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Gratitude to God should expand hearts, lead to hospitality, pope says

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Every Christian should be grateful for the gift of his or her baptism, and that gratitude should draw them together to recognize that they are brothers and sisters and called to pursue holiness together, Pope Francis said.

Welcoming an ecumenical pilgrimage from Finland to the Vatican Jan. 17, Pope Francis told the Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox and other Christian leaders that all Christians are called "to witness to the good news in the midst of their daily life."

Hospitality to the stranger and to those in need is a particularly strong form of witness, the pope said on the eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated Jan. 18-25.

The theme chosen for this year's commemoration is "They showed us unusual kindness," a quote from St. Paul, writing about the experience of being shipwrecked in Malta.

"As baptized Christians, we believe that Christ wishes to meet us precisely in those who are -- whether literally or figuratively -- shipwrecked in life," Pope Francis told his guests. "Those who show hospitality grow richer, not poorer. Whoever gives, receives in return."

The gratitude Christians feel for the gift of baptism "links and expands our hearts, and opens them to our neighbor, who is not an adversary but our beloved brother, our beloved sister," the pope said.

 

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Update: '9 Days for Life' prayer, action campaign takes place Jan. 21-29

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholics across the country are invited to take part in the 9 Days for Life is a novena for the protection of human life. Each day's intention is accompanied by a short reflection and suggested actions to help build a culture of life.

The pro-life novena, sponsored by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, coincides with the annual March for Life that takes place in Washington every January to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion across the country. This year's march takes place Jan. 24.

But "even if you can't come to D.C., you can join others to witness and pray for an end to abortion," said Kat Talalas, assistant director for pro-life communications at the USCCB. "We ask all of the faithful to unite in prayer to protect the rights of unborn children, to end the violence of abortion, and for greater respect for human life."

According to Talalas, thousands of Catholics across the country have already signed up for 9 Days for Life. By signing up online at 9daysforlife.com, participants will receive a daily prayer intention, a reflection and suggested actions via email, text or through an app.

The novena encompasses the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children Jan. 22, the day the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton. The USCCB pro-life committee began the novena in 2013 in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Roe.

The "9 Days for Life" website also has materials, in English and Spanish, for parish leaders to share. For each day there is an intercession, prayers, a reflection, "acts of reparation" and "one step further," describing one more suggested action for novena participants to take.

For example, the intercession for "Day One" is: "May the tragic practice of abortion end," followed by the Our Father, three Hail Marys and the Glory Be. The reflection for the day says in part: "At every stage and in every circumstance, we are held in existence by God's love. ... Christ invites us to embrace our own lives and the lives of others as true gifts. Abortion tragically rejects the truth that every life is a good and perfect gift, deserving protection."

The suggested "acts of reparation" for the first day are: Take a break from television and movies and consider spending some of that time praying with the day's reflection. Or pray the short prayer "Every Life Is Worth Living," reflecting on the gift of human life. (It can be downloaded www.usccb.org/worth-living.) Or offer some other sacrifice, prayer, or act of penance that you feel called to do for the day's intention.

For "one step further," novena participants are encouraged to read more about abortion, in particular the article "Another Look at Abortion," available at www.respectlife.org/another-look-at-abortion, which provides a basic overview and summarizes key points. "This article will help you be better prepared to witness to the sanctity of human life," it says.

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Protect your health, physically and spiritually, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus healed people of all sorts of physical ailments, but he always started with the essential -- forgiving their sins, Pope Francis said.

"We should take good care of our bodies, but also our souls," the pope said Jan. 17, preaching about the Gospel of Mark's account of Jesus healing the paralytic.

"Jesus teaches us to go to what is essential," the pope said at morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. "What is essential is health, complete, body and soul."

Just like a person who is sick tries to find the right doctor to cure that ailment, he said, when a person's spiritual health is in danger, "we go to that physician who can heal us, who can forgive our sins. Jesus came for this reason; he gave his life for this."

In the day's reading from the Gospel of St. Mark, a paralytic is hoping for physical healing, the pope said. But Jesus says to him, "Child, your sins are forgiven."

Only later does he tell the man to get up and walk.

"Physical healing is a gift, physical health is a gift that we must safeguard," the pope said. "But the Lord teaches us that we must safeguard the health of our hearts -- our spiritual health -- as well."

And, he said, the first step to any kind of healing is recognizing that one is unwell.

Simply saying, "Yes, yes, we are all sinners," isn't enough, the pope said. That just "waters down" the serious consequences of sin and the need for healing. "Today Jesus says to each of us, 'I want to forgive your sins.'"

 

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Update: President Trump issues new guidance on prayer in public schools

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tom Brenner, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Donald Trump announced his administration's new guidance on prayer in public schools during a Jan. 16 event in the Oval Office on National Religious Freedom Day.

Primarily, it will require states to report cases where public school students have been denied their right to pray.

Ahead of the event -- which was delayed from a 2 p.m. (EST) start to about 4 p.m. -- material on the guidance was provided to reporters in a background briefing the morning of Jan. 16.

In a separate proposed rule, the administration aims to protect the rights of religious student groups at public universities, giving them equal treatment with secular student groups.

For schools to receive federal funding, they will need to certify once a year with state education departments that they do not have policies in place that would prevent students from constitutionally protected prayer, a senior administration official said.

State departments of education also would have to report to the U.S. Department of Education each year with a list of local school boards that failed to make the required certification as well as complaints made to that department about a local school board or school that has been accused of denying students or teachers their right to engage in constitutionally protected prayer.

The new guidance also stipulates that state education offices provide a clear process for people to report complaints about school boards or schools that have denied students or teachers their right to prayer which will in turn be sent to the federal Education Department. Similarly, state education offices will need to report to the Education Department any lawsuits against a local school or school board concerning rights to pray.

At an evening event marking National Religious Freedom Day, Jennie Bradley Lichter, deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy, said the guidance was important because "you don't lose your constitutional rights when you walk in a public school."

She said the event included students -- Muslims, Jewish, evangelical and Catholic -- who had been punished for something related to religion.

One of the students, William McLeod, a Catholic at a public school in Utah, told those at the ceremony: "So it all started when I walked in the classroom. ... It was Ash Wednesday, and I had my ashes on my forehead, and all the kids in the classroom was like, 'Is that dirt on your forehead?' Because they don't know, because they aren't Catholic and they were all Mormon."

"So then the teacher came up and was like, 'It's unacceptable. Wipe it off.' And I told her four times, and she didn't listen and she made me wipe it off in front of all the kids."

William told the president: "I just don't want anyone to feel like that."

Trump mentioned school prayer in his Jan. 3 address to evangelicals in Miami where he praised an effort in Tennessee to expand school prayer. Last November, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against a school district saying it sponsored prayer assemblies and the distribution of Bibles.

"I will be taking action to safeguard students' and teachers' First Amendment rights to pray in their schools," Trump told the Florida gathering.

The Supreme Court has taken up the issue of school prayer multiple times. In the 1960s, it said that school-sponsored prayer violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment but that students are permitted to pray alone or in groups at school if other students weren't compelled to participate.

In 1992, the court ruled against prayer at graduations and eight years later it said prayers said on a public address system at school games also violated the Establishment Clause.

 

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Update: Knights, N.Y. Archdiocese and others providing aid to quake victims

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PONCE, Puerto Rico (CNS) -- Jose Lebron-Sanabria, a Knight of Columbus and a general insurance agent for the fraternal organization, is coordinating assistance to Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes.

He led the Knights' recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico in September 2017. Among other efforts this time, he is working with the Diocese of Ponce to bring food, water and nutrition drinks, like Glucerna and Ensure, to a religious monastery, home to 25 elderly nuns.

"I have a tool to offer my community and that is the Knights of Columbus," Lebron-Sanabria said in a statement. The island is home to 5,240 Knights and 81 councils.

The series of earthquakes, the highest being a magnitude 6.4, has leveled towns and parish churches on the southern coast of the island. Gov. Wanda Vazquez Garced has declared a state of emergency. Aftershocks continue to rock Puerto Rico.

The Knights of Columbus, based in New Haven, Connecticut, has established an online portal for donations for those affected by the quakes: https://bit.ly/2FN5pG0. Catholic Charities USA has established a Puerto Rico disaster relief fund that can accessed online at https://bit.ly/30hHwQd.

In addition, the Archdiocese of New York is raising funds for Puerto Rico assistance. In a Jan. 10 letter, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan asked priests of the archdiocese to raise funds to help the quake victims through a second collection at Mass.

In his letter, the cardinal said he was reluctant to ask for a second collection in the parishes, but, "given the unique relationship we share with Puerto Rico, I believe our people will respond generously if asked to show their support, as they have always done."

He also noted that the Puerto Rico is still struggling to overcome the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, making assistance even more critical.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, and the archdiocese itself, have already sent a combined $80,000 to Caritas Puerto Rico, which is helping lead the relief efforts.

On Jan. 16, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, asked parishes in his diocese to take up a special voluntary collection for earthquake victims during weekend Masses Jan. 18 and 19. The diocese will send the money collected for distribution and direct assistance to the Archdiocese of San Juan in Puerto Rico.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by this terrible natural disaster," the bishop said in a statement announcing the collection. "We also must remember that Puerto Rico continues to recover from the devastating effects caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, which affected the infrastructure, health services, education, energy and telecommunications networks on the island."

In Puerto Rico, Jose Vazquez-Padilla, the Knights' state deputy, and other Knights purchased 20 canopies to bring to the now homeless living outside of San Antonio Abad Church in Guanica. Not only were they providing immediate shelter, but more than 300 Knights cooked 1,000 hot meals Jan. 12 for those affected by the earthquakes in Guayanilla.

According to Father Segismundo Cintron, a Knight of Columbus from Don Juan Ponce de Leon Council 1719, 20,000 people from the town of Guanica were living and sleeping outdoors. Every structure in town has been deemed unsafe and uninhabitable in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

In Guayanilla, Immaculate Conception Church lost both of its bell towers and collapsed due to the seismic activity. The nearly 180-year-old church withstood a large earthquake in 1918, but now the only thing left is the parish courtyard, where Father Melvin Diaz Aponte has been celebrating Mass.

The priest, a Knight from Council 1719, told EFE News of his sadness witnessing the pain of the parishioners.

"We want to support them, help them and do what we have to do, as we all should," he said.

He assured the congregation that they will rebuild, according to The New York Times.

Immaculate Conception is one of three churches destroyed by the earthquakes. Knights have brought the churches canopies so the parish priests will be able to continue Masses for their congregations.

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Hearing cites successes, undone work in protecting trafficking victims

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a Jan. 15 hearing to celebrate the act cited numerous successes -- including the passage of four subsequent bills to further clamp down on trafficking -- but noted work yet to do to keep both children and adults safe from others who would exploit them for sex or cheap labor.

Rep. Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chair of the House's Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, said few in Congress signed on when he first sponsored the bill. "For most people at that time -- including lawmakers -- the term 'trafficking' applied almost exclusively to drugs and weapons, not human beings," he said.

The act, Smith said, included a number of "sea change" provisions, "including treating as a victim -- and not a perpetrator of a crime -- anyone exploited by a commercial sex act who had not attained the age of 18 and anyone older where there was an element of force, fraud or coercion."

He added, "Thousands of human traffickers have been prosecuted and jailed pursuant to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act including all charges brought against (billionaire financier) Jeffrey Epstein (who committed suicide in his jail cell before trial) and the infamous convictions involving the 'Smallville' actress Allison Mack."

Smith, who chaired the hearing, said the law "is working as intended. In just over two years, the U.S. government has notified foreign governments of the planned travel of 10,541 covered sex offenders to their countries. As of July, 3,681 individuals who were convicted of sex crimes against children were denied entry by these nations."

Reciprocity is another feature of the law, as other countries now notify the U.S. government if a convicted sex offender is planning to travel from their nation to the United States, Smith said.

Limnyuy Konglim, head of the International Catholic Migration Commission's U.S. Liaison Office in Washington, testified that "faith-based actors" play a "critical role" in protecting both communities and individuals. Konglim said her commission's work is "inspired by the holy Bible, as well as by the ongoing teaching and tradition" of the church.

Partnering with local groups, the ICMC has worked since 1999 to "prevent and respond to human trafficking, provide direct assistance to survivors, conduct international advocacy on behalf of those most vulnerable to human trafficking, and train border officials to strengthen identification of trafficked victims and increase prosecution of traffickers," Konglim said. "We continuously and actively engage with our faith-based partners to ensure that the needs of affected communities are identified and appropriate services are sought."

She lauded last year's pastoral orientations on human trafficking issued by the Vatican, as well as Pope Francis' leadership on the issue. "We are facing a global phenomenon that exceeds the competence of any one community or country," the pope said. Therefore, he added, "we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself."

Trafficking issues, though, persist both in the United States and worldwide.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, the other co-chair of the Tom Lantos Commission -- named after the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress -- criticized the Chinese government's treatment of ethnic minorities, singling out Tibetans and Uighur Muslims, estimating there are 1 million Uighurs in government-run camps.

Witness Neha Misra, a senior specialist in migration and human trafficking for the Solidarity Center, a project of the AFL-CIO that deals with labor rights around the world, said similar problems exist in Indonesia, although the perpetrators tend to be companies and not government. Still, "items made from their forced labor appear on grocery and retail shelves" in the United States, she said.

Liat Shetret, a senior adviser at cryptocurrency compliance tools provider Elliptic, said traffickers are now turning to "privacy coins" to evade scrutiny. She cautioned, though, against banning privacy coins, saying it would be akin to "shooting ourselves in the foot" as other nations, especially China, are developing their own cryptocurrencies.

Lori Cohen, executive director of ECPAT-USA -- originally known as End Child Prostitution and Trafficking -- testified that while women and girls are most commonly thought of as the victims of human trafficking, the phrase "and boys" also must be added.

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Young adults make 'deep dive' into faith during 'ad limina' visit

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Supporting and supported by their bishops, 25 young adults from Minnesota and North Dakota made a pilgrimage "ad limina apostolorum" -- to the threshold of the apostles -- in mid-January.

The delegation of women and men, single and married, ages 21-35 flew to Rome with the bishops of Region VIII, who are required by church law to make the "ad limina" visits to pray at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul and to meet with the pope and top Vatican officials.

Many dioceses offer pilgrimages to coincide with their bishops' "ad limina" visits, but the Region VIII trip was different: Young adults were invited last May to apply to make the trip either by providing a letter of recommendation from someone who would attest to their leadership in evangelization or by writing a short essay on how Christ has worked through others to draw them closer to him.

While the region's bishops met Pope Francis Jan. 13, the young pilgrims met him two days later after the pope's weekly general audience. Two young men came bearing white zucchetti -- the papal skullcaps -- and the pope put each on his head, then handed it back as a souvenir.

Mychael Schilmoeller, 33, the pastoral care minister at St. Michael parish in Prior Lake, Minnesota, received special attention from Pope Francis. Noticing her belly, he asked when her baby is due. She told him, "St. Patrick's Day," and he blessed her unborn baby and gently touched her.

"I don't usually like people touching me, but it was a beautiful blessing," she said.

Schilmoeller said the bishops' invitation to young adults to join them for the "ad limina" is "a sign of hope, a sign of a willingness to listen to young people, a willingness to change some things, perhaps."

Vincenzo Randazzo of the Office of Evangelization of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis came up with the idea for the pilgrimage and presented it to Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, who, he said, responded, "Let's do it."

"I want everything we do to be an effort to evangelization," Randazzo told Catholic News Service. If the pilgrimage simply had a first-come-first-served sign-up policy, "we'd get the choir," instead of a mix of young adults who are or potentially are evangelizers of their peers.

Will Herrmann, a 30-year-old computer programmer and member of St. Bonaventure parish in Bloomington, Minnesota, was the newest Catholic in the group. He entered the church last Easter.

Although he was surprised to be chosen for the pilgrimage, he said he applied because "I wanted to dive into the deep end of my faith."

Speaking to CNS near the tomb of St. Paul, he said, "I feel like I married into this family and now I'm meeting the relatives -- the saints."

One thing the pilgrims have in common, Randazzo said, is how much of their time is spent online, including when seeking information about the faith.

As opposed to that "virtual reality," Randazzo said, "Rome has lots of stuff" with art and architecture and the actual places where Sts. Peter and Paul and a host of other saints lived, died and were buried.

Another pilgrim, Mary Evinger, 29, the director of religious education at St. Joseph's parish in Williston, North Dakota, is planning to bring high school students to Rome precisely for that reason.

"They're just on their screens, and just seeing an image isn't the same," she said. "You don't get that awe of being there."

"Being there" -- in the basilicas, the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum -- was a big motivator for Evinger to apply for the pilgrimage, she said. But she also wanted to be with the region's bishops and with Pope Francis.

Organizing the pilgrimage was part of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis' ongoing response to young adults who wrote Archbishop Hebda an open letter in 2018 about what they want from the church, the archbishop told CNS.

The youthful pilgrims, the archbishop said, told the bishops they were making the pilgrimage "to pray for Pope Francis and then to pray for their bishops."

Most of the pilgrims already have completed university and are "trying to figure out where they are in the church now that they are working and living on their own," he said. They want to know where God is calling them to serve.

"It's no secret that one of the things that the church, at least in the United States, struggles with is young people drifting at times," Archbishop Hebda said, so when the region's bishops met Pope Francis, they assured him "there also were young people who were very much involved in the church, who loved him and certainly the way he articulates his ministry."

Randazzo said it is easy for Catholics to notice the scandals and the problems afflicting the church, but "it takes courage to recognize God is doing something incredible," and the growing faith of many young adults is one of those things.

 

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The greater the sinner, the greater God's love, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God shows the greatest love and compassion for the greatest sinners, Pope Francis said.

The Lord "has come precisely for us sinners and the greater the sinner you are, the closer the Lord is to you because he has come for you, the greatest sinner; for me, the greatest sinner; for all of us," the pope said in his homily Jan. 16 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading from St. Mark, in which Jesus' takes pity on and heals a leper who kneeled before him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean."

In saying "if you wish," the pope explained, the leper "attracts God's attention" and makes an "act of faith" because he saw that Jesus acted with compassion toward those who suffer.

"This was Jesus' mission," the pope said. "Jesus did not come to preach the law and then go away. Jesus came with compassion, that is, to suffer with and for us and to give his life. The love of Jesus is so great that compassion brought him to the cross, to give his life."

Pope Francis said that Christians should pray to God like the leper did -- by acknowledging their sinfulness and asking for mercy.

It is "a simple prayer that can be said many times a day. 'Lord, I, a sinner, ask you: have mercy on me.' It can be said many times a day, from the heart, without saying it aloud: 'Lord, if you want, you can; if you want, you can. Have mercy on me.' Repeat this," the pope said.

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God's word can never be 'enchained,' pope says at audience

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A true apostle is one who continues to be a courageous and joyful evangelizer even in the face of persecution and certain death, Pope Francis said.

By choosing to close the Acts of the Apostles not with St. Paul's martyrdom but with his continuing to preach the Gospel even while under house arrest, St. Luke wanted to show that the word of God cannot be "enchained," the pope said Jan. 15 during his weekly general audience.

"This house open to all hearts is the image of the church which -- although persecuted, misunderstood and chained -- never tires of welcoming with a motherly heart every man and woman to proclaim to them the love of the Father who made himself visible in Jesus," he said.

The pope concluded his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles with a reflection on St. Paul's imprisonment in Rome.

St. Paul's treacherous journey and adventures to "the heart of the empire," he said, did not weaken the Gospel he preached but instead strengthened it by "showing that the direction of events does not belong to men but to the Holy Spirit, who gives fruitfulness to the church's missionary action."

During his imprisonment, the pope continued, the apostle would meet with notable Jewish people in his efforts to show "the fulfillment of the promises made to the chosen people" through Christ's death and resurrection.

While not everyone was convinced by his preaching, St. Paul continued to welcome anyone "who wanted to receive the proclamation of the kingdom of God and to know Christ," which is a grace that all Christians should pray for, he said.

May the Lord "enable us, like Paul, to imbue our houses with the Gospel and to make them cenacles of fraternity, where we can welcome the living Christ, who comes to meet us in every person and in every age," Pope Francis said.

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Encore: Catholic schools called 'essential, integral' to church's ministry

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review

By Sydney Clark

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The mission and foundation of Catholic education are directly related to evangelization, said the head of the National Catholic Educational Association.

Catholic schools are obligated to evangelize simply because that is the core and mission of the Catholic Church, according to Thomas Burnford, president and CEO of the NCEA.

"The apostles told the good news of Jesus Christ, and Catholic schools are an essential and integral ministry of the Catholic Church," he told Catholic News Service.

Nationwide, 1.8 million students are enrolled in 6,300 Catholic schools, he noted. Additionally, 80% of students are Catholic, and the remaining 20% are non-Catholic.

Despite the percentage difference, the mission of Catholic education is the same for Catholic and non-Catholic students, Burnford explained.

"The teaching of the faith, the way we witness the Catholic faith fully to Catholic students is the same for all students. All students are invited and welcomed to participate fully in the whole culture of the school, the formation of the school and the life of the school," Burnford said.

Evangelization is present within schools because students are presented with a Catholic worldview that reveals the reality of God and the Gospel through the curriculum, he said.

"In that way, we are evangelizing students by giving them a real understanding of the world and society. Everyone in a Catholic school is being moved along in the process of evangelization and outreach," Burnford said.

Acknowledging the inherent relationship between Catholic education and evangelization in the presence of faith, community and identity, Pope Francis in a June 2018 address said: "Schools and universities need to be consistent and show continuity between their foundational mission and the church's mission of evangelization."

He delivered the address to members of the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, which he established in October 2015 at the invitation of the Congregation for Catholic Education to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education.

In that same address, Pope Francis proposed a challenge to members of the foundation, which aims to renew the church's dedication to Catholic education, saying: "To fulfill your mission, therefore, you must lay its foundations in a way consistent with our Christian identity, establish means appropriate for the quality of study and research and pursue goals in harmony with service to the common good."

Elisabeth Sullivan, executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, identified roles within Catholic schools that help bring Catholic and non-Catholic students together. "I think Catholic schools have a unique opportunity to provide hope in a world that is increasingly beset by hopelessness. A world without God is a world without hope," Sullivan said.

Sullivan believes that Catholic education is uniquely distinct from other education systems due to its long tradition of conveying the inherent and inseparable relationship between faith and reason. Consequently, Catholic schools "restore what the industrialized model of education has stripped from the classroom -- an understanding of the meaning and purpose of things," she told CNS.

Catholic education asks the deeper questions, regarding the nature of something and its purpose, according to Sullivan. "Secular education can't offer that, can't decide on a meaning or a purpose, so it has to stay away, and therefore, it's incomplete," she explained.

Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, expressed a similar viewpoint regarding evangelization efforts within Catholic schools. Donoghue said because formation in a Catholic school is integral, students are not solely taught religious doctrine in a religion course.

"What we seek to do is bring forward the church's intellectual tradition and form their minds in all of the content and areas that they study. This is an excellent tool of evangelization because it exposes kids not just to Catholic practices, regarding prayer and liturgy, but also to a Catholic understanding of reality."

Donoghue is hopeful that Catholic schools will continue to fulfill their mission of bringing children and young adults into a relationship with Christ.

As populations shift, she said, many Catholic schools will be located in new areas, creating a changing landscape. However, Donoghue said that Catholic education in America has been around for centuries and "will renew itself by turning toward the church's own tradition and that can be the way forward in the future."

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