If you have never been to a Catholic church, or if you are new to our area of Kansas City, welcome!

If you and your family have been away from the Catholic Church for some time, welcome back! If you are an active member of our family at St. John Francis Regis, welcome! In short, we are glad you are here.

Come and join us for Holy Mass and be transformed by God’s grace. Participate, go out “into the deep”— get involved. We are truly blessed to have such a Christ-centered, faith-filled community. We invite you to join us and experience this great gift of God. Learn ways you can get involved at St. John Francis Regis by browsing our site, our bulletin, or our Facebook page. Take advantage of the various links and videos and contemplate anew the splendor of our faith alive in our age.

I invite you to consider becoming a registered member of our parish so you can grow in abundant love of God and neighbor. We look forward to seeing you, and may God richly bless you!

In Christ,
Fr. McCaffery

Upcoming Events

Discovering Christ

A fresh new way to encounter Christ
April 3, 2018 - 6:30pm
Parish Hall
This popular series is back! Many St Regis parishioners have already experienced this seven-week series that invites you to hear the Good News and... Read more

First Friday Adoration

April 6, 2018 - 9:00am
Adoration Chapel
First Fridays we have 12 hour Adoration in the Adoration Chapel from 9:00am to 9:00pmRead more

Knights of Columbus General Membership Meeting

April 11, 2018 - 7:00pm
Rosary at 7:00pm, Meeting starts immediately after the RosaryRead more


Preparing for Lent

Saint of the day

March 20, 2018 - 12:00am
Not much is known about the life of St. Herbert, other than he was a Hermit of England and a good friend of St. Cuthbert. Herbert was a priest, and lived as a recluse on an island in Lake Derwentwater, England which later became St. Herbert’s in his honor. Herbert had asked to die on the same day as his dear friend St. Cuthbert, and God granted Him the fulfillment of that desire.
March 19, 2018 - 12:00am
St. Joseph is honored with feast days throughout the Liturgical Year.  This feast encourages us to look at Joseph's role as husband and head of the Holy Family.Most of what we know about the life of St. Joseph comes to us from Scripture and legends that have sprung up regarding his life. Though Joseph is only mentioned by two of the evangelists, he is paid the compliment of being a "just" man. This is a way of saying that Joseph was such a good and holy man that he shares in God's own holiness. In addition, Joseph gives us an example of how to be a just spouse and how to have holy relationships.Joseph's example as a husband can be best seen in how he respected Mary. He realized that God had a special plan for his wife and for his son, and Joseph did everything in his power to help this plan become reality. When Joseph was given chances to give up his vocation to the married life, by divorcing Mary or leaving her, he resisted the temptation and stayed by her side providing support and love.The feast of St. Joseph Husband of Mary has been celebrated throughout the church since the tenth century and has been honored as the Patron of the Universal Church since 1870. St. Joseph is the patron of workers, carpenters, Austria, Belgium, Bohemia, Canada, Mexico, Peru, and southern Vietnam.
March 18, 2018 - 12:00am
On March 18, the Roman Catholic Church honors St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a fourth-century bishop and Doctor of the Church whose writings are still regarded as masterful expressions of Christian faith. St. Cyril is also remembered for his exhaustive Biblical knowledge, and his endurance in the face of misunderstanding and opposition. Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, who likewise celebrate him as a saint on March 18, also remember him on May 7 – the date of a miraculous apparition said to have occurred soon after his consecration as a bishop.What we know of Cyril's life is gathered from information concerning him from his younger contemporaries, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Rufinus, as well as from the fifth-century historians, Socrates, Sozomen and Theodoret. Cyril was most likely born in Jerusalem around the year 315, shortly after the legalization of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Although that legalization put a stop to many of the persecutions that threatened the Church for two centuries, it indirectly gave rise to a number of internal controversies – both in regard to theology, and the jurisdiction of bishops – in which Cyril would find himself involved. Cyril received an excellent education in classical Greek literature as well as the Bible. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Maximus of Jerusalem, and succeeded him as bishop in 348. During his early years as a bishop, most likely around 350, he delivered a series of lectures to new initiates of the Catholic Church. Twenty-four of the lectures have survived and are studied today. In a 2007 general audience, Pope Benedict XVI praised the saint for providing an “integralâ€� form of Christian instruction, “involving body, soul, and spirit.â€� St. Cyril's teaching, the Pope said, “remains emblematic for the catechetical formation of Christians today.In 351, three years after Cyril became the Bishop of Jerusalem, a large cross-shaped light appeared for several hours in the sky over the city – an event that many interpreted as a sign of the Church's triumph over heresy. It could also, however, be understood as a sign of the suffering the new bishop would undergo in leading his flock. Unlike many other Eastern bishops and priests of the fourth century, Cyril did not allow his classical learning to lead him away from believing in the full humanity and divinity of Christ. However, the man who consecrated Cyril as a bishop, Archbishop Acacius of Caesarea, was an ally of the Arians – who claimed that Jesus was a creature and not God. Because of his connection to the archbishop, Cyril himself was unjustly suspected of heresy by many of his brother bishops. But he also found himself at odds with Archbishop Acacius, who claimed to have jurisdiction over the birthplace of the Church. Altogether, these disputes led to Cyril being exiled from Jerusalem three times in the course of 20 years.  Cyril first took refuge with Silvanus, Bishop of Taraus. He appeared at the Council of Seleucia in 359, in which the semi-Arian party was triumphant. Acacius was deposed and St. Cyril seems to have returned to his see. But the emperor was displeased at the turn of events, and, in 360, Cyril and other moderates were again driven out, and only returned at the accession of Julian in 361. In 367, a decree of Valens banished all the bishops who had been restored by Julian, and Cyril remained in exile until the death of the persecutor in 378. In 380, St. Gregory of Nyssa came to Jerusalem on the recommendation of a council held at Antioch in the preceding year. He found the Faith in accord with the truth and expressed admiration of his pastoral efforst, but the city was a prey to parties and corrupt in morals. In 381, St. Cyril participated in the Second Ecumenical Council, which condemned two different forms of Arianism and added statements about the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed of 325. St. Cyril of Jerusalem died in 387, and was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.
March 17, 2018 - 12:00am
On March 17 Catholics will celebrate St. Patrick, the fifth century bishop and patron of Ireland, whose life of holiness set the example for many of the Church's future saints. St. Patrick is said to have been born around 389 AD in Britain. Captured by Irish raiders when he was about 16, St. Patrick was taken as a slave to Ireland where he lived for six years as a shepherd before escaping and returning to his home. At home, he studied the Christian faith at monastic settlements in Italy and and what is now modern-day France. He was ordained a deacon by the Bishop of Auxerre, France around the year 418 AD and ordained a bishop in 432 AD. It was around this time when that he was assigned to minister to the small, Christian communities in Ireland who lacked a central authority and were isolated from one another. When St. Patrick returned to Ireland, he was able to use his knowledge of Irish culture that he gained during his years of captivity. Using the traditions and symbols of the Celtic people, he explained Christianity in a way that made sense to the Irish and was thus very successful in converting the natives. The shamrock, which St. Patrick used to explain the Holy Trinity, is a symbol that has become synonymous with Irish Catholic culture. Although St. Patrick's Day is widely known and celebrated every March the world over, various folklore and legend that surround the saint can make it difficult to determine fact from fiction. He is often mistakenly recognized as the man who drove away snakes during his ministry despite the climate and location of Ireland, which have never allowed snakes to inhabit the area. St. Patrick is most revered not for what he drove away from Ireland, but what brought and the foundation he built for the generations of Christians who followed him.Although not the first missionary to the country, he is widely regarded as the most successful. The life of sacrifice, prayer and fasting has laid the foundation for the many saints that the small island was home to following his missionary work.To this day, he continues to be revered as one of the most beloved saints of Ireland. In March of 2011, the Irish bishops' conference marked their patron's feast by remembering him as “pioneer in an inhospitable climate.�As the Church in Ireland faces her own recent difficulties following clerical sex abuse scandals, comfort can be found in the plight of St. Patrick, the bishops said. They quoted The Confession of St. Patrick, which reads: “May it never befall me to be separated by my God from his people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that he gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a faithful witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing.�
March 15, 2018 - 12:00am
St. Louise de Marillac was born on August 15, 1591 near the town of Meux, France. Louise received an education from the Dominican convent at Poissy and eventually discerned that she was called to religious life. After consulting her confessor concerning her plans to enter the religious life, Louise decided not to pursue this vocation. Instead, in 1613, she married Antony LeGras.Antony died in 1625 and Louise again began to think about joining a religious community. Soon after the death of her husband, Louise met St. Vincent de Paul and began to use him as a spiritual director. With his encouragement and direction, Louise formed a group of women dedicated to serving the sick, the poor and the neglected. In 1642, Louise wrote the formal Rule for the Daughters of Charity and in 1655 they received formal approval from the Vatican. After forming the Rule for the Daughters of Charity, Louise traveled around France forming convents and instituting the Daughters as workers in hospitals, orphanages and other institutions dedicated to helping the neglected.Louise worked zealously until her death in Paris in the year 1660. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934 and was declared patroness of social workers in 1960.
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Daily Readings

March 20, 2018 - 1:00am
4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient on the way.
5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food."
6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
7 And the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people.
8 And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live."
9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
March 20, 2018 - 1:00am
1 Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to thee!
2 Do not hide thy face from me in the day of my distress! Incline thy ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!
15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth thy glory.
16 For the LORD will build up Zion, he will appear in his glory;
17 he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their supplication.
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD:
19 that he looked down from his holy height, from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die;
March 20, 2018 - 1:00am
21 Again he said to them, "I go away, and you will seek me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come."
22 Then said the Jews, "Will he kill himself, since he says, `Where I am going, you cannot come'?"
23 He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.
24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he."
25 They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Even what I have told you from the beginning.
26 I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him."
27 They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father.
28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me.
29 And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him."
30 As he spoke thus, many believed in him.
March 19, 2018 - 1:00am
4 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan,
5 "Go and tell my servant David, `Thus says the LORD: Would you build me a house to dwell in?
12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men;
16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.'"
March 19, 2018 - 1:00am
1 I will sing of thy steadfast love, O LORD, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim thy faithfulness to all generations.
2 For thy steadfast love was established for ever, thy faithfulness is firm as the heavens.
3 Thou hast said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant:
4 `I will establish your descendants for ever, and build your throne for all generations.'" [Selah]
26 He shall cry to me, `Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.'
28 My steadfast love I will keep for him for ever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.
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Catholic News

March 21, 2018 - 4:12am

Santiago, Chile, Mar 21, 2018 / 03:12 am (ACI Prensa).- Although he died in 1853, the legacy of Friar Andrés Garcia Acosta is as alive as ever in Santiago, Chile, through a soup kitchen bearing his name that feeds 150 people per day.

This outreach is part of the “Spoon Trail,” a Franciscan ministry where those in need can stop at different locations to receive breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Following the friar's example, dozens of volunteers at “Friar Andresito's Soup Kitchen” help feed the poor and homeless, including those facing addictions and prostitution.

For volunteers, the work is more than just an act of charity.

“This has meant everything to me,” volunteer Magdalena Urquhart told the postulator of the friar’s cause.

She said working with the poor has changed the way she viewed them. “Although in the beginning one has a certain amount of fear because there are a lot of alcoholics, a lot of drug addictions, they're people who need a lot of love, for someone to listen to them.”

Rogelio Caroca, who has volunteered for seven years, considers Friar Andresito to be his friend and admires him because of his witness as “a simple man who generously practiced charity across the board.”

Andrés Garcia Acosta, known as Friar Andresito, was born in the Canary Islands on Jan. 10, 1800. He became acquainted with the Franciscan Order during his childhood and youth.

In 1832, he embarked for the Americas, in one of the great waves of migration from the island caused by famines, lack of employment, and droughts.

He arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, and in 1834, he entered the Franciscan Order. In 1838 the government expelled the Franciscans from the country, and he traveled to Chile when he learned that the Franciscans of the Strict Observance had been reestablished there.

Friar Andresito was assigned to the Franciscan Church of the Strict Observance from 1839 to 1853. He served as almoner and helped out in the kitchen. As almoner he got to know the physical and spiritual needs of both the wealthy and the poor.

Friar Andresito was beloved and renowned by the people of his time. Besides being almoner, he visited jails and hospitals, attended to the sick and gave spiritual advice. He was known for his humility, dedication and joy.

On Sundays, he would distribute fruit and bread to the poor, an activity that today inspires “Friar Andresito's Soup Kitchen.”

On Jan. 9, 1853, Friar Andresito came down with pneumonia. He died Jan. 14 and hundreds of people came to pay their respects.

On July 10, 1855, the friar’s remains were exhumed, and his body was found incorrupt.

In 1927, the “Friar Andrés Brotherhood” was founded and spread throughout Chile. In 1977, the “Friends of Friar Andresito” society was established, with devotees in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and the United States.

Pope Francis recognized Friar Andresito's heroic virtues June 8, 2016 and he was declared venerable.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

March 21, 2018 - 1:38am

Glasgow, Scotland, Mar 21, 2018 / 12:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Scottish authorities’ move to allow at-home administration of abortion drugs violates the law and will allow more pressure on women to have abortions, critics said.

“Many vulnerable women who may be desperate about the situation they are in will be pushed towards what is seen as the easy option of being handed some drugs and sent home to stop being a problem for society,” said John Deighan, CEO of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament in 2016 secured the legal right to govern abortion issues.

In October, Scotland’s chief medical officer told Scottish health boards that the drug Misoprostal could be taken outside a clinical setting. The drug is the second of a two-drug combination used in early abortions.

Women who have suffered an early miscarriage can take the drug at home to induce labor, while women seeking abortions have been required to take both drug doses in a hospital or clinic.

Pro-abortion rights groups backed the change, including Abortion Rights, the Family Planning Association and the Scottish Humanist Society.

Jillian Merchant, vice-chair of the group Abortion Rights, said that the change would make Scottish practice reflect current practice in the U.S., France and Sweden.

“Patients are not required to take pills in front of the prescribing clinician for any other condition. Abortion should be treated no differently,” said Merchant, according to The Herald.

However, Deighan argued that “the abortion pill has been greatly pushed by the government as if it were some sanitized and easy way of ending a pregnancy. It is far from that.”

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children Scotland will argue in court that the relevant legislation, the 1967 Abortion Act, did not intend to allow abortions at home. The legislation requires the presence of doctors, nurses or medical staff.

“The move to trivialize abortion is one that harms women and creates an environment where some women are even urged to have an abortion because it does not suit others,” Deighan continued, saying the government plan amounts to approving “backstreet abortions.”

In November, when plans to permit at-home abortion pill administration were first announced, the Scottish bishops objected that “making abortion easier ignores the disturbing reality that an innocent human life is ended,” the U.K. newspaper The Catholic Herald reports.

March 20, 2018 - 5:23pm

South Bend, Ind., Mar 20, 2018 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Author Mary Eberstadt told students at the University of Notre Dame Tuesday that a 50-year-old document on contraception is critical to understanding the state of contemporary culture.

Eberstadt, a senior researcher at the Faith and Reason Institute, spoke at Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture, explaining that the prophetic message of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae has become a reality.

“Contraceptive technology, as Paul VI foresaw, opens a Pandora’s box of mischief in which the stronger have the advantage,” Eberstadt told Notre Dame students March 20.

“For some while now, it’s been apparent that the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s bids fair to become one of the most formative disruptions in human history,” Eberstadt argued. “It’s having massive repercussions across the world – microcosmic, macrocosmic, moral, religious, political, and otherwise.”

Eberstadt mentioned an article she wrote a decade ago, published in the journal First Things, at the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. “It’s the same conclusion that was visible ten years ago, and that will remain visible ten, or one hundred, or two hundred years from now,” said Eberstadt. “It’s simply this: The most globally reviled and widely misunderstood document of the last half century is also the most prophetic and explanatory of our time.”

Fifty years ago, Eberstadt said, supporters of contraception argued that abortions and births to unmarried parents would diminish as a result of reliable birth control. Rather, she said, they have increased.

“Far from preventing abortion and unplanned pregnancies, contraception’s effects after the invention of the pill ran quite the other way: Rates of contraception usage, abortion, and out-of-wedlock births all exploded simultaneously.”

Eberstadt argued that abortion rates have increased as a result of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and contraception in particular. She offered a series of proofs to support her claim.

First, she said abortions have increased because the responsibility of pregnancy has been increasingly placed on woman alone. While women may appear freer, she said, contraception has diminished men’s sense of responsibility for pregnancy, and therefore eroded their sense of responsibility toward pregnant women.

“By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father,” she said, citing analysis by George Akerlof, Janet Yellen, and Michael Katz.

She next argued that contraception promotes abortion-on-demand because it encourages career plans that depend on delaying children until later in life. If an unexpected pregnancy interrupts such plans, she said, abortion is more likely to be considered.

Eberstadt also argued that the legalization of contraception and abortion are tied to another. She said movements towards the legalization of abortion always begin as birth control devices become more popular and available.

“Legal reasoning justifying freedom to contracept has been used to justify freedom to abort. You can’t have one without the other.”

Eberstadt mentioned that support for contraception is not universal.
She said many African nations have “resisted the attempts of reformers to bring them into line with the secular Western sexual program.”

She quoted an open letter written by Nigerian-born author Obainuju Ekaocha in response to a contraceptive initiative by billionaire Melinda Gates: “I see this $4.6 billion buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of innocent chatter of children…. I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.”

In contrast to Africa’s resistance to contraception, Eberstadt noted the demographic decline of Japan, where, she said, loneliness is pervasive, especially among the elderly, who often die alone.

As the destructive results of the sexual revolution become more obvious, Eberstadt said that many Protestant Christians have reconsidered prior positions on contraception.

“More and more people outside the Church are concluding from that same wreckage that Catholic moral teaching has called many things right, not only as of Humanae Vitae, but for the preceding millennia of consistent teaching.”

In conclusion, Eberstadt said that while people in the world will continue to oppose to the Church’s stance on contraception, the truth of Humanae Vitae will not stop pointing towards the destruction of the sexual revolution.

“To discern the record of the last half-century is to see that the Catholic Church was right to stand as a sign of contradiction to the devastation the sexual revolution would wreak; that accommodating top the revolution has been an epic fail for the churches that have tried it; and that the truths of Humanae Vitae and related documents burn all the more brightly against the shadowy toll of the destruction out there.”

“Be proud in the right way of your Church for getting one of the most important calls in history right,” Eberstadt encouraged. “And never let anyone put a kick-me sign on you for being an unapologetic Catholic.”


March 20, 2018 - 5:00pm

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Young people from around the world have begun a meeting at the Vatican by voicing their hopes and expectations from the Church regarding the challenges they face and the questions life poses.

Specifically, they have said they want to know they are taken seriously, and they want the Church to talk to them about difficult issues, among them same-sex marriage, euthanasia and the role of women in the Church.

The young people are delegates to a special pre-synod meeting of youth, which is taking place March 19-24 and has drawn some 300 representatives from around the world to talk about key themes ahead October’s Synod of Bishops on “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

CNA spoke with several young participants at the pre-synod meeting, hailing from Japan, Australia, Mexico, Iraq and the United States.

They spoke about issues important in their countries of origin, including persecution, the refugee crisis, suicide and drugs.  


For 22-year-old Angelas Markas, a Chaldean Catholic living in Australia, youth need to “move forward, we need to be brave in addressing topics like same-sex marriage, euthanasia, sexuality – what does it mean to embrace our sexuality as Catholics, and the role of women – how important are we, how empowered are we?”

Markas was one of five young people to give testimonies in front of Pope Francis during the March 19 opening session.

In her speech, she highlighted, among other things, her life as part of the Iraqi Chaldean diaspora, her work with indigenous communities in Australia, and her hope that the Church would engage with young people on important issues, especially the role of women, who she said “need to feel our sense of empowerment.”

In comments to CNA, Markas said these are all the topics she wants to discuss during the event, and voiced hope that the stories and experiences she shares “will be embraced.”

On the role of  women, Markas said she believes they are already “embraced and empowered” in the Church, but thinks this sense of empowerment should be “more obvious.”

She also spoke of the tragedy of clerical abuse -- which has plagued Australia for years and tarnished public perception of the Church -- saying that while it is a problem, she trusts the Church “is going to find her path in this.”

“We are a Church of hope, if we aren't a Church of hope, how are we really going to grow from this?” she said. “We are the witnesses of the Resurrection, so we have to have hope that this will all heal and we have to work toward it.”

Markas also voiced appreciation for Pope Francis' appeals on behalf of migrants and refugees, which hold special significance for her because of her own heritage. The Pope, she said, “is so great in that he always addresses the littleness, the smallness of the youth from wherever we come from.”

“He's doing such a brilliant job,” she said.  Recalling a brief handshake with Francis after giving her speech, Markas said she was still in disbelief: “I can't believe I shook his hand and kissed his cheeks, I'm not going to wash my face! It was brilliant.”

Francis has a dynamic way of engaging the youth, she said, noting that many young people still crave connection with the Church, especially those who lack hope or who have experienced suffering or loss.

She challenged the Church to listen and engage more with young people, calling for a “transformation” of approach. This isn't something that will happen immediately, she said, “but we are meeting this culture that desires to be connected and we need to address it in a more universal and listening way.”

The pre-synod gathering, she said, “is the perfect example” of how this connection and listening can take place. “It's a real change, it's not something that is delusional or a fantasy. Young people want to feel a sense of value and purpose, they want to hear and understand and be able to understand.”


Shaker Youhanan Zaytouna, a 24-year-old seminarian from Iraq, told journalists March 20 that one of the biggest challenges the local Church faces is that many young people are leaving the country, opting to move abroad due to the threat of extremist violence and the country's ongoing political instability.

This presents a unique challenge for the future of the country, he said, explaining that “it's very hard to tell the Church to not allow youth to leave Iraq.” Security is a big problem, he said, because one can ask the youth to stay, but there’s no guarantee that they won’t be killed later.

A Chaldean Catholic studying in Rome, Zaytouna said the Church has a big role to play in encouraging youth to stay in Iraq and helping provide the conditions for them to stay. However, “the problem is that the government needs to initiate this step.”

Iraqi youth are being welcomed into other countries, but many want to return, he said. “[And] if the government isn't helping the heart, if they aren't providing that security, how can these youth return?” he said, adding that finding work is also a problem for many young families.

The seminarian also voiced concern over the fact that many young people, from various religions, are becoming either atheist or agnostic, calling it “a [big] a problem” for the future that will have to be addressed.

He also touched on the topic of vocations, saying the Church “must commit herself more to listening...and not only, but to learn to accompany.”

Noting that he is still a young seminarian himself, Zaytouna said better accompaniment is needed, because “if the bishop doesn't accompany us, if the priests don't accompany us, or someone else, how can I stay on this path?”

At times parents try to prevent children from pursuing consecrated vocations, he said, noting there are cultural pressures that make it difficult to accept or follow such callings. However, he said there have also been times when formators pressure someone discerning, telling them they are not cut out for religious life.

Those discerning need to be encouraged and accompanied, Zaytouna said, explaining that “listening comes first; learn to listen, accompaniment comes and then the discernment.”


Also participating in the pre-synod meeting is Yoshikazu Tsumuraya, a Japanese Buddhist from Fukushima who currently lives in Rome and works with the Japanese Buddhist Lay Movement. Before coming to Rome, he taught in a Buddhist seminary.

In comments to CNA, Tsumuraya said his organization has strong ties with the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and was invited to participate in the meeting as a representative of the Buddhist community.

“When I received this invitation, I was really happy, because having a knowledge of Christianity, it pushed me to get to know Christian youth,” Tsumuraya said, explaining that he has worked with a lot of Christians and is very committed to interreligious dialogue.

Tsumuraya said he came primarily to listen and understand the different realities of youth from around the world.

In the case of Japan, he said the major challenges for youth are a widespread competitive and consumerist mentality, as well as the immense cultural pressure to be successful. And if youth don't give into this way of thinking, they might feel estranged from their peers or that they don't fit in, Tsumuraya said.

In cases when this happens, young people react in a variety of ways, he said, explaining that one big problem is that youth who feel that they don't quite fit in “are no longer able to go to school,” due to the stigma they face, “so they stay home closed in their rooms.”

Other major problems for Japanese youth are premature death due to “excessive work,” he said, as well as suicide, which is a common phenomenon among teenagers in the country.

Tsumuraya voiced appreciation for Pope Francis' frequent references to the problem of teen and young adult suicide, which “is not just a Japanese problem, but it's a global problem.”

“So thinking about this phenomena which affects the whole world, we must face it, above all in knowing the reality, then to think about how to accompany youth to avoid this terrible [phenomena],” he said.

The Americas

Nicholas Lopez, a 27-year-old campus minister from Dallas, Texas, is also participating in the meeting as one of three representatives from the United States.

Lopez gave his testimony during the opening session, pointing to various challenges young people have faced during his experience working with youth on campus.

In comments to CNA, Lopez said the major topics he wants to bring to the table during the pre-synod meeting are “the concerns of the Hispanic Americans in the United States, and the solidarity between us and them.”

The topic is particularly timely in the U.S. as concerns continue to mount over President Donald Trump’s strict immigration policies. Many, including a high number of college students whose parents are immigrants, have voiced fear about deportation.

In addition to issues affecting the Hispanic community, Lopez said he also plans to discuss mental health issues, the higher education system in the United States and “the way young people are impacted on college campuses.”

Also participating in the meeting is 25-year-old Corina Fiore Mortola Rodriguez of Mexico. She came with a large group of other youth from Latin America, which is one of the youngest and most Catholic continents in the world.

In comments to CNA, Mortola Rodriguez said the message she wants the Church to hear this week is that young people like herself are “valid interlocutors,” and they need to be listened to and helped to go deeper in finding solutions to the problems they face, such as drugs, violence, poverty and unemployment.

Pointing to Pope Francis' visit to Mexico in 2016, she said his encouragement to youth and his appeals to avoid hopelessness and the allure of gangs was “a call not of tension, but to action.”

Her reflection echoed the Pope's March 19 opening speech, in which he told youth they need to approach problems with a “head, heart, hands” mentality. The call to “think, feel and act,” Mortola Rodriguez said, is also a call to be “unified” and to make concrete resolutions in confronting the problems they face.

As an example, Mortola Rodriguez said she helps lead a theater workshop for incarcerated youth in Mexico, which has helped them to “heal the wounds that have caused through the crime they committed.”

“[Through us] they can heal this pain that they have in order to be able to return to society and find a new form of work,” because healing is essential for a person's reintegration into society, she said.

Speaking of the contribution of the Latin American Church, Mortola Rodriguez said one thing she hopes her continent can offer the universal Church is “joy,” because Latin Americans are “ known for our joy.”

“I think youth should be more joyful,” she said, and noted how there are many young people who reflect what Pope Francis says when he talks about youth who seem old because they have lost their joy and happiness.

Another topic Mortola Rodriguez said she wants to discuss is vocation, because many people think of their vocations as only the choice of a state of life.

“But no. The vocation is a call, a call today, to the present, to be active, to be happy and to do concrete actions that benefit my society,” she said, and voiced her desire to fight against social evils such as human trafficking, and to fight to “stop the things that harm us.”



March 20, 2018 - 4:48pm

Stockholm, Sweden, Mar 20, 2018 / 03:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic educators in Sweden have denounced a political party’s promise to ban all religious schools as a political maneuver capitalizing on people’s fears in order to obtain votes.

The Social Democratic Party in Sweden has proposed banning all religious schools (known as “confessional schools”) in the country, in what the party says is an attempt at better integration of students.

The party has formed a coalition government with the Green Party, and a general election is to be held in September.

The Social Democrats have expressed concern that confessional schools contribute to the segregation of students, by religion and gender, and that they don’t teach children democratic values.

"In our schools, teachers and principals should make the decisions, not priests or imams," Minister for Upper Secondary School and Adult Education and Training Anna Ekstrom said at a press conference.

The Social Democrats said last week that the proposed policy would be a priority were they re-elected in September.

But Catholic educators in the country are concerned that the proposal would constitute a wide-ranging infringement on religious freedom and on already-restricted religious education in the country. Religious schools cannot charge tuition, and receive government funding.

“...there is a very negative public debate with a lot of pre-judgements against us and religion in general. We are very worried of course as the proposal is an aggressive assault against our Catholic community,” Paddy Maguire, principal of Notre Dame Catholic School in Gothenburg (located fewer than 300 miles southwest of Stockholm), and Daniel Szirányi, a board member of the same school, said in a joint statement.

Religious education in the country is already under strict restrictions. Current law in Sweden does not allow for catechesis or prayer to take place during regular school hours - it must take place either before or after school, on a voluntary basis.

However, Maguire told CNA that most people in Sweden are unaware of this law, that religious schools also follow the state-issued curriculum, or how religious schools are run in general.

“We have to (abide by) Swedish law, they don’t understand that. They just think we’re run by priests and imams, as they put it,” Maguire said.

Maguire added that the issues that the Social Democrats want to solve are problems that are occurring in Muslim schools, “but they are too cowardly to say so.”

Sweden, which has a historically open-door policy for asylum seekers, saw a dramatic increase in Muslim refugees from countries such as Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan in the past few years, with numbers more than doubling between 2014 and 2015 alone.

This dramatic increase in the number of Muslims in Sweden, and practices of some of their schools – such as sex segregation – is the primary motivation behind the religious school ban, Maguire said.

Rather than fixing individual problems, however, “they want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” she said.

Kristina Hellner, communications officer for the Diocese of Stockholm, told CNA, “It’s presented as a quick and simple solution to a problem that is quite limited.”

“The absolute majority of the religious schools in Sweden show excellent results but a small number of them (and these are Islamic schools) have had different kinds of problems. Instead of doing something about these specific schools, certain politicians would like to solve it by closing all religious schools,” she said.

There are 71 religious schools in the country, of which 59 are Christian, 11 are Muslim, and one is Jewish.

Hellner added that Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm will be working closely with other Christian groups in Sweden to oppose this proposal “with one voice through the Christian Council.”

If the ban were to be enacted, the Socialist Democrats have said that they would make the religious schools into secular schools. However, Maguire noted that most Christian schools would be forced to close, as they are tied to trust funds, through which the schools promised to provide a Christian education.

This would leave approximately 10,000 students without a school, a number the public school system is not adequately prepared to absorb, she said.

“It’s a badly sorted out policy, it’s just a play for populism as we see it,” Maguire said.

Thus far, the proposal is supported by the Social Democrats, the Left Party, and some of the Liberals. The Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats support confessional schools. Some among the Liberals support a policy that would maintain existing religious schools, but would prevent new ones from being founded.

The Green Party and the Centre Party have remained neutral on the issue.

Maguire said she didn’t believe the policy would ultimately pass, because the Social Democrats are losing political power, while right wing parties are gaining power. The Social Democratic Party has lost support in recent polls to the Moderate Party, the largest group in the opposition.

However, she added that educators and Catholic leaders in the country are prepared to fight the proposal all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, and to fight for the rights of parents, designated by the United Nations, to send their children to schools with distinct religious or philosophical leanings.

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