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When D(iagnosis)-Day isn’t an End . . .

Rapid advancements in perinatal testing equip families with information about their newest members as they prepare to welcome them. This information can be so valuable for families to prepare their hearts and homes for children with special needs or to prepare emotionally for what might be a short time with their children. Imagine the range of emotions: joy, devastation, anticipation, fear, stress, and others that they may experience. Read more

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Give Without Counting the Cost

In 2002, I was employed as an emergency interviewer at an outreach center here in Baltimore. One of the first people I met was a religious sister, whom we’ll call “Mary,” who was the AIDS/HIV coordinator. Sister Mary instilled in me a culture of encounter, the importance of being compassionate to people no matter their condition or situation, and the need to meet them where they are. Read more

This was taken about halfway up the block on the east side of Broadway, between 79th and 80th Street. It's at the north end of the "Filene's Basement" store on the corner, and it's a place where I've often seen homeless people holding up a sign that asks for assistance...

With very rare exceptions, I haven't photographed these homeless people; it seems to me that they're in a very defensive situation, and I don't want to take advantage of their situation. But something unusual was happening here: the two women (who were actually cooperating, and acting in tandem, despite the rather negative demeanor of the woman on the left) were giving several parcels of food to the young homeless man on the right.

I don't know if the women were bringing food from their own kitchen, or whether they had brought it from a nearby restaurant. But it was obviously a conscious, deliberate activity, and one they had thousght about for some time...

What was particularly interesting was that they didn't dwell, didn't try to have a conversation with the young man;they gave him they food they had brought, and promptly walked away. As they left, I noticed the young man peering into his bag (the one you see on the ground beside him in this picture) to get a better sense of the delicious meal these two kind women had brought him...

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This is part of an evolving photo-project, which will probably continue throughout the summer of 2008, and perhaps beyond: a random collection of "interesting" people in a broad stretch of the Upper West Side of Manhattan -- between 72nd Street and 104th Street, especially along Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.

I don't like to intrude on people's privacy, so I normally use a telephoto lens in order to photograph them while they're still 50-100 feet away from me; but that means I have to continue focusing my attention on the people and activities half a block away, rather than on what's right in front of me.

I've also learned that, in many cases, the opportunities for an interesting picture are very fleeting -- literally a matter of a couple of seconds, before the person(s) in question move on, turn away, or stop doing whatever was interesting.  So I've learned to keep the camera switched on (which contradicts my traditional urge to conserve battery power), and not worry so much about zooming in for a perfectly-framed picture ... after all, once the digital image is uploaded to my computer, it's pretty trivial to crop out the parts unrelated to the main subject.

For the most part, I've deliberately avoided photographing bums, drunks, drunks, and crazy people. There are a few of them around, and they would certainly create some dramatic pictures; but they generally don't want to be photographed, and I don't want to feel like I'm taking advantage of them. I'm still looking for opportunities to take some "sympathetic" pictures of such people, which might inspire others to reach out and help them. We'll see how it goes ...

The only other thing I've noticed, thus far, is that while there are lots of interesting people to photograph, there are far, far, *far* more people who are *not* so interesting. They're probably fine people, and they might even be more interesting than the ones I've photographed ... but there was just nothing memorable about them.

I Was Naked And You Clothed Me

We are called to “clothe the naked”. How can we share this message in our parish? There is the obvious corporal work of mercy of donating clothes. This time of the year as the air gets crisp we are reminded to think of our homeless sisters and brothers and to clean out our closets. The St. Vincent de Paul boxes are overflowing at parishes, which is great. You might want to suggest that folks keep care packages in their cars, especially during the winter season. Good things to fill small bags with are socks, sweatshirts, bottles of water and snacks. It is great to slip a rosary or prayer card inside as well. But what does it mean to spiritually “clothe the naked”? Read more

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Keeping Our Eyes On Christ

Recently a story was shared with me about St. Mother Teresa.

She held the hand of a young child who was hungry and approached a man who was well off asking him for assistance. The man’s reply:  he spit in Mother’s face. St. Mother Teresa’s response: “That was your gift to me, now do you have anything for the child?” Read more

Msgr. Adam Parker, Vicar General, Diane Barr, Chancellor, and friend washing dishes.

Entering the Year of Mercy (plus 54 ideas for celebrating it)

The Year of Mercy began this week, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Catholic Center employees were invited to spend that day, or at least part of that day, with agencies dedicated to one or more of the corporal works of mercy. On Tuesday, we had members of our staff dispersed at various Catholic Charities agencies, outreach services to persons with disabilities, and a number of other places. It was a great gift for me to spend a few hours with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society at Resurrection in Ellicott City. Read more