Sunday, May 14, 2017

What the father does His Son will do also

Recently I had an opportunity to return home and visit with my family.  While there I was blessed to once again spend time doing one of my favorite activities, visiting the neighborhood pond with my father and fishing together.  While our pond is quite small and at this particular visit was very full of debris in our favorite fishing hole, I have grown to simply enjoy more and more these times with my Father.  At first, we were using different techniques; I used a crank bait and my father a plastic minnow bait.  After several casts without any action, my father reeled in a good sized bass.  Then after moving to a different hole to release his catch, we decided to change locations.  My father encouraged me to make the next catch and I rigged up a pole for a plastic much the same as his.  He helped remind me how to attach the bait and fish this technique. Then we continued our endeavor.  As I now fished I watched how my father gently raised his pole up and down with slow cranks to give the bait simulated action, and then I began to follow his example.  After a few more casts, I got a great big hit, set the hook and after a great leap out of the water reeled in one of the largest bass we have ever caught at the pond.
            As we continued to fish, I remember these words from scripture coming to mind: “I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing.”  I began to realize that my father and I were living out the scripture together in that moment, as my catching fish was a result of watching my father. As I think of this scene from scripture, I am reminded of Jesus, the Son of God speaking about the Father; “For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these.”  
I too am a son of God, and so God the Father will show me His great works, but how am I to see what my Father is doing?  Thank-God for the revelation of His Word, Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Son of God who shows us the example of how to listen to the Father and seek His will. As Jesus a few verses later says, “I cannot do anything on my own...I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will, made known by a constant attentiveness to the love of the Father.  
I greatly desire this attentiveness to the Father, to see what He is doing, and to seek His gracious will. Sometimes though I feel it impossible to see what the Father is doing in the same way as I see my dad fishing, for I recall these words, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God”, and find myself asking Jesus much like Philip, “Show us the Father.” Jesus then  reminds me “If you know me, then you will also know my Father” and “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
Thank God for the Gospels! Here is a reliable place where I can always find Jesus and watch as he does what He sees the Father in heaven doing! And as I come to know my Lord and Savior more in prayer, as I know Jesus, I will also know His Father, our Father! And I can ask for the grace of Jesus’s attentiveness, so that as a beloved adopted son, I too can see what my Heavenly Father is doing just as I watched my father fishing.
May my father and I always remain in the love of Christ,

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Praying at Planned Parenthood

     Recently, a few of the team members and myself decided to spend the day down in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The day was filled with smiles, laughter, and good food as we stopped for Chick-fil-a for lunch and met up with some friends at a local coffee shop. However, the day was also filled with sadness and pain as we made the stop at one of the six Planned Parenthood locations in the area. I myself have never prayed outside of Planned Parenthood and was filled with nerves as we pulled up to park. However, Gemma, a fellow teammate, has been praying outside Planned Parenthoods back in her home state of Oregon for the past few years. Gemma came not only prepared with knowledge of the laws we were to follow and local resources to help the women, but also ready to lead us in prayer. During our time there we prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet and four Rosaries, one Rosary for each of the mysteries. We began praying while standing outside the building and then decided to kneel as we continued to pray. Soon an employee came to close a curtain that no longer allowed us to see through their glass doors and into the building. It was in that moment that God showed me the power behind getting on our knees and praying. No matter what barriers they put between us we continued to pray for all those at the clinic: the women, nurses, and doctors who we saw walking in and out of the building throughout our time there.

     We saw dozens of people walk by us that day, and my heart pains for each one of them as they have never realised the true love that exists all around them and is given to them each and every moment of every single day. After spending time outside Planned Parenthood I know I will be back to pray as my heart has been changed and any fears I had have been washed away. Till then I will continue to pray for them, for their hearts and minds to be turned back to the true, the good, and the beautiful.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

SPIRITUS: A Year in Review

As Team 8’s mission year comes to the close the retreats are few are far between, the weather is warming up and the SPIRITUS day becomes more open ended.  With this less strenuous schedule a perfect opportunity presents itself to reflect on this year of service, to search for more “nuggets” that the Lord might want to give.  There are many aspects to SPIRITUS: community living, formation, retreat and youth ministry, benefactor meet and greets, recruitment trips etc.  I would like to share with you all just one “nugget” from this year in two of these aspects.
I will start this review off with community life.  Those who know me would all agree that my calling in life will not be in a large community setting and some might say that a community of 15 is not large but let’s just say that to some that is more than enough.  With all this in mind I would say that this year's community helped me to grow in ways I did not expect to grow in.  We had good times and we had some rough patches, but within both those times were graces. One of those graces was that I learned what it means to give love freely in those moments that are hard to love the person in front of you.  Often times loving freely means forgiving those who have harmed you or simply doing the dishes for your teammates when we are running around trying to prepare for our various ministries.  Ultimately in our lives as disciples we are called to love those in front of you and let me tell you community life is a great time to practice loving.
 The second grace I would like to share with you is from the ministry dimension.  The thing that stuck out to me most when thinking about ministry this year was the relationships I made in my youth ministry internship and how evangelization is really about making and fostering relationships with those we meet whether on retreat or in the parish setting.  Our proclamation of the Gospel is far less effective if we do not have a relationship with those we are ministering to.  The youth of the Catholic Church are in dire need of good relationships with Catholics who are striving for virtue and holiness, in SPIRITUS this has provided an awesome opportunity to give that to the youth in Wisconsin, and from there we have been able to see the fruit of the same youth coming into deeper relationship with our Lord which is of course the best of all relationships in their lives.
This year has provided me a lot of growth humanly, spiritually and relationally.  I will always be grateful for these two years of service with SPIRITUS.  May God bless you.



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Reaching the End

It is incredible to know that team 8 has already eight months igniting the Catholic faith with children and young adults in the State of Wisconsin through SPIRITUS Ministries! It has been an amazing opportunity in my life to share the gospel of the Lord in the State of Wisconsin. The people of Wisconsin are kind and friendly, they are very welcoming! When I go to each parish, I can see the love they have for SPIRITUS Ministries. Parishes and schools are grateful for what the ministry has brought to their places: “The Joy of the Gospel.” I want to thank everybody who has been praying for each one of us during this time, your prayers have meant a lot to our ministry! Let’s continue praying for our ministry, for each person we encounter in every retreat.  Our Lady of Good Help, Pray for us!

-René Martínez

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Next Chapter in my Storybook Life

Hello, my name is Elizabeth Mary Senkyr and I am a notorious planner. As Spiritus is quickly coming to a close, I am mentally preparing for the next step in life. This transition is hitting me from all angles. If you had asked me four months ago if I was ready to be done, I would’ve answered “Take me home, Minnesota!”. (Retreats were back to back and I missed my family a ton) Now, seeing that we have mere days left, I find myself breaking down in tears in the quiet moments. It’s safe to say a lot is going on. I desire to continue growing in my faith after this, but I’m struggling to figure out how I’ll be able to on my own. Formation was a true blessing. I think about where God is leading me from here and wonder if I’m strong enough to overcome the temptations of moving back into “reality”. Jesus, I trust in You.  I joke that we live in a Catholic bubble here, but it’s not just a bubble anymore. I recognize people everywhere and enjoy chatting with local parishioners after mass. I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss them all.
I’m not the same person I was when I walked through the front door of MTC on August 14th, 2016. I was super nervous and had no idea what I was getting into, but I knew God brought me here so I was going to do it, and do it well. Needless to say, I’m procrastinating on the whole transition part of this experience. I want God to lead me where I’m meant to go next and so I’m keeping my options open and not making any hardline decisions. I don’t have it all together right now. Actually, I don’t have much of anything together right now, but I do know God does and I’m holding onto the hope that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. -Philippians 1:6


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!