Sunday, January 30, 2011

February's Monthly Prayer for Priests

Wow, hard to believe we are already headed towards February--this is the month that gives me hope for Spring--although we are supposed to get a dumping of snow on Tuesday.

Anyway, Anne Bender's wonderful ministry has posted her latest Monthly Prayer for priests--here is a portion of her newsletter if you are interested in saying a quick prayer or becoming more involved. Blessings to you and May the Lord Jesus Christ guide and protect our priests.

"As I do each month, I would like to encourage you to attend the Monthly Holy Hour for Vocations held at St. Francis de Sales Seminary Christ King Chapel.  On Sunday, February 13th, please join Roses for Our Lady and our Spiritual Director,  Fr. Don Hying, in an hour of prayer for  the intention of an increase in good and holy vocations to the diocesan priesthood in Milwaukee.  Roses for Our Lady is an organization of Catholic laity whose goal is to promote authentic Marian devotion. 
I've added a new link to the prayer resource page.  Since you are already praying for Pope Benedict and for Archbishop Listecki each month, perhaps you might like to commit to praying an additional weekly rosary for them and/or any other Bishop of your choice.  Please consider paying a visit to Rosary for The Bishop.  This organization was founded to support Madison's Bishop Morlino and is now literally doing a world of good in offering prayer reminders for any Bishop you choose to pray for!  I would also add that it was the founders of this magnificent organization who introduced me to The National MPRP organization in Boston, MA.  Without Rosary for the Bishop, the Milwaukee chapter of the MPRP would not be here! 
Now that the MPRP has been operating in Milwaukee for six months, you may be wondering how you might support this important apostolate.  In addition to prayer, which is the best support, I invite you to consider printing the calendars for distribution to your parish, the home bound parishioners in your area, or a nearby Catholic Nursing Home or Convent.  Most of all, I ask you to spread the word about this website, and invite your friends and family to drop me a note asking to be included in the email list.  If at any time, however, you would no longer like to receive these monthly emails, please send me a note and I will remove your name from the email list."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Dark Night of the Soul

Thought it was just me, but I have learned lately that many of us are wandering through the desert, sojourners in a quest to find our purpose, our mission, and the embrace of God.

Be it financial, relational, physical, or spiritual--God finds a way to bring us to our knees. While we may proudly proclaim to the world, that we have suffered enough--that lack of humility is another invitation to learn the reasons for our suffering, to grow closer to Christ.

One thing, I do know is that interceding on behalf of others who are also suffering is pleasing to our Lord, who loves true empathetic, spontaneous and soulful prayers exploding like fireworks before him.

I love this quote by St. Teresa of Avila:

"Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All things pass; God never changes Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices."

And He does--He will provide all that we need, perhaps not all that we want--but even with everything, without Him--it is all nothing.

Watching the cardinal brushing the snow from the feeder to fill his belly, reminds me that He who sees that even the birds are fed, will not forget us.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Real-life exorcist talks about his work

exorcist3-hopkinsAnthony Hopkins stars in a scene from the movie “The Rite.” (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)Between playing “cops and robbers,” a game of baseball, goofing around with friends, or in the silence of his bedroom, he felt it, or did he hear it? Like a quiet whisper, the voice of God drew the grade school boy near and seemed to ask, “Would you serve me?”

For a while, he thought about becoming a priest, but as a high school kid in the middle 1960s, the many Vatican II changes, as well as issues with leadership in his home parish, led Fr. Gary Thomas to follow in his father’s footsteps, the mortuary business.

“Things were in such turmoil in the church, and while I never lost my faith or stopped going to church, I put thoughts of the priesthood on the back burner,” said Fr. Thomas, 57. “I attended the University of San Francisco, and then went to embalmers or mortuary school after that, and served as a mortician for a few years – though I had helped my dad in the business since I was 14.”

Later, when the tugging within his heart intensified, he entered the seminary at 25 and was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of San Jose, Calif., when he was 30 years old. He has served the church for 27 years, the last five as an exorcist.

His chronicled real-life experiences as an exorcist-in-training was the subject of “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist,” a book written by Matt Baglio in 2009. Starring Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue, the movie based on Fr. Thomas’ experiences opens Jan. 28.

The film follows a somewhat skeptical seminary student Michael Kovak (O’Donoghue), sent to study exorcism at the Vatican. Anthony Hopkins plays the part of Fr. Lucas, an Italian priest and veteran exorcist who befriends Kovak and opens his eyes to demonic possession and the need for the rite.

Nothing in his seminary training prepared him for work in dispelling demons, and how he ended up in Rome, as an exorcist apprentice, was one of many of God’s surprises in his life.

“Our bishop was getting more calls back in 2005 by people who wanted to discern what was going on in their lives,” Fr. Thomas said in a phone interview with your Catholic Herald three days before the movie was scheduled to open. “So he asked another priest, who is a friend of mine, to study exorcism in Rome, but he declined. So I said I would do it and the bishop appointed me. I took a sabbatical and enrolled in classes at the Regina Apostolorum, sponsored by the Legionnaires of Christ. After just five sessions, I realized that I needed to apprentice under someone. There were only nine exorcists in Rome and it was not easy to find one as a pupil. But, finally, I found one and worked for three and a half months with him.”

After working together for a short time, Fr. Thomas realized that his understanding of Italian was better than the priest’s ability in English, so each week they found someone to translate all the technical aspects so he would be equipped to bring the knowledge home.

As in the movie, Fr. Thomas was skeptical about demonic possession and often chalked it up to phony manifestations or mental disorders, until he stuck around for a while, and realized that demonic possession is not only dangerous, but on the rise.

“I wasn’t scared, but once I knew that what we were dealing with was very real, I became quite interested in helping people,” he said. “The movie’s depiction of exorcism is very real to what I experienced.”

While he has participated in 40 exorcisms as a Vatican-certified exorcist in the past five years, all have been with just five people.

“Most of the time, it takes repeated treatments to fully rid the evil,” he said. “I am currently working with just one person, and it is our hope that with repeated sessions, it will stop.”exorcistpriest2Fr. Gary Thomas

Possessions are not as graphic as what is depicted in movies like “The Exorcist,” said Fr. Thomas, adding the priest never goes at it alone. A deliverance team accompanies him, including a physician, a clinical psychiatrist, and a psychologist who are all Roman Catholics that believe in demonic possession.

“I also try to have two priests with me for all of these cases. This system helps me to discern when a person is truly in the realm of the satanic or whether there are certain mental issues that need to be addressed,” he said “One of the greatest areas of concern that I see are charismatic groups who think a member of their group is possessed and will try to exorcise the person. These groups can do a lot of damage to others, especially since most of them are suffering with other problems in their lives, including mental issues.”

Since the book’s release and now with the movie, Fr. Thomas has received more than 300 requests to assess those who think they may have possession issues.

“I try to refer most of the people back to their diocese to find an exorcist in their area,” he said. “But I have probably talked to a hundred people about their situations and referred them for evaluation through mental health organizations first. While most cases involve mental health issues, overall, demonic possession is on the rise and as Catholics, there is much we can do to keep that door closed in our lives.”

The attention has been a strange phenomenon for Fr. Thomas, who is unaccustomed to the fame that came from the book and the movie.

“I tell you, being a celebrity is not what you think it is,” he said, laughing. “But I truly enjoyed my week in Budapest working with Anthony Hopkins and Colin – in fact both came to me prior to the movie and were concerned that they would become demonically attacked, but we talked it out and I told them what I do when it happens to me.”

And nearly every time Fr. Thomas performs an exorcism, he said he is taunted and emotionally attacked by the devil. And each time, he prays the same prayer.

“It isn’t as often as it was in the beginning, but I am attacked – not physically, but in other ways; it is kind of random,” he said, adding, “I always pray, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave me alone,’ and it works every time.”

Fr. Thomas said the strength of faith and prayer life of Catholics has dwindled over the years and those in their 20s, 30s and younger often have miniscule faith. He encourages parents to be strong, faith-filled examples to their children and serve as a good example of what it means to be Roman Catholic.

“We have allowed in paganism and opened the door to the occult in our lives,” he said, “But I am hoping that this movie will draw more people back to the faith. The movie is excellent and the topic is emotionally charged and controversial. While I have received lots of support in my home parish in San Jose, Calif., there has been some negativity, too, but it is a small minority. I think that as we have expunged God out of the marketplace, there is a spiritual longing in all of us. We live in a pop culture where institutional religion is smothered by the wares and cares of the days and there seems to be no opportunity or time for prayer. We are so distracted by the world.”

Read a Catholic News Service review of "The Rite," Friday, Jan. 28.

K-12 school is educational model

108-24-10-CHN30St. Joseph Lower Academy students listen to the blessing and dedication at St. Joseph Upper Academy in Kenosha on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010. The school is in its first year as a K-12 school and is a model for Catholic education across the country. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)On any given day, students at St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Kenosha might be speaking Mandarin Chinese, Italian, French or Spanish, studying from their personal laptops, or meeting with a campus minister to discuss faith issues.

Not too surprising for a group of high school students, right?

However, these are middle school students, and this K-12 school has become a model for Catholic education across the county.

In its first year as a K-12 school, St. Joseph Academy has changed Catholic education. While the Catholic educational system in the United States is suffering financial setbacks and closing or merging parish schools, St. Joseph Academy reflects a new era in successful collaborative community education.

Following more than 20 years of committees, task forces and debates regarding the future of Catholic education in the Kenosha area, St. Joseph Academy formed in the 2010-11 school year with the merging of the 53-year-old St. Joseph High School, St. Joseph Inter-parish Junior High and the recently closed St. Mark Elementary School. According to president Robert Freund, the transformation was a period of intense difficulty, but the school has not only survived, but also thrived beyond its expectations.
“This was not an easy process at all for anyone, especially for our teachers,” he said. “At the directives of the archdiocese, all of our staff had to reapply and we had very negative feedback among the community. We interviewed based on Archbishop (Jerome E.) Listecki’s requirements that our staff needed to have a heavy duty Catholic identity and our interviewer’s questions reflected this. Through the process we came up with the most qualified candidates to staff our school.”

With many new teachers and staff members hired at the academy, the public was wary, but what happened afterward stunned everyone, especially St. Joseph’s new principal, Edward Kovochich.

“The community was shocked and waited to see if we could deliver on our promise to have so many excellent resources such as fine arts, performing arts, languages, advanced technology, sports, campus ministry, counselors, and our new electronic curriculum,” he said. “We dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s and gave all our middle school students laptop computers, trained our staff in advanced technology and our enrollment has grown.”

Since the formation of the academy, enrollment has jumped to 659, more than 20 percent in all grade levels, and the trend is expected to continue. There are 485 students enrolled in grades 6 to 12 at the upper campus, and 174 students enrolled in the lower grades.

“The parents have been so excited about the way the school is headed, the courses, the technology, but most of all the Catholic identity at St. Joseph’s Academy,” said Freund. “We are giving many tours of the school and continue to see a significant spike in enrollment. Next year we will have laptops for all students in grades 6-12, and many of the courses are being written by our teaching staff, which eliminates the purchase of textbooks. The community reaction has been ‘bravo’ and surprising to both Ed and me because the entire transition was so painful. But we are happy with this new school year, what we are able to offer and look forward to growing and making this a better school each year.”

To assist St. Joseph Academy with the transition, Freund worked with members of University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) to develop St. Joseph into a model of education.

This mission of ACE, which began in 1993, is to strengthen and sustain Catholic schools. The organization, honored by the White House, and emulated by other universities, seeks to engage people who are passionate about meeting the needs of under-resourced elementary and secondary Catholic schools around the world. Since its inception, the program has become widely known among hundreds of Catholic dioceses.

Part of the program includes formation for teachers and administrators seeking to become better leaders, building language programs, participating in federal grant programs, and collaborating concerns among Catholic educators to achieve a promising outcome.

“We met in person four times with ACE representatives on site; we have also teleconferenced with them, and met with our school steering committee and transition teams to begin the process to form St. Joseph High School, St. Joseph Inter-parish High School and St. Mark’s into St. Joseph’s Academy. They were very helpful in keeping us on track and providing a governance to curriculum and a road map for us that was focused, neutral and unbiased. It has really kept us on target to develop an excellent product,” said Freund.

Watching the outcome of this transition in a community where at one time, nearly every parish had a school, to creating a successful collaborative model for Catholic education was Jesuit Fr. John Belmonte, former principal of Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, and now superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Joliet, Il.

“He has spoken with Ed and is interested in coming to see our school, our program, and is looking to implement something similar in the Diocese of Joliet,” said Freund. “He wants to bring in a contingency of educators, look at our shared resources, world language, laptops and heavy duty technological training we have. He particularly likes our approach to staff using e-books rather than textbooks because it saves money and makes the laptops a significant investment for the future.”

In addition, members of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas are interested in learning about the Kenosha academy’s approach to Catholic education and partnered with ACE to observe what ACE advocate director, Chuck Lamphier, states about St. Joseph Catholic Academy.

“They are a new brand of Catholic education that exemplifies a Catholic identity and 21st century learning themes,” he said, in a recent report. “St. Joseph Academy will become a flagship for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee as well as becoming a national model for unifying multiple schools and supporting parishes in a PreK-12 educational model.”

For Kovochich, who is accustomed to older students as his previous employment includes serving as principal of Dominican Catholic High School,  Milwaukee, joining forces with a K-12 Catholic system has been an enjoyable experience.

“I hadn’t worked with these lower grades before. What a ride,” he said. “I love walking into the classrooms and having these daily learning locks in my mind. To walk into a grade eight theology class and see all of the eighth graders annotating on a big screen, doing comparisons and contrasts for the Gospel of Luke, discussing it, and learning that way is incredible. There is a rigor being taught, but with an application and analysis and engaging of the kids that I have never seen.”

Catholic Memorial among nation’s best

20101119_14170065 Fr. Sean O’Connell, team chaplain and associate pastor at St. Dominic Parish, Brookfield, addresses members of the Catholic Memorial High School football team Friday, Nov. 18 during a Mass celebrated prior to the team boarding buses to Madisonfor the WIAA Division III state championship game the following day. (Submitted photo courtesy Seidel Creative Group)Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha is one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the country, according to the National Catholic High School Honor Roll.

Schools are chosen based on their commitment to academic excellence, Catholic identity and civic education.

Two Wisconsin Catholic high schools made the list, including Xavier High School in Appleton.

According to Kara Eagle, spokesperson for the National Catholic High School Honor Roll, Catholic Memorial is “a shining example” of overall high achievement while maintaining a strong Catholic identity.

“Based on the Catholic Memorial High School’s responses to three surveys relating to academic excellence, Catholic identity and civic education, (it is) among the top 50 in the nation,” she said. “Catholic Memorial has made great strides in the past few years to achieve this distinction, and we at the Honor Roll congratulate them on this achievement.”

As president of Catholic Memorial, Fr. Paul Hartmann credits principal Robert Hall and the school staff for immersing students in Catholicism, providing an outstanding community service program, and presenting the opportunity for young people to graduate and change the world.

“I have been president for three years, and graduated from Catholic Memorial in 1984, and while so many things, especially technologically, have changed since I attended, there is still the sense of community and family that are very much the same,” he said. “A lot of the faculty is still here, and I think that, above all, the Catholic identity is the most important. We have an obvious sense of our faith with the use of imagery, statues, crucifixes and overall prayer life at Catholic Memorial.”

In addition to daily Mass attended by at least 50 students, there are monthly all-school liturgies for the 757-member student body, weekly opportunities to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, rosary club and Eucharistic adoration for students wishing to deepen their faith.

“Our entire curriculum and class syllabus contains benchmarks for the teachers to help students integrate faith into their subjects, as well as to connect with parishes and encourage parish participation,” said Fr. Hartmann. “Most of our staff and teachers are Catholic and this encourages some sort of interdisciplinary work theology into all of our subjects.”20101119_21460097 Fr. Sean O’Connell, team chaplain, leads the Crusaders onto the field as they prepare to play in the WIAA Division III state championship game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2010 at Camp Randall Field in Madison. The Crusaders lost 35-0 to West De Pere. (Submitted photo courtesy Seidel Creative Group)

Caitlin Dolan, communications coordinator at Catholic Memorial, said that Honor Roll’s criteria for a top school developed after years of extensive research concerning the nature and condition of secondary Catholic education. A strong sense of Catholic identity tops the list of key traits.

“The best schools are unapologetically Catholic,” she explained. “This aligns them with the mission of Catholic education overall. Without a sound religious education program grounded in a strong and accurate grasp of the Catholic faith as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the reason for being a Catholic high school disappears.”

Immersed within those traits are clear mission and vision statements for the school to define their purpose, goals, focus and direction. Defining the school’s direction leads to localized responsibility.

“Schools that are responsible for themselves tend to be more productive and can make necessary changes more quickly,” said Dolan.

In addition to quality personnel, utilizing successful teaching philosophies provides a framework for educating and forming students.

“It goes without saying that Catholic schools working to incorporate the Catholic faith into (their) daily way of life will include Catholic practice, prayer and tradition,” said Dolan. “This is more than a mere edifice of Catholic cultural practices, but includes the richness of the full truth about God and humanity as revealed by Jesus Christ in his Catholic Church.”

With 97 percent of Catholic Memorial graduates going on to higher education, the school places a high emphasis on preparing its students for vocations.

“It is of great importance for Catholics to be involved in every facet of our culture, both to provide examples of holiness and to bring the truth taught by the Catholic Church to bear on one’s area of civic, professional, scientific or social expertise,” said Dolan.

The criteria emphasized by Honor Roll are what brought Peter Lange to Catholic Memorial, not only as the parent of two high school students, but also as the music director.

“My wife and I have two sons currently in the school at CMH. Sam, 16, our first child, is a junior and Charlie, 15, is a freshman,” he said. “Both could not imagine being anywhere else. We also have a third son, Joe, who is currently in seventh grade at St. Joseph Middle School in Waukesha. He’s already talking about, ‘when I’m at CMH….’”

After 20 years working in home construction, Lange finished his music education degree, and just 90 days after beginning the program, the job at Catholic Memorial opened up.

“I applied and a new plan for my life began unfolding and I cannot imagine being anywhere else,” he said. “As a second-year teacher, I feel like I am continually becoming aware of more areas in which our students, faculty and staff are involved in projects which address the needs of others, from Thanksgiving food baskets for the members of our local community to collecting funds for reforestation on Haiti. Our school is dedicated to living our motto: Caritas in Omnibus: Charity in all things.”

When Lange and his wife, Roseann, attended the school’s open house in October 2007, the care and commitment displayed by faculty, staff, parents and student volunteers impressed them.

“My immediate impression was: ‘Here is a place where everyone wants to be excellent,’” he said. “I also have a vivid recollection of attending Sam’s freshman orientation Mass in August 2008 and not wanting to leave campus afterwards. In fact, I joked to another parent: ‘Maybe if I just hang around, they’ll put me to work.’ I knew at that moment I was called to put my energy and skills to work at Catholic Memorial.”

Lange’s comments are typical of the feedback Fr. Hartmann receives on a regular basis. The dedication to the school is exemplified in the number of parent volunteers, and support in the academic and extracurricular offerings at Catholic Memorial.

“I would say as we look ahead, there is nothing in my mind but optimism for the future for Catholic schools in Waukesha County and Catholic Memorial in particular,” he said. “It’s a great year and right now this fall we had three state championship sports teams and the most recognized drama program in the state. We have seven reigning state champions including last year when the ski team won. The kids do a lot of great things while maintaining the highest academic standards and grades.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Along the line of my request to follow Anne's monthly prayer for priests-- found this poem this morning and thought it appropriate

By the late John J Cardinal Carberry

Keep them; I pray Thee, dearest Lord.
Keep them, for they are Thine
The priests whose lives burn out before
Thy consecrated shrine.
Keep them, for they are in the world,
Though from the world apart.
When earthly pleasures tempt, allure --
Shelter them in Thy heart.
Keep them and comfort them in hours
Of loneliness and pain,
When all their life of sacrifice
For souls seems but in vain.
Keep them and  remember, Lord,
they have no one but Thee.
Yet, they have only human hearts,
With human frailty.
Keep them as spotless as the Host,
That daily they caress;
Their every thought and word and deed,
                                                         Deign, dearest Lord, to bless.

Today we pray for Reverend Brian Holbus

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The best day in a long time!

Wow, today was one of those red letter days, you just have to expound on it because everything seamlessly fell into place unlike my day a week ago, when nearly everything fell apart at once.

To start my day, I learned that I won a children's sewing book after entering a contest on a sewing blog--a big thanks to my daughter Kelly, for sending me to the blog and encouraging me to enter the contest. I can't wait to try out the patterns on my lovely grandkids!

Then I interviewed Fr. Gary Thomas, the priest whose story is chronicled in the new movie 'The Rite.' He was very easy going and amiable, the interview went off without a hitch and miracle of miracles, I wrote the story in one hour--rocking my deadline!

Next, the UPS delivery guy dropped off two boxes: the first from Amazon that contained two books--a gift from a new friend, who has quickly become a kindred spirit and a true blessing in my life. Our friendship happened after a very horrible ebay selling experience and I do believe God sent me her as my angel. Thank you Sheila--I will never forget your kindness.

The other box contained four extra sets of bottles and soda mix for our Sodastream soda maker. The thing is, I received the same order yesterday. So, I called the company and spoke with a lovely lady named Kristin who informed me that it was a gift for having to wait so long for my order--and this was on top of getting some extra soda points in my account! Wow, talk about fantastic customer service. Not only do they make a great product but they went above and beyond normal customer support--thank you Sodastream! We are forever customers!

Lastly, I finally got the courage to use my new Imperia hand crank pasta machine and made a batch of gluten-free fettuccine. I think I died and went to heaven--that pasta was so tasty, so succulent, and so much better than store bought gluten free noodles and much cheaper! I think I probably gained 10 glorious pounds--sorry Doc, I will be better tomorrow! That is unless I find another recipe to try!

Please pray for our priests

A friend of mine developed this website dedicated to praying for the priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Our priests struggle more than we do to remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to the Magesterium of the Church, to remain chaste and faith-filled Catholics and to minister to God's people without wavering.

A tough call indeed, and a simple prayer can help keep them true to their vows. Each day Anne Bender lists the name of a priest on a downloadable calendar or weekly, in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.

St. John Vianney once said, "There are no bad priests, only priests for whom there has not been enough prayer." Won't you join me in praying for our priests?

Today on January 25, on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (as well as my son Erin's birthday) is an opportunity to pray for all Paulist Priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese and beyond. 

May God's peace be with you!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Messmer Catholic School Grows

messmer-1Messmer Preparatory Catholic School recently purchased the buildings adjoining the school at 3027 N. Fratney St., Milwaukee. The newly purchased buildings include St. Mary Czestochowa Church, the rectory and garage. (Catholic Herald photo by Amy E. Taylor)MILWAUKEE — The Messmer Catholic School system is enjoying another year of record enrollment and is about to get a new look. The school recently purchased St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, and the adjoining rectory and garage buildings adjacent to Messmer Preparatory Catholic School at 3027 N. Fratney St.

Messmer Catholic Schools serve more than 1,500 students in grades K-12 at three campuses: Messmer High School, Messmer Preparatory Catholic School and St. Rose and St. Leo Catholic School.

While many public schools have struggled to maintain enrollment quotas, Messmer High School’s enrollment is at capacity with more than 600 students, with a significant waiting list. More than 85 percent of Messmer’s high school graduates go on to college, and each graduating class earns millions of dollars in scholarships.

Additionally, the K4-8 programs serve more than 800 students, and according to Jennifer Flierl, Messmer’s marketing and communications manager, the trajectory of increasing demand for Catholic education shows no signs of waning.

“In 2000, Messmer High School added Messmer Preparatory Catholic School, serving grades K4-8, to become Messmer Catholic Schools,” she explained. “In 2007, at the request of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Messmer also took over management of St. Rose and St. Leo, then known as the Catholic Urban Academies. Today, the schools are unified as St. Rose and St. Leo Catholic School in the St. Rose building in the Merrill Park neighborhood.”

Messmer High School was the first Catholic high school in the archdiocese, founded in 1926. The school’s current growth surprises those who struggled with the closure of the high school in 1984 due to declining enrollment. In desperation, a group of parents, friends and alumni reopened the school as an independent Catholic High School with an initial enrollment of 115 students.

“Messmer’s growth over the last decade, though a tremendous blessing, has left us with space constraints on all three campuses. This purchase will allow Messmer to address some of these concerns,” said Flierl. “As Messmer Prep is adjacent to the St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, rectory and garage buildings, it only made sense to consider this as a possible area for expansion.”

With the purchase, the school plans to expand the kindergarten offerings at Messmer Prep to establish a framework of high expectations offered in a nurturing and faith-filled environment, beginning with the youngest students.

“The ability to provide a high quality education to students from a very young age through high school graduation leaves no room for excuses,” explained Flierl. “When children come to us at 4 and stay with us through high school, they will experience a complete Messmer education. Students will be prepared to excel in college, to succeed in the workforce, and to become productive citizens.”

In addition, the purchase will allow for a larger playground area to meet the needs of the growing number of grade school students, and more room to accommodate additional office space for the school staff members.p.4messmerB-01-20-11With the recent purchase, Messmer Catholic Schools owns the properties lining the entire block in the Riverwest neighborhood. The purchase will allow the school to expand more fully into the neighborhood, according to school spokesperson Jennifer Flierl. The school does not plan to alter the church building and, in partnership with Our Lady of Divine Providence Parish, at least three Masses will continue to be celebrated in the church weekly. (Catholic Herald photo by Amy E. Taylor)

While renovation details of the 29,476 square-foot property are yet not available, there are no plans to alter the St. Mary of Czestochowa church building. Founded as a parish in 1907, the current church building was constructed and dedicated to Mary in 1945. In 2003, St. Mary of Czestochowa Parish and St. Casimir Parish united to form Our Lady of Divine Providence Parish.

Negotiations were initiated several months ago as a means to right-size Our Lady of Divine Providence’s holdings and provide an opportunity for Messmer’s growth. According to Flierl, the process was collaborative and a blessing to all involved.

“In a partnership with Our Lady of Divine Providence, Mass will continue to be celebrated for parishioners. Parish priests Frs. Tim Kitzke, Brian Mason and Michael Michalski have offered to assist with Messmer’s Masses and prayer services. Mass will continue to be celebrated at St. Mary of Czestochowa on Monday and Tuesday mornings and Saturday afternoons,” she said.

The school is in discussion with architects regarding options for expansion; information will be released to the public in upcoming months.

According to Messmer president, Capuchin Br. Bob Smith, the purchase of the parish buildings of St. Mary of Czestochowa will provide needed space to support student programs.

“In addition, ownership of the church building, a stunning structure, will provide our students greater access to worship opportunities to extend their faith experience,” he said.

By acquiring property near the site of Messmer Preparatory Catholic School, Messmer will be able to expand more fully into the Riverwest neighborhood, said Flierl.

“When we added Messmer Prep in 2000, we did so consciously to tap into this vibrantly diverse community,” she said. “Providing a diverse student body with an education rooted in our Catholic faith is at the heart of what we do.”

Flierl is proud of Messmer’s academic success immersed with the richness of the Catholic faith, including a partnership with the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order, and benefit from the Capuchins’ assistance in sacramental ministry and other instructional areas.

“Many urban schools are struggling with declining populations, yet strong schools will continue to grow as parents recognize the value of providing their children with the best educational options,” she said. “Messmer participates in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program to allow families that may not have the financial resources to provide their children with a private, Catholic education, this special and life-changing opportunity.”

Field of Dreams for Treyton

p.1Kilar_Treyton_3x5Treyton Kilar, age 6. (Submitted photo courtesy the Kilar family)In the silence of his cornfield, Kevin Costner heard a voice whisper, “If you build it, he will come,” and saw a vision of a baseball field – his “Field of Dreams.”

Mary and Michael Kilar hope that building their own Field of Dreams will help transcend the haunting silence in their hearts, while preserving the memory of their 6-year-old son, Treyton, killed Sept. 2, 2010, by a drunk driver in Walworth County.

Treyton was never without his baseball glove, and wanted more than anything to play for the Milwaukee Brewers. According to Mike and Mary, he wanted to play baseball every minute of every day.

“Trey played baseball in some shape or form every day,” said Mike. “Outside in the front yard if weather permitted, or in our living room. He would turn any space you had to offer into a baseball field. If you were sitting still, you were going to be asked to play catch. We would play for hours in the front yard, sometimes until it was so dark, we could barely see the ball. Then he would say, ‘Let’s go play inside.’”

Passion for game was endless

Treyton’s passion for the game and for others to love it as much as he did was endless, according to Mike, who treasures every memory he has of his only son.

“It always touched me greatly to watch Trey help and teach kids, both younger and older, play his favorite pastime,” he said.

If the Brewers weren’t playing live, he’d park himself in front of the television watching reruns while wearing his Prince Fielder jersey.

“He knew the stats and line-ups,” said Mary, principal of St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Jefferson in the Madison Diocese. “He always told us he was going to play for the Brewers one day – and we believed him. We always encouraged him to dream big and through hard work, he would get there.”

The accident occur-red after a Whitewater High School volleyball match, where Mary is assistant coach and oldest daughter, Brittany, 17, was playing. Michael was driving Treyton and sisters, Rosie, 15, and Kindyl, 5, home when the drunk driver struck them. Treyton died shortly after at the hospital, and Mike suffered a broken bone in his neck and broken sternum, resulting in a lengthy recuperation period.
How to vote for
Trey’s Field of Dreams

Pepsi is awarding the grant to the project with the most votes in the month of January. Every person can vote up to a total of three times daily (one vote each
of the following ways):

1. Pepsi’s Web link - http://www.refresh

2. Text - to 73774 and
then you text the number 105500

3. Facebook - http://www.refresh

Click on the blue button “Install the Application” and follow Facebook’s directions. 
If you have multiple e-mail addresses - only use one and you must be at least
13 years old.

Family is top priority

“Mike is in medical equipment sales for Roche Diagnostics and his company has been incredible in their support of our family,” said Mary. “He was badly injured in the crash and his company showed compassion and support as he healed. Both of us were assured from our work families that things were taken care of and they encouraged us to make our family our top priority. It was wonderful to have such support.”

To keep Treyton’s memory alive, his family and the Whitewater community are building Treyton’s Field of Dreams at Starin Park in Whitewater to commemorate his life and to honor all affected by similar tragedies.

“We know now that he is playing on the real ‘field of dreams’ with Jesus in heaven, but in his honor some friends mentioned building a ball field in his name,” explained Mary. “What greater gift to give than a field to honor Treyton’s memory, educate on the dangers of destructive decision making, create family opportunities and give thousands of youth an opportunity to dream big and achieve those dreams. Treyton would have loved to play on such a field and we are positive that in between innings with Jesus he is smiling down on us.”

Vote for Trey

To help create this $450,000 Little League Premier diamond, with lighting, concession stand and dugouts, that would be used for tournaments, practices and local leagues, the family is asking for public help to Vote for Trey – for a chance to win a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project.

“We learned of this contest from Matt Amundson, the park and recreation director of Whitewater, who submitted the idea to the Pepsi Refresh project,” said Mary. “We can get the grant if we get the most votes on our project. Each person can vote for our project three times per day until the end of January. Voting is simple and you can text it, Facebook it and vote via e-mail, totally three votes per day. If we have the most votes, we will be awarded the $250,000 grant for this project.”

Grandparents try to find positive

In addition to the project, the Whitewater community, friends and family have helped with fundraisers and “Play for Trey” events to raise money for the field. Supporting their daughter Mary, son-in-law Mike and their grandchildren, Eileen and Dick Jaskolski, members of St. James Parish, Menomonee Falls, have been doing all they can to help with fundraising.

“Dick and I help as much as possible,” said Eileen. “We try to support them and work behind the scenes in any way we can. We would do anything and everything to help make something positive out of this terrible tragedy.”

After Treyton died, Eileen remembers an hour-long phone call from her pastor, Fr. Arthur Heinze, mostly punctuated by her sobbing.

“Then Daryl Olszewski, our pastoral associate, wrote a column for our parish bulletin using Mary’s ‘Words of Remembrance’ from Trey’s funeral liturgy,” she said. “The people at our parish have been phenomenal coordinating fundraisers, helping with the Vote for Trey contest, passing out fliers, and teaching people how to vote. The people at St. James couldn’t be more supportive spiritually, emotionally and in their actions.”p.15DSC06606Treyton Kilar was a bundle of energy, according to his parents. Pictured here during a snowboarding excursion, Kilar,6, was killed by a drunk driver last September. In his memory, family and friends are fundraising to build a ball field in the Whitewater area. (Submitted photo courtesy the Kilar family)

Family feels lifted by prayer

Support from their parishes, St. Patrick, Whitewater and St. John the Baptist, Jefferson, has been tremendous, according to Mary, who has often felt lifted up by prayer and love. For two months following the accident, friends from the Whitewater and Jefferson communities provided meals and sent gifts and cards for the family.

“They have all truly been the hands and feet of Christ,” said Mary. “Our pastor visits with us often and has brought goodies to our home. He came to our home to say Mass with our extended family when we were unable to leave our home right after the crash. What a remarkable thing that was to be able to pray with our Heavenly Father and our family right in our home.”

While the family is navigating their grief in a constructive direction, there are days when the tears won’t stop and each struggles to place one foot in front of the other. When the grief becomes too difficult, friends, family and parishioners hold and comfort the family.

“The community has come together in such a way that has left us speechless,” Mary said. “Thousands upon thousands of individuals have shown support and love to us. Knowing we are not alone, knowing there are good, genuine people who care for us and our family has given us some strength and hope. Words cannot express how much the community has helped us.”

Faith is their guide

While he doesn’t understand the reason for their suffering, Mike relies on God for the proper timing.

“My faith has helped me to greatly understand and begin to heal from this tragedy,” he said. “I may not have the answers to why this has happened to us, but I am sure the answers will be shared with me when the time is right. My faith will guide me through this.”

Eileen and Dick said that while they cry often, and wish this accident had only been a nightmare, they have never felt angry with God for their grandson’s death, nor do they hold animosity for the drunk driver.

“We are human beings and God created us with the free will to make choices,” said Eileen. “The man who killed our angel made a choice to drink and drive. That was a horrible choice, and do I hate the choice he made? Absolutely. However, will our family spend any time or energy feeling hatred or resentment? Absolutely not. That wouldn’t be what Trey would want us to do.”

Like Treyton’s parents, Eileen and Dick cling to the memories of a sweet, affectionate boy who never uttered an unkind word about another person and was liked by all of the children in his kindergarten class.

“Mary tells story of a little boy in kindergarten that liked to hug and kiss Trey,” said Eileen. “She suggested some words Trey could use if the boy was ‘in his space’ or that they could ask the teacher for help. Then she asked Trey what he thought. He said, ‘I figure this, it really doesn’t hurt me, and if it makes him feel better, I just let him do it, get it over with and then he moves on.’”

Mike hopes that building Treyton’s Field of Dreams will turn a terrible tragedy into something wonderful.

“Kids will be able to dream big, just like Trey did,” he explained. “And knowing this field was built for Trey and all kids and families that have suffered tragedies in their lives. The sad part is, this is something Trey would have loved to be a part of and play on such a field. I know in his heart he is looking down smiling, while he is playing on his Field of Dreams up in heaven.”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Free food, drinks, babysitter!

DestinationMarriageSpending a Saturday night with your spouse enjoying a little food, a few drinks and listening to a speaker could enhance your marriage  – especially if the evening out is free, includes babysitting and is sponsored by the Nazareth Project of the John Paul II Center.

A year in the making, Destination Marriage is similar to the popular Theology on Tap series, except it is designed for married adults seeking to strengthen their relationships. The series aspires to offer married couples immediate formation, to equip them for ongoing formation and to connect them to other couples.

According to Lydia LoCoco, director of the Nazareth Project, the idea for Destination Marriage began with the mission of the 3-year-old Nazareth Project and is an extension of the Catholic Church’s belief that marriages can be lifelong, faithful, fruitful and life giving.

“The church knows that marriage is the most time-honored and time-tested institution on the face of the earth and that it has a particular meaning that is unchangeable, beyond cultural variances and even attempts to change it,” she said. “The bishops’ plan to strengthen marriages begins by evangelizing that ‘marriage is the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman, a bond ordered to love and life.’ This is what marriage is. It’s not arbitrary or made up. As church, we need to be better at articulating that marriage is grounded in the nature and identity of the human person, created by God as man and woman.”

Bishops’ pastoral is starting point

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has written a National Pastoral Initiative on Marriage, meant to be a starting point for each diocese, allowing for evangelization, catechesis, pastoral, education and advocacy within the parishes.

A team of four, led by LoCoco, created the Destination Marriage program that will consist of four evening formation sessions facilitated by trained (archdiocesan approved) presenters.

“I handpicked the team that created Destination Marriage,” she explained. “Three of us are married – one is a married deacon, the other works with youth and young adults and is a young adult himself and the fourth member of the team is a priest.”

Dave Braun, youth minister of St. Frances Cabrini Parish, West Bend, is excited to be part of something he views as helpful and needed for married couples to build up their relationships in everyday life and faith.
Visit and click on the Destination Marriage logo for more information on
Destination Marriage.

The series begins
Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.
Holy Angels
138 N. 8th Ave., West Bend

Onsite babysitting is
available free.
Registration is only needed if babysitting is required.
To register call Chris Pritzl,
(262) 692.6678 or
nickchrispritzl@hotmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For more information go to

sponsored by the Nazareth Project of the John Paul II Center, Archdiocese of Milwaukee

For questions or more information about Destination Marriage, call Lydia LoCoco, director of the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation at
(414) 758-2214.

“Selfishly, I was also involved in part, because I fit the target audience, 36 and married with two kids in grade school,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to have a night out, meet other couples who are Catholic in the area and maybe even help our own marriage a bit.”

Early feedback is positive

Early feedback from married couples in the archdiocese is favorable, Braun said.

“Theology on Tap works well and I think this type of setting for married couples will seem to work well for this series,” he said. “Those that have spoken to me seem genuinely interested and even grateful for an opportunity to get some time together.”

The program is targeted toward married couples in their 20s, 30s, 40s and possibly 50s with or without children. In a casual setting, Destination Marriage leaves adequate time for social interaction to foster long-term connections among the couples.

“This is simply a speaker series for married couples looking for a night of food, fun and a bit of formation, and we take the food and fun part of this very seriously,” said LoCoco. “The series offers insights into married life based on the personal experiences of presenting couples in light of the Catholic tradition. This series provides an opportunity for couples to be together in a relaxed atmosphere and informal setting. It is for all married couples raising kids from newborns through their teenage years, or who have no children at all.”

Session begins Jan. 22

The series begins Jan. 22 at Holy Angels School, West Bend at 7 p.m. with “Marriage Myths Busted.” Married couples can often feel isolated or alone in thinking that what they are experiencing in marriage is unique to them, when the reality is that marriages tend to share a lot in common.

This session will address popular misconceptions in marriage with plain, honest talk, sharing personal experiences about what marriage is really like, and why certain aspects, such as arguing, can be fine.

Session Two, “Avoiding Polygamy,” on Feb. 19 continues formation on fidelity, freedom, and fruitfulness by placing intimacy at their core. Speakers will discuss how God’s intimacy is the model for marital intimacy.

“Married couples need to be aware of the threats to intimacy,” said LoCoco. “Those things that undermine fidelity, freedom and fruitfulness, those things that lead to having multiple spouses, both figuratively and literally – a result to be avoided at all costs. The church’s teachings on chastity, contraception, pornography, masturbation and Natural Family Planning are meant to help safeguard true intimacy, fidelity, freedom and fruitfulness. There is a spirituality of married love with concrete practices that can serve as remedies to those dangers.”

Session Three, “Raising Catholic Kids,” on March 19 speaks to a common concern and question of married couples on raising children to be faithful Catholics. The church maintains that such formation occurs mainly in the home, and that the family is the domestic church. Through shared stories and experiences of presenters, attendees will learn practical insights into raising children through practices in the home that establish religious identity.

Session Four, “You’re only Together for Life,” on April 9 will be presented by Fr. Don Hying, rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, addressing the often overlooked truth that marriage is, by definition, a temporary reality.

“This fourth session of each series will be given by a priest and we thought who better to start off with, but Fr. Don Hying,” said LoCoco. “This session addresses what spouses can do to help each other reach the ultimate goal – heaven!”

Program addresses stages of marriage

As hosts to the first Destination Marriage series, Deacon Mark Jansen of Holy Angels Parish is excited to welcome married couples from all over the archdiocese.

“In our parish and throughout the archdiocese, there continues to be a need for marriage support at all stages,” Deacon Jansen said. “I like the idea that Destination Marriage looks at the challenges of the earlier stages of marriage, including the challenges of being parents, as well as being marriage partners. Destination Marriage provides an opportunity not only for some great support from other married couples, but it gives couples a chance for some really great time together.”

As a deacon, he counsels engaged couples, and is hopeful that offering this program will follow through with his desire to see all couples have a successful marriage.

“We want them to know that they are not facing the challenge of marriage and parenting alone, and it has never been more important to pray for and support marriage and family,” said Deacon Jansen. “I hope the outcome is that couples that attend find this program helpful in supporting and encouraging them as marriage partners and parents. I am optimistic that this program will be effective in helping all those who attend in some way. I really see this program as having something for all those who attend.”

No cost to participating parishes

The program has no cost to participating parishes. The Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation is responsible for the promotion, content, planning and speakers. The parish is only responsible for hosting the series and providing the hospitality.

“It was designed that way after seeing the success that we have had with Theology on Tap, which also comes out of the Nazareth Project,” explained LoCoco. “Like Theology on Tap, we will have Destination Marriage as an ongoing speaker series, which will be hosted twice a year – in the winter/spring and then in the fall, all around the archdiocese. Catholics in the archdiocese will only have to check on the JPII Web site to see where the series is being hosted. It is a big archdiocese and we plan on taking this series all over the map. We are thrilled to have our kick-off be West Bend.”

Despite blindness, Kenosha woman sees hope

POF-gilliandSt. Augustine said, “Faith has two beautiful daughters. They are named courage – to speak of things as they are – and hope, to see the way forward by which they may be changed.”

As a young girl in northern Wisconsin, Terri Gilliland lived a near idyllic life with her four siblings and outdoorsy parents. Carefree days playing tag, kickball and jump rope comprised her afterschool and summer activities. Vacations consisted of camping, canoeing  and hiking, but no matter the time of year, Sundays were set aside for Mass, family dinners, visiting relatives and fair weather picnics.

Gilliland, 49, naturally assumed this trend would continue after her marriage to Tracy, 28 years ago. A proud mother, she enjoyed watching her three children, Tiffany, TJ and Stacy grow and thrive into their teenage years, but about 10 years ago, keeping watch over her brood became more difficult.

Gradually, the faces of Tracy and her children began to blur; she had trouble driving at night, and her eyes became sensitive to bright lights. As Gilliland struggled to navigate in crowded and unfamiliar places, an unfamiliar feeling of terror overwhelmed her. A diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa confirmed her worst fears; her vision was slowly deteriorating. The illness began by affecting her peripheral vision and would slowly progress toward the center of the visual field.

Dealing with the loss of her sight was difficult, but her husband’s near fatal motorcycle accident, and 16 year-old TJ’s diagnosis of brain cancer brought her to her knees.
“My husband was hit by a drunk driver and suffered traumatic brain injury, which altered his personality,” she said. “And TJ had a brain surgery and a series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments – but thankfully, both are stable now.”

For 10 years, Gilliland struggled with her blindness, her husband’s injuries, TJ’s recovery, while trying to be a loving mother to Tiffany and Stacy, and wondering at the same time why God allowed such tragedy to happen.

“I remember one day when I was at my wits’ end,” explained Gilliland. “My husband was clinging to life and I was praying he would make it. He was covered in stitches, had a swollen head, his face was crushed in and he had casts on his body. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Methodically, she dug into her handbag, searching for a lifeline of some sort, and her fingers grazed a small bottle of holy water from the Vatican, given to her by a close friend.

“I opened the bottle and dipped the water into my hands and began making the sign of the cross on his head, his chin and all over the parts of his body that were injured,” Gilliland said. “Exhausted, I put my head down and for the first time I felt a sense of peace. In a few minutes, I looked up at him and with my limited vision I could see lights crisscrossing through his
People of Faith

Name: Terri Gilliland
Age: 49
Parish: St. Peter, Kenosha
Occupation: Rehabilitation
specialist associate for the blind
and visually impaired
Book recently read: “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” by Muriel Barbery
Favorite movie: “The Princess Bride”
Favorite quotation: “The two most important things when you are overcoming obstacles and challenges in life is wishing and with purposeful activity.”
–Thomas Jefferson

(Submitted photo courtesy Terri Gilliland)
body from every part that I touched. It was very powerful, and at that moment, I knew he wasn’t going to die.”

For months, Gilliland tended to her husband and children as if she were wandering through a craggy mountain in a thick fog. Without her faith, family, friends and members of her parish, St. Peter in Kenosha, she would have given up.

“There are days when I don’t know what my kids ate, how they ate and how I got to and from the hospital,” she admitted. “I could not see out of this fog, but all of these people carried me and kept me focused. I am a very emotional person, was trying to hold it all together, and did a lot of praying.”

While not all of Gilliland’s prayers were answered, she accepts that God has a reason and a purpose for everything that happens. Accepting the unexplainable  allowed a sense of humor to blossom in dealing with the not-so-easy answers.

“I was really praying that my husband would not lose his vision, but he did lose it permanently in one of his eyes,” she said. “So I was thinking that, ‘OK, when we tell our kids that we have our eye on you,’ we mean it literally because we only have one eye between us.”

She befriended Ed Groelle, the driver who took her to work as a state rehabilitation specialist associate for the blind and visually impaired, and shared her story and struggles.

“We talked all the time, and Ed convinced me to write a book about my experiences,” she said. “I kept telling him that no one cares about my life because everyone has trials and challenges. But he told me that I was still standing, and smiling and happy with my life and that it doesn’t happen with everyone who is faced with the things we have.”

Gilliland recorded her stories and Groelle formed them into a manuscript. Her story, “In a Moment” was recently published and is available on Amazon, through Sharper Vision Store, Wisconsin Council for the Blind and Carolyn’s Coffee Shop in Kenosha.

“It caused me to dig really deep for two years,” she said. “And in that two-year period we have 60,000 words, I cried 600,000 tears and 60 pounds later, I am a new woman. This was very cathartic for me and I finally got to empty all that I was holding inside me.”

A deeply personal account of Gilliland’s struggles, the changes in her marriage, the effects of the cancer on her son and her other two children gives hope to others going through tumultuous trials.
For more information:

Terri Gilliland is available for
speaking engagements
tgilliland@wi.rr.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or
(262) 653-9933

“In a Moment”
Available on Amazon, Sharper Vision Store, Council for the Blind
(800) 783-5213, and Carolyn’s Coffee Connection,1351 52nd St., Kenosha, WI 53140

She has also published two
supplemental booklets on acceptance, and getting through difficult situations in life. Both are available from the author.

“When some read this book, they say how personal it is, and wonder how my family feels about my sharing these moments with the world,” she said. “But they were all on board and I think it is important to tell people that we all have moments in life that stop us in our tracks and those moments turn us off the path we are on and define who we are and how we are to become. Every moment of every day there is someone out there crying and bleeding and filled with despair, and at that same moment, there is someone singing, laughing and filled with joy. They all balance the moments of life.”

In addition to her work with the state, Gilliland speaks to groups on overcoming challenges, relating to those with disabilities, and being accepting of any adversity. She remains active in her parish, serving on the parish council, in adult formation and as a group leader for the Renew Faith sharing group.

“I never thought I would get through something like this, but I think that everything that happened, had to happen for me to get to this moment,” she said. “I have learned so much about myself, about others and despite my limitations want to give back to my community, to my parish and my family.”

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Appleton native remembers childhood friend who died in El Salvador

Written by Karen Mahoney | For The Compass   
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 13:44



'Vessel of Clay' a tribute to Maryknoll Sr. Carla Piette

MILWAUKEE — She lovingly referred to God as the "Divine Circus Master" and relied on him to overcome her own frailties as she struggled to serve the poor and less fortunate.

Despite her own fears, she courageously overcame her self doubts with spunk and humor, creating funny skits, giving silly nicknames to priests and sisters, and sometimes dressing as Zorro, complete with black cape and eye mask. Her zeal shined especially when traveling as a missionary to El Salvador in March 1980 during the most horrific violence the war-torn country had ever seen.

The 40-year-old Maryknoll sister was tragically killed during a flash flood just five months after arriving — an answer to a plea for help from Archbishop Oscar Romero. Ironically, the gentle priest was murdered the day she arrived in the country, another victim of ongoing religious persecution.
The cover of "Vessel of Clay: The Inspirational Journey of Sister Carla," written by Jacqueline Hansen Maggiore.

Her desire to work with the "poor ole beat-up people," as she referred to them, began as a young girl living in Appleton. She and Jacqueline Hansen Maggiore became fast friends in kindergarten and stuck together throughout their years at St. Mary Grade School, Appleton High School and Marquette University.

Recently, Maggiore, of Glendale, and member of Gesu Parish in Milwaukee, released a book on the life and journey of her best friend, Sr. Carla (Carol) Piette, who began working as a missionary in 1964 in Chile.

"I admired her so much for her courage and in what she was doing," said Maggiore, 71. "She spent 15 years in Chile and while she was there, I paid close attention to the news — in 1973 there was a very repressive military in Chile — from the letters I got from her. She told me later just how much everyone was being persecuted, especially the poor. She was living in dangerous times and working hard to protect the poor and the people in her community."

Needing a respite from working in gritty neighborhoods, where it was not uncommon to see people beaten, tortured and starving, Sr. Carla returned to Wisconsin in 1976 for a 30-day Ignatian retreat. During her stint in Wisconsin, the two friends visited for the last time.

"She told me what was really going on over there and I worried more about her than I had before," admitted Maggiore. "But then when she volunteered to go to San Salvador with several other Maryknoll sisters to help Archbishop Romero, I was more concerned than ever about her welfare."

Nearly the same moment that Sr. Carla's plane touched down in the violent country, Archbishop Romero was murdered while celebrating Mass. His spilled blood merged with the precious blood of the chalice, soaking the altar. Through letters smuggled out of the country, Maggiore learned what her friend was up against.

"Priests were threatened, expelled, and murdered," she said. "Catechists were killed and ordinary people were murdered for no reason. Mutilated bodies were lying along the roads and whole villages were massacred. Hostility toward the church was virulent and it was dangerous to even be seen talking with any religious."

Still trying to retain her sense of humor in an untenable situation, Sr. Carla served the emergency refugee team by driving food and medical supplies to women and children. Despite her own vulnerabilities, Sr. Carla prayed to God for the strength to continue this mission.

"She was always on my mind, and I just admired her so much," said Maggiore. "I still can't believe that after all she did, she would die in a flash flood while pushing Sr. Ita Ford, another Maryknoll sister to safety."

Tragically, Sr. Ita was one of four missionary women murdered a few months later. As the world remembers the 30th anniversary of the death of these four women, Sr. Carla is also recognized and revered as the "Martyr of Charity" for her selfless nature.

"I thought it was time the world knew about Sr. Carla," said Maggiore. "After my husband passed away in 2004, I began looking through my letters from Sr. Carla and realized that her letters held a powerful story that needed to be told.

"The title, 'Vessels of Clay,' came through her letters to me when she said that she was a weak vessel and instrument of the Lord,"
Maggiore explained. "Her mantra was, 'The Lord is calling me to be poor with his poor,' and she fully lived this belief. All of us can learn from Carla's example of overcoming her own emotional frailties to serve others with compassion, courage and humor. Wherever we are planted in our own lives, we, too, can draw inspiration."

The blessing of a granddaughter

While each of my five children were loved, wanted and cherished, there is something surreal and ethereal with the addition of grandchildren.

Rocking my 16 month old Annia to sleep this afternoon, sunlight reflecting downy, flaxen curls--I inhale her scent.

The sweet, chrism imbued incense wafting from within her soul, it must be the aroma of heaven, a sweet mystery that will one day be revealed.

Beads of perspiration on her brow, I push her downy bangs to the side and study her face--the face of an angel, I think.

Was it this way when my mother held my children and my grandmother rocked me? No wonder the bonds are so great between us all--a hidden veil connecting earth to heaven.

We are always together, my mom, grandma and me--and now it continues....thanks be to God.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Resolution

Remnants of tinsel shine through the fibers of the carpet
cookie sprinkles peek from under the stove
Red, green and gold, wrapping, bags and bows stored in the basement
the Nativity Scene carefully boxed for next year

Fatigue replaces joy
angst instead of wonderment
how quickly I forget
the Christ child, Emmanuel, the Star of Bethlehem

A New Year
new resolutions
new promises to break
weight loss, budgets, exercise......

This year, I will try....
remembering the innocent Babe sent to save us, 
acts of kindness
and keeping close those who are dear

.....for we have such a short sojourn on this earth--I want to immerse my days with the love of Christ dwelling within me

And I will pray--pray for my family, my friends, those who are ill, hungry, and hurting....
but especially for my enemies

Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

Happy New Year Everyone