2014: A Year in Review

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.

A Quick Note on the Psalms

“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.

He waits in the Heart of Darkness

“The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness” Part II

He waits in the heart of darkness
by Kaitlyn Willy, Chaplain’s Apprentice

This is the second in my series of reflections from retreat on the BCC Blog.

The original post can be found here: http://butlercatholiccommunity.blogspot.com/2013/01/he-waits-in-heart-of-darkness.html 

As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, the theme for the retreat that I just went on was “The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness.”

One of the things that occurred to me on this retreat was that if I take the beloved to be Christ, then Christ waits for me in the heart of the darkness. He doesn’t wait on the outskirts, he waits in the center of it. In order to get to him, I have to go through the dark and then he will help me through to the other side.

This revelation was truly a grace to me. My retreat director could not have chosen a better time to give me this piece of wisdom. I need it right now. I woke up this morning to find out that one of my dearest friends from high school had passed away. I haven’t processed the emotions from this yet; it’s only been a couple hours since I found out and right now, I am just trying to put one foot in front of the other. I don’t know yet how I feel, other than the obvious answer of sadness. I don’t know what I’m going to do, or how I am going to find consolation in this. What I do know, I know from experience. The sadness I feel now is nothing compared to the darkness that I might face in the next few days as I slowly come to know the reality of Jessica’s death. Thanks to this retreat, I also know this: I cannot sit on the outskirts of grief and avoid dealing with my emotions if I expect Christ to be with me. He is waiting for me in the heart of that darkness, and I will have to go there to find him. As much as I would like to just bury myself in my work and avoid thinking about it, I can’t. I have to go there.

During the retreat, it hit me that this is like the Paschal mystery. When we’re on the outskirts of the dark, it’s like Holy Thursday in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s like when the soldiers came and took Christ. We’re scared, we’re sad, we’re confused. Darkness is threatening to overcome us. We want to run, like Peter ran when he denied knowing Christ. But the thing is, we can’t run if we want to get to the Resurrection. Only through the Passion can we come to the Resurrection.

In one of the texts I’m reading for comps (Athanasius’ On the  Incarnation) I was struck by a simple line, something that any kindergartener would think was obvious. But this statement must not have been too obvious, because Athanasius bothered to say it and, let’s be honest, paper and ink was not cheap back then (really, papyrus and ink). The line was this: “Death must precede resurrection.”

I think this is a fact that we all too often want to overlook. I would like the resurrection without the passion, thank you very much. I’ve seen a crucifix. The passion doesn’t look too fun. I would like to avoid that part, just like I would like to avoid recognizing the reality of grief. But consolation cannot come from avoidance. That’s not healthy. We have to go into the heart of darkness, where Christ, the Beloved, is waiting. He will bring us out the other side.

So, friends, have hope. Do not be afraid to know the dark. Instead, fear the unlived life—the one that is avoided by living in fear. And know that for every Good Friday, there is always an Easter Sunday. As my favorite poet, Wendell Berry, says: “Practice Resurrection.”

Please pray for Jessica and her family and friends. And friends, please know that whenever you feel alone in the darkness, Fr. Jeff and I are here and we will always be willing to sit with you and be with you. You are never alone. 

“The Joy of Waiting”

The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness, Retreat Reflections part 1:
“The Joy of Waiting”

This is part of my short series of reflections about the Echo Winter retreat.

Originally posted to the Butler Catholic Community blog (http://butlercatholiccommunity.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-joy-of-waiting.html) 

Last week, as many of you know, I was away on retreat for five days. It was a retreat with Echo (my graduate program) and in packing and preparing for the retreat, I was much more focused on the idea that I would soon see my friends than I was on spending five days with Christ. I am embarrassed, as a campus minister, to admit that. Yet, as I have spoken with my students so many times, friendship is in itself a form of prayer. Everyone in Echo is close, and it had been since August that I had seen my fellow Echo Apprentices, my dear friends. Perhaps it is fitting, given my attitude, that when my community (Pat, Amy, and Joe) was almost all the way to the retreat center, a four-hour drive for us, we started receiving text messages from our friends that their flight into South Bend was delayed.

We arrived at the retreat center thinking that perhaps our friends would be there later that night. As time passed and the plane was still not leaving, we all realized it was not going to happen. Instead, my community would wait with the Associate Director of Echo, Luke, and hang out at the retreat center and the retreat would start the next afternoon, when our friends would finally arrive. While twenty other Echo apprentices were stuck in the airport for almost an entire day (and later, stuck at a shabby hotel where Delta had put them up), my community and I were forced to entertain ourselves. Patrick, Amy, and I played soccer in the dining hall (or, more accurately, half-heartedly kicked the soccer ball back and forth) for an hour and then, joined by Joe and Luke, we ate pizza as a community. We were not in the highest spirits—we were waiting.

After dinner, we managed to raise our spirits a little. I confessed I had never played pool, so the men decided I needed to learn. Patrick and Luke patiently taught me. While I was frustrated at first, they coaxed me into having fun. We managed to enjoy ourselves and lose track of the time amid our laughter at my epically poor pool skills—all the while anticipating our friends’ arrival the next day. We tried to come up with stories to tell them when they arrived and, through the glory of technology, kept up with where they were and what they were up to, even though we were still apart.

It is interesting, given this incident at the beginning, that the theme chosen for our retreat was “The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness.” We spent a lot of time waiting that first night, waiting to hear if our friends would come. Once we knew they weren’t, we were waiting for the morning when they would be there and the retreat could begin in earnest. All the while, we reminded ourselves that we were not alone—we could wait together and in our companionship, find consolation for missing our dear friends.

I think that one of the great things about this retreat theme was that it was ambiguous—we weren’t really sure what or who the beloved is. Perhaps I am the beloved one, the beloved of God who is waiting amidst the darkness of my life—waiting for God, waiting for love, for hope, for light. Perhaps Christ himself is the beloved and he waits for me in the darkness. Or, perhaps it is the waiting itself that is beloved.

During one of the talks during the retreat, the last of these was suggested by our formation director, Jan. What if it is the waiting itself that is beloved? She told us a story she had heard about a grandmother. This grandmother was well loved by her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. On one of her birthdays, they threw her a surprise party. When the party came around and the grandmother walked in and they surprised her, she was disappointed. She asked them, “How could you rob me of the joy of anticipating being with you?”

The joy of anticipation… how beautiful is that? But you know, thinking about it, it is true. I know that before my students all come back at the beginning of the semester, when I’m sitting in my office, organizing for the upcoming events, I anticipate their arrival. And it’s a joy to anticipate. I know that soon, I will be busy and in the thick of it. At the beginning, I spend some time just anticipating, preparing, and readying myself… and, hopefully, doing so with love. Anticipating is part of the loving.

My community and I experienced this very clearly as we were anticipating our friends at the retreat center. When they arrived, the vans pulled up and they piled out. We raced out to the cars and hugged each of them almost before they were out of the car. And as we waited for the last two vans, I know that the anticipation was growing in my heart. My best girlfriend from my senior year of college, Meg, was in the last van to arrive. As much as I LOVED hugging each of my other 19 friends, I know that I kept anticipating her arrival even more after the others were there. Having friends like Matt, Sarah, Annie, and Kathy in my arms made me want to hug Meg all the more. The promise that she would arrive soon took away any anxiety of the waiting. The waiting was truly beloved, and it made the moment of reunion that much more beautiful. Had Meg arrived first, I might have lost track of that moment, or, worse, I might have been denied a moment of reunion with my other friends. Instead, the waiting was beloved and beautiful.

Perhaps this revelation for me, the beauty and beloved quality of waiting, should have come about before… like, at Advent, for example. I mean, it is the season of waiting ( and, as I have said before, my favorite liturgical season). Advent is dark—literally, as the days grow shorter; and figuratively, as many people face seasonal depression or sadness related to loss experienced during the holidays or simply from being alone. But even now, in ordinary time, we might face waiting. I wait anxiously for a final decision to be made about my plans for next year. Seniors wait for jobs or acceptance to grad school. Many sophomores wait for acceptance to the Pharmacy program. We are all waiting for something.

As for the anxiety associated with waiting, I found consolation in some of the reading we did on retreat. Thomas Merton wrote: “On all sides I am confronted by questions I cannot answer because the time for answering them has not yet come.” (from The Fire Watch)

We have to trust that God’s silence is not because He doesn’t know the answer or, an even worse thought, because He doesn’t care. It is simply because the time for answering has not yet come. There can be any number of reasons for this. In my experience, it is often because I am not yet the person who God intends to give an answer to.

My invitation for today is to remember that even in the heart of darkness, the waiting can be beloved. Let the joy of anticipation fill you. Trust in the Lord, do not be anxious. The time for answering will come. For now, we wait in joyful hope.

From the BCC Blog... In the Spirit of Christ, which is Love

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. 

There are no success stories here

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. 

UDMC Notes, 2012

I apologize for the length of this post, but I wanted to share my notes from UDMC this year. It was a great conference.

University of Dallas Ministry Conference
28-29 October, 2011

Session I: Developing Lay Ecclesial Ministry by Francis Cardinal George (born in Chicago in 1937, 1st native Chicagoan to become bishop of Chicago)

·      Cardinal George wishes to address 4 points
  1. Ecclesiology/Theology of the Church: we must start with relationships
  2. 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.”
  3. Culture: Sacraments, Community, Ecclesiology
  4. Lay Ecclesial Ministries
·      The development of the Lay Ecclesial Minister is a “Sign of the Times.”
·      In our culture, there is an idea that what you do equals who you are, this is inaccurate.
·      “Ministry begins not with control, but in going to others on their terms.”
·      Cardinal George wants to avoid the term cleric—a cleric is someone who is not accountable to a superior and so as Catholics we shouldn’t use this term.
·      Relatedness is primordial; we are in relationship before we understand the concept of “I.”
·      Only relationships are eternal.
·      “Communio” is basic and important to Vatican II. It is used many times. We miss this in English because they use several different words to translate it.
o      It is used more than 200 times in Lumen Gentium.
·      We have to rethink community if we are going to be Vatican II Catholics.
·      Vatican II wanted to understand the Church as relationships, not worried about the state as an institution but the culture of the people.
·      How does the Church address the world in order to change the world?—this is our mission.
·      We don’t want to be isolated, sectarian.
·      The purpose of Vatican II was not to just change the Church, it was to change the Church so that we could change the world. It was to enable us to clean up our act so that we could convert the world.
·      It’s not shaping the state, it’s shaping the culture that we must try to do. [I would argue that in shaping the culture of a republic like the US, we would be shaping the state.]
·      Cardinal George discussed the protestant background of the US
·      This protestant background still shapes us, which impedes us in our own faith lives.
·      The Church’s voice is inside, it’s a mother’s voice—it teaches us, tells us how to think, what to do.
·      A gift is a commodity with a person attached, you accept the gift but also the person.
·      We share the gifts of Christ.
·      The purpose of ministry is to share the gifts.
·      Our ministries should be welcoming.
·      Sacraments create a new world.
·      If you can’t govern and can’t care for people, don’t become a priest.
·      Start with Christ as pastor and that explains everything else.
·      You cannot be a priest without a people.
·      We all have titles—that title involves the relationship. To think of only the title without the relationship negates the title.
·      Lay—of the world; Ecclesial—of the Church; Ministry—bringing people closer to Christ.
·      Lay Ecclesial Ministry—Participation in pasturing without the sacrament of Holy Orders.
·      In Lay Ecclesial Ministry, we are the Church relating to the Church. Disciple relating to disciple, not head to body.
·      You need a call from the head of the Church, calling you to be Christ not just to the world, but to other disciples.
·      It is a vocation within a vocation.
·      Formation in Lay Ecclesial Ministry has four components:
  1. 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.
  2. Skills acquisition—Academic. This should not be the most important part, but you cannot be a good Lay Ecclesial Minister without it.
  3. 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.
·      In Chicago, they do the formation and academic eductionation along with the seminarians so that there are less divisions between the two groups.
·      80% of the Lay Ecclesial Ministers in Chicago are women.
·      Examples of Lay Ecclesial Ministers: DREs and Pastoral Associates
  1. 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.

Session II: Called to be Prophets and Poets by Dr. Robert McCarty

·      We must look at our ministry through the lenses of prophet and poet.
·      Without the prophetic core, we lapse into stagnation. Without the poetic core, we lapse into self righteousness and exhaustion.
·      Objectives:
o      Discipleship as call to be prophet and poet.
o      3 skills that a Prophet and poet needs
o      The good news that motivates us
·      Prophet:
o      Prophets are the audible voice and the visible sign of the invisible God’s love and compassion.
o      A prophet reminds the establishment what it was established for, reminds us of our mission.
o      The prophet takes the inaudible God and makes him audible.
o      Tells the stories of the marginalized.
o      Who is telling the stories of poverty in the US?
o      Prophets are usually reluctant. We’re not born prophets, not born courageous—we become prophets, we become courageous.
o      What excuses do we make?
o      Five step movement in prophesy:
1.     Assess the situation:
o      look around, see the injustice, name what we see, avoid the conspiracy of silence.
o      The last century was split by the holocausts, epidemics, wars.
o      The prophet has to see it and name it.
o      Oscar Romero was considered safe and middle of the road. They thought he wouldn’t be a problem for the government. It took a friend’s death to make him see.
o      Thomas Merton—we should always read with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
2.     Characterized by speech: no, never, never again.
o      hypersensitive to evil
o      not afraid to speak the truth to power.
o      they ask the hard questions: “How do we…” “Why is it…”
o      “Prophets are a pain in the neck.”
o      Jesus was annoying because of what he says.
o      This is what prophets do—they see and speak out.
3.     Prophesy is anchored in mission and flows from mission
o      Prophets are not judged by their success but by their staying true to the word.
4.     Pathos: Prophesy is characterized by tears.
o      Injustice can seem overwhelming.
o      compassion for the human condition
o      having a moist heart—combination of compassion and tears (a Native American saying)
5.     Leads to a new situation
o      The prophet is transformed by hope
o      “Hope has two lovely daughters: anger and courage.” -Augustine
o      Harness the anger on behalf of change
o      Prophets have to be believed or killed.
o      “To be truly involved in life is prophetic. To be a prophet without experiencing the pain of rejection, failure, and being misunderstood is impossible.” –Robert Wicks
o      We also shouldn’t care about that rejection. Keep going anyways.
o      Dr. McCarty was asked by a High School student, “Why did Jesus get whacked in the first place?” – this is the essential question.
o      If we don’t get this, we don’t get anything.
o      Jesus gets whacked because he redefined the kingdom: “The first shall be last…”—he ticked off the first.
o      We’re part of the first!
o      Jesus was radical compassion.
o      How much do we love those who seem unlovable?
o      Reflection Questions:
o      Where in your ministry do you feel like a prophet?
o      What are the costs?
o      What are the payoffs?
o      Who have been prophets who spoke to you, challenged you?
·      Poet:
o      It’s not enough to do for Jesus, we also have to be in Jesus.
o      A bishop was once asked, “Which do you love more: working for the kingdom of God or God?” Afterwards, he added another hour of prayer to his day.
o      The prophet emphasizes the work on behalf of the kingdom, the poet emphasizes relationship with God.
o      If our commitment to Jesus is complete, then our lives will be lived in holy communion with Him.
o      Only when there is genuine conversion will justice win.
o      Don’t just do something, sit there… this is the ministry of being.
o      “The Christian of the next century will be a mystic or nothing at all.” Karl Rahner
o      Our mystics and not our theologians will be the better chance of relating to our young people.
o      Learn to sit in the presence
o      The Ministry of Being
§       “I do mission.” – Prophet
§       “I am mission.” -Poet
o      Just sitting and waiting with people who are hurting is part of the mission
o      To be a poet, we must practice Sabbath.
o      We must recapture Sabbath theology
o      To live in Sabbath time means to be attuned to the holiness in time.
o      Poets talk about time in terms of the second act, the third stanza… their language is different than hours and minutes.
o      It’s about being in time so we can stop and listen to what we are called to do in time.
o      Being present to the moment
o      Are we living fast or are we living deep?
o      It’s challenging to be in the moment right now.
o      Unconditional love is a part of the poet
o      Our culture encourages us to run form experience to experience. We become experience junkies who collect experiences without dwelling on them.
o      We must be a person of prayer in order to live deep.
o      We will not encounter love by living fast.
o      To practice Shavat:
§       Learn to stop.
§       Busyness can cause blindness (or death).
§       Become attentive.
§       Leisure is closely allied to Sabbath.
o      Let’s put ourselves in time out.
o      To practice Sabbath is to practice re-creation: creativity, artistic expression
§       Recreation in community
§       festivity and delight
§       people of joy
o      Sabbath repairs the world.
o      We put a limit on Sabbath joy, but this should not be so.
o      Remember, the only thing that Jesus makes for dinner is reservations.
o      We have this idea: “Don’t be too happy, it’s clearly got to be sinful.”
o      Only Catholics could have invented Lent (they were probably Irish Catholics), but only Catholics could have invented Mardi Gras (the French).
o      Our wonder quotient: when did we last experience wonder and awe?
o      Reflection Questions:
§       When in my ministry do I most feel like a poet?
§       What have been the costs?
§       What have been the payoffs?
§       Who are poets for me?
·      Prophet and Poet: When we put these two together, we get holiness.
o      Mary and Martha—we need to be both Mary and Marth to be holy.
o      Holy Thursday—breaking bread and washing feet
·      We are called to be a both/and kind of people.
·      People of devotion and people of Catholic Social Teaching. People of Paul/Peter; Gentile/Jew; Great Cathedrals/Great Soup Kitchens; Progressive/traditional.
·      Prophet: Good Friday and the Crucifixion, Poet: Easter and the Resurrection.
·      3 Skills:
·      Pay Attention. It is heroic to pay attention. Name the false idols and false values.
o      Redefine the kingdom.
o      If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.
o      Success is a false message.
o      If relationships are only about use, it’s not a relationship.
o      Failure to notice the false messages leads to corruption.
o      There is a cost to being a true Christian: Romero, MLK Jr.
o      In 2009, 23 Catholic missionaries were murdered for their faith.
o      But pay attention also to the good, to the presence of God.
o      Collect moments of grace—those moments are clearly sacramental.
o      The consequences of the moment
·      Speak the Truth gently.
o      Speaking gently as opposed to speaking forcefully and egotistically
o      What truth can the poor speak to us?
o      The spirituality of the oppressed—the call to conversion
o      “I tell you this so that you might have life and have it abundantly.”
o      Oscar Romero said that the poor are preaching in El Salvador and their truth shall set us free.
o      How we treat the powerless is the real test of the Christian.
o      Jesus named the evil, called for repentance.
o      The call to conversion: turning away and turning towards.
o      Through word and witness
o      As gentle as Mother Teresa was, her message was not gentle.
o      We are called to speak the truth by what we say and what we do.
·      Get a dream.
o      It’s all about the size of your dream.
o      The societal dream versus a dream worthy of reckless abandon
o      We must have a dream that’s worthy of reckless abandon, that’s worth grabbing onto, worthy of an adventure.
o      Remember the power of the faith of a mustard seed.
o      We’ve been sold the wrong dream, the dream of a culture of death.
o      The Jesus dream—Jesus reading from Isaiah. He announced the reign of God and signed his death warrant.
o      The reign of God is the Jesus dream, that’s the message.
·      To speak about God is one thing, but to dare to speak for God requires great arrogance and great humility.
·      There is a challenging and transforming aspect of the Good News.
·      Are we afraid that the Gospel has lost its power?
·      We must proclaim clearly with a prophetic and poetic voice that darkness doesn’t win.
·      Are we more joyful? Are we more loving? peaceful? forgiving? courageous?
·      If you want to be happy for an hour, take a nap. If you want to be happy for a day, go fishing. If you want to be happy for a month, get married. If you want to be happy forever, serve God. [I’m not sure how I feel about marriage only bringing a month of happiness… but he did laugh when he said it.]

Session III: Teaching on Tough Issues: Practical Tips for Helping God’s People Embrace Challenging Truths by Ken Ogorek

  •  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.
  • Faithful—exclusive
  • Fruitful—open to new life
  • total—not holding back on any aspect of who you are.

Session IV: Leading With Soul by Dr. Lee Bolman (professor at UMKC)
Note: This lecture was not at all what I expected after reading the description, however, it was an enjoyable session.

·      Wrote the book Leading with Soul for business leaders who are trying to be leaders addressing the soul as well as the business world. Leadership Spirituality
·      The book is not addressed to a particular religious faith
·      Modern leaders do not know how to talk about faith and morals.
·      How can we talk about leadership spiritually but ecumenically?
·      Qualities of Great Leadership
o      Focus—a clear sense of direction
o      Passion—rooted in love. When you love your work, the people you’re with, and the place you’re at, it’s easy to be passionate.
o      Courage—even leaders who aren’t in danger of getting killed face real risks.
o      Wisdom—to decide what to do.
o      Integrity—People only follow those they trust.
·      Extraordinary leaders are people of extraordinarily powerful, deep faith.
·      For many people, that deep faith is a challenge.
·      What is soul?
o      CCC on soul—“Soul signifies the spiritual principle in man.”
o      His preferred definition: a bedrock sense of self—who you are, values, what I really believe in
·      The search for soul as a lifelong journey.
·      So, in this definition of soul, it can be characteristic of a couple.
·      This idea of soul could also apply to an organization.
·      Soul makes a huge difference in whether an organization succeeds.
·      Soul as a core ideology.
·      Companies should have a core ideology.
·      You should focus on something deeper than the bottom line in business, something deeper and more important than the profit.
·      For companies, profits should be like oxygen—necessary, but not the purpose.
·      Poem by Rumi:
All day I think about it,
then at night I say it.
Where did I come from,
and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere,
I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.
·      Questions about origin, purpose, meaning, destination…these are the basic spiritual questions.
·      The twin faiths of technology and consumerism are not making us happy.
·      There’s got to be something more to life than shiny new technology.
·      Joseph Campbell—The Hero’s Journey
·      There’s really only one story people care about and they care about it so much that they keep retelling it.
·      3 Parts of the spiritual journey
  1. Leaving home—escaping shackles of convention
  2. The Quest—entering the wilderness, plunging the depths, confronting demons
  3. Returning Home—Armed with gifts earned on the quest
·      Clip from The Lion King: Simba following Rafiki through the woods to see the reflection
·      Antonio Machado
·      Walt Whitman—Passage to India
·      Leadership gifts that we as leaders can give to others:
o      Authorship: helping other paint their own canvas. Art is important because of the making f it and the pride in being able to make, produce, and create. As parents or leaders, we sometimes do things for others that they really should do themselves.
o      Power: enabling others to feel they make a difference. We make others feel they can make a difference.
o      Love: Caring, compassion… we must choose the person or the relationship over the meeting.
o      Significance: Find meaning in contribution; is what we’re doing important? What the heck is it all about?
·      Clip from Ghandi… a leaders gives all four of these in two minutes to a total stranger—redemption is possible.
·      “I know a way out of Hell…”
·      Ghandi showed compassion
·      Rather than judging, he asks why
·      Penance and reconciliation
·      another Rumi poem
In this world you have three companions:
One is faithful, the others are treacherous.
The latter are friends and possessions;
the faithful one is excellence in deeds.
Your wealth won’t come with you out of your palace;
your friend will come, but only as far as the grave.
When the day of doom comes to meet you,
your friend will say, “I’ve come this far, but no farther.
I will stand a while at your grave.”
Your deeds alone are faithful: make them your refuge,
for they alone will accompany you into the depths of the tomb.

Session V: What Does the Catholic Church teach about Evolution? by Dr. John Norris (UD Theology professor)

Note: I took a class with Dr. Norris on this topic, so my notes are pretty bare. If you want more information, I’ll have to get you my class notes. Sorry!

·      We live in a two truth world: science and faith
·      Evolutionary Theory: Random mutations at the genetic level were passed on through offspring. These random mutations help the individual with these traits to survive more than others. Eventually the variation is distinct enough that there is no interbreeding and there is a separate species.
·      Evolutionary problems for theology:
o      What role does randomness mean in evolution?
o      How does survival of the fittest describe human existence?
o      In what sense is God no longer necessary to help understand the world? Is God just the God of the gaps?
·      Philosophical Materialism—Dawkins: God as a God of the gaps… in this theory
o      random mutation denies any kind of divine causality or creation
o      God is merely a God of the gaps and is no longer necessary when the gaps are explained.
o      Science is a primary means of knowing.
·      Principles for a Catholic Approach to the relationship between faith and science
o      Truth does not contradict truth.
o      Revelation and Theology come from God.
o      Church teaching is inspired by God.
·      We can sort of have a playroom together for scientists and theologians.
·      Dei Filius—problems arise from theology making claims that are faulty or beyond its competence… same thing from science. Both have their own domains, methods, and limitations.
·      Barbour’s 4 models of interactions between faith and science: Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integrations
·      Growth and Change in Catholic theology
o      John Cardinal Newman
o      Semper Idem—always the same… this is not true in Catholic history.
o      There’s a continuity, but also authentic development
o      Recognition of proper authority of levels of teaching

Session VI— Catechist as Witness: Embracing Jesus, The Way, The Truth, and The Life by Dr. Diana Dudoit Raiche, Ph.D.

·      John 14:6… Judas has just left the last supper and Jesus says that he must go where they cannot go.
·      Who is Jesus? Who is Jesus for me? When did you become aware of Jesus as the Son of God?
·      It is the relationship with Jesus that is critical for every catechist. It invites, calls, propels us to become leaders.
·      We do it because it is Good News and we’ve been called.
·      My teaching is not my own, but it is from the one who sent me. Christ said this and so do we.
·      1 Corinthians 15:3
·      NDC calls for witnesses to the faith
·      CCC states that at the heart of Catechesis is Jesus (CCC 426)
·      Catechesi Tradendae
·      As human beings, we mirror the actions of Judas, Peter’s denial, Thomas’ doubt, John’s loyalty, Mary Magdalene’s awe.
·      Each of us carries within us a way of understanding Jesus was given to us.
·      The Jesus we know and experience is the only one we can share with others.
·      We have four lenses to look at Jesus:
  1. Mystery
  2. Myth
  3. Messiah
  4. Man
·      As we think, we believe. As we believe, we act.
·      Jesus as Mystery:
o      Mark 4:11—Jesus says the mystery of the Kingdom has been granted to you.
o      Dr. Raiche always begins her classes with a discussion of the Kingdom of God.
o      You can’t not believe in heaven if you’re with a dying person who has deep faith.
o      The key to grasping mystery comes through experiencing it in history. –Karl Rahner
o      Modern day search for mystery—we look in all the wrong places.
·      Jesus as Myth:
o      When we consider Jesus as myth, it’s when we take Jesus off the cross. We want a tame Christ. (He’s not a tame lion. – C.S.L.)
o      When we think of the myth of scripture, it must be grounded in a firm faith.
·      Jesus as Messiah:
o      The woman at the well attests to Jesus as the Messiah
o      Jesus as Lord… he receives this title on many, many occasions.
o      Every good Catechist shares their faith story. How did you come to understand who Jesus is and who he is for you?
·      Jesus as Man, the son of Mary and Joseph:
o      Central theme of Christian anthropology… grace
o      Catechesis is a work of evangelization. Jesus is the context of that evangelization.
o      We must guard our truths very carefully… blood was shed in the streets to establish our doctrine.
o      once we accept Jesus, we can be catechized.
o      You cannot give to someone what they are not willing to accept.

Session VII: Together on the Journey of Hope: Reflections on the Responsibilities of Lay Catholics for treatment of Migrants and Immigrants by Dr. John Norris

·      USCCB document, “Strangers No Longer” (published January 22, 2003) is the source of much of this talk.
·      VII and Cardinal George recap
o      Remember his definition of church as the sacrament of the unity of humanity.
o      We have to get the Church’s act together so that it can make a difference in the world for the better.
·      Catholics and immigration reform—is there an awareness of Catholic principles among Catholic people? [From what I’ve seen, that would be a resounding no.]
·      How can we best teach people about Catholic teachings on immigration?
·      Authority Level of social justice teaching
o      Some think that because this teaching isn’t infallible or longstanding, it’s not important for Catholic teaching
o      There are principles that are part of Catholic dogma included in social teaching… for example, human dignity.
·      Prudential Application—there is a lot of spectrum for how one applies principles of dogma.
·      Those who seek to migrate are suffering.
·      Many are tragically dying
·      Human rights are being abused
·      Catholics must be concerned about this
·      We believe human being have rights that are inherent to their dignity… these rights are being abused.
·      Families are being kept apart.
·      Racist/xenophobic attitudes
·      John XXIII
·      Principles of Catholic faith are looked at as a means for arguing for reform. Examples: VII and the Church in the modern world, Common good and natural law theory.
·      Some think we are just supposed to be individuals and not ask for systematic reform… this is wrong
·      Our government is not working right and we have a responsibility to speak out. This is part of our call to be prophets mentioned in session II.
·      It is a Lay Responsibility to make these reforms happen—make a difference in the world.
·      Lumen Gentium emphasizes that all Christians are Christ-like and so called to be prophet and king.
·      We must see the injustice and stand up, do something about it.
·      In this process, we have to accept that people of good faith can have different visions and disagree.
·      Exodus 23:9—You shall not oppress a resident alien.
·      We must be grateful for things we did not earn—we did not earn being American.
·      Matthew 25:35-36
·      Christ welcomes the stranger
·      If we’re going to be Christians and think all human beings have human dignity, we must be welcoming
·      Gaudium et Spes
·      This is the heart of the Church in the modern world and we must protect it.
·      Emphasis on personal charity in the pastoral letter:
o      Economic Theory
o      Political Responsibility
o      Universal Human Rights
o      International Accords
·      Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.
o      Like Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of private property—it is considered moral to steal bread if you have no other way of feeding yourself.
o      Private property is not an absolute right.
o      Neither are government boundaries.
·      All the goods of the earth belong to all people.
·      Sovereign Nations have the right to control their borders, but not merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth.
·      The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
·      Focus on the term “undocumented,” not “illegal.”
·      Government policies that respect human rights of undocumented migrants are necessary.
·      The USCCB’s vision is balanced. They recognize protecting rights of US families and workers, recognizing rights to protect borders, but also recognizing the rights of the migrant.
·      The sovereign state may impose reasonable limits on immigration
·      Nations able to receive migrants should do so whenever possible.
·      There are people called to prophesy and people called to diplomacy… not necessarily to both.
·      Prophets must not overstate their case and must not be disrespectful.
·      We have to be careful what we say as prophets—some of the stupid things said at rallies and marches have hurt the cause more than helped.
·      The Bishops’ call:
o      support for migrant and immigrant families
o      hospitality, not hostility for migrant families along their journey
o      Migrant shelters that provide appropriate pastoral and social services.
o      Work with community to address the causes of undocumented migration—1st world nations like the US enter into development of these countries, but we only do so for our own benefit.
o      Help newcomers to integrate
o      Special attention for migrant and immigrant children—educational support for undocumented young people.
o      Dedicate resources to provide pastoral care for migrants who are detained or incarcerated.
o      Encourage local diocese to sponsor pertinent social services for migrants.
o      encourage local parishioners to be home missionaries.
o      Earned Legalization
§       for foreign nationals of good character
§       create a path to citizenship
o      Future worker program to permit foreign born workers to enter the country legally and safely
§       should include safeguards against displacement of US workers
·      Questions to consider:
o      How are we prophets?
o      Do we profit from the work of migrants?
·      Alabama Law—criminalizes anyone who has any contact with a migrant worker who does not turn him/her in.
·      This is not right. Christian religions must have the opportunity to provide charity and help.
·      Comparison to Nazi Germany at the beginning…
·      Change should be welcoming and Christ-like, not losing our identity.
·      Change should be slow and communal.
·      A lot of times what we’re doing is accommodating and separating. That’s not communal.

One week at Notre Dame... and counting

It has been one week since I packed up my car and drove almost 7 hours to my cousins' house in Cedar Lake, IN. Tomorrow, it will be one week since I came to Notre Dame.

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.

The tale of my travels and the start at Notre Dame

So, after two weeks at home, I left my parents home and went into the great unknown. Well... sort of.

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.

More later!

Pray for us, this schedule is pretty packed!