Banner

CNS Top Story

Catholic News Service Top Stories
  • CRS strengthens civil society groups in fractured Lebanon

    IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

    By Paul Jeffrey

    BEIRUT (CNS) -- When Samar Shalhoub and some friends wanted to better protect children in Lebanon from abuse and violence, they turned their dream into a nonprofit organization. They registered with the government and got to work holding workshops on bullying and ways that children could protect themselves against abduction, sexual abuse and violence. But, Shalhoub readily admits, they knew little about how to organize their organization.

    "We had a dream, but that wasn't enough. We had to develop strategies to get us where we dreamed we wanted to go, and reliable tools to get us there," she told Catholic News Service.

    Shalhoub, a music teacher at St. Joseph University, a Jesuit-run institution in Beirut, says they learned their lesson when someone asked to see their financial records.

    "We had a sweet box, one of those boxes where someone had bought sweets in the airport. We put all our receipts in there, sometimes with no stamp or no date, and over time the ink faded on some of the receipts and you couldn't even tell what they were for," she said.

    Shalhoub said her organization, Together for a Safe Childhood, got involved in a capacity-building program run by Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' relief and development agency. Together for a Safe Childhood was one of several nascent nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, that CRS started nurturing.

    "We learned that NGOs can't be run freestyle," Shalhoub said. "We've got to have tough structures. We had lots of volunteers, and to work with them effectively we had to develop a long-term plan and enhance our managerial skills."

    "Goodwill simply wasn't enough. We had to create policies and procedures. And we had to develop a financial system. It's not enough to be transparent and have a good reputation. We need a system that proves we're transparent."

    Shalhoub says the sweet box has been replaced by a computer running QuickBooks accounting software, and the organization's board of directors has changed to better reflect Lebanon's cultural diversity.

    "We learned that there should be some balance and equality among the board members, and we looked at ourselves and realized we were all Christian, all women, and all the same color. So we created some diversity, encouraging men and people of other religions to join the board. This has been a positive change, making our NGO stronger and more sustainable," Shalhoub said.

    The CRS program, funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative of the U.S. State Department, initially sought to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations in Lebanon, Tunisia and Algeria. But Algeria's government quit issuing visas to CRS staff in 2014, forcing the agency to pull the plug on that operation and concentrate its work in just Tunisia and Lebanon.

    Ramzi Hage, a program manager for CRS, said the program focuses particularly on organizations working around issues affecting women, youth and the environment. The organizations must be less than 3 years old and must be legally registered with their governments. The organizations must be vetted by the U.S. government to make sure they have no links to terrorist organizations.

    Hage said the organizations also must "fit with our Catholic vision and identity." CRS has been criticized in recent months for allegedly collaborating with organizations supporting reproductive health services.

    CRS partners with the schools of business and social sciences at St. Joseph University in carrying out the project. In addition to a yearlong series of intensive workshops, they developed a mentoring process that provides the organizations with experts to sit down and help coach them through developing the organizational infrastructure that will make them effective.

    "We focus on building institutions, on putting systems into place. We learned in previous projects that if you only focus on building the capacity of individual persons, they might leave, and their experience goes out the door with them," Hage said.

    "So we emphasize setting up systems, templates and processes that will stay with the institution, so that even if people leave, the accumulated experience stays behind."

    Hilda Bairamian, a professor in the business school at St. Joseph University, is the project manager.

    "In NGOs, there is a lot of energy, a lot of volunteers, but people don't know how to channel it. We've helped them learn how to channel that energy, and not to lose it, as they work out their vision and mission and plans and objectives. It has to be organized, and they've got to find a way to measure how they're doing and how they can improve," said Bairamian, who heads a team of mentors who work with the participating groups.

    After a year of work, the NGOs can apply to the project for a small grant. Proper management of that gives them credibility at the end of the program, when they can meet with grant-making groups from around the world at a "donors' fair" hosted by CRS and St. Joseph University.

    One organization that graduated from the program is Phenix Group Homes, a residence and day center for people with intellectual disabilities. Founded by two psychologists three years ago and located in the hills outside Beirut, it had no trouble finding clients from wealthy families that could pay the fees. Yet Phenix also wanted to take in poorer clients, for which they would need external support. That meant getting their organizational house in order.

    "We are professional psychologists, not accountants. Yet we were a small organization, and we couldn't afford to bring in someone to do our accounting, so we did it ourselves. I did it on Excel, which I liked, but I made a lot of mistakes. Now we have switched to QuickBooks, and someone comes in once a week to help enter data. Soon we'll need someone every day. That frees us up to do our work," said Wadih Nassour, the organization's director.

    Like many of the organizations in the program, Phenix also does public advocacy. Its staff and residents recently participated in a demonstration in front of government offices in Beirut, demanding that a 2000 law on the rights of the disabled be fully implemented.

    The group is reaching out in other ways, and Nassour says the institutional strengthening program has helped.

    "To expand our work to help poor families, we needed support. And as we have obtained it, we've expanded, and now have two people living with us who have no families on the outside. They've brought tremendous happiness to our home, because they are people who really need things. We want to bring in more people like them. The other clients, if we weren't here, could go somewhere else. But these two have nowhere else to go. They need a home and someone to love them. And they in turn have a tremendous love to give us," Nassour said.

     

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

CNS News Briefs

Brief versions on news stories from Catholic News Service. Catholic News Service provides news from the U.S., Rome and around the world in both English and Spanish, in written coverage, images and video reporting.
  • RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CNS) -- Sister Margaret Smyth knew at age 15 that she wanted to become a nun. Today, at 75, Sister Margaret remains happy with her decision to answer the call to consecrated life. "It's always been what I had hoped it would be," said Sister Margaret, who, as a member of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville, ministers to Latino immigrants on the East End of Long Island. With Pope Francis proclaiming 2015 a Year of Consecrated Life, Catholic News Service asked Sister Margaret to reflect on her vocation, which has spanned nearly six decades and positioned her to serve people in many ways. Sister Margaret cited her family, which included an uncle who was a Salesian priest, and the nuns who taught her in high school as having the biggest influence on her. Notably, three of her first cousins also became nuns. One of three children born to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland, Sister Margaret was raised in the Irish enclave of Woodside in Queens and attended St. Sebastian parish school. Her father, Michael, drove an armored car for Wells Fargo and was the head of the Broadway theater ticket-takers and ushers union. Her mother, Margaret, was a homemaker. "My parents were great role models," Sister Margaret said. "They never went to bed at night without saying the rosary. I can remember learning my first prayers from my parents. We had a picture of Our Lady on the wall and my mother had us all kneeling down and taught us the different prayers in front of the picture."

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • OXNARD, Calif. (CNS) -- It is uncertain that a California pro-life group's ongoing series of undercover videos that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illegal marketing and sale of fetal tissue will lead to defunding for the nation's leading provider of abortion services. It also is unknown if the revelations in the videos will lead to charges or possible legal action against the pro-life group, the Center for Medical Progress, based on an investigation announced in late July by California's attorney general. But the videos definitely have brought to society a renewed and more graphic awareness of what fetal tissue and abortion represent. To Catholics, the recordings bring a renewed awareness of Catholic teaching on life issues, and a renewed call to defend life in what some call an increasingly "utilitarian" society. "Fetal tissue has been in the public discussion since the 1970s," said Roberto Dell'Oro, director of the Bioethics Institute and professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. "What we see in these videos is a representation of how our society trivializes human life, by reducing it to a discussion of the acquisition of body parts and organs -- a 'commodification or commercialization' of life." Vicki Evans, coordinator the San Francisco Archdiocese's Respect Life Program, said that abortion supporters have reinforced the position that "embryonic stem-cell research is worth it if it leads to a cure for Parkinson's or some other disease."

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • ALEXANDRIA, La. (CNS) -- More than 600 people from across the country gathered in Alexandria July 22-26 for the 76th annual Tekakwitha Conference in honor of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. "St. Kateri Embraces the Wetlands" was the theme of this year's conference, which was marked with prayer, song, dance and workshops. The conference was co-hosted by the Houma-Thibodaux and Alexandria dioceses. Workshop topics included the call to evangelize, Native American martyrs, the power of prayer, how to read the Bible, Pope Francis and the environment and making a living on the bayou embracing the wetlands. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux and Bishop Ronald P. Herzog of Alexandria celebrated daily Masses during the conference. During a general assembly session participants learned that Father Henry Sands, a priest from the Archdiocese of Detroit who is a member of the Ojibwe, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes, will be the new executive director of the Black and Indian Mission Office in Washington, succeeding Father Wayne Paysse, executive director since 2007.

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CNS) -- At a stage in life when most people her age have eased into retirement, Sister Margaret Smyth shows no signs of slowing down. Nearly six decades after answering the call to religious life, Sister Margaret, 75, is still going strong, ministering to a large population of Latin-American immigrants who live and work in the eastern region of Long Island. A member of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville, Sister Margaret is director of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, a position she has held since 1997, when the Diocese of Rockville Centre hired her to provide outreach to a rapidly growing number of foreigners arriving from Central and South America. Having previously worked as a teacher, principal and religious education director in schools and parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn, Sister Margaret enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to use her Spanish-language skills to welcome and work with immigrants settling on the East End. "It was up to me to figure out what to do," recalled Sister Margaret. "It was different. The people needed somebody. It was a challenge."

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • WASHINGTON (CNS) -- William A. Ryan, whose career as a journalist and communicator with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops covered more than 40 years, died July 25 at the age of 79. He retired as deputy director of communications at the USCCB in 2007 and had served a period as interim director of the Department of Communications. Ryan began his career at the conference with National Catholic News Service in 1965 as a reporter before joining the bishops' Office for Information as assistant director in 1970. He became director of the office in 1974. In 2007, Ryan received the Clarion Award from the Catholic Academy for Communications Arts Professionals for his contributions to the field of Catholic communications.

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • BEIRUT (CNS) -- When Samar Shalhoub and some friends wanted to better protect children in Lebanon from abuse and violence, they turned their dream into a nonprofit organization. They registered with the government and got to work holding workshops on bullying and ways that children could protect themselves against abduction, sexual abuse and violence. But, Shalhoub readily admits, they knew little about how to organize their organization. "We had a dream, but that wasn't enough. We had to develop strategies to get us where we dreamed we wanted to go, and reliable tools to get us there," she told Catholic News Service. Shalhoub, a music teacher at St. Joseph University, a Jesuit-run institution in Beirut, says they learned their lesson when someone asked to see their financial records. "We had a sweet box, one of those boxes where someone had bought sweets in the airport. We put all our receipts in there, sometimes with no stamp or no date, and over time the ink faded on some of the receipts and you couldn't even tell what they were for," she said. Shalhoub said her organization, Together for a Safe Childhood, got involved in a capacity-building program run by Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' relief and development agency. Together for a Safe Childhood was one of several nascent nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, that CRS started nurturing.

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • SALT LAKE CITY -- Pro-life advocates from across the Salt Lake Valley rallied peacefully in front of Planned Parenthood July 28, calling for state and federal officials to investigate and defund Planned Parenthood. The crowd joined pro-lifers across the nation in holding a "Women Betrayed" rally, an effort organized by Students for Life of America and its partner organization, Pro-Life Future. Rallies took place in about 65 cities across the nation. "Defund Planned Parenthood -- now," shouted the Salt Lake City crowd. Across the country in Iowa, about 100 people abandoned their lunch hour to publicly witness their opposition to Planned Parenthood. Their "Women Betrayed" rally was held at Mary's Choice, a pregnancy resource center, located next to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Sioux City. "We came out today to demand that our representatives in Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City hold Planned Parenthood accountable for their actions, and we are not alone in our fight," Callie Oppedisano told the Salt Lake City crowd.

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • JAMESTOWN, Va. (CNS) -- The identities of four men discovered almost two years ago at the site of Jamestown's historic 1608 church have been identified and one of the men had been buried with a silver box that is "likely a Catholic reliquary." The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation at Historic Jamestowne announced the men's identities July 28. They are the Rev. Robert Hunt, Sir Ferdinando Wainman, Capt. William West and Capt. Gabriel Archer, on top of whose coffin was resting the silver box. Their remains were found beneath the chancel area of what was an Anglican church at the front of a structure where a communion table would have been located and where only elite community members would have been buried. "Religion played a prominent role at Jamestown, and many efforts were made to convert the neighboring Powhatan tribes to the Anglican Church," a news release said. "The presence of the reliquary, however, suggests that at least one of the colonists retained his Catholic faith, perhaps in secret."

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Congress can promote the common good and contribute to a more just society by ensuring the federal minimum wage promotes family formation and stability, said Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski and Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president of Catholic Charities USA, in a July 27 letter to Congress. "An economy thrives only when it is centered on the dignity and well-being of the workers and families in it," said the letter signed by Sister Markham and Archbishop Wenski, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "As pastors and service providers, we see every day the consequences when society fails to honor this priority," they said, noting that the federal minimum wage does not support stability among low-wage workers and increases the demand for social services. In late July, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who is a presidential candidate, introduced the Pay Workers a Living Wage Act, which proposes to gradually increase the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 over the next five years until it reaches $15 per hour in 2020.

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley said that Planned Parenthood officials' videotaped descriptions of how fetal tissue and organs are procured for researchers during abortions illustrates what Pope Francis calls today's "throwaway culture." The officials also discuss what the organization charges for the body parts, which opponents of Planned Parenthood said violates federal law and the organization said are customary handling fees paid by research labs. Cardinal O'Malley, in a July 29 statement, said Pope Francis calls abortion "the product of a 'widespread mentality of profit, the throwaway culture, which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.'" He made the comments as chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a radio interview that he was "appalled" by the videos but even more "appalled at the reality of abortion, the taking of the life itself." The prelates were referring to videos filmed undercover earlier this year and released in mid-July by a nonprofit California-based organization called the Center for Medical Progress.

    - - -

    Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Updated throughout the day by Catholic News Service.

National/World multimedia:

Check out the Catholic News Service multimedia player on the Catholic Herald Web site front page, featuring daily Vatican video reports, coverage of the church in the U.S. and more.

NOTE: requires Adobe Flash Player.


What is Catholic News Service?
Catholic News Service (CNS), the oldest and largest religious news service in the world, is a leading source of news for Catholic print and electronic media across the globe. With bureaus in Washington and Rome, as well as a global correspondent network, CNS since 1920 has set the standard in Catholic journalism.

Top of page

 
Banner
 
Please support our advertisers:
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner