Pope’s second book out for Lent

Pope Benedict looks at a copy of the first volume of his work, "Jesus of Nazareth." The first volume came out in 2007.

VATICAN CITY — We’ve known for a while that the second volume of Pope Benedict XVI’s work, “Jesus of Nazareth,” would be out by the spring of next year.

Salesian Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican Publishing House, has finally set the target date for the book’s worldwide release: the first Sunday of Lent, March 13, 2011.

In an interview with Vatican Radio yesterday, Father Costa said that by Jan. 15, they plan on delivering translated texts to publishers in different countries so those publishers can prepare their own national editions.

Writing in his native language, German, the pope finished writing the second volume on the life of Jesus in May and the text went to a team of Vatican translators at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

The Vatican wants the book to be released simultaneously in major languages. And Lent is a perfect time to launch Volume 2, which treats Christ’s passion and resurrection.

Life in camps no better for Haitians than in days following earthquake

A husband and wife build a makeshift tent from sticks less than three weeks after Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake. Reports on the ground indicate that little has changed in the camps more than seven months since the disaster occurred. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Seven months after the Jan. 12 earthquake, a large part of Haiti continues to reel in the aftermath of the disaster. Haitians are praying and hoping that relief comes their way soon and that summer tropical storms bypass their country.

A brief description of life in the displaced persons camps arrived this week from Junior Sinsmyr, the young man whom CNS photographer Bob Roller and I hired as a driver and interpreter during our 10 days of reporting from the Port-au-Prince area following the quake.

Writing in an e-mail, Sinsmyr, who lost his home and continues to live in a tent community near the international airport, described the situation as confused, even worse than in the days following the earthquake.

“I already change three tents,” he wrote in English, his second language, “’cause rain and sun fall them apart, break them.

“Things are difficult here for those like me. The hunger is the first. Beside this, when the quake was just happened, it was so frustrated, but finding help easier than now. People do not care about others now,” he said.

Sinsmyr’s message was followed by one from Archbishop Bernardito Auza, papal nuncio to Haiti. He also wrote that life is hardly any better in the hundreds of tent camps that sprouted in the broad earthquake zone in the days after the disaster.

“It’s always emergency from the humanitarian perspective,” the archbishop said. “The camps are always the same as they were days after the earthquake. Some say that instead of diminishing, the camp populations have seen an increase, at least in some, attracted by aid distribution and possibility of cash-for-work, as well as the impossibility of finding better alternatives.”

Efforts by agencies such as Catholic Relief Services to provide transitional housing has helped some homeless Haitians, but the overwhelming majority of displaced people remain under improvised shelter, he said.

“It’s one solution to depopulate the camps and make sure the house is built on properties verified by owners,” Archbishop Auza continued. “There are some NGOs (nongovernment organizations) that prefer to build permanent housing. But we are light years away from fulfilling the demands.”

The archbishop said 250,000 homes are needed to house the 1.5 million people who remain in the camps. “We are still so far from that.”

Catholic colleges, universities rank well in USN&WR list

It’s that time of year again that college administrators both love and hate: the annual ranking of the schools by U.S. News and World Report. Rankings are subjective at best; different organizations have different criteria for choosing who gets the top spot — or the bottom one. Nevertheless, all higher education eyes — and not a few eyes of parents and students — pay close attention.

Catholic colleges and universities did well again. USN&WR sorts its rankings by national schools, national liberal arts schools that mainly concentrate on undergraduate education, and regional schools that draw heavily from their area of the country. The magazine does not rank schools outside of the U.S.

Here are the top ones. You can get the entire listings here.

In the listing for best national colleges and universities, the University of Notre Dame was the top Catholic school at 19th. Georgetown University came in at 21st. Boston College ranked 31st, and Fordham University took 56th. Marquette University ranked 75th, St. Louis University 86th and the University of Dayton 99th. Loyola University of Chicago tied with the University of San Francisco at 117th. The Catholic University of America and Duquense University also tied at 120th. St. Thomas University (St. Paul, Minn.) followed at 124th. DePaul University and Seton Hall University tied at 136th. St. John’s University (Jamaica, N.Y.) took the 143rd spot. Immaculata University ranked 176th, and St. Mary’s University of Minnesota at 183rd was the final Catholic school in the magazine’s tier-one listing. Others were listed among tier-two schools.

Among the best liberal arts schools, the College of Holy Cross ranked first among Catholic colleges at 32nd. St. John’s University (Collegeville, Minn.) followed at 62nd. Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, Calif.) ranked 71st. The College of St. Benedict (St. Joseph, Minn.) came in at 81. St. Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Ind.) tied with St. Michael’s College for 93rd place. Sienna College (Loudonville, N.Y.) took the 114th spot. St. Anselm College was at 122th, St. Norbert College followed at 127th, and St. Vincent College (Latrobe, Pa.) ranked 152nd. The last Catholic school among tier-one schools was Carroll College (Helena, Mont.).

Catholic schools fared even better among regional listing, crowding top spots. I’m only listing the schools that fell in the top 25 here.

In the North of the U.S. the first four spots were held by Villanova University, Providence College, Loyola University Maryland and Fairfield University respectively. Marist University tied with the University of Scranton for 10th place. St. Joseph’s University came in 13th, followed by LaSalle University at 19. Canisius College ranked 20th. Mount St. Mary’s University (Emmitsburg, Md.) fell in at 22nd, and Nazareth College (Rochester, N.Y.) won 25th.

In the South, Loyola University New Orleans was the top ranking Catholic school at 7th. Bellarmine College  was 12th, Spring Hill College was 17th and Christian Brothers University was 21st. Wheeling Jesuit University and Xavier University of Louisiana tied for 22nd.

In the Midwest, Creighton University took first place. Xavier University (Cincinnati) came in 3rd. John Carroll University ranked 7th. The College of St. Catherine was 17th, followed by Dominican College (River Forest, Ill.) at 19th. The College of St. Scholastica tied with Rockhurst University for 24th place.

In the vast West, Santa Clara University, Loyola Marymount University and Gonzaga University respectively took the 2nd, 3rd and 4th spots. Seattle University closely followed in 6th place, with the University of Portland at 9th. St. Mary’s College of California ranked 12th. The University of Dallas came in 15th. St. Mary’s University of San Antonio ranked 19th with St. Edward’s University at 21. Mount St. Mary College (Los Angeles) came in at 25.

You either hate or love rankings, and the criteria change from organization to organization and from year to year. But most reasonable people would agree that the best college or university in the country is the one where a student thrives.

CNS intern featured on PBS news program

Ever wanted to see what our newsroom looks like?

OK, so maybe that’s not at the top of your “bucket list,” but you can see it anyway in a story that was aired last week on PBS’s “Nightly Business Report” featuring one of our summer interns, Felix Rivera.

The PBS story was on whether companies take advantage of interns and run afoul of the law by not paying them. Rivera told PBS he had a great experience interning for CNS and didn’t mind not being paid because the experience he gained is worth far more than money. He interned with CNS through the Fund for American Studies, which runs several programs for college students and places journalism students with news organizations for the summer.

Here’s the link to the PBS program. Hover your cursor over the video and drag the timeline bar to approximately 18:27. Our intern, who is headed back to Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, Alaska, is interviewed at both the beginning and the end of the three-minute story.

Catholic colleges fail Department of Education fiscal test

The economy has been tough on institutions of higher education in the United States. This week, the U.S. Department of Education issued a report listing 150 non-profit private colleges and universities that failed to meet federal guidelines for fiscal responsibility, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. The findings are based on fiscal performance for 2009. The number is 23 more than failed in 2008 and it represents a 70 percent increase over 2007, the Chronicle said.

The failure to meet the fed’s criteria usually represents an institutions “financial fragility,” but the downturn in the economy over the last two years has hit many college and university endowments particularly hard. The determination to list a school is based on several criteria, including debt, assets, and operating deficits and surpluses. The schools are required to participate in the DoE’s evaluation of how they award federal aid to students.

Sixteen Catholic colleges and universities made the list. Two have made the list for three straight years: Ave Maria School of Law in Florida and the College of Our Lady of the Elms in Massachusetts. This is the second year that Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire was listed. The first-timers are Brescia University in Kentucky; Newman University in Kansas; University of St. Mary of the Lake and Dominican University in Illinois; the University of St. Thomas in Texas; Rockhurst University in Missouri; Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina; Chestnut Hill College and Rosemont College in Pennsylvania; Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia; and the Dominican College of Blauvelt in New York.

The report also list many for-profit colleges and universities.

A reflection from Dorothy Day on the Transfiguration and the opening of the atomic age 65 years ago

Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami of Nagasaki, Japan, talks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the history of the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki Aug. 5. The original cathedral was built in 1914, but was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945. Ban visited Nagasaki ahead of the 65th anniversary of the Aug. 9 atomic bombing of the city. (CNS photo/Junko Ito, Catholic Weekly of Japan)

Sixty-five years ago two bombs opened the nuclear era, destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9) and sending humanity on a new course.

Aug. 6 is also the feast of the Transfiguration, the time when Christ, joined by Peter, John and James, went up what traditionally has been identified as Mount Tabor in Galilee and was transfigured before their eyes. Matthew tells us that Christ’s face “shone like the sun and his garments became as white as light.”

Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and who at times has been promoted as a candidate for sainthood, offered her thoughts on the bombings shortly after they occurred in the Sept. 1, 1945 issue of The Catholic Worker newspaper. Her reflection connects the bombings with the Transfiguration event and, not mincing words, leads the reader to ponder the words of Christ in relation to how our brothers and sisters in the world are treated in relationship. She contrasts the U.S. sense of triumphalism that followed the bombings and the dangerous road on which the world had embarked.

You can read the readings from Mass today here.

From northwestern Pakistan, the rains keep getting worse

The monsoon-type rains are continuing in Pakistan, where the government aid agency says 12 million people have been affected, but expects that number could rise to half a million.

BBC News quotes Gen. Nadeem Ahmed of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority as saying, “This will be the biggest disaster in the history of Pakistan.”

On the blog for Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency, staffers talk about the need for clean water, especially for drinking. Their headline: “In Pakistan, Water Everywhere — and Not a Drop to Drink.”

“We have to drink water from the river but it is so dirty. But we have no other options because the floodwaters damaged our water source and washed away our pipes,” the CRS blog reports, quoting a man in the northern town of Besham whose home and land were swept away. “My family is getting sick. Today, I took my 15-month-old son to the hospital because he has diarrhea and a high fever. If the water problem is not solved, I do not know what I will do.”