Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
A friend told me today that when kids are little, they step on your toes, but when they are old, they step on your heart.
Truer words were never spoken.
When did I go from hero to villain?
Or was I the villain all along and the affection was a ruse?
Why do adult kids want to be treated as adults when they want no curfew, or when they decide on a college, spend money or come and go as they please?
And why is it that those same kids want you to make a nice dinner, bake cookies, do their laundry and sign their financial aid forms and co-sign loans?
Are they adults?
Or just pretending to be?
What is wrong with me that I believe the things my kids tell me and find out later that they were lying all the while?
Have I become gullible?
When did promises become placating messages?
When did love become phony?
When a parent provides a soft landing after an adult child becomes wounded and needs a place to rest--when did we suddenly become intolerable?
When did it become okay to portray parents as the bad guys to their friends?
Why is it that a mother forgoes a career, homeschools their kids, makes due with little money, teaches piano to pay for dance costumes and endures an abusive husband for the sake of their children only to have it used against you in the end?
Does anyone have the answers?
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Living with Spina Bifida
In her arms, Cathy Wagner is holding a miracle—a squirming, giggling, towheaded, blue eyed miracle.
He walks. He smiles like no victory can make him smile.
Many babies born with Spina bifida can’t walk. Two-year-old Caleb Wagner can.
Although Cathy’s second pregnancy was vastly different from her first, she didn’t feel well and was in a lot of pain, no one could have predicted that a simple blood test would reveal a positive result for spina bifida. A three hour follow-up 2-D ultrasound sealed the diagnosis.
Tears flowed for days.
Adding insult to the diagnosis, the West Allis based obstetrician/specialist urged Cathy to undergo amniocentesis and suggested the couple terminate the pregnancy.
“This was supposed to be a happy occasion for us, we were having the boy we always wanted,” said Cathy, “But then the doctor came in with this blank face and said that it was time to change gears now.”
The doctor offered little encouragement to Dave and Cathy, both Waterford area volunteer firefighters. She explained that the child would face lifelong bladder and bowel problems, learning problems, and be confined to a wheelchair.
“She had nothing positive to say to us, we declined the amniocentesis and I cried when she suggested we terminate the pregnancy,” Cathy said. “That was never an option to us—it never crossed our minds, not even once.”
Cathy remembers little of the drive back to her parents’ home to pick up their daughter Shelby. She was numb and barely made it through the two days her husband was gone to Indiana on business.
“Finally, I called my OB from Burlington because I just needed to talk to someone who knew what we were dealing with,” she said. “He was so good-he didn’t have answers for me, but he referred us to Dr. Castro at Froedert Hospital.”
Dave and Cathy’s first meeting with Dr. Castro followed a second ultrasound. In stark contrast to the impression given by the first doctor, this visit was warm, friendly and positive.
“She had this big smile on her face and told us that she had very good news,” Cathy said. “She said that the lesion was small and low on his spine and told us that one day she expected to see him running into her office. We felt like a huge weight was lifted off our shoulders.”
Initially the couple blamed themselves for the birth defect, which according to the Spina Bifida Association can be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The disease is as mysterious as it is disabling.
“One of the things that they say can cause it is a lack of folic acid, but I was taking prenatal vitamins long before I became pregnant with Caleb,” Cathy said. “I had my own pity parties and blamed myself and then later I would remember that I ate right and did all the things right that I was supposed to do.”
Although there are no major television fundraisers for spina bifida, it occurs in 7 out of 10,000 live births in the United States, making it the most common crippling birth defect. Cathy, a medical transcriptionist for Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare was aware of the disease, but knew little of its ramifications when doctors told her that her child would be born with it.
Spina bifida affects the nervous system and most typically impairs function below the waist. The defect involves the spinal cord and its coverings, and originates during the first month of pregnancy.
Following a Cesarean Section, Caleb was born with a small hole in his lower spine. The hole was covered with a large cyst and tissue.
Within four hours of his birth, Caleb required surgery to remove the cyst and dead tissue, close the hole and to guard against infection. Seven days later he had a shunt inserted from his skull to his stomach. The device helps drain spinal fluid from his brain to combat hydrocephalus, which can lead to atrophy of the brain.
“It was a very difficult time for us,” admitted Cathy, who leaned on both sets of family members for support at the hospital. “I never got to hold him until just before his surgery and then he was intubated for two and a half days and of course, we couldn’t hold him or feed them then—we could just change his diapers.”
Doctors tell the Wagners Caleb might be able to run as he gets older. He wears plastic braces on both legs connected by twister cables that attach to his waist to assist in his walking. Because of the area of spinal damage, Caleb deals with tibial torsion: his feet turn in because he is lacking the muscle responsible for turning his foot out. For now, he uses crutches or a small walker to help him get around until he achieves the motor control to walk solo.
“He receives physical, occupational and speech therapy every week,” said Cathy. “He is doing well, but his speech is a bit behind. He was using his tongue for balance, so we are working on brushing his tongue to move it forward for speech, rather than for balance.”
Helping them adjust were caring family, co-workers, friends from the fire department, and a crack staff from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. The family attends Parent Connection Meetings at Children’s which offer support, information and camaraderie with other families dealing with spina bifida.
“Everyone has been so supportive and has offered to help us anyway they can,” Cathy said, adding, “When you are involved in fire and rescue, you realize the people are just phenomenal.”
Hope and inspiration for Caleb’s future came in the form of a firefighter at a recent awards dinner. Cathy noticed one of the firefighters with a scar on his head and decided to approach him.
“I asked him about the scar and he told me he has spina bifida,” she said. “Here he is 37 years old and has been on the fire department for 20 years. He isn’t active, but he helps on calls and does whatever he can. He went through EMT school, lives independently, and even though he has had 80 surgeries, he has a very positive attitude. He works full time.”
Armed with that knowledge, Cathy anticipates Caleb doing well in school and despite his limitations should be able to live a full, independent life.
Despite the ongoing concerns with shunt malfunction, bowel and bladder control and Caleb’s ability to walk, the family has gracefully moved through each of his seven surgeries by focusing on the blessings rather than the drawbacks, using their faith to get through each obstacle.
“There are so many unknowns-we just live each day without knowing what the next will bring,” Cathy said. “We have a strong faith, strong family support, and it encourages us to see Caleb making achievements, it gives us the drive to carry on.”
Big sister Shelby, age 6, has already demonstrated her protectiveness for her little brother, often acting has his personal caregiver.
“She is so loving and is so good for him,” Cathy said, “She went to St. Thomas last year and because Caleb needs so much PT, and other special classes, we asked her to switch to the public school so they could attend together. She simply said, ‘Anything for my brother.’ So she gave up St. Thomas even though she loved it there—that says a lot for a six year old, she is very mature for her age.”
Caleb’s bright smile draws a plethora of attention as he scoots around in his mini walker. People frequently stop and stare, but often fail to speak for fear of making the family uncomfortable. To them, Cathy asks that they do step forward and not be afraid to talk.
“It is really not a bother if people just ask me why he uses a walker,” Cathy said. “I would prefer they ask and not stare, it is more uncomfortable if they stare and really, I am very willing to talk to anyone about his spina bifida.”
I believe that kindness can make all the difference.
Much of what we, as Americans have witnessed in recent years is negative—rudeness, immorality, violence, hatred and prejudice. Accordingly, we have come to believe these things are normal, or worse, acceptable.
Negative behavior has by default, become our role model. The problems facing our world will not go away on their own, and solving them has no simple solution.
Some believe that kindness in small doses is the best we can do, and while it is a positive step, we cannot afford kindness to be anything random. A tornado should be random. An auto accident random, but not kindness, it should never be random.
Kindness is doing things for others, motivated by a true sense of concern and not merely a sense of duty or obligation. Kindness makes life a little better for us. Regular acts of kindness predispose us to peace, and a desire for an environment in which escalating disputes and destructive conflicts cannot take root.
The best way for our society to improve is through large numbers of people unleashing the power of global practical acts of kindness, focusing the kindness of God against our worldly problems.
Why kindness? Because I believe it is the basis for cure and offers good and restorative powers. Powers which touch people’s hearts, melt away differences, and build bridges instead of barriers.
Best of all, kindness is contagious-when you hold a door open for another person, they instinctively hold the door open to the person behind them.
I like to call them deliberate acts of kindness, doing unexpected little things for other people, whether you know them or not.
We do live in awful times; there is harshness our faces. Children are often bruised, isolated and sullen, and our souls are crying out. We are overworked, overstressed and sometimes just getting through the day is the best we can do.
The good news is, we can do simple, deliberate things to make the world a better place. We can offer a seat on the bus for someone who doesn’t have one. We can pay for someone’s coffee, give a child coins for an arcade game, or simply listen to an elderly person’s story. Only our imagination can limit our ability to do something kind for another person.
Of course, kindness is nothing new. Jesus said to us in Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
And while, it may be difficult to doing something kind to the guy who just cut you off on Highway 50, Jesus tells us in Luke 6:27-27, “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
We have far more value to our lives than the latest fads, the most opulent homes, or largest automobiles. Deep within each of us something resides that is so fantastic; it is the heart of Jesus and he is calling us to be His servants. We can be of service to Him in our everyday life, whether it is smiling at the checkout person at the grocery store or demonstrating a bit of patience within our own families.
I believe we can change the world beginning with one deliberate act of kindness-let’s practice it not randomly, but spontaneously and often.
St. Peter Parish honors Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski
Last Saturday, the Archbishop of Milwaukee praised Stanislaus Papczynski for his profound love of the Blessed Mother and his service and commitment to the poor and the dying during a ceremony marking his beatification.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan held a Mass of special thanksgiving for the Polish Catholic Priest and also honored the life of Fr. Mark Garrow MIC, the provincial superior of the Marian community in the United States. Garrow, who was suffering with terminal cancer, and passed away on Friday. The Mass, at St. Peter Parish, followed the official beatification by Pope Benedict XVI in Lichen, Poland.
Following the pope’s beatification of Fr. Stanislaus-which is a step on the pathway to sainthood-on September 16, he is now known as Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski. After full canonization he will be known as St. Stanislaus Papczynski.
Born May 18, 1631 Blessed Papczynski was ordained to the priesthood in 1661. He became famous as a gifted educator, well-known preacher, wise spiritual director, and an author of works on spirituality and rhetoric. In 1673, he founded the first Marian monastery in Puszcza Korabiewski known today as Puszcza Marianska.
He was the first to found in the Church a male Order dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Blessed Papczynski assigned three goals to the new Order, promulgation of devotion to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, prayerful support to the Poor Souls in Purgatory, and pastoral ministry, especially among those without a faith family. He died on September 17, 1701 near Warsaw.
Beatification requires the confirmation of a miracle. After beatification, research on a second miracle, needed for canonization, can begin. So far, the Vatican has verified one reported miracle attributed to Blessed Stanislaus.
The miracle happened in Poland as Zbigniew Chojnowski prayed to Blessed Stanislaus to spare the life of his unborn grandchild, Sebastian. By praying to him, Chojnowski initiated the miracle that cleared the 300-year-long path to the beatification of the Marian’s founder.
Medical tests confirmed the unborn child was dead and the mother was sent home to wait for a natural miscarriage. When nothing occurred, doctors prepared for surgery to remove the dead baby; but upon further examination, the baby was found alive and healthy on day eight of the grandfather’s earnest prayers to Fr. Stanislaus.
-No medical explanation can explain the event, and on December 16, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to publish a decree recognizing the miracle attributed to the intercession of Fr.Stanislaus.
An image of Blessed Stanislaus was blessed by the Archbishop during Mass, and will be displayed in the parish, a remembrance of the 81 years of service that the Fathers of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception have provided the parish.
The archbishop said, “Blessed Stanislaus had a tremendous and profound love for the Blessed Mother and honoring him should be a characterization of his profound love of Jesus and Mary and us.”
Dolan also stated that saints and those who are Blessed serve as good examples and models for all Christians.
Blessed Stanislaus had a tremendous commitment to those who were dying and wanted to care for them and make sure they were in a state of grace before they died,” he said. “Blessed Stanislaus also prayed for the souls in purgatory and we need to recapture this practice as Catholics. We tend to canonize a person at funerals but we shouldn’t. I think they would speak from the grave that they want you to pray for them. In fact, when I die—please don’t presume I am in purgatory, pray and entrust me to the Mercy of God.”
Explaining to parishioners that those faithful who are Blessed or canonized are heavenly intercessors available to pray with us and for us, Dolan used himself as an example about facing vocational temptations and struggles with his daily life. size
“Our prayers are more united and effective in heaven and face it, we all need more help with our prayer life,” he said. “I know I need help with distractions, temptations and effective prayer. Saints and Blesseds really spice up our Catholic faith. They sanctify, make grace possible and give us great lessons. There is a lot of new help in heaven with Blessed Stanislaus and Praise be to Jesus Christ, the Communion of Saints has a new member now.”
RANDALL - The Randall Town Board made three appointments to its new ethics board, a commission mired in political controversy nearly since its inception.The appointments came following an uproar over comments from Supervisor Rose Nolan on an annexation issue during a recent Department of Natural Resources Air Quality meeting and questions whether she was making those statements as a Town Board member or as a private citizen.Chairman Matt Ostrander addressed Thursday's meeting in an attempt to squelch what he considered inaccurate newspaper reporting. "Miss Nolan did give a disclaimer that she was speaking as an individual and not as a town supervisor," he said. "Let's take a collective breath and don't make this more than it is. Let's deal with this issue and when we have an ethics board in place, we will deal with it."Candidates to fill spots on that new commission were considered following his statements and the first three were selected.Each ethics board member will serve a three-year term on the commission. The board serves as en ethical watchdog over the Town Board and Randall public officials, and has the authority to initiate and review complaints surrounding those acting in the public sector. Lauren Fox - a former Randall Town Board chairwoman with extensive service with county and local government, a union president and fire department volunteer - was the first appointee to the committee. Supervisors Nolan and Bob Gehring opposed the appointment. Fox said remaining impartial was crucial to serving in public office, and that regardless of the feelings for a person, if mistakes are made, they need to be addressed. "I understand what it is like to serve in public office; you take a lot of stuff and at times people are not nice and many times it is a thankless job," she said, "but it is important not to react when people throw public accusations at you."The board unanimously approved Basset resident Ed Antaramian, as the next appointee. Serving as a deputy city attorney for Kenosha, Antaramian frequently investigates ethics complaints and is well versed in ethics review. "I am familiar with the statues and want to be involved and a contributing member of the community," he said. Volunteer firefighter and community activist Bruce Schaal was the third appointee, despite Nolan abstaining and Gehring voting in opposition. A lifelong resident of the area, Schaal believes that no one is able to be impartial in any situation. "You have to learn how to bury that feeling so that you can look at the good of people and make a decision that way," he said, adding, "I have no personal ax to grind and consider most people I meet to be my friend."The Town Board will vote to fill the remaining two positions on the new committee on Nov. 8.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
by Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
In an era when intergenerational religious education is popular among parishes, an intergenerational term basic to Christian life, but which has been slow to be recognized by the Catholic community as a whole is stewardship. In its simplest form, stewardship is proper management of the gifts of time, talent and treasure with which one has been entrusted by God. As part of that management, one returns a portion of those gifts to God as an act of thanksgiving.Thus, it is by design that a major component of Faith In Our Future, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's $105 million capital campaign, is stewardship - one of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan's six pastoral priorities. Stewardship in its deepest sense is the life of the parish, said Howard Craig, Milwaukee representative for RSI Catholic Services Group, the Dallas-based stewardship and fundraising service hired by the archdiocese as consultant for Faith In Our Future. Stewardship is total life response"Stewardship is more than giving money; it is the total-life response of a committed Christian arising from a deep sense of gratitude for all that God has provided," he said, paraphrasing the U.S. Bishops' 1992 pastoral letter "Stewardship: A Disciple's Response." He added, "Stewardship starts as an act of worship - gratitude to God for what he has given. Stewardship should continue as a life-long commitment; one grows in stewardship throughout life, nurturing the gifts one has been given. Stewardship is never passive; it makes its public manifestation as acts of service, giving to those in need through responsible acts of justice and kindness. And finally stewardship finds full flower as it returns gifts received back to God in full appreciation of his gifting."Despite financial concerns, most notably in the increasing costs of food, housing, transportation and health care, Craig said there is much Catholics can do to contribute our time, talents and treasures to the church, our family in Christ, and the answers all begin with prayer. "I try to encourage people to pray a simple prayer as they ponder their stewardship, 'God, what do you want to do through me for my parish and my archdiocese?' Notice, I didn't say, 'God what do you want me to do?' That is because it is still centered on what I can do for God," he said. "Rather, the prayer should start with a self-admission that anything that happens will happen as God works through me. Those who would say that they don't have enough time, money, talent, or whatever are probably right. I am finite, limited and sometimes unable to do what I know I should. But with God, it's a different story. God can work through me, or perhaps in spite of me, and he can do a lot that I just didn't think could ever happen."Going beyond our limited understanding of stewardship, according to Fr. Andy Nelson, retired priest of the Milwaukee Archdiocese and former rector of Saint Francis Seminary, reminds us that time, talent and possessions are not people's own to dispose of as they wish, but which have been entrusted to them by God. "We are called to engage them wisely and generously on our own behalf, but as well for the benefit of others," he said. "In particular, our community of faith is utterly dependent upon us to support the mission of preaching the Gospel that we share."Fr. Nelson noted that stewardship is about realizing how gifted one is and then properly using one's time, talents and worldly treasure in the right proportion, in a balanced way that brings meaning to one's whole existence. Resurrection of tithingOne of the best known forms of stewardship is tithing which, Fr. Nelson explained, is giving one 10th of one's income to support one's religious institution and other charitable purposes. "An ancient and widespread practice in Israel," he said, "It has been resurrected in many churches and parishes in recent decades."Despite financial constraints, a more demanding form of stewardship can be the sharing of time and talent, especially in support of the church's life and witness, Fr. Nelson said. "Persons are invited to engage in all aspects of parish life, in teaching, worship, social ministries, and administration, according to their ability and availability," he said. "Active engagement in parish life is not optional, proper stewardship insists, but indispensable. Conscientious stewardship is also one of the most powerful countermeasures to the ever increasing wasteful, selfish, greedy overconsumption that threatens our very society."Holding bi-annual parent meetings to educate families about the function of the St. Andrew School system in Delavan and the school's needs is an important reality in explaining stewardship, according to Julie Supernaw, principal. "Among other topics, we include information about the fact that 50 percent of the parish budget supports the school; therefore we must support the parish by being a part of everything possible, but especially by attending weekend Mass," she said. Additionally, Supernaw regularly sends parental reminders about Mass attendance responsibilities, as well as assisting in parish functions. "We ask families to assist in the liturgies, such as in the choir, eucharistic ministers, or lectors," she said. "We ask families to help on building and grounds, finance, parish council as well as special event or ad hoc committees."Supernaw has not had any parent tell her that they were unable to help support the parish; 90 percent of the volunteers at the annual parish festivals are school families. At Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Kenosha, school families are willing volunteers at festivals, projects, socials and committees, said Jessica Knierim, principal. "We encourage parents to purchase Scrip (merchant gift incentives reimbursed to the school), half of the profit is a tuition credit for them, the other half is profit for school of which some will go into the scholarship tuition assistance fund, and we also encourage them to order from Market Day," she said.Additionally, the school offers two tuition incentives. Families giving $600 or more per year to the parish receive a tuition credit of $250. If school families successfully recruit a new family to the school, they will also receive a $250 credit. Despite scholarships and tuition assistance, some parents complain they are unable to pay anything extra to the parish due to tuition and fees. Craig encourages them to "think outside the box."Not equal gifts, but equal sacrificeSacrificial giving is at the core of stewardship. "It is not about equal gifts; it is about equal sacrifice," he said. "What did Jesus say to his disciples when they saw the widow place two small coins on the altar? He said, 'She has put in more than all the rest.' Is that because Jesus couldn't count? Is it because he didn't understand the value of the greater gifts on the altar that day? Of course not. It is because in our Lord's eyes, it's not the amount but the thought that counts. If you have any doubt this is true, note his next words. He said her gift was the greatest of all gifts that day because she, in her poverty, 'has offered her whole livelihood.'""Why then does he ask us to give of our time, our talent and our financial resources?" he posed. "Because God is, above all, a giver. And he wants all of his children to be just like him."Believing that the Catholic school system can be saved with participation from parents and the community, Kathy DelConte is committed to stewardship. A member of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Kenosha, DelConte not only sent and continues to send each of her five children to Catholic schools, she is active in her parish, school and the religious education program. "I began with the youth and telling them stories about the saints and it blossomed into my going to other schools," she said. "Then I began teaching CCD for 10th graders and after learning the kids wanted more than was in their class, I began a Teen Destiny class. There is a hunger out there for more, and I enjoy reaching out to the kids and they seem to love it."DelConte trusts that the key to financial solvency in the archdiocese and more parish involvement is in the personal touch. Bringing each parishioner to an understanding that all gifts and talents in the community are important and that they matter in the life of the parish is crucial. "If you ask people personally to help, they are less likely to say no, because they feel personally needed," she said. "I used to work on strategic planning and before I joined, I was a regular Sunday go-to-Mass person. I had the five kids and didn't get involved in home and school or parish council, but this really opened my eyes to volunteering."Through her one year of service in the strategic planning program, DelConte became aware of the importance of volunteers needed to sustain the life of the parish. Combating the lack of enthusiasm for volunteers, DelConte tries to educate other members on the Catholic faith. In a welcoming manner, she encourages an appreciation for service work, and explains why it is vitally important to the life of the parish. "If they find they are doing something that isn't just for the school or the parish, but for the love of God, the service starts to roll," she said. "The key is in finding dignity in each person and helping them to feel important and wanted." Teach by exampleAnother key, according to DelConte, is the parents' example."Children will come and help with parents and learn the spirit of fellowship and that will grow," said DelConte. "They are a part of the parish and the money will just come. People are always worried about fund raisers and not having volunteers, but that won't be a problem if everybody feels wanted and needed. If we touch the spiritual life of a person and pull them in, the money will flow with it. I believe our Catholic Church is a sleeping giant and if we awaken it, we will really experience Jesus' last command before he ascended, and that is to go and spread his name to all corners of the earth."Craig compares stewardship's essence to our everyday parish life and the calling to sacrifice in the Eucharist. "The Eucharist literally means, 'thanksgiving,' and the word 'sacrifice' comes from two Latin words that literally mean 'to make something holy,'" he said. "We can also see it in the rites of Mass; our offerings to God are symbolized in the bread and wine presented during the Offertory. This same bread and wine become the Blessed Sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord."
Karen MahoneySpecial to Your Catholic Herald
Nine-year-old Miranda Rios earns a little cash during the year through an allowance and by performing odd jobs around the house; she also gets some money for her birthday and Christmas. Miranda can use the funds to spend however she wants. Like any other fourth grader, she likes candy, ice skating and toys, but unlike most fourth graders, she gives her money away.During the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, Miranda brought her piggy bank to the fire department in her Kenosha neighborhood and emptied its contents into the boot.When Miranda is asked why, her answer is short and simple."Because I want to help find a cure for Muscular Dystrophy, and it felt good to help somebody," she said.Miranda is no stranger to giving, according to her mother, Anna, who said she did the same thing after learning about MD last year and wants to continue giving until a cure is found for the neuromuscular disease."She saw the telethon on TV last year at my mom's house, and since we live across from the fire department I explained to her that she would see the firefighters out there collecting money and explained what the money was for," she said, adding. "After watching the program for several hours, she took her bank and said she wanted to fill up the boot with the money she saved. Then she said she wanted to do it again this year."While Anna admitted that she teaches her daughter to be loving and giving, she attributes the majority of Miranda's drive to help others from lessons learned at St. Mark Elementary School, Kenosha. However, vice-principal Sr. Sylvia Leonardi points the direction toward home. "She lives with her mom and grandma and learned at an early age what it means to be a member of a family that needs to work together," said Sr. Sylvia, explaining that Miranda has a young brother with a serious illness. "Of course, we do collect pop can tops for the Ronald McDonald House in honor of her mom who spent many days there, but for Miranda to help like she does is a great example of a good turn moving on to the next person in need. The whole family all cares about each other, and Miranda is a person who likes to take leadership even now, in the fourth grade - I see big things coming her way."Born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, young Manuel, (Mannie) was given just six hours to live after his birth on Sept. 7, last year. "Five and a half hours later the doctors realized that only half his heart was working and there was no oxygenated blood flowing to his organs and it resulted in severe damage to his organs," Anna said. "He was severely damaged and was very sick; they never expected him to make it."After eight months by her son's bedside at Children's Hospital, Anna brought the now recovered Mannie home to his grateful sister. The many hours visiting her hospitalized brother influenced Miranda and showed her the more difficult faces of youth."She definitely saw how sick kids can be; and whether it is a sick baby or a teen, she has definitely seen it," Anna said. "She knows that many kids spend birthdays and holidays there and talks about doing things for them."Students and staff at St. Mark's collected the soda can tabs during the months that Mannie was in the hospital, and the yearly collection date brings fond memories to Anna and Miranda."Ronald McDonald House has this yearly collection day, a big celebration that includes Ronald McDonald dumping the pull taps into a Dumpster to have the aluminum weighed and the money goes to the house," Anna said. "They did the big collection on May 9, which was the day I brought my son home - that brought tears to my eyes."Miranda is prone to think of others before herself. Quick to diffuse the adult attention, she minimizes the reaction of firefighters who were shocked to witness the child's generosity. "Well, one of the firefighters took me inside the fire department and gave me a coloring book and some crayons," she said. "They said they were surprised and asked me why I donated all my money; I just told them that I wanted to help, that's all."Not content to give from her excess, the girl is a shining example of the widow's mite in Mark's Gospel. She gives all she has and has no plans to stop; she is already planning to devote her adult life to serving others."The biggest thing that I want to do is to become a heart surgeon when I grow up, so I can help people like my little brother," she said. "I prayed for him a lot."
Friday, October 19, 2007
Milk money had been funding his education
Karen MahoneySpecial to Your Catholic HeraldWESTFORD -
For years, Ed Miniatt wanted to purchase land in central Wisconsin to begin his son's dream of owning and operating a dairy farm. In 2003, Ed purchased a 40-acre-farm in Westford, near Beaver Dam, and began renovating the barn, putting together the milking system, and completing the electrical work. By 2004, the project was finished and became the fulfillment of the vision that he, his wife, Rose, and their children planned. Early last month, that plan was altered when a fire gutted the Miniatts' barn. The remnants of the barn, located at the intersection of Highways G and C, were hauled away from the property soon after the fire. But the grief that has taken up residence in their lives since the Sept. 9 fire can't be removed with a front-end loader."I just kept repeating, 'All that work that they did - Ed, Nathan, Eddie, and Andy fixed up that barn that was falling apart and it was all gone so quickly.' I couldn't believe it was happening," Rose said, adding, "You just never expect something like this to happen to you."After spending the day packing the hay mounds with a bumper crop of alfalfa hay, 15-year-old Andy went to fix a wire and to take the cows to pasture for the night. He smelled a slightly smoky odor, but didn't think anything of it until he reached the other side of the barn and noticed an orange glow on the silo. The horrific sight sent him charging into the house shouting, "Barn fire!" After calling 911, the family ran outside to see flames shooting from the smaller barn roof. "We were in panic mode," Rose said. "All the cows were out of the barn already, and the boys ran into the barn to get the four calves out of the barn and onto the lawn. There was so much burning hay falling down through the chute in the barn, and after getting the calves out, they worked feverishly to get the truck and the machinery away from the barn. It took about 10-15 minutes to do this and to us, it seemed like a long time until the fire department came."All that was left to do was to watch the fire department put out the fire. Fortunately, no livestock was lost in the fire, but in addition to losing the barn and side building, they lost two gravity boxes, one with feed, a feed grinder and three crops' worth of hay.The couple recognize their blessings as they realize that the fire could have claimed much more than their barn and farming possessions. The fire, which began around 8:30 p.m., could have quickly taken their lives and their home while they slept. But the Miniatts were awake and busy putting the youngest of their soon-to-be nine children to bed. "Thankfully, nobody got hurt," Ed said. "That is the biggest thing. It was probably stupid for us to be running into the burning building to rescue the calves, but it seemed early enough in the fire that we wanted to try to do what we could do."One of the more heart wrenching aspects of the fire, was having to call eldest son, Nathan, 18, the next day to let him know what had happened, admitted Rose. She got in touch with him as he was on his way to class at St. Joseph College Seminary in Chicago, where he is a first-year seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee."Oh, he was just devastated about the barn; this was his baby," she said. "It was his project and he was the one who got things going. He was speechless at first, but later he called back and began to ask questions."While Ed and Rose are thankful that their lives and the lives of Eddie, 17, Andy, 15, Elizabeth and Rebekah, 13, Joseph, 8, Dominic, 6, and Anna, 4, were spared, the ordeal has rocked the faith of the quiet, homeschooling family in insurance companies, but not their faith in Jesus. "The whole time the barn was burning, we kept saying, 'Jesus, I trust in you,' and kept repeating that," Ed said. "And as far as the barn burning, that hasn't affected me at all. It is the battle with our insurance company that has really tried my faith."Although the family has insurance to cover the loss of the barn, the couple didn't realize until after the fire that their personal property within the structure was underinsured and consequently, will face stiff penalties for the lack of coverage. "I don't understand this," Ed said. "We paid all of our premiums and having a penalty for being underinsured is just evil. Why penalize you further and make us suffer for something we knew nothing about? I am struggling with this and am trying to remain charitable ... but we will hammer through it."The evening of the fire replays in both their minds. They still don't know the cause, or if they will ever be able to rebuild. The money earned from the milk was supposed to pay Nathan's seminary tuition. Without the barn, hay and feed, and with inadequate insurance, the family is faced with the possibility of selling the cows to help fund his schooling."I hope we don't have to sell the cows. It has been a whirlwind of a summer for us because in addition to this, I lost my job about two months ago," Ed confessed, adding, "We joke that our family motto should be from Job, 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.'"Despite the uncertainties, the Miniatts appreciate the kindness of strangers and neighbors during this difficult time. Just two miles down the road, Dave Wendlandt and his father, Bob, who is in his 80s, recently sold their herd of dairy cows and offered the use of their barn and equipment to the family. "I didn't know what we were going to do at first," Ed confessed. "I chased all over on Monday to find some way to get the cows milked and these guys came through for us. They still had all the equipment and had it all set up. We hooked it up, everything worked and it was amazing. They are a wonderful family and it is just incredible for us that they just sold their cows a couple of months ago. They even made sure to look after the cows for us when we aren't there."Remaining positive and focused on their faith is helping the family get through each day, and they are striving to keep busy and maintain as normal a life as possible. In the early days after the fire, many members of the community brought food and offered a hug - a big help for Rose to focus away from the devastating loss. "Well, since we homeschool, I was thinking at first that I would try to focus my attention on our schoolwork since I really didn't have any outside chores to do," she said. "But then people began coming to the door with baked goods, meals and offers to help. I really appreciated this because it was hard not to think about everything and it took my mind off of it."While both are emphatic that God has a plan for them, Ed jokes that he wishes he could figure out what it is. "Right now, nothing looks good for us and for the future of the farm, but we have many options and are praying for discernment and God's direction," he said. "Maybe this was a door closing here, and maybe we are not meant to farm here; maybe God wants us further up north. It's kind of confusing and there are a lot of questions we have to answer."Paying for Nathan's education remains a concern. In response to the fire, members of the family's parish, St. Katharine Drexel, Beaver Dam, and Saint Francis Seminary are examining the best way to help the family. According to Fr. John Schreiter, St. Katherine pastor, they have several options to investigate, but it is too soon to tell how they will proceed. "We are going to do something to help this family," said Fr. Schreiter, "But we want to make sure we find the best way to help them."Fr. Schreiter and Tom Van Himbergan, Saint Francis Seminary director of finance and administration, are also exploring the possibility of grant money to offset formation expenses. "We are looking into grant applications and individual funds that retired priests may have set up," said Van Himbergan. "And hopefully, we will be able to find a way to help."The Miniatts are humbled by the offers to help with the costs for cleaning up the barn, and the possibility of tuition assistance, and have witnessed a recent outpouring of support for vocations. "I think given the chance, people will want to perform a work of mercy and support a seminarian," Rose said. Ed agreed, and added, that while it is difficult to be on the receiving end of charitable assistance, he said that their situation might be a test for others."I really think that our situation is somewhat of a trial for others, even more than it is for us," he said. "There have been so many people who didn't have to help us, but have and are and it is incredible."How you can helpSaint Francis Seminary has established a fund for the Miniatt family to help with costs of clean up, replacing winter feed, and rebuilding not covered by the family's insurance. Donations can be made to the Miniatt Family Farm, c/o Tom VanHimbergen director of finance and administration, Saint Francis Seminary, 3257 S. Lake Drive, St. Francis, WI 53235, (414) 747-6401.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
by Karen Mahoney
Every Sunday, the cafeteria chairs at Pleasant Prairie Elementary School fill early, and often most of the 225 baptized members of Spirit Alive ELCA Lutheran Church attend the 8:30 morning services.
The worship area of the church is usually so jammed that the church recently added a second service for the quickly growing congregation.
While the Pleasant Prairie church hasn’t reached “megachurch” status, it is growing at a rate much quicker than other newly formed churches in the state, and according to Reverend Larry Harpster, pastor of the congregation, it has been a great blessing.
“We are so happy with our growth and seem to be attracting lifelong Christians who were either not happy where they were, or people with a memory of attending a Christian church and are eager to come back to the faith,” Harpster said. “Our mission is to be a church for people without a church.”
Started in 2001, Spirit Alive was an answer for underserved Christians west of the City of Kenosha. Although seven ELCA churches were flourishing in the City of Kenosha, they were not attracting new members west of the city limits. Bishop Paul Stumme-Diers approached Harpster about beginning a new church that would reach out, rather than to take members from existing congregations.
“We were to find people who weren’t going to church, or were dissatisfied at what was happening at their churches and looking for something new,” Harpster said. “St. Mary’s Lutheran Church agreed to pray for us, and provide financial and emotional support for a brand new community—they put in $80,000 of their own money in the beginning to make this happen.”
According to Greater Milwaukee Synod Mission Director, Greg VanDunk, planting a church today is much different than it was decades ago. Regrettably, many newly formed churches close their doors within a couple of years due to lack of growth.
“In the old days we could be a developer in the area, provide financial support, go door to door and build a congregation from the ground up,” he said. “That isn’t working now, but we found that when churches start churches, it works and that is the concept used with forming Spirit Alive.”
Most important for the emerging faith community is to provide assistance for the pastor, so they are not dropped into an area like a “lone ranger” stated VanDunk.
“At least one church is always involved in multiplying itself in the underserved area, and they are available to help the pastor in any capacity they need,” he said. “There have been so many new developments along the highway 50 corridor and in the communities west of the Interstate-that we realized it was the right time to plant a new church.”
Initially, the congregation utilized space at the LakeView RecPlex for their worship services. Quickly outgrowing the facilities, the community moved to Pleasant Prairie Elementary, three years ago. With attendance increasing more than 30 percent since last fall, adding the second service made sense, until the congregation decides on a more permanent location.
“We have everything a normal church does, but we rent space,” said Harpster, of the lively, multi-media, worship style congregation. “However, with our services and Sunday School classes growing, we are looking for property and praying for a land vision to build someday soon.”
Unique in its mission, Spirit Alive boasts a small group based structure rather than one based upon committees. The small groups are only accountable to the vision community that emphasizes the walk with others as they become followers of Jesus. Virtually any small groups are acceptable if the support the overall vision and passion of the congregation.
“Our structure is based on communication and trust—we have a lot of people meeting in small groups, such as bible study and prayer ministry,” Harpster said, adding, “It is a structure empowerment and permission giving structure. I don’t try to control everything; we have teams who use gifts and there is no hierarchy like there is in the traditional council committees.”
Of primary importance is the focus on becoming a lifesaving station, without evolving into merely a social club, admitted Harpster. Adding the second service was imperative to continuing the steady growth of the congregation.
“Lost of members were happy with the one service, but I told them that if we didn’t add a second one, that we would simply become a social club and we didn’t want that,” he said. “We try to think about how we can best welcome the first time visitor—not the five year person, but the person coming in for the first time and how to get people to come.”
Whether it is visiting members of the community, sending worship cards in the mail, or hosting “Bring a Friend Sunday,” Spirit Alive lives their vision of care, compassion and concern for others. And while Harpster looks forward to having a church building to call home, he appreciates the blessing of renting space at the school.
“I am mixed about getting the building, and am not in a hurry. With the costs today, it can be a very expensive balance when you put all that money into one building,” he said. “It comes down to vision and if your vision cares about people and right now, the blessing is that we can use our resources for reaching out to people, inviting them to worship with us, and reaching outside of the church. Before we build, we need to think about why we are here—that is the main reason, and we need to put our energy there.”
If you go
Spirit Alive ELCA
Reverend Larry Harpster
9208 Wilmot Road
Sunday Services 8:30, 10:30 a.m.
Sunday school for all ages 9:30 a.m.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I had no catchy beginning.
no story line,
no turning points,
AND No climax or wrap up.
What was I thinking? It's back to the drawing board for this lady and true to form, I have no time to work on rewriting at the moment because I have a whole passle of newspaper assignments.
I am NOT going to complain though as that work is my bread and butter.
Thank you St. Francis De Sales for answering my prayer---and answering it very well, to boot!
Friday, October 12, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
At the moment, my easiest critic in the world is reading it--my son Erin. So far, he loves it, but he's only on page 6--but knowing him and his sensitivity to his mom, every page will be great, even it if isn't!
On another side, having a bit of trouble contacting my interviewees for a couple of upcoming stories...hopefully tomorow will be better in that regard!
Monday, October 8, 2007
On the flipside, I attended, what I thought was a spiritual writing seminar this weekend and ended up leaving early because I was so appalled at the class. Fortunately, the class which was NOT about writing spiritually, but rather ABOUT all sorts of "spiritual writers" and their books at least made me realize that I am not planning to join the monthly writers circle because the group is in the opposite direction of the way I feel God is leading me. I mean, getting into channelling, chakkras, and enlightenment stuff is fine if that is where you want to be--but it just isn't what I want or where I feel that Jesus wants me to be.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Altar Society Celebrates 70 years
by Karen Mahoney
A special service at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii on October 7, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, will celebrate 70 years of service by the Ladies Altar Society, a group of women dedicated to caring for their parish community.
“It started 70 years ago with a handful of ladies,” said Marilyn Bindelli, President since 1985. “When I began as president, we had 37 members, and now we have close to 200. We have the largest active Christian Women’s Society in District One.”
From the group’s inception, its goal has been to support the church; promote and unite members in the bond of love of God and neighbor, honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and to seek her intercession and implore her protection especially by praying the rosary.
In addition to prayerful support, the Holy Rosary Altar Society assists the Pastor in maintaining the Altar, Sanctuary and Sacristy. This includes cleaning and setting of the altar for services, caring for the vestments, altar cloths, and decorating for special occasions, including the care of the plants and flowers.
“We also provide vestments for the priests, and robes for our servers,” Bindelli said. “And in May, which is the month of Mary, we have a procession and crown the statue of the Blessed Mother. We pray a rosary each month for the deceased and living members of our group, our church and for the world—because we need peace in our world.”
The group meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month to pray together, have a business meeting and share dinner together. Each month’s gathering features a specific theme generally surrounding a Feast day or Holy day, said Bindelli, adding that September’s theme was the upcoming celebration and featured hot beef sandwiches and homemade apple pie prepared by the members.
“Our dues are just $5.00 for the year and that goes towards our fundraising efforts for the parish,” she said. “During the course of the year, we have a Mass each month for the society, and fundraisers like a fish bake on Ash Wednesday, Polenta with meatballs in January, and have raffles at every meeting. This month we are raffling off homemade pies.”
In addition to serving the parish, the society supports its members residing at Brookside Nursing home. Each week, members of the Altar Society visit the residents and bring them to Mass.
“Different priests from the area will celebrate Mass at the nursing home,” she said. “Up until our Spiritual Director passed away, he would go to the home quite often. He was so instrumental in keeping our organization together and growing spiritually and he really loved having all sorts of social gatherings and had a special type of camaraderie with everyone. He really brought more members to our society and kept people interested in their church.”
After the death of their Spiritual Director Fr. John Molnar, and the recent departure of Fr. Joe Pezhathumkal, SAC, Bindelli anticipates the spiritual direction of current pastoral administrator, Fr. John Scheer, SAC.
“I haven’t met him yet, but I look forward to it,” she said, adding, “I hope he will be as proud of the Altar Society as I am. The women are really wonderful and keep coming back. We are growing and getting new members all the time—in fact, some of our members are not even Catholic.”
Bindelli credits the ongoing growth of the group to the welcoming spirit of its members to women of all area parishes as well as to all faiths.
“We have so many different Christian women who join us; and they range in age from 42 to their mid-90’s,” she said. “In fact, we still have Evelyn Sacco with us, and she is one of our original members from 1937. Our oldest member is Mary LaPera and she is 96 years young and we certainly hope they will both come to our celebration dinner on October 24.”
The seven religious sisters in residence at Holy Rosary’s convent play a major role in the Altar Society, admitted Bindelli. In addition to caring for altar linens, liturgical decorations, they assist with the altar servers and have worked tirelessly to prepare for the 70th anniversary celebration.
“They are a big help and are always there for us,” she said. “They are helping us to prepare for the dinner which will feature a traditional Italian meal for everyone in our group.”
Aside from the social connection, Bindelli is thankful for the spiritual changes in the parish and the Kenosha Community that is a result of their dedicated prayer to the Blessed Mother.
“We recently had a living rosary outside of our church on the 13th of each month during the summer,” she said. “We had young children and teens carrying the statue of Mary in procession and praying the rosary. Parishioners and a lot of people who were not parishioners stopped to watch and even to pray.”
An immediate answer to their prayer has been the increase in weekend Mass attendance. The often standing room only crowds are encouraging to Bindelli who hopes the trend will continue.
“It is prayer that does it, it does it for me and in general, that’s how the changes happen,” she said. “Prayer takes you through a journey of life with many changes and they are good ones. Something is happening here and I think people are beginning to feel the need for prayer and I believe this will be happening more and more.”
If you Go:
10:30 a.m. Sunday October 7
Reception to Follow
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary
2224 45th Street
Friday, October 5, 2007
One of the greatest benefits is meeting awesome people and learning new things every day. As my late mother always said, "all that information is another feather in your cap, Karen--no education is wasted." Thanks Mom!
Just yesterday, I was gathering information and taking pictures for a story I am working on for Panache, a quarterly women's Magazine. The article surrounds the idea of the "perfect girl's day out." I picked a small down just south of here and was pleasantly surprised to meet fantastic and caring business owners who genuinely care about their customers. This was something I had thought went the way of the horse and buggy.
Two hours after walking through the tree lined streets, I learned about the lives of a tea shop owner, restauranteur, clothing proprietor, candy store owner and a hair salon owner and what drives them to do what they do. It was an incredible day. In fact, I am heading back to the hair shop to get my hair cut this afternoon. I think the owner noticed that I have been whacking at my own hair for quite some time and my idea of curling and spraying everything into one plasticized mess isn't the most attractive. So, I may be reporting back happy with my new look or crying about it. Either way, it's time for a change.
My little secret? I am a registered Cosmetologist and should know better about cutting my own hair! I am too embarrassed to tell this person--but suffice to say, there is a reason I write instead of "do hair." After one too many color mishaps, I hung up the tint apron. At least I seem to do well enough to cut Blaise and Erin's hair when they need it.
Enough of this, better get working on my story and getting the house ready for yet another round of visiting relatives. This one should be easy, Blaise's sister Peggy is coming from Fresno for a couple of days. Sorry about the weather Peggy! We had hoped for 60 degrees for you, unfortunately, you'll have to settle for 88!
Closed Caption Mass
Imagine attending church in a soundproof room with only a window to view the priest, lectors and choir. The Mass experience would be visual rather than a participatory action; and watching your priest present his homily would be an aggravating, frustrating experience.
Hearing-impaired Catholics endure plenty of aggravation and frustration when they are unable to properly hear what is going on at Mass, revealed Fr. John Hemsing of St. Clare Parish in Wind Lake, who added weekly closed-captioned Masses last December.
“The thing is, in any parish, there are always people who are hard of hearing and many times they can’t hear because of a faulty sound system, an echo or hearing aids that don’t pick up certain ranges,” he said. “But people with hearing loss such as the elderly, or those who suffered a loss of hearing due to an injury never really learned sign language.”
While it is common to witness interpreters signing Masses, their role is primarily for those born deaf or for family members of those with total hearing loss. Catholics with impaired hearing often miss out the most as they are unable to hear or understand the liturgy.
While captioning can’t reproduce the sounds of voices, music and other audible effects for hearing-impaired Catholics, it does allow all members to participate fully in the celebration of the Eucharist, and for Fr. Hemsing, that is music to his ears.
“We have a great sound system in our new church, but the reality of life is that some people naturally lose their hearing, some lose it due to military service and some due to working in a loud atmosphere. The best sound system in the world can’t help them,” he admitted. “Fortunately, one of our parishioners, Julie Poenitsch, is a Court Reporter and offered to do the closed-captioning as her ministry to the parish.”
Three large flat screen computer monitors are mounted above the pews near the choir area. The stationing of the monitors near the musicians was strategically placed so the hearing-impaired members could sing along to the music while feeling the vibration of the songs and hymns beneath their feet. Poenitsch sits near the monitors and types the all of the word and nearly instantly, they appear on the screen, said Fr. Hemsing.
“There is a delay though,” he said, laughing, “In fact, I might say something funny once in a while and then after the members quiet down, the ones who are reading it from screens will laugh a bit later—so there is some lag time.”
The costs to equip St. Clare with the closed-captioning devices were minimal, admitted Fr. Hemsing. The majority of the costs associated with the project were for the computer monitors, and Poenitsch uses her personal equipment for the weekly Mass.
“We try to have a closed-caption Mass once a week, but sometimes we are unable to do so because Julie is out of town or busy,” he said. “But we always have the Masses listed with the closed-captioning logo so people know when they are.”
An added benefit of the closed captioning is that Poenitsch presents Fr. Hemsing with a written transcript of his homily each week, which gives the priest a visual opportunity to check on the presentation of his homily and often gives him a couple of surprises as well.
“What she writes is exactly what I am saying in my homily,” he said, adding. “And sometimes it is a big difference in what I think I said from my outline and what I exactly said when I was preaching in front of the altar. She even corrects my grammar- it is actually very helpful.”
For More Information:
St. Clare Catholic Church
7616 Fritz Street
Wind Lake, WI
Mass Times 4 p.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Sundays
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Burlington Standard Press/Waterford Post
The Count Still Bites
by Karen Mahoney
For more than a century, Dracula has been scrutinized, worshipped, mocked, venerated, and condemned. And quite understandably so.
Consider: Dracula is the perfect man. He’s mystifying, sinister, and ominous; doesn’t stutter nervously or humiliate you in public. He leaves you alone during the day. He wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but the best tailored clothing. He’ll never, ever demand that you cook for him; and he doesn’t drink. Well, not wine anyway.
Seriously, the Dracula myth strikes some collective human issues. The men in the story perceive him as a threat to women; he’ll turn their wives into the zombie-like undead.
But is that all? Within Dracula lurks a dark, but compelling animalistic vibe that makes men feel inadequate and wonder: Could this man-beast offer something compelling that they can’t? Could he release an unhinged, threatening, desire in the women he victimizes?
Not only will the sharp-fanged vampire be swirling his cape about the stage, but ‘Creative Outlets’ theatre director Phil Williamson naturally incorporates a sense of the vampire’s symbolic presence in his latest rendition of the Bram Stoker novel to be performed at 7 p.m. on Sunday, October 7 at the Seno Woodland Education Center.
Williamson, who has designed the set, produced and performed in Dracula at the Seno Center for six years, admitted that performing in a more than 130-year-old barn on the property is the perfect venue for his rendition of the 1897 Gothic novel that tells of a creature of the night that must feed on the blood of the living to keep him alive.
“As a kid it was my all time favorite horror mystery,” he said, adding, “I also loved Frankenstein, Mummy and Werewolf stuff too. I was a kid in the 50’s and 60’s and watched and was fascinated by the Bram Stoker novel classic—back then, we all read it. I am fascinated by the horror and by doing the play in the refurbished historic barn near Halloween, it lends to the mystery and atmosphere. At the end of the play, the audience actually follows Dracula and the other characters outside and well, the whole location just adds to the ambiance.”
A psychotherapist for Family Services of Racine, Williamson and his wife Deb enjoy the stress relief and imagination that theatre offers to them and their family. Originally started 13 years ago at George Williams College as the Pace Players, the theatre company, changed its name to the non-profit ‘Creative Outlets’ theatre company, when it moved to Seno Woodland Educational Center after the college was sold to Aurora University.
“My wife Deb used to work for the school and when her job was eliminated, the theatre group went with her,” said Williamson. “At the same time, Kendra Johncock, who knew my wife, was also employed at the school and lost her job at the same time. Kendra went on to work at Seno and approached us about bringing the theatre group there at the same time as Old World Wisconsin approached us for the same reason.”
A hidden treasure tucked alongside the wooded County Highway P is a tree farm just south of Burlington. Upon retirement from her medical practice in 1974, Dr. Elvira Seno purchased the charming farm that she visited many times throughout her childhood.
After restoring the fields and pastures, she planted 49,000 trees, renovated the crop land, built a pond and purchased a 26-acre tamarack marsh to protect her investment. In 1994 Seno donated the Seno Woodland Educational Center to the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association. It was her desire to keep the property in its natural state and turned it over to the non-profit foundation to continue its management. Prior to her death in 1996, Seno was able to see the first of many school groups enjoying her property.
According to Johncock, Education Director, the property was named the 2004 Wisconsin Tree Farm and hosts several school programs throughout the year.
“We also have adult landowner workshops and will offer one on October 27 on tree planting, tree identification, and the Emerald Ash Borer,” she said. “But Creative Outlets is perfect for our center. We use them as a fundraiser for us, they are fun to do and Deb and Phil love being outside for the summer’s outdoor productions. We get a great audience for all the productions and the summer programs have really become quite popular.”
In addition to working as the Director of the Whitewater Chamber of Commerce Deb Williamson not only performs in several productions each year at Seno and Old World Wisconsin, but creates each of the intricate costumes, as well. Sharing their talents as a team, Williamson admitted that the theatre bug bit he and Deb early on and both enjoy the challenge of producing several plays each year.
“We have both performed since we were in middle school and high school, and have performed in community groups all over the southeast and central Wisconsin area,” Williamson said. “Performing at Old World Wisconsin is interesting because the audience follows through three different sites and comes back to the beginning in the last act—in the Dracula play, they actually watch Dracula go into the woods and get staked to his coffin. Right now, we are also doing a historical reenactment of the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and that has been very popular.”
In addition to performing Dracula each year, Creative Outlets performs an annual production of A Christmas Carol and has recently added outdoor summer productions to their repertoire.
“This summer we did Peter Pan and our youngest daughter, Alyssa was Wendy,” Williamson said. “Our 22 year old son was our first Tiny Tim, in fact, each of our four kids has performed with us and it has bonded our family together even more.”
Acquiring tickets for the production will be a bit different this year compared to past years, according to Johncock, who is excited about including more of a dinner theatre feel to the evening.
“This year we are offering a pizza party at 5 p.m. followed by a barn dance and the production. The $20 ticket includes pizza and the performance,” she said. “For those who just want to attend the show, ticket prices are $12 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under.”
If you Go:
Sunday October 7: 7 p.m.
Pizza Party: 5 p.m.-dance to follow
3606 Dyer Lake Road
Contact Kendra Johncock: 262-743-1694
Ticket Prices: $20 Pizza, Barn Dance, and Play
Play only: $12 Adults $10 children 12 and under
By Karen Mahoney Special to your Catholic Herald
ST. FRANCIS — Matt Widder would say that God has a plan for everyone’s life.You just have to pay attention to the hints.The 26-year-old third year seminary student has stepped away from his former life in cardiac rehabilitation, after earning a degree in exercise science, to explore the priesthood.After two more years at Saint Francis Seminary, he hopes to be ordained a priest in the Milwaukee Archdiocese.“I just knew that if I didn’t give seminary life a try that I would always look back and wonder if God had wanted me to become a priest,” Widder said.While attending college at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, Widder participated in a tennis camp at Stanford University one summer. While there, he had time to consider his future.“I was out of my normal setting, away from friends, the Internet and television,” he said. “For whatever reason, and by the grace of God, I began to delve into prayer outside of my teaching time. I began to dig into Scripture, and it was a grace-filled period that left me on fire with God. After I left Stanford that summer, I know that if I didn’t pursue the call, that I would always sit back and wonder.”Though he chose to enter the seminary, Widder acknowledged that he heard a consistent and definite tugging at his heart years earlier, but was embarrassed to admit it to his friends and family.“I actually thought about the priesthood in the sixth grade. It was eye opening and truly something that I could see myself doing,” he said. “But I quickly realized that it wasn’t the cool thing to do. The cool thing went with me through middle school and high school; I went to Mass and my prayer life wasn’t all that good. It actually was an act of God if I stayed awake during Mass, but even through that – the priesthood was still in the back of my mind.”While regular Mass attendance was a part of Widder’s life, working on his parents’ dairy farm in Sheboygan left little time for many other parish activities. A Catholic education was important to MaryJo and John Widder, who made sure that their three children attended through sixth grade.“We did what we could to help out at church,” admitted Widder, who remembers getting up early to have the farm chores completed prior to Sunday Mass. “We were involved where we could, but we did miss out going to a Catholic junior high and high school because there weren’t any schools nearby.”During his confirmation interview, Widder finally admitted to his pastor, Fr. Mike Moran at Blessed Trinity Parish, that he had been thinking about a vocation as a priest.“I said yes, but I was still embarrassed about it,” he said. “I didn’t think priests were regular people. I would see them on Sundays and they always looked so perfect, whether it was bowing or making the Sign of the Cross. I figured they probably didn’t like to sit and watch baseball games or anything like that.”Although his parents pushed him to attend Mass and participate in religious activities while in high school, it wasn’t until Widder was away at college that he began to become involved in the church because he wanted to, and not because he was supposed to do so.“I began getting strength from attending Mass and soon I was volunteering at a hospital and it was there that the idea of the priesthood crept back into my mind. I kept saying to myself, ‘Maybe I should become a priest,’” he admitted. “But I was just so afraid to be different and I was embarrassed that my prayer life wasn’t as it should have been. I didn’t want to read Scriptures, so I figured that it was a phase and let it go.”Following the Stanford tennis camp, Widder met with Fr. George Szews from the UW-Eau Claire Newman Center who helped him come to terms with his embarrassment, his career and the call to become a priest.“He told me that in this day and age, if you think you have a call to be a priest, you probably do and he said I just might want to look into that,” Widder said. “He was a big part of my vocation because he was at the college and I began seeing him outside of Mass and saw that he was human.”Without telling anyone, Widder arranged with former Milwaukee archdiocesan vocations director, Fr. Bob Stiefvater, to discuss the possibility of the priesthood. While Widder was still embarrassed about his vocational path, Fr. Stiefvater convinced him to confide in his family about the possible change in his vocation.“When I told them, they were so supportive of me,” Widder exclaimed. “I laugh because one of the first things that my Dad said to my sister was that he expected more grandchildren out of her now. But he was great – everyone was.”Since beginning at the seminary, Widder admitted he has never felt such peace over anything in his life. While he feels that it will be up to God to make his final plans known to him, Widder is open to anything.“Going to seminary isn’t like signing on the dotted line,” he said. “It is intense discernment and there are a lot of other men in the same situation as me.”If he is ordained, Widder hopes that he will be able to incorporate his degree in exercise science with spirituality.“It sounds odd, but connecting spirituality with exercise is kind of like the mind and spirit connecting,” he said. “It intrigues me as to how I can connect the two, but it would use the gifts we have and the passion I have to apply it to the priesthood.”An important goal during Widder’s time of discernment is to help other young men in a similar situation feel comfortable in stepping out in faith. Active in sports, especially running, he wants others to realize that in answering the call to the priesthood, it isn’t necessary to give up all your hobbies and fun activities.“I would say it all goes back to John Paul the Great when he said ‘Do not be afraid.’ I think that if someone is looking for a definitive sign that I would tell them to take a chance to see where it goes and to put themselves in God’s hands and let him do the rest,” Widder said. “It is going to be an uncertainty; very rarely are you struck by lightning for God to get his message across. You have to be willing to take a chance.”
By Karen Mahoney Special to your Catholic Herald
ELKHORN — Farmers in Wisconsin rely on them. Without non-permanent migrant workers, many crops such as cabbage, potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, cranberries and just about any agricultural product that involves hand labor would not get picked.Stooped over fields covered in a sea of vegetables, with sweat dripping from their brows to their legs, the migrants spend hours gleaning the fields. After a minimum 10-hour workday picking muddy potatoes, their reward is often a few hours rest in one of the tiny one-room houses in which the migrant workers live.Migrant farm workers travel primarily from Mexico to work on farms for several weeks to several months. A growing number have become permanent members of the Walworth and Racine County communities. Most come because of poor economic conditions at home; here they can make enough money to feed and house their families. But the life of a migrant worker is not great.The lucky ones fight to stay, despite overwhelming odds, while hoping for a better life for their children; the unlucky ones go to jail, often returning home to shameful conditions.For the past eight years, members of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Youth, based in Ecuador, South America, have helped the Spanish-speaking members in Racine and Walworth counties find God in the farm fields. Led by Sr. Emma Teresa Núñez of Bolivia, the sisters work to evangelize, comfort, teach, and pray with the Spanish speaking population.Wisconsin is missionary territoryGenerally, missionary work occurs in Third World countries, but to these Franciscans southeast Wisconsin is their missionary field.“We come here from our country to participate with the people about evangelization, about Jesus and the Gospels,” said Sr. Emma. “We explain to them the importance of the Liturgy and how important Lent and Christmas are. We try to explain to the people about that spirit when we begin those two times. We also have prayer groups, retreats, catechism, and teach them the importance of the sacraments.”Founded in1982 by Franciscan Fr. Fausto Trávez, currently the bishop of the apostolic vicariate of Zamora Chinchipe-Ecuador, South America, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Youth’s ministry extends beyond its country’s boundaries.A mission in Rome offers further training as well as advanced education. A United States mission was formed under the Office of Hispanic Ministry of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to assist the migrant community in Racine and Walworth counties.Team serves archdioceseThe four-member team of sisters in Wisconsin includes Sr. Emma, Sr. Graciella Paredes, Sr. Monica Semper, and Sr. Mercy Aarvaez, all of Ecuador.With the increasing number of Hispanics to the area, Fr. Josegerman Zapata, pastor for the Hispanic population in the area, is grateful for the sisters’ work. “My right hand are the sisters because their work is hard and very large,” he said. “I have worked with Sr. Emma for two and a half years. She has good relationships with the Hispanics; people love her — especially the ladies.”Although much of their mission involves encouraging participation in the church, Fr. Zapata admitted that dealing with red tape, immigration papers and legal issues often takes precedence.“People don’t have papers and are afraid to work sometimes, and 99 percent of them are not legal,” he said. “Every day the Hispanic community is growing and they are raising future American people. They have children here — four or five kids — and they are staying behind and living here. We do what we can to work with Catholic Charities to help them become legal citizens.”The sisters live under the example of St. Francis of Assisi, maintaining a joyful and humble attitude. The baptism of a child, the sacrament of matrimony and prayerfully celebrating a quinceañera are joyful moments for the sisters.“Our population is growing so quickly that we have gone from having pre-baptism classes on one Saturday a month to now having them four Saturdays a month,” said Sr. Emma, who estimated that the Hispanic population has doubled in the past eight years. “I enjoy the small groups because they are easier to talk with the people, but now with 120 people coming on a Saturday, I have to use Power Point for the classes; it has really changed a lot.”Major changes in the migrant community are the increasing numbers who have decided to remain despite legal difficulties, language barriers and large families to support. According to Fr. Zapata, who spends many hours in his car driving to several communities in the state each week, the Hispanics appreciate encouragement and take their Catholic faith seriously.“Usually I will go to their homes and bring one or two of the sisters with me. We encourage them and bring Catholicism to the people and they are very happy when we do this,” he said.Quiet, shy, and seemingly concerned with her broken English, Sr. Mercy beams when she speaks of the house blessings.“We go into the people’s homes, and will go with Sr. Graciella to pray for the people,” she said. “Usually there will be 10-15 people in the homes; sometimes we pray a rosary and they are very happy when we come to do that.”Managing the office, located on the grounds of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Delavan, Sr. Monica is in her third year doing receptionist duties, providing information on religious education, parish registration, and helping to alleviate any problems that may arise.“We have someone here to answer the phone in the office every single day,” she said. “We don’t always have enough room because our office is located in part of the church’s school, but we do what we can here. I answer lots of questions about baptisms, confessions, Mass, vocations and about Catholicism.”Legal issues present difficultiesAdmittedly, the most difficult aspect of their work are the legal issues, said a visibly shaken Sr. Emma, while recalling a recent incident where a Mexican mother was deported while her young child remained in the United States. “It is so sad for the child,” she said, wiping a tear. “The mother was deported and the child will be here until he can go to Mexico to visit his mom. We see this type of thing all the time here.”Working side by side with Catholic Charities, the missionary team helps the immigrants to procure drivers’ licenses, legal documents, and to learn English. The free classes are often a difficult sell though, as the Hispanics are often afraid to attend because they worry about not having proper documentation.“Gateway offers the classes for free, but people don’t want to take them because they think they have to have immigration papers,” Sr. Emma said, “But most of the time, they will ask for only a Social Security number and most of the workers already have numbers.”Despite the difficulty and frustration with the legalization of the older workers, the missionary sisters realize that the future lies with the youth. Children born of the migrant workers will not have to endure the red tape as they are citizens through birth.The sisters believe that when the youth are made to feel part of the church, they will take responsibility, question and prepare themselves for the great challenges facing them. They hope to educate children, youth and families in social justice, religious formation, sacraments, devotions and cultural celebrations.Preparing children to sing and participate in Mass is rewarding for Sr. Mercy and Sr. Graciella, and gives them hope for the future of the church.“We meet with the children every week to practice a song for Mass, and then will teach them how to pray in the Mass,” said Sr. Mercy.
By Karen Mahoney Special to your Catholic Herald
MILWAUKEE —While becoming a nun might not be every little girl’s dream, it is for Waukesha native Katy LaFond. At a time when other women are becoming doctors, senators, lawyers and CEOs, Sr. Katy, wants to be a bride of Christ. At 27 years old, Sr. Katy not only joined the small army of young women who are replenishing the ranks of women religious, sparking a resurgence in religious life not seen for decades, she is also the youngest in her order in the entire country. On Aug. 11, she professed her first vows as a School Sister of St. Francis at the order’s headquarters on South Layton Blvd. From average teen to religious lifeDeciding to join the order was easy for Sr. Katy, who became friends with the sisters while attending Alverno College, sponsored by the School Sisters of St. Francis. “It was when I got to know our sisters at a deeper level that I started being ‘tugged by God’ and some of the sisters into the direction of religious life,” she said. “Their ministry, lifestyle, and spirituality really connected with me at a deep level. My discernment was bumpy at times, I’d waver between ‘Yes, this is it’ and ‘absolutely not’ often. But something inside of me wouldn’t go away.... I had the definite feeling that God was calling me ‘home’ to be with my sisters and the SSSF congregation.”Sr. Katy, whose direct manner and ready laughter are disarming, would have you believe that her transformation from attractive, athletic and average teen to the religious life was anything but dramatic. “I have always felt a connection to God, even when I was quite young,” she said. “I knew that a relationship with God and my faith and spirituality was important. I was the student in class who wouldn’t take ‘because I said so’ or ‘that’s what our faith teaches us’ for an answer. I was inquisitive and interested in this God presence in my life. At a very young age, I was aware of justice issues and people in need. I knew I wanted to serve in some capacity and often would converse with God when I was struggling with something and like most adolescents; I struggled with my faith and did some exploring. I had a profound experience on my confirmation retreat in which I made a conscious commitment to the Catholic faith.”The eldest of three children, Sr. Katy attended the school of her home parish, St. William, Waukesha, through fifth grade, and continued with St. Joseph School through eighth grade. In high school, she served on the youth board for the parish and became involved as a cantor and youth leader. Following confirmation, she taught religious education and was a confirmation youth leader, and later, an adult leader. While working toward her education degree at Alverno College, Sr. Katy began discerning the call to becoming a School Sister of St. Francis. Their mission, charisms and spirituality drew her to the international order. “We have provinces in the United States, Latin America, Europe, North India and South India,” Sr. Katy said. “I have had a relationship with this community since I was 10 years old — it is a perfect fit for me and where I am being called.”Decision surprised family, friendsFamily and friends were taken aback at Sr. Katy’s revelation that she was planning to become a nun; Sr. Katy diffused the initial skepticism with ease.“They said, ‘You’re gonna be a what?’” laughed Sr. Katy, as she explained overcoming the Pre-Vatican II stereotypes. “I remind people that I am choosing religious life because I feel called and committed as an expression of myself. I can be most fully me and most fully alive when I am with my sisters and following my mission in life as a School Sister. I think some of the apprehension was that I would be stifled and or asked to compromise my energy and spirit, but that is the exact opposite of my experiences as a woman religious and School Sister of St. Francis.”Young women discerning their life journey might be surprised to learn that oday’s sisters have more freedom to choose how they live out their vocation than nuns of earlier generations. While Sr. Katy serves as the principal of Holy Trinity School in Kewaskum; she is also active in sports, reading, cooking, dancing, singing, games and loves to attend movies. She also loves to blog.One Fun Nun shares life, humorSr. Katy’s blogsite, “The Adventures of ‘One Fun Nun’