Saying a prayer for maritime workers

Today is the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea.

The day was established by the U.S. bishops in November 2005 to encourage U.S. Catholics to support, pray and remember those who work in the maritime world. Recent stories about piracy remind us all how dangerous that work can be.

Today’s observance also highlights the Catholic Church’s Apostleship of the Sea ministry. The apostleship is a worldwide Catholic ministry that provides spiritual help and practical assistance to seafarers, their families  and all people of the sea. According to the U.S. bishops’ conference, there are apostleship chaplains and their ministry teams in 49 dioceses in 61 maritime posts. 

Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Ga.,  promoter of the apostleship, called on all dioceses to mark the special day of prayer “for the well-being and safety of maritime personnel, the vital role maritime workers play in the transport of goods by the waterways and the lives that have been lost at sea.”

The day of prayer falls on the National Maritime Day observance, which commemorates the first transatlantic crossing by the steamship Savannah in 1819.

2009 graduates ready for any storm

No one needed to give the 2009 graduating class from Xavier University of Louisiana and Loyola University New Orleans advice about weathering storms.

The students, who started their freshman year just days before Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, were scattered across the country as “The Big Easy” remained underwater and struggled to get back on its feet.

When classes finally resumed, many of the college students returned and now live to tell the tale of Katrina survival.

Xavier’s senior class aptly took the theme “From Storm to Stage” for their graduating year. At Loyola University’s May 9 graduation, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told graduates to wear the moniker “Katrina class” with pride because it speaks of their determination, endurance and commitment.

Graduation scaled back by swine flu

While schools across the country have periodically closed because of the swine flu outbreak, some colleges canceled their graduation ceremonies or altered the events by segregating ill students, banning traditional handshakes and keeping plenty of hand sanitizer at the ready.

St. Lawrence Seminary High School in Mount Calvary, Wis., a boarding school for boys 60 miles from Milwaukee, held a private graduation ceremony for its 46 graduates May 15. Guests, including all family members, were not allowed to attend since two students had been diagnosed with the flu and nearly 60 had experienced flu symptoms.

Sam Lucero, editor of  The Compass, newspaper of the Green Bay Diocese, was one of the parents barred from personally seeing his son get his diploma, although he could watch it on streaming video or on the DVD copy of the ceremony each parent was given.

Lucero writes about the the missing graduation in the newspaper’s blog, noting that at this school in particular, students come from across the U.S. and several other countries so there was plenty of disappointment across the board, especially among parents who had traveled quite a  distance to be there.

UPDATE: You can watch a Green Bay TV station’s story (after a brief commercial) on the Lucero family watching the graduation via computer here.

Oblate priest reported safe in Sri Lankan camp

A man rests on a mat as other Tamil civilians and their children sit near their belongings in a refugee camp located on the outskirts of the town of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka May 4. (CNS photo/Reuters)

A man rests on a mat as other Tamil civilians and their children sit near their belongings in a refugee camp located on the outskirts of the town of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka May 4. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Oblate Father Saviripillai Edmund Reginald was reported May 21 to be safe with his parents in a government-run camp near the city of of Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

He was able to get a message to family members outside of the country that he escaped the war zone where the final battle between Sri Lankan military forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels took place May 18. He had not been heard from since May 14.

Oblate Father Seamus Finn, the U.S. director of the Missionary Oblates’ justice, peace and integrity of creation program in Washington, said telephone calls are monitored and restrictions remain on the movement of the Tamil minority in the northern region of the country, especially those confined to the camps.

Concern remains for the future of the Tamil people, an ethnic group native to Tamil Nadu on the Indian subcontinent and the northeastern part of Sri Lanka, off the southeast coast of India. Tamils had sought an independent state in Sri Lanka for more than 50 years, and rebel factions initiated military action in 1983 with that goal in mind.

CNS will continue to report on the Catholic Church’s attempts to aid in recovery efforts and to assure that the human rights of the Tamil people are protected.

Celebrating 100 years of Catholic journalism in Illinois

This year the Catholic Times, newspaper of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., is celebrating 100 years of reporting on local church news for Catholics as well as covering the universal church and the world.

The May 17 issue includes the latest installment in an ongoing “retrospective” of stories the Times has published in the last century. This one focuses on the period of 1930-39. Archivist Michele Levandoski writes that the editor at the time, Msgr. Martin J. Foley, “seemed especially interested in the events in Germany and Spain.”

“The paper reported on anti-Catholic measures implemented by Hitler, such as the elimination of church-supported organizations and catholic schools. The paper also ran numerous stories about the Spanish Civil War and how rebels targeted Catholic churches and clergy,” she says. A couple of the highlighted stories were written by Catholic News Service, then called known as the National Catholic Welfare Council News Servce.

Pope’s appeal for World Communications Day

VATICAN CITY — At the end of the weekly general audience today, Pope Benedict XVI launched an appeal to everyone who uses new communications technology, especially young people:

This coming Sunday, the church celebrates World Communications Day. In my message this year, I am inviting all those who make use of the new technologies of communication, especially the young, to utilize them in a positive way and to realize the great potential of these means to build up bonds of friendship and solidarity that can contribute to a better world.

The new technologies have brought about fundamental shifts in the ways in which news and information are disseminated and in how people communicate and relate to each other. I wish to encourage all those who access cyberspace to be careful to maintain and promote a culture of respect, dialogue and authentic friendship where the values of truth, harmony and understanding can flourish.

Young people in particular, I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world! Employ these new technologies to make the Gospel known, so that the Good News of God’s infinite love for all people, will   resound in new ways across our increasingly technological world!

You can find the full text of the pope’s message for 2009 here.

And don’t forget to go to the new website on Sunday when it goes live. It’s sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to help celebrate the day and get the pope’s message out there. It will have links to the Vatican’s new Facebook and iPhone applications and YouTube channel.

Also, in my own attempt to use new technologies, here’s an experiment creating an audio slide show using CNS pictures (apologies for the poor audio quality, but it really is the pope speaking):

New rankings that academics love to hate

usn_logoU.S. News & World Report released its annual ranking of U.S. graduate schools in its May issue. The annual rankings are the bane of college deans and presidents. They almost universally revile them, but they can’t resist them either. And, like it or not, students consider them when applying for programs.

Here is how graduate programs at Catholic colleges and universities fared:

Catholic law schools make out like bandits. In the top 100 listed, Georgetown comes in at No. 14, followed by Notre Dame at 23; Boston College at 26; Fordham at 40; the University of San Diego and Villanova tied at 61; Loyola Marymount at 71; Seattle and Seton Hall tied at 77; Santa Clara at 85; De Paul, Loyola Chicago, Marquette and St. John’s sharing the 87 spot; The Catholic University of America and St. Louis tied at 94; San Francisco at 98; and Gonzaga at 100.

The magazine this year looks at law school diversity. Notable on the list is St. Thomas in Florida with a 33 percent Hispanic student body. Santa Clara, Loyola Marymount and San Francisco — all in California — have student bodies that are, respectively, 28, 24 and 18 percent Asian-American. St. Mary’s in Texas is 26 percent Hispanic.

Catholic business schools have three in the top 50. Georgetown’s McDonough ranks 19th, Notre Dame’s Mendoza come in at 33 and the Carroll School of Boston College ranks 44th.

There are only a handful of Catholic medical schools in the United States Only Georgetown ranked this year in the top 50 research university medical schools, coming in at 39. No Catholic medical school ranked in the top 50 for primary-care training.

In other areas of graduate education, Boston College ranked No. 19 in the top 25 education schools and Georgetown made No. 14 on schools of public affairs.

U.S. News & World Report uses an elaborate methodology for rankings, and those criteria change every year. Check out its Web site for an explanation and a complete listing of all ranked programs.

Oblate priest in Sri Lanka not heard from since May 14

This photograph released by the Sri Lankan military May 15 shows what the army says are civilians fleeing from the area inside a no-fire zone held by Tamil separatists. (CNS photo/Sri Lankan Government, Reuters)

This photograph released by the Sri Lankan military May 15 shows what the army says are civilians fleeing from the area inside a no-fire zone held by Tamil separatists. (CNS photo/Sri Lankan Government, Reuters)

The U.S. director of the Missonary Oblates’ justice, peace and integrity of creation program is concerned about the safety of one of the order’s priests in the war zone of northern Sri Lanka.

Washington-based Father Seamus Finn told Catholic News Service May 18 that Father Saviripillai Edmund Reginald has not been heard from since May 14. Father Reginald was the subject of a May 13 CNS report on the civilian victims in the war between Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Sri Lankan officials have declared victory in wiping out the last remnants of the rebel forces, which have fought a 25-year war for independence and human rights.

Father Finn said a representative of the order in Rome was trying to make his way from the capital of Colombo northward. But his status also is unknown. Cell phone access is limited in the northern part of the island nation off the southeast coast of India.

The BBC has reported that civilians are being allowed to leave the war zone, but only after being screened carefully to make sure none of the rebels escape.

Father Finn said the order has provided names of its missionaries in the war zone to the U.S. State Department in an effort to learn the whereabouts of all of its members.

Meanwhile, as the fighting ends, the European Union has called for an independent investigation into some of the tactics used by the Sri Lanka armed forces.

Live reporting from the Notre Dame commencement

President Obama at yesterday's commencement. (CNS/Christopher Smith)

President Obama at yesterday's commencement. (CNS/Christopher Smith)

Congratulations to Our Sunday Visitor and the editor of its newsweekly, John Norton, for his live Twitter stream yesterday from the Notre Dame commencement. John was present in the convocation center at Notre Dame and provided fascinating, minute-by-minute coverage of the graduation ceremony, which featured President Barack Obama giving the commencement address and receiving an honorary degree. You can review John’s feed here.

Why does this matter? For one, it’s always better to have a trained journalist reporting from the scene. Sure, you also could have watched a live video feed from the event, but if something happens off camera you’ll miss it, at least at first. And even then, the primary focus is on the stage. Having a reporter there gives the reader a better sense of the entire scene, not just what the camera picks up.

It’s also nice to be able to follow an event like this when you’re not at your computer. I was in my car a good chunk of yesterday afternoon returning home from Pennsylvania, but I was able to follow John’s Twitter feed on my BlackBerry without having to wait for a radio report at the top of the hour. And even then, the two-minute radio segment didn’t give me the depth of what was happening at Notre Dame, even if John’s Twitter stream was limited to 140-character chunks.

Did anyone else have a similar experience? Let us know below how you felt about the coverage of yesterday’s commencement.

UPDATE: I also should have mentioned that Heidi Schlumpf from the National Catholic Reporter was also live at Notre Dame. You can read her blog posts from the commencement here and here.

SECOND UPDATE: Another client of ours who was there, but as a parent of a graduating senior and not as a reporter, was John Feister of St. Anthony Messenger magazine and You can read his reflection on the ceremony here.

Exhibit looks at contributions of women religious

Sisters of Mary of the Presenation arrived in 1902 in North Dakota to mnister to new immigrants. (Photo courtesy of "Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America)

Sisters of Mary of the Presentation arrived in 1902 in North Dakota to minister to new immigrants. (Photo courtesy of "Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America)

A three-year traveling exhibit looking at the lives and contributions of women religious to American society debuts this weekend in Cincinnati.

A project of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, “Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America” opens May 16 at the Cincinnati Museum Center and runs through Aug. 30. Click here for hours.

The exhibit tells the story of women religious since their arrival in the United States in 1727. It features 70 items from among thousands gathered from more than 400 religious communities. Traveling trunks, journals, vintage health care equipment, diaries, musical instruments and even a few artifacts from several saints are among the items that are included.

Designed by Seruto & Co. in Pasadena, Calif., the show can accommodate artifacts and photos from the archives of local religious communities in each city where it stops.

After its Cincinnati run, “Women & Spirit” moves on to the Women’s Museum in Dallas, followed by stops at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa, over the next 23 months. Other bookings are being sought for 2011 and 2012.

In line with the exhibit’s opening, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat from Toledo, Ohio, has introduced a resolution in Congress commending women religious for their contributions throughout American history.


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