Priests provide comfort at scene of deadly shooting

When a shooting occurred recently at a fitness club, Catholic priests jumped into action, as you can read in the Pittsburgh Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

You’ll read in this story how the priests’ presence in the midst of such a tragic event helped calm the crowd and the families of victims.

Shriver counted Dorothy Day among her friends

DAY-BOOKAmong the many friends Eunice Kennedy Shriver made throughout her illustrious life was Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement.

Daughter Maria Shriver said in her eulogy during her mother’s funeral Aug. 14 that Shriver considered Day a personal hero, along with Mary, Mother Teresa and her own mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, and her  sister Rosemary.

 Day referred to Shriver in her diaries several times in the 1970s. Day’s references to the member of the Kennedy clan mention how Shriver would call just to chat, invite her to Hyannisport for a break or to discuss deeper concerns.

“She (Shriver) is reading my books,” Day wrote April 15, 1976. “Bedside books, she calls them. She is not happy. ‘Do you believe in heaven and hell?’ she asked me. ‘Why?’”

In an entry dated Oct. 30, 1979, Day told about another call from Shriver in which she said her brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy, would announce a run for the White House in nine days.

Several years earlier, July 14, 1975, Day described another call from Shriver in which she said her husband, Sargent, was planning to seek the presidency. Shriver asked Day to sign on as a supporter. Day was a bit flabbergasted. “I am an anarchist,” she wrote. “But ‘pray for him.’ I like her. He is a daily communicant.”

The diary excerpts can be found in “The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day” edited by Robert Ellsberg and published in 2008 by Marquette University Press.

Connecticut man races through deserts for good causes

When Tom Gallagher said he wanted to go out into the desert, he wasn’t just using a biblical metaphor.

The Riverside, Conn., ultraendurance athlete and Catholic is gearing up for his third seven-day footrace through 150 miles of desert to raise money for Malta House for pregnant women and children. His first two races through The 4 Deserts program were in the Atacama Desert in Chile and the Gobi Desert in China.

In Chile, Gallagher carried a 25-pound backpack filled with meals ready to eat, a sleeping bag, drink mix, socks, a foot kit to treat blisters, and nighttime equipment. Temperatures reached lows of 20 degrees at night and highs in the 80s during the day. Ice cold streams numbed his feet. Thick sand enveloped his shins.

He and about 70 others raced for seven to nine hours each day and slept on the desert floor. The first day began at 10,000 feet above sea level, and they climbed to 11,000 feet before descending to 8,000 feet.

Each day, Gallagher read his morning prayers using torn-out pages from the Magnificat. He recited simple prayers in his head throughout the day during tough points. He read evening prayers before bed. He finished the race in 29th place.

Gallagher wrote a speech to share his experiences. In it, he reflects on his faith and the biblical sensation of going out into the desert:

“I went into the desert and in fact met God–in the beauty of the desert itself and in the people with whom I journeyed the 150 miles in six days. Our Christian faith revels itself in the magnificence of the earth, and the Atacama Desert is truly an icon of God. Yet, the beauty of our faith is intimately revealed in relationships–ours with God and ours with each other. I came out of the desert with several lifetime friends. Such an undertaking teaches a person about the joys of the little things: a drink of water, the benefits of shade, the vital necessity of a good fire, the help of friends and the uplift of encouraging words.”

An entrepreneur, Gallagher works for a communications firm in New York  and writes the “best practices” column for the National Catholic Reporter. He will race through the Sahara Desert in Egypt in October.

Jim McGinnis, teacher of peace, dead at 66

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and Jim McGinnis met in 2008 to discuss nonviolence programs and McGinnis' "Gandhi Guidebook for High Schools." The book was commissioned by the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence during a visit to Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn. (Courtesy Institute for Peace and Justice)

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and Jim McGinnis met in 2008 to discuss nonviolence programs and McGinnis' "Gandhi Guidebook for High Schools." The book was commissioned by the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence during a visit to Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn. (Courtesy Institute for Peace and Justice)

Jim McGinnis, who for nearly 40 years was an advocate and educator for peace and justice, died from a heart attack Aug. 13 near his home in St. Louis.

McGinnis, 66, and his wife, Kathy, were partners in running the Institute for Peace and Justice in St. Louis and the effort to bring peace education curricula to schools across the country. Their “Educating for Peace and Justice, A Manual for Teachers” was the first of its kind in the U.S. It has been revised numerous times and has become a popular resource for schools around the world.

Janice Vanderhaar, an ambassador of peace with Pax Christi USA and a friend of the McGinnises, said in a statement distributed by Pax Christi that the educator died while on an early morning walk.

McGinnis’ work on behalf of peace and justice evolved after a stint in the Tennessee National Guard and being assigned to a unit in Memphis, Tenn., at the time of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Kathy McGinnis told CNS Aug. 15.

In 1970 McGinnis launched the Institute for the Study of Peace, which later became the Institute for Peace and Justice. The institute evolved as the Vietnam War deepened, student protesters and nonprotesters were killed at Kent State University in Ohio and Jackson State University in Mississippi, and the Jesuit-run St. Louis University decided to retain its ROTC program despite a recommendation by the school’s University Council to alter or terminate it

The McGinnises soon began to integrate peacemaking into their family. From that effort they developed a book, “Parenting for Peace and Justice,” and subsequently an international network to teach peacemaking.

Pax Christ USA awarded the McGinnises the 1995 Teacher of Peace Award.

A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 7 p.m., Aug. 18 at St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish in St. Louis. Messages of remembrance can be left on Pax Christi’s Facebook page.

Catholic Charities agencies finding it tougher to meet growing demand for services

Catholic Charities supported agencies across the country, such as Brother Hubbard's Cupboard in Cleveland, are having to do more with less thanks to losses of government funding, private donations and investment income. (CNS/Dennis Sadowski)

Catholic Charities supported agencies across the country, such as Brother Hubbard's Cupboard in Cleveland, are having to do more with less thanks to losses of government funding, private donations and investment income. (CNS/Dennis Sadowski)

Although there seems to be a bit of light at the end of the long recessionary tunnel, Catholic Charities agencies are not seeing it yet.

According to the most recent quarterly snapshot survey from Catholic Charities USA, local agencies are continuing to see growing numbers of people from new and underserved populations, including the working poor, the middle class, families and homeless people.

Coupled with the loss of income thanks to cuts in government funding and corporate donations and declining income from investments, the agencies are faced with doing a lot more with less.

Seven agencies reported that states owe between $1 million and $10 million for contracted services.

Covering the second quarter of 2009, the survey of 40 diocesan Catholic Charities programs showed that people seeking assistance also are under more stress and 32 percent of agencies reported that more clients are asking for mental health servies as they feel overburdened because of the economic crisis.

The agencies resonding to the survey said requests for assistance with foreclosure prevention, job training and placement and emergency cash remained high as the year reached the half-way point.

Taking refuge in nature

Former Catholic News Service director Tom Lorsung might have retired in 2003, but he still is using photographic and writing skills honed in more than 30 years at the news service.

Former CNS director Tom Lorsung

Former CNS director Tom Lorsung

Lorsung’s latest product: a 2010 color calendar, featuring shots from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where he has a home.

Lorsung, who began work at CNS in 1972 as photo editor, has always had an interest in photography, and many of his framed photos remain on the walls at CNS. The calendar includes photographs taken at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge or near his home at Cooks Point Cove, where the Choptank River meets the Chesapeake Bay.

Is another round of home foreclosures on the horizon?

FINANCIAL/USA-HOUSINGIs another massive round of home foreclosures possible starting in 2010?

It just may happen, according to Thomas Shellabarger, a policy adviser for the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The reason can be traced back to 2005 and 2006, the peak years for home loans that offered low interest rates with little or no money down. Under the terms of such loans, interest rates usually reset automatically to higher levels after five years. That points to 2010 and beyond for potentially greater fallout in the real estate market as homeowners face higher mortgage payments they can no longer afford.

Defaults on the same kind of home loans in recent years led to the current depressed real estate market and were a key factor that led to the current economic recession.

This year alone, more than 1.4 million people have lost their homes through foreclosure and 6,600 more foreclosures occur daily, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Responsible Lending in Durham, N.C.

It’s a enough of a concern, Shellabarger told CNS, that federal officials are monitoring mortgage defaults closely, hoping to stave off the entry of another glut of homes into a still overstocked real estate market. Any significant growth in foreclosures would likely derail any hope of economic recovery in 2010 and probably beyond.

Federal legislation to keep people in their homes is being considered. Shellabarger identified one model that comes from Pennsylvania that has caught the eye of federal policymakers and economic advisers.

Under the 26-year-old Keystone State’s plan, a homeowner laid off from work can borrow money from the state to use for the monthly mortgage. The plan allows people to stay in their homes and resume mortgage payments when economic times are better.

Once a homeowner starts making mortgage payments again, the homeowner also pays off the state loan. The minimum payment is $25 a month.

Since its start in 1983, the program has been profitable for the state as well, with more than 43,000 Pennsylvanians paying back $26 million more than they’ve borrowed over the years.

CNS will keep watch on what transpires and the bishops’ role in the situation as well.