A sad but inspiring journey of a Catholic journalist, dead at 40

Death is nothing new to me.

Both of my parents died young, I’ve experienced the loss of friends and other family members, and I held my mother’s hand as she passed into the afterlife. As a journalist, I’ve covered more funerals and death-related tragedies than I care to count.

Emilie Lemmons

Emilie Lemmons

So, when I was assigned a story today about a Minnesota Catholic journalist who lost her 16-month battle with cancer at the age of 40, I didn’t flinch.

Then I read Emilie Lemmons’ column — “Notes from a New Mom” about how she was dealing with her grim prognosis — in the Dec. 17 issue of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and I found myself more inspired than sad.

The column was moving, spiritual, and forced me to examine my own mortality. I highly recommend giving it a read.

It turned out to be the last column Lemmons would write for the paper. She died Christmas Eve, leaving behind a husband, two small sons, parents, siblings and friends. The number of comments on her blog, Lemmondrops, reacting to her husband’s announcement of her death (280 at last count) would suggest that she has continued to inspire others.

Jim Harney never forgot about the world’s poor

 Justice advocate Jim Harney as portrayed by Rob Shetterly. (CNS/Rob Shetterly)

Justice advocate Jim Harney as portrayed by Rob Shetterly. (Rob Shetterly)

Catholic peacemaker Jim Harney, who promoted justice for the world’s poor through photography, lectures and retreats throughout the U.S. and Canada, died Dec. 26 after a protracted bout with brain cancer.

The 68-year-old former Catholic priest first gained notoriety as one of the Milwaukee 14, a group of priests and faith-based peace activists who burned some 10,000 Selective Service records with homemade napalm in a Sept. 24, 1968, protest against the Vietnam War.

Beginning in the 1980s, Harney lived and visited much of Latin America, the Caribbean and Iraq to document photographically the impact of economic globalization and war on the world’s poor. He also has led retreats for people seeking to tie together the work for justice and their faith life.

Most recently he was an artist in residence at Posibilidad in Bangor, Maine, a nonprofit center which seeks to engage people in conversation about those excluded from society.

Harney is being remembered by justice advocates as a wise elder whose concern for the struggles of poor people will continue to serve as an inspiration in their work.

A reminder that Christmas is not yet over

An angel is depicted with the Star of Bethlehem in a window at St. Mary's Cathedral in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (CNS/Crosiers)

An angel is depicted with the Star of Bethlehem in a window at St. Mary's Cathedral in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (CNS/Crosiers)

Terry Mattingly, a religion expert who writes a weekly column for Scripps Howard News Service and is also a major contributor to the Get Religion blog (which is must-reading for anyone concerned about the coverage of religion in the mainstream media), gave a nice little plug in a couple places last week to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ special Advent and Christmas section on the conference’s Web site. Mattingly pointed out (and we probably all need reminders) that the Christmas season doesn’t end when the carols stop on the radio and people throw their trees to the curb. (I saw two discarded trees just this morning on my drive to work.)

Since today is only the fifth day of Christmas, and since the USCCB points out that the Christmas season doesn’t really end until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the site is probably worth a visit each day from now until Jan. 11.

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