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  • January 13, 2020

    The Archdiocese will honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and remember his call to achieve peace through service to one another at its annual Mass at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19, at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1111 St. Joseph Pkwy., in Houston.

    Catholics from all 10 counties of the Archdiocese will celebrate King’s legacy at the 34th annual Archdiocesan Mass honoring his birthday, which will be celebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza as principal celebrant and Father Reginald Samuels, vicar for Catholics of African Descent and pastor at St. Hyacinth Catholic Church in Deer Park, as homilist.

    The civil rights leader was born Jan. 15, 1929, and was fatally shot April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

    Societies today need “artisans of peace,” like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family,” said Daniel Cardinal DiNardo. Rev. King “was a messenger and true witness to the power of the Gospel lived in action through public life.”

    A reception will follow the Mass in the Cathedral Centre.

  • December 26, 2019

    It's still Christmas! Even though stores have moved on to their "After Christmas" sales and radio stations have stopped playing Christmas music, the Christmas season actually begins on Christmas Day.

    But how long does it last?

    According to the liturgical calendar, the primary celebration of Christmas is an octave (eight days) starting with December 25 and ending on January 1 with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (which is a holy day of obligation).

    The Christmas season lasts a bit longer, though. And it can get a little confusing to figure out.

    If you go by the traditional "twelve days of Christmas," then it would take us to January 5, the eve of Epiphany (when the wise men visit the infant Jesus).

    However, the current the current, official definition of its length, according to the Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar:

    33. The Christmas season runs from Evening Prayer I of Christmas until the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6 January, inclusive.

    So the Christmas season begins with evening prayer on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve Masses celebrated before midnight are actually a vigil Mass for Christmas Day.

    But when exactly does it end? The norms go on to help clarify.

    37. Epiphany is celebrated on 6 January, unless (where it is not observed as a holy day of obligation) it has been assigned to the Sunday occurring between 2 January and 8 January…

    38. The Sunday falling after 6 January is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

    In the United States, the Epiphany is transferred to the first Sunday after January 1, which falls somewhere between January 2 and January 8. (It is not commemorated as its own holy day of obligation, but remember that every Sunday is a holy day of obligation!

    This year, Epiphany falls on Sunday, January 5, 2020.

    This means that the Baptism of the Lord will be celebrated on Sunday, January 12, 2020, ending the Christmas season.

    Beginning on Monday, January 13, the Church returns to Ordinary Time and you will see the familiar green vestments return.

    So, maybe the better question is - how long will you leave your Christmas tree, decorations and lights up?

  • December 18, 2019

    Out of an abundance of caution, St. Theresa Catholic School near Memorial Park in Houston voluntarily closed early for the Christmas holidays on Dec. 12 due to several confirmed cases of Pertussis or Whooping Cough. The school notified their community of the first confirmed case on Dec. 4, and the case was immediately reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services to investigate.

    All of St. Theresa's students are vaccinated. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is working closely with the Houston Health Department to ensure that we keep the best interest of the community in the forefront of our efforts.

    If you or any loved ones who may have been in contact with someone from the St. Theresa’s community exhibits the first symptoms of Whooping Cough — which are similar to a common cold, including a runny nose, sneezing, a low-grade fever and a mild occasional cough — contact your physician immediately.

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Texas Catholic Herald

  • January 14, 2020

    Cardinal DiNardo visits revived Kashmere Gardens parish as parishioners finally move back into repaired houses

    Daniel Cardinal DiNardo speaks while presiding over Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Houston on Dec. 23. He met with parishioners, clergy and faculty and staff of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School on the last Sunday of Advent. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald) Below, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church parishioner Kathy Gabriel stands on front porch of her renovated home more than two years after Hurricane Harvey. (Photo by St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church)

    HOUSTON — More than two years after Hurricane Harvey flooded St. Francis of Assisi parishioner Kathy Gabriel’s home, she finally celebrated the holidays this past November and December in her home that had to be demolished and rebuilt.

    But it was too late for her 55-year-old disabled husband who died New Year’s Day 2019 before their home was completed. 

    Kathy Gabriel stands on the steps of her new home. The 57-year-old, an employee of Houston Methodist Hospital, said, “It broke my heart when I visited my husband in the hospital or hospice and he would ask me, ‘Have they started the house yet?’”

    Several other elderly and disabled parishioners from that flooded area also perished before repairs could be done to their homes, said Sherry Dunlap, a fellow parishioner who took it upon her faith in action to help those families.

    “Thanks to training through TMO (The Metropolitan Organization), I became the de facto Harvey Disaster Case Administrator for the church and our parishioners and others around the city,” Dunlap said.

    Even St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church itself was inundated with water and the subsequent problems of mold and other issues that the Archdiocese helped to resolve.

    TMO and Gulf Coast Leadership Council (GCLC) representative Gina Reynoso said the nonprofit organizations acted as a conduit to connect people in need after the hurricane with the multitude of agencies attempting to help.

    With contribution from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, GCLC organized meetings with churches and their congregations impacted by the hurricane as being places of trust among the flurry of contractors and others trying to get a piece of the work.

    Reynoso said, “In the last two years, GCLC has held outreach sessions reaching more than 2,000 people. We also invited the agencies to attend, including the city of Houston, Harris County, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul, ICNA, and others. A special recognition to Catholic Charities for the funding provided to individual parishes to help their communities.”

    Three of those sessions were at the Kashmere Gardens-area church since about 50 families out of the 300 parishioners at St. Francis were all flooded.

    At first turned down for assistance because she worked, Gabriel finally received help from a disaster case manager at Baker Ripley community agency who connected her with PREPS (Partial Repair & Essential Power for Sheltering), which is state-supported and federally funded. But that contractor left gaps in the replaced floorboards big enough for recluse spiders and centipedes to crawl through. It wasn’t a sterile enough environment for her diabetic husband, who was also on dialysis and battled multiple infections, she said.

    “We stayed at a hotel for two months, but the funds for that ran out before the home was finished,” Gabriel said of the hotel funds allotted to them from FEMA through Baker Ripley.

    They couldn’t stay with relatives because the homes of her father, sister and brother were all impacted by the flood.

    Finally, with FEMA funds distributed by the city of Houston, her home was demolished and rebuilt.

    “It’s a brand new house now, a bit bigger and four feet off the ground,” Gabriel said. “I wish my husband would have seen it. He would be glad we’re back at home.”

    Cardinal DiNardo visits parish at Christmastime

    At a recent December 2019 visit to St. Francis of Assisi, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo met with parishioners and clergy, including parish pastor Father Martin Eke and retired Monsignor Patrick Wells, while celebrating the final Sunday Mass of Advent.

    In his first public visit to the parish since visiting the Kashmere Gardens community members in the days after Hurricane Harvey pushed at least four feet of floodwater into the parish’s church sanctuary, school and parish hall, Cardinal DiNardo was the main celebrant for the 10 a.m. Mass on Dec. 22, just three days before Christmas.

    In March 2019, Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz celebrated the Mass of Blessing of the Restored Church at St. Francis because Cardinal DiNardo was still recovering from the stroke he suffered a few days before that Mass.

    Since the storm, the parish and school community has continued to grow in faith. Since its completion in the spring, the church sanctuary has returned to its status as the spiritual home for the community.

    In the months after the storm, the parish had previously met for Mass under a tree, a tent, a nearby Catholic church, a large garage structure, then eventually the restored parish gym.

    The St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, whose students were displaced to another nearby Catholic school after the storm, re-opened in August 2018.

    The school suffered looting and the major flooding destroyed much of the school’s technology classrooms and instructional resources. Since the storm, church buildings saw major renovations to help the parish community be more prepared for another storm that could come in the future.

    While much of the renovations saw brand new installations, like the new church walls, new waterproofed flooring, a new large crucifix, ambry and baptismal font, elevated HVAC and electrical systems, raised cabinetry, as well as stackable church pew seats, a new addition wasn’t new at all. In fact, it was quite old.

    Hanging several feet in the air, a newly installed sanctuary light glowed brightly. The candle lamp, which indicates and honors the presence of Christ in the tabernacle, was an original sanctuary light that survived the Great Storm of 1900 that ravaged Galveston.

    The ornate golden candle came as a donation from The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, a community that has also weathered many storms.

    “We are privileged to have this lamp to show... the light of Christ,” said Father Eke.

    The congregation is well known for its community of 10 sisters who perished in the Great Storm, among the 6,000 who would die during the hurricane, while trying to protect the children under their care.

    Also after Harvey, the church’s bell tower was restored in September 2019. The bell had been silent for about 30 years, Father Eke said.

    “It’s ringing again, thank God!”

    At the end of the Mass, Cardinal DiNardo wished the parishioners a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year and prayed they have “great grace and strength” to “celebrate the beauty of the Nativity.”

    “It’s always onward and upward, right?” Cardinal DiNardo said. “God is always faithful.”

  • January 14, 2020

    CHI St. Luke’s and San José Clinic train staff how to report human trafficking

    Doctors, nurses and other hospital staff leading a campaign to provide patient care for human trafficking survivors are part of the Greater Houston Area Pathways for Advocacy-Based Trauma-Informed Healthcare (PATH) Collaborative. Founded by CHI St. Luke’s Health, the collaborative includes Baylor College of Medicine, Ben Taub Hospital, Doctors for Change and San Jose Clinic that are training staff how to identify and intervene to help survivors. (Photo by Jo Ann Zuñiga/Herald)

    HOUSTON — While many may be aware of Houston as a hub for sex trafficking, the crime may occur right in front of them in Galleria-area hotels or suburban school campuses rather than just shady motels plagued by drugs.

    To train people, especially medical staff, to become aware of the crime and how to report it, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), one of the largest nonprofit, faith-based health systems in the nation, leads a campaign to prevent and intervene in human trafficking, said Kimberly Williams with Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center Mission/Spiritual Care Department.

    Project coordinator of the Human Trafficking Initiative, Williams said, “Many times the one common ground for these survivors is in the emergency room for being assaulted or injured in some way. We are training 7,000 health care providers on how to identify and intervene.”

    Now with a federal grant of $649,560 to be used over the next three years, the effort builds on the Greater Houston Area Pathways for Advocacy-Based Trauma-Informed Healthcare (PATH) Collaborative founded by St. Luke’s Health, which includes Baylor College of Medicine, Ben Taub Hospital, Doctors for Change and San José Clinic.

    May Cahill, executive director of St. Luke’s Foundation, said, “Thanks to the support of our national organization’s mission and ministry fund, we were able to launch the pilot program at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in 2016. The initiative is a priority for our leadership, and now with our newest grant we are moving to expand and grow the program across our Texas division.”

    “I am proud of the role our organization plays in this work,” Cahill said. “As we came to understand the magnitude of the trafficking problem here in Houston, it became clear that as the only Catholic health system in the region, we had a responsibility to address the issue.”

    With January being Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Williams, Cahill and other members of the PATH Collaborative recently toured those medical facilities to meet the doctors and nurses on the frontlines trying to close the gap for patient care of human trafficking survivors.

    Among those on the tour, Jennifer Peuplie, advocate for the Texas Forensic Nurse Examiners, said an average of four survivors a week and at times up to 10 a week are treated at Houston-area hospitals.

    She accompanies many of the patients to provide comfort and support as they answer questions such as “Do you feel safe in your environment?” To rescue minors, police are called, but adult survivors need to make that decision on their own, she said.

    Another tour member, Rachel Fischer, an ER and forensic nurse who specializes in training against human trafficking, gave a typical scenario. She said most of the time, a pimp or trafficker will be with the patient to maintain control and guard what is being said.

    “Don’t make it seem like an interrogation. You can just ask like you’re making conversation — ‘Oh, that’s a cool tattoo. Where did you get that one?’ She may say, ‘Miami.’ ‘How about that one?’ ‘New Orleans’ and you can see that she’s being moved around,” Fischer said.

    To get her away from the guard who may say he’s the boyfriend or husband, Fischer said staff can explain that the patient needs to be taken for an X-ray or other diagnostic tests and no one else is allowed.

    Once alone with the patient, staff can provide the hotline number to Rescue Houston at 713-322-8000 or the national toll-free number of 1-888-373-7888 to let them know they can escape what is basically modern-day slavery, she said.

    “But many of them don’t think they deserve any better. They’ve been groomed by their pimp who says he loves them and will take care of them. They buy them what they say is a Gucci purse or even a puppy so they will get emotionally attached and not want to leave,” Fischer said.

    But patients can at least be armed with the hotline number to consider in the future. They can be told there are shelters like the Santa Maria Hostel that provide detox for any addictions as well as mental health counseling available.

    “It’s a long recovery process in many different ways. One girl was found with multiple hotel key cards in her possession. Many times multiple credit cards have been taken out in her name, so credit has to be restored,” Fischer said.

    From 2007 through 2016, Houston had 3,634 substantive calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the highest call volume in the U.S. Last year, law enforcement arrested more than 650 human traffickers in the Houston area, according to the collaborative.

    Once they break free of trafficking, survivors need education and job training that collaborative partners hope to provide or refer, Williams said.

    “There is also a similar initiative to replicate such a collaborative at the border in the Rio Grande Valley since that area is a big part of the supply and demand for trafficking,” she said.

    San José Clinic, a health ministry of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, will also begin training its staff on human trafficking awareness, said Maureen Sanders, San José Clinic president and CEO.

    Taking the group to tour the clinic at 2615 Fannin, Sanders and San José Clinic Medical Director Diana Grair, MD, said they were unsure whether any of their patients had been victims of human trafficking. Most of the San José Clinic patients are women 18 years and over with the average being a 47-year-old Spanish-speaking Hispanic female, they said.

    In 2018, the clinic served 3,762 uninsured patients in 30,548 visits to provide quality health care to the uninsured while relying on 914 volunteer medical and dental providers, Sanders said.

    As part of grant funds, the clinic will be hiring a bilingual licensed professional counselor or perhaps work with Catholic Charities to provide counseling to human trafficking survivors, she said.

    Other events for Human Trafficking Awareness month include members of the collaborative speaking at college campuses, including the University of Houston main campus on Jan. 17 and the University of St. Thomas on Jan. 23.

  • January 14, 2020

    At Holy Family Parish in Galveston, the focus shifts to different types of gifts. Instead of focusing on commercial gifts, such as bikes, games, clothing and tools, they focus on gifts from God.

    Under the Christmas tree at St. Mary’s Basilica in Galveston are white boxes with bright gold ribbons and sparkling gold bows labeled in large gold letters showing one of many “Gifts From God” lasting gifts. (Photo courtesy of Holy Family Parish in Galveston)

    GALVESTON — For most people who celebrate the Christmas season, giving and receiving gifts is a major tradition. Young children write their wish list to Santa, hoping they behaved well enough throughout the year to get their desired gifts under the tree while some adults put their wish list up on online retail sites hoping their friends and family will buy one of them. For many, this is the time of year where they spend the most money.

    At Holy Family Parish in Galveston, the focus shifts to different types of gifts. Instead of focusing on commercial gifts, such as bikes, games, clothing and tools, they focus on gifts from God.

    Under the Christmas tree at St. Mary Cathedral Basilica are white boxes with bright gold ribbons and sparkling gold bows. Each box is labeled in large, shiny gold letters telling one of many “Gifts From God” lasting gifts, including Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Faith, Hope, Love, Forgiveness, Joy, Patience, Kindness.

    The concept of their Advent Mission is that one receives many “Gifts From God” for whenever they are needed or wanted. In return, one should use these these gifts with intelligence, gratitude, upright actions and kind words to oneself and others.

    During their Advent Mission at St. Mary Cathedral Basilica, four members of the parish, Heidi Alcala, Irenaeus Jordan, Emily Drastata and John Valastro, served as speakers.

    Jordan and Drastata spoke about several of these gifts and how they have affected their lives, particularly in times of great need. Alcala and Valastro addressed several of the “Gifts From God” with reflections about the importance and benefit of having them.

    There were a number of reflection questions after each speaker, along with soft beautiful music with which to meditate and reflect to reconsider former words and actions and become more aware of how to graciously return words and actions back as “Gifts To God.”

    During the Advent Mission, Father Jude Ezuma, pastor of Holy Family Parish, began each evening with a special prayer and an introduction to this new concept. On the third night, an Advent Confession service was held where six priests were present to hear confessions, which continued for more than two hours.

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