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St. Bernardine of Siena

The Catholic Church honors St. Bernardine of Siena on May 20. A Franciscan friar and preacher, St. Bernardine is known as “the Apostle of Italyâ€� for his efforts to revive the country's Catholic faith during the 15th century.Bernardine Albizeschi was born to upper-class parents in the Italian republic of Siena during 1380. Misfortune soon entered the boy's life when he lost his mother at age three and his father four years later. His aunt Diana cared for him afterward, and taught him to seek consolation and security by trusting in God. Even at a young age, Bernardine demonstrated a remarkable concern for the poor as an outgrowth of his love for God. Having become accustomed to fasting, he preferred at times to go without any food in order to help someone in greater need. From the ages of 11 to 17 he focused on his studies, developing the eloquence and dedication that would serve his future work as an evangelist. Before becoming a preacher, however, Bernardine spent several years ministering to the sick and dying. He enrolled in a religious association that served at a hospital in the town of Scala, and applied himself to this work from 1397 to 1400. During that time, a severe plague broke out in Siena, causing a crisis that would eventually lead to the young man taking charge of the entire hospital. Inside its walls, up to 20 people were dying each day from an illness that also killed many of the hospital workers. The staff was decimated and new victims were coming in constantly.Bernardine persuaded 12 young men to help him continue the work of the hospital, which he took over for a period of four months. Although the plague did not infect him, the exhausting work left him weak and he contracted a different sickness that kept him in bed for four months. After recovering, he spent over a year caring for his aunt Bartholomaea before her death. Then the 22-year-old Bernardine moved to a small house outside the city, where he began to discern God's will for his future through prayer and fasting. He eventually chose to join the Franciscans of the Strict Observance in 1403, embracing an austere life focused on poverty and humility. During this time, while praying before a crucifix, Bernardine heard Christ say to him: “My son, behold me hanging upon a cross. If you love me, or desire to imitate me, be also fastened naked to your cross and follow me. Thus you will assuredly find me.â€� After Bernardine was ordained a priest, his superiors commissioned him to preach as a missionary to the Italians who were falling away from their Catholic faith. The Dominican evangelist St. Vincent Ferrer, just before leaving Italy, preached a sermon in which he predicted that one of his listeners would continue his work among the Italians –  a prophecy Bernardine heard in person, and went on to fulfill.Bernardine's personal devotion to God, which amazed even the strict Franciscans, made his preaching extremely effective. He moved his hearers to abandon their vices, turn back to God, and make peace with one another. He promoted devotion to the name of Jesus as a simple and effective means of recalling God's love at all times. When other priests consulted him for advice, Bernardine gave them a simple rule: “In all your actions, seek in the first place the kingdom of God and his glory. Direct all you do purely to his honor. Persevere in brotherly charity, and practice first all that you desire to teach others.â€�“By this means,â€� he said, “the Holy Spirit will be your master, and will give you such wisdom and such a tongue that no adversary will be able to stand against you.â€� Bernardine's own life attested to this source of strength in the face of trials. He patiently suffered an accusation of heresy –  which Pope Martin V judged to be false – and refused to abandon his bold preaching when a nobleman threatened him with death.But Bernardine was also widely admired throughout Italy, and he was offered the office of a bishop on three occasions. Each time, however, he turned down the position, choosing to fulfill the prediction of St. Vincent Ferrer through his missionary work. Bernardine preached throughout most of Italy several times over, and even managed to reconcile members of its warring political factions. Later in his life, Bernardine served for five years as the Vicar General for his Franciscan order, and revived the practice of its strict rule of life. Then in 1444, forty years after he first entered religious life, Bernardine became sick while traveling. He continued to preach, but soon lost his strength and his voice. St. Bernardine of Siena died on May 20, 1444. Only six years later, in 1450, Pope Nicholas V canonized him as a saint.

Francis tells youth to evangelize through the ‘digital world’

Vatican City, May 19, 2018 / 11:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Sharing the Gospel with people at the peripheries might not even require stepping outside the door, Pope Francis said Saturday, encouraging Christians to evangelize through encounters in the “digital world.”

Especially for young people, “the ends of the earth...are quite relative and always easily ‘navigable,’” he said March 19. “The digital world - the social networks that are so pervasive and readily available - dissolves borders, eliminates distances, and reduces differences.”

But if we lack a “sincere gift of our lives,” he continued, “we could well have countless contacts but never share in a true communion of life. To share in the mission to the ends of the earth demands a gift of oneself in the vocation that God, who has placed us on this earth, chooses to give us.”

The pope’s words were published in a message on the theme, “Together with young people, let us bring the Gospel to all,” published ahead of the 92nd World Missionary Day, which will take place Oct. 21.

Francis explained that the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment will also take place in October, which is the “month of the missions,” and that the Synod “will prove to be one more occasion to help us become missionary disciples, ever more passionately devoted to Jesus and his mission, to the ends of the earth.”

While the pope’s message was for “all Christians who live out in the Church the adventure of their life as children of God,” he reflected specifically on the missionary role of young people.

Addressing youth, he said, “what leads me to speak to everyone through this conversation with you is the certainty that the Christian faith remains ever young when it is open to the mission that Christ entrusts to us.”

Quoting the words of St. John Paul II in “Redemptoris Missio,” Francis said: “Mission revitalizes faith,” and emphasized that young men and women who want to follow Christ need “to seek, to discover, and to persevere” in their God-given vocations, which will lead to joy.

“Dear young people, do not be afraid of Christ and his Church! For there we find the treasure that fills life with joy,” he said, and joy and enthusiasm can be powerful means of transmission of the faith.

Likewise, spreading the faith, which is “the heart of the Church’s mission, comes about by the infectiousness of love.” Love, he underlined, “generates sharing in charity with all those far from the faith, indifferent to it and perhaps even hostile and opposed to it.”

Pope Francis explained that he knows to joyfully share the faith can be a challenge, and that he is aware of both the “lights and shadows of youth.” But he encouraged young Christians to be strong and to let evil, instead of being a discouragement, be “an incentive to ever greater love.”  

“Many men and women, and many young people, have generously sacrificed themselves, even at times to martyrdom, out of love for the Gospel and service to their brothers and sisters,” he said.

Christ’s love for us was demonstrated in his sacrifice upon the cross, the pope continued, noting that “to be set afire by the love of Christ is to be consumed by that fire, to grow in understanding by its light and to be warmed by its love.”

“At the school of the saints, who open us to the vast horizons of God, I invite you never to stop wondering: ‘What would Christ do if he were in my place?’”

How US churches are celebrating Mary, Mother of the Church

Los Angeles, Calif., May 19, 2018 / 06:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- May 21 will mark the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, added to the Roman calendar this year by Pope Francis.

The annual memorial is intended to foster Marian devotion among Catholics. Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said this celebration will help promote affection for Christ and his mother.

“This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed,” he said in a March 3 letter.

For the inaugural celebration of the memorial – which will be held annually on the Monday after Pentecost – some dioceses are planning special Masses, processions and prayer services.

The Archdiocese of Detroit has invited Catholics to 5:30 p.m. Mass at Old St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hanchon will celebrate the Mass with Bishop Gerard Battersby concelebrating. Priests from around the archdiocese will also participate.

A traditional May Crowning will follow Mass, followed by a procession through the center of Detroit’s Greektown. Michelle St. Pierre, marketing manager for the Michigan Catholic, said they hope for large and diverse crowd.

“Watching everyone processing through the streets with the statue of the Blessed Mother will be a beautiful witness to the fact that while each of us is unique, we all have one mother: Mary, Mother of the Church,” she said, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles urged his archdiocese to celebrate this new memorial with prayer and celebration of the Eucharist. He encouraged people to join him for Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at noon.

Additionally, the archbishop called on all members of the archdiocese to have an image of the Virgin Mary in their home. An image of the Blessed Mother, personally blessed by Archbishop Gomez, will be offered to any family within the archdiocese who is interested, through the diocesan Angelus News publication.

Calling the memorial a “prophetic rediscovery of an ancient devotion,” the archbishop said he hopes it will bolster modern Catholics’ recognition of Mary’s role in the Church, as well as the infinite love of God.

“The first Christians understood Mary to be the perfect symbol of the Church’s spiritual motherhood. And to know that Mary is the mother of the Church is to begin to understand the depths of God’s love for us,” he said.

“Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to be a mother to us and turn all of us to have a new love for her and for Jesus and for our mother the Church.”

The Marian title of “Mother of the Church,” was given to the Blessed Mother by Bl. Pope Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council. It was also added to the Roman Missal after the Holy Year of Reconciliation in 1975.

Subsequently, some countries, dioceses and religious families were granted permission by the Holy See to add this celebration to their particular calendars. With its addition to the General Roman Calendar, it will now be celebrated by the whole Roman Catholic Church.

St John XXIII's body to go on pilgrimage in his native land

Bergamo, Italy, May 19, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The mortal remains of St. John XXIII will spend more than two weeks away from the Vatican on a “peregrination” to the northern Italian towns where he grew up and served as a priest, the Diocese of Bergamo stated.

Exposed for veneration at an altar inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the saint’s body will return to his home diocese May 24-June 10 marking the 55th anniversary of his death and the publication of his encyclical on establishing universal peace, Pacem in terris.

The trip was announced last year after Pope Francis approved a request by the Bergamo diocese. It will includes stops at various places in the diocese, where St. John XXIII served as a priest for more than 20 years, and in the town of Sotto il Monte, where he was born.

The theme of the visit, “We start from the land where I was born and then continue up to heaven,” was modified from a quotation of St. John XXIII where he referenced a line from the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis: “Dimitte omnia et invenies omnia – Leave everything and you will find everything.”  

The schedule for the pilgrimage of “Good Pope John,” will begin May 24, when the reliquary containing his body will arrive at the city center in Bergamo.

Following, the body will be transferred to a local prison, recalling the time he visited a prison in Rome and said: “I put my eyes in your eyes, I put my heart next to your heart,” stated a press release from the Diocese of Bergamo.

The reliquary will then be moved to a local seminary dedicated to the saint. At 9:00 p.m. that day the relics will be solemnly welcomed in the Bergamo cathedral.

It will remain at the cathedral through May 27, when it will be brought to a new hospital, also dedicated to the saint, to recall his historic visit to the sick of the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome.

From there the body will be brought to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Cornabusa, to whom St. John XXIII was especially devoted. In 1908, when he was a young priest, he was present for the coronation of the Marian image. He later also presided over the 50th anniversary Mass of the coronation in 1958, just months before he was elected pope.

The body will then stop at the Franciscan monastery at Baccanello. In the evening a candlelit procession will accompany the body from the church of Carvico, where the saint was confirmed, to Sotto il Monte, where he was born. The relics will remain in the church of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peace for veneration until June 10.

St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in Sotto il Monte Nov. 25, 1881, as the fourth of 13 children. He was ordained a priest of the Bergamo diocese in 1904, at the age of 22, serving there until he was selected for the Vatican's diplomatic corps and consecrated a bishop in 1925.

In 1953 he was made a cardinal and appointed Patriarch of Venice. He was elected Bishop of Rome Oct. 28, 1958. He is most remembered for his 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris and for calling the Second Vatican Council.

He was beatified in 2000 and canonized April 17, 2014. While two miracles are typically required for a non-martyr saint to be canonized, in the case of John XXIII, Pope Francis waived the rule and allowed him to be canonized with just one miracle formally acknowledged by the Vatican.

Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI to be canonized October 14

Vatican City, May 19, 2018 / 04:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following a meeting between the Council of Cardinals and Pope Francis Saturday, the Vatican announced that Bl. Pope Paul VI and Bl. Oscar Romero will be canonized together on Oct. 14, 2018.

During an ordinary consistory May 19, Francis decreed that the two blesseds will be canonized alongside four others: Bl. Francesco Spinelli, a diocesan priest and founder of the Institute of the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament; Bl. Vincenzo Romano, a diocesan priest from Torre de Greco in Italy; Bl. Maria Caterina Kasper, a German nun and founder of the Institute of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ; and Nazaria Ignazia of Saint Teresa of Jesus, founder of the Congregation of the Misioneras Cruzadas de la Iglesia Sisters.

As expected, the canonizations will take place during the 2018 Synod of Bishops on the topic of young people, the faith and vocational discernment, which is set to take place Oct. 3-28, 2018.

The Vatican had announced March 7 that Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero would be canonized following the recognition of a second miracle through their intercession.

Born Giovanni Montini in 1897 in the town of Concesio, Italy, the future Pope Paul VI was ordained a priest at the age of 22. He served as Archbishop of Milan prior to his election as Bishop of Rome in 1963.

As pope, he oversaw much of the Second Vatican Council, which had been opened by Pope St. John XXIII, and in 1969 promulgated a new Roman Missal. He died in 1978, and was beatified by Pope Francis Oct. 19, 2014.

Pope Francis himself unofficially confirmed the news of Paul VI's canonization during his annual meeting with the priests of Rome Feb. 17.

Apart from his role in the council, Paul VI is most widely know for his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was published in 1968 and reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception in wake of the sexual revolution. This year marks the 50th anniversary the historic encyclical.

Both miracles attributed to Paul VI's intercession involve the healing of an unborn child.

Bl. Oscar Romero, who was beatified by Pope Francis May 23, 2015, in El Salvador, was the archbishop of the nation's capital city of San Salvador. He was shot while celebrating Mass March 24, 1980, during the birth of a civil war between leftist guerrilla forces and the dictatorial government of the right.

An outspoken critic of the violence and injustices being committed at the time, Romero was declared a martyr who was killed in hatred of the faith for his vocal defense of human rights.

Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI to be canonized October 14

Vatican City, May 19, 2018 / 05:19 am (EWTN News/CNA).- Following a meeting between the Council of Cardinals and Pope Francis Saturday, the Vatican announced that Bl. Pope Paul VI and Bl. Oscar Romero will be canonized together on Oct. 14, 2018.

Title X restrictions on Planned Parenthood a 'major victory'

Washington D.C., May 18, 2018 / 04:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life advocates lauded a federal government proposal that aims to remove Title X funding from programs and facilities that promote and perform abortions.

“For too long, Title X has been used to subsidize the abortion industry. We need to draw a bright line between what happens before a pregnancy begins and what happens after a child has been created,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee.

In a May 18 statement, Dolan called the proposal “greatly needed and deeply appreciated.”  

“Abortion always takes the life of a child and often harms the mother, her surviving children, and other family and friends as well. Most Americans recognize that abortion is distinct from family planning and has no place in a taxpayer-funded family planning program,” he said.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, hailed the move as “a major victory” for the pro-life movement that helps “disentangle taxpayers from the abortion business.”

“The Protect Life Rule doesn’t cut a single dime from family planning,” she said. “It instead directs tax dollars to Title X centers that do not promote or perform abortions, such as the growing number of community and rural health centers that far outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities.”

The Health and Human Services Department on Friday filed a proposal with the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that abortion is not treated as a method of family planning under Title X.

While federal law currently prohibits money received through the Title X Family Planning Grant Program from being used for abortion, pro-life advocates have long voiced concern that this regulation is not always enforced.

The proposal will require a “bright line” of physical and financial separation between Title X programs and any program or facility that performs abortion, or supports or refers for abortion as a family planning method.

It will not decrease the amount of Title X funding, which annually provides $260 million for “family planning” purposes, including contraception, pregnancy testing, and infertility treatments.

Abby Johnson, a pro-life advocate who previously worked as a Planned Parenthood director, said in a statement that there was “never any separation of funds,” and that all money the clinic received, regardless of source, went into one account.

“It was all about the bottom line,” she said.

Title X funds make up a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s funding, money that Johnson believes the organization will recoup through its network of high-profile donors and supporters.

"They should have no problem making up those taxpayer dollars though with the support of celebrities, the fashion and tech industries, and Hollywood icons,” said Johnson. “But I’m grateful that my tax dollars will not fund Planned Parenthood.”

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that the proposal “is an attempt to take away women’s basic rights.”

“Under this rule, people will not get the health care they need. They won’t get birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, or even general women’s health exams.”

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called the proposal a “dangerous rule” that “should send shivers down the spine of everyone who ever wanted to know the facts and the truth about their own healthcare.”

However, Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), stressed that Planned Parenthood would not explicitly be defunded under the new proposal. Instead, it would be required to separate abortion from its services in order to continue receiving Title X funds.

“The Protect Life Rule is about choice. Planned Parenthood can stop performing abortions or stop receiving family planning funding,” Smith said. “For too long the abortion giant has utilized Title X funding—up to $60 million annually—to further their core mission of destroying unborn human life. The 1970 program is in dire need of reform, and today’s actions lead the way in redirecting the same amount of taxpayer dollars from the abortion industry to actual health care providers.”

Rep. Smith, the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, was one of more than 150 members of Congress who sent a letter to the Health and Human Services Department in April, asking that Title X dollars be prohibited from going to organizations that perform abortions.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri), another signatory of the letter, also applauded the proposal.

“The abortion industry should not be the recipient of taxpayer funded family planning programs,” she said. “This proposed rule will distinguish between health care facilities that provide family planning services and clinics whose business models promote, facilitate, and perform the inhumane act of abortion.”

While the new proposal could lead to Planned Parenthood losing about $60 million annually from Title X funding, the organization is still eligible to receive some $400 million from Medicaid reimbursements annually. Federal Medicaid funds are prohibited from going toward elective abortions, although pro-life advocates have also questioned how thoroughly that regulation is enforced.

The new HHS rule is based off a regulation issued by President Ronald Reagan, which was upheld by the Supreme Court, but was later reversed by President Bill Clinton. The new regulation differs from that of the Reagan era in that it will not ban Title X recipients from counseling clients about abortion.

Last year, Trump signed a repeal of an Obama-era regulation which had prohibited states from denying federal funds to health clinics solely on the grounds that they provided abortions.
 

How Meghan Markle's Catholic school is celebrating the Royal Wedding

Los Angeles, Calif., May 18, 2018 / 04:25 pm (CNA).- Flash mobs, sparkling lemonade, and video toasts to the happy couple are just some of the ways that a Catholic high school in California is celebrating their most popular alumna, soon-to-be royal Meghan Markle.

An American actress best known for her role on the T.V. series “Suits,” Markle attended middle school and high school at Immaculate Heart Catholic school outside of Los Angeles.

The school has taken the highly-anticipated wedding as a chance for celebration, including an outdoor pre-wedding celebration on Tuesday, complete with a group dance, fancy hats, toasts to Markle and both American and British flag-waving.  

Current Immaculate Heart students told media that they take inspiration from the fact that one of their own, who is a U.N. advocate for women and known for her humanitarian work, is being celebrated on the world stage.

“The idea that someone like her, who has had an upbringing so similar to ours, will now be able to voice her concerns on a global platform as an internationally recognized figure is a story that impacts so many young women, especially the young women at our school,” student Mia Speier said in a toast to Markle at the Tuesday event.

“She is from Los Angeles, she's half black, so I feel like no matter what ethnicity you are, no matter where you're from, you could actually make a big change in the world,” Immaculate Heart senior Chloe Hightower told "Good Morning America."

While teachers at the school recalled Markle as a bright and compassionate student with a knack for remembering names and stories, Markle says the teachers made a lasting impression on her as well.

Maria Pollia is an Immaculate Heart theology teacher whom Markle remembers especially fondly. In a recent interview, Markle recalled how Pollia inspired her when she said that “life is about putting others' needs above your own fears.”

“Yes, make sure you are safe and never, ever put yourself in a compromising situation, but once that is checked off the list, I think it's really important for us to remember that someone needs us, and that your act of giving/helping/doing can truly become an act of grace once you get out of your head,” Markle recalled in an interview for the book “The Game Changers: Success Secrets from Inspirational Women Changing The Game and Influencing The World.”

Pollia said she was humbled and proud to hear of her impact on Markle, whose humanitarian work since high school has impressed her former teacher.

“This is something that I think really fuels her, her joy and her heart. And I think it's wonderful to know that she is still that person, and that now with her place in the world, she'll be able to do that on an even greater scale,” Pollia told CNN. “I think that they are both very aware of that. And I think it's wonderful that they will be companions to each other on that journey.”

“She's bringing not just beauty and grace and smarts, but she's bringing this world consciousness,” Christine Knudsen, another former teacher of Markle's, told ABC News.

Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry has raised eyebrows not only for her Catholic ties, but also for her being half black, divorced, and an American, obstacles which just a few years ago may have disqualified the couple from ascending to the throne.

Father James Bradley, a Catholic priest in the U.K. and a former Anglican, told CNA in November that the excitement surrounding royal weddings “shows that even when, in some sense, the marriage isn’t everything we would want it to be, society as a whole has a natural inclination towards the good and towards what marriage represents.”

“So people see the goodness of marriage, even people who are opposed to the institution of marriage will cheer when a couple like this get married, or get engaged, because it takes a very hardened heart not to be happy that two people are seeking this good.”

Prince Harry and Markle will be married in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on Saturday.

Immaculate Heart will be hosting a (early) watch party for students and their families - most coverage of the event begins between 1-2 a.m. Pacific time.

 

Empty cradle, empty pews? What the low birth rate means for Catholics

Washington D.C., May 18, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Demographic reports indicate that the U.S. birth rate is at a 40-year low, with significant declines among Hispanic women. That low birth rate could mean declining Mass attendance because couples with children are more likely to attend church, one demographer says.

“It is the case that Catholics, Hispanic or not, tend to become more active in their faith when they marry and have children,” said Dr. Mark Gray, senior research associate at the Georgetown University-affiliated Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

“Thus, going to Mass frequently may not necessarily make a couple more open to having more children. Instead, having children may encourage parents to incorporate their faith in their family life more and thus lead to higher levels of attendance.”

Hispanic Catholics who attend Mass weekly on average have 2.89 children, compared to non-Hispanic Catholics who have 2.35, said Gray, citing General Social Survey figures.

“So it is accurate to say that more frequently Mass attending Catholics have more children,” Gray told CNA. “Hispanics who are not Catholic have 1.8 children, on average. Nearly half of Hispanic adults are not Catholic, 46 percent.”

At the same time, there are other aspects of the birth rate to consider.

“A growing rate of disaffiliation from Catholicism among Hispanics along with slightly lower rates of Mass attendance among Hispanic Catholics over the last decade could be having an effect on fertility decisions,” Gray added. “The economy is also important.”

The U.S. reached a 40-year low in the fertility rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control provisional estimate for 2017. There were about 3.85 million births last year, a total fertility rate of about 1.76 births per woman.

By comparison, the total fertility rate in 2007 was 2.08 children born per woman, with total births numbering as high as 4.31 million.

Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Charlottesville, Va.-based Institute for Family Studies, said the Hispanic birth rate appears to have declined the most.

“Solidly half of the missing kids over the last decade would have been born to Hispanic mothers, despite the fact that Hispanics only make up about a quarter of fertility-age women,” Stone said at the Institute for Family Studies website.

From 2008-2016, Hispanic women’s age-adjusted fertility rate fell from 2.85 births per woman to 2.1. They had about 19 percent fewer babies than they were on pace to have before 2008. This numbers about 2.2 million “missing births,” according to Stone.

By comparison, non-Hispanics’ fertility rate fell from 1.95 births per woman to 1.72. About 2.3 million “missing births” would be from these mothers.

Stone credited the birth rate decline among all groups mostly to changes in marriage and marital status.
“Births to never-married women are down more than births to ever-married women,” he said.

Since 2007, the age-adjusted fertility rate for married women is down 14 percent, while the never-married fertility rate is down 21 percent.

The statistics indicate the birth rate is falling more slowly for women with graduate degrees than women with bachelor’s degrees, while the birth rate is falling most for women with no bachelor’s degrees.

“Fertility declines are most strongly associated with factors that are race- or region-specific, not broadly class-specific, as different economic classes appear to have quite similar trends,” Stone said. “This doesn’t rule out all economic causes: there are important interactions between race and socioeconomic class.”

He suggested that economically-oriented solutions may have only “modest direct effects” on the birth rate.

The CARA research blog, edited by Gray, took a look at a similar time period, 2010-2016. It found a net loss in the U.S. Catholic population of 0.9 percent.

“This is a dynamic that is happening at the level of the family where it meets the parish community. Something is disconnected,” Gray said in a March 12, 2018 post.

Decline in marriage rates between Catholics and non-Catholics also mean a decline in non-Catholic spouses who convert to Catholicism. In 1996, 31 percent of all marriages were between Catholics and non-Catholics, compared to only 23 percent in 2015, Gray said.

“The most common reason given by adults converting to Catholicism for switching their religion is that they are marrying a Catholic. Fewer marriages in the Church between Catholics and non-Catholics will result in fewer adult entries into the faith.”

The retention rate among Hispanic Catholics appears to be slipping.

In 2010, 77 percent of Hispanics who were raised Catholic remained Catholic when surveyed, compared to 64 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics. By 2016, only 69 percent of Hispanic Catholics remained Catholic, compared to about 63 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics.

In 2010, 63 percent of all Hispanic adults in the U.S. self-identified as Catholic, compared to 54 percent six years later.

“Declining affiliation among Hispanic Catholics should be of great concern to the Church because a majority of Catholics under the age of 18, those of the iGen, are Hispanic,” said Gray, referring to the generation after the Millennials as “iGen.”

He suggested that descendants of immigrants from predominantly Catholic countries often show diminishing religious affiliation over time.

“Coming from a very Catholic country to one with abundant religious pluralism … is a dramatic cultural change,” he said.

The numbers could also reflect differences among Hispanics by national origin.

“In the United States, majorities of self-identified Mexicans, Dominicans, and Salvadorans self-identify their religion as Catholic,” said Gray. “However, minorities of Cubans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans say they are Catholic.”

More Mexican residents of the U.S. are returning to Mexico than entering, with a net population decline of about 140,000 U.S.-residing Mexicans from 2009 to 2014.

Catholic immigrants’ numbers are also on the decline compared to other immigrants.

Their chapel caught fire, but Salesian sisters remain thankful

Newark, N.J., May 18, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a fire destroyed their chapel just days before Pentecost, a community of Salesian sisters expressed gratitude for the first responders who extinguished the flames and saved the church’s tabernacle.

“Though our hearts are heavy, we are fortunate to be able to report that no one was harmed and that firemen were able to rescue the most precious item in the chapel: the tabernacle,” the Salesian Sisters of Saint John Bosco reported in a statement on Friday.

At 1:39am on May 18, a fire broke out at the sisters’ school, Mary Help of Christians Academy in North Haledon, New Jersey.

The blaze was a four-alarm fire, meaning at least 168 firefighters were on the scene. Fire departments from four municipalities provided support. The fire was finally snuffed out at 4am. The cause of the fire has not been released.

The chapel is regularly used by the school, and by the sisters residing nearby. The church was expected to be used for the school’s baccalaureate Mass on June 1 and commencement on June 2. The chapel was built in 1976 and renovated in 2016.

“During a morning assembly led by Principal Sr. Marisa DeRose, FMA, our community wept as photos of the charred altar, pews, and melted Peragallo pipe organ were shared, along with a warning to students to keep far from the building,” the statement said.

Despite their sorrow, the community expressed gratitude that the fire did not spread to other areas of the campus, and a donation to rebuild the chapel was received before the school day began.

“The Sisters, students,faculty, and staff of the Academy are devastated by this loss, but remain thankful to the dedicated firemen who contained the fire before it could cause additional damage to our facilities,” the sisters said.

“A testament to the strength of our community, the first donation to help rebuild the chapel was received from a faculty member before the school day had even begun; upon hearing about the blaze on the fire scanner radio, she was immediately moved to help.”

Mary Help of Christians Academy opened its doors in 1924. According to the academy’s website, the school teaches young women in the “charism of reason, religion and loving kindness as inspired by Saint John Bosco and Saint Mary Mazzarello.”