Archive of December 15, 2012

Bar owner serves Christmas charity

Milwaukee, Wis., Dec 15, 2012 (CNA) - An elderly couple walks into Kip’s Inn and hands bar owner Kim Engebregtsen a plastic bag with a Barbie doll in it.

“Oh, thank you!” Engebregtsen said. “I needed this. This was the last thing on the list.”

She hugged the couple and directed them to the bar to enjoy some drinks with other folks from the neighborhood.

The list to which Engebregtsen referred was given to her by Catholic Charities with the Christmas wishes of five families, 27 people total.

“Whatever their wish is, we honor it,” she said, adding that since the bar started collecting gifts for Catholic Charities six years ago, every wish — and more — has been fulfilled.

Engebregtsen said one year a child asked for a bike, and through her collection, got a bike and a helmet. Another asked for a basketball, and he was given a ball and a pump.

“Once the ball goes flat, it’s no good,” she said. “These are kids that don’t have anything, so whatever they ask for, we get.”

Kip’s was generous in donating gifts that weren’t on wish lists for the five families — and $300 to purchase gifts for families without sponsors, according to Sharon Brumer, communications manager of Catholic Charities.

“They just continue to really embrace the giving program for the holidays,” Brumer said. “I think it enables the patrons to really participate, whether their kids are grown or they don’t have kids, whatever it is. They are just so generous and the bartenders, too; they work really hard and they’re always so energetic.”

Brumer said she can always depend on Engebregtsen and Kip’s Inn, located at 837 S. 108th St., West Allis in Milwaukee.

“She embraces sharing and giving to others, and that always rubs off then on the people that come to your establishment,” Brumer said. “If you’re cheerful and happy about what you do and what you’re doing for others, it’s very contagious then for everyone else. ... She and her bartenders certainly embrace that spirit of Christmas giving, because they are just always so excited.”

Engebregtsen’s motivation for gathering the toys stems from having been one of five children in a poor household.

“When we were kids, we were pretty poor,” she said. “We benefited from people’s generosity and actually through the Catholic Church.”

Engebregtsen and her family attended St. Peter Parish, Oshkosh, Wis. and she went to St. Peter School.

“We were able to attend the school without paying tuition,” she said. “The parents of our classmates, they were very generous. They exposed us to things that we wouldn’t have been otherwise exposed to.”

She was grateful for gifts her family had received when she was a child and after growing up, she fell into this toy tradition by accident.

“The first year we collected for Toys for Tots and when I went to go drop (the gifts) off, they said the deadline had already passed so I took them to Catholic Charities and they were really happy to get the gifts,” Engebregtsen said.

Shortly after that, she received a call from then-Archbishop of Milwaukee Timothy M. Dolan, now cardinal, thanking her and asking if he could come to the bar to pick them up.

“It’s exciting that he’d go out of his way to stop at a small neighborhood bar to thank us for what we’ve done,” she said.

On that day she remembered Cardinal Dolan sitting at the bar and ordering a Budweiser.

“He told my bartender not to tell anybody and she said ‘Why? You can’t have a beer?’ And he said, ‘No, don’t tell anyone it’s Budweiser,’” Engebregtsen said, laughing at the memory.

The tradition of the archbishop coming to the bar to receive the toys continues with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki.

“They’re very charismatic members of the church,” she said of Archbishop Listecki and Cardinal Dolan. “It’s exciting for us, (but) we don’t do it for that reason.”

For Engebregtsen and the patrons at Kip’s Inn, it’s all about the families.

“My customers ask me two months before we get the list, ‘When are you going to get the list from Catholic Charities?’” she said. “They’re really excited about it.”

Anna Rollo, frequent customer at Kip’s Inn, “adopted” three people for whom to buy gifts.

“The person wanted a pillow and a blanket; I ended up buying them a four pack of pillows and blankets,” Rollo said, adding she did the same for another person and bought a shaving kit for the third person.

This was her first year being involved in the tradition.

“I was raised Catholic and this is my neighborhood watering hole and I know they got this here and it’s a big thing to do,” Rollo said. “This (bar) seems to be one that draws from this particular segment. It’s working class people. A lot of us recognize each other; we’re all from the neighborhood. We kind of look out for each other ... there’s a lot of giving people in here.”

Salvatorian Fr. Dave Bergner, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, appreciates the bar’s outreach.

“We are so grateful to the patrons and staff at Kip’s Inn for their enthusiasm for our Christmas Giving Program. Their generosity is truly a wonderful example of how one good deed can have a ripple effect within our community,” he said in a Dec. 5 press release, referring to the organization’s “Make a ripple” campaign.

Engebregtsen realizes some might be surprised that a bar is doing business with a Catholic organization.

“What we do is we try to serve responsibly,” she said, adding the bar provides free taxi vouchers to customers who shouldn’t drive, doesn’t allow gambling, and warns customers against using offensive language.

“Obviously it’s not a church, but I want to be proud of my bar,” Engebregtsen said. “If my friends are sitting there, I want them to be proud of my bar.”

Throughout the year, Engebregtsen said she raises funds for hurricane relief and other charitable causes at her bar. But she doesn’t think of her efforts as anything special.

“It’s not like in some saintly way, it’s really kind of an everyday way,” she said. “The way you lead your life sets an example for other people.”

Engebregtsen was hesitant to do the interview with your Catholic Herald, preferring to let her actions speak for her.

“I don’t like the spotlight,” she said. “I don’t want the credit. I don’t want the praise ... I really just do it because it feels good.”

Posted with permission from The Catholic Herald, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

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Contraception mandate challenge reaches appeals court

Washington D.C., Dec 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has become the first federal appellate court to hear arguments surrounding the federal contraception mandate, as two religious colleges argue that their religious freedom is threatened by the rule.

“The decision from the D.C. Circuit will no doubt influence the decisions of others courts,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Duncan told CNA shortly after the Dec. 14 hearing that the ruling in the case – brought by Belmont Abbey College and Wheaton College – could have important implications for the dozens of other lawsuits challenging the mandate.

The lawsuits revolve around a federal mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs. The mandate includes only a narrow religious exemption that applies only to non-profit organizations that exist to inculcate religious doctrine and employ and serve primarily members of their own faith.

Most religious organizations fail to qualify for the exemption and will be faced with devastating fines if they do not comply with the regulation.

Responding to waves of protest after the mandate was initially announced, the government created a one-year “safe harbor” to delay enforcement of the rule against non-profit religious organizations that object to it.

During this time, the government has promised to create an “accommodation” for the religious liberty of these groups. However, that process is still in its very early stages, and the initial suggestions put forth by the administration have been criticized as inadequate.

The safe harbor period will end Aug. 1, 2013, and religious organizations will be subject to the mandate after that time.

More than 110 organizations have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate for threatening their constitutional right to free exercise of religion. Plaintiffs include the Archdiocese of New York, EWTN, the University of Notre Dame and over a dozen schools of different religious affiliations, along with health groups and Catholic Charities affiliates throughout the country.

In addition, seven states and numerous for-profit businesses have filed lawsuits against the mandate, includes arts-and-crafts giant Hobby Lobby and manufacturers of products including medical equipment, auto lights and wood cupboards.

Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts college in North Carolina, became the first plaintiff to challenge the mandate when it was initially announced in 2011. Wheaton College, an Evangelical Christian liberal arts school in Illinois, filed a lawsuit in July 2012.

Both cases had previously been dismissed by lower courts as being “premature” because of the government’s promise to issue an additional accommodation.

However, a federal judge in New York issued an opposing decision in the local archdiocese’s case on Dec. 6, determining that it was mature and noting, “There is no ‘Trust us changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”  

The D.C. court of appeals combined the Belmont Abbey and Wheaton cases in an expedited appeal.

During the Dec. 14 oral arguments, the Becket Fund argued on behalf of the colleges, stressing that “the mandate is final” and is “currently burdening the conduct of the colleges,” said Duncan.

He explained that the budgeting and hiring decisions currently facing the schools are heavily impacted by the potentially-crippling fines they could be slammed with for refusing to follow the mandate’s requirements.

In addition, he said, the safe harbor period protects religious institutions from federal government penalties but does not prevent individuals from suing the colleges for failing to adhere to the mandate.

The government argued during the hearing that it is still working on the accommodation, Duncan continued, but it would not say “what the new rule will be” or what might be in it, suggesting only that a proposal should be expected in the first quarter of 2013. That proposal would then have to undergo another process before being finalized.

In the next few months, the appeals court will issue a decision, determining whether the lawsuit is “ripe” to proceed or if the safe harbor and government promise of an accommodation render it premature.  

Duncan said that he is “encouraged” when cases are judged on their actual merits because he believes the government’s argument is weak.

An injunction has been granted to four out of five for-profit cases that have received a ruling, he pointed out.

Despite the safe harbor, he said, it is clear that the mandate is already hampering the colleges by “putting pressure on the exercise of their religious rights.”

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New book explores spiritual sisterhood with saints

Washington D.C., Dec 15, 2012 (CNA) - A new book recounting the true story of one woman's faith voyage encourages women to turn to the saints as they strive to embrace their dignity amid the struggles of the modern world.

“The saints are amazing guides for us on our journey,” said Colleen Carroll Campbell, journalist and author of a new spiritual memoir, “My Sisters the Saints.”

Published in October by Image/Random House, the book details Campbell’s journey, discovering that her struggles and decisions were reflected in the lives of the saints and coming to embrace the Church’s teaching “as powerful and relevant and true.”

Campbell told CNA that she was struck not merely by the academic writings of the saints, but by their personal stories. As she learned about their lives, she found a deep connection with them, leading her to ask for their intercession and eventually see their subtle activity in her life.

“My Sisters the Saints” begins during Campbell’s junior year at Marquette University, where she played the dual role of campus partier and overachieving resume-builder. Although she had been raised in a Catholic family, her faith got compartmentalized in college, and she found herself “checking the box on Sunday” without being truly engaged.

Feeling empty, she sought answers in a feminist philosophy class, where she agreed with the early ideas of equal dignity and rights but found herself increasingly “stifled” by the more radical ideas presented as the movement progressed.

The longing for a “transcendent horizon” eventually drove her to her knees, where she asked God to show her who he was and help her find answers in her life.

A breakthrough came when Campbell's parents gave her a biography of Carmelite nun St. Teresa of Ávila over Christmas break, and she found it to be a “compelling” account of an accomplished woman with a “zest for life.”

“In her, I really saw for the first time a woman saint to whom I could relate,” she said, pointing to the saint’s experience of being pulled in different directions on the search to embrace God.

She explained that St. Teresa offered a mix of “femininity, freedom and faith” that she could aspire to, while making holiness feel like an adventure.

Campbell’s spiritual journey continued when her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during her senior year of college. The news caught her off-guard, and she quickly found herself filled with emptiness and dread, which led to impatience and frustration.

She found solace, however, in St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the young French nun known for her “Little Way,” whose father suffered from dementia in his later years, an experience that the saint described as an epitome of suffering in her own life.

“She had a very strong view of redemptive suffering,” Campbell reflected. “She saw meaning in his trial.”

“That really changed my perspective,” she continued, explaining that she found hope that she could relate to in the midst of a culture that rarely sees dignity in suffering.

Like St. Thérèse, who saw her father gradually conformed to Christ on the cross, Campbell watched as her father – a devout and hopeful Catholic – grew in his own faith. While it was still difficult to watch a loved one suffer, the friendship of St. Thérèse provided a “lens through which to view it,” she explained.

Later, Campbell turned to St. Faustina, a simple and illiterate Polish nun, in struggling with the balance of family and career while she worked as a speech writer for the White House as her fiancé was in medical school in St. Louis.

She discovered the connection between humility and trust and realized that marriage is not a dead end to freedom, as the culture surrounding her would have her believe, but “an avenue to a deeper freedom” that the world does not recognize.

Struggles with unexplained infertility led Campbell to seek the wisdom of the saints once again. Caught between a secular world that failed to understand the depth of her pain and the judgment of some Catholics who scorned her for failing to have children, she found herself ashamed and “near tears” on multiple occasions.

She grappled with the feeling that there was something wrong with her womanhood or her marriage and that God somehow viewed her as having less worth as a woman.

Wrestling with the question of why God would give her desires for motherhood without fulfilling them, Campbell discovered the writings of St. Edith Stein, a German philosopher and nun who converted from Judaism to Catholicism and died in a concentration camp. Before entering the convent, the saint gave talks in Europe on the dignity of women.

“She saw the beauty in recognizing your feminine dignity and embracing it,” Campbell said, explaining that the saint saw motherhood as a gift imprinted in every woman’s soul but expressed in various ways, including spiritual as well as physical manifestations.

Campbell realized that there were ways that she could be a mother in her present state, bringing her maternal gifts to her work and caring for ailing father.

Reading both St. Edith Stein and Bl. Pope John Paul II’s writings on the dignity of women “answered some fundamental questions about my value in the eyes of God,” she said.

Campbell hopes that her book will inspire readers to learn more about the saints.

She explained that contemporary readers may think that saints who lived hundreds of years ago are “inaccessible.” She hopes to dispel this idea by blending the stories of saints with her own modern-day story, so that readers may be able to see parallels in their own lives.

Women today are looking for heroines and role models, she said, adding that her own journey has shown her that her questions about life are universal, and saints are the ones that “have run the race and come out with satisfying answers.”

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Church leaders express prayers, condolences over Sandy Hook shooting

Denver, Colo., Dec 15, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Members of the Catholic hierarchy have expressed grief and sorrow over the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. while offering prayers for victims and their families. 

A telegram sent on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI to the Diocese of Bridgeport conveyed the Holy Father’s “heartfelt grief” for the victims of yesterday’s violent school shooting that took the lives of 28 people, 20 of whom were children.

“In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, he asks God, our Father, to console all those who mourn and to sustain the entire community with the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State of the Vatican, said in the Dec. 15 telegram.

According to the telegram, when the Pope learned of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. he asked Cardinal Bertone to “convey his heartfelt grief and assurance of this closeness in prayer to victims and their families, and to all those affected by this shocking event.”

On the morning of Dec. 14, a lone gunman – now identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza – opened fire on students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School after having shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at her home. 

The gunman killed 27 people, including 20 elementary school students, before shooting and killing himself.

In a Dec. 14 statement, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the shooting “wrenches the hearts of all people” and that the “tragedy of innocent people dying through violence shatters the peace of all.”

He offered “prayerful support” for the community of Newtown and prayed “that the peace that passes understanding be with them as they deal with the injuries they have sustained and with the deaths of their beautiful children.”

Hundreds of mourners gathered on Friday evening for the vigil held at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church whose pastor, Msgr. Bob Weiss, was on the scene of the shooting “within minutes” to offer assistance to those affected.

“(Msgr. Weiss) quickly alerted other priests from the parish who joined him. As this unfolded, and the significance of it became apparent, we also alerted all our clergy in the upper Danbury area,” Brian Wallace, the diocese’s director of communications told CNA Dec. 14.

Speaking on behalf of all the clergy, religious and faithful of his area, Diocesan Administrator of Bridgeport Msgr. Jerald A. Doyle, extended condolences to the victims and their families and offered to “make available whatever resources” needed to assist those affected by the tragedy. 

“As we continue our journey toward the Christmas Feast, may our hope for the peace and comfort of the Divine Savior, be a true source of assurance of His loving presence in our lives,” he said.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said he was “profoundly saddened” by the “terrible tragedy” that occurred in his former diocese.

“My heart goes out to the parents who lost their children and to a grieving community,” he said.

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