- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015
Wisconsin convent says prayer has gone on nonstop since 1878

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) - Flooding, snowstorms, a flu outbreak, even a fire - any of those might have slowed a group of Wisconsin nuns who say none of it has kept their order from praying nonstop for hundreds of thousands of people over the last 137 years.

The La Crosse-based Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration claim to have been praying night and day for the ill and the suffering longer than anyone in the United States - since 11 a.m. on Aug. 1, 1878.

“When I walk into the chapel I can feel this tangible presence kind of hit (me),” said Sister Sarah Hennessey, who helps coordinate the prayers.

The tradition of perpetual Eucharistic adoration - uninterrupted praying before what is believed to be the body of Christ - dates to 1226 in France, according to Sister Marlene Weisenbeck. Catholic orders around the world have done it since then. It grew in popularity in 19th century and again under Pope John Paul II, said Father Steven Avella, a history professor at Marquette University.

In La Crosse, the nuns estimate they’ve prayed for hundreds of thousands of people, including 150,000 in the last decade.

“Sometimes it’s overwhelming with the pain that people have and the illnesses that they are suffering,” said Donna Benden, who is among 180 lay people known as “prayer partners” who help the 100 sisters. Benden prays from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. every Wednesday before going to work.

The order started asking for community help in 1997, when the number of nuns began dwindling. Nowadays, the sisters usually take night shifts and lay people cover the day, according to Sister Maria Friedman, who schedules two people for every hour. “Even the sisters go away frequently or take on other tasks, it’s the complexity of modern life,” she said.

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Milwaukee man charged with setting fatal house fire

MILWAUKEE (AP) - A 26-year-old Milwaukee man is accused of using an accelerant to start a house fire that killed a 2-year-old girl and seriously injured a 10-year-old boy.

Michael Morgan was charged Wednesday with arson in the fatal fire Oct. 20 at his estranged wife’s home in Milwaukee. He faces up to 40 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.

Six children and their grandmother were home at the time of the fire. The grandmother was able to guide four of the children, ranging in age from 1 to 11, to safety.

Firefighters found 2-year-old Taenajah Morgan and Michael Morgan’s 10-year-old stepson inside the home.

The girl died the following day at a hospital. Her death is being investigated as a homicide.

It wasn’t immediately known if Morgan has an attorney.

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Oscar Mayer’s Madison plant among 7 closing

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Oscar Mayer employees and government officials struggled to come to grips Wednesday with the news that the meat processer’s parent company will shut down its Madison headquarters, wiping out hundreds of jobs at a company that has been a part of the community’s fabric since 1919.

Kraft Heinz Food Co. said the Madison Oscar Mayer offices and adjoining processing plant is one of seven plants in the U.S. and Canada that will close as part of an effort to save $1.5 billion in costs. The headquarters will shift from Madison to Chicago; the other plants slated for closure include facilities in Fullerton, California; San Leandro, California; Federalsburg, Maryland; St. Marys, Ontario, Canada; Campbell, New York; and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

The company plans to shed a total of 2,600 jobs. About 300 corporate workers in Madison will be offered jobs at the company’s co-headquarters in Chicago; the remaining 700 or so production workers here will lose their positions in three waves of layoffs over the next two years, Mayor Paul Soglin said at a news conference.

“It definitely bites,” said Joshua Nehls, 38, of Janesville, who has worked at the Madison facility for a decade; his current task is packing Lunchable snack packs. “It’s tragic. There were a lot of tears (when company officials announced the closure). A lot of people’s lives are here.”

Oscar G. Mayer, son of the man who founded the company, decided to buy a slaughtering plant in 1919 to supply raw materials for processed meats.

The company moved its corporate headquarters from Chicago to Madison in 1955, according to a Kraft Foods timeline. The company started its continuous wiener process machine, capable of producing 36,000 wieners per hour, in Madison in 1962.

Since then Oscar Mayer has become known for its cold cuts, its “My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R” jingle and its Wienermobiles, 27-foot-long vehicles shaped like hot dogs that travel the nation promoting the company.

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Lawmakers: Oscar Mayer Madison plant closing ‘gut wrenching’

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin lawmakers are calling for action to prevent an Oscar Mayer plant in Madison from closing.

Kraft Heinz Food Co. announced Wednesday it will close seven plants in North America, including the flagship Oscar Mayer plant in Madison. The plant currently employs about 1,000 people.

State Sen. Fred Risser and state Rep. Chris Taylor, Madison Democrats whose districts include the plant, call the announcement “gut wrenching.”

Risser and Taylor say they already have spoken to Madison Mayor Paul Soglin’s office and Gov. Scott Walker’s office about keeping the company in Madison and saving those jobs.

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha says the closing “accentuates the urgent need for action on jobs.”

Barca urged the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to add the closing to its board agenda next week.

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