Sunday, January 31, 2010

Susan Boyle wants to sing for Pope Benedict XVI when he's in Scotland

The following comes from the Daily Record:

SINGING sensation Susan Boyle wants to perform for the Pope when he visits Scotland.

The Britain's Got Talent winner, a devout Catholic, hopes organisers can make her dream come true when Benedict XVI arrives in September.

Simon Cowel l's brother and confidante Tony revealed her dream last night.

Tony, 59, who has worked closely with SuBo on the Everybody Hurts charity single for Haiti, said: "As Scotland's first lady, she is the obvious first choice.

"It would be a dream come true for her and I know she would drop everything if she was asked to perform for the Pope."

Susan, 48, has worshipped at Our Lady of Lourdes in Blackburn, West Lothian, since she was a child.

She still attends Mass at the church when her busy schedule allows. Parish priest Father Ryszard Holuka said it would be a great honour for the chart topper.

He said: "She is so busy but I'm sure she would love to sing for the Pope."

The Record yesterday broke the news of the first papal visit to Scotland since Pope John Paul II's historic Mass at Glasgow's Bellahouston Park in 1982.

Benedict XVI is expected to address thousands of worshippers at an open-air event at Glasgow Green, during his trip on September 16 and 17.

The Vatican have not yet confirmed the visit, though an announcement is due at the end of next month or early March.

It is hoped the prospect of singing for the pontiff will take SuBo's mind off a burglary bid on her Blackburn home.

SuBo is said to have been "terrified and hysterical" after a prowler broke in on Tuesday night just weeks after a similar disturbance.

Tony said the star was being well looked after by Simon's team to help her feel more secure.

He added: "She is being cossetted at the moment and we are all delighted to be able to help her out."

Hat tip to Spirit Daily on this one.

Saints Super Bowl Prayer

I found the following prayer for the New Orleans Saints on

Good and gracious God,

just as the nation of Israel stood on the banks of the river Jordan, we the Who Dat Nation now stand on the banks of the Mississippi, filled with joyful anticipation. We stand on these banks looking back from whence we came. Although we do not share a history of slavery in Egypt, we do share a common history of pain and heartache.

We remember the National Football League Season of 1980 and our downtrodden days of 1-and-15. We repent for our shameful past of wearing bags on our heads, forgetting that you were on our side. We recall the days when instead of looking forward to the playoffs, we could only look at each other and tearfully say, "Wait 'til next year."

Indeed, we have been through a long journey through the desert of athletic despair. But as we stand on these banks today, we know that our days in the desert are over.

Just like the Hebrew children, our 40 years of wandering in the desert have come to an end. With eyes of faith, we can see the promised land! We can taste the Super Bowl! And, yes Lord, we believe.

Lord, it is our time to claim the blessings that you promised our ancestors. In the name of Hap Glaudi, Jim Finks and Buddy Diliberto we now claim our rightful place among the elite teams in the NFL.

Through the prayers and guidance of our elders Tom and Gayle Benson, and the leadership of Rita Benson LeBlanc, we have become the strong nation that you, our God, have always intended us to be.

We, the Who Dat Nation, are ready to do what was often considered impossible. We are ready to march around the city of New Orleans, as Joshua marched around Jericho. We are ready to band together in a spirited dance, as David did in Jerusalem. We are ready to walk together united, as the Israelites walked across the dry bed of the river Jordan. But, we need you to hold back the waters of doubt, just as you held back the waters of the Jordan.

Endowed with Your amazing grace, we formally begin our march to the Super Bowl!

With the faith of our ancestors, we call down the power of God to strengthen our players and coaches.

With the courage of our elders, we call down the protection of the angels to guard them from major injuries.

With four decades of hope, we call down the presence of the heavenly saints to lead the New Orleans Saints onto the battlefield of the gridiron.

We thank you for giving us a taste of what is to come. But, now we are ready for the banquet. We have proven ourselves worthy of your grace.Now, through your providence, may we, the Who Dat Nation, finally reach the Promised Land.


The Rev. R. Tony Ricard

Pastor, Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish

In the Silence of Our Hearts

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Have a Coke and a Smile

US Bishops: Coherent strategy needed for Haiti relief

The following comes from the CNA:

The United States needs a “long-term coherent strategy” for recovery, development, and anti-poverty efforts in Haiti after its devastating earthquake, Bishop of Albany Howard J. Hubbard has said in a letter to U.S. political leaders.

Bishop Hubbard’s comments came in a Jan. 26 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk.

Writing as the chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace, he said the USCCB welcomed President Obama’s “leadership and compassion on behalf of the American people.”

He noted the president had appointed Administrator Raj Shah to coordinate the U.S. government’s response and also had invited President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush to lead a bipartisan relief effort.

He added that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) took “immediate” steps to respond to the conference and the USCCB took up a special collection for relief efforts after the disaster.

Bishop Hubbard advised that different government agencies should be coordinated in a “comprehensive approach” that engages other groups with expertise and experience in Haiti. The bishop recommended debt relief, trade preferences, extension of protected status for Haitians living the United States, and sustained development assistance as part of the aid strategy.

“When the international community and Haitians move beyond the most urgent aspects of the emergency, we urge a substantial and sustained commitment by the U.S. Government to provide long-term funding for reconstruction and poverty reduction,” he continued.

“At the same time, our nation should work to support and strengthen the role of the Haitian Government and institutions in the reconstruction and long-term development of their nation.”

The letter closed by thanking the U.S. leaders and pledging the bishops’ assistance.

“Be assured that the Conference of Bishops and Catholic Relief Services are also doing everything possible to act in solidarity with the people and Church in Haiti at this time of terrible loss and suffering.”

You are the man!

No sleep, little aid: Salesian nun pleads for more help for Haitians

The Salesian Sisters make a plea for more aid in Haiti. Let's not forget the tremendous needs of the people. The following comes from the CNS:

Sister Maria Sylvita Elie hasn't eaten all day, and the tiredness shows on her face as she pleads with a Brazilian nongovernmental organization for some tents for the homeless families who have camped out on the convent patio of her religious order, the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco.

Tents are in short supply in the Haitian capital these days, and she has to argue forcefully. Her persistence finally pays off, and she fills her pickup with two loads of tents.

"I'm going to hide them until dark, otherwise people will swarm all over us to get them. After it's dark I'll give them quietly to families that have small children," said Sister Sylvie, as she's known.

A Salesian nun who lives in one of the roughest areas of Port-au-Prince, Sister Sylvie has been sleeping under the stars since the Jan. 12 quake collapsed most of the church sanctuary and other buildings they used for educating neighborhood children.

"We're a center of reference for the community, and people come to us for help in solving their problems. Our job is to find the resources and people to solve those problems," she told
Catholic News Service.

That has not been an easy task. With the exception of frequent shipments of medical supplies and food from her congregation's sisters in the neighboring Dominican Republic, few relief supplies have arrived here.

"While the people are dying, the international organizations are passing their time in meetings, in studies and planning. People fly around in helicopters looking at us, making the houses shake once again. But while they're planning, the people are dying. We've now gone more than two weeks without any help, and they haven't contacted those of us who could be most helpful in organizing the people. We've got to make the solidarity more concrete. We need fewer studies and plans while the people suffer and die," she said, beginning to cry.

"I'm sorry," she said after a moment. "But this is urgent."

Sister Sylvie's complex, now a collection of jumbled buildings around a patio filled with makeshift shelters, sits at the confluence of the Haitian capital's three most notorious neighborhoods: La Saline, Cite Soleil, and Belair. Before the quake, the seven sisters here ran a primary school and a jobs training program for more than 1,000 youths. Their special passion, however, was a residential school with 96 young women students. Sister Sylvie, who is 62, was in that building, walking down a hallway, when the quake struck.

"The building started shaking and I found a column and hugged it. The bottom of the column came loose from the floor and it started dancing around, but I asked God for mercy and held on. I heard the cries of the students who were studying.

"The building started to fall on one sister, and the girls screamed louder, but the wall stopped before it fell over completely on the sister, and the girls dragged her outside, where I found them on the patio. Since then we've been sleeping on the patio, with no wall to separate the convent from the street. I sleep covered with a towel from UNICEF," she said.

The two-story residential school didn't collapse, but it has huge cracks, and Sister Sylvie gives a visiting reporter a hurried tour of the ground floor. School papers still lie on desks and the floor. Everything is covered with a fine dust and chunks of walls and ceiling material that shook loose in the quake.

Sister Sylvie has obtained water from the Brazilian nongovernmental organization down the street, which also gave her the tents, donated by Norwegian Church Aid. She spends part of each day sorting the food and medicines that come from the Dominican Republic, shipping most off to other parishes where her congregation is serving similar homeless populations.

"I can't explain how the people have survived. The international community hasn't done much for them. We have to buy rice and beans and cooking gas, which is much higher priced now, and we have to try to control who gets in here. People wander the streets looking for something to drink and eat. People are getting frustrated; they're angry and will easily start shouting at you," she said.

She says she's particularly worried that the end of the month is approaching. With no work there will be no pay.

"I can't get that out of my head. Besides dealing with all the material needs, how do I lift up the faith of the community? How are they supposed to go out to animate and cheer up the groups? These questions won't let me rest. I didn't really sleep until two nights ago, when I finally collapsed. People told me the next day my face looked better," she said.

An aftershock rattles the ground. Sister Sylvie stops for a moment, staring straight ahead. Then she breathes again.

"Despite all our difficulties, the people have an extraordinary faith. Since the moment the earth started shaking they called out to Jesus to save them," she said. "It has been like a permanent retreat around here. The people don't sleep. They lie awake and pray. And they sing with even more faith than before. They don't see this as a curse, but know that the Lord wants to tell us something."

For now, Sister Sylvie worries about restarting her educational programs. Along with the damaged residential building, many of the other classrooms have collapsed.

"The government says we're going to have to reopen the schools. But our classrooms are under the rubble. I don't know when we'll be able to start classes again. Nor do I know what the students will do in the meantime," she said.

"Some of our people, including some of our students, are leaving the city, going to the countryside. But that's not the best solution. They're just going to make life in the countryside difficult for the people who already live there," she said.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Salesians and the Haitian Relief Effort

Here is the latest from our Salesian relief efforts in Haiti:

Fr. Mark Hyde, SDB (Mission Procure) is making another visit to Port-au-Prince on Friday, Jan. 29.

As of Jan. 26, the Salesians in Haiti are providing shelter to about 13,500 Haitians left homeless from the earthquake (approximately 6,500 in Carrefour-Thorland and 7,000 in Pétion-Ville). This doesn’t count what the FMAs are doing at their schools. Survivors are finding shelter in the limited number of facilities which remain standing, in makeshift tents, or in one of the more than 800 tents have been distributed by the Salesians. Currently, staff at the Salesian Missions headquarters in New Rochelle is working to secure an additional 2,000 six-man tents for distribution to the homeless.

In a true show and spirit of cooperation and solidarity, the Salesians in Germany and Austria are sending two 40-foot containers with 1,600 “schools in a box” kits, enough for 72,000 students. This is in preparation for makeshift schools (when deemed appropriate). Prior to the earthquake, Salesian Missions (N.R.) funded schools to these children. Every effort is being made to re-establish this as soon as possible, as well as attend to the more urgent, life-saving needs.

On Jan. 27 the Sandals Foundation has pledged $35,000 to Salesian Missions for its Haiti Relief Efforts (details to come).
After consultation with the SDBs of Haiti, the Emergency Response Team expects to carry out an assessment and identification of needs in the areas of water and sanitation infrastructure that can be turned into “shelf projects” for financing.

Fr. Joseph Simon, SDB, is receiving direct assistance in the form of a 40-kw generator for the street children program in Pétion-Ville.

Transition from emergency relief to reconstruction is expected to begin shortly after the flow of food assistance begins to normalize, which in turn is expected to happen a week or so after 40-foot containers of food assistance and other needed relief emergency items donated by Cross International begin to arrive in Santo Domingo for repacking and transport to Port-au-Prince. In the meantime, a continued food assistance bridge is in full swing with foodstuffs being purchased in the Dominican Republic.

Associazione Missioni Don Bosco from Turin has offered to defray the cost of buying and delivering some 2,000 urgently needed tents for Port-au-Prince. Salesian Missions (N.R.) is trying to find them; it’s a large number to find in stock.

NFC Championship Game Vikings at Saints Miked-Up

This is awesome!

Payton vs Reggie

Congressman Cao Reads Speech and a Prayer for the Saints on the House Floor

Recently, Congressman Cao's Office asked schools in his district if the Saints had an impact on education at their institutions. Kay Higginbotham responded with the following and he read her response on the floor of the House last night.

Here is the now retired 96 year old Archbishop Hannan at the Monday Night Football Game in the Dome vs Dallas:

And here is the original prayer from 1968:

God, we ask your blessing upon all who participate in this event, and all who have supported our Saints. Our Heavenly Father, who has instructed us that the "saints by faith conquered kingdoms... and overcame lions," grant our Saints an increase of faith and strength so that they will not only overcome the Lions, but also the Bears, the Rams, the Giants and even those awesome people in Green Bay.

May they continue to tame the Redskins and fetter the Falcons as well as the Eagles. Give to our owners and coaches the continued ability to be as wise as serpents and simple as doves, so that no good talent will dodge our draft. Grant to our fans perseverance in their devotion and unlimited lung powered, tempered with a sense of charity to all, including the referees.
May our beloved "Bedlam Bowl" be a source of good fellowship and may the "Saints Come Marching In" be a victory march for all, now and in eternity.

Goodness in a Time of Evil

Charles Colson is a great Christian writer and always has insight. This is a great story of hope in the darkness. The following comes from Catholic Exchange:

In 2005, the United Nations designated January 27 as an annual day of commemoration for the victims of the Nazi regime. They chose the 27th because on this day in 1945, the Soviet army liberated Auschwitz. Most know the grim tales of what happened in Nazi death camps only too well—six million Jews killed, the gas chambers, the crematoriums, forced labor.

But while the horrors of concentration camps in Nazi Germany may be familiar, what happened to Jews in concentration camps at the same time in Mussolini’s Italy is not.

For Elizabeth Bettina, the story also would have been unknown had it not been for one intriguing photograph of her grandparents’ wedding in the early ‘40s in the tiny village of Campagna, Italy. There in the photo of her Catholic grandparents amidst a priest, some police officers, and other smiling wedding guests, stood an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi.

Bettina couldn’t stop wondering about it. How could it be that a rabbi would be standing near smiling people, including police officers, during World War II in Mussolini’s Italy? That photo launched her on a journey that would be life changing, which she recounts in her new book, It Happened in Italy.

Bettina soon learned that one of several Italian concentration camps was located in Campagna. But this concentration camp was so different to those of Nazi Germany that the resemblance stopped at the name.

In her book, Bettina interviews several survivors. They each say they were treated humanely in the Italian camps. They were well-fed and well-dressed. In Campagna, for instance, they were free to come and go, so long as they were present for roll call in the morning and in the evening when the doors of the camp closed.

When Italy surrendered to the Allies, the Germans acted quickly to deport Italian Jews to death camps in Germany. But many Italians rose up to protect the Jews from that horrible fate.

In fact, one man, an Italian police official, Giovanni Palatucci—known as the Italian Schindler—played a major role in saving thousands of Jews. When the Germans tried to deport the Jews in Italy, Palatucci hid the list of names from the Nazis. He supplied false documents to help many leave Italy, and others he hid with his uncle, a bishop.

When the Nazis figured out what Palatucci had done, they sent him to Dachau, where on February 10, 1945, he died the death he had saved so many Jews from. “Greater love hath no man than this…” Israel has acknowledged Palatucci as one the “Righteous among the Nations” for his deeds.

Bettina writes, “This story of goodness in a time of evil must be told.” She’s right. It Happened in Italy is a great reminder that the kind of evil we saw happen in Nazi Germany only happens when individuals participate, or choose to turn a blind eye.What happened in Italy, however, reminds us that in evil times, those who serve the cause of life can write a different kind of story. If the phrase “Never again” is to be true, that’s a lesson each of us needs to learn and re-learn.

A Near Occassion of Sin

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saints symbol of pride for rebuilding city

The following is a story by Jason Cole from Yahoo Sports:

This is where the role of impartial journalist gives way to humanity.

Some 200 people are gathered Sunday morning at St. David’s Catholic Church on St. Claude Avenue in the Lower Ninth Ward. The church has been rebuilt in the more than four years since Hurricane Katrina hit. But for all the clean tiles, freshly painted walls and clean brick exterior, St. David’s is a shadow of its old self.

Debris inside a Lower Ninth Ward home in 2009, which had not been touched since Katrina struck. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

Behind the church stands its former school building, which is still a windowless shell, the inside blown out by flood water. Across St. Claude toward the Mississippi River, the neighborhood is a ghost town. Just about every other house remains shuttered with plywood windows, waiting to be rebuilt or demolished.

That’s the good part of the ward, where the water hit about eight or nine feet high. Roughly a half-mile in the other direction, across Claiborne Avenue toward where levees snapped, the neighborhood is all but gone, falling under some 15 feet of water as the result of the overflow from the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Canal.

It’s as if the houses were fallen leaves on a driveway, swept away by a giant broom. The only sign there were once homes in this part of the ward is the occasional stone slab for a foundation. Or steps that lead to nowhere but up. Or maybe a chain-link fence that still stands, surrounding nothing.

The streets are mostly a wreck. Giant potholes and divots big enough for small animals to hide in are scattered about. The roads also undulate worse than some of the damaged roofs, dipping and diving because the weight of the flood water changed the stability of the soft, sediment-based ground. Driving on some of the streets is an off-road experience.

This scene isn’t restricted to the Lower Ninth Ward. It’s repeated in places like St. Bernard Parish to the east and in Gentilly to the north, closer to now-ominous Lake Pontchartrain.

When you take it all in as you address those 200 people – many of them dressed in a New Orleans Saintsjersey for Sunday service – explaining why you’re visiting their church hours before the NFC championship game, professional objectivity is washed away. You stare at the curious faces, many of them looking worn and weary from the years of rebuilding, and there is only one thing you can say as you finish.

Go Saints!

Party time

Like so many Saints fans, Deandra and Milton Carr held a party Sunday at their home on Charbonnet Street. As 40 to 50 people gathered at their pretty brick home, complete with new cabinets and a matching hardwood floor, it was a chance to celebrate two momentous occasions.

Saints fans had plenty to cheer after their team beat the Vikings in overtime 31-28. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

First and foremost, there was the Saints game, where New Orleans broke 43 years of frustration by beating the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in overtime to make their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Second, this was the Carrs’ first party in more than four years, a “house warming” of sorts, the 56-year-old Milton said. As residents of the Lower Ninth Ward for some 25 years, the Carrs used to entertain this many family and friends five or six times a year.

“I’m not a big football fan, I’m just really learning the game,” said Deandra, 54, who has a small Saints flag attached to the window of her car. She described that life here is now “tolerable.” As she spoke, she pointed to a set of cars roughly 25 yards from her front door where she suspected a drug deal was going down.

“We can’t depend on the city to help us right now,” she said. “It’s still too hard. … But [the Saints game] puts a smile on your face and helps you forget the day-to-day problems.”

“This was known as the service area of the city way back when,” Milton said. It’s the area where the maids and butlers and other people who worked on the other side of town years ago made their home. It’s about two miles around the bend of the Mississippi from the French Quarter in an area also known as the “Back-O-Town” to locals.

For the Carrs, it was a place where they were surrounded by family. Six of the nine homes on this block of Charbonnet used to house relatives. Only three of the six have family now.

Moreover, the rituals that used to bond the family are gone. Every Thursday used to be lawn-cutting day. As the men in the families returned from work, they would one-by-one grab a mower or edger or whatever other tool and pitch in to trim the yards of all six houses. When they were done, the men would gather in the carport behind the Carrs’ house and drink beer as they relaxed.

Despite the neighborhood’s reputation for crime even before Katrina, it used to look like one big-time party. From orange to pink to purple to green, the vibrantly painted homes of the Lower Ninth Ward used to reflect the splashy spirit of New Orleans. There was pride in this area because it was mostly family-owned – not an oversized rental community like so many poor neighborhoods.

After the disaster, the interesting colors that made the area unique were gone, covered in the greenish gray mud that was left after the flood. Now, the colors are slowly starting to come back.

Put the emphasis on slowly.

FEMA trailer outside a New Orleans home in December 2009, more than four years after Katrina. (AP Photo/Cheryl Gerber)

“You had to scrub that stuff off by hand and it took forever,” Milton said, describing the process of removing mud and painting over the house’s beams in order to prevent mold growth. It took him and three other men from his family four days to do one house. It was obvious they needed help.

“Some people were upset with the Hispanics who came in here to do all the work, but I’m not one of them,” said Carr, who is black. “We needed them. We didn’t have people here to do it.”

Most families in this part of town couldn’t afford to return, the challenge of rebuilding too overwhelming to consider. Throw in dishonest contractors and other scam artists said to take advantage of the situation and the frustration was too much.

Deandra said others lost their homes because of paperwork. As houses were passed from generation to generation in this area, the paperwork wasn’t always done. In the aftermath of Katrina, the city apparently claimed the property.

But mostly, it’s just too hard to come back. Some of the Carrs’ family is in Houston still, where they fled initially after the hurricane’s damage left the ward flooded for months. Some are in Dallas.

Milton is a trained electrician, a former union president at Domino Sugar and serves as a tour guide. As a fifth-generation native, Carr can talk in vivid detail about every part of the city. He used to have family everywhere around town, making mid-day pit stops an easy routine.

That’s gone, but Milton flashes an optimistic smile through it all. He is the embodiment of the sign posted on St. Claude Avenue, just as cars cross over the bridge into the ward.

“Welcome to the Lower Ninth Ward. Remember Our Past. Celebrate Our Future.”

Go Saints!

The calling

Saints quarterback Drew Brees(notes) often talks about the calling he felt when he got to New Orleans during a free agent visit in March 2006. Like coach Sean Payton, running back Reggie Bush(notes) and many other members of the team, Brees has been a beacon of hard work in a city where the job is years away from being complete.

Brees helps repair a home in the Ninth Ward in May ’07. ( AP Photo/Bill Haber)

Brees has helped reopen a school in the area and works with a group of local businessmen to come up with more ideas for rebuilding the city. He even bought a damaged home in the Garden District, he and his wife eating off folding chairs and trays for nearly two years before the house was complete. In the grand scheme of things, it was a minor frustration.

“I tried to look a lot deeper than just on the surface,” Brees said. “Coming to a team that had struggled a little bit coming off a 3-13 season [in 2005]. Obviously they had been displaced to San Antonio and played home games all over the place – Baton Rouge, San Antonio, you name it. And you’re coming back to a facility that had been used by the Coast Guard and the government as kind of a staging ground for rescue missions and everything.

“You’re looking around at a lot of the neighborhoods and there are still boats in living rooms and trucks flipped upside down on top of houses. Some houses just off the foundation and totally gone. You just say, ‘Man, what happened here? It looks like a nuclear bomb went off.’ For me, I looked at that as an opportunity. An opportunity to be part of the rebuilding process. How many people get that opportunity in their life to be a part of something like that?”

That is a noble sentiment and a wonderful rallying message. In turn, the folks in this town have taken to Brees and the high-flying Saints during this historic season. At Casamento’s Restaurant in the Garden District, five-time oyster-shucking champion Mike Rogers wears a T-shirt that says “LaBreesiana” boldly across the front. Brees’ name is everywhere, including on some religious symbols.

But the symbolism of what the Saints have done in returning here and succeeding in the aftermath of the worst natural-driven disaster in the country’s history is deeper. For a time, many people in the city thought the Saints were going to leave and even the team itself considered that an option.

Instead, the team has returned and is thriving more than it ever has. The sometimes comical days of the old Saints have been replaced by a picture of success. By something that is called super.

Father Louis Couvillon, 64, made note of that several times as he gave his sermon Sunday at St. David’s.

“We are one as a community, together pulling for the Saints. Go Saints,” Couvillion told his audience.

Afterward, Couvillion explained the bigger picture as he sees it.

“There’s a corporate identification with the Saints that people both inside and outside identify with the city,” Couvillion said. “When we see the Saints succeed, we feel as a city that we can succeed and people outside see that we can succeed. We identify with success, with rebuilding and carrying on against what nature did to this area.

“It is a symbol and just a symbol. If the Saints lose, the sun will come up the next day and the city will go on … but it has become a feel-good story for the people here. There’s a parallel between the lack of success of the team and the reputation of the city. The city has a reputation of being a loser, of being corrupt, incompetent and ineffective. People need any kind of sign or symbol that otherwise is possible.”

Go Saints!

Rich Mullins on assertiveness and sensationalism

Faith, Football and Drew Brees

Tantum Ergo

Salesians around the world

We Salesians are in 130 countries around the world. Don Bosco's dream continues! The following comes from the Salesian News Agency:

Presented yesterday, 25 January, the statistical data of the Salesian Congregation updated to 31 December 2009. Salesians in the world (including Bishops and Novices) are 15.952.
Among the subjects dealt with by the General Council at the end of their winter plenary session was also a study of the statistics regarding the Congregation updated to 31 December 2009.

From the information sent in from the 92 Provinces and Vice Provinces as the religious geographical areas are called in which the Congregation is organised, it emerges that in the world professed Salesians (including Bishops) are 15,465. The number of novices present in the novitiates at the end of December 2009 was 487. The complete number (professed + novices) is 15,952, -142 with respect to 2008.

In detail, the perpetually professed are 13,084, (including the Bishops), the Salesians in temporary vows are 2,381.

The newly-professed Brothers in 2009 were 39, the equivalent of 8.95% of the total number of the newly-professed in the year. The number of newly ordained priests in 2009 was 195.

Considering the Regions, made up of a number of Provinces and Vice Provinces, there has been a noticeable increase in the South Asia Region. There was also an increase in the Africa-Madagascar Region. The East Asia–Oceania Region is almost unchanged. The other Regions all experienced falls in their numbers, more marked in those for Europe.

There are 92 Provinces and Vice Provinces, one less than in 2008 since the Vice Province of Canada (CAN) became part of the East United States Province (SUE). The Salesians of Don Bosco are present in 130 countries. In the course of 2009 Bangladesh was added although it has not yet been canonically erected.

I actually ran across this first at Spirit Daily.

Tim Tebow and the Pro-Life Superbowl Ad

God bless the Tebow family and God bless their witness for the Pro-Life message. The following comes from ABC:

The University of Florida campus is slowly catching wind of Tim Tebow’s decision to star in a Super Bowl ad slated to air on CBS on Feb. 7, and some say the ad’s message is bound to spark controversy.

The ad spot was purchased by Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization that places emphasis on marriage and parenthood.

The Associated Press reported this week that the ad’s theme will be “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life,” with Pam Tebow sharing the story of her difficult 1987 pregnancy -- instead of getting an abortion she decided to give birth to Tebow, the now-famous quarterback who went on to become a Heisman Trophy winner, leading the Gators to two BCS wins.

Gary Schneeberger, Focus on the Family spokesman, told ABC News he couldn’t comment on the content of the ad. However, he said his organization has always viewed the Tebows as “strong, committed Christians” who have inspirational family stories to tell.

“It seemed like a natural partnership, and we were fortunate enough that they agreed,” Schneeberger said.

CBS is reportedly selling Super Bowl ads for around $2.5 million to $2.8 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence, a company that tracks ad spending.

“Once we explained what we were hoping to accomplish, a strong handful of committed friends provided funding for the airtime,” Schneeberger said. He said he has seen the ad, and he would not label it as political or controversial.

“Our goal is to create awareness for who we are as a family-help ministry and help folks who are watching come to us if they’re struggling in their marriage or struggling raising their children,” he said.

Tebow’s decision to play a role in an ad sponsored by a conservative group suggets he'll take a political stance.

“It’s a big coming-out party for Tim Tebow in terms of moving from athletic superstar to the political realm,” said Daniel Smith, UF associate professor of political science and faculty adviser to Gators for Choice.

Once the ad airs on national television, it might cause some interesting discussions on college campuses while also rallying the pro-choice community, Smith added. The commercial's content might also have an effect on Tebow’s fan base.

“When you are an athlete and you put yourself out in the public sphere when it comes to politics, you have a good chance of alienating half your fan support,” Smith said.

He noted Tebow wasn't political while he was a collegiate athlete. For example in 2008 Tebow chose not to endorse a presidential candidate. Also, Smith pointed out that many of Tebow’s eye black biblical verses promoted generic positive thinking rather than polarizing statements.

“Whoever wants to pay for an ad during the Super Bowl should be able to do so,” he said. “It’s more interesting that Focus on the Family was able to convince Tim Tebow to promote their organization and their issues.”

Camille Jacobs, a UF junior and member of Campus Crusade for Christ, said she was excited to hear that Tebow has this opportunity.

“He’s just standing up for what he believes in,” Jacobs said, “and no matter what you believe in, it’s going to be controversial.”

She said students of the Gator Nation will probably be behind him “whether they’re Christian or not.”

“He wouldn’t say things just because it kind of sounds good or will stir up trouble,” she said. “People know he’s speaking straight from the heart.”

Karen Middlekauff, a UF law student and the president of Outlaw, an organization for College of Law LGBT students, said she believes that Tebow is still a representative of UF, and he has chosen to represent a viewpoint that shouldn’t be associated with the university.

“Focus on the Family is a very well-known group for speaking out against LGBT issues,” she said. “A lot of people know that.”

The commercial is also highlights the strength of Tebow’s religious beliefs, something the general public may not be aware of, she said.

“The UF community itself knows that he is very religious and he’s done a lot of humanitarian work,” Middlekauff said. “I don’t know if the public knows that. They’ll know after this.”

AC Stokes, the UF director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, said Tebow is probably aware that he is being used for a political purpose and that he will now be associated with Focus on the Family’s viewpoints.

“I got a call from an alumnus that was pretty outraged by the fact that Tim Tebow was going to be in this commercial,” Stokes said.

Ben Anderson, president of UF Christian Campus House activities, however, released a statement saying that the advertisement has a deeper message: “I find it interesting that this ad would receive controversy, when in fact it is simply an amazing story of a mother and child overcoming the odds against them. Would there be controversy if the story were being told by a mother and child not publicly proclaiming Christ? I do not know, but I suspect not as much.”

CBS spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs said CBS has reviewed the ad script, but she was unable to confirm if CBS employees have viewed the actual commercial.

She said the script met CBS’s standards.

CBS also released a statement that read: “Our standar
ds and practices process continues to adhere to a policy that ensures all ads, on all sides of an issue, are appropriate for air."