Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Monumental Oh-Oh

Those in the field are well versed in improvisation, crisis management, and usually no small amount of first aid. I think we may have finally hit the moment that is the limit of my ability to work with the situation - military coup.

Yup, a military coup in the country where I am set to travel to with a group of youth and young adults for a mission trip. With just a month to go, we're carefully watching the news in Honduras wondering whether we will be able to make our trip.

Please keep the country, its people, and the many ministries that strive to help the Hondurans in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Roller Coasters and Sunblock

Tomorrow we venture forth into the wilds of Cedar Point. Sunblock (SPF 50), hat, water bottle, lip balm, and rain jacket (rained at 7 pm the last 5 years straight), permission slips, health forms, and of course my cell phone are all packed and ready to go.

Then I get a long weekend in Wisconsin with my family and friends. Gracie the Dog is looking forward to a road trip and some quality time with her slightly overworked human.

Monday, June 22, 2009

So it begins

Tonight we have the official start (for me at least) of the World Youth Day 2011 preparations. A group of staff, young adults, teens, and parents will gather to choose our itinerary for travel. Some we can rule out due to cost. My bet is that the group will pick the pre-trip package that will take us to Rome & Assisi. I am completely okay with that. I love both the locations and am familiar enough with them that I can find my way through the cities' thoroughfares without great difficulty.

It is a bit surreal though to already be working so much on this trip. We are still 40 days from the Honduras trip, but is as if it had already happened. Like I often note, given how much preparation is required in this job, you have to really fight to experience the moment. As it is, I have my WYD 2008 green bag with liturgy guides from the last four WYDs to share with one of our music directors.

Expect to hear much more on this. Likely some more of my Law's and Necessary Items will soon be listed. As it is - never venture forth without duct tape, band aids, and candy!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Last night was a fanstastic discussion in our young adult group on Charity. We talked about aspects taht related to public policy, health care, our own lives, and ultimately (of course) where charity is in our faith and own lives.

Two things stood out to me, both as an individual and looking at our group. The Catechism says: Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. (Paragraph 1822)

How simple is that?

Oh, and then there's this: Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it. (From paragraph 1889)

Now the difficult part comes in living these in our daily lives. It is so simple. Love others not because of themselves or ourselves, but because of God. Respect them and their rights. Nowhere does it say you have to like them. Unfortunately there are people on this earth who are difficult, if not seemingly impossible to like. However, we are still called to love them.

Respect others. Respect their rights. Love them for love of God. Simple. Now making this a constant in my life and ministry.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mixed News

The news is mixed. Here it is:

The bad: According to separate reports from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the American Religious Identification Survey, fewer Americans now call themselves Catholic, and those who do aren’t attending church or praying as often as they used to.

The good news: The Catholics who remain, church leaders will tell you, are far more devoted and involved — particularly young adults.

For the rest, see Young Adults Lead Catholic Charge.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Formation is one of those things that you can never think about too much - formation of yourself, formation of your leadership, formation of the teens, formation of the parish. Part of that meeting I had a couple days ago was talking about how we can form teens to really search out their calling, their vocation in life and to have the tools to follow that call. Not an easy task - unless any of you readers have the Foolproof Guide to Following One's Calling? No, ok.

What we'll be doing is trying to find ways to work this into all aspects of the ministry. I also hope to begin offering a mentoring program. We'll start first with our leadership team. Then once that has the major kinks ironed out, we'll move on to the broader teen group. Until we reach the point of implementation, I will be combing through everything I've got on discipleship, vocation, prayer, leadership...well, basically everything I can get my hands on. Ideas anyone?

Yet More Web

After a fantastic meeting with the adult volunteer leaders where we ate our way through several "grown-up" pizzas (read: multiple toppings and cost more than $5 each) from Papa John's, I've spent my day with the Internet even more so than usual.

First it was pulling my notes from Google Docs and neatening up the language, getting rid of my shorthand notes, and elaborating on things while they were still fresh in my mind. I emailed the whole revised version out to all the leaders so that they can add their two cents on what I may have forgotten or new thoughts they might have.

As one of the suggestions made was to create an interactive calendar, I set up a Google Calendar giving them admin rights. Now all our youth ministry events are posted to the calendar, adults can put notes in on whether or not they can be there, and we can have better communication. I also was able to post it to the website for the ministry so parents can merge it with their own Google Calendars or just have a nicely formatted version to print out.

With a resident expert on the web (she's in marketing and specializes in New Media), we're going to get some crash courses to better utilize things. In the meantime, I'm fiddling around with what I know and trying to learn on my own.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Images We Present

I'm always aware of the images of our faith. A part of me wishes that my drawings from art classes were better than they were so a professional art career could have developed. Given how visual our faith is - from the crucifixes and icons to the rituals and rites - we believe and we see. (Don't worry, I'm not forgetting Hebrews 11.1)

As a youth minister, I also am incredibly conscious of the images we put before the youth. I watched Grease with the teens one night when we had to quick change plans for youth group and an adult leader happened to have it in their car. Even this film, seen on TV for years, has moments that I think aren't the greatest. I know kids see worse. I see worse. But it is what we show when they are consciously experiencing Church.

With a summer service trip coming that will take us to Honduras and an afternoon at the beach I face a particularly difficult situation. We obviously have dress codes. No speedos for the boys (most laugh at this) and only one-pieces for the girls (makes it easier than to deal with the gradations between a tankini and a bikini). Then there's me. I will freely admit that being a slightly chubby kid in middle school did not help my self esteem. I was never thin and to this day I am particularly self-conscious in a bathing suit. I'm working on getting over my issues and getting my weight to a healthy level (for health reasons - mom had a heart attack in her 40s and some family is morbidly obese). I will not, and I know this, though feel comfortable in a swim suit on this trip. My fear of fish won't help at the beach either. Likely I will spend the day in my suit and capris walking the sand and keeping the kids herded in a relatively small area. When girls come into my office with self-appearance issues, I completely empathize. I share my issues in all honesty and how I'm dealing with them. I also make a distinct effort to be comfortable with myself, particularly my appearance, at all times. I'm a work in progress. I know that. And I make sure to share that with the kids too.

On a similar note. I ran across this article on NPR's site. It is a letter to Pixar asking for a female lead that isn't a princess. I was always more into Minnie Mouse than the princesses from Disney. I agree that it would be great to see a female, non-princess lead. I agree with the author and the commentators that Pixar does have a great record of female characters. They can do more. I never wanted to be a princess - it was an astronaut, a Supreme Court Justice, doctor, or astronomer. I would have loved to see such a girl in a film.

Another quick note - see UP. It is a beautiful film that evokes laughter as well as tears (though I hid the dewy eyes from the guys in the young adult group). Plus the love story that is the underlying motivation for Mr. Fredrickson is absolutely wonderful. The ideas of family, love, friendship, adventure, and life in general are so well opened up in a terribly unique manner. Amazingly enough, the movie caught me enough to not start analyzing it immediately as a potential tool in youth & young adult ministry. I can't wait to see it again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Questions without an Answer

Right now I'm thinking of questions I do not yet have an answer to.  It doesn't help that some of them I have been asking for nearly six years I've spent in youth ministry -

  • How can the youth be shown, taught, experience, the incredible love of God?
  • How do you do the catechesis on all the things the Church teaches about while always coming back to the relationships - between God and the youth and the community's relationships?
  • How do you address the huge spectrum of faith, understanding, and interests within the youth as a group?
  • How do you cope with your own struggles when you are also facing the struggles of the youth, the ministry, and the Church?
Please don't think that I am desolate, thinking of closing up shop, or anything dramatic like that.  These are some of the periphery ponderings that have sprung both from things in the ministry, my life, and the discussions surrounding the pastoral planning process.

I actually think that going back to the basic questions is absolutely crucial.  We get caught up in putting together the perfect night on life issues, the best baked potato dinner fundraiser yet, the mock conclave, and all the other things we do in ministry.  I'm finding myself personally and professionally going back to the simple questions - Why am I in ministry?  Why is the idea of youth & young adult ministry important to the lives of the youth and young adults?  Where am I going from here and now?  How will I move along that path?

Like all the questions that really matter, there is no easy answer.  The answer evolves; my understanding of the answer deepens.  

And should it get to be a bit too much to ponder, I can rest calmly in the knowledge that the answer to the big question - life, the universe, and everything - is simply 42.