Sunday, August 28, 2011

The most delectable Farmer's Market Purchase ever

We almost didn't go
after all, it was Saturday, we had gotten up later, and were feeling a mite lazy
But after a bit of gentle prodding, I got Blaise to get ready- we grabbed the dog, hopped in the car and headed to the Farmer's Market at the Kenosha lakefront.

We have our regular stops--the sweet southern transplant who grows the most tender collard greens I have ever tasted. Each time we stopped at his booth he would give me a new recipe to use the collards, or a method to make gluten free cornbread taste amazing.

Then there is the egg guy who has the best organic brown eggs and wears the coolest shoes, they are the Vibram FiveFinger shoes and I can't help but wish those were on my feet!

We usually stop by the Amish for a loaf of bread for Blaise, the guy who makes jalapeno jam, the kettle corn guy, and then wander around loading my market bag with tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, lettuce and sweet corn.

Until yesterday, I figured that all sweet corn was alike, that is, until the folks from Twin Garden farms offered me a sample of their RAW Mirai corn. Yes, I said raw! At first I hesitated and then thought it might be good for me to step out of my shell and do something new. Was I in for a shock--that raw corn was mouthwatering, succulent, and juicy. It was more like eating a tasty fruit than an ear of uncooked corn. Needless to say, we were sold and bought a dozen. Just 2 or 3 minutes in boiling water, slathered with butter and salt and we were in heaven.

 We should have purchased more as it is gone already. Imagine, two people eating a dozen ears of corn in two days. It was that good and I know that we will be at the market earlier on Saturday to grab what we can and freeze some for the long, cold days of winter.

Admittedly most sweet corn is good, but I rarely eat it as it isn't worth the corn stuck between my teeth, but truly, this stuff is worth the 40 yards of dental floss I had to use after dinner! If you get the chance, check this stuff out, you will not be disappointed!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Behind his lens

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Pearson01Veteran photographer James Pearson, at his Milwaukee home, holds one of his favorite cameras, a vintage Leica M2, a film camera favored by many top photojournalists in the pre-digital era. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)Jim Pearson remembers his one and only encounter with Cesar Chavez.
The famed civil rights pioneer and labor leader had agreed to an interview with the photojournalist, and after Chavez initiated an abbreviated session, the two had a chance to talk.
“He saw my Leica camera sitting on the table in the hotel room while I was doing the interview and he stopped the interview because he wanted to talk about my camera,” said Pearson, laughing, “He had the German-made Leica camera, too, really liked it and wanted to talk about this for a while – so, we did. It was a very interesting experience and one I would not have expected to happen.”
Photographing high-profile people has never intimidated Pearson, 80, who has been a photojournalist since the early 1960s. Early on, he discovered that people are pretty much the same, no matter their societal status, which often made for fascinating assignments.
“Everyone really has some of the same enjoyments as anyone else has, and for me, I have had an enjoyable career,” he said. “Of course, sometimes you get a person who is a bit snooty, but most of the time, everyone is nice.”
He recalled a time when actor Bill Cosby was in town, dressed as an animal with a hood over his head. Pearson was photographing the event, but thought Cosby appeared a bit intimidating to surrounding children.
“I saw this lady who wanted her child to get his picture taken next to Bill as he was dressed as an animal, but the kid was pretty scared,” he explained. After taking a deep breath to calm his anxiety, Pearson looked at the actor/comedian and made an unusual request.
“I got enough nerve to ask him to take the hood off and surprisingly, he did so. He was very nice despite all of the time pressure he was under – just a very thoughtful guy.”
After serving four years in the U.S. Army, Pearson, went to Marquette University to major in journalism. His first job was with an advertising agency. Although he considered it a good job, it was not something he could himself see doing for the rest of his life.
“I was working for someone other than myself and it wasn’t a great experience,” he said. “I learned a lot, but it isn’t an honest type of photography like journalism is. I took lots of pictures of pretty girls holding packages of noodles, but those are not scenes you come across every day.”
After leaving the advertising agency, Pearson worked for Wisconsin Architect Magazine, taking pictures of buildings and photographing the conventions. While the job was interesting, it didn’t capture his interest as news photography did.MotherTeresaPearson took this photo of Mother Teresa during a visit to Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1981.
Gradually, Pearson began working solely as a freelance photographer, taking photos of famous faces for the Milwaukee Press Club’s famous signature wall, and later for your Catholic Herald.
“I began working as a freelance photographer for the Catholic Herald in 1973 or so,” he said. “William Cousins was the archbishop at the time, and I remember taking pictures of him through my association at the Milwaukee Press Club. At that time, (the late) Ethel Gintoft was the manager of the Catholic Herald. She saw me doing this and asked me if I would like to take pictures for the Herald. So I began doing all kinds of stuff for them, such as traveling to the Dominican Republic and sitting in on all types of wonderful events happening through the church.”
The opportunity to earn a living in a field that continually captivated his interest and enthusiasm is something Pearson does not take lightly.
“I have always considered myself fortunate to earn a living at something I enjoy as much as photography,” said Pearson, who also taught photography classes at Marquette University. “One of my first assignments at the Milwaukee Press Club was when I was to photograph Don Ameche when he was in town. He made an early movie about Alexander Graham Bell – so they set up a bunch of antique phones around him and I got to take his picture, balding head and all, while he was signing his plaque.”
He has traveled the world taking photos of religious events, poverty stricken missions, and locally, captured anti-abortion rallies, church and school events. Each person has left an imprint on his heart, but some of the more notable figures Pearson photographed were Bette Davis, Mark Harmon, most of the bishops of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, Blessed Mother Teresa and Blessed Pope John Paul II.
“The photo of Mother Teresa was an unexpected surprise for me,” he explained. “She had just gotten her honorary degree from Marquette and left the stage. I walked to the back of the arenaPearson04Pearson took this photo of Pope John Paul II during the pope’s visit to Chicago in 1979. and saw her sitting in the back of a car near the window. A woman came up to her and pressed her hand against the glass and Mother placed her hand there, too. The picture was just so good, and unfortunately, I have not been able to find it. But it has left an impression on me to this day.” (Editor’ note: After the interview, your Catholic Herald found the photo in its files.)
When Pope John Paul II traveled to Chicago in 1979, Pearson and Catholic Herald reporter Eugene Horn were among what seemed like a million people gathering in Grant Park. Nearly swept away by the merging crowds leaving the train station, Pearson and Horn were jammed in behind a fence with reporters, Catholics and onlookers.
“I sneaked way up the fenced in area, close to the helicopter landing pad and ended up being only 5 or 6 feet away from him,” he said. “I snapped his picture as he walked past and, believe me, it was my only chance to get his picture. It was interesting, though, as I looked back, I saw hundreds of photographers, including nuns in habits taking his picture. There was probably thousands of the same picture taken that day. But, as we were leaving, there were many people who came up and offered to buy our film – but, of course, we didn’t do that.”
Some of the more emotionally grueling assignments entailed traveling to areas of immense poverty, running into starving children in the Dominican Republic or Haiti.
“You just want to hug them all, but you have to move on,” he said. “I was basically assigned to do mission study photography. We would be in one area where there were the very rich and then another we would see destitute kids in grubby clothes trying to make a few bucks selling bottles of soda in a bucket of water with chunks of ice floating in there. You just can’t help but have it affect you. When I would get home, I would always do more research on the area and keep up on what was going on there.”
Although the never-married Pearson continues to take pictures for himself with his non-digital Leica camera, his freelance jobs are rare these days, as he has decided to slow down, enjoy the home he has lived in since childhood, and perhaps become more involved in his parish, St. Sebastian, Milwaukee.
“Sometimes I get called on to take pictures at church, but they don’t seem to need me as much now with all the digital cameras. I’m not against digital cameras, but for me, I appreciate the qualities and nuances of film,” he said. “I also enjoy getting together with some of the old codgers that used to be photographers with the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Sentinel. We like to sit around and reminisce when we can.”

Mom to 6, a college grad at 56

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
ChristaKatz04Christa Voss Katz, a Mount Mary graduate in 1981 at age 56 volunteers for an art auction at the Firefly Art Fair at the Kneeland Walker house in Wauwatosa on Saturday, Aug. 6. Katz also regularly volunteers at her Parish, Christ King, Wauwatosa, and with Irish Fest. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)For most Americans, college stirs up images of post-pubescent high school graduates living in an overcrowded dorm room, munching cafeteria food and experiencing life free from mom and dad for the first time, all while whittling away at classes meant to earn the final trophy: A bachelor’s degree.
When Christa Voss Katz graduated from Mount Mary College in 1981, she prepared her own meals, and studied for exams alongside her six children, all of whom were in high school or college while she attended.
“I had learned about the Mount Mary Encore program for women with interrupted college education, such as those like me who postponed their education to raise a family,” she explained. “It was a 10-year program, but I went for nine years, taking one class at a time until I graduated.”
Katz earned her bachelor’s degree in English and library science when she was 56, and while it wasn’t easy accomplishing this feat after so many years away from academia, she felt compelled to set a good example for her children.
“My late husband, Lawrence, had a goal for each of our children to have a college education. It was what he lived for and he hung on until everyone had a degree,” said Katz. “He died of cancer in 1988 and felt that this was his purpose in life and an important legacy that he could leave. They are all doing very well, too. The oldest is 60 and the youngest is 40 and teaches special education in Massachusetts.”
After graduating, Katz worked at the Medical College of Wisconsin Library for 23 years in the acquisitions department.
“It was nice and close to home,” she said. “I did a lot of cataloguing and ordering.”
After children-raising and a long career, Katz, 86, is not staying home to rest and enjoy the solitude. Until it was closed this year, she regularly swam in the Mount Mary College pool, taking water aerobics classes to stay in shape. It was a great way for her to rebuild her muscles while recovering from a broken arm and hip surgery last year.
“I really miss this because I used to swim all the time and it made me feel great,” she said. “I would go back in a minute if the pool was open again. There aren’t a lot of places like that around that have individual changing rooms, because, face it – how many people my age feel comfortable changing in front of a bunch of young people? The locker room at Mount Mary just was perfect for me and for the other older people who wanted to get out and swim.”
According to Susan Nieberle, alumnae relations director, Katz is an avid supporter of Mount Mary College and a regular volunteer for fundraising efforts.
“Every year she volunteers at the Starving Artists Show that we host here on the Mount Mary campus,” said Nieberle. “She takes the same job every year selling drinks in the alumni refreshment booth. Everyone knows her and is always willing to help. She also helped each year with the fashion design department’s annual spring fashion show and is a very popular volunteer with her co-workers.”
As a member of Christ King Parish in Wauwatosa, Katz serves on the parish library committee, reading books and writing reviews for the bulletin.
“I don’t really do anything special, but I like reading books and writing up little blurbs about them,” she said. “I also belong to the Friends of Elm Grove Library and am a member of a couple of book groups there. I guess if you are an English major, you just like to read.”
It’s hard to imagine that Katz finds a second for herself as she also volunteers each year for Irish Fest, helping to rent out wheelchairs to benefit the Hibernian group and enjoys participating in several social groups in her neighborhood.
“I live in what they call the ‘friendliest neighborhood in Tosa,’” she said. “We have an endless number of groups here to join and keep adding more of them as people develop different interests. I think it all keeps me young.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Wasn't it just yesterday that despite torrential rains, we loaded all of Erin's things into the car
........sophomore year wrapped and the summer beckoning?
Wasn't it just yesterday, he began his first job and we worked to calm his jittery nerves?
Wasn't it just yesterday he drove on his own for the very first time?
Wasn't it just yesterday he began to walk.......

Where did it go?

Tomorrow begins Junior year
new dorms, new experiences, new challenges.....
the car is loaded, supplies purchased, clothing ready....
I am not ready--but no one asked me!
Will it go as fast as yesterday?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Incredibly Awesome Dill Pickles without canning!

Bless their hearts, our neighbors gave me a ton of cucumbers yesterday-it must have been a bumper crop this year because after making relish, salsa, salad, and just eating them with salt, we still had a half dozen rolling around in my vegetable drawer.

Don't get me wrong, I love cukes, unfortunately, I am the only one in this house who will eat them, and really, how many gas-producing cucumbers can one person eat without ending up alienating the household?

I thought about Dill pickles--everyone loves them. But long ago, I gave away my canning gear--no pots, no jars, no pressure cookers, nada. So I began my quest of searching for a recipe to make pickles without canning and incredibly, I found a way to make giant cukes turn into luscious kosher dills!

Here is the recipe if you want to give them a try:

No Canning style Dill Pickles

 6 cucumbers
 3 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
 3 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
 6 tablespoons Kosher salt
 3 tablespoon dried dill
 6 large fronds fresh dill
 3 large clove garlic, sliced paper thin
 9 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
 4 1/2 cups water

Cut the cucumber into spears, approximately 5 - 6" in length. Place the peppercorns, coriander and mustard into a mortar and pestle and grind into a coarse mixture, just breaking open the pods and releasing their oils and aromas.

Place the cucumber spears into a shallow baking dish or container, large enough for the cucumbers to lay flat, but small enough for them to be submerged in the liquid. Sprinkle the salt over the cucumbers, add the ground spices, dill and garlic. Toss to coat the cucumbers. Add the vinegar and water, and set aside for 30 minutes.

To serve, remove the pickles from the brine and remove any excess dill or spices before plating. Reserve the liquid for storing leftover pickles in the refrigerator. Store in the refrigerator, in a covered container with brine, for up to 7 days.

I have heard that you can also freeze them, so I will give that a try with any that we don't use up in the next week. If anyone has tried freezing them, please let me know how it works!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Taking a break

Every now and again, we all need a respite
Whether it is for an extended three month holiday
a weekend getaway
or a few hours to do nothing.....if we don't, we can become stagnant, sullen, and overwrought

Last week after a long and extremely stressful summer, the three of us and the canine, took a drive to Galena, Il and had a little fun.

The scenery was gorgeous, weather sunny and balmy, and while it was an inexpensive getaway--was just what we needed to reconnect before Erin goes back to school.

First stop was the New Mellerary Abbey near Dubuque--a cloistered Trappist Monastery known for their beautiful handmade wooden caskets, wonderful jams and jellies, and other wood carved items. Stepping onto the forested acreage nestled  among the rolling hills, my soul felt comforted, my wrinkles faded and for the first time all summer, I felt that I could breathe.

Argyle and I wandered around near the stone walls, hoping to catch a glimpse of a monk or two, but only succeeded in seeing beautiful statuary of Our Lady of Fatima, Stations of the Cross, and the Blessed Mother. That's OK, I felt their prayers in the silence.

Next stop was Our Lady of Mississippi Abbey to visit the Trappestine sisters--famous for their delectable and creamy caramels. Again, walking along the path to the small chapel, listening to water bubbling from the fountain, birds chirping calmed our souls and minds. And again, the sisters were not physically present to us, but we did catch a glimpse of them praying in the chapel. As with the Abbey, we wandered through the gift shop and placed the money for our purchases in a small 'honesty' box.

The immense trust in humanity offered by both the monks and the nuns gave me great hope in a society where rioting, lewding, and all sorts of evil captures the daily headlines. How my heart longs for sweeter, more blessed national and international news.

We visited the usual tourist areas in Galena, enjoyed gluten free pizza, threw a few coins in the slot machines in Dubuque, and came home to new perspectives. The getaway was not filled with lavish dining, expensive waterparks, or river cruises--but it was enough to render our hearts prepared for another year, sending Erin off to school at St. Lawrence.
The whole world is out there for you Erin!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Knee replacement? Are you kidding me?

Since my brother proudly kicked out my right patella when I was a little kid, my knee has betrayed me on nearly every level throughout my 51 years of life.

For years I wore special shoes, knee braces, worked the muscles, played tennis and did all the things the doctor recommended. At 40, things began going decidedly wrong and at 43,  had arthroscopic surgery to repair damage to the meniscus and tighten the muscles around my patella. That worked well for about six months, until it seemed like my femur was popping away from my tibia. Because I remembered so clearly the pain of that surgery, the one that kept me in a full leg brace for six weeks, I ignored the pain......until this year.

With swelling the size of a cantaloupe and a knee joint that refused to stay in place--quite dangerous while driving mind you, I called the doctor, who recommended physical therapy. Six weeks of that, and the pain and swelling were worse, so I had an MRI and they learned my knee was deteriorating rapidly with meniscal tears and extreme arthritis. I had another arthroscopic surgery with the warning that this would be my last one.

"OK," I thought to myself. "That's fine, I don't want another one of these anyway--they hurt."

However, after the surgery, there was more physical therapy until they determined there was little to be done other than cortisone injections and then a series of three synthetic joint injections. Those joint injections were a dream for the three weeks they lasted--unfortunately, they can only be given every six months, so I went in for a cortisone booster on Thursday.

Imagine my surprise when I was told that after this injection, there would be no more. No more joint injections, no more cortisone--nothing.

Instead, I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who will be performing total knee replacement on me in the fall.

Words can not express the terror that was coursing through my veins as I recalled the number of my friends who have gone through this surgery, the pain, the physical therapy and the long road to recovery.

On top of that, stupid me decided to watch the surgery on You Tube. After nearly vomiting into the keyboard of my computer upon seeing drills and saws chewing away at the bone, I called a friend. Both he and his wife had the surgery and both tell me that they would do it all over tomorrow if they needed it. Yes, the pain was awful, they said. Yes, the physical therapy left them crying like babies for a few weeks, but after that, the rewards of greater flexibility, and a pain free life was a gift that they never expected.

So, I am trying to put on my brave face and will ready this mind, spirit and body for the surgery. I know that throughout it all, God is with me, along with my husband, family, and fantastic friends.

One more journey on the path...................

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chorus founded by Thomas Stemper

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
p.14belcantoThe Festival Singers of Milwaukee, founded in 1931 by Thomas Stemper, pose for a photo outside St. Sebastian Parish, Milwaukee, in this undated photo. The choir was a predecessor to the Bel Canto Chorus, one of the oldest autonomous choir organizations in the world, according to director Richard Hynson. (Submitted photo courtesy the Stemper family)On the heels of a two-week whirlwind tour to sold-out crowds in Argentina, Bel Canto Chorus director Richard Hynson joked, “We are working our way around the world, country by country.”

Previous tours include trips to Western Europe, Central Europe and Canada. In its 81st year, the Bel Canto Chorus continues to grow in voices and musicianship, and Hynson is proud to be only the choir’s fourth director, following James Keeley, Fr. Francis Drabinowicz, and its founder, Thomas Stemper.

Established in 1931 as the Festival Singers of Milwaukee, the group began with four women and four men, who performed Hans Gruber’s Festival Mass in the chapel of St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee. According to choir member and Bel Canto historian, Jim Hill, no one can determine how many people attended its first concert, or even the date on which it was performed.

“There was very little documentation from this period of the chorus’ history on which to base any extensive narrative, and there are no surviving members to interview,” he said, adding, “But we do know that sometime during 1931, a local music teacher named Thomas Stemper assembled a very small choral ensemble to perform the Gruber Festival Mass. It was this work that inspired the group’s original name.”

The a cappella ensemble included Stemper’s wife, Elsa Van Asche Stemper, and his nephew, William Hargarten.

If you want to go 

United We Stand
Sunday, Sept. 11 at 3 p.m.
Cathedral Square Park,
825 N. Jefferson St.,

Rain site: Cathedral of
St. John the Evangelist,
812 N. Jackson St, Milwaukee.
Bel Canto Chorus with
the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, featuring soloists Rebecca Whitney, Nicole Warner, Gregory Schmidt
and Gerard Sundberg.
Members came from all occupations
According to Hill, just 14 years later, with Elsa still at the podium, the singers numbered 72. Their members came from all occupations and social statuses in the Milwaukee area, such as students, housewives, police officers, chemists and insurance agents, but not one was a professional musician. Their performances seemed to be as eclectic as their membership.

“They performed before Catholic Holy Name groups, conventions, dedications, memorial services, holy hours, and radio programs,” said Hill. “One of their more interesting, unusual and attentive audiences was the prisoners at the Milwaukee County House of Correction.”
Performing to rave reviews at venues such as the Pabst Theatre, the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel praised the Festival Singers in 1945 for singing with “spirit and confidence” and “disciplined modulation and balance.”

Priest becomes director of choir in 1947
By 1947, Stemper resigned his position due to poor health, and a few months later, the choir was reorganized under Fr. Francis Drabinowicz, pastor of St. James Parish, Oak Creek, and a former music professor at Saint Francis Seminary, St. Francis.

Renamed the Bel Canto Choir, Fr. Drabinowicz and the 50-member group performed its first concert at the Pabst Theatre in April 1948. The program included a mix of sacred music, such as Grieg’s “Ave Maria,” and popular music that included Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” A local critic described the performance as an “auspicious beginning” for the new group.

Fr. Drabinowicz continued to lead the Bel Canto Choir until his retirement in 1956. In addition to many smaller performances, the group also performed one a cappella or piano accompanied concert per year at the Pabst Theatre.

From Oak Park, Ill., James Keeley had aspirations for the priesthood, and moved to Milwaukee in 1948 to attend Saint Francis Seminary. He later received a degree from Milwaukee State Teachers College, and taught Latin and Greek at Marquette University High School before pursuing a music career.

Prior to directing the Bel Canto Choir, he served as organist and choir director at St. Patrick and St. Hedwig parishes in Milwaukee, and Christ King Parish, Wauwatosa.

A musical prodigy, Keeley memorized Gilbert and Sullivan librettos as a boy, and helped to start the Skylight Theatre in 1960. He was one of the stars of the theatre’s first performances. He also worked to coordinate the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s television appearances, conducted the 1965 Lakeshore Arts Festival Orchestra, guest conducted other orchestras, and taught organ and harpsichord as a member of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music staff.

Boys Choir, Senior Choir also perform

The most recent development of the Bel Canto Chorus is the Boys Choir directed by Eileen Shuler. The performing choir is targeted to grade four and up, and is the result of Hynson’s long time dream.

“We wanted to get the boys and young men to get to a high level of musical experience in a safe, social environment – one where they don’t have to worry about girls giggling and teasing them about singing,” he said. “We are still in the building stages, but it is very successful and we have had some great performances.”

The Boys Choir recently hosted the Chorknaben Uetersen Boy Choir from Germany and both performed in Mequon on July 9.

“We also have a senior singers program designed to offer the therapeutic benefit of singing to our older adults,” said Hynson. “It is really a cradle to grave community of arts and we cover basically every stage of music making.”
More complicated scores as Bel Canto Chorus
His first performance of the Bel Canto was Nov. 18, 1956, with 39 volunteer singers. The choir’s popularity and membership grew, and in 1964 became known as the Bel Canto Chorus, performing more complicated scores, such as Verdi’s “Requiem,” Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9,” Puccini’s “Turandot,” and Handel’s “Messiah.”
The 150-member chorus performed two major concerts per year at the Milwaukee Auditorium and, after 1968, in the Performing Arts Center’s Uihlein Hall with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and frequently with nationally recognized soloists.

A frightening event occurred as the choir was due to perform Verdi’s “Requiem” at the Oriental Theater in March 1961. Just before the curtain was to rise, a section of bleachers collapsed, leaving four singers hospitalized with injuries. The next day, a Milwaukee Journal front-page headline announced, “Phantom of the Opera Strikes Bel Canto.”

Despite their shock, the performers insisted that the show must continue, and gave a full performance.

In the mid-1970s, the chorus commissioned Gian-Carlo Menotti to write “Landscapes and Remembrances” for the United States Bicentennial. The piece was recorded and broadcast on PBS, and later, at Menotti’s invitation, the choir performed at his Spoleto Festival in Italy. While in Italy, the Bel Canto Chorus performed a Mass for Pope Paul VI at St. Peter’s Basilica on July 4, 1976. Over the next few years, the chorus performed “Carmina Burana” in Mexico City, and Menotti’s “Missa O Pulchritudo” at Spoleto and the Vatican.

Hynson is 4th director of chorus
After Keeley retired, Hynson became the director of the Bel Canto Chorus and worked to increase musicianship. He is in his 24th season with the chorus.

“We have a four-concert season and an annual Christmas concert,” he said. “Some of our concerts are repeated in different venues and with smaller programs. All in all, we perform about 12 to 14 times per year.”

The all-volunteer chorus is comprised of 100 singers who audition for a position in the ensemble.

“We like to call them diagnostic auditions and it is really an opportunity to get to know the singers, their strengths and weakness and use tools for improvement in certain areas,” said Hynson. “It also gives us a sense as where to place a singer in the chorus. They are all dedicated and extremely skilled amateurs. I also have a ‘pro’ core of singers that help me in the sections and in the teaching of music.”

As one of the oldest autonomous choir organizations in the world, Hynson said he could count on one hand the number of choruses that are older than the Bel Canto.

“There are some astonishing ones in Europe, but anything in the United States that is older than 25 years is very rare,” he said. “And we have 85 to 90 percent of our members active at any time. We draw from a 75 mile radius of musicians from a variety of counties in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois … and they show up for practice every single week!”

In the past, the chorus was comprised of many priests and nuns, but that has changed to include primarily lay singers.

“The Catholic connection to Bel Canto has been a strong one,” Hynson said. “We make great attempts to become deeply involved in events that surround our Catholic diocese. In fact, we are performing a 9/11 United We Stand Concert in front of the cathedral in honor of the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. We are hoping for some strong participation from the Catholic Church as well as an overall ecumenical presence.”

To priests, parishes Stemper's is 'valuable resource'

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
p.1107-29-11-CHN02When senior priest, Fr. John Richetta, longtime pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Kenosha, was looking for a statue of Our Lady of Mercy for the parish, he found what he was looking for at the T.H. Stemper Company in Milwaukee. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)At times they joked with their customers, many of them priests who stopped by for a break in their day to see the latest in vestments or looking to replenish parish supplies. Other times, they assisted godparents in choosing meaningful gifts for baptisms, first Communions or confirmations.

For the past century, T.H. Stemper Co. has outfitted parishes, seminarians and priests in the Milwaukee area and around the country with chalices, statuary, candles, altar breads and more.

In 1911, Thomas H. Stemper purchased the bankrupt European Statuary & Art Company, a manufacturing company of statuary and altars. Two years later, he bought the struggling H.E Schwartz religious goods store. In 1946, he combined both businesses under his name.

Currently owned and operated in the same location by his five grandsons, Daniel, James, Joseph, John and Peter, the company remains an essential supplier of religious gifts and supplies and, according to those who have worked with the Stempers, a knowledgeable resource as well.

Childhood friend became consultant
Fr. John Richetta, long time pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Kenosha, now a senior priest, fondly remembers working with childhood friend, Jean Stemper, in helping select statuary and other parish supplies.

“I knew Jean from my neighborhood and we became pretty good friends,” he said. “She was the one I would deal with the most at the store, and later, with her boys.”

When Mount Carmel Parish was looking for a Medjugorian statue of Our Lady of Mercy, Stemper’s found exactly what Fr. Richetta had in mind.

“They have always been such good business people and very respectful to me,” he said. “I hope that they do another 100 years as they serve a real need for us.”

During the 18 years that now-senior priest, Fr. Tom Wittliff, served as pastor  of St. Augustine Parish, Milwaukee, he relied on Stemper’s for everything from candles to imported statuary.

“We got two gorgeous statues of St. Therese the Little Flower and St. Anthony, both were wood carvings from Italy,” he said. “They have such a caring attitude – and I have watched them in action as to how they take their time with customers. Whenever I am biking in the area, I stop by and screw around with them – they are a lot of fun. I still purchase things from them, but nothing like it was when I was pastor of a parish.”

Close friend to the late Daniel Stemper Sr., Fr. Wittliff witnessed marriages, and celebrated other milestones in the lives of the Stemper children.

“When Danny died, he left a powerful legacy in his children and I am not surprised that this business has thrived for so many years,” he said. “You can just see their passion in the overall presentation in the stores and in their catalogs.”

More than 10,000 items are for sale, and nearly anything can be specially ordered. More than 35 percent of the store’s sales are from candles. They also carry an impressive array of liturgical garments, many imported from Belgium and Holland.

Enjoys international reputation
When Fr. Phillip Bogacki, associate pastor of St. John Vianney Parish, Brookfield, attended the seminary for five years in Louvain, Belgium, he had frequent contact with the Slabbinck Company, a designer of custom, high-quality vestments, based in Bruges, Belgium.
p.12Fr_Sean_Oconell-007Shortly after entering the seminary in 2004, Fr. Sean O’Connell, associate pastor of St. Dominic Parish, Brookfield, learned that Stemper’s on Milwaukee’s south side was the place to go for vestments and other religious goods. Pictured above is Fr. O’Connell at St. Dominic Parish, with several vestments and religious articles from the store. Photos available at (Catholic Herald photo by Juan Carlos Medina)

“I was proud to go to the Slabbinck factory and be treated like a king because I was from Milwaukee, ‘the home of Stemper’s,’” he said. “The Slabbinck family travels regularly to Milwaukee to meet with the Stemper’s store as Stemper’s, of anywhere in the world, is one of the largest distributors of the Slabbinck vestments. The ability to have vestments and clothes personally measured prior to ordering is something that should not be taken for granted,” he said.

Stempers ‘to the rescue’
Ed Kovochich, principal of St. Joseph Academy, Kenosha, remembers many of the Stempers from the years he served as principal of Dominican High School. While the school didn’t require as many religious items as a parish, one purchase is forever embedded in his mind.

“The fire marshal came out one day to do an inspection of the school. He told us that we couldn’t have any free standing vigil lights due to the fire hazard, and that we had to blow them out,” said Kovochich. “I thought our chaplain was going to have a coronary arrest. So, I went to Stemper’s and, thankfully, found a wall-mounted device that worked.”

Throughout his priesthood, Fr. Brian Mason, moderator of Three Holy Women Parish, Milwaukee, has purchased numerous altar breads, candles, vestments, chalices and other religious items, but one purchase stands above the others.

“The most significant item I purchased from Stemper’s was in 2001 or 2002,” he said. “They assisted me with designing and installing a new ambry for St. Mary Church in Waukesha. It is a beautiful piece that fits in very well with the design of the church.”

As secretary of St. Martin Parish, Ashford, Chris Bolek places numerous orders for parish supplies to Stemper’s, and is always pleased with the products purchased, but especially the great service.

“We have done business with them for a very long time,” she said. “Fr. Neil (Zinthefer) goes down there quite often to buy supplies. Our kneelers were purchased from them when we remodeled the church a year or two age.”

Popular place for seminarians
As one of the archdiocese’ newer priests, Fr. Sean O’Connell, associate pastor of St. Dominic, Brookfield, remembers frequent visits to the store as a seminarian.

“I joined major seminary in the fall of 2004, and quickly learned that Stemper’s was a popular place for seminarians to go looking for vestments, artwork, chalices and all the things we needed,” he said. “They had so many things to offer us and are a wonderful store.”

Among the items purchased for St. Dominic were chasubles, candle stands for shrines to St. Gerard and St. Jude, votive candles for the Blessed Mother statue and liturgical candles.

p.13Stemper-18The adoration chapel at St. Jerome Parish, Oconomowoc, features several items purchased from the T.H. Stemper Company, Milwaukee. During the building of the new church in 2007, Stemper’s served as the parish’s main consultant for all of the interior furnishings, according to pastor Fr. John Yockey. Photos available at (Catholic Herald photo by John Kimpel)“My parents bought my chalice when I was ordained, and Peter Stemper was a wonderful man to work with – he is an expert on any types of liturgical metalware. He is the guy I go to to talk with about chalices,” said Fr. O’Connell.

Known for remembering the names of all the priests in the archdiocese, staff members at Stempers are quick to return a phone call, solve a problem and help in a variety of charitable ways, including the annual archdiocesan priest golf outing.

“I helped organize this with two other chairpersons and (the people at) Stempers were very generous, and have been especially this year with the prizes and for help in funding this outing,” said Fr. O’Connell.

Despite a difficult economy and the shortage of priests, Fr. O’Connell is certain Stempers will survive.

“I think that because vocations are beginning to increase, and with the onset of the new Roman Missal, that Stempers will be providing altar covers, liturgical books, Advent candles, statuary, beautiful icons and everything else forever,” he said.

Was main consultant for new St. Jerome
When St. Jerome Parish, Oconomowoc, built its new church in 2007, they called upon Stempers to outfit their new sanctuary.

“We used Stempers as our main consultant for all of our interior furnishings in the new church,” said Fr. John Yockey, pastor. “They were just spectacular and so knowledgeable in their trade, and professional in their field.”

Working primarily with Joseph Stemper, Fr. Yockey relied on his expertise for statuary, Stations of the Cross, mosaics, woodcarvings and bronze sculptures.

“They really helped us decide which of the two sets of 14 Stations of the Cross would look best in our church,” he said. “We had colorful stained glass windows that celebrated the Communion of Saints, and he helped us choose the white marble design as a beautiful and complimentary combination.”

Among many Stemper influences, the life-size crucifix, statue of Mary as comforted by the beloved disciple while both beheld the cross in the adoration chapel, and the Holy Family statue in the narthex are exceptionally striking.

“We also had our tabernacle from the old church that was so very tarnished,” explained Fr. Yockey. “But they refurbished it with such gleam that everyone thought it was brand new! Their expertise that they brought to the starting line with us showed how experienced they are, accentuated by an artistic sensitivity that represents the entire family.”

Store is part of Milwaukee’s heritage
Whether it’s through their booth at Festa Italiana or through the store or catalog, Stempers provides religious items and statuary for priests, parishes, schools and the general public. According to Fr. Tim Kitzke, pastor of Three Holy Women Parish, Milwaukee, the store and family are an integral part of the Milwaukee heritage.

“They know what they are doing and do a good job doing it,” he said. “We recently received a donated statue that came from Stempers of St. Gerard – it is very beautiful and we are just getting ready to place it in the church.”

According to Peter Stemper, the three-foot tall statue was a custom made piece based on photographs and an older model.

“This was done by a manufacturing company in Peru, a new company that we have started working with,” he said. “They do a wonderful job and are less expensive than a similar custom piece from Italy.”

This consideration for costs, quality and service is a primary reason that Fr. Kitzke expects that Stempers will remain in business for a long time.

“I would recommend them to anyone in the diocese, or anywhere, for that matter,” he said. “Oh my gosh, they are just so helpful to all of us.”

"A Good Hard Look" is instantly captivating!

Really didn't know what to expect when I began reading a novel with one of the characters, the late, great Flannery O'Connell, but once I got started--it was tough to put down. Thankfully, I was in between some writing assignments and dealing with my usual insomnia--so I got through it rather quickly. Check out my review and let me know what you think.....who knows, maybe I will send you the book!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Salsa

What is it about a few tomatoes, hot peppers, cilantro and garlic that awakens my summer weary senses? It fascinates me, that we can begin with tiny plants or seeds, a little water, sunlight and God’s blessings to make these turn into an edible feast.

It was an innocuous beginning

After checking my tiny garden today, I spotted a little fleck of orange and upon investigation; a beautiful crimson tomato glimmered in the late afternoon sun.

Excited, I plucked the rosy tomato, revealing several other ripe colors below.

It was marvelous! On and on I went, gathering shiny tomatoes, fresh basil, cilantro, beautiful hot Fresno peppers, and a perfectly formed bell pepper. Instantly my mind conjured up fresh salsa and guacamole as accoutrements to our evening meal.

As a frequent summer salsa maker, I wanted something simple and quick, some definite heat, but with a bit more depth than usual.

Here is the recipe for my Fire Roasted Salsa

Fresh tomatoes—about 6-7
Fresh Cilantro-a handful
Fresno peppers-I used8
Garlic-about 9 cloves
Onion-1 medium
Salt-1 teaspoon
Lime juice-half of fresh lime squeezed

First Roast the peppers until the skin is blackened.
Cool and remove seeds-set aside

Quarter an onion
Peel garlic
Pulse in food processor until chopped

Add peppers, salt, lime juice, cilantro and tomatoes—pulse until chunky


I made Guacamole too—but forgot to take pictures! Sorry!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What can one prayer do?

A friend of mine used Facebook to ask for prayer yesterday. It is something I have done numerous times; but  it got me to thinking about the marvelous ways we, as Christians can reach out for help.

We have prayer lists, votive candles, novenas, favorite saints, priests, pastors, and fellow believers to send out our requests.......but what happens next?

It takes great courage to bare our souls and ask for help; although many on the outside of the transparent curtain that separates the believers from the non-believers, might disagree.

We ask for prayers for ourselves, on behalf of those who are sick, dying, suffering, dealing with employment issues or relationship issues--and what great courage we have in asking others to give a portion of themselves to pray and think on our intentions.

In Luke, we hear Jesus saying to us "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
  If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"

When my husband nearly died three years ago, Our Lord took him to a place where he could see those  who prayed for him, thought about him, and offered help in any way. Some were Christian and some were not--but all were revealed to him as stars in the midnight sky and all the stars carried the names of those who cared enough to remember his name in their quiet moments.

What I learned, was that the great communion of saints is not reserved solely for Christians or Catholics, but for anyone with a pure and unselfish heart. Despite, their personal beliefs or hang ups on believing in a power greater than themselves--God can use them, and each one of us.

Since that experience, I know that my prayers are added to those stars in the sky and directly affect those who so bravely ask for intercession. I offer them now, and know, like incense rising, that they will be added to those who have gone before us, and united with Jesus' prayers to offer grace, mercy and healing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hands down, one of the dumbest things I have ever done

Perhaps it was the sheer terror coursing through my veins at the thought of baring my lumpy thighs at a friend's pool party

Or my upcoming plans to visit my overly physically fit sister

whatever it was, it propelled me to take a good hard look at my physique
After coughing up what appeared to be hairball, I attempted to look objectively at what was in front of me without screaming.......believe me, it wasn't pretty
Not by a long shot-even the dog ran to hide

Of course, I have no one to blame but myself for choosing to drive when I could have walked
sitting when I could have stood
watching TV when I could have exercised and eating ice cream instead of celery sticks.

To my horror, I saw it all: the cottage cheese thighs, the arms that went south as I traveled north, the stomach that still resembles one that is six weeks postpartum, and the chin that would make any turkey worth his salt, jealous.

Years of yo-yo dieting, up and down weight, and giving birth to five children had taken its toll
However, rather a sensible approach, such as joining a gym, riding my bike, or 'sweatin to the oldies,' I opted for another approach--the amazing new anti-cellulite shorts!

The definition was enough to convince me to shell out the $50 bucks for this miracle! Of course, obsessive compulsive person that I am, I bought two pairs so I could alternate while the other pair was hanging to dry in the shower.

SHORTS: Bio Ceramic material in these shorts both generates Far Infrared Rays (FIR) and reflects your body's own FAR infrared rays. "FAR" relates to the size of the wavelength and Infrared is the part of the light spectrum that generates heat. The primary benefit of these rays is to help to break down cellulite cells, improve circulation and revitalize tissue. Increased heat and molecular stimulation enhances the effectiveness of exercise, increases blood flow, and accelerates metabolism to burn more calories. Bio Ceramic shorts also improve the effectiveness of anti-cellulite cream by assisting its penetration deep into the skin and cellulite. Shorts are a great option to wear during yoga. Bio Ceramic shorts feature 1.5mm neoprene with soft nylon/lycra lining and soft elastic waistband. The shorts are contoured to fit snuggly and contain an anti-microbial additive to reduce bacteria build-up. Since these shorts fit close to the body, they can also be worn for everyday use to help contour your body while helping cellulite reduction
I was immediately impressed. The theory is to slather your body with some anti-cellulite skin firming cream and wear the shorts--seems simple enough and the cellulite is supposed to magically disappear.
 Ok, go back and read the description---Did they say snuggly? 
Read the words NEOPRENE and tell me if snuggly would ever come to mind as the appropriate adjective. 
Ok, they arrived and faitfully for more than a month, I wore these everyday. 
Just imagine if you will, cramming a hundred partially deflated helium balloons into a wetsuit--and that was the experience trying to wrangle this body into these shorts. 

Imagine also, wearing these day in and day out in 90 degree heat with 90 percent humidity. Think on this as well: attempting to take rubber shorts on and off for necessary visits to the little girl's room.
There were days I lived in fear of the phone, worried that it was Sea World calling and wanting me to fill in for Shamu

I will stop there, but truly I could go on for hours
Suffice to say, after this little experiment, there has been no change my the overall appearance other than a shrinking bank balance. But then, perhaps that was the only thing that was supposed to shrink--remember the words of P.T Barnum--there's a sucker born every minute