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Again the call for bi-partisanship

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Catholic News Service added these four paragraphs as an update to a story it issued earlier this week: Bishops to Congress: Set aside partisanship Work together for genuine health reform

In his State of the Union address Jan. 27, President Barack Obama urged Congress to step up its efforts to achieve health reform this year.

"Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close," Obama said. "Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people."

Sr. Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, affirmed that message in a Jan. 28 letter to members of Congress.

"We understand the political realities and concerns with passage of such important and far-reaching legislation," she wrote. "But we firmly believe that now is not the time to let those concerns derail what may be the last opportunity of our lifetime to address the continuing shame of allowing so many individuals and families in our nation to go without access to affordable health care."

300 parishioners sue diocese about merger

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Almost 300 members of St. Vincent Pallotti parish in Haddon Township, N.J., have sued the Camden diocese, seeking the return of more than $1 million in donations made before the diocese announced a controversial merger plan for their parish.

The donations funded capital improvements that were dedicated in November 2007 -- four months before Bishop Joseph Galante revealed plans to merge St. Vincent Pallotti with St. Aloysius Parish in Oaklyn.

Under the plan, St. Aloysius would be the seat of the combined parish -- and Haddon Township parishioners contend that puts St. Vincent Pallotti's facilities at risk of closing.

The suit asserts Galante approved the multi-year capital campaign at St. Vincent Pallotti, then did not tell parishioners that he intended to restructure the diocese, said John Wilson, a Collingswood attorney representing the parishioners."

Classic.

State of the Union: Fighting the Status Quo

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The Washington Post ran a “tag cloud” this morning (good luck finding the graphic on the website!) that placed the words the President repeated the most often in last night’s State of the Union speech in larger letters, with the words he spoke less frequently in smaller letters. These tag clouds allow one to gauge where the speech placed its emphasis. The biggest word was, unsurprisingly, “jobs,” followed by “taxes,” then “economy” and “energy,” and in smaller letters words like “immigration,” “climate,” and “Afghanistan.”

Welcoming winter's clarity

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When I mention to people here in the Midwest that I am a fan of the season of winter, they look at me in a puzzled, perplexed way. We winter fans are few, it seems. Here's why I like this unpopular season so much.

Take a walk on a winter afternoon. The nip in the wind wakes a quiet exultation that is peculiar to this season. Winter is streamlined and elementary. Its purposes are honest and straighforward. Nothing is hidden or obstructed with green as in summer. The anatomy of places is plainly visible. In the countryside the colors of its short days are mostly solemn grays, silvers, blacks and warm, homespun shades of brown, russet and tan. All these colors are muted and understated. The sillhouettes of tree branches against a sullen grey clouded sky look like a revelation.

Winter contains the divine. It is no accident that the season richest in liturgy is the winter time. Advent, Christmas, Lent are full of devotions, practices, pageantry and rich and meaningful prayer, as we celebrate outer and inner mysteries. Winter is vital to our spiritual lives, to the richness and wholeness of being human.

Volunteerism up in 2009

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An encouraging sign on volunteerism occurred in 2009.

"Both the number of volunteers and the volunteer rate rose over the year ended in September 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. About 63.4 million people, or 26.8 percent of the popula- tion, volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2008 and September 2009. In 2008, the volunteer rate was 26.4 percent.

"The volunteer rate of women increased from 29.4 percent in 2008 to 30.1 percent in 2009, while the volunteer rate for men, at 23.3 percent, was essentially unchanged. As in previous years, women volun- teered at a higher rate than did men across all age groups, educational levels, and other major demo- graphic characteristics."

State of the Union and Howard Zinn's Death

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I was getting ready to listen to President Obama's State of the Union Speech when I came across the heartbreaking news on the Huffington Post that historian Howard Zinn died of a heart attack at age 87. Howard Zinn Dies: Historian, Activist Was Early Opponent Of U.S. Involvement In Vietnam War.

The man who gave us A People's History of the United States will not be here to mentor us as we seek ways to end two wars and urge our leaders to stand up for a social justice agenda.

Jan. 28, St. Thomas Aquinas

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Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., (1225-1274), Doctor of the Church.

"On 6 December 1273 he celebrated the Mass of St Nicholas. Then he suddenly abandoned his usual routine and neither wrote nor dictated anything else. His long-serving companion (socius), Reginald of Piperno, urged him to return to work. The reply given was: 'Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me.'

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