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Catholic health care grapples with identity in a complex ministry

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BALTIMORE -- Last May, St. Agnes Hospital opened its first new building in more than 50 years, a 200,000-square-foot addition to the existing campus, with 120 newly designed patient rooms, five operating rooms, a spacious main lobby and a seven-story-high, lighted cross that faces traffic on Caton Avenue. William Greskovich, the hospital’s vice president of operations and capital projects, said the new building -- part of a $200 million plan to expand the campus -- will take the 150-year-old, 314-bed hospital into its next 50 years.

Poverty fight called 'out of fashion,' but Catholics urged to persist

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JAMAICA, N.Y. -- Catholics have a responsibility to impel business, government and civil society to eradicate poverty by adopting policies that respect human dignity, promote the common good, protect human rights and address systemic ills, said speakers at an Oct. 22 program at St. John's University.

The conference on "Poverty Eradication and Intergenerational Justice: Stewardship, Solidarity and Subsidiarity" drew about 300 people and was sponsored by the university's Vincentian Center for Church and Society.

"Eradicating poverty has gone out of fashion" as politicians appeal to the broader middle class, said Michael A. Benjamin, who represented portions of the Bronx in the New York State Assembly from 2003 to 2010. It's easy to focus time and programs on photogenic children, he said, but the reality is "there is no child living in poverty without an adult."

"When Jesus said the poor would always be with us, he didn't mean to let them languish in poverty," Benjamin said. Welfare should be used as a bridge to employment and government money spent on job-training programs will prepare people for private-sector employment, he said.

Colorado field of crosses shows abortion's impact

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BOULDER, Colo. -- A pro-life project to build and display 3,300 crosses in memory of the number of babies aborted daily drew more than 80 willing participants at Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Boulder.

"I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged about the many people in the parish who helped and might not otherwise be comfortable in pro-life activity," said Charlie Danaher, who co-chairs the parish's Respect Life Committee. "We had fantastic participation."

From the initial idea for the project in February to the mass painting and staging sessions done at the church before October, parishioners had the opportunity to engage in a loving and noncontroversial pro-life activity, said Danaher.

The project, designed to relay the impact of abortion while encouraging healing for parents and support for prevention, was moving for parishioner Andrew Wolfe, who worked up to eight hours a day over four weeks assembling the thousands of crosses, and could not keep up with the rate of abortions.

"It was sometimes overwhelming to me, as fairly simple as are they are to assemble, that I couldn't do it as fast as abortions were happening," he said.

Jesus would laugh at a lot, says Colbert's 'chaplain'

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WASHINGTON -- Three priests -- a Dominican, a Franciscan and a Jesuit -- walk into a bar.

According to the Rev. James Martin, it's not only the opening to a good joke, but quite possibly the saving grace of religion.

Martin's new book, "Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life," says religious people would be a lot happier -- and holier -- if they lightened up and took themselves a little less seriously.

"Joy, as a number of spiritual writers have said, is the surest sign of the Holy Spirit," the Jesuit priest said at a recent gig at Georgetown University.

But, he continued, "there are certain Roman Catholics who seem to think that being religious means being deadly serious all the time."

Martin, culture editor of the Jesuit magazine America and the unofficial chaplain to Comedy Central's "Colbert Report," is, well, wickedly funny.

India provides perspective and grace

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I spent most of August traveling through northern India with my youngest son, my brother and his family, the trip made possible by a donation from a generous friend who, like me, is an Indiaphile. My father, a cultural affairs officer with the United States Information Agency, was first assigned to India in 1962 and my family lived there for a total of seven years, in the absurdly privileged existence then available to American diplomats. I have returned three times since and remain addicted to the place of my early childhood.

New leader for men's orders sketches hopes and fears

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Capuchin Fr. John Pavlik was appointed on June 7 as the new executive director of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which brings together leaders of more than 200 men’s religious orders in the United States.

A native of Western Pennsylvania whose background is in formation and provincial leadership, Pavlik probably didn’t need convincing that his new gig is likely to be complicated -- but proof came anyway, in spades, just six days later.

Martin Hegarty, 'bishop' to resigned priests, dies at 83

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"I left priesthood on the first Saturday morning in June, 1988, having just presided at my last Eucharist. I moved out of the rectory in a frantic headlong rage, dragging my belongings to a basement apartment on 35th and Seeley.

"I'll never forget grasping the doorknob of my underground residence and thinking, 'What have I done to myself?' I had either been training to be a priest or was a priest for 20 of my 34 years. I was jobless, damn near penniless, my Rolodex was wrecked (this being the time before Blackberry). I had one black suit that smelled like incense and not a clue about what to do with my life….

"So I did what everybody in my situation did. I went to see Marty Hegarty. He read me like the Sunday Trib. He knew all my sections: good priest, scared young adult, in love, consumed with guilt, rectory spoiled, clueless, but possessing a pulse.

Conference works to address LGBT issues in Catholic schools

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NEW YORK – The invitations went out weeks ago to 45 parochial high schools in New York, inviting administrators, teachers and students to Union Theological Seminary, where, together with theologians, writers, activists and other attendees, they might have mapped out the challenges LGBT students face in Catholic schools, looked at alternatives and tried to find solutions.

The "Pro-Queer Life: Youth Suicide Crisis, Catholic Education, and the Souls of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) People," held Oct. 1, was the second of the "More Than a Monologue" series of four talks meant to broaden the conversation on LGBT issues within the Catholic church.

One of the goals of the conference was to have a frank discussion about teen suicide.

But by the afternoon of the conference, Kelby Harrison, head of the organizing committee, told about 150 people gathered in the seminary's upstairs dining hall that neither the administrators of the Catholic schools that were invited nor any students, the subjects of the daylong conversation, would be attending.

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April 11-24, 2014

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