Mad for…Cathy

A good teacher is like a candle– it consumes itself to light the way for others. (MK Ataturk)

One quarter on “report card day” when my oldest son was in the 7th grade, he came bounding in the door with a big mischievous grin on his happy little face. “Guess what, Mom??!! DREW GOT A B!!” Nick’s joy was evident. I’ll admit, I silently chuckled to myself. Drew Thieme is now heading back for his sophomore year at Purdue in the fall and that “B” in Mrs. Cathy Cederholm’s 5th grade English class is STILL the only “B” he has ever received! Honestly, I have thanked our good and gracious God numerous times for that tiny bit of imperfection back in Mrs. C’s class because perfect is hard to maintain over a lifetime…and it’s not a fate I would want for any of my three boys in all honesty. For perfectionistic right-fighters like my smarty pants, Drew, ripping the band aid off early is the best kind of gift for a parent!

With only two days remaining in the SLDM timeline for the Thieme family, today I feel called to write about a truly fantastic teacher and even better human being named Cathy Cederholm. She taught both Nick and Drew during their time at SLDM, but she moved out of state a few years back so she never experienced the Z-man. Cathy started the first Mathbowl team at St. Louis de Montfort and she was a teacher who knew how to impart so much more than the basics– she is a teacher who makes sure kids are exposed to what really counts. Her positive, faith-filled influence on countless kiddos made a mark in the SLDM community that can never be erased.

A former Naval petty officer, Cathy also began what has become a truly meaningful Veteran’s Day tradition at SLDM. Each year, that event reminds me that I should be very proud to be an American! She was a teacher for my kids that really mattered because she set high standards for her students and wouldn’t settle for less. In fact, I vividly recall my oldest coming home one day in the 4th grade very upset about the grade he got on an essay answer in religion. He had apparently compared his work with that of a classmate and felt strongly that his answer was better…and yet his score was lower. I suggested that Nick talk to Mrs. C about his concern. The next day, he came home fairly miffed. “She said she expects my best work and this isn’t it.” I smiled and said, “Well, was it your best effort Nick Fred?” He quickly replied, “I’m probably able to write a little better than I did here, but it still seems unfair to me.” His work ethic improved.

Cathy also took his chair away from him and left him standing during class because, I’m sure, he was tipping his chair back or something of the sort. Mind you, Nick never mentioned this to me, but I had my inside sources. I am pretty sure that Nick knew better than to complain to me about such a thing. Cathy is compassionate, talented, sarcastic, and no nonsense. She was AWESOME for both my boys and scores of others. Good teachers are a treasure!!

When one of her former students became very ill and needed to sit out some school due to chemotherapy and other treatment, Cathy stepped in to help and was a constant support. There are SO MANY examples of her Christian witness to the entire community that I simply cannot do it justice here. However, knowing her as I do, I am certain that her integrity and faithfulness are doing for families in Virginia the very same things she became famous for at SLDM.

As the Thieme clan exits SLDM this week, it seemed important for me to let you know, Cathy, that your time, talent and genuine care has had a lasting impact for our family. You are a quality mom, wife, and teacher and we are all better people because you shared a bit of yourself with us. We feel truly blessed that our lives intersected with yours and we wish you, Dave and your kids so much happiness now and in the years ahead! THANK YOU for being a stunning witness of what it means to be a magnificent teacher and faithful Christian woman.

Mad for…Chris

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23)

Awaken to the B.E.S.T. is a women’s ministry held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. Awaken offers spiritual and scripture based opportunities for women who desire to deepen and share their Catholic faith in God. As I have previously stated, I might be the last woman in the Carmel deanery to not have attended this enormously successful program. One of it’s presenters is my friend, Chris Moss.

Day 60 of 365.

Chris is the mother of two. Her son, Nick, is a sophomore at Purdue University and her daughter, Lexi, is finishing up her senior year in high school at Guerin Catholic. They are fantastic and character filled kiddos, undoubtedly, because in part, they were loved by a selfless and faith-filled mother. Husband, Bill, is a peach of a human himself who once bought my sons dinner at the famous Triple XXX Restaurant (because he saw their GC clothing) on Purdue’s campus…and absolutely made their day! Nick and Lexi are two blessed young people to be raised in such a loving family.

I saw the scripture passage above today as I was doing some reading and it made me think to myself about how I am a little short-handed on some of those fruits of the Spirit in my own life. When I contemplated who I knew that most embodied them all, I came up with Chris.

Chris is a bona-fide Jesus girl, and also just incredibly authentic, kind, and good. She’s funny and self-deprecating, and just the definition of a lovely woman of God. She’s one of those people I know who I’ve always wished I knew a bit better. Her breath-taking smile, and her genuine laughter provide warmth that lights any room she’s in. The Lord knocked, and Chris answered and then He moved right on in. That’s what I see when I look at Chris.

Thank you, Chris, for inspiring in me a desire to love the Lord by the friendly, welcoming and sunny way you always greet me– and everyone in your path! You, my dear, are the beautiful face and hands of Jesus to so many and you DEFINITELY make your corner of the world a more godly place to inhabit. I’m grateful to call you friend. BOILER UP!!

Mad for…Fr. Richard

Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them. -St. Therese of Lisieux

Day 52 of 365: Fr. Richard Doerr

Feb. 21, 2019– About 10 years ago, one of my holiest friends noticed I was in a dark place. I’ll spare you the details, except to say that she insisted I should meet her friend, Fr. Richard Doerr. Spiritually and otherwise, I was just a hot mess. Like he does all week long, year after year, with countless folks who seek him out or who are sent to him against their will, he used his considerable pastoral gifts to help me find the Lord.

Priests have long been targets of the enemy of enemies. After all, these good guys, (and I promise you most of them are just that), live their lives in heroic service to others. My friend, Fr. Richard, is such a man. He won’t care for this birthday tribute one bit, but I’m stubborn and unreasonable so I’m offering it here all the same. Sorry for your luck, Padre.As a diocesan priest, he’s the pastor of a parish of over 4,000 families. That’s north of 14,000 souls who are in his care, folks. He’s a Purdue grad and so am I, therefore I will offer you this comparison with which to judge the enormity of the task he’s been assigned. Have you ever attended a basketball game at Purdue’s Mackey Arena? The number of souls he’s tasked with guiding towards the Lord is roughly equal to a sell out crowd at Mackey. Think about that the next time he doesn’t respond to your message in the time frame you’d prefer.

He carries burdens too heavy for his people to bear alone. He consoles every day, and despite the incredible work load, he carries the secret grief, the tragic loss, the family crises, and the painful failures. The needy and the poor know the parish he leads is a place of refuge. He’s pastorally gifted, and he seems to exist in a calm, rational state despite frequent episodes without a reasonable amount of sleep. You see, if someone in his flock truly needs him, the hour doesn’t matter. He goes where he is called. His cross is very heavy, and he bears it with love. Sometimes, he’s maddeningly spent. Always, he’s prayerful, and mindful of the grace and beauty of the life he lives.

Because authenticity is my favorite quality in humans, I’ll offer that he’s a genuine and very real guy who has been known to curse when a good cuss word is just the best option available, and he’s got a wicked, sarcastic and hilarious sense of humor which often carries him through the day. That sense of humor definitely makes his homilies accessible and memorable. He can be both joyfully irreverent and shockingly compassionate.

Don’t forget, though, he’s a human being. He’s got his own family, including a mother, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews on whom he dotes. Just like the rest of us, he’s needed to take mom to her doctor’s appointment or babysit for the little ones now and then. He needs and tries to take the time to be present for his own family. People forget that humanity and expect too much sometimes. It pleases me that he does an excellent job of looking after his physical health and he somehow manages to squeeze in workouts most days of the week.

All my people know I love this guy, and so does he. Keeping quiet isn’t a strength area for me. If I love you, I say so. Here’s the deal. This guy stuck with me when any other mere mortal would have told me to hit the road. I am nothing if not needy and persistent. He attempted to buy himself some oxygen by shoving spiritual books in my direction. I read them ALL. I was a sponge and I cried out for more. I fell in love with the saints, whom I had largely not yet met. I learned the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which I can only pray while singing aloud or in my mind, because it played on an endless loop on a CD he gave me. I was captivated by it’s beauty. He introduced me to Caravaggio’s art, which left me breathless. I’m not even going to tell you about the whole Taize prayer service he insisted I attend. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Well, I was moved to tears. You should find one and go. Talk about ridiculous!

When I take myself and my sins too seriously in confession, he says things like “Get off the cross, we need the wood, Shelly.” He makes me laugh at myself and he texts me stupid memes now and then when he’s had a long week or he sensed the same from me. He presides at reverent, beautiful masses and he sings like an angel. In short, he has been the most selfless shepherd I can ever imagine encountering. I realize his vocation calls for him to often be “in persona Christi”… but this guy? It’s like my husband says. He’s not messing around. Fr. Richard wants us to know and love the Lord. He spends himself entirely in the effort. I am but one of his 14,000. The number of people who have told me similar tales of their own powerful conversion which God orchestrated through this particular instrument would make your head spin.

Frequently, with his extra large heart on full display, he asks me for my prayers for parishioners who are suffering. It’s my deep honor to offer them. Today, I’d like to ask you to pray for him. It’s his birthday, and he does a stunning job keeping Christ in the lives of the people in his care. Please join me in asking God to grant him the same in his own. His life is one worth celebrating in a BIG way. Pray for your priest too– again and again. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FR. RICHARD!

Today’s Prayer for Priests, Offered for Fr. Richard Doerr:

O Jesus, our great High Priest, hear my humble prayers on behalf of your priest, Fr. Richard. Give him a deep faith, a bright and firm hope and a burning love which will ever increase in the course of his priestly life.

In his loneliness, comfort him in his sorrows, strengthen him in his frustrations, point out to him that it is through suffering that the soul is purified, and show him that he is needed by the Church, he is needed by souls, he is needed for the work of redemption.

O loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests, take to your heart your son who is close to you because of his priestly ordination, and because of the power which he has received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs him so much. Be his comfort, be his joy, be his strength, and especially help him to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated celibacy.

Amen.

Mad for…Julie

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  Matthew 6:31

Above right, Julie Kiffmeyer pictured with her terrific husband, Joe.

On day 7 of his life on this planet, Matthew, the infant son of Joe and Julie Kiffmeyer stopped nursing.  He began to fuss and cry uncontrollably.  This was their third son.  Julie surmised she was having her first experience with a colicky baby.  Over the next day or so, there were moments of calm, but mostly Matthew was just a wailing mess of a sweet thing.  And he wouldn’t nurse.  She wondered if she’d eaten something spicy, she wracked her mind for ideas. He wouldn’t eat despite her trips to the drugstore for every kind of nipple and bottle available on the market.

Then, he turned a very scary shade of dark red.  She took him to see the pediatrician.  A lengthy examination ensued, which led to more of the same.  Initially, nothing seemed amiss.  Then, suddenly they saw a clue.  His eyes were twitching, and he was clenching his fists.  Her baby boy was seizing.  Every 5 minutes. 

“I was calm,” Julie declares when we asked her to recount the years old details.  “Had I been less so, I think probably they would have sent me home with the usual remedies and suggestions for a colicky baby.  It was my calm demeanor that I think led to a closer look.  I clearly was not an over-reactor.”

It wasn’t long before more tests and an MRI revealed that Matthew had a level 4 brain bleed affecting the left side of his brain.  Although his symptoms and prognosis really are unique to him alone, his official diagnosis was cerebral palsy. 

“My mom taught me to trust in God and not worry.  I was raised in an Episcopalian home.  God gives you what you can handle.  How Matthew is?  That’s how we’re all supposed to be.”

I knew exactly what she meant.  You see, Matthew is the same age as my middle son, Drew.  They are both teenagers now, and anyone who knows Mattie knows he’s an amazing, sunny kid.  When I met the Kiffmeyers, Matthew was about 4 years old.  We were both busy Catholic school moms with kids the same ages.  A lot of people would look at the situation as an obstacle, but Julie?  She revels in every single success, and she flat out just celebrates the gift of her son—actually all of her 4 children.  Andrew, their oldest, is in grad school in St. Louis, a physical therapist.  Jimmy is a UC Bearcat, next comes the aforementioned Matthew and then sweet Sarah is an 8th grader with my Zach at SLDM.  I’ve never detected anything but gratefulness and I’ve heard a whole lot of laughter as I observe her family. Personally, I think it’s hereditary.  AND, like all our best qualities, the positivity I see in her children, well, I think it’s a gift born of God and passed down by their mother!  Ha?!!  Ok, maybe they won the double DNA lottery.  Dad, Joe, is a pretty fantastic human too. 

Julie is graced with the outward looking smile.  This smile is one which is aimed at another for his or her benefit.  It’s the silent and powerful acknowledgment that she sees the presence of Christ in that person.  Love is a decision.  When we love, we are making a decision to look outward.  It’s not about impressing someone or looking the part.  Have you ever considered how you might answer the question if God asks you “How did you love me?”  Julie has.

Do you know anyone who smiles with their entire body?  I know a lot of people with beautiful smiles who are just showing their teeth and flashing their cuteness at me when I see them.  People who smile are pretty much my most favorite people, I’ll be honest.  However, there is a vast difference between smiling and radiating a glow that envelops those in your path.  A real smile is authentic, and it simply can’t be faked.  It’s a response to all the joys and chaos of life, and it attracts admirers.  Do you know anyone that smiles like that?

My well-adjusted, authentic, bright, warm and compassionate friend Julie is such a person.  With all the energy in a 3-foot radius, she smiles, hugs and giggles to greet others.  She knows what to savor and what to disregard.  Her positive perspective can turn any problem into an opportunity for growth.  She listens.  She notices.  Quite simply, she sees the value of each passing moment.  She’s content and aware in whatever moment she inhabits in a way few others can manage.

This is a woman with 4 amazing children, but she’s had moments of struggle.  I shared the story of her son Matthew to illustrate this point. Life hasn’t been perfect.  She knows her life belongs to the Lord and she trusts God and just lives today better than almost anyone I’ve ever met.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.”  When we exhibit the virtue of joy, we recognize that happiness is rooted not in things of this world, like money or power or possessions, but in being believers of Christ.  Our joy is in being a beloved child of God.

Julie is a Jesus girl.  She is a happy and amazing woman of God. 

Thanks for showing me what JOY is supposed to look like, Julie.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!  I LOVE YOU, FRIEND!

Mad for…Caroline

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:3-4)

It’s a rare and truly faithful gem when we uncover someone whose genuine concern seems to always first be for the good of others. In the case of Caroline, I’ve mostly admired that authentic spirit and sparkle from lurking nearby in sports venues over the years. She’s generous and selfless in the most rare and beautiful way. What I’ve come to understand from paying closer attention is that she really is more than that, she’s a glittering jewel of a soul.

Caroline Godfrey is the mother of 4 (mostly) grown children, and she recently became the mother-in-law to two more. She’s the wife of a very fine man she always calls “Billy”. Most of what I know about her family firsthand, I uncovered on a couple of lazy afternoons in Vincennes, Indiana. Now, no offense intended if you are a Vincennes Alice, but once you’ve seen St. Frances Xavier Basilica and maybe even ventured over to peek at the George Rogers Clark Historic Monument, you’re left with the movies and a slice of pizza at Bobe’s. That about covers Vincennes. When you’ve made the annual trek with the Guerin Catholic Basketball team to the annual holiday tournament on numerous occasions, well, it’s been done. At this point, a booth at Gilbert’s Pub with a couple of cold beverages is really the most appealing option for the long afternoon breaks. Because they were more experienced GC basketball parents, when we found our way to Gilberts, the much more saavy Godfreys had already taken up residence.

What I already knew and loved about Caroline (and Bill, too) from afar was cemented for me on that second trip to Vincennes. She’s authentic, funny, kind and utterly humble. If I’m honest, I thought to myself that I’m not quite sure how someone pulls off an afternoon of beer, chips, and salsa giggling all the way and STILL she left me feeling I had been in the joyful presence of a woman who so reminded me of our Holy Mother. How is that even possible? All I can say is, Caroline is just an extra large scoop of awesome sauce. I know, I know…my eloquence is nothing if not overwhelming. Ha?

It was the ultimate come as you are party. Mostly, we laughed and talked about our kids and confessed to our most hilarious parenting fails. She reminded me that day that we don’t have to have it all together, we just have to know and love the One who does.

I could share personal stories of encouragement she’s offered to myself and others, kindnesses to those who have less, her giftedness listening and caring– but if you know her you’re already aware. She’s never drawing attention to herself in any of it. It’s just who she is. Caroline is the face of Christ to all around her.

A couple years or so before that silly afternoon at Gilberts, I had prayed over Caroline with a large group of GC basketball moms right in the middle of the Noblesville High School gym after our kiddos finished a game. She was about to undergo surgery for breast cancer, and the moment was powerful. Her humility that evening, and the way God shined was wholly spectacular. When I heard more recently that her cancer had returned, I was convicted completely of the need to pray without ceasing for this lovely woman of God. It was less a choice and more a calling. I’ve been working the beads for you, sister.

Have you ever met someone and thought, “How on earth is she for real?” That has always been me where Caroline is concerned. She’s just the definition of lovely, authentic goodness. She carries herself with grace. I have known instinctively for some time now that the Lord meant me to notice and learn from her powerful witness of what He means us to be as a wife, mother, and faith-filled woman of God. These are sometimes the stunning gifts the Lord bestows on us when we are members of a thriving Christian community. I’m going to need some significant work…but He sure gave me a beautiful example in Caroline.

My friend, there’s a heavenly arsenal of warriors fighting alongside you with our prayers for your healing in mind, body and spirit. Please know that we are with you, and so is the Lord. THANK YOU FOR YOUR AMAZING WITNESS OF FAITH AND FOR SO OFTEN BEING THE FACE OF JESUS TO OTHERS, INCLUDING ME!

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom should I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

Mad for…Danny

Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God. -Karl Barth

This twinkle-eyed kid on the left is Danny. God loves the way he shines. Danny reminds me of the scripture verse from the book of Matthew, the very famous 25th chapter. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me.”

What makes Danny so special is how kind he is. He’s remarkably gifted with young children, and so many times I have witnessed him comforting “the littles” in his own family. Younger siblings Ryan, Maddie and Shannon simply beam in his presence. I have no doubt that’s because they are absolutely certain that he’s just crazy about them.

“To maintain a joyful family”, Pope John Paul II once said, “requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.” This is the quality I most readily identify with the dimple cheeked, friendly, and affectionate Danny Hall. He is a natural born servant leader.

Danny’s family is a truly unique and stunningly beautiful one, born of the darkest kind of tragedy. When he was 8, he lost both of his parents in a act of domestic violence that breaks my heart still. His mother, Shannon, was a friend. Her sons remind me of her so very much, and I know she is looking down from above full of pride for both her incredible boys. I know she also sees how compassionate, gentle, good-hearted Danny is every darn day. His immensely loving extended family and the entire community have stayed ever at his side, which makes all the difference, for sure. He’s being raised by his aunt and uncle, Colleen and Doug Stine. I could, and chances are good that I will write about them later. He has an older brother, Connor (the biggest Auburn fan EVER), and those three little cutie-pies I mentioned earlier.

Here’s what I’d like Danny to know. I see you. I’ve noticed and so has Jesus. What you did, He saw. What you said, He heard. You might not even remember it. It was just a little thing, a part of who you are because of whose you are. It wasn’t little to Him, just like it’s not little to Ryan, or Mads, or Shan, or Moms…..or any of the people around you that you love up day after day. You are one phenomenal kid. When your smile reaches your eyes and the words come from your heart Danny, it’s a light that fills the room. Your kindness? It’s a gift from you to God. He loves you for it, and so do I!! You are a blessing to your family, to all at St. Louis de Montfort, and far beyond, kiddo.

Thank you, Danny, for helping me see God by the way you light up a room with your smile. You make me want to be kind to others, just like you!!

Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)

Mad for…Cole

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in hardships, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)

Today, I want you all to meet an outstanding young man named Cole Hepp. Cole is a junior at the University of Dayton and the oldest son of a couple of my most dear friends. However, before I tell you more about this ace of a kid, I’d like to share why I chose him today.

It’s been an overwhelming few weeks for me personally. That probably explains why the childish noise coming from the bully pulpit of leadership from one side of the political aisle along with the deafening cheers from the other side of the aisle over their right to kill full term babies…well it just has made me insanely sad. What kind of future can a nation have when almost all the adults in charge are acting like moronic fools? We’ve all gone and lost our minds and forgotten how to love!

In the midst of those interior thoughts, what’s really important suddently cleared my head. Few things help bring into crystal clear focus what’s really important in this life like, “You have cancer.”

The morning after news began to circulate about my diagnosis, I received this photo from Cole Hepp. His text note read, “Hi, Mrs. Thieme! I am praying for you from St. Meinrad. The whole Hepp family is so thankful for you and we love you.”

Cole was the face of Christ to me that morning. I suspect he’s been that same light for many during his time as a retreat leader at St. Meinrad and as he lends his guidance and shares his faithful witness to the young people entering the church who are going through the RCIA program at the University of Dayton this year. That includes his completely fantastic brother, Clay, who he is guiding through the process as a sponsor.

I’ve known Cole for several years. He went through high school with my son. They were basketball and baseball teammates, and they celebrated their graduation together at a big joint party. He’s got a wide and dimple-filled smile for everyone. His eyes are of the twinkly and compassionate variety. He’s so bright, articulate and full of the love and joy and hope of the Lord that he can’t hold it in. He’s just got to share it…with a great big grin! ALL the moms want their son to have this kid for a friend. He shouts out the greatness of God by the way he lives his life and the choices he makes. He’s on fire for the Lord, and the news is too wonderful to keep it to himself! He’s a grace-filled human.

I received a letter from Cole today. He opened with a funny memory about my youngest son describing us to him once saying, “We’re a good family!” It’s Zach’s famous line and it really made me giggle. He then shared with me the scripture quote I opened with above and how it represents the beauty of our shared faith. What a lovely and kind gesture for a 21-year old kid to make. He mailed an ACTUAL LETTER you guys. There was a stamp on it and everything. Did I mention he’s a college kid?

Cole Hepp. In offering me your prayers for strength, peace and love, you were an enormous reminder to me that we crazy old people needn’t worry too much. There’s a generation of faith-filled, courageous, compassionate lovers of Christ all around us. Young man, God loves to watch you climb…and so do I. Some days might be itty-bitty painful steps of blind trust and other days you’ll be an unstoppable mountain climber….but keep going onward and upward. I believe God will continue to use you for great things!

As I’ve watched you grow from a boy to a man, and the last couple of years as a Catholic Christian, you’ve been a witness to me and many of what joy comes from leading a life of integrity and faith. Thank you for reminding me that the lunatics will not prevail in the end and our collective future is in excellent hands! I LOVE YOU, KID! THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME THE WORLD IS FULL TO THE BRIM WITH GOODNESS!

P.S.– This article about him from UD is pretty impressive. Take a peek!

https://udayton.edu/advancement/impact/report-2018/donor/faith.php