St. Francis Alumni Mass – 2018

‘This looks like the first Memorial Mass in three years without a classmates name on the list.’ It has become an annual ritual to attend this Alumni event with my Toronto friend, John Macmillan. Thursday several of us linked through social media receive a message that Ron Dabelle has died in Providence. After sharing the news, I receive messages from Ron Michnik, Sam Santarosa, Ed Curran, Larry Cieslica, and Ray Garnsey. They recalled spending time with him and his passion for painting. Ron was a rarity – a professional artist who lived by his art.

His work appears in public and private murals and painting throughout Rhode Island and the New England area. His work also hangs in the home of several classmates, myself included. When notifying SFHS about his death, Paul Bartell tells me he is looking at a painting of Assisi that Ron donated to the school. An artist colleague has created a public Facebook page of Ron’s works at https://www.facebook.com/ron.dabelle.5

Looking through the list of those remembered, I comment to Fr. Michael that during the past two years there seems to be several very recent graduates appearing among the list of those remembered. He responds that, ‘What happens in the world, happens in here too.’

The too young join the list of the expected, graduates from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. The choir is particularly good. Their sound fills the chapel and joins the receding sound waves of choirs from the past 90 years, including years of broadcasts by the Fr. Justin Rosary Hour.

After Mass we join Tony Rudnicki, spouse Lynn, together with Al and Dick with spouse Marilyn. Two graduates from the class of ’54. They refer to me as ‘the youngster’. Al taught Physiology at UB Medical and Dick ran his own plumbing business. Tony is a retired educator and author of “Bipolar Buffalo”. White tablecloths and a wide choice of breakfast offerings have set a new standard for the cafeteria we all remember. Classrooms, labs, gyms, study halls – all have moved around and changed over the years. Chapel and cafeteria keep bringing us together for laughs, memories, stories and updates.

This may be the 12th time that John has come with me for this event. To round out his SFHS experience, I take him on a tour of the tunnel and the gym. We recall the Cold War and the Fall Out Shelter status of this tunnel.

Throughout the day the theme of challenges to values and their expression in today’s context emerges in our discussions. Most of us grew up in a time of organization, explicit and understood rules and expectations. I still recall during our 50th reunion how classmates who entered the military mentioned they could not understand the anxieties of other new recruits because of the SFHS boarding school background. As Fr. Mike’s comment acknowledges, that world has changed. Values remain. Now each one of us has to choose, accept and follow the ones we believe in or accept with God’s grace.

Later John and I join Fr. Romulus Rosolowski for lunch at the Pho Kim Chi, a new Vietnamese restaurant in the former Daisies Cafe location – https://www.yelp.com/biz/pho-kim-chi-lackawanna. Less than a month old, it is receiving well deserved praised. This year’s breakfast is at Peg’s Place where we enjoy a counter conversation with a local whose daughter attends Guelph U.

Fr. Romulus and I were in St. Hyacinth’s College and Seminary together. He stayed to serve in Rome, Ghana, and many parishes. Now he’s the Vicar at Our Lady of Victory. Another fellow former Franciscan, John Neysmith was prevented from joining us because of flu. Romulus and John were both in ‘The Singing Friars’, a folk group. There is talk of a reunion. We cover a wide range of memories, opinions and ideas over our 3 hr lunch.

After a bit of shopping and car touring, John and I have supper at Buzzy’s in Niagara Falls. We return with pizza and wings leftovers and enjoy more conversation with Mary. My Monday morning subway ride to the train station reminds me of the Walking Dead. Many looking very tired. Many hunched over sleeping. Snow cover returns as the train gets closer to Ottawa.

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Ottawa Rooming House Report Card

Plenty of rooming houses in the neighbourhood of Somerset West CHC, where I’m currently assisting with analytics and the health records system.

They exist in every community. Some are run by responsible people looking to help both themselves and the tenant in need. Others are a way to get as much out of the situation while providing almost nothing in return.

Recent findings for Ottawa are here – https://swchc.on.ca/news-events/news/rooming-houses-west-central-ottawa-receive-failing-grade-again-2017

Project staff should be very proud of making it possible for everyone to digest it through one poster. Follow the link to see it all.

Improving_Health_Housing_in_Ottawa_-_Update_on_Rooming_Houses_in_West-Central_Ottawa_2017

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Thanks for a very good 2 years

Will miss wringing the most out of the systems and your data collection efforts. This was my last day at Sandy Hill CHC. Two years ago I’d accepted a contract to help make NOD work for you. It was / is a necessarily complex and unnecessarily ugly system that gets in the way of good practice more than many other electronic health record (EHR) systems. I’d been impressed during a peek at NOD V10. Getting the bugs worked out and contributing to a far better user experience was going to be a nice assignment. All that changed when Telus bought it out. Nothing but the absolute minimum was going to be done for a system with a marked life span. Having worked in commercial software development and system replacement projects, I know the vendor strategy is to listen, talk nice and do as little as possible. Some may have wished I’d done the same.

I prefer honesty and transparency. I believe that more eyes make for better results. The wiki and the intranet are crucial to sharing information across departmental and other silos.

The records SHCHC creates about the people, groups and communities it works with capture the details which are the evidence of professionals exercising their best judgement and the organization living up to the reasons which gave it life. Within them lies a treasure trove of observations which could lead to better results, new approaches and stimulating perspectives. The lives of the people they represent also deserve digital accuracy and validity. There is no current profession or job that will not be touched by machine learning and artificial intelligence. Those records will feed these trends. Miscues will not wait for sampled file reviews.

I would have liked to meet with each Super User to get a more personal perspective on what you and I could have done differently to make both NOD and the transition period easier. If you have thoughts to share, please contact me. Also I live in the neighbourhood; happy to meet and chat.

Two years ago I came to Sandy Hill to find a doctor. Instead, I found a job. It’s been largely very enjoyable. Particularly missed are Darren and John who manage one of the most stable systems I’ve encountered in 37 yrs. Lynne and Tyler could always be counted on to pick up tickets, to answer the many things I did not know, and to commiserate on the impossible. Working with Kyle to improve on/off boarding processes using the intranet and on privacy also made for enjoyable solutions to organizational needs. Last but not least are the many NOD users who took the time to record and report the details when it did not work. Resolution of many was beyond Sandy Hill or AOHC. Keep submitting what does not work and what you would like in the new system. The ticket system is the repository of your efforts. Some of it will make a difference.

Hopefully, I was able to do the same. Anybody need a hand with data wrangling or system taming?

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Never can say goodbye

No one wanted to leave. Not at the dinner the night before the wake. Not at the wake. Not at the graveside. Not at the Waterfront gathering nor at home afterwards. Repeated hugs; goodbyes. Forgot to tell you stories. Jokes that ‘this time it’s for real.’

I am an intimate outsider, in-law, uncle, spouse and dad in this gathering. Some of us have known each other for almost 50 years. Re-introductions of long forgotten cousins, friends, old neighbours, VFW colleagues, retired co-workers – even several staff from Dolores’ favourite lunch spot, Reds on Route 1. Personally, I was deeply touched by the arrival of a lifetime friend from Springfield and a classmate from the St. Francis class of 1964.

Dolores meant something to each of the two hundred people who passed through each others lives over the past few days. For many, myself included, it was the first 360 view of her best. Dolores’ grandchildren made exceptional efforts to be here. The last time so many cousins came together was at her 80th birthday a few years ago.

Dolores would have loved her send off. Thanks to her younger son and generous help from family and friends it fulfilled and exceeded her last wishes. The procession to St. Mary’s in Lynn went down Franklin St., a path she must have taken for many years on her way to school from her earliest home nearby. Full circle.

Her life was not easy. Her determination, smile, humour, and interest in others carried her through it and made the many grateful connections we shared the past few days. Many of these we will not see again. Others will re-open at future gatherings, weddings – and funerals.

Seize not the day. Seize the moments of contact and connection. Be they friends or family, near or far, these grow and they also die. Whether deliberate, accidental or inevitable our families and friends are the reflection of our own lives and what truly matters within it.

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St. Francis Alumni Mass – 2017

John chooses the red-white strawberry pancakes and passes on the red, white, and blue All-American stack. Every third year we are at Rooster’s Cafe on Ridge Road in Lackawanna, NY. I imagine steel workers packing the place early in the morning. Rooster’s is just up the road from the long gone gates of Bethlehem Steel. Who comes to the 5 AM opening now?


 

 

 

This year’s Alumni Memorial Mass remembers Peter Kuhn and Richard Wesolowski from the class of 1964.

Members of Dick Wesolowski’s family attend Mass. After Mass we share condolences and memories with Eleanor, his mom who lives near St. Francis High School. Unable to travel to her son’s funeral in Colorado, she is glad to be with us in remembering. Travelling from Colorado to bring her mother in law, Dick’s wife Sylvia, his brother Skip and a nephew also share this moment with us.

Dan Galluch, Ron Michnik and I are there from the class of ’64. Also with us is Carol Palczewski and son, Todd. Husband Roger passed away before last year’s Mass. We read an email from Hank Pietraszek and share condolences and regrets from Sam Santarosa and Bill Graser. Ron Dabelle has sent Sylvia a beautiul Mass card which we gave her. On Dick’s Facebook page, Gary Janaczek recalled good times at the Wesolowski home. Dick was class president. He remains easily recognizable in the front row of the Buffalo Evening News class photo we give his family.

Father Mike’s Lenten sermon reminds us that in this day of wearable devices we should also monitor our spiritual health. This annual trip to the Memorial Mass is a personal monitor of the roots and growth of Franciscan values and friendship.

Also attending is Anthony (Antek) Rudnicki from the class of ’59. Antek is the author of Bipolar Buffalo. Exerpts from the book – which includes a great story about Fr. Rufinus – along with recent critiques and observations are found on his website Buffalomind.com.

I have to get something from John’s car. Fumbling with the keys, the student choir member next to me offers help. We introduce each other. Does he wonder if fifty three years from now he will be stumped by an everyday task like this old choir alumni?

Carol Palczewski takes John and I on a personal tour of Buffalo’s River Works. Giant Labatt’s Beer cans welcome us. Condo’s, apartments, and businesses are re-energizing the city along its water ways. Cobblestone Square and Larkin Square have persevered through difficult times and are adapting and driving new economy and lifestyle.

 

 

Later in the afternoon we meet up with Ron and Lynda Michnik at Schwabl’s . Over the famous beef on weck, we share history of place and history of relationships. The connections are wide and deep.

Carol Palczewski spouse of Roger ’64, Lynda Michnik , Ron Michnik ’64, Anthony Mielniczuk ’64 with long time friend John Macmillan of Toronto.

It’s late, we leave for Toronto without shopping or  with take-home chicken wings. Definitely have to return before next March.

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Speak out for love and against hatred

The Association of Ontario Health Centre’s statement on the rise of Islamaphobia deserves wide reading. Full disclosure, I work at a community health centre and live happily with  Muslims, a mosque and recent immigrants as neighbours.
“The attack on the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre this past weekend left us shocked and saddened, and our thoughts and hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims of this horrific hate crime.
Unfortunately, the shooting in Quebec City is not an isolated incident but rather an extreme manifestation of the growing Islamophobia and the rise in anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric both in Canada and around the world.
AOHC represents primary health care organizations across the province that work with people and communities facing multiple social injustices and health disparities. We know how this type of violence reverberates across the country, and indeed the world, and impacts Muslim and other racialized communities in Ontario.
In the aftermath of this attack, we want to reaffirm our commitment to social justice and health equity and we urge you to do the same. Here are three actions you can take:
Health Equity Charter for our members https://www.aohc.org/Health-Equity-Charter?lang=en : If your organization hasn’t endorsed the Health Equity Charter, please contact Gabriela Panciu at Gabriela@aohc.org to do so.
Charter for Inclusive Communities http://www.nccm.ca/charter/ : We encourage you to endorse the Charter for Inclusive Communities by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, supported by AOHC among other organizations.
Break the Behaviour http://breakthebehaviour.ca/ : Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants also invites you to sign their Break the Behaviour pledge as a first step towards building a racism-free Ontario.
We, at AOHC, pledge to continue working with our members to recognize and confront barriers to equitable health, as well as support ongoing efforts to build healthy, vibrant and inclusive communities.
Tuesday, January 31, 2017″
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Communities work with co-operation and leaders like Ronny Yaron

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/partners/sponsorcontent/content/article31374948/?prx_t=enICA2ZcKALrMPA

The St Lawrence Neighbourhood is by many measures a great success. That success comes from a combination of community and political will power. What the article misses is that Ronny Yaron and many others like her have spent countless hours working with neighbours and local organizations and holding political representatives accountable. As a neighbour of hers for over 20 years, I saw her do all this while raising a family and gently engaging and helping others.

Much of the spirit and involvement comes from the many housing co-operatives in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, including Woodsworth where Ronny lives. In these co-ops, which contain a significant number of rent-geared-to-income units, member responsibilities and rights are equal. Members elect Boards who are responsible for leading community life and for economic sustainability. And they get involved.

St. Lawrence was created from spent railroad and industrial lands. Mayors Crombie and Sewall with countless other urban activists led the move to create this new kind of community. Did the city learn anything? Your answer is right around the CN Tower.

Where is today’s political will to bank land and provide resources for genuine mixed income housing? Mixed-use condo and public services is a very small step. Subsidizing rent is another step. The outcomes may give the politically acceptable impression of “from the outside, you won’t know which is which.” The truly bold step would be another St. Lawrence-type initiativel

Current measures in Regent Park and Lawrence Heights promote social mix. That mix comes at the personal cost of thousand of families being disrupted, resettled, and most never to return. What about the neighbourhoods, development projects and public institutions where not even this limited social mix really applies?

Meanwhile affordability forces those with less income to move into the near urban suburbs and beyond.

To build the type of truly mixed community where people are listened to, where children know each other, where families thrive and where seniors can continue contributing comes when residents have a formal say in how their community works; where infrastructure like schools, libraries and support services receive proper funding. These communities attract people like Ronny for whom public service is for public good, not for business relationships, not for for votes. They are the community builders.

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