Remembering Florence Henderson

The year was 1994, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

I had been in Anaheim, California, covering the National Catholic Educational Association’s annual convention for CNS. Since I was so close to Hollywood, management thought I could stay some extra days to snag interviews with some emerging stars like Nick Turturro, then on “NYPD Blue,” David Hyde Pierce of “Fraser,” Jay Leno, who was settling in comfortably on “The Tonight Show,” and a pre-“Everybody Loves Raymond” Ray Romano. I also got to interview some more established types, like Robert Wise, who directed “The Sound of Music,” and everybody’s favorite blended-family mom, Florence Henderson, ex of “The Brady Bunch.”

Florence Henderson (1934-2016). (CNS photo/Fred Prouser, Reuters) See story to come.

Florence Henderson (1934-2016). (CNS photo/Fred Prouser, Reuters)

For the Henderson interview, I got to meet her on a Monday evening at a restaurant near her home in Santa Monica, California, where she was a member of St. Monica Parish. We talked about her life and career, with the conversation invariably rebounding back to “The Brady Bunch.” The series still has a home in the 500-channel universe; Me-TV plays four episodes in a row every Sunday, calling it a “Brady Brunch.”

It’s not a surprise, since despite her ample acting and singing skills  — she was the original Maria on Broadway in “The Sound of Music” — Henderson helped make the Bradys a family that the ratings just couldn’t kill.

Even after the original sitcom was canceled after five seasons, “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour” soon followed, as did “The Brady Girls Get Married,” “The Brady Brides,” “A Very Brady Christmas,” “The Bradys,” and playing Grandma Brady in “The Brady Bunch Movie” in 1995. She even did a turn as Carol Brady in a 1987 episode of “The Love Boat.”

The unmistakable impression I got once the interview was over was how unfailingly polite Henderson had been. Not that at her age — which is my age now — she needed to go traipsing out of her house to do interviews on her free time. But she did, and she was a great interview subject.

Henderson talked about how she chose her confirmation name of Gemma after a Benedictine sister who taught her in grade school, and with whom she still corresponded 50 years later. She also spoke of doing a fundraiser for Ursuline-run Brescia College in Kentucky, not far from her Indiana birthplace. She even talked about prayer, which isn’t the typical subject actors talk about. Henderson said it keeps entertainers “from having a distorted image of who they are,” and opens them up to new people when the go from city to city. “And those are what I call moments of grace,” she told me. “I’m a great believer in the Holy Spirit, in grace.”

While visiting New York City over the Columbus Day holiday this year, we turned on the TV in the hotel room to find something suitable to watch. Lo and behold, the Disney Channel was showing one of my daughter’s favorite programs, “K.C. Undercover” starring Zendaya as a high-school-age secret agent. And in this episode, she infiltrated a senior citizens’ home as a grumpy grandpa, only to be sidetracked by Henderson as an attention-starved granny.

There is no doubt Florence Henderson lived a rich, grace-filled life.

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With death of Fidel Castro, pope, archbishop ask prayers to Cuba’s patroness

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Quoting from the Book of Ecclesiastes and referencing judgment, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, of Miami issued a statement on the Nov. 25 death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

“Now he awaits the judgment of God who is merciful but also just,” wrote Archbishop Wenski in a brief statement posted on the archdiocese’s website Nov. 26. “His death provokes many emotions — both in and outside the island. Nevertheless, beyond all possible emotions, the passing of this figure should lead us to invoke the patroness of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity, asking for peace for Cuba and its people.”

Pope Francis and former Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana in Sept. 20, 2015. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Pope Francis and former Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana in Sept. 20, 2015. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Castro was 90 and ruled Cuba from 1959 — when his regime overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista — until 2009 when he handed power over to his brother Raul.

Pope Francis sent a telegram in Spanish to Cuba expressing condolences for the “sad news” of “the death of your dear brother” to Raul Castro, who currently rules the island. He also expressed condolences to the government and to its people, and said he was offering prayers and entrusting the nation through intercession of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the patron saint of Cuba.

Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist party in Cuba, said the formal public mourning period and homages to Fidel Castro will begin today and go through Dec. 4. On Nov. 30 the transport of his ashes to the province of Santiago will begin, concluding Dec. 3 at the cemetery of St. Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba, where the Cuban national leader Jose Marti is buried.

Archishop Wenski concluded his message asking that “Our Lady of Charity, hear her people’s prayers and hasten for Cuba the hour of its reconciliation in truth, accompanied by freedom and justice.”

Through the intercession of Mary, may “the Cuban people know how to traverse that narrow road between fear which gives in to evil and violence, which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse,” he added.



Posted in CNS

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Nov. 27, 2016

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares." -- Isaiah 2:4

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares.” — Isaiah 2:4


Nov. 27, First Sunday of Advent

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Isaiah 2:1-5

      Psalm 122:1-9

      2) Romans 13:11-14

      Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44


By Deacon Mike Ellerbrock
Catholic News Service

Noah’s neighbors were so engrossed in celebrating their good fortune that they were caught unprepared for the calamity of the Flood. Had they invited the less-fortunate villagers, perhaps the party may have ended in joy.

Historically, lack of economic opportunity has led to civil wars and international conflicts, including terrorism. Hence, our economic choices involve ethical dimensions, moral issues and global challenges. Let us beware: Poverty remains a scourge invoking God’s wrath.

Today, 3 billion people (about one-third of humanity) live in “poverty,” on less than $2.50 per person per day. Half of those people are perpetually stuck in “extreme poverty,” living on less than $1.25 per person per day. The dollar distinction reflects the desperate reality that extremely poor people cannot save any money at all and thus are unable to invest in their children’s future.

The amount of money necessary to lift those 1.5 billion people out of extreme poverty equals only 0.7 percent of world gross domestic product, an amount equivalent to only four days of military spending by all nations!

To build peace on earth, converting a few swords into plowshares appears to be a no-brainer.

For another frame of reference, consider the Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations in September 2000. Signed by the U.S. and 190 other nations, the goals commit each nation to allocate 0.7 percent of their annual income for official development aid to the poorest countries. Note that’s 0.7 percent — not 70 percent or 7 percent of our nation’s annual wealth. It is only seven-tenths of 1 percent!

So, is America a generous country? Yes and no.

In absolute dollars, we donate more money in development aid than any other nation, yet we are also the biggest laggard in meeting our millennium goals commitment. In 2015, the U.S. has contributed only 0.17 percent of our national income in development aid. That is about one-fourth of our official pledge. Though generous, we could do a lot better.

Advent is a time of spiritual reckoning. If the Christ child was welcomed by Magi from the East with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, is it not time to reverse the flow of wealth to feed his hungriest children?


For the sake of our poorest neighbors, can we not reduce military spending by four days to welcome our infant Creator and Savior into his kingdom?

Posted in Word to Life

Skirling at St. Peter’s Square

VATICAN CITY — After the bells tolled for the noon Angelus today, the melodies and drone of Scottish bagpipes could be heard near St. Peter’s Square.

Pipe Sergeant Mauro Nenci of Rome helped catch the attention of passersby and media as part of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews & Edinburgh’s announcement of the development of “The Catholic App.”

The new GPS-powered app is meant to help people find the nearest church offering Mass and confession in the way most people today find things: with their smart phone or tablet, Archbishop Leo Cushley said.


Mauro Nenci on bagpipes and Archbishop Leo Cushley of St. Andrews & Edinburgh presenting a new app Nov. 22 that uses GPS to help people find church Mass and confession times. (Photo courtesy of the Scottish Catholic Media Office)

“Websites are losing popularity. What is needed to engage with the mobile generation is an app that is smart and personal, an app that is like a companion, a friend that takes the initiative to inspire you — that’s the vision behind the Catholic App,” said Maciej Zurawski, founder and CEO of Musemantik, the Scottish tech company designing the app.

Inspirational messages, news and parish information will also be among some of the app features.

The archdiocese hopes to release the app early next year, but it also needs as many dioceses as possible across the world to take part, offering needed data (Mass and Confession times, location etc…) to make the app even more effective, said David Kerr, the archdiocese’s director of communications.

Check out the interactive mock up here:

Dioceses, parishes and individuals interested in finding out more can contact the developer at or David Kerr.



Posted in CNS

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Nov. 20, 2016

"Today you will be with me in Paradise." -- Luke 23:43

“Today you will be with me in Paradise.” — Luke 23:43

Nov. 20, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) 2 Samuel 5:1-3

      Psalm 122:1-5

      2) Colossians 1:12-20

      Gospel: Luke 23:35-43


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

It’s not easy to get your head around the concept of the kingdom of God and its meaning for your own life. Then, just when you think you understand, it eludes you again.

No surprise. After all, it’s beyond us, right?

Wrong. It’s not beyond us. God desires us to be drawn into God’s kingdom, and he sent his Son, as king, to bring us there.

This week’s Scriptures describe Christ’s place in the kingdom and his unrelenting, sacrificial effort to keep God’s beloved children with him there forever.

Paul’s Letter to the Colossians reminds us that Christ’s life didn’t begin with his earthly birth. No, he “is before all things.” All things were created through him, for him, and in him all things hold together. Mind-blowing.

With such knowledge, it’s surprising that we don’t feel smaller and less self-determined. But we often forget who lives in whose kingdom.

I’ll never forget hearing that confusion laid to rest by a casual comment of the late Bishop Joseph Delaney of Fort Worth, Texas. Lamenting oft-told stories of faithful people running into burning churches to rescue the Eucharist, he said, “They’re going to save Jesus.” He raised his eyebrows, “Save Jesus — from what?”

Another time, I heard Steve Colecchi, now director of the U.S. bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace, tell a gathering of parish social justice ministers not to get too stressed over their efforts to “save the world.”

“Remember,” he smiled, “that’s already been accomplished.”

In Luke’s Gospel this week, onlookers at Jesus’ resurrection, as well as one of the criminals hanging beside him, mockingly challenged him to prove his power by saving himself. Of course, there was no need. He was fully alive in the world that mattered: the kingdom of God.

But as savior of humanity, he would willingly give up his earthly life to ransom the lives of his Father’s faithful children who suffer in weakness and sinfulness.

Christ the King powerfully “reconciles all things” for the sake of the kingdom of God. We are indeed drawn into his kingdom when we allow him to rule our lives with his spirit of goodness, justice and love.


What do you believe is your place and your role in Christ’s kingdom? How have you witnessed the kingdom of God influencing human society today?

Posted in Word to Life

Marathon reading of Bible in the public square underway in Louisiana diocese

A marathon reading of the Bible is well underway in St. Martinville in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana. The “Jubilee of the Word” marathon in the town square is one of its events to close out the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which ends Sunday.

For the “Jubilee of the Word” marathon in St. Martinville, the Bible is being read publicly cover to cover without pause. It began yesterday at 6 a.m. (local time) and will ending on Sunday, the feast of Christ the King at 8 p.m. (local time).  Over 250 lectors from the Lafayette Diocese, joined by members of other faith communities, were scheduled to read for 20-minute intervals.

“This celebration of the Word will bring together Catholics, Baptists, nondenominational Christians and members of the Jewish faith for the purpose of proclaiming, reflecting on and marinating in the holy word of God,” said Father Michael Champagne, superior of the Community of Jesus Crucified.

The religious community, based in the Lafayette Diocese, is a prime sponsor of the event.

“People everywhere love to exercise. It’s important to stay in physical shape, which is why many people participate in Iron Man races, triathlons and marathons. And we wanted to provide a way for people to spiritually exercise,” said Father Champagne, who also is director of Fete-Dieu du Teche, an annual eucharistic procession along the Bayou Teche in Louisiana.

“We, as Catholics, are getting ready to close out the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and we wanted to do something to commemorate the closing of the floodgate of mercy and grace in an extraordinary way,” he continued. “Every page of the sacred Scriptures recounts God’s burning and fatherly love for us, and this will be a reminder of that love.”

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Nov. 13, 2016

"He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity." -- Psalm 98:9

“He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with equity.” — Psalm 98:9


Nov. 13, Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Malachi 3:19-20a

      Psalm 98:5-9

      2) 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12

      Gospel: Luke 21:5-19


By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

During my childhood, long before the days of downloadable music and satellite radio, there was vinyl (which, curiously, is making a comeback!). In our home, there was quite a collection of record albums, and my mother exposed us to the music of Schubert, Beethoven, Chopin and all the great composers.

My favorites were the symphonies, and I learned to pick out the various instruments — oboe, flute, trumpet, harp and tympani — that retained their distinct voices while combining in a beautiful, harmonious composition.

Indeed, the word “symphony” literally comes from the Greek words meaning “sounding together,” or a combination of different elements in harmony with one another.

Today’s psalm depicts the kind of symphony that resonates throughout all of creation as a result of the Lord’s coming to “rule the earth with justice.” Harp, trumpets and horns are complemented by the sounds of rivers clapping their hands and mountains shouting for joy.

But what does that symphony look like in terms of everyday living? St. Paul gives us a clue in his letter to the church at Thessalonica, when he contrasts “disorderliness” with the harmony of community life when its members perform their daily occupations conscientiously and peacefully.

When performing a musical score, the orchestra is responsible for conveying the composer’s vision while closely following the lead of the conductor through the various symphonic movements. Jesus cautions us about the importance of remaining faithful despite changing or alarming circumstances — not following deceptive counsel but focusing on his leadership.

We each have our own unique part to play in the Father’s vision of peace and justice. Let’s “keep calm and play on.”


Describe your experience of living in a community that is disorderly or disharmonious. What insights do today’s readings offer for the healing of such a community?

Posted in Word to Life