• This statue of St. Vincent de Paul, patron saint of charity, can be found at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Elkhart.

    ELKHART — Following the example of the church’s patron — St. Vincent de Paul in Elkhart has a Christmas Giving Program to help those in need.

    St. Vincent de Paul’s pastor, Father Glenn Kohrman explained, “We solicit people who need help and then solicit people who are able to help.”

    Parishioner Louaine Stephens is the coordinator of the program. Stephens said she began the program nine years ago, the first year she came to the parish.

    “I was in a CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) group and I saw a need — a definite need,” she said.

    She asked the pastor at the time for his approval and he gave it. But she only had a month to pull it all together. She said the first year they assisted 25 people, last year around 600. Stephens said she puts out slips of paper — half in English, half in Spanish — stating, “I need help or I know someone who needs help” and on the bottom it states, “I would love to help a family in need.”

    Stephens said her system starts by getting names, ages, gender and the need of those in need. Once she has four she moves on to those who want to help and finds out if they want to take care of an entire family or just one of the members. Sometimes donors will just give money and have her purchase the items.

    “Sometimes we just have them buy SCRIP, because at times if it’s an older person they have to choose between food and medicine and we give them scrip,” she said.

    Many stories

    Stephens has many stories to share of experiences over the years. Once she had a woman who had a breast removed and requested a special undergarment. Another year someone with cancer needed a wig and she made 30 calls to get the wig donated.

    One person kept telling her “I don’t like Christmas!” and Stephens replied, “That’s fine, but do you want to donate a wig?” It took some arguing back and forth, but finally the wig was donated.

    One year a teenager put out a request through the Internet and brought in so many donations the family needed a truck to take them home. Stephens said that family shared the surplus with their neighbors.

    “One year a girl asked for a coat and I thought, ‘She really needs that coat.’” So rather than wait until pick-up day, she arranged to meet the girl and her mother at the church one morning.

    “She showed up with a kitchen towel on her head for a hat, three sweaters for a coat and socks on her hands for mittens. It snowed that day so she really needed the coat and the mom was so thankful because she needed her towel back to dry dishes,” said Stephens.

    God’s Providence

    Stephens said every year there are examples of God’s providence in how things just work out. Like the time someone came walking in with a Christmas tree asking, “Can you use this?” right after a family asked for one.

    This year a family who’d lost everything needed a twin bed frame, and a business called saying they had a twin bed frame to donate. Another time a teenager who loved basketball was overjoyed when someone came in after a Christmas party with a brand new electronic basketball game to donate.

    There is a set of railroad tracks by the church in Elkhart and Stephens shared that their priest suggested rather than be frustrated while waiting for trains, to say a prayer. Once while waiting for a train, Stephens noticed some homeless women nearby. So while waiting at the tracks she gave out three coats from the back of her vehicle.

    Another time late donations came in with just the perfect-sized jackets for children that were there in need.

    “No one can tell me God doesn’t run this — it’s too perfect,” she said.

    Sometimes children call in asking for help for their families. Last year a boy called in asking for help for his sisters, mom and dad.

    “What about you? You’re part of the family, aren’t you?” Stephens asked him. He said he didn’t need anything. So little by little she got the information out of him she needed to supply him with some Christmas gifts as well.

    A family who was helped last year is holding a raffle this year to raise funds to help another family.

    “That’s how it’s supposed to be, we help them and then they help others,” Stephens said.

    One woman told Stephens, “You’re the only group that really cared about me so I want to help.”

    Stephens said her phone starts ringing in October.

    Father Kohrman said, “Stephens puts in well over 100 hours matching families. It’s amazing what she does — it truly is a saintly effort on her part.”

    Stephens said sometimes she’s asked, “How do you know for sure if these are the ones that need help?” Her reply is, “We’re leaving it in God’s hands. We’re truly working with the grace of God.”

    When asked if things are better this year both the pastor and Stephens said unfortunately they’re not. Last year they were able to help 125 families. This year they have 77 families.

    “It’s not that the need is less but that people able to help is less. We’ve had to turn some people away,” Father Glenn said.

    “Unfortunately it’s hard on both ends,” Stephens said. “But we’ll do it right up till the last minute — if we have extra we’ll call someone to come get it.”

    She said the priests of the parish also take on families. “The priests have been very supportive — calls come in to them that they have to pass on to me. If the priests weren’t supportive, it wouldn’t work,” she said. “It’s a good church, I’m happy to be a part of it.”

    Posted on December 21, 2011, to:

  • Donna examines a village building before setting it up.

    More photos can be found in the photo gallery.

    By Barb Sieminski

    Fort Wayne — Donna Carteaux’s friends know that she can be reached at her “vacation home” at the North Pole during the holidays, somewhere deep in Department 56 Snow Village, where she happily hibernates.

    The Fort Wayne resident mentally miniaturizes herself to walk among the tiny stores, post offices, three-story-high snow-covered pine trees, a hospital, churches, banks, and frozen mirrored ponds with ice skaters that create her small Main Street USA town. In this nostalgic winter community, Carteaux has all she needs — a doctor, dentist, pizza delivery girl, mail carrier, a garage mechanic and tow truck, a constable, a marching band and a freight train whose chugging lulls the little hamlet to sleep at night.

    A Central Catholic High School graduate, Carteaux first fell in love with the old Wolf & Dessauer department store animated windows, and began collecting villages and accessories 36 years ago that were reminiscent of the decades-ago store window displays.

    “People would also give them to me as gifts,” said Carteaux, who has Studio 56, Lemax, Old Towne and Heritage collections, with bits and pieces of other traditional villages.

    “Currently, I have more than 2,000 pieces, and obtain them mostly at Menard’s, Hallmark, Kohl’s and other places. I’m very protective of my items and even my husband Bob will help me carry the boxes down from the attic when it’s time to set the display up, but no one, including him, is allowed to touch the pieces. In the past, I set up the display each holiday season, but in the last two years, we have kept the display up all year round. Previously, it took me a month to set up the whole presentation, which encompasses two open rooms in our home.”

    Donna and Bob, who celebrated their 51st anniversary last May, have three children — Bob Jr., Debbie Martin, Liz Waldorf — and four grandchildren. The family enjoys traveling — Donna and Bob have been to 135 countries — and flower gardening, reading, cooking, music, writing and art are among Donna’s pastimes when not engrossed with her snow village neighborhood.

    The Carteaux offspring, though now grown, become a tad mischievous when the display is set up. These adults derive great pleasure in wandering around the exhibit and causing wrecks with the sanitation trucks and autos and piling them on top of each other in various ditches.

    Carteaux’s kids also call their mother, “Eagle Eye,” because she can walk into her setup rooms and tell instantly if anyone’s been there or if a tiny chair has been moved, even just a smidgen.

    “They move some of the small pieces to see if I notice — yep, I do. They love keeping me on my toes, and I enjoy it too,” said Carteaux.

    “My son-in-law is a die-hard Coke drinker but I was a long-time Pepsi drinker, so I cut out Pepsi signs and put them on the drug store and bottling company over the Coke signs.”

    Her little town has been designed as a place where she’d like to live, especially where the snow resort and farms are concerned, said Carteaux, adding that her village is never complete due to new items always appearing in the stores.

    “My favorite piece is the ski lodge,” says Carteaux, “because I imagine myself with a hot chocolate, sitting in front of a beautiful fire with a book, and watching the skiers.”

    “And I love gazing at the ice skaters and the scenic farms.”

    Several parts of the realistic festivity light up and come alive when plugged in, including the skaters and the skiers that go up and down the hill on a track. The trains, trolley and the toboggan are also activated, said Carteaux, whose inner child often makes up stories about various parts of the exhibit.

    Visitors continually marvel at the virtual community spread out on Carteaux’s many tabletops, including some of the more unusual pieces such as the Grand Ole Opry Ryman Auditorium, a small Habitat for Humanity house and a country club. She would like to add a haunted house and a jail, if those two items are ever created.

    Carteaux, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, also belongs to the Christ Child Society and the Third Order of St. Francis. For the past four years, she has made rosaries for the military, and faithfully continues doing this.

    A peacemaker at heart and lifelong advocate for justice, Carteaux tries to live by the Rotarian code of “service above self.” And after exhausting hours of care-giving, her well-deserved “therapy time” flows predictably into her picturesque “vacation home” where tiny, colorful skaters waltz gaily over frozen ponds and nostalgic Christmas yesterdays live forever.

    Posted on December 21, 2011, to:

  • Bob Heiny, left, and his friend, Bob Gorman shared a lifetime of experiences, including WWII combat, and now volunteer at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen.

    By Mark Weber

    For two young lads who were graduated from Fort Wayne’s St. Patrick’s grade school in 1937, there was a lazy summer ahead and then the excitement of being together again in Catholic high school. Neither could know that their subsequent graduation would send them not to college but straight into the army and the opening chapter of World War II where they would have a dramatic reunion in the shadow of the bridge at Nijemgen as part of the infamous Operation Market Basket, dramatized in the movie, “A Bridge Too Far.”

    Bob Heiny of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Fort Wayne, and his lifelong friend, Bob Gorman, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne, have shared enough experiences in their 89 years to be twins, beginning with eight years of grade school at St. Patrick, then high school, first at the Holy Cross Brothers School and as second semester sophomores in the brand new Central Catholic High School, graduates in the class of ’41.

    World War II separated the close chums, although they still had something in common.  They were both in the U. S. Army and kept in touch by mail.

    Both men belonged to units in the European theater, and as the war drew to a close, both were involved in the dangerous gamble to advance Allied forces into Germany at the Rhine River. Bob Heiny got there first. His outfit, the 656th Tank Destroyer outfit was the first to cross the Rhine. Sgt. Heiny knew from their correspondence that Bob Gorman was close by with the 203 Anti Aircraft, assigned to protect a pontoon bridge and the main bridge. Gorman was living in a bombed-out hotel and it was there that the two battle weary Hoosiers had a brandy-laced reunion matching the surrounding bombardment.

    The St. Pat’s buddies survived the war without a scratch and resumed life together as roommates at Xavier University. Bob Heiny returned to the Heiny Grocery firm with his brothers and then the Sealtest Ice Cream company. Bob Gorman retired from General Electric … and their shared experience was to continue. 27 years ago, Gorman persuaded Heiny to join him as a volunteer two days a week at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen.

    And that’s where the present finds the two who served Mass at St. Patrick, who went through life, thick and thin, war and peace, now serving Christ by serving others.

    Posted on December 21, 2011, to:

  • Joe Stackowicz met Pope John Paul II in 1992.

    Joseph Stackowicz never guessed when he started his career as a general agent for the Knights of Columbus that it would lead him to see not just one pope but three. In 1972, Joe, as he likes to be called, won his first trip with the Knights and visited Poland and Italy.

    “There were 57 of us on the trip,” recalled Joe. The Knights of Columbus arranged a special visit with Pope Paul VI. “It was so special, it really hit us all.” The Knights attended a special Mass with the pope and gathered in the courtyard with thousands of other tourists to see the pope give his blessing from the window.

    Joe’s second visit with the pope would come a few years later when he again won a trip to Italy. The Knights were able to have another private meeting, this time with Pope John Paul I. “It was a special trip, the Mass we attended was so beautiful,” Joe said.

    In 1992, Joe would have another chance to go to Italy and see the pope. The trip was won again through the Knights and this time Joe’s wife, Fran, and two of his grandchildren were able to go with him.

    “The trip was outstanding. We were able to have a private meeting with Pope John Paul II in his residence. It was incredible. At that time the Vatican took all photos and we were able to have eight pictures taken with the pope. I spoke with him in Polish, though mine was a bit broken, it was still very special. Everyone had been saying how much I resembled John Paul II. When I was able to meet him I had to agree,” laughed Joe.

    On this trip many Knights attended Mass with their wives. Joe recalled how one wife was so excited to meet the pope when they first arrived that “she practically flew over the isle to shake his hand, we all had a laugh about that,” he said smiling.

    “It was a trip of a lifetime, something we will never forget.” Joe was even given a miter hat by the Vatican. “To this day people always want me to put it on. I often have guests in town to see Notre Dame and they always want me to put it on and take pictures with me — Pope Joe they call me. I still get a kick out of it and can show my photos off with Pope John Paul II,” said Joe.

    When Pope John Paul visited Chicago in October of 1979, Joe was selected by the Knights to serve as one of the honor guards. “I was absolutely thrilled,” Joe said. “I called everyone I knew and told them to look for me on TV.”

    Unfortunately Joe caught a very bad cold and became ill. He wasn’t able to make the trip. “I was so disappointed,” remembered Joe, “I did get quite a few calls telling me they had seen me on TV. That was pretty funny since I wasn’t there,” he said smiling.

    Joe would get one more chance to see the pope, and this time he wasn’t going to miss it. In October 1995, Joe’s son John arranged special seats for his parents when John Paul II celebrated Mass at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. It was the second largest crowd to ever attend an event at Giants Stadium, with 82,948 in attendance.

    “It was pouring rain the whole time,” recalled Joe, “We said the rosary five times waiting for him to arrive. But when he did it was worth it. To see him again was wonderful. I felt so blessed to be near him. It was a wonderful Mass, even as God showered rain down on us. I will never forget it.”

    Joe has traveled all over the world. He often travels with his children and grandchildren. “We try to take a trip every year.” In fact he visited Poland with his grandson a few years ago to meet some long-lost relatives and see the places Pope John Paul II lived and worked.

    “It was an incredible experience. We visited all over and found relatives we never knew we had. In fact, his grandson fell in love with a distant relative and the two were married last year. Now that’s a productive trip!” Joe said laughing. They have also visited Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. “God’s world is beautiful, I am very lucky to have been able to see so much of it.”

    Joe looks back on his visits with the popes and knows how fortunate he has been. “To have the chance to see the pope is special, I truly believe I have been blessed and hope my streak will not end at John Paul II.”

    Joe is hoping Pope Benedict XVI will come to the United States soon.

    “Maybe this time I won’t miss the pope if he comes to Chicago,” he concluded with a look of hope in his eyes and a smile on his face.

    Posted on December 21, 2011, to:

  • By Vince LaBarbera

    FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades has announced that the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend is partnering with Catholics Come Home to launch a media campaign this winter inviting inactive or under-active Catholics to “come home” to the Catholic Church.

    Catholics Come Home is an independent, nonprofit, lay Catholic organization dedicated to producing and airing faith messages via local, national and international television spots and web sites.

    “Beginning this coming Dec. 17, television viewers in the Fort Wayne and South Bend area markets will be encouraged to take another look at the Catholic Church,” said Natalie Kohrman, director of the Office of Evangelization and Spiritual Development for the diocese. “Several different spots inviting those who have been away from the Catholic Church to “come home” will air through the end of January 2012,” she said.

    Viewers will be directed to the Catholics Come Home website at: www.catholicscomehome.org (or www.catholiciosregresen.org for those who speak Spanish). The diocese also has a website www.catholicscomehomefwsb.org. The websites feature several television spots and answers to commonly asked questions about the Catholic faith, and a parish finder keyed to the visitor’s zip code, Kohrman explained.

    “These media resources already have helped to invite hundreds of thousands of lapsed Catholics and converts home to the Catholic Church, and encourage practicing Catholics to go deeper in their understanding and practice of the Catholic faith,” she added.

    The diocesan campaign runs in conjunction with a new advertising campaign on major television networks Dec. 16-Jan. 8.

    The Atlanta-based organization Catholics Come Home aims to reach 250 million television viewers in more than 10,000 U.S. cities.

    Tom Peterson, the organization’s founder, said the campaign’s “inspiring messages” are an invitation to Catholic neighbors, relatives and co-workers to come “to the largest family reunion in modern history.”

    The ads — airing in prime time on broadcast and cable channels — focus on the richness and history of the Catholic Church and highlight Catholic traditions of prayer, education and help for the poor.

    “If you’ve been away, come home to your parish, and visit Catholicscomehome.org today” is part of the ad’s message scheduled to air more than 400 times starting before Christmas and going through the feast of the Epiphany.

    Since they began their media campaigns in 2008, Catholics Come Home officials say Mass attendance has increased 10 percent in the markets where the ads have shown and 300,000 people have come back to the Church.

    In its announcement, the organization highlighted the number of Catholics who do not attend Mass, citing a recent study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University that said only 33 percent of U.S. Catholics attend weekly Mass, or put another way, 42.7 million Catholics, or two-thirds, do not attend Sunday Mass.

    Other statistics cited included how many hours per week the average American is “consuming media” particularly via TV and the Internet (38 hours); and how many Americans now describe themselves as nonreligious/secular (13.2 percent of the total population, up 110 percent from 1990 to 2000).

    Posted on December 21, 2011, to: