Monday, April 22, 2013

Featured Author: Diana Milesko

Diana Milesko is here to talk about Faith Stories of One Good Catholic Girl, a wry and thoughtful rendering of Catholicism that sheds new insights on the dichotomy between Church rulings and the message of Christ. Viewed through the author’s sometimes amusing experience as a Catholic as well as her research, it provides a compassionate look at the challenges and possibilities for renewal in the Church today.

Interview with Diana Milesko

I love the title Faith Stories of One Good Catholic Girl. How did you come up with it?
Faith Stories of One Good Catholic Girl is the title for this book because, when we were children, a good Catholic girl was presumably the highest compliment anyone could bestow on my four sisters or me.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

I prefer to write in my office in quiet.

Where’s home for you?

Sometimes I think home is my car, as I travel so much.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do when it happens?

When I get writer’s block I do something else and forget about writing for awhile. It lets my subconscious take over, so when I return to writing my ideas have become clarified.

Is there anything in particular that you do to help the writing flow? Music? Acting out the scene? Long showers?

A good light, comfortable chair, and plenty of quiet help me write.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

“Knowing God is impossible unless we enter into a life of love and communion with others.” (Quest for the Living God, by Elizabeth A. Johnson.2007.P 223.

Did you have any say in your cover art?

I’m a photo-journalist and took the picture for the book’s cover. The sunrise and silhouette of a sea-gull seemed appropriate symbols of how we are drawn to enlightenment as well as to the cosmos.

Who are your favorite authors?

Currently my favorite authors are Sr. Joan Chittister, Elizabeth A. Johnson, Gary Macy, and Michael Morwood.

What are your favorite books or favorite authors...

a) as a child
As a child my favorite books were the Flicka, Ricka and Dicka and Snip, Snap and Snur series by Maj Lindman (c) 1946, probably because they were the first books I could read all by myself.

b) as a teenager
I enjoyed the Nancy Drew series as a teenager, as well as all of Agatha Christie’s books.  I loved mystery stories and puzzling out how to solve the problem.

c) as an adult
It’s impossible to mention all the books I love and read as an adult. A few include William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, all of Donald Westlake and Terry Pratcher’s Books, and many of Janet Evanovich’s books. I’m a fan of humourous mystery stories. However, non-fiction is probably my favorite reading material. For example, Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert Massie is a riveting account of the last Russian Tsar before the Bolshevik Revolution.

Which author would you most like to invite to dinner, and what would you fix him or her?

It would be wonderful to meet and talk with Sr. Joan Chittister, who has written many books about spirituality. She is an eloquent and profound writer. I’d serve soup, because it is easy to eat and doesn’t get in the way of conversation.

What book are you currently reading?

Currently I’m reading The Baltic: A New History of the Region and Its People by Alan Palmer. I’m also re-reading the Frog and Toad series and Fancy Nancy to the grandchildren.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

Gratefully.  While praise is nice, criticism can be educational.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

“I only made one mistake in my life, and that was when I thought I was wrong.”

Ha! I think my mother said that. What three books have you read recently and would recommend?

The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully by Joan Chittister
The Case for God by Karen Armstrong
The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination by Gary Macy

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Hike, bike, sail, swim, read, and play the piano.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Anywhere beautiful and safe.

If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? (Don’t worry about the money. Your publisher is paying.)

If they’re REALLY paying, I’d take my entire family--spouse, children, grandchildren and self--on a first class trip to Alaska, New Zealand, and Australia. After flying to Alaska first class, we’d take an educational cruise to the glaciers and take side-trips to hike, kayak and visit other areas, then fly first class (it’s a LONG flight!) to Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. They’d book educational tours at all places for us in advance.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m planning that free trip! ;-)

Faith Stories of One Good Catholic Girl

Why can’t I?

    Children want to be many things when they grow up, and their ideas change as they mature. They may decide to be a doctor or astronaut one day, a fireman, engineer, policeman or priest, another day.

    Seldom does an adult say, “No, you can’t be that. You’re not good enough,” because most adults know two things. First, a child’s career thoughts vary widely from day to day, and second, telling a child they can’t be something diminishes that child’s self esteem.

    One of many careers I considered as a child was to become a priest, mostly because I couldn’t fathom God. I reckoned a priest got to shake hands with God. They were close; they understood each other. Another reason was that the priesthood was highly valued in the Church. I wanted the Church and God to value me highly.

    At daily Mass before school, I marveled how the priest could chant a phrase, create magic, and turn bread and wine into the real body and blood of Christ even though it still looked like bread and wine. Since I could never figure out God, I thought it would be great to be a priest. Then I would know how God did it. I wanted to peek into the magician’s empty hat, as it were, and see how God pulled it off.

    One day in first grade, Sister went around the classroom and asked each student what they wanted to be when they grew up. Before my turn came, I thought of many possible vocations, then settled on one.

    At my turn, I stood and said, “I want to be a priest.” The class hooted with laughter.

    Sister said, “You can’t be a priest.”

    “Why not?” I was baffled.

    “Because you’re a girl,” she replied crossly.

    “Why can’t girls be priests?”

    “Sit down,” she ordered. I sat down, flabbergasted.

    Whoever heard of such a thing! A person couldn’t be a priest because she was a girl? Being a priest didn’t take muscles, like opening a pickle jar!

    Now I began to think it would be great to be a priest. I would understand God, maybe, and help others to understand God. The giggles subsided, and we went onto arithmetic. That statement from Sister shifted my thoughts about Christianity. It wasn’t that I had a burning desire to become a priest. Children want to be many things. The upsetting thing was that Sister said I couldn’t be a priest just because I was a girl—not because of my desire to love God, or due to bad behavior or poor abilities. It was nothing I could work on or make better. I couldn’t be a priest because God made me wrong. Why would God make someone inferior on purpose? It was crazy. Girls were as good as boys.

    Sister must be wrong, I thought. I’ll ask Mother. Mother confirmed what Sister said, but in kinder terms. “You wouldn’t want to be a priest. It’s too much work.” If mother said it was too much work, it probably was. I dropped the subject, but felt devalued. The Catholic Church, which was such a big part of my life, said I could only ever be a second-class citizen. It wasn’t fair! I didn’t understand how the priesthood worked. When my uncle was ordained, I wondered how a priest, a man, could marry God. But I didn’t puzzle over it. I had been told bluntly that ordination wasn’t my sacrament. Years later, I was able to articulate why the attitude of the Church is so destructive. Women are easily as spiritual as men, if not more so.

    And they contribute in too many ways—-as homemakers, breadwinners, astronauts, engineers, theologians, educators, politicians, government and business leaders—to be told by their religion they are second-rate. It’s simply not true.

    The belief that ordination is not a sacrament for Catholic women is changing with the worldwide ordination of women priests through the Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) movement. Women priests were once the Church’s best kept secret. Not any more.

    When women see a problem that’s not being addressed, they roll up their sleeves and address it—-with or without going through official channels. They believe sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission. Women priests are a critical component of ordination. They represent the half of God’s love which flows in women.

Author bio:

Diana Milesko is a professional speaker, writer, and photo-journalist who has taught humanities, media, and English at universities through high schools in Illinois, Connecticut, and Florida. Other careers include that of counselor, speech writer, and publisher.

She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois, her master’s at Loyola University Chicago, and her doctorate at Global Ministries University.

Milesko has been a Catholic throughout her life, serving as cantor, communion minister, and choir member in several states, and in her earlier life, playing the organ and singing for Masses and weddings. Her lifelong passion for music is demonstrated by her love of playing the piano. At one time she sang in a female barbershop chorus; as a young adult she played guitar and harmonica (predating Bob Dylan), at schools and clubs.

Her engaging talks at churches, universities, clubs, and libraries illuminate contemporary issues such as ethics, health, and the environment. Topics include, " What’s Eating America?" (about today’s food industry), "How to Live Well and Long," and "Planet Pollution." She has participated in discussion groups such as the University of Chicago’s Roundtable on Teaching the Adult Learner.

Buy the book:
Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Virtual Bookworm Publishing