One man at a time

ST. LOUIS -- The room is semidark and hushed, and the movie “First Time Felon” is playing. “You make a wrong decision, you got a chance to redeem yourself,” whispers Antwan Pope, who teaches this six-week course for the Fatherhood Initiative.

CORNERED: Andre Dubus III

Andre Dubus III is the son of the great Catholic short story writer, recipient of a Pushcart Prize and National Magazine Award, writing teacher at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, finalist for a National Book Award for House of Sand and Fog, now also a movie, and most recently, author of The Garden of Last Days. He’s on his way to the dump. He’s just finished building a white cedar railing for the house he built in the woods in Newburyport, Mass., and in the final triumphant nail-pounding he forgot all about this interview. He gives it anyway, with warmth and ease and a waiting truckload of wood scraps. “Ever smell white cedar?” he asks. “It smells like vanilla with lemon when you cut it.”

A sister's act brings a medieval saint to life again

One of 24 children in a lively Italian family, Caterina Benincasa tangled with a feisty mother to become a lay Dominican and work with the poor in Siena, Italy. She comforted people dying of the plague, visited prisoners, traveled at the pope's behest and became famous for the letters she wrote to men and women of all walks of life.

One of nine children in a lively Irish family, Nancy Murray tangled with a feisty mother to become a Dominican sister and teach and work with the poor in Chicago. She attended people dying of cancer and AIDS, visited prisoners, traveled the world and then became famous for her one-woman performance as St. Catherine of Siena.

Back from space, astronaut reflects on faith, planet

She first explored the bottom of the ocean as a diving and salvage officer, learned surface warfare, did underwater ship husbandry. Then she heard NASA was trying to build a space station in orbit, and she thought, “If I can build a ship underwater, I think I could build a space station, so I probably have something to offer.”

Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, a 45-year-old U.S. Navy captain and NASA mission specialist, returned from two weeks at the International Space Station in November. In 2006, she was part of the Atlantis team that restarted the station’s assembly; on this flight, she helped expand the station’s living quarters. By the time she returned, she’d orbited the Earth 250 times, logging more than 6 million miles.

Cooperman: You’ve spent time underwater and in space, and neither is exactly congenial to human life …