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Julie Asher, CNS national editor, wins St. Francis de Sales Award

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth


GREEN BAY, Wis. (CNS) -- Julie Asher is the recipient of the 2018 St. Francis de Sales Award from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.

The award recognizes "outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism" and is the highest honor given by CPA. It was presented during a June 15 luncheon at the Catholic Media Conference in Green Bay.

"Wow. It's overwhelming," said Asher after she was handed the award.

"I can confirm there was no Russian collusion on this -- I had to say that coming here from Washington," she added.

Asher thanked her CNS colleagues, led by editor-in-chief Greg Erlandson, and his predecessors.

"I also want to thank all of you, my colleagues in the Catholic press, for what you do every single day and what you contribute to CNS. We are all workers in the vineyard; we do it every single day to tell the story of the Catholic Church," she said.

Asher noted that she didn't come from a journalism family but said she had some ink in her blood because her father was an ink salesman and sold ink to several small newspapers in eastern Colorado and western Nebraska.

"I always wanted to be a journalist and to tell stories," she said, adding that she loves what she does.

"I love what we all do in the Catholic press: We tell stories of people's faith in action, explaining what the church teaches and why, what the church says in response to the issues of the day -- immigration, racism, the environment and all manner of other things."

She pointed out that some stories are difficult to cover, for instance, the sex abuse crisis, telling the stories of the survivors and how the church is addressing it or stories of parish closings and what that means to those who call those parishes home.

But she also said there are plenty of stories that are more positive, such as what Catholics do for the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant and refugees; stories about Catholic agencies, volunteers who are there for those suffering through a natural disaster or other calamity; stories about outreach to people in the inner cities; and about the richness of Catholic life in mission dioceses.

Asher, who has been national editor of Catholic News Service for more than 20 years, coordinates all national coverage and book reviews. To many client editors, she is the first person with whom they come in contact at CNS.

Prior to working at Catholic News Service, where she started as a general assignment reporter, she was a reporter at the Scottsbluff Star-Herald daily in Nebraska and the Denver Catholic in her home state of Colorado.

Asher has been a member of the Society for Professional Journalists for more than 30 years, joining as a college student. She has had many leadership roles in the group and has been an awarded by the group for her achievements. She has presented workshops at Catholic Media Conventions and served on nominating committees for the Catholic Press Association.

She is also the CNS intern coordinator and has mentored dozens of young college students, many of whom now work at Catholic publications.

Asked about her internship for Asher's nomination submission, Colleen Dulle, former CNS intern who now works for America magazine, said Asher's "mentorship was invaluable," noting that not only did she make time for weekly meetings with interns but she also made sure they got what they hoped to experience from their internships.

"For example, I told her I wanted to report in a press pool at a large event, so Julie assigned me to a White House summit. She also pushed me out of my comfort zone, in one instance assigning me a political story that landed me my first byline in America magazine, where I am now an O'Hare Fellow. "

She also said Asher "never turned down any of my requests for letters of recommendation, showing how committed she is to helping me continue to succeed in journalism."

The other two finalists were:

-- Deacon Steve Landregan, who retired in 2016 from the Dallas Diocese, was a longtime editor of the Texas Catholic, diocesan newspaper of Dallas, and served as director of pastoral planning and research as well as diocesan archivist and historian in a career that spanned more than 50 years.

He was a founding member of the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America and in 1979 and directed the Archbishop Sheen Center for Communications, producing Catholic television and radio programming. His wide variety of Catholic communications contributions include: newspaper editor, weekly columnist, books, magazine articles, radio, television, educational television, web content, online blogs, and social media.

-- Ed Wilkinson, who took on the role of editor emeritus of The Tablet, diocesan newspaper of Brooklyn, New York, earlier this year. Wilkinson began as The Tablet's sports reporter in 1970 and was named editor in 1985.

In 1995, his column anticipating the papal visit to New York led to a personal meeting with St. John Paul II. In 2016, the CPA honored Wilkinson with first place for best editorial page or editorial section. Wilkinson also produced the television segment "The Tablet Week in Review" for 18 years. In 2011, he became the news director for the daily news show, "Currents," and four years later spearheaded live coverage of Pope Francis' visit to Cuba and the U.S.

Earlier this year, Wilkinson won the St. Francis de Sales Distinguished Communicator Award at the Brooklyn Diocese's celebration of the World Communications Day, May 9.

Last year's St. Francis de Sales Award winner was Matt Schiller, outgoing CPA president and advertising and business manager of Catholic New York.

Previous St. Francis de Sales winners from Catholic News Service include: Tom Lorsung, editor-in-chief, (1995); Jerry Filteau, reporter (2003); John Thavis, Rome bureau chief, (2007); Tony Spence, editor-in-chief (2010) and Jim Lackey, web editor (2014).

Erlandson, current CNS editor-in-chief, won the award in 2015, a year before joining the news service.

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Contributing to this report were Cindy Wooden in Green Bay and Carol Zimmermann in Washington.

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Copyright © 2018 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

Yo-Yo Ma holds concert for peace at Chicago Catholic Church

IMAGE: CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic

By Joyce Duriga

CHICAGO (CNS) -- When world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma brought his Concert for Peace to St. Sabina Church for the second time June 10, there was a special feature -- five original works written with family members who lost loved ones to gun violence as a tribute to the people who died.

They are among 24 original songs created by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Negaunee Music Institute and Purpose Over Pain, a St. Sabina organization of parents who have lost a child to gun violence. All songs are available at

The idea to create the songs came after Ma saw the memorial board outside the parish that features photos of all the people connected to the parish killed by gun violence.

Ma first visited St. Sabina in spring 2017 on a Sunday in between morning Masses. The senior pastor, Father Michael Pfleger, was told a man saying he was Yo-Yo Ma was in the church and wanted to meet him, which he thought was a joke. It wasn't.

Ma had stopped by the church on his way to the airport saying he followed the priest's work against violence and wanted to help.

"A lot of people tell me they want to help and do nothing. I always get my hopes up and wonder what's next. About two weeks later I got a call and they said 'Yo-Yo is serious. He wants to help,'" Father Pfleger said during a pre-concert news conference. "The only thing better than his talent is his spirit. He used his gift to invite people -- not to come downtown, not to the Symphony Center, not to Grant Park - but to 78th Place."

Ma, who is the Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, said he now feels part of St. Sabina and even though he doesn't live in Chicago, when he reads about the gun violence in the city he feels the pain.

So Ma and the Negaunee Music Institute asked people who lost family members to gun violence to share the stories of their loved ones and their grief and pain with songwriters and composers. The families and songwriters wrote the lyrics and composers wrote the songs. It wasn't just mothers who wrote songs but siblings and children too. Families gave some advice on the sound saying they wanted the songs to be slow and jazz-like.

All of the songs are available to hear along with photos of those who died at In some cases, family members sang the lyrics themselves. Desiree Smith recorded a rap song about her dad, Dontee Smith.

In the case of Rolanda Lakesia Marshall, who died in 1993 at 14, her song was the lyrics of a poem she wrote.

Hardly anyone from the musicians and singers to the audience members would be unaffected when hearing the five songs performed, Ma told reporters.

"One of the singers said to me: 'You know I'm going to be a mess today, but every time I sing the 'Song for Terrell,' gradually I realize that my job is to deliver the message and I have to do it in a way that is very clear,'" Ma said. "That's the musician's role. You first empathize with someone but then you actually have to deliver the message clear so someone else gets it."

Working on the songs for their children was another step in the healing process, said Pamela Bosley, founder of Purpose Over Pain. Bosley's son Terrell, who loved to play the bass guitar, was shot and killed in 2006 at age 18.

"For most of the parents, music is a way of healing," Bosley said, whose son Trevon wrote the lyrics for "Song for Terrell," which Ma performed with members of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

"A lot of times we hold our pain within, but if somebody sits you down and says: 'Tell me about your son and what you feel,' that allows you to express it and let it out," she said. "There were a lot of emotions with this project, a lot of crying but we made it through and with the help of God we were able to get songs."

Terrell always wanted to travel the world as a musician and now he will do that through this song, Bosley said.

"I believe in my heart that Terrell and the rest of the children are looking down on us and are happy that the orchestra and Yo-Yo Ma thought enough to write songs on behalf of our children," she said.

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Duriga is editor of the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Copyright © 2018 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

Most fundamental human right is hope, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Abedin Taherkenareh, EPA

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The theory that well-being will automatically flow down to everyone from the riches of the few is "a lie," Pope Francis said.

The beatitudes show the way, he said, because they show that holiness doesn't concern just the soul, "but also the feet -- for going toward our brothers and sisters, and the hands -- for sharing with them."

May the beatitudes "teach us and our world to not be wary of or leave at the mercy of the ocean waves those who leave their land, hungry for bread and justice; may they lead us to not live in excess, devoting ourselves to the advancement of everyone, kneeling with compassion before the weakest," he said June 15.

This approach, he said, comes "without the easy illusion that, from the lavish table of the few, well-being automatically 'rains down' for everyone," he said.

The pope's remarks came in an address to people taking part in a national congress of an Italian federation of expert artisans and craftsmen known in Italian as "maestri."

Pope Francis reaffirmed how important work and making a living are for each person, but he noted how so many are still excluded from today's "economic progress" and are, therefore, deprived of future prospects and hope.

"The first and most fundamental human right, for young people most of all," is hope, he said, "the right to hope."

A community that does not concretely promote jobs and cares little for those who are excluded from employment opportunities "condemns itself to atrophy" and will see increasing inequalities, the pope said.

On the contrary, a society that is guided by a spirit of subsidiarity, that seeks to bring to fruition the potential of every man and woman "of every origin and age, will truly breathe with full lung power and be able to overcome even the biggest obstacles."

To do this, work and life must be lived "like a mission" and love for one's brothers and sisters "must burn inside us with 'spiritual fuel,' which, unlike fossil fuels, never runs out, but increases with use," he said.

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Copyright © 2018 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


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