Old mining church keeps Catholic history alive


VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. (CNS) — You can still hear gunfights on the streets of this old mining town high up in the mountains of Northern Nevada. The main drag at 6,000 feet above sea level plays up the stereotype of an old Western town complete with a saloon next to the jail and the marshal’s office. Behind them, the steeple of St. Mary’s in the Mountains Catholic Church unintentionally peers above.

The parish was created in 1862, just three years after the discovery of a lode of silver ore, known as the Comstock Lode, was made public, bringing in prospectors seeking to make fortunes. But the Catholic Church had been attracted to the remote town before the discovery, as members were seeking to make a spiritual fortune out the boon of people flocking there.

St. Mary’s in the Mountains, say various signs posted around the Gothic church, once was known as the “Bonanza Church” because of the silver mines that surrounded it. The first Catholic church in the town was built in 1860 but burned down shortly after. The church that visitors see today was erected in 1868, was damaged by a fire, too, but was rebuilt in 1876. It is recognized as a national Catholic historic site.

Daughters of Charity, as well as Cistercian monks played part of the landscape of Catholics that once called the mining church home. But as the mining industry dwindled, so did the town and the church population. These days, St. Mary’s may see more visitors than parishioners, but the church and its museum in the basement of the church is one of the top attractions in the town.


Part of the museum reflects the church’s mining roots. A small cavernous room resembles a mine, where Catholic memorabilia — including the redwood saws used to cut square timbers that lined the mines of the Comstock, as well as the interior of the church — are on display. There’s also a sanctuary bell that arrived in Nevada with the first missionary nun from the order of Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters. There’s also a mural on the stucco walls featuring important church figures in Nevada’s Catholic history, including Raider, the official parish cat.

Though it’s clear that the town’s, as well as the local church’s, heyday has passed, St. Mary’s in the Mountains remains an active parish and one that keeps alive the spiritual history of a Catholic past in a remote mining town.

Click here for more photos of Virginia City.


A video treasury: #PopeinUS

I’m about to take you on a retrospective journey of what it was like to be a member of the media a year ago while covering Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.

This entry will be complete with videos Catholic News Service produced chronicling the very popular pope’s trip to give you an idea of the impact he made on the people in his country along the way, beginning with this one as he took his first steps onto U.S. soil.

A year ago today I was in Philadelphia during the final days of the pope’s U.S. journey. I remember reflecting on the enormous number of details required to get us to this point in our coverage, from credentialing journalists, photographers and videographers for spots in the events of the pontiff’s grueling agenda in Washington, New York and Philadelphia, to figuring out how we were going to best tell this story to the millions of people following the trek.

My role was to coordinate CNS’s video coverage of the U.S. papal trip. My role, for the most part, kept me in the media centers of each city while our determined video journalists went out and found some spectacular visual stories to share with our audience.

Some of these videos told stories concerning the official events on the agenda, like the pope’s Sept. 23 visit to the White House,

while others captured how the pope’s presence impacted people on the street who braved massive crowds to catch a glimpse of the country’s celebrated guest of honor.

When the pope made his way to New York he was greeted by young musicians who understood the great honor bestowed on them

and his solemn prayer at ground zero, the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, made people from all backgrounds pause.

The pope melted the hearts of people around the world when he visited children at a Harlem school

and the people waiting to see the pope mobile drive through Central Park

couldn’t help expressing their enthusiasm.

One of our most viewed videos during the U.S. papal trip came while he was in Philadelphia visiting prison inmates.

Two of the most touching videos we produced during that trip also came during Pope Francis’s time in the city of brotherly love, one about an Oregon couple who made great sacrifices to bring their five children cross-country to see the Holy Father

and the other showcased the impact the pontiff’s presence at Independence Hall had on a Latino immigrant living in the U.S.


As the pope was spending his last day in the U.S., a couple of our video journalists took an opportunity to find out how local Philadelphians were celebrating the historic papal trip.


By the time the pope’s plane took off for Rome, the CNS journalists were exhausted, but it was an assignment that energized us and reminded us how privileged we are to work in this profession.

Here’s a link to see all of the English-speaking videos CNS produced during the U.S. papal trip. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcRSxXfDzTxZ-y3oJEOf6kesOhhPJdYQT


Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Sept. 25, 2016

"Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called." -- 1 Timothy 6:12

“Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called.” — 1 Timothy 6:12


Sept. 25, Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Amos 6:1a, 4-7

      Psalm 146:7-10

      2) 1 Timothy 6:11-16

      Gospel: Luke 16:19-31


By Deacon Mike Ellerbrock
Catholic News Service

I love it when youth say what’s on their mind.

For instance, they’ll ask, “What’s so special about poor people?” or, “If there is fire in hell, do you burn up and disappear?”

Likewise, adults often express confusion about Catholic social teaching’s “preferential option for the poor.” They ask whether the church is saying that God loves the poor more than fortunate people and, if not, then what’s the point?

The church has profound answers to these great questions that are addressed in this week’s Scriptures.

Picture life in the garden before Adam and Eve brought sin into the world: There was no poverty, no alienation and no competition among the species. Everyone lived in harmony; no one was without.

But sin corrupted life in Eden with consequences to this day. Division and conflict arose over the distribution of resources.

However, the Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II and Pope Francis have taught that God provided the earth’s resources for all, so all property (private and public) has a “social mortgage” obligating its use to serve the common good.

Thus, poverty is the principal manifestation of sin. Whenever and wherever we see poverty, we see the effects of sin.

God loves everyone equally. What he despises is poverty.

The Gospel shows starving Lazarus painfully begging for crumbs from the rich man’s sumptuous table without receiving a scrap.

When they both died, Lazarus was carried to heaven by angels while the rich man in purple garments fell into the netherworld. Tormented in flames, the rich man looks up and now begs for a cool drop of water from Lazarus’ fingertip.

However, the chasm between them is so wide that no one can cross it. This isn’t a physical description of hell such as Dante’s burning inferno.

St. John Paul II said that we should not think of hell as a place, but as separation from God — an immense chasm of lost love whereby one truly knows, sees and feels the pain of having chosen to reject one’s Creator, Lord and Redeemer. To be on the outside of heaven looking in, that is hell.


In serving the common good, how can we do our part to proclaim and address the plight of the poor?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Sept. 18, 2016

"The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones." -- Luke 16:10

“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” — Luke 16:10


Sept. 18, Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Amos 8:4-7

      Psalm 113:1-2, 4-8

      2) 1 Timothy 2:1-8

      Gospel: Luke 16:1-13


By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

In this presidential election year, much is made of political candidates and their levels of experience, their platforms and their ability to communicate with their constituents. But nothing seems to raise as much debate as a candidate’s trustworthiness — or the lack of it. In fact, millions of dollars are spent on campaign advertising for the purpose of exposing dishonesty in one’s opponent.

Why is this? I suspect that a candidate’s many favorable qualities are often secondary to the public’s perception of the candidate’s honesty. Whether it’s engaging in deceitful business practices, cheating on one’s taxes or fabricating information, even little falsehoods can add up to an unsavory reputation and seriously damage a contender’s chances of getting elected.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ parable of the dishonest steward illustrates the significance of little things as an indicator of trustworthiness in larger matters.

Given the propensity of human beings — especially those in leadership — to bend the truth to suit their purposes, it’s no wonder that the Letter to Timothy emphasizes the necessity of prayer for “kings and for all in authority,” knowing that the common good of all people depends upon their integrity.

The prophet Amos warns those who ‘trample upon the needy” and persist in dishonest dealings with the poor in order to advance themselves: The Lord has a long memory and does not abide injustice. Rather, God’s brand of justice “raises up the lowly from the dust” in order to “seat them with princes.”

In this season of accusatory campaign ads and reciprocal mudslinging, it behooves Christians, as “children of light,” to discern carefully and to exercise their right to vote with prudence and responsibility. But today’s readings also challenge us to look at our own attitudes about wealth and our behavior toward the poor.

You or I might not be running for office — but the common good of our fellow human beings depends on our integrity, wise stewardship and fervent prayers for those who are elected to serve.


In what areas of your life do you tend toward deceit or dishonesty? What part do prayer and discernment play in your own political decisions?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Sept. 11, 2016

"I was mercifully treated." -- 1 Timothy 1:16

“I was mercifully treated.” — 1 Timothy 1:16


Sept. 11, Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14

      Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19

      2) 1 Timothy 1:12-17

      Gospel: Luke 15:1-32 or Luke 15:1-10


By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

One of the greatest fears of my childhood was of getting caught doing something bad and having to face my dad. It’s not that he was extra mean or abusive, it’s just that I did not want to disappoint him, and this caused a knee-jerk reaction of fear whenever such situations would arise.

Probably the worst and stupidest thing I remember doing happened when I was a senior in high school hanging out with friends. We were roller-skating in the street and then decided to go to another friend’s house. I’d borrowed my dad’s car that night and jumped in and started driving with my skates still on.

As you might expect, there was an accident. Thankfully, it was just a fender bender. It could have been a lot worse, but knowing that the next day I’d have to tell my dad what I had done caused me a terrible, sleepless night full of fear and trembling.

After I showed my dad his dented bumper I was expecting to never leave my room unless I was doing all my siblings’ chores forever! But instead of getting the worst punishment of my life, I got something wholly unexpected: mercy.

Sure my dad gave me a talking to about how our lives are defined by our choices and this was not a good choice on my part. He asked me to think about the kind of person I was going to be, and that was it!

This story came to mind as I reviewed this week’s readings. Each passage tells of God’s mercy, whether it is God relenting on his plan to smite the Israelites, St. Paul reminding us that Jesus came into the world to bring God’s mercy or, most expressive of all, the loving father full of mercy and forgiveness welcoming the prodigal son home.

Benny Hester has a song about the prodigal son with a line that perfectly illustrates God and his mercy: “The only time I ever saw (God) run was when he ran to me, took me in his arms, held my head to his chest and said, ‘My son’s come home again.'” This is one of my favorite images of God, running to us to deliver his mercy!


When was a time when someone had mercy on you? When have you experienced the mercy of God?

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.


Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Sept. 4, 2016

"The corruptible body burdens the soul." -- Wisdom 9:15

“The corruptible body burdens the soul.” — Wisdom 9:15


Sept. 4, Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Wisdom 9:13-18b

      Psalm 90:3-6, 12-17

      2) Philemon 9-10, 12-17

      Gospel: Luke 14:25-33


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

In the Gospel today, Jesus reminds us that we can’t be his disciples, genuinely imparting his message and spirit, unless we are detached from our possessions.

OK, we think, we can eschew materialism and strive not to be influenced by the endemic consumerism of popular culture. We can share what we have with others. Yes, we can do that and so become effective disciples.

But what about the “possessions” that we think of as our daily bread: job, income, home — the things that provide our basic security? Becoming separated from those things can make it hard to listen and attend to God’s Spirit.

I saw it happen to a close friend of mine, a professional, when circumstances created a serious, unexpected reduction in his income. Approaching the end of his career, he saw his savings depleted and retirement plans dashed.

Suddenly, he felt that everything he’d worked for was lost, and he was overwhelmed by fears about his future. He could hardly think rationally.

Most of us have experienced a situation in which an unexpected crisis hits and lays us low.

Often it can be so defeating that we can’t feel God’s presence or hear the gentle guidance of Jesus within us.

Today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom describes the difficulty. “The corruptible body burdens the soul,” Wisdom says, explaining, “The earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.”

It’s not so much that we are materialistic but that our concerns about even basic material matters hinder us from looking into our souls for answers from God. Jesus wants us to let go of those matters that weigh down our ability to follow him.

My friend eventually let go of his fears, accepting the fact of financial insecurity, and trusted God to carry him forward.

Wisdom notes, “The deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.”

We hate uncertainty and insecurity. Think of the panic that ensues when one’s hard drive crashes “with all my stuff on it!”

Jesus calls us to carry our cross, not our stuff. He asks us to carry our uncertainty and insecurity and trustingly follow him. That’s the cross he can help us carry.


When have you been so overburdened by earthly matters that you were unable to seek Jesus’ guidance? What are the “possessions” that have the greatest hold in your life?