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FAITHFUL DEMONSTRATE JOY, PRAYERFUL WITNESS AT NATIONAL MARCH FOR LIFE

WASHINGTON — With enthusiasm and hope, individuals from throughout the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend united their voices and footsteps on Jan. 22 with hundreds of thousands in support of the protection of life from conception to natural death. Five hundred students from the diocese joined nearly 700 more from the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College, and endured the more than 12-hour journey to the nation’s capital with a combined 25 buses to stand in solidarity in defense of life.

On the morning of the march, Masses sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington were offered at both the Verizon Center and the D.C. Armory. At the armory, where Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades served as concelebrant, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston exclaimed, “How beautiful it is to see so many young people saying ‘yes’ to life!”

These young pilgrims then ventured to the National Mall, joining with an estimated 500,000 supporters to hear words of encouragement from various pro-life leaders on keeping the energy and spirit of life alive beyond the march. Speakers included Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Congressional members from both parties and Rev. Sammy Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who offered the concluding prayer for the rally.

Pro-life defenders of all ages then began the walk to the United States Supreme Court building, where in 1973, the Court decision on Roe v. Wade declaring abortion legal has since led to the death of over 50 million unborn children. These supporters marched together triumphantly, demonstrating their advocacy for those without a voice of their own.

Some spoke of their amazement at the response of so many committed participants. Kathy Heckber, a parishioner of St. Aloysius, Yoder, shared her thoughts on the event. “Thousands of people marched with signs defending life. Many were praying, singing and chanting as they walked,” she said. “I was really impressed to see so many young adults. Seeing them gives me hope that one day this will end.”

Many students spoke of their excitement and gratitude for having been able to take part in the march.

Emma Rotkis, a junior at Saint Joseph High School, South Bend,  on her third March for Life shared, “It is inspiring to see so many people giving voices to those who have none. It is even more moving when you realize that some of the loudest voices come from the hearts of our young generation.”

Hannah Toepp, a freshman at Marian High School in Mishawaka, revealed, “My experience on the March for Life was extremely prayerful and spiritually involved. We were elbow to elbow singing and praying the rosary along the way to show the world our support for life.”

Emma Gettinger, a Marian senior, added, “It was awesome to have the experience to see so many others excited about their faith.”

Claire, a parishioner from Immaculate Conception, Auburn, said, “The thing that stood out to me the most was the joy of everyone. It was a totally somber occasion, but at the same time it is like a big Catholic family reunion; everyone just has so much joy and hope that we can end this terrible problem.”

Young parishioners of St. Paul of the Cross, Columbia City, added their thoughts as well.

“It was pretty cool how everyone came together in a peaceful protest, essentially taking over the whole street but in a very friendly way, uniting with people across the country for such a great cause. It was also interesting to see former rape victims and those who shared that they regretted their abortions.” Stacey Quinn said. “It’s just so powerful, it brings tears to my eyes, seeing everyone bravely stand and talk about how they are against this huge issue and how much we just need it to stop.”

Afterwards, students from the diocese returned to their temporary parish accommodations for an evening of community and reflection as they shared pizza and gathered in the churches of St. James and St. Ann to hear speeches on forgiveness, mercy and renewal. Reconciliation services accompanied by praise and worship music were offered during Eucharistic Adoration for both diocesan groups. Father Andrew Budzinski, vocation director, led those from Fort Wayne, and Franciscan Father David Mary Engo spoke to those from South Bend.

Towards the end of the prayers, Father Engo invited all those present who were open to discerning a vocation to the religious life or Priesthood to come up and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Fifteen young men and women bravely knelt before Christ in the Eucharist as Father Engo led the group in praying for them, emphasizing the importance of showing support for those who are open to following God’s will in their lives.

Brianna Strong, a parishioner of St. Gaspar, Rome City, was one who responded to this invitation.

She shared, “I always have the thought in the back of my mind of Jesus calling me to join the religious life, but sometimes as a teenager, we have the struggles to want to plan and control our life, which can get in the way of what God wants us to do.”

Strong, who has been discerning throughout the last year, further shared that she has received “great support and advice from the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (Mishawaka) and Franciscan Friars Minor in discerning what God is asking. I keep praying to discover where He will lead me.”

On Jan. 23, Bishop Rhoades celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. While this Mass had originally been scheduled primarily for those who had traveled from his diocese, it instead became another example of Catholic unity and shared participation in the life of the Church as diocesan groups from New Orleans, Louisiana, Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee, Jackson, Mississippi, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Ogdensburg, New York, attended as well.

The amount of participation surprised even Bishop Rhoades, who exclaimed, “I was planning to celebrate Mass for 500 people, not 5,000!” He expressed his gratefulness for their attendance and his joy that so many were able to partake in the Mass together.

Diocesan priests Father Chris Lapp, Father Jason Freiberger, Father Terry Coonan, Father David Mary Engo, Father Andrew Budzinski and Father Drew Curry were concelebrants with Bishop Rhoades. Students from Marian High School, senior David Schena II, the president of the Pro-Life Club, and junior Abbey Zielinski, proclaimed the readings and intercessions.

Afterwards, students from the diocese shared their joy at being able to participate in such a unique event.

David Kelty, a senior at Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne, who carried the processional cross as altar server, exclaimed, “How often do you get to serve at the national shrine with Bishop Kevin Rhoades? It was a privilege I will never forget. Serving Mass is a humbling experience on its own. When you add the beautiful basilica with our bishop in the context of the pro-life mission, it was exhilarating!”

Karena Parish, also a senior at Bishop Dwenger, enthusiastically remarked, “seeing all those priests and people at Mass just fills me with joy. It makes me feel like our faith is so much bigger and more incredible than ever before. It was also hard not to get distracted by the church’s beauty. Then after Mass, seeing men and women in religious orders, some of which I didn’t even know existed until today — these are the most joyful people I’ve ever met. They are such a witness of holiness!”

Before returning to Indiana, students also were able to travel to Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmittsburg, Maryland, to visit those from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend who are studying for the Priesthood.

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Cuba to Build Its First Catholic Church Since 1959 When Fidel Castro Jailed, Exiled Priests

Worshippers carry a statue of Jesus Christ during a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession on Good Friday in Havana, April 6, 2012. Bells rang from Roman Catholic churches throughout Havana on Friday to remember the death of Jesus Christ as Cubans celebrated a holiday on Good Friday for the first time in more than half a century. The day off, granted at the request of Pope Benedict on his recent visit to the communist island, translated into quieter streets than usual, but only sparse attendance at a Mass in the city’s main cathedral presided over by Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

The construction of Cuba’s first Roman Catholic Church since 1959 is set to begin in the village of Sandino in the province of Pinar del Rio. Cuba has recently experienced warming ties both with the U.S. and the Vatican.

“There is money to begin, building materials to begin, and we have the permissions to start, so everything is ready,” said Jorge Enrique Serpa Pérez, the bishop of Pinar del Río, according to Breitbart News.

It is a significant development in the largely Catholic country, which had exiled and jailed a number of priests belonging to the Vatican following the 1959 Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro’s rise in power.

When news that the construction of the church had earned approval from the government in August 2014, some questioned the motives behind the move.

Pedro L. Rodriguez, executive director for the Miami, Florida-based Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, told The Christian Post at the time that the approval was “a public relations scam directed to project Raul Castro as a true reformer.”

“The Cuban government, it’s mainly interested in attracting investors and [giving] the impression that the Cuban government, it’s evolving into a less totalitarian experiment,” said Rodriguez.

“Unfortunately, the Cuban Catholic Church has been very passive in regards to confronting, peacefully of course, the government.”

Rodriguez also highlighted Cuba’s record of arresting thousands of dissidents in the past few years.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced in December that the U.S. will seek to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, and praised Pope Francis for playing a notable part in efforts for reconcilliation. Many obsrvers pointed out, however, that the Latin American country’s human rights record remains troublesome.

“First, I am concerned that normalizing diplomatic ties without addressing [Fidel] Castro’s horrendous human rights record serves as a defacto endorsement for one of the most oppressive regimes in recent history,” said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

“As a result of Castro’s totalitarian rule, millions live in poverty, thousands lie in prisons, and many have lost their lives. In addition, the God-given rights of Cuban citizens are held hostage to governmental persecution.”

Rodriguez shared his hopes, however, that the warming of relations “will serve as a catalytic step in unleashing the followers of Jesus to be the Church both inside and outside of the island nation, addressing the spiritual and physical needs of the Cuban people.”

Some priests in Cuba have attested to the government’s recent attempts to rebuild the relationship with the Vatican, however, including Father Cyril P. Castro, the pastor of Las Martinas and Sandino.

“We have wanted to build this church for many years, but it wasn’t possible,” Father Castro said. “Finally we can say that it is underway.”

The priest revealed that he will work full time at the Catholic church in Sandino when it’s ready.

“People can say that Catholicism was lost in Cuba, but it’s not true,” he added. “The family of faith has endured. In fact, we are showing the fruit of those roots.”

Fr. Castro estimated that it will take two years to build the church, and that it will be able to seat 200 people.

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Rev. Rodriguez Endorse The Drop Box Movie

The Drop Box – Official Full Movie Trailer

The Drop Box: Behind the Scenes

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Rev. Samuel Rodriguez: The Reconciled Church movement

“We can shift the racial atmosphere of the nation by healing the racial divisions in the church”

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The International Pastors and Leaders Conference.

More than ever pastors and Christian leaders stand threatened. More than ever, we need information, inspiration and impartation that will radically transform us so we can change the world.

Therefore, permit me to invite you to accompany me as I minister alongside my dear friend Bishop TD Jakes at The International Pastors and Leaders Conference. It will change your life

 

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Even in religion, America offers more choice

AS MANY AS 600,000 American Latinos “defect” from Roman Catholicism to Protestant churches each year, according to Andrew Greeley, a scholar of religion. Most join Pentecostal and evangelical churches. The journey can be stressful, concedes Jesse Miranda, a Latino Pentecostal elder statesman. Not long ago he was approached by a Hispanic congregant who had left the Catholic church a year earlier. She anxiously asked: “But where is Jesus on the cross?” Ah, in our church, Christ is risen, Mr Miranda explained.

The difference goes beyond theology, suggests Mr Miranda, who is based in Los Angeles, home to almost 5m Catholics, some 70% of whom are Hispanic. He describes a Catholic church with a reverence for suffering, linked to the deep “fatalism” of a Latin American continent conquered by the Spanish crown: “The more Latino you are, the more you carry Jesus on the cross.” Yet, he points out, migrants do not move to another country to suffer, they move for a better life.

The point is made more bluntly by Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, an umbrella body for more than 40,000 Pentecostal and evangelical Latino churches in America and Puerto Rico. The Catholic church in Latin America is “an extension of the bureaucratic state”, he charges, and offers only indirect access to God through the Virgin Mary and the priesthood. Worse, Catholics are told that salvation awaits in another life—and in the meantime, blessed are the poor. In contrast, evangelical churches offer a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, leading to a blessed life here and now. “You get to America, the land of milk and honey, and you get to choose,” says Mr Rodriguez, a dapper figure in a well-cut blazer and aviator sunglasses.

Hispanic Catholics cheered the election of Pope Francis, an Argentine. The new pope has welcomed the rise of Charismatic Catholicism, which marries traditional theology with services that may include Hispanic rock music, faith-healing and in some cases speaking in tongues. But Charismatic services are merely a bridge to even more defections, declares Mr Rodriguez. “If you are involved in a Charismatic service today, in ten years’ time—inevitably—you are going to end up in one of my churches.”

The power of prayer

Surveys suggest that at least one in six Hispanic adults in America is an evangelical Protestant, meaning that this subset on its own outnumbers Jewish-Americans. Another one in six Hispanics says he has no religious affiliation. Such numbers are of keen interest to politicians as well as priests. Republicans have long seen Protestant Latinos, notably those who speak English, as likelier allies than Hispanic Catholics, who are regarded as steeped in Latin American traditions of “social justice” and sceptical of free-market capitalism.

During their presidencies, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush wooed Mr Miranda with invitations to White House meetings and faith-based policy groups. In 2009 Mr Rodriguez was one of a group of pastors invited to pray with President Barack Obama on the morning of his inauguration, though (in keeping with his conviction that Latino evangelicals should not be owned by either party) he also delivered an opening benediction at the Republican National Convention in 2012.

Exit polls suggest that Hispanic Protestants are that rarest of political animals, a presidential swing electorate. They twice voted for Mr Clinton, then for Al Gore in 2000, then switched to the Republicans to support Mr Bush in 2004 before swinging back to Mr Obama in 2008 and 2012—mostly on the strength of his promises to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. Latino evangelicals are sternly anti-abortion but want immigration reform (and are cross with Mr Obama for doing too little), says Mr Rodriguez. They believe in government safety nets, but only on a modest scale.

On the ground, cultural differences are more obvious than any ideological divide. A Pentecostal service at the Assemblies of God Ebenezer Temple, in a gritty corner of south Los Angeles, stands out for its intensity and simplicity. Church members take turns to lead stripped-down, repetitive chants of praise, to the backing of a loud guitar band and occasional blasts on a ram’s horn from a man in the congregation. Catholic services on the far side of the city, at the St Catherine of Siena church in Reseda, are not stuffy, but they do feel a bit more demanding. The readings on a recent Sunday deliver a stern message about fornication, and worshippers recite the familiar, lengthy prayers of the Mass. The church is packed with Hispanics, including scores of scampering children.

What St Catherine’s offers most powerfully is a link to home for the congregation. On this particular Sunday a special evening Mass is devoted to a feast day from Guatemala, drawing a large Central American crowd in holiday mood. As old women in folk costumes dance alongside young toughs with elaborately gelled quiffs, incense swirls and babies cry in pushchairs, California seems a long way away.

But it is the America waiting outside that most worries the Catholic priests charged with keeping up the numbers. Father Ed Benioff is director of an Office of New Evangelisation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, founded in 2013 to woo wavering worshippers, especially younger ones. He finds young Latinos steeped in impatient American dreams of individual success. Father Ed is pinning his hopes on the example of Pope Francis, offering the millennials—the age group now in their teens to early 30s—a meaningful life by serving others. But he is only cautiously optimistic. “I couldn’t care less about Protestants. That’s not the enemy,” he says. “The enemy is secularism.”

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Freedom from bondage

Bible verse for today: John 9:6 “After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes” (NIV).

Some situations in our lives is not to make us drown ourselves in sorrows but that the name of God will be exalted. Some life’s difficulty is just to prove the efficacy of the power of God.

When God frees you from bondage, he also breaks and scatters the root cause of the problem withholding you from effectively serving him.

The bible says that God’s blessings adds no sorrow which means we never have to worry about our problems reoccuring once we have been set free by the blood of Jesus.

The Word for Today devotional by United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) says:

Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, points out that your DNA is in your saliva and that when Jesus spat, this blind man received a divine DNA transfer. He says that Jesus didn’t place the saliva on the man’s eyes, but on the clay—the thing from which the man was made. In other words, Jesus went back to the root of his problem! Understand this: God doesn’t merely treat your symptoms; He goes back to the source of your problem in order to set you free from it. To change the fruit, He changes the root. This man never had the ability to see; he was born blind and needed a creative miracle. That calls for a divine DNA transfer, making you what you never were, and giving you what you never had.

Our God is awesome, isn’t He? Do you know why Jesus came? ‘…To bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour…to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…’ (Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV). It doesn’t matter whether your parents contributed to your problem or you simply made bad choices in life, Jesus can set you free, make you whole, and give you a new life. Jesus didn’t blame this man or his parents. That’s because He’s not in the condemnation business; He’s in the transformation business.

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Statement by Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC)/CONEL Regarding the June 17, 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, resulting in the death of nine

June 18, 2015

“The Charleston massacre once again proves that there exists a war between darkness and light. When hatred and violence emerge to silence peace and love, all Americans, all humanity suffers. “Accordingly, we mourn for our brothers and sisters while we simultaneously stand up to repudiate all vestiges of hatred and intolerance. Silence is not option.
“For at the end of the day this we know for certain; when light stands next to darkness, light always wins.”

By: Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez

*************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The NHCLC joins together with the entire Body of Christ in mourning for the nine precious lives that were taken yesterday at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a deranged killer.  We express our deepest sympathy with the African-American community, and we call all Christians to recognize that these brothers and sisters in Christ were murdered not only for their racial identity, but for their Christian identity—slaughtered at church during a prayer meeting.  As prayer represents the primary locus of spiritual warfare for Christians, we recognize that they have died as martyrs, victims of a demonic attack against God’s army of peace in the world.  An attack on them is an attack on us all.  And so, we encourage all Christians to pick up the torch of prayer which has fallen from the hands of The Charleston Martyrs and pray harder still for love, reconciliation, peace, repentance and revival in America.

The names of the Charleston martyrs are Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59.

By: Dr. Joseph Castleberry
###
NHCLC/CONEL is the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization. It serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals assembled in over 40,000 U.S. churches and another 500,000 congregations spread throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora. For additional information, visit http://www.nhclc.org.

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Christian Leaders Respond to ‘Literally Satanic’ Shooting at Charleston Church; 4,000 Residents Gather for Vigil

Christian leaders and organizations condemned the killing of nine African-American men and women at the Bible study of a Charleston church this week, acknowledging the “sin of racism” in America, even as more than 4,000 residents and leaders of different faiths came together for a vigil in the shaken city.

“There is hardly a more vivid picture of unmasked evil than the murder of those in prayer,” Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of Southern Baptist Convention said in a statement about the Wednesday massacre at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“This act of bloodshed is wicked and more than wicked. It is literally satanic, as our Lord taught us that the devil is a ‘murderer from the beginning’ (John 8:44),” said the statement, signed by Russell Moore and three other Southern Baptist Convention leaders.

“Virtually every week we see yet another incident pointing to the sin of racism in American society, from unarmed African-American men and children killed in the streets to worshippers gunned down in their pews,” the SBC leaders stated. “This must end. And the church of Jesus Christ must lead the way.”

Among the nine who were shot dead by a 21-year-old confessed gunman, Dylann Roof, who is white, was the church’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a Democratic member of the state senate.

Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed in Florida, called the shooting a “horrible act of hate perpetrated on the saints.”

“So many of us struggle to comprehend how the best of people and places could be violated by the worst of evil,” Hunter said. “We know we have a real enemy who was a murderer from the beginning and still whispers lies into people’s hearts. But we also know that we are called to be responsible to follow Christ and overcome the damage done.”

Hunter added that Christians need to “do everything we can to overcome evil with good, building relationships across all racial and ethnic boundaries.”

The National Association of Evangelicals expressed “deep sadness.”

“In this time of grieving and loss, we turn to God for comfort and hope. The killings have brought death and devastation to many, but the Bible that Rev. Pinckney read and taught assures us that God has already defeated sin and death through Jesus’ death and resurrection. God’s purposes will not be thwarted. We honor the memory of the fallen and dare to believe that the death of these martyrs will not have been in vain,” NAE said in the statement.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, also issued a statement.

“The Charleston massacre once again proves that there exists a war between darkness and light. When hatred and violence emerge to silence peace and love, all Americans, all humanity suffers,” Rodriguez said, condemning “all vestiges of hatred and intolerance” and affirming, “Silence is not an option.”

Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president & CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, said he was shocked by the “senseless, despicable, and evil attack.”

The NRB, a body of about 100 leaders among Christian communicators, unanimously approved a Resolution earlier this year, stating they “denounce any form of racial or ethnic discrimination and hatred.”

The Resolution also expressed “thanks that through salvation, believers from every race and ethnicity are all one in Christ.”

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The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church

It’s difficult to imagine that 50% of adults will develop depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or some other mental illness in their lifetime. This staggering reality can feel daunting, but there is HOPE for mental health.

HOPE says that you are not defined by your illness. HOPE says your life has a purpose even when you don’t feel it. HOPE says you are not alone.

Be a part of breaking the silence and stigma by joining us on October 7-9, 2015 for Saddleback Church’s Gathering on Mental Health and The Church. These three days are packed with practical help and hope for individuals affected by mental illness, their loved ones, church leaders, and mental health professionals. It’s time to join together and create a pathway to HOPE. It’s time to offer a place of refuge, love, and compassion for those who need it most. It’s a time to acknowledge the facts and embrace the millions of people suffering everyday from mental illness.

Join us for this hope-filled event!

#HOPE4MH

Early Bird Price (ends August 31st): $109
September 1st – October 8th Price: $139
Pre-Conference – $40

*If you are a veteran we would like to thank you for your service by offering you a complimentary registration to The Gathering. Please call (949) 609-8019 or emailregistration@saddleback.com for your promotional code.

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