A Look at Today (01.25.07)

No events in the diocese today

Today’s Readings

First Reading: Acts 22:3-16, or Acts 9:1-22
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 117:1, 2
Gospel: Mark 16:15-18

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

U.S.

Bush highlights health care, war, immigration in State of Union talk

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The heads of two national Catholic organizations took some encouragement from the priority placed on health care in President George W. Bush’s Jan. 23 State of the Union message but found little else to cheer about. “It is encouraging that President Bush presented health care as a domestic priority … especially given the urgency of providing health care for millions of people in the U.S. who do not currently have any kind of insurance coverage,” said Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association. “At the same time, CHA is disappointed that the president’s plan falls short of significant coverage expansion and of truly addressing the weaknesses of our health system,” she added in a statement. Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, called the lack of access to affordable health care “a huge barrier to low-income families trying to lift themselves out of poverty. … We look forward to learning more about the president’s proposal in the days ahead.”

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U.S. urged to follow church example and improve relations with Cuba

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. government should emulate the Catholic Church and look for a dramatic way to improve relations with Cuba, said a U.S. lawmaker after returning from a fact-finding trip to the Caribbean island. Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., cited the 1998 trip to Cuba by Pope John Paul II and said it had a “dramatic impact” on improving the church’s situation in the communist-ruled country. “The pope’s visit opened things up for the church,” said McGovern at a Jan. 23 panel discussion in Washington on U.S.-Cuban relations. “We should learn by that example,” he said. McGovern was part of a bipartisan delegation of House members that visited Cuba in December to check out the political situation caused by the lengthy hospitalization of Cuban leader Fidel Castro after intestinal surgery. Because of his illness, Castro temporarily transferred the presidency last July to his brother, Raul Castro, and has yet to return to power. The panel discussion was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent think tank based in New York.

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House unanimously approves resolution honoring Catholic schools

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution Jan. 23 praising Catholic schools “for their ongoing contributions to education and for the key role they play in promoting and ensuring a brighter, stronger future for this nation.” The vote was 428-0 in favor of H.R. 51, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., and co-sponsored by 73 other members of the House. “I understand how important Catholic schools are in providing a spiritual, moral and intellectual foundation for students,” Lipinski said in a statement. “My 12 years of Catholic education in the Chicago Archdiocese provided me with the knowledge, discipline, desire to serve and love of learning that enabled me to become a teacher before I was elected to Congress.” The resolution was approved less than a week before the start of Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 28-Feb. 3 this year.

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Artifacts from Arkansas parish reveal work of nuns during Civil War

FORT SMITH, Ark. (CNS) — When the Immaculate Conception Church Ladies’ Auxiliary decided to do some landscaping on the parish grounds three years ago, they had no idea what they would dig up. “While we were planting the flowers, we discovered some items buried by the chimney,” auxiliary member Joyce Cokely said. The chimney, along with a fireplace, is all that remains of an 1800s “weather-boarded log house,” called St. Anne’s Building, on the parish grounds. In 2005, a team led by the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville conducted a weeklong excavation, uncovering thousands of artifacts at the site, all from the period 1853 to 1905. The artifacts were first displayed at Fort Smith’s Frontier Fest last fall and many hope they can eventually be put on permanent display. The recovered artifacts bear witness to the order’s medical ministry during the Civil War. There are many bottles of patent medicine, whitening and bluing agents and a washboard. A number of rosaries and crucifixes were recovered, along with part of a cast-iron prayer kneeler.

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Santa Rosa Diocese pays off last of debt to parishes

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (CNS) — Bishop Daniel F. Walsh of Santa Rosa announced in January that the diocese has finished restoring to its parishes, cemeteries and schools the funds that were lost in the 1999 collapse of the diocesan consolidated fund. Diocesan finance officer Deacon Michael Urick told Catholic News Service Jan. 23 that the diocese also has repaid emergency loans it received from other dioceses across the country, with the exception of the loans from other dioceses in California. “We still have a few goals” to meet, he said, including full restoration of the priests’ pension fund and setting aside scholarship money for students in Catholic schools. A news release from the diocese said that the diocesan capital campaign to recover from the 1999 crisis has raised pledges totaling $18.6 million so far. Its target is $20 million. “With the current quarterly payment from campaign receipts, the diocese eliminates a $9.4 million debt to parish communities in six counties and will now begin disbursement of campaign funds to other targeted recipients of such donations,” the release said.

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St. Vincent de Paul Society, bishops back campaign to reduce poverty

ST. LOUIS (CNS) — The new Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America launched by Catholic Charities USA is getting support from the public policy agency of the Missouri bishops and from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s national council. “Any way Catholic Charities and others can bring their direct experience of working with the poor to the Capitol building both here and in Washington, D.C., that’s all the better,” said Mike Hoey of the Missouri Catholic Conference, based in Jefferson City. Too often discussions of economic policy focus solely on numbers, Hoey said. The right question is how the policy will affect people and how they can be protected, he added. “We hope it gets to the point that lawmakers themselves will ask economists and others, ‘How will this affect the individual?'” Hoey noted. When Catholic Charities and others who provide services to the needy help lawmakers be sensitive to the poor before they make a decision, “that can have a tremendous impact,” Hoey told the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the St. Louis Archdiocese.

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National Catholic Register gets new look

NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (CNS) — The National Catholic Register is marking its 80th anniversary year with a makeover. “Our new look will provide better page, graphic and story design structures for communicating our editorial mission,” the newspaper said in a guide to the changes posted on its Web site. “The redesign will also help the reader more clearly differentiate between news, features and advertising content,” it said. The design changes were introduced in the Jan. 7-13 issue, the first of the new year. The Register, which has a national circulation of about 34,000, traces its roots back to the founding of the Denver Catholic Register in 1905. In 1970 the National Catholic Register was purchased by California businessman Patrick Frawley and moved to Los Angeles. In 1995 a group of investors led by the Legionaries of Christ religious order purchased the paper and moved its headquarters to Connecticut.

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Milwaukee Archdiocese takes vocations message to its high schools

MILWAUKEE (CNS) — In an age of complex, high-speed technology, the Milwaukee Archdiocese’s Vocations Office has turned to a method used in the time of Christ to help young Catholics determine God’s calling for them. “They went out two by two, just like the disciples,” said Father James Lobacz, archdiocesan vocations director, about members of the Vocation Ministers of the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Last fall they visited each of the archdiocese’s 13 high schools to discuss vocations education and programming at each school. The initiative is called “Give God a Chance!” “The goal of the whole effort is to establish a healthy, creative relationship with the high schools,” he told the Catholic Herald, the archdiocesan newspaper. A letter to each of the schools from Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan explained that the project, a collaborative effort of the Vocations Office and the vocation ministers group, “will result in a deepening appreciation of God’s voice calling your students to marriage, priesthood, religious life, the diaconate or professional church ministry.”

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WORLD

Pope notes difficult road toward Christian unity, also sees progress

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The search for Christian unity is a long and difficult journey because it is a process of repentance and humility, Pope Benedict XVI said. At the same time, he said, over the past 40 years God has given Christians “broad spaces of joy, refreshing pauses, from time to time allowing us to breathe freely the pure air of full communion.” At his weekly general audience Jan. 24, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Benedict offered a list of the ecumenical encounters he had in 2006 which he said provide proof of progress in the search for unity among Christ’s disciples. The pope listed his meetings with leaders of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the World Baptist Alliance and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as well as his meetings and prayer with the spiritual leaders of the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Church of Greece and his visit in Turkey with Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

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Papal message urges media to protect children from harmful programs

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Media professionals, prior to offering violent or sexually explicit films, cartoons and video games as entertainment for children or teens, should ask themselves how young victims of abuse and exploitation would view such products, Pope Benedict XVI said. In his message for World Communications Day, which will be celebrated May 20 in most countries, the pope called for cooperation among media, parents, schools and parishes to protect children from harmful programming and to educate them in choosing their entertainment wisely. “Beauty, a kind of mirror of the divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behavior,” said the message, released Jan. 24 at the Vatican. The pope chose “Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education” as the theme for the 2007 celebration.

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Mexican cardinal says press misconstrued his comments on tortillas

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera said the nation’s press misconstrued his statement on a spike in tortilla prices that has hurt the nation’s poor. In a press conference following his weekly Mass at Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral Jan. 21, Cardinal Rivera said that the press took his statement from the week before — that the price increase “isn’t a tragedy” — and published it out of context. The following day, many Mexican dailies published headlines such as “Cardinal minimizes tortilla price increases.” Cardinal Rivera’s spokesman, Father Hugo Valdemar, said the press seized on the phrase and published it without including the reporter’s question, asking if the Catholic Church foresaw a “social crisis” due to the price hikes. Father Valdemar said the statement, when published without the question, “makes it seem that the cardinal is minimizing the problem.” Cardinal Rivera had told the press: “Tortillas will not cause an outbreak of civil war; many Mexicans will suffer, but it isn’t a tragedy, it’s not the last straw.”

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Christian infighting escalates as Lebanese stability goes awry

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) — When clashes broke out during a nationwide strike in Lebanon, some of the worst fighting rocked Christian areas, where rival factions live cheek by jowl. Some Lebanese Christians support the Syrian-backed Hezbollah movement and its Shiite Muslim allies, whose strike aimed to topple the country’s U.S.-supported Cabinet. Others have aligned themselves with the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni Muslim. On Jan. 23, the day of the strike, thick plumes of smoke hung over the capital and the stench of scorched rubber and gasoline filled the air as all main arteries into the capital and its airport were blocked by piles of rubble, burned-out cars and burning tires. Scores of Hezbollah-allied protesters milled around each blockade, the Christians among them easily identifiable from their bright orange scarves and hats that signify the Free Patriotic Movement, founded by former Gen. Michel Aoun, a Maronite Catholic. Free Patriotic Movement supporters said they were exercising their democratic right to protest against a Cabinet that lost its legitimacy when all five of its Shiite ministers resigned in November.

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Church cares for refugees fleeing increased fighting in Sri Lanka

BATTICALOA, Sri Lanka (CNS) — The Catholic Church has been caring for hundreds of ethnic Tamil refugee families who have poured into this troubled city on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast. “We are struggling to put up 300 shelters immediately,” said Father Sritharan Sylvester, director of the Eastern Human and Economic Development center, the social action wing of the Batticaloa Diocese. “We are trying our best to help as many refugees as possible.” Since mid-January the diocese has been caring for 300 refugee families in addition to 400 refugee families who had been under church care for months, he told Catholic News Service Jan. 23. Father Sylvester said the condition of the newest refugees is very bad. “Many of them do not have any identity documents, and they cannot go to work. They could also face harassment” for being suspected as rebels, he said. “How long can these people survive like this? This is one of the worst crises we have had in Batticaloa.”

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PEOPLE

Publisher Bayard names Bret Thomas president for U.S. operations

NEW LONDON, Conn. (CNS) — Bret D. Thomas, president and CEO of Peter Li Inc., a publisher of religious materials and magazines, has been named president for U.S. operations of Bayard Inc. Bayard, an international publishing entity with headquarters in France, owns Creative Communications for the Parish, based in St. Louis, and Twenty-Third Publications and the Bayard Magazine group, both located in New London. The company’s imprints include Catholic Digest, Living Faith, Living With Christ, God’s Word Today, Religion Teachers Journal, Today’s Parish Minister and others. Thomas, who will take over the post by the end of January, has been CEO of Peter Li since April 2003. He formerly served as publishing director, group publisher and vice president-group publisher at the company. A former high school biology teacher, Thomas also was involved in moderating extracurricular activities including student government, athletics, drama and youth ministry.

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Postcard collection, school support help student fight his cancer

LIGONIER, Pa. (CNS) — While sixth-grader Chad Scanlon has been battling a cancerous brain tumor he has kept his focus on other things, including collecting postcards from all 50 states and every country around the world. The student at Holy Trinity School in Ligonier became intrigued with atlases and geography, so much so that he created his own atlas last summer. He and his family, parishioners of St. Boniface Parish in Chestnut Ridge, traveled to Belgium and several states before he became ill. “I’m a big geography person and I like postcards because I can see the scenery,” said Chad, the son of James and Marie Paule Scanlon. His U.S. collection includes several postcards of Washington that were sent to him from the office of President George W. Bush. He was working on getting postcards from Africa and Asia. While he was receiving daily cancer treatments in Pittsburgh, Chad and his mother, who is the school’s French teacher, missed a lot of classes. When the treatment caused his hair to fall out, 20 classmates and two teachers either cut their hair or shaved their heads in support.

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Youth activist expands message to reach adults too

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Craig Kielburger, the longtime youth activist who has worked to improve conditions for young people around the world, is now taking his message to a broader audience: adults. Maybe that’s because Kielburger, who started the group Free the Children, an international organization to fight child labor, when he was just 12, has run into adulthood himself at age 24. But as he puts it, it has more to do with the fact that young people have a lot of ideas, but “they don’t live in isolation.” He is convinced that to tackle the overwhelming problem of world poverty young people need support, cooperation and also a fair amount of inspiration from their parents, youth leaders and educators. They also need to do simple things on an everyday basis to make tangible changes around them. That’s the message behind the new book written by Craig and his brother, Marc, “Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World,” published in 2006 by Simon & Schuster.

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Book club draws St. Louis students to early morning discussions

ST. LOUIS (CNS) — Although teenagers are not known as early risers, once a month a group of them in St. Louis arrives at school 45 minutes before classes start to discuss books. And they’re not the ones assigned in English classes either. On the last Friday of each month, about 10 to 12 students meet in the school library for the Final Friday Book and Breakfast Club at Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School in St. Louis from 7:30-8:10 a.m. Christine Turland, the school’s librarian and book club moderator, provides handout sheets with information about the book and author as well as discussion questions. She also provides doughnuts, bagels, fruit and drinks. Often what’s for breakfast is related to the setting of the book up for discussion. When the group met in October to discuss “The Icarus Girl” by Helen Oyeyemi, she provided English tea because the book takes place in England and Nigeria. Turland started the club in May 2005 to offer a forum for students who really liked to read.

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Priest, teen, New Orleans rebuilder among guests for State of Union

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Among the 24 guests sharing first lady Laura Bush’s box during the State of the Union address Jan. 23 were a priest who heads Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Chicago, a Catholic teen whose volunteer work honors a late Franciscan priest and the director of a New Orleans agency dedicated to helping low-income young people rebuild the Katrina-damaged city. Craig Cuccia, who founded what has become Reconcile New Orleans in 1996 with a Jesuit priest and an attorney, said the honor presented “a great opportunity to bring the nation’s focus back to the kids and neighborhoods of New Orleans and how much work still needs to be done to restore the hope and homes of the people here.” Shannon Hickey, a 16-year-old junior at Lancaster (Pa.) Catholic High School, founded Mychal’s Message in 2002 in honor of a longtime family friend, Franciscan Father Mychal Judge, the New York fire chaplain who died ministering to victims in the rubble of the World Trade Center’s twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Father Michael Boland, president and CEO of Catholic Charities in Chicago, helped develop the recently opened St. Leo Residence for homeless veterans, which also offers a job training office and community health center for the veterans.

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