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Natural Procreative Technology

In this age of astonishing advances in medical treatments, not all progress comes in the form of pharmacological discoveries. Some innovations, in fact, are as old as time itself.
 
This is the case with Natural Procreative Technology (NaProTECHNOLOGY), a holistic approach to women’s healthcare where diagnoses are made in concert with a woman’s intimate understanding of her own body and where treatments do not disrupt or suppress natural reproductive function. NaProTECHNOLOGY uses the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning to identify underlying causes and provide natural solutions for a range of gynecological issues, including infertility, miscarriages, ovarian cysts, premenstrual syndrome and postpartum depression.
 
In February, a NaProTECHNOLOGY practice opened at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., under the leadership of Dr. Sarah Bascle and assisted by Nancy Malo, a certified fertility care practitioner, as well as a registered nurse and a certified nurse midwife, who will all be dedicated to the philosophy. The practice is the first, not just in New Hampshire but in all of New England and much of the East Coast, that is solely dedicated to Natural Family Planning and NaProTECHNOLOGY.
 
Because NaProTECHNOLOGY is effective, science-based and in complete accord with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, the staff at the medical center is excited to welcome Bascle to their medical team to provide a regional natural procreative practice that will be able to serve patients from far beyond the West Side of Manchester.
 
Nicole Pendenza, director of Maternal and Child Health Care, conveyed the enthusiasm of her colleagues. “We have been looking to open a practice like this at CMC for many years now but have had difficulty finding the right practitioner.”
 
When Bascle entered medical school at Tulane University, she requested that she be able to fulfill her residency “without having to leave my faith at the hospital door, and they accommodated this,” she said. She also began doing her own research and became acquainted with alternatives to birth control and hormonal treatment for fertility, respectively known as the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaProTECHNOLOGY.
 
The Creighton Model and NaProTECHNOLOGY was developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers while working at the St. Louis University and Creighton University Schools of Medicine. Hilgers, who is now currently a senior medical consultant in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine and surgery at the Pope Paul VI Institute and a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Creighton University School of Medicine, published “The Medical and Surgical Practice of NaProTECHNOLOGY” in 2004.
 
Malo had been looking forward to welcoming a NaProTECHNOLOGY practice to the hospital. “Now we will host the only practice in the region with full service OB/GYN care that is couple-centered and morally acceptable to people of all faiths. I’ve been told repeatedly by women ‘This is an answer to my prayers!’”
 
For more information visit cmc-womenswellness.org, naprotechnology.com or call 603-314-7597.

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By Gary Bouchard, originally published in Parable, magazine of the Diocese of Manchester, Nov./Dec. 2016 
 

Catholic young women’s initiatives

Attending a Catholic young women's leadership forum taught Michelle Nunez, 23, that "our vocation as women is to be receptive to God's gifts."
 
What Nunez learned about the "feminine genius," a term used by St. John Paul II to describe the gifts of women, helps her, a year later, in her volunteer work with immigrants at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.
 
Nunez and 300 young women representing dioceses from all 50 states are using their specific gifts to carry out their "action plans" following the June 2016 Given Forum at The Catholic University of America. An initiative of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the forum brought young Catholic women together for a weeklong immersion in "faith formation, leadership training and networking."
"We wanted each (of the attendees) to receive these truths: You are a gift; you have received specific gifts of nature and grace; the church and the world await your unique expression of the feminine genius," said Sister Bethany Madonna, a Sister of Life and co-chair of the event.
 
Part of the application process required women to submit "action plans," new initiatives inspired by their own gifts, interests and leadership skills, which would be implemented in the months following the conference.
 
As her "action plan," Nunez, from Houston, originally planned "to create a nonprofit, holistic agency to work with Hispanic women, to have different courses to take care of their mind, body, spirit." But after hearing Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus and executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, at the conference, Nunez said, "I just knew I needed to work with her."
 
The center assists immigrants from Central America, who are seeking asylum and traveling to meet family members in the United States. "ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) releases them from the detention center where they are process for about three days. We pick them up from the bus station ... give them clothes, they shower" and wait for their buses to meet family members in other parts of the country.
 
Nunez sees her volunteer work as a ministry of listening. "While they're waiting there, I sit down with them and talk to them," Nunez said. She hopes to be "a voice for the voiceless" to "share a little bit of their stories with other people here in the U.S." Ultimately this will bring her closer to the "bigger picture," her nonprofit.
 
In forming her action plan, Casey Bustamante, 30, saw a need for a "gathering of young adults, active military and spouses." Bustamante, associate director of young adult ministry with the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, is organizing the first conference for young adults who are military ministry leaders June 16-18 in Northbrook, Ill.
 
After the Given Forum, Bustamante considered the ways the conference itself could be a model for developing the military conference. She wanted to incorporate some of the training and tools she had received, such as a session on how to best engage with the press and media, led by Catholic Voices USA, whose mission is to articulate the Church's teaching in the public square.
 
"Some of the feedback that I've received from young adults is that it's a challenge to talk about the hot-button issues with their peers and among other military members because our society values are changing, and the military culture is not separate from that," she said.
 
Bustamante invited Catholic Voices USA to lead a session to encourage the servicemen to freely discuss Catholic issues.
 
Another attendee, Corynne Staresinic, 22, from Cincinnati, created a website called The Catholic Woman that features weekly letters and quarterly videos submitted by "women of all ages, backgrounds and vocations" to "illustrate the many faces and voices of Catholic women."
 
Staresinic, who graduated in May 2016 from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, said the idea for the project began after she read St. John Paul II's "Letter to Women" during her senior year. "That was the big game-changing moment in my life," Staresinic told Catholic News Service. The pope's letter, along with the diverse stories of the female speakers at the conference provided the model for The Catholic Woman's letters.
 
 
 

Against assisted suicide

By Greg Schleppenbach
 
The campaign to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide has been wisely rejected by most policymakers in our society.
 
Most people, regardless of religious affiliation, know that suicide is a terrible tragedy, one that a compassionate society should work to prevent. They realize that allowing doctors to prescribe the means for any of their patients to kill themselves is a corruption of the healing art.
 
But assisted suicide proponents like the deceptively named group “Compassion & Choices” have renewed their aggressive nationwide campaign through legislation, litigation and public advertising, targeting states they see as most susceptible to their message. So the battle against doctor-assisted suicide continues to rage on many fronts.
 
In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. The assisted suicide campaign has since advanced to legalize the deadly practice in Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado and the District of Columbia.
 
Montana’s highest court, while not officially legalizing the practice, suggested in 2009 that it could be allowed under certain circumstances.
 
Assisted suicide advocates got similar legislation introduced in 27 states this year. Thankfully, many of these bills have been, or likely will be, defeated. But several states still face serious threats, including Hawaii, Maine, New York and New Jersey. They are also turning to courts to overturn laws banning the practice, with lawsuits pending in New York, Hawaii and Massachusetts.
 
The U.S. Congress was drawn into the debate when Washington, D.C.’s City Council passed a law legalizing assisted suicide in November 2016. Our Constitution gives Congress ultimate control over District laws and efforts to nullify are underway. But since Congress has not addressed assisted suicide for many years, members need basic education from constituents about why assisted suicide is dangerous for patients and their families.
 
Another battleground is in the medical profession itself. Long-held opposition to assisted suicide by medical associations has been essential to preserving laws against the practice. That is why C&C is infiltrating medical associations and urging them to abandon opposition and adopt a position of neutrality. The move to neutrality by medical associations in Oregon, Vermont and California helped pave the way for legalization of assisted suicide in those states. And now the American Medical Association is considering whether to change its decades-long position against assisted suicide to one of neutrality.
 
One way to counter the C&C effort is by asking our doctors their position on assisted suicide. If they oppose it, thank them for their stance and urge them to speak out against the practice with their medical associations, their state legislature and with Congress. If the answer is “support,” try to change their minds—and if they won’t, find a new doctor, letting your former doctor know why you left.
 
Euphemistic terms like “aid in dying” “compassion and choice” cloak the reality that assisted suicide is a deadly act: Doctors prescribing a lethal drug for suicide by overdose. Far from fostering compassion or choice, assisted suicide fosters discrimination by creating two classes of people: those whose suicides we work hard to prevent and those whose suicides we assist.
 
Evidence shows that legalizing assisted suicide can reduce access to quality end-of- life care, put pressure on patients and their families and open them up to abuses from insurance companies, among many other dangers. Your help is needed to expose these and other dangers. Equip yourself with fact sheets, videos and other resources available at usccb.org/toliveeachdaypatientsrightscouncil.org and patientsrightsaction.org.  
 
Greg Schleppenbach is associate director for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To read the U.S. bishops’ 2011 policy statement on assisted suicide and related resources, visit usccb.org/toliveeachday.
 

'Pledge to End the Death Penalty'

Bishops attending a meeting were among the first to sign the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty at the U.S. bishops' headquarters building May 9.
 
Each person taking the pledge promises to educate, advocate and pray for an end to capital punishment.
 
"All Christians and people of goodwill are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom," Pope Francis has said. This quotation kicks off the pledge.
 
The pledge drive is organized by the Catholic Mobilizing Network.
 
"The death penalty represents a failure of our society to fulfill the demands of human dignity, as evidenced by the 159 people and counting who have been exonerated due to their innocence since 1973," the organization says on the pledge sheet following space for someone's signature.
 
Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the network added, "The death penalty is not needed to maintain public safety, punishment must 'correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and (be) more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.'"
 
After capital punishment was halted nationwide briefly in the 1970s, more than 1,400 people have been executed since it resumed 40 years ago, according to the Catholic Mobilizing Network. "The prolonged nature of the death penalty process can perpetuate the trauma for victims' families and prevents the opportunity for healing and reconciliation called for in the message of Jesus Christ."
 
The idea for the pledge campaign took root in January, said Catholic Mobilizing Network executive director Karen Clifton in an interview with Catholic News Service, but Arkansas' bid to execute eight death-row prisoners in a 10-day span in April -- four were ultimately put to death -- "exacerbated the situation and showed it as a very live example of who we are executing and the reasons why the system is so broken," she said.
 
Penalties for crime are "supposed to be retributive, but also restorative. The death penalty is definitely not restorative," Clifton said. Those on death row are not the worst of the worst, they're the least -- the marginalized, the poor, those with improper (legal) counsel," she added.
 
Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said he and his fellow bishops have voiced their views strongly with Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, where capital punishment is legal and where prisoners have been executed.
 
Bishop Dewane, in recalling Pope John Paul II's successful personal appeal to the governor of Missouri to spare a death-row inmate's life during the pope's visit to St. Louis in 1999, said the episode offers hope. "It's a great example," he added. "You never know how your words will be taken, or accepted."
 
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, who was one of a number of bishops who signed the pledge following a daylong meeting May 9 at the U.S. bishops' headquarters building in Washington, said the Church's ministry to prisoners is another source of hope. "It's the ministry of companionship that's so important," he noted.
 
 
 

Supporting a friend when she’s unexpectedly expecting

   
I had been brought up to believe that life is always a gift, but it certainly didn’t feel like one when I gazed in shock at a positive pregnancy test. As a mom who had my first baby in college, I know that an unexpected pregnancy can sometimes bring fear, shame and doubt.
 
However, I also know that an unexpected pregnancy can bring joy, excitement, awe, gratitude and deeper love than I knew was possible. About nine months after looking at that pregnancy test, I received the very best gift I have ever been given: my daughter, Maria.* An unexpected pregnancy might be confusing along the way, but life -- though at times difficult -- is ultimately beautiful.
 
Perhaps one of your friends has become pregnant unexpectedly. As someone who has been there, I encourage you to support her in her new journey of being a mother; it’s important that she knows you are thinking of her and supporting her.
 
An unexpected pregnancy can send a woman into crisis mode. If your friend just found out she is pregnant, she may not be thinking clearly, and she may feel she has no control over anything at the moment. When a woman experiencing challenging circumstances confides she is pregnant, the reaction of the first person she tells tends to set the tone for her decision-making.
 
Avoid responding with shock or alarm, and be calm and understanding. Be aware of how she is responding to you. Listen to her and let her know you love her, you are there for her, and it’s going to be OK. Pay close attention to her emotional state, and act accordingly.
 
Depending on where she is emotionally, it may or may not be helpful to congratulate her at that time. However, it is always important to affirm that every person’s life—including her child’s and her own--is precious and beautiful no matter the circumstances.
 
Pay attention to what might make her feel most loved. One person might appreciate encouraging words, while another might feel more supported if you help with specific tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask her if she needs help with anything or to make specific offers to help. For example, you might offer to help with cleaning, finding a good doctor or running to the store to pick up the one food that won’t make her feel sick. (But remember to read her cues and make sure you’re not being overbearing.) Simple things -- letting her know that you care and are always ready to listen, that you are available to help her, that you are praying for her -- can give hope and courage when she might otherwise feel alone.
 
The most important thing, though, is to pray; it’s the most effective way we can help. Pray for her, for her child and for guidance in how you can give her the best possible support.
 
Your support might be the only support she receives. Even if we never know how, the smallest things we do can change someone’s life. You can make a difference in her life.
 
Will you?




 
* Name changed for privacy.
 
This issue of “Life Issues Forum” has been adapted and shortened from “10 Ways to Support Her When She’s Unexpectedly Expecting,” originally published in the 2015-16 Respect Life Program. Visit bit.ly/10WaysRespectLife for the original version. A directory of pregnancy services can be found at heartbeatinternational.org/worldwide-directory.
 

Reactions to American Health Care Act vote

The American Health Care Act that passed by a four-vote margin May 4 in the House has "major defects," said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Social Development.
 
"It is deeply disappointing that the voices of those who will be most severely impacted were not heeded," Bishop Dewane said in a May 4 statement. "The AHCA does offer critical life protections, and our health care system desperately needs these safeguards. But still, vulnerable people must not be left in poor and worsening circumstances as Congress attempts to fix the current and impending problems with the Affordable Care Act."
 
He added, "When the Senate takes up the AHCA, it must act decisively to remove the harmful proposals from the bill that will affect low-income people -- including immigrants -- as well as add vital conscience protections, or begin reform efforts anew. Our health care policy must honor all human life and dignity from conception to natural death, as well as defend the sincerely held moral and religious beliefs of those who have any role in the health care system."
 
One of 20 Republicans to vote against the bill was Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.
 
"I voted no on the AHCA largely because it cuts Medicaid funding by $839 billion; undercuts essential health benefits such as maternity care, newborn care, hospitalization and pediatric services; includes 'per capita caps' and weakens coverage for pre-existing health conditions -- all of which will hurt disabled persons, especially and including children and adults with autism, the elderly and the working poor," Smith said in a May 4 statement.
 
Those opposing the bill cited reductions in coverage and cost increases. Those favoring the bill cited its pro-life provisions.
 
 "Today's House vote marks the beginning of the end of the shell game Planned Parenthood plays with public money. That the American Health Care Act limits Medicaid funds to entities that don't kill people is entirely appropriate, not to mention a step that's long overdue," said a May 4 statement by Father Frank Pavone, national president of Priests for Life.
 
"Abortion is not health care, and in light of that -- this bill provides Hyde (Amendment)-like protections and redirects funding away from America's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, to community health centers that offer comprehensive women's care, and already outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics by 20 to 1," said a May 4 statement by Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.
 
"Over 2 million Americans are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment. This new health care bill ensures that we are one step closer to getting the federal government entirely out of the business of subsidizing abortion," said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, in a May 4 statement.
 
"Protecting Medicaid is a priority for the faith community. The 'fixes' made to the AHCA do nothing to change the fact that millions of low-income Americans will lose their health coverage," said a May 4 statement by the Rev. David Beckmann, a Lutheran minister who is president of Bread for the World, the anti-hunger lobby. "Medical bills often drive families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, into hunger and poverty."
 
"We support efforts to strengthen and stabilize our nation's health care system and extend insurance coverage and protections," said Arthur C. Evans Jr., CEO of the American Psychological Association. "However, the American Health Care Act is not the answer. Accordingly, we call on the Senate to reject the bill due to its projected adverse impact on the well-being of our nation, particularly on individuals with mental health, behavioral and substance use disorders."
 

Priests pedaling for prayers

After riding bicycles a little more than 340 miles over five days, three young priests of the Diocese of Peoria sailed across the Indiana state line April 28, bringing Priests Pedaling for Prayers to a close.

“It does seem a little surreal,” Father Tom Otto said at journey’s end. “Things like this seem insurmountable when you begin, but maybe like life, you focus on the short-term goals. … That makes it doable. Take one little bit at a time and before you know it, you’ve done something pretty incredible.”

The effort to raise prayers for vocations began April 24 when Father Otto, Father Michael Pica and Father Adam Cesarek dipped their rear tires in the Mississippi River, which marks the border between Iowa and Illinois. They were sent forth with the blessing of students at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in East Moline, who lined both sides of the street outside the school to cheer them on.

Along the way, they stopped to talk with students and parishioners at 15 schools and churches about the need for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, as well as good, holy marriages “from which all vocations come.”

They also celebrated Mass, took part in Holy Hours for vocations, stopped to pray at the Bishops’ Mausoleum in St. Mary’s Cemetery in West Peoria, and visited with people at potluck gatherings, dinners and receptions arranged by the vocation apostolates or Knights of Columbus councils in each area.

At most stops, they received pledge cards from children and adults with promises of prayer, sacrifice and good deeds to support them on the ride and ask God for an increase in vocations.

“What’s been really neat to see is the goodness of the people of our diocese. That’s been, for me, absolutely the most powerful part,” said Father Cesarek, who is parochial vicar at four faith communities in central Illinois.

“The overwhelming support we had from each and every place we went, the joy that each place had and the excitement that they maintained … really invigorated me and gave me an incredible hope for our diocese,” he said.

He said the trio were inspired by the good, holy people they encountered, including the priests of the Diocese of Peoria, many of whom were on hand for their visits and offered them hospitality for the night.

“There were things that surprised us along the way,” said Father Otto, parochial vicar at two parishes and a chaplain for students at Monmouth College. “The fact that every school and every parish did something different for us was a nice surprise.”

The pedaling priests found a drumline waiting for them at Costa Catholic Academy in Galesburg, a parade with students from St. Mary School in Pontiac and St. Paul School in Odell walking or biking with them, and signs, streamers and tunnels of enthusiastic students at others. When they arrived at Schlarman Academy in Danville, near the Indiana border, students were holding a large “Finish Line” banner they had signed.

Father Pica, parochial vicar at three parishes in McLean and DeWitt counties, credits the welcome at the schools with “pumping us up and getting us ready to go, giving us momentum to do the ride.”

That was especially important on April 26, when the priests did their “century” ride — 100 miles in one day. In all, they were on the road for 20 hours and 45 minutes, averaging about 17 miles an hour.

Each priest had a tough day, but it wasn’t the same day so they were able to support and encourage whoever was struggling. They prayed the rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet and caught up with each other when the wind was at their backs and they were able to ride side by side.

“There’s moments of quiet, which is all right, too,” Father Cesarek said. “There are moments of suffering out there. I was kind of keeping in mind particular people, some of the kids in our school who are suffering with cancer, offering that suffering for them.”

They emphasized that they aren’t the only priests willing to suffer and go the extra mile for their people.

“There are so many priests out there who will do anything and everything and they don’t get recognition for it,” Father Pica said. In fact, these men prefer to remain behind the scenes.

Would they do it again?

“Ask us in a couple months,” Father Otto said, laughing.

“Without question,” Father Cesarek said, “we would all be open to it again, if the Lord wills it.”

People's Climate March

Carrying banners and signs with quotes from Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'," hundreds of Catholics joined the People's Climate March to call for moral and prayerful action to protect creation.
 
On a sweltering day that reinforced the message about the need to respond to climate change -- the 91-degree temperature at 3 p.m. April 29 tied a 43-year-old Washington record for the date -- many in the Catholic contingent said they had a moral obligation to witness in the streets.
 
"We march for our grandchildren. Stop global warming," read one sign propped up in the back of St. Dominic Church in Washington, where about 300 people gathered before the march for Mass celebrated by Dominican Father Hyacinth Marie Cordell, the parish's parochial vicar.
 
Underlying the messages on the signs and banners were people who shared a heartfelt concern to carry out Pope Francis' call in his 2015 encyclical to live responsibly with the planet, remember the needs of others around the world and to reduce consumption and energy usage for the sake of God's creation.
 
The 300 people at the Mass heard Father Cordell call for an "ecological conversion" during his homily. He said each person must act in any way possible to protect God's creation: reducing energy usage; limiting waste; choosing carpooling or biking and walking more; and buying less.
 
"We can learn increasingly to act not only with our own good and convenience in mind, but above all to think and choose according to what is best for all, especially for the poor and for future generations," he said. "This ecological conversion calls us to self-examination, to make an inventory of our lives and habits so that we can learn to be better stewards of our common home and its resources, which are meant for the good of all."
 
Sister Kathy Sherman, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph in LaGrange Park, Ill., was pleased to hear Father Cordell stress the encyclical's themes.
"I feel like I'm marching for the children, for the future," she told Catholic News Service. "Earth is getting bad for us. If we don't do something there's not going to be anything like we've known for the future generations, and it breaks my heart."
 
Along the march route on Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, Nancy Lorence, a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in New York City, said personal actions are crucial if people of faith are going to make a difference.
 
"We feel like 'Laudato Si'' calls us to be in the streets, as Pope Francis says, and be active on the social justice issues and climate change," Lorence told CNS.
 
In Vermont, about 2,000 people gathered outside the Statehouse in Montpelier for the People's Climate Rally, one of 300 protests expected throughout the country.
 
 
 

Society of Catholic Scientists

"Origins," the first conference of the Society of Catholic Scientists, gave more than 100 participants the opportunity to learn about everything from the birth of stars to the beginnings of human language and to reflect on how their faith and work inform each other.
 
But perhaps the most important benefit of the conference and the fledgling society that sponsored it was the chance for Catholic scientists to connect with one another as they met April 21-23.
 
Darlene Douglas, a teacher at Willows Academy in Des Plaines, Illinois, who has a doctorate in genetics from the University of Chicago, said she left science as a career after it became too difficult to find labs in which she could work without violating Catholic ethics about working with human embryonic stem cells or cell lines derived from aborted fetuses.
 
"During my studies, I met with a lot of pushback to my faith," Douglas said, adding that one of her ethics professors told students that it was impossible to believe in both God and evolution.
 
That is not the position of the Catholic Church, but many scientists who are not Catholic do not know that.
 
Part of the problem, said Stephen Barr, society president, is that Catholic scientists often are not aware of how many of their peers share their faith.
 
Barr, director of the Bartol Research Institute at the University of Delaware, founded the society with Jonathan Lundine, director of the Cornell University Center for
Astrophysics and Planetary Science, after both concluded that it would be a good thing for the science community and for the Church.
 
"I had several motivations for forming such an organization," Barr said. "Many Catholics in science -- especially students and young scientists -- feel isolated because they do not realize how many other scientists share their faith. That is because most religious scientists are quiet about their faith. This sense of isolation can be demoralizing."
 
The conference was co-sponsored by the Lumen Christi Institute, which was founded 20 years ago by Catholic scholars at the University of Chicago to bring together Catholic thinkers across academic disciplines.
 
Thomas Levergood, institute executive director, said he learned about plans for the society when Barr spoke at a Lumen Christi event in 2015, and the institute offered its support.
 
"It helps make Catholic scientists visible," Levergood said. "Intellectually, there's no conflict between Catholicism and science. There's actually a lot of synergy between them."
 
Catholics have made huge contributions in the sciences, from Father Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian who founded the modern science of genetics, to Belgian Msgr. George Lemaitre, who first proposed the theory of an expanding universe and the Big Bang.
 
However, because some strains of Christianity reject some of what humanity has learned from science, Levergood said, there is a perception in scientific circles that science and religion are incompatible.
 
"It's existed as a kind of prejudice. Within the culture and within scientific circles," he said.
 
"This is part of the myth that science and religion are incompatible and have historically been at war," Barr said. This myth has led many young Catholics to lose their faith, as several recent studies have shown. We want to show the world that there are large numbers of devout Catholic scientists, including ones of great eminence in their fields."
 
The society has met great enthusiasm, Barr said. He and Lundine were surprised by how easy it was to find members for the society's seven-member board.
After securing the sponsorship of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Archbishop
 
Charles J. Chaput's participation as bishop adviser, the group started taking applications for membership. It is open only to professional scientists and university-level students studying for a career in the physical and natural sciences.
 
By mid-April, after being in operation for less than a year, it had 350 members, Barr said.
 
Karin Oberg, an astrochemist and associate professor of astronomy at Harvard University, spoke at the conference on how planets are formed, how many planets outside the solar system might be habitable for life and how people might go about finding them.
 
But she also reflected on what that means spiritually.
 
"If God describes himself through his creation, what does it mean if God's creation is full of habitable worlds?" she said. The thought that the stars people see could each center a solar system with its own habitable worlds makes the night sky seem less cold, she said, and "something that's a bit more cozy."
 

Project Rachel

By Tom Grenchik, executive director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
 
For any of us who have joined in a Divine Mercy Chaplet a few times, the response is automatic.  We simply hear: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion…” and our lips are already responding with: “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.” 
 
How consoling it is to embrace our Lord’s Divine Mercy and be confident in His forgiveness.  We know He will forgive any sin, if we are truly sorry. But for some, especially those who have lost a child to abortion, trusting in that forgiveness is not so easy. Even if they trust in God’s capacity and overwhelming desire to forgive them, they still often struggle with forgiving themselves. 
 
Many in our culture are deeply wounded, including many Catholics who are in great need of God’s mercy and healing. Twenty-eight percent of women having abortions identify themselves as Catholic, which translates into as many as 10 million Catholic women affected by abortion. An equal number of men have been involved, even if the extent of their involvement was to abandon the woman on discovering she was pregnant. Then there are the grandparents, other family members and friends who have also been affected. The impact on our culture and our Church is far-reaching.
 
Rare is the individual who has not encountered the trauma of abortion in the suffering of friends and family members.
 
Immediately after the 1973 Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion in our land, the U.S. bishops not only condemned that action, but they also prophetically called for the creation of diocesan post-abortion healing ministries as an integral part of the Church’s pro-life response. Being pro-life means being missionaries of mercy to those now suffering from a past abortion.
 
Project Rachel, the Catholic Church’s ministry to those who have been involved in abortion, is a diocesan-based network of specially trained priests, religious, counselors and laypersons who provide a team response of care for those suffering in the aftermath of abortion. In addition to offering sacramental reconciliation, the ministry provides an integrated network of services, including pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, support groups, retreats and referrals to licensed mental health professionals. For many who struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness, Project Rachel can gently open the door to embracing His forgiveness and mercy, as well as learning to forgive oneself and praying for the forgiveness of one’s child.  
 
In a homily as chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Boston Cardinal Seán Malley stated: “The Good News is that God never gives up on us. He never tires of loving us. He never tires of forgiving us, never tires of giving us another chance. The Pro-Life Movement needs to be the merciful face of God....”  
 
The bishops are firmly committed to extending that offer of God’s infinite mercy. More and more dioceses are increasing their pastoral outreach to women and men who have lost a child to abortion.
 
To find information on the Church’s resources near to you or a loved one, visit HopeAfterAbortion.org or EsperanzaPosAborto.org.
 
For information about the Project Rachel Ministry in the Diocese of Burlington, go
vermontcatholic.org/index.php?sid=5&pid=1050&subnav_id=100009
 
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This article was originally published March 21, 2014, in the USCCB Life Issues Forum.
 
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