Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chant workshop in Central Wisconsin

I just wrote up the following short for the next Catholic Times:

St. Peter’s to host Gregorian chant workshop
STEVENS POINT, Wis. – In his Feb. 22, 2007, post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the synod fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy” (n. 42).
Stepping up to the plate to fulfill the pope’s request is St. Peter’s Parish in Stevens Point, where a first-ever Gregorian Chant and Polyphony Sacred Music Workshop will be held Oct. 26-27. Intended for “music directors, choir members, clergy, teachers, parents or anyone interested in experiencing our rich heritage of sacred music,” the workshop will teach participants to read chant notation and to sing polyphonic music.
The two-day workshop, which begins at 3 p.m. Oct. 26 and concludes with an Italian dinner following the 4 p.m. Vigil Mass Oct. 27, will be conducted by Father Robert Skeris. Currently director of the Center for Ward Method Studies at the Catholic University of America, Father Skeris previously taught as a professor at the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music in Rome. He was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1961.
Participants will spend a large portion of the workshop preparing a repertoire of Gregorian chant Mass parts and polyphony pieces, which they will sing during the 4 p.m. Vigil Mass at St. Peter’s.
Cost for the workshop is $75 and includes a text, music and some meals. Lodging and other information is available at For more information, contact Darcy Bunn at 715-343-9007 or

Monday, August 27, 2007


My fiancee and I are back from Stevens Point, where two of my little sisters received first communion at Mass this Sunday, and my newest little brother, Tobias, was baptized afterwards. St. Peter's pastor, Father Kevin Louis did a wonderful job with the little children, especially at the baptism, where he had my little siblings come up around the font and explained everything as it happened.

This morning I came across an interesting alternative to the wildly poplular YouTube site, where you can share videos. Called GodTube, the site seems to offer everything YouTube does without the inappropriate elements. And though the statement of faith is Protestant, it doesn't seem to contain anything anti-Catholic.

At present, I'm watching a video of Habemus Papam -- where Cardinal Ratzinger comes to the window as Pope Benedict XVI. That's Catholic enough for me! Check it out.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Aug. 23, 2007, front page

Below is the front page for today's Catholic Times. As you can see, the big newsmaker is the flooding in the area. Bishop Listecki's appeal for donations, which will fund Catholic Charities' outreach, just missed the press deadline.

In his letter, the bishop alludes to the dramatic rescue of Father Chukwu by boat from Gays Mills. I had written my article based partially on a phone conversation with Father Chukwu just before that rescue. Correspondent Joe O'Brien was on-scene and has been assigned the flood coverage for our Sept. 6 issue, so more dramatic stories should follow.

Heavy rains lead to deaths, town evacuations, road washouts;
Gays Mills church basement flooded, says priest
By Franz Klein
Staff Writer

GAYS MILLS, Wis. – Declaring [La Crosse,] Vernon and Crawford counties disaster areas, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle spent Monday surveying damage caused by the still-falling rain and accompanying floodwaters. Governor Tim Pawlently also declared six counties in southeastern Minnesota disaster areas.
As of Monday, the waters have been blamed for six deaths in Minnesota as houses slid down hillsides and flash-floodwaters floated cars off washed-out highways and derailed a train near La Crosse.
According to National Weather Service representative Todd Shea, 17 inches of rain were unofficially recorded in Witoka, Minn., where a husband and wife died when they were caught in rising waters on Highway 17. Another couple died in nearby Stockton, Minn., when their car was swept off Highway 23 by a flash flood; that town’s residents were evacuated to St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn.
Twelve inches were recorded in some places in La Crosse where residents on Goose Island were evacuated to the city’s Central High School. 11.75” of rain were officially recorded to the south in Stoddard as a house slid onto Highway 35 early Sunday morning.
“I don’t think we have anything in memory where we can recall so many mudslides,” said Shea. “I think that’s because of the intensity of the rain Saturday night.”
Following Saturday night’s deluge, the Kickapoo River’s gauge at Gays Mills recorded a record crest of 21.5 feet Sunday. More than 75 homes were flooded in that village, leading the Federal Emergency Management Agency to order its residents evacuated.
Father Robert Chukwu, newly appointed parochial administrator at St. Mary’s Parish there, refused to evacuate Sunday and answered the phone at the rectory as he waited for parishioners to get him out Monday morning.
“I’m going to leave this morning because they say there will be more rain,” he told The Catholic Times, newspaper of the Diocese of La Crosse, where his parish is located. “Some of my parishioners are coming to get me. I’m planning to empty the tabernacle and get away with the Sacrament. That’s just as much as I will be able to take away.”
Although the telephone was still working, Father Chukwu said electricity and natural gas had been off since early Sunday morning. He cancelled his Sunday Masses; and yesterday he was blocked by rising floodwaters on the way to his second parish, St. Philip’s in Rolling Ground.
“People are in boats in the streets, so it’s really bad,” he said. “Some cars are submerged, so that gives you an idea of the water. The people at the senior citizen center were evacuated yesterday.”
He said there are four to five feet of water in the church basement; if the rain didn’t stop, the upper floor of the church would soon be flooded. “We’re praying it doesn’t rain anymore,” he said.
Sister Donna Webber, FSPA, pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Church farther south in Wauzeka, said their church was unaffected by the floodwaters as of Monday, though “there isn’t a person here who doesn’t have water in the basement.”
“The lower part of our village definitely has creeping water,” she said on the town, which is on the Wisconsin River about 20 miles north of where it meets the Mississippi. “But we’re fine when it comes to survival.”
Sister Donna added that many churches in the area, such as Sacred Heart’s sister parish, St. Patrick in Seneca, are built on higher ground and are therefore safe from the waters.
Paula Cina, secretary at St. Mary’s in Viroqua, where residents below the Raaum Dam and near Bishop’s Creek were evacuated, confirmed this. But she added that large sections of highways in the valleys have been washed away leading to many road closures throughout the region.
Shea said the region may not have seen the last of the rain.“We have to watch these rain chances until Friday at least and hope that nothing stalls in the area and drops any tremendous amounts,” he said. “If we get some additional rain, we could end up with more mudslides and flash floods.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bishop Listecki appeals for flood aid

August 22, 2007

To the priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse, my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

During the weekend of August 18-19 the southern portions of our Diocese witnessed tremendous rainfalls that resulted in widespread flooding and destruction. From La Crosse south into Crawford County rainfall amounts of 12 to 15 inches have been reported. Urban street flooding, rural streams and rivers overflowing their banks, as well as massive mudslides from the bluffs in this area have resulted in much property loss and human suffering. In particular, the entire towns of Soldiers Grove and Gays Mills were flooded and at this writing Gays Mills continues to be inaccessible. The pastor at St. Mary’s in Gays Mills, Father Robert Chukwu, was evacuated from the rectory by boat!

We must reach out to our neighbors in need and provide whatever relief and assistance that we can. Jesus, the Good Samaritan, has given us his perfect example.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of La Crosse will spearhead relief efforts to victims in the affected areas. In addition to providing services from the Catholic Charities office in La Crosse, plans are being made to establish temporary emergency relief locations at St. Patrick’s, Seneca or St. Mary’s, Viroqua. As soon as it is safe and water recedes from St. Mary’s Church in Gays Mills, Catholic Charities outreach efforts will be provided there.

Relief money will be needed. I have authorized that a special appeal be made in all parishes to all of the faithful of the Diocese for funds for our Catholic Charities to assist the victims of the flooding. The money collected will be going directly to the people afflicted in our Diocese. Please be generous. Funds may be made payable to and directed to: Catholic Charities Flood Relief, P. O. Box 266, La Crosse, WI 54602-0266.

If donations are made directly to the parish, a parish check may be forwarded to Catholic Charities at the above address.

Please remember those affected by this natural disaster in the intercessory prayers during Mass. May our Lord’s unlimited compassion be a source of consolation and hope.

Thank you for all that you do to demonstrate Our Lord’s love to those in need.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Jerome E. Listecki
Bishop of La Crosse

Father Schall on the Tridentine Mass

Writing the most comprehensive and fair article I've seen since the pope's motu proprio on the Tridentine Mass is Georgetown political philosophy professor Father James Schall, SJ, on IgnatiusInsight.

Given its importance, Father Schall's article appears here in full:

On Saying the Tridentine Mass Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. August 16, 2007

"It has been the constant concern of the Supreme Pontiffs, and up to the present time, to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy worship to the Divine majesty 'to the praise and glory of His name,' and 'to the benefit of all His Holy Church.'" -- Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum, July 7, 2007.

Lo, those many years ago, Schall was ordained to the priesthood the year after John XXIII made the last revision of the Latin Missale Romanum before Vatican Council II. At the time, the pope raised waves because he dared to change the Canon to the extent of adding the name of St. Joseph to its list of those present at every Mass. Some do not even accept changes from the Pius Xth edition of the Missal. However, looking over the whole scope of the Church, including Byzantine rites, there have always been differing ways of celebrating Mass, usually including a different language and external forms. Still, in principle, it can be said that all the essential parts of the Mass--word, sacrifice, and communion--were clearly present in all the varied rites in so far as they were orthodox.

However, with the advent of the Novus Ordo in 1969, and its apparent, in practice at least, suppression of the older missal, I, along with most priests on the Roman rite, have said this Mass in the vernacular. However, in my own private Masses, I often use the Latin Novus Ordo form found in the back of the present Roman Missal. Much of the English translation of the Novus Ordo has been rather vapid, and the Latin not as elegant as that of the Tridentine Mass.

If at least three popes have reaffirmed the validity of this Novus Ordo Mass, however much it might be improved, we must assume it is within the long and orthodox tradition of the Church's worship. There are those who insist that Pius X was the last "valid" pope because of issues concerning the form of Mass. In effect, these views make subsequent popes heretical, so that, on this assumption, it is difficult to see any continuity in the actual Church. Benedict intended to address these concerns by frankly affirming that the Old Mass had never been abrogated. The Novus Ordo, however, is not a new rite, but another version of the Roman Latin rite. The bottom line is that the same Mass is always celebrated no matter what language or variety of movement so long as it is in the direct line of ancient tradition and the authority of the Church.

On September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Benedict's Motu Proprio takes effect. Any priest can then, if he wishes or is requested, celebrate Mass in Latin according to the latest Tridentine Latin form. This permission is not to be seen as somehow taking away something from those who still prefer the vernacular, as no doubt many will prefer. While there are not a few who look upon this decree as "conservative," or "back-going," I fail to see why giving me the permission to say Mass in another language is somehow a "narrowing" of my freedom. If I say you can say Mass in any language but French, that does not expand but it narrows my liberty. The pope is not saying that anyone "must" say or attend a Tridentine Mass, bur rather that if someone wants to say or attend Mass in that form, well and good. If I can go to Mass any Sunday in Spanish, as I can, why cannot I go in Latin, which is the remote source of Spanish?

As it is, on any given Sunday or weekday, any priest, as far as I can tell, can say Mass in French, German, or Spanish if he wants to. I used to say Mass in Italian in my Roman days. In the earlier American church during periods of immigration, Mass was said in German, Polish, Spanish, or Italian. Parishes were organized to make this possible. Such churches have largely disappeared, only to be replaced by today's situation in which Masses are now said routinely in a veritable Tower of Babel number of languages. Many think they have a "right" to hear Mass in their own tongue. Some even excuse themselves from going to Mass if they are in a place where they do not know the language of the local Mass, something that is rather frequent in our tourist-oriented world.

Let's look at the issue this way. On any Sunday, in any large diocese in the United States (or Europe), any Catholic can validly go to Mass and fulfill his Sunday obligations in English, Chinese, Cantonese, Lithuanian, Polish, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Korean, Vietnamese, Caldean, Japanese, Croatian, Czech, Russian, Ukrainian, or I do not know what all. I have heard it said that in Los Angeles and other large cities, hundreds and hundreds of languages are spoken. You cannot go to the seminary in many dioceses unless you learn Spanish. My nephew was recently on a work detail in Puerto Rico. He went to Sunday Mass in Spanish, even though he does not know Spanish. As far as I know, one is not "excused" from Sunday Mass simply because he does not know the language of the Mass. Most people can figure out what is going on if the same Mass is being said before them in a language they do not know.

Indeed, paradoxically, this situation is an argument for the Latin Mass, not against it. Had the Church retained the discipline of the Latin Mass, we might have avoided this enormous multiplication of languages and the acrimonious controversies over valid translations. We wonder if all the translations in all the languages are accurate, faithful to the original Latin text. The Holy See must have to approve hundreds of different language canons, in all of which a modern language constantly changes. Though the Holy Father does not mention this issue, it seems clear that the self-separation into different language groups has in effect broken down community, not opened it up. If you have a parish in which the 9:00 a.m. Mass is in Spanish, the 10:30 a.m. in English, and the 12:30 p.m. in Lithuanian, you really have not one community but three using the same church. If it is quite clear today that one has to "hunt" for a Mass in one's own language, it is a sign of division even though valid. Not even English is a common language of worship in this country. If we all used Latin with a tradition of seeing it related to our own language, we would in many ways have a more unified Church. Even today, a hymn like the Salve Regina, sung in Latin, is often one with which every one in all language groups is familiar.


If I go to Mass in the Tridentine form, I am not going to a different Mass from that of the Novus Ordo, no matter in what language I hear the latter Mass. I have always thought that the Vatican should publish an official Missal that everyone, no matter what language he speaks, is expected to own and which will not change, except perhaps for the addition of new saints. On one side would be the Latin and the other the vernacular, whatever it is that one speaks. Over a lifetime, if the Mass were in Latin, everyone would be used to the same service, and would be able to follow and know what it means in his own language. We would then have more common music and all know certain Latin prayers and chants. That strikes me as more genuinely universal than anything we now have. We are rather close to breaking down into merely national churches without this injection of a more obvious unifying form of liturgical unity. One cannot argue, in principle, that a vernacular language cannot be used. It certainly has good arguments for it. But any living language turns out to be very much more unstable than we might suspect. One only has to recall the controversies about the feminization of the language to see the ambiguous effect this movement had on our reading and hearing of the liturgy.

Indeed, the whole structure of the English language was changed so that older customs, like using "Him" for God, were eliminated by not a few and "Brethren" had to be changed to "Brothers and Sisters," if not "Sisters and Brothers." Amusingly, the older tradition always did use "Ladies and Gentlemen," not "Gentlemen and Ladies," and that latter, I suspect, had origins in Christian theology. The number of words that we cannot use in our normal language, let alone in the liturgy, grows daily. This rapid change is the basis of the argument to use a stable or "dead" language, be it Latin of Slavonic or Greek. The "Thou and Thee" of the Godhead reminds us that English itself has an older more stable form. The language itself becomes a basis of its own culture, a culture common to Christians who had a common worship and doctrine that depended on their knowing how they were distinct.


In this short document, the Holy Father was mainly concerned with continuity. The reaffirmation of the Tridentine Mass in its last revision under John XXIII is an indirect way of saying that this earlier form did not somehow become "heretical" or contain anything "wrong." There is nothing wrong with preferring a Novus Ordo vernacular Mass. But that is no reason to say that the older Mass is somehow suspect. The pope even went out of his way to admonish those who do regularly choose to celebrate the older rite not to do so as if there were anything wrong with the Novus Ordo. One might say that the Tridentine form had too few readings, while the Novus Ordo has far too many ever to remember.

The replacement of the sermon for the homily on scripture has yet to prove its superiority. The faithful are in dire need of systematic teaching on doctrine. The neglect of doctrine has left generations bereft of familiarity with orthodox teaching in the Church, this all in the name of Scripture. It is not that one cannot find "doctrine" in Scripture--that is its origin--but the discipline of clear teaching is not merely or fully satisfied by scriptural commentary or reading. Catholicism includes the direct addressing of reason.IV. One of the things that comes up with the two ways to celebrate the same rite is the "mood" of each. Clearly, they have different "feels." The Tridentine Mass was surrounded by silence. The Blessed Sacrament was a focus within the actual church. The primary relation was between the person and the Godhead through the celebration of the one Mass, the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Christ. Kneeling was a sign of reverence. The central feature was awe, transcendence. Everyone, especially the priest, was focused not on the community but to the East, to the source of faith, symbolized by the Sun, light, the Word, the Father. The priest's back was not "against" the people behind him. All--priest and people--were facing the same direction, to God; all were going in the same direction, none concentrating on themselves.

The understanding of community in the Tridentine Mass was that every person was actively worshipping God. He was content that his neighbor was doing the same. He was not "ignoring" the others present. All were directed to the same Godhead and realized they were. That is what formed their "community." There was time enough for fellowship later. The two are not opposed, but they are not exactly the same.

The Novus Ordo Mass focused on the priest, now called a presider or celebrant. He faced a community facing him around what usually looked like a table, not an altar. The "meal" aspect increased; the sacrifice aspect decreased. There was a familiarity. Silence was not emphasized. People shook hands, hugged, smiled, and whispered. The guitar replaced the organ. The priest was tempted to add various greetings and comments. Some even changed the wording of important parts of the Mass as if it were under their authority to do so. It is not that the Novus Ordo had to be filled with dubious exceptions. It could be done as the Church asked, and is in many places.

Cardinal Ratzinger said in The Spirit of the Liturgy that the priest was tempted to be an actor. It was easy to look upon the central altar as a stage. In several Masses I attended recently, people clapped at the music or even at the presentation of programs. What happened at the out of place "kiss of peace" often had to be seen to be believed. One had the impression of a "performance." The earlier tradition never clapped at the music. The reaction was awe. The musician himself was part of the worship. All were focused on the Godhead. Their music or part was not done for themselves. Moving music on or near the altar away from a choir loft contributed to this performance feeling.

The personality of the priest, Cardinal Ratzinger said in the same book, should decrease. It is not "his" Mass; he is a servant there to do what the Lord guides through the Church. The Mass transcended the personality of the priest. We should not have to choose what parish or Mass we go to on the basis of a calculation of the personality or talents of the priest, however fine they might be. The liberals go to liberal parishes; the conservatives to conservative ones. That is just another version of the language problem of separating people rather than uniting them.

We used to often hear Catholics or other people coming into the Church saying that there was something powerful about going to a Mass that is celebrated basically the same way now that it was two, four, nine hundred years ago. It was not only that we went to the same Mass as the Chinese or the Germans or the Spanish, but that we went to the same Mass as our ancestors. We have a statue of John Carroll, the first American Catholic bishop-ordinary, in front of our main building here at Georgetown. There is something powerful, in thinking of the Tridentine Mass, to realize that he and I say the exact same Mass that itself transcends time. The same is true if we think of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, who lived before the Tridentine formula, which was based on earlier Roman-influenced liturgies.

In conclusion, I think that the words cited from Benedict in the beginning from Summorum Pontificum strike best at what I want to say here. The concern of the Supreme Pontiffs is that the Church of Christ offers "a worthy worship to the Divine Majesty." It is offered first "to the praise and glory of His name" and secondly "to the benefit of the all His Holy Church." When he promulgated this motu proprio, this is what the Holy Father had in mind. He intended precisely to "benefit" the Church, but one can only do this if we "glorify" God as God Himself has directed us. The worship of the Father in Christ through the Spirit is not a human concoction, though appropriate to the Incarnation it has human aspects in architecture, words, music, personality, material gifts, bread and wine prior to consecration.

I would recommend two readings in connection with this issue of connecting the present and ancient tradition of the same Mass, the same liturgy. The first is the last section of Catherine Pickstock's book After Writing on the nature of the classic Roman liturgy; the second is the chapter "On Praying the Canon of the Mass," in Robert Sokolowski's Christian Faith & Human Understanding. No two readings that I know give a better sense of what is at stake in the question of the one Mass.

The Holy Father is concerned with something that is his duty, namely that all say and understand the same Mass, whatever be its language, or particular variation:
Each particular Church must concur with the universal Church, not only as regards the doctrine of the faith and the sacramental signs, but also as regards the usages universally accepted by uninterrupted apostolic tradition, whish must be observed not only to avoid errors but also to transmit the integrity of the faith, because the Church's law of prayer corresponds to her law of faith.

The latter passage Benedict cites from the "General Introduction to the Roman Missal" (2002). What is said here, if I understand it properly, is simply that the doctrine and the expression of worship manifest, visibly and interiorly, the same form of worship of the Trinitarian God. This form is to be present in all nations and times in obedience to the mandate of Christ to "do this in memory of me." This is the form of worship that mankind could not itself formulate, but only receive. The papacy has as one of its principal tasks the integrity of this worship. This is what the pope's decree was about.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My new favorite Italian verb: Gongolare

It's in the title to Andrea Tornielli's latest blog entry: "Tasse: Bertone parla, tutti i politici gongolano" ("Taxes: Bertone speaks, all the politicians sound off" -- like gongs, that is).

It shouldn't come as a surprise to the ordinary American Catholic, but, yes, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone says you should pay your taxes -- render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. But not just for Caesar, the good cardinal said, but also "for the poorest and the weakest." ("Tutti dobbiamo fare il nostro dovere nel pagare le tasse, secondo leggi giuste e nel destinare i proventi di esse ad opere giuste e all'aiuto ai piu' poveri e ai piu' deboli". )

Apparently the Italians have a hard time understanding this concept. In fact, the majority of the Italian population commits tax fraud in some way or other. Although the impossible tax levels of a socialist state make this fact a little more understandable.

Romano Prodi had recently requested that the Church do her part in encouraging citizens to do their civic duty, and the press has been badgering Bertone and others ever since. While Bertone's answer was good, it unfortunately stole headlines from the Communion and Liberation movement's annual conference, at which Bertone spoke.

Gays Mills flooded, evacuated; priest is last to leave

As those in the area are aware, a regional deluge has led to at least six deaths in southeast Minnesota/soutwest Wisconsin. For ongoing full coverage and photos, visit the La Crosse Tribune. Please pray for the repose of those who have died, and for the safety of rescuers and those involved in road work, etc.

A snip from my story for this Thursday's Catholic Times:

[...] Following Saturday night’s deluge, the Kickapoo River’s gauge at Gays Mills recorded a record crest of 21.5 feet Sunday. More than 75 homes were flooded in that village, leading the Federal Emergency Management Agency to order its residents evacuated.
Father Robert Chukwu, newly appointed parochial administrator at St. Mary’s Parish there, refused to evacuate Sunday and answered the phone at the rectory as he waited for parishioners to get him out Monday morning.
“I’m going to leave this morning because they say there will be more rain,” he told The Catholic Times, newspaper of the Diocese of La Crosse, where his parish is located. “Some of my parishioners are coming to get me. I’m planning to empty the tabernacle and get away with the Sacrament. That’s just as much as I will be able to take away.”
Although the telephone was still working, Father Chukwu said electricity and natural gas had been off since early Sunday morning. He cancelled his Sunday Masses; and yesterday he was blocked by rising floodwaters on the way to his second parish, St. Philip’s in Rolling Ground.
“People are in boats in the streets, so it’s really bad,” he said. “Some cars are submerged, so that gives you an idea of the water. The people at the senior citizen center were evacuated yesterday.”
He said there are four to five feet of water in the church basement; if the rain didn’t stop, the upper floor of the church would soon be flooded. “We’re praying it doesn’t rain anymore,” he said. [...]

For the rest of the story, you'll have to wait until the paper comes out on Thursday. The photo is one of several taken by Catholic Times correspondent Joe O'Brien at about noon today.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

And it's over, just like that

Case dismissed! It seems that the heat was too much for those involved in La Crosse's impending "right to die" case. According to the article below from today's Tribune, a surprise move terminate's the guardian's request that the woman involved die.

In one way, I know this is a moment for rejoicing, given that the woman's life is no longer in danger. In another way, though, I would very much have liked the law to have been strengthened and vindicated by the court case. The guardian's case, that the woman was "functionally" vegetative, was simply outrageous. I would guess his attorneys finally convinced him of that fact.

In any case, I guess I'll have to modify my news article for the Catholic Times when I get to work on Monday!


Guardian withdraws right-to-die request

By TERRY RINDFLEISCH / La Crosse Tribune

The court case involving a guardian seeking to withdraw life-sustaining treatment for a La Crosse woman is over for now.

In a surprise move Friday in La Crosse County Circuit Court, attorneys for the guardian withdrew a request to stop life-sustaining treatment. They asked La Crosse County Circuit Judge Scott Horne to dismiss the case without prejudice, leaving the door open to refile the case at a future date.

Charles Barr, a Milwaukee attorney for the guardian, told the judge he had received a medical opinion about the woman recently “that convinced us not to proceed at this time.”

In a hearing earlier this week, Robyn Shapiro, another attorney for the guardian, said she would present medical testimony that the woman’s condition was “functionally equivalent” to a persistent vegetative state.

Horne was caught off guard and ready to hear arguments about

whether he should exclude medical testimony about persistent vegetative state and perhaps rule on Wisconsin Right to Life’s request to intervene in the case.

The merits of the case were scheduled to be argued in a two-day hearing next week.

Barr said Friday the woman’s medical condition has not changed, and the request for dismissal had more to do with medical opinion. The woman, in her 50s, is being kept alive at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center by continuous sedation and a feeding tube. The only way to keep feeding her, her doctors say, is to keep her sedated.

In Wisconsin, a guardian has no authority to withdraw life-sustaining treatment unless the patient is in a persistent vegetative state or has expressed wishes through a conversation or advance directive. Attorneys for the woman said she is not in a persistent vegetative state and doesn’t have an advance directive.

Also on Friday, Horne closed the court record in the case pending a hearing Tuesday in which an attorney for the La Crosse Tribune will ask for portions of the record earlier declared open by Horne to remain open.

Dan Watson, the adversarial attorney appointed by Horne to oppose withdrawl of life support, had asked the judge to reconsider his ruling to allow limited access to court records and hearings in the case. Watson said in court documents filed Friday that the publicity over the opposing interests of Wisconsin Right to Life and Gundersen Lutheran’s Ethics Committee will “ultimately compromise any measures taken” to protect the woman’s identity.

Fabio Burgos, an attorney appointed to represent the woman’s interests, also filed a request to close the hearing to the public during any testimony about the woman’s psychological state and the circumstances concerning her hospital admission and her agitation and anguish.

Burgos also asked the judge to exclude the electronic media from future hearings.

Horne asked James Birnbaum, the Tribune’s attorney, to present arguments about what would be the public interest to open the court record now that the case has been dismissed.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Tridentine Mass coming to the airwaves

From Father Z:


EWTN to Televise Live Tridentine Mass Celebrated by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter

DENTON, Nebraska – AUGUST 17, 2007 – For the first time in its 26 year history, Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) will be broadcasting a live Solemn High Mass at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama on September 14, 2007 at 8:00AM EST. EWTN has asked for the assistance of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, an international Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right, to help celebrate this "extraordinary" form.
This past July 7th, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the beauty and importance of the Tridentine Mass by issuing Summorum Pontificum, a papal document encouraging and confirming the right of all Latin Rite priests to use this more ancient use of the Mass starting September 14th. The Tridentine Mass was the normative liturgy experienced by Latin Rite Catholics prior to the Second Vatican Council.
"Most Catholics have not seen this heavenly celebration in over 40 years," said Father Calvin Goodwin, a professor at the Society’s international English-speaking seminary located in Denton, Nebraska. "We are very excited to help EWTN and to support the Holy Father’s call for a wider presence of this form of the Mass. This is a cause for great joy."
Priests and seminarians from Denton, Nebraska will travel to Alabama and provide the celebrant, deacon, subdeacon, preacher, master of ceremonies and altar servers.
About the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter
Established in 1988 by Pope John Paul II, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter is an international society of Catholic priests entrusted with the preservation and administration of the Catholic Church’s ancient Latin liturgical traditions. Over 120 seminarians are preparing for the priesthood in the Fraternity’s two seminaries in Bavaria, Germany and Denton, Nebraska.
About EWTN
Founded by Mother Angelica, a Poor Clare nun, the Eternal Word Television Network has become the largest religious media network in the world, transmitting programming 24 hours a day to more than 123 million homes in 140 countries and territories on more than 4,800 cable systems, wireless cable, Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), low power TV and individual satellite users.
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Preliminary Catholic Times news brief

Below you will find the preliminary version of my Catholic Times news brief on the "right to die" case. It may change, as there is a court hearing today to determine if "persistent vegetative state" testimony will be included in the hearing.

Court case brews as guardian seeks to end woman’s life-sustaining treatment at Gundersen
LA CROSSE, Wis. (Catholic Times) – La Crosse County chairwoman of Wisconsin Right to Life Joleen Stratman filed a circuit court motion Aug. 15 on behalf of an incapacitated La Crosse woman whose guardian has requested the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration.
La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Scott Horne was to have held an open hearing on the case Aug. 22. On Aug. 13, at the request of the La Crosse Tribune and WRTL, Judge Horne had denied the request of Robyn Shapiro, the attorney representing the woman’s guardian, to close the hearing to the public.
First publicized by the Tribune on July 15, the case highlights a 54-year-old woman whom WRTL says is named Marilyn. The woman has had seven strokes since 1995, the most recent having occurred on April 23. According to court documents filed by her guardian, she suffers from severe dementia, with symptoms of diabetes, anemia, pneumonia, respiratory failure and other medical conditions. Refusing to eat or drink, she is under sedation at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse, where she is fed via a feeding tube.
In July, Bernard Hammes, a medical ethicist and director of medical humanities for Gundersen, told the Tribune that the hospital’s Medical Ethics Committee agrees with the family’s decision to end her life-sustaining treatment.
In its attempt to save the woman’s life, WRTL attorneys Rick Esenberg and Terry Allen Davis wrote in their Aug. 15 motion that the fact the woman had left no advance directive “should be the end of the matter.”
“Under controlling law, it is not possible for Marilyn’s guardian or this court to order the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration,” they wrote, citing a 1997 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that held “a guardian may only direct the withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment, including nutrition and hydration, if the incompetent ward is in a (persistent vegetative state) and the decision to withdraw is in the best interest of the ward.”
The woman’s guardian acknowledges that she neither left an advance directive, nor is she in a persistent vegetative state, as was Terri Schiavo.
However, Shapiro called the woman’s the medicated condition necessary to keep the woman alive “functionally equivalent” to a persistent vegetative state.
Although La Crosse Bishop Jerome E. Listecki has yet to issue a statement, he spoke out vigorously on behalf of Terry Schiavo in 2005.
“Most troubling is the fact that our courts, supported by some, did not make a presumption in favor of the dignity of life. This is yet another negative step against the culture of life in our society,” the bishop had written.

More on the 'right to die' case

From today's La Crosse Tribune:

Right-to-die case in court: An explainer
By Tribune staff

La Crosse County - Circuit Judge Scott Horne will hear arguments today in the case of a guardian seeking the court’s permission to withdraw a La Crosse woman’s life-sustaining treatment. Today’s hearing is on whether he should exclude medical testimony about persistent vegetative state, and perhaps consider Wisconsin Right to Life’s request to dismiss the case.

THE CASE: A woman in her 50s is being kept alive at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center by continuous sedation and a feeding tube. She has had seven strokes since 1995, the most recent caused a violent dementia. She refuses to eat or drink, and tore out feeding tubes in the past, so she must be sedated to continue feeding her, her doctors said. The woman’s family wants Gundersen Lutheran to cease life-sustaining treatment.

THE LAW: A guardian has no authority in Wisconsin to make that kind of treatment - or lack of treatment - decision unless the patient is in a persistent vegetative state or has expressed wishes through a conversation or advance directive.

AGREED FACTS: The woman is not in a persistent vegetative state and doesn’t have an advance directive.

GUARDIAN’S ARGUMENT: Robyn Shapiro, a Milwaukee attorney representing the guardian, said the woman’s medicated condition is “functionally equivalent” to persistent vegetative state. When the woman was competent, her actions showed she placed a high value on her personal dignity, Shapiro said. A amended petition filed in court says the woman once had commented she didn’t want to live like Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman who became the focus of a national right-to-die battle. She died in March 2005 two weeks after her feeding tube was removed.

THE OTHER SIDE: Dan Watson, appointed adversarial attorney to represent the opposing side, and Fabio Burgess, who represents the woman’s interests, said ending life-sustaining treatment is not an option under Wisconsin law because the woman is not in a persistent vegetative state and never clearly expressed her wishes. The Wisconsin Right to Life asked Wednesday to intervene in the case and argue the woman should continue to be treated.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Big 'right to die' case brewing in La Crosse

This story could be as big as Terry Shiavo, and it's right here in La Crosse:

Here's Wisconsin Right to Life's press release in full:

For immmediate release: Wednesday, August 15

Today, Wisconsin Right to Life and Joleen Stratman, the LaCrosse County Chairperson of Wisconsin Right to Life filed a motion in the Circuit Court of LaCrosse County to intervene on behalf of an incapacitated LaCrosse woman whose guardian has requested the withdrawl of nutrition and hydration.

The woman, named Marilyn, is believed not to be terminally ill and is not dying. Newspaper stories report she has had several strokes and has dementia. Marilyn is currently a patient at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center where she is being kept under sedation and is fed through the use of a feeding tube. Marilyn has left no advance directive or instructions or otherwise indicated her wishes with respect to the withdrawal of life-preserving nutrition and hydration.

In the motion filed today, Wisconsin Right to Life Attorneys Rick Esenberg and Terry Allen Davis told the court, "This should be the end of the matter. Under controlling law, it is not possible for Marilyn's guardian or this court to order the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration."
The attorneys cited the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Guardianship of Edna M.F., 210 Wis.2d 557, 563 N.W.2d 485 (1997), where the Court unanimously held that "a guardian may only direct the withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment, including nutrition and hydration, if the incompetent ward is in a PVS and the decision to withdraw is in the best interest of the ward." 210 Wis.2d at 560.
(PVS stands for persistent vegetative state)

An August 22 hearing in the case will be held in the LaCrosse County Circuit Court before Judge Scott Horne.

The La Crosse Tribune has already written extensively:
To read Hearing set in right-to-die case (07/25/07), click here
To read Family asks court for right to die: Relatives, hospital want to end La Crosse woman’s suffering (07/15/07), click here.
To read past Advocates say state law too restrictive on families (07/15/07), click here.
And today's story: Woman's case draws Right to Life action

Lastly, the AP wire story: Wis. Right to Life seeks to intervene in case of sedated patient

You'll be hearing more from me as this develops, as I will almost certainly be assigned to cover it for the Catholic Times.

Robbing a nun nets none

Man Arrested After Trying to Rob a Nun

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A would-be thief came up empty-handed after trying to rob a nun who had taken a vow of poverty. Madison police arrested the man later in the day. They gave the following account:

The man broke into the 61-year-old Catholic nun's home shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday. When she told him she had no money, he forced her to drive him around in her car for almost an hour in search of money.

As they drove, the robber apologized "to the victim and wonders if he's going to be forgiven by her and the Catholic Church," police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.

The two did not stop at a bank or cash machine because the Sinsinawa Dominican sister continued to tell the man she did not have any money or access to any.

Eventually, the man gave up and had the nun drop him off on Madison's south side. She then drove to the Catholic school where she works and called police.

"It was a very traumatic experience for sister, and we're grateful she is just fine and we're grateful that the person has been apprehended," said Monsignor Thomas Baxter, pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church, where the nun is director of religious education. "She was extraordinary this morning."

Police arrested the 41-year-old Madison man later Tuesday on a probation violation and tentative charges of kidnapping, burglary, battery and possession of drug paraphernalia. He has not yet been formally charged.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Assumption

And, of course, today is the Assumption, a high holy feastday, and a holy day of obligation at that. Father Larry Berger's homily at Holy Trinity here in La Crosse was good: he concentrated on the readings and spoke of how Mary is the mother of the Church today, just as she was for the first disciples of Jesus; he also spoke of how her Assumption into heaven gives us hope as our dead await their own bodily resurrection.

Tipping my hat to Father Berger, I must say the pope's comments on the Assumption weren't bad either. As Asia News reports: And As Catholic News Service reports:

Consumerism, hedonism will be defeated by God's love, pope says

By Catholic News Service

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- The seemingly invincible ideologies of consumerism and hedonism and the reign of violence and terror will all be defeated by God's love, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"It still seems impossible today to think that God ... is the true ruler of the world," the pope said during his homily Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But, in the end, "love wins, not selfishness," material power and hatred, he said to an audience of several hundred local parishioners.

The pope's comments came while he celebrated Mass at St. Thomas Church in Castel Gandolfo, where the papal summer residence is located, south of Rome.

Giving his homily without using a text or notes, the pope said that according to St. Augustine, human history has been driven by a struggle between two kinds of love: love for God in which one "loses oneself and gives oneself" totally to him and loving oneself to "the point of disparaging God and hating others."

Pope Benedict said this selfish love versus true love can be seen in the two images present in the feast day's first reading from the Book of Revelation, an account of the encounter between the powerful dragon and the defenseless woman.

The dragon, he said, represents "power without mercy, without love, of absolute selfishness, terror, violence" as well as all "materialistic dictatorships" throughout history, including the Nazi and Stalinist regimes.

"Even today the dragon exists in new and different ways," he said.

It is present in the form of materialistic ideologies that consider God as something expendable or pointless and that maintain life is all about "consumption, selfishness, amusement" and "taking all there is to get in this brief lifetime," the pope said.

"Once again it seems absurd, impossible to defy this dominant mentality," especially with the support it gets in the media, he said.

But, "nonetheless, we know that in the end the defenseless woman won" the battle against the dragon, signaling the victory of God's love, he said.

The woman clothed with the sun and with the moon under her feet represents the Mary "living totally in God ... penetrated by the light of God" and conquering death, said the pope.

"She tells us: 'Have courage. In the end love wins,'" he said, adding that this love entailed living her life as a servant of God and giving herself totally to God and others.

The feast of the Assumption "is an invitation to have faith in God, to imitate Mary" and "to give our lives, not seize life," Pope Benedict said.

Love is stronger than hatred, he said, and the seemingly weak God, who came to the world as a baby, is strong. Though faith in God may seem weak against all earthly powers, it "is the true power in the world," said the pope.

After celebrating the morning Mass, the pope recited the midday Angelus prayer with visitors gathered in the courtyard of the papal villa.

He also greeted via satellite-television linkup young people gathered at the Basilica of the Shrine of Mariazell in Austria, which he is scheduled to visit Sept. 7-9.

During the Angelus address, he said Mary's assumption, body and soul, into heaven did not mean Mary "has left us, but she is even closer to us, and her light beams down on our lives and on all of human history" as she looks over and protects everyone.

"We all need her help and comfort in order to face each day's trials and challenges; we have a need to feel that she is our mother and sister in everyday, concrete situations," he said.

Pope Benedict called on the faithful gathered in the papal courtyard to imitate Mary with a humble devotion to Christ "and generous service" to others.

Bussing for Catholic students in Madison

The Diocese of Madison put together one of the most concerted public policy campaigns I've seen in a long time this past year. At issue? Bussing for Catholic students in an area of the diocese was to be eliminated, in spite of specific state law mandating it. Despite all the outcry in the Catholic and secular press, and the riled Catholic parents attending board meetings, the public school board voted to eliminate funding all the same. But here's a new twist:

As the Capital Times reported today, the board missed its cutoff in reporting this to Catholic parents -- which means they have to provide bussing this next year anyway.

The Times quotes Board President Arlene Silveira as saying this was "unfortunate." I agree, although for different reasons. I really wanted this one to be argued out in the courts. It's another example of anti-parochial school mentality, the same thing that cropped up when the independent schools athletic league dissolved and the private schools tried to join the WIAA. Don't forget that Catholic school parents pay taxes too! Just wait until vouchers make it past Milwaukee to the rest of the state -- then public school officials will really have to cut the fat from their budgets!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Highlighting a seminarian blog

I just happened upon a blog produced by seminarians from St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. It's called "Future Priests of the Third Millennium and can be found at A number of the posters are among my friends from college, and I recommend it highly as a look at our future priests!

Marathoned out

My fiancee and I have returned from the far reaches of the north after an enjoyable weekend. The Paavo Nurmi Marathon was on Saturday. Thankfully a bout of storms kept the sun from coming out until the last five miles, which enabled me to run my fastest marathon ever: 2:56.39 -- good for fourth place overall. Here are the top ten:

I always start fast, so on Saturday I ran the first five or six miles with Ben Schneider, who won the Paavo for the second year in a row. For the first time, a video company was filming and, since we were in the lead, they were driving right in front of us. After I let Ben go, I ran with third place John Storkomp for awhile, then let him go as he surged, trying to catch Ben. I caught him again at the half, though, as we crossed in 1:22 (imagine if I could keep that pace for the second half!). We ran off and on together for five or six miles, me slowing on the hills, then surging to catch him again. I lost John for good on the steep hills before we turn onto Highway 51 for the last five miles. Somewhere in those last miles, 48-year-old John Beirl passed me, and went on to catch Storkomp as well. The best part of the marathon, though, came at the very end, where I gave my fiancee a kiss before crossing the finish line. We'll always remember that one!
Then there was soreness, further travels to Iron Mountain and my great aunt's Carmelite monastery, and finally a return to work this morning. And work there is, so I had better get back to it!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Off to run a marathon

You'll have to forgive the lack of posts over the next four days. I'm headed up north tomorrow morning to run in the Paavo Nurmi Marathon. It's a nice, small town marathon that starts out in the country, meanders through little iron towns, and finishes in Hurley, Wis. Besides all the people who sit in their lawn chairs and cheer in the little towns, the best part has to be the mojakka (finnish stew) that they feed you when you finish. ... If you finish, that is!
Here's a map of the course:

Yes, I'm a marathoner, and proud of it, too. I ran a 3:06.58 in blustery nor'easter conditions at Boston in April, so I'm hoping to break the magical 3 hour barrier on Saturday morning. I don't do well in the heat, though, so say a prayer for me. And for my fiancee as well, who will be running a 2 person relay (13 miles each) with a friend (she's never run that far before!!!).

Friars coming to Shrine: the "exclusive," in-depth look

Here's news you won't read in any other publication: Following my short piece on the friars last month, today's paper takes an in-depth, front page look at the Friars of Immaculate, who will begin caring for the spiritual needs of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe next summer, in conjunction with the dedication of the Shrine's massive church building. (I took the photos at the Shrine's open house on Aug. 5, when the partially completed Shrine interior was on display to the general public.)
Guadalupe Shrine to welcome Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
By Franz Klein
Staff Writer

LA CROSSE – At the invitation of Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis and with the blessing of Bishop Jerome E. Listecki of La Crosse, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate will take up residence at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe next summer to provide for the spiritual needs of its growing number of pilgrims.
“We welcome the presence of Franciscan Friars to the Shrine,” Bishop Listecki, a member of the Shrine’s board of directors, told The Catholic Times. “It is my hope that their ministry and sense of prayer will help both the Shrine and the entire Diocese of La Crosse to grow in holiness.”
Archbishop Burke extended an invitation to the Friars of the Immaculate after it became clear that the Diocese of La Crosse’s priest shortage would make it difficult to assign a diocesan priest to full-time ministry at the Shrine. For the past several years, the Shrine has relied on the generosity of area pastors and retired priests to provide for the sacramental needs of its pilgrims.
Initially, the Friars of the Immaculate will probably send two priests and one brother, who will reside in the rectory under construction alongside the church. Archbishop Burke, founder of the Shrine and chairman of its board, told The Catholic Times that the Friars would be responsible solely for the Shrine’s spiritual needs; its temporal goods will remain in the hands of its board of directors, and Sister Christa Marie Halligan, FSGM, will remain its executive director.
“The Shrine church will be the heart of this place of pilgrimage, and to have priests there to be ministers of the sacraments and to assist the faithful with spiritual counsel will bring to completion the building of the church,” the archbishop said.
The Shrine church, which was open to the public for tours on Aug. 5, will be dedicated on July 31, 2008. The Friars will likely arrive a short time before that date.
Jim Fowler, president and co-owner of Fowler and Hammer, the company building the Shrine church and its adjoining rectory, said that the rectory should be ready for the Friars by that date.
“It’s off to a great start,” he said. “Being on the side of a hill there’s a lot of earthwork to do. We would like to get the building enclosed (before winter).”
Father Angelo Geiger is the general delegate for the Friars of the Immaculate in the United States. He told The Catholic Times that he and Father Peter Damian Fehlner, and “elder member” of the community and close friend of Archbishop Burke, examined the plans together with the archbishop.
“It’s not like we need a lot of things,” Father Angelo said. “With our life of poverty, we want to keep it simple.”
Founded by Fathers Stefano Manelli and Gabriel Pellettieri as an institute of diocesan right for the Archdiocese of Benevento, Italy, in 1990, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate are an offshoot of the Conventual Franciscans. When they were elevated to an institute of pontifical right in 1990, their mission became worldwide. The Friars now number more than 300 priests and brothers.
In addition to foundations in Africa and the Philippines, the Friars established themselves in the United States in 1991. With Our Lady of Guadalupe Friary in Griswold, Conn., serving as their American motherhouse, the Friars also have houses in New York, Maine, Massachusetts and Indiana. The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse will be their fifth house in the United States.
“I’ve observed the Friars over a number of years and have gotten to know Father Peter Damian very well,” Archbishop Burke commented. “What I’ve seen is a great fidelity to the rule of St. Francis of 1226. They live as mendicants, depending simply on gifts of the faithful for their livelihood. They are deeply prayerful and are very disciplined in their prayer life and in their ascetical practices with fasting and so forth.”
Archbishop Burke explained that their devotion to both Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception makes them especially qualified to be at the Shrine. As he noted, not only did Our Lady request the Tepeyac Shrine from Mexico City’s Franciscan Archbishop Juan de Zumárraga, but in addition her first apparition to St. Juan Diego took place on Dec. 9, the date of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at that time.
“The Franciscans are intimately part of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Archbishop Burke said.
“We have a great devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, so to be offered the opportunity to care for this Shrine is a real blessing,” Father Angelo acknowledged, noting that the order’s American endeavors have been dedicated to Mary under that title from the very beginning.
In addition to the traditional vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, Father Angelo said the Friars of the Immaculate follow St. Maximilian Kolbe’s example in taking a fourth vow of unlimited consecration to Our Lady.
“With our Marian vow, we are missionary by nature,” he said. Father Angelo added that he hopes to accommodate the Shrine with as many friars as needed in the future. “We’re getting vocations, thanks be to God,” he said, noting that the Griswold friary would have seven novices and ten postulants this year.
”We’re grateful for the graces we’ve received and the opportunities we have to serve our holy mother Church here in this country and elsewhere,” he said.

The August 9, 2007, front page

As is the case every other Thursday, here is today's Catholic Times front page. It's another slim, 16-page summer edition, but there's a lot to read inside. But, as you already know, we're not online. For information on subscribing, click here.

Quote of the Day

From the ABC story about intense weather systems and the tornado that touched down in Brooklyn:

"One Brooklyn man may have said it best, 'Whaddayoutalkin' about a tornado? We ain't in Kansas!'"

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Newman Center Halls

As the Associated Press reported today, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's St. Paul Catholic Center plans to open a residence hall in the near future. While I don't know much about Madison's Newman Center, I have believed for a long time that other Newman Centers here in Wisconsin are in need of a an overhaul. Why do young adults continue to lose their faith in college? I believe it's because most Newman Centers offer very little of equal caliber to what students encounter in their secular, humanistic college courses. And nowhere in the state (to the best of my knowledge) does a Newman Center offer an alternative to the hedonistic lifestyle that characterizes college dorms.

Yes, Newman Centers can be done right. An example that a former University of Illinois-Champaign student brought to my attention is that school's St. John's Catholic Newman Center. Although I haven't visited, what this alumna described really impressed me. Novus Ordo Latin liturgies, replete with Gregorian chant, provides a sense of sacredness that apparently attracts large numbers of students. The Center's Newman Hall is a place where positive peer pressure encourages students to grow in vitue. And what I consider most important isthe academic component. After all, these Centers are located on secular university campuses. Any outreach to students needs to have an academic component. And if erroneous elements of the secular education provided there need to be set straight, then these Centers have an obligation to do so. There are actually two highly qualified professors on the Champaign Center's staff, who teach for-credit courses through the university.

So there's my Newman Center vision in a nutshell. When I head off to a secular school for the first time in my life (I'll be starting studies for my English MA at Winona State), I suppose I'll have more to say. In any case, pray for college students and those who minister to them. And pray for bishops as they decide what personnel and resources to allocate.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Dedication of an altar

Dedicating an altar is a big deal. It's there that ordinary bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. In a very real way, an altar is where heaven and earth meet. There's a reason why the altar is the focal point of a church building.
The people of the little town of Waumandee, near Arcadia, Wis., knew that. The dedication of their altar by Bishop Jerome Listecki last Saturday evening was the crowning event of serveral years of renovation at St. Boniface Parish.
I was at St. Boniface to cover the event for the Catholic Times. I was struck by the beauty of their parish renovation. The majesty of the original church interior really does shine anew. And I was especially struck by what their pastor, Father Michael Klos, said about the renovation after Mass. In his comments, he mentioned that the church was already due for a renovation 30 years ago, but when they were told they would have to get rid of their side altars, they "dug in their heels and said we'll just paint it." Now, 30 years later, the climate has changed -- under Father Klos the side altars not only remained but spires were added to their tops as was the case many, many years before. As Father Klos put it, this could better be called a restoration than a renovation. And this beloved pastor received no less than a standing ovation as he emotionally left the ambo.
Below you'll find some of the photos I took -- something space limitations in the paper would keep from ever seeing the light of day. I can't help but want to share this work of the good people of Waumandee with you!

First Bishop Listecki of the Diocese of La Crosse preaches to the flock:
Then the prayer begins:
The bishop removes his chausible:
And then the apron goes on...
A prayer is said over the Sacred Chrism:
And the Chrism is poured over the altar:
The bishop then rubs the Chrism over every inch of the altar's surface:
Incense goes in:
Incense rises for the first time:
And the bishop proceeds with the thurible:
The light of Christ is ignited for the first time, noticeably on both the high altar and the new altar:
The people's gifts are given:
And the one true sacrifices is re-presented upon the altar for the very first time:
St. Boniface's pastor, Father Michael Klos, concelebrates with the bishop:

Friday, August 3, 2007

Twin Cities Tragedy

The Twin Cities bridge collapse hits close to come for me. While it seems that I don't have a personal connection to any of those killed or injured, I went to college in the Twin Cities, and I would often go running under the bridge that collapsed. And just last week I was in the Cities and passed over that bridge. Seeing destruction like this in a place familiar to me really makes it hit home. Please join me in praying for the victims of this terrible accident.

CNS Photo: John Wheeler, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park, wipes away a tear during a prayer service Aug. 2 at the Cathedral of St. Paul for victims and others affected by the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis. The bridge collapsed at 6:05 p.m. Aug. 1 during the height of rush hour, killing at least four people and injuring 79. Photo by Dianne Towalski

From the Catholic Spirit:
Hundreds gathered Aug. 2 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul and St. Olaf in Minneapolis to pray for victims of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis Aug. 1.Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt led the cathedral prayer service, while Father Kevin McDonough, vicar general, presided at the St. Olaf Mass.

Desire to help victims detoured priest heading to Twins game
By Maria Wiering, The Catholic Spirit

Father Brian Lynch, associate pastor at St. Ambrose of Woodbury, a St. Paul suburb, was driving on Interstate 35W south in Minneapolis heading toward the Mississippi bridge about 6:20 p.m., 15 minutes after the bridge collapsed.
He and three friends were on their way to watch the Minnesota Twins play the Kansas City Royals, and they had yet to hear of the catastrophe. As they approached the bridge, traffic was rerouted, and Father Lynch, 38, could tell the reason was serious.
They turned on the radio, heard the news and decided to offer their help.
They crossed the Mississippi River west of the I-35W bridge on the Stone Arch Bridge, a historic Minneapolis foot bridge that has spanned the river since 1883. From there they could view the damage - the concrete chunks of road in the water, the twisted steel truss, the vehicles that had fallen when the bridge gave out under them.
As of the afternoon of Aug. 2, the official death toll stood at 4; 79 were injured. At least 20 people were still missing.
"Your first impression was something like disbelief," Father Lynch said. "Some combination of incredible, impossible."
He and his companions went to Red Cross headquarters. Father Lynch was preparing himself to administer the sacraments and comfort those who might be dying, he said.
"When you saw [that] the whole bridge is gone, you start to do the math initially and don't know the whole story, you start to think there could be a lot of people really, really hurt right now," he said.
However, Father Lynch didn't see anyone who needed him for sacraments, he said. "We weren't just running into many that were injured," he said. People in the area were "in motion," he said - people were in a hurry "to get places," and rescuers and medics were concentrating on their work.
Even though he didn't feel immediately needed, he stayed on the scene for about two hours, he said. "The responsibility that I felt was to be available, and that's what I tried to be," he said. "As is not uncommon in ministry, you're trying to find that balance between being active and passive."
Finding God in the rubble
Tragedies often lead people to question the role of faith and the work of God, Father Robert O'Donnell remarked in his homily at the 12:10 p.m. daily Mass Aug. 2 at St. Lawrence-Newman, the closest Catholic church to the I-35W bridge.
The Mass was offered for the victims. St. Lawrence-Newman serves the University of Minnesota as a Newman Center as well as the neighboring community.
"Where is God?" he asked before about 20 people gathered.
"Perhaps the only answer I can give at this time of tragedy is that I may not know . . . how it fits into God's mysterious plan, but I know where God was," he said.
God was in the heart of the civilians who rushed to the scene, eager to help, he said. He was with the rescue workers, the medical personnel and those praying for the victims.
Earlier that morning, Father O'Donnell had arranged a special prayer area at the church and placed a book in which parishioners and students could write prayers.
"May the deceased rest in peace, the injured heal quickly, the families be comforted and the emergency workers be watched over and protected," one entry read.
"It seems to help people," Father O'Donnell said of the prayer book. "Many of us are feeling useless . . . . It helps to put it down."
At least one of the victims was Catholic...
As the most talkative salesman at New York Plaza Produce, Artemio Trinidad-Mena gained a following in Latino restaurants and grocers throughout the Twin Cities. The 29-year-old delivered vegetables, then swung back later in the month to collect, gossiping the entire while.
"People don't always like the guy who collects the checks," said Julio Alvarado, general manager of New York Plaza Produce, a vegetable distributor at 1304 E. Lake St. in Minneapolis. "But with his jokes, everyone who called only wanted to speak to him."
Friends and co-workers believe he died returning from a personal errand.
On Thursday evening, about two dozen co-workers gathered at the distribution shop to pray with his wife and a priest. Trinidad-Mena's 2-month-old daughter, Lorena, stayed home with his housemates.
He also leaves behind three children who live with his relatives in Mexico.
The makeshift memorial in front of his home on Bloomington Avenue was made up of a Mexican flag draped over a coffee table, a display of white roses and assorted flowers, and a cardboard donation box stuffed with a handful of dollars.
On a Xerox sheet: "Artemio we know is with God. We will always remember you. ... His remains will be sent to his country."
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized, but friends have set up the Artemio Trinidad Fund, with checks payable to any U.S. Bank branch location.
- Fred Melo

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Geraghty sings for a good cause

I'm going to break one of my rules and post an article here before it appears in the pages of the Catholic Times. It's about a recent high school graduate who has produced a CD to help the Cistercian nuns of Our Lady of the Valley Monastery in Prairie du Sac raise money for their new monastery. The nuns need a new monastery because they are attracting new vocations, which should be an indication that this is a cause worth donating to.

Check out the article:

Geraghty sings for a good cause
By Franz Klein
Staff Writer

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – 2007 Regis High School graduate Kathleen Geraghty’s two loves are singing and her Catholic faith.
I’ve been cantoring for Mass since fifth grade,” she said. “It’s the way I like to serve God.”
Besides high academic qualifications, another requirement Geraghty faced in high school for induction into the National Honor Society was service. So she says she asked herself, what better way to serve than to serve God? And furthermore, what better way to serve God than with the talents He had given her?
“It’s nice how those two can go together,” said Geraghty, who was honored by the diocese this spring with the Bishop’s Medal, given to one graduating senior from each of the diocese’s seven Catholic high schools.
Beginning when she was a freshman, Geraghty has been in correspondence with the Cistercian nuns at Valley of Our Lady Monastery in Prairie du Sac, Wis. Due to a sudden surge in vocations, the nuns are currently conducting a $7 million capital campaign to construct a new monastery just outside the Diocese of La Crosse in rural Highland, 60 miles due west of Madison.
“In one of our email conversations, it came up that the nuns were praying for benefactors for their new building project,” Geraghty explained. “I thought it would be a great cause.”
Thus did Geraghty decide to employ her talents and the talents of several others to produce a CD titled “Carmina Regis,” or “Songs of the King.” With her parents footing the recording fee, Geraghty is donating 100 percent of the $10 she charges per copy. She said she has already sold more than 250 copies, mostly to Regis alumni and members of her parish, Immaculate Conception.
“But now we’re starting to get orders from all over the Midwest, and some have come from as far away as Texas,” Geraghty said. “Last month I went to the monastery and presented them with $1,800. They were so happy.”
Already aired on Relevant Radio, the CD includes such diverse songs as Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” Marty Haugen’s “Shepherd Me Oh God,” and Francisco Durante’s “Virgine, Tutto Amore.”
Providing some vocals were Becky Santine, Clare Bohrer and Nick Bohrer. Annelies Slack accompanied them on the piano. Additionally featured is Regis chaplain Father James Kurzynski, who either composed or set to music three songs on the CD: “With the Bonds of Love,” “Magnificat” and Ubi Caritas Est Vera.”
Father Kurzynski had many words of praise for Geraghty.
“She has always been very sincere in her faith life, and was also a leader in campus ministry at Regis High School,” he said. “The CD is just a small expression of the depth of her prayer life and her faith life.”
Father Kurzynski especially commended the way Geraghty recognizes her musical talents as God-given gifts. “She really is approaching this, in my opinion, from a standpoint of taking the gifts that God has given her and trying to lay that at His feet in service to the Church,” he said.
Beginning this fall, Geraghty will be attending the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., to major in music education.
Does she have a vocation to the Cistercians?
“I’m still not sure, Geraghty said. “It’s always a possibility. I’m staying open minded right now, but I really love that community.”

Editor’s Note: To purchase a copy of “Carmina Regis,” make your check for $10 payable to Valley of Our Lady Monastery and send it to Kathleen Geraghty, 6250 Inwood Drive, Eau Claire, WI 54701. To donate directly to Our Lady of the Valley’s campaign, mail your check to Valley of Our Lady Monastery, E11096 Yanke Drive, Prairie du Sac, WI 53578. To learn more about the Cistercian nuns, visit