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Evansville, Indiana
November 21, 1997     The Message
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November 21, 1997

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0 - The Message w for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Parish prays for healing after salmonella outbreak By RICHARD SZCZEPANOWSKI Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An outbreak of illness traced to a dinner served at a southern Maryland Catholic church -- and the national media attention it attracted -- has galvanized the local community and drawn attention to safe food handling procedures. Almost 750 people fell ill after attending the Nov. 2 annual country dinner at Our Lady of the Wayside Parish in Chaptico, Md. Tests conducted by the St. Mary's County Health Department indicated that sal- monella-B triggered the sickness which causes diar- rhea, nausea and fever. "Our epidemiological study indicated that stuffed ham is implicated in this illness," said Mary Novotny, the health education coordinator of the St. Mary's County Health Department. Ham stuffed with a com- bination of kale and other greens as well as a variety of spices is a traditiohal southern Maryland food, pop- ular at local church dinners. "Samples of gravy, turkey and oysters tested nega- tive for salmonella," Novotny told the Catholic Stan- dard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese, in which the parish is located. Scientists were looking at "the cooking process, the refrigeration, the preparation and serving practices," Novotny added. Dr. Ebenezer Israel, health officer for St. Mary's Coun 7 ty, said that it may take a long time to determine what caused the contamination. "As with any detective work," he said, "it may be weeks be, fore we can say what happened." Novotny said that as of Nov. 11,746 people reported being ill after eating at the church. "These figures could climb a little higher, but it appears the crisis is over," she said. She noted that of the 952 persons interviewed by the health department, 206 showed no signs of ill- ness. The health department also said that since Nov. 7 no new cases of illness were reported. More than 100 people volunteered to help prepare and serve the dinner and about 1,393 meals were served. "It could have been worse, thank God it was not worse," said Father John Stack, pastor of Our Lady of the Wayside. Early media reports indicated that two people died after eating at the parish. However Novotny said, "You can't blame the deaths on the dinner." Preliminary findings on the death of a Baltimore woman who ate at the church indicate the woman died of a heart attack, she said. The other death, of a south- ern Maryland woman, was still being investigated. "The health.department has told us that at this time they do not have the exact reason why these people died. The deaths have not been verified as due to the dinners," Father Stack said. He added that some of those who got sick at the dinner said they realize it was an unusual occurrence. "We have had numerous calls from people who were sick," Father Stack said. "They called to say what a good dinner they had and that they would come back at the drop of the hat." He said he was offering Masses for the sick since the outbreak was first reported. "We will get through this because we are trusting in God, and we are praying for those who are sick," he added. "We will get through this with the help of God." In a letter to the parishioners, Washington Cardinal James A. Hickey pledged to have Masses offered for the sick and promised to "pray that your parish will continue to remain united and strong, and that you will find constructive ways to move beyond this tragedy." The illnesses have devastated parishioners. And since the outbreak, the parish and the community have been swarmed by reporters. "We really feel bad: first seeing people get sick and then dealing with the media," said Debbie Potter, a parishioner and one of the volunteers who prepared the dinner. "The attention has been constant, persistent" at local hospitals, churches and stores, said Father Stack. He said one day he went to the church at 6:15 a.m. to say his morning prayers and CNN cameramen and reporters were already camped out at the parish. The annual dinner is the major fund-raiser for Our Lady of the Wayside Parish. Many southern Maryland churches -- Catholic and other denominations -- host a yearly dinner in the fall or spring. "We've been running this dinner for more," Father Stack said. "It is a embedded in the community's mind." This known problem associated with the dinner. Because the dinners are such popular Novotny said, the next step for St. Mar Department is to "make sure such an occur again." She said the health soon begin offering training sessions nizations on preparing and cooking sumption. Despite the sadness surrounding this Dawn Weyrich Ceol, spokeswoman for th said the tragedy tested the parishioners' "showed what a strong community Potter said she is still looking forward to the dinner next year. "There were so many praises for the this year's dinner, she said, "and then had to stick up its ugly head." Health p will offer free advice Concerned about food safety? See your count 3 In Indiana, not-for-profit deptment according to Davi d Gries, Su Section at the Vanderburgh County ment. "We have always wanted to Gries said he has met with man some training food-preparation ! that from each county gestions and advice. Bishops see final years before death as a graced renewed blessing for Retired Bishop Joseph A. Fer- put in the context of r Ji,00 J i il 0000/:ilji00di00ijj00iiill L Liii,00i 000000iii00ii!i00ii!00 i 00iL2C, jlII II I i look forward to my few given years of retirement to do some form of ministry that I haven't had much chance to do now -- more direct contact with the sick. --Bishop Robert J. By MARK PATTISON Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Death is not an easy thing to ' about, or to talk about. Especially when that death is one's owl3. 00maybe0000erequipp00 spiritually to deal with such matters, but they are surely not exempt from having to deal with them. Knowing that they are in the autumn of their years, they real2 ize they are likely to have fewer years in front of them than they have behind them. In interviews with Catholic News Service while in Wash- ington for the Nov. 10-12 gener- al meeting, a few bishops talked about how grace comes into their lives when taking stock of their own mortality. "It's common to all of us," remarked Auxiliary Bishop Wal- ter Paska, 73, of the Ukrainian- rite Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "There's fear and reluctance to face (death) because each of us enjoys life." And because life is all people really know, their experience with life is stronger than their desire to deal with death. "Wisdom comes to us" over time, Bishop Paska said. "in our younger years, we may have paid less attention to that." That wisdom, he added, is that there is more to life than life on earth. "It makes the approaching end of earthly life more under- standable," he said. "We come to appreciate this passing as the this life on earth. It may not come to us immedi- ately, but we do come to understand God's great blessing." "I'm still very much afraid of dying, or of the fear of dying," Rose admitted Auxiliary Bish- op Thomas J. Curry, 54, of Los Angeles. But as age advances, "in my ordinary life, Fm being more at ease with the reality of death, although the prospect of death is still a frightening one," he said. "You come to accept in your life that for the very first time you are considering the point of retiring," said Bishop Sylvester D. Ryan of Monterey, Calif., 67, who will be eligible for retire- ment from active ministry at age 75. "You ,see people retiring all around you. It gives you some very strong ideas of your own 'mortality," he added. "You think and hope that you're going to do something worth- while before the Lord calls you and time becomes more pre- cious." rario of Honolulu, 71, said he has "no problem" with death. "I don't know how to explain it. It actually goes back to when I was in the major seminary," he said. "I had a classmate who died two days before Christmas. I wrestled with the thought of death for a time. Then I came to the perspective that we go from death to life, and it's never been a problem for me ever since." Bishop Ferrario, who retired in 1993 for health reasons, said, "Now I realize that I'm getting to the point where it can happen at any time," but when death is makes you ape more. When it comes, il "I'm rather it," said Bishop Robert 67, of Grand Rapids, obvious to me that final active assi Lord may give me. "I look forward given years some form of haven't had much the sick," he said. "But our faith he added, "tells to come." Church suicide termed a DETROIT (CNS) -- A church spokesman in Detroit dismissed as an unsubstantiated rumor a report that the latest suicide assisted by retired pathologist Jack Kevorkian took place in a Catholic church. Ned McGrath, director of com- munications for the Detroit Arch- diocese, said in a Nov. 14 state- ment that "the only source for this bizarre story is the attorney/pub- licity agent" for 1 hey Fieger. "What's A ket? A school he asked. "There no end to the attempts by these dea to manage and media coverage of thil Fieger said been present a 100 deaths since