Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'With The Blessings Of Fruitful Fields And Healthful Skies'

Saint Michael the Archangel Church, Woodstock, Thanksgiving, 2009.

This week’s Georgia Bulletin hits the streets as many families are gathering together to celebrate Thanksgiving. In this issue, we turn our attention to Catholics who find themselves with much to be thankful for: from an adoptive family to a living donor who gave a kidney to a fellow parishioner.

What many may not realize is the contemporary American holiday was forged in days of war. President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 is credited with establishing it as a national holiday.

Sadly, in 2010, the country finds itself engaged in two wars. So, say a prayer for the safe keeping for people in harms way and those that keep the peace.

From Lincoln’s proclamation:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

… The country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. ...

You can read the complete proclamation here at the National Park Service website.

A very blessed holiday to you and your loved ones.


Staff Writer

Photo by Michael Alexander.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A community honors Our Lady of Divine Providence

On Sunday, November 14, I attended the Spanish Mass at St. Philip Benizi Church, where the liturgy was devoted to the celebration of Our Lady of Divine Providence.

Our Lady of Divine Providence Mass

Since 1989 the Puerto Rican community at the Jonesboro parish has annually honored the Blessed Virgin, who was declared the patroness of Puerto Rico by Pope Paul VI back on November 19, 1969.

Franciscan Father Abelardo Huanca, St. Philip Benizi parochial vicar, was the main celebrant and homilist for the Mass. He was also joined by fellow Franciscans Father John Koziol, pastor, and parochial vicar Father Michael Kolodziej. Deacons Joseph Anzalone, Peter Swan, Etienne Rodriguez and Julio Martinez were also on hand. Rodriguez and Martinez are Puerto Rican natives.

This year’s Our Lady of Divine Providence Mass and celebration was coordinated through the efforts of Father Huanca, Hispanic pastoral assistant Maria Torres and parishioner Haydee Santiago. It was also dedicated to the memory of Deacon Martinez’s late wife Minerva (affectionately know as Minnie). Minerva died on Oct. 16. She was a member of the Our Lady of Divine Providence planning committee, as well as a singer in the Spanish choir.

Choir members sing during the Nov. 14 liturgy.

Speaking of the Spanish choir, they were great. There were 10 vocalists and 11 instrumentalists and percussionists. Choir members wore stoles with an image of the Puerto Rican flag and buttons bearing the face of Minerva Martinez. If music can be described as both spiritual and festive, that’s how the sound added to the liturgy.

The music continued at the reception that followed the Mass, and while the people listened, they shared a meal that consisted of roast pork, rice and pigeon peas, green bananas (marinated in olive oil, with onion and a tad of garlic), salad, flan, and cake.

I covered my first Our Lady of Providence Mass at St. Philip Benizi in November 1997. Bishop Enrique Hernández Rivera, the bishop of the Diocese of Caguas, Puerto Rico at the time, was the main celebrant and homilist.

As history points out, the Marian devotion to Our Lady of Divine Providence originated in Italy, spread to France and Spain and was introduced to Puerto Rico in the early 1850s.

I had an opportunity to kneel before the shrine of Our Lady of Divine Providence in San Juan’s cathedral in 2009, so last Sunday’s Mass brought it full circle for me.

Our Lady of Divine Providence shrine, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Today, November 19, marks the feast day of Our Lady of Divine Providence. “Dios te salve Maria, llena eres de gracia” (Hail Mary Full Of Grace).

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Candy Shop

After seeing the trailer for a new short film entitled The Candy Shop (see link below), I wasn’t really sure what to expect at the recent screening for the movie. A “fairy tale” about sex trafficking?

The Candy Shop, a visually stunning 30 minutes of work, follows the story of a young newspaper boy who discovers the dark secret behind a shop right across the street from where he sells papers—a machine transforms young girls into candy, which is then sold to gentlemen customers in the town. The subtle imagery of the film presents trafficking in an accessible way, and gives hope that people can eliminate these “shops” and help to restore the lives of the young children affected by this crime.

The movie is the brainchild of Brandon McCormick, a young local filmmaker who was shocked when he learned of the growing problem of child sex trafficking here in his hometown of Atlanta. He began work on an allegorical tale about the foul underground scene in hopes of raising awareness and rallying his fellow citizens to fight back.

Photograph by Bryan Scott, courtesy of Whitestone Motion Pictures.

The evening at the Fox was a call to action as viewers were encouraged to get involved by lobbying supportive legislation, mentoring affected children and volunteering with non-profits that are already working to eliminate trafficking in the area. According to Street GRACE, an organization formed last year to help fight the problem locally, there are nearly 500 girls are trafficked in Georgia each month. A very disturbing statistic to be sure.

Check out the links below to see the trailer for The Candy Shop and to find more information on how you can be a part of this crucial movement.

The Candy Shop trailer
Street GRACE
STOP The Candy Shop

Stephen, Staff Writer

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who would have thought?

Today when I came cross the story of the School Sisters of Notre Dame selling a Honus Wagner baseball card for more than $260,0o0, I kicked myself for tossing my extensive collection of cards all those years ago. Not that I had any particular card that could compare to an early 1900s item of such value, but maybe in about 40 years some of them would have been worth more than the 50 cents I spent buying those old packs (which were usually complete with a stale, stiff piece of regular chewing gum).

Apparently the rare baseball card was inherited from the deceased brother of one of the nuns and purchased by a collector and card shop owner from Knoxville, Tenn. But what was most intriguing to me about this story was that the Baltimore-based religious order, which has a special focus on teaching, education and mission work, now has over $200,000 to dedicate to their ministries that are present in 30 countries throughout the world.

Who would have thought something like collecting baseball cards, that distracted me from school and homework all those years ago, could actually have a profound impact in education around the world?

Stephen, Staff Writer

To read the full AP story, please click here.