Faith & Sharing: A 22-year Memorial Day tradition

May 24, 2011 by  

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Many people view the long Memorial Day weekend as the kickoff to summer and plan for barbecues and family get-togethers. Others continue the annual ritual of remembering loved ones by placing flowers on their graves and cleaning up around their tombstones.

But Sister Christella Buser will mark this Memorial Day weekend as she has every one for the past 21 years: By gathering up people to join her in a Faith and Sharing retreat.

This year’s weekend is at the University of St. Mary campus in Leavenworth, Kan., and Sister Christella will be one of four facilitators leading the 42 participants from central and eastern Kansas.

The idea behind Faith and Sharing retreats grew out of L’Arche, founded in 1964 by Jean Vanier as a community where developmentally disabled and physically challenged adults and “assistants” would live and work together. The Federation of L’Arche International today has more than 130 communities in 30 countries, including L’Arche Heartland in the Kansas City area, which Sister Christella helped found in the late 1980s.

Vanier held the first Faith and Sharing, an annual Gospel-centered retreat, in 1968 in Toronto, Ontario, and in 1990 Sister Christella was instrumental in bringing the retreat to Kansas.

This year’s participants will include L’Arche community members and others from Concordia, Belleville, Salina, Overland Park, Olathe, Lawrence, Leavenworth and Kansas City. The theme for the 2011 gathering is “Grace: Weaving the Colors of Our Life.”

The weekend’s other facilitators are Sisters Ann Lucia Apodaca and Lucy Walter, both Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, and Father Kevin Cullen of Rockhurst College in Kansas City. Sister Julie Christensen, a Sister of St. Joseph of Concordia, is among the volunteers.

“There will be a dance, art projects, classes, music, performances and a Mass,” explains 86-year-old Sister Christella as she gets ready for the weekend that begins Friday morning with a van trip to Leavenworth. “People tell me this is the best weekend of their lives.”

The participants stay in a residence hall at the Leavenworth college, and the retreat continues through late Sunday morning.

Employers learn how to find B.E.S.T. workers

May 19, 2011 by  

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Neighborhood Initiatives coordinator Cheryl Lyn Higgins talks to local employers at a luncheon Thursday at the Neighbor to Neighbor center in downtown Concordia.

Local employers learned Thursday about a new program that may help them provide free training to their workers and allow workers to learn basic skills to become better employees.

The details of “Basic Employability Skills Training” — or B.E.S.T. — were unveiled at a luncheon hosted at Neighbor to Neighbor in downtown Concordia and presented by Neighborhood Initiatives Inc., a new office of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

“This is about allowing your employees to get better, and about finding people who have the basic skills you need,” said Cheryl Lyn Higgins, coordinator for Neighborhood Initiatives and the organizer of the lunch.

Higgins was instrumental in creating B.E.S.T. when she was president and CEO of the Junction City Area Chamber of Commerce. As the Iraq War began in 2003, that area was preparing for a massive influx of people with the return of the 1st Infantry Division headquarters to Fort Riley in 2006.

An estimated 33,000 people were expected to move to the Junction City/Wamego/Manhattan area, and that population boom drove quick economic expansion that meant countless new jobs. But, Higgins said, “We had more jobs than qualified people.”

The state Department of Commerce and local chambers of commerce were recruiting workers from other areas, but, Higgins said, “We realized we needed to raise the basic skills of the people already here.”

Faced with that challenge, a group from the state and the local chambers — including Higgins — developed B.E.S.T., which she calls “a patchwork of other programs and ideas that business said worked for them.”

B.E.S.T. is a series of eight classes that cover everything from punctuality and dependability to customer service and workplace ethics. Classes are generally about an hour to an hour and a half long, and participants receive a certificate of completion for each class.

Thursday’s lunch was designed to gauge local interest in offering B.E.S.T. classes for current employees or potential workers.

“Another carrot the Department of Commerce is offering if we can generate enough interest,” Higgins told the group, “is to bring their big mobile unit here,” which would help employers connect with workers seeking jobs and help job-seekers with skills like writing resumés and filling out applications. The mobile unit would be parked at Cloud County Community College, to work in conjunction with the Career Center there.

Judging by the comments and questions at Thursday’s lunch, there should be enough interest. Participants from OCCK Inc. said they believe the training could be very beneficial for their clients, while several employers said the completion certificates could be a valuable tool in screening potential workers.

Employers who would like more information may contact Higgins at 243-2113, ext. 1215, or at

Higgins said this program is one of many she hopes Neighborhood Initiatives will be able to offer. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia created her office in January, she said, “because we are looking for ways to serve the communities in which our sisters live and minister.”

Higgins is also working on community projects in Ellis, Kan., Grand Junction, Colo., and El Paso, Texas, with Sisters of St. Joseph there. The local congregation has about 140 members, with about half of those living in Concordia. Others live and serve in 10 states and in Brazil.

Chief details goals of police, community working together

May 16, 2011 by  

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Police Chief Chris Edin, giving the fourth presentation in the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series Monday evening, details what he sees as the future of his department.

When Chris Edin took over the job of Concordia Police Chief 14 months ago, he said, “It occurred to me that it was the Concordia Police Department versus the community.”

Today, his basic goal could be summed of as changing that to “the Concordia Police Department and the community versus the bad guys.”

Chief Edin, giving the fourth of eight monthly presentations scheduled for the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series, spent his time Monday evening (May 16) reviewing the police department as it existed when he arrived in March 2010, the changes he has instituted and what he plans for the future.

In the front row for Chief Edin's talk Monday evening were his wife Kristina, right, and their children Bradley and Laney.

He also talked about himself and his family, telling the 60 or so people in the audience at the Nazareth Motherhouse about his family’s adjustment to Kansas and about the importance of their Christian faith in their lives.

A veteran of 18 years in law enforcement, Edin was previously the patrol supervisor-sergeant with the Thurston County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office. He has a bachelor’s degree in business from George Fox University in Newburg, Ore., and also received an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Portland (Ore.) Community College.

In the past, he said, the people of Concordia were often misinformed about local police, the community and the police often misunderstood each other, and there were misperceptions and mistaken assumptions on both sides. Taken together, that created an atmosphere where the police department was “misvalidated,” a word he used to mean not viewed as legitimate and just. “You can’t validate an organization with your trust when there are too many negatives,” he said.

The first step in fixing that has been for Edin and his department to work on communication with the community  — through a website and social media, as well as local newspaper and radio reports and even word of mouth.

Another critical element, he said, is aggressive law enforcement. “But that doesn’t mean slamming people around,” Edin added. “It means aggressively dealing with the issues that exist in our community.”

The final element is leadership — not just from the chief, but from everyone in the department, he said. That type of individual leadership comes from teamwork and education, plus a commitment to “do the right thing” and admit when mistakes are made.

Together those elements create the department’s new motto: Integrity Driven Enforcement and Accessible Leaders, or I.D.E.A.L.

“This is really a customer service business,” Edin said. “Our customers are you, and our service is working with you to make this the kind of community you want it to be.”

But he also emphasized that Concordians have a critical role to play, too.

“I don’t want a show of hands, but how many of you know the make and model of your neighbor’s car?” he asked the audience. “If there’s a car there that you don’t recognize, would you call the police?”

Edin said those are the kinds of details he pays attention to, and he laughingly called himself “a bad neighbor to have.” But, he added, “I’d rather you call and there be nothing wrong than you not call and there be something horribly wrong.”

That’s one of the reasons the police department is sponsoring, with the Concordia Year of Peace Committee, “National Night Out” on Aug. 2. The goal is to have neighbors organize small block parties to get to know one another, he said, and neighborhood organizers are being recruited now. Anyone who wants to learn more about being an organizer for his or her neighborhood can call Edin at 243-3131 or email him at

Other future plans for the department include working to revive the Explorers Post, a program for teens girls and boys, and the volunteer Reserve Police, plus creating a chaplaincy program and getting more involved in community events like Fall Fest.

Two officers have also completed training to patrol on bicycles, which give them more mobility and allow them to interact more with people on the street, Edin said. The bike patrols had their “official first time out” last Friday night, and, he noted with a laugh, “A little heads-up: These bikes have lights and sirens; they can pull you over.”

Edin is also introducing a community policing approach called the Neighborhood Enhancement and Enrichment Team, or NEET. The idea is to assign an officer to a specific area of the city so the people there and the officer get to know each other. “That creates an opportunity for officers to demonstrate their leadership, to work with the smaller community there to solve local problems,” Edin explained.

The 2011 Concordia Speakers Series is an outgrowth of the Community Needs Forums that were held throughout 2009 and 2010 and hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph. More than 100 individuals and representatives of local organizations and agencies took part in those “working lunches” to identify concerns in Concordia and Cloud County, and then work toward solutions.

Upcoming speakers in the series include Cloud County Community College President Danette Toone on June 20 and Cloud County Convention and Tourism co-directors Susie Haver and Tammy Britt on July 18.

Priest details new language for worship

May 13, 2011 by  

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Father Frank Coady speaks to sisters at the Nazareth Motherhouse Friday, May 13.

The director of the Office of Liturgy and Worship for the Salina Diocese came to the Nazareth Motherhouse Friday (May 13) to explain the new English translation of the Roman Missal to Sisters of St. Joseph.

• • • • • • • •

But Father Frank Coady, who is also the priest supervisor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Salina, also discussed the meaning of much of the symbolism of Catholic worship.

Almost a year ago, the Vatican formally approved the new translation, which will change some of the words Catholics have used in their worship for the past 40 years. The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has written that the new missal — which will be in use beginning with the first Sunday in Advent (Nov. 27) — “is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language.”

Coady told the sisters that while it seems unfamiliar to them now, it is a more literal and more accurate translation of Latin to English.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has created a website to help parishioners become more familiar with the new translation. It is

Pizza highlights Nursing Day

May 12, 2011 by  

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The nursing staff joined the Sisters of St. Joseph for pizza Thursday evening (May 12), to celebrate National Nursing Week and to thank staff members for the work they do all year.

• • • • • • • •

Director of Nursing Alfreda Maley served as emcee. She said that this year’s Nursing Week theme — “Nurses: Trusted to Care” — speaks to the “nursing lifestyle,” adding, “That’s what this is — a lifestyle of trust and caring, and not just a job.”

She also noted that the week of recognition begins on May 6, National Nurses Day, and continues through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the 19th century English woman who is considered the founder of modern nursing.

Each year the Motherhouse celebrates National Nursing Week with a recognition ceremony, and this was the second time it included a pizza party. Staff members were recognized for their service, and then the presented flowers to those sisters who have served in nursing fields.

At the end of the presentations, Sister Judy Stephens thanked Maley and the hursing staff on behalf of the Leadership Council, of which she is a member.

Annual Mass honors sisters throughout diocese

May 9, 2011 by  

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Sister Liberata Pellerin, center, and other Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia take part in the Salina Diocese's annual Mass of Appreciation for Women Religious on May 5 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

SALINA — Women religious who minister in the Diocese of Salina were thanked last week “for touching the lives of many people in a unique way.”

• • • • • • • •
Bishop Emeritus George Fitzsimons offered his appreciation to them on behalf of the diocese at the annual Mass and luncheon on May 5 at Sacred Heart Cathedral honoring women religious.
In addition to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia — the only congregation with its Motherhouse in the diocese — the other women religious recognized were the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of the Christ the King, of Mexico City, and the Sisters of St. Agnes, of Fond du Lac, Wis.
“You have been witnesses in so many ways for the good of the Church,” Bishop Fitzsimons said during his homily.
“Thanks to you for all that you do for the Church, for your lives, your commitment to prayer ministry, your examples,” he said. “We thank you for your service, your commitment and your prayer life.”

Seventeen priests in attendance, eight members of Serra Club and a dozen Chancery staff served lunch to 59 sisters in the Hall of Bishops. Women of the Cathedral parish prepared the meal. Serra Club’s primary role is to promote and support vocations to religious life and the priesthood.

Methodists volunteer as painting crew

April 30, 2011 by  

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Volunteers from the First United Methodist Church in Concordia turned up, paint brushes in hand, this morning (April 30)  to help Neighbor to Neighbor with its next big project.

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The church members — Dallas Nading, Mike and Marsha Wentz, Harvey Olson and Mary Thoman — were there to paint the second-floor expansion of the women’s center in downtown Concordia. Joining them for the day was Sister Cecilia Green, who works at the Nazareth Motherhouse, and Sisters Jean Befort and Pat McLennon, two of the three women who run Neighbor to Neighbor.

This was the second time a volunteer crew from First United Methodist donated work at Neighbor to Neighbor. In October 2009, about 15 people from the church held a “demolition day” as part of the original renovation of the 122-year-old building on Sixth Street. After the renovation was completed, Neighbor to Neighbor opened in May 2010.

But within months it became clear that more space was needed for all the women and children who come to the center every day.

From Monday through Friday, Sisters Jean and Pat, along with Sister Ramona Medina, and a cadre of volunteers offer classes and services that range from one-on-one tutoring for GED exams and book studies to providing a place to do laundry or take showers and classes in sewing, baking, lacemaking and household budgeting. Individual counseling services are also available as needed, as is help in navigating the social services maze. And, for some moms, the center has become a place to go with their young children, to give the kids a chance to play and the moms a chance to befriend other moms.

There is never any cost to the women taking part; all the programs are offered free, with funding coming from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, a handful of grants and individual donations.

Planning began last fall to double the size of the center by renovating the second floor. Employees from the Motherhouse began work in December to create an art room, a private counseling or small meeting room, two more bathrooms, lots of storage space and a kitchenette that will look out over a large play area for children.

And once again, First United Methodist wanted to be part of the project.

A work day had been scheduled this winter for Methodist volunteers to help put insulation in the second-floor walls, but that project was canceled due to icy roads on the slated Saturday.

Instead, the volunteers waited for another opportunity to help — and they got it Saturday.

Curtis Mansfield, one of the Motherhouse maintenance employees who has been heavily involved in the renovation project, showed up early to make sure the volunteers had all the tools and supplies they needed. And Sister Jean worked downstairs in the kitchen to keep them supplied with coffee and snacks.

Greg Gallagher, facilities administrator for the Sisters of St. Joseph, expects the renovation to be completed later this spring.

The center remains open during the upstairs construction. The sounds of work on the second level sometimes competes with conversation on the main floor, but not enough to deter women from continuing to come to Neighbor to Neighbor.

The fund drive to pay for the renovation of the second floor is continuing as well. At $24.33 per square foot, donors may pay for the renovation of one foot, or 10 — or 100.

If you’d like to help support Neighbor to Neighbor or any of the sisters’ other ministries, you can make a donation through a secure server with Amazon Simple Pay, simply fill in the amount of your donation and then click on the Donate button:


Economic ‘cheerleader’ details local mission

April 25, 2011 by  

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CloudCorp Inc. executive director Kirk Lowell discusses economic development Monday evening at the Motherhouse as the third presenter in the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series.

In just over an hour and a half Monday evening, Kirk Lowell proved that he is a storyteller, a country boy, a salesman, a realist — and a committed cheerleader for Concordia and Cloud County.

• • • • • •

The executive director of CloudCorp Inc., the economic development organization for Cloud County, was the third presenter in the 2011 Concordia Speakers Series hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph at the Nazareth Motherhouse. Nearly 60 people were in the audience as Lowell outlined the 55-year history of CloudCorp, its original and evolving mission and its role in today’s economy. And while he ran a bit over the advertised ending time, he kept the audience entertained with quips and stories to illustrate the serious topic.

“This is not a tea and crumpets organization,” he said of the 25-member CloudCorp board, noting that he’s heard complaints that board members serve too long and work too little. “We have a breadth of experience that’s important.”

Lowell — who started with CloudCorp as a volunteer in 1985 and has been executive director since 1993 — also countered complaints that the private organization has not changed with the times.

“The (original) 1956 board would not have worked on the Majestic Theatre project or the Walmart project or the fuel station in Aurora or Buy The Book,” he said. “They were all about industry.

“But you can’t chase the smokestack — and today most people don’t want the smokestack,” he added, referring to most heavy industry.

The organization was formed when the population of Cloud County had begun to decline, he pointed out, falling from a high near 20,000 to about 15,000 in 1956. “We went from a one word mission statement in 1956 — ‘Jobs’ — to a one-sentence mission statement and now a one-page mission statement.”

But even that one page can be summed up in just three action words, he said: facilitate, coordinate, communicate. “That’s what we do.”

One way of measuring success, Lowell noted, is the county’s ranking in the Kansas Inc. Economic Vitality and Distress Annual Report. Of the state’s 105 counties, Cloud had routinely been very near the bottom in overall rankings. As recently as 2007, Cloud County’s “economic vitality” was rated at 101st in the state. But the 2009 report — the most recent available — ranks the county at 73rd overall.

“And I think it’s going to get even better in spite of ourselves,” he added, “because there are some people who just won’t give up on Cloud County.”

In one exercise with the audience, however, Lowell demonstrated why some residents remain resistant to change and complacent about the economy.

Using a large graph showing population from the time the county was established in the 1860s, he asked each member of the audience to place a red dot on the year he or she had arrived in Cloud County. The county’s population had peaked in 1890 and has been on a slow but steady decline ever since, and all of the red dots were clustered on that downward slope.

“The Sisters of St. Joseph as an organization came here in the period of expansion,” he noted, “but individually we all came here in the period of decline. We’re comfortable with decline because that’s all we know.”

But continuing that trend is not inevitable, he argued. He cited what he called the law of successful economic development: “If your community does not take good care of its existing businesses and new business prospects, some other community will.”

Or, put another way, “The more backward one community thinks, the more another community cheers. There’s just no denying that.”

What’s required is thinking in terms of community development rather than the older ideas of industrial or purely economic development. And that requires effort at all levels and in all areas of the community, he said.


‘A Year of Peace’ columns now available as a book

April 19, 2011 by  

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A new book brings together 65 columns published in the Concordia Blade-Empire as part of the Year of Peace that began in September 2009.

The book, titled “A Year of Peace in Concordia, Kansas,” is available for $2 a copy in the Nazareth Motherhouse Gift Shop and the Manna House of Prayer Gift Shop.

The columns were published every Friday from Sept. 25, 2009, through Dec. 31, 2010, and include works from Concordians of all ages – middle school students, social workers, Catholic sisters, foreign college students, teachers and even a public official or two.

The Blade-Empire donated the weekly space for the columns, and then joined the Community Foundation for Cloud County in making financial contributions toward the publishing cost. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia covered the remaining publication expense and donated the services of their Communications Office to coordinate and edit the weekly columns and then edit, design and lay out the book.

The Concordia Year of Peace project has been coordinated by a local committee, led by Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, and has included a film series at Cloud County Community College, book studies, workshops, the communitywide “Civility Pledge” and a variety of other activities.

In January 2011, the committee launched “Another Year of Peace,” which includes twice-monthly columns in the Blade-Empire and monthly discussions on KNCK radio. Other events are planned throughout the year.

April ‘Messenger’ available now

April 5, 2011 by  

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The April 2011 issue of “The Messenger” goes in the mail today — but you can get a preview here. CLICK HERE for a downloadable PDF and read about two Brazilian sisters who have professed final vows, the renovation project at Neighbor to Neighbor, two new programs to bring more visitors to the Motherhouse and Manna House of Prayer and the big prize-winners at this year’s Spaghetti Dinner! There’s also a schedule of retreats, workshops and other events presented by the Sisters of St, Joseph.

And if you’d like to be added to the mailing list to receive the free quarterly newspaper, CLICK HERE to send us your name and mailing address.

There is no advertising in this publication, so all the printing and mailing costs are paid by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. Donations to help offset that expense are very much appreciated. Just fill in the amount below and click on the Donate button.


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