Catholic Review’s top stories, blog posts and columns in 2016

By Catholic Review Staff

From the record-setting blizzard that struck in January to the appointment of two new auxiliary bishops in December, 2016 was an eventful year for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.   Check out some of our most-read stories, commentary and blog posts for the year. (Photos from Catholic Review files.)

Local Stories

#1 Due to unsafe travel conditions in Baltimore archdiocese, Catholics excused from attending Mass 

As Maryland braces for a pending blizzard, Archbishop William E. Lori reminded Catholics in the Archdiocese of Baltimore that church law excuses them from fulfilling the Sunday obligation to attend Mass due to a grave cause, such as unsafe travel due to severe weather conditions.  

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#2 Miracle in Progress: Cathedral parishioner has broken C5, unbreakable spirit

As his mother and various therapists discussed schedules at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, 17-year-old Archer Senft moved his hand ever so slightly.
His mother, Louise Phipps Senft, noticed immediately.
“Are you doing that right now?” she asked.
Archer, who is paralyzed, responded with a cool nod.
His hands had wielded everything from lacrosse sticks to art supplies, conduits of the power and coordination of his body as well as the intricacies from his mind’s eye.

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#3 Pope Francis appoints two auxiliary bishops for Baltimore: Monsignors Mark Brennan and Adam Parker   

Pope Francis named two new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Baltimore: Monsignor Mark E. Brennan, pastor of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Gaithersburg, in the Archdiocese of Washington; and Monsignor Adam J. Parker, current vicar general and moderator of the curia in Baltimore. The appointments were announced Dec. 5 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. 

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#4 All Saints Day is holy day of obligation in 2016

All Saints Day, a feast set aside by the Catholic Church to honor saints known and unknown, will be celebrated Nov. 1. A holy day of obligation, Catholics are expected to attend Mass on the feast day or its Oct. 31 evening vigil.

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#5  New pastors among 27 clergy assignments in Baltimore Archdiocese

Twelve new pastors and four retirements were among the official clergy announcements made by Archbishop William E. Lori for the Archdiocese of Baltimore June 9.

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#6 Investments, merger and closures part of archdiocesan schools plan

Following an 18-month study, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has announced a 10-year plan to invest $86 million in 19 of the 22 schools it currently operates in Baltimore City and the immediate surrounding area, including two that will be merged.

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#7 St. Paul a place of refuge in catastrophic Ellicott City flood

When flash flooding turned the archaic metaphor “Head for the hills” into a literal imperative July 30, some of those threatened by the rushing waters found a Catholic church.

“Pretty much everyone was telling the same story,” said Father Warren Tanghe, pastor of St. Paul, a historic church located at the top of the hill on St. Paul Street, which saw a deluge but not to the extent of the parallel and also steeply-inclined Main Street, where most of the damage and mayhem – including two deaths – in Ellicott City occurred.

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#8 When the choice is Clinton or Trump, what’s a Catholic to do?

Jesuit Father John J. Conley can’t recall a presidential election that has troubled practicing Catholics as deeply as this one.
“People criticize Hillary Clinton and say she’s mendacious, corrupt and should have been indicted for criminal negligence,” said Father Conley, Bernard P. Knott Chair of Philosophy and Theology at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore.
Regarding the Democratic nominee’s Republican opponent, Father Conley quickly added, many criticize Donald Trump for being “xenophobic, misogynist and for being very reckless in his statements.”
With a choice like that, how does a Catholic decide which candidate to support?

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#9 Olympic runner has ties to Annapolis parish

What connection does St. Andrew by the Bay Parish in Annapolis have to the 2012 Summer Olympics?

Matthew Centrowitz will represent the United States in track and field’s 1,500 meters in London, where the Games begin July 27. He’s been based in Eugene, Ore., since 2007, but Centrowitz first gained acclaim while running for Broadneck High outside Annapolis, where he took his first Communion and was confirmed at St. Andrew the Bay.

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#10 Loyola University coach was mom first, then Baltimore lacrosse icon 

Shannon Aikens was 9 years old when her mother died of brain cancer.

She didn’t realize then that Diane Geppi Aikens had been a lacrosse icon at Loyola University Maryland, even though Shannon’s baby shower was held there and she grew up on campus.
Geppi Aikens had been an All-American goalie for the Greyhounds, but left a bigger mark as their coach, putting Loyola on the women’s lacrosse map with a 197-71 record and 10 NCAA tournament appearances, including seven final fours.

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Blog Posts 

#1 The Narthex: Former dentist finds new joy as Carmelite nun

It was on her 30
th birthday when Celia Ashton first stepped inside the monastery of the Carmelite Sisters of Baltimore.

A successful dentist who had long harbored thoughts of becoming a religious sister, Celia had been invited to attend Mass at the monastery by some of her patients who happened to be Religious Sisters of Mercy.

As Providence would have it, the day she picked to attend Mass at the monastery was Vocations Sunday.

“I remember thinking, ‘Okay, God, you’ve got my attention now – I’m really listening,’” Celia said with a hearty laugh as she sat inside the historic monastery, located on Dulaney Valley Road.

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#2 Unconditional: Letter to my son, who wants to be a police officer

Dear Son,

When you turned six last summer, you got a police officer’s uniform and wore it everywhere. You told me you want to be a real police officer when you grow up so that you can catch bad guys. But, I didn’t want you to spend your days experiencing only the worst that life has to offer, so I encouraged you to consider becoming a teacher (like your mother) or a farmer (like your father). You know; something “safe.”

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full post.

#3 Fertile Soil: Franciscan University: Fertile Soil for the Faith

When I was a student at Franciscan University, I remember hanging out with my brother’s roommate, Father Michael Gaitley (best-selling author and national speaker), playing intramural volleyball with Jason Evert (author and international speaker on chastity), passing Steve Skojec (founder and editor of OnePeterFive) in the cafeteria and having intense spiritual discussions with Father Jeffrey Kirby (author and media personality).

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#4 The Narthex: Ready to turn 100, Oblate sister is “living,” not “existing”

It’s been two decades since a member of the Baltimore-based Oblate Sisters of Providence has turned 100.

That’s all about to change when Oblate Sister of Providence Mary Anthony Garnier celebrates the centennial of her birth during an April 11 bash at her religious community’s motherhouse in Arbutus, where she has lived since 2013.

Alert and quick to express her opinions, Sister Anthony told me during a recent visit she’s “grateful to God for letting me stay this long.” The spirited sister wanted me to know that although she is about to turn 100, she remains independent and stays up on current events.

“I’m not just existing,” she said passionately, resting in a large rolling chair. “I’m living! And that’s just what I want to be – I want to be living and knowing what’s going on.”

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#5 God is in the Clouds: Think outside the box: Creative suggestions for a more spiritual Lent

As always, time is flying by. The circle of the liturgical calendar, like the circle of life, keeps moving forward. No sooner than the Christmas decorations have been put away, the green of Ordinary Time made a brief appearance, only to be replaced tomorrow by purple. 

Yes, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the start to the Lenten season of prayer and repentance. We are called anew to put our faith first and focus on making right all that holds us back from a life of God’s grace. And this Jubilee Year of Mercy is the perfect time to consider taking a deeper look at our spiritual lives.

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#1 Sister Constance Veit: Little Sisters of the Poor on Supreme Court case: Why we can’t “just sign the form”  

A few weeks ago, I received a New Year’s card that read, “This will be the best year yet.” 

We Little Sisters of the Poor are fervently praying that 2016 will be remembered as the year we were able to return to our quiet lives at the service of the elderly after a happy resolution to our long legal struggle over the HHS Contraceptive Mandate.

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#2 Archbishop William E. Lori: A Tribute to Monsignor Art Valenzano

Just over four years ago, I celebrated my last Confirmation in Connecticut and then drove down to Baltimore … and wouldn’t you know it, the traffic was terrific. I arrived in front of what would be my residence about 5:30 in the afternoon. It is a large gray house, then clad in what we Baltimoreans call “form stone,” a type of stucco common to many older houses in the city, and in this case, the form stone was a dark gray, “haunted-house” hue. The house also has a formidable flight of steps that lead to a set of doors with iron bars. Truth to tell, my heart was in my mouth going up those steps. “What’s waiting for me on the other side of those doors?” I wondered.

Actually, I am still learning what was awaiting me on that memorable day, but I can tell you for certain who was waiting for me on the other side of those doors. He was a wonderful priest by the name of Monsignor Arthur Valenzano.

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#3 Father Joseph Breighner: Be still and know that I am God

Occasionally, on retreats, I will use the following meditation.
Begin with the Scriptural quote: “Be still and know that I am God.” Just sit quietly in chapel, or in a comfortable chair at home, and ponder that meditation. Let yourself be still, and let God be God.
Second, alter the sentence ever so slightly to read: “Be still and know that I am”. When Moses met God in the burning bush, he asked God what his name was. God replied: “My name is ‘I Am.’” God is the eternal present moment. God is eternal being.
Third, edit the sentence again to read: “Be still and know that.” Know what? Just know.

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#4 Archbishop William E. Lori: Crowded Christmas Masses

When you arrive at your parish church for Mass on Christmas Eve, what is the first thing you notice? I’ll wager it’s the crowded parking lot. So, it is likely that the second thing you will notice is that the church is crowded. In fact, you might not be able to find a seat or you may find yourself at a Mass celebrated, not in the parish church, but in the church hall or the school gymnasium. I can already hear the complaints. “I come here every Sunday and these people are in my pew. Where are they the rest of the time?”
Where indeed are all these people week after week? And who are they, anyway? And what is our responsibility toward them?

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#5 George Matysek Jr.: ‘Jesus misses you ‘

Monsignor Arthur Valenzano, nearing the end of a lengthy battle with cancer, had just returned from praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament inside the adoration chapel at the Baltimore Basilica when he spotted Kathy Wandishin, his administrative assistant.
“I just talked with Jesus,” the rector informed Wandishin in his soft-spoken, gentle way. “He says he misses you.”
Wandishin knew exactly what her friend was talking about.

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