Thursday, April 30, 2009

Travitt was 'patron saint' in Black Catholic community

Augusta Travitt

Exemplified ‘no nonsense’ approach to life, faith

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

MILWAUKEE - Her opinion. It was her trademark.

A petite woman, Augusta Travitt was outspoken and quick to correct when something was amiss. Although disconcerting at first, she was what many would call the Black Catholic community's patron saint - a woman whose deeds, enthusiasm and charity greatly benefited the city of Milwaukee and the archdiocese for decades.

A member of All Saints Parish, Travitt spent most of her 86 years in service to others, and Sunday, April 19 was no exception. Fr. Carl Diedrichs, All Saints pastor, counted on Travitt, in her role as parish sacristan, to set up for the Masses during the week and on weekends. She remained there to prepare for the last Mass of the morning.

After opening the doors at 7:30, her duties included preparing the credence table, lighting candles, and setting out the ciborium with hosts and chalice with wine. Afterward, she would attend Mass.

"She was always at the end of the line for holy Communion," said Fr. Diedrichs, "And she was there on Sunday and I am comforted to know that she received holy viaticum from me as part of the 8 a.m. Mass."

Travitt died of natural causes early April 20 in her home, and leaves behind a legacy much larger than her tiny frame.

"It hasn't really sunk in for me yet," admitted Fr. Diedrichs. "I will miss her - her presence was all encompassing here. She served on the parish council, prayer and worship, was involved in the African World Festival for a Catholic group that planned that Mass each year. She was quite a lady in the larger Catholic community - and one woman that obviously internalized what it meant to be Catholic and not afraid to profess it."

After All Saints was dedicated several years ago, the bishop anointed the altar with holy chrism and Travitt was given the privilege of wiping off the altar after the ceremony.

While lovable, she was never afraid to speak her mind, and although respectful of the long line of priests that served the former St. Leo and later, All Saints Parish, they were not exempt from correction, if Travitt felt it necessary.

"We can't forget that part! You knew when you were out of line," mused Fr. Diedrichs, adding, "I think once you pass 80 years old, you can say what you want, but Augusta started earlier in life than that. From one generation to the next, she was concerned about good liturgy, respecting the altar and dressing appropriately."

When Marina Thompson moved back to Milwaukee 11 years ago, and rejoined the merged All Saints Church, she immediately knew that her personality clashed with Travitt's.

"I disliked Miss Augusta Travitt," she acknowledged. "I thought she hated everyone, including me, but over the years, I changed my position on her spirit. While she could clearly be stern, she used her God-given, strong personality to make sure that the Lord's house was respected and cared for the way many mothers from the 'old school' managed their households. No nonsense!"

As their relationship grew, Travitt, who was affectionately known as the parish "gatekeeper," allowed Thompson a one-time treasured glimpse into her drawer of Catholic goodies - crosses and pins that she stowed in the back of the church.

"I still have the rosary she gave me in my car," said Thompson. "My husband, as an usher, looked forward to his weekly scoldings about things that weren't done correctly. She once told him how she stared down a carjacker. My teenage son was amazed at how easily both of his parents took a tongue lashing from her."

Their son consulted with Travitt when he was thinking of having his tongue pierced. He didn't.

In the beginning, their younger daughter was afraid of Travitt, but came to respect her and viewed her as one of the many gray-haired women she read about in her journey into African American womanhood.

"Rosa Parks comes to mind - a woman who had strong beliefs and lived up to them with her deeds," she said. "What was so beautiful about Miss Augusta was her love for the church and the traditions I know she held close to her heart."

As past director of the archdiocesan African American Ministry Office, now the Office of Intercultural Ministries, Schauneille Allen appreciated Travitt's support while the latter served on the advisory board.

Not only was she a family friend, she was like a second mother to Allen, a chaplain at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, who considered Travitt to be an angel on earth.

"We know that she is looking down from heaven and appreciating the kind words that people are sharing and holding dear to them," she said. "I didn't know what I could do, so I started a 10-day novena in her honor using free conference calls to pray for the repose of her soul. I don't know how many are coming on line, but I think it is powerful, even though it might be an unconventional way to enter the sacred space."

A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Travitt moved to Milwaukee and joined the Catholic Church after studying at St. Benedict the Moor School, one of the nation's top boarding schools for black students.

A graduate of Lincoln High School, Travitt was an active member of St. Leo Parish and continued her involvement with All Saints after the parish consolidation in the mid-1990s. She was also active in the St. Benedict food pantry, the Hunger Task Force, jail ministry, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Br. Booker T. Ashe House of Peace for the poor.

She served as a pastoral lay minister and, in 1992, received the Vatican II Award from Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland for her service.

In addition to her work within the Catholic community, her involvements included the American Red Cross, something that always surprised Allen.

"Here was this tiny little lady who used to get out of the big Red Cross van," she said. "She'd be helping with fires and any sort of disaster - she was just so giving and wanted to do anything she could do to help others. Even though she was tiny, she was a giant in the black community."

She worked in real estate and later as an operating room technician with the Veterans Administration hospital until her retirement.

She is survived by her sister Bertina Conway; grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Her daughter Loretta Turnage died approximately 15 years ago, according to Allen.

Although she cut back on her activities the past few years, Travitt remained called to serve and to live a Christ-like example for others.

"She believed in the mission that Christ called us to and to be there for our neighbors and it was exemplified by the many organizations she volunteered for," said Allen. "She would do anything for the church and always asked what she could do, even if it meant selling tickets for our chicken dinners; she did what she could."

As a role model, and unafraid to share her faith with anyone, Travitt's presence will be missed, especially at her parish, admitted Thompson, who will never forget seeing her at Mass April 19.

"Before Mass, I came back and inquired how she was feeling, and as usual, she was frustrated by something and said she was tired and was going home," said Thompson. "Later I saw Miss Augusta taking Communion and thought to myself, 'I thought she said she was going home.' She really was going home. How blessedly privileged I was to see Miss Augusta taking the sacrament of communion shortly before she went to see God."

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago, who, as a priest, served at All Saints Parish, was the principal celebrant of Travitt's funeral Mass April 27.

Kyla Schmidt finds way to share faith

Through the Catholic Student Coalition at the University of Wisconsin — Whitewater, Kyla Schmidt was not only introduced to the Catholic faith, but she also met her husband, Mike Schmidt. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)
Whitewater campus ministry welcomed her to church

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

Third in a series of articles featuring individuals who are entering into full communion with the Catholic Church this Easter season.

WHITEWATER - Author Flannery O'Connor said, "You don't join the Catholic Church, you become a Catholic." For Kyla Schmidt, her journey into the Roman Catholic Church, after growing up Presbyterian, echoes O'Connor's proclamation.

She attended North Park University in Chicago, a private Christian college, and appreciated the faith aspects of the school, but never found a group of friends to deeply share that faith.

After disclosing her frustration to a close friend, Kyla learned that her friend, a practicing Catholic, was involved with a group of friends through UW-Whitewater's Catholic Student Coalition.

"I decided to transfer to Whitewater and began attending those meetings with my best friend Brenda," she said, adding, "and all those great friends she told me about welcomed me into their close-knit circle."

Through those meetings, she met her future husband, Mike, who was also involved in the Catholic Student Coalition.

"We were friends for a few years, began dating and eventually became engaged," she said. "Mike and I then decided to marry in the Catholic Church since he was raised as a Catholic, and because we met in the Catholic Student Coalition."

Kyla and Mike attended marriage preparation classes required of all engaged couples planning to marry in the church. Through the classes, under the direction of Fr. Rafael Rodriguez at St. Patrick Parish, Whitewater, Kyla, 24, began to understand more and appreciate the teachings of the Catholic Church.

They were married Aug. 16, 2008 at St. Mary Parish, Waukesha.

"After Mike and I got married, I decided it was important for me to become a Catholic for us to have unity in our faith to strengthen our marriage, as well as to provide a unified family for our future children," Kyla said.

Under the direction of Steve Letellier, RCIA coordinator at St. Patrick Parish where the couple are members, Kyla attended classes to enter into full communion with the church at the Easter Vigil. Since September, she has met catechumens of all ages and backgrounds who share the same goal - to be part of the Body of Christ.

"We all want to become Catholic for different reasons, but we are able to use those different experiences to help each other learn about the Catholic faith," she said. "It also provided a safe place to ask questions and learn without feeling as if you are the only one who doesn't know."

While she said the faith can be intimidating to outsiders, at times, Kyla felt reassurance from Letellier and the other members as she learned about the Mass, its memorized prayers, why certain prayers are said, and the importance of each of the elements.

Choosing a sponsor was easy for Kyla, who chose her husband - the person she most admired and looked up to for his steadfast faith while immersed in a secular world.

"I admire the way that he has lived his faith," she said. "Especially in college, it's not necessarily 'cool' to attend church every Sunday, or a voluntary faith-based meeting every Wednesday. Mike continued to do those things because they were important to him, and a shared faith is important to us as a married couple."

Breaking the news to her family members that she was setting aside the faith of her childhood met with no resistance, only love and support - a testimony to the self-less example of the faith of her parents.

"My mother was raised as a Catholic and began attending the Presbyterian Church after she married my father, so she understands the desire for unity of faith in a marriage," Kyla explained. "They both know that I am following my heart."

The opportunity to receive the Eucharist for the very first time was an anticipation that grew from her college days and more intensely each week as Kyla prepared for the Easter Vigil.

"Since college, I have regularly attended Mass both with friends, as well as with my husband and his family," she said. "Every week when it came time to receive the Eucharist, I had to stand to let the other parishioners pass me by. This Communion is a special shared moment, not just between the recipient and Christ, but with the entire parish and I look forward to being a part of that."

In her marriage, her friendships and in her job as a traffic coordinator for Entercom Radio in Madison, Kyla believes that receiving the Eucharist on a regular basis will leave her renewed and strengthened.

"I have always felt a strong faith in God, and have regularly attended church my entire life," she said. "For me, one of the most important things about faith is sharing it. I have been blessed with great friends and a husband who shared their Catholic faith with me, and in turn, I feel very welcome and accepted by the Catholic Church and look forward to sharing my Catholic faith with many others."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Happy 20th Birthday Molly

(Molly on the left)

While we have not seen each other in nearly two years, I wanted to find some way to wish you a happy birthday.

It was the greatest moment when you were born Molly, after only one hour of labor.
You were a beautiful baby and have grown into a gorgeous young woman.

I remember being so astounded at your teaching yourself to read, at your humor, and compassion, and ability to bake cookies!

I remember shopping trips, lunches, chai tea, latte's at Starbucks.
I remember making costumes, school musicals, CSI, and solo and ensemble.
I remember your fantastic writing ability
I remember laughing til we cried
crying til we laughed.
going through high school problems
celiac disease
and prom
I remember San Diego
and losing you.

I miss you Molly

Please come back

Friday, April 24, 2009

Priest ministers admid deck chairs, ocean sunsets

When away from parish life, Augustinian Fr. Joseph Stobba – pictured here during the October 2005 dedication at St. Rita Parish, Racine – enjoys cruising the seas as a ship chaplain. Fr. Stobba, pastor of St. Rita Parish, is one of hundreds of clerics who regularly minister to cruise ship passengers. (Catholic Herald file photo by Sam Lucero)

Priest ministers amid deck chairs, ocean sunsets

Fr. Stobba vacations as cruise ship chaplain

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

RACINE - Many people associate cruises with "The Love Boat, exciting and new," and the kitschy theme song that accompanied the late 1970s TV sitcom, or with excursions for the rich and famous.

Augustinian Fr. Joseph Stobba is not rich, and several years after experiencing his first cruise, he is still not famous, except, of course, to members of the parish at which he is pastor - St. Rita, Racine. He is one of hundreds of clerics, many retired from parish duties, who regularly minister to cruise ship passengers.

While Wisconsinites were dealing with subzero temperatures in January, Fr. Stobba was floating on the Pacific Ocean enjoying balmy 80-90 degree days. His latest cruise aboard Holland America Line's MS Oosterdam took him from San Diego to several ports in Mexico Jan. 10-17.

Catholic Masses are one of the most heavily attended onboard activities, said Fr. Stobba, who noted that "Catholics seem to come out of the woodwork" to attend Sunday Mass on a cruise. Typically, a Mass can attract 30 to 40 people on a weekday and more than 150 on Sundays. According to post-cruise surveys, having a Catholic priest aboard is the most common positive comment received.

Every cruise line has a different policy on what sort of cleric sails and when, with many using nonprofit organizations or the same booking agents they use for, say, dance hall singers, to schedule ministers.

The Apostleship of the Sea in the United States, a Catholic port ministry established in 1920, has long ministered to fishermen, dock workers and those on oil rigs. Several years ago it began maintaining a database of suitable priests and making recommendations to cruise lines. The international Vatican-sponsored ministry established a relationship with the Holland America and Celebrity lines, both of which require each ship in their fleet to be staffed with a Catholic priest serving as the ship's chaplain.

Priests are not paid for ministry and are responsible for their transportation to the ship's port.

"Everything else is free," said Fr. Stobba, who has logged at least a dozen cruises over the past few years. "We are treated very well with great respect and appreciation. The passengers are most grateful for the opportunity to have daily Mass."

The apostleship does not require priests to wear clerical garb at all times on board, but they do ask them to wear ID badges so passengers have no doubt that they are there in an official capacity. Most priests who sail are either cruising full time in retirement, on sabbatical or taking a working vacation.

For Fr. Stobba, the twice-yearly cruises are vacations. He has visited the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Baltic Countries, the North Pole and will be traveling to Scandinavia and Russia in June. Although some priests choose to travel with a companion, the soft-spoken priest enjoys going solo.

"I am never lonely," he admitted. "There are plenty of people that as soon as they know I am a priest come to talk to me. I have made so many wonderful friendships over the years. And because I am an Augustinian, many people will share with me the different Augustinian houses and parishes they have visited."

Catholic priests are the most common cleric on board for a number of reasons. They are required for Mass, but can also conduct interfaith services. In addition, many crew members, some of whom can be on ship for months, are Catholic.

"I (celebrate) a Mass for the crew and daily Mass, and then Sunday Mass. Other than that I have very few duties," said Fr. Stobba, adding, "But I am there for reconciliation, counseling and bereavement services if needed. In fact, I had a memorial service on the last cruise for a crew member who was killed in an industrial accident."

Contrary to what was depicted on "The Love Boat," priest-chaplains do not perform wedding ceremonies, but that doesn't stop passengers from trying to bend the rules.

"One time I was sitting in a deck chair on my first day of the cruise when I heard my name being called over the loudspeaker to come to the ship's office," said Fr. Stobba. "There was a young couple standing there and they told me that they wanted to get married on the ship, but I told them I couldn't do that. It used to be done, but the cruise ships ask that they don't get married on the ship."

Additionally, Fr. Stobba said that for Catholics to be married, they would need to provide baptismal affidavits as well as additional paperwork, and the marriage would need to be witnessed in a church, not in the ship's lounge.

"It just doesn't work," he said. "We can bless a newly-married couple on their honeymoon or perform a renewal of vows. But we have no chapel on the ship; the Masses are generally in the lounge or in a theatre depending on the number of people attending."

The cruise lines are known for legendary food and entertainment, as well as exotic ports of call to experience a wide variety of cultures and locales, and appeal to a wide variety of passengers, many of whom surprise Fr. Stobba.

"This time of year mostly appeals to seniors, but by far, what really amazes me are the people who travel with handicaps," he admitted, adding, "I see them with their walkers, canes and scooters - nothing stops them. The cruise lines make everything accessible, so it is really a wonderful experience."

Fr. Stobba hopes to continue this ministry well into his retirement years.

"This is really the perfect ministry for a retired priest with an open schedule," he said. "For example, if a scheduled priest gets sick and they need someone to fill in with only a week's notice, the retired priest can just drop everything and go. I plan to continue on as long as I can. After all, why not?"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Aaron Esch New Priest

In call to priesthood, Aaron Esch recognizes God's generosity

Elkhorn native part of largest ordination class since ‘92

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

This is the first in a series of articles about the six men who will be ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee May 23.

ST. FRANCIS - Aaron Esch knows his journey into the ministry has taken him a great distance. While he felt a subtle tugging at his heart while attending Elkhorn Area High School, Esch, 26, wasn't certain until several years later that he knew God was truly calling him to ordained service.

Upon graduation from high school, he enrolled in the archdiocesan college seminary program to study history and philosophy.

"The time in college seminary gave me the opportunity to explore and become more certain of my vocation to diocesan priesthood," he said. "Seminary provided me the time and space I needed to test the call and to continue discernment in a more focused way. Along the way, there were questions and, at times, doubts, but in the end I reached a conviction that God was truly calling me to be a priest."

A transitional deacon since last October, Esch is in his fourth year of theology at The Pontifical North American College in Rome. Living and attending school so close to the Holy See has provided him with a unique atmosphere for learning.

"It has been an opportunity to experience the rich history and the universality of the church. At the same time, it has been difficult to be away from home. I am very much looking forward with hope to my anticipated ordination in May and the chance to return to Milwaukee for good," he said. "The preparation for priesthood is a long and often difficult process, but I thank God constantly for having called me to serve him in this way. Finding God's will for my life has been a great joy for me."

Raised in a devout Catholic home, he grew up attending St. Patrick Parish, Elkhorn. His parents, Dennis and Barbara, instilled in him a love for the Mass and, despite some curiosity about his vocational choice, have always been encouraging.

"My family and friends have been supportive, but I am grateful, most especially to my parents for their help and understanding along the way," said Esch. "Of course, they have had many questions through the years about seminary and about priesthood. It has been a learning experience for all of us."

Esch has learned about his gifts as well as his weaknesses. As with others called to priesthood, he struggles with feelings of his own unworthiness.

"As priestly ordination draws nearer, I am ever more aware of how flawed I am," he said. "I am convinced that God could have chosen many more qualified people than me. At the same time, I am convinced that he has called me, with my flaws and all. My unworthiness is an invitation to greater trust. The reality of my unworthiness serves to highlight God's great generosity."

While recognizing his human frailties and realities, Esch is blessed with a large circle of friends and family who guide him through the difficult, lonely times fringed in uncertainties. Residing within the hearts of each of them is God.

"I have learned how good and faithful God is," he said. "And I cannot wait to begin my priestly ministry."

Esch's desire is to simply be what Jesus intended as he washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper - a servant to the people, called to do for

others as Jesus instructed.

"The priest is at the service of the church, to go where he is needed," explained Esch. "Therefore, I have no specific plans for the future. Rather, my hope is that as a priest, I remain faithful to the calling and that I remain open to God working in and through me. In other words, to allow God to use me as he pleases."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Closer to the Lord

Jesus Christ, portrayed by Greg Volbrecht, is surrounded by youngsters in the opening scene of “The Passion of our Lord,” which will be performed at St. Alphonsus Church in New Munster April 3 and 4. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )
Jesus Christ, portrayed by Greg Volbrecht, rehearses the Last Supper scene with other members of the cast in St. Alphonsus Church\'s “The Passion of our Lord” play. The play will be performed at the New Munster church April 3 and 4. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )
Robin Kasuboski, play director and St. Alphonsus Church choir director, has written the script for the annual “The Passion of our Lord” play for nine consecutive years. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )
Members of “The Passion of our Lord” play rehearse a scene depicting Jesus Christ\'s entrance into Jerusalem at St. Alphonsus Church. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )
Greg Volbrecht portrays Jesus Christ in “The Passion of our Lord” play. At right, Volbrecht rehearses the Last Supper scene with other members of the cast. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )
Members of "The Passion of our Lord" play rehearse a scene at St. Alphonsus Church. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )


Kenosha News correspondentNEW MUNSTER — Many people auditioned for “The Passion of our Lord” play simply because they thought it would be fun to act with their family members and friends. But dozens involved in the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church ministry might have learned more than they expected as they rehearsed the re-enactment of Christ’s final days on earth. This year, the 50-plus play members will remind audiences of the highs and lows Jesus experienced in rapid succession just before his crucifixion.

“Every year that we do this, there is no dry eye in the house,” said Robin Kasuboski, play director and parish choir director. “Everyone is just awed. They are taken aback by how real the crucifixion is. It is an amazing scene.”

This is the 10th year for the play, which has become a St. Alphonsus tradition. Its cast primarily is made up of St. Alphonsus parishioners, although some cast members belong to other churches in the area.

This year’s production is based on the Gospel of Mark, and it begins with Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, following his life through his crucifixion. Kasuboski has written the script each of the last nine years, with collaboration from Frank Slifka. Each year’s production is based on one of the four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — and all incorporate music fitting to the scenes.

“I use music from all sources, such as regular church music, various arias, Andrew Lloyd Webber compositions, and “Pie Jesu” from the Requiem Mass (funeral mass),” Kasuboski said.

Incorporating Jewish music into the Last Supper scene seems to add a touching aspect and is a favorite of many who have seen the play, Kasuboski said.

“The lighting and music surrounding this scene really set the tone,” she said. “Even as Jesus is sent to the high priests and then to Pilate, the audience experiences the ridicule and persecution firsthand.”

While not visible to the audience, the sounds of Jesus’ scourging is emotional, and the crucifixion scene is most moving and realistic of all. After 10 years with the production and nine directing, Kasuboski acknowledged that each year creates a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

“It is such a neat experience to be a part of this, and it has brought me closer to God in my faith,” she said. “It’s given me a deeper and more profound understanding as to what Jesus went through. I want the whole audience and cast to experience that as well.”

In his 10th year performing the role of Jesus, parishioner Greg Volbrecht bears a striking resemblance to the most commonly accepted image of Jesus, with long hair and a full beard. Although, Volbrecht joked, he is aging a bit.

“I keep getting grayer every day, and I argue that I am too old for this part, but they won’t let me quit. They seem to still want me to perform this role,” he said. “I enjoy playing it because for me it brings to life a better understanding of what God and Jesus did for us.”

Children often tug on his arm or whisper and point, calling him Jesus, but Volbrecht is accustomed to their curiosity and welcomes their questions and concern.

“After the performance we always have a luncheon at the Community Center and parents often bring their kids up to me because they were worried that I was dead,” he said. “They are really cute in their comments to me, and I am just happy to know that we had an effect on them.”

So moved are the cast members with their involvement in the production that many come back year after year to participate.

“We aren’t just open to performers from St. Alphonsus,” Kasuboski said. “We have people who come from all over, and we have done this for so long that many cast members include their children in the production. It is a neat community project, and everyone who participates seems to have a deeper faith from the experience.”

Prayers Answered

Regan Hess, 14, of Burlington, prays during the first service held by the Westosha Lakes Church\' congregation in the building donated by Grace Valley Bible Church. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
Westosha Lakes Church Pastor Jeff Talbert speaks during the first service the church held in the building donated by Grace Valley Bible Church. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
Melissa Bartelson, of Kenosha, left, and Lesleigh Seater, of Salem, greet each other during Westosha Lakes Church\'s April 5 worship service. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
Andrew Thoss, 15, right, sings with his brother Riley, 18, both of Bristol, during an April 5 service at Westosha Lakes Church. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
Westosha Lakes Church Pastor Jeff Talbert, right, greets congregation members outside the Paddock Lake building that formerly was home to Grace Valley Bible Church. With membership dwindling, Grace Valley donated the church to Westosha Lakes, which has more members and resources. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
Westosha Lakes Church Pastor Jeff Talbert laughs as he speaks to members of the congregation who met on April 5 for the first worship service in the building donated by Grace Valley Bible Church. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
Mike Cassity, of Salem, Elder Board chairman of Westosha Lakes Church, sings during an April 5 service. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
Regan Hess, 14, of Burlington, center, prays with his family during the first service held by the Westosha Lakes Church\' congregation in the building donated by Grace Valley Bible Church. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
Westosha Lakes Church worship leader Steve Jensen, of Paddock Lake, leads the congregation in song. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
Melanie Bailey, of Paddock Lake, left, and Rachel Peters, of Zion, Ill., follow along in their Bibles during Westosha Lakes Church\'s April 5 service. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
More than 200 people attended Westosha Lakes Church for the first worship service in the building donated by Grace Valley Bible Church. The members of Westosha Lakes were joined by those from Grace Valley. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )
Hunter Hess, 8, right, sings with his family during Westosha Lakes Church\'s April 5 worship service. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )


Kenosha News correspondent

PADDOCK LAKE — Westosha Lakes Church now has a permanent home after one year as a fourth service of Kenosha Bible Church and the past four years meeting at Central High School.

The congregation recently received a generous gift: the deed to take over the home of Grace Valley Bible Church at 24823 74th St. in Paddock Lake.

“They approached us and asked us if we wanted the building and all of its contents,” said Mike Cassity, Elder Board chairman of Westosha Lakes, an evangelical free church. “And after voting on it, we said, ‘Yes.’ It is an extremely generous gift, and we praise God for it.”

The Rev. Paul Volbrecht, one of two Grace Valley pastors, said that Grave Valley members contemplated the donation for months and decided giving the gift to a congregation with more members and more resources was the right thing to do.

“This is the way we see it: A church is not a building, a church is its people,” Volbrecht said, adding, “We prayed about it for a long time. We know these people, we love these people. And we found out that they had been praying for a (permanent) place. So we saw this as an answer to their prayers as well as an answer to ours.”

Membership at Grace Valley consists of about six families, with roughly 30 members, many of them children. Maintaining the approximately 8,000-square-foot building was becoming a struggle for the small congregation.

A fair market value was estimated so that Westosha Lakes could pay a transfer tax to the state, but no money was paid to Grace Valley in exchange for the building.

The first service of Westosha Lakes’ members in their new home was on Palm Sunday, April 5. Grace Valley members joined those from Westosha Lakes for worship and fellowship, bumping attendance a bit over the sanctuary’s capacity of roughly 200.

For now, Volbrecht said, Grace Valley members are contemplating whether to join Westosha Lakes.

While the gift was a surprise to Westosha Lakes officials, it wasn’t the first time that the two congregations reached out to one another.

“Since they are practically across the street from Central High School, we have coordinated efforts by sending our kids and parents to their AWANA program, and we brought their kids into our youth group,” Cassity said. “The deal was, we provided a youth pastor and they provided the place … I guess one thing led to another and it came to this.”

The nearly 200-member Westosha Lakes congregation never planned to reside in a permanent home, as members felt their mission of “Bringing the kingdom of God to our world one life at a time,” did not require a building.

“God gave us one anyway, and it will allow us more opportunities to expand his kingdom,” said Sue Stoner, Westosha Lakes’ communications chairwoman. “The feedback is very positive, and the congregation is extremely excited about having a place to call home.”

For the weekly services at Central High School, members participated in setting up and tearing down the portable sanctuary items related to their worship. Stoner said not having to do that leaves members feeling a bit melancholy as it became an enjoyable and bonding mission.

“Every Sunday morning we gathered several hours before church to set up our sanctuary in Central High School’s cafetorium,” Stoner said. “And we remained after service to diligently take down and store our portable church until the following Sunday. The set-up crews, I am certain, will miss this camaraderie.”

Although the gift of a church building is an unexpected blessing for Westosha Lakes, Senior Pastor Jeff Talbert has empathy for the remaining members of Grace Valley.

“We are very excited as we make this transition from being a portable church to a church that meets in a building,” Talbert said. “Please pray for us for unity and creativity as we make this transition. Please pray for the remaining members of Grace Valley that God will direct them at this bittersweet time in their church’s history and that they will feel welcome at Westosha Lakes if they choose to join us.”

As a congregation of diverse membership, with many gifts, talents, strengths, weaknesses and compassionate hearts, Stoner is in awe that God brought them together as a family, striving together in unity to honor and serve Jesus Christ.

While they have been given the deed to the new building, the members are aware that they are not the true owners.

“The true owner is the Lord,” Stoner said. “He has entrusted us with this building, and we will use it to do good works. That is what we intend to do.”

Best of Life

Jacob Best, 23, of Pleasant Prairie, appeared in "Possibilities," a booklet highlighting and celebrating the lives of people with significant disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, who, like Best, are living, learning and working in Wisconsin. Best, a movie buff, works at Tinseltown. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY BRIAN PASSINO )


Kenosha News correspondent

Jacob Best is an engaging young man. He’s generous with his hugs and smiles, eager to bring you into his life, although he tends to be shy around folks he doesn’t yet know.

But the Pleasant Prairie 23-year-old’s face was shown to many strangers when it appeared in “Possibilities,” a booklet highlighting and celebrating the lives of people with significant disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, who, like Best, are living, learning and working in Wisconsin.

The booklet was part of a campaign by People First Wisconsin, funded in part by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to demonstrate that people with disabilities can take part successfully in community activities, education and employment.

People First Wisconsin is a statewide self-advocacy organization for people with disabilities. Its mission is to educate on the rights of the disabled. The organization assists those with disabilities to realize their goals, educates the public on the rights and strengths of the disabled, helps local self-advocacy groups begin and grow stronger, and works toward closing institutions and making life in the community a human right for people with disabilities.

On Feb. 28 at a reception at Milwaukee’s Marian Center for non-profit organizations, Executive Director Mary Clare Carlson honored Best for his work at Tinseltown movie theater in Kenosha.

Not only does Best, who has Down syndrome and a severe hearing impairment, work three days a week at the theater, but he is an accomplished artist, previously recognized by the Wisconsin Regional Scholastic Art Awards. Additionally, he actively participates in Special Olympics and uses public transportation on his own.

“I am busy,” he said. “I go swimming every week at the ‘Y’ and have been swimming faster. I also do basketball, track and go bowling.”

According to his mother, Karen, Jacob is a happy young man who enjoys working, participating in Special Olympics and going to classes once a week.

“He attends Careers in Racine,” she said. “A lot of the developmentally disabled go there and work on various skills, including social skills. He has made a lot of friends, especially through Special Olympics. It is hard to go anywhere and not have people come up to us who know Jacob. I am amazed at what he has been able to accomplish.”

According to Carlson, after Jacob graduated from Wilmot High School, his former teacher Marcia Nolan contracted with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to help him find a job. Knowing Jacob was a movie buff, she thought he would be a perfect fit for employment at Tinseltown. She helped him apply, and he got the job.

“Marcia job-coached him for a while, but he doesn’t need her help any longer,” Carlson said. “He is able to rely on public transportation and feels a great sense of self worth because he is a productive member of society. In fact, he has inspired many of his friends from Special Olympics because they are now interested in getting jobs, too.”

Carlson plans to accompany Jacob to speak at area high schools about his experiences.

“I think he would be very encouraging to other kids in all that he accomplished,” she said. “And then we would give each of the students a copy of the booklet to bring home to their parents, so they know there are other options out there.”

For Jacob, the job, which he’s held for nearly three years, means a little extra spending money for his favorite pastime, watching movies. His collection of more than 100 movies is impressive and fuels his desire to someday pursue a career in acting.

“I love all movies,” he insisted, thrusting new copies of “Twilight,” “Bolt” and “Happily Ever After” onto his living room sofa. “I want to act one day, and I want my mom to call Fox so I can get a job acting.”

For more information about People First Wisconsin, call (414) 483-2546 or (888) 270-5352.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

40 Days of Saving Babies

Pro-life supporters pray the rosary outside Affiliated Medical Services, a Milwaukee abortion clinic on Palm Sunday, April 5, 2009. This group is part of 40 Days for Life, a nationwide pro-life campaign. (Catholic Herald photo by Matt Dixon)

40 days of 'saving babies'

Pro-lifers part of nationwide effort

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

MILWAUKEE - A baby was saved one morning at 1428 N. Farwell Avenue in Milwaukee. Patrick McGartland learned about it last Friday.

While McGartland and other pro-lifers were praying for the unborn in front of Affiliated Medical Services, a woman stopped her car and called out to those keeping vigil outside the abortion facility.

"She said, 'Thanks for being here. Last year I was going to abort my baby, and you folks were here and gave me literature, spoke with me and I didn't,'" McGartland explained. "Then she opened her cell phone and displayed a photo of the baby. It doesn't get any better than that, does it?"

This is just one of many such stories from the annual spring 40 Days for Life. Across the globe, 40-day vigils were held at abortion clinics in 175 cities in the United States, Canada, Australia and Northern Ireland. In Milwaukee alone, more than 125 people prayed different hours of the day and night braving rain, wind, snow and cold temperatures. A core group of 50 supporters were present the entire 40 days, which began on Ash Wednesday and concluded following a prayer service at noon on Palm Sunday.

The Milwaukee efforts are supported by organizations such as Pro-Life Wisconsin, Men of Christ, and four councils of the Knights of Columbus, Women's Support Centers of Milwaukee and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.

This largest national and international pro-life effort began in College Station, Texas five years ago by several families as a way to support the unborn. According to McGartland, the 40 Days for Life-Milwaukee coordinator, Shawn Carney, and David Bereit are leaders of the grassroots organization.

"David worked at the American Life League and Shawn is a local lad from College Station," he said. "He was the chairperson for this spring's campaign."

McGartland estimated that approximately 10 babies were saved in Milwaukee - babies whose mothers had been headed for abortions but decided to turn around, due to the message of onsite counselors offering alternatives to abortion.

"We have been blessed with women who are able to counsel the young women as they approach the mill," said McGartland. "These women offer literature as well as comforting words suggesting that the girls don't have to go through with taking the life of their baby. Praise be to God, some will stop and talk. And yes, some come out and report, 'I can't go through with this.'"

Overall, the international organization has sponsored four campaigns in the past 20 months. According to Carney, more than 200,000 people have participated, more than 4,000 churches have been involved and at least 1,517 babies were spared from abortion.

"At least 17 clinic employees quit their jobs," said Carney, "And three abortion facilities closed their doors following 40 Days for Life."

Although he doesn't discount the success, McGartland will not rest until all babies are safe within their mothers' wombs. He vows to continue speaking for those who cannot.

"Here in the central city of Milwaukee, only a few blocks from our cathedral, and within a two-mile radius of six other churches, there exists a killing center that is recognized as the single largest abortion center in the state of Wisconsin," he said. "To think that this kind of place can do what it does and most Catholics don't know or don't realize what takes place is shameful."

Involved in the effort since the fall 2007 40 Days for Life campaign, McGartland initially worked as a fill-in person since he lived nearby and was retired.

"Since then, I've taken on the role of coordinator, starting last fall, and continuing into this year," he explained. "Why? I have a big mouth and a thick skin, and along with my wife, we have been directly involved in the pro-life movement since 1976. We have a passion to work for the day that the evil of abortion on demand is no longer an acceptable alternative in our culture."

Politically involved since 1964, when he supported Barry Goldwater's bid for the presidency, McGartland believes the only method to effect a change is to take away the reward for those who continue to vote for politicians who proclaim sympathy to the plight of the less fortunate.

"As this relates to our church, Catholic as well as non-Catholic, tell those in charge that they need to start speaking up about the evil of abortion as well as those other evil blights affecting our culture, embryonic stem-cell as an example," he said. "And if they choose not to exercise their responsibility, well, we the 'tax payers' will begin to apply the needed leverage, withholding contributions, until such time as those who are called to be the teachers and leaders, act like leaders."

The future is dismal unless changes occur on the political level within the next two years, said McGartland.

"This damage, erosion of faith, freedom, traditional values, will then manifest itself in civil unrest, as well as direct unrest against those who are true believers," he said.

Kenosha CYO Band

The Kenosha CYO band began 2009 by traveling to Rome, performing for Pope Benedict XVI and marching in the New Year’s Day parade in St. Peter’s Square. The Kenosha CYO Emerald Knights Band and Guard is the oldest marching band of its kind in the United States. (Submitted photo courtesy the Kenosha CYO band)

Performance of a lifetime

Kenosha CYO band plays for Pope Benedict

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

KENOSHA - While many of their classmates were sleeping late and hanging out with family over Christmas break, 31 members of the Kenosha Catholic Youth Organization band and 23 chaperones gathered a lifetime of memories in Italy.

From Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, the group traveled to Rome where they spent 10 days giving performances, including the New Year's Day parade in St. Peter's Square, and touring the region's ancient sites.

"We performed for the pope right before the annual New Year's papal blessing," said CYO director, Matt Garza. "It was a very big deal. It was incredible to be among the thousands of people in St. Peter's Square when he gave his blessing; it was just an awesome experience for all of us."

In his fifth year as director of the CYO, Garza said the band typically travels each year to locations throughout the United States, but this was their first overseas trip.

The journey to Italy was a musical workout, a cultural exchange and a celebration of the band's 70-year history. The Kenosha CYO Emerald Knights Band and Guard is the oldest marching band of its kind in the United States. The organization originally formed from 10 parishes of Kenosha: Holy Rosary, Mount Carmel, St. Anthony, St. Casimir, St. George, St. James, St. Mark, St. Mary, St. Peter and St. Thomas.

The Kenosha organization consists of several bands: the concert band, summer band, marching band and color guard. There is also a junior marching band.

Students pay a yearly membership fee to be part of the 501 3C non-profit organization and are required to raise their own funds to attend all contests and activities.

While visiting Vatican City seemed appropriate for an organization with Catholic roots, the decision to go followed a written invitation directly from Rome.

"I tell everyone that it was the result of a random letter in the mail," admitted Garza. "I took the idea to the board and they loved it. We investigated travel costs and began extensive fund-raising for this."

Each student paid his or her own way, although they had two years' worth of opportunities to raise additional funds during the school year through tag sales, Milwaukee Brewer fund-raisers, living Christmas cards and other band-sponsored projects.

"We were worried because it was raining so much," Garza said of New Year's Day in Vatican City. "We kept the students on the bus while we waited for the parade and tried to figure out what to do. The moment they stepped off the bus, the rain stopped and stopped long enough for them to march to St. Peter's Square. "

After marching, the band stood under archways, waiting to perform between the papal blessing and the New Year's Mass and again the rain poured. Once more, Divine intervention; the rain stopped just in time for the band to perform.

"It started again after they finished," said Garza, adding, "We couldn't have planned it any better."

For one student, the trip took an exciting albeit nerve wracking turn. According to St. Joseph High School graduate, 19-year-old Ben Hughes, he was in the right place at the right time when approached to do a Scripture reading during the first Sunday Mass of the New Year.

"I was sitting in the last pew at the Vatican with my friends. A security guard was asking us where we were from; they said Wisconsin and I said Illinois, as I live in Wadsworth," said Hughes, now a freshman at University of Illinois, "He asked me if I wanted to do the second reading and I was just speechless - my heart literally skipped a beat."

After a little prodding by his friends, Hughes followed the security guard to the front of the church where he received a few lessons on where to stand, how to walk to the altar and when to bow.

"I got to sit in the front by the choir," he said. "My reading was the only English part in the all-Latin Mass. What I didn't know until later was that my reading was broadcast all through St. Peter's Square on large television monitors in front of thousands of people. I'm glad I didn't know that until afterwards because I would have been too nervous that I would make a mistake."

While he may never know why he was chosen over others in the church that day, Hughes remembers it as the culmination of a wonderful trip.

"It was overwhelming really; here I was baffled about the architectural feats that people did thousands of years ago with the buildings and sculptures and admiring the beautiful country, and then I was asked to read," he explained. "It was rather shocking and afterwards, I just felt like nothing could spoil my day."

Emerick Garcia preparing for his Easter Homecoming

Garcia, a member of St. Paul Parish, Racine, is pictured in the parish library with his family, left to right, wife Emily holding Ezekiel, 16 months and Elivia, 4; Eva, 5; Ezra, 2 and EJ, 6. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)
Emerick Garcia preparing for his Easter homecoming
Lifelong faith journey culminates in Catholicism

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

RACINE — After years of yearning and searching, Emerick Garcia believes he is coming home.

“I finally found the seed of life he planted inside me and he surrounded me with an amazing group of people to help till the soil, and water the seed, while Jesus shined the light,” said Garcia, 27, of Racine.

A self-described tough case, Garcia is coming home to the Catholic faith during the Easter Vigil. After beginning the RCIA process six years ago, he admitted that due to ancestral history of anti-Catholic sentiments, he couldn’t make the commitment until now, when he allowed God’s heart to crack open his own.

“I wasn’t ready six years ago; I wasn’t ready four years go and I wasn’t ready two years ago because I fought with myself,” he admitted. “I fought because I knew I had to commit to restructuring my belief system.”

Married at St. Paul the Apostle Parish six years ago to Emily, a devout Catholic, he wasn’t against the faith, but because he grew up apart from organized religion, he didn’t find Catholicism necessary at the time.

“We were raised with the Bible and with prayer,” Garcia said. “But with my faith and my wife’s, I knew I had a decision to make.”

Between building his custom cabinetry business, Apex Kitchen Cabinets, and helping raise the couple’s five children, EJ, age 6, Eva, 5, Elivia, 4, Ezra, 2 and Ezekiel, 1, there was little time for him to reflect on God’s plan for his life. Finally, John 3:4 consumed his attention and, after much prayer, he found himself standing in Nicodemus’ shoes and asking Jesus, “How can a person once grown old be born again?”

“I began to realize that a different spiritual growth process had to begin inside me and I can no longer deny the depth and spirituality of the Catholics around me that I had relationships with, so I prayed for the ability to have an open heart and mind,” he said. “I told God that everything in this world is his and everything that I have he has given to me; and my journey in life is no longer my will, but his – and the journey began.”

Choosing his maternal grandparents, Larry and Donna Pias, as his RCIA sponsors was an easy choice as both have encouraged him and set an example of Christian behavior throughout his life.

“My grandma always reminded me about the good inside of me, and I’ve always been really inspired by the way they live out their Catholic faith,” he said. “For as long as I can remember, I have been able to sit down and talk with them about God and life, good or bad.”

As director of the RCIA program, Anna Marie Clausen grew close with Garcia and his family, praying that he would one day complete the program and join the faith.

“They are a lovely couple, with a spiritual bond, and a beautiful marriage,” she said. “This is the fifth time Emerick tried to get through the RCIA process.”

Garcia defines his years of intermittent participation in the RCIA program, as an emotional roller coaster. It was tough wrestling with the knowledge that some members of his family could not understand why he wanted to become Catholic and with others who expressed anti-Catholic sentiments, and disagreed with his choice.

“God really had to work with me and will continue to do so for quite some time; complimented by an outstanding group of individuals running the program, it was deep, amazing and fulfilling,” he said. “It really helped that I do have family members who support what I am doing, especially my maternal grandparents, my in-laws, my mom, my wife and kids.”

While humbled by the knowledge that he will receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Garcia anticipates sharing in the oneness with Christ and becoming a member of the faith community.

“I am very nervous and I feel like I will find myself in the same unworthy state that Mary Magdalene found herself in, but like her, at the same time, I can’t live life any longer without devoting myself to a spiritual relationship with him and the church he left behind,” said Garcia.

Like the Prodigal Son, he is coming home; unlike him, Garcia is aware that his Father waits with open arms.

“The journey home is a long one and I was once dead, but now I have come to life again,” he said.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Putting others First comes Naturally for Tony Molter

Tony Molter didn’t let a wheelchair prevent him from volunteer work. Even after he suffered a lateral stroke in 1990 leaving him reliant on a wheelchair to get around, Molter, pictured with his wife, Charlotte, became involved with committees at his parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, Milwaukee, and served as the raffle chairman and volunteer coordinator for the parish festival. (Submitted photo courtesy the Molter family)

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

MILWAUKEE - Anthony "Tony" Molter can teach others about adversity, commitment, tenacity, faith and ultimately, personal integrity.

To those who worship at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, the 78-year-old is committed to making it the best parish it can be. To the members of the Elks Club, Molter enjoyed his years as president of the organization. To the thousands of Boy Scouts that made their way through St. Margaret Mary Troop 260, he was a dedicated leader who demonstrated heart.

While Molter doesn't dwell on the condition, it's hard to escape reality: he is a paraplegic. The disability, however, is a spark in his personality. Adversity has blessed him with the same intangible leadership and durability that earned him respect during his 26 years as senior chief torpedo man in the US Naval Reserves, and in the more than 20 years he served as construction inspector for the City of Milwaukee Bureau of Engineers. From 1982 to 1997, he served as president of the American Federation of Municipal State and County Employees District Council 48.

During the last seven years in that role, he fulfilled his duties by driving all over Milwaukee in a custom designed van with lift and hand controls.

"I negotiated everything from my wheelchair," he said. "I didn't allow myself to have a lot of limitations."

Always high energy and involved in his community, Molter recalled scaling ladders, installing lights, hanging banners and trimming Christmas trees while on the decorating committee at his former parish, St. Margaret Mary.

"I think I have always had a habit of being involved somewhere. My wife Charlotte says that I can't say no," Molter said with a laugh.

Molter's ladder climbing days ended the morning of June 26, 1990 when he suffered a lateral stroke to the spinal column. The realization that he would never walk again was a blow and required readjusting his lifestyle, but, according to Charlotte, he refused to allow his limitations to get him down mentally or physically.

"He just said, 'Well, I have two options. I can sit in a chair and mope or sit in the chair and do what the chair allows me to do,'" she explained.

Despite his physical limitations, Molter continued with Troop 260, running food drives, Camporees, and serving as the advancement chairperson, who "is the guy who prods the kids to get their merit badges and move on to Eagle Scout," he explained.

"At the same time I was the commissioner of the Boy Scouts Iron Horse District in the council level," he said. "I worked at that for many years and then was asked to be district commissioner, which gave me 66 units in our area that I was responsible for."

After his stroke, the couple moved to a wheelchair accessible home in Greendale and became involved at Our Lady of Lourdes. According to Joe Kallenberger, Our Lady of Lourdes administrative director, Molter has served as raffle chairman and the volunteer coordinator of the annual parish festival, and on a wealth of other committees.

"He's been active in the building committee and community life commission, which is an oversight group and entails visioning of community events," said Kallenberger. "Tony is a very energetic person in terms of his dedication to the community. He wants to see things happen and go well. He's very conscientious and makes sure that things are done right; he's very thorough."

Although the group reaches out to members of other parishes, Kallenberger said that Molter's involvement as vice president of the Our Lady of Lourdes-based Over 50 group is another activity that keeps him active.

"He has such courage - nothing gets him down or has ever gotten in his way, and it is apparent the way he lives his life," Kallenberger said. "He has done numerous things, and is more involved than most. For most people, if they are involved in one committee, it is a big thing, but he has a passion about being here."

As president of the Over 50 group, long time friend Ray Reiman considers Molter an exemplary example of faith and courage.

"He is the best vice president I've ever had in any organization," Reiman said, adding, "Both he and Charlotte always are doing whatever it is that needs to be done and never boast of what they are doing. They are never in the limelight."

Since December, the couple's involvement in activities has come to a halt as Molter fights a serious skin infection. Hospitalized, he faces surgery to repair the infected area. While frustrated and often angry at his situation, glimmers of his strength shine through the pain.

"I am a lifelong Catholic raised in the Baltimore Catechism," he said. "There are many days I get ticked off and times when I think 'Well, the heck with it all.' Then again, you start thinking positive, that the moping won't help you. I pray at night when I turn the TV off and spend time with God until I drift off. I especially ask God what he has in store for me next. Then I think of the (reflection) where there are two footsteps in the sand and then only one. I think about that quite often."

While the Molters admit that their faith has been stretched lately, they continue draw on the faith that they know, and they draw on strength from their five children. Married 53 years, they are the parents of Renelle Staus, Judith Mattice, Brenda Appel, Nancy Zirbes and Keith Molter. The couple has 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"The kids have been wonderful," Molter said. "We have the best kids in the world. If they can't make it here, I get a call. They do whatever they can."

Traveling back and forth to the hospital each day is wearing on Charlotte, but she relies on her parish friends and her faith in God to give her strength.

"I pray a lot and pray for the wisdom to make the right decisions for him and for me," she said. "When I go to church something always happens to boost me up and I realize I am not alone. There is so much sadness and heartache, but the people are warm and comforting ... so much so, that it often sends me to tears."