Are the heavens calling you?

There’s a whole universe to discover if you just look up: planets, nebulae, star clusters, rare naked-eye comets, even the moon and the sun.

Since I was a kid, I’ve explored the sky as much as I could. With my modest six-inch reflector telescope I undertook hours of personal observation as a teenager. I grabbed all sorts of astronomy books from library shelves and eagerly awaited each month’s copy of popular astronomy magazines.

Father William Stolzman of St. Paul, Minn., examines a meteorite with a magnet during the Vatican Observatory's Faith and Astronomy Workshop in January. (CNS/Dennis Sadowski)

Father William Stolzman of St. Paul, Minn., examines a meteorite with a magnet during the Vatican Observatory Foundation’s Faith and Astronomy Workshop in January. (CNS/Dennis Sadowski)

So in January, when I had the chance to attend the Vatican Observatory Foundation‘s third annual Faith and Astronomy Workshop in Tucson, Arizona, I jumped at the opportunity to meld my astronomical interests with my profession.

For four days I joined about 20 priests and educators exploring the heavens and listening as they discussed their understanding of the universe and the beauty and mysteries of God’s creation.

Evening — and for some of us, early morning — observing sessions revealed deep sky objects we had never seen before. We followed, naked-eye, Comet Catalina for several mornings as it made its way northward in the sky from our observing site in North America on its return trip to the Oort Cloud in the icy region of the solar system.

Now Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, and his staff are inviting priests and parish educators to apply to attend the next workshop, set for Jan. 16-20 at the Redemptorist Renewal Center on the edge of the Arizona desert.

There will be ample opportunity for night sky observing — weather permitting, of course, which in January in Tucson shouldn’t be a problem. Brother Consolmagno is scheduling talks by astronomers, planning lab sessions, organizing field trips to astronomical sites and building in lots of time for prayer, reflection and conversation.

The cost is $750 and includes four nights at the center, all meals and workshop expenses. Participants will receive books to use back home and ideas and memories from which to build an astronomy outreach effort for parishioners and students.

The deadline for applications is Sept. 30.

 

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