What’s cooking in the church’s melting pot?

Fellow CNS reporter Dennis Sadowski has been hard at work on a piece focusing on the diversity of the Catholic Church. His story will be reminiscent of another story that appeared in the National Catholic Reporter a little while back.

The Reporter’s story was centered on the diversity and changing demographics of the church in Texas. The article broke the state down into regions and explained the unique charisms of each region.

In addition to regions that may be predominately one particular race or ethnicity, the National Catholic Reporter article highlighted areas where an individual parish provides a microcosm of the entire state and perhaps country. It also touched on the relationship between the Catholic and evangelical communities in the region.

UPDATE: Here’s the story by Dennis Sadowski referred to above.

Nun helps Holocaust survivor share experience in book

A Holy Names nun in Portland, Ore., has helped a Holocaust survivor publish a book that tells of her early life in Poland, the horrors she endured at a German concentration camp and her lifelong struggle with the memories. Details are in the latest edition of the Catholic Sentinel in Portland.

Writing the book, according to the Sentinel’s story, was a way for the woman to ensure people remember the atrocities of the Holocaust. But she has also turned her experiences over to God to rid herself of the hate.

New media from oldest Catholic paper

As someone studying what is known as convergence journalism, it was great to see this package covering the permanent diaconate ordination put together by The Pilot up in Boston. Many may regard late May to mark the beginning of the “wedding season.” In the Catholic Church it could quite easily be known as the “ordination season.” All across the country men, young and old, have been ordained as bishops and priests and both transitional and permanent deacons.

The package put together by The Pilot not only contained an article covering the event, but also a great slideshow with audio. For every ordination this spring there have been countless articles covering each and every one.

This example in Boston did a great job in bringing some of the best in what the rapidly developing “new media” or “convergence” journalism has to offer to the Catholic press and its readers.

Bibles in China

Do you remember the rumor last fall that Bibles were being banned at the Olympic village this summer in Beijing? We tried batting it down here and here. Well, there was an interesting story over the weekend in the Los Angeles Times headlined “Bibles are big business in China” that sheds further light on the history and practice of religion in this world superpower.

Swiss Guard souvenirs

VATICAN CITY — Papal Swiss Guard fans no longer have to hop on a plane to come to Rome to stock up on pontifical paraphernalia — some of it is now available online.

Starting yesterday, the Pontifical Swiss Guard launched a new Web site where fans can stock up on memorabilia, souvenirs, and assorted collectibles.

Ties, baseball caps, polo shirts, even elegant watches emblazoned with a colorful guard or the corps’ jubilee logo can be purchased by credit card over the Web. Informative books and DVD’s about their 500-year-old history are also available, too.

One interesting item on offer is a silver coin that is a modern day replica of the gold papal ducat Pope Julius II paid the very first Swiss battalion that marched from Switzerland to their new job in Rome more than half a millennium ago.

He felt called

VATICAN CITY — The special dining room at the Vatican’s Domus Sanctae Marthae was full Wednesday night for a dinner honoring U.S. Msgr. Robert Stern, who recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest.

The guests included cardinals and Msgr. Robert Stern celebrated Mass in New York last month to mark the 50th anniversary of his ordination. (Photo courtesy Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Maria R. Bastone)archbishops, as well as many men and women from lower rungs of the hierarchy who have worked with Msgr. Stern to assist Eastern churches for several decades. As secretary general of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and president of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, he has been on the front lines of the church’s efforts to provide moral and material aid to church communities throughout the Middle East and Asia.

These kinds of dinners can be pro forma, but such was not the case this time. The sense of appreciation was real, and at my table, aid experts from the Vatican, Germany and Lebanon spoke of Msgr. Stern as a genuine model of experience, efficiency and fraternity.

After dessert, Msgr. Stern, a native of the Bronx, took the floor and told about his priestly calling. It was not what you might have expected.

As an 18-year-old college student in 1950, he was studying nuclear physics when he heard of a Holy Year pilgrimage to Rome — a thousand fellow students traveling by boat. It sounded like a good thing, so he signed on.

In Rome, he saw Pope Pius XII and was profoundly impressed. Kneeling in St. Peter’s Basilica, he found himself making a small vow: “I promise to serve the pope.” He wasn’t sure himself what that meant.

Returning to his studies, he kept feeling pulled to a priestly vocation. It wasn’t something he ever dreamed of doing, he said, and in some ways it seemed like a “gloomy” choice — no wife or family — but he was more and more convinced that God wanted him to do it. The clincher came when he was trying to convince his roommate to become a Methodist minister, and his roommate responded: “By your arguments, you should become a Catholic priest.”

So he entered the seminary, and was ordained in New York by Cardinal Francis Spellman. As a young priest in Manhattan, he would take Communion on First Fridays to a “lovely lady” on the West Side, who spoke about her nephew, Father Bernie, who worked in the South. That turned out to be Father Bernard F. Law, now a cardinal, who was among the dinner guests Wednesday night.

Among Msgr. Stern’s memories is a vivid recollection of the Second Vatican Council. He was studying in Rome at the time, and saw Pope John XXIII open the first session. Later he signed on as a priest attendant at the council, to get closer to the action. The experience was powerful and has stayed with him.

“The presence of the Holy Spirit was tangible,” he said.

Since then, it’s been “one series of adventures after another,” Msgr. Stern said. He’s traveled extensively, and says the greatest blessing has been the chance to know so many people and go so many places. Although he never became a nuclear physicist, he said working for the Eastern churches has been his greatest education.

PHOTO: Msgr. Robert Stern celebrated Mass in New York last month to mark the 50th anniversary of his ordination. (Photo courtesy Catholic Near East Welfare Association/Maria R. Bastone)

Another unexpected loss

Perhaps this tells you more about my own age than anything else, but I was struck after the death of 58-year-old Catholic newsman Tim Russert to read of another unexpected death in the Catholic world. Bryan M. Johnston, who had been scheduled to become president of St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash., July 1, died in his sleep June 6 at the age of 59. The Benedictine-run school held a memorial service for him later that week. Ed Langlois of the Catholic Sentinel in Portland, Ore., wrote this obituary for Johnston, who was a former Oregon state legislator and had served most recently as interim head of the Children, Adults and Families Division in Oregon’s Department of Human Services.

Catholic Worker Movement alive and well in Denver and beyond

No two Catholic Worker communities are alike. Dozens of communities, dozens of interpretations of how the vision of hospitality — and in many cases witnessing through resistance to injustice — are carried out.

On May 1, May Day, which celebrates the contributions of labor in society, the Catholic Worker Movement turned 75. Many communities are celebrating the anniversary. Some are having potlucks and reunions; others simply continue to engage in the corporal works of mercy with no fanfare.

The fact that the Catholic Worker has survived — even flourished — over the years speaks well of the vision of Dorothy Day (1897-1980) and Peter Maurin (1877-1949), the movement’s co-founders. It’s interesting to see that nearly 28 years after Day’s death, more Catholic Worker houses of hospitality and communities exist than did when Day was living out her vision of how to follow the Gospel at Maryhouse in New York City.

Front page of June 18 Denver Catholic Register.The Denver Catholic Worker House, profiled in this week’s issue of the Denver Catholic Register is one place where community flourishes and homeless people can find a place to stay, get a meal and clean up, no questions asked. Loretto Sister Ann Koop has lived at the house since it opened 30 years ago.  

“It’s a house, not a shelter or an agency,” Sister Anna told writer John Gleason. “It’s a place where people share space with others in need. When you see thousands of people on the street and look at this house with only nine bedrooms, you think it’s nothing more than a ripple on the lake. But it’s proven to be a big contribution to people’s lives that have lived and worked here.”

Her statement epitomizes the philosophy of the Catholic Worker. It’s what makes the Catholic Worker much different than government-run agencies and highly structured shelters. Catholic Workers seek to create community with the lost and forgotten, much as Christ did when he walked from town to town 2,000 years ago.

Not every Catholic Worker community is perfect. Certainly few are tidy and neat. Never does anything run like clockwork. And it shouldn’t. The movement deals with people and their imperfections. The idea is to live out the Gospel as closely as possible and to see Christ in others. Nothing more. And that’s dirty work.

How did Bush address the pope?

VATICAN CITY — Here’s an update for our earlier item about the pope’s walk in the Vatican Gardens with President Bush:

It’s been reported that President Bush made a verbal gaffe by addressing the pope as “Your Eminence” during the visit, instead of the proper “Your Holiness.” For the record, that’s not really accurate. The president called the pope “Your Holiness” three times upon his arrival; he used the term “Your Eminence” when addressing U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, at one point telling the archbishop: “Your Eminence, you’re looking good.” Actually, that was not quite right, either, since “eminence” is used in addressing cardinals, not bishops. But no big deal.

Quebec City’s convention center transformed

Clergy carry a monstrance attached to the Ark of the New Convenant during a procession at the opening Mass of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City June 15. (CNS/James Baca, Denver Catholic Register)QUEBEC CITY — Quebec City’s massive center devoted to large events, conferences and conventions has become home to participants of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress.  Though it rained for most of the first three days of the June 15-22 congress, surprisingly many of the events have been well attended (it’s not uncommon to wait in line to get into a congress session) and people are still meandering to and from the stadium, arena and buildings of the ExpoCite.

The ExpoCite has been transformed this week into a city devoted to the church, saints and the tens of thousands of pilgrims who came here for the congress. In the grassy area between the buildings, a pathway is devoted to Canadian saints.

A few of the buildings have been transformed into eucharistic adoration chapels and there’s even a Catholic convention of sorts with booths promoting Catholic foundations, information services, travel tours and religious orders.  Of course, there’s some selling and buying going on: Pilgrims can purchase books and other keepsakes to take home with them from the congress.

PHOTO: Clergy carry a monstrance attached to the Ark of the New Convenant during a procession at the opening Mass of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City June 15. (CNS/James Baca, Denver Catholic Register)


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