Walking the Walk
*An ageless advocate for the poor *
BY TONI CASHNELLI
PHOTOS BY DEACON DALE AVERY/Food for the Poor
Fr. Paul Walsman preaches at a parish that is not his own several times a month. Often flying, sometimes driving to his destination, he always delivers the same message: We need to feed the poor. Like Francis of Assisi, he begs for basic necessities – and speaks for those who have no voice. For 12 years Paul has been preaching for Food for the Poor, a Christian organization that provides food, medicine, shelter and more to the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean. According to supervisors, he is one of their best speakers – and one of their oldest. "Fr. Paul is a blessing to Food for the Poor and to so many others," says Joan Vidal, Ecclesial Relations & Speakers Bureau Manager for the nonprofit agency based in Coconut Creek, Fla. "We just love him." Nearly 93, Paul is doing what he calls "the most life-giving thing I’ve ever done in all my ministries."
The habit helps
At each parish, "I do the regular homily time at Mass." He accepts donations if people are so inclined – and they are usually inclined to give thousands of dollars. "I think part of my so-called ‘success’ is that I am a Franciscan," Paul says. "I wear my habit and for some reason it makes my message more accepted and realistic." Using the day’s readings, he explains the mission of Food for the Poor: "Ending hunger, alleviating suffering and giving hope to the hopeless. We feed hundreds of thousands of people every day. We build 4,500 houses a year to get people out of dumps. We provide jobs, training young people to get them out of the cycle of poverty they’re born into. We have doctors who give their time and do restorative surgery for people born with defects, hundreds of surgeries every year. We establish small businesses so people can earn a living and have the dignity of earning their way and supporting their family." He speaks both Saturday and Sunday. "Sometimes there are two Masses on a Saturday and five or six on a Sunday. I’ve had as many as seven. Some places I’m in church from 6:30 in the morning until 3 o’clock in the afternoon," or until his artificial knees give out. "Sometimes I allude to my age," he admits. "I say to some, ‘I’m the oldest person here, and if I can do it, so can you.’ We focus on a Gospel message [such as]: ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’" In each talk, "I use the experiences I’ve had" in visits to Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Jamaica, El Salvador and Haiti. "Food for the Poor is very insistent that we speakers have hands-on experience to share."
Gaining that experience has changed his life. "I have to say I was squeamish about getting into these poverty situations." A former hospital chaplain, Paul saw his share of blood and pain. "But when you see such dire poverty it’s something else. We are so unexposed to it in our own lifestyles, in our own country, in our own province." In the past decade, "I’ve dished out rice in Kingston. I’ve been in villages where we walked through mud and rats to get to the people. I’ve danced with old people who were rescued from death and given new life. I’ve held starving children and consoled mothers sitting at the death beds of their children. At a garbage dump in Managua [Nicaragua], I talked to a man who comes there daily to find food for children."
Father Paul’s love for the poor and personal spirituality was VERY influential with the other clergy speakers on the trip, including me," says Deacon Dale Avery, Director of the Speakers Department for Food for the Poor. "During our evening reflections each day, he spoke about how he saw some of the day’s interactions with the poor and how he would present it to a parish. His moving comments gave us all new insights." As a Friar Minor, "It’s an inspiring thing for me to be at least somehow involved with real poverty, the poorest of the poor," Paul says. "Jesus loved the poor, and Francis loved the poor. It’s bound to have an impact on me as a Franciscan."
Why we give
At this stage of his life, "This has been a real gift. It has given me a greater love of the poor and the poor Christ. When I think of the poverty of Jesus as a human being and the poverty with us on earth, it melts my heart." Unfortunately in America, "Power and prestige and profit and possessions still rule. I don’t know where we went wrong. We idealize the millionaires instead of the beautiful people who volunteer their skills and means to benefit others. There’s too much greed, not enough caring about our brothers and sisters." When Paul speaks at parishes, "I emphasize the relationship, we’re all in this together, this human race. I emphasize the benefits of giving. I use myself as an example. I am able and healthy and strong to do this, not because I sit back and get, get, get from others, but because I go out and give, give, give. I tell them, ‘Take the selfish approach: Give because it’s good for you. There are endorphins in your brain that will be released and you will profit from it. You will be happier.’" To further inspire donors, "I assure them this is their ticket to heaven. I’ll say, ‘When you get there, that’s all the Lord’s gonna ask you about: I was hungry and you fed me. Come on in.’"
Brother Gabriel's liturgical ministry
You can catch cantor Brother Gabriel Balassone, OFM at the 10 o’clock Mass at St. Anthony Shrine on Sunday mornings.
Gabe, a choir member from his days at South Junior High School in Niagara Falls, NY, studied music at State University in Fredonia, NY and Wayne State in Detroit. His official music ministry dates back to 1970s Duns Scotus, where he was also a faculty member and the librarian.
Asked when he knew he had vocal ability, Gabe twirls the cord of his habit and changes the subject. "I don’t hear myself like other people do," he says. "It’s not about how I sound. It’s the fact that it’s a prayerful experience." Between weekly Masses, friar funerals and other province events, Gabe is likely to have sung 1,000 times. As often as he performs liturgical music, it never gets old. "I never experience ‘Here we go again,’ Gabe says. "I never approach it as boring. It’s hard to describe" the feeling when one sings. "I don’t get goosebumps." His accompanist, speaking for the audience, says, "But we do."
Positive steps to support our Muslim neighbors
BY TONI CASHNELLI
There’s a place in America where Muslims are not "foreign" or "them". They’re the people next door. Dearborn, Mich., the birthplace of Henry Ford, has the second-largest Arab population outside the Middle East. Almost a third of its 98,000 citizens are Arab-Americans or of Arab descent.
"My mother’s neighbor is an immigrant from Syria," says Br. Al Mascia, whose Song and Spirit Institute for Peace is based in nearby Berkley, Mich. "They’re good friends. She belongs to the same church as Mom. We drive there together. We go shopping at Kroger together."
But in all-American Dearborn, people are frightened for themselves and their families. And in the wake of last week’s anti-immigrant Executive Orders, they came together to voice their concerns. Last night, Al was one of a thousand residents, religious and community leaders from Greater Detroit who gathered for an Emergency Town Hall Meeting at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.
Song and Spirit’s ministry builds upon our shared humanity. In response to the immigration actions, "We had a meeting Monday morning about what we should do besides draw from the familiar lexicon of observations, such as, ‘Our hearts go out to the families’" affected by the ban, Al says. As a primary response, "We are going to try to advance the ‘Franciscan Model of Civil Discourse’ promoted by the Franciscan Action Network."
The "Francis Pledge", a commitment to civility in discourse, is an acronym spelling out seven positive steps:
• Facilitate a forum for difficult discourse and acknowledge that dialogue can lead to new insight and mutual understanding
• Respect the dignity of all people, especially the dignity of those who hold an opposing view
• Audit myself and utilize terms or a vocabulary of faith to unite or reconcile rather than divide conflicting positions
• Neutralize inflamed conversations by presuming that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith
• Collaborate with others and recognize that all human engagement is an opportunity to promote peace
• Identify common ground such as similar values or concerns and utilize this as a foundation to build upon
• Support efforts to clean up provocative language by calling policy makers to their sense of personal integrity
"We’re going to try that out," Al says. "We’ll be collaborating in a civil manner – thinking critically but not spending our energy criticizing."
****Above all, "We have to be attentive."
For the homeless man who sleeps on the steps of the building we pass on our way to concerts, Kyrie Eleison
For us who pass by the homeless woman who sleeps on the steps of the building we pass on our way to ball games, Christe Eleison
For rich nations who let the homeless sleep soundly on steps of the buildings they pass on the way to war, Kyrie Eleison
–Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM (from Mass for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi)
Faith leaders gathered to announce their participation in the Cincinnati Sanctuary Network Jan. 18.
–Adapted from the article by NICK SWARTSELL in CityBeat
Local faith leaders are signing on to a movement that seeks to provide legal protection, shelter and other aid for undocumented immigrants and other vulnerable groups.
"Sanctuary is one of the most ancient traditions we share as people of faith," Rev. Gail Greenwell of Christ Church Cathedral said at a news conference. "All of our religious traditions encourage us to offer sanctuary to the foreigner, the vulnerable and the oppressed. We're acting out of this religious tradition not as a response specifically to partisan politics, but to the recent political climate and the increased incidence of hate speech and violence, which has caused concern within members of our community. They fear for their personal safety, and we feel that we must respond proactively while praying that our leaders will legislate compassionately."
A half-dozen congregations representing Islam, Judaism and Christianity are ready to become sanctuary sites— those willing to host undocumented people in their buildings — or solidarity congregations willing to provide other kinds of support to undocumented people and others who may be targeted under the new administration.
The movement comes as President Donald Trump has promised waves of mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, Muslim registries and bans on refugees from countries suffering from terrorism. Representatives from the congregations joining the network said that they will vet those seeking sanctuary to make sure they don't pose a danger to those around them. Most data shows that those immigrants don't bring crime with them.
He put his gifts to good use
BY TONI CASHNELLI
Most of us are lucky to claim one talent or master a single skill. Ed Lammert was good at everything. On Dec. 26 when Ed’s family, friends and friars gathered at his funeral to say goodbye, they went on and on about his abilities. They were not exaggerating. As revealed through photo boards at St. Clement Church, Ed excelled in many areas: preaching, gardening, sports, woodworking, cooking, and more. "A Man for All Seasons" is how he was described.
What drew so many to pay their respects – it was standing room only at the Reception of the Body – was Ed’s vitality and the optimism he projected. Years ago, "I was living in Toledo, and things were not going well," said Tom Lammert, Ed’s brother. Then he visited Ed at Duns Scotus. "I went there feeling down, and went away feeling much better. I wondered how many thousands [who knew Ed] were affected the same way."
In Cumberland, Ky., where he served for years, "People really loved Ed" for his honesty and simplicity, said Mike Chowning, who ministered an hour away in Hazard. "He was a good pastor." Oldenburg Sr. Amy Kistner was a friend of Ed’s St. Bernard family and a colleague in Appalachia. "He was always such a gem," she said, and his philosophy on canon law was, "If you don’t know what to do, do what you think is right."
Walking the Walk
Sisters standing with Standing Rock by Marya Grathwohl and Ann Schoch
In early November, Lakota Sioux Therese Martin celebrated her 100th birthday in the crowded parish hall at Fort Yates, North Dakota, Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. To all gathered she said, "To see my people standing up for our rights, makes me so proud. Whenever I read about the water protectors at the camps along the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers, I pray they fight to the bitter end." Words from this elder commending the brave commitment of her Standing Rock Sioux to protect their sacred lands and life-giving waters assured us it was right that we had come for two days to be in prayer with people in the camps protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The proposed pipeline will be nearly 1,200 miles long and is designed to carry crude oil from western North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline will cross or be drilled under just over 200 streams and rivers, including the mighty Missouri River — and it would cross near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation lands. The estimated 4,000 protesters, known as water protectors, are asking that the pipeline company simply follow the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires an environmental impact study and a cost benefit analysis for projects like this.
We four sisters from Billings, Montana, were on a pilgrimage of mercy for climate justice at the Missouri River and Standing Rock Sioux land. We have ministered with Crow and Northern Cheyenne in Montana and Sioux in North Dakota, and as we traveled across the vast prairie to Standing Rock, our troubled souls were soothed by beauty. Hearts expanded. The two of us went with Franciscan Sr. Ann Marie Quinn, who is from Oldenburg, Indiana, and Franciscan Sr. Cecily Schroepfer from Rochester, Minnesota.
More than 300 flags representing the tribes and countries of the water protectors line the dusty road into the peaceful Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) Camp. We are pleased that our banner, "Nuns Standing with Standing Rock," is now snapping in the wind among them.
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, founder-leader of the Sacred Stone Camp, asked us to pray the rosary. After we arrived, she directed us to gather around the fragrant sacred fire, burning continually since April. She walked through the camp inviting people to join us. Fifteen people came to sit around the fire.
As we prayed the Hail Marys, we invited people to reflect on a personal meaning of a story from the gospels about water. We began with Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan. People named and prayed for rivers in their home areas being devastated by violence and pollution. Meditation on the second mystery, living water, culminated with an older woman saying, "I have given birth to three children. I know living waters in my body." We were deeply moved by the sharing from young and old in the circle.
Later that day at the Seven Council Fires Camp, we witnessed hundreds of people led by the youth council peacefully marching in silence through a gauntlet of police cars to the bridge that blocks off the main highway to the Indian reservation. They marched in solidarity with the 141 water protectors who had been arrested for nonviolent resistance. As they walked by us, colorful ribbons, feathers, and banners flowing in wind, we felt the rush of a grateful Missouri River and recalled the teaching of a Crow elder, "In the end the river will remember who cared for her."
As the water protectors returned from their march and swept by us, we saw in action what LaDonna had told us earlier as we puzzled over why there was violent reaction to their prayer. "You're simply praying, just praying," Sr. Ann Schoth had said. LaDonna replied, "Prayer is powerful, which is why they attack us."
We experienced a peaceful atmosphere in both camps we visited. The water protectors were kind and friendly to us and to each other during our entire time among them. We visited camp schools, kitchens, dining areas, and quiet prayer circles around central fires. We talked with protectors from the Quixote Center, Veterans for Peace and reporters, as well as tribal council members and volunteers helping with cooking, cleanup, counseling, and construction of composting toilet outhouses, a central kitchen and small school.
The protectors have a simple request: Do the required environmental impact study. Move the Dakota Access Pipeline away from the Missouri River and other waterways that it endangers. During earlier development of the project there were multiple reroutes of the pipeline corridor, including around the capital city of Bismarck for various reasons: cultural, environmental, landowner concerns. It can be done. Just do the study required by law and move the pipeline away from the Missouri River!
We continue to stand with the water protectors. Srs. Cecily Schroepfer and Ann Schoch joined 60 people in a water protection demonstration in front of the Army Corps of Engineers Office in Billings on November 15, and Sr. Marya Grathwohl spoke about the issue to more than 100 sisters at their Motherhouse in Oldenburg, Indiana, urging them to join in prayer with people gathering in towns and cities worldwide in support of the Standing Rock water protectors. During their prayer service the sisters signed letters to Indiana Gov. (and Vice President-elect) Mike Pence asking him to withdraw law enforcement from Standing Rock.
Inspired by a 100-year-old Lakota Sioux woman, Therese Martin, we are committed to remaining in solidarity with the Standing Rock effort through prayer, advocacy, and nonviolent activism. Please pray with us and work to protect all water. Water is life!
[An Oldenburg Franciscan Sister since 1963, Marya Grathwohl lived for more than 30 years in African American, Crow and Northern Cheyenne communities, as teacher, principal and pastoral minister. She is the founding director of Earth Hope, and works in environmental restoration through farming, restoration and other ecology projects. Sr. Ann Schoch is a School Sister of Notre Dame from the Mankato, Minnesota, campus.]
Originally published by Global Sisters Report, Nov. 22, 2016
Walking the Walk
Seasonal Information from the Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati
Giving the Gift of Hope
Holidays are a time of family, food and generosity. We believe that every family deserves to share a holiday meal together.
Each year, the Freestore Foodbank provides boxes of food to local families to ensure they have a meal for the Thanksgiving and December holidays.
What’s in a Holiday Box?
Each household receives a box containing: either a chicken or turkey (depending on family size), canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned cranberry or pumpkin, stuffing or rice, macaroni and cheese, and brownie mix or another dessert. Each household also receives a bag of produce.
Preparing for the Holidays
We’re already busy preparing for the 2016 holiday season. Boxes of food for a holiday meal will be available at our Customer Connection Center, located at 112 East Liberty Street:
Thanksgiving Food Distribution Powered by: Delta Airlines
8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Monday, November 21, 2016
8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, November 22, 2016
8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, November 23, 2016
**The Freestore Foodbank will be closed Thursday, November 24, Friday November 25, Saturday, November 26 and Sunday, November 27 in observance of the holiday
Christmas Food Distribution
8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, December 21, 2016
8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Thursday, December 22, 2016
**The Freestore Foobank will be closed Saturday, December 24, Sunday, December 25, and Monday, December 26 in observance of the holiday
Giving the Gift of Hope
Thanks to your generosity and support, we were able to help nearly 36,000 people with a Thanksgiving and Christmas meal during the 2015 holiday season.
The holiday meals have been a tremendous support to Betty, who used to donate to the Freestore Foodbank. She found herself struggling with financial hardships after going through a divorce. "If it wasn’t for the Freestore Foodbank, I don’t know what I would do," she tells us.
We Sure Can’t Do It Alone!
Volunteers play a big part in the work that we do. Nearly 2,500 people generously donated their time and energy to our 2015 Thanksgiving and Christmas Food Distributions. From distributing holiday boxes to directing the neighbors we serve, volunteers are a vital part in spreading the gift of hope.
Giving Back Throughout the Year
The faces that we meet and the stories we hear serve as a great reminder of the importance of sharing the gift of hope year-round.
Robert F. Kennedy’s message is as relevant and compelling today as it was fifty years ago, especially in our current political climate.
Please take a look at this short video of Robert Kennedy’s renowned Day of Affirmation (Ripple of Hope) speech. It offers compelling views on racial injustice, the individual right to freedom and the capacity and responsibility of each one of us to combat injustice in a quest for equality and peace. It is more important than ever for all of us to participate in the political process.
And please join us December 6, 2016 for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Ceremony.
Onward, Kerry Kennedy
Walking the Walk
"We will not abandon the people of Syria," the Franciscan friars in Syria.
For 800 years, since St. Francis of Assisi traveled to the Holy Land with a message of peace, the Franciscan friars have cared for the people and sacred shrines associated with the life of Christ. The Holy Land friars need your help. Syria has been devastated by a conflict that has displaced half of the country’s population. The friars refuse to abandon the Christians and others in need.
Help us raise awareness, prayers and financial support for the friars in Syria, who continue to celebrate Mass, provide pastoral care and offer humanitarian aid – water, medicine, food and more – in the midst of this devastating conflict. Share. Pray. Donate. #SyriaFriars
Learn more: http://myfranciscan.org/syria
Donate to Syrian Relief: https://secure3.4agoodcause.com/franciscan-monastery-holy-land/gift.aspx?id=18
Watch video below.