Bishops remind South African voters of responsibilities

As South Africa heads toward what some are predicting will be its closest elections since the end of apartheid in 1994, the country’s bishops are reminding South Africans of their duty to be peaceful and tolerant.

CNS correspondent Bronwen Dachs reported this week on the bishops’ recent statement on the April 22 elections.

The Southern Cross, southern Africa’s national Catholic weekly, also covered the statement in an editorial by Gunther Simmermacher.

Highlighting everyday Catholics

I just spotted a nice feature in The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Phoenix Diocese. It’s called “Your Catholic Neighbor,” a regular series of stories highlighting everyday Catholics in the local community.

Read about George Gonzalez, a musician who who serves eight Catholic faith communities in the Phoenix area with his blend of contemporary English and Spanish worship and praise music.

Dubois: Catholics have important role in setting nation’s social agenda

Joshua Dubois, the former associate pastor of a Pentecostal church in Cambridge, Mass., who was recently named to lead the White House Office on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, has invited Catholics involved in social ministry to tell his office what it is doing right and what it is doing wrong.

A late addition to the schedule of the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, Dubois, 26, took the opportunity Feb. 25 to explain the work of the office and welcomed advice from the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on how White House policy can be shaped to help people in need.

The 25-member council includes leaders of religious and community organizations. Among them is Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, who introduced Dubois.

“I think we can be partners even on the toughest issues,” Dubois said, without mentioning what those issues might be. “I want you to know our doors are open to you for the next four years and even beyond.

“The president believes no one should check their values at the door in order to work together,” he told the gathering.

Dubois also outlined his office’s goals: ensuring that community groups have a say in how economic recovery policies  are shaped and economic stimulus money is spent; being a unifying voice to meet the needs of women and children and to reduce abortion; supporting fathers who stand by their families and helping young men reunite with their children by getting them off the streets and into jobs; and working with other federal agencies and offices to promote interfaith dialogue around the world as one way to protect national security.

As Dubois concluded his remarks, Msgr. Raymond East, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Washington, invited the social ministers to extend their arms in blessing the White House staffer. “May the blessing of the Lord be upon you. We bless you in the name of the Lord,” they sang.

Recalling the life of Sister Thea Bowman

As Black History Month nears its conclusion, The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn., has posted two items about a woman who was a giant in the black Catholic community, Sister Thea Bowman.

If you don’t recognize the name, you would do well to read this review of two recent books about the life of Sister Thea and this text of a speech she once gave to the U.S. bishops on what it means to be black in the church and society.

Malassadas on Shrove Tuesday — yum!

Paczkis, pancakes, jelly donuts — many food traditions surround this last day before Lent. And Mardi Gras has its own roots in Catholic tradition, as explained here by our friends at St. Anthony Messenger and Our Sunday Visitor.

But also make sure you check out this story by Anna Weaver of the Hawaii Catholic Herald on malassadas, a tradition brought by Portuguese immigrants who arrived in the 1880s and 1890s to work on Hawaii’s plantations.

And if you’re willing to try baking some in your own kitchen, there’s also a family recipe on the same page from a woman who has been making malassadas for over 50 years.

But here’s a warning: You’re going to get hungry just reading about them.

Argentine bishop likes global poverty initiative

Bishop Fernando Bargallo of Moreno is pictured this week during the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Bishop Fernando Marie Bargallo (CNS/Bob Roller)

Argentine Bishop Fernando Marie Bargallo of Merlo-Moreno was pleased to see the relaunch of the Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative yesterday during the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington.

As bishop of a diocese in the suburbs of Buenos Aries where one-third of the people live in poverty, Bishop Bargallo said the effort will help people “understand the situation of the poor.”

“It is an important stimulus for us to see that the Catholic Church in the United States has an open mind and an open heart to commit herself to fight against poverty, recognizing another world is possible,” Bishop Bargallo told Catholic News Service.

“Sometimes we have the temptation to think that poverty is a reality that cannot be beaten,” he said. “But when you open your mind and heart you discover that there is an ethical imperative that pushes yourself as a person, your family, your nation, to discover that you cannot live isolated from all human beings, that we share the same home, the same planet.”

A joint project between Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the initiative is seeking 1 million Catholics to join the effort, which is designed to show that the difficulties Americans are facing during the current economic crisis are intricately intertwined with the plight of poor people around the world.

Both agencies have worked together to relieve global poverty over the years but see new opportunities to implement initiatives that promote human development under a new Congress and a new administration.

The effort also will work with Catholic Charities USA’s poverty campaign showing the connection between the needs of the poor in the U.S. and around the world.

The initiative went live with a new Web site as well. More information can be found at and

Slamming America’s slammers

When was the last time you saw a Catholic periodical take up the issue of the U.S. prison system? Our Sunday Visitor does in an upcoming edition. Or, as the paper’s blog noted, the OSV editorial board “slams America’s slammers.” You can read the full editorial here.

Food for thought for Lent

With Lent almost upon us, the latest edition of the Arkansas Catholic in the Diocese of Little Rock has two articles you might find interesting:

– Instead of just giving the rules for Lenten fasting, the paper talked to Scripture scholars and others on why we fast and what we gain from the practice. As the headline notes, “God doesn’t want a fulfilled obligation; he wants our hearts.”

– Another article reports on how Lenten observances are growing in other Christian churches.

Film prof’s take on ‘Slumdog’

By the time I got hold of  David Schaefer, a communication arts professor for the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, it was 11:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time — but 12:15 a.m. Singapore local time on Tuesday the 24th.  Schaefer has been examining India’s films since 2002, and his examinations take him close to the source of the “Bollywood” industry.

Schaefer enjoyed “Slumdog Millionaire,” which captured eight Oscars, including statuettes for best picture, best director, best song (competing against itself!) and best original score. “Jai Ho,” the song winner, “is a great song,” Schaefer told CNS, while he was admittedly rubbing his eyes as he worked on his laptop not long after the clock had struck 12.

He noted how English director Danny Boyle had taken some flak from Indians about portraying only the slum life of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in “Slumdog” – which is not how the Bollywood directors would have treated it. Still, the English are probably better than Americans at depicting Indian life because of “greater long-term interest,” according to Schaefer, but “better than Indian directors? Not a chance.”

The U.S. bishops’ Office for Film & Broadcasting had classified “Slumdog” A-III — adults for various thematic elements, including crude language. Non-Hindi speakers wouldn’t know the half of it. The first word uttered in the movie is the Hindi equivalent of the F-word, Schaefer said, and it’s repeated often — “not all of it subtitled,” he adds.

Even though “Slumdog” had garnered more than $98 million in U.S. box office through the weekend of Feb. 20-22, the multiple-Oscar wins will prompt many more to see it. And therein lies another cautionary note from Schaefer: “The young boys have to overcome being exploited by gangsters masquerading as operators of an orphanage,” he says. “These are tough scenes to watch — not for children. Deliberate maiming, suggested child prostitution, etc.”

But some of the best-loved movies have happy endings, and “Slumdog Millionaire” is no different, according to Schaefer: “The ending is still emotionally satisfying, and I think that’s what audiences seem to be taking away from the film. There is a sense of social justice with Jamal’s (the lead character) outcome.”

Who gets the tips …

During her Feb. 21 presentation at the Catholic Labor Network’s Washington luncheon on wage theft, Kim Bobo, head of the Chicag-based group Interfaith Worker Justice, told of her surprise at learning that at her favorite restaurant if she left a tip for the server on her credit card, the server would not get that money.

After the presentation, it was announced that Bobo would be selling copies of her book, also called “Wage Theft.” The cover price was $18, but luncheon guests were told that Bobo would not make change, so … in good humor Bobo was asked if she got to keep those tips . “No!” she replied. “It all goes to Interfaith Worker Justice!”

Bobo’s talk, about how so many U.S. workers are underpaid for an honest day’s work, was part of a weekend “wraparound session” preceding the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.


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