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Program aims to foster Catholic leaders

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LANSING, MICH. -- Joel Poliskey is graduating this spring with a physiology degree from Michigan State University. As part of an elite Medical Scholars program, he was admitted to medical school as a freshman and every semester has been on the dean’s list. Ten hours a week are spent riding with the Michigan State cycling team -- he is their fastest rider. Yet in spite of these accomplishments, Poliskey says that his best moments in college have been those he spends in the little Catholic parish right across the street from his house, St. John Student Center.

“We have a saying here that we study at Michigan State, but we get our education from St. John’s,” Poliskey said. He estimates that he spends more than 20 hours a week participating in St. John Student Center activities, whether leading the Catholic men’s group at his house, teaching the catechism on campus, or spending late nights praying the rosary in front of the tabernacle.

Welcome is mixed for gays on Catholic campuses

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As warm September days gave way to a crisp October, most college students across the country heard something about the Sept. 22 suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi. The 18-year-old jumped off the George Washington Bridge in New York when fellow freshmen streamed a video on the Internet of Clementi in a homosexual encounter.

Gay college students, including some at the nation’s 230 Catholic colleges, held candlelight vigils to remember Clementi and bear witness to the agony that gay young people often live with every day.

University of Notre Dame senior Brandon Buchanan said he couldn’t imagine how painful and humiliating it must have been to be “outed” as Clementi was. He came out on his own. “I honestly don’t think Notre Dame people think it [anti-gay bullying and suicide] could happen here,” he told the student newspaper, The Observer. “I would disagree.”

The 'straight arrow' theologian and the pope

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TÜBINGEN, GERMANY -- Hans Küng has always held to his progressive theological views. He believes that the present crisis in the church shows that he was right. The whole Roman system is in question, he maintains, though neither the Vatican nor the majority of the bishops yet realize it.

We are sitting in the arbor at the end of the veranda of his house above Tübingen, looking out at the gorgeous view across the Swabian hills. He muses, “My critics said, ‘He always repeats the same thing.’ But we have the greatest crisis since the Reformation. What alternative was there? We need to go on again in the line of the [Second Vatican Council].”

Sparky Anderson, Catholic Hall of Fame manager

WASHINGTON -- George Lee "Sparky" Anderson, the Hall of Fame manager who managed three World Series-winning teams, died Nov. 4. He was 76.

Just two days before, his family issued a statement that Anderson, a Catholic, was in hospice care as he was suffering from the complications of dementia.

When he retired from managing following the 1995 season, he was third all-time in the number of wins he had managed, at 2,194.

Book asks: What's a parish? What's a priest?

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Any Chicago journalist will tell you Fr. Michael Pfleger is good copy. There's always a provocation or a threat looming somewhere around the inner-city blocks of his parish, St. Sabina, on 79th St. on Chicago's South Side. And Pastor Pfleger responds to such matters.

He's painted over billboards in a years-long campaign to rid the neighborhood of cigarette ads. He and his parishioners have confronted store owners who sold drug paraphernalia. He's taken on gun shops. He's used underage kids from the parish in a meticulously documented sting that demonstrated to police and Chicago's mayor that most of the liquor stores were selling to minors without even asking for ID.

He adopted a son, took in two foster sons, one of whom died violently.

Lost works return to stage

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She had six plays produced at Dublin, Ireland’s Abbey Theater in six years in the 1930s. When her seventh met with rejection, she began writing for radio, despite having been deaf since 19, the result of Ménière’s disease. In 1954 she was elected to the prestigious Irish Academy of Letters. The Irish Times called her one of the most significant Irish playwrights of the 20th century. Yet few people in Ireland today and even fewer in America know the name of Teresa Deevy.

The Mint Theater Company, an award-winning off-Broadway theater in New York City, plans to tackle that obscurity over the next two years with its Teresa Deevy Project, which will produce two of her plays as well as offer readings, recordings and publications.

“I found her because I asked the question, ‘Who were the woman writing plays in the first 50 years of the Abbey?’ ” said Jonathan Bank, the Mint’s artistic director. “I began with the perception that the history of theater in Ireland was a lot of men and then, oh, yeah, there was Lady Gregory.”

He found that other women’s plays had been produced, but only Deevy’s had been published, and then only a few.

From berry fields to a microbiology lab

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After five grueling years of study at the University of Texas in San Antonio, Holy Cross Br. Jesus Alonso will earn his doctorate in microbiology next summer. He plans to use that degree to investigate viruses and help develop vaccines for some of the world’s most lethal and persistent viruses, like those that cause AIDS, hepatitis, dengue fever and other diseases that ravage large areas of the planet. “Microbiology is a difficult area of study,” said Alonso, an articulate, soft-spoken man of 31, “because there’s so much to learn and new developments are happening all the time.”

Despite steep decline, brothers see hope for their vocationís future

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There are three things you need to know about today’s religious brothers.

First, their numbers are continuing to decline at an alarming rate. In 1978, I attended a meeting of the National Association of Religious Brothers in Dayton, Ohio, and wrote an article for NCR on the state of the brotherhood. Although the population of brothers by then had dropped by 33 percent since 1965, there was a sense of optimism at the meeting -- a feeling that the overall decline of religious vocations had just about bottomed out and the downward trend was about to be reversed. Said one enthusiastic attendee, “I believe we are entering the age of brotherhood.”

The euphoria was due in part to the prevailing spirit of Vatican II. In this new era of the layperson, the brothers were laymen. At a time when clericalism was under siege, the brothers were involved exclusively in nonclerical ministries. And as many vowed religious sisters and priests were trying to balance the signs of the times against the outmoded regulations of their orders, the brothers were relatively unconstrained by canonical rules.

Eyes open in the Amazon

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IQUITOS, PERU -- On a steamy Sunday afternoon, Br. Paul McAuley huddled in a thatched-roof shelter with a group of college students from remote indigenous communities. The promised government meal subsidy had not arrived, and the students were out of food. There had been no breakfast or lunch that day, and there was no money for dinner.

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October 24-November 6, 2014

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