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Cross honoring soldiers who died in World War I deemed unconstitutional


WASHINGTON — A 40-foot-tall cross memorializing soldiers who died in World War I that sits at a busy intersection in the Washington suburb of Bladensburg, Md., is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Oct. 18.

The monument “has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion,” said a 2-1 ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Virginia.

The case was heard by a three-judge panel made up of Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory and Judges Stephanie D. Thacker and James A. Wynn Jr. Gregory, who dissented, said the government is not required by the First Amendment to “purge from the public sphere any reference to religion.”

A cross-shaped monument, a landmark in Bladensburg, Md., constructed in 1925 as a memorial to 49 Prince George’s County men lost in World War I, is pictured in this Oct. 19 photo. On Oct. 18 a federal appeals court declared the 40-foot-tall memorial unconstitutional in a 2-1 ruling that said the thousands of dollars in public funds for maintenance “has the primary effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion.” (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

The First Liberty Institute said the decision “sets dangerous precedent by completely ignoring history.” The group, which supports religious freedom, represented the American Legion, the defendant in the case, and plans to appeal.

The ruling “threatens removal and destruction of veterans memorials across America,” Hiram Sasser, First Liberty’s deputy chief counsel, said in a statement.

Known as the Bladensburg Cross or the Peace Cross, the cement and marble memorial was erected by the Snyder-Farmer Post of the American Legion of Hyattsville, Maryland, to recall the 49 men of Prince George’s County who died in World War I. The cross, whose construction was funded by local families, was dedicated July 13, 1925.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired the memorial from the American Legion in 1961. It is located at Maryland Route 450 and U.S. Route 1. The Washington Post reported that the state agency has spent about $117,000 to maintain and repair the memorial and has earmarked $100,000 for renovations.

The American Humanist Association, a Washington-based group that represents atheists and others, filed suit against the memorial because it is in the shape of a cross. It argued that having a religious symbol on government property violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

A District Court judge in 2015 said the cross did not have to be removed from public land, saying that although its Latin cross design “is undeniably a religious symbol,” it is “not a governmental endorsement of religion.”

Writing the majority opinion, the 4th Circuit’s Thacker said the lower court determined that a cross memorial maintained by local government and located on public property “does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause because the cross has a secular purpose … neither advances nor inhibits religion and it does not have the primary effect of endorsing religion. We disagree.”

“The Latin cross is the core symbol of Christianity,” the judge said. “And here it is 40 feet tall, prominently displayed in the center of one of the busiest intersections in Prince George’s County Maryland; and maintained with thousands of dollars in government funds. Therefore, we hold that the purported war memorial breaches ‘the wall of separation between church and state.”

In his dissent, Gregory said the Peace Cross “has always served as a war memorial, has been adorned with secular elements for its entire history,” and added that sits near other memorials in Veterans Memorial Park. “(Its) predominant use has been for Memorial Day celebrations,” he wrote.

The fact that in the memorial’s 90-year existence and 50-year government ownership, there has been no litigation until now “is a strong indication that the reasonable observers perceived its secular message,” he said.

A bronze tablet at the base of the monument quotes President Woodrow Wilson: “The right is more precious than the peace; we shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest our hearts; to such a task we dedicate ourselves.” Also at the base are the words, “Valor, Endurance, Courage, Devotion.” At the center of the cross is a gold star.

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‘They killed a man but created a saint,’ prelate says of slain priest


Catholic News Service

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Retired Archbishop Harry J. Flynn was rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., when he got a call in 1979 from an old friend from the seminary, asking if he could visit for a week.

Father Stanley Rother, a priest of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese who was brutally murdered in 1981 in the Guatemalan village where he ministered to the poor, is pictured in an undated photo. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced the North American priest will be beatified Sept. 23 in Oklahoma. (CNS photo/Archdiocese of Oklahoma City archives)

That friend was Father Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and a missionary in a rural part of Guatemala.

He picked up Father Rother from Dulles International Airport near Washington and was appalled by the horrific situation the priest described in Guatemala. Members of his congregation had disappeared and were presumed dead, victims of a civil war between the government and guerrilla groups.

“If they asked for a few more cents for picking coffee beans, they were considered communists, and a truck would come into the village that night, stop at the home of the man or woman who asked for a few more cents, take them out to the country, torture them, kill them, and then throw their bodies into a well to poison that well,” said Archbishop Flynn, who headed the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1995 to 2008.

Father Rother described the situation “with a passion,” Archbishop Flynn recalled. “It was haunting him. He said, ‘If I speak, they’ll kill me, but if keep silent, what kind of a shepherd would I be?’”

The friends shared meals together that week, but Father Rother spent his days praying at the seminary’s historic Lourdes grotto, a place he had loved while he and Archbishop Flynn were seminarians at “the Mount.” At the end of the week, he told then-Father Flynn, “I know what I must do. I must go back and speak.”

“But,” Archbishop Flynn recalled, “he also said this: ‘They’re not going to take me out and kill me somewhere in the country and then throw my body into a well.’ He said, ‘I’ll put up a fight like they’ve never seen before.’”

Archbishop Flynn took Father Rother to the airport and said goodbye. He knew it would be the last time he would see him alive. Two years later, in 1981, Archbishop Flynn opened a newspaper to read that an American priest had been killed in Guatemala. He didn’t have to read further to know it was Father Rother.

Archbishop Flynn was to be among others who knew the priest gathering in Oklahoma City’s Cox Convention Center Sept. 23 for Father Rother’s beatification. In December 2016, Pope Francis officially recognized Father Rother as a martyr, making him the first U.S.-born martyr recognized by the Catholic Church. Also attending will be members of the Rother family, including distant cousins from Minnesota.

Father Rother grew up on a farm near Okarche, Ok. He was a farm boy with a knack for fixing things. After high school, he left home for seminary in Texas, but he was asked to leave after struggling with Latin. Undeterred, he transferred to the Emmitsburg seminary, where he met Archbishop Flynn, who was three classes ahead of him. Archbishop Flynn noted his friend’s deep prayer life.

“We could be downstairs in recreation, laughing and carrying on, and then the bell would ring to go up to chapel for night prayer and Stanley seemed to me to go right into prayer, which I found enviable,” Archbishop Flynn recalled in a recent interview with The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Minnesota archdiocese.

The two were in the seminary around the time that Pope John XXIII encouraged U.S. bishops to form partnerships between their dioceses and those in Latin America. The then-Diocese of Oklahoma City-Tulsa paired with the Diocese of Solola, Guatemala. In 1968, Father Rother was asked to minister there in Santiago Atitlan, a mission established by Franciscans. The Mayan people there had been without a priest for nearly a century.

People who knew Father Rother weren’t surprised that he returned again and again to Guatemala after the violence began, even with many opportunities to stay in the U.S. The Christmas before he died, he famously wrote to his archbishop, “A shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.”

On July 28, 1981, three men burst into the parish rectory, demanding Father Rother. He was hiding, but when the men threatened the life of one of his protectors, he emerged. He was ultimately gunned down in his rectory, his knuckles raw from the fight, his spattered blood staining the wall. The Guatemalans left the stains, and to this day, visitors, many of them pilgrims, can see the aftermath of what the gunmen did to their priest. The fatal bullet remains lodged in the wall.

In 1999, Archbishop Flynn traveled to Father Rother’s church in Santiago Atitlan, visited the room where he was shot to death and celebrated Mass in the parish church. Father Rother’s body returned to Oklahoma, but the missionary’s heart was left behind with the Guatemalans, who have since enshrined it as a relic.

Archbishop Flynn also prays for his friend’s intercession, keeping his photograph on his altar for Mass. He feels that he had a graced opportunity to be with Father Rother that summer while he was discerning his impending death.

“I’ll always remember sitting in the room where he was martyred, and sitting there and looking at his blood all over the wall, splattered, and experiencing anger in my heart with the people who did that to him — this gentle, gentle shepherd,” he said, “and then realizing what he would have said — something that Christ said, ‘They don’t even know what they’re doing,’ and they probably didn’t. … They killed a man, but they created a saint.”


Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Maryland pastor named an auxiliary bishop for Washington


WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Father Roy Edward Campbell Jr., who is pastor of St. Joseph Church in Largo, Maryland, as an auxiliary bishop of Washington.

The appointment was announced March 8 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Pope Francis has appointed Father Roy Edward Campbell Jr., who is pastor of St. Joseph Church in Largo, Md., as an auxiliary bishop of Washington. (CNS/Archdiocese of Washington)

Pope Francis has appointed Father Roy Edward Campbell Jr., who is pastor of St. Joseph Church in Largo, Md., as an auxiliary bishop of Washington. (CNS/Archdiocese of Washington)

Bishop-designate Campbell, 69, has been pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Largo, a Washington suburb, since 2010. He is a member of the archdiocese’s clergy personnel board, the vocations board and the college of consultors.

His episcopal ordination will be April 21 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington.

Raised in the Washington archdiocese, he worked in the retail banking industry in the Washington-Baltimore area until taking early retirement in 2002. The following year he entered the seminary to study for the priesthood. He was ordained for the archdiocese by Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl May 26, 2007.

Bishop-designate Campbell “brings to his new ministry recognized talent and demonstrated ability,” Cardinal Wuerl said in a statement. “He also bears witness to the great cultural and ethnic richness of the Church of Washington reflected in all of the faithful, lay, religious and clergy.”

The appointment was a surprise, Bishop-designate Campbell said in video posted on the archdiocesan website.

“It is a great honor that the Lord himself has bestowed upon me through the Holy Father and quite honestly through our archbishop, Cardinal Wuerl. But it is also very humbling,” he said.

“The only thing that I was looking forward to doing in answering our Lord’s call is to be a priest for his people, to love and serve those he’s called me to, his children, my brothers and sisters. And if he is calling me to serve on a larger scale than a parish as a bishop, then I know I will have his grace, his direction and his love to help me do so,” he said.

The road to the priesthood for Bishop-designate Campbell began in late 1995. Leaving work in Baltimore, he met a person on the street asking for food and took him to get something to eat, according to his biography on the archdiocese website.

“What he said to me I have never forgotten: ‘You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” Bishop-designate Campbell recalled. “My answer to him is just as memorable: ‘I try to be.’ I saw Jesus in that man, as clearly as I saw the man himself. That encounter started my reflection on my relationship with Jesus in a very different way.”

In 1999, Bishop-designate Campbell entered the archdiocese’s permanent diaconate program and four years later entered Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, to begin his priestly formation.

Bishop-designate Campbell was born Nov. 19, 1947, in Charles County, Maryland, and grew up in Washington. He said his mother’s devotion to her Catholic faith demonstrated the importance of having deep love of God in daily life.

A graduate of Howard University and the University of Virginia’s Graduate School of Retail Bank Management, he had a 33-year career with Bank of America, working his way up from teller to vice president and project manager. He also has degrees in zoology, anthropology and chemistry.

After his 2007 ordination, his assignments at Washington parishes included: parochial vicar at St. Augustine Church, 2007-2008; pastoral and sacramental care of the African-American community at Immaculate Conception Parish, 2007-2008; and pastor at Assumption Parish, 2008-2010.

The Archdiocese of Washington covers the District of Columbia and five Maryland counties. Out of a total population of over 2.5 million people, about 647,000, or 22 percent, are Catholic.

Bishop-designate Campbell said he learned about his appointment while in an airport in Florida, as he was waiting for a flight to return to the Archdiocese of Washington after celebrating a Black History Month Mass in Pensacola. He received the news in a phone call from Archbishop Pierre.

“I am amazed. I am very honored, and I do not feel worthy. But I trust the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop-designate Campbell, who will be the nation’s ninth active African-American Catholic bishop. Seven African-American Catholic bishops are retired.

As a bishop, he said he sees his role as “continuing to love and serve the people of God.”

Quoting Pope Francis that priests should be “shepherds with the smell of sheep,” Bishop-designate Campbell said he has always looked at his priesthood as “being with the people, to live in their lives and to offer them God’s sacraments, graces and whatever else they need.”

Richard Szczepanowski contributed to this story.    



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Olympic swimming medalist Ledecky returns home to cheers


Catholic News Service

DULLES, Va. — After winning five medals — four gold and one silver — at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, swimming champion Katie Ledecky is taking things one step at a time on her return home.

Wearing her medals around her neck, the first step was right into the arms of friends waiting to greet her as she

U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky greets fans at Dulles International Airport in Virginia Aug. 17, after returning home from the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky greets fans at Dulles International Airport in Virginia Aug. 17, after returning home from the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

walked into the baggage claim area of Dulles International Airport outside of Washington Aug. 17.

Dozens of others cheered and applauded the Olympic champion, a graduate of Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md.

Ledecky left the Olympics with gold medals in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle races and in the 4×200-meter relay. She broke her own world records in the 400- and 800-meter races. She earned silver in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

Soon after saying her hellos, Ledecky told reporters that the next things on her to-do list were to eat a home cooked meal, sleep in her own bed and buy everything else she needs for her college dorm room at Stanford University, where she was soon to begin classes. The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are on the horizon, but for now, college calls.

Ledecky’s ability to set swimming aside for a few weeks as she prepares for college just like any other incoming freshman is reflective of the humility that so many in the Stone Ridge community admire about her.

“What makes her a really good role model is she is so humble,” said Colleen Carey, a 2015 graduate of Stone Ridge who was a co-captain of the swim team with Ledecky. “She is so grounded not only in her studies but as a person. … Lower schoolers can look up to how she has dealt with the fame.”

Stone Ridge Head of School Catherine Ronan Karrels agreed.

“Her swimming really doesn’t define her as a person, which is what I think keeps her grounded,” Karrels told the Catholic Standard, Washington’s archdiocesan newspaper. “She is so lovable.”

So far, being a normal student and pursuing her goals at the same time has worked well for Ledecky, who met the goals she had set for Rio as far back as 2013.

“I hit them right on the nose and I think that’s the best feeling any swimmer can have,” Ledecky told reporters.

Kelleigh Haley, a 2016 graduate of Stone Ridge who swam with Ledecky at the Nation’s Capital Swim Club and on the Stone Ridge team, was one of the people awaiting the Olympian’s airport arrival.

Haley remembers swimming with Ledecky in practice, and while everyone she swam with always worked hard, Haley said, “She is just out of everyone else’s league.” Citing Ledecky’s 11-second margin of victory in the 800-meter freestyle, Haley added, “She’s in her own race.”

Ledecky worked hard regardless of the circumstances, Haley added. She particularly remembers when Ledecky had her wisdom teeth removed and was back in the pool days later. But Ledecky’s hard work and success never stopped her from looking out for her teammates.

“She really wants to calm you down and wants you to have your best race, regardless of if it is an Olympic race or a high school race,” Haley said.

The crowd of supporters from Stone Ridge wore their “Ledecky Team USA” T-shirts, holding a large banner, and even had a large cut-out of Ledecky’s head. They chanted, “Katie! Katie!”

“It is very hard not to burst with pride,” said Paul Boman, an assistant swim coach and theology teacher at Stone Ridge. “It can’t happen to a nicer, more deserving, better person.”

Ledecky said the support of the community “means so much to me,” and that she felt it thousands of miles away during her week at the Olympics.

“To have them here and to celebrate this with them right away is great,” she said.

In an email interview with the Catholic Standard before this summer’s Olympics, Ledecky, who is known for saying the Hail Mary or other prayers before each race, said her Catholic faith gives her strength and helps her keep balance in her life.

“My Catholic faith is very important to me. It always has been, and it always will be,” said the Olympic champion, who is a parishioner at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda. “It is part of who I am, and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective.”

Seegers is a reporter for the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Olympian Ledecky, who prays before each race, says faith puts balance, perspective in her life


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Four years ago, at age 15, swimmer Katie Ledecky won Olympic gold in the women’s 800-meter freestyle.

Katie Ledecky, center, shows her gold medal after setting a new world record in the 400-meter freestyle final Aug. 7 during the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Stefan Warmth, Reuters)

Katie Ledecky, center, shows her gold medal after setting a new world record in the 400-meter freestyle final Aug. 7 during the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Stefan Warmth, Reuters)

Since then Ledecky, who attended Catholic schools in Bethesda, Md., has become the world record holder in the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter freestyles, and the American record holder in the 500-, 1000- and 1650-yard freestyles. In the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she’s won a gold medal setting a new world record in the 400-meter freestyle final Aug. 7.

Yet before every race, she’ll offer a prayer, she told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

“I do say a prayer or two before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me,” she told the Catholic Standard in an email interview.

In the interview, Ledecky discussed how her faith is a source of strength and how the communities at home have supported her along the road to her second Olympics. She attended Little Flower School through eighth grade and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart for high school.

“I received an excellent, faith-filled education at both schools. Having the opportunity to attend academically rigorous schools has facilitated my interest in the world and in serving others and has enriched my life so that it is not solely focused on my swimming and athletics,” Ledecky said in the email. “Nevertheless, going to these schools was important to my swimming. My Catholic schools challenged me, they broadened my perspective and they allowed me to use my mind in ways that take me beyond just thinking about swim practices, swim meets and sports.”

She also spoke of the support and caring she received from students, teachers, administrators and coaches, some of who traveled to Omaha, Neb., to cheer for her during the Olympic trials.

“I feel that I have very special people in my life and, because of that, I feel very fortunate,” she said.

“The importance of balance in one’s life is a lesson I have learned, and one that I hope will help me in college and beyond,” said Ledecky, who will attend Stanford University in the fall.

“My Catholic faith is very important to me. It always has been and it always will be. It is part of who I am and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective,” she said.

Since the previous Olympics, Ledecky has traveled internationally, including to world championships in Spain and Russia and the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia.

“It has been fascinating to see other cultures, and to see how sports can serve to link these cultures together, even if just momentarily. An interesting common thread I see is the importance of sports in these cultures, the passion that exists for sports and athletic accomplishment,” she said. “It is wonderful that sports can have this kind of impact on people, and one can only hope that sports and competition will therefore have a positive impact on how various nations view each other.”

She also said people need to look beyond athletics for inspiration.

“I have gained a great appreciation as to what a remarkable privilege it is to represent the United States in the Olympics. I appreciate the flag being on my cap as I compete. That is a real honor,” she said.


Seegers is a staff writer for the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Olympic triathlete from Maryland powers her swimming, cycling and running with faith, family


Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — World-class triathlete Katie Hursey Zaferes travels with a custom bicycle and enough workout gear to outfit an aerobics class.

How does she lighten her load?

With liberal doses of faith and family.

When Zaferes, 27, competes in the women’s triathlon Aug. 20 at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she’ll represent

Triathlete Katie Hursey Zaferes raises a banner after winning the World Triathlon Series in Hamburg, Germany, July 16. The Maryland native was raised in St. Bartholomew Parish in Manchester, Md., and will represent the United States in the women's triathlon Aug. 20 during the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/courtesy ITU via Catholic Review)

Triathlete Katie Hursey Zaferes raises a banner after winning the World Triathlon Series in Hamburg, Germany, July 16. The Maryland native was raised in St. Bartholomew Parish in Manchester, Md., and will represent the United States in the women’s triathlon Aug. 20 during the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/courtesy ITU via Catholic Review)

not just the United States, but a large extended family in Maryland, one that includes an absent cousin.

Zaferes was baptized at St. John Church in Westminster and raised in St. Bartholomew Parish in Manchester, where her parents, Bill and Mary Lynn Hursey, have been members since the 1990s.

“The Hurseys are a remarkable family, I baptized their youngest (Karly) the first month I arrived in Carroll County,” said Father Michael Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew. “They’re a faithful family, always at Sunday Mass. You wish you had a hundred families like them.”

Zaferes recalled being an active participant in the youth ministry directed by Linda Sterner.

“The youth group picnics and trips were my favorite,” she wrote in an email to the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. “It’s a community full of love and support, that’s the best part about St. Bart’s. I always look forward to going back home and seeing everyone at Mass.”

There have been few opportunities for that since 2007, when she graduated from North Carroll High School and headed to Syracuse University on a track and field scholarship.

Zaferes answered questions from Banyoles, Spain, where she was completing her Olympic preparation. She and her husband, Tommy, also a pro triathlete, make their home in Santa Cruz, California, but their careers keep them on the road nine months a year.

“One of my favorite rituals,” she wrote, “is when my husband and I pray together before bed. One of us will start, then the other will fill in anything that the other one may have missed. Sometimes I learn things about my husband’s day, or even life, just by listening to him pray.”

Their intentions continue to include her third cousin, Jacob Offutt.

In December 2014, six months after he had graduated from St. John School in Westminster, Jacob was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. He was a second-degree black belt in karate, and a “Jake’s Kickin’ It” campaign included photos of Zaferes in that pose during the first half of 2015, a year in which she competed in England, New Zealand, Sweden, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

“We started taking pictures of ourselves and our friends ‘kickin’ it’ around the world,” Zaferes said. “We wanted to show Jake that there were many of us fighting with him.”

Forced to withdraw from his freshman year at Winters Mill High School, Jacob died July 13, 2015.

“Katie’s not only a great athlete, she’s a kind and considerate person,” said Joe Offutt, Jake’s father. “Jake looked up to her. Her accomplishments and travels were a good distraction for him.”

Offutt is a first cousin to Zaferes’ mother, who prays for her daughter’s safety in an endeavor which, at the Olympics, consists of a 1.5-km. swim, 40-km. bike ride and 10-km. run.

Mary Lynn Hursey followed online the progress of a 2014 triathlon in Cape Town, South Africa, where Zaferes lost her computer timing chip and her mother’s mind raced to the sharks offshore.

“I had that fear,” Mary Lynn Hursey said. “She lost her chip and her name wasn’t coming up, and I’m asking, ‘Where is my child?’ … I’m always praying for Katie, before, during and after a competition. I pray for her safety. The biking is a scary thing. When you see a DNF (did not finish) … your mind races.”

Triathlon’s open-water swimming will be conducted in the notoriously polluted waters of Rio de Janeiro, where “Team Katie” will include her parents.

Zaferes was an age-group swimmer and had a 1,600-meter best of 4 minutes, 57 seconds in high school track, but she didn’t respond to a recruiting pitch from USA Triathlon until near the end of her collegiate running days.

Faith played a part there, too.

While earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education at Syracuse, she baby-sat for Ashley and Rick Kelley, whose five children include four adopted from Ethiopia. Zaferes recounted a pivotal Sunday with them and Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel, pastor of Holy Cross Church in Genesee, New York.

“I remember one particular Mass, when I was deciding whether or not I was going to commit to triathlon,” she said. “The entire homily, I felt like the priest was speaking to me. He was saying that sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone and try new things.”


McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review, the news website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Oblate Sisters at Mount Aviat raising funds for quake-damaged schools in Ecuador


Dialog reporter

The Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales in Childs, Md., are asking for assistance to help rebuild four schools run by their congregation that were damaged April 15 by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake in Ecuador.

The latest death toll is at least 696, although no fatalities or injuries were in those schools, which were not in session at the time.

The schools serve more than 2,800 students. The sisters in Ecuador reported that many pupils, teachers and employees lost homes and family members.

Oblate Sister John Elizabeth Callaghan, principal of Mount Aviat Academy in Childs, reported that a statue of Our Lady of Light remained untouched in the school that was completely leveled. In one of the schools, a sister left the building at 6:45 p.m. to attend Mass, and the building was destroyed 13 minutes later.

“The devastation is almost unimaginable,” Sister John Elizabeth said. “The Sisters continue to sleep on a patio area for fear of the frequent aftershocks. They are trying to get water, food and medicine to their school families who have lost homes and businesses.”

Sister John Elizabeth said the Oblate Sisters have served in Ecuador for 100 years, primarily in education and outreach to the poor. Two of their schools were destroyed, while the other two sustained serious damage, and the congregation will need to depend on the generosity of others to rebuild.

They need donations to do that. The Mount Aviat community is holding fundraisers such as a cake bake featuring homemade liqueur cakes. A Mount Aviat volunteer group called the “Friends” will be selling their homemade macaroni and cheese, and the students and staff will symbolically “walk a mile in their shoes” on the school grounds, Sister John Elizabeth said.

Students at Mount Aviat often raise money to support the Oblate Sisters’ missions. The people of Ecuador gave the school a large tapestry, artwork and Christmas Nativities as a sign of their gratitude, Sister John Elizabeth said.

In addition, the Oblate Sisters have set up a special account to receive and hold donations until their colleagues in Ecuador are ready to accept them. To donate online, go to www.oblatesisters.org. Checks payable to the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales can be sent to 399 Childs Road, Childs, MD 21916.

The Oblate community in Childs feels a connection to those elsewhere, Sister John Elizabeth said.

“The Oblate Sisters serve in nine nations, yet we are a relatively small international congregation. Perhaps that makes it easier to stay connected,” she said.

“One of the schools that was destroyed is named St. Leonie Aviat School and was founded just a year after the sisters opened a kindergarten in the U.S. that eventually became Mount Aviat Academy. We can ask, what if all we worked for in the past 60 years was destroyed in less than 60 seconds?”

On a larger scale, Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ relief and development agency, was partnering with local organizations to determine how best to respond. Water, food and emergency shelter are the biggest needs.

Damaged communications networks have made it difficult to get in touch with groups in Ecuador, CRS said.

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St. Mark’s grad is new chair of Mount St. Mary’s board of trustees


Dialog reporter

Mary Kane, a 1980 graduate of St. Mark’s High School, has been named the chairwoman of the board of trustees at her alma mater, Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., the school announced last week. She is the first female board chair in the university’s history.

Mary Kane

Mary Kane

Kane assumes her new duties as the Mount emerges from a controversy involving its former president, Simon Newman. Newman resigned earlier this year after his proposal to improve retention rates by dismissing freshmen who were considered unlikely to succeed at the university were published by the school newspaper.

Kane’s predecessor, John Coyne, stepped down several months before his term as chair was due to expire. Coyne had been a prominent defender of Newman.

Kane, 54, who graduated from Mount St. Mary’s in 1984, is currently the chief executive officer of Sister Cities International, a nonprofit that assists citizens, municipal officials and business leaders in conducting long-term sister city relationships. Before assuming this position in October 2011, she was an executive director with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A graduate of the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, Kane has been an assistant state’s attorney in Maryland and its secretary of state. She was once a candidate for lieutenant governor in Maryland.

The Wilmington native, whose maiden name is Deely, most recently was vice chairwoman of the board of trustees at the Mount. In a press release from the university, she explained why becoming chair is so important to her.

“Though I have traveled much, the Mount is my home,” she said. “Its faith-filled campus and mission to educate our future leaders in the Catholic tradition inspires me.”

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President of Mount St. Mary’s University resigns – updated


EMMITSBURG, Md. — Simon Newman, president of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, resigned from his post Feb. 29 and the university’s board of trustees named the dean of the business school to be acting president.

Newman faced mounting criticism over language he used to describe struggling freshmen and for the way he handled the fallout.

The changes were announced by the university in a news release.

Simon Newman resigned Feb. 29. (CNS )

Simon Newman resigned Feb. 29. (CNS )

John Coyne, chairman of the board of trustees, said in the release that the board was grateful to Newman “for his many accomplishments over the past year, including strengthening the university’s finances, developing a comprehensive strategic plan for our future, and bringing many new ideas to campus that have benefited the entire Mount community.”

Karl Einolf, dean of the Richard J.Bolte, Sr., School of Business since 2012, will be acting president. Prior to being named dean, Einolf was on the faculty as a professor of finance.

Newman, a former financial executive, said he was “proud of what I have been able to achieve in a relatively short time particularly in helping the university chart a clear course toward a bright future.”

“I care deeply about the school and the recent publicity relating to my leadership has become too great of a distraction to our mission of educating students,” he said in a statement. “It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is the right course of action for the Mount at this time.”

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who is a member of the board of trustees for the university, said the trustees worked hard to understand the situation. “I think their deliberations were good and I think the outcome was the proper one,” the archbishop said. He made the comments to the Catholic Review, the archdiocesan newspaper, while he was in Rome for a pilgrimage of faith leaders from Baltimore.

“Certainly Mr. Newman had some very creative ideas about ways the Mount could flourish in the future and certainly he accomplished a number of important things. But I think that it’s important now for the Mount to stabilize and to turn the page and move ahead,” Archbishop Lori said.

In mid-February the board of trustees issued an apology to the university community after a controversy erupted over a discussion about student retention that Newman had with some faculty members. In the aftermath, two faculty members were dismissed but quickly reinstated.

The board also said it was “very concerned about what is taking place” and noted that board members would be on campus in the following two weeks “take the time to listen, and to hear from all of the constituencies involved.”

Archbishop Lori said it is always important to listen to people who are on the ground, adding that discussions with faculty, staff and students provided the trustees with a more complete picture of the situation. “That’s always helpful when you have to face a difficult situation,” he said.

At the beginning of 2016, the controversy at Mount St. Mary’s made national headlines, but it began last fall. After Newman was installed during the summer, he made steps to address areas of concern at the university, which is in the Baltimore Archdiocese. It is about 60 miles northwest of Baltimore, near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.

It has 1,810 undergraduates and 495 graduate students, according to the archdiocese’s 2016 Catholic directory.

In October, the university announced changes to employee health benefits and cuts in retirement benefits. Newman also worked with faculty and staff members to identify 20 to 25 freshman students who were not likely to succeed at the school, so that they could be dismissed before they paid a lot of tuition or incurred significant student debt.

Critics charged that the move also would improve the school’s posted retention rate, if the students were dismissed before an important deadline for reporting enrollment statistics. Newman fired two faculty members, since reinstated, who had opposed his plan.

Last fall, when Newman announced his plans, The Mountain Echo student newspaper reported that Greg Murry, director of the university’s Veritas Symposium, was part of a small group of faculty discussing the changes with Newman. According to Murry, Newman was reported as having said during the course of the conversation: “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

The Echo said another faculty member present confirmed the conversation. Newman removed Mount St. Mary’s pre-law program director Edward Egan as the adviser to the paper.

The faculty voted to ask Newman to step down and send him a letter to that effect; hundreds of university professors across the country signed a petition calling for the two faculty members who were fired to be reinstated. The petition said firing faculty because they disagreed with the president threatened academic freedom.

On Feb.12, Newman announced at a faculty meeting that the two faculty members were reinstated immediately.

Newman later apologized and said his retention proposal had been meant to help students at risk of academic failure and burdensome debt.


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Father Manista celebrates his 17th birthday today


For The Dialog

CENTREVILLE, Md. – Father Clem Manista has been a priest for nearly 42 years. He’s driven a car for more than four decades.

Yet he’s just celebrating his 17th birthday.

Mary Ruth Meredith, a parishioner at Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Centreville, Md., presents the pastor, Father Clem Manista, with a box of birthday cards from parishioners yesterday. (The Dialog/Gary Morton)

Mary Ruth Meredith, a parishioner at Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Centreville, Md., presents the pastor, Father Clem Manista, with a box of birthday cards from parishioners yesterday. (The Dialog/Gary Morton)

That’s because Father Manista is a leapling, or leaper, common names for people who were born on Feb. 29. Today, Leap Day, comes once every four years (in a Leap Year) to help balance the calendar with the Earth’s orbit around the sun. That orbit takes slightly more than the 365 days in a standard year, so an extra day is added every fourth year.

Father Manista was born on Feb. 29, 1948, so chronologically he is 68 despite having had only 17 birthdays. That meant he celebrated just six birthdays when he became a priest in 1974 (the youngest a priest can ordinarily be ordained is 26) and became eligible for a driver’s license (minimum age 16) on his fourth birthday.

Parishioners at Mother of Sorrows Church, where he is pastor, honored Father Manista with a party in the church hall Sunday, on the eve of his birthday.

Father Manista moved to Centreville from St. Paul’s in Delaware City last summer. When he went through the facilities before moving, he was delighted to find what may be considered an omen that he was fated for Mother of Sorrows.

“One of the holy water fountains has the exact day of my birthday, 2-29-48.”

He views his birthday, one in every 1,461 people are born on Leap Day, according to the Honor Society of Leap Year Day babies, as a conversation starter, although it has a few drawbacks.

For example, when he enrolled in Medicare (eligibility begins when one turns 65) someone with the Social Security Administration, changed his birthday to Feb. 28, apparently to appease computer operations. “That messed me up a little bit on my taxes” since the IRS noted a discrepancy in his birth date records. He had to contact the SSA to correct its records.

Father Manista shares birthdays with some notable people in three of his main passions: his faith and the priesthood; the movies, and baseball:

  • Pope Paul III was born on Feb. 29, 1468. He is best known for having called the Council of Trent, known for its reforms and its doctrinal teachings. He also was one of two popes who excommunicated King Henry VIII of England (the first was later revoked).
  • William A. Wellman was born Feb. 29, 1896, and became an actor and movie director. He directed “Wings,” a 1927 movie that won the first Academy Award for best picture, and won an Oscar for best writing, original story, for 1937’s “A Star Is Born,” for which he also was nominated for best director. He was also nominated as best director for “Battleground” in 1949 and “The High and the Mighty” in 1954.
  • Ralph Miller was born Feb. 29, 1896, and became a major league baseball player. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies (Father Manista’s favorite team since he was a child) in 1920-21 and for the World Series-winning Washington Senators in 1924.

Leap Day is fine for birthdays, but not everything. Father Manista recalls that one couple asked him if he thought Feb. 29 would be a good day to marry.

“I suggested against it,” he said. “In a marriage you need a date every year to celebrate.”

As a child growing up in St. Hedwig Parish in Wilmington, Father Manista was saved from the problem of which day to celebrate his birthday – Feb. 28 or March 1 – in non-Leap Years by a family tradition of commemorating a birthday on the closest Sunday. He and his sister continue that tradition.

That doesn’t keep him from joking about how he celebrates during those off years. “I tell people I celebrate for one minute at the midnight between Feb. 28 and March 1,” he said.

At the other extreme, he sometimes tells people that he “celebrates my birthday for two weeks” since it comes so infrequently. He’s not exactly kidding, though he means it light-heartedly.

“It takes that long sometimes,” he said, since many people who note the uniqueness of his birthday invite him to meals or outings.

It takes a while to get to all of them, he said, but not as long as it will take for his next birthday to roll around.


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