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December 30th, 2009
A pilgrimage for my two mothers

When I was ten, my favorite movie was Mary Poppins. As it begins, British siblings Jane and Michael Banks write an advertisement listing their requirements for a new nanny. Their father — a curmudgeon who prefers investment banking to parenting — shreds the heartfelt proposal, throwing it in the fireplace and into infinity. His children’s wishes reach Mary anyway; she sits perched contentedly in the sky, as if waiting for them. With the snap of her fingers, Mary Poppins could transform a routine bunch of chores on a mundane Monday into an eternal summer Sunday afternoon at the carnival. Truly, Mary was capable of the miraculous.
Twenty-five years later, I found myself seeking Mary again. This time,…

December 20th, 2009
We asked... and you came through

Wow, you guys are amazing!!
With the outpouring of support from Busted Halo readers earlier this month, on December 16 we found out that Tiyatien Health won the grand prize in the Ashoka Changemakers’ “Rethinking Mental Health” global competition. The competition drew over 340 submissions from 42 countries and sought the “best solutions to improve mental health in communities around the world.”
Dr. Patrick Lee, a friend of mine who is heading up this important project, said, “We were overjoyed by the outpouring of support from people around the world. You — our community of friends, families and colleagues — rapidly mobilized a global network of concern…

December 16th, 2009
A 10-year-old contemplates his religious identity

We were waiting for the bus. We were in Iowa for a month. We were there for the Iowa Writing Festival. My mom and dad were teaching classes. It was the third day of camp. My little sister had a friend to play with that lives in Iowa. It wasn’t fair! I had nobody to play with. This is my story.
It was a boring day as usual, with Chris and Tomas cracking jokes, Lauren and Taylor babbling their heads off to their friends about the daily gossip, and my friend Sarah silent like me. Then the yellow bus drove up with “Camp Otter” written on it in dark green letters. “All aboard!” screamed Alexander, the 26-year-old bus driver. All the little girls always blushed when he said “Hello, girls.”…

December 11th, 2009
"I thought I was coming here on vacation."

In this video, Benita discusses her background and the difficulties she faced growing up.…

December 9th, 2009
A forgotten incident in the life of St. Francis speaks volumes today

As the former city editor and senior religion writer for Newsday, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Paul Moses is well aware of what it takes to get the facts right on an important story. But when the story you’re researching is 800 years old, things can get pretty complicated. In the wake of September 11, Moses discovered a little-known episode in St. Francis of Assissi’s life in which he attempted to end the crusades by crossing enemy lines to gain an audience with the Sultan of Egypt.
In The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace…, Moses — now a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate School —

December 2nd, 2009
A sneak attack on my conscience while at the mall

There was something very Miracle on 34th Street… about Peoria’s new mall. Opening just before the holidays, the “open-air lifestyle center” promised to recreate the feel of shopping downtown. Separate strips of stores, like city blocks, angled about a plaza and a kids’ play park. Department store anchors mixed with eateries and boutiques, selling everything from three-piece suits to little girls’ camis, from bone china to Corelle ware, from gourmet coffee to chili dogs. You could even come out at night for dinner and a movie. Just like downtown.
I was visiting family after living five years in a small town in Louisiana, where I learned what downtown is. Downtown is Bertrand’s

December 1st, 2009
Can you spare three minutes to truly make a difference?

Consider this your invitation to join thousands of students already participating in American Idol for charities. It’ll take just a few minutes to vote, it’s absolutely free and it’s just a few mouse-clicks away to help save lives.
A close friend of mine, Dr. Patrick Lee, has dedicated his professional life to providing healthcare services and fundamental rights to the poor in developing nations. Currently, he serves as the Director of Chronic Diseases for Tiyatien Health in Liberia.
After two decades of civil war, more than 40 percent of Liberians suffer from major depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Up to 5 percent suffer from epilepsy. This fall, he and his organization…

November 17th, 2009
"This is music that I've created."

In this video, Walter talks about his love for creating music.
In video 4, Walter talks about how soccer has helped him cope with his immigration issues.
In video 3, Walter talks about the difficulties of facing an uncertain future.
In video 2, Walter talks more about how he did not know he was undocumented until he was applying for college.
In video 1, Walter explains how he was caught by ICE and detained for twenty day.…

November 11th, 2009
"Soccer is a way to escape."

In this video, Walter talks about how soccer has helped him cope with his immigration issues.
In video 3, Walter talks about the difficulties of facing an uncertain future.
In video 2, Walter talks more about how he did not know he was undocumented until he was applying for college.
In video 1, Walter explains how he was caught by ICE and detained for twenty day.…

November 9th, 2009
A reluctant Catholic goes to seminary

As a Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons has spent the past three years immersed in the academic study required of any man who will be ordained a Roman Catholic priest. During that time, Gibbons has written a lot about the experience, and his new blog, Kicking and Screaming… is an intimate look at the questions and doubts he’s struggled with over the past few years while studying for the priesthood, as well some of the answers he’s come up with along the way.
Now at the halfway point in his formation process, Tom’s blog will also be a window into what his life is like now that he’s outside the seminary classrooms doing hands-on ministry work at a parish in Austin, Texas. Gibbons’ blend of honesty

November 4th, 2009
A follow-up as the debate enters its final stage

Thousands of you read, responded to and shared my August piece about the health care debate and Catholicism. We are now in the final phase of the Congressional process and some things are clearer than they were then. Catholic Church leaders wanted undocumented immigrants included in the bill. They are not. Sadly, the Church stands almost alone among organizations in this country in its concern for the undocumented. They wanted universal coverage, and to the surprise of many, it looks like it will happen.
But, though the House bill does not fund or encourage abortion services, the bishops and most Catholics wanted specific language keeping abortion out of the bill entirely, and making it impossible for a future…

November 3rd, 2009
"My family has been trying to fix the issue."

In this video, Walter talks about the difficulties of facing an uncertain future.
In video 2, Walter talks more about how he did not know he was undocumented until he was applying for college.
In video 1, Walter explains how he was caught by ICE and detained for twenty day.…

October 20th, 2009
"I have no desire to be in this country."

In this final episode, Prerna talks about the repercussions of leaving Fiji and why she continues to stay and work in the U.S.
In video six, Prerna discusses the fallout with her family, community and school as a result of her new relationship.
In video five, Prerna discusses her first love while growing up in Fiji.
In video four, Prerna talks about her experience biking from Los Angeles to Berkeley, CA.
In video three, Prerna’s family is trying to avoid foreclosure on their home.
In video two, Prerna becomes an activist, a blogger and a volunteer.
In video one, we learn how Prerna, Fijian student, who was applying for residential paperwork, became the only undocumented member of her family.…

October 20th, 2009
"I was so numb that I couldn't even cry."

In this sixth video, Prerna discusses the fallout with her family, community and school as a result of her new relationship.
In video five, Prerna discusses her first love while growing up in Fiji.
In video four, Prerna talks about her experience biking from Los Angeles to Berkeley, CA.
In video three, Prerna’s family is trying to avoid foreclosure on their home.
In video two, Prerna becomes an activist, a blogger and a volunteer.
In video one, we learn how Prerna, Fijian student, who was applying for residential paperwork, became the only undocumented member of her family.…

October 16th, 2009
A Catholic Relief Services worker in Indonesia

I’m an information officer for Catholic Relief Services in Asia. This past month, we’ve had our hands full keeping up with the string of natural disasters that has hit the region. From my home base in Cambodia, I was sent to the Philippines to cover our response to severe flooding; then an earthquake hit Sumatra — one of the islands that make up Indonesia, so I caught a plane to Padang, the city closet to the quake’s epicenter.
I was new to extreme quake damage — its dangers and surprises. The first week of any emergency is usually the toughest; I’ve recorded my impressions of the experience.

Day One
The first sign of trouble is at the airport in Padang, Indonesia: there’s no water…

October 15th, 2009
"We fell in love with each other."

In this fifth video, Prerna discusses her first love while growing up in Fiji.
In video four, Prerna talks about her experience biking from Los Angeles to Berkeley, CA.
In video three, Prerna’s family is trying to avoid foreclosure on their home.
In video two, Prerna becomes an activist, a blogger and a volunteer.
In video one, we learn how Prerna, Fijian student, who was applying for residential paperwork, became the only undocumented member of her family.…

October 6th, 2009
The Biblical Thanksgiving

Each fall, Jews celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, named after the “huts” the Jewish people lived in during their 40 years in the wilderness. Sukkot begins on the night of the largest full moon of the year, the harvest moon. This year it began at sundown on Friday, October 2, and runs through October 10. As a celebration of the year’s largest harvest, Sukkot reminds us to give thanks. The American Pilgrims understood this biblical significance of Sukkot, and made it the basis for Thanksgiving.
Tradition calls us to “live” for a week in a sukkah (sukkot… is the plural form) — a hut, open to the sky, with some leaves for a roof. (Eating meals there can qualify for “living,”

October 6th, 2009
"You can't spell dream without drama"

In this fourth video, Prerna talks about her experience biking from Los Angeles to Berkeley, CA.
In video three, Prerna’s family is trying to avoid foreclosure on their home.
In video two, Prerna becomes an activist, a blogger and a volunteer.
In video one, we learn how Prerna, Fijian student, who was applying for residential paperwork, became the only undocumented member of her family.…

October 1st, 2009
A Catholic dog stirs imagination and caring in western North Carolina

A seeing eye puppy in training at church

My dog Lily is a therapy dog, meaning that she is trained to bring companionship to the lonely, comfort to the sorrowful and joy to the depressed, just for that moment. Together, we visit nursing homes, hospitals and other institutions where people may benefit from Lily’s presence.

Lily got a lot of her early training to be a therapy dog by going to weekday Mass with me as a puppy. Our little mountain parish in western North Carolina is small and everyone enjoys her presence. Lily learned how to greet friends nicely; how to wait to greet them until she was instructed to do so; how to sit quietly by my side; and how to stay while I went to communion. She doesn’t go on Sundays, just weekdays.

We leave Mass and go directly to the nursing home where we take communion to a few residents, and she visits everyone. Mass puts her in the right frame of mind and behavior for the visit — and I always said she carried an extra bit of grace with her. She’s been working about eight years.

We are always greeted enthusiastically at the nursing home — though with some odd misunderstandings. Our area is largely Baptist, and the presence of a Catholic dog can stir the imagination.

September 30th, 2009
Winning the battle over childhood obesity

It may have been the most incriminating moment of my childhood.
The culprit: one chubby eight-year-old (me).
The accomplice: a sympathetic classmate-slash-junk-food smuggler.
The goods: a bag of Doritos.
The teacher caught me — and the entire class’s attention — when she asked me to stop eating and turn to face her. “Krissy,” she said. “Your parents and your doctor don’t want you eating that.” Then, her words wailed in my ears like sirens:
“You’re on a diet.”
I dropped my head and rolled up the bag as the class stared in shock. Just like that, I was busted. Orange-handed.
My grandfather had just died. He and I had been super-close and without…

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