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Book review: Businessman finds traits of ‘Great Catholic Parishes’

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Catholic News Service

“Great Catholic Parishes: How Four Essential Practices Make Them Thrive” by William E. Simon Jr. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2016). 202 pp. $17.95.

No single thread connects the Catholic parishes that are vibrant and thriving in the 21st century. “There is no silver bullet for doing great parish ministry in the Catholic Church today,” writes William E. Simon Jr. Read more »

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Commentary: Reflecting on the pope’s 2017 World Day of Peace message

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“May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life.” This statement written by Pope Francis in his Jan. 1 World Day of Peace message – the 50th annual papal peace message to the world – extols nonviolence as an essential and nonnegotiable key to true and lasting peace.

In his peace message titled “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace,” the Holy Father says, “When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking. Read more »

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Sunday Scripture readings, Jan. 1, 2017

December 29th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:

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Catholic News Service

 

Solemnity of Mary

            Cycle A Readings:

            1) Numbers 6:22-27

            Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8

            2) Galatians 4:4-7

            Gospel: Luke 2:16-21

            For nine months after the angel Gabriel’s annunciation, Mary pondered his message about her miraculous child to be.

            During that time, while visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s unborn baby leapt for joy, and Mary spoke with eloquence and humility about her understanding of God’s action in her life:

            “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. … For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages called me blessed.” Read more »

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Cardinal Dolan to participate at Trump inauguration

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — New York’s Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan will take part in the upcoming presidential inauguration of Republican Donald Trump.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has been invited to read from Scripture at the upcoming Trump inauguration. (CNS/Bob Roller)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has been invited to read from Scripture at the upcoming Trump inauguration. (CNS/Bob Roller)

“I am honored to have been asked to offer a reading from Scripture at the upcoming presidential inauguration, and look forward to asking almighty God to inspire and guide our new president and to continue to bless our great nation,” Cardinal Dolan said in an email to Catholic News Service.

Trump, a lifelong New Yorker, will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States Jan. 20.

According to the president-elect’s inaugural committee, other faith leaders who are scheduled to be present include the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Paula White of New Destiny Christian Center; Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; the Rev. Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International.

 

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Shooting woes hurt Padua in Diamond State Classic opener

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Dialog reporter

 

WILMINGTON – Padua figured to go through some growing pains this season on the basketball court, as the Pandas’ roster features just two returning starters and five players who saw any meaningful varsity time last season. One of those learning experiences came Dec. 28, when the Institute of Notre Dame (Md.) took a 41-15 decision in the Delaware Cup bracket of the Diamond State Classic at the St. E Center. Read more »

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Spartans girls clamp down on defense, earn win at Diamond State

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Dialog reporter

 

WILMINGTON – St. Mark’s did not score for more than two minutes at the beginning of its game Dec. 28 at the Diamond State Classic, but once Kendra Schweizer cleaned up after a rebound to put the Spartans ahead, they stayed there and went on to victory No. 2 of the season. St. Mark’s took care of Perryville (Md.), 53-31, in the consolation game of the New Castle Insurance Cup bracket of the Diamond State Classic at the St. E Center. Read more »

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Even complaining to God is a prayer, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — To complain to God in moments of doubt and fear like Abraham did is not something bad but rather is a form of prayer that requires the courage to hope beyond all hope, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis receives a parrot from a performer with the Golden Circus during his Dec. 28 weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNSAlessandro Bianchi/ Reuters)

Pope Francis receives a parrot from a performer with the Golden Circus during his Dec. 28 weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNSAlessandro Bianchi/ Reuters)

While in life there may be times of frustration and darkness, “hope is still there and it moves us forward,” the pope said Dec. 28 during his weekly general audience.

“I won’t say that Abraham loses patience, but he complains to the Lord. This is what we learn from our father Abraham: complaining to the Lord is a form of prayer. Sometimes I hear confessions where people say, ‘I complained to the Lord.’ But no. (Continue) to complain; he is a father and this is a form of prayer. Complain to the Lord, this is good,” he said.

Entering the Paul VI audience hall, the pope greeted thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. Among those present was a group of performers from Italy’s Golden Circus, who performed several acrobatic feats and entertaining performances at the end of the general audience.

The pope even participated in one of the performances. As he and an illusionist grabbed the ends of a tablecloth, they seemingly made a small nightstand levitate to the amazement and applause of the pilgrims.

During the audience, the pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope and reflected on the life of Abraham who, along with his wife, Sarah, left his homeland with hope in God’s promise of a son.

This hope, he said, gave Abraham the ability to “go beyond human reason, and worldly wisdom and prudence” to believe in the impossible.

“Hope opens new horizons; it makes us able to dream that which isn’t imaginable. Hope makes us enter into the darkness of an uncertain future to walk in the light,” the pope said.

However, this path is not without its difficulties, even for Abraham, who, after months of travel, began to doubt God’s promise of a son borne by his wife, Sarah.

It is in this moment, the pope said, that Abraham prays to God in the dark of night, a darkness that mirrored his “disappointment, discouragement and the difficulty of continuing to hope in something impossible.”

Faith is not just silent acceptance or a “certainty that secures us from doubt and perplexity,” but it also means “to argue with God and show him our bitterness without pious pretenses.”

“‘I became angry with God, I told him this, this, and that.’ But he is a father and he understands you; go in peace. You must have this courage. This is hope,” the pope said.

It is in the darkness of night and in the darkness of his own doubts that Abraham once again receives, believes and hopes in God’s promise of descendants as numerous as the stars, Pope Francis said.

“To believe, it is necessary to know how to see with the eyes of faith; we all may (look up and) only see stars, but for Abraham, they become a sign of God’s faithfulness,” the pope said. “Hope never disappoints.”

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Bishop Lennon of Cleveland resigns for health reasons

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Catholic News Service

CLEVELAND — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland. He has headed the diocese since 2006.

Bishop Lennon, who turns 70 in March, said during a news conference at diocesan offices Dec. 28 that he had developed vascular dementia, leading to his decision to submit his resignation for health reasons to the pope in November.

Pope Benedict XVI greets Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland during a 2012 meeting at the Vatican. Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Lennon, who has headed the Ohio diocese since 2006. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Benedict XVI greets Bishop Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland during a 2012 meeting at the Vatican. Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Lennon, who has headed the Ohio diocese since 2006. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“Recently it has come to my awareness that my health has declined to such an extent that I should resign as diocesan bishop,” he said.

“Given the progressive nature of this illness,” he added. “Pope Francis has accepted my request for an early retirement.”

Normally, bishops do not turn in their resignation to the pope until they turn 75, as required by canon law.

The pope named Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo, Ohio, as the apostolic administrator of the diocese until the installation of a new bishop.

The changes were first announced in Washington early Dec. 28 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Thomas, 57, called Bishop Lennon’s request for an early retirement “both a humble and courageous act, one that speaks volumes to his love for the local church and his desire that the people of God receive the pastoral care they need.”

Having to take on the additional responsibilities of overseeing the Cleveland Diocese was unexpected, Bishop Thomas said. He compared his appointment as apostolic administrator to that of an interim coach.

“My job is to be the conduit from the past to the future,” he said.

Bishop Thomas admitted during the news conference that he had ‘limited’ knowledge of the diocese and that he would undertake a quick study of the Catholic Church that serves 692,000 Catholics in eight counties.

As apostolic administrator, Bishop Thomas said, he would regularly travel between Toledo and Cleveland, a distance of about 120 miles.

“My sister-in-law texted me this morning and said, ‘Well, maybe they should clone you even though the church doesn’t believe in that,’” Bishop Thomas said, smiling. “Someone else said, ‘Well, maybe you should follow the example of Padre Pio.’ But I’m not a saint, so I can’t bi-locate yet.

“But I hope you know I will do everything in my power to work so well with the good folks here and in the Diocese of Toledo to be able to govern the people entrusted to me by Pope Francis until a successor is named,” he said.

Bishop Thomas pointed particularly to the “rich ethnic culture and traditions” represented in northeast Ohio and said he was looking forward to meeting parishioners in the diocese’s 185 parishes as well as the priests, deacons and religious communities that minister to them.

“There is much for me to learn, understand and embrace as I strive, with your help, to get down to the work of governance in shepherding the diocese,” Bishop Thomas said.

Prior to his appointment to head the Toledo diocese in 2015, Bishop Thomas was auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia beginning in 2006. At the archdiocese, he oversaw the Media Affairs Department, the Office for Clergy, including the Department of Permanent Deacons, and the Vocation Office for the archdiocesan priesthood. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1985 by Cardinal John J. Krol, a native Clevelander.

Bishop Lennon was an auxiliary bishop of Boston before he was named Cleveland’s 10th bishop by Pope Benedict XVI. During his decade in Cleveland, he led the revision of the statutes governing the diocese’s finance, pastoral and presbyteral councils, established norms governing internal audits of parishes and schools, and carried out a plan to consolidate parishes. The diocese also completed a capital campaign in 2016 that raised more than $170 million for parish and diocesan needs.

A Boston area native, Bishop Lennon was ordained in 1973 and served in the Boston Archdiocese as a parish priest, fire department chaplain, assistant for canonical affairs and rector of St. John’s Seminary.

He was ordained auxiliary bishop for Boston in 2001 and served as apostolic administrator of the archdiocese from December 2002 to July 2003 after Cardinal Bernard F. Law resigned as archbishop in the midst of Boston’s crisis over clergy sexual abuse of minors. Cardinal Law’s successor as archbishop, then-Bishop Sean P. O’Malley, was named that July.

 

Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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Pulitzer-prize winning ‘Fences’ finally on film

December 28th, 2016 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

Suffering is a leitmotif in any of August Wilson’s plays, but there’s also brutal honesty and joy in unexpected moments, as well as the musical cadence of his language to enjoy.

That’s what enlivens “Fences,” the film adaptation of Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work from 1983. Moral decisions, and the consequences of immoral ones, lurk at every turn in the plot as well.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in a scene from the movie "Fences." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/Paramount)

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in a scene from the movie “Fences.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. (CNS/Paramount)

Denzel Washington, who also directed (from Wilson’s own screenplay, finished before his 2005 death), plays Troy Maxson, an embittered ex-ballplayer, ex-convict and self-centered Pittsburgh garbage collector.

It’s the mid-1950s, and Troy has constructed a respectable, almost-middle-class existence for himself and wife Rose (Viola Davis). Partly that’s the result of his unyielding labor, but Troy also takes advantage of brother Gabe’s (Mykelti Williamson) disability payout from brain damage suffered in World War II combat.

Troy is bold enough to have become the city’s first black garbage-truck driver simply by asking his supervisor why Pittsburgh had no such drivers. He takes pride in being the noisy and coarse family patriarch, even if he is often a monster who takes no pleasure in the accomplishments of his children.

Older son Lyons (Russell Hornsby), the offspring of a previous marriage, lives outside the home, supports himself as a jazz musician, and sometimes stops by for a short-term loan just to demonstrate to his father that he can repay it.

Younger son Cory (Jovan Adepo) has a chance to attend college on a football scholarship. But Troy interferes with that, insisting, “The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway.”

Troy also likes to drink and trade boasts with his friend Bono (Stephen Henderson).

Churchgoing Rose is the compassionate and understanding moral center. She’s on the receiving end of everyone’s decisions for most of the story until she encounters Troy’s cruelest betrayal. Even in the face of that, she sacrifices her own happiness to carry on.

While both sons have lives circumscribed by racism, hard luck and sometimes Troy’s selfishness, they’re also unrelentingly stoic and accepting.

The toughest stretches for viewers will be the long speeches characteristic of Wilson’s style. Although they tend to show actors to good advantage — Davis is particularly fine — Wilson’s dramas are not cinematic, and Washington hasn’t found a way to solve that problem. “Fences,” accordingly, requires a committed attention span.

The title refers to Troy’s plan to build a high wooden fence in his backyard so he can keep death at bay: “I’m gonna build me a fence around what belongs to me. And then I want you to stay on the other side. See? You stay over there until you’re ready for me.”

Death, of course, is on its inevitable path, but Wilson refuses to give it the last word, instead choosing to display the resiliency of the human soul.

The movie’s focus on ideas and their consequences makes it acceptable for mature adolescents.

The film contains references to adultery, frequent use of the n-word and instances profanity and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

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‘Silence’ is dramatically powerful and theologically complex

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Catholic News Service

Directed and co-written (with Jay Cocks) by Martin Scorsese, “Silence” is a dramatically powerful but theologically complex work best suited to viewers who are prepared to engage with serious issues.

Liam Neeson stars in a scene from the movie "Silence." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Paramount)

Liam Neeson stars in a scene from the movie “Silence.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Paramount)

Those willing to make such an intellectual investment, however, will find themselves richly rewarded.

In adapting Catholic author Shusaku Endo’s 1966 fact-based historical novel, a project in the works since the late 1980s, Scorsese finds himself in Graham Greene territory. As fans of that British novelist know, he had a fondness for stretching and twisting fundamental issues of faith and morality, and Endo’s plot shows the same tendency. So this is also not a film for the poorly catechized.

The movie’s primary setting is 17th-century Japan, where persecution is raging against the previously tolerated Christian community.

Shocked by rumors that Christavao Ferreira (Liam Neeson), their mentor in the priesthood, has renounced the faith under torture, two of his fellow Jesuits, Sebastian Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver), volunteer to leave the safety of Europe for the perils of the Land of the Rising Sun. Their twin goals are to find their role model and to minister to the underground Japanese church.

What follows is a long, sometimes harrowing battle between doubt and human frailty on the one hand and fidelity on the other. Earthly compassion is set against faithfulness and an eternal perspective, with both divine and human silence contributing to the appropriateness of the title.

Scorsese has crafted an often visually striking drama that’s also deeply thought-provoking and emotionally gripping. The performances are remarkable all around. But the paradoxes of the narrative demand careful sifting by mature moviegoers well-grounded in their beliefs.

Those lacking such a foundation could be led astray, drawing the conclusion that mercy toward the suffering of others can sometimes justify sin. While Catholics who are blessed with the freedom to practice their faith in peace are hardly in a position to judge those facing martyrdom, the principle that circumstances can mitigate guilt but not transform wrong into right remains universally valid.

In the end, “Silence” movingly vindicates a certain form of constancy. That may, in a roundabout way, match the historical record: There is edifying, though inconclusive, evidence that the real person behind one of the three main characters in the picture not only rejected his previous apostasy, but ultimately surrendered his life for the faith.

The film contains religious themes requiring mature discernment, much violence, including scenes of gruesome torture and a brutal, gory execution, as well as rear and partial nudity.

The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted.

 

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

 

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