The Deacon's Bench

Just in time for the holidays, a chef in Washington has created an extraordinary gingerbread house — er, church — of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

From the Georgetown Patch:(with a H/T to CNS)

Crafting gingerbread houses since age 3, Executive Pastry Chef Charles Froke has mastered the art of gingerbread aesthetics, and this week the ?Four Seasons Hotel, Washington, D.C.? unveiled his latest, brag-worthy creation.

This holiday season’s gingerbread house is a replication of the ?Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception?. Froke spent a few hours at the site, surveying and taking photos. Much like an architect, he created blueprints of the Basilica, baked hundreds of gingerbread pieces and glued them together with icing.

Made with more than 125 pounds of gingerbread dough, 45 pounds of icing, 10 pounds of icing for snow, 10 pounds of chocolate for trees, 20 pounds of sugar and 1 pound of coffee extract to color icing, the Basilica includes dyed, sugar stained-glass windows with electric lighting and an ornate, blue dome.

Read more, including some of his recipes. You can also check out some of his other creations.

Time to make that new year’s diet resolution…

He’s a judge in Canada — and he’s talking about how his faith intersects with his job, following a controversial sentencing in a high-profile case.

From the B.C. Catholic in Vancouver:

Ontario Superior Court Judge Alf Stong is not particularly bothered by the front-page scolding he got from a Toronto Star columnist at the end of the Elaine Campione murder trial last month.

Stong, a deacon for the archdiocese of Toronto, was rebuked for repeating an unproven allegation of spousal abuse and suggesting Campione’s two children could still be alive had her husband not abused her. The Star’s Rosie DiManno called Stong’s sentencing address “a breathtaking rearrangement of the facts as the court heard them.” She accused Stong of besmirching the name of Leo Campione, whom she called a victim of the crime.

Barrie, Ont., mother Elaine Campione murdered her two daughters — 19-month-old Sophia and three-year-old Serena — in 2006. She wanted to prevent the transfer of custody to Leo, her ex-husband and the father of the girls. A jury found her guilty, dismissing her defence that she was suffering from a mental illness and should not be held criminally responsible. At trial she claimed she had been abused by her husband.

In his sentencing address, Stong had called the case “undeniably and inordinately tragic.” He went on to talk about the forces which may have driven Elaine Campione to commit such an evil act.

“If Ms. Campione had not been so abused, so used and discarded as a person, her two daughters could still be alive,” Stong said.

Though the law stipulated Campione had to be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years, Stong seemed to want to soften the sentence by reminding the prison system of its obligation to provide “necessary psychiatric treatment and medical care while in their custody.”

“Stong extended to this vengefully embittered woman moral cover that all but made a mockery of the jury’s verdict,” said DiManno.

“I know what Rosie DiManno said, and it’s too bad she wasn’t there and heard all the evidence. That’s all I can say,” Stong told The Register two weeks later. “We had a 10-week trial. They (DiManno and Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford) showed up two days short of 10 weeks.”

Stong’s approach to sentencing Campione has everything to do with the judge’s basic values and core convictions formed in the Church.

Stong is not just a casually Catholic judge. He was ordained a deacon in 2000, leads marriage preparation courses with his wife Raymonde Marie at Guardian Angels parish in Orillia, and he has an overarching concern with the formation of young people, an area where the 71-year-old judge hopes to concentrate his ministry in coming years.

“I cannot separate myself from my values — my values, my beliefs, what I grew up believing,” Stong said.

Read more.

NAG bench IMG_7900 300.jpg

Starting Monday, December 13th, you’ll find it at 

Check out the new site here.

Come by for a visit. And remember to change your bookmarks!

Another married Episcopalian is swimming the Tiber — and is about to be ordained a priest.
From the Billings Gazette:

When the Rev. Bart Stevens is ordained a Catholic priest in Billings on Thursday, he will share the moment with friends and family — including his wife and five children.

Stevens, 35, joins a small fraternity of married Roman Catholic priests. Since 1980, slightly more than 100 former Episcopal priests in the United States have been ordained priests in the Catholic Church.

He is the first in the Great Falls-Billings Diocese. And his presence has sparked talk around town, as his wife, Becky, found out not long ago at a local grocery store.

“She’s in the checkout line and these people are talking about me,” Stevens said, sitting in his office in a house next to Holy Rosary Church. “One says ‘Did you hear about the married priest in the Catholic church?’ ”

The other person corrected the first one, suggesting it must be an Episcopal priest. The two went back and forth until Becky Stevens broke into their conversation.

“Becky’s like, ‘I think you’re talking about my husband,’ ” Stevens said, smiling. “It takes people a while to wrap their head around it.”

He will be ordained at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral by Bishop Michael Warfel. Priests from throughout the diocese are expected to attend the ceremony.

So will Becky and their children, three girls and two boys ranging in age from 9 years to 4 months.

For Stevens, who will serve three parishes in Billings, his ordination is the completion of a journey that has brought him to the faith he was meant to embrace.

Read more. And welcome, Fr. Bart!