The Rev. William Beckmann has done a lot more to advance Christianity than giving me something to write about every holiday season when he makes a presentation on the history of Christmas and its many traditions.

He's been active in Christian education for a long time, working as a religion and world history teacher at Luther North in Chicago and Concordia High School in Wayne for more than 10 years before he came to St. Charles in 1978 to be the principal at Valley Lutheran High School, where he worked until the school closed and relocated in 1991.

For all of that and more, the current co-director of children's ministries at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Batavia received the prestigious Christus Magister award last week as a lifetime achievement honor from the Lutheran Education Association.

"I never dreamed I would get this," Beckmann said of the honor for which his colleagues nominated him, and the association has given out since 1965. "I looked at the list of others who have been honored, and there are some pretty distinguished names on there."

Beckmann's sphere of influence is extremely wide, but he recalls one incident fondly; one most area residents should know well.

Darlene Marcusson, who approached then-Mayor Fred Norris in the early 1980s about allowing the Lazarus House homeless shelter to operate within St. Charles, found the inspiration for that calling through Beckmann.

"When I started teaching, my first year at Valley Lutheran, she was in my religion class," Beckmann said.

Years later, Marcusson gave a presentation at Beckmann's service club and told him that seeds for the shelter project were set during that religion class.

"She said I gave her the impetus to start caring for others and to be concerned about other people," Beckmann said. "I didn't plan it that way, but you do what you are supposed to do, and what you are called to do as a Christian person. And it is rewarding to know you had an influence on others."

A hoops dream:

Before closing the notebook on the Geneva girls' basketball team's state title last weekend, let me just say it's truly amazing how far the sport has come since I first began reporting on girls' games in 1978.

In those early years of Title IX, when girls' sports were seeking equal attention and support, it was pretty rare to come across teams that had mastered the skills needed for basketball.

A case in point would be Stephanie Hart's heads-up offensive rebound to win the state title in which she grabbed a loose ball in mid air and flipped it up toward the basket in one motion as the final seconds unfolded.

In 1978, that particular type of rebound would result in five or six girls pretty much standing flat-footed or jumping a few inches, all reaching for the ball at about the same plane. If someone actually corralled the ball, everything would stop for a few seconds, or someone else would grab it too.

Everyone was playing the game at the same level, far below the rim.

It's been a great transformation to see what girls' basketball has become the past couple decades, and to see Geneva's girls simply master the individual skills and team concept of this great game.

This basketball team and the state-champion dance team deserved the community celebration the school held for them last Wednesday.

Let's have fish:

Many Catholics are on the hunt for a Friday fish fry now that Lent has kicked into high gear.

And who says a pastor can't use some good business sense to attract his flock to a fish fry?

That seems to be the case for Father Jon Bakkelund at St. Peter Church in Geneva. He is promoting a fish fry event sponsored by the Knights of Columbus that started at the church earlier this month. The fish fry dinners continue March 17, 24 and 31, and April 7. They are open to the public.

The dinners start at 6 p.m., or just after the Stations of the Cross are read in the church at 5:30 p.m. Those who attend the readings are encouraged to slip right into McLoughlin Hall for the dinner, featuring cod filets and shrimp, at $10 per person and $5 for children 12 and younger. Carry-outs are available. Beer and wine is $4 and soda $1.

And here's something Catholics won't complain about too much. Because St. Patrick's Day falls on this coming Friday, the fish fry that night will include a corned beef and cabbage option. The bishop is giving a thumbs-up on this one, saying it is OK for Catholics to eat meat that particular Friday during this Lenten season.

A Goodwill cause:

St. Charles East students participated in a "Shoot the Puck" competition last week through Goodwill in which the school that could collect the most items for donation would get a visit from Blackhawk stars Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz for a shooting contest.

The East students gave it the old college try, collecting 47,400 items for donation, but they had to settle for third place. Not bad, though, considering 260 high schools in the Chicago area participated.

The winner? Rolling Meadows High School with more than 114,500 donations.

Watch for this:

Downtown businessman Mike Simon tells me Geneva is about to get a new restaurant that will stand out as quite different from anything else the city currently offers. So we'll keep our eyes open on that.

It means the "For Rent" sign at Nosh is coming off the window because the new restaurant will eventually take up shop at that 211 James St. site.

Nosh will soon move to 22 N. Third St., where a J.C. Licht paint shop once operated. It will be across the street from Gia Mia and should give that portion of Third Street more activity.

For those keeping track of all of these moving parts, the Benjamin Moore J.C. Licht store moved to the strip center at 716 W. State St. a few years ago.