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Catholics prominent in March for Life

In a sea of printed signs and huge student groups in colorful toboggan caps at the March for Life rally, Ed York was an outlier.
 
He'd made the two-hour drive to the National Mall Jan. 19 from his home in Martinsburg, West Virginia, not with a group on a bus pilgrimage, but only with his daughter Autumn and a small homemade placard emblazoned "As a Former Fetus, I Oppose Abortion."
 
He stood out in his solitary approach, but York, who has attended previous marches, didn't mind.
 
"This is David versus Goliath, all right," he said. "The media's still pumping out some old stuff about human rights. This (abortion) is going to end one day. But, you know, you have to be patient in life."
 
On a bright, sunny and almost spring-like morning highlighted by President Donald Trump's remarks to the rally before the march from the White House Rose Garden and members of Congress, there appeared to be little interest from the marchers in political questions. After all, they had all made their travel plans long before they knew the list of speakers.

Among those at the march were Catholics from the Diocese of Burlington.
 
"Certainly, to have the president show his support for March for Life is encouraging," said Katrina Gallic, a senior at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. However, she added, involvement for others is "more than a political stance, but should be seen as an ethic for all of humanity."
 
The University of Mary sent 200 marchers, clad in blue and orange caps, on a 30-hour bus journey from the frigid northern Great Plains.
 
Gallic. who traveled separately from from New Jersey, began attending marches with her family when she was in elementary school.
 
"My parents showed us by the way they lived" and dinner-table conversations, she said. "I'm very grateful for it. I think it requires a lifetime commitment on the political level and the cultural level."
 
Gallic met Vice President Mike Pence at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building before the march. "Our generation is very much behind him, and he has the support and prayers of many," she said.
 
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now heads the pro-life organization Then There Were None, said culture change should have a higher priority than legislation.
 
"I actually think the pro-life movement needs to separate itself from the (Republican Party). That's what we need to be focusing on: opening the tent and bringing more diversity into the movement," she said, citing pro-life Democrats in Louisiana who have tightened abortion restrictions there.
 
Margaret Banloman and Emily Rogge, both freshmen at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic High School in Lee's Summit, Missouri, had a colorful placard with an image of the Mary and the slogan "Our Salvation Began With an Unplanned Pregnancy." The pair came up with the idea and drew the sign on their cross-country bus ride, which Banloman characterized as "redemptive suffering."
 
Caryn Crush, who spent 14 hours on a bus from Louisville, Kentucky, was with a group of 54 from Immaculata Classical Academy, and said she was attending in support of children born with Down syndrome. Appearing at March for Life and opposing abortion, especially for children born with Down syndrome, was her way to "change society's perception of them and show they do have value."
 
"We're here to be a voice," she added. "This is more of a celebration of life whether the president's here or not."
 
First-time marchers included Jerilyn Kunkel of Fishers, Indiana, who made the trip with her husband Larry, a member of the Knights of Columbus. "I got a good night's sleep. That helped a lot," she said.
 
Father Kurt Young was accompanying 700 high schoolers from the Archdiocese of New Orleans. They were part of what became a 14-bus caravan in a two-day trip that lasted a total of 32 hours because of icy roads in Mississippi.
 
He said politics and legislation weren't the students' main priority, either. "Everyone here is here to make a peaceful, prayerful protest," the priest said.
 
 
 

March for Life in Washington, D.C.

In remarks broadcast to the March for Life from the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said that his administration "will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life."
 
He invoked the theme of this year's march, "Love Saves Lives," and praised the crowd as being very special and "such great citizens gathered in our nation's capital from many places for one beautiful cause" -- celebrating and cherishing life.
 
"Every unborn child is a precious gift from God," he said, his remarks interrupted several times by applause from the crowd gathered on the National Mall. He praised the pro-lifers for having "such big hearts and tireless devotion to make sure parents have the support they need to choose life."
 
"You're living witnesses of this year's March for Life theme, 'Love Saves Lives,'" His remarks were broadcast to the crowd live via satellite to a Jumbotron above the speakers' stage, a first for any U.S. president, according to March for Life.
 
During their tenure in office, President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush all addressed the march via telephone or a radio hookup from the Oval Office, with their remarks broadcast to the crowd.
 
Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed last year's March for Life in person at Trump's request, introduced the president as the "most pro-life president in American history," for among other things issuing an executive memorandum shortly after his inauguration to reinstate the "Mexico City Policy." The policy bans all foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.
 
Trump also has nominated pro-life judges to fill several court vacancies and a day before the March for Life the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights. Its aim is to protect the conscience rights of doctors and other health care workers who do not want to perform procedures they consider morally objectionable.
 
For the first time in a recent memory, the weather in Washington was more than tolerable for March for Life participants as they gathered on the National Mall to mark the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. The sun was shining and the blue sky was cloudless. By the time the speeches ended and the march to the Supreme Court started, the temperature had reached 50 degrees.
 
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, opened the rally by calling on everyone in the crowd to text the word "March" to 7305 and to show their commitment to ending abortion and join their voices in calling on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.
 
"Do you agree that's important?" she asked the crowd. "Yes!" they shouted. March for Life, she said, is about educating people about abortion and mobilizing to end it and to love all those women and families who are facing a troubled pregnancy and other needs.
 
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, was among several others who addressed the crowd.
 
"Thank God for giving us a pro-life president in the White House," the Catholic congressman said.
 
"Your energy is so infectious," he told the crowd, praising them for being "the vigor and enthusiasm of the pro-life movement."
 
Seeing so many young people "is so inspiring because it tells us this a movement on the rise," he said. "Why is the pro-life movement on the rise? Because truth is on our side. Life begins at conception. Science is on our side."
 
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, gave an emotional speech about the troubled pregnancy she faced about four years ago. She and her husband, Dan, were told their unborn child had severe defects, that the baby's kidneys would never develop and the lungs were undeveloped because of a rare condition. Abortion was their only option, they were told.
 
Today, that baby is 4-year-old Abigail. She and her younger brother and their father stood on the stage with the congresswoman.
 
"Dan and I prayed and we cried (at the news of their unborn child's condition) ... and in that devastation we saw hope. What if God would do a miracle? What if a doctor was willing to try something new? Like saline infusions to mimic amniotic fluid so kidneys could develop?" she recalled.
 
With "true divine intervention and some very courageous doctors willing to take a risk we get to experience our daughter, Abigail," Herrera Beutler said. She is a very "healthy, happy 4-year-old big sister who some day is going to be 'the boss of mommy's work,'" she said.
 
Herrera Beutler asked the crowd to imagine that 45 years of legal abortion had not existed and that 60 million babies had not been lost to abortion, and if out of those people had come those who could cure cancer and correct all manner of disabling conditions, including those that exist in utero, and eradicate poverty.
 
 

EWTN pro-life programming

Can’t attend the March for Life 2018?  You can still experience it from afar by watching events broadcast on EWTN.  For those who don’t get this channel on cable, you can access a live stream online, at the end of this article.
 
Below is a list of some of the programs EWTN will be offering in the coming days related to the March for Life:
 
MARCH FOR LIFE – OPENING MASS of the national prayer vigil
Live Coverage of the Opening Prayer Vigil for the Annual March for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.
Thursday, 01/18 @ 5:30 PM ET
 
CLOSING MASS OF THE NATIONAL PRAYER VIGIL FOR LIFE
Live Coverage of the Closing Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.
Friday, 01/19 @ 7:30 AM ET
 
MARCH FOR LIFE
Live and complete coverage of the most important pro-life event of the year: the annual March For Life in Washington DC.
Friday, 01/19 @ 9:00 AM ET
 
ONE LIFE LA
Coverage of this event from downtown Los Angeles, which is a celebration of life in all stages, from conception to natural death.
Saturday, 01/20 @ 6:00 PM ET
 
PRO-LIFE MASS FROM LOS ANGELES
Coverage of the Requiem Mass for the unborn at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
Saturday, 01/20 @ 8:00 PM ET
 
WALK FOR LIFE WEST COAST
Saturday, 01/27 @ 2:30 PM ET
Live coverage of San Francisco's largest pro-life event, including speeches, and special interviews with dynamic pro-life leaders and walk participants.
 
EWTN PRO-LIFE WEEKLY
Every week, Catherine Szeltner and a team of pro-life experts shine the light of truth on abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the culture of death.
Airs every Thursday @ 10:00 PM ET, Sundays @ 10:00 AM ET and Mondays @ 3:00 AM ET. 
 
 
 
 

Ritual, consistency at Mass

So who really is singing "Gather Us In" at Mass?
 
Does the pastor asking people about their week really make the Mass friendlier and more engaging? Why is the Our Father so engaging? Do people like singing new songs at Mass, or do they prefer tried and true hymns they have been singing for years?
 
Two Catholic researchers are trying to find out.
 
John Ligas and Sacred Heart Major Seminary professor Michael McCallion presented a paper titled "Sociology of the Sacred in Post-Modernity: Ritual Dis-Attunement at Sunday Mass" during the Society for Catholic Liturgy Conference in Philadelphia last October.
 
The study's primary aim was to discover which parts of the Mass local Catholics were most actively engaged with and which parts lacked participation.
 
"We wanted to do research on tuning and dis-tuning at a typical Sunday liturgy," Ligas told The Michigan Catholic, Detroit's archdiocesan newspaper.
 
Ligas is a retired orthodontist and McCallion was hired in 2005 as the sociologist on staff for the seminary's licentiate program.
 
"I was telling John a while ago, there are studies — not many — that argue only 20 percent of Catholics participate in Mass," McCallion said. "(These) are ... very general studies that don't get at what participating actually looks like."
 
McCallion and Ligas went about observing 35 liturgies across 10 parishes — three parishes in the Chicago Archdiocese and the rest in Detroit's northern suburbs. The pair discretely took notes on who at Mass was actively participating in the Our Father, the opening, closing and communal hymns, the Gloria and the responsorial psalm along with other parts of the liturgy.
 
"A good analogy would be at a football stadium," Ligas said. "Everybody is watching the game, but who is participating in 'the wave'? Who cares about what's happening on the scoreboard? Who is checking their phone? We feel the Catholic liturgy is a collective action. So what things contribute to the collective actions and what distracts?"
 
Recognizing the limitations of conclusions one could draw from the observations of two people in a limited scope, McCallion and Ligas just focused on who was singing at Mass.
 
"At every liturgy at every church we observed, everyone joined in for the Lord's Prayer," Ligas said. "On the other side of the coin, the responsorial song was a bust, if you consider how many are participating and how many are not."
 
The summarization of the Ligas' and McCallion's research boils down to the idea that Catholics are more apt to verbally participate in parts of the Mass that are more ritualized, such as the Our Father. The response to the general intercession had the highest rate of response and participation, while more "changeable" parts of the Mass, such as the hymns, psalms or the pastor asking the congregation to greet one another, tended to have low rates of participation.
 
"From our initial responses, we found that ritual comes to form again," McCallion said. "If people are not singing the same songs, people are less likely to sing. That's our hypothesis that bore out in the data. Some hymns, some other parts of Mass that are constant, we found a greater rate of response."
 
Ligas and McCallion did make other observations at the Masses, from how many times people check their cellphones, to what they wear at Mass but limited their analysis to participation in singing.
 
"We might have had a feeling the Lord's Prayer was going to be No. 1 as far as the congregation participating," Ligas said. "But we were shocked with just how poor the responsorial song is."
 
The initial analysis implies that when pastors and music directors change the pattern of the liturgy in an effort to make the Mass more accessible, it tends to have the opposite effect.
 
"When you know what's going to happen, you will know what's going on," McCallion said. "When you go to a baseball game, nobody is sitting right next to you telling you every single rule. You just know them, because of the repetition. You know what you are supposed to be doing to enter into the collective ritual.
 
"The liturgy is supposed to be a communal event, but American postmodern culture is really focused on individualism," McCallion said. "I'd argue that our liturgy has been affected by individualism. Sometimes as, Emile Durkheim (a sociologist who studied the Mass) said, the 'secular invades the sacred.'"
 
The tension between making the liturgy a communal prayer experience while at the same time fostering an individual relationship with Christ is something everyone involved with liturgy -- pastors, music ministers and catechists -- will have to address in the new evangelization, McCallion said.
 
"In the new evangelization, there is a stress on having a personal relationship with Jesus, but the Mass stresses you are supposed to have a communal relationship with Jesus," McCallion said. "It is both/and, the sacraments are all communal. The Eucharist, if you want to find the physical body of Jesus, is communal."
 
The concept of a solely personal relationship with Jesus is a Protestant influence on the Catholic Church, McCallion argues, since the Catholic liturgy invokes the intercession of a communion of saints and the collective prayers of the church.
 
"In the liturgy, both sacramentally and sociologically, the whole is larger than the sum of its parts," McCallion concluded. "When we come together for Mass, something happens that can't happen when we're by ourselves. From a Catholic perspective, we hope the communion of saints, our deceased family members, are still praying for us."
 
McCallion and Ligas want to expand their research to parishes in the inner city, along with Hispanic and Tridentine Masses, looking for similarities and differences in Mass participation between those liturgies and the liturgies they have already observed.
 
McCallion hopes the research they've already done can be used by pastors and music ministers to better prepare a Mass that encourages more participation.
 
"All we are arguing, from the conclusions of the data we've collected, is priests and musicians need to come up with habits that encourage the social or communal ritual practices that people need," McCallion said. "Maybe encourage more seminarians and priests to take courses in ritual studies, recognizing the importance of ritual. It would help people to have a more personal, as well as a communal, relationship with Jesus."
 

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne’s statement on the death of Cardinal Law

"As a bishop of the Province of Boston, I join Cardinal Seán O’Malley and the Archdiocese of Boston in prayer upon the passing of Cardinal Bernard Law, and with them I entrust his soul to God’s unending mercy.
 
 “The world at large will rightly have much to say at Cardinal Law’s passing from this life. Like each of us, the measure of his days had its fair share of light and shadows. While I knew him to be a man of faith, a kind man and a good friend, I respect that some will feel otherwise, and so I especially ask them to join me in prayer and work for the healing and renewal of our Church.
 
“May Cardinal Law rest in peace. And in these days when, as Christians, we celebrate the Child who restored God’s goodness to our broken humanity, may we all recommit ourselves to making Christ’s Church a worthy, welcoming home for all, especially those most vulnerable and in need.” 
 

'Crown jewel' of national shrine dedicated

The overflowing congregation at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception hardly needed reminding to raise their "eyes to the heavens" during a dedication of the Trinity Dome Mosaic Dec. 8.
 
Before Mass began, all eyes were already on the newly completed gold dome above the front central section of the Upper Church.
 
When it was blessed during Mass, incense rose above the congregation and bright lights were turned on to give a better view of the newly finished dome that includes the words of the Nicene Creed encircling the base and a depiction of the Holy Trinity, Mary, the four Evangelists, angels and more than a dozen saints connected to the United States or the shrine.
 
During the blessing and before and after Mass, phones and cameras were held aloft to capture the completed work more than two years in the making. But it would take more than a few pictures to capture the details in this majestic work of art described as the "crown jewel" of the national shrine during introductory remarks by Msgr. Walter Rossi, the rector.
 
The dome mosaic is composed of more than 14 million pieces of Venetian glass covering more than 18,300 square feet of the dome's surface. Its completion marks the final step in finishing the work of the Upper Church that began in 1955.
 
The dome was dedicated, fittingly, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, reflecting the basilica's namesake. The dedication Mass was celebrated by Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl and Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, who was named by Pope Francis to be his special envoy at the dedication Mass.
 
Other cardinals concelebrating the Mass included Cardinals Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington and Justin Rigali, retired archbishop of Philadelphia, along with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They were joined by more than two dozen bishops and 90 priests.
 
Cardinal Wuerl pointed out in his homily that the mosaic tiles in the dome are symbolic of the living body of Christ regularly filling the pews of the shrine and reflecting the Church's diversity.
 
He urged the congregation of families, women religious, students and people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds who filled the pews, the side chapels and stood in the back at the dedication Mass to always look to this "great majestic dome mindful of our prayer to Mary" and ask for her intercession.
 
He said Mary is the model of "what our faith should be" because she believed that nothing was impossible with God.
 
The cardinal said he remembered coming to the shrine when he was a student at The Catholic University of America in the 1960s when the walls were simply brick except for the mosaic image of the Risen Christ at the front of the church.
 
He also noted that the completion of the dome finishes a work that began nearly 100 years ago when the shrine's cornerstone was placed in 1920.
 
As construction began on the National Shrine, as it was then called, Catholics throughout the country were invited to contribute however they could. Some donated pieces of gold jewelry and even precious stones, the cardinal said, which were fashioned into what came to be known as the "first chalice of the National Shrine" and was used at the Dec. 8 mosaic dedication.
 
When Pope Francis was at the shrine in 2015 to celebrate Mass and canonize St. Junipero Serra, he also blessed a piece of the mosaic: the words for the beginning and end of the Nicene Creed: "I believe in one God" and "Amen."
 
At the end of the dedication Mass, Msgr. Rossi thanked the artists and workers, some of whom were seated at the front of the church, for their work on the mosaic, which was done in Italy and shipped in 30,000 sections weighing 24 tons. He pointed out that no one was injured and no damages occurred in the installation.
 
He also thanked the many donors who contributed to the dome work and gave to the shrine's one-time national collection for the project on Mother's Day.
 
"This crown jewel of Mary's shrine is really your work, your gift to the Blessed Mother," he said.
 
 
 

Living by Church's calendar at home

Growing up in St. Louis, Susanna Spencer loved her family's Advent tradition of adorning a Jesse Tree with Old Testament symbols leading up to Christ's birth.
 
She continued the tradition while in college at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, where she met her husband, Mark.
 
"After seeing (Advent traditions) in my childhood, I thought, I want to do this the whole year, not just for the short four weeks before Christmas," said Spencer, 31.
 
Even before they were married, Susanna and Mark both felt "drawn to liturgical life" and began incorporating more aspects of the Catholic Church's calendar into their daily lives, from praying the Liturgy of the Hours to observing saints' feast days.
 
Now parents of four, ages 2 to 8, and parishioners of St. Agnes in St. Paul, the Spencers are intentional about shaping their home with the rhythm of the Church seasons.
 
"A lot of the things that we've done are taking the Advent wreath idea and conforming it to the other liturgical seasons," Susanna said.
 
The first Sunday in Advent marks the beginning of a new Church year, and for some Catholic families, the liturgical "New Year" is tied to special traditions at home. This year the first Sunday is Dec. 3.
 
While enhancing a family's "domestic church" through aspects of the liturgical calendar is nothing new, Catholics who are interested in liturgical home practices can find an increasing wealth of information online, where Catholics share ideas on blogs dedicated to the practice, such as Carrots for Michaelmas, carrotsformichaelmas.com, and Catholic All Year, catholicallyear.com.

Spencer noted that Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, used a set of 15 books dedicated to the annual cycle of feasts and fasts in their 19th-century French home; Spencer has an edition on a shelf in her own living room.
 
In the Spencer's West St. Paul home, the Church's season is regularly reflected in two spots: the dining room table centerpiece and the family's small prayer table. The latter contains candles and a few icons, statues and artworks of saints and devotions, some of which change to reflect certain feasts or seasons.

The family prays there together daily, often noting that day's saint or memorial. Sometimes, they mark a saint's feast by attending daily Mass, where the saint is commemorated in the liturgy.
 
The Spencers' centerpieces range from an Advent wreath, to a crown of thorns during Lent, to fresh flowers during ordinary time. Susanna anticipates feast days while meal planning, serving spaghetti on an Italian saint's memorial or a blueberry dessert on days honoring Mary, which the Church traditionally symbolizes with blue.
 
"One of the ways that you can learn about holiness is living with the saints," she told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "If we never think of them, we … can't benefit from their intercession."
 
She realizes that observing the Catholic Church's calendar can feel like another task on the to-do list, and therefore potentially overwhelming or discouraging. She encourages Catholics who want to try it to keep it simple.
 
In West St. Paul, Heidi Flanagan's family has developed an Advent tradition that has connected its members more intimately to the communion of saints.
 
On the first Sunday of Advent, Heidi; her husband, John; and their six children -- ages 2 to 12 -- select a slip of paper from a shoebox. On that paper is the name of a saint who becomes their patron for the liturgical year.
 
Heidi, 43, received the box -- and the idea -- about eight years ago from a friend who does something similar in her home. The Flanagans say a small litany of the saints daily, asking each member's patron saint for that year to pray for them. They also celebrate their feast days throughout the year.
 
"I feel like it's given them this buddy in heaven -- this sense of security -- that we're not alone, that they have these superheroes rooting for them and praying for them in heaven," Flanagan said of her children. "They develop friendships with these saints."
 
The tradition has provided an opportunity to learn more about the saints' lives, and the saints have helped all of the Flanagans grow in their spiritual lives. Before they select their saints, the Flanagans also pray that the saints selected would also "choose" them.
 
"It' s been so cool how often we look back at the year and say, 'Oh, I can totally see how this saint chose me,'" because different challenges or opportunities seemed suited to that saint's intercession.
 

Bishop Coyne: Strong net neutrality protections critical to faith community

The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Communications has urged the Trump administration to keep current net neutrality rules in place because an open internet, he said, is critical to the nation's faith communities and how they interact with their members.
 
"Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet," said Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
 
"Nonprofit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialized content," he said in a Nov. 28 statement.
 
The concept of an open internet has long been called "net neutrality," in which internet service providers neither favor nor discriminate against internet users or websites. Neutrality means, for example, providers cannot prioritize one type of content over another, nor can they speed up, slow down or block users’ access to online content and services.
 
On Nov. 21, the current chairman of the Federal Communications Commission announced his proposal to roll back rules on neutrality put in place in 2015 by the Obama administration.
 
Bishop Coyne urged that the current rules remain in place. "Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members," he said.
 
These protections are "essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment," Bishop Coyne said.
 
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that under his plan, "the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices."
 
Bishop Coyne said: "Robust internet protections are vital to enable our archdioceses, dioceses and eparchies, our parishes, schools and other institutions to communicate with each other and our members, to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities online, and to engage people -- particularly younger persons -- in our ministries."
 
The FCC is scheduled to vote on Pai's proposal at its monthly hearing Dec. 14. Observers predict the vote will fall along party lines. Chairman Pai is Republican as are Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O'Rielly. Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel are Democrats.
 
 

Thanksgiving: A unique holiday for a uniquely diverse nation

What does Thanksgiving really mean to you? Is it just a really big dinner, or is there something more about it that maybe you've forgotten?
 
It is unique among American holidays in that it is both civic and religious in its origins. It is unlike Christmas and Easter which are, strictly speaking, religious holy days that were adopted by the general culture as holidays, or Independence Day which is completely civic.
 
There is a bit of controversy as to where the holiday began. New Englanders say it was started as a harvest feast attended by both settlers and Native Americans in thanksgiving for the Plymouth colony's first harvest. Virginians point to celebrations a bit earlier in Berkley Hundred and Jamestown.
 
In both cases there was reason to be thankful and not just for food but for being alive. Within a year of their arrival half of the New England colonists were dead as were three quarters of the original Virginia colonists, either from starvation or disease.
 
Of all American holidays, Thanksgiving is a celebration of immigrants because it traces back to our immigrant forefathers and foremothers who at great sacrifice laid the foundation of a new nation.
 
The tradition continues as recent immigrants also pause to thank God for his blessings and enjoy a feast usually including that peculiar American fowl, a turkey.
 
Lan-Huong Lam, a member of the Vietnamese community at South Philadelphia's St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, has been in America for 10 years. Although her family still celebrates traditional Vietnamese holidays, especially for the New Year, they also have embraced Thanksgiving in a way that is strikingly American.
 
"My family will come to my father's house this year, (and) next year we will all go to my uncle's house," she told CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
 
And yes, they will have dishes such as turkey and mashed potatoes, but along with that they will have traditional Vietnamese foods for those members who prefer them.
 
Reyna Mota, who is a member of the Dominican Republic community that worships at St. Leo Church in Philadelphia, really buys into the true meaning of Thanksgiving as a way to give thanks to God and celebrate our blessings.
 
While she and her husband are immigrants, "our kids were born here," she said. Like many other Americans new or old, she and her husband and children were hitting the road to travel to Salisbury, Maryland, for an extended family get-together.
 
The traditional turkey, cranberry sauce and all the fixings will be on the table as well as chicken because turkey is not something their family is used to. Of course, one of the desserts will be flan, a staple in Central America.
 
If a number of the relatives prefer chicken it had better be more than one bird because "we will have about 30 people there," Mota said.
Samuel Abu, a Liberian native who works for Philadelphia's archdiocesan Catholic Social Services, is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in West Philadelphia and he has 12 years in the U.S.
Thanksgiving is a national holiday in Liberia also, probably because the country was founded by former American slaves who returned to Africa after the Civil War. But it is just a day off there, with no special traditions. He was surprised when he came to the U.S. and found what a big deal it is here.
 
"When we came here we didn't like turkey," he confessed, and his family would go out to eat. Now he and his wife have four kids and they all love turkey.
 
Abu's wife loves to prepare the Thanksgiving dinner, and in that tradition the whole family gathers around the table for the feast. But in his household they don't do stuffing and they eat the turkey in gravy as in a stew.
 
Another dish they favor which most Americans would not connect with Thanksgiving is the root vegetable that is much more familiar in the tropics than the potato: cassava.
 
But whatever they eat or don't eat, "We are thankful to God that we are able to live this life and pray for the families who are not able to do this, especially my father and my mother," Abu said. "We thank God for our jobs and our children and the opportunity to own our home."
Hari Chan, who has been in America for 15 years, is a member of the Indonesian community that worships at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. On Thanksgiving his family will probably gather for Mass in the chapel at their parish.
 
Then the Indonesian community members will all get together at the adjacent Aquinas Center for a potluck meal. It will include turkey of course, but also Indonesian favorites.
 
While they don't have Thanksgiving in Indonesia there are other holidays, mostly Muslim, because most Indonesians are Muslim. But just as in America where non-Christians celebrate Christmas, "there we celebrate the Muslim holidays too," Chan said.
 
Maguy Jean Baptiste is part of the Haitian community at St. Cyril Parish in East Lansdowne and she has made America her home for 10 years. People do eat turkey in Haiti Jan. 1, which is both New Year's Day and Independence Day, she said.
 
As in so many American households on Thanksgiving Day, her sons will watch football, something that is not played in Haiti.
 
It will be a big meal because not just her husband and their five kids but also her sister's family with four kids will gather around the table. As an extra she always invites someone from the neighborhood who is alone for the holiday.
 
As part of the festivities the family members will draw names for gifts for the Pollyanna at Christmas. Also the family will take up a collection to send back to Haiti to help their struggling families there.
 
Maria Alvin, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Southampton, was born in Portugal but her family came to America when she was 7, and now she is married with a family of her own.
 
"My parents are still alive and we will all get together at my house," she said. "There will be about 12 people." It will be a traditional turkey dinner, but since her dad still doesn't like turkey, she will probably prepare a chicken and maybe some pork.
"Thanksgiving means freedom, the family all getting together, being thankful for what you have," she said.
 
A member of the French-speaking community at St. Cyprian Parish in Philadelphia named Dosse came to America 13 years ago from Togo. He and his wife have three kids, all born in the USA
 
In Togo the main holidays are Christmas and New Year's Day, but other than that there are no holidays with a long weekend. Dosse and his family will celebrate the same way many other people here do.
 
Most important, he told CatholicPhilly.com, "Thanksgiving is the time to thank God for everything, for his support in our lives."
 

Thanksgiving Day Appeal for Protection of the Vulnerable

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers a Thanksgiving Day message to the nation with special gratitude for the gift of immigrants and refugees. 

Full statement follows:

“As we do every year, we will pause this coming Thursday to thank God for the many blessings we enjoy in the United States. My brother bishops and I, gathered last week in Baltimore, were attentive in a special way to those who are often excluded from this great abundance—the poor, the sick, the addicted, the unborn, the unemployed, and especially migrants and refugees.

My brothers expressed a shared and ever-greater sense of alarm—and urgency to act—in the face of policies that seemed unthinkable only a short time ago: the deportation of Dreamers, young hard-working people who should be the lowest priority for deportation; the anxiety and uncertainty of those with Temporary Protected Status from countries like Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras, which are still recovering from natural disasters and remain ill-equipped to humanely receive and integrate them; and an unprecedented reduction in the number of people we will welcome this year into our country who seek refuge from the ravages of war and religious persecution in their countries of origin. 

One common feature of all these developments is their tendency to tear apart the family, the fundamental building block of our, or any, society. These threats to so many vulnerable immigrant and refugee families must end now. My brothers have urged me to speak out on their behalf to urge the immediate passage—and signature—of legislation that would alleviate these immediate threats to these families.

Another common feature of these policies is that they are symptoms of an immigration system that is profoundly broken and requires comprehensive reform. This is a longer-term goal, one that the bishops have advocated for decades to achieve, and one that must never be overlooked. Only by complete reform will we have the hope of achieving the common goals of welcoming the most vulnerable, ensuring due process and humane treatment, protecting national security, and respecting the rule of law. We are committed to such reforms and will continue to call for them.

So this year, I give thanks for the gift and contributions of immigrants and refugees to our great nation. I also pray that next year, families now under threat will not be broken and dispersed, but instead will be united in joy around their tables, giving thanks for all the blessings our nation has to offer. 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving all!”
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