Provoke Radio ends four-year run

Provoke Radio, a Jesuit-sponsored program focusing on the work of “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” in the realm of faith-based social justice and peace, ended a four-and-a-half-year run with its final new program April 26.

CNS originally blogged about the program last November.

“We’re simply out of funding,” the program’s writer and producer, Claire Hartman, told CNS. “We were sponsored by the Jesuits and they are no longer able to fund it. It was a sign of the times.”

The final program looks at the L’Arche communities, founded by Jean Vanier in France in 1964, and how people with and without disabilities develop loving, caring relationships.

Hosted by Jesuit Father Stephen Spahn, associate pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Washington, the program had been distributed to a slowly growing number of radio stations from New Jersey to California. But in today’s tight economy the order’s Maryland province ended its funding and the U.S. conference of Jesuits decided not to pick up the cost of the program, Hartman said.

“It’s a disappointment,” she said. “It filled a real niche. I think it was a great show that bridged the gap between what we’re taught and to live your faith in action.”

Hartman said Provoke Radio will continue to exist online for at least a few more months. Many of the 17 stations nationwide will continue to broadcast past programs. The full run of 96 programs is archived for downloading.

Catholic men stand up for faith

Nearly 1,000 showed up last weekend in Peoria, Ill., for the sixth annual “Call to Catholic Men of Faith,” according to The Catholic Post diocesan newspaper. But what really set the paper’s coverage apart was its use of multimedia: a four-minute video presentation of photos taken at the event set to a song about the importance of Catholic men taking a stand for the faith. You can read the story here and view the video below.

Catholic community blogs in Florida

Check out this new Catholic community blog established by the Florida Catholic. It’s an interesting venue for Florida Catholics to express their faith.

Vatican Museums join Italian quake-relief effort

Raphael's School of Athens

Standing in front of Raphael's fresco, "The School of Athens," visitors admire the other wall frescoes in the Raphael Rooms of the Vatican Museums. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

VATICAN CITY — Accepting a proposal from the guards at the Vatican Museums, the office governing Vatican City State has decided to open the museums May 10 and donate all the money from ticket sales that day to survivors of the April 6 earthquake in Italy’s L’Aquila region.

“All the personnel of the Vatican Museums are joining the initiative, donating the equivalent of a day of work,” said a press release from the Vatican governor’s office.

Except for the last Sunday of each month when the Vatican Museums are open to the public and no admission is charged, the galleries usually are closed on Sundays.

A spokeswoman for the museums told me this morning there was no way to guess how much the initiative would raise May 10.

The price for an individual’s admission to the museums ranges from about $10.50 for students to about $18.50 for adults.

100 Days Campaign to close at the White House


The 100 Days Campaign ends its public effort to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with rallies and a procession through Washington April 30. (Photo from 100 Days Campaign)

The 100 Days Campaign ends its public effort to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with rallies and a procession through Washington April 30. (Photo from 100 Days Campaign)

After 100 days, the 100 Days Campaign to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ends April 30.

Dozens of people seeking the guarantee of humans rights for the 239 detainees being held without charges at Guantanamo will wrap up 100 days of vigils and educational programs with a 10 a.m. rally near Capitol Hill followed by a procession to the White House.

While organizers are not saying exactly what will happen, some of the marchers are planning an “act of resistance” during the noon hour.

Campaign organizer Matthew Daloisio of Witness Against Torture told CNS he and others won’t give up their quest until the men being held there are released or have their day in court. The group started their public witness on the day of President Barack Obama’s inauguration and gathered for two hours each weekday outside the White House. Numerous speaking events and other programs also were held across the nation’s capital.

“At the end of 100 days we had very much hoped we would be much further along, that life for the people in Guantanamo would have been materially changed,” Daloisio said.

Daloisio is not calling the campaign a failure. He said the group’s steadfastness for more than three months has been a worthwhile accomplishment.

Participants were pleased that an executive order banning torture as a part of U.S. foreign policy was signed Jan. 22 by the president as promised during his election campaign. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has long supported an end to the use of torture, and even developed a study guide on the issue. Obama also has called for closing the prison within a year.

A former resident at the New York Catholic Worker house, Daloisio points to another success, one that won’t necessarily make headlines: the positive relationships the vigilers developed with the Secret Service agents who kept an eye on their actions day in and day out.

One day late in the campaign, Daloisio recalled, a tourist approached the White House vigilers questioning why they were still pressing their point. After all, the tourist said, Obama already had closed the prison. That’s when a Secret Service agent stepped in and calmly explained that the Guantanamo Bay prison remained open and would be for up to a year. The vigilers, he explained, were expressing their concern for the detainees.

Pope prays with Italian earthquake survivors


A couple embrace near the ruins of their house in Onna April 6. (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the L’Aquila region, struck by an earthquake April 6, was delayed by an hour because heavy rains made it impossible for him to get there by helicopter.

Vatican journalists, including Rome bureau correspondent Carol Glatz, set off by bus at 6:30 this morning to be in place when the pope arrived. The early morning wake-up call earned them a place in a muddy pen under the rain near the tent camp set up outside Onna. The little town of about 300 residents was almost completely destroyed by the earthquake and 40 of its citizens died.

While waiting for Carol to file her story, I thought I would translate and post the text of the prayer the pope recited in Onna:

We entrust our loved ones to you, Lord,
Knowing that you never take the lives of your faithful, but transform them,
And that at the moment the dwelling places of this our earthly exile are destroyed,
You prepare an eternal and immortal one for us in paradise.
Holy Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
Hear the cry of pain and of hope
That rises from this community harshly tied by the earthquake.
It is the silent cry of the blood of mothers, fathers, young people
And also innocent little ones that rises up from this land.
They have been snatched from the affection of their loved ones,
Welcome them all into your peace, Lord, who is God-with-us,
Who is the Love able to give life without end.
We need you and your strength
Because we feel small and fragile in the face of death;
Help us, we pray, because only your support
Can help us get up and, with trust, take each other’s hands,
And start out again on the journey of life.
We ask you this through Jesus Christ, our savior,
In whom shines the hope of the blessed resurrection. Amen.

(UPDATE: Here’s Carol’s story.)

America magazine reflects on century of triumphs, debates and faith

Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, editor in chief of America magazine, holds a copy of the centennial edition of the magazine. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, editor in chief of America magazine, holds a copy of the centennial edition. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Our friends/clients at America magazine this month celebrated their 100th anniversary. As a bonus to our blog readers, here’s the story we distributed this week marking the momentous occasion. As reporter Chaz Muth observed in the story, “Only a handful of magazines have been around longer than America, and its impact on American Catholicism and society has been substantial.”

Congratulations from all of us at Catholic News Service.

‘Voice of the church’ together again


About 200 members of the Papal Mass Choir sing together again at a special reunion. (Catholic Standard)

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Pope Benedict XVI was here in Washington. Members of the 570-voice choir that sang for the pope at his first public Mass in the United States, at Nationals Park in Washington, recently reunited for the first time, as detailed in this story by Mark Zimmermann of the Catholic Standard. Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl said the group represented “the voice of the church in our country” before the pope.

Jumping the gun on the greening of the Vatican


Solar panels are seen from the roof of the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican. The Vatican installed its first solar-generated electrical system in November 2008. (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Several news  sources were all aglow last week saying the Vatican was going to build Europe’s biggest solar plant.

While that may be on Vatican engineers’ wish list, to be making such claims “is extremely premature right now,” Pier Carlo Cuscianna, director of technical services for Vatican City, told me today.

The Vatican turned the football field-sized roof of its Paul VI audience hall into a giant solar-power generator last November and the city’s engineers have several other green ideas up their sleeves. Their goal is to have Vatican City using renewable energy for 20 percent of its needs by 2020, a target set for all the European Union.

But some reporters jumped the gun last week, saying the solar plant project intended to be built on Vatican territory north of Rome would be subsidized by Italy and help supply 400,000 Roman families with electricity.

Such news reports are based on “a lot of imagination,” Cuscianna told me.

He said they are still in the very early planning stages and still have to map out technical details and carry out feasibility studies before any sort of proposal is presented to Vatican officials governing Vatican City State for approval.

Right now, he said, the whole pile of different “hypotheses” and ideas for the new solar project are on his desk waiting to be worked on.

Same goes for finding funding sources and sponsors. Italy has not gone to the Vatican ready to pony up money, he said, because no completed project proposal exists. Once the proposal is completed and approved, then the Vatican will concern itself with finding ways to cover the costs, he said.

Cuscianna wouldn’t give me any idea about when he thought the proposal would be ready, but he assured me when the plans were finalized and approved they wouldn’t be keeping it in the dark.

Actor rediscovers his Catholic faith

The St. Anthony Messenger magazine has a profile of Canadian actor — and Catholic — Chris Kramer. Canadian TV watchers know him well from his star turn as Morgan Pym on the CityTV series “The Collector,” and U.S. audiences, if they’ve watched closely enough, would remember him last year as Chavez in four episodes of the CBS series “Jericho.”

Kramer realized he had let his faith slip away, but was as determined to reconnect with God as he was to succeed as an actor. By all accounts, he’s done just that.

He’s become affiliated with Family Theater Productions. His most recent project with Family Theater was as assistant director and an on-camera participant in “Rosary Stars,” a DVD featuring 21 young adult Catholic celebrities offering reflections on the rosary and its role in their lives.

Read the full story here.


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