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The Ministry of Sister Mary Daniel Turner

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News of the death of Sister Mary Daniel Turner stirred in me sadness and gratitude.

She had given generously of her time to help me understand the joys and trials of American sisters in responding to the challenges from Vatican II.

The book she wrote with Sister Lara Quinonez, "The Transformation of American Sisters," was a staple in documenting that era. Failures on my part to grasp that period therefore couldn't be attributed to her. She had been a careful guide.

The most poignant memory, however, is the time I spent with her at the home for men off the streets of Washington, D.C., who were dying of AIDS. She had helped found the shelter.

Her work in that center epitomized what it meant to be an apostolic religious. She had forsaken comforts and entered into the suffering of human beings at the very fringe of society.

Her account of her ministry was no fairy tale of an angelic Florence Nightingale gliding unscathed among the sick and dying. To the contrary, she said she had struggled to cope with the pain and agony of poor men ravaged by disease in order to avert total emotional devastation.

Father Dowling author dies

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At the risk of making this blog a obituary column, I'll share the death of Ralph McInerny, best known as the author of the Father Dowling mysteries that were made into a television series in the late 1980s and early '90s.

McInerny died Jan. 29 at the age of 80, reported the Zenit news agency.

Those familiar with his popular books (he also wrote under several pen names, including "Monica Quill") might not have known he was the co-founder with Michael Novak of the conservative Catholic journal Crisis magazine (now online as Inside Catholic).

He had retired last year as a professor of philosophy and Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he had been director of the Jacques Maritain Center from 1979 to 2006. He also was outspoken in opposing President Barack Obama's appearance at last year's Notre Dame commencement.

Pondering Roman collars, the Latin Mass and 'holy ignorance'

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In The Future Church I identify “evangelical Catholicism” as a key trend, defined as a strong reassertion of traditional Catholic identity coupled with an impulse to express that identity in the public realm. At a purely descriptive level that claim is a no-brainer, because the evidence is crystal clear – from revival of the old Latin Mass, to new demands that pro-choice Catholic politicians be brought to heel.

tThe $64,000 question isn’t whether the trend exists, but what to make of it.

\"Question Time\" - Thumbs Up!

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For those who did not watch the President’s meeting with the House Republican Caucus in Baltimore yesterday, try and catch it on C-Span this weekend. Unlike the State of the Union, which even when it is good, is a set piece with little dramatic impact, yesterday’s back and forth with the opposition was fascinating, both good politics and good theater. It has been compared to “Question Time,” when a British Prime Minister weekly (and sometimes weakly) submits to questions from members of the House of Commons. Of course, American politics, in formal settings, lacks the rough-and-tumble of the Commons, but the event in Baltimore came as close to anything I have seen in a long time in forcing the participants past the their own sound-bites.

Right Wing Punks

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The news that James O’Keefe and three confederates were arrested for entering the premises of Senator Mary Landrieu’s offices in New Orleans on false pretenses and with pernicious intentions – either to videotape the office or to record conversations – brought back to my mind a word I seldom use: punk.

James O’Keefe is a punk. This was obvious in his manipulative videotape of an ACORN office where he and a lady friend went posing as a prostitute and her pimp. The ACORN workers responded foolishly, sort of like the cops who came to Henry Louis Gates’ door in Cambridge last summer. In an effort to appear non-judgmental, which is a very important quality among those who work with the poor, the ACORN workers failed to recognize the hoax, and failed to confront its purported criminal nature. They were wrong but the whole episode left me with a question: Who appointed Mr. O’Keefe an investigator? Who ordained this witch hunt?

Another Haiti inspiration

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A Minnesota television anchor has quit her job to work full-time in Haiti as a nurse. Julie Pearce has been with KBJR-TV in Duluth since 2006, most recently as a weekend anchor. The 29-year-old is also a nurse. She graduated from the College of St. Scholastica's post-baccalaureate nursing program in August and has passed the Minnesota boards.

Read the Assoicated Press story here: Minnesota television anchor quits to work in Haiti

Haiti: Opportunities abound

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A new perspective needs to shine on Haiti that transitions to the view of "substantial opportunities" from "permanently impoverished," as outlined in an op-ed piece today in The New York Times.

The article is co-written by Paul Collier, an economics professor at Oxford, was a special adviser on Haiti to the United Nations secretary general in 2009, and Jean-Louis Warnholz, the managing director of a business consulting company, who was an economic adviser to Haiti’s prime minister in 2009.

Obama needs to reconnect with the American people

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I voted for President Barack Obama with a great deal of enthusiasm and hope for the future like many other Americans. Although I still support the President and still hope that his administration will advance a progressive agenda, I have to say that I have been disappointed by the President’s seemingly unwillingness to fight for such an agenda. He seems to predisposed to compromise and to look over his shoulders at his right-wing critics.

The American people want a President who seems to stand for something and to fight for those goals. The President must articulate a vision of where he wants to take the country but he can’t or shouldn’t try to be all things to all people. There is no question but that the biggest mistake this past year by the administration was to focus so heavily on healthcare reform.

Jan. 29, St. Gildas the Wise

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Today is the feast of St. Gildas the Wise, the earliest British historian. His writings were an important source for Bede and Alcuin.

Gildas was born in Scotland, on the banks of the Clyde, and he died at a monastery he founded in Brittany. His dates are in question by modern scholars; he was probably born before 500 and probably died after 550. He spent much of his religious and priestly life in Wales and Ireland before retiring to Brittany. The most famous of his surviving works is De Excidio Britanniae, (The Ruin of Britain).

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