Saturday, October 29, 2011

Finding Compassion in an uncompassionate world

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong.  Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.  ~George Washington Carver

It isn't where you would expect it to come from.  Some of it might be there, but most often compassion seems to stem from where you least expect it: small children, acquaintances from your church, close friends, and even strangers along your path. As I struggle with my recovery, I have also struggled with feelings of loneliness and abandonment from those whom I least expected it. The feelings have been nearly as excruciating as learning to walk again, dealing with sleepless nights and pain beyond the 10 point scale designed by the medical professionals.  

Weaving through the wall of agony and laced with my feelings of  a lack of compassion was the over riding sense that God had also abandoned me. Perhaps it was the pain medications, the unrelenting agony, or side affects of anesthesia, but it almost felt as if I mattered to no one. After all, few cards lined the mantle, the phone rarely rang and visitors were sparse--surely God had also forgotten me. As the tears flowed,  I thought about how it must be for those confined to a nursing home--adult children, relatives and friends too busy to call except at the appointed and expected holidays. I remembered the past six months as we served as ministers of care to the nursing home for our monthly visits. I  saw how anxious the residents were to see us, give us hugs, and a welcoming smile--and I realized that I was feeling how they must feel every day. 

How sad it is, that we reach out only to those we don't know, donate to causes without a personal attachment, and yet forget the ones who are supposed to be dear to us. In a fleeting moment we may be gone and there will be no second chances. This journey has given me a new gratitude for the role we have as ministers of care--if only for a couple of hours a month, I am grateful to be available to ease some of the loneliness-share a smile, and a bit of compassion. 

I am realizing through His revelation, that I do matter to Him and He is, after all, the one who really matters.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A field full of stewardship

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
It was an unloved patch of farmland with little apparent use – until 71-year-old, Robert (Bob) and 59-year-old Randi Bautch gave it a new and whimsical purpose. In 2003, the couple refurbished the buildings on the 22-acre parcel, purchased a couple of horses and began cultivating apple trees in Big Bend when they tried raising pumpkins to sell. Ranch02Bob Bautch takes visitors to his R&R Ranch in Big Bend on a hayride through his pumpkin field on a windy Saturday, Oct. 15. Bautch and his wife Randi offer tractor rides, cut-your-own pumpkins and more during the fall season with the proceeds going to their parish, St. Joseph, Big Bend. “We started picking the pumpkins and putting them on the side of the road but that didn’t work too well as people began ripping us off,” said Bob. “The thing is, we weren’t selling the pumpkins for our own profit, we were giving everything to St. Joseph Parish and School in Big Bend.”
The couple married in the parish in 2001 and immediately felt at home among the close-knit members. After participating in a course at their parish by Crown Ministries, a nonprofit, nondenominational financial planning group, they began to think differently about their own financial situation and realized that God was calling them to be good stewards of all that they had. The course turned the couple’s thinking upside down and while they thought they had good values, both realized that they were putting their personal needs before God’s. Following the 12-week course, they realized some things needed to change in the way they lived their lives.
“We began to think about how prudent it would be to share the blessings in our life and all the things God put us in charge of,” said Bob, who runs the farm as a hobby as he owns a printing business, Randi is an executive assistant for an assisted living center, Brookdale Place, Brookfield.
“We began taking any of the proceeds and giving them to the church for the past four to five years and didn’t make it known to anyone. But recently, since we are set up to handle more people, we thought we could generate some additional business to make our efforts more personal and generate more profits to the church.
“Whatever we have belongs to God, we are just stewards and why not share it, than just give God what we have leftover?” he said.
From those 22 acres of apple trees have grown a cross between a pumpkin patch and fall playground, where visits by families and grade-school classes have become a custom. The R & R Ranch began its six-week pumpkin-selling season at the end of September and will continue through Oct. 31.
For $7, visitors can enjoy a tractor driven hayride through winding horse trails to choose a free pumpkin from the great pumpkin patch, or pick apples from the orchards. In addition, corn stalks, ready picked pumpkins and hale bales are available for those wanting to forgo the hayride.
“The apple crop is down a bit this year, and usually we like to give everyone an apple on the hayride,” said Bob. “So this year, I had to be a bit more creative and now am giving everyone an ear of field corn. I thought it wouldn’t go over very well, but the kids really seem to love it.”
Each weekend, depending on the weather, more than 100 to 200 visitors a day opt to take the hayride. Visitors enjoy lingering near the pond, swinging on a wooden swing, visiting the gazebo,
warming their feet by the fire pit or relaxing at a picnic table to soak in the sounds of nature, catching glimpses of deer and wild turkeys roaming the land.
Ranch03Angie Schieffer inspects a pair of pumpkins with her daughter, Kaydence, 3 during a visit to the R&R Ranch in Big Bend on Saturday, Oct. 15. The Schieffers are from Waukesha, but Angie is a former member of St. Joseph Parish, Big Bend. More photos from the R&R Ranch can be viewed and purchased at (Catholic Herald photos by Ernie Mastroianni)Ranch hands Greg and Sharon Wuerger, parishioners and close friends of the Bautches, are available to help after they are finished working their regular full-time jobs.
“I’ve been involved with my wife for the past four to five years,” said Greg, “I like the hayrides and the kids running all over the place, and it is a good time.”
The couple helps with hay baling, general farm work, caring for the horses throughout the year or whenever needed.
“We aren’t here every day, and less often in the winter, but it feels good to know that we are helping our parish and school,” Greg said. “I feel that Randi and Bob are a true witness to our faith in that they never really made it known what we do, but donate all the proceeds in faith that we are helping.”
Through their efforts, word has spread among the 975-family parish and they count on the repeat business for ongoing parish support.
If you want to go: R & R Ranch
W226 S8025 Guthrie Road, Big Bend Directions: Highway 43 North to Exit 50 (Big Bend) South 1 mile to Guthrie Road left on Guthrie (Highway U) to top of hill)
Open Saturday and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekdays 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. All purchases are cash only. Families, friends and group outings are all welcome. Contact R&R Ranch to make group arrangements or if you  have any questions, call  (262) 662-4920 or (414) 254-8726 or
Proceeds from all sales will benefit
St. Joseph Catholic Church and School, Big Bend.
“We have met some good friends through church and they come back year after year,” said Greg. “I always wear a cowboy hat with a feather in it, and one kid this year said he remembered my hat and noticed that I changed the feather in it – that was quite observant.”
Since Bob is in his 70s, it is hard to know how much longer he will be physically able to run the ranch, but Greg and Sharon will be there to help as long as possible.
“I just want to help; Bob treats me like one of the family, and we like being around each other,” said Greg. “We get so many people coming up here who had planned to go to the Elegant Farmer in East Troy, but they don’t want to wait so long to get in. So they come here and stop and are thrilled to walk from the upper paddock to the hayride. Most people stay here anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours.”
As business manager of St. Joseph Church, Karen Schuh said she’s impressed by the couple’s faithfulness as well as their generosity to the diocese, the parish and its ministries.
“Randi chaired our human concerns ministry for three years and helped with our children’s summer vacation Bible study, and Bob served two terms on the parish council and is an active member of the Knights of Columbus.”
In addition to the couple guiding parishioners on stewardship by facilitating the Crown Ministry Program, they also facilitate the adult Bible study programs.
“As you can see, they are very involved here at St. Joe’s and we feel so blessed to have them as part of our St. Joseph Parish family,” said Schuh. “I have had the pleasure of going to the R & R pumpkin farm with my family and the time was filled with fun, laughter and pumpkin picking. I would recommend a day at the Bautch’s farm for all to enjoy.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bionic knee on the way

In just two days I will be sporting a new and improved knee--my 'bionic knee' as my friends so lovingly chide me. In the beginning, it will most likely feel a nuisance, but I am told that give it a few months and I will be grateful for the switch. One thing I promise, I will be sure to take notes and let you know my own personal assessment of the whole thing.

After all, it wasn't that long ago I gave birth and was told that it was a mild discomfort followed by total amnesia on the pain aspect after laying eyes on my new and precious bundle.

Granted laying my eyes on the precious bundle was an incredible and indelible experience, however, the total pain amnesia? What where they smoking when they told me that pack of lies? I still remember what it felt like and while the memories have faded, they are there, and believe me and that is one reason I have total compassion for any woman going through labor.  While I would go through them again to have these five beauties, don't tell me that it didn't hurt--it did. I think being prepared for anything far surpasses some sugar coated explanation --because you know what you are dealing with.

So, to the best of my ability, I will share the good, the bad, the ugly, but probably no visuals of this experience of my life as a no longer limping 51-year-old. I am, however, expecting to leap tall buildings with a single bound.

We'll see---- Stay tuned

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Work of longtime ‘starving artist’ is fair favorite

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
ML-cover-Hughes02Barbara F. Hughes’ work is colorful and whimsical. Pictured above, clockwise beginning at upper left, are “Aunt-em-Knits,” “Selecting-Sunday-Dinner,” “Youngster-Learning-to-Multiply”and “Big-Sale- at-Land’s-End.” (Submitted images courtesy Barbara F. Hughes)The Mount Mary grounds were filled with more than 200 young artisans hoping to capture the interest of more than 8,500 visitors shopping for jewelry, paintings, pottery or a variety of other media. Then there was Barbara Frenekes Hughes. Her hair was chalk white, but clothing bright and effervescent. Her animated and enthusiastic movements displayed a demeanor that sifted the line between the young and the seasoned.
Art likes to contradict itself. Its rules are made to be broken. Because those rules favor the young, older artists who come on strong are particularly appreciated. Their example derails careerist thinking and restores a sense of possibility.
Few artists come on stronger in Milwaukee than 77-year-old Hughes who was one of the older artists at the 43rd annual Mount Mary Starving Artist Fair last month. Known for her woodcuts and serigraphs, she concentrates on animals, people and insects, portraying them in a colorful, whimsical way.
According to Barbara Muth, one of the founders of the alumni-run show, Hughes is a talented artist whose consistent work has allowed automatic acceptance to the show for many years.
“Being automatically accepted means that the artist does not have to send samples of their work when the jurying takes place,” she said. “Those artists have had their work reviewed the previous year and their work is acceptable. Many artists feel that it is a compliment.”
Due to her popularity and accomplishments, Hughes was named featured artist for the 2011 Starving Artist Fair.
In 1969, she began her Mount Mary stint alongside her parents, well known former Milwaukee-area artists, Max and Ava Fernekes.
“Her father, Max, was a graphic artist, and her mother, Ava, was a potter,” said Muth. And now Barbara has become so popular over the years that she has second and third generation fans who collect her artwork. She exhibits matted and framed limited edition prints of original woodcuts/serigraphs as well as some acrylic paintings at our show. She also exhibits at other shows in southeast Wisconsin and has received many purchase awards and has a nice collection of honorable mentions and even a few cash awards in her 50 years of exhibiting.”
Following in her parents’ footsteps isn’t something Hughes planned. She attended UW-Madison intent on majoring in home economics, which, according to her, became a bit of a joke.
“It was funny to think that I would be suited for home economics,” she said, laughing. “I could sew, but I hadn’t cooked more than three or four things, and I only did that to win a ribbon and a cash prize in the county fair. But I did not, and still have not and nor will I ever, catch on to cleaning. No, thank you. I am not an organizational person. I am typical artist and sew, paint and do a lot of other things. I have bits of ‘schnibble’ everywhere.”
While discerning her college career, Hughes couldn’t deny her passion for art; it had been there all along – in grade school when she excelled in art class, in high school helping her mother decorate for proms and parties, watching her father create exquisite prints, and later, creating her own jewelry and print making designs. She graduated from UW in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in art after studying printmaking with the late Alfred Sessier and Dean Meeker.
Since graduating college, Hughes has sold her work at art fairs, galleries and exclusive shows across the country. Her creations seem to emerge with ease as she finds beauty and art in her everyday life.
“I think things are always floating around in my mind from things that I either see or perhaps miss-see and they often suggest something to me,” she explained. “It works pretty easily and I am often several subject matters ahead of actually creating something.”
As a nationally recognized artist, Hughes has received several awards, but the greatest was about 15 years ago, when she received Best of Show in Oshkosh.
“I got $200 for my graphic work and it was very nice and made me feel so good about what I do,” she said. “I never expected it, but I sure enjoyed the attention.”
In addition to her art, Hughes continues to work in her husband David’s law office full time, and when possible, visits her two sons and two grandchildren.
“I don’t work as much as I used to on my art because I have slowed down my showings to just two fairs, but I am always doing something art-wise all the time it seems,” she said “If it isn’t making pictures or prints to sell, it is something to amuse myself. I like to play with beads, make jewelry and do sewing and mending. I still hem my husband’s pants, and make stuff for my grandkids. They are 9 and 11 now and are no longer too crazy about Grandma making them clothes, but I can get away with making some warm, cuddly and wild pajamas and they don’t complain too much! It is just fun to keep busy.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Age is just a number for 96-year-old fitness instructor

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Hildegard12Hildegard Gigl, 96, leads an exercise class at Hawthorne Terrace independent retirement center in Wauwatosa on Thursday, Sept. 29. She uses soup cans for weights during an arm workout. More photos of Gigl and the exercise session can be viewed and purchased at (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)What kind of shape do you expect to be in at the age of 90? Most of us would probably be happy just to get there, but with a name like Hildegard Gigl (pronounced giggle), she has learned to laugh at her limitations while managing to lead a life more active than many half her age. This super-fit great grandmother has run the exercise classes at Hawthorne Terrace independent retirement center for five years, managing to work up a sweat twice a week even after undergoing hip surgery followed by a serious infection two years ago.
Gigl is proving age is definitely just a number. Most might wonder how a 96-year-old woman could teach a fitness class. Well, Gigl began taking the classes when she moved to Hawthorne 14 years ago and just never stopped.
“When I first moved here, this professional gal from the YMCA did the classes and then she moved because her husband got another job,” said Gigl. “The ‘Y’ gave our assistant secretary the exercises and she did them with us, but then one time she had to leave so she asked me to take over for a bit. It happened again a little while later and finally it came to me full time. No one else seemed to mind, so I kept on doing it.”
Mary Jo Flanagan who is just 82, has taken her class since moving to Hawthorne Terrace with her husband, Gerald, five years ago,  and says that 96 is just a number.
“She doesn’t act like a 96-year-old person, and wow, she keeps everyone going and counts and exercises along with us,” she said. “This gal is quite an example of how to age with grace and a lot of stamina.”
The twice-a-week classes garner the greatest attendance on Tuesday mornings where it is not uncommon to have 20 women of various ages sweating, stretching and moving. To make sure that no one is feeling left out due to physical limitations, Gigl makes sure that the exercises are appropriate for everyone.
“We do some exercises where we stand behind a chair, or stand against the wall, or even sit in a chair,” she explained. “But we don’t get on the floor because most of us couldn’t get up again. We have some who come who have had hip, shoulder or knee surgeries and they do what they can – I don’t want anything real strenuous for them.”
A monthly senior newsletter highlights an exercise of the month, which Gigl often brings to the class to try.
“However, we don’t do anything that involves rolling around on a big ball,” laughed Gigl. “That is not something that is right for our people. But, if I find anything that might be nice, we try it. Our classes are very informal and it seems to be helping all of us become more limber. Some people tell me that they didn’t want to get up and come to classes in the morning, but that if ‘Hildegard can do it, I can, too.’ Who knows? Maybe I am doing some good.”
However, don’t be fooled; while the 30-minute classes are not strenuous, Flanagan admitted that Gigl is no pushover.
“Everyone is amazed and impressed, and, of course, a little jealous of what she does,” she said. “We have a hard time keeping up with her. But she makes everything fun – she is really the sweetest and most fun person you would ever want to meet, and she has such a great sense of humor.”
Since she was a young girl, Gigl was involved in gymnastics and appreciated the value of keeping physically fit. After graduating high school, she attended the former Spencerian Business College and worked for several lawyers before meeting and marrying her husband, Clarence.
“After we got married, I stayed home and took care of my children – after all 1933 wasn’t a good time for a job anyway,” she explained. “I didn’t do any formal exercising then, but I took care of myself because I always had the children to think about.”
The couple belonged to the former Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Milwaukee, before becoming members at St. Pius X, Wauwatosa, after moving to another residence. Clarence died May 13, 1996. Gigl credits her faith and good sense of humor for getting her through all of the difficult times in her life.
“I think I had a good sense of humor even before marrying someone with a name that sounds like giggle,” she said. “But we always went to Mass on a regular basis and when Clarence retired, we would have breakfast every morning and then say the rosary afterward. Then he would go his way and I would go my way. If we took a drive that lasted more than an hour, we would say the rosary on the way there, too. I tried to instill this in my children – but it didn’t really work with them.”
In 1990, Gigl took water aerobics at Mount Mary College until her doctor insisted she stop due to severe arthritis. She remained active with the gentler movements of the Hawthorne Terrace classes that were not so taxing on her joints. Ideally, she admitted she should exercise each day, but only exercises with the class.
“I do keep busy and walk around and do stuff here,” she said, laughing. “So I am not totally lazy.”
A self-described chocoholic, Gigl has few other vices and is not obsessed with anything, save a Shirley Temple at Hawthorne Terrace’s twice weekly cocktail hour. She watches her diet, socializes often, prays a daily rosary, leads the rosary in the chapel each Saturday before Mass, leads the creative craft classes, and keeps busy with needlepoint and jigsaw puzzles.
“At Christmas my kids and grandkids always give me jigsaw puzzles, because, really, at my age, what do I need for gifts?” she said. “But I enjoy putting them together  – some I keep and some I throw away. I keep the ones with pictures that I really like.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cross is labor of love for parish custodian

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
crossThe 14-foot crucifix, constructed by Bill Jecevicus of barn beams, hangs in St. Anne Church, Pleasant Prairie. The corpus, standing approximately seven feet tall, was created by Demetz Studios in Ortisei, Italy. (Catholic Herald photos by Allen Fredrickson)When St. Anne Catholic Church in Pleasant Prairie wanted to encourage parishioners to focus on the ordinary, yet powerful symbol of the crucifix, they asked for assistance from one of their most dedicated servants, Bill Jecevicus. A retired sheet metal worker, the 66-year-old parishioner works as the parish custodian and all-around handyman. A member of the parish since its inception 13 years ago, the unassuming man works behind the scenes, content to quietly live his faith in service to others. When St. Anne pastor, Legion of Christ Fr. Robert Weighner needed help building and installing a mammoth crucifix, Jecevicus was the natural choice.
“We were blessed with a generous and anonymous donation to fund this crucifix,” explained Fr. Weighner. “Thanks be to God! The cross was handcrafted out of barn beams by Bill, and we are grateful for his skill in crafting the cross and his efforts in precisely planning the hanging of the crucifix.”
Upon receiving the donation, Fr. Weighner commissioned Demetz Studios in Ortisei, Italy, to carve the corpus for the crucifix. The sizes of the corpus and the cross were determined based on conversations with the architect who designed St. Anne Church. The corpus stands approximately seven feet tall, with the wooden cross approximately 14 feet tall.
The request to construct the cross was viewed not as work, but as an incredible honor for Jecevicus who began discussions about the design with Fr. Weighner six months ago.
“Three months later, he ordered the corpus and asked if I was still interested in and had the materials to construct a cross for the church,” he explained. “I said yes, and the cross hanging above the altar is the result.”
While he has constructed various pieces of furniture out of old barn beams and boards for himself and his wife, Janice, family and friends, this was his first cross. The project cost Jecevicus approximately $60 for materials and took about a week for construction.
“I cleaned, sanded, fit and varnished the barn beams, and welded the chains to the proper length (for hanging),” he explained. “The wood and chains that I used were from salvaged material.”
As he neared the day to place the corpus and hang the crucifix, Jecevicus was startled to dream eight separate nights about the procedure.
“In my dreams, I loaded the two pieces of the cross and chain, took them to church and arrived there with no damage. After the cross was at church in the two pieces, the first thing I did, was to hang the chains,” he said. “We took the nine-foot cross member up to test for position, levelness, etc.,  and then we took the member down, bolted the cross together and mounted the corpus on the cross. With help, we put the crucifix on the lift, took it up, connected the chains, slowly lowered the lift and the crucifix was installed. My dreams were surprisingly pretty much as it happened. I believe that I went over and over it so often in my mind that my subconscious took over in my sleep.”
Parish communications volunteer Margie Mandli remembered the first day she met Jecevicus, and admitted she was surprised by the man behind the beard.
“He was sort of intimidating,” she confessed. “He reminds me of a ‘mountain man,’ and Fr. Bob calls him ‘Man Mountain.’ But right after I met him, I knew he was just a big teddy bear with a huge heart and love for the Lord.”
Mandli said watching Jecevicus think through and direct the installation of the crucifix at church was a powerful experience.  She said she was very moved to hear of his recurring dreams.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reporting to the office at 98

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Senior-paintingsAt 98, Bernard O. Gruenke lives alone in the same home he shared with his late wife, Mary Anne. He has a caregiver to help with cooking, cleaning and driving since losing a portion of his leg due to infection a few years ago, but dresses up each Tuesday to report to work. “I probably should retire; I think I need it very soon,” laughed Gruenke. “But I like the idea that they keep my office for me and maintain it steadily. I enjoy coming into work and having them show me sketches and drawings. I still share my ideas and together we come through with the thoughts of the future and what churches can do in creating something beautiful.”
As president emeritus of the New Berlin-based Conrad Schmitt Studios Inc., Gruenke no longer sits at the helm of the day-to-day operations of the award-winning interior decorating, restoration and stained glass company, but he retains a significant and positive presence.
Founded in 1889 by Conrad Schmitt, the son of Bavarian immigrants, the firm remained in the Schmitt family until 1953, when it was purchased by Gruenke. Today, three generations of the Gruenke family are involved in the company – his son Bernard E. serves as CEO; grandson Bernard Gunar as president; and granddaughter Heidi Emery as vice president.
Getting started at Conrad Schmitt in 1935 was not as easy as Gruenke had expected. After graduating from Corcoran College of Art in Washington, D.C., he apprenticed under artist Caesar Riccardi and early on had his heart set on becoming part of the Conrad Schmitt team.
“I showed up at the company and told them that I wanted to work there, but they told me that I should come back in six months or a year because they didn’t need me or want me,” explained Gruenke.
Not easily dissuaded, he returned the next day, sat on the doorstep and waited patiently until the business opened.
“I told them that whether they liked it or not, I was going to work there, whether they paid me or not,” said Gruenke. “Well, they paid me! It wasn’t a great deal, just $7 a week, but it was so much fun and it still is fun today.”
In the beginning, the work was rather menial. Gruenke’s initiation consisted of scrubbing floors, washing cars and moving wine casks for Mrs. Schmitt. Later, he learned the art of stained glass, including hours stick-lining borders on stained glass windows. By 1940, he worked with Munich, Germany native, Conrad Pickel, and learned to design stained glass and murals.
In 1953, Gruenke purchased the firm and continued its international presence in ecclesiastical and decorative art, stained glass and interior design. The firm has conserved stained glass windows designed by famous artists such as Louis Comfort Tiffany, Thomas O’Shaughnessy, John LaFarge, F.X. Zettler, and Mayor of Munich; and restored theatres designed by architects Rapp & Rapp, John Eberson, C. Howard Crane and Thomas Lamb, and religious and secular buildings designed by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and others.
On the forefront of similar businesses, Gruenke is proud of developing a variety of glass techniques, especially etched and faceted glass.
“We did a wonderful project at the Waldorf Astoria in New York and many other places, and developed techniques that weren’t even available in Europe,” he said. “It was all so worthwhile – especially when I think back on the art aspects of it all.”
Since beginning at Conrad Schmitt 76 years ago, Gruenke has also traveled throughout the United States and the world designing and creating art glass and interiors for basilicas, cathedrals, churches, synagogues, theatres, train stations, hotels, universities, state capitols and government buildings.
“I have enjoyed every part of my work, but if I had to tell you that I have a favorite aspect, it would be working with churches, cathedrals and basilicas,” he said. “The work is my life and I am most proud of doing new things in etched glass and faceted glass and working with priests all over the world in representing the spirit of the people and being obedient to the spirit of the Catholic faith.”
One of the more memorable restorations took place in 1966 when Holy Cross Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Notre Dame, Ind., commissioned Conrad Schmitt to bring the church into accord with the liturgical norms of the Second Vatican Council.
“Fr. Hesburgh gave me the go ahead to decorate and while I was decorating I told him that I didn’t like that he had his back to the people and asked if I could bring the altar out further so he could face the people,” said Gruenke. “He agreed to try it for one Sunday and continued to do it that way.”
As a member of St. John Vianney Parish in Brookfield, Gruenke was instrumental in decorating the original church, now the school cafeteria. In the 1970s, when building began for the new church, Gruenke designed the risen Christ in the sanctuary, interior artwork and stained glass, and moved the tabernacle to a side chapel in order to allow parishioners to linger and socialize in the nave of the church following Mass.
According to Emery, Gruenke continues to work in the studio which now employs 45 people,  because the promotion and creation of ecclesiastical art has been his life’s passion.
“He is an absolute inspiration to the other staff as they know he so loved what he did and has so much experience and stories to share,” she said. “His strong work ethic emanates from his parents and growing up in the (Great) Depression. He is a strong practicing Catholic and is still a member of St. John Vianney Parish, but due to his health issues, receives holy Communion in his home most of the time.”
In addition to his passion for ecclesiastical art, Gruenke has a penchant for his eight grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, as well as playing Sheepshead. He has regular games in his home, or at the Brookfield Senior Center.
“I get a kick out of him playing with ‘the boys,’ who are all over 80,” said Emery. “I have often come by to deliver stuff when they play – they put their hands up to greet me, but continue to go on playing because they are so into the game.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Squirrel wanted

The romantic side of me has always adored Autumn.

Trees of crimson, gold, chocolate and iridescent emeralds contrast the azure sky, sunbeams busting forth between branches leaving magical designs on the grassy carpet below.

Grasping the hand of a loved one while walking through the woods and listening to the crisp sounds of dessicated leaves as they give way beneath our feet.

Warm temperatures losing their humidity seem to offer new desire for the outdoors, encouraging us to bask in the remaining rays before the brash winter makes hermits of us all.

With over an acre of wooded property, I long to breathe in the fragrant air and gaze at the colorful artwork created by God's hand. While I am aware of the enormous number of dreary-leaved Black Walnut trees in our yard, the lack of their splendor was lost on me until this year. For reasons not known to us, we have experienced an abundance of two things: weeds and walnuts.

For days, I have raked, plucked, tossed, pitched, kicked and shoveled thousands of walnuts--dragging them by tarploads into the unmanicured woods on our property. As an added insult, my efforts were rewarded by dozens of putrid green balls escaping their hold from the branches in unison, often onto my head as I carried the captured ones away.

Today, as I continued my quest, I looked around at the piles and one thing came to mind: where are the darn squirrels, and why aren't they doing their jobs?

We have food for them, and lots of it! Walnuts used to be considered a delicacy for them, something akin to truffles for us. When I was young, I watched the little fuzzy creatures scurry through my yard, peeling the husks and burying the nuts for a winter's bounty. We never had to collect the nuts before we could mow the lawn because the squirrels knew their role.  Now, we are lucky to find one or two and most would rather climb into the bird feeders than bother to gather the nuts.

Have the squirrels run off to greener pastures? Have they outsourced their food supply or cut a deal with the farmers for the dregs in their fields? All I know is that I want them back! Perhaps if I put an ad on Craig's list we could get some business here and lighten the load, or perhaps a welcome sign in the front yard might help?

Until they return, I am forced to hard labor -and if you are looking for me, I'll be in the yard, doing squirrel's work. If you happen to have a few emaciated squirrels in your area, please, send them here; they can work for food.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Showing Respect for Life this month

When we think of October being Respect life month, we often focus on saving babies from abortion. Of course, as a mother of five and grandmother to four, the little ones do captivate my attention. However, respecting life means all life at all stages of being. Whether it is the wee babe, the teen with Downs syndrome, the cancer patient, death row prisoner, or the elderly relative unable to grasp daily memories--all are important and all have value.

As a Catholic Christian, it often amazes me that others who celebrate their Christianity, often feel compelled to play God with the lives of others who are not living up to their acceptable expectations of the beauty of life. None of us knows the value or purpose of any heartbeat--those mysteries will be unveiled in God's time; but each precious soul has a beautiful and unique personality and squelching any life eliminates the possibility for that special trait to be revealed.

Sitting in Mass this morning while our priest was speaking on Respect Life month, I was in awe of my gorgeous granddaughter asleep in my lap, platinum tendrils framing her round face and long eyelashes concealing azure eyes--if circumstances had been different, she may not be here to infuse so many lives with joy. Each moment with her is a celebration of God's infinite goodness and despite any moments of stress or sorrow in our lives, her presence bridges all of that, surrounding us with His love.

Today she and I unveiled the mystery of a caterpillar and after investigating all of his parts and playing with him for a bit-sent him back to the wild to find his family. A tiny lesson on the importance of life, perhaps--but hopefully the beginning of her lifelong enthusiasm for God's heart.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Change is on the way

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
1129stanislaus6(Green Bay Compass photo by Sam M. Lucero)English-speaking Catholics around the world will begin using a new translation for some of the familiar prayers at Masses beginning Sunday, Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent.
A new English-language translation of the Roman Missal, the book of texts and prayers used in the Mass, will be available this October and marks the first significant changes to the Mass since it changed from Latin to English more than 40 years ago.
Many parishes are offering adult study sessions to provide not only the mechanics of the changes, but the meaning behind them. While adults may quickly grasp the changes, young people may not understand the reasons behind the profound meaning and beauty of the Mass and the new translation.
Catholic schools and numerous Catholic publications such as Pauline Books and Media, Magnifikid! and Ligouri Publications have created detailed booklets to prepare children and teens with the tools they need to participate in the sacred liturgy.
As Pope Benedict XVI stated, “The opportunity for catechesis that this new translation presents will need to be firmly grasped. I pray that the change will serve as a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world.” (Address to Vox Clara, April 28, 2010)
DSHA offers Mass 101 sessions
Milwaukee’s Divine Savior Holy Angels High School offered Mass 101 sessions for all students to learn the deeper meaning of each aspect of the Mass, including new music Mass settings. According to Stephanie Monson, assistant director of campus ministry, the sessions were designed to inspire participation, reverence and renewed respect for the Eucharist, while fostering an appreciation for the significance behind the postures involved in Mass.
“The new Mass translation is a perfect opportunity for Catholic high schools to reach out to students through the Mass,” she said. “So often, we just go through the motions of Mass p“The Mass Explained for Kids,” is a booklet, published by Pauline Kids, to help children transition smoothly into the new Mass translation. This booklet explains upcoming changes and enables children ages 7–11 to understand what we do and say at Mass and why.and forget to really participate with our own prayers and responses. Although change is always hard, the new Mass wording will make us focus on what we are saying again and why – and there lies the opportunity. Catholic education is all about reaching students through knowledge and experiences of God.”
It isn’t enough, Monson explained, to instruct young adults in the rote responses or prayers of the Mass; students need and want to know why the church is making the changes and the meaning behind the new words of the Mass.
“The new Mass translation gives DSHA the opportunity to re-educate students about what is really going on, so we began the year with an assembly called ‘Mass 101,’” Monson said. “This presentation was about the meaning of Mass and was created just for DSHA by (Salvatorian) Fr. Jeff Wocken, director of formation for the U.S. Province of Salvatorian priests, to catechize the students about what the Mass is and, most importantly, why we do what we do.”
‘Teenagers want to experience God through Mass’
The “Mass 101” sessions offered the opportunity for students to talk about the meaning of the Mass. The day following the session, 80 students attended the first optional Mass of the school year.
“It is just proof that teenagers want to experience God through the Mass, but they just need to be given the tools to do so,” Monson said. “Our choir director, Becky Wickert, is also using the new words as an opportunity to get students more interested in the Mass. Having new music Mass settings allows us to take time out to teach the students the new music and hopefully get them excited to sing.”
Throughout October and November, Monson will teach the new words of the Mass during theology classes, and meet with teenagers in small groups to discuss the Mass more thoroughly.

New Mass prayer guide available

     MILWAUKEE — With some changes in the wording used at Mass set to begin this Advent, a new “Prayer & Worship Guide” will help Catholics to participate fully in weekly liturgy. Free copies of the large-print guide are available from the Heart of the Nation Sunday TV Mass ministry. In addition to large-print text for Sunday Mass, the premier issue will contain seasonal prayers, traditional Christmas carols and the daily Mass propers.
“Our first issue takes us from Christmas to mid-February,” said Bruno John, president of Heart of the Nation. “We are asking for orders now so that we can be sure to print enough copies for anyone interested in the ‘Prayer & Worship Guide.’” Although Heart of the Nation has launched its publication primarily to serve viewers of the TV Mass, many of whom are visually or hearing impaired, the organization offers its large-print “Prayer & Worship Guide” free to anyone who would find it helpful.
     The TV Mass uniquely serves the needs of Catholics unable to participate in weekend liturgy at a parish. The sick, homebound, imprisoned or Catholics caring for loved ones who cannot be left alone depend on the televised Mass.
     Heart of the Nation’s Sunday TV Mass takes place in a chapel consecrated in 1861 at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, the oldest continually operating seminary in the country. Using four cameras, at least 10 microphones and advanced production techniques, Heart of the Nation produces the Mass.
For more information and a channel guide on where to watch the Heart of the Nation Sunday TV Mass, log on to, or call (855) 855-MASS (6277).
“The new translation is wonderful to teach because it always has a link to Scripture or how Catholics have been worshipping for centuries,” she said. “The new response, ‘And with your spirit,’ is also what Mary said to the angel at the Annunciation and how Paul greets his beloved faith communities. There is power in the knowledge that 650 teenage girls will start each Mass with the same words that Mary, another teenage girl, used to start her new vocation as the mother of all Christians.”
Monson said it’s meaningful to have the conversation about the manner in which they respond to prayers during Mass with anyone, regardless of age.
“How often do we respond to the priest when he says, ‘Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,’ with a mumbled and ignored, ‘It is right to give him thanks and praise’ and soon will be ‘It is right and just,’” she said. “Having to introduce the new words gives teachers the opportunity to point out to teenagers and ourselves that we have so much to be grateful for and encourage them to participate with a heartfelt response.”
Magnifikid! to update prayers for children
Magnifikid!, a monthly spiritual guide for children ages 6 to 12, based on the adult version, Magnificat, will update its Sunday Mass prayers in the December editions.
According to Paul Snatchko, manager of marketing and communications, Magnificat Magazine, the Magnifikid! Advent issue ( will contain all the new prayers of the Mass, as well as a letter outlining the changes.
“The parents may want to talk to their children ahead of time about the changes, as well as practice some of the new prayers and the responses,” he said. “Magnifikid! will have all the new translations and the children can follow along at Mass.”
Ligouri Publications ( offers several bulletin inserts designed for teens and adults as well as primary age children. Adults can read about the changes through “Conversations about the Roman Missal,” by Jesuit Fr. Joseph Weiss, which combines academic study and pastoral experience to help teens and adults transition into the Mass in an easy-to-understand and meaningful way.
According to Ligouri Publications parish sales consultant, Elizabeth Tallis, the children’s version, “Going to Mass with the Roman Missal,” also by Fr. Weiss, has been popular among parishes.
“It is a great little four-page bulletin insert that explains the Roman Missal and the Mass changes that are coming in easy to understand language for children,” Tallis said. “Fr. Weiss did a wonderful job highlighting the changes, as well as adding a short explanation about the Mass.”
Ligouri offers booklet on changes
In addition, Ligouri offers a 48-page booklet, “The Living Mass” that outlines the changes to the Roman Missal and how Catholics worship. The booklet, by Helidoro Lucatero, outlines the reasons for the translations, why changes were made, who makes the changes and what the changes will be.
“We also carry this wonderful 45-minute DVD called ‘Feeding Hungry Hearts’ by Fr. Joe Kempf that has been extremely popular among parishes all over the country,” said Tallis. “He isn’t focused on the new Mass translation, but really explains the Mass and why we do what we do as Catholics, and explains what a great gift the Holy Eucharist is to us.”
In an easy-to-understand and colorful format, Pauline Kids ( has released a 40-page booklet for children ages 7-11 to understand the new translation of the Mass as well as the reasons behind all the Mass prayers.
While the reasons for the changes are not included in the booklet, the prayers are arranged by linking liturgical texts on the left side of the booklet with corresponding colorful explanations on the right. Despite gearing the text to children, adults will likely find the booklet helpful in answering their own questions.
Translation is ‘teachable moment’ for Pauline Books and Media
Pauline Books and Media associate editor, children’s books, Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, co-authored “The Mass Explained for Kids,” and is not only excited about the new publication on a professional level, but personally, as well.
“I have eight kids ranging from 11 to 27, and was a bit surprised when our law school student asked if I would send her a few copies of ‘The Mass Explained for Kids,’” she said. “I believe this booklet has the potential to reach families with children of various ages, and have seen much interest from adults looking for what this resource offers: A visually clean, brief catechesis on the whole Mass, and not just the things that will change with the new English translation of the Roman Missal.”
The booklet doesn’t explore why the changes occurred, or that the language of the Mass is changing, because Wolfe wanted to focus on an overall understanding of what happens at Mass and why.
“Most kids and adults would love to know what the Mass really means,” she said. “We have taken the teachable moment of the new translation as an opportunity to do that. We believe that families and children can learn to pray the Mass.”
In preparing children for the new Roman Missal, Wolfe emphasized there is much parents can do to help their children understand what will be going on, but it all begins with a relaxed state of mind, a positive attitude and a deep breath.
Learn about Mass with your children
“Expect to be a little ‘book bound’ for a while and realize that you don’t have to know the answer to every question your kids may ask,” she said. “You can learn a lot more than just what the words say.
Why not learn about the Mass together with your children?”
Secondly, parents can utilize online resources or attend parish informational sessions to learn about the changes, and discuss specific words or concepts they might find challenging.
“Just remember, ‘consubstantial’ may sound a lot more daunting than ‘one in being’ does, but the concept is the same,” explained Wolfe. “Once you realize that we’ve all coasted through Mass on autopilot at least sometimes, you’ll see what a great opportunity these changes present … for deepening our knowledge and practice of the faith.”
Once the new language is fully implemented, Wolfe encourages parents to discuss with their children the words and concepts they like and what might sound strange to the ear, and even what might make them feel uncomfortable.
“You might consider having a kind of family liturgical ‘scavenger hunt,’” she suggested. “Look for something specific in the Mass each week: like how many times the priest says, ‘The Lord be with you,’ or whether you heard words that reminded you of a Bible story or just an unfamiliar word.”
Another suggestion would be to focus on one part of the Mass together, as a family, such as the Penitential Rite. It might be surprising to many Catholics that the words Kyrie eleison are Greek and not Latin. More than anything, Wolfe encourages parents to discuss the personal meaning of the Mass to them, and how their faith in Jesus Christ, present in the Eucharist, can be part of everyday family life.
“This little 40-page booklet has involved countless hours and the collaboration of many, many people over the past year,” said Wolfe. “Once we realized that there was a need and opportunity to teach kids, not just about the changes in the missal, but about the Mass as a whole, we got down to work. It has been a joy and privilege to produce something aimed at helping kids understand the great gift Jesus gave us in the Eucharist, his real presence and saving sacrifice, as well as true communion with him and one another. All of this comes to us through the celebration of Mass.”