Saturday, October 31, 2009

Field of Dreams soon to become reality

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10/20/2009 4:12:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Field of dreams soon to become reality

Karen Mahoney

The power of the Internet was never more apparent as when Union Grove received a $15,000 award to get a baseball diamond built on the former Union Grove Grade School building site.

Beating out 4,200 other fields across the nation, residents, friends, and visitors clicked the village's way to a win in the Kellogg's Frosted Flakes Plant a Seed campaign.

Kellogg's plans to renovate approximately 50 fields across the United States through the program. The company created this initiative to provide children with the opportunity to stay active and be their best by giving them better places to play. Parents, residents and visitors were encouraged to submit their kids' fields for consideration on the company's Web site,

The program, entitled "Plant a Seed," focused on the important role we all play in building stronger communities and making a difference in kids' lives. Additionally, Kellogg's sponsors "Earn Your Stripes," a program about inspiring kids to be their best by eating right and exercising. "Plant a Seed" shows that before anyone can earn a single stripe, someone has to plant a seed and give kids places to realize their promise and potential.

When the village purchased the approximately six-acre property last year, the old graded school building was removed and officials estimated park renovation costs to be in excess of $30,000.

According to Scott Katterhagen, village trustee, the Kellogg funds will enable the village to construct a baseball diamond and a smaller field for T-ball, coach pitch, whiffleball and kickball.

"Also the recreation commission is hoping to put a band shell there with playground equipment, a couple of pavilions and a nice walking path around the whole property," he said. "There will also be a nice size parking lot."

Over the summer, students from MSOE were given the opportunity to present design ideas for the park, with input from the Park and Recreation committee as well as input from village residents. The village board has not made a final selection, according to Trustee Gordon Svendsen.

"But, now that we have a plan for the space, we can ask local organizations such as Kiwanis, the Lions Club, etc, as well as individuals for donations," he said.

With some work to be completed this fall, village officials hope the field will be ready for baseball season next spring.

"The fencing, sodding and ball mix should be installed this fall yet," said Katterhagen. "So, next spring we should be able to use this field."

Education for the 21st Century

home : union grove : union grove October 31, 2009

10/23/2009 1:38:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Education for the 21st Century
Raymond School receives national recognition for innovative service-learning program

Karen Mahoney

Imagine Kindergarten students taking responsibility for the school's recycling program, or fifth-graders measuring a walking track, adding their distances at the end of the year and applying that to the distance on a Wisconsin map. Or sixth grade students working with WE Energies to learn energy savings strategies and apply those methods to school and home.

At Raymond School in Franksville, integrating community-based activities with the school curriculum is an everyday occurrence, and one that has not gone unnoticed. Students and staff are enjoying a taste of success after winning one of 10 national awards for service-oriented education.

Sponsored by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) and the National Center for Learning and Citizenship (NCLC), the School of Success Award was presented to Raymond School in August in support of five elements critical to the successful, school-based integration of service-learning.

Service-learning is a teaching and learning method used to engage students and teachers in their communities, in ways directly aligned with their curriculum. For Raymond School, the service learning methods are not only creative, but seem to build an increased incentive for learning.

Recognized for meaningful service, linking the activities to curriculum, reflection, diversity, youth voice and partnerships, progress monitoring and duration and intensity, Raymond stands out among top schools in engaging its students.

According to Communications Director Barbara Messick, service learning has benefited students by equipping them with problem-solving skills and leadership opportunities that encourage students to make meaningful contributions to the school and community, preparing them to be successful in the world of work.

"The recognition, professional development, and financial award will support our efforts to expand and deepen our integration of civic engagement and service-learning at Raymond School," she said. "We will be working on institutionalization strategies that will sustain and expand high quality service-learning instructional practices for all students and our community."

Raymond will receive a $10,000 award over two years to expand and deepen existing service-learning initiatives, and build greater capacity within the district. In return, Raymond will be asked to test and learn from leadership strategies that integrate and sustain quality service-learning for all students to succeed in school and in their communities.

The award is supported with a grant from the State Farm Companies Foundation, building on NCLC efforts over eight years to support, encourage and reward sustainability of quality service-learning. State Farm and NCLC share the goal of enhancing the knowledge, skills and will of education policymakers and leaders to increase state and district policies reflecting the components of quality service-learning.

Without support from parents, students, staff and the Raymond Board of Education, the chance to win the award would have not been possible, said Messick.

"Our school board members have been very supportive of our students' leadership and successes," she said. "They have provided not only recognition to these students, but also financial recourses, personal time and aligned board policies and strategic plans to support the school's focus on civic engagement and service-learning."

In its fifth year, Raymond's program is designed to prepare students for the 21st century, and what's more, the students are having fun becoming leaders.

"To me, service-learning means that everyone has a voice in the community," said Jessica DeGroot, eighth grade, "Usually, when you are not an adult, you don't have much of a say in anything and your parents or other people make the decisions for you. In service-learning however, it is mainly led by us, the students."

Students take learning on the road

After two fatal bike accidents in the community, students initiated a year-long bicycling safety campaign. Their efforts took on several facets including a parade float on bicycle safety at the Independence Day parade, a recent Fall Bike Safety Fair on Oct. 16, as well as extensive research and eventual partnership with community members to create safe bike baths in the Raymond area.

Eighth grade student Dylan Sauder is not only concerned about bike safety; he is learning what it means to be able to make a difference in the lives of others.

"Rather than work as two separate forces, the town and school are developing a partnership in order to make our school and community the best and safest they can be," he said. "No longer are students 'seen and not heard.' Through service-learning, we have gained a voice in the choices and changes that will affect our lives more than anyone else's."

In addition to the award, staff members, such as George Slupski, district administrator/principal, Stacy Stock, seventh and eighth grade teacher; and Shelley Caron, second grade teacher, will join staff from other winning schools at the NCLC conference in Denver later this fall.

"The objective will be to help schools more fully integrate, share, and support service-learning policies," said Messick. "NCLC, with the 10 schools will create products that inform and encourage other states, districts, and schools to incorporate service-learning

Village approves sprinkler system variance for Miller-Reesman Funeral Home

Karen Mahoney

A change to the Village of Union Grove fire code nearly halted the expansion project of the Miller-Reesman Funeral Home.

Located at 620-15th Avenue, owner Glen Miller was ready to submit his final renovation plans to the state until he learned that changes to the village fire code required adding a sprinkler system to the building, which would increase remodeling costs by $100,000.

While the state of Wisconsin requires sprinkler systems on renovations and new construction projects with a footprint of 5,000 square feet, the Union Grove code requires a system for projects of 3,000 square feet.

After several bids, the lowest cost system would have run Miller $47,720 for the system alone, not including wiring of the alarm, connection with local and monitored alarm systems, water main lateral with private fire hydrant and tee, and overtime and shift premiums.

"It would cost us more than $16,000 to hook up the main line and that doesn't even include surface restoration of the road, landscaping, sidewalks, driveway, grass or the alarm system," said Miller during the Oct. 12 Union Grove Village Board meeting. "This could easily be an extra $100,000 on a $150,000 expansion. The total structure will only be 3,300 square feet and that is well under the state level."

With a 3,000-square-foot requirement, Miller, a lifelong Union Grove resident, argued that the village is driving away the opportunity for new commercial ventures in the community. He cited neighboring communities, such as Paddock Lake and Kansasville that follow state guidelines of 5,000 square feet before requiring sprinkler systems and are more conducive to new businesses.

"This ordinance is creating an uneven playing field for new businesses," he said. "You are standing in the way of new businesses and not behind new businesses and are deterring new construction. We are at the very edge in the 3,000-square-foot requirement.

"Why can a place the like depot remodel a much older building with no firewall, no sprinkler system and I am having all this trouble? We don't live in the building, have no candles, no smoking and are not attached to another building," Miller said.

Plan commissioner and Village President Mike Aimone said that the Depot was remodeled prior to the code taking effect.

"They got in under the wire," he said. "But, I agree, the fire commission needs to know this. They need to be aware of the potential costs to business owners in certain situations like this. This is more than a 40-percent increase in their building costs."

For the Millers, adding the expensive system would put the small family business they have owned since 2007 in financial hardship, forcing them to look in other communities for their funeral home.

Initially, the village plan commission and board thought to present the case to the Fire Commission for their approval before giving the Millers a variance. However, upon learning that costs to submit the plan to the state will be approximately $700 to 800, and waiting another month would mean putting the project on hold, the board decided to use its authority vote on the issue.

In a unanimous vote, the village board approved a variance on the existing legislation to the Miller-Reesman Funeral Home on the sprinkler requirement.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Small School pulls in Big Fundraising dollars

Catholic Central High School students wait tables at a past Topper Dinner and Auction, the annual fundraiser for the Burlington school, which has brought in more than $2.1 million dollars since 1985. (Submitted photo courtesy Catholic Central High School)
— They might be small in numbers, but the Catholic Central community and coordinators of the annual Topper Dinner and Auction have posted some large fundraising totals. Since 1985, the dinner, auction and car raffle have brought in $2.1 million for the community of 150-160 students. To celebrate the silver anniversary of the school’s main fundraiser, event co-chairs, Lloyd and Joan Sippel, promise this year’s event will be bigger and better and will be celebrated at the newly-remodeled Veterans Terrace in Burlington.
“In previous years, we have had the auction on the CCHS campus, which made it a challenge to work around the school’s schedule,” said Joan. “It also required considerable rearranging of the facilities in order to have the auction. Having this at the Veterans Terrace will reduce the set up and tear down time involved.”

The event, slated for Nov. 4, will feature a dinner, dance, auction and car raffle. Although the Sippels have been involved as co-chairs for the past 10 years, they credit its success to the more than 100 people involved. “This includes 18 committee members, gift scouts, computer operators, auction booklet compilers, physical set up people, decorators, student servers, people selling car raffle tickets, beverage servers, and clean-up help,” Joan said.
The dinner auction is a labor of love, said Heidi Reuter Lloyd, publicity chairman.
“The event is done almost exclusively by volunteers,” she said. “Over the past 25 years, there have only been three or four chair couples to run the event.”
With the cost of education rising and the economic climate declining, fundraising is the backbone of all parochial schools.

If you want to go:

The 25th Annual Topper Dinner and Auction
Veterans Terrace
589 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington
5 p.m. – midnight

For more information or to purchase a car raffle ticket, contact Georgean Selburg (262) 763-1518
“We hope to make it possible for many more students to attend Catholic Central High School,” explained Joan. “The dinner auction is just one of a number of fundraising events for the school.”
Members of St. Thomas Aquinas in Waterford, the Sippels, who live in Rochester, are believers in Catholic education. Their seven children attended area Catholic grade schools and Catholic Central High School.
“I taught second grade at St. Thomas for 10 years and was principal at St. Charles in Burlington for seven years,” said Joan, adding, “Lloyd serves on the CCHS development committee and we both are active in the endowment committee, and enjoy co-chairing the dinner and auction with 16 other committee members.”
Last year’s profits topped $100,000 and the Sippels anticipate meeting or exceeding that.
“We have in excess of 300 auction items, with more coming in each day,” said Lloyd.
Despite the amount of work involved, the Sippels and other supporters of Catholic Central feel the efforts will pay back dividends.
“A faith-centered education is a good way to learn and grow, to appreciate the gift of faith,” said Joan. “And we hope to set a good example for others.”

Words of Example make difference

Words, example of 'true gentleman' make impact at Dominican

Work like you don’t need the money,
Love like you’ve never been hurt,
Dance like nobody is watching,
Live like it’s heaven on earth!
— Old Irish saying
Dominican High School alumni director Bill Crowley poses in his office May 20 at the Whitefish Bay school. With him are his daughter, Maureen Peck, Dominican events coordinator and a member of the class of 1983, and Maureen’s daughter Molly, 15, a sophomore at Dominican. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)

WHITEFISH BAY — For Eamonn O’Keefe, former Dominican High School principal, the above quote is how his friend Bill Crowley approaches life.
Reflecting on the 50-year history Crowley has with Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, O’Keefe, coordinator of human formation, St. Clare Center for Ministry Formation, at Cardinal Stritch University, considers the 77-year-old a hero.
“He is a true gentleman, a master teacher, coach and a superb colleague. With wisdom and an Irish sense of fun, Bill has helped thousands of Dominican students, but also hundreds of teaching colleagues and DHS staff to unpack their own God-given gifts,” said O’Keefe. “He epitomizes what a lay Catholic educator is supposed to be – mission driven, committed to fostering an authentic learning community and dedicated to the intellectual, human and spiritual formation of young people. St. Francis of Assisi taught, ‘Preach the Gospel, and when necessary use words.’ This epitomizes Bill, someone who has led and taught by example.”
Far from retiring, Crowley was honored in spring for his 50-year anniversary with Dominican High School. The celebration followed a Mass at St. Monica Parish concelebrated by five priests and attended by alumni, friends and past and current faculty. It also promoted the Bill Crowley Scholarship Fund.
For O’Keefe, the evening was a fitting tribute to the man he calls “the living icon of Dominican High School” and a legendary Catholic educator.
“He has superb people skills and exemplary teaching prowess and educational instincts,” said O’Keefe.
Crowley began teaching biology at Dominican the first year it had four grades.
“The school opened in 1956 with just freshmen and I came in ’59 when there were freshmen through seniors,” he said.
After 38 years teaching biology, coaching boys and girls basketball and serving as the school’s athletic director, Crowley estimates that more than 5,700 students, including his own children, attended his classes.
“I had the good fortune to teach all four of my children. They didn’t mind too much having a dad as a teacher, which surprised me. I think I embarrassed them a few times, but we all got through it. In fact, three of them took advanced biology, too, so I had them twice,” he said. “My oldest daughter, Maureen Peck, works here and her oldest, Molly is a (sophomore) here, so it has been fun.”
One of his fondest memories was 1974, when Dominican won its first state basketball championship during a mediocre season.
“We ended up beating St. Catherine in the finals – they were undefeated at the end of the year and beat us twice during the season,” Crowley said. “But in the end we beat them to take the first state championship. I wasn’t coaching that year, but did do a lot of coaching for the boys in the ‘60s and later on for the girls.”
Crowley quit coaching and teaching in 1997 to become the alumni director, coordinating class reunions, the annual alumni golf outings, and an all-school reunion each year at Irish Fest.
“We have a very involved alumni group,” he said. “They all stay in touch and that says a lot about the school. We meet regularly to plan alumni activities; I try to keep up to date with them – we have reunions every five years on top of the annual alumni golf outing.”
While he enjoys his part-time work as the alumni director, Crowley admitted that he misses the day-to-day interaction with students and the opportunity to immerse his faith in the daily lessons.
“I think the students appreciated that,” he said, “It has always been interwoven into the make-up of the school. This school is much more than just a religion class; the Catholic faith permeates throughout the school.”
Former student Janine (Dati) Baudhuin, class of 1985, member of St. Mary Parish, Mayville, is grateful to Crowley for giving her a solid education and considers her life better for having had him as a teacher.
“Bill enjoyed educating, but more importantly, he genuinely cared about the person he was teaching,” she said. “As a teacher and coach, his infectious personality and positive attitude made the experiences memorable.”
A lifelong Catholic, Crowley belongs to St. Monica Parish next door to Dominican and holds fond memories of attending Dominican grade school.
“I came back home,” he said. “Of course, besides laptops and smartboards, many things have changed since I first began teaching here. For one thing, about 90 percent of the teachers were religious and there were only four full-time lay teachers when I started; things have changed into almost a complete opposite.”
After working with him for 21 years, Sinsinawa Dominican Sr. Peggy Brennan, religious studies teacher at Dominican, admires Crowley’s zest for life, his impeccable memory and devotion to his faith, family and school. She appreciates his sense of humor and willingness to participate in out-of-the-ordinary activities, such as a role in the school’s production of  “Cats” a couple of years ago.
“He is beloved by young and old for his cheerful spirit, great Irish tenor voice and sense of humor,” she said, adding that when the weather cooperates, Crowley bikes from his nearby home to school.
Most associated with Crowley have a humorous story to tell. Art chair Mary Gehr still laughs about an incident years ago, which was embarrassing for the novice teacher.
“The first year here as a very young, less-confident person, Bill and I met at a retreat center for the opening start of the year,” she said. “It was a beautiful warm, sunny day and after lunch we all went back to this big open room with sunlight streaming in and nice carpeting to sit or sprawl on. After a half hour or so, with a soft-spoken person leading the discussion, all of a sudden I heard someone softly snoring. You guessed it. Bill, laying on his back, arms folded across his chest, was in a deep sleep – to my untold horror on having the principal see him this way.”
While O’Keefe holds many humorous memories between the two, he puts the jokes on hold while praising Crowley’s vocation as parent, teacher, coach, mentor and Irish Catholic as true callings from God.
“Bill is a believer, and a joyful one at that,” he said. “Bill taught many of us to believe as well, to believe in ourselves, in team, in the goodness of people, in the healing power of laughter and in a higher power. Bill knows that he is a child of God who, like all of us, has been put here with divine purpose, to be the arms and hands and smiling face of God to others on the path.”

Healing Shrine offers comfort

Healing shrine offers comfort

St. Martin of Tours parishioner, Ronald Belair, prays at the healing shrine inside the Franklin church on Sunday, Oct. 25. Banners with images of four saints known for healing: SS. Monica, Raphael, Jude and Dymphna, frame the shrine. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)
Wilted flowers of fading hues. Rows of burning votive candles and cardboard inscribed notes they will never read.
Handmade wooden cross – the name printed with a black marker.
The setting has become so recognizable. Cultural and public outpouring of grief, an impromptu shrine for a victim who will never see it.
Almost predictably, people flock to the site of tragedy or death, murder or the home of a missing person. Seeking a sense of purpose and to shrug feelings of helplessness, the grieving build makeshift shrines for loved ones.
Forgotten or neglected, the fragments of weathered paper, wax remnants and composting flowers erode into a distant memory of what once was. The tangible becomes the intangible and grief hovers with no purpose, no place to go.
Inside a corner of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Franklin, time stands still as people visit the permanent healing shrine to seek solitude, pray, meditate or savor the silence.
Designed in 2005 by Dennis Horbinski, liturgical design consultant, the shrine is a tangible way to receive healing, or offer it to others, whatever the tragedy, circumstances or illness.
Stemming from the parish’s personal tragedy 20 years ago, the shrine was designed to provide hope and healing, said Mary Worley, parishioner and construction committee member.
“This was built in honor of a young man who was mentally disabled; he was molested by a clergy member and later committed suicide,” she said. “The family did not want reimbursement, but they did want something done as a memorial in his name to offer healing to others. So when St. Martin was built after the merging of Holy Assumption and Sacred Heart of Jesus, we thought it would be a good time to create the shrine.”
The idea was presented to former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan who not only embraced it, but also presented the parish with $20,000 toward the shrine.
Worley and Horbinski asked parishioners for input into the design, created entirely by local artists.
“We wanted them (parishioners) to know what we were thinking and wanted to know what they were thinking when we worked on this,” said Horbinski. “We talked about all the saints that are known for the healing and their reputation, the history of them, even rumors of healing. We ended up with 20 to consider, which was too many so we narrowed them down to a few and those were the saints incorporated into the design.”
Once the saints were chosen, Horbinski wanted to include artistic banners of four of the saints, but in slightly different poses rather than in their traditional images.
“We wanted them to be more in keeping with the atmosphere of the church,” he said. “Each saint you see was for a specific reason such as cancer, mental illness, health care, desperate issues, alcohol, blindness, etc. and paired together.”
The tapestries include St. Monica, St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Jude and St. Dymphna, and Horbinski utilized the skills of Bay View area artists, such as Heidi Minkel, to create the designs.
“I had the idea to paint these saints on cloth to give a very soft and soothing feeling,” Horbinski said. “Heidi wasn’t sure that she could do it, and I told her that I knew she could. She did it and it turned out very well.”
The next step was to ask parishioners to bring in meaningful items that offered healing, comfort or soothing memories. Some brought in canes, Bibles, poetry, rosaries, medals and even a couple of golf balls. Many of these sacramentals and remembrances were incorporated into the plaster along the sides of the tablet.
“The golf balls were included because there was a certain family from the parish whose brother-in-law was on his death bed,” said Horbinski. “He held onto these golf balls, rolled them in his hands – they soothed him and the family prayed together. We put things like this on the tablet as remembrances.”
Including a perpetual flame or light into the design stumped Horbinski until a meeting with Archbishop Dolan brought the plan together.
“The eternal light for healing came out of a meeting with then pastor, Sacred Heart Fr. Tony Russo, now retired,” he explained. “We were having a conversation with the archbishop about how to include the flame into the design and he came up with using the hands of Jesus – because Jesus is the great healer.”
Artists from Milwaukee-based Wanner Sculpture studios cast the hands that have spikes in them as Jesus endured in his crucifixion. A perpetual candle in a glass holds the flame.
Worley wishes the shrine were more utilized, but she is encouraged by the names written in the book, offering remembrances or asking for prayer.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of names in the prayer book,” she said. “And we have a good turnout when we have healing prayer services twice a year.”
Parish secretary Diane Winkowski feels a sense of peace and healing when she is near the shrine.
“It is good for anyone going through grief or just a tough time,” she said.
Worley agreed, and admitted she finds the shrine very consoling.
“In addition to the draperies with the images of the saints known for healing, we also have prayer cards, medals and then the sculpted hands of Jesus,” she said. “Just seeing his hands holding the eternal flame is very comforting. I always make it a point to attend the healing services.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One Great Day

Not only did the sun shine for a bit on this chilly Tuesday, but even better than that, is the culmination of five years of anxious anticipation. Finally, the Night Castle CD by Trans Siberian Orchestra has made its debut. Since we downloaded the full album today, Blaise and I have been playing it non-stop. It's hard to believe that this group can beat Wizards of Winter and the other holiday tunes, but they have. The new songs are exquisite and just as I hoped, my favorite, Carmina Burana is on the second CD and sounds hauntingly beautiful.

This music makes me happy. No matter what time of year I listen to their music, it takes me from any sadness into incredible joy. TSO rocks and I can't wait to see them in Chicago this year--it will be our 9th time seeing them and each year just gets better!

Lyrics from Father, Son and Holy Ghost

Oh, our world how it's changed
Nothings the same, I don't think it could ever be

Life, life rearranged
Body insane, what the hell do you want from me

With every second surrounding you
You just can't think when you're scared
And is the end really approaching you
Why can't we run away to another time
Another place where your soul is safe

Complications in your life
They say only the strong survive
Revolution coast to coast
Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Watch, watch the deranged
It rattles my brain, I just cannot comprehend

Things, things that I see on my TV
When will all this madness end

When every waking hour is engulfing you
Its just so hard to think when you're scared
And is the end really approaching you
Why can't we fly away to another time
Another place where your soul is safe

Complications in your life
They say only the strong survive
Revolution coast to coast
Father, Son, Holy Ghost

With every second surrounding you
Its just so hard to think when you're scared
And is the end really approaching you
Why can't we dream away to another time
Another place where your soul is safe

Complications in your life
They say only the strong survive
Revolution coast to coast
Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Monday, October 26, 2009

Go Bears

Just made these pajama pants the other day for Blaise. They were pretty easy to make  and look cool on him. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Miracle Prayer

Lord Jesus, I come before Thee, just as I am, I am sorry for my sins, I repent of my sins, please forgive me. In Thy Name, I forgive all others for what they have done against me. I renounce Satan, the evil spirits and all their works. I give Thee my entire self, Lord Jesus, I accept Thee as my Lord God and Savior. Heal me, change me, strengthen me in body, soul, and spirit.
Come Lord Jesus, cover me with Thy Precious Blood, and fill me with Thy Holy Spirit, I love Thee Lord Jesus, I praise Thee Lord Jesus, I thank Thee Jesus, I shall follow Thee every day of my life. Amen.
Mary, My Mother, Queen of Peace, all the Angels and Saints, please help me. Amen.

Say this prayer faithfully, no matter how you feel. When you come to the point where you sincerely mean each word with all your heart, Jesus will change your whole life in a very special way. You will see.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What is it with the children we raised?

Since my children were very young, I was available to dry their tears, listen to their problems, bail them out of jams, confront their teachers,  and provide financial assistance when possible.

Why is it, now that they are adults that their listening skills have not extended to me?

Why is it when I share my concerns, worries, and fears with my adult offspring, I receive cliched responses such as,
"I try to live without drama,"
or "I don't want to get involved."

Yet when they call me with their ongoing issues, I am available to offer a shoulder, a bit of advice, or a kind word, or the proverbial cash outlay. I often wonder if any compassion will ever be extended towards me, or will I always be the cause of their problems or misguided decisions--the scapegoat?

I loved each of my five children to the best of my ability and continue to do so--but, just once, I would like a simple thanks and maybe a compassionate word or two.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Calling a Minga

Calling a minga

Brothers, Patrick Parks, left, and Jim Parks Jr., right, pose with Chicaiza, known as “El Maestro” since she heads the WBC construction crew, during a house-building minga in Quito, Ecuador in February. (Submitted photo courtesy Patricia Parks)
Imagine trying to build a home yourself. The project moves along as time permits among jobs, children, health issues and other life interruptions. Financing is also a factor as each wall or window is based on the foundation of resources available to pay for it.  For anyone who has remodeled or built a home from the ground up, the frustration mounts as deadlines pass and with it, concerns that the job will remain unfinished. In Quito, Ecuador, families face the realities of extreme poverty coupled with desires for safe housing and clean living. Imagine the citizens trying to build their homes while living day and night around trash, drinking contaminated water, and only a meager income to support their families, most of which comes from their young sons hawking newspapers or shining shoes. They don’t know where to go for help.
Fortunately, for them, they have 79-year-old Jesuit Fr. John Halligan, from South Bronx, N.Y., who has spent 45 years serving the thousands of poor from the Quito Working Boys Center.
Mingas benefit community
With a year-round volunteer staff and ongoing missionary workers, they often form a “minga.” A minga is a gathering of citizens who complete tasks to benefit the community. Mingas have existed in Ecuador since long before the Inca Empire. Everyone fulfills his or her obligation to the community by working for the common good. For example, mingas are called on to repair or maintain roads, water systems and forests, promote social and recreational programs, and, in many cases, to finish a home.
During a minga, men, women and children come to the village from miles around to help finish homes, carry rocks, transport clean water and build schools. Awestruck volunteers are amazed that the residents ask for nothing in return – often bringing food for everyone.
Together, they accomplish in a few hours or days what it would normally take weeks or years to finish.
For James and Patricia Parks, reaching out to help others includes their seven children Michael, 47, Jim Jr., 46, Patricia, 44, Patrick, 42, Peter, 39, Halligan, 35, and Tom, 33, and three adopted children, Martha, 54, Fabiola, 34, and Queta, 30, all from Ecuador.
“I have been involved with Working Boys Center since my sister, Sr. Miguel Conway BVM, went to work with Fr. Halligan in 1967,” said Patricia. “I founded Family Unity International to represent this cause in the United States.”
Jim Parks Sr., does brick work during a 2007 housebuilding minga, in Quito, Ecuador. Parks and his wife, Patricia, oversee Family Unity International, an all-volunteer organization that coordinates Working Boys Center activities in the United States. (Submitted photo courtesy Patricia Parks)
Poverty ‘moral’ not 'economic problem'

Established in 1964, the Working Boys Center was formed for the young shoeshine boys, some as young as 6, and quickly changed to include entire families. Fr. Halligan’s mission is to eliminate poverty rather than serve as a temporary fix for hunger or misery.
The entire family participates in the program because the family is the basic unit of society and the principal means by which values are transmitted from one generation to the next, explained Patricia.
“Membership in the Working Boys Center is contingent upon taking personal responsibility for one’s condition and making a commitment to change attitudes and behaviors that work against success,” she said. “Poverty is a moral problem rather than an economic one and it is conquered only by development of a new value system. WBC families are given the education and support they need to develop a new and healthy way of life. In exchange for their commitment to embrace these new personal traits, center families receive education, meals, medical care and a general support system.”
Family United International is all-volunteer
Each of the Parks children worked as volunteers in Quito for a year or two and all are involved in fundraising events. For Jim and Patricia, maintaining the all-volunteer organization, Family Unity International, listed in the Official Catholic Directory under the auspices of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, is a monumental task.
“The FUI office is located in the den of my home,” said Patricia, member of St. Mary Visitation, Elm Grove. “I coordinate WBC activities in the states and communicate daily with the folks in Ecuador. My husband and grown children now assist in the day to day effort of banking and maintaining all records for FUI/WBC.”
Stamping out poverty, “one family at a time,” is the mission of WBC and FUI, and with improved telecommunications and technology, the Parks family is influencing thousands through their volunteer efforts and in reaching out to potential donors.
Each Parks family member has a specific calling; for Jim Jr, a member of St. Mary Visitation Parish, it is in handling the minga program.
Fr. DeVries ‘mastermind’ of minga program
“This was a program that Fr. Tom DeVries, (former pastor) of Lumen Christi masterminded as something that would be hands on and interactive for parishioners and give them a tangible, meaningful experience,” said Jim. “My mom asked me to get involved because I am bilingual and in construction and she thought that might help.”
Serving as the language liaison between crews, Jim helped one of the center families build a house with a minga. Until the crew from the states arrived to help, the residents and other volunteers would spend at least a year to build a three-bedroom 1,200 square foot house.

For more information or to volunteer:

Call Family Unity International, Patricia Parks (262) 797-8988
or e-mail her This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Visit the Working Boys Center Web site.
“It takes a lot of time to get the foundation and walls up,” he said. “But with the help of minga volunteers, the transformation is significant and the people are overwhelmed when we can get done in a week what takes them six months to do.”
Participating each February or March, Jim has traveled to Quito four times with a crew of seven-11 volunteers, and each time it has been reaffirming to him of the many blessings in his life.
“I think, why was I born in Milwaukee, rather than Quito and think about how it is such a random event. I see people down there and how they appreciate how little they have, and it really puts things into perspective when things don’t go right here,” he said. “I have learned to recognize that what I worry about isn’t really that important. At the end of a long day, I get much more out than I put in and my personal growth far exceeds the investment of time.”
Adopted daughter now a volunteer

Spiritual Journey to Quito, Feb 3-9

Family United International is coordinating a Spiritual Journey to Quito, Ecuador, Feb. 3 to 9, 2010.

The trip offers the natural beauty of the Andes mountains and the quaint small Ecuadoran towns and markets, but also an opportunity to see how the poor live and how they are helped through the Working Boys Center. Fully escorted by Jesuit Fr. John Halligan and Sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary Miguel Conway with accommodations and daily breakfast at a modern downtown hotel, the total cost is about $1,300. For more information, call Patricia Parks (262) 797-8988, e-mail her This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit the Web site.
A Spanish teacher at Divine Savior Holy Angels, Martha was adopted from Ecuador at 14. She travels a couple of times a year to her homeland to volunteer at the Working Boys Center and to visit her 87-year-old biological mother. Next June she will lead a group of 10 students from DSHA to volunteer at the center and participate in mingas on Sundays.
“The experience strengthens my faith and we learned it all from our parents,” she said. “All 10 of us kids believe in the cause of helping others and it doesn’t matter how busy we are – we are here to help others.”
When youngest son Tom traveled to Ecuador, he not only spent what he described as the best two years of his life working with the families, he got back much more than he ever expected. He fell in love and met his wife Maria while working at the WBC.
“I have been married to her for eight years, and we have two children now,” he said. “We go back every year to visit my wife’s family – I have fond memories of my time at the Working Boys Center and I was happy to give back.”
Fr. Halligan’s mission transforms lives
For Patricia, the work reflects the holiness of Fr. Halligan’s mission to transform lives and break the cycle of poverty that has enslaved people for generations. While many people in their 70s are ready to slow down, she and Jim are energized by the selfless volunteers who reach out daily to the families in Quito.
“It strengthens my faith to see Fr. Halligan, my sister and all of the other dedicated workers in Quito living lives of service to others in an attempt to follow the Gospel message,” said Patricia. “It also strengthens my faith to see the poor people in Quito working so hard to improve their lives and to see my own kids as well as the other young college grads we have each year in Quito as volunteers who care enough to give a couple years of their young lives in service to others.”
To date, the Working Boys Center has graduated a staggering 5,000 families from its formation program and out of the cycle of poverty. Through daily meals, medical and dental services, Mass, personal hygiene training, day care, school, job placement and training, and learning about savings and budgeting, the center has succeeded where government handouts have failed. They have instilled faith-based self-sufficiency and the Parks family is proud of Fr. Halligan and Sr. Conway’s efforts.
“The Parks family involvement in this work has enriched our lives and made all of us better people who are more aware of the problems poor people face in their struggle to live a better life,” said Patricia. “It makes us grateful to God for all of our blessings.”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Surgery on Scooby Doo

It began with a ripped tail and sad eyes from our 6 year old granddaughter, Linzy. "Grandma, can you fix Scooby's tail, I have no IDEA how it got torn." Of course she drags the doggy around by its tail and the injury was bound to occur at some point. After we repaired the poor dog's tail, I got the bright idea to make him a sleeping bag, which escalated to a backpack. Anyway, we had fun making the backpack, dinner, playing games, American Gladiator wrestling,  dolls and making super duper colossal ice cream sundaes with lots of sprinkles on it. Eight hours later, I can barely move-but we had a ball.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Latest Quilt

Finished this one today. The design was from my Irish Quilting Magazine--I think it will look pretty good on our living room couch, what do you think?

Friday, October 9, 2009

A kite? Are they serious?

So, yesterday a long box arrived for Blaise via UPS. Inside was a kite. Yeah, a kite. And not your ordinary kite, this one was emblazoned with the upcoming Sentry Top Sales Trip "Philadelphia 2009" on the front. On so many levels, this was insulting. Since his first neck surgery, he was treated shabbily by his first manager. And before his second surgery, he went on disability and is now permanently disabled and unable to work.  At the very least, the company does know that Blaise couldn't fly a kite if he tried, as he is unable to look up unless he is laying on the ground.

Since his disability began, there has been no concern, no follow up by managers, and no invitation to participate in voting or opinion polls like the other employees. However, on occasion, he receives certain teasers to remind him that others are succeeding and he is left behind. Most of the time, the items received are quickly tossed in the trash, but this one--well, this one deserved a bit more.

Since a picture is worth a 1000 words, this one has to be worth a few more. What do you think?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

St. John's Bible Comes to Blessed Savior

Saint John’s Bible comes to Blessed Savior

Eleven years ago, Donald Jackson, calligrapher to Queen Elizabeth, offered to make the Word of God live on the page. His offer to officials at Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., has become the first handwritten version of the Bible commissioned by the Benedictine monastery in 500 years.

The Saint John’s Bible, considered by Jackson to be his Sistine Chapel, is created in the same manner as that of early scribes with every letter and illustration meticulously drawn.

Rusty and Sharon Tym, members of Blessed Savior Parish, Milwaukee, hold a copy of The Saint John’s Bible during a visit to St. John’s University in Collegeville. Intrigued with the project, the Tyms have coordinated the effort to bring the Bible to their parish this weekend. (Submitted photo courtesy Rusty and Sharon Tym)
The $4 million, seven-volume project is nearly completed and Blessed Savior Parish will be the temporary recipient of the volume Gospels and Acts, a massive 23-pound book measuring 25 by 16.5 inches.

Thanks to parishioners Rusty and Sharon Tym, who met director of public programs and education Tim Ternes while visiting the abbey and university last fall, the volume will be on display and incorporated into Blessed Savior’s weekend Masses the weekend of Oct. 10 and 11.

“We met Tim Ternes and learned about their agenda, called the Pilgrimage of the Book,” Tym said. “It is designed to get the book displayed in as many venues as possible. This program allows those who request a copy of the book to actually receive it at no cost other than shipping and insurance.”

The completed 1,150-page Bible will include: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Psalms, Prophets, Wisdom Books, Gospels and Acts, Letters and Revelation. Upon completion, it will reside in sealed glass cases in its own building at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library on the St. John’s campus.

“Six volumes are completed,” Tym said. “The remaining volume, Letters of Saint Paul, is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.”

Jackson and his team of artists in Monmouth, Wales, use goose or swan quills with ancient inks prepared using the yolks of eggs from free-range chickens near Jackson’s scriptorium as a binder. The words are written on large sheets of prepared vellum, or calfskin, which are then illuminated or brought to light with gold, silver or platinum to form the artwork.

According to Ternes, the project is a work of art and spirituality for the new millennium.
If you want to go:
Oct. 10-11

Blessed Savior Parish
8545 W. Villard Ave.
(414) 464-5033

Mass times
Saturday: 4 p.m.
Sundays: 8 and 10 a.m.

For more information on the
Saint John Bible Project:

“Although this project is done in a 12th century way, it is very modern,” he said, adding, “And it is designed to last 4,000 years” Gospels and Acts has more than 25 illuminations, including full-page opening illuminations for each of the four Gospels. Some of the prominent illuminations include the Genealogy of Jesus, the Birth of Christ, the Raising of Lazarus, the Crucifixion, Christ Our Light, the Last Supper, the Road to Emmaus and Pentecost.

The volume that Blessed Savior will receive is not the original, but the life-size copy. A smaller, standard book size copy can be purchased for personal use.

While there is a waiting list for parishes, museums and organizations eager to be part of the pilgrimage, Tym was stunned that the volume was available on the date they requested.

“We are only one of a few selected locations for presentations during liturgy,” he said. “We will be witness to the 21st Century illuminated Bible using the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The project reinforces the tradition of illuminated manuscripts in the service of both biblical Scripture and book art.”

To secure use of the volume, Blessed Savior needed to guarantee the proper safe storage in its facility, the funds to pay the cost of shipping and $30,000 worth of insurance coverage, as well as several other conditions.

“We used funding derived from the budget substantiated through dues paid by the members of the Young At Heart organization in our parish with additional help, if needed from the parish,” said Tym. “Without the full endorsement and enthusiasm of our pastor, Rev. Greg Chycinski, this project would not have been able to reach fruition.”

The Saint John’s Bible project was commissioned to Jackson to celebrate the new millennium and the 150th anniversary of the monks’ arrival. Saint John’s Abbey is one of the largest Benedictine monasteries in the world with about 200 monks, and Saint John’s University, founded by the abbey in 1857.

The Benedictines, founded in Italy by St. Benedict in 530, have a long custom of manuscript sharing and preservation. The first words were written on Ash Wednesday 2000, and from the moment he learned of the project, Tym was captivated.

“I was eager to see and understand more,” he said. “That’s why my wife, Sharon, and I accepted an invitation from the director to go to Saint John’s Abbey and University to see the original manuscripts.”

The couple purchased the book, “Illuminating the Word-The Making of the Saint John’s Bible,” by Christopher Calderhead, Liturgical Press, to gain a deeper appreciating of the enormity of energy and creativity involved in the project.

Viewing the Saint John’s Bible has intensified the couple’s faith.

“This was a mammoth effort required to fulfill the creation of this work of art, the beauty and conception it took to finish, and the cooperation between the institution and artists,” said Tym. “It brings into the 21st century a new way of looking at and interpreting the marvelous meaning of God’s Word.”

In the opening procession, the Gospels and Acts volume will be carried to the altar and placed in a specially fitted ambo for its proclamation at each Mass.

Following each liturgy, Rusty Tym will present a short lecture on the history of the Saint John’s Bible.

Jerusalem Jones Shares Zeal for Catholicism

‘Jerusalem Jones’ shares zeal for Catholicism

RACINE — Stephen Ray’s attire and his zeal for adventure have earned him the nickname “Jerusalem Jones.” Unlike that other Jones, i.e., Indiana, Steve’s stories about his adventures are stories about his faith journey.
Raised a Baptist, Stephen Ray turned to the Catholic Church after hearing a talk in 1993 by Frank Schaefer, an Eastern Orthodox convert. Soon after, he and his wife of 33 years, Janet, entered the Catholic Church. During a Sept. 26 presentation at St. Rita Church, Racine, Ray shared his faith journey. (Catholic Herald photo by Karen Mahoney)

For nearly two hours on Sept. 26, the Catholic author, filmmaker and biblical tour guide told ice-breaking funny stories and provided gentle prodding to a crowd in the St. Rita School gymnasium. His lecture, “Jesus prefigured in the Old Testament,” offered a riveting view of Catholic ancestry and origins of faith, and the life of Paul.

“Kids don’t have heroes today,” he said. “We grew up with heroes and people gave their lives for beauty, justice and liberty. No heroes today – just people famous for their celebrity status, such as rock stars and sports stars; most of them are miserable and are bad examples to our youth.”

Steve challenged his audience, “Other than Jesus, who was a better priest than Paul?” Paul is a true hero, he said, and despite his small 5-foot stature was unafraid to evangelize and inspire.

Sponsored by the Racine Knights of Columbus Council 697 and Ignatius Press, Ray’s talk, the second of the day in Racine, offered a glimpse into his conversion to the Catholic faith and his passion to evangelize and bring cradle Catholics back to the church.

‘Church shopper’ left empty-handed

Like many married couples, he and Janet, his wife of 33 years, church shopped to find a spiritual home to raise their four children, Cindy, Jesse, Charlotte and Emily.
For more information on
Stephen Ray

One of five children, Steve was raised Baptist and Janet a Presbyterian. Christianity was important to them, but they did not feel comfortable in any of the faith communities they visited. After their unsuccessful attempts to find a church, Steve lived as a generic Christian, “to love Jesus Christ, to study the Bible, to raise my family, teach them at home and run my business.”

While Steve was content, Janet longed to share in the worship experience with other like-minded Christians. After reading “Evangelical is Not Enough,” by Thomas Howard, her longings were put into words.

“While we weren’t originally seeing anything to attract us to the Catholic Church, it was the problems in the Protestant Church that caused us such turmoil in our lives,” said Steve.

Catholic church was a constant

They attended a talk by Frank Schaeffer in 1993 on his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy. A light went on and the couple learned that the origin of the early church was Catholic not Protestant.

“I learned that the Catholic Church was constant from the beginning,” said Steve, in an interview with your Catholic Herald. “There was none of the fracturing or splintering that we see in the Protestant faiths – it was here all along, instituted by Jesus.”

Although both realized that deep down they were Catholic, neither had been to Mass nor thought of going to Mass until another couple invited them. When they heard the proclamation of the Gospel during the Mass, both sobbed the entire time. Despite that, Janet left angry.

“She was just trembling and furious,” Steve admitted. “I asked her why, when we both had cried during the whole thing; I just didn’t understand. She told me that she was angry that the Protestant pastors lied to us and that she was angry with the Catholics because they didn’t have the guts to tell us the truth.”

For Steve, who long viewed the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon and the pope as the anti-Christ, this unexpected journey made sense.

“It was like a ship coming into port when we went to Mass for the first time,” he admitted. “All the loose ends were tied together and I knew that we were home.”

While Steve and Janet were ecstatic about their journey, the price of the conversion was steep and often lonely. They were rejected by family and lost many friends.

“It was hard, but I have an awesome wife and great kids and we got through it,” he said. “But it was tough; our family didn’t talk to us for a whole year. But you have to understand, our whole lives we were Protestant and all that we did surrounded that. We broke camp and moved and no one could understand how in the world we could do this. I could understand it, though, because years before, my best friend became Catholic and I couldn’t believe it. I said he was too smart to be Catholic and that he was acting stupid – that is how drastic this change was for us.”

Family living in ‘demilitarized zone’

Most of his friends have returned and the family members have converted to Catholicism, but Steve felt as if he were living in a demilitarized zone and being ambushed until they formally became Catholic.

“We weren’t Protestant anymore and not yet Catholic and we were getting hits from all sides,” he said. “Then we climbed the wall and realized which side was the right one.”

The author of seven books, Steve admitted that he knew nothing about the publishing world and was a most unlikely candidate for becoming a writer. His first book was the result of a letter written to his father about the reasons for his conversion to Catholicism.

“I began the letter with ‘Dear Dad and Mom, You have been the best parents …’ and continued from there. The book became longer and it evolved into ‘Crossing the Tiber’ a compilation of three booklets which included the letter to my parents, a study on the Eucharist and a study on baptism,” he explained. “It was never going to be a book; in fact, after having my daughter Cindy, who was just 16 at the time, proofread my letter to Grandpa that she cried and said she and Jesse would join the Catholic Church. So I decided to see if I could get it published and maybe it would help others.”

Steve’s second book, “Upon this Rock” was a collection of quotes on the primacy of Peter. The third book, “St. John’s Gospel: A Bible Study and Commentary,” was the result of a Bible study that Steve was to present, but when he was unable to find any Catholic material, he wrote his own.

One of the most profound experiences in Steve’s life occurred while he was sleeping. He remembered bolting out of bed at 2 a.m., and shaking Janet until she awoke.

“I said, ‘We have to do a 10-part video series on the history of salvation in the Catholic faith,’ and she said, ‘You are crazy, now go back to sleep – we can’t take good pictures, so how on earth are we going to do this,’” explained Steve.

Goal is to inspire, enthuse others

Unable to sleep, Ray stayed up all night typing the outline for the project, visited Ignatius Press and six weeks later, he was videotaping. While he continues to work on his “The Footprints of God” series and other projects, Steve’s message remains constant.

“I want people to know and understand and love Jesus and the church; be faithful, courageous, bold and proud,” he said. “I want them to have a conversion and for those who are thinking of leaving to come back and to be proud to be here. My main goal is to inspire and enthuse Catholics to be better.”

When the world seems to hold anti-Catholic sentiment, Steve reminds others that in church history, there was never a golden age.

“The church is not perfect; we have both sheep and goats, weeds and wheat and Jesus had two crummy bishops, so we are not doing all that bad today,” he said. “Yeah, we had a sex scandal and we are dealing with it, but Protestant churches have more than twice the abuses in their churches, and the public schools are worse than that. But we don’t hear about it because the media focuses their attention on the Catholics.”

The church has never pretended to be perfect, according to Steve, who joked, “even if it was, when I joined it became not perfect.”

“With (Bill) Clinton’s mistakes, it doesn’t diminish the dignity of the presidency and you don’t leave the United States because of it,” he said. “We don’t leave the church because human beings are there that make mistakes. That doesn’t invalidate the papacy; the Catholic Church is a wonderful institution.”

For Acolyte Minister, going to Mass was not enough

For acolyte ministry coordinator, going to Mass was not enough

She’s a gentle, slightly shy woman, a transplant from Chicago to Kenosha nearly four years ago; she and her husband Luis wanted a safe, friendly place to raise their kids. In a soft voice, she explained, she does very little compared to others in her parish, St. Anne in Pleasant Prairie.
(Submitted photo courtesy Frances Otero-Mercado)
But she is championing the faith in her three children, Angel, 18, Nicholas, 11, and Nathan, 7, and, above all else, she wants to set a good, faith-filled example to her children on what it means to be a practicing Catholic.

When Frances Otero-Mercado is not caring for her children, or working full time as a legal assistant for Madrigrano, Aiello, and Santarelli Law Firm, the 37-year old makes time to serve her parish as the coordinator of the acolyte ministry.

Otero-Mercado, a lifetime Catholic, is ready to serve, and considers it an honor and a privilege to live her faith in acolyte ministry.

“I help prepare for Mass on Saturday and Sunday and assist Fr. Donald Thimm with preparing the altar by getting the bread and wine ready. I help prepare the church with the Book of Prayers, bulletins, general intercessions, assisting with baptisms, and doing the Communion dishes. I light the candles and walk with Father in the procession into church,” she said. “After Mass, I pick up afterward.  My work is similar to sacristan work, but a little more since I also light the candles and prepare the tables.”

As coordinator of the 20 volunteers in the acolyte ministry, Otero-Mercado hosts meetings, writes correspondence, and trains acolytes.

“It is all very minor stuff and not very entailed,” she said. “But, everyone in this ministry does what I do during Mass and we all take turns.”

In addition to the acolyte ministry, Otero-Mercado serves as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and is grateful for any opportunity to be near the altar and close to Jesus.
People of Faith

: Frances Otero-Mercado
Age: 37
Occupation: Legal assistant
Parish: St. Anne, Pleasant Prairie
Book recently read: “Harry Potter”
Favorite movie: “Ghost”
Favorite quotation: “There is something out there that is bigger than me, and that is God.”

“When I am up there on the altar during holy Communion or preparing the altar, I feel as if I am closer to God at that time,” she said. “When I serve as an acolyte, I am busy through most of the Mass helping Father. It is a wonderful experience and I always feel so humbled by it.”

In getting to know Otero-Mercado, her husband and their children, Fr. Thimm appreciates the dedication within the family and has watched the couple set a good example for their children.

“Frances and Luis attend church regularly and are clearly invested with their children,” said Fr. Thimm. “In addition to serving as a Communion minister, she and her family have been involved as greeters and ushers and in our hospitality after her Mass ministry. She is very conscientious and responsible.”

St. Anne Parish boasts a large number of volunteers serving in various ministries and outreach. That welcoming spirit drew Otero-Mercado and Luis to join the parish.

“When we belonged to our other church in Chicago, we weren’t involved in anything and never really felt welcomed,” she said. “Here, everyone participates and it’s wonderful and makes you want to reach out to others to make them feel welcome, too.”

Otero-Mercado believes in parish stewardship, but she realizes that it isn’t just financial, and she hopes that by example, her children will love the opportunity to serve others.

“It’s important to give back, whether it is time, prayer or finances, but it’s up to the person what they can give,” she admitted. “My 7-year-old already loves to help out. He would stick by me all day if he could, but I have to make him go back to his seat at Mass because if he didn’t, he would be right there throughout the whole Mass.”

In a couple of years, Nathan will be old enough to assist as an altar server, but for now he is excited when called upon to bring the offering baskets to the altar on occasion.

“I think the kids are proud when they see me help out,” said Otero-Mercado, adding, “For me, I just needed to do more. Just going to church each week was not enough – serving as an acolyte minister is an experience that continues to deepen my faith. I truly am enjoying serving God and the community that makes St. Anne.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My 'darling' dog

This is truly the face only a mother can love and three baths later, he is white again. Zachary decided to dig for chipmunks in the yard--he dug quite a large hole next to the basketball hoop.....never did find the varmints.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Warrior of Light does not always have faith.

There are moments when he believes in absolutely nothing. And he asks his heart: “Is all this effort really worth it?”

But his heart remains silent. And the Warrior has to decide for himself.

He looks for an example and remembers that Jesus went through something similar in order to inhabit fully the human condition.

“Take away this cup from me,” said Jesus. He too lost heart and courage, but he did not stop.

The Warrior of the Light continues despite his lack of faith. He goes forward, and in the end, faith returns.

--Paulo Coelho

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Village water rates could increase to help pay for new well equipment, building

home : union grove : union grove
October 04, 2009

10/3/2009 4:02:00 PM 
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Village water rates could increase to help pay for new well equipment, building

Karen Mahoney

Federal stimulus dollars have been allocated to the Village of Union Grove to fund new construction for an ion exchange system and building at well number three.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the program includes a 50 percent grant and a 50 percent low-interest subsidized loan.

"The estimated $1.2 million construction costs include a 2.67 percent loan over the next 20 years," said John Andres, CPA for Baker Tilly, Virchow Krause, LLP Energy & Utilities.

Since the drinking water state revolving fund program began in 1997, the EPA has awarded more than $8 billion in grants, which states have turned into $15 billion of financial assistance to fund drinking water projects. The revolving nature of the program ensures drinking water projects will be funded for generations to come.

As beneficiaries of President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the village must comply with stringent transparency and accountability. To that end, Andres stated that a new audit, called the single audit would take effect.

"It is a compliance audit to see if you are meeting with all the rules and regulations of the federal government, such as contractors paying a fair wage and correct quarterly reports in 14 different areas to see if you comply," he said.

"Another audit report goes to the Wisconsin Safe Drinking Water Association and the EPA. We will be working with the board to make sure you know up front the rules and requirements to comply so there are no questions later on," he added.

In addition to the audit, which will most likely be completed in April 2011, a rate adjustment will also take place.

"No one wants a rate adjustment, but with a project like this going forth, we have to make sure to handle the other 50 percent loan program," said Andres, adding, "It has been four and a half years since the rates changed."

The adjustments won't happen overnight, Andres said. After Baker Tilly completes a study on the rate increase, it will be filed with the state and take approximately six months for approval. A public hearing would precede the rate hike.

Canopy Hills Back on Track

home : union grove : union grove
October 04, 2009

10/2/2009 3:35:00 PM 
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Canopy Hills back on track

Karen Mahoney

Despite the economic downturn and sluggish home development market, the Village of Union Grove voted to reaffirm the Preliminary Plat and the Conceptual Plan for Development of the Canopy Hill Subdivision Monday night.

The board met in a combined meeting with the Community Development Authority and the Union Grove Plan Commission.

With a few tweaks in the original project, Ray Leffler, project developer explained that the 157-acre development would be better served by replacing a couple of twin-condominiums with an assisted living center south of St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic church and west of the future site of the new Union Grove/Yorkville fire station.

Leffler is working with three assisted living companies that would provide housing for a variety of senior needs, such as ambulatory, Alzheimer's and nursing home care. The complex would also include a senior recreation area and could work in conjunction with St. Robert's church. Eliminating the need for bank financing is another benefit to incorporating the senior living community, as each of the three companies are financed by stockholders and would be ready to build immediately in this area.

"We are also thinking of moving some of the Twindominiums on the Southwest side back toward the wooded area," Leffler said. "This will give spectacular back yards to the homes there and will be a better setup for the seniors as well."

Upscale brick, aesthetically pleasing apartments would be included in the southeast corner, which would add immediate increment generated to the development area, and would be more appealing to lenders who are hesitant to take on large development areas.

"We would need to do a market study to justify rents, but it would generate an increment of $10 million a lot quicker than a housing generated increment," said Leffler. "So with these three components, it is worth looking into for this area."

An estimated 21 single-family half-acre lots coupled with approximately 100 apartment units and assisted living would be beneficial to the village that is lacking in senior living and new apartment units.

"The homes would list in the upper $200s or lower $300s," said Leffler. "While this is a change from the original concept, it isn't feasible now to do a single family front end loaded concept. We can't sell lots of $140,000 each to break even. We need to reconfigure this somehow to gain more density increment here."

Once the completed plat receives final approval, the Department of Natural Resources-approved culvert and road crossing will be placed immediately said Leffler.

"We need both of those in right away to get the DNR out of the way," he said. "Getting those two crossings approved was very important."