Families called on to help evangelize society

Back in early September, John and Lauri Przybysz of Severna Park, Md., and other representatives of the Christian Family Movement were invited to make a presentation to the Pontifical Council for the Family, which is headed by Italian Cardinal Ennio Antonelli.

What they told the international gathering was that Christian families are called to participate in the evangelization of society, according to a story in The Message, newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville, Ind., by editor Paul R. Leingang.

“We agree with Cardinal Antonelli that the family can be more than an object of evangelization. The family can be an active agent of evangelization,” said the Maryland couple.

‘All work done by students’

Kyle Belcher, who headed up the architectural design of the house for the “Team California” (Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts) entry in the Energy Department’s Solar Decathlon, said there were many “aha” moments in the construction phase, since architecture students rarely get to see their designs move from the drawing board to building while still in school.

It reminded me of a college I used to visit, but one where students had lots of real-world practice: City Barber College in Detroit, where signs for the dozens of chairs read (or is that warned?): “All work done by students.” It was the “buyer beware” in return for getting a haircut at a low price.

Once as I was waiting for my turn in a chair, another customer left quickly. It seemed he had wanted his hair to go “over” his ears. But “over” turned out to be a highly imprecise word in the milieu of student barbering. Does “over” mean covering the ears, or does “over” mean above the ears? The student barber interpreted his customer to mean the latter; the customer had intended the former. When handed a mirror to examine the tonsorial artistry, the man was so upset he nearly threw a punch at the young barber — or so the barber-in-training said. Suffice it to say the man did not leave a tip.

‘Our house is a very, very fine house’

As I strolled along the National Mall Tuesday during the Energy Department-sponsored Solar Decathlon, I saw 20 student-built houses that stress energy efficiency and sustainable usage.

Photo courtesy of Stefano Paltera/U.S. Deptartment of Energy Solar Decathlon

Photo courtesy of Stefano Paltera/U.S. Deptartment of Energy Solar Decathlon

There was a constant parade of visitors checking out the houses, with dozens in line at any one time, and hundreds over the course of a day.

Allison Kopf, the project manager for Santa Clara University’s entry in the Solar Decathlon — the Catholic college joined up with the architecture school at the California College of the Arts to create “Team California” — said that, even from the outside, it was easy to recognize the geographic origin of the house designs. “You  can look at that house and say, ‘Oh, that’s an Illinois house’ or ‘That’s a Puerto Rico house,'” she told me minutes before a new day of open houses for the public took place Oct. 13.

The California house? Redwood exterior paneling.

Perhaps it was a professional failure on my part, but I did not check out which college in which state designed the house that looked like a silo.

Never so serious …

Robert Frost may (or may not) have said, “I am never so serious as when I am joking.” But whoever rightfully deserves credit for the quote knew what he was talking about. People use humor to make points.

Such was the approach of a speaker at the Oct. 7  initial session of  “A Common Word Between Us and You: A Global Agenda for Change,” a Christian-Muslim dialogue forum held at Georgetown University. Riz Khan, a program host on Al-Jazeera English, said those not in the know fear any Arabic word preceded by “al” in part because of their familiarity with the terrorist group al-Qaida and Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with war crimes.

Not to worry, Khan said; “al” is merely the Arabic equivalent of “the.”  To laughter from the crowd, he noted a couple of significant “al” occurrences in English, “Al Gore and Al Capone.”

He also told the tale of three children at a nursery school who were instructed by the teacher to play in the sandbox. Afterward, the teacher summoned them one by one.

“Michael, did you play in the sandbox?” “Yes, ma’am.” “Good, Michael. If you can spell ‘sand,’ I’ll give you a cookie.” Michael thought. “S-A-N-D, ma’am,” he answered. “Very good, Michael, here’s your cookie.”

Next came little Catherine’s turn. “Catherine, did you play in the sandbox?” “Yes, ma’am.” “Good, Catherine. If you an spell ‘box,’ I’ll give you a cookie. It’s a little tricky, but I think you can do it.” Catherine gave it her best try. “B-O…,” she said, pausing to think of what letter could come next before triumphantly saying, “X, ma’am!” “Very good Catherine. Here’s your cookie.”

Now came young Mohammed’s turn. “Mohammed,” asked the teacher, “Did you play in the sandbox?” “No, ma’am,” he replied. “Michael and Catherine called me names and pushed me away.” “How terrible,” said the teacher. “That sounds like blatant racial discrimination. Now, if you can spell ‘blatant racial discrimination’….”

Oblate Father Carl Kabat: ‘A fool for Christ’

Oblate Father Carl Kabat, 76, prepares to hang a banner on the fence around a nuclear armed missile in northern Colorado Aug. 6. (Courtesy St. Louis Catholic Worker)

Oblate Father Carl Kabat, 76, prepares to hang a banner on the fence around a nuclear armed missile in northern Colorado Aug. 6. (Courtesy St. Louis Catholic Worker)

Spending time behind bars is nothing new for Oblate Father Carl Kabat. So on his 76th birthday Oct. 10, he could think of no better place to be than a jail cell.

The St. Louis priest has spent more than 15 years behind bars as a “fool for Christ” for numerous faith witnesses challenging U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

Father Kabat’s latest arrest came Aug. 6. Dressed in his usual colorful clown suit, he cut a hole in a fence surrounding a missile silo in rural Weld County, 40 miles north of Greeley, Colo. The fence was decorated with banners decrying the pursuit of nuclear warfare and a clown doll.

His symbolic action came on the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. The statement he issued prior to his arrest can be read here.

Father Kabat spent his 76th birthday in the Weld County Jail, where he is awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges of trespassing and criminal mischief for his latest protest. His trial is set for Dec. 9.

When he’s not engaged in faith-based protests, Father Kabat resides at Karen House, a Catholic Worker house for homeless women and their children, in St. Louis. Ordained 50 years ago, he was a missionary in the Philippines and Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s.

Father Kabat can be reached at the Weld County Jail, 2110 O St., Greeley, Colo., 80631.

St. Damien’s ceaseless care for the suffering inspires

Joining in the celebration of the Oct. 11 canonization of  St. Damien de Veuster is Council 11411 of the Knights of Columbus in the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y.  The Blessed Damien of Molokai Council is among a handful of Knights’ councils across the country named after the Belgian-born missionary priest who ministered in Hawaii, caring for those who had leprosy, or Hansen’s disease as it is called today.

“Basically, our mission is to reflect Christ as a servant. Damien reflected that very well,” Angelo Guzman, warden of Council 11411, said in an interview in the Catholic Courier, Rochester’s diocesan newspaper. “To be the right arm of the church — this is what Damien did. He wasn’t afraid to to get his hands dirty, and neither are we.”

A family on the run

The Kapral siblings surround their mother, Dorothy, following the Fox Cities Marathon. (CNS/The Compass)

The Kapral siblings surround their mother, Dorothy, following the Fox Cities Marathon. (CNS/The Compass)

Talk about a family on the run.

All 16 siblings of the Kapral family of Oshkosh, Wis. ran in the Community First Fox Cities Marathon in nearby Appleton Sept. 20. Not only did they run in the popular annual event, but each one of them completed the 26.2 mile trek in less than six hours.

It’s the largest group of brothers and sisters to ever accomplish such a feat within eight hours, earning the Kaprals — all graduates of Lourdes High School in Oshkosh — a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., recently profiled the family’s accomplishment.

Interestingly, The Compass reported, the Kaprals were not the first Oshkosh family to be recognized by the Guinness book for accomplishing the same feat. Thirteen siblings of the Weisse family, also graduates of Lourdes, held the record for a month in 2007 until an Irish family running in the Dublin Marathon in Ireland surpassed them.

What’s in the water up there?