News briefs: February 14, 2008

Copper prices entice thieves; Vermont church hit
BENNINGTON, Vt. (CNS) -- With the price of copper skyrocketing, not even churches are safe from thieves who rip off any copper they can get their hands on and then sell it at salvage yards. Thieves ripped about 120 feet of copper drainpipe from the Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales parish center in Bennington, and repairs were expected to cost about $1,500. "There's a problem going on with this kind of theft," said Holy Cross Father James Preskenis, pastor. As the price of copper has increased -- from about 75 cents a pound in 2004 to more than $3 a pound now -- the theft of various types of copper has increased. "Copper that is easily accessible has been stolen," commented Peter Wells, director of insurance and facilities for the statewide Diocese of Burlington. Thieves "sell it at scrap-metal yards." Father Preskenis said about a half-dozen sections of copper drainpipe were stolen from the parish center on two nights in January. "Two nights in a row," he lamented in an interview with The Vermont Catholic Tribune, newspaper of the Burlington Diocese.

Church acts as triage center after sugar refinery blast kills eight
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After an explosion ripped through the Imperial Sugar refinery in the Savannah, Ga., suburb of Port Wentworth the night of Feb. 7, Father Michael Kavanaugh said, "I opened the church and turned on all the lights, and opened the parish hall and turned on all the lights, because I just knew there was going to be a crowd. And there was," said the priest, who is pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. The parish church is directly across the street from the plant. The church's front lawn served as a triage center for refinery workers injured in the blast. No exact count was given, but an estimated 95-100 people were believed working in the plant when the explosion occurred. Eight people died from the blast, with one person still unaccounted for nearly a week after the explosion. As of Feb. 14, firefighters were still battling the blaze at the refinery. Also, 16 workers were still in the hospital, and officials said 14 of them were in critical condition.

School rallies behind refugee family after child's death
PHOENIX (CNS) -- Undaunted by the poverty that surrounded his short life, Andrew Lin wore a smile his friends still remember. "He was a big hugger. He would wrap himself around you," said Alice Fuentes, a member of the eighth-grade class at St. Jerome School. The class adopted Andrew, his parents and six siblings when they migrated from Myanmar in 2007. But the family's journey took a devastating turn Jan. 25 when Andrew was hit by a car while crossing the street near his home and later died. He was 13 years old. The Lins arrived in the United States with the help of Catholic Charities several months ago. Before that, they survived eight years at a refugee camp in Thailand. Many ethnic minority Karen families, like the Lins, have fled to that country to get away from the oppressive regime ruling Myanmar. Alice's class raised more than $31,000 for the family early in the school year and helped the Lins adjust to everything from English to electric hair dryers.


Sri Lankan priest: Church did not request troops before shrine attack

COLOMBO, Sir Lanka (CNS) -- A Sri Lankan Catholic official said the church should not be blamed for a rebel artillery attack that damaged a Catholic shrine. Artillery shells reportedly fired by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Feb. 12 hit St. Anthony Shrine in Thalladi and the surrounding area, killing six soldiers and wounding 10 others. Church sources said the portico and entrance to the shrine were damaged seriously. Father Surenthiran Leenus, secretary to Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, told the Asian church news agency UCA News Feb. 14 that there had been some confusion over what happened and why the shrine was hit. Father Leenus said that Feb. 13 local media reports, relying on military sources, falsely claimed soldiers had been cleaning up St. Sebastian Cathedral at the request of local church officials. The cathedral oversees the shrine, which is less than a mile away. "These killings are not our fault, and we did not ask for 'shramadana' (voluntary service) from security people," he said. "The church should not be blamed."

Pilgrims touch, bathe, drink for Mary's intervention at Lourdes
LOURDES, France (CNS) -- Pilgrims come to the Massabielle grotto to slide their fingers and run their hands along its damp walls smoothed by years of touching. They touch the walls with scarves, rosaries and folded pieces of paper with written prayer intentions. They toss photos of loved ones, written intentions and bouquets of flowers into the grotto's crevices. Men and women on their knees silently pray, facing a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes placed where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous 150 years ago. Groups of pilgrims walk through the grotto holding candles and sometimes spontaneously singing "Ave Maria." They place the candles at the outdoor votive stations, where the words "The flame continues my prayers" appear in several languages. People drink and bathe in the holy water of the Sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes, hoping that their prayers for Mary's intervention will be heard, inner peace will be found and faith will be restored, pilgrims told Catholic News Service in mid-February.


Minnesota couple experiences pain, grace in their newborn's death

FERTILE, Minn. (CNS) -- April and Aaron Swenby experienced both pain and grace when they delivered their baby, Austin John, who lived for only 11 minutes before dying in his mother's arms. Four months before he was born, doctors told the Swenbys the baby had anencephaly, a neural tube birth defect, and would not survive. Rather than abort the baby, the couple, who are parishioners at St. Joseph in Fertile, named the baby, celebrated his life in the womb and incorporated him into everything they did as a family. And when he was born they received a grace-filled gift, said Father Bob Schreiner, rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Crookston. "They didn't deny the pain of Good Friday," he told Our Northland Diocese, newspaper of the Diocese of Crookston. "They sat in stillness with Holy Saturday, and they experienced the power of redemption and resurrection on Easter Sunday when Austin was born."

EWTN TV and radio host announces formation of new religious community
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Rosalind Moss, an author who is an Eternal Word Television Network TV host and one of the network's radio hosts, announced Feb. 13 that she is starting a new community of sisters in the Archdiocese of St. Louis with the permission of Archbishop Raymond L. Burke. The new group will be called the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope, she told an audience of more than 200 at the Catholic Breakfast Club of Sacramento. Moss, 65, said she hopes to move to St. Louis within a few months, intends to fulfill as many of her scheduled speaking engagements in the coming year as possible, and plans to continue her radio program from St. Louis. She is working now on designing a floor-length habit, along with a basket to hold religious articles which sisters will distribute both in the poorest areas of the city and the richest. "The purpose of this religious community is to flood the world with holy habits as signs to God," said Moss.

Copyright (c) 2008 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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