Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
July 11, 2010

"Oh, what is so rare as a day in June!" sang a poet in a northern clime. And as some would have it, even rarer still would be a favorable report on the Catholic Church, printed in The New York Times. Yet even at the Times exceptions occur. An example is at hand in the paper's edition of June 25th, which gave generous space to not one but to two such favorable reports (though one of them, in the interests of balance, was laced with comments on how much in opposition to attitudes prevailing at the time within the Church the honoree's success had been achieved.) I am referring to the paper's coverage of the ofticial announcement that the Diocese of Brooklyn has formally introduced the cause for beatification of one of its priests, Monsignor Bernard Quinn, whose life was dedicated to New York's black community. The second report favorable to the Church, this time without reservation, offered comment on the tragic death of an 83-year old Catholic nun, Sister Mary Celine Graham, who for 61 years served as "teacher, director or surrogate grandmother" to many of Harlem's black children.

The focus of the first report (by Paul Vitello) is on Monsignor Bernard Quinn, the former World War I Army chaplain, with service in France, who later established (in 1922) the first church in Brooklyn for black Catholics, the Church of St. Peter Claver. "In 1928 he established the diocese's first orphanage for black children, in a converted farm house in Wading River, on Long Island, which was then part of the [Brooklyn] diocese." Burnt down twice by KKK arsonists, the orphanage was twice rebuilt by the resolute Father Quinn. "The building, known as the Little Flower Orphanage in honor of his favorite Saint, St Therese, remains the base of operations today for the diocese's Little Flower Children and Family Services program, providing a variety of services in Queens and Brooklyn and on Long Island." Monsignor Quinn died in 1940.

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The second report offers a moving tribute to Sister Mary Celine Graham It was written by Trymaine Lee. I am reprinting it here in full.

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Nun Killed by Minivan Was Fierce Fighter and Kind Teacher
   By Trymaine Lee
   The New York Times, Friday, June 25, 2010

Her home at the convent of the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary in Harlem remained just as Sister Mary Celine Graham had left it on Tuesday morning.

Her prayer book, zipped in a black leather case, sat untouched beneath her chair-tucked under the aisle seat in the second row-in the convent's little chapel where she prayed quietly and alone that morning before the 6:30 a:m Mass.

A few hours later, Sister Mary Celine, 83, died just blocks from the convent, struck by a speeding minivan driven by a robbery suspect trying to elude the police.

Inside the convent, at 15 West 124th Street, the remnants of Sister Mary Celine's life were there for all to see. Less obvious but perhaps more telling was the lasting impression she left with the generations of children she had taught and mentored.

She was the strict but caring kindergarten teacher and mother figure who taught them to count and read, who shuttled them from here to there, kept them in line and offered their parents a second set of eyes. "She made everyone feel important," said Sister Loretta Theresa Richards, 81, the head sister of the Handmaids, who entered the convent the same day as Sister Mary Celine 62 years ago. "She was very gentle and caring, with a good sense of humor. But her big legacy was that she would take a child, take a true interest in them and develop that child into who she knew they could be. They never forgot her and she never forgot them."

Sister Loretta pulled open the door to the darkened chapel on Thursday morning and walked slowly up the aisle.

"Every morning," she said, reaching for Sister Mary Celine's prayer book, "she would sit right here." She smiled softly, belying the pain that she said she was still trying to process.

Sister Loretta stood for a long moment, reflecting on her sister and friend, and what she meant in life and in death to the order, one of only three historically black orders of Roman Catholic nuns in the United States. The order was formed in 1916 in Savanah, GA., in response to a proposed law that would outlaw the instruction of black students by white teachers.

The order moved to Harlem in 1923 and has been based there ever since, with outposts through the years on Staten Island and with teachers sprinkled throughout various Catholic schools.

With Sister Mary Celine's death, the order has been whittled to 18 nuns, from as many as 50 in decades past, Sister Loretta said, with fewer and fewer women entering the convent.

Sister Mary Celine, who was bom in Jacksonville, Fla. and raised in Detroit, joined the order when she was 22. She was homesick, yearning for the comforts of her family. Specifically Hershey's chocolate, Sister Loretta recalled.

"Then one day she got a box of Hershey's chocolate bars from home, and she took that as a sign from God that this is where she was supposed to be," Sister Loretta said.

Sister Mary Celine's first assignment was to teach at St. Benedict's Day Nursery, next to the convent, and she spent the greater part of her life, until the day she died, as a teacher, director or surrogate grandmother to its students.

 "As a single black mother raising children on my own, I didn't have to go outside of the community to find help," said Janis Clark, who attended St. Benedict's Nursery as a child and whose two daughters were taught by Sister Mary Celine. "They always understood us and always tried to help where they could. They understood when we had trouble paying the tuition and would give us payment plans. They just understood what we were going through."

Kelly Conway, Ms. Clark's 29-year-old daughter, described Sister Mary Celine as strict but kind-hearted," and remembers her taking children to the various Catholic schools in the neighborhood long after they had left St. Benedict's. She and fellow graduates have spread the news of the death through Facebook posts and e-mail messages.

Councilwoman Inez E. Dickens, who grew up in Harlem and whose district is in Central Harlem, said that when she was a third grader reading at a first-grade level, a literacy program run by the Handmaids got her up to speed.

"She was a fierce fighter, not loud, but with compassion; she believed in education for our young," Ms. Dickens said. "And most people would look at her and not think she was such a fierce fighter. She was not fighting with her fists; she fought with her mind and tongue."

Until her death, Sister Mary Celine was receiving visits and phone calls from former students and their families whom she had touched over the years, friends said. And if she could not recall a student's name, she could still rattle off the name of a mother or father, aunt, uncle or cousin.

Though she retired from teaching in 1999, she still made her way over to the day nursery. In the lobby of St. Benedict's hangs an oil painting dated 1953; it shows a black nun with two small children.

"I didn't realize until in the vestibule one day - there she was, sitting on a chair with her cane at her side, saying hello to parents - that she looked like the person in the painting," said Chet Whye, a former president of the parents' association at the school. "So when I asked her about it, she turned with a smile and said, 'They made a good likeness of me, didn't they?"

"Sometimes you'd be picking up your kids, you had a rough day, and then you would encounter her and it would just reset everything, just calm everything down," he said. "And you'd realize that things really are not that bad. She'd be sitting there just giving love."

Sister Loretta thought of her friend and how her life came to an end. She said she knew that Sister Mary Celine would have forgiven the man charged with killing her.

"I'm not thinking in terms of punishment," Sister Loretta said. "But somehow he needs to get some counseling, some training. Whatever will change his mind and his heart. "

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The life of Sister Mary Celine exemplifies the saying.- "Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." She lit many candles; the souls of the children she cared for-most of them now adults-drew closer to God, as did their parents, because of her saintly witness. But sadly for every child's soul that a Sister Celine could help to transform into a temple of God there are vast multitudes of children today whose souls are being laid waste by the Prince of Darkness, thanks to the greedy perverters of our communications technology. Not just the Internet; not just Facebook; not only far too many a videogame, or so much of what passes for music these days, or Planned Parenthood-crafted programs of sex-education in our grade schools; a tsunami of pornography is now flooding CHILDREN'S TV, especially on the channels controlled by Viacom, as the following editorial from the national edition of The Washington Times makes disgustingly clear.

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The Industry Leader in Degrading Our Kids
    By Robert Knight
    From the Washington Times
    Monday, June 28, 2010

Truth in advertising is good. That's why it's time for Viacom, the communications giant chaired by Sumner Redstone, to change its name to Vilecom. All the major networks are awash in sex, profanity, violence and attacks on religion. But for sheer creepiness, Viacom wins, hands down.

Let's start with Nickelodeon, Viacom's "kid-friendly" network. Nick's website has a link to Addicting Gamescom , as the Culture and Media Institute reports. There, tykes find Naughty Classroom, Naughty Babysitter and29 other "Naughty" titles. Also, Booty Rider and You Da Sperm! One game, Perry the Perv, is about a peeping Tom.

Kids click on icons to strip women down. Naughty Park, for instance says, "Those three naughty boys are at it again! Help them use Bees, Worms and Puppies in sneaky ways to get a hotjogger undressed!"

Is it any wonder that 8-year-olds make out on the playground? By the time they're 12, they can barely keep their pants on in this sex-saturated culture. Thanks, Vilecom.

Nickelodeon even had the site-for preschoolers-accessing these games, according to Josh Brolin of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, whose protest got the link removed.

Vilecom also runs the homosexual Logo cable network and Comedy Central, which puts profanities in the fourth-graders' mouths in "South Park" and is developing a blasphemous cartoon series, "JC, " depicting Jesus Christ-yes, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords--as a rebellious son of a "powerful but apathetic father." Thanks, Vilecom.

G.K. Chesterton observed that "sex is the materialist's religion." Vilecom is a loud presence in that unholy choir. If someone came into your home and showed your child this stuff, under hisr aincoat, you'd have him arrested-at the least. But Nickeladeon and MTV hum right along, fueled by ads from Disney, Hamburger Helper and other amoral advertisers.

On June 7, the MTV Movie Awards were strewn with at least 100 profane or obscene words. According to the Culture and Media Institute:

"The network's censors caught 70 curses. They included 47 variations of 'f--; 11 uses of 's --- ; two of 'a ---- ; one slang for breasts, and nine that were unidentifiable. At least 30 made it past the censors, including nine variations of 'f--; two of 's-' and one 'goddamn."

When confronted, MTV was shocked, shocked and (wink) apologized. The actual awards included. Best Scared-As-S--t Performance, the Biggest Bad Ass Star and Best WTF Moment. ("WTF" stands for "What the f--.")

Afterward, MTV premiered "The Hard Times of R.J. Berger," a disgusting series about a geeky high schooler with abnormally large genitalia who is pursued by hot chicks and married moms. This trash is aimed right at kids. Thanks Vilecom.

For those who say "Lighten up," consider some of the fallout of our pornified culture:

"Gonorrhea, once in decline, has thoroughly rebounded, with more than 336,000 cases reported in 2008," writes The Washington Times' Cheryl Wetzstein. "It disproportionately affects young people and blacks. Untreated gonorrhea increases risk for HIV infection and can lead to infertility.... "

Add to that 1.2 million abortions a year and 1.6 million out-of-wedlock births. Syphilis, once nearly eradicated, has made a huge comeback, joined by HIV/AIDS, Chlamydia, human papillomavirus, herpes and more than 25 other sexually transmitted diseases.

Condoms, always the proffered answer, are useless against some of these incurable diseases.

Ever seen a Vilecom program point that out?

"With 19 million newly reported STD cases each year," Mrs. Wetzstein writes, "...a tsunami of sexual disease is flooding our population. One would think there could be a few more headlines about it. "

Or perhaps Vilecom's Mr. Redstone might cease using his empire to corrupt kids. He'd need a change of heart or, like the tin man, any heart.

When asked if sex-saturated fare was partly to blame for social ills, he quipped, "Sexuality doesn't bother me; does it bother you? I don't consider that gross."

Perhaps some close-ups of aborted children or the ravages of STDs now epidemic among teens and 20-somethings might change that.
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