NAC Martyrs make it to the finals

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Seminarian Mark Paver of the Archdiocese of New York, second from right, hugs a teammate after scoring the first goal as the Pontifical North American College competes against Mater Ecclesiae in a semi-final match in the Clericus Cup tournament in Rome April 28. The U.S. team won the game 2-0, advancing to the final against the Pontifical Gregorian University. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

ROME — The Pontifical North American College is heading to the Clericus Cup soccer finals after a 2-0 win against the Mater Ecclesiae seminary on Saturday.

The May 12 final playoff will be the third for the NAC Martyrs, who have yet to win the coveted clerical hat- and cleat-wearing soccer ball trophy. The NAC finished second in 2009 and 2010, and third in 2008.

At the Saturday game, British-born Mark Paver of the Archdiocese of New York was the first to score after just 11′ of play.

Deacon David Santos of the Archdiocese of Newark manned the goal and kept the opposing team from getting anything past the net. Bomber, Scottie Gratton of the Diocese of Burlington nabbed the NAC’s second goal securing the win.

They’ll be facing the Pontifical Gregorian University, which won the cup last year.

An advocate of Latin liturgies speaks about tradition

For this week’s Vatican Letter from our Rome bureau — see “New generation, old rite: the enduring appeal of Catholic tradition” — we interviewed Father Joseph Kramer, an Australia-born member of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. The fraternity was established specifically to serve Catholics devoted to the old Mass in Latin. You can watch a video version of the story here.

Net gain in fight against malaria

Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, said World Malaria Day April 25 is a time to”redouble our commitment to eradicate this pernicious disease.”

World Malaria Day was established five years ago by the World Health Organization as a means to provide education and understanding of the disease and spread information about ways to prevent and treat it.

Woo, writing in a blog for the Huffington Post, points out that the disease — which is spread by mosquitoes — killed at least 650,000 people worldwide in 2010 and some say the figure may even be twice that. Ninety-two percent of these deaths were in Africa and nearly two-thirds were of children under the age of 5.

Despite such grim statistics, Woo said deaths linked to malaria have declined since 2004.

She said the key to completely eradicating this disease is not only through scientists working to create a vaccine but also in the simple steps of using insecticide-treated bed nets and anti-malaria medicines.

According to the United Nations’ program Nothing But Nets, bed nets are so effective because they protect people from malaria-carrying mosquitoes that bite at night. A family of four can sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net, safe from malaria, for three years. The insecticide woven into each net also makes entire communities safer because it kills and repels mosquitoes. Bed nets are said to be able reduce malaria transmissions by 90 percent in areas with high coverage rates.

The CRS website  recounts how three years ago it helped deliver about 3 million insecticide-treated bed nets across Niger. Outreach workers who distributed these nets in local villages also worked to convince locals to use them.

But people do not have to be handing out nets and encouraging people to use them to make a difference, the CRS site points out. It urges people to promote awareness about malaria, contribute or raise money to fight it and advocate Congress to work to eradicate the disease.

Reflections on Benedict XVI’s seven years as pope

We wanted to make sure you didn’t miss our Rome bureau’s video story last week for the seventh anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s election.  Providing reflections on Benedict’s papacy is Father John Wauck, who teaches at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. He gives insights on Benedict’s travels, on his approach to other religions and to the Second Vatican Council, and on the irony of a German serving as pope as we approach the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Reformation.

NAC Martyrs head to semifinals

Pontifical North American College seminarian John Gibson of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee competes in the Clericus Cup in a 2010 game against the Pontifical College of St. Paul in Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).

VATICAN CITY — With help from an Australian teammate, the Pontifical North American College is heading to the Clericus Cup semifinals April 28.  This will be the NAC Martyrs’ fourth consecutive semifinal play since the soccer series for seminarians first kicked off in 2007.

The Martyrs beat the Pontifical Urban College 4-2 on Saturday making it a great way for the men to celebrate the April 21st birthday of the NAC’s rector Msgr. James Checchio!

The NAC houses a number of Australian seminarians since “the men down under” don’t have a pontifical college of their own. Lewi Barakat of the Archdiocese of Sydney netted two goals in the game’s final half, pulling the NAC out of an excruciating 2-2 tie.

Deacon David Santos of the Archdiocese of Newark and John Gibson of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee nabbed the team’s two other goals.

The Martyrs and its superhero fan base are once again hoping to come home with the Clericus Cup championship title, which has eluded them for the past five years. Their best showing came in 2010 when they took second place overall and won an award for “Best Fans.”

Super heroes such as Batman, Spider-Man and Wolverine turn out for every game, waving American flags and rallying the fans. Uncle Sam and a fluffy yellow chicken  made special appearances in the stands this year.

Hallmark’s April 22 TV film ‘Firelight’ is ‘inspiring, replete with positive values’

(CNS photo/courtesy Hallmark Hall of Fame)

NEW YORK (CNS) — A prison for young female offenders provides the unlikely setting for a television drama about hope and new beginnings in “Firelight.” This latest, characteristically wholesome Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation — written by Ligiah Villalobos and directed by Darnell Martin — airs on ABC-TV Sunday, April 22, 9-11 p.m. EDT.

Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Dwayne Johnson, nicknamed DJ, the facility’s dedicated and compassionate youth counselor. When new inmate Caroline Magabo (Q’orianka Kilcher) arrives on the scene after being nabbed in a botched robbery led by her deadbeat boyfriend, DJ sets his sights on helping her reform and keep out of further trouble. So, too, does model prisoner Terry Easle (DeWanda Wise).

Terry heads the inmates’ elite volunteer firefighting team, a unit primarily dedicated to battling local brush fires that she eventually convinces Caroline to join. Membership in the force and educational engagement with — of all things — Plato’s “Republic,” a text to which Terry introduces her newfound friend, become the vehicles propelling Caroline toward a better life.

While the redemption the program celebrates is entirely of the self-improvement variety — Caroline and DJ discuss the need to “buy yourself back” when you’ve done something genuinely harmful — it nonetheless strikes a secular note that’s at least in harmony with the spiritual themes of the Easter season.

Although its brief portrayals of crime and the effects of physical abuse may mark this offering as too mature for the youngest, teen viewers and their elders will find it an inspiring tale replete with positive values.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

Central American violence called threat to U.S.

By Rhina Guidos
Catholic News Service

Outgoing World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick said today that across administrations, the United States has not paid attention to Central America until the problems “get so bad.”

Now the recent rise in violence, including dramatic numbers of homicides “for countries not at war,” won’t just threaten the region but could present a security problem for the United States, Zoellick said.

Gangs, the drug trade and widespread and easy access to firearms threaten the people living in Central America as well as development of the region, Zoellick said.

He urged the private sector to become more involved in finding a solution to bringing down the violence.

“This is not just the role of the state or the Catholic Church,” he said.

Central American nations combined have the same population as the entire country of Spain, yet the number of murders per capita — 336 in Spain to more than 14,000 in Central America over the same period — clearly shows the problem, he said. He was speaking today to a group gathered at the World Bank headquarters in Washington to discuss ways of reducing murder rates in Central America.

“The private sector has to say, ‘This is our problem, too,’” Zoellick said.

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