Thursday, January 31, 2008

Catholic Central offers CNA course

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

BURLINGTON - Visitors to Memorial Hospital in Burlington or Lakeland Hospital in Elkhorn may spot Bridget Horter sporting colorful scrubs and pushing patients in wheelchairs this summer.

The high school senior from Catholic Central High School is taking a course to become a certified nursing assistant to jumpstart her health care career.

Horter and nine classmates in the school's health program will learn first hand about assisting patients at the two community hospitals for their clinical rotation.

New this year, the nursing assistant course will prepare students to earn CNA certification at the end of the school year. The focus will be to train students entering a medical field by giving practical care to patients. Each student will complete 120 hours of instruction. Gateway Technical College and the two hospitals are partnering with Catholic Central in this endeavor.

The class, which began Jan. 28, is offered to juniors and seniors, and is the first of its kind in any private school in Racine, Kenosha, or Walworth counties, said development coordinator Georgean Selburg.

"I believe CCHS would benefit by adding more specialized classes such as this to the curriculum, thereby helping the community," she said. "I recently had a conversation with an instructor at UW-Oshkosh, and she had mentioned that within a year or two, many colleges will require their students to have their CNA license before entering certain schools, such as the school of nursing, the school of medicine, X-ray technicians, and for physical therapists. The CNA license rates you as more competitive when applying to these schools."

The CNA program is held 7:20 through 8:50 a.m. each school day in the biology lab, and in April, clinicals will begin at 6:30 a.m. at Gateway in Burlington or at one of the two hospitals. Classroom instruction will include basic nursing skills, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, infection control, and clinical activities. The course will not only allow students to become licensed, but they will earn three college credits.

The hospitals are enthusiastic about students taking the course, Selburg said, and students are looking forward to working alongside medical professionals.

"Students will be training with nurses and will be involved in bathing, bowel and urinary elimination, comfort needs, catheter care, etc.," she said. "They are looking forward to the hands-on clinical care."

For junior Swapnil Patel, participating in the course is an opportunity to prepare for college classes.

"I hope to become a doctor, so this will help me because it will get me familiar to the medical terminology and the atmosphere in the hospital," she said. "After high school, I plan on doing my undergrad and then I plan on continuing to medical school and doing my residency and fellowship."

With the certification, students will put their training to use by working after school and during the summers to raise money and prepare for their college years.

"I plan on working over the summers, hopefully familiarizing myself with the patients and the atmosphere that surrounds the health care profession," Patel said. "My parents feel that I am very lucky to get this opportunity. They did not have that opportunity when they were going to school to be able to start (their) career education in high school."

Selburg is hopeful that through the hands-on care students will glean a better understanding and attitude toward the elderly and disabled.

"Burlington Memorial Hospital has taken students from our anatomy and physiology classes and let them observe in the operating room and in the imaging area," Selburg said, adding, "Now we are taking another step with our neighboring hospitals in allowing our students to hold some of their clinicals at their sites. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and it is an opportunity for the hospitals to try and draw these students into a possible working relationship."

For Horter, becoming a CNA is preparation for her future in nursing. Her post-high school plans include choices such as Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering or The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

"I would possibly like to be a Flight for Life nurse, and thought this would be a perfect opportunity for me to become acquainted with the nursing field," she said.

"Although the idea of offering a CNA course at a public high school is not new, it is very rare in the private sector and it's the connection with the hospital that will make a difference," said Selberg. "Partnerships between local businesses and organizations connect our students to the community. Since service to others is a vital component in our school's mission, we feel this new program will be a positive step in increasing students' awareness and involvement in their community."

Unlike public school counterparts, costs for the program are not taxpayer funded, but absorbed by the students' parents - a fact that Selburg hopes to change with private donations to offset the extra fees.

"The public schools do offer an apprenticeship program which students can take for free," she said. "Some private school kids take the courses over the summer, but that is separate from the school. The advantage to this program is that even though parents are paying for it, the kids are receiving college credit, high school credit and they are able to find a job after completion. They also have the convenience of not having to go outside the school for the classes."

With the baby boomers entering retirement years, the need for CNAs will increase, according to Selburg, who maintains that job prospects are excellent.

"It is important to remember that after a student completes the course and earns his or her certification, they can begin working as a certified nursing assistant and eventually earn anywhere from $23,000 to $29,000 per year, she said.

For Horter and her mom, the opportunity is too good to pass up.

"My mom is very proud and excited for me to start this course," she said "She thinks this is a great thing that I am doing and is happy that I chose this field to go into."

Duck Doo is the poop in fund-raising

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

KENOSHA - Say holy crap to most priests and you might get a sideways glance.

But for Fr. Dominic Roscioli, retired archdiocesan priest, who deals in, well ... poop - holy crap is a compliment, of sorts.

"I hear that stuff all the time," said Fr. Roscioli, who developed Father Dom's Duck Doo, "food for the soil," made of duck excrement and cranberry skins. When you are dealing with poop, you need to be able to laugh and that's what makes the product so appealing, isn't it?

Gardeners throughout much of the United States are buying bags of the powerful blend that Fr. Roscioli developed while spearheading a neighborhood clean up program that included the composting of leaves and other yard wastes.

The effort came following a return to his inner city neighborhood near Columbus Park in Kenosha in 1985, after a diagnosis with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and sarcoidosis, a rare lung disease.

While in remission, he began cleaning up his neighborhood from the drug houses and pornography shops that resided in what were once bakeries and restaurants in the Italian section of town. He began Kenosha In Neighborhood (KIN) Works, an organization that succeeded in shuttering the drug houses, paving the way for new business and a new downtown.

During that time, Fr. Roscioli began a neighborhood clean up program that included the composting of leaves and other yard wastes. He felt so strongly about the benefits of recycling and the environment that he established a company that would provide organic products to the marketplace.

While the product had local appeal, the 59-year-old priest wondered whether he could mass market the products and raise more funds for inner city renewal projects.

A novice at marketing, he appealed to longtime friend, actor Paul Newman, at whose "Hole in the Wall Gang Camps," he has volunteered for more than 20 years. These camps, located throughout the world, are sponsored by the actor for children with life-threatening illnesses.

"I sent Newman a sample and asked him if he would like to add my product and call it "Newman's Own Dirt" to his line of charity food products," he said, "But his marketing firm said they didn't want to mix food and compost in the same product line."

Fr. Roscioli assumed he had reached a dead end when the manager from Newman's Own called him with some encouraging news.

"He told me that he received a fax from Paul and that he wanted to read it to me, but hesitated, because it was a bit graphic," he said. "I told him that I have probably heard it all before and to go ahead - it said, 'Dear Tom, Help Fr. Dom with his shit, Paul.'"

The product line was born when Fr. Roscioli, in his clerical collar, appeared at the Connecticut marketing firm with a bag of compost under his arm.

"He said, 'There's Father Dom,' and I said, 'and here's my duck doo.' The guy loved it and told me that was the name of the product," Fr. Roscioli laughed, adding, "He loves that story."

The director of Zunda Design Group loved the idea so much that he donated $14,000 worth of work designing the plastic bags adorned with Fr. Roscioli's caricature, smiling haloed ducks, and a whimsical tale of the product's birth. Newman donated $25,000 for a bagging machine at the Kenosha Achievement Center. Hundreds of disabled center workers help to bag more than 2,000 bags of compost each week throughout the year.

"That is a lot of poop," he admitted.

More than 20 years later, Fr. Roscioli has gone from saving neighborhoods to saving schools with his earth friendly organic compost.

"We have developed 40 different products, including ready-to-plant mixes, growing kits for butterflies and songbirds, aprons, and T-shirts," he said. "We've been using our products as school fund-raisers for several years and they seem to like it. It is very educational and has a high return margin. Instead of selling cardboard pizzas or candy, this has a high return because the schools can spend say, $4 for a bag and get $4 or $5 back."

Describing it as a win-win project, Fr. Roscioli said that selling the compost makes customers happy because it benefits people with disabilities, is educational, saves on landfills, and makes kids happy because they can talk about poop.

"One day after Mass a woman waited for me with her little son, about 10 years old," he explained. "He had this big smile on his face and his mother had a funny look on hers. She looked down at him and said, 'Tell Father.' He looked up at me, smiled again and said, 'Because of you, I can say crap now - because it was on the bag of compost.'"

Eliminating the middleman, schools become the distributor for Father Dom's Duck Doo products. Students bring a flyer home; take orders and customers pick up the products on a designated Saturday morning. No door-to-door sales are required.

Immensely popular among schools, youth groups and colleges, Fr. Roscioli relies on Mike Kuenn to prepare marketing information for the organizations. Humor is not only part of the presentation, it is part of the package, which includes the caption, "Complete the Loop-Buy Duck Poop."

"He does a great job and sends out marketing packages to be explained in the school," the priest said. "We also have some fundraising incentives that kids can receive for making specific sales goals, such as T-shirts, hats and lucky duck necklaces."

For Joe Rausch, director of St. Maria Goretti Youth Ministry in Madison, the fund-raiser has become an annual event.

"We have sold Fr. Dom's Duck Doo for the past seven to eight years at our parish as a fund-raiser for our youth programs," he said. "Each year as spring approaches I get people coming up to me asking when is the Duck Doo coming. They can't wait. They need it for their gardens. They say it does wonders for their flowers and vegetables. People who buy the Duck Doo like the idea of helping the youth, the handicapped, the environment and getting a great product all at the same time! We tried some of the new products this past spring and they were all a hit, too. I look to increase our orders this spring."

Although the fund-raisers are designed for a one-time effort each year, many garden centers are cooperating with the schools to bring ongoing funds to the schools.

"Often they will set up with the stores to stock our products and a percentage of the sales will go to the schools," he said. "It has become quite crazy lately and really caught on even more after Roy Reiman of Reiman Publications has financed our conversion from Father Dom's Duck Doo, to God's Good Earth Products."

The profits from the new business will continue Fr. Roscioli's mission of giving to charity, and because of the additional funds, will allow the company to branch into more states and a wider market.

Since committing to a 100 percent organic product, farmers throughout the country have approached the congenial priest to market a variety of compost, such as horse manure, chicken droppings and even bat guano.

"I have pretty much become a crap magnet," he admitted. "And it looks as if we will be marketing 'Moo-Doo' pretty soon, which will give us enough supply to get into the big box stores. With this being a dairy state, we pretty much have an unlimited supply of cow manure and this will help us to market compost for almost every gardening need."

While Fr. Roscioli's earliest vision in the compost world was optimistic, he knew that to succeed, he would need a couple of things.

"I needed money and humor, lots of humor," he said.

Faith helped writer's family cope with son's illness

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

The last 10 months have been anything but easy for the Trumble family.

Since discovering that Adam, now 2, had a rare form of restrictive cardiomyopathy, his parents, Amy, a freelance writer (a frequent contributor to your Catholic Herald prior to Adam's illness) and Tim, a Milwaukee firefighter, older sisters Laura, 7, and Emily 4, have struggled through endless hospital visits and tearful nights filled with worry.

But amid the dark moments, there have been many prayers of thanks.

Overwhelming generosity

The family has survived because of the unwavering support from friends, relatives and church family, Amy admitted, adding that she has often been overwhelmed by the generosity.

"Our parish nurse at one point told me that people wanted to help us and that we needed to give people the opportunity to serve us," she said. "In the past, we have felt that we were pretty much in control of our lives. We now know that we are not in control."

Adam was born July 25, 2005, a normal, happy, healthy baby. He grew, laughed, played, crawled, and began to walk. A simple winter cold last January refused to go away, and he began to struggle with breathing. Medication did nothing to help.

Amy took Adam to his pediatrician, who took X-rays and drew blood. Initial tests pointed to pneumonia, but blood work did not indicate any infection. Adam's enlarged heart was a deciding factor in admitting him to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin that afternoon.

"After some tests and an echocardiogram, he was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)," Amy said. "It was the first time I had met one of the cardiologists, who is not part of Adam's team of doctors, and after five minutes he said that there may be a possibility that Adam would need a heart transplant."

Shocked by the statement, Amy convinced herself that this would not be the case. After all, she figured, he looked fine, but was simply having trouble overcoming his cold.

"At the same time, everything was a blur and I don't think I put together a coherent sentence for the next three days," she admitted. "At the end of that day, I went to the parking structure and called our parish nurse, sobbing. I had written stories about people in these situations, but this could not possibly be happening in our family."

Further tests revealed that Adam had restrictive cardiomyopathy, a deadly disease that causes the walls of the heart to become rigid. His only hope: a new heart.

Dramatic change

Overnight, Adam's parents stepped from one world, with its comforting daily demands of work and family, into another, where they were forced to sit and wait for the news that a donor had been found.

By July 6, Adam began growing weaker and was admitted to Children's Hospital to await a new heart. Seven days later, his heart failed, his extremities began to swell, and he was connected to a heart lung bypass machine while the stunned couple met with the palliative care team (hospice) to discuss options if the risks were too high for the transplant.

Glimmer of hope

Looking as if the situation was hopeless, Adam's doctor offered a glimmer of optimism.

"Dr. Berger recommended that Adam go on the Berlin Pump," Amy said. "The FDA has approved it on a trial basis for 10 hospitals in the U.S. and one of those is Children's. A German doctor would fly in the pump and assist in getting it going for Adam."

Although slightly risky, the pump would give Adam's lungs a break and reduce the pressure from the back flow of blood. It would allow healing of all of his organs and make him a better candidate for a transplant.

Adam was in critical condition following the surgery, but doctors were optimistic about the effectiveness of the pump, and believed it was the answer to giving Adam the strength to receive a heart.

Feeling helpless, Tim and Amy relied on their faith to carry them through the dark days while waiting for Adam to grow stronger in order to receive his new heart.

"The only thing we could do is pray and pray and pray," Amy said. "Our church was there for us at every turn and still is, the pastors, staff, teachers, members of the congregation, friends from Bible studies, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), our family, friends, co-workers - they were praying for us, visiting in the hospital, sending care packages, spending nights at the hospital with Adam."

Additionally, the hospital chaplains were comforting to the family, often spending hours by their side in prayerful support. The Palliative Care team discussed faith with them during the darkest of times.

"This experience speaks to us the fact that God works through people, if you allow him to," Amy said.

Ongoing support

To allow Tim to continue his job as a firefighter, and Amy to be near Adam, the couple's parents helped each day by caring for their daughters, their home and visiting in the hospital.

"I spent every day at the hospital and came home to spend dinner and every evening with the girls," Amy said. "We had friends and family scheduled to spend nights with Adam. Tim's dad came to the hospital every morning between 3 and 4 a.m. from Lake Geneva, relieving whoever spent the night and I was back by 7 a.m. Our only responsibilities were our children. We had people supporting us in every other aspect of day-to-day life."

As Adam improved, he became a good candidate for a heart transplant. On Oct. 1, a heart was found and after a nearly six-hour surgery, Adam's new heart was beating well on its own.

"The transplant went smoothly and he left the hospital only 17 days post-transplant and has been making strides ever since," said Amy, adding, "He is having some issues with his white blood count being low, but it is hindering him - we keep him home more so that he isn't exposed to illnesses. He has a great transplant team looking after him."

Turn to God

Following up on Adam's post surgical care is bittersweet for Amy, who in October 2006 covered a heart-wrenching story for your Catholic Herald about Lynn Pape, who lost her daughter Alyssa after suffering from Marfan's Syndrome, a connective tissues disorder that causes heart problems.

"Now I take Adam to the Herma Heart Center every two weeks for his echocardiograms to make sure his new heart is functioning the way it should," she said. "I take off his shirt. Lay him on the bed and then lay next to him. At the head of our little bed sits a CD player. A sign on top of it reads, "In memory of Alyssa Pape."

Through their painful journey, the family has learned the meaning of "peace beyond all understanding," which continues to sustain them each day of Adam's road to recovery.

"It is a time to turn to God, not away," Amy said. "In doing so, it is much easier to take each moment as it comes."

log keeps family, friends informed
During Adam's illness and surgeries, Amy set up a blog page to keep family and friends updated on his condition. Working through the site enabled Amy to post from the hospital rather than having to go home and send mass e-mails. The family merged their site with COTA, Children's Organ Transplant Association, a 501 (c) (3) national charity organization to assist in fundraising to help defray transplant costs. To make a donation, visit any Chase/Bank One location to donate in person to (274) 225-7674 or send a check to

COTA (Children's Organ Transplant Association)

2501 W. COTA Drive

Bloomington, Ind. 47403

Memo line: Write 'Adam Trumble'

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Time for Ugly Birthday Cake pictures

Sorry Mom!
I didn't seem to inherit your techniques for cake decorating. I know it looks dreadful, at least it tasted good--I wish you were here to decorate for Erin like you did for my other kids. How about sharing some of your talent with me?

More birthday pictures

He Said he was in shock!

Erin's birthday pictures

Erin Celebrated his 13th birthday on January 25..he was blown away when among other things we got him a Playstation 2. We thought that was pretty cool.....until a bunch of his friends said that we should have gotten the Wii--oh well, can't win for nothing sometimes!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Can I just reboot myself?

Disappointments, personal failures, misunderstandings, and mistakes....wouldn't it be nice if we were all equipped with a reset button and could just start over sometimes?

Lately, through our endless trials and tribulations, it has become apparent that if we could just hit an automatic reset button, similar to using the soft-reset on my Palm Pilot that we might get a second chance to do it all perfectly.

I tire of well-meaning friends, relatives and acquaintances sliding copies of The Secret, The Power of Positive Thinking, Laws of Attraction, The Sedona Method, etc in our mailbox and under our door.

To all of you, here goes: Once and for all, we have tried, we have thought positively, we have prayed every novena and every prayer under the sun, we have tried more than any of you will ever know, but for now, this is how things are and by the mere fact that we can complain about it, we are survivors.

But, would I like to reset some things in our life?
I wish Blaise had not gotten hurt and now deals with a permanent disability.
I wish he had not had the heart problems.
I wish his thyroid hadn't crashed.
I wish my youngest daughter still loved us and would stop trying to hurt us.
I wish my son in the Marines knew how much we loved him and would call or write once in a while.
I wish I could block out that pain in my heart.
I wish people knew really, how pure our intentions are when it comes to friends and family.
I wish we didn't have $30,000 in medical debt
I wish I could write a best seller
I wish Blaise's business would become successful.

What does give me strength and endurance to get up every single day and continue to try in my imperfect way, is His grace.

I am grateful for my husband,
for his love,
for my awesome career as a freelance writer
for a beautiful house,
for five healthy children, two stepchildren and one granddaughter,
I am grateful that we have enough food for me to complain about being overweight,
I am grateful my husband has a job,
and I am grateful for all the amazing people I get to meet each week

It is difficult to remain grateful when you are in the center of a fire, but important to do.

Job was tried to the brink, but he survived thanks be to God and with His grace and his mercy, we will do the same.

But, that darn reset button--imagine the possibilities if we could have a few 'do-overs'

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Elkhorn Artist-Burlington Standard Press

Elkhorn Artist Work Displayed at People’s Bank in Elkhorn
by Karen Mahoney

What drives an artist such as Cynthia Lentz to sit down in a discreet northern Wisconsin meadow and paint with stubborn patience the two dozen shades of straw yellow exploding from a thicket of wildflowers?

“I do it because it makes me happy,” insisted the Elkhorn artist whose works are displayed at The People’s Bank in Elkhorn through the end of January.

Dramatic craggy landscapes, lighthouses glimmering beneath a veil of fog and rustic country buildings intermingle with pastels and watercolors of flowing rivers and goldenrod-vivid sunsets in the bank’s exhibit area.

A native of Spooner, Wisconsin, much of Lentz’s work reflects childhood memories and preserving historical landmarks that often give way to subdivisions and shopping malls. Armed with her digital camera, she delights in photographing scenery, lighthouses, historical homes, and rustic barns, preserving the scenes for future paintings.

“I really enjoy capturing picture with different angels and am always drawn to a location that has a lot of shadows with sunlight hitting buildings,” she said. “I try to capture the old barns that are falling apart and old buildings because they will be gone someday.”

With no formal training, Lentz’s talent is a gift as well as a personal expression of pleasure in the joy of her surroundings. Although she enjoyed art classes in high school, she decided to forgo a college education to marry and raise her two sons.

“My painting took a back seat until 1999, when my youngest son was a senior in high school,” she said. “One of my friends suggested that since my kids were raised that it was time that I did something for myself, so I took a couple of watercolor classes at Lake Geneva Art association.”

Unaccustomed to the unforgiving nature of watercolors, Lentz quickly grew to love working with the transparent medium and began painting whenever she had time away from her job as part-time cook at a local elementary school. After an accident and some personal issues sidelined her for five years, Lentz returned to her love of painting in 2006 and one of her first projects included a painting of her childhood home.

“The house doesn’t look the same as it did when we were children, so I was able to find some old photos and worked to recreate all of the old details,” she said. “My mom loved it and I made copies for my brothers and sisters.”

After friends and family saw the detailed recreation of her childhood home, word spread and she began doing commissioned work for architects, friends, and acquaintances that were interested in her house renderings.

“I am working on a house rendering for a dentist in Minnesota right now—he lives on a lake, she said. “It is so nice to do this sort of work when someone really has a heart for their home and when they get a picture of it, it makes them really happy. This is why I do this—to make others and myself happy.”

Once Lentz became hooked on watercolors, she assumed she wouldn’t be interested in any other medium. That was the case until she and her husband traveled to Door County a year and a half ago and visited one of the many art galleries.

“There was an artist who really captured my attention because he created beautiful art with pastels,” she said. “He told me that if I could paint in watercolor that I would be able to paint pastels, so the next Christmas my husband bought me some and I got into that and find that I like using them too.”

While this is her first public showing of her work, Lentz has won several state painting awards. Although grateful for the notoriety, the People’s Choice awards give her the most satisfaction.

“Those are really quite an honor to me, because it means that the general population of those attending the art shows appreciate my work,” she said. “Sometimes you find judges in competitions are looking for abstract things and maybe things that don’t look right. It depends on the judge as to what type of work they enjoy and sometimes the art isn’t always pretty, and in fact might be disturbing. Often the disturbing art wins the awards. But for me, I find that my work appeals to the general public and that is good enough for me.”

Displaying her work at People’s Bank has given Lentz a lot of exposure and attention from local acquaintances that had no idea that she was an artist.

“They did a nice job with my display and they all seem to be happy with my work,” she said. “Everyone I talk to says that they love the pictures and didn’t realize that I was an artist—I’ve been getting a lot of good feedback.”

Working in the quiet hours between dusk and dawn while her husband works third shift, Lentz feels the closest to her passion of bringing memories of the past into today’s fast paced world.

“I paint nearly every evening, always after 10:30 at night,” she said. “I feel it is my good fortune to be able to paint quite frequently; it is rewarding that I have found what I truly love to do in my life and it keeps me going.”

Ladies Heart Luncheon-Kenosha News

Ladies Heart Luncheon

On any other day, the 60 ladies gathered at Parkway Chateau Restaurant would be bustling about, busy with jobs, family, or volunteer activities. On Tuesday January 15, however, each was out to have a good time, enjoying lunch and an afternoon of Christian fellowship, a personal testimony by member Judy Reget, and singing by Barb Taylor.

“There is only one rule,” stated Doris Alwine, member since 2001. “Mentioning any specific church denomination is discouraged. But we do listen to scripture verses and we do pray for one another, and we have a good time.”

The monthly gathering, affectionately called “The Ladies Heart Luncheon,” brings women of all ages together for an opportunity to share in the love of the Lord, to encourage each other in their daily lives, and with the mission to draw others to Jesus Christ.

What brought them together was a sensitivity and love for Elsie Filz, a resident of Woodstock Rehabilitation Center. The sister of Louise Ditthardt and Anita Schroeder, Filz had little to look forward to each day besides her three meals at the home or periodic visits from family and friends.

On Christmas Day 2000, which was also her birthday, visitors included Walli Bergman, a friend who quickly noticed how much the visit meant to the ailing woman. The next month, around the same time, Bergmann brought another friend Ruth Startz and the three went to lunch at the Waterfront restaurant.

The lunch date seemed to bring so much joy to Filz that they decided to make this a monthly event. That February, Filz’s sisters joined the threesome as well as another friend, Lil Jung. Soon after, grade school friend, Doris Alwine and Judy Reget began attending and each month, more friends were invited and the number grew.

More than a simple luncheon, the time together was an opportunity to meditate on a devotional, and to pray. To encourage Filz, Bergmann gave her a Bible verse (Proverbs 3: 5&6) that she was asked to recite at some of the luncheons.

“It was ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;’ that was her life verse,” Bergman said. “Sometimes she wasn’t too happy to recite it—but she always did.”

Watching Filz’s spirits lift each month was enough to continue walking to the neighborhood restaurant despite weather or other setbacks, including construction sand along the sidewalks—tough going in a wheelchair.

“I called the city to take the sand away,” laughed Schroeder. “I told them that we couldn’t push my sister’s wheelchair on the sidewalk because of all the sand, so we wanted them to take it away…and you know, they did.”

By the end of the first year, one of the two regular waitresses who served the group, asked to become a member.

“We were so touched and happy to have her join,” Bergmann said. “And it was then that we really knew that God was working through our monthly luncheons.”

As membership grew, the ladies decided to have a speaker each month that would share her journey with Christ, as well as an occasional singer or entertainer.

Each month seemed to draw more women of all ages to attend the luncheon, and due to the large number, the Ladies Heart Luncheon has outgrown several smaller facilities. Finding Parkway Chateau seemed the perfect answer as the hall has several banquet rooms of varying sizes to choose from.

After Filz passed away in October 2005, so many women looked forward to the monthly luncheon that they decided to continue with their ministry of bringing the love of Christ to all.

“We were so happy to see the group grow and while we don’t really know who is touched by the meeting, we know that a seed is planted and the fruit that will come is all in the Lord’s timing,” said Alwine.

Membership to the Ladies Heart Luncheon is easy. There are no membership dues and no officers. Meetings are generally the third Thursday of each month, buffet lunch is around $10.00, and all are welcome to attend.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Latest Catholic Herald Article-Bishop Callahan

Parishioners gather to welcome Bishop Callahan

Twin Lakes hosts one of three regional events

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

TWIN LAKES - Twin Lakes opened its arms to Auxiliary Bishop William P. Callahan Jan. 16, welcoming him in an ornate, incense-filled Mass that drew a dozen religious and diocesan priests from Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties.

Hundreds of Catholics attended the bilingual (English-Spanish) Mass at St. John the Evangelist Parish, which included a candle procession with representatives from each parish in districts one, two, and three.

"This is an incredible evening," Bishop Callahan said, adding, "Entering the church and seeing so many communities, parishes and organizations here is truly wonderful, and you all represent the stream of people who are looking, driving, and seeking after Jesus."

The Mass was part of Bishop Callahan's get-acquainted tour of the Milwaukee Archdiocese since being ordained a bishop on Dec. 21. Similar welcoming Masses and receptions were held Jan. 15 at St. Bruno, Dousman, and Jan. 17 at Holy Family, Fond du Lac.

While the bishop admitted that the past few weeks have been a whirlwind, he said that he wasn't quite prepared for episcopal ministry.

"I am the new kid on the block," he joked, "But, yikes, there are just so many things. I have been sitting in on meetings and all of a sudden I hear from Archbishop Dolan, 'Oh, Bill, will do this,' or 'The new bishop will do that,' and I just say ........'kay. But what I really am is I am a parish priest and I love being a priest and I love celebrating Mass and that's what energizes me."

A former parishioner of Holy Family in Peoria, Ill., Kelly Regnier of Holy Name, Wilmot, is thrilled that her favorite priest is a bishop in the archdiocese.

"He married my husband, Warren, and me at Holy Family and then baptized our youngest daughter, Karralin, at the Basilica of St. Josaphat after she was born," Regnier said. From 1994 to 2005, then-Fr. Callahan served as rector of the basilica.

Sitting in the pew during Bishop Callahan's Mass brought Regnier back to her youth, where she fondly recalled the carefree summer days when Fr. Bill and other priests and sisters from Holy Family joined her family in her grandparents' swimming pool.

"Fr. Bill was just like one of us," she said. "I remember one time we were sliding down the slide and he held up this plastic inner tube and told me to slide right through it. When I told him that I knew I wouldn't fit because the hole was so tiny, he told me that if I believed I could fit through the hole, I could. You know I am sure he pulled that tube away when I got to the bottom but I never saw him do it - for years I thought that because I believed I could fit through the hole, I did."

Although Regnier's husband is Lutheran, Bishop Callahan has always included him and helped him to feel a part of the Catholic family.

"In fact, my uncle loves him so much that he said if he were the pastor of a church near him that he would convert to Catholicism," Warren said, laughing. "I do know that few people have leadership qualities like he does. He is very charismatic and a genuine guy and is always very caring to everyone."

In his homily, Bishop Callahan praised the "Living Our Faith" evangelization initiative designed to inspire Catholics to grow in their faith, encourage more participation and to create a sense of connectedness among parishes.

"We all come from everywhere and represent all aspects of 'Living our Faith,'" he said. "But do you know the tagline of the program? It is 'A love beyond belief - act on it.' I know you have all come here to see the baby bishop, but hopefully you really came here to celebrate Eucharist. You have all been through thick and thin with the weather last week," he said referring to the January tornado, "but, thanks be to God, no lives were lost - but you were rearranged and affected. But we still come here tonight and Jesus is the reason to gather us."

Bishop Callahan said he hopes to present the image of church as more than simply a social agency, whose only purpose is to do things for others.

"We are love beyond belief," he affirmed. "We wouldn't be here without that love and we profess our belief in that love when we change the bread and wine into the body and blood and soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are the kingdom of God."

For Greg Buchberger, director of liturgy and music at St. Francis de Sales Parish, Lake Geneva, bringing another auxiliary bishop to the diocese is a testament to growth in the Catholic faith.

"It is so good that he is here, and shows how much we are growing," he said. "And with how overworked all of our clergy are, it is a good thing that they have someone else here to bring help."

As the mother of Catholic school students, Mary Jo Pankau, also of St. Francis de Sales, is hopeful that he will bring more attention to the needs of the schools.

"I hope he is active in the parish schools and becomes more active in our day-to-day parish life," she said.

Jan McRae, a member of St. John the Evangelist, is hopeful that this first visit by Bishop Callahan will lead to many more.

"He is very nice and I get a good feeling around him," she said, following the Mass. "I hope we will see more of the bishop now, having him here is a good thing for the diocese."

Bishop Callahan promised to do all he could to support priests and encouraged parishioners to pray for an increase in vocations to all walks of religious life.

"We need men and women to rise up and serve our religious communities, our diocese and our faith communities. Please pray for all vocations - all of us have a vocation," he said. "And it is to live our faith."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Latest Kenosha News Story Bishop Callahan


New Auxiliary Bishop Welcomed to St. John the Evangelist in Twin Lakes
by Karen Mahoney

Mingling among English and Spanish speaking parishioners from parishes throughout Racine, Kenosha and Walworth Counties, newly ordained Bishop William Callahan delivered a message of inclusion Wednesday evening to church filled with Catholics from all walks of life—and asked for their prayers as a newcomer himself.

“We all have different places we come from, and we come here to see where God leads us,” Callahan told parishioners at St. John The Evangelist Parish in Twin lakes. “We all belong to the family of God.”

The Mass of Welcoming was part of Callahan’s get-acquainted tour of the Milwaukee Archdiocese since becoming ordained an Auxiliary Bishop on December 21 at the Cathedral of St. John in Milwaukee. The appointment was made by Pope Benedict XVI and announced in Rome, October 30.

Auxiliary Bishops serve the Church by helping a diocesan bishop in the pastoral and spiritual leadership of a diocese. They assist the diocesan bishop in his role as shepherd--teaching, leading, serving, and celebrating the sacraments with the people of the diocese.

The 57 year-old-bishop is a Conventual Franciscan of the St. Bonaventure Province in Chicago. A native of Chicago, Callahan has served in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee as associate pastor of the Basilica of St. Josaphat Parish from 1977 to 1978, and again as rector and pastor of St. Josaphat Parish, from 1994 to 2005. Callahan left the parish in 2005 to serve as Spiritual Director for the Pontifical North American College, the seminary for Americans, in Rome.

Callahan has been described as a roll-up-the-sleeves leader, one who not only visits ill and elderly parishioners, but takes an active role in church renovation—to the point of climbing the scaffolding during the remodeling of St. Josaphat, “to see the same view that God would see,” to redecorating the sanctuary after the decoration team left for the night, to cooling off in a parishioner’s pool.

“He and the other priests and nuns used to come to my grandma’s house when I was a kid and went to Holy Family Parish in Peoria, Il,” stated Kelly Regnier, now of Holy Name in Wilmot. “He was always a regular guy, very genuine and caring and a wonderful leader. He will bring great enthusiasm to the diocese—I have known many priests, but never one like him.”

In his Homily, Callahan praised the new “Living Our Faith” initiative designed to inspire Catholics to grow in their faith, encourage more active participation and to create a sense of connectedness among parishes.

“We all come from everywhere and represent all aspects of ‘Living our Faith,’” he said. “But do you know the tagline of the program? It is ‘A love beyond belief-act on it.’ I know you have all come here to see the baby-Bishop, but hopefully you really came here to celebrate Eucharist. You have all been through thick and thin with the weather last week, but thanks be to God, no lives were lost—but you were rearranged and affected. But we still come here tonight and Jesus is the reason to gather us.”

A member of St. John the Evangelist, Mieczy Slawa appreciated the Bishop’s message and is optimistic for future visits to the Twin Lakes Parish.

“I like the new bishop, he is very nice,” she said, “I am not surprised at all that the came here because he is very nice and friendly, just like everyone else in this diocese.”

Callahan promised to do all he could to support priests and encouraged parishioners to pray for an increase in vocations to all walks of religious life.

“Please pray for all vocations—all of us have a vocation,” he said. “And it is to live our faith.”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Catholic Herald Tornado Prayer Vigil Story

17/2008 12:00:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article
One woman comforts another during a Jan. 8 prayer service at St. Alphonsus Parish, New Munster, for victims of the surprise Jan. 7 tornados that uprooted the lives of at least 200 families in Kenosha County. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)
Tornado victims buoyed by faith community

New Munster parish offers prayers, comfort

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

NEW MUNSTER - Numb, but grateful to God for sparing their lives, Elizabeth Moore of Salem is busy picking up the pieces of her life after one of the Jan. 7 tornados leveled her home and uprooted the lives of at least 200 families in Kenosha County.

"We lost all that we own except our garage, and fortunately we are using it to store whatever belongings we can find," she said after a Jan. 8 prayer service for tornado victims.

The impact was greatest the day after the tornado ravaged the family's personal belongings. Everything salvageable was moved to the three-story garage in order to level the remainder of the family's home.

"We have been very fortunate to have so many friends and family who have just taken it upon themselves to help us," she said, eyes welling with tears. "I couldn't believe all the people in our yard; some came with backhoes, shovels, and garbage bags; many of the people, I didn't even know."

She continues to receive offers to provide temporary housing, Moore admitted, with her fourth offer for a home coming after the ecumenical prayer service at St. Alphonsus Parish in New Munster. The service at the small, rural church drew several hundred people, including members of St. Alphonsus, as well as those from neighboring communities. They prayed for those whose lives are in disarray and whose homes are uninhabitable.

Admittedly exhausted, Moore attended the service at her home parish to give thanks and to pray for the others whose losses mirrored her own.

"I am just shocked and so grateful to God that no one was seriously injured," she said, adding, "We are so lucky and I knew we just had to be here with our church family and our friends to comfort each other during this time. The next thing for us is to clean up and rebuild and we will be OK."

The mood was somber during the half-hour service, with many tearing up while Sandi Schmitt, St. Alphonsus pastoral associate, reflected on the loss and offered praise and gratitude to God for sparing the lives of the storm victims.

"We have heard amazing stories," she said. "About the responses for help, the lives saved, the people found, and the miracles. We hear them and are in awe at how truly great God is."

Praising the community for the outpouring of help, love and support, Schmitt assured residents that despite the tremendous personal loss, Jesus loved them.

"We are material creatures and those personal items lost are a significant part of our lives, and as a church we also hold on to what is tangible," she said. "We see this in God's son; the name Emmanuel means 'God is with us,' and we give thanks to God for that precious gift he has given us in his son."

While many of the items lost will never be replaced, Schmitt urged victims to go on with the promise of hope.

"We have the promise of the rainbow and I urge you to hold on to that promise," she said. "Always look for the rainbow and look for all of the signs that God is with us."

Earlier in the day, St. Alphonsus hosted a meal for workers and others needing a dry place to eat. According to Fr. Michael Erwin, St. Alphonsus pastor, Catholic Knights funded the dinner with food provided by Luisa's, a Salem restaurant.

"We had many parishioners offer to bring salads and desserts," he said. "It was a good opportunity for people to come and rest, and share their stories. We had volunteers coming from all over to help these families and we are happy that they have a place to eat and rest for a little while."

Fr. Erwin estimated that roughly 200 members were affected by Monday's storms, with 25-50 families completely displaced. After walking through much of the damaged area in his community, he learned that while many of the homes are still standing, they have significant damage where water leaked inside. Many of those families are unable to remain in their homes until repairs can be made.

"Most of the families are staying with family and friends and trying to figure out solutions for the long term," Fr. Erwin said. "The second day was hard as many had to realize that they would have to rebuild their homes. The immediate challenge was in finding places to store their stuff temporarily - finding storage units, rental units and improvising where they can."

Members of the parish are combining efforts with the Salvation Army, Wheaton Town Hall, The Sharing Center, and other volunteers to assist those in need. Cleaning supplies, volunteer workers and monetary donations are most needed during this time.

"Those who are interested in helping in some way can call our parish and we will refer callers from there," said Fr. Erwin.

As an employee of the City of Kenosha Fire Department, Dan Harris, a St. Alphonsus parishioner, has witnessed many tragedies first hand. This time the loss hit a bit closer to home. A half-mile from the devastation, his home suffered no damage, but that didn't stop him from helping those in the community who were not so fortunate.

"The people in this community are phenomenal," he said. "They will do anything to help each other and I have seen so many who are cold, wet and tired, but still keep going just to help a friend or neighbor in need. With all the problems in the world, the hearts of the people in New Munster are in the right place. It is a great place to raise a family and they show what life is all about; I am so proud to be a part of this community."

- By Karen Mahoney

Catholic Herald Friendship Story

Friendship withstands test of time

Sister, stay-at-home-mom share golden bond

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

KENOSHA - There is a song that goes, "Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, and the other is gold."

Since she first met Sister of St. Francis of the Providence of God Berenice Petrauskas, in 1976, 12-year-old Donna Talbert knew she had stumbled upon something golden. Unique and blessed, it was to be a friendship few women ever experience.

It was a fall tradition for Talbert and her friends to enter the halls of St. Peter Elementary School in Kenosha a couple of weeks shy of the first day of school in order to meet the new teachers and help set up classrooms.

"I was always drawn to the nuns," she said. "For one thing, during a lot of my childhood years and adolescence I wanted to be a nun - so what better way to see if I liked it than by spending time with the sisters?"

Although the 45-year-old nun from Pittsburgh was the new fifth grade teacher, and Talbert was entering the sixth grade, the two hit it off right away admitted Sr. Berenice.

"It was at St. Peter's that I met a falling star, like from the lovely song, 'Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket. Never let it fade away,'" she said. "Donna Lynn Berenice Pillizzi Talbert (she took Berenice as her confirmation name) was a very quiet and gentle student in her sixth grade. She would spend hours talking with me on the telephone after school."

For Talbert, the year was magical as the kindred spirits began to bond, sharing walks together during recess, talking after school, and becoming friends. On assignment for just a year, Sr. Berenice informed Talbert that she would be moving on to another position. The child was devastated and assumed she would never hear from her beloved sister again.

"I cried and cried when I got the news," admitted Talbert. "I couldn't stop crying and Sister didn't quite know what to do with me. When I went to say goodbye to her, she said, 'Donna, I will write to you. I promise.'"

32 years later, friendship endures

Talbert expected a letter or two and assumed the two would quickly lose touch because Sr. Berenice was busy with new classrooms and students to teach, and she was involved in friendships and teenage activities. But 32 years later, the two are still writing and still talking on the phone.

"She just paid attention to me and made me feel needed," Talbert said. "It is something you can't really put into words, just a feeling you have or an aura that draws you together."

Throughout her teen years, Talbert and Sr. Berenice corresponded as they had promised each other. From time to time, Talbert was so overly involved in school activities, dating and working that she would forget to return one of Sr. Berenice's letters.

"I fell off the wagon with everything that was going on in my life," she admitted. "But it never failed. I might not have written to her in eight months because my life got busy and then it would be Christmas and there would be a letter from Sr. Berenice. She never failed and was constantly there. I called her at Christmas and that was it except for the letter writing until 2001, when I was able to finally travel to see her and we've been together ever since."

At her husband Mike's insistence, the two traveled to see her friend for her golden jubilee that year, following her second bout with cancer.

"When we received the invitation to go, Mike said it was a sign that we should go," Talbert admitted, adding, "I was like a little kid. I was giddy and pulled up to the church, and there she was looking for us. Oh, I couldn't believe it; I hadn't seen her since '76 and she hadn't changed a bit. We walked in and we hugged and I saw all the sisters from my childhood who were there while I went to school."

Visits are 'retreats'

The couple felt like members of the family. Aside from the visit with Mike, Talbert enjoys one-on-one time with Sr. Berenice during her visits.

"I count down the days until I go again," she said. "It is a nice retreat and when I go, it is just when I really need it. I am stressed out, but once I walk around the grounds and go to chapel and vespers, I can really relax. We spend all the time together, reading, playing games, watching movies and talking."

It is hard to say who enjoys the visits more, Talbert or Sr. Berenice.

"She visits me a couple of times each year," said Sr. Berenice. "Donna loves Pittsburgh and its hills compared to flat level countryside in Wisconsin. We reminisce days we spent together in school after dismissals in Kenosha. Donna has opened my eyes to the type of person others perceived me to be. I could not believe it. She is a very good analyst of character."

According to Talbert, until the two met, Sr. Berenice didn't allow herself to become close with anyone.

Sister learns to trust again

"Both her parents died at a young age, and she learned not to trust people," she said. "She had to learn to trust and for a long time built up a wall around her because she always wondered, 'what if.' It took her until she was in her 70's to get close to anyone and I guess I gave that to her. One day when we were talking she told me that I taught her how to love. I just about died; it touched my heart because we have a very unique and very extraordinary friendship that is from God, that's for sure."

Caught in the midst of the second World War, Sr. Berenice and her two sisters escaped communist rule in 1944, as they fled by horse and buggy to Prussia.

"The German army was retreating from Russia then and we lived in Bavaria for three years and through BALFAS' and our uncle priest's Fr. Joseph Dakinevicius intervention, we arrived to Bronx, N.Y. on April 1, 1947," said Sr. Berenice. "We were on the Ernie Pyle ship. It took us 22 days because we had to change ships at Plymouth, England. We almost sank due to a severe storm."

Parentless, the girls were sent to Sisters of St. Francis to be cared for and to attend school. The order frequently accepted orphans.

"Legally, we are not considered orphans because our dad was a freedom fighter and he remained in Lithuania," explained Sr. Berenice. "Our dad was murdered in 1947 while running across the river Nemunas."

Following her entry into the order, Sr. Berenice earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in education, teaching grades one through six until 1985, when she began working as a clerical assistant to the administration's two administrative secretaries.

Sister offers life lessons

For 29 years, Sr. Berenice devoted her life to teaching, and according to Talbert, she is still offering life lessons.

"She is teaching me all the time," she said. "She is teaching me life and how to rely on God and make my faith much stronger than it ever was or could have been without her. I am so opposite of her; she is tough and I am very sensitive and take everything to heart and cry easily. She has lost so many in her life and I haven't had to go through what she has. She tells me how she did it and I think that is one reason she is here for me."

As the days pass, Talbert and Sr. Berenice are aware of the inevitable, the day they will soon part until their reunion in their heavenly home.

"I have asked Mike and Donna to represent me at my death," Sr. Berenice admitted. "She was thrilled to accept that wish of mine. I am so fortunate to have met Donna and now her entire family and accepted them into my inner circle of dear friends. As one of our dear sisters always says and I ditto, 'God is good.'"

Humbled by the request, Talbert is not looking forward to the day when the calls and letters stop.

Friendship knows no age barriers

"I don't know what I will do without her," she admitted. "I will have to live the rest of my life without her calls and visits. She is here to teach me and will always be with me. She has taught me to stand on my own and have confidence and accept the bad things that come your way and to deal with it in a graceful way."

Occasionally a raised eyebrow from a curious onlooker reminds Talbert of the friendship that knows no age barriers.

"Here you have an age difference and a friendship between a stay-at-home mom and a Roman Catholic nun," she said laughing. "We are so much alike, even though she is 77 and I am 43. It is something you don't see in today's world. You aren't going to say your best friend is 77 years old, but we don't see that or any other differences. She is an inspiration to me. If I have anything I am struggling over, I call her up and immediately - boom! She is what grounds me. She knows what to say; I can't explain it. There is just something about her."

- By Karen Mahoney

Sunday, January 13, 2008

something to ponder

I was watching a story on PBS this evening about a tiny black bear and his mother. The story followed the two from Kumasu's birth through their inevitable separation once the young bear was old enough to go along on his own.

The pair suffered immeasurable hardship, due to attacks from other animals, harsh weather, storms, and lack of food and shelter. Once they endured their first hibernation together and emerged during the bountiful springtime, the announcer made a comment that really seemed to give me hope on our own struggles.

She said that perhaps those six months of hell that the two survived were sent by heaven itself.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Latest Kenosha News Story Paul Ryan Tours Devastation

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, center, visits the site of Monday night’s tornado devastation in Wheatland. With him are County Executive Administrative Assistant Kenn Yance, left, and County Executive Allan Kehl.

'This is devastation'
Jan. 10, 2008
Ryan vows to get aid to residents
By Karen Mahoney

Read & React

WHEATLAND - U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan rolled a twisted utility pole with his foot on a debris-scattered lawn along Highway KD in Wheatland Wednesday afternoon, as he toured the miles of wreckage from Monday's tornadoes.

"This is amazing. Have you ever seen anything like this?" he said, as he inspected the distorted and sheared portion of the pole. "I wonder where the rest of it is."

Examining the devastation with state Rep. Samantha Kerkman and County Executive Allan Kehl, Ryan praised the community and local and county governments for their quick action and response to help the victims of the storm.

"This is extreme damage, and I am truly shocked at the lack of serious injuries," he said. "I am most impressed with the way the community has pulled together to help each other.

"They have a distribution center at the Wheatland Center School to help the families, the Salvation Army is here providing food for the volunteers, and neighbors are pitching in to help neighbors. This is a great community."

On the heels of Gov. Doyle declaring a state of emergency in Kenosha County, Ryan's goal is to bring aid from the federal level.

"This is devastation. There is no two ways about it," he said. "My goal here today is to get the federal and state government to work hand-in-glove to get some federal dollars here to help.

"After today, I will be contacting Sens. Kohl and Feingold to appeal to the president to declare this a federal disaster area. I want this to be a seamless transition to get the help these residents need."

Bringing the federal government into the scene will pave the way for food stamps and other assistance from FEMA, stated Kerkman.

"This is why it is a good thing that Paul is here to see the extreme damage firsthand," she said, "He can bring that information back to the federal level to persuade the president to declare this a federal disaster area."

Making his second trip to the ravaged areas, Kehl began the initial process by declaring the community a local disaster on Monday evening, paving the way for the state and federal levels.

"I just hope we can get everyone the help we need," he said. "I have never seen anything like this before, and I hope I never have to again. I have to say, the emergency warnings were most impressive. Without those sirens, it would have been much, much worse."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Latest Kenosha News Story

Prayer Service for Tornado Victims
by Karen Mahoney

Kay Foss sat in the sanctuary of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in New Munster, dabbing at her eyes and hugging her dearest friends sharing the pew with her.

“Our house was fine, but my best friends lost everything,” the New Munster resident said, after an evening prayer service Tuesday evening for victims of Monday’s tornadoes.

“Gary and Marta Kerkman have a house next to Gary’s brother Kenny Kerkman and his wife, Karen, and both of them…they lost their entire homes,” she said, choking back tears. “They have been through so much and I just want to do whatever I can to help them.”

The ecumenical service at the small church drew several hundred people, including members of St. Alphonsus as well as those from neighboring communities. Those inside came together in prayer for the hundreds of people in the area whose lives are in disarray and whose homes are uninhabitable. They prayed for the victims, who suffered loss, and joined hearts and hands in support.

The mood was somber during the half-hour service, with many tearing up while Sandi Schmitt, St. Alphonsus Pastoral Associate, reflected on the loss and offering praise and gratitude to God for sparing the lives of the storm victims.

“We have heard amazing stories,” she said. “About the responses for help, the lives saved, the people found and the miracles. We hear them and are in awe at how truly great God is.”

Praising the community for the outpouring of help, love and support, Schmitt assured residents that despite the tremendous personal loss Jesus loved them.

“We are material creatures and those personal items lost are a significant part of our lives, and as a Church we also hold on to what is tangible,” she said. “We see this in God’s son, the name Emmanuel means ‘God is with us,’ and we give thanks to God for that precious gift He has given us in His son.”

While many of the items lost will never be replaced, Schmitt urged victims to go on with the promise of hope.

“We have the promise of the rainbow and I urge you to hold on to that promise,” she said. “Always look for the rainbow and look for all of the signs that God is with us.”

As a member of the City of Kenosha Fire Department, Dan Harris has witnessed many tragedies first hand. This time the loss hit a bit closer to home. A half-mile from the devastation, his home suffered no damage, but that didn’t stop him from joining in to help those in the community who were not so fortunate.

“The people in this community are phenomenal,” he said. “They will do anything to help each other and I have seen so many who are cold, wet and tired, but still keep going just to help a friend or neighbor in need. With all the problems in the world, the hearts of the people in New Munster are in the right place. It is a great place to raise a family and they show what life is all about—I am so proud to be a part of this community.”

How you can help

Contact: St. Alphonsus
6211 344th Ave
PO Box 922
New Munster, WI

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The aftermath of the storm

The fury of nature was never more prevalent than it was yesterday when we spent three hours in the basement hoping and praying that our house would still be standing after the storm was over.

Our area of southeastern Wisconsin suffered five tornadoes and much devastation. Fortunately and thanks be to God, our home was spared. Many homes were decimated and the entire lives of hundreds of people are permanently altered.

One enormous blessing is that no one was killed despite the fact that thousands of school children were let out of their buildings as the sirens were blaring. Homes were leveled as family members huddled in their basements. A checkbook from Burlington was found in Kenosha--a victim of the high winds. Thousands of unnamed volunteers descended upon victims to hug, hold, help and feed them.

In a world where we often see only heartache, crime, devastation, hatred and gang violence--it is a blessing to see the kindness of strangers.

May God bless them all

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Afternoon with Linzy, our granddaughter

Linzy and her Daddy, David came to visit today. She had a ball playing with our Bichon, Zachary.

and here is Zachary after she left! He is still sleeping on the couch three hours later!

Peggy Mackenzie-this blog's for you!

Here I am Peggy after a long and crazy Christmas break. I don't know why they call it Christmas break because it is never a break for a mother. I think they should call it -Christmas madness, Christmas stress, Christmas angst--something more appropriate to the excessive cooking, cleaning, entertaining, smiling in the face of disaster that goes on during this time of year. Did I say disaster? Whew, don't get me started--between our neighbor dying, our best friend having a heart attack and his wife passing out in the hospital and dealing with adult children who think is is perfectly fine to bash parents--disaster is the word of the day. What is the best part of this new year 2008 though, is that Our Lord Jesus Christ still reigns and is still merciful and still fills me with the grace to endure each day despite everyone and everything else.

To cheer you--here are a couple of pictures of your brother celebrating Christmas with those near and dear to us.