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Quincy, Illinois, Catholic schools implement subsidy program to encourage Mass attendance

Parishioners attend a July 2024 Mass at St. Peter Church in Quincy, Illinois. This parish is one of many participating in the “Family School Agreement” meant to increase regular Mass attendance and activity among parishioners. / Credit: Randy Dickerman

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 22, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

In an effort to encourage families to “return to the Eucharist and be an active part of the Catholic community,” the Quincy Deanery of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, has implemented a “Family School Agreement” initiative effective July 1.

The initiative builds upon a 2015 agreement asking families with children who attend Quincy’s Catholic elementary schools to “commit themselves to the Catholic faith and involve themselves in the practice of that faith” by attending Mass each Sunday and on holy days of obligation.

Now, families who wish to maintain the current Active Catholic Families school tuition subsidy of $3,400 are expected to continue doing so with an added commitment of attending Mass at a minimum of 51% of the time.

“The process is simple: Families receive cards, about the size of a business card, on which they write their family name, their children’s school, and the date of the Mass they attended,” explained Christopher Gill, the chief administrative leader for Quincy Catholic Elementary Schools. “These cards are then dropped in the collection basket during Mass, and we collect the cards and record the information in a spreadsheet. [Families] can attend any of the churches in Quincy for it to be officially counted.”

Active Catholic families who meet these requirements will pay a tuition of $3,400 for one child, $4,975 for two children, and $5,500 for three or more children enrolled in these schools. Meanwhile, those who do not participate in this initiative will pay $4,850 for one child, $8,150 for two children, and $9,250 for three or more.

Parishioners from all of the churches in Quincy and several of its neighboring towns are able to participate in this initiative, which will affect how this active subsidy is allocated for the 2025-2026 school year.

“The reason for this change is to encourage people to return to the Eucharist. We have noticed a steady decline in Mass attendance over the past decade and want to reverse this trend,” Gill stated. “Last year, churches in Springfield, Illinois, implemented this new agreement with the 51% stipulation and reported a 22% increase in Mass attendance. After reviewing their data, we decided to adopt a similar approach in Quincy.”

Echoing this reasoning and support for the initiative was Father Steve Arisman, the current pastor of St. Francis Solanus Church in Quincy. Arisman shared with CNA that this initiative has “nothing to do with any kind of financial aspect in terms of giving.”

“We wanted to form disciples, and that starts with Mass,” Arisman said. “Catholic education starts with Sunday Mass, and that really is the crux of what we are doing and the element of who we are as Catholics.”

Statistics in weekly Mass attendance by Catholics across the United States have shown a decline in the last several decades, most notably dropping from 45% in 2000–2003 to 33% in 2021–2023.

In response to these declining numbers, various dioceses and parishes throughout the country have taken numerous approaches in order to promote regular Mass attendance in the post-COVID years.

For example, the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Towson, Maryland, applies an active Catholic tuition grant of $1,745 to those who “attend Mass regularly.” While parishioners aren’t asked to keep track of their attendance with a card, they are instead expected to be registered with the parish, complete a verification form, and have their children baptized in the Catholic Church prior to Feb. 1.

Our Lady of Joy in Carefree, Arizona, encourages weekly Mass participation as well as a Catholic tuition discount to those who document their contributions by giving at least two times each month to the parish with family envelopes.

The Christ Our King-Stella Maris School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, has taken an approach similar to that of the Quincy Deanery, offering reduced tuition to families who meet its requirements for active “parishioner status” in four different parishes in the area. One requirement consists of parishioners attending a weekend Mass 75% of the time throughout the year.

Acknowledging that some “difficult conversations” may arise regarding this initiative from those who are “not living the faith,” Arisman shared his belief that “these will be really great conversations to have.”

“[This initiative] will show how we can truly reach out to these families,” he said. “It asks questions on what we can do to connect them better with Christ, the church community, and the Mass. When we challenge these families and call them to see something more in telling them how important the Mass really is, then they respond to that.”

He continued: “We need to challenge people with love and charity, and the expectation of calling them to something more without making them feel bad. We need to help them see the priority that Mass should be, while also being welcoming and hospitable ourselves.”

Aaron Weiman, whose family of nine consists of four elementary-aged children and are active within St. Francis Solanus, has seen the “fruitful” effects of this initiative so far.

“There is a lot of excitement around getting families back to church who need a little bit more of a push to get there, and then once they’re there to focus on keeping them engaged in their faith formation,” he told CNA. “It’s been exciting to look around and to see so many new faces and families in Sunday Mass this past month.”

Though the initiative still remains in early stages, Weiman expressed his hope for its continued effects throughout the Quincy area.

“[The Family School Agreement] seems to be focused on the spiritual renewal of our families that are involved in the Catholic schools and that we want in the parishes,” he continued. “The hope is that we instill our faith and make our area stronger as Catholics.”

Eucharistic congress hears story of ‘the bishop of the abandoned tabernacle’

National Eucharistic Congress participants heard the story of St. Manuel González García (1877–1940), a little-known saint who passionately urged people to recognize the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and to never leave him abandoned in the tabernacle. / Credit: CarlosVdeHabsburgo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 21, 2024 / 18:20 pm (CNA).

National Eucharistic Congress participants heard the story of St. Manuel González García (1877–1940), a little-known saint who passionately urged people to recognize the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and to never leave him abandoned in the tabernacle.

Bishop Gerardo Colacicco, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York, shared the story of the passionate Spanish saint who has been called “the bishop of the abandoned tabernacle” during a homily at Mass during the congress.

“The Eucharistic Revival began a few years ago because sadly, some of our Catholic brothers and sisters do not know or believe that our Lord is present, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the most Blessed Sacrament,” Colacicco said.

“Many have been wandering in the desert of despair, preoccupied by self and grumbling because they are hungry and nothing seems to satisfy. … Why? Because we failed to change. We failed to tell them the truth. Worse than that, we failed to fall on our knees in adoration. And many have been lost.”

Colacicco said that the example of St. Manuel, one of the patron saints of the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival, can show us “how we move forward to make known the truth of the Real Presence in our midst.”

Born in Seville, Spain, in 1877, González was ordained a priest in 1901. He arrived at his first assignment to find that the tabernacle was ignored and the parish church neglected.

St. Manuel wrote in his journal: “My faith was looking at Jesus through the door of that tabernacle, so silent, so patient, so good, gazing right back at me. … His gaze was telling me much and asking for more. It was a gaze in which all the sadness of the Gospels was reflected.”

“For me, this turned out to be the starting point — to see, understand, and feel what would consume the whole of my priestly ministry. On that afternoon, I saw that my priesthood would consist of a work of which I had never before dreamt. All my illusions about the kind of priest I would be vanished. I found myself to be a priest of a town that didn’t love Jesus, and I would have to love him in the name of everybody in that town,” González said.

González devoted himself untiringly to loving the Eucharistic Lord with such intensity and devotion that others were drawn to that once-abandoned tabernacle, Colacicco explained. He founded schools, an order of sisters, preached missions, and was ordained a bishop.

After his episcopal ordination in Seville, he said: “I desire that in my life as a bishop, as before in my life as a priest, my soul should not grieve except for one sorrow which is the greatest of all, the abandonment of the tabernacle, and that it should rejoice for one joy, the tabernacle, which does not lack company.”

On his tomb in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of Palencia Cathedral, it is written: “I ask to be buried next to a tabernacle, so that my bones after my death, like my tongue and my pen in life, may always be repeating to those who pass by: ‘Jesus is here! Jesus is here! Do not leave him abandoned!’”

First-class relics of González’s bone, blood, and hair were brought to Indianapolis from Spain by several sisters who are members of the Eucharistic Missionaries of Nazareth, the community he founded.

“Bishop Manuel teaches us that the very first thing we do is fall on our knees in front of the tabernacle and simply love Jesus who dwells within,” Colacicco said.

“It is our fervent prayer that our love for Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament will be increased and be strengthened,” he said. “And when we leave this place and return to our homes, please God, may our love ignite a fire in the hearts of others that they may come to know, love, and serve our Eucharistic Lord.”

Joe Biden announces he will not seek reelection in 2024 presidential race; endorses Harris

President Joe Biden waves on stage during the Vote To Live Properity Summit at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 16, 2024. / Credit: KENT NISHIMURA/AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jul 21, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

President Joe Biden on Sunday said he would not seek reelection, conceding to growing calls in his party to bow out of the race after a highly criticized debate against GOP nominee Donald Trump in June.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your president,” Biden, the second Catholic president of the United States, said in a July 21 statement posted on X. “And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as president for the remainder of my term.”

Biden added that he would speak to the nation later in the week about the details of his decision.

In an X post sent about a half hour after his first announcement, Biden endorsed his vice president, Kamala Harris, for president in the 2024 election.

“My very first decision as the party nominee in 2020 was to pick Kamala Harris as my vice president,” he said. “And it’s been the best decision I’ve made. Today I want to offer my full support and endorsement for Kamala to be the nominee of our party this year.”

The Democratic president has since last month been facing growing calls from his party and from supporters to bow out of the 2024 race amid concerns that he will be unable to serve another four years as president.

Democratic officials and major party boosters began sounding the alarm after the first 2024 presidential debate last month when Biden repeatedly lost his train of thought and struggled to articulate his vision for the country.

Multiple Democratic U.S. senators have called for Biden to pull out of the race, as have Democratic members of the U.S. House including California Rep. Adam Schiff. Flurries of media reports have indicated that former Speaker of the House California Rep. Nancy Pelosi and former President Barack Obama have also been pushing Biden to bow out.

High-ranking donors and boosters have also been backing away from the Democratic Party amid fears that Biden remaining in the race could have devastating down-ballot effects for lower candidates. Actor George Clooney, a longtime Democratic fundraiser, said in the New York Times earlier this month that Democrats are “not going to win in November with this president.”

Clooney urged the top Democrats to “ask this president to voluntarily step aside” so the party can mount a last-minute nomination effort for another candidate.

Big donors also pulled their money from Democratic campaigns in the hopes of forcing Biden out. Filmmaker Abigail Disney this month said she would halt all Democratic donations “unless and until they replace Biden at the top of the ticket.”

The New York Times, meanwhile, reported this month that big-ticket donors were holding upwards of $90 million from a Biden super PAC until the president resigned from the race.

This story was updated July 21, 2024, at 2:22 p.m. ET.

National Eucharistic Congress ends with prayer for ‘new Pentecost’ for U.S. Church

Nearly 60,000 people attended the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis July 17-21, 2024. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 21, 2024 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

The National Eucharistic Congress concluded Sunday with a Mass with tens of thousands of people in an NFL football stadium, where the crowd prayed for “a new Pentecost” in the U.S. Church.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle presided over the closing Mass in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium on July 21 as Pope Francis’ special envoy for the event. He shared that the pope told him that he desires the congress to lead to “conversion to the Eucharist.” 

“The presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a gift and the fulfillment of his mission,” said the cardinal pro-prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Evangelization.

“Those who choose to stay with Jesus will be sent by Jesus,” Tagle added. “Let us go to proclaim Jesus zealously and joyfully for the life of the world.”

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle presides over the closing Mass in Indianapolis Lucas Oil Stadium on July 21, 2024, as Pope Francis’ special envoy for the event. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle presides over the closing Mass in Indianapolis Lucas Oil Stadium on July 21, 2024, as Pope Francis’ special envoy for the event. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

The nearly 60,000 Eucharistic congress attendees were sent out with “a great commissioning” on Sunday morning in which keynote speakers urged participants to proclaim the Gospel in every corner of the country. 

“What the Church needs is a new Pentecost,” Mother Adela Galindo, the foundress of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, told the crowd in her keynote speech before the Mass.

“The Church must be faithful to the Gospel … not watering down the message of the Gospel,” she said. “We were born for these times. It is a time to go out in haste to a world that urgently needs to hear God’s word and God’s truth.” 

“Here is what we need to proclaim,” the Nicaraguan sister said. “That no darkness is greater than the light of the Eucharist. That no sin is greater than the merciful heart of the Eucharist.”

“Basically, brothers and sisters, that love is greater than death!” exclaimed the nun, who received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd.

More than 1,600 priests, seminarians, bishops, and cardinals processed into Mass in the Indianapolis Colts’ stadium in a dramatic opening procession lasting 25 minutes. An additional 1,236 religious sisters and brothers were praying in the stands, according to the event organizers. 

Religious sisters pray at the closing Mass of the National Eucharistic Congress on July 21, 2024. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Religious sisters pray at the closing Mass of the National Eucharistic Congress on July 21, 2024. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra played the classical hymns “Panis Angelicus” and “Ave Verum Corpus” as Communion was brought to tens of thousands of people in the stadium.

Many people commented on the incredible energy, positivity, and hope among the congress participants who traveled from all 50 states to take part in the five-day event July 17–21.

“I don’t want to sound dramatic, but the National Eucharistic Congress has been something of a triumph — a crowded, crazy, and occasionally chaotic triumph. Peace and joy reign,” Stephen White, the executive director of the Catholic Project, commented on X.

“His presence is palpable and pervasive. The Lord is here,” White added.

Father Aquinas Guilbeau, OP, predicted that the legacy of the National Eucharistic Congress will be like that of the 1993 World Youth Day held in Denver for the Church in the U.S.

“Its grace will shape the Church for the next 50 years,” Guilbeau said.

Nearly 60,000 tickets were sold for the National Eucharistic Congress, according to organizers, including the day passes that were sold after the start of the event. 

Tagle began his homily by greeting the crowd in more than five languages, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, French, and Italian.

“The Holy Father prays, as we all do, that the congress may bear fruit, much fruit, for the renewal of the Church and of society in the United States of America,” Tagle said.

In his homily, the cardinal noted that “where there is a lack or a weakening of missionary zeal, maybe it is partly due to a weakening in the appreciation of gifts and giftedness.”

“If our horizon is only that of achievement, success, and profit, there is no room to see and receive gratuitous gifts. There is no place for gratitude and self-giving,” he added. “There will only be a relentless search for self-affirmation that eventually becomes oppressive and tiring, leading to more self-absorption or individualism.

Tagle underlined that the Eucharist is “a privileged moment to experience Jesus’ mission as a gift of himself.”

At the end of Mass, Bishop Andrew Cozzens announced to roaring applause that the U.S. bishops are planning to hold another National Eucharistic Congress in 2033, the Year of Redemption marking 2,000 years since Jesus’ crucifixion. 

The bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, who spearheaded the Eucharistic revival, also announced that another Eucharistic pilgrimage from Indianapolis to Los Angeles will take place in 2025.

“What do you say as you come to the end of the 10th National Eucharistic Congress?” Cozzens said. “It has been my experience and I hope yours that we’ve lived an experience of heaven. Of course, the Eucharist is a foretaste of heaven.”

From castles to cathedrals: Pope Francis’ schedule for Luxembourg and Belgium trip

Queen Mathilde of Belgium meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace with her husband, King Philippe of the Belgians, on Sept. 14, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jul 21, 2024 / 10:06 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will spend four days at the end of September in the small European countries of Luxembourg and Belgium, where he will greet royal leaders, prime ministers, professors and students, and Catholics in some of the countries’ historic palaces, cathedrals, and universities.

The pontiff will make a one-day stop in Luxembourg on Sept. 26 before visiting three cities in Belgium to mark the 600th anniversary of the Catholic universities of Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve from Sept. 26–29.

The European visit will take place just under two weeks after Francis lands back in Rome at the end of the most ambitious journey of his pontificate: a 12-day trip to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore.

The full schedule of Pope Francis’ visit to the two constitutional monarchies of Luxembourg and Belgium is below.

Luxembourg

The first day of Pope Francis’ trip will be dedicated to visiting Luxembourg, a small landlocked country in Western Europe with an estimated population of 672,000 people.

Luxembourg is the seat of several institutions of the European Union, including the Court of Justice of the European Union, the highest judicial authority.

After his arrival, Francis will visit the grand duke of Luxembourg, Henri, at his official residence, the Grand Ducal Palace. Henri’s wife, Grand Duchess María Teresa, is one of only a few royal women with the “privilège du blanc,” a papal privilege allowing her to wear white when meeting the pope.

The pontiff will then meet with the prime minister of the grand duchy before addressing members of the government, civil society, and the diplomatic corps at a Luxembourg administrative building, Cercle Cité.

Luxembourg has just one ecclesiastical territory, the Archdiocese of Luxembourg, which is led by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the relator-general of the Catholic Church’s present Synod on Synodality.

In 2021, the archdiocese was estimated to have almost 457,000 Catholics, which is 73% of the population.

After lunch on Sept. 26, Francis will hold an audience with the Luxembourg Catholic community in the Gothic 17th-century Notre-Dame Cathedral before taking a 55-minute flight to the neighboring country of Belgium.

Belgium

The Royal Castle of Laeken in Brussels, built in the late 1700s, is the residential palace of the king and queen of Belgium. Since 1999, it has been the home of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde and their family.

Francis will meet King Philippe at the castle on the morning of Sept. 27. Philippe’s wife, Mathilde, as a Catholic queen, also has the “privilège du blanc” when meeting the pope.

The pope’s brief meeting with Belgium’s royal leader will be followed by appointments with the country’s prime minister and other governmental authorities.

The day’s schedule will close with a papal address to professors at KU Leuven, a Catholic research university, to mark the 600th anniversary of its founding. At KU Leuven, classes are mainly taught in Dutch and some English.

On his second full day in Belgium, Pope Francis will meet with clergy members and religious brothers and sisters in the Koekelberg National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Brussels.

After lunch, he will make the just under one-hour drive to visit Louvain-la-Neuve, a university city about 18 miles southeast of the capital city.

The town hosts the French-language Catholic University of Leuven, which split from KU Leuven in the late 1960s.

Pope Francis will spend the afternoon meeting with university students in Louvain-la-Nueve before holding a private audience with Jesuits at St. Michel College back in Brussels.

On his final day in the Low Countries on Sept. 29, the pontiff will celebrate Sunday Mass in King Baudouin Stadium before departing shortly before 1 p.m. local time for Rome.

Pope Francis: In the silence of adoration we receive God’s grace

Pope Francis' brief remarks during the Angelus July 21, 2024, focused on the day’s Gospel passage from Mark, which demonstrates how rest and compassion for others go together. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jul 21, 2024 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Do not be consumed by “the anxiety of doing” but spend time in rest and silent prayer to receive God’s grace, Pope Francis said on Sunday.

The pontiff told Catholics, especially those in ministry, to beware of “the dictatorship of doing” during his weekly reflection and Angelus on July 21.

The Angelus is a Marian prayer traditionally recited at three different hours throughout the day: at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m.

“It is only possible to have a compassionate gaze, which knows how to respond to the needs of others, if our heart is not consumed by the anxiety of doing, if we know how to stop and how to receive the grace of God in the silence of adoration,” Pope Francis said on a hot and humid day during the peak of summer in Rome.

Addressing the large crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said we are often “held prisoner by haste.” He called it an important warning, especially for those in engaged in ministry and pastoral service in the Church.

“Am I able to stop during my days? Am I capable of taking a moment to be with myself and with the Lord, or am I always in a hurry for things to do?” he said from a window of the Apostolic Palace.

He added that sometimes families are forced to live a frenetic pace; for example, when a father has to work from dawn until dusk to put food on the table. But this is a social injustice, he said, and we should help families in this situation.

Religious sisters wave Spanish flags at Pope Francis during his weekly Angelus in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, July 21, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Religious sisters wave Spanish flags at Pope Francis during his weekly Angelus in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, July 21, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope’s brief remarks focused on the day’s Gospel passage, which demonstrates how Jesus is able to combine both rest and compassion for others.

In the Gospel, Jesus invites his apostles to “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while,” but when they get out of the boat, they find the crowd already waiting for them.

Jesus’ “heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things,” the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 6, says.

“These may seem like two incompatible things — resting and being compassionate — but they actually go together,” Pope Francis underlined.

Jesus is concerned for his disciples’ tiredness, the pontiff said, because he is aware of the danger of our ministries and lives falling victim to an over concern with “things to do and with results.”

“We become agitated and lose sight of what is essential,” he emphasized.

Francis also explained that the rest proposed by Jesus is not “an escape from the world, a retreat into a merely personal well-being,” but a rest that helps us to have more compassion for others.

“Only if we learn how to rest can we have compassion,” he said.

After leading the Angelus, the pope spoke about the Summer Olympic Games, set to start in Paris on July 26, and the Paralympics, which will follow in August.

Sports, he said, have “a great social force, capable of peacefully uniting people of different cultures.”

“I hope that this event can be a sign of the inclusive world we want to build and that the athletes, with their sporting testimony, will be messengers of peace and good role models for young people,” he added.

Francis also recalled the tradition from ancient Greece of the “Olympic Truce,” noting that such an initiative would be an opportunity to “demonstrate a sincere desire for peace.”

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

The Eucharist and the crowd for the procession as part of the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. / Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

Indianapolis, Ind., Jul 20, 2024 / 22:59 pm (CNA).

Thousands of people lined the streets of Indianapolis on 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 4 of the National Eucharistic Congress was the last full day of this historic event, the first of its kind to take place in 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, 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 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.”