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Megan Sweas

Writer, Editor, Student of Life

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Immigration officials call on churches, nonprofits to help detained families

Published by National Catholic Reporter, June 10, 2014

As more Central American migrants cross into the Southwest United States, the Department of Homeland Security wants community organizations to help care for detained families.

Two planes carried 270 detained immigrants to El Paso, Texas, for processing over the weekend. The immigrants, all members of families, are being released while they await deportation proceedings.

Churches and nonprofit organizations are working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure that the families have access to food and services upon their release, said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, at a press conference Monday.

Immigration officials reached out to Annunciation House, which serves migrants, to warn of the influx of immigrants into El Paso, Garcia said, praising the collaboration. “We need your help; we want your help,” he said they told him. “We want these people to be treated like human beings.”

ICE has been releasing families from custody because of a lack of detention facilities, but it has come under fire in recent weeks for its treatment of released migrants. …

Read more on NCROnline.org

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Evangelical crisis hotline finds new future with Catholic diocese

Published by National Catholic Reporter, June 6-19 issue

IMG_5820For her three-hour volunteer training session, Louise Dunn does not have any props. She only turns to illustrate a concept on the white board once. And yet she has the full attention of 22 trainees for the New Hope Crisis Counseling Center, a faith-based suicide prevention hotline.

“I will tell you, the first calls you will get with New Hope, you will remember,” she says. “They’re profound.”

New Hope is more than 45 years old, but for many of the Catholics in the room, the training is their introduction to the program. A year ago, the evangelical ministry was just days away from shutting down before being saved by Catholic Charities. The survival of New Hope represents both the need and potential for a more robust faith-based response to mental health.

Saving the program

On the other side of Orange County, megachurch pastor Rick Warren has used the loss of his son, who died by suicide last year, to turn attention to mental health. His Saddleback Church partnered with the Catholic Diocese of Orange to host the largest gathering on the topic in March.

But mental health is not a new issue for churches.

New Hope started in 1968 at a young Garden Grove Community Church, one of the original megachurches. …

Read more in the digital edition of NCR

Interfaith group speaks out in wake of Santa Barbara shooting spree

Published by The Washington Post, The Deseret News and
Huffington Post via Religion News Service, May 10, 2014

IMG_5974LOS ANGELES — An interfaith group representing 15 organizations spoke out against gun violence Thursday (May 29) in the wake of last week’s deadly shooting spree in Santa Barbara.

Religious organizations have lobbied for stricter gun control in the wake of mass shootings, and this latest effort was no exception.

“We are here this morning to stand with the multitude of groups across the United States who are advocating for sensible, common sense laws to limit the effects of gun violence,” said Steve Wiebe, co-chair of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative. “Our faith traditions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — spur us to peaceful solutions as we recognize the inherent worth of each individual life.”

Read more at WashingtonPost.com

Tucson diocese rescues schools in partnership with new Notre Dame program

Published by National Catholic Reporter, March 20, 2014

Omar Pro Montaño looked into sending his daughter to Catholic school years ago, but he couldn’t afford the then $5,200 tuition at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Tucson.

“If I was financially set, it would have been a no-brainer,” Pro Montaño said. “I would have gone with a little less to make sure she went.”

But at that time, Pro Montaño was in school so that he could take care of his family. He is a barber and his wife is a prep cook, and money has always been tight for the family of five. Pro Montaño wants better for his kids. Amirah and her little brother, Omar, earned good grades in the public school. He and his wife keep them busy and out of trouble through sports and activities. …

Read more on NCROnline.org

Note: Only available to subscribers. To read this story, contact Megan.

Conference takes aim at Christians’ silence on mental illness

Published by National Catholic Reporter, March 31, 2014

Saddleback Church GatheringLake Forest, Calif. — When Deacon Tom Lambert speaks about his experience parenting a child with mental illness in parishes around the country, people come up to him after Mass crying with stories of their own to share.

“It was the first time they felt comfortable enough to tell that story,” he said, addressing The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church on Friday at Saddleback Church.

Nearly a year after the suicide of Saddleback pastor Rick Warren’s son, the evangelical megachurch, the Catholic diocese of Orange, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) partnered to break Christians’ silence on mental health issues through the daylong conference. About 3,300 evangelical Christians and Catholics attended the gathering, and more than 6,000 watched live online, according to a news release about the event.

As pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, Warren grieved the loss of his son, Matthew, in public. “Kay and I have always known that someday we would be spokespeople for mental illness because God never wastes a hurt,” Warren said. …

Read more on NCROnline.org

Caste off: The plight of Christian Dalits in India

Published by U.S. Catholic, March 2013

Franklin Caesar Thomas and R. L. Francis both attend Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi. Though the two lay activists with similar backgrounds may be polite on Sundays, they don’t like each other.

Like 70 percent of Catholics in India, Thomas and Francis are Dalits—untouchables. For thousands of years, Indian society has been structured by caste, divided into four main groups and thousands of sub-groups. A family’s caste still largely determines one’s social standing and opportunities, and Dalits fall at the bottom. Continue reading “Caste off: The plight of Christian Dalits in India”

For Hollywood couple, “The Bible” miniseries is a ‘labor of love’

Published by The Washington Post, Charlotte Observer, Religion News Service,

Photo courtesy History Channel

LOS ANGELES — Before actress Roma Downey met her husband, her “Touched by an Angel” co-star Della Reese had a bit of advice.

“Baby, you need to pray that God will choose a partner for you,” Downey recalled Reese telling her. “Maybe in the past you didn’t choose so well and you have to let God choose for you. And let your prayer be that you will know him when he gets here.”

So when Downey first spotted Emmy Award-winning producer Mark Burnett in a salon — he was getting a hair cut, she was getting a pedicure — it was a bit more than love at first sight.

“When I met Mark, I had an inner-knowing,” Downey said. “There have been times since then that I can’t help but wonder, if it were for such a time, as this, that we met.”

As they approach their sixth wedding anniversary, the Hollywood heavyweights are sharing their faith with the world in a 10-hour docudrama, “The Bible,” which will air on the History Channel on Sunday nights, starting March 3 through Easter. …

Read more at WashingtonPost.com.

Episcopalians under fire for hosting Muslim convention

Published by The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Christian Century, Religion News Service, December 6, 2012

Salam Al-Marayati, president of MPAC, addresses the negative response to his organization's convention.
Salam Al-Marayati, president of MPAC, talks to the press about the negative response to his organization’s convention.

PASADENA, Calif. (RNS) Leaders of a flagship progressive Episcopal church are defending themselves against charges of sympathy for terrorists in their decision to host the annual Muslim Public Affairs Council convention.

All Saints Church has received dozens of emails accusing it of condoning terrorism for hosting MPAC’s 12th annual convention on Dec. 15, the first held in a Christian church. …

Read more at WashingtonPost.com

Sultans of Satire aims to bridge gaps with Muslims, Arabs through comedy

Published by The Washington Post, The Christian Century, Sojourners, Huffington Post Religion, Religion News Service, October 31, 2012; The Houston Chronicle, November 8, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Unshaven and wearing a black hoodie and cap, Omar Elba looked out from the lectern, surrounded by a gold cross and organ pipes. “Moses, you are my nizzle fo’ shizzle,” said the Egyptian-born Muslim comedian, doing his best to channel Snoop Dogg.

It’s a joke he’s done before, but never in a church.

Continue reading “Sultans of Satire aims to bridge gaps with Muslims, Arabs through comedy”

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