Hills parish gets grant for building improvements

By Celine Klosterman

St. Joseph Church, Hills

HILLS – St. Joseph Parish was surprised two weeks ago to learn it had been awarded the full amount of a nearly $81,000 grant it requested to build an elevator for the church and hall.
The Washington County Riverboat Foundation awarded the parish $80,877 as part of the foundation’s fall grant program.
“We applied a couple months ago, but didn’t think we would get the full amount,” said Father Mike Spiekermeier, pastor. “We weren’t expecting anything like this.”
The funds will help St. Joseph’s make its facilities more handicapped accessible, one of several building improvements the parish aims to begin this spring, he said. Besides the elevator, projects include adding handicapped-accessible restrooms, creating office space in the church’s lower level (parish hall), and updating the hall’s electrical wiring and HVAC system.
Currently, parishioners who face difficulties climbing the stairs to the church’s front entrance can use a lift that holds one or two people, Fr. Spiekermeier said. “We’re going to create a bigger vestibule that will have a hospital-size elevator that holds seven to eight people and a casket if needed.”
Unlike the existing restrooms, the new handicapped-accessible facilities will be located on the church’s main level. Parishioners thus will no longer need to descend stairs or use the lift to access the restrooms.
St. Joseph’s estimates the total cost of its projects at about $462,000. The parish doesn’t plan to undertake a capital campaign, but will use gifts from parishioners’ estates, Fr. Spiekermeier said. St. Joseph’s also is giving Catholics the opportunity to donate to the building improvements in memory of a loved one.
A display case in the new church entrance will house historical items from the former St. Stanislaus Church west of Hills, once a mission parish of St. Joseph’s.

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Iowa Catholic Conference priorities include family, social issues

By Tom Chapman

Tom Chapman

Under the direction of the bishops of Iowa, the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) advocates for the common good in the state of Iowa and works with other groups to promote public policies that respect the human person. The ICC serves as the lobbyist in the Iowa Legislature on issues important to the Church and society. In addition, the conference works to encourage people to inform their conscience and participate in the political process. Iowa’s four bishops lead the ICC Board of Directors whose members also include priests, religious women, deacons and lay people. The board’s primary activity is approval of legislative priorities that the ICC staff work on each year. The 2014 priorities:

Education
Supports expanding tax credits for individuals, businesses or financial institutions that contribute to a “school tuition organization” that provides scholarships to low- and middle-income children who want to attend a nonpublic school.
• Supports the equitable participation of nonpublic school children in federal- and state-funded programs.
• Supports full funding of public schools for the transportation of nonpublic school students.
• Supports parental choice in education by broadening financial assistance to families through education savings ac­counts, tax credits or other means to allow their children to attend the school of their choice.
• Supports parents as the first and primary educators of their children.
• Supports continuation of assistance for students enrolled in accredited nonpublic schools through technology and textbook appropriations.
• Supports full funding of the Area Education Agencies and on-site special education assistance through the AEAs.

Families and Children
• Supports efforts to expand family strengthening programs, improve childcare programs and increase welfare payments to poor families and children in Iowa.
• Supports amending the Iowa Constitution to recognize marriage only as a union of one man and one woman.
• Supports efforts to provide comprehensive programs for domestic violence victims and for those who commit these crimes.
• Supports governmental assistance that strengthens families, encourages and rewards work, and protects all vulnerable children, born or unborn, including those with developmental disa­bilities. Supports adequate funding for job training and child care.
• Supports legislation that promotes and funds chastity and abstinence education.
• Oppose eliminating the legal waiting period before a divorce.

Pro-Life
• Supports protection of human life and dignity as a foundational principle, in­cluding limitations on late-term and “webcam” abortions.
• Supports alternatives to abortion for women by providing funding to programs that assist women in crisis pregnancies.
• Supports efforts to provide women with a choice to be fully informed about abortion.
• Opposes any state efforts to legalize assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.
• Supports funding for research using non-embryonic stem cells.
• Opposes the use of taxpayer funds for abortions, human cloning or embryonic stem cell research.
• Opposes the death penalty.
• Supports legislation to promote adoption programs.
• Opposes embryo creation and destruction for stem cell research.
• Supports a statute to allow a civil claim following the death of an unborn child caused by a wrongful act or negligence.

Religious Liberty
• Support initiatives that protect religious liberty and the legitimate exercise of the freedom of conscience.

Social Concerns
Restorative justice
• Supports legislation that prohibits sentencing juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
• Supports sentencing reform that will emphasize community-based corrections for prisoners who are not a threat to the community.
• Supports sentencing reform that will give greater latitude to judges when deciding appropriate penalties.

Economic justice
• Opposes disproportionate cuts to programs that support the poor and vulnerable.
• Supports legislation to limit predatory lending practices.
• Supports a progressive tax system, a just living wage and fair and reasonable labor practices by employers.
• Opposes legislation that would allow for additional taxes and/or fees for services to be imposed on not-for-profit organizations.

Elderly care
• Supports measures to provide effective programs for those who are poor and elderly, including health care, transportation, housing and nutrition.
• Supports development of programs which would provide for a full continuum of care for moderate and low-income families, including care in the home, assisted living care and nursing home care, etc.

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Christmas Season is rich with meaning

By Fr. Troy Richmond

Fr. Richmond

In a culture where the commercial Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends the day after Christmas, we often forget that the Liturgical Season of Christmas is rich in meaning. We need to take time to contemplate the miracle of the Incarnation and the wonder of Christ’s birth. The 12 days of Christmas complete the story of Christmas (but not the Christmas Season) and celebrate both people and events that are significant to the Nativity of the Lord.
Dec. 26, the day after Christmas, celebrates the witness of St. Stephen, the first martyr to shed his blood for love of Christ. One may ask, “Why celebrate this martyr’s feast day so close to Christmas?”  Stephen’s heroic sacrifice shines light on the fact that the Christ child born in the wood of the manger would die on the wood of the cross. To fully love Christ the newborn king, we must be willing to imitate the self-emptying love of Christ our crucified Lord.
The Sunday following Christmas celebrates the Holy Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary (Dec. 29). As we look inside their home at Nazareth, we are reminded that our homes are to be places where Christ’s love dwells. The family is the domestic Church, united in prayer and bound in Christian love.
We begin the New Year and complete the Christmas Octave observing the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God (Jan.1).  Let us resolve to do as Mary said at the wedding feast of Cana, “Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you.”  We behold the beautiful truth that Mary is not only the Mother of God. She is the mother of the Church. She is our mother.
The 12 days of Christmas conclude as we celebrate the Epiphany (Jan. 5), also known as the Feast of the Kings, recalling the visit of the Magi to offer gifts to the newborn king. This feast reminds us that all of us are called to offer our lives as gifts pleasing to the Lord, surrendering all that we have and so that his life may more fully be lived in and through us.
Finally, the Christmas Season comes to a close as we honor the Baptism of Jesus (Jan.14).  We not only look to the Baptism of the Lord, but give thanks for the gift of our own baptism, promising to live more fully the faith we have received and continuing along the path of discipleship in the new year.
As the day of Christmas has passed, many of us will soon be taking down our Christmas trees and Nativity sets. I encourage us to leave them up for a few more days as we continue to celebrate the wonder of Christ’s birth.
(Father Troy Richmond is pastor of St. James Parish in Washington.)

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Christmas Season Haiti rosary factory update

By Fr. Bill Kneemiller

Fr. Kneemiller

In recent weeks, several Catholics have contacted me and mentioned that they want to support the Haiti rosary project. They had seen stories on the rosary project in The Catholic Messenger. I met with Liz McDermott and Gary Froeschle who volunteer for ServeHaiti. Recently, a donor pledged $15,000 in matching funds to help get the rosary factory off the ground. The matching pledges are through 2014.
Our strategy at this point is to continue to send the Holy Land Military Rosary materials with the Haiti medical mission and pay Haitians for their labor to assemble the rosaries and sew cases. Also, we are setting up a fund to reward any Haitians who can create the best-crafted “native” rosary, which will likely use coconut or coffee beans. Various beans are a good idea to use as beads as they do not contribute to any deforestation in Haiti. These native rosaries will be for sale to help make the rosary factory self-sufficient.

A Ranger Rosary made by Haitians is shown with a prayer card. A donor has pledged a $15,000 matching grant to help get a rosary factory up and running in Haiti.

Recently, I wrote to Pope Francis to inform him of this project in Haiti and asked him if he would consider “renting out” some masterpieces from the Vatican Museum to wealthy people who could help fund more rosary factories in Haiti.
I also invite Catholics from around the Diocese of Davenport to do something similar to fund this, or to support a sister parish that their own parishes are supporting.
For example, many of us have squirreled away valuable items such as jewelry, gold rings or baseball cards from the 1950s that are just sitting in a drawer. Pray about it; look at photographs of people in Haiti eating cakes made from clay, as some Haitians have no food at all. Then, consider taking something of value, sell it and elevate it to a heavenly value by giving these proceeds to the poor.
Also, consider this project when planning your next vacation. From July 28 to Aug. 2, friends of the Haiti rosary factory will have a rosary factory convention in Branson, Mo. There is a special half-price rate available to families for a couple of days or the whole week. Daily Mass will be offered in addition to family friendly activities.
To make a donation to the rosary project, send checks made out to Ss. Philip & James Church — Haiti Project, c/o Fr. Kneemiller, P.O. Box 7, Grand Mound, IA 52751. For more information on the rosary project, visit the new website at www.holylandmilitaryrosary.org or call Fr. Kneemiller (also about the Branson trip) at (563) 321-0124.
(Fr. Kneemiller is pastor of parishes in Grand Mound, Lost Nation, Oxford Junction and Toronto.)

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Deacon Montgomery appointed chancellor

By Barb Arland-Fye

Dcn. Montgomery

DAVENPORT — Deacon David Montgomery, director of communication and of the diaconate for the Diocese of Davenport, has been appointed to one of the diocese’s top posts: chancellor. The 55-year-old Iowa City native will assume his new duties Jan. 1, while remaining in his current positions and in his diaconal assignments at St. Peter Parish, Cosgrove, and St. Mary Parish, Oxford.
Deacon Montgomery’s previous experience managing diocesan archives for several years and familiarity with diocesan operations made him a good choice for the chancellor’s role, said Bishop Martin Amos who also appreciates the deacon’s attention to detail. “After discussion with him, he seemed comfortable with handling the additional responsibilities.”
While accepting the chancellor’s post is an honor, Deacon Montgomery said he had some reservations, at first. “But if they (Bishop Amos and Vicar General Msgr. John Hyland) felt I could do the job, I’m called to serve in any way I can.”
He succeeds Father George McDaniel, a retired priest of the diocese and professor emeritus of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, who served as chancellor for six years.

Fr. McDaniel’s “sense of history and his work in preserving history and historical documents made him an exemplary chancellor for our diocese,” Bishop Amos said. “His educational background was also an asset as he helped me to draft letters and responses to people.”
The chancellor is the diocese’s record keeper and chief notary who gathers, arranges and safeguards diocesan documents in the archives and records ecclesiastical acts, decrees and dispensations issued by the bishop. As chancellor, Deacon Montgomery will work closely with Bishop Amos and Msgr. Hyland and other chancery staff members.
Other responsibilities will include serving on the Diocesan Corporate Board of Directors, Diocesan Finance Council and The Catholic Messenger Board of Directors, among other boards. Deacon Montgomery will also be responsible for recording in writing what has taken place through the compilation, preparation and distribution of reports for Rome, the Official Catholic Directory, the Ordo, and sacramental records.
“The real function of the chancellor is to make sure that documents are notarized, that the bishop has actually signed the documents and that they’re preserved in the archives,” Bishop Amos said. Deacon Montgomery offers this example: “When a priest or deacon receives a new assignment, the letter of appointment signed by the bishop is notarized by the chancellor.”
Serving others has been the deacon’s lifelong goal. As a child, he wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up; as a young adult, he became a police officer and went on to open a 911 center in Oskaloosa. “I saw law enforcement as a way of serving,” explained Deacon Montgomery, who graduated from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy in 1979. He double majored in communications and religion for a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa, where he also earned his master’s degree in communications. A convert to Catholicism, he said he’s been interested in religion “since I was an altar server in the Episcopal Church.” Earlier this year, he earned a Master of Pastoral Theology degree from St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
His interest in religion led him to the director of communications position at the Diocese of Daven­port. “When I first came here in 1996 as director of communications, I was asked to manage the archives. I did that for several years … while I was managing the archives, one of the things I did was to digitize all of the sacramental records. That was a big project.” Now he’ll oversee diocesan archives, while the assistant archivist maintains the day-to-day workload.
Asked how his other positions complement his new duties as chancellor, Deacon Montgomery said: “As director of communications, I’m the spokesperson for the bishop, and so is the chancellor. My work with Rob Butterworth (the diocese’s technology director) brings a new perspective to the safekeeping of documents. I think my role as director of the diaconate helps to bring a pastoral perspective to the position, and serving two parishes as a deacon provides a perspective of the Church in local communities. All together, to me it means I have a perspective beyond the ‘office’ job.” In some dioceses, the chancellor might not be involved in local parish work. Deacon Montgomery sees that involvement as beneficial to his vocation. “Can you relate to what’s happening with the people? I think that’s important.”

Profile on Deacon David Montgomery

Title: Chancellor and Director of Communi­cations and of the Diaconate for the Diocese of Davenport; deacon for St. Mary Parish in Oxford and St. Peter Parish in Cosgrove.
Spouse: Michelle (married 25 years)

Children: Lindsay, Sean, Quinn. Grand­children Kade, Averi.

Parish: St. Mary, Oxford, and St. Peter, Cosgrove

Ordained to the diaconate: June 8, 2002, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

On being a deacon: “There is a saying in formation that ordination to the diaconate is recognizing the deacon already in the person who is living a life of service to God.”
What other ministries are you involved in? He has worked in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and hospital ministries.  “My focus now is in social action concerns by leading youth mission trips to David, Ky., and to the National Catholic Youth Conferences with my wife, Michelle, who is a certified youth minister.”

Outside of parish: Serves as one of five liturgical emcees for the bishop and one of two deacons who travel with the bishop for diocesan liturgies.

Favorite Scripture passage: “The centurion said in reply, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.’” — Matthew 8:8  “This passage reminds us of faith in the healing power of Christ that is not dependent on our worthiness or our sight.”

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Renewed in faith, hope at Christmas

By Corinne Winter

Corinne Winter

St. Athanasius, writing on the Incarnation, said, “God became man that we might become gods according to grace.”  Often, in our celebration of Christmas, we seem to concentrate on God’s “coming down,” on the self-emptying that is demonstrated  when God enters into human form.  Athanasius calls us to celebrate as well the “raising up” of humanity.  In Christ, we are called to share in the very life of God.  That is the destiny God sets for us in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This past weekend, in the graduate course on sin and grace, we experienced a number of times the strength of the temptation to concentrate on the negative actions and non-actions of humanity to the point of being overwhelmed by them.  We are bombarded by news of violence, injustice, and other human failures that are so much in contrast with what we believe we ought to be. Understandably, even justifiably, we experience disappointment, anger and frustration.  We may even think it would be a good idea to establish relationships with a few who seem to be among the elite or chosen, who demonstrate a faith commitment and strong moral principles, and to write off most of the rest of humanity as being ineluctably on the way to Gehenna.
But by entering into our lives in a world that was no less marked by sin than it is today, God lets us know that we can’t do that.  We share in God’s own life not in isolation from but precisely in relationship with the rest of the world. That relationship is, of course, not simply a “warm fuzzy” one limited to shared cups of hot chocolate.  Any worthwhile relationship, as we all know from experience, includes mutual challenge as well as mutual support.  Entering into the life of the world does not mean approving or letting slide the things we recognize as sinful.  Indeed, the more we love, the more we want to see others be the best they can be. And so we will continue to experience disappointment and anger, and we will express those. We will do that with love because we will insist on seeing the potential for goodness – for sharing in God’s own life.
We will also not give up on ourselves as instruments of God’s grace.  Again, in the light of all the issues that need to be addressed, we can be tempted to shrug our shoulders, “What can one person do?”  And we do need to avoid the temptation to try to accomplish so much that we burn out.  In fact, a number of theologians have described the effect of original sin as a tendency on our part to feel guilty for not being God, for not being able to transform ourselves and the world by our own efforts.  At the same time, we must avoid the temptation to be paralyzed by guilt or despair.  Rather, we must cultivate the virtue of hope in the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us and among us.
Especially as we gather to celebrate Eucharist, we should be renewed in faith, hope and love. There too, as Catholics, perhaps we can resist a temptation to think  judgmentally about some who seem to join  in the liturgy only at Christmas.  Can we rejoice instead that their presence demonstrates that some sense of connection with us still draws them?  Can we make a special effort to participate fully in the prayer so that the work of the Spirit within the community increases its attraction for all?
Christmas can be a season of joy, excitement, sadness, disappointment: it can include the full range of human emotions. Whatever it includes for each of us this year, may it call us to place our hope more fully in God born and at work within and among us in all the ordinariness, the messiness, and the strength of our everyday lives.
(Corinne Winter is a professor of theology at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.)    

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Persons, places and things: Sharing of hope at Christmas

By Barb Arland-Fye

Arland-Fye

At Christmastime 25 years ago, my husband and I and our 1-year-old son Colin didn’t have relatives living nearby and work schedules prevented us from traveling to see family. Mary Lou Clark, who worked at the Clinton County Courthouse, which I covered on my reporting beat, invited me to join her and her husband, Gary, for a Christmas get-together at their house.
We enjoyed their hospitality, which included Gary’s famous knock-knock jokes and his encyclopedic knowledge of topics of general interest. We opened thoughtfully chosen gifts (I’m sure mine included a bag of M&Ms) and ate a delicious meal together. Friendship grew from that much-appreciated demonstration of hospitality. The Clarks of Clinton and the Fyes of rural Fulton, Ill., became like a second family, celebrating Christmas, Easter, birthdays and other special occasions. Even Mary Lou’s parents welcomed us into the family at their Christmas and Easter celebrations in those early years of our marriage.
When Mary Lou and Gary adopted a little girl, Jennifer, we were as happy for them as we were for our own siblings welcoming a new child into the family.
Our get-togethers became less frequent after Mary Lou and Gary moved to Illinois and we moved to LeClaire, but we still got together around Christmastime to open gifts, eat pizza and have a good laugh.
Mary Lou has always been so encouraging; when Colin was diagnosed at age 3 with autism, she provided a shoulder to lean on. When I fretted about Colin missing milestones, Mary Lou made a comment that will be forever helpful:
“It doesn’t matter when Colin learned how to walk, he learned how to walk; it doesn’t matter when Colin learned how to talk, he learned how to talk; it doesn’t matter when Colin learned how to tie his shoes, he learned how to tie his shoes.” Mary Lou provided a sense of hope that comes from a faith steeped in the Gospel message, the Mass and in prayer.
So, when Gary sent an email a couple of weeks ago that Mary Lou was in the hospital and wouldn’t be home for Christmas, my heart ached for the two of them. She has struggled with myasthenia gravias, an autoimmune neuromuscular disease, for about two decades. Gary’s email noted that Mary Lou had already purchased and wrapped gifts, set them under the Christmas tree and mailed out Christmas cards. Ours arrived in the mail last week, signed, but without the Christmas letter we’ve come to enjoy.
In a telephone conversation last Sunday, Gary said Mary Lou is making better progress in her physical rehabilitation than anticipated. She would very much appreciate a visit, he said in response to my offer.
In a homily he gave during an October Mass at Casa Santa Marta where he lives, Pope Francis observed that hope “is what Mary, Mother of God, sheltered in her heart during the darkest time of her life: from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning. That is hope: she had it. And that hope has renewed everything …”
That is what I will pray for Mary Lou, that she is filled with the hope that our Blessed Mother experienced, the sense of hope Mary Lou conveyed to my family through her thoughtful gesture of hospitality at Christmas­time 25 years ago.

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