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Where are the 'talking heads' on global affairs in religious life?

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tOver the weekend I was in Baltimore, where a prominent men’s religious order brought together a few people to talk about how they can be more effective communicators. This was an off-the-record brainstorming session, but I can pass along one point I made, which is something I’ve long wondered about and something broadly applicable to religious congregations both of women and men.

tHere’s the question I posed: When a crisis erupts in some obscure corner of the world, why isn’t a man or woman religious automatically in the mix along with the ex-general, the retired diplomat and the aid worker on “Good Morning America” and “The News Hour” explaining what’s going on? Why aren’t religious writing opinion pieces in the New York Times and Foreign Policy magazine outlining what the issues look like from the perspective of people who actually live there? In other words, why isn’t the press culture in America in the habit of tapping religious in the same way we pursue talking heads from other walks of life presumed to have some kind of global expertise?

Washington archdiocese ends adoption program

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It's official, but it's sad. After generations in the business of facilitating adoptions and foster care, the Washington Archdiocese is transferring its entire program to a secular agency, the National Center for Children and Families. In doing so, Catholic Charities avoids following a new law in the District of Columbia, which will soon require that gay or lesbian couples be treated equally with heterosexual couples in the adoption process.

Songbirds change to cope with deforestation

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Eastern North American songbirds are a very adaptable bunch, says a scientist who discovered some remarkable changes in their wing shapes over the past century.

A close look at museum collections of 851 songbird specimens belonging to 21 species shows that most of the birds evolved wings that are more pointed after their forests were disrupted by logging. Others in re-forested areas evolved less-pointed wings. The drive to procreate forced the changes in wing shape.

More pointed wings can help birds who are long-distance commuters fly more efficiently. Rounded wings however, are better off over short distances.

"I've been studying the effects of (forest) fragmentation," said Andre Desrochers of Quebec's University Laval and the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University. "Roads, rivers, clearcuts and other gaps can break up songbird habitats.

"To me, it becomes apparent that fragmentation is really a big problem" he added. "If you (as a songbird) are in a fragmented habitat, you have more chance of being without a mate."

NCR contributors in the news

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NCR contributors in the news

Sr. Rose Pacatte, a Daughter of St. Paul and director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles, who writes on media for NCR, has been chosen to receive the Board of Directors Award from Los Angeles-based Catholics in Media Associates.

The awards are slated to be distributed as part of a Feb. 28 Mass and awards brunch in Beverly Hills. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles is scheduled to celebrate the Mass.

Columnist Heidi Schlumpf was profiled in the Chicago Daily Herald. The paper notes that Schlumpf "wrote her book, While We Wait" Spiritual & Practical Advice for Those Trying to Adopt, to encourage other parents going through the adoption process."

Ashes to ashes

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No one had seen Robina Dumas at church, but everyone knew why. She had fallen ill, and things did not look good. Craig, her husband of more than 60 years, still came every Sunday, sitting by himself at the edge of a pew. We'd always said hello to him and his wife on Sundays, but really got to know them when their daughter Kathy started teaching our kids piano.

We'd always ask Craig about Robina, and he'd smile some and say she seemed better or stronger or livelier. Until he would just smile and shrug slightly. We'd learned from others how much she had done for parish in decades pass, as she was raising her children and even long after they had grown. She was a fixture, people said, in 1950s, 1960s and on.

We got the call from Kathy one night not long ago -- her mother had passed. The funeral was set for that Saturday.

My wife and I wondered how Craig was taking it -- and how the parish would respond. Robina had been a key figure there years ago, but would anyone remember now? Life, especially in places like Los Angeles, is always in motion -- people move out and move on, taking their memories with them.

Haiti donations

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Type "haiti donations" into Bing, Yahoo, Google and the number of hits is astoudning. (111,0000,000 and 7,310,000 and 11,900,000 hits respectively).

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that American charities raise $774-Million for Haiti relief.

Among the results:

  • Catholic Medical Mission Board had raised $1.3-million in cash as of February 3. The organization has also received donations of medicines and medical supplies worth $10.6-million.
  • Catholic Relief Services had secured $60.4-million in gifts and pledges as of February 17.

How about this one:

  • Internews Network, a nonprofit group that promotes journalism abroad, received $200,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help the news media in Haiti recover from the disaster and broadcast critical information about the relief efforts.

Notre Dame Leaders Back DC Scholarship Program

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DC’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provided tuition money to poor students that seek a shot at a better education by going to Catholic schools, is dying a slow death in Congress. The President of the University of Notre Dame, Father John Jenkins, as well as the President Emeritus, Father Ted Hesburgh, and the priest who runs the program in Education Initiatives at Notre Dame, Father Timothy Scully, have written a joint letter to Senator Richard Durbin and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, calling for the program to be extended, not killed.

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November 21-December 5, 2014

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