Archive | January, 2012

Retired priest enjoys fishing

January 31, 2012


Father Rinaldo Custodio holds a stringer of trout caught during a trip to Colorado.

I had the pleasure of meeting Father Rinaldo Custodio, a retired priest of this archdiocese, last Friday at the Leo Byrne Residence for retired priests. I was there to photograph him for an upcoming special section on the Catholic Services Appeal.

After the photo shoot, we got to talking and he mentioned his love of the outdoors, specifically, fishing. He went on to describe an annual trip he takes with his friend, Tom Schwein. They met when Father Custodio was helping Tom and his wife, Susan (Krmpotich), prepare for marriage in 1985. She is originally from Minnetonka and the two were married in 1986 at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minnetonka. The story of Tom’s friendship with Father Custodio began there.

“At the groom’s dinner, I gave Father Custodio a fly rod as a gift for performing our wedding ceremony,” Tom said. “He asked: ‘If I ever want to come out to Colorado to go fly fishing, would you take me?’ I said, ‘No problem, Father, just call me.’

“This past summer was Father Custodio’s 19th trip to Colorado to go fly fishing since 1986. But, this is no ordinary fishing trip. We generally have between six and 10 guys. We drive four hours from Denver up to the north central part of the state. The last 50 miles to get to the trail head is dirt road. We hire a guide to take us into the lake, which sits at 10,000 feet above sea level. The guide packs all of our gear on horses and drops us off at the lake. We generally go into the lake for four days.”

Despite being retirement age, Father Custodio has been able to withstand the rigors of the trip. And, he has been rewarded with fantastic fishing, which the photo above attests.

It’s really awesome to see retired priests enjoy the outdoors like this. After many years of service, I’m glad they can reap at least a small reward for their hard work.

Here’s hoping and praying Father Custodio will have many more fun trips to Colorado!


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Gutsy black Catholic journalist found hero for racial justice in Minnesota bishop

January 30, 2012


19th century newspaperman considered Catholicism key to racial justice and saw an advocate in the Archbishop of St. Paul

Daniel Rudd’s is a name you’ve likely never heard, but the one-time slave was a bold Catholic ahead of his time, and one who found a champion in none other than St. Paul’s Archbishop John Ireland.

Back in 1887, Rudd founded a black Catholic newspaper, the American Catholic Tribune, and from its pages he preached the unique message that the Catholic Church would play an essential role in the breaking down of the color line in the United States and in gaining racial equality for black people.

Historian Gary B. Agee’s recently released biography, “A Cry for Justice: Daniel Rudd and His Life in Black Catholicism, Journalism and Activism, 1854-1933” (University of Arkansas Press, 2012) captures that distinctive philosophy.

As a child Rudd was owned by a Catholic master and formed in faith along side white children in his parish in Bardstown, Ky. He became a free man after the Emancipation Proclamation, founded his newspaper in Cincinnati, and was one of the most well-known black Catholics of the late 19th century as he labored for justice and equality for people of color.

Born a century later, he might have been a prophet, too. He wrote this in 1888:

“We think we will live long enough to see a black man president of this Republic.”

 Journalist and evangelizer

Rudd believed in – and took pride in – the Catholic theology that taught “the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of all people.” That belief convinced Rudd that the Catholic Church was the best hope for blacks to have the same rights as whites.

Agee noted, “In July 1890, Rudd told a reporter of the Cincinnati Times-Star, ‘I have always been a Catholic and, feeling that I knew the teachings of the Catholic Church, I thought there could be no greater factor in solving the race problem than that matchless institution….’”

Rudd’s newspaper had a circulation of 10,000 at its high point, and he used its pages not just to cry out for racial justice but to evangelize his fellow blacks. He wrote that he had started the newspaper to “give the great Catholic Church a hearing and show that it is worthy of at least a fair consideration at the hands of our race, being as it is the only place on this continent where rich and poor, white and black, must drop prejudices at the threshold and go hand in hand to the altar.”

White readers both bought subscriptions and donated money to support the American Catholic Tribune. Agee states that Rudd used his newspaper “both to instruct and encourage African American Catholics as well as to proclaim Catholicism’s merits to prospective black converts. In this manner he served his black readers even as he attempted to shape his white readership’s perception of blacks.”

 Hero in an archbishop

Rudd was a gutsy editor who addressed the issue of women’s rights, demanded the blacks be hired when they can do a job just as well as whites, called for granting home rule for Ireland, and took to task a Catholic newspaper editor who claimed that whites were destined to rule America’s inferior black race.

Rudd sued a delicatessen for refusing to serve him (and won a $100 judgment). He founded the Colored Catholic Congress movement to prod black Catholics to take up collective action to demand racial equality, and he chided the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. to open its Catholic schools to blacks.

Not all Catholics of Rudd’s time bought the idea of the equality of the races. Not all Catholic bishops agreed with him either.

One who did, however, was Archbishop Ireland, who wasn’t shy about his feelings on the matter. The archbishop caused an uproar when in 1890 he preached on the subject to a packed house at St. Augustine Church in Washington, D.C., with members of Congress and other highly place politicians present.

St. Paul’s archbishop said that racial prejudice is a crime that Catholics must lift themselves above. He said whites need “lessons in charity, benevolence, justice and religion” in order to address “the race problem.”

Agee’s work goes into great detail about ArchbishopIreland’s views on racial prejudice, and notes that Rudd made sure the archbishop’s words were spread far and wide, quoting him in the columns he wrote for his own newspaper, urging other black publications to reprint the archbishop’s talk and lecturing on the topic around the United States.

Businessman, journalist, evangelist, and advocate for justice, his biography tells of the trials, the accomplishments, and the disappointments of a black Catholic who more American Catholics – black and white – should learn about.



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It’s 3:00 AM and you’re wide awake–is God calling you to pray?

January 30, 2012

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Years ago, when Bishop Lee Piche was the pastor at St. Joseph’s in West St. Paul, he gave a homily that I think about often: “When you lie awake at night it could be that God is calling you to pray.”

It's 3:00 AM...Is God calling you to pray?

Used with permission from

Parents always have a lot on their minds when it comes to their children. I picture Mary’s tender heart which was pierced seven times according to Simeon’s prophecy. I’m sure she spent a lot of sleepless nights in prayer. Thankfully, I have not experienced the same sorrows that the Blessed Mother has; not many of us will, but we still have a myriad of concerns for our children.

As a mother of nine, I have said many prayers when the moon is up…and so were our babies. Our youngest are twins, and they will turn three soon. Unfortunately, they don’t know what the word SLEEP means. By eight weeks all of our other babies slept through the night, but since our identical boys were born, they get up anywhere from 1-12 times most nights. I’m praying on overdrive these years! Sometimes I begin with the best intentions, the people closest to my heart, but often I find myself in the middle of the night saying (Er…begging!) “Please God, don’t let the twins wake up screaming…please, please, please!” And mercifully, a few times my prayers were answered, and then each twin was rewarded with a chocolate from an Advent calendar. (Okay, I’ll admit, I resort to bribery some days.)

On the nights when I find myself awake with the coyotes and owls, and I’m not so desperate, I  remember to pray for the needs outside my family and loved ones. Namely, I pray that we all feel called to build a culture of life by using our God-given talents. My New Year’s resolution is to pray more often for this–day and night. And yes…I’m still going to pray that the twins sleep until their night light changes from the moon to the sun.

As people who embrace life, we have a lot for which to pray:

  • For an end to the courge of abortion as we usher in the 40th year of Roe V. Wade
  • That mothers choose life for their unborn and find the help and support they need
  • For those who are at death’s door–that St. Joseph guide them toward a peaceful death
  • That the sick will be comforted, and that those who take care of them will have the help, strength, faith and perseverance needed
  • That traditional marriage will be upheld
  • That our country will be protected, and for the military men and women who defend our freedom
  • For those who wear a badge and risk their lives for our safety
  • That respect for all human life will increase
  • That all children–before and after birth–will be protected and loved
  • That those with disabilities–including the pre-born–will be shown respect
  • That those who work in the medical and legislative fields will be guided by the Holy Spirit

We must also remember our prayers of thanksgiving for:

  • A surge of youth who are  determined to turn the tide
  • Clergy who speak beautifully about building a culture of life
  • Pregnancy help centers which assist mothers and babies in need–sidewalk counselors who save lives–Safe Place for Newborns
  • Hospice caregivers and medical staff who lovingly work with families at the end of life
  • People with disabilities or illnesses, and their families and caretakers, who teach us about the beauty of life by their example
  • Birthmothers who choose life and make a selfless decision to place the child for adoption
  • Adoptive families and the agencies who assist them

Readers: If you think of any other prayers to add to the list, please write them in the comments box. Thank you!

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7 Reasons Why I Like Religion

January 30, 2012


Photo/DrabikPany Licensed through Creative Commons

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about how bad religion is, so bad it seems that some claim Jesus hated it. According to one singer, “All religion ever made of me was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet.”

Well I’m a sinner but I think Christ has actually helped me untie stones from my feet through the Catholic religion.

If  instead of being helped you’ve been hurt by religion, I am sorry. Maybe it was the members of that religion, not the religion itself.  Religions are made up of people who regularly make mistakes but it doesn’t mean God’s not there.

Here are some reasons why I believe Jesus is not only OK with religion, but is working through it to heal, unite and sanctify His people.

1. Jesus started one.

When Jesus tells St. Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my Church” in Matt. 16:18, He doesn’t sound very anti-religion. He’s starting His own religion as a fulfillment of the one He practiced all His life. He doesn’t call for abolishing any of the Jewish law. (Luke 16:17)

2. It helps many people in need.
Contrary to claims that religion doesn’t help the poor, the Catholic Church is actually the largest non-governmental provider of education, health care, and human services in this country. It helps families and communities to combat hunger and homelessness, overcome poverty and dependency, build housing, resist crime and seek greater justice. It also offers relief and development in more than 80 countries.

3. It is all of us together.
There are times when it’s extremely comforting to know that a lot of people are going through the same things I am. My religion is not a building, although we have some beautiful ones. It’s people who love each other because they love Christ, and want to spend eternity with Him. It’s holy men and women who lived during the past 2,000 years and continue to help me through their prayers and support. And it’s knowing that in every country in the world I will find others who believe as I do. Because of God and my religion, I am never alone.

4.  It does what Jesus told us to do.
At the Last Supper He said, “Do this in memory of Me.” (Luke 22:19) If He’d wanted us carry out His wishes alone, He would have given the Apostles one-on-one instructions instead of calling everyone together. St. Paul reaffirms this in I Cor. 11:24

5.  Through it, Jesus feeds me when I’m hungry and heals me when I’m broken.
The Lord could come directly into my home and give me communion and absolution for my sins but instead He does it through others–men in directly line from the Apostles who had the original assignment.

6. It promotes peace.
I’m sure some wars have been fought because of Christianity, though it’s not always clear if the Church has been directly to blame. What I do know is that people in my religion work tirelessly for peace. At Vatican II, the Council Fathers exhorted “Christians to cooperate with all in securing a peace based on justice and charity and in promoting the means necessary to attain it, under the help of Christ, author of peace. (Pacem in Terris)

Through history, a total of 43 popes have brought peace and settled disputes between warring factions. You don’t hear much about that. One of them was Pope St. Leo I who faced Attila the Hun in 452. Words were exchanged near Mantua, Italy, and afterwards Attila promised to withdraw his forces from Italy and negotiate peace with the Roman emperor.

7. It is about humans searching for God.
I’m searching for God, too, so that makes the Church a good fit for me. Even though Jesus started this religion, He left it for humans to run with the Holy Spirit’s help. I am imperfect and broken and so are all the other members of my religion. But together we are stronger (Ecc. 4:12) and we are doing what the Lord told us to do. (See all four gospels.)




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March for Life 2012 – The Rebellion

January 25, 2012


The “Bad Catholic” blogger, Marc Barnes, put together a wonderful video with footage from the March for Life earlier this week. I was impressed with the cogent and confident defenses for ‘life’ put forth by the marchers. Their parents should be proud.

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Prolife ‘billboard people’ aiming higher

January 24, 2012




“The Billboard People” sponsored 6,500 prolife billboards in 42 states last year, but they want to do more.

“Our goal is 7,000 billboards,” Prolife Across America founder Mary Ann Kucharski told supporters in an email blast, “because we know that the more ads that are out there, the more people reached and babies’ lives saved.”

Changing hearts in order to save babies lives has been the purpose behind Prolife Across America since the Minneapolis-based nonprofit started up 23 years ago as Prolife Minnesota. The heartwarming photos of babies adds an emotional tug to the outdoor marketing’s messages of information and alternatives to abortion, including adoption and post-abortion help.

The group is in the midst of a “Father’s Campaign” (photo above) that began in mid-October with more than 1,900 billboards on that theme, (see them all here), Kucharski told The Catholic Spirit.

She added, “You may be interested in knowing that we will have at least one on University and Vandalia (near the new Planned Parenthood building in St. Paul, MN), thanks to an anonymous donor.”

The e-blast to supports invited donations to reach the 7,000-billboard goal.

“So often our 800# Hotline for Help may be the only visible sign of hope and help to someone on the brink of an abortion decision,” Kucharski wrote. “Please help us do more in 2012.”

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Praying for life and walking with bishops

January 23, 2012


From left, Bishop Paul Sirba of the Diocese of Duluth and Bishop John LeVoir of the Diocese of New Ulm greet Franciscan Brothers of Peace Seraphim Wirth and John Mary Kaspari at the MCCL March for Life at the State Capitol Jan. 22.

Yesterday, I once again had the privilege of photographing the Mass for Life at the Cathedral and the MCCL March for Life at the State Capitol. Filling in for Archbishop John Nienstedt at the Mass was Bishop John LeVoir of the Diocese of New Ulm. Joining him was Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth.

It was great to see both bishops, and I got a rare treat of several minutes of conversation with them on the way back to the Cathedral following the MCCL rally. It’s not too often you get more than a quick greeting with a bishop, but I was fortunate to be able to walk and talk with two!

Both are very close to nature where they live, and they both had stories of seeing deer near their residences on a regular basis. If they were deer hunters, I’m quite certain they would be able to fill their freezers with venison every year. I know Bishop Sirba’s brother is an avid fisherman, so I hinted I may want to come up to his diocese for a little fishing.

Actually, I was supposed to go to his diocese today to interview and photograph a woman who is both a devout Catholic and an avid dog musher. But, weather spoiled the plans. She’s coming to the St. Cloud Diocese next month for a fund raiser at a parish, in which she will give people dog sled rides. I’m hoping to go up there for the event, and, hopefully, take a ride myself.

It was very good to see Bishop LeVoir and Bishop Sirba yesterday. Bishop LeVoir served as an associate priest at St. Charles Borromeo when I was still living at home and went to church there. In fact, when I married my first wife, Jennifer (who later died of cancer), back in 1990, then-Father LeVoir was the presider. So, I feel a strong connection to him. Plus, I greatly admire him as a priest and man of God.

I hope the two bishops will continue to make visits back here to St. Paul. It’s always nice to see them. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to get one or both of them in my fishing boat some day!

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From Students for Life: “Thank you for 39 years of Pro-Life service”

January 22, 2012


We’re turning the tide of Roe v Wade

According to an article by, Students for Life of America has just released their latest video, Turn the Tide 2012, which features abortion survivors thanking the pro-life movement for its 39 years of service. The video shows how the pro-life movement is winning the abortion battle.

It depicts men, women and children who have either survived abortion themselves or who have overcome the suggestion or temptation to abort suggested by medical doctors or family members.

Kristan Hawkins–who is the current executive director of Students for Life of America–reminds us:

“This Sunday will mark the 39th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions which legalized abortion in all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason in the United States. It will also begin the 40th full year of legal abortion.”

YouTube Preview Image

Thanks for all you do to embrace life!

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Faith, Fellowship and Fiesta: My Friends from San Félix

January 20, 2012

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As I watched the sun silhouette the high-rise office buildings of downtown Caracas from the balcony of a swanky eighth-floor apartment, my new acquaintance shattered the moment’s serenity.  “San Félix?!?” she gasped, nearly inhaling her whiskey, “Why would you ever want to go there!?”

This same conversation would replay dozens of times in the week I spent visiting my friend and getting to know his circle of friends in Caracas before visiting Father Greg Schaffer and Father Tim Norris and their community in San Félix.  For his rich, glamorous and insular social stratum, San Félix’s reputation for crime and poverty render it a place nearly unspeakable.   Their perceptions of San Felix aren’t necessarily incorrect.  Crime, poverty, teen pregnancy, gangs, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, domestic abuse, and corruption all run rampant in San Félix.  What these Caracas socialites haven’t had is the chance to meet some of the inspiring people who live there and work daily in faith and love to make a living and forge a stronger community.

After picking me up at the airport in the neighboring city of Puerto Ordaz, Father Greg brought me back to his home, showed me my place to sleep, and then nearly immediately introduced me to members of his parish to help me get the lay of the land.  One of the first he introduced me to was his beautiful and incredibly intelligent 19-year-old neighbor, Claudia.  Claudia is studying Human Resources at the nearby public university and dreams of pursuing a graduate degree in the United States.  She is improving her English with a church copy of the Rosetta Stone and practicing with any gringo who happens to pass through her neighborhood.  Considering that most of her peers are primarily interested in finding a husband to provide for them and many are already pregnant, her steadfast commitment to her education and aspirations for an independent career are truly admirable.  Claudia brought me to the gorgeous Llovizna Park which includes acres of jungle and a commanding view of a thundering waterfall in the Orinoco River.  We met up with her friends under a huge tree next to a rupture in an irrigation pipe to pass the afternoon.  Sandwiches, cards, volleyball and a couple of shots of tequila made a perfect afternoon spent with friends.

I spent New Year’s Eve with one of the largest and most active families in the parish, the Britos.  I was quickly introduced to a cousin, Alberto, who took me out to meet the barrio (neighborhood).  Venezuelans often buy new clothes for the New Year’s and everybody out was showing off their new wares.  Multi-generational families sat in front of their homes on plastic chairs visiting.  Alberto is very much a product of his barrio and as we walked down the street he greeted everyone, shaking hands, teasing kids, kissing grandmothers, and inviting me to do the same.  We regrouped at the Brito’s just before midnight and enjoyed a massive meal with dozens of family members before toasting to the New Year as the barrio erupted with fireworks.  We then ventured down to the neighborhood basketball courts where some of the youth of the neighborhood had set up large speakers for a rumba (dance party).  It seemed everybody wanted to dance with the gringo.  When the sun rise didn’t stop the rumba, I figured the rain would.  I was wrong.  When I called it quits at 8am, the party was still in full swing.

One of my last days in town, I spent with Lourdes and her four charming children.  Lourdes and her two daughters, Valentina (9) and Carmen (8), are HIV positive.  Lourdes was infected by her husband who died from the disease shortly after the birth of Carmen, leaving Lourdes to raise the four children by herself.  Lourdes does not have a steady job, but takes care of odd jobs at the church with incredible drive.  We took advantage of the half-priced movies on a Tuesday afternoon and watched an animated children’s movie, the first any of the kids had seen in a theatre.  Afterwards, we donned goofy Christmas-themed costumes to take a picture.  The kids mischievously grin in oversized Santa costumes while Lourdes presides over the chaos with maternal warmth.  This picture is a warm memory and daily inspiration to me about what it means to live life in any circumstance.

Returning to the United States, I’ve had a difficult time sharing my experiences.  “You went where for Christmas break?  Venezuela, that’s where Chavez is from, right?  Didn’t some baseball player just get kidnapped there?”  As San Félix is to the social elite of Caracas, Venezuela is to most Americans.  Yes, Chavez holds a corrupt and authoritarian grip on the country.  Yes, a Major League Baseball player was just kidnapped here, one of many kidnappings that happen every week.   But there is so much more.  Most importantly, there is a loving community in San Félix, served by Father Greg Shaffer and Father Tim Norris and supported by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, eager to welcome you into their lives and make you a part of their family.  My only word of caution: when invited to a rumba, have ready access to a strong source of caffeine.

 Ian Cameron

January 16, 2012

*Some names have been changed to protect personal privacy.

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Oakdale parish garden makes national calendar

January 19, 2012


A colorful photo of the harvest from the Parish Food Shelf Garden at Guardian Angels in Oakdale was chosen as one of the 12  pictures for the 2012 social justice ministry calendar of Catholic Charities USA.

Barb Prokop of Guardian Angels told The Catholic Spirit that the photo was taken by Chuck Kenow, a member of Woodbury Lutheran Church “who is a committed Tuesday session gardener with us and who was influential in getting the garden started at their church.”

According to Bob Walz, justice and outreach coordinator at Guardian Angels, the garden project involves some 300 volunteers. On a large plot on parish grounds, food is grown for area food shelves, a Catholic Worker house and the regional Loaves and Fishes program. Parishioners of all ages grow plants from seed, till the soil, weed, water and harvest the crops.

The food shelf garden is just one of a multitude of social ministries at Guardian Angels.

In an email, Walz wrote:

GA has a justice education program that includes JustFaith, Engaging Spirituality, JustMatters, Sowers Forums and leadership training. 

GA has an active outreach program that includes sheltering the homeless (Project Home), feeding the hunger (Loaves and Fishes, serving meals at Dorothy Day Center), caring for the sick (Befrienders and hospice volunteers, including writing memoirs of hospice patients), providing for the needy (Parish Food Shelf Garden, Giving Center, and monthly collection drives), blood drives, a military ministry and so on. 

GA also seeks to promote long-term change through advocacy, based on Catholic Social Teachings. We have a Peace and Justice Action Ministry, Respect Life Action Team, key children’s advocate, key hunger advocate etc. We have hosted the General Mills / Negro College Fund MLK Jr. Breakfast as well as an annual MLK holiday event. 

GA seeks to be in solidarity with those of other cultures, we have had a sister parish relationship with St. Rita’s in Teustepe Nicaragua for more than 25 years. We sponsor annual exchanges. We are a CRS partner, promoting fair trade, hosting regular Works of Human Hands fair trade sales and selling coffee and other fair trade products that benefit CRS and the artisans and farmers that have produced those goods. We host an Archdiocesan wide Filipino Mass, Cultural Celebration and Dinner on Santo Nino.

We respond to needs in the community, whether unemployment, when we created an employment ministry or individual foreclosures or eviction notices.

The recognition in the Catholic Charities USA calendar is icing on the cake. They’re a hit too. While there are none left to purchase, you can see the calendar here.



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