Bethlehem University students engage in service through Catholic Charities program

By Julia Willis

WASHINGTON (CNS) – A group of students recently arrived in the U.S. from Bethlehem University in Palestine in order to participate in a one-of-a kind program with Catholic Charities.

Fostered by a two-year partnership between the Catholic university and Catholic Charities USA, selected students travel to America every year and participate in a six-week summer internship program that allows them to use the skills they have developed within their prospective majors in Catholic Charities agencies nationwide.

Bethlehem University students to spend six weeks at catholic Charities agencies around U.S. (Photo courtesy Catholic Charities USA)

Bethlehem University students to spend six weeks at catholic Charities agencies around U.S. (Photo courtesy Catholic Charities USA)

By learning how the organization combats the problem of poverty within the United States and developing a newfound understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the U.S., participants are encouraged to use everything they learn throughout the experience in order to enact social change after returning home.

As many of the interns have never left Palestine before this trip, the participants were excited to experience a new culture, grow in knowledge, and gain a new form of insight into the problems that plague our world today.

One of this year’s 10 participants, Sarah Hasanat, described how the program will benefit many of the students.

“Many of us … have never been to the U.S. or even traveled outside of our home country so this is an amazing opportunity to learn about another culture.”

Dina Rishmawi explained that all 10 students escort tourists or visiting students around Palestine as part of an ambassador program through the university and being able to come to America allows them to continue serving as ambassadors who represent their own country. “It’s an amazing opportunity for us to not only work in the field we study but also to continue to serve as ambassadors of our country in another place.”

Amjaad Musleh, who will be working at the Catholic Charities agency in Camden, N.J., elaborated on how this experience will allow her to promote the culture of Palestine throughout the U.S. “Some people do not have a clue where Palestine is or even if it exists so this is an opportunity for us to share information regarding our country and our culture.”

Although the students were still unsure exactly what to expect out of the program during their initial four-day orientation in Washington, almost all of them recognized that they would be changed in some way by the experience.

Hasanat said, “A lot of people are poor and are in need and I think that, to experience that, to live with them and try to help them, will teach and help all of us as well. I know this program will definitely change my perspective.”

The program has already inspired new ways of thinking for Mariana Bahnan Nazi, who described how she was affected by a trip the students took to visit the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“After going to the PLO yesterday, I really loved the idea of serving my country as an ambassador for Palestine in the United States or in another country,” she said. “I began thinking more about how I can represent the Palestinian people and help others around the world.”

I am sure that these students will find new ways to serve those in need throughout the rest of their time in the U.S. and look forward to seeing what they are able to accomplish in the future.

Teach your children well: The Pope Francis guide to education

VATICAN CITY — Among his many traits, retired Pope Benedict XVI is well-known as a brilliant professor. But how many people know about Pope Francis’ early ties to teaching and education?

Pope Francis smiles as he meets with students from Jesuit schools at Vatican

Pope Francis smiles as he meets with students from Jesuit schools at the Vatican June 7, 2013. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Teaching is a normal part of the Jesuit vocation, and the future pope started out teaching high school literature and psychology right after he got his degree in philosophy. Then, after getting his theology degree, he continued teaching, this time theology and philosophy, and served as a rector of a major seminary in Buenos Aires.

The pope’s experience and insight inspired him to always encourage educators and teachers.

And now a new book, released this month, compiles the reflections, messages and talks he gave to teachers and educators in Argentina between 2008 and 2011.

The book, “Education for Choosing Life,” is being published in English by Ignatius Press. It shows how the pope sees education as “an act of hope” and how faith and the Christian vision of humanity fuel that cover

He also expresses the need for passion and creativity as added weapons against the spirit of the “mundane” that’s seeking to numb, distract or discourage our youth.

The book is available in other languages through other publishers, but the Ignatius Press’ English-version can only be sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, according to the publishers’ website.

Pope Francis’ unique approach to teaching made a huge impact on at least one of his former students, and you can read our story about it right here.

Pope Francis reacts to children during special event for families in St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis reacts to children during a Year of Faith family life celebration at the Vatican Oct. 26, 2013. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

The same March 1 “La Civilta Cattolica” article with Jorge Milia included an article the young Father Bergoglio wrote for the high school’s annual publication for the students, parents and alumni in 1965.

The piece focuses on the importance of teaching young people to discern truth from rhetoric and “the song of the Sirens.”

Pope Francis reacts to children during special event for families in St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis at a Year of Faith celebration of family life Oct. 26, 2013. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

He wrote that we are accomplices in “the tragedy of truth being welcomed just halfway” unless we are sure young people are prepared to go out into the world with the full guidance and expression of the truth.

He asked:

When graduates go on to university or elsewhere, will they know how to use “the sword” of truth expressed clearly, forcefully and completely against “the noisy skylarks of eternal students, the huge bigmouths at the service of error, who are like giant pots: the emptier the vessel, the more sound they make?”

Rhetoric and lies can be “brilliant and seductive,” Father Bergoglio wrote. Too often when trying to teach about truth, teachers and adults stop halfway “with ice cold timidity, incapable of addressing the message to others with the luminosity of the whole truth.”

The future pope wrote that the problem isn’t just knowing what the truth is and being dedicated to it, it’s also knowing how to express it “with brilliance and fruitfulness.” And that can only be done, he wrote, by trying to live like Jesus — reflecting deeply on the truth and expressing it definitively, courageously and clearly as an act of love.

Teach for America about ‘where you’re needed most’

By Priya Narapareddy

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) –- Stephen Haas said he would feel extremely nervous standing in front of a roomful of fourth- graders, knowing that he was responsible for not only teaching them, but also for helping them succeed against the odds.

Haas, a senior at The Catholic University of America in Washington, is aware of the effect poverty has on education and the high incarceration rates of children who grew up in poverty.

At Catholic University’s Oct. 8 session for Teach for America applicants, Haas learned that Arizona corrections’ officers kept records of the number of students who failed in elementary school to determine how many prison beds to build in a decade.

“I couldn’t be nervous if I didn’t care,” he said.  “Since I would care so much about them, I would be absolutely thrilled at the chance to do something good for them.”

Haas described education as a basic need for all people. “It’s the most important thing aside from food and shelter,” he said.

The session was led by Catholic University alum Anthony Buatti, who is recruitment director for Teach for America’s Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia Corps.

Buatti encouraged students to apply to teach in cities with a high need for teachers, such as Detroit, Oklahoma City and Memphis, Tenn.

“This whole experience is about going where you’re needed the most,” he said.

Buatti said poverty limits educational opportunity. He said 8 percent of students from low-income communities receive college degrees, compared to 80 percent of students from high-income communities.

Upon graduation from Catholic University of America, Buatti was offered a job with the FBI. He declined the position to join Teach For America’s Phoenix corps.

Buatti said he taught third grade in Phoenix for two years.

“My experience was incredible,” he said. “It was putting my beliefs and what I studied at Catholic into play.”

On Buatti’s first day as a teacher, he realized that he had no idea how to talk to an 8- year- old.

“It terrified me to think, ‘How can I break these concepts down for the kids to understand?’” he said.

Buatti said another challenge included knowing that only 28 percent of third-graders passed the previous year. He said he consulted Teach for America’s online database as well as veteran teachers at his school to learn about the needs of students as well as how to help them understand lessons.

In the 2013-14 school year, 11,000 corps members will reach more than 750,000 students while 32,000 alumni will continue to deepen their impact as educational leaders and advocates.

Buatti said 48 percent of his students passed the third grade after his first year of teaching. Although many more students had passed, he said he was not satisfied with his students’ final test scores.

“I thought, ‘I have to get this right,’” said Buatti. “They deserve better than this.”

Buatti pushed himself and his students harder the second year he taught. He said 96 percent of the class passed.

“We worked relentlessly,” he said.

Bernadette Poerio, a senior at Catholic University of America, is seen with friends in the Best Buddies program. She is campaus campaign coordinator ofr Teach for America and Best Buddies activities coordinator. (Courtesy photo)

Bernadette Poerio, a senior at Catholic University of America, is seen with friends in the Best Buddies program. She is campus campaign coordinator for Teach for America and Best Buddies activities coordinator. (Courtesy photo)

Haas, who was taught primarily at private Catholic schools, said his high school teacher Bruce Marcoon also focused on helping his students learn rather than building his reputation as a teacher.

“He would relate to us in a way we could all understand at an all-boys prep school,” said Haas. “For him, it was more about what the student got out of it than it was about him being a great teacher.”

Haas said Marcoon was straightforward in the classroom, as well as humorous, and always challenged his students to think.

“He stressed critical thinking, and thinking for ourselves,” said Haas. “I think that every student he has had has learned how to do those things from him.

Bernadette Poerio, Teach for America’s campus campaign coordinator at Catholic University, said she is preparing for her final Teach for America interview.

Poerio, a native of Woodbridge, N.J., is a senior at Catholic University. She said she hopes to become a high school English teacher.

Poerio said she hopes to share her passion for literature with students.

“This makes sense for everything I’ve done in my life,” she said.

Fifty years ago a mad March Miracle for college hoops


The 1963 Ramblers of Loyola University Chicago. The Ramblers will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November. (Photo from Loyola University Chicago)

Last week and this mark two of America’s great national obsessions: baseball’s Opening Day and college basketball’s Final Four. Seasons in North America — and just about everywhere — are marked as much by the hallmarks of sports as by the first days of weather seasons and religious holidays. Most people know that Christmas is on Dec. 25, and most Christians know Easter follows Lent, but they would be hard pressed to tell you when exactly it falls. But the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup and the Masters — those are another story. The rise and fall of civilizations would have to be scheduled around these.

Such is the power of competition and sports. Sports can get a black eye across the board — we spend too much time, too much money and too much capital of youth on our international obsession. We sure do. But sports is also a bellwether of social change or, even more importantly, an agent.

Such was the case with the remarkable 1963 basketball team the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers. In November, the Ramblers will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

In the 1963 NCAA tournament, the Ramblers  faced off against the Maroons (as they were then known) from Mississippi State University. No one would blink today, but then the Ramblers had four African-American starters. Members of the Maroons were all Caucasian and were barred from playing integrated teams. It was a historic meeting.

Reporter Steve Christian talks in Inside Loyola about what has become known as the “Game of Change.” How did the game turn out? Check out the story. It was a remarkable example of sportsmanship on both sides, and a handshake that perhaps changed college basketball for good.

This month also marks the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” (CNS will have a couple of stories about this great moment in history later this week.) It’s good to remember that there were giants of the civil rights era, and sometimes, there were a few college kids from Illinois and Mississippi who changed the world.

Catholic campuses home to 11 of world’s most beautiful college chapels, churches

This work depicting Mary and the Christ Child, by Chicago artist Melville Steinfels, hangs in the Madonna della Strada (Our Lady of the Way) Chapel on the grounds of Loyola University Chicago. (CNS photo/Bart Harris, courtesy of Loyola University Chicago)

This work depicting Mary and the Christ Child, by Chicago artist Melville Steinfels, hangs in the Madonna della Strada (Our Lady of the Way) Chapel on the grounds of Loyola University Chicago. (CNS photo/Bart Harris, courtesy of Loyola University Chicago)

This month Best College Reviews released a ranked list of what it says are the 30 most beautiful college chapels and cathedrals in the world. Of the Catholic worship spaces, six are in the U.S. and five are located on international campuses. Now beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but all of these are real stunners. They range from the relatively small Baughman Center at the secular University of Florida to the very modern and critically acclaimed Christ Chapel of Lutheran’s Gustavus Adolphus College, and from All Saints’ Chapel at the Episcopal Church’s University of the South in Tennessee  to the incomparable Primate Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo in Spain, a World Heritage Site. Some serve strictly as college chapels, some are parish churches, and some are bona fide cathedrals.

In the United States, the chapels on Catholic campuses in the ranking are the Madonna Della Strada Chapel of Loyola University in Chicago, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, Immaculata Parish of the University of San Diego, Saint Ignatius Church of the University of San Francisco; St. Mary’s Chapel of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, and St. Thomas of Villanova Church of Villanova University in Philadelphia.

The international churches and cathedral ranked are Cathedral of Santiago de Compestela in Galicia, Spain; the Chapelle de la Sorbonne in Paris; the Church of Saint Yves at La Sapienza in Rome; the Sanctuary of Arantzazu in Onati, Spain; and the Toledo Cathedral.

There are many other beautiful campus chapels in the U.S. and around the world that didn’t make the ranking but are works of art in themselves. Seattle University’s Chapel of St. Ignatius is an architectural masterpiece, so is the abbey church of St. John’s University in Minnesota designed by the great Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer. Notre Dame Chapel of Trinity University in Washington is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture and was visited by Pope John Paul II. Perhaps one of the most dramatic college places of worship in America is the Chapel of St. Basil of the University of St. Thomas in Houston. It was designed by one of the greatest U.S. architects, the late Philip Johnson.

You can see photos of all the Best College Reviews ranked churches and read a brief description of each one by visiting the website linked above.

Religion has big impact on how America gives

If you ever wondered whether religion makes a big impact on American generosity, wonder no more. It does.

Sister Mary Maloney, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, chats with a guest in the cafeteria of a nonprofit charitable organization administered by her order in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2010. The charity serves hot meals to the poor, needy and homeless and provides transitional housing for young mothers. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

According to a new study released in the Aug. 23 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, “regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not,” reports Ben Gose in an exclusive study, “How America Gives.”

“Two of the top nine states — Utah and Idaho — have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church. The remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt.”

The top 10 states in terms of giving were, in order, Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina and  Maryland.

Of America’s 50 largest cities, Salt Lake City took the No. 1 spot with citizens there giving an average of 9 percent of their household income to charity. Rounding out the top 10 are Memphis, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Nashville, Tenn.; Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Oklahoma City; Washington; Dallas-Fort Worth; and Jacksonville, Fla.

Of U.S. regions, the South gives a greater percentage of its household income to charity, 5.2 percent on average. The West follows with 4.5 percent. Midwesterners give on an average of 4.3 percent, and Northeasterners give the least, 4 percent of average income. But when faith comes out of the equation, the trends flip. “People in the Northeast provide 1.4 percent of their discretionary income to secular charities, compared to those in the South, who give 0.9 percent,” the report said.

Gose also reported some other surprising findings of the study:

The rich aren’t the most generous. “People who make $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of the their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more.”

It matters were you live. “Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their income to charity than wealthy people who live economically diverse neighborhoods.”

Tax incentives make a difference. “State policies that promote giving can make a significant difference and in some cases are influencing the rankings. In Arizona, charities are reaping more than $100-million annually from a series of tax credits adopted in recent years.

To see how your state ranks,and even your city of county, the report has a great interactive map. It also profiles giving and its challenges and victories in four cities: Phoenix, ranked No. 22; Minneapolis-St. Paul, ranked No. 30; Providence, R.I., ranked at the bottom at No. 50; and Washington, No. 8.

You can also find how the data was gathered and analyzed.

Growth is good among Catholic colleges

Seven Catholic colleges and universities were among the nation’s largest schools, and five are among the fastest growing, according the the 2012-2013 Almanac published Aug. 31 by The Chronicle of Higher Education. The annual Almanac uses reports on diverse academic situations such as enrollments, faculty and staff size and salaries and tuition based on data through the end of the last academic ending in 2011.

Benedictine University is the fastest-growing research institution in the U.S., according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2012-2013 Almanac. (Photo from Benedictine University)

In the top 20 private doctoral universities, DePaul University in Chicago is the country’s largest Catholic campus with 25,145 students enrolled. It is followed by St. John’s University in New York with 21,354 students. St. Louis University’s main campus is third largest with 17,709 students, and Georgetown University is the fourth with 16,937.

Among the 20 largest campuses of master’s-level universities, Saint Leo University is the largest Catholic campus with 15,565 students enrolled. It’s followed by Regis University in Denver with 11,069 students and Pennsylvania’s Villanova University with 10,605.

While Catholic colleges and universities educate thousands of graduate and undergraduate students across the country, they are dwarfed by public institutions. According to the Almanac, “nearly twice as many students were enrolled in the 20 largest public doctoral universities as were enrolled in the 20 largest private ones.”

But Catholic colleges are enjoying impressive growth, even in a sluggish economy. Four Catholic were among the top 20 fastest growing research institutions in the U.S. from 2000-2010. Benedictine University in Illinois is the fastest growing campus in the nation jumping up a whopping 142.5 percent to 6,892 students. Immaculata University in Pennsylvania grew by 52.5 percent to 4,456 students. New York’s St. John Fisher College  grew almost as fast by 46.6 percent to 4,020 students.  And Georgetown University grew by 35.7 percent to its 16,937 enrollment.
Among the top 20 private master’s institutions, Saint Joseph’s College in New York  expanded enrollment by an amazing 336.5 percent to 5,897.

All enrollment figures include full-time and part-time graduate and undergraduate students.