Editor's Note: San Angelo Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer received the following letter of thanks from Catholic Relief Services president and director Dr. Carolyn Yoo:
Dear Bishop Pfeifer:
I want to express my thanks for the opportunity to speak to you and your brother bishops at the USCCB meeting in Atlanta recently. I send this to begin what I hope will be an ongoing and productive dialogue about how we at Catholic Relief Services can better serve you in ways that enrich our common mission as we carry out the work of the Gospel.
As I said in my talk, the bishops have been such staunch supporters of CRS as we have grown into one of the country's important international humanitarian agencies over the past seven decades. I know that will continue, and for that I am grateful, even as I hope the relationship will deepen.
Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, Diocese of Tucson chairman of the CRS Board of Directors) and I want each of your to fully understand that CRS is at work among the poor around the world as the face, the voice and the hand of the Catholic community in the United States. We want them to feel that they are involved in that work — because they are involved. Without them, CRS would not exist. I hope we can further involve your diocese and parishes in our work as follows:
-- Through the relaunching of the CRS Rice Bowl to deepen the spirituality of the Lenten season for all ministries and ages;
-- By regularly featuring CRS in your church bulletins;
-- By including a link to the CRS.org on your web sites;
-- By bringing Catholic social teaching alive for your clergy and parishioners.
We especially want to thank each bishop to better understand CRS. Visit us, travel with us and see the work of your Church overseas and the faith that we share put into action. You will be moved. You will be inspired. You will feel the presence of our Lord.
Thank you again.
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Woo
President and CEO
Catholic Relief Services
By Mark PattisonCatholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Nellie Gray, who started the annual March for Life parade to protest the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide, has died at age 86.
Gray, originally from Big Spring, was found dead in her home Aug. 13 in Washington's Capitol Hill neighborhood by a March for Life staffer, Gene Ruane, who said the medical examiner will determine the cause and date of her death.
The March for Life has grown into one of the signature events of the pro-life movement. After the first march in 1974, Gray, a native of Big Sp, established the March for Life Education & Defense Fund to sustain it.
Each year in her remarks, Gray exhorted pro-lifers to promote and adhere to a series of "life principles" that would eliminate abortion and enhance life, to which she said there should be "no exception! No compromise!"
Ruane, an administrative assistant with the March for Life, told Catholic News Service
Aug. 14 that leadership of the organization would be assumed by Terrence Scanlon, who has been its vice president "since the beginning."
Funeral information was not immediately available. Gray was a member of St. Mary, Mother of God Parish in Washington.
Born June 25, 1926, in Texas, Gray served as a corporal in the Women's Army Corps during World War II. She later earned a bachelor's degree in business and a master's in economics. She worked for the federal government for 28 years at the State Department and the Department of Labor, while attending Georgetown University Law School. Gray later practiced law before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a 2010 profile, Gray said she wasn't a Catholic as a child, but "I had elements of the Catholic faith in my life." As a young woman, she encountered a priest who brought to light what the Catholic Church was about, and he tutored her until she joined the church.
Gray also spoke of the march's origins. "I received a call from the Knights of Columbus," she recalled. "I didn't even know who they were, but they explained their stance against abortion and needed a place to meet to discuss plans for a march. That place was my living room. About 30 people gathered there and they asked if I could help get speakers for the event since I knew Capitol Hill well.
"What I couldn't get was a master of ceremonies for the event," she added. "Politicians didn't want to get involved in a march, and people at that time weren't interested in marches after the civil rights movement and other things. That left the emcee job to me."
Tributes to Gray poured in as news of her death spread.
"The indelible mark she has left in this world can be seen in the generations of lives saved as a result of her dedicated work on behalf of the unborn," said an Aug. 13 statement from Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. "As we approach the tragic 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are confident her legacy of pro-life activism will continue to inspire and effect change."
"She had a fierce heart that valued all people -- born and unborn -- fearlessly working to create a picture worth a thousand words -- the sight of hundreds of thousands of peaceful Americans calling on their courts and their legislators to defend life in law," said an Aug. 14 statement from Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life.
"As a colleague in national pro-life leadership, Nellie was always an inspiration to the rest of us," said an Aug. 13 statement by Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. "Her devotion was on display that same year, 2008, when, despite being in the hospital during the March for Life, she nevertheless was present at all all-day meeting of national leaders the very next morning."
Gray "mobilized millions to protest the injustice of Roe v. Wade and to speak out on behalf of unborn children, who have no voice of their own. While Miss Gray did not see Roe overturned in her lifetime, the movement she helped build -- especially its young members -- will not rest until the right to life is restored once again," said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, in an Aug. 14 statement.
In 2008, the National Pro-Life Religious Council presented Gray with its Pro-Life Recognition Award. Later that day, she tripped and fell on the stage at the opening rally for the March for Life and had to be taken to the hospital with a head injury.
"My heart is broken by the loss of Nellie Gray, a true pro-life hero and role model. At the same time, I celebrate that Nellie is with our Lord who she loved so dearly, said an Aug. 13 statement by Bryan Kemper, founder of Stand True Ministry and director of youth outreach for Priests for Life. "I have had the honor of working with Nellie for years and every time I march in D.C. in January, I know she will be watching over us and praying for us."
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, called her an "extraordinary pro-life leader" who was unstoppable as emcee of the march "even in the worst of weather and poor health."
Because of her leadership, the Roe decision "has been marked annually with a somber remembrance that gives voice to the defenseless unborn and the women wounded by abortion," Smith said Aug. 14. "In Nellie's name we will continue her legacy of unceasing commitment to defending the unborn."
"Many pro-lifers sometimes seem to take the annual march for granted, but the longevity of the March is actually a remarkable achievement, said an Aug. 14 blog posting on National Review Online by Michael J. New, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and an assistant professor at the University of Alabama.
"Some 39 years ago, pro-life activists felt a need to properly commemorate the first anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade decision. That is when the idea for the March for Life was born. Interestingly, there was no plan to repeat the first march, but when deciding what to do with the leftover funds, someone suggested hosting a march the next year," New said. "Since then, the march has been a key contribution to the pro-life cause."
Gray is survived by three nieces and one nephew, all of whom live in Texas.
Msgr. Maurice Voity, rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Angelo, has announced that he will lead another pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The event will take place from February 25 to March 7, 2013. The pilgrimage will depart from Christ the King Retreat Center in San Angelo. Mass will be celebrated at a different holy site each day, and other devotions will be held as we travel the Fifth Gospel, the Holy Land where Jesus lived, suffered, died, and rose from the dead for us.
Among the places visited will be: The Sea of Galilee, Capernum, Mount of the Beatitudes, Cana, Nazareth, Mount Tabor, Jericho, the Baptismal Site of Jesus on the River Jordan, Qum Ram, the Dead Sea, many holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem: including the Holy Sepulchre, Via Dolorosa, Calvary, Garden of Gethsemane, Basilica of the Nativity, the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock, Room of the Last Supper, Emmaus, and many other places.
All lodgings are in first class hotels, with breakfast and dinner daily. Current of cost of the pilgrimage is $3,395 per person sharing a twin room (subject to change if air taxes and fuel supplements rise). You will be accompanied all along the way with an English-speaking Christian guide.
Join Msgr. Voity as he once again offers a remarkable and memorable Holy Land Pilgrimage to the people of the diocese. For more information, contact Sacred Heart Cathedral at (325) 658-6567, or email Msgr. Voity at firstname.lastname@example.org
Driving through the mountains of New Mexico was a different experience for some, but none were prepared for what was to happen in the coming week. Twenty-four teens and adults traveled to Gallup, NM, to serve Christ through the Young Neighbors in Action Program, which facilitates a weeklong service retreat for 9th-12th grade students. We were joined by other youth from Arizona and Wisconsin. Throughout the week, we learned not only about the community that we were serving, but also about the Church’s position on social justice, which was taught during the evenings.
YNIA sponsored many worksites, but Holy Family Youth was split up into two groups. Half worked with the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of sisters whose main focus is on charity. After re-striping their parking lot, trimming back brush and picking unwanted weeds, we visited with the elderly patients that the Little Sisters cared for at their assisted living home.
The other half went to work with a local Navajo family, re-tiling a floor, scraping and painting two decks, and learning more about the Navajo culture. Together, we worked to help bring social justice to the community of Gallup while learning more about serving others in the love of Christ.
-- Penny Pope, Youth Coordinator, ABilene Holy Family
By Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI
Several months ago, Pope Benedict XVI declared a “Year of Faith” which will begin on October 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council and conclude November 24, 2013—the Solemnity of Christ the King.
To build up our beautiful Catholic faith in each one of us and as a community, and to continue to live the spirit and inspiration of the great Vatican Council, our Holy Father is calling the entire Church to the promotion of a New Evangelization. In launching this program of New Evangelization, the Pope stated that “The mission of the Church, like Christ, is essentially to speak of God, to commemorate His sovereignty, reminding everyone, especially Christians, who have lost their identity, of God’s right over what belongs to Him, which is our lives.” This New Evangelizations aims to revivify Catholicism, in traditionally Christian countries, which have been particularly affected by secularization—the transformation of society from close identification with religious values and institutions to non-religious values and secular institutions.
Pope Benedict reminds us that the upcoming Year of Faith seeks to awaken humanity at a critical moment of history, as we see in vast areas of the earth that the faith risks being extinct, like a flame without fuel. Our Holy Father stated, “We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of a religious sense, which represents one of the greatest challenges for the Church today.”
To bring about this renewal of faith, which must be a priority for the entire Church, our Holy Father is asking all faith leaders, especially Bishops, priests, women religious, deacons, all pastoral leaders, to be involved in a New Evangelization led by the Holy Spirit, who is the true source and power of evangelization in the Church. The Year of Faith and New Evangelization coincides with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the 20th promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic.
To help all of us in the USA to be more in touch with the great power and force of the Holy Spirit, the United States Catholic Bishops have approved a document on the New Evangelization entitled, “Disciples Called to Witness.” The Committee on Evangelization of the U.S. Bishops has developed this document, the New Evangelization, which provides an overview of the theological foundations of the New Evangelization, and stresses the importance of personal conversion and offers ideas on how to create a “culture of witness.” The document is intended to be a foundational resource to assist diocesan and parish evangelizations, which brings us into a closer, intimate union of love with the One who is at the center of our faith life, Jesus Christ. The New Evangelization is an opportunity to re-propose the Catholic faith, and to stress the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ even to those who may have heard the Gospel proclaimed before and have lost the living sense of faith.
Living and participating in the New Evangelization, will help people to be re-engaged in a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, to be more deeply committed to the Church, and its mission of service in the world. Specifically, the New Evangelization in light of the major goals of the Church in America will a) deepen knowledge of faith and increase sacramental practice; b) strengthen Christian witness for the life and dignity of the human person; c) affirm and protect religious liberty; and d) protect and support marriage and family life.
As we celebrate the Year of Faith, the New Evangelization, and the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, I have asked the Sisters who lead our Religious Education and Formation program, along with the Chairman of the Liturgy Commission, and the Director of our Retreat Center, to put together a focus group with membership from the three Deaneries, spelling out how we can draw new inspiration and pastoral approaches from the statement of our Holy Father on the Year of Faith, and the Bishops document, “Disciples called to be Witness,” for the number one ministry of the Diocese—Marriage and Family Life—the number one pastoral principle being respect for all of human life, especially the unborn. So, we are not establishing a new program at this time for the Diocese, but rather using the spirit and pastoral approaches of the Year of Faith, the New Evangelization and the 50th anniversary of Vatican II to strengthen the good ministries of our Diocese in which all need to be involved. The focus group will pass on to the Bishop and the Presbyteral Council these pastoral approaches, so that we will all be working together on the same goal.
In the Year of Faith, I ask that the inspiration and direction that comes from the focus group be shared with all of our priests, deacons, diocesan and parish staffs, and invite all the people of our Diocese to use these resources as a way of being renewed in our beautiful Catholic faith, with Christ at the center, and inspired with the love and fire of the Holy Spirit. The model of our faith response should be the humble and open spirit of our Blessed Mother, who surrendered herself totally to God’s will so that the word of God would take flesh in her womb – “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”