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Basketball preview: Court is in session for high school basketball teams

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Staff reporter

When the calendar flips to December, fall sports fade into the background, and their winter counterparts take center stage. Chief among them is basketball, which tipped off last weekend and gets into full gear in the next week or two.

In Kent County, St. Thomas More burst upon the scene last year with a 15-5 regular season and two more wins in the postseason before losing a tough quarterfinal matchup against St. Georges. Coach Cheston Boyd returns four of five starters from last season: seniors Corey Gordon and Elias Revelle, and juniors Greg Bloodsworth and Alvin West. A key newcomer is Eric Montanez, a 6-3 senior transfer. Read more »

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Sunday Scripture readings, Dec. 11, 2016

December 8th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:

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Third Sunday of Advent

            Cycle A. Readings:

            1) Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10

            Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10

            2) James 5:7-10

            Gospel) Matthew 11:2-11

            While I was studying for my degree in theology, a professor told us: “The secret to joy is waiting.” I had never considered waiting as criteria for joy. I had always thought of joy as something experienced in the moment at some event or in a person or thing. But as he expounded on this concept, I was reminded of my grandmother and finally understood the connection between joy and waiting. Read more »

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Vatican updates guidelines for selecting, training future priests

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church needs holy, healthy and humble priests and that requires prayers for vocations and the careful selection and training of candidates, said the Congregation for Clergy. Read more »

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Living Our Faith — Look It Up, a People of Patience

December 2nd, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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It probably could go without saying that our culture today is largely one of instant gratification. It seems that with every passing week, there is a new fad or product that promises faster results, shorter waits, or more exciting features for those with short attention spans.

In many ways, patience is no longer considered a virtue — the common perception is that patience should not even be necessary, because we should not have to wait. Read more »

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Living Our Faith — Surprised by new life at Advent

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Catholic News Service

Almost 30 years ago, I volunteered at a pregnancy support program. Our office was in a ramshackle house in an old neighborhood. We offered free pregnancy testing, a big deal back then.

Grocery shelves were only on the cusp of stocking easy do-it-yourself at-home pregnancy testing kits. Instead, you made a doctor’s appointment to confirm your suspicions. Read more »

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Living Our Faith — Advent joy for imperfect Christians

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Catholic News Service

It is not mysterious at all that the church lodges an annual day of joy in the heart of Advent. The tone of this December day, called Gaudete Sunday, is set by the coming joyful days of Christmas, which the Advent season awaits. Read more »

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Living Our Faith — Advent Week Three: Gaudete Sunday

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The tone of the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, is set by the coming joyful days of Christmas, which the Advent season awaits. Read more »

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Catholic college presidents pledge help for ‘childhood arrivals’ — undocumented students with DACA status

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — More than 70 presidents at Catholic colleges and universities have signed a statement pledging their support for students attending their schools who are legally protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

The statement, posted Nov. 30 on the website of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, says it hopes “the students in our communities who have qualified for DACA are able to continue their studies without interruption and that many more students in their situation will be welcome to contribute their talents to our campuses.”

Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran is  president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. (CNS photo/courtesy Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities)

Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran is president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. (CNS photo/courtesy Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities)

President Barack Obama’s DACA program protects young immigrants brought into the United States by their parents as young children without legal permission. More than 720,000 of these young immigrants have been approved for the program, which protects them from deportation for two-year periods.

The college leaders’ statement also points out that “undocumented students need assistance in confronting legal and financial uncertainty and in managing the accompanying anxieties. We pledge to support these students, through our campus counseling and ministry support, through legal resources from those campuses with law schools and legal clinics and through whatever other services we may have at our disposal.”

The statement was released three weeks after the presidential election. During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump promised to deport those who are in the country without legal permission; build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; and enact a ban on Muslims entering the country until a system for what he called “extreme vetting” of refugees is in place.

Trump also made promises during his campaign to undo what he called Obama’s “overreaching” executive orders, including the president’s November 2014 expansion of his 2012 DACA program to allow more young immigrants people to benefit from its provisions that defer deportations and allow them to have work permits.

“Many of us count among our students young men and women who are undocumented, their families having fled violence and instability,” the presidents’ letter said, adding that these students have met the DACA criteria.

Signers of the letter represent large schools, like Villanova, which is outside Philadelphia, DePaul University in Chicago and The Catholic University of America in Washington, and small schools, like Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, and Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and dozens of colleges in between. They include leaders who have been vocal in their support of students with DACA status, such as Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, and Jesuit Father Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University New Orleans. 

Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, also signed the statement.

Many of the signers are presidents of Jesuit colleges and universities who signed a similar Nov. 30 statement issued by the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities that reiterated support for students who are in the United States without legal documents.

That statement, signed by 28 leaders, said: “We feel spiritually and morally compelled to raise a collective voice confirming our values and commitments as Americans and educators.”

The leaders pledged to continue working “to protect to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on our campuses” and to promote retention of students with DACA status.

Several of the signers of both statements also signed a Nov. 21 letter with more than 400 college and university presidents from public and private institutions across the U.S. offering to meet with U.S. leaders on the issue of immigrant students and urging business, civic, religious and nonprofit sectors to join them in supporting DACA and undocumented immigrant students.

The letter from Catholic college and university presidents stressed that their schools “share a long history of educating students from a diverse array of socioeconomic, geographical and ethnic backgrounds, often welcoming those on society’s margins, especially immigrants and underprivileged populations.”

It also cited what Pope Francis said last year at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia when he welcomed many recent immigrants to the United States, pointing out that many of them came to the United States “at great personal cost, in the hope of building a new life.”

“Do not be discouraged by whatever hardships you face,” the pope told them. “I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this nation.”

John DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, who joined the statement with Jesuit college leaders, also sent a similar-themed message to members of the school community Nov. 29.

In the letter, he noted that he has been meeting with students, faculty and staff members from the university and “many of them have shared with me that they feel vulnerable and unsure about their futures or the futures of close friends and family.”

DeGioia stressed that Georgetown’s school community would continue to support the DACA program and “protect our undocumented students to the fullest extent of the law.”

“I wish to encourage each of us to recommit ourselves to supporting one another — to working together to do all that we can to ensure that our community is a place of deep care for each person, especially those who feel most vulnerable,” he wrote.

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

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Tennessee bishop asks for prayers, help for victims of wildfires. tornado

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Catholic parishioners in the Diocese of Knoxville are among those who have lost homes and businesses in the wildfires that ravaged tourist areas in the Great Smoky Mountains region Nov. 29, said Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville.

Smoke plumes from wildfires are seen Nov. 29 along the Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, Tenn. Raging wildfires fueled by high winds claimed the lives of at least three people, forced the evacuation of thousands, including Father Antony Punnackal of St. Mary's Church, and damaged hundreds of buildings in the popular mountain resort town. (CNS photo/courtesy National Park Services handout via Reuters)

Smoke plumes from wildfires are seen Nov. 29 along the Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, Tenn. Raging wildfires fueled by high winds claimed the lives of at least three people, forced the evacuation of thousands, including Father Antony Punnackal of St. Mary’s Church, and damaged hundreds of buildings in the popular mountain resort town. (CNS photo/courtesy National Park Services handout via Reuters)

News reports said the death toll from the fires had reached at least seven, with as many as 45 people suffering injuries. Two others died when a tornado swept through Tennessee the evening of Nov. 30.

AP reported that officials also have determined that at least 300 structures in Gatlinburg have been damaged or destroyed. Initial reports put the figure at 150 in the resort town. The blaze “left whole neighborhoods in ruins,” said Reuters.

More than 700 structures have been damaged or destroyed throughout Sevier County, which includes Gatlinburg.

“The Catholic community of east Tennessee continues to pray for those who have been affected by the terrible wildfires in Gatlinburg and other communities across the region,” Bishop Stika said. “We are grateful for all the men and women who bravely put themselves in harm’s way to protect people and property that were in danger.”

“I recognize that the good people of east Tennessee come together quickly in times of need. The Diocese of Knoxville shares that commitment,” he added.

Also late Nov. 30, the diocese received word that it appeared that St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Gatlinburg Gatlinburg suffered no fire damage. “The extent of any smoke or wind damage cannot be determined until officials reopen the roads into Gatlinburg,” a diocesan statement said.

Earlier that day, the diocese reported that the pastor, Father Antony Punnackal, had to evacuate but was safe.

Bishop Stika asked that all parishes and mission churches in the diocese hold a special collection at Masses the weekend of Dec. 3-4 to benefit victims of the fires in Gatlinburg and across the region. The diocese also set up an assistance fund for fire victims and was accepting donations online at http://tinyurl.com/j6gf2wd.

He reported that Mercy Sister Mary Christine Cremin, executive director of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, was leading efforts to help many of the diocesan agency’s clients in Gatlinburg and Sevier County and anyone else in need of assistance.

The clergy and staff at Sacred Heart Cathedral and Sacred Heart Cathedral School initiated a food drive to benefit fire victims, and supplies were already on their way to Gatlinburg, according to the bishop.

“If conditions permit,” Bishop Stika said, he planned to celebrate Sunday Mass Dec. 4 at St. Mary’s in Gatlinburg.

“I ask that your prayers continue for all the victims and their families,” he said.

The twister that hit Tennessee was part of a storm system that spawned at least a dozen tornadoes that swept through parts of the South. The National Weather Service said parts of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi also were affected. Besides the confirmed fatalities in Tennessee, at least 30 people in Alabama reported injuries.

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Pope Francis meets Scorsese after director screens ‘Silence’ for Jesuits

December 1st, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The morning after screening his film, “Silence,” for about 300 Jesuits, the U.S. director Martin Scorsese had a private audience with Pope Francis.

During the 15-minute audience Nov. 30, Pope Francis told Scorsese that he had read Japanese author Shusaku Endo’s historical novel, “Silence,” which inspired the film. The book and film are a fictionalized account of the persecution of Christians in 17th-century Japan; the central figures are Jesuit missionaries.

Pope Francis meets U.S. film director Martin Scorsese during a Nov. 30 private audience at the Vatican. The meeting took place the morning after the screening of his film, "Silence," for about 300 Jesuits. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)

Pope Francis meets U.S. film director Martin Scorsese during a Nov. 30 private audience at the Vatican. The meeting took place the morning after the screening of his film, “Silence,” for about 300 Jesuits. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

Pope Francis spoke to Scorsese, his wife and two daughters, and the film’s producer, about the early Jesuit missions to Japan and about the Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument in Nagasaki, which honors the Japanese martyrs executed on the site in 1597.

Scorsese gave the pope two paintings, which the Vatican said were “connected to the theme of the ‘hidden Christians,’” the Christians who kept their faith secret during the persecution. One of the paintings was of an image of Mary venerated in the 1700s.

The U.S. director screened the film Nov. 29 at the Jesuit-run Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome for an international group of Jesuits and Nov. 30 in the Vatican for specially invited guests.

In an interview taped after he met the pope, Scorsese said the pope had told him that he hopes the film “bears fruit.”

Scorsese said an Episcopalian bishop gave him Endo’s novel in 1988 and, immediately after reading it, he wanted to make a film of it, but it took 28 years to understand the story, to figure out how to tell it, to get the funding and cast and crew together. “It was like a pilgrimage,” Scorsese told TV2000, the television channel of the Italian bishops’ conference.

All that time getting everything together, he said, means the film, set for a Dec. 23 release in the United States, is coming out at a time when religious freedom and religious intolerance are not just of historical interest, but are in the news today. “It wasn’t such a big topic when I began” more than two decades ago.

In the novel, the Jesuit priest and missionary Father Rodrigues is captured; to make him renounce the faith, the Japanese authorities force him to watch as local Christians are martyred. While he believes he would suffer for his faith, he has a difficult time refusing to publicly renounce Christianity when it would end the suffering of the others.

In the end, Scorsese told TV2000, Father Rodrigues “understands Christ, he understands the love of Christ and they can’t take that away from him. Everything else is stripped away but that.” He publicly recants.

“On the surface,” Scorsese said, the book’s title “refers to the silence of God,” though Father Rodrigues learns that “God is in the silence, that God has been there suffering with him.”

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