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LOCAL BRIEFS - January 23, 2003


18th Flower Festival to be held at cathedral

"Omaha at 150 Years" is the theme of the 18th Annual Cathedral Flower Festival. The annual showcase will celebrate the history of Omaha, commemorating many "firsts" in Omaha's rich past.

It will be held Jan. 24, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., and Jan. 25 1-4 p.m. at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.

There is no admission fee to the event, which attracts more than 10,000 visitors annually.

"This is the unofficial kickoff of the city's 150th birthday, and the community is invited," said John Wees, chairman of the flower festival. "We are strongly focused on the early years of Omaha, with displays recalling the Spanish exploration, Lewis and Clark, the first Omaha residents, and the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific."

Local florists and floral designers will decorate the cathedral with elaborate flower arrangements in tribute to Omaha's sesquicentennial. With 20 regional florists participating, the displays promise to be a welcome feast of color for the eyes and oasis of fragrance in the depths of the cold winter.

Dozens of regional musicians and vocalists will be performing in several venues within the cathedral campus through the entire festival.

"We have performers that draw in quite a crowd just for their music, and we will have several performers playing the new cathedral organ," said Wees, referring to the $1.2 million organ that took most of 2003 to install. "Add these to the sculptures, the existing Spanish colonial art collection and the floral displays, this is truly an artistic feast."

Another link to Omaha's past highlighting this year's festival is the new Cathedral Cultural Center, which includes the Cathedral Museum, an art gallery, lecture hall, bookstore and a permanent exhibit on Thomas Kimball, architect of St. Cecilia Cathedral and many other prominent Nebraska buildings.

Irish Fest 2004 plans under way

KC and the Sunshine Band will bring their high-energy brand of music to Irish Fest 2004 on March 13 at the Qwest Center in Omaha. The band's hits included "Boogie Shoes," "That's The Way (I Like It)" and "Shake Your Booty."

"Paint the Town Green" will be the theme for Irish Fest – an annual benefit for Catholic Charities. The evening includes dinner, silent and oral auctions, and dancing. A total of $15,000 in cash will be awarded during the raffle.

Event co-chairs are Ann and Kurt Tjaden and Ann and Steve Hergenrader. "We are thrilled to bring KC and the Sunshine Band to the new Qwest Center," said Ann Tjaden. "With such a spirited and energetic band, we'll be painting the town green on March 13!"

Irish Fest tickets are $150 per person. Corporate tables and sponsorships are available. For more information, contact Kathy Fitzgerald Grandsaert at 829-9261.

Raising funds for good cause

"Pennies for Patients" is the Leukemia Society's national program where students bring spare change to school to help finance research and to provide services for patients and family members.

The program is a hands-on experience that cultivates caring, respect and sharing with others. Students have a three-to four-week time period to compete with other classrooms in their school to raise the most money. The top fund-raising class in each school receives a reward.

Every penny counts! School contributions range from $50 to $3,000.

The Nebraska Chapter is one of 70 chapters across the United States dedicated to finding a cure and supporting patients and their families. Patient services include support groups, financial assistance and a school re-entry program. Education to increase awareness is a priority for the Leukemia Society. As people learn the truths about blood cancers, they can help work for a cure.

The Leukemia Society wants students to learn about blood cancers on their level through the "Pennies for Patients" program. Videos and learning materials explain what leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are in a way that students as young as first grade can understand.

Again this year, organizers are excited to have Mandy Moore return as the School and Youth National Honorary Chairperson. She participated in the program as a student and now encourages students, teachers and parents to help make a difference by getting involved in "Pennies for Patients."

Many people have volunteered again this year, and Moore has said she will visit the school that raises the most money nationally.

The Leukemia Society funds three doctors at the Nebraska Medical Center. These doctors are working on finding cures for cancer. Some facts about cancer you may not know:

  • More than 670,000 people in the United States today have blood cancers – the second most prevalent cause of all cancer deaths in the United States.
  • Every five minutes, someone new is diagnosed with one of these cancers, and every nine minutes someone dies.
  • Leukemia is the leading cause of disease-related death among children.

For more information or to get your school involved in "Pennies for Patients," contact Ashley Sammin, campaign coordinator at the Nebraska Chapter 1-888-847-4974 or

Scholarships available for Black students

The Omaha Archdiocese's Black Student Catholic Scholarship Fund is again offering opportunities to Black Catholic and non-Catholic students who wish to attend a Catholic high school.

The scholarship is targeted to low- and moderate-income families of Black students to enable them to partially cover high school tuition and related costs.

To qualify students must demonstrate financial need, have a good school attendance record and a good citizenship record, and meet the academic entrance requirements of the secondary school they wish to attend. They also must complete the scholarship application form and submit it by the March 1 deadline, and they need to be enrolled in an Omaha area primary or secondary school.

Scholarship recipients benefit from a special mentoring program designed to help them and their families get the most out of their high school experience.

Application forms are available by writing: The Black Student Catholic Scholarship Fund, 3212 N. 60th St., Omaha, NE 68104. Information also can be obtained by calling, 554-8493.

Father Reiser named to national position

Father Richard Reiser, servant minister to the priests of the Archdiocese of Omaha, has been named the interim National Responsible for the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests until the National Assembly in August of 2005. He will complete the term of Bishop-elect Felipe Estevez, who was ordained auxiliary bishop of Miami Jan. 7.

As National Responsible, Father Reiser will have a council of four priests from different parts of the United States to assist him in planning and communicating Fraternity events and supporting priests in various ways who are involved in living out the charisms of Venerable Brother Charles de Foucauld as diocesan priests.

There are more than 2,500 diocesan priests in the United States who are affiliated with the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests.

Pro-life dinner set for Feb. 7

"What if everyone in our culture suddenly had a glimpse of who God is? How would this change our life? Where do we begin?" These are some of the questions Camille E. De Blasi, founder and president of Healing the Culture, will explore as the keynote speaker at the 31st Annual Celebration of Life Dinner Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Central in Omaha.

Nebraskans United for Life will sponsor her program and the annual dinner. Social hour begins at 6:30 p.m.

Prior to the dinner De Blasi will conduct a daylong workshop at the St. Cecilia Cathedral Center-Cafeteria.

The workshop can be attended separately from the dinner, with the $25 registration fee including a brown bag lunch. Tickets to the dinner cost $40 each. But a $45 ticket will get you into the workshop and dinner.

The day begins with an optional 7:30 a.m. Mass at the cathedral. Workshop registration is at 8:30 a.m.

"A New Look at Happiness" is the first topic, followed at 10:30 a.m. by "A New Look at Sexuality." After lunch, the topic will be "A New Look at Life" and then at 2 p.m. "A New Look at Suffering and Death." Before the closing question and answer period will be "A New Look at Faith and Forgiveness."

De Blasi's visit is being sponsored by the Archdiocese of Omaha's Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities (directed by Father Joseph Hanefeldt), Nebraskans United for Life, Knights of Columbus, Gloria Deo Gift and Bookstore, and the Regal Printing Company.

Registrations are available through Nebraskans United for Life, 11917 Pierce Plaza, Omaha, NE 68144, or call 399-0299.

Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss congratulates Jerry Noble, a parishioner at Holy Cross Church in Omaha, after the Vincentian received the "Top Hat" award for his extraordinary compassion and service to the poor.

Noble presented Top Hat Award

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul held its annual meeting Dec. 28 at St. Joan of Arc Church. An early morning Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss, followed by breakfast and a meeting in the parish hall.

Barb Slaven presented the "Top Hat" award to Jerry Noble, the Vincentian displaying extraordinary compassion and service to the poor, following the example of Blessed Frederic Ozanam (founder of SVDP) and St. Vincent de Paul (patron). Noble of Holy Cross Parish is active in many parish activities, as well as the SVDP conference, and is a faithful volunteer at SVDP Food Pantry. Jerry and his wife, Evelyn, have six children and 13 grandchildren.

Slaven, district council president, presented the annual report. Membership now numbers 524 in 40 parish conferences.

Reports were presented from the primary ministries of the Society – thrift stores, food pantry and the Vincent House Shelter. The thrift stores reported distributing more than $70,000 in merchandise free or at a reduced rate to individuals and families. The annual coat drive collected 1,500 coats for the poor and needy. The Food Pantry operates two mornings a week at the 21st and Leavenworth location.

SVDP volunteers provided groceries and food to 8,677 people.

The Vincent House Family Shelter is a homeless shelter for single women, married couples, and families, serving 765 people last year.

Madonna Council has new officers

The Madonna Council's new officers for the next two years are: Carol Henn, president; Shirley Earp, vice president; Evelyn Cronin, treasurer; and Margaret Gollobit, secretary.

The Madonna Ladies Council was organized in 1971 by Sister Mary Evangeline, RSM, who founded the Madonna School for Exceptional Children.

The organization raises funds to alleviate the financial burden of the Madonna School. During the past 30 years, these dedicated women have raised more than $500,000 for the school.

Throughout the year, these ladies make many handmade items to sell at the Annual Fall Boutique. In past years they have held several fund-raising events, but more recently their efforts have been concentrated on the Gala Dinner held each June and the October boutique, luncheon and fashion show.

The council meets on the first Wednesday of each month. Associate memberships are available for women who are unable to attend regular meetings.

With a new Madonna School now under construction, the council realizes that additional finances will be needed. They are seeking to expand their membership. Interested women can call Peg Day at 330-3006.

Penny war raises funds for family

Bret and Jeanne Fritch visited first grade students at St. Vincent de Paul School on Jan. 14 to say thank you.

The students learned last fall that the Fritch's son, Nick (a neighbor of one of the students), had been diagnosed with the e-coli virus. He was experiencing kidney complications as a result of the virus.

Teacher Christy Micek organized a school-wide penny drive and on Dec. 20 the Fritch family was presented with $2,740.61.

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