Saturday, September 27, 2008

Another of the good guys lost

Losing Paul Newman is like losing an old friend. The media giant and great humanitarian, Newman always had time to put others above himself.

His steely blue eyes could cut through the toughest exterior, but the warmth in his heart did more to melt and mold a steady stream of fans, than anything else.

Whether it was The Hole in the Wall Gang, his camp for children suffering serious illness, or Newman's own product lines that donated 100 % of its products to charity, he was an original.

While I will always remember him for roles in movies such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, Cool Hand Luke or Road to Perdition--my fondest memory will forever be observing the fine friendship between he and Fr. Dominic Roscioli of Kenosha. Newman was instrumental in helping Fr. Dom launch his charitable line, Fr. Dom's Duck Doo--even to the point of sending a fax to his personal advertiser, to "Please help Fr. Roscioli with his shit"

Rest in Peace Paul Newman--I wish I had known you personally, God has a new angel in heaven. Well done thou good and faithful servant.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Frugal Parenting is Good Stewardship

Frugal parenting is good stewardship

Tough economic times call for cost saving measures

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Parenting

Jennifer Piehl loves saving money. She also loves to shop, especially Wednesdays on double coupon days at her local grocery store. When friends from the Milwaukee-based Mothers and More Organization begged her to reveal her thrifty shopping secrets, she brought several binders filled with tips and shared them with fellow members at a recent meeting.

"I have spent years writing down the best deals, ways to save money, and other information that has saved our family thousands of dollars," she said. "These are ideas that work for us and hopefully will give others some help during these tough economic times."

With the country's current economic downturn, perhaps our parents or grandparents had it right. Survivors of the Great Depression, many were frugal spenders who thought long and hard before making major purchases and saved enough to put their children through college. Most, still put their churches first and gave from their first fruits, rather than from what was left over.

Credit card debt, excessive spending, employment cutbacks, high fuel costs and home foreclosures have taken a toll on charitable giving and stewardship. As the cost of food goes up and the values of homes fall, frugal impulses have already kicked in. Consumers are shaving extras in their family budgets - like skipping teeth-whitening treatments and scaling back cable TV packages.

Being green is being frugal

Such budget trimming happens when consumers are unsure of the future, but according to Piehl, solid preparation will cushion the family budget from disaster.

"There are so many ideas but always buying on sale, reusing items, borrowing items, and swapping no longer needed items with others is a great way to save money and save on the environment," she said. "Being green is being frugal."

Preparing for the inevitable job loss or layoff by paying off bills, building up savings and canceling nonessentials are ways to buffer against personal financial disaster, members learned at the meeting.

"You have to think about what you can do without in order to prepare for the future," said Piehl. "Start using coupons, have an energy audit to see where your losses are in your home, unplug your appliances - everything with a light and a clock will suck energy out of your budget. Keep your closets and spare rooms closed off with the vents closed to save energy dollars, and insulate your attics. These are simple things you can do to save money."

Children's birthday parties don't need to be lavish or expensive, Piehl insists. Having the party at home, homemade gifts and party favors, homemade decorations and purchasing gifts on sale are ways to save cash.

"If you are having a party with adults, consider "byo," such as bring your own beverage, or bring your own meat to the party," she said. "This way you can still have fun, but it won't break your budget."

Stewardship: Responsible use of resources

The subject of stewardship is often enough to make churchgoers squirm in their pews, and place a death grip on their pocketbooks. Parishioners should consider that stewardship is not just letting go of hard-earned dollars, but it is a way of helping people examine how they use their time, talents and treasure - and how they can do a better job of it.

Stewardship means committing money and time to a cause to better the lives of others. Though it shouldn't be surprising, people who give money or time to help others usually find they also feel better about themselves. Stewardship also includes promoting a responsible use of the earth's resources, and being responsible yourself. Stewardship is ultimately a way of life that recognizes your connectedness both to God and to His creation.

Mothers and More member and publicity chairperson, Mary Pat Rick, believes frugal living is the perfect companion to stewardship. Although at times financial stewardship may decrease due to difficult economic times, personal stewardship can increase exponentially.

"In general, so many times, for me personally it is fiscally responsible for me to send my kids to a private school," said Rick, a member of St. Matthias Parish, Milwaukee. "And when money is tight, there are lots of things I can do with my kids to give back to others."

Whether it is delivering holy Communion or meals to the homebound, or volunteering at a nursing home, Rick looks for creative and non-monetary ways for her family to reach out to others.

"We visit a nursing home twice a month to visit and do crafts with the elderly," she said. "It is a nice way to do something with the kids and involve them in a senior living organization."

Tight times bring out generosity

Mothers and More is not religiously affiliated, and chapter leader Nancy Donohue believes stewardship is not limited to Roman Catholics or people of faith, but rather is a global responsibility affected in part by the economy.

"When times are tight financially, most moms tend to give time in addition to their donations to their church," she said. "This can be assisting in Christian formation classes, vacation Bible school, helping to repair or maintain the church and its grounds."

As a group, Mothers and More frequently helps with Habitat for Humanity, charitable drives, purchase SCRIP for school fund-raisers and work to find creative methods to give back to the community.

"As part of Mothers and More, we are connected with a wonderful e-mail list of resources to save money on everything from baby supplies, babysitting, and clothing to home improvement," said Rick. "All of these methods indirectly allow us to save money and that leaves us with more money to donate to church or other charities."

Co-leader Shannon Foley agrees, and adds that in addition to giving more time, and saving money through living frugally, her family takes advantage of the archdiocesan withdrawal program to support their parish, St. Mary, Waukesha.

"That has really helped us not to think about having money to donate each week," she said. "It is not part of our regular financial decisions because it is automatically deducted from our checking account. This, and doing things individually to help others, is how our family practices stewardship."

Stewardship can be practiced at home

While stewardship is often visualized as giving time, talent and treasure to the church or other charitable organizations, stewardship can also be practiced at home. Spending time with family, playing games, baking or crafting together will always be more important and memorable than lavishing the latest video game on children. Rick utilizes her time, teaching important lessons to her children, while involving them in service to others.

"We use a religious perspective in making gifts and cards for people," she said. "For Father's Day and Mother's Day I will often download prayers and insert them into cards. For example, on Mother's Day I will print out St. Gerard prayers for the mothers I know. Sometimes, when people we know are having a tough time, I will download a prayer for patience, print them out on pretty paper and we mail those out. I do this with the kids because they love to make cards and add glitter and stickers to them. We do this for all occasions and it only costs a stamp instead of going out and spending $4 for a card."

Frugal tips from Mothers and More
Beware of 'budget busters'

1. Credit Cards. These little pieces of plastic can often cause a great deal of temptation and trouble. It is not uncommon for a person to make an unwise purchase, which they would not otherwise make, because they had a credit card handy. The solution to this problem for many people is to get rid of their credit cards and begin paying by cash or check. Some prefer to keep one card for emergency situations but it is best to keep this out of reach, and not in their wallet or purse.

2. Impatience. Problems often arise when people set financial goals but do not have the patience to complete a savings program. For example, let's say that an individual begins setting money aside for a new car. However, after a couple of months they happen to find a car that they love, and instead of waiting, they go ahead and make the purchase. This could potentially create some serious financially strains. It takes real discipline to prevent impatience from breaking your budget.

3. Lack of adjustments. A budget is created using a set of expenses and income figures that are current at that time. As these figures change it is important that the budget is adjusted to reflect these changes. A failure to do so could lead to some major deficits.

4. Holidays. Unfortunately, many people do not consider holidays at the point that they are creating their budgets. As a result, a proper amount of money has not been set aside for presents, food, etc. These items should be factored in and saved for throughout the entire year.

5. Vacations. Many people accurately factor in the transportation and accommodations, but underestimate the amount of money needed for food and entertainment. Keep in mind that at any kind of "touristy" or resort destination, the prices can easily be two to three times what you would normally pay at home


• Set up a monthly budget.

• Make a monthly diary of everything you spend in one month.

• Have financial goals, such as new car, vacation, home improvement, retirement fund.

• Eliminate credit card debt.

• Set up emergency fund to survive for at least six months.

• Save change and deposit to savings account.

• Use your company 401k plan, company matching, flex spending plans.

• Use envelope system for budgeting, using separate envelopes of cash for food, electricity, etc.

• Utilize store rebates.

• Plan for grocery shopping with a list, coupons and avoid impulse purchases.

• Plan meals for the week.

• Stock up on sale items that you use.

• Use coupons and participate in trading with others.

• Buy seasonally.

• Stop purchasing junk food.

Mothers and More welcomes new membersMothers and More is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of mothers through support, education and advocacy celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2007. The nationwide network has grown to 170+ chapters and more than 7,500 members worldwide. The Milwaukee West Chapter, which celebrated its 15th anniversary last year, consists of more than 160 mothers from mainly the Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. Chapter meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of each month at St. John Vianney Church in Brookfield.

Guests are welcome to attend two Moms Only events (such as a meeting, night out, or anything that is just for moms) before they join.

For more information:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A little Bit nervous

I really didn't think I was nervous about having surgery next week, but maybe underneath all my bravery and nonchalance, I am a bit more rattled than I expected. I suppose no one likes to be put under anesthesia, have surgeons tools cut into you or wonder about the aftermath of pain.

Face it, I am a total wimp when it comes to pain--so knowing that is ahead of me is perhaps making me a bit nuts. My stomach has been whirling around since Monday and I am certain I don't have the flu.

Each step closer to the day makes my stomach rumble more, such as my lab work yeterday and my pre-op visit to my doctor today.

Good heavens, I have had surgery before and given birth to five children! I can't believe that I am feeling so apprehensive about losing part of my body and fixing this problem. In retrospect and in my own rambling way, I don't think it is the pain I am worried about, but rather what happens to Blaise and Erin if something happens to me during surgery? All of the what ifs? What if I don't come out of it? What if they find something funky in there? What if I never see my kids again? All of that is haunting, but yet, I cannot let it take over my thoughts. I need to trust in the doctors and need to trust in God for a good outcome.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28:7

Sunday, September 21, 2008

POW/MIA Recognition Day

You won’t find the day noted on any calendar, which is a national disgrace.

It ought to get equal credit with Memorial Day and Veterans Day because it is that important. But it doesn’t. Not even close.

No, Saturday’s POW/MIA Recognition Day slid right by with no more than a handful of people taking notice along the streets of Twin Lakes.

The stillness was deafening as members of all branches of the military wound through the streets for the 26th Annual Wisconsin American Legion POW/MIA Silent March, last hosted in 1991 by the American Legion District 1 Post 544. The march coincided with National POW/MIA Recognition Day to commemorate America’s past patriots still missing in action and those who safely returned home from the hands of the enemy. But it was also a day for today’s Airmen, Sailors, Soldier and Marines who continue serving.

People like former WWII POW Bill Hamblin who was held seven months before his release and considers himself fortunate to have made it home alive. He remembers what day it was and can remember all the buddies who were tortured, starved, and died in those POW camps and on the death marches. Even at 90 years old, Hamblin never forgets what it felt like to be really hungry.

“You think you know what it is like to feel hungry, but you don’t,” he said, while sharing his story with State Senator Bob Wirch, “Be a POW and then, you will truly know hunger.”

A table draped with a white tablecloth, five place settings, and five empty chairs sat in a place of honor during the ceremony at Legion Park. The five chairs represented the five branches of the military and symbolized missing service members.

The White tablecloth symbolizes the purity of the soldier’s intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms, explained Cal Johnson, 1st District Commander.

“The single Red-Rose displayed in a crystal vase reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades-in arms who keep the faith awaiting their return,” he said. “There is no bread on the bread plate, but there is a slice of lemon which reminds us of their bitter fate. The salt spread over the lemon is symbolic of the families’ tears as they wait. The empty glasses remind us of the dryness of their lips, and their chair is bare as their feet are bare. This table reminds us of the indomitable spirit of America. We remember their service.”

The day was achingly beautiful, described Immediate Past State Commander David Kurtz who reminded the audience of veterans, active military, state and local officials and the community that while the American Flag draped across Lance Drive brought tears of pride to his eyes, it was a stark reminder of the past thrust into the present.

“Not along ago an Army convoy was hijacked in Iraq on a routine, supposedly safe journey,” he said. “Americans were faced with its first POW in the 21st Century. Jessica Lynch captured attention and brought young adults into uncharted territory while bringing a heartbreaking reminder to Americans about past POW/MIAs.”

A shocking 88,000 American Soldiers are still unaccounted for from past wars, and 1754 are unaccounted for from Vietnam. A full 90 percent of those 1754 soldiers are missing in action in territories controlled by the Vietnamese Government.

“The American Legion is dedicated to identifying and spotlighting the need for full accountability and return of missing American soldiers to their families,” he said. “All Americans must not forget their sacrifice and their families sacrifices.”

While the American Legion is dedicated to reclaiming America’s war heroes, many veterans and families of MIAs believe that the government has done too little to help find those who are missing.

“When a child is lost, Amber Alerts go out and the country does everything possible to search for that child-but it isn’t the same for our American soldiers” said Kurtz, “When we are serving in war, we are told never to leave our comrades behind. We expect our United States Government to do the same and to resolve this. We will never forget.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Marquette Renovations-Catholic Herald

Marquette High 'continues the mission'

$14 million renovation includes new chapel

By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

MILWAUKEE - A glimpse of hope and pledged investments of money has given Marquette University High School the backing to continue its mission to provide quality education and Catholic formation.

A three-part campaign includes a $5 million mission endowment, a scholarship endowment, major construction and a $14 million major renovation project. The construction includes the new Three Holy Companions Chapel, fine arts center and improvement to the O'Rourke Performing Arts Hall, additions and renovations to the science department classrooms, new and improved athletic facilities, administrative offices, conference center and classroom air conditioning.

This project, which began four years ago, was funded entirely through donations under the school's "Continue the Mission" campaign which raised $22 million and leaves MUHS with no debt.

For Dan Quesnell, MUHS director of planning and community relations, the response has been positive.

"Parents, staff and students have recognized the benefits of this campaign," he said. "We expect that opening the Three Holy Companions Chapel will breathe life into the school and bring Christ closer to our hearts."

School officials named the chapel Three Holy Companions in honor of St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and Blessed Peter Favre. University colleagues, these three men became the nucleus of the Society of Jesus, just as the chapel will serve the core of the Marquette community.

Adding six classrooms to the school helped bring class averages into a more manageable size, reducing numbers from 24 students per class to 20 per class. Funds within the mission endowment provided for additional teachers which brought the student-teacher ratio to the level desired by the school.

According to Quesnell, most of the academic facilities were modernized over the past 10 years, with exception of the arts classrooms, chemistry rooms, athletic spaces and the air-conditioning of half the academic building.

"In order to facilitate the highest level of teaching and learning, we felt compelled to address these needs at this time," he said. "This entailed demolishing the former Jesuit residence building, which housed our student chapel. Through this, we have taken the opportunity to put our mission at the front door by constructing the Three Holy Companions Chapel at our main entrance."

By following the same principles for solid Catholic education today as it did when MUHS opened 151 years ago, Quesnell anticipates the renovated school will appeal to the next generation of scholars, future priests and Catholics.

"This project reinforces our Catholic, Jesuit, urban, college preparatory mission by providing a marvelous worship space, state-of-the-art academic facilities, and a commitment to our urban neighborhood," he explained.

As a part of Milwaukee's west side, MUHS is a partner and anchor among its urban neighbors. Renovations updated the entire southern façade to include two new buildings, and improved the aesthetics along Michigan Avenue. School officials are equally proud of their active partnership with the Merrill Park Neighborhood, where they collaborate on home rehabilitations, and are involved in the revitalization of Wisconsin Avenue as well as developments as part of the SOHI District (27th Street).

"Inwardly, we are better able to host neighborhood meetings in our conference center and we are currently investigating ways in which the Three Holy Companions Chapel might be of service to our neighbors," said Quesnell.

For Quesnell, the greatest promise for the school's future is the strong student body, supportive alumni and friends of Marquette University High School.

"The 'Continue the Mission' campaign looks into the future of Catholic, Jesuit, urban, college-preparatory education at Marquette University High School with faith that the need for Catholic education in Milwaukee will remain strong," he said. "We believe that this initiative positions us to play an active role in the strong future of Catholic education in Milwaukee."

Monday, September 15, 2008


Well, the inevitable happened and this is time for Blaise and I to exercise even more faith and more trust in He who gives us life. Friday, Blaise began short term disability and the way it looks, he won't be working again. We are suddenly thrust into an arena that I prayed would not happen--our wages have dropped even further, there is uncertainty about long term disability and even greater, the uncertainty that we will win or not win the personal injury case.

After what we have been going through lately with Blaise's daily pain suffering, the enormous medical bills, his pressures at work, and my declining work load--I didn't realize it would get even worse for us. I knew it could--but had hoped and prayed that we were through the worst of it.

God must think we are really strong because the pressure and the stress simply does not stop. Although we are both very down right now, I know that God's hand is still upon us and our future and I believe He will prevail. Blaise is a good man and has always done his best to be Christ-like to everyone--I believe God will reward him for that.

Despite it all, we continue to praise him in the bad times as well as the good times. I am anxious to watch His handiwork unfold.

Praise be to Jesus Christ

Friday, September 12, 2008

Linzy's Kindergarten Picture

Hard to believe she has gotten big enough for Kindergarten!

Erin the cutie!

I think before long--a lot of girls are going to be calling our house. At 13, Erin is getting to be such a handsome young man--just don't tell him I said so!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Happy Birthday Blessed Mother

My own mother passed away seven years ago and since then, I have become very close with our Blessed Mother Mary. Today we celebrate the Nativity of her birth and remember her Yes to God. Her yes, changed the world. Thank you Mother Mary.

Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God,
heralded joy to all the world.
For from thou hast risen the Sun of justice,
Christ our God.

Destroying the curse, He gave blessing;
and damning death, He bestowed on us
life everlasting.

Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
For from thou hast risen of Sun of justice,
Christ our God.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Please Pray

For reasons I wish not to go into on this public blog, I ask for your prayers. If you feel so inclined, please pray this prayer for us. Thank you.


(pray for 9 days or 9 hours straight)

Jesus, You said, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." Through the intercession of Mary, Your holy Mother, I knock, I seek. I ask that my prayer be granted. (state your specific request or intention here!)

Jesus, You said, "All that you ask of the Father in My name, He will grant you." Through the intercession of Mary, Your holy Mother, I humbly and urgently ask Your Father in Your name that my prayer be granted. (state your specific request or intention here!)

Jesus, You said. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass." Through the intercession of Mary, Your holy Mother, I feel confident that my prayer will be granted. (state your specific request or intention here!)

I prostrate myself before Thy Holy Image, O most gracious Infant Jesus, to offer thee my most fervant thanks for the blessings Thou hast bestowed upon me. I shall incessantly praise Thine ineffable mercy and confess that Thou alone art my God, my Helper and my Protector. Henceforth, my entire confidence shall be placed in Thee! Everywhere, I shall proclaim aloud Thy mercy and generosity, so that Thy great Love and the great deeds which Thou dost perform through this miraculous image may be acknowledged by all. May devotion to Thy Holy Infancy increase more and more in the hearts of all Christians, and may all who experience Thine assistance persevere with me in showing unceasing gratitude to Thy Most Holy Infancy, to which be praise and glory forever. Amen

Thank you, Infant Baby Jesus of Prague and the Sacred Heart of Jesus for granting my request. I will always be dedicated to You Dear Jesus and have faith that You will always be by my side. Your faithful servant (state your name).

Friday, September 5, 2008

More than a Big Birthday Party

Michael Gibilian exchanges his daughter, Amanda’s, flat shoes for high heels during her July 27, 2007 quinceañera reception at Klemmer’s Banquet Center, Milwaukee. Changing the shoes is symbolic of the young girl’s entrance into adulthood.
Amanda Gibilian’s quinceañera – 15th birthday celebration – began at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, West Allis, with a Mass celebrated by family friend, Fr. Jim Schuerman, far right. (Submitted photos courtesy Amanda Gibilian)

More than a big birthday party

Quinceañera is celebration of life, gratitude to God

Karen Mahoney
Special to Parenting

Michael Gibilian wanted to make sure everything was perfect, so he took dance classes with his daughter Amanda, who just turned 15.

His little girl was becoming a woman and the classes prepared Michael to escort Amanda onto the dance floor for the father-daughter dance as she celebrated her quinceañera in July 2007.

"It was really beautiful," said Minerva, Amanda's mom, "and it was important for me that she had this celebration."

The quinceañera, pronounced keen-sin-yera, comes from the Spanish word "quince" or 15 and celebrates a girl becoming a young woman. Amanda's family said they view her as a young lady now, no longer a little girl. The quinceañera is a traditional celebration of life and gratitude to God. It is a ritual that is frequently celebrated with a Mass or blessing to be held in their church.

Amanda's quinceañera began with a Mass, a court of 14 girls and seven boys, special dances performed by the court, a candle lighting ceremony, tiara, and the symbolic exchange of slippers to high heels marking her entrance into adulthood.

"At the hall before the father daughter dance, her flat shoes were exchanged for high heels," said Minerva, adding, "This was the recognition that she was a girl going into womanhood. She was then allowed to dance, but only with her male family members."

The older of two children, Amanda is the first in her family to have a quinceañera. Her mother, who is of Puerto Rican descent, did not have one.

"Puerto Ricans didn't really celebrate their quinceañera; it has only been with- in the last 20 years or so that we began adopting the Mexican tradition of celebrating," said Minerva. "But since Amanda was born, I always knew that I wanted to have one for her and in my head I planned for it all these years."

Yet convincing her daughter took some effort, noted Amanda, a junior at Nathan Hale High School, West Allis.

"My mom was talking about this three years before I turned 15," recalled Amanda. "I was not raised 100 percent Hispanic so I didn't really know what it was. I said, 'OK' - but then when I heard what you had to do and wear, I didn't want to do it because I was pretty tomboyish!"

Celebrations can be big business

While quinceañera celebrations are big business, with some young women opting for "destination quince" to tropical islands, or lavish parties costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Gibilians wanted Amanda's celebration to be something beautiful, but a bit more modest.

"Still, the planning took a good year, it is really like a wedding," said Minerva. "The hardest part was coordinating the attendants who were all her cousins, because many of them lived out of state. We wanted them to take a dance lesson for the court dance, so we had to fit that in when they all arrived a few days before the celebration."

Preparing for the quinceañera often requires court attendance at dance classes for several months, but Minerva wanted this to be a bit lower key.

"Some courts have costume changes and do very elaborate dance routines," she admitted. "And even though this dance was much simpler, it was a bit complicated at times to get everyone together."

Retreats offer spiritual preparation

Most importantly, Minerva wanted the party to focus first on the spiritual aspect of the quinceañera, something that pleases Luz Elena Tellz, one of the quinceañera facilitators at Casa Romero, a Jesuit retreat house, located at 423 W. Bruce St., Milwaukee.

Tellz works with Casa Romero's lead facilitators, Roseila Avala and Edith Blancas, to host daylong mother-daughter quinceañera retreats to prepare spiritually and emotionally for the celebration. Casa Romero has offered quinceañera retreats since 1998 and has grown from offering one or two retreats per year to more than a dozen.

"I always congratulate the girls and tell them that this is a great moment in their lives and explain to them the meaning of what they are doing," she said.

Most Hispanic-based parishes in the Milwaukee area require the mother-daughter retreat to focus more on their responsibilities as young Catholic women and less on the celebratory nature.

"We pray over the girls with a candle and they will commit themselves and promise themselves to God," said Tellz. "We read to them from the Bible and show them in the book of Luke where God says, 'I knew you before you were born,' and let them know that they have a purpose that was given them before they were born. We go through the trajectory from childhood to now."

The retreat eventually sold Amanda on the idea of a quinceañera.

"Later we went to the retreat and that is what really pulled it all together for me," she said. "I was able to see the church side of it and that is really when I became interested in my quince. Originally, I just thought it was like a Sweet 16-type party for Hispanic girls, but it was so much more.

"At the retreat I really connected with my mom more and learned about my role as a Catholic woman. They talked about retaining your Catholic faith and having it stick with you while you are growing up," she added.

More than big birthday party

As the archdiocesan coordinator of inter-cultural ministry, Eva Diaz is pleased parishes are supportive of the retreats, as well as working hard to encourage the young women to focus on the spiritual aspects, rather than just simply having a big birthday party.

"A lot of people miss the whole significance of the event," she admitted. "For the parents, it expresses gratitude to God for the life of this young woman; she is no longer a child, and not yet an adult, so this is an important rite of passage. Parents who celebrate their daughter's 15th birthday with a quinceañera most always ask for the Mass or blessing in church. It is just not usually done to have the party without the religious celebration first."

For Minerva and Amanda, the retreat experience provided them with valuable time to connect as mother and daughter, while at the same time understanding the meaning behind the celebration.

"It was very nice," admitted Minerva. "We had breakfast and a meal and discussed the importance of her quinceañera, and worked through many questions together. We didn't know what to expect at first, but I was happy that she really learned that this celebration was much more than just a birthday party. She was very grateful to attend and we were all able to learn more as a family."

Young woman commits to teachings of Christ

According to Diaz, the quinceañera is traditionally celebrated with family and friends. The young woman, generally accompanied by her attendants, parents and godparents, processes into church. Often the young woman will serve as lector for one of the readings and family members assume other roles during the liturgy. Following the Liturgy of the Word, the quinceañera makes a commitment to God and the Blessed Virgin to live out the rest of her life according to the teachings of Christ and the church by renewing her baptismal promises.

"Following this, the young woman is presented with gifts such as a rosary, prayer book or Bible to raise up the importance of prayer," said Diaz. "She may also be given a gold necklace with a medal of the Virgin or she is sometimes given a ring."

While Amanda embraced the idea of marking her birthday in a church celebration, she was also concerned about the setting.

"I was also worried about the church part because I go to a public school and was worried how my friends would react at the Mass. But that went well because the Mass was personal and about me, so I didn't need to worry about them," she said.

Can be 'teaching moment'

The choice by a young Hispanic woman to celebrate her 15th birthday in the church offers a host of possibilities for her and the parish. If the young women are received with understanding and a willingness to meet their needs, the celebration of the quinceañera can be a teachable moment for the parish, and especially for young men and women in the parish and community.

Tellz reminds the family that presenting a symbol of the Virgin Mary as a gift to the young woman is an important aspect of the quinceañera. Not just as the mother of Jesus, but in her willingness to say "Yes" to the angel when she was asked to bear the Christ Child.

"Mary took this on in addition to being a woman," she said. "We want the girls to know that they are not just reaching womanhood, but a Christian woman and we want them to know what that role entails. We have exercises to go with that to help them understand their responsibility."

Although Amanda is part of a small family, many Hispanic families are large and the opportunity for a young woman preparing for her quinceañera to have her mother alone for the day is exhilarating for many, Tellz said.

"They are so happy to have their mom alone for a whole day, which is something that often doesn't happen," she said. "Some girls tell me later that this retreat takes the celebration to the next step. They are like Cinderella going from rags to the beautiful gown - but I tell them that whether they go back to rags after the quinceañera is up to them, for this is supposed to be continuing as another step in their lives. It is not over when the party is done."

Part of the retreat day includes a sincere examination of conscience, often including the sacrament of reconciliation, and open discussions about a variety of teen issues, including peer pressure, drugs, alcohol and sexual purity. For some, it is their only tie between their quinceañera and their Catholic faith.

"Some girls are not regular church-goers," admitted Tellz. "This might be their only contact to spirituality and religion. They may have frustration going on inside because they can't get answers to liturgical questions. So if we help them to get something, to get the beginning of more, that is huge. This can plant a seed that may help them make positive decisions for the future."

Sponsors help with costs

Despite Minerva and Michael's attempts to keep the celebration modest, the costs of a quinceañera can be staggering. But, similar to many Hispanic weddings, family members and friends often sponsor some of the quinceañera costs so not to burden the family.

The custom of having patrinos /madrinas (sponsors) makes it possible for there to be a larger array of gifts and donated services.

"Family members who are seamstresses, musicians, drivers of limousines, florist shop workers, cooks, bakers and photographers often donate their services as gifts," explained Diaz. "The church decorations, food and music for the fiesta, are often provided by family and friends."

In Amanda's case, sponsors paid for all of about $2,000 of the estimated costs of the celebration as a gift and as part of their responsibility in ensuring that she continues to grow in her Catholic faith. To save costs, Minerva opted not to utilize the services of a quinceañera planner as many families do. Although planning consumed much of her time, she has the satisfaction in knowing she did the planning herself.

"All of the attendants paid for their own clothing, and family members paid for the dinner, decorations, flowers, music, photos, the cake and most of the other major costs," she said, adding, "The planning was a lot of work and let's just say, I am happy I only have one daughter!"

Mass was 'highlight' of day

Interestingly, while gifts of rosary, bracelet, necklace, tiara and Bible are customary during the Mass, Minerva was especially touched that a nephew who is a self-described atheist made sure to purchase Amanda's Bible.

"I couldn't believe he bought her the Bible," she said. "But that goes to show you that maybe he will change; we pray for him all the time. Who knows? Maybe this planted a small seed in his heart."

The highlight of the day was not the fancy clothing, the gifts, or the large party, Minerva emphasized; it was the Mass at their home parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary in West Allis, celebrated by a priest who has special ties to the couple.

"Fr. Jim Shuerman from the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary was the priest that married my husband and me, 19 years ago. He went to the Dominican Republic when Amanda was born and hadn't seen her for a while," she said. "Our parish priest had not done a quinceañera before, so Fr. Jim agreed to do it. The entire Mass was done in both Spanish and English. We had so many more people attend the Mass than we ever expected. It was beautiful and such a meaningful experience. I am so glad we were able to do this for Amanda."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Star Restaurant Closes

Star Bar and Restaurant, a mainstay at I-94 and Highway S for 70 years, is closing today.

Light dims on historic restaurant
Sept. 1, 2008
Star Bar closes its doors after 70 years

Read & React

PARIS - This weekend has been a time for tears, hugs and reminiscing at Star Bar and Restaurant, the nearly 70-year-old landmark at I-94 and Highway S that has been a premier spot for locals, visitors and truckers.

The business will close at noon today.

"I have done my share of crying," said a tearful Betty Sutkiewica, who has waitressed at Star for 21 years and spent most of the weekend hugging her customers. "I love all of my customers ... well, most of the time. This is hard for me; so much of my life has been here with all of these wonderful people."

In stark contrast to a display chronicling the establishment's 70-year anniversary were two handwritten signs explaining the somewhat unexpected closing. Due to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's reconstruction of the I-94 on and off ramps, the property was acquired by the state.

While owners David and Stephanie Slamar considered relocating or opening another restaurant, both are ready for a change.

"My wife and I have owned this restaurant for 14 years, but it has been in her family for 70 years," said David. "Stephanie, who is the backbone of this business, started here washing dishes as a little kid, and my father-in-law Steve Savas still works here - he owned the business until he sold it to us."

While the DOT wanted the Slamars out of the restaurant by Oct. 1, the couple decided to close by going out during the biggest weekend of the summer.

"Yes, we decided to go out with a bang," admitted David, wiping sweat from his brow. "With Labor Day, Harley Fest and all of our regulars coming in here, it has been an extremely busy weekend."

David and Stephanie compared the restaurant to Cheers, "Where everybody knows your name."

"I will miss the customers the most," he said. "This is where I can see a lot of people, and they can see us. In fact, some of our customers have been coming for the entire 70 years - since they were little kids."

For many, such as Paris Town Chairman Virgil Gentz, Friday nights will never be the same.

"My wife Gail and I have been coming here since 1961, and we will definitely miss the Friday fish frys," he said. "We will also miss all the local folks -we have good friendships with the owner and with Steve."

The change will be tough on Tim Schumann, Mike Rubin, Walt Scheunemann and Dawn Pohlson, employees from Stick and Rudder at the Kenosha Airport. The foursome has come for lunch every Friday for several years.

"We will especially miss the egg salad sandwiches and breakfast at lunch," Schumann said. "We aren't sure where we will go now for our weekly lunches because we are so sick of all the chain stuff. It is a treat to come here; everything else is blasé compared to this place."

For waitresss Debbie Ironside, who served customers at Star for nine years, and Laurie Cousins, an 11-year veteran, the two will take time to recuperate and mourn the loss of their "family."

"I don't know what I will do without them because now we won't be seeing each other day after day," Ironside said. "This is a very sad time for all of us."

Cousins plans to retire for awhile to take care of her family of six.

"I will really miss my regulars, but it will be good to have weekends with my family again," she said. "I have teenagers now and two dogs that need my attention."

An abundance of fond memories makes Steve Savas smile, but one in particular stands out as most meaningful - the day Howard Brown, Kenosha News president, came for lunch.

"He presented me with the newspaper clipping of when I was named Person of the Year in 2005," he explained. "I was so touched. He stayed for lunch, and when he was finished, I picked up the tab. Do you know he actually got mad and insisted that he pay the bill? So, of course, I had to let him pay it!"