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Longing to be: “Hamilton” and the Legacy of an Immigrant

The Broadway hit musical “Hamilton” tells the lesser-known story of one of the immigrant Founding Fathers. Inspired by the musical, An Vu reflects on his own journey immigrating to the United States from Vietnam.

The Pearl of Great Price: Our Gift of Faith | One-Minute Homily

If you were granted one wish, what would you ask for?

MLB's first woman coach a 'go-getter' at Jesuit university

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Another barrier in the sports world was broken July 20 when Alyssa Nakken coached first base in the late innings of an exhibition game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, thus becoming the first woman to appear in uniform on the field during a major league baseball game. The Giants won the game, 6-2.

While Nakken's appearance in the coach's box may have surprised some baseball fans, it didn't really surprise Dan Rascher, director of academics for the master's degree program in sports management at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco, and a professor in the program.

"To an extent, it's surprising: 'Wow, the first woman to be on a major league baseball staff.' But it's not surprising that it would be her," Rascher told Catholic News Service in a July 23 phone interview. Nakken was "a really strong leader and a very well-grounded student and person."

Nakken -- officially listed as an "assistant coach" on new Giants manager Gabe Kapler's staff -- took Rascher's sports economics and finance course at USF. "I can't give you her grade, but I thought she was an excellent student," he said. "Her group students liked her. She was an excellent leader."

Nakken, now 30, got her master's degree from USF in 2015. Typically, most students in the program look for jobs or internships with professional teams, sports agents or stadium; Rascher estimates 20 alumni from the program work for the Giants in some capacity. But Nakken landed her job with the club a year before getting her degree.

"Usually by the time they get to me, which is eight months in, they tended to look for jobs or internships in the sports industry. But she was a go-getter, so she was already pretty successful," Rascher said.

Since graduating, "she's been very helpful for many students, both men and women, who are interested, essentially, in working in baseball. She's been great," Rascher said.

Nakken came to her new job naturally. She played first base for Sacramento State's softball team 2009-12 and was a three-time all-conference selection, four-time Academic All American, four-time commissioner's honor roll member, and the 2012 conference scholar-athlete of the year.

In her current role with the Giants, Nakken develops, produces and directs a number of the organization's health and wellness initiatives and events. She has partnered with first base coach Antoan Richardson in overseeing outfield and baserunning instruction for the Giants.

During the preseason "summer camp," Nakken often coached first base during intrasquad games at Oracle Park in San Francisco, where the Giants trained.

She has a uniform and is assigned number 92. But Major League Baseball rules limit the number of coaches in the dugout to seven, and Nakken was hired as an assistant coach after the other seven coaches were brought on to Kapler's staff.

"Alyssa did a great job out there at first base today," Kapler told after the game. "Antoan stepped up and made sure that Alyssa continued her development as well."

Soon after her hiring in January as an assistant coach, Nakken said, "I feel a great sense of responsibility. Coaching -- I never saw it. This job has kind of been hidden for so long. I'm so excited to be in this role for the challenge and the opportunity to make an impact for this organization that I love. But also, I'm excited that now girls can see there is a job on the field in baseball. It's really cool."


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U.S. surgeon general says preventing spread of virus must be top priority

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tom Tracy

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- Calling the COVID-19 pandemic the challenge of a lifetime, the nation's top public health official traveled to Florida seeking help in slowing the deadly outbreak.

He also came to learn how one urban community has managed a particularly low incidence of infection spread among the homeless.

Dr. Jerome Adams, the 20th U.S. surgeon general, took a detailed tour of Miami's Camillus House shelter for the homeless July 23 to see the agency's array of protocols as well as health and safety equipment put in place earlier this year.

He then met with community leaders and elected officials to discuss troubling COVID infection rates and hospitalization numbers not only in Florida but in other U.S. hot spots such as California and elsewhere.

The key to safely reopening schools, business, places of worship, swimming pools and society in general requires first tamping down regional COVID-19 infection rates with the basic tools of social distancing, good hygiene and regular face mask use, according to Adams.

"Reopening at the right point is part of the equation but more importantly is how you reopen, and what I think happened here in Florida and everywhere else across the country is that we reopened like it was the last day of school -- everyone ran out but didn't do the things that we know we need to do to prevent the spread of a person-to-person disease," the surgeon general said.

He attributed the national spike in recent COVID cases to crowds gathered in close public quarters without face coverings and without minimal distancing -- and to younger cohorts of silent spreaders.

"We know what works to stop the spread of this disease, and while we are on record pace to develop a vaccine, and while we have better therapeutics such as remdesivir and steroids meaning you are less likely to die if you get diagnosed with COVID and you are less likely to have a long hospital stay. ... I would rather prevent you from getting COVID in the first place," Adams said.

As the surgeon general, Adams holds the rank of vice admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He oversees the operations of more than 6,000 uniformed health officers who serve in nearly 800 locations around the world, promoting, protecting, and advancing the health and safety of our nation.

He is an anesthesiologist by training and a former health commissioner of Indiana, where he led the state's responses to Ebola, Zika and to the largest HIV outbreak in the United States related to injection drug use.

In February of this year, Adams was appointed to the task force for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Florida, he said a public health official's job is to prepare for worst case scenarios and that he does expect a further spike of infection rates during the cold-weather months ahead.

"That is why it is important for everyone to remember to wear a face covering, washing your hands and watch your distance," he said.

The surgeon general also said he is hopeful for a successful vaccine as early as the end of this year but added it needn't be a prerequisite to reopening schools and business, citing the relative successes in New York and in Italy in safely reopening following a bad course with the pandemic.

But with many U.S. states seemingly heading in the wrong direction, the upward growth rate of the infection is reaching a critical point where it may soon be impossible to expect effective COVID testing.

The surgeon general pleaded with community leaders to do what they can to slow the pandemic.

He said the Centers for Disease Control has sent a team to Miami to explore what is working well and what needs improvement -- and how to provide federal support for those measures that are working to slow infection spread.

"We also are going to be opening up a third testing site here in Miami because we know that (testing) turnaround times are increasing because demand is increasing," Adams said.

"At some point there will never be enough testing if we don't get control of the disease," he said, adding that the ability to provide for additional testing will always be contingent on caseload. "A test result is only as good as the time it takes you to get it because we can't effectively quarantine someone for 14 days particularly when you look at the (homeless) population that is served here."

The federal government is sending rapid, point of care COVID tests that can give you to nursing homes, homeless shelters and other places known to be at the highest risk for the spread of disease.

"And we are helping people think through pool testing so that you can test four people at a time instead of one person at a time," he said.

A native of Maryland who has spoken about substance abuse and homelessness issues among his own siblings, Adams also asked political and community leaders for help enlisting local celebrities, online influencers, professional athletes and others to help make mask-wearing cool and more acceptable to young people.

"My 16-, 14- and 10-year-old couldn't care less that I am the surgeon general of the United States -- they still think that dad doesn't know anything," he said. "But by golly if their favorite YouTuber or NBA player or singer wears a mask with a funky design on it, they will think it's cool -- we need to market that to the people who are spreading the disease right now."

Adams said he wants young people to consider that they and their friends may be spreading the pandemic whenever they disregard health and safety measures and that they may be putting extended family members in danger.

He also said it's important to acknowledge people who are doing the right things and to offer positive reinforcement.

"Imagine how much more progress we could make and how many more things we could keep open up if we all did the right thing," the surgeon general said.

"You need to wear a face mask now -- if you want schools open we can lower the background community rate."

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Pope thanks pilgrim with disability who walked along Spain's 'Camino'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Twitter @CaminodeAlvaro

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis sent a letter of gratitude to a Spanish teen with an intellectual disability after the 15-year-old traveled more than 60 miles along the famed Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

In a letter signed July 21 and published on the website of the Diocese of Malaga, Spain, the pope said he learned of Alvaro Calvante's journey after receiving a letter from the pilgrim's father.

"Thank you, Alvaro, for being inspired to walk and inviting many others to walk with you," the pope wrote. "Amid the pandemic we are experiencing, with your simplicity, joy and humility, you were able to put into motion the hope of many of the people you met on the road or through social networks."

"You went on pilgrimage and made many people go on pilgrimage, encouraging them not to be afraid and to recover their joy because, on the road, we never go alone. The Lord always walks beside us. Thank you for your testimony and prayers," he wrote.

According to the diocese, Calvante is the seventh of 10 brothers and is a member of the Neocatechumenal Way in a parish in Malaga.

"His intellectual disability is not an impediment to participating very actively in parish life, and his joyful experience of faith is a witness to all who know him," the diocese said.

The young pilgrim and his father chronicled their 62-mile trek, which began in the northwestern Spanish city of Sarria, covering the final leg of a journey that many begin nearly 500 miles earlier, through the mountains in France. The youth's Twitter account, @CaminodeAlvaro, gained 3,500 followers after opening in early July; many people sent him their prayer intentions.

Calvante's father tweeted a picture of the letter July 21 and thanked the pope for his words, received "with true love."

"Today, we are on pilgrimage to the birthplace of St. Dominic de Guzman. We read the letter here, and we prayed for His Holiness as Alvaro does every day and every hour. May God bless him!" the father tweeted.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju


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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Chaplain says Washington Nationals' World Series run is 'story of faith'

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti

By Maureen Boyle

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A baseball season and team are not often synonymous with religious or spiritual themes, but for Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, using words such as "miracle," "grace" and "faith" are actually the best ways to describe the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals.

"It's a story of hope. It's a story of faith. It's a story of mutual love and friendship," said the priest, who has served as the Nationals' team priest chaplain for the past 10 years. "It's an inspiring story, a spiritual story, and it felt like a miracle."

In a talk at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, Msgr. Rossetti shared with several attendees the Gospel lessons, inspiration and blessings that continue to resonate from a Nationals' season that began so bleakly, but against all odds rose to baseball's highest peak Oct. 30, 2019.

"It was deeply moving for me and everybody. You could feel the electricity, something special was happening, a special spiritual grace happening," said Msgr. Rossetti, referring to the October playoff start. "The players, coaches and staff all felt the same."

During the regular season, Msgr. Rossetti, who also is a licensed psychologist and teaches theology at The Catholic University of America, celebrates Mass at Nationals Park for the players, coaches, staff, stadium crew and the visiting team before every Sunday home game. The priest said he offers prayers for a safe, healthy game, but he doesn't pray specifically for a Nats' win.

"I think God knows who I'm rooting for," he joked.

After a nearly four-month delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, the Nationals opened Major League Baseball's regular season with a July 23 evening game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park.

Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, no fans were going to be allowed in the stands, but the game was being televised on ESPN.

Throughout the past decade, Msgr. Rossetti said he has gotten to know many of the Nationals' front office staff and players. Although a majority of the players are young men between ages 19 and 28, he said they are respectful, mature and often faith-filled individuals.

"From top to bottom (of the Nats' organization), they are really nice people," he said in his July 2 talk at the museum.

Msgr. Rossetti showed photographs of some of his favorite moments of the 2019 season, pointing out ways that remind him of the Gospel message. He said the team's motto for the playoffs -- "Stay in the Fight" -- is a good example of the Christian virtue of hope.

"Don't give up. ... Hope is important for all our lives," he said, adding that he told the players: "If you gave up, you wouldn't be here (in the playoffs.) ... It was inspiring that they never gave up."

After the National League championship series win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park, team manager Davey Martinez reflected on the rough start to the season, telling the overjoyed crowd, "Bumpy roads lead to beautiful places. And this is a beautiful place!"

Msgr. Rossetti said this is the same notion as the Paschal Mystery. "We must go through the darkness to get to the Resurrection," he said. "We all pay our dues. There are no easy lives. The Lord is with us, and walks with us."

He also commended the Nationals for their great team effort all season long and during the playoffs and World Series, an example of the Christian ideal that every individual is important and counts.

"Each guy had their own moment. Davey believed in them and each guy rose to the moment and contributed," he said.

Msgr. Rossetti also shared more personal insights on the championship season, including how moved he was to witness the transformation of Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, whom he described as shy, but had come out of his shell thanks in part to teammates Gerardo Parra and Anibal Sanchez.

"It really was the most touching moment of the playoff series," he said, showing a photo of the three players in a jubilant group hug.

"It's really been a personal journey for him. He's grown up, gotten married, had children," the priest said. "Life becomes for you your own Gospel story."

Msgr. Rossetti really became a baseball fan when the Nationals first arrived in the nation's capital in 2005.

Fifteen years later and with a World Series championship on the books, Msgr. Rossetti said he feels very blessed to support the team and help keep the Lord present in their lives -- win or lose.

But the season that ended with the championship, in particular, he said was a grace-filled experience that can serve to remind everyone of God's love and care for all.

"It was a joy to be part of the Nationals' season in a modest way. I thank the Lord for that grace, and I hope whatever happens (this season), they will do well and 'Stay in the Fight,'" Msgr. Rossetti said.

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Boyle writes for the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Public service workers tell of job strains of serving in pandemic

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Workers whose jobs put them in direct contact with the public related both the pride and fear of doing their work amid the coronavirus pandemic during a July 22 forum sponsored by the Catholic Labor Network.

"We are the proverbial tip of the spear," said Stephen Mittons, a child protection investigator for the city of Chicago's Department of Child and Family Services. If there's an allegation of abuse or neglect, he added, "we physically knock on that door and try to ensure the safety of that child. We have not missed a beat. There has not been a day when I or one of my colleagues has not been in the field."

Mittons has protective gear to carry out his work, but the families he visits may not. "I visit four homes a day," he said. "I could pick up something from one home and give it to another family I visit. Or bring it into my home."

The same is true for Phil Cisneros, a financial specialist in the public guardian's office of Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago. The office represents the interests of both children and adults with disabilities. Cisneros works in what he called the "adult division" of the office, protecting seniors from scammers. "It pays bills for seniors who can't handle their own finances," he said.

Yet senior citizens have shown to be more likely than other segments of the population to be infected by the coronavirus.

Clayton Sinyai, executive director of the Catholic Labor Network, noted how the National Nurses United labor union "put out 164 pairs of white shoes" July 21 to honor 164 nurses who have died since pandemic reached the United States early this year.

From both a public health and an economic perspective, Sinyai said, "we haven't seen the recovery many of us had hoped for."

He added, "It's shocking to think what will happen if our public health agencies are underfunded."

The coronavirus is "out of control, especially in the Sun Belt," said Becky Levin, assistant director of the federal government affairs department for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents both Mittons and Cisneros.

Making the situation more dire is that "people aren't spending money the way they used to," which is lowering sales tax revenue to states, counties and cities, Levin said. "It's really changed our economy overnight in a way none of us could have foreseen," she added. "I don't think anybody envisioned this for a rainy day fund."

Despite the economic plunge, most states are constitutionally required to balance their budgets, "and we're looking at maybe a 20% drop in revenues, maybe even bigger," Levin said. "The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put out a new revision estimating that we're looking at a two-year revenue shortfall of $555 billion. That doesn't include counties and it doesn't include cities."

AFSCME had declared July 22 as a "day of action" for its members to call their representatives in Congress to pass the HEROES Act. The House passed a version in May, but the Senate has not acted on the bill amid intraparty wrangling among Republicans, who control the Senate.

"It looks like Democrats are starting to have some talks with Republicans, which is as it should be," Levin said. "There is a lot of pressure for them to get it done before they go on vacation."

AFSCME is just one of many unions pressing their case before lawmakers to include funding for critical needs in the HEROES Act, or the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act.

The Amalgamated Transit Union is urging funding for public transit and the motorcoach industry, and stronger health protections for workers. National Nurses United is demanding more and better protection for health care workers. The Utility Workers Union wants Congress to improve protections for all frontline workers still on the job during the pandemic. The Machinists and the Association of Flight Attendants want airlines to live up to their obligation to keep their workers on the payroll.

Actors Equity seeks health care protection for theater workers whose shows, and health care coverage, have been canceled due to the pandemic. The NewsGuild wants Congress to provide stimulus money to local newspapers to preserve newsroom staffs cut even more severely in recent months than in the past decade. Two unions want the White House to activate the Defense Production Act to get factories making ventilators, gloves and other protective equipment.

Levin estimated a cost of $128 billion for school systems nationwide just to buy more school buses and hire drivers for them. "You can't shove that many kids on a bus anymore," she said.

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Too Much News? Reconsidering Our Relationship with the Media

News fatigue and social media depletion are real issues. Here is a way to gauge the health of your own media consumption.

What ‘Words with Friends’ Has Taught Me About Loss and Hope

My Jesuit community engaged in COVID-19 protocols after Mass on March 16. No more all-community Masses. No more going to school for class. No more ministry. A world of masks and gloves and handwashing. That evening, a friend and I had a conversation thinking through ways we could try to make the most of the indefinite future that came with pandemic.