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'Great Ball of Fire' author combines Carl Sagan with Dr. Seuss

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For most of her life, Betty Kissilove hasn’t sent commercial holiday greeting cards to her family and friends. She writes her own ‘happy birthday’ messages using the medium of poetry.

So when this San Franciscan felt moved to write her own book about the universe story, the original birthday for us all – the planets, stars, galaxies, the bacteria, fungi, oceans, trees, rocks, critters, and human beings – she found herself naturally turning to verse once again. The result is a delightful retelling of creation in this frequently humorous, thought provoking work she has entitled Great Ball of Fire. It is dedicated to the late Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry, co-author of The Universe Story with Brian Swimme.

Professor proposes 'green Thomism' to reconnect Catholics to creation

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ST. PAUL, MINN. — When St. Paul Seminary professor Chris Thompson recently went searching for the top agriculture programs at U.S. Catholic universities, what he found — or, rather, what he didn’t find — shocked him: There aren’t any.

He made the discovery after receiving an invitation to present a paper on developments in American agriculture over the past 50 years at a conference in Rome in May.

“There seems to be no presence of [agriculture] as a focused discipline or professional formation in [any of the 244] Catholic universities across the board,” he said in an interview at the seminary, where he is academic dean. “That’s how I became the expert.”

Thompson serves on the board of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and has lectured and participated in conferences on Catholic social thought regarding the environment. He is slated to teach a seminary course on the topic in the fall.

“How can it be that the single largest economic force in the country has no presence or standing in the modern Catholic university?” he asked. And, he added, what impact does that have, not only on Catholics interested in farming as a career, but also on society at large?

Hospitality and generosity: Opening the 'universal door'

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The people of Kazakhstan are generous in their hospitality. There’s a saying: “Kazakhs’ hearts are like the steppes – wide, kind and generous.” Regardless of the hour of arrival of guests, Kazakh women will immediately set to work to prepare a dahsterhahn – a table full of food. If guests arrive and the table remains empty, the host is greatly shamed. Each guest must sit for tea, which includes bread, fruits, nuts, sweets and cookies.

We all have our dahsterhahns, feasts of remarkable generosity that have been extended to us in our lives.

Years ago, a friend and I boarded a westbound Amtrak train in Kansas City, getting off when it made a short stop in a Wyoming town. From there we hitchhiked up to the eastern side of the great Wind River Range. We rode in the back of a VW bug with our heavy backpacks on our laps. The driver, a young woman with a German Shepherd, drove 40 miles out of her way to drop us at the trailhead we sought.

Belize: Consumerism in Central America

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When Mercy Sr. Mary Pendergast recently traveled to Belize to present an environmental awareness symposium, she hoped the people there hadn’t yet succumbed to “the treacherous path of mindless U.S. consumerism.”

Unfortunately, they have,she discovered. “'Things' are expected to fill the hunger in the human heart, and it doesn’t work any better in Central America than it does here,” said Sr. Mary, in a June 23 article published on the “Awakening the Dreamer” website.

The nun and two of her Mercy colleagues -- Srs. Nancy Audette and Kathleen Erickson, all from the U.S. Northeast region of their community – spent several days presenting “Dreamer” symposiums to nearly 100 participants – including students of St. Catherine Academy, to Mercy nuns and associates. students and faculty from Muffles College, the Ministry of Education, to local leaders, and to members of the UN Development Program.

Carl Pope: America's nuclear power plants far from safe

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The Missouri River floods have threatened Nebraska's Ft. Calhoun and Cooper nuclear power plants putting tremendous stress on both the systems and their operators, but the immediate risk of a meltdown like those that occurred in Japan at Fukushima is small.

Carl Pope, former director of the Sierra Club writing on The Huffington Post Green Blog says it's also clear "that if these same floods had occurred a year ago, before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission forced plant operators to upgrade safety standards, Ft. Calhoun, at least, would have been at serious meltdown risk. If the floods recede with no further damage to these plants, President Obama could, quite legitimately, claim that he saved Omaha. He probably won't, though, because the politics of doing so would reveal a deeper and more disturbing truth: while the Obama Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), led by Gregory Jaczko, has begun to take seriously the problems it inherited, America's fleet of 104 operating nuclear power plants is anything but safe."

Saving our antibiotics

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By overusing antibiotics on farms and feeding them to healthy animals we’re making the drugs doctors rely on to treat illnesses like pneumonia, strep throat, and childhood ear infections less effective.

Antibiotics are not necessary for livestock production but they are essential to modern medicine. Find out why they are used on farms, the problems they pose and what you can do to keep you and your family healthy.

"Saving Antibiotics" is a good resource on this subject, found on the Smarter Living Blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council. It has links to further information on the use of antibiotics in meat production.

N. J. Catholic parish first in nation to be certified Green

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“We are called to care for Creation.” said Fr. Bob Stagg of The Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, NJ. Presentation is the first Catholic parish nationwide to be accepted into the GreenFaith Certification Program, the country’s only interfaith environmental certification program for houses of worship.

The Program is designed to help churches, synagogues, mosques and temples earn recognition as environmental leaders by carrying out more than two dozen environmental activities over two years. “We are very enthusiastic about joining the GreenFaith Certification Program because it gives us the tools to become strong environmental leaders,” said Fr. Stagg. “We want to live out these ‘green values’ in everything we do – from our preaching and education to the operation of our building,” he added.

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