Century Marks

Century Marks

Welcome mat

Two Italian organizations, one Catholic and one Protes­tant, are working cooperatively to bring 1,000 refugees from Lebanon and Mo­roc­co to Europe. Their aim is to help refugees avoid the often deadly voyage by sea and to undermine the human trafficking business. These organizations are covering the entire tab, including travel expenses, refugees’ visas, and resettlement and legal aid expenses. The program is looking for the most vulnerable refugees: mothers alone with children, the elderly, and the sick. The ecumenical venture is being presented to the European Union as a model for other countries (NPR, February 15).

Custom urns

In 2014 Pete Saari, who was working in the 3-D printing industry, read about the increase in cremation. Thinking that the urns sold by funeral establishments showed no creativity, he and a partner started Foreverence, which custom designs urns and produces them on a 3-D printer. The custom designs have ranged from a replica of a red 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle convertible to a replica of the space shuttle Columbia, which holds the ashes of a former NASA engineer. Cost on average for a customized urn is $2,500 (StarTribune, January 30).


Yasmin Mulbocus, formerly a recruiter for radical Islam in her London neighborhood, became disillusioned with jihadism when she overheard her daughter say it was OK to kill non-Muslims. She has joined a network of former extremists working to counter terrorism. Focusing on young women drawn toward ISIS in Syria, Mulbocus organizes “interfaith cafes” where women can talk about issues of faith. She has developed an unlikely friendship with an American woman who used to be a white supremacist (Christian Science Monitor, March 7).

What golden age?

The prospect of returning to better times is a familiar meme among politicians, but economist Carol Boyd Leon points out that a hundred years ago manufacturing workers put in an average of 55 hours each week on jobs that were 30 times more dangerous than today. It was a feat for people to reach old age; if they did, there was no Social Security to support them, and poverty rates among the elderly were very high. The infant mortality rate was much higher: 10 percent of infants died in their first year compared to one in 168 today. Food was much less varied and more expensive. The average American ate almost as much lard as chicken. Housing was smaller and more crowded, and four times as many people rented compared to today (Atlantic, February 11).

Mercy bus

The Catholic diocese of Salford in the United Kingdom has found a new way of taking the church to the people. Priests riding a double-decker bus dubbed the Mercy Bus will make themselves available to hear confessions or talk to people. The idea was inspired by Pope Francis, who before becoming pontiff held open-air masses in the poorest areas of his home country of Argentina. The pope has bestowed his blessing on the new venture (Catholic Herald, January 29).