Friday, February 26, 2010

Archbishop Nienstedt: Above All, Lent is about Conversion

By the time you read this column, we will already be one full week into the liturgical season of Lent. Because of the unique opportunity that this season offers us as a community of faith to engage in works of prayer, fasting and charity, I would like to take this privileged opportunity to share the following thoughts with you.

I was honored to be invited to celebrate Mass this past Ash Wednesday at our fine archdiocesan school, St. Thomas Academy. I reminded the assembled cadets that Lent is much more than just giving up candy for a 40-day stretch.

I did so, not to discourage them from undertaking significant sacrifices during these six weeks, but rather to point out that our external acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving should flow from and lead to a real internal change of heart.

Above all, I told them, Lent is about conversion. And conversion means a turning around. That is, the turning around of those attitudes that underlie our words and actions.

I told the young men: “If I am having problems with my father or mother, I try to turn around the way I react to them and attempt to look at their situation differently. If I can’t get along with someone in class, I try to stand in the other person’s shoes and look at reality the way he or she sees it. If there is a teacher or group of people I avoid or never talk to, I ask myself, ‘Why?’ and then set out to change the relationship and make it better.”

Again, conversion is more an internal process than an external one. The impetus must come from within our minds and hearts first and, only then, will we be able to manifest this new reality externally with any kind of fidelity.

Walking with others

This is the same process of conversion that our catechumens and candidates have embarked upon in their journey toward baptism or full communion with the Catholic Church.

In fact, the original purpose of Lent was to walk with those preparing for baptism through (what we now call) the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) as they move from an initial period of investigating the faith in a pre-catechumenate, to being admitted formally into the catechumenate, to being enrolled through the Rite of Election into the final period of “purification or enlightenment.”

This final stage also involves a series of “scrutinies” that are likewise celebrated in a communal context. As catechumens pray to be delivered from all evil by a dying-to-sin, so, too, the community, the family of faith that awaits these new members at Easter, asks for the grace of ongoing forgiveness and reconciliation.

One of the high moments of Lent should, therefore, be the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, when we confess our sins to a priest and receive the forgiveness of God administered through the lips of him who stands in the place of Christ.

Sacrament of healing

Archbishop Robert Carlson, a son of this local church and current shepherd of St. Louis, has written a fine pastoral letter in which he compares going to confession to a visit to the doctor’s office.

First, the doctor examines our symptoms, then he offers a diagnosis for the underlying cause of our illness, and finally he prescribes a course of treatment.

Likewise in confession, we describe the symptoms of our sinful acts to the confessor. He, in turn, assists us in determining the underlying causes for that sin in the attitudes or habits of our heart, and finally, he offers the healing of Jesus in the words of absolution and offers a penance to ensure that the healing continues in our daily life.

The root cause of most sin lies in what we call the seven capital or deadly sins: pride, greed, envy, anger, lust, gluttony or sloth (laziness).

If we examine the pattern of our words or actions, usually we find behind them one or another of these deadly sins. Let’s examine ourselves this Lent and turn away from those capital sins that distance us from God and from our neighbor.

Lent is so much more than just giving up candy, or beer or an iPod for 40 days. It’s about conversion. It’s about change. It’s about turning around in the ways I act toward God, myself or my neighbor. It is, in the end, all about freedom and joy. Catholic Spirit

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Archbishop John Vlazny, A Leper With the Lepers

Archbishop Vlazny of the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, was the Bishop of Winona from 1987-1997.

During this Year of the Priest, I have taken advantage of opportunities to write about priests outstanding in their life and ministry whom the church has honored with canonization and/or beatification. On my recent trip to Belgium, I was privileged to celebrate the Eucharist at the tomb of one of these great men, Jozef de Veuster, who received the name of Damien in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Damien was canonized during this Year of the Priest by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009. Celebrating his canonization and visiting his tomb within less than four months prompted me to write about him and showcase his pastoral zeal as an inspiration for the rest of us during these early days of Lent.

In his homily at the Mass of canonization last October, Pope Benedict had this to say about St. Damien: “When he was 23 years old, in 1863, he left Flanders, the land of his birth, to proclaim the Gospel on the other side of the world in the Hawaiian Islands. His missionary activity, which gave him such joy, reached its peak in charity. Not without fear and repugnance, he chose to go to the Island of Molokai to serve the lepers who lived there, abandoned by all. Thus he was exposed to the disease from which they suffered. He felt at home with them. The servant of the Word consequently became a suffering servant, a leper with the lepers, for the last four years of his life.”

All good disciples of Jesus eventually come to the realization that the more self-serving their lives seem to become, the less can they consider themselves friends of Jesus Christ. Young Jozef was born in Belgium back in 1840, the seventh child of his family. His dad was a grain trader and wanted Jozef to take over the business on their farm. But Jozef’s dreams lay elsewhere. His older brother was a priest, and at age 18 St. Damien wanted to be a priest, too. He became a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, also described as the Picpus Fathers. He was sent off as a missionary. On the way he came down with typhus but eventually reached the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) in March of 1864. He became acquainted with the language and the customs of the Hawaiian people and was ordained a priest there in May of the same year.

Damien was no great scholar but he was truly a man of action. In embarking upon his mission to the Hawaiian people he initially regarded them as immoral, uncivilized and overly superstitious people. He traveled extensively in his efforts to convert many of them to Christianity and when asked where he lived, he would point to his horse’s saddle and say “That’s where I live.” St. Damien had a special concern for those who were experiencing great suffering. He was concerned about the mistreatment of the dead, the extensive drinking and gambling among the natives, the abuse of young orphans as well as the extreme prices in the shops. He also felt that lepers deserved better medical care. It was his dream that an ideal Christian community would eventually be established where he would be the father. His concern about the lepers continued to grow. He knew they lived in exile on the volcanic island of Molokai. He told the bishop he wanted to stay among them permanently because he thought this would be the only way he could win the lepers’ trust.
The leper colony was located at Kalawao on Molokai. This location was chosen deliberately because the village was very hard to reach. Because the lepers were placed in quarantine, the village was a kind of natural prison. When the quarantine laws were strengthened, St. Damien himself became an exile and a prisoner of his missionary calling. He was excluded from the outside world just like those whom he served. By January of 1885 Damien wrote, “I am still in good health… except my left foot, which has lost almost all sensation for three years now. It is a hidden poison which threatens my whole body.” He hoped he could get over his sickness or keep it under control, but more and more he would address his parishioners with these words, “We lepers.”

In concluding his reflections on the day of St. Damien’s canonization, Pope Benedict stated, “He invites us to open our eyes to the forms of leprosy that disfigure the humanity of our brethren and still today call for the charity of our presence as servants, beyond that of our generosity.” Every Lent we are called to embrace the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and good works. Many Catholics are generous, but the example of priests like St. Damien challenges us to take to heart the words of our Holy Father which invite us to move beyond the “comfort zones” of our own practical generosity. Certainly we can place some limits on the sharing of our time, treasure and talents, but the season of Lent asks us to re-examine those limits and to see if it might be possible to extend them somewhat, even to the point where they are less than comfortable, maybe even where they hurt.

It was the miraculous healing of a Hawaiian woman with cancer that led to the canonization of St. Damien. He himself died of leprosy at the age of 49. The fame of his life lived among the lepers led to an intensive study of Hansen’s disease (leprosy), which eventually led to a cure. In speaking to the International Theological Commission last December, the Holy Father reminded this learned assembly that, in the history of the church, many men and women who may not have been so scholarly were, on the other hand, capable of the humility that led them to reach the truth about the great mysteries of our faith. He mentioned St. Damien and described him as one of those “little people who are also wise,” from whom we draw inspiration because “they were touched in the depths of their hearts.” Small people like Father Damien often become great saints.

The priests who serve you in our parishes across western Oregon typically attract headlines or prompt letters to the bishop only for their misdeeds, not for their faithful service. They may be “little people” in the eyes of the world, and perhaps in your eyes, too, but every time they touch the depths of any person’s heart, they become great in the eyes of God. As Damien was a leper among lepers, we priests today are sinners among sinners. Please pray for all of us this Lent that, in spite of ourselves, we too will always want to be there for others, not just for ourselves, confident in the mercy of a loving God. The Sentinel, Diocese of Portland, OR

Jesuit novitiate to return to St. Paul after year-long absence

The Jesuit novitiate for the provinces of Wisconsin, Detroit and Chicago is returning to its former address in St. Paul, at 1035 Summit Ave., next to St. Thomas More parish.

The site became the home for the Wisconsin province Jesuit novitiate in 1982. Previously, it was located on Finn Street, near the Uni­ver­s­ity of St. Thomas. Around 1995, it became a tri-province novitiate, serving the provinces of Wis­consin, Missouri and English-Canada.

Last year, the Wisconsin Province novitiate joined with the provinces of Detroit and Chicago for a new tri-provincial arrangement, and the novitiate house moved to Berkley, Mich. In August, it will move back to St. Paul, said Jesuit Father Luis Rodriguez, assistant provincial for the Wisconsin Province.

The provinces of Wisconsin, Detroit and Chicago currently have 21 novices. The novitiate is two years. The move will take place after novices currently in their second year take vows Aug. 15 and before the new novices enter, Father Rodriguez said. Catholic Spirit

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scriptural Stations of the Cross --- History and Theology

The Stations of the Cross - also called Via Crucis, Via Dolorosa or the Way of the Cross - is a devotion to the passion of Christ consisting of prayers and meditations on fourteen occurrences experienced by Christ on His way to the crucifixion and burial.

The origin of this devotion goes back to the custom of visiting the holy sites in Jerusalem: Early pilgrims to the holy city marked the last moments in Jesus' life by prayerfully stopping at all the sites associated with Jesus' suffering and death. This practice, which began in the fourth through sixth centuries was so powerful that many Christians desired to do the same thing, even those who were unable to travel to the Holy Land.

As 12th-century Europe was devastated by the plague and the Crusades brought record numbers of Europeans to the Holy Land, the desire for the celebration of Stations of the Cross increased dramatically. The popularity of the Stations of the Cross was fostered by the Franciscans, who took over the care of the sacred sites in Jerusalem in 1342. The custom of praying the Stations emerged in a multiplicity of formats with different numbers and names for each of the stations.

Originally done only outdoors, the Stations were allowed inside churches in the mid-18th century. They were fixed at fourteen by Pope Clement XII in 1731, and soon became a standard feature in all Catholic churches. In recent years, some variations have been introduced in the traditional devotion.

One of these is the addition of a 15th station - the Resurrection of Jesus (c.1960), as theologians claimed that the resurrection completes the cycle. In addition, Pope John Paul II has proposed a series of scriptural stations that portray only incidents related in the gospels. He celebrated these for the first time at the Roman Coliseum on Good Friday, 1991.

At The Basilica we have three sets of Stations of the Cross. Two of the sets depict the traditional stations. The first set consists of the stations, which are original to the building. They were designed and sculpted by The McBride Studios from Pietrasanta, Italy. They were installed in September, 1926.

You may find a second set of the traditional stations in the Saint Joseph Chapel. These are on loan from the artist, Leo Winstead. The third and most recent set differs in two ways from the others: it is abstract, rather than figurative and it depicts the Biblical stations, rather than the traditional stations. Lucinda Naylor, artist-in-residence at The Basilica, and Steven Anderson, master printer, collaborated on these mono-prints.

The Stations of the Cross may be conducted personally by making one's way from one station to another and saying the prayers, or by having an officiating celebrant move from station to station while the faithful make the responses.
Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis

Audio Stations of the Cross

Pray along at home with these Stations each Friday.
They were recorded by Basilica staff and choir members.

Knights of Columbus to hold Prayer Vigil for Life at Memorial to the Unborn, Feb. 25-26 at the UST Chapel

Sponsored by the UST Knights of Columbus, an all-night Prayer Vigil for Life will be held from Thursday to Friday, Feb. 25-26. The vigil will be preceded by Mass at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas.

A pro-life presentation in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium will follow Mass.

Following the presentation (approximately 8 p.m.), the prayer vigil will begin at the university’s Memorial to the Unborn. The vigil will continue through the night, concluding at 6:55 a.m. Friday, Feb. 26. Volunteers are needed to sign up for half-hour shifts. E-mail Jacob Pratscher to sign up for a time slot.

For more information, e-mail Daniel Sedlacek or Paul Shovelain.

Reconciliation: The Lost Sacrament


Last summer, as distant church bells tolled at 12:00 p.m., I heard a group of ladies recall stopping to pray the Angelus as Catholic grammar school students. One said she could not remember the prayer’s words. Another replied that she could barely remember the words of the Act of Contrition. The first rejoined, “But we don’t need to know the Act of Contrition anymore. No one goes to confession these days.”

She was right about that last point: compared to the number of people at Sunday Mass, penitents at Saturday confession today are very sparse indeed. But the comment conveys something more profound: the Act of Contrition now seems irrelevant because so many Catholics have lost a sense of sin. If there is no sin, then the sacrament of reconciliation – also called penance or confession – that was given by Christ to forgive sins and to reconcile the sinner with God – to say nothing of Christ’s Cross – all seem curious oddities.

On this page, Brad Miner has described the contemporary loss of the sense of sin, just as, in a different way, Pope John Paul II did twenty-five years ago. According to John Paul, a “sense of sin” is “an acute perception of the seeds of death contained in sin” that the Christian mind has developed from man’s closeness to God and immersion in the Gospel. In the pope’s analogy, a sense of sin is the thermometer of man’s moral conscience. Today the thermometer does not register the presence of sin because sin has been clouded over by social sciences that blame unjust social structures for our ills. Lingering guilt pangs should be treated in therapy. The tide of secularism and sexual license have also contributed to consigning sin to the dusty recesses of the Church’s past, so that in today’s dictatorship of relativism the only sin one can commit is to call someone else’s act a sin.

In this atmosphere, how are Catholics to understand the sacrament of reconciliation? The triumph of the therapeutic has not diminished suffering in the world and in individual lives. Individuals still make deliberately wrong choices that inflict pain and harm on themselves and others. Catholics call these choices sins because they transgress God’s order. To sin is to choose our way over God’s. Our sins cause the kind of pain and suffering that, as Miner wrote, affirm we need more than treatment: we need salvation. That is, we need something from outside of ourselves to save us, to lift us up, and grant us true and certain peace. Enter Jesus Christ and the sacrament of reconciliation.

Since Vatican II, the Church has called this sacrament “reconciliation” to emphasize its role in restoring one’s relationship with God. Sin, depending on its gravity (venial or mortal), damages or even destroys one’s relationship with God. Through the ministry of the Church (“Whose sins you shall forgive. . .”), Christ Himself established this sacrament whereby one receives forgiveness and is restored to harmony with God. The sacrament requires three acts by the penitent (the one seeking forgiveness): first, contrition (genuine sorrow for sins committed and the resolution to sin no more; this is the fruit of examining one’s conscience); second, confession of sins to a priest; and third, penance (prayers or works done to make reparation for the confessed sins). The priest, acting in the name of Christ Himself, imparts absolution, by which confessed sins are pardoned forever.

It is often asked why Catholics must confess their sins to a priest rather than directly to God. The answer lies in the very nature of sacraments themselves: sacraments are visible human signs of God transmitting invisible grace to man. When penitents confess their sins to a priest, through the words of absolution – the “visible” sign – they know without doubt that God has forgiven their sins. Even if penitents still feel some remorse or guilt, their souls have been washed clean in the Precious Blood of Christ that was poured out on the Cross. (What was the Crucifixion about if not to redeem us from sin?) They have the Church’s guarantee that this is so. Those who confess their sins “directly to God” receive no such assurance. Just as God the Father sacrificed His Son to make us visibly certain of His love for us, Christ has established the sacrament of reconciliation to make us visibly certain of His forgiveness of our sins.

It is common today to consign serious sins – and therefore the sacrament of reconciliation – to murderers and bank robbers. There’s no need, it seems, for a “good person” to go to confession. St. Thomas Aquinas and countless other saints assert the opposite. Reconciliation is a sacramental step toward living a holy life, and as a result we should seek it often. Because by examining our consciences and confessing regularly, we see where we must improve on the long road of Christian charity. The sacrament of reconciliation, in addition to forgiving sins, also imparts spiritual strength to grow in virtue and witness for the faith.

As we know, the Devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he does not exist. Satan has done himself one better in short-circuiting our belief in sin. Recovering a sense of sin is vital for full appreciation of Jesus’ love for us, and His mission of reconciling us with God – which we relive each time we approach the sacrament of reconciliation. The Catholic Thing

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chanted Vespers at Sacred Heart in Robbinsdale on Sundays of Lent

The Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus Gregorian Chant schola will, along with Father Bryan Pedersen, be singing Vespers at 4:00 p.m. each Sunday of Lent.

The group also chants at St. Anthony of Padua parish, Father Glen Jensen, pastor, in Northeast Minneapolis (8th Ave. & Main St.) each First Saturday of the month throughout the year at 8:30 a.m.

Any men interested in joining the schola can email dan.fisher (at)
A practice session/rehearsal is held before nearly all performances.

Latin Mass change in Rochester.

There has been a change in the Latin (TLM) Mass schedule in Rochester. There is still a 4PM Mass on the first Sunday of each month but it is being held at St. Bridget's church in Simpson, an unincorporated community which is just south of Rochester, east of the airport a couple of miles on County Road 16. It is no longer held at St. John's in Rochester.

There is also now a 12:30 Mass on the THIRD Sunday of each month, also at St. Bridget's.

Check out the Rochester Latin Mass Society's website with beautiful photos of St. Bridget's and good links for the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass

Friday, February 19, 2010

Father Dennis Dease, President: Keeping the University of St. Thomas affordable

From The Scroll, UST's blog:

Last October, our Board of Trustees directed the St. Thomas administration to keep St. Thomas as affordable as possible for our students. The board politely but firmly laid out a challenge: reduce expenses, generate more revenue and cut in half undergraduate tuition increases, which have averaged 6.2 percent a year over the past five years.

The trustees had growing and legitimate concerns about the impact of the recession on the ability of families to pay for a St. Thomas education, and they worried whether – with tuition approaching $30,000 – we might price ourselves out of the market. Their message couldn’t have been clearer: We can’t continue to do business the same old way.

It was the most formidable budget challenge that I had been presented with in my nearly 19 years as president of St. Thomas. We always have looked for ways to cut costs and increase revenue, of course, and I believe we have been good stewards of our resources. But I also knew how difficult it would be to start the annual budget process with parameters that differed so markedly from previous years.

To our good fortune, our trustees didn’t walk away from the table after issuing the challenge and wait for us to come in with a plan. They worked closely with us to achieve our objectives, serving as members of a task force that, in the words of Executive Committee Chair Burt Cohen this week, was able to complete “a killer assignment.”

The result, as you will read in the Bulletin Today story, is a 2010-2011 budget that levies an undergraduate tuition and fee increase of 3.5 percent. The comprehensive fee, which includes room and board, will also increase by 3.5 percent.

The task force also identified a set of so-called “key drivers” that will guide the development of our operating budgets indefinitely – not for just one year but, we hope, for many years. Here they are:

Target undergraduate tuition and fee increases in the 3-4 percent range, allowing for some variation as a result of inflation. This replaces 6 percent increases, which had been the norm over the past decade, as our objective.

Maintain traditional-aged undergraduate enrollment. This replaces the growth that we have seen in the last decade, when the size of our freshman class grew from 1,046 in 1999 to 1,352 last fall. Fewer students will graduate from high school this decade, and we also don’t have enough classrooms, faculty or residence hall beds to allow significant additional growth on the undergraduate level.

Maintain financial aid levels and protect the academic profile of the incoming class. We are committed both to keeping St. Thomas affordable and maintaining an average ACT score above 25 for each incoming freshman class.

Continue to invest in the Opus College of Business to ensure AACSB accreditation and, as a result, generate significantly higher graduate revenue. This initiative has been under way for several years, and we are hopeful we will receive accreditation next year – recognition that will enhance our reputation and help us to attract stronger students and generate more revenue.

Continue to invest in the School of Law and its pursuit of a national ranking. We have made great strides with the law school since its opening less than nine years ago, and I am convinced we soon will be ranked among the nation’s top 100 law schools.

Deliver annual pay plans and not lose ground on faculty compensation vs. benchmark institutions. I had to swallow hard last year when we could award only $500 pay increases to faculty and staff, and I dearly wish next year’s pay plan could be greater than 2 percent. You have my word that, economic conditions allowing, we will seek to deliver larger increases in subsequent years.

Complete construction projects related to ensuring enrollments.This objective relates to the new Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex, which will open in August, and the Anderson Student Center, for which we will break ground this spring. These buildings are absolutely vital to our ability to remain competitive in attracting undergraduate students.

Continue initiatives to strengthen the Catholic character of the university. I am proud of the many new programs created over the last two decades and how we have strengthened core programs such as St. John Vianney Seminary and the St. Paul Seminary.

Achieve capital campaign goals by October 2012. We have an ambitious $500 million goal for our Opening Doors campaign. I am pleased by the progress – we are at $385 million and climbing every day – and I am confident we’ll achieve our goal.

Contribute a minimum of $1 million annually from operations to our quasi-endowment fund. This fund, akin to a savings or reserve account that funds special projects, declined in recent years as we purchased property, opened the law school and expanded the Minneapolis campus. We need to rebuild the fund.

Implement the cost-saving recommendations presented to the task force. We are well on our way with many of those recommendations, as specified in the Bulletin Today story.

When you look at these “key drivers” in ensuring a financially healthy St. Thomas, they in various ways reflect the three strategic directions the Board of Trustees established nearly a decade ago: access, excellence and Catholic identity.

We want to make sure a St. Thomas education is affordable. We want that education to be the best that we can deliver. And we want it to reflect our 125-year heritage as a Catholic institution that lives out our mission statement to educate students “to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good.”

Please join me in this effort. I know it will be a great challenge, just as was the challenge to reduce our annual tuition increases. But I have no doubt that, working together, we can achieve our objectives and provide an even stronger University of St. Thomas for generations to come.

UST: Archdiocesan potential restrictive speaker rules would weaken Catholic intellectual tradition


The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis recently published new guidelines that address the question of who can speak at Catholic institutions in the archdiocese.

According to the guidelines, which debuted in November, a prospective speaker’s previous writings and presentations must “be in harmony with the teaching and discipline of the church.” In addition, “those living a lifestyle at variance with church teaching would also not be eligible [to speak].”

These guidelines make some sense for parishes as well as for Catholic elementary and high schools. But if the archdiocese tries to replace St. Thomas’ current speaker policy with these more restrictive rules, the university’s claim to be a school that is “inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition” would be weakened.

If a university is inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition, it is open to the discussion of different opinions. It encourages informed debate among students and doesn’t restrict students’ access to speakers, as long as those speakers are respectful and don’t insult the Catholic faith.

St. Thomas’ current speaker policy strikes a healthy balance. The Rev. John Malone, vice president for mission, said St. Thomas’ policy allows for the expression of a diverse range of opinions while simultaneously advancing Catholic teachings.

“We would insist regardless of who’s speaking that we state our Catholic position,” he said. “People who come here who have a different position than that, they should talk about what they’re here to talk about, not to take a tack on various positions of the Catholic Church.”

This is a rational way of deciding which speakers should be allowed at Catholic universities. Prohibiting speakers based on their lifestyle choices, on the other hand, could have harmful repercussions. Students would benefit from listening to a speaker discussing poverty in Third World countries, even if the speaker’s personal lifestyle isn’t perfectly in line with Catholic teaching. As long as the speaker is there to talk about the issue and not to sell the benefits of his or her lifestyle, I don’t see a problem.

Malone said no one has decided yet exactly how or if the new guidelines will apply to St. Thomas, but he doesn’t think they will replace the university’s current policy. However, he also said he thinks the archdiocese would like some form of the new policy to be put into place at St. Thomas.

This can’t happen if St. Thomas wants to keep its reputation as a university that promotes intellectual freedom and informed discussion. The policy we have now provides us with a good mix of new ideas and respect for Catholic teachings. It’s always a precarious balancing act, of course, and I’m sure there will be numerous discussions in the future about which speakers should or shouldn’t come to campus.

But as we debate what being a Catholic university means, we should remember that listening to opposing viewpoints can actually strengthen our own beliefs. St. Thomas should continue to offer students access to different opinions so we can be informed citizens who are aware of many viewpoints, not just our own.

Katie Broadwell can be reached at

Top Colleges and Univeersities in Minnesota


2010 University Web Ranking

1 University of Minnesota
2 Carleton College
3 University of St. Thomas
4 Mayo Medical School
5 St. Olaf College
6 Bethel University
7 Winona State University
8 Augsburg College
9 University of Minnesota Duluth
10 University of Minnesota Morris
11 Walden University
12 Minnesota State University, Mankato
13 Rasmussen College
14 St. Cloud State University
15 Saint Benedict's / Saint John's University
16 Hamline University
17 Macalester College
18 Gustavus Adolphus College
19 Northwestern College
20 Minnesota State University Moorhead
21 The College of St. Scholastica
22 Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
23 Bemidji State University
24 Concordia College
25 St. Catherine University
26 Minneapolis College of Art and Design
27 William Mitchell College of Law
28 Metropolitan State University
29 Northwestern Health Sciences University
30 Southwest Minnesota State University
31 Crown College
32 Concordia University, St. Paul
33 North Central University
34 Martin Luther College
35 Adler Graduate School
36 Crossroads College
37 Pillsbury Baptist Bible College
38 Oak Hills Christian College

St. Bernards and Holy Childhood schools to close

St. Bernard's High School will close at the end of the school year — ending more than a century of education at a North End landmark.

Gathering students in the school cafeteria this afternoon, school leaders blamed financial troubles and declining enrollment for the closing. Like many of the nation's inner-city Catholic schools, St. Bernard's has struggled the past 15 years to stay afloat. It closed its grade school this past year.

The school is celebrating its 119th year on Monday.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis also announced today the closing of Holy Childhood Catholic Elementary, which has served the Como Park neighborhood more than 60 years. Its enrollment has decreased sharply in recent years.

The German and Austrian immigrants who settled in St. Paul's North End neighborhood founded Saint Bernard's parish in 1890. They started up the grade school the next year. By 1957, a growing demand for Catholic high schools in the region prompted the opening of St. Bernard's High.

But the neighborhood has changed over the years as families moved to the suburbs. Of the residents who moved in, fewer are choosing Catholic schools, notes a letter to parents from the Rev. Michael Anderson, pastor at the Church of St. Bernard. Add in the growing competition from charter schools, the increased need for financial aid and the struggling economy; the school simply could not make ends meet.

"Every possible effort has been made to keep this Catholic high school and this Catholic grade school open," said Archbishop Nienstedt, of St. Bernard's and Holy Childhood. "But despite those efforts, the reality of continued dwindling enrollment, for one, and the need to end the resulting financial burden on these parishes, made these very difficult decisions unavoidable."

Changing demographics has been blamed for several recent Catholic school closings in St. Paul. The archdiocese closed Trinity on the East Side last year. In 2005, Blessed Sacrament closed; and St. Columba's the year before. Three years ago, St. Agnes High School was on the brink of closure, but the community rallied to save it.

St. Bernard's has faced closure before. In 2003, St. Bernard's owed the archdiocese about $2 million, and church leaders planned to transfer its elementary students to Trinity. But supporters raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and persuaded the archdiocese to drop the plan.

A liaison will be appointed to help teachers find new jobs and parents find new schools for their children.

There will be 13 Catholic high schools remaining in the Archdiocese, with St. Bernard's students being able to choose from nearby Saint Agnes or Hill Murray and Cretin-Derham Hall high schools.

The decision to close Holy Childhood came after school leaders, teachers and parents assessed the school's viability, the Archdiocese said in a prepared statement. Catholic elementaries nearby include: St. Rose of Lima, St. Agnes and Maternity of Mary-St. Andrew.

Officials with the elementary school could not be reached for comment. Pioneer Press

Strib article

In a tough environment of declining enrollment and demographic changes in local neighborhoods, two Roman Catholic schools in St. Paul said they will close at the end of the school year.

St. Bernard's High School and Holy Childhood School, which serves a pre-K-8 population, both faced dwindling enrollment and had become a burden on their parishes, said officials of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in announcing the closings Thursday evening.

St. Bernard's closing comes less than a year after it shuttered its lower school and set plans to become the state's first Catholic high school offering an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Currently, St. Bernard's has 198 students in grades nine through 12 at its location off Rice Street.

"Every possible effort has been made to keep this Catholic high school and this Catholic grade school open," said Archbishop John Nienstedt. "But despite those efforts, the reality of continued dwindling enrollment, for one, and the need to end the resulting financial burden on these parishes, made these very difficult decisions unavoidable."

St. Bernard's has a long history of education. Its grade school was founded by the Benedictine Sisters 118 years ago as an outreach to German immigrants in the neighborhood. The upper school was opened in 1957.

While St. Bernard's officials sought to become an IB school to attract more students, they said that they ultimately could not develop the program within the time frame and resources needed to bring it to fruition. About 80 percent of its students receive financial aid, officials said.

Holy Childhood, located in St. Paul's Como Park neighborhood, has served that area for more than 60 years. It has 48 students, having suffered a sharp enrollment decline in recent years that officials attribute to "demographic changes which reduced the school's available pool of students."

A statement from the archdiocese said Catholic high school options for the St. Bernard's students include nearby St. Agnes School, Hill-Murray School and Cretin-Derham Hall, all in St. Paul. After St. Bernard's closing, the archdiocese will have a total of 13 Catholic high schools.

Holy Childhood families will have the nearby alternatives of St. Rose of Lima, St. Agnes, and Maternity of Mary-St. Andrew.

The remaining archdiocese high schools will be asked to hold open houses for the St. Bernard's students and their parents, said Archdiocesan Schools Superintendent Martha Frauenheim.

She added that financial assistance will be available to St. Bernard's families that choose to apply at other Catholic high schools.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Request for suipport from a young woman discerning a religious vocation

My name is Ashley Kleist, a Minnesota native stuck for the year out east with a lack on snow. I am discerning and following the path of entering into formation with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Upon the suggestion of the vocation director, I have started a blog to share in my journey with the world.

I was sent your direction by a college professor that I had, Susan Windley-Daost. I have started a blog to share my journey with as many people as I possibly can. There is the struggle of getting the blog out there. She suggested that I talk to you about possibly posting my blog link on a site that you have. Thank you for any help you can give me! The link is below to the blog.

These, I believe are the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, a member of the Council of Major Superiors of Religious Women, the more traditional of the two associations of U.S. women religious.

Susan Windley-Daoust is a professor of Theology at St. Mary's University of Minnesota down in Winona (and a mother of four).

Ashley just started her blog the other day; perhaps some of Stella Borealis' readers might check in with her now and then and give her some prayers and support!

Serra Club program keeps college students connected to faith

The University of Minnesota’s map didn’t identify the closest parish when freshman Aidan Breen was figuring out how to get around the Minneapolis campus last fall.

University of Minnesota freshman Aidan Breen, center, talks with friends after Mass Feb. 7 at St. Lawrence-Newman in Minneapolis. Breen said a program like College Connection for Catholics will help keep Catholics entering college grounded in their faith.
He found information about Catholic organizations at a campus activity fair. But with all the demands and distractions of adjusting to college life, he’s not surprised that other Catholic college students haven’t taken that step to practice their faith.

“You have to have a certain level of comfort to even approach the table, and it would have been real easy to just walk by and not get any information on it,” said Breen, who attends St. Lawrence-Newman in Minneapolis.

Because it’s estimated that fewer than 20 percent of Catholic college students attend Mass after their first year, Minnesota Serra clubs will be working with Catholic high schools and parishes this spring to provide college-bound graduating seniors with the information they need to get involved with the church while at college.

“We’re the bridge that’s connecting the family faith life to the college faith life,” said Judy Cozzens, chair of the College Connection for Catholics program, which hopes to reach 16,000 graduating seniors nationally during 2010. Through 300 nationwide clubs, USA Council of Serra International seeks to foster, affirm and promote vocations to ministry.

Increasing participation

CCC, which has been endorsed by bishops, including Archbishop John Nienstedt, was started seven years ago to encourage some of the 1.25 million U.S. Catholic students who graduate from high school each year to be more involved in their faith during their college years, said Cozzens, a parishioner at Holy Family in St. Louis Park and mother of Father Andrew Cozzens, a priest of the archdiocese.

A 2005 study for the U.S. bishops conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University showed that young Catholics who practiced their faith in college attended Mass more often, became leaders in their parishes and were more likely to consider a religious vocation.

“We’re trying to increase the faith participation of young people in the church, and in order to do that we have to fight for their attention, just like everybody else has to fight. We have to make sure we’re in the game,” she said.

Serrans from at least 11 Minnesota clubs will gather graduating seniors’ names, addresses and the names of colleges they plan to attend from parents, parishes and schools. Then they will send each student a packet of information about one of 2,000 U.S. colleges and universities by the end of June.

Included will be contact information for Catholic organizations such as nearby parishes, Newman Centers, campus ministry and Catholic student groups such as St. Paul’s Outreach (SPO) and Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), Cozzens said.

Student information will be compiled on a database set up through National Evangelization Teams (NET) Ministries in West St. Paul and will be sent to the campus ministry or parish at the student’s college so they can contact students, she said.

Serrans will obtain the campus ministry information from the CCC’s website for the mailing to students. The information will not be shared with other organizations and will be deleted at the end of the year, Cozzens said.

Valuable service

Young people who are involved in their high school youth group can get lost in college and the CCC helps prevent that, said Pat Millea, youth ministry director at Our Lady of Grace in Edina, one of a few local parishes involved in the program last year. Because he works with about 120 kids in each grade, Millea can’t get information to all the graduating seniors himself.

Getting the students’ names and addresses at the beginning of the school year has helped in inviting them to SPO, said Dan Kolar, SPO chapter director at the University of Minnesota who received student names from the CCC last year.

“The sooner that we are able to inform students about the options, the more likely they are to connect and continue to practice their faith,” he said. “This program seems that it would inform both the students and the groups of each other and that initiates the conversation.”

However, because students don’t always read “snail mail,” Kolar said an e-mail address or phone number would help more than a mailing address.

Connecting on Facebook

While Serrans aren’t now collecting students’ e-mail addresses, CCC has a Facebook page, and it encourages students to connect before school starts, Cozzens said.

In the future, parents and students will be able to find the information themselves about campus ministry and Catholic organizations on college campuses on the CCC’s Web site. The sooner students get the information the better so they will consider campus ministry as they make friends and join organizations, she said.

Breen agreed that CCC information would help with getting grounded in faith.

“Just receiving something like that, and maybe if it could include sort of a kickoff event that you could attend or where you could meet people and that sort of thing, it really would have been helpful. . . . Right away, meet people who care about their faith. Right away to know where those opportunities are, definitely would be good,” he said.
Catholic Spirit

What and Where are Serra Clubs?

The Mission of the Serra Clubs is to foster, affirm and promote vocations to ministry in the Catholic Church. Involvement in Serra International challenges its members to live up to their baptismal call as Christians. In essence, the mission and ministry of Serra International is the collection of its members’ personal mission to live a Christian Catholic life. The process of matching an individual’s personal mission with the mission of Serra International harnesses the motivation that makes Serra International a vehicle for fellowship, learning about the Catholic faith, vocations, and outreach.

Minnesota Clubs

Serra Club of DULUTH MN

Serra Club Meeting #1: Pickwick Restaurant
Time: 1st Monday, 12 noon
Serra Club Meeting #2: Pickwick Restaurant
Time: 3rd Monday, 12 noon

New Ulm, MN

Region 08 District 7-S

Serra Club of Sleepy Eye, MN

Serra Club Meeting #1: 702 3rd Ave NW, Sleepy Eye, MN
Time: 1st Thursday, 7:00 PM
Serra Club Meeting #2:

Serra Club of ST. CLOUD MN

Serra Club Meeting #1: Pastoral Center
Time: 1st Thursday, 6:30 AM (Mass)
Serra Club Meeting #2: St. Mary's School
Time: 2nd Thursday, 12:00 PM (Lunch)


Serra Club Meeting #1: St Olaf
Time: 2nd Wednesday, 12 Noon
Serra Club Meeting #2:

Serra Club of ST. PAUL MN

Serra Club Meeting #1: St. Joseph Hospital
Time: 2nd Friday, 7:30 AM
Serra Club Meeting #2: Joseph's Grill
Time: 4th Friday, 12:00 noon

Serra Club of MIDWAY - ST PAUL MN

Serra Club Meeting #1: Lexington Restaurant, St Paul
Time: 3rd Monday, 11:30AM Mass
Serra Club Meeting #2:


Serra Club Meeting #1: Our Lady of Grace Church
Time: 2nd Friday 11:30am
Serra Club Meeting #2: Our Lady of Grace Church
Time: 4th Friday 11:30am


Serra Club Meeting #1: Jax Cafe, North Minneapolis
Time: 2nd Tuesday, 12 noon
Serra Club Meeting #2: Jax Cafe, North Minneapolis
Time: 4th Tuesday, 12 noon


Serra Club Meeting #1: Holy Name of Jesus, Medina MN
Time: 2nd Friday, 6:45 AM Mass
Serra Club Meeting #2: Holy Name of Jesus, Medina MN
Time: 4th Friday, 6:45 AM Mass


Serra Club Meeting #1: St Bonaventure Ch, Bloomington
Time: 1st Friday, 12 noon
Serra Club Meeting #2: St Bonaventure Ch, Bloomington
Time: 3rd Friday, 12 noon


Serra Club Meeting #1: Christ the King Retreat Center
Time: 2nd Thursday, 6:30 PM
Serra Club Meeting #2: Dunn's Coffee
Time: 1st Monday, 8:00 AM


Serra Club Meeting #1: St. Ambrose Parish
Time: 1st Saturday, 8:00 AM
Serra Club Meeting #2: Green Mill Restaurant
Time: 3rd Thursday, 6:30 PM

Serra Club of WINONA MN

Serra Club Meeting #1: St. Casmir Church
Time: 1st Monday, 5:15 PM
Serra Club Meeting #2: St. Casmir Church
Time: 3rd Monday, 5:15 PM

Serra Club of MANKATO MN

Serra Club Meeting #1: Good Counsel Education Center
Time: 1st Tuesday, 12:10 PM
Serra Club Meeting #2: Good Counsel Education Center
Time: 3rd Tuesday, 12:10 PM

Serra Club of ROCHESTER MN

Serra Club Meeting #1: Church of the Resurrection
Time: 1st Friday, 11:50 AM
Serra Club Meeting #2:


Serra Club Meeting #1: St Joseph Catholic Church
Time: 2nd Monday, 6:15 PM Liturgy of the Hours, 6:30 PM Meal, 7:00 PM General Membership Meeting
Board of Trustees Meeting #2:
Time:4th Monday, 7:00 PM

Monday, February 15, 2010

How to Make a Good Confession

Bumped from 1-26-2010
A reader wrote to Mark Shea of the National Catholic Register:

Mark: I have been dithering about writing to you for weeks now. I thought you might have some insights to offer that my cradle Catholic friends don’t seem to. It doesn’t help that I can’t quite tell them plainly what the problem is. In any case, my problem might inspire a useful column someday, if you ever run out of more important topics—and maybe some encouragement now.

In a nutshell, though I was received into the Church nearly 2 years ago, confession stumps me. The issue is that I don’t know how to articulate my sins. I don’t usually *do* many things that I can confess but my interior life is a mess. I am filled with anger about a number of things; I harbor some really hateful thoughts towards people who have injured me. etc. Now I have the kindest priest on the planet, I do believe, but when I have told him that I don’t know how to express what troubles me, he doesn’t seem to understand. Essentially, I tell him that I am lacking in charity and that satisfies him. It doesn’t really satisfy me. But perhaps the combination of confession to God and to the priest in the formal setting is enough?

As a former evangelical, I have no trouble telling all this to God, who knows it all better than I in any case. But what do I tell my priest? Thanks for any and all advice you might have to offer.

I’m neither a moral theologian nor a priest nor a spiritual director but, speaking as a fellow schlub who needs to go to confession too, my first thought is “Why not tell your confessor what you just told me?” It’s honest, straight from the heart, and seems like a fine place to start; especially that bit about “I harbor some really hateful thoughts towards people who have injured me”. That’s real concrete sin that a confessor can actually absolve.

Feelings, I wouldn’t sweat too much. They have no moral content. They are more or less the weather of your interior life, blowing around, getting hot and cold, tied to physiology. How you feel doesn’t matter as far as a gauge of your sinfulness or virtue. Our Lord felt terrible going up Golgotha. Hitler probably felt pretty good about himself right after humiliating France. What matters is concrete acts of obedience to our Lord. So when your emotions erupt in anger at the jerk who did you wrong, do you indulge the emotion or take it as a cue to pray for the jerk? If the latter, then you are being virtuous, not sinful, whatever your feelings are. If the former, well, that’s more grist for confession.

The main thing I would suggest is a) making use of an examination of conscience (there are lots of them out there) and b) using it not as a law but as a tool for cultivating relationship. The tough part about confession (for me at any rate) is getting recollected. Of course, you can start as a doctor does, with “presenting symptoms”. St. Alphonsus Liguori, I think, was the one who said, “When an elephant walks in the room, you know it.” If there’s a big issue preying on your conscience (like your anger toward those people) then start there. Take a prayer journal and write it down. You don’t need to do a lot of navel gazing and analysis of your motives. Just jot the sin down and any other biggies that are lying pretty close to the surface. Tell the devil “These are marked for execution next time I get to confession so don’t heckle me about them.”

Then, use the examination of conscience for mop up. The nice thing about the Church is that it’s given a lot of thought to things we haven’t. So examinations of conscience can jog your thinking and give you that. “Ohhhhh! I never thought of that!” epiphany that can open up new wells for the Spirit to flush out and fill. The important thing to remember is that, as you bring these things to Jesus, he promises to forgive the sin and to pour out his Spirit into the hole they leave so that you go out of the sacramental encounter with him, not just with the debt cancelled but with a bushel of grace to be better than you’ve ever been.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Catholic Church’s mission is to continue work of Jesus Christ, Archbishop Nienstedt explains

After learning that the mission of the Church is unclear to some Catholics, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt has emphasized that the Christian mission is to “continue the works of Jesus Christ” and to make his name “known and loved.

The Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s comments were published in The Catholic Spirit as part of a reflection on planning sessions for parishes and Catholic schools.

The sessions collected comments from Catholics. According to the archbishop, Catholics hoped their faith would grow stronger in the future. They had “an overall sense of hopefulness.”

Archbishop Nienstedt thought the most interesting statement suggested that the archdiocese should clarify the mission of the Church.

“I found this intriguing because I always assumed that the mission of the Church was clear to all her members,” he wrote.

He quoted from “The Church,” a work of theologian Fr. Hans Kung authored before his more controversial writings:

“…without the raising of Jesus from the dead the community of believers, the Church, is meaningless. Only the certainty that the Crucified Christ lives on as the Risen Christ, glorified by God, gives us the solution to the riddle of Jesus as a person and makes the Church possible and real.”

The first Christian disciples’ affirmation of this faith gave birth to a new community which celebrated the “breaking of the bread” with “glad hearts,” Fr. Kung wrote, quoting Acts 2.

The theologian said this new group was an “eschatological community of salvation.” He used the theological word for “last things” such as heaven, hell, the general judgment of mankind by God, and the resurrection of the body.

Archbishop Nienstedt explained that the source of the Church’s mission is the conviction that Christ is risen and fully alive and present to the community of believing Christians.

He noted Jesus Christ’s words at the start of the Gospel of Mark: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

The prelate then cited Jesus’ words in Matthew 28: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

He pointed to Christ’s words in John 20: “As the Father has sent me so I send you… Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Noting the root of the word “mission” means being “sent,” Archbishop Nienstedt said the Church is “sent into the world to continue the works of Jesus Christ.” He listed works such as preaching, teaching, healing, and acts of charity and justice.

Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, must “make the name of Jesus known and loved,” the archbishop added, using a phrase of Archbishop emeritus Harry Flynn. The celebration of Christ “in word and sacrament” is basic to this mission.

All the programs and activities of a parish can build up the Church’s mission and should be prioritized for that purpose, the archbishop wrote.

Subscriber comments:
Published by: Radomysl Twardowski
Bismarck, ND, USA 02/12/2010 02:50 PM EST
Unfortunately, millions of Catholics in the U.S. thought in the last few decades that the mission of the Church is to do the work of the Democrat party. Of course, the Church does not do the work of any earthly party, the division is between those in grace and those without, not between the rightists and the leftists (Archbishop Sheen in his book "Peace of Soul, 1949). Still, on a basic level, I found the Republican party more naturally in tune with the teachings of the Church, despite their leadership being traditionally non-Catholic. Nominally Catholic democrats created an open rebellion against the Church in the last 40 years. No wonder that they need clarification.
Catholic News Agency

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vitae Monologues Offer Valentines-Day Alternative

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and with it comes the V-Day campaign, which claims to be fighting violence against women, particularly through the controversial Vagina Monologues drama.

The drama has been criticized for its radical feminist ideologies, its explicit portrayal of lesbian sexual encounters -- including the rape of a 13-year-old girl -- and other objectionable material. The campaign, which targets college students in particular, sparked particular controversy as several Catholic universities allowed the production to take place on campus.

However, this Valentine's Day, Epiphany Studio Productions will be offering a new alternative drama, called the Vitae Monologues, which aims to give a voice to authentic femininity as understood in the Catholic Church.

Jeremy Stanbary, founder and director of the studio, spoke with ZENIT about this drama, which he performs around the country with his wife, Sarah.

ZENIT: It seems obvious by the title of your drama that it was made to be a parallel or an alternative to the Vagina Monologues. How does the Vitae Monologues offer a response to this other sexually explicit production? Or how does it oppose the message of the other production?

Stanbary: The title of our play definitely tries to tap into the general familiarity of the title of the Vagina Monologues.

That play is really about exalting radical feminist ideology, which is opposed to authentic feminism, the virtues of womanhood, and the gift, beauty and dignity of our human sexuality.

The Vitae Monologues ties into that title, not only for practical reasons -- because it is actually based on monologues and soliloquies -- but also because our play is counteracting and exposing one of the worst fruits of the radical feminist movement: abortion.

Our drama exposes many of the lies and deceptions of the abortion industry that continue being perpetuated today in our culture.

Thus, while the one play exalts many of the ideologies of the radical feminist movement, as well as cultural or moral relativism, we are trying to counteract these things.

We do this through a drama based on true stories that expose abortion and how it is not good for women; we show that in fact it is quite devastating in the lives of millions of men and women.

Not only is abortion an act that takes innocent human life, but it also leaves a wake of destruction in its path. We try to tell some of these true stories that deserve a voice in our culture.

ZENIT: One criticism of the Vagina Monologues is that the production, and even the title, is so explicit and indecent in its exposure of certain topics. Would critics say that same thing about the Vitae Monologues in its portrayal of abortion? Does your drama have the same shock value?

Stanbary: Certainly some people may try to make that claim, although there is a big difference. The Vagina Monologues seeks to be irreverent; that is part of the play's aim, to have an irreverent shock value. Perhaps this is an effort to try to break down our conceptions of traditional morality and sexuality.

On the contrary, our play is simply telling real people's stories, in a reverent and respectful way.

It is important for people to know when they see the Vitae Monologues -- because there are some shocking elements in it -- is that this isn't simply some imaginative construct out of the playwright's mind.

This play is telling true stories; everything that is in the drama comes from a real person's testimony.

We've pulled from a lot of different testimonies, piecing things together to make the play work theatrically, but everything you hear in the play comes from a real person.

The fact is, abortion is shocking, the truth of what it really is and the devastation it leaves behind.

In the pro-life movement, we have perhaps allowed ourselves to be disarmed by pro-choice or pro-abortion advocates who say: "How could you dare speak of what an abortion really is? How could you dare show these images?"

They are so offended and shocked by these truths when this is the very thing that they're touting and promoting as being perfectly moral and good and good for women. Even they themselves are shocked when they are confronted with the awful reality of an abortion procedure.

Those whose stories we are portraying, and others, have told us that we deal with this very difficult subject in a reverent and respectful way, which is something we've tried to do while constructing the play.

Yet at the same time, we are trying to expose the awful reality of abortion and the devastating effects of it in real people's lives. Certainly there is some shock value to that, but we think it is a positive thing in terms of waking up people who have become complacent on the issue. We need to wake up to the awful reality that is in our midst and realize that we cannot be silent about this anymore; it should not continue.

ZENIT: Is this the main message you're hoping to get across through the drama?

Stanbary: First and foremost, I wanted to get these stories out to as many people as possible. They are very compelling testimonies.

Ever since Roe v. Wade it has been drummed into our culture that abortion is good for women, and that there are no long-term negative side effects.

There are so many levels of deception in the pro-abortion industry, and women are still being told that the young fetus is just a clump of cells. This is what they're being told in these clinics, even at a time in gestation where the child has legs, arms, hands, feet and a beating heart.

We simply want to break through those barriers, expose those deceptions, and portray what actually takes place inside of an abortion clinic.

This is one of the things I was most shocked by in doing my research and interviews for this play: what it is really like inside of a clinic and how biased the so-called counselors in these places really are.

Many times women and men, but women in particular, are scared. Maybe their initial inclination is to keep their child, and yet they are so pressured, misinformed and deceived into thinking that this procedure is no big deal, that life will get back to normal as usual after it happens, that it is just a clump of cells, and that this will be good for them.

What they find out afterwards is that an abortion brought greater devastation to their lives.

Thus the Silent No More Awareness movement is growing by leaps and bounds. We all may know of post-abortive women and men who have suffered in silence for years, even decades, from the devastation of their abortion. They have suppressed the pain and have been trying to justify their decision.

For the people in this movement, eventually the pain and devastation overcame them, and they decided to go through a process of healing and forgiveness in Christ.

So there are thousands, even, I would venture to say, millions of women who are finally coming to terms with the devastation that their abortions have brought them. They admit that this was a bad choice for them, and they are seeking healing and hope.

We're seeing hundreds and thousands of women and men now who have the courage to speak out publically about their experiences. When I heard some of these testimonies in 2005, it planted a seed, and I began wanting to develop a play based on these true stories.

And there are millions of other women and men who are suffering in silence and continue to do so, who aren't even cognizant of the fact that they're suffering from the effects of post traumatic stress disorder from their abortion.

Telling these stories can only facilitate people who are post-abortive and need a process of healing and forgiveness, who need hope, to realize that they're not alone, and these things out there for them. I think most people today at least know someone who is post-abortive.

Hopefully this play provides resources and insights for people to reach out to those people when they need help.

ZENIT: How do you reach out to those women who have had abortions?

Stanbary: It's just amazing -- they come. They end up in the audience somehow.

Or at least the people who know them come to see the drama. And if this play can provide the insights and the understanding that they need to help family or friends eventually come to terms with the negative effects of their abortion and find healing and hope, then we count that as a great success for this play.

We provide resources in our play programs for post-abortion counseling and healing. We also try to provide those materials on our product tables at our performances, and we always mention it after the show.

We invite people to take advantage of these resources if they need them personally or for others that they can pass them along to when the time is right.

It's a matter of education and providing the resources, and this play provides insights into a lot of issues that people aren't necessarily fully aware of otherwise.

Post-abortion grief and post-abortion trauma are very complex issues to deal with oftentimes. And I think this play may help people seek the healing that they need or provide an education for those to reach out to people they know that are post-abortive.

ZENIT: Could you say a little more about your plans to reach out to college students in particular, and what kind of a response you've had on campuses?

Stanbary: We're definitely trying to target this play to college campuses.

We're still very early on in the process, this play being a relatively new play for us. And so far we've performed on a handful of college campuses -- some Catholic and others secular -- and the response has been wonderful.

We plan to work more hands on with pro-life student groups, and help them effectively promote the play.

We're also emphasizing talk-back sessions after our performances, especially on college campuses. A lot of the material in this play is so heavy that we have found it to be helpful to offer a Q and A session after a performance.

This allows people to be able to process and discuss it with myself as the playwright, myself and my wife as the actors, and sometimes also with Silent No More Awareness speakers who join the panel to field questions as well.

Thus, even if people don't agree with a pro-life drama, they can at least voice their opinions afterwards.

We find that it's very difficult to become contentious with the message in this play, because we are simply telling real people's true stories.

We are trying to find ways to draw people in, especially people that need to see the drama.

Thus we're considering as part of a talk-back panel, we can arrange ahead of time to have a prominent pro-choice professor on the campus actually be part of it, with myself and my wife, maybe one of the pro-life professors at the college as well. This will help to draw in people that wouldn't normally see the play, but want to see what is going to happen. They know that someone on their side is going to be represented, so they are more likely to come. This is our goal, to get them there to see it.

ZENIT: What does the future hold for the Vitae Monologues?

Stanbary: On Thursday we will be appearing on the Eternal Word Television Network's "Life on the Rock" show. The network will also be making a studio recording to televise later in the year, to spread the drama throughout the world.

We just performed the play in the Diocese of Phoenix, and Bishop Thomas Olmstead expressed a great deal of support not only for our company but this play in particular.

He expressed his opinion that there is a tremendous need for this play, and said that he is excited to see it getting out to more and more audiences. So we are receiving great feedback and a lot of support.

--- --- ---

On the Net:

Plays are available for booking through the Maximus Group speaker services:

Epiphany Studio Productions:

Silent No More Awareness:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Argument of the Month Club, Tuesday: Marian Femininity vs. Modern Feminism

The Argument of the Month Club this month is hosting Dr. David Pence ( We like to call him Dr. Intense ) a well known speaker in the metro area will be debating Dr. Ozzie Mayers, a professor of English and Gender Studies from the Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. If any one of you has heard Dr. Intense, you know he is very entertaining and informative. His nick name give you a good idea of what you are in for. I heard, from a previous student of Dr. Mayer’s, that Dr. Mayers is a man with a great sense of humor and a great speaker. I believe he will be a terrific opponent for Dr. Intense.

You would be hard pressed to say that the Catholic Church has refused to acknowledge and embrace key freedom movements of the 20th century – fair treatment and just wages for workers, protection of the aged and unborn, and Civil Rights, among others fresh in our memory. So why are so many Christians so very skeptical of Feminism, which concerns itself with the dignity and fair treatment of women? And why would so many Feminists reject traditional notions and teachings of femininity set forth by the Church, and (if not explicitly) especially Marian theology? Has Feminism made an overwhelming case for the Catholic to turn away from long-held assertions of womanhood (rooted in Marian Femininity) in favor of modern Feminism?

Dr. Pence examines the connections between “the uprising of Feminism and the dethroning of Mary” and Dr. Mayers makes defends the distinctions that Feminism upholds, as well as those distinctions presented by his work in Gender Studies.

The event is being held at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, 408-3rd St N in South St. Paul, at a cost of $12 at the door.
A Social with Appetizers begin at 6:00 pm with Dinner served at 7:00 pm and the Fireworks begin at 7:30 pm.

  • Appetizer: AOTM Louisiana Hot Wings for starters and yes celery for those girly men who are watching their girlish figure. But for the real man who want taste, we have Blue Cheese dressing to stick that celery in.
  • Dinner: Jambalaya This spicy Cajun dish is just fantastic. My own Cajun sausage is fire roasted and then combined with an outlandish tomato Creole sauce. It overflows with onions, bell peppers, black beans and flavor.
  • Desert: The dessert is a delicious white cake with strawberry filling and vanilla frosting.