• Benjamin Muhlenkamp to be ordained into the priesthood

    FORT WAYNE — Just a few years ago, Benjamin Muhlenkamp had big plans for his future — farming, marriage and children. But he now knows God had other plans for him. Deacon Ben Muhlenkamp is preparing for his ordination into the holy priesthood on May 26 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne after discerning his future as a priest the past six years at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.

    Born in Coldwater, Ohio, in 1982, the third of five children and only son of Gary and Mary Agnes Muhlenkamp, Deacon Muhlenkamp was raised on a dairy farm near Geneva where he learned the value of service. Growing up attending the rural St. Mary of the Presentation Parish in Geneva, Muhlenkamp was active as an altar server and attended catechism classes. But during his youth, he says, his relationship with Christ “didn’t make the top of the list.”

    But God was relentless and later as a young adult, while earning his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and management at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Muhlenkamp began in earnest to investigate the faith.

    He says, “During this period of time I felt like I was Indiana Jones, discovering unknown secrets, and buried treasure. … I became excited about how beautiful my faith was.”

    After attending a college-age retreat he found himself assisting with the youth ministry at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, where his nascent devotion rose to the challenge.

    As his prayer life expanded, the idea of a vocation came, says Deacon Muhlenkamp, “as I was serving the teens and praying for them in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I felt that I was being invited to the priesthood.”

    So after much prayer and encouragement from several priests, he applied to seminary and entered Pontifical College Josephinum in 2006.

    Of his formation there he says, “Seminary is the place that we go to fall in love with Jesus. There I was surrounded by men who were also striving to grow in holiness. The class of 13 men that I was with really became close. We have spent many hours together every day these past years, in class, meals, studying and in prayer.”

    His assignments as seminarian and later deacon took him to several parishes around the diocese including St. Pius X in Granger, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Vincent de Paul and St. John the Baptist, all in Fort Wayne.

    With his interest in metal fabrication, carpentry and fixing farm machinery, Deacon Muhlenkamp’s skills were put to good use as he ministered at each parish he was assigned. He says, “I love the opportunities I get to work with my hands. … My dad always says that you can take the boy from the farm, but you can’t take the farm from the boy. I know that this is true for me.”

    In addition to being of assistance to the pastor of each parish with maintenance issues, Deacon Muhlenkamp took the initiative to visit with families and make new friends. His personal and social involvement within the parish has endeared him to many. And following his ordination to the diaconate in May of 2011 Deacon Muhlenkamp has served in a multitude of ways.

    “At seminary once you become a deacon, you get a parish assignment, which is so nice. I love helping out at the parish, meeting people, baptizing babies, preparing couples for marriage. I even had the opportunity to form a small Christian community. I just love helping people see the beauty of our faith,” says the enthusiastic priest-to-be.

    Deacon Muhlenkamp’s hope for his future as a diocescan priest?

    “I just look forward to praying the Mass, hearing Confessions and offering time for Eucharistic Exposition in the parish I get placed,” he says. “I also look forward to spending time with the priests of our diocese and learning from them. … I am amazed at what the Lord will do through these hands.”

    Posted on May 15, 2012, to:

  • Brontavious Coleman enjoys the new swing donated by Mishawaka Catholic students and installed recently at Beardsley Elementary School in Elkhart. Coleman has physical disabilities stemming from Dandy Walker Syndrome that keep him from walking and from playing on playground equipment with his classmates during recess.

    ELKHART — A friendship between one Mishawaka Catholic Schools teacher and her public school counterpart has enabled a physically handicapped student to swing through the air next to his classmates.

    Sue Felix teaches first grade at Beardsley Elementary on Elkhart’s near east side. Her own children attend Mishawaka Catholic Schools, which is how she and Mishawaka Catholic Schools first-grade teacher Beth Whitfield first became acquainted.

    Felix’s and Whitfield’s classes have corresponded with each other for several years as pen pals. Earlier this year Whitfield’s students even enjoyed a virtual visit from Felix’s. Whitfield said she also keeps Beardsley students in mind when the opportunity arises to act as Christ to others by way of school or classroom service projects.

    In observance of Catholic Schools Week in January, Whitfield gave consideration to a new idea from Felix.

    “She’s always said there’s a great need. She talked about it with students here, regarding how it’s different for kids there — how they don’t always have food at home, or enough clothes to wear when it’s cold,” Whitfield said. So, at first, Whitfield’s class discussed raising money to make blankets. But then the talk turned to one of Felix’s students, seven-year-old Brontavious Coleman, who has physical disabilities stemming from Dandy Walker Syndrome that keep him from walking and from playing on playground equipment with his classmates during recess.

    The St. Bavo campus Mishawaka Catholic Schools first graders held a one-day “Change for Change” campaign during Catholic Schools Week and raised enough money for Beardsley to order a special swing that Coleman can be fastened into to swing on the school’s playground. Last month, they traveled to Beardsley to present the money and to meet their pen pals and Coleman.

    “The Beardsley kids were just as glad as we were when I walked in with a big (cardboard) check,” Whitfield said. “That was nice for my kids to see, too.”

    Mishawaka Catholic Schools’ St. Joseph and St. Monica campuses also chose recipients for their Catholic Schools Week charitable efforts. The third through fifth grade St. Joseph campus collected money for Chiara House in South Bend, where out-of-home respite care for families caring for members with special needs is provided. The funds raised by the sixth through eighth grade St. Monica campus went, by popular vote, to the Ronald McDonald House, where home-away-from-home support for families of seriously ill children being treated at Indianapolis hospitals is provided.

    “Fundamental to our Catholic Schools is the idea of service to community,” Principal Vickki Wojcik said. “We wanted our children to follow the role of Jesus in the world. Part of the hope is that they’ll realize they can make the world a better place.”

    After spending time with Coleman and his classmates, Whitfield said her students are hoping for the opportunity to return to Beardsley now that the swing has come and will be installed soon. They’d like to see Coleman have the opportunity to trade in his wheelchair for some air under his feet.

    Whitfield said the young man smiled a great deal during their visit, and thanked them for their gift. “He seemed so happy to have them there. Really, all the kids did,” she said.

    Posted on May 15, 2012, to:

  • Missionary of St. Paul Father Al Ezenwata, director of pastoral care at SJRMC, blesses the cross and cornerstones from the former hospital at a dedication on April 26.

    MISHAWAKA — A formal blessing ceremony, patterned after the original on April 26, 1903, took place at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, April 26, to celebrate its ongoing mission of healthcare started by the Sisters of the Holy Cross more than 125 years ago. Board members, sisters, associates and others from the local community gathered under a tent on a cold, sunny day to witness the blessing and re-installation of the 30-foot stainless steel cross that sat on top of the main hospital of the downtown campus for over a half century. Also blessed were the cornerstones of the former buildings and a new time capsule with items dating back to 1902, imbedded in a memorial wall outside the new hospital.

    “We are building our future on the strong foundation of the past,” said Al Gutierrez, president and chief executive officer.  “The cross and cornerstone dedication pays tribute to the original founders — the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, as well as the entire Michiana community — including all past and present patients, patient families, physicians, nursing staff, leadership teams and associates.”

    In her comments, Sister Joan Marie Steadman, president of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, reminded those present that “there is something more important than any artifact and it cannot be enclosed in a copper time capsule; rather it is felt and experienced, and it changes lives. And that is the living heritage of this healing ministry, a heritage that lives in the heart. It’s a heritage built on core values of respect, social justice, compassion, care for the poor and underserved and excellence. It’s a living and animated heritage.”

    Gutierrez stressed that Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center intends to carry on the legacy of the sisters.

    Posted on May 9, 2012, to:

  • NEW HAVEN — When riding home from school one day with his grandmother, St. John the Baptist, New Haven, seventh-grader Tyler Roth passed by a young boy in a wheelchair. He commented that he felt everyone should have to experience what it was like to be in a wheelchair.

    Roth’s grandmother detailed that the youngster has always had a tender heart and soft spot for those with special needs, “Tyler has been a very empathetic, caring person since he was a little boy.”

    She retold the story to her exercise class, and a mother — Julie Lebamoff, with a special needs son — suggested Kerri Zurbuch become involved. The rest is history and during the first week of June at New Haven Canal Days the first annual Wellness 4 Everyone (W4E) Walk/Run will take place.

    Zurbuch has spearheaded the event and is expecting well over 300 participants. The mother of three boys is a member at St. John, New Haven, and the Raider Wellness Team Leader. She is the founder and president of Well Strategies, Inc. Zurbuch holds a masters degree in wellness management and has been a health and fitness expert for nearly 20 years.

    According to Zurbuch, several things converged leading up to the birth of this event including: Roth’s passion for the disabled, the community interest at large, the declining health of our nation, the Women, Infant, Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act of 2004, and the strong potential for a decreased life expectancy in our younger generations.

    Zurbuch explained, “First, our community has been looking for something positive that is social, beneficial, personal, yet not threatening — but occurring annually. So Well Strategies collaborated with New Haven Parks and Recreation, New Haven High School track and field, St. John the Baptist, New Haven, Catholic School and New Haven Canal Days Festival Committee to bring this event to benefit the community at large.

    Secondly, the Federal WIC re-authorization of 2004 required all schools throughout the U.S. to have a wellness policy in place by July of 2007. Schools who receive subsidy for lunches are required to hold this policy. The kicker is, it is a non-funded federal mandate.”

    In order to implement some parts of the wellness policy, funds are required. Therefore, Zurbuch has designed a means for the schools so that this event will secure those funds by profiting from the pledges, meal fees and T-shirt sales. Five schools are on board to participate including St. John, New Haven and St. Louis Academy-Besancon, New Haven, with several other schools a possibility. Each school can be assured of earning at least $1,000.

    This event will have three races and will be unique in nature, unlike any other event of its kind, because it is both for the able and disabled. Combining the two allows everyone to share in the thrill and experience of being a participant.

    Accommodating those with wheelchairs, there will be support buddies to assist with pushing, walking beside, running with or just an extra set of eyes. “Everyone is a winner in the one-mile walk and the 5K 4 Wellness,” Zurbuch stressed. “The 5K competitive race will be run for those die hard able or disabled that need a challenge, but do not need assistance,” she added. Zurbuch’s motto and message to all is “Do your best, do it 4 Wellness!”

    To secure a partner for the disabled in wheelchairs, call Julie at (260) 437-2670. To sign yourself or your school up for the event or for any further questions, Zurbuch can be reached at Kerri@wellstrategiesinc.org.

    Posted on May 9, 2012, to:

  • MONROEVILLE — The purchase of Monroeville Elementary School by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend from East Allen County Schools is facing a hurdle.

    That hurdle is House Bill 1002, a bill that was passed in the 2011 Indiana General Assembly. The state law says that if a school district closes down a school building, then the unused building should remain on a list maintained by the Indiana Department of Education. The building is to be available to charter schools for up to 48 months.

    The law says the charter school could then purchase the building for $1 or lease the building for $1 per year. After the 48-month waiting period, if no charter school is interested, then the building can be sold or disposed in any manner the governing body considers appropriate.

    Monroeville Elementary School closed last year as part of the East Allen County Schools redesign plan and the building sat vacant this school year. The school was added to the Indiana Department of Education’s list at the end of the 2010-2011 school year.

    The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend offered to purchase the 63,000-square-foot school building for $189,000 with the intention of relocating St. Joseph School, operated by St. Rose of Lima Parish in Monroeville, to the Monroeville Elementary School building. St. Joseph School is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The East Allen County Schools Board of Trustees, at the public meeting on April 17, unanimously approved the sale of the building to the diocese.

    The Indiana Charter Schools Association sent East Allen County Schools and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend a cease-and-desist letter the week of April 30. The letter alleged that the sale violated state law under House Bill 1002 and Monroeville Elementary School has not been on the unused school building list for the required 48 months.

    The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has not yet closed the deal on the purchase and was using the 90-day due diligence window to investigate the property. Various options are being explored presently in order to find a solution to the issues regarding the sale of the Monroeville Elementary School property.

    Posted on May 9, 2012, to: