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NCR chooses 2011's person of the year

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The year 2011 offered the Catholic world a number of big news stories: the implosion of the church in Ireland; the first indictments of Catholic leaders, including a bishop, in the tragic clergy sex abuse saga; the initiation of reform movements by Catholics priests in Ireland, Austria, Germany, United States and Belgium; and the Vatican-forced implementation of the new Roman Missal.

Catholic school affordability: Progress made but still a long way to go

WASHINGTON -- When educational leaders look at ways to make Catholic schools more affordable, they are happy about some of the positive steps that have been made but fully aware that there is still a lot to do.

During a recent conference at The Catholic University of America, a group of panelists focused particularly on the status of tuition tax credits and how they have enabled students who would normally not be able to afford Catholic schools to attend them.

Currently, there are 11 school voucher programs in the United States and nine scholarship tax-credit programs. Some states have more than one program.

The school voucher programs in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Utah and the District of Columbia offer private school vouchers to low-income students, students with special needs or children in failing schools.

The scholarship tax-credit programs in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island also are primarily for students from low-income families or those with special needs.

Plans spring from Israeli invitation

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In June, Orli Gil, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, extended an invitation to 11 college presidents of U.S. Midwestern universities to spend a week in Israel. Gil, who is based in Chicago, described the Oct. 22-29 trip as an unparalleled opportunity for the university officials to meet high-level Israeli politicians and leaders of Israeli universities. The itinerary included opportunities to learn of some of the newest Israeli innovations in science, technology, research and development in medicine, alternative energy, agriculture and the environment. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored and underwrote the costs of the trip, except for each person’s airfare to New York City.

Fr. Thomas Curran, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales and president of Rockhurst University, a Jesuit school in Kansas City, Mo., accepted the invitation. Upon his return, Curran spoke with NCR about the trip.

Nurses don't have to assist in abortion in new hospital agreement

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NEWARK, N.J. -- A group of 12 nurses who sued the University Hospital in Newark over a policy requiring them to care for patients before and after abortions can no longer be compelled to assist in these procedures, under an agreement reached in federal court.

The nurses in the same-day surgery unit of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey can remain in their current jobs and will only be required to help patients with abortions in a life-threatening emergency when no other nonobjecting staff members are available and only until someone can be brought in to relieve them, according to the Dec. 22 agreement.

U.S. District Judge Jose Linares, who mediated the agreement, said the nurses would be allowed to remain in the unit and would not be discriminated against because of their stance on abortion. He declined to rule on how the hospital would configure its nursing staff, calling that a contract issue.

Linares will retain jurisdiction over the case to rule on its enforcement or any disputes that arise because of it.

Project focuses on reform of world's financial system

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The Center of Concern’s president, Jesuit Fr. Jim Hug, calls the Rethinking Bretton Woods project the “most sophisticated” of his agency’s four priority programs. The others are Ecology and Development, Education for Justice, and the Global Women’s Project.

Rethinking Bretton Woods is working to reform the national and global financial institutions and policies created at an international conference in 1944 in Bretton Woods, N.H., so that they better serve human rights and community well-being, Hug said. The project is in the capable hands of Argentine scholar and international lawyer Aldo Caliari. But Caliari is frequently away from his desk holding workshops with academicians, nongovernmental organizations, government officials and intergovernmental organization staff around the world.

Church says N.Y. woman is source of Blessed Marianne Cope's miracle

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A 65-year-old woman from Chittenango, N.Y., was inexplicably healed of pancreatitis in 2005, Catholic leaders say, and is the source of the second miracle that will make Blessed Mother Marianne Cope a new U.S. saint.

"I'm very happy to be here and I thank the Lord," Sharon Smith said Tuesday (Dec. 20) during a news conference at the Syracuse Motherhouse Chapel of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.

"I'm very happy to be Mother Marianne's vessel for her to become a saint,"
Smith said.

Franciscan leaders said sisters prayed for Cope's intercession on Smith's behalf.

According to The Associated Press, Smith was hospitalized for nearly a year after pancreatitis tore a hole between her intestines and stomach. A stranger in the hospital waiting room told Smith's friend to pray to Cope for help, said Sister Patricia Burkard, general minister of the Franciscan sisters.

In new book, Cardinal Wuerl encourages Catholics to challenge culture

WASHINGTON -- In his new book, "Seek First the Kingdom," Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl calls on Catholics to seek God's kingdom and then reflect it in their everyday lives.

When Catholics deepen their own faith, their hearts are transformed, and when they share it with others, they can change their community, their nation and their world, the cardinal wrote in his book, which is subtitled "Challenging the Culture by Living Our Faith."

"To be in the kingdom is to be with Christ always, and to be for Christ always, in season and out of season, in private and in public, on the job and on our days off," he wrote in the book, which was published in November by Our Sunday Visitor.

At a time when many people only know kingdoms from history, fairy tales and royal weddings, Cardinal Wuerl points out how God's kingdom "forms the heart of the Gospel," and as Pope Benedict XVI has noted, the phrase "the kingdom of God" appears 122 times in the New Testament, including in 90 quotes from Jesus in the Gospels.

From wheat to war -- a life for the poor

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Broken and Shared: Food, Dignity, and the Poor on Los Angeles' Skid Row
By Jeff Dietrich
418 pages, Marymount Institute Press, $29.95

If you are wandering in the 50-block area known as Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles and you ask directions to Hospitality Kitchen or where the Catholic Workers serve meals to the homeless, no one will know what you are talking about.

"This place," explains Catherine Morris, the gentle Catholic worker, "is and always has been known among the people as 'The Hippie Kitchen.' Since the beginning."

Catherine is author Jeff Dietrich's wife, who, together with various community members, has run the Catholic Worker Movement in Los Angeles since 1970. When NCR asked me to review Jeff Dietrich's book and attend the launch at Loyola Marymount University this past Sunday, I knew I needed to visit the kitchen to have an idea of their work in Los Angeles, a visit long overdue.

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March 27-April 9, 2015

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