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News briefs 11.5.03 

Holy spirits

A priest, a nun, and a lay person walk into a bar...

            My Roman Catholic memories are Draconian at best. Though I grew up in the liberal '70s with nuns flying under radar in lay clothes, the majority of sisters still ominously roamed my impressionable pre-teen earth. Catholicism gave me a firm foundation of fundamental beliefs which I, of course, soundly rejected at puberty's onset. But the foundation's still there, like it or not. And I'm not alone.

            Roughly two years ago, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester began Theology On Tap, a church-sponsored happy hour where young adults gather and discuss timely issues of faith with various speakers. And it all takes place in relaxed environments like Johnny's Irish Pub.

            "Going to where the people are makes sense," says Shannon Loughlin, the Diocese's Director of Young Adult & Campus Ministry. "You're part of the wider community."

            "I think this provides a place that people feel might be neutral ground," Loughlin says. "It's a place where they can ask questions and feel comfortable and open to ask things they wouldn't feel comfortable asking in church, no matter how open their church may be."

            Sex, fidelity, morality: Theology On Tap has tackled the delicate topics.

            "I think sexuality is a great aspect of it," says Suzanne Stack, director of faith formation at Guardian Angels Church. "We've done several talks here on the whole issue of relationships, dating, and sexuality."

            Weekly topics like "Can God Fit In My Briefcase?" and "Becoming A Faithful Family With The One You're Stuck With" are followed by Q&A sessions where folks are allowed to casually mill about, sip beer, and grab refills. After all, this is a bar --- no religious icons in sight, with the possible exception of a few candles on the tables.

            "We believe that the people here are the living witness, the living signs of the church, so you don't need to have crosses or anything else," says Loughlin. Yeah, like those scary nuns.

            Theology On Tap happens in programs of six sessions. The last session for the current program happens Wednesday, November 5, in Johnny's Irish Pub, 1382 Culver Road, at 6:30 p.m. The topic: "Is There a Patron Saint for Bartenders?" Info: 328-3228 x1375.

--- Frank De Blase

Cleared air

For the past two weekends, fans of Artistry in Jazz, Tom Pethic's Saturday and Sunday morning radio show on WGMC 90.1 and 105.1 FM, have tuned in to find the show gone. Pethic, whose shows featured an hour of Charlie Parker's music on Saturdays and guest hosts from the local jazz scene on Sundays, was widely considered one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated jazz DJs in Rochester. The station had no comment on the show's cancellation.

            "It's a personnel matter," says Station Manager Jason Crane, who would not elaborate.

            "It was unfortunate that I wasn't given a chance to say goodbye to my listeners," says Pethic, who hosted jazz programs at the station for 21 years. "I'm hoping to find another home for my show."

Old pothead's wisdom

Poet and professor Sam Abrams, who teaches and otherwise makes literary things happen at RIT, gave a quiet reading at Writers & Books October 28. He declined to stand at the podium, preferring a seat among comrades in the audience. But the selections he read from his new book, The Old Pothead Poems (Creative Arts), cranked up the volume on healthy subversion.

            The book bills itself as "a 50-year-long set of improv-collaborations between two old friends, Miss Mary Jane and her man, Sam." Taste the "Old Pothead's Experimental Method," a short poem that set the tone at the reading: "I once got high turned on by / a detective lieutenant / at the home of the dean of students," it begins. It concludes with the undeniable truth "that narcs have the best shit" and trails off impishly with a mini-scat "doobie doo."

            And don't forget the poem's academic setting, because Abrams is making a point about some nonsense at RIT: the administration's torpedoing of the school's chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy a few years back. The RIT chapter was first in the nation. For extant chapters, including some local ones, visit

            In fact, Abrams is making more than a rhetorical point. He promises to give a share of his book proceeds to SSDP. (Copies of TOPP are available for $15 at Writers & Books.) All this is in the best educational tradition, of course. So, persuaded by the simple good sense at the reading, we expect RIT head --- er, president --- Al Simone to whip out his checkbook. And maybe he can prevail on "best bud" George Tenet of the CIA to follow suit.

Monumental treaty

Long before there was an Armistice Day or Veterans Day, there was another reason to commemorate November 11: the signing of the Canandaigua Treaty that day in 1794.

            The signatories were representatives of two sovereign governments: the already ancient Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse or Iroquois Confederacy) and the fledgling United States. The treaty was meant to establish "a firm and permanent friendship" between the two entities. And despite many ups and downs --- from the taking and flooding of Seneca Nation land at Allegany in the 1960s to very recent differences over taxation authority --- the treaty has held.

            The Canandaigua Treaty Committee will mark the anniversary with a full day of events Tuesday, November 11, in the city of Canandaigua. The schedule begins with a 10:30 a.m. welcome gathering at the primary school, 96 West Gibson Street, followed at 1:30 p.m. by a parade to the Council Rock at the Ontario County Courthouse for a 2 p.m. public ceremony. Later events: a 4:30 p.m. dinner and a 6 to 8 p.m. social gathering at the primary school.

            For more information, or to make a donation, contact the Committee, PO Box 1131, Canandaigua, 14424;

A measure of hope

The most effective tool in finding a missing child is a photograph, according to Pam Weaver, coordinator of community education at the Rochester chapter of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. One in six missing children is found thanks to a current photo.

            The photograph is the key part of child safety kits --- a private record of children's personal profile information. The kits are filled out and kept by families, and turned over to police when necessary.

            Parents might not be able to give accurate information in a panic situation, Weaver says, so the kits are important in that regard. DNA and fingerprints are important should the unthinkable happen.

            "Most often, the reality is, they're used to identify the remains of the child," Weaver says.

            State Senator Jim Alesi is offering child safety kits through his Monroe County office. He presented 7,000 kits to the Rochester Children's Nursery on South Avenue recently.

            Alesi says his office will distribute 25,000 kits to families in the Greater Rochester area.

            The kits, Weaver cautions, are not a preventative tool. Parents "need to empower kids" with safety skills to prevent abductions.

            The kits should be updated yearly for kids older than age 1, Weaver says. Babies kits should be updated at 6 months of age and again at age 1.

            To request a kit through Alesi's office, call 223-1800. The Center also gives out its own kits. Call 242-0900 or visit To report a missing child or cyber crimes against children, call 1-800-THE-LOST.

Correcting ourselves

In our October 29 issue, the analysis of the proposed 2004 county budget ("Are You Mad Yet?") contained a significant error. The budget for police services for suburban towns is $14.57 million, not $32 million. The budget for the entire police bureau of the sheriff's department is $32 million, which includes such items as airport security, fleet maintenance, debt service, and the Victim Assistance Program.

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