Thursday, March 26, 2015

Beautiful Trinity Episcopal Cathedral near Downtown Cleveland. Frida Berrigan's Talk

Last evening Brian Rice and I traveled downtown to hear Frida Berrigan speak. The venue was a comfortable room at Trinity Cathedral, near E. 20th and Euclid Avenue (across from Cleveland State University). Before the talk Brian and I visited the magnificent cathedral and I took a few photos (below). This looks like a 13th Century European Gothic Cathedral, complete with flying buttresses, rosetta windows, and a magnificent interior space. Trinity is Cleveland's oldest church, founded nearly 200 years ago.

So Trinity is a magnificent building, but what is even better is its welcoming nature. The Dean of Trinity, The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, welcomed us to the talk saying, "You are all welcome at Trinity--no exceptions."

Frida Berrigan gave a wonderful talk and reading from her new book, It Runs in the Family. She is a warm and engaging young woman. Frida was there with her mother, Elizabeth McAlister, and her two young children (they were in the nursery, so I didn't meet them). I briefly met her afterwards and told her her uncle, Rev. Daniel Berrigan, wrote the introduction to the book Judith Bechtel Blackburn and I wrote, Building the Beloved Community: Maurice McCrackin's Life for Peace and Civil Rights (originally published by Temple University in 1991--new edition available on Amazon).

Frida Berrigan (left) and the Very Rev. Tracey Lind

Magnificent pipe organ

Incredible carved limestone

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lake Erie: Still Frozen on March 24th!

This has been an incredible winter for Northeast Ohio, and Spring just doesn't seem to come. Yesterday, I took time out of a busy day to visit my old friend, Lake Erie. The Lake looked beautiful and awesome--but, alas, it was still pretty much frozen as far as the eye could see. That might change today with rain and warmer temperatures. It struck me this morning that the Cleveland Indians will begin their regular season in about a week--and winter still hanging around!

Here are some photos I took yesterday at Mentor Headlands:

Looking east toward the Fairport/Grand River Lighthouse

Looking west toward Mentor Lagoons and Willoughby

Looking north--all frozen!

Hundreds of people will be swimming here come this summer!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Cleveland Group Fighting to Save Immigrant Children

Yesterday there was a dinner fundraiser of the Cleveland Children's Coalition, a group fighting to save immigrant children in Northeast Ohio. The meeting was at a West Side Mexican restaurant, Villa y Zapata, and involved 20-25 people, among them some of the finest people in the Greater Cleveland area. You cannot save children without saving their mothers. So that is also a focus of the group. And the fathers are also crucial players in these issues. A good example of this is a woman I will call "Evita," from Lake County, Ohio. She is an undocumented immigrant (though she's lived here for 16 years), a PSR teacher in a local Catholic parish, a homeowner, a taxpayer, with four boys who are American citizens. Evita went back to Mexico, an emergency visit, because her mother was dying. Her mother did indeed die; luckily Evita was there by here mother's bedside, to give her comfort and courage.

When Evita tried to get back into the United States, she was captured at the border, and has been imprisoned for about two months in a detention center near El Paso. Her husband is at home in Lake County taking care of the four school-age boys. That is why we care about the children and the mothers and the fathers. Mexican and Central American families are so tight that if one component is missing or damaged (the child, the mother, or the father), then the entire structure can collapse.

The tragic stories these immigrants carry are heartbreaking, and reveal a cruel and truly heartless and illogical immigration policy. We are trying to do something to help the situation.

At yesterday's gathering, we saw some prominent clergy, Fr. Bob Begin (formerly pastor of St. Colman's) and Fr. Rob Reidy of Sagrada Familia parish in Cleveland, many Notre Dame nuns, the astonishing force of nature Sr. Mary Rita Harwood, and some brave lawyers, law students, and their assistants: Svetlana Schroeber, Carmen, and Sara Elaqad.

The organizers included Kate O'Donnell, Maureen Pergola, Joy Macinlay, Sr. Marie Manning, and Kate Uhlir.

There was a good contingent there from St. Mary's Painesville: Linda Coughlin, Kathy Flora, Dan Philipps, Kathy Philipps, Brian Rice, Pat Denny and her son Donny (not exactly from St. Mary's, but we will claim them), and myself. This is a tribute to the social justice focus and energy of our parish. By the way, many people involved with St. Mary's social justice ministries are not Catholic and not officially parishioners--but we love them and they give so much to our parish and the people we serve.

Here are some photos from that gathering:

Sr. Rita Mary Harwood

Padre Rob Reidy, of Sagrada Familia

The program for the fundraiser

Svetlana and Fr. Rob Reidy

An Extraordinary Passage from Fr. Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation

In today's meditation, Fr. Richard Rohr writes:

The mystery of Christ is revealed, and the Christ "comes again," whenever you are able to see the spiritual and the material coexisting, in any moment, in any event, and in any person. God's hope for history seems to be that humanity will one day be able to recognize its dignity as the divine dwelling place, which it shares with the rest of creation. I don't know when it will happen or what it will look like to reach the tipping point, for the Christ Mystery to come to fullness. All I know is that this meaning, planted in the middle of things, was meant to give humanity both direction and immense confidence. I suspect "the Second Coming of Christ" happens whenever and wherever we allow this to be utterly true for us. We're still living in the in-between right now, slowly edging forward, with much resistance. As it says in Romans 8:22-23, creation is "groaning in anticipation," or as one translation states, "We are standing on tiptoe waiting for the revelation of the sons and daughters of God." I hope such implanted hope gets your whole life up on its toes!

Richard Rohr invokes science to offer some plausible explanation for the Resurrection and for these religious mysteries. The poet in me is attracted to his ideas. There apparently was a poet inside St. Paul (and it certainly wasn't always visible in Paul's writings!) when he writes the "world is groaning in anticipation." Yes, the crucified world aches and groans for love and justice!

I do love the idea expressed above that some day humans will recognize that we, like Jesus, are both human and diving, Sons and Daughters of God, and that this spark within us gives us "both direction and immense confidence."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lexington, Kentucky's Great New Bishop--John Stowe (from Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog)

Here is a recent posting from Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog.

Lexington’s New Bishop Channels Pope Francis

“A Jesuit pope by the name of Francis sends you a Franciscan bishop trained by the Jesuits.”
Those were the words of Lexington, Kentucky’s new bishop, John Stowe, as he introduced himself at his first press conference last week.
The words came as a breath of fresh air to progressive Catholics in the Lexington Diocese. As a resident of that diocese, they came as a refreshing breeze to me.
In his opening statement, there was not a word about abortion, contraception, or gay marriage – the dreary, unvarying drum beat of doctrinal rigidity that has (in the pope’s words) turned the lives of Catholics into an endless “Lent without Easter.”
Instead, bishop-elect Stowe follows the lead of his boss who emphasizes the “Good News” of the Christian faith, and not right-wing doom and gloom. While not ignoring those other matters, Pope Francis (and, it seems, bishop-elect Stowe) would have Catholics engage the big issues such as the failure of corporate capitalism and its resulting wealth inequalities, wars, climate chaos, and particularly exclusion of those conservatives consider “outsiders.”
In his progressive stances, however, Lexington’s new appointee is not merely a disciple of Pope Francis. He also has a long personal history social activism, community organization, and inter-faith cooperation.
In his earlier posts in Ohio and Texas, the bishop-elect has been a consistent peace and social justice leader, and a critic of reactionary politics – especially as they affect immigrants.
Father Stowe recognizes, for instance, the parallels between the experience of today’s undocumented workers and that of his Italian grandmother who along with her compatriots were routinely called “WOPS,” or immigrants without papers.
More specifically, in 2006, when Fr. Stowe addressed the Mayor’s Congress on Immigration Reform in El Paso, Texas, he rejected the “Minuteman” and vigilante approach to border security. He criticized the U.S. Congress saying, “We shudder to imagine what the inscription on the Statue of Liberty might read if it had been erected by the current U.S. Congress.”
The bishop-elect is fluent in Spanish. His introductory conference featured a long paragraph in perfectly delivered in that language. I’m sure that gladdened the hearts of the growing Hispanic community in the Lexington diocese. Hispanics, Stowe says, (along with his Franciscan emphasis on service to the poor) have formed him as a priest and pastor.
In summarizing his priorities and agenda, Rev. Stowe said he will focus on worship and the service that inevitably flows, he said, out of meaningful liturgy. But like his papal mentor, he would do lots of listening before acting.
In all things, he would take Pope Francis as his inspiration and guide, and would follow his example. “I love Pope Francis,” he said, and will do whatever he asks.“
That augurs well for progressive Catholics, for the Lexington diocese, and for the Commonwealth in general.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

John Kasich for President 2016?

This just in! John Kasich's first presidential campaign flyer!

John Kasich—For President 2016?


John Kasich—Let Him Do to the United States What He Has Done to Ohio!

  • ·         Screwed the poor and the middle class
  • ·         Robbed the cities and local governments
  • ·         Eviscerated the public schools
  • ·         Starved the libraries
  • ·         Cut taxes and put the money into the hands of his cronies
  • ·         Fracked the environment all-to-hell

John Kasich Stands on His Record!

Keep that in mind come the Presidential Election of 2016

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Some Old St. Patrick's Day Blog Postings

I'm going to repost this blog entry, one that compiles St. Patrick's Day remembrances from many years past:

St. Patrick's Day 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio, was the greatest day ever. The parade, which lasted 2 and a half hours, featured 16,000 marchers and was viewed by 500,000 people lining Superior Avenue from East 18th Street to Public Square. Usually we are are watching the parade in snow or sleet, under gray skies, a half mile inland from the frozen lake. This year the skies were blue and the temperature hit a record 77 degrees. And the parade was on  a Saturday, which allowed more families to attend. The presence of so many families had the side effect of reducing drunkenness and fights. People were very happy, very peaceful all afternoon.

Photos: top shows Bob, Brian, Emily, Linda, Julia, Colin; second shows Brian and Emily; third shows Girl Scouts dressed up as cookie boxes; bottom shows Colleen Fitzpatrick, with other family members in the background, including Mike and Karen Fitzpatrick, Peter Fitzpatrick, and Linda.

March 17, 2013.

This morning Linda and I, along with Julia, Ed, and Colin, attended the St. Patrick's Day mass at St. William's in Euclid (officially now Sts. Robert and William). It was a wonderful mass, a thousand people in attendance, featuring the Irish American Club Fife and Drum Corps along with the Club's women marchers and two bagpipers. Mary Ann Ratchko-Gamez played her extraordinary Irish whistle and flute, and Jack McGarry sang "Our Lady of Knock." I saw many  old friends there and was so happy to be there with part of my family.

We didn't go to the parade this year, but I'm sure it was spectacular as usual. One highlight of every parade is the St. Edwards' High School Trashtalkers, a percussion band unlike any other. I have a short youtube video of it from last year's parade (when it was 79 degrees, versus 29 with 4 inches of snow this year!).

St. Patrick's Day 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio--a glorious, wonderful day. At the big Irish mass celebrated at St. Colman's Church on West 65th Street, Fr, Begin said something like this: "We are grateful that God made the first day of spring St. Patrick's Day this year."

It was a warm, sunny day, temperature in the mid 60's (I've spent many a St. Patrick's Day in snow or sleet at the parade, so this was very unusual!). I, along with my brother Jim and two of his kids, Dillon and Quinn, began the day attending mass at the historic Irish church of St. Colman's--a treasure that was almost lost to Cleveland last year when Bishop Richard Lennon tried to close the church in his efforts to downsize the Diocese of Cleveland.

Fr. Dan Begin was the celebrant, helped out by 16 concelebrants (including Fr. Bob Begin, pastor of St. Colman's). Hundreds of people marched into the church to the accompaniment of fifes and drums--most of them from the West Side Irish-American Club. The music at the mass was glorious, with the sound of pipers, piano, and violin. The song selections were the sentimental favorites of Irish-Catholics: "Our Lady of Knock," "All Praise to Saint Patrick," "Danny Boy," and many others. These might not represent the best music created for and by the Irish, but the congregation loved it. We also sang the amazing hymn, "Faith of Our Fathers," and closed with "America the Beautiful." Right before the recessional, the violinist, who was either Sarah Lally Pap or Mary Beth Ions, played a beautiful tune, which sounded to my ear like a lament--possibly the lament O'Carolan composed as he neared the end of his life. How many people packed the church? There wasn't a seat to be found and hundreds and hundreds stood in the balcony and down all the aisles. It was incredible.

One interesting feature of the mass was the Credo, which was spoken in Irish-Gaelic. What was spoken was actually the Apostles' Creed, Cre na nEaspeal (I'll post the Irish text at another date).

St. Patrick's Day 2010.

We (my brothers Kevin and Jimmy, Jimmy's 3 kids, Dillon, Darby, and Quinn, and my daughter Emily and I) had a wonderful St. Patrick's Day in Cleveland, Ohio. We began the day by attending mass at St. Patrick's Church, on Bridge Avenue in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland. St. Patrick's is one of the historic churches of the Irish community in Cleveland. The parish and church are about 150 years old, and the story goes that parts of the immigrants' ship masts are built into the pillars of the old church (we choose to believe that story). Bishop James Quinn was the celebrant, and the mass featured wonderful music, including a stunning performance by pipers and drummers surrounding the altar as mass ended.

Following mass we processed to the old school building, where the parishioners of St. Patrick's provided hundreds of people with a free breakfast. After breakfast, Kev, Em, and I went to the Harp Restaurant in the Edgewater neighborhood of Cleveland, overlooking Lake Erie (still full of floating ice). There I ran into a former student, a Cleveland diocese seminarian, drinking a Guinness with his 2 buddies (also seminarians!). I run into students everywhere, including places I'm not supposed to be at.

After the Harp, we headed downtown, stopping first in the Arcade, a world-class building . . .

What Does It Mean to Be Irish-American?

We call ourselves "Irish"--what we mean is "Irish-American." We should probably leave the term "Irish" for the citizens of that land. So what does it mean to be "Irish-American" then?

It doesn't mean that you drink green beer tomorrow, St. Patrick's Day. That is for amateurs! OK, if you must . . . .

It doesn't mean you celebrate the culture of drinking and drunkenness. Sure, there is enough of that among Irish-Americans. But when it occurs it is often destructive and doesn't honor or celebrate anything.

It does mean that we have roots in a culture rich in storytelling, poetry, drama. We are connected to a culture rich in music.

We have a culture that celebrates friends and family life. In fact, in many Irish and Irish-American families, family is the highest priority--higher than career, money, fame, success. Good family life is success and wealth!

Many Irish and Irish-Americans have a religious tradition. For most it's Catholicism. But there are Jewish, Church of Ireland, Protestant, Quaker, and other varieties of Irish. To me this tradition is precious, despite my disagreements with the official (or officious) Church. It clearly stems from the era of St. Patrick, St. Brigid, St. Brendan. Ireland was indeed "the land of saints and scholars." Irish Catholicism, in earlier days, borrowed a lot from pagan Celtic spirituality. This made the Irish variety of Catholicism more humane and decentralized than the Church of Rome. Of course there have also been strains of super "orthodox" Catholicism--religion in a straightjacket, religion that hated the body, sexuality, and the like. I saw plenty of this growing up, especially in the religious instruction of the Catholic schools of the 1950s.

I see the spirit of Irish-Americans in my extended family.  They love each other, honor family above all, are funny and fun, great storytellers. We have kept our religious faith. And yes we celebrate and tip a few on March 17, St. Patrick's Day.

I'm proud to be an Irish-American and gladly share St. Patrick's Day with all the English, Germans, Italians, Slovenians, Polish, Slovaks, Bohemians, African-Americans, Latinos--all the wonderful nationalities that interact in Northeast Ohio, our home.

p.s. My grandson, the love of my life, has many of the nationalities mentioned above: He is Irish-German-French-Italian-Czech, and maybe a bit Polish, with a small dash, possibly, of American Indian. I bet there are other nationalities in his genetic mix, too!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Great Priest and Notre Dame Professor Has Died: "Dick McBrien, free at last" | National Catholic Reporter

Dick McBrien, free at last | National Catholic Reporter

Yesterday I found out that Fr. Richard McBrien, the great priest, theologian, and professor at the University of Notre Dame, has died. I emailed him a couple of times over the years when he was under fierce attack by reactionary bishops and others who somehow saw themselves as defenders of the faith. Fr. McBrien was kind enough to respond to me in the middle of his busy life. He seemed fearless and wasn't cowed by those trying to destroy him (yes, some people tried to destroy this great man--they should be ashamed). The above article was published in the National Catholic Reporter and written by Eugene Kennedy. There is also a wonderful obituary in the New York Times, and I will try to find a link to that.

I think it was Fr. McBrien who once said, "I am a 2000-year Christian!" He was aware of the broad, long, and diverse history of the Church and wasn't sucked into the narrow, twisted version that so often passes for Catholicism today.

Rest in Peace, Fr. Richard McBrien. And thank you for your courageous witness!

Richard McBrien in his office at Notre Dame

Couple of Songs for St. Patrick's Day: "Óró, sé do bheatha abhaile" and "Danny Boy"

Many people thing Sinead O'Connor is crazy. Well, she might be, but she is one great singer and a person with passion and soul. Below she sings the great Irish-Gaelic song, "Óró, sé do bheatha abhaile." Patrick Pearse wrote some of the verses of this song. It is an invitation to the Irish diaspora to come home and participate in the building of an independent Ireland.

Many people look down on the song "Danny Boy," saying it is not genuine. But it is a song with beautiful (though strange) imagery. It was written by an Englishman, Frederic Weatherly, in 1910, and set to the traditional tune "Londonderry Air" by 1913. It is beloved by American Irish and often played at funerals.

Here is Celtic Woman's version:

Good-bye and Good Riddance to Winter! Hello Spring!

I normally think of St. Patrick's Day as the first day of spring (and I do that in spite of all the evidence that we are still in later winter!). Today, as I was teaching a class at Lakeland Community College, I looked out the third floor window, and in the distance I could see frozen Lake Erie. From here it still looks like the lake is frozen solid. I know that the ice is starting to break up--and it is being broken up by ice-breaking ships trying to open up shipping lanes.

For the past two months Lake Erie has been frozen solid. I have heard figures like 96% and 98% frozen. But practically speaking it has been 100%. Geez, you could probably drive a four-wheeler across the lake--or ride a horse! But it won't be long before fishermen and recreational boaters are back out on the big waters of the beautiful lake. I gave away my boat this past fall, but plan on hitching a ride now and again with my brother Jim and Barry O'Donnell.

Here are some photos taken three weeks ago at Mentor Beach Park:

Looking north past the building at Mentor Beach Park

The frozen lake is not all smooth!

An animal made tracks out onto the ice.

No swimming or boating this February day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lakeland Community College's Poetry Contest--2015

Lakeland Poetry Contest 2015

To enter the contest, go to this website: (then follow instructions)

Submission Deadline: Friday, April 3, 2015.

Submission Guidelines: Submit 1 to 3 poems to one category (High School Student, Lakeland Student, or General Public). No single poem should be longer than 2 typed pages. Include name, address, phone, category, and titles of the poems. No personal information should appear on the poems themselves. The competition is not open to Lakeland employees, but family members are welcome to submit.

Submission Fee: $5.00

Prizes and certificates are presented at the awards ceremony at the Lakeland Library, C-3051, 7:00 p.m., on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Winners are invited to read their work at the awards ceremony. Winning poems may be published, with your permission, on the internet. For more information on prizes, visit
Upon receipt of the submission fee confirmation email, send your 1-3 poems as a single file attachment to Please include the submission category in the subject line of the email. Provide your name, address, phone, category, and titles of the poems in the body of the email. 

For each category, there will be a 1st Place Prize of $40; Second Place Prize of $25; Third Place Prize of $20.