• Father Lawrence Kramer

    FORT WAYNE — Father Lawrence A. Kramer, retired diocesan priest of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, died Jan. 23 while in Florida. He was 79.

    Born in Fort Wayne to Lawrence and Etheldreda (Garty) Kramer, he grew up with a younger brother, Roger, who resides in California. His family belonged to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He attended Cathedral Grade School and Central Catholic High School in Fort Wayne.

    In an article published by Today’s Catholic, Father Kramer described his call to the Priesthood: “About half way through my senior year at Central Catholic High School. I had ruled out the Priesthood as a freshman, convinced that I belonged in the lay apostolate. Suddenly I couldn’t see myself as anything but a parish priest. I immediately made a deal with God. I would assume this was what God wanted of me and not agonize over it and God would be gentle in getting me out of the preparation process if I was wrong. My only doubt was, at age 17, whether I would live long enough to be ordained!”

    He attended Our Lady of the Lake Seminary, Wawasee, and St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, and was ordained to the Priesthood on May 28, 1960 by Bishop Leo A. Pursley in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

    Father Kramer’s initial appointments were as associate pastor (judicial vicar) at St. Matthew, South Bend (1960), and St. Peter, Fort Wayne (1964). He also was named Fort Wayne deanery moderator of the Christian Family Movement (1966) and appointed diocesan director of the Family Life Bureau (1968) while continuing to serve at St. Peter.

    In 1969, Father Kramer was appointed chaplain of Catholic students attending Indiana Institute of Technology in Fort Wayne. He was a founder of “commuter Campus Ministry” at Indiana Tech and Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne and Indiana University-South Bend.

    Father Kramer’s pastoral assignments included St. Peter (1970), St. Andrew (1971) and Our Lady of Good Hope (1981), all in Fort Wayne; St. Joseph, Bluffton (1997), and St. Paul of the Cross, Columbia City (2003). He also served as associate pastor at St. Vincent de Paul, Elkhart (1973), and was in residence at both the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (1978) and St. Joseph, Fort Wayne (1979), while continuing his work in campus ministry.

    Father Kramer was twice appointed a judge in the diocesan Tribunal and thrice served as an episcopal vicar in a Fort Wayne region of the diocese. He was appointed chaplain (1997), and assistant chaplain (2009) at Bishop Luers High School, Fort Wayne, and he served two, three-year terms on the Presbyteral Council.

    “I never looked upon my priesthood as a job — it’s a lifestyle,” Father Kramer said. “I never had trouble moving from one job to another. They all fit the container.”

    In retirement, Father Kramer was in residence as a senior priest at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Fort Wayne.

    In an interview with Today’s Catholic, Father Kramer said, “My favorite activity as a priest is the sacrament of Reconciliation. Unlike some, I find it to be alive and well, better in fact than in the days when people trooped to Confession in large numbers. Those who use this sacrament today understand it and appreciate it.”

    Father Kramer enjoyed lap swimming, train travel, reading periodicals and other nonfiction, listening to music of several kinds and watching TV documentaries.

    Among the throngs who mourn Father Kramer’s passing is Sister Rose Clare Ehrlich, a Sister of St. Agnes, director of liturgy and music at St. Joseph, Bluffton, and St. Paul of the Cross in Columbia City. Sister Rose Clare, who worked with Father Kramer at both parishes for 10 years, says of her friend, “I found him one of the most gentle, caring, listening persons that I would ever want to work with. He was always there when you needed him.”

    In a tribute to Father Kramer on his 50th jubilee in 2010 she wrote, “We treasure your mild manner, humility, gentle compassion, your ability to see the humor in situations and your Christ-like invitational leadership.”

    Upon Father Kramer’s retirement over a year and a half ago, he relocated to Fort Wayne where he took an active role in ministry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. Father Jim Shafer, pastor there, said of his friend, “More than any other priest I’ve met over my years, Father Larry had a very compassionate heart. He never met a person he turned away. … He was the most non-judgmental person I’ve ever met.”

    Father Shafer noted that Father Kramer enjoyed conversing with the seminarians that visited or interned at the parish, saying, “He loved to share his wisdom.”

    And on a personal note Father Shafer added, “He was a good friend with an absolutely delightful sense of humor. He was the king of one-liners. … He brought a lot of laughter to the rectory, a lot of good conversation. I do miss him already.”

    Services for Father Kramer will be as follows:

    Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne
    Reception of the Body: 3 p.m.
    Rosary: 4:30 p.m.
    Vigil Service: 7 p.m.
    Visitation: 3-7 p.m.

    Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne
    Visitation: 10-10:50 a.m.
    Mass of Christian Burial: 11 a.m.
    Burial: Catholic Cemetery immediately following

    Posted on January 28, 2014, to:

  • By Tim Johnson

    FORT WAYNE — In a small yellow home on Fort Wayne’s eastside live Madeline and James Nugent, who follow the Rule of 1221 and live their lives “privately and quietly” in a “penitent’s lifestyle.” The Nugents belong to the Confraternity of Penitents, a private association of the faithful with commendation under Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.

    The Confraternity consists of single and married people worldwide who are joyfully living in their own homes a modern adaptation of the Rule of Life given in the year 1221 to the penitent men and women at the time of St. Francis of Assisi. The Rule eventually became the Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi.

    Madeline described the penitents’ lifestyle as more prescriptive than the Third Order of Secular Franciscans of today. The penitents following the Rule of 1221 are prescribed what they can wear, what prayers to say and when to say the prayers, for example.

    The Nugents will testify that the goal of this Rule of Life is to bring those who live it closer to God and more peacefully conformed to God’s will.

    “We have people who are living this Rule of Life from all different walks of life,” Madeline told Today’s Catholic in an interview from the Nugents’ Fort Wayne home. “We have single young people to old married people to people that have families with small children, and some people who are caring for elderly people, people who have full-time jobs, people who are retired,” Madeline said. “Each one of them is going to live their life a little differently because they are lay people in the world.”

    Madeline is the minister general in the Confraternity. She assembles the newsletter and oversees the administrative aspect of the Confraternity, which is based in Fort Wayne. She has written books for Pauline Books and Media, Catholic Book Company and New City Press. In researching the life of St. Anthony of Padua for a book, she found her path to the Rule of 1221.

    “So I blame it on St. Anthony,” Madeline quipped. “If I hadn’t done that book on St. Anthony, I wouldn’t have known what that Rule of Life was.” That was in 1994, and since that time, James, a recently retired chemistry professor from Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, also has chosen the penitent’s lifestyle. The couple recently relocated from Rhode Island to Fort Wayne.

    The Nugents have five adult children, including one daughter who is a Capuchin Sister of Nazareth in Pennsylvania, and four grandchildren.

    None of their children are penitents, but the children accept their parents’ lifestyle. “They didn’t even know I was doing this for a number of years,” Madeline said, even though they lived under the same roof. “They found out about the food part just a couple years ago.”

    People interested in adapting to the penitents’ lifestyle will go through four years of formation.

    “When someone comes to us to join, they go through a three-month process of inquiry,” Madeline said. “Then they have six to 12 months of postulancy where they kind of get into the Rule a little bit.”

    “They do little parts of the Rule, but not anything too difficult,” she added. “They start to wear a cross or crucifix or they will go to Confession once a month. They will do a morning and evening examination of conscience during the month.”

    In the years of novice training, the penitents learn the lifestyle “a little bit at a time” and then slowly build the practices over three years.

    Madeline said a first-year novice has a prayer option that he or she can select: one is praying a full Liturgy of the Hours — that’s praying seven times a day from a breviary, a book which many religious use for daily prayer. Or the penitent may pray Morning, Evening and Night Prayer and a 15-decade rosary; or Morning, Evening and Night Prayer and an hour of mental prayer; or in the situation of parents with small children, with their spiritual director’s permission, they can calm themselves down and lift their minds and hearts to God during the day and use that as a prayer option.

    “The way you do your prayer option differs according to your state in life,” Madeline said.

    Fasting and abstinence are part of Novice 2 formation, which is actually the third year of formation.

    “We eat meat only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. That is part of the penance, unless it falls on Christmas, an octave or one of the solemnities,” Madeline said.

    “Meatless days are the other days of the week,” she said. “We have a period of fasting according to the Church fast from the day after the feast of St. Martin (Nov.11) until Christmas — we observe a Lenten-like fast before Christmas. Then we observe the Lenten fast from Ash Wednesday until Easter, but we fast the way we would on Good Friday all the days (of Lent) — one full meal, one small meal and, if one needs it, a small bite to eat. … You don’t eat solids between meals. And the amount that you eat is according to your body weight.”

    There are exceptions to the fasting, Madeline noted — for example, if a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding, or if a person has diabetes or a medical condition, “then you can do penance in another way,” she said.

    The third year of novice formation is the simplicity of possessions and clothing.

    “We follow the original Rule, which talked about un-dyed clothing of humble quality,” she said. “The only fur that they would use is wool.”

    Clothing color options would be solids of grays, browns, shades of whites, creams, tans and blacks. Prints are not used.

    “We can also wear solid blue clothing in honor of the Blessed Mother,” Madeline said, because “we make a consecration to the Blessed Mother every day.”

    “The clothing is not a habit, though,” James emphasized.

    “You’re not supposed to wear the same thing every day,” Madeline said, “so people don’t realize you are doing penance in that area.”

    In the Novice 3 formation, “You’re also supposed to go through and simplify the possessions that you have, so you don’t have more stuff than you really need to have,” Madeline said.

    “You try to simplify it down,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a car, you can’t have a computer. We have all those things. We just ask people not to have something that they really don’t need to have.”

    Noted historical penitents include St. Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, King Louis IX and St. Thomas More. Although they had riches and wealth, they were able to simplify their lifestyle. “They lived the Rule but they did it according to their state in life,” Madeline said.

    In Fort Wayne, the local chapter, Our Lady Cause of Our Joy Chapter of the Confraternity of Penitents, has 12 to 15 penitents. They meet on a Sunday once a month from 2-4 p.m. There are also many isolated members throughout the world who stay connected through email, postal mail and telephone. Only two people are needed to start a group.

    Brother Fidelis Maria of the Franciscan Brothers Minor is the spiritual assistant for the Fort Wayne group. Bishop Rhoades has appointed Father Jacob Meyer, parochial vicar at St. Charles Borromeo Church, Fort Wayne, as Confraternity visitor, that is the entire Confraternity’s spiritual guide and representative to the bishop. The local Confraternity is involved with activities of the Franciscan Brothers Minor.

    The website, www.penitents.org, offers in depth information on the Rule and the Constitutions. Those interested would need to see if they think, “I would really like to live this way,” Madeline said. Even if living the Rule has appeal but they don’t think they can do it, Madeline encouraged them to still inquire. She said that, when she felt called to live this way, she was “positive she wouldn’t be able to do it.”

    If an individual feels the Holy Spirit is asking him or her to inquire, then he or she should give the Nugents a call, Madeline said. The number is (260) 739-6882. Or they can email either of the two emails at www.penitents.org.


    Posted on January 28, 2014, to:

  • For more photos visit the photo gallery.

    Posted on January 28, 2014, to:

  • By Marsha Jordan, Interim Superintendent of Catholic Schools

    “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service,” is the theme chosen for Catholic Schools Week, 2014. The heart of a Catholic education is a strong Catholic school community, and the foundation for that community is our faith.

    Catholic education is an expression of the mission entrusted by Jesus to the Church He founded. Through education, the Church seeks to prepare its youth to proclaim the Good News and to translate this proclamation into action. We believe very strongly that we have a mission and that it is to build up members of the Church by nurturing the mind, body and spirit of young people today.

    Our children are why Catholic schools exist, but it is the dedicated teaching staff that constitutes the heart of the school. For Catholic educators, every year is a “year of faith,” for every year is an opportunity to provide a vibrant faith-filled academic program, as well as a commitment to service. While noted as schools of academic excellence, the special character and reason for the existence of the Catholic school is the quality of the religious instruction integrated into the overall education of the students (“Catechesi Trendendae,” 69). Our faith is the sturdy framework around which everything else is integrated: a challenging curriculum rooted in Gospel values and Catholic teachings, the sacraments, liturgy, prayer, religious instruction and service experiences. If it is truly effective, the religious education and faith formation touches all members of the school community — students, parents, teachers, administrators and staff — forming them in the way of holiness.

    Teachers in Catholic schools are in a privileged position. It is they who have the opportunity to model the faith, and guide both students and parents, instilling in them a sense of the Gospel challenge to acknowledge God’s central place in their lives. With their enthusiastic devotion to the mission of the Catholic school, teachers do whatever is necessary to help children grow and develop their gifts, and to form disciples — students who know, love and serve Christ, in this world and the next.

    When Blessed John Paul II visited New York in 1979, he inspired thousands of Catholic teachers who were present with the following words: “Jesus shares with you His teaching ministry. Only in close communion with Him can you respond adequately. This is my hope, this is my prayer: That you will be totally open to Christ. That He will give you an ever-greater love for your students and an even stronger commitment to your vocation as Catholic educators. If you continue to be faithful to this ministry… you will be doing much to shape a peaceful, just and hope-filled world for the future. Yours is a great gift to the Church, a great gift to the nation.”

    The mission of our Catholic schools is perhaps more important today than ever. Over the last academic year, 3,900 students have been admitted to diocesan schools with state school choice support. These 3,900 new students have been afforded the opportunity to learn and embrace their faith through the support of a community of dedicated, faith-filled teachers, administrators and pastors.

    An 11 year old from one diocesan school described his enthusiasm for his new Catholic school: “Our teacher helps us learn math and reading, but we get to pray and talk about Jesus, too. I like it when we go to Mass together as a school, and it’s special when you get to do the readings. Most of all, I’m glad I’m learning to be an altar server.”

    Currently, across our diocese, there are approximately 900 children with some identified special need being served within our schools. We must continue to minister to the needs of special education students, while securing additional specialists with various areas of expertise who can address all aspects of students’ learning and respect the challenges they face.

    Over the last three years, teachers and administrators in our diocese have been diligently working together to strengthen diocesan curriculum, subject by subject, in order to improve upon not only what is taught, but how it is taught. As these very knowledgeable educators work together, they have a constant awareness that our curriculum must integrate fully with our faith.

    As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week 2014, we offer gratitude to the many parents, past and present, who have entrusted the treasure of their children to the care of Catholic schools. We also offer sincere gratitude to the 1,400 Catholic schoolteachers, administrators, staff members and pastors who lead the 41 schools of our diocese. They truly are, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “great gifts to the Church.” These men and women understand their important vocation and are answering the call to shape a “peaceful, just and hope-filled world for the future.” For this, 14,000 diocesan students and their parents are the fortunate and grateful beneficiaries.

    The continuing success of the ministry of Catholic schools depends upon the commitment and support of teachers, parents and the whole Catholic community. Through their generous contributions of time, talent, treasure and prayer, the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will long remain strong in faith, knowledge and service.


    Posted on January 22, 2014, to:

  • Principal Jason Schiffli, chaplain Father Jacob Meyer and student council member Audrey Rang greet Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at the main entrance to Bishop Dwenger High School at the start of the bishop’s pastoral visit on Jan. 14.

    More photos in the photo gallery

    FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass and visited classrooms during his recent pastoral visit to Bishop Dwenger High School. He also made a surprise announcement of the newly named patron saint of the school, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of All Saints, whose feast day is Aug. 22. Since the school mascot is a saint, the bishop said he thought the designation was especially appropriate and the students reacted with pleasure and spontaneous applause. And Bishop Rhoades also conferred the sacrament of Confirmation on senior Alex Schenkel during the Mass, an unprecedented event on school grounds for the more than 1,000 students in attendance.

    In greeting the student body, Bishop Rhoades said, “It’s great to be with you today … one of my favorite things as a bishop is my visits to high schools.”

    In opening his remarks during the homily, he said, “I’d like to reflect with you today on three people, Hannah, Samuel and Alexander.”

    Hannah, one of the great women of the Bible, was unable to bear children. Because she was reproached, criticized and ridiculed for her frailty, she was deeply hurt and fell into depression. This was her weakness, that she drew her self-esteem from the opinions of others, the bishop said. We too can be strongly influenced by others and by our culture.

    “This weakness reveals a lack of knowledge, in our heart as well as our mind, that our true worth comes from our identity as beloved children of God,” said Bishop Rhoades.

    However, we can learn from Hannah’s strength as well, he pointed out. She had a deep faith in God and never doubted His power. She beseeched Him until God finally answered her prayer and she conceived and gave birth to a son, Samuel. Hannah teaches us to persevere in prayer.

    Her son Samuel teaches us lessons as well, said Bishop Rhoades. He was a prophet and a judge, a great figure of the Old Testament. He anointed the first king of Israel, Saul, and Saul’s successor, King David. Samuel was honest and fair and dispensed God’s law impartially. As a prophet, he exhorted the people to turn away from idolatry and to serve God alone. Samuel was a man of great integrity who loved God and obeyed Him without question. His first loyalty was to God, regardless of what the king or the people thought of him.

    “This is the faith and loyalty that is so needed in our culture today. … Sometimes being a good Catholic is unpopular,” he said. We need the courage to live our faith even when it brings criticism or rejection. “We need courageous young people like you, Bishop Dwenger Saints.”

    The third person Bishop Rhoades spoke of was Alexander, a student at Bishop Dwenger High School, not about his background or life, but about the event taking place that day, his reception of the sacrament of Confirmation.

    Posted on January 22, 2014, to: