|1/29/2007 12:00:00 PM||Email this article • Print this article|
Burmese refugees settle into home in Kenosha
Pleasant Prairie parish helps family adjust to new life
By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
KENOSHA - The sight of a birthday cake surrounded by a dozen or so guests singing "Happy Birthday" appeared to puzzle 24-year-old Tin Win. Growing a year older in his native Burma is nothing special for the Karen people who treat the juncture as any other day. Celebrating alongside him was his son, Hsa Mya Way, (pronounced Chahm Yah Wee), marking his first birthday. The two blew out candles Nov. 2 in their Kenosha apartment with family and new friends from St. Anne Catholic Church in Pleasant Prairie and Wesley United Methodist Church in Kenosha.
The celebration was a stark contrast from the bitter life they recently left, living in Suan Pheung, Thailand, a cramped Burmese refugee camp for the past seven years.
Most refugees like Tin Win, his wife, Bway Paw 'Way' Win, and their baby are accustomed to noise coming through their shelter's bamboo walls and floors, from the sounds of gunfire ricocheting to the voices of soldiers threatening to break into the camp.
They are unaccustomed to the stillness, but they are happily adjusting.
"We are happy here," said bright-eyed Bway Paw in broken English, while scooping Hsa Mya Way into her arms. "It not difficult here."
Now, as Myanmar, also known as Burma, seethes with pro-democracy protests and violence, Tin Win and his family are safe. Their departure coincided with a September demonstration by more than 500 Buddhist monks who marched past barricades to the home of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, bringing pressure on the junta by symbolically linking their growing protest movement with the icon of Myanmar's long struggle for democracy.
For five days, the monks marched in Myanmar's largest cities and around the country as a month of protests against economic problems under the junta rule grew into the largest grassroots challenge to its rule in two decades.
Through the help of Lutheran Social Services Refugee and Immigrant Services, the family was granted refuge in the United States and local churches such as St. Anne, Wesley UMC, St. Mary Lutheran in Kenosha, and the Kenosha Rotary Club sponsored the family. They are the third in their family to arrive in Kenosha this year.
Tragedy struck soon after arrival
In March, St. Mary Lutheran sponsored Thongchai, his wife, Hser Moo, and daughters Htee Yepaw, age 21, Hay Tharler, 6, and Hay Lermu, 3. Three months after arriving in Kenosha, a bus killed Thongchai as he crossed a busy Kenosha street.
Not long after Thongchai's family arrived, St. Mary Lutheran discovered there were still two more daughters and their families living in the refugee camp. Wesley United Methodist agreed to sponsor the third oldest daughter, Kawmupaw, 19, and her husband Rambo, 20, who are expecting their first child in March.
Kawmupaw and Rambo Thein arrived the day before Thongchai's funeral. According to Becky Schwantes, coordinator for the St. Anne's refugee family, at the funeral, a member of the Rotary Club was so touched by the family's story that they wanted to help in some way.
"St. Mary Lutheran asked St. Anne Catholic Church to co-sponsor the final family members with Rotary and serve as the hands, feet, and companions of this ministry," she said, adding that Tin Win's family arrived Sept. 18. "St. Anne's received a $1,500 grant from the Rotary Club of Western Kenosha to help fund part of their resettlement fees."
In 2000, Thongchai, Hser Moo and their children lived in constant fear of death and starvation in Myanmar, a country wracked by military dictatorship, religious persecution and civil war. Typically, according to the UN Security Council, Burmese troops force Karen civilians to relocate to villages under their control. Old villages are burned and land-mined to prevent villagers from returning. Forced labor is demanded for months at a time and many who try to leave are shot. Without access to their farms, many Karen suffer severe food shortages.
Myanmar's ruling junta has been in control since 1988, but has not been able to quell the ethnic Karen movement, which has long sought an independent homeland.
One day in 2000, Thongchai and Hser Moo grabbed a few possessions and took their children on a long walk from their home in Tavoy, Myanmar/Burma through the mountains and jungles to the refugee camp in Suan Pheung. Along the way, their only son died from the strain of the journey.
Finally, they reached the camp on the Thai border and joined more than 150,000 other Burmese residents looking for a way out of the country.
Left behind were the bulk of their belongings and their memories.
Communication is limited
Learning about the families, their history and needs is a bit difficult as communication is limited. Finding people to translate is also difficult as there are only two professional Karen interpreters in the United States.
"So we spend much of our time playing charades and simply do not have answers for some questions," Schwantes said. "They are learning, but they are only really able to articulate basic needs such as 'go shopping,' 'baby sick,' or 'no work.' They will politely answer 'yes' or 'OK' to your questions because they do not understand what you are asking and do not want to be rude. They are very proud of being Catholic, but they do not understand this word yet."
Flanked by volunteers from the three Kenosha churches, the family is learning much about American culture, weather, foods, and language, and especially something as innocuous as procuring a Social Security card, when you are not accustomed to having a first and last name.
"Using her husband's second name, 'Win' is still rather confusing for Bway Paw Way Win since the Karen culture does not use last names or change names at marriage," said Schwantes. "But it came on all the documents that she had so the international refugee agency that helped prepare them in Thailand knew that she would need to use this name. Her husband, Tin Win, goes by his full name at all times since they do not have last names and his first name is really just 'Tin Win.' Their 1-year-old son, Has Mya Way, has his mother's last name 'Way' for his last name. He was born in the Thailand refugee camp in Suan Pheung."
Volunteer finds fulltime need
Fr. Donald Thimm, pastor of St. Anne Parish, asked Schwantes, who has a degree in social work, to coordinate the volunteer efforts at the parish. It was a voluntary position that quickly became full time.
"We began furnishing the Win family apartment, which they share with Bway Paw's sister and her husband Kawmupaw and Rambo Thein," said Schwantes. "Since the day they arrived, we have been helping them get connected with services, English classes, accompany them to the bank, shopping, doctors' appointments, social activities, Mass and other events. We help them in any other way we can. Essentially, I am on call 24 hours a day, because they do not have a car or know how to drive so we need to take them everywhere. The majority of what the volunteers spend their time doing is transporting the family from place to place. We have had a lot of fun, in the midst of some very real work."
For St. Anne parishioner, Joan Nunamaker, assisting with the family is a chance to understand and empathize all that her grandparents endured when they immigrated to the United States.
"I have helped to drive them around a few places, and it is so cool that I get to be a part of this," she said. "My grandparents came here from Europe and back then, I don't know how much help they had. I can just imagine how scared they were though, and with these families, they are leaving a totally different type of culture to come here. In some way, I feel like I am helping my grandparents through helping them."
The best aspect of volunteering is the opportunity to witness the family spending time together, said Linda Strauss, member of St. Anne.
"Seeing them all together is amazing, and we have the third family here, so they are all together now," she said. "Our whole church is involved; we have taken them to Mass and everyone has been welcoming to them. I feel that we are doing what Jesus would want us to do and help people - and we would have helped them regardless if they were Catholic or not. That is who we are called to be as Catholics - to help where help is needed."
Volunteers act in spirit of solidarity
Most edifying for Schwantes is the overwhelming and joyful willingness of the many volunteers in helping to resettle these families into American culture.
"I feel very privileged to know them and am thankful to the many people at St. Anne, St. Mary Lutheran Church, Wesley United Methodist Church, Lutheran Social Services, the various Kenosha social service agencies and government offices we work with, the tutors of English, and the people at doctor's offices who have patiently and lovingly cared for these families," she said. "Though not all of them are Christian, they have each answered the call to care for the most vulnerable and act in a spirit of solidarity."
- By Karen Mahoney
Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I believe in spending all the money you have, especially on dolls and doll clothes and doll food and accessories! I don’t believe in hoarding it. One of my uncles did that, and then his siblings FOUGHT over the money. They accused my parents of visiting him while he was alive, in order to get more money out of him. This happened a few years ago, and I came to my senses and realized that most people, family or not, are exceedingly SELFISH and all they want is your money!
My parents helped this uncle out so much. He never paid them. I always felt so bad for my mom, as she really loved her brother, and she helped him out of love, not for any money! In the end, because the will had mysteriously disappeared, a lawyer handled the estate and everyone got the same amount, even a niece of one of the dead brothers. She got the same as my mom, which isn’t really fair, but then, there was no will.
Moral of the story: ENJOY your money while you have it. Don’t leave it to your kids!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Nov. 27, 2007
Projected costs would range from $7,000 to $10,000
SILVER LAKE - Projected costs for a two-year audit of the Community Library's financial system are loosely estimated to range from $7,000 to $10,000, an accountant told the Library Board Monday night.
The price tag, revealed by Kathryn Andrea, certified public accountant for Andrea & Orendorff, was part of a report on the library's financial statements prepared by the accounting firm. The report came on the heels of a request for an audit of the system's financial records after an initial appeal by the Randall Town Board.
Shirley Boening, president of the Library Board, emphasized her willingness to cooperate with the growing interest among the five supporting municipalities to conduct an audit.
"I think we should accept the financial review as presented, and I think we need to put the audit on the December agenda," she said. "We were ready to do an audit last June, but we were told by Bradley (Potter of Andrea & Orendorff) that because our books were intact and because we were doing a good job that we didn't need an audit. But we will put this on the December agenda and go from there.
"It has been my goal since 1977 to have the library accepted into the community and to be a financially sound and contributing entity in the community, and that's how I want it to stand."
In a letter to all five supporting municipalities, Andrea recommended the audit or a yearly review to communicate to the public about the library's funding sources and fiscal responsibility.
Although the Randall Town Board has requested to choose the auditing firm, Andrea said that since her firm already serves the library, as well as the villages of Paddock Lake and Silver Lake, the town of Somers and other factions within the county, it is prepared and willing to provide future services for the Community Library.
"We have significant experience in governmental accounting and auditing in the area and hope we can be considered for these services," she said. "The whole environment has changed since Enron and what happens to government money.
"You are probably thinking of library programs, but people don't really think about accounting until something happens. It is better to be on the offensive, especially since you are using levy dollars to use for the programs."
While the Library Board and Director Mary Ellen Close voiced support for an audit, Salem resident Linda Valentine said the price is not an optimal use for her tax dollars.
"I think that the municipalities who are wanting this audit should have to pay for it out of their own funds," she said. "I see in the paper that Randall is giving the most grief about things that they don't feel are exactly right, but if you look at the proportion of tax support, Randall's is pretty small compared to what we pay in Salem.
"I pay a lot of money each year for our taxes, and I don't want our money spent on an audit when those boards could just come down here and look at the records themselves, after all the books are open to everyone, so I don't know why we have to pay this just to confirm that what you are doing is OK."
Saturday, November 24, 2007
There is a song written in 1972 entitled “We are the Church” by Richard Avery and Donald Marsh. The first verse is as follows:
“The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is a people. I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together! All who follow Jesus, all around the world; yes we are the church together.’
Kenosha County is home to wonderful church buildings; both historic and modern. There are also wonderful temples, mosques and spiritual homes belonging to other faith traditions in our community.
In larger cities throughout the United States, many church buildings house more than one faith group to combine resources, reduce facility costs and to be a living witness to true collaboration. Locally, Sharon Fellowship Church already grasps this concept; for nearly two years, they’ve opened their doors and worshipped under the same roof as True Life Christian Center.
Distinctively different congregations, both might seem worlds apart. One is mostly white and similar to most non-denominational Spirit-filled Christian churches. The other is Christian, but members are predominantly from India. But their bond as Christians is more than enough to overcome any superficial differences, stated Scott Goroski, pastor of True Life Christian Center.
“It is wonderful to see a church who is not threatened by another church, perhaps seeing it as competition,” said Goroski. “They are sincerely interested in furthering the kingdom of God, not just their church.”
While many immigrants and those carrying on religious traditions, such as the Christians belonging to Sharon Fellowship often face cultural barriers which make it impossible to join English-speaking congregations, it did not stop its members from welcoming Goroski and his congregation to share their sacred space.
“They are a church who wants to do their part in reaching the community with the gospel, but realize, being an Indian church—that there is a cultural barrier,” said Goroski. “Their services are both in English and Malayalam languages. They are making a difference in the community by ministering in area nursing homes and one of their board members ministers in the Kenosha jails. They also participate in food drives and various outreaches, and they looked at the prospect of allowing us to use their facility as another opportunity to reach out to the city of Kenosha.”
The small congregation has more than doubled in size since it offered its first worship service on the first Saturday in January 2006. And while Goroski and his wife Lisa are pleased with the numerical growth; their primary focus centers on the spiritual fruits of their congregation.
“My wife and I are very proud of the way our people eagerly accept the Word of God and allow it to transform the way they think and live their lives,” he said. “We are all being transformed into the image of God’s dear Son by the truth of His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Because Sharon Fellowship uses their facility for Sunday worship services, True Life opted to worship on Saturday evenings, which coincided perfectly with Goroski’s non-traditional approach to ministry.
“Occasionally, we do use the building in addition to Saturdays for special meetings and events,” he said. “Sharon Fellowship has been very accommodating toward us. As long as they do not have a scheduled meeting, they allow us the use of the building.”
Although the two congregations have little opportunity to merge events and services, each pastor will preach during the other congregation’s services from time to time. Last Saturday, November 3, Jiju Oommen, Sharon Fellowship pastor spoke during the True Life service.
“Both our congregations have great love and appreciation for one another,” said Goroski. “We always love to see their smiling faces and they always treat us with love and honor. The people of SFC will always hold a special place in our heart.”
When possible, Goroski will attend one of Sharon Fellowship services and each time he does, he said he feels like a member of their family.
“We see ourselves as children of God regardless of race or culture,” he said. “That’s the way Christianity is meant to be. Even though I belong to a different local church, we are still part of the one and same universal church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Although True Life takes a non-traditional approach to ministry, such as relaxed dress, and a loose, Spirit-led format, Goroski is serious about allowing the Holy Spirit the most freedom during their weekly services.
“We do place an emphasis on heart engaged worship and scriptural teaching,” he said. “I believe it is possible to plan the Holy Spirit right out of a service and we never want to do that.”
Beginning with an active children’s ministry, run by Goroski’s wife Lisa, True Life’s goal is to serve God faithfully with pure motives and excellence. It is their hope that members and visitors will grow into a rich and close relationship with God.
“As the people grow spiritually, they will become a greater influence for God in their personal world and as a result bring increase to the Kingdom of God,” he said. “We know God has a purpose for every person. All Christians have been given spiritual gifts from the Lord. One of our goals is to help people recognize and grow in these gifts. These people will then take positions in the ministry serving from a place of desire and grace opposed to mere work.”
For More Information
True Life Christian Center
5404 67th Street
Pastor Scott Goroski
Services on Saturdays at 4 p.m.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Thanksgiving in Kenosha
Thanksgiving is America’s significant national holiday, a tapestry of woven customs, some with patterns drawn from history and hearth, some with symbols derived from legend and retail.
And here in the city and the county, it all comes together. Here are elegant city streets that shelter customs spanning centuries-and here are expansive subdivisions where two generations are enough to create a family tradition.
Thanksgiving in Kenosha is formed by European descendants and urban sprawl-but also by more recent immigrants to these grounds, who have been adding their views to the kaleidoscopic holiday for many years.
All the panels of the Thanksgiving tapestry can be found here—a distinct faith and cultural tradition giving new designs to the old Thanksgiving ritual of saying prayers of gratitude.
The first Thanksgiving was in 1621, one year after the pilgrims landed on the Massachusetts coast. It was intended as thanks to God for an abundant harvest and to the native Indian people who taught the settlers how to farm in a new land.
Saying grace is widely believed to have been part of this multicultural, multi-belief event. And although we don’t know what form it took in 1621, today most of us think of grace as people gathered around the food-laden table, joining hands, bowing heads and expressing thanks aloud or in silence.
While giving thanks for an abundant harvest may not be the practice of most who sit down for turkey dinner, giving thanks for our blessings is an appropriate practice on Thanksgiving day, and any other day, according to Pastor Todd Cook, of Community Baptist Church 4609-38th Street, Kenosha.
“I like to see people be thankful all year round and recognize that Thanksgiving should be a family thing,” he said, adding, “I hope that they recognize that God is the source of all things and that their thanks should be directed towards him.”
While Cook encourages the faithful to attend Thanksgiving worship services, volunteer time and finances for others, the primary focus should be on God.
“He needs to be the most important thing in their life and then their actions need to support that belief attitude,” he said. “Treating others respectfully is a good way to show that attitude.”
For Fr. James Braun, pastor of St. Matthews Episcopal Church 5900-7th Ave, the thanksgiving is in the daily appreciation for all of life’s blessings and to carry that knowledge in all things.
“I personally think that people should stop every day and do a little personal reflection time and think about our blessings and what we received and be thankful for all of that,” he said. “In our Episcopal tradition, we have little blue boxes that we use for a thank offering. The idea is to put in your loose pocket change, pause and say a little prayer to thank God for what He has given you. We turn that money in twice a year and from these coins they give out grants and for various activities that are quite substantial, they include a broad spectrum of activities for people in the community and that is one way we practice our Thanksgiving.”
One way to share the feeling of gratitude towards others is to participate in a community wide Thanksgiving dinner, such as the annual gathering at First United Methodist Church, 919 -60th Street. The dinner runs from noon to 3 p.m. in Strom Hall. According to Pastor Linda Farmer Lewis, there is no reason that anyone should be alone or friendless on Thanksgiving Day.
“We will give you all of those things, and have people lining up to share with us in community spirit,” she said. “It is a good time to take a pause and consider what a high price our freedom has been bought. We have endured two world wars, a revolution and with all that is going on in our world today it’s important to think about our precious freedom and think about Pakistan and other places where democracy is not practiced.”
Beyond the concerns with loved ones at war, the financial and familial struggles, Farmer-Lewis encourages those who struggle to focus on the grace of God, which is what she strives to do.
“I am most grateful for the grace that Jesus really does hold,” she said. “His grace is sufficient for me. In a moment of trial, I say this is going to be sufficient for me and I know that this is true and sufficient and trustworthy. Everything else flows from that.”
Inviting another family to your home for dinner is an honorable way to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, stated Pastor Dave Mobile, LakePointe Church, Bristol. He added that the holiday is more than just turkey and popcorn and is a time to share with those who many be lonely, rejected or with no place to go.
“We need to celebrate our thankfulness all the time in all that we do,” he said. “I look to Jesus who reached out to the people who were left out all the time. He told the story of the Good Samaritan and was very gentle when he forgave people for serious sin and didn’t yell at them. The woman caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus and stood before a multitude of men. Yet Jesus said that the one who was without sin should cast the first stone and they dropped their rocks. They all left and he forgave her and told her not to sin again. We still have rejects in our society and they feel left out and if Jesus were here, he would include them too.”
Putting their beliefs into practice, LakePointe is hosting a Thanksgiving meal tomorrow at Bristol Town Hall at 4 p.m. The dinner is free and open to the public. Mobile looks forward to what he hopes will become an annual event.
“I look forward to seeing people with a feeling of thankfulness, sharing what they have with others,” he said.
Holy Rosary Students Make Rosaries for the Troops
Some kids are hooked on the internet. Some can’t keep their hands away from Nintendo, Playstation, or other television games.
Breanna Bindelli’s passion is creating rosaries.
The thirteen-year-old student from Our Lady of the Holy Rosary School creates rosaries as part of an eighth grade class project to create rosaries for the U.S. Armed forces serving overseas.
“This gets really addicting,” she exclaimed. “I love making them so much, I just can’t stop.”
At first it wasn’t easy for Bindelli, a member of Sr. Lucille Ann Puntillo’s religion class to assemble the nylon cord, black plastic beads and a crucifix into something U.S. troops could hold onto.
After struggling through her own initial clumsiness to learn from Mary Messerlie, a parishioner who rapidly moves her fingers to tie knots and string beds, she now keeps up, with making a rosary in just 15 minutes.
“When I first started it took me a whole class period, or 50 minutes to make one,” Bindelli said. “I have made 12 already, so I am getting better at it.”
Bindelli enjoys the project so much, she takes her beads home with her, and even got her nine year old sister, Diana hooked on the idea.
“Her Girl Scout troop is making them too and they are pretty excited,” she said.
The class goal is to make 1000 rosaries that they hope will be a source of strength for military personnel.
Sr. Puntillo’s class is part of a growing volunteer movement of people working through church groups, school classes and scouting troops, or just sitting home alone, to make military rosaries.
The rosaries are designed for the conditions of military service; inconspicuous, quiet, durable and lightweight.
So far, she and members of the eighth grade class have made a few dozen of the black rosaries, but by year’s end plan to have at least 1000 to send to a military base in South Korea.
Our Lady’s Rosary Makers in Louisville, Kentucky, has become the supplier of the braided cord and rosary kits used by members of the parish and supplemented by donations stated Messerlie who has enjoyed a life long devotion to Our Blessed Mother.
“They are cheap to make, but are only to be given away and not sold,” she explained. “Our church rosary group has made over 2400 of them and we keep some in the back of church or send them off to missions. I love spreading my devotion to Mary, and have always been known as a Marian lady who carried a rosary around.”
Last year’s religion class sent boxes with non-perishable food items, toiletries and letters for the troops. This year, they wanted to do something a bit different and asked Sr. Lucille about making the rosaries.
Having created rosaries with Messerlie for many years, Sr. Lucille approached the woman with the class request, all the while knowing that her answer would be yes.
“She has many family members who serve in the military,” she said. “I just knew that she would be thrilled to work with my students.”
Indeed, with two sons, a daughter, son-in-law, and daughter-in-law involved in active duty, making rosaries for members of the military is a tangible and prayerful way for Messerlie to help the troops while helping her deal with the uncertainties of war.
“My kids grew up with rosaries, so I sent some over to give out to the chaplains on their bases,” she said. “Making them is a way for me to handle what is going on. I often go to Mass and say prayers for all of them, but then I just dump it all in the Lord’s hands, give it to him and tell my kids to pray.”
In appreciation for her children and the countless others who put their lives on the line each day, Messerlie is happy to work with the class in making the lightweight, black, plastic rosaries. The resulting rosary is lightweight and doesn’t rattle or reflect light. It is too small to be placed around the neck, which might cause a choking hazard, and small enough to fit easily in a pocket.
“We will be sending the rosaries to the Chaplain serving at my daughter-in-law’s military base in South Korea, the priest already knows they are coming and is so excited that he sent the students a thank you note already,” exclaimed Messerlie. “People should know about our strong military Archdiocese and how much we need them and that our chaplains are supplied through that Archdiocese. We are short of them and need more to help with the spiritual aspect for these young men and women serving our country.”
Students hope that soldiers will feel a sense of gratitude that someone had thought to bring together two things that mean a lot to these servicemen and women, their life in the military and secondly, their faith. The realization for 13-year-old Nick Llanas is that his father would have appreciated such a gesture during each of his three tours overseas.
“My father just got out of the military, but he had been in for 25 years,” he said. “He was in Baghdad, Kuwait and Afghanistan….I was always worried when he was gone.”
Despite his initial difficulty in properly tying the knots while remembering where to place each bead, Llanas plans to continue until he perfects the technique and meets his goal because the results are worth it.
“It means a lot to me to do this because I know that soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq really need these,” he said. “I know they will probably pray them a lot because their lives are in danger and it will give them a lot of comfort. I also know the rosaries will go to someone who needs them.”
Bindelli agreed and explained that she often visualizes the recipient while she is creating her rosary.
“Sister always tells us stories about the soldiers while we are making them,” she disclosed. “That helps me because I can almost see them praying on it and how happy that they will be that we made a rosary for them.”
While no one is certain whether the 18 or 19 year old soldiers will be interested in praying the rosary, it will be a tangible reminder that they are cared for and that someone loves them, according to the students. Sr. Puntillo is especially optimistic as to the reaction of the soldiers, especially after a surprise visit by a couple of Tremper High School Students.
“Word got out that we were making these rosaries,” she said. “One day a couple of high school boys stopped in because one wanted to know if he could have a rosary for his grandmother. I was so touched and so happy to give him one—see, you just never know who you are going to reach.”
Monday, November 19, 2007
It was going to be a nice boring day---boring and productive.
I heard a noise, turned around and saw Blaise standing in the doorway in his bathrobe.
"Can you check my heart rate------I think I am in afib again."
One quick listen to his pulsating chest confirmed my worst fears. I was not going to Hobby Lobby today. I was not doing laundry, baking, cooking or writing my stories--my day would be spent in the hospital.
After about an hour in the cardiologist's office, they transfered us to our favorite suite in the ICU and about an hour later, gave Blaise his third cardioversion.
They say third time's a charm, right?
Well, now we have to deal with an abnormal heart rate and will be going back to the electrophysiologist to see about another coronary ablation or some implantable device.
So, Friday it is more blood work.
Tuesday, an appointment with the electrophysiologist.
Tomorrow---we will try for boring.
That's how we spent our Monday......how was your day?
Thursday, November 15, 2007
By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
MILWAUKEE - Representatives at a Black Catholic Summit for the Milwaukee Archdiocese say they still face many of the same issues their ancestors tackled more than a century ago. They want an end to discrimination in churches and schools, acceptance of blacks at the highest levels of parish leadership, recognition of their gifts by a faith they feel has often dismissed their concerns, more evangelization in black communities and an understanding and respect for African history.
"Africa is in our midst," said Victor I. Nwagbaraocha of All Saints Parish, Milwaukee. "We need to continue what Br. Booker Ashe started. We need to utilize our African resources and bring the cultural issue to church in order to educate all Catholics about the history of black Catholics. We have a growing and enthusiastic faith in Africa."
Nwagbaraocha was one of approximately 40 multi-parish representatives at the Nov. 2 summit. The meeting at St. Martin de Porres Parish marked the first time the area's black Catholics have joined together in Milwaukee, and was the culmination of several mini-summits offered in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties during the past few months.
The objective for the summit was to celebrate black history and the contributions blacks have made to the Catholic Church, as well as to set goals and expectations.
Listening and responding to the aspirations of the group, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan was encouraging, but candid when asked about resources to fund lectures, ministerial development programs and additional education.
"I serve you best if I am blunt with you," said a somber Archbishop Dolan. "Your questions seemed predicated by the assumption that the archdiocese has a lot of money. I have to tell you that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is decimated. We have no money; we have a small staff and we aren't all in the best of shape either. I would be fibbing if I told you I'd give you funds, but I promised you I would be honest."
The archbishop assured the participants that once funds from the Faith in Our Future capital campaign begins to replenish the diocese, money would be set aside for various black ministries.
Members of the summit, organized by African American ministry consultant Schauneille Allen, focused on the Eight Principals of the Black Catholic Congress: spirituality, parish life, youth and young adults, Catholic education, social justice, racism, Africa and HIV/AIDS.
"We wanted to have the opportunity to share with the archbishop the hopes, dreams and concerns that we have as a Catholic population in the diocese," she said. "The archbishop asked for this summit, which was predicated on a letter that was sent by the Black Catholic Ministry Office Commission last year. A letter was sent to the archbishop with concerns around some of the things being observed in terms of the support of the black Catholic ministry office."
While the summit included representatives from several Milwaukee churches, such as All Saints, St. Francis, and St. Martin de Porres, presence from the Kenosha and Racine communities was noticeably lacking. Considering the attendance at the Nov. 10 summit, Allen was not surprised.
"It is difficult to get the word out in the Kenosha and Racine area, because the black Catholics are very spread out," she said. "There are no predominantly black Catholic parishes in the southern part of the diocese. We have to rely on bulletin announcements and pulpit announcements so it is difficult to get people together."
The group has among its objectives to make clear the need for black Catholics to be included in the strategic plans of the archdiocese, find ways to increase participation in local parishes and provide an opportunity for Catholics throughout southeastern Wisconsin to continue to share ideas.
While Archbishop Dolan stated his support for leadership programs, such as the Booker Ashe Lay Ministry Program among the black Catholics, he stressed the importance of networking some ministries with those in the white population.
"There is wisdom in independence, but if we could mesh some of the programs it might be easier for you to find success in these areas," he said. "I hope you would welcome both white and black Catholics to these programs. For instance, it might be easier for you to work with the John Paul II Center and combine some ministerial efforts with the Lifelong Faith Formation."
Ensuing discussion urged an affordable Catholic school system, a stronger youth ministry, retaining the black identity, as well as implementing methods to encourage vocations and lay involvement.
"This is a very high priority for us," said Archbishop Dolan, "and the vocations office is aggressive in working toward religious vocations among black Catholics."
Retaining black identity lies within the Catholic schools, especially within predominantly black neighborhoods, agreed Archbishop Dolan, who referenced the state-funded School Choice program as a temptation to marginalize the Catholic identity.
"Do you know that 90 percent of the kids attending our Catholic schools are not Catholic, thanks to School Choice?" he asked. "Many may think there is no use pushing a Catholic identity because of this and that we should soft pedal religion. I say, 'Baloney!' If you ask the parents of these kids why they send them to our schools, it is because they want what we have to offer. The parents want prayer, value, liturgy, morality, character and virtue for their children."
The archbishop said he would support marriage preparation sensitive to black families and education of all clergy and parishes about the African-American experience. What he does not comprehend, he said, is the unwillingness among some members of the black community to accept priests from varying African cultures.
"Diversity in African communities is something new for us," he said. "We have white diversity, too, but yours is harder to trace families back to. We have priests coming here from Africa, but some may tell me, 'Oh, we do want an African priest, but we don't want one from the Congo.' You have your own tensions and suspicions within. We did, too. We had Italian and German tension early on. And history is repeating itself, but I may caution you to welcome the priests we get because the Catholic faith is growing in Africa and if you want the faith to grow here, we have to welcome the Catholic priests we are blessed enough to get."
The archbishop noted that when his great-great grandparents arrived in the United States from Ireland, the first place they went was church.
"Hopefully, it will be the same with the African community that the first place they will come, will be to our churches," he said.
Participants also urged the church to work for broader change which would encourage more Mass participation and attendance among its black members and new Catholic African immigrants.
According to Allen, many newer members are not going to confession because they are uncomfortable confessing in a language unfamiliar to them.
"And then, they are not going to holy Communion, because they have not gone to confession," she said. "We are losing many of our members because some of the Protestant churches have African ministries and are speaking their language. It is both surprising and sad."
A few participants, such as Cecilia Smith-Robertson of All Saints Parish, also looked to themselves for a portion of the blame.
"We all have a responsibility to preserve our black history," she said. "Yes, we do not have enough presence in our parish boards, but unless we are proud to be called Catholic, it isn't going to happen. The rest of our community needs to respect our history, but shame on anyone who says they do not want a specific African priest; all are welcome. There is a part for all of us; we are universal and that's what we are as Catholics."
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Friday, November 9, 2007
Women of World War II
By Karen Mahoney
Shoes and purses are the hardest to find.
When female soldiers returned home from World War II, they continued to wear their shoes and carry their purses until they were worn clean though.
But in six years of collecting memorabilia from the second world war, Sandra and Jamie Faulkner have come across boots, gloves uniforms, posters, photos, recruiting materials, medals and thousands of other fragile reminders of battle, all of which they have used to create a mini museum in their home.
The giant movable display, organized neatly into the smallest bedroom in their Racine neighborhood is dedicated to the veterans, like their grandparents who fought, and the children Sandy says need to know about their battles.
“We are losing our war veterans each day and the stories are lost with the veterans,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of women’s oral history and I want people to know what the women went through and that our lives wouldn’t be what they are today without our women—I do believe that we would not have won the war without the help of the women.”
Sandy, a Special Education teacher at Racine’s Jerstad Agerholm Middle School and Jamie who served in the US Army in the 1980’s, recently brought part of their display to the “Honoring Women Veterans” event at the Municipal building in Rochester. Once or twice a year, the couple brings their entire collection into public view, a feat which amasses 65 feet of banquet tables and requires four and a half hours to set up.
“My husband built big racks for our display, which includes 125 hangers for the uniforms,” she said. “Usually when we bring the entire collection, it is for a fundraiser such as the one we do on ‘Reclaiming our Heritage’ in Milwaukee, each year. That one raises money for renovating Soldiers Home.”
Although Jamie was an active participant in battle reenactment and a self described history buff, the massive display, noted as the largest in the country, was inspired by a Christmas gift to Sandy one year.
“He bought me a set of reproduction woman’s army fatigues and that got me started in collecting WAC uniforms, other military uniforms and civilian stuff,” she said, adding, “The civilian women did so much, such as bond drives, fundraisings, knitting socks and making stuff for the soldiers.”
Women have been involved in all of America’s wars, but World War II proved to be a groundbreaking event, opening a host of professional opportunities that had not yet been available. At the urging of female leaders, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Congresswoman Margaret Chase Smith and with the support of General George Marshall, Congress passed legislation creating the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in May 1942. Two months later, the Navy followed suit with the establishment of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). Soon after, the Cost Guard created the SPAR women’s reserve unit; in February 1943, the Marine Corps established the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve (MCWR).
More than 350,000 women served in uniform during the war, most of them in clerical and other support capacities. In other instances, women were allowed to be instructors to male recruits in such areas as operating vehicles, firing machine guns, and training pilots.
One of the most significant initiatives during the war was the creation of the WASP, Women’s’ Airforce Service Pilots Program. According to Sandy, 25,000 women applied for the program, 1839 were accepted into the program, and 1072 actually flew the airplanes.
For two years, WASPS flew seven days a week, from sunup to sundown. They flew every kind of aircraft, from the smallest fighters to the largest bombers, ferrying the planes between factories, airbases and ports of embarkation on both coasts. WASPS also towed targets for antiaircraft training, which used live ammunition and trained male cadets to be pilots, bombardiers and navigators.
“Some of the women were shot out of the sky during the training exercises; there were 39 killed in the line of duty and one missing in action,” she said. “Those uniforms are the most expensive pieces in collecting, because they are the hardest to find as there were so few women pilots.”
Suddenly in December of 1944, the program was disbanded, its members sent home with no official recognition or thanks for the service they had rendered.
“The WASPS didn’t even get veteran status or military burials until 1977,” Sandy said. “Some of the others got it right away, but had trouble getting any medical service at the VA.”
Much of the Faulkner’s display contains nursing uniforms and equipment, as they made the most significant contribution to the war effort. Fifty-seven thousand served during the war effort on bases and ships all over the world, from northern Europe to North Africa to the South Pacific. In many cases the nurses were just behind the front lines and came under enemy fire. Two hundred died on active duty, nineteen of them from enemy fire. Sixty-seven Army and eleven Navy nurses were held for three years as prisoners of war of the Japanese following the fall of the Philippines in 1943.
While Sandy learns about women’s war efforts from reading, much of her information comes from talking with former soldiers and civilian volunteers—many of the stories move her to tears.
“I guess some of the horrors that the women saw are the hardest for me to handle and the most surprising,” she said. “I have heard stories about six nurses who were killed in the European war, Frances Sanger, who volunteered as a nurse and was killed, and flight nurses who were shot at all the time. The stories are so heart wrenching.”
When the Japanese took the Philippines during the war, 77 American women, navy and army nurses were caught on Bataan and later imprisoned by the Japanese. The book, “We band of Angels,” tells the story of 20 of the 77 women who were captured and how they managed to survive.
“These women lost all their hair and teeth due to malnutrition and by the end of their captivity, they were surviving on only 200 calories of maggot infested rice a day,” Sandy said. “At first they wouldn’t eat any of the rice, then they began taking out the maggots and by the end of the first week they were eating the maggots as a protein source.”
If it weren’t for the heroic efforts of the women in the military and civilian volunteers, Sandy believes we would not enjoy our current freedoms, and our lives would not be what they are today.
“So many things came out of the wary, such as day care, microwaves, and cell phones,” she said. “The original walkie talkie was huge and the enemy always targeted who carried them, and today’s cell phone is much smaller and safer to use. Day Care happened after women walked down the streets in Washington D.C. and said they wanted to help, but needed someone to watch their children. The USO set up baby check stations that worked like coat checks. Each mother received a number when they dropped off their children and brought the number back at the end of the day and got their children back.”
The microwave oven developed after engineers discovered that the same type of magnetron tube used in wartime radars was powerful enough to heat food rapidly. The first microwave was called a Radarange.
The Faulkners hope that by exposing their collection to the public, that more people will realize the sacrifice made by the men and women of our country to preserve our freedom.
“I hope that I would have been one of the women who volunteered, if I had been around during World War II,” Sandy said. “The women really helped—I still remember my grandmother doing her part. She had this tin of bacon grease on the back of the stove and donated it to the government for war munitions factories to use in making ammunition.”
The couple’s children Emily age nine and Kaitlin age six have grown up around the vintage war memorabilia and are a frequent addition to their living display.
“Each has a small impression that they like to do,” Sandy said. “One of our daughters pulls an old wagon to collect metal for the war effort, and the other one talks to people about the Victory garden. We all really get into it.”
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Friday, November 2, 2007
Catholicos Karekin II meets with leaders, faithful
Karen MahoneySpecial to Your Catholic Herald
RACINE - Processing behind Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, Bishop Richard J. Sklba, bishops and clergy from other faiths, and archbishops and bishops from the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II gently placed his gold, gem-stoned cross to the bowed heads of worshipers in the aisle of the Armenian Church. To the rhythmic shake of an incense-burning censer and the sound of choir-led hymns, the patriarch of the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church blessed the gathering. Mary Andekian was among several hundred Armenian Catholics from across southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois who packed St. Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church in Racine Oct. 23 to celebrate a Hrashapar service during Catholicos Karekin's pontifical visit to the United States. A simple touch of his palm-sized cross upon her forehead, she said, delivered blessings."Everyone who is here is touched by the Holy Spirit," said Andekian, a life-long member of St. Mesrob. "This is a wonderful thing for all Armenians in the community. We are a part of the Church of Jerusalem, and not that many people know this."Clad in a black shoorchar, the 56-year-old Karekin, leader of 7 million Armenian Christians, celebrated the adoration service for a congregation comprised of worshippers from the Milwaukee and Chicago Archdioceses. Speaking in English and Armenian, Catholicos Karekin urged the worshippers to protect their Armenian faith and identity and to cultivate a close connection with their motherland. "I am acquainted with the problems, worries and difficulties of the world," he said. "I give thanks to God that my people are continuing to love as worthy sons of Christ. Our faith becomes the color of our skin. That's why when you say Armenian we understand Christian Armenian can't be another kind. We are a people that prays to God. Armenia is Christian and it is the Christian faith that has saved us from every kind of damage. I love God and we have been martyrs. I love God and we have gone to Golgotha, but always with the faith of resurrection because we never left our God and God never left us or left us alone in our suffering."Present for the visit from the former Catholicos 45 years ago, choir members Rose Margosian and Alice Hazarian said that singing for the pontiff is a dream come true. "It is an honor and a privilege to sing for the Catholicos," said Margosian, member since her birth. "He is the Holy See, like the pope in the Catholic faith."For Hazarian, also a member since her baptism, the visit is a once-in-a-lifetime for the younger generations in her family. "We have our children and grandchildren here and they will probably not see him again in their lifetime, at least not for another 45 years," she said. "He is here to show us his care and love toward his flock and to bring blessings from the Mother church to her children."Elected in 1999 as the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, this is Karekin's second visit to the United States and first visit to the Midwest. "For us it is all about building bridges in Christianity," said Chuck Hajunian of St. John the Baptist, Greenfield. "Christianity is about Jesus and he loves Jesus and this is all about showing Jesus' love to others."Born Ktrich Nersessian in Voskehat, Armenia, Catholicos Karekin was ordained a monk in 1972 and elevated to bishop in 1983. He has worked to rebuild the country after gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. "He is a leader and a servant and our leaders have paid a heavy price along the way," Hajunian said. "One of our former Catholicos was assassinated during Stalin's reign. It is an honor to have the Catholicos here to bring blessings from Holy Etchmiadzin, our mother church."As Catholicos Karekin prayed a blessing and presented his message to the worshippers, a few of the babies began to cry, making their presence apparent; His Holiness was undeterred and seemed to welcome the interruption. "This is a praise to God, the voices of the kids," he said, laughing. "I am very happy the kids are here in church and they are praying in their own way with us. Later they will have their own meaningful prayers to God."Catholicos Karekin paraphrased Luke 12:34, "Wherever your value is, there is your heart. This is true at this moment," he said. "The value for the spiritual head are his people. My heart is with you; my heart which has love to you brought me from Armenia to America - this is a blessing, an encouragement."Earlier, Catholicos Karekin II was welcomed at Saint Francis Seminary by Archbishop Dolan and other religious leaders. After his motorcade made its way from General Mitchell International Airport to the seminary, Archbishop Dolan greeted each member of Catholicos Karekin's traveling group, which included several priests, primates, reporters and photographers. Following a brief stop in the seminary's chapel, the archbishop welcomed His Holiness to Milwaukee. "I greet you on behalf of Bishop Sklba, men and women religious, our clergy and the 700,000 Catholics of southeastern Wisconsin," Archbishop Dolan said, who referred to Catholicos Karekin as "a man of towering faith." "We thank you for reminding us of the ancient rites of our common faith. Your visit to us is a call to joy and renewal for us all."Catholicos Karekin then addressed the small gathering of leaders from several denominations, through his interpreter Fr. Ktrij Devejian."I am happy to be visiting the United States on this pontifical visit," he said. "This brings back blessed memories of my meetings with Pope John Paul II in Armenia in 2001 which opened relations and ties between our churches and close collaboration and eternal love."We offer our thanks to God for this good and beneficial cooperation," he continued. "We see this meeting today as a new impetus in the continuation of that reinforcement."During his time at Saint Francis Seminary, Catholicos Karekin was introduced to Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, pastor of Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ, members of the Milwaukee Jewish Council, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church and the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.(Cheri Perkins Mantz contributed to this story.)