Wisdom Wednesday | November 15th

AUSCP NewsNovember 15Roundup

Welcome to Wisdom Wednesday. It is a tough week, hearing and seeing the horrors in the Holy Land. It is also a busy time: U.S. bishops are meeting in Baltimore, a Buddhist-Christian Colloquium kicks off in Bangkok, Bishop Joseph Strickland is removed from the Diocese of Tyler in Texas, and Jordan cancels Christmas.

This week, we seek wisdom from the personal, as Pope Francis might say, listening to several individuals.

A student from Gaza in North Dakota learns that 16 family members were killed in an airstrike.

A woman in Tyler, Texas, says: Strickland was her bishop, but he had to go. It’s not just a hierarchical squabble. Strickland is leading people away.

A biblical scholar wonders, could the Mary at the foot of the cross be “a competitor to Peter’s authority?”

Also this week, we learn that two Black Catholics were a largely unacknowledged force in the Underground Railroad. Now we know.

The AUSCP finds its historic call for improving priesthood preparation now resonating in the words of the Pope and the Synod.

The Vatican says transgender people can be baptized, serve as godparents. New martyrs are being considered – maybe as many as 550 since the year 2000 – for the next Jubilee Year in 2025. A reviewer finds fascinating the book 52 Masses. We’ll begin today, though, with the Israel-Hamas war, a search to understand its causes, and its devastating effect.

All opinions expressed, as we have mentioned each week, are of the authors, writer, columnists and contributors. An AUSCP release is included this week; it is the statement of the AUSCP executive director.


Thanks to the AUSCP ‘s Father Duane Pribula and Father Michael Hicken, we hear the devastating story of a North Dakota State University student from Gaza: sixteen members of her family were killed in an airstrike.

In the midst of the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel and the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, Caritas MONA launches an appeal and sheds light on the overwhelming challenges faced by aid workers and the people of Gaza.

Israeli lawmakers have voted to expand the Families of Fallen Soldiers Law to include common-law partners of LGBTQ members of the Israel Defense Forces.

Amid war, Israel expands military bereavement policy to include same-sex partners

Jerusalem’s church leaders call for a sober Christmas in the Holy Land as war rages. Leaders of Jordan’s Council of Churches issued a similar statement on Nov. 5, calling for the cancellation of Christmas celebrations in the kingdom

Yigal Carmon, president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), discusses the war in Gaza and hopes for an end to the conflict in the following interview with L’Osservatore Romano.

L’Osservatore Romano also interviewed Ghanem Nuseibeh, a Middle East political and economic analyst and university professor in the UK, who sponsors initiatives to counter religious extremism. He offers insights and analysis on the war situation in Gaza and Israel and on the roots of Hamas.

A writer in the Christian Science Monitor says there are lessons to learn for Gaza in Colombia. To curb armed groups, the South American country started with a vision of equality, patience, and trust – qualities needed in negotiations and in rebuilding society.

How do you handle interfaith gatherings as the war divides much of the world? As interfaith feelings are strained by the Mideast conflict, leaders of Berlin’s plan ned center for Abrahamic religions vow to keep their project on course.

Leaders of Berlin’s interfaith House of One manage Israeli-Palestinian tensions

A good source of information about Gaza and the war is the British-based Newspaper, the Guardian.


Ukraine fears Russian winter attacks as EU gathers for summit. Vatican News reports Ukraine is on top of the agenda alongside the Israel-Gaza war at the summit of European Union ministers in Brussels, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warns of a brutal winter with more Russian attacks expected against his country’s infrastructure.

Need to know when the EU bodies and sub-groups are meeting? Here’s the source.

Bishop Strickland

Briana Jansky of Tyler, Texas, explains how her erstwhile shepherd—removed this month by the Vatican—led her flock astray and nearly sabotaged her faith. “Joseph Strickland was my bishop. Here’s why he had to go,” she said. “Eventually, he will drag down and lead into schism the confused Catholics who continue to rely on him for spiritual nourishment—if he hasn’t already.”

Strickland is not the only bishop with reservations about the direction in which Pope Francis is leading the church, says NCR columnist Michael Sean Winter. He calls it “Francis Derangement Syndrome.”

Vatican on Transgender people

The new document from Rome states transgender people can be baptized and serve as godparents. It also answers similar questions concerning homosexual people and those in same-sex relationships (including marriage).

Synod on Synodality

Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego (our host at the 2023 Assembly) recently addressed the Religious Formation Conference on Nov. 10 in Chicago. A transcript has been published by NCR, with permission. McElroy says “the conversion to a synodal church constitutes the call of the Holy Spirit to the people of God in this epoch of history.”

As Synod participants and followers continue to probe the report, the AUSCP finds resonance of our priest-prep concerns in statements of the pope and the judgment of the synod. AUSCP released a statement to that effect, November 13.

In probing the pope’s synodal intervention – as the AUSCP statement from Father Stephen P. Newton, executive director cited, Pope Francis reminds us — again — to reject clericalism.

The U.S. bishops have a packed agenda for their Baltimore gathering, including the synod, a vote to implement a new framework for Indigenous ministry, reauthorizing their anti-racism committee, and likely approval of parish bulletin inserts about Catholics’ responsibilities in political life. Brian Fraga offers details in NCR.

Pope Francis

Robert Mickens, English editor of La Croix International, notes that the pope will be 87 next month and is increasingly diminished in his physical capacities, struggling with the whirlwind pace he set in March 2013 when he was elected. The past several days demonstrate some of the pope’s continued strengths, but also some of his stumbles.

Francis has not returned to his native Argentine since becoming pope in 2013, but that could change if the Peronist candidate Sergio Massa wins this Sunday’s presidential election.

Synod, soccer, sexuality: Pope Francis gives another wide-ranging interview. Cindy Wooden has the story with Catholic News Service.

It’s not the “World Worth Youth Day” that was in Portugal. It is the “Diocesan World Youth Day” in Rome, coming next week, November 26. In a letter ahead of the 38th diocesan World Youth Day, Pope Francis describes youth as a time of “hopes and dreams”, and asks how this optimism can be sustained in an increasingly crisis-ridden world.

‘New Martyrs Commission’ in first phase of work

The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints hold a meeting to outline methodologies and commitments in view of the Jubilee Year in 2025, identifying over 550 martyrs whose circumstances of death and service are known to the Church. The first phase will concern Christians whose lives were cut short or given in various ways in obedience to the Gospel, in the time span from the year 2000 to the present.

The next Jubilee will be in 2025, and according to Vatican News, there is great expectation among the faithful from all over the world. Its importance is also recognized and respected by other faiths around the world. The one that will take place in 2025 will be the second with Pope Francis.

New Recognition

A Native Alaskan healer has been named North America’s first female saint in the Orthodox Church. The Native Alaskan midwife known for her healing love, especially toward abused women, was glorified at a meeting of bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, meeting in Chicago.

Few Black Catholics have ever been recognized for their role on the Underground Railroad. Recognition is coming finally in the Archdiocese of Louisville for a couple who lived and farmed in southern Indiana.

International News

The Seventh Buddhist-Christian Colloquium themed “Karunā and Agape in Dialogue for Healing a Wounded Humanity and the Earth,” is taking place from 13-16 November 2023, at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University in Bangkok, Thailand. Vatican News reports the story.

Now in its 141st year of ongoing construction, La Sagrada Família, the famous basilica in Barcelona that has been under construction since 1882, has inaugurated the four “Towers of the Evangelists.”

Why are White supremacists and neo-Nazis near Nashville?

It is the wealthiest community with the best schools in the state, some of the biggest churches, a host of Christian nonprofits and a whole bunch of country music stars who call it home. It’s not the place you expect to find neo-Nazis and white supremacists — but they came to support a mayoral candidate. (She lost, but what has happened to the community?)

How a bucolic Tennessee suburb became a hotbed of ‘Christian Nashville-ism’

Black churches grapple with suicide

A new movement has taken on the taboo in many Black churches against talking about suicide.

As Black church grapples with mental health, clergy are both subject and solution

Some statistics

Today, there are more than 18 million living veterans in the United States, representing about 6% of the country’s adult population. Here are key facts about Americans who have served in the military and how this population is changing, based on data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Census Bureau and Pew Research Center surveys.

The changing face of America’s veteran population

Signs of Mary Magdalene in John 11

“If John’s christological confessor is also the first person the risen Jesus appears to,” says biblical scholar Elizabeth Schrader Polczer, “that could make her a competitor to Peter’s authority.” The story is from Christian Century.

Book Review: 52 Masses

After dropping his youngest son off at soccer practice one day, Daniel Markham happened to remember a nearby church he’d occasionally attended inside the Indiana Dunes National Park near Michigan City, Indiana. And just like that, the idea was born of attending 52 Masses in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, over the course of a year. It took longer than a year.

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We hope you have enjoyed this roundup of recent news about faith, politics, and culture. We will return next week with another edition of Wisdom Wednesday.

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