Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What do you do when you lose trust?

When a lawyer betrays you?
When a doctor lies and covers up?
When friends and family go behind your back?
When those cherished people whom you have given permission to enter into the very essence of the intricacies of your life suddenly turn and choose to slander or commit evil acts?

My first inclination is to hide, then
..to scream
......to cry
..............to complain
...................and finally to realize that just because I choose to make moral decisions, doesn't mean others feel obligated to to the same.

Such a pity it is to be trapped within their stony, self-serving hearts.

I would not want to be them.

Instead, I have to immerse myself in HIM and remember that,

"Indeed, the Word of God is living and effective, 
sharper than any two-edge sword, 
penetrating between soul and spirit, 
joints and marrow and able to discern reflections, and 
thoughts of the heart. -----Hebrews 4:12

For those who have done these things to us--know that we pray for you daily and with all sincerity. There will be a time that you regret your actions.

For us, I know that Jesus suffered so much more than we could ever imagine and we look to Him for all of our strength. By his blood, we will be healed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bringing the Year of Faith home

Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic HeraldThursday, 25 October 2012 07:27

Step into a Catholic Church and you’ll see signs of it. Banners, bulletin covers, and, at some parishes, like St. Matthias, Milwaukee, T-shirts proclaiming the celebration. The Catholic Church is in the midst of a celebration termed the Year of Faith.
Holy_Hour_for_Freedom-001A man holds a young child during A Holy Hour for Freedom held at St. Jerome Parish, Oconomowoc on Monday, July 2. According to Dr. Marisa Beffel, the Year of Faith is a good time to focus on passing the faith onto the next generation. (Catholic Herald file photo by Juan C. Medina)On Oct. 11, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI announced that a Year of Faith would begin Oct. 11, 2012, and conclude Nov. 24, 2013, the feast of Christ the King. The Holy Father chose the opening date to coincide with three historic occasions in the church; the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the 20th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization held Oct. 7-28 at the Vatican.
Regain roots of heritage
How can this special “Year of Faith” be relevant to families?
Dr. Marisa Beffel, the mother of nine who holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree and doctorate in medical bioethics, says it’s a perfect time to focus on passing the faith onto the next generation.
“We need to regain the roots of our heritage, share and understand and pass them along to family, children, grandchildren, and friends,” Beffel said. “This is the perfect time as we are in the Year of Faith and this is the first time in our history that our faith is not shown to be passed along to the next generation. There have been other times in history that faith has been passed along, but it is not happening now.”
Her comments came during a Sept. 27 presentation, “One Nation Under God: A Place for Faith & Freedom” at St. John the Evangelist Church in Greenfield.
An associate member for the Milwaukee Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, she’s a frequent speaker on the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, pro-life issues and end-of-life issues.
Melding the Year of Faith with studying the faith-based principles of the Founding Fathers is an important step to evangelization and retaining the country’s heritage, according to Beffel.
Faith not shared is lost
If faith is not shared with youth and young adults, there is great risk in losing the next generation of Catholics, she said.

Pope announces
Year of Faith in ‘Porta Fidei’

In “Porta Fidei,” Pope Benedict XVI apostolic letter announcing the Year of Faith, he illustrates important principles regarding faith.

“I would like to sketch a path intended to help us understand more profoundly not only the content of the faith, but also the act by which we choose to entrust ourselves fully to God, in complete freedom.

“In fact, there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent. St. Paul helps us to enter into this reality when he writes: ‘Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved’ (Rom 10:10). The heart indicates that the first act by which one comes to faith is God’s gift and the action of grace which acts and transforms the person deep within.”

The letter is available attinyurl.com/3bdc49r.
“We have to make sure to do our part and exclaim that the Year of Faith can really make a difference,” she said. “As Americans, we believe and follow natural law. As Americans, we follow our Ten Commandments. As Americans, we believe and follow the documents that our right to life is an inalienable right. Life is and always has to be, number one.”
By studying the Declaration of Independence and the U.S Constitution, as well as the individual writings and letters of our Founding Fathers, Beffel believes Americans will encounter a new appreciation and understanding of the Christian principles on which the country was founded.
“It cannot be emphasized enough, that this great nation was founded by Christians and on the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” she said. “In fact, 11 of the original states required faith in Jesus Christ in order to hold office. The state constitutions of all 50 states currently call on the providence of God for the blessings of freedom – this is in every constitution in every state.”
In fact, the preamble to Wisconsin’s Constitution includes the line, “We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, form a more perfect government, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare, do establish this constitution.”
It further says, in Article 1, Section 18, “The right of every person to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed.”
The American way of life must be restored, said Beffel.
“It was hijacked and taken away. We need to restore our culture, and raise children to be good Americans. Once we get our culture back and get people to understand what we have and protect it, then we can live in one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.”
Learn about John Paul II Center offerings
According to Lydia LoCoco, director of The Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation, the Year of Faith is a good opportunity to become familiar with the John Paul II Center to learn of regular activities and programs that highlight the many ways they minister and reach out to families throughout the archdiocese.
A popular event is the annual Nazareth Family Day at Holy Hill, which will be held July 14, 2013. Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, and the event will include confessions, picnic and family activities.
“The Year of Faith is a special opportunity for all parents to go more deeply into their faith in an intentional way with their children,” said LoCoco, noting the website for the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation and a regular e-newsletter are good ways of staying informed. (See box for web addresses.)
Reaching out to youth after the sacrament of confirmation into adulthood is another key aspect to sharing and retaining faith in the next generation. Many parishes face an exodus of young Catholics after confirmation, and grapple with keeping them engaged in parish life.
St. Pius X Parish in New Orleans struggled with getting adults to attend catechetical sessions, so it devised a plan that was so successful, it set an example for other parishes in the archdiocese.
According to Beth Donze, reporter for the Clarion Herald, it was a tough sell to get the adults to show up, as they were dealing with busy schedules, babysitting issues and fitting in mealtimes.
“They invited the whole family to attend their sessions, and gave them a free dinner, offered free babysitting for children ages 0-2, and after dinner, they split the group into age groups and sent them to different locations for an age-appropriate catechetical session on the night’s topic,” she said. “They held all the sessions on Sunday night to maximize turnout and the approach worked like a charm and had more than 130 people turn out for the first session.”
Good occasion to ‘reinforce families’
According to Jowita Kostrzewska, a correspondent at the Polish Catholic weekly, Niedziela, families suffer when marriage is superficially lived.

For related coverage:

Resources to observe Year of Faith as family


Sign up for an e-newsletter:www.johnpaul2center.org/NazarethProject/Resources/E-Newsletter.htm
“A growing number of divorces occur when persons don’t struggle for unity and reinforcement of the sacred dimension of their families,” she said, in a Sept. 4 article for Zenit.org. “Such situations often take place when God and faith don’t have their rightful place. I think that the Year of Faith will be a good occasion and an extraordinary event to reinforce families.”
During this Year of Faith, Kostrzewska believes Catholics can rediscover and deepen the quality and quantity of relations in the family, and reflect on what faith really is and how it can be transmitted.
“I think, practically, that during the Year of Faith, the family must find the time to be together to read the Bible and to pray, but also to talk, to laugh, to share joys and sorrows, that is, to reinforce the bonds of affection among all the members of the family,” she said.
“If our faith is strong, it will enable us to overcome even the greatest difficulties. For the family of believers the Year of Faith is the occasion to evangelize and to help families hit by the crisis, those who are in greatest need of our help. It is necessary to give families spiritual and material support. In this way, we will discover many spiritual treasures.”

Friday, October 26, 2012

Being a Catholic during an election year

As Catholics, an election year is challenging as we often find ourselves straddling the bi-partisan fence, so to speak. Of primary importance to us is the subject of life. I believe, as our Church teaches, that we must do everything possible to preserve life from the moment of conception to natural death.

While we have many issues facing our country today, such as the economy, foreign policy, and healthcare, none is as important as life. For without life, nothing else matters. Without life, we have no need to worry about the economy, or foreign policy or healthcare. If we don't respect life from the beginning to the end--we have no country to fight for because we have lost the essence of our country that was founded on Christian principles.

Despite that, I am not so engrained in conservatism that I ignore the need for social justice, or  affordable and effective healthcare. But where are the pro-life democrats? Why aren't they running for the office of the Presidency? Why is it, that only republicans seems to advocate for pro-life issues? And why is it, that this republican party, of whom I most closely relate, is so quick to permit the death penalty? Or quick to draw arms against another?

In my perfect world, I would find a candidate who was pro-life first and work on the other issues second.  And when I say pro-life, I mean for everyone. We seem to differentiate between types of life and placing value on certain people as to where they are in regards to useful purpose on this earth.

We can kill our unborn, but not our babies. A pregnant woman can have an abortion with no questions asked; but if someone harms her and the unborn baby dies, we call this murder. We do all we can to save a young person struggling with cancer, but are quick to push euthanasia on our elderly, or seriously disabled.

We can scream about a prisoner's rights, yet we vote to execute. Is it really important to execute someone because they killed another?

We can speak of human rights for the marginalized throughout the world, and act generously to help them, yet we think nothing of blowing up adversarial sects in other countries.

Pardon me, if I do not comprehend this. I understand that there are necessary times of war, but do we need to search for wars to fight? Are they all worth fighting?

When does two wrongs ever make a right?

What is it in our nature that makes us want to kill and to find numerous ways to justify our choice to do so?

May God help us all.

Retired teacher uses mouse to inspire young readers

Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to FamilyThursday, 25 October 2012 08:12
quietasamousecover1Quiet Aza Mouse coverImagine living the life of church mouse. Spending fun-filled days tucked away in a corner, scampering under pews, swimming in the baptismal font and running across the organ keys. Imagine the fragrance of incense and beeswax; the sights, conversations and experiences happening all around. Imagine eavesdropping on stories relayed from parishioner to parishioner.
Following a conversation last January with her brother-in-law about sacristan work, Nancy Lauzon, of Salem, began thinking about the possible experiences an imaginary mouse residing in a Catholic church might have. The thoughts kept her from sleeping that night, so she got up and began to write the book, “Quiet Aza Mouse.”
“I worked on this for weeks, as more ideas came into my mind; it was so much fun,” she said. “My mind wandered about the thoughts of what this mouse could hear and see in a church – and I know that the Holy Spirit really inspired me throughout the whole process.”
The result was a 100-page chapter book geared to elementary school children with second through fourth grade reading levels. The story chronicles the mouse who finds herself in a church. After having numerous adventures within the building, she accidentally finds herself outside and living among the homeless. In order to save herself, as well as others, she needs to confront and overcome her own fears.
“The mouse is inspired to find a way to help the homeless person, who had earlier saved her life,” explained Lauzon. “She decides to help start a soup kitchen and

If you want to buy

“Quiet Aza Mouse” is available
on Amazon.com and through
Barnes and Noble for $7.58 plus
shipping. The book is also
available through the author: 
Lauzon will sign copies of her book on Saturday, Nov. 17 at the St. Francis Xavier Parish, 1704 240th Ave., Kansasville, vendor/craft fair, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
community for homeless people. The story’s message is to be aware of people, their needs and to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
Lauzon, 64, has been married to her husband, Bill, for 41 years. The couple has a son in New York, and two daughters in the area, as well as three granddaughters.  They are members of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Brighton. 
After 30 years of teaching, Lauzon retired two years ago from Providence Catholic School.
“I taught three years in the public school system and then taught first and second grade at St. John the Baptist School and continued on after it became Providence,” she said. “I taught 25 years there. Now, I devote most of my time to taking care of my 2-year-old granddaughter, Isabella, while my daughter Shannon works as a school photographer.”
After the manuscript came together, she self-published it. Lauzon wasn’t interested in having a best seller, but, she wanted to provide children and adults a fun and positive message about overcoming obstacles. Lauzon asked a friend to help her edit the book, and enlisted her sister, Vicki Caucutt, in New Mexico, to illustrate it.
“My sister is an artist and we have talked about doing a children’s book for years. I wanted to write the story and she wanted to do the illustrations; now our dream has come true,” Lauzon said. “I grew up loving books and appreciated the joy of awakening young children to reading. I am an avid reader myself and always need to have a book to read.  English was my favorite subject in school and I always loved writing. For years, I have written poetry, and still do. The ‘song’ that Quiet Aza Mouse hears in the book is a little of my poetry.”
Give a smile. Lend a hand.
Help the weary understand.
Raise your voice and move your feet.
With God’s help we cant’ be beat.
Each action that we take,
A better world we’ll help to make.
Nancy-Book-Display-1Author Nancy Lauzon holds a copy of her book, “Quiet Aza Mouse,” during a book signing at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, Union Grove on Sunday, Oct. 7. (Submitted photo by Shannon Ehnert)Moving the idea from her mind to the paperback book was an exercise in overcoming Lauzon’s own fears, as she wrestled with persevering through her own doubts in continuing with the project. After some research, she used Createspace, self-publishing service through Amazon, and with her husband’s help, made the idea a reality.
“I am a complete fan of the “Joshua” books written by Fr. Joe Girzone and those books, which inspire us to live a life like that of Jesus, motivated me to continue,” she said. “I remember one quote in particular from ‘Joshua and Shepherd’ that kept me inspired, ‘Don’t be afraid to use your imagination. God will enlighten you. You are the instrument of God. He will guide you.’ This book was meant to be, and what God wants and I have laid it all in his hands. He has given me the courage to do these things.”
After the book was completed, Lauzon mailed a copy to Fr. Girzone, who also self-published his first book, and expected to hear nothing back. In mid-August, she was surprised to receive an email in return.

Nancy, Thank you so much for your kind letter and your delightful book, which is so much fun to read. I am enjoying it immensely, and will tell others about it.
I hope it finds its market, because I know it will be enjoyed by whoever reads it. It is a lot more exciting for little kids than the corny little stories that are so popular. Keep writing.
In Joshua’s Peace,
Fr. Joe
The letter taught Lauzon the importance of perseverance, amid doubt.
“If you feel inspired, follow your dreams to write,” she said. “Persevere even if you start doubting or if the task seems too difficult. A good support system to encourage and help you is a must. If you want your words to inspire others, it’s worth a sometimes rocky journey. If you believe in yourself, do what it takes to make your dream come true. For me, that involves faith and prayer as well.”
Lauzon is promoting her book through various book signings and recently signed books at Providence School, St. Francis Xavier and St. John the Baptist Parish in Paris. She donated all of the proceeds to the school and the parishes.
“I wanted to get the message of the book out and to give back to the school and the parishes as they are all so very dear to me,” she said.
For her pastor, Fr. Russ Arnett, the book signing and Lauzon’s decision to donate her profits to the churches and school are typical of her generosity and love of her Catholic faith.
“Her book is wonderful. It is both a fanciful story and a spiritual metaphor that demonstrates humility in a person’s life and in a community,” he said, adding her decision to donate proceeds to the religious education program sends a “wonderful message” to the parish.
“She is an exceptionally giving person. She taught in this parish school for a number of years and still the education of these kids in the Catholic faith is very important to her,” he said, noting she is a convert. “She converted on her own and not through marriage or anything. She became Catholic because she liked what the Catholic Church professed to believe. She is also a wonderful story.”
While the book’s setting is in a Catholic church, Lauzon hopes it has an ecumenical audience and draws in those who share her love for Jesus.
“I hope that it will invite others to react and listen to one another in a kind and respectful way, to see the needs of others, and offer a kind word or an ‘atta boy.’” she explained. “I hope it makes a positive difference in someone’s life. I treated my students this way and didn’t have any real discipline problems. I respected them and they did me – we cared about each other and the rest came together.”
Lauzon plans a sequel to her book on the subject of bullying.
“I worked on that and attitudes with my students,” she said. “This is something that is sorely needed these days. It would be putting faith together with social action and those two things work well together.”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Silent no longer

Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic HeraldThursday, 25 October 2012 09:42

When Irena Gut Opdyke, a Polish Catholic, immigrated to the United States in 1949, she was not quite 30 years old. As with so many Europeans who had survived the atrocities of World War II, she struggled to leave memories behind. For decades, Opdyke remained silent about her experiences in Poland under German and Russian occupation.
irenasvowDavid Sapiro as Major Rugemer, left to right, Timothy Gotcher as Schultz, and Mary Ellen Atwood as Irena Gut Opdyke, practice for the performance, “Irena’s Vow,” to be staged at Concordia University, Mequon. (Submitted photo courtesy Acacia Theatre)She kept silent until the Holocaust denial convinced her it was time to testify to the evil she had endured. She began speaking to groups at schools, churches and synagogues. She shared the horrors of the suffering within her family and country, when the Germans invaded. She told anyone who would listen how she was attacked and raped by Russian soldiers; how she was swept up in a raid while she was at Mass and forced to work without pay in a German munitions factory.
Finally, she told them how she risked her life to save others, hiding 12 Jews in the cellar of the home where, at just 19-years-old, she worked as a housekeeper for a Wehrmacht officer. Opdyke was more than a witness, more than a survivor. She was a hero.
Acacia brings story to life
The story of Opdyke comes to life in “Irena’s Vow,” written by Dan Gordon. Acacia Theatre Company will perform the play on Nov. 9-11, and 15-18, at Concordia University. Director Elaine Rewolinski, also a Polish Catholic, finds inspiration in the woman molded by life experiences of service and sacrifice.
“When I was asked to read the script, I was interested, but it was the opening monologue by Irena that kept me reading. I have always been fascinated by stories of ordinary people living extraordinary lives, and they do so by accepting and embracing the challenges that come to them in their lifetime,” she explained. “Throughout the story, we see a woman who is challenged by some very dreadful turn of events in her life, and yet she perseveres with creativity and bases her decisions and takes action with the guidance of a firm moral compass, and her faith in God.”
For two years, Opdyke used wit, humor and courage to protect the lives of the refugees. She obtained food and blankets and smuggled people who escaped a work camp through the forest.
For Rewolinski, who has acted and directed at Acacia since 1991, sharing “Irena’s Vow” with the Milwaukee area helped her to reconnect with her own Polish heritage while telling the story of a real Polish heroine.
“Irene Gut Opdyke began speaking about her experiences because someone suggested to her that the Holocaust never happened, and that gave her the inspiration to tell as many people as possible about her life as a rescuer,” said Rewolinski. “I also think there are some people out there who don’t realize the personal sacrifices many Poles made as part of the resistance during both the Nazi and Russian occupations of Poland, and Irena’s vow to do what she could to save even one life is a story that needs retelling.”
Play includes Catholic elements
While Rewolinski doesn’t believe the playwright intended to include Catholic elements in the script, aside from recitation of a “Hail Mary” and a decidedly pro-life

If you want to go

Irena’s Vow Performances:
Friday, Nov. 9, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 11, at 3 p.m. 
Thursday, Nov. 15, at 8 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 16, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 17, at 4 p.m. 
and 8 p.m.; 
Sunday, Nov. 18, at 3 p.m.

Concordia University Wisconsin’s Todd Wehr Auditorium 
12800 N. Lake Shore Drive, Mequon
Season subscriptions: $38, or $30 for senior citizens, full-time students and full-time clergy.   Single tickets: $16, or $13 for senior citizens, full-time students and full-time clergy.  More information is available by calling (414) 744-5995 or visiting www.acaciatheatre.com.
stance, Opdyke is portrayed as a woman of deep faith willing to do whatever God asked.
“She was an ordinary woman who lived her life with humility and compassion for all people, regardless of religion,” she said, adding, “All the characters in the script represent the many challenges to living a life of faith and hope. Some characters follow orders regardless of the morality of the decision, or act out of selfishness with no regard for others, but Irena’s faith in God remained constant, despite the challenges she endured.”
Throughout her story, Opdyke is confronted by the cruelty of man and uses humor to lighten the emotional burden, explained Rewolinski.
“For example, when she and her houseguests are in imminent danger of discovery as soldiers come to search the house, she describes the scene with a comic tone that suggests a fool-hardiness in their ability to deceive a house full of Germans,” said Rewolinski. “When the soldiers search the basement, she sends the Jews to the attic, and vice versa, and the pattern repeats until the soldiers are convinced the house is empty. Many of these scenes are written as monologues to the audience, reminiscent of a comedian retelling a visually comic moment, and these lighter moments help balance the serious portions of the drama.”
Views actions through Catholic lens
For Tim Goetcher, playing Schulz, the head servant of Major Rügemer, a German Wehrmacht officer and Opdyke’s employer, allows him to reflect on his own Catholic faith and the sanctity of human life.
“Irena is Catholic, and she views her actions and morality through a very Catholic lens,” said Goetcher, 24, of Franklin. “The audience will see the heroic example of an imperfect, but earnest Catholic woman who strove to preserve life at nearly any cost to herself. It helps me to think about my own life and reflect not only on what I would do in challenging situations like the ones Irena faced, but also on how I can apply to my own life the way Irena lived the faith when she made right choices.”
Goetcher began his career at age 9, with his first role performing in a homeschool play. As a Catholic actor, he reminds himself that any art, including theater, is not solely for the audience, or for himself, but for the greater glory of God.
“If art doesn’t do this, it degrades itself and the people involved,” he explained.
Opdyke shows that the key to facing overwhelming hatred is love, humility and gentleness, said Rewolinski.
“She inspires me to always have hope and to recognize the joy that comes in service to others,” said Rewolinski, explaining when she directs for Acacia, she finds a passage of Scripture to bridge the Acacia season theme, which is “Contemplating Character,” and the script.
“For this show, I chose Ephesians 4:1-6 – ‘I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving, to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace … one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.’”
Theater stretches director’s faith
Rewolinski explained those words reveal the heart of what it means to be a Christian and offer a list of virtues “we can all aspire toward in living on faith on a daily basis. When I work on a show for Acacia, it stretches my faith.”
Rewolinski, a longtime actor and director, began acting, singing and playing the violin as a young girl. In addition to two bachelor’s degrees from UW-Madison in communications and theater, and radio/TV/film specialization, she earned a master of fine arts degree in drama at University of Arizona, and secondary education certification in English/speech/theater from Alverno College.
“I love being part of a team and telling a story for a live audience,” she said, adding, “At Acacia Theatre, we work with men and women from different faiths and at different points in their spiritual journeys, so I am always in the process of learning about and appreciating other faith traditions while strengthening the understanding of my own.”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Unexpected godmother cherishes new relationships

by Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kathy Norris has been straddling two worlds for a few years. While she lives in Kenosha, she spends approximately 10 days each year volunteering at the Milwaukee Archdiocesan sister parish, Parroquia La Sagrada Familia in Sabana Yegua, Dominican Republic. For the retired nurse and member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish, the relationship began in 2009, while she was mourning the recent loss of her husband.
kathynorrisKathy Norris, far right, poses with the Dóleo family in Sabana Yegua, in Azua, Dominican Republic in January 2012. From left are Blas Dóleo, Keyler (Norris’ godchild), Wanda, and their older son Eliphere. Norris, a member of St. Mark Parish, Kenosha, has made four trips to care for people in the Dominican Republic, and most recently, the Dóleo family asked her to be a godmother of their child. (Submitted photo courtesy Kathy Norris)“A friend of mine told me that St. Mary Parish was going on another mission trip that January and wondered if I would like to go, as it might take my mind off of my sadness for a while,” Norris explained. “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and basically I helped with house building and digging with soup cans into the rocky earth. It was a hard thing to do.”
Since that trip, she has returned with the medical team to assist with the eye clinic, led by Deacon Wilson Shierk of St. Mary Parish. Drs. Peter Emer and Jeff Thomas of Kenosha Optometrists are members of the team.
“That was much more up my alley than building houses,” joked Norris, 65. “I helped with putting eye drops in the patients’ eyes before they were to be examined.”
The parish of La Sagrada Familia is located in the province of Azua in the southwest corner of the Dominican Republic. Sabana Yegua is the largest town in the region and is where the parish center is located, with the main church and rectory as well as sewing and cosmetology centers, computer lab, a health center with a clinic, pharmacy, and laboratory. Impoverished families live on a monthly income of approximately $60.
It is tradition that families from the area host the missionaries in their homes. Norris moved into Wanda and Blas Dóleo’s modest concrete block house she referred to as the “Allendale” of Sabana Yegua, a stark contrast to neighboring shacks fashioned from flattened oil drums, tin, cardboard, and topped with wood, pine branches and old tires. Blas and Wanda’s home has no running water and only intermittent electricity.
“We usually sat around a kerosene lamp at night, but the simplicity was so beautiful,” said Norris. “The whole experience was humbling, amazing, scary, nice, overwhelming and exhausting. There were so many emotions rolled into one. They are such beautiful, grateful people, that I just had to keep going back. It gets to be addictive and you have to get more of what they are doing.”
Despite never having an actual conversation with the couple over the past four years, as Wanda spoke no English and Norris spoke little Spanish, their hearts connected. They communicated sporadically with the help of an interpreter.
Wanda referred to her friend as “Catalina,” the Spanish name for Katherine and the two learned to communicate through smiles, hugs, gestures and attempts at finding the correct word for something through the aid of an English/Spanish dictionary.
“Despite the verbal limitations, I feel a definite connection to them,” said Norris. “They are my ‘Dominican family.’”
Little did she realize that her impact was so great, that the couple would later invite her to become their baby’s godmother.
“I was there in 2011 when Wanda was pregnant with her second child, Keyler, and through another girl that stayed with me in their house, she asked me to be the godmother of her baby who was to be born in March,” said Norris. “I could not believe it; they waited all those months until I came back in January to baptize that little boy.”
Deacon Shierk performed the bilingual baptismal service with the assistance of seminarian Mike Wolfe of the Community of St. Paul, who has been assigned to La Sagrada Familia for the past three years.
“The baptism was totally beautiful,” said Norris. “There were about 25 of us in church, and the local kids played music with their drums, shakers and guitars. The godfather was one of the elders of the church. It was really nice. They used a plastic container on a wrought iron stand for the baptismal font. It was very humble as how everything is down there, and just so lovely.”
For the mother of three daughters and grandmother to six children, the experience has given her a greater appreciation of the Catholic faith.
“Some of the chapels in outlying villages are made of stick roofs and lean-tos, but the people who come to Mass are very reverent and religious,” said Norris. “I can really see the simplicity and beauty of our faith in the poor. They don’t need a marble baptismal font or a beautiful altar. Their altar could consist of a little fabric on a piece of wood and they will still have the Mass, just as we do. This brought me to the core of what it is all about. Their lives touched my soul and made me wonder why I was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin when I could have been born in Sabana Yegua.
“It made me wonder about the whys, but yet how we are still connected through the Eucharist, baptizing children and going to church on a basic level. The core of our faith is the same. It is universal and brings you down to what it is all about.”
While Norris is grateful for the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic to help, she admitted she has received more than she has given to others.
“I have just done a tiny speck of anything down there,” she said. “But I have gotten a million times more than anything I contributed.”
Like most grandmothers, Norris has photos of her grandchildren fastened to her refrigerator with magnets. However, next to her family, are photos of her Dominican Republic family nestled alongside the ones of her grandchildren. When other missionary groups travel to Sabana Yegua, she sends small gifts of clothing and toys for them to bring to Keyler and recently sent a photo book of the baptism as a remembrance to Wanda and Blas.
“I feel like they are a part of me, even though I have only spent maybe a total of 20 days with them, because we also travel to other places when we go there,” she said. “It is a cool thing to know that I will always have connections down there.”
Norris looks upon this relationship as a mystery and a blessing.
“I know now that I still have a responsibility to share what little talents I have with other people,” she said. “I hope I keep my house and always have a few extra dollars to keep doing this. I hope one day to bring each of my grandkids on a trip like this because I think it would be the greatest thing I could ever do for them. If people could just see the difference what a mission trip in one little village in one little corner of the world, or going beyond yourself in the community to help others can do, they would be amazed. Mine was on an island in the Caribbean, but it can be here in Kenosha, too. If we can just extend ourselves beyond our comfort zones and let the Holy Spirit take over – you would surprised at how much it will change you.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stressed? Make soap

Today is one of those rare days when I am caught up on my writing assignments and had a morning to do what I wanted. So, I did one of my favorite things, and made all sorts of bar soap.

It's so easy, so don't think I am a big shot by using complicated ingredients such as lye or other hard to pronounce ingredients; on the contrary I have a few types of glycerin soaps, olive oil and basic glycerin.

In my collection are dried flowers, essential oils, lanolin, vitamin E, aloe, coloring and other fun additives.

All you need is a microwave proof bowl, a knife, if you want to mill some bars of soap you have on hand, a rubber spatula and some soap molds. Microwave the soap pieces, mix in coloring, oils, and whatever else you like.

 Easy peasy--and the best part, is that our house smells amazing from the combination of all the essential oils.

             It took me about an hour to create 24 bars of soap that will last us a long time.

Muslim author strongly influenced by Catholicism

Written by Karen Mahoney
Special to Your Catholic Herald
Thursday, October 18, 2012

If there is a single defining moment in the life of Eboo Patel, an American Muslim from India, it might be the day he began embracing his heritage after years of running from it. After immersing himself in studies on Tibet, the Dalai Lama and Buddhism, and learning of India from the outside and from within, he writes in his book, “Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation”: “And the more I immersed myself in Indian Civilization, the more I recognized the faint outlines of myself in the mirror.”
EbooPhoto by Chris PopioActivist, writer, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, a college based organization that builds the interfaith movement on college campuses, Patel learned much about the four men who detonated bombs in London in 2005, killing themselves and 52 others and wounding more than 700 people.
A number of things hit home. They were all young Muslims, and their lives were earmarked by a lack of interest in Islam and then by an almost zealous resurgence. In his book, he writes that their story was also part of his story. He recognized their anger at the West and their alienation from the society in which they grew up.
Growing up in the 1990s at Glenbard South High School in a Chicago suburb, Patel shared a lunch table with a Nigerian Evangelical Christian, a South Indian Hindu, a Cuban Jew, a Mormon, a Lutheran and a Catholic. While religious conflicts were rampant in the Middle East, Northern Ireland and the Balkans at that time, Patel had difficulty believing religious conflict was inevitable because those who were closest to him were of different faiths, and they got along fine.
Since high school, Patel has made it his mission to bring people of varying faiths to work on collaboration.
Named by U.S News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Patel, 36, holds a doctorate in the society of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Influenced by work of Dorothy Day
Patel credits Catholics for much of his journey in service to others. He spent time exploring the work of the late Dorothy Day, founder of The Catholic Worker movement.
He writes in “Acts of Faith,” “My first faith hero as a young adult was Dorothy Day. When I read her 1952 autobiography, ‘The Long Loneliness,’ it changed my life” because through her writing, she taught him, “what it meant to create a society where it is easier to be good.”
He began by visiting St. Jude’s Catholic Worker Community, in Champaign, Ill., and learned to give back and be of service to others. He and a friend traveled
If you want to hear Eboo Patel speak:
Hanging by a ThreadThursday, Nov. 1, 6:30 p.m.; free Location: Sister Camille Kliebhan 
Conference Center, Bonaventure Hall Cardinal Stritch University, 
6801 N. Yates Road, Milwaukee 6:30 p.m., followed by dessert reception and book signing

Reservations are required, as seating is limited. Register online atwww.stritch.edu/kendallseriesor contact events@stritch.eduor (414) 410-4340 by Oct. 25. 

Acts of Faith in Business and Professional  Environments Friday, Nov. 2 7:15 – 9 a.m.
Milwaukee Athletic Club, 
758 N. Broadway, Milwaukee
Co-sponsored by the St. Clare Center  for Catholic Life at Cardinal Stritch University and your Catholic Herald

Event information:
$200/table for eight
7:15 a.m. breakfast
7:45 a.m. program
9 a.m. Lecture and conversations conclude
Register online at

or contact Mary Foley,
mafoley@stritch.edu or (414) 410-4405
across the country, living in many Catholic Worker communities.
“They played a central role in helping me to find my identity,” he said. “Catholics offer service instinctively and have done it a lot longer and better than anybody else.”
Speaking on the importance of religious tolerance and diversity is one thing, but putting those goals into practice when unrest is rampant around the country and the world, is quite another. On the surface, the world appears to be an angry place, but Patel, cautions that oftentimes cable media platforms play to that anger.
“I … think that just because you see something on cable news doesn’t mean that it defines our country,” he said. “From my experience, we are a country of people who in most of our public and civic spaces we engage quite positively across lines of differences and it is important that we learn how to nurture that in our neighborhoods, in cities, campuses and that we inspire leaders who think this is a high priority. The question is, how do we inspire a set of leaders who think that this is a very high priority and how do we represent that better in the media?”
Dalai Lama blessed Interfaith Youth Core
Celebrating its 10th year, Patel said the Interfaith Youth Core makes a difference in the lives of college students. The organization was in development for approximately 15 years, and solidified a couple of months before he met with the Dalai Lama who imparted his blessing on the organization’s founding.
When unconscionable acts occur, such as the shooting at Milwaukee’s Sikh Temple in August where six people were murdered, Patel reminds others not to let the actions of a hatemonger destroy the beauty of the Sikh faith and allow hate to emanate where forgiveness and peace can reside.
“The Sikh community responded with such grace and beauty during this horrific time,” he said. “Here they had seen several members gunned down before their eyes and when the first responders came on the scene, the Sikh community gave food and water to the responders. They overwhelmingly acted with grace and equanimity in the way they responded. It was so powerful; and healing comes from recognizing this grace and their response within their faith.”
Construct bridges of cooperation, he says
Patel said joining the commonalities of faith can be used as a tool for transformation and peace, rather than a barrier of division and a bomb of destruction. He believes in constructing bridges of cooperation by utilizing the theology of interfaith cooperation to collaborate one tradition with the faith traditions of another.
“One great example of this is St. Francis of Assisi, who, during the time of the Crusades, goes from a Christian camp to the sultan’s camp as an offering of peace and meets with the sultan during the Christian-Muslim War,” said Patel. “This is a beautiful example in that there has to be a different way to relate to others than fighting. The more we learn about faith and tradition, like so many Catholic schools, hospitals and social service agencies have as part of their theology to be of service to other traditions, it will bring peace, and this is the essence of the theology of interfaith cooperation.”
Combining the peace keeping efforts of a multitude of faith groups can appear daunting, especially when each group believes that theirs is the true path to salvation. Patel points out that successful interfaith dialogue focuses on one’s actions on earth, in lieu of the argument on who is saved at the end of the day.
“These different religious views are ones that emerge out of the deepest sincerity,” he said. “But we share this earth together and are in a partnership here. There are plenty of people who believe that their tradition is the only one that contains salvation, but they are still good partners in interfaith dialogue. We focus on earth, not heaven. People have different views, but we share earth together and partnerships can make the earth a better place, rather than a worse place.”
In order to achieve a more open and tolerant future for the next generation, Patel said it will take a substantial amount of work, but it is possible.
“This is the theme of my latest book, ‘Sacred Ground,’” he said. “There are several chapters of early anti-Catholic bigotry, and the movement against Kennedy. But America overcame this because the people fought against it. We need a generation to rise again to defeat prejudice and forces for pluralism and the need to work for interfaith cooperation.”

Liebster Award

It’s an Award!

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award. Thank you Debbie at
http://lifegivingnook.com/ for nominating me.Facts of the Liebster Award:The Liebster Award’s origins are pretty much a mystery. Bloggers nominate other bloggers that have 200 or less followers. It’s basically a “Hey, that’s a sweet little blog you’ve got there. Here’s an award!” You can’t just accept the award. You have to play by the (ever changing) rules and pay it forward. Then you can put the award on your blog for all to see.ard-award-and-so-it-begins.html#more

The Rules:
1. List 11 facts about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you. (My 11 questions for each of the 11 nominated blogs are near the bottom of this post!)
3. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.
4. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate. (At the very bottom of this post you will find the links!)
5. Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award.
6. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog. (see the intro of this post!)
  11 facts about me.
1.  I am a grandma of Seven gorgeous grandchildren ranging in age from 10 through 2 months
2.  I am a mom of five children who mean the world to me
3.  When I have time, I enjoy sewing and quilting
4.  Also, when I have time, I enjoy reading historical fiction, especially Amish fiction
5. Writing is both my career and my passion
6. I am enthusiastic about learning as much about my Catholic Faith as possible
7. I'm currently involved in a two year Lay Leadership program through the Archdiocese of Chicago-where I am able to fulfill fact # 6
8.  I have Celiac Disease and am trying to recover from Levaquin toxicity
9. Next to Jesus, my husband, Blaise is my best friend in the whole world
10. We have been through seven extremely difficult years, but it has all brought me closer to God
11. I have become an enthusiastic naturalist, trying to eat organically and live as holistically as possible. 

My questions from Debbie
1. Have you ever been in 4-H? Nope, not ever-always wished I was
2.  Do you like being in the house or outside more? I love to be outside, except when it's cold
3.  Do you feel it is important as to what foods you eat on a regular bases? absolutely and through better eating, I have lost weight and begun to heal my body of many ailments
4.  What is your favorite Thanksgiving activity? I love to cook for my family and visit with them
5.  What sport do you like better for you to play volley ball or baseball? neither, I like golf
6.  Tomatoes fresh or cooked? always fresh
7.   Do you like green smoothies? yes, I make them nearly every day!
8.   Do you enjoy dark chocolate? yes, but I prefer milk chocolate
9.  Have you ever read The Diary of Anne Frank? yes, when I was in 6th grade
10.  Water or Soda? water, hot with  tea in it! ;-)
11.  Your favorite time of the day? since I have insomnia, I guess it would be early morning

My Questions
1. What are you most proud of?
2. What is your favorite hobby?
3. Do you enjoy sports, and if so, what one?
4. Do you enjoy cooking or eating out more?
5. Do you like to garden?
6. What is your favorite holiday?
7. Who has been most inspirational in your life?
8. If you had a day to yourself, what would you do?
9. what would you like to learn about?
10. What is your favorite food?
11. Who is your best friend?

My picks for this award
1. House of Houben http://houseofhouben.blogspot.com/
2. Imprisoned in my bones http://annebender.blogspot.com/
3. Linda's Chatty Blog http://lindaschattyblog.blogspot.com/
4. Starry Sky Ranch  http://www.starryranch.typepad.com
5. La Vie Graphite http://laviegraphite.blogspot.com/
6. Peace Garden Writer http://peacegardenwriter.blogspot.com/
7. Down the Rabbit Hole http://www.floxedbylevaquin.com/
8. Extraordinary Life http://my-extraordinary-life.blogspot.com/
9. Life After Cipro http://www.lifeaftercipro.blogspot.com/
10. Hey, that tastes good http://www.heythattastesgood.com/2007/06/here-we-go.html
11. Marge Fenelon- http://margefenelon.com/archives/category/blog