Ascension Church

Faces in the Pews

gerardo martha

Faces in the Pews: Gerardo Escamilla

By Betty Lou Miller


Gerardo Jose Escamilla and his wife, Martha, make their home in Brooklyn Park, with their four sons: Francisco, Gerardo, Gared, and Kerarte. Gerardo has a construction company, All Roofs and Siding Inc. He, literally, built their house. Martha is homemaker, bookkeeper for the company, and, as Gerardo said with a little smile, “boykeeper.” One of their sons will begin college this fall, another attends Totino Grace High School, and the other two attend Ascension School.


Growing up in the Mexican town of Irapuato, Guanajuto, a couple of hundred miles northwest of Mexico City, Gerardo began serving Mass at his parish church, “San Francisco,” established by the Franciscan Order. For approximately 14 years, Gerardo served Mass every day: once on weekdays, five times on Saturdays and five times on Sundays. (How many is that? 4,382!)


While going to the public school and serving Mass beforehand, he had no shoes. After about a year, a new pair of shoes was waiting for him at the church.


Gerardo met Martha at Celaya Business College (the best Tech College in Mexico). While attending college, he worked part-time for the Del Monte Food Corporation. He also was a professional soccer referee for a local inter-state soccer league. After college he worked full-time for Del Monte.


In 1996, Gerardo and Martha came to Minnesota and were married at St. Stephen’s Church in South Minneapolis, Rev. Larry Hubbard presiding.


At Ascension, Gerardo teaches religion to second graders and their parents on Sunday mornings before Mass. The parents attend the entire two semesters; this group is called Parenting Partners. For three weeks each semester, the kids join their parents for class; this group is called Sons and Daughters Forever.


Gerardo is also the Director of Liturgical Ministry. Further, he coordinates Special Events.


His response to the question, “What do you like best about Ascension,” “Ascension is for everybody.”

Faces in the Pews: Jackie Ormides Burns

By Betty Lou Miller


When Jackie Ormides Burns was 18 years old, she decided to leave Puebla, Mexico. This also meant leaving her mother and several siblings. She joined her older brother in Los Angeles and subsequently her uncle in Brooklyn Center.  Her story is one of great risk and determination.


As time passed, she met and married Eugene Burns.  They had two children, Gena and Geno.  The children now attend Brooklyn Center High School.  Eugene died tragically in a car accident when the children were preschool age.


Jackie, Gena and Geno joined Ascension parish about seven years ago.  Last year Jackie further established her roots at Ascension when she married Gustavo Morales with Fr. Greg Miller presiding.  A smile lights Jackie’s face as she recounts this event.


For the past 14 years, Jackie has worked at Data Mail in Northeast Minneapolis.  She has enjoyed her job of sorting, assembling, and packing advertising material.  But Jackie is seeking a new job since her employer will be closing.


Gena and Geno attend religious education classes at Ascension every Sunday before Mass; each isstudying for the Sacrament of Confirmation to be fulfilled in one and two years respectively.  During this time, Jackie studies the Sunday readings in a class led by Victor Torres and Maria Limón.


Although the path was arduous, Jackie received her Certificate of Citizenship in 2012.  “I did not ever have to be separated from my children,” she said.


Jackie is a stalwart member of  Ascension’s Justice in Action and Campaign for Citizenship committees.


Her favorite things about Ascension are:  Mass, classes for kids, and the adult Sunday (Bible) Reading classes.

Faces in the Pews: John Connors


By Betty Lou Miller


John Connors is very proud of his Irish heritage. This was quite noticeable by the sweatshirt he was wearing, with his family crest and “Connors” in large green letters.  We sat down at his kitchen table to some Irish Breakfast tea and chocolate chip cookies.

Next to being Irish and Catholic, a constant in John’s life is his music making.  Back in high school at Patrick Henry in North Minneapolis, he played saxophone and was part of a band called “The Kid Band.”  Father Coates, Associate Pastor at Ascension, would ask them to play at the Friday night dances held at the Ascension Club.


John Connors - Faces in the Pews.pagesWhile at Patrick Henry, he met Gail Grobe, who would become his bride in a few years.  They were married at Ascension on Oct. 26, 1946, with Fr. Richard Bonin presiding.  His beloved Gail passed away less than two years ago.  Her funeral was held at Ascension.  His great grandson, Jamison, did a reading from Paul … so very well, at age 5.  His granddaughter, Thomasina, sang “How Beautiful” and other songs.


John, his daughter Bridget, Thomasina, and Jamison are a close-knit family unit.  At the 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass, John, Bridget, and Jamison sitt in the right front area of the church. Thomasina is not far to the right, singing with the Ascension musical group.


John served in the United States Army for two years, at Fort Snelling as a medic, and in Panama working as a broadcaster and in the Army band. Afterward he began a long career in the United States Postal Service.


Naturally, he was in the USPS band.  More precisely the National Association of Letter Carriers Band.  This band had a convention every two years in various places, including Hawaii.  The convention always included a parade.  These letter carriers, each area with its distinct band uniforms, made up the third largest parade in the United States (after the American Legion and the VFW).  A major event was when he and the band played at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, on January 20, 1961.  His wife and mother came to this memorable occasion.


This person ­– John, Irishman, Catholic, great grandfather, grandfather, dad –continues to savor life.


He plays his three saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor) every day. Twice a month he plays in a dance band in St. Paul called, “The Golden Tones.”  He quipped, “They should be called “The Olden Tones.”


Asked to share what is it that he likes about Ascension, in less than an instant he said, “Originally, the ‘Irishness’ of Monsignors Dunphy and Coates; now the openness and love.”

Lee-Anne Kantorowicz

Faces in the Pews: Lee-Anne Kantorowitz

By Betty Lou Miller


Lee-Anne and I sat down at her kitchen table to talk about her life, her family, and her Ascension-family life. The coffee and cookies were ready and welcoming. A variety of birds – a cardinal, a flicker, a downey woodpecker – all came to check on us.


We knew each other as previous parishioners at St. Philip, where she had been very involved with Senior Outings and Senior Luncheons.


Lee-Anne became a widow in 2000. She and her husband, Wally, had been parishioners at St. Philip beginning in 1997. She joined Ascension in 2010. She is mom to Brian, Julie, and Kim; grandma to Jeremy, Chris, Erik, Emily, Josh, Patrick, and Joey; and great-grandma to Lilah Grace.


At Ascension, Lee-Anne is a volunteer for Sunday Morning hospitality.


She has overcome breast cancer, back surgery, a heart attack and, very recently, complete-shoulder-replacement surgery.


Her roots are 100% Swedish.  All four grandparents arrived through Ellis Island, settling in Red Wing and Minneapolis.  Her grandfather worked at Red Wing Pottery. Her dad drove a milk truck and later went into farming, which brought them to Zimmerman and Pine City.  Lee-Anne graduated from Pine City High School.


Some of Lee-Anne’s creative hobbies are  scrap-booking, which includes lots of browsing through Michael’s Craft Store to obtain just the right paper and decorations to have the desired outcome; making log cabin quilts; and doing fun crafts with her grandkids, such as creating ornaments or Creatology (houses made of foam).


On one of her recent “Mystery Trips” with a friend, she toured Waterloo, Iowa; they stopped at museums along the way and stayed at interesting old bed and breakfast places.  On the return trip, they went to the Spam Museum in Austin, Minn.  Lee-Anne loves Spam!  Had it as a kid; uses it now in a variety of tasty dishes.


Her favorite thing about Ascension?  “Everyone is Welcome.”