Pro Life Legislation to Amend Abortion Law Passes


Legislation that would strengthen Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 121-70.

Senate Bill 3, authored by Sen. Michele Brooks (R-Crawford) previously passed the Senate by a vote of 32-18 and it passed both chambers in bipartisan fashion.

Specifically, the bill would completely ban the cruel and brutal practice of dismemberment abortions in the state of Pennsylvania.

The effort to pass the legislation in the House was led by Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-WarrenForest) who said, “God tells us specifically to choose life. This is innocent life.”

In addition, it would enact a ban on abortions from the 20th week on during a pregnancy.

“We must protect the dignity of each and every life as best we can,” said House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) in a statement. “The passage of this bill is evidence of bipartisan and bicameral support to protect unborn children and mothers and demonstrates the Commonwealth’s commitment to promoting a culture of life. The bill is both constitutional and reasonable.”

Rapp, who faithfully wears a necklace depicting a child and mother, received it as a gift from her own daughter and wears it to remind her of the sacred gift: children.


Click here to find out how members of the Senate in your diocese voted.

Click here to find out how members of the House in your diocese voted.



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Pro-life Lawmakers Stand Together for Life


Lawmakers from across Pennsylvania joined at the state Capitol to stand in support of legislation that would strengthen Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act.

Specifically, Senate Bill 3 would completely ban the cruel and brutal practice of dismemberment abortions in the state of Pennsylvania.

In addition, it would enact a ban on abortions from the 20th week on during a pregnancy.

Taking a stance in support of this pro-life legislation was:

House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny)

“A life should not be something that you can just so quickly dispose.”

Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Crawford/Forest)

“To the reasonable, common man, when you say dismemberment you instantly have an image in your mind of what dismemberment is. Every reasonable, common man does not need a poster because the image comes to our mind very vividly.”

Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich (D-Lackawanna)

“We (my wife and I) experienced it in both adoption and birth. When it’s time to leave this earth, I can stand before God and say I was 100 percent pro-life.”

Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny/Washington)
“This is still a pro-life state. Pennsylvania is solidly pro-life. People should let lawmakers know they support Senate Bill 3.”

Urge your state representative to stand up for life and support this legislation. Send a message here through the Catholic Advocacy Network.

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Pro Life Lawmakers Stand Together for Life


Lawmakers from across Pennsylvania joined at the state Capitol to stand in support of legislation that would strengthen Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act.

Specifically, Senate Bill 3 would completely ban the cruel and brutal practice of dismemberment abortions in the state of Pennsylvania.

In addition, it would enact a ban on abortions from the 20th week on during a pregnancy.

Taking a stance in support of this pro-life legislation was:

House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny)

“A life should not be something that you can just so quickly dispose.”

Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Crawford/Forest)

“To the reasonable, common man, when you say dismemberment you instantly have an image in your mind of what dismemberment is. Every reasonable, common man does not need a poster because the image comes to our mind very vividly.”

Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich (D-Lackawanna)

“We (my wife and I) experienced it in both adoption and birth. When it’s time to leave this earth, I can stand before God and say I was 100 percent pro-life.”

Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny/Washington)
“This is still a pro-life state. Pennsylvania is solidly pro-life. People should let lawmakers know they support Senate Bill 3.”

Urge your state representative to stand up for life and support this legislation. Send a message here through the Catholic Advocacy Network.

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Fifth Consecutive Pope Francis Challenge, Just in Time for Thanksgiving

At Pope Francis’ first World Youth Day, he challenged all the young people to go home and do something inspiring.

The students of Bishop Guilfoyle High School listened.

In the heart of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, the students have completed their fifth consecutive Pope Francis Challenge, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Tessa Crider is a senior at Bishop Guilfoyle and calls the challenge a humbling experience and “the biggest thing we do here at B-G.”

And big it is. The ‘challenge’ is posed to the school’s approximately 300 students, who are encouraged to collect 50 items to donate to those who need them most. Students collect food, personal hygiene items and other household supplies.

Patrick Donoguhe, who is also a Bishop Guilfoyle senior, simply calls the experience “fulfilling”.

The collected items were loaded by students onto trucks and the boxes were then delivered to six local charitable organizations across all faiths.

Bob Sutton teaches Theology at Bishop Guilfolye and works with the students on the challenge. “There’s no book that could teach them this.”

2017 Pope Francis Challenge by the numbers:

–          Over 18,000 items were collected

–          1,100 full-sized boxes of cereal set a new school record

–          One seventh-grade student collected 250 items

–          One twelfth-grade student collected 400 items


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House Committee Approves Measure Condemning Child Pornography

The Health Committee within the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has approved a resolution which condemns the free availability of pornography based on the public health hazard that it presents by harming children and families across the Commonwealth.

“It’s a public awareness resolution,” said Chairman Matt Baker (R-Tioga).

With the resolution, Pennsylvania joins nineteen other states that have passed or introduced a similar measure.

“Most people understand pornography is bad, and child pornography is particularly bad,” continued Baker.

The resolution cites that due to advances in technology, young children are now exposed to pornography at alarming rates, with as many as 27% of older millennials reporting that they first encountered explicit pornography before even reaching puberty.

“As someone with two small daughters, I think that it’s something we owe a certain amount of time and effort to look at,” said Rep. Eli Evankovich (R-WestmorelandAllegheny).

House Resolution 519 also encourages a three-pronged approach to confronting this issue with education, prevention and research and policy change at the community and social levels.

Prior to the vote, Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) stated that her intent is to “make sure that families are aware of this issue, that it is a concern and it can become, if it not already is, a public health crisis.”


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Patriotic Club: Doing small things that make a big impact

“We are a group of students who care about our government, our veterans, and our country as a whole. And we’re doing small things that make a really big impact.” – Nate Roppelt, Sophomore, Holy Redeemer High School


A few summers ago, 12th-grader Ben Smith was working at a Scranton-area Veterans’ Administration (VA) Hospital. While there, he noticed veterans were receiving donations of personal care items, however, he didn’t think they were getting enough.

Smith belongs to the Holy Redeemer High School Patriotic Club. He brought the issue to the attention of the club, and as he describes it, it took off from there.

“They need our help,” says Smith.

The club, currently in its third year, seeks to honor and serve past and current members of the U.S. military.

Throughout the school year, students collect items such as shampoo, shaving cream, socks, toothpaste and toothbrushes. They have received an overwhelming response in toiletry collections so they have expanded the donation list to include board games, puzzles and other items that could be a source of entertainment for the veterans in the hospital.

“I think it makes them feel happy that they are not forgotten, and I think this club helps them to know that,” says Mary Grace Eckert, who is in her second year with the club. 

Students collect the items throughout the school year and traditionally deliver them to a local VA hospital in May.

Teacher Joseph Szewczyk advises the club and recalls a time he was dropping off the supplies with the students, who were in another section of the hospital at the time: “One of the veterans came up to me, and he saw everything that was going on and all he said to me was two simple words: ‘thank you’.”


In their own words. . .

“The word is equality.” – Patrick Zarola, Junior, Holy Redeemer High School

“As Catholics, we have a moral obligation to help people.” – Thomas Hjakowski, Junior, Holy Redeemer High School

“No matter if you’re Catholic, Jewish, or anything else, it’s good to help people out because they’re all part of our nation.” – Roppelt


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“Right to Try” and Pediatric Cancer Bills Signed into Law

Two pieces of health care-related legislation were recently signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf.

Act 33 of 2017, dubbed the “Right to Try” law, will provide terminally ill patients the opportunity to try experimental treatments, such as investigational drugs, biological products and medical devices. It will allow access to treatments that have not been fully approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The legislation received overwhelming support by Pennsylvania lawmakers, illustrated by unanimous passage in both the House and Senate chambers.

Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery) introduced the legislation and upon its enactment stated,” Faced with certain death, terminally ill patients do not have the luxury of time and have likely exhausted all other available options.”

Read more about Rep. Godshall’s effort behind the making of this law.

Additionally, Act 39 of 2017 was also recently signed into law. It will establish a check-off box on state income tax returns, allowing Pennsylvanians to voluntarily make monetary contributions to pediatric cancer research.

The funding would then be allocated to institutions in Pennsylvania that are working on cutting edge research to develop better treatments and drugs in the fight against cancer in children.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Caltagirone (D-Berks), calls this a “needed-step forward”.

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Know Before You Vote – Election Day 2017

Election Day is here again. On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, Pennsylvanians will elect candidates to many local municipal positions and will cast their ballots for these judicial candidates: Justice of the PA Supreme Court, Judge of the Superior Court, Judge of the Commonwealth Court, and Judges of Common Pleas Courts.

Electing qualified, capable local officials and value minded judges is just as important as electing the right governor or lawmakers.

Local officials are responsible for corrections and law enforcement, resources to educate our children, public health and safety, human services for people in need, and more. We interact with local government programs every day.

The role of the courts is to preserve the rule of law and guarantee the rights and liberties of citizens.  Judges make decisions that affect everyone, including who has a right to life, what is marriage, when should religion be protected, who can adopt children, and many other important questions.

The challenge with municipal and judicial elections is finding information about the candidates on which to base your voting decision.  Although a federal court clarified that candidates can talk about issues, out of fear that their comments might prejudice future court cases, candidates for judicial office often do not share their personal positions on controversial issues.  However, many special interest organizations do evaluate candidates based on their record or other public evidence of their philosophy.  These groups often endorse one candidate over another.

We can understand a lot about candidates by reviewing their lists of endorsements.  Catholics might be interested in a candidate’s stand on human life, marriage, social justice or other issues.  An endorsement from a pro-life group (for example Life PAC) or a pro-abortion group (like Planned Parenthood) gives us a clue about whether a candidate is pro-life or pro-abortion.  The support of public education associations or taxpayer watchdog groups could, although not absolutely, shed light on how a candidate might feel about school choice.  Endorsements from other like-minded political leaders who do speak out about issues can also provide insight into the philosophy of the candidate.  It is said a person is known “by the company that he or she keeps.”

Every voter should take time to research the candidates.  Many non-partisan organizations such as the Pennsylvania Bar Association or your local newspaper publish voter guides, often including endorsements.  The Pennsylvania Family Institute publishes a voter guide that touches on many issues that are also important to Catholics.  But the most effective way to research is to contact the candidates themselves.  Most local and judicial candidates have their own websites or social media sites which proudly list the endorsements they received.  See who’s on the ballot in your county at

Who we elect to city hall or the bench sets the stage for how rights, liberties and justice will be upheld in public policy.  We have a responsibility to elect local leaders and judges who will be fair and responsible, and will uphold the values that make Pennsylvania great.


NOTE: The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference neither supports nor opposes any candidate for public office.





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Thousands of Pa. Catholic School Students Unite

“Small change. Just holding the door open for someone, making peoples’ day. There are a lot of sad people in the world and just one person can make their day a lot brighter.” – Maura Budd, Sophomore , Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls

 Over 5,000 students from all 17 high schools within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia recently gathered at Temple University to celebrate the 2nd annual METANOIA rally.

METANOIA stems from the words ‘to change’.

Father Christopher Walsh, pastor of Saint Raymond of Penafort parish in Mt. Airy, served as emcee of the rally and described the event as a “taste of what the Church really is.”

At the rally, students were given the opportunity to learn about the multi-dimensional outreach of the Catholic church by meeting with chaplains of prison, hospital, college and homeless ministries.

Maura Budd, a sophomore at Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls, was surprised by what she learned, saying, “We think our lives are difficult and hard and to see that other people are struggling even more than we are, I think it’s pretty eye opening.”

A Mercy Cross, built by students of Mercy Career Technical High School, united archdiocesan students as it was adorned with 6,000 colored ribbons symbolizing their intentions. They were asked to pray for victims of human trafficking, Syrian refugees, and children starving in Africa and the Catholic Relief Services workers who serve them.

“I think that’s part of the metanoia, to get out of your own bubble, to get out of your own little world and to know that many of their peers across the world are not as blessed as they are,” said Father Walsh.

Camrin Rodriguez, who attends Mercy Career Technical High School, says, for him, the message is simple: “Everybody can change in their own way.”






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Education Funding Bill Needs to be Signed into Law

As part of Pennsylvania 2017-18 state budget, lawmakers approved a $10 million increase for the expansion of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. That is great news; however, Governor Wolf has yet to sign the bill into law. In fact, he has threatened to veto the legislation that would provide for the increase.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has sent a letter to the governor urging him to sign the education funding bill into law, noting that this bill would allow for more scholarships for students to attend the school that is best for them.

You too can send a letter to Governor Wolf urging him to sign the education funding bill into law today!





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Expanding Educational Opportunity

The Senate Education Committee votes to approve the ESA bill.

At its core, school choice is about improving education and supporting families in educating their children. The Pennsylvania Senate is currently considering legislation to expand educational opportunities for students across the state.

Specifically, Senate Bill 2 would create state-funded, flexible, spending accounts for individual students. Parents could use the funds to pay for Department of Education-approved educational expenses such as non-public school tuition, higher education tuition, textbooks and curriculum, testing and industry certifications. Unused funds would roll over from one year to the next, and unspent ESA dollars could even be used to pay for college.

This is a plan to empower children with educational opportunity, especially those who currently attend the lowest-performing public schools in the Commonwealth.

“These are the children that have no other option,” said the bill’s author, Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin).

Ensuring students receive the education that is right for them is vital to Pennsylvania’s future, which helps us all in every corner of the state. A good education helps children grow up to be good citizens. Growing as many good citizens as we can will help ensure a better and brighter future for all of us. Citizens who care about Pennsylvania’s future should support school choice.

Tell Pennsylvania Senators to vote YES on the education savings account plan!





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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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