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First Reading: Hebrews 12:18-19, 21-24
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 48:2-3, 3-4, 9, 10-11
Gospel: Mark 6:7-13
Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service
Some of nation’s youngest lobbyists take to Hill for Catholic schools
WASHINGTON (CNS) — A wave of teenage — and preteen — lobbyists descended upon Washington Jan. 31 to make the legislative case for Catholic schools on a variety of issues, including educational choice. They were Catholic school students themselves and were at the Capitol for the annual National Appreciation Day for Catholic Schools, part of the Jan. 28-Feb. 3 observance of Catholic Schools Week. The students were from a dozen Catholic schools in the Washington and Baltimore archdioceses and the Diocese of Arlington, Va. They stuffed themselves into a Senate office building’s hearing room, about 100 seats too small to accommodate all of them, to get their talking points and marching orders from a panel of highly placed grown-ups in the Catholic education field. There are close to 7,600 Catholic schools in the United States, and their students “would love to be here doing what you’re doing,” said Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association. “You’re representing all the students in all the Catholic schools across the country,” she added. “What you’re doing is very important.”
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Six regional Mercy communities to merge, form West Midwest community
OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) — Six regional communities of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas will be one next year — and it will all happen in Omaha. As of July 1, 2008, the Sisters of Mercy will form one West Midwest community, which will include nearly 900 sisters and more than 500 Mercy associates and Companions in Mercy. The administrative offices will be at the Mercy sisters’ Omaha headquarters. While Omaha has been selected as the primary administrative site, sisters in the six regional communities will continue their ministries in their respective geographical areas. Decisions about the governing structure and where other functions of the new community are to be located will be made in the months ahead.
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Head of Duquesne says politicians should not be commencement speakers
PITTSBURGH (CNS) — Charles Dougherty, president of Duquesne University, said politicians should not be speakers at events such as commencement. He made the announcement in a recent letter to the school’s board of directors and other university leaders. “Even if such a speaker steers clear of political content, it makes a political statement that we provided them an occasion and a platform — and one in which there is no possibility for dialogue or the expression of alternative points of view,” Dougherty wrote. “This was not a decision about politicians speaking on campus,” he said. Politicians can be invited to participate in appropriate settings. “By this I mean a forum or series in which alternative views can be aired at the same time or in reasonable proximity,” Dougherty wrote. Similar rules apply to those chosen to receive honorary degrees and other university awards. “These are substantive issues about the university’s values and their applications in particular circumstances,” he said.
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When it comes to media, not all is quiet on the Western front
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CNS) — Had you been in Memphis during the third National Conference for Media Reform, you would have detected an awful lot of discontent about the way today’s media system — not just television — works. Naturally, there was a considerable amount of distress from everyday people as well as from activists of all stripes. What was eye-opening was the discomfort expressed by media figures themselves — those who have been quoted and misquoted regularly, and people who have hosted their own shows. Leanne Kleinmann, who writes a column and a blog for Memphis’ daily newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, heard how SpongeBob SquarePants’ likeness adorns boxes of Pop-Tarts and cereal — among many, many others — as an attempt to get children to be brand loyal, and asked aloud whether she should remove her 7-year-old’s SpongeBob sheets and pillowcases. Another parent asked where she could complain if she saw a TV show labeled “E/I,” for educational or informational programming for children, that misdirected kids instead of enlightening them. (The answer given: The TV, station, the advertisers and the Federal Communications Commission.) “We expect media to be fair, and not lacking in truth,” declared Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.
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Public service spots for radio, TV available in Spanish
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign has launched eight new Spanish-language public service announcements for radio and three for television on the theme “La Familia Unida Esperanza en la Vida” (“A United Family Has More Hope for Life”). The radio spots were distributed to more than 400 Spanish-language radio stations and began airing last fall. The television public service announcements were distributed to stations in January. This year marks the campaign’s ninth year of radio productions and eighth year of television productions. “Over the years, an important and friendly partnership has developed between these stations and the CCC, which has been a great benefit to the Hispanic community,” said Ramon Rodriguez, director of development for the CCC, in a statement.
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Charleston Diocese reaches class-action settlement in abuse cases
CHARLESTON, S.C. (CNS) — The Diocese of Charleston has reached a class-action settlement with the law firm Richter and Haller LLC for victims of sexual abuse by church personnel. Bishop Robert J. Baker announced the settlement Jan. 25 in a letter to South Carolina Catholics in The Catholic Miscellany, the diocesan newspaper, and held a press conference Jan. 26. The settlement received preliminary approval from Circuit Judge Diane S. Goodstein. A fairness hearing has been set for March 9 in the Dorchester County Court of Common Pleas. “The demands of justice and the desire to heal the hurts of those abused by those sent to minister to them weigh heavily upon my heart,” Bishop Baker said in his letter. The settlement forms two classes of claimants against the diocese. The first class includes all individuals born on or before Aug. 30, 1980, who were sexually abused as minors by agents of the Diocese of Charleston. The second class includes spouses and parents of those victims. The monetary range is $10,000-$200,000 for the first class settlements and a set amount of $20,000 per claimant for the second class.
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Quirky relations: In Latin America, church still influences state
LIMA, Peru (CNS) — When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told Archbishop Roberto Luckert Leon recently that he would “see him in hell,” he was fanning the coals of an ongoing war of words with Catholic leaders. And when Bolivian President Evo Morales’ government picked a fight with that country’s bishops shortly after his inauguration, he seemed to be biting the hand that had helped the country’s grass-roots movement put a president in power. But while some of the region’s political leaders appear to be trying to distance themselves from the institution that has been a political as well as a religious force since the Spanish conquistadors arrived, the Catholic Church continues to influence life and events in Latin America. The sometimes quirky relationships have been particularly evident in the past 15 months, as presidential elections were held in a dozen countries, some with surprising results. In Bolivia, Morales swept to power on the first ballot — unheard of in a country where in recent decades the presidency had been decided in backroom brokering among the traditional major parties. In Nicaragua, the former leader of the Sandinista revolutionary government, Daniel Ortega, was elected president in November and won warm words from Managua Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, although Ortega’s relationship with the church had been stormy in the 1980s. Ortega’s party recently backed strict abortion legislation supported by church leaders. In Chile, an ecumenical church service marked the inauguration of President Michelle Bachelet, who describes herself as agnostic, while Peruvian President Alan Garcia attended both an inauguration day Mass celebrated by Lima Cardinal Juan Cipriani Thorne and an evangelical service.
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Pope says he’s consoled by stories of apostles, disciples arguing
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI said he finds consolation in the New Testament stories of the apostles and first disciples arguing with each other. Continuing his series of audience talks about the leaders of the early church, Pope Benedict spoke Jan. 31 about St. Paul and St. Barnabas arguing over whether they should take another person with them on a mission. “So, even among saints there are contrasts, disagreements, controversies,” the pope said. “This appears very consoling to me, because we see that the saints did not drop as saints from heaven. They were men like us with problems and even with sins,” the pope said before he was interrupted by applause. “Holiness consists not in never having made a mistake or sinned,” he said, but rather it grows with “conversion, repentance, with a willingness to start over and, especially, with the ability to reconcile and forgive.”
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Ecumenist cites religious illiteracy as challenge to churches
ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) — One challenge ecumenical leaders face is integrating the many solid ecumenical advances of the past half-century into the life of their churches, especially in an age where general religious illiteracy is on the rise, Christian Brother Jeffrey Gros told a national gathering of ecumenists Jan. 30. Brother Gros is a theology professor at Memphis (Tenn.) Theological Seminary who spent a quarter-century as a national ecumenical officer, first for the National Council of Churches and then for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He delivered the keynote address for the National Workshop on Christian Unity, held Jan. 29-Feb. 1 at Arlington’s Key Bridge Marriott Hotel. The gathering drew nearly 400 national and local ecumenical officers of the Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian and other Christian churches.
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Bears chaplain looks forward to saying Mass for players on game day
ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (CNS) — Amid the media hype at Super Bowl XLI Feb. 4 in Miami, at least eight players and coaches from the Chicago Bears were expected to spend about 30 minutes on bended knee the morning of game day as Scalabrinian Father Nick Marro, Bears chaplain, celebrated Mass at the players’ hotel. While his homilies obviously reflect the Gospel of the day, he said, he also considers who is in the congregation. For the players, he adapts his message to promote leading a good Christian life in a materialistic world filled with temptation. “Once they take their helmets off, they may be big but they’re young men,” Father Marro told the Catholic Explorer, newspaper of the Joliet Diocese. Father Marro, pastor of Santa Lucia-Santa Maria Incoronata Parish in Chicago, has been the Bears chaplain since the 1985 season. In a telephone interview with the Explorer, he recalled how he initially fumbled when the Bears organization recruited him to be chaplain. The priest said he first thought the request for his services was a practical joke. Father Marro remembered asking, “Do you want me to quarterback too?”
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Priest finds opportune pulpit in being Toronto’s poet laureate
TORONTO (CNS) — The second person ever to serve as poet laureate for Toronto is also the first Catholic priest to hold the title. It’s an opportune pulpit for Father Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, 57, a priest-poet-philosopher who is now spreading ideas about how individuals, government officials and even business leaders can make cities and communities more livable as they give more thought to the “poetry” of their lives. “I have not been strictly interested in poetry as poet laureate,” Father Di Cicco told Catholic News Service. “I have been interested in restoring the notion of creativity in the greedy landscape of globalization. The poet is a mediator of faith; the poetic touch is also about saving souls.” Ordained as a priest of the Toronto Archdiocese in 1993, Father Di Cicco was appointed poet laureate in 2004, winning over more than 40 other local writers and poets. The position was created by Toronto city officials in 2001 to spur greater appreciation for the arts and culture. Father Di Cicco however, has already expanded the office with his determination to review the meaning, purpose and potential of wider civic engagement.