Monthly Archives: February 2012

Signe and Binky capture Oak Park

Signe Heart and Binky Stephenson, sisters, sell craft items in their Forest Park store, open since April of ’11. 

“We find the stuff at the cool and funky craft fair,” Signe told the Oak Leaves.  The store is Pretty Little Things, at 7324 Madison Street, a block or so west of Oak Park.

“Love is put into everything we put into our shop and you can feel that,” said Binky, an Oak Parker.  Prices range from $10 to $100, for “hand-knitted sweaters, hats, T-shirts with funky silk-screened designs, homemade candles and necklaces,” to quote the article.  “We’re trying to make a little money and that’s the hard part.”

They believe in recycling and using things that people may discard to create new things.

They are proud to note that all of their merchandise is made in America. [Signe] said she hopes it takes [a] child laborer off the assembly line in an overseas sweatshop.

Nothing “pre-made” is offered, nothing “from Wal-Mart,” said Signe.  “We pride ourselves in that.” 

She and Binky “inherited their way of doing things from their parents, who were hippies and raised them in an unconventional way,” says the article.

They are looking for customers who are looking for “something different, all natural, made with pride and not on an assembly line,” says the article. 

“We have to live with ourselves,” Signe said.

On Friday evenings shoppers receive free champagne.

Clean copy throughout, captures Oak Park.  I love it.

I would, of course, like to know where the child laborer works once the sweatshop job is gone.  And maybe a few other things.  Later.


Mandate rubs Catholics’ noses in it. Yuck.

Responded last week to especially provocative local-paper column about the HHS mandate, “Who controls birth control?”  But no letters in the paper this week.  Thin paper and all.  A pity, that.  Here’s my letter, which addresses some more than parochial concerns:

2/17/2012 3:54:03 PM


Ken Trainor, my excellent editor for many months of Wednesday Journal columns, laid an egg in his Feb. 14 column about the HHS mandate, ignoring the governmental intrusion-coercion factor in favor of lambasting bishops.

In so doing, he soared over the top, even for this sometime critic.  The bishops were “beside themselves with outrage” over the mandate.  They “thundered,” calling the issue “a matter of religious liberty!”  It’s time for them “to grow up.”

Plus, he makes a bit much of the “people of God” argument, as if the Vatican Council meant to dismantle or otherwise negate the church’s entire governing structure.  Where’d he get that idea?

Basically, he wants a referendum about what’s sin and what isn’t, something not even the pace-setting reformer Martin Luther had in mind.

Failing that, he wants bishops to shut up about some things, which is apparently what the feds want also and have hefty fines in store if they don’t.  Refusal to participate has an estimated $10 million a year fine for an institution the size of Notre Dame, for instance.  Not even the bishops have that kind of power.

The whole thing is really a rubbing of Catholics’ noses in the weltanschaung, a German word for the whole damn contemporary dumb view of things.  Ken doesn’t mind, because he stepped in it and can’t get himself out.

Before I go, one of Ken’s arguments has me fascinated.  It’s this: “The hierarchy doesn’t like the U.S. government telling them what to do. The Catholic laity . . . has refused to allow the hierarchy to tell them what to do.  What works for the hierarchy, . . . works for the [laity].”  Which I find as mysterious as a papal encyclical.  Can’t a good editor do better than that?

— Jim Bowman

Mandate at Ascension

It takes a hot and heavy discussion sometimes for realizations to seep thru, such as last night’s forum at Ascension-Oak Park, where Bob Gilligan, exec director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, was the speaker and took many questions.  Seeped-thru realizations:

* Some or many Catholics are shocked to see the bishops going to the mat on the birth control mandate (taking it that seriously), when they have heard nothing on the matter for decades.  Not that they thought the prohibition had been lifted.  They just hate to be reminded of it, and like gays seeking affirmation, not just tolerance, they are desperate.

* The Obama admin is trying to pit Catholics against their bishops, taking sides in a longstanding internal dispute, which is disgusting.  The pitting them vs. bishops, not the split, which historically is only a grade-B one, whatever we hear (I think). 

The admin got 250,000 letters complaining about the mandate in the months before it was announced, Gilligan said.  Dwarfing other such protests.  Obama and his people knew quite well what they were doing: sticking it to the bishops, which as I say, is disgusting.  Who’s next on the hit list?

* On the other hand, the mandate itself is made clearer with this particular case. If we didn’t quite get it before, when it was mandate-as-such, we do now when we see this startling application.  Obama is a madman to poke us in our collective eye.  Politically, the only sense it makes is that it stirs up his social-issues base. 

Note well: It was quite a well-attended session, btw, in Ascension’s Pine Room.  The pastor Fr. Larry McNally having urged attendance on his boisterous flock, which, btw, was quite obviously split on the b.c. issue, or rather on the b.c.-first, religious-liberty-second issue.  A spirited discussion, and credit is due McNally for organizing.  And a creditable performance by Gilligan, an excellent rep of the bishops’ positions.

Bishop Braxton’s two sides

1. He’s orthodox and willing to do the bold thing, here telling the ad libbing priest to honor the mass as is, and 2. He’s autocratic, as in his (here reported) non-consulting of his personnel board.

As St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy pastor in Oak Park a few years back, he bounced a non-tenured black nun from the staff after presenting her a contract that reportedly took her out of the pulpit, from which she had been declaiming in regular rotation, including on Mother’s Day Sunday, on which she talked up black power.  (Not kidding, was there.)

But he also enthroned himself for mass, moving the presider’s chair to front and center, from which he took a comfortable slightly leaning pose, hand to cheek, with portable altar moved to one side.  And set up yellow crime-scene-style tapes one Sunday blocking off the back pews because he wanted worships (in half-filled church) up front.

That said, he’s a very smart guy, if only he could get over himself. » Popular priest who strays from Roman Missal resigns.

Dems gonna lose one in Oak Park?

Russ Stewart on something new in Oak Park:

In years past, every self-respecting, politically-correct liberal white Oak Park Democrat would automatically vote for a black over a white, especially for a female black, and even more urgently for a minority and/or woman over a white male whose surname ended in a vowel. To do otherwise would cause a paroxysm of guilt.

But times have changed. And such an aberration is exactly what may occur on March 20 in the Democratic primary for the newly-configured 78th District Illinois House seat. Unless Harmon, like Horatio at the bridge, piles up a huge Oak Park margin to rescue Camille Lilly, the obscure black incumbent, white challenger Mike Nardello may win.

Lily doesn’t relate, being “the quintessential non-politician, viewing public office more as an entitlement than a privilege,” says Stewart, who couldn’t get an interview with her — “not atypical,” says Nardello’s campaign manager Oak Parker K.L. Daly.

Oak Park hockey night

Park District meeting tonight at conservatory on Garfield, next to Eisenhower Expy.  Was about plans for Ridgeland Common renovation.  Highly professional presentation by the architect went off w/out a hitch for maybe 20 minutes, easy listening with help of slides.  The park in question, at Ridgeland and Lake in the center of town, will be looking very good in a few years.  Work is to begin 2013 “after the ice show” and take 12–15 months, will cost $23.5 million.  Very assuring presentation.

However:  No year-’round swimming, which would add $2.5 million-plus to the $23 million, according to one of a dozen (at least) speakers following the presentation.  Now’s the time to enclose the pool, said the speaker.

Soccer and softball spokesmen were there too. 

But all but maybe three speakers were there tonight for ICE SKATING AND ICE HOCKEY.  Heck, there were a dozen speakers probably for ice alone.  Year-’round, please,  was the repeated cry.  Delivered with such articulation and reasonability as to make skating and hockey, a contact sport as we know, look like the cream of the crop as per politesse and attractiveness.

It was all in all a wonderful meeting.  Hockey parents never looked so good.  More later about this exercise in community involvement and communication. 

Selling religious life in Chicago

CAVA Chicago Archdiocesan Vocation Assoc.. Sister Elyse Marie Ramirez, O.P. heads this operation, talked last night at the Oak Park Serra Club  of the association’s work with women entering the sisterhoods.  

But mostly, as requested, she talked about her own vocation — in dramatic, even gripping terms, including her having to inform her affianced that she was going instead into the convent.  

He’d seen it coming and beat her to it in that moment of truth, pre-empting her announcement.  Quite a dynamic lady and a saleswoman of the first order.  Member 20-plus years of the Springfield (IL) Dominicans.

Chi noosepapers ignore bishops’ complaints?

. . . With Both Hands: News Black Out in Chicago – Catholic Bishops Make Huge Statement on Obama Choice Mandate and No Coverage.

They aren’t the only ones ignoring the bishops.  Our Oak Park parish has had nothing on the point, nor have parishes I have heard from in Pittsburgh, Joliet (IL), and Brookfield (IL).  Nor has anything happened in parishes attended by dozens of my relatives around the country who did not respond to my e-blasted question.

In which vein, let’s hear it for St. John Vianney, in Northlake (IL), where the Tridentine-mass celebrant delivered a very good sermon on the mandate, he who almost never goes political or even currents-events in his excellent homilies.  Anybody else out there who should be commended?