Farm at St. Joe’s builds community by promoting fresh air, exercise, good health

Produce is shown in the farmer's market at St. Joseph Mercy Health System. The produce is grown on a 364-acre farm on the hospital's Ann Arbor, Mich., campus. (Courtesy Catholic Health Association)

Produce is shown in the farmer’s market at St. Joseph Mercy Health System. The produce is grown on a 364-acre farm on the hospital’s Ann Arbor, Mich., campus. (Courtesy Catholic Health Association)

Not many hospitals have a farm.

But St. Joseph Mercy Health System in Ann Arbor, Mich., does.

The hospital’s 364-acre on-campus farm gives patients, veterans, students and a few other folks the chance to grow organic vegetables, learn about nutrition and get some fresh air.

The Catholic Health Association honored the hospital June 3 for its innovative approach to healing and wellness with its 2013 Achievement Citation, presented during CHA’s annual assembly in Anaheim, Calif. The award honors innovation and creativity. CHA said the farm fits the hospital’s core values and mission “to heal body, mind and spirit, to improve the health of our communities and to steward the resources entrusted to us.”

CHA’s Catholic Health World magazine has chronicled the work and ministry of the farm. The vegetables and greens produced by the farm find their way to patient meals and the hospital’s Market Café, formerly the cafeteria. Fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers are offered for sale at a farmers’ market inside the hospital.

Anyone can work on the farm, even those confined to bed. Some vegetables are planted in elevated beds for those who cannot squat or bend to reach the ground.

Betsy Taylor’s article says the farm operates year-round with a manager and two additional paid employees and a crew of volunteers. Vegetables are grown during all four seasons thanks to three hoop houses that capture the sun’s energy to keep the plants inside from freezing.

Much of the rest of the hospital campus has been transformed as well. Alfalfa and natural meadows surround the facilities, eliminating financial and ecological costs of a carefully landscaped and maintained lawn.

The award may just inspire other facilities, hospitals, colleges and universities and office parks to consider moving into this ecologically friendly direction.

Cardinal George on the HHS mandate

ROME — Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, currently in Rome for a series of meetings with Vatican officials, spoke yesterday with CNS about the church’s ongoing dispute with the Obama administration over the HHS contraception mandate.

The immediate past president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had some insightful observations about what is at stake, and how the dispute could play out in the courts and the political arena.

US religion writers pick bishops’ battle with HHS as 2012 top news story

Members of the Religion Newswriters Association, the world’s oldest and largest professional non-denominational association for journalists who write about religion, picked the U.S. Catholic bishops’ opposition to national health care legislation mandating contraception coverage as the No. 1 religion story of 2012. They also chose Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York as the year’s top newsmaker in their annual poll

“As the nation reeled from the Dec. 14 killing of 20 first graders and six adults in Newtown, Conn., religious leaders sought to console a stunned public and to discern religion’s role in future debates about mental health and gun control. The No. 1 U.S. religion story in December 2012 was, without a doubt, the school attack and the mournful search for meaning that follows,” an RNA statement said this week. “However, before the shooting, professional journalists who cover religion voted on the year’s other significant religious events.”

The Top 10 poll of Religion Newswriters Association members took place Dec. 11- 15, 2012, in a confidential, online ballot. More than 100 members of the organization responded. RNA has conducted the poll for nearly 40 years.

Most RNA members are working journalists in secular media, though some work in media owned by specific denominations. (Full disclosure: I am a member of RNA.)

Cardinal Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, became the point man for Catholic objections to required coverage of contraception, sterilization and morning after drugs in Affordable Health Care Act.

The Top 10 Religion Stories of the Year are below:

1. U.S. Catholic bishops lead opposition to Affordable Health Care Act requirement that insurance coverage for contraception be provided for employees. The government backs down a bit, but not enough to satisfy the opposition.

2. A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey shows that “nones,” that is people with no religious affiliation, is the fastest-growing religious group in the United States, rising to 19.6 percent of the population.

3. The circulation of an anti-Islam film trailer, “Innocence of Muslims,” causes unrest in several countries, leading to claims that it inspired the fatal attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya. President Obama, at the U.N., calls for toleration tolerance of blasphemy, and respect as a two-way street.

4. Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith turns out to be a virtual non-issue for white evangelical voters, who support him more strongly than they did John McCain in the U.S. presidential race.

5. Msgr. William Lynn of Philadelphia becomes the first senior Catholic official in the U.S. to be found guilty of covering up priestly child abuse; later Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., becomes the first bishop to be found guilty of it.

6. The Vatican criticizes the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group of U.S. sisters, alleging they haven’t supported church teaching on abortion, sexuality or women’s ordination.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was selected as newsmaker of the year for 2012 by the Religion Newswriters Association. CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was selected as newsmaker of the year for 2012 by the Religion Newswriters Association. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

7. Voters OK same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington, bringing the total approving to nine states and the District of Columbia. Also, Minnesota defeats a ban on same-sex marriage after North Carolina approves one.

8. The Episcopal Church overwhelmingly adopts a trial ritual for blessing same-sex couples. Earlier, the United Methodists fail to vote on approving gay clergy, and the Presbyterians (USA) vote to study, rather than sanction, same-sex marriage ceremonies.

9. Six people are killed and three wounded at worship in a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee. The shooter, an Army veteran killed by police, is described as a neo-Nazi.

10. The Southern Baptist Convention elects without opposition its first black president, the Rev. Fred Luter of New Orleans.

Votes for the 2012 Religion Newsmaker of the Year ranked the five potential candidates in this order:

1. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York becomes a point man for Catholic objections to required coverage of contraception, sterilization and morning-after drugs in the Affordable Health Care Act. But the cardinal also takes heat from the right when he invites the president to the traditional Al Smith Dinner in New York.

2. Rev. Fred Luter, first black president of the sprawling Southern Baptist Convention, who is expected to help the SBC become more racially diverse.

3. Mark Basseley Youssef, an Egypt-born Christian whose work has been condemned by the Coptic Church, provoked rioting in the Muslim world with his film trailer “Innocence of Muslims.” He was jailed in California on probation violations.

4. Mormon voters, who enthusiastically backed one of their own for president, acted in ways that helped overcome suspicions of them by other faiths.

5. Pro football quarterback Tim Tebow, whose book about his faith was on the best-seller list, inspired the term “Tebowing” for kneeling in prayer and led to polarized discussions about the role of faith in sports.

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.

Cholera response steps up as Haiti’s rainy season begins

(CNS/Paul Jeffrey)

An upswing in cholera in Haiti has prompted health care workers and aid agencies to step up efforts to prevent the water-borne disease from spreading rapidly as the rainy season begins.

Catholic Relief Services was among the aid agencies that boosted the distribution of soap, water purification tablets and hygiene information within 24 hours of the initial spike in early April following a period of heavy rain. CRS reported reaching 22,000 families within days; in Port-au-Prince, agency workers installed or repaired sanitation stations and increased disinfection and maintenance of facilities in 12 settlements where people left homeless by the January 2010 earthquake remain in crude shelters.

In addition, Boston-based Partners in Health has embarked on a vaccination program with the goal of reaching 100,000 people. While the vaccine typically is effective 70 percent of the time, PIH has set out to show that a concentrated vaccination campaign can significantly reduce the threat of the disease as long as vaccine supplies are available, Donna Barry, the agency’s director of policy and advocacy, told a congressional briefing April 18.

Despite such outreach, several speakers said during the briefing that all Haitians are at risk of contracting the disease, which can kill in a matter of hours if left untreated.

Now some history. The first cholera cases surfaced in central Haiti in Artibonite department in October 2010. Until then, the disease had no history in the country. Investigators traced the source to a faulty sanitation system at a camp housing Nepalese soldiers, who are part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. The U.N. has declined to acknowledge it was responsible for the outbreak, sparking protest from some Haitian organizations. More than 7,050 people have died and more than 532,000 people — 5 percent of the population — have contracted the disease, according to the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population.

As the rainy season begins, those most at risk are the 500,000 people who remain in the settlements across the earthquake zone, said Luiz Augusto Galvao, manager of sustainable development and environmental health area for the Pan-American Health Organization.

He decried the lack of access to safe water and sanitation for many Haitians. Only 69 percent of Haitians can access safe drinking water and just 17 percent have access to sanitation systems.

An international coalition is attempting to address the situation, but he acknowledged it will be years before things improve.

So what to do?

Agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Inter-American Development Bank, UNICEF, U.N.-Water and the governments of Brazil, Canada and France are pulling together to address the water problems facing Haiti, Galvao said. Other speakers called upon the world to make good on the billions of dollars pledged in the months after the earthquake to spur an effort to bring clean water and sanitation to all Haitians.

“For now we need to save lives,” Galvao said.

Seeing the bigger picture on health care

(CNS photo/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

With climate change characterized as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century,” Catholic health providers are working to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint. Climate change “is already negatively impacting human health” and its effects “will multiply dramatically if no action is taken,” says a new resource from the Catholic Health Association, titled “Climate Change and Health Care: Is There a Role for the Health Care Sector?” The 24-page document notes that “populations who are at greatest risk and considered most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change” — including the unborn, children, older adults and those in poverty — “lack the ability to cope with the consequences of climate change.”

Among the negative health impacts caused by climate change now and in the future are heat-related illnesses, poor birth outcomes, malnutrition and food insecurity, degraded water quality and availability, respiratory illnesses and premature death, the document says. The resource is part of CHA’s work with the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, made up of 12 national Catholic organizations.

Catholic Charities USA makes top 10 in Philanthropy 400

This week the Chronicle of Philanthropy published it annual Philanthropy 400, those U.S. organizations that raised the most money in the last year. According to reporters Noelle Barton and Holly Hall, who wrote the piece accompanying the list, “America’s big charities expect fundraising to rise in 2011, but the increase won’t come close to making up what they lost in the downturn.”

Philanthropic giving in the U.S. still has yet to recover from the losses in the 2008 recession. Most of this year’s gains, they reported, were seen by international charities that receive in-kind gifts and by community foundations and organizations that receive donated stock.

“When those groups are excluded from analysis, the increase in gifts was flat,” they said.

Catholic or Catholic-related organizations in the Philanthropy 400, their ranking and their total 2010 gifts are:

10. Catholic Charities USA, $793,815,584

15. American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, $659,370,821

51. Catholic Relief Services, $294,287,000

78. University of Notre Dame, 221,615,902

110. Catholic Medical Mission Board, $177,207,054

144. Christian Appalachian Project, (Ky.), $131,586,590

147. Father Flanagan Boys’ Home (Neb.), $130,737,000

159. Boston College, $120,537,000

160. St. Mary’s Food Bank (Ariz.), $119,703,302

214. Georgetown University, $90,858,000

221. Catholic Healthcare West (Calif.), $86,286,000

288. Marquette University, $60,461,194

340. Covenant House, $51,195,438

394. Villanova University, $43,483,000

Catholic institutions that made last year’s list but fell from the top 400 this year are Fordham University, Le Moyne College and St. Louis University.

According to the report, “charities in the Philanthropy 400 are an important bellwether for the state of giving, and how American donors are responding to the bad economy. The nonprofits on the list raise $1 of every $4 contributed to nonprofit causes.”

Healing and teaching go hand-in-hand for Sister Diana

Religious orders of women are known far and wide for two important apostolates, education and healing. Teaching and nursing sisters and brothers are legendary around the world. Take a moment to meet a Dominican sister who unexpectedly found herself the lone medical practitioner in a community of teachers.

Vanderbilt Medicine, the alumni publication of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, this issue profiles an alumna, Dominican Sister Mary Diana Dreger, a Long Island, N.Y., native who entered Cornell University as a pre-med student. After taking a year off and falling in love with teaching, she became a high school math and science teacher. Then she had a serendipitous encounter in Virginia with some Dominican sisters from Nashville, Tenn. The next thing she knew she was in the novitiate in the motherhouse of the Dominicans’ St. Cecilia Congregation.

A few years later, after Sister Diana took her final vows and was still teaching, the prioress general said, “I’m thinking of sending you to medical school.”

“Teach. Pray. Heal.” by Kathy Whitney is a great story of faith, commitment, trust and a bit of the unexpected from the hand of God and Mother Superior.

Get bald for kids on St. Paddy’s Day

What are your plans for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day? If you are like most North Americans, you’ll be accessorizing yourself out in green, putting on silly hats, visiting your neighborhood pub, eating someone’s idea of Irish food — usually bad — drinking beer that might be green (God only knows who came up with that), and anticipating calling into work the next morning with a hangover.

A cool organization has another idea. How about getting your head shaved?

Yesterday’s Chronicle of Philanthropy notes that a new twist on an old feast day gets volunteers to get their heads shaved to raise money to fight cancer in children. This St. Patrick’s Day, almost 28,000 men and women have signed up get shorn and pony up a donation for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. So far this year, the volunteer-driven foundation has raised some $10 million that it funnels to researchers looking to find cures for the pediatric cancer, the leading disease-caused death of children in the United States. A number of Catholic schools across the country have signed on and are preparing to get clipped.

The Chronicle reports that over the years, St. Baldrick’s has raised over $100 million for childhood cancer research. That’s a lot of hair and a lot of hope.

When you think about it, what better way to show solidarity with a child who may have lost his or her hair through cancer treatments than losing your hair too? You’ll save a bundle on hair care products and won’t have to worry about that green leprechaun’s hat wrecking your hairdo.

Charitable giving dips, but some Catholic agencies holding on

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported this week that giving to the 400 largest charities in the U.S. is down overall 11 percent this year. That’s the worst drop in the two decades since the Chronicle began ranking its Philanthropy 400. Collectively, the 400 top charities raised over $68 billion last year. That’s a lot of giving, but still about $7 billion less than 2008.

The Chronicle list includes charitable organizations that raise funds from private individuals, businesses and foundations. It does not consider government funding, for example, research dollars or student support. The rankings are based on 2009 data.

Ten Catholic institutions made the top 400 this year. They include social service agencies, health care organizations and universities.

(CNS/Bob Roller)

The only agency in the top 10 is Catholic Charities USA, ranking No. 3. It brought in $1.28 billion last year, a 5.2 percent increase over the prior year.

Three other service agencies are in the 400. They are (with ranking, funds raised in 2009 and percentage increase or decrease from 2008): Catholic Medical Mission Board (No. 52) with $279 million, up 35.5 percent; Catholic Relief Services (No. 67) bringing in $240 million, up only 0.7 percent; and the Phoenix-based St. Mary’s Food Bank (No. 152) raising $127 million, up 53.5 percent.

Father Flanagan’s Boy’s Home in Nebraska (No. 160) brought in $121 million, up a nice 130.8 percent.

The lone Catholic health care system in the 400 — the San Francisco-based Catholic Health Care West (No. 237) — saw $82 million in giving, up 1.4 percent.

Five higher-education institutions made the list. They are: University of Notre Dame (No. 88) with $198 million, down 25.6 percent; Georgetown University (No. 99) with $181 million, up 2.7 percent; Boston College (No. 230) raising $84 million, down 16 percent; St. Louis University (No. 261), new to the list this year, raising $73 million, up 56.7 percent; and finally Fordham University (No. 267) bringing in $70 million, up 4.5 percent.

Other agencies charities that have old or close Catholic ties making the list include United Way, Food for the Poor, the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, Covenant House, Habitat for Humanity and St. Jude’s Hospital.

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