what he saw as overly expansive interpretations of Vatican II in favor of readings that stressed the council’s continuity with the Church’s millennial traditions.

    Under his oversight, the Vatican continued to highlight the Church’s moral boundaries on issues such as end-of-life medical care, marriage and homosexuality. But the pope’s message to society at large focused less on single issues and more on the risk of losing the basic relationship between the human being and the Creator.

    He consistently warned the West that unless its secularized society rediscovered religious values, it could not hope to engage in real dialogue with Islamic and other religious cultures.

    In his encyclicals and in his books on “Jesus of Nazareth,” the pope honed that message, asking readers to discover the essential connections between sacrificial love, works of charity, a dedication to the truth and the Gospel of Christ.

    The German-born pontiff did not try to match the popularity of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, but the millions of people who came to see him in Rome and abroad came to appreciate his smile, his frequent ad libs and his ability to speak from the heart.

    Although he did not expect to travel much, he ended up making 24 trips to six continents and three times presided over World Youth Day mega-gatherings, in Germany in 2005, in Australia in 2008, and in Spain in 2011.

    Talking about aging last March when he met the 85-year-old Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana, Pope Benedict told him, “Yes, I’m old, but I can still carry out my duties.”

    On a historic visit to the United States in 2008, the pope brought his own identity into clearer focus for Americans. He set forth a moral challenge on issues ranging from economic justice to abortion. He also took Church recognition of the priestly sex abuse scandal to a new level, expressing his personal shame at what happened and praying with the victims.

    The pope met three times with former U.S. President George W. Bush, including a formal visit to the White House, and the two leaders found wide areas of agreement on pro-life and family issues. When President Barack Obama was elected, the pontiff sent him a warmly worded telegram and a promise of his prayers, but when they met at the Vatican the next year, the pope spoke clearly about the Church’s objections to the administration’s policies on several life issues, including abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

    Pope Benedict was 78 and in apparent good health when elected April 19, 2005, but was said to have told his fellow cardinals that his would not be a long papacy like that of his predecessor. In an interview with the German author Peter Seewald in 2010, Pope Benedict said: “If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”

    As inevitable as his election seemed after Blessed John Paul died in 2005, his path to the papacy was long and indirect.

    Joseph Ratzinger was born April 16, 1927, in the Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn, the third and youngest child of a police officer, Joseph Sr., and his wife, Maria. Young Joseph joined his brother, Georg, at a minor seminary in 1939.

    Like other young students, he was automatically enrolled in the Hitler Youth program, but soon stopped going to meetings. During World War II, he was conscripted into the army, and in the spring of 1945 he deserted his unit and returned home, spending a few months in an Allied prisoner-of-war camp. He returned to the seminary late in 1945 and was ordained six years later, along with his brother.

    In a meeting with young people in 2006, the pope said witnessing the brutality of the Nazi regime helped convince him to become a priest. But he also had to overcome some doubts, he said. For one thing, he asked himself whether he “could faithfully live celibacy” his entire life. He also recognized that his real leanings were toward theology and wondered whether he had the qualities of a good pastor and the ability “to be simple with the simple people.”

    After a short stint as a parish priest, the future pope began a teaching career and built a reputation as one of the Church’s foremost theologians. At Vatican II, he made important contributions as a theological expert and embraced the council’s early work. But he began to have misgivings about an emerging anti-Roman bias, the idea of a “Church from below” run on a parliamentary model, and the direction of theological research in the Church — criticism that would become even sharper in later years.

    In a 2005 speech that served as a kind of manifesto for his young papacy, Pope Benedict rejected what he called a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” in interpreting Vatican II as a radical break with the past. The pope called instead for reading the council through a “hermeneutic of reform” in continuity with Catholic tradition.

    In 1977, Pope Paul VI named him archbishop of Munich and Freising, and four years later Pope John Paul called him to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he wielded great influence on issues such as liberation theology, dissent from Church teachings and pressure for women’s ordination. Serving in this role for nearly a quarter century, then-Cardinal Ratzinger earned a reputation in some quarters as a sort of grand inquisitor, seeking to stamp out independent thinking, an image belied by his passion for debate with thinkers inside and outside the Church.

    As the newly elected pope in 2005, he explained that he took the name Benedict to evoke the memory of Pope Benedict XV, a “courageous prophet of peace” during World War I, and said he wanted to place his ministry at the service of reconciliation and harmony among peoples.

    The new pope spent most of his energy writing and preaching, in encyclicals, letters, messages, homilies and talks that eventually numbered more than a thousand.

    Surprising those who had expected a by-the-book pontificate from a man who had spent more than 23 years as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal official, Pope Benedict emphasized that Christianity was a religion of love and not a religion of rules.

    During the 2010-11 Year for Priests, Pope Benedict held up the 19th-century French St. John Vianney as a model of clerical holiness who struggled against the indifference and hostility of a militantly secular society.

    He convened a Synod of Bishops on Scripture in 2008, in an effort to move the Bible back to the center of individual spirituality and pastoral planning. He opened a Year of Faith in October presided over a synod focusing on the New Evangelization and a revival of Christian faith in the secular West, one of the priorities of his pontificate.

    Some of Pope Benedict’s most memorable statements came when he applied simple Gospel values to social issues such as the protection of human life, the environment and economics.

    When the global financial crisis worsened in 2008, for example, the pope insisted that financial institutions must put people before profits. He also reminded people that modern ideals of money and material success are passing realities, saying: “Whoever builds his life on these things — on material things, on success, on appearances — is building on sand.”

    Pope Benedict’s outreach to traditionalist Catholics brought him some opposition and criticism. In 2007, he widened the possible use of the Tridentine Mass and began introducing touches of antiquity in his own liturgies, including the requirement of kneeling when receiving Communion from the pope.

    Then in 2009, in an effort to reconcile with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, he lifted the excommunications of four of the society’s bishops who were ordained illicitly in 1988.

    A storm of criticism erupted because one of the four, Bishop Richard Williamson, had made a number of statements — widely available on the Internet, but unknown to the pope — denying the extent of the Holocaust. The Vatican scrambled to distance Pope Benedict from the bishop’s views and reaffirm the pontiff’s commitment to Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

    The pope himself wrote an unusually personal letter to the world’s bishops, defending his efforts to restore Church unity by reaching out to traditionalists and expressing sadness that even some Catholics seemed ready to attack him “with open hostility.”

    At the same time, he clearly acknowledged mistakes in Vatican communications and said the Holy See would have to do a better job using the Internet in the future. Instead, the mishaps continued, and for most of the year preceding Pope Benedict’s resignation, press coverage of the Vatican was dominated by the so-called “VatiLeaks” affair, a scandal over confidential and sometimes embarrassing confidential documents that had been provided to the press, allegedly by the pope’s own butler, Paolo Gabriele.

    A Vatican court found Gabriele guilty in October and sentenced him to 18 months in jail. Pope Benedict, meeting his former aide outside his cell in the Vatican police barracks, pardoned him just before Christmas.

    The pope’s 2009 letter to bishops also summarized what he saw as his main mission as the successor of Peter: “In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God.”

    The idea that God is disappearing from the human horizon and that humanity is losing its bearings with “evident destructive effects” was a theme Pope Benedict saw as common ground for dialogue between Christians and Muslims. He voiced the Church’s opposition to a potential “clash of civilizations” in which religion was seen as a defining difference. But sometimes his words drew as much criticism as praise, particularly among Muslims who felt the pope was unfairly questioning the foundations of their religion.

    In a lecture at Germany’s University of Regensburg in 2006, the pope quoted a Christian medieval emperor who said the prophet Mohammed had brought “things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Following protests in the Islamic world, which included the burning of churches in the Palestinian territories and the murder of a nun in Somalia, the pope said he was sorry his words had offended Muslims and distanced himself from the text he had quoted.

    Later that year, visiting a mosque in Turkey, he turned toward Mecca and prayed silently alongside his host. This interfaith gesture generated considerable good will, and over the succeeding years, Pope Benedict continued to meet with Muslim leaders. Yet some Muslims continued to view the pope with suspicion or hostility, such as the prominent cleric who reiterated complaints about the Regensburg speech in the run-up to the pope’s trip to Lebanon in September.

    Pope Benedict also visited synagogues, in Germany in 2005, in New York in 2008 and in Rome in 2010, and his strong condemnations of anti-Semitism won the appreciation of many Jewish leaders. However, tensions arose in 2008 over the wording of a prayer for Jewish conversion, which the pope had revised for use in the Tridentine-rite Good Friday liturgy.

    The pope considered Christian unity one of his priorities, and he took steps to improve dialogue with Orthodox churches in particular. The most visible sign was the pope’s decision to accept the invitation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to visit the patriarch at his headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2006. Two years later, the pope invited the patriarch to give a major address at the Synod of Bishops. The Vatican also arranged the resumption of theological talks with the Orthodox in mid-2006 and began new forms of cultural collaboration with the Russian Orthodox Church.

    The fate of Christian minorities around the world was one of the pope’s major concerns, especially in places like Iraq and other predominantly Muslim countries. The pope strongly defended the right to religious freedom in his speech to the United Nations in 2008.

    In early 2007, the pope turned his attention to China, convening a meeting of Church experts to discuss ways to bring unity to the Church and gain concessions from the communist government. A papal letter to Chinese Catholics a few months later encouraged bold new steps to bridge the gap between Catholics registered with the government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association and the so-called underground communities, whose leaders were frequently harassed or imprisoned by the authorities.

    The pope’s letter also issued a broad invitation to government authorities for dialogue on the appointment of bishops and other topics. A number of bishops were subsequently ordained with both papal and government approval, before the government returned to the practice of choosing bishops without the Vatican’s approval.

    One of the most important documents issued under Pope Benedict, and with his explicit approval, was a doctrinal congregation instruction on bioethics in 2008. The document warned that some developments in stem-cell research, gene therapy and embryonic experimentation violate moral principles and reflect an attempt by man to “take the place of his Creator.”

    The pope’s own writings frequently explored the relationship between personal faith in Christ and social consequences.

    His first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” (“God Is Love,”), issued in 2005, reminded all people that God loves them and called on them to share that love in a personal and social way. It won high praise, even from quarters typically critical of the Church.

    Two years later, his second encyclical, “Spe Salvi” (on Christian hope), warned that without faith in God, humanity lies at the mercy of ideologies that can lead to “the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice.”

    His third encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) was released in 2009 and said ethical values are needed to overcome the current global economic crisis as well as to eradicate hunger and promote the real development of all the world’s peoples.

    Several months ago, the Vatican said Pope Benedict had completed work on another encyclical, this one on the virtue of faith, and its publication was expected in the first half of this year. The Vatican has not said whether or not the letter would come out before the pope’s resignation takes effect Feb. 28.

    His three-volume work, “Jesus of Nazareth,” published between 2007 and 2012 in several languages, emphasized that Christ must be understood as the Son of God on a divine mission, not as a mere moralist or social reformer. The books argued that while Christ did not bring a blueprint for social progress, he did bring a new vision based on love that challenges the evils of today’s world — from the brutality of totalitarian regimes to the “cruelty of capitalism.”

    The pope spent much of his time meeting with bishops from around the world when they made “ad limina” visits to the Vatican to report on their dioceses.

    Some of Pope Benedict’s longest and most-revealing encounters were with priests, in Rome and elsewhere. He frequently spoke of the importance of the quality formation of priestly candidates, and in 2005 he approved the release of a long-awaited document barring those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies from the priesthood.

    In a few areas, Pope Benedict asked Church experts to engage in careful study and reflection:

    • He asked Vatican agencies to consider the moral and scientific aspects of condom use in AIDS prevention, after some theologians argued that condoms were acceptable for married couples in which one spouse is infected with HIV. At the same time, his own statement in 2009 that condom-distribution campaigns aggravate the problem of AIDS prompted widespread criticism.

    In his 2010 interview for the book “Light of the World,” Seewald asked Pope Benedict about the use of condoms in AIDS prevention and the pope’s answer made headlines around the world. While continuing to insist that condoms were not the answer to the AIDS pandemic, he allowed that in particular circumstances — for example, a prostitute seeking to reduce the risk of infection — using a condom might represent a step toward moral awareness.

    • He convened scientific and theological scholars for private discussions about the theory of evolution. In his own remarks on the subject, he emphasized that the acceptance of evolutionary theory should not mean the exclusion of a fundamental divine purpose in creation.

    One of the pope’s most notable actions came in May 2006, when he approved a decision saying that Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, should not exercise his priestly ministry publicly. Father Maciel, who enjoyed favor for many years at the Vatican, had been accused of sexually abusing minors. In 2009 the pope approved an apostolic visitation of the late priest’s order.

    Although he was expected to reverse a trend set by Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict did not slow the Vatican’s saint-making machinery, but he did immediately announce he would not preside over beatifications. The pope’s decision was meant to highlight the difference between a beatification and a canonization, but, in effect, the pope’s decision lowered the profile of beatification liturgies. Pope Benedict did make two exceptions to his new rule: the first to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman during a September 2010 visit to England; and the second to beatify Pope John Paul in May 2011.

    While Pope Benedict asked Vatican experts to be more selective in picking candidates for sainthood, he ended up canonizing 44 new saints, including the Native American Kateri Tekakwitha and Mother Marianne Cope of Molokai.

    Pope Benedict named 90 new cardinals; 67 of those he named are still under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in the conclave to elect his successor. As of Feb. 28, the day his papacy ends, Pope Benedict’s appointments will represent just over 57 percent of the 117 cardinals under 80 that day.

    In mid-2007, the pope made an important change in the conclave procedure, restoring the traditional rule that requires a two-thirds majority for papal election. In doing so, he reversed a modification made by Pope John Paul, who had allowed the possibility of moving to a simple majority vote in the case of a deadlocked conclave.

    Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.


    Posted on February 26, 2013, to:

  • By Brigid Curtis Ayer

    INDIANAPOLIS — A bill to regulate chemical abortion in Indiana and another to improve informed consent law for abortion cleared its first hurdle Feb. 20, when the Senate Health panel passed the proposals. The Church supports both measures.

    Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, author of SB 371 said his bill is intended to ensure women’s safety. The bill requires facilities that dispense abortion-inducing drugs to meet the same medical standards as those that provide surgical abortions. The proposal requires a doctor who prescribes the abortion-inducing drugs to examine the woman in person, and schedule follow-up care.

    “We’re just trying to control and regulate abortion-inducing drugs, which are not regulated in the state of Indiana,” said Holdman.

    “We’re talking about the life of the mother and of the child. I don’t believe what we are asking for is an unreasonable request,” said Holdman. “We are not prohibiting physicians or abortion clinics from continuing the practice they are engaged in.”

    Senate Bill 489, authored by Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, changes Indiana’s informed consent law for abortion requiring a woman seeking abortion to see an ultrasound and hear fetal heart tones unless she certifies in writing that she declines. It requires the Indiana Department of Health to provide color illustrations, rather than black and white, showing fetal development stages for abortion centers to provide to abortion clients.

    Glenn Tebbe, ICC executive director, who serves as the official spokesman and public policy watchdog on state and federal issues for the Catholic Church in Indiana, testified Feb. 20.

    Tebbe said, “We rise in support of both bills under consideration because human life has dignity and value. We believe it is important that women be fully-informed before making an important life-changing decision. We believe it is in the best interest of the state to protect the health of the mother as well as the life of the unborn child.”

    Dr. Hans Geisler, retired OBGYN of Indianapolis, told the Senate panel, “I believe it is important to treat chemical abortions the same way we treat surgical abortions. An examination should be required by a physician, and an ultrasound given before any chemicals are given to rule out an ectopic pregnancy; that a person administering the chemical abortion has hospital admitting privileges and surgical privileges, in case they are needed; and that the clinic where this is being carried out should be a licensed medical facility, the same as other licensed surgical abortion facilities in Indiana.”

    Geisler provided a litany of data demonstrating that chemical abortion when compared to surgical abortion is risker. Geisler noted a chemical abortion has a 15.6 percent risk of hemorrhage compared to a 2.1 percent risk from a surgical abortion.

    “This is statically significant,” said Geisler. “I am not advocating surgical abortions, I’m merely pointing out chemical abortions are somewhat riskier.”

    Sue Swayze, legislative director for Indiana Right to Life told lawmakers, “Due to the rapid use of RU 486 in Indiana, we believe Indiana law must begin to recognize, define and regulate its use. The reason we want to regulate chemical abortion is because we can statistically predict the probability of failure rates, which are much higher for chemical abortions than with surgical abortion.

    “A woman who encounters complications a few days after she takes the abortion-inducing drugs, will likely return to the place where she got the pills for treatment,” said Swayze. “That center needs to be equipped to do so, with medical facility equipment, wider doorways for use of a gurney in case the woman needs to be transported to another medical facility.”

    Mark Tuttle, president, Right to Life of Indianapolis, said, “It makes sense that given the higher complication rates of chemical abortion that the state should require the same licensure and oversight that surgical abortions have.”

    Ryan McCann, of Indiana Family Institute, said, “We rise in support of these bills to help women get the information they need and protect them through the law.”

    Abortion advocates who testified in opposition of the proposals cited concerns regarding limiting access to abortion would harm Hoosier women who would go to the Internet to find cheaper, more dangerous abortion inducing pills. Some who testified in opposition to the bills include: Dr. John Stutsman, an Indiana University School of Medicine professor and OBGYN who serves as the medical director for Planned Parenthood in Indiana; and Rev. Linda Dolby, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Lafayette, and board member for Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

    Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, who serves on the Senate Health panel and voted against both abortion proposals, said, “We are narrowing the circumstances and locations available to women who seek reproductive services and in particular abortions … and I strongly vote no.”

    Swayze sums-up the problem this way.

    “Today, chemical abortion is flying under the radar in our state, and the abortion industry is not held to standard medical marketplace expectations for patient care and safety,” said Swayze. “Let’s face it. Women who get abortions aren’t going to file complaints or seek justice when their care is subpar. They assume that the clinic they go to is safe.”

    Posted on February 26, 2013, to:

  • By Ann Carey

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades holds a relic of St. Gianna Beretta Molla during an enshrinement to the saint at Our Lady of Fatima Chapel at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka on Feb. 22. Bishop Rhoades blessed the picture and enshrined relics at the hospital chapel, and on Sunday, he celebrated a Mass for couples struggling with infertility at the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis in Mishawaka.

    MISHAWAKA — Most Catholics can relate to St. Gianna Beretta Molla, for she lived the ordinary kind of life many Catholics live: She had a spouse and children and also held down a job. St. Gianna opted to continue a high-risk pregnancy rather than undergo treatment that would harm her unborn child and died in 1962, one week after giving birth to a healthy daughter. She was survived by her husband and three other children.

    Canonized in 2004, the International Year of the Family, St. Gianna was the last saint to be canonized by Pope John Paul II.

    During the weekend of Feb. 22-24, St. Gianna also became a special saint for the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Her picture and relic were enshrined in a Feb. 22 ceremony at the diocese’s only Catholic hospital, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka.

    Introducing the enshrinement was Tom McKenna, founder and president of the St. Gianna Physician’s Guild. The guild was started in 2006 to uphold and promote Catholic values in the lives and practices of medical personnel and help them defend those values in the public square. St. Gianna, a pediatrician, is the guild’s patroness.

    At the enshrinement ceremony in the hospital’s lobby outside the entrance to Our Lady of Fatima Chapel, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades noted that the St. Gianna shrine was appropriate for the hospital, for her work as a doctor exemplified what Catholic healthcare is about.

    “She is a beautiful model — especially in our culture today — of witness to the Gospel of Life,” Bishop Rhoades said, adding that St. Gianna saw her profession to treat sick children not just as work, but as a vocation, just like her vocation to marriage and motherhood.

    He also praised St. Joseph Regional Medical Center as “an institution and family that stands for life as part of the core of its truly Catholic mission.” That mission provides care of the whole person, he said, which includes spiritual and pastoral care for the patient and the families.

    “People who come here experience the compassion of Christ,” he said, “and that is what distinguishes a place like St. Joseph Regional Medical Center from other places where much, much good takes place as well. But what is the inspiration here is Jesus Himself and His self-giving love for us. So, St. Gianna reflected that like a mirror.”

    Albert Gutierrez, president and CEO of the hospital, told Today’s Catholic that the hospital was “proud” to host the saint’s relic.

    “Her legacy has united, inspired and encouraged countless mothers, physicians and other healthcare providers,” he said. “We invite our community to learn her amazing story and to visit our hospital to see this beautiful display in her honor.”

    Indeed, the St. Gianna enshrinement came to the diocese because a member of St. Matthew Parish had developed a devotion to the saint after learning more about her. Barb Fralish, a wife, mother and nurse, told Today’s Catholic that Gianna’s story of an ordinary person doing extraordinary things helps inspire her in the care of her own disabled son.

    Fralish said she had attended a pro-life conference in Kansas City in 2011where she heard Gianna’s youngest daughter speak and met Tom McKenna. Fralish subsequently wrote Bishop Rhoades a letter suggesting that he consider increasing devotion to St. Gianna in this diocese. Bishop Rhoades approached St. Joseph Regional Medical Center about hosting the St. Gianna shrine, and the hospital responded enthusiastically.

    Franciscan Sister Laureen Painter, the hospital’s vice president for Mission Integration and Ministry Formation, told Today’s Catholic that the sanctity of life is “critical” to the hospital as a faith-based organization. Thus, the enshrinement of St. Gianna is a “manifestation of this founding conviction,” she said.

    “As we share this relic with those who come through our doors, we invite them to pray for St. Gianna’s intercession for expectant mothers here in Michiana who experience difficulties during pregnancy or while giving birth.”

    Tom McKenna, the founder and president of the St. Gianna Physicians’ Guild, who is also a personal friend of St. Gianna’s family, speaks on the life of St. Gianna as part of the enshrinement ceremony. McKenna also made presentations on Feb. 23 at St. Therese, Little Flower Church in South Bend and after Mass on Feb. 24 in the chapel of the Sisters of St. Francis in Mishawaka.

    McKenna also spoke about St. Gianna at the University of Notre Dame the day of the enshrinement and gave another presentation the evening of Feb. 23 at Little Flower Parish Center in South Bend. On Sunday, Feb. 24, he spoke at the Mishawaka motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, following a 1 p.m. special Mass for couples struggling with infertility.

    In his homily at that Mass, Bishop Rhoades said he had read that many couples struggling with infertility had been aided by the intercession of St. Gianna, who herself had suffered two miscarriages as well as other difficult pregnancies. In both her personal life and in her medical practice caring for children and their mothers, she gave strong pro-life witness, he said.

    “St. Gianna is also an example of great faith and courage in the face of adversity and suffering,” he continued. “She refused to turn away from her faith in God and would not participate in any medical procedures that were immoral, that did not respect the dignity and sacredness of human life.”

    This pro-life witness, he said, helps couples struggling with infertility realize that any infertility treatment must respect the right to life of the human embryo and aid the conjugal act, not substitute for it.

    “Today we ask for St. Gianna’s intercession for couples struggling with infertility, that the Lord may bless them with children,” Bishop Rhoades said. “And, we also pray for those who will not be blessed with the gift of children, that they may remain firm in faith and their married lives may be blessed with much spiritual fruitfulness. Their embrace of the cross is a means to great growth in holiness.”

    Bishop Rhoades also asked the many Sisters of St. Francis who were at the Mass to hold the couples struggling with infertility in their prayers and to ask the other sisters at their motherhouse to do the same. Noting that the Sisters of St. Francis maintain perpetual adoration, he called them a “powerhouse of prayer.”


    Posted on February 26, 2013, to: