Monthly Archives: June 2013

Mission: On The Air

party934I’d like to invite you to be a guest on my radio program and tell the story of your nonprofit’s mission. Barkada Circle broadcasts live every Monday at 10am Central on which is a project of the Free Form Radio Initiative, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide diverse and innovative online broadcasting that reflects the interests and concerns of the community.

You can tune in on Monday during my next live broadcast or listen to recordings of recently aired programs on Here’s the podcast of the interview we did in April with local artist Lindsay Obermeyer who tells her story about using her art form and collaborating with nonprofit organizations in a number of cities in the midwest to create a stronger sense of community for the people in these areas. Send an email to and we can schedule your story for a future program.

Restoration and Revolution

chapelle_1 On my recent visit to Paris, I have to say that one of the more memorable moments was my visit to the Gothic chapel Sainte-Chapelle and seeing the current stage in the full restoration of its stained glass windows. The Sainte-Chapelle is considered to be a gem in High Gothic architecture. It is located within the grounds of the Palace of Justice. From the 10th to the 14th centuries, this was the residence and seat of royal power. Sainte-Chapelle was built between 1242 and 1248, according to the wishes of Louis the 9th, to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. King Louis the 9th reigned from 1226 to 1270, and became the future Saint Louis. The most famous of these relics was the Crown of Thorns, acquired in 1239 for a sum that greatly exceeded the cost of building the chapel itself.

The Holy Relics had belonged to the emperors of Constantinople since the 4th century. In purchasing them, Louis the 9th added to the prestige of both France and Paris which, in the eyes of medieval Europe, became a “New Jerusalem”, and hence the second capital of Christianity. Throughout the revolutionary period, the Sainte-Chapelle, which was a symbol of royalty by divine right, suffered a great deal of damage, although the stained glass windows remained intact. Starting in 1846, a huge wave of restoration work was carried out on the building, giving it its current appearance.


From the beginning, the Holy Relics were displayed and worshipped in the upper chapel. Only the king, his close friends and family, and the church officials leading the religious services entered the upper chapel through an outdoor terrace, which at the time, was connected to the Palace. The lower chapel was the place of worship for the palace staff.

chapelle_4The upper chapel is a truly monumental and sumptuously decorated reliquary. Sculptures and windows combine harmoniously to glorify the Passion of Christ and create a feeling of entry into the Heavenly Jerusalem, bathed in light and colour. The Sainte-Chapelle owes much of its early fame to the stained glass windows. The 1,113 scenes depicted in the 15 stained glasses windows tell bible stories from Genesis through to Christ’s resurrection. Each window represents a book section in the bible. Fourteen of the windows should be read from left to right and from the bottom upwards.

There is a large stained glass rose that dominates the west end of the chapel. It illustrates the prophetic Apocalypse of St. John in the bible’s Book of Revelation. Symbolically represented opposite the stained glass story of the Passion of Christ, the western rose has in its center the story of Christ’s return in glory at the end of time to judge the dead and the living.


In most churches and other religious architecture across the globe, stained glass is used to convey a unifying message to the faith community. The windows of the Sainte-Chapelle outweigh all others in its elaborate visual storytelling. Louis the 9th did not want his faith community to skip a beat. He wanted his message immortalized with as much detail, clarity and grandiose as his own status and place in history.

Wouldn’t it be great if institutions today can still rely on the wealth of kings to build an edifice that will stand the test of time and preserve their legacy for generations and centuries to come? But we know this cannot be so. We also know that today’s waves of economic and social change require us to create revolutions within our own organizations just to survive the next few years, let alone a whole generation. If we build our mission on stained glass windows, how much time will pass before they will need to be shattered? Is our ultimate goal permanence? Or is it resilience?

What will make our organization stand the test of time? The medieval kings relied on their power and authority. In today’s climate, our organizations too can draw power and influence from staying relevant to the needs of the people we serve. This is driven by the stories we tell and the new stories generated from them. It is a shared power born out of mutual respect for each other and the value that everyone can bring to the table.

If we embrace a true egalitarian way of seeing and working, we won’t need our story depicted on a window that becomes dark when the sun has set. Our mission will continue to shine through in the faces of the people that share our story and tell it as their own story for generations to come.

A Late Spring in Paris

It was unseasonably cold for that time of the year. In my mad rush to pack a suitcase, I didn’t bother to check so I could bring the “right” clothing. We had enjoyed temperatures in the 70s in Chicago the week of May 20 so my wishful thinking won over. When I stepped out of the Metro after the train ride from Charles de Gaulle Airport, I headed straight for Monoprix across the street from my hotel. A light jacket and scarf would be enough to add to a layering of summer shirts, I thought. I was just glad to have had enough presence of mind to pack the right attire for the wedding.

blogJun3_alexaMy cousin, Alexa, and her partner of seven years, Jérémie, were to be married on Friday. They already had the state-required civil wedding the week before and the intimate church wedding with immediate family a few days after. More relatives were flying in for the big outdoor ceremony at a ranch 80 km outside of Paris. It was the perfect venue for more than a hundred people to witness their renewal of vows in the afternoon, then dinner and dancing in the evening. Everyone was radiant and in great spirits until the first sign of dawn.

Overnight accommodations at the ranch were simple yet impeccable. Log cabins were spacious enough to accommodate families with kids and had a rustic elegance. I knew my life partner would have enjoyed it there. Curt grew up in a farm in northwest Wisconsin. He would have felt at home in La Boissière-École. Driving back to the city through the charming French countryside stirred the soul and inspired me to return with Curt. Sharing the experience with him would be a great way to celebrate our seventeenth year.


Arriving back in Paris in the middle of the afternoon still allowed me time to explore some landmarks in the vicinity. Missing Alexa’s church wedding made me think about the Sainte-Chapelle, a royal medieval Gothic chapel in the first district, currently undergoing a full and careful restoration of its stained glass windows. The process started in 2008. blogJun3_window The 1,113 scenes depicted in the 15 stained glasses windows tell bible stories from Genesis through to Christ’s resurrection. From sunrise to sunset, they have been glowing curtains that have illuminated the faces of generations in the hope to inspire reverence and preserve a faithful community through the centuries.

Walking through the streets the next day with my sister and aunt, I noticed that all the florists in the area were open and had spilled into the sidewalks. Most of the brasseries were full and some had lines of people waiting. Typical Sunday? We walked into Brasserie Suffren and learned it was Mother’s Day in France. I thought this would be a great way to make up for everyone in my family being separated by crazy schedules earlier in the month. It turned out to be a special Mother’s Day celebration for us three.

As we were enjoying our desserts, adults and children were walking the streets in large groups heading in the same direction and carrying pink and blue flags with what looked like graphic symbols of family. Media crews appeared close behind. Public transit was shut down, streets were barricaded and crowds were forming in the heart of the 6th district. Later in the day, the news channels reported on how opponents of same-sex marriage have brought parts of French cities to a standstill over recent months with demonstrations. The protest I saw that day was attended by more than 150,000 people after the bill had already been signed into law ten days ago. Clashes with police resulted in 293 arrests. On Sunday, May 26, 2013, the City of Love saw, heard, smelled, tasted and touched hate.

blogJun3_curtponThe train ride back to CDG airport was a bag of mixed feelings. Although I speak très little français, I felt sad leaving the comfortable embrace of Paris. I could see myself living there one day. At the same time, I couldn’t wait to be home. Chicago greeted me with rainclouds as the plane landed. I’m glad Curt was able to take a long lunch at work so he could pick me up from O’Hare. He took the next two days off so we could catch up after my week-long trip. He mentioned that the Illinois House would be in session on the 31st to call a vote on the Marriage Equality Bill. Today, we know that did not happen.

God willing in 2014, Curt will be employed more than a year and will be allowed to take longer vacations. We’re already dreaming about celebrating the first wedding anniversary of Alexa and Jérémie with their combined family. Hopefully they decide to return to the rustic cabins of La Boissière-École. I’m sure Curt will choose the beds on the loft. His love for art and architecture will draw him to the then fully restored stained glass windows of the Sainte-Chapelle. Hopefully they’ll have places to sit. Curt will want to spend at least an hour admiring the glow. Maybe the waiter at Suffren will recognize me when Curt and I walk in on Mother’s Day. Hopefully the trains and buses will be operating.

In Paris, everyday is a special day. You can see it in every face. There is always a reason to celebrate who you love and who you call family.