Denver, Colo., Sep 1, 2014 / 12:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Some 500 Catholic leaders and their pastors from across the United States met recently at the first-ever Amazing Parish conference in Denver to brainstorm and swap ideas about improving parish life.

The newly-founded Amazing Parish movement seeks to provide resources to pastors and parish leaders so they can create a thriving parish life. The conference, held Aug. 27-28 at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, featured Catholic speakers and workshops on topics such as parish leadership teams, formation programs and evangelization.

For a movement that is just starting out, interest in the conference was widespread and the overall response very positive.

“Would it be wrong to say it’s been amazing?” quipped Matt Manion, president of the Catholic Leadership Institute and a speaker at the conference.

“But it’s really been an excellent experience of Church, of prayer, and of people who are open to new ideas and new ways of serving God through the parish,” he told CNA.

Many of the speakers, like Manion, are Catholics serving in leadership roles for big companies who are adapting tricks of the trade of company leadership to practical ideas for parish leadership.

“The church is larger than maybe any company that these kind of guys work with, so we have to be strategic,” said Amazing Parish staff member Chris Stefanick. “We have to have the best practices and good team building skills and so I think what we’re given is really unique here and it’s been received really well.”

Stefanick is also a social media evangelist at reallifecatholic.com and helped host the conference, which filled to its 500-person capacity before it was even officially advertised.

“Both that and how it’s been received, it just confirms that it’s meeting a very huge need in the Church,” he said.

Attendees of the conference represented a wide range of parish experiences, from rural, spread out areas to parishes containing thousands of registered families and several other Catholic churches within a square mile.

Father Cory Sticha made the trip from St. Mary’s in Malta, Montana with his parish director of religious education and a member of his parish council.  He pastors an area three times the size of Rhode Island but only has around 200 registered families in his parish.

The best part about the Amazing Parish movement, he said, is the resources.

Everyone at the conference received a binder with guiding questions and planning sheets for each of the seven foundational parts needed to create an amazing parish. There are several formation talks and free resources on the website as well, and attendees of the conference also received a free DVD set of formation talks that would normally be priced around $100.

“For us in a smaller parish, having a lot of resources that are low-cost – free or relatively cheap – is a big deal,” Fr. Sticha told CNA.

“A bigger parish that has 7,000 families, they don’t think about that, that’s not a big deal to them.  It is for us.”

For St. Clements in Chicago, the challenges at the parish level look a little different. With about 4,000 registered parishioners, the Lincoln-park area church also sees a lot of young adults that hop around to the multiple parishes in the area.

“People are bouncing around all over, not just in our parish, so in a sense we don’t really know anybody,” said Pastor Fr. Ken Simpson.

On the other hand, the parish is very open to new ideas.

“We’re a place that’s pretty open to change. It’s not like, ‘Why are you doing this?’” he said, “It’s, ‘When are you going to do it?’ which is a real advantage.”

During the conference, parish representatives were encouraged to focus on those things that made their parishes unique and how they could work with those characteristics.

Tim Weiske, a parishioner at St. Clements, said he thought a good goal to focus on for their parish was forming their large young adult population.  

“I see our job as preparing these young adults for the next parish they’re going to be a part of,” he said.

Fr. Simpson also said that the conference brought to light the regional differences in parish life and presented a chance to collaborate.

“There’s a whole different set of resources and experiences west of the Mississippi,” he observed. “It’s very interesting to me how the East and West are developing in different ways, and it’s cool that we’re here together to (experience) this.”

For Stefanick, the biggest hope he had for the parishes in attendance was that they come away with a clarity of vision and practice for their parish.

“The way we do parish ministry gets so convoluted, so bogged down under tasks, that we don’t even know what we’re about anymore,” he said. “And it becomes so complex for us that it just burns people and ministries out. So we need to put a greater simplicity around what we do, so that we can focus and do the few things that we’re able to do with our finite nature, well.”

Because of the huge response, Stefanick said the conference is likely to be split up into 2-4 regional conferences in the near future. Parishes interested in checking out the movement can visit the website at amazingparish.org.
 

Washington D.C., Aug 30, 2014 / 02:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life advocates have strongly objected to PBS' decision broadcast the documentary “After Tiller,” saying it wrongly downplays the “gravely unjust” and deadly nature of abortion.

“When we hear PBS talk about 'humanizing' late-term abortionists, we wonder: who is 'humanizing' the viable babies these men and women kill?” Lila Rose, president of the investigative group Live Action, told CNA Aug. 29.

“Will PBS show programming in this vein, or will it just take taxpayer dollars to boost Big Abortion?”

“The abortion process is barbaric and gravely unjust at any stage, as it results in the intentional killing of an innocent, helpless human being,” she added. “But late-term abortions are particularly visually nauseating: in most procedures, abortionists will stab babies' hearts or skulls with a thick needle containing digoxin, a toxin that induces a massive heart attack.”

“Then they will let the child float, dead, in his mother's womb, and send the mother home for several days, possibly to deliver her dead child alone.”

PBS is airing the 2013 documentary as part of its POV series. The broadcaster is promoting the 2013 documentary as “a deeply humanizing and probing portrait of the only four doctors in the United States still openly performing third-trimester abortions in the wake of the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas.”
 
The documentary will air on Labor Day and will be available on the PBS website through Oct. 1.
 
The PBS website encourages viewers to organize a “premiere party” for the documentary and provides lesson plans to guide discussions.

Rose said that hundreds of pro-life advocates have criticized the decision to air the documentary. Several have organized petitions protesting PBS’ decision to broadcast the film.

One user-submitted petition at CitizenGo.com gained more than 18,000 signatures within one day calling on PBS to cancel the showing or “give equal time to a documentary that shows third-trimester abortions from the opposite perspective.”

Rose contended that the decision to broadcast the documentary reveals PBS as “a publicly funded abortion propaganda organ – in direct violation of fundamental human rights.”

She said that Live Action investigations have uncovered “horrific abuses” in U.S. abortion facilities.

The group’s investigations send undercover journalists into abortion clinics to film how doctors and staff treat women, including those they believe to be underage girls who are seeking abortions. Some investigations have exposed late-term abortionists' willingness to let babies who survive abortions die. Other investigations have exposed abortion clinic staffers voicing a willingness to avoid mandatory reporting laws in cases of possible statutory rape.
 
“The abortion industry puts profit above all other motives, and is willing to lie, injure and kill mothers, and rampantly slaughter innocent children to keep its multi-billion-dollar enterprise afloat,” Rose said.

She charged that LeRoy Carhart, a Nebraska abortionist profiled in the documentary, left a woman to die alone during a late-term abortion procedure that lasted several days.

“She suffered complications and could not get in touch with him because he had left the state and turned off his phone,” Rose said.

Montgomery County, Maryland officials declined to press charges for the February 2013 death, which involved a New York woman 33 weeks pregnant. She died from complications in an abortion that Carhart performed. Tiller’s murder drew vocal condemnation from Catholic leaders and other pro-life advocates.

In her remarks, Rose was also clear to reject violence against those who perform abortions.

“Our goal is to change hearts and minds – even those of abortionists – and persuade all people through logic, scientific evidence, and heartfelt personal stories that all human life is precious, with inherent dignity, and deserves to be protected.”
 

New Haven, Conn., Aug 29, 2014 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Knights of Columbus partnered with Connecticut-based EVTV to produce a documentary on hope and healing of Haitian children injured in the catastrophic 2010 earthquake that rocked the country.

The film, “Unbreakable: A Story of Hope and Healing in Haiti,” will be featured at the Portland Film Festival on Saturday, Aug. 30.

In January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed over 100,000 people, injured thousands and left around 1.5 million homeless. The documentary tells the story of an often overlooked group affected by the earthquake – thousands of children who received emergency amputations in order to survive the injuries they sustained.

“This film shows that when there is the will do so – both in terms of those providing aid and those receiving it – lives can be saved and transformed by a program that is truly sustainable,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson, executive producer of the documentary. “The work of the dedicated medical staff and the unbreakable spirit of these Haitian young people – in circumstances most of us can’t imagine – are truly inspiring.”

After the disaster, the Healing Haiti’s Children initiative offered free prosthetics and rehabilitation to every injured child that needed the care. The program, a result of a partnership of the Knights of Columbus and the University of Miami’s Project Medishare for Haiti, has helped more than 1,000 children received medical care.

Another result of the program also featured in the film was a soccer team comprised of many children who endured amputations. They named their team Zaryen, after a tarantula known for being able to survive and thrive even after losing a limb. In a country where disability is often seen as a sign of divinely appointed punishment, the soccer team’s story is helping to change that perception.

“In Haiti, there has long been a stigma about disabled people,” explained Dr. Robert Gailey, rehabilitation coordinator for Project Medishare in Port-au-Prince. “The traditional thinking was that disability somehow reflected a negative supernatural judgment on the person. This rehab program, and the soccer team, has really changed that way of thinking.”

The healthcare initiative now has a permanent rehabilitation clinic in Haiti that is increasingly staffed by locals in order to maintain a sustainable program that continues helping children.

“We're still here…one of the few prosthetic facilities that are still going,” says prosthetist Adam Finnieston in the documentary. “That was our mission goal from the beginning, to build a sustainable facility…training locals.”

So far the Knights of Columbus have provided more than $1.5 million in funding for the prosthetics program. One of the most active charitable organizations in the United States, the Knights of Columbus last year donated more than $170 million and 70 million hours of service.

The film will be shown at the Portland film festival on Sat., Aug. 30 at 2:30 p.m. at Cinema 21.