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Want to be happy? Settle for less.



Turns out living simply and settling for ‘good enough’ is a sure fire way to be happy. Barry Schwartz in his popular TED talk on the paradox of choice suggests that we’ve been ingrained with the idea that the way to be happy is to maximize our freedom. And the way that we maximize our freedom, we presume, is to maximize our choices. But as Schwartz demonstrates, not only are we not happier when we have too much choice; we also experience decision paralysis and diminished satisfaction.  Why? Because too many choices makes us question our decisions, sets our expectations too high, and the result is we blame ourselves for our mistakes (as pointed out in this article.)  It also interestingly explains why New Yorkers despite their plethora of choice have a hard time finding a spouse.  As Barry Schwartz puts it, ‘the key to happiness is to have low expectations’. You may chuckle at this thought as I did,  but in a sense I think this is what Pope Francis is getting at when he reminds us to live simply.  Living simply means that we are choosing to limit ourselves so that we can be truly happy and ultimately free.


Here’s what I’m saying,  there’s this Franciscan mission I once visited, I remember the place because the house echoed when you entered it and I felt that I could literally count all the objects inside  the place and, except for some flowers next to a statue of the Virgin Mary, there was nothing that wasn’t essential. Now, these Franciscans didn’t have much choice (in the conventional sense) but  I’d say that they were probably the happiest people I’ve ever met.

Now there’s a host of reasons for their joy, but I believe part of the secret to their happiness lies in the simplicity of their lives. Their radical commitment to live in solidarity with the poor means that there are a host of decisions that they’ll never have to make, and overall they will be more satisfied with what they do have.  And since every day is lived with a reliance on Divine Providence it allows them to experience genuine delight more frequently because they’re not expecting everything to be, well, perfect all the time. When was the last time you were genuinely delighted? It was probably when you weren’t expecting anything at all.


And this leads me to how we view limitations. There’s an insight I had watching the movie Gravity. Our entire lives we think of the law of gravity as something that needs to be overcome; gravity is that force that keeps you down, prevents you from getting to the stars! But, what I came to realize through the course of that movie was that no, gravity is really, really good. In fact, its  amazing –   because its what keeps you from flying off into space, its what make life on earth possible, and what makes flight enjoyable!  Limitations allow us to flourish.  So all this to say that when Pope Francis calls us to live simply, he’s  actually inviting us to be happy. To experience true abiding happiness.  And that, my friends, has got to  be worth a try.


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.



Remember when Pope John Paul II visited Uganda and Kenya?

While we celebrate Pope Francis’ historic visit to Uganda today, I thought I’d share with you this classic image of Pope John Paul II during his apostolic visit to Uganda in 1993. Wonderful, isn’t it?

During the 26 and a half years of his pontificate, John Paul II was a pilgrim to 129 different countries on 104 apostolic voyages, traveling 1,247,613 km (approx 750,000 miles).

How’s that for racking up airmiles!

Kenyans greet Pope John Paul II with music in Nairobi in September 1995. For the pontiff it was a busy year of travel -- 12 countries in all. In total his trips during the first 25 years of his papacy have taken him to 129 nations. (CNS file photo) (Aug. 28, 2003) See POPE25-TRAVEL Aug. 28, 2003.

And here in this photo, Kenyans greet Pope John Paul II with music in Nairobi in September 1995. 1995 was a busy year of travel for Pope John Paul — 12 countries in all.

Don’t miss a minute of Pope Francis’ historic trip to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic. Watch it all right here on Salt and Light.

CNS photo from L’Osservatore Romano, Arturo Mari and CNS file photo

John Paul II, A Saint for Canada

Father Karol Wojtyla reading in canoe in 1955

I once had a teacher who knew exactly how to keep her students focused during the day. She promised us that if we were very good, she would read us a few pages from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. She would only have to give the gentlest reminder that we would not have time for The Hobbit and there would be a swift end to our cavorting and carrying-on. As you can imagine, she had us eating out of her hand.

My love for a great story has continued, and I’ve found that the best stories are always those “based on a true story”. At Salt + Light we have a storytelling ritual, you could say, and Fr. Thomas Rosica is one of the best storytellers I know. Whenever Fr. Rosica returns to the office from a trip, he gathers everyone to celebrate Mass, and following that it’s time for our meeting around the conference table. After we have prayed and he has given us all a little token from his travels -usually a prayer card, a spiritual booklet, or some chocolates- he settles down to tell us about everything that happened.  As I said, Fr. Tom Rosica is a masterful storyteller. By the time the meeting has concluded, we feel as if we have lived through it all – the highs and the lows: the lost luggage, the inevitable poor internet connection fiascos, the exceptional encounters, the developments, and the messages of encouragement.

My favourite stories, however, are the ones where he tells us of his encounters with Pope John Paul II. These stories are an incredible source of insight.  Sure, there’s something to be learned from reading great encyclicals, but to know a person firsthand and to get a sense of who he was and why he did what he did – this can only be imparted through personal experience; anything else simply doesn’t have the same impact. Moreover, Fr. Rosica’s stories are always full of meaning. Significant dates in history have moods and feelings attached to them, and there’s always a deep sense of what these things mean for us and for the world. As a scripture scholar, Fr. Rosica’s biblical imagination imbues his commentary on events with a profound love of scriptural images and also a great sense of humour.

Not everyone has the opportunity to listen to these stories firsthand, but you will certainly feel as if you are sitting around the Salt + Light conference table when you pick up the new release  John Paul II, A Saint for Canada. It’s a short book that can be read at a leisurely pace in a few hours. Filled with Fr. Rosica’s personal reflections on Pope John Paul II,  John Paul II, A Saint for Canada is a delight that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the saint and what he means for us in Canada.

To get a taste of what you can expect, you’re invited to watch Catholic FOCUS featuring John Paul II.

Photo description: Father Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, is pictured reading in a kayak in this photo dated from 1955. Three years later, he was on the water with friends when he learned he had been called to Warsaw for the announcement that he was to be made a bishop. (CNS photo)


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.


Swimming Against The Tide

Cheridan Sanders celebrates her First Holy Communion at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Windhoek, Namibia. Brother Sebastian stands in the foreground.


A religious brother teaches young Cheridan Sanders how to swim; and that having faith means believing in a reality that does not exist, yet.

I grew up in mission territory.

‘South West’, as it was known then, was hot, dry and isolated.

Even today it remains one of the least densely populated nations.

No surprise then that many people have never heard of Namibia.

Imagine what life would have been like without those missionaries? Besides my own fond memories of attending Mass and participating in my weekly catechesis I benefited most from their presence.

Two impressions in particular remain with me.

First, the Sisters. I don’t recall one as much as I recall all of them. They were always giving out prayer cards and encouraging us to pray, especially to the saints on the cards.

Their encouragements were usually joined with hugs, smiles and invitations to come out of the sun and drink lemonade on hot days.

I reveled in their warmth, their embraces, their sweetness. And to this day, I love Mary and the saints and I believe it’s largely because of them.

And then there was Brother Sebastian…

Brother Sebastian was an intimidating, severe character to a seven year old me.

Stern, matter-of-fact and very German he was my version of Severus Snape. I recall his long, black robe, his black-rimmed glasses, and the fact that he was always dabbing his forehead with a white handkerchief.

He tolerated no cavorting, no dilly-dallying, no chatter and most of all, ‘no excuses!’.

(Admittedly, all things I was often guilty of)

This saga, all started in the shallow end of my primary school pool. Timidly holding onto the side, glancing furtively over to the deep end where the rest of my classmates were diving and prancing.

I looked back at the kids in the shallow end with me. I knew why we were all there. We were the kids who weren’t rich enough to have pools in our backyards, and then there was the colour of our skin.

… I was ashamed. I couldn’t swim, and judging by my flailing around, I determined that I’d never be as good as the other kids who’d been swimming, as one girl took much pleasure in pointing out, “since I was ‘3 months old!’.

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.

I don’t recall exactly how the next series of events came about, but I must have gone home and complained to my mother.

The next thing I knew, I was signed up for additional swimming lessons with Brother Sebastian at the Catholic high school up the street.

As I walked up the steep hill towards the Black Gates of Mordor… sorry I meant, the high school where my additional swimming lessons were held, my stomach churned.

I thought to myself: “Now, you’ve really gone and done it, Cheridan!” bitterly regretting telling my mother how embarrassed I was.

How could I have predicted that sharing my shame would mean bi-weekly swimming lessons with none other than Brother Sebastian!

It was bad enough flailing about helplessly in front of my grade school friends …but having to learn under the eagle eye of Brother Sebastian and his pack of elite high school swimmers, well it was all just too much!

It was decided; I needed to die.

To this day, I can see the high school boys, some of the best swimmers in the region in fact, looking on with smirks as they waited for Brother Sebastian to turn those penetrating eyes of his on them.

And true to his reputation, Brother Sebastian was a task master. He was very clear about his expectations:

Tardiness was unacceptable
Practice outside of the regular instruction was expected.
And, above all, we were to stay focused and committed to the task at hand.
‘Now, into the pool and get to work!’

All of which, delivered in a pronounced tone which brooked no argument.

He was methodical and painstakingly meticulous.

… Sometimes, he would even jump into the pool to ensure that we were executing our strokes correctly!

This I hated the most; the singling out of my ineptitude.

Oh! The suffering!

And I’ll admit, I tried to drop out on more than one occasion.

But there was no way out. My mother said I was going to follow through on this, no turning back.

So somewhere between my mortification and the drills, I learnt to swim.

Really well.

I became one of the best swimmers in my school, and eventually in my age group. In our inter-school competitions I always had a spot on my school’s relay team. And we rarely went home without winning.

And so, below his stern exterior, Brother Sebastian was a man of charity and generosity. He wasn’t exactly the warmest character; but he was a good man.

I learnt years later that he’d taken me on as a bit of a charity case. My mother couldn’t afford to send me for the semi-private lessons (my existing school fees already were astronomical).

I still smile at my mother’s audacity, she sought out the best coach in the country to teach her daughter how to swim.

And, his instruction (as much as I hated it) was a great service to me.

He taught me to swim against the tide. He taught me that hard work, perseverance, and self discipline pay off. That excellence is rarely achieved without a constant eye to self-improvement, and that success was not a matter of social standing, the colour of your skin, or even when you begin. But how much you apply yourself and your God-given talents.

He showed me that the real battle was believing in a future that was not a reality, yet.

And, if it weren’t for those missionaries and their unique forms of witness, expressed in a variety of ways, well I think my life would have been a little less rich.

More about Cheridan Sanders here.

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

7 unexpected benefits of supporting your local farmer


A few months ago a group of us at Salt and Light signed up for Community Supported Agriculture program with Willo Wind Farms, you can read more about that here.

And now that the Fall is upon us and we’re nearing the end of the season here’s what I took away:

Everything tasted way, way better  I know it may seem weird to say, but you are just going to have to take my word for it, homegrown just tastes better.

I got more variety than I expected. I knew that going local meant I wouldn’t get bananas. But what I didn’t consider is that I’d also be introduced to a huge variety of food that I’d never even heard of! Half of the time, I had to google what to do with them. Ok, so weren’t any bananas in the mix, but I did discover Daikon radishes and Kohlrabi and a wide variety of cabbages, and carrots. All of which I really liked.

I saved time and money. Initially, I cried and my husband complained a little at the thought of laying out all this money at the beginning of a season, but as the weeks passed, I noticed that I hardly went to the grocery store and most of the time I just made do with what I already had at home; proving what many a frugal person already knows – going to the store regularly only means more temptation to buy stuff you don’t need.


I got creative, I made my first rhubarb crumble (I never grew up eating rhubarb so it was totally foreign to me) and rediscovered old classics like cabbage soup – and I also just made stuff up, tried out new combos because fresh food is delicious no matter what you do.

The food brought us together – the weekly deliveries inspired the group of us to swap recipes, share food and there was always the anticipation of ‘what we’d get in our box this week!’

I wasted less. We got one box a week, and because I couldn’t bear to see any of this food go to waste (I travel a lot and sometimes things would die a slow death in the fridge) I was motivated to make soups and stuff.

And perhaps most of all, there was the fact that I just felt good, really good, every time I’d walk into the kitchen and saw those farm fresh veggies. I felt I was doing something good. I liked knowing that no children, animals or the environment had been harmed in the growing and harvesting of this food.  

And that’s why signing up for the CSA was the best decision I made this summer.

Photo credit Willo Wind Farms


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

Don’t Skip Out on Saints

Driver's license of Archbishop Oscar Romero seen in museum in San Salvador

The first time I heard of Archbishop Oscar Romero was during my Grade 12 religion class.
Now, religion was the last class of the day and so there was every reason to just skip it.

Something that Mr. Whitebread (no kidding, that was his surname) was all too aware of, and took measures against.

His strategy was the promise of a movie about a revolutionary.

Hook, line, and sinker; he had me.

We were all present and accounted for, transfixed by the retelling of this ‘revolutionaries’ life.

By the end of it, we were convinced that Archbishop Oscar Romero was a saint, and it sparked meaningful discussion about discipleship and martyrdom.

The big take away for me, was that it gave me a sense of what sainthood might be like.

Man walks next to wall with graffiti bearing image of Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador

Up until that point, most of the saints I knew of were so far removed from my own experiences I kind of just wrote them off. But learning about Archbishop Romero was different.  There was something tragically real about his life.

It’s been more than a decade since I was in high school, but I’ve been inspired to reconnect with his story by reading a biography about Oscar Romero published by Novalis. The book I’ve been reading is part of the People of God series, it’s called Love Must Win Out. It serves as a great intro (or refresher) on Oscar Romero and most importantly it tells the story of a modern day person who like us was challenged by the times he lived in to become a hero, a saint. I caught up Author, Kevin Clarke to learn more.

This book begins with a frank conversation between Oscar Romero and John Paul II. Why did you choose to start there?

It seemed to me, and I was writing this months before the announcement that Oscar Romero’s martyrdom was finally officially recognized by the church, that the archbishop’s cause had been part of the collateral damage of inter-church politics. I had to set the stage for that with the problems Blessed Oscar Romero had with the folks at the Curia and their inability to fully comprehend what he was trying to tell them about conditions in El Salvador.

Romero’s homilies were a touch-point of consolation for many, but they were also galvanizing  – tell me why his homilies were so stirring and how they are relevant today?

 They remain painfully relevant today because in the deeper context of these homilies can be found a lot of the messages we are hearing today from Pope Francis, being a church of and for the poor, reaching out to the peripheries, standing up to a throwaway economy that treats human beings as little more than soulless inputs. The church in El Salvador was about the closest real-world exemplar to that frontline hospital Pope Francis promotes, administering to the wounded and oppressed, his vision of what the church should be.

You’ve drawn comparisons between Pope Francis and Blessed Oscar Romero – Where you do see their greatest similarity in approach?

You see elements of that what I’ll call strategic humility in the decisions of both of these leaders. They are gestures that are largely symbolic, it’s true, but they are also practical and wise, a voluntary humility that is an example for all of us, but also that was instructive in real ways for Romero as it no doubt will be for Pope Francis.

In your book, you suggest political categories such as ‘left’ or ‘right’ fall short of understanding Romero… why is that important in the telling of Romero’s story.

Romero was trying to save the nation from civil war and the people from the horror of it and to that end he sided with the poor; but he did not side with the left, he sided with the people who were suffering from a great injustice.

Nor did he stand against the right in a sense. To the end what he called the nation’s elite to was to embrace their better selves, not to a political reform, but to a personal revolution of spiritual conversion. He was trying to save the oppressors from their sins just as much as he as trying to save the oppressed from their suffering. Those political labels can never tell a story like that.


Kevin Clarke is senior editor and chief correspondent at America magazine. You can learn more about Oscar Romero in our latest edition of the S+L Magazine. 

Follow America Magazine @americamag

Get your copy of Love Must Win Out via Novalis here.

CNS photos

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.



Somewhere Over the Rainbow

The_Wizard_of_Oz_Lahr_Garland_Bolger_Haley_1939 (1)

There’s this great scene early in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy unsuccessfully tries to relate to her family about an incident involving her dog Toto. After she’s brushed off with the admonishment “find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble” Dorothy muses to her dog Toto, “‘Some place where there isn’t any trouble?’ Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain…

Dreams of a place where there isn’t any trouble; a place where peace and universal brotherhood reigns seem like the stuff of songs and fairy tales.

Open hearts. Open minds. If you are different than me, why don’t we talk? Why do we always throw rocks at that which separates us? At that in which we are differing? Why don’t we hold hands in that which we have in common? Motivate ourselves to speak about what we have in common, and then we can talk about the differences we have.  Pope Francis, Address to Youth in Havana

And maybe it even sounds a little cheesy, but in the Tuscan hills of Italy there’s a town that suggests that perhaps it’s not.

I caught up with Donata Ling, a young woman who has visited this special place and asked her to share some her experiences. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Canada, Donata is continues to promote peace through her work in interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

Donata Ling (third from left) in Egypt, after studying at Hebrew U, with friends.

Ok, you’re rep for the Youth For A United World project, what’s that about?

It’s an international political project launched by young people from around the world who want to live in a more united world. The Project has gained a lot of international recognition from UNESCO in Paris, UNDESA in New York and YOUTH IN ACTION, the youth program of the European Commission. The Project works to create a new way of thinking and living in a world; as it encourages people to care for one another as they would their own sister or brother.

During your third year of university you went to Loppiano, Italy, why Loppiano?

I’ve been part of the Focolare Movement since childhood. My parents had been involved in Hong Kong, before I was born. It seemed as though my involvement in Focolare was very much their choice not mine.  So I decided to experience the community for myself, to determine whether this was the life I wanted.

Initially I imagined I’d go after I’d finished university but, I remember when one of the spiritual directors asked me to consider taking a year off to go to Loppiano, which meant that I wouldn’t graduate with the rest of my friends and interrupting my university degree midway. This choice, seemed to be insignificant compared to the opportunity of experiencing what so many people in the Focolare Movement had already experienced. I felt God was calling me to do this. And, it was undeniably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

Donata (centre in back row) with a mix of youth from various countries, such as the Philippines, Italy, Brazil and India in Loppiano, Italy.

Tell me a little about how you came to commit yourself to working for unity and how your faith played a role?

I always knew that the Focolare Movement worked for a more united world, but I didn’t believe it was possible; it just seemed like a Utopian dream. But when I was living in Loppiano, Italy, I experienced a diverse community of people from different cultures and religions that really cared for one another. I was convinced that advancing greater unity in the world was the most pressing need of our time. It was in Loppiano that I made a commitment to live in unity with others. And so on April 27th, 2011 along with everyone present at the School of Formation for Young Women in Loppiano we made a commitment to remain faithful to Jesus in whatever He may call us to do. Every year, on this date we remind ourselves of that promise to God.

Donata Ling, (centre in front row) at home in Bethlehem with the Focolare Movement.

Your experience in Loppiano lead you to study in Israel, why? What made that experience significant to you?

In Loppiano, I had the chance to meet someone from Jerusalem who shared her story with me. She told me that what should be a 10 minute commute is more like 2 hours for her because her university is in Palestine and she lived in Jerusalem.’

I had met so many other people who shared challenges of poverty, civil war and injustices, however for some reason this story really impacted me. I had never met someone who had faced political barriers so completely out of one’s control.

This is called social friendship: to seek the common good. Social enmity destroys… And today we see that the world is destroying itself with war because people are incapable of sitting down and talking…We are killing social friendship. And that’s what I ask of you today: be capable of creating social friendship.

Pope Francis, Address to Youth in Havana

At the same time, someone else shared with me that Saint John Paul II had said that if the situation in Israel-Palestine could be resolved peacefully, then it would be possible for the whole world.
This really resonated with me because I was committed to building peace and unity in the world… Several months later during a retreat, I shared with another friend that I was interested in going to the Middle East to learn more because my friend’s experiences had touched me in such a profound way.  

So I took the opportunity to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for the summer of 2013. I went there to try and understand more about the situation and ended up leaving even more confused. 

I have come to realize that living for unity requires a daily struggle to live out the  principle of the Golden Rule “Treat others as you would like to be treated”. The answer to building peace and unity is the same there as it is anywhere, because the Golden Rule is universal. Also, I was strengthened to know that Jesus himself prayed for unity. I am now His body, being His hands and feet, which reaches out to others, especially those who are vastly different in cultural and religious perspectives.

Donata (centre in front) with friends from around the world in Loppiano, Italy.


Donata’s commitment to unity seen in light of the Pope’s recent calls to dialogue, social friendship and to practice the Golden Rule suggests that that place somewhere beyond the rainbow may not be the stuff of fairy tales after all.

Learn more about the Focolare Movement here.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

Hope for An End

As part of my documentary about women in the Church, this week I followed Sr. Helen Prejean as she she worked to save the life of Richard Glossip, a man on death row in Oklahoma.

Sr. Helen Prejean CSJ and Matt Gallagher, Director chat in foreground. George Hosek, Cinematographer in background

The week began on a grim note. Richard’s execution was only a few days away and there seemed to be no sign of a stay of execution based on the Governor’s recent statement. Sister Helen arrived in Oklahoma City on Sunday eve, and the next day we joined her for a major news conference set at the State Legislature.  

Media gather for press conference at State Legistlature

Media gather for press conference at State Legistlature

There Donald Knight, one of three ace lawyers working on Glossip’s case pro bono, presented new evidence that they’d hope would blow open the case. Evidence which furthered impeached the credibility of key testimony which lead to Richard’s conviction. 

Richard's supporters during press conference.

Richard’s supporters during press conference.

For those unfamiliar with this case, Richard’s conviction rode primarily on the testimony of one man, Justin Sneed, who implicated Richard as the mastermind of a crime, for which he actually committed. The press conference was an intense affair. Media frenzied around and it got heated, especially when the District Attorney called the effort to save Richard’s life “a bulls*** PR campaign”.

Media interview Oklahoma District Attorney David Prater.

Media interview Oklahoma District Attorney, David Prater.

District Attorney David Prater (left) speaks with Glossip's lawyer, Don Knight (right) after press conference.

District Attorney David Prater (left) speaks with Glossip’s lawyer, Don Knight (right) after press conference.

On Wednesday, the day of the execution, we accompanied Sister Helen on the road to McAlestar, where the execution was set to take place.

On the way there, I asked Sister Helen to share her thoughts in the face of the overwhelming odds against Richard.

Incredibly, at the 11th hour, a stay of execution was announced and Richard was given another two weeks to live. Friends and family who had gathered outside the prison were ecstatic at the news. 

On the way back, Sr. Helen continued to speak with media from around the world about the day’s remarkable events.

I’m still in awe at what I witnessed last week. One thing is for sure, I learnt something about living in hope. The fact is, Sister Helen never for a moment let Richard’s foreboding future distract her from the work that needed to be done in the present. She was resolute, focused and calm throughout. She had a contagious hope that seemed to promise a world one day without executions.

Cheridan Sanders interviews Sr. Helen Prejean for upcoming documentary featuring inspiring women of faith.

Stay tuned for more, as we continue to feature inspiring women of faith in our latest S+L documentary.


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.


Dead Man Walking?

Sr Helen meets with the Salt and Light crew just outside the Oklahoma State Legislature

Sr Helen Prejean, CSJ outside the Oklahoma State Legislature. Sr. Helen is asking for a stay of execution for Richard Glossip, a death row prisoner, who will be executed on September 16, 2015. Richard Glossip has maintained his innocence.


I think I may have experienced a minor miracle this week.  I was in the middle of a shoot when I got the call from our Director of Programming. It was an opportunity to cover the story of a death row inmate in Oklahoma City whose life Sister Helen Prejean (of Dead Man Walking ) was campaigning to save.

How we managed to throw together a crew and b-line down to Oklahoma to begin shooting in less than 24 hrs is beyond me, but there we were in Oklahoma City on our way to meet one of the greatest social justice campaigners of our time  

As we turned down the driveway of a quaint little suburban home, we immediately encountered the bright smile and warm words of welcome of Sr. Helen.

As I sat down and listened to how she became Richard Glossip’s (the death row inmate’s) spiritual advisor, I realized the enormity of what was taking place.

It turns out there is a good chance that the State might put an innocent man to death.

Richard throughout his 18 years of incarceration has maintained his innocence and even though he was given the opportunity to save his life by admitting guilt, he chose to affirm his innocence and risk death rather than confess to a crime he asserts he didn’t commit. In a recent statement, Richard said he didn’t want to die, but at the same time he is willing to die if his death prevents others from facing the same fate.  Surprising words from the apparent mastermind of a cold-blooded murder.


The following day we joined Sr. Helen at the Oklahoma State Legislature as she fielded questions from reporters and later on as she (on behalf of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty) submitted a petition of more than 269 000 names to Governor Fallin’s representative asking for a stay of execution. The 60 day stay would allow for new evidence to be presented in court so that they could ‘prove’ Glossip’s innocence.

Take a minute and read this article on the whole thing.

The stakes here are very high and a man’s life hangs in the balance. Please keep Richard and Sr. Helen in your prayers.  I will keep you posted as things develop.   



CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.


When the Levee Breaks


Retired New Orleans Archbishop Philip M. Hannan is pictured during a helicopter tour of areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Archbishop Hannan was a World War II paratroop chaplain who befriended and secretly counseled John F. Kennedy during and after his historic run for the White House as the first U.S. Catholic president. CNS photo/Sean Harrison, Archdiocese of New Orleans.

One of the recurring themes during my time in New Orleans has been the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which can still be felt nearly 10 years later (August 29, 2015 marks the 10th year anniversary of the disaster). Although the city has rebounded and is getting its groove back, there are still signs of recuperation.

In the following, Dr. Barbara Fleischer explains the extent of the flooding.

In the second clip, Barbara shows me one of the 50 levees which broke and explains some of its impact.

Many religious communities, including the Sisters of the Holy Family, The Sisters of Mount Carmel and Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Chi-Hoa were seriously affected by the flooding. Their motherhouses and most of their facilities; schools and nursing homes all had to be rebuilt. But as is so often the case when disaster strikes, there were also many instances of heroic virtue as the Sisters chose not to abandon the people they served.

To learn more about the Sisters’ response to Hurricane Katrina, I recommend watching We Shall Not Be Moved. But have some tissues ready because the Sisters will make you proud.

New Canal Lighthouse, New Orleans

Side note: most people will know of the Zed Leppelin version of the song “When the Levee Breaks”, but the rock song is actually take off an old blues song written by husband and wife couple, Kansas Joe McCoy and guitar legend Memphis Minnie who wrote it in 1929 about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries – Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing a new S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting series invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, sheltering HIV orphans, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly, and so much more. The time is now to show the world how magnificent our Sisters are. The new series is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.