Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fort Wayne, Santa and One Man's Dream

I am always amazed at the impact one person can have. We have seen election in the recent past where every single vote counted and had to be recounted. One person refusing to go to the back of the bus changed history. Well, it is not just the huge elections or the bigger than life movements that highlight the power of one.

I am doing my sabbatical at Emmaus Ministries in Chicago. This is an urban ministry for homeless men who participate in prostitution. This fall Emmaus Ministries celebrated their 20th year of service. Emmaus is the result of one man’s dream.

Emmaus Ministries 2010

John Green was a graduate student at Wheaton College when he began working with male prostitutes. He had worked with Covenant House in New York where he became aware of the need for services for male hustlers. When he returned to Chicago to complete his education he also began his ministry. Twenty years later that ministry includes administrative staff, outreach staff and ministry center staff. It includes a prison ministry and an extensive educational component. This is all because of the dream of one man.

At about the same time John was beginning to work with homeless males Lisa Nigro, a retired Chicago cop was reacting to how the homeless of Chicago were being treated. She was angered at how they were over-looked at best and often people were rude to them. She responded by taking a red wagon, filling it with donuts and coffee and then going out on the streets to feed the hungry. Once she was noticed by future supporters things quickly changed. She got an office, then more space, staff and then the cafe.

TrueNorth - Inspiration Cafe :60

Inspiration Café is a unique job skills training program for the homeless. He gives them real skills, it provides the neighborhood with two great restaurants and it treats the homeless with dignity. Today the Inspiration Café corporation has job training programs, case management, and housing services. All this is because of the dream of one woman.

Well, it is Thanksgiving weekend and I am thinking of home, Fort Wayne. In Fort Wayne the legacy of one man is felt during the holiday season. It is not the story of helping the forgotten, it si the story of one man remembering what was forgotten by a city. The result has been a generation of family memories.

Thomas J. Linnemeier recently died at age 73. While most of us in Fort Wayne and north east Indiana did not know him, we had all been touched by Thomas. When Thomas was a child the old Wolf & Dessauer Department store had a display of Santa on the side of the building that light up. It was spectacular. With the coming of malls the department store closed and Santa was lost.

Thomas grew up and became a banker. However, he always remembered that Santa. Then the Santa was rediscovered. Thomas searched all over downtown Fort Wayne for an appropriate place to display it. Eventually it was hung on the Fort Wayne national Bank building.

Thomas knew what he was dong. This was not some childhood exaggerated memory. The lighting of this display had impact, it brought a city together.

The Lighting of Santa

The lighting of the Santa and sleigh display became a Thanksgiving eve community event. This included carols, a visit from Santa and a countdown. The streets would be crowded and the magic of Christmas in downtown began to spread.

Christmas in Fort Wayne

The entire time my daughters were in school the lighting played a role in their lives. Their school choirs and bands played at on of the many lightings, they met friends for the event. They knew the ice skating ring would be officially opened. It was the beginning of the holidays.

More Lights and People

After the Santa display is lit the crowd walks down the street, past he decorated courthouse, to the lighting of the Wells Fargo Holiday Tree at Wells Fargo Building on Calhoun Street. That is followed by the lighting of the Indiana Michigan Power Christmas Wreath at One Summit Square on Wayne Street. And then the city become a wonderland.

There are holiday concerts in the theaters, churches and schools.

Getting Ready for Christmas in Fort Wayne

Museums are open for free and all have holiday themes. There are horse carriage rides, carolers, hot coca and candy canes, all on the busy streets. The Embassy Theater hosts Fantasy of Trees. The History Center has the Festival of Gingerbread. The Botanical Gardens host the Festival of Wreaths and they have live reindeers. Further north Franke Park hosts the Festival of Lights.

60,000 LED Christmas Lights

This is the ripple of effect of one man. There is no doubt that Fort Wayners like Christmas. There is no doubt that they would have decorated and celebrated had Thomas Linnemeier not reestablished the lighting of the Santa. However, because of his dream the night before Thanksgiving is a moving, pageantry of civic pride and participation. Because of Thomas stranger come together, families form memories and a City of Churches unites its past glory with future dreams and celebrate the holiday season in a glorious way. The city celebrates in a unique style. All because of the dream of one man.

And More Lights

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thoughts on Thanksgiving 2010

So it is that time of year again when I try to put into words what I am thankful for without being boring or maudlin. Neither is easy. Quite simply there are times it is difficult just to be thankful.

We live in a world of great injustices and violations. We live in a world of genocide, rape and murder. We live in a world where the powerful trample the weak. However, it has always been that way. So I am so grateful for all those who defend human rights, even as theirs are violated. I am thankful for Jimmy Carter and Dalai Lama but I am especially thankful for the gifts of Rigoberta Menchu, Aung San Suu Kyi, for Peace Bridges International, for workers of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies that are increasingly targets of violence. I am thankful for all of the unnamed defenders of democracy, civil rights and peace in so many troubled areas of the world.

We live in a world in which creation is violated and life as we know it on this planet is threatened. So I am so grateful for all of the Davids who never acknowledge that they are not supposed to have a chance against all of the Goliaths of the world. I am grateful for Restoring Eden, for Franciscan Action Network, to Pope Benedict XVI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as well as secular and other faith initiatives that work to heal a hurting planet.

I am thankful for groups and individuals that have touched me on a personal level. I am especially grateful for Emmaus Ministries and the Kaio Community. For 20 years they have tirelessly served the “lepers” of the streets of Chicago. They have worked with homeless men who participate in prostitution. These servants have worked outreach from 10 PM until 3:30 AM six nights a week. They have staffed a Ministry Center (read hospitality center) six days a week. They work with the incarcerated, the mentally ill, families and the sick. I am even more grateful to the men we serve. They have shown me that a service without love is hollow and that we are all the reflection and creation of a loving God. They have taught me in a way I never knew before that we truly are all brothers and sisters.

Since I have lived in Uptown there has been a minimum of 12 shootings with three deaths and numerous injuries, one attempted rape, and an assault on a woman (in front of me.) all of this was within four blocks of our residence. I have walked around the blood stained sidewalks. I have been with folks who have seen and heard too much. All of my exposure has been superficial and yet enough to demand my attention. There was an attempted bombing of a concert, a synagogue I attended was a target of terrorist in Yemen and our block had the bomb squad called three times. So, I am so thankful that the majority of people here are folks who get along with one another. I am grateful for the folks who respect one another and are friendly. In this year of violence I have felt safe, I am grateful for the meek and especially for the peacemakers.

I am grateful to the University of Saint Francis that granted my sabbatical. I am thankful for their continued commitment to service to others, to peacemaking and sharing the Franciscan spiritual and intellectual traditions. I am thankful for my Alma mater, the Adler School of Professional Psychology. I am so proud of their continued and growing commitment to social responsibility. This is a commitment that is local as well as national and global.

In Fort Wayne I am Thankful for the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission, the Ava Maria House, Matthew 25, St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen and the Dioceses of Fort Wayne-South Bend. I am thankful for all of the food pantries, the resale shops and the volunteers who work to help the poor and hungry.

I am thankful for friends old and new. I am thankful for fellow Franciscans of all walks. However, I am particularly thankful for the continued support and fellowship of the Holy Family fraternity.

I am thankful for Kerri, a beautiful woman who is learning about perspective and long-term commitment. I thankful for her lived values, her humor and her keen mind. I am especially thankful for her laughter and because she is my daughter.

I am thankful for a loving family and I am particularly thankful for Cathi who shares me with others. The past four months would not be possible without the knowledge that Cathi truly want us to be in the world making an impact. It is a miracle and a gift that as I was far from her I never felt closer.

This has been a difficult year for so many people. I pray you find more than enough reasons to give thanks as you gather with your loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Faithing in Chicago: Holy Name Cathedral

So I have been visiting so many different churches since I have been in Chicago. I have been to Assyrian Apostolic Catholic Church of the East, a Coptic Church, Polish and Spanish Catholic churches, Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox and Chinese Catholic Mission churches. I have to local churches and churches that were the center of their neighborhood. Well, finally I went to Holy Name Cathedral. I live in Chicago 36 years and never saw it. I was here two years ago and it was in repair. I had been warned by friends I would probably not like how it looked. I have waited too long, my friends are wrong and this is a magnificent church.

Holy Name Cathedral

When I walked up to the church I immediately noticed their new doors. They are huge and inviting. I got excited just walking up the stairs. Once I stepped in side I had to catch my breath. It was incredible.

Holy Name Cathedral (my visit)

The ceiling was remarkable. It struck me as a very masculine church. I could not believe how huge it was. Finally, the organ was an unusual sight. It looked like something out of a fairytale. It was big, imposing and sounded great. In fact the church takes music very seriously.

Holy Name Cathedral II

The Mass was beautiful. The parishioners were friendly. The music was simply fantastic. I cannot wait to return again.

Faithing in Chicago: A Visit to the Baha'i Temple

Last weekend tow of my Kaio Community members, Emily and Bethany and I drove out to Wilmete to visit the Baha’i Temple. There are only seven of these temples in the world. This is the only temple in North America.

Even the drive there was nice. First we drove along the lakefront from Chicago into Evanston. We drove past Loyola University. A number of our community members have spiritual directors on this campus. Then we entered Evanston. The houses along Sheridan Road are huge and regal. We drove past Northwestern University Campus. I did a practicum at the school’s Family Institute of Chicago and I love this school.As soon as we turned into Wilmete the temple was visible as it glowed in the night.

Baha'i Temple (Wilmette, IL)

I love seeing folks who are visiting the temple for the first time. The temple is made of a white stone material. It contains symbols from all of the world religions. It appears to be something out of the Middle East or India. That is appropriate for a faith that began in Persia.Today that very faith is persecuted in its land of origin, Iran.

Baha'i Temple of Chicago

The shape of the temple is designed to emphasize its “Simple Truths” which are the oneness of God, the oneness of humanity and the oneness of religion. All Baha’i temples are round and surrounded by gardens. Many visitors are surprised how comfortable they feel here. This is because the faith recognizes and honors all of the other world religions. Many of the prayers and readings here are from Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Baha'i Temple of Chicago From One of the Gardens

The Baha’i faith believes in the equality of men and women. They believe faith and science should not be in conflict. They believe we are all one people.

Baha'i Temple of Chicago : Bethany and Emily

So we walked the gardens. We sat quietly in the temple and prayed. We gazed up toward the domed ceiling in awe. It was a beautiful evening in a beautiful setting I suspect Bethany and Emily will want to visit the temple again. I suspect they will want to see in during the day, in the spring, during autumn and the changing of the4 seasons and in the snow. Set just off the lake it is beautiful to behold, anytime of the year.

Baha'i Temple of Chicago from the Street

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Walking Along the Chicago River

I teach at the Adler School of Professional Psychology on Mondays. I love the cityscape views from my classroom windows. I love the walk to the Daley Plaza or to Lake Michigan. I am a brief walk to the Harold Washington Library or the Chicago Cultural Center. Across the street from there is the Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park. The walks after teaching are wonderful.

Recently I just walked by the river. I love all the bridges. I remember being part of a sailboat flotilla as 22 bridges opened up for us on our way to the lake.

Chicago River Walk Downtown Chicago

I love all the buildings. Some beckon back to the beginning of last century. Some are all slick and modern. I don’t know which I prefer, the ornate stone buildings or the tall steel and glass towers.

Chicago River Walk Downtown Chicago II

The riverfront is always full of activity. There are boats leaving and entering the lake. There are riverfront restaurants. There are people, all over the place thee are people. The Chicago River is a major transportation line. It connects the lake to the Illinois River and then the Mississippi River. It is important to industry and to tourism. And, as everyone knows, thanks to ingenuity it flows backwards! Chicagoans do not take their river for granted. They dye it green every March 17th. They have numerous boat tours on it daily. They pollute and then try valiantly to clean it up! I love this river and it is a great place to take a stroll!

Chicago River Walk Downtown Chicago III

Halloween on Halsted Street 2010

I had been looking forward to the Halloween Parade on Halsted Street since I arrived in Chicago. I was told it was an exciting, almost carnival like experience. Kaio was all set to attend. I did not dress up and I did not go with my community members. I wanted to get there in time to have a good spot for taking video. I would have enjoyed their company but I made the right decision. Once I saw guys in dresses wearing rolls of toilet paper in their hair I knew I would be busy with my camera.

Halloween on Halsted: Ladies of the House

The crowds were very friendly. There were parents and children. There were people with their pets and there were just folks in customs who were happy and wanted to talk. Lucky for me one of them was a Viking!

Halloween on Halsted: Viking

You name the theme or custom and it was there. There were parking ticket machines, condiments, and movie and TV characters. However, my favorites were the old standbys. I especially like the beautiful vampire. She was able to be attractive and frightening at the same time!

Halloween on Halsted: Vampire on the Corner

Once the parade started all eyes were on the street. I liked the marching bands, the spirit team and the floats. This was not a huge parade. It was not slick. Instead it was a very impressive neighborhood parade.

Halloween on Halsted: Marching Band

The parade was not overly decadent. It was not adult themed. There was an acknowledgment that this was a neighborhood parade and that children would be there. Any adult content occurred after the parade. Compared to other similar parades I would say it was pretty tame. To highlight the family nature of the parade at the beginning of the evening the parade started with a pet parade. Adults and children in custom proudly walked their dogs, who were often also in custom.

Halloween on Halsted: Pets on Parade

Halloween on Halsted: Spider Dog

There were lots of creative customs. Still, the one that I really enjoyed, that channeled my inner 12-year-old boy, was Iron Man.

Halloween on Halsted: Iron Man

Little Shop of Horrors was the overriding theme for the parade this year. The float was pretty cool, even enjoyed the music.

Halloween on Halsted: "Feed Me" float

The Spirit Team had a lot of energy and they again demonstrated this energy during the “After Party.”

Halloween on Halsted: Spirit Team

I like the Tree Man because he reminded me of myself!

Halloween on Halsted: Tree man

Captain Jack Sparrow really got into character and knew how to interact with the crowd.

Halloween on Halsted: Captain Jack

Just some fun characters.

Halloween on Halsted: Blinky girl and Friend

The “characters” were not just in the parade. They were not just on the sidewalks. They were even in the balconies!

Halloween on Halsted: Egyptians in the Window

After the Parade families went home. Most of the participants in the parade along with the audience gathered for an after party. There was music, dancing and conversation. It felt like a scene from the Catina in Star Wars. This first clip is when the crowd is beginning to gather.

Halloween on Halsted: After Party

I like this scene because there are so many different characters. I also enjoy the dancing lady mouse, boy she has energy!

Halloween on Halsted: After Party II

The music and the stage acts kept changing. I of course liked the fire dancers and the music.

Halloween on Halsted: After Party III

It was a fun evening. It felt exotic but safe. People were friendly and engaging. I never felt imposed upon and I certainly knew I was not in Fort Wayne! It is a little late but Happy Halloween.

Secular Franciscan?

I have just assumed that everyone who knows me knows what a Secular Franciscan is. I assumed that until a friend asked, “hey, what is a secular Franciscan?” So let me see if I can briefly describe an Order with an 800 year history.

Francis of Assisi founded three religious orders. The First Order consisted of the Friar Minors, the brothers. Today the First Order consists of Friar Minors, Friars Minor Conventuals, and Friar Minors Capuchin. The Second Order consisted of women, the Poor Clares. The Orders grew quickly. People were drawn to the simple gospel-living message. You live humbly, you are a servant, you care for the poor, you take a vow of poverty, you recognize your connection to all of Creation and you work for peace and build bridges instead of tearing them down.

This new movement caught on quickly and soon married men and women tried to join. Francis did not want his movement to be a source of pain and conflict within the family. His solution was the creation of the Third Order. Originally the married men and women who joined were referred to as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. They were given their own Order. The creation and founding of the Order was assisted by Bishop Ugolino who later became Pope Gregory IX. The Order became known as the Third Order.

Over the years that have been many changes and transformation for all of the Orders. Today the Third Order subdivided among the Seculars and the religious. Secular Franciscans make public professions of their faith, they do not make vows. Secular clergy are those clergy that are not members of the first two Orders but they do take vows and they seek to live a Franciscan life. Clergy who are not associated with the First Order, such as a diocesan priest, but who follow the charism of Francis can join the Third Order. Religious Third Order members also include the Third Order Regulars. Our very own Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration are members of the Third Order. They do take vows, they do live in community but unlike their sisters the Poor Clares, our sisters live and work in the world.
It may sound confusing but in fact this large Franciscan family is made up of people who follow the example of Francis and attempt to life “Gospel to life and life to Gospel.”

So, back to the Secular Franciscans. We have had a number of modifications of the Rule in the last 800 years. The first Rule was written in 1215. The first Rule or the “Primitive Rule” was approved by Pope Honorius III in 1221. The Rule was modified in 1289, 1883 and most recently by Pope Paul VI in 1978.
As Secular Franciscans we meet regularly with our local fraternity. We have a structured program of formation that consists of Orientation, Inquiry, Candidacy , and finally Final Profession. Meetings consist of on-going formation and study, communal prayer, service and fun. Issues that concern Secular Franciscans include environmental issues or being good stewards, social justice, peace-making, and helping and advocating for the poor and marginalized.

Each fraternity has a spiritual adviser who is a clergy or religious Franciscan. The fraternity interacts with the regional body and the regional body interacts with the National Fraternity.

So, in short, the Secular Franciscans are members of a Catholic, Franciscan Order established by Francis of Assisi and recognized by the pope. Hope this was helpful.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homeless Youth, Art and Poetry

Tonight part of the Kaio Community went to Anshe Emet Synagogue. We were there to attend the “Concrete Dreams”: the 6th Annual Homeless Youth Activism Art Show & Speak Out. We had first heard about the program while working outreach. One of our contacts on the streets invited us to attend. He was proud of his work and of the organizations work. We attended to show our support.

The Art Show was sponsored by a number of important groups that aid homeless youth. They include the Night Ministry, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Lakeview Action Coalition. The youth prepared and planned the night at The Broadway Youth Center which is a program of Howard Brown Health Center.

The art was displayed on boards around the room. One wall consisted of photos and bios of famous people who had experienced homelessness. They included john Drew Barrymore, Hale Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Carrey, Jim Carrey, Charlie Chaplin, Kelly Clarkson, Kurt Cobain, Ella Fitzgerald, Ben Franklin…you get the idea. It was an impressive and hopeful wall.

The program provided food for the many guests. The program consisted of the H.E.L.L.O. Drum Chorus, a poetry slam, dance and song.

This was not an insignificant night. It is important that people begin to take the plight of the homeless seriously. This recession is devastating local and state budgets. Donors are giving less and yet the ranks of the homeless swells. Due to the related health and legal problem homelessness becomes everyone’s problem. If we are truly compassionate we do not need that as an incentive to act.

There are 2 million homeless youth in America each year. 20% to 40% if the homeless youth are LGBT. In Illinois there are almost 25,000 homeless youth who are not with parents. 50% of them have been refused youth services. There are over 2,000 homeless youth on the streets of Chicago every night.

It is no accident that the Art Show is presented in November. November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. November is also National Runaway Prevention Month. To show support for runaway youth Americans are asked to replace their front porch light bulb with a green light bulb. So, go ahead, go change your porch light bulbs now, I can wait!

So we went and supported many of the youth that we see every night on outreach. We supported youth who we know are sleeping outside, who we know are at risk for health and legal problems. We supported youth who we know want to be recognized, valued and advocated for. It was a good night.

My Backup Church, Our Lady of Lourdes

I am fortunate to have a number of beautiful churches within walking distance. My daily church is St. Mary of the Lake Parish. However, on occasion I will attend Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. This is the church I go to for Adoration. The church has a wonderful grotto that is open 24 hours a day. The yard has a statue of Mary that is a focal point for outside prayer.

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish: Outside View

The church was built in 1916. It was built in the Spanish Renaissance style. The large red dome is distinctive and the church is the dominant view of the neighborhood. This is the church that Deacon John Green served at.

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish

The first time I saw the church, two years ago, I was disappointed. This was clearly once a great church but it was run down. It appeared poor, dirty and in disrepair. It had a long proud history. Originally it had been on the other side of Ashland Avenue. Then in 1929 the city decided to widen the street. So the church was cut in half. It was laboriously pulled across the street by horses. The process took month. Additions were made to the church so that it rose bigger and better on the west side of the street.

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish III

Well, those glory days of the church appear to soon be eclipsed. The church is completing its renovation. It is bright and spectacular. The Stations of the Cross demand visitor’s attention. The ceiling beckons. The altar is breath-taking. This is a predominantly Latino congregation. The people are devout which brings dignity and energy to the church. I love visiting Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

Chicago and My Franciscan Formation

I am a Secular Franciscan and while on sabbatical I have not had an opportunity to spend time with my home fraternity. The challenge has been to find occasion to interact with other Franciscans. Well, that has not been a problem.

On Mondays I teach at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Since the class begins at 9:30 I do not have time for morning Mass. This is not a problem because I simply attend Mass at St. Peter’s in the Loop. This is the center for Franciscan life in Chicago. The church is big and impressive. The huge crucified Christ on the outside of the church demands attention in busy downtown Chicago. However, I would not describe the church as beautiful. It is big, powerful, moving and functional but not beautiful. It is also full of Friars so I am happy!

The church is used all day long by downtown Chicago workers. When Mass is not being celebrated people are arriving for Reconciliation. Friars are readily available to talk with you. The lower level has a number of office including at least three different Secular Franciscan Fraternity offices. There is also a wonderful bookstore.

St. Peter's in the Loop: My Monday Church

On October 3rd I was returning home from visiting Cathi. This was our first visit since I started my sabbatical. That meant I was not with my fraternity or a guest fraternity for Transitus. Transitus is the celebration of the passing of Brother Francis from this life to God. It is the major holiday of Franciscans. I felt disconnected from my Franciscan family. Then I decided to go to mass at St. Peter’s in the Loop. That was the right decision. Mass was very peaceful and the church was decorated to mark this significant day of the year. Then we were invited to participate in Transitus following Mass.

Transitus is marked by reading the biographies of the life of Francis as he approached death. Between the readings a choir of men chanted. It was quiet, solemn and moving. The service was held in the lower church. At the end we were all given candles. Then all of us silently walked outside. We walked around the city block in silence praying for peace. I prayed for peace for every area of the world, for every conflict I was aware of. I prayed for peace locally and for our guys. In between the silent marchers were friars carrying crosses. We marched in a canyon of skyscrapers as people of the city looked on. We then reentered the church and gathered in the upper church for the conclusion.

The Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi (October 3rd )

I no longer felt disconnected. Rather I felt connected with my fellow pilgrims to Assisi. I felt connected to the Holy Family Fraternity of Our Lady of Indiana. I felt connected to Franciscans at the University of Saint Francis and to my brothers and sisters in the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities. I felt connected to Clare and Anthony, Bonaventure, Angela of Foligno, John Bosco, John Vianney, Brother Leo and most assuredly I felt connected to Brother Francis. It was a very good night.

I have made a point of visiting Franciscan Outreach. They have offices in the Marquard Center but also in the basement of St. Peter’s in the Loop. The Franciscan Outreach group is a natural connection for me to make. They are Franciscan but they are also focused on helping the homeless. They have shelters, transitional housing, a soup kitchen and probably most important, dedicated case managers. While I was talking with staff people routinely came in off the street to work with their case managers. They were all shown respect and hospitality. I was also happy to visit them because they provide services that are of use to our guys. When I look at the staff of Franciscan Outreach I cannot help thinking about Francis caring for the lepers.

Franciscan Outreach 2003 video From the Streets to a Better Life

One day I was walking down Ashland Avenue. I was checking out an incredible Vietnamese Buddhist Temple. In the middle of the block was a house with a statue of Francis in the yard. That is not usual but they also had a peace flag. I rang the door bell and asked if they had any connection with Franciscans. Boy was I surprised, it was a friar’s house! Bethany, one of my fellow members of the Kaio Community and I have since joined the friars for evening prayers. It was a wonderful night of prayer and reflection, pizza, wine and great conversation. I will be going back. One of the friars is a priest at St. Peter’s in the Loop.

Two formers members of the Kaio Community are now living at the St Francis of Assisi House of Hospitality. This is a beautiful old building in a residential neighborhood. It is only a few minutes’ walk from Emmaus Ministries. Monday evenings the community has meals that are open to the public. So I joined Nicole and Joshua for a meal. It was great. There were visitors from other schools, there were friends of the residents and there were supporters. The evening was marked by great food and even better conversation.

Catholic Workers House: the Francis House

The St Francis of Assisi House of Hospitality is a Catholic Worker House. It is part of the Catholic Workers Movement that was started by Dorothy Day. It is hard to think about what it means to be a Franciscan without thinking about issues of social justice. As I walked around the house I saw evidence everywhere of people who work for peace, who care for the poor and believe in being good stewards of creation. It is a good place to visit.

Francis House:: What a Kitchen!

Part of feeling connected to the larger Franciscan family while being away from my fraternity is simply a matter of surrounding myself with things that are Franciscan. A good friend gave me a stain glass decal of Francis preaching to the birds. This is in the front window of Kaio. Each morning I see the cityscape and Francis. I made sure I brought books about Francis with me. As a professed member of the Secular Franciscans I wear my Tau everyday. This simple cross has been the source of many conversations. I go to a Native American Catholic Mass, I walk the streets of Chicago, I go to an Anglican vesper service, an Assyrian Catholic Church of the East liturgy , I meet with an Imam and each time someone recognizes the cross. Once that happens we begin to talk about Francis, peace and living a gospel life.

I have been physically disconnected from my fraternity. However, I know my fraternity has kept me in their prayers. They know that the Kaio community and the Day of Pray of Emmaus Ministries prays for them. My Franciscan roots have served to build bridges and to help inter-faith interactions be joyous. I came here to focus on the work of my sabbatical. That has occurred. However, what I did not realize was that this would also become a time of greater formation. This has proved to be a deep and fruitful pilgrimage.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Visit to Cathedral of Immaculate Conception Springfield

On the second morning of the 19th Annual HIV/STD Conference I went to Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. I had only been here one time before, two years ago. At that time I was visiting my mother-in-law who was ill. I took a break from our visit (so she could rest) and went to Mass at the Cathedral. It was Good Friday and the Mass was wonderful. It was also a church that was getting ready to begin a restoration projection. Well, the restoration is a success. This is a beautiful church. It is clear to see the Roman civil influence on the church’s’ design. The art is incorporated into the design so that there is no clash between time periods.

Cathedral of Immaculate Conception Springfield

I sat trying to pay attention to the liturgy. I was not always successful. The pillars kept pulling my eyes upward. The ceiling demanded my attention. The side alters kept demanding I look at them.

Cathedral of Immaculate Conception Springfield: pillars

The upper windows and of course the rectangular shape of the church remind me of my “home” church in Uptown. It was desiged after St. Paul Outside the Wall. That is a church that had been a Roman courthouse and was conerted to t a church. So I looked at the upper window and wondered if they were painted gold for the same reason as our church, because that is what the original Romans did? May they just did that because it looks congruent with the rest of the church and is pleasing. Either way I felt connected to my home church in Uptown. Because of the name I felt connected to my home church in Fort Wayne. I really felt connected to my mother-in-law. Margo, I love ya and miss ya.

Cathedral of Immaculate Conception Springfield: upper windows

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Visiting the State Capitol

Emmaus Ministries staff and guys attended the 19th Annual HIV/STD Conference in Springfield Illinois. We learned a lot. We met some interesting and hopefully useful folks in the field. However, we also had time afterward for a little site seeing. This included seeing the Illinois State Capitol Building.

Walking up to the building we knew we were in for a treat. The outside of the building is impressive and designed so that you look up toward it in awe. Onve inside we walked to the center of the building where we waited for a tour. Our tour guide was enthusiastic. Our first stop was the House chambers.

Illinois Capitol: House chambers

The Dome

As we walked over to the Senate Chambers I stopped to look up toward the dome. The art and the architecture in the building was wonderful. Next we entered the Senate. This was a beautiful room. I cannot imagine servng in this room and not having an exaggerated sense of self.

Illinois Senate Chambers

In the center of the building were statues of important participants in the life of the Capitol. I suspct that one day Obama will have a statue in this hall.

Illinois Capitol: statues

The next working room we went to was the original Supreme Court chamger. It is a wonderful room that today is used for committee work.

Illinois Capitol: Original Supreme Court Chamber

Playing tourist after a conference is a great way to end a conference and make sure there is still a semblance fo respite involved.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Go Tell It on the Mountain" at JPUSA

“500 mountains gone, 1.2 million acres leveled, 2000 miles of streams destroyed”, that is the motivation behind Restoring Eden’s current “Go Tell It on the Mountain” tour. Restoring Eden is a Christian organization that focuses on being good stewards of creation. The current tour is three weeks long and hits many cities in the northern Midwest. Luckily for us one of the concerts/presentations was across the street from us in the Friendly Towers of Jesus People USA.

Introduction to "Go Tell It On The Mountain" concert.

I am especially happy to see “green Christians.” I have seen too many be critical of environmentalism, a stance that has never made any sense to me. Restoring Eden has a larger agenda then the current tour. They are protectors of creation. That includes speaking out for an end of Mountain Top Removal as a form of coal mining. However, it also means educating people about the dangers of climate change and what can be done to limit our contribution to that problem. It means finding smarter ways to grow crops and sustain communities. It means fighting to save endangered species. It also means participating in the Indigenous Christian Environmental Network. This group supports indigenous Christians whose traditional ways of life are seen as more consistent with caring about creation than a mineral exploitative society.

Go Tell It On the Mountain II

However, we were at JPUSA to hear about the mountain top removal. We were not disappointed. Sadden, yes, moved to action, hopefully. It was a powerful concert that combined script, visual presentations of Appalachia and the coal mines and music. It helped you care about the culture of the mountains. It helped you appreciate the beauty of the mountains. It helped you feel the pain of losing a culture and a unique natural beauty to get cheap power at a people’s expense.

"Go Tell It On the Mountain", first solo

The project is coordinated by Andy Heffner. This young man knows how to plan, schedule and support a tour. He also knows how to make sure the core values and mission of Restoring Eden permeate the tour.

Introduction to Restoring Eden

The tour consists of two men telling the audience about the culture of the mountains. They tell us about coal mining and then how mountain top removal has increased and how it destroys communities and locations. Tyler Schaffer provide the dialogue which gives us the context to understand the gravity of the problem.

Introduction to Mountain Top Removal and the Tour

We heard the music of Aaron Lee Martin. This is a talented musician with an incredible voice. His music was powerful and pulled you further into the presentation. Afterward we had an opportunity to hear Aaron sing his own music while others talked to Andy and Tyler.

Restore Eden's "Go Tell It On the Mountain" duo presentation

I do not know how one can be a Christian and not feel compelled to want to protect and nurture creation. I don’t care if you view climate change as manmade or natural. There is enough pollution and destruction of habitat that we must feel compelled to act no matter whether we are red or blue, conservative or liberal. If we appreciate the gift of creation than we need to act like it.

"Go Tell It on the Mountain"...just watch the feet!

As a Franciscan I appreciated the energy and focus of Restoring Eden. I noticed they have visited 16 campuses on the tour. I have an ecology club and a campus ministry staff to call. I think they need to visit one more campus! Thanks JPUSA for another great concert. You folks are great neighbors!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Visiting St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church of Palatine

Outside of St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church of Palatine

I went to a Coptic Church in Palatine. I have been interested in the Coptic Church for a long time. I love studying faith traditions that go back to the early Church. The Coptic Church was founded by St. Mark who brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. Yep, that is old. Within a half a century Egypt was one of the important centers of early Christianity. Their influence is still felt in our churches today. The Nicene Creed was authored in part by St. Anthansius who was the pope of Alexandra.

Yep, I said the pope of Alexandria. The Coptic Church still has it’s own pope. I tried to see him last year when he was in Ohio but a flood preventing me from getting to the church he was at.

So I went to the St. Mary's in Palatine. It was grand. Everyone looked like they were from Egypt or at least the Middle East or North Africa. Everyone was welcoming.

The wall molding and paintings reflected the vegetation of Egypt. The icons were beautiful. During the first service the priest was all in white and did not look that different from priests in the West. During the second service another priest presided and he was all in black with the round black cap I associate with Coptic priests. I never understood a single word of the second service!

The Coptic Church gave us formalized theology, monasticism, and so many writings. The church was active in the Ecumenical Councils and the Church was one of the first to experience schism. Today the Coptic Church views itself as a bridge between the Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox Churches of the East. They need allies because they are also a church under attack. While the official line is that Egypt is a multicultural nation that respects religious diversity the experiences of Copts in Egypt is very different. So the Coptic Church in America is not just a church that is preserving a particular form of worship and teachings. It is struggling to preserve a culture in Diaspora.

The first liturgy lasted three hours. It was in English, Arabic and Copt. The second service was in Copt. During both services the men and women sat on different sides of the church. The women all wore head coverings. The service was chanted and the chanting was wonderful.

I had a great time worship at St. Mary’s and wished I had more time to return to this wonderful church.

Inside St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church of Palatine

The Fire Dancers

I was sitting at the table doing homework. I was frustrated because I just came back from the Gypsy church that did not exist. I was disappointed and then the phone rang. The questions was, “do you want to go see fire dancer?” Man, who would say no to that?

The Beginning of the Fire Dance

So I meet up with Nicole (Kaio 2008) and Joshua (Kaio 2009) and we walked over to Foster Beach area. You could see the dances from blocks away. You could also hear the drums. It was exciting just walking toward it.

Fire Dance II

The crowd was enthusiastic. People danced, took pictures and encouraged the fire dancers.

Former Kaio Members at Fire Dance

Josh and Nicole seemed to know people at every turn. I don’t know what was more entertaining to them, watching the dancers or meeting friends they had not seen in a while. I do know they were constantly laughing.

Fire Dance III

The crowd seemed to be made up of old hippies, skate boarders, and current “artsy” folks., It was a fun group.

Fire Dance IV

As the dancing continued we began to notice it was starting to rain. We all tried to ignore it. Tht only last a little while.

Fire Dance V

I did appreciate the safty cprecautions. There was police tape and an enclosed circle for the dancers. The Chicago Fire Department was present and the dancers all knew the rules to follow.

Chicago Fire Department at the Fire Dance

I loved the drums. When it finally did rain it was the drummer that saved the evening. Love the rhythm.

Drummers at the Fire Dance II

When the rains came down we all ran under the viaducts. It was a friendly and diverse crowd. I enjoyed the sights, sounds and conversations.

Avoiding the Rain, Gathering at the Underpass

When the rains stopped the dancer had left. However, the drummers were still there. So the event then turned into one big tribal dance. It was a fun nd interesting evening.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Minnekirken, Codfish and My Peeps!

I had an opportunity to spend time with my Norwegian community. Minnekirken, the Norwegian Memorial Church in Logan Square was having a cod fish dinner. I got to spend time with members of the church as well as folks from the larger Chicago land area. Minnekirken may be a small church but it is the only Norwegian speaking church in a 400 mile radius.

The church is significant to the Norwegian community. At one time Logan Square was a Norwegian and Jewish neighborhood. The stores, restaurants and lodges all reflected this. 30 years ago Cathi and I worked at the Norway Center only a few blocks south of the church. This was a building that supported Norwegian-Americans through two World Wars. It supported Norwegian exploration of the Poles. It was visited by Norwegian royalty. When I worked there it was owned by a lodge of the Sons of Norway. I loved the Viking Lounge and the huge hall with Viking murals and a walk in fire place. Today it is but a dream, the building is residential.

However, the church still exists. Along with the statue of Leif Erikson in Humboldt Park these are the only two reminders of a different time. During the nations bicentennial the King of Norway visited Chicago. He came to Minekirken for a church service. I stood outside the church and got a glimpse of the king. It was a very good day.

I was able to meet their new pastor, the Rev. Sigurd Grindheim. The minister holds a PhD. in New Testament studies. He has preached and taught in the United States, Norway and Ethiopia. He served as a Chaplain in the Norwegian Army. He has also worked on a Norwegian translation of a study bible. Clearly this is a talented, dedicated man! I enjoyed my encounter with this inspiring man. He also brought me up to the sanctuary so I could video the church.

Norwegian Memorial Church in Logan Square

The last time I was in this church for a service was two ears ago. I was here to mark the Syttende Mai of the 17th of May. This is Norwegian Constitution Day. When I was here every pew had a Norwegian flag. There were chorus of men, women and children in traditional folk costumes. At that time I met the equivalent of the Norwegian Speaker of the House though many simply referred to him as the vice President of Norway.


So I took photos of the sanctuary from the first floor and the balcony. It is truly a simple, humble church. I was surprised to find a statue of St. Francis in this Lutheran church.

Minnekirken and St. Francis

I then want back down to the basement reception hall to eat a wonderful meal. I also spent time with a very enjoyable couple. They were not members of the church but supported the church. We talked about the neighborhood from “back in the day.” We talked about their neighborhood. At the end of the evening they made a contribution (unsolicited) to Emmaus Ministries. It was great to spend time with Art and Peggy Doering. Finally, the crowning glory to a wonderful night was a spontaneous concert. One of the gentleman got up and sung a couple of Norwegian ballads. It was a great evening hanging with my peeps!

Singer at Minnekirken's Cod Fish Dinner

Alternatives' Public Bricolage Murals

When I toured Alternatives for Youth and Family I was surprised and impressed by their art programs. I was particularly attracted to their bricolage program. This required planning and a team approach. I was told that I really had to go see their murals in the underpasses of Bryn Mawr and Foster Avenues. So one afternoon I walked to both. I was not disappointed!

Bryn Mawr Underpass Mural

Bryn Mawr Underpass Near the Lake

I loved how detailed the mural was. I loved how it incorporated the materials and themes of the lake. So I made a decision to walk along the lake on my way to the foster Avenue Mural. That was a good choice.

Lake Michigan in Mid-October

Finally I arrived at the Foster Avenue underpass murals. They were wonderful. Not only did I like the murals, I really appreciated their themes. They highlighted the Native American History of the area. I could not help thinking about the American Indian Center and the ANAWIM Center.

Foster Avenue Underpass Mural

Foster Avenue Underpass Mural II

Foster Avenue Underpass Mural III

So, between the Hip Hop Art program, the graffiti art, the Circus program and the bricolage that has gone public I have to admit I am in awe of Alternatives. Just in case your wondering, yes, they would be interested I art and art therapy interns!