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How one Hawaiian Catholic family got ready for the missile that never came

Honolulu, Hawaii, Jan 16, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It started out as a regular Saturday morning for most Hawaiians, including Dallas and Monica Carter and their five children.

Monica was getting breakfast ready for the kids before a busy day when the warning blared across smartphone screens throughout the island:

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

It was the same kind of warnings Hawaiians are used to receiving for tsunamis and hurricanes - the kind of warning they’re used to heeding.

“That was quite terrifying, of course,” Dallas Carter, a theology lecturer for the Diocese of Honolulu, told CNA. Immediately, Dallas and Monica sprang into action, albeit in different ways.

Looking back, “it was a great dynamic to see how we reacted together but in different ways to the same crisis,” he said.

Dallas said he had four thoughts once he had processed the alert. The first was: “Oh (no) I haven’t gone to confession yet!” It was Saturday, and the family often goes on Sundays before Mass.

“Number two was, ok, how do I do this perfect contrition thing? Number three was we have to get the kids praying rosary, and number four was ‘where’s my whiskey,’” he recalled.

Soon after the initial warning, Dallas ran to the neighbors to see if they had gotten the same alert, and checked on some elderly neighbors while formulating a possible plan to get his family to the shelter of his concrete classroom.

When he ran back inside the house, he found that his wife had placed the family’s Our Lady of Guadalupe statue in the middle of the breakfast table, and all of the kids were praying the rosary. She had not long ago read a story about Jesuits in Hiroshima who were spared during the atomic bomb, and was inspired to start praying the rosary in part because of their story.

“My wife did probably the more important thing and she prayed,” he said.

“She said we can try to get to the classroom, but if the bomb hits, we’re goners, but what we can do is pray,” Dallas recalled. “The best possibility (of surviving) isn’t my concrete classroom, the best possibility is that the Blessed Mother provide us a miracle.”

Mariah, 11, the eldest of the Carter siblings, was awakened by her nine-year-old brother who ran into her room telling her there about the bomb threat.

“I remember thinking what’s going on? I literally just wanted to pray, I wanted to pray,” Mariah told CNA.

“I concentrated so hard on the rosary, I was like ‘come on Mary I know you can do this,’” she said.

Dallas said his 9 year-old son kept asking if they were going to die, and he wasn’t sure how to answer, objectively.

“That’s the first time in our lives that my kid asked me that, and I didn’t know what to say,” he said. Dallas and Monica tried to comfort their son by telling him it was an adventure that the whole family was on together.

After a few minutes, the family caught a glimmer of hope amidst the initial terror when Dallas called to check in on his parents, who were skeptical of the alert in the first place. Because they don’t have smartphones, they weren’t used to receiving alerts in that way, and thought it somehow must have been a fluke.

Furthermore, the missile sirens, which were tested on a monthly basis on the island, had not gone off at all, another sign that perhaps not all was as dire as it seemed.  

Desperate for news, Dallas ran to his truck to turn on the radio. Instead of hearing static, or more warnings, he heard a football game and talk radio - nothing out of the ordinary.

The family started to breath a little easier, but they would wait - along with the rest of the island - for another 30 minutes before they got the official all-clear. They would later learn that the false message was an error on the part of an employee at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.  

After that, most of the rest of their plans for the day fell through - its hard to go about your business after thinking your obliteration imminent.

The next day was Sunday, and his family’s parish was packed, a phenomenon he has personally dubbed the #MissileConversions. The pews were filled, and the line for confession was out the door. Friends from throughout the island said their parishes were the same.

Even though the crisis was a false alarm, Dallas said he and his family joined the confession line anyway, as a way of giving thanks for being able to go to confession again.

In his homily, the priest tried to bring a little levity to the grave situation that had caused so many to fill the pews out of a strange mix of subsequent fear and gratitude, Dallas said.

“He said you know that bible verse where it says Jesus will come again like a thief in the night? Well it looks like he almost came like a thief in the morning,” Dallas recalled.

Afterward Mass, the whole parish community had a barbeque at the beach.

“Yesterday’s beach session with friends and family was just the right amount of post-missile scare therapy,” he said.  

The harrowing experience also taught Dallas a few things in terms of material, and more importantly, spiritual, preparation.

Materially, he said, he found his hand-held radio and placed it in a prominent place on his desk, so that he wouldn’t have to run out to his truck in an emergency situation.

Spiritually, he said he learned: “Don’t play around with grace. Be in the state of grace, be prepared,” he said.

“And it doesn’t mean to get on your knees and don’t take shelter, but have the spiritual part ready. Don’t forget to recourse to the greatest resource we have in situations like that, which is prayer, especially to the Blessed Mother who isn’t going to let her children suffer and go through something that isn’t the will of God,” he said.

On a lighter note, he said he also learned: “Have the whiskey more readily available. I’d have the rosary in one hand and my favorite whiskey in the other.”

 

Meet the spiritual powerhouses of the pro-life movement

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2018 / 02:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Walk along in the March for Life and you may see them: a swarm of women – many of them young – dressed in long blue habits, white veils blowing in the breeze.

They are the Sisters of Life and they have  a message for women and for the pro-life movement: “You are not alone.”

“We really see ourselves primarily as a spiritual entity that intercedes for and upholds the work of the pro-life movement,” explained Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SV, Vicar General of the Sisters of Life.

She also said she hopes that the pro-life movement knows that they can depend upon the Sisters’ prayers and support: “They are not alone and they have a family of Sisters who love them very much and are praying for them daily.”

Joseph Zwilling, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New York, where the Sisters of Life were founded, said he believes the Sisters of Life have already made a tremendous impact on the culture since their founding. “It’s about 25 years later and the Sisters of Life are growing, they’re thriving and they’re everywhere” he told CNA.

“Help Wanted: Sisters of Life”

While it may be impossible to quantify the full impact of the Sisters’ prayers and efforts, Zwilling said, “I truly believe that they have helped through their prayer, through their example, they’ve helped to change people’s minds and hearts about this issue.”

“I think that in the long run that’s going to be their greatest contribution.”

The Sisters’ journey began in 1990 with a newspaper column by then-Cardinal John O’Connor of New York. “This really was the brainchild of Cardinal O’Connor,” Zwilling said.

In the 1990s Cardinal O'Connor was a prominent leader in the pro-life movement in the Church and in the country, and saw the issue of abortion as one of the most pressing need of the time. Before acting, the cardinal reflected on the long history within the Church of the Holy Spirit giving life to religious communities able to meet these these challenges.

Cardinal O’Connor suggested  in his column that it was time for another order able to respond to the challenges of abortion. The piece was titled simply: "Help Wanted: Sisters of Life.”

Eight sisters answered the call, formally founding a community on June 1, 1991. During this time, they lived temporarily with the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate in the Bronx, praying, fasting, attending Eucharistic adoration, and discerning their vocations.

Sr. Josamarie, SV, was one of these first women to join the Sisters of Life. “None of us had been religious sisters before,” she said of herself and the other seven women who were part of the initial novice class. Moreover, God “called us from various things” – the young women had such backgrounds as scientists, college professors, and librarians.

As the sisters prepared themselves for a life of prayer and ministry to the most vulnerable in society, Cardinal O’Connor also introduced the Sisters of Life to members of the pro-life movement, including Mother Teresa.

Today, the order is thriving, with more than 100 Sisters, whose average age is mid-30s.

Sr. Mary Elizabeth joined the Sisters of Life in 1993 after graduating from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, having heard the cardinal talk on campus during her junior year. Already involved in pro-life activism, Sr. Mary Elizabeth explained that she “wanted to be part of the solution, offering other options to women” who felt like they had no options and turned to abortion out of desperation.

A Life of Prayer

The foundation of the Sisters of Life ministry and daily life is prayer and contemplation, explained Sister Mary Elizabeth. “Our spirituality is Eucharistic-centered and Marian,” she told CNA. In each of their convents, the Sisters participate in Mass and spend a Holy Hour in Eucharistic adoration daily. In addition, the sisters gather together to pray the Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day.

As part of the group’s Marian focus, the Sisters of Life also pray a rosary together “to support the works of the pro-life movement in our country and throughout the world each day.”

The Sisters of Life also draw upon the example of Mary in their spirituality, and from there, the way they engage other aspects of their lives: “A deep part of our spiritual life is living out a spiritual maternity, and so we take Mary as our model.” Sister Mary Elizabeth said the sisters’ goal is to carry Christ’s presence with them and to echo Mary’s “yes” to life and to Christ.



The Sisters of Life from The Sisters of Life on Vimeo.

One of the examples of Mary’s maternity they seek to emulate is her decision to journey forth and visit her cousin, Elizabeth, after the Annunciation. “Just as at the Visitation the presence of Jesus in Mary radiated out” and filled her cousin with joy, Sr. Mary Elizabeth said, “so we can have the same life and power dwelling within us and radiating out from us to touch all those women that we encounter every day who are pregnant and in need and hopefully them with joy and with hope.”

The sisters also seek to bring the example of Mary’s receptivity and welcome into the way they treat people – by recognizing the unique dignity of every person. When sisters encounter someone, Sr. Mary Elizabeth said, “we’re not in a rush, we’re not in a hurry.” This patience and attention, she continued, is “deeply rooted in our belief that every human person is created as a unique manifestation of God.”

“It’s a way we live out our spiritual maternity,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth noted.

As a contemplative and apostolic order, however, their prayer life does not stop at the sanctuary doors, but carries over into their ministry, too. “Our prayer kind of fuels our apostolic efforts, and then our apostolate brings us back to prayer,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth noted. “We can bring all those people we are working with to the Lord throughout the day.”

A Mission to Save Lives

The ministry of the Sisters of Life’s apostolate is focused upon the defense of human life at all stages. Sisters in each of the convents participate in a range of missions, from ministry with women facing crisis pregnancies or regret after an abortion to study of bioethics and theology.

At the center of the Sisters of Life’s apostolate is the Holy Respite Mission, a sanctuary in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for pregnant women in crisis situations to come and live with the sisters, join in the community and prayer life of the sisters, and stay until they are ready to go back into the world after the birth of their child. Women typically stay with the sisters between six months and a year.

Just a few blocks uptown lies the sisters’ Visitation Mission, which offers “practical support and compassion to women who are pregnant and find themselves in a crisis,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth explained. “Most of the women that come to us have been abandoned by everyone and are unsure of what they’re going to do.” The Sisters of Life serve around 1,000 women each year.  

The sisters, along with a crew of volunteer lay helpers called the Co-Workers of Life, provide women with the practical support they need. “We provide everything,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth elaborated, from physical needs like diapers, bottles, strollers, cribs, baby clothes, and maternity clothes, to other forms of aid like helping women find safe housing, moving help, navigating challenges with college administrators or employers, writing resumes, and finding jobs.

In addition, some Co-Workers of Life open their homes as a safe space for women in crisis and offer their friendship and support. Even simple gestures like talking or texting with expectant mothers can be an immense help for women with few other sources of support.

“They’re being pressured into having an abortion by their family, by their friends, by the medical community, their employers – it’s really outrageous,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth said. “They just need someone who’s supporting them and encouraging them in their decision to keep their child.”

Another important service the Sisters of Life provide is hope and healing outreach to women who have had abortions. “From the beginning, Cardinal O’Connor was very sensitive to those who had suffered the wounds of abortion,” explained Sr. Josamarie. Many women, she continued, feel pressured into abortion and then are left to suffer through the emotions alone afterwards.

Sisters provide opportunities to “work through” feelings of grief, anger and other emotions by counseling women, as well as offering specialized retreats where women also have access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, in addition to someone who will listen to them as they process their experience.

“It’s our experience that women hold this secret and don’t speak about it to others,” Sr. Mary Elizabeth added on the experience of post-abortive women. “It’s a tremendous burden that they handle alone.”

Finally, the sisters engage in a range of outreach and evangelization activities through their retreat center in Stamford, Conn., and their presence at pro-life and Catholic events such as World Youth Day, the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and the Walk For Life in San Francisco. These activities compliment the education work the sisters do through their pro-life library, their support of the Respect Life/Family Life Office for the Archdiocese of New York, research in their House of Studies in Maryland, and talks on college campuses and in parishes.

With their lives dedicated to the defense of life every day of the year, the Sisters aim to revitalize a love for life in the world.

Their hope, Sister Mary Elizabeth said, is to be “a spiritual force that generates a new culture of life within the minds of hearts of men and women across the world.”

If the thousands of lives they touch every year are any indication, they are well on their way.

This article was originally published on CNA Jan. 27, 2017.

Florida lawmakers consider mandatory ‘marriage prep’ guide

Tallahassee, Fla., Jan 16, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A bill presented to the Florida House of Representatives on Jan. 8 would require couples to review a state-published “Healthy Marriage Guide” before tying the knot.

“The statistics have been staggering over the years for divorces and kind of the subsequent problems that go along with that, like children who don’t have families that are put together,” said Republican Representative, Clay Yarborough, according to CBS 47.

Yarborough introduced the bill to the state House days after Republican Kelli Stargel introduced a version of it to the Senate.

The legislation would establish the Marriage Education Committee, who will be appointed by Florida’s Senate president, state speaker of the house, and the state’s governor. The six-person committee would develop the guide, serving a maximum term of one year.

Couples would be required to read the guide as a prerequisite for a marriage license. The guide would cover communication skills, fiscal control, conflict management, spousal abuse, and parenting responsibilities.

Additionally, the guide would offer marital advice and resources for extra premarital education or for potentially failing marriages.

The legislation’s supporters say that money for the project will be funded by private sources, but the financial backers have not been clearly identified.

If passed, the act would take effect in July 1, 2018.

Syrian bishop narrowly avoids death in bombing

Damascus, Syria, Jan 15, 2018 / 06:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A bomb fell in the bedroom of the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus last week. He was spared death, he says, only because of a providential trip to the lavatory.

Archbishop Samir Nassar related that a shell fell on his bed the afternoon of Jan. 8, when he had been taking a nap. He got up to go to the bathroom shortly before the bomb hit his room, and he said that “a few seconds at the sink saved my life!”

“Providence watches over his little servant, but now I am exiled like 12 million Syrian refugees who have nothing left,” he told Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Archbishop Nassar's cathedral was heavily damaged. He said that “The doors of the cathedral and 43 windows and doors have to be replaced, holes need to be filled, fuel tanks and water tanks need repairing, as does the electricity network.”

Aid to the Church in Need reports that 10 shells fell that day in various areas of Damascus. A bomb fell in the courtyard of the Melkite patriarchate, and the Sisters of Jesus and Mary convent was also damaged.

Seven people were hospitalized from the convent, and Sister Annie Demerjian told Aid to the Church in Need, “It was the providence of God that we were not in the room.”

Archbishop Nassar said that “violence is the only master – innocents are being sacrificed every day.”

Since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011, more than 400,000 people have been killed. At least 4.8 million have become refugees, and another 8 million have been internally displaced.

What began as demonstrations against the nation's Ba'athist president, Bashar al-Assad, has become a complex fight among the Syrian regime; moderate rebels; Kurds; and Islamists such as Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State.

On flight to Chile, Pope gives journalists photo showing 'fruits of war'

Aboard the papal plane, Jan 15, 2018 / 05:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- En route from Italy to Chile on Monday, Pope Francis told journalists of his concerns about war, and especially the use of nuclear weapons, giving each of them a photo of a child in Nagasaki.

On the back of the photo is printed “the fruits of war”, and it is signed by Pope Francis.

“I was moved when I saw this photo, and I dared to write only 'the fruits of war'. I thought of printing it to distribute it because it is more moving than 1,000 words,” the Pope told journalists Jan. 15.

The photo is of a boy carrying the body of his brother while in line at a crematorium in Nagasaki in the wake of the Aug. 9, 1945 atomic bombing of the city by the US.

Pope Francis made his remarks at the beginning of the nearly 16 hour flight.

He also noted that he studied in Chile for a year and knows the country well. He will also be visiting Peru, where he has visited two or three times.

The Pope will be in Chile through Jan. 18, visiting Santiago, Temuco, and Iquique. He will have lunch with the Mapuche residents of the Araucania region, and visit the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

From Chile he will go to Peru, visiting Lima, Puerto Maldonado, and Trujillo. He will meet with indigenous Amazonians and pray before the relics of Peruvian saints before returning to Rome Jan. 22.