Homeless Family Gains a New Beginning through Catholic Social Services

David and Nancy Pennay of Jessup, Pa., with their children, from left, Kaitlyn, Nathan and Kayla.

One evening, David Pennay took a bad step and fell down the stairs at home. The next day, he felt a stab of excruciating pain, his legs went numb and he fell to the floor.

Doctors told him a blood clot from the fall put pressure on his spinal cord and damaged vertebrae. “I don’t know if I’ll ever walk again,” said David, who also has epilepsy.

Prior to his accident, David worked as a meat cutter in a processing plant. His wife Nancy was working on an associates’ degree. After the accident, she had to give up her education. David’s epileptic disorder means he can’t be left alone with the children.

Unable to work, unable to pay the rent, David was evicted along with his wife and their children – son, Nathan, then age 4, and twin girls, Kayla and Kaitlyn, age 2. A friend found a place for them in a condemned bar.

“We were living in the pool room,” said David. “We had to cook on little burners. My wife washed dishes in the rest room sink…The bar was dark and dingy.”

That was February of 2015. This past spring, the plight of the Pennay family came to the attention of Lori Bowen, case manager of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, Carbondale Office. Lori immediately opened a Homeless Assistance Program (HAP) Intensive Case Management file to help meet this family’s many needs, the foremost being housing. The family would soon be evicted from the bar where they took refuge.

Said Ms. Bowen, “We got very blessed with the timing. A handicapped accessible apartment was available in Jessup and this family was accepted.

“When I first met them, the family felt hopelessness. They didn’t feel anyone could help them,” Lori explained.

“Lori, our case manager, really fought tooth and nail to find a place for us that was handicap accessible – these things are almost impossible to get,” David added. “We wouldn’t have a home without Catholic Social Services or Lori Bowen. My children wouldn’t have it, I wouldn’t have it, my wife wouldn’t have it.”


Published in the September 28, 2017 edition of The Catholic Light, the newspaper of the Diocese of Scranton.





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What Legislation Matters Most for Catholics?

EITC, OSTCThe 2017-18 Legislative Session is nearing the halfway point. During each two-year session, thousands of bills are introduced in the Pennsylvania House and Senate.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association are tracking a number of different legislative proposals that are important to Catholics in the state. The bills range from supporting school choice, preserving programs for those most in need, respecting human life, and protecting religious liberty.

See the full list of bills and find out how you can help take action with us.




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Pennsylvania Bishops Offer Statements Following Settlement in Federal Religious Liberty Lawsuit

Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik

Bishop Zubik

I am grateful to God that we have reached an agreement with the government that secures and reaffirms the constitutional right of religious freedom. The Diocese of Pittsburgh’s 5-year challenge to the HHS mandate provisions of the Affordable Care Act has been resolved successfully.   Our Catholic Charities and other religious organizations of different denominations will not be required to facilitate insurance coverage or practices that are morally unacceptable to them.

The settlement follows the recent release of new federal regulations that provide religious organizations with a full exemption from covering items that violate their core beliefs.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh joined more than 70 religious organizations represented by the law firm of Jones Day in filing an initial challenge to the government’s regulations in May 2012.  The diocese objected to the government’s definition of a religious organization. The federal government had exempted houses of worship from covering morally objectionable items in their health insurance plans but insisted that other religious institutions which are not houses of worship must facilitate such coverage against their sincerely held beliefs.   This rule was based on the faulty premise that religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities, were not religious enough to qualify for the exemption.

Read Bishop Zubik’s full statement.


Diocese of Erie Bishop Lawrence T. Persico

Bishop Persico

The Diocese of Erie celebrates its religious liberty as guaranteed by the First Amendment and secured today by the United States government.

This agreement allows faith-based organizations to uphold our religious mission in a di-verse society. For that, we are deeply grateful.

We have maintained from the beginning that the government cannot force anyone—Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, or other—to do something that violates their sincerely-held religious beliefs. The government has finally acknowledged that there is a reasonable path to ac-complish its goals while also respecting the core beliefs of our faith.

Although we had to go through significant litigation, in the end, I find it heartening that through the wisdom and direction of the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal government signed an agreement acceptable to our diocese and other dioceses and religious organizations. Let’s hope it sets a good precedent.

Read Bishop Persico’s full statement.


Diocese of Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic

Bishop Malesic

We are extremely pleased with the favorable settlement that has been reached between the Diocese of Greensburg and the Department of Justice.

This permanent injunction solidifies an exclusive agreement between the government and the diocese. It holds that the Department of Justice will not enforce the HHS mandate, its accommodation, nor its narrow religious exemption on the Diocese of Greensburg. Additionally, this agreement will hold firm in the event of any future regulatory changes that may occur with HHS legislation.

I am deeply grateful to my predecessor, Bishop Emeritus Lawrence E. Brandt, who began work on this extremely important initiative several years ago. And I am appreciative of the highly competent work put forth by Jones Day, our legal counsel who diligently worked on our behalf.

This is a positive and substantive victory for every religious institution espousing that religious and moral beliefs must be supported by the fundamental right of religious freedom as envisioned by the founders of our great nation.



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Senate Committee Approves Bill to Reauthorize CHIP; Maintains Funding is Used for Intended Purpose

The Pennsylvania Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted 14-1 in favor of House Bill 1388 which would reauthorize the Pennsylvania Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which is set to expire on December 31, 2017. The measure would allow CHIP to continue through December 31, 2019.

Additionally, the committee adopted an amendment to the bill, sponsored by Sen. Don White (R-Armstrong) that would guarantee CHIP funding is used for its intended purpose of providing health care for children, not to pay for sex reassignment surgery and services.

“I don’t think in any way, shape or form that covering sex reassignment surgery should be part of the CHIP program that we set up years and years ago and is one of the model programs in the country that has been duplicated,” said White.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati said before the committee, “This goes far beyond what the CHIP program was designed to do. I will not accept, and I will reject the notion that we are discriminating against anybody.”

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association have been proponents of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, since its inception.

Across the nation, CHIP currently covers 9 million children with health insurance. More than 176,000 Pennsylvania children are covered by CHIP’s comprehensive, effective and affordable coverage.

Although CHIP remains a popular and valuable health insurance tool, it must be reauthorized in order to continue offering coverage.

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Advocates, Lawmakers Stand up for “Safe Harbor” at State Capitol

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is a strong supporter of the proposed “Safe Harbor” bill.

“Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime that’s become ever more aggressive, that threatens not just individuals, but the foundational values of society.” – Pope Francis

Standing united on the steps of the state’s Capitol, advocates and lawmakers renewed the call to stand up for the dignity of young lives being destroyed by human trafficking.

Specifically, they urged House passage of legislation, introduced by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery/Bucks), which would provide specialized services to victims of sex trafficking under the age of 18 instead of facing charges in the juvenile justice system. The bill would establish a statewide protocol to provide local services including safe and stable housing, access to education, employment and life-skills training, counseling, treatment for addictions, health care, and more. Rather than facing delinquency charges for prostitution, these children will get the help and support necessary to break free from enslavement.

State Rep. Joanna McClinton, who served as assistant public defender for seven years, led the call for action to protect the real victims of human trafficking saying,” There are children in Pennsylvania that get prosecuted. It’s crazy that they get prosecuted when they are the most vulnerable children.

“If these children are protected they can help us really be able to find out who are the traffickers, where they are. They can point us and lead us in the right direction while getting the support they so desperately need.”

Senate Bill 554 was unanimously passed by the state Senate on April 25, 2017. It is currently under review by the House Judiciary Committee.

Urge your local lawmaker to support a better life for sex trafficking victims by voting YES on SB 554.

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Surviving the Death Penalty

Ajamu joins members of the Pennsylvania Moratorium Coalition at a recent event recognizing its 10th anniversary. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is a member of the coalition and a long-time supporter of legislation to repeal the death penalty.

In August 1975, a jury found Ronnie Bridgeman (who has since changed his name to Kwame Kamau Ajamu) guilty of murder and a judge sentenced him to death.

“I was marked for death.”

He lived nearly 40 years of his life as Number 150.

Almost four decades later, a witness who was 12 years old at the time recanted his testimony and an Ohio judge cleared Ajamu of all charges, exonerating him.

To date, over 150 individuals have been exonerated from death row, Number 150 being one of them.

This is his story of survival, perseverance and healing.


“The miscarriage of justice that eventually leads to someone  being put on death row – that destroys families. We look at the men and women on death row – a lot of us miss the wife, the mother, the sister, the father, the brother, the children who have been pulled away in a sense. No one thinks about them.”

Ajamu was just 17 when he, along with his older brother, was incarcerated and sentenced to death.

“My mother was the only one there for me.”

“When I got a five-year continuance from the parole board, it was on a Friday. I thought I’d call my mother after the weekend.”

The call was never made; Ajamu’s mother passed away that Friday.


“You cried, ‘I didn’t do it’ the first day.” After that, Ajamu was determined to prove his innocence through action.

While incarcerated, Ajamu focused on educating fellow inmates as a way to cope with his sentence. He and five other inmates started an education system within the prison by establishing a cooking school.

“On my watch thousands of men got all the way from ABCDEFG to a Bachelor of Science degree because I was the one who would keep making them go.”

He would leave prison as the administrative clerk for the educational department for over 20 years and with one mark on his parole paper: Outstanding  Program.


“It has become a quest of mine to visit as many places as I can to promulgate these words:  end the death penalty.”

Today, Ajamu lives in Ohio and serves as Board Chair to Witness to Innocence, which is the only organization in the nation comprised of and led by exonerated death row survivors and their families who are dedicated to abolishing the death penalty in the United States.

“I’m not just a hired employee, I am a death row exoneree.”

“I think that anyone who comes into the particular situation as I have will realize that first and foremost you have now been given a platform and this platform is specifically geared toward death penalty abolishment.”

Ajamu acknowledges that his speaking engagements will never fully erase the scars of being wrongfully incarcerated; they serve as a form of healing and help to affirm his dedication to helping others – to help them helps him.

“We’re talking about human life.”


On February 13, 2015, Governor Tom Wolf announced he would grant reprieves  on all executions in Pennsylvania, in effect establishing a moratorium while he remains in office. Currently, 169 men and women are sitting on death row in the state.

Furthermore, Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) and Rep. Christopher Rabb (D-Philadelphia) have introduced Senate Bill 703 and House Bill 1466, respectively, to completely repeal the death penalty in Pennsylvania.


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Time to Reauthorize CHIP

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association have been proponents of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, since its inception.

Across the nation, CHIP currently covers 9 million children with health insurance. More than 176,000 Pennsylvania children are covered by CHIP’s comprehensive, effective and affordable coverage.

Although CHIP remains a popular and valuable health insurance tool, it must be reauthorized by the federal government in order to continue offering coverage.

To date, Congress has failed to take action to reauthorize CHIP – putting hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania children at risk.

Contact Pennsylvania’s federal lawmakers to urge them reauthorize this vital program for children in need of coverage and care.







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HHS Mandate Decision Represents Return To Common Sense

From the USCCB — Today’s decision to expand the HHS mandate exemption is a “return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state,” according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the USCCB, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, are hailing the Trump Administration’s announcement to provide a broad religious and moral exemption from the mandate requiring health insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions.

Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Lori offered the following joint statement in response:

“The Administration’s decision to provide a broad religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate recognizes that the full range of faith-based and mission-driven organizations, as well as the people who run them, have deeply held religious and moral beliefs that the law must respect. Such an exemption is no innovation, but instead a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state. It corrects an anomalous failure by federal regulators that should never have occurred and should never be repeated.

“These regulations are good news for the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who are challenging the HHS mandate in court.  We urge the government to take the next logical step and promptly resolve the litigation that the Supreme Court has urged the parties to settle.

“The regulations are also good news for all Americans. A government mandate that coerces people to make an impossible choice between obeying their consciences and obeying the call to serve the poor is harmful not only to Catholics but to the common good. Religious freedom is a fundamental right for all, so when it is threatened for some, it is threatened for all. We welcome the news that this particular threat to religious freedom has been lifted, and with the encouragement of Pope Francis, we will remain ‘vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.’”






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Religious Liberty Update

Amy B. Hill and Bishop Bartchak on the set of Proclaim!

The issue of religious liberty continues to be a topic of concern for many across the country and in the state. It is also of particular interest to the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania as it relates to public policy.

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Pennsylvania Bishops Issue Statements Regarding Shooting in Las Vegas

Archbishop Chaput

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia

“Like many Americans, I awoke this morning to learn of the horrific acts of violence that took place last night in Las Vegas. So many precious and innocent lives were senselessly lost in an evil manner and it fills all of us with an unspeakable sadness. As the number of dead and injured continues to rise, let us pray that God will receive the souls of those who have been lost, that He will heal the injured, and that He will pour His comforting grace upon all those bearing the heavy burdens of suffering and grief.

The terror that filled yesterday evening and its aftermath serve as a stark reminder of the fragility of life and the very real presence of evil in our world. Let us resolve each day to treat our brothers and sisters with dignity, charity, and respect. May we all embrace that which is good so that the light of Christ will prevail.”


Diocese of Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic

Bishop Malesic

“It is with tragic irony that the Catholic Church’s observance of Respect Life Month begins with the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas. My prayers, and those of all in the Diocese of Greensburg, are with the victims of this senseless tragedy. We also pray for their families and loved ones. We can never become numbed to the seemingly endless stream of outrageous crimes that show a lack of respect for our fellow human beings. We continue to teach and proclaim that every human person is created in God’s image and has the right to life. Although the event in Las Vegas is deeply disturbing for all of us, we will continue to pray that the light of God’s love will reach into the darkest places in our nation and our world. As Jesus said, ‘Be not afraid.’”



Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik

Bishop Zubik

“My heart and my prayers go out to the victims of the Las Vegas massacre and their loved ones. We should all be grateful for the courageous actions of the Las Vegas police. But we must also look beyond this tragedy to broader patterns that allowed it to happen. While little is yet known about motive, this shows that gun control is a pro-life issue.

As I stated in June 2016, following shootings in Orlando, South Carolina and Wilkinsburg:

Jesus is weeping with us and for us.

It is time for us as a nation to require at least as much from those purchasing guns as we expect from those making application for a driver’s license. Public safety must always come first.

I urge our legislators to make it far more difficult for those with dangerously impaired moral reasoning, criminals and terrorists to make their point with a gun. It is important that our government require background checks for all gun purchases, limit civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, make gun trafficking a federal crime, and ensure that those on “no-fly” lists cannot buy guns.

I also urge our legislators to improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence.

No law has ever eliminated the crime it addresses. But laws limit damage, enable the prosecution of perpetrators and make a statement about the values of our society.

Please join with me in prayer that we as a nation will seek to build a society in which the right to life is the standard against which all other rights are measured.”





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USCCB Pro Life Chairman Urges Passage of Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

A baby’s ultrasound at 20 weeks gestation. Credit:

From the USCCB — Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36). It is expected to come to the House floor the first week of October. The bill, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), proposes a ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization.

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Five Pa. Catholic Schools Recognized as 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools

Students from St Teresa of Calcutta hold a blue ribbon celebration! Source: St Teresa of Calcutta Facebook page.

Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has been celebrating the achievements of schools across the country through its National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.

Five Pennsylvania Catholic schools have been awarded the distinction for 2017. The honorees are:


Noted in a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap.

This coveted award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.






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Pennsylvania Bishops Celebrate Mass to Consecrate State to Our Lady of Fatima

A Mass of Consecration to Our Lady of Fatima was held on Sept. 27, 2017 at Saint Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg.

From The Catholic Witness – Joining their voices in prayer and lending their honor of the Blessed Mother to strains of Marian hymns with hundreds of clergy, religious and lay faithful, the bishops of the dioceses of Pennsylvania concelebrated a solemn Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg Sept. 27 to consecrate the state’s Catholic dioceses to Our Lady of Fatima in this 100th anniversary year of her apparitions.

With a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Fatima adorned with flowers flanking the front of the church, the bishops of Pennsylvania’s eight Latin Rite and two Byzantine Rite dioceses gathered at the altar for the Mass, for which Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia served as principal celebrant.

Bishop Zubik offers the homily.

Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh was the homilist for the Mass, and his message delivered to the capacity crowd called upon the faithful to emulate the three qualities that the Blessed Mother is shown to embody: to be a witness to Christ, to be a person of prayer, and to be a person of sacrifice.

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel passage (Luke 2:27-35) of the presentation of the Lord in the temple and Simeon’s words to Mary that her heart would be pierced, Bishop Zubik remarked that, “It is precisely Mary’s role as disciple, and ours as well, that we reflect upon today as we as the Churches of all of Pennsylvania consecrate everything of who we are as Church to our Blessed Lady.”

The Mother of Jesus, he said, embodies three specific qualities in which we are called to follow as disciples of her Son:

“She is a witness, pointing to her son Jesus as she always would do. She shows herself to be a woman of prayer, always knowing how essential and absolutely necessary every day God in prayer. She shows how imperative it is to be a person of sacrifice, to take everything done in her life and to make it holy,” Bishop Zubik said.

Turning to the occasion for the celebration of the Mass that day, the bishop said that Mary’s message to the three shepherd children at Fatima a century ago was one also intended to the entire world: what it truly means to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.


*Article contributed by Jennifer Reed, Managing Editor, The Catholic Witness.

*Photos courtesy of Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.



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Bishop Andriy Rabiy Formally Welcomed as Auxiliary Bishop of Ukrainian Catholic Church

A special celebration, called a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, was held for newly-ordained Bishop Andriy Rabiy to formally welcome him as auxiliary bishop for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

The liturgy was held on Sunday, September 23, 2017, at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia.

A native of Lviv, Ukraine, Bishop Rabiy was appointed by Pope Francis as auxiliary bishop for the Archeparchy of Philadelphia on August 8, 2017. He was ordained to the episcopacy on Sunday, September 3, 2017, in St. George Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, Lviv, Ukraine.  The consecrating bishops were:  Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, Metropolitan Stefan Soroka, Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and Bishop David Motiuk, bishop of the Eparchy of Edmonton, Canada.

In addition to expressing his sincere gratitude to Archbishop Stefan Soroka and all of the clergy in attendance, Rabiy said, “I want to thank the many faithful who came to the Cathedral today to share the day of joy and God’s grace in our Archeparchy. My prayers go out for you and I thank you! May the good Lord bless you always!”



The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference sincerely thanks Bishop Rabiy for his service to the conference as a member of its Administrative Board. 

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. There are 10 Catholic dioceses in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Eight are Latin Rite dioceses, fully contained within the Commonwealth. Two are Byzantine Rite dioceses with Apostolic Sees in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.


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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.


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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.

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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.

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.


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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.



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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)


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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.



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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.

In addition, two lawmakers, state Reps. Isabella Fitzgerald and Thomas Murt of Philadelphia have introduced the “Homeless Bill of Rights”. That legislation is designed to protect fundamental civil and human rights of the homeless population.

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.


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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.



























































































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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.”




























































































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Statement on Racism – “A Prayer for Pittsburgh: A Prayer for Peace”

Msgr. Ronald P. Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, recently offered these remarks at “A Prayer for Pittsburgh: A Prayer for Peace,” an interfaith gathering at the City-County Building. He spoke on behalf of Bishop David A. Zubik, who was unable to attend. The full statement reads:

Every human being has God-given dignity and is worthy of respect, but not every cause is worthy of respect.

White supremacy, for example, is such a cause because it exists to deprive others of the dignity and respect that are theirs as children of God. It’s fundamentally evil, as are the beliefs it has fostered, including slavery, Jim Crow laws; and Nazism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia in all their forms. Such causes are incompatible with Christianity and with the mission and message of Jesus.

His parable of the Good Samaritan tells of a man from a culture and religion that Jesus’ listeners had been taught to despise. Yet, Jesus said, this man came to the rescue of one of them, a stranger whose own people had left him to die at the hands of robbers. The Good Samaritan is a lesson about ethnic, religious and cultural reconciliation, showing we can care for each other even when we don’t agree with each other. It’s about what it means to be neighbors.

We in the city of Fred Rogers know about neighbors. We know neighbors should celebrate their traditions, and do so in ways that make everyone from every neighborhood feel welcome.

For instance, some of us – even though our ancestors weren’t German – might enjoy participating in Oktoberfest, when German culture is celebrated with brass bands, beer and apple strudel. The fact that many Americans feel the same way after two wars with Germany is a sign of healing. This kind of reconciliation shows America at her best. However, if someone proposed celebrating German heritage with Nazi flags and a re-enactment of the Nuremberg rallies, virtually everyone would be horrified.

Nazism is an evil ideology that declares some people are unworthy of life, and is directly responsible for the deaths of millions of people in concentration camps, on battlefields and in the rubble of war. There is a world of difference between celebrating a cultural heritage and promoting an evil cause that once festered in that culture. Our nation is still struggling to emerge from the criminal inequality born in slavery, raised in segregation and that still taints our best vision of America.

But, no matter what anyone says or does to deny it, in God’s eyes we are all equal. Speaking to the deepest divisions of the society in which he labored to spread Christianity, the Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Pope Francis said in 2013, “The problem of intolerance must be confronted in all its forms: wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious convictions or ethnic identity, the wellbeing of society as a whole is endangered and each one of us must feel affected.” Racism wounds all of us. Let’s come together as neighbors.

Let’s counter hatred with love. Let’s show how much good we can do when we are united in our response to evil.





























































































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Diocese of Greensburg leads ‘a year of help’ in wake of August 2016 flash flood

The Diocese of Greensburg, led by Catholic Charities, responded immediately to help individuals and families after a flash flood hit the Connellsville and Bullskin Township areas of Fayette County last summer.

Nine months later, the agency has concluded its efforts after providing $185,374 of assistance to 61 families in the form of new furnaces, water heaters and oil tanks and repairs to furnace and air conditioning systems.

“The church reaches out to help people in their time of need every day, and this particular effort shows that,” said Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic. “I am proud of all the people of Connellsville, especially our parishioners, who have worked with no expectation of personal recognition to help their neighbors these many months. I am especially proud of the contributions by Catholic Charities. This is what it means to be Catholic.”

A torrential rainstorm dumped approximately 5 inches of rain in the area in just a few hours the night of Aug. 28, forcing several small creeks out of their banks and into surrounding neighborhoods, damaging 165 homes, according to reports in the Tribune-Review.

The Dutch Bottom neighborhood in Connellsville, a neighborhood along Breakneck Road in Bullskin Township, and homes along U.S. Route 119 in Connellsville Township were especially hard hit.

Donna Hagan, supervisor of information and referral services for Catholic Charities, made multiple trips to meetings of the Connellsville Flood Relief Fund Committee and VOAD, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

In November, Hagan said, “We will continue to help people until our last available dollar is distributed.”

That last dollar was distributed June 6.

The final report showed that Catholic Charities helped repair 17 furnaces and provide 40 new furnaces and air conditioning units, 18 new hot water tanks and two new oil tanks.

*Article contributed by Jerry Zufelt, Editor, The Catholic Accent.



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