Faith & Sharing: A Memorial Day tradition

May 31, 2012 by  

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The Concordia contingent to Faith and Sharing: BACK ROW, from left: Sheila Levendofsky, Charla Castle, Katie Christensen, Cindy Ponce, Sister Christella Buser, Jennifer Simons, Donnie Tate and Rachel Burgess. FRONT ROW, from left: Kathleen Norman, Anna Gravett, Anna Schmitz, Sister Julie Christensen and Tim Novak.

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 marked this Memorial Day weekend as she has every one for the past 22 years: By joining others in a Faith and Sharing retreat.

The annual event — from May 25 to 27 — was at the University of St. Mary campus in Leavenworth, Kan.

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 25 years ago.

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. For the past four years, Sister Julie Christensen has been in charge of the logistics for getting the group from Concordia to Leavenworth. Sister Julie is the Youth and Young Adult Program Coordinator at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia.

This year’s participants will include L’Arche community members and others from Concordia and across Kansas. The participants stay in a residence hall at the Leavenworth college, and the retreat continues through late Sunday morning.

Sisters thank nursing staff during special week

May 10, 2012 by  

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As National Nurses Week was wrapping up, the sisters who live at the Nazareth Motherhouse were wrapping up a week of special thank yous. And the biggest token appreciation came this evening (Thursday) when the sisters treated the entire nursing staff to a supper of Subway sandwiches, small gifts and low-key recognition during a party at the Motherhouse.

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Meanwhile, director of nursing Alfreda Maley presented each sister who worked in the health care field as well as the “nurse’s helpers” among the sisters to single cut roses and applause.

The theme of the 2012 Nurses Week was “Advocating. Leading. Caring.” National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, the birth date of Florence Nightingale.

To Africa, with love, from Neighbor to Neighbor

May 4, 2012 by  

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Modeling the "Little Dresses for Africa" at Neighbor to Neighbor last week are, from left, Eisley Gibbons, Alexis Tiller and Olivia Christensen.

When Sandi Hubert of Concordia learned about the Little Dresses for Africa project from a sewing program on television, she knew it was a perfect fit for the women at the Neighbor to Neighbor center.

• • • • • • • • •

“I thought this was an awesome project for the women learning to sew,” she said. So she talked with Sister Jean Befort, one of three sisters who run Neighbor to Neighbor, about recruiting women there to help.

Each dress has a label that reads, "Made with care, especially for you by your friends at Neighbor to Neighbor, Concordia, Kan., USA"

As it turns out, the project is a perfect fit for other reasons, too.

“This is looking out beyond our own little community,” explained Marla Jorgensen, one of more than a dozen women at Neighbor to Neighbor who have embraced the project.

“And people involved are givers, when before they may have been used to being receivers,” added Jean Wilcox, who regularly volunteers to teach sewing at the center.

Neighbor to Neighbor, which opened two years ago and is operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, serves the needs of women and women with young children throughout the Concordia area. And while it is designed as a welcoming center for all women, many of the regulars are women without many resources and in need of social services.

So this may be their first opportunity to give back, Wilcox said, and to join others from across the country in a grassroots project with big results.

What began in 2007 as a Michigan woman’s plan to make 1,000 dresses for the little girls she had seen while on a safari vacation in Kenya has grown into a worldwide collaboration of volunteers and donations. The idea is as simple as one neighbor helping another.

Little Dresses for Africa deliver a small dose of hope and love to girls across the poorest regions of Africa (and now, around the world), in the form of simple sheaths sewn by volunteers using mostly donated fabric and notions and then delivered by individual travelers — whether tourists, mission workers and even a National Geographic photographer — to wherever they’re needed.

So far more than 560,000 dresses from all 50 states have been distributed in 31 African countries so far, according to Little Dresses for Africa founder Rachel O’Neill of Brownstown, Mich. The nonprofit Christian organization has also sent dresses to Honduras, Guatemala, The Philippines, Cambodia, Mexico and Haiti, as well as poverty-stricken areas in the United States.

The women at Neighbor to Neighbor have as their goal adding 100 dresses to that number. They are more than half way there.

The “end product” — sometimes called “pillowcase dresses” because the simplest way to make them is from pillowcases — are brightly colored sheaths with ribbon ties at each shoulder.

To create them, the downtown center has become something of a mini-manufacturing line: On a recent afternoon, it includes one woman to cut the fabric, another to sew the seams, another to add binding to the edges and sew on the ties, still another to add the label (“Made with care, especially for you by your friends at Neighbor to Neighbor, Concordia, Kan., USA”) and a final woman to iron and package the dress and its also-handmade matching hair band. (And on this day there are also three little girls on hand to model the finished products.)

The women who have taken part are Jane Christensen, Verna Ferguson-Hamel, Nikki Haist-Richard, Marla Jorgensen, Genny Mihm, Alice Nondorf, Christina Pieri, Lisa Rabago, Cheryl Sulkosky, Ruby Tiller and Jean Wilcox. In addition, Ann Barnett and Lisa Bushett have made matching knit and fabric hair bands and ties to go with every dress.

Virtually all the materials for the dresses have been donated, said Sister Ramona Medina, another of the three sisters who founded Neighbor to Neighbor. “And as word of the work has gotten out, more donations of fabric, thread and binding have come in,” she added.

When the 100 dresses are completed, a woman from Hubert’s church, Concordia Wesleyan, will take as many as she can with her on her mission to the West African nation of Burkina Faso early this summer. Any she can’t take will be sent to the Michigan headquarters for distribution from there.

“One of (Rachel O’Neill’s) sayings is, ‘Joy is a new dress,’” Hubert said. “So this is women in Concordia spreading joy.”

To learn more about Little Dresses for Africa, you can go to the organization’s website:

Manna House website gets a facelift, new features

April 30, 2012 by  

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The website for Manna House of Prayer in Concordia — — has gotten a major redesign and has lots of new features to help you find workshops, retreats or services to fit your needs.

The most significant addition is online registration for most workshops and retreats, along with a calendar of events to give users a better idea of everything available at the spiritual retreat center operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

Other improvements — including the option of paying online through PayPal — are still in the works but should be available soon.

You can CLICK HERE to check out the new online home for Manna House.


School kids learn about sisters during annual tours

April 26, 2012 by  

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Sister Janet Lander explains the significance of the statue of St. Joseph in the original formal entry to the Nazareth Motherhouse, as one of the fourth-graders on the tour Thursday waits to ask a question.

Each April, the newest batch of Concordia fourth-graders arrive at the Nazareth Motherhouse for the tours that have been a part of their spring education for at least a couple of decades.

And this year’s four classes oohed and aahed, listened to descriptions and asked questions much like each class before them. The annual visits wrapped up today (April 26).

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Jane Wahlmeier, who works on the Motherhouse staff, organized this year’s visits and introduced the students and their teachers to the sisters serving as tour guides. Sister Janet Lander and Sister Julia Christensen then led the students through the public areas of the five-story red brick building that has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983. Both tour guides told stories and pointed out features that would help the youngsters get a better feel for what life was like for sisters at the Motherhouse when it was built more than a century ago. Construction began in 1902 and the sisters moved in just 13 months later.

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.

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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.

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