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The Shack arrives in theaters this weekend

The Shack arrives in theaters this weekend and we need your support to get the word out– please share!
Please share: #TheShack movie nationwide http://bit.ly/2mepFba. Tickets: http://tickets.theshack.movie

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What does comprehensive immigration reform mean in Trump’s America?

Do we enforce the letter of the law regarding people who have entered our country illegally, or do we compassionately assimilate undocumented peoples seeking a better life despite the laws they broke getting here in the first place?

Since the Gang of Eight bill was first passed in the Senate in 2013 – and later stalled in the House of Representatives – it’s safe to say that much has transpired both socially and politically.

Like any expression that is often used but seldom defined, what politicians and immigration advocates actually mean by Comprehensive Immigration Reform is up for interpretation, and is usually more rooted in political party and ideology rather than any agreed upon baseline policy measures.

Politically speaking, comprehensive immigration reform is perhaps the ultimate Catch 22. Do we enforce the letter of the law regarding people who have entered our country illegally, or do we compassionately assimilate undocumented peoples seeking a better life despite the laws they broke getting here in the first place? In America, the answer must be yes and yes.

President Trump has indicated that now is the time to once again pursue immigration reform and it’s critically important that the Hispanic Community assume a leading voice in the debate. In fact, I believe there are 5 essential policy points that must be included in any serious, comprehensive immigration reform bill that seeks to bridge the two sides’ seemingly incompatible goals.

1. Secure Border:
As a sovereign nation, the U.S. must reserve the right to determine who crosses our borders and who is allowed to stay. We must establish a clearly defined certification process that once satisfied, would enable those that are here in an undocumented capacity to have the opportunity to get permanently right with the law. In the meantime, improved border security and enforcement will help to disincentivize future migration surges as well as slow human and narcotics trafficking.

2. No Amnesty:
We should not simply allow the undocumented population to have a free pass, or amnesty, which would enable them to stay here in America ahead of people that are lawfully in line to immigrate to the United States. However, we understand that this large population will neither be deported, nor will most self-deport.

Therefore, we must legislate a process by which these people can admit to their wrongdoing, submit to and pass rigorous state and federal background checks, pay a fine to get right with the law, and prove their financial viability.

If they meet all these criteria, they would be able to stay legally as Guest Workers, but they will not be able to adjust their status to permanent resident or citizen unless and until all of the legal immigrant applications already in process have been adjudicated, (they would go to the end of the line for immigration purposes).

3. Guest Worker Visas:
Currently undocumented individuals should initially be able to adjust their status to that of a Guest Worker. They could choose to remain in the United States as Guest Workers indefinitely, so long as they passed the requirements as listed above, and remain current on their tax liabilities.

However, should they choose some day to pursue permanent residency or citizenship, they must pay additional fees, and would not be able to adjust their status unless and until all legal applications previously filed by aspiring immigrants are adjudicated.

4. Deport Serious Criminals
Any and all undocumented individuals engaged in nefarious activities such as murder, rape, assault, drug trafficking, and gang related activities should and must deported as expeditiously as possible.

However, a clear distinction must be made between these individuals and others who illegally obtained driver’s licenses, social security cards and other documents necessary for employment and basic survival.

The latter, with families raised in America and currently employed, should be protected from deportation as promised by President Trump in interviews with both 60 Minutes and TIME Magazine in addition to phone conferences we at the NHCLC have had with the transition team.

5. Integration process:
Newly legalized undocumented individuals must be encouraged to assimilate into the mainstream of American society. They must learn English, as well as American Civics.

As a nation of immigrants, we know that immigrants arrive in our country seeking opportunity and liberty. As long as these people obey the laws going forward, they must be treated fairly, and with the dignity that God has bestowed upon all people equally.

There will be some on both sides of this contentious debate that will disagree with me because I’ve either gone too far or not far enough.

As a leader in the Hispanic Community who is personally and professionally tied to this incredibly emotional issue, I have had to confront the simple truth that there are no easy answers – at least none that have a real chance of being passed into law. But if we honor the rule of law as well as the sanctity of all life, we can find a way forward together.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He has been named by CNN and Fox News as “the leader of the Hispanic Evangelical movement.”

Faith and Education Coalition is an initiative of the National Hispanic Christian Leaders Conference (NHCLC) and advocates for high-quality education options for all of America’s children.

Original post can be read here: http://www.univision.com/univision-news/opinion/what-does-comprehensive-immigration-reform-mean-in-trumps-america

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Florida Pastor Begins Never Trump, Never Hillary Campaign

Urges Hispanics to Not Vote for Flawed Candidates

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Aug. 5, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Believing both the Republican and Democrat presidential candidates hold beliefs and policy positions that are at odds with Evangelical Hispanics, Florida pastor Eddie Rodriguez has begun a campaign to urge like-minded Hispanic voters to not pander to either side. Instead he is challenging fellow Latinos to stick by their core beliefs, even if it means not supporting either candidate for President in 2016, unless they demonstrate significant changes in their representations or rhetoric.

“With more Hispanics self-identifying as Evangelical, Latinos are becoming an important voting block; we need to show the candidates and the parties that our vote is not a given, but rather must be earned,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, founder of A Place Called Hope Church in West Palm Beach, Florida, is a board member of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference(NHCLC), the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization representing 40,000 churches in America and another 500,000 worldwide. He previously served as the superintendent of the Florida Multicultural District of the Assemblies of God, and also founded Love Tabernacle In West Palm Beach and a church in Asuncion, Paraguay.

In urging his fellow Latinos to abstain from supporting either 2016 presidential candidate, Rodriguez stresses the main points in which Hispanic Evangelical’s differ from them. In addition to Republican candidate Donald Trump’s lack of a social or financial plan for the country, Rodriguez noted that his rhetoric shows a lack of compassion for the disenfranchised, including immigrants, Muslims and other minority groups. Another important concern for Rodriguez is a heart issue, as he believes it is disconcerting for Trump to say that he has never nor will ever apologize to anyone, not even God.

On the other side, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s position on abortion is a hindrance Rodriguez believes keeps Hispanic Evangelicals from offering her their support. He also cautioned that conservative values would be threatened by her administration’s appointment of liberal judges that will do violence to the Constitution and a biblical worldview.

“Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump have substantively articulated the road to legitimacy for millions of illegals with American-born children who live productive lives, which is a huge human issue in our reality,” Rodriguez said.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez (no relation), NHCLC president, emphasized that Pastor Eddie Rodriguez reflects the angst of the Hispanic Evangelical community, and his challenge demonstrates that many Latino voters remain undecided, reflecting an opportunity for both candidates to address matters of importance and concern to the Hispanic community.

“The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference represents people and groups with a wide variety of viewpoints,” said Samuel Rodriguez. “We are a big tent that allows for meaningful dialogue on important cultural issues. As an organization, we have never and will never endorse a candidate or a political party. Our commitment to the Lamb’s Agenda – not to the Donkey or the Elephant – remains stronger than ever. And, this election cycle demonstrates an unprecedented need for an independent Christian movement to emerge.”

NHCLC/CONEL is the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization, which serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals assembled in over 40,000 U.S. churches and hundreds of thousands of additional congregations spread worldwide throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora. For additional information, visit http://www.nhclc.org.

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Bishop T.D. Jakes: We Cannot Continue as if We Live in a Post-Racial Society

Bishop T.D. Jakes, New York Times best-selling author, leader and speaker, will join Bishop Harry Jackson, one of the nation’s most prominent African-American pastors, in hosting the “Healing the Racial Divide” summit Jan. 15 at The Potter’s House. The forum, comprised of approximately 75 racially and culturally diverse Christian faith leaders from around the nation, including former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, will take practical steps toward racial reconciliation across America.

“Healing the Racial Divide” is strategically scheduled on the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—four days before the annual King Day commemoration and approximately two weeks before the start of Black History Month—in an effort to spark a national dialogue and develop national solutions.

“It was Dr. King who said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Bishop Jakes, senior pastor of The Potter’s House, one of the largest congregations in the U.S with more than 30,000 members. “We cannot continue as if we live in a post-racial society, when there is mounting evidence to the contrary. Recent history is loudly telegraphing the need for a meaningful dialogue on race.”

The summit will focus on seven “Bridges to Peace” community initiatives including:

  • Reconciliation and prayer forums;
  • Education policy reform;
  • Community engagement forums;
  • Community service and compassion outreaches;
  • Personal, marriage and family development;
  • Engagement with the criminal justice system; and
  • Economic development strategies.

Additionally, summit conveners are publicly requesting President Barack Obama to specifically address educational reforms, urban economic development policies and criminal justice reforms that can heal the racial divide during his Jan. 20 State of the Union.

“The recent events in Missouri, New York, and elsewhere were short-term flashpoints to an underlying long-term problem,” said Bishop Jackson. “In a divided society, the church needs to lead the way for societal reform by modeling unity and acting as a force of peace. The polarization of our nation can be shifted by healing racial divisions in the church, where we have a common language and mission.”

The all-day “closed door” leadership summit will begin with a private prayer session followed by four prescriptive panel discussions of best practices around the country and potential solutions to heal racial division. Mid-afternoon, leaders will gather for an interactive session with invited media to summarize their conclusions. A public worship service, commissioning individuals to go out and work for reconciliation, will be held that evening, during which leaders will sign a covenant of reconciliation.

“We must begin the conversation in the church where every significant movement impacting the lives of African-Americans has begun,” said Jakes. “But this is not our fight alone. This is America’s burden as well as her opportunity to rightfully tilt the scales toward justice for all. This is also a tremendous opportunity for the church to be the light in what have been very dark days for our country!”

Organizers noted that although King once said “that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning,” the summit will be racially diverse. In addition to Bishop Jakes, Young and Bishop Jackson, other conveners include:

  • Dr. Alveda King, pastoral associate and director of African-American outreach for Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.;
  • Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/CONELA;
  • Dr. Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and founder and president of The Urban Alternative;
  • James Robison, founder and president of LIFE Outreach International and co-host of LIFE Today TV;
  • Dr. R.A. Vernon, founder and senior pastor of The Word Church; and
  • Dr. Jim Garlow, senior pastor at Skyline Church, among others.

“The Bible declares, ‘There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,’” said Robison. “America has become a powder keg of division, hostility, anger and hate that can only be calmed through the hope and peace offered by Father God and His Son Jesus.”

Bishop Jackson has worked with Bishop Raphael Green and the Urban Regents Coalition, both in the metropolitan St. Louis area, to develop the seven “Bridges to Peace” community initiatives that will be discussed at the Jan. 15 summit.

“Right now, all we hear is despair, discouragement and hopelessness, which is compounding the problem,” Bishop Jackson concluded. “But if we highlight solutions and get people to work immediately, it will catch on.”

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Rev. Samuel Rodriguez on The Reconciled Church

Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, has graciously shared with us his message to those who gathered at The Reconciled Church Conference hosted by The Potter’s House and broadcasted by Daystar. Rev. Rodriguez is our own Kingdom Culture columnist, defender of The Lamb’s Agenda, and President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) 

The roster for The Reconciled Church Conference included Bishop T.D. Jakes, our own Pastor Chris Hill and Bishop Harry Jackson, James Robinson, Dr. Alveda King, Dr. Tony Evans, Dr. R.A. Vernon, and Dr. Jim Garlow. This was a local effort with a national impact. Be encouraged as you read Rev. Rodriguez’s speech!

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)

And They Sang a New Song!

In order to sing the new, we must recognize the old song already stands played out.

For we have all heard the old song; the song of hatred, sin, racism, intolerance, fear, division, strife and brokenness.
We have all heard the old song; the song of moral relativism, cultural decadence, spiritual apathy and ecclesiastical lukewarmness.
Even through the amplified surround sound of culture, media, and politics, our world stands inundated with the ear-shattering noise of an antiquated song called fear and a mind-numbing melody titled hopelessness.
We have all heard the old song.
But praise God, we are not people of the old song, we are the voices of the new song.
For we understand that today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.
For we understand that Christianity is less about promoting the perfect and more about blessing the broken.
For we understand that there is no such thing as comfortable Christianity.
That is why we have gathered today; to declare prophetically, not of out the womb of emotional exuberance, but by the impetus of God’s Spirit that this generation carries an anointing to do what? To sing a new song!
We are here to declare the following; there is a new song arising!
And this new song will not be sung exclusively  by a black chorus, a white ensemble, a Latino band or an Asian soloist. This new song will be sung by a multi-ethnic kingdom culture choir washed by the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore, to the proponents of the old song, to those that raise the volume of hatred and discord, to the spirits of captivity, violence, bigotry, inequality and injustice we raise our voices and in perfect harmony sing the following:
For every Pharaoh there will be a Moses,
For every Goliath there will be a David,
For every Nebuchadnezzar there will be a Daniel,
For every Jezebel there will be an Elijah,
For every Herod there will be a Jesus And for every
And for every devil that rises up against us there is a mightier God that rises up for us!

And They SANG a NEW SONG!!!

In that day, everyone in Judah will sing this song; Our city is strong! We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation! (Isaiah 26:1)

America, when we sing this new song, our nation will be strong! !
What is the new song? The new song elevates the lyric of IMAGO DEI.
I recognize that every human being, in and out of the womb, carries the image of God; without exception. Therefore, I will treat everyone with love and respect.
See Related: Imago Dei
What is the new song? The new song engages the rhythmic truth that the only agenda that can heal and reconcile America is not the agenda of the donkey or the elephant.
The only agenda that can reconcile this nation is the agenda of the lamb!
What is the new song? The new song is a prophetic prescription to end multi-generational  poverty in the inner cities of America via a compassionate church.
Always remembering that Uncle Sam may be our uncle but he will not never be our Heavenly Father.
What is the new song? Prison reform that is truly color blind where restorative justice enables us to bring good news to those imprisoned.
What is the new song? An educational system that equips our children to thrive in the promise land instead of making bricks without straw in Egypt.
After all what did they do? They sang. They sang. They sang for Silence is not an option.
Silence is not option when men abandon their roles as fathers, our children are slaughtered in and out of the womb, pornography marries technology, God is mocked, pushers are more admired than preachers, school grounds look like battlegrounds and our neighbors sit paralyzed by the gate called beautiful begging for change.
Silence is not an option when institutionalized vestiges of inequality reemerge resulting in the unfortunate appearance of fear and mistrust.
So America, It’s  time for the new song! It’s time to reconcile Billy Graham’s message of salvation in Christ with Dr. Martin Luther Kings Jr. March for justice.
This generation will sing the new song. We will reconcile righteousness with justice, sanctification with service, holiness and humility and truth with love.
We will sing “There is Room At The Cross” and “We Shall Overcome.”
Sing America Sing!
Sing and Walk like Enoch
Sing and Believe like Abraham
Sing and Dress like Joseph
Sing and Stretch like Moses
Sing and Shout like Joshua
Sing and Dance like David
Sing and Fight like Gideon
Sing and Pray like Daniel
Sing and Build like Nehemiah
Sing and And live like Jesus!
Sing You are worthy and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation!
Sing a new song, black, white, yellow and brown.
Sing and change America!
Sing and Change the World!
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ERLC, Focus Unveil 2016 Evangelicals for Life

Southern Baptists’ ethics entity and a leading pro-family organization took a public, first step Thursday (Jan. 22) in mobilizing extensive evangelical Christian involvement in the annual March for Life, reports Baptist Press.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family introduced Evangelicals for Life — a major evangelical, pro-life conference in conjunction with the 2016 March for Life — at an event by the same name that preceded this year’s march. At the morning session, the ERLC and Focus on the Family announced they will sponsor with other organizations the first-of-its-kind event next Jan. 21-22 in Washington, D.C.

The ERLC and Focus are planning in 2016 “to really initiate a massive movement of evangelicals present at the March for Life,” ERLC President Russell Moore told those gathered Jan. 22 in a Washington hotel meeting room.

The March for Life, a signature event of the pro-life movement, began in 1974, a year after the Jan. 22 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide. Held on or near Jan. 22, it brings together many tens of thousands of pro-lifers — or a few hundred thousand, depending on estimates — to rally on the National Mall in Washington, then march up Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill. Leaders from the diverse groups that make up the pro-life movement typically gather for the march and surrounding events.

While many religious groups are involved, Roman Catholics dominate attendance at the march. Catholic parishes and schools from numerous states send busloads to Washington for the event, and many other Catholics travel by train and vehicle. The Catholic Church also sponsors events in Washington preceding the march.

Evangelicals are deeply involved in a variety of pro-life efforts in the United States, but they have been significantly underrepresented at the March for Life. That needs to change, Moore said.

“I don’t want to see any fewer rosary beads at the March for Life, but I want to see more evangelicals here also at the March for Life,” he told the Jan. 22 ERLC-Focus gathering that included a sizable number of evangelical, pro-life leaders. “[O]ur absence is a shame. And so we don’t need any less ‘Ave Maria,’ but we need some more ‘Amazing Grace’ in the mix as well.”

Of the 2016 conference, Moore said, “You’re going to see a gathering of evangelicals saying, ‘This is our issue too.’

“[W]e’re wanting to cultivate a new generation of born-again men and women who care about the unborn, who care about their mothers and who care about consciences that are torn apart by the culture of death,” he said.

Moore and Focus President Jim Daly are the only conference speakers named so far.

Kelly Rosati, Focus’ vice president of community outreach, told the audience of about 70 pro-lifers, “We really believe that God is doing something in the evangelical community to encourage and strengthen those of you who have been on the front lines for so long…. We are going to turn this around, and we are never, never going to stop speaking out for unborn kids.”

Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, appeared at the evangelical event to commend participants and the plans for the 2016 conference.

“On behalf of the March for Life and personally, I just can’t thank you enough,” she said.The ERLC and Focus supported the march later in the day. At least 10 ERLC staff members and five Focus staffers participated in the rally and march. Moore appeared on the rally stage among pro-life leaders, and he gave the benediction at the March for Life-sponsored Rose Dinner in the evening.

In a panel discussion during the Jan. 22 Evangelicals for Life event, Moore, Rosati and Samuel Rodriguez said they are encouraged by evangelical involvement on the life issue.He especially is encouraged considering where evangelicals were in the years after Roe v. Wade, Moore said.

At the beginning, evangelicals thought it was “a Catholic issue” and didn’t say much except for “a few prophetic voices,” he told the gathering. Then people assumed young evangelicals would surrender the abortion issue and become pro-choice, he said.

“That is not true at all,” Moore said. “It is almost impossible for me to find a pro-choice, young evangelical. And it is almost impossible for me to find a young evangelical who isn’t passionately concerned about the lives of the unborn and about their mothers.”

He also is encouraged “because the life issue is connected to so many other things,” he said. “When we deal with the question of the vulnerable and the unborn, then we’re spending time concentrating on that issue of the dignity of humanity, on that issue of love for neighbor, on that issue … of pleading for the innocent.”

That drives evangelicals to care about others, including orphans and the poor, he said. Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said the next generation is committed to justice and sees “the pro-life commitment as part of the justice motif.”

“That pro-life platform serves as the impetus behind many of the civil rights issues that Christians are now advocating for in the 21st century,” he said. Focus is excited at what it describes as “a renaissance in the evangelical pro-life movement,” Rosati told the audience. Young evangelicals’ “comprehensive commitment to pro-life causes … is going to enhance our work on behalf of the preborn,” she said. “I believe that with all my heart. And I think that’s one of the trends we’re going to see” continue in the future. A thread runs through both the life and race issues, Rodriguez said. The “abortion industry is targeting the ethnic community like no other,” placing its clinics in Latino and African-American neighborhoods, he said. “So if you are in favor of bringing about racial reconciliation, it behooves you to address abortion.”For pro-life evangelicals, Moore said, “the most important weapon we have in our arsenal is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The most important pro-life chapter in the Bible is not Psalm 139 but Romans 3, that God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” He added, “God is just. He hears the cries of the unborn. And, Paul tells us in Romans 3, God is the justifier — so that in the cross we have the justice of God and the mercy of God.”

Evangelicals “need to be the sort of people who are addressing this issue in our churches, talking to the conscience,” he said. “But you don’t leave it there, because you also say, ‘If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation,’ which means that woman who has had the abortion or that man who has paid for the abortion who is in Christ, God does not see that person as the one who had the abortion. God sees that person exactly as He sees Jesus Christ: ‘You are my beloved child with whom I am well pleased.’”

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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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Pro-Life, Pro-Immigrant

It has been a discouraging week for evangelical Christians and others who are steadfastly devoted to protecting unborn life.

Last Thursday, as I joined with approximately 100,000 others at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., the ostensibly pro-life Republican leadership of the House of Representatives called off a scheduled vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act. This legislation, which would prohibit abortions of unborn children past 20 weeks in their gestation in most cases, is a matter of conscience. Scientists believe that unborn children at 20 weeks are sufficiently developed so as to feel pain while abortion terminates their life. That’s why most Americans, both women and men—including many who support the right to choose an abortion earlier in a pregnancy—support this bill. But in an apparent betrayal of the many pro-life evangelical and Catholic voters who just helped their party to gain control of both chambers of Congress, Republican leaders in the House decided against even offering a vote on the legislation.

Christian engagement in public policy is driven by the fundamental biblical conviction that all human life is made in the image of God and is thus to be cherished. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, legal status, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, disability, or any other qualifier, human life is sacred, and our faith requires us to advocate in particular for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Children still within their mothers’ wombs certainly meet that definition.

That’s why Christians—including the vast majority of Latino evangelicals represented by the tens of thousands of local churches within our nation who form the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference—are so adamantly pro-life. In fact, a recent poll finds that Hispanic immigrant evangelicals are among the most pro-life constituency in the nation: fully 73% oppose abortion in all or most cases, compared to 43% of the general population and 65% of our white evangelical brethren.

Latino evangelicals feel betrayed by the House Republicans’ failure to vote on this basic legislation. Unfortunately, such betrayal seems to be becoming a trend.

Just two weeks ago, after assuring evangelical leaders both privately and publicly for more than a year that they were committed to finally reforming our antiquated immigration laws as we have urged them to do, House Republicans leadership pushed forward a bill to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which since 2012 has allowed certain individuals who were brought into the U.S. as children, not of their own volition, to be granted temporary work authorization and be relieved of the fear of deportation. That administrative policy has meant hope for tens of thousands of ambitious young people within Hispanic evangelical churches. The House’s effort to remove these young people’s work authorization and put them at risk of deportation is an offense to most Latino evangelicals (and to many other evangelical Christians as well).

It also should be deeply troublesome to all who support the pro-life cause, because the vote to end DACA—and the failure to advance the commons sense immigration reforms that are popular with most Americans as well as most evangelical Christians—is political suicide, setting up a scenario where it becomes nearly impossible for a pro-life president to be elected in 2016.

That’s because it is nearly impossible for a pro-life Republican presidential candidate to win the Electoral College without improving their standing among Latino voters from the paltry 27% that Governor Romney received in 2012, after vowing to dismantle the DACA program if elected and endorsing an immigration policy of “self-deportation.” Latinos—and particularly Latino evangelicals—are eager to vote for a pro-life, pro-immigrant candidate in 2016, but the GOP’s recent actions in the House of Representatives convey to Latino voters that it is uninterested in either label.

It’s not too late though. Congressional Republicans should quickly take up both the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act and a series of immigration bills that would secure our borders, reform our dysfunctional visa system, and establish a process by which immigrants present unlawfully could earn permanent legal status and eventual citizenship if they’re willing to pay a fine, pass a criminal background check, and work over the course of several years for those privileges.

If they fail to do so, Latino evangelicals, for whom the pro-life cause and immigration reform are two key policy concerns, will take note. As was the case in 2012, when a majority supported President Obama’s re-election, most will likely vote for Democratic candidates whom they trust will act on at least one of their key priorities.

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Hispanic Evangelicals could determine GOP nominee

Based on the performance on display in Iowa last weekend by several of the Republican presidential hopefuls, none of them seem to be paying attention to what could deliver the keys to the front door of the White House: Latino voters. Hispanic populations have grown by an average of 77 percent in nine presidential battleground states since 2000.

Both Republicans and Democrats would be wise to pay very close attention to how they navigate two issues in particular: immigration and education. While Hispanic evangelicals traditionally support social conservatives, polling indicates they are willing to depart from party orthodoxy to support candidates who share their beliefs on these two issues. Nearly nine in 10 Hispanic voters supported President Barack Obama’s use of executive action late last year to protect undocumented workers from deportation. Fifty-seven percent of registered Hispanic voters call education an “extremely important” issue, putting it ahead of the economy and healthcare.

As a pastor, I’ve witnessed the suffering of those living in the shadows of our immigration system. I’ve counseled families torn apart by the legal status of a loved one. Our system begets broken families, poverty and a dependence on government that often gets passed from one generation to the next. We can and must do a better job of putting an end to the cycle by establishing a path for undocumented immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship without amnesty, which would require paying back taxes, passing background checks and demonstrating a comprehensive knowledge of U.S. civics.

Likewise, leaders must continue to champion high education standards, greater academic accountability and school choice. Over the past year, efforts to implement high, comparable academic standards have drawn a great deal of scrutiny. I’m often baffled by criticisms that focus largely on political dogma and little on the value of setting rigorous expectations for our children.

As Christians we are called to confront America’s education crisis with both conviction and compassion. Young people with a fundamental understanding of core knowledge are more likely to hold good jobs, invest back in their community, and stay out of trouble with the law. Sadly, for too long we have let the bar gradually slip, especially for low-income and minority students.

Non-federal, comparable standards ensure at each grade level children will develop the skills and knowledge to graduate from high school prepared for college-level work or a competitive job. That’s important for Hispanic students, only about half of whom complete high school on time, if at all. More than 58 percent of Latinos entering a two-year college require remediation, and just one in 10 college students in remediation will graduate. For most, the result is debt with little to show for it.

We have a responsibility to hold all young people to rigorous academic expectations, regardless of race or where they grow up. Failing to do so ignores the worth of every child and effectively systematizes the notion some students just aren’t “smart enough,” reinforcing cycles of poverty and inequality. Similarly, young people who are gifted should be liberated to learn at their own pace and reach for the stars. We can have a system that respects the needs of every child and their unique talents.

Fortunately, a few likely presidential candidates have shown the courage not to back away from their support for high standards. Govs. Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich and Chris Christie are among those who have stood by their call for rigorous classroom expectations. Polling finds more than two-thirds of voters favor high education standards. Among minority families, support is even stronger.

As the representative of 40,000 churches across the country, I encourage the presidential candidates to make clear their positions on high education standards and fair immigration policy. The Hispanic faith community will be listening closely to where candidates stand on reforms that align with the word of God and respect the dignity of all his people.

 

REV. SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals. This was distributed by InsideSources.com

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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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