Friday, October 30, 2009

A Sign?

It is either a sign that I truly have the perfect job or that I need to be admitted to a mental institution.

As of this afternoon I will travel to service project A in Ohio for a week in July. I return on a Friday. The very next Friday I will travel with another service project to Bolivia for 11 days.

I cannot wait for either of these experiences.

Remind me I said that on August 11 when I'm comatose from exhaustion, hit with laryngitis, and have been bitten by the Guatemalan ninja caterpillar's Bolivian cousin.

In all seriousness, as I sit here with a mild headache, stiff shoulders & neck from working at the computer all day, and slightly overheated from the fact they were 'clearing out the steam vents', I recognized something today. The need for joyfulness. I'm not slap-happy. But to be joyful about my work. Even when I spend hours changing websites, calendars, newsletters, bulletin articles, announcements...there needs to be joy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Land, Sea or Sky

No matter how much you say you will never do so again, the moment inevitably comes when you realize you are about to embark on yet another trip with teens or young adults. After denial, checking your sanity, and making sure you are up to date on all your vaccines, you think you're ready. Are the people in your group?

I was reading this article from CNN on Getting Your Way when you travel. It started me thinking.

Do you know that look of absolute fear that crosses the face of just about everyone at a gate when you walk up to the counter with your teens in tow? Or even more amusing, the look of guilty (or not so) guilty relief of those where you didn't stop?

I have now taken teens out of the country three times. This doesn't make me an expert, but there are a few things I hold to.

  1. Prep the kids for travel. Whether it is the precaution of Dramamine for a youth who has never flown or directions on how to fill out the customs forms, prepare your youths for the trip as much as possible in advance. Also help them while traveling. Navegating an unknown airport is challenging enough for well-traveled adults (hello Frankfurt). Factor in the age, experience, and possible language issues and you could have several nervous youths.
  2. No pjs or 'scrubby' clothes on the plane. They don't have to dress for Christmas Mass, but I want the teens to be dressed nicely. Appearances are important in that infamous first impression.
  3. Keep the group reigned in at the gate. Yes, when we had a 10 hour layover at LAX, we were all over. However, it turned out almost all our flight (I think excepting about 10 people) were returning from WYD in Australia. Respecting the space of others help them to respect the youth.
  4. Watch the noise, food, Frisbee, and anything else that could intrude on others. Again, the kids have got to eat (especially as on the short domestic flights there often isn't a meal served). However, I try to get the kids to eat the food neatly in the gate. Noise level when playing games should be respectful. And really, Frisbee is not an appropriate airport game.
  5. As the group leader, make nice with the employees. I try to catch an employee before the flight to let them know if there is a problem that is brought to their attention that I am the group leader and happy to deal with whatever the issue might be. I also introduce myself to the flight attendants. Not only for the same reason as above, but it helps to explain why I may wander the aisles a bit more. One year I had a girl with diabetes whose numbers shot through the roof. Once the attendants understood I was her chaperone/leader and the young woman with me was a nurse, we had free reign on wandering so we could check on her. They were very helpful when they knew the situation.
  6. Respect and responsibility. I demand it from the kids and myself. (I obviously have wiggle room with the responsibility - they are teens.) Respect is a necessity. I make sure that people know I am the one to go to if there is a problem. I make sure they know that I will handle it.
  7. Last, but not least, communicate. Communicate expectations with your youth. Communicate with your leaders. Communicate with the people around you.
Oh, and always pack duct tape.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If you're just getting this idea now... may want to pay more attention.

Several years ago I read an article that proposed that the influx of Hispanic Catholic would have as profound effect on American Catholicism and politics as the influx of Irish Catholics 150 or so years ago ultimately had. Thinking about all my American politics classes and the understanding of how the Irish Catholics changed American Catholicism, I nodded my head in agreement. has jumped on the bandwagon with the article "Latinos may be future of U.S. Catholic Church." In the immortal words of my generation, "Duh." The sheer quantity coupled with the decline of caucasian Catholic participation makes this equation simple to understand. Of course it is complicated by the fact that within a few generations Hispanic Catholic young adults mirror the general statistics (see Dean Hoge's book).

If you haven't thought through the impacts, then you may want to. Recognize the immeasurable gifts that Hispanic Catholic bring. There is a depth and color that is not necessarily found in American Catholic churches. There are perspectives on spirituality, ritual, and history that we can learn and grow from. We can learn a deeper appreciation of Mary, of Christ the pilgrim, and a sense of true mission.

And as someone who loves chile rellenos, I could handle a few changes at our northern fish fries.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


In college, a roommate and I would use the words dwelling vs. wallowing to remind ourselves to keep perspective and priorities in place. Wallowing in our worry, misery, migraines, etc was bad. Dwelling in faith, hope, peace, the company of good friends, the oversized chair in the living room, etc were good. Simple, but a good catch phrase so we could support each other's faith and right perspective.

In the October 5 issue of America, there is an article titled, " God Makes a Comeback." The entirety of it is interesting, but I am choosing to take one line of it to reflect on here today.

Religion is increasingly crafted, not inherited; it is 'a seeking rather than a dwelling.'

On the one hand this struck me as profoundly new, while on the other it echoed what the research tells me and experience has taught me.

In this phenomenon lies a great challenge. In this lies an epic call to action. If religion is crafted, if it is a seeking, then we as Catholic leaders need to be truly alive in the field. Relying on family tradition or "it is the way it always has been" is not a viable choice. Instead we need to demonstrate the depth, vibrancy, and relevancy of the faith that we so believe so fervently that we choose to serve it as our daily labor. We need to empower others to seek the seekers. To be guides even as they journey. We need to learn, constantly, new tools of the trade and to pass that knowledge on to our leaders and ministers.

And as for religion not being a dwelling, now that is something to spend more time reflecting on. As the world is buffeted by natural disasters, financial turbulence, and horrors of war, perhaps rediscovering the peace of dwelling in God is needed all the more.

In the enduring words, Romero quoted. We are workers. So let's get to work.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Moving the Goal Posts

As I often do, I find most of my non-Church lessons can be drawn from the source of all wisdom, West Wing. In a particularly fine episode the staff is dealing with crazy dictators, international politics, globe trotting pizzas, Mideast Peace, and the media. Finally, C.J. realizes that while their initial goal, a UN Resolution is not going to come together to meet their deadline, they have the NATO nations in support. She declares to her trusty assistant, Carol, that they are moving the goalpost and taking the game.

We often can get so caught up in playing the game according to how we think it should be played we miss things. We get frustrated when we seem to get absolutely nowhere. We consistently give it our all, only to get stuck in the mud within sight of the end zone.

I am beginning to realize that this often means we're playing the wrong game. We get so busy trying to win by our standards and our concept of what a win is.

All we need to do is move the goalpost.

Or, rather, perhaps we need to make sure that where we put the goalpost is where God wants it. Because as we learned, sometimes God put the goalposts in the most unusual places - on the top of a hill outside an empty tomb...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Couldn't Have Said it Better

Here's a post that I truly understand. Especially as it was a monumental struggle to make it in by about 9 am when I had Theology on Tap until quite late last night and the smell of leftover pizza is wafting through from the staff kitchen.