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Hope is at the top of the list of the many things I wish NCR to bring to you in the new year. Hope in redemptive love, in limitless mercy, in all the examples of the human spirit that reflect such love and mercy.

While NCR has earned the reputation for doing stories that might raise hackles in Rome or in the local chancery office, the paper has always been about much more, following its founders’ goals, outlined in the very first issue, to “report the life of the church in the world.”

On balance, most of our reporting describes those deeply involved in the walk of faith, some in everyday circumstances, others in extraordinary places. We hope you draw inspiration, ideas, hope for the long haul from their stories, large and small, from their example and their words, even the words of those whom some church leaders would rather keep silent.

A great opportunity arose for people to transcend their natural routines and rise to help others,” writes Patricia Lefevere in a story about the role St. John’s University’s new Manhattan campus served in the weeks immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks on the twin towers. The new campus facility is only two blocks from ground zero. The attack, writes Lefevere, took 27 alumni of St. John’s and 36 family members of its students, faculty and staff who either worked in the towers or had gone in to rescue people. Among the St John’s family, there is a special understanding of those who sacrificed their lives in attempts to save others. Vincentian Fr. Donald Harrington, president of the university, said St. John’s educates “working class students and the children of immigrants. They get degrees and join the fire department and police force. Some go into business.”

Mercy Sr. Camille D’Arienzo of Brooklyn, founder of the anti-death penalty group Cherish Life Circle, reports that more than 24,000 Christmas cards designed by death row inmate David Paul Hammer have been sold, with proceeds to go to three charities -- Gibault, Inc., of Terre Haute, Ind., a not-for-profit residential facility for at-risk youth; St. Mary’s Children and Family Services in Syosset, N.Y.; and Alpha Boys School in Kingston, Jamaica.

D’Arienzo became Hammer’s spiritual counselor three years ago after the inmate read her Declaration of Life. She later became his godmother when he was accepted into the church (NCR, Nov. 10, 2000). The Declaration of Life is a notarized statement signed by opponents of capital punishment. A wallet card carried by signers says: “If I’m murdered, punish but don’t execute my killer.” More information on the anti-death penalty organization or the Christmas cards is available by contacting D’Arienzo at cherilife@aol.com

Best wishes for a happy and hope-filled new year.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, January 11, 2002