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Old meets new in faith lives of two New Mexico women

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Sarah Nolan, 28, was a sophomore at the University of San Francisco at the turn of the millennium. She was a long way from her home in southern New Mexico and had already moved through progressive stages of personal change — from a fascination with science and wanting to be an engineer to interest in marketing to undecided — when she found her window to deeper faith and a life's work steeped in the church's social justice tradition.

Dominican Sr. Bernice Garcia was in the fourth grade when she knew she wanted to be a religious sister. Now 72, she has witnessed the trajectory of religious life through the latter part of the 20th century into the 21st and the concurrent changes in church life. She's currently parish administrator, effectively the pastor, of St. Francis Xavier Church in a poor neighborhood of Albuquerque, N.M. It is a ministry she could not have dreamed of doing as a young girl, nor for most of her long career with the Dominicans of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Cardinal George's plan to evangelize America

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Chicago’s George says both liberals and conservatives focus too much on bishops, not enough on Christ

Rome

tHistorically, American cardinals have rarely been preoccupied with the intellectual life. By reputation, they’re known more as pragmatists – bricks-and-mortar men, or pastors, or political powerbrokers – as opposed to the European model of the theologian-bishop. Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, however, has long been an exception, and his new book The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion and Culture (Crossroad) offers a classic illustration of the point.

tGeorge, who is also the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is in Rome this week for meetings between conference leaders and Vatican officials. While in town, he’s also presenting his book at the Lateran University.

Ghanaian cardinal destined to be an ecclesiastical star

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Rome

For the better part of three decades, the phrase “African pope” almost automatically beckoned images of Cardinal Francis Arinze, a smiling, charismatic Nigerian who loomed in the popular imagination as the best prospect to become the first African pope since Gelasius I in the late fifth century, and only the third African pope in history.

Arinze, however, is now retired and will turn 77 on Nov. 1. With the opening today of the second Synod for Africa, the torch has in effect been passed to Africa’s next great papabile, or candidate to become pope: Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who will celebrate his 61st birthday on Oct. 11.

Asked this morning during a Vatican news conference if the Catholic church is ready for a black pope, Turkson answered simply: "Why not?"

U.S. theologian rebuts charges of dissension

OTTAWA -- The U.S. theologian invited to address the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' plenary in mid-October has rebutted online charges that he is a "liberal dissenter."

In a five-page letter to the bishops' conference president, Archbishop V. James Weisgerber, a Catholic studies professor at the University of Toledo, Ohio, Richard Gaillardetz, said the online attack involved "a very selective marshaling of isolated texts for the purpose of creating an ideological caricature."

Catholic bloggers

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In December 2004, a young Philadelphian logged onto Blogger and started writing about the Catholic church. More than 11 million hits later, Whispers in the Loggia (whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com) has become the must-read for anyone interested in the inner workings of the church.

Let’s call it what it is: church gossip. Even the blog name conjures up images of Vatican bureaucrats divulging secrets in ancient Roman corridors. Which isn’t too far from what happens -- only via cell phone to a 20-something blogger in his parents’ basement in south Philly.

Taiwan cardinal, Dalai Lama in wide range discussions

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The Dalai Lama drew more than 1,000 people to an arena in southern Taiwan today to witness his meeting with Catholic Cardinal Shan Kuo-his as part of his five- day visit to comfort survivors of Typhoon Morakot.

The two religious leaders received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Hanshin Arena in the city of Kaohsiung where they held a public dialogue for about 2 hours.

The Dalai Lama said a short prayer in Tibetan, after which a Christian choir sang a hymn in Mandarin and the cardinal said a prayer.

Flanked by police and protected by a submachine gun totting SWAT team, the 76-year-old Dalai Lama and the 86-year old Catholic cardinal entered the auditorium together accompanied by opposition Democratic Progressive Party Mayor Chen Chu, who was instrumental in inviting the Dalai Lama to Taiwan for a “humanitarian and religious journey” to pray for victims and survivors of a recent typhoon.

The lives of two great men

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Editorial

The “great man” theory of history -- the idea that individuals (mostly men) of high social, political, economic or scientific rank shape destiny -- has been largely eclipsed. There is much good in that. Today, the stories of the marginalized (such as women, persons of color, the disabled, laborers and farmers, slaves and soldiers, the poor) are now studied in a manner once exclusively reserved to kings and princes, presidents and prime ministers, the rich and famous.

And yet, we are reminded in this issue of NCR, great people do shape events. Edward Kennedy (see story) and William F. Buckley (see story) were two such individuals.

To be “great” does not, to be sure, mean to be always correct. Many in the Catholic community, for example, look at Kennedy’s record on abortion and ask, what if the great liberal lawmaker had used his stature and abilities to promote legal protection to the unborn? He chose another course.

'They are at the center of the church'

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Ministries

“I think the culture wars have been won,” says Mercy Sr. Donna Ryan. In the 13 years she has served as chaplain to a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, she has seen growing acceptance of this community by society at large. “It is kind of like the church is becoming the last group in our culture to face this reality,” says Ryan. HOPE, the organization she serves in the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese, was recently asked to leave its meeting place in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, but the group carries on, she says, because its members “care about the church and they care for one another.”

Ryan has worked in various ministries within the diocese, most recently as education resource coordinator at the cathedral. As the cofounder of the Center for Spirit at Work, she serves working people who wish to integrate spirituality, ethics and values in their work environments.

NCR recently spoke with Ryan about her work as chaplain to HOPE.

NCR: Tell me about your HOPE ministry.

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August 15-28, 2014

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