February 19, 2015

An eye for beauty

Friar’s photos have stood the test of time

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Little did he know when he ordered his photography kit from Sears Roebuck in the 1930s that Fr. Valens Waldschmidt would begin a hobby that gave him, his family and friends so much pleasure.ᅠ Almost 95, with severe macular degeneration, Val cannot fully appreciate his work from the previous decades.ᅠ But the images are fixed in his mind.

Valens got hooked on photography when he developed his first roll of film in grade school.ᅠ “It was like magic.ᅠ The images just seemed to appear.”ᅠ He did not have an enlarger and so his first prints were really small contact prints—the same size as the negative.ᅠ But it got him started in his lifelong quest to create beautiful and interesting photographs.

In high school he was not permitted to use the photo lab because there was only one photographer per class and so his hobby lay dormant until he was ordained and moved to St. George Parish in Cincinnati.ᅠ Fr. Roland Ulmer gave him an enlarger and he quickly set up shop in the friary basement.ᅠ He bought a better lens and worked tirelessly to create some magnificent images of friars and, later on, students and teachers in the parish grade school in Streator, Ill.

Three elements

When I pulled the pictures from his portfolio, they were as rich and vibrant as the day he printed them in his basement.ᅠ I described each picture and he told me the story behind each one as though he had viewed them a thousand times.ᅠ Fr. Val expounded on this theory of photography.ᅠ It has three elements.ᅠ “Each picture has a history (who’s in it, where was it taken, what was the story behind it).ᅠ Then, there’s what I’m trying to bring out in the picture by various angles, shading, lighting, contrast, etc.ᅠ Finally, there is the person’s response to my picture—what are they feeling, what is evoked, what do they associate with it.”

“When I have a really good negative, I blow it up to 11-by-14.”ᅠ And, Val did have a number of excellent quality prints, mostly from his years at St. Anthony Parish in Streator.ᅠ That’s where he spent the most time fussing with his pictures.ᅠ He tried to do color prints, but the temperature requirements were so stringent he decided to hand color his B & W prints instead.

I was impressed with his composition, the expressions on the faces and the tonal quality of his black and white prints.ᅠ They evoke a nostalgic feel, yet show a deeper side of the person in the picture.ᅠ You can tell they enjoy being with him as much as he enjoys being with them.

Telling a story

Every picture had a story that he loved to tell.ᅠ He expounded at length on a few of his favorites.ᅠ Obviously, we did not make it through his entire packet before the nurses were pestering him to get in bed and turn out the lights.ᅠ He ignored them as long as possible because he was so energized in talking about his hobby.

Val had a variety of camera equipment along the way.ᅠ Being a true Franciscan, he always bought his cameras second-hand, usually from a pawn shop.ᅠ His favorites were a Rolleiflex 2¼ x 2¼ and an Olympus 35 mm.ᅠ He rolled his own film from hundred-foot rolls that he purchased from New York.ᅠ Discovering bargain-priced photographic paper, he stocked up on 11-by-14s and blew up his favorite images.ᅠ He enjoyed working with the children and they were very cooperative in staging some of the pictures for him, especially his nieces and nephews who are now in their 50s and 60s.

Val entered several of his photographs in competitions, but he never won anything.ᅠ However, he did have a major exhibit in 2008 at Archbishop Leibold Home where he lives.ᅠ His neighbors were amazed at his hidden talent.

Now Val is downsizing and giving away his pictures and photo equipment.ᅠ Some of the cameras are so old that they don’t make film for them anymore.ᅠ Others are in mint condition, but they are old technology.ᅠ However, this “old stuff” created some of the lovely pictures that are here.ᅠ.ᅠ However, this “old stuff” created some of the lovely pictures that are here.

Above, Ja’quan Howard told the story of Jack Johnson; left, a presidential pose from Casey Sewall.

Above, teacher Kyle Wirthwine; left, ushers TiAndria and El’ondrea.


“This will be cute,” Pastor David Kohut said of the afternoon event at St. Francis Seraph School in Over-the-Rhine. “It’s called ‘Day at the Museum,’” a takeoff on the popular Ben Stiller movies in which historical figures come to life at night. In this case, kids would portray key African American figures from history.

Fifth-grade teacher Kyle Wirthwine devised this as a way of bringing Black History Month to life. He was correct in assuming the kids would love it. But he was dreaming if he thought that 36 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders could stand as still as statues.

 For an hour-and-a-half on Feb. 13, the costumed kids and their folding-board displays took over the auditorium of the school. Classes in different grades were “admitted” as guests to the museum by a pair of smiling ushers, then led by teachers to stand before African American heroes from politics, sports, literature, medicine and entertainment – from President Barack Obama to rocker Jimi Hendrix, from activist poet Langston Hughes to Patricia Bath, a ground-breaking ophthalmologist, inventor and academic. Press the paper button at the foot of the figure, and they sprang to life to give a brief synopsis of their memorable life.

Most had their speeches down pat. “I am important because I was a slave and I escaped and I fought in the Civil War,” is how Teaundre Steed began his portrayal of social reformer Frederick Douglass. “I was the first African American to go to an all-white school in the South,” D’eaysa Williams said of her alter ego, Ruby Bridges. “I was the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion” was Ja’quan Howard’s intro to the life of sports legend Jack Johnson.

Not surprisingly, they were less successful at being motionless, sometimes stepping off pedestals to chat with the famous person next door or dancing in

Kids bring black history to life


place to a tune only they could hear. One exception was Casey Sewall, aka President Obama. Arms akimbo in an I-mean-business attitude, he gave his performance the gravitas it deserved.

Between tours, teacher Kyle rallied the troops. “I need for you to be more still than you’ve ever been,” he said. “Frozen like statues.”

It didn’t matter. They were having fun.  And there was more to this than a 30-second spiel. Students also had to write a report on the historical figure and his or her impact on the world. Why did you choose Ruby Bridges?, D’eaysa was asked. “Because she did not care what the other kids looked like; she was just there to learn,” was her insightful response.

After the last tour, the legends climbed down from their pedestals to return to their real-life classrooms. And ushers greeted departing guests with, “Thank you for visiting our museum. We hope you had a wonderful time.”

Sr. Maria Cimperman, RSCJ

  • Feb. 12, Br. John Barker and Fr. Henry Beck attended the inaugural event for the new Center for the Study of Consecrated Life at Catholic Theological Union. The center’s goal, according to CTU, is “to engage in global dialogue and research on temporary issues in consecrated life today.” Last Thursday’s program included dialogue, reflection, a prayer service and talks by the center’s first director, CTU Associate Professor Sr. Maria Cimperman, RSCJ, and Rev. Robert Schreiter, CPPS, Vatican Council II Professor of Theology at CTU. “Religious communities

are a vital presence in today’s global Catholic Church,” said Sr. Maria. “With new forms of consecrated life also emerging, there is a compelling need for a center where the theology, spirituality and history of religious and consecrated life can be studied, and where collaboration, dialogue, and creativity will yield valuable resources for these communities worldwide.” CSCL will offer yearly courses, workshops and symposia. As a member of CTU, SJB Province contributed to the establishment of the center and chair. “I thought the dedication was very well done,” Henry said, “and I think this new center and Sr. Maria will inspire all of us to reflect on our way of life as religious and consecrated laity during this coming year.” Maria interviewed a number of CTU students for a visual presentation for this event, according to Henry, “and this, too, added to my own hopefulness as I watched this generation of younger religious speak about their hopes for the future.ᅠ Cliff [Hennings] and Roger [Lopez] were both interviewed for this presentation and offered thoughtful reflections on our life as religious.” For more information visit Consecrated life.

He’s tied up at the moment.

  • Fr. Jeff Scheeler was one of the CMSM leaders interviewed and photographed last August for an online presentation connected to the Year for Consecrated Life.  Interviews were conducted by Capuchin friars at the CMSM Assembly in Pittsburgh and are posted at:ᅠLeadership
  • The Custody of St. Anthony of Padua-Philippines posted a tribute to
    Fr. Elgar Nadon
    on its website at: Article
  • Fantasy became reality last Friday when students and teachers at Roger Bacon High School got to Duct-Tape Assistant Principal Paul Zlatic to a pole in the cafeteria. “Each piece of tape cost $1 and all money raised will be donated to local charities through an elective class called, ‘Writing for Change’,” according to a post on RB’s Facebook page.  “First and second lunch both kept Mr. Zlatic hanging on the wall due to great participation. Thanks to Mr. Zlatic for being such a great sport!”

Plowing and playing

How would a dog describe the unusually heavy snowfall in Hazard, Ky.? It’s ruff! Monday, Hazard was buried in 15 inches of snow, according to Pastoral Associate Pat Riestenberg. Tuesday, “We spent a good part of the day just trying to dig out the area in front of the garage.” Wednesday, “About 3 more inches fell.” Unfortunately, “One of our parishioners died on Monday evening. The funeral home director called to see if we would be able to have our parking lot cleared out by Saturday for the funeral. ...We’re working on it!” The snowstorm shut down schools, courts, stores and many businesses. Pictured are some of the shoveling crew, “including Mike Chowning, Mike Dubec, another Michael who just happened to walking down the street, and Maxine, who works for us part-time.” In weather like this Mike Dub

My family says of my life, “Join the friars and see the world.” And it is kind of true. At the end of January it was Rome, then Jamaica, and this week I write to you from bright and sunny Albuquerque. (These opportunities are a blessing, but it does get wearying when the trips are back-to-back.) We are stretched and broadened by the opportunity to leave our home towns and experience many places and cultures, a privilege many people do not have. The world indeed is our “cloister.” Wherever we find ourselves is where we live the Gospel, following Jesus in the spirit of Francis. I remember our brother Larry Landini describing our rule as “tips for the road.” Here in the Southwest I will visit Manuel Viera, Matthias Crehan, Paul Walsman, Bryant and Bruce Hausfeld, Ricardo Russo and Bill Spirk. I will also meet with the other six U.S. Provincials and the team guiding our restructuring process, including our own Page Polk. I do look forward to sleeping in my own bed, sometime!


— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM Email To a Friend