Pilgrims on horseback pay homage to Mary at Illinois Guadalupe shrine

A member of of Club Los Vaqueros Unidos (United Cowboy Club) of Wadsworth, Ill., carries a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe as he makes his way to the the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Ill., as part of a pre-celebration for her Dec. 12 feast day. (CNS/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

A member of of Club Los Vaqueros Unidos (United Cowboy Club) of Wadsworth, Ill., carries a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe as he makes his way to the the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Ill., as part of a pre-celebration for her Dec. 12 feast day. (CNS/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

By Joyce Duriga
Catholic News Service

DES PLAINES, Ill. (CNS) — With thick, wet snow falling down and live mariachi music to greet them, around 400 riders on horseback rode up to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines Dec. 4 to pay homage to Mary.

Some wore ponchos bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Other riders carried their cellphones and were recording the ride. Once in front of the outdoor shrine, each rider handed over a red rose for Mary and was blessed with holy water by shrine rector Father Esequiel Sanchez. The priest himself entered the shrine on horseback and was wearing a traditional Mexican sombrero.

It’s the fifth year for the pilgrimage, which is organized by Club Los Vaqueros Unidos (United Cowboys Club) in Wadsworth. The horseback pilgrimage is the unofficial kickoff of celebrations at the shrine that culminate with 24 hours of Masses and visits to the outdoor shrine Dec. 12 for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Continue reading

Posted in U.S.

Vatican updates guidelines for educating priests

Seminarians attend Pope Francis' celebration of Mass at the Pontifical North American College in Rome last year. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Seminarians attend Pope Francis’ celebration of Mass at the Pontifical North American College in Rome last year. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church needs holy, healthy and humble priests, and that requires prayers for vocations and the careful selection and training of candidates, said the Congregation for Clergy.

Updating 1985 guidelines for preparing men for the Latin-rite priesthood and ensuring their continuing education, training and support, the Congregation for Clergy Dec. 7 released “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” a detailed set of guidelines and norms for priestly formation.

The updated document draws heavily on St. John Paul II’s 1992 apostolic exhortation on priestly formation, as well as on the teaching of and norms issued by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis and by Vatican offices over the past three decades. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican

Vatican recognizes association of its women employees

Women look at a new monthly women's insert called "Women-Church-World" in L'Osservatore Romano in this 2012 file photo. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Women look at a new monthly women’s insert called “Women-Church-World” in L’Osservatore Romano in this 2012 file photo. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Women — lay and religious — make up almost 20 percent of the Vatican workforce, and a group of them have formed an association designed as a forum for collaboration, sharing and outreach.

“D.VA” — for “Donne in Vaticano” — “Women in the Vatican” — was approved as an association by the Vatican City governor’s office in September, according to a press release issued Dec. 7.

So far, about 50 women have joined the association that a dozen Vatican employees started organizing several years ago. They say 750 women — 19 percent of the Vatican work force — are eligible to join. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican

Amid the darkness, hold fast to light of hope, pope says

A boy smiles as Pope Francis signs an autograph for him during the pope's general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 7. (CNS/Paul Haring)

A boy smiles as Pope Francis signs an autograph for him during the pope’s general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 7. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christian hope is not the same as being optimistic about the future, but is knowing that whatever dark or frightening things are going on in one’s life, God is there offering protection and light, Pope Francis said.

Holding his general audience in the Vatican audience hall decorated with Nativity scenes and Christmas ornaments from the state of Queretaro, Mexico, Pope Francis announced Dec. 7 that he was beginning a series of audience talks about hope.

Especially during Advent and in preparation for Christmas, he urged people to read the second half of the Book of Isaiah, “the great prophet of Advent, the great messenger of hope.” Continue reading

Posted in Vatican

Our Lady of Guadalupe’s message remains alive across five centuries

The original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is seen as Pope Francis delivers his blessing last February at the conclusion of Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is seen as Pope Francis delivers his blessing last February at the conclusion of Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Nearly 500 years after Mexican peasant Juan Diego was greeted by Mary and urged to share a message of hope and comfort as promised by God’s compassion, Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to inspire new generations of faithful believers in their daily routines and struggles.

That assurance, rooted in prayer and common experiences, guides daily individual devotion and communal gatherings that build toward grand observances of the apparitions centered annually on the Dec. 12 feast day.

And while Our Lady of Guadalupe is rooted in the Mexican culture, those who have studied the phenomenon and her message as it is lived today are finding that the patroness of the Americas, as she is known, can strengthen bonds of community in a disjointed world. Continue reading

Posted in U.S.

Priest-historian: 75 years later, Pearl Harbor ‘such a powerful event’

A visitor to the National World War II Memorial in Washington walks near a quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in 2015. Dec. 7 marks the 75th anniversary of the attack. (CNS/Matthew Cavanaugh, EPA)

A visitor to the National World War II Memorial in Washington walks near a quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in 2015. Dec. 7 marks the 75th anniversary of the attack. (CNS/EPA)

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A Catholic military chaplain and historian says the attack on Pearl Harbor, even 75 years later, continues to rivet the attention of Americans because it is “such a powerful event.”

As the anniversary of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack neared, Father Daniel Mode detailed the effect of the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian outpost.

“Before that, we were debating whether to get involved with World War II or not. We were basically a neutral country, trying not to get engaged in it. It (the attack) changed the tenor, and the president’s resolve, Father Mode told Catholic News Service. “It brought our country together to fight a common threat.” Continue reading

Posted in U.S.

Iraqi Christians in U.S. pray to reunite with family at Christmas

Fairuz Rassam, a long-time Chicago resident, sent for her Iraqi sisters, Firaz and Victoria, so they could escape the conflict in Iraq. They are seen at Mass Dec. 4 at St. Ephrem Chaldean Catholic Church in Chicago. (CNS/Simone Orendain)

Fairuz Rassam, a long-time Chicago resident, sent for her Iraqi sisters, Firaz and Victoria, so they could escape the conflict in Iraq. They are seen at Mass Dec. 4 at St. Ephrem Chaldean Catholic Church in Chicago. (CNS/Simone Orendain)

By Simone Orendain
Catholic News Service

CHICAGO (CNS) — On a recent overcast Sunday morning in northwest Chicago, the pews of the small wood-paneled St. Ephrem Chaldean Catholic Church were filled to overflowing. Among the rows of Massgoers sat Firaz Rassam and her sisters.

After the Mass, Rassam and her sister, Victoria Rassam, said they “pray, pray that (Victoria’s) children would be able to get out (of northern Iraq) in time” before any major Islamic State attack or any other conflict reaches their neighborhood in Ankawa, a Christian hub in the Kurdish region. Firaz Rassam, who arrived in Chicago in September, said this year she would not be able to celebrate Christmas “with the type of happiness that (her family) normally would celebrate.” Continue reading

Posted in U.S., World