ACE donors make Catholic education possible for more students

The Advancement of Catholic Education held its virtual fundraiser on Tuesday, Oct. 27, to raise money for tuition assistance for students at the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Nashville. Mia Markham, a sophomore at Pope John Paul II High School and a graduate of Holy Rosary Academy, writes a thank you note to a donor as the virtual fundraiser is shown on the television screen in the background. Photo by Andy Telli

The virtual Advancement of Catholic Education fundraiser on Tuesday, Oct. 27, provided much needed funds for tuition assistance at the Diocese of Nashville’s 16 schools, and the opportunity to contribute to the effort is still open, said Ashley Linville, diocesan director of development.

People can go online to watch the videotaped presentations from Bishop J. Mark Spalding, Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Hammel, students, parents, alumni and others that made up the virtual fundraiser at, Linville said.

The variety of presenters talked about the impact of a Catholic education that can last a lifetime, Linville said.

“They paint a story of what’s going on in our schools,” Linville said of the videotaped presentations. “It allows you to hear directly from our students and parents on what makes our schools important … and why ACE is important for the future of our schools.”

The fundraiser raised $210,000, Linville said, and people can still make a gift online at or by mailing their gift to ACE, 2800 McGavock Pike, Nashville, TN, 37214.

An anonymous donor has offered to match all the money raised up to $250,000, doubling the impact of a person’s gift, he added. With the matching grant, the total haul from the event was $420,000.

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of our donors and everyone who made our event such a success,” Linville said. Half of the money raised will be used immediately to provide tuition assistance to families who could not otherwise afford to send their children to a Catholic school, and the other half will go into the ACE endowment to provide assistance into the future.

Currently, the endowment is valued at about $5 million.

“Three and half years ago a very small group of us put together the first fundraising event,” ACE board chair Betty Lou Burnett said in the opening presentation of the event. “It was a small but powerful evening that raised about $70,000, but most importantly began the conversation to our

broader Catholic community about what ACE is and what a powerful impact it can make on Catholic education in our diocese and ultimately on the future leaders of our country.

“Well, fast forward three years,” she said. “Tonight, we have the opportunity to raise a half a million dollars.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on large public gatherings, this year’s event was converted from a banquet to a virtual affair.

“Even though this may look and feel different the need for strong Catholic schools and a top notch education for our students has not changed and is important now more than ever,” Burnett said. “This is the reason we are together tonight. Our Catholic schools continue to forge ahead. They are open, they are meeting the needs of our students, and they are providing an education that will help them build strong minds, kind hearts and confident leaders in the faith.

“Your support is needed now more than ever,” she added.

“It’s hard to believe but four years ago if you had done a Google search on Nashville Catholic schools and endowment you would have come back with a blank page,” said Marty Blair, an ACE board member who emceed the event. “This year we’re approaching almost $5 million in our endowment. Last year through ACE, $540,000 was distributed throughout our schools directly to support tuition assistance.

“For the first time Welcome Grants were part of that initiative,” he added. “Welcome Grants were given to students who were either new to Catholic schools or who were returning to Catholic schools after an absence. Because of the generosity of many of you viewing tonight, 70 students received these welcome grants.

“So far this year, $134,000 has been given in student retention programs to help families that have been affected economically due to COVID-19,” Blair said.

“Tonight, we invite you to open your heart and share your blessings with families who would like a Catholic education for their children,” Blair said.

Help transform society

Father Michael Fye, pastor of St. Ann Church in Nashville which operates one of the diocese’s schools, also made a pitch for supporting ACE during the virtual event.

“When it comes to how can I help transform society and help real people, then Catholic education is where it’s at,” Father Fye said. “Mostly because you’re investing in children. How could that be a mistake? There’s no better place.”

“Families spend most of their time investing in their children,” he added. “If as a Church and as a community we can invest in the children and help parents do the same, I think there’s no failure conditions for that. It’s obviously the best possible use for our funds.”

In her presentation, Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Hammel talked about the excellence of the schools in the diocese.

“We offer a full complement of learning experiences to nurture our students in mind, body and soul,” she said, “from the fine arts, athletics, (physical education) courses, academic classes that include coding and robotics and the wonder of science, and of course the wonder and beauty of our faith all sustained through the Holy Eucharist.

“Excellence is our aim because that’s what God calls us to be by using the gifts he has given us,” she said.

Donors to the ACE event can make their gift in honor of a teacher who has had an impact on their life or the lives of their children. “Now more than ever our teachers are raising the bar, and now more than ever our teachers would love to know of your support for them,” Hammel said.

Rooted in faith, service

During the event, Will Donnelly, a St. Henry School and Father Ryan High School graduate, spoke about the impact Catholic education and the Catholic community made on his life.

Growing up in a single-parent household, “I turned to God and faith even at a young age because that was what I was taught at school, because I believed it, and it worked,” Donnelly said. “Without that foundation of a Catholic education, I would not have had the faith that got me through those tough times as a kid.

“The other thing that helped me through those years at St. Henry was the Catholic community, the people,” he said.

Donnelly pointed to the influence of his coaches when he was involved in organized sports as a student at St. Henry.

“I was blessed with some amazing coaches who became lifelong mentors,” he said. “They also managed to teach us how to be more, do more, how to play up in life and challenge ourselves. I learned through example what was expected of me on an off the field, and those lessons I learned continue to serve me today.”

Donnelly said his experience as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee “has really opened my eyes to the opportunities that St. Henry and Father Ryan produced for me and continue to produce for kids today.

“Throughout my school years I was taught that I had a responsibility to my fellow man. I was consistently shown the importance of being other centered,” Donnelly said. “A drive to be actively engaged in my community was planted in me early on and that drive is what led me to give back to this life-changing organization. Without the lessons I learned from Catholic school I would never have volunteered at Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I honestly cannot imagine my life today without that gift of service.

“All these values, all these benefits that I received and now share with others could not have been possible without support of my family and friends who ensured that no matter what, I was able to attend a Catholic school,” Donnelly said.

“However, not everyone is this fortunate,” he said. “Your contributions effectively help kids who are in similar situations as I reap the benefits of this life-changing education and community. But remember it doesn’t stop there. The return on investment of these kids compounds exponentially as they take the lessons they learn and share it with their own community for years to come. It’s a ripple effect. What better way to spend your money than to directly invest it in the well-being of future generations.

“I’m humbled to be living proof of the difference a community can make,” Donnelly said.

‘Generous of mind and hearts’

Bishop Spalding asked the people of the diocese to be generous.

“All of this happens because we are generous of mind and hearts and generous with how God has blessed us,” he said. “I’m asking you to dig down and really help our Catholic education, to really help each and every family that wants to place their child in one of our schools.”

“Now more than ever we need to make sure that our Catholic schools, our Catholic system of education, is strong,” the bishop added.

Linville thanked the people who have already donated and the sponsors of this year’s event, including the Catholic Business League’s three Leadership Catholic classes that put together virtual table sponsorships. “Without them we wouldn’t have an event,” he said of the sponsors. For more information about how to donate, contact Linville at 615-645-9768 or, or Assistant Director of Development Anna Beth Godfrey at 615-645-9769 or

Catholic voters reminded to consult ‘Faithful Citizenship’ as guide

This logo appears on materials, study guides and videos related to the U.S. bishops’ quadrennial “Faithful Citizenship” document that provides guidance to Catholic voters during a presidential election year. CNS

With election day coming up, Catholic voters are reminded to take their responsibility to vote seriously. 

The U.S. bishops encourage voters to read and reflect on the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility,” which is rooted in the Catholic Church’s long-standing moral tradition that upholds human dignity and the common good of all, according to Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“The document is meant to give Catholic voters an opportunity to reflect upon how their faith intersects with their political and civic responsibilities,” said Archbishop Coakley.

One thing “Faithful Citizenship” is not is a mandate on which candidate for public office to vote for, Archbishop Coakley said.

“No candidate will likely reflect all of our values,” he told Catholic News Service in August. “But I think we need to begin in prayer. We need to know our faith. We need to study our faith. We need to have recourse to the Catechism and what it might teach about certain questions.

“This document is intended to be that, an official guide for the formation of consciences that Catholics can utilize as they weigh these questions,” the archbishop said.

Furthermore, he continued, “the Gospel cannot be parsed in political or partisan terms. The Gospel calls us to live by standards and our Catholic faith calls us to embrace standards that are not divisible into left or right, Republican or Democratic terminology.”

“Faithful Citizenship” draws from the teaching of Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, St. John Paul II, St. John XXIII, the Second Vatican Council, and “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.”

The introductory letter reminds Catholics that “we bring the richness of our faith to the public square” and that “faith and reason inform our efforts to affirm both the dignity of the human person and the common good of all.”

The letter also says, “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. At the same time, we cannot dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity, such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty.”

It concludes by reminding Catholics to “bring their faith and our consistent moral framework to contribute to important work in our communities, nation and world on an ongoing basis, not just during election season.”

The full document also is available in Spanish, with accompanying videos available in English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. The English language videos, along with links to other USCCB Faithful Citizenship resources, are available at

On the Tennessee Register’s Faithful Citizenship resources page, links are available to the full text of the bishop’s document and more. 

Archbishop Coakley said the bishops expect the guidance offered in the “Faithful Citizenship” materials will gain wider attention this year.

“My hope and prayer is that Catholics who really want their faith to influence their decision-making when it comes to going to the polls will give the reflections in this document consideration rather than just going to their favorite news source,” he said. “That’s going to be a very different kind of guidance than what they receive from their favorite cable news anchor or pundit.

“This is our chance to bring a different light to bear to a very important fundamental civic responsibility.”

State’s three dioceses to host virtual Tennessee Catechetical Conference

The three dioceses of Tennessee – Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis – are joining forces to present, for the first time, the Tennessee Catechetical Conference, to be held online Nov. 9-13. 

The Diocese of Nashville typically holds an annual in-person conference, but this year, due to COVID-19, decided it was safest to move all the programming online. 

The virtual format “did present us with the opportunity” for the state’s three dioceses to work together, said Rachael Gieger, Assistant Director of Catechesis for the Diocese of Nashville. “It’s been really great to collaborate with the other two dioceses,” she said. 

Gieger and Joan Watson, director of the Diocese of Nashville’s Office of Faith Formation, will be among the presenters from this diocese. Two Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia will present, as will Paige Courtney Barnes, a writer, educator and catechist in the Diocese of Nashville.

Speakers also include deacons and lay men and women from across Tennessee and beyond, including several presentations given in Spanish. 

Topics range from classroom management and RCIA to youth and young adult formation. Conference tracks include “Catechesis in Culture,” “Catechesis and Practice,” “Catholic Identity and Defense of the Faith,” and “Catechesis in the Classroom.”

The conference is primarily designed for parish directors of religious education and catechists, but is open to anyone, Gieger said. 

The conference is free to attend, but participants are asked to register in advance. The presentations will be pre-recorded, but live Q&A sessions will be offered and announced on the website,

When the conference officially opens on Nov. 9 at 12 a.m. CST, participants will be able to access all the pre-recorded presentations on demand. 

For more information, visit the website, which has bios of the speakers and answers to frequently asked questions. More information will be added there as it becomes available.

Parishioner builds new altar for St. Joseph Church in Lawrence County

Bishop J. Mark Spalding dedicated the new altar at historic St. Joseph Church in Lawrence County on Oct 1. Parishioner Andy Augustin designed and built the new permanent altar. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Church

Thanks to the woodworking talents of Andy Augustin, a parish council member at St. Joseph Church in St. Joseph, Tennessee, the parish church now has a new permanent altar. 

The altar is constructed in the Gothic Revival style so that it matches with the original furnishings of the historic church, located in Lawrence County. It replaces a much simpler altar that was added to the sanctuary after Vatican II.

Father Paul Nguyen, pastor of St. Joseph Church and Sacred Heart Church in Loretto, along with the St. Joseph parish community, welcomed Bishop J. Mark Spalding to St. Joseph on Oct. 1 to dedicate the new altar.

Augustin, who previously made some cabinets and the ambo for the church, said designing and building the altar in his home workshop was “a labor of love.” 

“It was a pretty steep learning curve” to build such a significant piece in the elaborate Gothic Revival style, said Augustin, who recently retired from teaching at Loretto High School after 38 years. 

“I gained an appreciation for how much work went into building the side altars all those years ago,” Augustin said. Those altars were likely built around 1885, when the current church was dedicated. The parish was officially established in 1872. 

St. Joseph is one of three Catholic parishes in Lawrence County, along with Sacred Heart in Loretto and Sacred Heart in Lawrenceburg, which were established by Father Henry Heuser and a group of settlers from the Cincinnati German Catholic Homestead Society, during the early days of the Diocese of Nashville. Many of them were farmers and skilled craftsmen and helped build the churches.

Augustin, a woodworking and carpentry hobbyist, used hand tools similar to what the original builders might have used for some aspects of the new altar, but also took advantage of modern power tools.

“It’s remarkable that out in the country in 1885 they could manage to do all that,” Augustin said, commenting on the solid construction of the church building and the beauty of the interior.

The new altar table is constructed of wood stained and painted to match the colors of the original side altars with details embellished with gold leaf paint. With a solid natural stone tabletop, the complete altar weighs more than 500 pounds.

As with the side altars, the new altar’s tripartite front features a central panel containing a quatrefoil within a circle. In this design, the quatrefoil represents the four evangelists as well as the four corners of the earth; the circle represents eternity. Within the quatrefoil is the IHS monogram superimposed on a Botonee Cross. The monogram represents the name Jesus, and the three-buttoned arms of the cross represent the trinity.

There is a smaller panel with a simple gothic arch, echoing the design of the church’s windows, on either side of the central panel. The panel to the left contains a carved banner around a stalk of lilies, which are often used to represent the integrity of St. Joseph. On the right panel, a similar banner wraps around a carpenter’s square and saw, symbols for St. Joseph the carpenter, the parish’s patron saint.

Beneath the stone top of the altar, a reliquary crucifix – donated by Sacred Heart Loretto parishioner Joan Augustin in memory of her parents, James and Rosalia Augustin, distant relatives of Andy Augustin – containing relics of St. Pope Pius X, St. Pope Celestine V, St. Benedict, St. Walburga, St. Placidus, St. Theresa of Portugal, St. Gertrude, and Blessed Irmingard, lies inside of a box made of wood from the 1872 church at St. Joseph, symbolically pulling the parish’s past and present together.

The new altar is part of the ongoing restoration of historic St. Joseph Church, supported by the $1.5 million bequest that the parish received in 2011 from parishioner Helen Pottkotter.

Drexel scholarship gives more Black students ‘a seat at the table’ at Ryan

Deacon Hill

To extend the legacy of St. Katharine Drexel and expand educational opportunities for Black students in Middle Tennessee, Deacon Bill Hill founded the St. Katharine Drexel Memorial Scholarship Fund at Father Ryan High School in 2017.

“It was actually going pretty good, then COVID hit and it just kind of dried up,” said Deacon Hill, a member of the Father Ryan Class of 1967 and an alumni of the former St. Vincent de Paul School in North Nashville, founded by Mother Katharine. 

Just as she saw the need for Catholic missionaries to serve and educate Native Americans and African-Americans in the early 20th century, Deacon Hill sees the need to expand access and opportunity to Black students, Catholic or not, who want to attend Catholic schools. 

With the scholarship, “I’m trying to do a small piece” of what she did, he said.

Deacon Hill, who was recently assigned to Holy Family Church in Brentwood after serving at his lifelong parish of St. Vincent, prefers to fundraise one-on-one over lunch dates, which have not been possible in recent months. 

But he is still pressing on toward his goal of raising $150,000. “We’ve collected about $120,000,” he said. With the help of Paul Rohling, a fellow member of the Class of ’67, Deacon Hill established the scholarship with an original target of $50,000, which they quickly reached and decided they could do more. 

Father Ryan administers the scholarship, disbursing the money to students as part of their need-based financial aid packages. Some current students have already benefited from the scholarships. 

Deacon Hill is looking to build the endowment for the St. Katharine Drexel Memorial Scholarship at a time when Father Ryan is engaged in an intentional process of creating a more inclusive environment for its Black students.

Over the summer, as the country reckoned with its history of racism, Father Ryan also began reckoning with how Black students have been treated at the school. 

“There are some wounds there,” Deacon Hill said. 

In a letter to the Father Ryan community over the summer, President Jim McIntyre and Principal Paul Davis wrote, “Our community recognizes that we need to look at our school and ourselves to make sure we demonstrate an inclusive environment for Black students and other students of color. The Father Ryan community, in collaboration with the Diocese of Nashville and its leadership, is committed to doing the work necessary to make this initiative a reality.”

To help achieve this goal, Father Ryan and Pope John Paul II High School have hired Derek Young, a nationally recognized consultant on diversity and inclusion, to lead a review of the cultures of the schools and develop an action plan to improve them.

Deacon Hill has been involved in the conversation with Young and Father Ryan alumni and parents from the Black community who are working to create a more inclusive environment at the school. 

“I’m looking for positive steps to do … to make things better for folks,” said Deacon Hill. 

Opening up the opportunity to more Black students through the scholarship is the first step. But students of color coming into the school need to be assured they will be welcome there. “How do we make people feel a part of the Father Ryan community?” Deacon Hill said. 

Some ideas that he and others have floated are strengthening the Black alumni network of Father Ryan and supporting student and parent mentors for students of color.

While Deacon Hill is quick to praise the academic education that he received at Father Ryan, he’s also quick to point out how hard it is for Black and White students to truly know each other. “At 3:00 if you go to Belle Meade, and I go to North Nashville … how do you get to know me? You need that interaction after school.”

Mother Katharine Drexel

Deacon Hill appreciates the steps Father Ryan is taking to create a more inclusive environment, but he knows the culture won’t transform overnight.

“My goal is not to solve all the problems at Ryan regarding racism, but to shine a little light in a dark room,” said Deacon Hill. “In my opinion the Drexel scholarship does that by helping Black students financially and letting folks know we care.”

“If you want the environment to change, you have to have a seat at the table,” Deacon Hill said. And the scholarship is all about creating more seats at the table.

On the occasion of his 50th high school reunion in 2017, Deacon Hill reconnected with old classmates, some that he didn’t know very well all those years ago. Before the pandemic, he joined them for breakfast about once a month. “When you sit down and break bread together, you get to know each other better,” he said. 

Members of that group have been some of the earliest and most generous supporters of the St. Katharine Drexel Scholarship, Deacon Hill added. 

He wants to see current Father Ryan students, Black and White, sit at the table together and really get to know each other, “and not wait 50 years to do it,” he said.

Deacon Hill has observed that Black Catholic and non-Catholic students “can get a good education in a whole lot of other places” in Nashville now, but he hopes that the St. Katharine Drexel Memorial Scholarship at Father Ryan can help recruit more Black students to the school and “help people experience what I experienced,” a solid education rooted in faith. 

For more information about the scholarship or to donate, contact Deacon Hill at or 615-496-5797, or contact the Father Ryan High School Advancement Office at 615-269-7926.

Film’s use of pope’s comments don’t reflect the whole story

From CNS and staff reports

Pope Francis leads his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Oct. 21, 2020. A new documentary about the pope gave many people an erroneous impression of his views of marriage and civil unions. CNS photo/Paul Haring 

VATICAN CITY. The recently released documentary “Francisco” focused the world’s attention on comments Pope Francis has made about civil unions for gay couples.

But the way the pope’s comments were edited in the documentary gave some people the erroneous impression that Pope Francis approved civil union laws that would equate gay couples to married couples. Pope Francis consistently has said that gay people deserve love, respect and the protection of the law; however, he has insisted marriage can be only between a man and a woman.

An example of the confusion caused by the documentary is the pope’s comments that gay people have a right to be in a family and that gay couples needed some form of civil law to protect their rights. However, the documentary by director Evgeny Afineevsky gives the mistaken impression the pope was saying gay couples should have a right to adopt children. The director used the quotes immediately following a story about a gay couple with children.

Afineevsky, who a Vatican official said was never granted an on-camera interview with the pope, pulled the quotes about families and the quote about civil unions from a 2019 interview by Valentina Alazraki, correspondent for the Mexican television station Televisa.

When the Vatican, which filmed the interview, gave Televisa the footage, the quotation about civil unions had been cut.

Catholic News Service obtained the complete transcript of the uncut interview, including the comment about civil unions. The pope, speaking in Spanish, referred to “una ley de convivencia civil,” literally a “law of civil cohabitation,” but commonly called a civil union.

The clips used in Afineevsky’s film put together quotes from three separate moments of the Televisa interview, so the pope appears to say: “They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”

At one point in the interview – in the piece aired on Televisa and included in the transcript the Vatican originally put online – Alazraki and the pope spoke about the “journey” of discernment and conversion he called for in his exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” and about the habit of referring to certain people as being in “irregular” situations.

“If we were convinced that they are children of God, things would change quite a bit,” the pope says.

Then he brings up his response in August 2018 to a journalist who had asked what he would say to a father whose son or daughter tells him he or she is gay.

On the plane returning from Ireland, he had responded: “I would tell him first of all to pray. Pray. Don’t condemn, (but) dialogue, understand, make room for his son or daughter.”

The parent should respond, “You are my son; you are my daughter, just as you are. I am your father or your mother, let’s talk about this,” he had said. “And if you, as a father or mother, can’t deal with this on your own, ask for help, but always in dialogue, always in dialogue. Because that son and daughter has a right to family, and their family is this family, just as it is. Do not throw them out of the family.”

In the interview with Alazraki, Pope Francis paraphrased his earlier responses, saying, “Homosexual persons have a right to be in the family and the parents have a right to recognize this son as homosexual, this daughter as homosexual. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it.”

The pope explained to Alazraki how upset he was that a newspaper, reporting on his comments on the flight from Ireland, ran a headline saying that the pope said homosexuals should see a psychiatrist when he clearly meant that if parents see their son or daughter struggling with their sexuality, professional help might be a good idea.

“And I repeated it: ‘They are children of God and have a right to a family,’ and so on,” he told Alazraki.

The interview went on with a discussion about the media taking words out of context, and then Alazraki told the pope that people say he was a doctrinal conservative when he was in Argentina.

“I am a conservative,” he responded.

Alazraki pointed out that as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he opposed gay marriage.

“I’ve always defended doctrine. And it is curious about the law on homosexual marriage – it is a contradiction to speak of homosexual marriage. But what we have to create is a civil union law, that way they are legally covered. I defended that,” he said, referring to his efforts to support an alternative to legalizing gay marriage that would still protect the rights of gay couples when it came to matters like inheritance, health care decisions and visitation when one is ill.

“The more we hear of what the pope actually said, the more we see a pope who has a pastoral heart for challenging situations in family and Church life, but he is not changing Church teaching,” said Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville.

“I think he’s trying to be a pastor, answering difficult questions,” Bishop Spalding said. “There’s a clear process whenever the Church does nuance or develops teaching in the Church, and this is outside those normal processes and procedures.”

It is important to keep in mind the setting in which the pope shared his comments, the bishop said. The pope was providing casual reflections on serious matters for an interview, Bishop Spalding said, and if the pontiff’s remarks are going to be interpreted, the bishop hoped the focus would be on Francis’ care and compassion for all.

French bishops order ‘death knell’ after three killed in Nice basilica

Police stand near Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France, Oct. 29, 2020, after at least three people were killed in a series of stabbings before Mass. France raised its alert level to maximum after the attack. CNS photo/Eric Gaillard, pool via Reuters

French bishops ordered a “death knell” to ring from every church of their country Oct. 29 after three people were hacked to death in a basilica in the southern Mediterranean city of Nice.

Churches were asked to chime their bells at 3 p.m. in an act of mourning for three people who were killed in Nice’s Notre Dame Basilica while preparing for morning Mass.

Pope Francis sent a tweet expressing closeness to the people of Nice. “I pray for the victims, for their families and for the beloved French people, that they may respond to evil with good,” it said.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a similar message from Pope Francis in a telegram to Bishop André Marceau of Nice. “Entrusting France to the protection of Our Lady,” Pope Francis “wholeheartedly gives his apostolic blessing to all those affected by this tragedy,” the telegram added.

The French Council of Muslim Worship condemned the killings and asked Muslims to express their “mourning and solidarity with the victims and their relatives” by canceling all celebrations of the birthday of Muhammad, which this year is marked by Sunni Muslims Oct. 29.

According to French media, the victims included a 70-year-old woman whose body was found by police “almost beheaded” beside a holy water font.

A 45-year-old sacristan identified only as Vincent L. also was found dead in the basilica, with unconfirmed reports saying his throat was cut.

A second woman, described as African in origin and in her 30s, fled the church after she was stabbed, but died in the nearby cafe where she had sought refuge.

Police shot and wounded a man in his 20s who was suspected of the attack, and he was arrested and taken to a hospital for treatment.

According to Le Figaro, a French newspaper, the man declared his name to be “Brahim” and told officers that he had acted alone. His fingerprints were taken to help detectives to confirm his identity.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said the attacker “kept shouting Allahu akbar (Arabic for God is great) even after being medicated.” The mayor said “the meaning of his gesture is not in doubt.”

“Enough is enough,” he told journalists. “It’s time now for France to exonerate itself from the laws of peace in order to definitively wipe out Islamo-fascism from our territory.”

French police have confirmed they are treating the killings as a terrorist incident.

It comes amid mounting anger of Muslims at President Emmanuel Macron’s defense of satirical cartoons of Muhammad, the founder of Islam.

Two hours after the attack, police shot dead a man who was brandishing a handgun and shouting “Allahu akbar” in the southern city of Avignon. The same day, a guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was stabbed by a 40-year-old attacker, who was then apprehended.

The French bishops said in a statement they had been plunged into “immense sadness.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, the injured, their families and loved ones,” the statement said. “It was because they were in the basilica that these people were attacked, murdered. They represented a symbol to be destroyed.”

The bishops said the attack reminded them of “the martyrdom” of Father Jacques Hamel, a priest hacked to death in his Normandy church by Islamic militants in 2016.

“Through these horrific acts, our entire country is affected,” they said in the statement. “This terrorism aims to instill anxiety throughout our society. It is urgent that this gangrene be stopped, as it is urgent that we find the indispensable fraternity which will hold us all upright in the face of these threats.

“Despite the pain gripping them, Catholics refuse to give in to fear and, with the whole nation, want to face this treacherous and blind threat,” the bishops added.

Bishop Marceau responded to the attack by ordering the instant closure of all of the churches in the city and declaring them to be under police protection.

“All my prayers go out to the victims, their loved ones, the law enforcement agencies on the front lines of this tragedy, priests and faithful wounded in their faith and hope,” said Bishop Marceau. “May Christ’s spirit of forgiveness prevail in the face of these barbaric acts.”

He said the dead were “victims of a heinous terrorist act” that followed “the savage murder of Professor Samuel Paty,” a Paris teacher who was beheaded Oct. 16 by a Muslim migrant after he showed satirical cartoons of Muhammad to school children in a lesson about free speech.

The cartoons were first published in 2012 in Charlie Hebdo, a magazine that has since been the target of three terrorist attacks, one of which in 2015 claimed the lives of 12 staff members.

At the Vatican, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, tweeted in solidarity with the French Church, saying extremism “must be fought with strength and determination.”

He said persecuted African Christians understood “too well” that violent Islamists would not give up their struggle.

The attack in Nice took place less than half a mile from the scene of the July 14 Bastille Day massacre of 2016, when a man plowed a truck into a crowd on the Promenade des Anglais, killing 86 people and injuring more than 400.

French politicians held a minute’s silence ahead of a debate on new coronavirus restrictions, and Macron presided over an emergency Cabinet meeting about the attacks before leaving for Nice.

Senate confirms Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court

Judge Amy Coney Barrett holds her hand on the Bible as she is sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the White House in Washington Oct. 26, 2020. CNS photo/Tom Brenner, Reuters 

WASHINGTON. A divided Senate, in a 52-48 vote, confirmed Amy Coney Barrett as a justice for the Supreme Court the evening of Oct. 26 and soon afterward she was sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas at a White House ceremony.

“The oath that I’ve solemnly taken tonight, means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences. I love the Constitution and the democratic republic that it establishes and I will devote myself to preserving it,” Barrett said after the outdoor ceremony.

Barrett is the sixth practicing Catholic currently sitting on the nation’s highest court, joining Chief Justice John Roberts, Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The 48-year old, who has been on the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit since 2017, said it was a privilege to be asked to serve on the Supreme Court. She said she was “truly honored and humbled” to be stepping into this role, which is a lifetime appointment.

Barrett is now the 115th justice for the court, replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18. 

Thomas administered the constitutional oath to Barrett, who took the judicial oath in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court Oct. 27.

Reaction to the confirmation was swift and just as divided as it has been since she was first announced as President Donald Trump’s nominee just weeks before the presidential election. Congressional Democrats took to Twitter to criticize the Senate for acting so swiftly on this vote but not passing a COVID-19 relief package.

The Associated Press reported that no other Supreme Court justice has been confirmed on a recorded vote with no support from the minority party in at least 150 years, according to information provided by the Senate Historical Office.

During her nomination hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett did not give direct answers on how she would vote on top issues but assured the senators that she would follow the rule of the law.

“My policy preferences are irrelevant,” she said on Oct. 13 when asked if she had intended to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, and she reiterated this same view when asked about abortion and same-sex marriage.

On the opening day of the hearings, Republican senators adamantly emphasized that Barrett’s Catholic faith should not be a factor in questioning. And although it did not become a topic of questioning, it was mentioned even in opening remarks by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina,

He asked if Barrett would be able to set aside her religious beliefs to fairly decide legal cases, which she said she could.

“I can. I have done that in my time on the 7th Circuit,” she said. “If I stay on the 7th Circuit, I’ll continue to do that. If I’m confirmed to the Supreme Court, I will do that.”

Barrett is now the first Notre Dame Law School graduate on the Supreme Court and the only sitting justice with a law degree not from Harvard or Yale. She graduated summa cum laude in 1997 and also met her husband, Jesse, there. The Barrett family lives in Indiana.

The oldest child of the couple’s seven children is a current student at the University of Notre Dame. Amy Coney Barrett began working at the law school in 2002 as a law professor focused on federal courts, constitutional law and statutory interpretation.

“On behalf of the University of Notre Dame, I congratulate Amy Coney Barrett on her confirmation today by the United States Senate as a justice of the United States Supreme Court,” said Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, university president, in an Oct. 26 statement.

G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson dean at Notre Dame Law School, said the school is “immensely proud of our alumna, colleague and friend,” adding that for more than two decades the school has experienced Barrett’s “brilliant scholarship, her devoted teaching and her thoughtful, open-minded approach to legal questions.”

He also praised Barrett’s “exemplary kindness and generosity toward everyone she encounters” and said that while the school community would miss her presence they would “look forward to witnessing these qualities as she serves on our nation’s highest court.”

During the Senate Judiciary hearing, an open letter to Barrett signed by 100 Notre Dame professors was published online urging her to put a “halt” to the nomination process until after the election. The letter emphasized this would allow “voters to have a choice” in the next judge on the nation’s high court.

After the Senate vote, some Catholic bishops congratulated Barrett on Twitter.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, said in an Oct. 26 tweet: “Thanks be to God that Amy Coney Barrett was approved as our newest Supreme Court Justice. Let us pray that she serves always guided by the truth God has revealed to His people. Immaculate Virgin Mary intercede for her.”

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond issued a more personal statement, pointing out that Barrett is from Metairie, Louisiana, and that her parents: Deacon Michael Coney and his wife, Linda, are members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie.

“One of our own, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as an associate justice of the Supreme Court,” he said. “We pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead her and guide her in her service to our country.”

UCat K of C council honored among nation’s top college councils

Knights of Columbus Council 15020 at University Catholic, the campus ministry for Vanderbilt University, Belmont University and other colleges and universities in Nashville, was recently honored during the order’s 55th College Council Conference by finishing third for the Outstanding Council Award.

The award is given each year to the college council that best exemplifies the mission and ideals of the Knights of Columbus and has gone above and beyond to make a difference on campus and in the surrounding community. The award is normally presented during the College Council Conference in New Haven, Connecticut, but this year the conference was held as a virtual event.

In its application for the award, the University Catholic council listed several of its activities, including its annual Valentine’s Day Dinner.

The council members serve dinner for the young women of University Catholic on Valentine’s Day, explained Grand Knight Peter Martin, a senior at Vanderbilt University from Jackson, Mississippi. The council also provides personal prayer cards for each of the women attending, Martin added.

Other events included: a virtual fish fry during Lent, after restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic made gathering in person impossible; a fundraiser to support a veterans group each fall that features council members completing “Amazing Race” style tasks to raise money; and a spring corn hole tournament to raise funds.

All the proceeds from the council’s fundraisers are used to support the council’s programming and charitable work, Martin said.

The council also sponsors a Saturday morning Mass on the second Saturday of the month at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, followed by Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “It’s been great for the spiritual life of the community,” said council Chancellor Nick Selser, a Vanderbilt senior from Salisbury, Maryland. 

The council also received a Five Star Council Award after it exceeded its membership goal by 550 percent.

This year, the council has planned several activities open to all eligible Catholic college students to encourage fellowship and introduce them to the Knights of Columbus and the council’s activities, Martin said. 

The council sponsors a pizza night every Wednesday for the young men at University Catholic and a Frisbee game twice a month at Centennial Park.

“I just wanted to have people interact,” Martin said. “That’s been a big hit. A lot of people are coming.”

Father Gervan Menezes, the chaplain at University Catholic, is the chaplain of Council 15020 as well as the Associate Chaplain for the Tennessee State Council from the Diocese of Nashville.

Cathedral’s video upgrades will improve livestreaming capabilities

Bishop Spalding celebrates Mass for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time in the oratory at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville on Oct. 23. This was the bishop’s last taped Mass to be posted online for people to watch who are unable to attend Mass in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parishes livestream Masses every weekend, including the Cathedral of the Incarnation.  With newly upgraded video equipment installed, the Cathedral will soon offer a better livestream experience of the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass and other events. Photo by Rick Musacchio

The Diocese of Nashville and the Cathedral of the Incarnation have partnered to install new cameras and video equipment to upgrade the livestreaming and recording of Masses, other liturgies and events at the Cathedral.

With the new equipment, the livestreams and recordings will be available on a variety of platforms, said Bill Staley, director of youth, young adult and new evangelization ministries for the diocese. “It will be blasted out through many channels on social media.”

When the new equipment becomes operational before the end of the year, the 11 a.m. Mass on Sundays from the Cathedral will be livestreamed on the diocesan Facebook page, and a new site,, Staley said. also has links to livestreamed Masses from other parishes in the diocese.

The livestreaming of Cathedral’s 11 a.m. Mass will replace the showing of a recording of the Mass celebrated by Bishop J. Mark Spalding every week. The bishop often celebrates the 11 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral, Staley said, so people will still be able to watch his Masses and hear his homilies. 

Previously, Sunday Masses at the Cathedral have been livestreamed on the parish’s website using one camera, and larger events, such as the ordination of new priests, have required bringing in additional cameras and equipment, Staley said. 

Now, four cameras have been permanently installed, one attached to a column on each side of the nave, one in the sanctuary facing the people, and one in the choir loft at the back of the Cathedral.

“It gives us the ability to cover any liturgy or event,” Staley said. “All the cameras get great angles and we’ll be able to get great coverage of any liturgy in there.”

When Father Eric Fowlkes became pastor of the Cathedral, he called on Doug Blake, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville where Father Fowlkes previously served as pastor, to help set up a new system. 

Blake helped lead the installation of the video system at Our Lady of the Lake.

“We had the benefit of being one of the first ones in the diocese to have livestreaming, at the request of Father Eric, long before COVID,” Blake said. 

Originally, the intent was to make Mass available for people who were homebound or couldn’t get to Mass because they were ill, he explained. With the pandemic and the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days, livestreaming Masses has become an important way for parishes to provide the liturgy to their members.

The new system at the Cathedral will be modeled on the system at Our Lady of the Lake, although it will include more cameras, Blake said. “This will provide a more professional production.”

“There’s quite a few considerations in designing this,” Blake said. “We took into account the beautiful worship space and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.”

“We were very careful not to cause any permanent damage to the facility in the installation,” he added. “That was one of the main focuses.”

While the new video equipment is being installed, Blake said, the Cathedral is also revamping its internet capabilities. 

There are also plans to install a dedicated internet line that can be used when livestreaming Masses and events from the Cathedral on various social media platforms, Staley said. He is hoping the line will be installed by Christmas, and until then, the Cathedral will use its existing internet connections.

Included in the project is the installation of computer equipment that the operator will use to control the cameras and any graphics that might be used, Blake said.

The new system will be able to be operated by one person, Blake said. In the past, when large events were livestreamed from the Cathedral, the diocese needed as many as six people to operate the cameras and direct the production, and outside equipment was brought in for the event, he said.

“The operator will be in close proximity to the sanctuary to allow them to receive Communion during Mass,” Blake said.

Several volunteers from the Cathedral and University Catholic, which will also use the system to livestream its liturgies, will be trained as operators, Blake said.