Russian bishop tells area Catholics ‘thank you’ for their prayers
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Hays — In the 23 years since his first visit, Bishop Joseph Werth said the Catholic Church has made great strides in Russia, so his main reason for returning was to say “thank you.”
“I am here first of all to tell you thank you for the many prayers,” he said through his interpreter brother, Jesuit Father Klemens Werth. “What has happened in these years is like a miracle to us.”
The Werth brothers are of Volga-German descent, like many of the residents of Ellis County, and so their return here the week of Sept. 14 was also a homecoming.
When Bishop Werth first came to Ellis County in 1992, the Church in Russia was just beginning to emerge from seven decades of Communist oppression. He was one of just two Catholic bishops in the former Soviet Union, overseeing a handful of priests and women religious.
Today, Russia is divided into four dioceses, and during a presentation at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School in Hays, the bishop told of the Church’s growth.
“We’ve built many Catholic churches. We have about 50 parishes and about 200 faith communities surrounding them. We have 45 priests and 65 religious sisters,” he said in German, with his brother translating.
Victoria — Father Al Brungardt, 72, a diocesan priest for 44 years, died Sunday, Sept. 20, in Hays.
Father Brungardt had been ill and in recent months was a resident at Via Christi Village in Hays.
His funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today, Sept. 25, by Dodge City Bishop John Brungardt, his nephew, at the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria.
Father Brungardt retired from active ministry in July 2013 and moved to Victoria. He had been pastor for 16 years at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Junction City.
But his work spanned the diocese, taking him to parishes in Beloit, Colby, Densmore, Downs, Logan, New Almelo, Osborne, Plainville, Salina, Smith Center and Zurich.
Father Brungardt was born Feb. 26, 1943, in Salina to Balthaser, a physician, and Margaret Brungardt. He grew up in the home across from Sacred Heart Cathedral that later became the home for Bishops George Fitzsimons, Paul Coakley and Edward Weisenburger.
Salina — When Linda Ourada sees pictures of starving children, she can’t get them out of her mind.
So when she encountered a charity that provides life-saving, high-nutritious meals to children overseas, she wanted to be a part of it.
On Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18, thanks to her efforts, volunteers in Salina will package those meals for the organization, Feed My Starving Children. Ourada’s goal is to raise $22,000, find 500 volunteers and prepare 100,000 meals.
Most people have no idea what extreme poverty and starvation looks like, said Father Jerome Morgan of Salina, who is working with Ourada on the project.
“Each day, 6,000 children in developing countries die because of hunger and starvation,” he said.
One serving a day of the fortified rice and soy protein meal that Feed My Starving Children distributes can make all the difference, Ourada said. She points to before-and-after photos illustrating the dramatic effect.
“I’m a former teacher — and a mom — so my heart aches for these kids,” said Ourada, a parishioner at St. Mary, Queen of the Universe in Salina. “This is so critical. If children don’t get the proper nutrition at first, they can be developmentally delayed forever.”
She and her husband, John, have been longtime supporters of Unbound, formerly the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. They sponsor several children in developing nations, and their monthly donations help pay for food, clothing, education and housing.
Father Morgan also is part of Unbound and travels to Catholic parishes across the country appealing for support.
“Many programs in the U.S. are targeted to alleviate poverty and hunger in the world,” he said, “No group can alleviate all world hunger, but each group can make an impact. I like the Feed My Starving Children program because they target the developing countries and the refugee children in the world.”
Ourada discovered the group when she and her husband were visiting their son in Minnesota. There, Feed My Starving Children operates one of its permanent packaging and distribution sites. The Ouradas measured and scooped ingredients, sealed bags and prepared the meals for shipping.
“I wanted Salina to have that gratifying, rewarding experience,” she said.
Feed My Starving Children also organizes mobile meal-packaging efforts, called a MobilePack, and Ourada began working nearly two years ago to bring one to Salina.
“I prayed about it,” she said, saying the Holy Spirit guided her to continue.
She formed an ecumenical steering committee, and Kansas Wesleyan University officials agreed to host the event at Hauptli Student Activities Center.
Cameron Jackson, director of spiritual development at KWU, a Methodist-sponsored college, is co-leader with Ourada. He noted that Jan. 18 also is a national day of service, and KWU is trying to promote volunteer work among its students.
“College students might not have a lot of cash, but they can work,” he said.
The team is working now to raise the $22,000. Donations can be made at www.fundraising.fmsc.org/salinakansas, or a check can be mailed to Feed My Starving Children, Attn: Mobile Pack #1601-234EA, 401 93rd Ave. NW, Coon Rapids, MN 55433. Checks should be payable to FMSC, with MobilePack #1601-234EA written in the memo line.
In November, people can sign up online for two-hour shifts.
Feed My Starving Children has tackled world hunger since its founding in 1987. In 2014, nearly 900,000 volunteers packaged more than 229 million meals.
On Aug. 22 the Respect Life Commission for the Diocese of Salina hosted our annual Respect Life Conference. Diocesan directors Jaclyn and Eric Brown put together an excellent group of speakers, and the information shared was thought-provoking, insightful and significant.
The lead speaker, Stephen Wagner of Justice For All, focused on how we can better engage those with whom we disagree about life issues, especially abortion. Instead of caustic shouting matches that inevitably fail to move hearts or change minds, we were actually led through practical exercises in how we can share the truth about the inherent dignity of human life in a way that is respectful and worthy of our Christian vocation, and at the same time prophetic.
We were reminded that all of us who recognize the image of God in every human being must take part in the public discussion. Without being abrasive or condemning, each of us must use our voice to speak up — in our friendships, our families, and our communities — to give a loving and thoughtful witness to human life.
As I drove home from the conference I reflected upon the fact that most of us need a day like that now and then to be reminded of how crucial this issue is. Indeed, one of our speakers noted that most Americans really are not pro-abortion. Rather, most Americans are actually ambivalent about abortion. Most Americans don’t want to think about it, and the pro-abortion movement in the U.S. has been exceptionally clever in keeping it out of sight and out of mind. The less people think about it the more socially acceptable — if not ignored — it becomes.
If I could use a sad analogy, it’s as though abortion has become our culture’s “dirty family secret.” We all know about it, we don’t talk about it, and while we regret it, we would prefer that no one bring it up in public or in any way make us look at it. In so doing, abortion becomes culturally and quietly all the more acceptable, while the inherent dignity of life deteriorates in life issues across the board.
But the stakes are simply too high. One abortion is too many; but over a million abortions a year is an almost unfathomable holocaust. And while abortion has a central role in the pro-life arena, as noted earlier, the issues actually extend well beyond the death of an infant and the damage resulting for the child’s mother flowing from abortion. The dignity of life is increasingly eroded in many areas of our culture. In “The Gospel of Life” (18) we read, “Today, when human rights are proudly proclaimed and the value of life itself given public affirmation, the most basic of all human rights, ‘the very right to life,’ is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.”
Related to this, the U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities points out “a policy and practice that result in well over a million deaths from abortions each year cannot but diminish respect for life in other areas.”
Having degraded the inherent value of human life through abortion, we are now seeing life degraded in the elderly and terminally ill; immigrants are viewed more as a “problem to be dealt with” than human beings; and international refugees — fleeing starvation and death — are equally dismissed.
Again, we who participated in the annual conference were reminded that the starting point to turn the tide in our culture involves each of us using our voice to speak the truth. Abortion needs to come out of the shadows. When made clear by us, the facts related to abortion will themselves move people to the truth. Ambivalence can be moved to zeal and activity. Lives will be saved and life will triumph. But it must begin with each of us.
Salina — Parishioners of the Diocese of Salina have three ways to take part in activities surrounding the anniversary of the Roe. v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
The annual March for Life is Jan. 22 in Washington. The Salina Diocese’s Office of Respect Life again will offer a bus trip to Washington that departs Jan. 20 and returns Jan. 24.
The cost, including bus fare and hotel room for two nights, is $325. Additional fees are required to attend the “Life Is Very Good” rallies in Fairfax, Va.
A private trip by air is offered by Canterbury Pilgrimages and Tours. Travelers would depart Jan. 21 from Kansas City International Airport and return Jan. 24. Round-trip airfare, some meals, motor coach transportation and sightseeing options will cost $1,245 for a single occupancy room, $1,095 for double, $1,045 for triple and $995 each for four persons. There is a $450 deposit per person required, with final payment due 75 days prior to departure. The trip is not affiliated with the Salina Diocese, and reservations must be made directly with Canterbury Pilgrimages, canterburypilgrimages.com.
Each year, Kansans For Life host a Rally for Life in Topeka, and the Office of Respect Life has organized a bus trip.
Departure on Jan. 22 will be 3 a.m. from Colby, 5 a.m. from Hays, 6:30 a.m. from Salina and 7:30 a.m. from Junction City.
The cost of $70 includes bus fare, continental bagged breakfast in Salina, a tour of the state capitol and other sightseeing. After Nov. 20, the cost is $75. Final payment deadline is Dec. 11. A $25 non-refundable deposit is due by Nov. 20. Reserve online at salinadiocese.org/respect-life.
Houston — The woman who has led the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia for nearly 16 years is now president of the organization that represents the majority of Catholic sisters nationwide.
Sister Marcia Allen stepped up to the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious on Aug. 14 in Houston before the 800 members attending the group’s annual weeklong meeting.
A year ago she was selected to serve as president-elect in the three-member governing body of the LCWR.
Sister Marcia, a native of Plainville, was received into the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in 1959 and professed her final vows in 1963. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and French from Marymount College in Salina and then a master’s in school administration from Kansas State University.
Look for coverage of the bishop's visit in the Sept. 25 Register.
On the air:
Bishop Joseph Werth was interviewed by Divine Mercy Radio in Hays. It will air at 88.1 FM in Hays on the Double-Edged Sword show at noon Sept. 19 and at 1 a.m. and 9 a.m. Sept. 21. Listeners can tune in on the web at dvmercy.com and click on “listen live” or on their smart phone apps.
After the last airing, the interview will be on the station’s website at dvmercy.com for a free download. It will be available on the smart phone app, which people can download for free by typing in Divine Mercy Radio in their app store or play store.
By Doug Weller
Schoenchen —Russian Bishop Joseph Werth will return next month to reconnect with long-lost relatives.
The newly consecrated bishop first visited Ellis County in 1992. There, many residents, like him, are descendants of the German immigrants who had settled the Volga River region of Russia in the late 1700s.
With Bishop Werth’s return, residents will have a chance to learn what has changed in Russia in the two decades since his last visit.
He will be in Kansas from Sept. 15 to 20. Plans include a morning talk on Sept. 16 at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School in Hays; visits with Salina Bishop Edward Weisenburger and Dodge City Bishop John Brungardt, both descendants of Ellis County’s Volga-Germans; an afternoon Mass on Sept. 19 at the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria; and a morning Mass on Sept. 20 at St. Anthony Church in Schoenchen.
Bishop Werth is traveling to the United States for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which Pope Francis also will attend.
The bishop contacted Capuchin Father Blaine Burkey, formerly of Hays, to tell him he planned to visit again.
Father Burkey, now of Denver, was head of the Center for Research at TMP-Marian when he first discovered that a Father Joseph Werth was back in the old Volga-German region of Russia ministering to the Catholics who had returned after being exiled.
Father Burkey wrote the priest and discovered his grandfather was born in Schoenchen, Russia, the home of the immigrants who founded Schoenchen, Kan.
Local residents quickly raised the funds to pay for his trip. By then, the Soviet Union had dissolved, and Pope John Paul II had made the 38-year-old Jesuit priest one of two bishops of Russia. He was put in charge of the massive Apostolic Administration of Siberia, which encompassed 4.6 million square miles.
Bishop Werth, now 62, heads the Diocese of the Transfiguration at Novosibirsk. It covers 772,000 square miles, or roughly the size of Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
“He’s had a big change. The pope cut down the amount of space he’s responsible for,” Father Burkey, now 79, quipped.
The Capuchin priest last saw Bishop Werth in Italy in 2001. He also attended the 1997 dedication of the cathedral in Novosibirsk. But he has had difficulty keeping in touch with the bishop.
“He doesn’t speak English, and I don’t speak German or Russian. Any communication has to be between someone else,” Father Burkey said.
Por Obispo Edward Weisenburger
Es algo raro que un documento tan esperado, haya captado nuestra atención, como lo ha hecho la encíclica Laudato Sí. Después de haberla leído detenidamente, me doy cuenta que esta encíclica supera mis expectativas porque ofrece a la comunidad humana verdades para nos harán reflexionar mirando hacia el futuro.
Intentar resumir el contenido del documento es hacerle una injustica, por ello, solo señalaré algunos puntos importantes que espero animen a muchos a leer la encíclica, la cual se puede encontrar fácilmente en el internet: w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/es.html.
El primer punto que me gustaría llamar a su atención es que Laudato Sí es ante todo un documento teológico. De hecho, el título en italiano Laudato Sí fue tomado de un verso del “Cántico de las Creaturas de San Francisco”: “Alabado seas mi Señor”.
Salina — Bishop Edward Weisenburger is hosting a pilgrimage to Italy the last week of October.
The tour will spend eight days in Rome and the vicinity. The group leaves Wichita on Oct. 22 and returns Oct. 31.
“After my arrival in 2012, I was asked by several people to consider leading a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome,” Bishop Weisenburger said. “Now after almost three years as your bishop, I feel this is a good time to host one.”
“I believe that this pilgrimage will share several cities in Italy that we, as Christians, have a desire to visit,” he added.
I can get close but regrettably I cannot tell you exactly where my grandparents’ farm was located in Ellis County.
It wasn’t far from Catharine. Their small, wood-frame home was moved to Hays when my mother was a teenager and still stands, just a few blocks from St. Joseph Church. The lot where it originally stood in Catharine is now empty, leaving no evidence that a house once stood on this plot of earth facing the parish cemetery.
But that lot, that home and that community are all fundamental to my family origins, and the thread that weaves my heritage together with that of the people of our diocese is the livelihood that most all of us can trace our roots back to: farming.
St. Paul, Minn. — A national organization devoted to Catholic rural life didn’t come about just recently.
Catholic Rural Life is in its 91st year, and while some of the issues have evolved over the decades, the institution remains devoted to supporting rural communities and the Catholic faith.
“Why be concerned about rural? We are concerned because 50 million people live in rural America,” said Jim Ennis, executive director.
“Food is essential to life, and therefore all Catholics and Christians should be concerned about our farms and way of living and continuing to support that way of life because that way of life ultimately sustains all our lives,” he said.
The Salina Diocese Rural Life Commission seeks to “serve the mission of the Church by promoting the care of God’s creation and the welfare of the people who depend on it.” We answer to the bishop and support the national Catholic Rural Life organization.
Pope Francis recently stated there is no humanity without farmers. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the shepherd of one of the most urban dioceses in the country, is a native of Missouri who said, “As the countryside goes, so goes the Church.”
Bishop Edward Weisenburger, a member of Catholic Rural Life’s national board of directors, noted at a recent Mass for Catholic Schools Week that the majority of Catholics in the diocese either grew up on a farm or their ancestors were farmers. Bishop Weisenburger’s grandparents farmed near Catharine.
The Rural Life Commission dates back to the 1920s and 1930s, when Msgr. Arthur Luckey and others expressed concern about the decline of family farms and rural communities. Seminars and workshops provoked public interest and thought about spiritual, social, economic and environmental issues affecting rural America.
Trego County — Fifty years ago, the standard farm family in Kansas featured father and mother both at home. They worked side by side, rearing their children to do likewise.
Six days a week they cared for the land, then worshipped on Sundays. It was a time when the rural school bus route made three stops and the bus was full, thanks to the large farm families.
That is not the norm anymore, but neither has that lifestyle vanished.
Marvin and Arlene Riedel, who live near Ellis in Trego County, are one of those couples whose lives still exemplify that model of long ago.
One of 10 children and a twin to his brother Melvin, Marvin was already helping on the farm along side his parents and siblings at an early age. By seventh grade he was driving a tractor, much like every other boy his age. They worked the land and lived off it as well.
“We ate chicken all the time and sometimes turkey or fish,” Melvin said, adding that they never butchered beef because it had to age and they simply did not have the facilities for that particular process.
For Catholics in western Kansas, appointing a committee to promote Catholic rural life seems a mite unnecessary.
For many people in the diocese — like Father Richard Daise, pastor of St. Mary Church in Ellis — it really is a way of living.
“It’s the only life I know,” Father Daise said, explaining that even though he had a career in the military as a veterinarian before being ordained a priest, his rural roots never left him.
“I grew up going to Mass every week. The one-room schoolhouse I went to, the kids took turns saying grace at lunch,” he said.
His rural background comes into play as moderator of the Salina Diocese Rural Life Commission.
Colby — Tony Horinek wasn’t even sure he’d have the opportunity to farm when he finished college, let alone see that his sons would be farming with him or that perhaps, one day, a grandchild might take over the operation.
“It’s just been wonderful,” he said. “When I started college, I didn’t know if I’d be a farmer because I didn’t have a farm to go to. The Lord directed us. We’re so blessed to have grown to the size we are. I didn’t figure the boys would come back, and I didn’t need them, but then the farm grew. It worked out so beautifully in God’s plan.”
Tony and his wife, Anita, married in 1980 and began farming in 1981 west of Colby.
“Neither of us had a farm to move on to,” Tony said. His father was a mechanic and farmed on the side. Anita’s grandfather had farm ground, and he wanted a grandchild to farm it, but he also wanted them to live on it.
“Our home was out in the middle of the wheat field,” Tony said.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan says one of the virtues of rural life is the number of priests who come from country parishes.
The Diocese of Salina would seem to confirm that.
Of the 53 active and retired diocesan priests, 26 grew up in a parish of fewer than 150 families. Of the current seminarian class of 14 men, four are from rural parishes.
That shows that half of the current priests in the diocese are from small parishes that make up about one-fifth of the total Catholic population in the diocese.
You could look at the Diocese of Salina to learn how Catholic Extension supports the Church in rural America.
“The Diocese of Salina is a great example of the variety of things we support,” said Rob Anderson, director of mission for Catholic Extension.
In fact, Catholic Extension was founded in 1905 in part because of the Salina Diocese.
Father Francis Clement Kelley, a priest from Michigan, visited Ellsworth in 1905 during a tour of Catholic parishes in the Midwest.
Pawnee Rock — When it comes to the mission statement of Catholic Rural Life — “to apply the teaching of Jesus Christ for the social, economic and spiritual development of rural America with responsibility for the care of God’s creation” — the Dominican Sisters of Peace take it seriously.
The community was concerned about the effect agribusiness was having on small family farms and the distance that was steadily increasing between city and rural people. They began to focus on holistic health, spirituality and organic farming.
In 1987, the community purchased an 80-acre farm in Rush County 13 miles west of Great Bend and named it “Heartland Farm.”
At the time, they were the Dominican Sisters of Great Bend. In 2009, the community merged with six other Dominican congregations from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Louisiana.
At Heartland Farm, located just south of the Diocese of Salina’s border, Sister Betty Jean Gobel began creating a lifestyle of sustainability with Sister Rosalita Weber and Sister Imelda Schmidt. A family soon joined them to live and work together.
Twenty-five years later, four Dominican Sisters live and minister at Heartland Farm. It has four homes; two straw bale structures, one a hermitage and the other an art studio; and the original three cabins that are used as a residence, gift shop and art studio. The silo, next to the 100-year-old barn, has been converted to a place of meditation and reflection.
Angelus — Farm families living along an eight-mile stretch of road near here have produced five vocations in the last four decades.
And while they all have taken different paths in service to the Church, one thing in common binds them together.
“I really think the vocations are a tribute to the faith of the people and the good, wholesome lifestyle,” said Mercy Father Anthony Stephens.
“Father Brian and I have talked about it, how interesting that there are five of us. It’s either that faith or it’s something in the water,” Father Stephens added, laughing.
He, Father Brian Lager and Capuchin Father John Lager are the most recent priestly vocations from St. Paul Parish in Angelus. Growing up just east of them along what historically was known as Red Line Road were Sister Rose Marie Weber, a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Wichita, and Sister Mary Beata Ziegler, a Sister of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George of Alton, Ill. Both are vocations from St. Francis Cabrini Parish in Hoxie.
Salina — A Catholic in the Diocese of Salina would be hard-pressed not to be directly affected by one of the ministries supported by the Catholic Community Annual Appeal.
The 2015 drive seeks $1.125 million to support diocesan and parish ministries, seminarian education, priests’ health care and retirement and Catholic schools.
“Our annual appeal funds the day-to-day operations of the diocesan church for the coming year,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger says in an audio message shared with parishioners. “Those ministries affect people in every corner of our diocese.”
He continues, “The ‘Lift Up Your Hearts’ appeal is your opportunity to contribute this year for the immediate needs of the Church. I am asking you prayerfully to consider a gift to the annual appeal. Every gift, regardless of its amount, makes a difference, and every gift is truly appreciated.”
Although the goal for this year remains the same as 2014, “we would really like to see an increase in participation,” noted Syndi Larez, director of stewardship and development for the Diocese of Salina.