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Sister's calendar offers beauty, meditation

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It began as a hand-drawn Christmas calendar for her brother in the 1970s. The following year, his friends asked if she'd make one for them, too. They loved the meditations from saints, poets and writers that went with each of the original 12 pieces piece of artwork. They loved the suggested daily actions to do each day to better the world.

A few years later, the calendar's creator, St. Joseph Sr. Mary Southard, a busy professional artist and retreat facilitator, found herself overwhelmed by all of the requests.

That's how Ministry of the Arts was born. Sr. Southard's religious community in La Grange Park, Ill., opened a little store on the motherhouse grounds and began offering their gifted colleague's calendars via mass printing to the general public. Today, those calendars, at $11.95 each, sell "in the thousands" each year.

A brief history: the UN climate change conference

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Fr. Seán McDonagh is in Durban, South Africa, reporting on the UN Climate Change Conference 2011. He will be providing updates throughout the conference.

One of the pitfalls that many of us who have attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference for years fall into is that we assume that the general reader has a good grasp of the history of these conferences and the issues that have been thrashed about during the past 20 years. On this, the third day of the Durban conference, a brief history might be helpful.

Countries from across the globe began to address the problems associated with global warming and climate change at the Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, in June 1990. At that meeting it was agreed to set up a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Durban: Last chance to get it right on climate change?

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Fr. Seán McDonagh is in Durban, South Africa, reporting on the UN Climate Change Conference 2011. He will be providing updates throughout the conference. On Monday, McDonagh attended the opening address by South African President Jacob Zuma.

The United Nations climate change conference at the Conference of the Parties 17 (COP 17) began Nov. 28, in Durban, South Africa. Close to 10,000 people are expected to attend the conference, which will continue until Dec. 9.

UN climate conference under way

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On Monday NCR reported Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on climate change, on the eve of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Durban, South Africa.

The international conference will gather 194 parties to discuss and plan responses to climate change across the globe. The conference, known also as the Conference of the Parties 17 (COP 17), is the seventeenth annual meeting of UN parties dedicated to addressing climate change.

The conference runs through Dec. 9.

In 1997 COP 3 adopted the Kyoto Protocol, requiring industrialized countries to meet set emission limitations and reduction commitments. The Protocol expires in 2012, placing added importance on Durban to recommit global dedication to the climate cause.

Continue checking in at Eco Catholic through the coming weeks as we will update highlights of the conference, as well as reaction from Catholic leaders and affiliated organizations.

Pope urges climate change agreement for future generations

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Pope Benedict XVI told international leaders Sunday that they should reach an agreement on climate change that would benefit future generations.

The pope made the remarks in his blessing at the Vatican on Sunday.

Officials from almost 200 countries met in Durban, South Africa, on Monday to discuss global temperatures. The meetings run through Dec. 9.

More on the meetings and the pope's remarks can be found here.

Missing the missal's poetry? Here's a replacement

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Over Thanksgiving weekend, concern about the revised Roman Missal was causing major angst among a number of Catholics as they experienced the language changes for the first time in the Advent liturgy.

Advance comments this week from friends posed the question: "How can we possibly pray using these clumsy words, these endless phrases?"

Here is an idea: First, take a deep breath. Next, search through your bookshelves for anecdotes of beauty. The poetry and depth of other prayer styles are waiting to feed your hungry souls.

One of my favorite collections is "Earth Prayers from Around the World," edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon. "Earth Prayers" has been available since 1991, but its contents are timeless. Contributors include Pablo Neruda, Black Elk, Thich Nhat Hanh, T. S. Eliot, Brother Antoninus, St. Francis, Rainer Maria Rilke and Albert Schweitzer.

The authors' introduction to the section "Praise and Thanksgiving" is particularly timely:

Nature Deficit Disorder: Spiritual fallout from our disconnect with God's creation

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"If one steps out on a starry night and observes one's inner state, one asks if one could hate or be overwhelmed by envy or resentment. ... Is it not true that no man or woman has ever committed a crime while in a state of wonder?" -- Jacob Needleman from A Sense of the Cosmos

What memories do you treasure from childhood? Growing up in Xenia, Ohio, our house abutted a farm. Whether it was exploring that farm, going down to the creek, making a snowman or riding my bike with friends, most of my early memories and those of my generation were of running around in the outdoors, climbing trees or hanging out at the lake. A sense of place was as real to us as the air we breathed.

But, as Tom Occhipinti, environmental education coordinator of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, points out in a recent paper, children born in the last couple of decades have replaced formative experiences in the out-of-doors with text messaging, the iPod, etc.

Politicians take food stamp challenge to call attention to program

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Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from Hillsborough, Calif., went hungry on purpose the first week of November. She described her sparse diet as "humbling and difficult."

Speier joined other Democrats in a "food stamp challenge" campaign. They lived on $4.50 a day to call attention to possible cuts in the federal food stamp supplemental program. About 44 million poor people depend on this assistance, but if supercommittee member Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama has his way, the program will be chopped significantly.

Read more about Speier's grocery shopping efforts from Catholic San Francisco.

Keystone XL pipeline decision delayed

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The Obama administration has delayed making a decision on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the United States.

On Thursday, Nov. 10, the State Department explained that it wants to study an alternative route through Nebraska. According to a Friday New York Times story, the postponement will push any action well past the 2012 election and into 2013.

For additional information go to the websites of Tar Sands Action, The League of Conservation Voters, Audubon, CREDO Action and The Houston Chronicle.

More on the Keystone XL pipeline:

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