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Issue Date:  March 25, 2005

From the Editor's Desk

A new moment for NCR

A new era began at NCR this month with the appointment of Rita Larivee, a Sister of St. Anne, as chief executive officer and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company (see story).

Some of distinctive elements of this appointment are readily apparent -- she’s the first woman and the first member of a religious order to hold the position. But if there is a certain newness to the appointment, there is also a tested record not only in the world of academics and administration but right here at the heart of NCR. You have already been the beneficiaries of her talent and her work in ways too many to list -- from the Web site, to the newsweekly’s new design, to the endless layers of new technology and continual updates that make all the NCR products possible.

Her resume is near daunting, her ability to analyze systems and envision new ways of gathering and dispensing information impressive, her presence behind the scenes these past five years formidable. Computer scientist, ethicist, strategist, religious, strong advocate of the social Gospel. The term polymath applies. And she’s more than passably accomplished on the mandolin.

~ ~ ~

Maurice Healy, associate publisher and editor of Catholic San Francisco, took me to task recently for comments in our March 4 editorial, in which we were critical of characterizations in some diocesan papers of the recent annual report on implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. He labeled the comments “trashing” that was unfair to the diocesan press.

I responded that he made a fair point, that the language we used was too broad and could have been construed as generally impugning diocesan journalism, which certainly was not the intent. Different language could have been used to make the point intended, which is that we need to remain diligent, and even aggressive, about getting at the truth in this ugly chapter of church history, and we need to continue to try to hold church authorities accountable.

As for the Catholic press, where editors and reporters work under what I would generally consider very difficult circumstances, it is enough to say that our pages each week carry stories from Catholic News Service, and many of those stories originate in the newsrooms of diocesan papers.

~ ~ ~

A memorial service for Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Dorothy Stang on March 13 (see story), fittingly combined prayer and action.

“Two God-fearing people were [Dorothy’s] inspiration,” said Marguerite Stang Hohm, of her sister. “We learned compassion early on -- our home was a place where family and friends could share a warm meal and a place to stay for a period of time, as needed.”

Hohm was in Brazil with her sister several times, and vividly recalled one instance where Dorothy, while eating lunch at a café, was threatened by a rancher. The rancher said someday they would get her, recalled Hohm. “She experienced this frequently. Our sister remained calm and focused. A prayer comes to mind I am sure she learned from our parents”:

Lord, teach me to be generous
Lord, teach me to serve as you deserve
To give and not to count the cost
To fight and not to heed the wounds
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labor and not to ask for reward except
To know that I am doing your will.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur added action to the prayer. They -- mindful of the power of local special interests in Brazil as elsewhere -- urged fellow American Catholics to write to the president and attorney general of Brazil to ensure that the investigation into Stang’s death remains in Brazilian federal hands, and is not handed over to state officials.

The addresses are:

President Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva
Palácio do Planalto
Praça dos Três Poderes
Brasília, DF

Dr. Claudio Fonteles
Procurador Geral da República
Procuradoria Geral da República
Setor de Adminstração Federal-Sul
Quadro 4, Lote 3, Bloco B
70.050.900 Brasilia, DF

A few moments of your time to ensure justice for Dorothy Stang. Not a bad ending to Lent.

And a blessed Easter to you all, from all of us here.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, March 25, 2005

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