After one year, Haiti’s cholera epidemic has become the world’s largest

(CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

It’s been a year since the cholera epidemic erupted in earthquake-shattered Haiti and aid agencies are turning to a new weapon in battling the water-borne disease.

Led by the Boston-based Partners in Health, the agencies are looking to begin a vaccination program that they expect will begin to reduce the incidence of cholera and thus make entire vulnerable communities less likely to be overrun by the disease.

The plan calls for vaccinating 100,000 people starting in January. Partners in Health is targeting poor communities in tent camps in quake-devastated Port-au-Prince with little access to safe water and in isolated rural villages near Saint Marc along the Artibonite River, about 60 miles north, where the first cholera cases were reported last Oct. 19.

“What we’re proposing is not a trial,” Paul Farmer, a Catholic who co-founded Partners in Health and is U.N. deputy special envoy for Haiti, told reporters this afternoon during an international teleconference. “The vaccine has been proven safe. It’s yet another effective measure against this epidemic.”

The problem, he said, is getting the campaign funded because the world has moved on to other concerns.

The cost is estimated at about $300,000, but Farmer said he and others with Partners in Health have been on the road trying to raise the necessary funds to carry out the vaccination campaign.

“This is the world’s largest (cholera) epidemic. It shouldn’t require that much effort. We’re trying to raise interest sufficiently,” he said.

“I hope some of the people on this call are shocked to see how little it costs to get this rolling,” he said.

Through Oct. 9, 469,967 cases of the disease have been reported leading to 6,595 deaths, according to the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population. The disease saw an upsurge last week after heavy rains hit parts of the country, Dr. Louise Ivers senior health and policy adviser to PIH, told reporters on the teleconference.

Ivers knows that vaccinating 100,000 people is barely sufficient when entire population of 10 million Haitians are at risk of getting the disease. Each patient must get two doses of the vaccine, which, she said, is 70 percent effective.

Farmer and Ivers also said they want to expand the campaign as more funding becomes available. Other agencies also are joining the effort to administer the vaccine.

What’s also needed is increased access to clean water and sanitation, the two physicians said.

Partners in Health estimates that about 54 percent of all Haitians have access to clean water. There is a push within the Haitian government to begin addressing the lack of clean water with some of the $5.9 billion pledge in March 2010 by the countries of the world meeting at the United Nations to discuss their response to the earthquake.

About 40 percent of the funds have been spent thus far. Farmer wants to see the countries making the pledges to return their focus to Haiti.

“We see ourselves as advocates to push for bigger, larger infrastructure projects that will help solve some of these problems” Farmer said.

Father Bernard R. Hubbard, S.J.: ‘Glacier Priest’

“Nothing quite like it had happened before,” writes Rita H. DeLorme, about the 1942 visit of  the “Glacier Priest” to what was then the Savannah-Atlanta Diocese. Jesuit Father Bernard R. Hubbard “delivered lectures, illustrated with motion pictures, from Feb. 9-12, 1942, in four cities of the diocese,” DeLorme said in an article in the Sept. 29 issue of the Southern Cross, newspaper of the Savannah Diocese. “A world-renowned explorer of the Arctic, a geologist and expert in related fields, Hubbard was every boy’s hero and possibly every dad’s too.”

(Map image/courtesy of US Gen Web Project)

I had never heard of Father Hubbard before I ran across DeLorme’s article, but his life as priest, explorer, photographer and popular lecturer was fascinating. He spent some years as a faculty member at Santa Clara University in California, so check out its collection of his photographs.  Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., has a collection of archival materials on the priest and his expeditions, including correspondence, scrapbooks and news clippings about his adventures. The Online Archive of California also has a respository of Hubbard papers, as does the National Park Service. The list goes on.

According to DeLorme, Father Hubbard was given his nickname by guides when he was in Austria to study theology “and led expeditions to the Tyrolean Alps.” In 1927 he was sent to Alaska. “He became fascinated by what he found there, eventually leading 31 scientific expeditions into the country’s desolate regions. Soon, his face, voice and persona were familiar to movie audiences who saw films of his Alaskan adventures. Now he was in Georgia,” writes DeLorme, a volunteer in the Diocese of Savannah’s archives.

‘Catholicism’ series airing on PBS is ‘visually splendid’

A visually splendid and intellectually satisfying introduction to Catholic Christianity is provided by the 10-part video series “Catholicism.” Written and hosted by Father Robert E. Barron, the complete documentary is available for purchase on DVD at Word on Fire, while four, hourlong episodes are airing on PBS affiliates throughout the month of October. (Check local listings or consult this online schedule for the program.)

"Catholicism" host Father Robert Barron. (CNS photo/Word on Fire)

A priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Father Barron is certainly not lacking in academic credentials. He holds a doctorate in sacred theology from France’s Institut Catholique de Paris and serves as the Francis Cardinal George professor of faith and culture at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. He’s also been a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame and Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, colloquially known as the Angelicum.

Like his august – and equally well educated — forerunner Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, however, Father Barron displays a knack for conveying complex ideas in easily grasped, television-friendly terms. His enthusiasm as a narrator also serves to keep the pace pleasingly rapid.

As he explores the identity of Jesus, the main topic of “Amazed and Afraid: The Revelation of God Become Man,” the first episode screened, the globetrotting Father Barron visits lushly photographed holy sites in Bethlehem, Galilee and Jerusalem before traveling on to various sacred locales around Rome. Classical religious artwork – smoothly panned and zoomed in the style justly known among broadcasters as the Ken Burns effect — provides further engaging imagery.

The substantive discussion carried on behind these visuals introduces viewers to the messianic expectations laid down in the prophecies of the Old Testament and to the surprising, sometimes paradoxical, manner in which Jesus — by his life, death and resurrection — fulfilled them.

A first-rate DVD resource for teen and adult religious education, whether in a parish setting or at home – and must-watch public television programming for all old enough to profit from it – “Catholicism” enlists sophisticated production values and an elegantly crafted script in the service of explaining — and celebrating — the faith.

‘Catholic Charities USA Day’ at the White House

Tomorrow is being billed as “Catholic Charities USA Day” at the White House.

At least that’s how Roger Conner, the agency’s senior director for communications, described the day to Catholic News Service.

“It’s a very special day at the White House with the administration for Catholic Charities,” he said.

About 160 leaders from Catholic Charities agencies throughout the country are planning to meet with administration officials. They will be part of a policy briefing to exchange ideas on the economy, human services, housing and immigration, all key concerns for local Catholic Charities agencies.

A press release from Conner’s office quoted Jon Carson, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, as describing the organization “an incredible network of social service organizations that support our neighbors in need.”

He also said the administration was looking forward to meeting with Catholic Charities leaders from around the U.S. for “a day of discussion and collaboration as we work towards our shared goals.”

In the backdrop of the meeting is last month’s release of statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau showing significant increases in poverty in 2010. Overall, 15.1 percent of the population, or 46.2 million people, live in poverty, the bureau reported. That’s an all-time high in terms of numbers.

The Washington gathering also follows Catholic Charities USA’s first annual National Poverty Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, and the reintroduction of the National Opportunity and Community Renewal Act, legislation developed by Catholic Charities USA to identify long-term solutions to poverty.

A reflection on life, faith of Dolores Hope

I heard the other day from Father Benedict Groeschel, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, who is a prolific author and host of a popular EWTN show, and he asked if he could share with CNS readers some of his reflections about the life and faith of his longtime friend, Dolores Hope, who died Sept. 19 at age 102. Dolores was a lifelong Catholic, who with her husband, comedian Bob Hope, who joined the church later in life, supported numerous Catholic causes.

Chapel of Our Lady of Hope at the national shrine. (Photo/Julie Asher)

In Washington, part of the late couple’s legacy is as benefactors of the Chapel of Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain, France, in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. And in his reflection, Father Groeschel notes that the Hopes had a chapel at their house in Los Angeles.

Dolores was “a great Catholic,” the priest writes. “When I first met the Hopes 30 years ago, I was very impressed with the fact that their home had a chapel.  Obviously it had been placed there completely by Dolores.  Although the Blessed Sacrament was not reserved there in a private home, nevertheless the local pastors, who were great fiends of Dolores, often offered Mass there as I also did.

“I had a warm friendship with Dolores because she was a girl from the Bronx and I grew up across the water in Jersey City.  We had all kinds of chats about old New York, but mostly we would talk about life and the spiritual aspects of life. Dolores was very careful, as far I can remember, never to be critical of private or public persons. Her sister, Mildred, came to live with her in her fragile old age.  After Bob’s death, the house was very quiet and prayerful.  The help were kind and gentle.

“Dolores represented a group of remarkable people who were clear-sighted and determined, and well-balanced Catholics of the old days.  It was a wonderful time in Church history; with many public figures both in the clergy and the laity.  There was always a healthy sprinkling of
devout Catholics in Hollywood.  They were led by people like Bing Crosby,  Loretta Young and Dolores Hart, who is now a cloistered Benedictine nun.

Dolores Hope (CNS photo/Reuters)

“Toward the end of her life, nearly 100 years old, one would be startled by the clarity of Dolores’s mind. She had very decided points of view on her own faith and could not be described in religious terms as a liberal or a conservative.  She was an old-fashioned Catholic.

“Dolores all her life was a realist because she had grown up in the Bronx. Her dad was a well-known singing waiter in the rather popular restaurants that were then at 149th Street, which then was main commercial street of the Bronx.

“It has often been mentioned that Dolores was very generous to the poor and to good causes, and that is absolutely true. For my own work with priests, she was a substantial help and also with the work of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal with the poor. It gave me great satisfaction to offer a novena of Masses for Dolores on her journey into eternity. I suspect that she will take that journey, as she did everything else in life, in a determined yet at the same time modest and almost self-effacing way. She did not put herself at the center of the scene. I look forward some day on the other side to meet Dolores again.”

Pope to mark bicentennials on feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

(CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI will join Latin Americans celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the 200th anniversary of their nations’ independence.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, announced today that Pope Benedict will celebrate a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 12, the feast day, to commemorate the Latin American bicentennials. Most countries across Central and South America won their independence from Spain between 1810 and 1825.

L’Osservatore said the Pontifical Commission for Latin America suggested the pope mark the occasion. Members of the Roman Curia, Latin American diplomats accredited to the Holy See and Latin American seminarians, religious and priests studying in Rome are expected to celebrate. Rome is home to large and active Argentine, Brazilian and Mexican communities and they’ll be at St. Peter’s, too.

Jesuit priest recalls invitation to appear in an Apple ad

(CNS photo/Reuters)

It’s been nearly a week since Steve Jobs died and in that time the tributes for the founder of Apple have come from every quarter, even from an influential journal in Vatican City.

Now add to that a remembrance from Jesuit Father Don Doll, longtime photojournalism professor at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., about how he came to be in an Apple ad campaign.

The ad in which the priest appeared is included in an article in the business section of the Huffington Post that highlights some of Apple’s best ads in the last 35 years. Readers who scroll down half way in that article will see the ad featuring Father Doll and the musician, singer-songwriter and record producer Todd Rundgren.

In an email titled “A bit of Creighton in Apple history” and sent to Catholic News Service late last week by Creighton’s communications department, Father Doll told the story: “Here’s how I was invited to be in the Apple campaign ‘What’s on your PowerBook?’ Creighton graduate, Christian Wolfe, who had excelled in my publication design course, was an Los Angeles BBDO account executive with the Apple account who called asking if I had a black clerical suit, and if I would consider being in an Apple ad campaign.  I called my Jesuit superiors in Milwaukee to see if there were any issues with my appearance in an ad. They didn’t have any.

“Apple flew me out first class, put me in in a San Francisco boutique hotel.  We went out to the little, formerly Catholic church now a nondenominational wedding chapel, in Tiburon, across the bay from San Francisco, where I met Todd Rundgren (whom I had never heard of before!), and Michael O’Brien, the photographer, whom I did meet years earlier as an award winning National Press Photographer.

“Michael O’Brien exposed 76 rolls of 120 film over 2-3 hours. The ad was run in black and white and color in numerous national magazines. I received numerous calls from former students who saw the ad.”

And, Father Doll, an award-winning photographer himself, noted that he was “pleased with the ad as it showed a priest in a good light.”

Faith communities continue drive to stop oil pipeline project

About 3,000 people joined a rally to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline proposed to carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Witnesses lined up early this morning at the State Deptartment to offer their views on a $7 billion pipeline project designed to carry up to 800,000 barrels of oil daily from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

On one side were representatives of the energy industry who say the project would produce thousands of construction jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on Middle East oil. The other included religious and environmental groups concerned that extracting oil in Canada’s northern boreal forest will accelerate climate change and harm the livelihood of First Nations people.

The project has raised sensitivities in both the U.S. and Canada as debates have revolved around the benefits of economic development and  jobs in a deep recession and the long-term impact on climate change.

Because the 1,700-mile pipeline crosses an international border, the State Department is charged with recommending to President Barack Obama whether to sign off on a permit for the project or not. In August, the State Department cleared the way for construction in a report that found the project poses no serious threat to the environment and will enhance national security.

Obama’s decision is due by the end of the year. The White House has declined to say how he is leaning.

The hearing in Washington today was the last. Earlier hearings took place in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, states through which the pipeline would pass.

A rally outside of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center near the White House took place as the hearing continued inside.

About 3,000 people cheered calls for stopping the project.

Bill McKibben, author, educator and environmental activist, credited the faith community for playing a growing role in the debate on the project.

In a brief interview after the rally, he told Catholic News Service that involvement by Catholics in the envirinomental movement is satisfying and he credited the Vatican for talking about the consequences of global warming.

“The Vatican has said some of the right things in recent years about climate change and it’s been nice to see,” he said. “It hasn’t been a very active thing for Catholics, but I think that’s changing.”

While the rally continued, Franciscan Father Jacek Orzechowski, parochial vicar of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Md., was waiting to testify at the hearing. His testimony can be seen here and fast forward to the 1:45:00 mark.

Father Orzechowski told CNS he opposes the pipeline on moral grounds and that his faith and the words of Pope Benedict XVI are leading him to act.

“The science is clear that we must have drastic reductions in greenhouse gases,” said Father Orzechowski, representing the Franciscan Action Network, which addresses justice issues. “We have to do it quick in order to avert catastrophic consequences.”

Father Orzechowski was one of more than 1,200 people arrested outside of the White House for protesting the pipeline in a series of actions in late August and early September.

He also was one of six religious representatives who met Oct. 6 with Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs. Kathy McNeely, a staff member of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, was the other Catholic representative at the meeting.

Both stressed to Jones that the U.S. must invest in sustainable energy sources as a job creator rather than promote the continued use of fossil fuels.

Michelle Knight, of the Columban Fathers’ Center for Advocacy and Outreach, also was in line early hoping to testify. She told CNS she planned to address concerns about the dangers any potential oil spill would pose to the shallow Ogallala Aquifer, which provides irrigation and drinking
water to 2 million people in the central U.S.

“We’re all part of God’s creation and we need to protect God’s creation,” she said.

Shout out and plea for Catholic schools

Catholic school in Wilmington, Del. (CNS photo/ Don Blake)

Catholic schools got a shout out, of sorts, in the opinion page of The Wall St. Journal Sept. 30.  The column praised Catholic schools for all their achievements but also lamented their increasing struggles.

“Catholic education in the United States is in dire straits,” wrote Richard Riordan,  former mayor of Los Angeles and the founding president of the Los Angeles Catholic Education Foundation. Citing a recent study by Loyola Marymount University, he noted that 98 percent of Catholic high school students graduate and most of them continue on to college.  But despite the academic success of these schools, enrollment is down and many Catholic schools are closing. Today’s 2 million students attending 6,900 Catholic schools is a far cry from the 5.5 million students attending more than 13,000 U.S. Catholic schools in the early 1960s .

Riordan said this trend is not the result of a lack of demand but of the inability of parents to pay tuition.

That’s why his foundation just announced a campaign to raise $100 million for Catholic schools in the Los Angeles area — in the hope of providing Catholic school scholarships to local students in need.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez likewise noted the great achievements of Catholic schools coupled by their growing unattainable cost for so many. He also credited the Catholic Educational Foundation for making a Catholic education available to so many who would not have been able to afford it.  He described the foundation as one of the church’s “most important social programs” noting that in the last 24 years it provided 120,000 tuition awards totaling $108 million to the poorest families in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

In his column in The Tidings, the archbishop said:”Our schools face challenges. The most serious come from the economic needs of families who can’t afford the costs of Catholic school tuition. So we need to find a way to help.”

He said the mission to help Catholic schools should be shared by all Catholics. “Let’s work together to grow our Catholic schools, to expand into new areas where schools are needed, and to raise the money we need to give a Catholic education to every student who wants it,” he wrote.

Riordan’s message was similar: “Each of us, no matter what career we have followed, has an obligation to educate the next generation. The education needed for success in our world necessarily includes the basics of reading, writing and math. It must also include the ability to reason, to make good judgments, and to be responsible for our planet and all its peoples. These have been the fundamentals of our Catholic schools for over a century. We must guarantee they are here for generations to come.”

Jubilee Sunday focuses congregations on importance of international debt cancellation

As the global financial crisis continues to slow economic recovery, the campaign to eliminate the debt that developing countries owe to major financial institutions moves to local parishes and congregations Oct. 15-16.

Jubilee Sunday, sponsored by the Jubilee USA Network, will find faith communities praying for a just resolution to the debt crisis poor
countries face.

Educational programs about the impact of the debt owed by poor and developing countries and to call for cancellation of that debt also are being planned, Jeremy Weyl, outreach and congregations fellow at Jubilee USA Network, told Catholic News Service.

The program is based on the biblical concept of jubilee where debts are forgiven and slates are wiped clean, allowing for a new beginning for all partners.

The weekend of events and prayers close Illegitimate Debt Week, which finds organizations around the world and in the United States focusing on the reform of international financial institutions.

Jubilee USA Network has developed a resource guide for congregations to use. It includes prayers, homily tips, Sunday school programs and additional action steps.

Weyl said his organization also is working to get the Jubilee Act reintroduced in Congress. The text of the bill introduced in the last Congress can be seen here.

The legislation calls for an expansion of debt cancellation and would require greater responsibility in lending at those international financial institutions in which the U.S. plays a key role.

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