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Blessed Mother statues still stand at Colorado family home destroyed by wildfire

A concrete statue of Mary stands near the burned home of the McLaren family in Superior, Colorado after the Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire. / Bob and Tina McLaren

Denver, Colo., Jan 16, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

As Bob and Tina McLaren fled the Superior, Colorado neighborhood they had called home since 1992, Tina looked back and saw flames at the end of their street. 

As the Catholic couple, their daughter and two grandchildren made their way to safety, driving through clouds of ash and smoke, Tina hoped against hope that maybe, just maybe, their house would be spared. 

But a few days later, after the authorities permitted them to return, their fears were confirmed. Their house was ash. 

And yet, amid the rubble, two concrete statues of Mary that had stood on their property remained. 

A statue of St. Jude, who holds special significance for the family, also survived. Bob said when they were first building their house, their original plan for financing the build fell through. He said he credits the intercession of St. Jude — the patron of impossible causes— with helping them get a new financing plan to build their family home. 

The burned home of the McLaren family in Superior, Colorado after the Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire. Bob and Tina McLaren
The burned home of the McLaren family in Superior, Colorado after the Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire. Bob and Tina McLaren

The McLarens, like nearly 1,000 of their neighbors, lost their home in the Marshall Fire, a fast-moving wildfire that consumed hundreds of buildings and businesses in Boulder County, Colorado during the last days of 2021. The towns of Louisville and Superior, roughly halfway between the larger cities of Denver and Boulder, were hardest hit. 

At least one person is confirmed dead as a result of the fires, the most destructive in state history. The initial cause of the fire, which spread rapidly due to high winds and an exceptional drought, remains under investigation. 

The McLarens are currently staying with relatives in Northglenn, Colorado. Bob says they built their Superior home in 1992 and raised their four daughters there— there are “many hearts broken by its loss,” he said. 

A burned-out car sits at the parking lot of the Oerman-Roche Trailhead, overlooking Superior, Colorado, on Jan. 8, 2022. The fast-moving Marshall Fire burned some 6,000 acres and 1,000 homes in Boulder County beginning on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA
A burned-out car sits at the parking lot of the Oerman-Roche Trailhead, overlooking Superior, Colorado, on Jan. 8, 2022. The fast-moving Marshall Fire burned some 6,000 acres and 1,000 homes in Boulder County beginning on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA

Despite the tragedy, the family has been able to find some respite from their local Catholic parish, which set up a donation center to help those in need in the wake of the fire. 

The McClarens have been active parishioners at St. Louis Catholic Church in Louisville for nearly 40 years. Tina said they have received a tremendous amount of help from their local faith community; they’ve been almost overwhelmed by donations of basic necessities like clothes, she said. 

And while the monetary and material donations are “incredible,” Tina said the prayers they have received have been even more so. She said old friends that they haven’t spoken to in years, some that they never thought they would hear from again, have reached out to ask how they’re doing, and to offer prayers. 

Sign outside St. Louis Catholic Church in Louisville, Colorado on Jan. 8, 2022. The parish has been operating an emergency center to distribute supplies to people in need since the Marshall Fire, which destroyed some 1,000 homes, began on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA
Sign outside St. Louis Catholic Church in Louisville, Colorado on Jan. 8, 2022. The parish has been operating an emergency center to distribute supplies to people in need since the Marshall Fire, which destroyed some 1,000 homes, began on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA

Tina said many family members, some of whom have fallen away from the Catholic faith, have also reached out to offer prayers. 

Colorado’s housing market, spurred by years of high demand as well as by the pandemic, was extremely tight even before the fire displaced 1,000 or so families. Bob says they plan to stay in Superior, in the community they have come to love so much. In the meantime, the family is looking for temporary housing. 

Tina McLaren surveys the burned home of the McLaren family in Superior, Colorado after the Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire. Bob and Tina McLaren
Tina McLaren surveys the burned home of the McLaren family in Superior, Colorado after the Dec. 30, 2021 Marshall Fire. Bob and Tina McLaren

Tina describes herself as a giving person by nature, but she said being on the receiving end of such an outpouring of support from her fellow Catholics has been an extremely humbling experience. 

She also noted that despite the terrifying ordeal and the loss of their home, the love and memories associated with their happy home of 30 years “can't be burned up.”

She also said she has seen God’s hand working amid the chaos. 

"No matter how bad the situation is, there's always good. He's promised that something better will come from something bad that you're going through,” Tina said. 

The brick archway of a ruined home near the corner of N McCaslin Blvd and Via Appia Way in Louisville, Colorado on Jan. 8, 2022. The fast-moving Marshall Fire consumed some 6,000 acres of land and 1,000 homes in Boulder County starting on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA
The brick archway of a ruined home near the corner of N McCaslin Blvd and Via Appia Way in Louisville, Colorado on Jan. 8, 2022. The fast-moving Marshall Fire consumed some 6,000 acres of land and 1,000 homes in Boulder County starting on Dec. 30, 2021. Jonah McKeown/CNA

March for Life: What about bathrooms? Food? We’ve got answers here

Pro-life poster / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 16, 2022 / 14:35 pm (CNA).

Pro-life Americans from across the country are planning to attend the March for Life on Friday, Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C.

Most years, the No. 1 question marchers have ahead of the event is, “What’s the weather forecast?”

This year, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, those thinking about coming have a host of other pressing questions. That’s because the District of Columbia recently enacted new COVID-19 access rules for businesses in response to a current surge in cases.

There’s a lot you need to know. So let’s get right to it.

What about bathrooms?

The short answer is that accessing bathrooms should not be a problem, whether you are vaccinated or not.

A key reason we can say this is that the district’s rules specify that proof of vaccination is not required to use a restaurant restroom, or to pick up take-out food (more on that in a moment.)

This means that marchers can access their usual bathroom stops, including Union Station, which is conveniently located near the U.S. Supreme Court, where the march concludes. Likewise, national museums along the National Mall, such as the Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art, do not require proof of vaccination for admission.

Will I be able to find food?

Yes. Having said that, there are a few things to bear in mind.

Proof of vaccination or a documented exemption (we’re getting to that next) is required to sit down and eat inside a restaurant within the district. That includes museum cafes and restaurants inside hotels where marchers may be staying.

But as we just mentioned, take-out food does not require proof of vaccination. Also, the restrictions don’t apply to grocery stores and pharmacies, where you can buy drinks and snacks.

Finally, most food delivery apps (Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash, etc.) operate in D.C. and do not require proof of vaccination. 

Bottom line: You won’t go hungry or thirsty.

What do the rules actually say?

Having addressed the basic necessities of life, let’s take a closer look at what the new rules say.

Beginning Jan. 15, the District of Columbia is requiring all those 12 and older to show proof of receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot to enter most businesses. The rules apply to indoor food and drink establishments such as nightclubs, taverns, banquet halls, convention centers, food halls and food courts, breweries, wineries, seated dining halls, restaurants, and cafes in museums, libraries, and hotels.

Wait, didn’t you just say the food court at Union Station wouldn’t be an issue?

Ah, you’re paying attention. Good! Yes, you can get take out food and use the bathrooms at Union Station, but if you want to sit down and eat there, those 12 and up need proof of vaccination.

What about churches?

No vaccination proof is required.

And public transportation?

No vaccination proof is required.

Hotels?

No vaccination proof is required, unless you plan to sit down to eat in a hotel cafe or restaurant, or if plan to enter meeting rooms or hotel ballrooms.

What about exemptions?

If a person has a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine, he or she must show proof of the exemption along with a negative COVID test within the last 24 hours. Businesses must also verify vaccination with photo identification for those 18 and older.

What proof of vaccination is acceptable?

Vaccinated marchers can prove their vaccination status with vaccination cards, photos of vaccination cards, immunization records, COVID-19 verification apps, or a World Health Organization Vaccination Record.

What are the masking rules?

Masks are required in all public indoor areas, regardless of one’s vaccination status. Masks are also required outdoors if one is unable to social distance, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the National Mall property. Organizers of the March for Life say marchers should wear masks unless they are eating or drinking.

“Because the protection of all of those who participate in the annual March, as well as all of those who work tirelessly each year to ensure a safe and peaceful event, is a top priority of the March for Life, we encourage anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to remain at home and participate virtually,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said.

“Face masks for those who need them will be available at the rally site, as well as hand sanitizer,” she added.

The rally will be live streamed on the March for Life website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel, beginning at 12 noon EST.

Finally, what’s the weather forecast?

Partly sunny with a high of 29, according to the National Weather Service’s extended forecast for Jan. 21. So dress warmly!

St. Marcellus, Pope 

St. Marcellus, Pope 

Feast date: Jan 16

Nothing of Marcellus' life before his papacy has survived the centuries. He became Pope at the end of the persecutions of Diocletian in aound 308-309. The persecutions had disrupted the Church so much that there had been a gap of over a year with no Pope. Once he was elected, he faced several challenges, including reconsituting the clergy, which had been decimated and whose remnant had practiced their vocation only covertly and with the expectation of martyrdom. He worked hard to recover and welcome back all who had denied the faith in order to keep from being murdered.

When a group of the apostacized, known as the Lapsi, refused to do penance, Marcellus refused to allow their return to the Church. The Lapsi had a bit of political pull, and some members caused such civil disruption that emperor Maxentius exiled the Pope in order to settle the matter. Legend says that Marcellus was forced to work as a stable slave as punishment, but this appears to be fiction, however we do know that he died of the terrible conditions he suffered in exile, and is considered a martyr because of that.

He was initially buried in the cemetery of Saint Priscilla in Rome, but his relics were later transferred to beneath the altar of San Marcello al Corso Church in Rome where they remain today.

'Prayers answered. All hostages are out.': Texas synagogue standoff ends

A police car sits in front of the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, some 25 miles west of Dallas, Jan. 16, 2022. - All four people taken hostage in a more than 10-hour standoff at the Texas synagogue have been freed unharmed, police said late Jan. 15, and their suspected captor is dead. / Andy Jacobsohn/AFP via Getty Images.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 16, 2022 / 08:25 am (CNA).

An FBI team on Saturday shot and killed a man who had taken hostages during a live streamed service at a Texas synagogue, authorities said.

At 9:30 PM local time, a loud bang followed by a short blast of rapid gunfire was heard, according to media reports from the scene. Shortly afterward, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted: “Prayers answered.  All hostages are out alive and safe."

The FBI’s action culminated an 11-hour standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The unidentified man interrupted a service at the synagogue that was being live streamed on Facebook and took four hostages. Among them was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, according to media reports.

According to media reports, the man claimed to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman now serving a prison sentence at a federal prison in Fort Worth for attempting to kill U.S. soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan.

During the standoff, Saddiqui’s lawyer, Marwa Elbially, released a statement saying that "We want to verify that the perpetrator is NOT Dr. Aafia's brother who is a respected architect and member of the community. Whoever the assailant is, we want him to know that his actions are condemned by Dr. Aafia and her family," calling the suspect's actions "heinous and wrong."  

During the standoff Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth made an urgent request to Catholics to pray for those involved in a hostage situation.

"Please pray for the safety of the hostages, their families, this congregation, for the members of law enforcement, and for the peaceful surrender of the perpetrator(s) of this crime," Olson said in a message posted on Twitter.

A nearby parish, Good Shepherd Catholic Church, provided first responders and members of the media access to warm shelter, restrooms, coffee, and food, during the standoff.

In a follow-up tweet, Olson said “thanks be to God for their safety. Thank you to the parishioners of @goodshepherd_tx and their pastor Fr. Michael Higgins, TOR, for their assistance and charitable support for first responders and families of hostages.”

Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller also thanked the Catholic parish for its support during the crisis. "I am Christian, I am a believer and I immediately activated a prayer network," Miller told the press.

Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lived in the Boston area before returning to Pakistan, was detained in July 2008 by Afghan police.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Afghan authorities “found a number of items in her possession, including handwritten notes that referred to a ‘mass casualty attack’ and that listed various locations in the United States, including Plum Island, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge.”

During a subsequent interrogation at an Afghan police compound, Siddiqui “grabbed a U.S. Army officer's M-4 rifle and fired it at another U.S. Army officer and other members of U.S. interview team,” the Justice Department said. She was convicted in September 2010 of trying to kill U.S. soldiers and F.B.I. agents and sentenced to 86 years in federal prison.

The Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has asserted Siddiqui's innocence, announced in July 2021 that she had been attacked by another inmate and was in solitary confinement.

CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell issued a statement Saturday condemning the hostage-taking at the  synagogue.

“This latest antisemitic attack at a house of worship is an unacceptable act of evil. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, and we pray that law enforcement authorities are able to swiftly and safely free the hostages,” the statement said. “No cause can justify or excuse this crime.”

Use ‘preferred pronouns’ or else, university’s gender inclusion plan warns

null / Shutterstock

Boston, Mass., Jan 16, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

The bishops of Fargo and Bismarck are speaking out against a proposed “gender inclusion” policy that would require everyone at the University of North Dakota — even visitors — to use preferred pronouns and affirm individuals’ chosen gender identities, or face the consequences.

Under the proposed rules, violators risk being expelled, fired, or kicked off campus, as spelled out under the University’s existing discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct policies. 

A draft of the policy also obliges the school to provide students with on-campus housing “consistent with their gender identity and expression,” and it applies the same gender identity rules to locker rooms and restrooms.

Located in Grand Forks, the state university has about 13,780 students and some 2,500 employees.

Christopher Dodson, the executive director and general counsel of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, representing the two dioceses, says the proposal as written is unconstitutional.

“We recognize that everyone should be treated with respect and that the university has a role in facilitating a respectful learning environment,” Dodson states in an Oct. 21 letter to Jennifer Rogers, the university’s policy officer.

“However, this proposal goes beyond setting mere rules for administrative tasks. Indeed, it embraces and demands acceptance of a particular ideology about gender and language that infringes upon free speech and religious rights,” Dodson states.

“We are particularly concerned about the proposal’s lack of any exemption for student organizations,” the letter continues.

“Fraternities and sororities are provided a limited exemption, but not student organizations. This means that UND would require student organizations to use preferred pronouns, accept expressed genders, and reject binary understandings of gender even if doing so conflicted with their sincerely held religious beliefs,” Dodson states.

“Students and faculty do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the doors of a state university. This is well-established constitutional law,” the letter continues. “The proposed policy by UND amounts to unconstitutionally compelling speech and a particular viewpoint.”

The conference on Jan. 10 sent a second letter outlining its concerns to parents of students in Catholic high schools and, in some cases, other Catholic parishioners with high school students. 

The school's proposal also drew fire from Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski, who said in a Facebook post that it "spits in the face of everything we believe in" and called it a "sad day for my alma mater," the Star Tribune reported.

In a 45-minute press conference on Jan. 14, University President Andrew Armacost called Dodson’s input “useful.” He said he is taking his time to slowly draft the next revision of the policy because Dodson brought up important constitutional issues that need to be addressed “the proper way.”

But Armacost, a former brigadier general and retired dean at the Air Force Academy, defended the intent of the proposed policy.

"The draft policy is intended to state our support to our LGBTQ members and, in particular, to our transgender and nonbinary members, with that same guarantee of access to education and fair employment without fear of discrimination or harassment," Armacost said.

Addressing the Catholic conference’s concern about housing arrangements for students, Armacost said students are able to request a roommate change for any reason.

In an interview with CNA, Dodson said he appreciated “clarification on the housing issue,” and said that “future iterations of the proposal, if any, should clearly address this issue.”

“Students should not, however, have to rely on receiving an exemption to the on-campus housing policy or requesting a roommate change to ensure that the student is placed with someone of the same sex,” he added.

Dodson said the conference shares the university’s desire to create a learning environment free of harassment but he called the policy proposal “overbroad.”

Bishop John T. Folda is the leader of the Diocese of Fargo. The Diocese of Bismarck is led by Bishop David D. Kagan.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I Is 62:1-5

For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,
   for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her vindication shines forth like the dawn
   and her victory like a burning torch.

Nations shall behold your vindication,
   and all the kings your glory;
you shall be called by a new name
   pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.
You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,
   a royal diadem held by your God.
No more shall people call you “Forsaken, “
   or your land “Desolate, “
but you shall be called “My Delight, “
   and your land “Espoused.”
For the LORD delights in you
   and makes your land his spouse.
As a young man marries a virgin,
   your Builder shall marry you;
and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
   so shall your God rejoice in you.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10

R. (3) Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
            sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
            among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
            give to the LORD glory and praise;
            give to the LORD the glory due his name! 
R. Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Worship the LORD in holy attire.
            Tremble before him, all the earth;
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
            He governs the peoples with equity.
R. Proclaim his marvelous deeds to all the nations.

Reading II 1 Cor 12:4-11

Brothers and sisters:
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; 
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.
To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom;
to another, the expression of knowledge according to the
same Spirit;
to another, faith by the same Spirit;
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another, mighty deeds;
to another, prophecy;
to another, discernment of spirits;
to another, varieties of tongues;
to another, interpretation of tongues.
But one and the same Spirit produces all of these,
distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

Alleluia Cf. 2 Thes 2:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God has called us through the Gospel
to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 2:1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it. 
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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