National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  April 16, 2004

Travels to times past

Travel can be something of a time machine for the history-minded tourist, giving insight into the ways the recent and even the distant past shape our identity today, as our writers demonstrate in this Destinations special section. In NCR’s own backyard and in faraway countries, our staff writers visited places that offer vivid looks at fascinating corners of secular and Catholic heritage.

NCR’s hometown of Kansas City, Mo., is also home to an extraordinary museum complex that honors the contributions of the city’s African-American community. Matt Stoulil, a musician himself, takes us on a tour of the American Jazz Museum, located in the neighborhood where greats such as Count Basie and Charlie Parker once played ( see story) The sounds are not silent today, Stoulil notes, as the museum’s own venues and the nearby musicians’ union keep “America’s classical music” playing.

Adjacent to that site is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Associate publisher Sr. Rita Larivee recounts the inspiration of the 20th-century black American story that is at the root of this tribute to baseball players who pursued the American dream in a segregated society ( see story).

Reports from Dennis Coday and Margot Patterson offer contrasting pictures of Catholicism’s worldwide, two-millennia-old history. As Patterson describes the French city of Avignon holds monuments to the centuries when the Roman Catholic church was embroiled in European power politics, when a temporary papal move to Avignon lasted decades -- and led to a leadership schism in the church ( see story).

Far away in time and space from that medieval papal court was the Thai village of Song Khon during World War II, where seven ordinary Catholics lost their lives rather than renounce their faith. Coday tells the story of those martyrs, whose shrine on the Mekong River today draws thousands of pilgrims a week and is a source of identity for Thailand’s tiny Catholic community ( see story).

-- Teresa Malcolm

National Catholic Reporter, April 16, 2004

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