Archive of November 17, 2012

Downtown Anchorage bookshop an oasis of Catholic treasures

Anchorage, Alaska, Nov 17, 2012 (CNA) - St. Paul’s Corner is a little-known oasis of Catholic thought and culture on Anchorage’s 5th Avenue.

The bookshop makes a point to be more than an average retail store. Operated by volunteers who do everything from dusting shelves to managing inventory, the store serves primarily to evangelize the diverse customers who walk through the doors — people not always sure of what they are seeking.

Since its founding in 2009, the shop has grown into a unique corner of downtown Anchorage.

After more than a decade without a Catholic bookstore in town, and nearly two decades since the closing of the former St. Paul’s bookstore where Covenant House is now located, parishioner Bernadette Frost was asked by then cathedral pastor Father Francis Hung Le to accept the challenge of establishing a viable business that would serve as a ministry to the parish and wider community.

Statues of saints are on display at St. Paul’s Corner in downtown Anchorage. — Photo by Joel Davidson
At the store’s inception there was space, but no money for products or shelves. Frost trusted that if it were God’s will, the resources would come, she recalled.

“I’ll do my best, God will do the rest, and it was one mini-miracle after another,” she said.

Through myriad details of licenses, regulations, inventory and furnishings, the vision of the store remained clear — it was to serve primarily as an outreach.

With a $3,500 gift from a parishioner, the consignment of remaining stock from a defunct bookstore once operated by St. Andrew Church in Eagle River, and shelves from a former Christian bookstore, St. Paul’s Corner was open for business on Sunday mornings in the church basement. The humble beginnings reminded Frost of the words of one of the Daughters of St. Paul, who had once run the bookstore across the street, “All good things start in a stable.”

In early 2010, the fledgling operation moved into its new, brightly lit quarters at Holy Family Cathedral’s Education Center next to the parish and with store frontage on busy 5th Avenue.

Encompassing 1,400 square feet, the store now has an impressive stock of bibles, catechisms, apologetics, books by and about the saints and devotional materials. There also is a children’s section, Spanish language offerings, a western Dominican section, and a variety of CDs and DVDs of both music and devotions. Sacramental and all-occasion gifts are for sale, in addition to statues, crucifixes, jewelry, holy water fonts, cards, incense and candles.

St. Paul’s Corner also features consignment works by local artists, from handmade rosaries and ornaments to inspirational oil paintings.

In keeping with the tradition of several downtown businesses, the store participates in the First Friday art walks. October’s featured author was Kenneth Wichorek, who signed his book about the rosary, and in November, Kess Frey will be signing his new book, “Human Ground, Spiritual Ground, Paradise Lost and Found.”

The store regularly orders items for parish programs and will special order items for customers as well. One of Frost’s long-term goals is to help parishes of the archdiocese collectively buy items in bulk.

“Any way we can help and educate, that’s what we are here for,” said volunteer Fran Lopinsky, who, after retirement joined Frost in an endeavor that has tapped into both of their skills in business management, accounting and human resources.

“I would never work retail, but this is a ministry,” Lopinsky explained, adding that she feels privileged to share stories that customers won’t always tell to someone else. “Everyone who comes in has a different story, sometimes they tell you more than you want to hear.”

Frost recalled a woman who hadn’t received the sacrament of reconciliation in 20 years, and was afraid of doing so. In addition to giving her resources for an examination of conscience, Frost allayed her fears and assured her of the priest’s help in making her confession. When the woman returned to the store after confession “you could see the difference in her whole being,” Frost said.

On another occasion Frost happened to be at the store working on a day it is normally closed. A woman from Talkeetna stopped by the cathedral office inquiring about resources for a seminar she was conducting. Frost opened the store and attended to her needs, stating that the $300 the woman spent was nothing in comparison to the good fortune of being there to help a customer who was a new convert to the Catholic faith.

While experiences such as this inspire Frost, she is quick to add, “I enjoy every bit of my work here, from reconciling bank statements to ordering, to meeting with people.”

Lopinsky added, “No matter how tired I am, the minute I walk in the door, I’m energized. This is where I am supposed to be.”

Posted with permission from Catholic Anchor, official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

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Catholic donor group picks controversial Obama advisor as new head

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2012 (CNA) - An organization of Catholic donors has chosen Alexia K. Kelley, an Obama policy advisor with connections to abortion-supporting politicians and a controversial advocacy group, as its new president and CEO.

“Alexia has a distinguished record of leadership and service in the church, the nonprofit world and government," said William F. Raskob, chairman of the board of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA).

In a Nov. 14 statement announcing Kelley's appointment, he praised her "strong commitment to her faith" and "keen understanding of the broad scope of the nation’s religious and charitable organizations."

Kelley will be succeeding the organization's president of more than 30 years, Dr. Francis J. Butler, who retired several months ago.

Leaders of the group - which consists of private donors and foundations that engage in Catholic philanthropy - applauded her for the expansive network and vast amount of experience she brings with her into the position.

For the past three years, Kelley has worked closely with key members of the Obama administration.

In 2009, she was appointed by President Barack Obama as director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for the Department of Health and Human Services.

During the past year, she has worked as senior policy advisor at the White House office for faith-based partnerships.

Kelley, who holds a master’s degree in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School, had previously worked for several years at the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, an anti-poverty initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
She later co-founded and served as the executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a social justice advocacy organization.

The group - which has since closed its office and shifted its presence to the internet - was criticized by numerous bishops for causing confusion about the priority of moral issues by downplaying the importance of fundamental concerns like abortion, while giving heavy weight to issues such as the environment.

Kelly was a religious advisor for the 2004 presidential campaign of Catholic senator John Kerry, whose support for abortion raised controversy.

She also advocated heavily for the confirmation of pro-abortion Catholic Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to her steadfast support for abortion, Sebelius is controversial for her key role in issuing the federal contraception mandate that requires employers - including religious schools, hospitals and charitable organizations - to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and drugs that can cause an early abortion.

That mandate been denounced by bishops in every U.S. diocese and is currently the subject of more than 30 religious liberty lawsuits. Catholic service organizations have warned that they may be forced to close their doors rather than violate their consciences and follow the mandate's demands, which would result in great harm to the needy people they serve.

Although she had ties at that time to both the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, Kelley's position does not appear to have been formally connected to the mandate.

Taking on her new position, Kelley said that she looks forward to "making a positive impact in society, particularly through serving the most vulnerable."

Both Kelley and Raskob were unavailable for comment on Nov. 15 and 16.

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Archbishop Chaput: being a saint is the only thing that matters

Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 17, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a conference on faith and evangelization, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia told participants that sanctity is the single necessity in a person's life.

“The only thing that matters is to be a saint. That’s what we need to be. That’s what we need to become,” he said at the Nov. 16 Catholic Life Congress in Philadelphia.

Archbishop Chaput began his talk, titled “Renewing the Church and Her Mission in a 'Year of Faith,'” by discussing the nature of faith. He said the Nicene Creed, recited at every Sunday Mass, is the “framework and fundamental profession” of Catholic belief.

“The less we understand the words of the Creed and revere the meaning behind them, the farther away we drift from our Catholic identity – and the more confused we become about who we really are as Christians.”

The archbishop discussed the importance of personal integrity, and the role of Sunday Mass in forming our lives throughout the rest of the week.

“We need to give our hearts to what we hear and what we say in our public worship. Otherwise, little by little, we become dishonest.”

Faith, he told his listeners, “is confidence in things unseen based on the word of someone we know and love – in this case, God...only a living encounter and a living relationship with Jesus Christ make faith sustainable.”

Archbishop Chaput then reflected on the present state of the Catholic Church in America, painting a stark picture.

“More than 70 million Americans describe themselves as Catholics. But for all practical purposes, they’re no different from everybody else in their views, their appetites and their behaviors.”

This state, he said, was part of the “legacy” left by the baby boomer generation “to the Church in the United States.”

“In a sense, our political and economic power, our addictions to comfort, consumption and entertainment, have made us stupid.”

In response to that state of affairs, Archbishop Chaput urged every one to repentance and to conversion. In the face of a Catholic population indistinguishable from the general public, he proposed a sort of examination of conscience.

“So we need to ask ourselves: What do I want my life to mean? If I claim to be a Catholic, can I prove it with the patterns of my life? When do I pray? How often do I seek out the Sacrament of Penance?  What am I doing for the poor? How am I serving the needy? Do I really know Jesus Christ?”

“Who am I leading to the Church? How many young people have I asked to consider a vocation? How much time do I spend sharing about God with my spouse, my children and my friends? How well and how often do I listen for God’s will in my own life?”

From there, the archbishop reflected on what we need to become, and took Saint Thomas More as an example.

More was an English lawyer and statesman, and chancellor of England under Henry VIII. His Catholic faith made him oppose Henry's divorce and re-marriage, and separation of the Church of England from the Catholic Church. His integrity led him to be martyred in 1535.

Archbishop Chaput gave his audience a “homework assignment” over Thanksgiving break. He asked that people watch – “with your family” –  the 1966 film on St. Thomas More called “A Man for All Seasons”

He said that “above all, More was a man of profound Catholic faith and practice. He lived what he claimed to believe. He had his priorities in right order. He was a husband and a father first.”

The archbishop then said that More is an example for all Catholics.

“We’re all called to martyrdom. That’s what the word martyr means: It’s the Greek word for “witness.”  We may or may not ever suffer personally for our love of Jesus Christ. But we’re all called to be witnesses.”

Archbishop Chaput concluded his talk by emphasizing that becoming a saint, like St. Thomas More, is the one thing necessary in everyone's life.

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