Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Good Reminder

Here's a great YouTube video to remind us all of who we are (and a nice rip off of the Old Spice Guy).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jumping Ship in a Storm

The winds whip all around. The craft is so very small and the waves are so very large. The person you look to for comfort is missing, no, is there, but on the very troubling waters. He says come. You go. You doubt. You fall. And immediately he reaches to you.
This weekend we took our high school youth on retreat where we focused on that passage from Matthew (14.22-33). We challenged our youth to get out of the boat - to cast aside their doubts, fears, worries - to trust in God.
We also offered the opportunity to try the high ropes adventure course. Dozens of feet in the air, suspended by ropes, they walked across swinging logs, tight ropes, and made leaps of faith to catch a trapeze swing. Many succeeded. A few struggled.
But what amazed me was the girl who froze. There she was over 40 feet in the air. She was halfway across the first challenge - a rope to walk on and two ropes to hold on to as she walked. She froze. She tensed. As she tensed, the ropes started to sway more and more. It took her quite a while, but she made it to the stopping point. Then she faced that moment that we all have before - she was stranded. She couldn't stay where she was. She needed to go back across, to face all that she had just struggled through in order to make it down again to the ground.
I think facing the unknown can be much easier than facing known fears. She knew exactly how petrifying the experience of crossing that rope line was. She knew how difficult it would be. And now she was tired, emotional, and full of doubts. Yet, suddenly, she stepped out. Step by step, very slowly she began to cross. The last segment is the most difficult as there is an upturn to the rope and you have to climb even as you walk on that lone rope. The look of determination on her tear streaked face was so beautiful. Just as sudden as her beginning was her leap to the solid structure of the tower. She had made it.
I am in awe of her bravery, her determination. When God calls us to step out of the boat, into the storm, and onto the rocky waves we must find that trust, determination and faith. When those storms are all too familiar - crises at work, cranky family members, loss, doubt - it becomes even harder to face the storms with faith and courage. Yet, now, when I will inevitably hit those moments when I cry out to God, "Why God? How can I possibly face this storm? How can I possibly come to you now?" I know exactly what I need to picture in my mind - the face of that girl as she was slowly, steadily reaching the tower.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Your Cup

The time has come...
The start of the new school year is no longer something one can say is months away, it is only days. Young adults are returning from their vacations and finishing their Ultimate Frisbee tournaments.
The time has come when a youth and young adult minister is utterly swamped and usually stressed.
The time has come...
When the temptation to live off the pizza, chips, soda, and Tootsie Rolls becomes nearly insurmountable. When the few hours you get at home are hours you think best spent napping.
The time has come to admit I need to take better care of myself this year.
Last year was a frenzy of ministry events, crises large and small, constant administrative tasks, and ignoring the realities of what this was doing to me. This year I know, that in order to be an effective minister, I need to take care of myself.
Ministry, at least the part that is our 'work', is only a small part of our lives. However, there is a great temptation to make ministry, it's demands, and it's excuses overwhelm us. We are told that our bodies are temples and to meditate on God's Word (see Paul and Joshua).
Each day I am now spending time exercising. This also lets me relax both physically and mentally. I put my Macbook so I can see it from my elliptical trainer and catch up on my guilty pleasures - TV shows (Covert Affairs and Rizzoli & Isles).
I am eating my fruits and vegetables. (The peaches are absolutely fabulous right now.) I am making sure that I cook at least two big batches of something that I can have for leftovers throughout the week (I've got some great soups and vegetarian casseroles now).
I am making sure I spend some of each day quietly with God. Some days I reflect on The Catholic Women's Study Bible. Other days it is the daily Mass readings. I also am reading a couple of books on spirituality and faith by Henri Nouwen.
We must care for ourselves so that we may be fully alive and fully capable of hearing God in our lives and living His call.

World Youth Day 2011

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Protecting the Innocent

The Vatican has released the modifications to the decree that applies to those accused of sexual abuse of minors. Please take some time to read the document.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Difference

This time of year gets me to thinking about whether or not I, the ministry, the service trip, or whatever it is that I'm worrying about really makes a difference.

When you're bogged down with permission forms, van rental agreements, room lists, and all the rest, it seems like you're simply doing busy work.

Then there's the countless hours spent in preparation for the fall kick-off, fall retreat, teen leader formation.

In an exhausted state fueled by Diet Mountain Dew and sugar free strawberry Twizzlers (a new personal favorite), I could easily let myself become discouraged. I would hazard to say that no one in ministry is exempt from these moments. They are natural and understandable.

What saves me is a core belief - everything matters. Yesterday officially began my eighth year of youth & young adult ministry. There are many things I have learned - always pack duct tape, two teens can carry a water heater, always put the lunch cooler in the canoe with the most experienced canoe-ers. But the most important lesson I've learned is that it all matters. It all makes a difference. Yes, even the countless hours spent tracking down missing forms for service trips or World Youth Day pilgrimages.

The simple conversations before the meeting begins.
Showing up for the theatrical production or football game.
Hours of prep work for a youth or young adult night that isn't used because people just need a game night.
Staying up all night at the lock-ins.
Hunting down a replacement speaker for Theology on Tap when the scheduled one cancels 48 hours before the event.
Ending up bruised and slightly battered after the camping trip.

What we do matters. We may not see it. We may not feel it. But we still make a difference.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


In a recent article from Youth Worker magazine, Henri Nouwen pops up several times. Now as a huge fan of his, I'm not surprised that others appreciate his wisdom and grace. What does surprise me is these are not Catholics and how frequently various people brought his book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, to the discussion on leadership training and spirituality.

Check out the article "Best of the Best."There are some great ideas and resources to check up on. They cross over from youth to young adult ministries, including campus ministry.

And check out whatever Henri Nouwen writings you can get your hands on.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pause for Technical Difficulties

I decided the old design was far too difficult to read. This one isn't perfect, but it suits me and is easier on the eyes (I think). If you have suggestions, let me know. Hopefully with a normal day off (is there such a thing?) tomorrow, I will post more on the conference. Though I do plan on spending some of the day with my sewing machine and a bit of time on the sofa with Gracie and West Wing on the TV.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Welcome to the Conference

My apologies to anyone expecting a next day delivery on the second installment of the 10th Youth Forum thoughts from yours truly. My week was quickly consumed with the administrative headache of determining flights to Bolivia for our summer service trip and finding enough teenagers to help with baby sitting for a special event tomorrow. Neither are nailed down, but at this moment, I cannot do anything more.

To open the Forum Cardnal Rylko had a short welcome for us. He introduced the basic topic of the conference - love and relationships. Much of what he said gleaned from the words of Pope John Paul II.

He quoted Pope John Paul II, "Tell me what your love is and i will tell you who you are."

Here in the U.S. we use the words love and hate quite flippantly. Many times prior to leaving for the Forum I uttered the words, "I love gelato." I was of course duly excited to taste this particular favorite food in Italy. Of course, I know that I don't truly love the frozen confection. I very much like it and will willing walk through the better part of Rome in an effort to find my favorite gelateria (Google "Della Palma Rome" and you'll see why). However, I know that the word love is much more than a partiality for gelato.

The difficulty arises for those that do not create that distinction. Lust, admiration, dependency, desire to not be alone, or a passing fancy are often misinterpreted as love in our society. I see this with both the youth and the young adults that I interact with each day.

In his introduction, the Cardinal made the point that love is not a question of being but of becoming. This has given me much to reflect on since Rome. It also makes me think of my mother. Her wisdom about marriage comes in brief, but wise statements she has made over the years. She once said to me that you're going to change, it is a fact of life, marriage is deciding to change together instead of changing apart. When love is approached as a state of being or simply 'being in love' it offers an impression of stasis. Yet, we know from experience that life is anything but permanent and immobile. How can we expect love to be unchanging when all around us, and indeed we ourselves change?

In his closing, Cardinal Rylko said that it is worthwhile to live as builders of a civilization of love. No small task. Yet, the Gospels provide us with the building blocks of how to do that. From the simplest statements of forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and healing we find the steps to take.

My challenge to you today is, where will you place a brick to build a civilization of love today?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Recovery & Processing

No, I'm not going to start a dissertation on the Marshall Plan. The title does sum up how I am attempting to get through the 10th Youth Forum hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and Holy Week.

I understand why the Council chose the week prior to Holy Week, Palm Sunday is World Youth Day. However, as a person employed in a parish, that is a rough time to be gone.

Despite it all, the forum was an incredible experience. I will be breaking it apart in the next several days. Here are a few snippets of information:
  • 230 delegates
  • 92 countries
  • 33 international movements
  • Some countries represented: Moldova, Croatia, Russia, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Israel, Uzbekistan, India, Indonesia, Palestinian Territories, Myanmar, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Madagascar, Zambia, Congo Brazzaville, Sudan, Rwanda, Australia, Ireland, Chad, Uruguay, El Salvador, and more.
  • Our days began by 8 am and continued strong at least until dinner at 8 pm
  • Cappuccino from machines in Italy will beat out 97% of US coffee house coffees, hands down
  • Bran flakes no longer cut it, I want a croissant with that chocolate filling!
Tomorrow I'll start in on sharing some thoughts from the various sessions.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Little Bit More

While this month is the typical business of Lent - parish mission, Living Way of the Cross rehearsals, special youth groups, additional small groups - a few more things have popped up on the radar.

I realized that on June 30 I will have completed 7 years here. That means this fall will be year 8. Given that I think in 4s (courtesy of the high school ministry), this carries some significance for me. I need to look at how things are going here. I sense there are places where I have allowed myself to get into a rut. This isn't inherently bad, but there are so many great resources and ideas out there to work with. Thus once I get through some things in the coming two-three months, I plan on spending June and July really examining the ministries, youth and young adult, with the leadership teams to see what we can do.

Also, I was given the great honor of going to the Pontifical Council for the Laity's 10th annual youth forum. This is adding to the general insanity as I need to work ahead of the game quite a bit so that the ministries can run smoothly while I am gone despite it being busier than usual.

Speaking of which, I have several emails about Way of the Cross rehearsals to get out, so it is time to sign off.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And the survey says...

This article from USA Today probably doesn't surprise any of us. It does give a few stats from a recent Pew survey you may be interested in.

The timing on this article is good on my end. Saturday I give three workshops on young adult ministry training for our diocese. This is the sort of thing that is helpful for our 'who are young adults' workshop.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another Confession

Well, actually two.

1. I love free stuff. Utterly love it. I also fall prey periodically to the buy this and you'll get all this free thing. But when it is just something gratis, even better.

2. I love Bibles. There are so many different kinds.

Guess what this post is about - yup, free Bibles.

First off, while it wasn't really free, I rediscovered the Catholic Women's Study Bible. I needed something to use for my daily prayer. This is a great resource for me. The variety of writers for the reflections is great and keeps me interested and gives me fresh perspectives. A friend had her copy on the youth retreat (lucky girl not only volunteers for another church's youth ministry but her good friend is a youth minister). That got me thinking I should get a copy. As her cover was a red and orange cover, it did not look familiar. Luckily I was going through my book cases on Monday and ran across my paperback copy which is blue and purple.

Second, I got a copy of World Vision's Poverty & Justice Bible. I ordered it, but it wasn't too pricy on Amazon. I haven't really gone through it yet, but there are some interesting parts of it that I will likely pull for reflections when we cover social justice issues or are preparing prayers for our service trips.

What I am most excited about is the free copy of the new edition of St. Mary Press' Catholic Youth Bible. I've been a fan of their youth Bible for some time. This one is great in my opinion. There are more articles and reflections. The charts and graphs are great to help the visual learners with biblical literacy issues. My only mild dislike is the switch to the use of green. I preferred the purple, but that's just me. The content, lay-out, and overall product is great. I look forward to giving this to the kids in our high school RCIA program and slowly replacing the older Bibles as they need replacement.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


It is finally here - the official website (in English) for WYD 2011!

Can't wait to go! Our pilgrimage is going to take us to Rome & Assisi for a week before we journey to Madrid. I love taking teens and young adults to those cities. The impact that they have on young people is quite profound.

On a traveling note, I will be out of town, if not the country for at least a week of every month from March through August. I think I may be in town for June, though I hope to get a least a weekend up north. That means posting may be sparse, but I hope to keep you up to date on several things as all those travels are for the ministry. Included is a chance to go to Rome for the 10th annual Youth Forum.

Friday, January 29, 2010


This article requires no introduction. Please read. It is a beautiful piece.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Go Forth & Blog!"

No, it is not some new, hip translation of the Gospels.

Rather, it is the latest from Pope Benedict XVI. Check out the article from the Washington Post on "Pope to priests: Go forth and blog."

Would love to comment, but this blogger has some real life work to do.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Necessary Items

I am taking a break from the swirl of activity to let some Tylenol kick in. As happens far too often in youth ministry, there has been a tragedy and the past week has been spent working, praying, and ministering to youths that are grieving.

This has led me to the fact that there are some necessary items for one of the most important things when you find yourself in the role of youth minister in a crisis - making sure you are taken care of (thereby able to minister and survive the tragedy without burnout).

  • Pain reliever of choice. Headaches will happen. I try to always keep Tylenol & Advil in my drawer. This is also helpful for when those ice breaker games get a bit out of control.
  • Some sort of way to treat yourself. I'm a girl. This means I have my favorite scented hand cream. The scent is calming and it gives me a moment that I can literally breath deeply, say a short prayer and carry on. And let's not forget the caffeine sources of diet soda, Irish Breakfast tea, and coffee.
  • Tangible reminders that there are good times to the ministry. I have a page-a-day calendar of photos of Australia that remind me of WYD 2008. Then there is the little espresso cup I use for paperclips that two girls bought me along with chocolate covered espresso beans at NCYC 2007 so that I would be able to stay awake. They sit right under my monitor and give me something to think positively about.
  • Prayer. Prayer for the kids, the families, the parish, the school, and for yourself. I have a few favorite things I go to. A book that I will do a shameless plug for is Walking Humbly by Thomas Flowers. The author is related to a college roommate. That aside, I find the poetry and scripture to be a great 10-20 minute chance for me to refocus. It has really been great to help me realize that there are so many ways to look at a situation.
Alright, the headache is coming under control and there are things to do.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The World

In the coming weeks I have no doubt many of us will be looking beyond the shores of the United States.

Perhaps this resource will be helpful. The map gives a visual for global statistics. Particularly for those in your ministry (or you) that may learn visually, it is very interesting and helpful.

Haitian Sunday

Today is the first Sunday following the devastating earthquake in Haiti. All the U.S. Catholic Churches are being asked to take a second donation this weekend to send to CRS' efforts in Haiti.

As I go through a fairly quiet day (so far) here at the church, I am constantly drawn in thought and prayer to those in Haiti.

I wonder, think about going to Mass tonight, what it is like to hear Mass in the midst of rubble. To attend Mass without your loved ones, in a state of uncertainty and fear.

I looked at the faces of the high school RCIA kids and wondered about the faces of adolescents plastered on news sites showing injuries, or mere corpses.

I rework tonight's youth group in view of several factors, Haiti, final exams, and the untimely death of an 8th grader in our parish.

Today is a day where it is with a heavy heart that I enter into my work. Today is a day where it is on trust and hope that I find the ability to do that which is necessary.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Like many, all I wish to put forth at this time is a call to aid (and aide) for Haiti.

To donate through Catholic Relief Services, just click here and you'll be taken to their donation page.

Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, 65, was killed. He was found in the rubble of the bishop's residence. The Cathedral's roof collapsed. The seminaries in Port-au-Prince are mere rubble. With a country that is 80% Catholic, they are not only suffering profoundly from the very necessary human needs, but also from a spiritual leader. Please, give what you can to assist them and also offer your prayers for this, the poorest country in this hemisphere.

If you are looking for materials to help you in your youth or young adult ministry, NFCYM has a few things already posted. I am guessing we will see more available on other sites soon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Despite the Best of Intentions

I like to have my "Jenn gets hit by a bus" (thank you C.J. Cregg for the idea) folders in my horizontal file, ready for the moment when my clumsiness catches up to me and I'm in a hospital thus missing whatever event is going on. Those file folders ideally have the next full week of ministry contained in them. This way volunteers or other staff could just grab them, find the outline, originals of handouts, etc. They would be all set.

Today is not one of those days. I think I may actually throw in the towel for the whole week.

On the upside, the crunch of running out of time finally helped me break the mental block I had for what to do for a retreat session with the teens.

I'll continue to work just under the wire this week. I hope by the time I head out of town on January 24, that I am planned through the first week of February!

Monday, January 11, 2010

You Know You're a Youth Minister When..

...a freshman girl, new to the youth group, turns to you half way through the night and say, "You look like Alice Cullen." You pause, feel immensely flattered, and say, "Thanks."

There was a slight pause when I considered was that meant as a compliment. I decided it was.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Keeping It Real

Okay, so the phrase "Keeping it real" is outdated. It is however, appropriate for today's musings.

I would ask if you are always busy at work, juggling somewhere around 89 projects, and trying to find time to eat your lunch/dinner, but hey, if you're reading this, you're in ministry. I'm assuming we're all a bit swamped.

Since Thanksgiving I've been trying to improve how I live. Some of this is finally hanging the pictures up around the house or replacing the rug that somehow just died a painful wrinkly death. Another part is trying to eat better and be more active (please ignore the couple of Trader Joe Salsa Tortilla chips I just ate - way better than Doritos). I've noticed all this helps. I have a higher level of energy, I'm a happier camper, and I've confused my dog by switching bathroom items from beige to cranberry red (she was scared of the bathroom for a couple of days).

Now that I've created some better habits for myself, it is time to check my habits here in ministry. I've been at this for 6 1/2 years. While I'm not as wise and experienced as many of the sage youth and young adult ministers out there, I do know this discussions . I cannot let myself get complacent or coast on what is working now. What works now may not work tomorrow. These ministries are always changing and always experiencing outside influences that can be overwhelming.

While I hate to add something more to my ever-growing, everlasting To-Do List, I am going to add in time to, well, dream. Brainstorming is to much focused on the nuts and bolts, the logistics. We've already got a pastoral plan. I purposely choose the word dream because it implies ignoring limits, utilizing creativity, and reaching far beyond what other forms of thinking often gather. From this will come the things that then will be plugged into brainstorming sessions.

Well, my leadership will be here in about 20 minutes for our monthly planning meeting, time to get them dreaming too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Going Green

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
~Leo Tolstoy

I've decided to become vegetarian. Factor in my not eating or drinking any milk product and you've got a lot of fun eating at retreat houses.

Making this decision, based off a variety of reasons, has made me much more aware of those around me. I believe I am now more sensitive to those who either have special diets by choice or necessity. I can better appreciate the frustrations when accommodations aren't available to meet those needs, or when there is just one menu item open (often a salad if you can't have cheese or milk products).

It has also made me more responsive and positive to the teens who are just starting to make similar declarations of some sort or another. For me to make a dietary change is simple enough. With only my dog in the house, changes in what is put on the table or in the lunch pail each day are purely my choice. (For the record, she likes the switch - she loves seitan, noodles, and spinach.) However, teens who for their own sets of reasons decide to become vegetarian or make another similar lifestyle change face many more difficulties. It is easier for me to understand those now and to help support them where appropriate and to encourage them to do the research and find support to make sure they are getting all the nutritional needs met that a growing body needs.

I also appreciate how often a teen is told, "Yeah, we'll see how long that lasts." I just heard that last night from an acquaintance. It got me thinking about how often teens who decided to change their lives, fight for a cause, or otherwise do something significant with their lives meet with discouragement. We may wish to point to their peers, but if we look closely, we'll see it is often the adults around them.

When your teen says, "I am ___________," what is your response? It is hard enough to change the world these days, so shouldn't we do everything we can to help support the youth and young adults around us who declare that they want to make a positive change in themselves?

Then, without realizing it, you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time. Anyone can do this, it costs nothing and is certainly very helpful. Whoever doesn't know it must learn and find by experience that a quiet conscience makes one strong.
~Anne Frank

1 John 3.2