A gift of warmth on a chilly day

December 4, 2010 by  

A baker’s dozen gathered in the basement of K-State’s Catholic center this morning — but it was blankets, not baking on the menu.

• • • • •

Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia along with students from Kansas State University and Cloud County Community College, plus faculty from St. Isidore’s Church, which includes the Catholic Campus Center, took part in the project to sew blankets for the Manhattan Homeless Shelter.

The project was spearheaded by Sister Beverly Carlin, the congregation’s vocation director who is based in Manhattan, and Sisters Julie Christensen and Betty Suther, both of Concordia. Sister Betty often leads the popular quilting retreats at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia.

The “quilting crew” cut fabric, sewed pieces together and quilted it all for extra warmth.

Neighbor to Neighbor needs to grow!

November 22, 2010 by  

In early May 2010, when three Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia opened the doors for the first time at Neighbor to Neighbor, we had no idea what to expect.

We knew there were women in Concordia and Cloud County who felt isolated and alone. We knew there were women living on the streets. We knew there were women feeling the increasing pressure of parenthood, a tough economy and an inability to make changes in their lives. We knew there were women who just needed the friendship of other women. Simply put, we knew there were women who needed the neighborly hand we were stretching out. But would those women take our hand?

Less than six months later, the answer is a resounding Yes!

• • • • • • • • • •

From May through October, women and their young children have made more than 1,800 visits to the storefront center at 103 E. Sixth St. The three sisters have been there to meet the needs of more than 80 individual women.

In addition five women have completed their community service commitments at the center, and another 17 women from throughout the community have stepped forward as volunteers.

But such success has a downside: The center that opened with community fanfare in May is proving too small to contain the growing array of programs offered and women taking part.

So beginning Dec. 1, Neighbor to Neighbor is growing up — literally.

That’s when construction is expected to begin to double the size of the 6-month-old center by renovating the second story into useable space.

When Greg Gallagher, facilities manager for the Sisters of St. Joseph, began planning work on the two-story building a year and a half ago, he knew that the project would be more resurrection than renovation — particularly on the second floor, which had not been used for anything other than storage for decades.

So when the first floor was cleaned out and the lath and plastic removed from the walls, that work was done on the second floor, too. The only other work upstairs was to remove the boards that had filled the three large windows facing Sixth Street and replace them with new vinyl windows.

Then the work upstairs stopped.

Downstairs, on the main floor, Nazareth Motherhouse employees completely refinished the 122-year-old structure, adding new plumbing, lighting, a heating and cooling system, interior walls, a complete kitchen, bathroom facilities, a laundry room, flooring and all the finishings.

When the center opened in May, it featured soft colors throughout — except for the vibrant paint of the children’s playroom.

It also seemed to offer ample space for the women who would be welcomed there by Sisters Jean Befort, Pat McLennon and Ramona Medina, the Sisters of St. Joseph who conceived of the center and now staff it every day.

From Monday through Friday, the sisters and 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.

“This is about one neighbor helping another,” as Sister Ramona explains it.

And the neighbors throughout Cloud County have responded — the center is often packed throughout the day.

So Gallagher and the sisters began working on a plan to bring the upstairs back to life, in much the same way as was done downstairs.

Second-floor plans call for 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.

Sister Jean emphasizes the word “large” in that description of the coming work: “With more and more children, they really need a bigger space,” she explains, “and this is the only way we can provide that.”

Again, Motherhouse employees will do the bulk of the work, which keeps the labor costs for the project low.

But Neighbor to Neighbor is launching a fund drive that will pay for materials and furnishings. A donation of $24.33 will pay to renovate one square foot of the upstairs space; a donation of $48.66 will pay for two square feet, and so on.

“We hope this will truly give people in Concordia and Cloud County a sense that they are investing in what we’re doing here,” said Sister Pat. “Neighbor to Neighbor is for the women of Cloud County, and this is a way for individuals to help us by paying for a piece of it.”

The fund drive is also beginning on Dec. 1, with the hope that people throughout the area will consider tax-deductible donations before the end of the year.

Gallagher expects the work on the upstairs to be completed next spring.

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:


Two new Manna House retreats set for leadership

November 8, 2010 by  

Manna House of Prayer has announced two new retreats specifically designed for those serving in leadership in their religious communities.

• “Leadership in Uncertain Times” is set for Jan. 14-19. The program is designed for leaders of Christian communities, both lay and religious, and is tailored to meet the needs of those called to lead in the 21st century. Each day is devoted to a different facet of the mystery of Christ in the mystery of leadership.

The retreat’s coordinator is Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St Joseph of Concordia. She has worked for three decades with religious communities in Chapater preparation, Constitution development and leadership discernment. She holds a doctorate in applied ministries from the Graduate Theological Foundation.

Participants in this retreat will arrive on Jan. 13 and depart on Jan. 20. The cost is $600, which includes registration plus all meals and lodging at Manna House. For a downloadable brochure, CLICK HERE.

• “Life After Elected Leadership: The Journey Continues” is set for Feb. 24-March 1. Designed for leaders of religious institutes of women in the Roman Catholic Rite who will not be renewing their terms of office, this retreat will help prepare you for the last tasks in leadership and the next steps in your religious life.

The presenters will be Sister Marcia Allen and Sister Bette  Moslander. Bette is a past president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia and holds a doctorate un religious studies from St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame. She has also done post-graduate work at Lumen Vitae and Weston School of Theology.

The cost is $550, which includes registration plus all meals and lodging at Manna House. For a downloadable brochure, CLICK HERE.

For information on either of these workshop or to find out more about Manna House of Prayer, CLICK HERE or call 785/243-4428 or email retreatcenter@mannahouse.org

Sisters’ counseling center prepares for 30th anniversary

November 7, 2010 by  

Sister Faye Huelsmann, right, talks with Sister Pat Lewter, center, and CEC board member Pam Gardner at the HeArt for the Community fundraiser in October. The event raised more than $5,500 for CEC's low-income counseling services.

When Sisters Faye Heulsmann and Pat Lewter opened their home in 1981 to serve those with little access to professional counseling, they may not have realized they were beginning what 30 years later would be a vital community agency in Grand Junction, Colo.

As the Counseling and Education Center that grew out of the effort by the two Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary, the staff sends its thanks to the congregation for contributing to the CEC’s success.

Executive Director Penny Frankhouser credited “the perseverance of these two sisters” with the agency’s longevity and impact on the community. Today CEC serves more than 600 clients a year.

And, Frankhouser said, Sisters Faye and Pat continue to be a vibrant part of the agency, providing counseling services to children, individuals, and adolescent.  Sister Faye provides play therapy to very young children, and is considered an expert in her field. Sister Pat not only provides counseling at CEC, with her expertise working with troubled adolescents, but she is also a part-time school counselor at the Holy Family Catholic School.

In 1995, the CEC structure was changed, so it now has a community board made up of 11 business owners, professionals and members of the faith community in Grand Junction.

The board remains dedicated to the center’s primary mission: “Providing affordable professional counseling to families and individuals in need.”

Today CEC has a staff of more than 15 and an annual budget of nearly $250,000.

And, Frankhouser said, the need for affordable professional counseling remains as great; many Mesa County residents have been hit hard by the recently declining natural gas industry and widespread national economic instability.

With the guidance of Sisters Pat and Faye, the CEC has created a community of professional staff who believe in CEC’s core values: Affordability, dedication, meeting emotional needs and community.


Messages Home: What we talk about when we can’t talk about ‘it’

October 20, 2010 by  

Loretta Jasper, csj

Since January 2009, Sister Loretta Jasper has been serving as a family counselor under a program ­designed and funded by the U.S. government. She is now in her second year working with the children of military personnel at a Midwest Army base. To protect the confidentiality of the people she works with, she does not identify her location or any individuals. This is one of her “messages home” about her work.

We don’t talk about it anymore.

It affects many of the kids in the school where I work every day; it touches the teachers and staff who face many of the same issues. It is, in fact, my reason for being there.

But we don’t talk about it.

Instead, the top administrator at the school where I have worked for the past year believes that by not talking about it, everyone can just focus on academics and the students will thrive and achieve.

It makes my job — as a family counselor here to support and assist the children of military personnel who have served or are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — a challenge, to say the least.

But it — deployment, or upcoming deployment or just completed deployment — is no longer allowed as a discussion topic at my school.

So what about the kiddo who continues to wiggle and jiggle through the day, and gets in trouble for that?  Then there is the kiddo who is called to task for not listening or not following directions?  Or, the child who moves into an immediate rant when not selected for playing the drum in music, or being first in line.  Indicators of the effects of it include tardiness, fatigue, irritability, tearfulness, sadness, forgotten assignments, having no coat, being unkempt, and on and on…

The kids, of course, aren’t the only ones affected in a town that butts up against a military base. Many of the staff and teachers are spouses of active-duty soldiers who are deploying, deployed or returning from deployment. The effects of it they show include fatigue, stress, physical illnesses, depression and anxiety, to name a few.

And then there are those among us who know exactly what it is all about:  Retired military and their spouses among the staff and teachers who know from their own experience about the broader effects of this long war of multiple deployments, with physical or emotional damage to the soldier and physical, social and psychological impacts on the whole family.

These retirees are among the most concerned about the untended it.

So how do I create an opportunity to engage the heart in the midst of this line-up of challenges?

ACATAMIENTO: the vibrant zeal of the Sisters of St. Joseph!  I wait; I remain present and visible to each teacher, staff member and child. I wait for the invitation to engage and to interact beyond the hello, the hug, the compliment, the encouragement to move into the concerns related to the wiggles, the inattentiveness, the rants, the tardiness, and the stressors of the job.  When that door opens a little wider, then I am able to support and assist in mending the injuries of the heart and hearth.  The it then becomes a tangible topic of conversation.

How do I wait?  With patience and relationship building!

Each day I am present to each child who passes by me in the school lunch line. Each day I tie a gazillion shoes laces.  I help individual children learn sounds, letters, numbers or patterns; I cheer on a child’s choice of library book; and I model behavior asked of the teacher.  My presence and visibility to a teacher, paraprofessional and teacher aide who is over-stressed with job expectations (and daily life!) seems to be soothing for that person.

Days come and go with no mention of it.  What I do know is that the moment I miss a music class, or lunch, or reading time, I hear about it from the teacher, the aide or the child. I was absent (and missed!).

The dear neighbor has many faces, and there are many ways to serve. My role in this particular school remains: presence, visibility, and as I am invited.

What does Father Jean Pierre Medaille have to say about this in our Maxims?

Forgive all injuries and, to arrive at a greater perfection of Christian charity, gladly please as far as possible those who offend you and who displease you the most.  Do not be content at welcoming opportunities to serve when they arise; carefully and promptly seek them out yourself in order to imitate more perfectly your heavenly Creator. (MP I, p. 11)

UPDATE: Winning chili spices up October evening

October 14, 2010 by  

Bob Maxson’s “straight-up chili” — no cheese or chips on top, no sweets to finish it off — was the top votegetter in Thursday’s Chili for Charity. But everyone who showed up in downtown Concordia this evening received the prize of a beautiful October evening and a chance to support local organizations.

The annual outdoors Chili for Charity event drew eight contestants, which each offered a sample of homemade chili — some with fixin’s and others, like Maxson’s, unadorned. A few even sweetened things up with after-chili treats of mints, miniature cinnamon rolls and caramel apples. Maxson was serving his chili to support Breckyn Reynolds, the 2-year-old Concordia girl born with multiple heart defects. Representing the Sisters of St. Joseph were Neighbor to Neighbor and Helping Hands, the food pantry at Manna House of Prayer. The Neighbor to Neighbor chili makers were the defending champions from last year.

The event at Sixth and Washington streets was sponsored this year by the new Neighbor to Neighbor center, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and Cloud County Community College. Proceeds from the event make up the prize money, which is shared by the winners.

Thirtysomething? Here’s a retreat just for you

October 8, 2010 by  

Join us for “Dare Your Heart’s Desire,” a very special spiritual retreat for women in their 30s. It is grounded in Ignatian spirituality and designed to provide nourishment for the spiritually hungry.

WHEN: From 7 pm Friday, Oct. 29, through 5 pm Saturday, Oct. 30

WHERE: Manna House of Prayer, Concordia, Kan.

COST: $40, which includes lodging and all meals — or just $30 with a coupon from csjkansas.org. CLICK HERE for coupon.


To register or for more information, contact Sister Beverly Carlin, CSJ — phone 785/220-7996, email srbevc@csjkansas.org, Facebook S Beverly Carlin.

MORE PHOTOS: Orphanage reunion brings together friends and family

October 2, 2010 by  

Sister Celestine Ruder, standing at left, was the only sister who served at St. Joseph Home able to attend Saturday's gathering. With her are most of the former residents who attended the reunion.

The oldest of friends and the closest of families plus scores of others who cared about them all crowded the Parish Hall at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Abilene Saturday (Oct. 2) for a unique reunion.

The focus was St. Joseph Home and Orphanage, which has not existed in this small town for 51 years. But that didn’t dampen the memories, or the laughter, of the former residents, day students, relatives and friends who gathered for the first-ever reunion of anyone connected with the long-time orphanage and school. Also on hand were three dozen members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, the religious congregation that ran the facility for 43 years, from when they opened it in 1915 until it closed in 1958. The building on the north edge of Abilene, just off Buckeye Avenue, was demolished in 1959.

These three slideshows are from Saturday’s gathering. The first has 32 photos; the second and third have 24 photos each..



Search begins for person to head new project

September 22, 2010 by  

The logo for the newly created “Neighborhood Initiatives Inc.” is a globe surrounded by more than a dozen symbols representing projects and missions of the Sisters of St. Joseph. But the symbols might just as well represent the balls that will have to be kept in the air by whomever is hired as coordinator for the new nonprofit corporation.

The sisters began advertising for the new position this week, and are accepting resumés until Oct. 1.

Neighborhood Initiatives was incorporated earlier this year, and the structure will be used to identify works of service sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, projects initiated and sustained by the congregation and activities the sisters undertake in partnership with others.

The new coordinator — who may be a lay person or a member of a religious congregation — will be responsible for ensuring that all those projects complement each other and for seeking out opportunities for new projects and partnerships.

The position “requires creativity and organizational skills … for collaborative research, development and administrative support of both new and continuing ministries,” according to the job posting released by the congregation. It will also require that the coordinator “understand and apply the values and mission of the Sisters and St. Joseph,” and to be flexible in working with the Neighborhood Initiatives board of directors as the new corporation finds its footing.

The coordinator will be a full-time, salaried position and will be based in Concordia. Qualifications include a college degree or equivalent experience in leadership, management or human resources related to an organization focused on service and charitable works; experience developing and managing an annual budget; strong communication skills with an emphasis on collaboration; creativity and initiative in  conceiving, researching and launching projects; and flexibility as the new position and new venture evolve.

Anyone interested in applying for the new position is asked to send a cover letter and complete resumé, including salary history, by mail to Human Resources Director, Neighborhood Initiatives Inc., PO Box 279, Concordia KS 66901; by email to dlherman@sbcglobal.net; or by fax to 785/243-4741.

For those who saw ‘Fresh,’ Ana’s 10 Fresh Solutions!

September 19, 2010 by  

Ana Sofia Joanes

From filmmaker Ana Sofia Jones, producer and director of “Fresh”

1. Buy local products when possible, otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products. Ask your grocer or favorite restaurant what local food they carry and try to influence their purchasing decisions. You will support your local economy and small farmers, reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides, improve the taste and quality of your food, and protect the environment from fertilizer and pesticide run-offs.

2. Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and get weekly deliveries of the season’s harvest, and by buy from local grocers and co-ops committed to stocking local foods.

3. Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food. When at a restaurant, ask (nicely!) your waiter where the meat and fish comes from. Eventually, as more and more customers ask the same question, they’ll get the message!

4. Avoid GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)! When buying processed food (anything packaged) buy organic to avoid GMO. (Since almost all the soy, corn, and canola in the US is genetically modified, over 70% of all processed food contain GMOs from by-products of these grains.)

5. COOK, CAN, DRY & FREEZE! Our culture has forgotten some of the most basic joys of cooking. Not only is cooking at home better for you and more economical, but it’s an invaluable skill to pass on to your children.

6. Drink plenty of water, but avoid bottled water when you can. Water bottles pollute the environment and bottled water is often mere tap water. Plastic is harmful to your health and to the environment. Buy a reusable water bottle and invest in a good water filter.

7. Grow a garden, visit a farm, volunteer in your community garden, teach a child how to garden. GET DIRTY! Have fun!

8. Volunteer and/or financially support an organization dedicated to promoting a sustainable food system. Stay informed by joining the mailing list of the advocacy groups you trust.

9. Get involved in your community! Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board, effect city policies by learning about zoning and attending city council meetings, learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice and let your congress person know what you think.

10. SHARE your passion! Talk to your friends and family about why our food choice matters.

And organize a FRESH screening.

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