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June 26, 1998     The Message
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June 26, 1998

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana June I An amazing coincidence By PAUL R. LEINGANG Editor It can't just be a coincidence. On my first day at work after a wonderful trip to Italy and Switzerland, I read a series of news stories provided by the Catholic News Service. One of the stories provided details about the newly appointed bishop of Chur -- a city in Switzerland I had visited just a few days earlier. In all of my life, I had never been aware of a city by that name. If you had asked me about it, I would have had to say I didn't know how to pronounce it, I didn't know where it was, I never heard of it. It was quite a coincidence, I thought, and an amazing one at that. The first story I have ever seen about a place had suddenly come to my attention, only days after I had set foot in that very place. It happened again. I picked up a new magazine to read the other night, and there in it was a story about the gondolas of Venice. Venice was one of the cities we had visited in Italy, and my wife and I had had atwo-minute ride in a gondola, to cross the Grand Canal. The article mentioned various locations and land- marks in Venice. (I guess you can't call them "water- marks.").The author also discussed the impact of" power boats, propeller-driven craft which hastened the deterioration of the city's foundations. Another coincidence? A few days after a visit to Venice, some pages in a magazine almost fall upon to the story about Venice. A headline shouts, "Read me," and I readily follow its command. I would have been less impressed if the magazine had been a travel magazine, but it was the New York- er. That's not where I would have expected to find a story about gondolas. After reflecting on the "coincidences" I recalled a similar set of circumstances from a few years ago. A high-school-age student from Germany had stayed with us for several weeks, as part of an exchange pro- gram. Suddenly, it seemed, the news was full of items about Germany, and in particular, the northern part of Germany which was our student's home. The conclusion I have to draw from these hap- penings, I realize, is that people tend to notice what is familiar to them. I have discovered that once a person or place becomes part of my experience, I begin to pay attention to other persons or events or news reports which have some connection. A part of the world suddenly becomes "more important" to me because I know someone who lives there, or because I have seen it and touched it. "2 It makes me wonder what if I really ever began to pay attention to are hungry and thirsty. What would happen, I wonder, if I some people from a world far removed own? , , i Take the time to pay some unfamiliar -- perhaps a person perhaps a person of a different racial, gious background. If there are children in your action to widen their experience o Take advantage of parish opportunitie s make such opportunities, to parish" in another country, or city. Get to know one person at either one who is there to receive help, or one' there to give it. Visit a healthcare facility. new person in a nursing home or in Take the time to home, in your parish and in your Comments about this column are welcome at or the Christian Famil Box 272, Ames, Iowa 50010. Wisconsin ruling gives school choice a foot in the as a crucial step for good or doom for education's future. And both sides are looking ahead to the U.S. Supreme Court for more clear direction. Groups opposed to the ruling have vowed to bring it to the Supreme Court on an appeal. Voucher supporters say, "bring it on," confident that vouchers will be given the court's bless- ing and not be found to violate church-state separation. Amid such discussion about what impact this decision will have on other school choice rul- ings and the future of the nation's public schools, Robert Boston, spokesman for Ameri- cans United for Separation of Church and State, tries to regain a sense of calm. "We have to keep in mind that this is a state Supreme Court decision, which doesn't set a national precedent," he told Catholic News Service. But all the same, hisorganization was working on appealing the case as he spoke. Raymond Burnelt, executive director of the Office for Catholic School Parent Associa- tions for the U.S. Catholic Con- ference, calls the decision "his- toric" and "a useful blueprint for other states." He doesn't see the ruling as something out of the blue, but reflective of "the prevailing winds of school choice all across the country" demon- strated by tax relief measures recently given to parents in some states. Burnell said even if school choice decisions aren't becom- ing law, more pieces of voucher legislation are at least making headway in states, passing in one house or both before getting vetoed. Currently four states have voucher cases pending before their state supreme courts: Ari- zona, Ohio, Maine and Ver- mont. Ohio's case is very simi- lar to the Wisconsin one, involving a scholarship pro- gram in Cleveland, now in its second year, that grants 3,500 eligible students vouchers for the school of their choice with- in the school district, including private religious and nonreli- gious schools. Tim Luckhaupt, director of Ohio's Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, said he was hopeful that the Wisconsin ruling would help their case, particularly since the "issues are almost the same." But even if other state courts, and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court, finds vouchers to private schools constitutional, the work isn't over for voucher supporters. Boston says if voucher oppo- nents lose their appeal, then government regulations will end up slowing voucher plans. "Schools receiving public money open up an entire Pan- dora's box of regulations," he said. Potential lawsuits on behalf of students not admitted to religious schools or teachers fired for religious reasons could make "private schools rue the day they ever heard the word voucher." Sister Dale McDonald, direc- tor of public policy and educa- tion research for the National Catholic Educational Associa- tion, also warns that a Supreme Court approval of vouchers would still involve "hurdles over how the states would inter- pret the ruling." For now, the Sister of the Pre- sentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary said voucher supporters need to respond to much of the negative rhetoric against vouch- ers, and get out the positive aspects of what Catholic schools do well. She doesn't buy the criticism that Catholics don't care about public schools because they only want to save their own schools. "Eighty percent of our kids are in public schools," she pointed out. "It's important that they get as good as an education as they can get." Capuchin Brother Bob Smith, president of Messmer Catholic High School in Milwaukee, said he too is growing weary of the cloud of "conspiracy theories" surrounding voucher supporters. In response, he tells people, "Look, the kids we're dealing with are the kids that were not doing well in the public schools. If we can do it, so can you." He is wary of any voucher agreement that would involve regulations concerning what Catholic schools can teach. He said his school was the first religious school to chal- lenge Milwaukee's voucher pro- gram for not including religious schools, saying they "felt it was important for poor families to have other alternatives." "You have a grea, you have to after school, and Messmer the time. But they in Catholicism is Brc dents won't be says religion is an part of the school. and we do expect morally or federal money chan But c islation loes inclu out" F vate schools from students to religious activity parent or guardiar ted a written teacher or student to activities. Messmer has 150 gible students, an than 60 inquiries after the court Students know getting into when Messmer. Brother them from who we are, part, a cafeteria plan." By CAROL ZIMMERMANN Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) Schools might be out for the summer, but the talk about the best ways to educate America's youths shows no sign of a sea- sonal respite. In fact, the recent decision by the Wisconsin State Supreme Court saying vouchers in Mil- waukee could be applied to reli- gious schools has only added more fuel to the ongoing debate. In a 4-2 ruling, the state's highest court not only coil- firmed the constitutionality of the Milwaukee's current school choice program, but it also per- mitred the program's expansion to provide vouchers for up to 15000 low-income children -- about 10 times the current num- ber of participants. No one is taking this decision lightly. People on both sides of the voucher debate see it either 4200 N. Kentucky Ave. Evansville, IN 47711  Weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville Pubrmhed weekly except last week in December by the Catholic Press of Evansville PubKher ............ Baop Gerald A. GCaeCger . Editor ...................................... Paul R. Leingang Produc Tect'.'cian .............. .,Joseph Oieich &:herlng .................................. Paut Netdand Staff Writer ............................ Mary/L Hughes Address all communications to P.O. Box 4169, Evansville, IN 47724-0169 Subscription rate: $18.50 per year Single Copy Price: $.50 Entered as periodical matter at the posl offce in Evanswlle, IN 47701 PutYcation numbe 843800. Postmaster: Return POD forms 3579 Io ofirce ot PuOcato Copynght 1998 Catholic Press of Evans Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting, Catholic : urday, June 27. Profession of Final Vows, Monastery Imm ception, Ferdinand, Saturday, June 27, 10:30 a.ra. Fiftieth Anniversary Mass, Holy Family Saturday, June 27, 4 p.m. Celebration honoring Msgr. Michael dict Church, Evansville, Sunday, June 28, Montgomery Cluster Deanery Meeting, St. peter, gomery, Tuesday, June 30, 7 p.m.