Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sr. Callista receives Claver Legacy Award

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Sr. Callista Robinson has committed her life to service. A Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, Minn., she is dedicated to the Franciscan values of conversion, contemplation, poverty and minority.  Callista02Franciscan Sr. Callista Robinson, recently honored with the Claver Legacy Award, poses in front of a mural at the Adult Learning Center in Milwaukee on Monday, March 12. The mural quotes the early 20th century African-American poet Langston Hughes. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)Her tireless efforts as coordinator of the Brother Booker Ashe Lay Ministry Program and as assistant administrator of the Adult Learning Center, are among the reasons she recently received the Claver Legacy Award from the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary. Sr. Callista also chairs the Black Religious and Clergy of Wisconsin and is a member of the National Black Sisters Conference. At her parish, St. Martin de Porres, she serves as lector and chairperson of the prayer and worship committee.
According to Antoinette Mensah, member of St. Martin de Porres Parish and the Knights of Peter Claver and the Ladies Auxiliary, Sr. Callista is a “force to be reckoned with.”
“She has been around forever in my life,” said Mensah. “We go to church together and I serve on boards with her. She is a role model and inspires all of us around her in faith and formation. She is a champion for education and I admire all that she has done – and still does – for kids and adults. She is a professional educator and passionate for helping people with all educational types of activities.”
Honor bestowed at Mardi Gras event
Sr. Callista received the Claver Legacy Award at the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary annual Mardi Gras Scholarship Ball on Feb. 18, at the Italian Conference Center, Milwaukee. The award is presented annually to an individual dedicated to the tenants of Claverism – a charge to work together in friendship, love and Christian charity. The award recognizes devotion to the development of future leaders through mentoring, service and teaching.
As a member of the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, Annette Frink explained that since Sr. Callista has helped to educate the community and has touched lives, from small children through senior citizens, she deserved the award.
“She has been a pillar in our community in regards to the education of our children and the spirituality of Black Catholics,” said Frink. “It was important that we recognize her and award her the Claver Legacy Award. Sr. Callista believes and charges every one of us with this message, ‘We as educators cannot give up. We still must teach children that they are somebody, that learning and education is important for their future, that no one can take their education from them.’ It is through Sr. Callista’s tireless work in improving the minds of Milwaukee’s citizens that will eventually unlock that golden door of freedom and open it wide.”
Knights founded in 1909
Founded in 1909 in Mobile, Ala., The Knights of Peter Claver was the answer of black churchgoers to racist practices at the time, as African Americans were not allowed to join the Knights of Columbus.
The order is named after St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit priest from Spain who ministered to African slaves in Cartenga, Columbia, and South America in the 17th century. Peter Claver is said to have converted more than 300,000 slaves to Catholicism.
The group’s mission is: “To render service to God and his holy church, faithful to its doctrines, sensitive to the needs of the church, family, our fellow brothers and sisters in the community, to portray by example the deed and higher principles of Christian life, provide mutual aid and assistance to it’s members and promote friendship, unity and Christian clarity.”
This mission is carried out locally and nationally with scholarships to youth to further their education. Milwaukee has four courts and councils in the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary based out of St. Michael, St. Francis, All Saints and St. Martin de Porres parishes. The courts are open to Catholics of all races and professions, and include courts for Junior Knights and Daughters. The organization’s mission coincides with Sr. Callista’s lifelong efforts in educating youth and adults as a teacher, principal, and chief executive administrator at Harambe Community School.
‘Passionate about people’
Mensah explained that, like St. Peter Claver, who improved the quality medical and educational care for slaves, Sr. Callista, one of several candidates considered for the award, has worked to give back what she received growing up as a young black student learning from Catholic Sisters.
“She really wanted to teach children in the African-American community and does all she can to help them get the education they need to pursue whatever profession they choose,” said Mensah. “She is passionate about people and the right way to do things. She provides an opportunity to question, challenge and engage in discussions and I suspect it is the same way at the Adult Learning Center. She definitely deserved this award.”
Close friends and members of the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, Minnie Linyear and Lilli Holloman explained that Sr. Callista is a role model for the African-American community and is willing to extend herself if she believes in a cause.
“She is quiet spoken and doesn’t raise her voice for anything,” said Linyear, adding, “She sticks up for what she believes in and is great with children and wants the best for them and for them to believe in themselves, have goals and dreams.”
Holloman agreed, and added that the nun is very organized and pays attention to detail, especially regarding her parish ministry.
“She is always at the 8 a.m. Mass and comes back to the 10:30 Mass to make sure all the liturgical ministers are in place,” she said. “She is dependable and demonstrates this by being present for special events like Stations of the Cross, or just to lend a hand.”
Work with GED program ‘rewarding’
Surprised, but delighted to receive the award, Sr. Callista was touched that the organization remembered her contributions to education, but credits the Lord for putting the desire into her heart to make a difference.
“Service just motivates me because it has all been done in the name of service to the Lord and God’s people,” she said. “I always wanted to give back to the community, especially to the African- American community, and am blessed to be able to do so.”
As assistant administrator of the Adult Learning Center, located on the campus of St. Francis Parish, Sr. Callista is at work by 7 o’clock every morning, except Friday, registering students for placement tests, collecting monthly fees, purchasing bus tickets for the students, and preparing coffee and snacks for the students and tutors.
The rewards of her efforts and the success of the Adult Learning Center provide her with an enthusiasm that seems to override any fatigue.
“It is rewarding to work in this GED program and see the students come in at a certain level, making strides and gains throughout the year, and to see them graduate,” she said. “We have a good record for graduation and there have been quite a few who have gone on to higher education. We have some who have gone into nursing, trades and media technology. They come every day and it is really quite an achievement because they all have lives besides this. Seeing how their lives are touched and changed really helps my faith to grow.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Unexpected warmth brings about joyful day

Miracles abound every day --often we mistakenly believe they are reserved for special circumstances and wait for the loud trumpet blast, God's audible voice, or a miraculous healing. But miracles are found in the ordinary: the laughter, new life, seasons, and most definitely grandchildren.

Alexa and I had fun exploring bugs, flowers, birds, birdseed and just hanging out today.

Sharing my most blessed miracle with you


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sacred Heart undergoes massive renovation

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ST. FRANCIS — Beginning Sunday, March 25, members of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish will worship in their own building for the first time since October 2010. The church renovation, which began in November 2011, is part of a massive renovation project on the Sacred Heart Campus, and one that was in the works for the past seven years, according to parish trustee Helen Bugni.
sacredWork continues on the new Sacred Heart Church, St. Francis on Monday, March 12. The church, to be dedicated on Sunday, March 25, was designed with the help of liturgical designer Capuchin Fr. Mark Joseph Costello. This view looks north from the altar.“Around seven years go, our then pastor, Fr. Bob (Robert) Surges and the parish council and finance committee looked carefully at our finances. The parish school had merged with the other parish schools in the South Shore Cluster to form St. Thomas Aquinas Academy. The school building lay empty, taking up financial resources to maintain it,” she explained. “It was determined that we could not afford to maintain our property and continue to exist as a viable parish.”
Former parish council member, Brad Hoeschen, a real estate attorney, began discussing the situation with colleagues to see what might be possible to maintain the parish’s viability. A senior housing developer met with the parish council to discuss the possibility of purchasing part of the Sacred Heart property for senior housing, while the parish maintained ownership of a portion of the church and the parish house.
“The developer ran into delays in attaining financing and then the economy fell and it looked like the project was not happening,” said Bugni. “Then in April 2011, financing became available and things started moving.”
The property of the school and church was sold to MCZ Development Corporation of Chicago, and work began quickly to renovate the church space and to convert the former grade school and parking lot into 68 one and two bedroom apartments.
A unique partnership with the developers emerged, giving Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, ownership of 60 percent of the original worship space. The remaining 40 percent is co-owned with the new Sacred Heart of Jesus Senior Apartments.
“That area has been transformed into a community meeting space, a conference room, a small kitchen and bathrooms,” said Bugni, adding, “An access ramp that will accommodate handicapped persons as well as standard caskets was constructed from the entrance foyer down to the level of the worship space.”
The parish maintains ownership of the parish house that will be renovated later as parish officials determine the best use for the space.
“We had targeted our Faith in the Future donations for transforming some of the space into a center for adult spirituality,” said Bugni.
The 350-400 family parish members are excited to worship and maintain office space on their own property again. The parish is the only Catholic church in St. Francis and has roots dating to 1868. Since October 2010, the parish has utilized office and storage space at the Cousins Center, and various locations for Mass.
“We were the beneficiaries of the generosity of the people at Howard Village,” said Bugni. “Fr. Bob said daily Mass there until his retirement in October 2011, and they provided an empty apartment for our use for meetings. All of this was at their expense.”cool-buildingThe new church at Sacred Heart Senior Apartments in St. Francis is nearing completion. This rendering shows a view looking south toward the altar. More photos of the renovation can be viewed at photos.chnonline.org. (Catholic Herald photos by Ernie Mastroianni)
The sisters at Clare Hall hosted Sacred Heart of Jesus weekend Masses, and for a while, funerals and weddings were held there. Since November, funerals have been held at Nativity of the Lord Parish in Cudahy, where their new pastor, Fr. Jan Kieliszewski, also serves as pastor. However, since January, funeral luncheons have been held in the new community space on the Sacred Heart campus.
Described by parishioners as more of a gymnasium, the former church lacked Catholic symbolism, but made up for the lack of accoutrements and style with faithful worshippers. With the assistance of liturgical designer Capuchin Fr. Mark Joseph Costello, the space is becoming symbolic and beautiful.
“He has created a space full of symbolism and brought in artisans to enhance the beauty,” Bugni said. “The first thing people notice is the ceiling. It defines the space. In the design of the ceiling is a cross and octagons over the altar platform and baptismal font. The octagon has been a symbol of the Resurrection in the ancient church.”
Mike Jagielo of The Wood Plane in Almond in the La Crosse Diocese created the altar, ambo, tabernacle stand, presider’s chair and the panels around the font. Local sculptor Jordan Wanner created a unique corpus for the cross.
“When looking at it, it makes you think about both the crucified and the risen Christ,” Bugni said. “He also designed our tabernacle and lamp.”
Glass artist Kenneth von Roenn from Louisville, Ky., created the glass in the niches behind the altar.
“This piece cannot be described, just experienced,” said Bugni. “We have a small adoration chapel behind the altar and the tabernacle can be seen from both the church and the chapel.”
While there are many new additions to the worship space, several items from the former church have been incorporated into the new space, such as the statues of the Sacred Heart that hang over the doors leading into the church. Furniture restorer Craig Graybar, who grew up in the parish, refurbished the statues of Mary and Joseph, as well as the Stations of the Cross.
The funding for the project was a combination of the sale of the property as well as through the donations of parishioners. Rather than conduct a capital campaign, parish officials simply stated their needs, and the funds were contributed. Despite the generosity of members, financing the project was not without its uncertainties and stress. However, at the last moment, an unexpected bequest covered the cost of the pews, and an anonymous donation covered other hidden costs.
“As another example, our deacon, Leroy Ode, provided the funds for the tabernacle and the light over the tabernacle,” said Bugni. “We also engaged our own contractors individually. Mike Duffek of Kotze Construction served as our project manager, with lay people from the parish working closely with him essentially as the owner’s representatives. Kotze has done the general construction and carpentry work. Wall Tech was hired to do the dry wall, painting and staining. When you see the ceiling and the walls, you can see that it was not an ordinary dry walling task.”
In addition, Dnesco Electric worked on lighting and wiring for the sound system and fire protection system. Bredon Mechanical provided heating and cooling services. Hetzel Tile worked on the altar platform and font. Schoofs Plumbing provided water supply to the immersion font. White House of Music designed the sound system, and David Broskowski refurbished the organ system.
“We also needed new terrazzo on part of our floor and this monumental task fell to Castellan Terrazzo,” said Bugni. “North Shore Marble Restoration made the rest of the terrazzo look like new.”
Although excitement is building for the formal dedication on March 25, when Archbishop Listecki will celebrate Mass, Bugni admitted that there have been many uncertain days when no one was sure the project would reach completion.
“It has been a journey of uncertainty and hope. We sometimes felt like the Israelites in the desert with no home, so we are looking forward to being home.” she said. “Fr. Jan Kieliszewski presided at an Ash Wednesday prayer service in the new community space. We had a full house, and I believe it is because people wanted to have a sense of being home.”

Friday, March 9, 2012

Couple celebrates their union with parish

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When Nicole Fastabend and Jim Bourne decided to get married last Dec. 3, they also decided to have their wedding reflect who they are and the deeply rooted values that guide their life. Planning started with a focus on God, sacrament and community. coupleThe wedding of Nicole Fastabend and Jim Bourne, both 26, on Dec. 3, 2011, at St. Catherine Church, Granville, was a celebration for the entire St. Catherine community, as through the parish bulletin, the couple invited the entire parish community to the wedding and a simple reception following the Mass. (Submitted photo courtesy Black Dog Studios)Weddings have become more elaborate and expensive. The first decision is often booking the hall a year or two in advance of the wedding and filling all the engagement time with planning: wardrobe, reception, dinner, dance, music, flowers, decorations, gift registry, guest list, invitations, photographer, parties, honeymoon. Finally, almost as an afterthought, the Mass with the priest is scheduled.
Like any couple, Nicole and Jim were looking forward to their reception, but they opted to focus on the most important aspect of their wedding, the Mass. Since Nicole serves as the director of Christian formation at St. Catherine Parish in Granville, the couple’s engagement became a part of the parish community and Jim, a law enforcement officer, became one of their own.
“Over the year that we were engaged, parishioners were just as excited and supportive as most of my friends and family, asking me how things were going and praying for us,” said Nicole. “Even during the last few months, they were sharing in the countdown each week.”
While they could have held their wedding at another parish, St. Catherine seemed like home, and both decided the wedding would not be complete without being able to celebrate with their parish family. Through the parish bulletin, Nicole and Jim extended an invitation to their entire parish community to attend the wedding, as well as a small cookie and juice reception in the parish after Mass.
“The Mass was what was most important to us, and we wanted the community to be there to pray with us and support us,” said Nicole. “Working with families, teens, kids and even adults, and being a visible part of that community, it’s natural to develop relationships and a sense of belonging, and when it came down to it, we wanted them to feel welcome to come and support us in prayer.”
Planning to include parishioners in their most important day dovetailed into Nicole’s lessons to high school students about relationships, dating, dresses, flowers and sacrament.
“The parents and children seemed excited to be invited and I was so grateful for the opportunity to stand with them on our wedding day and express how grateful we are for their love and support,” said Nicole.
While inviting an entire parish community to celebrate a wedding Mass is unusual, an added surprise to the community was having Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki as the main celebrant.
“It was certainly very special,” said Nicole. “The archbishop is a great priest, and a good friend of our family. My parents are both faith-filled loving people with a gift for hospitality – every person is important to them. Between growing up with that example, my mother working for the church (as secretary to the archbishop), and working for the church myself, we’ve come to develop friendships with many priests – the archbishop among them. Standing on the altar with all of our concelebrating priests and the archbishop …. wow, we felt very supported in prayer.”
Being invited to attend Nicole and Jim’s wedding was not a surprise to St. Catherine parishioner Ginny Chmiel, as she knew the couple had made an impression on many in their tightly woven community.
“They really wanted us there and it wasn’t just to have people there, it was because they made everything very personal and we were more than happy to celebrate the day with them,” she said. “I knew how happy Nicole was about the wedding and you felt that when you walked into the church. There was a large gathering of family, friends and parishioners and we were so delighted to see to many parishioners – not just people who worked with her in the church. She obviously made an impression on many people, and it was such a happy, prayerful wedding.”
Like Chmiel, parishioner John Scholz was struck by the parish-wide invitation to the Bournes’ wedding.
“It was a beautiful idea and one that I had not heard of doing before,” he said “It was truly a community event and interesting because we saw her family, then saw the members of the community all supporting her. It was very special to have the archbishop celebrating the wedding, too; he is such a personable guy.”
With a position in the parish such as Nicole’s, Tony Kuchan admitted that inviting the parish to celebrate seemed to be the perfect and most generous means to include everyone in their celebration.
“We had a good turnout; I can’t even estimate how many from the parish attended, but we were well represented as a Catholic community,” he said. “The archbishop was a marvelous surprise and it was very special that he would have taken the time to come and celebrate their wedding Mass. He gave a great homily. It was very personal and gentle and he really presented a very caring part of the verbal celebration.”
Just after their vows, Archbishop Listecki asked Nicole and Jim to turn around and look at all of the smiling faces of the people who were present and supportive of their wedding.
“It was incredibly special to be able to celebrate with all of those people,” said Nicole. “I felt honored that my husband of about six seconds and I could be witnesses to God’s love in our lives to all those gathered there. It was wonderful and moving to see that so many people from the parish cared about us, and our lives together enough that they were willing to take the time out of their busy lives to spend the afternoon with us. Working at St. Catherine is my job, yes, but it is really more than that. In ministry, you end up sharing a lot of yourself and your life with people, and your personal life becomes intertwined with the life of the parish community. I could not have imagined not having that community as part of our day.”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Study: Voucher students outperform peers in reading

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A five-year evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program by the School Choice Demonstration Project, based at the University of Arkansas, found the school voucher program increased the chances of students graduating from high school and going on to college. bubble-sheet The first school voucher program of its kind began in Milwaukee in 1990; in 2006, Wisconsin policymakers mandated that the School Choice Demonstration Project lead a five-year evaluation of the program to determine whether it was successful.
According to John Witte, professor of political science and public affairs at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, the Choice Program boosted the rates at which students graduate from high school, enroll in a four-year college and persist in college.
“Since educational attainment is linked to positive life outcomes such as higher lifetime earnings and lower rates of incarceration, this is a very encouraging result of the program,” he said.
The longitudinal study, which tracked the same 2,727 voucher students in third through ninth grades with an equal number of similar Milwaukee Public School students, found that private voucher schools made gains in reading in 2010-11 that were significantly higher than those of a matched sample of peers in MPS, but math achievement scores remained the same as the previous year.
DPI waiver would tap into accountability program
According to the MacIver Institute, the Department of Public Instruction’s waiver would tap into the upcoming school accountability program to fairly assess the state’s public schools in a stronger way than No Child Left Behind’s “Adequate Yearly Progress” guideline.
The waiver relies on a dynamic system of goals and measurements to gauge how students within an institution are performing. Every school and district will have rolling personalized goals that assess where pupils are and what true growth would look like. Their goal is to create a fair and evolving system that holds schools accountable for not just student test results but also their achievements in the classroom.
Waiver concerns Messmer president
br-bobBr. Bob SmithMessmer Catholic Schools president and CEO Capuchin Br. Bob Smith is pleased with the high quality education provided to students attending St. Rose and St. Leo K4-8 School, Messmer Preparatory Catholic School K4-8, and Messmer High School, the nation’s first religious school to participate in a voucher program.
Despite the schools’ successes, the recent release of the DPI’s final version of the federal No Child Left Behind waiver proposes a statewide accountability system and a DPI intervention policy for under-performing public schools, and includes a listing of voucher schools DPI ranks as underperforming.
The lack of specific language for voucher and charter schools, most of which operate under different guidelines than traditional public schools, is a concern for the Choice Program. The waiver suggests that the state will increase power over choice schools, and is something not present in other states where similar tax credit programs exist.
According to Br. Bob, the voucher school rankings for private schools were based on different data than public schools. Additionally, voucher school data did not need to be included in the waiver, but the DPI chose to compare the schools.
“Schools that participate in the Parental Choice program play a vital role in educating children and each and every school should be held accountable, but the standards and data to compare schools need to be fair,” he said. “Accountability has to compare apples to apples, including when test scores begin to count, what student test scores, such as a whole class or select students, are included in the averages and what resources are provided to get the job done. Our unifying goal must be a rigorous course of study, high school graduation and college or post-secondary educational attainment. With those standards, schools such as Messmer High School clearly and consistently demonstrate an ability to prepare students for college, and ensure they have the necessary skills to perform well. The unnecessary intrusion by DPI into private school operations is a serious concern lawmakers need to consider.”
Bill addresses special needs students
In addition to Br. Bob’s concern on new accountability standards, is Senate Bill 486, debated in a senate hearing on Feb. 28. If passed, the bill would provide a scholarship dollar amount that would allow students identified as special needs to attend a public school outside their district area or a choice participating private school. The funds would follow the student to whatever school they attend, public or private.
To qualify for the scholarship, the following conditions must be met:
1. The school has notified the DPI of its intent to participate in the program and the child has been accepted by the school.
2. If the school is a private school, it is approved as a private school by DPI or is accredited.
3. An individualized education program (IEP) has been completed for the child.
4. In the previous school year, the child attended a public school, attended a private school under a parental choice program (PCP) or did not attend school in Wisconsin.
The bill directs DPI to develop a document, for inclusion with an application, comparing the rights of a child with a disability and his or her parent under state and federal handicapped education law with the rights of a child with a disability under the program created by this bill and federal handicapped education law.
Those opposing this bill believe it will influence public school instruction of special needs students, as it would funnel funding with the student to the alternative public school or to a private school. Private schools maintain that the funds are better utilized, as they are able to educate most special needs children with less money.
DPI not supportive of religious schools, says Br. Bob
According to Br. Bob, despite the federally mandated choice voucher program, not only is the DPI not supportive of private and religious schools, the program has been met with hostility from its onset.
“The argument by the public schools is that they take everyone because they are mandated and paid for it,” he said. “Private schools educate a number of students and save money because they do it for less money. The state of Wisconsin has saved $52 million as a result of the school choice program.”
While not mandated to do so, private schools have always served special needs students, such as a recent graduate of Marquette University who attended Messmer on the voucher program, he said.
“She became a pen pal of Maya Angelou and is a phenomenal speaker and looking to go to Haiti this summer,” said Br. Bob. “She is legally blind and for four years we provided a teacher for part of the day to help her to learn to read. She can’t discern between colors, so we bought her an extra large computer and large print textbooks. She has one glass eye and 30 percent vision. It cost us about $40,000 to educate her, and we paid for it.”
Cost of instruction
far less in choice schools
According to Br. Bob, the cost of instruction is at least $2,000 less than the average for Milwaukee Public School elementary students and half the cost of instruction for high school students. Messmer, founded in 1926, also has a record of accomplishment in educating students, which is why they want their voice heard on the matter. 
“Messmer students are two and a half times more likely to graduate high school and enter college than their public school peers; that 85 percent of its students will continue to college and 14 percent enter the workforce or military upon graduation,” he said, “and many of our graduates are today’s local and national business leaders, philanthropists and scholars.”
According to Kim Wadas of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the Feb. 28 hearing contained testimony from both sides of the issue, but she is hopeful for a favorable resolution in the next couple of weeks for the private and religious schools.
“Parents and students showed up with special needs students in support of the bill and testified that it was hard to find educational experience appropriate for their child,” she said. “There were also a lot of people who were employees of the public schools who worried about funds going to private schools and the effect on the public schools.”
“There was a contingent of people from Lutheran, Catholic and other various schools, such as Waldorf Schools, who already provide services to special needs students, but could benefit with extra funds for the students,” she said.
Wavier is complex, admits superintendent
According to Kathleen Cepelka, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the archdiocese is committed to having schools that are choice schools and that all of the schools be accountable for optimizing student learning.
“This is a very complex waiver and it has gone through many metamorphoses,” she said. “We are very committed to accountability for the schools and in seeking equity and equitable funding for our schools based on what those schools do.”
With all of the archdiocesan schools going through accreditation processes, archdiocesan curriculum standards, administering standardized tests and having a board of directors, Br. Bob said the Catholic schools not only meet, but also often exceed the public school standards. However, while accountability is necessary, the results need to be measured after adequate time in the school and across the class, as public schools are measured.
Br. Bob believes that patterns of success are crucial when considering intervention, rather than a single test score on a single day.
“You just can’t pick off the weaker schools that are just starting up and who lack strong leadership and allow the DPI to determine who fits in and who is underperforming,” he said. “No Child Left Behind was set up for the public schools because all of a sudden they are using a barometer to put aggregate schools and kids in title services with using just one year of data while they use three-year data for public schools, and they didn’t tell anyone.”

Life amidst the mourning

After losing one of my oldest and dearest friends this week, I have been beside myself with grief. We had just spoke the day before and made plans for dinner the next night. It was unbelievable that suddenly he would no longer be there to visit, come for dinner, laugh during our long phone conversations or continue our old fashioned routine of sending letters back and forth to each other.

It seems as if we have gone through a great many losses the past few years--friends, family, and even those who have decided, for whatever reason to estrange themselves from us. Each of those have left holes in my heart--similar to a slice of Swiss cheese.

But when Mike died, it hit hard and fast, like a slug to the gut. It was as if I wasn't sure I could go on, or really, wanted to. At his funeral, lines upon lines of visitors came by to share with his brother and sisters, the remarkable man their brother was and how much he meant to them all. Each had a story or three to share with them, bringing a much needed chuckle beneath their tears.

After we arrived home and the memories of our 25 year friendship flooded my mind--I realized that he would always be a part of my life, no matter if he were a phone call or a prayer away. His life was never meant for this world alone--none of our lives are. He lived for this end--a new beginning in heaven-for his reunion with Jesus.

While it will take a long time to remove his name from my speed dial, or to resist sending him a note--I know that all I have to do is talk to him and he is there listening and being the supportive friend he has always been.

It is comforting to know that he is dancing with the angels, visiting with his beloved parents and brother, and hopefully, laughing with my Mom and Dad. And I am grateful for many lifetimes of wonderful memories with him--I have not a single bad memory of our friendship and that is a rare commodity, these days.

Bless you my friend. Your earthly suffering is over and I am sure that Our dear Lord is saying, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." I love you Mike, I always have--you were a brother to me and a best friend. Please pray for us now, OK?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Marquette University High School principal ‘canned’

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Marquette University High School students successfully canned their principal, Jeff Monday, on Feb. 15. Well, not in the literal sense, but they did effectively oust him from his office. cansMarquette University High School freshman Thomas Van Bibber and principal Jeff Monday look over cans and boxes of food in his office on Wednesday, Feb. 15. Approximately 3,000 items were collected in the food drive organized by Van Bibber for the Hunger Task Force. All food items were placed in Monday’s office in order to drive the principal out of the office for lack of space to work. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)Rows of non-perishable foods lined Monday’s shelves, desk and windowsill. In fact, so much food was stacked in the room, there was no place for the principal to work.
The canning was the result of a school-wide food drive, spearheaded by freshman Thomas Van Bibber, to collect non-perishable items for the Hunger Task Force. The event was part of the Milwaukee school’s annual Winter Torch Week which included other activities, such as a special lunch day, dress-up days and a semi-formal dance.
“Our mission was simple,” Van Bibber said. “Motivate the students into contributing canned items by storing the donations in Mr. Monday’s office, rendering his office uninhabitable. We wanted to make this a fun activity, yet one that had the benefit of keeping in mind those in need during the winter season.”
The idea stemmed from the school’s Conclave (student council). Fortunately, for the students, the principal was good-natured and went along with the request to store the items in his office.
According to Monday, it only took four days to successfully “can the principal.”
“I was surprised by the amount of food that was collected in such a short period of time,” he said. “They donated over 3,000 non-perishable food items. The project really showed the generosity of the students of MUHS and their commitment to fight hunger in the Milwaukee community. While giving to the Hunger Task Force, it was fun for the students to see if they could really oust me from office. They also enjoyed seeing me work from the halls of the school.”
While Van Bibber had high expectations that his fellow students would participate, he had no idea how successful the food drive would be. The idea of forcing the principal from his workspace seemed to motivate the students.
“There was a lot of buzz about it around school, but I was shocked by the amount of participation and the students’ willingness to remember those in need,” said Van Bibber.
To add more enthusiasm to the project, the Conclave contacted the Hunger Task Force with their idea. In turn, the non-profit charitable organization turned to social networking and You Tube to spread the word about MUHS creative means to help others. Video footage shows an ousted Monday sitting at a table in the hallway working on his laptop computer, while his office became a temporary food storage facility.
“They were thrilled that young people got involved,” said Van Bibber. “They posted status updates of our generosity on the Hunger Task Force Facebook page each day, along with the photos we sent them.”
While Van Bibber is uncertain how many people will be served by their efforts, he anticipates that many people who are going through rough times will receive needed assistance.
“I feel it was a complete success,” he said. “Our principal was a good sport and the students were great for participating. The project could not have been done without the incredible generosity of MUHS students and their dedication to truly be ‘Men for Others.’”
While Monday is grateful to return to his office, he is proud of the selflessness and ingenuity of his students.
He praised the freshmen and their advisors, Mike Feely and Jon Parsons, for developing “this creative idea.” He noted that this year, MUHS students have been involved in a number of charitable drives and service projects, including a drive to collect more than $4,000 for Jesuit Relief Services in East Africa, the Cheyenne River Youth Project, and the American Heart Association.
“The students are indeed living out the school’s mission in forming ‘Christ-like men for others,’” said Monday.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ad limina pilgrims reflect on 'trip of a lifetime'

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After giving up his chance to greet Pope Benedict XVI on a pilgrimage a couple of years ago, Fr. Paul Hartmann got a second chance on the ad limina trip last month. basilicaThe sun rises over St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy, as pilgrims from the Milwaukee Archdiocese (not shown) wait in line to enter St. Peter’s for the consistory. (Submitted photo taken by one of the pilgrims, Ann Marie Wick)“I had met him before when he was the Cardinal Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, but that was a brief encounter,” said Fr. Hartmann, president of Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha.
“But I passed up the chance to shake his hand on that pilgrimage and gave it to a friend of mine who had traveled there with his three kids. His wife had passed a year before and she had always wanted to meet the pope, so I gave up the opportunity. Of course, I joked with him that my chance had better come eventually or he would regret it!”
Fr. Hartmann also appreciated traveling with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and praying at the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul, and celebrating at the Pontifical North American Pontifical College with other bishops.
“Archbishop Listecki is wonderful and at the various meetings we attended, he always brought such care to each of his appointments and discussions,” said Fr. Hartmann. “It was great to spend time with him in a formal setting and to concelebrate Mass, as well as the casual moments at the North American College. He so happily and proudly spoke of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.”
The trip was an opportunity to encounter the church in a unique way, said Fr. Hartmann.
“The Holy Spirit is present and the Apostles are in our midst and we can’t help but be moved by it,” he said. “I was introduced by Archbishop Listecki to the Holy Father by my job at the archdiocese (judicial vicar of the metropolitan tribunal) and my role in the high school. I felt a moment of pride and it is not something I will ever forget.”
Thousands of pilgrims also traveled to witness the elevation of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan to cardinal, and Fr. Hartmann came home with a renewed sense of the vibrancy of the church.
John Stollenwerk and his wife JoEllen live in Switzerland part-time and were excited to be part of the ad limina trip and the consistory.
“The whole atmosphere was one of joy,” he said. “We were able to break some bread together as a group and it was a joyous occasion. The ad limina meant more in that respect as there were so many more people celebrating the consistory throughout the world.”
Like many, the Stollenwerks extended their stay to be present for both events.lestecki-and-womanArchbishop Jerome E. Listecki and Ann Marie Wick are pictured on the roof of the Pontifical North American College with St. Peter’s visible in the background. (Submitted photo courtesy Ann Marie Wick)
“The whole thing was a witness to Christ really, being an evangelical for Christ’s message was the main part of it,” said John, former chair of the Archdiocesan Commission of Catholic Schools. “The Italian food and wine are secondary. It is really a witness to our faith and to stand up for what we believe. Seeing all those people there from all over the world was impressive. It is really beautiful to think that all over the world, wherever there are Catholics, we are all witnessing and participating in the same Mass.”
Traveling to Rome before Ash Wednesday was a good time to focus on growing spiritually, explained Chris Gentine, who traveled with his wife, Julie.
“We traveled with the New York contingency, but were hoping to run into Archbishop Listecki at the North American Pontifical College while we were there,” said Chris, who knew the archbishop through the Campanile Society whose members are those who donate $1,000 dollars or more each year to the Catholic Stewardship Appeal.
While on a walk to the cab stand in front of St. Peter’s Square, the couple, members of St. John the Baptist Parish, Plymouth, saw Archbishop Listecki, who invited them to dinner.
“It was wonderful and we had a great dinner, more as friends, in a nice venue where we shared, laughed and told good stories,” said Chris. “He took us to this restaurant where it was legend that this was the same building that Caesar was murdered.”
For Anne Marie Wick, former chair of the board of trustees of Catholic Charities, the trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience as she witnessed the elevation of Cardinal Dolan as well as spent time with Archbishop Listecki and Bishop Donald J. Hying.
Though her third time in Rome, the consistory helped her learn more about Catholicism and her religious history.
“It was a pretty popped weekend and the high point was the Mass with the Holy Father on Sunday, and Cardinal Dolan’s Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Basilica Outside of the Walls, as well as the reception at the North American College,” she said.
“There were so many events and so much energy. It was a time of intense spirituality and growth and it was an honor to be there. I wasn’t even on Archbishop Listecki’s tour and he made me feel welcome with this group. He was an outstanding host – that’s how accommodating he is,” she said.
Bill O’Toole, president of Catholic Financial Life, was gratified to see so many young people who have embraced religious vocations in attendance.
“I got there on Wednesday and left on Monday and was able to be at the Mass with the cardinal on Wednesday, Thursday and then Saturday was the service where he was received as cardinal and was presented with his skullcap (zucchetto), biretta and ring. Then Sunday we attended the basilica for the Thanksgiving Mass,” he said.
Attending Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI was another highlight of the trip.
“I thought the Holy Father does a remarkable job for his age,” said O’Toole, who last attended a general audience in 1995 when Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass. “I left feeling hope for our church and the future. It was very powerful and left you feeling inspired. I left with the confidence that we have what we need to face the future and to know we don’t go it alone.”
O’Toole spent time with Archbishop Listecki and La Crosse Bishop William P. Callahan during the reception at the Pontifical North American College.
“We are blessed in our archdiocese and blessed to have the leadership of Archbishop Listecki. Hopefully, we can hang on to him for a while,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have so many inspiring leaders in the church; we have challenges, of course, but there is so much hope for our church and I walked away with a very renewed feeling for Rome.”