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By David Agren

WASHINGTON (CNS) — U.S. Catholic parishes and schools
located in the 70-mile-wide path of the total solar eclipse Aug. 21 plan to take
part in this rare event with everything from providing parking spaces or
viewing sites to offering overnight retreats or all-day events with family activities
or scientific lectures.

The total eclipse — to be viewed only with proper eyewear — begins Aug. 21 in
Oregon at 10:18 a.m. PDT and ends in South Carolina at 2:43 p.m. EDT after going
over Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee,
Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

How long viewers will see the moon
covering the sun depends on where they will be on its coast-to-coast path. Some may only see it for a few seconds, others for a couple of minutes. Maximum eclipse — at two minutes and 40 seconds — takes place in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

But no
matter the length of time extent, this historic event is drawing thousands to places
where they can get a better view if just for a few minutes and to also celebrate
for the day or even a long weekend.

while they are in the path of the eclipse, some hope they will stay awhile and

Renee Brueckner,
operations director of the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in
Perryville, Missouri, one of the sites in the path, hopes some
of the eclipse-viewing crowd makes its way to the shrine where they will have
extra tour guides on hand the weekend of Aug. 19-20. The shrine, which is just
finishing a major capital restoration project, is ready for visitors but its
offices will be closed from 12-2 p.m. local time Aug. 21 for sky gazing.

Perryville, the total eclipse time is slated to be 2 minutes and 34 seconds,
beginning at 1:18 p.m. CDT.

already will be across the street during the weekend for solar eclipse
festivities including food and games at a picnic area owned by St. Vincent de
Paul Parish.

said she hopes visitors will come to the shrine and “get
some contemplative and quiet time.”

not the only place to highlight spiritual renewal. La Salle Retreat Center in
Wildwood, Missouri, is hosting an overnight retreat the night before the eclipse
and is inviting the public to its grounds on the day of the event, which there will
begin at 1:15 p.m. CDT and last 2 minutes and 14 seconds. The center will sell
bottled water and viewing glasses.

will be able to walk around our beautiful grounds with meditation areas,
including a labyrinth and grottoes,” the center’s marketing and program
coordinator, Michelle Cook, told the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the St. Louis Archdiocese.

Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House in Waverly, Nebraska, is offering rooms and
transportation for eclipse viewers. The retreat center, operated by the Lincoln
Diocese, is not directly in the path of the total eclipse, but will take guests
to and from the airport and to a town an hour away for solar viewing at 1:03
CDT. The retreat center also is providing box lunches for viewers and will
have Mass and eucharistic adoration in the morning.

Expeditions, a Catholic outdoor program in Lander, Wyoming, that got its start at
Wyoming Catholic College, also is offering an eclipse package that involves eight
days of backpacking in the Wyoming’s Wind River Mountain Range Aug. 19-26. The
group is providing food, technical gear, instructors and transportation and
says on its website that the trek after viewing the eclipse will give hikers
the chance to “allow the awesome beauty of the eclipse to sink in.”

those who might want to take in a lecture or just activities, that’s covered too.

Mitchell, professor of engineering and physical science at St. Ambrose
University in Davenport, Iowa, will conduct a live broadcast from Aurora, Nebraska,
where the total eclipse can be viewed. The broadcast will be shown at the Putnam
Museum in Davenport and will be livestreamed on YouTube beginning at 11 a.m. CDT
with talks and PowerPoint presentations and then a presentation on the eclipse
as it happens.

said the sky will start to darken around 11:45 a.m. local time but the maximum
part of the eclipse will be visible around 1:15 p.m. when it will be dark like
night in Aurora, which he noted will confuse birds and other animals.

In an
interview with The Catholic Messenger, newspaper of the Davenport Diocese, the
professor echoed the often-said warning of not looking directly at the sun
during the eclipse.

proper viewing glasses, get a filter for a telescope, make a pinhole viewer,
make a mirror in an envelope or make your own cardboard projector,” he

Catholic college professor equally excited about the eclipse is Ryan Maderak,
assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Benedictine College in
Atchison, Kansas, which is directly in the path of the total eclipse.

is literally the event of the century, and it is falling right in our
laps,” he said. The college will experience about 2 minutes and 18 seconds
of total darkness starting at 1:07 p.m. CDT.

college has a sold-out event the day of the eclipse with seating in its football
stadium for viewing and free solar glasses to the first 7,500 at the
gate. The day before the eclipse two astronomers from the Vatican Observatory
will give presentations.

The big
day will include morning and evening Masses, meals at the school’s dining hall,
activities at the stadium such as face painting, Frisbee games and water balloon
tosses and will end with a “celestial concert.” During the day,
the school, which just opened a new observatory, will have its telescopes
rigged for viewing the sun.

eclipse will also be a big moment for Catholic schools that are in session.

really is like heaven” for a science teacher, said Meg Darke, a parent
volunteer in the science lab at Christ the King School in Nashville, which is in
the total eclipse path. “We’re going to see something that day that man
can’t re-create. We cannot duplicate with all our technology what we’re going to
witness. “

Petcu, science enrichment coordinator at St. Matthew School in Franklin,
Tennessee, hosted a workshop this summer for area teachers, led by an educator
from NASA.

Matthew’s is just outside the total eclipse band but Christ the King School is
right in it and on Aug. 21 the school will host a “solar-bration” event
for the school community and parents.

entire community will be involved in doing activities that are eclipse related,”
Darke said. All the students and faculty will gather on the field beside the
school to watch the eclipse and their parents will be invited to join.

Conception School in Clarksville, Tennessee, also lies in a prime viewing location, just
south of the center line of the path of the total eclipse, which will pass
through Hopkinsville, which is on the other side of the Tennessee-Kentucky
state line.

total eclipse is expected to be visible in Clarksville for 2 minutes and 21 seconds.
Immaculate Conception Principal Stephanie Stafford said that from the first day
of school to the eclipse, they would be talking about this event.

even through many local schools will be closed that day, Immaculate Conception will
stay open, she told the Tennessee Register, Nashville’s diocesan newspaper.

leaving it up to the parents,” she said, “to see if they are willing
to fight the traffic.”     

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to this report was Andy Telli in Nashville, Anne Marie Amacher in Davenport and
Jennifer Brinker in St. Louis.

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Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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