Friday, February 28, 2014

Theology on Tap

Sometimes it’s difficult for the Catholic Church to reach young adults because many of them often move or don’t belong to any specific parish. But the church has found a positive way to reach both young Catholics who are heavily involved in their faith, as well as those who haven’t been to church in years.

Photo courtesy of RENEW International
Theology on Tap, an international program geared toward Catholics in their 20s and 30s, single or married, provides a way for young adults to connect with their peers, form friendships and build their faith at the same time.

The Catholic speaker series, which has taken place in the Archdiocese of Omaha off and on for many years, started in Chicago in 1981 and now is run by RENEW International. 

Participants typically meet in the laid-back atmosphere of a bar or restaurant – a more comfortable setting for those who might be intimidated by church activities or write them off as boring and stuffy – where they listen to a speaker talk about issues of faith and morals while enjoying food and drinks.

Beth Staab, a member of the Theology on Tap core team, said Theology on Tap works to inform and empower the young adults in attendance with information about their faith so their lives can be enriched and they can better spread the truth about the faith to others.
Being archdiocesan-based rather than parish-based allows it to be an event where young people from different parishes can meet and form friendships, she said.

“Anytime I go to a different parish than my own now, I can usually spot someone I've met at Theology on Tap,” Staab said.

In the Archdiocese of Omaha, two series of four speakers take place every year.

The Lenten series will begin Thursday, March 6, and will continue every Thursday in March at McKenna’s at 72nd and Pacific streets in Omaha. Socializing and free appetizers begin at 7 p.m. and the speaker goes on at 7:30 p.m. It’s followed by a Q&A session around 8:15 p.m.

Many people stay afterwards to catch up with friends and get to know each other more, Staab said.

At the March 6 gathering, Father Paul Hoesing, vocations director for the archdiocese, will speak about what Pope Francis and his portrayal in the media. The talk is titled “Pope Francis Said What!?!?”

The March 13 speakers are Deacon Duane Karmazin and his wife, Eileen, of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Omaha, who will address the topic of chastity before marriage.

“It is difficult in this day and age for young adults to stay pure until they have discerned their vocation to marriage or religious life. It can be disheartening when that process takes more than a few years,” Staab said. “The deacon and his wife will speak from personal experience about the struggle of ‘Being Counter Cultural in the Hook-Up World,’ which is the title of their talk.”

On March 20, Father Steve Thomlison, associate pastor of St. Mary Parish in Nebraska City, will speak about military chaplains. In his talk, “A Military Chaplin’s Reflections,” he will share his experiences of serving as a captain in the Nebraska National Guard, where he is an Army chaplain, and as the command chaplain for the Nebraska State Patrol.

The speaker at the March 27 event is Dr. Jerry Martin, a retired lieutenant colonel, who will talk about “When Is War Just?”

If you’re a young adult, consider attending the Lenten Theology on Tap series. It’s a great way to grow in your faith.

Blogged by Lisa Maxson, senior writer/reporter.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lenten Prayer Walk

When the weather is nice, Mary Lou Alfieri takes a daily walk around her Papillion neighborhood and prays a rosary for the people who live on her street. 

She’s been doing this for about seven years – ever since her parish, St. Columbkille, did it as a Lenten program. Most people stopped when Lent was over, but Mary Lou continued.

St. Columbkille Parish is doing this project again for Lent, and already 50 people have signed up to participate, said Sister Jean Marie Faltus, religious formation director for the parish. From now until Easter, people are invited to walk their street every day or as often as possible and to pray with the “eyes of Jesus ,” she said.

“Try to see what Jesus would see if he was walking down your street,” she said. “We want the entire parish covered with prayer.”

Sister Jean Marie said prayer walkers are to pray for God’s purpose to be lived in every person’s life, God’s preparation for each person’s heart during this Lenten season, God’s presence in each person’s life and God’s grace to be released in the parish, homes, school and places of work.

Mary Lou said she likes praying for her neighbors, especially if her prayers are helping others. If she can’t walk outside, she prays for them at home and at daily Mass, she said.

“Who knows who’s out there in need of prayer,” she said. “I hope that my prayer helped someone feel good that day.”

In conjunction with the prayer walkers project, parishioners at St. Columbkille will read the same book during Lent, Sister Jean Marie said.

Members of the parish’s 25 faith sharing groups involved in the Spirituality-Faith Alive program will read “Encouraging Change,” by Father Joseph Siksica and use an accompanying journal written by Sister Jean Marie. This year they’ve extended the invitation to read the book to all parishioners. So far 100 additional books have been purchased by parishioners not involved with the faith sharing groups, Sister Jean Marie said, which means more than 500 people are set to participate.

“The thing I’m asking everyone who reads the book to do is change one little thing in their lives,” Sister Jean Marie said. “We really need this dome of prayer to keep everybody going during the season.”

Blogged by Lisa Maxson, senior writer/reporter

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Featured Program: The Doctor Is In

Image: Ave Maria Radio
Looking for free, friendly advice from a Catholic perspective? Look no further than "The Doctor Is In", airing weekdays at 12 p.m. CST on Spirit Catholic Radio.
The "Doctor Is In" is a live, call-in program that offers practical advice and counsel on personal, family and professional life — covering relationships, marital situations, job concerns, vocational discernment and the whole gamut of parenting issues, including children’s behavior and learning problems.
Spirit Catholic Radio listeners are encouraged to call in during the program with their questions by dialing 877-573-7825. 
Dr. Ray Guarendi is the father of 10, clinical psychologist, author, public speaker and friend of Spirit Catholic Radio. He also hosts the national television show, “Living Right With Dr. Ray.”  His experience includes school districts, Head Start programs, mental health centers, substance abuse programs, inpatient psychiatric centers, juvenile courts and a private practice.
Colleen Kelly, M.S., D.H.L., is an enthusiastic speaker on family life topics, Catholic issues, motivation and inspiration. She has taught at the elementary, junior high and high school levels, as well as in religious education and adult education programs. She is married, the mother of five, and lives in Illinois.
The Doctor Is In Details
Weekdays  |  12:00 to 1:00 p.m. CST
Call in number: 877-573-7825
Heard on these stations:
102.7-FM  |  Omaha, Lincoln, Columbus, Council Bluffs
88.3-FM  |  Norfolk, Hartington, Northeast Nebraska
91.5-FM  |  Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney, Central Nebraska
90.1-FM  |  North Platte
89.3-FM  |  Chadron
Listen live online for FREE no matter where you live: Click here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Enter our School Folder Art Contest!

Each year Spirit Catholic Radio provides approximately 25,000 colorful, two-pocket homework folders to Catholic elementary students, compliments of generous business underwriters—they’re our gift to you. Students in our listening areas of Omaha, Council Bluffs, Lincoln, Northeast Nebraska, Central Nebraska and Western Nebraska are invited to use and enjoy the folders in whichever way best serves their needs.

The folders are printed with the artwork from the winners and runners-up from our annual Catholic Schools art contest. Each year, the winners’ artwork is printed on the covers and featured on our web site. Both students and teachers have their names announced on Spirit Catholic Radio in the spring and also win a variety of prizes.

The theme for our 2014 School Folder Art Contest is Encounter Jesus! It's the theme we've chosen to use for the radio network's 15th anniversary, which is this year. 

Spirit Catholic Radio is excited to showcase the talent at your school and this contest is a great way to show recognition for the teachers and students who work so hard. If you are a teacher, parent or student (grades kindergarten through eighth) that would like to submit artwork, please contact Kelly Miller, marketing and promotions manager, via e-mail or by calling 855-571-0200. Information about the contest has been sent to all Catholic schools in the listening area.

School Folder Art Contest | Official Rules
• The contest is open to all Catholic elementary school students and homeschool students in the Spirit Catholic Radio Network listening area.
• All participants will enter their designs to Spirit Catholic Radio by:
Friday, March 28, 2014 at 4 p.m.
• It is the responsibility of the teachers (or parents) to mail or deliver the entries by the deadline. 
• Mailing and delivery:          Spirit Catholic Radio 
                                               Attn: Kelly Miller
                                               13326 A Street
                                               Omaha, NE  68144
• The designs should be based on the following theme: Encounter Jesus.
• Please limit size of designs to 8” x 8” (maximum & minimum). 
• Please limit design to 5 colors.
• Important: Please include student’s name, address, phone, e-mail, school name, grade and art teacher’s name with each entry and any other information you may feel is pertinent.
• Please submit entries only once.
• Three grade divisions (one winner, one runner-up from each division):
        - Kindergarten - 3rd
        -4th - 6th
        -7th and 8th
• The winners will be determined by the staff at Spirit Catholic Radio Network. 
• All entries become the property of Spirit Catholic Radio Network. 

The 2014 schedule is as follows:
• Entry Deadline: Friday, March 28, 2014, by 4 p.m. 
• Winners announced LIVE on Monday, April 14 on the Spirit Mornings show. Winning students’ names will also be sent by e-mail to the schools. 
• Designs go to press May 2014.
• Please note: if you would like your students’ artwork back at the end of the contest please let us know.  We will make it available for pick-up.  
• Two-pocket folders, complete with winning designs, delivered to schools in August 2014.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Catholic online dating: Keep the channels God gives you open.

He worked in the Middle Eastern desert doing hard things for his country for long hours and even longer months. He rode on camels and in armored tanks and breathed the driest air known to man. He discovered, much to his chagrin, that the Iraqi and Afghan heat is unlike anything you can experience anywhere else. It engulfs your being on the scorched desert sand. He learned that when the sun hides and the stars shine and you stand out in the nothing, in the utter quiet, it’s the easiest place on earth to talk to God.  

After his last tour in Iraq was coming to a close, he prepared to make the transition back into “normal” American life. After almost two years in the desert for his final deployment, he didn’t have any sense of community to come home too. He wanted to get married and start a family soon. But he didn’t know any girls. Especially any Catholic ones. And so three weeks before he returned home to the States, he signed up for a membership on

She returned to her beloved South after college, speaking truth words over radio waves and across conference rooms. She was passionate about many things and wanted to give all for a generation who so desperately needed their Savior. The Pope who had lit her generation on fire had ignited her heart too. The topics EWTN wanted her most to address on the show she hosted for teens were those related to dating, relationships, and chastity, because these were the hot button topics of her peers. And so she encouraged, she challenged, she convicted hearts. And even though she told them to wait as long as it takes – because in the end it would be worth every moment of the waiting – her heart grew weary as the years went by and still, her dream of marriage was just that: a distant dream. And so on her birthday on a late November evening, she signed up for a membership to

He says the laugh lines around her mouth and eyes are what first caught his attention, because he could tell she smiled a lot. He started emailing her through the dating site. And eventually she wrote back.

On Valentine’s Day 2008, they talked on the phone for the very first time.

And the rest is history.

Or perhaps the rest is now just our story: the one about dozens of plane trips back and forth for weekend dates, spending way too much time on the phone, wishing we lived closer than the 516 miles that separated us from the moment we met on Catholic Match until the week we became husband and wife a year and a half later. 

It’s a story of big moves and big transitions. Of babies being born and children being raised. Of striving to love and grow and learn and live.

Marrying Peter Weinert was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Truly, as we approach our fifth anniversary this summer, I am more in awe of what a great match we are now than I was when we met. We fit together so well. And I can assure you I have no idea how we’d ever have met if it hadn’t been for Truly, it brought two hearts together that otherwise would most likely never meet in “real life.”

It strikes me as ironic that in the social media-soaked society we live in, my husband and I still get nervous looks from single people when we share how we met, followed by a comment such as: “I could NEVER date someone on the Internet!”

And here’s what I wish I could assure every single Catholic in the world on this Valentine’s Day: You don’t date a person on the internet. You use the dating site as a tool (one of many) for meeting new people. But just as in any relationship, you must do the dating part in person. Within a few weeks of meeting on CatholicMatch, Peter flew down to South Carolina to meet my family and me in person. Even though our email and phone conversations were amazing, there’s no substitute for getting to know someone in person. A hefty sacrifice when you live long distance from each other, but totally, totally worth it.

If you’re single and dreaming of marriage this Valentine’s Day, I hope you’ll consider joining an online dating site. It never hurts to keep all the doors and all the options and channels God gives us open.

Trust me.

About Stephanie:
Stephanie Weinert is a Catholic speaker, blogger, and media personality. She lives in Charlotte, NC, with her husband Peter and their three sons: Mark (3), Luke (2), and Garrett (6 months). She blogs about marriage, motherhood, and everyday life at:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Father's Forgiveness

Bud Welch. Photo courtesy Nebraskans
for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Currently Nebraska has no means to carry out an execution because state officials have not replaced their supply of one of three drugs needed for lethal injection.

Bud Welch, whose daughter was killed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, would say that’s good news.

The 74-year-old travels around the country to speak out about against the death penalty. He was in Nebraska last fall giving presentations about forgiveness and abolishing the death penalty, and he spoke with me over the phone a few days before his Omaha presentation.

“That year was just awful,” Bud said, referring to the year his 23-year-old daughter Julie was killed in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

In the months after Julie’s death, Bud said he went from supporting the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who were found guilty of the terrorist attack, to taking a public stand against it.

“I was full of retribution at first to the point that I didn’t even want to have a trial. I just wanted them fried.”

Eventually he forgave the two men, and even met and developed a friendship with the family of McVeigh, who was executed in 2001 for his part in the bombing.

Test of faith
The day of the attack, Bud and his youngest son were at home about eight miles away from the federal building when they heard and felt the explosion. About 15 minutes later they learned it was the building in which Julie worked – and eventually were told Julie was dead.

Julie had been working at the federal building as a Spanish translator for the social security administration in Oklahoma City for eight months when the bombing happened. Strong in her faith and a graduate of Catholic school, she often went to week-day Mass and invited her dad to go with her.

“Julie was very devout and at that time I didn’t go to Mass all that often. She didn’t hammer me on that, she’d call me and invite me to Mass and usually I would go with her,” said Bud, who is divorced from Julie’s mother.

After her death, Bud said he started drinking and smoking heavily and was trying to self-medicate. 

“Most of that first month is a blur,” Bud said.

While he practiced his faith, Bud, a member of St. Therese of the Little Flower Parish in Oklahoma City, said he still struggled with feeling of anger after Julie was killed.

“I spent a period of time after her death angry at God because, in my opinion, he let this happen,” Bud said. “And then I was angry at myself because I always encouraged Julie to pursue foreign languages.”

His healing process took almost five years, he said. By then, he reached a point where he could forgive McVeigh and Nichols.

“When you forgive, it’s not an event, it’s a process,” he said. “Forgiveness is not doing a thing for the people who killed your child. You’re only doing something for yourself. When you’re finally able to forgive, it’s you that gets released; not the other people.”

Bud said so many years later, he enjoys talking to others about his experience because it brings comfort to others who have been through similar situations. He now speaks out publicly against the death penalty and has helped many other victims of violence find forgiveness and reconciliation.

Stacy Anderson, executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said it was a privilege to have Bud speak at the organization’s annual reception and silent auction last September.

“We were privileged to hear Bud recount his journey from tragedy and anger to forgiveness and healing,” she said. “His personal story caused many to reconsider whether the death penalty was the best we could do for victims’ families in the wake of violence and loss.”

Blogged by Lisa Maxson, senior writer/reporter.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Love Story

Mark & Katie Hartfiel
Mark and Katie Hartfiel said they want young Catholics to trust and have hope in God’s plan for their lives, especially in regards to their vocation.

And they hope that by telling their love story, others will find the love they share in their own lives.

“God has a plan, his plan is perfect and when we trust in him, he does not disappoint,” Katie said.

Katie, 30, who was on a guest on Spirit Mornings Thursday, wrote about the plan God had for her and Mark in her recent book, “Woman In Love.” In it she also encourages single young women to follow in her footsteps and pray for their future spouses.

“You aren’t waiting for your love story to start. You are living it right now,” Katie said. “My journey began years before I met Mark, and the Lord had so much to do with me in the meantime. Be active about letting God pursue and capture your heart, and trust that it isn’t about waiting for his plan to begin, it is about living in it right now.”

As a high school student in Colorado, Katie began praying for her future spouse. She kept a notebook in which she wrote letters to her “Husband-to-Be,” assuring him of her love and prayers for him. Years later, she discovered that the very same week she began her journal and her prayers for her future spouse, a young man in Houston – Mark – was inexplicably brought to his knees one night in an outpouring of grace that began his conversion to a life in Christ.

Mark and Katie, who live in Houston with their two daughters, said their story is about God’s goodness.

“He answers prayers a million times every day and we just received the gift to be able to see exactly when and how he did it,” Katie said.

Praying for her future spouse
Katie said she felt the desire to start praying for her husband-to-be during a leadership and discipleship training week she attended the summer before her senior year in high school. During that week, she fell in love with Jesus while journaling in Eucharistic adoration. That experience, she said, opened her heart even more to the yearning for a man that would love Christ more than he loved her.

Not long after Katie began writing the letters, her parents divorced. In an effort to cope, Katie said she described her hardships in her letters, as well as her hopes that her future would be different.

“I would tell my husband-to-be how I was praying for him and who I hoped to be for him,” Katie said.

She said she prayed for her future husband to be a spiritual leader in their relationship and focused many of her prayers on giving her him the grace to be transformed to a life in Christ if need be. But Katie said she also discovered that if she had such high hopes for the man she would marry, then she needed to become a woman who lived a life worthy of that man.

“Truly it was I who was transformed,” Katie said.

In her journal, she also begged God for specific intentions for her future spouse, Katie said. If he was struggling with poor decisions, friendships, bad influences or impurity, she said she pleaded with God to grant grace for conversion.

Meanwhile, a senior teenage boy in a Houston suburb was unknowingly receiving grace from prayers being uttered more than a thousand miles away.

Mark, 32, said he admits that his life in high school was pleasure-driven, revolving mainly around basketball, friends, parties, girls and beer.

But one summer night before his freshman year of college, he experienced a conversion that changed his life, Mark said.

While taking a shower, Mark said he felt the Holy Spirit rush into the room and into his heart.

“I experienced a deep and consuming love that could have only been an authentic encounter with the living God,” Mark said.

Mark instantly fell to his knees and he was struck with a sudden call to conversion, which seems to have no natural explanation, he said.

“I knew without a doubt that someone, somewhere was praying for me in a major way,” he said.

Following God’s plan
Katie and Mark both attended Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, and they met in a class they had together. It took them awhile to get the courage to talk to one another, but once they did, Katie and Mark said they became instant friends.

About six months later, the friendship turned into romance.

Katie said that’s when she began to address the letters in her journal to Mark instead of to her husband-to-be.

“We were best friends for a long time before we started dating, which meant when it became official I felt we had a lot of clarity to know where it was going,” Katie said.

Mark, national coordinator of the That Man Is You! Men’s ministry, said the progression of their relationship seemed very natural.

“I knew early on that I was willing to give her everything and sacrifice anything for her,” Mark said. “I spent a lot of time in prayer before and during our dating relationship looking to discern the Lord’s will.”

That summer they returned to their hometowns and talked daily on the phone. During one chat, Katie asked Mark if he remembered the date of his conversion. When he told her, Katie said she was shocked to find out it was during the same week she began praying for her future spouse and his conversion.

“I could not believe that God answered my prayers in this profound way,” she said.

The night before their New Year’s Eve wedding nine years ago, Katie gave Mark her journal with a note explaining what it was.

Mark said he was stunned to receive such a gift.

“I didn’t fully understand the gravity of it until I began to dive into the letters,” said Mark, who took seven years to read all of Katie’s journal entries. “You can’t receive a gift like that and not be called on to be the best spouse you can be.”

Practicing chastity
Throughout their dating relationship, the Hartfiels said they were chaste and saved their physical intimacy for each other in marriage.

Mark said he hopes more young women will value their purity and save themselves for their future spouses and intercede on behalf of their husbands-to-be.

“I want girls to know that when they live lives of such deep purity and love, it will indeed transform,” Mark said. “When the man God has for them comes along, he will be captivated by this purity and it will be utterly beautiful to him. I pray that God will raise up men who value such women and in turn live lives of purity themselves.”

Want more?

You can read more about the Hartfiels and purchase “Woman In Love” at 

Blogged by Lisa Maxson, senior writer/reporter.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Rite of Christian Funerals

We’re all going to die. That’s something we can’t avoid.

So why not be prepared?
Image courtesy Archdiocese of Omaha.

The Archdiocese of Omaha is in the midst of a year-long campaign, which began Nov. 2, to help educate Catholics about death, dying and the Rite of Christian Funerals so they can make informed decisions when the time comes.

“We want people to talk about it and think about it and then to be engaged in planning and preparing for their own death,” said Christian Brother William Woeger, director of the archdiocesan Worship Office.

Priests, deacons, musicians, parish lay ministers, funeral directors and those who do ongoing work with the bereaved will be invited to guided sessions where the teachings and rites of the church can be more greatly appreciated. Priests and deacons will be provided with preaching material this fall.

Brother William said the archdiocese is addressing the issue now to counter a youth-orientated culture, an expedient culture, where people don’t like to deal with death.

And with more and more Catholics choosing cremation, which is accepted by the church as long as the ashes are interred in a mausoleum, he said the archdiocese wants to make sure people understand the importance of still having a vigil service, funeral Mass and committal service.

“If cremation is chosen, certainly the preference would be that cremation happen after the funeral, instead of the body going directly to the cemetery,” he said.

Another issue the church often faces is that when a longtime Catholic dies, sometimes the survivors aren’t practicing Catholics and aren’t aware of what happens when a Catholic dies, Brother William said.

Funeral rites can have a positive effect on the grieving process for the survivors, but the reason we have funerals is not for the living, Catholics have funerals for the deceased, he said.

“The work of grieving takes time and the rite of Christian funerals is structured so that it is meant to be a metaphor for a person’s life, a journey,” Brother William said. “It speaks of hope and at the same time it acknowledges sadness.”

While death is a mystery, the church understands that a person is making his or her way to God, “and just as we accompanied them in life with our support and prayers and love, we accompany them in death with our support, prayers and love,” he said. “The community of the living and the community of the dead are one.”

The archdiocese invites people who have cremains of a Catholic loved one to have them interred at a Catholic cemetery, Brother William said. On Memorial Day, Catholics are encouraged to visit the graves of loved ones and tell stories about the deceased person, he said.

“There’s something very powerful about being able to go to a place where your loved one’s remains are kept,” he said. “It helps you stay connected to that person. And as human beings, we work through our senses.”

Emphasis on death, dying and Christian funerals is always an appropriate topic, primarily because no one knows when God is going to call a person home, said Deacon Bill Hill, director of Catholic Cemeteries for the archdiocese, a campaign partner with the archdiocese along with the archdiocesan Family Life Office.

“We spend our entire earthly life preparing for our eternal life, so shouldn’t we do this in the best possible way?” he said. “Our experience has shown that individuals and families who preplan their final arrangements will most likely include the various aspects of the Order of Christian Funerals, which includes the vigil service, funeral liturgy and committal service, in their wishes.”

Deacon Hill said he frequently encounters situations where the family will plan for the interment of a loved one without any consideration to the vigil and funeral liturgy.

“They are only concerned with having their loved one interred in a cemetery,” he said. “In other words, it is often a logistical process without any consideration toward spirituality.”

Deacon Hill said he hopes that through this campaign, which ends on All Souls Day, Nov. 2, people will realize the beauty of the rites associated with the Order of Christian Funerals.

“Specifically the beauty of celebrating our loved one’s own resurrection into their heavenly eternal home,” he said. “I hope they will realize the beauty of having one’s final resting place within the blessed and consecrated grounds of a Catholic cemetery where one will be with others who have shared in the same faith life.”

Rite of Christian Funeral Events
  • Clergy conference will focus on the topic – Feb. 10-11, St. Benedict Center, Schuyler.
  • Funeral director workshops – March 6, Norfolk; March 13 and 27, Omaha; March 20, Columbus.
  • Convocation with musicians, bereavement ministers, deacons – April 26, Norfolk; May 3, Omaha.
  • Memorial Day Remembrance – May 26, across archdiocese.
  • Public awareness – this fall with literature on the subject, website information, Sunday homilies Oct. 24-25 and Nov. 1-2.
  • Memorial concert – Nov. 2.

Blogged by Lisa Maxson, senior writer/reporter.