New man in charge at bishops’ spring meeting

(CNS photo/Stephen Brashear)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Leading his first meeting as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York didn’t take long to place his distinctive mark on the proceedings.

“Let the record show I’m five minutes ahead of where Cardinal (Francis E.) George (of Chicago) would have been at this time,” Archbishop Dolan joked an hour into the meeting, referring to his predecessor as USCCB president.

The spring general assembly in Bellevue, near Seattle, did proceed at a brisk clip, with the bishops completing their public business an hour early the first day, June 15, requiring them to go into executive session. Among the actions the second day were votes approving a statement on physician-assisted suicide and revisions to the charter adressing child abuse.

Besides leading the meeting, Archbishop Dolan also served as its cheerleader, telling nearly every bishop who spoke that he had done a great job.

Asked about the brisk pace in an on-air interview with Telecare, the television station of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., which was broadcasting the meeting nationwide, the jovial Archbishop Dolan made another joke.

“There are coffee breaks to get to, and lunches, and dinners,” said the New York prelate who often makes fun of his own weight. “You can’t let the meeting get in the way.”

Lila Rose sees abortion as greatest human rights abuse

It goes without saying there are a lot of important causes that spur activism, but for Lila Rose, the abortion issue in the U.S. is paramount. Rose is the founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action, which currently focuses on investigating Planned Parenthood.

She was recently in the Diocese of Madison, Wis., for the annual dinner and auction of the Wisconsin Right to Life Education Fund. Coverage of Rose’s remarks is in the June 9 issue of the Catholic Herald, Madison’s diocesan newspaper.

“The purpose of laws is to protect people in this country. The purpose of laws is to protect the weak against the strong,” she said. “But what happens to a country, to a legal system when the law is turned against the weakest member of the society? That at the very heart of the system is injustice.”

In April Rose was in Washington to speak at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. She talked about becoming a Catholic recently, calling it the “best decision” she ever made.

Canada’s Novalis celebrates 75th anniversary

Our friends at Novalis, Canada’s premier publisher of religious books, resources and periodicals, are celebrating the company’s 75th anniversary this year.

A visit to the company’s website reveals books, magazines and resources for parishes and schools, but also “for people who are on their own spiritual journey,” points out is publishing director, Joseph Sinasac.

He said the Toronto-based publishing house grew out of a movement in ’30s, ’40s and ’50s for the development of lay Catholics. Its first product was a missalette for people in the pews to follow along with the Latin Mass. Today, he said, Novalis helps lay Catholics “understand how their own faith can guide and enrich their lives, whether at home, or in the workplace, or simply as citizens in the world.”

Novalis is planning a series of events around Canada to mark its anniversary. Keep track by following it on its Facebook page.

Charity bike ride aims to raise funds for pro-life groups

By Nicholas Grevas
Catholic News Service

At about 5:30 a.m. yesterday, Jimmy Becker and Michael Schaefer and a few others set out by bicycle from Covington, La., near New Orleans, and headed to Champaign, Ill. They are leading the third annual Biking for Babies tour. Check the site for video from the ride and a daily update. It’s an eight-day charity ride that aims to raise $15,000 for pro-life groups and crisis pregnancy centers. Becker and Schaefer are being joined by Stacy Hague, Eric Johannigmeier and Kevin Biese.

Along the way they plan to stop at parishes and radio stations to promote their event and increase awareness about the pro-life cause. The money they raise will go to three charities: the University of Illinois Students for Life, and a crisis pregnancy center in Illinois, called Living Alternatives, and a second pregnancy crisis center in Madison, Wis.

(Photo courtesy of Biking for Babies)

In 2008 Becker and Schaefer thought of the idea to do a pro-life charity ride, and in 2009 they rode from Carbondale, Ill., to Chicago. While other students enjoyed a welcome weeklong spring break, the two young men were out answering the call of Blessed John Paul II to “defend life and to change the culture of death,” as Becker put it in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service before this year’s ride began.

The event wasn’t always so easily coordinated. In 2010, the two led separate rides because Becker had graduated from the University of Illinois in 2009 and was working in campus ministry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Schaefer was still at Illinois (where he’ll be a senior this fall), and their respective spring breaks were at different times.

But this year they are on the road together with their three friends, knowing riding in the heat could be a challenge but hoping their commitment will inspire others to join them and help Biking for Babies grow into a long-standing tradition.

Family-focused TV movie has strong moral core, timely message

By John Mulderig

Catholic News Service

                The perennial problem of bullying in schools has received increased attention of late, and so provides a timely theme for the made-for-TV movie “Field of Vision.” This family-focused drama — which boasts a strong moral core and worry-free content — premieres on NBC Saturday, June 11, 8-10 p.m. EDT.

                In a tale that oddly, sometimes uneasily, mixes fantasy and realism, Tyler McFarland (Tony Oller), the captain and star quarterback of his high school football team, discovers -– through the images on an outmoded but apparently mystical video camera — that two of his fellow players have been persecuting troubled new transfer student Cory Walker (Joe Adler).

                Since the bullies are two of Tyler’s oldest friends, he’s naturally reluctant to notify his ethically exacting coach about their misdeeds, given that the pair will likely be barred from playing as a result. His dilemma is compounded by the fact that his squad is on the fast track to the state championship via a series of matches they might well lose in his amigos’ absence.

                As Tyler’s kid sister Lucy (Alyssa Jordan Shafer) befriends Cory -– in a subplot promoting the joys of reading, they’re shown to share a love for classic adventure stories -– she suspects the scenes that same magic camcorder has begun to show her may have to do with the lonely newcomer’s unhappy past, as well as his potentially much brighter future.

                Just as the gridiron heroics are deliberately calculated to appeal to boys in the audience, so these sequences — which offer us glimpses of life on a horse farm — represent an obvious bid for the attention of the Justin Bieber set.

                If the stratagems being deployed are not especially deep, however, at least the approach is a wholesome and uplifting one, offering youngster a case study in the value of doing the right thing, and presenting a range of role models parents will appreciate.

                In addition to the aforementioned coach, these include the caring foster parents with whom Cory lives -– whose religious motivation for helping others is hinted at by the cross we see hanging on their living room wall — and Tyler’s mom Jody (Faith Ford), the school guidance counselor, who devotes kindly and unstinting attention to Cory’s difficulties from the outset.

                As for the unusual device at the center of the story, it may be intended as a metaphor for biblical faith -– an aid to seeing and understanding the world that many today might be tempted to discount as old-fashioned but which, if employed in the right spirit, offers insights that would otherwise elude us.

                “Field of Vision” is the sixth film in an entertainment series dubbed the Family Movie Night Initiative and jointly sponsored by Walmart and Procter & Gamble. It’s rated TV-G -– general audience.

- – -

                Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

Knights of Columbus volunteered like never before in 2010

Volunteers with the Knights of Columbus dish out a hot lunch for victims and cleanup crews in the tornado-devastated town of Hackleburg, Ala., May 7. (CNS photo/Mary D. Dillard, One Voice)

Volunteering and charitable donations are up among Knights of Columbus members.

The worldwide organization reports that its members spent more than 70 million hours volunteering for charitable causes in 2010. That’s an increase of nearly 800,000 hours.

Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and the Global Wheelchair Mission were among the organizations benefiting most from knights stepping forward to offer their time and talent.

As for donations, the organization’s Supreme Council and state and local affiliates contributed $154.6 million to charitable causes in 2010, an increase of about $3 million from the previous year.

A breakdown shows that state and local affiliates donated $125.5 million of the total while the Supreme Council donated a little more than $29 million.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a press release that the increases occurred despite the struggling economy that plagued the country – including some members — during 2010. “Knights have stepped up as never before to meet the needs of their neighbors,” he said.

Shout-outs for long-lasting marriages

Couple celebrates 50 years of marriage with kiss at Chicago cathedral. (CNS photo by Karen Callaway)

In today’s quick-paced world that often focuses on the extraordinary or what’s gone wrong, folks who go about their lives just doing what they promised to do – for decades — hardly make headlines.

But dioceses across the country take exception to this rule in special Masses each year honoring couples who have been married for 25 or 50 years or more.

Recently at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, 829 couples attended a special Mass commemorating 25-73 years of marriage.

One couple, Pat and Bob Deffinbaugh from southern Maryland, didn’t boast about any magic secrets to their 50-year commitment. Instead, they told the Catholic Standard they believed God had been with them in good times and in bad.

And they had been with each other through these times too.

As Bob pointed out: “My wife stood by me through thick and thin.”

Coincidentally, another couple – Geraldine and James Taormina from Denville, N.J., — celebrating 50 years of marriage at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Paterson, N.J., also mentioned the “through thick and thin” notion. The couple saw it this way: Their vow was made before God and thus should be kept in all circumstances.

These couples have obviously walked the walk well beyond the aisle and likely have some wisdom to share with other couples.

The Chicago Archdiocese is convinced of this. Each year they collect advice from couples married 50 years and put it into a book called “True Soul Mates: Couples Married 50 Years Give Their Advice for Successful Marriage.”

Ayn Rand, prison ministry, Daniel Berrigan and podcasting

No, it’s not apparent why those topics are clustered together. That’s the nature of the blog, “Dating God, Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century,” by Franciscan Brother Dan Horan.

The journalism and theology graduate of St. Bonaventure University — who’s occasionally had his photos published in CNS — just finished a year of teaching at Siena College,  will take his solemn vows in the Order of Friars Minor this summer, and is on course for ordination to the priesthood next year.

In his spare time, Brother Horan blogs on a wide range of topics. In just the last week, that’s included a reflection on the rise in popularity among conservative politicians of atheist philosopher and writer Ayn Rand; several podcasts from a chaplain at a New York state prison; and some reflections from Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan on nonviolence.

As exhausting as that sounds, Brother Horan manages to keep his blog thoughtful and educational, with a keen eye for the wide range of topics that intersect with questions of  faith and belief.

A basketball playoff, an archbishop, a bishop and a wager

Who knows what team will ultimately prevail to become the NBA champions, the Dallas Mavericks or the Miami Heat, but one thing for sure is the friendly wager between Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell and Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski. It’s Key lime pies and a box of handmade cigars vs. BBQ ribs and tortillas and salsa. But there’s more, so check out the full details on the website of the Miami Archdiocese and the Dallas Diocese.

Here’s a little factoid about basketball: As I was trying to find some colorful synonyms for basketball player, a CNS colleague and I remembered players often were called “cagers.” Don’t hear that too much these days, but where did the term come from? Circa 1896-1900 basketball was played in a large mesh cage.

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