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Recognize Harm To Poor And Amend “Graham-Cassidy” Bill Say U.S. Bishop Chairmen

From the USCCB – On September 21, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin called on the U.S. Senate to “think of the harm that will be caused to poor and vulnerable people” by provisions contained in the “Graham-Cassidy” health care legislation. They urged Senators to “amend the legislation while retaining its positive features.”

“The Graham-Cassidy bill includes a Medicaid ‘per capita cap’ that was part of previous bills which have been rejected,” said the Bishops. “The Medicaid caps will fundamentally restructure this vital program which supports the medical needs of those most in need. Over time, these modifications will result in deep funding cuts and lost coverage for millions of people,” the chairmen cautioned. “Our nation must not attempt to address its fiscal concerns by placing an insufferable health care burden on the backs of the poor.”

The Bishop-chairmen called on the Senate to keep protections found in Graham-Cassidy that ensure that no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it. “This improvement is praiseworthy, and it is essential that any improved final bill retain these key provisions which would finally address grave moral problems in our current health care system,” they said. “We also applaud that Graham-Cassidy redirects funds from organizations that provide abortion.”

Cardinal Dolan is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Lori chairs the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Dewane heads the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Vásquez is the USCCB chairman of the Committee on Migration.

The Bishops urged the Senate to work together to address looming health care problems for the good of all. “Decisions about the health of our citizens—a concern fundamental to each of us—should not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms. The far-reaching implications of Congress’ actions are too significant for that kind of governance,” they said. “Instead, the common good should call you to come together in a bi-partisan way to pass thoughtful legislation that addresses the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that now exist.”

The full letter can be found at:

Additionally, Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik also weighed-in on the issue.


Rich soil: Parish reaps joyful harvest

Volunteers get down and dirty during planting time earlier this year in the community garden at St. Joan of Arc Parish in South Park Township.

A few years ago, an official with the South Hills Interfaith Movement approached Father Phillip Pribonic, pastor of St. Joan, about starting a community garden that would grow vegetables for SHIM’s network of food pantries.

The 10,000-square-foot garden is now the largest one affiliated with SHIM.

St. Joan’s garden shares its produce with SHIM and a couple of other places, said Dr. Ron Boron, a retired general surgeon who coordinates the garden work. The other beneficiaries include The Intersection, an organization in McKeesport run by Mercy sisters; Shiloh Baptist Church; and South Park Meals on Wheels, which is run through Grace Lutheran Church in South Park.

“All of the organizations in SHIM last year produced about 12,000 pounds — 6 tons — of vegetables,” Boron said. “Last year our garden produced 6,000 pounds itself, two-thirds of which went to SHIM, and the other third to those other food pantries.”

Beginning with the first late-winter frost until well into October, the garden is a center of activity for the many volunteers who show up Monday and Wednesday evenings to till, fertilize, plant, weed and harvest.

Boron keeps in touch by e-mail with about 75 helpers, and about 20-25 consistently arrive to work.

He was brought up with gardening since his father had one at their home in Whitehall, and became a certified master gardener when he retired.

“It’s a lot of work, but I love it,” he said.

Father Pribonic blesses the garden every year, he said. And while four or five garden volunteers have passed away, their surviving spouses continue the special work that’s done to help those in need.

“If I could say what’s the most important thing about the garden, I guess I’d have to say probably is that we’re producing some fresh, healthy vegetables for people,” Boron said, “but as far as I’m concerned I think the most important thing is the camaraderie that we have as a group.

“When you see the product of what you’ve done and the camaraderie that we generate, it kind of makes you feel good.”


*Article contributed by William Cone, Editor, Pittsburgh Catholic.

*Photos courtesy of Dr. Ron Boron.

Resolved: Down Syndrome Lives Matter

Chloe Kondrich and State Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster)

Pennsylvania State Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) asked an important question, “What kind of society do we want to live in?”

Sen. Martin believes we should live in a world where everyone, including individuals with Down syndrome, is respected and admired for the joy and contributions they bring to society. As the prime sponsor of Senate Resolution 174, Martin is urging his Senate colleagues to join him in condemning the practice of selectively aborting fetuses with Down syndrome. President Pro Tempore Senator Joe Scarnati (R-Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, Mckean, Potter, Tioga), Senator John DiSanto (R-Dauphin, Perry), and Senator John Eichelberger (R-Blair, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon) also voiced their support.

Studies show that as many as 90% of babies in the United States who are diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are aborted. This statistic is alarming considering that life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades, from at 25 in 1983 to age 60 today. Babies born with Down syndrome now live long, happy, and productive lives.

Just ask Chloe Kondrich.

Ms. Kondrich is a high school student with Down syndrome who accompanied her father to the State Capitol to urge support for the Senate resolution. Kurt Kondrich, Chloe’s dad, is Senior Director of Development for the Human Coalition. He answered Senator Martin’s question saying, “We need human beings like Chloe – they bring unconditional love and there is no malice in her.” Chloe is proof that Down syndrome lives matter too.


A Preview: Faith & Liberty Discovery Center

Would you like to see the first Catholic Bible printed in America?

Its history traces back to its publisher, an Irish refugee, who advertised that he would print the Bible if he found 400 subscribers. He acquired 471, allowing him to print.

Today, this Bible is one of the rarest books in America and can be seen in the future Faith & Liberty Discovery Center located in Philadelphia.

The American Bible Society, who celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2016, is planning to launch the center on historic Independence Mall, placing the Bible alongside America’s key founding documents: the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Staff from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference recently visited the Philadelphia site which is slated to become home to the Faith & Liberty Center at the invitation of state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Washington/Allegheny.

In addition to the Catholic Bible, curious visitors of the future site can view Hellen Keller’s Bible, a Bible that was placed in lifeboats and rafts during World War II and leaves from the first book ever printed: Gutenberg’s Latin Bible. 

“The American Bible Society is creating new ways to reintroduce the amazing restorative power of God’s word to our culture. We need to support this organization and its mission. I will do everything in my power to help,” said Saccone.

The goal of this unprecedented facility is to create a museum which is immersive and discoverable – a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors. The Faith & Liberty Discovery Center is projected to open in 2019 and estimated to draw 408,000 visitors within the first year.

More information on the planning of the Faith & Liberty Discovery Center can be found here.



U.S. Bishops and PA Bishops Voice Concerns about Decision to End DACA

From the USCCB – The president and vice president along with chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have issued a statement about the Administration’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after six months.

Over 780,000 youth received protection from the DACA program since its inception by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2012. DACA provided no legal status or government benefits but did provide recipients with temporary employment authorization to work in the United States and reprieve from deportation.

The statement reads:

“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible. It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and

their families. These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home. The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.” The full statement can be found here.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said, “Part of being prolife and pro-religious freedom — both of them vital issues that need our strong support — is a willingness to look past these specific struggles to the dignity of the whole person. It’s one thing to tighten the security of our borders and to deport violent criminals here illegally. It’s a different and much uglier thing to punish young people who’ve grown up in the United States as their home, but whose parents entered the country with them illegally.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program covers more than 800,000 non-citizen young people, protecting them from deportation and allowing them to work in the United States legally. It’s a humane, just and sensible recognition of the facts: Most of these young people have nowhere else to go, and no other home than the United States.

The White House has the power to end DACA. It has threatened to do so as early as today. This would be a drastic mistake. It can only make our complicated immigration issues worse. It will poison our national debates and damage the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who pose no threat to anyone.

I ask the people of the Archdiocese to press their federal lawmakers to find a positive legislative replacement for DACA, and to prevent the deportation of these young people.”

Bishops from across Pennsylvania echoed the call by the USCCB (Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer) and have also spoken out in support of DACA (Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik), citing that the Administration’s decision ignores the reality of the positive contributions these young people have made within our communities (Greensburg Bishop Edward Malesic).

Additionally, “This decision does not reflect the message of the Gospel of Jesus or the values that have made the United States the greatest country in the world. We have a long and proud history of welcoming persons from other countries who come to our land seeking freedom to practice their religion, live in safety and work hard to provide a decent life for their families.” (Bishop Joseph Bambera, Diocese of Scranton)


Bishop Alfred A. Schlert Ordained, Installed

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” – StCatharine of Siena

On August 31, at a special mass held at the Cathedral of Saint Catharine of Siena, Bishop Alfred A. Schlert was ordained and installed as the Fifth Bishop of Allentown.

He is the first priest ordained for the Diocese of Allentown to become Bishop of the Diocese.

A native of Easton, Bishop Schlert was born to Alfred and Marylou Schlert on July 24, 1961, just six months after the Diocese of Allentown was formed. He was educated at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Elementary School and Notre Dame High School, both in Easton. He prepared for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary near Philadelphia and the Pontifical Roman Seminary and St. John Lateran University in Rome and has been a priest of the Diocese of Allentown since his ordination in 1987.

At the mass, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M., Cap., served as the Principal Ordaining Bishop.

During his homily, the archbishop cited the recent celebration of the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, citing him as one of the greatest bishops in Christian history because he lived first and foremost as a father, moved by a father’s love.

“That’s the vocation of a bishop in the Catholic Church. That’s the mandate of every man called to be a successor of the Apostles,” said Chaput.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference sincerely thanks Bishop Schlert for his service to the conference as vice president and member of its Administrative Board. May God hold you in the palm of his hand.



Legislation introduced to address lack of housing for the homeless

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference stands in support of legislation, House Bill 1076, that would use collaborative relationships among municipalities to address the need for housing for the homeless across the state.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Tom Caltagirone, D-Berks, would form what are commonly referred to as ‘land banks’ at the municipal level, enabling municipalities to enter into partnerships with private developers and others to convert abandoned and blighted properties into housing for the homeless.

According to federal estimates, the majority of the homeless in Pennsylvania are staying in emergency shelters, with the remainder living in cars, abandoned buildings or under bridges.

Additional measures aimed at addressing Pennsylvania’s homelessness have also been introduced during the 2017-18 legislative session.

The “Homeless Bill of Rights” has been introduced by state Reps. Isabella Fitzgerald and Thomas Murt of Philadelphia. That legislation is designed to protect fundamental civil and human rights of the homeless population.

Also, Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Philadelphia, introduced House Bill 1163 which would waive the state’s fee for an identification card issued through PennDOT for homeless, low-income, and disabled individuals.

On July 31, a sculpture named ‘Homeless Jesus’ was unveiled in Philadelphia. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was on-hand at the unveiling of the first-of-its-kind statue in Pennsylvania, calling it a visible sign of commitment to an overlooked population. The sculpture rests along Race St. in front of a building that serves meals to the city’s homeless.


Bishop Malesic Marks End of Opioid Meetings by Calling Them Just the Beginning

Bishop Malesic listens to stories of those impacted by the statewide heroin and opioid epidemic. The session was held on August 16 at the St. Thomas More University Parish in Indiana, Pa.

“I do think the Holy Spirit said to me one day: Ed, there’s a problem and you need to call the right people together to help alleviate.” –  Bishop Edward C. Malesic

The evening of August 16 marked the conclusion of the Diocese of Greensburg’s summer listening and prayer sessions devoted solely to addressing Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis. However, the resounding message from Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic is that the seven sessions were very much the beginning of his commitment to a finding a long-term solution to this epidemic.

“Our parents have lost sons and daughters because of it,” said Malesic.

At the session, a father spoke of losing his son after he was in recovery for 10 years; a concerned Indiana resident told the story of his neighbors raising their grandchild as a result of drug addiction; and, a young man described his eight-year battle with addiction, calling it the worst years of his life.

From Uniontown to Indiana, seven evenings of listening, learning and prayer were held throughout the diocese. Bishop Malesic estimates he spoke to 1,000 people in the diocese throughout the course of the sessions.

In the Diocese of Greensburg alone, 319 people died of an opioid overdose in 2016. Dr. John P. Gallagher, chair of the Pennsylvania Medical Society recently estimated the opioid-related death rate will not peak until 2024.

Bishop Malesic noted that moving forward he will continue his pastoral outreach to meet the needs of the diocese by supporting grassroots efforts within parishes, being involved in new programs that may emerge at the local level, connecting people with possibilities and continuing to formulate the Church’s response as one based on hope.

“Prayer is what our law enforcement officials, our legislators, our first respondents, our medical personnel, our family members of the addicted need. They need our prayers, they need our support, they need our love, they need our care, they need our concern,” said Malesic.



























































































U.S. Bishops Establish New Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism

From the USCCB – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops today announced the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. Initiated by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the USCCB, the committee will focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our Church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions.

“Recent events have exposed the extent to which the sin of racism continues to inflict our nation. The establishment of this new ad hoc committee will be wholly dedicated to engaging the Church and our society to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters,” says Cardinal DiNardo.

Bishop George V. Murry, SJ of Youngstown, Ohio has been appointed by Cardinal DiNardo as Chairman of the committee. The membership of the committee will be finalized in the coming days and its mandate will be confirmed at the first meeting, expected very shortly.

“I look forward to working with my brother bishops as well as communities across the United States to listen to the needs of individuals who have suffered under the sin of racism and together find solutions to this epidemic of hate that has plagued our nation for far too long,” says Bishop Murry. “Through Jesus’ example of love and mercy, we are called to be a better people than what we have witnessed over the past weeks and months as a nation. Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I’m hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society.”

The new ad hoc committee has been formed upon the unanimous recommendation of the U.S. Bishops Conference Executive Committee and in consultation with members of the USCCB’s Committee on Priorities and Plans. The establishment of the committee will also welcome and support the implementation of the pastoral letter on racism anticipated for release in 2018. The formation of the ad hoc committee also follows the conclusion of the work of the Peace in Our Communities Task Force. The Task Force was formed in July 2016 by then USCCB President, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, in response to racially-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas.

Almost 40 years ago, the Bishops of the United States wrote a Pastoral Letter on Racism. Among the many things, they discussed was the fact that “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.”