CNS World Youth Day blogger now a priest

Many readers may recall Deacon Chris Valka, a seminarian for the Congregation of St. Basil who blogged for us during World Youth Day in Sydney last year. Deacon Chris was ordained a Basilian priest last month at St. Anne Church in Houston. A great friend of CNS, Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the executive director of Toronto’s Salt and Light Television, preached his Mass of Thanksgiving. You can see photos of Father Chris’s ordination and read the text of Father Tom’s homily. Don’t forget to read Father Chris’s reflection on vocations on the same site.

Father Chris is finishing up a stint in campus ministry at the university chaplaincy in Las Cruces, N.M., before doing a summer immersing himself in Catholic TV at Salt and Light. Then it’s back to the U.S. for his first assignment as a new priest.

You also can read about Father Tom being recently appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

You have to hand it to the Basilians. They stay busy.

Judge Sotomayor, Catholic education and Catholic identity

President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx section of New York, where Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore grew up.

Writing in his June 15 column in The Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan newspaper, he said he knew the school to be “solidly Catholic in spirit and in consistent fidelity to the church and its teachings.” But news reports that say Sotomayor is not a regular “Mass attendee,” the archbishop notes, seem that to imply that her high school “somehow failed in its mission.”

“I would not say that at all,” he writes. ” The question, however, does bring to light the importance of our own parochial schools’ ‘Catholic identity.'”

Bringing denominations together sometimes challenging

At Bread for the World’s annual gathering Monday, a panel of Hispanic religious leaders from various denominations was convoked. They said they were setting doctrinal differences aside to work on issues on which they had common cause, like hunger, poverty and immigration.

However, speakers talked about some of the tensions that still exist among different faiths. The Rev. Juan Martinez, a Church of the Brethren minister, recalled trying to set up a Hispanic pan-Christian clergy breakfast at Fuller Theological Seminary in Atlanta, where he teaches. After much internal deliberation, he said, he decided against inviting Catholics out of fear of alienating the Protestant clergy he hoped would attend.

At another event he organized, Rev. Martinez said, an Episcopal bishop supported the endeavor with a monetary contribution, but shied away from attending himself, saying his presence would be too divisive.

Another panel speaker was an Augustinian Recollect priest who is director of the Hispanic Pastoral Institute in Newark, N.J., sponsored by the Archdiocese of Newark, which educates both Catholics and Protestants. A Protestestant minister let it be known he would not attend any events sponsored by the institute because of the name of the building in which it is housed: Centro Guadalupe, named after Our Lady of  Guadalupe.

Story on Vatican and access to Facebook provokes debate

We hit a nerve yesterday with our story on how the Vatican has set up a firewall to stop employees from accessing social-networking sites like Facebook while at work. We posted it on our own Facebook page (naturally!) and got reader comments ranging from the Vatican is just like any company that has a right to secure its computer network to the fact that some people have legitimate reasons to go on Facebook during work hours.

Vatican employees interviewed for our article maintained that Facebook has become an important news source for many and that problems last winter with a Holocaust-denying bishop could have been avoided with better access to information. But Vatican officials said that the policy was, in the words of one, “a fairly normal and prudential measure.”

What do you think? Is social networking a modern-day equivalent of having a telephone on your desk that too can be abused, or are such policies a valid way to block access to inappropriate material? Share your thoughts below.

Catholic Charities USA brings poverty message to the UN

Women of faith have a unique role to play in reducing poverty around the world, Candy Hill, senior vice president for public policy and government affairs at Catholic Charities USA, told a conference at the United Nations in New York.

Speaking June 15 at Religions for Peace, a consultative symposium of the North American Women of Faith Network, Hill said that poverty can be reduced significantly if people, particularly women, work to reduce the disparities that exist across cultures.

Hill cited how women, despite the strides they have made, today are more likely to make significantly less money then men and disproportionately make up the number of working poor in the U.S.

Similarly, women have been impacted more severely by the current economic recession than men because the jobs they hold are more likely to see layoffs, loss of health care benefits and wage cuts, she said.

“Each one of us owes the women of history and the women and girls in the misery of urban poverty our divine gift of love, care and courage,” she said.

Hill urged conference participants to be the “caretakers of the work of the creator, the perpetuators of creations in this world,” in order to achieve justice for all.

Building a culture of vocations

The message of the 2000 movie “Pay It Forward” — don’t pay someone back for the kindness they did to you, but give someone else an unexpected kindness like you received — resonates nearly a decade later, and takes on new forms.

In the Diocese of Evansville, Ind., the vocations office has unveiled an initiative called “Pray Them Forward” — the “them” being candidates to the priesthood or vowed religious life — to build a culture of vocations.

The Message, Evansville’s diocesan newspaper, focused on the initiative, which has its own online components, including its own Web site with blogs by priests.  The links to the Web site, which also have separate “Pray Him Forward” and “Pray Her Forward” pages, can be found at the bottom of the story

The importance of dads

With Father’s Day coming June 21, a couple of Catholic organizations are taking steps to ensure that fathers get the recognition they deserve.

As part of its efforts to reduce poverty, Catholic Charities USA is allowing people to send an e-card to thank their father or someone they respect as a father figure while also making a donation to the organization.

Contributions received through the program will help Catholic Charities USA help low-income dads and strengthen families by helping reduce some of the challenges that force kids into poverty. A dozen different designs are available, including two in Spanish.

Catholic Charities says all card recipients will be remembered by Father Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA president, when he celebrates Mass in Rome on Father’s Day.

Over at the Fathers for Good Web site sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, three new videos offer reflections and commentaries on fatherhood by three prominent Catholics. Excerpts from the videos show up when viewers enter the site. The full videos featuring Raymond Arroyo of EWTN, author Scott Hahn and Robert George,  professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison program in American ideals and institutions at Princeton University, can be seen by clicking on them while the excerpts play.

To all dads, a happy Father’s Day.

Kids say the darndest things

On occasion over the past year, we have had to leave Mass early so that my 5-year-old daughter could start Sunday school on time. Sunday school is over for the summer, but my daughter is still in the routine.

During the eucharistic prayer one recent Sunday, she thought it was time to leave. “Daddy, I want to go,” she said. I told her (in a very quiet voice, of course): “No,  it’s not time yet. This is the second half of the Mass. The first half is called the Liturgy of the Word” — and I pointed out those words in the missal aid in the pew. “That’s when the people were reading from the book, and the priest was talking to the people.”

“Now this is the second half of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist,” I said, again pointing out the words in the missal aid. “And see?” I told her, pointing toward the sanctuary. “The priest is holding up the Eucharist right now.”

“Daddy,” she queried, “when’s the third half?”

Saguaro seminar stays with Obama

Religion News Service posted today on its homepage a story by reporter Daniel Burke that describes the long-lasting effect of a little-known chapter in the early career of President Barack Obama. A 1997 series of Harvard lectures on social capital, known as the Saguro Seminar, was attended by political and media luminaries of the day — and an obscure community organizer and first-term state senator from Illinois. The lectures had a profound impact. Much of what the young politician learned there has ended up framing the president’s public policy goals, and many of his fellow Saguro alumni have signed on as advisers in the Obama administration, Burke says, in his piece “Saguro seminar stays with Obama.”

‘American Idol': Launch pad for Christian singers

The TV show “American Idol” may have the glitzy trappings of the Las Vegas strip, but David Wang of the The Catholic Register of Toronto has noticed that a high percentage of successful contestants have launched their careers in Christian music.

“Previous contestants who have released successful Christian albums have included Mandisa, Ruben Studdard and Chris Sligh.  

“Melinda Doolittle was a background vocalist on several notable Christian albums prior to her run at the title and some of (Chris) Daughtry’s initial demos before idol were Christian worship. This year’s contestants were no exception with Danny Gokey, Lil Rounds and the eventual winner Kris Allen all leading worship at their churches. “

Wang goes on to review Mandisa’s new album as well as an assortment of other recent contemporary Christian releases.

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