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Invitations to renew our faith.

If your parish is like mine, you are seeing a lot of first Communions and confirmations at this time of year. These are among my favorite celebrations in the church. First Communions, especially, are occasions for the gathering of families. With siblings, parents and grandparents in attendance, you get a real sense of passing the faith from one generation to the next. My parish does a great job of including the parish family in this extended family celebration. The kids dressed in first Communion white dresses and shirts are scrubbed squeaky-clean. Their eager anticipation to receive the body and blood is infectious and therefore instructive for us adult communicants. Like the springtime weather that coaxes the crocuses and tulips to bloom and trees to bud, these kids invite us to renew our faith.

Apparently, however, any celebration is open to commercial exploitation. Case in point: the photo, below, taken in Union, Mo., by Paige Byrne Shortal, an occasional NCR contributor and a regular contributor to our sister publication, Celebration, a magazine for liturgy planners and preachers. Don't read too much into the photo. Just chuckle at the incongruity.

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I can't mention first Communion without pointing to our story from Austria (Page 1). If you recall my column in this space last issue, headlined "On the verge," I said that we would be keeping an eye on developments in Austria -- I did not know we would return there so quickly. In recent years, we've seen Communion used as a weapon in the political culture wars against select politicians and gay rights activists. Now in Austria and Wisconsin (Page 7) we see Communion used to keep unruly parishioners in line. How crazy is that?

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NCR publisher Tom Fox and I had the privilege to attend April 27 an incredible symposium at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind. "The Reception of Vatican II: The Contribution of Richard P. McBrien" was held to honor McBrien's five decades of contributions to theology as he begins a sabbatical year and then retirement. I felt like I was at an induction ceremony at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Attending and speaking was an all-star lineup of American Catholic theologians: Fr. Charles E. Curran, Dominican Sr. M. Catherine Hilkert, Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, and McBrien, of course. Also attending was the ever-dapper Eugene Kennedy and Holy Cross Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, Notre Dame's legendary president emeritus who turns 95 this month. The day was not just a remembrance of times past. In a fitting tribute to McBrien, a panel of young theologians, all students of McBrien, spoke about how he had engaged and inspired them. They spoke, and spoke well, of the promising future of theology in America. Read my full report on our web-site:

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As this issue was going to press, NCR was halfway through its third annual webathon. The goal this year was to raise $100,000. On Wednesday afternoon, we were nearly halfway there. By the time you read this, the webathon will have closed, but you can still make donations at

To add a bit of fun to the webathon, we had a little contest, matching photos of current NCR folks to their baby pictures. The game is still up at if you want to try your luck. Pictured at right is one of the babies. Can you guess who?
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Title Annotation:EDITOR'S NOTE; on renewing faith, communions and the future of American Catholic theology
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 11, 2012
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