• INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told 150 lawmakers, a packed House Chamber gallery and countless others watching outside and electronically that school choice was a “civil right, the human right,” and a matter of “justice” for parents and children in Indiana, during his seventh state of the state address Jan. 14.

    With Republican majorities in the House and Senate, there is little stopping state lawmakers from enacting educational opportunities for children to attend a private school of their parent’s choice-and in many cases, it will be a Catholic school.

    Daniels credited lawmakers for expanding public school choice options by allowing families to attend the school of their choice tuition free within existing school districts and through charter schools, but said, “One more step is necessary.”

    “For families who cannot find the right traditional public school, or the right charter school for their child, and are not wealthy enough to move near one, justice requires that we help,” said Daniels. “We should let these families apply dollars that the state spends on their child to the non-government school of their choice.”

    Glenn Tebbe, Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) executive director said that the Catholic Church has been working toward and ready for this change for decades. “We agree with Gov. Daniels,” said Tebbe. “School choice is a matter of justice for all.

    “Parents, as the primary teachers and caregivers of their children, have the fundamental right and responsibility to educate their children,” said Tebbe. “The state must make possible the right of parents to choose appropriate educational opportunities best-suited to their children’s needs. The governor’s initiative does this.

    “Parents without financial means are often faced with fewer options. We are concerned about children who do not have a fair shot at a good education either because of a failing school district, or just because the school setting is not the right fit for that child,” said Tebbe. “Catholic schools will not replace public schools, but offer an alternative for those who need one.”

    “School choice is definitely a civil right and it is the right thing to do,” said Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who chairs the House Education Committee and who will carry the education reform bill in the House. “Over time school choice has become a civil right. Unfortunately minority children usually are in school corporations that are not performing well and they have no options.

    Behning said, “The scholarship plan is based on where the children live. The scholarship amount will be a 90 percent reimbursement of the ADM (average daily membership) cost based on where they live.”

    Behning gave the example that if a student who lived in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) wanted to attend a Catholic school in the archdiocese, the scholarship formula would work like this. The IPS ADM is $8,000, that student would get a 90 percent reimbursement of $7,200 to use toward the school of their choice. If the Catholic school is charging $4,200 for the year, the state reimbursement or scholarship award to the student would be at $4,200.

    Behning said, “At this point, I’m optimistic it will make it through the House.” Behning who has been a school choice advocate for years said, “The reality is most families in Indiana will continue to choose a public school. The goal of the education reform package is to provide an atmosphere in schools that will create an outstanding public school system,” he said. “The private school choice is just a piece of the reform package. It needs to work all together. The package, in tandem, will move Indiana forward in school performance,” said Behning.

    Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, Sen. Education Committee chair, said the legislature will work to expand public school choice by expanding charter schools, and granting private school choice through opportunity scholarships for students to use at non-government schools.

    “The scholarships target students most in need of school choice opportunities, and it is a matter of justice,” said Sen. Kruse. “The more choices we offer parents the better off society is. There will also be a new level of competition.”

    When asked if he thought the private school choice piece would pass this year, Sen. Kruse responded, “We definitely have our work cut out for us, but I’m optimistic that it will pass. I think it’s achievable.”

    These reforms are going to offer Catholic schools a very increased role and growth in education,” said Kruse. “They will be able to help more students than ever before.”

    In his concluding remarks of his state of the state address, the governor told lawmakers, “Our children are waiting. Fellow citizens are waiting. History is waiting. You’re going to do great things. It’s going to be a session to remember. I can’t wait.”

    Posted on January 19, 2011, to:

  • Stewardship theme marks Bishop Rhoades’
    visit to Queen of Peace School

    By Karen Clifford

    For more photos from the visit click here.

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades asks Queen of Peace seventh graders what the vocation was of St. André Bessette.

    MISHAWAKA — The feast of St. André Bessette took on added joy for the students and parents of Queen of Peace School as Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades joined them for an all school Mass and school visit on Jan. 6. And it was fitting that St. André’s dedication to the poor and the sick coincided with the school’s emphasis on stewardship through service, outreach and the care of earth resources.

    During Bishop Rhoades’ homily at the Mass, he spoke of how Brother André’s position as his congregation’s doorkeeper and devotion to Christ drew people to seek his advice. “A lot of people who came to see him were sick and poor and they asked for his prayers and many of them were healed,” Bishop Rhoades remarked.

    Bishop Rhoades tied the feast of St. André Bessette with the Mass reading from the first Letter of John where loving God and the love for one another are inseparable. “If you really love God, you are going to love God’s sons and daughters.”

    When he asked first graders at the Mass how people can show their love for God, answers included saying prayers, extending someone a hug and giving someone chocolates. Laughter from the congregation and Bishop Rhoades ensued, and afterwards he explained to the students that he used to live near Hershey, Pa., where many chocolates are made.

    The school’s emphasis of stewardship was evident as Bishop Rhoades toured the school. Tina Dover, principal of Queen of Peace School, noted that service projects are carried out by individual classes, student council Spirit Days and students involved with the St. Vincent de Paul Society (affectionately referred to as Minnie Vinnies).

    In the past few months the Center for the Homeless received gently used toys from grades 1-5, and new mittens, hats, gloves and scarves from middle school students at Queen of Peace. Preschoolers offered their support through a blanket drive for the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
    Student Council sponsors a school Spirit Day at least once a month where students pay $1 to wear jeans and a Queen of Peace Puma shirt to school with the proceeds going to the Center for the Homeless.

    Laurie Haverty, adult leader of the school’s Minnie Vinnie program, stated that the group distributed 35 holiday food baskets to those in need in the local community, and a food drive for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which netted 2,600 food items. In October, the group sent packages to seminary students at Mount St. Mary’s which included candy, homemade saint cards and tree of life leaves.

    “The ‘leaves’ that we sent were leaf cutouts and we asked the seminarians to place a name of someone who has passed away on the leaves and return them to Queen of Peace. Each year, the school has a large ‘Tree of Life’ painted on the glass by the school. The students place their own leaves (and this year those of the seminarians as well) on the tree and we pray for these people all throughout November,” Haverty explained.

    Stewardship is also seen through the school’s emphasis on the sustainability of the environment. Second-grade teacher Gabriella Layman introduced her class to the meaning of the word “sustainability.”

    “I explained that we are using less of something to get something more, whether that applies to using less water, turning off the faucet while they are brushing their teeth and turning off lights. We just did our New Year wishes and half of the things that they said were using ‘sustainability’ to save our earth,” said Layman.

    A savings of $500 on one month’s school electrical bill was achieved by turning off one of the two light switches in class each day, she added.
    Father Daniel Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Parish, emphasized that keeping the Catholic identity of the school is a crucial part of the school’s mission. “Under the special patronage of Our Lady, Queen of Peace School exists to be like Mary and Joseph’s home at Nazareth, a place where children can come to know and love Jesus Christ and the truth of the world He came to save.”

    As a part of keeping with the Catholic identity, an Epiphany concert featuring all of the school’s students was held on the evening of Jan. 6 to celebrate the solemnity on its actual date.

    Music teacher Lynn Lambert summed up the excitement of the students for Bishop Rhoades’ visit and Epiphany concert. “Joy to the world, for He has come. The angels are rejoicing, we are rejoicing, and we want to give God the glory for this. It’s the end of the Christmas season, and Jesus is the best gift of all.”

    Contact Information:

    Queen of Peace School
    4508 Vistula Rd.| Mishawaka, IN 46544

    Pastor: Father Daniel Scheidt
    Principal: Tina Dover
    Staff of 18 with 3 aides
    Preschool Enrollment for 2010-2011 — 46
    Kindergarten through Eighth Grade Enrollment for 2010 -2011 — 165
    Telephone: (574) 255-0392
    Web Address – www.queenofpeace.cc

    Posted on January 12, 2011, to:

  • Bishop Rhoades visits St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth School

    By Kay Cozad

    Click here for more photos from the visit

    Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades shakes fourth-grader Nina Finnen’s hand after she and classmates Jasmine Plaisance and Kevin Stuczynski presented the offertory gifts during the all-school Mass held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church on Jan. 4. Other SJSE students served as readers, altar servers and musicians at the Mass.

    FORT WAYNE — During his first pastoral school visit of the new year Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades traveled between the two campuses that make up St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth School in Fort Wayne on Tuesday, Jan. 4. His first stop was to the St. Joseph campus on Brooklyn Avenue.

    St. Joseph School was established in 1918 by the Sisters of St. Agnes. The current Brooklyn Avenue building opened in 1953 and provided a quality Catholic education for students kindergarten through eighth grade until the burgeoning St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish on Aboite Center Road constructed a catechetical center that expanded the school to two campuses. It was in 1997 that kindergarten, first- and second-grade classes moved to the St. Elizabeth campus creating the joint school. Third and fourth grades followed in 2007 with another expansion to the St. Elizabeth campus.

    At the St. Joseph campus, following a brief visit with office staff, Bishop Rhoades, along with St. Joseph pastor Father Tim Wrozek, both of whom are fluent in Spanish, St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Principal Lois Widner and Catholic Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Myers surprised the eighth-grade Spanish class with an impromptu appearance. Later in the gym the curious fifth- and sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes listened attentively as Bishop Rhoades spoke of his devotion to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, whose feast day they celebrated that very day.

    Each grade had the opportunity to ask Bishop Rhoades questions that ranged from curiosity about his favorite Scripture to his pectoral cross and ring. One eighth-grade student stumped Bishop Rhoades with his chosen Confirmation saint, John Wall, an English cleric from the 1600s.
    The sixth-grade religion students thrilled at showing off their in-class Smartboard during a review activity and the upper classmen of St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth School sent Bishop Rhoades off in style by presenting him with a school sweatshirt and stocking cap.

    Following lunch with teachers and staff Bishop Rhoades traveled to the St. Elizabeth campus where he, St. Elizabeth pastor Father Jim Shafer and parochial vicar Father Andrew Curry met with the kindergarten through fourth-grade classes individually, offering them encouragement to pray for their own vocations, reciting traditional prayers, and answering their questions concerning such matters as his marital status and the size of his zucchetto cap. The lower grades of the school presented Bishop Rhoades with an embroidered blanket in the school’s blue.

    An All-School Mass at St. Elizabeth Church was celebrated by Bishop Rhoades, along with concelebrants Fathers Wrozek, Shafer and Curry. Students of the school reverently served as readers, altar servers, gift bearers and in the jubilant contemporary band and choir.

    During his homily the bishop spoke of the life of St. Elizabeth Seton and his special devotion to her as they celebrated her feast day. He had attended college in Emmitsburg, Md., where St. Elizabeth is buried, for only two weeks when the celebration of her canonization occurred.
    Bishop Rhoades spoke of how St. Elizabeth founded the first Catholic School in the U.S. “How fortunate you are to attend a school named after this great saint,” he said. Bishop Rhoades noted that St. Elizabeth had a deep devotion to St. Joseph and founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. “There is a beautiful connection to have this school named for St. Joseph and St. Elizabeth.”

    In conclusion Bishop Rhoades said, “We ask her for prayers for this school and parish to strive to be like her … Strong and faithful followers of Jesus.”

    Bishop Rhoades introduced St. Elizabeth Parish’s first vocation, seminarian Royce Gregerson, who served at the All-School Mass and encouraged the students to pray for him and consider a vocation to the religious life.

    The accredited St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth School boasts two classes for each grade, with up to 30 students in each class. Kindergarten is the exception with three classes of up to 20 students each, including full-day and progressive-day. The 60 dedicated staff members include 35 certified teachers.

    Lois Widner has been principal of this two-campus school for nine years and finds little difficulty administering the two campuses. “The collaboration of the staff between the two campuses brings unity to the school,” Widner says, adding that upper classmen are paired with younger students in their spirit pals program that fosters friendships at both campuses as well.

    “We have a tremendous academic program and an awesome staff,” says Widner. “Our vision statement reads, ‘Building the foundation for a successful and faith-filled life.’ That’s what we’re all about.”

    In addition to daily religion classes, weekly Mass and a monthly All-School Mass, the students are challenged with not only the regular diocesan curriculum but several supplementary programs as well. St. Joseph has instituted the National Junior Honor Society that provides service opportunities as well as an all-grades Spanish program. Extracurricular activities include a variety of stewardship activities, a fine arts program that includes a guitar program, show choir and band, a peer mediator program, Scouts, CYO sports and a journalism club.

    The support staff at the school is well equipped to assist the students in a variety of ways. A resource room is available for academic assistance as well as the school counselor who offers not only support groups for various needs but sports therapy dogs on campus as well.

    The support of the pastors, staff, parents and students is what makes this school a stand out in Catholic education, says Principal Widner, who encourages interested parents to call for a tour.

    Father Wrozek is pleased with this joint school and says, “Our kids are really smart and good. The faculty and staff are by far head and shoulders above the rest.”

    Father Shafer agrees adding, “They’re the best kids in the world.”

    Contact Information”

    St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth School
    St. Elizabeth campus

    pre-K through fourth grade
    Enrollment: 327 students
    Pastor: Father Jim Shafer
    10700 Aboite Center Rd.
    Fort Wayne, IN 46804
    (260) 432-4001

    St. Joseph campus
    fifth through eighth grade
    Enrollment: 202 students
    Pastor: Father Tim Wrozek
    2211 Brooklyn Ave.
    Fort Wayne, IN 46802
    (260) 432-4000

    Principal for both campuses: Lois Widner
    Staff for both campuses: 60
    Website: www.sj-se.com

    Posted on January 12, 2011, to:

  • FORT WAYNE — While some schools and businesses take a day off to pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, the University of Saint Francis (USF) will take the opposite approach — a day “on.”

    USF will recognize national Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 17, with “Acting on the Dream: A Day On, Not a Day Off,” which gives students, faculty and staff a chance to lead children’s activities and participate in service projects across campus and Fort Wayne.

    The university will suspend classes so students can participate in the faculty organized and led projects. Other on-campus commemorative activities and displays open to the public will take place Jan. 17 through Feb 4.

    Service projects Jan. 17
    From 9 -11:30 a.m., students and faculty will play games and read to children at Charis House, which cares for homeless women and children, providing shelter, food, education and life skills. While the children are entertained, their mothers will receive hand care in the form of massages and paraffin dips by USF Physical Therapy Studies Club, and hair styling, makeup and nail care by Masters of Cosmetology of Fort Wayne students.

    From 9 a.m. to noon, students and faculty will organize merchandise, clean a back room and perform light maintenance for Fort Wayne Rescue Mission’s Bargains Galore Thrift Shop at 2203 S. Lafayette St.

    From 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 12:30-4 p.m., f/8 Photo Club will provide professional-quality on-site family portraits for residents of Vincent House and Vincent Village, which serves homeless families, at 2827 Houlton Ave.

    From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., USF students will serve as docents at the African American History Museum at 436 E. Douglas Ave.

    From noon to 4 p.m., the women’s soccer team will be reading, playing games and interacting with patients in the children’s wing at Lutheran Hospital at 7950 W. Jefferson Blvd.

    Service projects from 1-4 p.m. include: USF groups will dust and vacuum rooms, clean toys and bake cookies for families staying at Children’s Hope House at 7922 W. Jefferson Blvd., which provides a temporary, low-cost home-away-from-home for families whose children are being treated for serious illness, injuries or birth defects at area hospitals. 

    At St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store at 1600 S. Calhoun St., volunteers will tidy up and sort clothing for the store, which serves the needy.
    Another group will be storing inventory at Friends of the Third World, 611 W. Wayne St., which sells items produced by fair trade — in which the artisans receive education and a fair price for their goods.

    Volunteers will also organize donations for Vincent Village, which serves the homeless, at 2827 Holton Ave., while others will help elderly or needy Fort Wayne residents with cleaning, painting, yard work and other tasks as organized by NeighborLink Fort Wayne.

    Students and faculty will also sort and organize household items and clean the warehouse at Mustard Seed Furniture Bank at 3636 Illinois Rd., move, sort and organize items at Love Community Center at 1331 E. Berry St. and participate in art projects with children at Boys and Girls Club, a safe, after-school learning place, at 2609 Fairfield Ave.

    From 1:30-3:30 p.m., USF volunteers will sort food and perform general cleaning for the Associated Churches, 802 E. Wayne St., which supports the local food banks.

    Activities open to the public on Jan 17
    At 11 a.m. on Jan. 17, a prayer service will be conducted in Gunderson Auditorium, Achatz Hall.

    From 1-4 p.m. Celebrate the Dream: We Can All Play Together, will be an interactive activity with University of Saint Francis sports teams and education majors. A football toss, softball throw, basketball free-throw, peace bingo and bracelet-making are planned for kids of all ages in the North Campus gymnasium. As part of the event, Explore Your Dreams through Art will allow kids to express ideas with air-dry clay to take home and dry. Additional materials will also be available to combine with clay and work with creatively. Parents are required to stay with their children during the events. For more information, contact Dr. Ann Hernandez in the School of Professional Studies at ahernandez@sf.edu or (260) 399-7700, ext. 8413.

    Volunteers will make fleece, no-sew blankets as part of Project Linus, an effort to provide blankets for children in northeast Indiana who are seriously ill or traumatized. The blanket-making will be in room 141 at the USF North Campus on Jan. 17 from 1-4 p.m. 

    From Jan. 17 through Feb. 4, collections will take place campus-wide for the following charities: eyeglasses for the Lions Club; clothing for St. Vincent de Paul; food for Associated Churches; and food boxtops for education at Precious Blood School. Collection boxes will be in all USF buildings.

    On Tuesday, Jan. 18 a reading of poetry by African American writers will take place in the atrium of Achatz Hall at 7 p.m. Jazz music and a slideshow of art by African Americans will accompany the poetry reading. A discussion of the poetry and artwork will follow. Seating is limited.

    On Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. in Gunderson Auditorium in Achatz Hall, an interdisciplinary panel of USF professors will discuss topics relevant to “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: The Man, the Times, the Ideas.” Rubin Brown, a member of the board of trustees for the African American Historical Museum, will speak.

    On Jan. 27, the USF Student Nurses Association will assist Red Cross workers with registration and donor courtesies at a public blood drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the North Campus gymnasium. Community members can sign up for a time to give blood by contacting rdepew@sf.edu.

    A reproduction of a document from Martin Luther King Jr. and hand-written speech notes by King, all on loan from the Karpeles Manuscript Library, which houses a rotating collection of unique documents and artifacts, are on display in the Lee and Jim Vann Library on the second floor of the Pope John Paul II Center.

    Posted on January 12, 2011, to:

  • By Christopher Stefanick

    It’s hard to imagine the confusion of a teenager who is convinced that he’s gay. More unimaginable is the pain he must experience if he’s bullied for having effeminate characteristics. Since July, at least four teens and one college student who considered themselves gay ended their lives after being repeatedly bullied. It’s safe to assume that there were more factors that led to these suicides, but bullying certainly played a key role, and it highlights the sad reality that many schools aren’t doing enough to protect kids — and that includes kids with same-sex attraction.

    The Church agrees with gay-rights activist groups in that people with same-sex attraction, “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity (and that) every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358. In the words of Pope Paul VI on tolerance, “The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life or religion.” — Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, 5. But when it comes to school bullying, most gay-rights groups go beyond protecting teens to promoting homosexual behavior. Such groups are more active in schools than parents might imagine.

    Groups like GLSEN (Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network) have done extensive work to protect teens with same-sex attraction from bullying. They provide training and resources to more than 4,000 gay-straight alliance (GSA) student clubs in high schools and colleges across North America. And the recent bully suicides have been turned into talking points to encourage the proliferation of GSAs. The Canadian government has even recently taken aggressive steps to ensure that such clubs find a home in Catholic high schools, though some school districts have stood with their bishops in rejecting this proposed solution to the gay bullying problem.

    The good news is that GSAs have been shown to help decrease bullying. The bad news is that, enmeshed in their efforts, there are “dogmas” of the gay-rights movement that are arguably as harmful as bullying, albeit in more subtle ways.

    To sum up a few of these dogmas:

    Sexual desire is equated with personal identity.
    Since desire is identity, teens need support “coming out” and announcing their sexual preference to the world in order to fully embrace their “true selves.”

    Schools, and society at large, need aggressive policies to stop “heterosexism,” that is, traditional Judeo-Christian ethics that would identify heterosexuality as the norm in sexual behavior and desire.

    How are these harmful?

    Regarding the belief that sexual desire is identity: If the goal of these clubs is to help people with same-sex attraction feel less isolated, making them feel inherently “different” from everyone else isn’t the way to do it. Mother Teresa, who started New York’s first AIDS hospice, refrained from calling people “homosexual,” instead she called them “friends of Jesus.” It’s helpful to remember that “the orientation of an act is homosexual or heterosexual but the person is not.” — Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops. In other words, homosexual desires and even activity do not define a human being.

    The identity dogma can also end up being a gay recruitment tool. Many well-balanced adolescents experience a passing phase of same-sex attraction. And some teens who have experienced sexual abuse or who have a deep “father wound” might be temporarily repulsed by the opposite sex until they address their wounds. I’m not saying that same-sex attraction is always passing or curable. But if adolescents make the mistake of identifying self with desire, homosexual activity might seem inevitable to them — and they’ll be at a higher risk for giving in to their desires. If they do, what could have been a passing phase for some might end up being a life choice. (I am not implying that all those who teach this dogma are intentionally recruiting teens.)

    Equating sexual desire with identity makes homosexual activity seem natural. You can’t help but do what you are. This belief, coupled with the dogma that “coming out” is healthy and necessary, and the “safe sex” education provided in GSAs, sets the stage for sexual promiscuity, which only exacerbates the problems these clubs are trying to battle: teen depression and suicide. Studies show that sexually active boys are two times more likely to be depressed, and girls are three times more likely to be depressed, with 12- to 16-year-olds being six times more likely to attempt suicide. It’s safe to assume that homosexual activity carries the same risks to a teen’s fragile emotional state.

    Finally, the dogma that natural law and Judeo-Christian ethics is “heterosexism” or “homophobia” can isolate teens from anyone who disagrees with them: “You are different and they are bigots.” And, of course, one doesn’t even consider a bigot’s viewpoint. A challenge from parents or pastors to live in sexual integrity and virtue might be dubbed “hate speech.” Remember, the Church calls ALL people to live chastely. No doubt, the Church’s challenge for people with persistent same-sex attraction to live a chaste life is no easy path, but it’s certainly not “hate speech.” As difficult as a chaste life is for people with persistent same-sex attraction, it’s easier than the host of emotional and physical problems that active homosexuals are at a disproportionate risk for enduring. (Studies show these risks are the same in places that are fully open to homosexuality. See www.narth.com for research.)

    Parents, pastors and counselors need to respond with compassion and support when a teen trusts them enough to tell them they have same-sex attraction. (Your local “Courage” chaplain can give you advice in how to do so. See www.couragerc.net for more info.) That response needs to include protection from bullying, but it does not need to include the encouragement of a homosexual lifestyle. There are plenty of highly effective programs available to help schools prevent bullying that are not also saddled with an agenda. Such programs, rather than GSAs, are a good way to ensure that teens with same-sex attraction receive an education with safety and dignity.

    Christopher Stefanick is director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver. To read more columns by Chris, click here. His personal website can be found at www.chris-stefanick.com.

    Posted on January 12, 2011, to: