Friday, February 29, 2008
By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
Stories of rivaling siblings are prevalent in the Bible. Cain killed Able, and Essau would have done the same had not Jacob assuaged his twin’s notable rage with offerings of whole herds and villages. It is not without reason that the Psalm 133:1 pleads, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”
The toddler angrily sinking his teeth into an older brother’s arm to snatch a toy, the young teen tattling on the older sister, or adult children locked in silent enmity over who spends more time with mom and dad—all are aspects of the term first defined as sibling rivalry by psychiatrist David Levy in the early 1940’s.
But why can so much friction build up between brothers and sisters? Is there anything parents can do to nip this kind of antagonism in the bud—or resolve existing opposition?
Catholic Clinical psychologist Dr. Ray Guarendi of Canton, Ohio, father of ten adopted children, and host of the acclaimed ‘Dr. Ray and Friends,’ on Relevant Radio, tells parents not to worry about being fair when kids are quibbling.
“In most cases, the parents can’t figure out who did what to whom, or when it happened,” he said. “There is no bottom to this, you have stereophonic cacophony at 12 decibels.”
According to Guarendi, who joked that sibling rivalry ‘almost never’ happens when there is only one child; stated that the key to squelching the screaming is in giving both parties equal treatments for their behavior.
“For example, they can each sit out for 15 minutes or each write 25 nice things about the other,” he said. “And if they can’t think of 25 nice things—tell them to make them up.”
The majority of sibling rivalry cases are surrounded by the child’s interpretation of fairness and how they fit into the family dynamics. According to Ed de St. Aubin, Associate Professor of Psychology at Marquette University, shifting the child’s understanding of what is fair is important. Moving from the concrete “everyone gets the same exact thing,” or the same cake, same punishment, time in the front seat, etc.
“Speak to the child at a time when there is no argument occurring and give the child examples of what might be considered just or fair when it is not all about receiving the same thing,” he said. “A child whose favorite food is watermelon may get the bigger piece. A sister who has a special occasion may get a later curfew.”
When Anita Kowalski, mother to four and grandmother to 13 deals with rivalry, she deals with it in a big way but finds that in the long run, it isn’t a war—it is a love fest.
“Kids will fight about one being better than the other at something, or fight about getting something the other one didn’t get, but if an outsider confronts one of them, watch out,” she said. “That other kid is right there in their face saying, ‘don’t touch my brother.’ The important thing we need to do as parents and grandparents is to nurture the love fest more than the war.”
Employed as the Director of Religious Education at St Aloysius parish in West Allis, Kowalski was the founder of The Family Life Center at St. Stephen’s Parish in Milwaukee. Although no longer actively involved in the Center, she will be hosting “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother,” a program focusing on sibling rivalry on May 20.
“I experience sibling rivalry among my own kids quite a bit,” she admitted, after recently purchasing identical Valentine greeting cards for her two sons and two daughters so each wouldn’t compare which was the better one. “Probably the biggest thing I see now in terms of rivalry is in how often I take care of the grandkids. The older kids might say, ‘you didn’t watch my kids as you do so and so’s kids.’ It’s true, when my first grandkids were younger, I wasn’t able to care for them as much as I can now because I worked full time then and I am part-time now-so I have more availability.”
While each child or grandchild doesn’t need to have the exact same experience or gift, Kowalski said that it is important not to show favoritism.
“When my kids were young and I was so busy with work, I would pull one of them at a time out of school for a day and do something that interested them so we had time together,” she said. “Now I do that with my grandkids, in fact I just took my two 12-year-old granddaughters to the Mall of America and we had a great time—and I am planning some other trips with my other grandkids. I try hard not to do too much for one and not the other ones.”
When rivalry continues on through adulthood, such as arguments that have escalated to affecting holidays, fights over inheritance, gifts or social time, Kowalski’s solution is to host a family meeting.
“There are no times that I have seen when family meetings are not helpful,” she said. “Even those are tricky situations, but it is important to be open and say what you think. If they open up—they can talk about it and come to a solution for the problem.”
Training Coordinator, Catherine Pines of De Paul Community Mental Health Center in Lincoln Park, IL is an expert in parenting challenges and skills. For parents struggling with rivalry, she suggests the book “Siblings Without Rivalry” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish is helpful to getting to the bottom of ever-increasing animosity.
“In general, when siblings have deep and sustained conflict, it is due to inequitable parental treatment and is ideally addressed by helping the parents,” she said. “The goal is to love all children equally, not love them ‘the same,’ you can’t love each child in the same way because each child is not the same person, and parents have different natural affinities with different children. The struggle of how to love equally, without loving the same, is one of the challenges that all parents face.”
Most experts such as Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family agree that kindness begins with parents setting a good example.
“Don’t be discouraged,” he said, in a speech on sibling rivalry. “While sibling rivalry may be a problem difficult to avoid, its effects can be managed and minimized.”
Some of his concepts might be helpful.
• Respect. Ban insulting comments. Words are powerful and can be painful. Teach your children to be kind and to appreciate each other. Neither child should ever be allowed to make fun of the other in a destructive way. Period! This is an inflexible rule with no exceptions.
• No favorites. We see the damage done by Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Keep in mind that while all children are created equal, not all children are the same. Recognize and praise each child’s individual skills, strengths and accomplishments without implying that one child is somehow better.
• Emphasize conflict-management. Do not deny your child’s feelings, but help him learn to express emotions in an appropriate way. If you see your child acting jealously, encourage him identify the emotion by saying, “I understand that you feel bad because …” or “I know you hurt because” Helping your children figure out the causes of their actions will help them learn how to deal with problems in the future.
• Do not ignore good behavior. To attention-starved kids, negative attention is simply attention. Notice your children playing nicely together and reward them with praise. Be sure each child receives adequate parental interest and quality time.
• Show appreciation for who your child is, not what he does. When a child feels valuable merely for his grades or athletic prowess, he will feel the need to prove his worth. Instead, praise your child for his God-given traits such as compassion or a tender heart. By fostering their self-esteem, children can learn to respect themselves and others.
• Most parents realize children imitate what they see, so look at the example you set. Do you compete with your siblings? Or do you consistently show kindness to your brothers and sisters? By checking your actions, you can be better prepared to show your children how to emerge the best of friends following the inevitability of a little sibling conflict.
While no parent can escape criticism at some point for their parenting style, honestly sharing and demonstrating unconditional love will go a long way to creating lifelong sibling amity.
“Parents love for their children is not like a pie that is evenly divided,” said St. Aubin. “It is more like a river that endlessly flows and can take on lots more water, when necessary.”
For parents who struggle with an ease of parenting one child over another, or having a more lovable child than the other, St. Aubin offers this advice.
“Don’t announce that,” he said.
Siblings without Rivalry: How to help your children live together so you can too
By Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
He Ain’t Heavy He’s my Brother: Family Fun Night
Tuesday May 20, 6-7:30 p.m.
Session includes: Free meal for family, fun activity for children, followed by a stimulating discussion on sibling rivalry.
To Register for the Free Program, Contact the Parenting Network by May 17.
5880 S Howell Ave
Get out the shorts kids--we are headed for a Wisconsin warm-up of epic proportions.
This weekend, it is expected that we will top 40 degrees--woohoo! we haven't seen temps like that since last October...my goodness, this is almost a sign of spring.
While it is doubtful we can put away our snow shovels, it is making me think once again of black dirt, seeds, flowers, fresh tomatoes and basil in my garden. Ahh the scents of summer, I can almost inhale the memory.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Wisconsin Pro-Aborts Take Aim at State Abortion Law
By Dave Andrusko, editor, National Right to Life News. Please send your thoughts to email@example.com
Although the immediate application is to Wisconsin, a public hearing scheduled for next Wednesday at the state capitol of Madison is of concern to pro-lifers nationwide. I'm referring to SB 398, a bill to repeal Wisconsin's abortion ban, s.940.04.
In a second, I will explain why it is important that pro-life Wisconsinites attend the February 27 hearing at noon in Room 411 South-- not just to them, but to all of us. We need to keep in mind that Planned Parenthood types will be represented by many supporters of the repeal measure.
It is likely that floor action in the state Senate will take place sometime after the public hearing and before the legislature adjourns March 13.
So, why is this repeal effort (clones of which no doubt will pop up elsewhere) important? Pro-abortionists already have Roe v. Wade and assorted follow-up Supreme Court decisions.
Why bother to repeal the 150-year-old Wisconsin abortion law that prohibits abortions except when the mother's life is in danger? As long as Roe stands, no state law can be enforced.
To ask the question is to answer it. Once Roe is tossed into the ashcan of history, the battle over the shape of abortion law returns to the legislative branch.
Pro-abortionists fully understand that "Should Roe v. Wade be repealed, Wisconsin would be one of four states to immediately outlaw abortion," as the authors of the drive to repeal the statute have written. "This repeal is especially important now as forces work to outlaw certain abortion procedures with the goal of outlawing all abortions."
True to form pro-abortion legislators both mislabel the bill --dubbing it the "Women's Health and Safety Act"-- and out-and-out lie about its impact--saying that women who have abortions will go to jail if abortion is outlawed.
The latter assertion is particularly egregious, even by pro-abortion standards. In 1985, the Wisconsin legislature enacted a provision that would make only the abortionist the criminal, not the woman.
Wisconsin RTL has reminded its members that the organization "has been alerting pro-life people all over the state for two years that this alarming and devastating legislation would be attempted by Planned Parenthood and its allies."
But the threat is no longer theoretical. It is now a reality.
You can help save a minimum of 9,500 human lives each year in Wisconsin by working with Wisconsin Right to Life to save s.940.04.
Please alert your pro-life friends, family, and colleagues to be at the state capitol Wednesday, February 27, at noon.
Note from me: please contact your state representatives about this our yet to be born babies need your help
A personal message from Barbara Lyons of WRTL:
As expected, Senate leaders are moving ahead with SB 398, the bill which would repeal Wisconsin’s abortion ban. A public hearing is scheduled for February 27 at 12:00 pm in the state capitol.
This is it – our abortion ban is the most important thing we have to protect unborn children in Wisconsin. Remember, on the day the Roe is finally gone, Wisconsin will be one of the first states in the nation to shut down its abortion clinics. That is, as long as our abortion ban stays on the books.
Can you please come? This is the time to take vacation, bring cars full of people to the public hearing, do whatever you can. Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin are certain to bring in hundreds of people, especially the college students right there in Madison.
If you know of anyone, especially women who have had abortions, who can come to testify, please, please let us know. We will keep you informed of other details.
P.S. - As a historical reminder, this is how Wisconsin Right to Life got started 40 years ago. Pro-abortion people attempted to repeal or modify this very same abortion ban. They weren’t successful then – and cannot be successful now.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
by Karen Mahoney
Gospel music is one of the most joyful noises ever made unto the Lord, and last Sunday night’s “Say Amen Somebody,” musical production at St. Catherine’s High School in Racine had the audience standing, swaying, clapping and singing along in soulful celebration.
It was a night to travel back into history, as members of a half dozen churches in Racine joined voices with Zoe Outreach Ministries, to celebrate the evolution of music in the African-American church. Selections began with early spirituals or slave songs, which offered hope for an escape from bondage, an important facet of African American History, stated Music Director, Kornell Hargrove.
“These songs told of stations of the Underground Railroad and gave clues as to the way out,” he said. “We don’t want to lose our history of slave songs.”
According to Kimberly McGee, Program Director, the program was a journey which chronicled the progression and importance of the black church experience as it relates to slave songs, hymns, quartets, contemporary music and gospel music.
“We also wanted to sing songs from some of the pioneers of Gospel music, such as Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson and James Cleveland,” she said, adding, “and then focus on the newer talent such as Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, and Fred Hammond. Gospel music is music that honors God—it helps us to open our hearts, mind and spirit to perceive God on another level.”
In its sixth year, “Say Amen Somebody,” was the brainchild of former Zoe minister, Sherri Jackson. With a different focus each year, Jackson’s goal was to see the program grow and to give the community something that offered historical, educational and spiritual aspects. For third time performer Belinda Askew, who danced to the Marvin Sapp tune, “Shout Unto God,” the opportunity is a blessing that needs to be shared.
“This is so wonderful to be able to worship this way for the Lord, it takes us back into our history and it blesses my heart to get to know my background,” she said. “I feel we are drawing others to the Lord by participating in this ministry.”
For Zoe Pastor, Reverend Melvin Hargrove, the best part of the annual event is the opportunity to bring the rich cultural heritage of the African Americans to the youth of the community.
“Most of us older folks know our history, but our young people need to know it,” he said. “We also need to share with them and the community the message of Christ. It is because of the church we are able to be as strong as we are.”
While pleased with the turnout and performance, Hargrove admitted that the production lacked racial diversity, something he intends to change for next year’s performance.
“We intend to do a better job of inviting the white community to participate in the choir and to join us in the audience,” he said. “There is a such a disconnect between black and white and somebody’s gotta break that disconnect—there has to be a way to unite the two cultures.”
Friday, February 22, 2008
"Karen, I want to do something with your hair-we need to give you a style that represents your age."
So, does this mean I am wearing my hair too old for me?
or too young for me?
I am definitely hair-challenged. I have inherited thin tresses and a see through scalp from my mother and her mother and her mother before. We could blame it on the celiac, but I just blame it on bad genes.
All I can say is Good Luck Nancy because thousands of stylists before you have tried to fix my hair and failed miserably.
While I am at it, I stumbled upon some top ten hair myths that might give you a Friday morning chuckle.
I lifted these myths from Damian R von Dahlem of Hair News Magazine--thanks Damien
1. Cutting your hair makes it stronger or grow faster.
Bull winkle. Its hair, not a lawn. Exactly where this myth started is unknown, but is probably related to the observation of men's facial hair. There are different kinds of hair on your face and head. Hair on your head and facial hair have different properties. Cutting your hair will only make it shorter and hairs grows almost exactly half an inch per month, no matter what you do or take.
2. Split ends can be repaired.
Sorry Charlie, not true. Split ends cannot be repaired and should be cut off immediately or they will split yet higher and do yet more damage.
3. Brushing your hair is good for it.
To the contrary, brushing your hair is very bad for your hair and the leading contributor to split ends and hair breakage. By all means groom your hair, but once it is in place, STOP.
4. Tight hats cause baldness.
This one probably started in the military where young men entering the service were required to wear hats and soon showed signs of going bald, or at least of hair thinning. This is due to coincidental timing. The age that young men enter the military is also the same age that male pattern hair loss begins. This is due to dihydrotestosterone, not hats. Hats do cause hair breakage and to a lessor degree to split ends.
5. Hair can turn gray or white over night.
What utter nonsense. This one was born in literature. What part of "fiction" did they not understand? Hair receives its color genetically and can only turn gray or white over very long periods of time. Actually the hair doesn't turn white in as much as the hair loses color, but not over night, or even a wild weekend.
6. Pluck one gray hair and two grow back.
Folks, if this were true I would be pulling my hair out by the fist full. I need more hair and can always color the gray hair.
7. Baldness is inherited from the mothers side of the family.
More Hair Voodoo. Male and female pattern hair loss can be inherited from either side of the family and may or may not skip many generations. Male pattern hair loss usually begins at age 18 to 20 and female patter hair loss between ages 45 and 55.
8. Dandruff is caused by dry scalp.
Dandruff and dry scalp are two entirely different things. A good shampoo and conditioner will take care of the dry scalp, which is 'flaking'. Dandruff shampoos are entirely unnecessary and inadvisable for dry scalp.
Dandruff is a serious health issue and requires medical attention and prescribed medication. The 'flakes' are actually oily, not dry. Very few people have actual dandruff and you would know it if you did.
9. Dandruff is contagious.
No. You already have the micro organism that causes dandruff, yours just aren't as active. On the other hand, there are plenty of nasty things you can get from someone else's comb or brush, so be careful.
10. Cutting your hair during a full moon makes it grow in healthier, fuller, faster or longer.
Give me a break. I am not even going to dignify this one with an explanation. Hey, if they buy into this type of earth muffin drivel, by all means, let them mark the dates on their calendar.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
BRIGHTON - At a time when Catholic elementary schools are dealing with declining enrollments, it is unusual to see a Catholic elementary school not only open its doors for the first time, but experience a 50 percent enrollment increase in just five years.
When St. John the Baptist School in Paris, and St. Francis Xavier School in Brighton consolidated to form Providence Catholic School in 1996, the outcome was unknown.
Providence Catholic School's enrollment is increasing due to a marketing effort and the school's reputation in the community.
In a recent parish bulletin, Providence principal Deacon Wilson Shierk attributed the school's enrollment of 104 students to the excellent teaching staff, supportive parents, financial support from the quad-parishes, the new tuition schedule and a professional advertising program that helped attract new students.
"These results are significant because while our enrollment number is increasing, nationally and locally Catholic elementary school enrollment has decreased," he wrote in the bulletin.
Providence students consistently place more than 15 percent above national and state averages in scholastic tests, a testament to the quality of education the teaching staff provides to students, said Scott Berzin, chairman of the education committee, chairman of the marketing committee and father of a fourth grade student.
Key to the school's success is the low teacher-student ratio, he said.
"Some of the factors include the lowering of tuition, the efforts of the marketing committee, and the fact that PCS students have a proven track record to maintain high academic and moral standards," Berzin said.
In order to encourage enrollment, tuition for the current year was reduced 15 percent to $1,880, he said.
"PCS has also created its new preschool and learning center. Not only does PCS provide a daycare center, the daycare center also provides a learning program to ready the children for kindergarten," said Berzin.
Additionally, the center accommodates working parents by providing before and after school care, as well as summer Bible camps.
Supported by four parishes in the Union Grove and Kansasville vicinity - St. John the Baptist, St. Francis Xavier, St. Robert Bellarmine, Union Grove, and St. Mary, Dover - Providence receives generous funding, and uses several creative school fund-raising techniques.
"Our main fund-raiser is our annual auction that is sponsored by the Home and School committee," Berzin said. "We also have a spring raffle and a calendar raffle that helps keep our tuition affordable."
While finances are the largest obstacles to overcome, the school parents are willing to do what they can to overcome the financial situation, admitted Annette Tracy, Home and School president.
"The people in our schools are wonderful and they are always willing to help out," she said.
For school parent Lori Weis, the decrease in tuition is an important reason for the school's success and growth.
"We are trying very hard to keep it lower so it is more achievable to different families," she said. "Also, more and more families are seeing the benefits that a Catholic school can provide for their children and family."
While some may believe that sending children to larger, publicly funded schools is a greater benefit because more capital is available to offer a variety of courses, modern equipment and more technology, Providence parents believe the opposite.
"There are no challenges in sending our kids to a smaller school," said Weis. "When it comes time for high school, I feel with the education they received academically, they will be ready, and they will have good morals and the self-confidence to help make good decisions."
For students needing extra help, teachers are available and willing to see them succeed. According to Weis, students who excel academically will be given challenging material to assist them in reaching their potential.
"They won't get lost in the crowd," she said. "I also like that I know a lot of the families and have become close friends with them. The school teaches manners to the students, to show respect and to be kind to others.
According to Berzin, the marketing committee worked hard to develop an appealing advertising campaign to draw new students to the school. Extensive research in western Kenosha and Racine counties helped the team gain information on the best possible marketing strategy.
"We have many advertising avenues that we follow," he said, explaining mass mailers are sent to members of all four parishes during Catholic Schools Week with invitations to the school's open house. "We also send mass mailers to selected demographic areas with Kenosha and Racine counties that advertise our open enrollment process. We maintain a high presence in our local communities and within our parishes."
For parents who sacrifice to pay the extra tuition for the duel campus school, the emphasis on spiritual, academic, social, emotional and moral growth is the primary reason why they send their children to Providence.
"I love that my son is taught by Sister Carla Scheider (School Sister of Notre Dame) and she is very traditional," said Tracy. "The school teachers and the families are all so sincere. You kind of know everyone's business and if someone falls on hard times, there is someone right there to help them out. We know each other like a large family."
By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
RACINE - A waking nightmare and hesitancy to trust has followed countless soldiers home from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq, said William Sklba, one of two presenters for "When the Warrior Returns Home," a program designed to help understand the horrors of war and assist in healing for veterans and their families, at the Siena Center on Jan. 22.
Sklba, brother of Bishop Richard J. Sklba, is a Racine resident, and director of Vet's Place, a Racine County residential facility for homeless veterans. He works with more than 450 vets dealing with re-entry and life-long changes.
Many of the mental health problems faced by homecoming troops are mild, admitted co-presenter Karen Carnabucci, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in trauma, addiction, spirituality, holistic healing, and group psychotherapy.
Up to a third report a little sleeplessness or paranoia, and most of the time, those symptoms will disappear after some time at home. But a growing number of cases are more severe, such as those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), explained Carnabucci.
"Think about a time when you were faced with a life threatening situation and all your nerves are standing at full attention - and you are completely frightened. We have all had some experiences like that, and most of us have been so frightened were able to lay back down, take a breath and said, OK, it is over I can go on with my life - that was really scary, but I am OK now," she said.
"The PTSD person such as a war vet suffers the horrible experience and the nerve endings stand and keep standing. Years later, they are still standing and getting raw around the edges. Anything that would remind them of the event, a child, or whatever will set them off," she said.
While not a combat vet, Sklba, who served in Vietnam, could empathize with other veterans finding themselves in harm's way.
"Today at Vet's Place, I would guess that at least 40 percent of them are Vietnam vets, and they all have a very heavy load to carry," he said. "People in WWII came home as victors; of course, that did not lessen the traumas and threats they faced. Those in the Korean War did not come back as victors. But Vietnam War vets came back to shame. It is important not to treat veterans the way you feel about government. It's clear that we might have bad wars, but you never have bad veterans."
Unspoken, but ever present was the belief that there was a direct connection between a bad war and bad veterans. According to Sklba, many Vietnam vets threw their uniforms in the trash and many were refused membership in the VFW or other veterans' organizations because they did not participate in a "real" war.
As a result of the ongoing shame of that war, many veterans sheltered their emotions and refused to discuss their experiences. Most attempted to live a normal life, as if nothing had happened. Unfortunately, the past merged with the present and many lives spiraled downward.
"Six years ago, a man named Len came into my office, closed the door and sat down on my couch," Sklba said. "Len had been in the residential facility for three to fourth months, owned his own business in Illinois, had a family, three sons and a $225,000 home."
After Len's business began going through difficult times, he drank and became angry with his family for their lack of support. Suffering from insomnia, he medicated himself with drugs and alcohol, eventually losing his home, his business, and his family.
He ended up in an Illinois shelter until he heard about Vet's Place, where staff offered him a full range of services, including spiritual counseling, employment counseling, safety training, food, clothing and people to listen.
"He said to me, 'I trust you and I can't keep this in any longer.' I told him it was OK and that he was in a safe place," Sklba said. "His job in Vietnam was to stand near the shore where tankers would come close and unload fuel oil. The fuel oil was unloaded to the pipeline and available to U.S. vehicles. His job was to protect the pipeline."
A difficult job, Len did his best because he knew that the fuel line was critical to serve the troops in the field. What Len had not anticipated was the Vietcong sending women and children to damage the pipeline.
"Over a period of a few weeks, he had to kill several women and children who came to sabotage the pipeline," Sklba explained. "Len left the military and locked that part of his life aside, went home to Illinois to pick up the pieces and when things in life began to go wrong, his ability to keep those experiences and that responsibility began to crumble. Every time he saw a child, a woman with a child or looked at his own kids, the wound deepened."
After extensive counseling, he healed from the inside and repaired his relationship with his children. He went back to school in the health care field and is now taking care of vets in Milwaukee.
"He says he is happier than a pig in mud now," admitted Sklba. "The weight came off him, but the pain and process were unbelievable. He survived this primarily because of services available to pick up on his needs. There was a compassionate, available program for him to come to and to trust us with his burdens."
Carnabucci, who has worked with trauma since 1989, was influenced by the recent book, "War and the Soul," by Edward Tick, a psychologist specializing in veterans, using a holistic approach to healing.
His approach can be summarized in a term he's created for the far-reaching symptoms of PTSD, or post-terror soul disorder.
"He has amazingly enough helped heal veterans in a simple and profound way," she said. "He has them tell their stories and encourages the community to hear their stories. He does this with the idea that the horrors experienced in war are too much for one human individual to carry on for their life and it takes a community to help them hold their story."
The premise of his work is that because the soldiers go to war in the name of every citizen that we have the responsibility to help carry their story so it won't be so heavy.
"This has worked with all varieties of veterans and worked in such a way that many don't need their meds any longer," Carnabucci said. "If you have the opportunity to hear a vet tell their story, you will want to listen."
An overwhelming response to veterans is to call them a hero, and even though they may have done amazing things, they may have done things that were not heroic and may, in fact, cause deep shame.
"If I am calling you a hero without knowing you at all and you have done things in our country's name when you were frightened, then 99 percent of the time, you feel you need to close off any part of your story that is not heroic," Carnabucci said. "It is important to be aware of this."
In addition to listening and giving the veteran an opportunity to share their story, it is vitally important to present them with outlets for their physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. Because of the spiritual wounding that leaves a hole in the soul, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse are common among vets. Sklba encouraged family and friends to offer a list of resources for healing.
"There are many qualified people in Racine County to help with problems of the returning veterans and those resources are available simply by contacting the VA services," said Sklba. "There are some very good people in the VA system, regardless of what you have heard about Walter Reed. There are qualified, committed, caring people, and many have personal experiences of their own."
They agreed, no matter the personal feelings about war, one thing is clear, "Whatever political beliefs, everyone still needs healing."
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
This is the end of February--almost March and the temperatures are hovering at -6 degrees today. Can I put in my order for something with a bit of sun and above 32 degrees?
It is getting depressing already and I am so unmotivated to do my work--and believe me, I have a ton of it piled up on my desk. Maybe I need one of those little SAD lights--problem is, I'd have to strap it to my back for it to take the full effect.
Well, Blaise wants me to trek outside in this FRIGID weather and look at the lunar eclipse. Or should I say Looney eclipse? If it was something about 40, I might change my mind, but not today, not tonight, not ever when it is closer to absolute zero than it is to freezing. Stay tuned--I handed him my camera--we might have some pictures later.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Living with Celiac Disease
latest Kenosha News Article
by Karen Mahoney
Four months ago, Lois (who asked her last name not be used) had never heard of celiac disease.
At 82, the Kenosha woman had been losing weight, becoming irritable, and having bouts of chronic diarrhea when she finally went to her doctor last May.
“He had no idea what was going on, so he told me to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist,” she said. “But then I had a heart attack and wasn’t able to see the GI doc until October.”
After a battery of tests, the doctor called back and told Lois she had celiac disease.
“I said, what in the world is that?” she admitted. “He said, no wheat, no rye, no barley and I said, ‘Oh no.’”
The gold standard for diagnosing celiac disease is with a biopsy from the intestines, stated Dr. Lyndon Hernandez, Aurora Gastroenterologist and Chairman of the Editorial Review Board of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. However, other serological blood test, such as in Lois’s case, help to support the diagnosis such as genetic testing and a celiac panel, which has assisted in an earlier diagnosis and more awareness of the disease.
“We used to see primarily patients with obvious manifestations of celiac disease, but with the advent of readily available blood tests, we are diagnosing more patients with early disease,” said Dr. Hernandez, who acknowledged that celiac disease was once thought to be rare, but now considered a much more common human gene disorder.
The treatment sounds simple-don’t eat any wheat, barley or rye. It isn’t. A whole host of food ingredients contain the offending proteins, including semolina, durham, triticale, spelt, farina, malt, graham, food starches, bulgur, matzo, couscous and orzo. Even barbeque and soy sauces often contain wheat. And although deep fried foods may not normally contain gluten, they may be cooked in the same oil as foods containing gluten.
Additionally, some non-food products contain gluten and can cause problems with the celiac sufferer, such as lipsticks, hair products, Play Dough, lotions and cosmetics.
Although there are no cures on the horizon, Dr. Hernandez stated that current research is concentrating on the genetic basis of the disease, which could lead to a form of vaccine against celiac disease. For now, patients will notice an improvement with adherence to a gluten free diet.
“It is highly variable among my patients, but symptoms typically improve within two weeks on a strict gluten free diet,” he said.
For Daniel Schellenbach of Paddock Lake, a diagnosis of celiac disease was a shock. Five years ago, he suffered for months with painful blisters that covered his elbows, knees and he said, ‘the area that I sit on.’ “The sores where I sat gave me the most trouble,” he said. “My family doctor had given me different creams for dry skin or eczema.”
When that didn’t work, he sent Schellenbach to a dermatologist who biopsied the blisters, diagnosed him with Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH), a skin manifestation of celiac sprue, and little else.
“Since the dermatologist did not give me a lot of info, I didn’t really know what to think until my wife and I started to read up on the problem,” he said. “Initially going gluten free was a real pain. The first time we went to the store I think we spent an extra hour or two just reading the labels.”
Lois remembers the first day she spent wandering the supermarket looking for her favorite snacks, cookies, cereal, bread and ice cream in gluten free form.
“I was there forever, it seemed,” she said. “Finally two complete strangers helped me find what I was looking for and an found me an ice cream that I could eat.”
While she has gotten the knack of shopping, going out to eat is another story.
“Oh Lois doesn’t go out to eat too often,” she chuckled. “If they don’t’ have chicken and veggies, I don’t go because if there is something wrong—I will spend hours on the potty.”
For 63-year-old Schellenbach the decision not to dine out hinges more on his wife’s asthma and her inability to tolerate cigarette smoke than it does finding something to order.
“I normally find enough to eat,” he admitted. “But sometimes I just have a large salad.”
For Schellenbach, it was several months on the gluten free diet before the blisters disappeared.
“In addition, it took a bit to discover all the places gluten can hide,” he said. “But I haven’t really had too much trouble—there have been a few times I have had some bad stomach/intestinal problems, but we aren’t sure if it was gluten or something else.”
The vast majority of those diagnosed with celiac disease react with anger, dismay and frustration. Teenagers are particularly frustrated because it means no pasta, pizza, bagels, or cookies—common teenage fare.
Travel, socializing, and college—all aspects of lifestyle change after the diagnosis, but in the end, most are grateful.
“The key to managing their disease is for patients to continue learning about their condition, and to become a member of the celiac disease community,” stated Dr. Hernandez. “Also the great majority of my patients relate to me that they are actually very willing to give up wheat-based foods because of the great improvement they notice after embarking on a gluten-free diet.”
What is Celiac Disease?
Affecting an estimated 1 in 133 persons in the country, Celiac disease is a genetic-linked, permanent inability to digest gluten—a cluster of related proteins that occur naturally in wheat, barley and rye. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, it sets off an autoimmune response that causes the intestinal tract to become inflamed. Over time, the lining of the intestinal tract becomes so damaged that nutrients cannot be absorbed.
Abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue and weight loss can be symptoms of celiac disease. Another type of gluten intolerance affects the skin, causing itchy blisters and skin rashes. And sometimes people have no symptoms at all.
Uncontrolled celiac disease leads to major nutritional problems caused by damaged intestines. Left untreated, the disease can lead to serious malnutrition, bone disease and even cancer.
For more information
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Voices rising to heaven
Feb. 17, 2008
1,100 Unified students sing at 42nd annual Choral Festival
There is a category of musical event that exists as much for the benefit of those on stage as for their audience, if not more.
Saturday night was an example of that, as more than 1,100 Kenosha Unified choir students sang for three times their number at Bradford High School.
The 42nd annual Choral Festival featured students from 11 middle schools, high schools and charter schools in the district.
They kept normal fidgeting in check most of the morning and during rehearsals, and none complained about sacrificing a sunny Saturday for the chance to work with guest conductor Keith Hampton and sing music a bit more challenging than usual.
Hampton, director of music ministries and organist at the Park Manor Christian Church in Chicago, and a music teacher at the Chicago International Charter School, was excited to return to Kenosha for the second year to work with students for the annual festival.
"The music is challenging for them, but they have done a nice job and really are better this year than last," he said. "It is tough for some of them because we have varying schools and some of them have smaller choirs, but they are doing great."
As the new coordinator of fine arts at Unified, Robert Wells was relieved that the anticipated snowstorm held off this year, as last year's event was canceled due to the weather.
"This has been very exciting, and everything has gone quite smoothly," he said. "Fortunately, there have been no surprises, and the kids have all been great. They have all learned their pieces quite well."
Most of the young singers, like Steve Labedz, Bradford senior, said they enjoyed the choice of material and the director himself.
"Since we worked with him last year, we know him pretty well now. There were some inside jokes from last year, and it was nice having him back again. I like him a lot."
Bradford senior Katherine Thomas liked meeting the other participants as they arrived in the morning to rehearse combined selections such as "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Fanfare for a Festival" and the "Hallelujah Chorus."
"Everyone is so nice, and it's fun seeing all the other students from other schools that you don't often get a chance to meet," she said, "And Dr. Hampton is awesome. He is easy to work with and very funny. It's a bit hard to hear in the fieldhouse because of the acoustics, but I think we sound pretty good together."
To prepare for the concert, Hampton traveled to each school during the week to practice with the individual choirs, an aspect of the experience that Bradford sophomore Michael Swartz said was cool.
"The music was not hard, but it was challenging," he said. "But he made it fun. I think we have done well with him, and I'm glad I got to participate this year and that it didn't snow."
After selections, rehearsals and the final performance before the large audience, it is doubtful that any of the young singers realize the effect of the whole experience.
As Jolene Schneider, mother of 18-year-old Patrick, explained, "The performances are wonderful and the experience is good for the kids. I am most looking forward to hearing the all-men's chorus sing 'Praise His Holy Name,' which was written by Keith Hampton."
As the proud great-grandmother of freshman Amy Sandberger, Jeanine Berger summed it up, "It's good for her to do this. The program is all good."
Thursday, February 14, 2008
|2/14/2008 12:00:00 PM||Email this article • Print this article|
A heart-pumping effort at Big Bend school
Inspired by loved ones, St. Joseph students raise money for heart research
By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
BIG BEND - It isn't often you can transform liveliness into capital.
But St. Joseph Grade School students did that Feb. 4, using their jump rope, Hula-Hoop and basketball skills to raise money for the American Heart Association.
"They had so much fun, it was a great time and it got a lot bigger than last year's event," said physical education teacher Cindy Groth, who organized the Jump Rope/Hoops For Heart event, the school's annual heart disease awareness fund-raiser.
Last year students brought in more than $6,000 from donors to jump rope for the day-long event. With nearly 100 percent participation in the school of 120, students begin learning about healthy eating and exercise in gym class, practice jump roping and finish by bringing in a fund-raising envelope for the event. The gymnasium is decorated with colorful "heart healthy posters."
While totals aren't in for this year's event, Groth anticipates higher totals because the event was especially significant to students this year.
"Yeah, this year was really personal for the students, and much more meaningful," she said.
For eighth grader Kurt Bushey, the cause is particularly close because of the recent death of his 45-year-old father, Mike, who died of a massive heart attack just weeks ago.
"It was really hard this time, but all I kept thinking was that I wanted to raise more money this year in honor of my dad," Kurt said. "I hope they can find a cure for heart disease soon."
The 14-year-old relies on his Catholic faith to prepare him for the tough times ahead. According to a surprised Groth, Kurt directed his sorrow to prepare for his father's funeral held in the school days before the fund-raiser.
"I couldn't believe him, throughout all of this, he didn't miss even one day of school," she said. "He wanted to be near the other students that he is so close to and he wanted to set up the gym for his dad's funeral. I think it must have been very healing for him ... he must get it from his mom because she plan-ned the luncheon; her faith must be incredible."
While some children might exhibit bitterness toward God for taking their fat-her, Kurt's faith has been strengthened because of the promise of the resurrection and the knowledge that his dad is watching over him.
"I think he was proud of me at the fund-raiser," Kurt said, "and thinking of him has made me grow closer to God."
The event also held special meaning for seventh grade teacher Winnie Sartoris, who suffers with cardiomyopathy and wears an im-plantable pacemaker/defibrillator to control her heart rhythm. She also takes medication to regulate her heart.
"There is an immeasurable meaning for me," she said. "These are the kids with whom I spend my days and with whom I have steady contact for their four years in the classes I teach here at St. Joseph School. The students included me in their dedication of the 2007 event, as it was two months after my initial diagnosis and hospitalization, and their inclusion of me this year means just as much."
Sartoris admits that she is but one of many faces of heart disease, but is honored that students may be thinking of her as they collect their donations or participating in the event.
"I am always really proud of the effort the kids give to this event and the excitement with which they plan and prepare for it," she said. "They are always psyched at how much money they raise for a good cause, and they learn how good it feels to help others by giving of their own energy and time. I always remind my seventh graders that Jesus cured people of their ills because of their faith, along with his compassion for their physical ailments. Their faith in the results of their efforts joined with their fund-raising work, is helping medical professionals to create cures for others, and the kids get this every year during this event."
Whether they are 5 years old or 14 years old, Sartoris believes that each student understands the importance of helping and reaching out to others.
"They put it into practice every year for Jump Rope and Hoops for Heart," she said. "I wear my T-shirt from this event with great pride in them and with a humble heart."
A third reminder that heart disease knows no age limits is with Paul Koscinski, the 2-year-old brother of Peter and Joe, a fourth grader and first grader respectively. According to Groth, Paul was born with holes in his heart and a deformed heart valve.
"Everyone loves little Paulie," she said. "When they see him in his wheelchair (not) able to walk, it really hits home with these kids. They have such a good heart for him and for Miss Sartoris and Kurt's dad. One thing that is so cool about this school is that there is no bad egg in the bunch. We have some really cools kids who care about each other."
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Holy Rosary Altar Society celebrates 70 years
By Karen Mahoney
KENOSHA — Marilyn Bindelli has a vibrant spirit, an infectious laugh and a mountain-moving vision that motivates the human heart.
For 22 years, she has served as the president of the Ladies Altar Society at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish. Much of that time, Bindelli received spiritual direction and guidance from former pastor, Augustinian Fr. Henry Maibusch.
“He really helped me bring this society to where it is today,” she said, eyes welling with tears. “I am so grateful to him for he was not just my spiritual director, he has been my mentor.”
Last October, more than 200 members, priests and religious celebrated the group’s 70th anniversary of caring for the parish community with a traditional Italian dinner at the church.
“This group started with just a handful of ladies,” said Bindelli, whose mother also served as president. “When I began as president, we had 37 members, and now we have close to 200. We have the largest active Christian women’s society in district 1.”
From the group’s inception, its goal has been to support the church; promote and unite members in the bond of love of God and neighbor; honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and to seek her intercession and implore her protection, especially by praying the rosary.
In addition to prayerful support, the Holy Rosary Altar Society assists the pastor in maintaining the altar, sanctuary and sacristy. This includes cleaning and setting of the altar for services, caring for the vestments, altar cloths, and decorating for special occasions, including the care of the plants and flowers.
“We also provide vestments for the priests, and robes for our servers,” Bindelli said. “And in May, which is the month of Mary, we have a procession and crown the statue of the Blessed Mother. We pray a rosary each month for the deceased and living members of our group, our church and for the world – because we need peace in our world.”
According to Fr. Maibusch, who served the parish from 1980-1983 and again from 1987-2005, the society is a witness to the members’ love for their faith in their service to the church.
“They do so much for the church, such as cleaning and contributing financially and even donating non-perishable foods for the city’s food pantry,” he said. “I have such a great admiration for the group because they truly enjoy each other’s company – they are such a happy group. So many organizations nowadays have trouble getting members, and this group averages at least 90 women per meeting.”
The society meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month for its business meeting, prayer and dinner. Each month’s gathering features a specific theme generally surrounding a feast day or holy day, said Bindelli, joking that occasionally, the ladies will indulge in a glass of wine, if they need it.
“Our dues are just $5 for the year and that goes toward our fund-raising efforts for the parish,” she said. “During the course of the year, we have a Mass each month for the society, and fund-raisers like a fish bake on Ash Wednesday, polenta with meatballs in January, and raffles at every meeting. Last month we raffled off homemade pies.”
In addition to serving the parish, the society supports its members residing at Brookside nursing home. Each week, members of the altar society visit the residents and bring them to Mass.
“Different priests from the area will celebrate Mass at the nursing home,” she said. “Up until our spiritual director passed away, he would go to the home quite often. He was so instrumental in keeping our organization together and growing spiritually and he really loved having all sorts of social gatherings and had a special type of camaraderie with everyone. He really brought more members to our society and kept people interested in their church.”
After the death of their spiritual director, Fr. John Molnar, and the recent departure of Pallottine Fr. Joe Pezhathumkal, Bindelli anticipates the spiritual direction of current pastoral administrator, Pallottine Fr. John Scheer.
“I hope he will be as proud of the altar society as I am,” she said. “The women are really wonderful and keep coming back. We are growing and getting new members all the time. In fact, some of our members are not even Catholic.”
Bindelli credits the ongoing growth of the group to the welcoming spirit of its members to women of all area parishes as well as to all faiths.
“We have so many different Christian women who join us, and they range in age from 42 to their mid-90s,” she said.
An active member since 1937, Evelyn Sacco joined a year after marriage and just two months after the birth of her daughter.
“I joined because I liked to be with people, and I still do,” she said. “I feel good being a part of this group and I get a lot of comfort in praying together with the other ladies.”
At 96, Mary Le Pera is the oldest member of the group and estimates she’s been with the group for 60 to 65 years. Although her health precludes her from actively participating, she admitted that volunteering was always an important facet of her life.
“I used to volunteer a lot at the church with festivals and other events,” she said. “I remember making homemade noodles and rolling over 1,000 meatballs for the spaghetti dinners. But now, I don’t do as much, but I still pray the rosary on EWTN every day.”
The seven Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph in residence at Holy Rosary convent play a major role in the altar society, according to Bindelli. In addition to caring for altar linens and liturgical decorations, they assist with the altar servers and have worked tirelessly to prepare for the 70th anniversary celebration.
“They are a big help and are always there for us,” she said. “They are helping us to prepare for the dinner which will feature a traditional Italian meal for everyone in our group.”
Aside from the social connection, Bindelli is thankful for the spiritual changes in the parish and the Kenosha community, a result of their dedicated prayer to the Blessed Mother, she said.
“We had a living rosary outside of our church on the 13th of each month during the summer,” she said. “We had young children and teens carrying the statue of Mary in procession and praying the rosary. Parishioners and a lot of people who were not parishioners stopped to watch and even to pray.”
An immediate answer to their prayer has been the increase in weekend Mass attendance. The often standing room only crowds are encouraging to Bindelli, who hopes the trend will continue.
“It is prayer that does it; it does it for me and in general, that’s how the changes happen,” she said. “Prayer takes you through a journey of life with many changes and they are good ones. Something is happening here and I think people are beginning to feel the need for prayer and I believe this will be happening more and more.”
A vibrant teen program at the church gives Bindelli optimism that younger women might decide join the altar society.
“Our teens are very strong in their faith life,” she said. “I think many of them are having very serious talks about their church and becoming more involved ... after all, kids have such a great way to put all of this together.”
Sunday, February 10, 2008
This was a client in my grandma's beauty shop. Her name was Katherine Partee Pieh. Not too many people know that prior to my becoming a writer, I was a hairstylist. In fact, I am still a licensed Cosmetologist and Barber in Wisconsin. As much as I didn't like my field--none of my clients have ever looked like this! Now, that's gotta hurt!
Saturday, February 9, 2008
so we have the five of us, Karen, John, Mike, Andy and Amy and the skinny dark haired girl was my best friend Nan Southey.
Like my chubby body for my First Communion? Only my permed hair was worse--my mom decided I needed a perm the day before my First Communion, boy did I get teased.
So, I was helping my son Erin with a school project on a Family Tree today and began taking a wonderful trip down memory lane. Thought you'd like to see some great pictures of me, my parents, siblings and kids...enjoy the trip. These are pictures of my Dad, Bill Pieh and mom, Bonnie Witiak Pieh
Thursday, February 7, 2008
By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
Where priests delivered stirring homilies, the hungry can now be satiated.
Where Catholics received the Eucharist, young couples of varying faiths celebrate their marriages.
Where religious sisters steadfastly prayed their well-worn rosaries, teachers instill the three R's.
Throughout the country, and in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, buildings that belonged to parishes which merged or structures that outlived their value as houses of worship have been converted for other functions.
Not an average commercial piece of real estate, the archdiocese must follow specific rules before a church building becomes part of the market. Prior to the sale of a church, the chancery office produces a document that reduces the property to profane but not sordid use, according to Dean Daniels, archdiocesan director of prayer and worship.
"This is done by a decree of the diocesan bishop after consultation with the council of priests," he said. "So, Archbishop (Timothy M.) Dolan, after he consults with a council of priests, would allow the building to be used for secular, but not sordid uses. For example, the church building could be used for a restaurant, but nothing that would be considered sordid."
Allenton church becomes 'The Gardens'
While she didn't set out to purchase a church, Karen Urbanek used her life savings to purchase the former SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Allenton.
The church closed in 1997 when three congregations merged to form Resurrection Catholic Church in Allenton.
Karen and her husband, Roger, use the sanctuary for The Gardens, an all-faith wedding center. The couple and their 10 children live in the accompanying rectory.
Despite the pleasantness associated with the idea of a wedding chapel, Karen admitted that life was not all bliss prior to the major renovation of the rundown, but well loved, church.
"There was a lot of pain from the Catholics in the area who were upset with me for taking over the building," she said. "To this day, some people are upset, but the church sat vacant for seven years - it was full of mold, cobwebs and needed major painting and new carpeting. Roger, the kids and I all worked very hard to renovate the church and it looks beautiful."
Though the Urbaneks are not Catholic, Karen said she is comforted by the stillness in the sanctuary, and the souls of the Catholics buried in the cemetery behind the chapel. The sacred objects remaining with the church - the stained-glass windows, oak pews, the steeple and cast iron bell - provide the chapel with a peaceful and secure feeling.
"This place is so special to us and I cherish the times I can sit by myself in the church and be still," she said. "I love playing music in the church and feeling the spirit of the people in the cemetery who were dedicated to their faith. And although our faiths differ, I have such respect for them - the same as I hold for those who came across on the Mayflower with their dreams."
Fire claims some buildings
The former St. Joseph Parish in West Allis recently became Living Waters Christian Church, and St. Louis Parish in Fond du Lac was in the process of being sold when it was destroyed by fire. Also destroyed by fire was the former St. Kilian in Lyons. A victim of vandalization since its closing in 1998 when it merged with St. Joseph Parish, the parish members prayerfully considered many options, but allowed the volunteer fire department to practice their skills in a controlled burn. A memorial stands in the church's place and the cemetery is still used and maintained.
While worship space often becomes a place of worship for people of other faiths, there are exceptions, such as the two daycare centers located in former parishes. The former St. Gerard Church on 16th Street and Oklahoma Avenue is site of the St. Francis Foundation, a non-profit, community-based child development center run by the Felician Sisters.
In Cudahy, a portion of the former Holy Family Parish property is now home to Gard N Angel Child Care Center, according to Deacon Gerald Ponec, a member of Nativity of Our Lord, a parish that formed in 2000 after the three Cudahy parishes, Holy Family, St. Frederick, and St. Joseph, merged.
"I think there is always this hope in the back of people's minds that the church might reopen, but to be realistic about things, I don't know that it will," he said. "It is sad that a building in as good of shape as Holy Family is can't be used for weddings, funerals and baptisms - things that mean a lot to the original parishioners."
One month following a $370,000 renovation to celebrate its 100th anniversary, Holy Family was told to close its doors, so opening the church for specific functions would be soothing for the people, who might regard the closing of a parish as a death.
"Closing is traumatic, yet we have to be realistic that there are reasons they have to close," Deacon Ponec said, adding, "But it isn't easy to sell a church. Holy Family is one of the most beautiful churches you can ever find and it could work to the benefit of the people if every parish that was told to close to be open in its physical location and just collaborate with each other."
Closing left priest broken hearted
For Fr. Joseph Baran, a retired priest of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, the decision to close the Cudahy parish left him broken hearted. Although he was transferred to another parish in 1964, he said his spirit still resides at Holy Family, a church built for Polish immigrants.
"I was the chaplain of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and met with them for 17 years, and we did so many renovations," he said. "The church just stands there today and it is a very sad picture - people just put their heads down in sadness when they walk past the church."
Rumors of closing unfounded
Capuchin Franciscan Fr. Michael Bertram spends much of his time fighting the ongoing rumor of the closing of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Milwaukee, and convincing others the parish is not only open, but a viable community.
"I believe a lot of people thought that we closed when the friars left the old monastery in the early '70s; the parish school closed around the same time, and the sisters who taught in the school obviously left," he said. "But the parish never did. We continue to work at getting the word out and doing more evangelization, especially as we live now in an area, Brewers Hill, that is greatly gratifying. And we're seeing some growth in numbers and programs."
Located at 1927 N. 4th St., St. Francis Church and monastery include the oldest Capuchin structure in the United States dating to the 1860s. The monastery is used by the parish for events and programs, while the second floor is utilized by the Capuchin friars for a variety of ministries. Included upstairs are the offices for communication, public relations, development, and Capuchin Volunteer Corps. Ongoing renovations provide for various central city ministries.
"Currently, Cardinal Stritch University is very interested in running some of the programs on site in conjunction with St. Francis Parish," said Fr. Bertram. "The Franciscan Institute of Milwaukee works to promote programs that foster Capuchin values in our lives and world, particularly benefiting the needs of the central city. The archdiocesan office of vicar for religious is located in the building as will be an office for prison ministry, 'Dismas Ministry.'"
Former rectory now food pantry
After St. Casimir and St. George in Kenosha merged to form St. Elizabeth parish in 2000, the St. Casimir property became available. Although the church building is still for sale, the Immaculate Sisters of Mother Mary reside in the convent. The hungry in Kenosha benefit from the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry that is located in the former rectory.
According to St. Elizabeth parish secretary Joan Hilliard, the merger was difficult initially.
"I do believe we lost people to other parishes, but it seems that many of them are coming back," she said. "St. George was my home parish, so I do understand that change is hard for everyone."
In 2000, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish closed after it merged with St. Mary in Kenosha. Margaret Ann's Place, a non-profit organization that serves the needs of grieving children, purchased the rectory.
Church now a gymnasium
The Community Outreach Shelter purchased the convent in 2007, and the school and church are under a lease to purchase agreement with the Kenosha Unified School District.
Dimensions of Learning Academy is a charter K-8 school that began converting the church and school almost immediately after the last Mass at St. Thomas, said principal Diana Pearson.
"The first thing was that everything religious had to be removed or changed to accommodate the public school," she said. "They took down the light fixtures, stained glass and statuary in the church so we would be able to use it for our gymnasium."
While the majority of reaction has been supportive, Pearson acknowledged that turning the church building into a gymnasium raised a few eyebrows at first.
"We explained to the council that what better place to have the kids be inspired than in a beautiful lofty place as this church area," she said. "Now former members come back each year for our Friends of Dimensions and St. Thomas spaghetti dinner; it has become a reunion for them, and students give tours to everyone who comes."
Building is its own history lesson
More than just a space to house eager young minds, teaching them in a historic building resplendent with the charm of a simpler era is an opportunity to share the past with inquisitive students.
"Our kindergarten room is where the nuns used to eat their lunch," Pearson said. "There is a small window on the wall, where, if a student needed to talk to a teacher, they had to knock on the window and the nun would raise the window. They wouldn't allow the students in there."
Students imagined secretive plots for the chute leading from a room in the back of church to a locked room in the basement; the answer was nothing too mysterious.
"The altar boys used to bring the offering into the sacristy and they would drop the offerings in a chute in the wall that would drop to the locked room," Pearson said. "Students wondered what that secret room was all about, and were probably a bit disappointed to know it was just a counting room."
Students might have expected the sisters to be boring and unimaginative in their dark habits, but by the colors they painted their classrooms, they were nothing as they appeared.
"The colors were pretty - salmon, canary yellow, lime green - basically Miami Beach colors," laughed Pearson. "But the neatest thing were the blackboards - the boards in the first grade were set a certain height and with each grade, the blackboards were a bit higher. That was so charming, we left it alone and patterned our classrooms after those blackboards."
Welcoming to visitors and former St. Thomas parishioners, Pearson admitted that the first couple of years were a bit unpredictable.
"People would come to the door looking for money, or wanting to go to church, but the strangest thing was the day when someone left a baby statue on the step where the entrance of the church was," she said. "That was kind of an interesting thing; we never found out who did it, or where the statue came from."
With the many staircases, long hallways and "secret passageways," Pearson jokes that she often feels as if she is running the Hogwarts School from the Harry Potter series, but considers her school blessing for the students.
"We have done many renovations and put a roof on the school," she said. "We continue to lovingly care for it as stewards of the building and how it was passed on to us. We continue that tradition of education in the community that St. Thomas Parish so wanted to have. In the beginning we were really helped by the late Richard Casey, the business manager of St. Thomas. I know he is looking down on us and very happy with what we have done; I feel like we are in good accord."