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By Peggy Weber

West Hartford, CONN. — More than three dozen teenagers and several dedicated volunteers gathered from Aug. 20-23 for a San Damiano Summer Camp and Retreat at the Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center.

These young people could have been at the beach or hanging out at home or working. Instead they chose to spend four days focused on their faith.

Conventual Franciscan Father Pedro DeOliveira helped guide the group which calls St. Stanislaus Basilica and Martyr Parish in Chicopee its home.

Deacon Joe Peters of St. Stanislaus and his wife, Jan, worked with the teens throughout the week. Jan used her incredible art talents to help the group create stained-glass windows from plastic!

Joe Dziok, who just returned from an internship with the Summer Olympics in London, worked with the teens, especially in the area of technology.

I was asked to speak to the group about the efforts of Catholic Communications and specifically about blogging.

It was a great chance to show our page and the wealth of information there.

I was lucky enough to have the assistance of my daughter, Elizabeth Weber Begley, who helped me click through YouTube, Facebook, and other pages on the diocesan news site.

The youngsters were polite, attentive and really, really nice!!

They created a blog for their parish and engaged in other creative and technical projects. They also interacted with singing evangelist Michael Poirier and his family and focused on The Divine Mercy.

Catholic Communications hopes to hear from the teens as they learn to express their faith in a variety of media.

And Catholic Communications also hopes that these savvy teens will follow Catholic Communications on Twitter and “like” them on Facebook.

Photos by Jeremiah Begley


Editor’s note: This essay was written by a diocesan seminarian. He and the subject remain anonymous so that the essay will praise all priests.

This summer I have been assigned to work with a truly unique man who is a wonderful priest and role model.  I would like to describe him for you.  I won’t name him because I expect that whatever town that you live in you will know a priest like him.  The Diocese of Springfield has been blessed with a presbyterate made up of great men who, despite what the press may say, quietly toil in the “vineyard” and accomplish some amazing things every day!  They have devoted their lives to bringing the love of Christ their parishes.

My supervisor this summer is a “street priest”.  While I have always heard that expression I thought that it was an outdated term that referred to the ‘hippie” or “anti-war priests” of the sixties and seventies, the guys who lived on the Boston Common or in the homeless shelters.  It was not always a compliment to be described as a “street priest”.   Today the term is very complimentary.  My boss, the street priest, is a living example of the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel always, if you have to, use words.”

This guy lives the beatitudes.  The expectations expressed by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel are not theoretical to him.  Every day he is out “on the street” interacting with “God’s people”.  He can often be found handing out bags of food to the hungry or cold drinks to the thirsty.

He dashes off to the hospitals to comfort the sick and relies on Google maps to guide him to the homebound.  On a regular basis he visits area prisons to make sure “his boys don’t need anything.”

He gives voice to the marginalized and challenges the rest of us to move out of our comfort zones and live the gospel message.  If you’re down on your luck; if you have made some poor choices in life; if you’re confused or desperate he is your man!

He’s not perfect.  My seminary professors would not be impressed by his liturgical style and although his homilies are interesting and often passionate no one will ever describe him as a great preacher.  His singing is downright awful.  He has a quirky personality and an annoying amount of energy…But none of that matters because he has boundless love for his neighbor and his Church.  He is a great evangelist, he just doesn’t use words.   He offers an open mind and a warm heart to everyone that he meets.  He doesn’t judge, he serves!

In return his parishioners love him.  As part of my “internship” this summer he took me to visit his “old parish”, a parish he left almost ten years ago.  You would never know that he had been away.  As we walked down the local streets I was amazed by the number of “passersby” who beeped and stopped to say hello to “their priest”.  The children of his old parish had grown up but still waved and laughed with him.  Old youth group members were now pushing baby carriages down Main Street and were excited to have the opportunity to introduce their children to this great priest.  Two people, who had been gang members and prisoners, stopped to tell us about what “the street priest” had done for them and how they were able to turn their lives around “because of him”.  A five block walk took almost an hour because of this impromptu outpouring of love.  “His people” stood on street corners and sat on stoops and in each place we were greeted with big smiles and incredible stories.

There have been many books written these days that focus on the problems of the Catholic Church and the future of the priesthood.  Some of these tomes raise very good points and make valuable contributions but anyone who has serious doubts about the goodness of priests or the future of the Church should spend a few hours walking through the parish with their “street priest”.  The future of this Diocese is very bright.  The priests of this diocese are incredible.  Please pray for them and maybe consider joining them in bringing the Love of Christ to the streets.  Do you have what it takes to be a “street priest”?

U.S. Catholics’ Satisfaction with Bishops Up to 70 Percent

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Director of Media Relations
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
U.S. Catholics’ satisfaction with bishops leaped from 51 to 70 percent in the last decade, according to the Pew Forum. That’s impressive, though it is hard to imagine a lower point than 2002, when Catholics saw a flood of news on clerical sexual abuse of minors.  To copy Queen Elizabeth’s description of 1992, when one of her sons divorced and Windsor Castle erupted in flames, 2002 was the church’s Annus Horribilis.
Causes of the uptick may be many: steadfastness, action in a crisis, and the bishops’ courage to walk forth when they probably would have preferred to hide in a hole. Steadfastness in troubled times means serious leadership
The Pew Forum measured current satisfaction with bishops against feelings a decade ago when the bishops faced the fact that sexual abuse of minors by clergy was a horrific reality in the church. The news had been simmering but broke out big time in Boston in January 2002. Six months later a few thousand media showed up at the bishops’ June meeting in Dallas to see how the bishops would fix the problem.
To their credit, the bishops acted. They developed theCharter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a 17-article promise to forthrightly confront child sexual abuse. They set up review boards comprised primarily of lay people to evaluate reported cases. They launched a massive educational campaign for professional staff and volunteers who work with minors and educated the minors themselves on appropriate interaction between themselves and adults. They established a compliance audit system for the Charter.
Today as the Boy Scouts, Penn State, and public and private schools address sexual abuse of minors in their ranks, people hear them promise to do what the church has already been doing for ten years. They include enforcing prevention strategies, such as not allowing minors to be alone with adults on outings; conducting background checks to eliminate unsavory characters attracted to youth; and educating children and adults about principles of healthy interaction, including the kindergarten rule: keep your hands to yourself.
With media reports of sexual abuse in youth groups and in public and private schools, Catholics saw that abuse is a tragic human problem, but not one rooted in clerical celibacy or Catholicism. They saw that sexual abuse of minors crosses all levels of society and exists more often in the home than outside it. All of which started to calm their earlier justifiable rage at “the bishops.”
The bishops’ facing the problem led to Catholics’ increased confidence. People  find reassurance in results too, and, though any instance of abuse is reprehensible, there is hope in the fact that in the last audit period (2011) there were only seven accusations of minors molested by clerics deemed credible by law enforcement – that in a church of 77.7 million U.S. Catholics. That’s enough reason to make the satisfaction rate soar.
Other factors fed the uptick. Though shamed by the scandal, bishops remained bishops. They faced financial crises squarely, confirmed youth in parishes, led dioceses in prayer and held the line on church teaching in the public square. They now maintain the high satisfaction rate despite seeming to be the sole voice for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the nation.
The bishops have other positions that seem to please no one. For example, they still want universal health care – they’ve sought it for decades – with particular concern for the plight of the poor and protection of innocent and fragile lives. Ironically, though their quite broad positions would protect so many, their positions right now please so few.
The bishops may take some satisfaction in an approval rating of 70 percent, but raising poll numbers was never their goal. The year 2012 still presents challenges, especially in the area of sexual abuse, which demands constant vigilance and transparency. Pew numbers show, however, that people are with the bishops, which ought to be a measure of comfort in still trying times.
By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Director of Media Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
A recent sign of technology in church was a man watching the Olympics on his Smartphone. He may be among those very few Catholics who, the Public Religion Research Institute says, “incorporate technology into their practice of worship.”
Public Religion’s July 2012 report finds that few Americans use social technology for religion and that Catholics especially lag in this area: while 19 percent of Evangelical Christians reported having posted something about being in church on Facebook, only six percent of mainline Protestants and two percent of Catholics have done so. It added that while a quarter of Evangelicals have downloaded or listened to a sermon on line, just six percent of mainline Protestants and Catholics have done so.
However, there is much proof that Catholics are present in the new media world via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, web pages and other forms of social media.
The U.S. bishops’ website, attracts almost 100,000 visitors each day to its site for liturgical readings of the day, These visitors see and hear a brief reflection on the readings
            The bishops’ Facebook page,,boasts about 40,000 followers and is growing. Posts on USCCBlog, found at find their way into other corners of the blogosphere, both through church blogs, such as America Magazine’s “In all things…” and blogs in the secular arena, including Huffington Post, Politico, Washington’sPost’s “On Faith” and USA Today’s “Faith & Reason.”
A recent social media foray is the church’s religious liberty texting campaign. The bishops urge people to text “Freedom” or Libertad” to 377377. Texters can sign up for brief messages about religious freedom, a key issue now.
            Church blogs abound. Gossip blogs offer “inside” information, such as who might become a bishop next. Several blogs feed a liberal or conservative base, and, I fear, stoke church polarization in this election year.
Some bishops blog. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, files a “Monday Memo” at Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York often makes news at Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston lets people know what he’s doing on his travels Others, such as Bishop Christopher Coyne, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas, post homilies, or at least 140 characters from their homilies, on Facebook or Twitter.
            Catholics who use the Web for spiritual development can go to many sites, including not only the USCCB site but also sites geared to meditation, such as the Irish Jesuits’ http://www.sacred and Franciscan Father Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico,
 The church has a long history of wise use of media technology. Once Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type in the mid-15th century, the first book off his printing press was the Bible. Radio became popular in the United States in the early 20thcentury, and one of its first shows was “The Catholic Hour,” which ran from 1930-1950, and featured the priest/preacher Fulton Sheen.
Television surged into popularity in the fifties and Sheen became an Emmy-Award-winning TV star for his program “Life Is Worth Living,” 1951-1957. The syndicated “Fulton Sheen Program” followed, 1961-1968. Given this history, despite the Public Religion Research Institute data, the Catholic Church won’t lag for long in use of the newest technological means of communication, social media.