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With this issue, we begin to dip ever so slightly into the discussion about the next generation of Catholics. This is a brawling topic that quickly spreads over the Catholic landscape, over age groups ranging from teens to late 40s, and a growing number of cultures and backgrounds.

We will be getting to a lot of the issues and significant players in the coming months. Look for the “Passing it on” logo of this issue’s cover on future stories. We’ll be bringing you profiles of new Catholic thinkers and writers, essays from younger Catholics as well as coverage of issues significant to family life in today’s parish.

Amid the hubbub about Catholicism’s relationship to other world religions, allow me to propose a place where such matters might be considered in a calm and thoughtful way and in an approach accessible even to the amateur. The place is the Web site of New Earth Ministries, an experimental project sponsored by the Sisters of Saint Anne of Marlborough, Mass.

The project is the brainchild of Sr. Rita Larivee, NCR associate publisher. Larivee, a mathematician/computer scientist by way of her undergraduate studies and first master’s degree, is a wizard when it comes to systems, human and electronic.

She also is a trained ethicist, a graduate of Weston Jesuit School of Theology with a doctorate in ethics from Loyola University of Chicago. So she not only intimately understands the systems that most of us comprehend merely as images that inexplicably show up on our computer screens, but she can also ask the most penetrating questions about why we (NCR, the wider church, the wider culture and on and on) do what we do.

Larivee brings her considerable intellectual heft to three courses she is offering over the Internet: Buddhism -- a primer for Christians; Homelessness -- it can happen to anyone; and Nonviolence -- its meaning and its challenge.

The courses fit the mission statement of the experiment to “raise the level of awareness and education on issues concerning global community and religious dialogue, and to foster a commitment to creating a better world.”

For more on the courses, which begin on Oct. 13, go to http://sistersofsaintanne.org/nem and work through the series of self-explanatory buttons. Larivee’s e-mail address is rlarivee@sistersofsaintanne.org

From John Allen in Rome come the following suggestions: Catholics who might be passing through the Eternal City this fall might want to check out “Sundays at Caravita” at the Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita (Via Del Caravita, 7 -- near Piazza St. Ignazio and the Pantheon). Every Sunday at 11 a.m. there will be a Mass in English followed by an informal gathering with an aperitivo, a very Roman way of building instant community. The Masses will be offered on a rotating basis by five American priests based in Rome. The hope is both to welcome visitors whose hotels are in the area, and also to reach out to sectors of the Catholic population that sometimes feel alienated or distant from the church. Visitors can also take in the regular Sunday liturgies at Santa Susanna, the American parish in Rome.

Some weeks ago, I invited questions for candidates Bush and Gore. We have not been exactly flooded with entries, but the ones that have arrived are more interesting than most I’ve heard asked on the campaign trail. We’ll try a couple here.

From F.T. Murray of Menomonee Falls, Wis.: “What is your position with regard to curbing the indiscriminate proliferation of small arms and light weapons that are wreaking extensive destruction in even the poorest countries?

“Will you work to make the U.N. treaty on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, currently being developed, a strong and comprehensive mechanism?”

More to come in the few weeks left. What would you ask if you had the chance?

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, October 6, 2000