More than 25,000 youths and their chaperones descend on Indianapolis to celebrate faith, friendship, community

Kaleigh Gross of Atlanta attends youth conference. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway)

More than 25,000 Catholic youths and their adult chaperones are in Indianapolis for the National Catholic Youth Conference. Saturday is the last day of  what has been a three-day experience of prayer, community and empowerment for Catholic teens. Check out this photo gallery on the website of The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese.

According to organizers, one of the signature activities for the youths at this biennial gathering is trading – buttons, pins, caps and other souvenirs that represent their hometown or state. This year, for the first time, they’ll be exchanging bishops’ trading cards during one of the final events on the closing day.

More than 100,000 of the cards were printed and each teen received five bishop trading cards in his or her registration packet. A complete set includes 28 different bishops from all over the country.

“The whole idea of the bishop trading cards was to get into the spirit of the thematic park, Victory Park (named and modeled after Indianapolis’ Victory Field),” said Marlene Stammerman, director of Catholic Youth Ministries for the Indianapolis Archdiocese’s New Albany deanery in Clarksville.

“There is a whole dynamic of trading items at NCYC. Some kids trade buttons, cow bells, and almost anything. Trading the bishops and trying to get the card with their diocesan bishop on it gives the kids one more thing to negotiate with when vying for that favorite item. It’s a fun way for them to start conversations and make new friends.”

Bishops planned to autograph their trading cards for the teens on Saturday from 2-6 p.m. at Victory Park.

Backers of California’s Prop. 8 have standing to appeal ruling, says court

In a unanimous decision issued Nov. 17, the California Supreme Court ruled that the faith-based groups that sponsored Proposition 8, the state’s 2008 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, have the right to appeal a federal judge’s 2010 ruling it is unconstitutional, reports George Raine of Catholic San Francisco.

“Catholics are among the backers of Prop. 8 who appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal the ruling that it discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and gender,” Raine writes. “As the circuit court took up the issue, its judges needed to resolve a question: Do the backers of the proposition have the legal right to defend it in court when two elected officials, the former governor and the former attorney general, refused to do so?”

The Nov. 17 decision, Raine continues, “was a victory for ProtectMarriage.com, the proponent in the case, and it allows the 9th Circuit now to resolve the critical question in the case – whether or not Prop. 8 is constitutional – although it is expected the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final word.”

Andy Pugno, general counsel of ProtectMarriage.com., told Raine: “(The) decision is a critical step in our three-year battle to uphold marriage between a man and a woman.”

Looking at ‘musical legacy, faith’ of Bruce Springsteen

A New Jersey pastor who has had a long friendship with Bruce Springsteen held a workshop a few weeks back examining the “musical legacy and faith” of the singer-songwriter, according to a story by correspondent Christina Leslie in this issue of The Monitor, newspaper of the Diocese of Trenton, N.J. A crowd of about 150 — including Bruce’s mother, Adele — gathered for the session held by Father Kevin J. Keelen, pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Bayville.

“Every indigenous tribe has music. It’s part of being human,” the Augustinian friar said. “Tonight’s about Bruce and us. He evangelizes in a different way.” Citing lyrics from Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” the priest quoted St. Augustine: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, God.”

With anecdotes drawn on his friendship with “The Boss,” Father Keelen “wove a picture of a deeply spiritual musician whose faith is reflected in his extensive music portfolio,” writes Leslie.

Opera tells story of murdered nun who helped poor farmers, fought powerful landowners in Brazil

2004 file photo of Sister Dorothy Stang. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Ohio-born Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and a naturalized Brazilian citizen, was known for her fight against large landowners in the Amazon region. And for that and her ministry to the marginalized there, she was assassinated in 2005 at age 73. Now her story is being told in an American opera titled “Angel of the Amazon.”

The work just had two performances in Boston this past weekend. The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston Archdiocese, carried an advance notice that featured a triptych of Sister Dorothy painted by a member of her order.

Sister Dorothy’s death sparked an international outcry. She was killed Feb.12, 2005, in Anapu, a remote community in the Amazon region. She was shot several times in the chest and head.

For nearly four decades, Sister Dorothy worked in rural Brazil, defending the rights of poor peasants. This fight made her many enemies, including some wealthy landowners. Shortly before her death, the town of Anapu declared her “persona non grata,” stating her work was hindering the region’s development.

In her book titled “Martyr of the Amazon,” published by Orbis Books in 2007, author Rosanne Murphy recounted that Sister Dorothy’s lifelong dream of mission work became a reality in 1966, when she was one of five sisters from her order sent to Brazil following an appeal by Pope John XXIII.

In December 2008 she was one of seven people name to receive the  prestigious U.N. Prize in the Field of Human Rights, awarded by the General Assembly every five years.

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.

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.”

‘Archbishop Hannan never stopped proclaiming the Gospel’

Archbishop Hannan in 1985. (Photo by Frank H. Methe III/Clarion Herald)

“One of the great blessings of my life was to sit with him over the course of two years, beginning in 2007 when he was 94, and let him tell his stories,” Finney notes. “Those stories and the ones he told his first cousin Nancy Collins formed the basis of his autobiography, ‘The Archbishop Wore Combat Boots.’”

“He dreamed – big and often,” Finney says. “His teachers, including a Brother Luke at St. John’s High School in Washington, caught on to that very quickly. ‘Hannan,’ Brother Luke told him one day, ‘you get too many ideas. Skip every third idea.’

“But that’s the trouble with dreamers. They keep dreaming, and if they have enough conviction, it becomes a reality.”

The Clarion Herald website has a lengthy obituary on the archbishop and also has a number of other tributes to Archbishop Hannan, including a reflection by New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond and some thoughts from the owner of the Saints, Tom Benson.

Tropical storm damage still felt on East Coast

New Jersey residents take boat through floodwater. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Although the late summer rain storms are no longer a major topic of the news cycle,  the damage they caused are still at the forefront for many on the East Coast.

A Sept.22 story in The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., brings this home with its account of ongoing cleanup efforts. Father Thomas Holmes, pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Middleburgh, said he did not have hot water for two weeks after the water heater was damaged when the basement flooded. Although he was happy to report no other significant damage, he could not say the same thing for about 20 families in his parish whose homes were hit hard by the storms and in some cases rendered unliveable.

He also has seen much good will since the storm and said he has been “totally impressed” with donations from diocesan parishes. “They’re calling up to say, ‘We want to send you money’ — and it’s not little money, it’s big money. It’s really an opportunity to show what we’re all about,” he said.

Our Lady of the Valley Parish is only accepting monetary donations since it has no storage space. Parishioners also have been doling out 300 to 400 meals each day to storm victims and relief workers at the parish hall.

“There’s a lot of goodness that’s come out of this,” Father Holmes said.

Rare voice: Flannery O’Connor reads from “Good Man”

Author Flannery O’Connor lingers long in Southern Catholic letters. One of the best-known and strongest Catholic apologists during the 20th century, along with fellow Southerner Walker Percy and only a handful of others, she remains today widely read and taught. She was a prodigious writer of novels, short stories and essays.

Born in Savannah in 1925, of parents from two of Georgia’s oldest Catholic families, she spent the latter part of her life in Milledgeville, Ga., where she struggled with a debilitating disease, systemic lupus erythematosus. Her father had died of it in her youth, and the disease would claim her in 1964 at age 39.

There is an entire academic industry around O’Connor. Next month, Loyola University Chicago will hold a three-day symposium on her life, work and influence on modern Catholic thought.

In New Yorker magazine’s The Book Bench, writer Mark O’Connell posted a blog this week about O’Connor and turned up a rare recording of her reading an excerpt from her acclaimed short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The reading is from a 1959 writers’ conference at Vanderbilt University.

It is a remarkable find of the voice of a remarkable Catholic writer, possibly the finest of her generation.

Cardinal Foley remembers Cardinal Deskur

ROME — Retired U.S. Cardinal John P. Foley, who served 23 years as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, issued a statement honoring Polish Cardinal Andrzej Deskur, who died Sept. 3 at the age of 87. The statement was sent by email to Catholic News Service this morning:

The death of Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur marks the end to an era in the work of the Pontifical Council for Social Comunications. Cardinal Deskur became an official of the Secretary of State at the Holy See in 1952; he was soon involved as undersecretary, then secretary, and ultimately president of the commission of the Holy See responsible for the work of communications. The Cardinal was instrumental in preparing Inter Mirifica, the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the media of social communication; he was also involved in the preparation of the pastoral instruction Communio et Progressio, responding to the call of the Vatican Council for an elaboration of the principles of Inter Mirifica.

Cardinal Deskur tragically suffered a stroke on the day before his good friend Karol Wojtyła entered the conclave in which he was elected Pope. Pope John Paul II made his first visit outside the Vatican to bring spiritual consolation to then Archbishop Deskur in his hospital room. It has been reported that Blessed John Paul II considered the illness of his good friend as a type of spiritual sacrifice which helped to sustain the Holy Father in his universal ministry.

As Cardinal Deskur’s successor at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, I am particularly grateful for the friendship and support offered to me by the Cardinal over my twenty-three years in that office. The Secretary of our Pontifical Council, Bishop Pierfranco Pastore, and I were in the habit of visiting Cardinal Deskur almost every day. His apartment was on the floor above our office and we regularly sought to keep him informed about the work of the Council for which he had done so much for so many years. Cardinal Deskur had a particular love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his apartment door carried the sign “Casa di Maria” (house of Mary). He was quite devoted to his most recent responsibilities as President of the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate Conception.

Catholic communicators throughout the world can be grateful to Cardinal Deskur for his tireless work on their behalf, and on behalf of communications throughout the Universal Church. May his great soul rest in peace.

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