All hope is not lost: Easter in America’s newspapers

That New York Times doozie-of-a-correction notwithstanding, many American journalists understand exactly what Easter means for Christians.

That fact was evident in some of the exceptional enterprise stories that graced leading front pages on Sunday.

Eight of my favorites (in random order):

1. Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about a parish’s ministry to the poor resonating on Easter:

Easter is the oldest and most important Christian celebration. It marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion. But more symbolically, Easter represents for Christians a procession — through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection — from death to new life.

“When we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are also celebrating our own resurrection,” said the Rev. Bruce Forman, Sts. Peter and Paul’s pastor since 1990. “In our lives, we have smaller deaths and resurrections. We die to selfishness, anger and resentment. And when we overcome those things, we discover that something new happens.”

2. Tim Funk of the Charlotte Observer shared the emotional story of a liver transplant bringing new life:

DAVIDSON — On this Sunday morning, when more than a billion Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Easter’s promise of new life will have special meaning for the Rev. Lib McGregor Simmons and her 1,400-member congregation as they march into the sanctuary singing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”

For Simmons, the bleakest moment of the year came on Jan. 20, as she conducted the funeral for a 97-year-old member of her flock at Davidson College Presbyterian Church.

“It’s very likely,” she told herself during the service, “that my husband’s funeral will be the next one.”

Gary Simmons was only 63. But unless he got a new liver soon, he had only months, maybe weeks, to live.

3. Renee Elder of the Raleigh News and Observer focused on the rebirth of faith and hope for one family:

CLAYTON — As Christians gather to observe Easter and the resurrection of Christ, the Blackmon family of Clayton has another rebirth to celebrate: their baby daughter Sofie’s second chance at life.

During Sunday morning services, parents Melissa and Brent Blackmon will speak at the Church at Clayton Crossings, giving thanks for the congregation’s many prayers and gestures of support through Sofie’s ordeal. They also will tell their own story of faith and how it grew – even as hope seemed dim for the life of their youngest child.

4. Mary Niederberger of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette highlighted an agreement between Episcopalians and Anglicans to allow a homeless ministry to continue:

When Leonard Williams attends the Easter service today at Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship, an Anglican church for the homeless in Uptown, like Christians everywhere he will be celebrating the resurrection of Christ from the tomb.

But Mr. Williams, 53, and others who attend Shepherd’s Heart also will be celebrating the new life that has been breathed into their church after a recent significant agreement between Pittsburgh’s Episcopal and Anglican dioceses. A long-running conflict in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh resulted in a 2008 split, with many of the churches leaving and creating the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh,linked to the theologically conservative Anglican Church in North America.

5. Jonathan Pitts of the Baltimore Sun reported on a born-again Baltimore basilica:

On Aug, 24, 2011, the earthquake that jolted the East Coast from Georgia to Quebec rattled through the bricks, plaster and paint of one of Baltimore’s architectural jewels, the Basilica of the Assumption, sending nearly 1,000 linear feet of cracks through its ceilings and walls.

On Sunday, as Christians worldwide commemorate the resurrection of Christ on Easter, the 207-year-old cathedral, too, will enjoy a rebirth.

Construction workers have put the finishing touches on a seven-month, $3 million restoration job, and Sunday morning’s Mass will mark the formal reopening.

6. Mike Kilen of the Des Moines Register produced a special feature headlined “After Ezra: An Easter story.”   A snippet from that story:

The whole reason for our faith, Ryan Galloway said, is that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. Now, he could hold his son and smile because of that faith. It meant he could see his son again someday.

They could tell Ezra then that he gave them so much, which they were about to learn.

7. Robert King of the Indianapolis Star endeavored to explore what church buildings themselves say about their worshipers:

Today, in churches across Central Indiana, the story of the Christian faith will be retold, with crowds filling them like no other day of the year.

For many, the Church, with a capital C, is not a building but the body of believers. But it’s also clear that the space the Church inhabits reflects its members, their history and their audience. And in many cases, the space helps teach the lesson.

From the storefront to the megachurch, the Gothic-influenced to the modernists, Indianapolis holds it own with larger American cities when it comes to styles and varieties of churches, said James Divita, a retired Marian University professor who has studied local churches.

8. Manya A. Brachear of the Chicago Tribune went all the way to Italy to tell the story of a priest whose faith in church was resurrected (OK, maybe there was that other story there too):

ASSISI, Italy — One day last September, the Rev. Frank Latzko, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church in Chicago, decided to take a walk and rediscover why he became a priest.

His feet carried him from the Lincoln Park neighborhood to France, across the Pyrenees mountains, into Spain and eventually to Italy, where he stood in St. Peter’s Square to witness the historic debut of Pope Francis — the first pope to take that name.

But Latzko’s journey still wasn’t complete. Last week, he ambled through Assisi, Italy, the medieval mountain village that eight centuries ago was home to the namesake of both Latzko and the pope.  There, Latzko breathlessly climbed the same steep hills and meditated along the same wooded and walled paths where St. Francis once strolled.

This Easter, he will celebrate one last Sunday Mass in Rome before heading home to Chicago with his love for Jesus strengthened, his passion for the priesthood renewed and his faith in the church resurrected. This week, he returns to Chicago to transform his contemplation into action. As Pope Francis calls on all Catholics to remember those on the margins, Latzko and his congregation at St. Teresa intend to answer.

See that? All hope is not lost in the nation’s newspapers. But by all means, feel free to nitpick any of the above stories.

Question for readers: How did your local paper handle Easter? Was there a front-page story tied to the holiday? If so, did it GET religion or not? Please provide links if possible.

About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • Jerry

    I have no inclination to nit-pick. Instead I’m just going to enjoy the post and the linked stories.

  • Bobby Ross Jr.

    There are some nice reads there if you do have time to click the links.

  • Suzanne

    As a regular St. Louis Post-Dispatch reader, I find frequent reasons to appreciate Tim Townsend’s work.

  • FW Ken

    Thank you Bobby. I read all but the Tribune story (don’t want another registration) and got a lot of pleasure from them. I’ve followed the Episcopalian schism in Pittsburgh for some years, and that story was a good reminder that a lot of good people can be found on that side.

    I didn’t buy the local papers, but noticed the headlines. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran as a headline the “resurrection” of a Methodist Church heavily damaged by the tornadoes last year. The Dallas Morning News headlined the murder of a local district attorney and his wife, understandably. That dominated local news this week. The Star-Telegram also had a story on the new campus of First Baptist, Dallas. So did the DMN, but its behind a pay wall.

  • FW Ken

    Re Pittsburgh… Good people on both sides.

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