Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Relaxing With Jesus

It’s Easter, and at daily mass we’ve been hearing resurrection stories for our Gospel readings. I love the resurrection, but if I’m honest at a certain point I got tired of all this talk about resurrection. I just want to think about something else for a bit. I need a breather, some space to clear my head. That was where my head was at on Friday of the Easter Octave: Jesus, I love you but I just need some space to relax. Ironically, the Gospel that day seemed to fit me perfectly.
It was from John 21: the story of Simon Peter going fishing. As I was following along, I thought about how Peter probably had a lot on his mind: Jesus had just died, risen, and now was appearing to various people. That’s a lot to think about. The passage says that Peter told a couple of the apostles that he was going fishing, and they said they came along. Was this Peter looking for a breather? For space to clear his head? It seemed like a good fit for me, at least as a thought to ponder.
This is one of the stories of Jesus appearing to his disciples, but it’s interesting to me that Peter and his companions were fishing all night long before Jesus appeared. Was Jesus giving Peter that space he was looking for? Dare I believe that? People talk about Jesus as a gentleman, as a man who waits to be invited before coming into our hearts. It still seems like a good fit for me.
Jesus appears on the shore and he calls out, “Children, have you caught anything?” No they hadn’t. “Put out your nets on the other side of the boat.” And suddenly they catch 153 large fish. John recognizes Jesus, and he tells Peter that it’s Jesus. And at once Peter jumps into the water and swims to his Lord. And there Jesus has a charcoal fire prepared. And he brought breakfast.

Later in the story Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times, and there’s a lot of depth in that part of the story. But what struck me this time around was that first Jesus created a space to just relax with Peter and the other disciples. He simply invited Peter to breakfast. And maybe they just talked about nothing, just had a little breather, a chance for Peter to clear his head. And as a take away, I thought when I feel like I need a breather and space to clear my head, maybe sometimes Jesus is inviting me to come spend time with him. Not every prayer needs to be super intense, I can just sit with him and relax for a moment. He’s a good God, he’s Lord of the Sabbath. I can rest with him.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Joy in Lord

Culver's has become our team’s main on  the go food. We often stop in after a retreat or just to satisfy a custard craving. I was explaining this to a girl on retreat when she replied, “I know you guys came in to Culver’s when I was working the other week.”  She went on the describe how happy and joyful we were. This conversation reminded me of the power of joy. The greatest joy is the joy that radiates from within. A joy that is not worked for but comes from the peace found in the Lord. It is a joy that can often be found among the SPIRITUS members especially, after a retreat. It is something our world craves today so when it is shown people notice. In all honesty, it has nothing to do with me or any of the members on SPIRITUS. It has everything do with God and the love he gives. His love has embraced each of us on SPIRITUS to the extent that we have given up 9 months of our lives to share it. It is His love that we share and give that brings about joy. It allows us to be witnesses to our faith wherever we go.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Leading Youth in Prayer

Part of how I see my mission with SPIRITUS is really leading youth to an encounter with Christ and helping them to learn how to sustain that relationship. We often compare talking to Jesus through prayer to talking to your best friend: How many times a day do you talk to your best friend? (Youth often can't count)... but what if you only talked to them once a month or once a year? Or only when things were going poorly? They wouldn't really be your best friend. You wouldn't really have a relationship with them. Same thing with Jesus. If you don't talk to him, you don't have a substantial relationship with him. Prayer is such an important part of faith and I love helping students learn to pray!

Most commonly on retreat, students experience 1-on-1 prayer with a SPIRITUS team member but there are many other ways prayer enters into our time with youth. There are many powerful instances of this as a youth ministry intern, adoration being first and foremost. Unlike adults who may be able to occupy themselves in adoration for an extensive period of time, youth especially while learning how to pray, need direction and a lead in to that encounter with God in prayer. I often use meditations, music, and journaling to help youth enter into adoration time. Students need this silence and reflection time as does everyone. I can't remember the last time I didn't have a student ask if their class was doing adoration that week for faith formation!
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Spending time with Jesus in the Chapel
Although we aren't always able to have the blessed sacrament exposed in adoration when we lead students in prayer, substantial time in the chapel is irreplaceable. I have seen this especially as we work with the middle schoolers at St. Mary's Catholic School. Bi-monthly we have an after school program at the middle school where we build community, read the upcoming Gospel, and pray together. Each week has a theme and we have been talking a lot about authenticity. We had the students make paper masks writing all that others see on the outside and then we entered the chapel and reflected on the thing we don't show others. The students wrote these things in black on the other side of the mask. This was a sobering moment as even the silliest and most rambunctious middle schoolers were serious and reflective. We finished this prayer time by playing a song, "Remind Me Who I Am" by Jason Gray, and inviting each student up to the foot of the tabernacle to write in red over all the things they don't share, "Beloved Son" or "Beloved Daughter". What a powerful experience to lead lead these youth in such a prayer experience. Students walked away with greater peace and joy but we as faith leaders can't make students dependent on the time we offer them for prayer alone. We must all develop a personal prayer life that is our own.

Recently, in our high school core leadership team, each student received a small prayer book called Following Jesus Christ. Each of the 11 high schoolers were asked to commit to prayer for each day of the week from the book: morning and evening reflections, meditations each day on Christ's passion, or 1 decade of the rosary with reflection. At our weekly meeting, we checked in about how prayer was going and if they wanted to switch to another form of prayer from the book for the coming week. Most recently, many students reported that even though they seemed to be praying with the book less, they were praying more on their own. Developing their own personal prayer life! Praise God!

Prayer is our lifeline to God. Not only must we invest daily in prayer but we must also help others strengthen that relationship with God. I am so thankful to be able to do this work! All for the greater Glory of God!!

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Praying together while laying our hands on the tabernacle

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter is Here!

Happy Easter!

     This past Lenten season has been full of sacrifice, temptations, and challenges galore. But through it all, I have grown closer to the Heart of Christ. Though it has not been easy it is most certainly worth it. I am so grateful for the Lord giving me strength and carrying me to today, where I can rejoice!

     It is time once again to celebrate the glory of our Risen Lord! Now we reap the benefits of what we have prepared ourselves for throughout Lent. This is a season for us to be full of the Lord's joy and grace. I hope and pray that throughout this time of celebration and the remainder of our SPIRITUS mission year the team finds love in our lives and peace in our hearts. May the same be true for you!


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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Learning to Celebrate

“We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” Pope Benedict XVI

Community life is a beautiful mess, just like each one of us as individuals. We each bring with us our own quirks and habits, joys and heartaches, roses and thorns. And the longer we spend together, the more of these roses and thorns we discover… about each other, and about ourselves. From the moment we arrived we have been repeatedly told that we’re all here for a reason, a divine purpose, and that the team wouldn’t be complete without each one of us. It’s funny, though, that no matter how many times we hear this it seems as if each one of us can look at ourselves and say “everyone belongs here, except me,” or “the teens love everyone so much more than they love me, so why am I here?” These are some of the lies we fight internally, and while I don’t believe that such doubts are unique to SPIRITUS, I think that they’re certainly emphasized here. It can be hard to remember our individuality when we are striving daily to conform our wills to the SPIRITUS mission, and it is so easy to compare our failings to the talents of our brother and sister missionaries.

To put it short – I can look at each of my brothers and sisters here and tell you exactly where their talents lie and what gifts they bring to the team and how our ministry would suffer without them. But when it comes to myself, I don’t feel worthy enough, talented enough, or even welcomed. And I know I’m not the only one who feels like this.

But while it’s our comparison of ourselves against the other team members that tend to bring us down, it’s only in community with our brothers and sisters that we are able to hear of and discover our own greatness! We need our community to slow us down and remind us that we are worthy and talented and a part of a caring and attentive team. One of the beautiful ways that this happens here in SPIRITUS is through celebrating birthdays. During the week prior to someone’s birthday, the rest of the team pretends to sneak around to discover what that person likes to do, or their favorite type of dessert. Then during the week of their birthday, on whichever night we’re scheduled to have team dinner, we pretend it’s a surprise party and set out the nice table cloth and candles and blow up balloons.

Granted, some of us appreciate this more than others. I know for myself, I have built up a sort of ‘false humility’ around my birthday, not wanting to be celebrated because really, what is there to celebrate? Besides, isn’t it more ‘adult like’ to not want to celebrate birthdays? To pretend we’re not getting any older? In reality, though, it’s not about getting older. It’s about living. It’s about being able to celebrate and appreciate with renewed fervor the life that we’ve been given for another year. And this is where community comes in. No matter how much I don’t want to be celebrated (probably because I don’t want feel like I’m worth celebrating), my brother and sister missionaries can’t wait to celebrate me, and over the course of the week they managed to highlight so many of their favorite qualities in me, and in doing so made me feel like I belonged.

My birthday was back in September and one of the first to be celebrated. Since then, we’ve celebrated a few more birthdays and they only get better with time. I take so much joy in spending time to celebrate each one of my teammates and I thank God that He gave each one of them life and designed for them to spend this period of their life here with me. And if they are a necessity and joy here on this team, then perhaps I am to. If they are worth celebrating, then so am I. As my team has shown me, I am not “casual and meaningless”, but rather I am “willed,... loved,... (and) necessary,” just like Pope Benedict XVI says.

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For my birthday, some of the girls decorated my room over their lunch break with streamers and balloons and left my favorite kind of ice cream in the freezer!
Below are some photos of our crazy birthday pranks! I hope they bring you as much joy as they bring to us.
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Gemma’s birthday was over our Thanksgiving break, so upon our return we made sure to make her feel loved by stacking 149 plastic cups against her door! I don’t live in her household, but I was told that it made quite a ruckus when she opened the door the next morning, to which she responded “Oh my gosh I love you guys!!!!”

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For Brianna’s birthday, we snuck into her hall around midnight and tapped a large trash bag over her door and filled the gap between the door and bag with balloons so that the next morning when she opened her door she was greeted by joy and color!

Sunday, April 9, 2017


Lately, a big question that I have been asking myself is, “How do I go deeper in my relationship with God?” While I’ve been pondering this question, God sent me an answer through one of our formators, Fr. Luke Ferris who came and shared with us some ways to go deeper with our prayer and confessions.
So how does one work on deepening their prayer and confessions? Fr. Luke shared with us that it involves simplifying our prayer life. He made a point of reminding us that when we will fall, it is essential for us to not just stay down, but to get back up and continue our journey of faith. St. Thérèse of Lisieux talks about being small children who fall and then run back to their Father’s loving arms, not afraid of failure, but embracing it and the Father’s love through it all. This leads to a deeper question, am I willing to let Him help me out of my mistakes and failures? Am I willing to let Him see all my failings and faults and trust that He will still love me? As for me, I want to say I answer yes, but I know my heart has not reached that point yet. Only time and God’s grace will tell when I will be able to say yes with my whole heart. However, this leaves the question for you, the reader, how will you respond to His love?

-Mikayla Uchytil

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Soft Heart and Hard Feet

Oftentimes when I have a free moment in the evenings I find myself on a treadmill at one of the YMCAs in the Fox Valley, but my typical routine is more than just running until I can no longer pull air into my chest or pick up my feet from the belt. Usually if I am alone at the Y I’m praying and meditating on the rosary. For me, this is the most fruitful prayer time that I have and the mysteries seem to fly by with the miles, but the simple action of running and praying adds a depth to my prayer that just doesn’t exist elsewhere. In short, the amount of time I can spend running sets the pace for my life of faith, and I love it.
There was one night when I was frustratedly panting and pondering over the events of the last week and I asked the Lord to remind me of why I had come all the way to Wisconsin to serve Him. Almost immediately there was an ache in my heart and a feeling of having the wind knocked out of my chest. Despite just having posed this question to the Lord, it took me a while to put two and two together and understand what He was trying to show me: heartbreak.
Over the course of the next few weeks and many more dates with my treadmill, the Lord made it clear that all of this has been an answer to so many prayers of mine, because He does not ever place a desire on our hearts that He does not also intend to fulfill. What broke my heart was the number of young people I never saw in Mass besides Lifeteen Night or their Confirmation, that clearly didn’t know the Lord, and who did not know Love. It was a problem that I could see in the Church, and it was also a problem that I could do something about.
Something that I am learning at SPIRITUS is that on occasion the Lord allows our hearts to hurt in a certain way and that that isn’t always a bad thing. The heartbreak of seeing so many young people hurting and hopeless was what drove me (literally) to Wisconsin and SPIRITUS, and it also inspired a bit of soul searching. In my conversations with the Lord for the weeks before I knew I’d be working with this ministry I found my most effective prayer to be a simple, “Lord, give me a soft heart and hard feet. Give me the grace to love whomever you place in my life and to go wherever you are leading.” When I really gave it over to God, He moved mountains I didn’t know existed.

Peace of Christ,


Sunday, April 2, 2017

God wants to hear from you too!

Hello readers, hope you are doing well, thank you for reading our blogs! It is great to know that you follow and pray for each one of us. We need your prayers; the Bible invites us to pray for one another (James 5, 16). This is what we do every day in our ministry, we pray for each one of the intentions written in our binders by many people who come to say hi to us while visiting their parishes. Also, we pray for the peace in the world, the conversion of humanity to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary. Each day, during Angelus and Liturgy of the Hours we bring these prayers to the Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  What a great way to help one another, praying in community, sharing the love of God with many people through prayers.  My invitation to each one of you in this blogs is to continue praying. This time of lent is a good moment in our lives to think about our relationship with God, my commitment to His Word and the abandonment to His eternal love! Keep praying, God wants to hear from you too!

René Martínez

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Christopher West hit me to the Cor

This is a prime example of God’s will and how everything falls into place when we keep our hearts pliable. SPIRITUS attends formation every Thursday, the different speakers (priests, religious, etc.) are typically scheduled months in advance.

At a retreat the other week, a fellow teammate noticed publicity for an upcoming speaker, Theology of the Body guy, Christopher West. Thursday evening was the date and there was nothing on the schedule for formation. That never happens. After getting approval by prostaff, we made the trek to hear Christopher West present on God, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. His message is based off of St. John Paul II’s writings on God’s plan for creation. Theology of the body is meant to help us better understand what we’re made for and who God is calling us to be. The presentation brought new perspective to my understanding of the body and its biological and theological meaning.

After the talk, a few members of the team and I got in line to have our books/memorabilia signed. Mentioning a few things that struck me, and asking a question or two from his presentation- lead to an all-out pep talk about not settling and how Mary’s yes changed the whole world and our’s can too.

The following Saturday, he had a day-long retreat in Fond du Lac and invited us. I figured it was a distant dream because our mission is primarily scheduled on the weekends. Fortunate (Holy Spirit) circumstances were already in progress though, as Anna Haiar (a fellow teammate and friend) and I were not scheduled for retreats that weekend. That never happens. We got permission to attend, bought our tickets, and went to spend a day diving into the Cor Seminar, an extended version of the session we attended just days earlier. I’m so thankful we received the opportunity to go and accepted!

The stars aligned and we didn’t even have to try, thank you God. I like to think that’s how he works sometimes. He just showers you in gifts, that couldn’t have worked out better. I realize that most of the time he puts desires in your heart and you have to work your butt off trying to accomplish them, but this time was different. It was effortless in that all we had to do was keep our hearts open, and drive to our destination (notebook and pen in hand).

It truly was a beautiful grace.

-Elizabeth Senkyr

Note: Less than a week after these events, I got his latest book, Fill These Hearts, from my spiritual director. God wink. ;)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wisconsin Dells!

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This past month the SPIRITUS Team was blessed with the opportunity to grow closer in community and have a wave pool full of fun by taking a vacation to the Wisconsin Dells. The Wisconsin Dells is a must-stop town for tourists, bringing in thousands of tourists each year, as it is the home of hundreds of indoor and outdoor waterslides and rightly earns its name as, “Waterpark Capital of the World.” The team and I were able to embark on the epic adventure that the Wisconsin Dells held in store for us by not only riding on some of the fastest slides that the Dells has to offer, but also by growing closer together in community as we laughed and screamed down our way down all the slides. A team favorite that had us all full of emotion was called the “Dueling Mammoth” at the Wilderness Resort; this raft ride allowed for six of us to ride down together through the dark twists and turns of the slide. Another ride, and my personal favorite was called “The Hurricane”, a ride that drops you down into a funnel which then shoots you back-and-forth until you reach the bottom. Overall, between the slides and the company, I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend time in community with the people of the community. Not only was I able to learn more about each one of my fellow team members, but I also was able to find out who has the loudest scream!

     -Anna Haiar

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Enjoying some smoothies together!