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JosÈ Hobday, Native American spiritual author, dies

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Franciscan Sr. José Hobday, an influential spiritual lecturer, author and storyteller, died April 5 at age 80 at the Casa de la Luz Hospice in Tucson, Ariz.

Hobday, a Native American, thought that Christians have much to learn from the Native American tradition, including how to make prayer more creation-centered, how to have a greater appreciation of the connection between the living and the dead, how to love and respect silence and cherish solitude, and how to place a greater emphasis on celebration. Native Americans, she once said, have a tradition of creating sacred space within the natural environment and then "giving it back."

She also spoke of our need to cultivate a love for the land in order to stop the destruction of its beauty. She said she saw the Divine present in the people she met, ordinary people doing everyday things: an elderly woman with cancer, a supermarket worker, a truck driver, cowboys, policemen and especially the poor and downtrodden people of world.

She said her own mother showed courage in her life and dedicated her children to Mary.

Time cites nun among 100 most influential

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Sr. Mary Scullion, RSM, director of Project H.O.M.E., has been nominated as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2009. Project H.O.M.E. is a nonprofit organization that provides housing and services to chronically homeless women and men in Philadelphia. As noted in her listing in Time, Sr. Mary has helped reduce homeless rates in Philadelphia and more than 95 percent of those who cycle through her Project H.O.M.E. program have never again been forced to live on the streets, a success rate which has made the program a model for dozens of other U.S. cities.

Tom Roberts, NCR editor at large, visited Sr. Scullion and her Project HOME operation nearly a decade ago. The following story was published in December, 1999.

A sister's act brings a medieval saint to life again

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One of 24 children in a lively Italian family, Caterina Benincasa tangled with a feisty mother to become a lay Dominican and work with the poor in Siena, Italy. She comforted people dying of the plague, visited prisoners, traveled at the pope's behest and became famous for the letters she wrote to men and women of all walks of life.

One of nine children in a lively Irish family, Nancy Murray tangled with a feisty mother to become a Dominican sister and teach and work with the poor in Chicago. She attended people dying of cancer and AIDS, visited prisoners, traveled the world and then became famous for her one-woman performance as St. Catherine of Siena.

Tools for teaching healthy sexuality

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Coco McAtee works with children and parents, teaching human sexuality with an aim to instill confidence in parents' ability to educate their children and improve their family communication. A licensed clinical social worker based in Overland Park, Kan., McAtee is a mother of two and has been married for over 15 years. She brings her own Catholic roots and family experiences into her classes, which she gives in various interfaith settings in the Kansas City, Mo., area. This educator explains that parents who teach healthy sexuality should continue to have age-appropriate conversations with children in an open, honest and respectful manner. NCR editor Tom Fox recently interviewed McAtee about her work.

The Future Is Mestizo, The Future is Now

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My journey to the White House began Thanksgiving Day, 2006. My parents and I had just seen the movie “Bobby,” based on the life of Robert Kennedy. I walked out of the theater stunned. “Barack Obama will be our next president,” I said. “How do you know?” Dad asked. “I know it in my gut,” I said. “It’s like the ’60s. We’re in a quagmire of a war. Obama will pick up where Kennedy left off.”

Every Wednesday for the next two years, my family sat around my parents’ table to eat and talk politics. My sister, an attorney who has cracked her share of glass ceilings, endorsed Hillary Clinton. My brother, a frequent flier to Russia to lend his expertise on non-nuclear proliferation issues, imagined a dream ticket: Obama, as Clinton’s vice president, would have eight years to brush up on the basics.

My father urged us to back the favorite son, Gov. Bill Richardson. Mom hedged her bets. “They’re all good,” she said. My family turned to me. “Obama will be our next president,” I said, patting my stomach. “I feel it here.”

The faith and new mission of Tony Blair

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J.
His hair grayer and a bit thinner than one remembers from his decade in 10 Downing Street (1997-2007), former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, 55, still takes to an audience with the youthful passion and pursuit of persuasion he brought regularly to "Prime Minister's Question Time" during Parliament sessions or even to the royal household.

Those in America who did not know of his efforts to cajole Her Majesty into holding a public funeral for Princess Diana, when Diana died in a car crash in Paris three months after Blair took office, learned about it in the Oscar-winning film "The Queen."

A crime I did not commit

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For more than 10 years the idea of dying in prison for a crime I did not commit was not merely a random thought, it was a nightmare. I was serving two consecutive life sentences in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. There is no rehabilitation.

Like the 3,200-plus prisoners on death row and the thousands more serving life without the possibility of parole, my death by degrees in a California prison was almost guaranteed. I was a model prisoner, horrified when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied a stay of execution for Stanley "Tookie" Williams, one of the strongest cases of "redemption" the state of California has ever seen. Ironically, when Tookie died at the hands of the state Dec. 13, 2005, I was approaching the final months of my unlawful detention. I just didn't know that.

A historian's historian

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Visiting Kansas City, Mo., to give a lecture on World War I, John Lukacs is reading The New York Times when we meet. “It’s a chore -- reading the paper today,” says Mr. Lukacs, putting the newspaper down. “I read it with a slightly sickly feeling in my stomach. What’s in the paper has less and less to tell me that will interest me.”

At age 84, Mr. Lukacs can be forgiven a certain world-weariness. The author of 25 books, the Hungarian-born historian has spent a lifetime studying the condition of the world, a condition that does not generally improve much.

A family's conversion story

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“Never in a million years” could Kristi Jean Casteel have imagined that she would one day move from her nondenominational Protestant evangelical roots to the Roman Catholic church.

As he tells it, the odds weren’t much better for her husband, Rick.

But the couple, pulled along in the wake of the struggle and search that their son, Joshua, had gone through, eventually found themselves moving in the same direction, though sometimes for quite different reasons.

Once a soldier, now he's fighting Caesar

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Iowa City, Iowa -- The self-described Islamic jihadist sat across from Army Specialist Joshua Casteel in an interrogation room in Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison. He was not like so many others Casteel had dealt with, the ordinary Iraqis, innocents caught up in the confusion that followed the U.S. invasion.

The prisoner before him this day had already admitted that he’d come from Saudi Arabia to kill people like Casteel. He was soft-spoken, deliberate, intensely religious. He tried to convert his interrogator to Islam and drew him, against all the canons of interrogation, into an extended conversation about ethics and Christianity. “Coming from an evangelical background,” Casteel later wrote, “I felt in familiar territory, as if I were speaking simply to my Muslim counterpart.”

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