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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Papal Prayer at Ground Zero

Washington, D.C. (AP)--The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have awarded its prestigious Sowers of the Harvest Award to a group of oustanding individuals who composed a prayer to be read by Pope Benedict XVI at Ground Zero during his visit this week to the United States. "We feel that this group of dedicated laypersons and religious are most deserving," said Sr. Jacqueline Kuminiak, O.S.U., a spokesperson for the Bishops Conference. "Ever since the tragedy of 9/11, our conference has sought to find peaceful resolutions to the misunderstandings that are, sadly, still a part of our world. We want to recognize these talented people who have given us a prayer of peace and understanding and have contributed to the building up of the human family."

The group, commissioned by the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for the Papal Visit, is composed of a wide cross-section of Catholics in the United States. Larry Doyle is a retired school board president from Passaic, New Jersey. "I've kinda returned to my faith after many years of just going through the motions. I became active in our parish's Peace and Justice Commission and when our Pastoral Associate, Carol O'Sullivan, asked for my help in composing this prayer, I jumped at the chance! It feels really good to contribute to the pope's visit, and after all, liturgy is a work of the people. This prayer expresses what the people feel." Sister O'Sullivan who assembled the group received a Master's Degree in Liturgy from the Graduate Theological Union in Chicago. A Sister of Mercy for 40 years, her ministry has transitioned over the years from teaching elementary school to specializing and consulting in liturgical matters. "When the USCCB approached me and asked me to compose this prayer, I was honored. I am working on developing a Peace and Water Liturgy for use in the American Lectionary and that has provided much inspiration for our group's work. I hope that our group's contribution in commemorating 9/11 helps to break down sinful structures that contribute to conflict in our land and across the world."

The remainder of the group is as varied as the church itself. Ted French took a month off from campaigning for Barack Obama to assist in the effort. "This prayer is not about the past," said French, "it is about the future! About building a better world!" JoAnne Prendergast is a self-described soccer mom who writes a weekly column for her parish bulletin entitled, "Peace at Home". The twice-divorced native of Schaumberg, Illinois, attends--aptly enough--Our Lady of Peace Catholic Community. "I have found a welcoming and open community at OLP and I was delighted to contribute my unique gifts to this project." Joe Birely typed the prayer on his iMac and Kathy O'Brien-Schuster proofread and offered suggestions amidst her busy schedule managing the Pier One Imports in Chappaqua, NY. The imprimatur and nihil obstat duties were performed by Janice Czjak, C.S.J. who works in the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in the Archdiocese of Cincinnatti. Sister Czjak is the author of the soon to be released, A Place at the Table: Authority in the Catholic Church and Shifting Paradigms.

The Sowers of the Harvest Award is given annually to worthy recipients who embody the principles of the US Bishops' 1983 Pastoral, The Challenge of Peace. Past recipients include, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass (2001), Daniel Berrigan (2002), and Gwyneth Paltrow (2006).

(pictured left to right: JoAnne Prendergast, Larry Doyle, Kathy O'Brien-Schuster, Carol O'Sullivan, R.S.M., Joe Birely, Janice Czjak, C.S.J., and Ted French.)*

*Any resemblence to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.