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Museum of the Bible

Hey, Smithsonian, there's a new kid on the block.
 
It's the Museum of the Bible, just a few blocks from the National Mall in Washington.
 
With its opening to the public Nov. 18, it tells visitors how the Bible -- both Old Testament and New Testament -- has intersected society and at times even transformed it.
 
The people behind the museum say that if visitors were to read the card behind every artwork, saw every video, heard every song and took part in every interactive experience -- including a Broadway-style musical called "Amazing Grace" about the song's writer, John Newton, and the biblical inspiration behind the abolitionist movement -- it would take them 72 hours to do it all.
 
But visitors can take their time, because there is no admission charge to the museum.
 
The museum was the brainchild of Steve Green, chairman of the museum's board of directors and president of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores. It was Hobby Lobby that successfully argued before the Supreme Court in 2014 that, as a closely held company, its owners based on their religious beliefs should not have to comply with a federal mandate to cover all forms of contraceptives because some act as abortifacients.
 
"It's exciting to share the Bible with the world," Green said at a Nov. 15 press preview of the museum, which is just one block from a subway stop serving three of the Washington-area subway system's six lines.
 
The $500 million museum had its coming-out party in 2011 at the Vatican Embassy in Washington before a gathering of business, government, academic and religious leaders.
 
Museum backers found a circa-1923 refrigeration warehouse that had been repurposed for other uses, bought the building and set about expanding it, adding two stories and a skylight to the top of the structure and a sub-basement for storage space.
 
The result: six floors of exhibits, not to mention the theater, gift shop and restaurants.
 
 
Most of the exhibits, when necessary, use the designations "B.C." and "A.D." -- Before Christ and Anno Domini, Latin for "year of the Lord" -- to refer to the timeline of civilization marked by Jesus' birth. Museum brass had discussions on the topic, Susan Jones, curator of antiquities for the museum, told Catholic News Service.
 
"They decided that's the way they wanted to go," she said.
 
Most researchers, Jones noted, prefer the designations "B.C.E" and "C.E." -- Before the Common Era and Common Era -- because "they're more neutral." Also preferring the latter names is the Israeli Association for Antiquities, which has a 20-year deal with the museum to supply artifacts in a fifth-floor exhibit space. "You're in Israel now," she told a visitor as a tour guide was boasting that he had his hand on a rock from the Western Wall in Jerusalem in the exhibit.
 
There are a number of items on loan to the museum from the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Library. They're in a tiny space on the museum's ground floor -- relatively speaking, since the museum totals 430,000 square feet. What can't be seen in person can be accessed by two dedicated computers in the exhibit area, one for the museums and one for the library.
 
Brian Hyland, an associate curator for medieval manuscripts at the museum, told CNS the Vatican donations will be around for six months, then replaced by other artifacts. One of his favorite items currently in the exhibit space is the first volume of a facsimile of the Urbino Bible, which dates to the 15th century; the second volume will replace the first volume at some point in 2018.
 
Despite the Bible's status as the best-selling and most-read book in history, one exhibit speaks of "Bible poverty," and the fact that roughly 1 billion people have never read the Bible in their native tongue.
 
An organization called IllumiNations, a collaborative effort by Bible translation agencies, is trying to change that. The aim is to have, by 2033, 95 percent of the world's peoples with access to the full Bible, 99.9 percent with at least the New Testament, and 100 percent with at least some parts of the Bible translated into what museum docent William Lazenby called "their heart languages."
 
The exhibit space touting this endeavor is stocked with Bibles and New Testaments in various languages. Hardcover books with blank pages in the exhibit represent the untranslated languages. Wholly untranslated languages are represented by yellow covers, and partially translated tongues are represented by covers with a redder hue.
 
  • Published in Nation

Catholic young women’s initiatives

Attending a Catholic young women's leadership forum taught Michelle Nunez, 23, that "our vocation as women is to be receptive to God's gifts."
 
What Nunez learned about the "feminine genius," a term used by St. John Paul II to describe the gifts of women, helps her, a year later, in her volunteer work with immigrants at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.
 
Nunez and 300 young women representing dioceses from all 50 states are using their specific gifts to carry out their "action plans" following the June 2016 Given Forum at The Catholic University of America. An initiative of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the forum brought young Catholic women together for a weeklong immersion in "faith formation, leadership training and networking."
"We wanted each (of the attendees) to receive these truths: You are a gift; you have received specific gifts of nature and grace; the church and the world await your unique expression of the feminine genius," said Sister Bethany Madonna, a Sister of Life and co-chair of the event.
 
Part of the application process required women to submit "action plans," new initiatives inspired by their own gifts, interests and leadership skills, which would be implemented in the months following the conference.
 
As her "action plan," Nunez, from Houston, originally planned "to create a nonprofit, holistic agency to work with Hispanic women, to have different courses to take care of their mind, body, spirit." But after hearing Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus and executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, at the conference, Nunez said, "I just knew I needed to work with her."
 
The center assists immigrants from Central America, who are seeking asylum and traveling to meet family members in the United States. "ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) releases them from the detention center where they are process for about three days. We pick them up from the bus station ... give them clothes, they shower" and wait for their buses to meet family members in other parts of the country.
 
Nunez sees her volunteer work as a ministry of listening. "While they're waiting there, I sit down with them and talk to them," Nunez said. She hopes to be "a voice for the voiceless" to "share a little bit of their stories with other people here in the U.S." Ultimately this will bring her closer to the "bigger picture," her nonprofit.
 
In forming her action plan, Casey Bustamante, 30, saw a need for a "gathering of young adults, active military and spouses." Bustamante, associate director of young adult ministry with the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, is organizing the first conference for young adults who are military ministry leaders June 16-18 in Northbrook, Ill.
 
After the Given Forum, Bustamante considered the ways the conference itself could be a model for developing the military conference. She wanted to incorporate some of the training and tools she had received, such as a session on how to best engage with the press and media, led by Catholic Voices USA, whose mission is to articulate the Church's teaching in the public square.
 
"Some of the feedback that I've received from young adults is that it's a challenge to talk about the hot-button issues with their peers and among other military members because our society values are changing, and the military culture is not separate from that," she said.
 
Bustamante invited Catholic Voices USA to lead a session to encourage the servicemen to freely discuss Catholic issues.
 
Another attendee, Corynne Staresinic, 22, from Cincinnati, created a website called The Catholic Woman that features weekly letters and quarterly videos submitted by "women of all ages, backgrounds and vocations" to "illustrate the many faces and voices of Catholic women."
 
Staresinic, who graduated in May 2016 from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, said the idea for the project began after she read St. John Paul II's "Letter to Women" during her senior year. "That was the big game-changing moment in my life," Staresinic told Catholic News Service. The pope's letter, along with the diverse stories of the female speakers at the conference provided the model for The Catholic Woman's letters.
 
 
 
  • Published in Nation
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