Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shall I be bitter? or shall I be better?

We all have a choice in every difficult situation in our life. We can become either bitter or better. 
Being bitter is easy. Being bitter is tempting. Being bitter allows me to lash out at the perceived source of my trouble, such as the imperfectness of my parents, of the goals I did not achieve, of a previous marriage, or nasty relatives. Being bitter allows me to hide behind a wall where no one can really reach or hurt me anymore.

Over time, these poisonous attitudes will eat us alive and will weaken us at our core.

In recent days, I have personally once again faced the choice of bitter or better. I have been put in a most difficult situation by a couple of family members. Though they carry a place in my heart, they have denied their responsibilities to the family unit, at every conceivable turn.

I try to live my faith as a Roman Catholic, and practice love and forgiveness. I try to make it to church every week. I am not perfect and have made a zillion mistakes--but still our Lord loves me.

Our Lord's plan is simple: if you are where you are in life because it is in your heart, know that you will not take even one step alone. It was another way of phrasing the old quote, God will not take you where God will not keep you. Once again: amen.

I choose to be better - not bitter and thank you Jesus for walking the road with me.

Our sweet granddaughters!

The absolute joy of our lives--are our two granddaughters, Linzy and Annia. Here is Annia just being a sweet little pea and Linzy, a ham, as usual. Grammy and Grampy love you both so much!

Honorés continue to make a joyful noise

Debra and Jeff Honoré, pictured before a Memorial Day keyboard concert at St. Benedict Parish, Fontana, have been involved in music ministry within the archdiocese for some three decades. Music ministries within the archdiocese benefit from the annual Catholic Stewardship Appeal through the archdiocesan Office of Worship. (Catholic Herald photo by Matt Dixon)

This is the first in a series of stories highlighting ministries that benefit from Catholic Stewardship Appeal funding. The archdiocesan Office of Worship which assists 210 parishes with their music ministry programs, is among those ministries. For information about the CSA, visit

­­­­­When Debra Honoré was a teen, she filled her weekends playing the organ for Mass at St. John the Baptist Church, Paris, in Kenosha County. Her ministry continued until she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music from UW-Parkside in 1980.

That August following her graduation, she married Jeff, her college sweetheart, who also graduated that year with a bachelor of arts in music. Thirty years, several job changes, and three sons later, the couple continues to make a joyful noise unto the Lord – sometimes even finding time to perform together.

On Memorial Day weekend, they performed a keyboard concert at St. Benedict Parish, Fontana, where Jeff has served as pastoral musician since September 2007.

“As a couple, we may average one or two concerts every year or two, since we are both working full-time at our respective parishes,” said Debb. “We have a CD of Christmas keyboard music that we recorded in 2006.”

Jobs take them in opposite directions

Although the Honorés live in East Troy, their jobs take them in opposite directions. Debb reports to work as the associate director of music at St. Mary, Hales Corners, and Jeff to Fontana. Jeff, a noted liturgical composer, serves as the director of the archdiocesan choir and Debb as the accompanist.

“Our days can be long and we see each other in the morning, but then don’t see each other until the evening,” said Debb. “My responsibilities at St. Mary’s include serving as the main musician for weekend liturgies, weddings, school liturgies; the adult choir director, being responsible for cantors and as an instrumentalist.”

Jeff’s responsibilities are similar to Debb’s and after singing with the archdiocesan choir from 1985 through 1992, the Racine native returned in 1995 to direct it for the funeral of Bishop Leo J. Brust.
“This is a group of dedicated singers who come from service of their parish, to service in the wider church in southeastern Wisconsin,” he said, noting he is honored to lead the group. “I feel blessed to have been a part of the journey with the archdiocese over the past 16 years to two new archbishops, an auxiliary bishop and hosts of priests and deacons for whom we lead the sung prayer at their installations and ordinations.”

Liturgy and music ministry is one of the many services offered in our 10-county archdiocese. Funding from the Catholic Stewardship Appeal supports this ministry. To donate to the appeal, visit or contributions can be mailed to:

Catholic Stewardship Appeal Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 3501 S. Lake Drive, P. O. Box 070912, Milwaukee, WI 53207-0912
Archdiocesan choir offers musical welcome
The responsibilities of the archdiocesan choir include singing for the Rite of Election, where newly initiated come to the cathedral and are greeted by the archbishop or a bishop in the name of the church, as well as for the Chrism Mass at which the archbishop blesses the holy oils.

The audition-only group is open to those who learn quickly, are open to instruction and have a great desire to serve the wider church community.
“We stretched our learning to include more Spanish, a little Vietnamese, Polish and Gaelic, to in a small way, offer a taste of the many and varied peoples of our archdiocese,” said Jeff.

Choir releases CD of 18 songs
The choir recently completed SPLENDOR, a CD of 18 songs from Gospel to Gregorian Chant, sung at events over the past 10 years.

“The project costs were all supplied by our performing a couple of concerts for a stipend,” he said. “And with the sales, we ended up breaking even or coming a little ahead, allowing us a bit of capital to purchase new music for the future.”

As an arranger/composer of liturgical music for choirs, organ and handbells, Jeff’s work is published through Oregon Catholic Press, World Library Publications, GIA, Concordia Publishing House, Augsburg/Fortress, Hope, and AGEHR.

While his schedule is tight, he recently attended a three-day seminar in Milwaukee hosted by the School Sisters of St. Francis.

“(Franciscan) Sr. Mary Jane Wagner called a small group of composers together to begin to share, exchange ideas, hopes, dreams, visions and to struggle with what we uphold in our Catholic sung prayer,” said Jeff. “A great three-day beginning. I personally continue to compose and with such a wide breadth of composers and publishers today, it is a blessing to get a house to accept a work. I am blessed to have that continue to happen periodically.

To get a CD:

Copies of the CD SPLENDOR are available for $10. Checks should be made out to the:

Office for Prayer and Worship
P.O. Box 070912
3501 S. Lake Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53207-0912
or e-mail jhonore@charter.netThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or HabetlerM@archmil.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Parents to three sons
As musicians and parents of Aaron, 29, Matthew, 26, and Nathan, 23, the couple agreed Debb would be a full-time mother, and part-time musician, and Jeff would be the main breadwinner of the family, and as such, served in a variety of locations.

“I have had to be flexible with my various positions in pastoral care/music since I wanted to be a full-time mom,” said Debb. “But the blessing at being at different parishes is in meeting so many good and faith-filled people.”

With both working long hours, making their marriage a priority requires a bit of ingenuity, explained Debb, also a member of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.

“We have Wednesdays off together every week, so that is our ‘sacred’ day,” she said. When they are not working or visiting their sons, the couple also enjoys reading and hiking together – with a little time on the golf course for Jeff, and for Debb, walking or riding her bicycle.

“The blessing in us both working in the same field is that we both work weekends. Plus, being in the same field, we understand, for the most part, about the other’s job and responsibilities,” she said.

Couple lives their faith

In addition, they have served as role models to other married couples and parents.
“I definitely feel we are living our faith by using the gifts God has given us,” said Debb, adding, “We try to witness through the way we live our lives and to set good examples to others.”

Jeff agreed, adding they strive to live their faith to bring their best to their Sunday assemblies, regardless of personal, emotional, physical or spiritual feelings on any given day or moment.

“That is a part of living our faith,” he said. “Being and giving our all when we might not ‘feel’ like it. That’s a start. Trying to be present to our communities outside Sunday gatherings is another way we live our faith in being present, listening and engaging in the wider life of the people we serve. Knowing we are ministers of music and all that can mean is a daunting task. We continue to try to grow in knowledge, understanding and faith as we lead sung prayer with and for the people of God.”
He added that he is energized by being around others who live the traditions of the Catholic faith and “enflesh Gospel values in their daily life.

“This gives me great joy and helps me keep in love with the God who surrounds us,” he said.

These knights fight with truth, faith, charity

(Catholic Herald photo by Amy E. Rewolinski)

They may not brandish lances, axes or don chain mail, but they are indeed, knights. Last September, 46-year-old Valentin, and 40-year-old Vincent Blatz were invested as knights into the Equestrian Order of the HolySepulchre of Jerusalem.

The orders were signed by Cardinal John Patrick Cardinal Foley, Cardinal Grand Master of the Order at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Detroit. Archbishop of Detroit Allen H. Vigneron knighted the brothers on Sept. 27, 2009.

It was a dream come true for the two men whose daily lives resonate the Catholic faith. As children, both remember praying a daily rosary and attending Sunday Mass with their sister Virginia, and parents, Paul and Sonja.

Vincent Blatz

Age: 40
Occupation: Systems engineer
Parish: Basilica of St. Josaphat, Milwaukee
Book recently read: “The Seeress of Kell,” by David Eddings
Favorite movie: “Holiday Inn”
Favorite quotation: “Infinite striving to be the best is man’s duty, it is it’s own reward. Everything else is in God’s hands.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Valentin Blatz

Age: 46
Occupation: Certified Microsoft systems engineer
Parish: Basilica of St. Josaphat, Milwaukee
Book recently read: “Wicked,” by Gregory Maguire
Favorite movie: “White Christmas”
Favorite quotation: “I want to know God’s thoughts … the rest are details,” – Albert Einstein.
“Val and I grew up as acolytes at Mass and all of us were readers and eucharistic ministers at various times,” said Vincent. “Our mother was a convert from the Lutheran Church and she received her confirmation with Val.”

The brothers graduated from Oconomowoc High School, and went on to college. Valentin earned a bachelor’s of arts degree from Marquette University and a master’s of arts in humanistic psychology from West Georgia College. Vincent attended Carroll College and later Waukesha County Technical College.
Together they moved to Atlanta and returned home to Oconomowoc in 1995. Looking for a parish to call home, they attended a variety of Catholic churches but, despite the lengthy commute, the Basilica of St. Josaphat was the place that captured their hearts.

“The Franciscan Friars are great,” said Vincent. “We have known several since we have been there including Bishop (William P.) Callahan and the current rector, Fr. Jim Jankowski and the assistant Fr. Jim Ciamentaro and they all have been wonderful.”

As with most visitors to St. Josaphat, the overall beauty of the gothic style is enchanting to the Blatz brothers, but it was the power of the Holy Spirit that kept them coming back.

“When we are at Mass, we really feel touched by the Holy Spirit,” said Vincent. “We have never really felt that at any other parish we attended and we felt that was important for choosing a parish to call home as well as the loving nature of the Franciscan Friars. The drive can be challenging at times, but it is worth it to us.”

More than 150 Knights, Dames and guests attended the knighting ritual preceded by a Mass. During the ceremony, Valentin and Vincent knelt before Archbishop Vigneron while he placed a sword upon their shoulders.

“Then, members of the order dressed us in our regalia,” said Valentin. “It was a powerful experience. What an honor it was to be knighted by an archbishop.”

In 1099, crusaders known as the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre organized to protect the church and make the Holy Land safe for Christians. After the Roman Catholic Church was driven out of the Holy Land in 1292, the order was reformed.

Today, more than 18,000 Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre are devoted primarily to doing charitable work in the Holy Land for Christians and those of other faiths.

The mission statement of the order is “The special mandate given by the Holy Father to the Order is to strengthen the Christian life of its members and to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land by way of providing material aid by offering prayers for peace through the Holy intercession of Our Blessed Lady of Palestine.”

While neither Vincent nor Valentin ride horses as part of their responsibilities in the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, horses were originally involved. The equestrian association was derived from the Knights who all rode horses in the Roman era and throughout the Middle Ages.

“In Roman times, it was the second highest social class that had the privilege to ride horses,” they explained. “The Order of the Holy Sepulchre originally had the title of ‘Sacred Military Order’ until it changed from being a papal order and became ‘order under papal protection’ in1928. Then, in 1931, the name was changed and the title of ‘Equestrian’ was assigned.”

After a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2007, the brothers, who are both single, were drawn to the order and the call to preserve the Holy Land sites for future pilgrims.

“The pilgrimage so inspired me that I wanted to make sure in a small way that all Christians would have a chance to experience what I had,” said Valentin, adding, “I have always been intrigued by the knighthood orders. I also find a lot of great fellowship and fraternity among the men and women of the order. The fact that this is a ‘papal order’ also interested me – and I feel like I am part of the ‘pope’s guard.’ Of course, these days, we knights don’t fight with swords anymore, well, unless you consider truth, faith and charity to be symbolic swords. It is also a great honor to be recognized for one’s service in the church and for the church as the people of God.”

Sharing their faith, time and resources are important aspects of their Catholic faith, and Vincent and Valentin have served in many leadership roles in the Knights of Columbus, as well as volunteering in their parish.

“We take our mission seriously: to protect and assist Christians in the Holy Land, Christians who visit the Holy Land, and be an example of prayer life and foster a strong relationship to Our Lord,” said Vincent. “We also support financially the Holy Land sites through our annual honorarium. It also brings us in contact with like-minded Catholics and allows us to share our experiences and knowledge."

The many similarities between the close-knit brothers are uncanny. In addition to their faith, values, parish, and religious orders, both are employed as systems engineers. Valentin specializes in Citrix servers and Microsoft Windows servers, and is on contract in Madison with the Department of Health Services. Vincent specializes in area networks and Microsoft Windows servers, and is in between contracts.

“We both enjoy traveling and, in addition to the Holy Land trip, we have taken numerous other trips all over the United States,” said Vincent. “We both enjoy working with computers and like collector and antique cars.”

Most important for Vincent and Valentin is growing closer to Christ, and through their membership in the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre Order, they believe their faith as Catholics is much stronger.

“We members of the Holy Sepulchre take an oath to self-discipline and a strong prayer life,” said Valentin. “We believe this oath and the commitment to it, give us special graces to set an example of living a virtuous life and having a solid relationship to Jesus through prayer. The charity and self-sacrifice make us stronger in our faith.”
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

I forgive you Molly, Ryan, Maria, John, Petra, Michael, Susan, Dennis and Georgianne for the pain and anguish you have bestowed upon us. May God have mercy upon each of you. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Priest uses Web to evangelize No Spin Homilies applies Scripture to life

In his office at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Greenfield, Fr. Dan Volkert records one of his weekly homilies for his Web site: Through his Web homilies and spiritual reflections, in audio-visual format, Fr. Volkert hopes to teach listeners how to apply Scripture to daily life. (Catholic Herald photo by John E. Kimpel)

Fr. Dan Volkert takes several hours each week preparing his Sunday homily for people who celebrate Mass at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Greenfield. But it only takes him minutes to upload the same homily to his Web site, and within 24 hours his message has traveled to Egypt, China, Russia, Southeast Asia, Africa, India the Middle East.

Like his homilies at the parish, Fr. Volkert’s captivates and draws listeners to the Catholic faith and to a closer and deeper relationship with Jesus. In addition to weekly homilies, the 42-year-old priest includes spiritual studies and Bible studies to teach listeners about Scripture and how to apply it to daily life.

Fr. Volkert noted that St. Jerome once said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” He hopes that the Web site, will help others grow in the knowledge of Christ and the teachings of his church.
“In doing so, we will draw upon the great resources of Roman Catholic art, philosophy, theology and the lives of the saints in order to grow in our understanding of Jesus Christ and to live out the life he calls us to live,” he said.

With spiritual studies such as “Finding your Spiritual Center,” “the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” lessons on Mary and talking with children about the Eucharist, Fr. Volkert’s messages cross generational lines.

“I get feedback from so many people of all ages who say that they really like it,” he said. “It is a wonderful blessing for me because I get to discuss the history behind what we believe and talk about the signs of the times in the context of the historical documents. I think people enjoy learning about the historical context, economic, political and religious issues back then. After listening, people tell me that they learned something about what Jesus was talking about and how to apply it to their daily lives. That seems to be what grabs onto people and holds them so that when they walk away, they have something to take with them. I guess my style seems to be working.”

The idea for the Web site began two years ago, after former parishioners from St. Anthony in Pewaukee called Fr. Volkert telling him how much they missed his homilies; they would often remark about learning faith and Bible history through his words.

After hearing from current and former parishioners several days in a row, he began to realize that maybe God was leading him on a mission to evangelize through modern media.

“When I started this Web site, it was ironic that I did it in the Year of Paul, and Paul was the master of evangelization,” said Fr. Volkert. “He evangelized two continents, Asia and Africa, and established Christian communities in port cities like Corinth. Ships came in from all over the world leaving with cargo to other ports. On those ships was cargo sharing the message of Christianity and that was invaluable to the spread of Christ’s message. What I am doing is basically copying Paul in his strategy of using the signs of the times, not cargo in ships, but using the Internet and using it to promote the message of evangelization.”

To listen:

Visit his Web site.

For more information, contact Fr. VolkertThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
While he didn’t know how to proceed with getting the message through the Internet, the answer came from yet another past parishioner from St. Anthony who also expressed gratitude for his homilies.

“I don’t believe in coincidence, I believe in providence,” said Fr. Volkert. “He told me about a guy who is an audio engineer who was going through the RCIA process, and then I met another parishioner who was a Web designer. He told me that he would be more than happy to help with my special project. It is all providential; these two guys came in that specific point in time, and prodded me along – and then there were all those people from St. Anthony – it was just so many people and in such a short time, that I had to explore.”

After scouring the Internet, Fr. Volkert and his Web team found nothing similar to the No Spin Homilies idea. Many priests offered studies through personal blogs, but he found nothing in an audio-visual format.

Fr. Volkert insisted that the site remains free for anyone seeking to draw closer to God, and learn more of the Catholic faith. No advertising is accepted, and all funding to produce the weekly audio recordings comes from Fr. Volkert’s personal resources, as well as the contributions of generous benefactors.

“The two guys on the Web team have donated all their time as well,” he said. “They do a great job of marrying my audio with video presentations to make the studies look very professional.”
In the beginning, No Spin Homilies might receive 30 hits a day. Now, despite the lack of promotion, has jumped to an impressive 100 or more hits per day.

“We are trying to work on some marketing though to reach more people,” explained Fr. Volkert. “We are thinking of marketing to free podcasts, and actually people can get reconfigured homilies if they have a subscription to iTunes. We also have the Web site on Facebook and YouTube so we can reach out to all generations of faith, especially the younger generations and those in their 20s and 30s. I want to keep up with the technology, but not sacrifice core doctrine as who we are as Catholics.”

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blessed Sacrament marks 10 years of healing Masses

Holding a relic of St. Peregrine, Servite Fr. Chris Krymski prays with Donna Miller, a member of St. Alphonsus, Greendale, after the Mass for healing at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Milwaukee on Friday, June 4. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)

It’s not the pain, the chemotherapy or even the needles. It’s the emotional turmoil of cancer that is hardest for most who are diagnosed with cancer.
Those first words, “You have cancer” make the newly-diagnosed feel vulnerable, scared and fearing that they will soon die. For Shirley Anderson, member of St. Matthias Parish, Milwaukee, the diagnosis literally brought her to her knees – in prayer.
Diagnosed with lymphoma nine years ago, Anderson is in remission and finds great comfort through prayer and attending healing Masses, such as the one dedicated to St. Peregrine celebrated June 4 at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Milwaukee.

“My faith comforts me,” she said. “I still receive four chemotherapy treatments twice a year, but this Mass gives me strength and helps me with a positive outlook and makes me realize that it is all in God’s hands.”

Although Anderson was diagnosed twice with cancer, she is confident that whatever happens, God will fill her with strength and expand her faith to go beyond any suffering.

“I have a strong faith in his healing,” she said, clutching a tattered, bookmarked prayer book. “I learned about St. Peregrine from a nurse friend of mine who ended up dying of cancer. She gave me this book titled, ‘An hour with Jesus,’ and she wrote me a note in the back that says, ‘Life is a mystery to be lived and not a problem to be solved.’ I live every day through the pages in that book, through my faith and that quote.”

Archbishop has special Peregrine devotion

Concelebrating the Mass in which the local devotion’s 10th anniversary was commemorated, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki was joined by Blessed Sacrament pastor Fr. Robert Turner, Servite Fr. Chris Krymski, national director of St. Peregrine Ministries at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, Chicago, and several other Servite priests. The archbishop acknowledged that he has a personal devotion to St. Peregrine, often known as the “cancer saint,” and carries a St. Peregrine sacramental in his pocket in memory of his mother.

“My dad died of colon cancer and my mom had a great devotion to him (St. Peregrine),” said Archbishop Listecki. “In 1998, the doctors thought I had cancer and I began my devotion to him then.”

Conversion, cure notable
St. Peregrine is not as well known as most other saints, but his life, including accounts of his conversion and his cure, is notable. Peregrine Laziosi was born in Forti, Italy in 1250. As a young man, he was a member of the anti-papal party. Similar to Francis of Assisi a couple of decades before him, Peregrine could not escape the struggles and controversies that divided the Italian peninsula during his life.

If you go:

What: Mass with prayers for healing in honor of St. Peregrine (cancer saint)
When: Every First Friday
Where: Blessed Sacrament, 3100 S. 41st St., Milwaukee, exposition of Blessed Sacrament 11 a.m. to noon; Benediction, noon; Mass 12:10 p.m.
Peregrine’s conversion occurred following his encounter with St. Phillip Benizi, a priest sent to reconcile the bitterly divided populace of Forti. When Phillip preached reconciliation and peace in Forti, the crowds heckled him, including Peregrine, who even struck the priest in the jaw. However, when Phillip turned the other check, obeying the Gospel command of Jesus, Peregrine changed. It was a turning point in his life, and he joined the Servite Order, became a preacher and cared for the sick and the poor.

After Peregrine developed cancer of the foot and leg, his doctor believed that the only way to save his life was through amputation. But after fervent prayer before the crucifix, Peregrine had a vision in which Jesus descended from the cross and healed his foot and leg. When he awoke, he was healed.

‘Divine resignation’ not giving up
Archbishop Listecki calls Peregrine’s faith and the faith of the saints, “divine resignation,” but it has nothing to do with giving up.

“It means we resign to seek to the will of God and is an active component to turning our will over to him, becoming his instrument,” he said. “It is a form of healing trust and offering our pain and suffering up for his sake.”

Mentioning his personal encounters with cancer, Archbishop Listecki reminded the gathering of several hundred people that while the world is material and earthly, the Lord molds and fashions them in his image.

“We have died to ourselves in baptism and we rise with Christ, and as people of faith, Christ lives in us,” he said. “Jesus always tells us to ask, seek and knock. God wouldn’t fool us when we ask for something. He will respond to us and our needs.”

Looking to God’s infinite blessings in life is one way to see how many gifts he provides, especially the gift of his son, the archbishop said.

“Turn all your sufferings over to God in divine resignation,” said Archbishop Listecki, who explained his devotion to St. Peregrine. “Through his intercession, I focus on God’s presence and my reliance on God. That’s the miracle in us. The Lord is with us in this struggle.”

That same divine resignation helped Blessed Sacrament parishioners Jerold and Nancy McCanna cope with their struggles with cancer and health issues. Both attend the monthly healing Masses.

“I had Lymphoma and not only did the cancer go away, it helped me spiritually and physically,” said Jerald who was diagnosed in 1996. “Four years later, after attending the healing Masses I was healed.”
For Nancy, a painful cyst on her left ring finger left her with no alternative other than surgery. That is, until God healed her.

“It was big and sore and I didn’t want surgery,” she confessed. “Every time I went to the healing Mass, I put my finger on the relic of St. Peregrine and it went away. It was so annoying and then just got smaller and disappeared.”

Mass brings her ‘one step closer to God’

While Ann Talaska of Blessed Sacrament Parish does not have cancer, several of her friends and relatives have been diagnosed. She attends to pray for them.

“I find it comforting,” she said. “Many people come from other parishes and sometimes we have gone to lunch following the Mass. Some with cancer have died and some have been healed, but all have received some sort of healing. For me, I have such peace and the Mass gives me strength. My faith is stronger and this is one more step to bring me closer to God.”

The devotion to St. Peregrine is not new, according to Fr. Turner.

“It actually began about 30 years ago by one of the priests at that time,” he said. “Things happen and the Masses stopped. I have been here for 15 years and about 10 years ago, we started it again. I have had two good friends who both had cancer. I knew briefly about the devotion to St. Peregrine, but both of them had been so close in their devotions that I wanted to know more. Fr. (Gerard) Clark passed away, and the former pastor here, Fr. Robert Katorski, is dying right now and might not live much longer.”

After Fr. Clark’s diagnosis, Fr. Turner felt compelled to study the life of St. Peregrine and the devotion to him, so he traveled to Our Lady of Sorrows to meet with Fr. Krymski.

“We became friends and he got me all the materials and we announced to the people about beginning the devotion in March 2000,” he said. “Despite a huge blizzard, more than 400 people showed up for the 12:10 p.m. first Friday Mass.”

Parish is shrine to St. Peregrine

As a gift, the Servites presented the parish with two relics of St. Peregrine that are used to bless those who attend the Mass. The parish averages between 100-200 attendees each month and as a result, has been named one of the shrines of St. Peregrine in the United States.

While he has witnessed numerous physical healings in the past 10 years, Fr. Turner has also seen tremendous emotional, mental and spiritual transformations. He said that he feels blessed that so many lives have been touched by this devotion.

“With both Fr. Clark and Fr. Katorski, I witnessed the incredible strength that both had,” he said. “I didn’t realize how strong they both were in faith and how their inner strength came through because of this devotion. It amazed me and continues to amaze me how they were both able to deal with this. Each of them had such a pleasant outlook and a great peace from their devotion.”

While he might not rack up large parish additions or huge construction projects in his life as a priest, Fr. Turner isn’t concerned. His legacy might be different and otherworldly, but that is his goal.
The priest takes pride in being the Milwaukee parish to host this Mass and devotion.

“We are the only parish in the archdiocese that has an ongoing healing Mass and devotion to St. Peregrine,” he explained. “I think when I do leave here and I think of all the things I have done, the biggest thing for me here, is that this Mass, this devotion, has touched lives by the hundreds.”

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sir William visits

For ten days, my nephew William learned about life in Wisconsin. The six-year-old had one adventure after another as we took him to the beach, to Lake Michigan, riding on street cars, touring Jelly Belly, visiting Marytown, Bong Base, the Racine Zoo, my hometown of Burlington, and many picnics at our house with his cousins. He goes back tomorrow with great stories and many memories. We will miss you William!

'Community ‘coming home to the dome’

Artwork created for the centennial anniversary of the Conventual Franciscans at the Basilica invites people to a special “Come Home to the Dome” celebration at St. Josaphat Basilica, Sunday, June 27. The event begins with a noon Mass, followed by a family orientated luncheon at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center. (Submitted artwork courtesy St. Josaphat Basilica)

For 100 years, the Conventual Franciscans have kept a promise they made to those who call the Basilica of St. Josaphat home.

Groundbreaking for the basilica, patterned after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, began in 1886. The church was completed in 1901 and by 1909, the parish was so far in debt that rumors spread that the building would be sold.

According to Susan Rabe, executive director of the St. Josaphat Basilica Foundation, the Milwaukee Archdiocese approached the Franciscans to take ownership of the building.

“They said, ‘yes’ and kept it here,” she said. “If it wasn’t for the Franciscans to take on the responsibility and challenge of the debt, and take care of the building, this beautiful community anchor may not be standing today.”

In commemoration of 100 years of service to the Basilica of St. Josaphat by the Conventual Franciscan Friars, the public is invited to “Come Home to the Dome” on Sunday, June 27.

The idea for the theme came after Franciscan Fr. James Jankowski, pastor of St. Josaphat Basilica, and Colleen McCarrier, event coordinator, contemplated a fitting manner to celebrate the annual parish picnic and recognize the work of the Franciscans.

Not just an anniversary, a reunion

“We wanted it to be celebrated not only as an anniversary, but as a reunion,” said McCarrier. “We wanted to invite the Conventual Franciscan Friars from the St. Bonaventure province, the School Sisters of St. Joseph, who had taught at the parish school, past and present parishioners, school staff and classmates.”

Last August, McCarrier interviewed parishioners to unearth a common thread identifying the focus for the social portion of the celebration.

“When asked what impressions stand out most when they thought about the basilica, the inevitable response was always, ‘the friars,’” she said. “The Franciscan Friars have impacted people’s lives in a significant way, be they long-time parishioners or recently registered members of the parish. Their tireless dedication to their parishioners, their reverence for the Mass, the vibrant devotional life of the basilica and the sense of family which parishioners experience and still find there today, were all common threads in our conversations.”

Because so much of the parish social life centered around school functions and parish festivals, McCarrier and Fr. Jankowski focused the event around family, rather than an adult oriented dinner.

Celebration begins with Mass
The celebration begins with Mass at noon, celebrated by Bishop William P. Callahan, former pastor of the basilica.

A family luncheon follows at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center/Airport with entertainment by ComedySportz and the revival of parish festival fun.

“We wanted a revival of some of the parish festival games for which people still had a soft spot,” said McCarrier. “Fortunately, although last used in the late 1990s, a good number of games were still in storage in the rectory basement. Turkey chute, the canned goods wheel, bumper cars, the presidents’ game, ham paddles and some others are being revamped as we speak and ready for the fun to begin.”

In addition, a compilation of photos, a handmade model of the basilica and other memorabilia will be displayed at the conference center. Stories, anecdotes and fond reminiscences will be shared in a new parish memory booklet. The celebration will honor the Franciscans who not only saved the basilica, but also maintained a strong faith-filled presence, according to organizers.

“It is critical to honor them because we wouldn’t be able to open our doors to visitors who are inspired and get comforted here,” said Rabe. “We have many grateful visitors and donors who appreciate this majestic basilica and that is why our foundation works so hard, and we are grateful that the Franciscans agreed to take on the basilica 100 years ago.”

Basilica was city’s largest church
The basilica was formally dedicated in 1901 by Archbishop Francis Xavier Katzer, and met the needs of Milwaukee’s growing Polish Catholic population by seating 2,400 members. It was the city’s largest church.
If you want to go:
Come Home to the Dome
Sunday, June 27, Noon
Basilica of St. Josaphat, 2333 S. 6th St., Milwaukee
Family luncheon to follow at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center/Airport, 5311 S. Howell Ave., Milwaukee, $35, $15 (12 and under).
Please RSVP by June 14.
For more information or
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(414) 645-5623 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

In 1929, Pope Pius XI designated St. Josaphat Church as the third minor basilica in the United States, making it a place of pilgrimage, special devotion and historical significance.

An electrical fire in 1940 caused extensive smoke damage to the interior and a lightning storm in 1947 dislodged several large blocks of stone from the dome’s base. Repairs were necessary and structural maintenance and renovation of the murals took place from 1948 through 1951.

In 1986, storm winds tore a sheet of copper from the dome and serious water damage occurred. The Franciscans and several Polish businessmen from the community raised funds for the repairs. The St. Josaphat Basilica Foundation was formed and paved the way for large-scale restoration work.

Bishop instrumental in renovation

When then-Fr. Callahan served as pastor from 1993-2005, he was instrumental in the restoration project. While the 11-year, $8.5 million project was enormous, his love for the parish and the community’s dedication made the renovations possible.

“I have a particular affinity for St. Josaphat’s,” he said. “I was ordained there in 1977, so it has always had a special place in my heart and a special place in my priesthood. The people of the basilica, in essence, are part of the formation of me as a priest from early on. They used to have a group called the Franciscan Seminarian Mission Guild; and that organization of ladies had card parties and bake sales and other kinds of things and through that they would send, in those days, an astronomical amount of money, $1,500 per year, to the Franciscan seminary and $1,500 to the missions – hence the name the Seminarian Mission Guild.”

The guild supported the future bishop’s four years of school in Crystal Lake’s minor seminary, and supported his vocation to the priesthood. Following his ordination, then-Fr. Callahan served one year at St. Josaphat, before returning in 1993.

Situation ‘dismal’ in 1993

“When I returned to the basilica, the situation was dismal,” he explained. “The parish church and the parish had fallen on hard times, so we, with the Franciscans, took a strong look at how to take care of and restore the parish and the St. Josaphat Basilica Foundation entered into the picture. They were positively instrumental in the restorations – without them, none of this would have happened.”

Teamwork among the foundation, the Franciscans and the province provincial, and the provincial council saw to the restoration of the basilica. The corporation is separate from the archdiocese, but done with the support of the archdiocese, explained Bishop Callahan.

“Now, that fund is through the Erica P. John Foundation,” he said. “My horizons have broadened a bit as the auxiliary bishop – I think of the basilica as Milwaukee’s parish church, if the cathedral is considered the mother church. It is a place where art and history and dynamic contemplation come together and really allow for all the best of humanity to rise like a sweet smelling offering to God.”

Bishop fondly remembers the people

While much of his time at the basilica was immersed in the restoration project, Bishop Callahan’s fondest memories are of the people.

“My favorite stories are all always of the parishioners,” he said. “The basilica was always a place to see people in mink coats, cloth coats and no coats. They were always sitting next to each other and praising the same God. What I love about the basilica is that the doors were always opened and we had symphonies and choirs from all over the world. Nothing made me happier than the parishioners and the pride and beauty of participating in the offering of Mass there on a regular basis.”

Despite the magnificent artistry inside and outside the structure, Bishop Callahan bragged that the renovations never left the basilica similar to a museum artifact hidden beneath thick break-proof glass.

“Everything that was done was functional and all of it served a purpose,” he said. “The arch lifts your heart and mind to God, no matter what your concept of God is. You come into that place and just go, ‘Wow! This is a place where I am encountering more than the ordinary. The extraordinary and not the natural, but the supernatural.’”

Bishop Callahan hopes for a great turnout for the Come Home to the Dome celebration.

“A hundred years is a big deal and very few churches in the United States can boast 100 years of operation under a religious community as we have,” he said. “This is something to be proud of when you look at the operations of the basilica and there are people who come to this church whose grandparents and great-grandparents helped build this place.”

Basilica built with ‘living stones’

For those closely associated with St. Josaphat, the pride of ownership remains strong. According to Bishop Callahan, the basilica is a wonderful place where the members have a kinship with the stones.

“It is just like what St. Paul writes about when he said, ‘You are a temple built of living stones,’” he said. “That was the song we had commissioned in 2000, the jubilee year – it was called, ‘Living Stones.’ This history of the living church is summed up in the stones. They are alive and live in the basilica and speak of the ongoing relationships between God’s people and God.”