Friday, September 30, 2011

Cardinal DiNardo: Religion and Morality Essential Parts of a Freedom-Loving Society

Religion and Morality Essential Parts of a Freedom-Loving Society


Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, former "Bishop of Sioux City, IA
Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

September 26, 2011

This October the Catholic Church throughout the United States will observe Respect Life Month, an annual tradition now in its fortieth year.

Cardinal DiNardo on Respect Life Month

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo Releases Statement for October 2011, Respect Life Month

Beginning on October 2, 2011—Respect Life Sunday—Catholics across the nation will join together to witness to the inherent equality and transcendent value of every human being.

In countless liturgies and events we will give thanks to God for the gift of human life, and pray for his guidance and blessings on our efforts to defend the most vulnerable members of the human family.

We will voice our opposition to the injustice and cruelty of abortion on behalf of those victims whose voices have been silenced. At the same time, we will remind the living victims of abortion—the mothers and fathers who grieve the loss of an irreplaceable child—that God’s mercy is greater than any human sin, and that healing and peace can be theirs through the sacrament of reconciliation and the Church’s Project Rachel Ministry.

The theme chosen for this year’s Respect Life Program is I came so that all might have life and have it to the full. In this brief explanation of his mission (cf. John 10:10), Jesus refers both to our hope of eternal life, to be restored through his death and resurrection, and to our life in this world.

By following Jesus’ new Commandment of unselfish love, our lives can be richly fulfilling, and marked by joy and peace. In contrast, treating others as either means or obstacles to one’s self-serving goals, while never learning to love generously, is an impoverished way to live.

Viewing life as a “zero sum” game, in which advancing one’s interests requires putting aside the needs of others, can lead to callous unconcern for anyone who is especially weak, defenseless, and in need of our help. The unborn child, the aging parent who some call a “burden” on our medical system, the allegedly “excess” embryo in the fertility clinic, the person with a disability, the cognitively impaired accident victim who needs assistance in receiving food and water to live—each today is at risk of being dismissed as a “life unworthy of life.”

Jesus’ promise of “life to the full” is especially poignant today, when our culture and sometimes our government promote values inimical to the happiness and true good of individuals and society. We face increasing attempts to expunge God and religious discourse from public life. This promotes the dangerous proposition that human beings enjoy no special status by virtue of their God-given humanity. Some now even seek to eliminate religiously motivated people and organizations from public programs, by forcing them to violate their moral and religious convictions or stop serving the needy.

The same forces, aided by advertising and entertainment media, promote a selfish and demeaning view of human sexuality, by extolling the alleged good of sexual activity without love or commitment. This view of sex as “free” of commitment or consequences has no place for openness to new life. Hence contraceptives are promoted even to young teens as though they were essential to women’s well-being, and abortion defended as the “necessary” back-up plan when contraceptives fail. And fail they do. Studies report that most women seeking abortions were using contraception in the month they became pregnant. Again and again, studies show that increasing access to contraception fails to reduce rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

Both these trends—a distorted view of sexuality and a disdain for the role of religion—are exhibited by the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent decision on the “preventive services” to be mandated in virtually all private health plans under the new health care law. The Department ruled that such mandated services will include surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices—including the abortifacient drug “Ella,” a close analogue to the abortion pill RU-486.

The decision is wrong on many levels. Preventive services are aimed at preventing diseases (e.g., by vaccinations) or detecting them early to aid prompt treatment (e.g., screening for diabetes or cancer). But pregnancy is not a disease. It is the normal, healthy state by which each of us came into the world. Far from preventing disease, contraceptives can have serious health consequences of their own, for example, increasing the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, such as AIDS, increasing the risk of breast cancer from excess estrogen, and of blood clots that can lead to stroke from synthetic progestin. Mandating such coverage shows neither respect for women’s health or freedom, nor respect for the consciences of those who do not want to take part in such problematic initiatives.

The “religious employer” exemption offered by the Department is so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one. Catholic institutions providing health care and other services to the needy could be forced to fire their non-Catholic employees and cease serving the poor and vulnerable of other faiths—or stop providing health coverage at all. It has been said that Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as “religious enough” for the exemption, since they insisted on helping people who did not share their view of God.

All these misguided efforts to foster false values among our youth, to silence the voice of moral truth in the public domain, and to deprive believers of their constitutionally-protected right to live according to their religious convictions, must be resisted by education, public advocacy, and above all by prayer.

The founders of our nation understood that religion and morality are essential to the survival of a freedom-loving society. John Adams expressed this conviction, stating:

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.

Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principles we hold essential to the common good, beginning with the right to life of every human being and the right of every woman and man to express and live by his or her religious beliefs and well-formed conscience.

As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us last year in one of his Ad Limina addresses to visiting bishops, “a society can be built only by tirelessly respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person.” That common nature transcends all accidental differences of age, race, strength, or conditions of dependency, preparing us to be one human family under God.

During this Respect Life Month, as we celebrate God’s great gift of life, let us pray and reflect on how each of us might renew our commitment and witness to “respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person,” thereby shoring up the foundations of a society sorely in need of this guidance. Courageous Priest

Thursday, September 29, 2011

National praise keeps pouring on Duluth's College of St. Scholastica

If your school is on the cover of Sports Illustrated, chances are you just won a national sports championship. If it winds up in a news magazine, however, brace yourself; your school is probably embroiled in controversy.

If your school is on the cover of Sports Illustrated, chances are you just won a national sports championship. If it winds up in a news magazine, however, brace yourself; your school is probably embroiled in controversy.

But not always, especially not when that news magazine is U.S. News & World Report, and certainly not when it’s the U.S. News & World Report’s always-

anticipated annual “Best Colleges” issue.

The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth has been spotlighted by the magazine at least 12 times since 1996, often alongside the University of Minnesota Duluth. The impressive trail of tributes continued this month when a St. Scholastica major, the oldest of its kind in the nation, was among nine listed as “hot” right now by the national publication.

The health information management major has existed at St. Scholastica in one form or another since 1934. The program has evolved with the times and with a commitment to remain on the cutting edge of technology. Its instructors are now considered national leaders in the field.

“They’re unsung heroes,” the college’s Bob Ashenmacher told the News Tribune Opinion page, referring to health information management instructors Kathleen LaTour and Shirley Eichenwald Maki, both of whom are retiring at the end of this academic year.

“St. Scholastica’s (Health Informatics and Information Management) Department is one of those quiet riches that are mostly invisible but that, year after year and decade after decade, make up the true wealth of our community,” Ashenmacher said. “For nearly 80 years this department has been turning out professionals who keep us safer, who make American health care effective and who today are leading the effort to make it more efficient through the electronic health record.”

Duluth’s institutions of higher education have received national attention the past couple of years for athletic achievements on ice, on the gridiron and elsewhere. While taking nothing away from the national championships, all the Northland can be proud of this latest reminder from U.S. News & World Report that excellence in Duluth extends to academics, too. Duluth News Tribune

I'm prejudiced. My Mom's sister, Sister Ann Edward, O.S.B., was a president of St. Scholastica ['the Villa"] back in the 60's. The then Medical Records major attracted students from around the world. It was one of the first such majors in the country.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shantae Holmes remade her life, and is now trying to build a business in North Minneapolis


She remade her life, and is now trying to build a business in North Minneapolis

Shantae Holmes: "I'm feeling positive. I'm still committed to this goal of mine."
Shantae Holmes: "I'm feeling positive. I'm still committed to this goal of mine."

A decade ago Shantae Holmes walked out of the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Shakopee, telling her jailers: "You won't see me again. I'm not coming back."

She did return years later, but wearing a visitor's pass. By then a community college graduate with a human services degree and a clean record and wisdom surpassing her years, she visited the prison as a role model and to help others get straight.

Holmes, a North Minneapolis woman who overcame drugs for a better life, is being honored today by the League of Catholic Women, a group with a name born in a different era and a deep-rooted history of service to women and children. This is the centennial year of the group housed in that little building with the big green door at 207 S. Ninth St. in Minneapolis.

Shantae (pronounced shawn-tay) Holmes and two other mothers will receive a $500 check and a Women Becoming award for beating the odds and achieving success.

Working for a social service agency, she once led support groups and shepherded women through court appearances, but her real dream was to open a business that would make her some money and help others as well. Today she's a businesswoman, and that brings new challenges.

Holmes has indeed beaten the odds, and her story has been told in the local media. But when you talk with her, beneath the upbeat tone and behind the pride of accomplishment you hear a hint of uncertainty brought on by a poor economy and a tornado.

Almost 14 months ago Holmes, 40, realized that goal, opening All Washed Up, a laundry service in a redeveloped commercial area on the North Side near Penn and Lowry Avenues N. Neighbors and the business community applauded.

Sen. Al Franken even came by to shake her hand.

Her business is 3,128 square feet of family-friendly sunny space with 22 washers and 22 dryers, a couple of flat-screen TVs, a kids' play area and snack-food vending machines, as well as laundry pick up and delivery service. What makes it a stand-out is Holmes upfront, greeting customers with smiles and offers to help.

Communal effort
Getting the business up and running was a major communal effort, involving profits and non-profits, including St. Paul-based Wellington Management, the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers and the Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON).

"Shantae is a very, very unique individual,'' says Grover Jones, executive director of NEON, an organization that works with minorities who want to start businesses, particularly in North Minneapolis.

Holmes, he says, came from a religious upbringing and a good family, but she'd fallen off the rails for a while. She came to NEON for business-start-up help.

"It was not an easy project to pull together,'' Jones says, but she persevered.

Start-up costs ran about $375,000 for outfitting her building, purchasing equipment, including about $40,000 from her own pocket, she says, and not counting the expense of all those costly extras like plastic slipcovers for clothes, business cards, hangers, a wet vacuum, an industrial fan.

"It left me $14 of working capital pretty much,'' she tells me, admitting she's still not paying herself a salary, though she pays three other employees.

Getting the business up and running was a major communal effort, involving profits and non-profits.
Getting the business up and running was a major communal effort, involving profits and non-profits.

Holmes is also engaged to be married, and her fiancé and his business pay living expenses for Holmes and her kids. (She is mother of two boys ages 7 and 9 diagnosed with autism, and a 3-year-old daughter.)

Their wedding is in the distant future. "Right now we can't even afford to buy a broom to jump over. We maybe could afford the rice,'' she laughs.

Factor in a major economic recession and a tornado sweeping past her door in May, and see her challenges. Her building wasn't damaged but power outages cost her. No electricity, no business.

Still, when the lights came on she passed out free laundry coupons to tornado victims, a generous gesture to the neighborhood she grew up in and a good marketing move paid for in part by a consortium of area churches.

"She knew the struggles of those North Minneapolis families,'' says Cassandra Cheatem, family services manager at Northside Child Development Center where Holmes used to bring her children for child care. She's known Holmes for eight years and nominated her for the League award. "She was a hard worker. She always had the drive to continue, no matter the obstacles.''

Holmes is a cancer survivor, and Cheatem sometimes drove Holmes, now closing in on four years cancer-free, to chemotherapy treatments. "She didn't give up. She always said she had too much at stake. She said, 'I have children to raise. This cancer will not beat me.'''

Helping customers
Customers trickled in one mid-morning Monday to the self-serve laundry on a street corner that used to attract the prostitution trade.

The door opens and Holmes turns on her smile. "Welcome to All Washed Up. Can I help?'' Holmes asks patron Cari Acker.

No, she's fine, Acker says, acknowledging it's her first time there, that she's pushing a pile of white plastic bags with dirty laundry in a running stroller because the tornado that ripped through town last May destroyed her car and damaged her house, including her washer and dryer.

Do you need help? Holmes asks, because there are resources out there and she could steer her in the right direction.

No, she had insurance, Acker says, smiling.

As for her business future? The next six months will tell, Holmes says. Now it's up to the community to show support, even though customers wait a little longer before making that trip to the laundry and try to fill the wash tubs a little too full. It's the economy, she says.

The business is "not where it needs to be,'' she says, but "I'm still energized. I'm feeling positive. I'm still committed to this goal of mine. Anything worth having is worth working for.''

Related content

The League of Catholic Women's awards, says President Rita Fox, both recognize the heroic strides of remarkable young women as well as highlight the League's 100 years of service.

Fox says the awards are a "recruitment and publicity effort" to bolster membership and keep valuable programs going.

League members are first responders of a sort, recognizing the unmet needs of women like Holmes, as well as children and immigrants, and then stepping in to help.

A century ago they operated residences for single working women, later sheltering fatherless children and their mothers, and operating group homes for girls and boys. More recently through their First Impression program they supply job-interview coaching and professional clothing to those in need, stock cloth gift bags with toiletries and more for women leaving incarceration. Their Read to Me program matches members and kids from the Northside Achievement Zone.

At luncheon today at Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville, Holmes and two other women will receive awards.

The others are:

Rosalind Anderson of Brooklyn Park, parent to three, who overcame economic, educational and single-parenting barriers to become a registered nurse working in the neo-natal care unit at Hennepin County Medical Center,

Natasha Holt, also of North Minneapolis, and mother of two, including a child with cerebral palsy, who graduated from Minneapolis Community and Technical College in June and is working toward a four-year degree to become a hospital child-life specialist.

Helping the women reach their goals were different groups, including the League with such efforts as its By Your Side mentoring program, as well as Northside Child Development Center, St. Catherine University's Access and Success program, and the Jeremiah Program, Fox says.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Historic St. John's Bible is finished


Amen! Historic St. John's Bible is finished

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts exhibits the last 18 pages of the handwritten manuscript.
Calligrapher Donald Jackson surrounded the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from the Book of Revelation, with symbols of 21st-century life and hardships: tanks, oil rigs, cancer, AIDS and famine.



"Do you want me to make the word of God live on the page?" British calligrapher Donald Jackson asked more than 15 years ago.

It was an audacious question. St. John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., said, "Yes."

And so began a grand and improbable collaboration between a little Benedictine community in Minnesota and a guy then best known for handwriting the ceremonial marriage documents of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. Together they produced the only handwritten and illuminated Bible created in the past 500 years, a total of 1,150 artful pages sparkling with gold leaf and jewel-toned colors.

In a triumphal conclusion, "The St. John's Bible, Amen!," a small show featuring the last pages from the final volume, opens Friday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. On view through Nov. 13, the exhibit features just 18 pages from "Letters and Revelation," in which Jackson's colorful illustrations frame and accentuate graceful lines of biblical text.

St. John's took on the project "because it's what monks do," John Klassen, abbot at St. John's Abbey and University, said at an opening ceremony Thursday. "It was a chance to help ignite the spiritual imagination of people around the world."

Conceived to celebrate the millennium in 2000, the St. John's Bible is expected to serve as an inspiration and pilgrimage point through the next millennium.

Goose-quill pens

Though written in the ancient manner -- using goose-quill pens on 2-foot-tall sheets of polished calfskin called vellum -- the Bible also reflects contemporary times. Graceful Minnesota dragonflies with translucent wings rest on delicate sprigs of Yorkshire fog grass in two illustrations. Modern tanks, oil rigs and symbols of 21st-century pestilence -- cancer, the AIDS virus, starving faces -- lurk behind the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in another image, while golden angels soar over a city of bejeweled glass in a third panel.

The project involved a flock of Benedictine scholars who advised Jackson and picked out passages to be "illuminated" with images and elaborate lettering. An international team of about 20 calligraphers and illustrators helped Jackson prepare the English text using a special calligraphic style or "hand" that he designed just for the Bible. The 1,150 pages eventually will be bound in seven volumes that comprise a single Bible. For now, however, the sheets are loose for easier display. When formally announced in 1999, the project was expected to take about six years and cost $3 million. That stretched to 12 years and more than doubled in cost, although St. John's officials declined to put a dollar figure on it.

"There were thousands of benefactors who believed in the project and made it possible through their generosity, from Boy Scout troops who sent a few dollars to several families who gave over $1 million each," said Rob Culligan, St. John's vice president for institutional advancement.

Extremely limited edition

In addition to the single copy of the Bible, the project has spun off coffee-table books, posters, notecards and bookmarks. Exhibitions about it have been presented at museums, galleries and other sites throughout the United States, Canada and in England. St. John's is producing a full-scale, near-facsimile version known as the Heritage Edition. Only 299 copies of that version are being published. Initially priced in 2006 at $115,000 for a seven-volume set, those books have gone to more than 40 collectors, libraries, universities and churches, including the Vatican Library and Museum in Rome and the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.

Jackson, 74, and his wife, Mabel, who live in Monmouth, Wales, delivered the last pages of the Bible to St. John's this spring and were not on hand for the exhibition's debut. He is not a Catholic nor even a religious man by temperament, but writing the Bible was a lifelong dream whose completion has obviously been enormously satisfying, friends say.

"When you have the whole Bible wash through you and then write it out, you are transfigured by it, too," said Eric Hollas, a St. John's official and longtime friend of Jackson. "He may not have been particularly spiritual in the beginning, but the words take over at the end, so in that respect he is a changed man." StarTribune

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Courageous Priests

A blog, entitled Courageous Priests, follows the activities of the following American Priests. The highlighted ones are the Upper Midwest's contribution, our priests, to that list.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Duluth Deacon gets first taste of solemn high E.F. Mass

When Deacon Scott Peters of St. Benedict in Duluth was in deacon formation, he was told repeatedly that you never know just what ministry you will find yourself in. But perhaps the last thing he expected was to be preparing for a solemn high Mass as it would have been celebrated in 1962.

Yet that Mass, with a polyphony choir, a chant schola, servers and another permanent deacon who is coming up from a Twin Cities parish famous for its traditional liturgies to fill the subdeacon role, will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, at St. Benedict. The liturgical celebration is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and it is the anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum,” which liberalized access to the traditional Mass.

“I never thought that I would be working in liturgy, especially the Traditional Latin Mass,” Deacon Peters said. When he was in formation, he was doing social work and thought his ministry might involve that. He says he didn’t even know what the old rite was.

He said the whole thing began with the Duluth Men’s Schola. (Full disclosure: This writer is the founder and director of the schola, which will be singing Sept. 14.) Then Father Eric Hastings, who will celebrate the Sept. 14 Mass, began to offer the simplest version of the Traditional Latin Mass, a “low Mass,” and there were no servers, so Deacon Peters learned how to serve.

From there, things began to develop slowly. The next step was doing the more complicated sung version of the Traditional Latin Mass, a “missa cantata,” culminating in a heavily attended missa cantata last year featuring a polyphony choir. (This year the choir will be singing William Byrd’s “Mass for Four Voices.”)

From there, the next step was a solemn high Mass, which is vastly more complex — and a vastly more demanding liturgy for a deacon.

Deacon Peters said all along it was something meant to be guided by the Holy Spirit and carried out peacefully.

“There are no agendas, there were no expectations, it was just people who loved liturgy and wanted to be faithful to what the Holy Father was asking of us,” he said.

He said the pope’s writings on the liturgy call the older form of the liturgy a “precious treasure to be preserved” and something he wants to offer “to all the faithful.”

“In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture,” the pope wrote in Summorum Pontificum, in a passage pointed out by Deacon Peters. “What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

A bigger role

In the Traditional Latin Mass, there is really no liturgical role for a deacon in the low Mass or even in a missa cantata. All that changes in the solemn high Mass. For one thing, he will have to chant the Gospel — in Latin.

But the complexity goes well beyond that. Deacon Peters said the deacon’s role includes praying some of the prayers that in the ordinary form of the liturgy are said only by the priest.

“It’s a subordinate role, but it’s much more assisting the priest,” he said. “. . . It’s very heavy rubrics, and the deacon is assisting the priest in every aspect of it.”

He said in some ways this is easier than in the ordinary form liturgy because everything is spelled out very exactly. “There’s never a moment that’s not choreographed,” he said. But the rubrics are also very complex.

“There’s a beauty to it, there’s a history to it, there’s a theological meaning behind every gesture,” he said.

Learning all that has been a labor of love for the past year. Deacon Peters met John McLoughlin, who will be the master of ceremonies at the Mass, for an hour every week, so they could pray evening prayer, study the rubrics and practice them. Joining them at many of those practices were parishioner John Specht and his sons, who will be serving the Mass.

The group from St. Benedict will be assisted by Deacon Nathan Allen from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, a canon lawyer who is familiar with the older rite from his work at St. Agnes parish in St. Paul but who has never done a solemn high Mass either. Deacon Peters said his counterpart was gracious enough to do the subdeacon role and leave the deacon role to him since he had already learned it.

Deacon Peters freely admits that his work with the traditional liturgy has changed him as a deacon. “I’m a different deacon than I was before,” he said. He said he is more prayerful and reverent in how he approaches the sacrifice of the Mass, in whichever form it’s celebrated, a sentiment he has also heard from altar servers.

He said the approach for this Mass and all the work associated with it is not confrontational or controversial but simply motivated by a desire to hand a “precious treasure” on, as a gift.

“We want it to be an act of love,” he said.

He said the parish is inviting all the faithful from the region to attend. Priests and deacons from the diocese are invited to attend the Mass and sit in choir, as there is no concelebration in this form of the Mass. For details, contact the parish at (218) 724-4828.
Northern Cross

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gossip: Who will be the New Archbishop in Denver: Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo?

With today's big event being the installation of His Excellency, Charles Chaput as the new Metropolitan in Philadelphia, I thought it an opportunity to put it out there as to my thoughts as a potential successor for him in Denver.

But first, let's look at what kind of shoes would need to be filled. In the public sphere especially, Archbishop Chaput has been outspoken on the issues of the day, especially giving a strong voice to the pro-life movement.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, he was highly critical of then-candidate Barack Obama, and especially the messiah-complex that he seemed to garner from his supporters.

His book, Render unto Caesar, reiterates this point, encouraging all Catholics to take a more active stance in public life, and for standing up for the truths of the Faith.

He has been especially critical in fighting off the advances of same sex "marriage" advocates, and well articulating the positive position of the Church's teachings in this area, and highlighting the underlying agenda by those who would see that ideology advanced.

As if that weren't enough, he has in the past also publicly disagreed with the prevailing winds of the USCCB-- that is to say, he is not afraid to be his own Bishop.

In addition, ++Chaput is a sincere and personally holy man. I have had the chance to meet him and talk with him briefly, and he is a true pastor.

All of that said, who do I think would be an ideal successor to him in Denver?
Benedictus Dominus

There have been quite a few episcopal appointments in the area in recent years.

2002 -- Fr. Donald Kettler of Sioux Falls became Bishop of Fairbanks, Alaska.
2004 -- Bishop Raymond Burke of La Crosse became Archbishop of St. Louis and then in 2008 went to Rome
2004 -- Bishop Robert Carlson (formerly an Auxiliary in St. Paul-Minneapolis) left Sioux Falls for Saginaw and then went as Archbishop to St. Louis in 2008
2004 -- Auxiliary Bishop Jerome Listecki replaced Bishop Burke in La Crosse, coming from Chicago, and then today replaced Archbishop Tim Dolan, now in New York, in Milwaukee
2004 -- Bishop Daniel Di Nardo of Sioux City headed off to Galveston-Houston as Archbishop and soon thereafter as Cardinal
2006 -- Fr. Ralph Nickless came from Denver to fill the vacancy in Sioux City as Bishop
2006 -- Fr. Paul Swain came from Madison to fill the vacancy as Bishop of Sioux Falls that had been overlooked because of the similiarity of names, it is thought.
2007 -- Fr. Michael Hoeppner went from Winona to Crookston to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of Bishop Victor Balke.
2007 -- Fr. Peter Christensen went from Nativity Parish in St. Paul to Superior to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of Bishop Raphael Fliss.

2008 -- Bishop John Nienstedt, originally from Detroit, came to St. Paul Minneapolis from New Ulm as Coadjutor Archbishop. He succeeded in 2009
2008 -- Fr. John LeVoir went from St Paul Minneapolis to New Ulm to fill the vacancy caused by the departure of Archbishop Nienstedt.
2008 --Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates in St. Paul Minneapolis went to Des Moines as Bishop
2008 --Auxiliary Bishop John Quinn came from Detroit to Winona to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of Bishop Bernard Harrington.
2009 -- Fr. Lee Piche' became the Auxiliary Bishop in St. Paul Minneapolis
2009 -- Bishop Dennis Schnurr of Duluth went to Cincinnati as Coadjutor Archbishop and just recently succeeded.
2009 -- Fr. Paul Sirba just became Bishop of Duluth.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Leech Lake area priest leads effort to build school in Kenya

The pastor of not one but two parishes in the Leech Lake area of the Duluth diocese is building an elementary school in Africa in what little spare time he has. And, he is doing it in less than one year with committees of volunteers both in Minnesota and in his native Kenya.

Submitted photo

During his recent visit home to Kenya, Father Kabiru stopped by the only elementary school in the Moto region to explain his school project to children who would benefit most from having a less crowded school located much closer to their home village.
Father Francis Kabiru, pastor of St. Agnes in Walker and Sacred Heart in Hackensack since last April, has both parish communities enthused and involved in the school project. He has established a Minnesota nonprofit organization, Moto Hope Mission, Inc., to oversee the project and a Project Steering Committee to raise funds.

During a trip back to his homeland in Kenya earlier this year, Father Kabiru formed committees to manage construction and staffing. He also bought three acres of land for the school in the rural village of Moto, near where he grew up as the eighth of 12 children.

“‘Moto’ is a Swahili word that means ‘fire,’ and we believe each one of us has that ‘moto’ — that fire — within us to make a difference for those who have little or no access to a good education,” Father Kabiru said. He noted the Moto Hope Mission, Inc., logo is a flame.

“Our goal is to reach out to the underprivileged children of Moto, Kenya, and help empower them through education,” said the 37-yearold priest.

Bishop Paul Sirba was impressed when Father Kabiru and several volunteer leaders briefed him on the project in May. In a June 2 letter to the Moto Hope Mission board, Bishop Sirba said: “Projects such as this can have lifechanging experiences to those who get involved. I think with Father Francis, your pastor, being from the area, you have a unique opportunity for solidarity between our two countries.” The bishop commended both parishes for embracing the project, adding, “I support and encourage faith communities to engage in efforts like this and wish you great success on this project.”

The Moto Hope Elementary School will be located very near where Father Kabiru was born and raised, about 150 miles northwest of Nairobi. It will be built in four phases, starting as a day school with five classrooms but upgraded later with more classrooms and boarding facilities.

“Phase One is the five classrooms we hope to construct this fall for $65,000, with the goal of opening the school to students in early 2012. This will be followed as quickly as possible with funding for Phase Two — five more classrooms. Phase Three includes an administrative office, computer lab and library, hopefully in 2012. Dormitories will be Phase Four,” Father Kabiru said.

“Access to education is a critical need in this remote area,” he said. “Many youngsters walk over four miles each way to attend an overcrowded Moto central school. Some never try, and most give up after a year or two. This project is in response to a need the Kenyan government is unable to meet because of the vast rural area the school will serve. Once our school is up and running, however, it will then qualify for limited but vital government support, much like the charter school concept here in Minnesota.”

The Moto Hope Elementary School will be open to all, regardless of religion or income, which, for a majority of Moto families, is under $2 per day. And although the school won’t be Catholic, it will work closely with Catholic education resources in Kenya in the areas of teacher recruitment and training and curriculum development. “Spiritual nourishment of children is very important to the Kenyan people,” Father Kabiru said.

He credits those “Catholic education resources” as well as his parents for encouraging his own education in Kenya. He graduated from high school, then went on to college, where he received a degree in philosophy. In 2002, Father Kabiru graduated from Christ the King Major Seminary with a degree in theology and religious studies. He taught history and religion in a Catholic high school while continuing to discern a possible vocation to the priesthood.

In January 2004, Father Kabiru flew to the United States to visit his brother in Massachusetts and a friend in Virginia, Minn. He was introduced to Bishop Dennis Schnurr during his Minnesota visit, and the bishop asked him to consider becoming a priest under the auspices of the Diocese of Duluth. After prayerful consideration, Father Kabiru accepted the invitation and earned a master’s degree in theology from the St. Paul Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul in 2006. He was ordained a deacon at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis in May 2006 and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Duluth in June 2007.

Following his ordination, Father Kabiru was assigned to Blessed Sacrament in Hibbing and then, in July 2009, to St. Joseph in Grand Rapids. Less than a year later, he received a letter from the diocese’s new bishop assigning him to serve as pastor of the two parishes in Walker and Hackensack in April 2010.

Parishioners at St. Agnes and Sacred Heart enjoy Father Kabiru’s stories about growing up in Kenya, and they have learned much about Kenya and its people in the short time he has been their pastor. “The call for volunteers to assist with the school project was met with an overwhelming response,” said Mike Bergmann, a St. Agnes parishioner and chair of the project’s steering committee.

“Shortly after we announced the project, informational dinners were held in early June at both parishes and authentic Kenyan food was served up to capacity crowds in African decorated social halls right here in Walker and Hackensack, Minn.,” said Bergmann. Guests at both dinners viewed PowerPoint presentations on Kenya and the project, and were told details of plans to raise $65,000 to fund Phase One of the project, the first five classrooms.

“There was tremendous interest in the project at the dinners, and that has carried over to our summer visitors, as well,” said Bergmann, who explained that both parishes have a big influx of seasonal parishioners and people on vacation this time of year, especially during long holiday weekends. It was decided to conduct second collections on the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends for the school. “We couldn’t believe the response to the Fourth of July weekend second collections at both Sacred Heart and St. Agnes. A total of over $10,000 was collected between the two parishes. We are amazed and very pleased at how much the Moto Hope school project has touched people,” Bergmann said.

Bergmann also said a major fundraising dinner has been scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Northern Lights Casino Event Center in Walker. Letters of invitation will be going out in August to all parishioners as well as friends and acquaintances of Father Kabiru. The program includes three Minnesotans who have led mission trips to Kenya and will share their experiences in working with schools and children as an important part of their faith journey. The dinner is complimentary, but guests will be asked to make a contribution. For reservations, call (218) 547-2865.

Father Kabiru said that, to date, more than $30,000 has been raised toward the $65,000 goal to complete Phase One of the project. “I am hoping that by the time we have our fundraising banquet in September, we will have Phase One all but paid for and be starting on Phase Two,” he said. He noted that the Moto board approved start of construction, based on the success of fundraising so far, at its July 12 meeting in Walker.

“If we remain on schedule, our first classes at the Moto Hope Elementary School will begin in early 2012. I think everyone involved in the project or who has contributed to it will be filled with joy and amazement at what we can do when we come together to build the Kingdom of God both here and in Kenya,” Father Kabiru said.

“My passion for education was instilled in me by Catholic missionaries when I was growing up in Kenya,” he said. “Through prayer and education, I received the faith that unites us all as church and became a priest. It is by God’s grace that I am now serving the people of God in northern Minnesota. And, by God’s grace, we are now working together here in northern Minnesota to serve the people of God in Kenya. I think all of us feel this is the way it’s supposed to be.”
Northern Cross, Diocese of Duluth

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Legacies of Faith – the Catholic Churches of Stearns County


Reading Minnesota: Legacies of Faith w/WCCO interview

by Robert Roscoe and John Roscoe
Photography by Doug Ohman

Scores of remarkable brick Gothic and Romanesque style Catholic churches, perhaps the most significant religious architecture in rural Minnesota, are clustered within the rural core of Stearns County, seeming to be hidden in the wide open spaces of central Minnesota prairie. These remarkably designed churches form the basis of the recently published book Legacies of Faith – the Catholic Churches of Stearns County, written by John Roscoe and Robert Roscoe, and published by North Star Press of Saint Cloud. Renowned Minnesota photographer Doug Ohman’s 180 color images illustrate their magnificent interiors and richly ornamented details. Stearns County’s culturally distinct rural hamlets, many only five miles apart, are similar to their European counterparts. These iconic structures came into form by German and Polish immigrant farm communities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Legacies of Faith – the Catholic Churches of Stearns County brings to light the history of how these magnificent churches came into being from extraordinary circumstances of historical, social and ethnic forces, and why these communities created such great works of architecture.


Robert Roscoe
Robert’s primary work is Design for Preservation, devoted to residential renovation, with an emphasis on historic preservation. His professional experience includes 36 years of architectural office experience. His education includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History and five years in the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota. His writing has been focused on architectural aspects of historic preservation-related issues. Robert served as editor of the Minnesota Preservationist, a publication of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota for 14 years.

John Roscoe
John’s writing and historical research has developed from his educational career, teaching literature and writing for the Aitkin and Albany, Minnesota school districts. His education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from St. Cloud State University with a major in English as well as graduate studies at St. Cloud State and the University of Minnesota. The research involved in writing this book has led him to an even greater appreciation of the immigrant experience and how it produced the remarkable outcomes embodied in its churches.

Doug Ohman
Doug Ohman is an acclaimed photographer with extensive experience in photography, has produced images from every county in Minnesota, many which appear in a wide array of leading publications and exhibits of historic preservation. These photographs aptly express the architectural attributes of the buildings while revealing the regional characteristics of their setting.

“A sumptuous visual sampling of awe-inspiring churches, many well over 100 years old.”- Dennis Dalman, Sartell Newsleader

“Brothers John and Robert Roscoe have combined John’s familiarity with Stearns County and Robert’s expertise in architecture with photographer Doug Ohman’s professionalism to create an intriguing and lovely book.” — Sue Halena, St. Cloud Times

“Beautifully put together….it should sell like hotcakes.” — Dave Wood, Pierce County (WI) Herald

We appeared on a segment of Life to the Max hosted by Mike Max of WCCO Television. Watching this episode will give the viewer a visual sampling of the churches we wrote about in Legacies of Faith.

We were interviewed by morning host Bob Hughes on WJON Radio in St. Cloud.

North Star Press of St. Cloud




Friday, September 2, 2011

A catechetical training day for teachers in a Catholicschool and CCD program.

This might be helpful for teachers and homeschoolers, and those of us whose catechetical education is lacking, or, so far in the past, that it is probably non-existant.

I Don’t Need your Catechism!

A couple of years ago, a pastor asked me to provide a catechetical training day for teachers in his Catholic school and CCD program. One of my first questions to him was what issues had developed that required my assistance. The Pastor voiced to me his concern over poor doctrinal formation he suspected the children were receiving. I asked him how he finally came to this point. He said, “I knew things were off when all I saw was glue, crayons, construction paper and scissors during an eighth grade religion class.” Right there and then I realized what I had to work with.

The inevitable day arrived. As the catechists walked into the parish center, we began with prayer and introductions. I typically begin with a short story reflecting on the catechetical formation for the day. This process helps to gauge the audience and determine when to run when they have had enough. Kidding aside, the first segment involved preparing them for the day, the aim of the instruction — its purpose and goals, their desires, and application for the classroom. A good strategy when teaching teachers is not to patronize them. They are teachers and know everything. I know; I am one of them. In reality, the heart of instruction here lies with an authentic witness of the living Gospel of Jesus Christ in a gradual loving way.

Knowing that many teachers resort to arts and crafts because of a genuine fear and ignorance in teaching the Catholic faith to students I began the training by asking the catechists for the one thing they would like to know about the faith, the one thing they still had questions on. After a subtle pause (pretty typical) hands were raised. The questions asked centered on sin, true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, confession, purgatory, Mass participation, is the Church biblical?, Mary, how to read the bible, other religions, etc. My next question to them was why they wanted to know about these particular doctrines. Their response was nothing short of amazing. They did not know how these particular teachings came to be! Keep in mind, these catechists are supposedly teaching children the Catholic faith. Right there and then I realized we needed to start at the very beginning: Do you believe in God the Father the almighty?

If the teachers do not have a sound understanding of how their live reflect the Gospel, let alone living within the Story of Salvation, then how are they going to impart the story to their students? Hence, the focal point of the problem we face in the catechetical field. Our catechists lack basic doctrinal formation. I charted a different course of action realizing that this group needed a systematic engaging approach to learn and apply Catholic doctrine in the classroom.

The result was a mini-RCIA course where I went through Salvation History and presented to them their role in light of Jesus Christ the Divine Teacher (Heb 11:6). In other words, they needed to see how the Church came to be, their role within the Church, and the graces given to us by Christ at Baptism to continue His work in the Church He founded. A basic outline of the curriculum for this training session looked something like this:

  1. Introduction to God’s plan for salvation in our lives.
  2. Creation and God’s love for us.
  3. Original Sin and the fall from grace because of the first sin.
  4. Proto-evangelium (First Gospel)
  5. God’s covenants with his people i.e. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses
  6. The role of our Blessed Mother as the “New Eve.”
  7. Summary on Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture
  8. Summary on Apologetics
  9. Summary of the Seven Sacraments
  10. Summary of the Ten Commandments
  11. Summary of Mortal Sin and Venial Sin
  12. The Incarnation
  13. Liturgy and the Mass
  14. The Church
  15. Lives of the Saints
  16. The Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Apostles Creed.

It was important the catechists saw the biblical basis for these doctrinal pillars. In addition, they needed to become conversant with how the Catechism references the teachings of the Church through the footnotes. A short primer on how to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church and view the references, cross-references, and article numbers to find a particular teaching gave the catechists a better grasp of the information.

This experience is common. A generation of uncatechized faithful over the past thirty-years has drifted throughout their Catholic life not knowing the graces they received through their Baptism. The recitation of our Baptismal promises appears as an afterthought to many. Since we are asked within the Rite of Baptism, “Do you reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises? Do you reject sin… and refuse to be mastered by sin?” it behooves us to ask the question to these teachers whether they truly understand what sin is in order to reject it.

When I posed this very question to one of the teachers in the training session, the response was a common one: “Why do we need to concentrate on sin, it is more important to focus on the works of Jesus?” Do you see where this particular catechist has quietly misaligned the purpose of Christ and His Church. Whether its ignorance, issues with the doctrine of sin, or a personal experience initiating this response, the opportunity to discuss the nature of sin was important, but difficult. Now, we must be careful when discussing the doctrine of sin from this pastoral perspective: we do not know what the person has gone through personally, where a certain sinful act may have caused negative, spiritual harm or drawn out a bad experience. It is vital that catechists or trainers of catechists be carefully aware of the audience they are instructing. However, we cannot shy away from addressing the dangers of sin itself.

Another teacher, noting her frustration in sitting through what was, in her opinion, a dreadful class said these magic words:You can keep your catechism! How do you expect me to apply it in the classroom?

This brave soul echoed the sentiments of others who had resisted on using the Catechism in the classroom. This “shot heard around the classroom,” reflected the genuine mentality of many teachers, viewing the Catechism as a useless tool probably because it did not provide pictures for the kids to “color” and “cut-out.” This comment troubled me because of an apparent ignorance towards the application or appreciation of the Catechism. There is legitimacy to the argument that it is not the teachers’ fault. From one perspective, this may be true; nonetheless, it does not negate the fact of what we are dealing with now. St. Augustine — the Father of Catechetics — describes catechizing the ignorant in this way:

The best method for instructing ignorant men in Christian doctrine, one that will bear much fruit is to ask questions in a friendly fashion after the explanation; from this questioning one can learn whether each one understood what he heard or whether the explanation needs repeating. In order that the learner grasp the matter, we must ascertain by questioning whether the one being catechized has understood, and in accordance with his response, we must either explain more clearly and fully or not dwell further on what is known to them etc. But if a man is very slow, he must be mercifully helped and the most necessary doctrines especially should be briefly imparted to him.

As the Catechist trainer in this situation, you cannot scold nor demean these individuals. In many ways, ignorance is rooted in their responses due to a lack of formation. Thus, a gentle but firm disposition serves us well in this type of situation because we do not want to lose them. Our hope rests in a genuine conversion for these teachers (1 Pt 3:15). The “you can keep your catechism” statement by the teacher mentioned earlier should not detract anyone from teaching the faith. My call for this person was to help her find God. An opportunity arose to present the Gospel, reveal the importance of Christ in our lives and provide her with an open opportunity to seek Him.

It is very important that the catechist reveal the relevance of doctrine in the lives of the faithful. Our faith is naturally explicit (1 Thess 2:13) because God has made Himself visible through His Church. Man naturally seeks what is visible and revealed. For instance, when we are able to observe and recognize a moral act the exercise of the doctrinal action takes effect on our senses. We are able to witness doctrine exercised. The liturgy – a public work – provides a visible reality of the existence of faith and the exercise of doctrine.

By the end of the day, the teachers who survived my training session realized in a small way the necessity of teaching doctrine to children. The success of the day came not by how much doctrine I could expose them to, it was helping them realize how little they knew about the faith and what to do about. Not only for their souls but also for the souls of the children they teach.

The religion instructor must be prepared to proclaim the truth of the Catholic Church. His/her responsibility is to aid the development of the person they are instructing by explaining Church teaching carefully and appropriately through a careful transmission rooted in Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The opening to nourishing a soul in Catholic doctrine must be convincing so the person applies these doctrines to everyday life. The need for the Catechism of the Catholic Church is more relevant than ever if we genuinely desire to impart the Catholic faith. Our duty and responsibility is to answer the questions our students have. Clarity of truth is primary in our instruction. And the Catechism gives us clarity of truth if we just use it.

Marlon De La Torre, MA, MEd. is the Director of Catechist Formation and Children's Catechesis for the Diocese of Fort Worth. Over the last fifteen years Marlon has served in multiple catechetical diocesan positions in Memphis and Kansas City. He is regular guest on the "Sonrise Morning Show" with Brian Patrick and Matt Swaim. His new book is Screwtape Teaches the Faith: A Guide for Catechists based on The Screwtape Letters and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. His EWTN discussion about the book with Fr. Mitch Pacwa is here.