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Campers at St. Louis Church “Vocation” Bible School in Alexandria traded neon VBS shirts for handmade habits Aug. 4-8.

Volunteers sewed more than 40 mini-habits so that each day the campers could dress up as a different religious order and participate in activities that matched their order’s charism. The Benedictines gardened and prayed, and the Dominicans acted out the Gospel story for each day. The Franciscans built a cardboard church in the school gym and begged for snacks to give to the cloistered Carmelites, who prayed and did activities behind the gym curtain.

See pictures and read more about the campers' experience.   More

Starting his first visit to Asia, Pope Francis urged South Korean political and civic leaders to seek peace on their divided peninsula and strengthen their nation's commitment to democracy and social justice.

"Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice," the pope said Aug. 14 in a speech at Seoul's Blue House, the official residence of President Park Geun-hye.

Read more about the pope's visit here.   More

The Arlington Diocese celebrates a mini-milestone today -- its 40th anniversary.

The Cathedral of St. Thomas More was packed with friends, family and clergy as Bishop Thomas J. Welsh was installed as Arlington’s first bishop Aug. 13, 1974. Among those celebrating the formation of Virginia’s second diocese was Philadelphia Cardinal John Krol, Archbishop Jean Jadot, apostolic delegate in the United States, and Baltimore Archbishop William D. Borders.

The Richmond Diocese was well represented. Bishop Walter F. Sullivan, Auxiliary Bishop J. Louis Flaherty and retired Richmond Bishop John J. Russell were all in attendance.

The newly established diocese had 136,000 Catholics in 49 parishes and seven missions.

Msgr. Richard J. Burke, as rector of the Cathedral, organized the installation ceremony and read the papal document that brought Bishop Welsh from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., to the suburbs of Washington. Msgr. Paul V. Heller, then pastor of St. James Church in Falls Church, read the “Bull of Erection,” which outlined the boundaries of the new diocese.

Among those chosen to represent the clergy of the diocese was a newly ordained parochial vicar from St. Bernadette Church in Springfield, Father Patrick Holroyd, who now serves as pastor of St. Mark Church in Vienna.

Father John O’Connell, then pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Arlington, and Father Franklyn McAfee, then parochial vicar at the Cathedral, served as masters of ceremonies.

Bishop Welsh appointed Rosemarie Bock as his secretary and John J. Connell as the diocese’s first business manager.

Thanks to our friends at the Catholic Virginian for providing coverage of the installation ceremony.

Send your memories of the establishment of the Arlington Diocese to


Once, during a trip to New York City, some friends and I stopped into a restaurant on Seventh Avenue for dinner. I was happily slurping down my pho, a Vietnamese noodle dish, when I heard a familiar voice. The comedian Robin Williams — Mrs. Doubtfire himself — was sitting less than 10 feet away, telling hilarious stories to friends gathered around his dinner table.

It was really neat to see that Williams was as funny in real life as he appeared to be on the stage and screen.

What I didn't know that night was that Williams struggled with depression, like hundreds of thousands of human beings. It was that depression that may have caused his tragic death in August.

When our society characterizes people with clinical depression, it paints pictures of moody teens wearing black. It does not consider depression as it honestly is: a real illness that can hit anyone of any socioeconomic background. It can affect a parent as well as a student, the rich and the poor. Like a cold or the flu, anyone can experience it.

Clinical depression has a lot to do with the way chemicals function in your brain. Scientists have found that chemicals that help regulate your mood are severely low in people who have depressive episodes. But society stigmatizes depression as just a case of "being sad," and tells the depressed to "just get over it." That leads the clinically depressed to hide their illness until it is too late, scared of what people might think, instead of reaching out for the treatment that can help return them to happiness.

But, just as if you were to get the flu, if you feel depressed, you should go to the doctor and get medicine and advice for feeling better. You would tell your friends to do the same. Why suffer a headache when there are painkillers? Why suffer a sinus infection when you can get a decongestant?

Doctors have effective medicine and methods to battle clinical depression. And yet, it is a condition that makes people feel as they …   More

Despite heavy rain, dozens of children and their parents attended the Arlington Diocese’s annual picnic for altar servers Aug. 12 at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston. The children ran out to play a muddy game of soccer in the field, waded in a small stream and enjoyed barbecue under large tents set up by volunteers. The picnic was sponsored by the Office of Vocations and the Knights of Columbus.   More

If you’re under 21 and own a phone, chances are you know what Snapchat is, and you use it on a daily basis.

For the rest of us, let’s review the basics: Snapchat is a text-messaging service that allows users to send customized photos and videos that self-destruct a few seconds after they open. You can also create “stories” that post to your profile that are visible for 24 hours, or video chat. The app is hugely popular among teenagers and college students, who often want privacy. However, the service also has received a lot of attention for negative behavior: For example, some have used it to anonymously bully other teens or share inappropriate photos.

So all things considered, Snapchat is probably not an intuitive choice of social network for a Catholic ministry or other institution. But for those who want to reach young adults or teens, like Ave Maria University in Florida, it’s hard to ignore the potential of the new app.

Colin Voreis, Ave Maria’s digital communications and marketing manager, said that when he asked students what was a good way to stay in touch, the message was clear: Snapchat. And when he did some reading about the social network’s success, he was amazed to find a clear opportunity.

“We saw a statistic that 77 percent of college students use it at least once a day,” Voreis said. “We looked at that and said, ‘Why the heck aren’t we on that?’”

College students are surprisingly receptive to “snaps” from schools and others who want to spread a message. Unlike Facebook, for example, messages from brands haven’t crowded out personal communications so far. A study showed that about half of college students using Snapchat would open a message from a brand they’d never heard of, according to an article on Seventy-three percent would open a message from a known brand. Colleges and universities are taking notice.

“We’re probably one of the first Catholic colleges to do this, but …   More

On a recent assignment to interview a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier guard at Arlington National Cemetery, I learned an overwhelming amount of historic facts and cool information that didn’t quite fit into my story for print.

Below are some fascinating facts I wanted to share.

Qualifications to be a tomb guard/sentinel:

— A guard must demonstrate a high level of maturity, responsibility and time-management. They also must have high scores, be in good physical shape and score higher than a 270 on their annual physical fitness tests. An aptitude for training and ceremonial duties is also a huge plus.

— A soldier can “walk the mat” and guard the tomb as a guard, but to become a sentinel, you have to pass all the final tests required, including: knowing answers to 300 questions about cemetery history, being able to write 17 pages verbatim of tomb history, and showing knowledge of the ceremony movements and uniform requirements.

— There are three relief shifts for guard duty at the tomb. These reliefs are separated by height. The minimum height requirement is 5 feet10 inches. First relief is for those more than 6 feet tall. Each relief has eight people assigned to it.

— There can be no more than 10 mistakes total in the final guard test.

— Practicing the movements of a tomb guard is done in front of three mirrors in the tomb guard quarters for two hours a day (three hours in winter). They watch for the way their hat sits, the way they move their head, the angle at which they hold their rifles, etc.


— Every piece of a guard’s military-issued dress uniform is altered in some way for the high standards of tomb guard.

— A guard’s shoes are hand-polished to a high shine; they are the only battalion to still polish shoes by hand. This process can take upwards of 50-60 hours to complete on a brand-new pair of shoes.

— The guards use everything from automotive …   More

Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf took to the House floor July 29 to speak out for Christians and other religious minorities who are being systematically targeted for extinction in Iraq. It is the fifth time in the past week that he has addressed the subject. Following is the text of his remarks:

I want to read the following piece that was posted on yesterday. The headline was: “Has last Christian left Iraqi city of Mosul after 2,000 years?”

Here is how it began: “Samer Kamil Yacub was alone when four Islamist militants carrying AK-47s arrived at his front door and ordered him to leave the city. The 70-year-old Christian had failed to comply with a decree issued by the Islamic State of Iraq and [Syria] (ISIS). Yacub’s hometown of Mosul had boasted a Christian community for almost 2,000 years. But then the al Qaeda-inspired fighters who overran the city last month gave Christians an ultimatum.

“They could stay and pay a tax or convert to Islam – or be killed. Yacub, 70, was one of the few Christians remaining beyond last Saturday's noon deadline. He may have even been the last to leave alive.

“[A] fighter said, ‘I have orders to kill you now,’” Yacub said just hours after the Sunni extremists tried to force their way into his home at 11 a.m. on Monday. ‘All of the people in my neighborhood were Muslim. They came to help me – about 20 people – at the door in front of my house. They tried to convince ISIS not to kill me.

“The rebels spared Yacub but threw him out of the city where he had spent his entire life. They also took his Iraqi ID card before informing him that elderly women would be given his house.”

Mr. Speaker, this is but one example of what is unfolding in Iraq right before our eyes. The end of Christianity as we know it is taking place in Iraq.

This is the fifth time I have come to the floor over the last week to try to raise awareness of what is happening. To talk about the genocide. It is …   More

Marking the centenary of World War I, experts discuss the legacy of the conflict that changed faith and society in the West.   More

They’re big, brightly colored, buoyant and, oh yes, they can help us meditate on the saving mysteries of Christ’s life, and the life of the Blessed Mother. Campers at St. Veronica’s Vacation Bible School in Chantilly were asked to create rosaries, not of crystal or wood, but from cut-up pool noodles — those long polyethylene cylinders children hook under their arms to stay afloat. The purpose of the exercise was to help the children think of different ways of getting to heaven. The pool noodle rosaries were “agents of truth,” according to camp Director Erin Meunier.

When I went to visit the Bible camp July 16, campers were working in shifts under the direction of a camp volunteer, to produce the rosaries. They were laid out on chairs and tables in the parish hall for a while before the campers grabbed their completed rosaries and posed with them.

The children were high-spirited but respectful of the contemplative nature of the unusual meditative tool.

Read the story and see pictures here.   More

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