Friday, January 22, 2010

Dentist Turned Songwriter shares pro-life message

“Daddy, can we pray for everyone in the world?”

A tall order, but one that caused Eric Smyth to push back from the dinner table, look at his three young daughters and realize that they felt an intimacy with God for which he was searching.

“I wondered how we could pray for everyone in the world; I wanted to be a little more specific,” said Smyth, 49, of Grayslake, Ill. “But that’s how we started and it really changed my life.”

Smyth enjoyed a successful 11-year dental career, but burned out from his six-day-a-week schedule, he sold his thriving practice to pursue his dream of songwriting.
Jan. 22, 2010 is the 37th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Since that court decision, more than 50 million lives have been ended through abortion.

Although he was baptized Catholic, his family did not practice any formal religion. Despite that, he attended Loyola University on what he calls a “lark,” occasionally attended Mass and listened to the homilies.

“Those worked on me a little,” he admitted. “I went to some reach out sessions, but truthfully, after I got busy with my practice, I forgot about it.”
Along the way, he began writing songs on the side, and one afternoon in 2008, came home from work, and told his wife Rosie that he was selling his practice to write songs.

“She said I was crazy, but maybe was crazy for the right reasons,” he said. “I went to Nashville and learned how to write songs. In 2002, I lost my father. I was the only one in the room when he died. It was so moving and it led me to write a song. I realized that I never wanted to make money writing hokey little songs, so I prayed right then that I would write good songs. I began to believe more – I always knew there was a God, but I became committed to church and began leading the family to church.”

After attending RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) classes, he entered the church in 2006, and joined his wife’s church, St. Paul Parish, Grayslake.

Pondering his daughter’s request to pray for everyone in the world, he wrote the words to a song titled “Prayers Raining Down.” For the first time in his life, Smyth knew God was calling him to a path far different from his plans to become a Nashville recording star.

“It was a strong hope song; it tugged at my heart and I knew it had a great melody and would be a great song,” he said. “I was hoping that Martina McBride would do it. God pulled me to lead my life to goodness and that was my kick in the butt. RCIA opened my eyes to the blessings of having a loving Catholic wife who never begged me to go to church. She was sharp enough to approach life in a gentle and loving way.”

While “Prayers Raining Down” offered a message of hope, another issue relentlessly tugged at his heart and he knew that God was leading him to write songs that embraced life.

“I was always a pro-lifer and had a bumper sticker on my car about abortion. I was thinking about these youth who are not getting the life message. There are 14-year-old kids who would rather abort their babies than put them up for adoption; the message is not getting out there,” he said. “One night I sat at the piano – I usually practice in the dark when the kids are sleeping. All of a sudden, a title ran across my forehead, ‘Let your little one live.’ The melody came running through, too, and that one song moved me around and got me to where I am at.”

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The song grabbed the attention of Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, who used Smyth’s song throughout a number of pro-life events during 2008.

“Eric has a great musical talent and the song is a lovely recording with the talented singer Tammy Pierce singing the words,” said Lyons. “It is quite well done and we created a video presentation to go along with the song. It was very well received by everyone who heard the song and watched the presentations.”

The piece was a catalyst for additional songs espousing life issues, and using his music to open the door, he speaks to teens and young adults on a variety of topics such as life, chastity and morality.

“I want to give them concrete things to think about such as their state and how to glorify God with their bodies,” he said. “I can carry the message and know how to connect with them. I want them to be encouraged to go out and be great beacons of light for their friends as a life affirming resource. My music gives me the red carpet to do this.”

While some might think that giving up a $190,000-a-year career in order to earn $10,000 a year writing music might be crazy, Smyth is not concerned because he knows that God is caring for him, his wife, three daughters and infant son.

“I still write a little pop music, but it has to be clean,” he said. “No trashy tunes and whatever I write has to be acceptable in God’s eyes. I pray and ask God to give me the words and melodies for pro-life songs. I know I have to feed my family, but we live frugally and my wife is with me on this.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thank God for Argyle!

Having a great time withe little Argyle! He is all of 3 pounds now and becoming a very sweet member of our little family. He has really helped overcome the loss we experienced when our beloved Zachary died. His temperament is fabulous, he is nearly paper trained and sleeps all night. What more could you want for a 9 1/2 week old puppy--except the slobbery morning kisses we have grown to love?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Parishes await word on friends in Haiti

Like millions around the world, members of the Milwaukee Archdiocese watched their televisions in disbelief as Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the site of many

Want to help?

Gesu Haiti Earthquake Relief
1210 West Michigan Street?P.O. Box 495?Milwaukee, WI 53201-0495
St. Frances Cabrini Haiti Outreach
C/O Frances Cabrini Catholic Church
1025 S. 7th Ave.
West Bend, WI 53095
Office for Haitian Ministries
Our Lady of Lourdes Church
3722 S. 58th St. 
Milwaukee, WI 53220
St. Mary Catholic Church
C/O “Haiti Earthquake Relief”
9520 W. Forest Home Ave.?Hales Corners, WI 53130-1614
Friends of the Children
P.O. Box 775
Delavan WI 53115
St. Matthew Parish
148 W. Lehman St.?Neosho, WI 53059

Shepherd of the Hills Parish
W1562 Cty Rd B?Eden, WI 53019-0128
World Mission Ministries
PO Box 3087 ?Milwaukee, WI 53201-3087
Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency, is accepting donations by phone at (800) 736-3467; online; or by mail to: CRS, P.O. Box 17090,
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090.
Catholic missions, collapsed into a pile of debris, Tuesday, Jan. 12. The likelihood that anyone was alive beneath the tons of rubble was scarce. Streets lined with bodies, understaffed hospitals overflowing with injured and dying, homes and churches destroyed, and news of their beloved Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot’s death, were punctuated by the screams of children wandering the area.
Stunned Catholics in southeastern Wisconsin grappled with the news and feelings of helplessness. They are praying and opening their wallets.
While much of the information is devastating, glimmers of hope and small miracles emerge. Members of St. Frances Cabrini Parish are breathing a sigh of relief as news unfolds that no lives were lost at the St. Joseph Family Home in Port-au-Prince.
For more than 21 years, the West Bend parish has donated money, Bibles, water buckets, clothing and school supplies to Haiti, and for the last four, the parish has collaborated with St. Joseph, a home designed to get boys off the streets of Port-au-Prince, Fermathe, and Jacmel and into a stable, Christian environment and family. In 1985, the residence began with five boys and to date approximately 20 boys live in the modern home with guest facilities, a chapel and art center. The home is one of three, including Wings of Hope, a home for disabled children, and Trinity House, a home for graduates of St. Joseph, all under the umbrella of “Hearts with Haiti” non-profit organization.
In 1989, twinning became one of the ministries of St. Frances Cabrini and over the past 14 years, 40 parishioners and non-parishioners have traveled to Haiti to experience the poverty and to lend a hand in the poorest country in the world.
Despite the massive damage to St. Joseph Home, only two serious injuries were reported. Most of the damage was below the level of the chapel and the majority of the children were outside during the earthquake.
Director Bill Nathan was among the injured as he was in the chapel on the sixth floor when the five floors beneath him began to collapse. He jumped to the roof of a nearby building and worked his way to the ground, suffering broken ribs.
Readers may recall that Nathan and Walnes Cangas were featured in a September 2008 Catholic Herald article. After receiving his education at the school, Cangas became the director of the Resurrection Dancers and lead choreographer at St. Joseph. He also serves as the home’s assistant director.
According to Renee Deitrich,  communications director of Hearts with Haiti, Cangas is fine and spent the first night sleeping on the ground at a neighbor’s residence.
“Wings is crowded with all the Wings kids and now the (St. Joseph) boys,” she said in a letter on the Hearts for Haiti Web site. “Not a lot of space in the visitors dining room and the front of the house for 65 plus people, but we are coping. Everyone is pitching in. We are also starting to get the guys to move as many supplies from the storage rooms in the new part of the house as possible. Limited time is spent in the new part of the house, as we believe it is unstable and don’t know if it will remain standing. There’s a lot we don’t know right now.”
Archbishop pleads for prayers, funds
In a letter to pastors, parish directors and church leaders, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki asked for prayers and financial assistance from area Catholics to assist Catholic Relief Services and other organizations in the country as they tend to the Haitians’ needs.
“We are blessed here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to already have several on-going solidarity efforts with Haiti,” he wrote, citing archdiocesan-based Gesu and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes in Milwaukee, St. Frances Cabrini, West Bend, St. Mary, Hales Corners, St. Matthew,Neosho, and Shepherd of the Hills, Eden. “These parishes and our archdiocesan office for World Mission Ministries have working relationships with Haitian Ministries, Hands Together and other similar organizations that have offices here in United States as well as in Haiti. Such organizations have the ability to disperse 100 percent of the funds where the need is greatest.”
Archbishop Listecki asked World Mission Ministries to receive financial donations from parishes other than those with Haitian ties. One-third of the donations will go to Catholic Relief Services for the immediate need, one-third to Haitian parishes and Milwaukee archdiocesan-sponsored mission organizations, and one-third for later distributions to address the long-term need.
“As Christians, all of us have a great responsibility, even in these difficult economic times, to assist those who are suffering even more than we,” he said. “And so my hope is that all our parishes and schools will do something to assist those in such dire need.”
Norwich Mission House collapses
Members of Our Lady of Lourdes and Gesu parishes are connected to the Norwich Mission House in Port-au-Prince, and despite complete destruction, all but one person has been accounted for to date. According to Ralph Stewart, Our Lady of Lourdes mission coordinator, the parish has had a twinning relationship with the mission house since 1996, frequently hosting mission groups to Port-au-Prince and helping to raise funds to keep the orphanage in operation.
“When the house collapsed there were three trapped inside; current director, Jillian Thorpe, and Lanitte Belledente, the cook, were trapped under the rubble and suffered broken bones and lacerations,” he said. “Lanitte was seriously injured and taken by first responders, and I am not sure where she is at.”
Reports from Partners in Haiti reveal that Thorpe was rescued by her husband, Frank, who dug for 10 hours through rubble to pull her to safety. Belledente lost a leg, and attempts to learn of her condition were unsuccessful. Saddened and frustrated by feelings of helplessness as the aftershocks and damage continue, Stewart asked for prayers and donations to help the country.
“We are going to speak at all the Masses this week and hope to have some donations come into help these people,” he said. “It is all so very sad; the archbishop of Port-au-Prince was a wonderful man and very supportive of our mission. We just all need to pray.”
The twinning relationship between Gesu and St. Jude Parish in Mon Opital, just outside Port-au-Prince, began in 2002 after Norwich Mission house presented a profile of the parish and its needs. Gesu held its first mission trip to its twin in March of that year.
While there is no word on St. Jude Parish, Eileen Ciezki, director of social ministry at Gesu, is hoping that the silence is due to lack of available communication rather than something much worse.
“We are hoping that they are OK since the parish is located 45 minutes up the mountain and southwest of Port-au-Prince,” she said. “While Our Lady of Lourdes supports the mission house, we support the parish and when we bring mission groups to Haiti, we always began at Norwich, which was an important part of our mission, and then we traveled to the national museum which was not far from the presidential palace. It was a wonderful place to go for history and I have a feeling that it did not survive the quake.”
Couple prays for ‘heart child’
Retired dentist Dr. Ron Pruhs and his wife Ronnie, a retired nurse, frequently traveled to Haiti on dental missions and were scheduled to travel to the dental clinic at the end of January.
“Three of its walls were destroyed from what we can tell,” said Ciezki. “We are so worried, we don’t know if the staff are OK, or much of anything; we just watch and pray and plan to take up a second collection to help buy water, feed the kids, and help to rebuild the clinic. Other than that, we just don’t know….”
For years, the Pruhs, served the people of Uganda and Haiti as missionaries. Their children also grew up assisting their parents in the mission field, and the couple received the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Vatican II award in 1997 for their selfless service to others.
Recently, the couple returned from Tampa where they acted as temporary guardians of a young Haitian girl flown to the United States for heart surgery. The young girl nearly died three times during the surgery and returned to her family in Haiti. She resides in the area of the most devastation and the Pruhs have not learned of her whereabouts.
“Our ‘heart child,’ Manise, lived at the place where the epicenter of the earthquake occurred,” said Ronnie. “We haven’t heard anything. Pray.”
While the mission trip is on hold for now, the Pruhs remain open to going wherever God leads them.
“We will return if we are asked,” said Ronnie.
Earthquake halted St. Mary mission trip
Last week’s earthquake fell on the eve of the annual St. Mary, Hales Corners mission trip to Haiti. Human concerns coordinator Pam Lownick was scheduled to leave with six other women for her 14th trip to minister to their sister parish in Jacmel, and watched in disbelief as bag after bag of medical supplies was brought back to the parish ministry room.
“We were supposed to have a friend of my daughter come with us to translate,” she said. “He was in Jeremie, near our sister parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Latiboliere Haiti. He is OK; my daughter was able to communicate with him through the Internet.”
For 21 years, St. Mary Parish has provided funds for a Haitian doctor to visit the city each month, supported nurses in a clinic and health committees in the chapel schools, supplied first aid supplies, first aid stations, and trained and supplied midwives.
“We try to have medical people from our parish come down and work side by side with Haitian medical personnel in the clinic and share their expertise,” said Lownick. “We have an established relationship with a 350-member women’s group as well. They grow coffee beans and send them to us and we roast them. They have a mini co-op and make money when we sell coffee at our parish.”
No one was killed or seriously injured at Matthew 25, the visitation house based in Port-au-Prince. The home is operating a combination shelter/food program/clinic.
“The building is damaged, but survived the impact pretty well and is functioning as a clinic for the neighborhood,” said Lownick, “People are sleeping on their soccer field, and they are providing water and food and medical care as they are able.”
Lack of communication is worrisome
While there is an immediate sigh of relief for the members of Matthew 25, Lownick admitted that the lack of communication leaves them worried about the hundreds with ties to the ministry from whom they have not heard.
“It is just ripping our hearts out,” she said. “There are so many that we have not been able to contact and feel so helpless. We scheduled a prayer service this week and invited all those who have gone to Haiti, those who were going to go and those who have Haitian prayer partners to join us.”
Friends of the Children wait, pray
Scheduled for her seventh trip to Haiti on Feb. 26, Kathy Spiegelhoff of Burlington hopes that she and members of Friends of the Children can resume their medical missionary work, even thought the Jacmel hospital was destroyed.
Begun 10 years ago by Delavan dentist Tom Schuetz and his wife Cindy, the team provides medication, nutritional, prenatal and well baby counseling to members of Our Lady of Perpetual Hope and residents of La Mantagne. Through the years, Spiegelhoff witnessed malnourished babies developing into vibrant children, and heartbreak as the 2008 hurricane ripped through the community, destroying buildings, roads and lives.
“I have been back twice since the hurricane and the first time was a dramatic difference from the way we had left them,” she said. “The malnutrition was horrendous and the crops were gone. The last time we went, things were better; they were rebuilding, planting banana trees and the crops were coming in. It was improving.”
As with many other groups, Friends of the Children does not know how badly the area suffered and asks for prayers and financial donations to continue its work.
“We have not been able to get a hold of any of our contacts,” Spiegelhoff said. “We have put out calls and e-mails and have not heard from anyone yet. Most of our interpreters live in Port-au-Prince – we are just sick with worry. Hopefully, it is just because the communication lines are down and not that we are missing all our friends.”
Prayers, money most important, says mission coordinator
While calls have come to the archdiocesan mission office with donation offers, Franciscan Sr. Frances Cunningham, coordinator of the office, asks that all donations be financial as bringing clothing and bandages to the country is nearly impossible at this time.
“We are discouraging parishes collecting clothes or bandages because the items won’t get there,” she said. “The best thing people can do to help is to send money and pray for these people. They have the most basic of needs right now and we can send money to organizations such Catholic Relief Services where they can help with what is most needed.”

Double Jubilee

Dix siblings combine for 120 years of religious life

School Sister of Notre Dame Benilda Dix and her brother, Br. Richard Dix, a member of the Society of Mary, each celebrated 60 years of religious life last year. (Submitted photo)
— It was a double celebration for the Dix family, as two of the six siblings celebrated 60 years in religious life last year.
They are not twins, but they have lived parallel lives.

Raised in the Milwaukee area in a devout Catholic family, School Sister of Notre Dame Benilda Dix and Br. Richard Dix, a member of the Society of Mary, felt called to religious life while in grammar school. 

It was a feeling that never left Sr. Benilda, who also celebrated her 80th birthday last year, as she grew up among priests and sisters at the family’s home parish St. John Kanty, Milwaukee. Even as a young girl, she thought about becoming a nun. 

“I think the only time I wasn’t thinking about it was for a short while in my junior year of high school at St. Stanislaus, which later became Notre Dame High School,” she said. “The school was co-ed and for a while I wasn’t sure, but the feeling that God was calling me to this life got stronger during the year.”

After graduation, she entered the convent. She was 17. While she knew that her ultimate calling was to the religious life, her father wasn’t completely convinced of her intentions.

“He thought I was just going to the convent so I could get a college education and become a teacher,” she said. “But that wasn’t it. My strongest desire was to serve God and give my life to him, and teaching came along with that, but it wasn’t the reason I joined.”

At 20, Sr. Benilda professed her final vows, about the same time her younger brother Richard decided to enter the Marian Brothers novitiate. 

“While I had to have two years of candidature, the Marian brothers went right into the novitiate in or just after high school,” she said. “So, although he is three years younger than me, our profession dates fell on the same week.”

Last year’s diamond jubilee was the first time in their 60 years of religious life both celebrations fell on the same day, May 2. Faced with the frustration of which celebration to attend, family members opted for a large-scale celebration Aug. 2.

“We had about 90 brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and friends celebrating with us, here where I live, at the motherhouse in Elm Grove,” said Sr. Benilda. “Richard was here for three weeks and we had such a wonderful time visiting with everyone.”

Making his home at the Marianist Residence in San Antonio, Texas, Br. Richard considers it wonderful luck that Don Bosco High School opened just as he was entering high school.

“It gave me the chance to see the Brothers of Mary in action,” he said. “I was impressed by their family spirit, especially their working together in a wonderful, joyful way. They were good teachers.”

During his sophomore year at Don Bosco, Br. Richard decided to finish his high school years at the Maryhurst postulate in St. Louis. Although he taught grade school and high school for many years, and worked as assistant principal and principal, he also served as registrar of St. Mary University in San Antonio.

“In the summer of 1995, I was recycled, that is, I was asked to go back to provincial council work as assistant for temporalities,” he said. “I did that for seven years for the St. Louis Province and then, after the reorganization of the four American provinces, I was in this position for five years in the new Province of the United States.”

After completing his term in St. Louis, Br. Richard semi-retired at the Marianist Residence, and found a new calling in an old love – physical labor.
“I finally have more time for my beloved physical work, which I have enjoyed immensely,” he said. “I used to enjoy doing work around the house on Saturdays, when I could. Now, I have all Saturdays!”

Also semi-retired, Sr. Benilda taught English and journalism for 26 years, including a dozen years teaching high school at Notre Dame High School where she secretly taught her youngest sister, Ann Haderer.

“We kept it a secret and no one knew she was my sister until she was a senior – not even my closest friends,” said Sr. Benilda. “In some ways I was harder on her than the other students because I didn’t want anyone to think I was favoring her. She is a wonderful person and we are very close.”

After her teaching career, Sr. Benilda was elected to the provincial council administration in Mequon for eight years – the same period during which her brother served on his provincial council.

“I stayed on as director of communications and worked at the motherhouse in Mequon, and after 20 more years, I cut down to just working on the newsletter,” she said. “My last five years I have been retired, but I am still in charge of the library; it is quite a job and I seem to be working harder than I did before.”

With a long and productive career behind her, Sr. Benilda has only one regret, that she didn’t make the choice to enter the convent sooner.

“It is never boring, and if you are called to this life by God, and are open to what he wants you to do, it is a very satisfying life,” she said. “Sometimes it isn’t easy, but you get so much out of it, certainly more than you give. You can’t give without getting something back.”

For Br. Richard, the feelings in response to God’s call are similar in his life.

“I am grateful and thank God for the many students who have entered my life in those first 25 years,” he said. “They have been a truly rewarding experience. However, I have also found my work in internal ministry, with the provincial council members and the men of the province, also most rewarding and enjoyable. I have never had an assignment or a community I did not like.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Having fun with Argyle

Having this little one in our lives has helped heal many hurts this past week. We are healing from losing our beloved Zachary, healing from estrangement, healing from not being included in the lives of our grandchildren and healing from many other mysteries of life and pain in our soul.

Argyle is a joy. In his short two months on this earth, he is already listening, housebreaking well, sleeping well and training better than we ever expected. He has a gentle and loving temperament--we are so blessed.

Here are a couple of fun photos

Monday, January 11, 2010

Installation a Media Event

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki speaks to the media during a press conference at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist following his Mass of Installation on Monday. Jan. 4. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)
— The two-hour Mass of Installation of Milwaukee’s new archbishop Monday, Jan. 4, included long-standing traditions, rituals and rich symbols of the Catholic Church.

Included in the 1,000-member congregation were an estimated 40 bishops and four cardinals as well as representatives from the four major local television stations.

While each of the news stations devoted hours to the same event, only Channels 4 and 12 provided live coverage, with Channels 6 and 58 giving minimal time on their evening news broadcasts or live streaming video feed on their Web sites.

Beginning at 1 p.m., Channel 4 offered the most coverage and commentary, opting to broadcast the pre-installation celebration and did not return to regular programming until after Archbishop Listecki’s press conference, which ended at 4:30 p.m. 

Channel 12, which provided the pool coverage of the entire three and a half hours, only broadcast the installation Mass with commentary. All four stations utilized the WISN-TV 12 telecast.

Among the highlights from the local telecasts:

Joining Susan Kim and Vince Vitrano was Fr. Frank “Rocky” Hoffman, chaplain of Northridge Preparatory School in Chicago, and a frequent voice on Relevant Radio. The tone of the day was festive and majestic, according to Fr. Hoffman, but he reminded the audience that the installation was not about people, it was about God.

“This is a day when we give praise to God, we worship and honor him and thank him for his indulgence in giving us this new archbishop,” he said. “As Catholics we can expect to get to know Archbishop Listecki and will notice that he is one who will encourage us all to work together.”

Citing the massive financial reorganization the bishop undertook in the La Crosse Diocese, Fr. Hoffman said that Archbishop Listecki is a dedicated man of the church, and will do his job effectively by inspiring others to take charge.

“He is not a steam roller, but has general principles and will encourage others to follow those administrative challenges,” he said.

When Kim brought up the much-discussed topic of the sexual abuse scandal, Fr. Hoffman said he was encouraged by the archbishop’s extensive legal background.

“We have the benefit of his experience in civil and canon law, as well as his experience in dealing with issues of moral theology,” he said. “Not only does he have a real knowledge of the law, he is a man of faith.”

While nationwide, the Catholic Church struggles with a shortage of priests, the Diocese of La Crosse brought in a record number of priests under then-Bishop Listecki’s shepherding.

“The Diocese of La Crosse is only a third the size of Milwaukee,” said Fr. Hoffman, “Yet they brought in a record number up there and have the largest number of seminarians. This (arch)diocese is in great need of priests – we have had to consolidate many parishes, and while we are all attached to the same church, we could use a few more here. God continues to call and we need to pray that our young men will listen and will lay down everything to serve God. If you don’t ask, you don’t sow a lot of seeds.”

On the phone was Whispers of the Loggia blogger, Rocco Palma, who, among other things, discussed the archbishop’s coat of arms and the history behind the 150-year-old tradition that began with Archbishop John Martin Henni.

“The coat of arms is a combination of the archdiocese and that of the new archbishop,” explained Palma. “Each archbishop gets to add a personal note, and for Archbishop Listecki his motto is “Life is Christ,” and the design includes colors of the Polish flag, honoring his ethnic heritage and pride in being the first (Milwaukee) archbishop of Polish descent.”

The design also includes an open book, attributed to the translation of the sacred Scriptures into Latin by the archbishop’s baptismal patron, St. Jerome, as well as the archbishop’s many years of ministry in seminary education, and his role as a civil lawyer and canon lawyer.

“In early years, the coat of arms was an identifier to the people who were often unable to read,” said Palma. “One interesting note is that the coat of arms is on the chair (cathedra) rather than on the large tapestry above the chair that Archbishop Dolan had. I think this is symbolic of the fact that Archbishop Listecki is more low-key than Dolan.”

After Archbishop Listecki’s homily, Kim asked Palma why the pope picked him for the role as shepherd of Milwaukee.

“It comes down to the pope and his confidence,” said Palma. “Why did he think Listecki would be a good fit in southeast Wisconsin? He looks for the best person to take on the job, one who can handle all the challenges such as the greater ones here with the sexual abuse. He needed someone of eminent caliber and a top-notch administrator. He is all of those things, but yet, quite modest.”
Fr. Javier Bustos, an assistant professor at the Sacred Heart School of Theology, leads a long line of well-wishers greeting Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki in a receiving line following the vespers service at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee on Jan. 3. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)

Noting that life for the 11th archbishop now overseeing 210 parishes will be quite a change, for the former bishop who did his own cooking and cleaning, Palma said it will take a while before Archbishop Listecki adjusts to the lack of privacy.

“He is already missing the privacy of La Crosse,” said Palma. “He is not a man comfortable with all the trappings as he was quite independent and took care of himself.”

Despite the obvious changes, Fr. Hoffman stated that Archbishop Listecki would rise to the challenge and accomplish all that God wants him to do.
“He is quite amazing,” said Fr. Hoffman “He takes his time with people, God has blessed him with strength and he is an effective leader among all sorts of people. He builds unity creates team work and has the ability to organize the entire body of Christ.”

Offering commentary during the lengthy procession, Franciscan Fr. Jim Jankowski, pastor of the Basilica of St. Josephat, explained the ceremony and Mass to Catholic and non-Catholic viewers and commented on Archbishop Listecki’s homily.

“It struck me that the archbishop mentioned that it is important to teach the truth, but not to do so in a militant manner because that can turn people away from the Lord; love is the key,” he said. “The other thing he talked about was the great renewal of church in the millennium, bringing more meaning to the sacraments of reconciliation, mercy and eucharistic sacrificial love. The diocese will soon be celebrating a season of mercy and forgiveness, and we become merciful to others by being able to forgive. We need to move ahead in love of Christ. We are called to forgiveness and the way to proclaim our lives is by forgiveness to others.”

After the papal nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, read Pope Benedict XVI’s letter appointing Jerome Listecki as archbishop of Milwaukee, he was led to the marble cathedra and received the crosier.

The papal nuncio is the permanent representative of the pope said William Thorn, associate professor of journalism, Marquette University.

“He is here as an ambassador and has a strong hand in the selection of future bishops,” he said, adding, “He has a diplomatic and duel function and scouts out young clergy to make into auxiliary bishops to see how they handle the role and pressures.”

As the gifts were brought forward during the offertory, Fr. Jankowski explained the unity in Christ to become what we receive in holy Communion.
“We receive the body, blood, soul and divinity and that is what we are to become,” he said. “The wheat dies to become flour to become bread and then ceases to become bread to become the body of Christ. It is the same with the wine. The grapes are willing to be crushed and die to become wine that ceases to be wine and become the blood of Christ. We united our voices in hymns and emphasize our unity as the Body of Christ here as a community to die to ourselves to become Christ.”

WDJT-TV Channel 58
Humor mixed with humility is how reporter Mike Strehlow described Archbishop Listecki’s homily and closing comments.

“The energy was high as representatives from (210) local parishes attended the invitation-only event and they were all delighted to see that their new archbishop carries a similar sense of humor as Archbishop Dolan,” he said. “I asked Archbishop Listecki about the controversy surrounding the sex scandals and Archbishop Weakland’s troubles in the past. He said that he (Archbishop Weakland) served the church a long time and had made mistakes, but we need to analyze history and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.”

WITI-TV Channel 6
Reporter Jeremy Ross discussed the archbishop’s press conference and declining attendance at Mass.

“The archbishop said he felt that people were not staying home because of the scandal, but because they are moving away from God, like a trend,” he said. “He did address the scandal and said he would do his best to avoid this. While the responsibilities were sinking in and feeling a bit heavy on his shoulders, he hopes he can rise to the occasion.”

In his press conference, Archbishop Listecki outlined three top priorities as he begins his new role.

If you poll most bishops, said the archbishop, three priorities will likely emerge. “Schools, personnel and finances and, of course, they all dovetail to holiness and commitment,” said Archbishop Listecki.

Citing frequent comments that the archbishop has “big shoes to fill,” Channel 4 reporter Charles Benson spoke with Archbishop Dolan who expected that once the people get to know Archbishop Listecki that everyone will like him.

“He is a respected teacher, remarkable, intelligent and holy man and one who won’t have trouble at the fish fry,” said Archbishop Dolan.

Grandparents AGAIN

Wow, must be the water, snow, full moon-whatever. Congratulations to Ryan and Jenny on the upcoming birth of their first baby! May God bless you with many healthy children!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

We have a new GRANDCHILD coming!

Woohoo! Congratulations to my youngest daughter Molly Thompson! She is due to have a baby on her birthday, April 26th! Her first baby and my third grandchild. We are praying that she has a healthy baby, a safe pregnancy and might even be blessed with twins as they run in the family! We are tickled pink or blue about this news!

the long awaited Argyle

Wow, what a great puppy! Under a pound, fluffy and easy going--Argyle's first night was peaceful. The only noise we heard was the sound of our own footsteps checking to see if he was ok, because he did not cry once! We took him out to the papers one time and then he slept until we woke him up this morning for his breakfast. Awesome puppy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Argyle is coming home

It looks official! We are scheduled to pick up Argyle on Wednesday and we are all very excited to bring him here. It's been so darn quiet since Zachary died that we really needed to fill the void in our lives. The best part is that we will be getting him before Erin goes back to school--so he is pretty happy about that as well. Here is a picture of our new little buddy!

watching the installation of our new Archbishop

What an awesome moment in history! I wish I could be at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in person as I would love to personally witness the installation of Archbishop Jerome Listecki right now!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Archbishop Strong Defender of Catholic Teaching

Archbishop strong defender of Catholic teaching

Unafraid to challenge politicians and exercise vigilance in the matter of the positions of speakers at Catholic events, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki is known for defending the integrity of Catholic teaching.

While serving as bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Archbishop Listecki promulgated a “policy of prudence” in 2005 regarding invitations to speakers, in order to prevent a misunderstanding or confusion about the teachings of the Catholic Church on abortion, homosexuality and other moral issues.

He also broke from the Wisconsin Catholic Conference’s neutral stance on legislation in 2007 that would force hospitals to dispense potentially abortifacient drugs to rape victims. While the church acknowledges that a woman has a right to protect herself from becoming pregnant as a result from rape, Bishop Listecki was justifiably concerned that potentially inadequate conscience protection could force Catholic hospitals to dispense emergency contraception without  having time to determine whether the woman was pregnant.

One of 25 bishops to criticize Notre Dame

Last April Bishop Listecki joined 24 U.S. bishops in criticizing the University of Notre Dame for inviting President Barack Obama to offer its commencement address and to receive an honorary law degree.

In a prepared statement, he wrote, “This invitation was extended in spite of President Obama’s continual offenses against the sanctity of human life through his executive actions and appointments since taking office.”

Archbishop Listecki’s appointment to Milwaukee is encouraging to leadership within statewide pro-life organizations.

As executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, Barbara Lyons looks forward to continuing a relationship with a man she considers a “fine, holy person.”

“We know Bishop Listecki quite well and have worked with him and his staff,” Lyons said. “His holiness comes through significantly, especially as he has been so helpful in right-to-life issues and we are honored to have him in Milwaukee.”

‘Not shy’ in taking on Pelosi stance

Lyons praised the archbishop for his position against anti-Catholic, high profile issues and for leading the way on state and national issues.

“He did an excellent job in La Crosse and was not shy on taking a stance in Nancy Pelosi’s butchering of the Catholic Church and President Obama speaking at Notre Dame,” she said.

State director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, Peggy Hamill, is encouraged by her experience working with Archbishop Listecki in the La Crosse Diocese.

“He has proven himself, through word and action, to be deeply committed to the protection of innocent human life at all stages,” she said. “He has also worked to defend the conscience rights of pro-life medical personnel and institutions.”

Comfortable engaging public policy issues

While not always in agreement with the positions of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, Archbishop Listecki is comfortable engaging issues as public policy and articulating the values of the Catholic Church, according to WCC executive director, John Huebscher.

“Although we don’t necessarily agree with one another all the time, he is comfortable engaging in conversation and affirming Catholic values,” he said, adding, “And sometimes he is against our decisions and sometimes he is for them. I have seen him at Catholics at the Capital (an event sponsored by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference for those interested in Catholic social teaching and advocating for justice) and he is comfortable doing that. I look forward to having him as our archbishop; he is a known quantity and has been on our board for four and a half years. He enjoys meetings and engaging discussions and he will be doing that from a different table now.”

Polish, Midwest heritage good fit

After meeting him at Catholics at the Capital, Rob Shelledy, archdiocesan coordinator of social justice ministry, recognizes and appreciates Archbishop Listecki’s dedication to Catholic values and willingness to be a spokesperson for them.

“I am very pleased we have someone from the Midwest as our new archbishop so it won’t be as much of a learning curve as it would be if he had been from another part of the country,” he said. “His ethnic heritage will also fit in easily in Milwaukee given our strong Polish community.”

While Shelledy noted that all bishops are strongly pro-life and this is not a change for Milwaukee, he looks forward to Archbishop Listecki continuing that tradition.

“He is politically minded and knows a lot of Catholic public officials and I look forward to working with him,” he said.

‘Working person’s bishop’

With degrees in canon law and civil law and moral theology, Archbishop Listecki worked closely with La Crosse diocesan attorney James Birnbaum over the past few years and quickly developed a reputation as a working person’s bishop.

“He came to La Crosse as a stranger and is leaving as a good friend,” said Birnbaum. “He is comfortable in a pastoral way, relates to people extremely well, (is) not obsessed with authority, (is) respectful and dedicated to the responsibility. At the same time he is more in tune to engage people than worrying about some of the frills that go with the position.”

Viewing the church as one big tent in which his mission as a shepherd is the desire to keep people in, not screen them out or not invite them in – Archbishop Listecki is not afraid of the world, Birnbaum said.

Speaks out in ‘constructive way’

“There are those who operate from the concept that the world is evil and you have to build castle walls and moats around us,” he said. “This bishop is not that way. He is engaging and believes that the world is fundamentally a good place and likewise the church should in this country play its rightful roles. He is not afraid to speak out and exercise prerogatives and the church’s issues, but he does it in a constructive way.”

According to Birnbaum, one of the best indications of the leadership coming to Milwaukee is Archbishop Listecki’s reputation.

“He is very beloved in the Chicago vicariates and parishes he has served. He is respectful and doesn’t come in with a meat ax and say, ‘It’s my way or the highway’; he’s just a big tent person who is a very good shepherd.” he said.

Combat Boots under his vestments

Combat boots under his vestments

In 1991, with more than 500,000 troops in the Persian Gulf, Life magazine had planned to do a “chaplain goes to war” story featuring Chaplain Jerome E. Listecki, pictured here at St. Joseph Church, Wilmette, where he helped out while teaching at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill. Chaplain Listecki was told three times to prepare to join Operation Desert Storm. Before he was to ship out, the war ended. (Photo courtesy of Penny Listecki)
They are men of God, called to serve in some of the most gruesome and extraordinary places on earth. They’ve celebrated holy Communion on the hood of a Jeep, murmured words of love to children dying in their arms, been threatened and shot at, and sometimes, looked evil in the eye. Military chaplains are a breed unto themselves – part soldier, part counselor, part parent, part friend – but primarily a source of spiritual comfort to the people they serve.

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki understands the ravages of war and the toll it takes on soldiers and their families. As a retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Reserves, he served as chaplain for several reserve units, including the 330th Medical Brigade at the former Fort Sheridan, Ill.

After meeting an Army chaplain while studying in Rome in the late 1970s for the Archdiocese of Chicago, and hearing about the need for Catholic priests to serve as chaplains, he devoted his time in assisting the military in their walk with God. For more than 20 years, he ministered to soldiers in the reserves and throughout the world.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, U.S.A., first met the then-Fr. Listecki when he was finishing his post-graduate and doctoral studies in Rome.

“I was also studying canon law and although we lived in different houses, our paths would occasionally cross,” said Archbishop Broglio in an e-mail interview with your Catholic Herald. “I remember him as a serious student and a very outgoing young priest.”

His long service to the military is an example of his commitment.

“I am so pleased because he is committed to the pastoral care of our men and women in uniform. His generosity and his interest in the main concern of (my) archdiocese, that of the military services, tells us a great deal about him,” said Archbishop Broglio. “He will bring many qualities to his new ministry and I am confident that he will also be eager to help us find priests to serve the troops.”

Upon learning that Archbishop Listecki would succeed Archbishop Dolan as the new shepherd of Milwaukee, Archbishop Broglio was delighted.

“His excellent preparation in moral theology, his vast pastoral experience, and his Midwestern roots will serve him well in this important new portion of the vineyard,” he said.

Almost in war

In early February 1991, then Chaplain Listecki was told to prepare to ship out as attempts to liberate Kuwait from Iraq were becoming more intense. More than 500,000 troops were in the Persian Gulf. Life magazine had arranged to chronicle his ministry in a “chaplain goes to war” photo story.

“I was going to be their cover boy,” Archbishop Listecki said with a laugh.

The day he was to ship out, his orders were frozen. The same get ready/frozen scenario occurred again. He prepared a third time, only to be told, “The war is over.”

Archbishop Listecki noted that the on again, off again preparation was an Abraham and Isaac experience.

“Every soldier asks, ‘Am I ready to go into action? Am I ready to lay it down for my country? Am I ready to be there in support of the troops?’ My answer was yes,” the archbishop said.

‘True priest’
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki chats with troops in this undated photo. He spent 23 years as a chaplain in the United States Army Reserves, and said he continues to have a special appreciation for the men and women in the military. (Submitted photo)

Close friends for the past 25 years, Chicago native Michael Laird first met Archbishop Listecki in the Army Reserves where Laird was serving as the Staff Judge Advocate General (JAG).

“He is a good example of what a true priest should be,” said Laird. “He is a positive guy and never will be one to embarrass anyone, and he will get along with even those who disagree with him.”

While their career paths were different in the reserves, Laird remembers accompanying Archbishop Listecki to a few military confirmations.

“He would wear his military uniform and his combat books under his vestments,” he said, laughing. “He was always just a true guy.”

Both retired from the reserves when Fort Sheridan closed in 1993, but continue to stay in touch and remain close friends.

“He is a loyal guy with a great sense of humor and a very true friend,” said Laird. “I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Whenever there is a time of need, he will not turn his back on the people – he didn’t do it in the reserves and he won’t do it in Milwaukee. He is there to help, is a wonderful man and a great example of someone living his Catholic faith.”

According to Laird, Archbishop Listecki was always available to assist the soldiers in dealing with problems they might be having and if they had legal issues, the men and women were referred to him.

“He was, first and foremost, there for the soldiers at anytime,” said Laird. “He would stay late many times and went out of his way for them whenever they needed him. He has tremendous faith, is patriotic, a good American and truly one of the nicest men I have met in my life.”

Laird is excited to see Archbishop Listecki bring his leadership skills, compassion and faith to the Milwaukee Archdiocese.

“He will make Milwaukee very proud,” he said. “He is a good, solid guy and a kind of man who can communicate with people. He is respectful of views while holding the church line and does it in a nice way.”

While his praises are high of the proudly Polish archbishop from the southeast side of Chicago, Laird has one complaint of the man he has called a friend for more than a quarter century.

“He is a terrible marcher. Chaplains always seemed to have a problem staying in step,” Laird said, laughing. “Seriously, he is a real good guy. You will like him and think that he is a good friend within a month and I don’t say that about too many people.”

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Child is born

Spectators watch as the three wise men present gifts to the Baby Jesus during the live Nativity scene at First United Methodist Church on Sunday. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SEAN KRAJACIC )

A child is born
Nativity scene brings Christmas story to life
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By Karen Mahoney
Kenosha News CorrespondentThis is what Christmas is all about, buddy,” said Sam Garcia to his 7-year-old son, Mateo, as he pointed to the wooden creche filled with a mix of farm animals.
There’s something about a live Nativity scene that tugs at the heart and awakens spiritual felicity.
According to most beliefs, the original Nativity, when Jesus was born in a Bethlehem stable, was likely a simple, sparsely populated occasion with Mary, Joseph, several sleepy farm animals and some fleeting shepherds gathered around a manger.
As the holiday, baking, decorating and shopping rush threatened to overpower the stamina of the most docile of individuals, Kenosha’s First United Methodist Church offered a live Nativity to give visitors cause to pause and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
Donning shepherd, angel, and Centurion robes, First United Methodist Church members greeted visitors, while Mary and Joseph comforted the Baby Jesus in a wooden manger on church grounds on Sunday. For the Garcia family, it was the perfect preparation for Christmas.
“This is something for our family, and for Mateo to see so he has a better understanding about the meaning of Christmas,” said Sam, holding his baby daughter, Carissa. “My wife Jill and I want our children to learn more about the birth of Jesus and that Christmas is really about giving to others.”
For five years, longtime member Shirley Edwards dreamed of hosting a live Nativity on the church grounds, and after receiving the approval by pastors Linda Farmer-Lewis, Kathy Nuzzo and the church committee, the dream became a reality.
“We all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas,” Edwards said. “People are so stressed with baking, shopping and thinking of everything but the true meaning of Christmas. We hope that this event brings people in from the community that might not be familiar with the birth of Christ and the story.”
Preparations for the free event, which included a video presentation on “The Star of Bethlehem,” seasonal music and the Bethlehem Marketplace with a petting zoo, crafts, and refreshments, took an entire year, said Edwards, who spent five months sewing 30 costumes for the participants.
“In addition to our pastors, I worked with Ron Fischer, Tom Johnson and Carol Gammon to put this together,” she said. “This was the first time for this and hopefully we can do it again.”
If it were up to 6-year-old twins Elliot and Isaac Sens, the live Nativity would be an annual event. Accompanied by their grandmother, Sandy Sens, the boys seemed to understand what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph on the cold winter night when Jesus was born.
“We never saw nothing like this before,” admitted Isaac. “This is the best one we ever saw. All the other ones were too far away and we didn’t see anything. It was cold for little Jesus and the animals were there to keep him warm.”
After coming in from the cold, the twins ate popcorn and cookies, and visited the petting zoo.
“The animals are good, but the hair on those goats is pretty scratchy,” Elliot said. “But the best part is decorating the ornaments. I am not putting any glitter on mine though because I don’t want to wait until the glue dries, I want to take it home right now and put it on our tree.”
By the large number of visitors, Farmer-Lewis was excited to see the results of months of hard work and planning.
“We just don’t take time to slow down and enjoy what Christmas really means,” she said. “It isn’t the shopping or all the craziness, it is the message of Christ. He came as a gift to us and we need to share that message. This turnout is wonderful — it makes me very happy.”