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Friday’s the deadline to sign Civility Pledge

March 24, 2012

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

March 2, 2012: Music helps visualize a beautiful path to peace, by Barbara Akers

March 2, 2012

I never cease to be amazed at the way God weaves life moment by moment.

While playing the piano one morning, I received several welcomed phone calls from family and friends. Before returning to my piano, I checked for any new emails and was surprised to see I was asked to write a column for the Blade-Empire. My first thought was could I ever compose a piece worthy of printing in the time allowed. Within minutes though, I realized my morning was already writing the piece for me. The theme — “building community, nurturing relationships: a path to peace” — was exactly what my phone conversations and piano music had been speaking to my heart.

During my phone visits, no world peace treaties were signed, crimes continued to be committed and injustices and poverty still overwhelmed people’s lives. That morning, though, found me coming alongside family members and friends as we each poured ourselves out, the good, the bad and yes, even at times the ugly. There was some laughter and even once the choking back of tears. The conversations were filled with life: births anticipated, relationships desired, choices being made, thankfulness for each other and even amazement at dire situations playing out to perfection. We were a community; we are a community. We are there for each other, always striving to build each other up and never tear down.

The song I was playing that morning was “How Beautiful” by Twila Paris. I never tire of the continuous practice as it fills my soul with joy.

One word is printed above the first note to describe the manner in which it should be played, “flowing.”  About midway through the song the flow changes with larger chords, different runs and even a brief new rhythm. I find my fingers stretching and my mind tensed trying to accomplish the passage. Shortly, it quiets down to very simple flow again. Someone unfamiliar with the song could easily think it is about finished.  The soft passage is leading to an impressive key change and powerful flowing music to the slowed end. Throughout the music there are a numerous instances of notes played together that normally would be thought to clash, yet when mixed in with other notes they bring the perfect blend of harmony.

There are two phrases in the lyrics that lend well to the message of this article.  The first is “how beautiful the tender eyes that choose to forgive and never despise.”

We all have at times been on the giving or receiving end of hurtful words or actions. Can we choose today to ask forgiveness from those we have hurt and offer forgiveness to those who brought us pain? Can we feel the “how beautiful” already showering down on us?  Romans 12:18 states, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The whole forgiveness issue depends on each of us individually. As we are able to offer and accept forgiveness, we will experience inner peace. Forgiving is always worth the cost.

The other phrase is “how beautiful when humble hearts give the fruit of pure lives so that others may live,” which takes me straight to Galatians 5:22-23a:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Just think what a ripple effect could occur if we each could be humble enough to allow those “fruits” to flow from us to others. Can we choose today to work on having that beautiful outpouring from us to others rather than no outpouring or worse yet, harsh words, impatience, hatred and tearing down? The fruit of the Spirit when shared will always build up and nurture.

The phrase “how beautiful” occurs 20 times in the song. If even one were removed, the lyrics would be incomplete.

We will each desire the song of our life to be one of beauty. How many times will we allow the Master Composer to insert “how beautiful” in our composition? Will we choose to have a simple flow from start to finish or will we welcome more challenging passages that stretch and tense us and develop strength and growth within? Will our life song build towards the finish? As our responsibilities from earlier years change, we may just find opportunities to serve, give and come alongside others knocking at our door.

Will we want those notes that should clash interspersed throughout our life song? Think for a moment. Every one of us is capable of being a clashing note. Beautiful harmony is only achieved as we look beyond ourselves. As we slowly master that more difficult task, we will realize that community is being built, relationships are being nurtured and the path to peace is almost visible.

How Beautiful.

— Barbara Akers is a wife, mother and grandmother who lives in Concordia.

Lunch participants learn about anti-poverty ‘Circles’

February 23, 2012

An anti-poverty initiative that brings together struggling families and community mentors might be a way to help people in Concordia, those attending Thursday’s “working lunch” at the Nazareth Motherhouse learned.

• • • • • • •

Jennifer Stull, who works in the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Initiatives office, has been researching the national Circles Campaign, which to date has programs in 62 communities across 23 states. In Kansas, Stull said, there are Circles operating in Newton, Hutchinson and McPherson.

“This idea connects everything we’ve been talking about today,” Stull told the nearly 40 people attending the lunch, which was the 17th session in the Community Needs Forum, a process that started in the fall of 2008. The idea from the very first has been to bring together people from throughout Concordia to identify what participants see as the greatest needs in the community and then work to seek solutions.

From the start poverty has been a major concern. But, noted Sister Jean Rosemarynoski, attempts to tackle the issues surrounding poverty in Concordia have “sputtered” despite continued concern for people living in poverty.

Stull said that the Circles campaign is designed to recruit “people who are tired of living in poverty” and who are willing to “take a very tough look at their lives” in the intensive program. Those people are the Circle Leaders, who are then joined by Circle Allies — volunteers from middle-classes or higher-income families who mentor and support the Leaders as they set goals and work toward them.

Stull said one of the strengths of the Circles design is that while it recognizes the importance of the “safety net” of social services that exists for families living in poverty, the long-term goal is for families to no longer need those services.

Speaking to representatives from social service agencies attending the lunch, she said, “Your services are there to help people facing tough times, and the Circles help them change their lives so the times aren’t as tough.”

Stull said that the Sisters of St. Joseph are researching how the Circles work, especially in Newton, Kan., which has had the program in place for about two years. A contingent of sisters from Concordia plan a trip to Newton in the next week or so to learn more.

Stull said there are still many questions to be answered about how the program works, how participants are recruited and how it’s all funded.

She will present a more detailed report at the next working lunch on May 16.

There were also a variety of updates and announcements at Thursday’s lunch:

  •  Signature sheets for the 2012 Civility Pledge will be circulated beginning today. In each of the past two years, the Concordia Year of Peace Committee has collected signatures on the pledge for “civility in public discourse,” and has then published those signatures in space donated by the Concordia Blade-Empire. The deadline for turning in signatures is March 30, and the signature sheets are also available to download as a PDF. CLICK HERE to go to that site.
  •  On March 12, at 7 p.m., there will be free public presentation titled “Social Hosting 101,” which will look at the law and potential consequences of hosting parties where alcohol is served to underage drinkers. This is the first in a series titled “Alcohol and Drug Information 101,” which will be on the second Monday of each month and will cover a variety of topics about drug and alcohol use and abuse. Jim Kerr, a member of the Cloud County Chemical Dependency Committee that’s sponsoring the series, encouraged parents and young people to come and learn more. The free presentation will be at Cook Theatre at Cloud County Community College.
  •  There are still three plots available in the Concordia Community Garden of Hope, according to coordinator Cecilia Thrash, who works at Manna House of Prayer. The garden is on the northeast corner of the Motherhouse property and plots cost $13 to rent for the entire growing season. Weather permitting, the garden will open this year on March 15, Thrash said. For information or to sign up for a plot, call Manna House at 243-4428.
  •  The county extension office is again encouraging Concordians to take part in Walk Kansas, an eight-week team fitness program that begins March 18. Information is available at the extension office in the Cloud County Courthouse.
  •  The annual Nazareth Motherhouse Spaghetti Dinner is set for Sunday, March 25. Dinner will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., plus there will be prize drawings, live musical entertainment, grab bags, a bake sale and guided tours of the historic building. Tickets in advance are $8 for adults and $4 for children 5 to 12. (Kids 4 and younger eat free.) To reserve your tickets, call or email the sisters’ Development Office: or 243-2113, ext. 1223.
  •  There’s a Cancer Support Group that meets on the third Tuesday of each month at the Motherhouse, and Jane Wahlmeier encouraged those attending the working lunch to spread the word about the group. It’s open to any cancer patients and cancer survivors, their family members and their caregivers. For information on the group, call Wahlmeier at 243-2113, ext. 1101.



It’s time again to pledge to be civil!

February 23, 2012

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.

Sister adds testimony against HB 2576

February 14, 2012

 Sister Esther Pineda, director of the Justice and Peace Center in Salina, on Feb. 15, 2012, submitted this letter of opposition to Kansas House Bill 2576. The so-called “Anti-Harboring Bill” would make it a crime to harbor or assist any person who is subsequently found to be in the United States without documentation. The Kansas House of Representatives is holding hearings on HB 2576 and other immigration-related measures this week.

The full text of the letter is below. Or, for a copy in Word document format, CLICK HERE.


February 15, 2012


House Federal and State Affairs Committee
Representative Steve Brunk, Chairman
Topeka, KS


I am submitting this written testimony to be filed with the record of testimony in opposition to HB 2576.

We, Sisters of St. Joseph have been in Kansas since 1883 ministering to the needs of Kansans in the area of education and health care.  Our religious Charism and faith calls us to be attentive to the most vulnerable; among them, the immigrant who finds himself/ herself away from home and, often, in vulnerable situations.

It goes without saying, that our immigration policy is broken. We are pained by the inability of the Federal Government to enact a fair and humane immigration policy; therefore, causing undue and unnecessary hardships on the immigrant who is present among us.  As a community of faith, we are committed to fair and just solutions, but these solutions only come through the Federal government who is charged with the responsibility of immigration; States trying to “piece meal” a solution is at times harmful and at best, not helpful.

In a desperate grasp of the issue, this Kansas legislation (HB2576) is proposing that communities of faith, such as mine, choose between following the law and following the dictates of our faith. Aiding those in need is one of the basic tenants of our faith and of our Religious Community.  The Sisters of St. Joseph must consider the “dear neighbor” without distinction. We take seriously the teaching of Jesus who said, “In Matthew’s text on the Final Judgment : “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a  stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35) .  And I don’t believe Matthew added: AND YOU MIGHT BE ARRESTED FOR DOING SO!

Specifically, we oppose any legislative proposal (such as HB2576) that would:

  • Require clergy and lay leaders to enforce  immigration policies, discriminate based upon immigration status, or take legal responsibility for failing to report the undocumented to immigration officials,
  • Create barriers to essential services for those eligible, particularly the U.S.-born children of mixed-status households.

Living according to our faith and community’s directive to extend compassion should not be criminalized as “harboring.”

Sister Esther Pineda, CSJ