‘Rare, beautiful’ work of Jesuit missionaries in China now available on new Boston College website

Illustration depicting Jesuit Father Mateo Ricci, 16-century missionary to China. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Australian Jesuit Father Jeremy Clarke, assistant professor at Boston College,has launched a searchable website he calls “Beyond Ricci” that gives scholars and researchers online access to newly digitized books containing historical narratives, maps, correspondence and musical compositions in five languages that depict life in China in early modern history and the East-West exchanges initiated by the early Jesuit missionaries. The site was launched in late July.

“This website takes knowledge and information that is rare and beautiful and puts it into the academic domain providing an interdisciplinary resource for scholars and students of disciplines ranging from history and geography, to Latin and Chinese,” Father Clarke said in a statement.

His project was funded through a grant from the Academic Teaching Advisory Board and the Office of the Provost at Boston College. It was a year in the making, with the priest working with the Jesuitana Collection at the university’s Burns Library.

Father Clarke calls it “a labor of love and an act of homage to my Jesuit brothers and their Chinese counterparts whose remarkable scholarship is preserved in these rare books that will now be available to visitors from Chestnut Hill to Canberra, San Francisco to Shanghai.”

Here’s a sampling of items that can be accessed on the site: melody lines from the Chinese Imperial Court transcribed by the Jesuits in the mid-18th century; a translation of Confucian texts by the Jesuit missionaries that represented the first introduction of Confucius to the Western world; and an extensively detailed 18th-century atlas.

Six Catholic universities make Forbes top 100 list

Statue of founder on University of Notre Dame campus. (CNS photo)

Forbes magazine has issued its annual U.S. college and university rankings. Six Catholic schools made it into the top 100 out of the 650 schools listed this year.

The colleges listed in the top 100 are University of Notre Dame,  No. 12; Boston College, No. 26; Georgetown University, No. 38; College of the Holy Cross, No. 41; University of Santa Clara, No. 72; and Villanova University,  No. 83.

According to Forbes, the rankings list America’s best undergraduate institutions. The list “focuses on educational outcomes, not reputations.” Forbes also looks at the best bang for the undergraduate buck.

‘Behind every successful man …’

By Daniel Linskey

Catholic officials at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Gouyave, Grenada, honored the family of Olympic gold medalist Kirani James.

A parishioner presents flowers to Annie James, mother of Olympic gold medalist Kirani James, while his sister, Akira, and father, Doranni, look on. (CNS photo/Diocese of St. George’s in Grenada.)

James, 19, won the 400-meter race in 43.94 seconds Aug. 6, beating the Dominican Republic’s Luguelin Santos by more than half a second.

At the end of a simple Mass, parishioners and Father Sean Doggett, a member of the St. Patrick Missionary Society, presented flowers and a plaque to Kirani’s mother, Annie James, on behalf of Bishop Vincent M. Darius and the Catholic community of Grenada.

“We are proud of your son and we are proud of you,” said the plaque.

Before the presentation, Father Doggett said, “Behind every successful man is a woman, and the woman behind this young man of whom we are all so proud is his mother.”

Kirani James’ medal was Grenada’s first in any Olympics.

Afterward, the athlete told the New York Times, “I think there are quite a few street parties going on … I just go out there and just try to do my best in terms of representing my country in a positive way. As long as I do that, they are going to be proud of me, and as long as they are proud of me I’m happy with that.

Papal butler, Vatican computer expert to go to trial

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Vatican magistrates have formally indicted Pope Benedict XVI’s personal assistant, Paolo Gabriele, on charges of aggravated theft and have indicted a computer technician from the Vatican Secretariat of State on minor charges of aiding Gabriele after he stole Vatican correspondence.

Paolo Gabriele with Pope Benedict XVI in the popemobile. (CNS/Reuters)

The publication Aug. 13 of the decision of Piero Bonnet, the Vatican’s investigating judge, included for the first time the naming of a second suspect, Claudio Sciarpelleti, the secretariat of state employee.Vatican police found an envelope from Gabriele in Sciarpelleti’s desk and arrested him, according to the documents explaining Bonnet’s judgment. While the computer expert gave “contrasting versions of the facts” to investigators, in the end it was determined that there was enough evidence to bring him to trial on a charge of aiding and abetting Gabriele after the fact.

The Vatican magistrates did not set a date for the trial or trials, but Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said it would not be set before Sept. 20 because the Vatican court is in recess Aug. 14-Sept. 20.

Pope Benedict could have intervened at any time to stop the investigation and legal process and he still has the option of clearing the two laymen.

If the pope does not intervene, Gabriele and Sciarpelleti would go to trial before a panel of three Vatican judges, all of whom are laymen and professors at Italian universities. Vatican law, like Italian law, does not foresee the use of juries in criminal trials.

Gabriele, who will turn 46 Aug. 19, faces a sentence of 1 to 6 years in prison. Under the terms of the Vatican’s 1929 treaty with Italy, a person found guilty and sentenced to jail time by a Vatican court would serve his term in an Italian prison.

The papal assistant was arrested May 23 after confidential letters and documents addressed to the pope and other Vatican officials were found in his Vatican apartment, Bonnet’s report said. Many of the documents were the same as those featured in a January television program by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi and later published in a book by him. Many of the documents dealt with allegations of corruption, abuse of power and a lack of financial transparency at the Vatican.

Marshallese offer a grand welcome to American catechists

David Suley, wearing a lei, with his new Marshallese friends. (CNS/Courtesy of Arceli and David Suley)

The Catholic Church in the tiny nation of the Marshall Islands is healthy even if somewhat small, said David Suley, the recently retired director of the Catholic Home Missionsof the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Suley, along with his wife, Arceli, conducted a 10-day workshop on faith formation for about 75 lay leaders in June. The Suleys focused much of their training on the new evangelization first put forth by Blessed John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI. Suley said they also offered a series of reflections on church teaching.

The couple found the Marshallese to be enthusiastic about doing God’s work in missions spread across five islands and 29 atolls about halfway between Hawaii and Australia.

“A few priests and laypeople run these missions,” Suley said.

Only about 8 percent of the 68,400 Marshallese are Catholic.

On some of the outlying atolls and islands, there may be perhaps 300 to 500 people with an even smaller number of Catholics among them. Priests visit the outlying communities only occasionally, leaving lay leaders to minister to the Catholics who reside there, Suley said.

The Suleys found the island nation, with a total land area of about 70 square miles spread over 750,000 square miles, to be extremely poor. People make their living from fishing and producing crafts for the tourists who visit, Suley said.

Majuro, the capital and a city of about 25,000 people, has few amenities. Barely above sea level, Majuro Atoll is just a few blocks wide even though it is about 25 miles long. “The closest atoll is three hours away by boat,” Suley said.

The people, Suley said, were gracious and celebrated the presence of the Americans each evening with good food and fellowship. On the final night, the Marshallese threw their American guests a four-hour party.

“They made us gifts, handmade crafts,” he said

“They rarely have visitors like ourselves,” Suley added. “But as one priest said, ‘We’re not just a dot in the Pacific Ocean.’”

LCWR assembly in St. Louis drawing a lot of media attention

Sisters praying at LCWR assembly. (CNS photo)

A lot of people are paying attention to the annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in St. Louis this week.

Previous meetings — which are usually more business-focused or aimed at continuing education for the sisters who represent 80 percent of U.S. congregations — have not attracted a lot of press coverage and have not even drawn the crowds from its own members as this gathering has.

The Aug. 7-10 assembly is being covered by reporters from religious news organizations, local and national media, and even Ms. Magazine.

During an announcement at the meeting Aug. 8, an LCWR official urged the sisters to be patient with hotel staff since many adjustments had to be made to accommodate 900 participants, 300 more than usual. The sisters also were told about the media presence and reminded not to talk with reporters about the process of discerning the Vatican’s assessment of their organization since that will continue to unfold in numerous executive sessions only for LCWR members throughout the four-day meeting.

LCWR officials plan to announce their response to the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment and its call for reform of the organization during a mid-day press conference Friday. Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell, outgoing president,  said Aug. 7  that the outcome of the discussions, led by two facilitators, might not even be a decision but simply “the next best step.”

The  organization’s canonical status is granted by the Vatican, which said reform of LCWR is needed to ensure its fidelity to Catholic teaching in the areas of abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

Meanwhile, in group sessions, the theme of songs and prayers has been about letting go of preconceived ideas or fears and trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The women religious also have been given time for silent prayer and reflection.

Barbara Marx Hubbard, the main speaker Aug. 8, essentially urged the sisters to embrace the notion of change and growth reflected in biblical passages that speak of rebirth and “making all things new.”

Hubbard is an author, speaker and educator known for promoting a view called “conscious evolution,” which the LCWR assembly participants seemed to get especially when she spoke about women religious being catalysts for change in a world that needs it.

At a press conference after the talk, LCWR representatives continued with the theme of how they have always adapted to changing needs by talking about how many orders were founded simply to respond to unmet needs around them.

Sister Nancy Conway, a Sister of St. Joseph from Cleveland, told reporters: “Religious congregations were founded when an aspect of the Gospel was not flourishing. The Holy Spirit worked among founders to address that dimension.”

Vatican Museums discounts for Eurail passholders

ROME — Visitors arriving in Rome by train on a Eurail Italy pass or an Interrail Italy pass are entitled to discounted tickets for the Vatican Museums, the Catacombs of Domitilla and more.

Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican-related pilgrimage and tour agency, secured the discounts in collaboration with Trenitalia, the Italian passenger railway operator. The deals are good through the rest of 2012 for all non-Italian visitors with a Eurail One Country Italy pass or an Interrail One Country Italy Pass.

The ORP buses in the Vatican gardens. (CNS/Paul Haring)

In addition to the discounted admission (for example, 6 euros or about $7.50 off the Vatican Museums-Sistine Chapel admission of 26 euros/$32), holders of the train passes can enter the museums through the special entrance reserved for guests with advanced reservations. The line is much shorter than the normal, infamously long and winding, queue.

The discount includes the special Friday night openings of the Vatican Museums in September and October.

Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, usually referred to as ORP, also is offering Eurail Italy passholders discounts on its buses and tours of the Catacombs of Domitilla and its minibus tour through the Vatican gardens.