Tuesday, December 14, 2010

His gifts of beauty surround us

Sometimes in our busy and hurried schedules we fail to stop and take in the beauty of God around us. Recently I was on my way to an assignment when I noticed the December evening sky below.

I've never taken a photograph that God didn't
see first, because it was his creation.

Ordinarily I would have gone about my business, but it was like God was trying to get my attention. ‘Hey Michael, take a look at this!’ It’s the kind of aerial fanfare God often provides, but can go unnoticed. During this season of Advent as we wait for the greatest of all gifts, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ, slow down and take in a full breath of God’s beauty that surrounds us.

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Friday, December 3, 2010

Award Winners Announced

The Office of Black Catholic Ministry recently announced the winners for the January celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And here they are:

A crayon drawing of a dove with its open wings hovering over people of many colors was the first place winner in the Fourth Annual Chancery’s Choice Poster Contest in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Workers in the archdiocesan downtown office judged the entries. The theme for this year’s January celebration is “Your Kindness Should Be Known to All.”

The 1st Place prize went to Gilliane Conklin, who attends St. Catherine of Siena School, Kennesaw. Olivia House, a student at St. Thomas More School, Decatur, earned 2nd place and Carmela Pagsisihan, Our Lady of Victory School, Tyrone, took home 3rd place.

The winners will be recognized during the Youth Celebration on Sunday, Jan. 16, at St. Peter Claver Regional Catholic School, Decatur.

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.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A different kind of Wednesday at St. Peter Chanel

For the last two months at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, Wednesday has become more than an evening of Parish School of Religion (PSR) sessions. It’s also Wednesday Night Family Supper. The family dinner concept came about to foster community and fellowship among families bringing their children to PSR.

Elementary PSR runs from 4:30p - 5:45p. Middle school and high school goes from 6:30p - 7:45p. The family supper starts at 5:30p and ends at 6:30p. During the elementary session parents have the option of attending parenting class. I stopped in on the Oct. 27 class and there were 15 parents participating in a class called Becoming A Love and Logic Parent. The seven-week course, taught by parishioner Sharon Egan, is designed to give parents practical techniques to help teach their kids discipline and responsibility. Once a month, usually on the first Wednesday of the month, a family rosary is held from 5-5:30p.

Sharon Eagan, far right, leads the parenting class.

Parishioner Maureen Penniman, the owner of Zest and Zing Café, Woodstock, prepares and serves the meals. She also teaches a fifth grade PSR class. Dinners can be ordered and prepaid online. They are $6.00 for adults and $3.50 for children. The supper is served in St. Peter Chanel’s McNamee Hall. There were 100 prepaid families and about 50 walk-ins this week, but they’ve served as many as 200 meals in the past. The meals are normally of a home-style variety and feature entrees like lasagna or chicken enchilada, plus two sides, dessert and a beverage.

The menu for this week’s All Saints celebration included a baked potato bar with items like beef and bean chili, broccoli and cheese, cheddar, bacon bits, sour cream and butter to top load the “tater.” Children who dressed up as saints received a discounted dinner that included a corn dog, chips, applesauce and a dessert treat.

St. Paul (second-grader Ryan Duffy) munches on a corn dog.

Wednesday Night Family Supper regular Stephany White said, “I find the dinners very convenient. I don’t have to cook, which makes it easy since I’m running the kids to various activities. The meals are also good and nourishing – better than fast food.” Her husband Eric also enjoys the family meals, but he equally enjoys his chance to socialize.

Members of The Forever Young ministry, made up of mostly seniors, are some of the most frequent customers to the dinners. Some of them live far away from immediate family and the dinners allow them to mingle and interact with parishioners and their children. When asked why the Forever Young group is so supportive of the Wednesday Night Family Supper, president Barbara Duchene said with a smile, “They contribute a dollar to our treasury for every six Forever Young paying customers we bring. But in addition to that, it’s a good night for all of us to come together.”

Maureen Penniman, left, serves some young dinner patrons.

Thirteen-year-old Jacob Seippel, the oldest quadruplet in his family, said he enjoys all the nice people he gets to hang out with. When it comes to his favorite meal, Seippel said, “I enjoyed the potato bar tonight, but the beef stroganoff was really good last week.”

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A day trip to two north Georgia parishes

Last Thursday, Oct 21, I struck out on a photography assignment that would take me to two of Georgia’s most northern parishes. My first destination was Blue Ridge in Fannin County. I got a little lost finding St. Anthony Church once I arrived in Blue Ridge, but getting lost is not always so bad. Sometimes you run into points of interest you might have missed if you stayed on course. In this instance I ventured through Blue Ridge’s downtown area and I was able to see all the people preparing to board the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway for their 3.5 to 4 hour excursion to McCaysville.

St. Anthony Church, Blue Ridge

I eventually found my way to St. Anthony Church, which began as a mission of St. Joseph Church, Dalton, in 1967. Back on June 13, 1986, the feast day of St. Anthony, the parish of 60 families at the time, gathered for a Mass as the mission was elevated to a parish and the first pastor Father Steven Yander was installed.

Father John Conway is the current pastor, but Thursday is his day off so he wasn’t around. It was cleaning day at the church. A group of parishioners were working on the inside and another woman was sweeping outside. I took over the task of sweeping for a moment because I had to photograph the church’s exterior, and I was trying to remove some of the leaves from the sidewalk.

After I finished photographing I prepared to head over to Blairsville, my next stop. Blairsville is approximately 28 miles east of Blue Ridge. It was a gorgeous day for such a scenic ride among the Cohuttas and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Fannin County. God’s color palette of fall colors was quite stunning. I arrived at St. Francis of Assisi in Blairsville with no problems. I was greeted by Mary Smith when I got there. I had never met Smith in person, but we had exchanged emails before I drove up. Smith is also the pastoral assistant and director of religious education, and back in 2009 during The Way Of The Cross photo project I was working on for Holy Week she organized a group from the parish Life Teen to write personal reflections on some the Stations of the Cross.

St. Francis of Assisi Church, Blairsville

While the first weekly Masses in the area took place back in the mid 1960s, St. Francis of Assisi did not officially become a parish until March 1982. Father Bob Poandl served as the first resident pastor. Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue presided over the dedication of the existing church in May 1996.

St. Francis of Assisi is nestled in a beautiful setting at the base of the Ivy Log Ridge mountain range. I had not visited the parish in over a decade. A multipurpose building that houses classrooms, a social hall, office space and a new commercial style kitchen are the newest additions to the property. While I was taking photographs of the church, Father Richard Wise, the pastor since 2002, was walking his 14-year-old dog Rusty around the grounds. As the lunch hour approached members of the Union County Rotary Club were arriving for their weekly meeting at the parish.

One of the things I enjoy most in my role as a member of the Catholic press is the people I meet and the friends I make. I was about to drive back toward the Blairsville commercial district when a member of the St. Francis kitchen crew that prepares and servers lunch for the Rotary Club, invited me to have lunch with them in the kitchen. I had a healthy portion of spaghetti and meatballs, corn and a cup of water. It was very nice of them to offer me a meal. The seven-person kitchen crew consisted of Paula Bachman, Chip Clendaniel, Joan Kirkman, Ron Koerber, Cindy Kopec, Bill Rogers and Bob Scoda. Their team leader, Betty Furka, was vacationing in Florida.

St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen Crew

The return drive that would eventually take me back to Georgia 400 South took me up, over and down Blood Mountain. The mountain road is filled with curves. I was reminded of all the twists and turns that can exist in our lives. Sometimes life gets so crazy and we just want God to straighten things out for us. In the same way I finally descended the mountain and the crooked roads became straight, we can always count on God to be nearby and help set us on the right path.

Every valley will be filled and every mountain and hill will be brought low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Luke 3:4-6

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Monday, October 4, 2010

Amazing Race Recap

Team Andrea & Jenna were the last to the find their way to the Kaneshie Market in Accra, Ghana, ousting them from the global scavenger hunt.

Andrea DeKroon and her newly found daughter and teammate Jenna Sykes, a University of Georgia student, were done in by the race from London to the west African country of Ghana.

Here Team A & J say goodbye to the race, knowing they won’t be in each others lives as much after the race. Warning: Have a tissue handy.

Arriving at Kotoka International Airport, the teams rode in taxis to Accra's Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. They were instructed to travel to the Makola Market, a bustling shopping area where they had to sell $10 worth of sunglasses. Jenna took on the task.

On one cab ride, Andrea gives a beggar some money, while most of the Amazing Race tried their best to ignore people asking for money.

It was another taxi ride that got lost to the next challenge that put the team in the tight spot.

The task took them to Peace Motor Spare Parts, where teams chose either: Tune In or Check Out. In Tune In, they buy a TV antenna system and install it at a home to the owner’s approval. With a kind of clear picture, the owners handed the next clue. In Check Out, teams have to transport a big coffin - which come shaped like a camera, lion, etc.—to a showroom in town. Andrea and Jenna hustled to move a large fish coffin.

Racers got caught in a traffic jam. A few taxi drivers braved making their own lane between stalled trucks and traffic. Team A & J had a bad break and crossed the finish line last.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Teachable moments on the gridiron

Coach Brian Moscona, standing, second from right in sun visor, gathers the Holy Spirit Preparatory School football players together following their Sept. 18 game against Griffin Christian. Standing around him are assistant coaches
(l-r) Peter Schoenthaler, Tommy Curtin and Patrick Devine.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of athletes at all levels of sports in the news for a number of unlawful activities like sexual assault, armed robbery, D.U.I., drug possession, etc. It’s getting to point where some players are better known for their transgressions off the field or court than for their athletic talents.

Where does it all begin? What can be done to reverse this pattern?

I recently heard about a junior high school football coach, who not only instructs his players about the game, but is also molding them into virtuous young men. The coach is Brian Moscona of Holy Spirit Preparatory School, Atlanta. Moscona, a 2003 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, is also the lower school’s assistant principal.

Moscona arrived at Holy Spirit in 2006 after completing Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program and one year of seminary formation with the Congregation of Holy Cross, the religious community of brothers and priests who serve and teach at Notre Dame. Moscona started the junior high school football program that same year.

It’s been a steady progression. The first season the team went winless. The second season they finished at .500 (3-3). Last year the team was undefeated at 8-0.

But Moscona is about more than wins, losses or ties. He is teaching his players the important lessons of discipline, humility, selflessness and working hard to be your best. “We emphasize both charity and humility. Yes, we are playing a physical game, but it should never be the intention of any player to hurt or to humiliate another person. Football is a great game and it is an arena in which we can cultivate virtue. We should strive to glorify Christ in all that we do, both on and off the football field. I encourage my players to strive to give God glory with our words and actions. Stepping onto the gridiron is not an excuse to forget about being holy and charitable,” says Moscona.

Two things occur at the end of every Holy Spirit practice. First, they say a prayer thanking God for the gifts in their lives. They also pray for their families, friends, and opponents. Then they implore the Intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Mary, Our Queen of Victory. Secondly, they recognize "studs of the day." These are players Moscona and his coaches lift up as great models for their efforts that day in practice. It’s often for hard work, positive attitude, virtuous actions, overcoming mistakes, affirming teammates, etc. “This year we have allowed players to recognize one another as studs of the day. This is a powerful way of building up the players and creating a culture of affirmation and positivity,” says Moscona.

“Coach Moscona promotes virtuous character on and off the field. He expects us to avoid trouble in school, keep our grades up and be an example to others,” says eighth grade center and linebacker Andrew Vincent.

Nate Guyton, a second-year player who plays tight end and fullback, commented further about his coach. “He (Moscona) tells us to rise above the trash talk and the unsportsmanlike conduct. He wants us to become the type of Christian football player that ignores it and doesn’t allow such negativity to affect us,” says Guyton.

Tommy Curtin has served as Moscona’s assistant coach for the past three years. Curtin, a Latin and religion teacher who also directs the school’s liturgical choir, was a classmate of Moscona at Notre Dame. He describes his friend and colleague as a great communicator with both parents and students. “He is also very even-tempered, which is an essential quality of both good teachers and good coaches. I think he has developed exceptional instincts about what one can expect from junior high students in terms of execution, attendance, and focus. He also truly understands how football fits into the mission of the school, and that helps him keep everything in perspective,” says Curtin.

“The kids really respond to Coach Moscona. They see that he is a teacher on and off the field and they respect him. They know that his number one priority is forming them into successful young men, not just good football players. The players feel genuinely loved by their coach,” says Curtin.

"Virtue Boys" is an informal name that Moscona and his coaches began using last year when referring to the group of kids on the team who are frequently recognized as "studs of the day" for their virtuous actions during practice. They were seventh-graders at the time. This year the eighth-graders have been playing well, but their greatest contribution to the team is the way they consistently model virtue for the other guys. They play hard and live out the school motto, ‘To Serve, Not To Be Served.’ They set up before practice and clean up after practice. They are polite and respectful. They are good students in the classroom. They are prayerful, frequently attending daily Mass and making chapel visits during the day. They represent Holy Spirit Preparatory well and model what the younger guys should try to emulate.

Currently the team stands at 3-1-1. That puts them second in the divisional standings. The top two teams from each of the two divisions will make the playoffs. They need to win their next two games to be guaranteed a spot. If they lose both games, their season is over.

But win or lose, it’s hail to the virtuous!

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Monday, September 27, 2010

Amazing Race Review

An Atlanta area Catholic parishioner and her birth daughter are competing in this season’s “Amazing Race,” so I’ll be watching this fast-paced Sunday show as my journalistic duty.

Read about Andrea DeKroon and birth daughter Jenna Sykes as they attempt to win $1 million on the 17th edition of the series here. And here’s their introductory video.

My posts will be my own biased observations. Of course, all of it is Monday morning quarterbacking, so naturally I’ll be much smarter and wiser than the contestants are in the heat of battle.

My first observation. Booyah. Good for them to agreeing to this endeavor. The duo hadn’t had time to develop a relationship before the series so they will be seeing each other's faults and strengths for the first time in a pressure cooker.

New England Fishing Boats

This season started with the 11 teams arriving by lobster boats to the port of Gloucester, Mass., one of the oldest seaport in the country. It is also the place from which the fishing crews from "The Perfect Storm" sailed, but I digress.

All the teams raced in tiny cars from Gloucester down to Boston’s Logan International Airport to try and make the first flight to England.

The drive can be terrible – I know because I lived the area for several years – so I thought point for Team Andi/Jenna, hereby dubbed Team A/J, who are likely familiar with driving in Atlanta, which as we all know is notorious for traffic snarls.

The team made it on to the second flight to jolly old England from Boston.

Cars became a problem for Team A/J in England. Andi was behind the wheel, which meant she changed gears with her left hand and drove on the left. Ugh.

Not a shining moment for the team. Andi’s gear grinding eventually helped kill the engine in the middle of busy English roadway.
But they kept their cool. Point for Team A/J.

They found Stonehenge and then moved on to Eastnor Castle, for a series of challenges, like “storming a castle” up ladders while doused with dirty water and crossing a river on a turtle-looking boat. Jenna took up the challenge to fire a watermelon using a giant slingshot to knock over a suit of armor 50 feet away.

Team A/J arrived at the pit stop in ninth position, despite the car setback.
The eliminated team included friends from Los Angeles.

Here's a video of them arriving at the pit stop and talking about working together:

The global scavenger hunt’s second leg sends the remaining 10 teams to Ghana.

Did you think the car breakdown was a sign of grace under pressure? Suggestions for a better team name?

Staff Writer

Friday, September 24, 2010

Social Media on the brain

It is a social media bonanza here at the Georgia Bulletin.

Thursday night at Taco Mac near the Perimeter Mall, several folks involved with the new media gathered. It was the meeting of the Catholic social media users group in the Big Peach. There were podcasters, 'tweeters,' writers, leaders with Star Quest Production Network and others.

A ring leader was Greg Willets, of
Catholics Next Door, who wanted to see if there was interest in sharing ideas, learning from each other and set up a sounding board for the pro and novice alike.

Answer: Yes.

There's a Facebook page to keep up with news.

Today is also a second social media event. It
is a Web-inar hosted by the Catholic Press Association about "Using Social Media: Best Practices."

Helen Osman
, the secretary for communications for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is leading the discussion. A bunch of people here at the newspaper and others from communications at the archdiocese are attending.

If I get the green light, I'll share any tip sheets I come across.

Staff Writer

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mercy’s music festival sizzles and that’s not all

Kevin Wyglad & Chasing Grace perform the Beatles rendition of "Let It Be."

Last Saturday Our Lady of Mercy High School hosted its second annual MusicFest at their outdoor stadium. I missed MusicFest 2009, but from what I’m told this year’s was bigger. They doubled the length of the event (12 noon – 8 pm), the acts and the vendors. They also added a dunk tank, and over a six and a half hour period, 12 different teachers took a seat in the tank, including principal Danny Dorsel and new head football coach Mike Earwood.

MusicFest celebrates God through music and showcases the Fayetteville Catholic school to its surrounding community. The Christian and Gospel artists on hand included the World Changers Church International Youth Choir, Batiste, Kevin Wyglad & Chasing Grace, ManChild, Greg Ferrara, Robert Gould, Canton Jones, Cleveland, John Waller and Run Kid Run. Gould is an actor, recording artist, and a junior at Our Lady of Mercy. The master of ceremonies included Dr. Chris Griffith and WSB Channel 2 anchor Jovita Moore. Griffith is the father of Mercy junior Christian Griffith.

MusicFest was nearly 10 degrees hotter than last year’s too, as temperatures reached 91 degrees. Fortunately the music was a cool diversion to the heat.

A 10-member committee called the Mission Of Many worked tirelessly to coordinate MusicFest 2010. Some 150 parent volunteers shared their time during the day. The artists and major sponsors of the festival were also treated to food under the VIP tent catered by “Your Special Event,” which is owned by the parents of Mercy junior Julian Thomas.

Greg Ferrara and his band perform at
MusicFest 2010, Sept. 18.

As I was walking around MusicFest, I ran into Mercy track and field sprinter and football player Jordan Sartor. “It’s very good to get the community to turn out for MusicFest. They usually come to sporting events like football or softball, but it’s good to enjoy the company of each other at a different type of activity,” said Sartor.

MusicFest was not the only hot topic of discussion this past weekend. Our Lady of Mercy’s football team is 4-0 for the first time in school history. They also defeated cross-town rival Landmark Christian High School 42-35. It was Mercy’s first victory over Landmark Christian in the two teams’ nine meetings.

Landmark Christian had dominated Mercy. Just to put things in perspective, Landmark Christian had averaged just over 50 points per game in its eight previous victories. The largest margin of victory was 66-0 in 2002 and the smallest margin of victory was 33-6 in 2005.

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Does that face on TV look familiar? You may be sharing a pew with them.

Two Catholics in the Atlanta Archdiocese are hopefuls in national contests.

The first is Henry
Chandler, chef/owner of Henry’s Louisiana Grill, Acworth.

Out of thousands of nominations, he is one of 18 finalists to be named the “People’s Platelist" sponsored by "Nightline." The winner is to be an “authentic and creative chef” with a signature dish and cuisine. Votes are cast online here.
According to the Web site:
Over 1,000 of you wrote in to nominate a local chef for the Nightline People's Platelist contest. 20 finalists were announced on Aug. 2 and 18 submitted short videos. Now you can vote for which of the top 18 you think should win! The chef with the most votes from viewers across America will be featured on national television!
Click here to see the videos of the finalists.

The essay to nominate Chandler reads:
Take one little boy growing up in a Louisiana kitchen at his nanny's elbow. Mix in college in Lafayette, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Christmas Festivals in Natchitoches. Marinate for three years in European culinary schools. Return to the States for further seasoning. Observe carefully as ingredients ignite. Contain fiery mixture in small town restaurant and present: Chef Henry Chandler!
He attends St. Catherine of Siena Church in Kennesaw.

If you like Chandler’s message, go eat in his restaurant and vote for him. Or vote then go eat.
The online voting ends Sept. 26th at 11:59 p.m., ET.

(Disclaimer: The Georgia Bulletin has not gotten any jambalaya for this news items. Laissez les bons temps rouler.)

And the second local face on national TV is Andie DeKroon, a contestant on the “Amazing Race.” DeKroon's brother is Father Paul Willams, pastor of St. Joseph Church, Dalton.

A graduate of Marist School, DeKroon has her birth daughter, Jenna Sykes, 21, as a team mate in the around-the-world scavenger hunt.

The race features 11 teams traveling across four continents and 30 cities with first time visits to Bangladesh, Ghana and the Arctic Circle. It is the 17th season for the CBS show, which premiers on Sunday, Sept. 26.

The mother and daughter recently reunited. When the two stand at the start line it will be only the third time the mother and birth daughter have been together since Sykes was adopted more than 20 years .

“I'm definitely having a midlife crisis,” DeKroon says. On her lifelong to-do list is skydiving, bungee jumping and a diver’s certificate.

“I hope to get to know my birth mother through this incredible opportunity,” 21-year-old Sykes says. “It is my hope that we will be able to spend a lot of time together and become friends.”

See their video

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Small Town Honors 10 Who Died

I went home.

Home is where you sit down and the place itself speaks to you.

In my small hometown, what’s new always stands out because much stays the same.

As I walked around, I saw a new park with benches and a stone tablet in a semicircle, dappled with sunlight and shade, just off the main street and across from the railroad station where trains come and go into New York City.

The park is a memorial for those in the town of Pelham, N.Y., who were killed on September 11: ten people from a town of 12,000.

Two men, brothers, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, a global financial services firm which lost over 650 of its employees from their offices at the top of the World Trade Center.

Daniel Shea, 37, and Joseph Shea, 47, were fathers to seven children.

New York Fire Department Lt. Joseph G. Leavey was 46. One of the emergency responders, he reached the 78th floor of one of the twin towers. Radio transmissions identify his voice as one of the last to be heard taking and giving instructions to firefighters rescuing people and putting out fires on the upper floors. Those who’ve heard the tape remark that the firefighters’ voices are professional and calm. It’s meant a lot to their families to know that.

Lt. Leavey and his wife and three children belonged to the parish church of my childhood.

Robert C. McLaughlin, 29, also worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. His son was nine months old. Montgomery Hord also worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. He had three children. Robert Scandole, a graduate of St. Johns University, was 36, and a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. He was the father of two girls. Michael A. Tamuccio was 37, vice president of equity trading for Fred Alger Management.

Amy O’Doherty, 23, who grew up and went to high school here had just graduated from St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York and was working in her first job after college at Cantor Fitzgerald and living in a fifth-floor walkup apartment in New York City.

Michael Boccardi, 30, an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster was a vice president for institutional relations at Fred Alger Management.

Thomas Hynes, 28, had graduated from my high school. He was an account manager at Vestek Division of Thomson Financial. He proposed to his wife at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. In September 2001, she was expecting their first child.

I walk from bench to bench where their names are inscribed. The sadness and honor and dignity of this quiet park envelop me.

The park was dedicated in May 2007, six years after the tragedy. It took some time for the plans to come to fruition in this small town and for the funding to come about through grants and donations. A granite memorial stone bears a quotation from Charles de Gaulle. The benches surround an oval area with a single flowering dogwood tree. The tree was chosen “as a symbol of beauty that remains during and after sorrow.”

Each year a remembrance is held there.

As a daughter of this town, I am so grateful for what those who worked for this memorial park have done. Because when I come home the place speaks to me of ordinary people whose lives are cherished, remembered and mourned. Of ordinary people like Lt. Leavey who became heroes when that was unexpectedly asked of them one day when they went to work. Of fathers who took a train to work every day and were the bright light of their families every evening when they came home. And of the children through whom their brightness will still illuminate the world.

Gretchen Keiser, Editor

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

August's Top 5 local stories

Writers and editors in August were hard at work showcasing the Catholic events, from back-to-school profiles to a Hispanic 'Encuentro' evangelizing a parish.

Here are the top five local new stories in August that grabbed eyeballs at the Georgia Bulletin Web site.

If you missed them the first time, go back and see what others liked about them.

What was your favorite story in August?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Letters of the lawn

Yesterday I was on my way into Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, to take some photos for an upcoming story on the school’s 10th anniversary, when these large, painted letters caught my attention. They were not hard to miss because they were bright yellow. The letters, each spanning 26 feet in height, are cut to precision as they stretch 200 feet along the side of a hill on the backside of the football field’s home bleachers. The letters spell out the school’s mascot name, T-I-T-A-N-S.

Isidro Licon and Roberto Rodriguez first cut the letters into shape. Then it took them a couple of hours and 22.5 gallons of paint to cover the letters with a paint sprayer. I’d call it a titanic undertaking just in time for the school’s football home opener against Grady High School this Friday, Sept. 3.

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In the most unexpected of places

Last Sunday, as my wife and I boarded a plane scheduled to leave from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport heading to Atlanta, we arrived at our seats to find an older woman in the row, her head buried in a stack of documents. We did not exchange hello's as not to bother her and so we quietly took our seats, excited to head home after a busy weekend celebrating the marriage of my oldest brother to his lovely new bride.

During the flight, my wife Jacqui and I participated in our usual flying traditions: reading, listening to music, the occasional game of Yahtzee on my phone and general silliness. All the while, the woman next to us remained silent and we never shared a word. This is somewhat unusual for us as both my wife and I are always eager to make new friends.

The woman continued to review her documents throughout the flight and then, as the plane pulled up to the gate and we removed our safety belts, she leaned over to my wife and asked quietly, "¿Hablas español?," ("Do you speak Spanish?") to which Jacqui responded, "Un poquito" ("A little"). Jacqui then asked in Spanish if the woman spoke any English and she replied, "Nada." The woman smiled and we exited the plane, happy to finally be home after an exhausting (but amazing) weekend.

As we entered the terminal, I walked briskly towards the end of the corridor in order to quickly get to the car since we still had another hour or so to drive from the airport. Then I heard Jacqui call my name and I turned around. She said, "I'm a little worried about that woman. Maybe we should see if she needs help." I paused, reluctantly nodded and we returned to the gate to wait for the woman. She eventually emerged with a bewildered look on her face, visibly overwhelmed with the busyness and chaos of the Atlanta airport. We could certainly empathize with this woman, as Jacqui and I are both Atlanta residents, we both speak English, and sometimes we still have trouble getting around that place.

The atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Photo by Michael Alexander.

We approached the woman and watched as a smile spread across her face, happy to see familiar faces. After several failed attempts to find out where she needed to go, we were able to ask for her boarding pass and found out she was traveling to Argentina, presumably from Spain since we both detected a strong Castilian accent. We picked up her bags and escorted her to the tram, which we rode to the other end of the airport, in the meantime picking up small bits of info as she happily spoke to us in a language we could just barely understand. She was heading to Argentina to visit her children and had been traveling non-stop for a while, as was visible by the stack of boarding passes she had and continued to review like she did throughout the flight.

All of us began to cheer as we found the gate and led her to the agent to check in. After everything was taken care of at the counter we led her to a place she could finally sit and relax. Her eyes teared up as she asked us our names and hugged and kissed us saying, "Mis hijos, mis hijos!" ("My children, my children!").

It was then that it hit me that this was not just a random encounter. What was originally seen as an inconvenience by me ended up being a powerful spiritual experience as I suddenly recognized the face of God in this lost, confused and seemingly helpless woman.

A weekend watching my brother enter into that sacred union of marriage with his bride was such an amazing blessing and witness to Love, but God graciously allowed us to have one more encounter with Him and one that was totally unexpected.

It seems that often God is right there with us, much like that woman on the plane, but we completely miss the opportunity to encounter Him as we are usually in our own world doing our own thing. It isn't until we take some initiative that He reveals Himself!

I'm sure many of you have encountered God in the most unexpected of places, and we would love to hear your stories! Please feel free to comment below with your tales!

Stephen, Staff Reporter

Monday, August 30, 2010

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

While some homes had been demolished in New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward,
nearly a year later others remained topsy-turvy by the force of the water.

Yesterday, August 29, marked the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans, La. It is an unforgettable natural disaster in the history of our country. Katrina’s fifth anniversary allowed me to reminisce about my last visit to the “Crescent City.” It was the year after Katrina. I made two trips to New Orleans that summer.

The first trip was with two of my former colleagues Erika Anderson and Priscilla Greear. The editors at The Georgia Bulletin allowed us to take a long field trip to the Gulf Coast to do some regional reporting on the area, one year after the Category 3 hurricane left a path of massive destruction from central Florida to Texas. Over five days in July, we travelled to Mississippi cities like Bay St. Louis, Long Beach, Pass Christian and Waveland. We spent our final three and half days in New Orleans.

There are a few things that still stand out about the trip. First, we were graciously assisted and welcomed by so many people during their time of loss. In Mississippi there was Shirley Henderson, editor of the Gulf Pine Catholic. Shirley and her husband allowed us to stay at their home. There was also a man by the name of Bragg Williams, a member of St. Rose Lima Church, who showed us around Bay St. Louis and Waveland. In New Orleans Peter Finney, editor of The Clarion Herald, and his staff went out of their way to help us in our efforts. Peter, an alumnus of Loyola University New Orleans, also made arrangements for us to stay in a dormitory on campus.

Secondly, I was so amazed by the amount of destruction Hurricane Katrina left behind. It was so overwhelming that one year later still looked like one week later. To see the news footage on television was one thing, but to actually see it in person was unbelievable. Whole neighborhoods for several square miles looked like ghost towns and electrical power in many areas had still not been restored. Shopping centers, stores, restaurants and many other commercial and residential buildings stood vacant. I’ll never forget the images.

Lastly, the people we met and wrote about in the two states were so full of faith. When you have nothing else to hold on to, God is there to support you, and they were not hesitant about reaching out to the Father.

I went back a second time for two days in mid August to capture some more images. I was so moved by the experience I took my 20-year-old daughter at the time. I felt someone else had to see what I had witnessed with their own eyes too. I pray that the people and the parish communities directly impacted by Hurricane Katrina are better off five years later than they were one year later. I also pray that some sense of normalcy and stability has returned to their lives.

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer


To read the stories or view more photos in The Georgia Bulletin issue that was produced following those trips, click here.