Journalist Cheryl Wittenauer is based in St. Louis.

Show full bio ↓

Catholic outreach widens at Louisiana prison

The prison's warden says the Catholic inmates were under-churched, but the prison's first full-time priest in eight years could change that.

Louisiana prison's hospice program eases the dying

Warden Burl Cain has said prison is for predators, not dying old men, but Louisiana’s tough sentencing laws mean a lot of old men die while incarcerated.

In Louisiana, rape, armed robbery and murder warrant life without parole, so in a maximum-security prison like the one Cain runs at Angola, the result is that 95 percent of inmates die in prison.

That sobering reality led Cain to launch a hospice program that trains specially screened inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary to care for their dying “brothers” and be with them in their final journey.

New missal challenge not wholly unaccepted at St. Louis basilica

At the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, no one in the congregation of 200-plus worshipers at noon Mass seemed to trip over "consubstantial with the Father" and other pieces of new language in the revised Roman Missal. But neither does the language "roll off the tongue," said Joe Brown, 50, an engineer at Anheuser-Busch.

"I don't know yet," he said of the newly translated text changed to more closely reflect the Latin. "It's different."

Van Moomjian, 67, a former English Benedictine brother from St. Louis Priory, said he believes the changes are long overdue, and that earlier translations gave churches too much latitude in adapting them for their use. He said he likes that the new Missal reverts more closely to the original Latin, but finds it "fragmented and jumpy."

"It will need some tweaking," he said.

The Rev. Monsignor Joseph Pins, who concelebrated the noon Mass on the first Sunday of Advent, congratulated the congregation for making a good effort, and asked for their patience, saying that the change was a challenge for older priests such as himself.

Group offers petitions, protest letters to Catholics unhappy with translation

The newly translated Roman Missal, the text of liturgical prayers and responses, will be launched later this month at Masses in U.S. Roman Catholic churches.

And at least one group hopes that once Catholics hear its very different-sounding language, they'll be moved to protest and press for change, rather than leave the church in deep disappointment.

"We want to give people a month or so to experience it," said to a spokeswoman for a group that plans to post petitions and sample protest letters on its website,, after the first of the year. "If they're upset, it is our fondest hope that people will speak out."

The group is urging Catholics to write their pastors and bishops as well as the Papal Nuncio. The sample letters can be used as-is or as a starting point for their own correspondence. The website will post further instructions in early January.

The new translation of prayers used at Mass will be initiated the first weekend of Advent, Nov. 26-27. Some changes may seem minor, while others, critics charge, are jarring, complex, wordy or just plain odd.