Community Garden receives grant from Kansas Project

April 18, 2012 by  

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The Concordia Community Garden of Hope has been awarded a $2,150 grant through the Kansas Community Gardens Project, a joint initiative of the Kansas Health Foundation and K-State Research and Extension. The Concordia garden is one of only 24 projects in the state to receive this funding, which will help pay to build raised garden beds for those with limited mobility and to purchase compost tumblers.

The Concordia Community Garden, on the northeast corner of the Nazareth Motherhouse property at 13th and Broadway streets, opened for its third growing season earlier this month. There are 32 plots that are rented by people from throughout Concordia, with the Sisters of St. Joseph providing use of the land as well as water, mulch and seasonal maintenance.

From fostering a greater level of community involvement, to providing healthy foods for schools and nonprofit events, to the personal health of individuals, community garden projects can make a lasting and positive impact on their communities. Through the Kansas Community Gardens Project, the Kansas Health Foundation and K-State Research and Extension look to spread these benefits throughout Kansas by providing not only the grant funds, but also information and assistance to help make the individual garden projects successful community ventures.

Grant recipients were selected through a competitive application process, which drew interest from organizations and gardens throughout the state. The Kansas Community Gardens Project is a three-year initiative, with this year’s recipients representing the first of more than 60 gardens that will eventually join the program.

“This grant has provided a tremendous opportunity for reaching out across the state to help people grow their own fresh produce. We anticipate a significant number of people will be impacted by this generous award as our goal is that each of these gardens still be thriving in a sustainable way in 10 years,” said Dr. Cheryl Boyer, assistant professor and extension specialist, ornamental nursery crops, with K-State Research and Extension. “We are proud of the quality, variety and geographic coverage of the proposals we received this year and that we were able to fund so many great projects.”

“As winter turns into spring, people naturally begin thinking about getting outside and starting a garden,” said Steve Coen, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation. “Through the Kansas Community Gardens Project, our hope is that people will take that desire and energy and channel it into contributing to a community garden for the benefit of their entire community.”

For more information about the Concordia Community Garden or to learn how you can participate, contact Cecilia Thrash at Manna House of Prayer, 785-243-4428 or

To speak with someone in more detail about the Kansas Community Gardens Project, please contact Cheryl Boyer (785-532-3504 or or Evelyn Neier (785-410-3760 or


April ‘Messenger’ now available

April 17, 2012 by  

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“Volume 2” for 2012 goes in the mail this afternoon (April 17), but if you just can’t wait, you can download a PDF of the new issue of The Messenger now. It’s in two sections this time, to make downloading a little easier:

For pages 1 to 7, CLICK HERE.

For pages 8 to 16, CLICK HERE.


There is never any advertising in The Messenger, so donations to help defray production and mailing costs are always appreciated. Just click on the DONATE button below.


Commitment to civility continues to grow

April 6, 2012 by  

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For the third year in a row, Concordians have stepped up to sign a public “Civility Pledge” sponsored by the Year of Peace Committee.

This year’s pledge — with 312 signatures — was published in today’s Concordia Blade-Empire newspaper (Friday, April 6) and is available as a downloadable PDF; just CLICK HERE.

In 2010, when the committee first introduced the Civility Pledge, it garnered 244 signatures. Last year that number grew to 299.

People signing the pledge promise to be “civil in my public discourse and behavior” and “respectful of others whether or not I agree with them” and to “stand against incivility when I see it.”

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, who chairs the Year of Peace Committee, said the Civility Pledge is particularly important in this presidential election year.

“Civility means being respectful despite our differences of opinion,” she said. “We want to get the message out, and then encourage everyone to live that message: That all people must be treated with dignity and respect.”

The Year of Peace Committee came together in late 2009 as a result of an “interest group” at the Community Needs Forum working lunches hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph.  Anyone who wants more information about the continuing Concordia Year of Peace or would like to be part of the committee may contact Sister Jean at 785/243-2149 or by email at

Each year the Blade-Empire has generously donated space to publish the signatures.


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Hays, Kan., procession unites participants

April 2, 2012 by  

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Sister Janet LeDuc joins Palm Sunday event

The Hays (Kans.) Daily News

Easter is one of Virginia Ekey’s favorite times of the year, and she said she treasures the years her birthday falls on or near Easter Sunday.

Chances are, she will remember her 75th for a long time.

Ekey, who will turn 75 on Holy Thursday, was one of approximately 150 people who took part in a multi-denominational procession Sunday in downtown Hays.

Because of a severe case of arthritis in her knees, Ekey’s main mode of transportation is a wheelchair.

That didn’t stop her from participating in the procession. Her good friend, Debby Stauverman, offered to push her the 12 blocks.

“One day I came in, and she was waving the newspaper at me with an article about the procession, saying, ‘Your church and my church are going to do this together,’ ” said Stauverman, a member of Liberty Christian Fellowship. Ekey is a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

On Sunday, Ekey and Stauverman were a perfect picture of the unity officials at the four churches in the neighborhood hoped to symbolize when they planned the procession as a special way of starting Holy Week.

Mission accomplished.

Between 30 and 40 people from each of the four churches of different denominations participated in the procession, which began and ended at St. Joseph Catholic Church at the corner of 13th and Ash streets. Following the procession, Father Barnabas Eichor, associate pastor at St. Joseph, blessed the palms before people went different directions for services at their own churches.

Parishioners young and old seemed excited as they gathered a little after 9 a.m. in front of St. Joseph Church.

As the group approached the First Baptist Church on Fort Street, it was greeted with several people sitting in lawn chairs on the sidewalk in front of the church, waving their palms with one hand and waving to the crowd with the other.

All along the way, participants sang “All Glory, Laud and Honor,” while marching to the beat of drummers Max Walker and Niels Rahbec, seniors at Hays High School.

“We don’t have to talk about theology to share our faith in the ecumenical faith, to experience the Christian journey,” said Sister Janet LeDuc, evangelization coordinator for St. Joseph Parish.

The procession was open to all, and LeDuc said she spotted parishioners from other Catholic churches in town.

“The awareness was there,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to make this an annual thing?”

Members of Liberty Christian Fellowship on Ninth Street joined in the procession at Ninth and Fort, and the group picked up its last set of walkers at First United Methodist Church at Eighth and Ash.

The Rev. Jerre Nolte of the Methodist church said there would have been even more from his congregation had the group not been such fast walkers.

Several of his parishioners still were in the first service of the morning.

Nonetheless, Nolte called the procession “a terrific turnout.”

“It added so much to the day,” he said.

One United Methodist family decided to attend the second service Sunday so it could participate in the procession.

“They’ve been excited about this all week,” Darren Stieben said of his two young children, Kate, 5, and Brett, 4, as he made his way up the street with Brett on his shoulders and his wife, Angela, and Kate by his side.

He said they were a little disappointed there wasn’t a donkey, as advertised — Nolte said the donkey backed out at the last minute but plans already are in the works for having an animal, of some kind, in the procession next year.

The Stiebens still enjoyed participating as a family, and as one along with parishioners from numerous churches.

“It was nice that all those churches are so close together,” Darren Stieben said.

In more ways than one.

“It was something we enjoyed being a part of the larger church community,” said Bill Poland of First Baptist Church.

In addition to walking shoes, there were plenty of wheels as several parents pushed their children in strollers.

And then there was Stauverman pushing Ekey in her wheelchair — that is, until they started the incline on Ash Street, heading north on the final leg back to St. Joseph Church.

“I don’t know the gentleman who offered to push her up the hill, but I sure do thank him,” Stauverman said. “That really helped a lot.”

It was another example of unity organizers of the procession had hoped for.

“Unity is very refreshing,” Stauverman said, “and it can also be quite powerful.”

Fun day builds girls’ awareness, confidence

March 30, 2012 by  

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Sister Julie Christensen, far right, watches as senior girls from Sacred Heart and St. Xavier high schools try "mirroring" each other in an exercise at the Nazareth Motherhouse Friday (March 30).

Eighteen high school seniors spent today (Friday, March 30) at the Nazareth Motherhouse in activities that looked for all the world like silliness and play.

• • • • • • •

But the point of the annual daylong retreat for senior girls was much more serious: To help them understand the challenge of being faithful to themselves as they move into adulthood and the next phases of their lives.

Girls from Sacred Heart High School in Salina and St. Xavier High School in Junction City took part in the program, let by Sisters Beverly Carlin, Julie Christensen, Anna Marie Broxterman and Polly Kukula.

To keep the group energized after lunch with the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Motherhouse dining room, Sister Julie led an exercise in “mirroring,” in which one girl led the gestures and movement as her partner attempted to exactly follow, or mirror, those actions. The idea, Sister Julie said, was to maintain eye contact and do the exercise in silence — but that proved too much of a task for a room full of teenage girls. Amidst giggles, each pair tried to be perfect mirrors.

In real life, Sister Julie asked at the end of the exercise, who do we try to mirror? Whose actions do we try to copy, and why do we do that?

As the girls go into unfamiliar situations after high school graduation — whether it be college or a job or the military — they will find themselves copying the actions of people around them as they try to get comfortable and fit in, Sister Julie said. “But the one person who is always there, who should always be a reflection of the true you, is the person looking in the mirror,” she told the group.

Also taking part today was Alice Jones, a senior at Kansas State University, who talked to the girls about her own transition from high school to college.

Other presentations during the day focused on the emotions that come from being out of our comfort zone and finding the courage to take risks.

The girls also joined the sisters for Mass at the Motherhouse.

Ellis, Kan., program helps develop leadership skills

March 29, 2012 by  

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Cheryl Lyn Higgins, Neighborhood Initiatives coordinator for the Sisters of St. Joseph, talks to participants in the Ellis, Kan., Leadership Program Wednesday, March 28.

Much of the morning Wednesday may have looked more like a engineering project than a leadership class, but it was actually both — two weeks ago the community members attending the first “Leadership in Rural Communities” session formed teams to design and build small balsa bridges. In the second session, each team tested its bridge for strength and stability.


• • • • • • •

There was no clear winner in terms of bridge building — the class ran out of bricks, rocks and copy paper packages to stack on each bridge — but facilitator Cheryl Lyn Higgins said everyone won with the creativity and team work they demonstrated.

Higgins, who works for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia as coordinator of the Neighborhood Initiatives office, is leading the class as part of the congregation’s outreach to communities where sisters serve. Sister Doris Marie Flax has served as pastoral minister at St. Mary’s Church in Ellis since 1994

Higgins has been visiting Ellis since last September, when she led a “community roundtable discussion” to help community members identify challenges in the city of about 2,000 just west of Hays. One of the major issues she found was that like many small cities, there are a relative handful of people who fill virtually all the leadership positions — and there are few, if any, people poised to step up to help or take over.

“Those ‘front line’ people have been doing it for years, and they’re tired,” Higgins said. “Communities have to find ways to widen the circle, to bring new people in so they too can learn to be leaders.”

So, working with the Ellis Alliance, Higgins scheduled the six-session “Leadership for Rural Communities,” which was developed by the Kansas Health Foundation and adapted by Neighborhood Initiatives. The first session was March 14, and the program continues until May 16.

Participants include a city council member, the principal of the local Catholic school and the editor of the city’s weekly newspaper.

“This is about survival,” said Nikole Byers of the Ellis Review. “Leadership is such a crucial need, and so far this has been really great. It’s going to spur communication, and allow these people to work together instead of each of us working in our own direction.”

Friday’s the deadline to sign Civility Pledge

March 24, 2012 by  

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Friday (March 30) is the deadline to sign the 2012 Civility Pledge, one of the ongoing projects of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.

Copies of the pledge are available to sign at the Frank Carlson Library, Concordia.  Signature sheets are also available to download; just CLICK HERE.

The Year of Peace Committee launched the community Civility Pledge drive in 2010, and 244 Concordians signed on. In 2011, that number grew to 300. Each year the Concordia Blade-Empire published a page of the signatures, which the newspaper will do again sometime in April.

The Civility Pledge says: “I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior, I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them and I will stand against incivility when I see it.”

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, who chairs the Year of Peace Committee, said the Civility Pledge is particularly important in this presidential election year.

“Civility means being respectful despite our differences of opinion,” she said. “We want to get the message out, and then encourage everyone to live that message: That all people must be treated with dignity and respect.”

Anyone who wants more information about the continuing Concordia Year of Peace or would like to be part of the committee may contact Sister Jean at 785/243-2149 or by email at

Concordia library hosts book study on ‘Healing the Heart of Democracy’

March 5, 2012 by  

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The Frank Carlson Library is hosting a book study to read and discuss the latest work by author and activist Parker J. Palmer.

“Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit” is Palmer’s ninth book. Published in 2011, “Healing the Heart” “looks with realism and hope at how to deal with our political tensions for the sake of the common good — without the shouting, blaming, or defaming so common in our politics today,” wrote one reviewer. “… Palmer builds on his own extensive experience as an inner life explorer and social change activist to examine the personal and social infrastructure of American politics.”

The discussions begin Thursday, March 22, and will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the library. People interested in taking part are asked to register with Denise de Rochefort-Reynolds at the library – 785/243-2250 — by March 20.

Those taking part may order a copy of the book through Manna House of Prayer (785/243-4428) before March 12. The cost is $16.50.

Participants may also order books through Amazon or any other book seller, and each participant needs to have his or her own copy. There is no charge for taking part in the book study group.

Participants are asked to read the book’s “Prelude” before the first group meeting. The remaining group sessions will be March 29, April 12 and 26 and May 10.

The book study is co-sponsored by the library and the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.

Palmer is a writer, speaker, and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change. His work speaks to people in many walks of life, including public and higher education, health care, religion, business, philanthropy, community organizing and grassroots social change.

He is founder and senior partner of the national Center for Courage and Renewal, which oversees “Courage to Teach” and “Courage to Lead” programs. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley, as well as numerous honorary doctorates and educational awards. In 2010, he received the William Rainey Harper Award whose previous recipients include Margaret Mead, Elie Wiesel and Marshall McLuhan.

A member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker), Palmer lives in Madison, Wis.


It’s time again to pledge to be civil!

February 23, 2012 by  

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THE 2012 CIVILITY PLEDGE signature drive officially begins today (Feb. 23) — and if you want to join the effort for a more civil community, you can download signature forms here. For a form for your group to sign (it has room for 18 signatures), CLICK HERE. For if you just need a form for your own signature, CLICK HERE. And feel free to make as many copies as you need!

This is the third year the Concordia Year of Peace Committee has asked people throughout the community to sign the Civility Pledge — and like the past two years, the Concordia Blade-Empire has agreed to donate a full page to publish the signatures.

Signatures must be returned by March 30 to Bob Steimel, PO Box 213, Concordia KS 66901.

Kansas City Star column features Sister Julie Galan

February 13, 2012 by  

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KC Star columnist Tim Tankard danced an evening away recently with Sister Julie Galan — and wrote about it in his Feb. 8 column. CLICK HERE to read the full piece.

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