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The blessing of the worms

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SYLVANIA, OHIO — This year's annual blessing of pets at Sylvania Franciscan Academy had its usual dogs, cats and gerbils, as well as worms. About 60,000 worms.

But these weren't ordinary worms; these were Eisenia fetida, or red wiggler worms, that compost food scraps five times more efficiently than ordinary earth worms.

The worms, corralled in 60 plastic tubs and covered with shredded newspaper, were part of a science project begun last school year by 13-year-old Rachel Perzynski.

Perzynski wanted to study how worms speed up the natural cycle of composting and demonstrate how composting can be done indoors by almost anyone, by placing compostable material and worms inside containers.

Perzynski's work won top honors from the annual "eco-sensitivity" competition at the University of Toledo in March. A grant from the BP A+ for Energy Program allowed her to expand to 60,000 worms.

Three bishops press church to clean up its own act

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tGrappling with how Catholicism in Africa can be a force for reconciliation, justice and peace, a handful of African bishops seemed to suggest today that in the first place, the church needs to get its own house in order.

tIn effect, these prelates suggested, it will be difficult for the African church to preach what it’s not seen to practice.

Read the full report here: Synod leaders: the church needs to get its house in order

On losing the Olympics

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I could claim that I haven't written this blog post for five days because I am so devastated that my city, Chicago, did not win the bid for the 2016 Olympics, but it wouldn't be true. Actually, I was busy entertaining my in-laws, who were visiting from Philadelphia.

Still, I am pretty bummed about the Olympics. Despite its reputation as the "Second City," Chicago is pretty big on civic pride. We love our sports teams (even when they lose for decades); we flock to our parks and lakefront (even when it's 20 below zero); and we are proud of our skyline (even if the Sears Tower is no longer the world's tallest building--or no longer called the Sears Tower). It was a rather humiliating to come in dead last.

A good number of Chicagoans cheered the loss. Many, if not most, of my friends opposed the city's Olympic bid, knowing it would mean higher taxes down the line. Few trust Mayor Richard Daley, whose most recent debacle involved selling the city's parking meter rights, which meant an immediate rate hike from 25 cents an hour to $1.

Obama's election a 'divine sign,' African bishop tells synod

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tBarack Obama’s election as the first African-American President of the United States could be interpreted as a “divine sign,” according to a senior African prelate, suggesting that in God’s plan for salvation history, 500 years of slavery and racial oppression may be giving way to a new era of reconciliation.

tThe comments came yesterday afternoon from Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as part of the Synod of Bishops for Africa meeting in the Vatican Oct. 4-25.

tMonsengwo called on the synod and the universal church not to “ignore” the significance of Obama’s election, which he said was the result of much more than “a banal game of political alliances.”

tMonsengwo has long been seen as the more impressive Catholic bishops in Africa, and yesterday delivered a formal report on trends in the church since the last Synod for Africa in 1994.

African cardinal on condoms and AIDS

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

During the course of a Vatican news conference early this afternoon, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana took a number of questions on a wide range of topics. Turkson is the relator, or general secretary, of the Synod of Bishops for Africa currently meeting in Rome.

One of those question was on anti-AIDS efforts in Africa, in the course of which Turkson discussed the always-controversial issue of condoms. The Vatican this evening provided a transcript of Turkson's remarks, which appears below.

CARDINAL PETER TURKSON ON CONDOMS AND AIDS

The question of HIV/AIDS … I think in Africa there are so very, very many various scenarios involving the HIV/AIDS question. There is a situation in Southern Africa which is tragic, which is very pressing and that’s where most of the references about the situation of HIV refers to. I personally have an experience of this in Botswana where I spent some time and I witnessed the fact that almost every weekend, about four-five people are buried, young people and not. It’s like … it’s dissipating the work-force of the nation and the effect is bad.

'Truly sorry' embezzling priest spared jail time

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Fr. Norman Sullivan, a suspended pastor from Buffalo, was spared a jail term for embezzling $213,732 from his parish because the money has been repaid.

State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia ordered Sullivan, 74, to perform 1,000 hours of community service while he is on court-supervised probation for the next five years and ordered him to submit to warrantless searches while he remains under court control.

Sullivan pleaded guilty July 16 to third-degree grand larceny to theft of money from the former Most Holy Redeemer Parish from May 30, 2000 until Jan. 31, 2008. He told the judge "I am truly sorry" and that he is "disgraced and embarrassed."

Since his guilty plea Sullivan has been barred from saying Mass or administering sacraments or even dressing in priestly clothing.

Since 2004, the Erie County District Attorney's Office has prosecuted at least five other embezzlements from Catholic parishes and schools, ranging from $230,000 to $488,000.

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