Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Party at 125

It seems that most people enjoy a party or celebration.

And, when it's 125 years, that mark merits merriment.

Here's the story:

Back in 1967, I enrolled in Saint Mary's College at Orchard Lake, a spacious, park-like campus twnty-five miles northwest of Detroit where I grew up on the east side near Lynch Road and Van Dyke.

When I wanted to study medicine over ministry, this haunting focus seemed to keep challenging my choice.

Ministry won.

Having shared a room with my older brother, Bob, I liked the idea of having my own room at Orchard Lake where there is also a high school, seminary, and a Polish Mission in Oakland County.

With Polish background in my parents' blood, I fit into the frame of mind at St. Mary's College.

In fact, the Polish thrust seemed a bit much.

I knew that the world was bigger, however, than my own ethnic background.

In 1971 I went on to a seminary in Plymouth called St. John's Provincial Seminary at Five Mile and Sheldon Roads.

Like St. Mary's, both places were far out and away from the bustling city of Detroit I grew up in and loved.

In 1975 I was ordained a deacon, and, later a Catholic priest. I savor serving as a pastor today.

Fast forward to the 125th anniversary of founding of the Orchard Lake School years.

Students were formed in the faith to lead communities as Catholic priests at worship, the sacraments, works of pastoral care, hospital visitations, someone in jail, and, even counseling one moving along the path of destruction in the world of drugs, for example.

I relished my college formation.

With an international faculty to guide us, my smaller Motown track was widened to view a bigger world perspective, especially Poland.

The Reverend Joseph Dabrowski, the priest who established the Orchard Lake Schools (OLS) as they are called, hailed from Poland, then, moved to Wisconsin and finally on to Detroit with some Felician nuns to teach and start Catholic grade schools.

They would preserve and pass on the Polish heritage, faith, and culture.

And, they did, along with outstanding leaders with names such as Filipowicz, Ziemba, Milewski, Chrobot, Ruskowski, Popielarz and more.

July 22nd, a celebration and party will be hosted on campus.

Most of the pastors who lead communities across the United States with Polish background today were formed at Orchard Lake. They're older now. Replacements are slim.

125 years is a trophy, however.

That's worthy of celebration, for sure.


And, although I am ambivalent about my Church's future, and, especially the handling of the crisis of some pathological and predatory priests, I am jubilant about the faith that grounds me 35 years after I was ordained a deacon to serve the Archdiocese of Detroit.

God guides me.

Yet, I wonder.

Why is sexuality such an issue in our culture, also among parents who abuse their children, and, among athletes, the military and more? Why do Buddhists, for example, seem to have less problems with sexuality? Why is so much energy expended?

With a shrinkng number of clergy available to serve churches, how will the faith continue? Will the sacraments be available?

Why are so few entering Catholic divinity schools today?

Are leaders doing enough to imagine, or change disciplines such as enforcing celibacy upon men who get ordained? Excluding women from among more prominent leadership roles? Supporting families? Reaching out to young adults? Moving beyond the fear factor that locks systems into postures that may not work any longer?

I worry.

Like the oil spill in the Gulf, what legacy will we hand on?

Are church leaders doing all they can to ensure a vibrant Church with leaders to bolster the broken, those seeking solace, and, those lost, for example?

I don't know.

What I do know is that I want to celebrate my Church long after this 125th anniversary of my alma mater.

And, it looks like leadership lacks the resolve to move from this sexual horror that consumes and entrenches so much time, energy and money spent in lawsuits.

I want to enjoy party and be jubilant, although I will be in Snowmass, Colorado that day at St. Benedict Monastery reflecting on what we call a renewing retreat with Trappist Thomas Keating.

With the celebration of 125 years, however, comes the challenge to do some things differently.

Living organisms have to grow, or, history shows, they die.

If they need to die, having served their purpose like many religious communities of men and women through time, then fine.

Death brings life, Catholics believe.

The Church needs to live long and well, however. It needs to give life, and give it abundantly, as Jesus advised.

People hunger for nourishment and guidance.

To whom shall they go?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Courtesy and Caring

Where has all the courtesy and caring gone?

In my own roots and relationships, courtesy and caring were paramount while growing up on Detroit's east side in my family of nine.

Three marks distinguish one who seems to be ministering in the person of Christ and not just their own person:

A certain disinterestedness, (a take it or leave it attitude)

a right beneath the surface tranquility, (a serene spirit) and

an effortless humility (down-to earth).

These marks shimmer through the event and personality in such a way that the encounter is always much more than "just me."

In an age of self, myself, me, myself and I, the story looms larger than "just me."

When these marks shine through one, another may ask:

What are you up to?

How do you do it?

Who are you doing this for?

It is at this point that one shares authentic "good news," not before.

The caring or courtesy is much more than me.

It is deeper, wider, longer, swifter, and, more meaningful.

Signs of Christ energy are zeal, dedication, passion, hard work, or strong conviction.

These are not the marks referred to here.

These could be, however, more often than not, they are "ego" signs, insecurity and
immaturity in Christ, the Way, truth, and life.

Francis of Assisi showed Christian caring.

His contemporaries defined this "knightly soul' with the word, courtesy, the courtliness of the king.

His love was unaffected by class or position, or power, or prestige.

God's love poured thorugh him in a natural courtesy that placed all of his time, attention, knowledge, presence and caring at the humble disposition of the one right in front of him.

Francis believed that the "courtesy of the King" toward himself awakened the same courtesy in his own heart.

Courtesy, of course, refers to how the best behavior is modeled in the "court" of the king and queen.

It is the love of the Best that urges us to love better.

It is the charity and love of Christ that urges us to love better (2 Cor. 5:14).

It is the courteous Christ who partners us into ministries of caring.

Just me is too some for the larger Story I am inserted into for some limited years.

Kindness and politeness go deeper in Christ. The One who converts, cajoles, challenges and consoles, provides that extra something/Someone that kindess and politeness only beging to offer.

This all looks, feels good. It is not enough, however. Finally, it will be "just me."

Just me is too private, and dependent on personality. Not large enough to bring in the Chrsit figure who is larger than my life.

A good dose of this interior life would do us a world of good.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Called 'Father' Is Enjoyed Mostly

After peddling promotional fliers for a huge garage sale at Roseville Sacred Heart Church currently open all day, I stopped at the cemetary where Sacred Heart High School once
stood at Utica Road and Gratiot, just north of the I-696, Gratiot exit.

That was when times were better and parents could afford a Catholic school.

At the cemetary were four siblings caring for their mother's grave.

The oldest of the girls, Che, told me she "danced on my grave."

Full of life, all four women were engaging in conversation about various matters.

They then went to the big garage sale in the grade school building that is used for religious education classes, adult education, and a sundry of other events, like the garage sale to keep the fledgling parish afloat.

After that, the girls asked me to join them for lunch.

We were having a wonderful time.

Over an hour had past.

Their cell phone were ringing.

Thier spouses were calling.

Before they left,one said, "What a waste. I will tell my husband, we were with Father What a Waste.

No children. No wife.

I'm sure that's what she meant.

No offspring.

I am an unwed father with a huge flock nevertheless. I enjoy people and my parish.

Been there. Heard that comment before. Looks, talents, faith, yet, no wife and kids.

She thought being a Catholic priest is a waste.

Generativity and fruitfulness happen in many ways. Not just having babies.

For unwed females also.

It's Father's Day.

My favorite, personal holiday of the year.

And, my preferred title of all the others.


To my own dad in heaven, happy father's day.

To all dad's, the same greeting.

To pastors, called Father.

Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Anger kills.

But, does forgiveness heal?

Edward Hinds was murdered in his kitchen with a knife by the custodian known as Mr. Jose.

He snapped, apparently.

His daughter went to the Catholic school there and graduated this week, months after the murder of the pastor, Fr. Hinds, by her father.

Talk about anger.

Yes, there would be reasons to be angry from all of us.

Awkward moments were felt by all.

In school, his daughter was uneasy about her dad killing the pastor.

Yet, she stretched herself, and forgave her dad, however he snapped that fateful day.

Her classmates forgave her father for knifing their pastor to death.

Faculty and staff knew what they were supposed to do.


Not forget and enable the murderer. But to remember what happens when one snaps instantly with anger, rage in this situation.

I am angry at the BP oil spill.

Watching birds bathe in oil brings tears to my eyes.

We are stewards - managers for a a brief time on earth - caring for Creation.

Everything belongs to the Maker.

We must do better.

Treat the earth and inhabitants with careful love.

Even forgiveness for the ghastly things we do to wildlife, water and the wonderland of people
God made.

Forgive us, O God!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A City Like No Other Wrapped in Symphony

Music to my ears.

To my heart.

Diversity came together by way of music last Friday night in the neighborhood.

This is a city like no other.

A town built around rubber and steel and glass.

It's hardworking.

It's industrial.

It's real.

But, above all, it's artistic.

And at its heart is music.

This is the D.

And it's from here that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra draws their inspiration.

From every stage.

Every eatery.

Every factory.

Every gallery.

This is the fuel.

The DSO creates the spark.

Together, it ignites the souls of all who come to listen.

That is what happened in Warren at Saint Anne Catholic Church with the DSO Friday.

And more.

People were happy in church like I haven't seen for some time.

They smiled.

They clapped for the Slavonic, Polonaise, Hungarian, Thunder and Lightning Polka, Blue Tango, and ritual fire dances.

The DSO ended with the Stars and Stripes Forever.

It was all a salute to God's glory and majesty in the music of men and women.

Wonderful. Fantastic.


That's what listeners said after the concert.

And, Virginia Mazurek of Sterling Heights, MI., was nabbed from the assembly to lead the DSO
at its finale.

But not before she tripped. And, Leonard Slatkin caught her.

Teens, seniors, young, old, and, people of color all caught the spirit of Detroit.

Nine dances.

Hundreds of hearts moved by the DSO.

So be it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Burial of 29-year-old Don

Don lost his job after graduating from the University of Michigan years earlier.

Devastated, he began to drink alcohol in volumes.

Today, he will be buried.

His life began within his mother's womb. Amid water he grew there.

Shortly after, he was baptized by me in Saint Rene Goupil Church in Sterling Heights, MI.

I forgot that, until Denise, his mom told me that along with Don's final moments before he gave way to death.

"He was seeing angels and people welcoming him to Heaven," Denise slowly and sadly reported.

"I told him if he wanted to go to a better place, to go."

Moments later, his mom said, his breathing seemed to stop and saliva flowed from his mouth in his hopsital bed at Henry Ford in Macomb, MI.

Alcohol attachment disorder.

That diagnosis marked him.

With a rise of addictions, one would think that this culture would better prepare the jobless with the reality that they could be "let go" any time in this depressed economy.

Losing one's job is a reality many face today.

Meaning is derived from one's work.

That's true for Don. For most.

Yet, when one slides into the murky tunnel of alcoholism due to work, this nation needs to rise up.

Life is more than one's job.

Eternal rest unto Don, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. +

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Requiem for Hanstein Elementary School, Detroit

Today's honor and appreciation day at Hanstein School on Detroit's east side will be its last.

Built in the late 1800s, Saint Philomena Catholic Church across from the school on Marseilles Street, had Mass in the building marked for closure this past Monday, among the more than 30 Detroit Public Schools.

Dulano and D B are students at Hanstein.

It didn't seem to matter to them that their principal Bernardine Carroll, and two other staff were locked into the computer screen's final DPS list Monday when I intended to deliver the story book, titled, Teaching Children About Death.

"We need that," Carroll, who is retiring, said to me, as she grabbed the book.

Hanstein School was on that fateful list.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance or resignation were among the feelings being felt this afternoon in the school as children and parents walked in and out of the school's office.

With a running nose, one parent carried her child into the office, as she checked her child out of school due to illness.

The same youngster who was in the office last week showed up again as I left the office to assist Dulano and D B with reading.

One of thousands of the DPS Reader Volunteer Corp, I enjoy engaging the students in learning to be better readers.

When Hanstein's summer school ends, I may move with the students to Marquette School. I don't know yet what the plans are for tutors.

In their final days, and, grieving, I will walk with the faculty and students. I felt a need to be present. I didn't need to say much. Being there was important as their school shuts its doors for the final time.

Like a funeral, I feel my feelings of sadness and join them with my acquaintances at Hanstein.

It'll take a year, at least, for some of the leaders and students to grieve and mourn this loss.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Fear is one's lone defect.

Pontiac pastor and professor, Father Edward Popielarz taught that in his popular class in acceptance that he founded four decades before his death in 1986.

Fear freezes folks.

It really does.

When I am afraid I take another's inventory, as it were.

I look outside myself and want to blame others for my fear and state of being afraid.

Fear thwarts my capacity to love.

To judge and to explain is to be afraid. All else that one thinks, feels and does is a defense against fear, such as fighting, arguing, lying or competing even.

Fear as caution against danger is the only healthy kind of fear. All other fears are sick and without value.

Fear is useless, except when it is a cautioning alarm of danger.

In relationships, fear tends to work against one or the other.

When one allows his or her fears to do their thinking, trouble lurks.

Reasoning must do one's thinking.


What am I afraid of?

That's the question I often ask people I see in counseling, let alone myself daily.

What am I afraid of?

Friday, June 4, 2010


How often do I meet people who tell me that they've got problems.

What kind?

When I ask, they tend to say they have issues with communicating with each other.

When we explore further the roots of the relational problems, often the concern has to do
with lack of attention to others, the spouse, the boss, the sibling, the teacher.

When one is tired or unwilling to give his or her fullest attention to another, especially best friends, or, a spouse, for example, one needs to say:

"I'm really bushed now. May we meet after supper to check in with each other?"

A couple was having difficulty with intimacy because of the medications each were taking daily.

They were not being direct with each other about the effects of the drugs on their system.

When one or the other was interested in intimacy, each of them seemed unwilling, disinterested or consumed with a headache, for example.

When in session, I ask them to take four minutes to talk to each other about this particular difficulty.

Usually, when I return to complete the counseling session, they're smiling.

What's the smile about, I inquire.

We talked it out with each other, they respond, still smiling.

Direct, functional communications.

Getting what on my heart and mind out into the mind and heart of another requires plenty of effort and focus.

Effective communications requires painting the picture as concretely as possible so another understands better.