Today (09.20.07)

Today in the Diocese

No events diocesan-wide.

Today’s Readings

1 Timothy 4:12-16
Psalm 111:7-10
Luke 7:36-50

Today’s Headlines from Catholic News Service

U.S.

Pastoral says stewardship a path toward deeper spirituality, holiness

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Archdiocese of Los Angeles officially launched an initiative to renew the local church with the release of a new pastoral letter on stewardship Sept. 8. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony presented the letter, “For This You Were Called: Be Thankful,” at a stewardship convocation for more than 125 parish leaders and ministers representing 17 parishes that are part of the initial pilot wave to develop a spirituality of stewardship at the parish level. Calling it “exciting” and “providential,” the cardinal said the new stewardship initiative “really is basic renewal of the church.” The effort comes at a historically important moment, added the cardinal, because it follows more than five difficult years of confronting the scandal of sex abuse within the church. “Your faith over these years has been so inspiring to me,” he told parishioners gathered at the Archdiocesan Catholic Center in Los Angeles. “This is a very special moment for us and I think that the whole stewardship concept is one of the main pillars of rebuilding who we are here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”

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Catholic leaders praise Maryland ruling on traditional marriage

BALTIMORE (CNS) — Extolling the Maryland State Court of Appeals for upholding the state’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, the leader of the Maryland Catholic Conference said the high court “made a significant and wise judgment to protect the vital institution of marriage.” The Maryland Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, praised the court decision because the conference believes it affirms the moral heritage of society. The high court ruling was signed by Judges Glenn T. Harrell Jr., Dale R. Cathell, Clayton Greene Jr. and Alan M. Wilner. Judge Irma S. Raker concurred with some of the opinion and dissented in part. Chief Judge Robert M. Bell and Judge Lynne A. Battaglia wrote dissenting opinions. The judges in the majority opinion said, “Our opinion should by no means be read to imply that the General Assembly may not grant and recognize for homosexual persons civil unions or the right to marry a person of the same sex.”

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No easy answers seen for questions about persistent vegetative state

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As discussions continue about the latest Vatican documents on artificial nutrition and hydration for those in a persistent vegetative state, one thing is clear: Although the medical community is developing a standardized definition of what constitutes a persistent vegetative state, no one knows precisely how many patients fall into that category. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health says patients in a persistent vegetative state “have lost their thinking abilities and awareness of their surroundings but retain noncognitive function and normal sleep patterns.” “Some patients may regain a degree of awareness after persistent vegetative state,” according to the institute’s information page on coma and persistent vegetative state. “Others may remain in that state for years or even decades.” A spokesman for the institute said it does not keep statistics on how many patients are in a persistent vegetative state in the United States at any given time. Estimates from other sources, however, put the number somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000.

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New online survey asks Catholics to rate quality of singing in church

SILVER SPRING, Md. (CNS) — The National Association of Pastoral Musicians is polling Catholics online, asking them to rate the quality of singing of their fellow Catholics in the pews. The two big questions in the survey are “How would you rate the congregational singing in your own parish or worshipping community?” and “Based on your own experience of participating in the liturgy of other parishes and communities, how would you rate congregational singing generally in the United States?” Survey participants are also asked to describe the setting of their parish, what kinds of music books are available for use in their parish, and whether they participate in their parish’s music ministry. The survey is available at http://www.npm.org, the Web site of the pastoral musicians’ group, based in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring. The survey also was published in the association’s membership magazine, Pastoral Music. Voting continues through Nov. 30. The results will be published in early 2008.

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WORLD

Children must be guided early on with God’s law, says pope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Young children must be guided from a very early age with moral law so that they will have direction as they weather life’s storms and resist its temptations, Pope Benedict XVI said. “God’s law must be impressed on the soul from the beginning ‘like on a piece of wax,'” the pope said, citing the teachings of St. John Chrysostom at his Sept. 19 weekly general audience. Early infancy “is in fact the age that is the most important” because it marks the time when “the great directives that point to the right course to (take in) life” really take hold in a person, he said. Pope Benedict returned briefly to the Vatican from his papal summer villa south of Rome for the weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square. The pope dedicated his talk to the life and writings of St. John Chrysostom, the fourth-century doctor of the church and archbishop of Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey. The 1,600th anniversary of his death is being celebrated this year.

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Catholic school in northwest Pakistan reopens after threats

SWAT, Pakistan (CNS) — A Catholic-run girls’ school in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier province reopened after a weeklong closure prompted by threats from Islamic militants. While the girls’ school was closed, a bomb exploded in another Catholic school in the province. The Public High School for Girls in Swat reopened Sept. 17, after a letter warned the Apostolic Carmelite Sisters running the school to close the “factory of Christians” or face suicide attacks, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. When the school reopened, seven police officers were deployed to guard it as about half of its 950 students showed up for class. All but three of the school’s teachers are women. The group Jan Nisaran-e-Islam sent the letter to the Swat Press Club, and local newspapers published it Sept. 9. The letter accused the nuns of converting the mostly Muslim students to Christianity and involving them in illicit activities.

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Church leader fears Beijing will tighten suppression of dissenters

HONG KONG (CNS) — A Hong Kong diocesan official expressed fear that the Chinese government will tighten its suppression of dissenters during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. When Communist Party members meet in Beijing, “people from different provinces travel there and lodge their complaints to the powerful people. However, they (are) often dispersed by the authorities,” said Or Yan Yan, head of the Chinese affairs group for the Hong Kong diocesan justice and peace commission. “We fear that Beijing will tighten its suppression (of) the dissenters during the Olympics,” she told Catholic News Service Sept. 18. The Olympic Games are “related to the spirit of peace and equality; Beijing should take this opportunity to improve its human right records,” she added. “According to some statistics, the money and resources China spent in training the athletes to win a … gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics was 600 million RMB (US$80 million) on average,” she told CNS.

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Cambodian children, including teens, enjoy Jesuit storytelling

KOMPONG SPEU, Cambodia (CNS) — It was 9 p.m. on a Friday and rain was about to fall, but 100 happy Cambodian children, ages 6-16, waited outside a school. “Let’s go into the classroom. The teacher is coming!” called out a loud voice from among the children running in front of the school building in Kompong Speu. The children were excited about a storytelling session sponsored by Jesuit Service Cambodia. In the classroom, some children sat on the floor while others sat on chairs. Those who could read held books in their hands, while the others just listened to the “teacher,” storyteller Neang Thida, 24. She asked the children what they learned from each story and how this could help them in their lives. After the hourlong session, she told the Asian church news agency UCA News that all the children came from the nearby village of Phom Ra. Many of the children told UCA News they appreciate the storytelling sessions.

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PEOPLE

Lutheran Services staffer named USCCB domestic social policy director

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Kathy Saile, who begins work in mid-October as director of domestic policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the thing that “sold me on the position” was the USCCB’s commitment to integrate more closely the work of the pro-life, social policy and Catholic Campaign for Human Development offices. Catholic social ministry “is not piecemeal work,” said Saile, who has been associate director of public policy for Lutheran Services in America in Washington since August 2004. She previously worked as director of the Office of Peace and Justice for Catholic Social Service of Central and Northern Arizona and CCHD director for the Phoenix Diocese, 2001-2004; coordinator of social justice and outreach ministries at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., 1997-2001; and as a loaned executive to Catholic Charities USA, May-July 2003. Msgr. David Malloy, USCCB general secretary, announced the appointment Sept. 13.

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New critic joins staff of bishops’ Office for Film & Broadcasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) — There’s a new voice and a new perspective that has been added to the U.S. bishops’ Office for Film & Broadcasting in New York City. It belongs to John Mulderig, a staff critic who joined office director Harry Forbes in August. Mulderig succeeds David DiCerto, who left earlier in the year to join the Christophers as communications director and youth coordinator. Mulderig, who turns 45 Oct. 1, is a citizen of both the United States and Bermuda. He was born in the Caribbean island-nation. His father worked for a U.S. insurance company in Bermuda, although birth did not automatically confer Bermudian citizenship upon Mulderig. In 1995 he returned to Bermuda to apply for citizenship. While there, he taught for five years at Mount St. Agnes High School in Hamilton. “My childhood was basically divided between there and here,” Mulderig said in a Sept. 18 telephone interview with Catholic News Service from New York City. He majored in English literature at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. Mulderig also worked for the Christophers for five years.

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Teacher brings Freedom Writers program to Catholic school classroom

LANCASTER, Pa. (CNS) — In the movie “Freedom Writers,” Erin Gruwell, played by Hilary Swank, gives the racially divided students in her freshman English class the tool they need most to change the violence and intolerance that plague their lives. She gives them their own voice. “Everyone has their own story, and it’s important for you to tell your own story, even to yourself,” she tells the reluctant classmates as she hands each of them a composition notebook and encourages them to write in it every day. And that’s exactly the message that Lancaster Catholic High School teacher Anne Schober is delivering to students in her freshmen Academic Skills class this year. She is one of an elite group of 150 educators across the country who have been selected for the Freedom Writers Institute for teachers, an outgrowth of the real-life Freedom Writers movement on which the movie is based. Schober is the only nonpublic schoolteacher in the Freedom Writers Institute.

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Volunteer keeps blog as resource for others

WASHINGTON (CNS) — “You leave your family, you leave your friends, and you know that you’re going to be gone for two years,” said Patrick Furlong. “A lot changes. When I get back, I don’t know what it’s going to be like.” Leaving the United States for two years, living on $60 a month and washing his laundry by hand wasn’t where Furlong expected to find himself in five years when he graduated from high school and left his native Albuquerque, N.M., to attend Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. But Furlong’s experiences in college led him down a path of service that continues to inspire and amaze not just him, but anyone who reads the Web log, or blog, he writes as a witness to his life. Furlong was with the Holy Cross Associates for a year, working in Chile, and now he volunteers with another organization in Ecuador. He keeps his blog — http://pjfurlong.blogspot.com — with the hope that college students considering volunteer work after graduation might catch a glimpse of what it is like in the trenches.

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