Category Archives for "Catholic Culture"

Nov 07

The Catholics

By Tim Welch | Catholic Education

The Catholics descended upon my household again.

Actually, I call them my Leaf Angels, but my neighbors call them “The Catholics” and threaten to convert to our church… though they haven’t quite yet.

With my wife in a nursing home due to radiation injury from a brain tumor, I am continually amazed by the support network I need, and receive, from my faith community… my larger faith community.

The Catholics are from St. Francis Xavier School. They have been coming for a few years now. They have raked leaves from our massive silver maples, mowed the fall lawn, cleaned up my poorly kept gardens, and even washed windows. They are such help! One year I had hand surgery; last year it was hernia surgery (is this TMI?). In both cases I really needed the help physically, still it was very humbling for me to let go of my desire to be self-sufficient.

This year was different. My need stems more from being overwhelmed. As my wife’s status slowly declines, I need to make her my priority over housekeeping and yard work. And this year, on the day of the descent of The Catholics, Mandy, sister-in-law and another Angel, had asked my wife to co-host a niece’s baby shower at the nursing home. What a gift! Mandy knew she would be doing the work, but she wanted to involve my wife as much as possible. And I needed to be there to host as I could.

So here were The Catholics, giving up their Saturday, while I left them working in my yard. I felt bad and worked out at least a small bit of time to help them help me. I finally got out there, and offered a meager bit of time. A lead Catholic said, “No this is for you. We have plenty of help.”

The phrase “this is for you” really touched my heart.

I wanted to graciously accept their help, so I went back in, took a few surreptitious photos for this post, and pondered their gift. I mulled over how they were making real the Reign of God right in my front yard. Regardless of their theologies, ideologies, or backgrounds, they came together in a working community and reached out, not only to my wife and me, but as a witness to my neighbors, all those who saw them working together, and those who see the “Saints in Service” sign in my front yard as I write this post. Maybe I should add “The Catholics in Community”.

Since that Saturday, I have pondered more about making real the Reign of God. Faced with so many societal and church challenges, could that be the solution to shaping our environments? Rather than spending time festering on opinions and polarizations, maybe I can simply ask myself, how can I, like The Catholics, DO more to make real the Reign of God?

What would God’s dream be for the Reign Jesus announced? What is God asking of me in terms of immigration, life issues, ecology, healing, and justice… and even church issues like parish planning? My priority is shifting from having to know the right answers to trying to do the loving thing. All because of The Catholics.

How can I thank them? My guess is that they don’t need my thanks… that making real the Reign of God is enough thanks for them. They are, after all, The Catholics.

 Photos were created with Photofunia. While some of the effects are simply ‘fun’, it is another graphics program to become familiar with to add to your repertoire as a digital storyteller. It is good to have a number of tools at hands for 'that right moment' as you create your posts.

Tim Welch is the Consultant for Educational Technology at Catholic Education Ministries, Diocese of Saint Cloud, MN. With more that 35 years of experience at the parish and diocesan levels, he is continually searching for ways of journeying with others to implement proven technologies that can serve ministry (especially catechesis).

Oct 21

Rainbow of hope

By From the Heart | Catholic Culture

Recently I was invited to attend a meeting of dialogue for people of different political persuasions for the purpose of understanding and finding areas of common ground.

I did not respond immediately, only to receive a follow-up email saying they were still looking for participants, but they had enough people who considered themselves “blue” (liberal) and needed more “reds” (conservatives). It made me wonder how long we have used these two primary colors in that way.  Red and Blue states took off from the maps shown on TV news of our country in the 1996 Presidential Election.  And clearly, it has stuck.

So what color AM I?  I am in the mishmash of purple.  And not the fun of saying ‘Purple Pride” as a Vikings fan, but more of the purple that can come in bruising from a world so divided (and of course being a Vikings fan has a bunch of associated bruises as well).  I try to inform my politics through Catholic Social Teaching and a What Would Jesus Do philosophy.  So is that red or blue?  Again, I turn to purple, a color of Advent and Lent.  We are in a time of repentance, knowing our lives are flawed and that there is no perfect candidate or party.  So when we turn to Catholic Social Teaching and Christ, what colors do we see?

Blue can remind us of the waters of our Baptism, and Red the fire of the Holy Spirit from Confirmation.  The Catholic Social Teaching of Life and Dignity of the Human Person can be the brightness of yellow, and the glow from the ultrasound machine showing a life being knitted in the womb.  This beautiful dignity of life is also seen in a sunny smile when an elderly person finds joy in the simple.  Catholic Social Teaching challenges us that the poor and vulnerable need protection, so I think of the silver of a shield, as well as gold representing the sharing of our treasure.  And green can represent our care for God’s creation.

So the world is not simply black or white… or red vs. blue.  I believe God was trying to teach us that things do not boil down to just two colors when he sent us the rainbow of hope.

Deb Forstner is daughter of Bob and Joan Forstner of Fargo, ND. She is a graduate of Fargo Shanley High School, the College of St. Benedict, University of Wisconsin-Stout, and St. John’s School of Theology. She worked for many years in the St.Cloud Schools as a school psychologist. She currently serves as a NACC-certified chaplain at Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, MN and is a member of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church. She is the owner of two rescue dogs; one of which is a certified therapy dog who at times accompanies her in ministry, named Deacon.



Oct 13

No to violence, yes to peace

By From the Heart | Catholic Culture

What I really want, dear reader, is to encourage you to watch the film, Romero, starring Raul Julia as Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who is to be canonized this weekend in Rome!

Paulist priest, Bud Kieser, the indomitable producer of the film faced equally indomitable conditions as he searched for information and a place to shoot the film in this Central American country that continues to be rife with violence, poverty, and militarism these 40 years since Romero was martyred along with too many other priests, educators, religious women who suffered death for their collaboration with those who are still under the yoke of institutional violence.

This is the official image of soon-to-be St. Oscar Arnulfo Romero. Msgr. Rafael Urrutia shared the official prayer card image during a meeting with San Salvador’s archbishop and others, and someone posted it to social media. (CNS photo/Twitter via @arzobispadoss)

When Father Bud was cautioned that his film would receive wider viewing if it had a happy ending rather than that of Romero’s brutal death, he countered: “The ending is, Romero lives on, in the people he served.”  And Jim McDermott recently noted that Romero, indeed,  lives on in the Salvadoran people but also in broader contexts: those ideas can be regularly heard  in the teachings of our present Holy Father, Pope Francis (America 10/3/2018).  Who do you suppose uttered words such as these?  “When we speak for the poor, please note that we do not take sides with one social class.  What we do is invite all social classes, rich and poor, without distinction, saying to everyone: ‘Let us take seriously the cause of the poor as though it were our own’.”   Or as on the day before his death, March 23, 1980, when Romero made an appeal to the men in the military: “Brothers, each one of you is one of us.  We are the same People.  The farmers and peasants that you kill are your own brothers and sisters.  When you hear the words of a man telling you to kill, think instead of the words of God, ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the Law of God. In His name and in the name of our tormented people who have suffered so much, and whose laments cry out to heaven: I implore you! I beg you! Stop the repression!”  Is the canonization of Archbishop Romero but one more signal as to where Pope Francis wishes to lead the church?

Do watch the film, Romero, and be grateful to those who continue to cry out in the desert: “NO to violence, YES to peace.”

Note: The film, Romero, will be shown on Channel EWTN on 10/13 at 3 p.m. CST and on Monday, 10/15 at 12:30 a.m. CST.

Sister Renee Domeier has been a Benedictine for 60+ years. She loves to read at least one poem a day and write whenever time and inspiration are given her. She said, “I am very grateful for the gift of life within and around me!”













Oct 12

The spirit is a movin’

By From the Heart | Catholic Culture

The last five months have been a whirlwind, lots of moving. Moving from Kent to St. Cloud. Moving from parish ministry to diocesan ministry. Moving from pastoral associate to associate director of lay leadership formation. Moving from a well-established position to a brand-new position that I had no idea where it was heading.

Moving. It makes me think of that song, “The Spirit is a movin’ all over, all over this land,” complete with actions from my adolescence. It was never one of my favorite songs, but it stuck. Now I think of it and it speaks to me of what is happening in our church. The Spirit is moving.

The Spirit may be moving through our church, but we may not be feeling it. We have reached a time in our church where many of us are angry, frustrated, sad, hopeless, and many other adjectives that describe our feelings about the latest chapter in the abuse crisis. We are worried about what the pastoral plan for the diocese may mean for our parishes. What will it mean when we do not have enough priests? What do we do about the number of young people who are leaving the church? What do we do about the dwindling mass attendance? What do we do when, for every one person who joins the Catholic Church, six leave?  Some have chosen to walk out the door with the others. Some have chosen to stay, but not with any enthusiasm. Some have chosen to stay and find the good again.

All of these worries have us wondering what the leadership of the church will do. I know I sit and wait for the next bombshell to drop and ask, “why don’t our leaders step up and do something about all of this?”  They have to change something or things will continue to get worse.

Let’s be honest, when we think of the leaders of the church, we quite often think of the popes, the bishops, the priests, and the deacons. The ordained. And while they are leaders, they are not the only leaders. My job title is associate director of lay leadership formation. If that is in my job title, doesn’t that make me a leader, too? Leadership indicates some form of responsibility. That must mean I am also responsible for the life of the church.

I am a leader and I am responsible. Not because I work for the diocese. Not because my position has a long title. Not because I have a Master of Divinity degree. I am responsible because when I was two months old my parents brought me to St. James Catholic Church and I was baptized into the Body of Christ, the Church. I was given a “share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light.’ Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1268)

We are all given a share in the priesthood of Christ at baptism, in his prophetic and royal mission. Priest, prophet, and king. These are leadership roles; therefore, we are all called to be leaders in the church, lay and ordained, by virtue of our baptism. We are, as Pope Benedict XVI said in 2009 “co-responsible” for our church. [1]  We are co-responsible for the mission of our church.  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20). We do this through our words, our witness, and our service.

We are being moved by the Holy Spirit to become a church of co-responsibility. No longer can we expect to simply show up for Mass or expect the priest or his staff to be at everything and do everything. If we want to see change in our church, to make our way through our struggles, to find the hope again, we must work together, lay and ordained. We need to embrace our share in our common priesthood and lead the church into the future. Allow yourself to be moved by the Holy Spirit to become co-responsible for your parish.

[1] Benedict XVI, “Opening of the Pastoral Convention of the Diocese of Rome on the Theme: ‘Church Membership and Pastoral Co-Responsibility’ Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI,” May 26, 2009.

Kristi Bivens is the associate director of lay leadership formation for the Diocese of St. Cloud. Originally from Crookston, MN, she moved into the diocese to attend the College of St. Benedict to study elementary education and hasn’t left. She has served in ministry for 8 years as a Catholic School teacher in Staples and Elk River, took a break to earn a Master of Divinity from St. John’s School of Theology/Seminary, and most recently served as pastoral associate in Breckenridge and Kent. Outside of ministry, Kristi loves to read, travel, and spend time with friends and family, especially her only niece, Leigha, who lives too far away in Texas.

Oct 10

Born to be Mission

By From the Heart | Catholic Culture

“Mission”… In general, one may define the word mission as a task or goal in life that is driven with conviction.  How many times have you heard people talk about “being on a mission!”?  I can get behind that, but there is also so much more!!  What mission does God call us on?  Aren’t we told to “go out to love and serve the Lord” at the end of Mass each Sunday?  How do we do this?

I believe we are called to walk in solidarity with our brothers and sisters here, and all across the world.  What might that mean, you ask?  I believe we are called to really get to know and walk with all people who may appear different from us, but in all reality are created just the same.  How can we understand human beings from a different culture, race, economic background, health situation, etc. if all we are doing is watching the news or believing what we read on the internet?  Don’t you really learn about a person by getting to know them personally?  I believe it is our job to focus on relationships and get to know our brothers and sisters from all over the world in a personal way.

The St. Cloud Diocese has long standing partnerships with the Diocese in Homa Bay Kenya and the Diocese in Maracay Venezuela.  Over the years, friendships based on mutual respect have been created.  They have visited us here and we there.  As a matter of fact, we are planning a trip to the Homa Bay Diocese in March, 2019.  16 of us will be immersed in the culture there for 2 weeks.  Our relationships will be nurtured and strengthened.

October is the month of mission.  We celebrated World Mission Rosary Day on October 5th.  Go to our Facebook page (St. Cloud Mission Office) to see pictures of this happening right here in our Diocese as well as a video of people from around the world praying the World Mission Rosary.  This rosary honors the work of mission, our call to be missioners, and world unity and peace through its special emphasis on each of the Earth’s regions, where prayers are needed and our brothers and sisters in Christ live and play and pray just like each of us!  Each region is represented by a different color; it is not only a beautiful rosary, but rich in symbolism.

On October 21st we will celebrate World Mission Sunday.  Through the work of our Diocesan Mission Office/The Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the World Mission Sunday celebration and collection connects us with the loving work of missionaries throughout the world as well as encounters taking place here in our own diocese.  It is the combination of these great encounters happening each and every day that mark us as true Christian disciples, true Missionary Disciples!  This year’s theme is “Born to be Mission”.  As always, World Mission Sunday collection funds will go to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a world-wide Catholic network of mission cooperation, which enables the Gospel of Jesus Christ to reach some of the most marginalized of our brothers and sisters on all ends of the earth.

I love to help people find and understand what their “mission” in this world is.  Who are you called to be in relationship with?  Come on over to the Mission Office and we can chat!

Katy Lentz serves as the Mission Educator at the St. Cloud Mission Office. She is married to her husband, Mike. Together they have five children – 3 in college, 1 in high school and 1 in middle school. Katy has worked in ministry 11 years and is very involved in the Central MN TEC program. She loves to walk with others to encounter Christ. When not working, she loves to read books, soak in the sunshine at the beach and spend time with her family.


Sep 02

A Taste of Mexico

By From the Heart | Catholic Culture

Summers are a busy time of year for everybody, and that also includes seminarians. Whether we are working a job for the summer, helping out with Totus Tuus and Vocations Camps, or serving patients in hospital ministry, we definitely keep busy. This summer in particular, Patrick Hoeft, Brady Keller, David Trout, and I (Tom Skaja) were in Mexico. We spent eight weeks in Queretaro, a city two hours north of Mexico City. My hope is that this blog post will give you a taste of what our summer was like, especially in looking at our experiences and travels.

We landed in Queretaro on Sunday, June 3rd, and moved into our host family’s home. It was a simple home, but we had everything we needed. There were two seminarians per home, and my “familia” spoke little to no English. I am very grateful that my abuelita (grandmother) was such a phenomenal cook, for she would make all sorts of excellent Mexican food, from tasty guacamole to scrumptious quesadillas. Speaking of food, the meal times took me a while to get used to. Breakfast was usually from 6-7am, lunch (the main meal of the day) was from 2-3pm, and there was a light supper around 9pm. It took a few weeks to adjust to these times when we arrived, and a few weeks to adjust back to the Minnesota eating schedule when we returned.

The first day after we arrived, we began our classes in a small language learning school located in the historic section of town. We began classes at 8am, and had one-on-one tutoring sessions with our teachers until about 2pm, Monday through Friday. Needless to say, I now know what Spanish immersion is all about, because we went from speaking English to total Spanish literally overnight! If there was ever a question about a certain vocabulary word or concept, for example, the teacher would respond to us only Spanish. In class, we focused on grammar, conversation, and practice, which included meeting strangers on the street or in reading the Lectionary and parts of the Mass in Spanish. We all improved over the two months in Mexico, and now the challenge is to keep studying so it doesn’t slip from our minds.

In our time in Mexico, there were many opportunities for travel. We traveled to the town of Bernal one weekend, and at the center of this small town is the monolith “La Peña.” Fun fact: a monolith is basically a giant rock that comes straight out of the ground, almost forming a column. This particular monolith is said to be the third largest in the world. We only made it about half the way up or so because of the steepness… we thought it would be wise to turn around at the small shrine to St. Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes. We also visited the Pyramids of Teotihuacan, where the ancient Pyramid of the Sun remains to this day. In our travels, we learned a lot about the culture of the Mexican people, and in learning about the culture, it makes it easier to learn the language.

Of all our travels, the journey to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe was my favorite trip. It is located in Mexico City, a city with the population of almost nine million people (more people than the entire state of Minnesota). We stayed with the Missionary of Charity Fathers for a weekend, and it was a great weekend to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the summer in order to rest at this wonderful place. The original “tilma” of St. Juan Diego looks remarkable… especially considering that it is almost 500 years old. One thing that struck me about this visit was a short sentence that the Virgin Mary told to St. Juan Diego: “No estoy aqui yo, que soy tu madre?” In English, this translates to, “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” In all of our struggles, it is easy to forget about our Mother, how she is always present and ready to come to our aid. On a larger level, especially in regard to the current scandals in the Church, Mary is telling each one of us, the laity and the clergy, “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” It might be helpful to write this expression on a Post-It note, and to stick it some place seen often. She is always here to intercede for us as our Mother, to lead us closer to the heart of her Son, Jesus.

Our trip to Mexico was a fruitful one, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have been able to study down there for two months. With that said, we were all happy to arrive back to central Minnesota. I missed the lakes, woods, peace and quiet, and the family farm, and not to mention Mom’s home cooking. As I conclude, I would humbly ask for your prayers as we seminarians begin another year of formation, that we might become men on fire with the love of Jesus and His people. Thank you for all of your prayers and support.

Tom Skaja is a seminarian studying for the priesthood at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Tom is the son of Mike and Kim Skaja and is a member of Annunciation Parish in Mayhew Lake.

Aug 21

Surprised by God, a vocation story

By From the Heart | Catholic Culture

Have you ever been surprised? I have…sometimes by joy, sometimes by grief. Among life’s unexpected happenings, being surprised by God has opened me to experiences and perspectives I could have never even imagined. Here are a few musings from my journey of discernment, seeking peace and purpose in my life.

Born in Forest Lake, Minnesota, I was the eldest of six children. My love for nature was nurtured by growing up on a farm; I especially loved working with horses who taught me much about relationships. My ability to work collaboratively with others was strengthened by participating in 4-H. As I grew into adulthood, my assumption that I would get married, have children, and become a veterinarian or an engineer did not happen!

Instead, in college the Franciscan friars at Steubenville, Ohio, inspired me by their joy and authentic Gospel witness. At the friars’ invitation, I became a Secular Franciscan and later helped begin a new fraternity of enthusiastic young adults in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We were committed to common prayer and service among those who were poor and marginalized; still, I yearned for a more intensive shared life, prayer, and ministry. I was haunted by a relentless restlessness, a hunger for something more.

In time, I discovered that what I had resisted for so long (religious life) was actually what I wanted with all my heart! When that became clear, I responded and became a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls. Now 31 years later, I am grateful for communal living, seeking to live in communion with God and fostering community wherever we are. In religious life we, together with Associates, friends and partners in ministry, and whomever we live and work among, share in a collective quest for God, and seek to foster right relationships with others and with the gift of creation. I love it! This is worth living for!

Hawaiian Luau celebration with Franciscan Community Volunteers, Companions and Sisters at Welcoming House

My service over the years has ranged from parish ministry in Fargo, North Dakota to accompaniment in a barrio of Managua, Nicaragua, and from parishes/retreat centers in the Bay Area of California to our Sister Community (the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph) in the Homa Bay Diocese in Kenya. Currently I serve through our community’s Franciscan Life Center and Companioning Ministry, and am part of the Franciscan Community Volunteers program in St. Cloud. What a blessing to live in an inter-generational community of Franciscan Sisters and young adult men and women—all of us committed to spiritual growth, communal living and service!

Indeed, life is an adventure in ongoing conversion as we turn anew to God and to our neighbors. We are invited each day to deepen our spiritual lives, increase our capacity for mutual relationships, and give ourselves in service through life’s challenges and joys. From the earliest biography of Saint Francis of Assisi we hear:

Living within himself and walking in the breadth of his heart, [Francis] prepared in himself a worthy dwelling place of God. (1 Celano 43).

So may each of us prepare within ourselves “a worthy dwelling place of God”, risking to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in our lives!

Sister Michelle L’Allier is a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls who writes from the Franciscan Welcoming House in St. Cloud where she lives in a mixed community of Sisters and young adult Franciscan Community Volunteers. Currently she serves at the Franciscan Life Center based out of Little Falls by offering retreats, workshops and spiritual direction, as well as in Companioning Ministry as she accompanies persons in vocational discernment.

Aug 17

Former principal Sister Adela Gross has lived an amazing life

By From the Heart | Catholic Culture

This story is written by guest blogger Tom Hintgen, eighth grade student of Sister Adela at OLV in 1961-62.

Former Our Lady of Victory School Principal Sister Adela Gross, known in Fergus Falls as Sister Mary Peter in the 1960s, has fond memories of her service to others. She is 87 and resides at the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls campus.

After leaving Fergus Falls in the late 1960s she served as a missionary in Peru, worked with migrant farm workers in south Texas and other areas and served the Hispanic community in Melrose.

The aforementioned would deserve praise in itself. But it doesn’t stop there for Sister Adela.
From 1991 to 1997 she served with the Catholic Bishops Conference in Washington, D.C., coordinating ministry to people on the move.

“Part of our work included assistance to those who ministered to carnival and circus workers,” said Sister Adela to some OLV parishioners who visited her at her residence in Little Falls on May 5.
“Over the years I’ve been so thankful for the blessings of good health and a satisfying ministry,” she said.

Sister Adela never forgot her years in Fergus Falls at Our Lady of Victory School. She returned for OLV school reunions over the years and has kept in touch with former students and members of the OLV congregation.
Former students at OLV remember Sister Peter bringing her class to the audio-visual room and seeing on TV the launch of astronaut John Glenn on Feb. 20, 1962. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.
Others recall the annual OLV eighth grade class trip to Duluth.

She always strived to attain more education, and in 1980 completed a Master’s Degree in religious education from Fordham University in New York.
Sister Adela traveled to China and for two weeks she assisted with the Catholic Church ministry in that country.
She never slowed down. Even in her late 70s she continued to minister to Hispanics in and near Melrose. She served close to 200 Hispanic families.

Her duties in Melrose included arranging for priests to celebrate Catholic Mass every week in Spanish, head sacramental preparation and religious instruction, and perform outreach.

On top of that she assisted with translating, helping people with forms and assisted those applying for housing and medical assistance.

She was a nun highly respected all across the Diocese of St. Cloud. In 2000 Sister Adela was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Office of Migration and Refugee Services in recognition of her service to migrant workers.

Her life has indeed been a life well lived in service to others.

Guest blogger Thomas Hintgen is a semi retired newspaper reporter who writes part-time for area weekly newspapers in Otter Tail County. He previously worked full-time for Fargo Forum, Fergus Falls Daily Journal and Pelican Rapids Press and spent several years in public relations for Otter Tail Power Company. He and his wife Sharon are members of Our Lady of Victory Church in Fergus falls and have two adult sons, Mark and Paul.


Aug 10

Catholic Social Teachings: The Bread and Butter of Community

By From the Heart | Catholic Social Teaching

Did you know that the term “bread and butter” was first used in the 1700’s to mean one’s basic needs?  Later it became associated with one’s livelihood or income (i.e. a mechanic may say “automobiles are my bread and butter”); but it began must broader (and at the same time simpler) than that.  The fundamentals or very basics of what would help an individual or family survive – “their bread and butter.”

A few months ago I learned an important lesson about bread and butter.

My husband and I were at a dinner theatre.  We were at a table with six strangers, and were enjoying our meal before the show.  The bread was exceptionally good!  We had all had a slice, and with a few left over, some at the table even got a second piece.  Enjoying it, and knowing that not all of us had had seconds, I asked the wait staff if it was possible to get more.  She checked the kitchen, and shortly returned with a basket that contained five more slices of bread, which she promptly set down right in front of me, the person who had asked for it.  Not quick enough, the woman to my right grabbed a piece first and then proceeded to pass the basket to her right.  It went around, each person taking one, until it had only one slice left.  The next woman took the basket, looked at the last slice, and kindly asked the woman next to her if she’d like to split it, which they did.  That left only my husband and I, who had asked for the bread, without a second (or in some cases, third) piece.

I will admit, it was not my finest hour, and I was furious!  I stopped muttering under my breath and complaining in my husband’s ear about how rude it was for just a few seconds when a glimmer of hope appeared – the gentleman across the table recognized the problem.  He asked us if we’d gotten any bread, and acknowledging that we were the ones who had asked for it, apologized that we didn’t get any.  But he had already finished his latest slice.  Then looking at the woman sitting next to him, whom hadn’t finished hers yet, he along with the rest of us watched as she buttered and ate her bread without a seemingly second thought to those of us who were going without.

Again, I was furious.  It was honestly not the drama I had come to the theatre for, and the situation left my whole evening feeling far less enjoyable all the way to the end of the final act.

But as I thought about the situation more, I realized how common this situation really is.  Not the dinner theatre and bread situation exactly.  But the situation of people around us, sometimes even ourselves, recognizing a need, knowing that not everyone has as much, seeing that there are inequalities and injustices.  But not knowing what to do about it.  Here was a woman who had seen and heard that not everyone at the table had equal bread; yet despite being well aware, she couldn’t quite make the connection that she could do something about it.  She couldn’t quite figure out the next steps of how to help by offering her bread up or splitting it as the other women had, to make things a little better.

How often do we see this?  Those who hear about racial discrimination, but don’t know how or where to speak up against it.  Those who see homelessness and hunger, but don’t know where and how to make a difference.  Those who see injustice and abuse done to people or the Earth, but aren’t sure what impact they can make.  Those who know there are neighbors near and far who go without their “daily bread,” but aren’t sure how they might share, pass and help everyone at the table have their “bread and butter” needs met.

This is where the Catholic Social Teachings come in.  By following the Catholic Social Teachings, our communities can help not only to see various areas of needs, but also know our call to do something.  These themes are the “bread and butter” of community, the basic needs that our communities require to survive and thrive.  They are the steps that tell us what to do when we recognize needs, how to help when we know there is injustice, what to do when others are missing their daily bread. (Click here to watch a three minute video.)

Our faith calls us not only to gather as community at the Eucharistic Table, but to go forth to broader communities to share the abundance.  Our church calls us to live out our faith within our communities.  And in order to do so, we need these basic, fundamental guidelines – these Catholic Social Teachings – the “Bread and Butter” of being successful communities.

In the sometimes-dramatic scenes of our lives and this world, this is the bread and butter that will make life far more enjoyable for all as we journey together towards the final act!

For more information on the Catholic Social Teachings or how to live them out in your parish communities, contact the Office of Social Concerns at Catholic Charities for the Diocese of St. Cloud at 320-229-6020 or  or visit their website at:


Kateri Mancini is the director of social concerns with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud. This role, along with those of wife, mother and parishioner, has her days filled with the intersections of Church and family, theology and community, justice and daily bread.

Aug 04

Worship the Lord in Holy Attire (Ps. 96:9)

By From the Heart | Arts & Entertainment

On May 3 of this year I spent almost an hour touring the vestment-making exhibit at the Haehn Museum. It was like savoring a refreshing drink, like sipping a fine red wine as rich as the beautiful works of art displayed there. It did my spiritual heart a lot of good.

It dawned on me that the talented and dedicated artists who designed and sewed these vestments and items for liturgical use were not merely “making pretty things.” They were zealous contributors to the pre-Vatican II liturgical movement in our country, as they took full opportunity to enhance the significance that vesture offers to liturgical services. I could feel the energy that they put into their creations as I surveyed their tools and admired their handiwork. These Benedictine women knew the importance of prayer and work in the monastic life, but they dedicated their work to deepening the liturgical prayer of parishes and religious communities through the sacred sign of vesture. They were generous servants in the work of renewing the worship offered by God’s holy people, and I am very grateful to them.

On December 9, 1925, the Congregation of Rites rejected the so-called Gothic Mass vestments that were becoming popular in some places and declared that manufacturers of such vestments were departing from the practice of the Roman Church. Gothic vestments were more ample and flowing than the “fiddle-back” chasubles that had been normative since the Baroque era. But the more worthy Gothic vestments continued to be worn in some countries, and the Sisters at St. Benedict’s Monastery continued to make them, as evidenced in the chasuble from the exquisite “Angel Set” on display in the exhibit. In this way they were looking to the future rather than the past and letting a sense of style evolve.

Sometimes I wonder what connection there can be between the liturgy and efforts to protect the natural environment. Thus I rejoice that the exquisite flowers, plants and animals portrayed on these vestments brought the world of nature right into the sanctuary, right into the heart of the sacred liturgy. I like to think that perhaps this insight was shared by the Mass celebrants who wore these vestments. I know that there are many men who grow and appreciate flowers (I’m one of them), but perhaps flowers have been not considered to be “manly.” These elegant vestments that were to be worn by men proclaim loud and clear that flowers — God’s best poetry — are for all women and men to enjoy.

It is true that post-Vatican II changes in the liturgy changed liturgical taste and reduced the desire for the kind of vestments displayed in this exhibit, as color, design and enveloping form replaced the symbols that are so prominent on the vestments made by the Sisters. But the “quality” and “appropriateness” that were promoted forty years ago in Environment and Art in Catholic Worship (nos. 19 -23) and in Built of Living Stones (2000), and that we have come to expect in ritual costume for contemporary liturgy were at the heart of the Art Needlework Department of St. Benedict’s Monastery for 101 years. For that I say: “Amen! Alleluia!”

Note: This year, the exhibit at the Haehn Museum will be open through Dec. 22. Regular hours are Tuesday-Friday noon to 4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and closed Sunday and Monday.

Rev. Michael Kwatera, O.S.B., serves as liturgy director for St. John’s Abbey.