Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kenosha WI Civil War Museum Special Supplement

Well, after six weeks of intense research, interviews, and writing--the 32 page Civil War Supplement is nearly ready for the printing press and I for one, am greatly relieved. The pressure for perfection is intense and of course, unobtainable--but I did my best.

At times I complain about what I do especially where the Special Supplements are concerned--that said, I have to admit what a blessing it has been for me to work under the tutelage of Mr. Newspaper himself, Howard Brown.

Well known, respected ,and influential all over the world, Howard, who is now in his mid-80's appreciates the art of perfection, but critiques with love. When I succeed in making him happy in the news business, I feel as if I am not too far off the mark in my overall writing quality.

I also enjoy the way he does things, "the old school way." For example, he doesn't understand modern layouts, computers or internet--he understands the old way with plates, actual cutting and pasting and lots of ink.

Although he could have retired decades ago, he still reports to the office in a suit and tie seven days a week. He is always a gentleman, always has time to inquire about my husband's health and my life as a struggling stringer.

The other day, he wanted me to experience the excitement firsthand in watching the copy come to life on the printed page; and he took the time to personally gave me a tour of the printing operation.

Others may roll their eyes at the sight of an octogenarian with his hands in the daily news--but for this middle aged stringer, I feel both honored and blessed.

In the words of HJB--or 'Uncle Howard' as he likes to refer to himself--'everything works out when you do it with a little love.'

Well, Howard--you do it all with a little love--and like you always tell the 'charming Karen'--God love you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day in Twin Lakes




Ed Waspi, a World War II veteran, chokes back tears while watching the Memorial Day Parade in Twin Lakes Monday.

Twin Lakes residents keep soldiers' memories alive
May 27, 2008

KAREN MAHONEY

Read & React

TWIN LAKES - Ed Waspi couldn't hold back the tears Monday as he watched military veterans march by him during the annual Twin Lakes Memorial Day Parade.

"The parade makes me think of my fellow comrades and how I wish I could see some of them again," he said, brushing at his eyes.

A pilot, Waspi flew a B-24 Liberator while stationed in England during World War II and flew 30 missions. For him, attending Memorial Day services is a necessary means to honor those who paid the ultimate price.

"I am happy to see a lot of people at the parade," he said. "This day is for honoring people in service - or at least it should be."

Waspi, of Twin Lakes, was among hundreds who lined Legion Drive for the morning parade, which featured members of the military, police, fire and rescue departments, political officials, Scouting groups and local school bands.
Dressed in patriotic red, white and blue, 10-year-old Shanna Smith of Twin Lakes said she knew the parade was about much more than getting candy.

"This is an important day," she said, petting her dog, Coco. "We are here to remember all the soldiers who passed away during the wars."

Prior to the parade at St. John's Cemetery, members of American Legion Post 544, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Twin Lakes Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts Troop 343 honored the men and women who lost their lives during combat.

A wreath was placed at the veterans' plaque in the cemetery in memory of those who died during war.

Memorial Day is a reminder to honor our servicemen and women, decorate their graves, profess a profound love of our country, and honor the soldiers' sacred memories, said Joe Nilles, American Legion post commander during the post-parade ceremony.

"We often take our freedom for granted, but if it were not for the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice, we would not be here today," he said, adding, "Eighty-nine of Wisconsin's finest paid that ultimate price for the current war on terror and 15 of them just this year."

Row upon row of white crosses marked with flags at the American Legion post seems to bring home the true meaning of Memorial Day and the debt of gratitude we owe to those who gave everything. For Nilles, it is all about the meaning of sacrifice.

"It is our duty to remember and to keep that memory alive for our future generations," he said.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Erin Winner of the Director's Award






Erin's Spring Award Concert

Wow! Erin had a great concert tonight. He sang his quartet that he earned a silver medal on and he was presented with the Director's Award of the year. Way to go Erin!

video video video

Diana Ferrante Magnificat

Diana Ferrante shares her life story with members of the Kenosha/Racine Chapter of the Magnificat at its quarterly breakfast, May 3 at Meadowbrook Country Club in Racine. (Catholic Herald photo by Karen Mahoney)
Magnificat is women’s ministry
Magnificat helps Catholic women be open to the Holy Spirit through a deeper commitment of their lives to Jesus as Lord and to impart the Holy Spirit to one another by their love, service, and sharing the good news of salvation. It provides opportunities to foster a desire to grow in holiness. For more information on Magnificat, contact Rose Nelson (262) 654-7287 or Rose Birkholz (262) 657-9519



Woman's life changed when she put God in charge


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

RACINE - "I am a pile of dry dead bones raised from the dead," explained Diana Ferrante while sharing her testimony with members of the Kenosha/Racine Chapter of the Magnificat at its quarterly breakfast, May 3 at Meadowbrook Country Club. "Our imaginations are limited in what we can think we are doing with our lives, but God has a great imagination deeper than the seas and vaster than the skies."

Raised Catholic, Ferrante found solace in the traditions and rites of the Catholic Church, a place she described as having a calm, warm and loving atmosphere.

"I loved God and as a kid I loved going to church," she said. "I grew up in the Latin church and loved it; I loved holy hours, rosaries, novenas, stations - it was a place of incredible peace for me."

At home, the facade of a peaceful, loving, Catholic family continued and Ferrante felt her conscience fading while living in a house of lies, appearance-centered family activities, and finally, as an ultimate blow to her spirit, the liturgical changes of Vatican II.

"I couldn't believe it; we were supposed to meet in the gym while our church was having some remodeling done," she said. "We came back into church two weeks later and the marble altars were gone and replaced by a wooden table. The statues were gone and the church was totally rearranged. We had teen groups meeting separately for Mass, playing guitars and singing 'Kumbaya' instead of our beautiful hymns. The changes disturbed me and jostled my sensibilities. I didn't feel like the church knew what it was doing. The church was always my safe haven, but it didn't feel that way anymore."

She lost her faith while attending Catholic college because, she said, she "bought into the feminism lie." Women, she was taught, began to believe that they needed to be producers in the workforce, so sexuality and bearing children were not as acceptable. What was acceptable, she learned, was birth control and abortion and as she began to accept feminism, she rejected her Christianity.

"I found myself pregnant along the way and because I lived the illusion of perfection, which was the model of my life, everything had to look good," she said. "I was pregnant and in the culture I was living in, which was a Catholic school with Planned Parenthood on campus, I had the abortion."

Ferrante described the Planned Parenthood mission as one which presents itself as an illusion of choice, but the only allowable choice is abortion.

"Even during the abortion your spirit is saying 'no' but by learning so long to kill your conscience and how you have to look the part, you do whatever you can to look successful to make your own life go your own way," she said.

Her future husband, Mike, encouraged Ferrante to go to confession.

"The Holy Spirit just hit while I was in there (the confessional) and my whole life came before me," she said. "I must have been there for over an hour and everything came out."

Breathing a sigh of relief at her full and honest disclosure, Ferrante waited to hear those familiar words of absolution.

They never came.

"Eventually, the priest said to me, 'You know, you sound really sincere, but I don't know you and I can't give you absolution,'" she said. "If you have ever felt like the dry bones mentioned in Ezekiel 37 - I was cut off. I was out there and I was in a place that was unredeemable. I was in hell."

For years, Ferrante went to other priests for confession, went to Eucharistic adoration, participated in her church, and functioned in her job, but she was in a funk. She went through the motions of marriage, practicing the Catholic faith, and soon her parish priest recruited her for teaching religious education. While she acted the part, her soul felt unredeemed.

"Finally, a Dominican priest said to me, 'You know, you can't keep doing this. Your problem is worse because the sin you are committing is worse than your original sin as you are not trusting in God's mercy. If you want to be obedient to God, you have to believe that he wants to forgive you and accept his forgiveness and come to a place where you can say, yes I am forgiven,'" she said. "I looked forward and said finally, that if God wanted me, he could have me."

Ferrante became a Third Order Dominican, and returned to school to study for a master's degree in theology. While working as a computer programmer, teaching religious education and studying, her parish priest again approached her and asked her to help chair the Renew team with a spirit-filled Catholic woman.

"I am the logical one, and was doing all this planning and all she was doing was praying and praying," joked Ferrante. "She would slow me down and taught me that unless God builds the house, you are laboring in vain and this was not a social program, but a program to change hearts and only God could change hearts. She taught me to pray ahead of time. This was hard for me because I thought I was God at the time, but she taught me to pray and surrender to the Lord."

Through prophetic prayer, Ferrante received a message that led her to believe there might be something wrong with her heart. After consultation with a cardiologist, she had open-heart surgery for a blockage that, left untreated, would have resulted in a massive myocardial infarction.

Soon after her heart surgery, Ferrante learned she was pregnant with her third child and because of the stress on her body and powerful medications she was taking, doctors advised her to abort her baby.

"I was told that neither the baby or I would survive the pregnancy and that she would most likely have birth defects if either of us lived," she said. "Even pro-life groups said that this might be a condition where abortion was acceptable. But I said this is where the road hits the metal. There is no case when abortion is acceptable."

After extensive searching, she found an obstetrician, the atheist son of a Protestant minister, who handled high-risk pregnancies and agreed to deliver her baby. Throughout her pregnancy, Ferrante quietly evangelized the doctor and by the time she delivered Catherine, her healthy 9 pound 15 ounce baby girl, the doctor was engaged to be married and attending church on a regular basis.

Ferrante continues to support the pro-life movement, work in religious education, confirmation classes, prayer groups, and Magnificat while raising her children in Georgia.

"There is an old saying that 'God writes straight with crooked lines,'" she said. "I am one of those."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

RIP Frankie

On May 19, we had to put our dear little Frankie to sleep. He was such a wonderful companion to Zachary , our Bischon Frise. Only four years old and so tiny--but the sweetest little friend you could ever want. Rest in peace with the angels, Frankie--may your wings take you to Jesus.

Baby Sparrows



These are the aforementioned baby sparrows that give me hope of God's promise.

Rescuing a Rose Breasted Grosbeak



The other day, a female rose breasted grosbeak slammed into our window. I went outside and saw her sitting, dazed beneath the window. I coaxed her onto a branch and then Blaise came out with gloves on, she jumped onto his finger and he took her to a safe place. She sat atop the bird feeder for about 15 minutes and then flew off. She has been coming by periodically to see us.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mission Distributes Discount Grocery Orders




August Grulich carries a bag of onions to the distribution site during Saturday’s Angel Food Ministries food distribution at Fellowship Baptist Church. More than 440 boxes of food went to 220 people Saturday.

Mission distributes discount grocery orders
May 18, 2008
Couple partners with Angel Food Ministries to help lower food costs
By Karen Mahoney

Read & React

More than 2,000 years ago, according to the Bible, Jesus blessed five loaves of bread and two fishes, producing a miracle that fed over 5,000.

Angel Food Ministries Inc. feeds a family of four for a week on just $30, and many consider that a miracle too.

Through the perseverance of August Grulich and Sheila Partner, who started the Kenosha New Hope Mission for the homeless, the ministry is taking root in Kenosha with the goal of helping every resident - no matter their income level - to lower the cost of their monthly grocery bill.

"This is a wonderful program based out of Georgia and has grown to serve over 500,000 families a month, and now with our location, they are in 36 states," Grulich said Saturday during the food distribution in Kenosha. "There are no qualifications, no income requirements and no volunteer requirements - but if you would like to help, the answer is yes."

Rising grocery prices are what brought Sandy Szostak, a single mom from Kenosha, to Fellowship Baptist Church on Saturday to pick up her order from Angel Food Ministries. Barely struggling by on food stamps each month, meal planning, and careful shopping, the $30 box of groceries from the ministry has helped her and her children eat healthy for the entire month.
"The first order I received felt like Christmas morning," she said, "My neighbor and I came together and were going to sit and have some tea together when we got home so we could unwind a bit. Neither of us had the tea because we were so excited and just felt like we needed to cook something. The food is wonderful, all name brand, no seconds or dented cans, and the meat is almost identical to what you might buy through Schwann's."

The ministry sells a box of groceries valued at $60 or more each month, for $30. Anyone can participate. After humble beginnings of just 18 customers, Saturday's delivery netted over 440 units to 220 people.

"This program will help a lot of people," said pastor Sam Kostreva of Fellowship Baptist Church.

A proponent of the program, he worked with a similar ministry at his former church in Michigan.

"It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor - there are no requirements except wanting to get good value for your food dollar," he said.

The program aims to give people a hand up, not a handout, and according to Grulich, offers hope during these difficult economic times.

"This is all to help the community, and it is a blessing to me as well because it helps the homeless shelter that I run," he said.

New Hope Mission Inc. receives $1 for each box handled. With more than 400 boxes purchased this month, Grulich is pleased to see the funds benefit those who need it most.

Angel Food distributes any remaining profits among different ministries. When manufacturers donate food, as they sometimes do, Angel Food gives it to the needy, such as survivors of natural disasters.

Each box of food the program distributes includes a glossy magazine with recipes, testimonies and information on how to become a Christian.

Moreover, the program brings people back to the church month after month to pick up their orders.

"The church has been wonderful in wanting to help us get this going," said Grulich. "I am happy to see all the people walking through its doors - maybe some of them will decide to stay."
The menu changes from month to month. Customers can buy as many boxes of food as they want for $30 each and can also buy "specials," often steaks or seafood. They pick up their order later that month at Fellowship Baptist Church.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wildlife Visit

We are certainly blessed to live where we are in the woods in Southeast Wisconsin. Today as we were admiring the beautiful birds in our yard, two sweet and silent fawns walked along the side of our house sniffing and nibbling at the foliage. Of course, I was much happier to see them nibbling at the bushes and trees we don't care about rather than devouring our arborvitae that they did last winter. After spending a fortune on those trees and all the work that comes with planting and watering them, it was quite frustrating to see them turned into large green Q-tips before our eyes!

The upside to the devastating financial situation we've been going through is a renewed sense of enjoyment in the simple things. A couple of years ago, before everything happened, I would not have paid a lot of attention to the birds, deer and other wildlife on our property--but now I look at them and enjoy how God provides for each one of them and I know He continues to provide for us.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kenosha Missionaries to La Sagrada Familia

Missionaries see face of God in visually impaired

Volunteers bring eyeglasses to Dominican Republic residents


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

The lines were long. Hundreds of people waited for hours in 90-degree heat. It was their chance to get their eyes examined, probably for the first time. And maybe they would receive a pair of glasses to help correct their vision.

A group of volunteers from St. Anne in Pleasant Prairie and St. Mary Parish in Kenosha spent a week giving the gift of sight to residents of Sabana Yegua, a small city in the southwest corner of the Dominican Republic, about 75 miles west of Santo Domingo.

Led by Deacon Wilson Shierk of St. Mary Parish, the group of 16, including Dr. Peter Emer, a Kenosha optometrist and member of St. Anne, made their third and most successful trip to La Sagrada Familia, the archdiocesan sister parish in the Dominican Republic.

Since 1982, the friendship between the archdiocese and the parish has resulted in building and staffing medical facilities for the small community in the Province of Azua, the poorest and most arid zone of the Dominican Republic. Fr. Oriol Regales and Fr. Marti Colom, pastors of La Sagrada Familia, are responsible for the pastoral and practical needs of the community.

"On the first trip, we were able to examine 220 people, the second 330 and this most recent, 556," said Emer. "In my profession, one of the most rewarding aspects, especially on such a mission trip, where donated prescription glasses are on site, is that we can put the glasses on a Dominican patient right away, and see immediate results."

According to Emer, of the 556 people examined, 510 needed glasses. They had the proper prescriptions for 420 thanks to a donation from the Lions Club of Greater Kenosha.

"So 420 Dominicans walked out of the clinic with a smile on their face," he said, adding, "My wife Kim especially benefited from this, because she was the one who adjusted the glasses at the end of the clinic stations."

The days were long

Mission volunteers woke early each morning to travel to the clinic and prepare supplies for the day. By 7:30 a.m. they started seeing patients who had lined up at the door hours earlier.

There were so many people trying to get into the clinic that the volunteers worked many days until 9 p.m., said Emer, who enlisted two interns from the Illinois College of Optometry to assist in the examinations. In addition, Emer was successful in procuring a $9,300 grant from Lions Club International Foundation.

"This LCIF grant money will enable us to have about 20 to 30 Dominicans receive cataract surgery," he said. "These are Dominicans who we could not help with glasses."

Increase in eye disease

Eye diseases are on the rise in the impoverished country, according to Deacon Shierk.

"They are caused by poor sanitary conditions and unclean water," he said, adding, "And the hot sun damages their eyes over time when they are not protected."

Adding to the poor conditions was the damage done last fall by Tropical Storm Noel which destroyed homes, washed out roads, and washed away topsoil crucial for the farming community of 50,000 residents.

"About 90 percent of the people make their living via agriculture," Deacon Shierk said. "And in addition to ruining farm land, the storm stripped the soil of vegetation; that created further erosion."

Already living a fragile and meager existence with no running water or bathroom facilities, the Dominicans rarely have a full day of electricity. For Deacon Shierk, the opportunity to serve was a chance to slow his pace and observe.

"Most of us, at least I do, operate on what I call 'fast forward.' Watching the patience of adults waiting hours to see the doctor about their eyes has taught me to be less in a hurry and to better notice the image of Jesus, that often busy people miss, in the faces and actions of many others," he said. "Also, for a people who have so little, these people in the Dominican Republic seem to be very welcoming and grateful. Celebrating liturgy there is a moving experience. During the exchange of peace (at Mass) it takes 15 minutes for all the people to show their loving concern for others and for us as visitors."

Seeing face of God

Also touched by each of the mission trips, Emer said that his faith has been affected in that he also can see the face of God in the faces he encounters each day.

"For example, we toured the barrios one afternoon and saw the remnants of Noel damage. Houses that had been filled with mud four feet high, rotted mattresses, lost crops," he said. "But when we spoke to the people, they were just happy to be alive. I caught myself, when performing an eye exam, checking where in Sabana Yegua the Dominican was from - was he or she from one of the barrios where the hurricane had especially ravaged homes? And I was able to just catch my breath, as I began to do the eye exam and especially see in that person the face of survival, hope, the face of someone who has nothing of any material value, but who is happy to just be alive."

Clothes, school supplies needed

In addition to providing eye exams and glasses, the volunteers each brought 50 pounds of children's clothing and school supplies. The two parishes collected so many items, that many of the donations will be reserved for next year's trip.

"We have seen extreme poverty first hand," said Emer, "and we will never be the same because of it. One intern from the optometry school wept when helping to feed one of the malnourished children at the nutrition center."

The other intern was happy to show a patient how his glasses will improve his very poor eyesight. According to Emer, the patient had a very strong prescription of -5 units, which he never had before.

"When she showed the power to the person, the reaction on the patient's face said it all, and that intern also couldn't help but to tear up," he said. "So many people will never be the same because of the trip. I feel mainly because we'll have that attitude that 'it's good to be alive.'"

The repeat mission trips have brought positive change to the community. In addition to providing better eye care, clothing and school supplies, Deacon Shierk is pleased with other transformations.

"They have a new nutritional center with a doctor to nourish small children, ages 1 through 5, a nurse to assist at the mission, pharmacies in some villages and a clinic in Sabana Yegua," he said. "They have also learned about new crops to diversify their agriculture, new toilets to create a better sanitary situation, large ovens to bake bread and introduce a new industry, financial help from many sources to improve general health, and new chapels for religious services and protection against violent weather."

For Emer, the changes offer hope that the community, with the assistance of Fr. Regales and Fr. Colom, will reverse the cycle of poverty.

"I hope that through our service in the eye clinic and the service of so many other Milwaukee area parishes that visit, that the Dominicans know that we are with them in spirit," he said.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

End of an Era--aka I still don't Like a certain Wisconsin Law firm




Well, here they are--the best part of my doll collection--my American and Canadian Chatty Cathy Dolls and the next to go on eBay if we don't get a miracle soon. For those who don't know, I am gradually whittling down my doll collection thanks to a couple of lawyers from Heartless Heartless and Screw You from Kenosha Wisconsin who told us we had a good case due to the injury my husband sustained at a large Wisconsin based home improvement store chain.

He sustained a head injury and two herniated disks in his neck which resulted in 9 fusions. Originally the lawyers, R and S stated that we would be compensated for medical bills, mileage, pain and suffering, future pain and suffering, future medical care, loss of wages, loss of consortium, etc...now it appears that they will only be the ones who are compensated. So, out of $300,000+ in medical bills which will be going to repay the insurance company, and the amount they will be getting--we will not have enough to pay JUST our out of pocket medical costs of $40,000.

We would have been better off just dealing with the store's insurance company--at least we would have received some token amount for our loss.

So, in order to try and save our house--I am selling everything I have to try and pay down that home equity loan--but most likely we will lose that as well. Oh well, at least by the time I am done sellling everything on eBay--we won't have a lot to move. So R- and S-, --hope you are enjoying the ride--someday this will all come back to you, I am confident in that.

I just want to know one thing--how do you guys sleep at night?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Garden Angel


This was one of my Mother's Day presents from Blaise---I think she is adorable

Erin at his first track meet


Here is Erin getting ready for his first track meet--the 400m relay! Go Erin!

More awesome bird pictures






The pictures of the scarlet tanager are awesome, the Indigo bunting is pretty grainy thanks to a super zoom photo and the picture of the red bellied woodpecker would have been better had he not turned away from the camera--darn bird is so shy! LOL

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day Gift from God






Leave it to God to give you the best Mother's Day of all. These are pictures of a gorgeous Scarlet Tanager--arriving right on Mother's Day. I haven't seen one of these beauties in at least 8 years. Wow! Breathtaking.

This has been a banner bird year for us so far: Cardinals, Blue Jays, Blue Birds, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Black Capped Carolina Chickadees, Nuthatches, Sparrows, Gold finches, Purple finches, Blackbirds, Mourning doves, Red headed woodpeckers, flickers, red bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, and Cedar Waxwings-and I am sure there will be many more to come.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Law Day in Madison


Erin was fortunate enough to attend Law Day in Kenosha on May 1 and then Law Day in Madison on May 8--he wrote an essay on Rules of Evidence and was one of 28 kids chosen from all 7th graders in Kenosha County for the Madison trip. Thanks to our Representative, Samantha Kerkman--we have a picture of the group. Thanks Samantha!
Here is her story--
Rep. Kerkman Hosts Kenosha County Law Day at State Capitol

State Capitol, Madison, WI . . . Kenosha County Law Day was celebrated in Madison on Thursday, May 8, 2008. Selected students from Kenosha County area school districts were chosen based on essays they wrote on this year’s theme: Rules of Evidence. Students were to compose an essay explaining what the theme meant to them. Earlier in the week on American Legion Law Day, CSI Officer Todd Thorne gave a presentation to area students on the importance of evidence gathering at crime scenes with respect to our criminal justice system.

Based on their essays, twenty-eight students were selected to travel to Madison and learn about government at the state level. Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Randall) gave a guided tour to students, teachers, and members of the Kenosha County American Legion.

Cole Andrekus, a student at Bristol Grade School, was selected as this year’s winning essayist. He is the son of Mark and Debra Andrekus. Cole was presented with a plaque in Madison.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Over 50 Club Celebrates 25 Years

Over 50 Club turns 25

Group features fellowship, faith sharing


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

On the last Wednesday of the month, members of the Over 50 Club attend morning Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Milwaukee and gather for a program and lunch.

More than 250 members strong, the group is celebrating its 25th anniversary on Wednesday May 28 at the parish.

Originally a weekly faith group social, the group began meeting in 1976 in the parish hall after the 9:30 a.m. Mass for seniors. Former Our Lady of Lourdes pastor Fr. Bill Stanfield designed a special Mass around the seniors' needs.

According to charter member Janet Grafwallner, the original faith group encompassed a small table of seniors who chatted about Mass, faith, grandchildren or other events.

"We would usually have a little cake or doughnuts and some coffee or something," she said. "It wasn't much, but it was very nice."

As the group grew, one Wednesday per month was set aside for the Over 50 Club. For 83-year-old Grafwallner, the group was a good way for her and her husband Ed to make new friends while sharing their faith with others.

"I usually worked with a group of nice ladies in the kitchen and my husband and I have made some great friends over the years," she said. "Of course, a lot of them have passed away; in fact, all of the ones from the original kitchen are either gone or not well enough to help anymore."

In addition to fellowship and faith sharing, the Over 50 Club has enjoyed trips, tours and educational experiences. More than 200 religious and educational programs have been presented during its 25-year history. One highlight for 93-year-old Leona Rieck was a trip to St. Louis after her husband passed away.

"My husband, Sid, died in 1985 and our president, Paul Wadina, encouraged me to go on the trip," said the charter member, adding, "We went to the St. Louis Arch, but with Sid not there I was afraid to go up. So Paul took me by the hand and guided me up; he was so nice to me. Paul is very ill now but I hope he can make it to the celebration."

After Rieck gave up her driver's license three years ago, her daughter began bringing her to the monthly events and soon found she also felt at home with the over-50 crowd.

"She likes it, too, and if it weren't for her I would have a tough time getting there each time," she said. "We have a great president, Ray Reiman, and he comes up with some really good ideas. Last month we had Fr. Dominic (Roscioli) from Kenosha; sometimes we have the Boy Scouts, speakers or even singing groups. I look forward to every meeting."

According to Reiman, in his sixth term as president of the organization, about 100 seniors gather for the 9:30 Mass, celebrated by Fr. Mick Savio, Our Lady of Lourdes pastor. A light luncheon is part of the Wednesday faith group and approximately 130 are regular attendees for the Over 50 Club.

"Annual dues are only $5 per person," he said. "The food is bought with money donated by members at the weekly gatherings or brought in by guests celebrating their birthdays or just out of the goodness of their hearts."

For charter member Kate Crisp, the club was the perfect outlet for her and her husband after he was laid off from his job in 1982.

"He didn't have any work after that so for us, it was a wonderful chance to get to know others from our church and from other parishes who wanted to spend time together," she said. "In the beginning we all got name tags and each time we renewed our membership we got a star on our name badge."

As the parish sacristan, Crisp, 80, was already involved with her parish. Joining the club offered her husband an outlet to meet others and become part of a faith group.

"It is a good program, and it was nice for my husband because he would play Sheepshead and he would sit at one of the tables with a bunch of the guys and they would talk and talk," she said. "We went on lots of trips, such as the Miller Brewery, the museums, Oshkosh; over the years we have gotten to see a lot of different things."

Running the Over 50 Club takes a substantial amount of time and planning, but Reiman thrives on the activity.

"It is a good organization," he said. "There are so many good people in the group and I like the fact that we not only gather for Mass, but it is also an enjoyable social group; the people in the group and other members of the board are great to work with."

In addition to participating in Mass, and attending the celebratory lunch, surviving charter members, first president Paul Wadina, Gordy Berendt, Janet and Ed Grafwallner, Reggie Schmid, Kate Crisp, Leona Rieck, Joan Bogenski, Betty Hashek, Lauretta Redman, and Delphine and Eddie Kurdziel will be serenaded at the May 28 Social by Hall of Fame Concertinist Vern Tretow and his band, "Vern & the Originals."

The Over 50 Club includes an annual holiday party in February and a picnic in July.

Admission for these two events, attended regularly by 150 to 175 members, is $5. Included are a catered meal and many door or bingo prizes.

Members at the special parties also can buy tickets for substantial raffle prizes donated by the Green Bay Packers, Sunset Playhouse, Discovery World, Milwaukee Bucks, Brewers and Admirals, local religious supply stores, and gift certificates by local businesses and restaurants.

In addition to president, Reiman, other officers are Tony Molter, vice president; Lucy Birschbach, secretary; Donald Brockman, treasurer; Pat Riedy, program chairman; and Bob Simms, tour chairman.

Time, Talent and Litigation

Time, talent and litigation

In spite of liability, call to stewardship remains


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

The invitation to Catholic stewardship is simple; it is a call to renew the face of the earth and to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking of gratitude and responsibility. According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stewardship includes a responsible management of God-given resources of time, talent, and treasure.

According to 1 Peter 4, "Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace."

When Hjalmer Heikkinen, 84, a West Allis barber was severely injured in an auto accident in 2002 by longtime Legion of Mary volunteer Margaret Morse, member of Christ the King Parish, Wauwatosa, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was found liable.

Last October, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling resulting in a judgment of $17 million. With 12 percent interest accrued, the payment will be approximately $23. 4 million.

The judgment begs the question of stewardship vs. liability, and entertains the question, "How much should the church fear legal liability for those directly affiliated with the parish, a satellite of the church, or with regards to unaffiliated volunteer groups that meet on church property?"

While the funds did not come from archdiocesan coffers and were paid by its insurer Catholic Mutual Insurance Group, the issue brought to light a dividing line between personal culpability, the responsibility of service organizations, and the responsibility of the archdiocese.

According to Molly Hatfield, claims risk manager with Catholic Mutual, the payout was so high because there was no bright line drawn at the parish or the archdiocese between affiliated and unaffiliated Catholic organizations that are allowed to operate in parishes.

"The Legion of Mary did not have insurance to cover their members when using their automobiles on behalf of the Legion of Mary," she said, explaining that the large adverse verdict resulted from the severity of the man's injuries. He is a quadriplegic and endured an amputation. "The general population is unaware of Catholic organizations operating autonomously within the archdiocese are not legally a part of the archdiocese or a parish, (additionally) the current negativity toward the Catholic Church is not conducive to getting an unbiased judge or jury."

The verdict brings to light the duty of stewardship and if it should affect the lay minister bringing Communion, visiting the sick, or the volunteer driving an elderly member to church; should these acts be curtailed due to fear of litigation?

The answer is a profound 'no,' according to John Rothstein, legal counsel for the archdiocese.

"The word of wisdom always is that people, whether in business individually or with a charitable institution, should act reasonably," he said. "You can't stop the mission or business because of a lawsuit; you act reasonably and that is why you have insurance. It is important to act prudently. It's sad and it does mean that you just can't do things unthinkingly - that would be unreasonable."

Citing an example of inappropriate usage of a parish vehicle, Rothstein said that it would be inadvisable to allow "the janitor and everyone else" to drive as they wished.

"If you have a group who you really don't know about using your facility - that might not be very prudent," he said. "But if you have someone delivering Communion, does that mean you won't have this anymore? No, that is not reasonable. You would tell them to drive carefully, like when they go to the grocery store and are using their insurance - do it carefully."

Despite the fear among some that they no longer wish to volunteer for fear of litigation, members of St. Anne Parish, Pleasant Prairie, are continuing their community outreach, according to Fr. Don Thimm, pastor.

"Our parishioners do deliver meals on wheels for the county, or may drop off meals to someone's home after a birth, surgery, or death of a family member," he said, adding, "We have not pulled back on those activities."

The judgment for Heikkinen should not affect volunteering, affirmed Tom Armstrong of von Briesen & Roper Law firm, who wrote the appeals and Supreme Court briefs for Catholic Mutual.

"The court finding was an interpretation to the insurance company and the implications were technically confirmed by the Supreme Court in a 3-3 vote," he said. "There needs to be carefully drafted language, assuming whether they will be providing coverage to volunteers at all. This was not a legal decision as it was one of policy. The insurance afforded to volunteers in this case makes it clear of the importance in drafting coverage language to anticipate what might occur and do it carefully in defining terms."

The case was not decided on tort law, which grounds that in certain circumstances, a group might be liable, Armstrong added.

"There was no claim that the church or the archdiocese was liable for acts of the volunteer or whether the volunteer had an insurance policy," he said. "The principal effect now will not be in terms of liability for volunteers, but whether insurance should be provided to volunteers and, if so, care should be taken to ensure they are using the language to accomplish the result."

Due to the laws of agency in the state of Wisconsin and other states, liability from an employed or volunteer driver can be transferred to the controlling entity, including non-for-profit organizations, it would be possible for a verdict in the range of $2-4 million if an accident resulted in death or serious injury.

To limit volunteer and non-owned auto liability for parishes, volunteers who use their vehicles must have personal liability insurance with a limit of at least $100,000/$300,000, a vehicle in safe operating condition and a good driving record. Parishes need to utilize the Volunteer Driver Information Sheet and request driver record checks with the DMV, said Hatfield, who added that Catholic Mutual performs records checks.

"All unaffiliated organizations meeting at or operating in the parish need to sign the Unaffiliated Organization Agreement and/or the Facility Usage Indemnity Agreement. Criteria for affiliated/unaffiliated organizations are spelled out in section 5.3 of the Archdioceses of Milwaukee Parish Financial Management Manual," she said. "Universal and consistent use of these forms will create the 'bright line' between the parish and the unaffiliated organization."

Echoing the advice of Rothstein, Catholic Mutual proposes that parishes limit volunteer and employee driving to essential tasks and ministries, using a few known individuals and managing their activity. Additionally, wording on the coverage language was changed to avoid another Legion of Mary outcome.

"The phrase, 'on behalf of (parish or archdiocese),' which was used at the time of the Legion of Mary accident, has been removed and replaced with 'agent,'" Hatfield said. "That change in terminology clearly defines the intended beneficiary of the coverage and also means that a defined set of laws (agency) will be used to determine coverage, as opposed to the undefined term, 'on behalf of.'"

Other avenues to protect another adverse outcome include the development of a new Facility Use Agreement for unaffiliated groups whose activities entail volunteers and/or employees driving.

"The new agreement will require the unaffiliated organization to carry non-owned automobile insurance in addition to the general liability insurance that is currently required," stated Hatfield.

Despite the outward fear against sharing time, talent and perhaps a vehicle, Fr. Mike Ignaszak of St. Alexander, St. Helen and St. John Kanty parishes in Milwaukee, expressed it this way in a December 2007 bulletin.

"I am encouraging parishioners who do drive to check with their friends and neighbors who might now need a lift to church," he wrote. "Unfortunately, we cannot arrange these rides through the tri-parish office. We have been advised by Catholic Mutual Insurance that we are not allowed to make these arrangements because of liability issues ... However, I can encourage you to extend the Christian caring to those in need who might live near you."

Scam Artist Targets Local Parishes

Scam artist targets local parishes

Woman’s false stories tap into Catholics’ generosity


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

ST. FRANCIS - Escaped from an abusive relationship, pregnant with her fourth set of twins, lost wallet, no food for her family.

Deborah Johnson or Anderson, as she often refers to herself, told several Milwaukee area Catholic churches she was all these things as part of a seemingly endless number of heartbreaking stories and requests for money, church officials say.

"My parents committed suicide and I need money to get to their funeral," she told pastors and parishioners. "I need money to pay for the funeral of my son who was killed by a hit and run driver. I need bus money to get to Madison to see my dying son who has been hospitalized for over a year. I need gas money so I can deal with a family crisis."

In reality, a cautionary notice distributed to parishes by the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Chancery office describes the middle-aged woman as 160-170 pounds with light reddish brown hair and glasses as a smooth talking con artist who has repeatedly preyed on area churches and their unsuspecting parishioners in recent months. Her suspected scams have caused a stir among Milwaukee area churches, with pastors and officials from nearly a dozen parishes claiming they've been swindled out of hundreds or thousands of dollars in church funds or private donations which could have been used for needy causes.

Anne E. Schwartz, public relations manager of the Milwaukee Police Department, said the police have received no reports of this behavior because this type of panhandling is not illegal.

"This is not a crime," she said, "giving panhandlers money is a sure way to keep them coming back for more. Unfortunately, they tend to prey on churches thinking that they will give them money."

Illegal or not, the money given in good faith to this woman could have been used for someone who really needed the help, said Karen Gasperetti, administrative assistant at St. Roman Parish, Milwaukee.

"We have become a bit more strict with the way we help others at the parish," she said. "She got her money from the parishioners because we typically don't give money from the office. Sometimes if the priest determines that the story is legitimate, he will discern whether to give or not."

The first time St. Roman members learned of Deborah was three years ago, after she appeared with children in tow. Gasperetti remembers feeling very sorry for the woman.

"She used to visit regularly and her stories made you feel very sorry for her," she said. "In fact, she brought me an angel that I still have sitting by my desk. I'm not sure where she got it - she may have stolen it from her mother because her mother no longer wanted to help her. I often see that angel, pray for her, and ask God to give her a sense of reality. Some people just don't have reality."

To most members, Deborah didn't fit the stereotypical idea of a scam artist in part, because she was clean-cut, neatly dressed and soft spoken. She blended into the parish community, often with one or more children in tow.

A recent notice in the bulletin at St. Mary Church, Menomonee Falls, portrayed her as polite, with a small black boy approximately 8- to 10-years-old.

"This woman's tales of woe range from escaping from an abusive relationship, to various other misfortunes," the article said. "Her recent endeavor is approaching parishioners after Mass asking for gas money, stating she has a family crisis. She travels about in a van and is known to live near Mitchell Field. Please be aware of this scam and if you are approached by this individual or anyone else requesting money, please refer them to the parish office. During the course of the year, we get a fair number of people who stop in and ask for help. Our caring ministry is set up to screen these people and work with those who legitimately need help."

Other parishes impacted by this woman's sob stories include St. Veronica, Milwaukee; St. Mary Visitation, Elm Grove; Christ King, Wauwatosa; St Hyacinth, Milwaukee and Mary Queen of Heaven, West Allis.

St. Dominic Parish in Brookfield is one of the first known victims of the swindle, affirmed Debbie Caputo, director of Christian Formation.

"At first she came to the office and our human concerns director, Susan McNeill, went and got her some stuff from the food pantry," she said. "But the last reports we had was that she was coming to morning Mass where a lot of our older parishioners go, and they gave her money."

Most Catholics want to help and follow Matthew 35 35-45, where Jesus said, "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me ... in so far as you did this to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me."

In an attempt to ensure that donations are given to those who are truly in need, announcements in St. Dominic's bulletin have been made. Plans also include visiting the parish senior group to inform them of this ongoing fraud with an appeal to hold on to their money.

"Please don't give out of your pocket," she said. "Refer the person to the priest or office because this is a scam artist and we need to pass the word."

While St. Dominic Parish often provides groceries or gasoline to those in need, they generally refer individuals wanting cash to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which assesses the situation before providing help.

"We send the Vincentians out to the houses and to the Catholic churches to see what is needed inside the house before even writing an order for anything," assured Carol Griffin, store manager of the Council of Milwaukee Thrift Stores on Lincoln Avenue.

Despite the stringent assessment process, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is no stranger to those taking advantage of generosity.

"I have people come in who fraud the certificates we write for things," she said. "We typically will give an order for beds, clothing, and other items for the home, but often people will add on to that and think they can get away with more. We always find out and tell them that we know what they have done, and we always follow through."

For the average parishioner approached by an individual asking for money, Griffin has this advice.

"Tell the person you don't have funds to help at this time," she said. "We can do an assessment to see if they are truly in need because scam artists are really taking money from the poor. There is somebody out there that needs help and they are taking money from people who really want to help those in need and using it for themselves."


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Birds and God's promise

Many of our dear friends are understandably upset with the disappointing news we received from the attorneys. At their request and because we wanted to know--we have contacted many different lawyers, but they seem to be part of one big club that sticks together, so we aren't certain if we are being treated fairly or not because they will not comment. The only comment we received from one lawyer was to contact the State Bar Association about our lawyers--however, that all takes time and will probably exceed the three year statue of limitations on the personal injury cases. So it isn't worth it.

All of this has given me time to think about our life, our situation and God's will for us.

I don't know what God wants for us. I thought I knew a few years ago when I swear I thought he was speaking directly to my heart and giving me a message--but perhaps I heard it wrong or misinterpreted it because nothing has turned out the way I imagined it would be. Nevertheless--Blaise could have been killed or paralyzed that day he was injured at the home improvement store, and thanks be to God, I still have him here and he is still a lot of fun to be with.

Not too many couples can say that their spouse is their best friend and they would want to spend time with that person above anyone else--but we can and that is a gift that no money can buy.

This morning, as I was taking a bath--I looked out the window at the little sparrows who have made a cozy home in the birdhouse next to our bathroom. They were busy fluttering about and taking turns bringing food to the four new mouths. Those little birds are a sight--featherless, blind and gaping beaks--just waiting for their next morsel--totally dependent. This is an arduous task for them that continues all day and resumes at the break of dawn in the morning. For at least two weeks those little babies are dependent upon their parents and the parents are dependent on God's mercy to have food to bring to the nest.

In thinking about their dependence, and our sorry situation, I remembered the passage from Matthew 10:28 that says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

Then I remembered that God is still with us and still hears our prayers and desires of our heart--and He will take care of us how He sees fit. We are like those babies--blind, hungry and vulnerable--just perfect for molding by His mighty hand.

That comforted me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Taco Tuesday and Time with Linzy




Nothing like a wonderful night with family to get your mind off your problems--Linzy is such a dynamic bundle of energy and brilliant little comedian that you can't help but forget everything that bothers you--at least for a while. We had Linzy's favorite for dinner-tacos, fresh fruit salad with kiwi, and brownies for dessert.

An Evening with Linzy, our granddaughter



No matter how hard Linzy tried, she was not able to get Zachary to play anymore--he had finally had enough running around and playing. I think even Linzy was tired when she left. I know Blaise and I are!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

St Lawrence Seminary High School

Today we brought Erin to St. Lawrence Seminary High School for the 7th day Day of Discovery and I must say, we were all impressed. The young men who gave us personal tours of the campus were much different that the 'kids' we see around here. Each young man greeted us with a handshake, made eye contact and were sincerely wanting to answer any questions we had.
They made sure we were well looked after and brought to each of the activities on time. Mass was a beautiful experience and what a treat to hear all those male voices singing in unison. The lunch was beautifully prepared by the students and careful consideration was made to ensure that there was a wide variety of food choices....particularly helpful for Erin and I who deal with celiac disease and find most dining experiences frustrating.

We were surprised at the amount of sports activities available, from on campus bowling, to wrestling, full gym, nautilis equipment, baseball, tennis, soccer, cross country, and more--it was mind boggling. Erin was very interested in the woodshop area and the observatory.

We need to work on the finances especially more so now that those 'lovely' lawyers failed to come through for us in Blaise's accident. But the education and opportunity to pursue the priesthood is worth giving up our home to make sure it happens for him.

Of course, we are praying we don't have to sell-I have still not ruled out the Mercy of God and a miracle. After all, God is in the miracle business, isn't He? I just need to trust that He will make it all work out according to His plan. Meanwhile, I am continuing the process of selling my dolls to pay off the $40,000 in medical bills. I have $200 so far--at least it is a dent.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

American Goldfinch


We have tons of these all year, but I really love their chirpy little demeanor.

Indigo Bunting came today




Oh how I love this time of year when the beautiful birds come back to brighten our yard. Here is a lovely Indigo Bunting--the first of the season