Tag Archives: The Catholic Spirit

Divided by sin, but still united in pursuit of goodness

March 23, 2015

5 Comments

MensConferenceKneeling

By Anthony Gockowski

In his homily at Mass during the 2015 Archdiocesan Men’s Conference, Father William Baer made one thing clear: Local news can be monotonous and dull. Covering the mundane events of ordinary life can be a drag. But the mission of The Catholic Spirit is, and always has been, to spread the good news, not the bad. Sometimes the good news is boring.

While preaching to a crowd of more than 1,300 men gathered at the University of St. Thomas, Father Baer said, “Now there’s probably a journalist here from The Catholic Spirit, and he’s going to take a few photos and write a nice story. But at the end he’s going to say, ‘And they all went home.’ You can be sure, if he uses this phrase he’s just filling up space because he has nothing else to say.”

There are two points Father Baer is making here, ad hominems aside. First, when it comes to events like the men’s conference, The Catholic Spirit has, admittedly, published a similar story with a similar photo and a similar ending.

Second, the conclusion to St. John’s account of the division in the crowd is wildly misunderstood, especially by knuckle-headed journalist folk like myself. The point of the phrase, “then each went to his own house” (John 7:53), is not to say that after an hour of bickering the Pharisees made up and returned home peacefully. Rather, each went his separate way. Division conquered. It was an appropriate point to be made given the theme of the conference: conquering sin. Men, and the Church, are divided by sin. This is the point of John’s phrase, “then each went to his own house.”

But now to the first point. The Catholic Spirit often covers annual stories. We sometimes don’t have anything else to say because we aren’t given new stories to talk about. It is difficult for a journalist to write a new story when he is given the same material every year. We can’t expect different stories if we’re not having different events. The story on the men’s conference will always be the story on the men’s conference. Should we cover it, or let it go unnoticed?

Writing a new story on an old event requires taking a different angle. I think Father Baer gave me that angle: We are divided by sin. He was expecting me to write something nice and warm-hearted. Maybe I could have said something about the toasted breakfast burritos, the warm coffee and the jolly company. Maybe I could have made an observation on the fathers and sons in attendance.

Maybe I could have commented on Jeff Cavins’ energy and charisma. Maybe I could have talked about Archbishop John Nienstedt’s words of encouragement. But all of this would just be the same story we read last year.

This year, I saw something different; I have something else to say.

I saw an archbishop worn out by scandal. I saw the gloom in the faces of men addicted to porn. I saw fathers stuff their faces with burritos while their sons slept at home. I saw a crowd of seminarians worried about the future of their archdiocese. I saw young men sleep through Father Simon’s hopeful preaching. I saw men more interested in free Butterfingers than any material the booth fair had to offer. I saw men walk out while their bishop spoke.

I heard men talk about troubles at home. I heard men worried about their alcoholism.

I heard a man tell a friend he no longer loves his wife.

And some did not go home, at least not right away. They went to the bars and drank to their hearts’ content.

The whole Church is divided by sin. But in this darkness and suffering, there is hope. We can conquer sin.

Father Richard Simon, a priest from Illinois and host of radio show “Father Simon Says,” spoke at the conference. The topic was conquering sin. In his talk, he reminded the men of this archdiocese of the purpose of life.

“We don’t exist to be happy,” he said. “We exist to love.”

Happiness is fleeting. Sin and suffering seem to control our lives. But we have to remember that we can’t fully understand this suffering from our perspective. Father Simon put it nicely: “We look at a mother holding a sick child in her arms and we see suffering. God sees love. When we finally see as God sees, we shall see that the suffering was not suffering. It was love. We will know that no tear went unnoticed and no prayer went unanswered.”

This message is particularly important for our archdiocese. The wounds of scandal have opened us up to a world of love. Wounded, we will never stop loving. As Father Simon said, “You’re doing fine if you get up again. Now go to confession!”

Sometimes, to return to Father Baer’s comment, when a journalist says something else, people get upset. But I have always thought that the job of a Catholic journalist is to be honest. And an honest approach to sin is never a pretty story. This is why we write good news. This is why some of our stories look the same, because goodness does not change.

Continue reading...

‘I thought, I could do that’

January 26, 2015

0 Comments

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.”

Continue reading...

Blessed Trinity principal and teachers camp out to bring attention to school’s 20th anniversary

February 1, 2014

1 Comment

The Frozen Five ready to spend some time out in the cold. Photo submitted

The Frozen Five ready to spend some time out in the cold. Photo submitted

Fearless Frozen 5 to camp outside Feb. 1 

To bring extra attention to the school’s 20th anniversary, the Catholic Schools raffle and its $20,000 goal, a group of school staff, called the Fearless Frozen 5, will camp out in the cold night air at Blessed Trinity’s Penn Campus Feb. 1. after the school’s Sno*Ball dance and auction. Mr. Patrick O’Keefe (principal), Mrs. Patty Armbrust (4-6 grade teacher), Mrs. Melody Wyrick (first grade teacher), Mr. Brian Stock (middle school teacher) and Mr. Matt Miller (gym teacher for preschool though grade 8) will spend four hours in a tent outside. 

At 10:15 p.m, the school community will gather with the Frozen 5 and send them into the tent with a cheer, prayer and care package. Once inside the tent, their experience will be documented via social media. Follow them on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1401918903395726/

Continue reading...

Catholic Spirit gets the scoop on St. Joseph’s Day

March 19, 2012

0 Comments

Judges Cheryl Peterson and Klondike Kate sample some of the fare. (Photos by Joe Towalski / The Catholic Spirit)

Where better to write about the results of The Catholic Spirit’s St. Joseph’s Day hotdish contest than at CatholicHotdish.com?

Contestants from the staff of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis competed March 19 in three categories: Hotdish, salads and desserts. Three winners were named in each category for best tasting entry, best appeal and best use of local fare.

Staffers enjoy the dishes after the judging.

The winners, by category, were:

Salads

Best taste: Grape salad, Joan Place, accounting services manager.

Best appeal: Pasta salad, Dale Hennen, Parish Services Team.

Best use of local fare: Minnesota Spring Salad, Cathy Cornell, Catholic Schools Office.

Hotdish

Best taste: Venison Tamale Pie, Lynette Forbes Cardey, Parish Services.

Best appeal: Italian Sausage Penne Paste, Mary Jo Jungwirth, administration and finance.

Best use of local fare: Wild Turkey Wild Rice Casserole, Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit

Desserts

Best taste: Chocolate Irish Creame Cake, Laurie Acker, Catholic Schools Office.

Best appeal: Fruit Torte, Rose Anne Hallgren, Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women.

Best use of local fare: Apple Crisp, Ana Ashby, Office for Social Justice.

Catholic Spirit staffers Caron Olhoft, left, and Mary Gibbs tally the scores.

A heaping plate of thanks goes to our judges: Peggy Sweeney Junkin, a member of St. Patrick in Inver Grove Heights better known as Klondike Kate of the 2012 St. Paul Winter Carnival; and Cheryl Peterson of the Catholic Charities Office for Social Justice.

Thanks also to Catholic Spirit staff members Mary Gibbs and Caron Olhoft who organized the day and tallied the scores.

Congratulations to all for the great food and great lunchtime conversation! Watch for a future post for the recipes.

Continue reading...

Prolife ‘billboard people’ aiming higher

January 24, 2012

0 Comments

 

 

“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.”

Continue reading...

The unforgettable Cardinal John Foley

December 12, 2011

5 Comments

Goodbye to a mentor and a friend

Cardinal John P. Foley, speaking at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, Jan. 7, 2011. The American cardinal died Dec. 12, 2011.

Many will remember him as the voice doing the “play-by-play” during the Pope’s Christmas Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica, something he did for 25 years up until two years ago.

Journalists around the world will remember him as the archbishop who got them a radio or television feed or a straight answer about what the church teaches and why.

Those of us in Catholic media will remember the Philadelphian who became a Cardinal of the Church for his hilarious stories, his love of puns, and his commitment to his faith, to the church and to truthful Catholic journalism.

I remember John Patrick Foley as a mentor who became a friend.

Cardinal Foley, who died today, Dec. 11, at the age of 76, was the editor of Philadelphia’s Catholic newspaper when he hired me, just a 22-year-old, to be his news and sports editor back in 1974.

Best of mentors

I’m trying to avoid saying he was a demanding boss, because that would put too dark a tone on the reality of who he was. What he was was a boss who set high expectations — for himself as well as others.  He could never understand why anyone would ever give less than 100 percent when they could inform, form and inspire God’s people through the work we did.

Because he held those high standards, he could hold the reins loosely and let a young colt like me run. I tried out the latest in graphics. I cropped photos tight and used them big. I covered everything from high school football to the International Eucharistic Congress to the U.S. Supreme Court. When a tip about Catholic school teachers organizing a labor union got me into a sub rosa gathering at an apartment one night, then-Monsignor Foley not only published my full-page story but defended the story to archdiocesan officials because Catholics needed to know why their teachers felt they needed a union.

Along the way he taught me the importance of planning, the value of teamwork and collaboration, and the truism that Catholic media have nothing to fear from reporting bad news. His approach to Catholic news — one forged in part at Columbia’s School of Journalism and in part by his priesthood — was that Catholic media should tell every story, tell it honestly, and tell it with compassion. And he showed us all how to be Catholic, how to live out our faith every day in all we do, with everyone whose life touched ours.

When we worked for him in the mid-1970s we expected the monsignor to one day be named an auxiliary bishop. Instead he went right to archbishop; Pope John Paul II chose him to head the Vatican’s communication efforts. He became a cardinal in 2009.

I’d left Philadelphia in 1977, but through the years we’d see each other at Catholic Press Association conventions and correspond occasionally. He always helped me better understand the church and my faith. All his letters — every one — included “give my love to Barbara and the children,” never forgetting my wife and that he’d baptized two of our four.

When I think back I appreciate that he taught me the valuable lesson of having a reason for whatever I was doing. But even better, he showed me how to love the church, warts and all. The bureaucracy frustrated him and the politics drove him crazy, yet I don’t know how many times I heard him say, “I’ve never had an unhappy day as a priest.” It was a sentence he repeated last year when he came to the Twin Cities to help The Catholic Spirit celebrate its 100th anniversary.

He wowed ’em in Minneapolis

I thought the cardinal would be a big-name draw for our centennial celebration, so about a year in advance I invited him to be our keynote speaker in January 2011. Needless to say he was a hit. He had several hundred people laughing aloud as he quipped with his host, Archbishop John Nienstedt, and told anecdotes from his years in the Catholic news ministry.

It was only after he left town that I was told he had leukemia but didn’t want me to know it.

Once he was diagnosed with that cancerous blood disease he had cleared his calendar for two events: the 2011 Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh and the 100th anniversary celebration of The Catholic Spirit in the Twin Cities. I can’t describe them, so you’ll have to imagine my feelings upon hearing that our friendship meant that much to him that he would honor his commitment to me knowing that he hadn’t long to live.

Thank God he made it to Pittsburgh last June.  He was the keynote speaker there, too, and as we sat down for the centennial dinner I was asked to introduce the cardinal.

I wasn’t expecting that, but frankly it wasn’t difficult. I’d watched Foley through the years, and he was a master at self-effacing stories, at working an audience, at getting a message across clearly yet quickly.

The hard part, the lump-in-the-throat part, was finishing up the introduction by telling him — in front of several hundred people who work in Catholic media around North America — how much he meant to me. And how much I loved him.

Requiesat in pace, good and faithful servant.

 

 

Continue reading...

Charity begins in the office, thank God! Sweet tribute to Apple’s founder

October 6, 2011

1 Comment

Composing Room artist Caron Olhoft chose a great way to pay tribute to the late Steve Jobs today, giving an apple to everyone in the company at The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, MN, in honor of the founder of Apple, Inc.

Continue reading...

Catholic Guy cracks jokes and cracks wise over his foibles and his faith

September 19, 2011

0 Comments

I hate to feed Lino Rulli’s ego, but here  goes: His book “Sinner” had me chuckling out loud.

Fortunately there’s a good dose of humility left in the St. Paul native despite his success in both television and radio. When that’s combined with the self-deprecating humor that he spreads on pretty thickly in stories from his relatively young life-and-times, it makes for reading that’s both funny and — I’m searching for a word here — well, evangelizing? Catechizing without trying too hard? Preaching as much to himself as to others?

Lino is a self-admitted screw up who’s trying not to be.

He’s trying to be a good Catholic, holy, even a saint. He claims to be not doing so well at it, hence the book’s title. You and I might call him normal.

Okay, maybe obsessive.

Definitely gregarious and out-spoken.

Yes, paranoid.

But still funny. And he’d want me to mention that he’s single and still available, ladies.

As he both stumbles along and finds success , the tales he tells are the stuff of sitcoms. The pratfalls are both physical and moral, and that’s where the faith connection comes into play. The stories usually have a punchline, and most have a sliver or two of catechism, too.

Catholic media someone will actually watch & listen to

So that makes “Sinner” not unlike Lino’s “The Catholic Guy” show on SiriusXM Radio afternoons daily, which he tries to make three hours of Catholic radio that doesn’t suck (his description).

That’s what the book is: It’s funny stories that end up being a teaching vehicle about things Catholic that won’t bore you to death or hit you over the head with dogma. The Catholic teaching is there, but it’s a pill that’s not that hard to swallow.

Frankly, the quality of the writing in “Sinner” isn’t unexpected. Lino’s writing talent made the pages of The Catholic Spirit young-adult friendly for a number of years. The “Generation Cross” show that he hosted on Twin Cities cable television aimed, successfully, to be Catholic TV people 18-to-34 would actually watch. His quick wit and his professional know-how around a camera and microphone have been recognized with three Emmys.

Readers of “Sinner” will find themselves appreciating Lino’s dedication to his Catholic faith and his commitment to excellence in his chosen vocation. And they’ll laugh out loud, too.

“Sinner” is available on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, via Kindle and audiobook as well.

 

Continue reading...

Sensible words about government budgets: Catholic archbishop offered them

July 5, 2011

0 Comments

As the senseless, costly and harmful to humanity shutdown of Minnesota’s state government continues, and as the federal government looks to a similar shut down in a few weeks, you can go back to advice from a Catholic archbishop that made so much sense you want to force every legislator and governor to read it aloud — and then do something about it.

Archbishop John Nienstedt — six weeks ago! — offered principles on which a sensible budget could be fashioned. It’s in his May 26 column at http://thecatholicspirit.com/that-they-may-all-be-one/budgeting-with-the-common-good-in-mind/ and worth the time to read and send to your elected officials.

Just the fact that the Minnesota state government shut down meant that the state parks are losing $1 million a week ought to be enough to knock some sense into stubborn state decision makers.

Continue reading...

Cardinal John Foley’s remarks at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Catholic Bulletin/The Catholic Press

January 14, 2011

0 Comments

REMARKS OF CARDINAL JOHN P. FOLEY

GRAND MASTER,

ORDER OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE OF JERUSALEM,

100th ANNIVERSARY OF THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT,

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA,

JANUARY 6, 2011

Your Grace, Archbishop Nienstedt, my brothers and sisters in Christ:

First of all, I want to thank Bob Zyskowski, the associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit, for his invitation to celebrate with all of you the 100th anniversary of The Catholic Spirit.  I also want to thank my friend of twenty-six years, Archbishop John Nienstedt, for his kind hospitality. I remember when he assured that my mother got an invitation for Thanksgiving in Rome in 1984, and I remain ever grateful to him.

I also remember when Bob Zyskowski worked with me at The Catholic Standard and Times in Philadelphia thirty-five years ago.  One of his final responsibilities was to assemble the pre-and post- Eucharistic Congress issues of the newspaper in 1976.  It was an enormous task, and he did it very well, as always!

I fact, Cardinal Krol, then the Archbishop of  Philadelphia and our publisher, asked me if I would have a special supplement for the Second Coming of the Lord, and I responded “yes”.  When he asked what advertising I would get for the issue, I responded, “Going out of business sales!”

In 1975, as Bob will well remember, Cardinal Krol made a Holy Year pilgrimage, not only to Rome but also to the Holy Land, Egypt and Lebanon.

In Egypt, he visited the pyramids – and said to me – “Father Foley, they want me to get on that camel.  Should I get on that camel?”  I answered that I did not think he should get on the camel – so he got on the camel.  He was wearing a white cassock, and had a slight beard – and they put a kaffiyeh, or Arab headdress, on him.  He looked somewhat like Yassir Arafat.  Naturally, as a newsman, I took a photo of him on the camel.

After we got home, he began to get letters from Jewish groups lamenting that it looked as if he had embraced the Arab cause.

He asked me why, if I had counseled him not to get on the camel, I took a picture of him on the camel, and I replied that, as a priest, if asked, I would say what I thought he ought to do, but as a journalist I would cover whatever he did.  He smiled and made no more comment.

I hope that the environment to which Bob Zyskowski owes at least part of his formation was one of respectful candor – taking God and His Church seriously, but not ourselves – and insisting always on knowing and telling the truth.

It certainly comes as no surprise to me that Bob has produced an outstanding paper.  As far as I’m concerned, he is a blessing to the Catholic Press.  As many of you know, Bob was also president of the Catholic Press Association at the time I was named a cardinal – and so he decided to give me – in the name of the association – the clothes I’m wearing.  He thought it would be appropriate if a representative of Catholic journalism could be seen running in the red.

The Catholic Spirit, of course, has a wonderful tradition.  Established by the legendary Archbishop Ireland 100 years ago as The Catholic Bulletin, the diocesan newspaper of St. Paul – Minneapolis flourished until the mid-1990s when its circulation fell to about 26,000.  Reborn as The Catholic Spirit in 1996, 15 years ago this week, your weekly newspaper has gotten into the habit of winning the general excellence award of the Catholic Press Association.  You can be very proud of your newspaper.

Apparently, the only instruction given to the first editor of the paper was to publish and interesting, well-written and well-edited Catholic newspaper, non-political and non-controversial, which did not necessarily reflect the Archbishop’s views on any subject.

My own view was that a diocesan newspaper must be a source of information, formation and inspiration to supplement and indeed sometimes correct what is found in the secular media.

I have been fortunate to have known personally a number of your editors.  The first one I knew was the legendary Bernie Casserly, with whom I was very well acquainted during his last fifteen years at the paper.  I also knew Dan Medinger, who went on to service in Baltimore.  Finally, I knew well Paulist Father Tom Comber, a fellow Philadelphian, who did much to promote the newspaper.

You can be proud of The Catholic Spirit.  It serves your diocesan family well – and, indeed, it is one of the very best instruments for helping to form your diocesan family.  All of you are fortunate indeed to have Archbishop John Nienstedt as your spiritual shepherd, but he is fortunate indeed to have The Catholic Spirit as an instrument of information, formation and inspiration in his historic and dynamic archdiocese.

Congratulations to him, to associate publisher Bob Zyskowski, to editor Joe Towalski, to the staff of and contributors to The Catholic Spirit – and to all of you, its subscribers and supports – on 100 years of dynamic, stimulating, informative and inspiring Catholic journalism in America’s heartland.  God bless you all!

Continue reading...