Name tags go high-tech in Gambrills

Visitor name tag from School of the Incarnation, Gambrills.

Last week, while spending some time at School of the Incarnation in Gambrills for a heart-warming story on homeless outreach, I was amazed by the Anne Arundel County school’s snazzy system for admitting visitors.

As soon as I was buzzed in, I was asked to present my driver’s license – which a receptionist electronically swiped and used to print out a name tag with an image from my license, along with the date and time I checked in and the purpose of my visit.

What I didn’t know, but was later told by Lisa Shipley, principal, was that each time the driver’s licenses of visitors are swiped, a computerized system instantly checks the sex offenders registry to see if any names match. Using a software program called “Raptor,” the system instantaneously notifies the school of potential problems.

“Parents are very happy with it,” Shipley said. “It’s an extra measure of security.”

Should the system identify a sexual offender, an alert is sent to Shipley’s cell phone and other responders. School officials immediately notify the police. The system also has a customizable feature so that if a certain parent does not have custody of his or her child, the school will know if that person is attempting to pick up that student.

Incarnation began using Raptor this year. The software costs between $400-$500 annually, plus expenses for the label printer and labels. In addition to driver’s licenses, it can scan passports and other government identity cards.

Shipley noted that the school has not had any problems with someone coming on campus who should not be there. The system cross checks birth dates and addresses so that those with common names are not misidentified. Photos of sex offenders with the same name as a visitor are shown on the school’s computer screen as another visual aid for confirming a person’s identity. Once a parent or other adult is scanned in the system, he or she does not have to provide the license again since the information is kept on file to be re-scanned with a bar code.

“Our staff uses it to sign in and out,” Shipley said. “It’s nice because we can see who is in our building at any time – staff or visitors.”

Sounds like a pretty good system to me.


Church leaders not sitting on sidelines in MD gay marriage debate

Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, speaks in support of traditional marriage during a Nov. 30 press conference at First Apostolic Faith Church International in Baltimore. (CR Staff/George P. Matysek Jr.)

There’s no doubt that same-sex marriage is going to be the hot-button issue in Annapolis next year.

Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, a Catholic, has already said he will sponsor  legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland – sparring with Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien over his high-profile attempt to fundamentally alter the definition of marriage.

Gay marriage came close to passing last session, but was ultimately defeated on the last day of the session after the state’s interfaith leaders made a push against the controversial measure.

Religious leaders plan to do even more in the coming 90-day legislative session that begins Jan. 11.

During a press conference last week at the First Apostolic Faith Church International in Baltimore, people of many faiths – Catholics, Protestants, Jews and others – came together to announce the formation of the nonpartisan Maryland Marriage Alliance. They promised they will not sit still as the governor tries to push gay marriage through the General Assembly.

Two speakers struck me with a message that combined tough resolve with respect for all people.

Bishop Angel Nuñez of the Bilingual Christian Church in Baltimore called out the governor by name, noting that the governor’s “pretty words” will not change the fact that marriage is between one man and one woman. Bishop Nuñez went on to address what he believes true tolerance is about.

“Traditional tolerance respects and accepts the individual without necessarily approving of or participating in his or her beliefs and behavior,” he said. “That is what we have done and will continue to do.”

Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, echoed that point, noting that no one supports discrimination against homosexuals. The current laws of Maryland, she said, “reflect an appropriate balance between preserving the special role of traditional marriage in the creation and upbringing of our future generations of children, and the granting of rights to other committed couples.”

“It is not discrimination to treat fundamentally different things differently,” Russell said.

You can hear the statements of Bishop Nuñez and Russell below.  Also, Russell will be giving a Theology on Tap presentation tonight at the Greene Turtle in Fells Point regarding same-sex marriage in Maryland.  There’s more information here.

This is just the beginning of what is going to be a very passionate debate over the next several months.  If gay marriage is signed into law, it will surely go to referendum.  What’s your opinion?

Bishop Angel Nuñez:

Mary Ellen Russell:

 

 


Community life inspires ‘miracle man’

Redemptorist Father John Murray walks outside his residence in Ephrata, Pa. (CR/Clare Becker)

Redemptorist Father John Murray is convinced he’s a walking miracle.

After suffering a fall that left him paralyzed from the chest down, the former pastor of St. Mary in Annapolis and St. Wenceslaus in Baltimore began praying for Blessed Francis X. Seelos – a former St. Mary’s pastor – to intercede on his behalf. As noted in this upcoming story in The Catholic Review, Father Murray is now walking on his own and will soon receive his first priestly assignment since the 2010 accident.

 After spending a morning with Father Murray in preparation for the article, I was struck by how the priest was inspired by his fellow Redemptorists. As he underwent rehabilitation at Stella Maris nursing home in Timonium, the priest lived with infirm and elderly members of his religious order and, at 63, was the youngest priest among them at the St. John Neumann Residence – a wing for retired Redemptorists.
 
“You are surrounded by your confreres,” Father  Murray told me. “You get to pray together. You get to eat together. You get to just walk the corridors with them and sit down in our community room – and you get to celebrate Mass.”
 
It was quite different from a former facility in which Father Murray lived after the accident – one in which he could sometimes go a day without seeing another person besides the medical staff, he said.
 
There were 18 Redemptorists living at Stella Maris with Father Murray, 13 of whom spent most of their priesthood in foreign missions.
 
“They were in the Dominican Republic and Brazil eating rice and beans down there with no electricity large parts of the day,” Father Murray said. “To see how they sacrificed and now, at the age of 85 and 90, they are still going strong – it really touched me.”
 
Five Redemptorists died while Father Murray lived at Stella Maris. He watched his brother priests gather in the room of  dying clerics, staying with them and praying with them before and after they died.
 
“It was just so touching,” he remembered.
 
Father Murray noted that the St. John Neumann Residence could not be more perfectly named. St. John Neumann had been a diocesan priest in New York in the 19th century. He became depressed because he was often alone, Father Murray said. The priest joined the Redemptorists because one of its great charisms is community life.
 
“John Neuman realized he needed the support of a community,” Father Murray. “That was one of the things I most learned since my accident – the importance of community living and how community living for Redemptorists brings new life. It certainly brought me life.”
 

‘Occupy the Vatican’

 

The new English translation of the Roman Missal goes into effect Nov. 27. (CR/Bill McAllen)

It’s no secret that some priests – especially those who were energized by the Second Vatican Council – aren’t very pleased with the pending Nov. 27 implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. They think the new language, which strives to be a more literal translation of the Latin prayer book, is archaic and inaccessible.

Early this week, I e-mailed all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Baltimore to find out if anyone was planning to do anything to mark the last weekend of Masses using the current translation. Archdiocesan leaders had encouraged parishes to find ways of celebrating the decades of service of the current translation. I wanted to see if any parishes were actually planning to ceremoniously retire, bury or burn their old Sacramentaries, as suggested.

The first response I received was from an Anne Arundel County pastor, informing me in just three words how he planned to mark the passage of the old translation.

“Occupy the Vatican,” he wrote.

How are you observing the end of an era?


A rare birthday present for St. Joan of Arc

A statue depicts St. Joan of Arc. (Courtesy BSO)

Pope Benedict XVI minces no words when he describes the medieval judges who interrogated and sentenced St. Joan of Arc to death 580 years ago. The French clergymen were aligned with St. Joan’s political opponents, the pope said in a Jan. 26 general audience, and they “lacked charity and the humility to see God’s action in this young woman.”

“Joan’s judges were radically incapable of understanding her or of perceiving the beauty of her soul,” Pope Benedict XVI said. “They did not know that they were condemning a saint.”

As the world prepares to celebrate the 600th anniversary of St. Joan’s birth early next year, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will showcase a rarely performed oratorio that captures the drama of the French saint’s trial and execution.

“Jeanne d’Arc au Bucher” – “Joan of Arc at the Stake,” a groundbreaking work by Swiss composer Arthur Honegger, will be performed Nov 17-18 at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore before hitting the bright lights of New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Marin Alsop conducts the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2010. (Photo courtesy BSO)

In an e-mail interview, BSO Music Director Marin Alsop told me the work defies categorization.

“It’s a dramatic oratorio with narrative creating a unique story and sound world,” the maestra said. “Joan is portrayed as a living, breathing human being who did not comprehend how she found herself in such an unbelievable predicament.”

Honegger’s work features folk tunes, plainchant, classical music and contemporary jazz. It includes many of the instruments of a modern orchestra, along with saxophones, pianos and the ondes martenot – a rarely used instrument best known for producing the eerie, glissando “woooooo” sounds of old-time science fiction and horror movies.

Caroline Dhavernas (Courtesy BSO)

“Joan of Arc at the Stake” is as much a work of theater as it is of music. Performed in French with English subtitles, it will feature vocalists from Concert Artists of Baltimore, the Peabody Hopkins Chorus, Morgan State University Choir and the Peabody Children’s Chorus. Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas has the title role.

French poet-dramatist Paul Claudel wrote the libretto for “Joan of Arc at the Stake” in 1934 after having a vision of two hands tied together, raised and making the Sign of the Cross. Honegger completed the score on Christmas Eve, 1935 and the work premiered in Switzerland on May 12, 1938.

Claudel tells St. Joan’s story through flashbacks that follow the course of her life in reverse order. The climax occurs when the work returns to the present for St. Joan’s martyrdom.

Just as Honegger’s work defies easy description, so does the woman on which it is based.

“She has been adopted by people on the right and left of the political aisle,” Alsop said, “and as a model for both religious and non-religious belief systems. I am intrigued by her ability to transcend categorization.”

St. Joan is the patroness of France who heard voices from saints commanding her to drive the English and Burgundians from her homeland. The illiterate peasant girl led the French to victory in several military campaigns before being captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English. She was condemned as a witch and burned at the stake at age 19. Pope Callistus III reopened her trial in 1456 and she was found innocent of all charges. She was canonized in 1920.

“I admire Joan’s total commitment to her beliefs and willingness to stand up for what she believed,” said Alsop, noting that St. Joan continues to serve as a model for people from all walks of society.

“Joan is portrayed as a devout individual adamantly true to herself and completely devoted to God,” Alsop said. “She is free of guile, but not above being human with faults and strengths.”

St. Joan’s inquisitors may have been “incapable of understanding her or perceiving the beauty of her soul,” but the musicians who recounted her fate surely weren’t.

For more information about the concert, visit the BSO site.  For a sense of what “Joan of Arc at the Stake” sounds like, check out the 2009 video clip below from a performance by the Latvian State Academic Choir.


Introducing the new translation of the Roman Missal can be fun?

Father Gerard Francik has the right approach to introducing the new English translation of the Roman Missal. 

Instead of taking an “I-don’t-want-to-do-this-anymore-than-you-do” stance, the pastor of St. Mark in Fallston is encouraging his parishioners to embrace the translation as an opportunity to deepen their understanding and love of the Mass.

Young St. Mark parishioners seem genuinely excited about Nov. 27 – the date the new translation takes effect in the United States. They’ve made two fun videos to help educate their fellow parishioners about some of the coming changes.  (See below).

Sure, not everyone is going to welcome the new translation.  It will take some time to adapt to language that’s going to be more formal than what many of us have known our whole lives. But, it’s good to see a parish taking a positive approach.  The introduction of the new translation really can be an opportunity for liturgical renewal if we just give it a chance.

Here’s a guide to the new translation produced by Catholic Review Media you might want to check out.


Don’t forget our vets

Bishop F. Richard Spencer delivers the Veterans Day homily at St. Paul in Ellicott City, Nov. 11. (CR/Kathleen Lange)

Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer of the Archdiocese for U.S. Military Services issued a powerful reminder at today’s Veterans Day Mass in Ellicott City that we must never forget the men and women who served our country so valiantly throughout our history. You can read about the special Mass here.

Below is audio of the homily in its entirety.


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