Bishop's input recalled; Harper's happy return

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The region's Catholics and others are in mourning this weekend with the unexpected death of Joseph P. McFadden, bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg. He wasn't feeling well during a trip to Philadelphia Thursday morning and was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

Leaders and parishioners at local Catholic churches immediately began to recognize the beloved bishop's passing with the erection of memorials, public condolences, plans for special services and, of course, prayer.

It is with sad irony that the bishop, praised for his regular visits to the lower anthracite region, was due in Mount Carmel this Sunday for the Sacrament of Confirmation at Divine Redeemer Church in Mount Carmel. Also, a fond memory that will produce smiles for years to come is the bishop's taste for the coconut and peanut butter candy eggs prepared each Easter season by Mother Cabrini Church in Shamokin.

One of The News-Item's lasting memories from the bishop will be his willingness to discuss the difficult topic of child sex abuse during a visit to Kulpmont in November 2011. While many public figures of his stature are "protected" by an army of public relations personnel, and their comments on any subject, let alone a controversial one, carefully scripted through press releases, McFadden obliged our spur-of-the-moment request to discuss the comparisons of the coverup of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church with that being reported out of Penn State at the time as the Sandusky scandal began to unfold. It was noted in this space not long after the interview our appreciation for McFadden's time, not to mention his frank comments.

We can understand from this and other experiences why the church community is so heartbroken.

Harper's return

On a brighter note, we were pleased to cover Tuesday's presentation of a check to Mostly Mutts no-kill animal shelter from the Shamokin Youth Girls Basketball League (SYGBL). Of course, not only was this a good cause, but the check presentation took on more of a "media moment" with the appearance of Harper.

Everyone recognizes that name as that of the brindle pit bull that was discarded like a lump of dirt over a wooded embankment in Coal Township in January 2012. Harper, named for a pit bull puppy that endured a similar act of cruelty in Florida, was just 3 months old at the time.

Harper's return to the Shamokin-Coal Township area was an important moment, and it was satisfying to see that she was in much better condition than when she left here 16 months ago, when she was barely alive. She's still recovering from the troubling early months of her existence, but she's now ready for adoption, Mostly Mutts' Cheryl Hill told us.

Other stars of the night, of course, are SYGBL players, coaches and organizers, and those who support the league. They gave nearly $600 in donations and concession sales proceeds, along with a contribution of food and treats, to Mostly Mutts. It is the third year the league has helped the Sunbury-area facility.

Harper's star treatment Tuesday night at the Shamokin Area Annex was well deserved. Our placement of the original Harper story was on Page 1, and we were happy to give this happy ending, as it is, the same treatment, a chance to tell the world that the cruelty Harper endured was an aberration, and that kindness and charity are also newsworthy elements of our community.

(Andy Heintzelman, editor of The News-Item, writes "The Week In News" for each Saturday edition.)

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