Friday, October 29, 2010

A different kind of Wednesday at St. Peter Chanel

For the last two months at St. Peter Chanel Church, Roswell, Wednesday has become more than an evening of Parish School of Religion (PSR) sessions. It’s also Wednesday Night Family Supper. The family dinner concept came about to foster community and fellowship among families bringing their children to PSR.

Elementary PSR runs from 4:30p - 5:45p. Middle school and high school goes from 6:30p - 7:45p. The family supper starts at 5:30p and ends at 6:30p. During the elementary session parents have the option of attending parenting class. I stopped in on the Oct. 27 class and there were 15 parents participating in a class called Becoming A Love and Logic Parent. The seven-week course, taught by parishioner Sharon Egan, is designed to give parents practical techniques to help teach their kids discipline and responsibility. Once a month, usually on the first Wednesday of the month, a family rosary is held from 5-5:30p.

Sharon Eagan, far right, leads the parenting class.

Parishioner Maureen Penniman, the owner of Zest and Zing CafĂ©, Woodstock, prepares and serves the meals. She also teaches a fifth grade PSR class. Dinners can be ordered and prepaid online. They are $6.00 for adults and $3.50 for children. The supper is served in St. Peter Chanel’s McNamee Hall. There were 100 prepaid families and about 50 walk-ins this week, but they’ve served as many as 200 meals in the past. The meals are normally of a home-style variety and feature entrees like lasagna or chicken enchilada, plus two sides, dessert and a beverage.

The menu for this week’s All Saints celebration included a baked potato bar with items like beef and bean chili, broccoli and cheese, cheddar, bacon bits, sour cream and butter to top load the “tater.” Children who dressed up as saints received a discounted dinner that included a corn dog, chips, applesauce and a dessert treat.

St. Paul (second-grader Ryan Duffy) munches on a corn dog.

Wednesday Night Family Supper regular Stephany White said, “I find the dinners very convenient. I don’t have to cook, which makes it easy since I’m running the kids to various activities. The meals are also good and nourishing – better than fast food.” Her husband Eric also enjoys the family meals, but he equally enjoys his chance to socialize.

Members of The Forever Young ministry, made up of mostly seniors, are some of the most frequent customers to the dinners. Some of them live far away from immediate family and the dinners allow them to mingle and interact with parishioners and their children. When asked why the Forever Young group is so supportive of the Wednesday Night Family Supper, president Barbara Duchene said with a smile, “They contribute a dollar to our treasury for every six Forever Young paying customers we bring. But in addition to that, it’s a good night for all of us to come together.”

Maureen Penniman, left, serves some young dinner patrons.

Thirteen-year-old Jacob Seippel, the oldest quadruplet in his family, said he enjoys all the nice people he gets to hang out with. When it comes to his favorite meal, Seippel said, “I enjoyed the potato bar tonight, but the beef stroganoff was really good last week.”

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A day trip to two north Georgia parishes

Last Thursday, Oct 21, I struck out on a photography assignment that would take me to two of Georgia’s most northern parishes. My first destination was Blue Ridge in Fannin County. I got a little lost finding St. Anthony Church once I arrived in Blue Ridge, but getting lost is not always so bad. Sometimes you run into points of interest you might have missed if you stayed on course. In this instance I ventured through Blue Ridge’s downtown area and I was able to see all the people preparing to board the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway for their 3.5 to 4 hour excursion to McCaysville.

St. Anthony Church, Blue Ridge

I eventually found my way to St. Anthony Church, which began as a mission of St. Joseph Church, Dalton, in 1967. Back on June 13, 1986, the feast day of St. Anthony, the parish of 60 families at the time, gathered for a Mass as the mission was elevated to a parish and the first pastor Father Steven Yander was installed.

Father John Conway is the current pastor, but Thursday is his day off so he wasn’t around. It was cleaning day at the church. A group of parishioners were working on the inside and another woman was sweeping outside. I took over the task of sweeping for a moment because I had to photograph the church’s exterior, and I was trying to remove some of the leaves from the sidewalk.

After I finished photographing I prepared to head over to Blairsville, my next stop. Blairsville is approximately 28 miles east of Blue Ridge. It was a gorgeous day for such a scenic ride among the Cohuttas and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Fannin County. God’s color palette of fall colors was quite stunning. I arrived at St. Francis of Assisi in Blairsville with no problems. I was greeted by Mary Smith when I got there. I had never met Smith in person, but we had exchanged emails before I drove up. Smith is also the pastoral assistant and director of religious education, and back in 2009 during The Way Of The Cross photo project I was working on for Holy Week she organized a group from the parish Life Teen to write personal reflections on some the Stations of the Cross.

St. Francis of Assisi Church, Blairsville

While the first weekly Masses in the area took place back in the mid 1960s, St. Francis of Assisi did not officially become a parish until March 1982. Father Bob Poandl served as the first resident pastor. Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue presided over the dedication of the existing church in May 1996.

St. Francis of Assisi is nestled in a beautiful setting at the base of the Ivy Log Ridge mountain range. I had not visited the parish in over a decade. A multipurpose building that houses classrooms, a social hall, office space and a new commercial style kitchen are the newest additions to the property. While I was taking photographs of the church, Father Richard Wise, the pastor since 2002, was walking his 14-year-old dog Rusty around the grounds. As the lunch hour approached members of the Union County Rotary Club were arriving for their weekly meeting at the parish.

One of the things I enjoy most in my role as a member of the Catholic press is the people I meet and the friends I make. I was about to drive back toward the Blairsville commercial district when a member of the St. Francis kitchen crew that prepares and servers lunch for the Rotary Club, invited me to have lunch with them in the kitchen. I had a healthy portion of spaghetti and meatballs, corn and a cup of water. It was very nice of them to offer me a meal. The seven-person kitchen crew consisted of Paula Bachman, Chip Clendaniel, Joan Kirkman, Ron Koerber, Cindy Kopec, Bill Rogers and Bob Scoda. Their team leader, Betty Furka, was vacationing in Florida.

St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen Crew

The return drive that would eventually take me back to Georgia 400 South took me up, over and down Blood Mountain. The mountain road is filled with curves. I was reminded of all the twists and turns that can exist in our lives. Sometimes life gets so crazy and we just want God to straighten things out for us. In the same way I finally descended the mountain and the crooked roads became straight, we can always count on God to be nearby and help set us on the right path.

Every valley will be filled and every mountain and hill will be brought low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Luke 3:4-6

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Monday, October 4, 2010

Amazing Race Recap

Team Andrea & Jenna were the last to the find their way to the Kaneshie Market in Accra, Ghana, ousting them from the global scavenger hunt.

Andrea DeKroon and her newly found daughter and teammate Jenna Sykes, a University of Georgia student, were done in by the race from London to the west African country of Ghana.

Here Team A & J say goodbye to the race, knowing they won’t be in each others lives as much after the race. Warning: Have a tissue handy.

Arriving at Kotoka International Airport, the teams rode in taxis to Accra's Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. They were instructed to travel to the Makola Market, a bustling shopping area where they had to sell $10 worth of sunglasses. Jenna took on the task.

On one cab ride, Andrea gives a beggar some money, while most of the Amazing Race tried their best to ignore people asking for money.

It was another taxi ride that got lost to the next challenge that put the team in the tight spot.

The task took them to Peace Motor Spare Parts, where teams chose either: Tune In or Check Out. In Tune In, they buy a TV antenna system and install it at a home to the owner’s approval. With a kind of clear picture, the owners handed the next clue. In Check Out, teams have to transport a big coffin - which come shaped like a camera, lion, etc.—to a showroom in town. Andrea and Jenna hustled to move a large fish coffin.

Racers got caught in a traffic jam. A few taxi drivers braved making their own lane between stalled trucks and traffic. Team A & J had a bad break and crossed the finish line last.