Lunch leads to learning for Mayhew Lake couple
A few years ago, when Shirley Scapanski was preparing for her certification as a lay minister in the church, one of the questions asked of her was how she participated in multicultural activities and traditions.
“I had to be honest with myself and admit that I wasn’t,” Scapanski said.
She and her husband, Gary, live on a dairy farm near Mayhew Lake. Shirley works at Annunciation Parish in Mayhew Lake, which is twinned with Immaculate Conception Parish in Rice. When the opportunity to participate in the diocesan Encuentro arose, Shirley decided to ask Gary to join her.
The Scapanskis found that there were a lot of opportunities at the event to learn and grow in their faith. What touched them the most was their encounter with a Hispanic/Latino family during lunch. Shirley’s sister, Franciscan Sister Ruth Lentner, who served in Nicaragua, helped bridge the language barrier.
“We shared a table with a Hispanic family,” Shirley said. “It was so good just to get to know them, to find out where they worked, where the kids went to school, to hear their story.”
In the small group discussions, Shirley said Gary, who is “kind of quiet,” was amazed by how much the Hispanic/Latino men shared about their faith.
“In the groups, everybody listened, and you had to really listen. You had to lean in with your whole body to listen. It really made you pay attention,” Shirley said. “One thing we realized was that their faith and their family is just as important to them as it is to us.”
Shirley also noticed during Mass, which was bilingual, how difficult it was for her when things were spoken only in Spanish.
“It gave me the feeling of how they must feel, how uncomfortable it must be trying to learn a new language,” she said. “I learned that when you are learning about someone else and someone else is learning about you, that ‘uncomfortableness’ is OK.”
There were many moments in the day that touched Shirley. Although Gary is a man of a few words, she said, at the end of the day, as they were leaving, he told her, “I think we need to learn Spanish.”
Hearts were changed and new understanding unfolded throughout the event, and Shirley hopes to carry what she experienced forward.
“In the world today I think there are a lot of misunderstandings, a lot of intolerance,” she said. “It is supposed to start with us. The more we can understand each other, the better everything will be.”
Diocesan Ministry Day makes a difference
Franciscan Sister Karen Niedzielski was impressed with Bishop Frank Caggiano’s keynote address.
“He was awesome. He really gave us something to think about, some very practical ways to know how we can be missionary disciples, especially in giving mercy to one person at a time. I thought that was a really inspiring thought,” she said.
Sister Karen works as a librarian at St. Katharine Drexel School in St. Cloud.
“In school, I’m usually trying to rush the children out of the library,” she said, “but now instead of doing that, I will take time, one on one, to look at them and to wish them a good day. That’s a change I want to make in my life.”
Kindergarten teacher Sammi Becker of Sacred Heart Area School in Staples said she enjoyed the workshop “Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Instructional Strategies That Engage the Brain,” presented by educational consultant Marcia Tate.
“I enjoyed her workshop because she kept us moving and working with others. She was a great presenter. She didn’t just talk at us; she involved the audience. She gave us 20 instructional strategies to use in our classrooms to help all learners learn best,” Becker said.
A standout item for her was “reciprocal teaching” — kids teaching kids.
“If a student teaches another student how to do something, they will remember it with about 90 percent accuracy,” Becker remembered. “I will try to use this more in my classroom when I have a student struggling with something. I will see if another student can teach it to them.”
Delegates from the Diocese of St. Cloud’s sister Diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya, also attended the day.
“It was a wonderful day for us,” said delegate Mary Pauline Oyuka who was hosted by the Holdingford area parishes during the delegation’s visit Sept. 20 to Oct. 3. “We enjoyed every bit of it from the speaker to the workshops to the lunch to the Mass. It was wonderful. It brings people together.”
In the afternoon, Oyuka attended a panel on diversity and was impressed with the respect that was expressed between the different cultures and faiths.
“I liked the way the presenters were organized,” she added. “Everybody was happy and speaking and appreciating what the other had to say.”
Marlene Johnson of St. Henry Parish in Perham attended Bishop Caggiano’s workshop, “Nine Cardinal Rules for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults.” Johnson facilitates a youth program for 12th-grade students called “Coffee with Creed.”
“I think he did such a fabulous job of setting up an image for us of a marble block. Instead of chipping away at it, we are to carve and help mold it into something beautiful. What an inspirational way to think about reaching out and renewing the church. It’s a fabulous approach.”
Johnson also appreciated the opportunity Bishop Caggiano allowed for dialogue and shared practices.
“There was concrete involvement and engagement with people in the session. I was sad to see it come to an end. It was so enlightening,” she said. “I will be able to, in a way, reconstruct what I’m doing to add to it from the material I heard today.”
Kristi Bivens, pastoral associate for the parishes of St. Thomas in Kent and St. Mary of the Presentation in Breckenridge, said that between the keynote and the sessions she attended, she “walked away with the importance of building relationships with people.
“As disciples we are called to accompany one another,” Bivens said, “to meet people where they are and invite them into deeper relationship with Christ.”