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13 things to know about J.D. Vance’s Catholic journey

Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, arrives to the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “God and Country Breakfast” at the Pfister Hotel on July 18, 2024 in Milwaukee. / Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

National Catholic Register, Jul 21, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Republican vice presidential nominee J.D. Vance is one of the most overtly religious major politicians in America.

Vance has written extensively about his life in faith, both in a mega-selling memoir and in a long essay that describes how a drug-using teenager with anger problems, family problems, school problems, and doubts about God became an accomplished, successful family man excited about being a Catholic.

But nowadays, he’s also the most questioned of religious politicians, as pro-lifers ask if he’s still one of them.

Where did he come from in faith? And how did he get where he is now?

Vance, who comes from a long line of culturally Protestant Scots-Irish Americans from Appalachia, was baptized Catholic in August 2019.

Below are 13 items about his meandering journey to Rome and the aftermath, drawn largely from his 3-million-copy-selling 2016 memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” and a 6,777-word essay he wrote about his conversion for the Easter 2020 issue of The Lamp, a Catholic magazine. 

Vance also talked about his conversion in an August 2019 interview with Rod Dreher published in The American Conservative.

1. J.D. Vance rarely went to church as a child.

Vance was largely raised by his grandmother, whom he called “Mamaw,” who believed in Jesus and liked Billy Graham but didn’t like what she called “organized religion.”

Vance wasn’t baptized as a child. The family members he spent the most time around generally didn’t go to church unless they were visiting their Appalachian ancestral home in Jackson, Kentucky.

Even so, he says in his memoir, his grandmother had “a deeply personal (albeit quirky) faith.”

2. Vance had a crisis of faith as a child.

When he was about 10, Vance had a moment of doubt.

“Mamaw, does God love us?” he asked his grandmother after a major disappointment, mindful of the fractured family life he and his half-sister were growing up in.

The question caused his grandmother to cry.

Vance doesn’t say how his grandmother answered the question. But he describes another instance when Mamaw accidentally went the wrong way on a three-lane interstate before making a U-turn, causing him to scream in terror.

“Don’t you know Jesus rides in the car with me?” his grandmother replied.

3. As a teenager, Vance was a Pentecostal.

As an adolescent, Vance reconnected with his biological father, whom he hadn’t seen much of after his parents split up. For a while, he stayed with his dad every other weekend.

“With little religious training, I was desperate for some exposure to a real church,” Vance wrote in “Hillbilly Elegy.”

His father had given up drinking and became a serious Pentecostal, and he would take Vance to a large Pentecostal church in southeastern Ohio with his new wife and their children.

Vance drank it in. Among other things, he rejected evolution and embraced millennialism, including a belief that the world would end in 2007.

“I’m not sure if I liked the structure or if I just wanted to share in something that was important to him — both, I suppose — but I became a devoted convert,” Vance writes in his memoir.

4. Vance didn’t like the Catholic Church when he was a kid.

Even before he started going to a Pentecostal church, Vance thought he knew certain things about Catholicism — which he didn’t like.

“I knew that Catholics worshipped Mary. I knew they rejected the legitimacy of Scripture. And I knew that the Antichrist — or at least, the Antichrist’s spiritual adviser — would be a Catholic,” Vance wrote in his April 2020 article in The Lamp of his once-misguided impressions.

5. Vance’s image of Jesus when he was growing up differed from his image of the Catholic Church’s image of Jesus.

One of Vance’s aunts married a Catholic, whom Vance liked and respected.

“I admired my uncle Dan above all other men …,” Vance wrote in “Hillbilly Elegy.”

His grandmother liked Dan, too.

But Catholicism seemed too formal and impersonal to her.

“The Catholic Jesus was a majestic deity, and we had little interest in majestic deities because we weren’t a majestic people,” Vance wrote in his conversion essay.

6. “Hillbilly Elegy” isn’t a conversion story.

Vance mentions the word “Catholic” or “Catholics” only five times in the 264-page book, and he never engages with Catholic teachings in it. He wrote it between 2013 and 2015, several years before he became a Catholic, and gives no hint that he had ever considered Catholicism.

He also doesn’t dwell in his book on his atheism as a young man, a period he describes at length in his conversion essay in The Lamp.

7. An Anglican philosopher provided the first crack in Vance’s atheism.

While he was still a nonbeliever, Vance encountered the work of English philosopher Basil Mitchell (1917–2011) in an undergraduate philosophy course at Ohio State.

As Vance describes it, Mitchell, who was a member of the Church of England, presented difficult experiences in life as a trial of faith that requires trust in God without fully understanding what God has in mind.

Vance was surprised by Mitchell’s presentation because as a young Christian he had always thought that “[d]oubt was unacceptable” and “that the proper response to a trial of faith was to suppress it and pretend it never happened.”

“But here was Mitchell,” Vance wrote in his conversion essay, “conceding that the brokenness of the world and our individual tribulations did, in fact, count against the existence of God. But not definitively.”

Republican vice presidential candidate J.D. Vance and former president Donald Trump bow in prayer during the last day of the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on July 18, 2024. Credit: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images
Republican vice presidential candidate J.D. Vance and former president Donald Trump bow in prayer during the last day of the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on July 18, 2024. Credit: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

8. A homosexual billionaire influenced Vance’s outlook on life.

While a student at Yale Law School, Vance went to a talk by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who was Facebook’s first outside investor and co-founded PayPal.

According to Vance, Thiel argued that elite professionals got themselves trapped into climbing rungs on the socioeconomic ladder at the expense of happiness.

Vance realized that he was “obsessed with achievement” for itself — “not as an end to something meaningful, but to win a social competition.” He also concluded that he “had prioritized striving over character.”

Thiel introduced Vance to the thought of René Girard (1923-2015), a French historian and philosopher whose writings, among other things, attracted Vance through the way he described Christianity as transcending the scapegoat myth of various cultures because Christ “has not wronged the civilization; the civilization has wronged him.”

Thiel, now 56, who identifies as a Christian and a conservative, is civilly married to a man. Vance worked for Thiel in venture capital, and Thiel was Vance’s major contributor in Vance’s successful run for U.S. Senate in Ohio in 2022.

9. Vance’s family ties kept him from becoming a Catholic for a long time.

Vance connected with Catholic doctrine several years after his grandmother died in 2005. It made sense to him.

“Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I converted I would no longer be my grandmother’s grandson,” Vance wrote in The Lamp.

That left him in a sort of limbo.

“So for many years I occupied the uncomfortable territory between curiosity about Catholicism and mistrust,” he wrote.

10. Vance credits his Hindu wife with helping him convert to Catholicism.

Vance acknowledges having problems with anger stemming from his chaotic childhood and the destructive behavior of people in his family, especially his mother, who abused prescription drugs and went through a string of boyfriends and husbands.

That anger affected his relationship with Usha, his girlfriend in law school, but she helped him work through it to try to become the kind of husband and father he wanted to be. They married in 2014.

“The sad fact is that I couldn’t do it without Usha. Even at my best, I’m a delayed explosion — I can be defused, but only with skill and precision,” Vance wrote in “Hillbilly Elegy.”

Usha is the daughter of immigrants from India and a Hindu. Vance felt hesitant about joining the Catholic Church because he wasn’t a Catholic when they got married.

“But from the beginning, she supported my decision, so I can’t blame the delay on her,” Vance wrote in his conversion essay.

Vance has said the Church’s clergy sex-abuse scandal delayed his conversion by a few months.

11. Dominican priests helped draw Vance to Catholicism.

What Vance calls “a few informal conversations with a couple of Dominican friars” led to a period of serious study of Catholicism.

The process was gradual, with no a-ha moments.

But it included what he calls “some weird coincidences.”

During a late-night conversation at a hotel bar with an unnamed conservative Catholic writer, Vance says, he challenged the man for criticizing Pope Francis.

“While he admitted that some Catholics went too far, he defended his more measured approach,” Vance wrote in his conversion essay, “when suddenly a wine glass seemed to leap from a stable place behind the bar and crashed on the floor in front of us.”

That ended the conversation.

Another: While on a train from New York to Washington, D.C., Vance listened to a recording of an Orthodox choir singing a Psalm during Pope Francis’ visit to the country of Georgia in 2016.

When he got to Washington, he asked a Dominican friar to coffee.

“He invited me to visit his community, where I heard the friars chanting, apparently, the same psalm,” Vance wrote.

Vance was baptized in August 2019 by a Dominican priest, Father Henry Stephan, at St. Gertrude Priory, which is attached to a Dominican parish in Cincinnati, where Vance now lives.

Despite his Dominican connections, his confirmation saint is Augustine.

“I was pretty moved by the ‘Confessions,’” he told Rod Dreher. “I’ve probably read it in bits and pieces twice over the past 15 or so years. There’s a chapter from ‘The City of God’ that’s incredibly relevant now that I’m thinking about policy. There’s just a way that Augustine is an incredibly powerful advocate for the things that the Church believes. And one of the subtexts about my return to Christianity is that I had come from a world that wasn’t super-intellectual about the Christian faith. I spend a lot of my time these days among a lot of intellectual people who aren’t Christian. Augustine gave me a way to understand Christian faith in a strongly intellectual way. I also went through an angry atheist phase. As someone who spent a lot of his life buying into the lie that you had to be stupid to be a Christian, Augustine really demonstrated in a moving way that that’s not true.”

12. Vance credits practicing Catholicism with making him a better person.

Vance says practicing his Catholic faith has helped him increase his patience, curb his temper, forgive more easily, and choose his family over his career.

After he became a Catholic, Vance wrote in his conversion essay: “I realized that there was a part of me — the best part — that took its cues from Catholicism.”

13. Vance hasn’t yet explained how his current position on abortion squares with his Catholic faith.

Vance began public life as thoroughly pro-life.

In September 2021, several months after he began running for U.S. Senate in Ohio, Vance said he supported Texas’ law banning abortion.

“I think in Texas they’re trying to make it easier for unborn babies to be born,” Vance said during an interview with Spectrum News 1.

Asked about abortion in the cases of rape and incest, Vance said the question is “whether a child should be allowed to live.”

“Look, I think two wrongs don’t make a right. At the end of the day, we’re talking about an unborn baby,” Vance said (at 11:11 of the interview). “What kind of society do we want to have? A society that looks at unborn babies as inconveniences to be discarded?”

His tone shifted during a debate in October 2022 when he said he supported “reasonable exceptions,” including allowing a pregnant 10-year-old girl to have an abortion.

During a second debate that month, he said he supported a proposal in Congress at the time that would have banned abortion nationwide after 15 weeks.

More recently, Vance has aligned his public positions on abortion with those of his running mate, former president Donald Trump, who has said he wouldn’t sign a federal limitation on abortion and that he wouldn’t ban abortion pills.

On abortion pills, Vance told an interviewer on NBC on July 7 that he supports a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that, according to him, said that “the American people should have access to that medication.” Pressed about mifepristone, one of the two abortion chemicals, he said he supports access to it.

Vance has not at this writing publicly explained how he integrates his Catholic faith with his current position on abortion.

But he seemed to contemplate this sort of situation in an interview with Dreher in August 2019, shortly after his conversion and three years before he was elected to public office.

He noted that politics “is in part a popularity contest,” and he pointed out a tension between getting votes and living a life of faith.

“When you’re trying to do things that make you liked by as many people as possible, you’re not likely to do things that are consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Vance said then. “I’m a Christian, and a conservative, and a Republican, so I have definite views about what that means. But you have to be humble and realize that politics are essentially a temporal game.”

This story was first published by the National Catholic Register, CNA’s sister news partner, and has been adapted by CNA.

2024 EWTN Summer Academy in Rome concludes

This summer some 40 aspiring and current Catholic journalists gathered at the campus of the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, where they studied and worked in teams to produce, shoot, and edit videos, all while taking a deeper dive into their faith. / Credit: EWTN News/Screenshot

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 21, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

As part of its ongoing effort to help form the next generation of faithful Catholic journalists, EWTN News last month held its third annual Summer Academy in Rome.

Some 40 journalists from more than 20 countries participated in the training, which is designed “to deepen their skills and knowledge in religious media, journalism, cinematography, and storytelling” while also strengthening their “faith and understanding of the Church’s mission in the world.”

“It’s been such a blessing meeting Catholics from all over the world who also love the faith, love the Lord, and are passionate about journalism,” U.S. participant Thomas Phippen said during a segment about the experience on the award-winning EWTN News program “Vaticano.”

Addressing Vatican journalists earlier this year, Pope Francis encouraged members of this profession to continue reporting in a manner that “knows how to combine information with reflection, speaking with listening, discernment with love.”

The Holy Father also stressed the importance of “not sugarcoating tensions, but at the same time not creating unnecessary noise.”

“We all come here together for the same mission which is we want to spread Christianity using the power of the media,” said 2024 EWTN Summer Academy participant Valeria Joy Escalona of the Philippines. Credit: EWTN News/Screenshot
“We all come here together for the same mission which is we want to spread Christianity using the power of the media,” said 2024 EWTN Summer Academy participant Valeria Joy Escalona of the Philippines. Credit: EWTN News/Screenshot

According to EWTN News Vatican Bureau Chief Andreas Thonhauser, this summer’s program focused heavily on digital forms of communication, recognizing the “growing importance of fast-moving images” as well as “decreasing attention spans.”

“The academy not only provided practical courses on filming, video editing, and social media distribution but also on theological knowledge and apologetics,” Thonhauser added

The impact of the EWTN Summer Academy does not end with the training, as alumni are invited to remain connected through regular meetings and continuing education.

The next edition of the Summer Academy is scheduled for July 2025.

PHOTOS: Massive Eucharistic procession through downtown Indianapolis

Bishops and priests process past the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis. / Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 20, 2024 / 23:45 pm (CNA).

Thousands of people lined the streets of Indianapolis July 20 for a one-mile Eucharistic procession from the Indiana Convention Center to the Indiana War Memorial, taking the National Eucharistic Revival to the streets in the most public display of devotion and unity of the five-day conference. 

Catholics young and old lined the streets to watch Jesus pass by and join in the procession as it passed. Priests, bishops, seminarians, religious brothers and sisters, and many families with children made the walk, as well as a large group of children who recently made their First Communion. 

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The Eucharist, housed in a papally-blessed golden monstrance, traveled in a special trailer accompanied by Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, and Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis. 

The Eucharist passes by the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
The Eucharist passes by the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Those lining the streets kneeled as the Eucharist passed by. Spontaneous hymns broke out as the marchers processed. 

Religious sisters pass by on the National Eucharistic Congress procession in Indianapolis. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Religious sisters pass by on the National Eucharistic Congress procession in Indianapolis. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

Day four of the National Eucharistic Congress was the last full day of this historic event, the first of its kind to take placein the U.S. since World War II. An estimated 50,000 people descended on Indianapolis beginning on Wednesday for liturgies, talks, Eucharistic adoration, and fellowship with other Catholics. The fruit of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ multiyear project of Eucharistic Revival, the Congress aims to galvanize Catholics in their faith and love for the Eucharist as preparation for a special nationwide year of mission. 

The Eucharist passes by the Soliders and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
The Eucharist passes by the Soliders and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Participants kneel and take pictures as the Eucharist approaches the Indiana War Memorial. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Participants kneel and take pictures as the Eucharist approaches the Indiana War Memorial. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Young participants kneel as the Eucharist passes by in downtown Indianapolis. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Young participants kneel as the Eucharist passes by in downtown Indianapolis. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Young participants kneel as the Eucharist passes by in downtown Indianapolis. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Young participants kneel as the Eucharist passes by in downtown Indianapolis. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Bishops and priests process past the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Bishops and priests process past the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

When the monstrance reached the Indiana War Memorial, Bishop Cozzens, who has spearheaded the Eucharistic Revival, prayed before Christ. Attendees who had walked with the procession flooded the large grassy mall in front of the monument, dropping to their knees. 

Bishop Andrew Cozzens prays before the Blessed Sacrament on the Indiana War Memorial. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Bishop Andrew Cozzens prays before the Blessed Sacrament on the Indiana War Memorial. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

“We thank you for the many graces you have poured out upon us. Jesus, pour them out across our whole land, across our whole world. Jesus, we know the procession we made today, it's a symbol, a sign of our earthly pilgrimage, and it is not over. And this procession, perhaps the largest in our country in decades, and it was still too small. Millions of people in our own cities, in our own dioceses who don't yet know you,” Cozzens prayed. 

“So many do not know you. So many have not heard of your love. We know that you want all people, all nations, to join in this procession. We know you want all people to follow you. And Jesus, we will walk with them. Jesus, bring them to us. We want to walk them towards you, Jesus.”

Bishop Andrew Cozzens holds the Eucharist aloft over the faithful while standing on the Indiana War Memorial. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Bishop Andrew Cozzens holds the Eucharist aloft over the faithful while standing on the Indiana War Memorial. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The assembled faithful for the Eucharistic procession on the grassy mall in front of the Indiana War Memorial. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
The assembled faithful for the Eucharistic procession on the grassy mall in front of the Indiana War Memorial. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

The Congress will come to a close tomorrow, Sunday, with a Mass in the morning celebrated by Cardinal Luis Tagle, the pro-prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization who was appointed by Pope Francis to serve as the papal envoy for the event. 

Eucharistic congress ‘a moment of unity’ for the U.S. Church, Bishop Cozzens says

Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who spearheaded the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival, prays in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Lucas Oil Stadium during the opening ceremony for the National Eucharistic Congress on July 17, 2024. / Photo by Casey Johnson, in partnership with the National Eucharistic Congress.

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 20, 2024 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

Amid divisions in the United States and within the Catholic Church, the National Eucharistic Congress is “a moment of unity” for American Catholics, Bishop Andrew Cozzens told CNA.

In an interview at the congress in Indianapolis on July 19, the bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, who spearheaded the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival, observed that a fruit of the congress has been “a real experience of unity.”

“Our society is wrought with division and especially American society with the individualism that breeds division,” Cozzens said.

“Unity in the Church is really essential for us today because that attitude of division in our society affects our Church, and it affects it dramatically,” he added.

More than 50,000 Catholics from all 50 states who speak more than 40 languages are present at the congress, which features keynote speeches and Eucharistic adoration in the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, who spearheaded the U.S. bishops’ initiative of Eucharistic Revival, adores Christ in the Eucharist with tens of thousands of people in Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Crookston, Minnesota, who spearheaded the U.S. bishops’ initiative of Eucharistic Revival, adores Christ in the Eucharist with tens of thousands of people in Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

“What’s beautiful is we are united here with our bishops. It was the bishops who called us together. We are here because we are Catholic and we share the same faith,” the bishop said.

On Saturday morning, throngs of the faithful packed together in the NFL stadium for a Syro-Malabar liturgy. The Syro-Malabar Church is an Eastern Catholic rite primarily celebrated in India in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

Tim del Castillo from California described the experience of attending the Syro-Malabar liturgy as “a very powerful spiritual moment.”

At the end of the nearly two-hour liturgy, the hundreds of concelebrating priests and bishops processed out the corner of the stadium where the football players usually run onto the field at the beginning of the game, he said, and the people spontaneously started clapping and even cheering for the bishops.

“You could feel the support of the laypeople and everybody in the Catholic Church for our bishops who are our leaders — even though we don’t always agree with them necessarily on everything, they are our leaders, they are our fathers,” Castillo said.

“These are the ministers of our sacraments that are going out into the world for us laypeople and giving us the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

For Castillo, the National Eucharistic Congress has “absolutely” been an experience of Church unity, especially with the opportunities each day for Catholics to pray together at different liturgies, including the Ruthenian-Byzantine rite, the Traditional Latin Mass, and youth Masses with praise and worship.

“You have all these Catholics who are all here to worship the Lord, and it’s okay that we’re doing it in different ways,” he said.

“And the center of it all is the adoration chapel across the street. Jesus in the Eucharist is where all these graces are flowing from,” he added.

Each day of the National Eucharistic Congress, the perpetual Eucharistic adoration chapel has been full of people of all ages kneeling and praying in silence. 

In the opening ceremony of the congress, Cozzens held up the Blessed Sacrament in a 4-foot monstrance in the center field of the football stadium and led tens of thousands of people in prayer in adoration of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Reflecting on the moment, the bishop said: “It was mainly an experience of gratitude to the Lord. I’m just so grateful to the Lord for his faithfulness and his provision and his love for each of us and for love for all these people.”

An invitation to find healing in Jesus: Day 3 of the National Eucharistic Congress

Father Boniface Hicks, O.S.B., a sought-after spiritual director and retreat master, processes the massive golden monstrance containing the Eucharist into the midst of the assembled crowd in Lucas Oil Stadium. / Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 20, 2024 / 09:27 am (CNA).

Attendees at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis were urged Friday night to approach Jesus just as people approached him in the Gospels: with their sins and brokenness, seeking healing. 

Father Boniface Hicks, OSB, a sought-after spiritual director and retreat master, carried the massive golden monstrance containing the Eucharist into the midst of the assembled crowd in Lucas Oil Stadium. Kneeling before the Eucharist, Hicks reminded the crowd of Jesus’ great and freeing love for every person. 

“He loves you. He made you. He desired you. He chose you. He knit you together with love, with his own hands in your mother’s womb. You are a masterpiece of his loving creativity. He sees you. He gazes on you now with love. He delights in you. I want to invite you on a new journey of healing,” Hicks prayed before the silent, kneeling crowd of 50,000. 

“He sees, in your whole life, a golden thread of goodness. He made you in his own image, and you’ve never lost that. That golden thread of goodness has continued even through the deepest sorrows, the darkest moments … Even in times of weakness, in times of sins and failures, times that you were hurt, and times that you hurt others, he wants to bring healing. Healing for your hurts, healing for your failures. And so I invite you to open your heart to his healing love.”

Hicks invited the crowd to pray a litany — a series of petitions to God — focused on healing. The first response was “Jesus, heal my heart with your love.” The second was “Jesus, come close to me.” The third was “Please forgive me, Jesus.” And the fourth was “Jesus, help me to believe.”

“Let us pray for courage as we hold the hurting places in our hearts before Jesus’ loving gaze,” the priest said before solemnly processing the Eucharist around the stadium.  

Hicks had previously told the National Catholic Register that his purpose in offering the healing prayers is to “help people open their hearts to how they can invite Jesus not only physically closer but also closer to those places where they carry insecurities and fears, tears and wounds from the past, as well as places where we have failed through our own sin.”

“I think there’s a temptation to reduce these things to an intellectual exercise, and I think the design of the organizers, and certainly my desire, is to let it be a real personal encounter that reaches the heart,” Hicks said ahead of the service. 

Father Boniface Hicks, OSB, a sought-after spiritual director and retreat master, processes the massive golden monstrance containing the Eucharist into the midst of the assembled crowd in Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Father Boniface Hicks, OSB, a sought-after spiritual director and retreat master, processes the massive golden monstrance containing the Eucharist into the midst of the assembled crowd in Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Before the adoration session, Sister Josephine Garrett of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth spoke of the importance of repenting of sin, quoting her community’s foundress, who said that God is pleased with “a soul who is susceptible to many falls, but who, knowing her weakness, turns to God in humility.”

“Tonight, I am begging you on behalf of Jesus Christ … tonight is a night of healing, but the healing begins with repentance,” the popular podcasting sister, who is also a licensed mental health counselor, said.

“No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine, and what I think, say, do, and achieve in my life spills over into that of others, for better or for worse. And this is good news. The healing that you and I long to see in the body of Christ — it begins with my repentance, with your repentance.”

The congress, the first such event to be held in the United States since World War II, is the fruit of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ multiyear project of Eucharistic Revival. The initiative aims to galvanize Catholics in their faith and love for the Eucharist as preparation for a special nationwide year of mission. Catholics young and old, from all across the country, are in attendance. The energy was high ahead of the keynotes last night, with an impromptu mosh pit forming in front of the stage during a high-energy worship song. 

Before the keynotes, the crowd heard from Paula Umaña, a former top-ranked tennis player from Costa Rica who lost the use of her legs due to a neurological condition. Today, she credits her family’s prayers and Mary’s intercession with helping her restore her ability to walk with the help of special leg devices. She appeared before the crowd with her son, Charles, who told the crowd: “When it seems impossible, run to Jesus.”

Paula Umaña, a former top-ranked tennis player from Costa Rica who lost the use of her legs due to a neurological condition, appears with her son Charles at the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA
Paula Umaña, a former top-ranked tennis player from Costa Rica who lost the use of her legs due to a neurological condition, appears with her son Charles at the National Eucharistic Congress. Credit: Jonah McKeown/CNA

Today, Saturday, will have as a highlight a massive Eucharistic procession through downtown Indianapolis, beginning at the convention center and ending at the Indiana War Memorial. 

At tonight’s Revival Session, attendees will hear from Bishop Robert Barron, Gloria Purvis, Tim Glemkowski, and Jonathan Roumie, and will have praise and worship led by acclaimed musician Matt Maher. 

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National Conference for Single Catholics promises to deepen faith, foster relationships

Participants at NCSC 2023 in Plymouth, Michigan. / Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC

Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jul 20, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

The upcoming 2024 National Conference for Single Catholics promises to embolden the faith of participants who, as single people, seek to discover through fellowship a deepened relationship with Christ the bridegroom — and perhaps even a like-minded spouse.

Anastasia Northrop, who started the annual event more than 20 years ago, told CNA that it provides practical aids for growing in faith and forming lasting relationships.

This year, the conference will be held Aug. 16–18 in Las Vegas and feature opportunities for worship, prayer, and sacraments but also dancing, socials, and exhibits.

“There was a template for dating in my grandparents’ time, but now there isn’t because of the hookup culture and everything. So good Catholics ask, ‘How do I date? How do I have a relationship?’ They want a practical instruction manual about how to go about it,” Northrop said. 

Featured speakers for the conference this year are Christin Jezak, Matt Ingold, and Marilyn Sherman.

Jezak is an actress, producer, and playwright featured in “Confessions of a Catholic Single” — a recorded comedy podcast — and produced the “For the Sake of the Gospel” TV program for EWTN.

Ingold graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served two overseas tours with the Marine Corps. He co-hosts Catholic Coaching Podcasts and co-founded Metanoia Catholic to lead Catholics in team building and a greater purpose and meaning with God.

Sherman is the author of motivational books such as “Why Settle for the Balcony: How to Get a Front-Row Seat in Life” and a frequent keynote speaker.

Previous speakers have included Preacher of the Papal Household Father Raniero Cantalamessa, co-founder of the Theology of the Body Institute Dr. Christopher West, author/motivational speaker Matthew Kelly, and Father Thomas Loya, a priest of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, and proponent of the theology of the body propagated by St. John Paul II. Eminent churchmen including Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia; Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez; and Archbishop William Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic (Ruthenian) Metropolitan Church are supporters of the conference.

Pete Burak, speaks at NCSC 2023 in, Plymouth, Michigan. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC
Pete Burak, speaks at NCSC 2023 in, Plymouth, Michigan. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC

Northrop said that through her parents’ Catholicasts apostolate, she was exposed to John Paul II’s theology in 1999 and started working with West and other speakers.

“We started a study group because I wanted to see what the pope actually said. I really got into it and really loved the message and how it got to the root of who we are as human beings,” she said.

Five years later, after recognizing that there was little attention given to single Catholics beyond their 20s, the first conference kicked off in Colorado and attracted more than 400 participants.

Since then, conference participants have come from all 50 states of the U.S. as well as Canada, Mexico, and from as far away as the Philippines and Europe. 

Participants at NCSC 2022 in Chantilly, Virginia. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC
Participants at NCSC 2022 in Chantilly, Virginia. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC

While the conference may bolster parishes’ outreach to singles seeking to marry, Northrop said, “this conference isn’t really about matchmaking. It’s a big retreat for single Catholics and the whole person to help us be who we are created to be and live fruitfully in the present moment and then hopefully prepare for vocation, whether to marriage or religious life or stay single. It does take some pressure off the participants. The outcome might not be marriage or to meet your future spouse, but if you’re single and you’re Catholic and want a Catholic spouse, it’s a very logical place to go.”

Northrop said that at the coming conference, participants will find their faith strengthened and will “meet other people that are also seeking to live their faith, and so it’s a very encouraging atmosphere. Even if you go alone, you can start talking to a few people and feel like you have new friends right away. It’s good to know that you’re not alone.”

The Church’s focus on marriage is “super-important,” Northrop said. “In a sense, we are in the midst of a culture war. The fallout is lack of people to marry who are serious about their faith, well-formed for marriage and family life. So as a single person, there is a fine line where God has us at the moment and being prepared as we can be for marriage or a religious vocation.”

She also added: “Sometimes singles can feel a little bit left out and that their needs aren’t being addressed. They might feel invisible, even though they may be serving as a parish secretary, teaching catechism, or volunteering in pro-life ministry. I’m not sure why that is, but I think sometimes it takes a while for people in the Church to realize this.”

Adoration with Deacon Ralph Poyo during NCSC 2018 in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, June 8-10, 2018. Credit: AFL Photography
Adoration with Deacon Ralph Poyo during NCSC 2018 in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, June 8-10, 2018. Credit: AFL Photography

Paraphrasing St. John Paul II, she said: “Man is the only creature on earth willed for itself and he cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. That’s what the theme of the conference is. We’re called to make a gift of ourselves at every stage and state of life and so even while we’re single and not living that gift of self in marriage or that total gift of self in the religious life or consecrated vocation, we can still make a gift of ourselves in our daily lives.”

She said that while numerous people have met their spouses at the conference and are now happily married, “I think it’s better to go with the expectation that you learn more about [the] faith and learn about relationships.” 

“The single life itself is not a vocation. We all have a baptismal vocation, a consecration, which in the terms of St. John Paul II is a vocation to love,” she said. “Consistent charity is the definition of holiness: union with God through charity. God has a particular calling for each of us. Being single is the default state; we are born single. In marriage we make a total gift of self throughout the rest of our lives; in a celibate vocation we make a total gift of self to God and the Church. As a single person, I don’t think it’s comforting to be told that being single is a vocation, too. I might think that I am stuck in a state that I haven’t chosen.”

“To focus instead on my baptismal vocation to love is much more fruitful because we can do that in our daily lives and make a difference in the Church through volunteer work, supporting our families,” she continued. “If you have nieces and nephews, you can babysit and give their parents a date night. By fostering those relationships, in community, we can find fulfillment.”

Pre-conference excursion before NCSC 2022 in Chantilly, Virginia. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC
Pre-conference excursion before NCSC 2022 in Chantilly, Virginia. Credit: Photo courtesy of NCSC

As for the coming conference, Northrop concluded that if participants go to learn more about relationships and their Catholic faith, “they will also meet hundreds of other wonderful people that are also seeking to live their faith. If you go with that expectation, your expectations will be fulfilled.”

Texas attorney general appeals decision in case against Catholic nonprofit

A migrant woman prays in front of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas, run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. / Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 18:16 pm (CNA).

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is appealing a district judge’s dismissal of a state investigation into an El Paso Catholic nonprofit accused of facilitating illegal immigration.

Paxton’s office is also going forward with investigations into other border nonprofits he suspects of illegal activity including Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

According to Paxton, his investigation into Annunciation House, the El Paso migrant shelter at the center of the controversy, determined that the nonprofit is “in a category of its own among these NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], openly operating in violation of the law without any pretense of trying to comply with the law.”

“For too long,” Paxton said, “Annunciation House has flouted the law and contributed to the worsening illegal immigration crisis at Texas’ border with Mexico. I am appealing this case and will continue to vigorously enforce the law against any NGO engaging in criminal conduct.”

Located just a few minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Annunciation House is a lay-run Catholic organization that offers migrants temporary shelter, food, and clothing and advocates on their behalf. 

On Feb. 7 Paxton’s office ordered the nonprofit to immediately turn over various documents and records to examine whether it is engaged in unlawful activities. Annunciation House refused to comply with the order and denied any illegal activity.

In early July, El Paso District Court Judge Francisco Dominguez dismissed Paxton’s suit, partially because he said it violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Dominguez wrote that the state’s suit “violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act by substantially burdening Annunciation House’s free exercise of religion and failing to use the ‘least restrictive means’ of securing compliance with the law.”

In response, Paxton’s office said that Dominguez “falsely accused” Paxton of investigating Annunciation House because of the organization’s Catholic ties, saying that “the judge’s assertion is not supported by any evidence, and the judge tellingly failed to identify any.”

Meanwhile, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which operates a migrant shelter and is a part of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, is also contesting Paxton’s investigation in court.

Volunteers and staff with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley assist Latin American and Haitian migrants at a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA
Volunteers and staff with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley assist Latin American and Haitian migrants at a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas. Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

State District Judge J.R. Flores said in a Wednesday hearing that he would rule as early as next week whether the state could depose one of the leaders of Rio Grande Catholic Charities, according to reporting by local news outlet KBTX3.

According to KBTX3, Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of the Brownsville Diocese Catholic Charities, responded to the hearing by saying she was “glad we had a chance to present our case in court today” and that “the small staff at Catholic Charities works tirelessly around the clock to serve needy people throughout our communities.”  

Scott Hahn urges priests at National Eucharistic Congress to ‘rekindle Eucharistic amazement’ 

Priests respond to a talk at the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis on July 18, 2024. / Credit: Photo by Josh Applegate, in partnership with the National Eucharistic Congress

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 19, 2024 / 17:55 pm (CNA).

Nearly 1,000 priests and bishops packed in together at the National Eucharistic Congress to listen to the theologian and apologist Scott Hahn, who urged the clerics to rekindle their “Eucharistic amazement.”

Amid the busy schedule and big crowds in Indianapolis for the Eucharistic congress, priests have had the opportunity to break away from the chaos and gather together for a dedicated time of ongoing formation, renewal, and personal prayer during the daily “Abide” impact sessions.

During the first session on Wednesday, Hahn offered priests a retreat meditation on the biblical account of the road to Emmaus.

The meditation by the Catholic convert and founder of the St. Paul Center of Spiritual Theology began with a quote by Pope John Paul II.

“In the paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present throughout the centuries, there is a truly enormous ‘capacity’ which embraces all of history as the recipient of the grace of the redemption. This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist,” John Paul II wrote in his encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

“But in a special way it should fill the minister of the Eucharist … I would like to rekindle this Eucharistic ‘amazement.’”

Hahn also asked the priests in the room to examine and reflect on how they prioritize the importance of sacred Scripture in their lives and ministry, underlining the resurrected Jesus made it a priority to “open the Scriptures” to his disciples on the road to Emmaus.

“It’s his first day back from the dead. Just imagine, if you will, what would you do if you were Jesus? What would your to-do list look like on your first day back from the dead? I don’t know about yours, but I would suspect that mine is something similar, and that is, I’d like to drop in to pay a visit to Pontius Pilate … [and say] you should have listened to your wife … And then just go down the street and drop in on King Herod … and just say, ‘I’m back! And you have a lot to rethink,’” Hahn joked.

Amid the busy schedule and big crowds in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, priests have had the opportunity to break away from the chaos and gather together for a dedicated time of ongoing formation, renewal, and personal prayer during the daily “Abide” impact sessions. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA
Amid the busy schedule and big crowds in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, priests have had the opportunity to break away from the chaos and gather together for a dedicated time of ongoing formation, renewal, and personal prayer during the daily “Abide” impact sessions. Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

“The one thing that Jesus apparently had at the top of his list,” he added, “was to lead a Bible study, going through all of salvation history beginning with Moses and the law and all the prophets for hours and hours, mile after mile, setting their hearts of fire.”

“Jesus did not consider it to be a waste of time to spend his first day back from the dead taking — not only the clergy, the hierarchy, Peter, and the others … even Cleopas and his companion — through the Scriptures in order to set fire to their hearts and then bring them to the dynamics where he is made known to them in the breaking of the Eucharist’s bread,” he said.

According to the event organizers, the special programming for the priests at the National Eucharistic Congress is meant to offer a unique experience of reflection, encounter, and prayer, inviting ministers “to greater intimacy with Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest.”

Bishop Robert Barron, Bishop Andrew Cozzens, Dan Cellucci, Monsignor James Shea, and Jonathan Reyes gave special talks for the priests attending the congress.

Father Cassidy Stinson, a 32-year-old priest from the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, told CNA that he “appreciated starting the conference with Dr. Hahn’s reminder that we should prioritize Scripture in order to be effective in our proclamation of the Gospel.”

The young priest said he was also grateful for the other opportunities the congress provided for prayer and fellowship.

“I was really inspired to have the opportunity this afternoon to join my brother priests in adoration and to be encouraged in my ministry by our bishops,” Stinson said.

“As a priest, it’s inspiring to hear our own shepherds urge us to be bold, creative, and prayerful in how we evangelize.”

Pro-life photojournalist Mark Story remembered as ‘true man of God’ after sudden death

Mark Story. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Live Action

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 16:52 pm (CNA).

Mark Story, a pro-life activist and photojournalist best known for his poignant pictures of the “D.C. five,” died on Wednesday evening. He was 52.

In tributes to him on social media, Story was remembered as a skilled photographer, joyful pro-life warrior, and beloved friend.

A Christian, Story had just completed his nightly prayer walk in his neighborhood when he was struck by an apparent heart attack. His death was announced by his father, Roger Story, in a Facebook post early Thursday morning.

“Our nationally famed pro-life photographer son, Mark David Story, suddenly went to be with the Lord he loved and served last evening with an apparent massive heart attack as he was returning from his daily evening prayer walk,” Story’s father wrote. “Mark was a true man of God and left an incredible legacy.”

Based in Washington, D.C., Story was a mainstay of pro-life events in the area, using his skills as a professional photographer to document the pro-life fight.

In 2022, Story took several photographs of five late-term-aborted babies who were found by the group Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU) outside the Washington Surgi Center run by abortionist Dr. Cesare Santangelo. The photos evidenced significant scarring and wounds to the babies’ bodies that suggested that some of the babies were killed via partial-birth abortion, which is illegal under federal law.

The discovery of the deceased babies, who came to be known as the “D.C. five,” caused national outrage and sparked calls from lawmakers for investigations on whether their killing violated federal law.

Speaking at a PAAU rally after the discovery, Story said he was thankful to be able to help give the D.C. five a voice. He described the moment the babies were found as both a “very morbid” but also joyful moment.

“I felt like God was telling me: ‘This is a celebration,’” he said of the babies’ discovery. “These children have been found and now are being heard, their stories are being told all over the world.”

Along with many other pro-life leaders, PAAU mourned Story’s passing, calling him a “brilliant photographer,” a “fierce fighter for life,” and an “unwavering friend.”

“We are honored to have worked alongside him in the pro-life movement,” PAAU said in a statement posted to social media.

Story was also mourned by the photography community. A tribute to him in the Daily Pulse Report called him a “visionary artist, a compassionate mentor, and a cherished friend.”

“In his memory, let us continue to appreciate the power of photography to connect us, to illuminate our world, and to tell stories that transcend time,” the Daily Pulse said.

Pro-life photojournalist Mark Story (far right) attends an event with Live Action founder and president Lila Rose (second from left). In a statement mourning his July 17, 2024, passing, Rose said that Story “passionately served the pro-life movement for the last five years, exposing millions to the truth about abortion through his creative photography.” According to Rose, “his incredible talent and gentle spirit of joy and service touched everyone who was blessed to work with him. He will be sorely missed.” Credit: Photo courtesy of Live Action
Pro-life photojournalist Mark Story (far right) attends an event with Live Action founder and president Lila Rose (second from left). In a statement mourning his July 17, 2024, passing, Rose said that Story “passionately served the pro-life movement for the last five years, exposing millions to the truth about abortion through his creative photography.” According to Rose, “his incredible talent and gentle spirit of joy and service touched everyone who was blessed to work with him. He will be sorely missed.” Credit: Photo courtesy of Live Action

Michael New, a pro-life professor of social research at The Catholic University of America who knew Story, told CNA that he was “saddened” to learn of his passing.

“Mark was the best photojournalist in the pro-life movement,” New said. “His professional photos of the five abortion victims obtained outside the abortion facility of Cesar Santangelo exposed the injustice of late-term abortion and revealed potential criminal misconduct on the part of Santangelo.”

“Mark was a great ally in our efforts to build a culture of life,” New added. “He will be missed. 

Friends of Story are inviting those interested to donate to a GoFundMe campaign he and his sister started for their father, who is suffering from cancer.

Pro-life sidewalk counselors appeal to Supreme Court for stronger free speech protections

U.S. Supreme Court building. / Credit: Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 19, 2024 / 16:21 pm (CNA).

Pro-life sidewalk counselors — who work to deter women from getting abortions and connect them with life-affirming pregnancy care — are appealing to the United States Supreme Court for stronger free speech protections outside of abortion clinics.

The sidewalk counseling organization Coalition Life petitioned the Supreme Court this week to consider its lawsuit against the City of Carbondale, Illinois, which has a so-called “bubble zone” ordinance that prevents sidewalk counselors from approaching anyone or demonstrating within 100 feet of an abortion clinic.

According to the ordinance, it is illegal to knowingly get within eight feet of a person for the purpose of providing a flier, displaying a sign, or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling” unless given express consent by the person — if that person is within 100 feet of an abortion clinic, medical clinic, hospital, or health care facility. The ordinance considers a violation to be disorderly conduct. 

Although the Supreme Court ruled in June 2000 that “bubble zones” are not a violation of the First Amendment, Coalition Life is asking the Supreme Court to reconsider the subject. In 2023, the Supreme Court declined to hear a similar case, which challenged a “bubble zone” ordinance in Westchester County, New York.

“The ‘bubble zone’ ordinance has been nothing more than the continued and relentless persecution of our team on the sidewalk,” Brian Westbrook, the executive director of Coalition Life, said in a statement.

“This fight won’t be over until [the precedent] is overturned and thousands of municipalities across the nation, like Carbondale, understand you cannot trample on our rights,” Westbrook added.

The 2000 ruling in Hill v. Colorado allowed Colorado to enforce a “bubble zone” around abortion clinics. The state law similarly set a 100-foot perimeter around abortion clinics and health care facilities, in which people could not get within eight feet of another person to provide fliers or engage in counseling.

In the 2000 ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the law does not “place any restriction on the content of any message that anyone may wish to communicate to anyone else” but that it does “make it more difficult to give unwanted advice.” Ultimately, he found that the law was “reasonable and narrowly tailored.” 

“Persons who are attempting to enter health care facilities for any purpose are often in particularly vulnerable physical and emotional conditions,” Stevens wrote. “The State of Colorado has responded to its substantial and legitimate interest in protecting these persons from unwanted encounters, confrontations, and even assaults by enacting an exceedingly modest restriction on the speakers’ ability to approach.”

Paul Clement, the lead attorney representing Coalition Life, wrote in the petition to the Supreme Court that Hill v. Colorado perpetuates a “denial of constitutional rights,” which is “more pressing now than ever.” 

“For nearly a quarter of a century, sidewalk counselors like those who work with Coalition Life have been forced to live with ‘an entirely separate, abridged edition of the First Amendment’ when it comes to the kind of peaceful, conversational speech outside an abortion facility in which they wish to engage,” Clement said.

Peter Breen, the executive vice president and head of litigation for the Thomas More Society, which is helping represent Coalition Life, said in a statement that “Hill v. Colorado was egregiously wrong on the day it was decided, and it remains a black mark in our law to this day.”

“‘Bubble zones,’ like the one in Carbondale, are an unconstitutional and overzealous attempt to show favor to abortion businesses, at the expense of the free speech rights of folks who seek to offer information, alternatives, and resources to pregnant women in need,” Breen added. “It’s time to end, once and for all, the political gamesmanship places like Carbondale play with our free speech rights.”

Three states have so-called “bubble zone” laws on the books: Colorado, Massachusetts, and Montana. However, numerous local governments throughout the country have adopted similar ordinances, preventing sidewalk counselors from approaching women who are considering an abortion.