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The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

The People in the Pews Archives

Meet Mother Teresa with a dental drill

posted by jmcgee

The remarkable story of Dr. Rich Meehan and his work among the poor in Los Angles deserves to be heard by a wider audience — especially now that he is hanging up his latex gloves and devoting his time to […]

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A parish grows in Brooklyn

posted by jmcgee

From the In My Backyard Desk…an inspiring story of evangelization: What I found while teaching a Called & Gifted workshop in Brooklyn last week is absolutely unique. I’ve worked in hundreds of Catholic parishes in 100 dioceses on 5 continents […]

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The rite stuff: “Why am I driving 20 minutes to go to a fake wedding?”

posted by jmcgee

Seminarians spend part of their formation practicing just how to do the sacraments — everything from consecrating the eucharist to reconciliation. Recently, Long Island Catholic dropped in on one unusual rehearsal that actually involved a large number of parishioners: It […]

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Church closings hit Brooklyn

posted by jmcgee

The City of Churches will soon have fewer of them.  From the In My Backyard Desk, another sign of the times: Facing a drop in attendance and a shortage of priests, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn plans to close […]

A Catholic mother and “the current church”

posted by jmcgee

Andrew Sullivan has posted this letter from a Catholic mother: My husband and I are raising our sons in the Catholic Church. We are active in my church, I teach religious education, we perform corporeal works of mercy with our […]

When a parish closes: “In the end, it is about the numbers of the faithful”

posted by jmcgee

Leave it to Msgr. Charles Pope, in the Archdiocese of Washington, to frame the ongoing story of parish closings in a way we rarely consider it: One of my own frustrations with the closing of large numbers of parishes is […]

Wisconsin standoff: donations plunge over new priest appointments

posted by jmcgee

Some interesting developments in Wisconsin are leading to a conflict between parishioners and their bishop — and it’s having a financial impact: St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Platteville, stung by a plunge in donations following the arrival of three controversial […]

Woman seeking Christian roommate accused of discrimination

posted by jmcgee

A posting on a church bulletin board has now become a case for the courts: A 31-year-old woman who placed an ad for a Christian roommate on her church bulletin board has been charged with housing discrimination. The Alliance Defense […]

Is organized religion just too conservative?

posted by jmcgee

This commentary in the Los Angeles Times suggests that young people are being turned off by churches that seem to embrace conservative politics: The most rapidly growing religious category today is composed of those Americans who say they have no […]

Wow: 9,000 confessions at parish mission

posted by jmcgee

Well, it was in 1891. But this clip from the Brooklyn Eagle (thanks to Pat McNamara!) offers a fascinating glimpse at the way we were: On the Tuesday after the beginning of the week’s exercises the missionaries commenced to hear […]

“Is pre-marital sex always wrong?”

posted by jmcgee

A study from CARA asked that question of Catholics and Protestants — and the resulting answers may surprise you: In 1972, 39% of adult Catholics responded that premarital sex was “always wrong.” Among Catholics attending Mass at least once a […]

Catholics reallly ARE coming home

posted by jmcgee

And the attention-grabbing ad campaign of Catholics Come Home may be responsible for luring some people back to the pews in at least one big diocese. Details: Eight months ago, the Diocese of Green Bay began airing television commercials for […]

Bye bye bingo?

posted by jmcgee

A fabled Catholic cultural institution may be vanishing in one part of the country: It seems that the “bingo bubble” in many areas of the Albany Diocese has burst. The game of chance long subsidized many parishes and schools, bringing […]

Christianity in America: “remarkably resilient”

posted by jmcgee

That’s the assessment of a new poll, which finds a surprising number of people in “unchurched” parts of America still describe themselves as “Christian”: While it’s no surprise that the highest proportion of self-identified Christians reside in the South, a […]

“The archbishop certainly restarted the discussion, didn’t he?”

posted by jmcgee

Hundreds of thousands of Catholics found a DVD from their archbishop in the mail last week — and the reaction has been decidedly mixed: When the archbishop’s controversial DVD arrived in the mail last week, Renee Miller’s first instinct was […]

What’s the secret to staying married 75 years?

posted by jmcgee

This couple can tell you.  You don’t see many stories like this — and it’s truly something to celebrate. From the Catholic Review in Baltimore: Edwin Becker was 19 when he decided that he couldn’t live his life without Gertrude. […]

Are you now or have you ever been…?

posted by jmcgee

The AP is reporting that a growing number of churches are now making it a habit to conduct routine background checks: More churches and religious groups are conducting background checks and taking other steps to protect children against mistreatment in […]

A parish’s biggest loser just might be a priest

posted by jmcgee

A Virginia priest has come up with a novel way to raise money for kids to attend World Youth Day in Madrid: New Year’s Day has come early for Father Steve Schultz, parochial vicar of St. Timothy Parish in Chantilly. […]

Romeward bound? Baltimore Episcopal parish may join Catholic Church

posted by jmcgee

Some dramatic news out of Maryland: In a letter to parishioners, the Reverend Jason Cantania, rector of Mount Calvary Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, announced that the vestry of the parish had voted unanimously in favor of two resolutions. First, […]

The Catholic church building boom in Texas

posted by jmcgee

Some heartening news from the Lone Star state. At a time when many dioceses are closing or consolidating parishes, down in Texas, the church business is booming: Each week at Midland’s Our Lady of San Juan Parish, churchgoers attending Mass […]

The pews get even emptier

posted by jmcgee

Grim numbers from Ohio point to a larger trend in the American Church: Almost two out of three Catholics in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky won’t go to church this weekend to celebrate Mass, an event they have been told […]

When the goal is God: NFL stars embracing faith

posted by jmcgee

Hot on the heels of this piece about a devoutly religious NFL player, a reader sent me this item, from Sunday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, all about faith and football: Adoring fans carried star safety Troy Polamalu on their shoulders — passing […]

Deacons, don’t try this in your parish

posted by jmcgee

Funny, we didn’t see anything like this with the pope yesterday in Westminster Cathedral.  But a surprising moment at another Protestant church in the United Kingdom has inspired a new song: t was a Sunday morning that started off like […]

Benedict boost: mass attendance up in Isle of Man

posted by jmcgee

Some heartening news from across the pond: As Pope Benedict XVI begins his papal visit to the UK, Catholic congregations are reporting a rise in numbers in the Isle of Man. The increase is believed to coincide with both his […]

Pope trip: “Like going to Wembley to watch Bristol City play”

posted by jmcgee

The Beeb has a charming profile of one Catholic family eagerly awaiting the pope’s visit this week — all of them, converts: “It will be just like going to Wembley to watch Bristol City play, with the flags flying, but […]

Changing channels: radio star finds a new station in life

posted by jmcgee

Here’s a story that sounds familiar, about a successful media professional who walked away from a high-profile career to work for the Church. From the Indianapolis Criterion: She has met backstage with Taylor Swift, talked with Garth Brooks, had her […]

Author: teens are following a “mutant” Christianity

posted by jmcgee

Here’s some disturbing news about religious trends among teenagers — what you might call Teenage Mutant Ninja Christianity. From CNN: If you’re the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning: Your child is following a “mutant” […]

Northern exposure: Alaska kids learn chant

posted by jmcgee

Well, who’d a thunk? Check out this video below, from the online edition of the Catholic Anchor in Anchorage.

“Nothing stops us if we keep our faith and work hard”

posted by jmcgee

From the Detroit Free Press comes this inspiring story about a hardy band of survivors — thousands of Vietnamese immigrants who settled in New Orleans, and have endured extraordinary trials with extraordinary faith: On the far eastern edge of New […]

EMHCs as SOP

posted by jmcgee

A British observer has some sharp words about EMHCs at Catholic liturgies: What’s the point of all these assistants? The Catholic Church does allow for what it calls an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, in cases when the priest is […]

Mark Wahlberg: “I love golf and I love church…”

posted by jmcgee

A little celebrity news from Down Under: Reformed bad boy Mark Wahlberg is dedicated to attending church each day — even during his hectic Australian tour with Will Ferrell to promote their new film The Other Guys. Wahlberg, 39, went […]

Siobhan Fallon Hogan: faith-filled and funny

posted by jmcgee

A reader who saw this item about a Catholic actor with values pointed me to this piece about a woman who made her name on “Saturday Night Live,” and is now making a name for herself as an actress of […]

Catholic actor who quit over sex scenes may play a priest

posted by jmcgee

His story made headlines some months back — and if reports are accurate, he may have an interesting project lined up: You may not know the name Neal McDonough — but he’s one of those Hollywood faces you’ll instantly recognize. […]

Catholic schools shrinking, struggling

posted by jmcgee

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of Catholic education in this country? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a hard look at what’s happening in its own backyard, and then surveys the landscape elsewhere: Catholic schools around the nation […]

Giglio, anyone?

posted by jmcgee

Today marks the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and some parishes around the world are also celebrating with the giglio. Whatzzat? Check this out: In Italian Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the residents of the community look forward to the annual […]

Needed at Catholic schools: a few good men

posted by jmcgee

That’s the gist behind this essay, written by a male school teacher in Maryland: When I started substitute teaching at St. Mary’s, a Catholic school in Maryland, two years ago, I noticed something that has become so common that it […]

Better look busy

posted by jmcgee

A new poll suggests a lot of folks think Jesus will be here relatively soon: Among respondents to the survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and Smithsonian Magazine, 41 percent said they expect Jesus’ […]

It’s time to play “Name that Pope!”

posted by jmcgee

Incredibly, a grade-schooler in Indiana can name every one of them, in six minutes. From Today’s Catholic News: Eleven-year-old John Paul Fitzmaurice has completed a project so difficult that few lay men and women even attempt it. The Granger boy […]

When a priest retires

posted by jmcgee

From the Times this morning comes this touching profile of a priest who did so much — and still has more to do: On a recent overcast morning, the Rev. John C. Flynn, an 80-year-old Roman Catholic priest with bright […]

Faith of steel: meet NFL star Troy Polamalu, devout Christian

posted by jmcgee

What a great witness. H/T via Facebook and Deacon Scott Dodge.

Catholic, conservative, celibate…and gay

posted by jmcgee

Well, now. Here’s something you don’t see every day in the New York Times. Check it out: “I spent the summer before college reading Shakespeare and staring out the window and occasionally being a roadie for my friend’s band,” says […]

The Banker and the Missionary

posted by jmcgee

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more unusual pair of brothers: one may be the most powerful banker in the United States, while the other is a missionary trying to change the world. Both are graduates of Brown University, where […]

What will tomorrow’s American church look like?

posted by jmcgee

Some fascinating possibilities, from John Allen, in NCR: First, the Catholic population of the future in the United States, like the country as a whole, will be older. The most rapidly growing demographic sub-segment of the American population is actually not […]

The last holdout

posted by jmcgee

Only one diocese in America declines to take part in the USCCB’s annual audit on compliance with the so-called “Dallas Charter”, which was created in the wake of the 2002 sex abuse crisis. And this week, opposing sides staged two […]

Catholicism booming in Africa, Asia

posted by jmcgee

Some revealing new statistics just released yesterday by the Vatican help paint a clearer picture of the Church of today — and, of course, tomorrow: The Vatican Publishing House has recently released a new edition of the Statistical Yearbook of […]

Staying together for the mortgage

posted by jmcgee

The recession may be hard on the pocket book, but it may be keeping together more marriages, as a result: In the Great Recession, breaking up is hard to do. With housing values depressed and jobs disappearing, divorce has become […]

90-year-old remembers: “I got a good upbringing from the sisters”

posted by jmcgee

From Baltimore comes this wonderful story about an orphan who never forgot where she came from — and 90 years later, is giving something back: Cora Barnes has a deep respect for the upbringing she received at the Baltimore orphanage […]

Fruitful Tuesday?

posted by jmcgee

Just in time for Lent, the Archbishop of St. Louis will continue a tradition, by celebrating a special mass for couples who are struggling with infertility: “Be fruitful,” God instructed Adam and Eve, “and multiply.” They were the first words […]

Seeking a Catholic love connection

posted by jmcgee

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Denver Post looks at a growing trend: Catholics seeking Catholics for romance and, just maybe, marriage. A snip: Wanted: “Someone close to my age, fairly good looking and Catholic.” Christina Newman says her […]

Catholics coming home — but it isn’t always easy

posted by jmcgee

The phenomenally successful ad campaign for Catholics Come Home has drawn tens of thousands of people back to the church. It’s likely more will start their journey back during Lent. But as the Chicago Tribune points out, for many, there […]

“We have a church we busted our humps for…”

posted by jmcgee

It’s happening in more dioceses around the country, and the New York Timesthis morning looks at the impact that parish closings is having on Camden, New Jersey: Eleanor Medany remembers when South Jersey was in thrall to Roman Catholicism. There […]

Everybody into the cafeteria: many of all faiths now mix and match beliefs

posted by jmcgee

That seems to be the conclusion of a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Among other things, it finds that nearly six in 10 Americans from all religions blend their faith with New Age and […]

The unoffocial anthem of the American Catholic parish

posted by deacon greg kandra

Forget “Praise to the Lord” or even “Gather Us In.” You know the song I’m talking about. Crank up the volume and join in.

Previous occupant: God

posted by deacon greg kandra

How would you feel if you saw your parish church listed in the real estate ads? Some parishioners in Cleveland weren’t exactly pleased: The members of St. Stanislaus parish will hold their final Mass this Sunday at 8:30 a.m. But […]

“Get out your feathers, your patent leathers, your beads and buckles and bows…”

posted by deacon greg kandra

The song from “Hello, Dolly” advises the citizens of Yonkers to put on their Sunday clothes. Does anyone still do that? Over at Googling God, Mike Hayes asks an interesting question: what do you wear to mass? A snip: I […]

The “Nones” Story: the growing number of people with no religion

posted by deacon greg kandra

Trend-watchers might want to take note of this report, from USA TODAY: Americans who don’t identify with any religion are now 15% of the USA, but trends in a new study shows they could one day surpass the nation’s largest […]

How do you make a marriage last 70 years?

posted by deacon greg kandra

Meet one couple with some answers: It was at a barn dance near the small community of Munjor, Kansas in the middle of the Great Depression when Marcellus Ruder asked 17-year-old Marcella Rohr to dance with him. Little did either […]

Three things a pastor can never say

posted by deacon greg kandra

Well here’s a little conversation-starter for you, via New Advent. This comes from a blog run by Dominican Fr. Philip Neri Powell: Here they are: 1). What Father says, “Please, be mindful of your children during Mass. We have a […]

Catholic school tries out a four-day week

posted by deacon greg kandra

A lot of Catholic schools are facing budgetary challenges, with lower enrollment and higher operational costs. But a school in upstate New York is becoming the first in the state to try something radical: a four-day school week. From the […]

I still do: this couple begins every day by repeating their wedding vows

posted by deacon greg kandra

I can’t think of a better way of building up a marriage than starting every day the way this couple does: When most married couples vow to love, honor and cherish each other on their wedding day, that is often […]

“I see this as an opportunity to return gifts God gave me”

posted by deacon greg kandra

What do you do after you’ve had a successful career in the NFL and business? One man’s surprising answer: After two successful careers, one in the NFL and one in the business world, Steve Walsh thought his experience, training and […]

“Scenes From A Parish”

posted by deacon greg kandra

I was contacted recently about possibly promoting this film, and I have to say: it looks remarkable. Thoughtful. Revealing. And utterly truthful. It will be shown on PBS later this year. See for yourself, and take a look at the […]

The economy is down, but giving is up

posted by deacon greg kandra

You might think it would be otherwise, but a story out this weekend indicates bad times are good news for charitable giving to churches: Frank Berning, a lifelong Roman Catholic, has upped his church giving as the economy drooped. “I […]

Forget John and Kate, and the Kardashians. Here’s a family worth watching.

posted by deacon greg kandra

My cousins in the diocesan television industry, CatholicTV in Boston, are wading into the sometimes murky waters of reality TV. But this sounds like a plunge worth taking: CatholicTV, a television ministry of the Boston Archdiocese, is venturing into the […]

When the chancellor is a she

posted by deacon greg kandra

There was some interesting news breaking when St. Louis got its new archbishop: he announced was bringing along a woman who’d worked with him in Saginaw to be his chancellor. That’s not unprecedented — lay people have been allowed to […]

Death be not cheap: the rise in home burials

posted by deacon greg kandra

To save money, more Americans are evidently choosing to skip the funeral parlor and bury their loved ones from home. Besides cutting costs, this is transforming the experience of death for some families. From the NY Times: When Nathaniel Roe, […]

“Doesn’t that have something to do with family finances?”

posted by deacon greg kandra

That’s one of the responses we got when my TV show “Currents” visited some parishes this past Sunday and asked the question, “What’s NFP?” This week marks Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, and so we decided to see just how […]

Dog bites man

posted by deacon greg kandra

From the “Duh” Desk, old news made to sound new: Couples living together before marrying have a higher chance of getting divorced than those who wait until they were engaged or married, according to research out Tuesday in the Journal […]

A 10-year-old from Long Island meets the pope: “I thought it was cool!”

posted by deacon greg kandra

Were you nervous?“Yes!”Did you pray last night?“Yes!”Your outfit is perfect.“My mother picked it out!”What is Pope Benedict XVI like?“Nice! Really nice!”Did the Pope say anything?“Yes!”What did he say?“God bless!”Did you say anything to him?“I said ‘God bless you.’ And ‘thank […]

What’s the matter with kids today?

posted by deacon greg kandra

These crazy youngsters. You do your best to raise a non-believing secular humanist and he just turns around and goes all Presbyterian on you: In April, Bob Sweeney’s son, Ryan, 13, suddenly announced he wanted to start going to church. […]

68.1 million, and counting…

posted by deacon greg kandra

The 2009 Official Catholic Directory is out, and the numbers are in: The number of patients served in Catholic hospitals and the number of clients assisted by Catholic charitable agencies went up. Fewer baptisms, first Communions, confirmations and marriages were […]

Why do people change religions?

posted by deacon greg kandra

A new study looks for answers, and Michael Paulson, over at Articles of Faith, has a good wrapup: Americans are changing their religious affiliations at unprecedented rates, but Catholics are much more likely to cite concerns about their religion as […]

“We need to work on what women often do better than men — share”

posted by deacon greg kandra

Some weeks back, I posted a picture of a huge men’s rally of the Holy Name Society, dating from the 1930’s. I posed the question, “Could you imagine this happening today?” Well, in fact, something similar just did, albeit on […]

Time, talent, treasure: “Generations of generosity”

posted by deacon greg kandra

Anyone curious about where I spend my weekends can take a look at the video below, produced by my parish Stewardship Committee. It will be shown at all our masses this weekend. (Your Humble Blogger makes a couple cameo appearances.) […]

Erin, go pray: Ireland reports surge in mass attendance

posted by deacon greg kandra

The roots for this development may have less to do with piety than with poverty. The Catholic News Service has the scoop: Many Irish parishes have reported an increase in Mass attendance in recent months, with some parishes reporting increases […]

“I beg you — the church begs you — for forgiveness”

posted by deacon greg kandra

The Pittsburgh papers have published a full account of the “service of apology” that unfolded there Tuesday. It sounds like it was wrenching and — in every sense — extraordinary: n an emotional “service of apology,” Bishop David A. Zubik […]

The Catholic identity crisis

posted by deacon greg kandra

This writer in today’s New York Daily News offers some trenchant observations on the state of Catholic America, particularly in light of the Notre Dame controversy: If it looks like there’s an identity crisis within the Catholic contingent, there is […]

Wanna swap priests?

posted by deacon greg kandra

They’ve been doing that during Lent at some parishes around Pittsburgh, and the experiment has been well-received, according to the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper: In what was billed as “pulpit sharing” or “priest swap,” the priests from five parishes in two […]

Dear Pope: don’t close my parish

posted by deacon greg kandra

A number of parishes from around the U.S. have taken an extraordinary step to fight parish closings: they’re taking their case straight to the top. From the AP: Worshippers in eight dioceses around the country have banded together in a […]

Here comes everybody: 2009 edition

posted by deacon greg kandra

With a tip of the cap and a raised glass of Guiness to James Joyce, The Bench takes a cheerful look at the elect who are preparing to become the converted at next weekend’s Easter Vigil. A snapshot of the […]

“Making felt banners does not help produce a reverence for God”

posted by deacon greg kandra

“Making felt banners does not help produce a reverence for God and the moral law. Catechesis may have improved in the schools, but fewer Catholic children are going to Catholics schools or to religious education classes. Instead they are picking […]

Remnant, anyone?

posted by deacon greg kandra

The results of this recent Gallup poll are, to put it mildly, interesting. It does make one wonder: just how do you define “Catholic” for these things? And, of course: if this is even remotely accurate, what does that say […]

When a Catholic woman gets an IUD

posted by deacon greg kandra

“I used to think of the IUD as the boogeyman, as the Intrauterine Devil. Now one abides in me. I would never have predicted such a future for myself. My husband and I have been pretty strict Catholics throughout our […]

On Lent: students striving to “turn around more to face God”

posted by deacon greg kandra

Down at Louisiana State University, the student paper is looking into Lent — and what some of the students are doing for the season: Thomas Kajor is more productive these days. Since Ash Wednesday, Kajor, mechanical engineering sophomore, hasn’t been […]

“You cannot tell a church how to govern itself” — UPDATED

posted by deacon greg kandra

This story landed like a like grenade yesterday, and the alarm over it is only growing. If you haven’t heard about it by now, take a deep breath and read on: A proposed bill that would take power from Catholic […]

Green light special: the story of all night absolution in New York

posted by deacon greg kandra

The Archdiocese of New York is kicking off Lent with a big push for an oft-neglected sacrament, reconciliation. Many churches offered it round-the-clock this weekend. And the New York Times dropped in to see what was going on: Around midnight […]

Pope to baptize California woman at Easter Vigil

posted by deacon greg kandra

Continuing his custom, Pope Benedict plans to baptize a number of new Catholics at the Easter Vigil this year — and one of them will be a woman from California. CNS reports: This year, parishioners at St. Joseph Church in […]

“It’s not called St. Patrick’s Cathedral for nothing”

posted by deacon greg kandra

When the new archbishop for New York was announced last week, it continued the unbroken tradition: an Irish leader for a cathedral named for an Irish saint. Could that one day change? This morning’s Times takes a look: Latinos account […]

“We have to become a better servant church”

posted by deacon greg kandra

From Pittsburgh comes this item, about a new effort underway to deal with the diminishing number of priests: As head of the Allegheny Valley Deanery in the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, the Rev. Frank Almade advises 16 parishes — in addition […]

Religious ed for the autistic: “The whole point of Jesus is totally inclusive”

posted by deacon greg kandra

An alert reader spotted this item in the Washington Post, about a remarkable outreach to an often-neglected community: Two autistic boys sat inside a parochial school classroom this month. In a setting stripped of unnecessary furniture and toys to avoid […]

A closed parish takes its sermons to the street

posted by deacon greg kandra

As many people know, New York is one of the archdioceses that has been feeling the pain of parish closings. And some parishioners aren’t taking it sitting down (or even kneeling). From the New York Times: The closing of their […]

Other Christians embrace Lent: “We are reclaiming a sense of history”

posted by deacon greg kandra

As we get ready for another Ash Wednesday, and another 40-day sojourn into the desert, the Arkansas Catholic has this intriguing item reminding us that Lent is not just a Catholic thing anymore: Beginning Ash Wednesday, Catholics enter the 40-day […]

“Longing for something? Maybe it’s God”

posted by deacon greg kandra

With Lent looming, the Archdiocese of Washington is launching an innovative ad campaign to lure back some of the sheep who have strayed. From the Washington Post: The archdiocese has an estimated 580,000 Catholics, according to spokeswoman Susan Gibbs, but […]

Homecoming

posted by deacon greg kandra

Some heartening news from one war-ravaged corner of the planet: people are returning to the Church: Although armed conflict in Kosovo ended nearly a decade ago, the capital city still feels like a place hit recently by war or natural […]

Big families under attack?

posted by deacon greg kandra

That’s the premise of this intriguing piece from the New York Times — and they make a pretty persuasive argument: The comment from the photographer at Sears was typical. “Are these all yours?” she asked, surveying Kim Gunnip’s 12 children. […]

Churches report drop in Sunday collections

posted by deacon greg kandra

The economic downturn is hitting some churches in their most sensitive area: the collection plate. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: For weeks now, Matt McCarron has been unable to muster the strength to go to Sunday Mass. A lifelong Catholic, he’s […]

Getting job help from a Higher Power

posted by deacon greg kandra

The grim economic news has led a growing number of churches to become engaged in a special kind of ministry: helping those out of work. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The unemployed in metro Atlanta are turning to churches for help […]

Falloff in Sioux Falls?

posted by deacon greg kandra

More parish closings and consolidations may be on the way — this time, in South Dakota: Thirty-five eastern South Dakota Catholic parishes could lose their regular Masses by 2012 under a plan led by Bishop Paul Swain of the Catholic […]

Scranton moves to close nearly half its churches

posted by deacon greg kandra

Big news from northeastern Pennsylvania this weekend, as the bishop announced a massive restructuring that will affect every parishioner: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton is closing almost half of its churches, reducing the number of parishes from 209 to […]

“How did Jesus live?” Young Catholics look for the answer.

posted by deacon greg kandra

This impressive story about young lay Catholics in Washington was published several days ago, and I’m finally getting around to reading and posting. Take a moment and read what these kids are doing. It’s something. Truly. A snip: Now for […]

States of faith

posted by deacon greg kandra

“Is religion an important part of your daily life?” The good people at Gallup asked that question and came up with an interesting snapshot of which parts of America are most devout: Want to be almost certain you’ll have religious […]

Catholic schools have changed — and so have Catholics

posted by deacon greg kandra

This columnist in Michigan, Julie Mack, takes another look at what’s happening in Catholic schools (during National Catholic School Week), and suggests its part of a larger trend: I recently read that enrollment in American Catholic schools peaked in 1965, […]

What kind of Catholic am I?

posted by deacon greg kandra

The author of the essay below wondered that about himself — and he comes up with a pretty good answer. From the Washington Post’s On Faith section : In the end it wasn’t Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict or even St. […]

How has Jesus changed your life? This priest wants to know.

posted by deacon greg kandra

A retired priest who once worked at my parish — and who many years ago was pastor to the very first deacon ordained in the Diocese of Brooklyn — has asked me to spread the word about a project he’s […]

A Catholic actress in Hollywood

posted by deacon greg kandra

Many of us remember Siobhan Fallon Hogan when she was just Siobhan Fallon, on “Saturday Night Live.” But the National Catholic Register’s Tim Drake shows us another side of her: Siobhan Fallon Hogan has forfeited acting projects rather than compromise […]

The priest shortage: Virginia feels the pinch

posted by deacon greg kandra

Parishes of the Commonwealth of Virginia may soon share something else in common: priests. From the Virginian-Pilot: The tradition of one priest per Catholic parish will pass away at many South Hampton Roads churches under a new five-year diocesan plan […]

The REALLY big Littleton family

posted by deacon greg kandra

What’s it like to live in a really really big family? Meet the Littletons of Chicago — James and Kathleen, who’ve had 19 (yes, 19) children. ZENIT has the first of a two part interview: Q: What do you suggest […]

Pulling kids from Catholic school: “We just couldn’t keep writing the check”

posted by deacon greg kandra

Tough times are taking a toll on Catholic schools. There are increasing reports of school closings and consolidations in my own state, and now the Washington Post is taking a look at what’s happening in private schools around the country: […]

Helping Catholics who are suddenly single

posted by deacon greg kandra

Baltimore may be leading the way in developing a ministry for “single again” Catholics — a group that tends to be largely overlooked in our marrige-and-family-friendly faith. From the Catholic Review: Many couples share everything during their marriage, from a […]

Splinter Catholics in Buffalo: “Sometimes, I feel like I’m breaking rules”

posted by deacon greg kandra

A paper in upstate New York has this curious report about a splinter group of Catholics seeking to attract a wider following: A decade ago, when a large group of Catholics feuded with the Diocese of Rochester over issues such […]

Luring back lapsed Catholics: “With hurt, there’s a call to reconcile”

posted by deacon greg kandra

There’s a renewed push in many parishes to lure back Catholics who have wandered away from the faith. And this item, about one deacon’s efforts, illustrates one move underway in Memphis: Dressed in cream-colored robes, beneath a portrait of the […]

Catholic teacher loses job for marrying without annulment

posted by deacon greg kandra

A Catholic school teacher in Texas has just lost her job — and is now considering suing the school. The issue: an annulment. Or lack thereof. The local paper has the story: Less than a week before Marquis LaFortune was […]

Adopting frozen embryos: one family’s story

posted by deacon greg kandra

The Church’s recent document Dignitas Personae is posing a lot of challenges to some people — including the couple profiled in this story by CNS: As committed Catholics, Timothy and Dawn Smith respect Vatican pronouncements, but recent statements about frozen […]

Why bad times are good for churches

posted by deacon greg kandra

The current economic woes seem to bear out the old idea that tough times can lead to crowded pews. (There are no atheists in foxholes and all that). From Sunday’s New York Times: The sudden crush of worshipers packing the […]

Couple leaves $30 million windfall to Diocese of Syracuse

posted by deacon greg kandra

At a time when many parishes, and many dioceses, are facing serious financial problems and looming deficits, this sort of news is downright miraculous: For the last few months, St. James Roman Catholic Church in Johnson City has seen a […]

Solace in stone

posted by deacon greg kandra

How do you commemorate a nightmare? The Los Angeles Times this week has this poignant and, I think, important piece on how various dioceses around the country are honoring and remembering the victims of clerical sex abuse: Oakland’s new Cathedral […]

Drop-kick me, Jesus: meet the Catholic coach of the Baltimore Ravens

posted by deacon greg kandra

How’s this for a touchdown? A thoughtful reader sent this along: a terrific profile of the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, who just happens to be Catholic. From the Catholic Review: Not long ago, John Harbaugh walked into a […]

Woman says she was ordered to leave mass because of Obama signs on car

posted by deacon greg kandra

The election seems to have frayed everybody’s nerves — and this incident, first reported in a California paper, bears that out: A Fairfield woman whose car was adorned with celebratory signs for President-elect Barack Obama is furious that a priest […]

Passing the plate

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

We just finished a stewardship pitch at my parish, so this item struck me as particularly interesting and timely: a review of a new book on Christian giving — or lack thereof. Coming as it does during some difficult and […]

“Talk to a priest. Don’t believe what your hairdresser tells you.”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Just in time for the holidays, a group of priests in New York City (Staten Island, to be precise) is embarking on a mission to bring wandering Catholics back into the fold. Take a look: Since the summer, Monsignor Edmund […]

Let there be life: “For God, there is no percentage”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Here comes a beautiful reminder that you can never anticipate what God will do. It’s a poignant and inspiring story of faith, hope and life, from Florida Catholic: Friends and colleagues said “maybe you should interrupt the pregnancy” when Daniele […]

Secular chaplains?

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

This morning’s New York Times has an interesting glimpse at a new wave in chaplaincy care — which isn’t always pegged to one particular faith: Some of the hospice patients talk about their impending deaths, or about God. Most just […]

“These are our parishes”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

New Orleans has now joined Boston as an American city where parishioners have moved into churches and are refusing to leave, to keep them from being shuttered. From USA TODAY: Parishioners occupying two Catholic churches in defiance of closure orders […]

Coming soon: women installed in ministry of lector?

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. It’s a proposal — passed overwhelmingly by the Synod of Bishops — to admit women, formally, to the ministry of lector. Among other things, this is significant because lector […]

Joe the Congregant

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

How is the economic crisis going to impact churches and synagogues? This weekend, there are some thoughts on that from Rabbi Marc Gellman, the Jewish half of the “God Squad” (the other half being Catholic priest, Monsignor Thomas Hartman). From […]

The young and the restless: “We have to meet them where they’re at”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

How can you get young people involved in the Church? A recent gathering in Arlington, Virginia gave a tantalizing answer: At a youth rally this weekend at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Catholic teenagers came together to celebrate their […]

Pharmacists for Life: just what the doctor ordered

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

From Virginia comes this impressive story about a pharmacy rooted in faith: A new drug store at a Virginia strip mall is putting its faith in an unconventional business plan: No candy. No sodas. And no birth control. Divine Mercy […]

Scranton bishop: “Pro-choice candidates support homicide”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

It’s now less than 30 days to what may be the most critical election in decades — and the Catholic Church is kicking it up a notch. From Sunday’s New York Times: As the Roman Catholic Church observes its annual […]

What the Italians taught the American Church

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

If you want a peek at how the Catholic Church in America is dealing with the issue of immigration, look no further than this interesting item from Fordham University. It explains how — as with so many things — we […]

“I don’t have room for all the Catholics who want to be here”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

From the Right In My Own Backyard Desk, we have this interesting report on the only all-boys Catholic high school on Long Island: Unlike most Roman Catholic schools in the New York area, which embrace students regardless of their religion, […]

A Sunday without priests

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

From Alaska comes news — for once — about something other than Sarah Palin. It’s a dramatic move by parishes to deal with the priest shortage. This, from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Dubbed “Priestless Sunday,” next weekend will find parish […]

“Happy porn-writing Sodomite” removed as lector from church

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

This sort of news doesn’t often make national headlines — but it’s generating a lot of ink, and I can’t help but wonder if a predictable outcry will follow. Here’s how the Boston Globe is reporting it: St. Anthony Shrine […]

After Ike: “Right now, all we have is each other”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Antoinette Pacini prays during Sunday mass at the Galvez Hotel, which was headed by a priest from Sacred Heart Cathedral Galveston. Photo by Mayra Beltran, Houston Chronicle. Galveston was hit hard by Hurricane Ike, and some of the most severely […]

Maybe it’s because they’re praying to pass finals

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Just in time for the start of the school year, a study reports that kids who attend church regularly get higher grades: In the nearly 24 years Carolyn Knight has been director of children’s ministries at the United Methodist Church […]

God talks, children listen

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

From Los Angeles comes this story of an ingenius new tool for teaching children about scripture: a talking bible. Really. From The Tidings: Three years ago, St. Paul the Apostle parishioner Pamela Fischer woke up one morning in Los Angeles […]

Mass disappearance in Michigan

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

One Michigan diocese is struggling with some familiar problems — less money, fewer priests, crumbling churches — and is taking steps to address those issues. First up: eliminating at least one mass at every parish. Here’s more, from the Jackson […]

The split

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

A lot of Catholic voters are finding themselves torn by the issues involved in this presidential election — abortion being only one of them — and the New York Times offers this snapshot of people in the pews in Joe […]

Help wanted

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

A story out of Massachusetts offers a poignant new take on the priest shortage. Reuters reports: The sign outside St. James Church in the affluent Boston suburb of Wellesley sums up Catholicism’s deepening struggles in the United States. “Still searching […]

Two flocks, one shepherd

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

If you are part of one of the dwindling number of parishes that has its very own pastor, count your blessings — and read this report for a glimpse at the future. From the Catholic Sentinel in Oregon: In the […]

On these rocks …

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

This may be the very definition of “pro-active.” Faced with the inconvenient truth that their churches would probably be closing, two parishes in Massachusetts voted in 2006 to consolidate. They did this on their own, without any pressure from the […]

Backing Barack: a young Catholic explains why

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

I stumbled across this essay this morning and thought: “Well here’s something you don’t see every day.” It’s about how a Steubenville pro-life EWTN-watching, daily-mass-attending young Catholic came to support Barack Obama: I started my freshman year at Franciscan University […]

“A priest who doesn’t get at least three complaints a day isn’t doing his job”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

One of the most familiar faces in my corner of New York is Msgr. James Lisante, former head of The Christophers. He pops up a lot on television, offering analysis and commentary, and he has a popular interview program on […]

New Minnesota chancellor: “The faithful have the right to approach suspended priests for the sacraments” — UPDATED

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has a new chancellor for canonical affairs joining the staff next week: Jennifer M. Haselberger, bishop’s delegate for canonical affairs of the Diocese of Fargo, N.D., will join the Archdiocese of St. Paul […]

Tradition, schmadition — UPDATED

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

A friend and former colleague from CBS, Dick Meyer, has weighed in on a phenomenon he knows well: the difficulty of some to embrace traditional faith. By way of introduction…Dick has just published a new book “Why We Hate Us”, […]

Stop the presses! A Catholic school with free tuition?!

posted by deacon greg kandra

Yep. Hard to believe, but true. At a time when Catholic schools are closing, are raising tuition to levels many parents can’t afford, one school in Pennsylvania is bucking the trend. It’s free. From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: When the Rev. […]

“We’ve wrapped the Gospel in this man-repellent package”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

When was the last time you saw a church — Catholic or otherwise — packed with more men than women? USA TODAY takes note of a curious phenomenon, and what some churches are doing to change it: Women outnumber men […]

Ave Maria, one year later: “It’s impressive”

posted by deacon greg kandra

It’s been a while since we heard any news about the “Catholic town” of Ave Maria in Florida. It’s been up and running for a little over a year now — and all indications are, it’s doing well, despite some […]

“I think we need to look at deacons differently”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Out in Wyoming, a local paper just published this interesting look at the Church of the West (West of the Mississippi, that is) and how it’s preparing for the future: The three men in black sat together on what traditionally […]

What would an agreement with the Anglicans look like?

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

That shrewd observer of the Anglican scene, Damien Thompson, has posted some thoughts on what a sudden influx of Anglicans might mean for the Catholic Church — and how it might happen: The really good news, from the Catholic point […]

WYD? EWTN.

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Anyone curious to catch up on the World Youth Day festivities should wander over to EWTN, which seems to have the definitive site for this event, complete with blogs, video, news items, pictures — you name it. Meantime, there’s this […]

“I am a young Catholic and I would like to apologize for my faith”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

As Australians gather for World Youth Day, a young Catholic lawyer Down Under has taken on a new role, as apologist for the faith. Take a look: I am a young Catholic and I would like to apologise for my […]

Connecticut’s counterculture: young, conservative, Christian

posted by deacon greg kandra

From Connecticut comes this intriguing story about a growing band of young conservative Christians seeking to have a voice and make a mark: The topic of the high school discussion was homosexuality, and almost everyone in the class expressed the […]

“Most priests live lives of heroic integrity”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Here’s an intriguing piece out of Long Island, where a man is collecting interviews in an effort to repair the damage done to the reputation of priests: he sex-abuse scandal that broke in 2002 roiled the Roman Catholic Church and […]

Louisville at 200: “It’s like our own Yankee Stadium event”

posted by deacon greg kandra

The good people of Louisville were celebrating yesterday at Slugger Field, marking the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese (founded, originally, in Bardstown, just a stone’s throw from Thomas Merton’s old home, the Abbey of Gethsemane) The Courier-Journal has the story, […]

Baltimore’s Archbishop holds meeting over Legion of Christ controversy

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Over the weekend, the Archbishop of Baltimore had a meeting to discuss his ongoing concerns over the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi. A priest who was there has blogged about it: On Saturday, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien met with a […]

Bringing ’em back

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

One of the topics tackled by the USCCB (when the bishops weren’t riding the teacups at Disney World) was how to woo back lapsed Catholics. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch talked to a few experts about that: In the St. Louis […]

Rounding up the sheep

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Catholics are a distinct minority in Alabama, but a paper there reports on some of the efforts underway to find and bring back lapsed members of the flock: Churches grow and shrink. That’s something that has al­ways happened in the […]

Salvation: anonymous donor gives $20 million to rescue a church

posted by deacon greg kandra

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s dispiriting news about the way Cardinal Egan is reassigning priests in his archdiocese, we have this word that someone is coughing up money — a LOT of money — to save a church: An […]

Priest bans autistic boy from parish – UPDATED

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this story, out of Minnesota. I’m sure the priest must have very good reasons for choosing this course of action. But if I had to ask myself WWJD … well, I don’t […]

The narcissist in the rectory

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Over at Beliefnet, Rod Dreher this weekend blogged about an ongoing conversation with an old friend of his, an ex-priest. Dreher himself is a convert to Catholicism, who left the Church after the scandals of ’02, and is now in […]

Archbishop puts an end to lay preaching

posted by deacon greg kandra

I’m a little bit amazed that this sort of thing is going on, since the Church’s position on this is pretty clear. But evidently, in some places, lay preaching at mass is not uncommon. But now, in one archdiocese, that’s […]

Praying the hours, unceasingly

posted by deacon greg kandra

When I read this, I thought: “This guy sounds more Muslim than Catholic.” And I mean that in a good way. How many Catholics are this devoted to the Liturgy of the Hours? From the East Valley Tribune in Arizona: […]

Bishop: no more communion outside of mass

posted by deacon greg kandra

A bishop in a neighboring diocese, Rockville Center, has just issued a pastoral letter, and he’s cracking down on how and where the Body of Christ is distributed. From Newsday (Long Island, New York): For three decades, students at elite […]

Melding

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Another diocese is making some hard choices about closing parishes — but seems to have found an innovative way of handling it that may keep most churches open: The number of parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of La Crosse […]

Aloha to Papa

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

The pope’s visit is just a happy memory now, but one writer, from Hawaii, has just published her delightful account of her visit to New York. (H/T to Rocco, who always seems to be in the right place at the […]

Start spreading the news: the history of Catholic New York

posted by deacon greg kandra

To help mark the bicentennial of the Archdiocese of New York — or, more accurately, the Diocese — a museum in Gotham is about to open an exhibit that tells the fascinating, sometimes surprising history of Catholics in America’s largest […]

50 reasons

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

This is a wonderful video, sent in from a reader (thank you, Mary!) that celebrates the rosary. Watch — and break out the beads!

Laity answering the call to Carmel

posted by deacon greg kandra

We spend a lot of time praying for vocations, but here is a vocation that doesn’t get much attention — but should. Like all religious vocations, it entails commitment and sacrifice and formation. From Florida Catholic in Tallahassee: Seven new […]

Setting the world ablaze: anticipating World Youth Day

posted by deacon greg kandra

Anyone who thinks of World Youth Day as just a “Catholic Woodstock,” should read this inspiring account from the site of the next WYD, Australia: It was eight years ago in a crowded park on the outskirts of the Vatican […]

Deep in the heart of Texas

posted by deacon greg kandra

While so many of us have been turning East, and focusing on the events in Washington and New York over the last several days, John Allen at NCR took some time to look westward. He’s got a fascinating piece in […]

Catholics “smitten” by Penecostals

posted by deacon greg kandra

We’ve heard much about the Latino influence on the American Catholic Church — and how the tide of immigrants is replenishing the faith. But not all of those who come to this country Catholic remain in the Church. And the […]

What do you wear to a papal mass at a stadium?

posted by deacon greg kandra

My wife and I have been wondering the same thing — and so this nifty article in the Washington Post was of particular interest: “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat? or ‘What are we to […]

Who cares about the pope?

posted by deacon greg kandra

That’s the question posed by Fr. James Martin at the continuing blog, A Papal Discussion, over at the New York Times, and he’s got some compelling answers: Most Catholics, even those who may disagree with some of the pope’s statements, […]

One thriving parish

posted by deacon greg kandra

How can a modern urban parish prosper, when church attendance is down and vocations are lagging and people are fleeing for the suburbs? The New York Times has one intriguing answer: The morning service begins with the swift tap-tap-tap of […]

Meet a “classic stumbling, grumbling, trying-to-sort-it-all-out American Catholic”

posted by deacon greg kandra

One of the best writers at the New York Times, Dan Barry, has composed a thoughtful, honest and unfailingly down-to-earth essay this Sunday on his experience as an American Catholic. Some Catholics, I know, will question whether he is really […]

Are Catholics happy campers?

posted by deacon greg kandra

By and large, yes. Days before the pope hits the States, a new survey takes the temperature of his American flock: According to the survey, eight out of 10 people are very satisfied or at least somewhat satisfied with how […]

Dwindling Catholic school enrollment: “A slow-moving disaster”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

A new report paints the clearest picture yet of what is happening in Catholic education — and what isn’t. USA Today has a snapshot: For years, parents at St. Joseph School, a tiny Catholic school in Petersburg, Va., have fretted […]

“We live it every day”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

In its ongoing run-up to the pope’s visit, the Washington Post is taking a look at how some Catholics live, and has discovered — surprise surprise — that some of them really are Catholic: During an era when two-thirds of […]

Welcome home

posted by deacon greg kandra

How’s this for 21st century evangelization: an enterprising person has created a website geared specifically to wayward Catholics. And it’s having a phenomenal impact. Check out the story, from Catholic News Agency: In less than three weeks, 3,000 Catholics returned […]

Taking Christ out of Christianity

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

There aren’t many things these days that leave me utterly speechless. But this item did: That triumphal barnburner of an Easter hymn, “Jesus Christ Has Risen Today – Hallelujah,” this morning will rock the walls of Toronto’s West Hill United […]

John Allen’s Catholic “mega-trends”

posted by deacon greg kandra

One of Catholicism’s most insightful observers, John Allen, had some sage words for the faithful recently in Denver. He was invited to speak by his friend, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, and brought up an intriguing theme: mega-trends in the Catholic […]

Humanae Vitae at 40: “This is when the door to the cafeteria opened”

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

The popular press is beginning to notice a not-too-insignificant anniversary this year: the 40th of Humanae Vitae. The Religion News Service takes note here: Asked about her church’s ban on artificial birth control, Emily Kunkel inhales deeply and pauses. “It’s […]

Previous Posts

This blog is no longer active
This blog is no longer being actively updated. Please feel free to browse the archives or: Read our most popular inspiration blog See our most popular inspirational video Take our most popular quiz ...

posted 10:42:40pm Dec. 12, 2010 | read full post »

One day more
A reminder: "The Deacon's Bench" is closed! Please enjoy the archives! ...

posted 11:26:20pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Meet Montana's married priest
Earlier this week, I posted an item about Montana getting its first married priest. Now a local TV station has hopped on the bandwagon. Take a look, below. ...

posted 10:29:55pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Big day in the Big Easy: 10 new deacons
Deacon Mike Talbot has the scoop: 10 men today were ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. This group of men was formally selected on the day the evacuation of New Orleans began as Hurricane Katrina approached. The ...

posted 6:55:42pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Gaudete! And let's break out a carol or two...
"Gesu Bambino," anyone? This is one of my favorites, and nobody does it better than these gals: Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Staade. Enjoy. ...

posted 1:04:10pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

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