Author Archives | Bob Zyskowski

About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 40-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

High Plains history, high drama

February 22, 2015

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The Heart of Everything That IsWaiting inside the pages of this superb work of nonfiction are captivating stories and a semester worth of U.S. history classes.

“The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud. An American Legend” fills in a gap in my own education  during the ’50s-’60s-’70s about native peoples, their culture and how they tried to preserve that culture from a society that considered them less than human, a society willing to do just about anything, even the immoral and unethical, to fulfill what was termed America’s “manifest destiny.”

In telling that story, these 400-plus pages convey interesting historical information about the High Plains, a section of North America that too many talk about as fly-over country, and, maybe more importantly, give the facts about what the United States leadership and military were willing to do in Euro-centric America’s quest for land and gold.

Red Cloud’s story and that of the tribes that populated the middle of the continent for centuries before the American push westward is a fascinating insight into another culture — often a brutal one, yet one laden with the same foibles, political intrigue, revenge-seeking, hopefulness, love and despair found in every other human society.

The story of the Indian wars across Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana that authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin share comes through as interesting as any novel. But readers will be amazed when they get to the final pages of “The Heart of Everything That Is” and read about the research they did, see the pages of references to sources and view the photos of the principals who fought on both sides of those Indian wars.

This is no novel. Instead, it is a book every U.S. citizen should read for its moral implications, and one that should cause readers of every ethnic background to reflect upon their own outlook toward native peoples certainly, but toward people of every other culture as well.

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A different way to do Lent

February 18, 2015

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LentStill looking for a lenten sacrifice/service/something to do?

Here are a couple ideas paraphrased from “40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent” by Marcellino D’Ambrosio via Servant Books:

  • Decide to forgive someone who, in your mind, has offended you.
  • Pray for the person who you find the most annoying.
  • Before work, chores or study, make a conscious decision to offer up whatever you are doing in love of God and for a person in special need.
  • Take the first available 10 minutes each day thinking about everything you should be grateful for and thanking God — BEFORE you ask for anything.
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Fat Tuesday means Polish tradition: paczki

February 17, 2015

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storefrontThe bakery and deli at Kramarczuk’s Sausage Co. opened at 7 a.m. — an hour earlier than usual — to handle the Fat Tuesday demand for paczki, but Jim Bogusz was standing outside the doors at 6:37 a.m.

It was still dark on Hennepin Avenue in north Minneapolis then, but Bogusz (pronounced “Boh – goosh”) had come all the way across the Twin Cities from the eastern St. Paul suburb of Woodbury, about 20 miles, and he didn’t want to be late to get his bismarck-like fried pastry stuffed with fruit filling. He was picking up paczki for himself, his family and his neighbors.

“You never know, with traffic,” he said.

With a knit cap pulled over his ears, he paced in front of the iconic sausage shop to ward off the cold. It was 3 degrees on this day before Lent would begin.

paczkiIn the Polish tradition, the sweet, sugar-coated paczki were a way to use up the household supply of flour, sugar and lard, which wouldn’t be used during the Lenten time of fasting.

“I’ve got all things Polish in my blood,” Bogusz said as he talked about the day-before-Ash Wednesday tradition. “It gives more meaning to this time of year. I like bringing more meaning to my kids. I want them to know where they came from,” he said.

By 7:02 a.m. the parking lot at Kramarczuk’s was full. Boxes of paczki filled tables set up in one part of the shop’s adjoining restaurant for the line-up of customers who had pre-ordered.

better boxesDozens upon dozens of empty paczki boxes lined the shelves of the bakery and deli, and store staff scrambled to fill the boxes from baker’s racks of raspberry- and apricot-filled paczki for both orders and for the walk-in customers who were lined up as well to get some paczki before they were sold out. The place was buzzing.

Martin Lukaszewski got a parking place right in front of Kramarczuk’s. Proudly acknowledging his 100 percent Polish heritage, he said he had driven in from Blaine in the northern suburbs to keep up the tradition he grew up with in South Bend, Ind. “I used to make paczki all through the year,” Lukaszewski said. “My dad’s sister and her husband owned a bakery.”

He was picking up two dozen paczki as part of a fundraiser to combat Parkinson’s Disease, which he has been diagnosed with, but admitted there was a gastronomic reason he was at Kramarczuk’s so early on a frigid February morning.

“I’ve always got to have my paczki,” Lukaszewski said, and once inside, he stood in front of the counter with a big smile on his face.

 

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‘I thought, I could do that’

January 26, 2015

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A full 45 minutes before the Jan. 22 Prayer Service for Life was to begin at the Cathedral of St. Paul, a white-haired woman had already garnered one of the best seats in the house.

Madonna ArelPews in the front half of the big church were being reserved for the thousands of young people who would be attending, so Madonna Arel prayed in the first pew after the break, right on the center aisle. It’s the perfect place to see the altar and to take in both the processional and recessional when dignitaries take part — in the case of the annual pro-life prayer service, that would be five bishops from dioceses around Minnesota.

I went up to talk with her after she’d sat back.

Although this was the 41st year for the Jan. 22 prayer service for life, Madonna told me this was only the fourth year she’d been coming.

“I was working,” she said. “Before I retired I was a corporate switchboard operator for Excel Energy. You wouldn’t believe the calls I took,” she added with a roll of the eyes.

Along with getting good quotes for my story about the prayer service, I got a little bit of an education about what it means to be pro-life. Madonna, you see, doesn’t just say she’s pro-life, she acts on her pro-life stance. It’s nothing big, really. But it’s what she can do.

“Some one asked me to write to women who were on a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat,” she told me, “and I thought, I could do that.”

Rachel’s Vineyard is a ministry of healing for those who have had an abortion.

“I’ve written to three women. I just let them know I’m praying for them,” Madonna said. “I even got to meet one of them. She just said, ‘Thank you for praying for me,’ because going on the retreat is really a healing process.”

She went on, “Life is so important. I don’t know what people go through who had an abortion, but I see the healing and the difference it makes by going on those retreats.”

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Father Robert Jude, a priest for 65 years

January 15, 2015

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Father Robert JudeFather Robert James Jude is being remembered for spreading joy wherever he went over his lengthy priesthood.

A priest of the Archdiocese of
St. Paul and Minneapolis for 65 years, Father Jude died Dec. 20, 2014. He was 92.

Born March 24, 1922, in Maple Lake, the son of Paul and Margaret (Riordan) Jude, he attended Nazareth Hall and the St. Paul Seminary and was ordained a priest June 4, 1949, by Bishop James J. Byrne in the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Father Jude served as associate pastor at St. Joseph in Redwing,
St. Bridget and St. Stephen in Minneapolis, Holy Trinity in
St. Louis Park, St. Mary in Tracy and St. Peter in Delano..

He was chaplain at Red Wing Training School and at the Franciscan Sisters Regional Center in St. Paul, and briefly as administrator at St. George in Long Lake.

He served as pastor at St. Canice in Kilkenny and St. Luke in Clearwater. He retired from active ministry in 1990, but assisted in sacramental ministry at his home parish, St. Timothy in Maple Lake, in retirement.

Father John Meyer, St. Timothy pastor, described Father Jude as “always upbeat” and someone who “made everyone’s day better.”

Family member Anna Maria Jude concurred.

“He had amazing joy,” she said. “When he spoke he was so affirming and charitable. He changed the mood everywhere he went — it was just a natural thing for him.

“You knew about the love of God just by being with Father Jude,” she added.

A funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 5 at St. Timothy in Maple Lake, where Father Jude had presided at his first Mass in 1949.

He has preceded in death by his parents and brothers John (“Jack”) and Clifton. He is survived by many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews and cousins.

Interment was in the St. Timothy Cemetery.

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Father Charles Froehle, seminary rector and pastor

January 15, 2015

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Father Charles Froehle COLORFather Charles L. Froehle was a role model for the scores of priests ordained from the St. Paul Seminary over the 25 years he served there as professor, dean and rector.

A priest of the Archdiocese of
St. Paul and Minneapolis for 51 years, he died Jan. 6. He was 77.

Father Charles Lachowitzer, moderator of the curia and vicar general of the archdiocese, was one of those formed at the seminary during Father Froehle’s tenure as rector. He told The Catholic Spirit about a few of the things he remembered most about Father Froehle.

“Liturgies. He was a great homilist and modeled a prayerful style of celebrating the Mass,” Father Lachowitzer noted. “It was such a significant part of our seminary formation to do Sundays well, and he certainly modeled that.

“He gave us all an inspiring example of what it means to be a good ‘pastor’ as well as a good priest,” he added. “In so many ways, Father Froehle acted as the pastor of the seminary. He was accessible, thoughtful, caring and pragmatic when dealing with a myriad of seminarian and faculty concerns.”

Charles Leo Froehle was born in St. Cloud April 20, 1937, the son of Leo and Catherine Froehle.

Raised in St. Paul, he attended Nazareth Hall, the minor seminary, and the St. Paul Seminary before being ordained a priest Feb. 2, 1963, at the Cathedral of St. Paul by Archbishop Leo Byrne.

He served as associate pastor at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis for two years before beginning studies in Rome in the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council.

He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in theology from the Angelicum and returned to the
St. Paul Seminary where he served as professor of sacramental theology, and later as dean of studies and vice rector.

In 1980 he was appointed rector of the St. Paul Seminary.

As rector Father Froehle was one of the major architects of the seminary’s affiliation with the University of St. Thomas, which provided financial security for the seminary in exchange for seminary land, which the growing university needed.

In 1994 Father Froehle was named pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in Buffalo, and later pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis. He retired from active ministry in 2012.

Father Froehle is survived by his brother John and sisters Margaret Cournoyer and Jean Froehle, along with many nieces and nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, great grandnieces and great grandnephews.

Mass of Christian Burial was Jan. 13 at
St. Mary’s Chapel at the St. Paul Seminary, 2260 Summit Ave.,
St. Paul.

Interment was at Resurrection Cemetery.

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Hill-Murray, archdiocese lose ‘Mr. A’

January 15, 2015

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Deacon Frank AsenbrennerThe green-jacketed band director and principal who was widely recognized as the personification of Hill-Murray High School, Deacon Francis “Frank” Asenbrenner, died Dec. 31, 2014. He was 81.

Hill-Murray faculty, coaches, students and alums filled Assumption Church in St. Paul for his Mass of Christian Burial Jan. 5.

Among them was Theresa Goerke, long-time physics and sciences teacher, one of the many teachers Asenbrenner hired during his 30 years as the principal of first Archbishop Murray Memorial High School and soon after, the first principal of the combined Hill-Murray High.

“His enthusiasm was incredible,” Goerke said. “He made everybody feel special.

“He led the music for the school theater productions, and to begin the performance he always came out to welcome everyone,” she recalled. “He made you feel as though they did the production just for you.’

Asenbrenner was born Aug. 27, 1933, in Leopolis, Wis. He graduated from the then College of St. Thomas with a degree in music education, later earning graduate degrees in both music and education administration.

He was principal of Hill-Murray and became chaplain there as well when he was ordained a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1978, a member of just the second diaconate class of in the archdiocese. He served as a deacon at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin in St. Paul, and for a short time was parish life administrator there when the parish was between pastors.

The Asenbrenner family’s parish was St. Rose of Lima in Roseville, where Deacon Asenbrenner was active as a choir director.

Goerke said the man known throughout Hill-Murray as “Mr. A” had high academic standards; music, though, was his passion.

He taught music and directed the school marching band, choir and orchestra, and scheduled performances for the band to take trips to play in DisneyWorld, in parades on the East Coast and in local parades.

“He made it fun,” Goerke said. “The band gave the school a sense of community. The school was proud of the band. Students called him Mr. A. out of love.”

Don Regan, chairman of Premier Banks, sent seven children to Hill-Murray and recalled spending a lot of time with him.

“He was a great people person, just an outstanding individual,” Regan said. “He really looked after his students.”

Deacon Asenbrenner was preceded in death by his wife of 52 years, Margaret. He is survived by their eight children — Jim Asenbrenner, Mary Zimmer, Jean Liss, Kathy Aziz, Tom Asenbrenner, Sue Eichten, Barb Atkinson and Peg Sutherland — and their spouses and 16 grandchildren.

Interment was in Roselawn Cemetery in Roseville.

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Saint Oscar Romero? Here’s why

January 14, 2015

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romero book coverIt will have been only 35 years this March 30 that an assassin’s bullet through the heart ended the life of the archbishop of San Salvador as he celebrated Mass in 1980.

The late-20th-century martyr for Gospel justice shouldn’t be forgotten by 21st-century Catholics, and author Kevin Clarke helps us all to remember that with his brief but powerfully written life of slain Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Clarke’s book, “Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out,” is one of the newest in the series of biographies that Liturgical Press in Collegeville is publishing, “People of God: Remarkable Lives, Heroes of Faith.”

It captures the essence of Romero and the societal sins of upper-class Salvadorans and members of the military who, as Clarke writes, were either complicit  or blindly implicit in the archbishop’s assassination.

A hard-line traditionalist as a priest, Romero was thought by his nation’s wealthy elite and by the bishops of El Salvador to be “one of them” when he was named to the archbishop’s chair by Pope Paul VI.

For Romero, Vatican II had been an earthquake and the liberation theology of the Latin American bishops’ at Medellin an aftershock, in Clarke’s words. His reputation was that of a strict conservative, but before he was appointed to San Salvador he had already begun to turn away from the status quo that made so few rich and left so many in his country’s in desperate poverty.

As bishop of the Diocese of Santiago de Maria, he visited Tres Calles, a village where six men and boys had just been buried. They had been dragged from their beds, tortured and murdered with bullets and machetes by the National Guard.

On the way back, Romero ran into another incident: the body of a boy was found in a roadside ditch. He too had been tortured and murdered.

He told a priest companion, “We have to find a way to evangelize the rich, so that they can change, so that they convert.”

Clarke notes: “What is telling about the Tres Calles moment for Romero is the beginning of his understanding that what was wanted from the wealthy to give to the poor was not mere material charity, but a conversion of the heart that would allow them to understand that what the poor of El Salvador need most was not a crumb from their table, but a seat at it; not charity, but justice.”

Romero protested the massacre to the local Guardia commander, and in what would turn out to be foreshadowing, the officer shrugged and advised the bishop, “Cassocks are not bulletproof.”

Romero saw that the so-called “political” work of the “liberation” clerics he had previously been suspicious of was “a natural, spiritually sound and even required outgrowth of their pastoral work,” and was supported by recent Church teaching.

Then his friend Father Rutilio Grande was murdered in a hail of bullets. Clarke notes:

“The killing of this Jesuit priest was the signal of an abrupt rupture, for the old Romero was cast off completely and a new Romero emerged: empathetic, soulful and courageous.”

Romero took on the powers that be, using the archdiocesan radio station and newspaper to report the repression and violence, news that wasn’t available from the media controlled by the elites. He refused to participate in government ceremonies or official events or to attend events in which he might be photographed socializing with El Salvador’s political or military leaders. He went further, raising money to feed campesinos hiding in the mountains and arranging to hide victims of political violence at the national seminary.

Although he was accused of being a Marxist, he tried to convert both the powerful and those seeing change. He preached to elites, “Do not make idols of your riches; do not preserve them in a way that lets others die of hunger.”

He also met clandestinedly with guerrilla leaders to try to persuade them of the power of Christian nonviolence in the face of oppression.

Clarke explains well the geopolitical situation of the time — the fear of communism spreading in Latin America — that had both the United States and the Vatican supporting the status quo in El Salvador.

When, at the Vatican, Archbishop Romero tried to explain that his country’s revolutionaries were not communists but campesinos “defending their people against sometimes incomprehensible violence and the life-crushing force of economic and social oppression,” he was reprimanded. Clarke writes:

“After being battered by Cardinal Sebasiano Baggio, secretary of the Congregation of Bishops, he endured more admonishments from the secretary of state office, where a curial operative suggested Romero remember the ‘prudence’ with which Jesus Christs conducted his public life.’

“ ‘If he was so prudent, then why was he killed?’ Romero wanted to know.”

Killing Romero demonstrated how far some are willing to go to protect their status and privilege, and an important point Clarke brings out is how the man’s inhumanity to man kept escalating, with government-backing death squads not satisfied merely to kill. The viciousness turned from brutality to depravity, with, for example, a priest’s face being shot off.

In the end, Archbishop Romero’s death led to 12 years of civil war in El Salvador, ending only in 1992. Tens of thousands of Salvadorans were killed, primarily (85 percent) murdered by their own military, according to a UN Truth Comission.

As the slain archbishop’s cause for sainthood moves forward finally, readers of this 137-page biography will understand why, and perhaps be perplexed as to why it has taken 35 years.

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Ride with African aid workers is fiction, but it reads like reality

January 5, 2015

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Children are DiamondsWhat is on-the-face fiction reads so much like a memoir that I couldn’t stop myself from checking — and more than once: This is a novel, right?

The first-person narrative is so visceral, so descriptive of what I imagined the reality of war-torn central Africa to be, that, finishing “Children Are Diamonds,” I feel I’ve just ridden through the African bush and taken a class in geopolitical history, not simply read a compelling tale from someone’s imagination.

Author Edward Hoagland imbeds you in the life of Hickey, his narrator, carrying you along on his aid runs into South Sudan during its civil war. But before you finish with page 230 at the story’s end you’ll feel you’re being carted along in his jeep, feeling every rut in the jungle track, watching out the window as you pass emaciated refugees fleeing the fighting, urging him to take aboard one more sickly child, hurting for those who have fallen by the wayside and will never get up.

Hoagland makes heroes and heroines of the aid workers, the missionary priests and nuns, the volunteer health care professionals, the bush pilots who fly for the nongovernmental organizations.

Why they are there is as much the story as what they are doing and what happens to them.

One answer to the why question lies in the book’s title — the NGO workers and the missioners see hope and value in Africa’s children. And, as characters in the story express viewpoints from the perspective of those who are not American, readers will be challenged to give second thoughts to U.S. foreign policy that — from those other perspectives — hasn’t always acted as if those diamonds are worth saving.

The only negative, and the reason for four stars instead of five, is the gratuitous sexual encounters that the author goes into in far too much detail. This story is so good junk like the sex scenes just wasn’t needed, and certainly not so graphic.

Balancing that, however, are repeated expressions of the inner spirituality that helps some of Hoagland’s characters cope with the hunger, the lack of medical help, the economic conditions that force people into immoral acts and of course the brutality of war and death. Maryknollers in particular get quite the shout out.

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‘Gutenberg’s Apprentice’ a superb novel

November 25, 2014

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Gutenbergs ApprenticePrinting history and church history mesh to make for compelling reading in the terrific first novel of Alix Christie, “Gutenberg’s Apprentice.”

Protagonist Peter Schoeffer is the apprentice of the title, and there’s no fiction there: Schoeffer was Gutenberg’s apprentice in the 1450s as the German’s workshop developed moveable type and used it to print 180 copies of the Bible.

The fictional story comes from Ms. Christie’s imagination, but there’s hearty research behind the tale, particularly when it comes to the details of printing and the hurdles that elements of the church put in Gutenberg’s way. Interdicts on dioceses and conflicts between archbishops and religious communities are fact and a dark part of church history.

Gutenberg gets credit for combining the various elements needed for mass production of printed matter. He pulled together dozens of ideas and technological advances systematically, including the creation of metal type, ink and the press itself. But in the novelist’s hands the much-lauded inventor, talented as he is, is schizophrenic. One moment he’s praising his apprentice for his marvelous gifts and telling the tradesmen in his workshop that he couldn’t have printed his Bible without them, and the next he’s taking all the credit, declaring that he did it all alone and needed no one’s help.

Through Schoeffer, who in real life went on to become one of the first publishers of note in Europe, Christie presents a spiritual element to the process that brought about not just the first printed Bible but an invention that was key to the Renaissance and often named as the greatest invention of all time.

Christie’s  Schoeffer sees his part in the drama as one divinely led, that God has placed him in his time and his place to use the gifts he’s been given to be a part of this amazing fete that will change life on earth.

“You always did think that you had some private pact with God,” a life-long acquaintance charges Gutenberg’s apprentice.

Author Christie answers for her story’s hero: Of course. How could he not. . . . How could he have understood his own life otherwise?

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