Monday, April 30, 2007

Reading Rat April 2007

Also of interest:

The Googlization of Everything: Digitization & the Future of Books
"The [UW-M] School of Information Studies invites you to the 2007 Ted Samore Lecture featuring Siva Vaidhyanathan. ..."
Saturday, May 12, 2007
"Please RSVP by May 1, 2007"
(via WisBlawg)

Fierce competition forces top booksellers to retool, Associated Press report in the Boston Globe, March 23, 2007
(via Milt's File)

Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America
(via WisBlawg)

Adventures in Low-Cost Travel by Matt Gross, and Paris Chic, on the Cheap by Elaine Sciolino, The New York Times, April 22, 2007

My, Delta

April 22, 2007, Guatemala City

Morning Mass is at a nearby parish church. No choir, but a good cantor leads the sung parts.

At the airport check-in, we're behind a mission from an Assemblies of God church. From what they say, they operate on a much larger scale. For example, they did a presentation for 800 kids in a local school.

After check-in with the airline, we have to go to a bank branch in the terminal to pay a $3 or Q20 exit tax. I assume whatever this fee is could have been added to the air fare. That's one of the mysteries of bureaucracy, imposing so much inconvenience on so many people for so little return.

We're near the end of the line for the gate, just behind some folks on a mission from a Presbyterian church in Everett, Washington, and way, way behind the the Assemblies of God mission. Given how packed the gate waiting area turned out to be, the last shall be first in overall comfort.

April 22, 2007, Atlanta

Speaking of bureaucracy, there doesn't seem much point having citizens with passports fill out an immigration form, or having anyone with nothing to declare filling out a customs form.

Our connecting flight is delayed. Eventually, we're told it was delayed due to equipment problems. Then we're told the equipment problem required substituting a plane with five fewer seats, so they need volunteers to stay over and fly out tomorrow. Apparently ASA doesn't know how many seats are on its planes, and they have to count them after landing. Either that, or the gate staff was trying to build dramatic tension. Maybe they should have George Kennedy tape the flight status announcements.

April 22, 2007, Milwaukee

Home, just before midnight.

Going out on a high note

April 21, 2007, Santa Apolonia

As custom dictates, at dawn they continue to commemorate my birthday by setting of a string of a thousand or so firecrackers outside my window.

After breakfast and Morning Prayer, it's time to say good-bye. As you might recall, we didn't plan to be on this trip. It went so well, I was thinking if this was our last time here, we'd be going out on a high note. Then my wife says maybe we should come back, and I was getting kinda misty again ... .

April 21, 2007 Iximche

Our bus first stops at these Mayan Ruins, near Tecpan. A few of us who've seen them several times before stay outside in the surrounding park.

April 21, 2007 Antigua

Near mid-day our bus brings us to the Central Square in the one-time colonial capital of Antigua. I head up Fourth Street East to the Cafe Micho. It's a little espresso bar but also serve food to tables around the central courtyard of the block, which includes a large fountain. To my surprise they've changed the McMicho; it's now fried egg, ham, and cheese on a bagel, instead of a croissant, but the waitress special orders it the old way. I never try to order it in a restaurant back home; somehow spending a week where it would be impossible to get makes it so desirable, sort of like when it was hard to get Coors Beer.

I once again try to see the inside of La Merced church, and once again there's a wedding in progress.

At another church, mourners were comforting a widow in the plaza outside the main entrance. There was still some time before the funeral, so I took a quick look inside. There I noticed for the first time a statue of Senor Sepultado, an image of Christ in the Sepulchre, enclosed in glass. I stopped in a few other churches, and each had one. The statues were all the same, but each was clothed differently.

The Cathedral was among the many buildings destroyed in the 1773 earthquake. The part on the central square was eventually restored as a parish church, but most of the rest of the block remained a ruin. A restoration project started a few years ago. Here you can see the new arch brickwork.

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From the front of the former Cathedral, here's the view of Central Park, the town square.

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Final video, the Fountain of the Sirens in the middle of the square.

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Speaking of sirens, there's apparently a custom for newly married couples to drive around the square in a car with a flashing red light, siren, and a large paper wedding bell on the hood. One caught me by surprise and I couldn't get a shot of it.

April 21, 2007, Guatemala City

The order of nuns that runs the orphanage has a motherhouse in Guatemala City. We bunk here when our flight leaves too early for us to come in directly from Santa Apolonia. It once was the home of a wealthy local, and even has a pool; none of us ever did more than dangle our feet in it, but this year I sqeezed a swimsuit in my carry-on bag, and dive in. Then our Pizza Hut delivery arrives for our supper.

At Evening Prayer, one of our folks brings out stacks of bookmarks she had her students make in English class. I take a stack to enclose in Thank You cards for people who contributed to the trip; I'm keeping the one that says "Don't sleep. Continue to read."


April 20, 2007, Santa Apolonia

A second Pancake Day!

And then, for me, a second morning as Second Assistant to the Teacher. For the mid-session snack, the Tias bring the students leftover pancakes with chunky peanut butter.

After lunch, (with dessert of sweet, juicy pineapple) we finally get to the fallen stack of lumber, carefully restacking it as next in line for spray painting, then we're back painting through the afternoon.

It's our last night here, and there's to be a farewell fiesta.

At dusk, we gather, visitors and staff and the kids, in a large circle around a fire on the courtyard/playground. We each receive a candle; one candle is lit, and we pass the flame from candle to candle around the circle. Then each of us is, in turn, called on to sum up the week in a word.

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The older kids then served us our fiesta dinner where we sat; chicken again! Things have apparently improved to the point that every couple days the orphanage serves a meal with meat.

Then came the entertainment, performed outdoors so hard to photograph. Here some of the kids act out some classic novelty song about a colicy baby. They've performed this before; in this version, one of them is dressed as the bottle that the nurse is bringing in.
Fiesta entertainment

It starts to rain, so we all pack into the boys' dining hall. For dessert, they surprise me with a birthday cake, including the trick candles, Happy Birthday To You in Spanish, and a big home-made card signed by the kids. As Maynard G. Krebs used to say, I still get kinda misty thinking about it.

Then there was dancing, including learning this traditional dance.

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Traditional in Wisconsin, that is.


April 19, 2007, Santa Apolonia

Back in town, some of us visit the retaining wall we worked on last year (see May 12th and 11th).
Retaining wall

Here's a chicken bus unloading in the town square. The little girl with the hand truck is getting inventory for the family's stand.
Chicken bus

Here's the outside of the El Paso, with a patron who's the proud owner of the sporty number parked in front.
El Paso Texas Comedor

A local farmer, perhaps, stopped to do a little shopping. Approaching is one of the little scooter taxis that were suddenly everywhere a couple of years ago.
Livestock truck and taxi

Don't ask me to explain this.
Circo de Solaris

Sunday, April 29, 2007


April 19, 2007, Santa Apolonia

Today's a break from our normal weekday routine. First, it's market day in the nearby larger city of Tecpan, and some of our group take the chicken bus there to shop and see the sights. Then some go to San Jose Poaquil to see the weaving done by the widows' cooperative there, and buy some from their one-room version of a factory outlet.

Lunch is sliced beef, grilled (in Spanish carne). Not tender, but ultimately chewable.

After lunch we and some of the orphanage kids ride several miles to the outlying chapel at Choantonio for a communion service. Here's a bit of the entrance hymn.

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At the conclusion of the service, we present them with a framed print of their patron, St. Anthony.
St. Anthony at Choantonio

During fellowship outside, I took what turned out to be one of those brochure "Think of the children!" shots.
Choantonio child and chapel
Won't you help?

On the ride back, we pass the orphanage kids' school and they start a chant which seems to literally mean "Yay, school!"

Back at the orphanage, we learn that young Ernesto's outpatient surgery for "lazy eye" was a success, and we see him back playing with the other boys.

One of the nuns in our group had to leave for some other commitments in Guatemala, and her place is taken by a fellow who happened to be in Central America on business. He's in the diaconal program in Milwaukee, where our leader had met him.

English Class

April 18, 2007, Santa Apolonia

Meeting in the girls' dining hall, we start with some simple phrases.

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Here's the class picture, with teacher and teacher's assistant.
English Class

Another surprising lunch, pasta with shaved mozzarella, covered in red sauce with meat (ground chicken).

After lunch, we return to the Carpenteria, a good source for reminders of the relationship between investment in equipment and productivity. Our paint sprayers only last a few beams between refills. If we had higher capacity sprayers, or even additional paint reservoirs to swap out, we could paint more beams in the same amount of time. But there isn't always money for such investments. For another example, both the old radial arm saws in the shop are in need of repair, so the beams have been cut to length with a circle saw.

Supper is soup and tortillas; no problem, I'm still full from that lunch.

Some of our group congregates on the upstairs veranda afterward. One of this year's group was born in Mexico and the discussion turns to regional variations in Spanish. In Mexico, peanut was cacahuate [ca-ca-wa'-te]. Here, some say, what elsewhere is a word for peanut butter, manilla [ma-ni'-ya], is the word for peanut. This lead to a Klepto manilla joke, but you had to be there.

Comedor El Paso Texas

April 17, 2007, Santa Apolonia

As usual at morning prayer, we use a Gospel reading selected as topical to missionaries. Had we been using the readings of the day, the first would have been Acts 32-37.

The interior courtyard is already filling with stacks of lumber in various stages of production. We start stacking beams on a temporary rack built across the drainage trench around the central part of the courtyard. As the stack gets taller, one of our group stands on the rack to place lumber. The rack's cross-pieces are 2x4s, and laid flat, not on edge; it's under-engineered and collapses.
Courtyard lumber storage

No injuries.

The replacement bearing is in the planer, but now another one is failing.

At lunch, we're amazed to again see chicken. This time it's served with rice and a salad of tomato and cucumber. For dessert, cantaloupe. Sweet, juicy cantaloupe.

After work we stop in at the Comedor El Paso Texas, a local bar, to introduce our new missionaries to Gallo Beer.

Your actual beer-drinking experience may vary.
El Paso Texas Comedor

The El Paso looks to have been constructed of scrap lumber and beer posters. The posters indicate that a bottle of Gallo costs 7 Quetzales. That's must just be a suggested retail price; the proprietress charges 8 Quetzales. Her entire inventory of cold drinks doesn't fill a small refrigerator. One of our group orders the Coke, literally the only one in stock. There are posters for Limonada, but there's none. The proprietress does appreciate our business (at that moment we're the only people in the bar) and pours out a few bags of chips for us. For entertainment, she sends over her young grandson(?) who practices his card tricks on us. Looking out the open door, we see a woman walk by with a pig on a leash. Not long after, another woman walks by with a pig on a leash. And soon after, there's a third. It must be Pig Night at some other cantina.

That night our group's Evening Prayer service includes our saying the Magnificat, though one member of the group is changing it to "inclusive language" on the fly. At least s/he isn't doing it through a sound system, like the last two pastors would for the Creed at Sunday Mass at St. Al's.

Pancake Day

April 16, 2007, Santa Apolonia

Monday's feature pancakes for breakfast. They're a natural, cooked up on the grill just like tortillas. In prior years they were served with maple (flavored) syrup, rumored to have been donated in vast quantities by some Canadians. It must be gone now, and the Tias (housemothers and cooks) have made up their own sugar and water substitute. (How can we work under these conditions?!)

Our group meets in the orphanage chapel for our morning prayer. New in the chapel is a photo of a Tia's young son who had died in a car accident some months back.

Rather than the readings for each day, we always hear a Gospel reading chosen as pertinent for missionaries. Today it's Matthew 25:34-46. While the local priest's talk of exorcism in yesterday's homily elicited some raised eyebrows in our group, today we're warned about winding up in "the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels".

Some of us will be staffing the medical clinic on the grounds and seeing patients from the surrouding area. Some people will walk for hours to see our doctor and nurses. Some of us will be teaching English to groups of kids from the orphanage. I'm among those working in the Carpentry Shop, making components for the rebuilt housing units. When they're not in school, some of the kids work with us. The lumber will have to be cut, joined, and planed to size, brushed with insect repellant, and spray painted, with light sanding between coats.

Lunch includes what looked like cookies, but turned out to be lentil patties. Surprisingly (to me) good. One of our group says they were like something available at a Boston Falafel King. Back in our quarters, someone had stopped at a local panderia for some bread and the slightly sweet rolls. They'll be a tempting alternative when we're back to breakfast frijoles, probably tomorrow.

After lunch, spray painting has already started in the interior courtyard. My wife has only a morning English class to teach, so now takes on this job.

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The fumes don't come into the shop, so don't paint high the roof beam carpenters.

One of the bearings in the planer fails, maybe from the years of working green wood. They'll check for a replacement in nearby Tecpan tomorrow.

At quitting time, not only is the water on (which it isn't, most of the time) there's hot water. I'm about due for a shower, and hot water is a plus.

The women's "dorm" is upstairs in the main building. It's just a large room, now with thin mattresses on foam rubber pads on the floor. The windows don't have screens, since this doesn't cause a problem with insects, but a couple sparrow families are nesting in the rafters. With the fledglings, there's a lot of flying in and out of the room. It creates pollution problems for those under the flight paths.

More rehearsal.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Somewhere over the tailgate

April 15, 2007, Santa Apolonia

Then it was back in the truck for the ride to town.

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If you were wondering, after dropping us off, the truck then went back for the rest of our group; they didn't have to walk all the way.

After supper, we started rehearsal. Every year, the evening before we leave, there's a surprise fiesta for us. The kids provide entertainment, and we've been putting together something for them every year in return. This year, we've settled on singing Hello, Good-bye in Spanish, and then line dancing. While we've heard we are called to stand in solidarity with the poor, we'll not just stand, we'll do the Electric Slide.

Speaking of issues, one of the nuns in our group got on her soapbox (her term) to urge that since we all have the same mission but different roles, therefore there shouldn't be hierarchy. Maybe that's a syllogism in convent philosophy. My unspoken response was Meet the New Church, same as the Old Church, only with more and longer committee meetings.

Sagrada Familia

April 15, 2007, Santa Apolonia

The local parish has a number of outlying communities that meet for religious services and instruction. This afternoon we jump in the orphanage pickup truck, some in the cab, some in the cargo bed, to travel a few miles south of town to Holy Family.

Those of its members who could get there had been at Mass in town that morning. They also had there own service that afternoon. We arrived in the middle of that afternoon's service, during a Scripture lesson delivered mostly in Cachiquel, the local Mayan tribal language. The hymns were accompanied by keyboards and guitars, both considerably amplified, along with a drum set and congas. This clip doesn't give justice to the volume; if you were there, your internal organs would have been keeping time to the music.

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They then welcomed our group. The building we were in
Sagrada Familia

was a farm house which they used because they did not have a chapel. I had thought that one little part of the joy of the Guatemala mission would be getting away from the St. Al's capital campaign, but here I was listening to the Guatemalan version. They had purchased a building site, but the diocese could not help them with building because of the costs of repairs to existing buildings damaged by Hurricane Stan. So they were looking elsewhere for help; to us, perhaps. On the bright side, they did not have a packet of supporting materials with DVD.

In case you were wondering what we do with our issues on these trips, we pack 'em up and bring 'em along. For example, a constant theme in every year's mission orientation meetings has been that "Mission is not about building churches." I wonder if there'll be any recanting, or if it will just get dropped down the memory hole, if we take on the Sagrada Familia building campaign as part of our mission.

Our leader is also a deacon, and blessed the local seed corn, and the house. Then there was fellowship with our hosts, who treated us to tamales and coffee.

Chicken Bus

April 15, 2007, Santa Apolonia

That's the gringo's term for the ubiquitous Guatemalan inter-city buses, converted from used American school buses. While at the soccer field, I caught this one passing from in front of the orphanage through the town square.

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April 15, 2007, Santa Apolonia

Immediately to the east of the orphanage is the central square, which includes the city hall and an athletic field. I walked past and caught a bit of this soccer game.

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You'll catch a glimpse of the Catholic church in the background at the end of the clip.


April 15, 2007, Santa Apolonia

The first part of the week we eat with the boys in their dining hall. After lunch, we crossed to the girls' side of the grounds and watched some kick baseball. First there's a foul ball, then a fly ball to center field is dropped resulting in a close play at first.

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In the background behind the batter is one of the casas (housing units) that's being reconstructed. Behind first base is one of the current casas.

La Santa Misa

April 15, 2007, Santa Apolonia

My wife and I go for our morning jog around town, then drink instant coffee on the veranda overlooking the interior courtyard, with a view of volcanoes in the distance.

There are Sunday Masses at 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. at the local church, about a block away, and Sunday breakfast at the orphanage is served in between. We elect to go to Mass after breakfast. Breakfast is oatmeal, bananas, tortillas, and frijoles. We elect oatmeal and bananas.

While the 7:00 a.m. Mass is crowded, the 10:00 a.m. is sparsely attended. Most of those present at the latter were from the orphanage. I had downloaded orders of worship (example) for use at Mass there; wish I could do that at St. Al's. The 75 minute Mass included a 25 minute homily, which I'm told included some mention of exorcism. At Communion, Father reminds us that we ought to be going to Confession regularly; that shortened the lines. I wonder what the chances are the new pastor we'll get at St. Al's in June will do likewise.

Back at the orphanage, the biggest meal is at mid-day. The food served has improved over the years, and this was particularly true this year. Today they served fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and watermelon for dessert. Sweet, juicy watermelon.

Making tortillas

April 14, 2007, Santa Apolonia

We unload our bags, find our rooms (one for our men and one for our women) and take a tour to acquaint our first-timers with the orphanage. A street divides the orphanage grounds, and the girls' casas are on other side of the street. We stop in at the girls' dining hall and watch them helping with that nights dinner.

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Bienvenidos a Los Hogares

April 14, 2007, Santa Apolonia

We pass a last utility pole covered with election posters as we pull up the the orphanage. The pine needles, firecrackers, and music are local custom. The sounds bring more of the kids and staff to welcome us.

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(Neto, I later learned, has outgrown that nickname and is now Ernesto.)

Mirador Restaurant

April 14, 2007, Guatemala City to Santa Apolonia

Santa Apolonia and the orphanage are just off the Pan-American Highway. We know we're almost there when we pass the Mirador. We've never had a chance to stop and eat there but, if you look quick, you can imagine its spectacular views of the mountain valley.

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Mission to Guatemala

April 14, 2007, Milwaukee to Atlanta

We met our mission group at the Milwaukee Airport at 5:00 a.m.. In one case, literally; one member's wife could not go and, on less than a week's notice, another member's brother came from Michigan to fill in.

This year we flew Delta Air Lines via Atlanta. The Milwaukee flight was on a regional jet of Delta's connecting airline. It was too small for the jetway, so we boarded using a rollup stairway, handy for turning around at the top to give the farewell wave.

The Atlanta airport had a lot of soldiers in the current light green and beige camouflage uniforms. It's one of the major points of departure and arrival for overseas assignments. Young soldier is redundant but while they looked young they didn't look like kids. Last time I had to fly on duty, we were required to wear our dress uniforms. I later heard that's changed, and soldiers aren't usually packing a dress uniform to Iraq or Afghanistan.

April 14, 2007, Atlanta to Guatemala City

This Delta flight was on a Boeing 757, so no Airbus rattles on takeoff. (Counterpoint) There were a couple other mission groups on the flight, including the Grace Team, and a group from the Diocese of Charleston. The safety briefing warned that the FAA prohibits "congregations" in the aisle.

Guatemala City's Aurora Airport terminal is in the middle of expansion construction. The jetway power went out leaving about a one foot drop so we had to mind the gap on deplaning. The power also went out on the baggage carousel, which slowed the process. I saw what appeared to be a U.S. soldier and his girlfriend. Why, I wondered, would they come to Guatemala on holiday. Then I saw what looked like more U.S. soldiers. One was in uniform and he told me they were here for training. The young woman, I then assumed, was another soldier. I later heard these are usually combat engineers and, much like many of us mission tourists, they work on projects like digging wells in rural towns.

We met the folks from the orphanage, boarded our bus, stopped for supplies at the Hiper Paiz, and set off in heavy traffic for Santa Apolonia.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Frijole Days of Obligation

We leave on a parish mission trip to Guatemala tomorrow so I won't be blogging for a bit.

With some scrolling, you can take a look at posts on our prior trips in May 2006, June 2005, May 2004, June 2003 and July 2002.

Fifth blogiversary

Five years since my first post (back in my pre-Blogger days).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mass attendance continues to decline

Karen Mahoney reports "Special to your Catholic Herald". The long term overall downward trend continues, but with some exceptions.
Average Mass Counts in 2005 were 195,455 and 191,498 in 2006. Some districts in the Milwaukee Archdiocese have exhibited an increase in weekly attendance. In Districts 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 14, moderate to significant increases in weekly Mass attendance were realized during October 2006 Mass counts.

The actual increases described tend to be slight, not "moderate to significant". Do these represent demographic shifts, or a change in parishioner outlook, or a change in what parishes in those districts do? No one in the article seems to have that answer.
As a challenge to each of the 16 districts in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, Archbishop Dolan and the implementation commission have requested each parish to address the declining attendance statistics and to work on increasing Mass attendance by 20 percent according to Noreen Welte, director of the archdiocesan planning office.

That kind of mandate should be accompanied with some suggestions on how to do it. Ms. Welte provides, if not the means, a motivation: salvation.
"Across the board, 37 percent of members show up on a regular basis to weekly Mass," she said. "This brings up huge implications for the future as the cost of running a parish continues to increase like any other business or lifestyle increases. If we have fewer people showing up, we have fewer people paying the bills. And if that trend doesn’t turn around, I don’t even want to project what the future looks like, but this is something we all need to look at."

Okay, it's salvation of parish budgets and payrolls, not salvation of parishioner souls.
By bringing the long-term ramifications to the forefront regarding fewer Catholics in the pews, Welte hopes that the Mass attendance concern will become a "bread and butter issue," with discussions taking place around evening dinner tables.

Maybe part of the problem is an anachronistic view of family life.
"We’d love it if Mass attendance becomes a bread and butter issue, because we want to know why people around the diocese do go to Mass and why they don't go," she said.

Step one might be to not just ask this question rhetorically. Has there been any professional polling done? Or is it asked rhetorically as a prelude to blaming the people who do show up.
While it may be easy to place the blame for a lack of Mass attendance on externals such as clergy abuse, lack of priests, or leadership issues, Welte admitted the focus might rest with more of a personal reflection on the calling to Catholicism, and an examination of personal and community shortcomings.

That "easy" and "admitted" were a nice touch.

P.S. While the article is about Mass attendance, when talking about the Cathedral parish the subject changes to total membership.
According to its pastor and rector, Fr. Carl Last, the Cathedral currently has 852 registered households or 1,516 members.

Fr. Last is quoted from a July bulletin.
"Fifteen percent of parishioners live in the 53202 (downtown/lower east side) zip code. Eighty-five percent of us live outside our zip code."

Which I calculate as 227 members from a Zip Code with a 2005 population of 21,711.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Businesses band together on 'buy local' push

Doris Hajewski reports in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on a group of local businesses which have formed a group to encourage local residents to "buy local".
A loosely linked group of local businesses - well-known names such as Schwartz Books, Outpost Natural Foods, Alterra Coffee, Laacke & Joys - has been meeting for a year to find ways to support each other for their mutual benefit.

Depends on what you mean by "local". Schwartz, for example, always gave me the impression they assumed there would only be a market for books about bowling on the far side of I-94. Barnes & Noble, Borders and WaldenBooks opened stores near where I live; they seem interested in my business, 'n da bizness o' all de udder sout' side readers.

Monday, April 9, 2007

U.S. archbishop: Catholics need solid preaching, not feel-good fluff

John Thavis of Catholic News Service reported on remarks titled "Preaching: An Ecclesial Vocation" by Archbishop Timothy Dolan when at the Pontifical North American College in Rome a few months ago.
"Maybe the greatest threat to the church is not heresy, not dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality that makes no demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails no battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms," he said.

This Easter homily by Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC on John 20:1-9 includes a story about a puppy and a little crippled boy. Precept Austin uses the same story to illustrate Hebrews 4:15. The Sunday before last I heard the same story at St. Al's in a homily on the Gospel reading about the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Trading pews for couches

Tom Heinen reports in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the trend toward "house churches".
A June 2006 Barna report estimates that about 70 million U.S. adults have experimented with house churches and that about 20 million - 9% of the adult population - attend a house church gathering in a typical week, compared with 1% a decade ago.

Among those interviewed for the local angle,
Debra Pitzo, 51, and her husband - who left the Catholic Church years ago on a journey that took them to Assembly of God and non-denominational churches - have been hosting their house church for seven years. They use the name Christian Net Works and have a Web site: She likes the spontaneity and "not having to follow someone else's idea of what it is to serve the Lord."

The web site says the group is part of the development described in George Barna's book Revolution. The excerpt at the Barna site lists the "Affirmations of a Revolutionary", including
Absolute moral and spiritual truth exists, is knowable, and is intended for my life; it is accessible through the Bible.

Sounds like these groups would regard private interpretation as not a bug but a feature.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

MAPA offline?

It's been six months since the Milwaukee Archdiocese Priests Alliance posted anything on its web site. The last item was its October 7, 2006 letter on the then-upcoming referenda.

The last minutes posted were for its April 26, 2006 meeting.

Albert Einstein

Recommended reading: Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

Where the shadows lie, The Economist, January 10, 2008

The Other Einstein, review essay by Lee Smolin, The New York Review of Books, June 14, 2007

Genius Unbound: Einstein's inspiration, by Steve Spice, review of Einstein by Walter Isaacson, Shepherd-Express, June 7, 2007

Toward a Unified Theory of Einstein's Life by John Horgan, The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 4, 2007
(via Arts & Letters Daily)

Einstein on God and Religion by Ron Rolheiser, OMI, April 15, 2007

Einstein and Faith by John Rose, On the Square, Wednesday, April 11, 2007, 9:19 AM

The Valiant Swabian by John Updike, review of Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, The New Yorker, April 2, 2007
(via Arts & Letters Daily)

The Patent Clerk's Legacy: by Gary Stix, Scientific American, August 23, 2004

Was Einstein wrong? by Paul Davies, Prospect, April 2003

The ugly truth about the universe: Recent astronomical findings are bad news for Einstein and his dream of a simple, beautiful explanation for the universe, by Graham Farmelo, Telegraph, February 21, 2003

The inner Einstein, by Thomas Hayden, U.S. News & World Report, December 9, 2002

The Man in the Equation: Pipes, papers, and photographs bring the real Einstein into view, review by Corey S. Powell of the exhibit on Einstein at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, November 15, 2002-August 10, 2003, Discover, December 2002

Relatively Speaking, Einstein Retains Universal Appeal, by Lisa Keys, Forward, August 23, 2002

On the Trail of Genius, by Ralph Seliger, Forward, June 14, 2002

Thursday, April 5, 2007

More than 250 accept district's invitation to Come Home

Denise Konkol reported Special to your Catholic Herald, following up on the recent 'Coming Home' conference.
With 100 people pre-registered and with more than another 150 expected to attend the afternoon event at Alverno College, sponsored by the 14 parishes in district 16, which comprises part of the southwest side of Milwaukee County, Kuemmel [Gina Kuemmel, director of evangelization at St. Gregory the Great parish] added the day was not about numbers.

"Having such a turnout is great, of course," she said, "but even the one person we are able to bring back to the church would be wonderful."

The question is not about numbers, as such, but how the numbers produced compare to what might have been produced by an alternate expenditure of time and money.
A keynote address by Fr. Bryan Massingale, associate professor of theology at Marquette University, further welcomed those who perhaps had "given the Catholic Church a time out" for varied reasons.
As I've noted, he's the one who suggested the image of the Church in hospice. If that's still his view, he ought to tell the prospective reverts what he really thinks they're getting into. (And if he's changed his mind, I'd like the link.)
For Art Brandl, who hasn’t been a practicing Catholic in about 42 years, hoping to recapture the same feeling he had as a child toward the church was enough incentive to attend the seminar.

"Fr. Bryan alluded to the ritual we love, and I want to experience the same church I did as a child," Brandl said.

In my case, that would be the standing-room-only church with ten Sunday Masses.

Just as the earlier article did, this one contained information about St. Al's that the parish didn't think needed to be communicated to the parishioners.
However, parishes of the district ... have been given a mandate by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan to increase Mass attendance by 20 percent.

... St. Mary [Hales Corners] and St. Alphonsus parishes opted not to participate in the Come Home event.

I'm told it was Fr. Meinholz's decision as pastor of St. Al's to not participate, based on the cost, which, again I'm told, would have been thousands of dollars just for our parish. But the parishioners might have been told this by the parish. I'm assuming the parish will tell the parishioners about the 20 percent mandate now that it's been in the paper, though I have doubts it would have otherwise. I've become convinced the real, unstated, parish policy is against communication, just as it is against evangelization.

But Who's Against the Next War?

David Rieff in last week's New York Times Magazine reviews the Iran policy of three Democratic presidential candidates.
Senator Clinton used virtually the same formulation as Vice President Cheney. When dealing with Iran, she insisted, "no option can be taken off the table."

Speaking to a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), a lobbying group, on March 2, Senator Obama said pretty much the same: the Iranian regime was "a threat to all of us," and "we should take no option, including military action, off the table." John Edwards has been even more categorical. In a January speech in Israel, he said, "Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons." And he added, "We need to keep all options on the table."

Why, then, the push to withdraw American troops from Iraq?
...the three front-running Democratic candidates seem to base their logic for a drawdown in Iraq not on the desirability of bringing troops home but of being able to deploy them elsewhere.

In the right war, at the right place, at the right time, and with the right enemy.
...the issue that is dividing the Democrats is that their leaders believe a muscular foreign policy is what the age of terrorism demands, while antiwar voters believe such a policy may only breed more disasters.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Franklin referendum fails

Jamaal Abdul-alim and Felicia Thomas-Lynn reported the result in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Had it passed, at $76.99 million it would have been the largest school building referendum in state history.
That title is held by the Janesville School District, which last November passed a $70.8 million plan to revamp its two high schools. Janesville surpassed the previous record of $65.4 million, set by the Wausau School District in 1999.

Overcoming Hypersensitivity

In a column last month titled Moral Intelligence, Fr. Ron Rolheiser explained how we become "deep".
What brought us depth and character are the very things we are often ashamed to talk about, namely, our inferiorities - getting picked last on the school team, being bullied on the playground, some physical inadequacy, our mother's weight problem, our dad's alcoholism, an abuse inflicted upon us that we were powerless to stop, a slow-wittedness that perpetually left us out of the inner circle, our failure to achieve what we'd like to in life, a pain about our sexual orientation, an addiction we can't master, and many, many other small and big wounds and bruises that helped shape our souls.

That we feel slights and insults is the cause, depth of character is the effect.

Or is it the other way around? In this column that ran in last week's Catholic Herald, he says,
We feel slights and insults deeply precisely because we are deep.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Illness adds meaning to priest's Lenten journey

Karen Mahoney reports in the Catholic Herald on Fr. Wayne Barta, "retired archdiocesan priest in residence at St. Martin Parish". Fr. Bartas has been suffering from liver cancer, which he recently learned had spread to his lungs and back.
"He can be quiet and melancholy about it all, but then he surprises me sometimes, too," admitted Schoofs [LeeAnn Schoofs, a friend who has been assisting him]. "Recently, we had gone to another priest's funeral and it reminded me of when I will have to take care of Fr. Barta's, and I began to cry. I said to him, 'Oh, Father, I am never going to live through your funeral,' and he said, 'Well, neither am I!' "


Some years ago, in conversation with a prominent Anglican bishop in Britain, I asked how he would define the mission of the Church of England. After a pause for thought, he said, "I suppose I would say that the mission, so to speak, is to maintain the religious option for those who might be interested."
--Richard John Neuhaus


Monday, April 2, 2007

Thomas Hobbes

On the one hand, he sketches a grim account of man’s natural condition. In it, man is solitary, bereft of metaphysical supports, inclined to misunderstand his interests, prone to violent conflict, and impelled by fear and ignorance to put his trust in superstition, but capable of overcoming his passions, empowering his reason, and preserving himself by conforming to laws of nature that require, among other things, the authorizing of an absolute and indivisible sovereign. On the other hand, Hobbes’s properly constructed state reflects man’s natural freedom and equality, expresses his reason, depends on moral virtues that overlap considerably with Christian and bourgeois morality, yields peace and prosperity, and, though Hobbes did not draw the inference, is capable in a world made small by revolutions in transportation and communication, of justifying foreign interventions to bring the suffering and slaughter of innocents to an end. --Peter Berkowitz, Leviathan Then And Now, Policy Review, October & November 2008 (via Arts & Letters Daily)

The Hobbesian Notion of Self-Preservation Concerning Human Behavior during an Insurgency by Raymond Millen, Parameters, Winter 2006-07
(via Milt's File)

Intellectual Poison: How Thomas Hobbes Ruined Biblical Studies, by Benjamin D. Wiker, Crisis, November 2004

The high price of civil security, review by Sylvana Tomaselli of Aspects of Hobbes, by Noel Malcolm, Spectator, February 1, 2003

Professional, faith lives come together for new CFO

Brian T. Olszewski reports in our Catholic Herald that John J. Marek is to become Chief Financial Officer of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee today.
His work history includes vice president-finance and CFO since 2000 at InPro Corporation, which sells products used in construction, primarily in the health care field. Prior to joining InPro, Marek, who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in business from UW – Madison, spent 21 years in the sports division of Huffy Corporation, including 13 as vice president and controller.

He just might have Peter Drucker's Managing the Non-Profit Organization on his bookshelf.
"It's a matter of taking skills and experiences and not saying, 'I'm moving into the non-profit and I’m going to try to run it the same way things ran in the corporate world,' " he explained. "It's taking how do things get done, how do you work with people effectively, and find ways to take techniques, experiences and bring them into the not-for-profit world.

Rather than the "new" CFO, he might be considered coadjutor.
Marek will work alongside the archdiocese's current CFO, Wayne Schneider, who will retire at the end of June.

The CFO is a member of the Archbishop's Executive Council.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Finger Lickin' Funny

Rich Markey in the University of Wisconsin - Madison alumni magazine On Wisconsin [8 pp. pdf]
Kentucky Fried Theater took root on campus in the early seventies, and then went on to produce hit movies such as Airplane! and The Naked Gun series. Who could have predicted that this zany Wisconsin brand of humor would have a major influence on comedy ranging from Saturday Night Live to South Park and Dumb and Dumber?

Mackerel snappish

Just needed a post to keep track of some links.

Thursday is the day of publication of the latest issue of our Catholic Herald (Milwaukee). Only a few current articles are published online. More are posted the following week when an issue is archived. The current "Herald of Hope" column does not get its own URL until the following week when it is archived. Sometimes the Photo of the Week is posted online. Most issues contain the previous Sunday's column by Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee site includes upcoming events and FAQ. Related sites include Think Priest, the Stewardship Appeal, The Favre Forum, and Archbishop Weakland.

Then there's the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and The Holy See.

Other news sources include the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Relevant Radio, The Marquette Tribune, Catholic News Service, Vatican News Service, Catholic News Agency, Zenit News Agency, Catholic World News, Catholic Media Report, and Religion News Service.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel listed stories on clerical sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church.

Some local or locally-connected organizations are Milwaukee Archdiosesan Priests Alliance, Catholics for Peace and Justice, Casa Maria Catholic Worker, Catholics United for the Faith, Corpus, Evangelical Catholic, Pro-Life Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Right to Life. And there's Fr. Nathan Reesman, St. Mary's Visitation Church, Elm Grove, Wisconsin

Around the state there's the Diocese of Green Bay and its The Compass, the Diocese of LaCrosse, the Diocese of Madison and its Catholic Herald, and the Diocese of Superior and its Catholic Herald.

References include the Catechism, Catechism search, Catechism test, Compendium of the Catechism, Code of Canon Law, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal,
and Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate,
and Catholic Calendar, Universalis, and Liturgy of the Hours.

There's a search engine for selected Catholic Blogs and a Saint Blog's Parish Directory.