From the Heart of our Minister - June 2017

Some of you have heard about my friend Christy.  We have been penpals for more than 30 years.  We have shared much laughter and many tears in those letters and grew to love each other as sisters.  Christy is serving a sentence of life plus 25 which was handed down when she was 17.  I started writing to her a few years later.  She is now in her 40’s and has spent more than half her life in prison.  Last year I was able to go see her at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women.  It was a brutal schedule for me – I was making the trip there and back in one day.

God smiled on the entire day, but there is one moment that stays with me more than most.  Joining us during the visit was a woman named Ivey.  She had been Christy’s cell mate when my husband was first diagnosed with cancer.  Ivey sent cards and letters to us, offering her prayers and support.  She was released from prison three years ago, but we have stayed in touch.

You are only permitted to take two items into the prison during a visit.  One is your picture ID, which is held by the guards until you leave, and the other is change for the vending machines.  Ivey arrived clutching a Ziploc bag stuffed with change.  I must admit here, if I met up with Ivey on a dark street, I would have made it a point to keep my distance.  To my shame, she seemed to fit what my idea of a woman prisoner looks like.

When we decided to get something to eat from the machines, I intended to empty my bag of change and pay for everyone.  Ivey had other plans.  “Whatever you want, Miss Kate, I’m going to treat you”.  No, no…I couldn’t let her do that.  After all….I was in a better position to pay than she is,   I have a better life than she does.  I am….better????  Shame on me again.

The lesson is – sometimes you are the servant and sometimes you need to be served.  Ivey was so proud that she was buying a meal for me.  We feasted on a banquet of junk food and every mouthful was delightful.  Ivey’s face shone with pleasure.  As for me…along with those potato chips, I was eating a good portion of humble pie.

P.S., After more than 32 years in prison, Christy will be walking out the door of that prison on Monday, June 5. Her release has been many years in the making with enough ups and downs to give you a whiplash!  Imagine being isolated for all these years and then suddenly being free in this world…..this world! She will truly be an alien in an alien land. I would be so grateful if you could say a prayer or two for her.


From the Heart of our Minister, May 2017

Last week I was blessed to attend the Memorial Mass for Vince Peroni.  Vince was the husband of our dear sister, Madge Peroni, OFS. The Mass was held in St. Anthony’s church which is a beautiful, beautiful building that is filled with peace.

Over the main altar are the phrases:  The Lord is here + He is calling you.  Sorry – the picture isn’t the best, but it at least gives you an idea.  Sitting before Mass and gazing at these words, I knew I wanted to write about them this month. They were speaking to my heart.

The Lord is here.  We believe in the presence of God everywhere. I believe it, too.  But, seeing those words rising high about the tabernacle just meant so much more.  The Lord is here.  Yes, God is everywhere, but this is His home. He is here.  We share a meal with Him here. We come to visit Him here and we take away that love that we get from spending time with a beloved family member. We walk out feeling cherished and cared for.  Is God getting the same vibe back from us???  Do we walk into Mass thinking…..I hope this doesn’t go any longer than an hour…I have things to do. What was the Gospel reading today?  I dunno…..I was making the grocery list in my head at that time. Hmmm, how can we really be living from Life to Gospel and from Gospel to Life if we can’t give it some attention while it is being proclaimed?!

The second phrase….He is calling you…really struck a chord with me.  It doesn’t read…He has called you, or He will call you but – He…is…calling…you.

He calls you with the joy you experience when you hear from someone who means a great deal to you. He calls you with the patience that says, I know you haven’t answered Me in awhile, but I’m still calling.  He stays in touch, even when we don’t. He is calling when we have had a bad day and he is calling when we have had a really great day!

When God is calling, we need to make sure He isn’t getting a busy signal! God bless you all!



From the Regional Minister - April 2017

Will I give Him my best?

When I was a young girl many, many years ago Easter was given so much more significance than it is now. Even though Spring Cleaning had just occurred, the house was still scrubbed from top to bottom, curtains starched and ironed.  The dining room table was set with the real cloth tablecloth and Mom’s best dishes. Even the card table for the kids looked better than most any other day. The house even smelled like Easter….all those lilies and hyacinths.

We all had new outfits – “from the skin out” as my mother always said.  New socks, new dress, new maryjanes, new hat and gloves were ready for Sunday morning Mass.  We didn’t even see our Easter baskets until we got home from Mass.  Meeting the Risen Lord in the finest we had to wear came first.  As we knelt before Mass, we would silently tell Jesus how successful …or not….we had been trying to make sacrifices for Him during Lent.

How very different it is these days. No hat, no gloves. No scrubbing, no starching. We don’t do the external preparation for Easter as we used to.  More importantly, are we doing internal preparation?  What do we have to give Our Lord on Easter morning?  Have we cleaned something up within ourselves?  Have we added something that would please Him?

There are a few weeks left before the glory of Easter is upon us.  There is still time to prepare to greet the Risen Lord and may He look at us on Easter morning and see that we bring our best just for Him.

From the Heart of your Minister - March 2017

Judas has been on my mind.  Don’t ask me why….I have no clue.  I’m assuming there is a lesson in there that God wants me to learn.  But again….I have no clue. Am I being a Judas or am I just dealing with too many Judas’ in my life?

So I have just tried to think in general about Judas.  If the story of the Last Supper were a cowboy movie, Judas would be the one wearing the black hat and we would know he is the villain.  If the Last Supper were an old black and white movie, Judas would be the one with the slicked down hair, the prim mustache and goatee and dark beady eyes.  And we would know he is the villain.

I have always thought that Judas looked like a villain.  But I can’t find any place in the Bible where the other apostles shied away from Judas.  Or any time that they went to Jesus and said – get rid of this guy, he’s bringing us down.

Nor does the Bible tell us that Judas was plotting from the beginning.  When we come into the story, Judas has been an apostle for awhile.  It seems like Judas didn’t think about going to the Pharisees until things started to go wrong.  That last week in Jerusalem must have been difficult with all the rumors swirling around.

But let’s go back to when Judas first became an apostle.  Jesus chose Judas knowing what would happen.  Jesus knew on some dark night in the future, Judas would do the unthinkable.

But He said to Judas, “Come follow Me”, just like He said it to the other 11.

So, Judas must have looked and acted like one of the guys.   There was the incident at Lazarus’ house where Mary poured the perfume over Jesus’ head and Judas protested.  Did he start looking for a way out then?  Had his feelings for Jesus begun to sour?

Judas spent quite a while living in Community with Jesus and the other apostles.  If the other 11 were living the way Jesus was teaching them, then they embraced Judas as a brother. That must have been the way Jesus wanted it.

Jesus didn’t wash 11 sets of feet on Holy Thursday night.  He didn’t pass the bread and wine to one end of the table and not the other.

Knowing what would happen a few hours later, Jesus shared that last meal with all 12.  Because Jesus knew something else besides the fact that He had freely chosen Judas.  He knew there was forgiveness for Judas, if Judas wanted it.

Jesus has chosen each one of us to be Secular Franciscans.  Why….I don’t have a clue.  But He does.  So for the remaining time of Lent, let’s work on being better Franciscans. So that on Easter morning, the Risen, Glorious Lord can look at our efforts and say….ahhhh yes, I know why I chose you!

From the Heart of the Minister

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….

Sounds like how we all are feeling, doesn’t it? These opening words from A Tale of Two Cities were written in 1859. But they feel like they were written last week.  The world is in an uproar and we are swept along.  It isn’t easy to keep a firm Franciscan stance when so many are angry, accusing and very, very sure they stand on the side that is correct.


One night last week, I was speaking with our brother, Ted Bienkowski, OFS, who is our Regional JPIC Coordinator and he said, “We cannot be politically divisive and spiritually effective.”  Powerful words.  It is the perfect time to put those words into action.  Lent will begin in a few short weeks. Be spiritually effective for Lent! What exactly does that mean? Stay out of the firestorm of political opinion and use that energy to visit the immigrant family in your neighborhood. Make them feel welcome here. Smile at people! You have the Tau cross around your neck – show the joy that comes from being a Franciscan. Sow the seeds of kindness – you are rebuilding the church stone by stone, smile by smile. When those around us are nervous and fearful of what will happen, show them that we know God has our backs.


Try something new for Lent. Earn those bricks to rebuild the church.  By the time Lent is over you will have some wonderful new habits! May we walk together through these troubling times, and may God continue to smile on our efforts!

From the Heart of the Minister - December 2016

The Franciscan Gift

May the Lord give you peace! Most of us grew up being taught to think of others first. We take care of everyone else and see to their needs before taking care of ourselves.  That really was our first brush with Franciscanism!  This time of year is especially filled with thinking of others.  What gift shall I buy for Johnny, don’t forget to bake those special cookies that Grandmom likes so much, make sure you write a note to your old neighbors before you send their card.  If we ever make time for ourselves it surely isn’t at this time of year!

Although it goes against the grain, this year we need to give ourselves a gift…..a Franciscan gift. Do something different at your prayer time.  That’s it, that’s the gift.  If you have a particular space where you say your prayers, change it up somehow;  place a nativity scene where you can see it.  Light a candle. Doing even the smallest thing differently will (hopefully) make you stop, take a breath, shake off the demands of the world for just 20 minutes and enter into the presence of God.  If you do the Office from your cell phone and text messages and/or phone calls intrude, go back to using your prayer book. Leave the phone outside your prayer space.

During our Advent journey, ‘place’ yourself in the manger while you are praying. Be part of the wonder and joy that took place there. Feel the love that Mary and Joseph have for each other. Surely God chose them to be His Son’s parents because they did have a great love for each other. And by Christmas morning, may you be so close to the new born King, that you can smell the hay on which He lays!

May the Lord bless each of us with a happy and holy holiday!

From the Heart of the Minister – November, 2016

First, I must apologize for the delay in the November postings. The details of why I am still without electricity are not nearly as important as the apology. Rose Viragh, OFS, our Regional Formation Director and Father Francis Sariego, OFM Cap, our Regional Spiritual Assistant, always, always, always, have their articles to me in time for the first of the month postings. My sincere apologies to them especially!

A few weeks ago while getting my hair cut, I noticed an elderly woman in the next chair. She was getting “the works” as we women say, and she was so happy and excited that she was about to burst! She was getting all ‘gussied’ up for her grandson’s wedding that afternoon. The joy bouncing from every pore of this little old lady was because her grandson and his fiancée had asked her to be the flower ‘girl’. What a phenomenal gift to this woman. Grandmothers generally don’t have a special role in weddings other than being seated in the church while pictures are taken of her on the arm of a young groomsman.

This grandmother was remembered and honored. She would be the first to come down the aisle and as weddings generally do, emotions would be stirred up at seeing this elderly woman taking the role that is usually filled by a much younger family member.

November is the month when we remember our loved ones who have passed, especially in the previous year. It is a wonderful practice and gives importance to those in our lives who have gone to God. But even greater is remembering those loved ones who maybe slipped off our radar in the last year. Is there an elderly family member, neighbor or acquaintance from church that you haven’t spoken to in a long time? The joy that comes from a few minutes of your time cannot be measured by the one receiving it.

May all of our departed loved ones rest in peace. And may all of our living loved ones know that we hold them in peace!


October 2016 from the Regional Minister

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?  Romans 10: 13-15

Pour out your Spirit, so that I might be strengthened to go forth and witness to the Gospel in my everyday life through my words and actions.

In moments of hesitation, remind me:

If not me, then who will proclaim the Gospel?

If not now, then when will the Gospel be proclaimed?

If not the truth of the Gospel, then what shall I proclaim?

We have been sent.  The day we said “Yes, this is what I want”, the Lord sent us out.  It is probably no further than your own home, neighborhood, church, work place. During this Year of Mercy, how about shaking it up a little?  Bring something new to the table. Maybe make a greater effort to be God’s mercy to someone in desperate need of it.

The Lord resides within you.  We all believe that.  But why is He there?  Not just because He loves you, but to be present to other people.  You are the instrument.  You are extending God’s hand in comfort every time you put your arm around someone in need.  You are God’s joy every time you smile at someone or say something nice.  You are God’s love every time you wipe away someone’s tears.  No one understood this better than St. Francis.  Make me a channel of your peace, not give me peace.  Let me provide peace to other people.  St. Francis also said:  Preach the Gospel, use words if necessary.  We are constant examples to those around us.

There are so many ways to do small things with great love. It’s more than just comforting someone in need or lifting up the spirits of someone who is ‘down’.  How about not dragging someone down by gossiping, telling them how terrible someone else is, being a constant critic.  It’s much easier to comfort another person than to look at ourselves to see what damage we are doing. It is the harder path to take. But imagine what a gift it would be to St. Francis for him to see us at least try.

We evangelize by wearing our Tau cross – telling the world we have chosen this path.  But then do we act as if we are the Lord’s agents on this earth?  In this year of mercy, let us ask to be better Franciscans and all the rest will fall into place!  I wish you much joy!


September from the heart of our Minister


Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the Lord give you peace!  A few years ago, my parish merged with another local parish and we got a new pastor. Shortly after the merger, Labor Day weekend was upon us.  Labor Day has several meanings – the “un”official end to summer, the last of the summer barbecues, the end of wearing white shoes and carrying a white purse – OK, I’m showing my age on that one! Having been married to a trucker/shop steward/union man, I also know that in the early 19th century, the Trade Unions and Labor movements asked to have a day set aside to celebrate labor.  It’s easy to lose that meaning when we are enjoying that last grilled hot dog of the season.

That first Labor Day with the new pastor, changed my outlook completely.  After the homily, he asked everyone attending Mass to come forward as they would when receiving Communion. When each of us approached Father, he asked that we stretch out our hands and he anointed them. He blessed the work of our hands for the coming year. It was very moving and of course, made you think.

What work would I do for the Lord in the coming year? How can I give that blessing away? And more than that, will I remember that my hands have been blessed to the Lord……..when I’m angry and gesturing at someone; when I’m throwing something out that could be recycled, when I sit on my hands as I’m being asked to accept a nomination?

This Labor Day, consider blessing your own hands to the Lord for the coming year.  Ask St. Francis how your hands can be used to do Franciscan work and then be willing to listen!  As in the picture above, remember one hand does not complete the picture.






Remaining Franciscan in a Presidential Election Year!


The words are brutal;  the attitude – ugly.  Accusations are made, stories true, half true or completely untrue are repeated and repeated and repeated.

It must be a Presidential election year!  What a great time to be Franciscan!!

This is not a political blog.  I am not here to foist my political views on anyone.  I don’t care who you are voting for – that’s your right and privilege.  What I do care about is how easy it is to get caught up with the crowd.  And that’s not Franciscan.  Don’t we naturally tend to swim upstream? …against the tide of what everyone else is doing?

Both conventions are over and now the real mud slinging begins! There are far, far too many people who believe every word that crosses their screen.  It’s no different than all the people who believe every word that is written in the Star or the National Enquirer.  If it’s in print, it must be gospel!

We really need to be vigilant in what we do…and how we do it.  There are some beautiful religious e-mails that come around – beautiful prayers, inspiring thoughts.  And at the end, it reads……make a wish and pass this on to all the people in your address book.  Make a wish?? That’s not how I approach my God.  Can you see St. Francis proclaiming one of his passionate canticles and then turning to the Brothers and saying…Make a wish and go tell everyone you know.  Making a wish has nothing to do with who we are.  Taking part in slander is very wrong.  Even passing on true information can be wrong if we have no business passing it on.  Lies and even hurtful truths take on a life of their own.  My heart aches for the parents of the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide because of what her classmates had posted on the web about her.

I am not saying Franciscans shouldn’t forward any messages on the Internet.  But before you do, stop and think WWFD…What would Francis do?

Our reading from Morning Prayer on Friday, Week I comes form Ephesians, 4:29 – 32:  Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them.  Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander and malice of every kind.  In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.

This Presidential race will be more lively than most. The closer we get to election day, the more tightly wound everyone will be.  In this election year, wouldn’t it be better…more Franciscan …to pray for the right outcome? Ask God to guide us in getting the person in office that He wants to be there.

It’s going to be a long, hot summer and that has nothing to do with the weather!  Wouldn’t it be nicer to stand back, hold onto our Franciscan serenity, and stay out of the sensationalism?

Here is a prayer put forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Prayer Before An Election

Lord God, as the election approaches, we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country, and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.

We ask for eyes that are free from blindness so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters, one and equal in dignity, especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.  We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned, Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom. We pray for discernment so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word, live your love, and keep in the ways of your truth as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.

We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.