Nativity Catholic Cluster: Nativity of our Lord and St. Johns Parishes

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Pope says he goes to Chile, Peru as pilgrim of Gospel joy

Basketball helps priests teach New Jersey students about vocations

IMAGE: CNS photo/John Blaine

By Mary Stadnyk and Rich Fisher

HOLMDEL, N.J. (CNS) -- Students at St. John Vianney High School expected their recent pep rally to be fun, colorful and filled with good-natured competition.

But they were completely taken by surprise during the pre-Christmas celebration when six priests ran out onto the basketball court for a friendly exhibition game -- all with the intention to teach about vocations.

The basketball game was a way "to reach out and let them know that priests are approachable and they, too, can enjoy hobbies," said Father Michael Wallack, priest secretary to Bishop David M. O'Connell of Trenton and diocesan director of vocations.

He said he hoped that through the game, the message was conveyed that priests "don't always just stay in the church all week, waiting for Sunday."

"Most people don't really know what a priest does during the week besides writing a homily," said Father Wallack, who was joined on the court by Father John Michael Patilla, parochial vicar of St. Benedict Parish, in Holmdel and chaplain in St. John Vianney High School; Father Augusto Gamalo, parochial vicar of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Hamilton Square; Father Thomas Vala and Father Gregg Abadilla, pastor and parochial vicar, respectively, of St. Clement Parish in Matawan; and Father Dean Gaudio, pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Avon-by-the-Sea.

It didn't take long before the game between the St. John Vianney Lancers and the priests, who called themselves God Squad II, went from being a friendly game of hoops to a competitive match that resulted in a 4-2 win for high schoolers. The diocesan communications staff produced a video of the game.

Also evident in the video and in comments following the game was the strong camaraderie between the priests as they reflected on how basketball could serve as an effective vocation recruitment tool.

"Sports is a good avenue to promote vocations and meet kids where they are at," Father Patilla said.

Afteward, Father Vala, who smiled when he said he lasted longer than he thought he would in the game, thought the "kids got a kick out of it."

The priests enjoyed sharing a bit on how they prepared for the game with Father Gamalo saying "there's some prayers involved," especially because the priests did not have the opportunity to practice beforehand. Listening to upbeat music and watching games on television helped to motivate Father Gamalo and Father Abadilla give their all to the game.

Father Gaudio smiled as he shared how he thought the goal of the game was to show students that priests "are not all 70 years old" and can be everyday men who like sports.

"I would like to think there was a young man in today's crowd who might be thinking of a vocation to the priesthood, and our appearance at the game got him thinking about it even more," said Father Gaudio, who used to play basketball for Bound Brook High School and on an intramural team in St. Bonaventure University.

Father Vala said he hoped that through activities such as sports or music, the students can get to know a priest and share a friendship with him. And through that friendship, he hoped students would feel comfortable approaching a priest when thinking about the priesthood as a vocation.

"The priesthood is a vocation to serve God, and in doing so, you touch the lives of others when you reach out to them and make a positive difference in their lives," he said.

"When I embraced my Catholic faith in a serious and responsible way, I found meaning and purpose," he added, saying that being a priest has "brought me the joy and happiness that I sought in my life."

After the game, James Guilbert, a senior and varsity basketball player at the high school, said he thought the game allowed the St. John Vianney community to "see a different aspect of priests lives and that they live normal lives, too."

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Editor's Note: A video of the game is available online at

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Stadnyk is associate editor of and Fisher writes for The Monitor, newspaper of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey.

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Pastors who lead double lives wound the church, pope says

Catholic groups decry end of immigration protection for Salvadorans

IMAGE: CNS photo/Andrew Kelly, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As the Catholic Church in the U.S. began observing National Migration Week, a time to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, immigrants, refugees, and human trafficking victims, the administration of President Donald Trump announced that it would end an immigration program for thousands of Salvadorans, one of the largest groups of modern-day immigrants in the country and one that includes many Catholics.

More than 200,000 Salvadorans, living under a special immigration status in the U.S., now face the prospect of staying in the country illegally or returning to a nation designated as one of the most dangerous in the world not at war, after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Jan. 8 that it was ending a provision called Temporary Protected Status after Sept. 9, 2019.

"The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador was made after a review of the disaster-related conditions upon which the country's original designation was based," DHS said in a statement. Salvadorans affected can apply to stay under a different program, if they qualify, or make plans to return to their home country, the statement continued.

Citizens of El Salvador were able to apply for TPS in 2001 after the Central American nation experienced a series of major earthquakes. TPS grants a work permit and a reprieve from deportation to certain people whose countries have experienced natural disasters, armed conflicts or exceptional situations, to remain temporarily in the United States. El Salvador had previously received the designation in 1990 after thousands of Salvadorans fled to the U.S. seeking refuge from a brutal civil war.

Supporters of the Salvadorans said current TPS recipients should be allowed to stay because they have built families and are firmly rooted in the U.S.and local faith communities.

Catholic bishops and organizations have expressed concern that Salvadorans would be forced to return to a socially unstable country that is ravaged by gangs and has been designated by various organizations as one of the most dangerous places in the world and one not equipped to absorb such a large-scale repatriation.

"From our experience working with the Catholic Church and other local partners in El Salvador, the Salvadoran government does not have adequate humanitarian capacity to receive, protect, or integrate back into society safely this many people," said Catholic Relief Services in a statement released shortly after the decision was announced.

Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Texas-based Hope Border Institute, said the administration's decision would instead create an additional 200,000 "soon-to-be undocumented immigrants" in the U.S.

"Today, the Trump administration unnecessarily and cruelly put the security, safety, families and lives of over 200,000 Salvadoran TPS recipients, including over 35,000 in Texas, in jeopardy. Deporting them will mean uprooting and destroying families and livelihoods and sending families back to poverty and violence in one of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world," Corbett said. "And make no mistake, we as Americans through our trade and security policies, and because of our insatiable appetite for drugs, are morally implicated in the crisis in El Salvador and Central America."

Recalling the words of Pope Francis, Corbett said building walls, detaining human beings and "deporting our Salvadoran sisters and brothers is just another example of how the Trump administration is stirring up 'primal fears' for political advantage."

A big concern for Catholic organizations and leaders is the 192,000 U.S.-born children of Salvadoran families.

"This is yet another ill-conceived decision by an administration that ignores the immense contributions to our country by immigrants and that has lost sight of the United States' long history as a safe haven for people who flee danger abroad," said Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange, California, chairman of the board of the Maryland-based Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. 

"By terminating TPS for El Salvador, hundreds of thousands of people, including U.S. citizen children and extended family, will be faced with wrenching decisions about how to proceed with their lives," Bishop Vann said. "The administration fails to address how it makes the United States any safer to expel people who have been living and working legally as valued residents of our country. Instead of withdrawing their protections, our government should welcome these long-term, settled members of our communities and find ways to give them a permanent path to residency."

In a statement, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Committee on Migration, said the administration's decision was "heartbreaking."

"We believe that God has called us to care for the foreigner and the marginalized ... Our nation must not turn its back on TPS recipients and their families; they too are children of God," he said in a statement.

While urging Congress to find a solution, Bishop Vasquez said the USCCB stands in solidarity with Salvadoran TPS recipients and that the bishops would continue to pray for them, their families, "and all those who are displaced or forced to flee from their homes."

The Center for Migration Studies in New York said 88 percent of Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries are employed, many are homeowners, and typically have lived in the U.S. for 21 years. Returning them to El Salvador would be "destabilizing," said Donald Kerwin, the center's executive director, said in a statement.

"Today's decision creates many losers, and no winners," he said. "The losers include the TPS recipients themselves, their employers, their U.S. citizen children, their U.S. communities, El Salvador, and the U.S. economy. The rule of law is another loser as the decision will relegate hard working legal immigrants into persons without status and force TPS beneficiaries and their U.S. children to return to violence-plagued communities without good economic prospects."

Ricardo Calderon, of the Central American Resource Center in San Francisco, told Catholic News Service that the affected Salvadorans have suffered what amounts to "psychological torture" while waiting for the administration's decision.

Many have felt anger, worry, uncertainty, wondering what will happen to their children and to their family members abroad who depend on them. Some are scrambling to understand the decision since there is so much misinformation, he said.

Though the conditions that led to the TPS designation may have improved in El Salvador, it makes no sense to ignore the conditions that continue to plague the country and which seem daunting to those who are facing them: lack of jobs, rampant crime, and a long list of social ills, Calderon added.

The Ohio-based Ignatian Solidarity Network said returning, for many Salvadorans, means returning to danger.

"We have become familiar with the reality of Salvadoran TPS holders through the stories of individuals in our Ignatian network," the organization said in a statement. "These women and men of all ages -- whom we know as students, teachers, colleagues, parishioners -- are faced with a future of uncertainty and grave risk for themselves and their families as they contemplate a return to the violence and impunity in El Salvador."

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Bullying is the devil's work, pope says at morning Mass

Vatican releases pope's liturgical schedule for January-February

Follow Jesus like the Magi, pope urges on Epiphany

Pope to diplomats: World peace depends on right to life, disarmament

Pope to diplomats: World peace depends on right to life, disarmament

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Because everyone has a right to life, liberty and personal security, nations must find nonviolent solutions to conflict and difficulties, Pope Francis said.

A culture of peace "calls for unremitting efforts in favor of disarmament and the reduction of recourse to the use of armed force in the handling of international affairs," he said Jan. 8 in his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican.

Given the urgent need to favor dialogue and diplomacy in conflict resolution and to end the stockpiling of weapons, "I would therefore like to encourage a serene and wide-ranging debate on the subject, one that avoids polarizing the international community on such a sensitive issue," the pope said.

At the start of a new year, the pope dedicated his speech to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its adoption by the U.N. General Assembly in December.

The declaration was an attempt to help the world's nations base their relations on "truth, justice, willing cooperation and freedom" by upholding the fundamental rights of all human beings, he said. The very foundation of freedom, justice and world peace, he said, quoting the document, is built on recognizing and respecting these rights.

However, in his nearly 50-minute speech to the diplomats, the pope cautioned that there has been a movement to create "new rights" that often not only conflict with each other, but can be at odds with the traditional values and cultures of many countries, while neglecting the real needs they have to face.

"Somewhat paradoxically, there is a risk that, in the very name of human rights, we will see the rise of modern forms of ideological colonization by the stronger and the wealthier, to the detriment of the poorer and the most vulnerable," he said.

Seven decades after the creation of the universal declaration, Pope Francis said, "it is painful to see how many fundamental rights continue to be violated today. First among all of these is the right of every human person to life, liberty and personal security."

War, violence and abortion all infringe on these rights, he said.

Not only are innocent unborn children discarded because they are "ill or malformed, or as a result of the selfishness of adults," the elderly are often cast aside especially when they are infirm, he said.

Ultimately, the right to life entails working for peace, he said, because "without peace, integral human development becomes unattainable."

Integral development, in fact, is intertwined with the need for disarmament, he said. "The proliferation of weapons clearly aggravates situations of conflict and entails enormous human and material costs that undermine development and the search for lasting peace."

The adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year shows how the desire for peace continues to be alive in the world, he said.

"The stockpiles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced" and "nuclear weapons must be banned," particularly given the risk that a nuclear conflagration could be started by accident, Pope Francis said, quoting St. John XXIII's encyclical on peace, "Pacem in Terris."

"In this regard, it is of paramount importance to support every effort at dialogue on the Korean peninsula, in order to find new ways of overcoming the current disputes, increasing mutual trust and ensuring a peaceful future for the Korean people and the entire world," Pope Francis said.

Fostering dialogue is also of primary importance for Israelis and Palestinians "in the wake of the tensions of recent weeks," he said, apparently referring to demonstrations that took place after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Pope Francis had said such a move would further destabilize the Middle East.

In his speech to diplomats, the pope repeated the Vatican's long-standing position that any policy change in the Holy Land must "be carefully weighed so as to avoid exacerbating hostilities" and should respect the "the status quo of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims."

"Seventy years of confrontation make more urgent than ever the need for a political solution that allows the presence in the region of two independent states within internationally recognized borders," the pope said. "Despite the difficulties, a willingness to engage in dialogue and to resume negotiations remains the clearest way to achieving at last a peaceful coexistence between the two peoples."

In a list of world conflicts of concern, the pope also pointed to the need to support "the various peace initiatives aimed at helping Syria."

"The time for rebuilding has now come," he said, which includes, not just rebuilding destroyed cities, but rebuilding hearts and "the fabric of mutual trust, which is the essential prerequisite for the flourishing of any society."

"There is a need, then, to promote the legal, political and security conditions" for each citizen and to protect all religious minorities, including Christians, he said.

"The right to freedom of thought, conscience and of religion, including the freedom to change religion," must be upheld around the globe, the pope said.

Instead, "it is well-known that the right to religious freedom is often disregarded, and not infrequently religion becomes either an occasion for the ideological justification of new forms of extremism or a pretext for the social marginalization of believers, if not their downright persecution," he said.

Turning from events unfolding on the world stage, the pope drew attention to the daily reality of families, urging countries to support the bedrock of all stable, creative societies: "that faithful and indissoluble communion of love that joins man and woman" in marriage.

"I consider it urgent, then, that genuine policies be adopted to support the family, on which the future and the development of states depend," he said, adding that "without this, it is not possible to create societies capable of meeting the challenges of the future."

Neglecting families has led to sharply declining birth rates in some countries, which is a sign of a nation that is struggling to face the challenges of the present and fearful of the future.

The pope also warned against talking about migrants and migration "only for the sake of stirring up primal fears." The movements of peoples have always existed and the freedom of movement -- to leave one's homeland and to return -- is a fundamental human right, he said.

"There is a need, then, to abandon the familiar rhetoric and start from the essential consideration that we are dealing, above all, with persons," he said.

Another urgent task before humanity, the pope said, is caring for the earth.

"One must not downplay the importance of our own responsibility in interaction with nature. Climate changes, with the global rise in temperatures and their devastating effects, are also a consequence of human activity," he said.

Therefore, people must work together, he said, including by upholding commitments agreed upon in the 2015 Paris Accord, and leave "to coming generations a more beautiful and livable world," he said.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Migration Chairman Deeply Disappointed by Termination of Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador; Calls for Congress to Find a Legislative Solution

WASHINGTON — On January 8th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador. TPS is a temporary, renewable, and statutorily authorized humanitarian migration program that permits individuals to remain and work lawfully in the U.S. during a period in which it is deemed unsafe for nationals of that country to return home. The vast majority of TPS recipients in the U.S. are Salvadoran.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), issued the following statement:

"The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador is heartbreaking. As detailed in our recent delegation trip report to the region, El Salvador is currently not in a position to adequately handle the return of the roughly 200,000 Salvadoran TPS recipients. Today's decision will fragment American families, leaving over 192,000 U.S. citizen children of Salvadoran TPS recipients with uncertain futures. Families will be needlessly separated because of this decision.

We believe that God has called us to care for the foreigner and the marginalized: 'So you too should love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt' (Deut. 10:19). Our nation must not turn its back on TPS recipients and their families; they too are children of God.

DHS has provided an 18-month period (through September 9, 2019) during which TPS recipients from El Salvador can legally stay in the United States and prepare for their departure. While we recognize and appreciate this extra time, it will not remedy the underlying protection and family unity concerns that remain for Salvadoran TPS recipients.

We renew our call to Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for long-term TPS recipients, and we stand ready to support such efforts. TPS recipients are an integral part of our communities, churches, and nation. Without action by Congress, however, recipients' lives will be upended and many families will be devastated. As with DACA, we strongly urge Congressional members and leadership to come together and address this issue as soon as possible.

To Salvadoran TPS recipients, we promise to continue to stand in solidarity with you and pray for you and your families, and all those who are displaced or forced to flee from their homes."

Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe Vasquez, Committee on Migration, Migration and Refugee Services, Temporary Protected Status, TPS recipients, TPS beneficiaries, Department of Homeland Security, DHS, Congress, Honduras, El Salvador, refugees, migration, prayers, legislative solution


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