WBEZ | Lynette Kalsnes http://www.wbez.org/tags/lynette-kalsnes Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Meet Bishop Blase Cupich, Chicago's incoming archbishop http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/meet-bishop-blase-cupich-chicagos-incoming-archbishop-110828 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/greeting.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated 5:30 p.m.</em></p><p>Bishop Blase Cupich will be installed as the next archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago on Nov. 18. He&rsquo;s currently the bishop of Spokane, Wash., and previously served as bishop of Rapid City, S.D.</p><p>He began a press conference Saturday by asking the people of Chicago to pray for him, as Pope Francis did right after he became pontiff.</p><p>Cupich&rsquo;s appointment came as something of a surprise to many who have been closely watching the succession process. The bishop comes from a smaller diocese, and hadn&rsquo;t been on most of the short lists. But he&rsquo;s known as a moderate who observers expect will follow the pastoral approach of Pope Francis.</p><blockquote><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/cupich-be-next-chicago-archbishop-110827">Observers, parishioners</a></strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/cupich-be-next-chicago-archbishop-110827"><strong>&nbsp;discuss Cardinal George&#39;s legacy</strong></a></blockquote><p>That viewpoint was evident at his first press conference here, where he was informal and used short parables to get his point across. In Spanish, he said he comes as a pastor, but he also comes here as a brother.</p><p><strong>Bishop Cupich&rsquo;s style of leadership</strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168607075&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>This is the Pope&rsquo;s first major selection in the U.S., so the appointment has been closely watched as indicative of the direction in which the pontiff may hope to lead the U.S. Roman Catholic church.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the holy father is a pastoral man,&rdquo; Cupich said. &ldquo;...I think that I wouldn&rsquo;t want to in any way overly politicize or put this in a different context. I think he cares a lot about people, and he took his time, and he wanted to provide a pastor. And so I think he sent a pastor, not a message.&rdquo;</p><p>Bishop Cupich said he was humbled and encouraged by the appointment, calling it a &ldquo;blessed opportunity.&rdquo; He said surprise doesn&rsquo;t come close to describing his reaction.</p><p><strong>Bishop Cupich&rsquo;s reaction to his selection:</strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168607361&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Cardinal George said he was relieved and grateful the Pope had honored his request to retire. Each time that was mentioned at the press conference, he punched his arm in the air in apparent joy. All the previous bishops here had died in office.</p><p>George said he&rsquo;s relieved, too, to leave the Archdiocese with &ldquo;such an able and experienced man.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I described him as well-prepared for his new responsibilities, bringing to them a deep faith, a quick intelligence, personal commitment and varied pastoral experience, and I hope you&rsquo;ve seen that in action in just a very few minutes, and you&rsquo;ll see it in action for many years to come,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><strong>Cardinal George on why he&rsquo;s grateful:</strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168607598&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The Cardinal is facing his third battle with cancer, and is undergoing experimental treatment. Yet he&rsquo;s largely maintained his bruising schedule.</p><p>George will stay in office for the next two months, while Cupich will continue serving as bishop of Spokane. They plan to stay in touch to plan a smooth transition. Once he&rsquo;s retired, George said he hopes to help the new archbishop in any way he can, and to perform confirmations and confessions.</p><p>If he&rsquo;s strong enough, Cardinal George plans to journey to see Pope Francis in Rome in November.</p><p>Bishop Cupich said his first priority will be getting to know people here and the area, talking about the position as an &ldquo;enormous upgrade&rdquo; in reference to the size of the Archdiocese of Chicago compared to his previous dioceses.</p><p>He said he&rsquo;s worked among diverse cultures, including Latinos and Native Americans, and said that it&rsquo;s important for groups to bring their cultures to their religious experience. He&rsquo;s also pushed for immigration reform.</p><p>The bishop -- who headed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops&rsquo; Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People from 2008-2011 -- said the church must continue to &nbsp;work to protect children from priest sexual abuse and to help heal victims, adding he&rsquo;ll try hard to make that an important part of the ministry.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-b8538668-952b-9c4f-7503-0ff9223cf947">Reaction to the selection was mixed in greater Chicago.</span></p><p>Mary Anne Hackett, president of the conservative Catholic Citizens of Illinois, said she&rsquo;s taking a wait-and-see approach.</p><p>&quot;Personally I don&rsquo;t like the designation moderate for anybody,&quot; she said. &quot;I think it would be nice to take a stand one way or another. That might just be a nice way of saying his position. That will unfold as time goes on.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">But the Chicago-based national liberal group Call to Action said it&rsquo;s quote &ldquo;relieved&rdquo; to learn Cupich is moderate. In a statement, they said the Pope&rsquo;s selection shows quote &ldquo;a desire for a humbler, more pastoral church.&rdquo;</p><div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-8140c6a7-952d-3d48-9bec-bb2f36214810">Local theologian Mike Murphy, who&nbsp;</span><span id="docs-internal-guid-8140c6a7-952d-3d48-9bec-bb2f36214810">h</span>eads Catholic Studies at Loyola University Chicago, called Cupich a good fit for the city. He said the bishop is in line with Pope Francis&rsquo; vision for leadership.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;He is prepared to lead in a way that shepherds the people and not be anchored down to ideology,&quot; Murphy said. He added that he views Cupich as a moderate who&rsquo;s doctrinally very serious while seeing a need for conversation in a polarized society. Murphy also pointed to the bishop&#39;s work&nbsp;serving the poor.</p><p dir="ltr">Bishop Cupich is now archbishop designate. It&rsquo;s likely he&rsquo;ll someday be appointed cardinal, but that wouldn&rsquo;t happen until after Cardinal George -- who&rsquo;s 77 -- turns 80.</p></div><p>Cupich will be formally installed as the new archbishop of Chicago on Nov. 18 at Holy Name Cathedral.</p></p> Sat, 20 Sep 2014 13:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/meet-bishop-blase-cupich-chicagos-incoming-archbishop-110828 Cupich to be next Chicago archbishop http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cupich-be-next-chicago-archbishop-110827 <p><p>The Vatican has picked a replacement for Chicago&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.archchicago.org/Cardinal/">Cardinal Francis George</a>.</p><p>Pope Francis has tapped Bishop Blase Cupich, who leads the diocese in Spokane, Washington. Before that, Cupich was bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota.</p><p>Pope Francis&#39; choice for Chicago has been closely watched. It is his first major U.S. appointment and the clearest sign yet of the direction he hopes to steer American church leaders. Cupich is a considered a moderate &nbsp;among the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops.&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/meet-bishop-blase-cupich-chicagos-incoming-archbishop-110828">Meet Bishop Blase Cupich, Chicago&#39;s incoming archbishop</a></strong></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Cardinal George has been the spiritual leader for two million Roman Catholics in Lake and Cook County for 17 years now. He&rsquo;s 77, and he&rsquo;s battling cancer for the third time.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>George first Chicago native as archbishop</strong></p><p>The Cardinal -- the first Chicago native to become archbishop here -- has been a polarizing and at times even controversial leader. But there are contradictions between the Cardinal&rsquo;s public and private life that could shape how we remember him.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/168598059&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>As former head of the <a href="http://www.usccb.org/">U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops</a>, the Cardinal led a high-profile fight against Obamacare and the birth control mandate. He&rsquo;s become one of the most prominent voices in the church, nationally and internationally, about what he sees as the dangers of secularism, same-sex marriage and most of all, restrictions on <a href="http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/cardinal-george-addresses-religious-freedom-in-speech-at-byu">freedom of religion</a>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS5291_CardinalGeorge_Healing_Garden-scr.JPG" style="height: 240px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Cardinal Francis George (File)" />The Cardinal&rsquo;s often portrayed as unfeeling, aloof, even imperious. But colleagues &ndash; and even some critics &ndash; said there&rsquo;s more to him than that.</p><p>Despite being a powerhouse in the Roman Catholic church, Graziano Marcheschi &ndash; who worked with him for a dozen years at the Archdiocese &ndash; said George is not overly impressed with himself, or the trappings of his office.</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;ll stand in line, he&rsquo;ll grab the paper plate, he&rsquo;ll get the plastic spoon and fork, and he&rsquo;ll put the food on his own plate, and he&rsquo;ll just go sit where there&rsquo;s a place at any table,&rdquo; Marcheschi said. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s not looking for the &lsquo;quote&rsquo; head table, he&rsquo;s not looking for the other power players in the room. He just goes and sits and he talks to whoever&rsquo;s there.&rdquo;</p><p>That doesn&rsquo;t mean the Cardinal&rsquo;s the touchy-feely type. But people who have gotten to know him say he&rsquo;s kinder and has more compassion than people generally give him credit for.</p><p>Marcheschi, who now heads mission and ministry at St. Xavier University, likes to tell a story to illustrate this.</p><p>George was speaking at a retreat for young volunteer ministers several years ago when a young woman asked him about the issue of female priests. The Cardinal told her the church believes it&rsquo;s God&rsquo;s will for men to be priests, not women.</p><p>&ldquo;And the young woman became very distraught, and began to cry, and ran out of the room,&rdquo; Marcheschi said. &ldquo;Well, Cardinal George was just speechless. And then afterward, he turned to my wife and he said, &lsquo;Nancy, what happened?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Marcheschi said his wife explained the woman may have felt the church was closing the door on her dreams. Then later some other women at the event asked the Cardinal if they could further discuss the subject of women&rsquo;s ordination later.</p><p>&ldquo;So he said, absolutely, make sure that young woman is part of the group, and I&rsquo;ll be happy to sit down with you,&rdquo; according to Marcheschi.</p><p>The women spent part of a day talking with the Cardinal, but he didn&rsquo;t budge from his view on church teachings prohibiting female priests. (That&rsquo;s a stance he&rsquo;s remained firm on &ndash; in fact, he has asked some priests who openly supported women&rsquo;s ordination to publicly apologize.)</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Obviously the young woman clearly would have liked to have heard something different and didn&rsquo;t,&rdquo; Marcheschi said. &ldquo;But what did happen is she felt heard, she did not feel dismissed. Here she was with the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, a man with a global reach, a man who meets with popes and presidents, and he took an afternoon to meet with this young woman because he had seen how distressed she had been.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Two views of George legacy</strong></p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cardinal%20george%202014%20by%20LK%202.JPG" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Cardinal Francis George speaks earlier this year. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" /></div><p>Georgetown University Theology Professor Chester Gillis sees two differing views of George&rsquo;s legacy emerging.</p><p>&ldquo;Those who see him as defending the church against what might be kind of an anti-Christian sentiment in culture and society will raise him as a hero and say he stood against gay marriage, he stood against abortion, he stood against a lot of cultural patterns, and they think that&rsquo;s exactly what he should have done,&rdquo; Gillis said. &ldquo;Others will say that&rsquo;s all he did. That&rsquo;s not true that&rsquo;s all he did, but they&rsquo;ll say he was irrelevant.&rdquo;</p><p>On the progressive side, many see the Cardinal as rigid &ndash; even doctrinaire &ndash; in his view of church teachings.</p><p>&ldquo;He has been a constant complainer about the inroads of secularism and individualism, that those things have crept into the church, and that people aren&rsquo;t like they used to be, and not talking about how the church should be reacting today,&rdquo; said author Robert McClory. McClory is a charter member of the national Catholic group based in Chicago, <a href="http://cta-usa.org/">Call to Action</a>, and writes for the <a href="http://ncronline.org/authors/robert-mcclory">National Catholic Reporter</a>.</p><p>McClory credited the Cardinal with being a hardworking, conscientious overseer of the Archdiocese, but not an innovator.</p><p>&ldquo;He has followed kind of the directives of Pope John Paul II. Keep the church from moving forward, in fact, to keep the church moving backward,&rdquo; McClory said.</p><p>Cardinal George views church teachings in strict terms. He&rsquo;s a noted conservative intellectual, who has earned master&rsquo;s degrees and doctorates in both philosophy and theology. He personally rejects the terms liberal or conservative as being in the realm of politics, not religion. He describes things as being Gospel truth, or not.</p><p>&ldquo;Jesus didn&rsquo;t die on the cross so you could believe anything you want to,&rdquo; he told WBEZ. &ldquo;There is a faith, and the teachers of the faith are the bishops, with a lot of instruction by others. You can say I&rsquo;m Catholic but I don&rsquo;t believe this, I don&rsquo;t believe that. Well, you&rsquo;ve created your own church.&rdquo;</p><p>Perhaps the sharpest criticism is reserved for Cardinal George&rsquo;s handling of the priest sex abuse scandal. He was instrumental in pushing for reforms in the early 2000s that changed how the church handles abuse across the U.S.</p><p>But <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/survivors-lawyers-say-documents-prove-priest-sex-abuse-cover-109557">church records show</a> he let some <a href="http://www.andersonadvocates.com/Archdiocese-of-Chicago-Documents.aspx">priests stay in their positions despite abuse allegations</a>, and sometimes<a href="http://www.andersonadvocates.com/documents/Key_Chicago_Documents/McCormack%20Ex%20126.pdf"> even after the church review board recommended their removal</a>. Advocates point out the Cardinal also didn&rsquo;t discipline those priests&rsquo; superiors.</p><p>The most notorious case on the Cardinal&rsquo;s watch was that of Daniel McCormack, who was convicted of molesting several boys and named in numerous lawsuits over additional abuse allegations.</p><p>In 2012, the Cardinal told WBEZ: &ldquo;Oh, by far, the most difficult challenge has been the terrible fallout from the sexual abuse of children by some priests. I pray for victims. That&rsquo;s been the overwhelming weight in a sense that has stayed with me.&rdquo;</p><p>The Cardinal&rsquo;s also faced protests from the LGBT community as an outspoken lobbyist against gay marriage.</p><p>He has compared the tactics of some gay rights activists to fascism, and he ignited controversy a few years ago by <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/01/07/chicago-cardinal-apologizes-for-linking-gay-pride-parade-to-ku-klux-klan/">likening organizers of Chicago&rsquo;s gay Pride Parade</a> to &ldquo;something like the Ku Klux Klan&rdquo; when he worried that the parade route would disrupt mass at a local church. He later backtracked and apologized for using an &ldquo;inflammatory&rdquo; analogy.</p><p>&ldquo;I wish he was leaving a legacy as someone who was in the trenches with the poor, as someone who was against gun violence that permeates this city,&rdquo; said Martin Grochala, a board member with <a href="http://www.dignityusa.org/">Dignity Chicago</a>, which advocates for LGBT people in the church. &ldquo;I think unfortunately for LGBT people, his legacy is going to be about advocating against gay marriage.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>&quot;A person of vision&quot;</strong></p><p>But supporter Robert Gilligan, who heads the Catholic Conference of Illinois, called Cardinal George a &ldquo;person of vision.&rdquo;</p><p>Gilligan said the Cardinal clearly and eloquently articulated Catholic church teachings on many issues, including the sacredness of life from conception to death, and that will be what George is remembered for.</p><p>Mary Anne Hackett, who heads the conservative <a href="http://catholiccitizens.org/">Catholic Citizens of Illinois</a>, said she thinks the Cardinal was doing just what he ought to, fighting against abortion and for what she calls &lsquo;true marriage,&rsquo; between a man and a woman.</p><p>&ldquo;What he tried to do was to restore the church in Chicago to what the church teaches,&rdquo; Hackett said. &ldquo;You could call that conservative, I would call that Catholic.&rdquo;</p><p>She acknowledged the Cardinal can sometimes be overly blunt. But she doesn&rsquo;t think those moments will be his lasting legacy:</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;ll be remembered as a person that is open to talk things over, to meet with people of all different persuasions and different opinions, to meet with them, and try to resolve difficulties and differences, on a personal one-to-one basis actually,&rdquo; Hackett said.</p><p>Dignity Chicago&rsquo;s Martin Grochala experienced this firsthand when he and his group met with George several times.</p><p>&ldquo;While we did not see eye to eye on church teaching about sexuality, our conversations were warm and respectful,&rdquo; Grochala said. &ldquo;He was very intelligent and quite, quite quick-witted. Very funny.&rdquo;</p><p>The Cardinal has called this kind of contact with parishioners his greatest joy. And he has packed as much of it as he could into his final days in office. Although he&rsquo;s facing cancer for the third time, George has resembled the Energizer bunny of late.</p><p>His battles with cancer aren&rsquo;t the first time he&rsquo;s faced serious illness. As a teen, George fought polio and overcame it, though the disease left him with a limp. Quigley Preparatory Academy turned him away, saying he was disabled and couldn&rsquo;t be a priest. So George found another religious school, before going on to hold high posts in Rome and being appointed a bishop, archbishop and finally cardinal.</p><p>The Cardinal doesn&rsquo;t plan to entirely slow down. He has said repeatedly that he&rsquo;ll help his successor any way he can. He hopes to spend much of his time doing confirmations and hearing confessions.</p><p>&ldquo;The skill of living is to live as if you&rsquo;re going to die tomorrow and still do your job,&rdquo; the Cardinal said. &ldquo;In a sense prayer does that. You live for a while in a moment where you&rsquo;re not in charge, you&rsquo;re just at God&rsquo;s disposition. And as long as that&rsquo;s the case, then, well, I don&rsquo;t want to die tomorrow, but if I did, I&rsquo;m sure the Lord would still be providential in his care of the Earth. It doesn&rsquo;t depend on me.&rdquo;</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Lynette Kalsnes covers religion and culture. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes">@Lynette Kalsnes</a></em></p></p> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 20:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cupich-be-next-chicago-archbishop-110827 Bear ye one another’s burdens: Chicago Christians share health care costs http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/bear-ye-one-another%E2%80%99s-burdens-chicago-christians-share-health-care-costs-110745 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/healthcare ministry pic.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Sherri Myers was at a dance class in 2009 when she felt something tear in her leg.</p><p dir="ltr">The Bolingbrook woman went to the hospital, and soon learned her leg was bleeding internally, and she needed surgery. Her bills started mounting. Myers was worried &mdash; &nbsp;her family had switched from traditional insurance to a new way to pay health care costs just months before.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It was cheaper, truthfully,&rdquo; Myers said. &ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t need a lot of the bells and whistles of insurance, and with our insurance it didn&rsquo;t take care of that anyway, and it felt like instead of just sending for your insurance, it seemed like such a way to minister to other people.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Myers had signed up for a cost-sharing ministry, and this was the first big test.</p><p dir="ltr">People from all over the country sent her checks to cover her medical bills, and cards to encourage her.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like a gift in a way,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re praying for them, they&rsquo;re praying for you, at different times. And that God in all of it gets glorified.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Myers is a customer of <a href="http://samaritanministries.org/">Samaritan Ministries</a>, based in Peoria. As is her pastor, the Rev. Timothy Greene, at Living Word Bible Church in Morris. He said Samaritan&rsquo;s health care plan is based on the Biblical principle of carrying your own load, and helping others bear their burdens too.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Our bodies are created by God, we need to take care of them,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There is a real sense of responsibility that we feel. We don&rsquo;t just want to rush off to the doctor for everything.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The pastor estimates nearly 20 percent of his 150-member congregation is part of Samaritan.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, thousands of people joined them during the rush to sign up for traditional health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. While millions bought private plans on the new health exchanges, others opted to join a Christian health-care sharing ministry.</p><p dir="ltr">With about 37,000 families enrolled, Samaritan is one of the three largest cost-sharing programs in the U.S.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Health care sharing ministries are a mechanism for people of faith to band together to share medical bills without using insurance,&rdquo; said Executive Vice President James Lansberry.</p><p dir="ltr">Many didn&rsquo;t want to buy insurance that covered abortion or some types of contraception.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t say people were attracted to us because they wanted a way (out) from the Affordable Care Act,&rdquo; Lansberry said. &ldquo;I think there were particular facets in plans in the Affordable Care Act that caused them to have some moral concerns that drove them toward health care sharing.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In fact, members are required to lead an evangelical Christian lifestyle and share certain religious beliefs.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The members all agree to attend church, they agree to abstain from illegal drugs, they agree not to abuse tobacco or alcohol,&rdquo; Lansberry said, adding they also agree to abstain from sex outside of &ldquo;traditional marriage.&rdquo; (The plan won&rsquo;t cover pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases if they happen outside of marriage.)</p><p dir="ltr">Members sign a pledge each year, and their pastors sign off that they&rsquo;re following the tenets of the plan.</p><p dir="ltr">At Samaritan, the monthly cost ranges from $180 for a single person to $405 for a family. Members pay for routine care like doctor&rsquo;s visits out of pocket.</p><p dir="ltr">When big things happen, like baby deliveries or broken legs, customers help repay each other&rsquo;s bills. Samaritan coordinates who pays whom.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Every month we send our check in, but we&rsquo;re not just sending it to a big company somewhere in Omaha or Providence, we&rsquo;re sending it to an actual person,&rdquo; Lansberry said. Once a year, members send their checks directly to the company to help with administrative costs.</p><p dir="ltr">But not everyone thinks this system works. Some consumer advocates like Kevin Lucia &nbsp;have misgivings.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I have concerns in part because some of the important consumer protections that apply to the individual market do not apply to health care sharing ministries,&rdquo; said Lucia, a senior research fellow at <a href="http://chir.georgetown.edu/">Georgetown University&rsquo;s Center on Health Insurance Reforms</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">These companies don&rsquo;t have to meet protections provided by the Affordable Care Act because they&rsquo;re exempted as religious ministries. That&rsquo;s why people who sign up for them <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/exemptions/">don&rsquo;t pay a penalty</a> for not having traditional insurance. The ministries are also exempt from many state and federal laws, Lucia said.</p><p dir="ltr">For instance, the ministries can cap reimbursements; and they don&rsquo;t have to cover pre-existing conditions.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://samaritanministries.org/how-it-works/faq/">Both of these things are true of Samaritan</a>, which caps reimbursements for a single need at $250,000, and qualifies how it covers pre-existing conditions. Some members are in an additional program to save up money and share higher costs for expensive things like cancer treatment that can easily top $250,000.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In most states, there are reserve requirements because if a plan takes on too much risk and they can&rsquo;t pay out the claims for their members, there is this possibility the insurance company will go under,&rdquo; Lucia said. Ministries don&rsquo;t have to hold such reserves in case health needs outpace contributions.</p><p dir="ltr">When that happens at Samaritan, <a href="http://samaritanministries.org/how-it-works/faq/">the company prorates </a>how much people get paid back for their bills. After three months of this, it asks members to vote on increasing their monthly contributions.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Because they&rsquo;re not covered in many states under insurance law, (members) don&rsquo;t have this kind of army of consumer regulators that are available to protect them in case something goes wrong,&rdquo; Lucia said.</p><p dir="ltr">If there&rsquo;s a problem, Lucia said, the only remedy is the Attorney General&rsquo;s Office or the courts. The Illinois Attorney General&rsquo;s Office reports one complaint back in 2000, and no lawsuits show up in federal or Cook County court records.</p><p dir="ltr">Samaritan&rsquo;s James Lansberry said members regulate themselves: &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no direct regulation from any state or federal agency because there&rsquo;s no need for it. If we make our members upset, we won&rsquo;t have an organization.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">20 years after it started, Lansberry&rsquo;s organization is still here and growing stronger because of people like John Appleton. The West Chicago man&rsquo;s been a member of Samaritan Ministries for 15 years. He likens it to an Amish barn raising, where everyone voluntarily helps each other.</p><p dir="ltr">But he acknowledges not everyone will be comfortable with health care sharing ministries.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all about where you put your faith,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If some people would rather put their faith in the government or an insurance company, for us, we put our faith in Christ and his people.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ reporter/producer covering culture and religion. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 17:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/bear-ye-one-another%E2%80%99s-burdens-chicago-christians-share-health-care-costs-110745 Tiny religious sect thrives in Chicagoland despite cultural clash http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tiny-religious-sect-thrives-chicagoland-despite-cultural-clash-110712 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jain%202.JPG" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Members of the Jain community in greater Chicago take part in a sacred pageant to celebrate the birth of a great teacher, Lord Mahavir, 2,600 years ago. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" /></div><p>When Hemali Shah was a girl, sometimes it was hard to be a Jain. She wanted to run in the grass with other kids, but had to worry about accidentally stepping on an insect, and killing it.</p><p><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/jainism/">Jainism</a> is a tiny Indian religious sect in Chicago. Jains believe in nonviolence, to the point of not harming any sentient being, through action or even thought.</p><p>&ldquo;I was an athlete, so I played softball a lot, and obviously if you&#39;re playing in the grass, there&rsquo;s lot of bugs, so I ended up playing in the infield,&rdquo; Shah said.</p><p>Shah is 24 now, and said she&rsquo;s happy to avoid the grass. But she still struggles with Jain teachings about not being possessive and accumulating stuff.</p><p>&ldquo;Everywhere they&rsquo;re showing mega scenes of the newest and best thing that everyone wants and I guess that&rsquo;s how it works in like, Hollywood. That&rsquo;s one of my impulses, getting something just because somebody else has it, which is I guess not good at all.&rdquo;</p><p>Shah said she filters these desires through Jainism: &ldquo;I end up not buying it because my Dad tells me not to, because my Dad is completely non possessive, he doesn&rsquo;t like things. And I feel like I&rsquo;m just going to be on (the TV show) &lsquo;Hoarders&rsquo;,&rdquo; she said with a laugh.</p><p>These Jain beliefs seemingly clash with some of the most powerful forces in American culture. Yet Jains are finding ways to adapt and even thrive here in the U.S. They&rsquo;re passing these beliefs on to the next generation during their holiest holiday this week, called <a href="http://www.jainworld.com/jainbooks/images/31/PARYUSHAN_PARVA.htm">Paryushan</a>, at their temple in Bartlett.</p><p>To celebrate Paryushan, Hemali Shah&rsquo;s been fasting for almost a month. She hasn&rsquo;t consumed anything but boiled water since July. The time she used to spend preparing food and eating, is now spent reading religious materials.</p><p>&ldquo;It does get me closer to my soul, &lsquo;cuz I know that&rsquo;s what the whole process is for. It just takes away all the other distractions like television, or music, or food,&rdquo; Shah said.</p><p>Unlike previous generations, Shah grew up surrounded by Jains. She has Jain friends, and even Jain bosses. That&rsquo;s because she lives in the northwest suburbs, which you could almost call Jain central. That&rsquo;s where many families settled, near the temple in Bartlett.</p><p>A bell rings out at the temple. A dozen men and women in colorful Indian robes and dresses sit on the gleaming white marble floor of the Jain temple. They&rsquo;re praying and reading scripture.<br /><br />Several wear cloths covering their mouths to prevent insects or other organisms from getting swallowed and dying.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jain-temple.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Members of the Jain community pray and read scripture in their Bartlett Temple. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" /><div class="inserted-credit">&nbsp;</div><div class="inserted-credit">&ldquo;What we are celebrating is known as Paryushan, and what that really means is staying close to your own soul,&rdquo; said Dr. Mukesh Doshi, a trustee of the <a href="http://www.jsmconline.org/">Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago</a>. &ldquo;It is a time of reflection, it is a time of observing austerities, it is a time to get engaged in religious activities and to get our soul as close to its own original-in-heaven pureness as possible.&rdquo;</div></div></div><p>Along with embracing nonviolence and non-possession, Jainism also tries to respect multiple viewpoints. But the religion wasn&rsquo;t necessarily an easy sell to Jain children back in the &lsquo;60s.</p><p>There were only about 20 families here then. Dr. Doshi said they didn&rsquo;t have a temple, a guru, even a place of worship. They met in a doctor&rsquo;s home.</p><p>&ldquo;At that time it was a challenge even to find a vegetarian food when you are going out. And many of us have spent time eating nothing but the corn chips during the day because here is no other vegetarian food&hellip;only corn chips,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Times are different. The Jain Society in Bartlett now numbers 1,700 families, and has the largest Jain temple in the U.S.</p><p>Vegetarian food is easy to come by.</p><p>Still, Dr. Doshi said, &ldquo;We have to make some changes which are appropriate for the Western world. Like for example, devout Jains should not be eating anything, consuming either food or water after sunset, and it is very difficult to observe.&rdquo;</p><p>Jains aren&rsquo;t supposed to eat at night, because they believe preparing food can inadvertently kill insects or organisms.</p><p>Dr. Doshi said Jains aren&rsquo;t supposed to eat garlic, onions and root vegetables, either. Onions and garlics are believed to increase desire, while harvesting a root vegetable kills bugs and uproots the entire plant.</p><p>But avoiding these foods has been nearly impossible in the U.S., so many don&rsquo;t follow that requirement.</p><p>Paryushan is based on the lunar calendar, but so many people work Monday to Friday, Jain officials here had to shift the dates so people could come.</p><p>Dr. Doshi said the Jain Society also translates texts and prayers into English so youth can understand what they&rsquo;re saying.<br /><br />&ldquo;Our main goal at this time is since our kids are exposed to the Western culture, where a meat-eating population is the norm, to keep them vegetarian. Another biggest challenge is to keep them free of drugs, free of liquor, no smoking and we try to insist on no premarital sex,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The Jain Society teaches these traditions with religious education at its temple and community center, and through giant gatherings like the Paryushan observance.</p><p>Nearly 3,000 people sat in the audience at the Jain community center in Bartlett Saturday, watching raptly as a man dressed in gold robes led them in religious songs.</p><p>Several Jain families paraded around the stage and the auditorium, each led by a young woman carrying a gold object on her head. They were part of a sacred pageant celebrating the birthday 2,600 years ago of a great Jain teacher called Lord Mahavir. Many modern Jain teachings flow from him.</p><p>But some young Jains like Hemang Srikishan didn&rsquo;t come for the pageant. Instead of performing rituals like worshipping idols, they were downstairs at a seminar on how to apply ancient Jain teachings to the modern world.</p><p>&ldquo;Rituals and practices that were very common amongst my parents&rsquo; generation and much more so among previous generations are simply not enough, I think, for people in my generation to connect to,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Instead, Srikishan said some young Jains are pushing the principles behind the religion even further. Many are concerned about the living conditions of dairy cows and becoming became vegan. Others are careful about avoiding toiletries made with animal products or testing.</p><p>Srikishan -- who&rsquo;s Jain and Hindu -- practices the tenets of Jainism at work. He&rsquo;s a middle school math teacher, and students are good at pushing their teachers&rsquo; buttons.</p><p>&ldquo;I see it as not just as a process of failure, but a process of building up the kind of person you want to be and getting to continuously self improve,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the essence of the teachings of Jainism.</p><p>Rather than succumbing to anger, Srikishan said, he tries to reflect, and to change his actions and his reactions to help his students.</p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/tiny-religious-sect-thrives-chicagoland-despite-cultural-clash-110712 Mormon feminists find grounds for hope, fear in changing church http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/mormon-feminists-find-grounds-hope-fear-changing-church-110646 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/mormon feminists 1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Jillian Paul sits at the kitchen table, putting together a Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle and pouring Cheerios for her two sons. Before they start to eat, she and her boys bow their heads for a moment in prayer.</p><p>As a woman, Paul is living the Mormon ideal: She&rsquo;s staying at home in Plainfield, raising her kids. But about a year ago, she began questioning her role in the church.</p><p>&ldquo;I wish we could hear less about how your most important job is a mother. I already know that,&rdquo; Paul said. &nbsp;&ldquo;I do wish there would just be more of a focus on developing your own relationship with God, and finding the path you&rsquo;re supposed to be on. Just worrying less about checking all the boxes: getting married in temple, having children. Those things will come when someone feels like God is telling them to do that.&rdquo;</p><p>Paul is part of a small but vocal group of Mormon women who say they feel equal at work and in school, but not in the place that matters most to them &mdash; their church.</p><p>&ldquo;When I open our church magazine and see kind of a centerfold of all the leadership of the church and it is two pages of men, men, men, men, men. I think how am I supposed to feel equal? How am I supposed to feel like women have an equal voice?&rdquo; Paul asked. If you look at a<a href="https://www.lds.org/church/leaders?lang=eng"> general leadership chart</a>, it&rsquo;s not until you get down to the women&rsquo;s auxiliary and children&rsquo;s groups that you find women.</p><p>Paul and other Mormon feminists in the Chicago area say they are so small in number, there may be only one or two women who share their views in their congregations, known as wards.</p><p>But online their movement is gaining momentum. They&rsquo;re finding each other through websites like <a href="http://youngmormonfeminists.org/">YoungMormonFeminists.org</a> and <a href="http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/">FeministMormonHousewives.org</a>.</p><p>They say they had been encouraged by signs of change in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But now they&rsquo;re treading lightly following the recent excommunication of prominent feminist <a href="http://ordainwomen.org/">Kate Kelly</a>, who forcefully advocated for women to gain the priesthood.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.lds.org/?lang=eng">Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints</a> teaches that men and women have equal dignity, and are equally valued by God and the church. <a href="https://www.lds.org/manual/family-guidebook/organization-and-purpose-of-the-family?lang=eng">That equality comes through different roles</a>. Men preside over their families, and only men hold the priesthood, the authority to act in God&rsquo;s name so they can lead congregations, perform baptisms and bless the sick. Parts of that authority comes as early as age 12 for boys.</p><p>Kate Kelly&rsquo;s excommunication was &ldquo;really, really disappointing, just disheartening,&rdquo; said local Mormon Stefanie Franc. &ldquo;I really felt up until that moment actually that things were really changing in the church, and for the better.&rdquo;</p><p>Franc, who&rsquo;s an attorney at the Cook County Public Guardian&rsquo;s Juvenile Division, was initially encouraged by some nuanced changes. The Church allowed women to lead opening and closing prayers at the big general conferences. It changed the leadership structure locally so a few women could hold seats on each Ward Council. It allowed women to take on weighty doctrinal issues in speeches.</p><p>But after hearing about Kelly&rsquo;s excommunication, Franc said, &ldquo;It just kind of made that whole idea just come crashing down around me.&rdquo;</p><p>Now Franc wonders where the Latter-day Saints will draw the line on her own feminist activism. For instance, she joined in the annual <a href="https://www.facebook.com/WearPantsToChurchDay">Wear Pants to Church Day</a> protest, and now wears pants there regularly. (Mormon women typically wear dresses or skirts to church.)</p><p>Franc, who teaches Sunday School, pointed to a Bible lesson that she found problematic. It was about Deborah, a famous judge from Israel who also led men into battle.</p><p>&ldquo;The lesson manual wanted me to ask the question, &lsquo;How was Deborah a good friend?&rsquo; It made me so mad,&rdquo; Franc said. &ldquo;How was Deborah a good friend? I&rsquo;m sure she was a good friend, but she was also a good judge. She was also a good Army leader.&rdquo;</p><p>Instead, Franc asked the class about what leadership qualities Deborah had.</p><p>Franc said she appreciates the way the church cherishes women, but she can find it limiting.</p><p>&ldquo;The LDS church kind of puts women on this pedestal where we are gentle and kind and sweet,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I think it gets in the way of seeing women as legitimate forces for change and power.&rdquo;</p><p>But another local Mormon woman finds a different, more traditional power within the church.</p><p>Before she got married, Jesika Harmon traveled the world on mission trips, and co-hosted a teen TV competition on ABC Family. But when she had children, she opted to stay at home with them in their Buffalo Grove house.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t even tell you how I have seen with my husband having the priesthood, how that has empowered me in our family,&rdquo; Harmon said. &ldquo;Just because I can&rsquo;t baptize my child when they&rsquo;re 8 or just because I can&rsquo;t give my child a blessing when they&rsquo;re sick, I feel like just as equal in power and in authority by my husband&#39;s side, praying with him and adding my faith.&rdquo;</p><p>Most Mormon women share Harmon&rsquo;s views. A landmark 2012 <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2012/01/12/mormons-in-america-executive-summary/">Pew survey</a> found that 90 percent of women do not &nbsp;think females should hold the priesthood &mdash; compared to 84 percent of Mormon men.</p><p>More than half the women, 56 percent, said the best marriages were ones in which the husband worked, and the wife stayed home with the kids. Just 38 percent preferred marriages in which both spouses worked and jointly cared for kids and the home. You&rsquo;d have to invert those percentages to reflect the U.S. general public&rsquo;s view.</p><p>Harmon said she felt societal pressure to keep working outside the home, and appreciates the church&rsquo;s backing.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re given so many opportunities to teach and to serve and to stretch yourself that I feel like it has given me more and more confidence to say &lsquo;I am enough, just like this.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not enough for Chicago Mormon Nikki Ricks. She&rsquo;s a freelance urban planner who works from home. She favors putting women at the highest levels of the church and giving them the priesthood.</p><p>Holding these views can be so isolating, Ricks said, she started a group for Mormon feminists here in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard, emotionally and spiritually and intellectually. It&rsquo;s been like hell,&rdquo; she said with a laugh. &ldquo;Just because you feel like you&rsquo;re going back on everything you&rsquo;ve ever known.&rdquo;</p><p>Winnetka psychotherapist Jennifer Finlayson-Fife calls these tensions &ldquo;the crucible of pressure.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Finlayson-Fife works with Mormon couples, and is Mormon herself. She said the church was more patriarchal when she was growing up in the 1970s, and in recent years, it has emphasized a more egalitarian view of marriage. But she&rsquo;s struck by how many Mormon clients still struggle with that issue compared to other clients.</p><p>Finlayson-Fife says many women find a strong sense of purpose and place in the church. But she says there are other women active in the faith who feel like the church is putting them in the back seat. They have a growing sense that women&rsquo;s roles in society are outpacing their religious experiences.</p><p>&ldquo;I see a lot of women who feel they have more credibility, that they&rsquo;re taken more seriously in their work than they are taken in the church, and so the incongruity is difficult,&rdquo; Finlayson-Fife said.</p><p>For Nikki Ricks, one of the most challenging moments in the faith was the blessing of her daughter, which is traditionally done by the husband and other men in the church.</p><p>&ldquo;I really wanted to be part of it,&rdquo; Ricks said. &ldquo;This is my baby girl, I&rsquo;ve nursed her every two hours and have gone through this pain and labor, and I wouldn&rsquo;t be part of this really beautiful part in her life.&rdquo;</p><p>After months of discussion, Ricks and her husband ended up doing it at home by themselves.</p><p>&ldquo;It just kind of felt nonsensical that anatomy is what differentiates one person from another,&rdquo; Ricks said. &ldquo;If we, all men and women, can become like God, why wouldn&rsquo;t we all be able to hold the power of God of Earth?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Most Mormon feminists are what I would call moderates in that they are not actively militating for ordination or for other major structural changes,&rdquo; said Professor Patrick Mason, who chairs Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re just saying, &lsquo;We want more of a voice&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p>Mason said he thinks the Latter-day Saints is starting to hear them. He said changing economic conditions mean more women are becoming primary breadwinners and more men stay-at-home dads. There are more dual-income families. He said the church isn&rsquo;t sealed off from larger society, and in response, it&rsquo;s becoming less dogmatic about traditional gender roles.</p><p>But Mason thinks the most significant change is the way the church recently lowered the age for young women to become missionaries from 21 to 19. (Young men moved from 19 to 18.)</p><p>Lowering the age makes it easier for young women to go now because they won&rsquo;t be in their final year of college, and are less likely to be in a committed relationship. Mason said, as a result, they&rsquo;re signing up in droves.</p><p>&ldquo;And they&rsquo;re going to have a lot more leadership opportunities. Those women are going to come home, and I think that&rsquo;s going to be the really interesting dynamic moving forward. What are those women going to expect in terms of participation in their local congregations?&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.neylanmcbaine.com/">Neylan McBaine</a>, a blogger and the founder <a href="http://www.mormonwomen.com/">The Mormon Women Project</a>, a library of interviews with LDS women, thinks the cultural importance of this change can&rsquo;t be overstated.</p><p>&ldquo;These girls who have led other missionaries, both male and female missionaries, in the mission field, are going to come home and they&rsquo;re going to have to assimilate back into their local practices,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And they&rsquo;re going to bring with them a lot of best practices from their missions, and they&#39;re not going to put up with a lot of our current local practices.&rdquo;</p><p>McBaine, who&rsquo;s considered a moderate on LDS women&rsquo;s issues, called the LDS doctrinal position on women &ldquo;glorious,&rdquo; pointing out Mormons believe in a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. She said the church gives her a place to fully explore what it means to be a woman.</p><p>But McBaine thinks there are many things the LDS church can do locally to give women a stronger voice, without making major structural or doctrinal changes. She wrote a book highlighting these ideas called <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Women-Church-Magnifying-Womens-Impact/dp/1589586883">Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women&rsquo;s Local Impact</a>, which is due out later this month.</p><p>For example, McBaine recommends making sure the budgets for young men and young women&rsquo;s programs are equitable. She&rsquo;d like to see girls get to go on home teaching visits with their mothers, the way boys 12 and up get to do with older men now.</p><p>Neither McBaine nor the Chicago feminists expect a change in the male priesthood anytime soon. But they do think going to church could look a little different for the next generation of Mormon women.</p></p> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 16:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/mormon-feminists-find-grounds-hope-fear-changing-church-110646 Chicago tech firms give workers 'sacred spaces' for quiet reflection http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-tech-firms-give-workers-sacred-spaces-quiet-reflection-110550 <p><p>At the Orbitz Worldwide headquarters in downtown Chicago, workers constantly monitor the online travel website. A huge wall of TV screens blinking with charts and graphs looks like mission control in a movie.</p><p>But tucked away in a tiny office, is a place that offers a break from all the hustle and bustle.</p><p>It&rsquo;s a prayer and meditation center, in calm shades of brown, that contains only prayer rugs, a stool and a kneeler. Frosted glass offers privacy, and special lighting dims the usual fluorescent glow.</p><p>When you walk inside, the peace and quiet are immediately noticeable.</p><p>Employees come here to pray, meditate or just reflect. There&rsquo;s even a Bible study.</p><p>&ldquo;The prayer room is one of our important pieces of our culture, given our diverse employee base, and we want to make sure our employees are focused, centered and energized at work,&rdquo; said &nbsp;Laura Jones, Orbitz&rsquo;s talent development director.</p><p><a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140517/ISSUE01/305179985/the-next-thing-in-tech-workplace-prayer-rooms">Orbitz is among a growing number of high-tech firms in Chicago</a> that are offering a benefit usually associated with religious institutions. They&rsquo;re creating sacred spaces.</p><p>Airports and hospitals have long had chapels or places to pray. And the<a href="http://www.wired.com/2013/06/meditation-mindfulness-silicon-valley/"> idea is nothing new in Silicon Valley</a>: Google, Facebook and Twitter offer things like meditation classes and mindful lunches.</p><p>Here in Chicago, Google, Centro and Gogo all said they plan to build quiet spaces or prayer rooms in offices that are planned or under construction. Officials from these companies said &nbsp;these sacred spaces are a perk, like yoga or ping pong tables, that give employees a break from the workday so they can return to their desks with new focus.</p><p>&ldquo;Having an environment where employees are comfortable and where they can can carry out not only their work, and have time for quiet and health, are really important to driving Gogo to being a company where people want to work,&rdquo; said Gogo&rsquo;s Vice President of Marketing Linda Ramsey.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it is a good opportunity to reset in the middle of your day, and you can go on and spend more time really doing work,&rdquo; said Zaki Sharabash, Orbitz&rsquo;s senior director of technology.</p><p>He&rsquo;s Muslim and must pray five times a day. A few of those prayers fall during the workday, so he seeks out the prayer room.</p><p>In previous jobs, he said, &ldquo;I have to look for conference rooms, and conference rooms are not always available.&rdquo; Then, he said, he had to just keep looking, which could take some time.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo%201_1.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="" /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo%202.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="" /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo%203.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="" /><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo 4.JPG" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Architect and sculptor Deirdre Colgan fills her home, which doubles as an office, with meaningful objects to help her reflect and refocus. She believes that creating sacred spaces can help people who work from home find work-life balance. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" /></div></div><p>Federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee&rsquo;s religious beliefs, unless that causes undue hardship.</p><p>There have been several high-profile cases in other parts of the country where Muslims got fired over prayer breaks and sued, with mixed outcomes. But the Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations reports it&rsquo;s received no formal complaints here.</p><p>In fact, in Chicago the number of prayer rooms and quiet spaces for reflection seems to be slowly growing.</p><p>Dominic LoGalbo, a partner with Chicago&rsquo;s Harding Partners, which specializes in religious institutions, welcomes the idea.</p><p>&ldquo;As people feel more and more pressures of work life, connected 24/7, they&rsquo;ll want more opportunities to pull out, even for a few minutes a day,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The design depends on the intent of the space, LoGalbo said. For instance, a meditation center would likely want to filter out distracting sounds. Comfortable seating is key, whether it&rsquo;s chairs or the floor. Religious institutions that want a strong connection to the physical environment may incorporate daylight, so that shadows and lines thrown by the sun change the space, too, he said.</p><p>Chicago architect and sculptor Deirdre Colgan said there are easy ways to turn a room into a sacred space. A company that uses bright colors in its decor might turn to more neutral tones in a prayer room. Certain materials help mute sound, while others highlight it. Dim lights can help too.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not just offices. Colgan thinks it goes deeper than that.</p><p>&ldquo;In society, we&rsquo;re encouraged to multitask and try to do a millions things at once, and that&rsquo;s not good for anyone. It&rsquo;s headache-inducing,&rdquo; said Colgan, who&rsquo;s the former executive director of Sacred Space International, a group dedicated to raising awareness of diverse religions and their gathering spaces. (It&rsquo;s since been transformed into <a href="http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/index.cfm?n=29&amp;sn=2">Sharing Sacred Spaces</a>, in partnership with the Council for a Parliament of the World&rsquo;s Religions.)</p><p>Colgan believes we should have places for reflection in all walks of life: &ldquo;Unless you get the opportunity to recharge and to quiet down, have a base for focusing and concentration, I think you&rsquo;ll just end up spinning wheels.&rdquo;</p><p>She thinks the idea of sacred space is just as important in the home, especially the home office. Colgan&rsquo;s a consultant and adjunct faculty, and she works out of her apartment. She&rsquo;s had to figure out how to make space and time for reflection while raising a toddler.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re at home and you&rsquo;re trying to get work done, it&rsquo;s sometimes really, really hard because there&rsquo;s are all of these life-work things to do as well,&rdquo; Colgan said. She&rsquo;ll find herself performing tasks she likes to call &ldquo;noble procrastination,&rdquo; like doing the dishes. &ldquo;So how do you separate between your work-work and life-work?&rdquo;</p><p>For Colgan, that&rsquo;s meant dividing her living room into two distinct spaces: At one end, is a simple desk and table. She&rsquo;s got a clock she can only see from that desk, to remind her she&rsquo;s on work time.</p><p>When she needs a break, she can look at another corner of the apartment, at a sculpture next to a piece of ornate molding, or to some carefully arranged rocks from her Irish homeland.</p><p>To Colgan, they&rsquo;re like tiny altars that carry her to another place and time, if even for a moment. Then she can return, she says, refreshed.</p></p> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 07:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-tech-firms-give-workers-sacred-spaces-quiet-reflection-110550 'Post-atheists' experiencing a big tent revival, minus the preacher http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/post-atheists-experiencing-big-tent-revival-minus-preacher-110508 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/godless church.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>This past week a couple stood in front of a local congregation carefully lighting the Shabbat candles. The Friday night service followed many Jewish traditions: There was a gifted cantor to lead the singing and readings, with excerpts like, &ldquo;Illumination is not enough. To understand, we need enlightenment.&rdquo;</p><p>But there was one thing missing &ndash; any mention of a higher power.</p><p>These members at Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in Chicago&rsquo;s northern suburbs are part of a growing trend. Polls show the number of people in the U.S. who don&rsquo;t identify with any religion keeps increasing. So does the number searching for a sense of community, and shared values, outside of religious institutions.</p><p>Across Chicago, atheists, agnostics and humanists are finding each other with rituals that look a lot like church or temple&mdash;but without a God.</p><p>&ldquo;The need for community is a human need, it&rsquo;s not a religious need, it&rsquo;s not a secular need, it&rsquo;s a human need,&rdquo; said Rabbi Adam Chalom, who leads <a href="https://kolhadash.com/" target="_blank">Kol Hadash</a>. &ldquo;We need inspiration, we need beauty, we need community, fellowship, support through difficult moments, the chance to celebrate your family culture if that&rsquo;s the direction you&rsquo;re going.&rdquo;<br /><br />For some, this direction is far from new. All the way back in 1882, the <a href="http://ethicalhuman.org/" target="_blank">Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago</a> was founded to create a space for quote &ldquo;deed beyond creed.&rdquo;</p><p>What is new is the way this movement is now making a comeback. A group called Foundation Beyond Belief formed four years ago to increase charitable giving by non-church goers. This weekend, leaders from all over are coming to Chicago for what they&rsquo;re calling the <a href="http://humanismatwork.org/" target="_blank">first-ever conference</a> on the topic.<br /><br />&ldquo;As atheists, we don&rsquo;t believe in an afterlife, we don&rsquo;t believe we&rsquo;re going to heaven or hell for that matter after we die,&rdquo; said Hemant Mehta, who chairs the foundation and is the creator of a blog called the &ldquo;<a href="http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/" target="_blank">Friendly Atheist</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;This is the only life we have, this is the only world we&rsquo;re ever going to live in. We might as well make it a great place to live in,&rdquo; Mehta said.</p><p>Rabbi Chalom likes to call it &lsquo;post-atheist&rsquo;: &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s say you come to a conclusion that there is no God. What&rsquo;s next? That doesn&rsquo;t tell you how to live your life.&rdquo;</p><p>One of his congregants has been struggling with that question since before his bar mitzvah. Mitch Gibbs started attending Kol Hadash three years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;For me, it&rsquo;s being able to have integrity with my beliefs,&rdquo; Gibbs said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m never asked to say anything I don&rsquo;t believe.&rdquo;</p><p>Gibbs said he loved the beauty he found in Jewish services as a kid. But early on, he said he would shut down when activities got religious. After he stopped going, he missed the sense of togetherness.</p><p>&ldquo;I like the diversity of a community where you, because everyone has something in common, the walls between people are not quite so high,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />On a recent Sunday in White Eagle Woods in Lyons, several people in their 20s and 30s played croquet in wet grass. This could have been a church picnic anywhere, just minus the church.</p><p>In fact, they were part of a godless church called <a href="http://sundayassembly.com/about/" target="_blank">Sunday Assembly</a> that&rsquo;s sprouting across the world. Their motto? Live better, help often, wonder more.</p><p>Jennifer Lyle came with her 16-month-old son to check it out.</p><p>&ldquo;I really like having the idea of having a cohesive group or community to belong to so that when he gets to be school age and all of his friends are going to church, and do you go to church? He&rsquo;s like, well, we go to Sunday Assembly.&rdquo;</p><p>Lyle said she tends to stay quiet about her beliefs, especially at work.</p><p>&ldquo;You might think that you&rsquo;re the only in your office, or you&rsquo;re the only one in your parent playgroup that is a non-believer,&rdquo; Lyle said. &ldquo;You feel very isolated, it becomes kind of like a secret, you don&rsquo;t really want to bring it up. When you find a community of like-minded people, you say, &lsquo;Oh, I&rsquo;m not alone.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>The post-atheist movement hopes to make it OK for people like Lyle to openly identify as a non-believer.</p><p>&ldquo;People are afraid of telling their family members or their colleagues at work,&rdquo; said Hemant Mehta. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s a problem because when you tell people you don&rsquo;t believe in God, they think you&rsquo;re immoral, they don&rsquo;t trust you anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>Some members of the growing movement liken it to a big tent revival, just without the tent or the preacher.</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes covers religion for WBEZ. Follow her<a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes"> @LynetteKalsnes.</a></em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 17:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/post-atheists-experiencing-big-tent-revival-minus-preacher-110508 Latina lesbians facing terminal illness celebrate life, love in wedding http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/latina-lesbians-facing-terminal-illness-celebrate-life-love-wedding-110272 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wedding_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It was about 30 minutes before Carol Boyd was going to tie the knot Sunday. She was upstairs at the Chicago Urban Arts Society in Pilsen, touching up her makeup, while her two daughters fluffed up the skirt on her wedding dress.</p><p>&ldquo;Thank you,&rdquo; she told them. &ldquo; My daughters are giving me away, I&rsquo;m like the proudest mom on earth.&rdquo;</p><p>She took photos, then headed downstairs with her daughters and friends running lookout. She was trying to avoid even the briefest glimpse of her bride-to-be. The couple wanted to honor the traditional custom and be surprised.</p><p>&ldquo;Now we get to take exactly what everybody else gets to take, a marriage certificate, a marriage license,&rdquo; Carol said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m excited, I&rsquo;m happy, and I&rsquo;m proud to be able to do this today and make history.&rdquo;</p><p>In a hallway off to the side of the reception area, her future bride, Mae Yee, was pacing. She has a shaved head, and was sporting a white brocaded vest and a red bow tie.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m a little nervous,&rdquo; Mae said, laughing. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m getting married for the first time for real, I mean &lsquo;real&rsquo; real, this is like federal real.&rdquo;</p><p>They were about to join three other lesbian couples in a ceremony called &ldquo;A Big Queer Latina Wedding.&rdquo;&nbsp; They were among dozens of couples -- gay, lesbian and straight -- who took part in various mass weddings across Chicago to celebrate June 1, the first day same-sex marriages became legal in Illinois.</p><p>May and Carol Yee both hope the state&rsquo;s new same-sex marriage law leads to greater mainstream acceptance, but their particular wedding vows go even deeper than that.</p><p>Carol&rsquo;s a colon cancer survivor, and Mae has stage IV breast cancer. She&rsquo;s going to chemo every 21 days, hoping to prolong their life together as much as possible.</p><p>Mae said marriage means she can take care of her family financially, even if she&rsquo;s not here anymore.</p><p>&ldquo;I get sick, I can say, &lsquo;This is my wife, and these are my kids, and please let them in,&rsquo; and they have to abide by that, so I&rsquo;m very, very happy about that.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Oh my goodness, today is amazing, &ldquo; said Jessica Carillo, who organized the Latina event, which was sponsored by United Latino Pride and Lambda Legal. &ldquo;Today is a day closer to sort of being seen more equal in the eyes of our families, in the eyes of our community. For Latinos, marriage is a huge milestone. Marriage is, sort of what you&rsquo;re meant to do, to build a family.&rdquo;</p><p>Carillo said many Latinos face the twin challenges of Catholicism prohibiting same-sex marriage, and having parents who grew up in another country.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re bringing the ideas from back home, they&rsquo;re bringing whatever those biases in the way they grew up,&rdquo; Carillo says, adding the younger generation is growing up here with new ideas. &ldquo;And so when you mix those two things, there&rsquo;s a clash.&rdquo;</p><p>Carillo said she hopes same-sex marriage becoming legal will lead to more acceptance by Latinos and society.</p><p>But even though this was a day of celebration for LGBT people across the state, Evette Cardona said there&rsquo;s work to be done. She co-founded Amigas Latinas, an organization that seeks to empower and educate LGBT Latinas, with her wife, the city&rsquo;s Human Relations Commissioner, Mona Noriega.</p><p>&ldquo;While today we celebrate these four couples, tomorrow there&rsquo;s 10 times the number of families that won&rsquo;t accept their lesbian daughters,&rdquo; Cardona says. &ldquo;In the communities of color, if you are rejected by your family, and you also experience rejection by the mainstream community, where do you turn?&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, the parents of one of the brides, Juanita Gonzalez, didn&rsquo;t attend the wedding. But she found support in her aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as the family she&rsquo;s formed with her wife, Janet Cecil. Janet has two daughters, and a granddaughter, and they all stood by as the couple spoke their vows and exchanged rings.</p><p>When Juanita broke down midway through, one of Janet&rsquo;s daughters reached out to pat her back, and her little granddaughter did the same.</p><p>The couple, grandmothers now, were best friends in high school. Juanita says she knew she loved Janet at 16. But Janet thought it was wrong for her to feel this way about a woman. They moved in other directions, but said they kept finding their way back to each other, until they finally became a couple. Janet&rsquo;s friends and family&rsquo;s reaction? Essentially, &lsquo;Finally.&rsquo;</p><p>Like the other couples, Carol and Mae Yee shared their vows with laughter and tears, the promises to care for each other in sickness and health, deep with meaning.</p><p>&ldquo;...I vow to love you with every being, even after my last breath,&rdquo; Mae said. &ldquo;I promise to cherish each moment God has given us together for the rest of our lives &hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I love you whether you&rsquo;re fat or fit, and when you&rsquo;re hurt, and when you&rsquo;re sick&hellip;&rdquo; Carol vowed.</p><p>The couple runs a charity together in their spare time called Humble Hearts, providing the homeless with food, clothing and furniture.</p><p>Carol said that didn&rsquo;t leave much for a fancy wedding with a reception, so she was grateful for the all-volunteer event in Pilsen, which was free for everyone attending.</p><p>Before the ceremony, a tearful Carol said of her bride, Mae: &ldquo;She&rsquo;s here today to live long enough to actually be married. It&rsquo;s my gift to her, it&rsquo;s me committing to her for better or worse, sickness and health. She&rsquo;s got a lot of sickness right now, but I&rsquo;m not going anywhere.&rdquo;</p><p>On this, their wedding day, there was no sickness in sight, only joy.</p><p>When the music started, they jumped out onto the dance floor with the three other newly married couples. And their first dance?</p><p>The song made famous by Etta James, &ldquo;At Last.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ producer/reporting covering religion and culture.</em></p></p> Tue, 03 Jun 2014 07:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/latina-lesbians-facing-terminal-illness-celebrate-life-love-wedding-110272 Chicago's Polish Catholics express renewed pride after canonizations http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-polish-catholics-express-renewed-pride-after-canonizations-110087 <p><p>Red and white flags are waving from cars across Chicago as Polish Roman Catholics continue to celebrate the canonization of the first Polish pontiff.</p><p>Pope Francis declared Popes John Paul II and John XXIII saints Sunday in Rome in a solemn ceremony attended by millions. Many more watched on TVs and Internet streams around the world. It was the first time two popes became saints on the same day.</p><p>It was an especially big deal for Polish Catholics in Chicago: Pope John Paul II was both the first Polish pontiff, and the first to visit Chicago.</p><p>Poles came out by the thousands Saturday and Sunday for special masses, vigils, concerts, museum exhibits and marches across greater Chicago.</p><p>At Five Holy Martyrs Church on the South Side, people started gathering more than four hours before the canonization ceremony, which began at 3 a.m. Chicago time. They prayed the rosary and listened to performances by several Polish Highlander groups, including excerpts from an opera about Pope John Paul II.</p><p>Karolina Nowobilska, 14, sang a solo in front of the packed church. She said she was calm until she finished.</p><p>&ldquo;When I got back into the pew, I went by my parents and I just started crying because I got so emotional that I got to sing,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a huge event that won&rsquo;t happen in my lifetime or maybe ... generations to come.&rdquo;</p><p>Nowobilska said she&rsquo;s already been praying to Pope John Paul II for help with things, including homework</p><p>Maggie Strzelec, 22, said she felt Pope John Paul II was the first pontiff to reach out to young people around the world, and it changed how people viewed Poles -- and how Poles viewed themselves.</p><p>&ldquo;There was no more embarrassment, or no more comments or stereotypical comments,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I think it made everybody so proud to be Polish.&rdquo;<br /><br />Hundreds of Polish Catholics marched up Milwaukee Avenue Sunday, from Holy Trinity Polish Church to St. Hyacinth Basilica, praying and singing. They arrived at their destination, waving Polish and Vatican flags, as church bells rang. Several people carried images of Pope John Paul II as they filed inside for mass.</p><p>Natalie Gebala of Mount Prospect attended an overnight vigil in Des Plaines, then marched in the pilgrimage. She got about three hours of sleep between events.</p><p>&ldquo;It was very tiring, and I have blisters on my feet. My muscles ache,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But it was so worth it because it was such a beautiful unifying experience, and I feel like it was unforgettable. I feel like he brought religion and goodness together. I feel like that&rsquo;s going to maybe deepen people&rsquo;s faith.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pope%20saints%201.JPG" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Roman Catholics march about five miles between two Polish churches to celebrate the canonization of two pontiffs, especially Pope John Paul II, the first Polish pope. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" />Pope John Paul II visited Chicago in 1979 and held a huge mass that filled Grant Park. He also held a service at Five Holy Martyrs. An estimated 10,000 came, spilling out of the church parking lot and onto nearby rooftops. The church still has both the wooden chair he sat in and the altar, which they&rsquo;re restoring as a shrine.</p><p>Mark Wojciechowski from the Back of the Yards neighborhood was just a kid at the time, but he remembers that day well.</p><p>&ldquo;Waking up, your whole family being so proud, and no matter what, whether it was going to rain or shine, you were going to be there. It&rsquo;s just one of those things that&rsquo;s beautiful, you can always say you lived to be a saint.&rdquo;</p><p>Like many Polish Catholics gathered this weekend, Wojciechowski said he already knew in his heart that Pope John Paul II was a saint, and the ceremony just made it official.</p><p>Jozef Bafia, a Polish radio host who helped organized the vigil at Five Holy Martyrs, had a third row seat at that Holy Martyrs mass. He met the pope several times.</p><p>&ldquo;When he was here first time in 1979, Poland was behind the Iron Curtain, communism rules: You can&rsquo;t do this, you can&rsquo;t go there,&rdquo; Bafia said. &ldquo;Poland got free without bloodshed, without shots. I know Pope John Paul II, holy father, he was that big fire for that. Now he&rsquo;s a saint. Saint John Paul II. He&rsquo;s going to be with me for the rest of my life.</p><p>Not everyone was satisfied with the focus on John Paul II. Barb Smith, who attended mass Sunday night at Holy Name Cathedral, thought the occasion was exciting and historic. But she&nbsp; wanted Pope John XXIII, known as a progressive who worked to modernize the church, to get equal billing.</p><p>&ldquo;I just thought he was the best,&rdquo; Smith said, adding Pope John XXIII had an &ldquo;unblemished record.&rdquo; She said she felt Pope John Paul II&rsquo;s record was tarnished by his conservatism and the priest sex abuse scandal.</p><p>But Smith said she also thought Pope John Paul II had cleared those &ldquo;blemishes&rdquo; with the way he reached out to people, especially the young, and the way he so publicly suffered Parkinson&rsquo;s disease late in life.</p><p>Smith had visited Rome to see Pope John Paul II. She brought his photos with her Sunday, hoping to show her priest.</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ producer/reporter covering religion and culture. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes">@LynetteKalsnes.</a></em></p></p> Mon, 28 Apr 2014 12:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-polish-catholics-express-renewed-pride-after-canonizations-110087 Fish fry dinners bring food, community to Catholics during Lent http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fish-fry-dinners-bring-food-community-catholics-during-lent-110029 <p><p>Roman Catholics are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. They view it as a small act of penance to honor Christ&rsquo;s death.</p><p>So churches across Chicago and the nation are carrying on a time-honored way to skip the meat, and gather as a community. It&rsquo;s the Friday fish fry, and it is growing in popularity here again.</p><p>One of the biggest and longest-running fish fries in Chicago -- and, volunteers claim, the only one here with a drive-through -- is at St. Ferdinand Church on the far Northwest Side.</p><p>Father Jason Torba stood in the church basement last Friday evening among a circle of volunteers. Many wore bunny ears and orange name tags shaped like fish.</p><p>&ldquo;We ask God for his blessing tonight and especially for the people, they will come and will serve,&rdquo; Torba said, adding it is even more important to serve during Lent. Then he led the group in an &ldquo;Our Father.&rdquo;</p><p>The volunteers were about to serve nearly 600 fish dinners ... in three hours. And the crowd started lining up 45 minutes early.</p><p>St. Ferdinand&rsquo;s fish fry has been going on for something like 25 years now. Organizers said other churches are coming to them now, asking how to start fish fries of their own.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fish%20fry%201.JPG" title="Signs point the way to St. Ferdinand’s fish fry. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" />Professor Michael Murphy, director of Catholic Studies at Loyola University Chicago, said church dinners like this were popular in the middle of the last century. Then, the tight parish structure made the local church a central part of life, resulting in women&rsquo;s and men&rsquo;s clubs, and many other events.</p><p>&ldquo;The parish was for so many years the place to be,&rdquo; he said, adding parishes served as a social outlet.</p><p>Murphy said fish fries merged theological teachings and practicality. If Catholics could not eat meat on Fridays, they might as well have fish and get together. He said that need to gather is central to the philosophy of the faith.</p><p>Murphy said these church dinners waned in popularity in greater Chicago after &ldquo;older parish things broke down&rdquo; following Vatican II, combined with the loosening of social structures in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s.</p><p>But he sees them coming back in style over the past few decades. Murphy said some of his students want to start at fish fry at Loyola. He credited this partly to the &ldquo;Pope Francis effect,&rdquo; which has Catholics longing for community again.</p><p>&ldquo;This is not just to come to eat fish, but it is to build community,&rdquo;&nbsp; said Rich Wenzl, who has helped run the St. Ferdinand event with his wife Pat for 19 years. Their main goal is not to raise money. They hope to attract people from the parish and the larger neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;Our world is very hungry for getting out of our houses and having a place to go that&rsquo;s correct, and that&rsquo;s safe, that feels good to be with each other and that we can share ourselves with one another,&rdquo; Rich Wenzl said.</p><p>Pat Wenzl, who is the lead organizer of the fish fry, said it is especially important to recruit young people to volunteer to keep them in the parish and in the faith.</p><p>&ldquo;If we groom them well and make them feel comfortable and make them feel like it&rsquo;s an important part of them, it only serves to help the church in years to come,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The couple created the process for running the event, and it is pretty much an assembly line. Friday, four men stood over designated fryers. Four women lined up next to each other to dish out fish, coleslaw, dinner rolls and condiments.</p><p>Teens stood right outside the kitchen, ready to run out orders to two packed dining halls. The operation is so big now, it takes more than 100 volunteers a night.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fish%20fry%202.jpg.JPG" style="float: left; height: 358px; width: 275px;" title="Volunteers run the fish fry like a factory line to make and serve about 600 meals in three hours. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" />Mary Clemente, who headed the line of women, did not slow down for even a minute ... not until her 4-year-old grandson popped by.</div><p>&ldquo;Give me a kiss, hey, love you,&rdquo; Clemente told her grandson.</p><p>&ldquo;Grandma, why is people wearing Easter bunny ears?&rdquo; he asked.</p><p>&ldquo;For Easter,&rdquo; she said with a laugh.</p><p>Then she went right back to work. Clemente has been volunteering so long, &ldquo;My son was 3, he&rsquo;s now 21, so that&rsquo;s how long, 18 years.&rdquo;</p><p>Another woman chimed in: &ldquo;Last year was her birthday, we made her kitchen queen.&rdquo;</p><p>Many of the volunteers have stories like this. Volunteering eight, 10, even 20 years is common. Even though it is hard work, Clemente said it is fun, and volunteers become like family.</p><p>That sense of community was visible among diners, too. Anne Marie Castiglioni came with her children and her mom. She does not attend St. Ferdinand&rsquo;s, but lives nearby. She said her son could not wait to see the Easter Bunny, who appears here the last fish fry of the season.</p><p>&ldquo;(He) had the biggest smile on his face to see this guy because he&rsquo;s known him since he&rsquo;s been like 3 years old, he&rsquo;s kind of grown up knowing this Easter Bunny here,&rdquo; Castiglioni said.</p><p>Her mom, Pat Zwick, said coming here has become a family tradition.</p><p>&ldquo;And the Easter Bunny brings you more into the Easter spirit,&rdquo; she said, as her granddaughter, who was sitting in her lap, excitedly pointed out that the Easter Bunny was right across the room.</p><p>On the other side of the crowded hall, Vincent Clemente -- Mary&rsquo;s husband - ate fish dinners with their grandson. Clemente&rsquo;s been a parishioner since he was 1.</p><p>&ldquo;Some people now, they don&rsquo;t go to church as often,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Some people that live in the neighborhood don&rsquo;t attend church, but this enhances the parish community because then they see how much of a community it is, and it may bring them to the church.&rdquo;</p><p>St. Ferdinand&rsquo;s last fish fry of the season was Friday night. They cannot hold one this weekend, since Catholics are required to fast on Good Friday, depending on their age.<br />But parishioners at St. Ferdinand plan to keep building community through food. They&rsquo;ll be back with the fish fry next year.</p><p>And up next? A pancake breakfast.</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ producer/reporter covering religion and culture. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes" target="_blank">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 16:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fish-fry-dinners-bring-food-community-catholics-during-lent-110029