Sharing God’s goodness

From January 2-8,  I was blessed to attend the SEEK 2017 conference in San Antonio, Texas. I am a member at St. Michael Parish in St. Cloud, but now attend school at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Between UMD and St. Scholastica, we were able to take 95 students to the conference this year.

Featured speaker Mark Hart, vice president of Life Team, tries to inspire an audience of young adults Jan. 3 during the biennial SEEK conference at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The event was designed to bring evangelization efforts to college campuses. (CNS photo/courtesy FOCUS)

Throughout the week, we were given the opportunity to attend sessions from powerful speakers such as Jason and Crystalina Evert, Leah Darrow, Sarah Swafford, Mark Hart, John O’Leary and many more. Sessions touched on nearly every topic one could desire; Jesus’ Invitation to Greatness, Consecration to Jesus through Mary, men’s and women’s talks, relativism, bioethics, abortion, relationships, prayer, you name it!

Each morning began with the nearly 13,000 college students attending Mass and prayer with exposition. Passionate hearts sang at least two opening songs to allow time for all the 300 priests to enter mass each day. It was so incredible to witness so many youth on fire for their faith and to see all the priests that were able to attend Mass with us. Over the course of the week, students from around the country formed friendships and shared in their joy for Jesus Christ. We were able to attend an 80’s themed dance, a concert performed by “The Oh Hellos,” browsed through informational booths, roamed the streets of the gorgeous San Antonio city, and could talk to many sisters, friars and priests.

The most compelling part of the entire conference was most definitely adoration and confession on Thursday night. Hearts cried out in the presence of Jesus and lives were transformed. Lines weaved all the way around the convention center for confession. Many times throughout the night, the emcees announced that students had to refrain from entering the confession line because it was a fire hazard due to the length of the lines! Over 4,000 confessions were heard that night alone (and many more throughout the retreat).  The atmosphere filled with the Holy Spirit was remarkable.

One thing really touched me during this time. I was in line for confession when I noticed on the jumbo screens that the priests had been walking around the conference room with the monstrance so that each person would get to witness the presence of God up close. Noticing I had at least a 30-minute line still ahead of me for confession, I was a little bummed that I wouldn’t be in the main room while the monstrance was being carried around each section of people. However, I found peace in being able to see it on the large screen. Being Catholic and having the opportunity to attend confession I have learned is such a blessing and one that I am so grateful for; doing it with over 300 brothers and sisters in Christ at the same moment was even more life changing.

Young adults pray during a Mass during the Jan. 3-7 biennial SEEK conference at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The event was designed to bring evangelization efforts to college campuses. (CNS photo/courtesy FOCUS)

After walking out of confession and into the larger adoration room, I saw Jesus, in the monstrance, was coming right around the corner where I was! I had been so worried about missing this part of adoration, but now I realized I wouldn’t be missing Jesus up close at all! At the same time, the lyrics of the song being sung were “ ‘Cause You know just what we need before we say a word.” This was such an impactful moment for me. The Lord truly knows just what we need and will provide. As they rounded the corner with Jesus in the monstrance, hands were stretched out wide by many and, hundreds following in line behind to follow Jesus on his journey around the convention center room.

Another major thing that Jesus told me over the weekend was how important it is to simply extend an invitation to those around us, Catholic or not, in coming to know the Lord and the Catholic faith.  Many people shared their testimonies in the talks and around Texas in casual conversation about how they attended SEEK, some Catholic speaker at their parish, or even Mass only because they had a friend who invited them and encouraged them to go.  For each and every single one of those people, that invitation changed their lives, and now us 13,000 attendees are thrilled to go out and share God’s goodness with those back home.

Amanda Vasek is a young adult from St. Michael Parish in St. Cloud and is currently a sophomore at University of Minnesota, Duluth. When she isn’t studying or attending events with Newman Center, she is enjoying the outdoors, catching a sporting event, or eating ice cream!

The 11th Day of Christmas

Eleven guest writers from around the diocese share tips on how to keep the Spirit of Christmas alive in the new year.

11 Tips to Keep the Spirit of Christmas Alive
in the New Year

#1. Smile. Inspired by a quote from St. Mother Teresa (“Peace begins with a smile”) as well as one of our Christmas poster contest entries, the gift of a smile is a very simple thing a person can do to keep Christmas alive in the new year. We hustle and bustle around all year long and how often do we remember to sport a healthy grin to those around us? Do you ever notice how you feel when a stranger holds the door for you and offers a friendly face? A smile may be a simple offering but it can make a big difference to the person who receives it! “A cheerful glance brings joy to the heart; good news invigorates the bones” (Proverbs 15:30). —Kristi Anderson, The Visitor

#2. Spend time with family and friends. The holidays give us opportunities to gather with family and friends – to slow down and take time to reconnect with our loved ones. Though, sometimes it seems like there are so many people we do not necessarily get time to really spend time together. This time of year especially, I remind myself that Christmas, and the celebration there of, invites us to spend time – real time – with others. Go on a family movie date (we just saw “Sing” in theaters, which was a great family flick, by the way). Invite a friend or family over for dinner. Take time with a few friends or one family. Share a meal. Visit. Play. Big family gatherings are great, but there is real goodness in the smaller gatherings, too! Even meet up with a friend for a coffee (or hot cocoa for you non-coffee drinkers)… the goal is to find and share joy in spending time with people – at Christmastime and throughout the whole year. —Jennifer Adams, Christ Our Light Parish in Princeton/Zimmerman

#3. Schedule time for service. One of the things my cousin is doing is scheduling going to Kids Against Hunger each month. Sometimes it’s easier to work service into one’s schedule when you actually schedule it and it’s listed on the calendar. —Brenda Kresky, diocesan consultant for adult faith formation

#4. Step up our prayer lives. This can mean adding a rosary, chaplet or novena to your prayer routine. It can also include reading about the saints, using a Saint of the Day book, or going for a daily relaxing walk while praying the rosary. Reading aloud to your family while they sip on hot cocoa (or ice tea in the summer!) is also a fun way to add in extra prayer time. Make a ‘Thinking of You’ card and insert a prayer card in it and send it to a person you think may be having a tough time. Instead of making a New Year’s resolution to improve oneself (losing weight, exercise, etc.), consider a promise to try harder to be ‘in tune’ with others’ wants and needs and help them. —Kathy Wagner, St. Joseph Parish, Bertha

#5. Keep all your Christmas cards and letters you receive. Then after the new year (or part way through the year, when you need a little spiritual boost), put them away one at a time. On the day you put each one away (be that recycling it, scrapbooking it, or whatever you do with your greetings from friends and family), pray in a special way for the person or family who sent it to you. Dedicate that day to them and lifting them up in prayer!  It’s a great way to re-live the feeling of Christmas as you re-read their Christmas messages. And it’s a great way to remind your mind, heart and faith life of the communion we all share as you hold your loved ones and acquaintances in prayer throughout your day.  As an extra bonus, send them a little message letting them know you’re praying for them especially that day; you never know how they may be needing to hear of your prayers and support that day.  It just may help both you AND them feel the Christmas spirit – of love, generosity, faith and accompaniment – alive again! (And maybe even encourage them to start this tradition with their Christmas cards – that’s how I got started). -Kateri Mancini, mission education coordinator, St. Cloud Mission Office

#6. Contemplate, praise, rejoice, discern. God became human in the Incarnation. Contemplating this mystery, Saint Francis of Assisi saw all of creation as revelatory of God. Let us join with Saint Francis: “In art he praises the Artist….he rejoices in all the works of the Lord’s hands, and through their delightful display he gazes on their life-giving reason and cause. In beautiful things he discerns Beauty Itself” (2 Celano 124). -Franciscan Sister Michelle L’Allier, Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls

#7. Connect a part of the Christmas story in something you do everyday.  I think about the Magi, bringing gifts to the newborn baby, and ask myself how I can be a gift to others in ways I have not been before. Each encounter in the new year is a new opportunity to show love and care, to people we know and new people we meet. -David Fremo, director of campus ministry, St. John’s Preparatory School

#8. Be present. In the Advent season, we learn that Jesus shall be called “Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us,” “Dios con nosotros.” Here and now, God makes a place among us — quite literally — next to us, beside us, on top of us, underneath us, holding our hand. Like new parents ever-conscious of an infant in their home; the child’s crying, sleeping, feeding, laughing, waking, presence at all times, so God is born to us in baby Jesus. How quickly we can forget God’s living in our midst. By increasing our awareness of Christ’s continued presence among us, we incarnate the spirit of joy, charity, peacefulness, and love with us at all times. -Margaret Nuzzolese Conway, associate director of development and alumni relations, St. John’s School of Theology, Collegeville

#9. Don’t let the garbage trucks determine the length or intensity of your celebration of Christmas. CHRISTMAS is a season; it goes on and on, at least until February 2, on one level. So don’t let the garbage trucks determine the length or intensity of your celebration of Christmas! Don’t give them your untrimmed tree too soon! The longer that jeweled tree can remind you of Jesus’ birth, death on another tree, Resurrection and Ascension, i.e. the entire mystery of the season, the better! On a second level, the Nativity, imaged in the crib scene, invites us to search for God in the least likely places: among the poor, the misfits, foreigners and nonbelievers. And above all, in our humanity! So why would we let the dump trucks or the storage room rob us of time to simply sit and ponder? Besides, February 2, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, will be here before we want it! –Benedictine Sister Renee Domeier, St. Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph

#10. Actively think about Christmas. Let us think about the joy that the holiday brings through the smiles, the goodwill, the feelings towards others. St. Benedict urged his monks to keep death before thine eyes daily. I don’t believe he did this to scare or remind us of our own mortality but rather as a guidance for us to live our lives more fully. For what we focus on, we will become. Christmas allows us the opportunity to focus on the pleasantries of the season. We aren’t thinking about having to go back to work, or how we can’t wait for our schedules to return to normal. We are thinking about how we can be the light and spread the good news of the season. We focus on the good and the joy because our thoughts of Christmas create our emotions and feelings. So if we want to feel the joy we have to consciously think about the joy. If we want to feel the warmth of being surrounded by loved ones, we have to actively think about what our loved ones mean to us. I believe Christmas affords us permission to disconnect us from the hustle and bustle of “every day living,” but it’s really how we change our thinking. So for us to continue in the Christmas spirit, all we have to do is to change our thinking. Our thoughts will always determine our feelings and emotions! Michael Stalboerger, Birthline board member and member of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Richmond

#11. Be artisans of peace. “All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers. In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. ‘Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.'” -Pope Francis, 2017 World Day of Peace message, From the Vatican, 8 December 2016

The Third Day of Christmas

Year after year people across the world get together on January 6 to celebrate El Dia de Reyes (Three Kings Day).  This day is not only important for its significance in that it celebrates the height of the Christmas season and the journey of the Three Kings, Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar, to honor the birth of the born Christ, this day is important to people as a means to celebrate culture, tradition, family and friendship.

With celebrations across the world taking place January 6, I delight in my own traditions, but also in the traditions of other countries as they celebrate this special day.

In Germany, for instance, carolers go from house to house treating people with joyful music and in return receive cookies, sweets and money. People also sprinkle their doorways with holy water and write the initials of the Three Kings along with the year as a means to seek protection over their home.

In Poland, January 6 is actually a national holiday filled with street parades, caroling of songs and reenactments of the Nativity scene.

As for my native country, Mexico, El Dia de Reyes is celebrated publicly and privately like many other countries. Public celebrations include parades celebrating and honoring the three Kings. Private celebrations and traditions were filled with family, sharing, food and joy.

Growing up, preparations for El Dia de Reyes started soon after the New Year arrived, with food preparations at the top of the list. Some of the foods planned would include: tamales, posole, champurrado (traditional Mexican hot drink), churros, chocolate abuelita (hot chocolate) and more.

On the eve of El Dia de Reyes my parents would have us set our shoes by the window or outside the door because, as we were told, the three kings would pass by our house and they could take our shoes if they needed them or leave us a gift in return for our generosity.  It never dawned on me my shoes would be too small for them, but, nonetheless, I would set a pair of shoes accordingly.  Come morning time, I would run to see if my shoes were needed or if a surprise was left in return.  To my delight, I would always wake-up to money in my shoes and gifts underneath the Christmas tree.  Now, it is not that I received gifts twice, the fact is, our tradition, as well as that of many Latin American countries, is that gifts arrive on the 6th of January.  Santa Claus was not the bearer of gifts–instead, it was the three wise men who brought us gifts.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were always days of honoring the newborn Christ, worshiping, sharing time with family and friends, and sharing food with each other. January 6, on the other hand, was a day focused on gifts and kids–for, just like the three kings brought gifts to the newborn Christ, we also received gifts.

In addition to the gifts and the various types of food and sweets we ate and drank, there was the traditional Rosca de Reyes. A rosca is a cake pastry that reminded me of a large doughnut. The rosca was filled with a plastic baby Jesus, and the tradition was that if you were the “lucky” one to find the baby Jesus in your pastry, then you would be honored with the responsibility of hosting a party on Candlemas Day on February 2.  Looking back, I now understand why people were relieved when they ate their rosca and could not find the baby Jesus!

The entire day, as I recall, was filled with joy – sharing with family, friends, and even people you did not know, was special. Everyone felt like family.

All-in-all, growing up I enjoyed the traditions my parents handed down to my siblings and I, but now as an adult I cherish them, and I look forward to sharing these traditions, as well as those traditions my husband’s Polish/German family handed him, and give our girls a set of beautifully blended traditions.

Edith Hernandez-Fussy was born in Mexico and was brought to this country by her parents in 1988. She is married to Michael Fussy with whom she has two daughters, Clarissa Guadalupe, almost 3 years old, and Crystal Esmeralda, 13 months old. They belong to Holy Trinity Church in Royalton, but also attend St. Francis Xavier when visiting family in Sartell.

Guest post: Fiat Farewell

This blog post first appeared on the Fiat House blog Dec. 2. It is being reprinted here with permission.

As I write this blog post, the walls of the Fiat House are starting to look quite bare. In fact, they look quite a bit like they did during those first few weeks when we first moved in.  Tomorrow morning at 8:30, a small crew of friends will be coming to help me move my belongs to the Wild West (St. Anna, MN) and I will be saying my farewell to Fiat House.  In three weeks when April moves out, the Fiat House itself will be saying farewell as the Lord in His infinite wisdom, has decided to close the chapter of Fiat House to begin writing something new for the both of us.

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Last night April and I reflected on all of the beautiful ways the Lord used Fiat House for His Glory.  We remembered our first party where we unveiled our house name, we recalled the joy of our first 5k and the yearly advent retreats we coordinated.  We also reminisced about all the wonderful people who gifted us with their presence for Fiat dinners. One of the greatest gifts of this house was the beautiful friendship formed with our first roommate, Marita.

I could go down memory lane for hours, and you could too if you scrolled through the archived blog posts. But what I have been reflecting on most from my time here at Fiat House isn’t so much the memories of the house, but its purpose.

When I first moved into Fiat House I was restless to organize its vision and mission.  The Lord had mysteriously called this house forth and  I was anxious to use my gifts to help Him shape it into something organized, structured and well run.  In my mind we were a discernment house for young women interested in consecrated life.  I thought of many ways we could accomplish this goal: Fiat 5ks, nun runs, and collecting materials on various religious orders.  I thought that this house – through April and I – was meant to serve other women.

Gradually over time, the Lord began to strip me of the supports of my coordinated efforts and plans for this house.  Life at the Fiat House began to slow down and the house began to flower into something completely different from what I had thought.  I began to realize that this house wasn’t for other people’s formation, it was for our formation.

As the house began to independently take shape, I would get increasingly more annoyed with the questions: “so what exactly is Fiat House?”  “what do you ladies do?”  “What’s its purpose?”  I felt vulnerable and stupid with these questions because I didn’t know the answers.  I couldn’t see or explain what the Lord was doing, but His movements were palpable.  I couldn’t do anything besides surrender my plans to the mystery of His and let Him take over.

our-lady-of-the-millenniumIncreasingly over time, and with the help of one of my favorite books, Reed of God, it became clear that Fiat House was meant to be an almost four year Advent for both of us.  In Reed of God, Carell Houselander describes  Advent beautifully: “Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence,  It is the season of humility, silence and growth.”

Humility. Silence. Growth.  These three words sum up some of the greatest lessons learned at Fiat House.  In the hum drum of our quiet life here, the Lord began to grow.  Like an expectant mother, I couldn’t initially see anything happening, but I knew he was there and I soon began to feel His presence more and more.  Perhaps on the outside nothing exciting appeared to be happening in my life.  I had my usual routine of work, grad school classes and such, but on the inside, everything was changing!  The Fiat House was a physical reminder of what the Lord was doing interiorly. Just as the Fiat House was an empty space for the Lord to work, my heart was to become an empty space for the Lord to grow.  Mother Teresa says “God cannot fill what is full.  He can fill only emptiness, deep poverty, and your “Yes” is the beginning of being or becoming empty.  It is not how much we really “have” to give, but how empty we are, so that we can receive Him fully in our life and let Him live His life in us.”

I also began to realize that my own “fiat” wasn’t a magical moment when I courageously  said my “yes” to God for the great mission for which He was going to call me.  My “fiat,” modeled after the blessed Mother’s Fiat, was meant to be a spousal “I do.”  A complete gift of myself to the Lord to do with me as He willed.  On paper this seems lovely, but through the tears, trials and pains of purifications, I began to know what kind of commitment was required to be a spouse of Christ.  The Lord began to teach me about my daily “fiat…”  the daily “yes’s” that require self denial to accomplish His will.  The Lord uses our obedience to flower within us. Every “Yes” to Him is a “No” to our self and therefore allows Him space to continue to grow in our hearts.  Mary was full of grace and God-Bearer because she was obedient.

As the physical Fiat House comes to an end, the Lord is asking us to continue the Fiat House in our hearts: an empty space for Him to grow and flower within us.  As He continues to grow with in us, He is asking us to take Him out to the new people we will encounter through our new ministries and endeavors.

img_1103As we wait in hopeful expectation for the next chapters to be written, in some ways, April and I are approaching yet another Advent.  I wait in hopeful expectation as I begin my new job as New Evangelization Coordinator at the parishes in the Holdingford area, and April waits in hopeful expectation as she begins her new endeavors elsewhere (you’ll have to ask her in person where she’s off to.  Hint: it’s a bit farther than my new location in St. Anna…)

As we journey in this season of Advent, let’s be attentive to the Lord growing in silence.  And let’s not shortchange this Advent season of growth.

Dear Jesus,

help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life.

Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come into contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up, and see no longer me, but only Jesus!

Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as You shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.

The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine.
It will be You, shining on others through me.

Let me preach You without preaching,
not by words but by example,
by the catching force,
the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart hears for You. Amen.

– A prayer by Cardinal Newman

Guest blogger Kristin Molitor, left, with Fiat House roommate, April Bechtold. Fiat House began in February 2013 with these two St. Cloud area natives as foundresses. The vision of Fiat House was unique: to provide a place for women to have the freedom and time to discern what the Lord might be asking of them, both temporarily and permanently.
Guest blogger Kristin Molitor, left, with Fiat House roommate, April Bechtold. Fiat House began in February 2013 with these two St. Cloud area natives as foundresses. The vision of Fiat House was unique: to provide a place for women to have the freedom and time to discern what the Lord might be asking of them, both temporarily and permanently.

What’s in a name: October 15 prayers

I spent years laughing at the episode. The episode of “Friends” in which Chandler’s co-worker calls him “Toby” and has for years, because once he started it was too awkward to correct the error, so Chandler just kept allowing it…until it got complicated.

I spent years laughing at it, that is until it actually happened to me.  That’s right, the owner and primary worker at the Curves where I work out regularly started calling me “Katrina.” I thought I’d corrected her but she kept at it; and though I made sure that the other employees there knew my real name in the hopes that when they left notes or talked about me, she’d catch on. But no. I remained “Katrina” for years!  Finally, when she looked at the computer and announced to me that she’d spelled my name wrong, and then proceeded to spell it out loud, correctly, I finally told her that “K-a-t-e-r-i” is actually my name.  Then in front of the whole group of women also exercising at that time, we practiced its pronunciation.  I think she may have it down now…hopefully.

But it really got me thinking about what is in a name.  Why did it bother me so much to be called something different?  Why did I want so badly to be called by my name, a name that is truly me?

My name is important to me, and always has been.  Growing up I was “Kati,” a name which still has a lot of family value for me.  But as I got into my late teens, and especially in college, I really started identifying myself more with my full name, “Kateri” – a name with a lot of value of its own, value I wanted to be mine.  I loved that my name meant something to me and called me to something more.  Every time I hear or say my name, I am think of my patron St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and am reminded to be a saint, to live for something bigger than myself.

That, in a very brief nutshell, is what my name means to me.  So when it came time to name our soon-to-be-born children, I really struggled.  I knew how valuable the right name could be (and being called “Katrina” for years has reminded me of how frustrating the wrong name can be).  I knew how important it was that the name we give our children be names that fit them and their unique selves, but also that form them and call them into something.  Hopefully something beautiful.

It’s too soon to tell for sure if we did our children’s naming well, though I’d like to think that so far at least our little ones certainly fit their names (Adrian Donald the “gentle leader,” Lilly Elizabeth the “strong woman, promise of GOD,” and Layla Josephine the “dark beauty, increase of GOD”).  I’d like to think we named all of our children well – all five of them.

Our first baby was the easiest to name.  We had a name all picked out for her.  But then came May of 2009, when we found out that our 12 week in-utero baby no longer had a heartbeat.  And for a while, my heart stopped too.  It is hard to describe how much it hurts, missing someone you never knew.  And yet, as a mother, somehow I already did know my little one.  I knew in my heart, though no ultrasounds had shown us yet, that it was a little girl.  I knew in my heart that she was going to be sweet and beautiful.  I knew in my heart that she would be daddy’s little girl.  I knew in my heart that she would be loved.  And it broke me that I never got to prove my heart right, by sharing her with the world!  And so, my heart stopped.  It stopped being joyful, it stopped being happy, it stopped being hopeful….until it came time to give our baby a name.

And in this first naming experience, I did not struggle.  Somehow, along with all I knew in my heart about her, we both knew in our hearts what our daughter’s name was:

Esperanza.4-25-10-014

Esperanza is the Spanish word for “hope.”  And though it was not the name we had picked out for her originally, this name fit her.  And this name has made her into something so much greater than just herself.  Through her name, my daughter helped me find hope again, and eventually along with it joy and happiness after that very dark period in my life.  Through her name, my little angel has helped me remain hopeful in so many other areas, including future dark periods, of my life – and especially in my motherhood.  Through her name, my daughter is hope and brings hope and makes me want to be hope. She is, in my heart and in how she lives on in my life, something beautiful.  And so with her, I know we did her naming very well.

It’s amazing all that can be in a name – the right name at least.

October 1pregnancy_infant_loss_awareness_sticker5 is a day very near and dear to my heart.  Unlike Christmas, Halloween or my husband’s birthday, this one is not a holiday I look forward to, yet one that since that difficult May of 2009 has become a day always marked on my calendar…and more permanently, on my heart.  October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  Honored in multiple countries, including the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Italy, the day strives to raise awareness as well as lift up those who have suffered this loss.  It is marked by an “international wave of light,” in which all are invited to light a candle in honor of the precious lives lost at 7:00pm local time – allowing the light to flow across the time zones, nation and world.

Since losing Esperanza, my husband and I have had three beautiful, healthy children; three lives bookmarked by yet another miscarriage, suffered just a few months ago.  Many of my dear family and friends have also lost their babies, along with countless more acquaintances and strangers (an estimated one in four), who have lost their children to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or other far too early ends to their precious little ones’ lives in this world.  For all you women and men out there who have lost your babies, at any stage too early, please know that my prayers are with you on this special day.

Prayers for Hope!

Kateri Mancini is the coordinator of mission education for the St. Cloud Mission Office, where she has ministered for the past 11 years. She has spent that same amount of time sharing life with her best friend and partner in parenting. As both a minister and mother, Kateri spends her days grappling with the intersection of Church and family, theology and potty training.
Kateri Mancini is the coordinator of mission education for the St. Cloud Mission Office, where she has ministered for the past 11 years. She has spent that same amount of time sharing life with her best friend and partner in parenting. As both a minister and mother, Kateri spends her days grappling with the intersection of Church and family, theology and potty training.

On the lessons that come from traveling alone

We are doing something a little different today! Our latest post comes from guest blogger Molly Minnerath, parishioner of St. Mary Church in Alexandria. Molly is a spending a year as a missioner in Bolivia through Maryknoll. She has her own blog and has agreed to let us share it with you.

Stay tuned for more about Molly and about mission in the Oct. 21 issue of The Visitor.

Click here to read Molly’s most recent blog post:

On the lessons that come from traveling alone

Local graduate students discuss “Racial Justice and the Catholic Church”

One man raised both arms in the air, palms out, elbows locked, hands up.

And he prayed, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

Another man raised both arms in the air, palms out, elbows locked, hands up.

And he was shot three times in the leg.

The difference between these men? One wears black. The other is black.

Mass struck me differently one day in mid-July, after reading the Washington Post headline, “North Miami police shoot black man who said his hands were raised while he tried to help an autistic patient.” As I watched the presider raise his hands during the Our Father, I imagined Charles Kinsey making the same motion with much different results. The shooting of Kinsey was one of too many instances of racially-charged violence that plagued the country this summer. How long, O Lord, will the hate continue? How many more lives will be destroyed?

Racism is so deeply woven into the fabric of this nation. What can I possibly do about it?

These are the sorts of big questions that prompted a racial justice book club to form at the Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. A small group of us met for dinner each Wednesday in August to discuss Fr. Bryan Massingale’s prophetic book, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (Orbis Books, 2010). Some SOT students attended a lecture by Fr. Massingale at St. Cloud State earlier this spring. We were inspired by the urgency with which one of the country’s leading theologians attacks racial injustice. We cannot remain indifferent, Fr. Massingale says. Peoples’ lives are being destroyed by discrimination. We must act.

After two years of graduate studies, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that effective ministry is fueled by both passion and knowledge. We used our weekly discussions to talk through big theological concepts like human dignity and social justice. Guided by Fr. Massingale’s research, we did our own mini analysis of race relations in our parishes. But mostly, we sat around the table sharing stories. What was it like marching in the Black Lives Matter protest? Did your family talk about race growing up? How do you feel when you hear of another shooting in North Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Dallas, and on and on. Lived experience provides the spark.

Two SOT classmates and I did our undergraduate studies at Marquette University and were lucky enough to be taught by Fr. Massingale. I’ve shared my struggles with moving from Milwaukee, an urban, racially-diverse city, to Collegeville, a rural, mostly white town. There were many nights this summer where I watched from my window as campers caught Pokémon and monks strolled after Evening Prayer. I confided in the group that I feel grateful for the peace I experience here. At the same time, I feel unsettled and a bit removed. There are no blood stains outside Emmaus Hall, no protestors on Abbey Road. But there are ministers here who long for racial reconciliation and desire to be part of the solution.

The Lord requires of us to “do justice” according to the prophet Micah (6:8). This summer, our justice work was aided by good classmates, a good book and halfway decent leftover pizza.

Jessie Bazan is a masters of divinity candidate at the Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary. She serves as the director of retreats and social outreach for St. John’s Campus Ministry.
Jessie Bazan is a master’s of divinity candidate at the Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary. She serves as the director of retreats and social outreach for St. John’s Campus Ministry.

Prayer, Inspiration and Works (of Art)

Among the oldest instructions for living a meaningful Christian life, is the rule from the book of James: faith without works, is dead. (James 2:17) Simple and straight forward, Christ taught his disciples to pray, and with that, He presented them with His mission to build and serve the Kingdom of God on Earth. (Consider the Lord’s Prayer in this light.) In faith, we come to know God the Father, Son, and Spirit, but in our works, God comes to know us. (Matt 7:21-23)

Among the oldest religious orders in the Christian Tradition is the Order of Saint Benedict, whose 1,500-year-old spiritual tradition is summed by the simple motto: worship and work. The Rule of Saint Benedict, under which every Benedictine lives, and from which our motto arises, is an ancient and continuing effort to live the Gospel, and in many ways articulates the rule, “faith without good works, is dead.” The faith of the community expresses itself in our daily work: our labor, teaching, writing, ministry, art, and much more, which then informs our prayer and worship, faithfully returning to God with interest what He has given. (Matt 25:14-30)

This spiritual dynamic and rhythm of worship and work, foundational to the Christian community, invites and inspires as it builds the Kingdom of God, even if only beginning in subtle, humble ways: unsteady pencil lines on notebook paper capturing Lake Sagatagan, ink doodles of faces and shapes hinting at nascent passion and forthcoming inspiration. With persistence, support, and community, even the smallest initial efforts may bloom into inspired works of art, revealing faith, and moving outward to build and communicate the Kingdom of God.

MagnusThe wonderful relationship between the Basilica of Saint Mary and Saint John’s Abbey has created and opportunity to display the faithful relationship between work and prayer as made present in the artwork of sixteen monks of Saint John’s Abbey. Displayed in the John XXIII Gallery & Teresa of Calcutta Hall of Saint Mary’s Basilica, a wide variety of artistic expressions of the monastic spirituality will be open to public viewing from July 16 – September 5.

Magnus1Most every artist, given the talent of public speaking, may tell of the inspiration and intent behind and within their artistic accomplishment, and our Benedictine brothers are no different. The August 4th artist reception gave opportunity to these men to express the wide variety of motivations underlying their work, and to humbly point to the inspiration and hope their works reveal. In short 5 minute presentations, and an evening of socializing with the attendants of the reception, strangers, friends, and even brothers of many years, came to know these artists in a new way, and see more fully how their works reveal and bring to life, faith.

Magnus2While celebration of artistic achievement brought together a wide array of people from a variety of local communities, interests, and parishes, it has become clear that with community support and coming to know the artists more fully through their art ­­­­–their expression and work of faith– many works seemingly unrelated to the Christian faith, may be an outlet, expression, and work of faith when inspired through prayer. We can support one another in prayer and community, and see the Kingdom of God grow around us in the countless variety of works of a faithful people.

Benedictine Creativity Inspired by the SpiritWorks by monks of Saint John’s Abbey runs through the 5th of September, 2016.

Br. Paul-Vincent Niebauer is a Benedictine monk of Saint John’s Abbey. He grew up in Phillips, Wisconsin and completed his Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1976. He completed his MA in Directing from the Chicago School of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University in 2002. After working as a ringmaster/performance director for a number of circuses throughout North America for 13 years, Br. Paul-Vincent entered Saint John’s Abbey in 1993. Beginning in 1995 he taught and directed theatre at Saint John’s Preparatory School for thirteen years. In addition to serving as full time vocations director for Saint John’s Abbey for nine years, he returned to Saint John’s Preparatory School in 2012 to direct Theatre once again, and serves as the director of marketing and communications for the Abbey.
Br. Paul-Vincent Niebauer is a Benedictine monk of Saint John’s Abbey. He grew up in Phillips, Wisconsin and completed his Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1976. He completed his MA in Directing from the Chicago School of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University in 2002. After working as a ringmaster/performance director for a number of circuses throughout North America for 13 years, Br. Paul-Vincent entered Saint John’s Abbey in 1993. Beginning in 1995 he taught and directed theatre at Saint John’s Preparatory School for thirteen years. In addition to serving as full time vocations director for Saint John’s Abbey for nine years, he returned to Saint John’s Preparatory School in 2012 to direct Theatre once again, and serves as the director of marketing and communications for the Abbey.

Seeking God in manual labor

Eight monks and fifteen volunteers converged on the North House Folk School in Grand Marais last month to build a timber-frame footbridge for the trail to the Stella Maris Chapel. build3We worked 9 to 5, five days a week, for two weeks, side by side and shoulder to shoulder, surrounded by whirring circular saws, scraping hand planers, gouging drill bits, roaring routers and one thundering chain mortiser. Daily at 7 am, monks and a number of the volunteers gathered for Morning Prayer and Mass at a cozy cabin two blocks up the hill from the waterfront workshop.

After work, we relaxed and chatted for an hour or so before dinner. The time tocommunitygether was both focused and improvisatory, productive and measured; good for solitary work amidst the noisy tools or getting to know each other better during the quiet moments, the two weeks provided some of the best aspects of any spiritual retreat.

Designed by Peter Hendricksen and funded by donors the Schwietz and John and Bonita Benschoter, the bridge will stand in the long tradition of timber-framing at Saint John’s, dating back to the construction of the ceiling of the Great Hall in the 1880s. White Oak and White Pine timbers were milled from fallen trees in the Saint John’s Arboretum. The Abbey Chapter voted two years ago to approve the project, believing it exemplifies the Benedictine practices of sustainable care for creation, manual work and community life. Indeed, some of the monks and volunteers had never met before the build, while others deepened years-long friendships. Our time together developed a newer understanding of our respective commitments, whether as lay families, single people, or monastic brothers.

build5The work was both physically demanding and mentally taxing, as we performed repetitive tasks with large and heavy pieces of lumber and sharp tools requiring a particular level of skill. We learned from each other and our professional instructors Peter Hendrickson and Tom Healy stepping up to support when needed and finding out where our individual strengths lie. Fitting the pieces together was both a literal and figurative task: in total, 100’s segments of wood needed to be measured, cut, trimmed, and fitted into place; likewise, the project gave participants the opportunity to consider our avocation for craftsmanship within the wider context of our life-long vocation, whether as professed religious or faithful layperson. Together we watched the days unfold, and saw with them a clearer picture of who God has called us to be and what that calling asks of us, moment to moment. Whether the moment demanded a strong back or a listening ear, we were able to find grace in the gift of our time together.

In a real sense, this structure will be both a shelter and a passageway on a well-traveled pilgrimage. Railings and benches will define the pathway and offer a place of rest, while the rafters and trusses will both lift up and cover. We anticipate with joy how the bridge will welcome the thousands of people who yearly make their way out to Stella Maris Chapel. At the same time, we look back on those two weeks with gratitude, knowing that our collaboration has both lifted us up and given us the respite of perspective. With this opportunity to spend so much time together, at such a distance from our daily rounds, we return to our communities and commitments with renewed vision of how our lives intertwine.

landscapeAs Christians seeking God in manual labor, community life, prayer and service to the world, we rely on the presence of Christ in one another, in guests, and in strangers. Whether we drove up to the North Shore in pairs or singly or as a group, we found ourselves bound together into a cohesive whole. Whether we stayed the full two weeks or were only able to stop by for a day or two, we each found in ourselves or each other new facets, linkages we hadn’t known existed, or wider hopes for the future. Few of us emerged without nicks or cuts, bruises or abrasions (and none of us left without fatigue), but we realized in these passing struggles the inspiration to unite our pains with the larger project, and, in so doing, be lifted up yet again.

We still have lots of work to do! The pieces are all cut and many of them are fitted, but as you can see the pieces remain mostly scattered. They are currently being finished with a wood sealant and will be ready to be fitted in a couple weeks. By early-September we expect to be able to assemble the entire bridge in place, on the shores of Lake Sagatagan near the Preparatory School and the statue to St. Kateri Tekakwitha. In the meantime, we rest, return to our regular jobs or turn to new ones, motivated anew by our shared bonds of community and work in Christ.

Br. Paul-Vincent Niebauer is a Benedictine monk of Saint John’s Abbey. He grew up in Phillips, Wisconsin and completed his Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1976. He completed his MA in Directing from the Chicago School of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University in 2002. After working as a ringmaster/performance director for a number of circuses throughout North America for 13 years, Br. Paul-Vincent entered Saint John’s Abbey in 1993. Beginning in 1995 he taught and directed theatre at Saint John’s Preparatory School for thirteen years. In addition to serving as full time vocations director for Saint John’s Abbey for nine years, he returned to Saint John’s Preparatory School in 2012 to direct Theatre once again, and serves as the director of marketing and communications for the Abbey.
Br. Paul-Vincent Niebauer is a Benedictine monk of Saint John’s Abbey. He grew up in Phillips, Wisconsin and completed his Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1976. He completed his MA in Directing from the Chicago School of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University in 2002. After working as a ringmaster/performance director for a number of circuses throughout North America for 13 years, Br. Paul-Vincent entered Saint John’s Abbey in 1993. Beginning in 1995 he taught and directed theatre at Saint John’s Preparatory School for thirteen years. In addition to serving as full time vocations director for Saint John’s Abbey for nine years, he returned to Saint John’s Preparatory School in 2012 to direct Theatre once again, and serves as the director of marketing and communications for the Abbey.

Parish brings ‘new flavor’ to summer festival

Vanilla. If you were to ask my four-year-old son, Davin, what flavor of ice cream he’d want, for the longest time he would tell you, “banilla.” Don’t get me wrong, vanilla is good, but there’s nothing wrong with venturing out and trying something new either … especially when it comes to ice cream. In my plight for variety, I got him try a little chocolate syrup, whip cream, and even some sprinkles at times, but the thought of trying a new flavor other than vanilla must have seemed a bit risky, I guess.

davinIt wasn’t until I brought Davin over to the local ice cream shop that he tried a flavor other than vanilla. I think that seeing the variety of colorful, exciting flavors behind the glass – like rum cherry, mint chocolate chip, and Superman (a fruity, colorful concoction of red, yellow and blue), did it give Davin the incentive to try something new. And sure enough, he has a new favorite. Now whenever we go to the ice cream shop, Davin orders a small Superman, the now go-to flavor for him. The moral: It can be fun to try something new and different… you may even surprise yourself and gain a new favorite.

I was thinking about this as my church, Christ Our Light Catholic Parish of Princeton and Zimmerman, is also trying ‘a new flavor,’ if you will. This year, Christ Our Light is changing-up its traditional one-day fall festival and expanding it into a weekend celebration on August 20-21, entitled, “Summer Bash.”

This move allows our parish to expand its festivities and create even more opportunities for all ages within and outside of our community. Additionally, we hope to attract a large crowd by adding a huge Summer Bash Dance featuring none other than Boogie Wonderland.

boogie wonderland 5 piece with logoKnown as the premier disco tribute band hailing from Minneapolis, Boogie Wonderland has been packing dance floors since 1997! The band is set to take the stage at the Mille Lacs County Fairgrounds band shell on Saturday night, August 20, for the Summer Bash Dance. Boogie Wonderland is known for engaging their guests of all ages, providing classic disco music that everyone knows and loves; they also include some cover songs making it easy to literally dance the night away. “This is a band that will appeal to all age brackets,” says Maureen Putnam, Music and Liturgy Director at Christ Our Light. “I had the pleasure of seeing Boogie Wonderland perform at the 2015 Holly Ball in St. Cloud. Boogie Wonderland is such a great dance band… they had everyone on their feet dancing and really know how to engage an audience,” Putnam said.

The Summer Bash weekend will be packed with fun for all ages, offering something for everyone. “On Sunday we’re looking forward to games for all ages and skills, a human foosball and Baggo bean bag tournaments, inflatables, live music throughout the day, great food and so much more,” says Karen Michels, Volunteer Chair for Summer Bash.

The Summer Bash Dance will start at 7 pm at the band shell at the Mille Lacs County Fairgrounds, with the gate opening at 6 pm. Beer, hard lemonade, sodas and concessions including peanuts, popcorn, pizza, BBQ and mini-donuts will be sold on-site. Tickets for the dance are $10 in advance ($15 at the gate) and are available at summerbashmn.com.

Summer Bash Sunday is at Christ Our Light’s North campus at 804 7th Ave. S., Princeton on August 21. Admission is free. The day will run 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will begin with an outdoor Mass with our very own Fr. Kevin Anderson presiding. For a complete schedule of events and offerings, please visit summerbashmn.com.

Christ Our Light is trying something new this year, alright, and just like trying a new ice cream flavor, we hope it will prove to be a fun, new experience. Please know that it would be a real treat to have you join us for our Summer Bash!

Jennifer Adams is the communications and office assistant at Christ Our Light Parish in Princeton and Zimmerman.
Jennifer Adams is the communications and office assistant at Christ Our Light Parish in Princeton and Zimmerman.