The Discovery of 300-year-old Slave Quarters

Written By: Clare Kelly 

Just 22 miles from St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), a team of archeologists, collectively from the Maryland Department of Transportation and SMCM, discovered 300-year-old slave quarters. Located at Newtowne Neck State Park, the remains were originally found in the middle of October, but as the digging continued the archeologists realized they had found something extraordinary. As reported by CNN travel on Nov. 2, 2020, the state park “was once the site of a Jesuit plantation in southern Maryland.” From the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, Julie Schablitsky, the chief archeologist on the site, said, “This is a very rare and exciting discovery because we don’t have any similar types of sites…there was so much potential for this be erased but, by some sort of miracle, we still have evidence of their homes an lives after so many years.” According to CNN Travel news, the “site has remained almost entirely preserved.” 

According to an interview with WBALTV11, this project began around five years ago when the team completed a “site surveying excavation;” the excavation team was brought on site this mid-October. Remnants of wooden fencing, or a palisade, along with a “midden” filled with “oyster shells, animal bones, used pipes and even old coins” were among the artifacts discovered. As reported by WBALTV 11, scientists working on the excavation site found DNA on the items; this proved what area in Africa the enslaved people came from. The archeologists have finished excavating the site, but they plan to return next year to continue their research. 

On Oct. 27, the Maryland Transportation State Highway Administration released a press statement on the discovery and continuing excavation of the slave quarters. The excavation site is located near the Newtown Manor, where Jesuit missionaries once resided. Dr. Julie Schalitsky spoke of the Jesuit presence in the area. She mentions how the Jesuit missionaries of this area kept very organized records. Despite their record-keeping, not much information survived regarding the African Americans enslaved on the Manor, who worked in both the fields and the Catholic Church. Schalitsky said, “If there was ever a place in Maryland that holds the story of diverse cultures converging to find religious freedom in an environment of conflict, sacrifice, and survival, it is here.” While the Maryland Department of Natural Resources led the excavation, archeologists from SMCM also took part in the research as reported by The Baltimore Sun. 

In an interview with CNN, Schablitsky said that the land they were excavating had not been touched for years, or, as she put it, “had not been plowed for a while.” She explains that if the land had been plowed,  the site would have been further under the ground; however, “the soil remained intact.” 

One artifact found, as reported by CNN, was a 1740 George II coin. The identification of this coin must have been recently discovered, as only CNN’s Nov. 2 report mentions the discovery.

Last Voices Reading of Fall 2020: A Night to Celebrate “our own.”

Written By: Clare Kelly 

On Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, the Voices Reading Series welcomed back recent St. Mary’s College of Maryland alumni to share their poetry and writing. These accomplished St. Mary’s graduates shared pieces of their writing and tips for writing. 

In her introduction, Professor Karen Leona Anderson welcomed the alumni with “great and deep pleasure…for they are our own.” She expressed her enthusiasm for the reading and cited the importance of this reading because “many of the student writers have worried about what comes after this.” Anderson speaks of how these students are doing this tricky part of taking this “brave step” and are “moving day to day.” She tells of how this takes bravery and how they use their “own stubborn hope” to persevere as artists in this society to keep both their bravery and hope alive. 

The reading began with Cameron Kelley, a fiction author and poet, who is currently employed by Pearson Education. She has been published in Strange Horizons, the National Collegiate Honors Council and the Sprout Club Journal. In Anderson’s introduction of Kelley, she spoke of how her “energy and intelligence” shows through her poetry. Kelley read a poem entitled “November 3rd” that focuses on the recent weeks and a poetic sequence, entitled “Anatomy of the end,” that helped her develop as a poet. 

Omobolawa (Bola) Fadojutimi, a 2020 graduate who majored in English and minored in dance and education, holds aspirations of becoming an educator. As a writer of poetry, she explores and remains curious about how the past impacts the present. Anderson spoke of Fadojutimi’s insightful poetic narrative sequence on her family in Nigeria that Fadojutimi wrote in Anderson’s 495 Poetic Sequence class. Fadojutimi read a poem entitled, “to move,” which she wrote in Anderson’s class, that grapples with denoting the body beyond its basic functions. She also read a poem, “Metaphorical wings,” which she wrote during the March 2020 quarantine that helped her grapple with her thoughts and understand the “funk” her mind remained in during the quarantine. 

Joseph Johnson, a 2019 graduate with degrees in English and Spanish who is actively pursuing his Master of Arts at Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English, presented next. Johnson completed a St. Mary’s Project while at SMCM, where he used his craft of writing to complete a short story collection focusing on cultural awareness. Johnson chose to share in the trend of the SMCM alumni by reading a piece of “writing [that] had its birthplace at St. Mary’s.” He read a short story that recently underwent new revisions, but the original came from the second creative writing class he completed at SMCM. 

Samantha Liming, who’s actively pursuing her Masters in Fine Arts at the University of South Carolina, has collaborated with the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Origins Journal. Liming received the Gail West Parmentier Arts Alliance Award for Creative Writing. In her introduction of Liming, Anderson mentioned Liming’s ekphrastic St. Mary’s Project that stood out. As Liming shared her poetry with the audience, she mentioned that her poems reflect on her family. She read two poems, named “20 months behind” and “messes.” She also read a poem entitled, “Salt,” which focused on the rising sea level on the Eastern Shore. 

Closing the night of talent, Alex Weber, currently attending University of Southern California’s School of Screenwriting, shared his writing. In her introduction of Weber, Anderson mentioned how Weber’s “cleverness and tenderness was always striking.” Weber read a portion from his completed St. Mary’s Project novella. Weber decided to pursue screenwriting through reading screenwriting. His favorite part about writing is the dialogue and discourse that occurs between the character. He also enjoyed the collaborative effort of screenwriting, and he is currently writing a screenplay with Jack Darrell, another SMCM alumnus. 

As students asked questions regarding the writing process, one question poised includes the opinion of these authors and poets on the best time to write. Kelley mentioned how she prefers to write late into the night before she falls asleep, and Fadojutimi concurs with Kelley, saying she enjoys writing at about 2 a.m. She finds comfort in writing when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet; she enjoys being the only one awake. 

Another question raised to these stellar alumni includes where they found their inspiration. Fadojutimi mentioned how her inspiration comes from her family, and, in terms of literary influences, she finds inspiration from strong Black women in literature, such as Toni Morrison. Johnson cites his inspiration from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a magical realist writer, and that his SMP focused on magical realism. He said the “thing that’s interested me about his work is his particular voice and the way he can blend…the magic into the reality” that creates this grand, and yet natural occurrence. Johnson mentions that he aspires to capture this way of writing in the way that Marquez does this through his work. 

Fadojutimi shared this powerful piece of advice with SMCM listeners, writers, and readers: “start taking yourself seriously as a writer.” Liming advised on how to revise poetry, she said not to force the revision of the poem that is on the page, but to instead rewrite the poem. 

As the last Voices Reading of the Fall 2020 semester, this allowed the reunion of many alumni to virtually return to SMCM. These fabulous writers shared their talents with their home community, and like the St. Mary’s Way, current students, faculty and staff emerged eager to welcome them back.

The Discovery of a new family of Fish—Dragon Snakeheads

Written By: Clare Kelly 

Fishy business comes swimming when the time comes. On Oct. 19, headlines of a National Geographic article flashed with the words, “Dragon snakeheads—strange new underground fish—discovered in India.” The leader of research, Ralf Britz who is the ichthyologist at Senckenberg Natural History Collections said, “We think this is the most exciting discovery in the fish world of the last decade.” In southern India, a new family of snakelike fish was discovered. Believed to be primitive fish, they are considered a type of “living fossil.” 

As David Johnson, an ichthyologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History said, “Dragon snakeheads have ‘a whole series of primitive characteristics.’” National Geographic cites that researchers expressed the possibility that the nearest relatives may have separated from this family over a hundred million years ago. Doug Main of National Geographic wrote that some of the rare traits found in these dragon snakeheads include “a shortened swim bladder and fewer vertebrae with ribs,” which are traits that “show the dragon snakeheads are less specialized than regular snakeheads.” In addition, this family of fish lacks a suprabranchial organ, which is essential to allow air to be breathed by Snakeheads. The Smithsonian magazine expands on this idea and writes that the dragon snakeheads might have developed away from the other snakeheads when Gondwana, a large continent of all the continents, broke into smaller continents, specifically when India broke away. According to Theresa Machemer, a freelance writer for the Smithsonian, during this process the dinosaurs still roamed the earth. 

The National Geographic expressed Britz’s thoughts that the commonality of this occurring is not very frequent, in fact finding a new group of fish is not common. Britz speaks of the finding of a new “taxonomic category above genus and species:” in this family of fish, there are only two distinct species. 

One distinctive aspect of these fish includes their way of moving in the water, in which they move their vertical to create motion that moves them forward and backward. It is hypothesized that this form of moving allows navigating the porous underground places which they habited. As Britz says, the fish moves “like a veil in the wind.” 

Britz also mentioned how the name of the fish family matches the fish because “everyone who sees a photo of the fish is somehow reminded of a dragon.” The “long-bodied fish” resides in an underground layer where rocks are porous; they are not often detected with one’s eyes. The only time they are cited with a surface sighting includes floating to the top of the water when a flood happens. 
The studying of this fish began when someone discovered the fish in their backyard in 2018. Rajeev Raghavan, a researcher from Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies and a study co-author, shared the photo with Britz, who reportedly had, “no idea what it was.” He was unable to identify the type of fish, taxonomy, or the group that the fish belonged in; therefore, he journeyed to India in 2019 to conduct research. After some research, the team named the fish Aenigmachanna gollum, or the Gollum snakehead, but after another sighting of the fish in a town in Kerala, a state in India. The research Britz and his team completed allowed a clearer perspective on the anatomy and genetics of the fish; this proved that the fish belonged in a different family.

Controversial Remarks of Pope Francis

Written By: Clare Kelly 

Photo courtesy of The Catholic Church of England and Wales

On Oct. 25, headlines rained in with Pope Francis’ approval of same-sex unions as every news agency reported the lines within the documentary, entitled “Francesco,”  in which Pope Francis allegedly agreed with this controversial Catholic teaching. The documentary premiered on Wednesday, Oct. 21 during the Rome Film Festival reported Paul Elie for the New Yorker. The film and the comments appeared with the approval of the Vatican. In a news briefing, the Vatican released that the film, directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, combines “voices and stories from the past and present” of people affected by the Pope. On Oct. 22, the film received the 18th Kinéo Prize. The Vatican News reported that the “‘Kinéo Movie for Humanity Award’ is awarded to those who promote social and humanitarian themes”; this year, Rosetta Sannelli, the establisher of the award, presented the award herself. 

As reported by Vatican News, Rosetta Sannelli said, “Every one of Pope Francis’ journeys to various parts of the world…is documented in Afineevsky’s work through images and news footage, and reveals an authentic glimpse into events of our time.” 

As reported by the New Yorker, Pope Francis said this controversial comment: “Homosexual people have a right to be in the family. They are children of God. They have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out of the family or made miserable over this. What we have to make is a law of civil coexistence, for they have the right to be legally covered. I stood up for that.” While the comments gained Papal support from LGBTQ people and organizations, religious organizations are trying to justify the Pope’s comments. 

After controversy surfaced, the details of the 2019 interview showed that according to America the Jesuit Review, the Mexican network, Televisa, never shared the interview until now.  The New Yorker reports the comments of James Martin, a Jesuit Priest, who wrote about the reasoning Pope Francis’ comments are significant,commented on Twitter, with “he is saying them as Pope, not Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Second, he is clearly supporting, not simply tolerating, civil unions. Third, he is saying it on camera, not privately.” 

On the contrary, the U.S. Catholic organization sought to clarify the remarks of the Pope. As Jacob KohlHaas wrote “official Catholic teaching has not changed” for the teaching to be official, Pope Francis would have to make the statement officially as the Pope. KohlHaas argues, to the contrary of James Martin’s comments, that the Pope’s comments within a documentary do not establish this principle. 

CBS News reported the split this created. While these comments excited liberal Catholics and LGBTQ activists to see the Pope accepting these people, Catholic conservatives actively spoke out against the comments. The Pope has a history with this issue,  as he communicated support for same-sex unions as an option contrary to gay marriage while he served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. 

Despite the controversy surrounding the Pope’s comments, the Catholic teaching on same-sex unions has not been changed. However, this still does not solve the questions regarding Pope Francis’ comments. As reported by CBS News, the transcript from the Vatican indicated that the comments said by the Pope were not said consecutively; instead, the documentary presented all of his comments as one. While Pope Francis referred to the “right of gay people to be accepted into their own families,” the documentary produced all of the comments together as if they were said together. CBS News mentioned their request for more information regarding the ambiguity behind these comments but received no clarification from the Vatican press office.

A Week to Celebrate Seahawk Transfers

Written By: Clare Kelly 

All across the country, colleges and universities celebrated their transfer students, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) did the same. Throughout the week of Oct. 19, the Office of Student Support Services held events to show their appreciation of transfer students. As Mary Dorsey, the Director of Academic Support, mentioned in her email, “We at St. Mary’s are thrilled that you have chosen us as your academic home and the place you will earn your Bachelor’s degree!” 

Transfer students’ rates, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, saw a 4.7 percent decrease in comparison to the rates of last fall, reported Inside Higher Education. Despite the pandemic, St. Mary’s still received many transfer students and also retained the ones they had received in past semesters. 

Throughout the week, the office held events that allowed transfer students to socialize. On Tuesday, Oct. 20 the office gave out SMCM t-shirts to all transfer students, and on Wednesday, Oct. 21 the Student Activities and Programs Board held a Virtual Fall Trivia Night. Then, to end the week, there was a Transfer-Time Bonfire at the Waring Commons Fire Pit. 

Hayley Romero ’22, a recent transfer student to St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said:

“I really love participating in all campus events where I can socialize with people.” SMCM provided transfer students with the opportunity to socialize and get to know one another while adhering to the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. Given the state of everything due to the pandemic, the in-person event was especially important to Romero, who remarked: “Just being able to talk to people helps make things feel normal, even though you have to wear a mask and keep distance. I especially liked meeting other transfer students because we have this shared experience.” She also explained that it is nice to be able to talk to people in-person when her interaction with them is usually limited to Zoom calls. 

In response to the week’s events, Dorsey said, “Our Transfer student events were a part of the National Transfer Student Recognition Week. We had a great response to our first set of events and we’re looking forward to working with transfer students to create a bigger set of events for transfer welcome events in January and for next fall.” 

Katelyn Kluh ’22, an athlete on the SMCM Volleyball and Basketball teams and a member of Catholic Seahawks stated that throughout National Transfer Week, “it was pretty cool to be recognized as a transfer student here at St. Mary’s with the special events held on campus.” Katelyn received a t-shirt in the beginning of the week and then was able to make s’mores at the Bonfire held at Waring Commons, which, as Katelyn puts it, “was a lot of fun!” She enjoyed connecting with the faculty, and specifically she says she enjoyed meeting “the wonderful Deena Kelly from admissions, who I had only previously corresponded with through email over the summer. She provided a lot of amazing guidance and support in my transfer process, which I am tremendously grateful for.” 

Mary Dorsey invites transfer students to contact her about any information they might want to get involved in. Transfer students often become lost in the mix of students As Inside Higher Ed mentioned in an article published earlier this year, transfer students are presented with many barriers. Inside Higher Ed recommended that four-year campuses take multiple steps to establish better connections, but one, in particular, includes creating programs geared towards transfer students. 

It is clear from these orchestrated events and the reactions of these students that these efforts meant much to them. These events allowed transfer students to meet each other, even amidst troubling times, and feel the warmth of the SMCM community.

The First Gigafire in the United States for over a Decade

Written By: Clare Kelly 

CALISTOGA, CA – OCTOBER 01: Firefighters perform structure protection against the Glass Fire in Napa County along CA-29 just past Old Lawley Toll Rd on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 in Calistoga, CA.

Unfortunately, the California fire that’s been closely monitored since the beginning of August, as grown in magnitude across the state. On Monday, Oct. 5, the classification of California’s fire grew a “megafire” to a “gigafire.” 

According to The Guardian, this fire has grown to be larger than Rhode Island. ” The Smithsonian Magazine reports that this fire became upgraded from a “mega-fire” which applies when the fire burns hundreds of thousands of acres, to “‘gigafire’” which applies when the fire expands to burn over a million acres. The Guardian reports that the fire consumes land in seven different counties of California and has now been burning for 50 days with only half the burning areas being contained by Cal Fire. 

As reported by the Smithsonian Magazine, the fire emerged from a huge thunderstorm that ravaged the area and kindled many smaller fires that blended to create “the August Complex Fire”—California’s first-ever “gigafire. Another contributing factor to the intensity of these fires includes how California was inflicted by a heatwave throughout the summer. Additionally, The Guardian reports that scientists see an increase in fires due to the climate crisis of both rising temperatures and the extended drought. The smoke created from these fires has covered the west coast and has even “blot[ted] out the sun.”

Rasha Aridi of Smithsonian Magazine reports this as the “first gigafire in the United States for ten years.” She writes that California lost four million acres of land to these fires, a staggering amount that increased the state’s preceding record by two-fold. Aridi shares that “[o]f the states 2 largest wildfires in history, 17 have occurred since 2000; four of the top five occurred during fire season alone, reports Gizmodo.” As reported by Andrew Freedman of the Washington Post, this year alone, over 8,400 wildfires burned in California, killing 31 people and destroying more than 9,200 structures. 

CNN reports that the last gigafire in the United States was in 2004, located in Alaska when the Taylor Complex burned around 1.3 million acres in 2004. And in 1998, the Yellowstone Fire, located in Montana and Idaho, burned around 1.58 million acres. 

Andrew Freedman reported for The Washington Post, that the mixture of heat and wind concurring this week comes from a comprehensive area that has high pressure, called a heat dome. This system, building in from the west, brings above-average temperatures for both the area and the period of the year. These temperatures might even exceed the “century mark” for areas that are more inland in California. Rasha Aridi of the Smithsonian Magazine stated a study completed by Climate Central that implied these wildfires “have become three times more common and the fire season lasts three months longer since the 1970s,” as reported by Brian Kahn of  Gizmodo

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, Cal Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, reported over 11,500 firefighters still attempting to control the 21 wildfires, of which 13 are substantial incidents. On Oct. 12, many firefighters answered the spread of the fires as 34 new wildfires emerged, but each became quickly controlled. 

Meanwhile, according to the Cal Fire Twitter Account, the Glass Fire located in Napa County extended to 67, 484 acres with about 97% containment, and the Zogg Fire in Shasta County sits at 56, 338 acres but 100% has been contained.

Anglo-Saxon Grave Discovered in England

Written By: Clare Kelly 

Research on the body of an Anglo-Saxon warlord makes archeologists question the accuracy of the current historical map of Britain following Roman rule. On Oct. 6, Science Daily reported the uncovering of the burial of a warrior in Berkshire that transformed the way historians view and conceptualize the Anglo-Saxon Era. Archeologists suggest that the warlord must have held a high status in order to be buried upon a hilltop that overlooks the Thames Valley. Kiona N. Smith reports in Ars Technica that the land “was supposed to have been an unimportant patch of the borderland between neighboring tribes 1,400 years ago” but that the position of the grave overlooking the Thames Valley makes researchers reanalyze these ideas. 

The position of the grave implies the new importance of the area. Originally, researchers believed the land between London and Oxford was “borderland,” but the uncovering of the grave reveals that this land was not touched. This means that the maps of the locations of Anglo-Saxon tribes might need altering as they prove inhabitants settled in this “borderland,” or at the very least, they used the land to bury their dead. The grave remained untouched until metal detectorists, Sue and Mick Washington, discovered the burial in 201, as reported by Science Daily. 

Sue Washington comments that “On two earlier visits I had received a large signal from this area which appeared to be deep iron and most likely not to be of interest. However, the uncertainty preyed on my mind and on my next trip I just had to investigate, and this proved to be third time lucky!” 

Ars Technica reports that his skeleton depicts the warrior as a “towering figure, especially in early medieval Europe, where people were smaller on average than modern populations,” standing at six feet tall. University of Reading archeologist, Gabor Thomas, and his group of researchers plan to conduct a forensic study and isotopic analysis to determine “the man’s age at death, how he died, what he ate, and where he lived.” The researchers know that this buried warrior was a warrior by the garment and equipment buried with him. Archeologists found a “sword lay in a scabbard of wood and leather, decorated with elaborate bronze fittings…bronze and glass bowls, two iron spearheads, and the metal fittings” usually found on wealthy men’s clothing during the early Anglo-Saxon Era in England. The buried warlord has been nicknamed Marlow Warlord. 

Ars Technica reports Archeologist Gabor Thomas’s thoughts on the discovery, “‘This is the first burial of its kind found in the mid-Thames basin, which is often overlooked in favor of the Upper Thames and London,” said Thomas. “It suggests that the people living in this region may have been more important than historians previously suggested.”

As Science Daily reports, The Head of the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, Michael Lewis, exclaims, “This is a great example of archaeologists and metal-detectorists working together. Especially important is the fact that the finders stopped when they realised they had discovered something significant and called in archaeological assistance. By doing so they ensure much more could be learnt about this interesting burial.”

Pieta Greaves of Drakon Heritage and Conservation currently holds the obtained objects and plans to conduct further analysis that the Department of Archeology at the University of Reading will oversee. Concurrently, the group of researchers is seeking funds to continue their research.

The California Wildfires

Written By: Clare Kelly

CALISTOGA, CA – OCTOBER 01: Firefighters perform structure protection against the Glass Fire in Napa County along CA-29 just past Old Lawley Toll Rd on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 in Calistoga, CA.

On Sept. 26, as reported by Reuters, a Zogg Fire broke out in Shasta County, north of San Francisco, by about 200 miles, taking three lives of civilians, bringing the count to 30 deaths since January, of which 29 of these fatalities perished in the last six weeks. As reported by ABC News, this fire “has grown to about 52,000 acres with 7% containment and killed four people,” according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire 

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, according to a Reuters article, firefighters attempted to control two wildfires rapidly moving in Northern California, one burning towns and wineries in the Napa Valley and the other burning through the Cascade foothills near the Oregon border. 

On Sept. 30, a California Daily Wildfire Update, provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection website, reported the “final containment to the Fox Fire in Siskiyou County;” while over 17,000 firefighters fought to gain control of the enduring 26 major wildfires threatening lands and civilians across the state. The only fire that has reached beyond the control of firefighters is the Candy Fire in Riverside County. 

Meanwhile the Glass Fires in the south, continue to trailblaze through Napa and Sonoma counties, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. On Sunday, Sept. 25, this fire ignited and has since then threatened many homes, wine yards and people. While ABC News reports, this Glass Fire “has nearly quadrupled in size in the last 24 hours, burning more than 48,000 acres,” as many as 68,000 people have been forced to evacuate for safety. As reported by ABC News, Cal Fire detailed that this fire “has burned 42,360 acres in the North Bay and is 2% contained. At least 113 structures have been destroyed.” As the firefighters continue to battle the wildfire, they are preparing for the uptake in wind Thursday, Oct.1 into Friday, Oct. 2. According to SFGATE, firefighters planned to concentrate on “building containment lines and protecting structures on Wednesday” in preparation for the incoming dangers. Billy See, the Cal Fire incident commander, said on Sept. 30, “We’re looking at a similar wind event to when this fire ignited three days…We’re preparing for the worst-case scenario and hoping for the best. Our firefighters will be working to maintain lines.” As of Sept. 30, many wineries experienced copious amounts of property damage as the Glass Fire continued on its third day of rampaging through the Napa Valley, according to another article by SFGATE. One such winery, the Castello di Amorosa, a 41 year-old company located in St. Helena was reduced to ruins as the “estate and it’s castle-inspired structure were torched.” 

In the west, the recent heatwave exacerbated the flames, as 42 fires continue to burn across the span of eight states reports ABC News. Environmental challenges, such as the wind, heat and the current extreme drought of Northern California create arid conditions that are fueling these raging wildfires.  
As of Oct. 1, Cal Fire reported on their twitter account that “over 17,000 firefighters continue to battle 23 major wildfires in California. The latest number on all active wildland fires at: nearly 1,750 Fire engines, 382 Water tenders, 342 Fire Crews, 293 Bulldozers, [and] 118 assigned aircraft.”

President Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee, Amy Coney Barrett

Written By: Clare Kelly

Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks after being nominated to the US Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020. – Barrett, if confirmed by the US Senate, will replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on September 18. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

On Saturday, Sept. 26, President Donald Trump officially announced Amy Coney Barrett as his nomination to the Supreme Court. This marks President Trump’s third nomination, subsequently to Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh. In Trump’s remarks to the people, he acknowledges Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as “a true American Legend” and “ a legal giant and a pioneer for women,” according to the briefing statement released by White House staff. When Trump introduced Amy Coney Barrett, he described her as “a woman of unparallel achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.” Barrett graduated from Rhodes College and the University of Notre Dame Law School, where, on a full scholarship, she “served as the Executive Editor of the Law Review, graduated first in her class, and received the law school’s award for the best record of scholarship an achievement.” Judge Barrett’s experience includes serving as a clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, serving as a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and teaching at the University of Notre Dame Law School. According to the briefing statement delivered by President Trump, “the entire Notre Dame Law facility and faculty…wrote letters of support of Amy’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit,” in which “[t]hey wrote, in effect: “Despite our differences,…we unanimously agree that Amy is such a person…devoted to the fair and impartial administration of the rule of law.” As President Trump details, Barrett, if confirmed, will make history as the “first mother of school-ages children ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.” 

The subsequent briefing, released on Monday, Sept. 27, detailed a list of senators, representatives and organizations expressing their approval for the nomination. “Regardless of what you or I may think of the circumstances of this nomination, Barrett is highly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court,” remarked Professor Noah Feldman, a Law Professor from Harvard University. 

While many conservatives expressed their approval, Democrats call for the seat to remain open until the election decides the presidency, as the Wall Street Journal details in their article, “Trump’s Nomination of Barrett Heighten Partisan Conflict as Election Nears.” As the nomination gains speed, according to Politico, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats plan to block Senate Republicans from confirming the nomination of Barrett before the election. Last week, Schumer “invoked the rarely used ‘two-hour rule,’ which can be used to halt all committee business after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours” 

According to NPR’s article, “Senate Judiciary Panel To Start Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing on Oct. 12,” the confirmation hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee will last four days with “opening statements, questions, and testimony from outside witnesses.” Barrett plans to meet with the Judiciary Committee beforehand, while some Democratic Senators plan not to meet and to simply question her during the hearing. 

The news around the nomination of Judge Barrett continues to heighten and creates tension as the 2020 election date looms closer.

Papal Letter of Pope Francis Sparks Conversation

By Clare Kelly

On Sept. 5, The Vatican announced that Pope Francis will release his new encyclical on Oct. 4 of this year, reported the Catholic News Agency. The subject-matter of this papal letter was released days later with discussions emerging around the world about the nature of the papal letter.  As the Catholic News Agency says, “The Holy See press office said Sept. 16 that the encyclical “Fratelli tutti,” on fraternity and social friendship, would be issued at noon Rome time on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.” Earlier this month, The Vatican released information that Pope Francis would sign “the third encyclical of his pontificate during a visit to Assisi on Oct. 3” detailed by the Catholic New Agency. As explained by Andrea Tornielli’s Article, “An Encyclical for all brothers and sisters,” “Fratelli tutti” comes from Saint Francis of Assis, whose name Pope Francis chose upon his election to the pontificate. The title comes from St. Francis’s Admonitions, which, according to the Irish Franciscans of Mission is one of the nine writings St. Francis wrote in his lifetime. 

Tornielli brings to light the debate that’s emerged around the “circular letter” (the meaning of encyclical). St. Francis’s writing addresses the brothers, which brought speculation about Pope Francis’s usage of the word. But, as stated by “America,” The Jesuit Review, the Vatican and editorial clarifies that the encyclical “addresses all his sisters and brothers, all men and women of goodwill who populate the earth: everyone, inclusively, and no way exclusively.” According to America, this editorial, written by Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of Vatican News,  responds to “the discussion and contestation of the title by a number of people in the Anglophone world, and especially in the United States, where the title “Fratelli tutti” was perceived as referring only to men, with some decrying it as misogynist.” Tornielli emphasizes that the Pope has no intention of changing the title, but that the title has no intentions of excluding women. 

Andrea Tornielli says Pope Francis, “chose the words of the Saint of Assisi to initiate a reflection on something he cares about very deeply: namely, fraternity and social friendship.” Tornielli explains that the subtitles, fraternity and social friendship, show that there’s a “necessary affection established between people even if it does not close blood relatives. The relationship must be expressed through kind deeds, forms of assistance, works of justice and generous action in times of need—a disinterested affection towards other human beings, regardless of any difference or affiliation.” 

According to the National Catholic Agency, Pope Francis has focused much attention to the theme of human fraternity. In recent years, “the pope signed, ‘A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ during a trip to Abu Dhabi in Feb. 2019,” and “Pope Francis’ message for his first World Day of Peace as pope in 2014 was ‘Fraternity, foundation and pathway for peace.’” 

Pope Francis plans to hold Mass at St. Francis’s tomb in Assisi on October 3 and sign the encyclical letter.