There was a story in the Catholic Digest a number of years ago entitled "The Day the Clowns Cried." It told about a fire at a circus in Connecticut in 1908 in which 168 people died and 590 were injured.
Among the dead was a little girl who could not be identified, so she was given a number, 1565. Many years later a firemen came across her picture in an old file. It showed her lying peacefully in the morgue, unclaimed. Little Miss 1565. He became determined to discover who she was, to recover her identity.
Loved by God
It took him nine years but he learned that Little Miss 1565 was eight-year-old Eleanor Cook. She was described by those who remembered her as partial to hair ribbons, cats, and dresses. Why no one sought her, mourned her we do not know. What we do know is that she was loved by God, which was reflected in a firefighter years later who showed he cared.
This story resonates with me as I reflect on the Cathedral fire one year later. One reason is because it reminds me of the courageous and caring firefighters who protected the neighborhood and me. Thank God no one was hurt. The loss was limited to things of this world. Looking back I am even more grateful for that and for them.
Hope amid loss
This story resonates with me also because it is one of hope amidst loss. For awhile, like Little Miss 1565, there was a sense of lost identity. Many of the first effects of the fire were losses. No Cathedral home for Holy Week and Easter or to acknowledge the death of a Pope and the election of his successor.
Statues, Stations of the Cross, stained glass windows, and other religious articles all with special meaning were lost below the debris. The steeple clock was stopped in its track and the bells silenced. The faith community scattered among other parishes. What had been a reassuring anchor for so many for so long was gone.
Over this year, however, we have discovered, or rather rediscovered, that our faith is not based on buildings, however beautiful.
As a result of the loss, many came forward with moving stories of faith deepened which we would never have known. They told of how experiences at St. Raphael, even before it became the Cathedral, had affected their lives and the historic life of Madison.
Many had not been in the church building in years. Many of their experiences took place in a school building or rectory no longer there, or in the church before, during, and after its several renovations.
Priests, Sisters, laity now gone remain rich in the memories of those whose lives they touched. It is not so much the building, but the expressions of faith shared there, the special moments of grace received there, and the caring for one another lived out there that is St. Raphael's legacy and identity. It is true of all parishes and all churches.
Graces flow from tragedy
One tragedy cannot undo the good that preceded it. Nor can it stifle the good that follows. Often from tragedy graces flow.
A year later it is moving how many continue to express support for the Bishop and me, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. By their question - are you going to rebuild - they also show genuine interest in the future. The steeple though damaged remains a rich symbol of the past and of that future.
Like Eleanor Cook, the identity of St. Raphael was never really lost, for it can never be lost, whether the building is rebuilt or not. It lives in the hearts of those who know that God the Father loves us so much he sent his Son. In Him is our hope and consolation.
A year later life has changed dramatically because of the fire. However as a result of it, though tested, I trust in Him even more. As at Calvary, for a time the clowns and we cried. Then as on Easter morn, the time came when uplifted by God's love they and we laugh again.
Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. No fire can change that.
Msgr. Paul J. Swain, vicar general of the Diocese of Madison, is the rector of St. Raphael Cathedral linked with Holy Redeemer and St. Patrick Parishes in Madison.
Treatment instead of prisons:
In a June 2005 column, I wrote about several provisions in the state budget that offered hope for a change in Wisconsin's corrections policy.
One of these, popularly known as TIP (Treatment Instead of Prisons), is aimed at diverting non-violent drug and alcohol offenders from prison to community-based substance abuse and mental health treatment facilities where they can receive professional help with their addictions.
The legislature passed and the governor signed this bi-partisan provision into law in July and since then counties have been encouraged to develop drug courts and other innovative programs to deal with the underlying addictions that fuel so much non-violent crime.
Two existing programs highlight the savings that can be achieved, both in dollars and in lives. Dane County has operated a drug treatment court since 1996. Those who volunteer for the program attend counseling sessions, submit to random urine screenings, and report regularly to the drug court judge about their progress. Participants in need of housing and employment receive additional help.
A 2002 study found that over a two to four year period, only 24 percent of those who completed Dane County's Drug Court program re-offended, compared with 45 percent recidivism for those who declined to enter the program.
The drug treatment court not only decreases recidivism, it also saves taxpayers money. The average cost of treating an offender in Dane County's drug treatment court program in 2003 was $17.78 a day, compared with $60.41 in jail or $78.36 in prison.
Milwaukee's Community Justice Resource Center (CJRC), which opened in 2000, is a collaboration between the county House of Corrections and two local social services agencies. Much like the program in Dane County, participants receive counseling, random drug testing, job training, as well as GED and parenting classes. In addition, participants perform community service according to restorative justice principles. Here too, the results are impressive. Seventy-five percent of those who completed the program did not re-offend after one year.
The newly signed TIP law makes it possible for every county in Wisconsin to operate innovative programs like the two in Dane County and Milwaukee. Unfortunately, however, insufficient revenues may impede this goal. Citing the state's tight fiscal situation, neither the legislature nor the governor allocated adequate funds to the program.
To ensure that sufficient state resources are made available, a new effort is needed. What can citizens do? The original TIP legislation made it into the budget thanks to the tireless work of key legislators, criminal justice professionals, reformed ex-offenders, and drug and alcohol treatment providers.
Perhaps most important, it succeeded thanks to the organizing power of faith-based, grass-roots groups, as hundreds of men and women from 15 religious denominations around the state became educated and active on the issue. Catholics were among these, for as the Wisconsin Bishops wrote in their 1999 pastoral, Public Safety, the Common Good, and the Church: A Statement on Crime and Punishment in Wisconsin, corrections policies should aim at being redemptive and restorative, not merely punitive.
The legislature and the governor should be commended for supporting the concept of TIP, and they need to hear that citizens support them in taking the next step: putting sufficient state money behind it. One recent study estimates that spending $11 million a year on TIP could save the state $26 million annually. Wisconsin cannot afford to be penny wise and pound foolish.
For additional information and brochures on the TIP campaign, please contact me at Barbara@wisconsincatholic.org
Barbara Sella is associate director for education and social concerns of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.
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"This Lent, I want to do more. I want to give them my hands and my heart."
These are the words of Fr. Gilbert Sales, a missionary from the Philippines, speaking about his work among the hundreds of street children in Mongolia's capital city of Ulaanbaator who have been pushed underground by poverty and family tragedy.
Father Sales journeys underground, to the sewer they call "home," to bring these little ones food and warm, clean clothes. Above all, he stays with the children, talking with them, listening to them - a sign of God's great love, a witness to the hope of the Resurrection among these children, the crucified of this Asian city.
Above ground, Father Sales runs a center for street children, providing each with a bed, meals, and schooling. "Most of the children are non-Christians but I invite them to come to the nearby church," he says.
Various surveys estimate the number of street children worldwide at more than 100 million. According to FIDES, the news service of the Pontifical Mission Societies/ Propagation of the Faith, Africa has more than 10 million such children, often those whose parents were killed in a war or died of some disease, most likely AIDS.
In Asia, economic crises and social degrade have been a major cause in the increase in numbers of abandoned children on the streets, today as many as 40 million. In India alone there are 18 million, 200,000 of them in the densely populated city of Calcutta. And in Latin America, there are more than 45 million children who call the street "home."
Throughout all these mission lands, there are missionaries trying their best to alleviate the physical suffering of these children - and to offer them hope, the hope that each of us finds in Jesus himself.
Take, for example, the work of the Diocese of Sumbawanga in Tanzania. There, street children receive tuition assistance, food, and shelter so that they can begin to turn their lives around and look forward to a better future.
In another part of Tanzania, in the Diocese of Dodoma, a local community of religious Sisters offers help and hope to 70 children who are HIV-positive or who are already sick with AIDS. At the Sisters' "Village of Hope," these suffering children find shelter - some even in homes of families who "adopt" them.
In Mongolia, in Tanzania, throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands, young and old, abandoned and alone, sick and suffering, find the love of Jesus and the hope of his resurrection through the witness of priests, religious Sisters and Brothers, and lay catechists.
This Lent, through the Propagation of the Faith, you can be with them, helping support their service day-after-day. Perhaps you can offer $40 - $1 for each day of Lent - in support of this life-giving service of the church throughout the missions?
Above all your prayers are needed for the church in the developing world and for the missionaries who remain witnesses of the love and compassion of our Lord and of his sustaining hope.
Msgr. Delbert Schmelzer is director of the Propagation of the Faith for the Diocese of Madison. Contributions to the Propagation of the Faith may be made at the parish or may be sent to: P.O. Box 44983, Madison, WI 53744-4983.
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First, the person for which the funeral is for is the one arranging it. Therefore, you get the funeral of your choice. Next, the cost of the funeral will be less money today than it will be at a later time because of inflation. If you make funeral arrangements in advance of need, the burden is removed from family members. And this burden can be of such emotional magnitude that their judgment may be clouded at the time they are making the arrangements.
I could list other reasons; there are many. The point is that, if left to your survivors, arranging the funeral of a loved one is like nothing ever experienced. It is a very hard thing to do. Don't put someone you love in that position. Step up to the responsibility yourself and do it. Do it for them, not yourself.
So, what is it that you have to do? First, decide which funeral home should handle your arrangements. Then, and this is the sticking point, call for an appointment. It is a hard call to make, but make it. And keep the appointment.
How does one go about selecting a funeral home? Perhaps your family has used the services of one of the local firms and they were satisfied. Or, references from friends and neighbors may help.
Cost might be a factor you would want to consider before committing to a particular funeral home. Call for a price list to compare one firm with another. Funeral homes are required by federal law to provide you an itemized list of their products and services.
Remember, funeral directors are aware that the nature of their business is intimidating and that there is a natural aversion on the part of the general public to seek the services they provide. So, they are very helpful when it comes to educating people about funerals.
The location of the funeral provider might be important if you plan for the visitation to take place at the funeral home.
When you go to make the arrangements, take with you important documents you might need such as discharge papers if you are a veteran, Social Security number, and information that would be needed for obituary notices such as correctly spelled names of relatives and their relationship to you. Don't rely on someone else to put your family history in the paper.
There are more options available to consumers today than there were a few years ago when selecting a funeral. And more options require more decisions on your part.
For example, you may want to arrange for a traditional full service package. This would include all the services of the funeral director and staff, use of the facilities, embalming and other necessary preparation of the body for viewing, and automobiles and hearse.
Package prices are available in different amounts depending on how many hours of visitation you select. Expect to spend about $3,500 to $4,000. To these prices you would add the cost of the casket, outer burial container, obituary notices, flowers, clergy honoraria, remembrance book, and thank you cards, as well as other optional items such as flag case, if you are a veteran, prayer cards, etc.
If you do not want a package price, you can select various services and items, "a la carte," so to speak. For example, you may arrange for the basic services of the funeral director and his staff, which should include, but is not necessarily limited to, the removal, arrangement conference, and filing of all necessary legal papers.
Expect to spend about $1,800 for basic services. Embalming and other preparation of the body is optional and therefore would be at an additional cost. Expect to spend about $550 to $750.
You should know that embalming is not required except in certain special cases or if you select a funeral with viewing. The facilities' charge should reflect what service you have selected.
Caskets can be purchased either from the funeral home or the Internet. There are numerous online Internet sites that promise delivery to the funeral home within 48 hours.
The cost of a casket depends on where you purchase it and the type of casket you select. They are generally made of either steel or wood. The steel caskets come in different thicknesses. There is available a stainless steel casket as well as solid copper and solid bronze caskets. These semi-precious alloy caskets are top of the line.
Caskets are available in either hermetically sealed or non-sealed units. The value of a sealed casket is personal to the consumer.
Casket interiors are available in different colors and materials such as velvet, satin, twill, or crepe. Steel caskets come in many colors. Interiors and casket colors do not usually affect the cost. Expect to spend from $1,000 to $9,000 for a steel, copper, or bronze casket.
Wood caskets are available in solid hardwoods such as cherry, mahogany, walnut, and oak. Softwood caskets such as pine are also available. It is possible to buy a wood veneer or laminate casket, less expensive than solid wood.
There is also available fiberboard or pressed board caskets that are covered in cloth. These are usually the least expensive caskets except for those made from cardboard that are used for cremation services. Expect to spend from $400 to $7,000 for a casket made from cardboard to solid hardwood.
The cost for a funeral today is hard to estimate because of the many choices available. A traditional, full service funeral should run from approximately $6,500 to $8,500 depending on the casket and type of service you select. However, you can certainly spend more but you can also spend less.
There are enough variables and responsibilities involved with arranging a funeral, that I have made a good case for why you should do it yourself. Don't leave it to people you love to do it on what could be the worst day of their life.
Tom Hanlon has been the director for the Department of Cemeteries for the Diocese of Madison since 1995. He has had a long career in funeral service.
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