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January 6 - 19, 2013

Looking back at 2012

Father Francis Bitterman and his brother Pat become emotional during a blessing after Mass. Cardinal George ordained 14 new priests at Holy Name Cathedral on May 12. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Charles and Susanne Meyer, parishioners at St. Norbert Church, in Northbrook, Ill, kiss after renewing their vows at the annual Golden Wedding Anniversary Mass, where over 400 couples married 50 years were honored at Holy Name Cathedral, State and Superior streets in Chicago on Sept. 23.Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

George Viero makes a face while getting his head shaved at the annual St. Baldrick's Day at St. Barnabas School March 16. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Cardinal George presided over the rededication of the National Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini Sept. 30 in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Federal Plaza was filled for the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally March 23 in downtown Chicago. Catholic, Protestant and Jewish leaders addressed the crowd. It was one of several Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies held in Chicago in 2012. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago celebrated his 75th birthday with archdiocesan staff at the Archbishop Quigley Center, 835 N. Rush St. on Jan. 20. Cardinal George turned 75 on Jan. 16, 2012, and has served as archbishop of Chicago since 1997. He was named a cardinal in 1998. He is the only cardinal in Chicago to live to retirement. Bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignation to the pope when they turn 75. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Local funeral directors stand by boxes containing bodies of indigent people from the Cook County Medical Examiner's office while Cardinal George leads participants in prayer at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago on April 25. Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago offered the Medical Examiner's Office up to 300 graves and interment services to help clear the backlog of remains waiting for burial at the morgue. Also buried were 120 unborn or stillborn fetuses. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Ricky Pratl and Nolan Maciejewski throw some steady punches in second match of the night at the Our Lady of the Ridge Men's Club's annual pre- Lent Boxing Show in Chicago Ridge on Feb 25. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo hold a sign while attending a vigil in the backyard of their home to protest the opening of a strip club near their convent in Melrose Park on March 22. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

A young girl holds a sign as hundreds gathered for a South Side peace vigil and march on Nov. 30 at St. Anselm Church. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

By Michelle Martin


If one story dominated U.S. Catholic news in 2012, it was the relationship between religion and government, with Catholics and members of other religious groups vehemently protesting what they saw as overreaches in government interference in their affairs.

The controversy started in 2011, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agreed with a panel from the Institute on Medicine that sterilizations and contraception should be included in preventive care plans mandated by the Affordable Care Act, with only a narrow exception for religious organizations. The use of artificial contraception — whether by sterilization or by taking drugs — violates Catholic moral teaching.

To qualify for the exemption, religious organizations must have inculcating their beliefs as their main mission, primarily serve and employ members of their own faith and be non-profit organizations under a certain IRS classification. Those rules would leave out Catholic universities, hospitals and charitable organizations.

The discussion picked up steam on Jan. 20, when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius announced that religious organizations that did not provide contraceptive services would get an additional year to comply with the mandate, extending the deadline from Aug. 1, 2012 to Aug. 1, 2013, but not changing the rule.

The USCCB stepped up its efforts against it, releasing “United for Religious Freedom,” a statement on various threats to religious liberty in the United States, and sending then-Bishop William Lori, now archbishop of Baltimore, to testify before Congress twice in his capacity as chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.

Cardinal George and other bishops wrote letters to their flocks explaining how the mandate infringed on religious freedom, first by telling the Catholic Church which organizations are truly “Catholic” and by requiring organizations that have long considered themselves and been recognized as Catholic to violate their consciences.

In a February column in the Catholic New World, Cardinal George raised the possibility that there would be no Catholic hospitals in the United States within two years if the mandate stands.

In March, HHS announced its intention to change the rules to allow employees of religious organizations to access coverage for contraception and sterilization at no additional cost without going through their employers. Exactly how the process would work, and who would pay for it, was left unclear.

In May, USCCB attorneys filed comments on the proposed “accommodation” saying that it did not address the bishops’ concerns to their satisfaction, and less than a week later, 43 dioceses and other Catholic institutions and organizations filed suit in federal courts around the country.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago joined one of the lawsuits in July, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the health care law is constitutional. The court did not rule on the HHS mandate specifically.

Opposition to the mandate was one of the main thrusts of the Fortnight for Freedom, in which Catholics were urged to learn about and raise their voices against threats to religious freedom in the two weeks leading up to July 4.

On Aug. 1, the mandate went into effect for new health plans and those that have significant changes, unless they are religious organizations that fall under the one-year “safe harbor” provision.

The mandate also became a focus of education efforts on “Faithful Citizenship,” the bishops’ quadrennial statement on how voters should inform their consciences before choosing a candidate, and it came up in the Oct. 12 debate between vice presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, with the USCCB calling out Vice President Biden for giving an erroneous statement of fact when he said, “No religious institution — Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital — none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide.”

In December, a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit filed by the Archdiocese of New York and other organizations could go forward, even though a final “accommodation” had not been released, and a Washington, D.C. appeals court heard arguments on suits filed by Belmont Abbey, a Catholic college in North Carolina, and Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian college in Wheaton, Ill.

Other events:


▪ The Parish Transformation project was rolled out to the archdiocese as a whole, after completing a pilot with 24 parishes. The project calls on parishes to refocus on the mission of the church, set goals for how to live that mission and establish a plan to achieve their goals

▪ The archdiocese joined the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in putting an emphasis on strengthening marriages and families while staunchly defending the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

▪ Cardinal George submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI upon reaching his 75th birthday Jan. 16, as all bishops are required to do.

“It is a short letter,” the cardinal said in an interview with Catholic New World editor Joyce Duriga. “‘Dear Holy Father, I offer you my resignation.’ You thank him for all of his great support and his marvelous example. And then I await his decision.”

He also noted that he is the first cardinal-archbishop of Chicago to survive to tender his resignation at age 75.

While bishops must offer their resignations, there is nothing requiring the pope to accept them immediately. The cardinal had no response as of December.

▪ The Office for Catholic Schools announced signs of growing enrollment.

The Fiscal Advancement Stabilization Team initiative, which aimed to help Catholic schools create plans to increase enrollment and improve financial health, academic excellence and Catholic identity, picked up steam as the year began.

“The acronym is FAST, but it really could be FEAST,” said Catholic schools Superintendent Sister M. Paul McCaughey. “The E is for Eucharist, and energy and enrollment.”

The goal is for all schools to be academically excellent, Catholic and vital. The program came in a year when Catholic elementary school enrollment in Chicago showed a slight uptick, and more than half of Catholic elementary schools had stable or growing enrollments.


▪ From Feb. 5-17, Cardinal George and many of the archdiocese’s auxiliary bishops joined other bishops from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin in making their ad limina visits to the Holy See. The visits are like a “state of the archdiocese” visit to the head of the church.

It had been seven years since the archdiocese made an ad limina visit. According to the Code of Canon Law the visit is made every five years but the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI delayed the process.

▪ When Cardinal George returned from the ad limina visit, he brought back some good news. The Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints had named Father Augustus Tolton a ”servant of God.”

“The servant of God status is the Congregation for the Saints agreement that the investigation phase can go forward,” said Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, postulator of the cause.

Tolton was the first acknowledged African-American priest in the United States. He died in Chicago in 1897, and the archdiocese is supporting his cause for sainthood.


▪ Parents and students at San Miguel School Chicago’s Gary Comer Campus, 819 N. Leamington Ave., learned March 1 that the school would close its doors at the end of the school year. San Miguel’s Back of the Yards Campus, 1949 W. 48th St., remains open. The Gary Comer Campus closed due to the lack of funding.

▪ St. Scholastica Academy announced March 14 that it would close its doors at the end of the school year. The school, sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago for the last 146 years, succumbed to a growing budget deficit and declining enrollment.

▪ The six Poor Clare sisters who live in a cloistered monastery in Palos Park celebrated the 800th anniversary of the founding of their order on March 18 during a Mass celebrated by Cardinal George.

The order was founded in Assisi, Italy, in 1212 when a young woman named Clare left her wealthy family to begin a community of religious women under the guidance of St. Francis.

▪ The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo hosted about 500 of their neighbors March 22 in a prayer vigil in hopes of stopping the planned opening of a strip club on Lake Street adjacent to their property.

The club, named “Get It,” features alcohol and partially nude dancers on a site that was formerly a factory.


▪ On April 23, the Chicago community celebrated the first anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s beatification with a one-of-a- kind concert at Symphony Center. Sir Gilbert Levine, often referred to as the “pope’s maestro” because of his close relationship to Pope John Paul II, created the “Peace Through Music” concert, which featured the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Chorus and a quartet of international vocal soloists.

The concert was presented by several organizations — Polish, Jewish, Catholic and others. It celebrated the life of John Paul and the relationship between Catholics and Jews, which underwent a major healing through the pontiff’s efforts.

▪ Immigrants who minister to other immigrants got a new set of tools to form themselves in Catholic social justice as they do their work.

The Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education released a new formational curriculum for participants in its “Pastoral Migratoria,” or immigrant-to-immigrant ministry.

“Pastoral Migratoria starts with formation, it starts with evangelization, it starts with our faith, it starts with our call to conversion,” said Elena Segura, director.

▪ After 22 years, Our Lady of the Angels Church is back in business. Friends, benefactors and alumni of Our Lady of the Angels School or Parish packed the pews at 3808 W. Iowa St., April 14 for a Mass where Cardinal George rededicated the historic church.

The archdiocese closed the church in 1990 after the Catholic population in West Humboldt Park dwindled. Two doors down from the church is the site of a tragic school fire that on Dec. 1, 1958, claimed the lives of 92 children and three religious sisters.

The event was heralded as a positive sign for the neighborhood, which is plagued with drug trafficking and gang violence.

▪ Eighteen simple wooden caskets containing indigent adults and unborn babies were buried April 25 at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery. Their journey began a few months before when the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office reported a backlog of more than 300 bodies in storage, more than its capacity. Part of the reason for the backlog was that the State of Illinois had not paid funeral directors to bury indigent bodies since June 2011, according to news reports.

By the end of the year, Catholic Cemeteries had provided burial for the remains of more than 300 people who were unclaimed from the medical examiner’s office.


▪ The Archdiocese of Chicago welcomed 14 new priests on May 12. Half were homegrown and the others come from Poland, Peru, Kenya and Tanzania. They ranged in age from 25 to 56.

In his homily, Cardinal George told the new priests, “Jesus sent the apostles into the world to tell it that God loves it, and that Christ died to save it. This will be the challenge of your years of priestly ministry. You will introduce the world to a loving savior that it seems to be in the process of consciously rejecting. This is the New Evangelization. It demands the zeal of Paul and the faith of Peter. It calls for unity among priests and consecration in God’s truth.”

▪ Nine men joined the archdiocese’s diaconate community when Cardinal George ordained them permanent deacons May 25 at Holy Name Cathedral.

The newly ordained deacons completed a four-year program at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary that included classes in theology, pastoral ministry, spiritual formation and communication and collaboration.


▪ Catholics across the Archdiocese of Chicago had plenty of opportunities to practice their faith in the public square during the “Fortnight for Freedom” leading up to the Fourth of July. The Office for Peace and Justice and the Office for Divine Worship developed a menu of suggestions to work from.

The Fortnight for Freedom was a special period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action proclaimed by the U.S. bishops for June 21 to July 4 to focus attention on and pray for the preservation of religious liberty in the United States.

▪ The Year of Teens and Young Adults continued, with signs of success visible in its first six months as more parishes established youth groups or other programs, those with youth initiatives found ways to make them more effective and Catholic high schools and parishes began to find ways to work together.


▪ The second year of the Strategic Pastoral Plan started July 1 with a focus on the Sunday Mass.

The goal of the Strategic Pastoral Plan is to engage baptized Catholics more deeply in the life of the church. Year one focused on teens and young adults; year two will focus on Sunday Mass; year three will focus on parents; and year four on the sacraments.

▪ Father Robert Barron assumed position as rector/president of the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary and Father Peter Sneig became moderator of the curia for the archdiocese.

▪ The archdiocese got its own taste of Olympic gold on July 31, the feast of St. Ignatius, when Loyola Academy alumnus Conor Dwyer, captured a gold medal as one leg of the United States’ winning 800-meter freestyle relay at the 2012 Olympics in London. The winning effort earned widespread international attention as it served as the record-breaking 19th Olympic medal for Dwyer’s teammate, Michael Phelps.


▪ For the second time in his 75 years, Cardinal George faced the cross of cancer. On Aug. 17, the Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement announcing that two days earlier, on the solemnity of the Assumption, Cardinal George underwent a procedure at Loyola Medical Center where cancerous cells were discovered.

“Today he met with his doctors who reviewed with him test results which showed there were cancerous cells in the kidney and in a nodule, which was removed from the liver,” a statement from the archdiocese said. “His doctors will work with the cardinal to plan a course of treatment,” the statement said.

In December, the cardinal told reporters that his most recent tests had not discerned any remaining cancer cells.

▪ St. Joseph College Seminary stepped into the spotlight as its new building was dedicated Aug. 28, showing itself as a visible sign of the commitment of the Archdiocese of Chicago to fostering vocations to the priesthood.

Priests, donors and other friends of the seminary packed the new chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, which features restored windows from the closed Holy Rosary Church on 113th Street, for a liturgy that included dedication of the altar as well as the installation of Father Paul Stein as the seminary’s new rector-president.

▪ On Aug. 15, young undocumented immigrants began applying for deferred action status, which will allow them to remain in the United States without fear of deportation for the next two years. More than 11,000 lined up at Navy Pier that day, seeking help from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights seeking help in putting together their applications.

The Office for Immigrant Affairs and Education of the Archdiocese of Chicago has worked hard to inform those eligible about the application process.


▪ Students returned to school as violence continued. The number of murders in Chicago in 2012 stood at 484 Dec. 2, up from 433 for all of 2011. The city recorded its 500th murder of 2012 on Dec. 28.

▪ The Archdiocese of Chicago observed the 10th year of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth at a Sept. 15 Mass.

▪ The National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, 2520 N. Lakeview Ave., was blessed and dedicated on Sept. 30 at a Mass celebrated by the cardinal. The shrine building, which was constructed as an addition to Columbus Hospital in 1955, closed in 2002 after the hospital closed and was sold to developers.

It reopened Oct. 1 with a new museum, entranceway and lobby — built as part of the ground floor of the neighboring condo building — and a new mission. Located across from the Lincoln Park Zoo, the shrine is tucked beside a high-end condominium development that was built around it. Shrine staff said that a few people they talked to said they moved into the condo building because of the shrine.

▪ With the next 150 years of Catholic education in sight, the Archdiocesan School Board launched a major strategic plan to increase school enrollment and to provide every student who wants it “excellent academics and faith formation in an economically sustainable way.”

Cardinal George asked the Archdiocesan School Board, which was formed in 2009, to develop a long-range plan for schools, said Dominican Sister M. Paul McCaughey, superintendent of schools.

Six areas were identified for concentration: Catholic identity, academics, leadership, enrollment, management and infrastructure and resources.


▪ Cardinal George encouraged parishes to mark the beginning of the Year of Faith during Masses Oct. 20-21. In a letter to parishes, he wrote: “As we are in the midst of the Year of Sunday Mass (Year II of the Archdiocesan Strategic Pastoral Plan), it is especially appropriate to observe these events in the context of the Sunday Mass. These efforts are inherently connected so it makes sense to celebrate them together in the Sunday liturgy on the weekend of Oct. 20-21. They all have to do with our concern for passing on our faith to others and the cultivation of a renewed sense of mission among the members of our parishes.”

▪ The Synod of Bishops opened Oct. 7 in Rome to promote the new evangelization.

“To evangelize means to help people understand that God himself has responded to their questions, and that his response — the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ — is available to them as well,” Pope Benedict XVI said at the synod.

“Our role in the new evangelization is to cooperate with God,” the pope told the more than 260 cardinals, bishops and priests who are members of the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization. “We can only let people know what God has done.”

Cancer treatments prevented Cardinal George from attending the synod.

▪ Proclaiming seven new saints — including St. Kateri Tekakwitha from North America and St. Pedro Calungsod from the Philippines — Pope Benedict XVI said they are examples to the world of total dedication to Christ and tireless service to others.

In a revised canonization rite Oct. 21, the pope prayed for guidance that the church would not “err in a matter of such importance” as he used his authority to state that the seven are with God in heaven and can intercede for people on earth.

Native American and Filipino Catholics from the archdiocese travelled to Rome for the ceremony and celebrated here.

▪ DePaul University and Gordon Tech High School announced a partnership aimed at bringing Gordon into the top tier of Chicago- area Catholic schools.

▪ Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of the mid-Atlantic coast on Oct. 30, causing tremendous damage in parts of New York City and Long Island, New Jersey and other coastal areas.

Deacons and volunteers from the archdiocese’s Hope’s on the Way, collected cleaning supplies for affected areas with their “Buckets of Hope” project.


▪ With election day on Nov. 6, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offered a “brief document” — a summary of the U.S. bishops’ reflection “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” — as a guide to Catholics heading to the polls.


▪ St. Gregory the Great High School announced Dec. 7 it would close at the end of the school year. It has fewer than 100 students this year, and had received up to $500,000 in financial support each year from the Archdiocese of Chicago. The school entered into a partnership with Holy Trinity High School to welcome former St. Gregory students who were accepted there.


175 years: Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Chicago

125 years: Mercy Home for Boys and Girls
St. Joseph Parish (Hermitage)
St. Luke Parish, River Forest
St. Matthias Parish
St. Nicholas Parish, Evanston
St. Thomas the Apostle School

120 years: Catholic New World

100 years: Chicago Catholic League
St. Gertrude Parish
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish
St. Jerome Croatian Parish
St. Philip Neri Parish
St. Wenceslaus
St. James Parish, Highwood
St. Joseph Parish, Homewood
Maternity BVM School

25 years: Casa Jesus