Changing perspectives on Down syndrome

Kristin Lanari’s younger sister, Lauren, is a pianist who loves to dance and bake cookies. Lauren also has Down syndrome, a condition where a child’s physical and cognitive development is delayed due to the presence of too many chromosomes.

The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., recently published a story about what Kristin is trying to accomplish on the behalf of people with Down syndrome.

Now that prenatal genetic testing can predict Down syndrome in an unborn baby, up to 90 percent of women opt for abortion if it’s determined their child has it. Kristin Lanari, a cantor, choir member and eucharistic minister at St. Joseph Parish in Appleton, Wis., was horrified by that statistic.

Lanari figured if there were more information and education available about “Down’s people,” doctors would be less inclined to recommend abortion and families would be less inclined to take that recommendation. With a grant from the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, she is compiling reflections for a book of stories about having a sibling with Down syndrome. Lanari hopes the books can be distributed to clinics, hospitals and schools to help families who learn the condition exists in their baby.

Lanari will be accepting submissions through the end of July. if you are interested in participating, e-mail her at

Arson fires in Catholic churches around the U.S.

Arson is not normally associated with Catholic churches. However, someone paying attention to diocesan newspapers in the past month might think otherwise.

In early June the Intermountain Catholic of the Diocese of Salt Lake City reported that a church in West Jordan, Utah, was damaged twice by arson.

Recently, The Catholic Observer in the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., published an article detailing a parish in Chicopee, Mass., that had a new playground burned and melted (some parts were made of plastic) by an arson fire.

A journey with God

Life doesn’t always happen according to our expectations. Sometimes, we have to put our dreams in God’s hands and believe that whatever happens, God knows what’s best.

That is the story behind Joanne Dow, a 44-year-old female racewalker from New Hampshire. Despite several hardships, injuries and disappointments, Dow’s faith never faltered, even after the loss of her father.

An article in Parable Magazine, published by the Diocese of Manchester, highlights the faith journey of the mother of two who just qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Bejing, China. 

In the article, she explains how, even at times when things seemed pointless, she always believed that God had a plan for her. Dow also tells of several conversations she had with God in which she is reminded that her athleticism is a gift to be shared.

Being a journalist has its downside but oh the benefits

There are definite perks to being a member of the media. You’re not going to get rich doing this work. You’re going to work long, grueling hours sometimes. The pressure of deadlines can be quite stressful. 

But oh the benefits. You can travel the world. You can witness history firsthand. You’re constantly meeting new people — some famous and powerful, some just regular folks who impact your life in unimaginable ways. 

 Editor Joe Towalski of the Catholic Spirit details this in Lessons learned while covering a papal Mass, his story about covering a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican where Archbishop John Nienstedt received his pallium from Pope Benedict XVI.

“It’s exciting to have the kind of access that gets you up close to see the pope at a special event like this. But that’s where the fun ends and the hard work begins.”

 As a journalist you’re extended liberties that others aren’t. This isn’t always a good thing. Towalski tells the hilarious story of what it’s like to cover the event of a lifetime. He can tell you firsthand that journalists sometimes go to great lengths to get those awesome pictures and great stories. This job can be quite an adventure sometimes. I won’t tell; you’ll have to read here to find out Towalski’s experience.

Besides traveling the world and meeting people, the best part of this job to me is that you never stop learning — about the world, the people in it, and most of all about yourself. Towalski learned some valuable lessons on this trip, about Rome, drag-racing taxicabs and really slow pasta. He also learned some things about himself. And those are the kinds of benefits that money can’t buy.

Check out our new WYD blog

If you haven’t noticed yet, make sure you check out our new blog by people attending World Youth Day next week. We’ve signed up several people going to WYD in Australia to tell you what World Youth Day feels like. And we plan to supplement those post with occasional items from Catholic News Service staff members who will be either on the scene in Sydney or handling stories and photos back in Washington.

Just reading today’s three posts (here, here, and here) will show you the excitement that these young people are feeling. Make sure you check in often (there’s an RSS feed) over the next two weeks.

Communion in outer space?

Terry Dickson of the Gulf Pine Catholic in the Biloxi Diocese does a fascinating Q & A in the June 13 edition with Robert D. Cabana, director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center. Cabana was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame this spring. In the piece he describes losing friends in the Challenger and Columbia tragedies, his thoughts on the possibility of intelligent life on other planets and a worship service, with Communion, in a spaceship. Cabana and his wife, Joan, are parishioners at Out Lady of the Gulf Parish in Bay St. Louis, Miss. 

Former astronaut says outer space experiences helped strengthen his faith. (Click page 26, 27 and 28 on the left side to view the story)

Catholic youths combating poverty

The theme of World Peace Day 2009 is going to be ‘combating poverty,’ as directed by Pope Benedict XVI. It seems like there is no end to potential service outlets for Catholics, especially Catholic youths.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Catholic weekly paper, The Tidings, published this story about Catholic Relief Services, one of the most versatile outlets for service projects.

Many Catholic teens and young adults spend all or some of their summer on service trips or participating in service projects. One such summer camp, the Heart Work Camp, is highlighted in the Mississippi Catholic, the newspaper for the Diocese of Jackson, here.  

Another form of service is documented in an article in The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., where recent graduates of local high schools use the performing arts in order to serve students aided by the Community Catholic Center. The Community Catholic Center helps underprivileged students attend Catholic schools.

Another example of service is a program organized by two sisters in Seattle to send books to schools in Alaska. They are featured in an article in The Catholic Northwest Progress on the Archdiocese of Seattle’s Web site. 

Dioceses prepare for World Youth Day

The number of stories related to the upcoming World Youth Day in Sydney has been rapidly increasing at CNS.

While much attention has been given to how the U.S. is preparing for the pilgrimage as a country, each of the dioceses must prepare its own group.

The Catholic Sun in Phoenix has run two stories so far and staff writer Ambria Hammel, who will be traveling to Australia, has started a blog about her experiences. One story looks at the preparations that are necessary to attend. The other focuses on cultural exchanges that will take place at World Youth Day, a piece similar to a blog post Nancy Wiechec wrote last month.

Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis sat down with The Catholic Spirit for a little Q & A about why he will be attending World Youth Day and the importance of the event.

In Washington, the Catholic Standard covered a special Mass celebrated by Archbishop Donald Wuerl for the pilgrims who will be traveling from the archdiocese.

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh recently held a formal sendoff for World Youth Day travelers at the St. Paul Cathedral. Pittsburgh Catholic wrote this piece outlining the itinerary of the diocesan group that will include Bishop Zubik.

Catholic school students menschs, not ‘slacktivists’

My dear co-worker Mark Pattison and I had a chuckle one day over a blog about the word slacktivism. Slacktivists are a cross between slackers and activists. You know them: They’re the people who forward the e-mails not to buy gas for one day to stick it to the gas companies, but won’t give up their SUVs. Or people who’ll wear red one day to show support for some awful medical condition or black as a political statement, but won’t do anything to really help the cause. I’m totally guilty of this myself, so I’m not judging.

This came to mind when I saw Marty Denzer’s Catholic Key story about a fundraiser students at St. Therese School did in conjunction with students at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy. As part of Bridges to Understanding, a program which unites Catholic and Jewish students, the children wrote, illustrated and marketed a book, “Anyone Can Be a Mensch.” (Mensch is a Yiddish word for a kind person of good character.) Through their efforts the kids raised $3,500, which they donated to the Save Darfur organization.

Children never cease to amaze me. They have no problem working with people different from them. They earnestly want to help those in need. And they’re not afraid of a little hard work. We can all take a lesson from them.

You can read more about it at Students’ book helps children in Darfur

Catholics gathering in stadiums

Pope Benedict XVI isn’t the only one drawing large crowds in professional baseball stadiums these days.

In Kansas City, Mo., area Catholics gathered in Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, to participate in the first family rosary gathering since the 1950s. The Catholic Key wrote this piece with a detailed description and reaction on the day’s events.

Among the numerous dioceses celebrating their bicentennial this year is the Archdiocese of Louisville. The archdiocese commemorated the anniversary with a Mass at Slugger Field in Lousiville. The Record had extensive coverage the day long celebration including three articles here, here, and here.

Of course there were two visits to ballparks during Pope Benedict’s historic U.S. visit in April. He first celebrated Mass at the brand new Nationals Park during his time in Washington. Then later he celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York.

CNS coverage of the stadium Masses was extensive on this blog as well. A look back reveals the following posts to the CNS blog:


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