‘To the ends of the earth’

Paul Jeffrey (center) on assignment in Pakistan, with government-provided special forces soldiers who served as bodyguards.

Pope Francis often talks of wanting a church that reaches out to the peripheries.

But here in the Heartland, even Hutchinson sometimes seems a long ways away.

So, The Leaven chose to celebrate Catholic Press Month this year by inviting Catholic News Service’s international editor Barb Fraze to share with our readers the stories of four of her stringers (freelance writers) who report on the work of the Catholic Church from all corners of the globe — literally.

Barb identifies, assigns and then edits their stories for publications like ours, trying to keep readers informed of developments in our ever- changing, global church.

Barb said she is proud to work with a whole cast of talented characters, but has chosen to describe these four, whose bylines you might recognize.

by Barb Fraze
International editor
Catholic News Service

Judith Sudilovsky is an animal lover. At her Jerusalem home, she has four dogs and a cat — all rescued — and two chickens.

She is the daughter of Argentine immigrants to the United States, so she is fluent in Spanish, as well as English and Hebrew. She also knows basic Arabic.

Judith moved to Israel after getting her master’s in journalism at American University in Washington. She married and has two teen boys, both of whom are active in judo.

Over 20 years, she has covered the spectrum of stories from the Holy Land. She has written about two Palestinian intifadas, covered three popes traveling to Jerusalem, reported on water shortages in the Palestinian territories and was there to document the occasion when Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, named Catholics to The Righteous Among the Nations.

She has traveled to Sudan, written about Ethiopian migrants, filed stories from Argentina and, recently, Central America.

But let me return to her love of animals. Several years ago, after an Epiphany ceremony on the Jordan River, Judith rescued a dove injured when he had gotten knocked off a golden ceremonial staff.

Participants plopped the dove back onto the staff, but apparently the dove had broken its wing in the fall. So when all the doves were released at the end of the ceremony, the injured bird fell into the river.

After the ceremony, “I asked one priest what was going to happen to the dove, and he said, ‘I guess he will die,’” Judith recounted. So she asked a police officer in rain gear if he could get the dove, but he refused.

“So, I put my purse down and middle- aged me climbed into the river almost to my hips to get him.”

When she got out, she said, pilgrims on both sides of the river applauded her.

“And the ones on the Israeli side all wanted to have their picture taken with me and touch me,” she said. “And they gave me religious trinkets with saints on them.”

Judith gave the dove to a park ranger, who took him to a bird hospital at the Jerusalem zoo.

You can follow Judith on Twitter: @jsudireports.

 Our correspondent in Mexico, David Agren, is Canadian. He majored in journalism at Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, and spent two student exchanges studying in Mexico. When he was offered a job at an English-language paper in Guadalajara, he took it and has been in Mexico ever since.

In his years writing for Catholic News Service, his assignments have included papal trips to Bolivia, Mexico and the United States; the reaction in Argentina after the election of Pope Francis; and issues ranging from the Haitian earthquake to the priests serving parishes in Mexican regions rife with drug violence.

He confesses to eating too many tacos, having a bad haircut and showing fondness for failed sports franchises like the Montreal Expos. He also likes to travel and read nonfiction.

When I asked him about a memorable moment writing for Catholic News Service, he told me he “once witnessed the world’s biggest water fight as shrimpers and their families doused each other with holy water after receiving a blessing from their village priest on their shrimping grounds.”

You can follow David on Twitter: @el_reportero.

Paul Jeffrey is not active on Twitter but his website — kairos photos.com — gives you a literal glimpse into this very talented photographer and writer. He could win an award for most-traveled CNS stringer. He has written for us from five continents, and his stories and photos from Sudan rival those of any major news organization.

Paul is a Methodist minister, and he writes for such agencies as the ACT Alliance and United Methodist News, so he often piggybacks assignments by writing for CNS, too. In his spare time, he likes to camp and tinker with his 30-year-old Volkswagen camper van. He has a wicked sense of humor, a deep spirituality and a strong sense of justice.

While covering demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2012, Paul was beaten badly by Egyptian police. He spent the following two days photographing the square from his hotel balcony, holding ice on his bruises, “drinking copious amounts of beer, and using a long lens to capture the action,” as he described it.

In the 1990s, Paul wrote a book about the churches’ role in the Guatemalan peace process. Part of the research involved a visit to the rural hamlet of Tabil, where forensic anthropologists from the Catholic Church were digging up victims of an army massacre. At the end of the day, Paul was photographing human remains in the bottom of a muddy pit, when villagers climbed into the pit and started praying around the skeletons.

At one point, Paul recalled, the widow of one of the victims turned to him and asked him to pray. He said he was intensely aware at that point that he was a U.S. citizen, and it was his government that had financed and directed the repression suffered by the villagers.

In public talks, he often describes the situation and asks people what they would pray in those circumstances.

You can view Paul’s work online at: www.kairosphotos.com.

My journalism twin is Barbara Fraser, and if I have to be mistaken for anyone, it is great to be mistaken for her. We affectionately refer to each other as BF1 and BF2 and, being smart enough to know that I edit her copy, she bestowed the BF1 title on me.

Barbara lives in Peru. She went to Latin America as a Maryknoll lay missioner in 1989 and spent 14 years in the role. Beginning in 1997, she also served as director and later English-language editor of Latinamerica Press. She has been freelancing since 2003.

She earned her master’s degree in environmental studies from Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont, and has written for publications like Science, Nature, Scientific American and National Geographic Online. We’ve had discussions about what kinds of tents work best when she is climbing on glaciers.

That ability to go from sea level to mountain passes has served Barbara well as she has traveled around Latin America writing for Catholic News Service. She traveled to Aparecida, Brazil, to cover the 1997 meeting of bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean, a meeting at which they reaffirmed the church’s commitment to justice and peace and pledged to care for creation and value the contributions of youth, women, indigenous people and Afro-Americans. The head of the commission that drafted the meeting’s final document was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina — now Pope Francis.

Since then, she has covered Pope Francis on his trip to Brazil for World Youth Day, as well as his visits to Ecuador and Paraguay. But she also has written on diverse topics such as the church’s work with prisoners, programs that help Bolivian children with disabilities and South Korean priests ministering to Korean migrants in Peru.

Nearly three years ago, Barbara had an experience that refocused her energies.

“Two Spanish Augustinian priests working in the Peruvian Amazon invited me to accompany them on a two-week trip up the Urituyacu River, where they celebrated baptisms and marriages in Urarina Indian communities,” she told me. “They also listened to people’s problems — the schools without teachers, the health centers without medicines, the woman whose underage and mentally challenged son had been ‘recruited’ by some soldiers and taken away to an army base.

“I had lived in Peru for 25 years, but that trip changed my life by bringing me face to face with a world that was new to me. I realized later that I had become too complacent, that I had been overlooking serious injustices in the country, and that the trip was the Holy Spirit’s way of flinging me back out to what Francis calls ‘the periphery’ and reminding me of why I do what I do.”

You can follow BF2 on Twitter: @Barbara_Fraser. BF1’s Twitter handle is @BFraze.

Leave a Reply