Category Archives: Fun Stuff

Extreme Makeover – Home Edition is in St. Meinrad!

On Monday morning the crew from Extreme Makeover – Home Edition began filming in St. Meinrad. Here is a story released by the Archabbey:

‘Extreme Makeover’ TV show filming in St. Meinrad
Filming began Monday, September 25, in St. Meinrad, IN, for an upcoming episode of the reality TV show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which airs on Sunday nights on the ABC network.

Show host Ty Pennington showed up on the doorstep of the Shawna and Steve Farina residence, just two blocks from Saint Meinrad Archabbey, to announce that their home had been chosen for the “Extreme Makeover” show. Shawna is a former employee of the Archabbey. At 27, she has been battling breast cancer for the past year or so.

The Farinas and their three children left a few hours later in a black limousine for a week-long vacation. Meanwhile, local contractors and volunteers will be tearing down their house and building a new, larger one in its place.

One of the first projects Monday night was to tear down The Shady Inn, which has sat unused for several years, to provide a larger building site. Many alumni will remember this “hangout,” which was located across the street from the post office.

As one of the neighbors in the community, Saint Meinrad Archabbey has been enlisted to help with some of the TV program’s logistics. Several parking areas have been turned over to the show for the week, while the Abbey Kitchen and Bakery have agreed to supply some sustenance for the work crews.

In addition, monks, students and co-workers will likely be among the hundreds of volunteers who assist with the project, which began with the demolition of the Farina home on Wednesday morning. During the “Braveheart” demolition scene, shown during every episode, hundreds of blue-shirted, hard-hatted volunteers surged forward to take down the house in record time.

Photo: Steve and Shawna Farina leave their home for a limousine ride to the airport for a week’s vacation with their children.

There is more information available at the contractor’s website. Or you can view a slideshow of pictures of the demolition!

Photo: Hundreds of volunteers turned out early Wednesday morning to help film the demolition rush scene called “Braveheart.”

I have volunteered to move furniture in to the completed home on Sunday. It just started raining here about 30 minutes ago, so I hope it doesn’t slow them up too much.

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Another summer update from Mexico!

I am in my last 2 weeks here in Mexico and it has really been a great experience. Much has happened since my last update so I will try to catch up a little.

I grilled hamburgers one Sunday afternoon for my host family and that was a big hit. I told them that I needed to show them how it was done in America so I bought a small grill, some charcoal, the meat and all the fixin´s and we had a great time. The extended family came over and it was a good day of visiting and eating.

A few of us students went to Tequila with one of the teachers to tour the city and a tequila factory (Jose Cuervo to be exact). It was an educational day, plus I got to taste some really fine tequila – the stuff I had is not available outside of Mexico. It was okay, but I am just not a real big fan.

On another Saturday trip I joined 5 other students on a trip to San Juan de los Lagos (St. John of the Lakes). It is the second most visited pilgrimage site in the western hemisphere next to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It was a very humbling experience as we attended mass in the Basilica and many pilgrims were “walking” on their knees to the front of the church where the image of the Virgin of San Juan was. Many miracles are attributed to the Virgin and it was quite a site to see children, adults, little old ladies, couples with babies, families, etc., make their pilgrimage to ask the Virgin for help or to thank her for the help she gave. We visited about 10 different churches in this town and each was a unique and interesting experience. There are so many wonderful churches in Mexico. This was a very spiritual trip for me. I thank God daily for all that he has allowed me to see and do here.

Yesterday I returned from 2 1/2 days in Guanajuato. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in Mexico, and I believe it. It is in the mountains and has been preserved very well because of the great wealth that came from there. At one time it supplied something like 40% of the world´s supply of silver. There is lots of history tied to the city in relation to the fight for independence and freedom. Again we visited many churches, museums, one of the orignal silver mines, and saw many musicians and artisans showing their crafts. It was a nice trip.

Well, I have under 2 weeks left and time is moving fast. I have really appreciated the experience and woudl recommend this type of thing to anyone. I will give a final update after I get back in August. Be blessed.

Viva Mexico!

I have been here in Guadalajara for 4 weeks and it seems like forever because I have done so much, yet the time is flying by and it seems I only arrived a few days ago.

Last weekend I traveled with 3 other students to Mexico City via an 8 hour bus ride. It is a huge city with approximately 25 million people. The weather was nice and the time was short, but we got a lot done.

Friday afternoon and evening we spent at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is a fairly new structure adjacent to a huge plaza. On that same plaza is the old Basilica that is in the process of being repaired. It is literally sinking into the ground for a couple of reasons. 1. Mexico City is built on a lake so some of the older (like 400 years old), very large bulidings are sinking and shifting. 2. From what I can understand in Spanish, Our Lady of Guadelupe is the second most visited site in the world, second only to the Vatican/Rome. I may have it backwards as my Spanish still needs much work. Anyway, with so many pilgrims the old Basilica just could not handle the traffic and is sinking. We also visited the original church built at the top of the hill where Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego. We attended Mass in the new Basilica with the image in full view, then after Mass took a closer look at the image. It was pretty awesome to be that close to a true miracle. There were many pilgrims in the plaza, in the shops and in the churches/Basilicas.

Saturday morning we visited the Museum of Anthropology. It is reported to be one of the top 3 museums in the world, and I can believe it. What an incredible display of artifacts and history. I was a little brain dead after being there for about 3 1/2 hours.

Saturday afternoon and evening we spent at the Cathedral area. There is the Cathedral (over 400 years old), the huge plazas around it, the ruins of an Aztec temple (they used the stones from it to build the Cathedral and many of the large buildings in the plaza), and a few shops and street vendors in the area. When we walked out of the subway station we could not believe the huge number of people there, just on a regular Saturday. I am not good at crowd numbers, but I woudl have to say there were over 100,000 to 150,000 people there. Amazing! We attended mass at and toured the Cathedral – it is quite a place (it is also sinking). Beautiful paintings, wonderful sculptures, just a great testimony for the love of the Mexican people for God.

We stayed at a seminary while there and the seminarians and priests were very hospitable and helpful. It was a great trip.

On Thursday I visited the Basilica of the Vigin of Zapopan. Another beautiful church with many pilgrims. They had a Mass and a Eucharistic procession in the plaza for Corpus Cristi. I just love churches and seeing people express their faith in very open and honoring ways.

Last night I have to say I witnessed one of the greatest displays of love and honor that I have ever seen. I, with one of my Spanish teachers, attended the city-wide celebration of Corpus Cristi. The Cardinal had instructed all parishes to celebrate in their own churches on June 15th (the actual day of the feast) and to join him for a grand celebration in the plaza at the Templo Expiatorio Eucaristico on June 16th, then for a prosession through the streets to the Cathedral (about 1 1/2 miles away). We arrived about an hour early and the plaza was already filling with people. The church was already 1/2 full or more as they have 24 hour Adoration there and many were praying before Mass. It began to rain (lightly) about 30 minutes before Mass but the people just kept coming. Mass was celebrated in the light rain and it basically stopped raining for communion. The next part is what was really great. As soon as the Cardinal, the bishops and priests processed into the church after communion, to prepare for the procession in the streets, a rain torrent hit. The wind was blowing, the rain was pouring and I could not even see the shops across the plaza for the rain and wind. It blew and rained so hard that water was coming in every door of the church and even through the cracks in the stained glass windows. There was a lot of water on the floor and everywhere, And the place was packed with people already.

A priest brought the Blessed Sacrament in from the outside altar, and as he placed it on the altar inside the church the lights went out. They lit a few candles and the rain kept coming, but all of the people crowded in this church and started singing beautiful songs of worship and praise, shouting cheers like ¨Viva el Cristo¨ and ¨Viva la Virgen¨. It was really something else. For about 1 1/2 hours I just marveled at how they loved and honored the Lord even though it was wet and stormy, there was 1/2 of water on the floor, it was crowded, people were standing everywhere, there was no electricity, and they didn´t know the people around them. I guess the decision was made that there was not to be the procession, and the Cardinal came out and did Benediction with a small battery powered speaker. What an awesome thing to witness. I thank God for these Mexican people and their love for Him and the energy they have for their faith.

Many more great things are happening, but it is time to go. Keep me and the other seminarians in your prayers as we continue on our discernment walk. Also, take time out to honor the Lord this week, either in prayer, or some time in Adoration, or maybe an extra Mass. I am sure God will aprreciate it and I think, if you do it with an open mind and heart, God can reveal Himself to you in some new way.

Hola de Guadalajara!!!!!!

Hello from Guadalajara. It has been a tremendous two weeks here in Mexico. It is a beautiful place with many kind and wonderful people.

I am staying with Gloria and her son Silverio. They are truly good hosts and very patient in my trying to communicate with them in Spanish. Gloria speaks no English and Silverio speaks some. We have interesting conversations at meals and in the evenings. Gloria´s daughter (also Gloria) is married to Herman (who speaks pretty good English) and they have a son, Herman, who is about 18 months old. They live in another part of town but join us for lunch on Sundays. I will be cooking hamburgers for the group in a week or two to share some of the American cuisine with them.

The school I am attending is quite a beautiful facility and good training grounds for Spanish. It is run by two nuns who have this as their apostolate. Sr. Caridad is very outgoing and loves her country. She explains the history behind the people and the culture very well, and knows a lot of people of importance in the area. With her and other students I have visited the Cathederal area, a couple of towns with artisans and shops (the towns are called Tlaquepaque and Tonala), a glass blowing facility, a fine ceramic shop, and met many of the artists who make these beautiful and unique crafts.

I awake around 6:30, shower and get ready for breakfast around 7:15. Then I walk to Mass at the Church of our Lady of Guadelupa (not the major shrine in Mexico City) for Mass at 8:00. I walk a few more blocks to school and attend class from 9:00 in the morning until 1:00 in the afternoon. This class is one on one with Rosy who is teaching me the language (nouns, adjectives, prnouns, verbs, sentence structure, etc.). Having a one on one tutor is very helpful as we can move quickly or very slowly depending on my comprehension. Then I walk back home (about 20 minutes) for lunch (their big meal) at 2:00 and a short nap (viva de la siesta) before walking back to school. From 4:00 to 6:00 is conversation with Maria Elena. Since I am just beginning to learn the language, she is helping with verbs and pronouns, sentence structures, and basically helping me learn and understand phrases I need to live life here. Both Rosy and Maria Elena are excellent in English, but we speak mostly in Spanish. I walk back home and a light dinner is served around 8:00. We visit, watch television, or I study until I go to bed.

A little about the city and the area. Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico, approximately 7 or 8 million personas. I live in an area that probably would
be classified as middle class or so. The traffic is very busy, the people are nice, and it is a convienient location for many things. There are many little shops along the way to school, tres bancos, and a couple of internet cafes, which is where I am at now typing this posting. There is a Walmart about 3/4 of a mile away and a mall close to that. It has been mostly dry, but the rainy season starts in June and it will most likely rain a little every afternoon or evening, hopefully keeping it cool. There is no air conditioning in any homes (except maybe the very rich) but it cools off a little at night and I have a ceiling fan. I have seen, but not visited, some very poverty ridden areas of the city also. Mexico has a vibrant economy for some, but for many there is no way to make money, that is why they come to the US.

I have visited many churches in Guadalajara and the surrounding area. The Cathedral is about 400 years old, one of the churches in Tonala is the oldest in this area of Mexico, almost 500 years old. A lot of history here. I have met a few indigenous natives and some of their craftwork has been awesome. The Catholic Church is very prevelant in the culture and that is very refreshing.

I will be attending the Ordination of 33 new priests for the Diocese of Guadalajara tomorrow, Pentecost Sunday. I am very excited about this once in a lifetime opportunity to attend an Ordination in a foreign country. I pray the Lord blesses each of these men an their ministries.

Well, this is probably enough for now. I have to pay for internet access so I may not be updating a lot, but who knows. The best way to reach me is through email at john@johntheblessed.com. I don´t check it but a couple of times a week, so be patient with a reply.

Blessings to all and keep me in your prayers during my stay here.

Sounds of Spring!

For 30 years, from 1967-1997, Saint Meinrad College presented an annual fundraiser for its student-run ministry program Cooperative Action for Community Development. CACD continued its services after the closing of the college at Saint Meinrad. Today, students of Saint Meinrad School of Theology and volunteers from the surrounding communities constitute the membership of CACD. This not-for-profit corporation provides a much-needed service to area residents who depend on home-heating assistance. CACD also sponsors the annual Special Olympics held in Tell City, IN.

“Sounds of Spring” was the main source of funding for this service organization over the years. In 2004, the musical variety show was revived as Saint Meinrad Archabbey celebrated its sesquicentennial. St. Bede Theater was once again filled and CACD benefited from the concert. On March 18th and 19th St. Meinrad held two benefit concerts for the CACD at St. Bede Theater. The two-hour musical variety show featured entertainment by Saint Meinrad students, faculty, staff, monks, coworkers and their families.

I played in two different groups – Anathema Sit, the band that plays at the Unstable, and The Hilltop Ravens, a bluegrass band put together especially for the event. Here are a couple of pictures.



Anathema Sit


The Hilltop Ravens

Volleyball Champs – O’Neill’s team pulls off a repeat!

Tonight was the finals for the Spring Semester Volleyball League and my team won the tournament undefeated! It was an interesting semester as many of my teams players never actually made it to any games – so we used lots of substitutes. Tonight the winning players included John O’Neill (Diocese of Tulsa, OK), Tom Galarneault (Diocese of Duluth, MN), and Daniel Dillard (Diocese of Owensboro, KY) who were actual members of the team; and Josh McCarty (Diocese of Owensboro, KY), Bao Vo (Diocese of Sioux City, IA), Jeremy Gries (Diocese of Indianapolis, IN), and Jagen Peter (Palayamkottai, India) who were substitutes tonight. There are more than six because Jeremy and Jagen played in our first game, and then the others played in the final match. Karen Kern (she works at Abbey Press) was also a member of the team, but could not make it to tonight’s games. So that is two semesters in a row that I have been on the championship team! I truly am John the Blessed!

I have to admit I am totally worn out. I played in every match tonight, except for one, as a team member or substitute on another team. I really enjoy the game and appreciate the exercise I get when playing.

Congratulations and thanks to all who were a part of this semester’s play!

Walk for Adoption – November 2005

Here are some pictures from the Walk for Adoption in Tulsa on November 6, 2005. I made a quick flight in from St. Meinrad to play. Members of the band are myself on guitar and vocals, Bryan Smith on guitar and vocals, Tim Conner on bass, and Bud Gustin on drums. We call ourselves “John the Blessed” and we really had a good time. It is a great cause and I want to thank Catholic Charities and the Knights of Columbus for helping me get back to Tulsa to support this event.


These are all kids who have been adopted through Catholic Charities (there are a few parents holding the little ones). One gentleman was adopted 31 years ago through Catholic Charities. What a wonderful service for life!


Bryan Smith and John “the blessed” O’Neill


Tim Conner and Bud Gustin


Even the TV crews from a couple of stations covered the event.