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.

11th bishop of Salina Diocese named today

February 6, 2012 by  

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Bishop-elect Edward J. Weisenburger

Salina — Pope Benedict XVI today named Msgr. Edward J. Weisenburger the new bishop of the Diocese of Salina.

The announcement was made official at noon today in Rome (5 a.m. Central time).

Bishop-elect Weisenburger, 51, presently is the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the rector of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Oklahoma City. He succeeds Bishop Paul S. Coakley, who was named archbishop of Oklahoma City on Dec. 16, 2010.

Bishop-elect Weisenburger was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 19, 1987, at the cathedral in Oklahoma City by Archbishop Charles A. Salatka. He was parochial vicar of St. Mary Church in Ponca City, Okla., from 1987 to 1990. He then began canon law studies at the University of St. Paul in Ottawa, Canada, where he earned the pontifical J.C.L. degree.

Upon his return to the archdiocese in 1992, he was appointed vice chancellor and adjutant judicial vicar. In addition to Chancery duties he also provided weekend parish and prison ministries from 1992 to 1995 and served as an on-site chaplain for rescue workers in the weeks following the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

In the fall of 1995, Bishop-elect Weisenburger was elected to the Council of Priests and appointed to the Archdiocesan College of Consulters. He has served as a member of the Seminarian Board for 15 years. In June of 1996, he was appointed vicar general of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese. He has been an officer with the Archdiocesan Tribunal for almost 20 years and has served in various capacities, including promoter of justice for the cause of canonization of Father Stanley Francis Rother, Servant of God. On Oct. 2, 2009, he was appointed a prelate of honor to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, with the title reverend monsignor.

Bishop-elect Weisenburger has served as pastor of two parishes, from 1995 to 2002 at Holy Trinity Parish in Okarche, Okla., and from 2002 until now as
rector of the cathedral in Oklahoma City.

Bishop-elect Weisenburger was born on Dec. 23, 1960, in Alton, Ill., to Edward John and Asella (Walters) Weisenburger, the third of their four surviving children. His father, now retired, was a military officer and his mother, who was born and raised in Ellis County, Kan., was a homemaker. He spent two years of his childhood in Hays, Kan., but grew up primarily in Lawton, Okla., where he graduated from high school in 1979. He attended Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., graduating with honors in 1983. He then attended the American College Seminary at the Catholic University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium. He graduated with honors, earning the pontifical S.T.B. in theology along with an M.A. in religious studies in 1986 and a master’s in moral and religious sciences in 1987.

He is a member of the Canon Law Society of America, is a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and a Knight Commander in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. When time permits, he enjoys reading and occasional travel.

The date for the ordination and installation of Bishop-elect Weisenburger as bishop of Salina will be announced in the near future.

Academy’s project weaves together past and future

January 12, 2012 by  

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The curved outer wall of the new Chapel of St. Joseph is covered with aluminum "lace" inspired, in part, by the bobbin lace designs of Sister Ramona Medina of Concordia.

When the students at St. Teresa’s Academy were asked what the wanted in a new chapel at the Catholic high school in Kansas City, they had an idea that could be tough to translate into construction materials. The 563 girls said the new worship space — which would be part of the fourth building on the school’s campus — should have “a feminine feel.”

Sister Ramona Medina

The architectural firm of Gould Evans — including architect Tony Rohr, the father of a St. Teresa’s student — kept that in mind as research began. And ultimately the firm found its inspiration in bobbin lace patterns that date to the mid-1600s and a contemporary lacemaker who lives in Concordia, Kan.

The result is a stunningly unique exterior on the soon-to-be-dedicated Chapel of St. Joseph, which makes up part of St. Teresa’s new Windmoor Center.

The story of the exterior design, though, has to be woven into the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the school itself.

When the Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in about 1650 in LePuy, France, they were among the first Catholic communities to accept ordinary women and to live among the people they served. Those early sisters were not wealthy or educated, and they had to work to support themselves and their ministries — especially by making lace, a common trade in that region of France. By the time of the French Revolution, at the end of the 18th century, the new community of sisters had spread throughout south central France. Then, caught in the political turmoil of the times, the congregation was forced to disband, but was ultimately refounded at Lyon, France. In 1836, the Bishop of St. Louis, Mo. — then still a rough frontier town — sent a request to France for Sisters of St. Joseph to come to teach deaf children. The bishop had been advised to “…get the Sisters of St. Joseph because they will do anything.” Three women responded to the request and came to a log cabin in Carondelet, just outside of St. Louis, to start their first mission in the United States.

The completed Chapel of St. Joseph on the campus of St. Teresa's Academy, photographed at night.

In the next several decades, the Carondelet sisters would reach out across the United States, eventually forming roughly 30 separate communities of Sisters of St. Joseph from the “family tree” that began with LePuy. That expansion included missions that began in Canandaigua and Buffalo, N.Y., in 1854 and then expanded to Rochester, N.Y., in 1868. In 1883, six sisters from the Rochester community came to Kansas and a year later founded the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Meanwhile, the original Carondelet community founded St. Teresa’s Academy in 1866. The all-girls school moved to its current 20-acre campus at 5600 Main St. in 1909. On the cornerstone of the school’s first building the sisters inscribed the words of St. Teresa of Avila, which would serve as the motto of the Academy: “Deo Adjuvante Non Timendum” (“With the help of God, we need not fear”).

Even from the first, St. Teresa’s student received a stellar education. But what they did not learn was the art of bobbin lacemaking.

At some point in the long history of the Sisters of St. Joseph in America, knowledge of that traditional craft began to fade away. Sisters still worked to support themselves and their missions, but not through the artistry of handmade French lace.

Concordia Sister Ramona Medina, an artist who works in any number of mediums, was concerned that by losing the ability to create bobbin lace, Sisters of St. Joseph were also losing part of their heritage. So in 2003 when the Concordia congregation announced that the theme of its Senate that year would be “Creating Lace,” Sister Ramona took that as a sign that she should find a way to learn how to do it.

She found a lacemaker in Manhattan, Kan., who had been taught by a woman who learned the artistry in LePuy. And Sister Ramona says she still turns to Ronna Robertson when she has a particularly challenging bobbin lace problem.

A few of the 200 lace bookmarks created by Sister Ramona Medina and a crew of volunteers.

Today Sister Ramona and Sister Janet Lander offer annual lacemaking retreats at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia, and numerous other sisters and CSJ Associates create the delicate and intricate lace pieces that are offered for sale at the Nazareth Gift Shop in the congregation’s Motherhouse. Lacemaking has also become something of a staple at Neighbor to Neighbor, the women’s center in downtown Concordia where Sister Ramona is one of the founders and directors.

Becky Flores, executive assistant at St. Teresa’s, said that when the architects from Gould Evans went looking for examples of bobbin lace, they found the work of Sister Ramona Medina on the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia website. Ultimately, they used one of Sister Ramona’s designs, plus another piece gracing the office of St. Teresa’s president, Nan Bone, and several other designs from LePuy, Flores said.

They then turned the project over to Zahner Metal Manufacturing of Kansas City, which crafted the cut-aluminum panels that sheath the curved outer wall of the new chapel. The panels are 19 feet tall and the largest are 8 feet wide. During the daytime, the interior of the chapel has a dappled light, caused by sunlight coming through large windows covered with the metal “lace.”


The tabernacle veil, designed and created especially for the Chapel of St. Joseph by Sister Ramona Medina.

But St. Teresa’s administrators weren’t done with Sister Ramona yet.

They have also commissioned her to create a bobbin lace veil to encircle the tabernacle in the new chapel. The piece, which she designed, features the cross suspended in delicate filigree lace.

And just to be sure that St. Teresa’s supporters understand the significance of the lace designs, the school also commissioned Sister Ramona to create 200 bobbin lace bookmarks that will be given to those attending a special Open House at the Academy Jan. 18.

That’s where Sister Ramona had to call in the troops; sisters, associates and other volunteers have been making the bookmarks for weeks. Contributing bookmarks were Sisters Vivian Boucher, Cecilia Green, Mary Jo Thummel, Janet Lander, Doris Marie Flax and Loretta Clare Flax and CSJ Associate Myrna Shelton, as well as Chris Overkamp, Carolyn Thurston, Sarah Schleicher and Jennifer Simmons.

“Can you believe it?” Sister Ramona asked with a laugh as she looked through a multi-colored pile of bookmarks earlier this week. “They are all so beautiful and it’s taken so many women helping.”

Sister Ramona has been invited to the Open House Jan. 18, which will recognize the contributions of everyone who has had a role in the school’s “Inspiring Women Capital Campaign.” The effort has raised more than $4 million, and in addition to the new chapel and the four classrooms that fill the rest of the Windmoor Center, will also pay for renovations to a second building on campus, enhanced technology throughout the school and an increase in the endowment fund.

The Chapel of St. Joseph will be dedicated in a special ceremony Feb. 2.

For more information about St. Teresa’s Academy and the Inspiring Women campaign, go to







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