Don’t Give Up On Lent

It’s been a bit of a “muddling through” kind of Lent, it seems. I suppose that doesn’t sound quite right in a way. It’s probably because it just doesn’t really ‘feel’ like Lent. That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress or determination to follow the prayer, fasting and almsgiving standards. I even set the bar low this year with the aim just to follow a small handful of spiritual and physical to-do’s, so that I could intentionally spotlight those areas that needed adjusting.

‘Flourish’ is my word of the year for 2018 and, as I prayed and jotted down Lenten ideas, they seemed to fall under flourishing. There it was, “Flourish this Lent.” Based on something I had recently read suggesting that Lent should reset, pare away and focus on the important, those became my three main focus categories. I could easily come up with areas of struggle that fell under each. I’ll admit that while they look simple on paper, following through in action has proven challenging. Breaking a cycle and changing my ways is hard work, but it took me longer than a short season to acquire these bad patterns. Digging in and prayerfully breaking them down like a chisel to the stone will be part of the duration, not just this liturgical season.

From day one of Lent 2018, two meaningful themes rose to the surface indicating more of what I also needed to find in this season: healing and forgiveness. It became apparent that there were wounds that were going to take time to heal and forgiveness needed to be given. These were not on my agenda and I easily became frustrated that God would ask a bigger task than I felt I could fulfill in six weeks. Small steps and amazing grace will help guide these areas over time.

Those seemingly low bar items on the list have naturally provided me with plenty to work on and God has seen to it to present me with numerous ways to chip away at them. I guess because I don’t feel like I’m being challenged or in great physical pain this Lent doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. I’m in this game for the long haul and it doesn’t all end with Easter morning celebrating. I am just beginning and so are you. We are still in this (sometimes) grueling season, but it is a time of preparation that will reach far beyond Easter. It is a time to renew and pull ourselves back into our relationship with God. Don’t be so quick to wish it away. Dive in. There’s still plenty of time.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.




Cream cheese makes egg burritos ‘egg-stra’ special

A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed sharing three salmon recipes that I had published in “Food, Faith and Fellowship,” a blog I authored for The Visitor from 2010 to 2012.

Eggs are another good choice for a meatless meal during Lent or any other time. Consider preparing these egg burritos that I originally printed on March 28, 2012 — they are a delicious, healthy and inexpensive alternative to fish or meat.

Egg Burritos
(Cheryl Orbeck)

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
2 tsp. oil
7 eggs
3 tbsp. cream cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
10 (8-inch) flour tortillas
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup salsa

In a nonstick skillet, sauté the mushrooms, onion and red pepper in the oil until tender. Remove and keep warm. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, egg substitute, cream cheese and salt and pepper. Pour into the same skillet, cook and stir over medium heat until the eggs are completely set. Stir in the sautéed vegetables. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the mixture onto the center of each tortilla; top with cheese and salsa. Fold the ends and sides over the filling. Serve immediately.

Yield: 10 burritos

A note from Cheryl: Sometimes I lay all the ingredients out and let everyone make their own burritos using the combinations they prefer.

A note from Carol: Cheryl discovered the original recipe, which called for 3 eggs and 1 1/4 cup liquid egg substitute, about five years ago in a “Taste of Home” magazine. She submitted it for the “Fruit of the Spirit” cookbook, published by St. Donatus Parish in Brooten, where she and her family were members when she grew up. To order the cookbook, contact the St. Donatus Parish office at or 320-346-2431. They are on sale for $15 each. (Shipping and handling is $5 for one book or $7 for two.)

Carol Jessen-Klixbull is a copy editor at The Visitor. She is a former Family and Consumer Science teacher who has a passion for all things “food.”

Talking Faith and Francis in Rome

The following is a guest blog post by Barry Hudock. Barry works as publisher for parish resources at Liturgical Press. He lives in Albany with his family.

My job at Liturgical Press typically has me sitting at my desk on the campus of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, toiling away with colleagues or tapping away email conversations with authors about various book projects we’re working on. Rarely does it get as exciting as it did earlier this month, when I found myself in a conference room a stone’s throw from the Vatican with some of the most fascinating voices in the church today.

Liturgical Press has just published a new book called A Pope Francis Lexicon. It’s a collection of essays contributed by a remarkable set of 54 authors. Each author chose a single word that has been important in the teaching and ministry of Pope Francis, and wrote about what the Holy Father’s use of the word says about him and about what it means to be a Catholic today. For example, Cardinal Donald Wuerl wrote about Baptism, Sr. Simone Campbell wrote about Justice, Fr. James Martin took Discernment, and Carolyn Woo had Periphery. The result is an inspiring and fascinating set of reflections. (An edition in French is already available and an Italian edition will be published soon by the Vatican’s own publishing house!)

On March 1, Liturgical Press sponsored an event in Rome to mark the publication of the book. It was held in a conference room at the Jesuit Curia building, the world headquarters of the Jesuit order. The evening featured five incredible panelists:

  • Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life;
  • Teresa Forcades, a Spanish physician and Benedictine nun;
  • Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, a member of Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinals advising him on the reform of the Roman Curia;
  • Norma Seni Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas; and
  • Phyllis Zagano, a scholar who is serving on Pope Francis’s commission to study the possibility of women deacons.

It also included the book’s two editors (the people who did all the work getting the chapters together), Joshua McElwee, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, and Cindy Wooden, Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.

Our event was attended by about 175 people, including over two dozen journalists (Rome correspondents for media like CNN, ABC News, NPR, Fox News, and EWTN), several bishops (besides those on the panel), and even a few ambassadors to the Holy See from several nations. All in all, it was sort of dizzying to take in!

As each panelist took his or her turn speaking, we received a steady stream of insightful comments about Pope Francis and what he is up to in leading the Church. Sr. Forcades focused her comments on Pope Francis’s teaching on legalism, saying, “The legalistic mentality perceives grace as a threat. Grace subverts any system that tries to objectify the human experience.”

Phyllis Zagano had some beautiful things to say about the Pope’s understanding of service. Cardinal Maradiaga explained how and why the Pope is trying to reform the Roman Curia. And it was not all cheerleading; some difficult questions were raised too. In the end, though, maybe what was most exciting was to hear Cardinal Farrell comment emphatically on the Lexicon, “Anyone who wishes to understand Pope Francis must read this book.”

My experience in Rome this month was more than an exciting professional experience. It helped me understand and love my Catholic faith and our extraordinary Pope much better than I had before.

It was very inspiring to see The Visitor to produce its own version of the Pope Francis Lexicon with contributions from people from around our diocese. It demonstrates that you don’t have to be a global church leader or brilliant scholar to have some pretty profound insights about the Pope and the Church.

Barry Hudock works as publisher for parish resources at Liturgical Press. He lives in Albany with his family.

Giving Up Giving Up Social Media for Lent

Overheard during one of my rather irregular ventures into Facebook:

“Lenten resolution 2018: I’m going to unplug for Lent. I’m going to fast from Facebook.”

Many of my friends were looking for a retreat from the din of online activity. They enjoy social media and, for the most part, they bring a healthy perspective to what can be a contentious environment (think liberal vs. conservative debates, often aimed at the people who post rather than the messages they post). I applaud their efforts to quiet their lives and turn more attention to silence and solitude.

On the other hand, if every faith-filled person abandoned social media for Lent, who is telling the Story of God’s activity? Who is sharing aspects of the Reign of God? Who is going to be Christ’s Online Presence (see my earlier post)?

So this year, my Lenten resolution was to ‘give up giving up’ social media. I don’t do much on Facebook, and even less on Twitter. I use my iPhone’s Snapchat app only to animate my face. So this year, I would be sure to do some Lenten reflection, and then share it regularly online.

It is now halfway through Lent… and I have failed miserably. Every time I think of a meme to make, or motivational poster to produce, or word cloud to create, I either become fearful that it won’t be good enough, afraid of possible repercussions from friends who disagree with my theology, or just succumb to my inclinations to simply go to bed because I’m exhausted. In other words, the very challenges that I need to be addressing this Lent still have the upper hand.

The good news is that God is gentle with me. God knows I’m a shy introvert, more apt to do a little lurking on Facebook that sharing things going on in my life. It is a personality trait, and definitely a family tradition, to be a private person. So I think, rather than beating myself up, I will embrace who God created me to be and maximize who I am. I will write this blog post to tell the Story of God’s gentleness, and then proceed to Facebook. I will not post anything there, but I will use the gifts God gave me of empathy and love for my friends. I will put people in need of prayer on the conduit on my office wall to remind me to pray for them by name, and I will send something to a dear friend who is initiating a ‘Gofundme’ account for a self-employed man in the hospital due to a cardiac emergency. I will accept who I am, and probably not post anything while I am there. I may in the future, but not now because… well… I am fearful, afraid, and too exhausted.

God will understand. Because God is gentle with me.

Here are some tools to use when we are ready to simply keep our Story in the forefront of Facebook.

For Memes to Make:

(Tool: Student Meme Generator, nature park of photo by Julie Tschida)

For Motivational Posters to Produce:
(Tool: Big Huge Labs' Motivator, photo by Julie Tschida)

For Word Clouds to Create:

(Tool: WordArt (formerly Tagul), recognize the Act of Contrition?)


Tim Welch is the Consultant for Educational Technology at Catholic Education Ministries, Diocese of Saint Cloud, MN. Read more about him on the Meet Our Bloggers page.

Carrying the cross with Jesus

As we make our way through Lent, various themes are brought to our attention.  These include: repentance, healing, forgiveness, obedience and listening to God.

As we approach Holy Week, however, the theme of the cross becomes ever more on our minds.  We recall that Jesus is headed for Jerusalem where He will suffer and die before rising again.  We are reminded, too, that we cannot be His disciples without taking up that same cross. All three synoptic gospels (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9: 23) tell us this.  Luke even includes the adjective daily.  If we wish to follow Jesus, we must be united with Him in His cross.

While this can include offering our little day-to-day hardships in union with all that He suffered, there are also times when we feel the weight of the cross more acutely.  We feel, at times, that we are truly under the heavy wooden beam with Jesus on the way to Calvary.

As hard as these times may be, I have really found them to be occasions for growth.  In walking with Jesus through these dark valleys, we learn to trust Him, to lean on Him, to confide in Him, to cling to Him.  If it were not for these times of carrying the cross with Jesus, where would I be?

These crosses, I have found, take various forms.  They might include: teasing from peers in school…having to stand up for what is right…facing an illness or disability…struggling with persistent temptation… In various circumstances, the cross comes to us.

The wonderful news is that Jesus is with us!  And, He has gone before us.

In facing each day, I like to borrow from the words of the disciples after their journey to Emmaus, praying “Please, stay with me, Lord.”  This is a wonderful prayer to use regardless of what cross we may be facing, and especially fruitful in facing our own weakness.

A prayer of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, for use after Holy Communion, draws from this phrase in a beautiful way. May I share some poignant excerpts here?

“Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You.  You know how easily I abandon You.  Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.  Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor.  Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness…Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company.  Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You…Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers. I need You.”

Sister Christina Neumann serves at St. Anne’s Guest Home, an assisted living-type facility in Grand Forks, North Dakota. There, she helps in a variety of roles, including receptionist, sacristan, activities, and occasional personal care aide. Along with these duties, she also manages the web page for the facility, writes their weekly blog, and edits their resident newsletter. Sister Christina also authors “Our Franciscan Fiat” , the blog for her religious community of Dillingen Franciscan Sisters in North Dakota. She also finds time for embroidery, baking, biking and liturgical music. Before entering religious life, she received a bachelor of arts in written communication, with some coursework also in graphic arts and theology.

Maple salmon is sophisticated and elegant

This is the third and final in a series.

Meandering through memory lane earlier this month inspired me to bring back three salmon recipes from “Food, Faith and Fellowship,” a food blog I wrote for The Visitor from August 2010 to December 2012.

This Maple Salmon recipe is a favorite that I shared with my readers on March 22, 2012. The others are Honey-Orange Marinated Salmon and Pecan Crusted Salmon.

Maple Salmon
(Sheila Ballweg-Pulju)

1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp. soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. salmon

In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, garlic powder and pepper.

Spray a shallow baking dish with no-stick spray. Place the salmon in the dish and coat with the maple syrup mixture. Cover the dish and marinate the salmon in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake the salmon for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it easily flakes with a fork.

Yield: 4 servings

A note from Sheila: This easy recipe been a family dinner favorite since the day I discovered it. I’ve served the salmon the next day as an appetizer, on crackers and in salads but it’s so good that we rarely have any left over. 

A note from Carol: I wanted to prepare this special recipe for dinner recently but found that there was no time to marinate the fish. So, I prepared the marinade and put it in a baking dish, placed the salmon (skin side down) in the marinade, poured several spoonfuls of it over the topside of the fish and set the dish in the preheated oven. When it was finished baking I again poured several spoonfuls of the marinade — which had reduced beautifully — over the salmon again. I served the fish and the rich-tasting marinade, which I then called a “sauce,” together and it was fabulous!


Carol Jessen-Klixbull is a copy editor at The Visitor. She is a former Family and Consumer Science teacher who has a passion for all things “food.”


Pecan Crusted Salmon features flavor and finesse

This is the second in a series.

This Pecan Crusted Salmon is the second in a series of distinctive salmon recipes I’m sharing from “Food, Faith and Fellowship,” a blog I previously authored for The Visitor. It was originally posted on March 21, 2012.

Yesterday’s post from this tempting collection featured Honey-Orange Marinated Salmon.

Pecan Crusted Salmon
(Amy Klaphake)

4 (about 6 oz.) salmon fillets
2 cups milk
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. seasoned salt
2 tsp. pepper
3 tbsp. oil

Place salmon fillets in a large resealable plastic bag; add the milk. Seal the bag and turn to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes; drain.

Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, combine the pecans, flour, brown sugar, seasoned salt and pepper. Coat fillets with pecan mixture, gently pressing into the fish. In a large skillet, brown the salmon in oil over medium-high heat. Transfer to a 15x10x1-inch baking pan coated with no-stick cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 8 to 10 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Yield: 4 servings

A note from Amy: I usually don’t soak the fish in as much milk or for as long as the recipe calls for. I put it upside down (skin side up) in a glass pan, pour in a little milk, let it soak for about 10 minutes and then pour it off.

I’ve found that the pecan crust mixture makes a lot so I usually freeze half of it and it’s ready to go when I want to make the recipe again.

The first time I made it I browned the fish as directed but since then I’ve skipped that step and put it straight into the oven after I’ve dipped it in the crust mixture. I’ve also put it in a greased aluminum pan and placed it on the grill. It’s turns out great that way as well.

A note from Carol: Amy and I compared notes after I tried this recipe so I did things a little differently. I, too, felt that there was an abundance of the pecan mixture and so I peeled the skin off and covered both sides of the fish with it. (Next time I likely would make half the amount of this crust mixture.)

I followed the recipe and browned the fish — on both sides — since there was crust mixture on both. I made it in an ovenproof skillet and then put that pan directly in the oven rather than using another baking dish.


Carol Jessen-Klixbull is a copy editor at The Visitor. She is a former Family and Consumer Science teacher who has a passion for all things “food.”

Ginger adds spicy note to Honey-Orange Marinated Salmon

This is the first in a series of three.

The Visitor celebrated Catholic Press Month during February . To share in the fun, I searched “Food, Faith and Fellowship,” a food blog I wrote for The Visitor from August 2010 to December 2012 for a “Flashback Friday” recipe for the paper’s Facebook site.

Looking back through my blog entries was a delicious trek! I re-discovered a collection of salmon recipes that I posted in March 2012. They are so enticing I am eager to prepare them again soon and I’m excited to share this tasty series with our readers of “From The Heart.”

We’ll start with Honey-Orange Marinated Salmon that was posted on March 20, 2012. For the full story, click the link above.

Honey-Orange Marinated Salmon
(Sandy Durant)

1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. sherry (or apple juice)
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger root
1 (1 lb.) salmon fillet

In large resealable bag, combine the first seven ingredients. Add the salmon. Seal the bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least one hour, turning several times.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil. Coat the foil with no-stick cooking spray. Place salmon in prepared baking dish and discard the marinade. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Yield: 4 servings

A note from Sandy: We’ve had lots of compliments on this recipe, which can easily be adapted to suit your own tastes. Make it sweeter by adding more honey or sassier by upping the amount of orange juice and ginger root.


Carol Jessen-Klixbull is a copy editor at The Visitor. She is a former Family and Consumer Science teacher who has a passion for all things “food.”

Lent: Our Season of Love

This year for the first time since 1945, Ash Wednesday coincided with that saccharine Hallmark Holiday, Valentine’s Day. I’ve been reflecting on this rare coincidence and at first, found it rather hilarious. My husband and I are not wont to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s not because we disdain romance or because we don’t enjoy a nice date night. In fact, we try to make date nights a regular thing, which might be a part of why we don’t like Hallmark bossing us around and telling us when we should celebrate our love for each other.

After reflecting on the convergence of such seemingly divergent celebrations, I began to find the marriage of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday quite fitting and appropriate. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent and as such is most often equated with the themes of penance, sacrifice, prayer, almsgiving, and the like. We often spend this day of fasting and abstinence asking our friends and family what they are “giving up for Lent” or what spiritual disciplines they are taking up for the six and half week season. We wear ashes on our foreheads and forgo our usual snacks. On the other hand, things we associate with Valentine’s Day include indulgence, beauty, feasts, and gifts. But what is almsgiving if not a gift of love? What is penance if not an act of love? And what is prayer if not a song of love for our Father in heaven?

Lent is meant to prepare us for the Pascal Mystery, the celebration of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, which, of course, is the greatest act of love the world has ever known, much more grandiose and at the same time authentic than any Valentine any of us has ever given. Perhaps Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day have more in common than I initially thought.

Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition lift up married love as an image that can remind us of the Trinity. We hear repeatedly throughout Scripture how God’s love of the Church is like that of a groom for his bride. Isn’t this the type of love that Hallmark wants us to celebrate on February 14? The honeymoon-esk love? However, lasting married love isn’t about roses and chocolates (although who doesn’t love those?). It is much more so about sacrifice and humility and the grace received in the Sacrament of Matrimony. It turns out that some of the keys to a successful romantic relationship might be the same things that lead to a successful Lenten journey, namely prayer, sacrifice and humble self-gift.

Valentine’s Day is thought of as the quintessential celebration of love. I propose that Ash Wednesday, and in fact the entire Lenten season, are an even truer celebration of love. We will spend these next several weeks, purifying our hearts for the One who loves us most of all. How do you plan to grow in love for Christ this season?

Molly Powers is not a native Minnesota girl. Rather, she hails from Atlanta, GA and lived in several different states and countries before she landed in Minnesota in 2017. She is a wife and mother of two. Read more about Molly on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.





Rice Bowl recipes connect us with our global family

Janet Dusek, administrative assistant for the Office of Marriage and Family, and Sheila Reineke, Natural Family Planning program coordinator for the diocese, enjoyed the lunch — which included two Rice Bowl soups — at the retreat.

Yesterday diocesan employees gathered for our second all-staff retreat centered on StrengthsFinder, a program that we’ve been using to learn more about our own strengths and those of our co-workers and to assist all of us in exploring how we can best minister together as a team. Leisa Anslinger, a national leader in StrengthsFinder work, parish engagement and stewardship, led the retreat. We had a great day with team building activities, collaboration, self-reflection and prayer.

Iraqui lablabi (chickpea soup) and Haitian vegetable stew were on the menu at the February 21 Lenten retreat for diocesan employees.

Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl played an important role in our day, too. Two of this year’s meatless Rice Bowl recipes were featured at lunchtime — vegetable stew from Haiti and chickpea soup from Iraq. Both soups received good reviews from those who attended the retreat!

CRS Rice Bowl is a Lenten program sponsored by Catholic Relief Services that helps parishes, schools and families learn more about its work around the world and the people it serves. Participants are urged to put the money they save from eating simple, meatless meals into a symbolic “rice bowl” to be donated to CRS. Perhaps you have saved the Rice Bowl pullout section from our February 9 issue or have viewed the section online. This year’s theme is “Who is my neighbor? Called to be companions on the journey.”

Kateri Mancini, who has recently been named the new director of social concerns for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud, coordinated the preparation of the Rice Bowl dishes with staff of The Visitor. Kateri has worked as the coordinator of mission education at the St. Cloud Mission Office for the last 12 years. (The Mass collection taken at the event was earmarked for Rice Bowl.)

This year Rice Bowl offers recipes for cheese soup with fritters from Nicaragua, bean cakes from Burkina Faso and vegetables with rice from Malawi in addition to the Haitian stew and chickpea soup.

Perhaps you remember a Rice Bowl recipe you’ve enjoyed from past years or would like to explore other meatless options during Lent — or any other time. Recipes from 2013 to the present are featured on their website. One that I want to try soon is the bean soup with squash and rice from Honduras. It is a Rice Bowl favorite of our editor, Joe Towalski and his wife, Dianne, Visitor multimedia reporter and graphic designer.

Here’s the recipe for the Honduran bean soup with squash and rice. I hear it’s delicious!


Carol Jessen-Klixbull is a copy editor at The Visitor. She is a former Family and Consumer Science teacher who has a passion for all things “food.”