Hawaii’s first saint touched her father’s life

Emma Kamahana Dickerson of Pennsylvania recently took three of her daughters and a granddaughter to Hawaii in anticipation of the canonization of Father Damien de Veuster, who will become the first Hawaiian saint Oct. 11.

Dickerson, 85, has a unique tie to Father Damien. Her father knew him.

There is a great story about this in the Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu.

Pure Fashion models are on a mission for modesty

Here is a revealing story, but in a modest way! It’s about a fashion show held in Lima, Ohio, sponsored by a faith-based model training program promoting virtues of modesty and purity.

In the story featured in the Catholic Chronicle, newspaper of the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, participants and organizers of  the Pure Fashion program stress that women can be beautifully dressed while maintaining their modesty.

I also really enjoyed the multimedia aspect to this article.

Cardinal Martino applauds universal health care initiative

Cardinal Renato Martino

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, speaks at a press conference Dec. 11, 2008. (CNS photo/Emanuela De Meo, Catholic Press Photo)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican hasn’t weighed in very much yet concerning the fierce debate in the United States over health care reform. Some of the opposition in the U.S. centers around whether the government should have such a dominant role in providing affordable coverage for all Americans.

Cardinal Renato Martino, who is head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, lived in the United States for 16 years when he served the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations from 1986-2002.

When I interviewed the cardinal today at the end of a Vatican press conference, I asked him what he thought of the current health care debate in the U.S. and whether the government should be offering universal coverage or if it should just be left up to private businesses. Here’s what he said:

The health of their own citizens belongs to the authorities, to the central government. And so I have been 16 years in the States and I was wondering why a big portion of the American people is deprived, have no health assistance at all. I could never explain this…

And you know that everywhere in the world it is a concern of the government first of all, and after there are possibilities also on the private sector, but those who are without anything… the central government must provide to that. So I cannot but applaud this initiative.

Congregations helping jobless members cope

Rising unemployment has impacted people all over the U.S.  A recent story in Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, told how several faith communities are helping those affected cope with the reality of their situation.

More on Catholic radio

After delivering my first radio news report for CNS last month, I got to thinking about my exposure to Catholic radio. When I was working in Detroit for The Michigan Catholic, the Detroit Archdiocese’s newspaper, in the late 1980s, I remember approaching Jay Berman, then the archdiocese’s director of communications, about the possibility of the archdiocese buying a radio station.

The archdiocese was heading strongly into cable TV at the time with its Catholic Telecommunications Network of Detroit. But across the street from Sacred Heart Seminary stood the tower and studios of WDTR-FM, owned by the Detroit Public Schools. WDTR aired some of the most boring canned programming available in English. The Detroit Public Schools almost always seemed to be in financial trouble. The station’s proximity to the seminary had the potential to attract seminarians and other archdiocesan employees to assist in its operation. There were liturgical musicians whose music could be played — and heard — just the same as with any other music format on radio. Sunday Masses could be aired live in a host of languages. At worst, it could simulcast the archdiocese’s cable programming for a vast audience that hadn’t yet been wired for cable.

Nix,  said Berman. “I’ve never heard a Catholic radio station that’s been done well,” he told me.

If Berman were alive today, he might have had to change his mind, especially given the profusion of Catholic radio. There’s the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio, EWTN’s radio service, Relevant Radio on a fistful of stations around the country, independent Catholic broadcasters, and a growing band of Catholics on low-power radio throughout the county — and their number will only increase once the Federal Communications Commission gives its OK for more low-power stations to claim untaken space on the dial to serve their communities.

As for WDTR? It changed its call letters to WRCJ a few years ago and got a financial lifeline from Detroit’s PBS TV affiliate; WRCJ now promises “Classical Days, Jazzy Nights.” And the Detroit Archdiocese just announced it was outsourcing studio production for its TV operation.

Year for Priests: Learning how to advance the dialogue

By Basilian Father Chris Valka
One in a series

I have just completed my first month of classes at Detroit Catholic Central High School, which means that my students in Public Speaking are giving their first major presentations this week.  Everyone always enjoys “Speech Week,” not only because students get to hear other students but also because I allow the students to facilitate their own “Q&A” after their speech.

People believe that the most difficult aspects of a speech class concern the mechanics, but usually this is the easy part.  It only takes one time for students watching themselves on video to correct most of the issues, or my count of just how many times they said “um” to raise their awareness enough to cause dramatic improvement.

The more difficult issues often concern content — specifically, the student’s ability to critically defend their beliefs.  Far too many students focus their content on their own beliefs rather than considering the opinions and objections of the audience.  Though I allow students to present themselves without interruption during the speech, many students are quickly challenged by their peers during the Q&A session because the speaker failed to consider those to whom he was speaking.

The lesson is an important one:  unsubstantiated opinions sound good when you are the only one speaking, but they do very little to contribute to actual dialogue on any given topic.  This week, I am once again watching as students discover that classroom discussions are far more interesting when the data is more persuasive than the person.

All this leads me to a few thoughts regarding popular morality and “church-related” issues since many students attempt to present them during our class.  I must admit that I usually forbid issues such as the death penalty, abortion, contraception and the like as topics because (1) students are not willing to look beyond the surface reasons and therefore come up with incomplete data, and (2) three minutes is simply not enough time to tackle even one part of the issue.  However, being at this particular school, I decided to let them have at it, though I warn them about the dangers.

Today after a class discussion on abortion, one of my students asked if I would be willing to discuss the issue with his family and a few friends.  Surprised by this question, I asked him what was said in class to cause such a request.  He stated that he never thought about the issue as we discussed it after the speech, during which I asked, “how do we move beyond the preconceived notions that have left us in a stalemate, and advance the argument?  What is helpful/required for either side to listen to the opposing ideas with fresh ears?”  Needless to say, it sparked an interesting class discussion.

As I left the school, I could not help but think about the many people who would love to join in on this upcoming discussion.  Over the years, I have met several presenters who speak on moral issues with wonderful mechanics and persuasive passion, but fail to consider the opinions and objections of another’s point of view.  When this occurs, the result in society is the same as my classroom:  a series of short presentations that leads the speaker to believe something important was said, but offers little to advance the argument in a greater context.  The remedy, as my students are discovering, requires more than just good data but a totally different approach that puts the thoughts of the audience before our own.  It requires less judgment, few statements and more questions.  No doubt this is harder, but the result is almost always an “A”.

valkaFather Chris Valka, CSB, was ordained a priest for the Congregation of St. Basil in May.

Click here for more in this series.

Ambassador’s ceremony draws an eclectic crowd

A Supreme Court justice, an actor and a Catholic university president walk into the State Department…..

… and formalize the swearing in of their mutual friend, constitutional lawyer Douglas Kmiec, as ambassador to Malta.

What sounds like the opening to a stand-up routine was instead the scene in the Treaty Room at the State Department Sept. 2, a case of someone with a broad, diverse base of friends and colleagues if ever there was one.

Justice Samuel Alito, who worked with Kmiec at the Justice Department in the 1980s and is one of the six Catholics on the U.S. Supreme Court; actor Martin Sheen, who is a fellow parishioner at Kmiec’s Catholic parish in California, and Vincentian Father David O’Connell, president of The Catholic University of America, where Kmiec was dean of the law school from 2001 to 2003, each had a role in the brief ceremony.

Kmiec, who is on hiatus as a columnist for Catholic News Service, holds an endowed chair in constitutional law at Pepperdine University School of Law, and previously was director of the University of Notre Dame’s Center on Law & Government, and the founder of its Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy.  As a lifelong Republican who helped write the Reagan administration’s legal arguments to the Supreme Court for overturning Roe v. Wade,  Kmiec stunned some of his friends and former allies with his support for Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign.

An article Kmiec wrote headlined “Reaganites for Obama” caught the eye of  Joshua DuBois, then Obama’s campaign director of religious outreach and now  director of the White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

“Are you for real?” Kmiec recalled being asked by DuBois in their first conversation. “Many people have asked that since then.”

Not long after Kmiec’s support for Obama became public, he was denied Communion on that basis at a Mass before he addressed a Catholic business group in California.  The priest, who was never identified, later apologized.

Kmiec went on to serve as a member of the campaign’s Catholic advisory group and wrote a book “Can a Catholic Support Him: Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama.” From his ambassadorial post, he will continue to serve the administration informally as an adviser on interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

DuBois noted that role would be especially appropriate from Malta, a historical crossroads of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

Father O’Connell offered an invocation, Sheen led the Pledge of Allegiance and Alito administered the oath of office.

Afterward, Kmiec, Alito and Sheen each warmly greeted guests, many of whom asked to pose for photos with the ambassador, the  justice and the actor, who played President Jed Bartlett for seven seasons of the White House-based drama, “The West Wing.”

Despite political activism on a range of issues and his history as a “president” who Kmiec noted “didn’t raise anyone’s taxes and expanded everyone’s budgets,” Sheen said it was his first visit to the State Department.