May 14, 2015

Feed my sheep – fast

This is one ministry where minutes matter

BY TONI CASHNELLIAbove, Thursday morning, it’s a race against the clock for Chef Jonathon Douglas; right, volunteer coordinator Judy Radina; below,  Jonathon with volunteers Ron Kirkman and Darryl Jenkins.

Take a mystery ingredient and create a delectable dish in 30 minutes or less.

That’s the cooking show-style challenge that faces postulant Jonathon Douglas every week. His equipment: an electric skillet and a hot plate. His tasters: 500 families dependent upon the food pantry at CAIN – Churches Active in Northside – for sustenance. Jonathon’s task at his volunteer ministry is to turn donations into things people would cook and eat at home.

Each Thursday at the Rainbow Choice Food Pantry, he surveys deliveries from groceries, restaurants and farmers. Whatever they give, whether it’s venison or squid steaks, kiwi or kumquats, there’s a use for it. Jonathon just has to figure it out. “It can be very difficult on days when there isn’t much to choose from and I have to wait for the first delivery to come in, which cuts down the time I have to maybe 10 minutes to get everything planned and set up to cook,” he says.

“We just started doing this when Jonathon came,” says Volunteer Coordinator Judy Radina, well aware that cooking talent runs in his family. Mom Lydia Tucholski is a professional chef. “This is a role he was born to play,” Judy jokes. “Jonathon is very resourceful,” says fellow volunteer Darryl Jenkins, drawn to the small, open kitchen of CAIN by the scent of sautéed garlic. “He takes whatever is available and does a great job.”

“A little stressed”

Taste is, of course, the main consideration. In addition, Jonathon says, “I try to make things as healthy as possible using things people may not want to try or take from the pantry. Sometimes you have to be creative,” sneaking burgers onto whole wheat buns, for example. And it has to be simple enough to replicate without a written recipe. “You have to assume our guests may not have a full kitchen.”

When donations arrive, “I usually have all of 20-30 minutes to get everything together” to make sample servings folks can grab while shopping. “Sometimes we have a lot of options. Sometimes we don’t.” Today there is a windfall of kale. “There’s so much you can do with it besides salad,” he says, cracking eggs into a skillet, folding in meat, cheese and kale to make – voila! – Sausage Breakfast Scrambler with Kale.

 Easy-peasy? Not really, says Jonathon, who wondered, “What on earth am I gonna do?” his first few weeks at the pantry. “I was a little stressed.” Even though “I learned a lot from Mom,” more than once he wanted to call and ask for help. “But I knew she’d be working.”

When he chose this ministry, “I had no idea I’d be cooking. I thought I’d be helping people shop,” introducing them to CAIN’s unique system. At the Rainbow Choice pantry, food and other items are shelved with color-coded signs and listed on a chart. Depending on family size, guests take what they want in the quantities they need. “The color-coded system gives them options” and makes this more like a trip to the corner grocery.  “At other food pantries they put stuff in a bag and say, ‘Have a nice day’.”

“Walk with them”

Here, guests can chat with the chef. “There’s a lot of interaction,” says Jonathon, who believes “the best way to minister to be people is to be there with them. You walk with them and talk to them and get to know their story. One of the guys who came in was a World War II vet who lived by himself, and the money and Social Security wasn’t enough to get him through the month.” After filling his cart, “He shook my hand and said, ‘I can’t thank you guys enough for doing this.’”

When he leaves CAIN for vacation and summer studies, “We will definitely miss Jonathon,” says Judy, who last week found someone with a nutrition degree to take his place. They hope to expand the sampling idea, maybe add a cooking class.  “I can see this growing into something more, to introduce our guests to nutritious food they may not have tried before.”

With samples nearly gone, Jonathon shelves deliveries and refills the coffee maker. During a lull, Darryl stops by the counter to try a forkful of Scrambler and gives the cook an appreciative nod. “You did it again,” he says.

(Learn more about CAIN at:

Life lessons from a student of nature

BY TONI CASHNELLIThe Rite of Remembrance for Don Rewers at St. Clement.

His best teaching was done outside a classroom. And his best subject was Lessons in Living.

The sharing at the memorial Mass for Br. Don Rewers was long, earnest and emotional, described by celebrant Fr. Jeff Scheeler as “one of the most moving” he had ever witnessed. With no family able to be there, attendance was expected to be sparse. But almost 60 friars joined friends at St. Clement on May 7 to talk about how deeply Don impacted their lives through his resilience, his prayerfulness, and his knowledge of the natural world.

His physical decline in the past decade was hard to watch. But it was even harder to imagine how this once vigorous teacher and JPIC activist kept his sanity and his sense of humor through it all.

As a postulant in 1996, Br. Phil Robinette saw Don’s dedication to fitness, “running up and down Mt. Airy, trying so hard to take care of himself.” When his health failed, “I think it was rough on him. What a brave person he was; he showed no sign of fear or regret.”

Forced into a wheelchair by broken bones from falls, “He wouldn’t let you push him; he wouldn’t let you do things for him,” said Fr. Bert Heise, a fellow resident at St. Margaret Hall. Don was determined to manage on his own. “You would see him going down the corridors because he couldn’t go outside much. He never complained. I never met a man that patient.”

Knowing how Don loved nature, “I would take him outside,” said Sr. Deirdre Ferguson of the Carmelite community at St. Margaret Hall. “He was a man of deep faith and trust in God; he would never complain. He truly was remarkable.”

He had “a graciousness that never left him,” according to Carmelite Sr. Eileen Rosinski. With all his ailments, “The amount of stress there should have been was never reflected.” Helping Don was “a privilege, and the whole staff recognized it. The day he finally went home to God there were many wet eyes. He’s going into the ‘Carmelite Hall of Fame.’”

For Br. Norbert Bertram, Don’s legacy was patience. “He taught us how to suffer and he taught us how to die.”

Natural wonders

Don’s love for creation was contagious.

“Fifty years ago at Mt. Airy, Don introduced me to a world I still love so much,” said classmate Fr. John Quigley. One day outside the Shrine, Don found the fossil of a shellfish. “It’s an ‘inarticulate brachiopod’. These are 425 million years old,” he told an awestruck John. “I had never been in the presence of anything 425 million years old,” John recalled. At that moment he realized “how precious the ground was that we were living on.” It was a lesson he never forgot, a testament to Don’s endless curiosity about nature.

“They say that when [Apple founder] Steve Jobs died, his last words were, ‘Oh wow,’” said John. “I think that when Don met our Savior it was an amazing, clear, resounding, ‘Oh wow.’”

Classmate Fr. Carl Langenderfer served on the novitiate team with Don in Oldenburg after his years of teaching biology. “He knew a lot. Anytime anything came up about animals or plants, it was like you pushed a button on a tape recorder: Away he went.”

Acceptance and prayerAbove, one of the story boards at his memorial; left, the avid jogger; below; young friar Don.PHOTO BY TONI CASHNELLI

Don was “an intellectual, an introvert with a great sense of humor,” said John. At Mt. Airy, “He was in a class of lay brothers. They did not make it easy for Don; they were not comfortable with his intellectual gifts and idiosyncrasies” and gave him a hard time. “He never took it the wrong way. He bore other people’s comments easily. I admired him for the world he opened up for me and for his profound humility.”

Don’s favorite scripture, “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away,” juxtaposed the blessings and burdens of his life. “Our brother Don, like Job, was a man of patient suffering,” said homilist Fr. Frank Jasper, who saw Don in his final days. “For a man very active one of the most difficult things was to stay put and be confined. He was a man who ran regularly, took good care of himself and enjoyed life. Then, like Job, things began to happen,” first cancer and then the autoimmune disease, Pemphigus. “That disorder along with treatment brought him down step by step.” Don dealt with debilitation in “a zen-like way, calm and serene. Like Job, he was able to maintain his balance, his stability, even in the face of illness.”

Like Francis, “Don was a man who loved nature.” He was renewed by hiking, planting trees, teaching biology. “As a scientist, he loved to lecture,” holding forth on subjects like lowly slime mold and spermatocytes of the domestic cricket (around which he framed a thesis). How fitting that Don decided to donate his body to science. Even after death, “He’s still teaching students at the University of Cincinnati,” Frank said.

“What stands out for me is he was truly a man of prayer” and made it “the focus of his life. At one point he told me he hadn’t been able to pray morning prayer for two weeks but said, ‘I’ve been practicing the presence of God.’ Once he had this powerful experience of the presence of Jesus, so tangible he felt an arm on his shoulder. He opened his eyes to see who it was and realized it was the Lord. It gave him great consolation, being in the presence of God.”

The promise of today’s first reading (from Matthew) was, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Frank had another reading in mind, from Isaiah: “‘….Those who hope in Yahweh will regain their strength, they will sprout wings like eagles, though they run they will not grow weary, though they walk they will never tire.’

“Br. Don, we thank you for the good example you have given to us of how to live a life intensely with the Lord….We pray you may soon be able to fly on eagle’s wings with the angels and have Jesus put his arm on your shoulder as he leads you to everlasting life.”

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Murray Bodo in Rome in 2014.

  • Fr. Murray Bodo will read from several of his books of poetry at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 14, at the newly established Immaculate Conception Province Franciscan Library in New York City. The library is housed in the provincial headquarters at 125 Thompson St. “All are welcome,” according to an article on IC’s website. “If you hope to attend, we ask that you RSVP to so that we will have a sense of numbers.” More info at: BLOCK57.
  • From Fr. Henry Beck: “In preparation for a meeting of representatives of Henry Beck, OFMreligious communities with Archbishop Cupich here in Chicago regarding the various issues of the Synod of the Family, I looked for some materials on divorce and remarriage in the Eastern Catholic Church and in the Orthodox Tradition.  I found an article entitled ‘Economia and Pastoral Guidance’ by Bishop Athenagoras, a current heirarch of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.  He offers some helpful quotes from John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and Basil the Great.  I wanted to share the link because I found both support for the indissolubility and uniqueness of marriage and for ‘economia’ (the expression of kindness and compassion)

for couples in marriages where the ‘internal symphony’ of the marriage is no longer salvageable.  I thought it might be helpful to others as the dialogue around the synod continues during this year.  The link is: Articles. If this proves difficult, I have the article saved on my computer and can send it to you.”


Bacon seniors Stephen Poptic and Kasey Niesen

  • The percentage of Americans who call themselves Christian has dropped significantly since 2007, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and reported on a Commonweal blog. “Mainline Protestants and Catholics have experienced the largest losses (-3.4 percent and -3.1 percent, respectively), Evangelicals the smallest (-.9 percent, just over the margin of error). While the dip in Christian affiliation has occurred across all age cohorts, the younger you are, the more likely you are not to identify with any religious tradition.” Read more at:
  • Did you know that 96% of Roger Bacon graduates continue their education at colleges and universities? Each week in May the school is posting a Top Ten list on its website and Facebook pages to profile two outstanding graduates-to-be. Read about these accomplished seniors at:  Rogerbacon; Facebook.

‘Sine proprio’ in Assisi


One bag came in; Jeff made do with a borrowed habit.PHOTO BY TOM WASHBURN, OFMThis General Chapter of the Order began with a real experience of poverty, mendicancy, and living “sine proprio”: My luggage got lost on the way over! When going through security in Cincinnati, there was a momentary power outage. Once on the plane, the pilot explained that we would be delayed because that brief outage had caused havoc for all the baggage in the airport. After an hour of trying to sort it out, our pilot decided we had to leave. The delay caused me to miss my connection in Paris, but the folks there assured me my baggage was on the flight I was assigned.

Once in Rome, I found out that this was not true. My bags took a different flight to Rome, arriving two days later. I flew on Delta and Air France, and my bags took Alitalia, and it seems they were not talking to one another. It took several more days for one bag to make it to Assisi. As I write this, I am still awaiting one more bag. I borrowed a habit and some socks, but five-and-a-half days was getting to me. While I felt anger and frustration, I also experienced much kindness and generosity from the Chapter staff and delegates.
The Chapter began with a very powerful opening moment. All the delegates gathered on the plaza in front of St. Mary of the Angels. We processed in and kissed the book of the Gospels held by the General Minister, the successor of St. Francis, before walking through the Portiuncula chapel. I touched the very stones that Francis used to rebuild the chapel, and was quite moved by this brief ceremony.

The Chapter is a great experience of internationality. In the aula, I am sitting between California and Canada. At one meal I might sit with Hungary, Taiwan, Malta and Ireland, at another, Egypt and Indonesia. I recreate with Germany, Austria, and Lithuania, as well as the U.S. provincials. We struggle aFriars process into St. Mary of the Angels. little with language sometimes, but we seem to make it through.

The first day we had to work out a few kinks, and it was frustrating. We practiced using the voting machine, and a few of them were not working properly. We are wearing badges that have a chip in them so we know how many are present and who is missing. The first item of business was to approve the procedural rules. There were some proposed changes, actually a bit technical, and we did not have written translations, and our translators had to do it on the spot. Not the best way to do business, but we got through it.

The General Minister, Fr. Michael Perry, has begun his report on the state of the Order. We are discussing it in language groups, and I have been asked to serve as President of my group. We have also begun to discuss those nominated to serve as Minister General, Vicar General and Definitor General. So we are off and running. I pray for you often, and trust in your prayer for all of us. I’ll keep you informed, but I hope you are fining the daily ESC reports helpful.


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