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June 7, 2012
I’ve never thought of a rosary as a something that “denotes membership in an organized gang.”
But apparently the Anoka-Hennepin School District does.
We’re not talking about the kind of Catholic “gang” that gathers for Sunday worship at your local parish. We’re talking the variety that instigates violent crime and other mayhem.
According to a story I read today on the CBS-Minnesota website, the district told a 15-year-old student to remove a rosary he was wearing as a necklace.
The district’s discipline policy forbids “any apparel, jewelry, accessories, or matter of grooming which by virtue of its color arrangement, trademark, or any other attribute (as a primary purpose) denotes membership in an organized gang.”
Jake Balthazor, who is Lutheran, said he wears the rosary to support and pray for his grandmother, who has breast cancer — something the district didn’t initially realize, according to an update of the original story, and school officials were hoping to find a compromise.
Although I wouldn’t advocate wearing a rosary this way — the beads are intended to aid prayer after all, not to serve as jewelry — the boy’s heart is in the right place.
But, before you criticize the district for lacking common sense, you should know that it was apparently operating on information provided by local police.
The story said the district recently received a letter from a police liaison stating: “A new issue came up recently that is interesting regarding rosary beads. Some gangs do use them as clothing symbols. The gangs identified around here that have been using them are the Latin Kings and the Surenos.”
How sad is that?
One good use for a rosary would be to pray for an end to gangs like these that do nothing more than inflict physical, emotional and spiritual pain on youth, families and struggling neighborhoods.
May 9, 2012
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May 7, 2012
May 2, 2012
A small child walks by a church holding her dad’s hand.
“That was a nice bed we had last night,” she tells him. “Where are we going to sleep tonight?”
“I don’t know,” her dad says.
The conversation was overheard not long ago by Susan Vento, who works at Assumption Church in downtown St. Paul, just a stone’s throw from Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Center, where thousands of homeless people go each year for basic needs, like a place to sleep for the night.
It’s the kind of conversation that breaks your heart. No child — indeed, no one at all — should have to worry about whether they will sleep on the street because they have no bed and no home to sleep in.
Vento’s experience was one of the stories — some sad, some inspiring — told during a breakfast May 2 commemorating the center’s 31 years of service to the community’s poor and homeless. Mayor Chris Coleman was in attendance and read a proclamation declaring it Dorothy Day Center Day in the City of St. Paul.
The need for the center after three decades is as great as ever and, sadly, is even increasing.
Meeting the need
After Archbishop John Nienstedt offered an opening prayer, speakers like former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer talked about the center’s history, including how it began in the early 1980s, during another recession, thanks to the collaborative efforts of church, city and business leaders who refused to turn a blind eye to the growing numbers of people in need of assistance.
Doug Baker, CEO of Ecolab and the morning’s keynote speaker, noted the intentional decision the leaders made to put the Dorothy Day Center in the middle of town so the challenge of poverty wouldn’t be hidden away in a corner of the community — out of sight and out of mind.
It’s a decision that still carries an important message. “We can’t live in glass towers” and ignore what else goes on in the community, said Baker, whose Ecolab employees — many of whom work downtown — are among the center’s volunteers.
The dedication of the center’s staff and volunteers has been steady over the years, but much has changed as well, including the types of services offered.
On its first day three decades ago, the Dorothy Day Center served coffee and day-old rolls to 50 men. Today, it provides hot meals, mental health services and medical care to more than 6,000 clients annually. While chemical dependency and mental illness are associated with homelessness, clients coming to the center today often don’t fit the stereotypes associated homeless. They are once-properous individuals and families who have fallen on hard times because of the faltering economy and housing foreclosure crisis.
One of the people who helped lay the foundation for the center attended the breakfast — Msgr. Jerome Boxleitner, a former executive director of Catholic Charities. While reminiscing about the center’s history, he also reminded those in attendance that simple charity isn’t enough.
Feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless are extremely important, he said, but we must also work for justice, including public policies that can help put an end to the spiraling cycle of poverty once and for all — efforts that all too often seem “muted these days.”
If you’re willing to speak up and take action to help end homelessness, Catholic Charities has a few ideas that it listed in handouts distributed at the end of breakfast. Among the suggestions:
• Keep the conversation alive: When you share a meal with people you respect, ask them about the homeless in the community. What are the community’s values regarding how the homeless are helped back to self-sufficiency wherever self-sufficiency is possible?
• Advocate: Help build support for programs that provide permanent solutions for homelessness by contacting Catholic Charities’ Office for Social Justice at email@example.com or 612-204-8393.
• Don’t blink: Even if you don’t give money to a person who is begging, you can recognize their humanity by smiling and wishing them a good day. Remember, sometimes people sitting next to you at school or waiting on you at a restaurant are experiencing homelessness.
• Be a catalyst: Educate and encourage community groups, congregations and workplaces to address the issue.
• Volunteer: Connect with Catholic Charities at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-204-8435.
• Pray: Keep the needs of the poor and vulnerable in your thoughts and prayers.
May 1, 2012
Aim Higher, a new campaign to market and promote Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, is now employing Social Media to get the message out.
From Cathy Cornell, Office of Catholic Schools:
We will be using our social media sites, primarily Facebook and Twitter, as a hub for our students, teachers, and parents to spread the good news of Catholic education. It will be a place where people can connect, share news, learn something new and interact with one another.
On our Facebook page, we are running an “app of the week” to help teachers and parents engage their kids in fun and unique ways.
We will also be running promotional contests to our schools through these pages. Currently we are having an essay contest for our graduates about what their Catholic education meant to them. It will bring energy around the amazing stories in our Catholic schools.
Be sure to like and follow!
April 26, 2012
First, there was the Benilde-St. Margaret’s varsity boys hockey team, which won the Class AA title last month. They arrived Monday for Mass and lunch. I stopped by briefly for a photo shoot of the players and coaches with Archbishop Nienstedt. There were smiles all around, and it looked like everyone enjoyed the event.
Then, just this afternoon, it was DeLaSalle High School’s turn. The school sent not one, but two teams – the varsity boys and varsity girls basketball teams, both of which captured Class AAA championships. Things got a little crowded on the steps on the back side of the archbishop’s residence when it came time for a group photo. But, we managed to squeeze everybody in, even the student managers.
I think having the championship teams over for Mass and lunch is a great idea. Hats off to Archbishop Nienstedt for thinking of it. Not sure if Archbishop Flynn ever did it. If he did, I was not aware of it. I got to witness all three teams win their respective championship games, so it was fun to see them celebrate with the archbishop.
I did not attend the Masses, but I found myself very curious what Archbishop Nienstedt talked about in his homily. Vocations, perhaps? I think it would be great to see someone from a successful sports team pursue a religious vocation. That could help open doors of communication to many more student-athletes.
A grade-school classmate of mine, Kelly Scott, has a son who played for DeLaSalle. Kelly told me that after one of the state tournament games, his son, Luke, went to a eucharistic adoration chapel that night.
I’ll bet the archbishop would be pleased to know this – and see more Catholic high school athletes do the same.
April 19, 2012
And this time St. Paul the Hermit faces the right way — upward in prayer
Art lovers won’t want to miss the beautiful sculpture of St. Paul the Hermit that’s on display — the right way now — at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
The larger-than-life-size work of 18th century Italian artist Andrea Bergondi was acquired by the MIA nearly 40 years ago, but until this year the piece wasn’t displayed the way it is now presumed was originally intended. Credit goes to the folks at MIA for rediscovering the proper positioning and not only fixing it but being very public about the misplacement.
Read about the details here, but the short version is that, the way the piece was displayed before, it looked as if the bearded old hermit was diving off a cliff, as a wonderful display explained for several weeks. That display — now down — showcased the Bergondi work in a separate room, with the story of the statue’s restoration and realignment explained in storyboards along the walls of the room.
What the correction did was turn the statue so that the saintly one was seen to be praying upward to God — which seems more appropriate than for him to be going for a dip in a lake.
Find out more about St. Paul the Hermit here, but the back story behind the piece that comes to us from early church tradition is that St. Anthony Abbot found the body of St. Paul the Hermit frozen in prayer. That’s exactly what you’ll see today in the marble image on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Photo credits go to The Catholic Spirit’s Dave Hrbacek.
April 10, 2012
I got to witness what I believe is a once-in-a-lifetime event over the weekend. It took place Saturday at the Easter Vigil Mass at Saint Agnes in St. Paul.
Sitting in the front row were nine children from the same family, all of whom were there to be baptized and received into the Catholic Church. Their amazing story will be published this week in The Catholic Spirit.
We at The Catholic Spirit were tipped off by the pastor at Saint Agnes, Father John Ubel, who felt this was a unique story that was worth telling. Immediately, we agreed and made arrangements to interview the children and their uncle, who now is their legal guardian. Father Ubel also invited myself and the reporter assigned to the story, Julie Carroll, to come to the Easter Vigil to witness and document this remarkable event.
After attending the rehearsal a few days before, I felt confident about being able to be in the right place at the right time to capture all the drama. I can’t finish my commentary on covering the event without mentioning how incredibly gracious and hospitable Father Ubel and the parish staff were to me. They bent over backwards making sure I was able to get everything I needed.
The only tense moment came when the children, and several others who were being baptized, assembled on the steps of the sanctuary facing Father Ubel and the baptismal font. During the rehearsal, I noticed that the podium on the left side of the sanctuary was blocking my view of the family from the sacristy door. So, I had asked Father Ubel if it could be moved when the people gathered on the steps just prior to being baptized.
No problem, he said. But, during the Mass, someone forgot to move it. So, I talked to an altar server in the sacristy, who in turn notified a sacristan. Quickly and discreetly, they went out and moved the podium off to the side so I could see everyone and get a shot of the whole family, along with the others there to be baptized.
The only other problem, which had nothing to do with taking photos, was the fact that I did not understand the many prayers and singing done in Latin. Although I minored in Latin in college, I hadn’t used it much after that. Would have been helpful to brush up before the Easter Vigil at Saint Agnes.
I was impressed by how well the congregation knew the Latin prayers. To be honest, I’m having enough trouble getting the prayers of the New Roman Missal right in English, let alone trying to do them in Latin. As much as I wanted to join in with the congregation, I was not able to do so.
Fortunately, Father Ubel’s homily was in English. He focused on the Easter candle and talked about its connection to Jesus, the Light of the World.
It was obvious that the light, both literally and spiritually, was shining brightly at St. Agnes on this night.
April 9, 2012
I think that white tie was the same one I wore for my First Communion four years earlier!
Love the cars in the background.
And how about those Chicago three-flats?
Love Grandma’s hat! A brother-in-law, with just a quick glance at this picture this week, thought it was a priest standing behind us kids.!
And then there is this pic from then annual egg hunt this year in Grandpa Z’s backyard.
Ahh, to be six-years-old on Easter!
Got a great photo from Easter this year?