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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

UB features and the end of an era

In addition to the Monitor story from yesterday, this has been a big writing month for me. I'm heading to Columbus tomorrow for the final KnowledgeWorks writing workshop, which will be a longer narrative on the past four years of education reform at Cleveland Heights High School. More on that later this week. For the third consecutive year, I've written mini-profiles of Judson's Smart Living award-winners. I'll link to those once they are posted online.

Friday's Catholic Universe Bulletin contains two of my stories, both are online. One is a profile of Tim Warneka, who has written a book about Catholic servant leadership. The other is a feature on Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid, which this year commemorates the 150th anniversary of the last apparition of Mary before Bernadette in Lourdes, France.

Though I'm sure it won't be marked in the annals of Cleveland journalism history, this issue also marked the last for editor Dennis Sadowski. Last week, as Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Washington, D.C., so too did Dennis. He's taken a position as a reporter/editor there with Catholic News Service.

I've known Dennis since the early 1990s. For the past three years, I've written regularly for him and I've gotten to know and respect his journalistic sensibilities. He trusted me to explore a new dimension to my writing when I approached him with a very vague idea I had about writing about Thomas Merton. He gave me permission to let my ideas wander and the freedom of time needed to make a story great. The Merton story went on to win first place in religion coverage in the 2006 Ohio SPJ Awards and I went on to become a regular contributor to the UB. Good writers appreciate good editors. It is a match made in heaven and is built on trust and knowledge of each other's strengths and weaknesses. Dennis knew how to match story assignments to the writer. His e-mails usually began something like, "I've got a great story for you." And he was nearly always correct.

Few people stay in the same job for the duration of their career these days, but Dennis was at the UB for 10 years, almost a mini-lifetime. So I thought I'd share a bit from his farewell column.
"After living my entire life within an hour or two of Lorain, God is challenging me to move from my comfort zone—yes, even working at the UB had gotten to be rather comfortable—to experience new horizons in a world full of hurt and hope. My hope and prayer is that I will continue to follow God's plan with grace and kindness and with as little anxiety as possible.

"Thanks, Cleveland, for putting your faith and trust in me to tell your stories."
Here are the latest stories.
Warneka builds on the principles of service
By Wendy A. Hoke

Tim Warneka has the peaceful expression of a Buddhist monk, approaching his Catholic faith in a Zen-like manner by giving his full attention to others. It’s a skill he’s been perfecting all of his adult life.

He combines all of his influences spanning nearly 20 years as a psychologist and black belt in Aikido to pioneer the concept of Catholic Servant Leadership, which takes the principles of servant leadership (service to others, collaboration, trust, empathy) and applies the Catholic faith as an overlay.

His book, “Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader: An Introduction to Catholic Servant Leadership,” provides a guide for discussion on how to use Aikido, emotional intelligence, servant leadership and tenants of Catholic faith to become a better leader.

“God was grooming me for a number of years,” says Warneka, a resident of Wickliffe and member of St. Noel Parish, Willoughby Hills. He spent his early years in Lakewood, attending St. Clement Parish and School where his parents were very active.

“I remember being in the church basement so often and realizing that there’s meaning here, that this place changes people’s lives and not just on Sunday,” he says.

Catholicism was like breathing, it was just there and his parents modeled faith and leadership in action. They led retreats, were active in the pro-life movement and hosted a Vietnamese family to live in their basement for six months.

But when he was in fifth grade, his family moved from the tight-knit Irish-Catholic community to Perry, where he first encountered peers with divorced parents, a Protestant community and public schools.

“It was rocky. I had my first experience of being marginalized because I entered a community in which friendships were made by first grade. I was on the outside,” he says.

He learned to appreciate different perspectives as a result.

But it was as a student at the University of Dayton that he found his calling. He met the Marianists and describes that as “life-changing.”

“They started handing me books to read and it was all over. I knew this was what I wanted to do,” he says.

He considered the Marianist novitiate for a while and even contemplated entering the Trappists, but one summer break he met his wife, Beth, who was working in a Catholic bookstore. He switched his major to psychology and never looked back.

Heavily influenced by the writing of Carl Jung, Thomas Merton, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, Warneka says he developed a deep respect for the individual subjective experience.

“To see the Marianists live that out was inspiring. They always had time for people. I came from a large high school and a family with eight people in the house. No one had time for anyone. But at UD, even the president of the university knew me by name. There, my reading and life experience came together,” he says.

After graduate school he became a psychologist, but today calls himself a life coach. “It’s therapy for people who don’t want to call it therapy,” he explains.

While he was in grad school at Loyola of Chicago, Warneka stumbled upon the other great influence in his life. He had been reading about Aikido, which is a nonviolent martial art that seeks to protect the person who attacks you. He walked into a center on All Saint’s Day in 1989 and found an international seminar taking place with one of the master’s from Japan.

“It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. The teacher moved like water through the students and around them. His movements were so refined and androgynous,” he says.
So what pulls his Catholic faith and his martial arts and his psychology together?

“Embodiment. Our culture is very anti-body. Being embodied is front and central to what it means to be Catholic. It’s in our basic prayers. People have the answers inside them. They just need to get clear and quiet long enough to hear what’s inside of them,” he believes.

Warneka hopes that his book and his Catholic Servant Leadership philosophy will take root and build awareness that we all have potential to be a leader if only we allow ourselves to be aware of our bodies and our emotions.

For more information on Catholic Servant Leadership, visit

Hoke is a freelance writer.

A hundred little blessings
Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine celebrates 150 years of grace, devotion
By Wendy A. Hoke

EUCLID-When Vincent Mancuso was 10 years old he was visiting Little Italy for the Feast of the Assumption when someone accidentally shoved him. He fell and the pair of scissors in his hand pierced his right eye, leaving him blind.

The next month, his parents took him to Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid for the annual closing of the grotto Mass. “My mother told me, ‘Wash your eye with the water.’ And so I did. When we got home I said, ‘Ma, Pa, I can see.’ They didn’t believe me. But when they took me to the doctor they learned that I could see,” says Mancuso, who turned 90 this month.

Over the next 80 years, that right eye has suffered from a detached retina and cataracts, but he still has vision. “Our Lady has always pulled me through,” he says.

Sister Rochelle Guertal, of the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity, director of the shrine, says they don’t proclaim any miracles of healing at the shrine, but rather count a number of blessings or graces, much like Mancuso’s. Indeed, an enclosed case on the grounds holds a crutches, braces and glasses no longer needed by those who were “healed.”

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in France, where the Blessed Mother appeared in a series of apparitions in 1858 to a young girl named Bernadette. Euclid is home to the national shrine and is joining in the celebration.

Situated on top of a hill overlooking Euclid Avenue, the shrine stands today as an oasis of peace and devotion. When in full bloom, stately trees buffer the sound of the traffic below.

After the Civil War, the property was a vineyard, home to “Euclid grapes,” known for their distinctive flavor seasoned by Lake Erie breezes. Julia Harms, who owned the land with her husband, was a devout Catholic who always had a vision of the Blessed Mother on the property. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd would regularly pick grapes at the vineyard, so in 1920 when the Harms children decided to sell the land, the Good Shepherd Sisters took over.

Two years later, while on a trip to the motherhouse in France, the sisters were inspired to build a grotto similar to Lourdes on their site. And they were given a unique treasure from a Dominican priest--a piece of the stone being hewn into a statute of the Blessed Mother on the site where she appeared before Bernadette in Lourdes.

Today, that noted piece of stone is embedded into the rock of the grotto where the water flows over it and into a pool. The treasure makes Cleveland’s shrine unique among others throughout the country, including the grotto at the University of Notre Dame.

Over the years the Sisters of the Good Shepherd diminished in size and by 1952, the Trinitarian Sisters were looking for more property. They found the shrine, were given permission by Archbishop Edward F. Hoban, then bishop of Cleveland, to transfer their novitiate and continue the work of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Under their supervision the shrine has expanded to accommodate visitors from more than 44 countries and a number of regular devotees.

“Some people are hoping for miracles when they come,” says Sister Guertal. “I explain that sometimes the miracle is acceptance and that can be a bigger miracle than healing.”

More than anything, the shrine gives people an opportunity to silence to noise of modern life and to listen to God. “People come to be open to the Lord through the Blessed Mother. When they do, things happen,” Sister Guertal says.

Mass is held outside in front of the grotto at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday from May through October (weather permitting). Novenas, rosary processions and Stations of the Cross also are prayed regularly. The shrine remains open throughout the year.

Hoke is a freelance writer.
Word of the day
contemplative: a person who practices concentration on spiritual things as a form of private devotion


Michelle O'Neil said...

You are such a great source Wendy! I've gleaned so many Cleveland nuggets from your blog!

Combining Catholicism and Aikido is a beautiful concept. Both are incredibly sensory rich endeavors.

May you keep a strong connection with your editor!

Wendy Hoke said...

Thank you, Michelle. Thanks for noticing that I try to write about those not necessarily found in the mainstream. :)