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Dayton Catholic Workers model creative innovation

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Besides the traditional missions of food and shelter, the Catholic Worker Movement in Dayton, Ohio, is doing some extraordinarily creative things:

Putting a spin on Friday night "Clarification of Thought" meetings, the Dayton Workers are debuting Bucholtz Tavern tonight. The tavern is a restaurant open on Friday and Saturday nights for the next 90 days. Patrons will pay $25 a piece for a candlelight dinner with jazz music and speakers. Proceeds will go to create a local food kitchen to help feed the needy.

The Dayton workers also have a web-based conferencing tool and a web TV platform. Check it out at catholic-itv.ning.com.

You have to hand it to the Dayton Workers. They are thinking outside the box, and I'm sure I join many in cheering for their collective success.

Obama's Nobel Challenge

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It seems that the committee that oversees the Nobel Prize hasn't given President Obama an award as much as a challenge.

In its announcement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee hailed Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made clear the award carried big expectations, saying: "This is a surprising, an exciting prize. It remains to be seen if he will succeed with reconciliation, peace and nuclear disarmament."

As John Allen reported here earlier, the Vatican's congratulations to Obama carried much the same message: "It's hoped that this very important recognition will further encourage [Obama's] commitment [to international harmony and a nuclear free world], which is difficult but fundamental for the future of humanity, so that the desired results will be obtained."

Women make star turns this morning at African Synod

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tThe Synod for Africa is primarily a gathering of bishops, so it’s only natural that in its early days, male voices have dominated the discussion. Friday morning, however, a handful of women finally had their turn at the microphone – and by all accounts, they certainly made the most of it.

tAlthough at the time of this posting, the Vatican had not yet released summaries of the morning’s speeches, synod participants told NCR that the women made star turns, earning strong rounds of applause from the roughly 300 bishops, members of religious congregations, lay experts and other listeners inside the synod hall.

Read the full story here: Women religious take the podium at Africa synod

Vatican congratulates Obama on Nobel

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In response to this morning's announcement that U.S. President Barack Obama would be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize, the Vatican Press Office released a statement of congratulations.

An NCR translation from the Italian follows:

"The awarding of the Nobel Prize for Peace to President Obama is greeted with appreciation in the Vatican, in light of the commitment demonstrated by the President for the promotion of peace in the international arena, and in particular also recently in favor of nuclear disarmament. It's hoped that this very important recognition will further encourage that commitment, which is difficult but fundamental for the future of humanity, so that the desired results will be obtained."

In its announcement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee hailed Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

The committee said it attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Jezreel: Make parish social ministries bigger

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The first presenter at "A Summons to Build," the NCR conference on parish social ministry, in Kansas City, Mo., was Jack Jezreel, the executive director of JustFaith Ministries. Speaking in an off-the-cuff style without hindrance of notes or a podium, Jezreel enthusiastically invited our participants to think of ways to make parish social ministries bigger.

The best way to make this happen, Jezreel said, is to remember that everyone is called to participate. He emphasized that the church is not a place where things happen to us, but a place where all should be involved in some way.

The conference's subtitle is " Meeting the challenge of providing social service ministries in today’s parish." The conference runs through Oct. 9.

The command given at the end of the Mass to "go," Jezreel said, is meant to encourage us to get to work for social justice -- in our families, in politics, in economics. The question is how to encourage people to answer this Gospel call and devote themselves to the nitty-gritty of social ministry.

Plaintiff in Mojave cross case is Catholic

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As the case of the so-called “Mojave Cross” reached the Supreme Court, I was struck that the plaintiff in the case, Frank Buono, is not the usual atheist-agnostic-humanist who challenges religious symbols on public property. He is a Roman Catholic with crosses in his own home, and -- from my point of view -- the principles of the U.S. Constitution in his mind and heart.

He discovered that a Buddhist group wanted to erect a shrine near the place of the cross, and was refused a number of years ago. He was deeply offended that government would favor one religion over another. And thus the lawsuit.

But you know… that’s the finest of our heritage as Americans, and American Catholics. We were among the first immigrant groups to run up against religious discrimination… this is fitting…

Learning from the Lutherans

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I posted this Religion News Service story over on the news side of our web site earlier today: Lutheran leaders declare worship wars 'sinful'. It seemed to me to be a rather bold statement from the leadership council of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has warned congregations that disagreements over worship styles that developed into full-fledged worship wars are "sinful."

"The polarization that is affecting the church concerning the issue of forms, rites and ceremonies is sinful and hinders the proclamation of the gospel," it says.

Certainly something for Catholics to think about.

30 year mortgage rates drop below 5%

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Since last year as the economic crisis spread many working poor and middle class families have lost their homes due to forclosure and bankruptcy. Many parishes and dioceses have responded with job search efforts and counseling activities.

Finding ways for families to avoid foreclosure and to remain in their homes is largely dependent on low mortgage rates, and importantly, a bank's willingness to lend. So when I read today's story on low mortgage rates, I think of all the folks whose lives have been upended due to job loss, higher mortgage costs and bankruptcy.

"Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed U.S. home loans fell for the second consecutive week, pushing borrowing costs to near record lows.

The average U.S. 30-year rate dropped to 4.87 percent from 4.94 percent last week. The 15-year rate was 4.33 percent, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac of McLean, Virginia, said today in a statement.

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April 11-24, 2014

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