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St. Patrick’s Cathedral offers reparation Mass after ‘scandalous’ funeral for trans activist

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. / Credit: Richard Trois via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

CNA Staff, Feb 17, 2024 / 13:56 pm (CNA).

The pastor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City said the church has offered a Mass of Reparation after a controversial irreverent funeral service was held there this week for a well-known transgender advocate.

The Manhattan cathedral hosted the Feb. 15 funeral service for Cecilia Gentili, an activist who helped to decriminalize sex work in New York, lobbied for “gender identity” to be added as a protected class to the state’s human rights laws, and was a major fundraiser for transgender causes. Gentili was a man who identified as a woman.

Throughout the liturgy, the presider, Father Edward Dougherty, referred to Gentili with feminine pronouns and described the trans-identifying man as “our sister.” Additionally, during the prayers of the faithful, the reader prayed for so-called gender-affirming health care, while attendees frequently and approvingly referred to Gentili as the “mother of whores.”

On Saturday, Father Enrique Salvo, the pastor of St. Patrick’s, said in a statement on the website of the Archdiocese of New York that Church officials shared in the “outrage over the scandalous behavior at a funeral here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral earlier this week.”

“The cathedral only knew that family and friends were requesting a funeral Mass for a Catholic and had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way,” Salvo said.

“That such a scandal occurred at ‘America’s Parish Church’ makes it worse; that it took place as Lent was beginning, the annual 40–day struggle with the forces of sin and darkness, is a potent reminder of how much we need the prayer, reparation, repentance, grace, and mercy to which this holy season invites us,” the priest wrote.

“At [archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s] directive, we have offered an appropriate Mass of Reparation,” Salvo said.

Several mainstream media outlets had framed the event as a breakthrough occasion and a sign of the Catholic Church shifting its teaching — or at least its tone — on sexuality and human anthropology.

Time magazine described the fact that a funeral service for a trans activist was held in a Catholic cathedral as “no small feat,” while The New York Times described the service as “an exuberant piece of political theater.”

Organizers reportedly did not disclose to the cathedral that Gentili, who died Feb. 6 at age 52, was a biological man who identified as a woman.

“I kept it under wraps,” Ceyeye Doroshow, the service’s organizer, told The New York Times.

New series hopes to inspire Catholic parents to ‘fully embrace their vocation’

Luke and Sarah Hellwig in the new series “The Catholic Parent” on FORMED. / Credit: The Augustine Institute

CNA Staff, Feb 17, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Have you ever been the parent constantly running your child out of Mass for bathroom breaks or because of crying fits? Or have you spent a lot of time sitting in the pew giving your child anything you can find to keep him or her entertained and quiet during Mass? If you’re a Catholic parent, the answer to these questions is probably a resounding “yes.”

To encourage and empower parents on their journey to pass the faith down to the next generation, the Augustine Institute and Catholic Sprouts have come together to create a six-episode series highlighting Catholic parents as the primary educators of the faith for their children. It’s called “The Catholic Parent,” and it is now available to view on FORMED.

Nancy Bandzuch is a Catholic mother of six and founder of Catholic Sprouts, an organization that provides educational and catechetical tools designed to assist parents to teach the faith at home. She spoke with CNA about her own experience of trying to teach the faith to her children and how that inspired the work she does today.

“Being a Catholic parent was much harder than I thought it would be,” Bandzuch shared. “I had expected that teaching the faith would feel natural and organic, but it wasn’t.” 

She added: “As our family grew, it felt like someone was always crying, and my temper was much shorter than I thought it would be. Every time I tried to teach the faith it fell apart, and I felt like a failure.”

Out of desperation, Bandzuch started a short, five-minute podcast for her children. She explained that she wanted something that everyone could listen to while getting lunches ready and would “plant one little seed of faith.” These short podcasts would be the catalyst for the launch of Catholic Sprouts.

“After a while, I decided to share the podcast with the world, and it turns out that I wasn’t the only one struggling to teach the faith. Five years later, the ‘Catholic Sprouts Podcast’ has been downloaded over 12 million times, families and classrooms tune in from all over the world, and we now offer lots of other printed materials for parents to use in the home as they strive to teach the faith,” she said.

Bill and Nancy Bandzuch in the new series "The Catholic Parent" on FORMED. Credit: The Augustine Institute
Bill and Nancy Bandzuch in the new series "The Catholic Parent" on FORMED. Credit: The Augustine Institute

The inspiration for “The Catholic Parent” series came from a “desire to showcase and discuss the real struggles and blessings of being a Catholic parent,” Bandzuch said. 

“We wanted to create something that all Catholic parents would see and instantly relate to. Too often the media produced around Catholic families shows the ‘glossy ideal,’ when in reality, all of our families are imperfect,” she expressed.

“And yet, as this series shows, it is in our brokenness and imperfection that God calls us to holiness through the family.”

The episodes are roughly 20 minutes long and include testimonies from six Catholic families and teachings from Father John Nepil, S.T.D.; Sister Rachel Marie, OP; and Sister Francesca Igweilo, OP. The episodes also cover topics such as our Sunday obligation, confession, family prayer, generosity, sacrifice, and handing on the faith. 

Bandzuch explained that these specific topics were chosen from a desire to “create content that was 100% in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church, so we chose the precepts of the Church as an outline for the series.”

“To this we added tasks specifically assigned to parents in the catechism: teaching the faith and leading the family in prayer,” she added. “‘The Catholic Parent,’ therefore, is an exploration of how parents are called to live out the core actions of our faith in a unique and beautiful way.”

When asked why these topics are so important for parents to take part in with their children, Bandzuch emphasized that “as Catholics, we have set ourselves apart and, in many ways, we are asked to live a life seen as radical in today’s world.”

“Lots of important research has shown that if children don’t learn the faith at home from their parents, it is highly unlikely that they will remain Catholic,” she said. “Vast numbers of children who ‘grew up Catholic’ leave the faith every day, and the only way to change this is through the parents.” 

“The way that Catholic parents publicly practice their faith in front of their kids is hugely important not only for the sanctity of their family but for the sanctity of this world.”

After watching the series, Bandzuch hopes viewers will “see themselves and their own struggles.”

“Too often we feel alone. We assume that others have it easier or are doing a better job. This isn’t true,” she explained. “All of us struggle to bring young children to Mass. All of us dread stepping into the confessional. Tithing is tough for everyone, and no one enjoys fasting. You are not alone, and yes, these things are hard, but we can’t stop there.”

“We hope that parents will begin to see the privilege of being a Catholic parent and more fully embrace their vocation,” Bandzuch said.

And for those parents who are stressed or anxious to go to Mass with their little ones, Bandzuch shared this advice: “Regardless of how we feel or how our kids behave, Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, is present at the sacrifice of the Mass. This should be the reason that we go to Mass every Sunday. He is there!” 

“Even if you don’t hear a word of the homily, you have to run kids to the bathroom during the consecration, or an elder parishioner says something nasty about your kids, it doesn’t change the fact that Christ is there. When we continue to go to Mass through the difficult years of raising kids, it shows our children that we believe this and that nothing will keep us from being in the presence of Our Lord.”

You can find out more about “The Catholic Parent” series here.

UPDATE: Irreverent funeral service at St. Patrick's Cathedral for trans activist sparks outcry

St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York / John Bilous/Shutterstock

CNA Newsroom, Feb 16, 2024 / 22:15 pm (CNA).

A raucous funeral liturgy for a high-profile trans activist and sex-worker advocate was held Thursday in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, sparking an outcry on social media that the iconic church was misused to advance an ideological agenda at odds with Catholic teaching.

The Manhattan cathedral hosted the Feb. 15 funeral service for Cecilia Gentili, an activist who helped to decriminalize sex work in New York, lobbied for “gender identity” to be added as a protected class to the state’s human rights laws, and was a major fundraiser for transgender causes.

Organizers reportedly did not disclose to the cathedral that Gentili, who died Feb. 6 at age 52, was a biological man who identified as a woman.

“I kept it under wraps,” Ceyeye Doroshow, the service’s organizer, told The New York Times.

Doroshow said that Gentili’s friends requested that the funeral service be held at St. Patrick’s because “it is an icon,” which is how they thought of Gentili.

Throughout the liturgy, the presider, Father Edward Dougherty, referred to Gentili with feminine pronouns and described the trans-identifying man as “our sister.” Additionally, during the prayers of the faithful, the reader prayed for so-called gender-affirming health care, while attendees frequently and approvingly referred to Gentili as the “mother of whores.”

It was not clear if cathedral staff were aware that Gentili was a man who identified as a woman. On Friday St. Patrick’s Cathedral referred all media requests to the Archdiocese of New York, which did not respond to requests for comment before publication.

The Archdiocese later released a statement on Saturday from Father Enrique Salvo, the pastor of St. Patrick's, who said that cathedral staff "had no idea our welcome and prayer would be degraded in such a sacrilegious and deceptive way."

Salvo said that Church officials shared in the "outrage over the scandalous behavior at a funeral here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral earlier this week." Salvo also revealed that a Mass of Reparation had been said at the cathedral at the direction of Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

In remarks previously made to The New York Times, archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling said that “a funeral is one of the corporal works of mercy,” which are “a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise.” Other than its spokesman’s comments, the New York Archdiocese had issued no official statement on the funeral service at St. Patrick’s as of Friday night.

Several mainstream media outlets have framed the event as a breakthrough occasion and a sign of the Catholic Church shifting its teaching — or at least its tone — on sexuality and human anthropology.

Time magazine described the fact that a funeral service for a trans activist was held in a Catholic cathedral as “no small feat,” while The New York Times described the service as “an exuberant piece of political theater.”

Jesuit Father James Martin, an LGBTQ advocate whose approach to pastoral inclusion has courted controversy in the Church, initially offered his approval for the service.

“To celebrate the funeral Mass [sic] of a transgender woman at St. Patrick’s is a powerful reminder, during Lent, that LGBTQ people are as much a part of the church as anyone else,” he told The New York Times. “I wonder if it would have happened a generation ago.”

On Saturday, however, Martin clarified that he made the comment prior to service.

"Obviously, I believe that LGBTQ people should be as included as any other parishioner in their church. Just as obviously, I believe that churches are sacred spaces and certain actions are out of bounds," he said in a post on X (formerly Twitter), adding that he had been invited to preach at the service but was out of town.

"I've not seen the whole service as recorded, but some actions I've seen struck me as, while perhaps to the congregation joyful and celebratory, disrespectful of the sacred space that is St. Patrick's Cathedral," he wrote. "One can be both joyful and respectful, it seems to me."

Other Catholics, however, were more pointed in their assessment.

On X, CatholicVote described the service as a staged “mockery of the Christian faith INSIDE St. Patrick’s Cathedral” by trans activists.

Others called for Cardinal Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York to respond to what they considered to be sacrilege.

Many of the 1,000 in attendance wore drag and scanty outfits. At the foot of the altar stood an image of the Argentinian-born Gentili with a halo, surrounded by the Spanish words for “whore,” “transvestite,” “blessed,” and “mother.”

Trans activist Oscar Diaz told Time it “felt appropriate” to say farewell to Gentili with a funeral service at St. Patrick’s, describing the event as an act of bestowing “sainthood” on the transgender advocate.

The service for Gentili was marked by several moments that were out of the ordinary for a Catholic funeral and have raised questions of irreverence and sacrilege.

For instance, during the liturgy, attendees cheered, applauded, and chanted “Cecilia!” and “madre de putas” — Spanish for “mother of whores.”

A rendition of the “Ave Maria” by the cathedral cantor was interrupted when an attendee shouted “Ave Cecilia!” and danced down the center aisle.

A mid-liturgy lay reflection given from the sanctuary compared Gentili’s advocacy for normalizing sex work and lobbying for gender-related health care to Christ’s ministry to prostitutes and outcasts.

In another reflection, Diaz described the deceased as “this whore, this great whore, St. Cecilia, mother of all whores.” Those assembled stood and applauded as Father Dougherty remained seated in the presider’s chair, his chin in his hand.

After attending Baptist and Catholic churches, Gentili had identified as an atheist though suggested a recent interest in God in a November 2023 interview.

“Religion has been such a foundational aspect of my life that I’ll always have some kind of connection to it. I still crave a sense of community and belonging that I know a lot of people find in faith,” Gentili said.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Feb. 17, 2024, to include a statement from the Archdiocese of New York and Father James Martin's clarification that he gave his remarks to The New York Times before the service had taken place.

New York Times reports Trump backs 16-week abortion ban; campaign pushes back

President Donald Trump in 2017. / Credit: DropOfLight/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 16, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A New York Times article published Friday afternoon claims that former President Donald Trump told advisers he would support a national ban on abortion at 16 weeks of pregnancy, but the campaign has somewhat pushed back on the report.

In a statement, Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt called the report a “fake news New York Times article” and said that Trump would do as he had previously stated: “sit down with both sides and negotiate a deal that everyone will be happy with.”

The campaign’s response, however, did not explicitly claim that any of the information in the article was inaccurate and did not comment on whether Trump would support a federal law restricting abortion at the 16-week mark.

Charlie Stadtlander, the director of external communications for newsroom and opinion at the New York Times, told CNA that the reporting is accurate. 

“The campaign’s statement doesn’t deny anything in The Times’ reporting, which we stand behind completely,” Stadtlander said.

The article claims that Trump has told advisers and allies that he likes the idea of a 16-week ban on abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. The article cites as its sources “two people with direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s deliberations,” but both individuals remained anonymous.

According to the article, the former president has privately said that he plans to wait until the end of the Republican primary before giving specific policy plans about abortion so that he does not alienate social conservatives. 

The report further states that Trump is dismissive of Republicans who do not support “the three exceptions” when considering a potential vice presidential running mate. 

“Know what I like about 16?” the New York Times claims Trump said to one of its sources. “It’s even. It’s four months.”

Trump has a longstanding working relationship with at least two of the reporters from the New York Times who co-wrote the article: Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan. The former president has provided both reporters with exclusive interviews in the past.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, voiced support for setting a federal 16-week standard. The organization had previously feuded with Trump for not taking a stronger stance against abortion. 

“We strongly agree with President Trump on protecting babies from abortion violence at 16 weeks when they feel pain,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. “A majority of Americans support this compassionate position.”

For months on the campaign trail, Trump has sidestepped questions about the specific abortion policies he would support if he is elected president again. When asked, the former president has consistently said that the federal government should play a role in protecting life and that he would sign something that people will like.

In a Fox News town hall on Jan. 10, Trump told a pro-life voter that “I think you’re going to be happy in the end” and that “we’re going to get something that people want, that people will like.”

The Trump campaign’s response to the New York Times article echoed some other statements the former president has made, specifically in reference to Trump’s role in the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and his criticism of President Joe Biden’s pro-abortion agenda.

“President Trump appointed strong Constitutionalist federal judges and Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade and sent the decision back to the states, which others have tried to do for over 50 years,” the campaign statement read.

“Joe Biden and virtually every Democrat in Congress is on the record supporting radical on-demand abortion up until the moment of birth, and after birth, as well as using American tax dollars to fund the killing of the most vulnerable.”

Biden and most Democratic lawmakers support codifying the abortion standards that existed in the precedent set by Roe v. Wade prior to its reversal. Biden has rejected the characterization of his position as support for “on-demand abortion.”

The proposed codification language would legalize abortion nationwide until the point of viability, which is when the preborn child can survive outside of the womb. However, the language does not set a week-based limit. Instead, it allows the woman’s physician, who is often the abortionist, to determine whether the preborn child is viable.

Blessed Mother statue at D.C.’s National Shrine vandalized

The vandalized statue of “Mary, Protector of the Faith” on the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The vandalism was discovered around 2:30 p.m. Feb. 15, 2024. / Credit: Alex Cranstoun/BNSIC

CNA Staff, Feb 16, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

In an incident that police are treating as a possible hate crime, a statue of the Blessed Mother in a prayer garden near a prominent Washington, D.C., basilica was damaged by an as-yet-unidentified assailant Thursday. 

The statue, located on the grounds of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, appeared to have been struck in the face with a hammer. Light fixtures along a walkway in the garden were also shattered.

The statue is located in Mary’s Garden, which according to the National Shrine’s website is shaped in a circle to symbolize eternity. The life-size statue called “Mary, Protector of the Faith” by Jon-Joseph Russo portrays the Blessed Mother lovingly cradling the infant Jesus. The garden and statue were dedicated in 2000. 

Monsignor Walter Rossi, rector of the basilica, said in a statement to CNA that a visitor praying the rosary in Mary’s Garden contacted a staff member to report damage to the statue of the Blessed Mother. The vandalism was discovered around 2:30 p.m. Feb. 15 and was likely a recent occurrence, Rossi said, as security staff inspects the garden as a part of regular rounds.

“Although saddened that acts of this nature take place, I am more concerned about the individuals who perpetrate such activity and pray for their healing,” Rossi said.

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department informed CNA that the incident is “under investigation as a potential hate-bias offense.” In Washington, D.C., a hate crime is defined by police as “a designation that makes available to the court an enhanced penalty if a crime demonstrates the offender’s prejudice or bias based on the actual or perceived traits of the victim.”

Tom Lynch, supervisory public affairs specialist for the Metropolitan Police Department, told CNA via email that there is currently no reliable suspect information to distribute.

The latest incident is not the first instance of vandalism at the Marian shrine. In late 2021, a marble statue of Our Lady of Fatima outside the National Shrine suffered “irreparable damage” in an attack with a mallet or hammer-like tool. Police shared surveillance footage that shows a man wearing a mask approaching the statue and using the tool to strike at the statue’s hands and face, sending pieces of marble flying. 

That statue was valued at $250,000, according to a police report obtained by CNA at the time. That case was not treated as a hate crime, police said.

Though not an instance of physical damage, a pro-abortion group drew wide condemnation from Catholics, including Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, for projecting pro-choice slogans on the facade of the National Shrine during a Mass and Holy Hour on the eve of the March for Life in 2022. 

Greece becomes first Orthodox Christian country to legalize same-sex marriage

Greek Parliament Building in Athens, Greece. / Credit: Andrey Starostin/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Feb 16, 2024 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Greece this week legalized same-sex marriage at the national level, becoming the first officially Orthodox Christian country to do so. 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on social media on Thursday that the measure had passed the Hellenic Parliament and that Greece was “proud to become the 16th [European Union] country to legislate marriage equality.” 

“This is a milestone for human rights, reflecting today’s Greece — a progressive and democratic country, passionately committed to European values,” Mitsotakis said. 

Just over a majority of lawmakers — 176 of 300 — voted in favor of the measure, while 76 rejected it. Several dozen more were not present and two lawmakers abstained. 

Greece is the first country with Orthodox Christianity as its official religion to recognize same-sex marriage. The law also permits same-sex couples to adopt children.

The country had for years already extended some rights to cohabiting same-sex couples such as employment benefits.

The Greek Constitution stipulates that “the prevailing religion in Greece is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ.” 

“The Orthodox Church of Greece, acknowledging Our Lord Jesus Christ as its head, is inseparably united in doctrine with the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople,” the constitution says, “and with every other Church of Christ of the same doctrine, observing unwaveringly, as they do, the holy apostolic and synodal canons and sacred traditions.”

The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece had previously come out against the proposed legislation, saying in a statement last month that “the duality of the sexes and their complementarity are not social inventions but come from God.”

“Christian marriage is not a simple cohabitation agreement but a holy sacrament, through which the grace of God is granted to the communion relationship of a man and a woman with the aim of their common path to theology,” the synod said. 

“Obviously the state legislates,” the synod pointed out, “but this parameter neither deprives the Church of freedom of speech, nor relieves the Church of the duty to inform the faithful.”

With Greece’s vote, 21 European countries officially recognize same-sex marriage, while several more acknowledge some form of same-sex union.

Registration opens for ‘milestone’ 2024 National Eucharistic Congress

The United States 10th National Eucharistic Congress will be held July 17–21, 2024, in Indianapolis and is expected to draw 80,000 Catholics to Lucas Oil Stadium, home to the Indianapolis Colts. This is the first National Eucharistic Congress in 83 years. / Official logo

CNA Staff, Feb 16, 2024 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Registration opened on Thursday for the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress, a “milestone” in the third year of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) initiative to renew the Catholic Church through the Eucharist. 

The five-day congress will be held in Indianapolis from July 17–21 in Lucas Oil Stadium, which boasts a capacity of nearly 70,000.

“The National Eucharistic Congress is the milestone moment of a three-year initiative of the USCCB designed to renew the Catholic Church in the United States by bringing forth an encounter with the living Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist,” stated a Feb. 15 press release from the event’s organizers. 

This year’s gathering is the 10th National Eucharistic Congress in the U.S. but the first since the beginning of World War II. 

“God is doing something big here,” Tim Glemkowski, executive director of the National Eucharistic Congress, said in a statement. “It is our hope that this movement of the Holy Spirit brings healing, conversion, and unity to our Church.”

Additional events will be held at other venues within walking distance of the stadium, such as the Gainbridge Fieldhouse and the Indiana Convention Center. The convention center will host a vendor hall with more than 200 Catholic organizations and artisans. 

Glemkowski has extended “an open invitation for Catholics across the country.” Registered participants will have access to all of the Congress events, including catechetical sessions, breakouts, Mass seating at the arena, and evening concerts. 

The Congress will also be family-friendly, with special programming for children ages 12–18. 

“There is power when Catholics gather in worship and prayer before the Eucharist — Jesus is going to move, not only in our hearts, but he is going to bring hope and healing through our prayer to a world in desperate need of it,” noted Joel Stepanek, chief mission officer for the National Eucharistic Congress, in the statement.

The Congress will have three masters of ceremonies, including Montse Alvarado, president and chief operating officer of CNA’s parent company, EWTN News, Inc.; Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, host of the “Abiding Together” podcast; and Father Josh Johnson, host of the podcast “Ask Father Josh.” 

Event speakers include Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, Bishop Robert Barron; the Holy See’s current apostolic nuncio to the United States, Cardinal Christophe Pierre; Crookston, Minnesota, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who heads the Eucharistic Revival; the Archdiocese of New York’s Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat; and Ascension Presents host Father Mike Schmitz. 

Other speakers include religious sisters and lay faithful. A full list of speakers can be found on the Congress website, along with a preliminary schedule.

EWTN is offering a special discount registration of $60 off the total cost of registration.

Catholic prayer app Hallow makes history in app store 

"He Leadeth Me" Hallow Pray40 Challenge. / Credit: Hallow

CNA Staff, Feb 16, 2024 / 13:20 pm (CNA).

The Catholic prayer app Hallow has made history becoming the first religious app to reach the No. 1 spot on Apple’s app store. 

Hallow reached the top spot on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, which was the same day its Lent Pray40 prayer challenge started. 

More than 1 million people joined the Lenten prayer challenge featuring Catholic actors Jonathan Roumie and Mark Wahlberg; Father Mike Schmitz; Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT; and Sister Mary Bernice. 

The Catholic app surpassed the e-commerce app Temu, which previously held the No. 1 spot, on Wednesday evening and held its top ranking into Thursday morning. With roughly 85 employees, Hallow is a significantly smaller company than those creating apps who tend to rank high in the App Store.

This Lent, Hallow will walk listeners through “He Leadeth Me” by Father Walter J. Ciszek, a Jesuit priest and missionary who was imprisoned for 20 years in the Soviet Union amid some of the worst conditions imaginable. 

“He Leadeth Me” rose to No. 2 overall in Amazon’s list of bestsellers during the same time frame. It currently sits at the No. 3 spot. 

“We’re blown away. When we started Hallow, it would’ve been crazy for us to imagine a thousand people praying together on it, much less 1 million. God is doing incredible things. All glory and credit and praise belongs to him,” said Alex Jones, CEO and co-founder of Hallow, in a press release.

“Never in a million years would I have imagined we’d be at the top of the App Store,” he added. “The other folks in the top 100 apps are just such incredible and popular apps with tens of thousands of employees — Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, Google, Instagram. What a crazy world.”

The spike in downloads comes after Hallow aired a 30-second commercial during Super Bowl LVIII encouraging viewers to take a moment to give thanks to God and invite them to join Hallow in prayer this Lenten season. 

After the commercial aired, Jones told CNA in an interview that “it was a phenomenal night. A dream come true. For the first time ever during the Super Bowl, we all got to take 30 seconds to give thanks to God.”

“We’ve been blown away by the responses to the spot,” he said. “We’ve heard from many who were inspired to join us and give prayer a try for the first time in a long time this Lent.”

“It was a huge bet for us. When we were producing the spot we decided really to just focus on making it all about Jesus — just on spending time in prayer with God,” Jones shared. “It was amazing to see how the spot resonated with so many. It was an honor to get to pray together and we’re thrilled to continue to pray together with everyone this Lent.”

Indiana Catholic couple asks Supreme Court to hear transgender child custody case 

null / Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Feb 16, 2024 / 09:30 am (CNA).

An Indiana Catholic husband and wife are petitioning the Supreme Court to hear their case after the state government removed their child from their home after he began identifying as “transgender.”

Mary and Jeremy Cox refused to accept their son’s self-declared female identity in 2019, instead seeking therapy to address what they saw as underlying mental health concerns. 

The Indiana government in 2021 began investigating the Cox family after learning that they refused to address their son by his chosen identity. The government subsequently removed their son from their home, placing him in another home that “affirmed” his transgender beliefs. 

The state government subsequently dropped abuse allegations against the couple, though it still argued that the “disagreement over gender identity” was distressing to the child and was contributing to an ongoing eating disorder. Subsequent court decisions upheld the decision to keep the child out of the Coxes’ custody. 

On Thursday the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty announced that Mary and Jeremy Cox had filed a petition with the Supreme Court, asking the high court to “hold the state accountable for keeping their child out of their home.”

“This is what every parent is afraid of. We love our son and wanted to care for him, but the state of Indiana robbed us of that opportunity by taking him from our home and banning us from speaking to him about gender,” the parents said in the release. 

“We are hopeful that the justices will take our case and protect other parents from having to endure the nightmare we did.”  

In their filing, the petitioners noted that Indiana “found the parents fit but still removed the child over an ideological dispute.” 

“Although Indiana found all allegations of abuse and neglect unsubstantiated, it refused to return [the child] home, substituting the judgment of the state for that of admittedly fit parents,” the filing said. 

“If this can happen in Indiana, it can happen anywhere,” Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in the group’s press release. “Tearing a child away from loving parents because of their religious beliefs, which are shared by millions of Americans, is an outrage to the law, parental rights, and basic human decency.” 

“If the Supreme Court doesn’t take this case, how many times will this happen to other families?” 

The filing called the dispute one of “nationwide importance,” arguing that Indiana’s actions conflict with Supreme Court precedent on free speech and religious liberty.

“Amid this fraught landscape, with the lives of real children and families hanging in the balance, this court should grant this petition and affirm its precedents on the right of fit parents to custody of their children,” the filing says. 

First of its kind Catholic trade high school debuts in Houston

St. Peter Catholic, a career and technical high school in Houston. / Credit: Photo courtesy of St. Peter Catholic High School

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 16, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has opened a first of its kind Catholic trade school for high schoolers in Texas’ largest city.

Called St. Peter Catholic, the school officially opened this past fall with an inaugural class of 10 students. Having just completed renovations and moved into its 10-acre campus this spring semester, the faculty at St. Peter’s believe the school’s unique education style positions it to achieve “a high standard of education while focusing on character building and faith formation” to produce “highly qualified and motivated young adults, ready to engage the world.”

Billed as a co-ed “career and technical high school,” St. Peter’s offers students a hands-on, practical curriculum in the fields of information technology, education, architecture, construction, business, marketing, and finance, all rooted “in the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith.” 

St. Peter’s stands on the grounds of a shuttered kindergarten through eighth grade parochial school in southeast Houston, a part of the city that, like the school, is being transformed as Houston’s population continues to grow.

While dioceses across the country close and consolidate parishes and schools, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston decided to try a different approach to attract more students to a Catholic education.

An announcement letter signed by Houston’s archbishop, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, and the archdiocese’s superintendent of Catholic schools, Debra Haney, indicated that the new school will “educate its students in the Catholic intellectual tradition while preparing them for jobs that are in high demand in today’s technology-driven economy.”

The physics lab at St. Peter Catholic, a career and technical high school in Houston. Credit: Photo courtesy of St. Peter Catholic High School
The physics lab at St. Peter Catholic, a career and technical high school in Houston. Credit: Photo courtesy of St. Peter Catholic High School

“St. Peter Catholic High School will mirror the workplace and post-secondary education environments, equipping students to enter the workforce through opportunities to earn professional certifications,” DiNardo and Haney said.

By allowing students to have “hands-on experience with industry-standard software and technology,” they said that their goal is to help students graduate as professionally competent and virtuous young people “who will bear witness to Jesus Christ in the world.”

This comes amid major skilled labor shortages in the U.S. and a growth of interest in the trades among many families. Several Catholic trade schools have opened across the country in the last several years, including in Orange County, California; Steubenville, Ohio; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Gallup, New Mexico.

Leaders of these new Catholic trade schools have said they are offering a new path for students who don’t want to take on crippling debt from traditional four-year colleges by training them in a skill, cultivating their faith, and doing it all affordably.

St. Peter’s in Houston, however, is unique in that it offers a professionally focused Catholic education to students at the high school level.

The school’s principal, Dr. Marc Martinez, and other organizers are hoping that by focusing on technical skills, faith formation, and making St. Peter’s education affordable for families, the school will have a positive impact for generations to come.

St. Peter Catholic, a career and technical high school in Houston. Credit: Photo courtesy of St. Peter Catholic High School
St. Peter Catholic, a career and technical high school in Houston. Credit: Photo courtesy of St. Peter Catholic High School

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Martinez said he’s hopeful the school will enroll another 50 students in the fall and then continue growing from there. The school is holding an open house for interested parents and students on Saturday, Feb. 17. More information can be found by clicking here.

Though still in an early stage of development, the faculty at St. Peter’s hope they will be part of a new movement in Catholic education.

“Catholic schools are an important source of strength, hope, and opportunity to our families and their children,” St. Peter’s website states. “No institution has been more successful than the Catholic school system in leading generations out of poverty to bright, promising, and fulfilling lives.” 

“In a couple of years,” DiNardo said in a St. Peter’s promotional video, “we will say what we are starting today is an important dimension of Catholic education, educating the whole child no matter what particular career they go in.”