Archive | June, 2012

Here’s hoping the fires in Colorado Springs are put out soon!

June 29, 2012

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As I took my 3-mile walk last night, the sirens I heard as I neared Snelling Avenue brought my thoughts to Colorado Springs and the raging wildfires that have claimed one life and more than 300 homes.

My youngest brother Pat lives there with his wife Kara and four daughters, the youngest of whom is recovering from open heart surgery. As I turned around on Snelling to walk back home, I said a prayer for them. This morning, I followed up with a phone call to Pat, who assured me everything was OK for him, Kara and the girls.

That was nice to hear. I was able to respond with some good news of my own: I won two first-place awards at the annual Catholic Press Association convention, which took place last week in Indianapolis. The highlight is the awards banquet on Friday night. This is only the third time in 16 years I have made it to the convention, so it was nice to be able to make it this year.

Believe it or not, both of my firsts were in writing categories – best feature story and best sports story. The feature was about the Gross family and the loss of Michael and Anne’s teenage daughter, Teresa, to suicide. The other was a sports story about former NFL (and Vikings) quarterback Brooks Bollinger, who took over as head football coach at Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood.

I know it may come as a surprise to some folks that I won two writing awards, but I actually have been a writer longer than I have been a photographer. I will continue doing both in my new role as senior content specialist in the archdiocese communications department, which officially begins next week. I enjoy my role of telling stories with words and pictures, and I’m very thankful that it will continue. May God continue to bless my work – and keep my brother and his family safe in Colorado Springs!

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Do you pin? We do.

June 28, 2012


The Catholic Spirit is on Pinterest!

Here is a favorite board:

Catholicism 101

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Why men and women’s differences matter in marriage

June 27, 2012

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When Mark Twain wanted to highlight differences between the sexes, he filled in the creation story with the perspectives of the first man and first woman in his Diary of Adam and Eve:

Adam: The new creature says its name is Eve. That is all right, I have no objections. Says it is to call it by, when I want it to come. I said it was superfluous, then. The word evidently raised me in its respect; and indeed it is a large, good word and will bear repetition. It says it is not an It, it is She. This is probably doubtful; yet it is all one to me; what she is were nothing to me if she would but go by herself and not talk.

 Eve: This morning I told him my name, hoping it would interest him. But he did not care for it. It is strange. If he should tell me his name, I would care. I think it would be pleasanter in my ears than any other sound. He talks very little. Perhaps it is because he is not bright, and is sensitive about it and wishes to conceal it. It is such a pity that he should feel so, for brightness is nothing; it is in the heart that the values lie.

Twain’s account of the first married couple’s relationship comes out of his own study of human nature and because that nature is common to all of us, it’s not hard to imagine Adam and Eve having these thoughts. As he delves into the age-old topic of gender difference, Twain makes a good case for it being more than biological.

Besides anatomically, how exactly are men and women are different? Are those differences complementary? What does the Church say about how differences and complementarity affect a marital relationship? And in an age when divorce is common, can we believe in any kind of complementarity between men and women?

Complementary? How?

According to Bl. Pope John Paul II, a person’s gender is not an “attribute” but part of their essence.  As distinct as men and women are, they complement each other—not only biologically but individually, personally and spiritually, he writes in a Holy See position paper for the 1995 UN Conference on Women.

Dietrich von Hildebrand, a 20th century Catholic philosopher who influenced Pope John Paul, agreed that differences between men and women are not merely biological but are also metaphysical. They are two equal and complementary types of the spiritual person of the human species—two different expressions of human nature–with specific personality features, he writes in Man and Woman: Love and the Meaning of Intimacy.

Generally speaking, women have a unity of personality because their heart, intellect and temperament are more interwoven than those of men, according to von Hildebrand. Their inner and exterior lives come together in a “unity of style embracing the soul as well as the exterior demeanor.”

Men, he writes, have a specific capability to free themselves intellectually from the emotional sphere. They have their own particular creativity, and place somewhat greater importance on objective accomplishments.

These are characteristics common to many people, though not necessarily in the same proportion.

As different as men and women are, their complementarity runs just as deep, Pope John Paul writes in The Theology of the Body. Man and woman are two “reciprocally completing ways of ‘being a body’ and at the same time being human.” They are “two complementary dimensions of self-knowledge and self-determination and, at the same time, two complementary ways of being conscious of the meaning of the body.”

This difference and complementarity is most evident in Our Lady and Christ, von Hildebrand writes in Marriage: Mystery of Faithful Love.

“Raising our glance to the Blessed Virgin, we see that she, who of all creatures is most like to Christ, could not possibly be imagined as anything but a woman, and that she, Queen of all Saints, is womanly in the highest and most sublime sense of the word.”

Is complementarity important in marriage?

The Catechism says it is:

Physical, moral and spiritual difference, and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.  (CCC2333)

Men and women are spiritually oriented toward, and created for each other, von Hildebrand writes. They have a mission for each other—to enrich each other and to give one another the positive influence of the opposite sex, he writes. This influence of their complementary natures reveals a tension—and spiritual fruitfulness.

Von Hildebrand continues, “because of their complementary difference, a much closer communion and more ultimate love is possible between them than between persons of the same sex.”

The complementarity is reciprocal, von Hildebrand writes.  Marital love, which involves each giving completely to the other and mysteriously grasping the other’s full personality despite obstacles, “can exist only between two types of the spiritual person, the male and the female, as only between them can this complementary character be found.”

From Gen. 2:23, where Adam realizes who Eve is, John Paul II concludes in the Theology of the Body that femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity and masculinity confirms itself through femininity. Each conjugal union of husband and wife is a new discovery of that masculinity and femininity, he writes.

Unfortunately, some couples see more difference than complementarity in their relationships but knowing how marriage can work when husband and wife recognize who they are in Christ, gives hope for more holy marriages in the future.

In the Spirit of Christ, writes Pope John Paul, men and women can find themselves by discovering the entire meaning of their masculinity and femininity and by being disposed to make a “sincere gift of self,” whether or not they’re called to marriage.

In his “ghostwriting” of Adam and Eve’s diary, Mark Twain makes Adam seem a little reticent but Gen. 2:23 records his amazement upon discovering the “helper” God has given him:

This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman …


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A feast for hungry lovers of superb writing

June 20, 2012

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I’ll tell you how I know good writing: I savor the words and sentences as I read them.

I go back and slowly re-read paragraphs, tasting the language in the same way I slowly enjoy a sip of cabernet or a bite of an Italian beef sandwich, the Chicago kind that drips gardiniere down my arms and onto my shirt.

When writing is good, it lingers in the tastebuds of the brain.

Like you I’ll bet, I usually can’t wait to get to the end of a good book. But with the best books, I tend to read in small bites, stretching out the joy of reading to make it last longer.

I’ve been doing that with “Deadline Artists: America’s Greatest Newspaper Columns.” There are 400 pages in this Overlook Press hardcover, and although I bought it sometime this winter I’ve just finished the last entry here in June.

Yep, it’s that good.

Columnists, my heroes

Okay, maybe it’s because I’m a newspaper guy that I’ve been so taken with this is collection of commentary pieces that appeared in American newspapers over the past 250-plus years, Ben Franklin’s from before this country even was this country.

But no matter what your life’s work, if you want a thorough refresher course in history, if you want to know what Americans have cared about over the years, if you want to get in touch with the spirit and soul of the United States, just read these columns.

 There’s Ernie Pyle writing from the front lines of World War II about “the God-damned infantry,” Mary McGrory covering the funeral of JFK, Mitch Albom on a college basketball team you’ve never heard of and Mike Royko skewering the infamous Picasso that sits (where else?) but in Chicago’s Daley Plaza.

There’s great sports stuff. You can re-read the renown Grantland Rice’s piece on the famous Notre Dame football backfield — you remember, “Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again.” There’s equally famous Red Smith on the ’51 Dodgers, the “Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff.”

But there’s also intriguing columns about obscure people and events. A guy a never heard of from the LA Times, Bill Plaschke, wrote a beauty of story, one I didn’t want to end, about a letter-writer who used to rip him — and, well, you gotta read that one yourself to find out the ending.

Back in 1956, a Southern writer named Harry Golden wrote this hilarious and courageous column satirizing racism in his neck of the woods with an ingenious idea called “The Vertical Negro Plan.” The theory? Black people are only a problem for whites when they “set.” So his solution to school segregation is to remove all the seats, so that white students don’t have to “sit” next to a black student. And that’s just the start of Golden’s superb commentary piece.

There’s so much more. There’s Art Buchwald and Dave Barry. There’s Ernest Hemingway (yeah, he was a newspaper guy) and Dorothy Thompson. There are writers newspaper junkies of a certain age (always wanted to work that phrase into my writing) hold up as heroes, folks like H.L. Mencken, Langstson Hughes, Damon Runyon, Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill and so many more.

With time running out…

Perhaps the one piece that jumped out at me as the penultimate example of the columnist’s art — superb writing as the clock ticks toward the newspaper’s press deadline — was written by Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald, a piece syndicated in newspapers across the country.

It was carried in papers on 9/12/2001.

It was headlined, “We’ll Go Forward From This Moment.”

It was addressed to the terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center towers.

It asked the questions, “What lesson did you hope to teach up by your coward’s attack?…What was it you hoped we would learn? Whatever it was, please know that it failed. Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause. Did you want to make us fear you? You just steeled our resolve. Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.”

There’s more, so much more. In this and in just about every entry.

If you savor good writing, treat yourself to a great big serving. But one bite at a time.

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Catechism now available as a browser-based eBook

June 15, 2012


Excuses to not read or use for reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church are fast disappearing.

The USCCB has now made the Catechism of the Catholic Church available in a browser-based eBook. It is free, searchable and easy to read directly from a browser. The browser version also makes it easy to share with friends via link.

The Catechism is still available for purchase as an e-book through iTunes, Amazon and directly from the USCCB in addition to the print edition.

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Pornography’s Pain to Families

June 14, 2012


Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Pornography is all around us; on the internet, within pages of magazines, displayed in store windows, popping up on search engines, sung about in music, and touted in best selling novels like 50 Shades of Grey. (Please read my blog, Pornography in our Face.) It’s a scourge that commits violence against the dignity of the human person, causing the user to view people as commodities or instruments for their own pleasure. It draws focus away from one’s family life and relationship with God and sets a destructive example to children. It leaves a void in the soul of the viewer, and gnaws at the family, causing deep wounds.

Easy Access

“Okay,” you might say, “I know porn is bad, but do very many people get hooked?”

Yes. Some estimates put porn use among churchgoing men at 50 percent, a figure that differs little from use among the adult male population at large. The Family Research Council’s summary on the effects of pornography states that men and women use porn differently. Men are more than six times as likely to view pornography as females, and more likely to spend more time looking at it. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) states in an article called Women and Online Pornography that one-third of all visitors to adult websites are female, and 17 percent of women are addicted to porn.

Fr. Michael Miller, pastor of the Church of St. Michael and St. Mary’s Catholic Church–both in Stillwater, Minnesota–told me:

“Pornography is really a crisis. The ease of availability makes this problem far greater than ever before.”

Dr. Patrick Carnes, who in 1983 first advanced the idea that a person could become addicted to sex, calls the addiction to Internet pornography “the crack cocaine of sexual addiction.” Like crack, it doesn’t take long for an Internet porn user to become hooked–often a matter of just a few weeks. And like crack, habitual viewing of online porn creates an intense cycle of addiction that is extremely difficult to break without expert assistance. There are no age controls for X-rated websites, and no need to register a credit card. Gail Dines, author of  Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality (2010), argues that boys access pornography on average at age 11. Often, the first time a child sees this disturbing stuff is by accident.

Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger has warned that on his popular site porn comes up automatically on some searches, even if the search topics are apparently unrelated. For example, a search for “clothespins” or “jumping ball” reveals explicit sexual images. “I will continue to raise enough noise on the issue that we will, I hope, force them to make a choice,” he told LifeSiteNews. “Either they will explain very clearly that they are not for children, or, alternatively, they will install a filter.” Sanger warns that one of the site’s primary uses is actually for viewing pornography, and despite the outcry for content filters, none have been implemented. According to Wikipedia traffic statistics, the majority of the site’s most frequently viewed pages are explicitly pornographic.

(Gosh, kids are surrounded by so much smut these days, that unfortunately it’s becoming acceptable in many circles. Before we know it, a young man will ask a porn star to prom. Oh–wait! That has already happened here in Minnesota.)

Horrendously hurting marriages 

Pornography undermines marriage and is one of the factors that threaten social stability. It distorts an individual’s concept of the nature of conjugal relations. Fr. Miller explained:

“Pornography is hurting families in so many ways. Husbands become withdrawn and add new and unrealistic expectations on their wives after committing adultery in their hearts with other women. They also become very discouraged with themselves because of their inability to stop the pattern. Even if they get away from the actual pornography, it is still in their memories and imaginations and this can take a very long time to get under control.”

A friend of mine who was going through a divorce told me, “Pornography ruined our marriage. Kevin’s  addiction (name changed) made it impossible for me to please him. I was never good enough.” According to Dr. Patrick F. Fagan, author of The Family Research Council’s summary on the effects of pornography:

“The wives of pornography users also develop deep psychological wounds, commonly reporting feelings of betrayal, loss, mistrust, devastation, and anger in response to the discovery or disclosure of a partner’s pornographic online sexual activity. Wives can begin to feel unattractive or sexually inadequate and may become severely depressed when they realize their husbands view pornography. The distress level in wives may be so high as to require clinical treatment for trauma.”

Often, people who view such vulgarity on a regular basis believe marriage is sexually confining; have diminished belief in the importance of marital faithfulness; and have increasing doubts about the value of marriage as an essential social institution. This depreciates the importance they place on having good relationships within their own families.

In a Pastoral Letter by Bishop Paul S. Loverde titled, Bought with a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God, he states:

“When family members turn to pornography in a distorted thirst for intimacy, they turn against and in some measure reject their commitment to their family. By doing this, they commit violence against the relationships which define their own vocation.”

How does porn injure children?

Pornography use among parents often causes young ones to face challenges of a broken home among other threats.

Many kids are traumatized when they walk in on a parent who is viewing perverted content, or they become disgusted with Daddy or Mommy for having it in his or her life. Kids who are around pornographic content are more sensual. Teens who use porn themselves have significantly increased sexual intercourse with non-romantic friends, and are more likely to take part in the so-called “hook-up” culture. Exposure to pornography can also be a significant factor in teenage pregnancy.

And I’d be remiss not to mention that children often are at danger if they are around people who use pornographic material. Law enforcement authorities have noted that many adult porn consumers will eventually move to child pornography–putting children in their midst at risk.

Fr. Miller told me:

“Pornography is especially damaging to young men whose images of sexuality are perverted [after viewing pornography] and are not in conformity with God’s will, thus damaging their ability to become good fathers and husbands, even for those who are truly trying to break this with confession, prayer, and practical means, it is very difficult and takes perseverance.”

But there is healing and freedom for those caught in the snare of pornography addiction.

Recovery and help:

Many professionals believe that because porn addiction has a number of the same causes and effects as adultery, the treatment and counseling are pretty much the same. Where there is a spiritual component to the recovery, there is great success.  The King’s Men, a lay apostolate whose mission is to help males rise above the lustful pandemic of porn, teaches that through humility, accountability and sacramental grace a man can find freedom from sexual sin and addiction.

Bishop Loverde says:

“We stand at a threshold – either we can continue to allow this plague to spread with fewer and fewer checks, or we can take concrete steps to uproot it in our lives, our families, our neighborhoods and our culture. A free people can combat the tremendous moral, social and spiritual danger of pornography with great courage. My fervent prayer is that Catholics, other Christians, and all people of good will understand this threat, confront it and facilitate true healing.”

Please refer to:



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Big sale on hunting clothes!

June 12, 2012


I know we’re only a few weeks into the fishing season, but those who can switch gears to the fall hunting season could reap some big savings.

Last week, I got an email from my friend, Steve Huettl, general manager at Gamehide clothing, alerting me to a big clothing sale the company is putting on. It’s tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday at North Trail Elementary in Farmington. It goes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.

This sale happens about every five years or so, Steve said, and there will be lots of clothing available at very low prices. Gamehide is calling it a Factory Direct Sample and Overstock Sale, and there will be parkas, bibs, rainwear, accessories and more at the sale, in both camo and blaze orange color patterns. In addition to men’s sizes, there also will be youth and women’s sizes available. So, you can bring your whole family.

Of course, with any sale, it pays to come early. I’m good on camo clothing for now, but may come to help shop for others. I use Gamehide clothing, as do all three of my boys. My oldest two, Joe and Andy, have summer jobs at the Gamehide warehouse, so they are able to get stuff because they are employees.

These days, I have had to learn to be extremely thrifty with everything, so I always look for sales when buying gear. I can tell you through experience, Gamehide clothing is high quality. So, not only will you get a low price, but you’ll get stuff that will last. I’m on my sixth year of a set of camo rainwear, and it is still holding up well. One key is to not wash it too often and use soap specially designed for hunting clothes. Normally, it’s the no-scent soap bowhunters use, but it also reduces fading caused by stronger soaps.

It’s hard to find good prices on hunting apparel before the season, but this could be your best opportunity. It might even be worth leaving work a little early. Just remember that you likely will have to wait at least five more years to find prices this low on Gamehide clothing again.


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One remarkable missionary

June 11, 2012


Unforgettable Monsignor Greg Schaffer

After presiding at the early-evening Mass, the big, white-haired American priest walked toward the big doorway at the side of the 400-year-old Church of San Lucas Church, greeting his people along the way.

It was a lot like watching John Paul II in action.

He’d shake hands.

When he’d stop to talk with someone he’d put a hand on their shoulder.

He’d wave with an open-handed gesture to make a point.

That was the Monsignor Gregory T. Schaffer I saw pastoring some 15 years ago in San Lucas Toliman in the Central Highlands of Guatemala.

“I really love the liturgies here,” he told me as we spoke outside the ancient church in the town 5,000 feet above sea level. “It’s informal, but simple and beautiful.”

Back in 1997, the man his parishioners called “Padre Gregorio” had been their pastor for 34 years already. He’d go on to minister to the people of San Lucas for another 14 years before coming back to Minnesota. A terrible skin cancer finally took him May 24 at the age of 78.

If he’s not a candidate for sainthood, none of us are.

 One busy missionary

Although he’d been born in St. Paul and trained at the St. Paul Seminary, in 1960 young Gregory Schaffer was ordained a priest of the new Diocese of New Ulm, the nation’s most rural diocese, one that was carved out of the southwestern portion of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

He had only been a priest for three years when he took the assignment to go to Guatemala as a missionary.

A number of dioceses in the United States had taken to heart Pope Paul VI’s suggestion that relatively vocation-rich countries share their priests with countries where vocations were few. (It’s why our own archdiocese continues to have a presence in Ciudad Guyana in Venezuela, where the pastor is also named Gregory Schaffer. It’s not a coincidence.)

The year was 1963 when Father Schaffer began to minister in Guatemala.

By the time I got there in 1997 the Church of San Lucas had accomplished much and had more projects underway than the busiest suburban parish you can name.

  • Next to the church was a library/dining hall.
  • Attached was the parish center, where coffee beans raised by 170 families were bagged before being sent for sale in the United States.
  • Across the courtyard was the parish medical clinic.
  • A few blocks away was the dental clinic and eye clinic, which was being expanded to be a full-service clinic with 60 beds.
  • Up one hillside a parish crew was putting in a water tank, the first step in building a new “colonia” or neighborhood for 56 families. The construction crew built 16 new homes a year and always had three under construction.
  • There were parish apprentice programs for the needed trades, for carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians and mechanics.
  • At the south end of town the parish had an experimental farm.
  • Drawing international attention was a parish tree reforestation project.
  • Of course there was a parish pre-school and grade-school.
  • And all the sacramental prep programs.

Weekday mornings I watched Monsignor Schaffer lean against a wall in the dining hall and simply observe as the male Guatemalan leaders of the parish – the project managers for all those programs – planned the day’s work, updated one another to learn when the skills of their crews would be needed, and told Padre Gregorio where they could use some help from the volunteers he was always hosting.

Each afternoon he’d listen in again as the women of the parish met to discuss the programs they were working on.

After 34 years of organizing and building up indigenous leaders from among the Mayans, the pastor didn’t need to say much at these meetings.

When he did the talking was when he was in front of groups – lots from Minnesota – who came down to volunteer at San Lucas. Marker in hand he’d explain the socio-political situation of the place they’d come to, writing on a white board to explain what he taught as “the process of poverty” that his parishioners were living.

 A teacher at heart

Two volcanoes dominate the geography of this town of 25,000 on the shore of Lake Atitlan, and a volcano was the priest’s favorite image to use to explain Guatemala to outsiders.

He’d draw the familiar triangular form, then add a line across it fairly near the top.

“The top of the volcano is small, held up by a great big body,” he’d start out.

“The country is run by 18 to 22 extended families, people who live the good life, and 94 percent of the land in Guatemala is in the hands of 7 percent of the population.”

Monsignor Schaffer would draw another line somewhere around the center of his volcano, explaining that was the military and the middle class.

“The bottom of the volcano, the base holding it up, is the 84 percent of the population that are people living in the process of poverty.”

The lectures to his guests explained that industrialized economies needed raw material, cheap labor and markets to sell their goods and services, and that was how the poorest Guatemalans were being used.

At the base of the volcano, he explained:

  • 54% are unemployed.
  • 84% who do work make less than the daily requirement to provide for their families.
  • 70% are illiterate.
  • 46% lack access to health care.
  • 51% of all children die before the age of five.

“A volcano is an explosive situation,” Monsignor Schaffer explained. “It may not be erupting now, but it certainly has the potential to erupt.”

 Literacy and land

The priest tapped fund-raising sources in New Ulm, in the Twin Cities and elsewhere to address the issues parishioners brought to him. When he’d have groups of Norte Americanos come down, it wasn’t just to be lectured to but to work side-by-side on projects with Guatemalans. His idea was to put volunteers into situations where they can appreciate the gifts of the people of this developing country.

He took pride in the fact that the people of the parish did all the decision-making, did the hiring and firing, set the salaries, planned and managed the projects.

He was justifiably proud, too, that the literacy rate in his parish was 85%.

“I can tell we’re making progress,” he said, “because the newspapers sell out every day.”

He humbly acknowledged, “We’ve met a lot of felt needs,” but claimed that the parish had made its greatest contribution in helping the people get the one thing they want most: land.

“The greatest request is one I hear on a daily basis: Help us get land,” Monsignor Schaffer said. “The people want to be farmers. They want to work the land with a hoe and a machete, and they are very good at it.

“We’ve been able to help 3,000 families get about three acres of land apiece. They plant corn and beans on two acres and then coffee on the other as a cash crop.”

 Reaping what he sowed

Monsignor Schaffer, however, planted a few things himself.

One was a missionary spirit in his namesake nephew, Father Gregory J. Schaffer, a priest of the archdiocese who is pastor of Jesucristo Resuscitado parish, the mission of the archdiocese in San Felix, Venezuela. Visits to his uncle’s mission in Guatemala played no small part in the younger priests’ own vocation. Between college and the seminary younger Greg spent two years volunteering at San Lucas and visited the mission about a dozen times.

He’s been a missionary himself in Venezuela now for 15 years.

Monsignor Schaffer also planted concern for the people of another culture and country in the hearts not just of Catholics in the New Ulm Diocese but with the thousands – many college students – who visited and worked at San Lucas Toliman at his invitation.

Finally, what Monsignor Schaffer planted were some invaluable gifts in the people he served for those 48 years: Confidence. A sense of self-worth, so every person in town knew they were created in the image and likeness of God. And hope. Hope that there is a way out of living in the process of poverty.

Sainthood credentials?

*     *     *

After a funeral Mass in New Ulm’s Cathedral and another here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Monsignor Schaffer’s body was flown to Guatemala for a final funeral Mass and burial in the cemetery at San Lucas Toliman.

 Learn more about the Diocese of New Ulm’s mission in Guatemala at

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Stewardship toolkit is growing

June 8, 2012


Corpus Christi parish in Roseville used elements of the Archdiocesan Stewardship Toolkit last year when it was first introduced.

“The toolkit was helpful in setting up our ministry fair,” said Tom Dohm, who is a member of the Corpus Christi parish pastoral council as well as its stewardship committee. “But more than that it helped us with the broader stewardship effort in our parish.”

Dohm was one of more than 300 parish leaders – clergy and mostly lay – who attended one of five workshops intended to present the new tools that have been added to the toolkit in this its second year. The workshops were spread geographically across the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis the first full week of June.

Along with presenting the new elements of the toolkit, the workshops offered parish leaders time to share challenges and ideas with others engaged in parish stewardship initiatives and to suggest other needs that might be addressed in the toolkit in the future.

At each workshop Michael Halloran, archdiocesan director of development and stewardship, briefly ran through the elements new to the toolkit:

  • A chapter on Shared Ministry;
  • More scriptural references to stewardship;
  • A chapter on Planned Giving;
  • More samples of commitment forms, pastor talks about stewardship, and,
  • A section to facilitate the segmenting of parish lists through the Logos software system for more effective annual stewardship renewal efforts.

The toolkit is available both in three-ring binder form and on, and Halloran invited parish leaders to browse through the updated version to see what’s available now to see what they may want to adapt for their own parish stewardship initiatives.

 Added time and talent pieces

At the workshops Mary Kennedy and Sally Carlson-Bancroft described the additions to the toolkit aimed at supporting approaches to parish volunteerism.

Kennedy, coordinator of stewardship at Pax Christi in Eden Prairie and chair of the archdiocesan Stewardship Committee, pointed out that in its first year the toolkit’s emphasis was on the more financial aspects of the parish annual stewardship renewal effort.

“This year we collaborated with the Shared Ministry Association in the archdiocese to work on the time and talent part,” Kennedy said.

Carlson-Bancroft, coordinator of both volunteer support and new member welcome at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, noted the importance of encouraging all aspects of a giving community, not simply financial stewardship.

“So much of our life is about how we steward our time and talent as well as our treasure,” she noted.

The new toolkit chapter on Shared Ministry includes a baker’s dozen ways to link parishioners’ gifts with ministry opportunities and samples of ways to invite people into parish ministry.

 More for Logos users,  new Planned Giving section

Mike Laughery introduced the new segment of the toolkit that shows the step-by-step process to segment donor lists using Logos, a process he used as business administrator at St. Michael in Prior Lake, and Pam Burke, the Logos consultant to the archdiocese, walked attendees through a sample of the possibilities the software affords for better stewardship results.

Finally, Bill Marsella of the Catholic Community Foundation offered a glimpse at the new chapter on Planned Giving and the reasoning behind adding it to the toolkit.

The chapter includes sample letters, suggested resources and steps for building an endowment.

During a roundtable discussion with parish leaders from St. Patrick in Oak Grove, Corpus Christi’s Dohm said he liked the new things that have been added to the toolkit.

“I like the strength-finder idea, and maybe working on the endowment, too,” he said.

Mark Flynn from St. Patrick said his parish began using the new stewardship logo from the toolkit last year, and is looking forward to the new portions on Shared Ministry.

“We need help with volunteer development,” Flynn said, “re-generation of volunteers. We need to work on how to ask for volunteers.”

Ideas for future additions to the toolkit that surfaced at that one table included stewardship education for children, family activities with a stewardship focus and education pieces on the benefits of electronic giving.

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Most popular stories of May 2012

June 7, 2012


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