App uses alarm to remind Catholics to recite creed

By Lynn LeCluyse

WASHINGTON (CNS) — If you want a daily reminder to recite the Nicene Creed, there’s an app for that.

Little i Apps LLC recently announced the release of its latest Catholic mobile application, “Wake Up to the Creed.”

Father Brett Brannen

Father Brett Brannen

Developed using the creative ideas of Father Brett Brannen, author of “To Save A Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood,” the 99 cent app works like an alarm clock that alerts users all over the world to pray the Nicene Creed at customized times of the day.

Father Brannen, a priest of the Diocese of Savannah, Ga., who recentlycompleted five years as vice rector of Mount St. mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., developed the app as an easy way to help Catholics memorize the new translation of the creed, as some are still adjusting to words such as “consubstantial.” He also wanted to embrace now-retired Pope Benedict XVI’s request that Catholics prayerfully participate in the Year of Faith.

“I felt like the idea came from the Holy Spirit, so I began to explore it more” Father Brannen said in a phone interview with the Catholic News Service.

The Nicene Creed reads in part: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, … begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.”

With no knowledge about how to develop a mobile app, the priest made some phone calls to gather information.

“I remembered a confession app that came out so I called a friend of mine to ask who the developer was for that, and I found this company called Little i Apps,” he said.

After Father Brannen told Little i Apps — a company run by three Catholic men — about his plan, they agreed to help.

“They’re just very devout Catholic men themselves,” he said. “I told them I’m not trying to make money, but I’m very active in the promotion of diocesan priesthood.”

Brannen said the “Wake up to the Creed” app stresses the importance of the Nicene Creed as a solemn profession of faith and the official statement of what Catholic Christians believe.

“We often pray it without thinking about what it truly means,” he said. “To wake up every morning listening to those words, I think it’s a great way to start your day.”

Father Brannen first tried using prayer cards to encourage people to say the creed, but the cards were small and easy to lose.

Using the “Wake Up to the Creed” app, iPhone users hear the chime of bells followed by a voice praying the Nicene Creed, while Android users receive a push notification followed by a voice praying the creed. Users can choose from a variety of languages including English, Spanish, French, Polish, and Latin. Some languages provide the option of either a male or female voice.

“I think the app is beneficial because it helps address the problem of teaching the new creed in a different way,” Patrick Leinen, co-founder, programmer and designer for Little i Apps, LLC, said. “Rather than trying to memorize the new words on paper or prayer cards, the ability to actually hear the words aloud using the app makes it easier to take in and learn those changes.”

After devising a plan for the app, it took just three to four weeks to create. Although he described it as an enjoyable experience, Father Brannen said the biggest challenge in creating the app was working out the kinks.

“They would tell me certain aspects weren’t working well, and we were eventually able to get those things fixed,” he said. “But that’s all part of the process, that’s the way apps are developed.”

Father Brannen said he hopes that people will come to love their faith more through the app by starting their day in prayer.

“Starting the day off with faith — I think that’s what was desired for the Year of Faith,” he said.

“Wake Up to the Creed” can be purchased on the iTunes App Store or Google Play. All proceeds go toward promoting vocations to diocesan priesthood in the U.S. and throughout the world.

“It’s not just for the Year of Faith,” Father Brannen said. “We hope people will continue to use it long after the Year of Faith is over.”

Notes on justice and peace

Months of protests by retired members of the United Mine Workers of America and their supporters have led to a tentative settlement with Patriot Coal Corp. over the severity of cuts in pensioner health care benefits.

About 1,800 active and laid off union members in Kentucky and West Virginia will vote on the proposal Aug. 16, the union said.

UMWA declined to release details other than to say that the deal was a significant improvement over the company’s earlier offers. Patriot also did not release details.

Both sides welcomed the tentative agreement, reached after weeks of negotiations, in statements on their websites. (UMWA and Patriot)

St. Louis-based Patriot Coal wanted to significantly reduce the health benefits for retirees and their families under an effort to restructure the company, which filed for bankruptcy 13 months ago. The plan was approved by Judge Kathy Surratt-States, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Union members and supporters have protested the move for months, saying that Patriot was a shell corporation for two other mining firms — Peabody Energy and Arch Coal — that wanted to escape liabilities to retirees and undertook a complex series of business moves beginning in 2005 to do so. The result was that very few of the thousands of retirees ever worked for Patriot but still are dependent on the company for their retirement benefits.

Months of protests and rallies at Peabody and Arch offices in St. Louis and West Virginia (the latest Aug. 13) led to planned arrests on minor charges. Among those who have been arrested were Glenmary Father John Rausch, a leader in Religious Leaders for Coalfield Justice, and Father Andrew Switzer, associate pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Parkersburg, W.Va., and the son of a UMWA leader.

UPDATE: Religious Leaders for Coalfield Justice and Interfaith Worker Justice welcomed the tentative agreement in an Aug. 14 statement. At the same, both organizations said they believe Peabody and Arch sold off assets to Patriot Coal “to divest themselves of long-term legal retirement and health care obligations to retirees and their families. “The settlement fails to address Peabody’s and Arch’s culpability to provide for a long-term fix for retiree health care,” the groups said.

“As people of faith we are committed to walk alongside our brothers and sisters at UMWA until justice, retirement and health care security can be maintained for active and retired miners, their families and coalfield communities,” the groups added.

SECOND UPDATE: UMWA members voted Aug. 16 by an 85 percent to 15 percent margin to accept the settlement. The deal is far better than what a federal bankruptcy court judge ordered in May, said UMWA president Cecil Roberts.

Patriot also will give the union a 35 percent to 38 percent stake in the company by establishing a voluntary employment benefit association to pay retiree health care benefits into the future.

The agreement also calls for Patriot to stay in the UMWA pension fund with no affect on pension benefits for current retires; active members will continue to earn pension credit. Current employees will receive other improvements in wages and benefits under the contract.

Roberts said in a statement that the deal does not provide enough financial resources to maintain lifetime health care benefits for retirees, as Peabody and Arch had agreed to provide to their retirees. But he pledged that the union will continue to seek ways to “hold Peabody and Arch accountable.”

Catholic Charities USA annual gathering in San Francisco

Catholic Charities USA brings its annual gathering to San Francisco Sept. 14-16.

Meeting under the theme “Building Bridges to Opportunitiy,” hundreds of Catholic Charities staffers and volunteers from across the country will meet for three days to strategize about poverty reduction and hear from expert speakers.

Patrick Lencioni, president of the Table Group, a consulting firm that assists organizations build services and employee engagement, is one of the keynote speakers. Workshops and seminars also are planned.

It’s not too late to register.

Upcoming events

Aug. 24: 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington, Washington.

Aug. 28: 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” Washington.

Sept. 5: Franciscan Action Network climate change webinar.

Oct. 25: Pax Christi USA Momentum 2013, Trinity University Washington, honoring Mary Meg McCarthy, director, National Immigrant Justice Center, as 2013 Teacher of Peace.

Goin’ for the gold — and winning it (again)

U.S. simmer Missy Franklin at the 2012 Olympics in London. (CNS photo/Reuters)

U.S. swimmer Missy Franklin at the 2012 Olympics in London. (CNS photo/Reuters)

So many eyes have been on NFL training camps now underway as well as on the latest controversy in the sports world involving the use of performance-enhancing drugs by baseball players, suspensions and A-Rod’s obstruction of the investigation into the use of those drugs — earning him even more suspended games. With all that going on, you gotta wonder if some aren’t missing a better sports story — about two golden girls. They are U.S. swimmers Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin.

Both athletes were stars at the 2012 Olympic Games, and took home lots of gold, and they just smashed records right and left in Barcelona, winning the gold again.

Gold medalist Katie ledecky at the 2012 Olympics in London. (CNS photo/Reuters)

U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky at the 2012 Olympics in London. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Ledecky is a Stone Ridge Gator Class of ’15 — at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md., in the Washington Archdiocese. Franklin graduated in May from Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo., which is in the Denver Archdiocese. This fall Franklin heads to the University of California at Berkeley.

In Barcelona, Ledecky took four gold medals. On Aug. 6 she set two new world records, one in the 1,500-meter freestyle and another in the 800-meter freestyle. Franklin took six golds, becoming the first woman to do so at a single world championships.

At the Olympics just over a year ago, Ledecky won gold in the 800 freestyle.  Franklin won three golds and a bronze.

Cornerstone dedicated at first Port-au-Prince church to be rebuilt with funds donated by U.S. Catholics

Architect drawing of the new Sacred Heart Parish in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (CNS)

Architectural drawing of the new Sacred Heart Church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Church leaders dedicated the cornerstone of the first church to be rebuilt in Haiti’s capital more than three years following the country’s horrific earthquake. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was on hand for the ceremony Aug. 2 on the grounds of the iconic Sacred Heart Church in Port-au-Prince. He was joined by Archbishop Guire Poulard of Port-au-Prince and about 1,000 people from the middle-class neighborhood where the church is located.

The $2.5 million project is funded by PROCHE, the Partnership for Church Reconstruction in Haiti. PROCHE is a joint effort among the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Haitian Episcopal Conference, Adveniat, which is the German bishops’ agency for solidarity in Latin America, and the Bishops’ Conference of France to coordinate the reconstruction effort.

The USCCB share of funding comes from a pot of $33 million donated by U.S. parishioners in the weeks after the quake. Numerous other church and school projects outside of Port-au-Prince have either been completed or are underway.

Parishioners have raised additional funds to construct and outfit a kitchen in the basement of new building, said Jacques Liautaud, Haiti manager in the bishops’ Office of National Collections.

The church is being built to better withstand storms and even another strong earthquake.

Liautaud said groundbreaking should take place by the end of the year and the church should be ready for liturgy services in about two years.

Not just another Bible app

By Zoey Di Mauro

WASHINGTON — The gentle lilt of Julia Ormond emotes the Magnificat, the deep voice of Blair Underwood narrates as Gospel writer Mark, Kristin Bell plays Mary Magdalene and Brian Cox is the voice of God.

You’ve never heard the Gospel quite like this.

Hoping to create something that allows people to not only read, but hear and experience the word of God, the team behind the “Truth & Life” dramatized audio New Testament has now created an app for it.

Besides recruiting talented actors to give their time to the project — “We really love the way he did it,” said the executive producer of Neal McDonough’s performance as Jesus — team members created an version of the New Testament enhanced by sound effects and an original music score. The app even allows you follow along with the text, take and save notes, and search for words within the entire Bible.

Embracing Blessed John Paul II’s call to “employ the communications media (to achieve) the full impact of the Gospel message,” executive producer Mike Stark and his partner, producer Carl Amari, set out to produce a quality audio recording of the Bible. After 10,000 production hours, working with more than 20 audio engineers, more than 100 media development experts and more than 75 actors and actresses, they had what they needed: a dramatized audio version of the New Testament.

“We’ve got great support from all the people in the Catholic Church,” said Stark, “people are on fire about it.” The “Truth & Life” Bible has been granted an imprimatur from the Vatican, or a seal of approval, and contains foreword by Pope Benedict XVI. It has been endorsed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Father Robert Baron, creator of the “Catholicism” series, the National Catholic Educational Association, and several others groups and individuals.

“I think it’s great!” Julianne Stanz, director of new evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., told Catholic News Service.

“Catholics often feel that they don’t have the teachings of the Scriptures,” Stanz continued, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. I think that this app puts the writing directly into people’s hands.”

The free app is available for several devices, such as Apple products, Kindle Fire, Android, Nook or a PC, and comes with the entire New Testament text and the audio of the Gospel of St. Mark. The remaining audio books can be purchased and downloaded, or are available in a CD format.

“We’re making plans for a Spanish version, and maybe the Old Testament down the road, but one step at a time,” said Stark.

Though the assumption is most people in the pews know their faith, explained Stanz, there are an increasing number of people, even churchgoers who identify themselves as atheists or agnostics. Her diocese especially is trying to promote the app as a way for parishioners to take Christ into their daily lives.

“The Bible was traditionally read out loud because most people didn’t know how to read,” said Stark. He believes hearing the Gospel makes it less daunting and even more engaging.

Added Stanz, “The new evangelization aims to speak to the world using new methods and expressions and I think that this meets people where they’re at.”

Maybe hearing is believing.