Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Ice Storm Attempts to Interrupt Christmas


Ice Storm Dec. 19th, 2008 Fort Wayne

So where have I been? I certainly had a lot I wanted to blog about. I wanted to blog about the Third Sunday of Advent or Rose Advent. I spent it at a Croatian Church in Joliet Illinois. I wanted to talk about the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I have been busy. I drove to Joliet for a Christmas family gathering. The next Monday I was in Bluffton for a site visit. I went with Cathi and we walked around this beautiful town in a heavy snow. It was perfect Christmas weather. Two days later we were in Lagrange Indiana for another site visit. Afterwords we went over to Shipshewana, an Amish town. So, I had so much to blog about. That is not even mentioning world events. So, what happened? Well…

On Dec. 19th Fort Wayne was hit with an ice storm. 124,000 people in the greater metro area lost power, 58,000 in Fort Wayne lost power. We were one of those folks. Our entire neighborhood was without electricity. However a limb from our neighbor’s tree fell into our yard and also took out our power lines and cable. That meant when our area got power we didn’t.

So... for five days Cathi and I lived at home using our wood burner for the first time. The house was freezing, we could see our breath and cat food froze solid. However, we stayed put trying to keep some warmth in our house so our pipes would not burst. We were successful. A friend of mine did not stay in their house and they had burst pipes and flooding in every floor of their house.

The city looked like a combination of magical beauty and devastation. Ice covered everything so when fire trucks rushed by the block sparkled in red, when police rushed by the trees reflected blue ice. However, trees were down everywhere. The sound of crashing trees broke the silence over and over again. Everywhere there was police tape preventing you from walking into unsafe areas. Our campus looks horrible. One day it is a beautiful Franciscan park in the city the next day it looks like it was hit by a hurricane.

Our life was dictated by the sun. By 9:00 A.M. our house was bright and we had to move quickly to do whatever chores we had to do. By 4:30 PM we had to gather our candles, by 5:30 P.M. we had 16 to 28 candles going as we lived in our living room and blocked off all other rooms. We made one pot meals. We slept on the floor with our animals. Cathi knitted, I read and wrote. It was so quiet and by 8:30 PM it felt like we had been awake for 24 hours.

At 2 P.M. Christmas Eve we got our power back. The house warmed up and we got to see what a mess we had made living in the cold dark. That night I went to Mass and reflected on a very unique Christmas season. Christmas Day evening I worked 12 hours at our local American Red Cross shelter for the folks who still had no power.

First we had freezing weather, than rain, ice, snow, wind (cold as in 1 degree with wind-chill of-25 degrees) and then two days ago it was 60 degrees out. We are now facing possible flooding, what a winter!

It was only this morning that we finally got phone, television and internet. I know 2 weeks without these modern “necessities” is not a trauma. I am watching the Middle East, Congo, and Wall Street. I know this was just an inconvenience. However, it has made for one of the most unusual holiday seasons of our life. And now it is time to read my e-mails, blog, respond to e-mails, watch the news, watch Animal Planet, and remember candle lights glowing and the power of silence.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years from boring old Fort Wayne!


Ice Storm in Fort Wayne View From a Car
(There is actually a brief drive by the University of Saint Francis on the drivers side near the end of the clip)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

World Human Rights Day observed in Fort Wayne


Today is the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. There was a time when we were at least the self-proclaimed protector of human rights, we considered ourselves the measure of how a nation should treat humanity. Well, a lot of fear and things change. Today the United States joins those nations that are the subject of observation and comment by Amnesty International and the International Red Cross. I pray this is a temporary situation.

I know that many Americans are critical and out right suspicious of the United Nations. Not me. I think it is not better or worse than the intentions of its member nations. I think most nations can make wars but we find out quickly that it usually takes the U.N. for Peacekeeping and nation-building.

Twice during my undergrad days I represented my university at the National Model United Nations in New York. We used the U.N. chambers, we had a cocktail party with delegates and we interviewed workers at our related embassies and consulate general offices. I admire what the UN is capable of and am not surprised when they miss the mark.

Well, today I would have liked to participate in our local observation of today’s anniversary. However, I am a student and I had to hand in a paper and take a final. I think I did pretty well. I also missed the ceremony at Plymouth Congregational Church in downtown Fort Wayne. I felt bad for the church. I figured it would be a poorly attended event. Then I drove past the church on my way home. There was no parking to be found for blocks. I though there was a concert going on downtown. I would have liked to have been there but never-the-less I am proud of my town.

The days of the Cold War are over. The world is a more brutal place to live. Mighty nations and poor desperate nations are resorting to torture and violations of human rights. As the economies of the world gets worse, as environments deteriorate and as nations discover there are no consequences to pay for violating human rights more and more citizens of the world will need our support.

So take some time and watch the videos on YouTube about human rights. Call your congressman, contact your local refugee center, support a domestic violence center. Get involved, your brothers and sisters need you.

Salom
Shalom
Paz
Peace


UDHR 60 Yrs: What Image Opened Your Eyes to Human Rights?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love...

I find myself thinking about the people of Sudan and of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I think of the victims of hate in India, Iraq, Egypt and China. I think about violence among faith communities throughout Africa. I don’t have to go that far to be discouraged.

I think about the violence in American cities, the food pantries that are bare, and the inequities in healthcare. Lately the differences between the unemployed worker and the laid off CEO with his Golden Parachute have demanded my attention.

I said all of this could be discouraging. It has always been with us. The question is what are we going to do about it, what is our response? I have been surrounded by too many people who are servants, often silent servants to believe suffering will always go unanswered. I can hurt with the hurting but I am not discouraged.

This video says everything I would want to say and give the answer.

Peace and all good.


They Will Know We Are Christians by our Love

Dignity and Justice for All of Us




"Dignity and Justice for all of us"
An Inter-faith Service
of Prayer
on the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations
Universal
Declaration
of Human Rights


Wednesday, December 10, 7 p.m.
Plymouth Congregational Church
501 West Berry, Fort Wayne

Faith Community Participants:Bahá´í, Buddhist, Christian (Catholic & Protestant), Ethical Humanist,
Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Native American, Sikh
His Honor Mayor Thomas Henry
Representing the City of Fort Wayne

SPONSORS:
Indiana Center for Middle East Peace, Dr. L. Michael Spath, Executive Director; Peace & Justice Task Force, Plymouth Congregational Church UCC,
Rev. Dr. John Pugh Gardner, Senior Minister; AIDS Task Force of NE Indiana, Mr. Gregory Manifold, Executive Director; Fort Wayne Friends (Quakers);
Fort Wayne Peace Action Network, Mr. Dave Lambert, Director; Fort Wayne Urban League, Mr. Jonathan Ray, President & CEO; Institute for Human
Rights, IPFW – Dr. Clark Butler, Director; Just Peace, University of Saint Francis, Ms. Barbara O’Connor; Peace & Justice Commission, Associated Churches
of Fort Wayne & Allen County; Peace & Conflict Studies Program, IPFW – Dr. Patrick Ashton, Director; Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Rev. Dr. Jay
Abernathy, Minister; Zonta Club of Fort Wayne, Ms. Lois Nellums, President

Pre-service music by Jembe Jam-Fam begins at 6:30 p.m.Ketu Olduwa, Director

Monday, December 8, 2008

The 2nd Week of Advent

This is the second week of Advent. At this time we remember John the Baptist. John the cousin of Jesus. John the prophet who must become less so Jesus can become more. John who may have been an Essene, who may have dwelled at or near Qumran. This loud, attention demanding, dirty and course prophet is our model.

Our model for what? To become less so He may become more.

John announces the coming of the Lord and during Advent that is what we await. John was the one calling on all to repent, to turn their lives around, to go in a different direction.

So, during this Advent as we prepare for His coming are we moving toward Him? Are we willing to become less?

Have a good Advent and go light another candle.

Choirboy William Dutton: Advent Songs of Praise

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Feast of St. Nicholas

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas. Now I know I am suppose to say that Francis is my favorite saint, but before he touched my life there was Nicholas. Everything about the saint’s life is moving. Here is a saint revered by both the Orthodox and Catholics, a saint honored by Protestants.

This is a man who was orphaned at a young age. Here is a man who well before Francis gave up everything to care for everyone else. I don’t know what is legend and what is fact. However, it does not matter, both move me.

The legend is that he secretly gave three bags of gold to a widower so that his three daughters would have dowry. The implications are important. Depending on which story you read the kindly bishop either saved the girls from prostitution or slavery. Equally important here is that the bishop did not want credit for his acts of kindness.

He was a bishop in the East and during the 3rd century. This is important. He was bishop at a time when the Roman Empire was still pagan. He was taken prisoner and he was tortured. Still, he kept his faith and when released continued to serve his people.

His existence reminds us that Turkey was once Christian and not only that but an important center of Christian-Greek Culture. He is the person who history would morph into Santa Clause. Speaking of morphing, if you would like to get an idea of what the real Nicholas looked like go to this hyperlink. It will take you to a site that has used technology to recreate his face, it is sort of like CSI meeting EWTN!

My confirmation name is Nicholas, I couldn’t have made a better choice. When I was in Assisi the foundation of St. Nicholas Church was right there in the piazza. The tourist center was on the site, the forum was under the foundation. I made sure I had contact with the building everyday I was in Assisi.

This month a new movie on the life of the historical Nicholas comes out. I hope it is good, the trailers are certainly intriguing. I look forward to watching it. So, go fill some stockings, go do a kind deed, go enjoy the Feast of St. Nicholas!


St. Nicholas of Myra

Friday, December 5, 2008

Alexei II: The Passing of a Patriarch


Head of the Russian Orthodox Church dies

The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church died, he was 79 years old. Patriarch Alexei II was a priest under the old Soviet Union. He emerged as a bishop and then the head of the Church, a position he held for the past 18 years.

The Patriarch’s career spanned a painful time in Russian Orthodox history. During the Soviet regime the church was persecuted. Churches were confiscated and razed to the ground. Priests were hounded, arrested and sent into internal exile. Out of this system Alexei II emerged to help mold a new Russia. First he worked to rebuild Christ the Savior Cathedral, a magnificent cathedral that had been destroyed by Stalin.

The Patriarch supported the new Russia. He was suspicious of Rome and Catholic intentions in Russia. He reached out and healed an 80 year old rift between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The latter consisted of the descendants of the white army that fled Russia. He was active in European Ecumenical events. In short, during his reign the Russian Orthodox Church emerged out of persecutions and silence to become the most vibrant Christian Church in the Republics of the former Soviet Union. The church emerged as a powerful religious, political and cultural force in the life of the Russian nation. May those who mourn find comfort and may those who lead continue to build bridges.


Russian Orthodox Choir

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Goodbye and Thank You Odetta


Odetta - Newport Folk Festival

Tuesday folk singer and civil rights activist Odetta Holmes died, she was 77 years old. Odetta did it all. She was part of the March on Washington with Dr. King. She sang at the Newport Folk Festival. She sang with the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Biaz, Bob Dylan and Tracy Chapman. Yep, like I said, she did it all!

Odetta was known mostly by her first name. What many did not know was that she was classically trained. That did not prevent her from singing slave songs and African melodies. As a performer in the Old South and the not-so-enlightened North she also experienced discrimination and hate. She stated singing helped her escape hate, it couldn’t grow as long as she sang, so she sang, and she, sang and she sang.

She sang at Carnegie Hall, she sang from coast to coast and during the historic March on Washington it was her voice that sang the haunting, “O Freedom.” She was a powerful Amercan voice that inspired Rosa Parks, a movement, musicians from many backgrounds. She was described as “a force of nature”’ Tuesday that voice was silenced, that force died and she will be missed and her having been with us will be celebrated. Goodbye Odetta and thank you for your song and your drive.


What a friend we have in Jesus

A Pilgrim in Rome: Kathleen Lotter

Kathleen Lotter is an administrative assistant in the School of Professional Studies at the University of Saint Francis. She has completed the Living Stones formation program and is a Protestant Franciscan through and through. This is the 2nd part of her article on her pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome this past year. Enjoy.

Assisi was such a wonderful place. After a few days, we felt at home and comfortable. We hated to see our time in Assisi end, but we still had to spend a few days in Rome before we headed home.

The three hour bus trip to Rome was uneventful and long. We arrived late on Thursday afternoon. After we got settled into our rooms, we met in the lobby and walked to St. Peter’s Square. Father Tod gave us a history lesson while the rain clouds swirled over us. After his presentation, I felt like I needed to go take a refresher course on world history! Never in all my years did I imagine myself
standing in St. Peters Square, a place that I’ve seen on television several times!

Our first very full day in Rome took us to the St. Peter’s Basilica. What a beautiful, awesome place! The high alter was amazing and all the artwork was truly incredible. We celebrated Eucharist in the Lithuanian Chapel. All around us we could hear various pilgrims celebrating the Eucharist. We also visited St. John Lateran, where I got to touch a 2,000 year old door that used to be in the Roman Senate! San Francesco a Ripa completed our very full day.

Saturday in Rome was ours to do some sightseeing. I visited the Sistine Chapel, which was truly awesome! Once inside the museum, you had to walk quite a bit to get there, but it was so worth it! After spending some time in the Chapel, I took a tour bus around Rome and saw the sites – the Coliseum, Circus Maximus, and Trevi Fountain.I wanted to go to the Spanish Steps but decided against walking there by myself.

I spent my last Sunday in Rome with Jan Patterson, USF’s Campus Ministry director. We waited in St. Peter’s Square until noon when the Pope came out and celebrated the Angelus with the crowd. He addressed all the pilgrims in each of the native languages represented: English, Spanish, Polish, Germany, and Italian. What a feeling to be standing there and hearing the Pope! WOW.

Afterwards, Jan and I walked up 300+ steps to the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica. What a site! We were going to go all the way to the top of the dome but ran out of time. That would have been an additional 200+ steps!

The group rode the bus to St. Paul’s Outside the Wall and got to see a large group of pilgrims from Turin celebrate Mass. What a site. So many people and each group were wearing a different color scarf! Father Tod was a bit disappointed that we didn’t have the place to ourselves, but we certainly didn’t mind.

We all were sorry our pilgrimage was ending but all agreed that we were ready to go home and share all that we had learned.

Assisi and Rome are truly awesome places and if you ever have an opportunity to go, whether with a group or on your own – GO!


A City Tour of Rome

A Pilgrim in Assisi: Kathleen Lotter

Kathleen Lotter is an administrative assistant in the School of Professional Studies at the University of Saint Francis. She has completed the Living Stones formation program and is a Protestant Franciscan through and through. This is the first part of her article on her pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome this past year. Enjoy.
Last year Dr. Jylland-Halverson encouraged me to apply for the Assisi/Rome pilgrimage. Last year I was not accepted. This year, I was once again encouraged to apply for the pilgrimage. This year I was accepted. To say I was excited about going is a bit of an understatement.

Once the excitement over being accepted dimmed, I had to settle down and concentrate on getting through spring semester, honors convocation and graduation. Once graduation was done, it hit me that – I’m going to Italy in two weeks! The two weeks flew by.

On May 22, 2008 my journey began with a van ride to Chicago with my fellow pilgrims. In my group were Maureen McCon, Barb O’Connor, Nancy & Bob Gillespie, Marilyn & Howard Fisher, Janice Pekrul, and Karen Palumbo. Once we arrived at the international terminal in Chicago, we were joined by three fellow pilgrims from Lacrosse, Wisconsin.

The flight over was uneventful. We had a choir group from Iowa that was heading to Assisi to perform in a music festival at the Basilica of Saint Francis. (Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go see them perform.) I believe they were almost as excited as I was. You see, I have never been out of the country before so I was going way out of my comfort zone on this adventure. I just thought it was very cool that I was having breakfast at 37,000 feet over Barcelona, Spain!

We arrived in Rome on a drizzling Friday morning. After waiting in line at Customs and Baggage Claim, we wound our way out of the terminal to find Father Tod and Jean-Francois waiting for us. Father Tod told us before we left the terminal that when he says “go”, we go! The traffic waits for no pilgrim!! We finally found our bus after a couple of miscues and we were on our way to Assisi.

Some pilgrims napped on the three hour bus trip and others chatted with Father Tod and enjoyed the scenery. I did a little of both. I was doing my best not to cry because I was already home sick and exhausted. So I gave myself a pep talk and basically said to suck it up because you can’t turn around and go home!

We arrived in Assisi and my first view is of the Basilica of Saint Francis at the top of the hill. WOW!! The bus driver had to park the bus because the streets are too narrow for large vehicles to maneuver around. So we all welcomed the opportunity to walk after sitting for so long! It was like we stepped back in time! Cobblestone streets, outside cafes, the piazza and the Temple Minerva, San Rufino, Basilica of Saint Clare were just a few of the sites we saw on our walk to Casa Papa’s.

Casa Papa’s is the place where all pilgrims stay when on pilgrimage to Assisi. The staff took very good care of us and fed us extremely well. No complaints here about the food!! The rooms were simple and plain, but we weren’t there to spend time in our rooms – we came to walk in the steps of Francis and Clare. The rooftop garden was the place to hang out after a long day of walking and exploring. We had our question of the day discussions into the wee hours on the rooftop and shared a good many laughs too!

I think my favorite place in Assisi was Saint Mary of the Angels. I saw the Portziuncola for the first time! I had heard Sr. Anita Holzmer speak of this place so often that I was eager to see it. Once there, it took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. You could feel the presence of God there. Unfortunately, we couldn’t sit inside the “little church” because the pews were all full, but that was okay. We were able to walk though it and was able to touch the stones that Frances did. Jean-Francois also showed us the garden where Francis threw himself into the rose bushes. The rose bushes still thrive today, minus the thorns.

Assisi was such a wonderful place. After a few days, we felt at home and comfortable. We hated to see our time in Assisi end, but we still had to spend a few days in Rome before we headed home.


Assisi

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day


HIV 101
Well, today is World AIDS Day. All most every nation is acknowledging the day. It is a time to re-commit to more research, more prevention and more compassion. There seems to be a sense that since the medications are so effective the problem is manageable. This is not the case. People still die, people are still infected. Lives and families are shattered.

UNAIDS estimates that there are now 33.2 million people in the world living with HIV. 2.5 million of those people are children. This is hardly a problem that is going away. In 2007 there were 2.5 million people became newly infected with the virus.

This is an issue that touches me. I regularly have guest speakers in my classes from the AIDS Task Force of Fort Wayne. I have worked with HIV+ folks for a number of years. They have contracted the virus in a variety of ways. The stigma is still great. It does not matter how they contracted the virus, there is still a sense that somehow a judgmental God was giving them what they deserved. Shame only complicated an already difficult challenge.

I am currently a Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer with APA. This is a joint program with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The emphasis is on promoting interventions that are empirically based and tested, interventions that have been shown to be effective. I am proud of this program.

There are ambivalent feelings toward Catholics in the HIV Prevention community. This is because the ban on condoms is viewed as a death sentence. However, the problem is so big, and the Churches contributions so significant that this problem can be overcome. What is required is medical care, education, caring and in this the church is a recognized leader.

Today is World AIDS Day. Please take a moment to remember all those who have died from this virus. Think of all those who need your help now, today. Pray and then think about what you can do that is helpful, caring and not judgmental. These are the lepers of our lifetime and it is clear how Jesus and Francis would want us to treat lepers.

Peace

AIDS in Nigeria – Trailer

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wreaths, Candles and a Franciscan

So, ya wondering why a wreath and why candles for Advent? As a good Scandinavian-American I don’t wonder. St. Lucia’s Day, a Swedish Holiday celebrated in January has all of the same ingredients and then some! Candles, wreaths, light piercing the darkness, it is all there. So, what about Advent? Well the video clip below provides a Franciscan Father explaining the symbolism. It provides some of those “oh, of course” moments. Enjoy.


The Advent Wreath

Remembering the Day

I went to church today thinking about India and what we as a species are capable of. Christians are being killed by Hindu extremists in India, Hindus are being killed by Muslim extremists in India, and in Iraq everybody seems to be killing everybody. Two weeks ago there were six armed robberies in Fort Wayne in one night. America, the defender of human rights tortures and is viewed as a killer of Muslims. I went to church sober and preoccupied.

When I got to church the colors had changed to purple. The bishop presided over Mass, it was the first Sunday of Advent and I had forgotten about it. Boy did I need it.

This is a time pf preparation. A time of prayer and meditation. A time to get ready for the coming of the Lord. Now is not the time to think about Santa or gifts or me, me, me. It is a time of quite, honest preparation for the humility and generosity of the Incarnation.

Next week our school will host a Living Nativity. We are Franciscan and follow the tradition of Francis at Greccio. Between now and then I got some praying to do, a candle to light, some thinking to do.

When I left church the world had changed. It had snowed and it was wet, heavy, quiet and white. I took my dog to Sweeney Park for a walk by the river and through the Japanese Gardens, the foot bridges and we ran, followed bunny trails and enjoyed the beauty of creation. Yep, there is more to the world than violence and pain and it world be wrong to ignore either.

Gotta go, gotta light a candle

Peace

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai United a Planet

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai that left almost 200 people dead may have an unanticipated effect. While the goal may have been to spread terror and to destabilize the financial capital of a nation it also united a country. Religious leaders throughout India have condemned the attacks and voiced their support for the multicultural nation. Religious leaders around the world, from Pope Benedict XVI to the Archbishop of Canterbury have condemned the attacks.

The Pope released a letter expressing his condolences for the families of the victims. The World Council of Churches also strongly condemned the attacks. The world is united in its revulsion to the attacks. The challenge now will be for religious leaders of the world to come together in support of India without branding Islam as the enemy. This was not Islam, this was the act of fanatics and fanatics kill in the name of many religions. We would be hard pressed to find a region on the planet that does not have fanatics with the potential for great violence. That is why uniting in the face of such carnage is so important. That is why India must know it does not stand alone.

The challenge of the future will be to find ways to counter terrorism besides using force. “Soft Power”, including diplomacy, investment and multi-national and person-to-person contacts hold hope even if the results are not quick. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the hurting, the angry and the forgotten. That is a challenge people of faith can take up knowing that love is not a weakness and not without impact. That is a challenge that may be waged by individuals and faith communities far more than between nations. So let us begin in earnest to care about the forgotten, help the deposed, feed the hungry so that others do not use the suffering of many as a recruitment opportunity for hate.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sharing in the Sorrow and Hopes of India

At this time the carnage in India continues. It is not clear if the terrorists are homegrown, extremists from Pakistan or have links to al-Qaida. It is not clear what the motivations are for the attacks. Clearly Westerners and the wealthy were targets. However, the attacks included hotels, train stations, restaurants, a night club and a hospital. The largest city in India has been terrorized for over half a day.

This reminds me of September 11th, 2001. After a while it was clear the collisions into the World Trade Center were not aviation accidents, America was under attack. What was not clear was who the attackers were and what they would do next. What was clear was that we had the support the most of the world. Our allies, trading partners and even traditional adversaries voiced their support for the United States. That support came in the form of official government statements but most movingly from the rallies of citizens around the world. I remember being most moved by citizen in Tehran coming together to share in our sorrow and express their support.

Now it is our turn. Our friend and trading partner, the largest democracy in the world has experienced a viscous attack. It is appropriate that both the President and the President-elect of the United States have condemned the attacks. It is time for the American people to express their solidity with India. Today we are all Indians sharing in the shock and sorrow of a nation and praying for the long road of healing to begin.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I am Thankful for...

Well, it is that time of year again. Time to look back at the year and not make amends. This is not the time for making a fearless inventory of all that you have done wrong. Nope, because it is not about you or me. This is the time we look back and make a list of all we can be grateful for. That usually means we are focusing on others and a generous Creator.

This requires a little more flexibility for me this year. There have been some health concerns and some losses. However, that comes with the territory (getting older).

So here I go:
I am thankful because the health concerns are no longer concerns.
I am thankful that the people I miss were so worth missing. I am grateful for a life populated with people who are bright, funny, caring and oh so different from me.
I am thankful for a nation that made history.
I am thankful for family I love, friends I hold dear and people who are becoming friends.
I am thankful for students who are dedicated, bright, funny and caring.
I am thankful for people serving in the Peace Corp, the Civil Air Patrol, the Christian Appalachian Project and the American Red Cross.
I am thankful for Franciscans of all shapes, sizes and variety but especially for the Secular Franciscans.
I am thankful for the University of Saint Francis and Campus Ministry.
I am thankful for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese
And I am thankful for my pets.

My prayer would be that this time next year I may be thankful for an end to torture, an end to the War in Iraq and the beginning of real responses to global warming.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everybody. I hope the past year has given you much to be thankful for and that the new year provides you with new opportunities to give thanks and the focus to recognize the reasons for the gratitude.

Peace and all good,
Carl

Terrorism, India and a Small World

For months now we have been talking about Hindu extremists attacking Indian Christians. However, I hope we have been clear that extremists reflect extreme responses and not any one faith. While we deplore the killing of Christians in India we quite simply deplore the killing of any Indians in India. Tonight brings news of more tragedy in the subcontinent.

At this time at least 80 people have been killed and 250 were taken hostage by terrorists in Mumbai. This appears to be a well-planned maneuver. Five star hotels have been attacked including the Taj Mahal Hotel.

Mumbai is the financial center of this nation. It is a favorite destination of tourists. What is not clear at this time is whether Westerners were the real target. What is clear is that this is a small planet. We are all potential victims of terror. India has been in discussions with Pakistan to coordinate responses to terrorism. India is a major player in the response to pirates. Americans are increasingly realizing the importance of India in world affairs. It is easy to be drawn to India for its many cultures, music, foods, Bollywood movies, architecture, spirituality and history. Tonight however we are united with the people of India by our common experience with terrorism. While our governments will be sharing intelligence let the people of India know that we join with them in pray and meditation.

Monday, November 24, 2008

California, Global Warming and the Story of the Strafish

So, California is taking the lead in global warming. I am glad someone here is. However, it is a sober approach. It includes moving parts of Highway One further inland to avoid future ocean rise. It includes deciding which species they can save. There will also be a contest for building flood resistant structures. This is serious stuff.

No one is pretending this will be an easy challenge to confront. For one, there is almost no money. That means commitment and creativity will be required. The alterative is simply not acceptable.

It is not enough that one of our states is taking a lead role in dealing with global warming. You noticed I am sure that the issues were what to do to deal with global warming. We need nations to confront the problem so we can slow it and eventually reverse it. Still, this reminds me of the story of the person throwing tide stranded starfish back into the ocean. An observed mentioned there were millions of them and the efforts of one person could not possibly make a difference. The person picked up another starfish and threw it back into the ocean and replied, “It makes a difference to this one.” All of our efforts, even our tiny efforts, makes a difference.

Blue Man Group on Global Warming

Sunday, November 23, 2008

America, Global Warming and Hope?

Both the in coming Congress and the new administration are planning to respond to the threat of global warming. After ignoring this problem for the last eight years but really for a much longer time, America appears ready to lead. However, can we? Do we have the will to say no to some industries while we face the gravest economic landscape since the Great Depression? If we do the difficult thing and say "yes" to real change it must be sold in terms of long term growth and improved quality of life.

What we don't need are arguments about the cause, man-made or cyclical. That will not save 1/3 of all mammal species. That will not save amphibians. That will not save Oceania. We don't have time for such petty and politically-based arguing. It will not save the planet.

One of the exciting changes is seeing Christians of various denominations now seeing caring for the earth as part of their responsibility in terms of "Good Stewardship." It was not that long ago that many environmentalists were shrugged off as "tree huggers" by those who felt their God-given job was to subjugate nature. I prefer our Franciscan approach, to love our brothers and sisters found in all creation. Then you don't worry about destroying a planet as you subjugate it because you are to busy caring for a wonderful gift from a generous Creator.

I will be addressing global warming and its impact on a regular basis. What I want to know right now is, what are YOU doing and what is happening in your are to help care for this wonderful gift?


Consequences of Global Warming APES Video

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Zimbabwe, Human Rights and the World

We have talked about Zimbabwe for months. The election was a fraud. The government ignores its people at best and violates human rights routinely. The nation is marked by hyper-inflation at a rate unimaginable anywhere else on the planet. People are starving and living in fear and the nation is now facing an epidemic of cholera. So where is the world? Right next door it appears.

Former President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and the wife of Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel were on a humanitarian mission to Zimbabwe. However, the President of Zimbabwe, Mugabe has denied their admission into the country. If he had only denied President Carter access to his nation this may simply be explained as anti-Americanism. However, this arrogant man has turned his back to representatives of the world. He has turned his back to his people. He serves no one but himself.

The World Health Organization is warning that the epidemic may spread to neighboring nations. Refugees are crossing into South Africa. This is not an internal problem, this is a concern for all people but especially for the peoples of southern Africa.

Bishop of Harare, Dr Sebastian Bakare spoke last week at a conference on human rights in Sweden. He told the conference that the problems of his nation are the result of moral failings. He described his nation as corrupt, neglectful and its leaders as self-serving. He has called on the church to support each other in supporting their fellow citizens. Six ecumenical organizations have called for the support of human rights in Zimbabwe. The World Council of Churches has specifically been critical of the Southern African Development Community for failing to support the people of Zimbabwe.

You know what I will say we can do. We can pray. We can contact our government officials and demand that they speak for the rights and dignity of the people of Zimbabwe. We can write and thank Kofi Annan, Graca Machel and Jimmy Carter for their actions and their continued commitment to the area. And we can pray.


DISPATCH: ZIMBABWE - The Story
This is a powerful video. Take a few moments and let it touch you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More Christians Killed In India

The news for Christians in India is not getting any better. The violence against Indian Christians continues unabated. Indian Christians living in the United States have joined with other Christians to protest the lack of any effective response by the Indian government. This new coalition includes Indian Christians who are Catholic.

It is not enough that only Christians of Indian descent call on the U.S. government to pressure India. This is a human rights issue and as such should be responded to by all who care about protecting the dignity of all people. The strategy of the coalition is impressive. It includes the use of video clips, targeting all members of congress and utilizing an e-mail/technology campaign.

So, how bad is it getting for Christians in India? Well, first remember, these are not “colonialists”, the Indian Christian community is one of the oldest communities in the world. However, they are being attacked by Hindu extremists. The key word here is “extremist” and they should not be confused with the vast majority of Hindus. Extremist don’t care about specifics, such as Indian Christians are Indians and not European colonialists. Extremist see things in black and white and work through fear.

That fear has been very real in Indian. Reports coming out of India state that extremist are actually offering money, alcohol or food to those who would hurt Christians. It appears to be working. Dr Faiz Rahman, the chairman of Good News India states that “The going price to kill a pastor is $250.00”. Most of the newspapers state the problem is mostly localized to Orissa. However, it is a big problem.

In the past months there have been over 65 people killed, thousands of homes have been burnt to the ground. Hundreds, that is hundreds of places of worship have been destroyed. There are at least 11,000 refugees. For this type of destruction to continue the government must be looking the other way. So, that begs a question, how is America to respond?

The 2025 report to the President speaks of a world that is multi-polar. The two rising powers are China and India. We have mixed reactions to both countries. Americans are drawn to China because of its long history, the dynasties and its exoticness. We are also repulsed by the reported rigidity and violations of human rights.

Americans are drawn to India for some of the very same reasons. This is the land of the Indus Valley, the land of multiple world faiths, of art, science and spirituality. It is the largest democracy in the world. India could be a natural ally of the United States. So, why when the world is changing and national alliances and interests will be fluid would the Indian government not respond to these violations? Why would a nation famous for its diversity not clamp down on a group trying to establish a Hindu Nation at the expense of everyone else?

To be sure, not all of the news is bleak. In local elections there are increasing numbers of Christians running for office. This is good news. However, there are 23 million Christians in India. The majority of them are poor and are viewed as a threat. Our silence and apathy are not acceptable responses. To be consistent our actions must be in support of the human rights of not only Christians but of all minorities whose rights are being violated. We cannot remain silent.


Christians Killed in India

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Catholic Church: Welcome Home


Catholic Church

I just bumped into this video and liked it. Thought you might like it as well.
Carl

Brazil, the Vatican and the Church

Brazil is a vast nation with a vibrant Catholic Church. It is also the focus of the Vatican. Prior to participating in the G-20 Economic Conference in Washington Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.was at the Vatican. In talks with the Pope both discussed ways in which poverty can be alleviated. This included policy in Brazil to help “marginalized” citizens.

That the talks between the Pontiff and the President went well speaks of the evolving Presidency of de Silva. He had once been a Marxist and yet he arrived to talk to the Pope with a large Brazilian delegation. The talks were respectful. The President signed an agreement between the Vatican and his nation that legalized the status of the church in Brazil. This clarification was appreciated by the Pope. The legal document means that “priests and pastoral workers will be free to collaborate with health, prison and scholastic institutions.” That is a sign of growing trust and collaboration.

The Church in South America is very important. It is an area of growth and vibrancy. It is also an area of challenge. In many Latin American countries citizens are turning to other denominations due in part to the lack of clergy. One of Pope Benedict XVI’s first foreign visits was to South America. This historic document reflects the importance of the Church in Brazil and the Southern Hemisphere.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Church in Africa

The Catholic Church has been active in Africa. In the past month Botswana and the Vatican have established diplomatic relationship with one another. This is the result of a growing relationship over the past 49 years. During that time the Church has established primary schools in Botswana as well has health clinics and a pre-school. The formal diplomatic status simply reflects the growing respect the two nations have for one another.

Unfortunately that is not the case throughout the continent. In Zambia a priest was arrested for his “bias post-election analysis”. So much for freedom of speech or democratic principles. However, what is not clear is if the father was objective or biased. The answer differs depending on whether you ask the government or the rival Patriotic Front. Father Bwalya is associated with the rival group.

The pope has again spoke out against the atrocities of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This war is marked by excesses and violations of human rights.

So, over the year the Church has been busy. From calling for reconciliation in Kenya and supporting compromise in Zimbabwe to calling for relief of food prices for the poor the Church has sought to relieve suffering in Africa. What is needed is sustained support in the form of prayers, financial donations and pressure on our government to demand respect for human rights , democratic rights and increased humanitarian aid.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Somalia, Kenya and Two Catholic Nuns

Today has been a bad day for those who need structure and rules. Pirates have been an increasingly interfering force in the world. Pirates based in Somalia and also in the Indian Ocean have attacked private boats and ships and of late have been taking over commercial vessels. Today a chemical ship from Turkey was seized off the coast of Yemen.

Pirates are hardly the only challenge to world order. Today forces (perhaps individuals or gangs would be a better term) from Somalia crossed over into Kenya and abducted two nuns. It is not clear who did this, what the purpose was or if it was even a religious statement. The easy guess would be it was Islamic extremists attacking “Western” Christianity. However, it would not be surprising to find out it was outlaws simply trying to kidnap Westerners so they could then demand a ransom.

At this time it does not appear that Kenya is over-reacting. The governor of the province in Somalia appears to be cooperating. It is difficult to work with a nation that really has had no effective central government for over a decade. Additionally, it will be difficult to get other nations involved (if that would be desirable) simply because of all of the other pressing needs on the continent. Between an escalating and brutal civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the genocide in Sudan this latest incident between Somali and Kenya may appear to be a rather small problem.

The real problem, the bigger problem, is the devolving respect for human rights around the world. This should not been seen as only a problem for developing nations, the quiet of Christians and other peoples of faith is deafening. Let us pray for the safe return of the two sisters, we hardly need more martyrs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Farewell Miriam Mabeka


Miriam Makeba - Pata Pata

It was mind-boggling to read about the death of Miriam Makeba. She was the Mother of Africa, Queen Africa, Empress Africa. She had more titles than Haile Selassie!

Miriam was a South African singer, perhaps the most famous singer in all of Africa. She was also a person of incredible personal integrity. During apartied she spoke out about the regimes human rights violation at the United Nations. For that she was banned from her homeland for 31 years. She was not able to attend her mother’s funeral. She was cut off from her home and friends. However, this did not stop her.

Miriam toured the world singing and introducing the world to a music that sounds to me like a combination of jazz, blues and Africa. The music is moving and beautiful, at times almost haunting.

She sang with Harry Belafonte. She sang at President Kennedy’s birthday party. She sang with Paul Simon. She sang, and she sang and she sang. Two days ago she gave a concert in Italy in support of an author who had written about organized crime. The author had threats to his life, Miriam of course came to his support. She died shortly after the concert from a heart attack.

There are some people who walk this earth and you know the world is better because they were among us. You are sad at their leaving but grateful they spent time there. Miriam Makeba is on such soul. Thank you Empress of Africa.


Miriam Makeba 2007

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama, Grant Park and History


Obama Wins The Presidency Countdown in Grant Park 11/04/2008

Well, I have to comment on election night. I don’t care what your party affiliation is, the night was history-making. However, for me it spurred memories of my hometown. The Grant Park of last week was a place I had been to many, many times. I have seen bagpipe bands march there, I have seen Taste of Chicago, concerts and Venetian Night. I remember weights being strategically placed around the park prior to John Paul IIs visit to make sure the park would not cave into the parking garage below it. However, never have I seen such excitement and such diversity at Grant Park.

It was not always easy to be a white Chicagoan in support of a black candidate in Chicago. During the first election of Harold Washington I was chased down the street because I wore a Harold Washington button. A friend of mine was beat up for wearing one. Our garbage can lids were taken away because they were a gift of the precinct and the precinct supported Jane Byrne. A lot has changed.

I remember the assassination of John Kennedy when I was in fourth grade. Two years later the city erupted in violence with the assassination of Martin Luther King. The city went up in flames and riots. A friend of mine who lived on North Avenue could see the flames south of her and she remembers feeling happy to see tanks and soldiers move down the street. It is indeed sad when you are happy to have an army take control of your city.

My oldest brother-in-law was married during the week of the 68 Democratic Convention. They gave their “Love Feast’ (it was the 60’s!) to the hippies staying in Lincoln Park. That convention nominated a peace candidate and Grant Park was also the focus of the world. However, that time there was a police riot. Not this week.

This week Senator McCain gave one of the most moving concessions speeches I have ever heard. This week Americans whose ancestors came from Europe and Africa and South America and Asia gathered together at the shores of Lake Michigan and listened to an American with roots from around the world give his acceptance speech. This week there was peace, change, sadness for many but there was also hope and honor. This week we showed the world what democracy is suppose to look like. This week I greatly missed my old home town and wished I had been a part of this historic event.


President-Elect Barack Obama in Chicago

Living Stones and St. John Lateran



Today was a special day at church. First of all I am always pleased when the bishop presides over the Mass. Today was the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. I didn’t see it when I was in Rome. I had limited time to myself and the choice was the Basilica or the Sistine Chapel. It is nice to have such difficult choices! However, the pilgrims that were in Assisi and Rome this year did go to the Basilica. They loved it.

I wanted to go because this was the Rome of Francis. I wanted to go because the church is ancient, beautiful and established by Emperor Constantine.

The Bishop spoke of the importance of holy places and we know that space and time are part of any life of faith. In this case it is also the material aspects that count. Sacred architecture draws us up, out of ourselves, and connects us to others and to God. Bishop D’Arcy spoke of the Basilica being built of holy stones and that our internal cathedral needed to be built of “living stones”.

When I was at the St. Bonaventure University for the AFCU Symposium in 2006 I was introduced to the program, “Building with Living Stones”. It is a program of instruction and transformation for those desiring to learn about the Franciscan life. We now have that program at our school. In fact Kathleen Lotter completed the program the first year it was offered. Since then she has been one of our pilgrims to Assisi and Rome. She has incorporated Franciscan values into her life. Of course she was a natural, she talks to our ducks (and they talk back to her) and is an advocate for peace. I suspect she will end up being one of our Protestant Franciscan sisters and may join the Ecumenical Franciscan Order.

The cathedral was full today. The choir sang beautifully. The church reflected it’s universal mission. The faces looked like Grant Park on election Night. There were African Americans, whites, Latinos and about eight rows of Burmese Catholics. The Bishop asked us to consider helping our immigrant brothers and sisters with transportation and adjustment to Fort Wayne.

If we are to be “living stones” then we are to be servants to one another. We sing the Servant Song regularly at church. I love it. I was especially moved when it was sung at World Youth Day in Sydney Australia. If we are to be universal/Catholic, if we are to sustain and build our internal cathedral, if we are to nurture the Body of Christ than we will and we must be servants. Yep, it was a good day.

World Youth Day July 16-17, 2008 - Servant Song

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Church, the Congo and Prayers for Peace





The Vatican has called for an end to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Catholic relief organization, Aid to the Church in Need has called for emergency aid to the area.

The United Nations has called for an immediate end to hostilities. The fear is that the conflict will spread beyond the vast borders of the Congo to the many neighboring nations.

The conflict is bloody and discouraging. Over 1.2 million citizens are refugees in their own country. In fact, the Vatican is so concern about the Congo and other African crisis that 2009 may be “The Year of Africa”. The pope will visit Angola and Cameroon in March. The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar will meet in Rome in September. Finally there will be a Synod for Africa in October.

This is appropriate. Africa is a continent in which the conflicts between Islam and Christianity, between Christianity and traditional religion and between Catholicism and human rights violations by regimes has demanded greater involvement by the Catholic Church. The Church has been involved in the post-election conflict in Kenya, the conflict in Zimbabwe and in working with the conflicts in Somalia and Sudan. The problem is the need is great and the resources are few.

So how serious is the Vatican in regards to the Congo? Cardinal Renato Martino the current president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace stated, "The world cannot continue looking on without reacting to the death of innocent victims of acts of violence and barbarity, and with indifference toward the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the war, who are exposed to the weather, sickness and hunger.” The council went on to call on the international community to “intervene with all its strength in resolving the conflict in question”. These are powerful words that reflect compassion, concern and frustration. Let us pray they are heard.

Ohio, Margo and Memories


Banks of the Ohio - by McWilliams Hardware & Friends

For me Thursday was one of those days that stand out in your mind, it was one of those days you always remember. I had to drive to Napoleon Ohio for a site supervision of one of my students. The last time I had been on those roads was 16 years ago. So I remembered how young my children were, what it was like to be forming a family and starting a new career. It was a day of memories.

As I drove I turned on the radio and listened to an interview with Joan Baez. We have many of her albums, Cathi and I love folk music. It reminded me of my first trip to Springfield Illinois. The music was loud, the crowds were enormous and the spirits were high as Cathi, my mother-in-law Margaret and I marched in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment. Yep, listening to Joan brought back memories.

The drive was beautiful. Napoleon is on the Maumee River. This is the river that starts in Fort Wayne and flows to Toledo. The city has a wonderful courthouse, mansions on the river and a quaint downtown. The site visit went very well.

On my drive home I drove down Highway 242. I drove next to the Erie-Wabash Canal, past locks, dams, and markers of the victories and struggles of Mad Anthony Wayne. The Indian Wars were easy to imagine.

I turned on the radio and classical music was playing. The car I was driving use to belong to my mother-in-law. The car had the faint scent of her cigarettes. Not enough to affect breathing, just enough to notice. With her scent in the car and her type of music playing on the radio (Bach and Peter and the Wolf) I smiled and thought of her. She has been part of my life since 1973 and I have many, many memories of her, almost all of them make me smile.

I continued through Defiance, another city that was founded by another Mad Anthony Wayne fort. I drove through the villages of Florida and Antwerp. It was a beautiful day full of blue skies, country roads, farmland, cows, rivers, Mohawk gravesites and pleasant memories.

I am a tourist of life and make no apologies for it. I know for instance that Napoleon is the Radish Capital of the World, that Antwerp is home to the Essen House and an A&W Shop. I know cannons mark the site of Anthony Wayne’s fort on the Maumee and Tiffin Rivers. I know the other canals that connect the many rivers of Ohio and I know the walking trail that circles the state.

Margaret has always been one of my favorite fellow travelers. We have been to England, Norway, Sweden, France and Scotland together. We traveled in Canada, New York, and Missouri. Because of her I know Springfield Illinois. We have sat on the shores of Lake Michigan and watched moon rises and we have sipped Cream Sherry together.

Margaret is a life long liberal. She was a British War Bride who came to America and then was astonished at our problems. She had a Chicago Red Squad file on her because she belonged to a community organization that promoted integration in Chicago. So she was very, very happy to see Obama win the election.

Friday night Cathi and I had ham, mashed potatoes and peas for dinner. No big deal except I made the ham gravy, a specialty of Margo’s and it was perfect. Clearly my memories are visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and gastronomic!

Margo is typically British. While she was in England meeting her future American husband during World War II her brother was a British soldier fighting in Burma. He was captured by the Japanese and forced to work on the building of the bridge over the River Kwai. After the war he was sent to South Africa for two years to be treated for tropical illnesses. Margo’s uncle was a vicar in the British Raj or India. She has a beautiful red porcelain elephant statue from there. It is from that family history that she learned to make curry. Tonight I will make lamb curry, also a specialty of Margo.

Margaret is not just a mother-in-law, she is a good friend and fellow traveler. I am glad I had to drive to Napoleon Thursday. Margo is a blessing.


Joan Baez We Shall Overcome

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This Vote Counts



Today my youngest daughter voted in her first Presidential Election. She is a night person and yet awoke at 5 A.M. to get to the polling place by 6 A.M. I don't know who was more excited, my daughter or me.

I then went to school, taught and came home. Cathi and I said goodbye to a visiting friend and then together we voted. This is a special year, our votes in the Presidential election in Indiana finally count, the results are not a given.

At the polling station we waited in a long but cheerful line. Everyone knew that no matter the results we were all participating in history.

No matter who wins it is an end of an era in which two families run the nation. Both candidates are against torture and both seem to believe Americans should not be eavesdropped on without a warrant and just cause. Both care about the environment.

I know the very real differences between these two men. That is what made deciding who to vote for so easy for me. However, I am not one of those folks that will resent the other side if they win. I think both are intelligent, patriotic men who will lead this nation in a far wiser manner than the last eight years.

So, today America is making a choice. Today my family was making a choice. I don't take this for granted, democracy is wonderful, democracy in action is beyond words. So, go, vote and know you made a difference.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The New Indian Martyrs



Months ago I began writing about the plight of Christians in India. Sadly the situation has only gotten worse. The extremist Hindu attacks on Indian Christians have now continued almost unabated for the past three months. The reaction of the government has been tepid at best.

The targets of the violence are not foreigners but rather the citizens of India. This is especially sad since India has taken such pride in being a multi-cultural and multi-religious nation. The attacks have been at times brutal including destruction of property, assaults, rape, attack of religious and even murder.

Since October 22 there has been 60 people killed, over 18,000 people injured and over 4000 homes destroyed. This does not include the large number of people who are missing. The violence has spread to a number of states.

What is not clear is why people around the world are not crying out for the violence to end. Christians in India and Iraq are in a perilous position. Ancient cultures are facing extinction. Partners International has described the situation in India as no less than religious genocide. The Pope has called for religious leaders to come to the aid of the Christians in India and Iraq. We must pray for peace and we must demand that our leaders speak out in defense of our brothers and sisters in India. We must also remember that this violence is the work of Hindu extremist groups and does not reflect the behavior of Hindus or Indian in general.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Been a Looooong Time!


OK, admittedly I have been remiss when it comes to my blogging. My excuse is I've been busy. I am teaching a boatload of classes and I am taking Ecclesiology. However, I have missed hearing from all of you and I have missed simply processing the news of the day. So hopefully I am back.

So many things have happened that deserved some mention. Election and government-building in the southern half of Africa have continued to be a struggle. Attacks on Christians in India and Iraq continue. Scientist have stated they believe one quarter of all mammals on the planet face extinction. So there has been a lot to discuss.

There has also been a lot of good to talk about. One of our former students is now a Peace Corps volunteer in Kazakhstan. Her experiences are inspiration. We have a student from Malaysia and it is wonderful to see America from other eyes. The seasons continue to change and so do our rivers and forests. The birds are migrating and everyday there is a new discovering to be made.

However, the belated news I want to talk about today is Campus Ministry hosting a concert by Father Stan Fortuna. You all know the good father, a Franciscan who raps and travels the world spreading the news. On September 30 (yep, I am really behind in my blogging) Father Stan performed at the University of Saint Francis. He was great. The auditorium was full and the students loved him.Filling the auditorium was no easy manner. The school had two other guest speakers that night.

I especially like his song, Everybodys Got 2 Suffer. Suffering is the human experience. It is addressed by all of the world religions. Since some of my favorite psychologists are existentialists of course I would like this song.The song also reminds me of a pilgrimage. Pilgrimages are designed to be no respecter of age, status or gender. We are all insignificant compared to God. Well, suffering is also no respecter of persons, we all suffer, the question, what will we do with that suffering.

Having said all of that, the rapping Franciscan was not a downer. The concert was positive, energetic and inspirational. I can't wait to see Father Stan again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wandering Northeast Indiana






Lagrange Courthouse


Great Blue Heron in Indiana

Well it has been a great week to be traveling around northeast Indiana. Now I know we are not exotic. We don’t have oceans, deserts, rain forests or mountains. Still, we are not chopped liver! We have so many rivers, slow, low hills, and farms of many sorts. We have diversity, Hispanic towns, migrant’s settlements, refugee relocation and we have Amish. We also have wildlife. Now we don’t have roaming buffalo or elk, we don’t have mountain lion but we have some cool stuff. Red fox (saw one a couple of years ago by one of our golf courses), deer (way too many), hawks, eagles, muskrats, Canada Geese, ground hogs, owls, I even saw a flying squirrel at Fox Island a couple of years ago. Still, my favorite is the Blue Heron and I will get to them in a bit.

I had to drive to Lagrange Indiana. One of our students is doing her clinical rotations at Northeastern Center. I was there for a review of her performance. Of course she is doing great. However I had a great opportunity to drive in the country in late summer.

The sky was brilliant, deep blue with mountains of fluffy clouds. I saw a few hawks, blue jays and cardinals. Beyond Kendallville the land turns in to low rolling hills. Nothing spectacular, just nice. The corn was high, there were fields of flowers. I drove past Rome City, a few smaller towns and lakes. The area was spotted with country churches, farms and Amish. I am use to seeing Amish in their various wagons and buggies but this day I saw an Amish family riding bikes, Americana at its best!

I love Lagrange. It is ten miles from the Michigan border. It is close to my favorite day trip destination, Goshen. It is near Mishawaka and South Bend. It has old stores, a couple of part time museums and quaint cafes. I can’t wait to go back in the fall.

Later in the week the weather and beauty continued. I was walking my dog on the east bank of Headwaters Park by the Maumee River and there was a heron in front of us. The next day we were walking in the Japanese Gardens of Sweeney Park. As we crossed the bridge to our left was a heron standing in the creek. It looked at us, lifted off and flew down the creek where it landed next to another heron. I turned to the right side of the bridge and another heron lifted up, flew over us twice cawing at us and then flew away. They look like pterodactyls when they are in the air!

Finally the next day we were walking on the east side of Headwaters Park along the St. Mary’s River and came almost face-to-face with yet another heron. We were at eye level. It slowly lifted off, flew to the other side of the bank where it was surrounded by a field of purple morning glories and quietly watched us. These are supposed to be difficult birds to site but clearly they are easy to find in Fort Wayne. We have a pair on our campus. There is another one at Tillman Park.

Yep, the skies are blue, the land is bountiful, and creation is everywhere. It is a good time, a very good time, to be wandering around in northeast Indiana.


Heron Eats Catfish

Monday, August 4, 2008

Secular Franciscans, Father Beiting and "Doing"

I am in formation to become a member of the Secular Franciscans, a religious order founded by St. Francis. Our Fraternity, the Holy Family Fraternity is awesome. The members are dedicated, knowledgeable and committed. While we are called to be humble it must be said, we are also pleasing to the eye (it would be wrong to lie, wouldn’t it?)! Some of our members have been in the Seculars for a long time.

One of our older members was expressing her frustration over not being able to do all that she use to be able to do. Age and health issues had taken a toll and now she is less physically active. I found myself thinking she can still do plenty. She can pray. If we believe that the Desert Fathers were Fathers of the Church, leaders of something profound then praying is doing. If we use the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration as one of our models than clearly we acknowledge that praying is doing something.

Lately I have been reading works by Father Ralph W. Beiting, the founder of Christian Appalachian Project. He is a hero of mine. His life is a model of giving, creativity, flexibility and servanthood. Yesterday I was reading Pilgrimage of a Country Preacher…A Journey to the Holy Land of Appalachia.

In one of the chapters he is talking to a woman in her 90s who is questioning her worth because she can no longer physically contribute. Now the Father is writing this while he is in his 70s so he has slowed down a bit and can empathize with the women. However, what he says struck me. The good father stated…”
You aren’t looking at your worth and value. You’re only looking at the tasks you are performing. Your value to God and this world is every bit the same as it ever was. You’re being asked to take on a different task, that’s all. You are being asked to suffer. This is the hard part of life, and God wants to know if you have the courage to accept this part. Youth was easy because you were in charge. Now God wants to know if you’ll let Him run the show.”


I hope our member is able to embrace her value. She is a model to all of us, her prayers are not simply words, they are a communication with God. Her wisdom guides us. I hope she realizes that while she sits she is doing.