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Catholic school leaders honored in White House ceremony

WASHINGTON -- A group of Catholic school leaders, including a student, a few principals, diocesan education officials and other school representatives, were honored Jan. 25 at the White House for their innovation and dedication.

The group was recognized as part of the Obama administration's "Champions of Change" program, which highlights different groups each week for contributions they make to their communities. Past recipients have included inventors, artists, volunteers, chefs, farmers and health activists.

The attention to Catholic school leaders was timed to coincide with Catholic Schools Week Jan. 29-Feb. 5.

At the gathering, Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, praised Catholic schools for not only serving their own students but also local communities.

"You step up to the plate for everyone," he said, citing the example of how Catholic schools in New Orleans were the first schools to open after Hurricane Katrina.

Catholic schools are looking at new ways to keep afloat, thrive

WASHINGTON -- Today's Catholic schools struggling to stay open or facing closure need new ways of making money.

Reports of school closures often point to escalating costs of operating schools coupled with the inability of parents to pay tuition, especially in inner cities, and the lack of available resources from parishes or dioceses to keep these schools afloat.

Family credits strong Catholic education for daughters' career choice

TRENTON, N.J. -- In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught his disciples that God's word must be nurtured to yield a fruitful harvest, words that four members of the Briant family -- sisters -- have taken to heart.

Alison Briant Burley, Ellen Briant Reilly, and Susan and Katelyn Briant are Catholic educators.

Their parents, Doris and Thomas Briant, made sure they all had 12 years of Catholic education, despite the prospect of all that tuition.

"My motivation was to show (our) commitment to Catholic education," Doris said. "We didn't have family vacations, we went to Cape May for the day. You can give up all those trips to Disney World. The benefits you get (from Catholic education) are better than all those trips to wherever."

Doris herself is the product of 12 years of Catholic school. She and Thomas, who became a Catholic when daughter Susan was born, will be married 35 years this September.

Friends, family reflect on faith of couple missing from crashed cruise ship

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. -- Friends and parishioners of St. Pius X Church in White Bear Lake reflected on the lives of Jerry and Barb Heil at an evening prayer service Wednesday.

On Thursday, divers resumed the search for 21 people still missing after a Costa Concordia cruise ship cruise ship crashed into the Italian coast Jan. 13. The Heils are the only Americans who remained unaccounted for among the more than 4,200 passengers.

Organizer reclaims 'the American dream'

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Jesuit Fr. John Baumann started the community organization Pacific Institute for Community Organizations -- now PICO National Network -- in 1972 as a training institute to help support neighborhood organizations in California. Today, more than a million families and 1,000 congregations from 40 different denominations and faiths participate in PICO, according to the network’s website. Baumann discussed with NCR what he sees happening with conversations on the U.S. economy today.

Catholic Charities focuses on life across the human spectrum

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WASHINGTON -- Catholic Charities’ adoption services -- currently the subject of disputes with several state governments -- and its prenatal services have an obvious connection to the church’s pro-life teaching. But the full range of the agency’s work nationwide represents pro-life work as well, even if such programs are not usually thought of popularly as part of the political pro-life agenda, the head of Catholic Charities USA said in a recent interview.

King's message of action and service lives on, say speakers

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GARY, Ind. -- Two priests and one mayor recalled the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in two words: action and service.

Speaking Jan. 8 at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary, the three recounted the slain civil rights leader's belief in equality and nonviolence, challenging their audience to continue that legacy.

Priest recruitment drive took toughness

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WORCESTER, MASS. -- Jesuit Fr. John E. Brooks paused, his fork temporarily suspended above his apple crumble. The 88-year-old Holy Cross president emeritus, his West Roxbury accent clear and direct, told NCR during lunch in the Hogan Campus Center, “Clarence Thomas called this morning -- it was more of a joke really.” The U.S. Supreme Court justice, a former Holy Cross student of Brooks’, “wanted to know did I really have a tear in my eye.” Thomas was referring to the concluding line in an excerpt from Diane Brady’s book Fraternity, reprinted in the fall 2011 Holy Cross Magazine, that ran, “One of the students saw Fr. Brooks standing to the side, slipping out quietly with tears in his eyes.”

A story of 65 black students and one Catholic college

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For better and, originally, for worse, Martin Luther King Day has a particular resonance at the Jesuits’ College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. The worst begins in the opening lines of Diane Brady’s Fraternity when, on April 4, 1968, “a white student ran [into the common room] and announced ‘Martin Luther Coon’ had been shot. ... There was an uncomfortable silence in the room as the other students all turned to stare, curious to see how the black student was going to react [to the slur].”

Irish journalist whose documentary uncovered sex abuse dies

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APPRECIATION

Mary Raftery, an Irish journalist whose documentary series States of Fear exposed abuse in Irish Catholic schools, died in Dublin on Monday. She was 54.

Mary was a journalist by profession, but by vocation, she was a deeply honest and compassionate woman who fearlessly challenged the Irish Catholic Church, and in doing so, made the present and the future a safer place for children.

Mary may not be as well-known in the United States as she is in her native Ireland, yet her life has made a profound difference for victims of clergy abuse everywhere. She did more than any one person to force the systemic vicious abuse in the Irish industrial schools into the open. She continued with her passion to help victims with her documentary Cardinal Secrets, an expose of the cover-up of sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin.

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July 4-17, 2014

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