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He gives everything he has to his art

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Los Angeles artist John August Swanson describes his art as “my most social act.” Artistic activity and life combine in him to form a ministry he has practiced for more than four decades.

The 71-year-old Swanson recently celebrated the installation of 44 of his vibrant, detailed paintings and prints at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, the largest permanent exhibition of his work in the United States.

Jan Love, dean of this Methodist theology school, was attracted to Swanson’s work not only for its beauty but for its power to express the global reach of Christian experience.

These works now hang in the school’s newly constructed 65,000-square foot theology building, the locus of learning for Candler’s diverse and international student body, in which more than 30 Christian denominations, including Catholics, are represented.

100 days of Obama leadership, black pride runs high

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Editor’s note: As President Barack Obama reached his 100th day in office April 29, his presidency seemed to be altering the public perception of race relations in the United States, a new New York Times poll has found.

Two-thirds of Americans now say race relations are generally good, and the percentage of blacks who say so has doubled since last July. Black Americans remain among the president’s staunchest supporters; 70 percent of black respondents now say the country is headed in the right direction.

NCR marked the president’s 100th day in office by telling the story of a 93-year-old African-American woman who dreamed of, but never fully imagined, a black president.

Evelyn Glore Ashford, 93, is one proud woman -- and she says so without hesitation. And she says it again and again.

What makes her glow is not only that an African American is president of the United States, a truly overwhelming reality in her life, but also that this African-American president is showing the world “he’s a wonderful man,” a family man who cares for his wife and children and showed special concern for his grandmother before she died last year.

CORNERED: Andre Dubus III

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Andre Dubus III is the son of the great Catholic short story writer, recipient of a Pushcart Prize and National Magazine Award, writing teacher at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, finalist for a National Book Award for House of Sand and Fog, now also a movie, and most recently, author of The Garden of Last Days. He’s on his way to the dump. He’s just finished building a white cedar railing for the house he built in the woods in Newburyport, Mass., and in the final triumphant nail-pounding he forgot all about this interview. He gives it anyway, with warmth and ease and a waiting truckload of wood scraps. “Ever smell white cedar?” he asks. “It smells like vanilla with lemon when you cut it.”

With Ochoa, golf has a giving side

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Oh-Oh-Ochoa. Oh-Oh-Ochoa.

If the world’s golfing community isn’t chanting that already about Lorena Ochoa, it should. The Mexican athlete won her 25th tournament in early March, a three-stroke win in Pattaya, Thailand. That it went a bit unsung is due to the high-volume return of the gimped Tiger Woods to the PGA tour on steady knees that genuflect to no one. Woods, who has won 11 of his last 16 tournaments, is a one-person stimulus package for a sports world miasmic with A-Rod steroid tales and the fall of Charles Barkley, the drunk locked up on a driving-under-the-influence conviction.

Franciscans gather in Assisi to celebrate 800 years

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ASSISI, Italy
Brown-, gray- and black-hooded robes rustled, knotted white cords swung rhythmically, and sandaled feet crunched gravel.

The soft sounds of labored breathing could also be heard as several hundred Franciscan friars from all over the world wound their way up steep hills, passing wheat fields and olive groves while on a two-hour penitential procession to the tomb of their founder, St. Francis of Assisi.

Catholic priest serves as he honors his Jewish roots

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JAFFA, ISRAEL

Fr. Gregorcz Pawlowski insists he can be both a Roman Catholic priest and a Jew at the same time.

The 77-year-old Holocaust survivor says Mass and tends to other spiritual needs of the small Polish-speaking Catholic community of St. Peter's Church in Jaffa. He also fasts on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and plans to be buried in a Jewish cemetery in his native Poland. His gravestone is already there.

As if to affirm his double identity his modest apartment at 4 Ben Zvi St. in Jaffa has two names on the door: Gregorcz Pawlowski, and beneath it in Hebrew, Zvi Griner, his birth name. These two names testify to a man who has taken two seemingly incompatible religious journeys.

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Related Story: The community of Catholic Jews

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Richardson honored for ending death penalty

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VATICAN CITY
For making what he described as "the most difficult decision in my political life," Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico was given a front-row seat at a papal audience and was to see Rome's Colosseum lit up in honor of his state.

Greeting Pope Benedict XVI April 15, Richardson asked him to bless the silver olive branch given to him by the Community of Sant'Egidio in recognition of his decision March 18 to sign a bill abolishing the death penalty in New Mexico.

Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe said he introduced the governor to Pope Benedict, saying, "Holy Father, this is our governor and he just repealed the death penalty." The archbishop added, "And the pope nodded very happily in agreement."

The Rome-based lay Community of Sant'Egidio, which is active in a worldwide campaign to eliminate capital executions, hosted the governor's visit and arranged the April 15 Colosseum lighting with the city of Rome.

Richardson, a Democrat and a Catholic, had been a supporter of the death penalty; he also supports legalized abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, which the church opposes.

Cardinal Zen resigns as bishop of Hong Kong.

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HONG KONG
Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 77, as bishop of Hong Kong.

Coadjutor Bishop John Tong Hon, 69, succeeds the cardinal as head of the diocese, which will celebrate with a Mass April 30.

Cardinal Zen said he will continue to be concerned with the church in China and with key issues concerning the country.

In a recent interview with the Asian church news agency UCA News, Bishop Tong said he would use four words to describe Cardinal Zen's handling of Hong Kong and mainland church affairs and his fight for human rights and religious freedom: "wisdom, benevolence, courage and determination."

As a person of foresight, Cardinal Zen's prophetic voice has alerted and inspired the people, Bishop Tong added. In contrast, he described himself as a person who needs more time to observe and think over how to express his views in a wise way.

CRS leader cordial, modest and purpose-driven

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Talking as he leans over a hot cup of tea in the coffee shop of a Kansas City, Mo., hotel, Ken Hackett is cordial, modest and purpose-driven.

President of Catholic Relief Services since 1993, he’s viewed as an expert on global poverty and its ugly siblings, hunger and disease. His knowledge has been hard-earned; it comes, in part, from visiting the most forsaken spots on earth, where Catholic Relief Services is engaged.

He has seen far too many starving children to sleep well at night. His passion is to see the day the world finds the means — and most importantly the will — to eradicate hunger. He would like to see that day come before he shuts the door behind him at his job.

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July 18-31, 2014

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