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Clothing drive half a world away helps babies in Christ's hometown

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The ask for baby items heading to the Holy Land couldn't be more appropriate: "swaddling clothes needed."

The Gospel of Luke mentions, after all, that Mary wrapped the baby Jesus in "swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

But the "swaddling clothes" of modern times come in the form of onesies, the one-piece clothing item for babies, and it's the indispensable item the Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation has been asking for as a gift to give to newborns in Christ's birthplace.

Through a clothing drive at Washington's Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, the hospital has collected a mound of them underneath an altar of St. Francis and the first nativity depiction.

"One of them had a note, 'With love from Howard University,'" said Father Jim Gardiner, a Conventual Franciscan who blessed the items Dec. 13, recalling one of the messages left behind by a donor.

There's something about clothing a baby in Bethlehem for Christmas, said Michele Burke Bowe, of the hospital's Washington-based foundation, about the success of the clothing drive now in its fourth year. She takes the items to the hospital, operated by the Order of Malta, in January.

When Israel froze in February the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, it caused an economic crisis for families living in the West Bank, where Bethlehem is located. Many families have been going without heat or water because of the crisis, so for new moms already feeling vulnerable to at least have an article of clothing, "it's a blessing to have an outfit for their child," when the baby is born, said Bowe.

Some of the items were donated by pilgrims who visited the hospital earlier this year, said Father Gardiner. And some items were donated by people who now have adopted the onesie donation as a tradition, said Bowe.

The Catholic hospital expects its staff will deliver about 4,700 babies this year, including some in need of emergency intensive care and born to struggling families who may not otherwise be able to afford health care for their newborn, said Bowe. Many Palestinian families living there also are limited by a barrier wall of some 258 miles that restricts movement and access to jobs and goods and to hospitals.

That sometimes also leads to loss of life. But the hospital is there because of one of the core teachings of Catholicism.

"As Catholics, we value life," she told Catholic News Service.

At the hospital, families are helped regardless of creed or economic situation.

"They're so grateful just to have something," Bowe said.

Though the clothing drives ends in December, the foundation accepts donations for its other works, including a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit cares for critically ill newborns, at www.birthplaceofhope.org.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

People's hearts yearn for God, not possessions, status, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Christmas season is a time to reflect on what life is all about, Pope Francis told an international group of performers.

"The time before Christmas calls us to ask ourselves, 'What is it that I am waiting for in my life? What is the great desire of my heart?' You too, with your songs, help awaken or reawaken this healthy human 'yearning' in the hearts of many people," he said.

The pope met Dec. 13 with the group of singers, songwriters, musicians and conductors the day before they were to perform in the Vatican's Paul VI hall for a benefit concert to help protect the Amazon and support indigenous communities there.

The lineup was scheduled to include: Lionel Richie, the U.S. Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter; Susan Boyle, who was a 2009 finalist on "Britain's Got Talent"; and Bonnie Tyler, whose songs "It's a Heartache" and "Total Eclipse of the Heart" are among the best-selling singles of all time.

The Charleston Gospel Choir and several Italian performers were also part of the lineup for the 2019 "Christmas Concert in the Vatican," sponsored by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.

The pope told the performers and concert organizers that God is the author of the "yearning" people feel in their heart, "and he comes to meet us by this route."

God cannot be found along the path of "vain compulsion to acquire possessions or to keep up appearances. It is not there that God comes; no one will meet on that route. But surely he comes wherever there is hunger and thirst for peace, justice, freedom and love," the pope said.  

"Dear artists, I thank you for all that you do. I wish you the best for your activities and your spiritual growth," the pope said, asking that their hearts be touched by the "mystery of Christmas, so that you can convey some of that same tenderness to those who listen to you."

Donations and proceeds from ticket sales were to go toward a Salesian project helping indigenous communities in northwestern Brazil and to a campaign of Scholas Occurrentes to raise awareness in 450,000 schools around the world promoting reforestation.

The show, recorded before a live audience Dec. 14, was to be broadcast by Italian television Christmas Eve.

Later in the day, Pope Francis was scheduled to take part -- via live video link-up -- in the launch of a U.S. headquarters of Scholas Occurrentes, which is Latin for "schools for encounter."

The global educational project, launched by Pope Francis in 2013, works to encourage social integration ?and a culture of encounter among high school students through sports, arts and technology.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the city's mayor, Eric Garcetti, along with about 30 Catholic high school students of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, were to join in from Los Angeles in the live videoconference as were Scholas students in Haiti, Japan and Spain.

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Vatican releases pope's Christmas season schedule

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' 2019-20 Christmas season celebrations will include the usual liturgies and traditions.

Releasing the pope's schedule Dec. 12, the Vatican said he would:

-- Celebrate Christmas Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 24.

-- Address the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square and give his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) at noon on Christmas Day.

-- Celebrate evening prayer Dec. 31 in St. Peter's Basilica at 5 p.m. and lead the singing of the "Te Deum" to thank God for the year that is ending.

-- Celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. Jan. 1, the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and the World Day of Prayer for Peace, in St. Peter's Basilica.

-- Celebrate the feast of the Epiphany Jan. 6 with a Mass at 10 a.m. in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican website also has on its schedule that Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the Sistine Chapel and baptize newborns Jan. 12, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

 

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Statement of U.S. Bishops Chairman on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs on Antisemitism

WASHINGTON— Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, issued the following statement:

“The recent attack on a Kosher Market in Jersey City, alongside many other recent hateful and at times violent actions, have highlighted the importance of, once again, publicly condemning any and all forms of antisemitism whether in thought, word or action. The past has taught us silence and passivity can result in the advancement of the worst crimes humanity can commit.

“The Catholic Church has an irrevocable commitment to the Jewish community. This commitment is clear and straightforward: antisemitism is anti-Christian and should not be tolerated in any form. At the Second Vatican Council, in Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church articulated, ‘Mindful of the inheritance she shares with the Jews, the Church decries hatreds, persecutions, and manifestations of antisemitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.’

“We offer our prayerful support for all victims of antisemitic violence and their families. It is our hope that through continued respectful collaboration and dialogue with our Jewish brothers and sisters Catholics will help build a culture that completely rejects antisemitism.”

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Keywords: USCCB, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Kosher Market, antisemitism, Catholic Church, Nostra Aetate, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, Diocese of Scranton, Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

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U.S. Bishops Applaud Legislation Protecting Immigrant Farmworkers and U.S. Agricultural Industry

WASHINGTON— Two bishops who chair committees for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) applauded the passage of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 (H.R. 5038). Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, spoke in support of this legislation, which would improve conditions for immigrant farmworkers and their families, as well as ensure the stability of the U.S. agricultural industry.  

“The Farm Workforce Modernization Act was written in an effort to make a better system for both the farmer and the farmworkers and to create a more effective and humane agriculture industry. The Catholic Church has long recognized the dignity of work of both citizen and immigrant farmworkers and growers alike and welcomes changes in the law to help ensure greater protections,” said Archbishop Coakley.

Bishop Dorsonville noted, “I commend the lawmakers who worked on this important effort in a bipartisan manner and I urge the U.S. Senate to take up this bill which gives earned permanent residency for certain farmworkers.”

In November, the USCCB Committee on Migration and Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development sent a letter of support that can be found on the Justice for Immigrants website.

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Keywords: USCCB, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Dan Newhouse, Farmworkers, Committee on Migration, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
 
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Mary is loving mother, humble disciple, pope says on Guadalupe feast

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pope Francis said she reminds Catholics of her true essence as a woman, a mother and a "mestiza" or person of mixed race.

She revealed herself to St. Juan Diego as a "mestiza" to show "that she is everyone's mother," and she speaks to everyone as she spoke to this indigenous saint five centuries ago, with tenderness and motherly love, the pope said in his homily during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Dec. 12.

Seminarians and priests from Rome's Pontifical Latin American College alternated singing their traditional guitar-accompanied songs with the Sistine Chapel choir singing parts of the Mass in Gregorian chant.

The pope and concelebrating cardinals and bishops processed into the basilica dressed in white. Among the concelebrants were U.S. bishops from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin who were in Rome as part of their Dec. 9-13 "ad limina" visits to report on the status of their dioceses.

Pope Francis stood before a replica of St. Juan Diego's tilma, which bears the image of Mary, who appeared to the saint in 1531.

In his homily, which the pope delivered off-the-cuff in Spanish, he reflected on the way Mary appears in the Gospels and in the apparitions to St. Juan Diego.

She is first and foremost a woman who has been given many titles -- many which contain the title "Our Lady," which underlines her womanhood, he said.

But, he said, "she doesn't try to be something else: she is a woman disciple," the pope said.

She is humble and faithful to her teacher, her son, "the only Redeemer," he said.

She never asked and "never wanted to take something of her son for herself. She never presented herself as a co-Redemptrix, but as a disciple" who served him and gave life, he said.

Pope Francis' mention of Mary and the role of co-Redemptrix was a reference to the fact that, for decades, some Catholics, including specialists in Mariology, have requested that Mary be officially proclaimed co-Redemptrix for her cooperative role with Jesus, the redeemer. However, St. John Paul II and Popes Benedict XVI and Francis declined to do so.

Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is "our mother, the mother of our people" and the church, Pope Francis said in his homily.

Understanding the church through Mary is essential also for understanding the role of women in the church, he said, because their role is more than just "functional."

Like Mary, women make the church maternal and transform it into the "holy mother church," he said.

It is also important, Pope Francis said, that Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego as a woman of mixed race.

That way she shows she is the mother of all peoples; she became one with the people and, by bringing Jesus into the world, she also made God one of the people with Jesus as both true God and man.

At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, gave special thanks and congratulations to Pope Francis for the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood Dec. 13.

After applause from the congregation, Cardinal Ouellet thanked the pope for the way he lives the priesthood, "in a spirit of humility and mercy, in a spirit of reform and holiness, giving priority and great charity to those most in need."

"Not everyone understands fully" the pope's gestures, words and decisions, he said, "but I can assure you that the people of God who walk in faith are inspired and consoled by your example and magisterium."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Our Lady of Guadalupe is 'mother of us all,' says Los Angeles archbishop

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Los Angeles

By

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Mary, the Mother of God is "the mother of all of us," Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said in his homily for midnight Mass celebrated at Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

"We can cry to her, we can share with her our joys and sorrows," he said. "We can trust in her protection! Who we are, where we are going, all our troubles and sufferings -- everything lies within her merciful and compassionate gaze."

As her feast day approached, he said, he thought about "her humility, her tender love for even the least of us, her children."

Mary is the Queen of Heaven and yet as Our Lady of Guadalupe, "she bends down to show herself to a humble person, a poor man of the people. Not to the bishops, not to the nobility" but to St. Juan Diego.

In fact, "Juan Diego begs her to choose someone more high class, more respected in society," Archbishop Gomez said, but no, she chose him, and she had a mission for him -- one only he could carry out.

"Listen, my dearest and youngest son ... where are you going?" were her first words to him, the archbishop said. "And I think that Our Lady's question is also for us. Where are we going? With all our fears and uncertainties, with all our miseries and responsibilities?

"Do we know that our Holy Mother goes with us, that we are always and forever precious and protected in her eyes?"

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill near modern-day Mexico City. She appeared for the first time at dawn Dec. 9, 1531, and said she wanted a church built in her honor on that hill. He went to the bishop to share this news, but was put off by the prelate.

She appeared again, and Juan Diego -- who was called by name by the lady in the apparition -- again approached the bishop. The bishop asked for a sign from her and Mary produced enough roses in December to fill Juan Diego's tilma.

When he emptied the cloak and the rose fell in front of the bishop, he found that she had left her image on the tilma, which remains today in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is the world's most visited Marian shrine. St. Juan Diego was canonized in 2002. His feast day is Dec. 9.

The mission Mary gave to Juan Diego is "our mission," Archbishop Gomez said. It's "a humble mission, but it is noble -- because it comes from Our Lady! And, as with Juan Diego, no one else can do the mission that is entrusted to you."

"She is asking us to do what she does -- she is asking us to bring Jesus into every corner of our lives!" Archbishop Gomez said. "She is asking us to bring his love into our homes, to make our Lord present in our conversations, in the way we care for one another. She is asking us to carry Jesus into our schools, into the places where we work, into our society."

"If we all do this," he added, "the world will be filled with the love of Jesus!"

We must carry out her "precious will" even "when the road is painful," he said.

St. Juan Diego had "many burdens and responsibilities," including caring for a sick and dying uncle -- just like so many people today care for loved ones, Archbishop Gomez said, and he had his faith challenged, with "people calling him a liar, treating him badly, casting him out and telling him that what he believed was not real."

"This is a reality for us, too," the prelate said. "We live every day in a society that denies the truth of our religion, we are every day breathing an atmosphere of secularism that tells us that God does not matter, that God is not alive.

"We face the same challenges that St. Juan Diego faced. All of us," Archbishop Gomez added. "But tonight, we can stand strong because we know the promise of the Virgin. She will reward us for our labors, for serving her. Just as she did with Juan Diego."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

World needs peacemakers, not empty words, pope says in message

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The world does not need more empty words, it needs committed, active peacemakers who do not exclude or manipulate, but are open to respectful dialogue, Pope Francis said in his annual message for the World Day of Peace Jan. 1.

"In fact, we cannot truly achieve peace without a convinced dialogue between men and women who seek the truth beyond ideologies and differing opinions," the pope said in the message released Dec. 12.

Peace requires "patient effort to seek truth and justice, to honor the memory of victims and to open the way, step by step, to a shared hope stronger than the desire for vengeance," he said.

Peace also requires "ecological conversion," he said, which basically is "a new way of looking at life as we consider the generosity of the Creator who has given us the earth and called us to a share it in joy and moderation."

People, he said, need "a new way to dwell in our common home, to accept our differences, to respect and celebrate the life that we have received and share, and to seek living conditions and models of society that favor the continued flourishing of life and the development of the common good of the entire human family."

The pope's message was released at a Vatican news conference led by Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The pope defined peace as a journey built on: hope that inspires people to keep moving forward, "even when obstacles seem insurmountable"; listening that learns lessons from the past; reconciliation that respects others; ecological conversion; and patience and trust.

His message, which the Vatican sends to heads of state around the world, invited everyone "to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed, whether against our neighbors or against God's creation."

"The culture of fraternal encounter shatters the culture of conflict," he said, and it makes "every encounter a possibility and a gift of God's generous love. It leads us beyond the limits of our narrow horizons and constantly encourages us to a live in a spirit of universal fraternity, as children of the one heavenly Father."

Pope Francis said every act of war is "a form of fratricide that destroys the human family's innate vocation to brotherhood," and all violence has a lasting effect "on the body and soul of humanity."

War often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others and is fueled "by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others and by seeing diversity as an obstacle," he said.
 
Peace, stability and security cannot be built by fear or threats, particularly "the threat of total annihilation" with a strategy of nuclear deterrence.

"Every threatening situation feeds mistrust and leads people to withdraw into their own safety zone," he said.

A "global ethic of solidarity and cooperation in the service of a future" is needed, he said, and it can be achieved by pursuing "a genuine fraternity based on our common origin from God and exercised in dialogue and mutual trust."

"The desire for peace lies deep within the human heart, and we should not resign ourselves to seeking anything less than this," he said.

A patient and respectful listening to victims and lessons of the past "can lead to courageous and even heroic decisions," Pope Francis wrote. "It can unleash new energies and kindle new hope in individuals and communities."

People's moral consciences must be formed and strengthened, and individual and political will must be renewed, he said, "so that new ways can be found to reconcile and unite individuals and communities."

"The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation," he said.

"There can be no true peace unless we show ourselves capable of developing a more just economic system," he also said in the message.

Reconciliation and forgiveness also are essential for creating a more fraternal world, the pope said. "We should never encapsulate others in what they may have said or done, but value them for the promise that they embody."

And, he wrote, "only by choosing the path of respect can we break the spiral of vengeance and set out on the journey of hope."

In conclusion, the pope asked, "May all men and women who come into this world experience a life of peace and develop fully the promise of life and love dwelling in their heart."

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Editors: The text of the pope's message in English can be found online at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20191208_messaggio-53giornatamondiale-pace2020.html

The text of the pope's message in Spanish can be found online at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20191208_messaggio-53giornatamondiale-pace2020.html

 

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Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Funds Catholic Biblical Literacy and Interpretation Projects

WASHINGTON- This fall, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) has awarded $107,896 in grants to fund six projects that support the goals of the CCD to promote Catholic biblical literacy and Catholic biblical interpretation. These grants are funded by royalties received from the publication of the New American Bible and its derivative works, which the CCD develops, publishes, promotes, and distributes.
 
The CCD works exclusively with the Catholic Biblical Association (CBA) to offer these grants, accepting applications only from the CBA, its designees, and its full and associate members. The CBA's purpose is to promote scholarly study in Scripture and related fields in fidelity to Dei Verbum, the document of the Second Vatican Council that states that God reveals truth through Scripture and Tradition.
 
The six projects sponsored by the CCD are as follows:

•  $24,120 to Joachim Eck of École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem (Israel) and Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (Germany) to support his research project, Creation in the Book of Psalms. Textual Evidence, Language and Concepts, Poetic Structures, Meaning and Functions in Context.

•  $14,500 to Gregory Glazov of Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, to support the creation of an online searchable database of scripture citations in Jewish and Christian, predominantly Catholic, writings on the Holocaust.

•  $15,000 to Barbara Jean Daly Horrell of the Archdiocese of Hartford, for the creation of a biblical literacy curriculum to be offered throughout the archdiocese.

•  $32,748 to Brian Yong Lee of Sacred Heart Seminary (Hales Corners, WI) to support research for a book entitled, Forgiveness, Justice, and Faith in Early Christianity.

•  $11,268 to Michael J. Stahl of the University of Florida, for support of a research project on Monotheism and Empire: Yahweh, Baal, and the Politics of Divinity in Biblical Historiography.

•  $10,250 to Archie T. Wright of Regent University’s School of Divinity, for support of a research project on The Satan Figure and His role in the Problem of Evil in the Ancient World.  

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, CCD, Catholic biblical literacy, Catholic biblical interpretation, Catholic Biblical Association, CBA.
 
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Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Paul Swain and Appoints Rev. Donald DeGrood as Bishop of Sioux Falls

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Most Reverend Paul J. Swain from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Sioux Falls and has appointed Reverend Donald Edward DeGrood to succeed him. Father DeGrood is a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington, D.C. on December 12, 2019 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Father DeGrood was born February 14, 1965 in Fairbault, MN, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis on May 31, 1997. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, and attended St. Paul Seminary, where he graduated in 1997. In 2009, he participated in the Institute for Continuing Education at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

Assignments after ordination include: Parochial Vicar at All Saints Parish in Lakeville (1997-2000); Spiritual Director at Saint John Vianney Seminary (2000-2004); Pastor at Church of St. Peter in Forest Lake (2004-2013); Vicar for Clergy (2013-2017); Pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Saint Paul (2013-2015). Since 2017, he has been Pastor at St. John the Baptist Parish in Savage.

Bishop-elect DeGrood has also served on the Archdiocesan Incardination Committee, the Ministerial Review Board, the Ministerial Standards Board, the Pastors Review Board, and the Clergy Review Board. He has also been a member of the ad hoc committees related to the Archdiocesan Clergy Support Initiative (mentoring, continuing education, substance abuse and addiction, etc.). He presently serves on the board of the Seminaries of Saint Paul.

The Diocese of Sioux Falls is comprised of 35,091 square miles in the state of South Dakota and has a total population of 570,605 of which 110,386 are Catholic.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Bishop Paul J. Swain, Diocese of Sioux Falls, Rev. Donald DeGrood, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

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