Sunday, December 28, 2008

No more shirts, no more ties-just gifts that matter

The 10 children of Lucy and Frank Beezat, shown in this family photo, have formed Lucy’s Children’s Fund, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to assisting and providing opportunities for poor children around the world. (Submitted photo courtesy the Beezat family)
For more information on

Lucy's Children's Fund, visit:

Parents’ lessons result in Lucy’s Children’s Fund

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

MT. PLEASANT - As one of 10 children, Robert Beezat remembers hand me downs, shared toys, noisy chatter and constant companionship. Their family was not rich, but they were happy, warmly dressed and well fed.

His parents, Lucy and Frank, taught their children the importance of caring for family, friends and their community. Both believed that every child and every person should be treated with respect and with love.

"They were always thinking of others in the neighborhood or in our parish," said Beezat, a member of St. Edward Parish in Racine. "Whenever others had problems or needed a hand, they did it."

Six years ago, Beezat, who lives in Mt. Pleasant, asked for a unique gift for his 60th birthday, one that would keep his parents' memory alive. With the help of his wife and the blessings of his siblings, they began Lucy's Children's Fund, a not-for-profit 501(c) (3) corporation dedicated to assist and provide opportunities for poor children around the world.

"Our family always makes a big deal of big birthdays and I decided that I have had enough; I don't need another tie, a shirt or bottle of wine. I really don't need anything," he said. "I have enough money - it isn't a lot, but it is enough. My kids are grown up, have jobs and all the college debts are paid up. So, I asked my wife, Alice, who is an accountant, to set this up as her birthday present to me."

Family and friends loved the idea, and handed Beezat checks for the foundation in lieu of gifts at his 60th birthday party. The idea grew to include Christmas and the birthdays of siblings, nieces and nephews, as well as deposits throughout the year.

"We give gifts to the foundation for bonuses, raises or revenue from businesses," Beezat admitted, adding, "My sister Margaret (Goodheart) was recently married and she requested that donations be made to the foundation in lieu of wedding gifts."

Since it was her second marriage and she was getting married a bit later in life, Goodheart wanted the presence of her family at the July 2006 celebration rather than tangible presents, she said.

"At this stage in our lives we had everything we could possibly want and need. There was no reason to buy us things; we didn't want that, and we wanted the funds to go somewhere else," she said. "Lucy's (Children's) Fund is near and dear to us and people were thrilled to donate."

Since its inception, Lucy's Children's Fund has given more than $50,000 to 47 children's charities throughout the United States and the world. The foundation has not only benefitted children in need, but has brought the family closer together, said Goodheart, who gives full credit to her brother.

"We have a phenomenal family - we are basically just a Polish family, most of us live on the Northwest side of Chicago and we got together because of Robert," she said. "We tease him and call him 'St. Robert' because he is so inspirational and wonderful - he is an amazing man. Our kids and nieces and nephews are involved and many are on the board. This foundation brings them all together for reasons other than parties or holiday gatherings."

Lucy's Children's Fund follows IRS rules as a tax-exempt organization. All donations are tax-exempt and contributions from the fund must be to other IRS qualified not-for-profit corporations. As required by law, the fund has a board of directors, which consists of Lucy's children and grandchildren.

According to Beezat, each family is allowed to have members on the board, and each family gets one vote. There are seven families represented on the board.

"Anyone over 18 can be on the board, and we have meetings twice a year," he said. "Each member is required to recommend a grant, research and present information on the qualified organization," he said. "We focus on kids, because there is plenty of need for them. Some people have illnesses in families and things related to cancer or just a variety of things. We donate to a variety of children's organizations and have some that are regulars we donate to."

While instituted by older family members, Goodheart is encouraged that the lessons in Catholic stewardship are branching out to the younger generation who are learning the art of compassion, and often come up with creative ideas for giving.

"We have nieces and nephews ranging from 13 through 38 and you never know what those silly kids will come up with. But, our family is so much closer together and the cousins have bonded together like nothing I have ever seen," said Goodheart. "The organization is very structured; they do research and vote on that. My daughter is a graphic designer and is involved in the Web site design. They were really close before, but this has really brought them together."

For Beezat, the choice to share their treasures with those less fortunate is a way of life and not a statement in personal attribution.

"We were raised to do this," he said. "People need stuff and I got something. I've got enough - we have always had enough. I don't do this to feel good, but I try to remember what Jesus said about if someone is hungry to give them something to eat. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, or something to wear. That is the right way for all of us to live and if we do that, we won't have one tenth of the problems we have in this world."

A common misperception is that families must be wealthy to set up a foundation, but that is not true, according to Beezat. Lucy's Children's Fund began small, and continues to grow by the enthusiasm, generosity and practical ideas of the family members.

"It took some work on my wife's part - she is an accountant, and does these things very well," he said. "You don't need an attorney to do this, but if you know someone who is good with numbers, they can do it. If someone wants to start a foundation, they first file with the Secretary of State in their state, incorporate and apply to the IRS for the tax exempt status and do it right."

Friday, December 26, 2008


We are so grateful for the many prayers, gifts, cards and words of encouragement during our difficult time. Never ever underestimate the power of intercessory prayer because every single one of your prayers rises like incense to heaven. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Merry Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Patrick Flood Spent Lifetime Serving Others

Patrick Flood spent lifetime serving others

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

ST. FRANCIS - Patrick Flood resigned as a priest from the Milwaukee Archdiocese in 1975, was laicized, and married the next year to artist and former nun, Marie Burton. Yet, those who knew him say he continued to live in a priestly manner in the way he cared for others.

"Pat was always a good-spirited, happy-hearted individual with a deep openness to people in need, especially across racial lines," said Bishop Richard J. Sklba, a seminary classmate. Flood, 75, died in his Austin, Texas home on Nov. 28

Ordained in 1960, Flood served as associate pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas and was active in the civil rights movement with then-Fr. James Groppi and Capuchin Fr. Matthew Gottschalk. He marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala.

"He was deeply moved by the experience," said Bishop Sklba. "I would think that the best of the community organizing methods were at the service of racial justice, but he never seemed to be confrontational in those discussions. Rather, Pat was a person who engaged others in the quest for what was right."

Proud of his Irish roots in Eden, Wis., Flood dedicated his life to bringing equality to all races, faiths and income levels. He was instrumental in instituting the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, approved by the then-National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1970.

"He was charismatic, funny and was a man of faith," said Dismas Becker, former priest and state legislator. "Pat and I were very close. He always lived his faith and practiced equity for all, compassion and justice for everyone. He had great compassion and it showed in the way he ran the Council for Urban Life."

Begun by Flood, Becker, and other activist priests, the Council on Urban Life addressed the social issues of school desegregation and busing, fair housing, health care for the poor, eldercare, and police and community relations. Under the umbrella of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, Flood served as the director of the Council on Urban Life in 1967.

Flood also served for eight years as executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.

Former priest Jack Murtaugh appreciated Flood's willingness to share his time with people. His involvement began when Murtaugh was seeking advice for his Racine parish.

"I met him in 1966 or '67 when I was looking to start an ecumenical center for community concerns," said Murtaugh. "Pat made it possible for me to go to Chicago and take community organizing training and introduced me to the Urban Training Center."

After Flood left the Interfaith Conference, Murtaugh succeeded him as executive director.

"He provided an opportunity for people to participate in social issues of the community and was quite a connector between people and organizations," he said. "Pat really introduced community organizing as a strategy for social issues."

Despite years struggling with diabetes and poor cardiac health, Flood retained his sense of humor, and frequently poked fun at himself. Murtaugh recalled lecturing his friend on the dangers of smoking, hoping his lessons would provoke a change.

"He was hypnotized twice and he still couldn't stop smoking. I kept telling him that he just needed to change his environment for a while to successfully stop smoking. I was thinking of a trip somewhere, but he didn't go," said Murtaugh. "One day he was giving a talk at Our Savior Lutheran Church and had a heart attack right there. He got to the hospital and once there, he got a telephone and called me. He said, 'Jack, I have taken your advice and changed my environment.'

Bishop Sklba said Flood's list of jobs after resigning active priestly ministry indicate his interests and in what areas he excelled.

"I think that Archbishop (William E.) Cousins liked Pat's spirit a great deal, and Pat's efforts to work with others in the larger community," said Bishop Sklba. "Archbishop (Rembert G.) Weakland followed that same attitude and encouraged Pat to stay involved in the social ministry of the archdiocese. From the beginning, there was a concern to do this work in an ecumenical context. Archbishop Cousins and Bishop Hallock, of the Episcopal Diocese, gave early encouragement to the work and the partnerships."

In 1989, Flood went to Texas to become the founding executive at Austin Metropolitan Ministries, which evolved into Austin Area Interreligious Ministries. He retired from AAIM in 2000, but remained involved in issues of social justice and, according to Becker, lived the life of the cloth even though no longer in the cloth.

"He was excellent at living that life. When he went to Austin, he injected that community with the same spirit and strength to bring the religious communities together as he did in Milwaukee," he said. "I loved him very much and I can't sing his praises enough. I will really miss him."

Flood's survivors include wife, Marie, two children and a grandchild.

Tradition is Served

Tradition is served

Italian family gathers to celebrate annual Feast of the Seven Fishes

BY KAREN MAHONEY Kenosha News correspondent
In the traditional Italian family, where every household celebrates Christmas Eve with a big feast, the question is not are they having fish but how many fish dishes are they having?

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian Christmas Eve tradition and consists only of fish dishes and pasta. But why seven?

Could it represent the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church? Some say it signifies the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit or the seven deadly sins or even the seven hills of Rome.

Regardless of the reason for the number, tradition dictates this meatless meal is served while awaiting the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.

In the Santelli family, the feast is the most anticipated celebration of the year. It takes a lot of work to pull it off. Planning begins months in advance for the traditional meal that does not vary from year to year, except for the recent addition of ham to accommodate the non-fish eaters. The meal is prepared exactly as it was prepared by the late Ben and Emilia Santelli 70 years ago and now consists of at least seven fish dishes, broccoli, fennel, pasta, ham, desserts and cuduridi, an Italian fried bread.

According to Gemma Santelli of Kenosha, whose husband Guy is one of Ben and Emilia’s five children, the annual feast always was held on Christmas Eve until Emilia passed away in 1999. Then it was moved to the second Saturday in December, which is when it currently is held.

“That (1999) was the only year we didn’t celebrate because she passed away on Dec. 13,” Gemma said. “We changed the date so we could all spend the day cooking and visiting together and not have to leave early to

to travel to other places on Christmas Eve.”

For years the five siblings — Dolores, Theresa, Ben, Guy and Bob — celebrated with their parents.

But with the addition of spouses, grandchildren, nieces and nephews the number of potential participants has ballooned to 99, and they now rent Kenosha’s Unity Lodge at 4320 Washington Road for their annual feast.

“We used to take turns cooking in the basements of each other’s homes, but we got too large and have been renting a hall for several years,” said Bob, who was happy to have 84 family members attend this year’s Dec. 13 celebration. “The brothers and sisters set up and do the cooking during the day and then the cousins come at night.”

While each family is responsible for a specific dish, such as the baccala or cod, orange roughy, pasta with anchovy-and-oil sauce, calamari, shrimp cocktail or one of the many other seafood-based recipes, it is the cuduridi that requires many hands to prepare into bagel-shaped rings.

“Guy is the one who makes the dough in the same dishpan that our grandma used,” said Bob, who still refuses to touch the pan after it nearly saw an untimely demise when he was just 13. “My brother-in-law Frank ran over the pan with his Model A Ford the day I left it on the ground after using the pan to hold water when I washed his truck. It is still crooked to this day.”

As with family recipes, pinning the Santellis down for accurate ingredient amounts proved interesting as many estimates are made with palmsful, pinches and scoops. The deep-frying task is appropriately left to Kenosha Fire Department members Guy Santelli Jr., fire inspector, and Daniel Santelli, deputy fire chief. However, neither could come up with a specific frying time for the crispy loops.

“You cook it ’til it’s done,” joked Bob, who when pressed said the bread should be brown and bubbly. “The last ones are filled with anchovies and rolled into a longjohn shape and deep fried — also until they are done.”

Although cuduridi is a traditional Christmas recipe enjoyed by many Italians, the Santelli version is the most flavorful according to Tony, the youngest of Ben and Emilia’s 21 grandchildren. “It is in the hands — the love from all the hands — that make them better. I also think grandma Emilia is looking over us because today is the anniversary of her death.”


10 pounds Gold medal oven-tested flour

5 large Idaho potatoes, boiled in skins, peeled and riced into 1 quart of leftover cooking water

3 tablespoons melted Crisco shortening

1 4-ounce yeast cake

1/3 cup of salt or 2 large palmsful

Mix the ingredients and add extra water to make a soft dough. Cover and place in warm place. The first rise is 60 minutes or until doubled. Punch down, cover, and let rise about 30 minutes.

Form into doughnut or bagel shapes on a floured cloth. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. Fry at 375 degrees for about 2 minutes per side or until brown and bubbly.

If desired, form around anchovies into longjohn shape and fry. Cool on baking sheets lined with brown-paper grocery bags, and when cool, transfer to paper-towel lined plates.

Bread can be frozen after cooking. This recipe is for 100 people and can be cut in half.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Erin's Christmas Concert

Here is a short movie from Erin's Christmas Concert last night. He looks a bit terrified! LOL

Monday, December 15, 2008

weight Loss

Well, I did not make my 130 pound goal for Kelly's wedding, but I have pretty good news to report. I went from a high of 170 in July to 139 today and feel fabulous. I still plan on continuing to my goal--but hope I look a bit better than I did.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Willing to Serve

Willing to serve

.. :

Kenosha News correspondent

During his half century in religious life, Thomas Kraus spent 30 years as pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church in Racine. Since then, he has filled vacancies at churches in three states and in two countries, serving mainly in intervals of three months to a year as he provided spiritual guidance.

After retiring from Epiphany in 1996, Kraus and his wife, Lois, moved to Paddock Lake and renovated a little cottage they had there. Then he was contacted by a church official, touching off a decade of church-to-church ministering.

“The district president called and asked me to help out with some church vacancies,” Kraus said, recalling how that segment of his religious life began.

Today, the retired minister has gone from interim pastor back to a more permanent role. For the past two years, the 77 year old has served on the staff at Friedens Evangelical Lutheran Church, 5038 19th Ave., primarily to provide spiritual support to people who are homebound, hospitalized and in nursing homes.

“I also do some preaching, about once every two months, and serve as the chair of the worship committee,” Kraus said.

For the Rev. Thomas Meissner, the addition of Kraus to the Friedens staff has allowed him and the Rev. David Rockhoff to accomplish more work in the growing congregation of more than 1,000 communicants.

“A lot of people say that he feels like their grandpa,” Meissner said, adding that Kraus has a very comfortable way of dealing with people.

“He’s also very wise and always has a spiritual and timely word for them,” Meissner said.

After retiring from Epiphany, Kraus, a graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, served for six months at First Lutheran Church in Elkhorn, then took a three-month post at a church in Ohio before going to New York for a two-month stint. Those assignments were followed by another four months in Ohio before the opportunity to head overseas came his way when he heard from the chairman of the Special Ministries Board for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

“They needed some help with the chaplaincy in Europe. The European Synod has civilian chaplains who work on the military bases,” Kraus said. “In 2001, I spent three months in Germany and did the same thing in 2002.”

The following year, Kraus and his wife spent a year in Germany on the Ramstein Air Base in the rural district of Kaiserslautern where they held services and tended to wounded soldiers brought to the hospital.

“It was very interesting to be there because that is where my ancestors were from,” Kraus said. “I never imagined I would be able to travel like we did, but I had always wanted to see where my family came from. A family member gave me an old certificate written in German that turned out to be my grandpa’s army discharge from Bavaria and it gave his place of birth. We managed to find all of the family records going back to 1620 from a church archive. It was so interesting to be in all those different places and to serve the Lord in a very special way.”

Upon returning from Germany, Kraus accepted a 10-month position at another Ohio church. In 2006, he stepped in to fill the gap at Friedens following another pastor’s resignation.

While he isn’t sure he will be staying put forever, Kraus is content with the work he does and enjoys traveling around the country to visit his children and grandchildren.

Somehow through all of his travels he also found time to serve his Paddock Lake community, having held a trustee position on the village board from 2000 to 2003.

“I like working with people, and for me that is most important over anything else,” he said. “I think way back somewhere I made the decision between people or things, and I’m glad I chose people.”

My brother Mike unwinding

My brother Mike recently went through a very LONG semester studying to become a Master Plumber. He has another semester of classes to go in the program. He does this on top of being a great husband to my sister in law Susan, a great dad to my nieces Heather and Valerie and working full time as a plumber apprentice. This little swimming venture was just what he needed, don't you agree?

Breakfast with Santa

This is a picture of my two absolutely gorgeous nieces, Heather and Valerie when they had breakfast with Santa. With faces like that, they deserve to get everything their little hearts desire.

Seminarian Heeds St Paul's Advice

After competing in the Chicago Marathon, Oct. 12, seminarian Robert Spoerl, center, poses with friends, Stephen Juma, also a college seminarian for Milwaukee, Monica Moran, Laura Buttitta and Christine Nashashibi. (Submitted photo coutesy Robert Spoerl)

Seminarian heeds St. Paul's advice in running marathon

Robert Spoerl competes in Chicago event for a charitable purpose

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

CHICAGO - College seminarian Robert Spoerl offered some "divine perspiration" recently when he ran the Chicago Marathon.

The 20-year-old New Berlin resident and member of Mary Queen of Heaven Parish, West Allis, normally spends his time racing around St. Joseph Seminary on the campus of Loyola University juggling a hefty class load.

As if discerning the priesthood and attending college classes weren't enough, Spoerl wanted the additional challenge of competing in the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 12 and did it to benefit the American Red Cross. With the assistance of a Web site more than $1,000 was donated on behalf of Spoerl's efforts.

"I ran for Team Red, the Red Cross race team - it was only fitting since I have flaming red hair!" he said. "It was great to be raising money for an organization dedicated to helping hurricane and flood victims - including the several natural disasters that severely affected the lives of many of our brothers and sisters in the gulf and some of our neighbors in the Illinois area. Seven counties were deemed disaster areas after late summer floods in the Midwest."

To train for the 26.2 mile race - which took Spoerl three hours, 42 minutes and 55 seconds - he ran in the Lake Geneva Half Marathon last May.

"My friend Dave, a fellow college seminarian from Milwaukee, and I ran plenty in March and April and then ran the half marathon," he said. "This was like two days before I went on a trip to El Salvador, so I knew I would have a nice long plane ride to rest sore legs."

Training throughout the summer, Spoerl's jaunts carried him along the east side of Milwaukee, around Sherman Park and up and down Capitol Drive near All Saints, the parish where he worked during the summer.

"As I returned to St. Joe's, I used a program in Runner's World magazine that was designed to help those training for a full-length marathon," he said. "It wasn't an easy program; it required running five times a week, including one, two-to-three-hour run per week, sprint workouts, and various timed workouts. After sweat, aches, minor pains, but a lot of support from family and friends, I felt ready to run the Chicago Marathon."

In addition to running the race for health reasons - Spoerl described himself as a former chubby kid before running cross-country as a senior in high school - he finds joy, peace and unexplained calmness each time his soles hit the pavement.

"It is similar to when I connect with the Spirit in the form of playing or listening to music," he admitted. "There is something about certain things you do that just feel right. I may risk sounding like I am exaggerating, but there seems to be something divine about a long, free spirited run. There is a runner's high that serenades the soul with its bliss."

Accompanied by his iPod, Spoerl often notices that songs speak to his heart, catapulting his spirit to a place that allows him to push forward and win his personal race.

"The path toward that finish line is what really makes the run worthwhile," he said. "'Do not run aimlessly,' Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians. He creates this scene of runners running into a stadium, running the race. He says many run, but only one claims the prize. Maybe we are all running following God, following the life of Christ. He has the prize that all of us wins with running in love with others. Our world community can run together, running to the pace of peace if we all believe that it is love that will pull us through this life and help us to solve the problems in this world."

Philosophically, Spoerl runs with ease; physically, he draws his strength to complete the marathon by thinking of the ones who have touched and who continue to touch his life. People such as his parents, Anne and Rick; the individuals who sponsored his run, those who suffer with health concerns, good friends and others who have crossed his path carried him to the finish line.

"I thought of my brother, my friends at Loyola," he said. "I thought how awesome it was to see such a large number of people cheering me on. In the moment, that crowd pushed me ahead."

While he credits the carb-loaded bananas after mile 20, the Gatorade and the water for the physical endurance to continue, he is quick to acknowledge it was primarily the personal support as well as the camaraderie from fellow runners.

"I met a woman from the San Diego area while running. We chatted for a little - the talk really helped because it came at a time when one of my legs was starting to feel a little funny - not ha ha funny, it was hurting," he said. "But every time I would get a cramp or something I would say a little prayer in the form of thinking of people, places or events that led me to the moment I was at. The belief that I could finish with a little help from my friends, from faith, helped me cross that finish line."

If his body cooperates, Spoerl anticipates running the Chicago Marathon next year, as well as one in Fargo, N.D. and a few others. He also keeps a running marathon of sorts on his blog site as a personal reflection of his journey through life and discernment for the priesthood.

"I find writing to be a form of prayer for myself," he said. "It is one of the most real, tangible ways I can connect with other people and show them what I am really thinking. It is fun to write; I enjoy the practice and hope to show the light of life to others. In that way, being optimistic but realistic, maybe I can show people the message of love Christ walks in the Gospels."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Musician honors God by Sharing Faith

Name: Nicholas Contorno
Age: 70
Parish: St. Paul, Genesee Depot
Occupation: Professional musician/composer/teacher
Book recently read: "Bands of America" by Harry Wayne Schwartz
Favorite movie: "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "The Glenn Miller Story"
Favorite quotation: "I only know two things - one, there is a God and two, I am not him."
(Submitted photo courtesy Marquette University)

Musician honors God by sharing faith, music with students

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

Musicians usually listen to an unfamiliar piece of music on tape or CD before they learn to play it in concert.

The fifth grade students in St. Paul School's band program don't have that luxury. Instead, the students from Genesee Depot get to hear from the composer himself. Dr. Nicholas J. Contorno, the Genesee Depot-based, nationally renowned musician, composer, and arranger, is the new assistant to St. Paul's band director, John Szcygiel.

Semi-retired, the 70-year-old owner and director of Nick Contorno & the Big Brass is excited for the opportunity to "climb one more mountain" and return to his teaching roots.

"I began teaching fifth grade students in the Glendale school system and now 46 years later, I am back teaching elementary band," he said. "They have one knock-out band at St. Paul's and already a third of the available kids are in the band. It is good and will only get better; they are bright kids, attentive and easy to work with. They are just a delight and I attribute that to the parents and to the schools."

Recently retired after 24 years as director of bands and orchestra for Marquette University, Contorno, a member of St. Paul Parish, began his career with 22 years in the public and Catholic school system. A member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the award-winning composer's work is represented in the publications of C.L Barnhouse, Bourne, Hal Leonard, Jenson, Pro-Art and Global Musical Interests Publications.

His career includes performing with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Holiday on Ice, Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus Band, Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, and Les Elgart Orchestra. He frequently played in nationally recognized shows, including "Annie," "42nd Street," and for artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Burt Bacharach, Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme, Natalie Cole, Manhattan Transfer, Vic Damone, Johnny Mathis, Dinah Shore, Mel Torme, the Four Lads, Sonny and Cher and many others.

Contorno has traveled around the United States and China as a guest soloist/conductor/adjuster/clinician with many school bands. He has numerous musical awards and memberships in professional organizations, such as the American Federation of Musicians, Local 8, Phi Beta MU, the National Band Association, the Sonneck Society, the Wisconsin Bandmasters Association, and the Phi MU AlphaSinfonia.

Although he has a myriad of accomplishments and titles, including musical coordinator of Festa Italiana, his spirit has not grown weary. Contorno will be the first to tell you that God had other plans for him, including the drive to give back.

"About 20 years ago, I was injured in a car accident and because of that, I don't play like I used to," he said. "Maybe this is why I was in the car wreck; I don't feel sorry for myself, but always try to look ahead."

Because Catholic schools receive no tax funding to build their music programs, they often fall a few steps behind the musical accomplishments of students in the public schools. Budgets are generally prioritized to build strong science, math and language programs. For Contorno, it is important that students be on equal footing with their public school counterparts, giving them the opportunity to succeed in the music world.

"This is probably the last band program I will be involved in in my lifetime, and since I am not playing as much - I only play about 50-60 dates per year - I can devote my energies to this and still write a good bit of music for publication for education," he said. "I am passionate about this and want the young boys and girls to get to be good musicians."

A strong proponent for an archdiocesan music program in the schools, Contorno hopes to see a director of music within the archdiocese appointed to coordinate music, contests and programs. Until then, his efforts and positive reinforcement are already paying off.

"The neat part is, by the time the kids only had two lessons, they were already going to each other's houses to practice; the leadership is already coming out. I was so excited to see this because just two weeks before that, none of them even knew how to put their instruments together," he said. "We are not just having lessons, we are going to have a band. I am excited that I can write pieces for them for their ability level. This, to me, is a hoot."

Most important for Contorno is the opportunity to share his faith with his young students, a blessing he appreciated throughout his tenure at Marquette University.

"It was great; the kids used to talk to me about our faith and they would often ask me to pray for them before a test," he said, adding, "But I would tell them to stop at the Joan of Arc Chapel or Gesu Church and then I would say a prayer for them - but I wanted them to do something for themselves first. I could talk about my faith there - something I couldn't do in the public schools and that is very important to me."

Combining faith with his music is a melding of two of Contorno's great loves - the third is the love for his wife of 42 years, Lucille. As his faith grows stronger, so does his marriage, an aspect, he admits, he didn't appreciate in the beginning.

"I was just blessed with this wonderful wife and two daughters," he said. "Sometimes when you are young you are busy building a career, you don't see the wonderful things you have and then - all of a sudden you are married 42 years. We have a strong commitment and the only word to describe it is excellence. We have something really special between us. It feels like we just got married yesterday ... she is a great lady and I love her as much today as the day we got married."

When he isn't performing or teaching, Contorno enjoys tinkering with his 1938 Chevy Coupe, '41 Chevy Club Coupe and '55 Oldsmobile, and collecting music.

"I have over 40 filing cabinets full of old music," he said. "I use a lot of it in my band or in teaching."

Although he has worked with top notch, world-renowned musicians, Contorno has not lost his passion for sharing his faith or teaching young minds the difference between a dotted half note and a whole note. He anticipates a strong and growing band program at St. Paul's and considers it, perhaps, God's final call for his successful career.

"We honor the Lord through song, dance and music and all different things and we should be doing it. I have not lost my passion for it," he said. "The best part of it will be seeing all these little people making music together and I think it is the coolest thing in the world."

Tiny School Big Donations

Above, Allie Smith, 12, a seventh grader; Gage Meyers, 12, a sixth grader; Taylor Bergles, 12, a seventh grader; and Helena Biehn, 14, an eighth grader, load donated food into a truck at Providence Catholic School West Campus on Nov. 25 in Kansasville.
Right, Posing with food they and fellow students at Providence Catholic School East Campus in Union Grove collected are (front row, from left) Jamie Tambornino, 9, a fourth grader; David Lux, 5, in kindergarten; Zane Meyers, 9, a third grader; (back row) Grace Henke, 7, a first grader; and Tyler Larson, 7, a second grader. The food was donated to the Westosha Sharing Center Food Pantry. (Catholic Herald photos by Ernie Mastroianni)

Tiny school, big donations

Providence School students embrace service project

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

KANSASVILLE/UNION GROVE, - As students across the United States start feeling the itch of Christmas and prepare for a season of bounty, children from the East and West campuses of Providence Catholic School in Kansasville and Union Grove had something else on their minds: feeding the needy.

Students got the idea to collect for the Westosha Sharing Center Food Pantry when school parent Patricia Smith learned that needy families from their school were turned away for help at local pantries due to barren shelves.

"I called several pantries and they all said the same thing, they were desperate for donations and have had to turn people away," she said. "I knew our families here would want to help and I felt compelled to become personally involved. I feel grateful that Providence's wonderful new principal, Mrs. Jean Caldwell, allowed the school to become involved in this cause. She has been very supportive."

To kick off the food drive, Caldwell held a prayer service at the school on Nov. 13, the feast of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and told the story of the young missionary, who only a few weeks after she and some other missionary sisters landed in America, asked the archbishop of New York to let the sisters start an orphanage.

Caldwell explained the archbishop's reluctance to open the orphanage, for fear that the $5,000 they asked for would not be enough to feed and care for the orphans.

"The woman reminded the archbishop that in the 'Our Father' we ask God to give bread only for a day, not for a year," she said. "What could the archbishop say? He blessed Mother Cabrini and granted permission to open the home."

The very first day Mother Cabrini and her sisters went to their new home, they found a surprise at the foot of the statue of the Sacred Heart by the entrance. Someone had placed a loaf of freshly baked bread. Mother Cabrini praised God for his bounty and knew that he would provide for the orphaned children.

Caldwell used this story to encourage her young students to be like the saint whose selfless acts brought about the opening of numerous schools, hospitals and orphanages.

"I told the students that they were like young missionaries and how whatever they do as a service project is so meaningful to those less fortunate," she said. "I talked about the food drive and donating canned goods and told them that whether or not others had a festive turkey dinner like we would have doesn't matter because the boxes of macaroni and tuna they give are all very meaningful to them. The students were very inspired that they were young missionaries like St. Frances."

The idea of serving God as a young missionary was exciting for second grade student Tyler Larson, whose class collected 248 non-perishable food items, the most in their West campus school.

"I want to help the poor people," he said, adding, "Some of them will have food in their tummies because of us."

Eighth grader Tom Lourigan agreed.

"It's nice we did this because it is cold and people are hungry. The economy is not good and there are a lot of people who can use this food for Thanksgiving," he said.

Themed the "Great Race to Feed Your Neighbor," classes from kindergarten through grade eight competed to see who could collect the most food. Students watched their class turkey compete on a Great Race wall chart as donations arrived. According to Smith, the response from the student body of 100 was overwhelming. Initially, volunteers planned to load the trunk of a car with donations, but 1,880 items of food later, students packed two vanloads. Overall winners of the drive were the fifth grade students who collected 474 items.

"We really thought the kids would only collect a few cans of food, but in came crates and bags of food," Smith said. "They all have such generous spirits. The kids had so much fun and every time a new count came in the kids began jumping up and down and did a little 'gobble gobble' turkey dance; it was very rewarding."

Liz Peyton, executive director of the Westosha Sharing Center in Paddock Lake, admitted that their organization is strapped, serving nearly 500 people per month, up from 70 just six months ago.

"Our number of children we serve has tripled in the past few months," she said. "It used to be that we had mainly seniors and those on disability coming here and now only half are in that group; the rest are families who are really struggling," she said.

With nearly empty shelves, the thought that they would run out of food before winter kept Peyton awake many nights. However, thanks to groups like Providence who stepped up to help, she was not only able to restock her pantry shelves, but the reserves as well.

"We are so grateful because now we have food in our basement, too," she said. "We weren't able to give a full five-seven days of food for any number of families and now we can do that again. This is quite scary and I have not seen it let up. The need for food seems to be getting worse; people are coming in here in tears, and worried they are not going to be able to feed their family. Many have never asked for help before and it is a big change."

While she has never gone hungry or longed for a warm house and clothing, seventh grade student Taylor Bergles realizes that she could easily be in the same situation as those who utilize the food pantry.

"There are so many people out there who need food and it makes me feel good that we are able to give back to help them," she said. "I know now that if something were to happen to one of us, the community would give back to us. I feel very good about being a Catholic and I think God is proud of us."

Concert to Benefit Faith in our Future

Divine Savior Holy Angels music teacher teacher Rebekah Wickert leads DSHA choir students in practice. The students, joined by Marquette University High School students and the DSHA orchestra, will stage “O Come All Ye Faithful,” a Christmas concert, Dec. 14, to benefit the Faith in Our Future capital campaign. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)

Concert to benefit Faith in Our Future

DSHA, MUHS combine for Dec. 14 event

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

ARCHDIOCESE OF MILWAUKEE - Choirs from Divine Savior Holy Angels High School and Marquette University High School are banding together to celebrate Christmas and help Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan raise funds for the Faith in Our Future Campaign for Catholic education and faith formation.

MUHS and DSHA presidents Jesuit Fr. Warren Sazama and Ellen Bartel developed a plan to bring the choirs and DSHA orchestra together to stage "O Come All Ye Faithful," a premiere Christmas concert in the Robert and Marie Hansen Family Fine Arts Theatre at DSHA. Students will perform in front of family and friends, but also for Archbishop Dolan at the Dec. 14 event.

According to archdiocesan development director Debra Lethlean, "Fr. Sazama and Ellen chose to demonstrate publicly their support for the Faith In Our Future Campaign and help raise funds for its Catholic School Champions Endowment Fund. Hosting this premier Christmas Concert, with these two top-notch choirs performing, is a great way for concert-goers to get into the spirit of Christmas and support Catholic education.

"This show of support from the broader Catholic community is inspiring to Archbishop Dolan, and it demonstrates the broader community's belief in the importance of Catholic education and faith formation, a priority for the archbishop."

Concert chairpersons, John and Chris McDermott, alumni of the two high schools, are pleased with the students' willingness to share their talents for the betterment of Catholic education.

"Although this fund-raiser doesn't benefit us directly, all of the kids who come to our schools may go to the diocesan grade schools or attend (religious education if enrolled in) public grade schools," Chris said, adding, "This is to support Catholic education in our community."

All Catholic elementary schools, middle schools and high schools in southeastern Wisconsin are eligible for future grants from the Faith In Our Future Campaign's newly-established Catholic School Champions Endowment Fund.

A first of its kind, Chris said there is a lot of excitement throughout the Catholic community in bringing together approximately 100 young voices.

"This came about because a handful of constituents believed strongly in Catholic education and had connections to one or both schools," she said. "The students from each school have beautiful voices and it will be wonderful to hear them perform together. On top of that, they will get to perform in front of the archbishop and that opportunity doesn't come along often."

While the fund-raising goals may be lofty for this event, Tracy Wayson, DSHA vice president of institutional advancement, hopes to present a large check to the Faith in Our Future Campaign.

"In our heart of hearts, we would love to present a check for $25,000 to Archbishop Dolan for the campaign," she said. "It is possible and there has been a lot of interest in this concert. It's fun doing something like this because you always hear from people you haven't heard from in a while. There's been a large group of people wanting something like this for a while."

Dan Quesnell, director of communications and planning at MUHS, believes that the concert is an opportunity for both schools to support the campaign.

"This campaign represents something larger than our individual schools and we see this as an opportunity for our students to help ensure a Catholic education for the next generation by raising funds for the Catholic School Champions Endowment fund," he said.

The schools hope to fill the 750-seat auditorium by offering a variety of prices for tickets to the one-time event, from $75 for preferred seating to $35 for general seating. Additionally, supporters are eligible to underwrite a portion of the program with various benefactor packages, some which include a pre-concert reception with Archbishop Dolan.

"We are seeking underwriters for the concert as well as an audience to generate the proceeds that will be given to the campaign," said Quesnell. "Response to underwriting has been great with ticket orders just beginning to come in with seats being purchased at all three levels."

With at least five months of planning for the benefit concert, Chris McDermott said the music directors are working hard to ensure a beautiful performance.

"I am very proud of what they are doing," she said. "It will be a great event and a great opportunity for these students to sing and be part of their support of Catholic education."