There are two major take-aways from my trip to visit Fr. Harold Geers in Palo, Leyte, in the Philippines: He is well loved by the Franciscan Handmaids of the Lord whom he has served as chaplain for 32 years, and after 50+ years in the country, he is very acculturated.
Harold lives in an apartment above the postulancy house on Mt. Laverna, the beautiful hills which are also home for the motherhouse, novitiate, and San Damiano Retreat House. The sisters told me more than once how much they appreciate his support, wisdom, and presence. The sisters consider Harold to be a co-founder of their community. Now almost 84, he celebrates daily Mass, serves as confessor, and gives periodic talks to the sisters in formation, always careful not to interfere in community decisions.
While I was there, we celebrated the 37th anniversary of their foundation, and they invited me to give a talk on St. Francis as part of their day of recollection, which we ended by singing karaoke songs. Harold has made many other friends as well; since he has given up driving, they often come to his aid. His friend Tony Canete, a former friar, took us on the two-hour trip to the Custody of St. Anthony novitiate in Ormoc, the community to which Harold is attached and where he goes by bus every other month.
There we happened to meet former SJB friar Roger Covero who was giving a retreat to their six novices and we saw the very large and well-organized flower and vegetable garden which provides food and income for the friars as well as employment for several 2013 Typhoon Yolanda refugees. Over lunch, there was much interest in the U.S. presidential race and the revitalization and restructuring process going on among the U.S. provinces! The friars asked about all the SJB friars who spent time in this mission.
Harold often forgot that I did not speak Waray-Waray, and explained much that we saw along the way: rice drying in the sun; the various modes of transportation (pedicabs, jeepneys and tricycles); the custom of cockfighting; how the people take your hand to their forehead as a blessing; but most importantly our SJB history in the Philippines. We visited his friends Awie and Marnellie Llamera and their sons Clyde and Joaz. In their home, 14-year-old Clyde demonstrated his ability with the guitar and did magic card tricks for us. Harold is practically a member of the family, a grandfather figure; in fact, there is a professional family portrait on the wall, taken a number of years ago with Harold. Harold jokes that he used to hold Clyde’s hand when they crossed the street to keep him safe and now Clyde takes his hand to keep him safe!
I last visited Harold in March of 2014, several months after Typhoon Yolanda. Though her wrath was still apparent, much reconstruction has happened. Road repair is happening everywhere, and that is not an exaggeration. The sisters’ convent and retreat house is back. The Cathedral is repaired and there is a mass grave and memorial in front of the Cathedral where an unknown number of people are buried. The official death toll was 7,000, but speculation is that it was significantly higher than that. Marnellie, mentioned above, lost parents, in-laws, nieces and nephews. The cargo ship that landed on shore has been made into a permanent monument. There is now a bustling mall that serves the area as well. But the poverty and devastation is still remarkable. We saw shacks made of wood scraps and corrugated steel along the coast, and not-much-better public housing that has been built for the refugees.
A trip like this is always educational and vision broadening; one learns how so many other people in the world live, eat, bathe, get around, and pray. You see monkeys in trees and pigs in pedicabs. You see water buffalo and Christmas decorations in September. It’s a great world. Thank you, Harold (salamat!) for this great experience.
PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLI“I’m getting by,” Ted Hattrup tells Norbert Bertram.Jack Wintz at St. Margaret HallBert HeisePHOTO BY DAN KROGER, OFMEd Lammert at Sunday’s picnicNorbert greets Rocky ReichelJerry Beetz with Simeon Cleves: Strokes have slowed him down.John TurnbullNorbert says Luke Simon never misses MassMiles PfalzerMaking the roundsSteve RichterNorbert and Jerry with Xavier GedeonCarl HawverConrad Rebmann with his books1 - 14<>
BY TONI CASHNELLI
Fr. Miles Pfalzer is dozing in bed when three visitors slip into his room at St. Margaret Hall in Cincinnati. Stirring to greet them he insists, “I was praying,” well aware his guests aren’t buying it.
“How are you feeling, Miles?” one of them asks.
“With my hands,” Miles says, wiggling his fingers.
It takes a moment for the joke to register. “You’re feeling with your hands,” Br. Norbert Bertram repeats, and Miles smiles in satisfaction. Even at age 96, a thinner version of his formerly robust self, he is cheeky, still looking for laughs.
One of 13 friars in SJB’s largest nursing home community, a home where a third of residents are retired religious, Miles is more mobile than many. But no matter how infirm they appear, he and his brothers have something in common: They’re the same guys they always were.
We are making the rounds at St. Margaret Hall with Norbert, Director of the Office for Senior Friars, and his Associate, Br. Jerry Beetz. An almost daily ritual for Norbert, it’s a new experience for Jerry, who arrived in August after 22 years in Kentucky. “We’re here for something almost every day,” says the newbie, whether it’s running errands or taking brothers to the doctor. Two things are essential in this work, Jerry says: “Patience and a sense of humor”. That, and the ability to hike long corridors to rooms on three floors.
Friars on the first floor are more independent. As we speak, for example, Fr. Carl Hawver is at Mass, giving a reading. Those on the second floor need extra assistance. On the third floor, residents undergo rehab.
Br. Conrad Rebmann’s first-floor room is a mini-friary decorated with all things Franciscan: Likenesses of the founder cover the walls and dozens of volumes line bookshelves. As if it were not obvious, “I’m crazy about Francis,” he says. “I think he consumed me.” Books have been read and re-read, including the one he has in hand, Omer Englebert’s Francis of Assisi: A Biography. “It’s full of flavor and insights others don’t have.”
Connie has done presentations on the saint for fellow residents and later this month, “I’m gonna talk about Clare.” By the way, “If anyone has books on Francis they no longer want, I’ll be glad to take them.”
On the second floor Jerry pops in on Fr. Ed Lammert, rousing him from sleep, and we talk briefly about how the recent Olympics inspired a discussion of friar athletes. Ed’s name always comes up in conversations of that kind; he lettered in an impressive five sports in school.
Norbert is pleased to see Br. Xavier Gedeon up and about, with his radio tuned to classical music. Happy for the company, Xavier is glad he’s able to stand for the visit. “He has eye trouble,” Norbert says, and issues with swallowing led to the use of a feeding tube. They’re hoping that a test he underwent this week may help clear that up.
In Fr. Ted Hattrup’s room, Norbert takes a seat to ask, “Good morning, Ted. How are ya?” The reply is, “I’m getting by.” He doesn’t have a lot to say, but Ted is buoyed by the visit and the impending arrival of lunch. “How about I bring you some Hershey bars?” Norbert teases, knowing this is the way to Ted’s heart. Before we leave Ted bestows a blessing, as he always does. “Take care,” Norbert says. “God bless.”
Down the hall Br. Steve Richter is propped up in bed, watching a game show on TV. Because of problems with his right leg, “I can’t walk,” he says. A wheelchair is Steve’s usual means of conveyance, but, “I use the walker a bit.” Norbert reminds him about the new shoes he recently bought that may make a difference. Visits are pretty much mapped out, but there’s still a lot of ground to cover. Now, with two friars in the office, they can share responsibilities. “It’s 100% better with Jerry,” Norbert says.
He heads for the window in Fr. Bill “Rocky” Reichel’s room where the bed is parked. “I’m tired of looking at that green tree,” confesses Rocky, who’s been unable to walk for the past year. “But I’m fortunate,” he adds with a grin.
Asked to look at Norbert for a photo we’re taking of the pair, Rocky mugs for the camera, just as you’d expect.
Fr. Simeon Cleves, next on the list, is eager to communicate. But a series of strokes has affected his speech, so Norbert has to lean in and encourage, “Say it a little louder.” He asks Simeon a series of questions: “How’s your watch working?” “How’s your eating going?” “Did your sister come to visit?” And he urges caution: “You’ve got to stop reaching down to pick things up so you don’t fall out of your wheelchair.”
First-floor residents Frs. Bert Heise, Carl Hawver and John Turnbull are at lunch in the dining room. Bert and his sister just saw the Downton Abbey costume and historical exhibit at the Taft Museum, and they loved it. “What it really shows is what happened after the First World War,” Bert says. “It destroyed the manors. That’s when women in England got their freedom.”
Carl is asked about the food. “They work hard at making it good,” he says.
The frozen dessert reminds John of his favorite ice cream venue, Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs. “Haven’t been there for years,” he says nostalgically.
On the second floor, Br. Luke Simon is his usual sunny self, greeting visitors with enthusiasm. “Why am I always happy?” he says, repeating a question. He credits his cheery mother, Irene McGowan, “an Irish girl from a family of seven.”
There’s televised baseball on tap, good news for Luke, who admits, “I’m addicted to baseball games.” He points to a photo of Wrigley Field taped to one wall. This year, “My hometown team, the Cubs, are doing pretty good.” When he was a kid, he explains, “My grandmother only lived a couple miles from Wrigley Field,” where he and a cousin picked up trash so they could watch games for free. “There were some good memories.”
We hear that Fr. Jack Wintz is out with friends from Franciscan Media – former colleague Judy Ball is a frequent visitor – so we will visit him later. Norbert and Jerry decide it’s time to think about lunch.
For the friars who live here and the brothers who help and support them, it has been a good day.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men after skin cancer, but it can often be treated successfully. More than 2 million men in the U.S. count themselves as prostate cancer survivors. The size of the prostate, which is below the bladder, changes with age. In younger men, it is about the size of a walnut, but it can be much larger in older men.
As men age, prostate health becomes even more important. Prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers among men, is most prevalent in men over 50. African-American males are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white males. It seems to run in families, which suggests that in some cases there may be an inherited or genetic factor.
Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms. More advanced cancers sometimes cause symptoms, such as:
Some substances in tomatoes and soybeans may help prevent prostate cancer, along with Vitamin D.
It is important to have honest, open discussions with your doctor and have a PSA test at regular check-ups. Ask your doctor if you have any questions, no matter how small or insignificant they might seem.
– Michelle Viacava, RN
Al Hirt shows off the new solar panels on the roof of the Catholic Center at St. Monica-St. George.• Pastor Robert SeayPope Francis
PHOTO BY JEFF SCHEELER, OFMLaurie Nelson, CEO of the Center for Respite Care, with Chris Schuermann, Executive Director of St. Francis Seraph Ministries
PHOTOS BY JEFF SCHEELER, OFM
The poor live in makeshift housing.
PHOTOS BY JEFF SCHEELER, OFM
People actually use that bridge
PHOTOS BY JEFF SCHEELER, OFM
The mass grave and memorial for typhoon victims
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He's at home in the Philippines
BY FR. JEFF SCHEELER, OFM
PHOTO BY JEFF SCHEELER, OFMLaurie Nelson, CEO of the Center for Respite Care, with Chris Schuermann, Executive Director of St. Francis Seraph MinistriesThe new St. Anthony Center in Over-the-Rhine got a big boost Tuesday when Impact 100 awarded a grant of $101,500 to help fund a commercial stove hood for St. Francis Seraph Ministries’ new soup kitchen and a kitchenette for the Center for Respite Care. The collaborative project is part of the proposed St. Anthony Center Dinner Club, which will expand existing soup kitchen services to provide breakfast and dinner to the homeless five days a week in its new location, the east wing of the Franciscan Media building.
He's at home in the Philippines
BY FR. JEFF SCHEELER, OFM
Al Hirt shows off the new solar panels on the roof of the Catholic Center at St. Monica-St. George.• Pastor Robert Seay and 11 pilgrims from Lafayette, La., were among hundreds of thousands who converged on St. Peter’s Square Sept. 4 to hear Pope Francis declare “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to be a saint.” It was “mind-boggling” to be there for the canonization, says Robert, one of the chaplains on a tour organized by Proximo Travel. “It was exciting; you have all these languages and people from all over the world,” including hundreds of members of Teresa’s Missionary Sisters of Charity, some of whom minister at Holy Family School in Lafayette. For Robert, the most powerful part was “witnessing the universal Church. It was inspiring to be there and witness the power of a person who worked for the poor to bring people together.” Among the honored guests were 1,500 homeless people from throughout Italy, bused to the Vatican, seated up front and served lunch afterwards. While Robert and his group were in Rome Sept. 1-7 they visited a number of holy sites including St. John in Lateran and the Sistine Chapel. “One downer is the security nowadays at all the major churches,” he says. “You stand in line, go through a scanner and can’t carry a backpack or anything. Sometimes it takes hours.”