Thursday, September 30, 2010

Parenting Across Boarders

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The Bauer family includes Terese, holding Mayra, age 1; Paul holding Luc, 3, Aiden, 4, front left and Andre, 7. Paul and Terese served on a medical mission in Uganda last summer. As a family, the Bauers plan to return to mission work in Uganda. (Catholic Herald photo by Amy Rewolinski)








































Playing soccer with friends on a soft, grassy knoll, trampling over dusty dirt roads to examine exotic flowers and wildlife might be the stuff of an ordinary summer for most young boys, but for Andre Bauer his summer vacation was anything but ordinary.

At 7, the second grader from St. Sebastian School in Milwaukee has more adventure notched under his belt than most individuals 10 times his age. In July 2009, Andre traveled to Nyakibale, Rukungiri District, Uganda where his parents, Drs. Terese and Paul Bauer, served on a medical mission trip to Karoli Lwanga Hospital.

While his parents served the understaffed hospital, lectured and taught classes on patient care, Andre explored under sunny skies and the gentle guidance of his Ugandan babysitter, Grace.

“She showed me where my best friend, Prize, lived and shared with us a little fruit with seeds in it – it tasted so good,” he explained to your Catholic Herald during his parents’ presentation on their trip to the Milwaukee Guild of the Catholic Medical Association Sept. 19 at St. Robert Parish, Shorewood. “My favorite thing when I was there though was playing soccer and meeting the other kids.”

To outsiders, the differences between the light skinned, American boy with brown curly hair and the dark skinned Ugandans speaking various dialects were noticeable, but for Andre, the most striking contrast were the feet of his new friends.

Footloose in Uganda

“They go barefooted everywhere,” he exclaimed. “I tried to go barefooted sometimes, but there were rocks all over and they hurt my feet, so sometimes I wore shoes. But, they played the same as me and think the same as me, and that is a fact about how we are all the same. One thing I do know is that I have never seen anyone in Uganda with curly hair like me. Sometimes the kids looked at me and were surprised at how I looked different from them.”

Through Mission Doctors Association and Lay Mission Helpers, Paul, a pediatric critical care physician at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and Terese, a family practice physician at Aurora St. Luke’s Hospital, made plans for the six-week trip after feeling a passion to improve the lives of thousands around the world. Previous medical mission destinations were Ecuador and Peru.

The Rukungiri District, located south of Sudan between Congo, Kenya and just north of Rwanda, is home to approximately 302,000 people. Four doctors, 48 nurses and 12 midwives staff the Catholic hospital run by nuns from three religious orders. The team handles 2,000 vaginal births, 500 cesarean sections and 250 operations per year.

Rest of family remained home

Andre’s two weeks in Uganda required the coordinated efforts of Paul and Terese who knew that six weeks might be too much for him. Additionally, the couple, who are in their early 30s, were expecting their daughter Mayra, now a year old, and have two boys, Aiden, 4, and Luc, 3, who were too small at the time to make the journey. With the help of Terese’s parents who watched the younger children, Terese flew to Uganda alone to begin the first two weeks of the medical mission.
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Dr. Terese Bauer examines a patient during her medical mission in Uganda last summer. The couple belong to St. Sebastian Parish, Milwaukee. (Submitted photo courtesy the Bauer family)



















“I went first so Paul could stay home with the children,” said Terese. “I worked on developing personal and professional relationships, learning about what foods Andre would like and what he wouldn’t like, the customs, health care and developing a family routine.”

When Paul arrived two weeks later with Andre, the family base was prepared to make their transition easier. He relied on Terese’s discoveries for his new practice, family unity and spiritual life.

“When I got there, I knew about the operations of the health care and navigation of patients, and when to eat, pray, have time alone together as a family and when to be available as physicians for the hospital,” said Paul. “It was a little different going as a family because you don’t know how to stay safe and you feel vulnerable, but there is a grace that comes with going with kids. Andre was our reminder of being able to let go and let God do his work. His complete abandoned trust in me reminded me that the Lord was with us and we put our trust in him.”

Early apprehensions faded away

With lingering Ugandan violence foremost in their minds, Paul and Terese were apprehensive the first day they brought Andre to their home in Nyakibale, but those fears quickly faded.

“We watched every move he made the first day and wouldn’t let him out of our sight,” admitted Terese. “But by the end of the day, we realized he was in a very safe environment and allowed him the freedom to play with the children in the community. They didn’t understand each other very well, but they played soccer all afternoon and quickly became good friends.”

While bringing a child to the mission field challenged the Bauers to juggle service to the hospital with bridging family relationships, the couple believes that bringing Andre along brought them into a fraternity with families that would not have occurred otherwise.

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Dr. Paul Bauer consults with other medical professionals while also serving on a medical mission trip to Karoli Lwanga Hospital in Uganda. (Submitted photo courtesy the Bauer family)



















“There were so many blessings and we were given exposure to evangelization, encountering the Lord with others, and the innocence and peace of the child’s view that probably wouldn’t have happened had we gone alone,” said Paul. “Andre also learned about community through daily life of the routine of work and rest, reflection, sleep and doing laundry by hand and hanging it to dry. This experience really brought us together as a family.”

When the couple was not trying to save the lives of critically ill children dealing with malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, treating patients with meningitis, malnutrition and trauma from motor vehicle accidents, or teaching modern techniques to nursing staff, they were able to explore the lush mountainous region of Uganda.

Lessons in Ugandan countryside

“Andre was able to see elephants, gazelles, farm animals, giraffes, hippos and the birth of a baby hippo,” said Terese. “One day we took a ferry ride and saw some very large crocodiles – it was a wonderful experience for all of us and something we may not have done had we not brought Andre with us.”

Although the residents were warm and friendly, the Ugandan children, for the most part, were quiet and followed the American adage, “Children should be seen and not heard,” unlike the conversational and outgoing Andre.

“Andre was talking all the time and adults didn’t know how to take him,” said Terese. “Often they would either ignore him or become very amused and almost egg him on because he was so culturally different than what they are accustomed to. Even at the lengthy Sunday Masses, the children were quiet for hours; it was so amazing to me.”

Terese not only traveled while pregnant, but she traveled during her third trimester. As a missionary, Terese put aside her own comfort to embrace the chance to serve a busy hospital in a Third World country where every drop of water is sacred.

Pregnant in Third World country

“It was a really good thing that I had already had my yellow fever vaccine done before I became pregnant, but there were quite a few e-mails going back and forth between the infectious disease department and my doctor regarding the appropriate malaria medication that was safe for me to take,” said Teresa. “Also, the lack of water really made things difficult as far as keeping our hands cleaned and our medical instruments sanitized. By the time Paul left, they had not seen water in six weeks.”

It was rare that anyone mentioned Terese’s expanding belly, unless she discussed it first. For the two who bravely crossed cultural lines and mentioned her pregnancy, their reactions were nothing short of amusing.

“I was surprised that no one said anything except these two people, and that was just because the shirts that I wore had a tightness in the front,” she said. “One grandma in the pediatric ward and an ortho tech, who was the most western person there, were both concerned that I was suffocating the baby with the types of shirts I was wearing. In fact, one day when I was balancing a heavy book on top of my belly, the tech shouted across the room, ‘Don’t put your book there, you are killing your baby.’

“By the time I was to leave to come back home though, my new friends all wanted me to stay and ‘produce’ in Africa. I thought it was pretty funny, that they called delivering a baby, ‘producing a baby,’” she added.

Shared faith unites cultures

Paul and Terese attended Mass at the hospital chapel or Sunday Mass in the community, illustrating for them the universality of the Catholic faith. Despite worship differences, such as the lack of lines when receiving holy Communion, and the charismatic style of prayer, they said they learned what it means to share the faith.

“In the midst of a culture so different was in that shared prayer of community in Mass and during the evenings,” explained Paul. “We have the same Jesus and he is found in the common prayers and knowing that we share something that is absolutely universal. This sameness and truth was an enormous comfort and sense of encouragement to us.”

When Terese and Andre returned to Wisconsin, Paul remained at the hospital for two weeks. He cared for patients in the emergency room, and taught and assisted with curriculum development for the Global Emergency Care Collaborative, a non-profit group of emergency room physicians that offers a nine-month nurses training course.

“We worked with improving treatment for pediatric emergencies, malnutrition care, suturing, lumbar punctures, sedations, trauma care, physician consultations and a symptom-based approach to treatment,” explained Paul. “We also performed major surgery and worked with the critically ill and what to do for those not responding to treatment. There were days that we were frustrated with a lack of resources and stretched beyond our abilities, but the Lord was with us and that gave us strength to continue.”

Family plans to return

Eventually, after the children grow a little and student loans are repaid, Paul and Terese hope to pack up the family for a three-year commitment with Missionary Doctors Association in Uganda. For now, Paul plans a return trip in February and March with one or two of the children.

“I want to do this for practical purposes so I can continue the relationship with the community,” he said. “But our goal is long-term with the entire family; we really have a heart for Uganda.”

Wanting to help those who have so little continues to tug at the heart of the Bauers, who went to medical school with the knowledge that missionary work would be their way of following God’s call.

“It was the solidarity of working together for God’s kingdom and bringing it with the dignity of the healing profession in the context of teaching and then seeing the nurses care for people that brings spark to the work we do,” said Paul. “It is the beauty of life. We did take care of a number of patients who died, but life goes on and the sun comes up in the morning and the kids play on dirt streets. We gained such an appreciation for this life and the sharing of food and table, nature’s splendor and knowing Jesus. We have not seen life this way before and really experienced Jesus in the shared work he has called us to – we wouldn’t have imagined this before.”

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Whispers of Autumn

It might have been the edge in the air that was unfamiliar
Not yet cold, not quite warm--and submerged within the flowing breeze was a tiny bite..
acknowledgment that we have entered a sacred time 
somewhere between living and dying


Beneath our feet
the death of leaves once so vibrant,
and,
yet above, 
the verdant colors shimmer in their magnificence



a hint of change among the branches, 
once so strong...so proud
Are they aware of the change in the air?
Are they ready for the transition of life into death?
Are we?


And then I am reminded, 
"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." John 12: 15

This is a time of preparation for our death, which will bring unto it, the blessings and splendor of eternal life. 
We purge, heal and reconcile to prepare ourselves for the great day 
when we hope
we will be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. 



We are cleansed with the waters of Baptism and purified 

 until the day we soar with the angels 
and hear those words
Welcome Home
And enjoy our new life in Him
 



Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blaise and the kitty

So tell me he doesn't like cats?

Really?

Sure, Blaise is allergic to them, and he will tell anyone who asks, that he can't stand felines of any sort unless they are the big ones running wild with the giraffes and elephants in Africa.

But, God does indeed have a sense of humor and I am getting such a kick out of watching Callie and her baby, Storm who have adopted us along with the space under our back porch.

Kitty toys of every sort dot the stone patio.  Catnip scented mice hanging by ribbons of yarn give  mama and baby something to bat around on sunny afternoons after they have finished napping in the little cat bed under the enclosed deck........all provided by---you guessed it, the big guy.

Matching bowls for food and drink sit below our bay window to ensure they have some nourishment if mouse and chipmunk hunting is scarce.

And then, there he is: tough guy, heart of steel with a charcoal striped kitten in his arms--lovin' him to pieces.



Yeah--try and tell me you hate cats and I will laugh in your face!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Trusting in Him

Recently I think I  booted God from His throne and took over the responsibility of running things myself.

I don't know when I decided that I could do a better job of being God than God, but here I am trying to handle it all.

Instead of running to Him with my feelings of discouragement about personal, family and financial issues, I began handling everything on my own........ feeling depressed?

"that's ok God.....I've got it."

problems with the offspring?

"don't sweat it God, I am tough, I can take everything dished out to me and pretend it doesn't bother me."

ready to lose the house? job going south? money not coming in?

"You want me to pray about it? oh, don't worry God--you have enough to worry about with everyone else--I mean there are starving people all around the world--you don't need to worry about me; I can do this."

See what I mean? 

By taking all of this on my own shoulders, my own weary back and in my own wounded heart, I have taken God's job away, and with it, the blessings, grace and mercy accompanied with it.

Suddenly,  I remember these words from those wiser than me:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.  Psalm 37: 3-6

So, I step aside, bow and graciously offer God his throne and repent for my lack of trust.

Just for today, I put my faith, trust and hope in He who makes the sun rise, the stars shine, the rain fall and the love bursting forth in my heart. Thank you God for being there for all of us.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

How God teaches me about life through our feral cats


When the stress of deadlines, bills, illnesses and life's drama become too much for my weary soul to bear, I often retreat to our screen porch off the back of our home to soak in God's beauty.

This afternoon I was again overwhelmed, and found myself retreating to that favorite spot, watching the two feral cats who have adopted us. Instinctively knowing that we have a soft spot for all furry friends, they  made a home under the porch. Storm is Cally's baby and quickly becoming an expert mouse and chipmunk hunter.

For what seemed like hours, I watched the two scamper around the grass streaked with the sun's rays, tossing leaves with their paws as if they are tiny toys left expressly for their pleasure.  Mama and baby--playing without a care in the world because they know, without a doubt that God will provide an abundance of food and shelter for them. And just to back up God's plentiful resources, they know that we provide a nice bowl of kibble and some fresh cream for them each morning.

It soothes my soul to see them play without worry, without concern and gives me a reprieve from the inevitable stresses of the day--helping me to cope with an open, grateful heart. For if God counts the hairs on our head and notices each sparrow that falls to the ground--how much more He cares for us.

Lord I believe, thou help my unbelief.

Now I know why I love St. Francis of Assisi so much--he knew all of this and trusted only in God's providence.

Mama Cally

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mad Hair Day

"Auntie Karen, how come you have mad hair?"

A comment from my innocent, or perhaps not so innocent 7-year-old nephew last week as we met he and my sister at the airport.

"I don't have mad hair"

"Yes, you do, it is sticking up like you just woke up out of bed and it looks like it is mad at you."

Ironically, just the day before I had my hair cut and styled and thought it looked pretty decent--who knew that I was unconsciously having an inner battle with my tresses and according to William, the tresses were losing!

Kids are great and I love their honesty. They say it like it is, no bones, no gossip, no phoniness, just blatant and at times, the all too painful truth.

Maintaining a sense of humor and being ready for anything is a necessary coping skill that carried me through many years of parenting my own five children. 

Over the past few days, I have reflected on William's comments about my 'mad hair' and it makes me smile. God must have known that I needed a laugh that would carry me through the week.

Oh and by the way, William--your mom insists that you are not allowed to change your name to Darth Vader, no matter how much you beg. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

St. Lawrence Seminary High School Hosts the Hilltopper


Among my most treasured memories of Erin's days as a student at St. Lawrence High School would have to be witnessing the brotherhood, determination, honor and the true joy emanating from the faces of the young men privileged to attend the school.

Sure it would have been easier to pull up the covers on a rainy, chilly Saturday morning and get another hour or two of sleep, but we opted to rise a bit earlier and drive to the school for the annual Hilltopper meet.

For those unfamiliar with the event, the Hilltopper is a major cross country event, hosted by SLS and brings in high school distance runners throughout Wisconsin.

More than 500 runners gather to tackle the school’s grueling course of hills and steep inclines, and I am told, one of the toughest in the entire state.

Many runners can be seen struggling to make it to the top of “Big Bertha,” the main hill that connects the upper campus to the soccer fields below. Friends, classmates and family gather along the sidelines cheering the runners to make it to the top.....I believe some of the runners accomplish this due to the sheer will of the crowd. Everyone is a winner this day!


Watching the sinewy legs of male and female runners, their fierce brute strength carrying them to new physical heights-- rising to meet and exceed the challenging course made me think of our own path with the Lord. We are often running craggy terrain, led to the edge of steep embankments and looking down into the unknown.

Can we make it?

Shall we try?

And a calm, still voice speaks to the soul, "Oh give it a try...I am here to help you...please don't give up."

............... and with our last fragment of strength, we breathe deep, overcome our fears, beg for a heavenly nudge and climb the hill.

Success!

The Hilltopper is so much more than a tough race...and St. Lawrence is so much more than a boys boarding school.

It is preparation for life as a Catholic young man and fuel to continue throughout the inclines and declines of life.

I am blessed, humbled and honored to shout to the world that my son attends this wonderful place
....high upon the hill in rustic Mt. Calvary.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Novena to St. Francis de Sales

I am praying for a specific situation right now regarding my life as a professional Catholic writer. Today I am bringing my petition to St. Francis de Sales--the Patron Saint of Writers. I love novenas and way it surrounds me in a gentle bathing of our Lord's presence under the guidance and love of our precious saints.  St. Francis de Sales--pray for me and for all of my writer friends. 

NOVENA TO SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES
O Blessed Francis de Sales, who in your mortal life did excel in all virtues, especially in love of God and of neighbor, I earnestly entreat you to take me under your immediate protection, to obtain from God my perfect conversion, and that of all sinners, especially of (the names of persons for whom you wish to pray should be mentioned here). Teach me, O Father, to fix my eyes on heaven, that I may generously trample under foot every obstacle that presents itself in my way, and attain that degree of glory which you in your mercy hold out to me. Obtain also that particular favor for which I now pray. (mention intention)
Assist us, O Lord, we beseech you, through the merits of St. Francis de Sales. That what our endeavors cannot obtain may be given us by his intercession. Let us pray: O God, who for the salvation of souls, did will that St. Francis de Sales, your confessor and bishop, should become all things to all men and women, mercifully grant that we, infused with the gentleness of his charity, guided by his teachings, and sharing in his merits, may obtain eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Former Jehovah’s Witness drawn to Catholicism

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Fr. Daniel J. Sanders, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Fontana, baptizes Morgan Meeker during the Easter Vigil Mass at the parish, this past April. (Submitted photo by David Dowling)























Morgan Meeker spent much of his 18-year-old life as a Jehovah’s Witness, and those years are filled with bitter memories. He recalled being taught by his parents not to ask questions, shun those who were non-believers and to forego higher education. He lived in fear of Armageddon, was taught not to salute the flag, never celebrated a birthday, Christmas or any holiday and often felt isolated and different.

After much soul searching and prayer, he transformed his life; he was baptized, received his first Communion and confirmed into the Catholic faith at St. Benedict, Fontana, during the Easter Vigil.

According to RCIA director Mary Jeanne Lindinger-Olsen, Meeker’s family were rigid practitioners and didn’t want their son mixing with non-Jehovah’s Witnesses in high school, so they taught him at their home.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t work very well and he ended up not getting a high school diploma, so he is working on his GED and some other classes right now,” she said. “He is very bright. Although he moved from his home, he found friends in the community who have gone out of their way to help him.”

Meeker recalled the frustration he felt as a child when, after asking questions about his family’s unusual beliefs, the answers never seemed to come.

“When I would ask something, my parents would go off into something else that had nothing to do with the questions and what I wanted to know was never answered,” he said. “I also wanted to go to college, but they don’t believe in college – the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that after high school the system is so bad that we should only dedicate our lives to serving Jehovah. I know the system is bad, but I am smart enough to realize that I have to support myself and I don’t want to work in a retail store the rest of my life.”

Once he moved to Fontana and was on his own in June 2009, a friend began talking with him about the Catholic faith. Although skeptical about the information she gave him, he stopped in for a Mass.

“I went in and attended. I didn’t understand one part of what was going on, but I had this great feeling that I never experienced before,” Meeker said. “Everyone was so nice. I never had so many people shake my hand and say ‘hi’ and really care that I was there.”

The one aspect of his first Mass experience that touched him the most was seeing the Eucharist and experiencing an internal longing for something, but he wasn’t sure what.

“I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to take Communion that day, and when I left, I knew I wanted it. I didn’t understand the true meaning of the Eucharist – but it was drawing me in,” he said. “After Mass, I had a feeling come over me that I never felt my entire life.”

Meeker attended Mass for a couple of weeks and met with Lindinger-Olsen to discuss becoming part of the RCIA. In the beginning, he was reluctant to take the next step.

With hurts and negative voices so strong, the first six to eight weeks of RCIA classes were more an exercise of going through the motions for Meeker, but then, according to Lindinger-Olsen, he began to heal, soon becoming the “poster child” for an adult catechumen that was so contagious, it drew in the entire parish.

“He was so hungry to go through the process,” said Lindinger-Olsen. “As he went through the journey, his faith deepened and he knew that the Catholic faith was meant for his life. He knew that this is what he had missed throughout his life. He had a group that he sat with for daily Mass, and everyone really welcomed him.”

Through the steady guidance of his sponsor, Eric Kerkman, Lindinger-Olsen and those he met while attending daily Mass, Meeker began to unravel what held him bound.

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses were so brainwashing, and I felt like I was committing the biggest sin if I prayed. I didn’t think I would be really accepted in the Catholic faith, but Mary Jeanne explained a lot of things for me that got the light bulb going,” he said, adding, “And now that light bulb is just blinding!”

Not only is Meeker’s light shining for Jesus, he has begun talking to others about Catholicism, almost becoming a one-man evangelization team. It is common to see Meeker bring friends and acquaintances to daily Mass – something about which a few members of St. Benedict’s gently rib him.

“We see him with this growing circle of friends, bringing others to Mass, and joke that he is trying to bring everyone he meets to the faith,” said Lindinger-Olsen. “We have a lot of fun teasing him, but really, he is quite amazing and has such a strong faith already.”

Despite the estrangement from his family, Meeker holds no resentment or animosity; he prays for reconciliation with them. Like others who are separated from relatives due to religious differences, he is happy to be surrounded by a parish community that showers him with love.

“My family chooses to ignore the fact that I have become Catholic,” he said. “But I have told them that this is who I am and what I want, and if they say they want me to be happy, they will understand. I don’t know if they will ever understand, but I have the best parish family that there is here, and I am so happy.”

When he isn’t attending Gateway Technical College for pre-architectural design classes, Meeker devotes his free time to reaching out to struggling teenagers searching for a different path.

“When I was growing up, I was so mad at my parents because there were no options,” he said. “I rebelled a lot.  Now I am looking forward to talking to teenage kids to tell them about Jesus and how he died for all of us. I don’t think that most kids really realize this – and I think that I can help them because I am close to their age and might be able to help them translate their questions and find the answers they are looking for.”

Tune into NFP on the radio


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Lydia LoCoco is becoming comfortable behind a radio microphone. Above, she’s a guest on Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s program, “Living Our Faith.” LoCoco, director of the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, is also an occasional guest on Relevant Radio’s national program, “On Call with Wendy.” (Catholic Herald photo by Tracy Rusch)























This is the third in a series of stories highlighting ministries that benefit from Catholic Stewardship Appeal funding. Significant support from the appeal enables the John Paul II Center to minister to families, engaged couples and young adults in the archdiocese. For information about the CSA, visit www.catholicappeal.org.


Lydia LoCoco oversees the archdiocesan office that serves families, but she’s sometimes hesitant to talk about her own family. A proud mother and wife, LoCoco admitted that many are amazed that she and her husband, Frank, have eight children and each was anticipated and wanted.

LoCoco, director of the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said, “We have a lot of work to do to change a culture that doesn’t value children.

“I am blessed to have a true helpmate in my husband. He loves Jesus Christ and his church. He is an attorney, but ever since I met him, he’s been busy in his own endeavors growing the Body of Christ; I think that’s one reason I married him 26 years ago. And he has always shown me respect, whether I was doing graduate work in theology or staying home with small children. He is a true feminist.”

LoCoco, whose office receives funding from the Catholic Stewardship Appeal, is trying to change hearts through guest appearances on Relevant Radio’s national program, “On Call with Wendy,” referring to the show’s host, Wendy Weise. Approximately every six weeks, LoCoco spends an hour educating listeners and taking calls on often emotionally charged topics, such as artificial contraception, infertility and the reasons for Natural Family Planning. She also hears from those who are coming to understand and embrace the church’s teachings.

“We get calls from couples who have used artificial contraception, and then as they grew in their faith and went deeper into the church’s teachings, they come to understand how all of these things are connected and make sense,” she explained. “Then they are on fire, and they want to share their experiences using Natural Family Planning with everyone. I think that they really feel like their lives are changed. Many times, they are so sorrowful that they had never heard the teachings of the church before.”

Interest in NFP spreading

Bringing the seemingly personal topic of Natural Family Planning to the public airways developed after a phone call from Relevant Radio operations manager Dave Zelzer to LoCoco vowing the station’s commitment to spreading the word about NFP. Technology allows Zelzer to connect with LoCoco from his Relevant Radio Green Bay office to her office at the John Paul II Center in Milwaukee to Wiese’s Relevant Radio office in St. Louis.

“I think we all need to really thank Relevant Radio,” LoCoco said. “You know, some of these topics might not be the most interesting initially, but I think interest in NFP is like wildfire, especially among couples in their 20s and 30s, and Relevant Radio is part of the reason why.”

Her natural compassion and understanding gives callers a sense that they are talking to a close friend, rather than to a professional preparing to graduate with a master’s degree in theological studies in December. That reason, according to Wiese, is why it works.

“I really believe the key to Lydia’s success on the air is her enthusiasm and accessibility,” explained Wiese. “When she’s on, she sounds more like an enthusiastic, faith-filled friend, than the expert that she clearly is. When discussing something this personal, experts are intimidating – friends are not.”

Spirit is catching

After researching articles and attending conferences featuring LoCoco and the Nazareth Project, Relevant Radio officials were impressed with her passion for her faith and NFP and sought to share her contagious spirit with listeners. Not surprisingly, the response has been extraordinary.

“We always have a great response,” said Wiese. “The callers really cover a very broad spectrum from those just learning about NFP and wanting to know more – all the way to women who are concerned about a lack of interest in NFP on the part of their husbands and their desire to change that. We do have calls from men also who want to share their stories with NFP and how it has strengthened their marriages.”

LoCoco agreed, and added that conversely, the most difficult comments come from those who question using NFP to space children.

“If you can believe that!” she stated, adding, “They are usually very generous people, but ones perhaps that don’t understand grave issues like serious health issues, etc.”

Mission of Nazareth Project is counter-cultural

The radio program is another means for LoCoco to continue the mission of the Nazareth Project to “serve the people of God by promoting a counter-cultural transformation which recognizes and celebrates the presence and teachings of Christ as the cornerstone of the individual, marital and family life.”

“We provide information, resources, teachings and enthusiastic support in all areas of the church’s life-affirming teachings on human sexuality, such as natural family planning, theology of the body, bioethics, etc.,” said LoCoco. “Radio comes into play when we ask ourselves, ‘How are we going to do this? How do you evangelize in the 21st century?’ The answer is, any way we can, and that means everything from radio to Facebook. Communication is how you do evangelization, and it is always changing. We have to change with it, and that means talking about Natural Family Planning on the radio.”

While talk shows are not LoCoco’s area of expertise, her background as a mother, wife and theologian and belief in the Catholic faith often has others wondering if she was in sales at some point in her career.

‘Church is prophetic voice’

“But I think that what people don’t understand is that I fully embrace the church’s teachings on sexuality, and I have ‘walked the walk’ and lived out the teachings in my own marriage,” she explained. “I find the church to truly be a prophetic voice, and I think all people are seeing the ravages of living in a society that doesn’t always value the dignity of the person. I also feel that much of the damage we see in our society happens to women, so in some way on a secular level, I see many of these issues as truly women’s issues.”

The journey to becoming the director of the Nazareth Project and working with couples using NFP stemmed from her educational, personal and faith background. She and Frank joined St. Mary Parish in Elm Grove as a young married couple when the late Fr. Dan Pakenham was pastor. His vision for living the Catholic life changed their lives.

“We really grew up with him and through the years there is no position in the parish that either my husband or myself has not held,” she said. “It was Fr. Dan who taught us the importance of parish life, and why it is so important to work in the world for renewal of the church. He gave a talk one time as the new pastor and urged us all to stay on the tour, by which he meant, commit to the parish. We took it to heart and it changed our lives. We are very blessed now to have Fr. Laurin Wenig who is literally heaven sent. My parish is everything to me.”

Bishops were ‘ahead of the game’

When the John Paul II Center opened, LoCoco was working in a secular job, but she was curious about the ministry of the new center.

“I think that Archbishop Dolan knew that bishops of this country were working on a new letter on marriage – ‘The National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage’ just came out recently, and was ahead of the game,” she said. “Now, much effort by the USCCB and others is being directed at becoming a marriage building church.”

In its inception, Fr. Javier Bustos, who LoCoco knew years before when he served as a deacon in her parish, was named director of the John Paul II Center. Later, when funds became available for an associate director in the office, he approached LoCoco and asked if she might be interested in the position.

Not long after serving as the associate director, the position of director opened. LoCoco applied, and was offered the job.

“I can’t give enough credit to Randy Nohl for his help and support though,” she said of the coordinator of the John Paul II Center. “The Nazareth Project was a totally new office in the archdiocese and just an empty room with some boxes, and while I feel that I am a great match for the office, it is Randy who has the institutional memory of working in the archdiocese for so many years. He has really been a great mentor, and I continue to learn so much from him.”

Thanks to a generous donor who supports the promotion of NFP, the Nazareth Project hired Jenni Oliva to serve as the associate director for Engaged Enrichment. This grant has allowed LoCoco to promote the work of the department in a variety of ways.

“Without Jenni doing the work that she does with the engaged, this office would only have a director whose time would almost fully go into running the formation for the engaged couples,” she said. “The grant we receive each year literally makes our NFP and Respect Life work possible. I give thanks everyday for this donor, and I think that people need to know what great things are going on here in the archdiocese, but that it only happens with their support.”

Looking for new way of evangelizing

Each time LoCoco receives a call from Zelzer to appear on Relevant Radio, she is eager to connect with listeners from across the country, but most surprised by the number of Milwaukee listeners.

“I was amazed to find out how many listen in the Milwaukee area,” she said. “I never tell people when I am on, but I always get tons of phone calls from people who have heard me. That says a lot about the extent of influence of Relevant Radio, as well as our need to find new ways to catechize and evangelize.”

In addition to reaching out through Relevant Radio, the John Paul II Center provides faith formation in the archdiocese and includes enrichment for those in the pews and training and formation for parish leaders.

“Much of what we do is unseen sometimes,” admitted LoCoco, adding, “But here at the Nazareth Project, we are beginning the important work of looking at ways to implement the new pastoral on marriage from the bishops, and that includes working with others to update the Wisconsin pastoral guidelines on marriage. But it also means looking at curriculums at the grade school level, as well as high school curriculums and the formation of the catechists.”

By better educating all Catholics from early on, LoCoco believes that couples will be prepared for their engaged formation day.

“We are also publishing our own booklet on available resources for Natural Family Planning and will soon be unveiling something modeled on Theology on Tap, but aimed at married couples, called, ‘Destination Marriage,’” she said. “There is always lots going on.”

More Time

When I was growing up, it was often hard living with my Dad. The robust son of Irish and German parents was raised an only child, did his stint in the army, and tried his best to run a business while raising five kids.

He was too strict, I thought.
He was hard to please, I thought.
There were days I hated him for the way I was treated and they way he treated my mom and the rest of the family.
I figured he was simply a mean person, and I knew that one day I would grow up and get away from him once and for all.

But then a funny thing happened, I went to college and was amused by his daily phone calls to me --giving me his rendition of a pun or joke of the day. He would call each morning and tell me the joke and say, "that's all I got" and hang up. If he didn't call, I missed it and would call him.

As I grew up, got married, had five children and was faced with a difficult relationship of my own, he seemed to understand my feelings of suffocation. He comforted me--I guess he was changing, softening........or was it me, developing the eyes of an adult?

When he nearly died of a heart attack and surgery requiring seven bypasses, I began to see my dad as a little boy...insecure, hurting and scared and hungering for the Father's love. My heart softened. I remember numerous conversations where we asked for forgiveness from each other. We talked of faith, of our walk with the Lord, and for once, we felt complete as a father and daughter should.

I had more time with my Daddy. 

Later, as he developed congestive heart disease, diabetes and a host of other ailments, his mind began to slow--much too soon. I tried to remain patient and repeated conversations that I had just a few moments earlier. At 65, he was much too young to be so forgetful...so sick.

As I made plans for Easter dinner on that Holy Thursday back in 2000, I knew it was finally my chance to take care of Mom and Dad--to host dinner at my house for once instead of selfishly expecting my mom to do it all. My little boy, Erin, who was 2 at the time, played Ants in the Pants with my unusually frail Dad as I visited with Mom in the kitchen about what to make for dinner.

It was a great day and inside, I felt closer to my Dad than I ever had.

The next day he went home to be with Jesus.

I miss you every day Dad--and I am grateful that this selfish girl had a chance to make things right with you before you passed.

Today I learned that my friend Cheli, who is estranged from her children was severely injured in a jetski accident. It is unknown how much brain damage she has suffered. As I watch my friend her fight for her life, I pray that all parents estranged from their children are blessed with the same opportunities I had to reconcile with my Dad, before it is too late.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Love this poem

Family & Friends
© Jill Wolf,

We all have a cherished garden we tend -
It is planted with love of family and friends.
The memories and dreams we treasure and share
Are like beautiful roses found blooming there.
The comfort and care on which we depend
Is given with love between family and friends.
The sunshine of laughter and rain of a tear
Only make our love grow with each passing year.
We may all be ourselves with no need to pretend
Because of the love of family and friends;
They notice the rainbows and weather the showers.
They overlook weeds and praise all our flowers.
The most valuable thing is the time that we spend
Tending this garden with family and friends.
When counting our blessings, we know from the start
That family and friends come first in our heart.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sick of the Lies

It seems as if lying has become prevalent these days and frankly I am sick and tired of it.
Often I wonder if those who spread rumors, blatant falsehoods, blasphemy, and innuendo will ever feel that same injustice coming back to them.

For the record, the act of lying, also known as prevarication, refers to the act of deceiving other people by providing untruthful stories and statements. Experts say that lies are classified into 15 categories, which include dissembling, perjury, bluffing, fabrication as well as exaggeration. There are various reasons why do people lie. To know the reasons, it is important to explore the psychology of lying, which is very essential to learn the etiology and effects of prevarication.

Common Reasons

Why do people lie? Many psychologists agree that lying can start from childhood. There are various reasons why children make false statements. They usually tell untruthful stories to cover up the mistakes that they have done in the past. Lying is also a way to avoid receiving punishments from parents. If parents fail to reprimand their children from making up false stories, then there is a possibility that they will continue to lie during their teenage years.

Teenagers lie because they want to be accepted by their friends. This is the main reason why they create stories that are not true just to become presentable and acceptable to other people. In most instances, teenagers tell untruthful statements to avoid criticisms from their families and friends.

As teenagers grow, lying becomes one of their habits. Their knowledge on making up untruthful stories becomes more developed. Unfortunately, children who lie become adults who lie and it becomes more difficult to place trust in individuals such as these.

People lie in workplaces if they fail to meet the deadlines and if they fail to accomplish and do their tasks efficiently. Some of the common lies made in workplaces are getting sick and having emergencies at home. The danger involved in frequent lying is when it becomes a character. Frequent prevarication causes the development of the condition known to psychiatrists as pathological lying or mythomania.

Mythomania: The Pathology of Lying

Mythomania, also known to some people as compulsive lying, is a mental health condition, which is associated to individuals who have the urge to tell untruthful statements. Patients suffering from mythomania are obsessed with lying. They make up stories about everything and anything. These individuals lie to meet the standards of other people who they want to please.

Mythomaniacs deceive other people because it gives them an unexplainable pleasure. One of the best ways of treating pathological liars is to help them tell true statements and stories at all times. This may be hard for them but as they are accustomed to it, they will start to realize that they will be more accepted by their families and other people if they will stop from making up false stories.

Unfortunately, I know several in that last category and is all the more reason for us to pray and pray often. While I hate the sin, I can still forgive and still choose to love the sinner.

So for all those who chose to continue down this path--you may fool the masses, but you will never fool the Holy Spirit. I still love you and pray for you and hold out the hope that you will return to the ways of the Lord

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Messiah Lutheran Welcoming New Pastor

Messiah Lutheran, Twin Lakes welcoming new pastor


New Messiah Lutheran Church Pastor Kathy Brown. /Karen Mahoney photo

The nudging within her soul began when she was a high school student in Jefferson, but back in the late 1970’s, it wasn’t commonplace for a woman to attend seminary. Instead, she tucked her thoughts of becoming a pastor into the back of her mind and graduated UW-Stevens Point with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Reverend Kathy Brown married and worked for Ladish Malting Company (now owned by Cargill, Inc) for 20years.

“My late husband was supportive of my dreams, but he had a number of health issues and I needed to keep working,” she said. “So I took another avenue for a while.”

Widowed in 2001, Brown began seminary in 2002, graduating with a Masters of Divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque in 2006. After graduating, she married her husband Greg, and served for four years as Pastor for Holy Communion Lutheran Church in Racine.

On Sunday, September 12, Brown, a resident of Caledonia, will be installed as the new pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in Twin Lakes during the 9 a.m. Worship Service, followed by a potluck lunch. The 51-year-old pastor is looking forward to leading the friendly and caring community.

“We have a small congregation of about 50-150 attending each week,” she said, “But they are such a giving congregation and they enjoy reaching out to those outside the four walls of the church.”
While she especially enjoys preaching and leading worship and Bible study, she also has a passion for helping families affected by special needs.

“My husband works with people affected with Autism and it is important to me to reach out to those who deal with not only Autism, but any special needs,” she said. “This is one reason we are planning a healing service in October to pray for and welcome those in need of healing and especially families affected by special needs of children.”

When she isn’t busy serving the needs of her congregation, Brown enjoys needlework, crocheting, gardening, scuba diving, and watching movies, playing trivia, cooking, and traveling with Greg.
Sunday worship times at Messiah Lutheran Church, 8720 368th Street, 877-2728, are at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. with education for all ages between the services.

“We welcome people to come and be a part of what is going on at Messiah and join us for worship and meet community here,” said Brown.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Respect

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. 
Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and Demand that they respect yours. 
Love your life, perfect your life, Beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and Its purpose in the service of your people. 
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. 
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, Even a stranger, when in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people and Bow to none.
When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and For the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks, The fault lies only in yourself.
Abuse no one and nothing, For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. 
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts Are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes They weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again In a different way. 
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

Chief Techumseh

Monday, September 6, 2010

Create in me a Clean Heart O God....

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.......

Not easy--not one bit.

What does it mean to say these words and put them into practice?

For me, and I am a human and often a sinful, resentful being, it means that I need to let go of ALL the judgments made against me. In order to live my faith, all my jealousy,  envy, anger, and all of the pain that has built up deep within my heart needs to be turned over to Jesus.

I have many things that threaten my peace and serenity: issues from my past that meld into the present and threaten to affect my future, resentments towards those who have hurt or used me, pain of injustice and abuse, impatience with others, and estrangements from family and friends.  Many of them are out of my control, but I can choose how to react when the enemy brings them to mind.

I can sulk.
Get angry.
Become vengeful or rageful.
I can harbor resentments and I can become depressed.
.............That last one is a tough one for me, if I am completely honest.

Or....I can take my pain, my suffering, my worry, my anger and depression and place each of them at the foot of the cross and pray.

While I pray for each situation and each person behind the pain, I imagine Christ's blood covering each one and taking them from me.

"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" said Jesus in Matthew's Gospel. I trust that He and He alone will remove this pain, this suffering and this depression from my heart and allow me to forgive all those who have hurt me and spitefully used me.

As I consciously do this, I feel my body rising from the ashes of despair and becoming lighter. Slowly, my heart becomes one with His. I choose to forgive. I choose to carry love within my heart. I choose to take the less traveled path and allow our Lord to Bless others through my suffering as I offer it all to Him, and yes, I ask our Lord to bless those very individuals that have caused me pain.

And I confess...

I confess to our Lord Jesus Christ the times I have judged, hurt, and caused suffering to others and I repent.

My soul begins to lift like the ribbons of early morning fog that hover above the meadow. The sun rises and lifts the moisture to the light and I become clean.

And tomorrow, I do it again.

The older I get, the more I realize how little time I have left on this earth. We are here but a blink in this world and too many times we have lost those we love, those we misjudged, those we hurt and never quite made it right. Regrets are like barbed wire, the cuts are superficial but numerous and together create an impenetrable web of pain.  I want no regrets and await my homecoming with our Lord. So again, I forgive and ask forgiveness.

It is the least I can do, after all, our Lord opened his arms to heaven and did it all for me.

I love, I forgive and I ask the same. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thoughts for today

I would willingly spend the whole of my religious life in this dark underground passage, if by it I might win light for sinners.

I'VE MADE MISTAKES IN MY LIFE. 
I'VE LET PEOPLE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME,
AND I ACCEPTED WAY LESS THAN I DESERVED.

BUT, I'VE LEARNED FROM MY BAD CHOICES,
AND EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE SOME THINGS I CAN NEVER
GET BACK AND PEOPLE WHO WILL NEVER BE SORRY,

I'LL KNOW BETTER NEXT TIME, AND I WON'T
SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS THAN I DESERVE.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

SOAR offers Racine students a chance to succeed

P11SOAR9-2-10
Blanca and Raunel Albiter pose in Raunel’s eighth grade classroom on back-to-school night at the John Paul II Academy in Racine on Sunday, Aug. 29. Blanca, a first grader, and Raunel are able to get a Catholic school education thanks to SOAR. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)
























When Racine’ San Juan Diego Middle School shuttered its doors in June 2009, approximately 70 low-income students and their parents were left wondering where the students would attend school the following year.

The choice was difficult for Blanca and Raunel Albiter, who were concerned that their son, Raunel, a seventh grader at the time, would not do as well academically, emotionally or spiritually in a public school setting. While they wanted him to attend John Paul II Academy, it was cost prohibitive for them to send him and his sister Blanca, then a kindergartener, to the school.

“It was very important to us to have both children, but especially Raunel, because he is older, to go to a Catholic school,” said his father, Raunel. “But the cost of tuition and books and everything was way too much money for us, especially with the two kids.”

Thanks to a generous sponsor through an innovative Racine non-profit organization, both children attended John Paul II Academy last year, and the family could not be happier.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do because the Catholic schools are so good for him; he behaves and he is good a lot,” said Raunel. “We are so happy that Raunel is able to continue attending John Paul and I think he has even become more focused on studying because he is so happy.”

Without help from SOAR (Scholarships, Opportunities & Access in Racine), Raunel would attend Mitchell Middle School and, according to his parents, might have fallen into the wrong group of kids.

“We would have had no choice, but to send him and Blanca to public schools,” said Raunel, adding, “But now he has a chance at succeeding and doing his best in a school that really cares about him. He loves it so much that he even wakes up early every single day because he is excited to go.”

In its first year, SOAR aimed to provide opportunities for education through scholarships awarded to families with limited financial resources in the greater Racine area.

Plans began in 2005

Plans for the organization began five years ago when Tom Knitter, the former president of St. Catherine High School, Randy Baganz, executive director of Lutheran High School, and Laura Sumner Coon, executive director of San Juan Diego Middle School, convened community leaders at a series of breakfast discussions regarding private school funding in greater Racine.

“The achievement gap between children in poverty and more affluent students was alarmingly wide and growing,” said Sumner Coon. “Yet nearly all of our private schools were struggling financially and did not have the resources to serve many families who could not pay the tuition.”

Unlike Milwaukee’s PAVE (Parents Advocating Values Education), a scholarship foundation for children in poverty, and the Parental Choice Voucher Program, Racine schools were faced with the unlikelihood of appealing to state leaders to expand the voucher system or looking to the public for help.

“A steering committee gathered for a year to study what PAVE had done and to see what we would need to do in Racine to replicate the idea here,” said Sumner Coon. “In April of 2006, a number of people gathered to discern the first board of directors for SOAR. That group then pursued creating the organization with bylaws, outlining the organization’s philosophy and pursuing 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, which they achieved in May 2007.”

After San Juan Diego closed, Sumner Coon offered to help implement the program, and was named executive director on Aug. 1, 2009.

Students’ progress is monitored

SOAR strives to provide students from low-income families an opportunity to attend a network of approved, area private schools; grow in their academic achievement; and find success. Its mission is to build a network of schools to serve eligible students by providing quality education. SOAR schools will assess the progress of students receiving SOAR scholarships.

“These schools will be accredited and hold themselves to high academic standards,” said Sumner Coon. “And they will work with SOAR to provide the compassion and support necessary for scholarship recipients and their families so that students will succeed.”

Currently, 10 schools work with SOAR by opening their doors to children unable to afford a private education. The half Catholic and half Lutheran school systems are committed to expanding their populations to include more low income children and, according to Sumner Coon, are dedicated to working with SOAR to strengthen support to the children in the program.

“We want to ensure that the students who receive scholarships will be entering a welcoming environment with a school committed to helping them succeed,” she said. “We know that the private schools in our area will need assistance to support SOAR students and families. They will need translation services, mentoring support and other kinds of help to expand their student population. SOAR will assist them in this. We will also track scholarship recipients’ progress and help the schools and families to remove stumbling blocks to their success.”

Funding the scholarship program includes building relationships with organizations, corporations and individuals willing to enhance educational opportunities for children in poverty.

Fell short of first-year funding goal

Although SOAR was unable to meet its first-year goal of $300,000, the $116,000 raised enabled 10 children to attend three private Catholic schools. Thanks to the weekly mentoring services, students collectively had a 95 percent attendance rate and maintained a B- grade point average. Additional funding this year will enable former San Juan Diego Middle School and other low-income students who wish to continue their middle-school years in a private school.

“Blanca and Raunel Albiter were the first San Juan Diego parents to seek a Catholic school for their children,” said Sumner Coon. “We have a couple others with sponsors, but several students are still awaiting sponsors.”

With tuition at private elementary schools running $2,500 to $3,500, the need is great in the Racine area where it is estimated that half the student population among public school students are living in poverty.
“That is about 10,000 students who qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program,” said Sumner Coon. “Families living on income that is 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and below qualify. That means a family of four living on $40,783 qualifies for reduced lunch prices.”

90 children on program’s waiting list

The success of SOAR is evident in the 90 children on the program’s waiting list, all who qualify for the federal lunch program. Of those children, one-third are African American or bi-racial, one-third Latino and one-third Caucasian.

“We have only enough funds to send 13 students to four schools this year,” admitted Sumner Coon. “But we are hoping that with our successes so far that funding will come in so that we can place all students on the waiting list in private schools.”

On average, Sumner Coon said income levels for an average family of four attending San Juan Diego were less than $22,000.

“Another indication of need is that when we first started, parents began contacting me about the possibility of scholarships before we even announced where our offices would be,” she said.

An annual campaign and an ongoing series of fundraising events, grant writing and building relationships with prospective supporters will keep SOAR growing.

“Our budget is $450,000, roughly $150,000 to cover operating expenses and the remaining $300,000 is what we hoped to raise in scholarship money in the first year,” said Sumner Coon. “However, with additional fundraising programs and a recent back to school carnival, we hope to raise money and awareness of the work we are doing to educate our area children.”

While the overall need in Racine is great, SOAR’s primary goal the first year was to help displaced San Juan Diego students.

“San Juan Diego was the only private school whose student population was living in poverty,” said Sumner Coon. “Since many of these students are still displaced, SOAR wants to help them find a new private school. We are earnestly seeking sponsorships of $2,500 to support a student in a private school.”

Advisory board offers leadership

New this year is the SOAR’s education advisory board. In addition to providing mentoring services, the board will provide students, teachers and administrators with counseling services, anti-bullying programs, teacher in-service training, mental health prevention programming, parent workshops and mental health referral services.

Giving students a chance to experience the benefits of private school education is close to Sumner Coon’s heart. As a child, she attended St. Joseph Catholic School in Big Bend during an era when no tuition was required.

“The School Sisters of St. Francis, particularly Sr. Jean Becker, did an exceptional job of teaching us about social justice and Gospel living,” she said. “Every single person deserves the opportunity to have the kind of education that will nurture his or her God-given abilities. Every single person is obligated to help each other develop. We can’t just say we are one in the Body of Christ and not live it.”

For Sumner Coon, the need for a solution to the educational problem became evident years ago when she was involved in her parish community and serving on the parish council.

“I was someone who suddenly found herself a single parent unable to send my two children to the parish school,” she admitted. “My children, now grown, had the support of someone fortunate enough to have the education to be able to help them. Many of our families struggling in poverty have not had that advantage. Everyone deserves it.”

Loving the Eucharist and my Faith

I often wonder why some Christians have this insatiable desire to convert Catholics, as if we Catholics somehow fall short of the mark--maybe we just don't get it.

The whole premise on being Born Again or Accepting Jesus Christ as My Personal Lord and Savior often perplexes me.

For if we attend daily Mass or Sunday Mass, we receive Jesus and the Holy Spirit each time we stick out our tongue, receive the Eucharist and declare Amen. That Amen means, I believe you are my Lord and Savior. I believe that you died for me on the cross and rose again after the third day. And I believe that this wafer going into my mouth is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How awesome is that?

Jesus is given to us through His Word and Sacrament, creation and human relationships, and various major conversion points, such as being born again, and at specific points in life. Some of these are formal, and some are informal. some are big, and some are small. For me, it is a daily decision to walk with Him or not. Being a Christian  is all about "relationship," so it has a beginning like a new friendship, a formalization similar to a committment, and is ongoing through all eternity if you want it and requires effort, similar to keeping a marriage alive.

The choice is ours to make. We must all wake up to the wonder of it. I do not seek to convert my Christian brothers and sisters to Roman Catholicism and I respect their relationship and walk with Jesus.


As my friend, Rabbi Marc Gellman often says, "there are many paths up the same mountain."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

We are TSO Junkies



Oh yes, I landed them--after languishing on the TSO website all morning, I landed six of the most perfect tickets for the November show at the Allstate Arena. 

Tenth row back--about as good as you can get without being right up there on stage with founder Paul O'Neill, Megadeth guitarist Al Pitrelli, and composer and keyboardist Robert Kinkel.

Honestly, if Beethoven had had access to electric guitars,he would have used them, because TSO and Beethovan completely rocks!

We jumped on the TSO bandwagon back in 2002, but the roots of TSO go back to 1995, when Kinkel and buddy Paul O'Neill were in a heavy metal band that recorded an unlikely hit called "Christmas Eve in Sarajevo for a rock opera about the Balkan conflict.

Their record label suggested they put out an album of Christmas music, and band members decided to incorporate a more classical flavor.

Despite that we own Christmas Eve and Other Stories and the rest of their albums, we enjoy attending the live show. The band's family- friendly live shows combine a theatrically staged production of "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" with more recent works. For those jumping into the TSO fray, expect glitzy production, a light show, fire, snow and a 21-piece orchestra that includes TSO's six-piece rock band, a narrator, an eight-piece string section and six vocalists.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra isn't the first rock band to combine rock and roll with classical music ideas, Moody Blues did it and so did Electric Light Orchestra.

Many ask, about the group's name-The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. They are neither from Siberia nor an orchestra. So how did the entourage get its name?

According to Paul O'Neill, the groups founder. In the 1980s, he was fortunate enough to have been in Russia. He said, "if anyone has ever seen Siberia, it's incredibly beautiful but incredibly harsh and unforgiving. And the one thing everybody has in common there is the Trans-Siberian Railroad that moves across it in relative safety."

Ironically, life, too, can be incredibly beautiful but also incredibly harsh and unforgiving. Music is the one thing everyone has in common that moves across it in relative safety. So they decided to call the band Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was a little philosophical but they liked the initials, TSO, and the fact that it was different. And it still sounded good the next day.