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.


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
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

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.


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.


AIDS in Nigeria – Trailer