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What would Thomas Aquinas make of AI?

An illustration of the topic of Thomas Aquinas and AI created by DALL-E, a text-to-image model native to ChatGPT. / Credit: DALL-E/OpenAI

CNA Staff, Feb 20, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

According to one German theologian, the Catholic saint and doctor of the Church can contribute to contemporary discussions about AI’s risks and role in society. 

Francisco and Jacinta: brother and sister saints who were seers at Fatima

Official portrait of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, designed by Silvia Patricio. Courtesy of the Fatima Shrine. / null

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 20, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

On Feb. 20, the Church celebrates the lives of two children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the seers of the Fatima apparitions canonized in 2017.

Texas Priest Arrested Over Allegation of Sexual Misconduct With Minor

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Texas priest arrested over allegation of sexual misconduct with minor

Father Fernando Gonzalez, / Credit: Cameron County Sheriff’s Department

CNA Staff, Feb 19, 2024 / 14:51 pm (CNA).

A priest in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, has been arrested after being accused of sexual misconduct with a minor victim. 

Brownsville Bishop Daniel Flores said in a statement last week that diocesan officials had “received an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor by Father Fernando Gonzalez.”

Flores had received the report in early February from the diocesan victim’s assistance coordinator. The following day he “removed [Gonzalez] from active ministry” and “prohibited him from exercising any priestly ministry anywhere.” 

“The individual who came forward, who is now an adult, spoke to the Diocesan Victim’s Assistance Coordinator and was advised to report the allegation to the police,” the bishop said. “The investigation is in the hands of law enforcement and is ongoing. The diocese will fully cooperate with the investigation.”

Law enforcement reportedly arrested the priest last week. The Cameron County Sheriff’s Department lists Gonzalez as arrested on charges of sexual abuse of a child and “trafficking of persons.” His total bond appeared to be set at $600,000. 

The Cameron County District Attorney’s office told local media that as part of his bond conditions Gonzalez “must install an ankle monitor before release, surrender his passport, and not leave Cameron County” while the case is pending.

Prior to the charges the priest had served as pastor of St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Brownsville. As of Monday Gonzalez had been removed from the parish website’s list of parish staff.

“I am deeply saddened and ask you to join me as I pray for the individual who came forward and the family, and all the parties affected, including parishioners and the clergy across our diocese who tend to their faithful with fidelity and compassion,” Flores said in his statement.

Rome to host 7th Day of the Catacombs, opportunity to reflect on early Christians

An archaeological guide provided historical information and answered questions during a visit to the catacombs by delegates of the Synod on Synodality. Early Christians gathered within the catacombs for funeral rites and to honor the martyrs. Rome, Italy. Oct. 12, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Feb 19, 2024 / 13:50 pm (CNA).

Rome's catacombs will be open to the public for free guided tours and moments of prayer and reflection on Saturday, March 2.

PHOTOS: Cardinal Rugambwa takes possession of Rome’s ‘Church of the Artists’

Cardinal Protase Rugambwa at Santa Maria in Montesanto, Feb. 18 / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Feb 19, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

The cardinal was joined by priests from the Diocese of Rome as well as by senior prelates.

Archbishop Vigneron rallies Catholics to engage in a spiritual ‘campaign’ this Lent

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron imposes ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb. 14, 2024, at St. Aloysius Parish in downtown Detroit. Archbishop Vigneron encouraged Catholics to think of this Lenten season as a military campaign proclaiming the kingdom of Christ. / Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic

Detroit, Mich., Feb 19, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron issued a spiritual call to arms to Detroit’s Catholics this Lenten season, explaining how by accepting ashes, they have engaged in a 40-day campaign to overcome sin.

The archbishop gave his traditional preaching during the midday Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb. 14 at St. Aloysius Parish, a few blocks from Detroit’s Campus Martius Park, home of the Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

Reflecting on the martial language featured in the collect of the Mass — “Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint” — Vigneron invited the faithful to think of Lent beyond the usual reference of 40 days in the desert or as a spiritual retreat.

“Maybe as you were thinking this morning about beginning Lent and taking the ashes of repentance, you didn’t realize you were enlisting in a military campaign,” Vigneron said. “But that is one way the Church has for us to think about what we are doing over the next 40 days.”

Lent is a very personal journey, the archbishop said, but is a journey one makes with the catechumens who will be entering the Church at Easter and the entire faithful, who will be renewing their baptismal vows and their identity as Jesus’ disciples. 

The Lenten season is compromised of three main pillars: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, all of which help us strive to be better followers of Christ, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron said. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic
The Lenten season is compromised of three main pillars: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, all of which help us strive to be better followers of Christ, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron said. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic

It is a communal campaign centered on three core tenets prescribed in the Scriptures: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But the archbishop challenged the congregation to think “outside the box” of what Lent can be.

“This is a way for the Church to think about Lent as a military campaign, so that we can have some new energy,” Vigneron said. “I’m in my 76th year, so from the age of reason, about 70 of these I’ve done. But this might be a fresh perspective for all of us to think about how Lent is a kind of military campaign that we are enlisting in today by taking up the ashes.”

By choosing to come to church on Ash Wednesday and accepting the ashes placed upon one’s forehead, people are deciding to “re-up” in the campaign to be ambassadors for Christ, to live for something beyond one’s pleasure and self-satisfaction, he said.

“The Holy Spirit brought you here today, inspired you to leave your pew and come forward and let the ashes be imposed on you,” Vigneron said. “You want to be a soldier, a warrior in the great war led by our captain, Jesus Christ. The war [is] against sin. The war [is] to establish the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of holiness, the kingdom of charity.”

Father Mario Amore of St. Aloysius Parish greets parishioners after Mass. Archbishop Allen Vigneron challenged Catholics gathered on Ash Wednesday to consider how God is calling them to engage in a great campaign to win back the world for Christ. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic
Father Mario Amore of St. Aloysius Parish greets parishioners after Mass. Archbishop Allen Vigneron challenged Catholics gathered on Ash Wednesday to consider how God is calling them to engage in a great campaign to win back the world for Christ. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic

The faithful were handed information about the Lenten campaign and ways to get involved and grow in holiness, including the Archdiocese of Detroit’s I AM HERE Lenten Challenge, featuring daily trivia questions on what’s happening during Mass, powered by the Hallow app.

Vigneron said even if a person hasn’t figured out what he or she wants to do for Lent, it’s not too late to reflect and hear what God is calling them to take on during this holy season.

But he did point to a key resource that will power them along the journey: the Eucharist.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron said the Eucharist serves as the faithful's "ration" during this Lenten campaign. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic
Archbishop Allen Vigneron said the Eucharist serves as the faithful's "ration" during this Lenten campaign. Credit: Valaurian Waller/Detroit Catholic

“During this year of Eucharistic revival, realize the Eucharist is our ration for us as soldiers in this great struggle,” Vigneron said. “This is the most important struggle anyone can be engaged with in life: the struggle to be a saint, the struggle to be God’s daughter, to be God’s son, the struggle to be the person that God created me to be, that he wants me to be by the power of the grace of baptism.”

And even as it seems this battle is just beginning this Lenten season, Vigneron assured the congregation of its outcome.

“I promise you victory,” Vigneron said. “I promise you we have won. That is what Easter means. Yes, we engage in the struggle, but we know how the war ends. It ends in Christ’s victory.”

This article was originally published at Detroit Catholic and is reprinted here with permission.

‘Guadalupe: Mother of Humanity’ opens Feb. 22 in U.S. theaters

Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 19, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Goya Producciones has announced that the film “Guadalupe: Mother of Humanity” will premiere on Feb. 22 in the United States (with English subtitles), Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, and Chile.

“Shot on location in Mexico, the United States, Spain, and Germany, the feature film opens with powerful fictionalized recreations of the five apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Guadalupe in 1531, inspired by the original true account of St. Juan Diego,” said a press release sent to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. 

Spanish filmmaker Pablo Moreno directed the portion of the film that includes powerful testimonies and features actress Karyme Lozano as presenter, Angelica Chong as the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Mario Alberto Hernandez as Juan Diego. Pepe Alonso, popular EWTN host, does the narration.

The film debuts in Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay on Feb. 29, in Spain on March 1, and in Brazil on May 2.

The movie tells the true story of a Hollywood producer who owes his life to Our Lady of Guadalupe; a movie actress who prays to her in the midst of the hustle and bustle of filming; two converts from crime and drug trafficking; and a post-abortive woman who recovers her faith and the desire to live thanks to Our Lady. 

The archbishop of Los Angeles, José H. Gómez, also testifies to the miracles attributed to the Virgin of Guadalupe in that city.

Andrés Garrigó, the overall director of the film, “shows us the dramatic history of pre-Hispanic Mexico at the time of arrival of the Spaniards and how, after the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the people abandoned in masse the bloody human sacrifices to embrace Christianity,” the press release explained.

“With the help of the latest technologies, the film reveals the messages hidden in the tilma, the miraculous cloth on which the image of the Virgin Mary was

captured: the human images that appear in her eyes, the meaning of the stars, and other drawings on the mantle,” the release added.

“With this movie, we set ourselves a very high goal: to recreate in the hearts of people today the marvelous effect that the apparitions of the Virgin of

Guadalupe had 500 years ago. We can now offer many people the joy of

experiencing them again,” stated director Garrigó.

More information about the film can be found here.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

New wilderness program for seminarians promises to ‘strengthen faith and brotherhood’

Incoming students at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, are required to take a three-week wilderness trek that challenges them both body and soul. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Aeja DeKuiper

Cheyenne, Wyo., Feb 18, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A small Catholic college in Lander, Wyoming, has launched a new program that challenges seminarians with wilderness experiences to strengthen their faith, vocations, and pastoral skills as eventual priests.

Wyoming Catholic College (WCC), known for its rigorous academics and COR Expeditions, offers backcountry treks to high school students, families, and undergraduates as well as specific seminaries such Holy Trinity in Irving, Texas, and the New York-based Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. But its new St. Jogues Seminarian Project is open to individual seminarians ages 18+ from dioceses throughout the country. 

Applications are now being accepted for the 10-week summerlong program, which includes multi-day backcountry hikes in the Rocky Mountains for 12 men and a priest with daily Mass and adoration followed by practical pastoral experience with homeless people in urban environments. The program begins the first week of June.

Thomas Zimmer, Ph.D., and Andre Klaes of COR Expeditions told CNA that the project is named for the heroic martyr St. Isaac Jogues, a French Jesuit missionary priest who spread the Gospel in North America in the mid-1600s under harsh conditions. 

“For the last two years, we have attended the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors and shared our mission with them and talked about what the Lord is able to do with us on our seminarian trips that we have been running for six years,” Klaes told CNA. 

According to Zimmer, vocation directors have been seeking summer assignment opportunities for seminarians to foster lifelong friendships and community as well as pastoral awareness amid adverse environments and challenges. 

After a typical nine months of seminary studies, seminarians are usually sent to parishes and other summer assignments as part of their formation. Seminary deans are looking for programs that get seminarians away from computer screens and out of classrooms but still prepare them for pastoral assignments, according to Klaes, who described what they will experience for a summer assignment in the Rockies.

“They are forced to live in a tent with three other guys, live seven days straight on the trail, cooking meals, and never alone. It’s a very different experience for guys who’ve been able to isolate themselves. So that’s a big part of what we provide,” he said.

“We are providing human formation: They are literally living together, relying on each other to cook, gather water, set up shelter, and endure storms. These are things that are easily stripped away from us in today’s society where everything is so easy,” said Zimmer, who has led wilderness trips in much of the United States and several foreign countries for more than a decade. He is also a faculty member at WCC.

Young men participating in Wyoming Catholic College's COR Expeditions program pray in the mountains. Credit: Damien Walz of COR Expeditions/Wyoming Catholic College
Young men participating in Wyoming Catholic College's COR Expeditions program pray in the mountains. Credit: Damien Walz of COR Expeditions/Wyoming Catholic College

Beginning this June 3, six to 12 seminarians will start with wilderness and first aid training plus three weeks of hiking in the Rocky Mountains. They will hike five to eight miles each day with heavy packs and attempt mountain climbing and river rafting. There will be daily Mass and adoration, plus spiritual direction from their chaplain. 

Upon completion of the expedition, the seminarians will spend several weeks assisting in wilderness trips for high school students and families before a final week of ministering to homeless people in conjunction with Christ in the City ministries in Colorado. 

A former seminarian, Klaes recalled that a seminary dean once told him: “’The friendships you form now will be those you carry into the priesthood.’”

In Klaes’ experience, he said, “some of my priest friends struggle in the priesthood because of a lack of friendship coming into the priesthood. But those who are full of life, full of joy and doing amazing things are those who have a tight-knit group of friends on whom they can rely. Formation directors have acknowledged the fact that diocesan priests often live entirely alone, so it will be their friendships that carry them through their priesthood.”

“If we can get seminarians to have an incredible experience, where the stakes are high … the hope is that with the friendships formed, they will be well prepared with friendships as they return to seminary,” Klaes said. He added that bishops and formation recognize that while diocesan priests do not typically live with other priests, they must serve as “social people who can build rapport and have connection.”

According to Zimmer, the initial first-aid course provides skills that, as priests, they can transfer to parish life.

“They will be taught risk management and how to recognize problems before they occur,” he said, adding that he will teach the course based on his decades of mountaineering, skiing, and wilderness travel.

“They may never go into backcountry again. We want to get them to transfer what they learn to their vocation. They will recognize heart attacks, for instance, so that as parish priests, if they notice someone at a parish barbeque with symptoms, they can apply their knowledge,” Zimmer said.

As part of the application process for the project, seminarians are interviewed and informed about the challenges they face. For example, they are expected to carry backpacks weighing 40-50 pounds for 21 days. Priests who join as chaplains are also expected to backpack along with the younger men. Use of cellphones is limited to taking photographs on all trips organized by COR.

In addition to hiking and pastoral work with high school students and families, participating seminarians will have the opportunity to take college credits through WCC applicable to seminary studies. There are courses in Latin, theology, and philosophy available.

Zimmer said there is no other comparable program for seminarians anywhere. “We are the only Catholic program that is nationally accredited and the only one connected to a Catholic college that’s for credit,” he said.

“There are a few programs that do short trips, here and there,” Zimmer added about the summerlong experience, “but in the Catholic world of outdoor ministry, we’re the biggest program doing things like this.”

The St. Jogues project is designed for incoming college-age seminarians in their first and second year of formation.

COR missionary Damien Walz, 22, who will accompany seminarians this summer, said the program is “not for the faint of heart.” 

“The wilderness is a very real environment and you can’t hide from it. You can’t put on a mask and pretend everything is okay. There’s no place to hide. All of your strengths, all of your weaknesses come out and force you to acknowledge them,” he said.

“There is ‘decision point’ in every course,” Walz said. “You see people come to a point where they are going to man up and decide to grow or they won’t engage with it. What I tell the formation directors and seminarians is that this isn’t a backpacking fairy tale. This is real life and as real as it gets. It is a place where we can delve into who we are as sons of God and live as sons of God in an authentic and masculine way. By going through the challenge, they are able to engage better with the rest of seminary formation and the people whom they will lead and serve.”

Blake Brouillette, managing director of Christ in the City, who will receive the St. Jogues seminarians toward the end of the program, told CNA that the ministry is now working with more than 20 dioceses and seminaries.

“Formation directors are seeing a transformation in their seminarians, and we are grateful to be a part of it,” he said. “We are telling seminarians, ‘Come join us. Learn and equip yourselves for your call to the priesthood, serve the poor, and equip your parishioners to do so.’”

Norway begins preparations for Jubilee of St. Olaf in 2030 

Celebration in Olaf’s chapel, Stiklestad, St. Olaf’s Day, July 28, 2023. / Credit: Ivan Vu/Trondheim Diocese

Trondheim, Norway, Feb 18, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The Church in Norway has begun plans for the millennium celebration of St. Olaf’s death.