This past weekend, I was honored to present at the Dallas Catholic Youth Conference. The following is my talk/presentation on meditation:Read More
I came home tonight from an afternoon and evening spent with my best friend in Dallas, Mark, cherishing time together and reflecting over the last (couple of) years, the things that have changed, the things that are the same, and how we feel about a number of different things. When I got home, I found numerous Christmas cards filled with letters from friends, updating me on their lives. I don’t usually send those kinds of cards and I’m writing this blog in place of that.
Every New Year’s, I spend time in reflection over the last year and thinking about where I want to go in the new year. Since last year, I have added using Leonie Dawson’s amazing books to my New Year’s retreat (thanks, Hannah Bagnall, for introducing me to that!). The time in reflection is good for me. Usually, I keep that private, but this year so many things have happened and changed that I want to share some of them with my friends.
This time last year, I was actually in Irving, visiting dear friends and family over my Christmas break. I knew then what I had told very few people, that I would probably be leaving Indianapolis. I had just finished my application to UNT and after such precious time with loved ones, I found myself praying that I would end up at UNT over any of the other places I had applied to.
My last semester at Butler was complicated, but beautiful. I enjoyed a Nun Night where my beloved sisters came to visit my girls and we played board games. I took several students to the Woods for Alternative Spring Break to work at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice (where I lived as a volunteer for five months in 2013 while preparing for my exams at Notre Dame) and they fell in love so much that we went back for the Earth Day celebrations. I told Father that I would be leaving Indiana and I faced his disappointment. I told my students that I was leaving and my heart ached as I watched some of them grieve. I dealt with the frustration of working with the Archdiocese to find my replacement—they were slow to move and Father and I lived in fear that the community we had built would be left without support. I was included in interviews and listened to students talk about their fears for the future. It was a true practice in humility and detachment, and I am grateful for the growing experience of leaving a ministry that I continue to love and miss very much.
I know some have heard me talk about the negative aspects of my ministry at Butler and I want to take the chance to explain some of that. If you already know all this or simply don’t care about why I left Butler, you can skip the next few paragraphs. While there were many parts of my life in Indianapolis that I hated, my students were never one of them. I loved them immensely and continue to love them and pray for them, but I am glad to know that they are under the wings of someone much more suited to that life than I am right now. In Indianapolis, I struggled to make friends because of my crazy ministry schedule, my need for introvert time with an extremely extroverted job, and my inability to find many people outside of my sisters and friends from Echo that had similar interests. I am infinitely grateful for the friends I did have—my sisters, friends from Echo, and ministry friends at Butler as well as St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. I never could have made it through that last year without them—and not only did I survive, I enjoyed moments of great happiness. Please do not think I lived my whole time there miserable and alone in the world.
My last year in Indianapolis, I lived alone. That was a great decision, because I was coming out of a very negative and hurtful community experience and needed space to heal. Sometimes I was lonely, but fortunately I had the community of the Retreat in Daily Life that I was participating through Providence Center at St. Mary of the Woods (which included two sisters, one who is 92(!), and two other young women about my age). My friend Annie, who was brave enough to embark on this 30 week retreat with me, would come to my office and together we would skype the other women. I treasured the time we would spend after the meeting, talking and dreaming together.
The diocese of Indianapolis, while it succeeds with some social justice issues and the larger parishes work to address poverty, is an overwhelmingly conservative diocese. Because every person who works for the diocese signs a paper stating that we will not “promote or support any ideas contrary to Church teaching,” I found it hard to be myself and be open, even with my friends outside of the office. My first two years in Indianapolis, I lived in fear of my community because the members of my community had expressed disapproval of my spirituality (including not only my prayer style, but my relationship with the Sisters of Providence) and “concern for my soul” on a regular basis. My last year, I lived in fear because if someone took something I said offhand and reported it to the diocese I could lose my job and have no recourse. So, when I wasn’t with my sisters or the limited number of friends that I felt completely at home with, I was generally living with a mask. I loved my students and I enjoyed and appreciated my ministry friends, but I needed something else to add stability to my life. I am an introvert and can thrive on my own, but I am also a community-centered person. While loneliness is an inherent part of the human condition, it was the degree of my loneliness (and the depression I started to experience) that made me realize I needed to make a change. Added to this was the added strain of maintaining my diocese-approved mask, which made me feel like I was being dishonest and lacking integrity.
It wasn’t all like that, though. During my time in Indianapolis, my sisters were my saving grace. Their support and love through my times of confusion and pain were my source of strength. Their constant reminder to trust in Providence and meet with people where they are (as Jesus did), made me a better minister, person, and friend. In answer to the ever-popular question, yes, I have on many occasions thought about applying to become a Sister of Providence. I love being an associate and my relationship to that community is the most important in my life. The idea of growing old with my friends, living in community, and taking on a greater role in the community I love so dearly is certainly appealing. However, student loans and a predisposition to need autonomy (I would struggle greatly with a vow of obedience at this point in my life—we will all see what comes in the future) made it evident that path is not right for me, at least now. I am not certain it will ever be my path, but only time will tell. I am happy with my life.
At the same time as my loneliness and frustrations were becoming evident to me, I realized something else. With the distance that a year without study (if you ignore the comprehensive exams I took in July 2013, as I did for almost the entire year before I took them) could provide, I realized that I missed being in school. I spent a lot of time in reflection about what I would want to study if I went back. I knew that I didn’t want to deal with another Classics department—I had heard too many stories about the cutthroat attitude in upper-level classics. Besides that, I would only really want to study Greek, but most programs require study of Latin as well. I also knew that theology is not for me. My experience of God is more relational and spiritual than rule based and, after my experiences at Notre Dame, I didn’t want to deal with theology people. This is not to say that I disrespect Theology or people who study it. On the contrary, one of my dear friends in Dallas is a theology professor and I have a lot of friends who are doing continued theology work. I just knew I didn’t have the patience or proper disposition for further study in Theology. I considered a D Min or a PhD in Spirituality, but knew that I would likely encounter the same issues as I did in ministry. I also considered simply applying for another ministry position (and did so), but I came to realize that I need time away from ministry and theology to heal and get myself together. I believe wholeheartedly that I will someday end up back in ministry for the Catholic Church—but I need time.
When I thought about it, I realized that the only thing I could really see myself teaching long term (and as my friend Greg Roper says, a PhD is just vocational school for teaching) is literature. After being prompted from my friend and mentor, Dr. Sommerfeldt, to consider my deepest passions, I realized that what I would really love is to study agrarian literature (think literature about farming and farm culture—The Georgics, Wendell Berry, Faulkner, that sort of stuff). I wasn’t sure that agrarian literature was actually a thing, but I quickly found that environmental literature, which includes agrarian literature and can include literature of the American South, was in fact something one can get a PhD in. And, miracle of miracles, the University of North Texas, only 40 minutes from my community of friends and family back in Irving, offers such a degree.
So, back to 2014. In March of 2014, I received the hoped-for acceptance letter to UNT along with an offer of a fellowship to teach two freshman comp courses each semester. I walked home, my heart pounding, and shared the news with my next door neighbors—the only people at Butler I could really tell until I formally resigned. After discernment and talking it over with my mom, my best friend, and my sisters, I sent back my response: an overwhelming YES.
While on ASB at the Woods, two different sisters let it slip in front of my students that I would be leaving Butler, but the official announcement was saved for April. By that time, most of my (very astute) students had already figured out that I was leaving. Some shed tears, others tried to hide their relief (hey, I never said I was popular with all of them!). All in all, they were supportive. Some even said they wished they could be in my classes.
I left Butler in June and packed up my house, which I had hoped to be living in long term and therefore had brought a lot of childhood mementos and things. My mom and a friend moved my belongings to Missouri while I drove to the Woods. As I drove onto the campus of Saint Mary of the Woods, I felt a huge weight leave my shoulders. I rested with my sisters and enjoyed our Annual meeting. I witnessed my dear friend Arrianne take her first vows and reminisced about how I had met her at a “Come and See” weekend before she even entered. I cherished time with my best friend, Hannah, and was grateful as my sisters, who were sad that I was moving so far away, were also supportive, happy, and excited for me. After the Annual Meeting was over, I left the Woods and drove to Missouri, where I spent an entire month anxious about this big step I had taken. I almost backed out of moving to Denton several times, but fortunately where I lost faith I had friends and family who had enough faith for two. (Besides that, where else would I go?)
I had searched for a roommate or place to live for a couple months while still at Butler and was relieved when a guy in UNT’s Environmental Philosophy PhD program asked me to move in with him. My students obsessively stalked him online (sorry Fabio) and my mother worried about her daughter moving in with a complete stranger. It turns out that her worries were in vain, because Fabio is wonderful and is literally the best roommate I have ever had (no joke). Our problems have been very few and I consider myself blessed. It was truly Providence that we got connected. I’m so grateful. I am also grateful that when I arrived at our tiny little house in August, my family (the Parent/Ponikiewskis) and my bestie, Mark, showed up to unload my car and my mom’s car. My car was full and my mom’s car had traveled from Rolla, Missouri to Denton, Texas with my bed and mattress strapped to the roof (something I will never do again and don’t recommend). Mark, Mark, and Trevor quickly unloaded, Patty hung up hangers and clothes, Rachel helped everyone, and Randi mostly entertained us with Ranger, her dog (which was more important and necessary than you might think). I don’t know what we would have done without them. My mom stayed with me long enough to help me unpack and shop for the random things I needed. Then, she left and I became a UNT student for real.
Since I moved in, the last six months have been a blur. I went to Orientation with the English department, where I made my first set of friends at UNT. I settled into my desk in the Teaching Fellow office and got into a rhythm of going to class, teaching, grading, and studying. I have found that the people in the English Department are awesome, really without exception. I enjoy the friendly banter in the office and hope to continue to develop friendships with many of the other TFs, PhD candidates, and MA students.
I started going to Mass at UD after I found that the local parish wasn’t comfortable (it’s really big). It turns out that, for me at least, going to Mass at UD includes sitting with the Sommerfeldts, weekly hugs from Dr. Norris, and regular lunches with Anna, Andrew, Joe, and Irene. So, for the few people who would care enough to judge me for going to Mass at my undergrad instead of making a local parish my home, you’re doing it wrong. Be jealous instead.
I spend a lot of time with my UD friends and family, while still getting to develop a community at UNT, and having time alone. I am finding a balance, or as much of a balance as anyone can have.
This year I also started SpiritualUprising Magazine and UP Ministries with Molly and we’ve kept it going through our transitions. This semester I started the habit of walking daily, joined the Tone It Up nutrition plan, walked a 5K, taught my first semester of classes, wrote 2 twenty page papers and cited the Sisters of Providence in both of them, watched multiple movies and spent time with friends, and so many other wonderful things. It’s been a great semester and a great year. Things aren’t perfect—I’ve had bronchitis for 2 months and am still relatively sick, my uncle was just diagnosed with leukemia, and my dad’s health continues to go back and forth. I've struggled to find time to write and do things I want to do and at the beginning of my time in Denton, I was still trying to shake the issues from Indy. But, through it all, I have had people who love me. I had a friend wiling to drive me to the ER when my fever hit 104 and bring me food while I was recovering. I had professors who were supportive and understanding. I have a roof over my head. I am blessed with the opportunity to continue my education and teach truly wonderful college kids, which is more like ministry than you would think. I come home to a roommate who doesn’t steal from, judge, or demean me.
I am happy.
I hope that you and yours are, too.
Merry Christmas and Happy 2015.
“The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness” Part III
A Quick Note on the Psalms
by Kaitlyn Willy, Chaplain’s Apprentice
The last of my series on the retreat. Originally posted at http://butlercatholiccommunity.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-quick-note-on-psalms.html
First of all, thank you to everyone who sent me supportive emails and texts after my last blog. I am still processing my grief. I appreciate continued prayers.
I wanted to talk about one more thing that happened at my retreat, a tool that I believe many of us forget about when it comes to praying through darkness: the psalms.
During my first Echo Summer, before I came to Butler, I took a class on the Psalms. Ever since, I have loved them. And really, why shouldn’t we love the psalms? They are the prayer, not only of Christians, but of our Jewish brothers and sisters as well. Jesus himself was taught and prayed the Psalms. If they’re good enough for Christ, they’re good enough for me.
Throughout the retreat, we kept coming back to the psalms. We talked about how the psalms can give words to our emotions. There are so many about so many different things. There are psalms of lament and psalms of praise. Some end happily, some are just angry all the way through. Our director of formation reminded us that when praying a psalm of lament, it’s always good to pair it with a psalm of hope. Or, you can do one that covers both. My personal favorites are 23 and 42. Then, rarely, when I’m really angry and refuse to be consoled, I go to 77.
Since the early church, it has been a tradition to sing the psalms daily. Monks used to have to memorize the psalter before they were allowed to officially join the monastery. St. Augustine says: “Singing is for the one who loves.” The Psalms were the most common songs of the early church and Augustine wrote hundreds of commentaries on them. I’m not certain, but I think that the only thing in scripture with more commentaries than the psalms is the Lord’s Prayer.
So, my invitation to you is to open up your Bible to the Psalms and give them a try. They’re good consolation in times of distress.
“The Joy of Waiting”
This is part of my short series of reflections about the Echo Winter retreat.
You can find the original version of this blog at: http://butlercatholiccommunity.blogspot.com/2012/11/in-spirit-of-christ-which-is-love.html
So, I was going to write about all the travels that I’ve been doing lately. I mean, I’ve gotten to do a lot. I spent a weekend at St. Mary of the Woods for my orientation as a Providence Associate. That was an awesome opportunity to grow closer to God. I then spent last weekend, actually 5 days, in Dallas for a Ministry Conference. I got to see cool people, family and friends that I have been missing and wanting to see. I’ve had so many blessings lately and I wanted to tell you all about that. But then, today, I was reading my facebook news feed and something else more important was re-iterated to me in a way that I feel like I have to tell you about it.
One of my good friends from college is also one of my heroes. Her name is Genevieve. I call her Genna. And Genna is a teacher in the poorest school district at the poorest grade school in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Yes, I know, we talk a lot about poverty at the BCC. We’re Catholic and part of Catholic Social Teaching is preferential option for the poor. But let me tell you about this poverty.
One of the students in the bilingual class at Gena’s school lost his shoes the other day.
Who knows where or why, he’s a five year old boy. That happens. The problem is, they were his only pair of shoes. His mother sent him to school in slippers. The school said that wasn’t appropriate footwear and he had to go home until he had real shoes. His mom can’t buy shoes until the middle of the month at payday. It’s the beginning of the month now. This kid is going to have to stay home from school for a week—in kindergarten, an important year where missing a week is like missing a month—because his mom can’t buy shoes. And that’s not to mention that he probably gets the majority of his food at school. So now, he has no shoes and he’s hungry. And the school district can’t do a thing about it, because they can’t even put paper in the classrooms. The teachers have to buy their own supplies. And let me tell you, these teachers don’t get paid much.
Guys, this is not okay.
My first instinct was to ask Genna what size shoes I need to buy this kid. I mean, I can’t do a lot to change the world, but I can get this kid shoes so he can go to school. Genna can’t do it—the school doesn’t pay her enough to keep her own kids in nice shoes, much less put shoes on her students. I’m still waiting to find out about his shoe size. I know there are several other friends of Genna who are waiting for the same thing. One of us will get him shoes. And when we do, he will go to school. And someday, I pray, he will change the world and then, maybe there won’t be any kids without shoes.
But my buying a pair of shoes doesn’t really solve the problem.
The problem is, I live in a house with nine other people. Between all of us, there are probably over hundred pairs of shoes in this house. And there are probably over a hundred kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex whose shoes are too small or too big and cause blisters or too worn to keep their feet warm. Why? Why is it that in the richest nation in the world in the 21st century this is still happening? And forget Dallas, my old home, what about Indianapolis? What about our city, the one in which we attend school and live at least 9 months out of the year? What about the kids in our schools?
I imagine it’s not much different.
We need to reevaluate our lives, people.
I have been talking about Nazareth Farm (where the BCC will be taking our Alternative Spring Break trip next semester) a lot lately. That’s because a) I love it and b) I want you to go and love it, too. One of the four cornerstones of Nazareth Farm is simplicity. Let’s talk about simplicity for a moment.
Simplicity seems to mean something different for every person. One person can say they’re living in simplicity while they have a flat screen tv and a dvr (I would question this person and their idea of need). The next person might be living in a tiny house (check out Tumbleweed Tiny Houses if you don’t know what I’m talking about) and own less than 100 items (I can’t do that—sorry, my books are really important to me). Whatever you think simplicity is, we are called to it. As we say at Naz Farm, we are called to live simply so that others may simply live.
During the month of November, I would like to both invite and challenge you to try to live more simply. Maybe that means not going out for that burger, ordering that pizza or those insomnia cookies. Maybe that means that instead of buying a new scarf, you’re going to use the one you bought last year. Same for that new coat and those new mittens. Maybe you’ll look in your closet, count the number of pairs of shoes you own and donate a dollar for every pair to the BCC Christmas Family Adoption fund. If you don’t have a lot of shoes, but find yourself buying a lot of something else, maybe you’ll match that. Maybe you’ll tell Mom and Dad that instead of yet another new blouse or new boots, you want to donate that money somewhere else. Maybe you’ll participate in the Tech Fast and see where, without the temptation of entertainment technology, you really do have enough time to volunteer, to serve, to change the world. Maybe. I can’t make that decision for you. I can only decide for me.
As we begin November, I notice a lot of Christmas stuff in the stores. It’s a little early for it, but I am starting to be in a Christmas mindset. Christmas reminds me of my Uncle Tim, who I never met. He died from cancer at the age of 18 almost three years before I was born. But my uncle had a saying and it was passed on to me. Around Christmas, when he wanted something, he would say, “In the spirit of Christmas, which is love, please ___.”
In the spirit of Christmas, which is love…. Perhaps it would be better to say, “In the spirit of CHRIST, which is love.” Because He was love. He was not just love the noun, but love the verb. Suddenly the question at Christmas becomes the same as the question we must ask ourselves every day all year round: How do I, Kaitlyn Willy, love better? How do we, the Butler Catholic Community, love better? How do you, reader, love better?
To answer that, this year, in place of buying each other gifts, my community is adopting a local family and giving them Christmas. And by Christmas, I don’t mean they’re getting a bunch of toys (though I might slip a few in). Primarily, I’m shopping for PJs, undies, socks, and bras for an elderly grandma and her daughter and clothes to keep their three babies warm. This family will be way more excited about these clothes—which won’t be all that nice and certainly won’t be name-brand items—than I have ever been about a Christmas gift. Need does that to people, it makes them find joy in the simple things.
In keeping with this spirit of love, the BCC Service Committee and Leadership Team have decided to adopt two families for Christmas. I mentioned this above, in the “maybe” paragraph. I’m serious, friends—count those shoes, those lattes, those whatever-you-spend-your-money-ons. Donate a dollar for each one you have. Or, donate five dollars, ten dollars, whatever you can muster. Ask mom or dad or grandma to give you your Christmas money early—donate it. Make a difference.
And, if you really want to keep it up, go to Nazareth Farm. Live simply so that others may simply live. Do as Christ calls us to in the reading for tomorrow: love your neighbor as yourself. Change the world.
When people ask me to describe my students, I say that they all want to save the world. Guess what, friends—this is how you change the world. You change it one person at a time. Not one poor person at a time, but one human being made in the image and likeness of God who has intrinsic dignity and who for some reason or other lives entrenched in poverty and cannot get out. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other— in the spirit of Christ, which is love.
14 October 2012
I have been thinking a lot about the term “success” lately. As a child growing up in rural Missouri, success was something to be aspired to. In fact, it was just about the only thing that we aspired to. No one really ever explained what it meant, but it was like a blessing passed on from the older generations: “May you be successful, may you find success.” My own obsession with education and knowledge was linked to (though not merely a result of) my maternal grandfather’s insistence that the only way I could be successful was if I got an education. It was never directly stated, but I was under the impression from a young age that this being successful involved money. My maternal grandmother, who, I must say has only ever wanted the best for us kids, longed for lawyers and doctors in the family. This was not because she wanted legal or medical advice, but because those seemed the most lucrative positions (this was before the technology boom and computers became the money makers). I’m grateful that she doesn’t seem too disappointed about our failure to produce either (although, let’s not give up hope too soon, I have a cousin who would make a great lawyer if he would get through the schooling).
At any rate, looking at my life right now, I’m not sure if I can be considered successful. I certainly don’t have a lot of money. On the contrary, the only material thing I have a lot of is debt. Then there’s the question of success in my field(s) of choice. As a classicist, I must be a failure because I left the field. As a historian, same thing. As a theologian, the fact that I have already admitted to hating theology (/morethanfleshandbone/2012/03/so-heres-why-i-hate-theology.html) probably means I’m not very successful. As a writer, I’m generally too tired to write down the many thoughts in my head and heart. Instead, I lay down and read what other writers have to say.
As a Campus Minister, I’m not really sure how you can define success. Is it quantitative or qualitative? In our conversations with the Archdiocese, we’re always being asked about numbers. Honestly, sometimes there is only one person who shows up to my events. Sometimes there are thirty. But if we have a great conversation about God in which one or both of us grow closer to Him, in which Christ becomes present in a tangible way, isn’t that meeting with the only student who showed up a success?
A couple weeks ago, we had a Leadership meeting on a Saturday morning. Our leadership team is made up of about 16 students and only five showed up. For my boss, this was a failure. And really, as a leadership team meeting, it couldn’t have been much of a success because part of being a team meeting is the team showing up for the meeting. But I don’t think it was a failure, either. I had great conversations with the students, got to know them better in new ways and during our hour together I saw us grow in understanding of what it means to be a Christian and to be in communion with the other. We shared the stories of our “Eli”s (1 Sam 3:1-18), those people who challenge us and invite us to follow our calling, those spiritual leaders who have made us who we are. Sitting there, hearing the stories that these five women had to tell, two of whom are freshmen in college—I don’t think that anything which brings such powerful witnesses together and unites them in prayer could be other than a success, and it was a success brought about by the Holy Spirit.
As we are preparing for a lot of changes and transitions at the BCC, we find ourselves being asked to defend the need for campus ministers at Butler. People ask us for success stories. Fr. Jeff has many—he can tell you about the students who entered into the Catholic Church, the ones who went on to change the world in many ways and who stayed strong in their faith. He considers those to be success stories. Certainly, they are the easiest ones to tell and he tells them which such love and warmth that the hearer is satisfied in the need for ministry to continue here.
My temptation is always to say that there are no success stories at the Butler Catholic Community. Instead, there are love stories. I’m not sure what success is, but I do know what love is and these kids teach me about it every day.
I can tell you love stories about my love for my students, about how I see God in them and how my own love grows abundantly through them. I can tell you about their love and generosity and patience with me as they teach me so many lessons about life and love. I can tell you about our mutual love for Fr. Jeff, a man with amazing wisdom and kindness and a great power and ability to love that we all benefit from every day. I can tell you about their love for each other: the strength they give each other during tragedies and heartbreak, stress and studying. I can tell you about students who say to me that they wouldn’t have gotten through their breakup, the death of their grandfather, their PCAT, their final exams, their own illnesses without the love of their friends from the BCC.
I can tell you specific stories: the girl who found the ability to love herself through being loved in a way that didn’t demand, didn’t take—only gave; the young woman who finally found a place where God made sense and became the loving creator she needed instead of the judge she had been taught about as a child, how she found this place through the dedication and love of a friend who invited and invited until she came; there’s the one about the young man who carried a girl to her dorm all the way across campus because she was sick and too weak to walk. I look at their faces and see not only college students, but I can see the face of Christ so vividly sometimes that I am perpetually amazed by them.
The most important love stories are the love stories of these college students and their Creator. There are the love stories of their love for God: their trust, their faith so strong that it makes mine pale in comparison. There is the girl who just came back from studying abroad where she had a conversion experience and now is bravely facing the knowledge that the five year plan she had so carefully crafted and protected in her heart since high school isn’t God’s plan for her. She is going forward with far more grace than I did when I had a similar experience. She is one of my heroes and I am blessed to know her, much less to serve her.
Far more beautiful are the love stories that I witness quietly, the ones of the love of a passionately loving creator who so obviously cherishes these college students in spite of anything that they might do to deter his love. I have seen Him come back again and again to pursue them, to work miracles in their lives only to be recognized after with some mystified disbelief. I have seen men and women grow into something far greater than what they were before and while some might call these “success stories,” I am painfully aware that I had nothing at all to do with it. I just sat with them at the Blue House or in Starbucks or walked around campus with them, watching the changes take place.
I have been praised before for the love that I so obviously have for these mischievous college kids, the frat boys and sorority girls, the seemingly frustrating and narcissistic kids who really just want to be loved and don’t know how to love themselves, the socially awkward kids who are still trying to figure out who they are. But really, it’s nothing to love them. I am not Mother Theresa, saving the poor of Calcutta. I’m not Fr. Greg Boyle, loving the homeboys in LA. Like Oscar Romero, I am blessed to say that it is easy to do my job well when I have such great students. The trick is not in loving them; it’s in not letting my heart break because I love them so much. I challenge any person to know these amazing men and women, to spend even a couple days with them, and not love them. It’s not possible, I promise you.
Last weekend, I went home for the Oktoberfest. It was a well-needed and wonderful rest. Going back to Rolla for things like that is like walking into a big, warm hug. I felt wrapped up in love and was reinvigorated to continue my ministry. The only downside of the trip was the immense number of people who asked what my plan is for after I graduate Notre Dame. The frustrating answer is that I don’t know, but like my student who so bravely is letting God guide her future, I am trying to trust that He has a plan and that his plan, unlike my own half-dozen batch of half baked plans for next year, will rise up and give me the answer I need.
On the drive down and part of the drive back, I listened to the audiobook of Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle. This is an awesome book and everyone should read it (thanks to Sarah Hallett and Fr. Jeff separately for the recommendations to read it). He quotes Mother Theresa saying that we are not called to success but to faithfulness. As I look forward to this next step into the great unknown, I try to hold onto this. I am not called to success, only faithfulness. So, let us all faithfully move forward out of the darkness and into the light, listening to our call.
- Ecclesiology/Theology of the Church: we must start with relationships
- Integrate Ministries into mission: take a look at the relationship between Church and the world. In Vatican II, the Church is called the “Sacrament of the Unity of the Human Race.”
- Culture: Sacraments, Community, Ecclesiology
- Lay Ecclesial Ministries
- Invisible—the Call from God. This is an urgency, a sense that God is calling me to serve beyond what I’m already doing. It is a call to be in relationship to other disciples to make them holier.
- Skills acquisition—Academic. This should not be the most important part, but you cannot be a good Lay Ecclesial Minister without it.
- Along with that, personal formation is important. “Together in God’s Service” is the formation program in Chicago. Personal formation is as important as academic formation. Lay Ecclesial Ministers are also accountable to the Bishop, just as a priest is.
- Commissioning—Lay Ecclesial Ministers are commissioned by the diocese. If the parish can’t afford a Lay Ecclesial Minister or cuts the program, the diocese sees to it that the Lay Ecclesial Minister is reassigned. Ministry for the sake of mission.
- Never mistake resistance on your part for error on the Church’s part.
- When we feel discomfort, we take this discomfort and then automatically think the teaching needs to change.
- We have to ask God for help to understand the reasoning and to change ourselves.
- God reveals some of his preferences to us—we are not groping blindly in the dark.
- For instance, God’s preference for forgiving sin is in the sacrament of confession. While this is the preferred way, it’s not the only way. We can’t put God into a box.
- Fullness of truth is important
- God loves us so much that He blesses the Church with his fullness of truth.
- The hierarchy of truths is taught poorly and then sounds like it says that moral relativism is okay.
- If the hierarchy of truths is taught poorly, it leads to being a Cafeteria Catholic.
- If it’s in the CCC, it’s all true.
- The truth of the trinity is necessary to teach baptism in the name of the trinity. Hence, it’s core.
- Never mistake a clever argument for the truth.
- There is no higher authority than an individual’s INFORMED conscience.
- There are moral absolutes.
- An act can be intrinsically evil where there can be no set of circumstances where it isn’t evil.
- It’s so easy to believe something is okay if our end is good.
- Not only do our goals have to be good, but our means do as well.
- Sexuality is a beautiful gift from a loving God. We have to look at the gift as it is given to us, how it comes naturally.
- Coins: the gift of sexuality has two sides just like a coin. One side is unitive, the other is procreative. When you separate the two sides of a coin, it is no longer a coin.
- Every use of sexuality should respect both sides.
- JPII imagined this like a diamond with four points. The four points are free, faithful, fruitful, and total.
- Fruitful—open to new life
- total—not holding back on any aspect of who you are.
- Leaving home—escaping shackles of convention
- The Quest—entering the wilderness, plunging the depths, confronting demons
- Returning Home—Armed with gifts earned on the quest
Orientation is over and with it, the last of my summer. Classes start Monday and the eagerness and anticipation as well as the nervousness and, for some, sheer dread, can be felt through the halls. I have finished my reading assignments for the first day and so, I thought I'd share some news with you all.
I know where I'm going for the next two years!
I will be working as a part of the Butler Catholic Community, the campus ministry for Butler University in Indianapolis. I am so excited! My mentor will be Fr. Jeff Godecker, the priest who has been running the program on his own for four years. He sent me a brochure from last year and I fell in love. Here's what it says:
"We openly welcome all persons, both liberal and conservative, content and dissatisfied, those who are turned off and those turned on, those who are certain and those who have doubts and questions. We are a Church where love dwells and we are built on God's grace along with the hopes, dreams, and the faith of our members."
The mission of the BCC (Butler Catholic Community) is "to create a welcoming, accessible community to find, build, and share faith." I'm so excited to be a part of that mission and I look forward to the next two years!
So, as I am adapting here, please pray that the Butler community will be open to me and that I can be open to them. In the mean time, please pray for my Indy community and for the Echo community as a whole! These wonderful people will always be in need of prayers.
On Saturday morning, I headed out around 10:00 am for my cousins' house in Cedar Lake, IN. When I was a child, I used to go there with my family once a year for the family reunion. I hadn't been there since I was about 12 years old. On the (very long) drive, I kept seeing things that I remembered from my past- certain towns, the large cross on the highway. It was a nice drive, but I was glad to pull into Larry and Ruth's driveway. As I pulled up to the garage, I was reminded of so many wonderful memories there when I was a little girl and it was just like coming home.
I was so blessed to have such a wonderful time with Larry and Ruth (and Marie), and even to get to see Eleanore, George, and everyone else. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people who love and support me so much-- and have for as long as I can remember. It was just perfect! My day with them ended far too soon and I had to leave (after Mass at their newly renovated Church and a very nice breakfast).
Then, on Sunday, I arrived at Notre Dame. I was met by Colleen, who quickly helped me fill a tub with stuff from my car. After unloading that tub into my new room, Natalie helped me fill two more before I was really done. Then, there was the matter of unpacking. Soon, the room started to look like it was mine and it has slowly become comfortable.
The Echo people are great, naturally. I've really enjoyed getting to know them better. We're still doing Orientation. Classes begin Monday.
Pray for us, this schedule is pretty packed!