Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Last weekend was the young adult retreat.  This weekend is the youth ministry retreat.  Tonight I am doing the "Why You Should Come to Youth Group" night for the 8th grade religious education classes.  Yesterday I helped Paul Wilkes download pictures for his presentation at our parish. Thursday I have an online seminar and my monthly meeting with my pastor.  Typical week for ministry.

Oh, and a headache that just doesn't seem to want to go away.  Rather have the headache than the nasty cold I had during this stretch last year (on both retreats I had a fever that the nurses with us though broke 100, it was great).

However, my Disney mug full of Mississippi Mud Pie coffee (fair trade of course) and my iPod playing my favorite playlist of Telemann's flute sonatas, Bach's cello sonata's, and a few Mozart pieces are definitely helping.

As tough an audience as they are, I love doing the 8th grade presentation each year.  Due to late notice (less than a week), I am flying solo instead of bringing in high schoolers with me.  I love getting up there and hearing what the kids expect youth ministry to be like - school, boring, something their mom makes them go to.  I don't win all of them over, but from the minute I step out there tonight, I hope to disabuse them of a few of their misconceptions.  First off, how many of their teachers have red and purple hair (my hairdresser went a bit over board on the highlights last Friday, still like it, just more than I expected).  Second, I bring ammunition from our adventures - go carts on retreat, closing Mass at WYD, and pictures from our other many excursions.  Third, I enlighten those that have never seen the youth room that we have no desks anywhere in the room.  Fourth, I throw candy at them.  Generally helps their mood.  Hey, sugar them up and send them home, right?  Seriously, the candy will help them focus since it is a large group and just me up there.  After all, they get the candy if they answer the questions.

Thanks to the Excedrin with the coffee booster, my headache is breaking.  I need to go through the DVD options to find some possible clips that would work for tonight.  I'm leaning towards X-Men (good things on teams, making decisions, etc) or Iron Man (also good for answering a call, decisions).  Probably go with X-Men as they are experiencing the resurgence thanks to the coming of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Though I would love to use one of my many incarnations of Jane Austen's works that I own, I think I would loose the boys.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Maybe I'm not too far off base...

I get the newsfeed with 'all the news from Rome.'

Today one of the articles had the following (emphasis mine):

During the synod on the Word of God, one of the memorable interventions was made by Salesian Father Pascual Chávez Villanueva, president of the Union of Superiors-General and Rector of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco. Father Pascual, whose Salesian Congregation has a special charism for working with young people, offered the Emmaus story as model of bringing the Word of God closer to the world of youth. He drew our attention to the fact that young people today share very few things with the two disciples on the road but perhaps nothing as much as the frustration of their dreams, the fatigue in their faith and the disenchantment in discipleship.

"Young people need a Church that meets them there where they are. Arriving to Emmaus, the disciples still did not recognize the person of Jesus. What Jesus was unable to do in accompanying them, conversing with them, interpreting the Word of God, he accomplished with the Eucharistic gesture. An education in faith which forgets or postpones the sacramental encounter of young people with Christ, is not a secure, efficient way to find him."

Though I'm already tired and scrambling to finish preparations for the young adult retreat this weekend and the youth retreat next weekend, these are priceless chances to meet the young people where they are.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Where are we?

Every so often I get really frustrated.  At myself.  At others in the Church.  I have to keep asking myself, "Where are we?"  

I love the story of the Prodigal Son.  So much good stuff there.  So familiar, yet in each reading and retelling you can find new meaning.  My question today is, "Where are we?"  Have you noticed how frequently people in the Church will say something to the effect of, "So and so is relevant today because...."???  To me that seems like we are standing the door and hollering down the road to the children passing by deciding whether or not to turn to the Father.  Have you noticed that the father in the story of Luke 15 takes off down the road?  Picture it - the father, with robes flapping as he sprints (likely for the first time in a long time) after his son.  He goes to where he is, not where he wants him to be or where is comfortable for him, the father.

I have to keep reminding myself, and sometimes in love the larger Church community, that we can't expect the kids we want to reach to all come when we say, "We and our Tradition and our Faith is relevant to you because..."  Rather, we need to look and say, "Hey, so this is where you are, I get it.  I love you.  Let me walk with you Home."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Remembering Columbine

Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School. I remember it well. I remember seeing the TV coverage. I remember working at the local public library after school the next week and having a shiver of fear run down my spine when a boy I didn't recognize came in wearing a long black trench coat. I remember the bomb threats that filled the school days for the rest of my senior year of high school. I remember the fear, the confusion, the uncertainty that filled that time. I remember indignation at the school district when they did not tell us what was going on during what was the second bomb threat following Columbine. I remember being so mad at the kids who made those threats because they wanted to avoid a test or sleep in. I remember wondering what I would do if I were in a similar situation. I remember the horrific thought of what would I feel if it were my friends who were harmed. I remember those days very well.

Now, I look back to it from another perspective. We've seen horrific events at schools and colleges around the world. Now I look at it as one of those moments where I had to grow up a bit more. My world wasn't as safe as I thought it was.

What makes me pause, have every muscle tighten into a painful knot and a rock form in my stomach is the fear that something akin to it might happen at one of the many schools in the area here. We've had tragedies - near deaths, untimely deaths due to illness or crime. But they came one by one. They were often personal tragedies and rarely affected more than a small portion of our youth ministry as we have anywhere from 5-13 high schools feed into our ministry in any given year. In those smaller tragedies, I've gotten the early phone call telling me I am needed at the church, at the Catholic school, a public school counseling department. I go. I listen. I talk. I pray. Mostly, I feel inadequate. But we carry on with the ministry, with the pastoral care of those youth, with life.

I cannot fathom what it was like for the community at Columbine. I cannot fathom being the youth minister at one of those churches. Particularly the church that buried three youths that was mentioned in the Catholic Youth Ministry Blog. Should anyone who was a minister in the area ever read this, you have my utmost respect and most fervent prayers for your peace and those of the youth you ministered to and with during that time.

Maybe at some level the frustrations and fears of that time contributed to the matrix of experiences and decisions leading me into youth ministry. I don't know. I had not ever really thought about it before. I wish I would have had a youth ministry where I could share the concerns, find comfort in faith, and the pastoral care that I unknowingly craved.

For all the joy, all the statements I heartily agree to about how much fun my job is, the fact of the matter is that when push comes to shove, we have a difficult task. I would not have it any other way.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Holy Week

Here we are again, Holy Week.  I've managed to keep my act together for 5 1/2 weeks of Lent.  Now is the sprint to the finish.  For some reason this Lent, if not the entirety of the new year, has been unusually chaotic.  I won't have a chance to catch my breath until late on Friday when I wing my way to a friend's for Easter.  In the interim, I have a few things to do:
  • Launder the shroud cloth, the purple cloak, and the 'tear-away' robe of Jesus for our Living Way of the Cross
  • Polish the script for the Way of the Cross (please don't scold, I know it should be done already)
  • Do a few things for he National org I'm now on
  • Write a letter of recommendation for a boy applying to be an animator at NCYC (this kid could be the next star at the Met - he's incredible)
  • Pack for my weekend; pick up one or two more gifts to take with me
  • Confirm costumes
  • Send out the weekly parent email
  • Remind people that a payment for our summer service trip is due next Wednesday
  • Hunt down the kid who still owes me paperwork for the service trip
  • Figure out suggestions on what our transitional deacon could do with the youth ministry and young adult ministry this summer
And that is just what I know of right now.  Since I'm at home there are likely more things waiting on my voicemail, email and in box.  I can't wait to get on that plane and relax.  Plus the added bonus of blending at Easter Mass.  It is such a treat to just be a 'normal' person at a Mass - to not be swamped with people asking questions about deadlines, needing you to fill in for a liturgical minister, or to complain about something.  Don't get me wrong, I love what I do and I love to be useful, especially in a pinch.  But there is great peace in being able to just be during a Mass.  Of course, my friend has 3 kids under age 4, that may not be the most peaceful!