Friday, November 28, 2008

Ashley Selas Story

Name: Ashley Selas
Age: 16
Occupation: Student at Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha
Parish: Holy Apostles, New Berlin
Favorite movie: "The Guardian"
Book recently read: "The Phantom of the Opera"
Favorite quotation: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."
- Henry David Thoreau

(Submitted photo courtesy Ashley Selas)

Helping others comes naturally to teen, family


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

Although she's only 16, Ashley Selas is already looking for ways to help others.

Her interest in medicine paved the way for Selas of New Berlin to participate last summer in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in Boston.

A junior at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, Selas was nominated by school officials to attend the forum. She raised funds to attend the conference and enjoyed meeting similarly minded high school students from across the country.

"It was a great experience," she said. "We got to have classes and doctors gave talks on their profession. We also visited medical schools, hospitals and were able to talk to students and go to a cadaver lab at the Boston School of Medicine, and spend a day shadowing a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital E.R."

Although Selas, an honor student studying for her International Baccalaureate Diploma, is interested in pursuing a career in biochemistry or another field of science, the most rewarding and meaningful aspect of her life is in reaching out to others.

As co-founder of the International Outreach Program at Catholic Memorial, Selas works with classmates in bringing awareness that, despite their young age, they have the power to change the world.

"We focus on awareness for efforts in countries that are less fortunate than we are," she said.

Under the guidance of school faculty, Catholic Memorial students reach out to Uganda's Invisible Children
. In 2003, three college students from California traveled to Africa and found that children in Northern Uganda were being snatched from their homes and forced to fight as soldiers. The 2006 film that resulted from their trip, "Invisible Children," shows the effect of a 20-year war on Uganda's children.

"These children are in unfortunate situations and we want to raise awareness and fund-raise to send money for them to build a school," Selas said. "There are a lot of other high schools around here that are involved in it as well. We have efforts like band concerts and the funds will go to help. Right now, we are providing awareness of the need with posters, morning prayers and monthly prayer services in school for the Invisible Children. We have had a great turnout for this and it is quite exciting."

While it might be easy to take the comforts of a warm home, clothing and enough food to eat for granted, Selas is aware she and most others she knows are blessed to have more than they need.

"There are so many people who need more help than I could ever imagine," she said. "I feel that I need to be doing my part for this whole thing. I want to raise awareness so others know what is happening and feel obligated to do what I can."

Adults who learn about the school's efforts to help Uganda's invisible children are often stunned to witness the students' compassion and outreach in an often-selfish world.

"Some are very shocked, but they think it is cool that we coordinated it and are happy we are doing this," said Selas. "You know it is a small difference, but to be able to help them build a classroom and try to build their community can make a big difference in a kid."

Learning to give to others was instilled at her at early age by her parents who, Selas said, raised her to notice what is going on in the world. Generations of doing for others rather than watching others do it was never more obvious than when Selas' grandfather, Richard Krawczyk, helped her and her three younger siblings coordinate food drives to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.

"He helped us bring boxes to our classrooms in grade school and then we'd collect everything together and help St. Vincent restock and organize the pantry," she said. "We did this for about four years - and it was great; we got a lot of donations."

In addition to her outreach involvement, Selas is president of the junior class, writes a regular column in the school newspaper, serves as an ambassador to grade schools, and participates in the school's service clubs. Selas' Catholic faith grounds her and propels her to regard others as more important than herself - a lesson recently learned, she confessed.

"I wasn't exactly the most devout when I was a little girl," she said. "But last year, my religion teacher, Mrs. Linda Johnson, opened up my eyes a bit and just kind of created a new mindset for me about different problems and how I can help. She had discussions and shared stories and I guess it helped me look at things differently."

Priest Brings Blessings to Mexico

/27/2008 12:00:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article
Fr. Bob Stiefvater poses for a photo following a Mass he celebrated in Leon, Guanajuato where he met the family of parishioners who live near St. Hyacinth, Milwaukee. The Mass was an emotional one for Fr. Stiefvater and the worshippers who filled the church. (Submitted photo courtesy Fr. Bob Steifvater)
Priest brings blessings to Mexico

By motorcycle, Fr. Stiefvater visits parishioners’ families


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

When Fr. Robert Stiefvater returned to his three Milwaukee parishes following a European sabbatical last year, he knew his journey was not over. As part of his grant from the Lilly Foundation, he recently concluded his sabbatical with a 5,000-mile, 12-day trip by motorcycle to Mexico to visit some of the hometowns of his Hispanic parishioners.

"It is now so hard for many of our parishioners to travel back home for weddings and funerals. And since family unity is one of the major reasons our bishops are calling for immigration reform, I decided to say Mass in six of the towns that have the largest number of their citizens in my three parishes, St. Hyacinth, St Vincent de Paul and Prince of Peace," he said.

Leaving after celebrating two Masses on Sept. 7, Fr. Stiefvater traveled to St. Louis the first day, then to Dallas and San Antonio. While en route, hundreds of empty buses passed him, and as he traveled closer to San Antonio, numerous ambulances joined the convoy. Puzzled, Fr. Stiefvater began listening to news programs and was startled to learn that he was traveling toward the staging area for Hurricane Ike evacuees.

"Apparently, they planned to have 1,300 buses and 200 ambulances ready to evacuate the Texas coast to the Houston area," he said. "Needless to say, I kept on going and crossed the border just after noon into Mexico."

After a couple of hours of paperwork for the cycle and repeated checks of his motorcycle, Fr. Stiefvater wondered if the customs officials were delaying his entry due to anti-priest sentiments, but he was surprised to learn otherwise.

"Really, they were just surprised that I had packed so much on my bike and surprised that I traveled all the way from Milwaukee and not just picked up my bike from the airport," he said. "They were also very interested in my GPS; they thought it was the coolest thing."

After his first night in Monterrey, Fr. Stiefvater traveled through torrential rain to Ojocaliente where he celebrated his first Mass on behalf of his Milwaukee-based parishioners. The schedule was published in the parish bulletins before he left, allowing parishioners to contact their families in Mexico to come for the Masses.

"By 7 p.m. the church was packed; I could not believe how full it was of people," he said, adding, "I was not quite ready for the emotion. When I began, I told the people that I was here in the name of their families in the United States who can't easily cross the border. They miss you and know that they miss funerals and weddings but I am offering Mass and blessings in their name. I heard weeping and sobbing throughout the church. The music was very beautiful and after Mass and the blessings, I stood and talked with them."

While in Ojocaliente, Fr. Stiefvater experienced the gracious hospitality of its residents, some who offered dinner, lodging and friendship.

"One person had family in Chicago, and different people told me of their families who attended St. Hyacinth or Prince of Peace," he said. "Some gave me letters and photos for their families and I took some group photos to bring back home."

The next stop was Leon, Guanajuato where he met the family of parishioners who live near St. Hyacinth. As he prepared for Mass, the church again filled to capacity and Fr. Stiefvater was moved to tears by the outpouring of emotion.

"People were just sobbing through Mass, and so was I. It was so moving," he said. "Afterwards, I passed out mail and one woman came to me and said her husband was just there and when he went back to Milwaukee, he forgot his pills and had me bring them back to him. When I got home, he picked them up."

Traveling through the lush territory of Zinapequero, Fr. Stiefvater stumbled upon what he thought was a prison in the valley of Salvatierra. After noticing what appeared to be medieval gun shots in the walls, he traveled to town to investigate the structure.

"It was huge, five stories tall - I thought it was a prison, but could see that the roofs had been ruined," he said. "It turned out to be an old hacienda built in the 1500s that was no longer in use. It had its own church in the middle, but the doors were closed so I couldn't go in. It probably owned the entire valley."

After speaking with the hesitant townspeople, who were unsure about this American motorcycle priest, they offered information on the building.

"This was a defensive structure built by the Spaniards and the entire town was built around it," he said. "I was so taken with it that when I got home I went to Google maps and looked at it through the satellite views. The whole town was just wonderful on so many levels."

Fr. Stiefvater celebrated Mass on behalf of a parishioner named Hilda who had been unable to travel home to see her family in 18 years. During Mass, he asked if the family of Hilda was there and 15 people raised their hands.

"They had all come in to Mass with her parents who lived in town," Fr. Stiefvater said. "After Mass I went down and ate with the family in a restaurant on the square and the town was full of rides because it was the Day of the Ninos Heroes, or Heroic Children."

The holiday remembers the six cadets who committed suicide during the Mexican-American War by leaping from the castle battlements rather than surrender to U.S. Marines.

"The next day they had official ceremonies with each school marching band performing, patriotic bands - one after another," said Fr. Stiefvater. "Here I was, the gringo seeing this celebration; it was cool to see. Afterwards, Hilda's father gave me something to take home to her - two little flat figurines that they said would fit in the folds of my clothes, since I had no space to carry anything. They wanted me to bless the figurines, but I said that they should bless them and I would give them to their daughter - we were all crying."

His journey brought him through Mexican Independence Day, and the middle of the Tour de Mexico bike race where he joined 130 bicyclists along the highway. In addition to Masses in Ojocaliente, Zinapequero, and Leon, he celebrated Mass in San Jose, and San Juan de los Lagos.

Although he has only been home a few weeks, Fr. Stiefvater is already planning a return trip, hopefully with a couple of men from his parishes.

"I am hoping to return in the next two years and would like to travel to parishes along the east coast of Mexico, as well as some of the areas that I went on this trip," he said. "I feel that this trip has really strengthened the bonds with my own parishioners. Often after Mass in the villages, I would get phone calls from my Milwaukee families who talked about the ceremony. I loved the formal way they celebrate Mass in Mexico and I loved to walk around the villages. It was just the coolest thing."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Great quotes

I looked up my family tree and found out I was the sap.
Rodney Dangerfield

I feel so miserable without you, it's almost like having you here.
- Stephen Bishop

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.
- Eric Hoffer

Happy Birthday Tomorrow Ryan!


Happy 22nd birthday Ryan! We will always love you and will always be so very proud of you.

Pre-Thanksgiving Snow in Wisconsin




Like tiny diamonds sparkling on a white background, this new fallen snow is both peaceful and gorgeous. At least today it is, ask me again in mid-March and I will give you an description that will probably contain expletives! Anyway, enjoy-the young man shoveling the walk is Erin, nearly 14 years old already!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winter Warmer for St Joseph Families

Edith Lutz organizes gift bags with her children Timothy and Kirsten. At far left is Ed Pieczynski, Edith’s father. Edith and Tim Lutz, and their children donated more than 200 coats to the children of the Child Development Center of St. Joseph on Nov. 3 in Milwaukee.
Mia Aries, 2, looks up to Edith Lutz after receiving her gift bag containing a coat, hat and mittens. (Catholic Herald photos by Ernie Mastroianni)
About The Child Development Center
The Child Development Center is located at 1600 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee. For more information, visit www.cdcsj.org or call (414) 491-1829. The staff welcomes volunteers, financial donations and funds for their scholarship program. The Felician Sisters sponsor the center and rely upon donations from individuals and foundations. In 2007, the Felicians celebrated 100 years of providing child care to Milwaukee's south side.
Winter will be warmer for St. Joseph families

Illinois family donates 230 coats, hats, gloves


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

MILWAUKEE - Although she has very little compared to many families, Sonja Mata, a single mother of four, tries to be generous.

Often, after her children outgrew clothing or toys, she would give them to other needy families at her children's day care center, The Child Development Center of St. Joseph, sponsored by the Felician sisters.

However, when Mata returned to college full time this fall to improve her life and the life of her family, she was unprepared for how difficult it would be to go from a full-time paycheck to working part time. She often struggles with enough money to feed her children and provide for their basic needs. With the arrival of cold weather came the realization that she would not be able to provide suitable winter attire for her youngest, a 3-year-old boy.

"I had a jacket for my oldest and handed the other ones down, but there was nothing for Isaiah," she said. "I was thinking that I would try to save a little bit here or there so I could buy him a coat, but I have really nothing to spare."

As almost an immediate answer to her prayers, Mata received a letter the following day from day care staff that Chicago area residents Edith and Tim Lutz and their two children, Tim, 9 and Kirsten, 7, were planning to donate new winter coats, hats and gloves to each child at the day care center on Monday Nov. 3. Moved to tears, Mata knew God had intervened.

"I can't even explain without crying," she said, choking back tears. "My dad recently died and my mom just recovered from cancer and financially, I am having a struggle with going to school and working only part time. This was just miraculous."

Despite the difficult times, Mata turns to God for her every need, and while each prayer is not answered the way she has always hoped, she believes that God is watching out for her family.

"I read the Bible with my children because of so many things that have happened in my life," she said. "I just read the psalm to them about the Lord being the provider and leaving everything in his hands. It's funny, I was really questioning myself, because things are so hard and there is much evil in this world. But, the Lord knows what we need even before we know. This is a blessed family who helped us and who felt the need to bless someone else; the Lord worked through them to provide and protect us."

As administrator of The Child Development Center, Felician Sr. Brendan Bogdan is thankful for the Lutz's generosity, but not surprised because they have done similar things in the past.

"Last year they brought their two kids and donated toys to the children at the day care. They also gave a donation for 10 refrigerators for our classrooms and gave Easter baskets to all of our kids," she said. "They are teaching their children about the idea of giving and helping those in need."

The center cares for children ages 6 weeks through age 12. Forty percent of the students are Hispanic and 70 percent use the W-2 voucher program. Due to the economic downturn, Sr. Brendan believes that families are especially grateful for the unexpected gift.

"A lot of our kids wouldn't have had new coats because their parents could not afford them," she said. "It seems to be very important for Edith and her family to help others - they drive a long way to come up here, everything is labeled and organized and they make it a fun day. The family is always thinking how they can help and it is not just giving gifts; they give of themselves and are always really living their faith."

The decision to donate 230 new coats, hats and gloves to the day care on the south side of Milwaukee rather than to those in their neighborhood of Frankfort, Ill., reflects the family's ties to the Felician sisters through Edith's aunt, Sr. Mary Ruthilia.

"My aunt, Sr. Ruthilia, who is a Felician sister, told us about the day care a while ago, before my husband and I donated gently used stuff and they passed it out to the kids," said Edith, a member of St. Anthony Parish in Frankfort. "We would give gently used toys to the day care kids and our children were so surprised to see how excited the kids were to receive things that they had outgrown."

Living in a nice house and owning their own successful business, Edith and Tim realize how blessed they are, and do not take their lives for granted.

"It is God who has blessed us and given us the resources to help others," Edith said. "He gives us all we need and the building blocks to make a change in this world. He wants us to open our hearts and listen and if we all did this, our world would be way better."

Each carefully selected coat, hat and pair of gloves were chosen from a variety of Internet stores, to eliminate uniformity of color and style. While the family is shy about receiving publicity for the massive purchase, they are not shy about giving the credit to God for the idea.

"I really had a calling from God to do this," said Edith. "I was sitting at the table and heard God speak to my heart about the upcoming bad winter and the fact that there were so many kids at this day care who would need coats and that we should provide them."

Immediately, Edith shot up from the kitchen table and announced to her husband that God wanted them to purchase these coats, hats and gloves for the kids.

"He just said to me, 'If God said we have to do it, then we have to do it,'" Edith said. "We believe that he told us to do this for a reason and if it saves even one child from getting pneumonia this winter, we will be so happy."

A believer in the Scripture passage from Luke 12:48 "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked," the Lutzes want to instill that sense of stewardship into their own children.

"We have been blessed 10 times over. We just have to give back," Edith said. "Our children and our two nephews realize that others need help and that it is expected of them to do what they can."

The opportunity to give to others has influenced Edith and Tim's children more than they expected, even to their own classmates.

"My daughter has a girlfriend at school who was complaining that she hated the winter hat that her mom gave her. Kirsten just told her that she was lucky to have a hat because there are kids who don't have any," Edith said, adding, "She is already learning to be happy with what she has."




Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fun in Long Grove with Ray and Elaine


This was taken where Elaine works at Red Oaks--had a great time milling around the town.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Big Brother shares big love

Big Brother shares big love


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

Jim Braun of Tichigan, a Big Brother for three years, wanted to share the joys he experienced during his childhood with someone who otherwise might not have such a pleasant one.

"I really like children, but more importantly, I wanted to make a difference in this cold, dark world," said Braun, 49, a regional advertising representative for Liturgical Publications. "I was at the point where my own two children, James, who is 22 and Sara, 18, really didn't need me anymore. I never missed anything - spelling bees, coaching sports, or chaperoning dances - with them, and now that they were grown up, it seemed like the perfect time to do it."

The idea to become involved followed a homily three years ago by his pastor, Fr. Dick Robinson of St. Joseph Parish in Big Bend, on the Big Brother Big Sister Program. After a phone call and interview, Braun began a relationship with his "little brother" Raymond, now 11 years old.

Braun regularly picks Raymond up after school and freely shares his activities with him. For Raymond, the most important thing he receives is Braun's time, something he rarely gets from his father, according to his mother, Valerie.

"His dad is really not a part of Raymond's life," she admitted. "He has been in and out of jail a lot, and when he is out, doesn't spend much time with him."

Prior to Braun's involvement, Raymond was a handful for Valerie, often acting out in anger by throwing rocks, misbehaving in school, or the myriad of other ways he lashed out in frustration for his father's absence. From the onset, Braun became adept at fielding questions, working to prove his loyalty to the disappointed young boy.

"The first time I picked Raymond up, we went out for his birthday. He asked if he could bring his brother along, so I took them both to the Pettit Ice Center to skate. They both just learned to skate, so they loved it," Braun explained. "Then Raymond piped up and said, 'Gee, I hope my dad remembers my birthday, cuz he forgot me at Christmas.' I wasn't sure what to say, so I told him that right now, his dad was missing out on a great son and maybe someday he will come around. For now, you have your brother, your mom and me and we all think you are great."

It is hard to say who enjoys playing sports, watching sports games, waterskiing, or wakeboarding more, Raymond or Braun. For both, the relationship is cathartic and seems to have lessoned the pains of an absentee father, as well as it has lessoned the sting in the heart of a middle-aged father who is suddenly no longer number one.

"Having him in my life has changed everything; he is just as good for me as I am for him," Braun said. "A short time after we met, I was told that my singing was no longer good enough for the type of music that the band I was in wanted to do. My wife Cindy and daughter were out, so I called Ray and asked him if he wanted to go to a Bucks' game. I wanted someone to hang out with because I was feeling kind of down. It really helped to have them there; it is hard to explain, but this relationship means so much to me."

Sharing his time, life lessons and activities with his "little brother" is a responsibility Braun doesn't take lightly and when early on, Raymond challenged him about how long his "big brother" would be in his life, he had an answer.

"I told him that I would be around as long as he wanted me to be," Braun stated. "I told him that 'I want to be there when you graduate high school, for your wedding and as long as you want.' That was important because he was not used to that. He was used to having his dad around for a day and then not seeing him again for six months. I see him every week and sometimes twice a week."

Although Raymond is not Roman Catholic, he is being raised Christian. His mother brings the children to church when she can, but they are not frequent churchgoers. Therefore, when Braun took him to Mass with him one day, he was concerned that it might be too much quiet sitting for the young boy.

"We went to a Badger game and I needed to get to Mass on Saturday night; Raymond was with me, so I brought him along," Braun said. "It turned out to be healing Sunday and the Mass was a lot longer, at least an hour and a half. He was only 10 then and I was worried it was a bit too long. After asking him about the length, he said that it wasn't long at all."

Since then, the two frequently speak of faith and God's infinite love for them. While he doesn't push the Catholic faith on Raymond, he talks about doing the right thing, being good to others and demonstrating what it is like to be a good father to a son.

The changes at home and school are astounding, according to Valerie, who as a single mom is thankful for Braun's decision to become a part of their lives.

"Raymond has grown up so much since meeting Jim; he is becoming more of a little man," she said. "Jim has really made all of our lives better by giving him a positive male influence. Without him in our lives, Raymond wouldn't be able to do all the things they do."

Because of the impact the Big Brother Big Sister Program has made on Braun, he frequently shares his story in front of his parish and does what he can to encourage others to sign up.

"I talk about the things Raymond and I do together and what it all means," Braun said. "The program is so important and I tell them that we can change the world one child at a time, and here is their opportunity. I never would have dreamed that kids would have been waiting two to three years to get a Big Brother or Big Sister. For me, it was the right time and I would really like to do what I can to give Raymond a better life."

Family Turned to Faith as son Struggled for Life

1/13/2008 12:00:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article
Seth Shackleton, 5, poses with his bike near his family’s Elkhorn home. A mishap on his bike in September led to a Strep A organism infecting him and nearly causing Seth to lose his life. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)
Brooke and Dave Shackleton with their children, Evan, 18 months; Bryce, 3; Seth, 5; and Marissa, 7. The family belongs to St. Benedict Parish, Fontana. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)
A fund-raiser to benefit Seth’s family:
Spaghetti dinner, silent auction, raffles
Sunday, Nov. 16
Noon - 4 p.m.
$10 advance until day before
$12 at door
Monte Carlo Room
720 N. Wisconsin Street
Elkhorn

For more information or to order tickets:
Tim Forster (262) 903-3713
Kyle Peterson (262) 723-8983

Read Seth's journal: www.caringbridge.org/visit/sethshackleton

Family turned to faith as son struggled for life

Community supported Shackleton family with prayer, gifts of time, money


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

ELKHORN - In mid-September, Seth Shackleton's parents, Dave and Brooke, thought they would never again see their fun-loving 5-year-old cruise around their Elkhorn neighborhood on his bicycle.

"You ought to see him; he is riding all over the place," Brooke said. "He is a strong, tough kid and an amazing fighter."

Watching Seth do anything is a sight to see for the Shackleton family; many, including family, friends and doctors, even call him a miracle child.

His parents attribute their son's survival to intense prayer, as well as the caring physicians and staff at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin who collaborated efforts for Seth to receive several treatments in St. Luke's hyperbaric chamber. The chamber, which is larger than the one available at Children's Hospital, enabled medical staff to be present while he received the high intensity oxygen treatments.

The 17 days of hospitalization began the afternoon of Sept. 12, when Seth tumbled off his bicycle, scraping his chin and lip.

"It was an ordinary fall, just like kids have all the time," Brooke said. "His visor of his helmet cracked, but other than that, he was just fine."

The next day, Seth attended a birthday party and later in the evening complained of a stomachache. His temperature was elevated so Brooke gave him medication to bring down the fever. At 9 p.m., Seth was still running a fever, and by 11:30, his fever had increased and he began vomiting. Noticing that his face was swollen, Brooke and Dave brought him to the hospital emergency room.

"We were there during a shift change and the second doctor to see him almost seemed to have a panicked look about him," Brooke said, adding. "He said that this was serious and they wouldn't be able to provide pediatric help for him, so they decided to transfer him to Children's Hospital."

In shock, Brooke and Dave were surprised that their son was transferred with lights and sirens; it was their first indication that Seth's illness was much more than either had believed.

Immediately, Seth was admitted to Pediatric ICU, and placed into a chemically induced coma. Doctors performed a tracheotomy to maintain an open airway. A staff physician learned of Seth's situation as she was coming off her shift and lent her hand with his care.

"She really took over, was aggressive and knew what to do. She was what we needed," said Brooke, who was shocked to learn that Seth was infected with a form of Strep, commonly known as the flesh-eating virus. "The doctors figured it was a regular Strep A organism that was living in his mouth and when he fell and cut his lip, the infection got into his system."

Treatment for the rare infection included a process called debriding, a procedure to remove dead, damaged or infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue. Doctors described it as something similar to using sandpaper on dead skin.

"They brought him in for surgery to remove the dead skin many times and each time they would find good tissue, more dead tissue would appear," Brooke stated. "In addition to placing Seth, who had never been ill before, on four antibiotics, doctors utilized the high pressure oxygen in the hyperbaric chamber to kill off the additional bacteria."

In a daze of confusion, IV lines, heart monitors and teams of physicians hovering over Seth's bed, Brooke and Dave begged doctors to give them something to grasp, a glimmer of hope that their son would not die.

"We asked one of the doctors if they thought he would be home in January, and he said that was a good goal, but he also said that he wouldn't give me a percentage of survival because Seth was fighting for his life," said Brooke.

Devastated, Brooke and Dave turned to their Catholic faith for comfort. While they admit that with a young family, they have not been regular attendees at their parish, St. Benedict in Fontana, their faith has always remained strong.

"In addition to Seth, we have Marissa, 7, Bryce 3, and Evan 18 months, so it isn't easy to go all the time, but we were both raised Catholic and our faith is very important to us," Brooke said. "So, on that dark night when we realized for the first time that Seth might die, we tried to contact a chaplain to come in to pray with us."

While the couple was awaiting the chaplain's arrival, a housekeeper and a nurse's aide stepped forward and said that they would go to the chapel to pray for Seth. Amazed at the outpouring of love from those two strangers, Brooke and Dave followed them to the tiny sanctuary.

"We prayed like we had never prayed before and it was amazing how we felt," Brooke said. "We prayed that God would touch Seth and heal him, and prayed that the angels would stay around his bed. We could really see and feel people reaching out to him through their prayers; it was such an incredible experience."

When the hospital chaplain arrived, he prayed with the couple, offering them needed words of encouragement as they struggled to make sense of Seth's illness. The housekeeper and nurse's aide continued to pray with Brooke and Dave each night and gave them with spiritual books to read while they sat beside Seth's bed.

"We just loved how they made us feel a connection to God; they were so open and loving toward us," Brooke said. "And the chaplain was so giving and helpful, too."

Seth improved and, although doctors once offered a grim picture of recovery, just 17 days after his admission, he was allowed to go home. The experience was likely the worst of the Shackletons' lives, but both admit that in many ways it was the best.

"We had such support from the doctors who cared about Seth's recovery, to our family, community and church who all stepped up to take care of our kids, send cards, prayers, and phone calls," Brooke said.

Long term, Seth faces cosmetic surgery to repair damage and scarring to his lips and chin, but odds are slim that the infection will recur.

"The doctors say he is a miracle child," Brooke exclaimed. "They said he will not be more prone to the infection at all."

To defray the family's escalating medical expenses, friends have organized fund-raisers to assist them. While they now are covered under Dave's medical insurance through work, the family had taken a high deductible policy out on their own for the 90-day probationary period at Dave's new job.

"We don't even know how much we will owe," admitted Beth, "But right now, all we can think about is Seth and we are just so grateful to God that he is alive and will be just fine. We just thank everyone for what they have done for us. The prayers, thoughts, support - it has all been an amazing life changing experience. We are so blessed and didn't realize until now how blessed we are - we are so thankful."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thanks to our Veterans

Last Tuesday, Election Day, was a reminder of those democratic processes and liberties that we hold dear.

And this Tuesday, Veterans Day, reminds us of the cost of those same processes and liberties.

Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, was created to commemorate the signing of the cease-fire agreement that ended World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in 1918.

Since then, we have fought more wars, and the holiday has turned into a remembrance of those men and women -- living and dead -- who served in the military.

It's easy to lose track of the real purposes of holidays. Christmas gets lost in a barrage of lights and a consumer frenzy. Easter has become rabbit- and chocolate-oriented. Presidents Day? Time to sell appliances!

But at this time, remember those who served their country, be it in war time or peace time, in combat or on the home front.

The blood soaked soil from our courageous young men and women are the reasons we are free to complain, free to practice our faiths, free to earn an income, free to criticize our government. I pray we never take those freedoms for granted or lose what is most precious to us. Thank God for our young soldiers and thank you to my two sons Sean and Ryan Urness who valiantly answered the call to serve. May you be forever blessed.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Kenosha Man redesigns the Rosary




Gary Hughes, who works in a Kenosha jewelry store, has designed and patented a rosary with a loop system that allows a person to say prayers bead by bead without the crucifix getting in the way.

P r a y e r b e a d s
Nov. 8, 2008
Jeweler designs Rosary Lariat
KAREN MAHONEY Kenosha News correspondent

Read & React

Older Roman Catholics can remember as children kneeling together with the rest of their family members to pray the rosary every evening after supper or before bedtime.

For Kenosha jeweler Gary Hughes, some of his fondest memories are of his mother leading the family rosary in the evenings or during car trips.

"My mom was very much into the Blessed Mother, and we often prayed for her to keep us safe while driving," he said. "It was just her and us kids, and we always prayed a daily rosary."

The rosary is a Catholic devotional practice, a series of repeated prayers kept track of on a chain of beads divided into "decades." When he was a young adult, Hughes did not regularly pray the rosary, but then he resumed his devotion and has prayed a daily rosary for years. He is now 58, lives in Old Mill Creek, Ill., and is a member of St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church in Antioch, Ill.

Hughes has more than 28 years in the jewelry business and works at Erica's Fine Jewelry in Kenosha. He learned to use the downtime between customers to pray a rosary or chaplet, a single decade of beads attached to a crucifix and strand of beads.

"I always kept my chaplet in the pocket of my suit jacket, and every time I finished 10 "Hail Mary" prayers, the crucifix got in the way," he said. "I thought it would be nice to find a way to keep on saying the rest of the decades so I didn't have to flip the crucifix over."

Mulling the idea for a time, he settled on a bail, or loop, attached to the crucifix so the chaplet or rosary could pass through. An additional metal bead that looks and feels different from the others, makes it easy to know without seeing that the prayers are finished. At first, Hughes planned to create the rosary and chaplet for his own personal use, but then he remembered Pope John Paul II trying to renew interest in the rosary.

The Roman Catholic pontiff, who called the rosary his "favorite prayer," marked the start of the 25th year of his reign by issuing the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae on the Most Holy Rosary and proclaimed October 2002 to October 2003 the Year of the Holy Rosary.

The pope urged parents to teach the rosary to their children, and he urged families to pray the rosary together to help counter the "forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes" that he said threaten the family.

"I read that Pope Benedict XVI was continuing on the quest and thought it might be a good thing to market," Hughes said. "I thought that if people liked it, it might make them buy a rosary again and perhaps say it more often. Maybe they wouldn't say it forever, but maybe more would say it and continue to say it."

Perfecting his design, Hughes began the copywriting and patent process. Seven months later, he earned his copyright and utility patent for Prayer Beads Lariat.

"This opens the door for creating prayer beads for other faiths," Hughes said, adding, "but my focus is on the rosary because that is what I pray and what I feel that God gave me to do."

Hughes also has created a special design that he hopes to present to Pope Benedict XVI.

"I am trying to find the best way to present it to him," Hughes said. "Ideally, I would like to see him and deliver it personally. My ideal scenario would be an audience with him. It might not happen, but at least I would like to get the correct address to mail it to him so that I know he will receive it."

Financially, Hughes is hopeful that interest in the handmade and custom made Rosary Lariat is high, but his goals are not solely to better his own life. Hughes, who spends nearly all his free time volunteering for others and for his parish, wants to better the lives of people in the broader community.

"I volunteer as a driver for the American Cancer Society and would like to do it every day," he said. "Ideally, I would like to see the same person through all the weeks of their chemotherapy treatments. I really want to be able to do that, and unless I am financially secure, I am unable to make that my full-time job."

Prices of the Rosary Lariat range from $60 to $175. The price depends on the beads or stones used. Designs can be seen and purchased at Erica's Fine Jewelry, 4625 75th St.

For more information, call Gary Hughes at (847) 265-3704.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Is it Winter already?

Talk about a shock to the nervous system! What was it, two days ago that temperatures were in the mid 70's? Today as I look out into my office, the sunny skies and buzzing bees are gone and replaced by snowflakes. Have I just been busy or did October forget to arrive this year? Actually, I know it was here because I had surgery on October 1-perhaps I slept through the entire month?

It's only 2 in the afternoon and with the darkened skies, it feels more like 7 p.m. My energy seemed to go the way of the weather and instead of feeling as if I am ready to do a big fall cleaning inside and out, I am thinking more like wrapping myself in a nice fuzzy blanket and cuddling on the couch with this great book I am reading.

These days, when I am not working, I've been into catching u
p on my reading. The last book I read was Immaculee Illibagiza's lastest book, Led by Faith--she lived in absolute horror, yet has a faith that can move mountains. She is an inspiration to me and after hearing her speak a couple of weeks ago, it's helped me deal with our own personal suffering. I read her original story, Left to Tell a couple of years ago and it was time for me to enter into the comfort of her steadfast spirit. I tend to feel sorry for myself at times for the many things we have and continue to endure in our family--but she lived through so much worse and has a faith that seems to shine through her skin and radiate to all who are near her. I am honored to have met her.Immaculee--isn't she radiant next to our Blessed Mother?

The book I am now reading is Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado and I am finding that one inspiring as well. We all have giants--whether they are alcohol, pornography, insecurity, insignificance or any number of others and facing them with God will ensure that the enemy (our giant) will fall. If we don't face them with God and his infinite army--we are the ones who will fall. I am going to make it my goal to face my giants and prayerfully ask God to help me cast the stone at the forehead of my goliath.

For me, reading is good as I tend to get wrapped up in writing about everyone else, that I forget that reading is stimulating to my soul and my mind and hopefully will make me a better writer.

While I get paid very little for what I do, I am grateful for the opportunity to write about so many incredible people--maybe someday, I will get to write my own story, but for now, this is what I do and it rocks!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vigil Keepers Keep Watch over terminally ill

Vigil Keepers keep watch over terminally ill

Ministry helps dying transition to next life


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

MILWAUKEE - "Hello, I came here to sit with you and let you know that you are not alone. I'm going to play some beautiful music for you. I sure hope you like it."

Under soft light in a room filled with love and family pictures, the gentle woman quietly hums a bit, crouches over, strokes the woman's hair and holds her hand.

She then adjusts a chair and begins praying a rosary.

Over the next hour, it seems at times like the terminally ill woman hears the songs and is comforted by the Vigil Keeper's heartfelt prayers.

When residents of Milwaukee's St. Anne Salvatorian Campus come to the conclusion of their earthly journey, the Vigil Keepers provide comfort, compassion and prayers while the resident transitions from this life to the next.

As the Vigil Keeper coordinator, Mary Jane Montaba, a registered nurse, works with a group of 27 volunteers at the Salvatorian campus that help bring a peaceful transition for the terminally ill residents at the time of their death, if they or their families have requested it. Like Jesus asking his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane when he knew death was imminent to stay awake with him for an hour, the Vigil Keepers stay awake, pray, and keep watch.

"It is a beautiful and holy moment," Montaba said. "We feel as a Vigil Keeper that we are privileged to be there during the most sacred time as when they will soon be meeting the Lord."

While similar programs exist in hospice settings, programs such as the Vigil Keepers, which began at St. Anne eight years ago, are spreading to hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the nation.

Program began with Salvatorians

"Two of our sisters began the program here at St. Anne's, which is run by the Sisters of the Divine Savior," said Montaba. "(Sisters of the Divine Savior) Maureen Hopkins and Sr. Charitas Elverman (now a St. Anne resident) began this with just a few people to now more than two dozen sisters and lay volunteers."

The concept of keeping vigil began when Sr. Maureen served with the Sisters of Divine Savior at the former St. Mary nursing home. Deacon Dennis Ference, the chaplain at St. Mary, believed that it was important to pray and comfort the terminally ill during the transition of passing on to God's hands.

At St. Anne, vigils are held if the patient has no family and has indicated that he or she doesn't wish to be alone. Other times, a volunteer is called because there has been a change in condition and an out-of-town relative is flying in to be with a patient. Volunteers also can sit with the dying when relatives and friends are emotionally or physically exhausted, but reluctant to take a break.

Once St. Anne chaplain Salvatorian Fr. Michael Burns realizes death is imminent, he contacts Montaba who creates a schedule of Vigil Keepers to take shifts from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

"We take turns with the resident and stay for an hour or two next to their bedside," said Sr. Maureen. "We give encouragement and pray quietly with them and for them. If the family is there, we either step out and return when the family leaves or if they want, we stay and pray with the family."

Providing spiritual care and prayers to the dying, as well as comforting the sorrowful are examples of the Vigil Keepers living the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

"We are really just reverencing the person's life and that is what I see," said Sr. Maureen. "This person is at the end point of their life - it is sacred - we need to respect it as we respect all life and continue to be there for them."

Keepers are 'little angels from heaven'

Thiensville's Phil Milazzo and his two siblings sat vigil with their mother for 12 days and held her hands as she took her final breath a couple of months ago. While the ordeal was exhausting, the Vigil Keepers appeared as "little angels from heaven" to provide needed respite for the family.

"We used the Vigil Keepers later in the evening when we couldn't be there because we had to rest so we could get up for work," he said. "They were a godsend for emotional and spiritual support. We really bonded with Sr. Maureen and another volunteer named Rosemary; they were all such sweet people. They would come in and sit with our family and pray with us - they made her passing very nice and very holy. It was everything you could ask for in your last days on earth."

'One soul touching another'

Staff at St. Anne often receives cards and letters from grateful family members of residents who received the compassionate service of the Vigil Keepers. Some are so touched by the ministry, that they train to become Vigil Keepers themselves. Administrator Lynn Vogt is often the first to read the letters and speak to the new volunteers.

"One new Vigil Keeper is the daughter of a resident who passed away a few months ago. She came to my office after keeping vigil for the first time and I thanked her for her service," explained Vogt. "She said, 'Lynn, you don't understand; it is me who should be thanking you. Her soul touched my soul and I experienced it ... it was like one soul touching another.'"

Those who provide respite, kindness, compassion and love to others often state that they are the ones who received the greatest blessing, and while it may sound cliché, it is true, say the Vigil Keepers.

"I have been with several who pass on and I always try to be there at that moment," said Sr. Maureen. "I am grateful to God for that moment. I feel blessed to be there and helping to give over to God the very person whose life has ended here and given to him to continue on. I am grateful that I am there for the complete surrender to God. The person might not be conscious at the time, but we don't understand that whole conscious or unconscious aspect, but in my prayer I make that surrender for that person."

Montaba agreed and said that she feels blessed to have the opportunity to hold a hand, caress a forehead, and pray for heaven's doors to open.

"We feel so privileged to be there when the resident moves to heaven and God lifts them up from here," she said.


Lexi Lives on through foundation

Lexi lives on through foundation

Georgeff family channels grief into outreach for others


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

CEDARBURG - "Hug your children. Enjoy today because we live such a short time on this earth. If you don't get everything done today, that's OK."

These are messages of wisdom from Dale and Karla Georgeff who understand the importance of hugging a child, and spending time with them instead of getting the latest toy or gadget.

The Cedarburg family and members of St. Francis Borgia Parish will never hug their 14-year-old daughter Lexi, again. Lexi died June 29, 2005 in the late evening hours. Her bright light was snuffed out, but she lives on in the animals she loved, the school she attended and in the other children at Milwaukee Children's Hospital. The L4L Foundation, an acronym for Love for Lexi assists.

Lexi lives on in a legacy of love for others. She was an animal lover and a vibrant student who, since birth, suffered from a condition known as Chronic Neuropathic Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction, which meant her intestines didn't function and her stomach could not accept food.

Lexi died during a multiple-organ transplant three years ago and stunned thousands of individuals who had rallied to help her when she needed a new stomach, liver, intestines and pancreas.

While the condition was apparent at birth, the Georgeffs made sure Lexi lived an ordinary life with her older siblings Michael and Jenny. Aside from a few of her closest friends, no one knew there was anything wrong with her until she became ill.

"We went years without hospitalizations primarily because my wife was so incredibly good about taking care of Lexi," Dale said. "Then we had times when Lexi would develop an infection or had to have a revision of a surgery - she had 30 surgeries in all. Then she would spend weeks in the hospital."

Her indomitable spirit came from Dale and Karla treating her the same as their other children. Dale continued to coach sports teams for Michael and Karla participated in Jenny's activities.

"She was a great kid," said Dale of Lexi. "She loved to read and go to school. She had her first Communion like any other kid and she loved animals - she had four dogs and a parrot."

When Lexi became sick and treatments were not effective, doctors told them it was time to plan for the multi-visceral transplant, a surgery unavailable in Milwaukee.

"The Pittsburgh hospital seemed to be the best option for Lexi, but we only had a six-hour window to get her there once the organs became available," Dale explained, "so we thought about moving out there so we would be near, but our friends wouldn't let us and they all began raising money so we could take her there."

Pink L4L plastic bracelets became the rage at Webster Middle School as students donated cash to support their Love for Lexi, hoping that she would soon be well enough to return to class. Cookie sales, roller skating events, T-shirt sales and other fund-raisers helped provide funds to hire a private pilot to take the family to Pittsburgh.

Twice the family flew to Pittsburgh as the first donor organs were unsuitable for transplant, but the news only wove the community of supporters closer together. Plans were made for a major fund-raiser sponsored by the L4L Foundation, called Wings of Hope, to provide funds for the second trip, housing and food expenses.

"She died before this event happened," Dale said. "But when we were setting things up, we asked her what she wanted to do with the money, if there should be some left over. She felt it should be donated back to the kids at the hospital, her school and to the humane society and that is what we did."

Held June 21, Wings of Hope in Cedarburg featured more than 30 bands, silent auction, games, Karaoke, and food donated from various restaurants. Next year's event will be June 20 and Dale is planning for a main entertainment headliner, pig roast, volleyball tournament, and a Harley-Davidson riders poker run.

In Lexi's memory, the foundation donated more than $25,000 to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin for gastrointestinal research; learning modules, books and smart boards to Webster Middle School, as well as several hundred dollars for the humane society. The Georgeffs hope the annual event will grow and help more people each year, including those needing money for transplant flights.

Although the family still grieves for Lexi, Dale believes that they are starting to get back into the rhythms of life. In addition to a strong faith, close marital and family bond, they find the strength through the L4L Foundation.

"She was very brave and a better person than I am," he said, choking back tears. "But we miss her terribly and I know a lot of this will be good for someone else. Everybody that had helped us with the first Wings of Hope are now sitting on our board ... and all but one of them are people we went to school with in Cedarburg years ago."

While it is important for the family to keep Lexi's name and her legacy alive, most important to them is to show their appreciation for all the people who prayed for them, who donated, who visited, and those who worked at Children's Hospital.

"It is a great hospital and we received so much support from everybody, from the people who cleaned the rooms to the doctors we had," he said. "It was 14 years and we made some very close friends during that time."

The Georgeffs spend more time together as a family now, taking short trips and stepping back to look at their lives. Dale grounds himself with normalcy by continuing to coach youth football, this time with his son, Michael, by his side.

"That is unique and wonderful," he said. "Another thing that is unique are the friends who not only were there for us in the beginning but continue to stand by us now. A lot of people want to help you when stuff happens and later everyone goes away. People need to realize that it is important to keep calling and keep visiting. We had a lot of people that did this for us and it really helps."




School Rallies around teacher with breast cancer

School rallies around teacher with breast cancer

Prayers, fund-raisers support Connie Michaud


By Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald

A teacher, who generally inspires the lives of her students, is now the one being inspired.

After she was diagnosed with breast cancer in late July, St. Matthias School students, staff and parents are finding clever ways to show support and raise money on behalf of their much-loved teacher, Connie Michaud.

"She means a lot to us," said seventh grade student Mary Sullivan who had Michaud as a teacher last year. "She was such a great teacher, fun and outgoing, and when we heard about her cancer, we all felt so bad."

This summer, just before she was to begin her third year teaching sixth grade at St. Matthias, Michaud, 47, received the results of her routine mammogram, and unlike other screenings, this outcome was jarring.

"I was waiting for the usual letter indicating my results were clear, but instead of a letter, I received a phone call," she said. "After two biopsies, I was told that I had cancer on both sides and needed a double mastectomy."

Genetic testing indicated that Michaud carries the BRCA gene mutation, which carries an 87 percent chance of breast cancer. Because the hormones are carried through her ovaries, she will also have surgery to remove them to decrease her odds of recurrence.

"My family members are all scrambling now to get genetically tested to see if they have this gene, too, so they can decide what they want to do down the road," she said, adding, "And later on, my daughters, ages 13 and 15, will also need to get tested, as they have a one in two chance of carrying this gene."

After just three weeks in the classroom with her students, Michaud underwent the double mastectomy and is currently undergoing four months of chemotherapy. While she has hopes of teaching in between the bi-weekly treatments, she isn't certain her oncologist will agree.

"They are concerned about the risk of infection and these treatments will be going right through the winter months," she said. "But I do fantasize about having some good days and maybe I will hold up well enough to at least teach part time."

Following her initial diagnosis, Michaud sent a letter to her students and families letting them know about her upcoming surgery and treatment.

"I told them honestly what was happening with me and when my surgery was supposed to be," she said. "I wanted them to have all the correct information and to hear it from me so they wouldn't be as frightened."

While she was grateful for the first three weeks getting to know her students, Michaud left the first day feeling as if she had done the students a disservice by showing up for class.

"I just went home and cried because I really thought they didn't deserve this," she said, adding, "but it was a good three weeks and I was glad to help get the new school year rolling with business as usual."

Behind the scenes, students, teachers and parents began planning ways to help Michaud and other cancer victims. Eager to show love and support, St Matthias students participated in the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure on Sept. 28, raising more than $1,000 on behalf of Michaud.

According to Kris Post, school parent and secretary, students wanted to show their support in other ways as well. Under the guidance of teachers and staff, Pink Week was launched Sept. 22 to increase awareness of breast cancer and raise funds for research.

"Our library hosted 'Guess for the Cure,' which gave each student the opportunity to guess the number of pink M&Ms in a jar," she said. "'Bake for a Cure' was a student- sponsored bake sale to raise spare change for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and 'Dress for a Cure' offered students and staff the opportunity to come to school out of uniform for $1. And 'Prayers for a Cure' encouraged all students to make cards and send best wishes to Mrs. Michaud for a speedy recovery. Students also posted pink signs and pink balloons throughout the school to remind us of our purpose."

Participating in the weeklong events, including the Race for the Cure, gave Sullivan an opportunity to feel less helpless about Michaud's cancer.

"I just wanted to find some way to support her and doing the walk was a good way because not only did we raise $1,000 for cancer, but I was able to think about her during the whole 5K walk," she said. "It also made me feel good to buy from the bake sale and participate in the other fund-raisers. I really think our efforts will help to cure cancer because there are lots of people that want it to happen and if you are dedicated, you can do it."

Sullivan's feelings were a common theme throughout the school, admitted Post, who credits Michaud's willingness to share her illness with the students' desire to help.

"Everyone was just compelled to do something special to show her that they supported her," Post said.

The tokens of affection have left Michaud with the feeling of love, appreciation and surprise.

"I was blown away; it just meant to much to me and I was and am still so touched," she said. "Then these kids snowballed their efforts and came up with that week of activities - I think the most meaningful for me was the huge bag of cards from the kids throughout the entire school. It took me hours to go through and read every one; I will never throw these away. I was so impressed with everything they did and their thoughtfulness. Some of those cards were really cute."

Michaud hopes she will be well enough to attend an honors assembly on Nov. 18 at St. Matthias. Students will present the executive director of the Susan G. Komen Foundation with the check for the money raised.

While the battle with cancer is difficult, the thoughts, prayers and gestures of the St. Matthias School community are giving Michaud strength and carry her through the most painful days.

"Someone said to me, 'You are taking this so well; you seem so calm and seem so fine,'" she admitted. "I said 'I know, I don't really quite understand why I feel so good,' and someone said, 'It is probably because you are letting us carry you now.' I think that is true, as well as it is my faith in God that sustains me."

A favorite verse from the Book of Psalms comforts Michaud.

"I love the verse, 'Be still and know that I am God' and that brings a lot of calm to me," she said. "I also look for Jesus in other people and throughout this whole experience I have seen that God is there. All these people who have rallied around me has been amazing, it goes beyond the school to friends, families and it has been huge."

The future looks promising for Michaud, with doctors giving her an 85 percent survival rate. For Post that is a clear sign that she will beat the cancer and return to her classroom.

"She is most certainly a fighter," Post admitted. "We have walked with Connie through her diagnosis and treatment plan. We have cried together and we've laughed together. She is an amazing woman and by sharing her journey, we have all learned so much from her."

The prayerful support, love, kindness and good medical care keep Michaud grounded and positive that she will soon change her diagnosis from cancer victim to cancer survivor.

"There is no reason to doubt that I will have a good story," she said. "I have every confidence in my doctors, my numbers look good and I will do what they tell me to do, to cooperate and get better. I do believe that I am going to lick this."