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!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lent and the Transforming Power of Suffering

Far too often in our ministry we come across young people that are deeply and profoundly suffering. They come into retreat with very appropriate and reasonable questions of: “Why do good people have to suffer?” and “You seem so joyful. Why?”

Suffering is such a mystery. I always make sure when these questions arise to remind them that God does not desire us to remain in suffering. He does not want us to be in pain. He is LOVE! There is so much to say, but I want to leave it simply as that. He is love.

Remember to ask Him, most especially in those moments of darkness and despair, “What are you trying to show me?” He is always speaking to us, most intimately in those moments when we are given the grace to share in the cross with Him. Saint Therese quotes “Everything is grace!” Indeed, all of our suffering has the capability of being transformed into a beautiful resurrection.

Abandon all to Him, even the sufferings...most ESPECIALLY the sufferings! He loves you. You are loved. If you are struggling with your Lenten resolutions or maybe haven’t made one yet, let it be this: surrender your miseries, longings, fears, brokenness to Him. Place it at the foot of His cross and allow the Holy Spirit to transform you.

“Although temptations are strong, a whole wave of doubts beats against my soul, and discouragement stands by, ready to act. The Lord, however, strengthens my will, against which all attempts of the enemy are shattered as if against a rock. I see how many actual graces God grants me; these support me ceaselessly. I am very weak, and I attribute everything to the grace of God.” (1086, page 406) -St. Faustina

-Alexa Harbor

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Listening in Prayer

Sometimes on our retreats we do a thing we call one on one prayer. By that we mean that we create a safe space to speak with individual youth and ask them about what’s on their heart, and then do our best to bring that to God in prayer and listen for how he might guide us. Sometimes this is a powerful moment. Sometimes it’s not.
I remember once recently when one on one prayer was powerful. For context I had been thinking about how it would helpful for me to try to listen more in prayer. So this particular day I decided to listen more deliberately in our one on one prayer.
One of the youth came for prayer; let’s call her Lucy. I asked what she would like to pray about, we talked a little, and then we opened up to prayer. We put ourselves in God’s presence, brought up a couple things that Lucy wanted to pray about, and asked for God’s help. And then I said to Lucy, “Why don’t we take thirty seconds and just listen.”
I didn’t hear much. Or really anything. The image of a present wrapped in wrapping paper came to mind, but that was it. I was going to offer that to Lucy and say, “Hey here’s this image that came to mind; if it helps it helps, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.” But then I thought, maybe I should ask Lucy first if she heard anything. So I asked her.
She said, “Yeah, it kinda felt like God was telling me that it’s going to be ok.”
That struck me deeply, especially since the phrase “It’s going to be ok” has come back to me many times this year in my own prayer. Suddenly telling her about the image of the present seemed much less important. It seemed like I really didn’t need to tell her about it. So I didn’t. Instead we thanked God, put ourselves again in his hands, and closed the prayer.
What’s my takeaway? I personally have been reflecting on how God uses me as an instrument, and how he’s working on deeper levels than I expect.

-Peter Schmidt

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Esto Vir!

     Be a man! (or for those who prefer the Latin, “Esto Vir!”) is a phrase that many males hear throughout their lifetime, many times before performing some activity deemed to be masculine such as shooting a deer or participating in belching contest. Not every instance in which this phrase is uttered is contributing to the building up of a truly masculine culture, but in many cases causing the masculine culture to be viewed in a superficial way; for example a MAN is a big, strong man who wears flannel, sporting a big beard, who watches sports, works on cars, and is fluent in the language of grunting. In order to combat the American culture's view of what it means to be a man, the Catholic Church has been putting on men’s conferences to communicate to Catholic men what it really means to be a man. In the Diocese of Green Bay this conference is called Esto Vir or the Man for All Seasons Conference. It takes place yearly and brings many big name speakers to come in and speak about what it means to be a man in the Catholic sense; recently the conference brought in Fr. Larry Richards, Matt Fradd, and Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy just to name a few. This event draws around 1,000 men from across the Diocese of Green Bay to come and join together to learn how to be a man of faith.
The Eucharistic Procession

     This year a few of the SPIRITUS men were blessed with the opportunity to attend the Esto Vir Conference and provide a breakout session for the middle school guys that were in attendance and run activities, give talks and pray with the students. It did not stop there, right after the middle school portion of the conference all the men participated in a Eucharistic procession with Bishop Ricken leading the way with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I had the opportunity to hold the canopy during the procession and even though we had to fight some strong winds trying to take the canopy away and some cold, cold, hands it was a beautiful experience to have 1,000 men following the Blessed Sacrament in prayer around downtown Green Bay. Another memorable moment that occurred during the conference was the “leadoff” speaker, Fr. Larry Richards. Fr. Larry did not pull any punches during his talk, but called the men in the room to pray and to love, stating that the only way we can know how to be a man is to look to Jesus in the scriptures, and to be in relationship with Him through prayer and love of those around us.

     At the end of the day, we left very inspired and it was a good reminder of our goal in life as men, and that is to follow Christ and to lead others to Him. Now we have the challenge of going into our ministry and letting everyone we encounter know of the Lord’s great love for them and most importantly to never stop praying because if we do then we run the risk of allowing our ministry to be fruitless. This conference was a great “pick-me-up” in the midst of a hectic ministry of putting on retreats and doing youth ministry. I go forward with great hope and love for our Church and all I can do is hope that I do not get in the way of Christ carrying out His mission through SPIRITUS.

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Adoration at the Conference

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Taking a Break for SPIRITUS

As I enter deeper into my year of service with SPIRITUS, I can’t help but reflect on how my life has changed. A year ago if you asked me what my year to come would look like, I would have said taking classes. Instead I am in Wisconsin giving a year to the Lord to learn, grow, and bring others closer to him. When I told people I was taking a year off of school many assumed school got overwhelming and I needed a break. To be honest, I did need a break but not because my grades were regressing or school was becoming overwhelming. I needed a break to recenter myself in Christ. I was getting so caught up in making my school’s requirements that I was losing sight of why I was in school.
SPIRITUS has brought things back into perspective for me. Everything we do here revolves around faith and our relationship with God. It is a much needed reminder that everything we do at all times should be directed towards him.The lessons I have learned here will not transfer to my transcript but they will transfer to my life. No matter what career we have we are called to bring others closer to Christ. This year has given me the opportunity to do just that. How to relay God’s love is a lesson I will never tire of using.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” -Philippians 4:13

-Gemma Cowan

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Putting On God’s Armor

I have come to appreciate much more our uniform here at SPIRITUS.  At first I saw it more as simply our professional attire that makes the team easily visible while on retreat.  I saw our black t-shirts and khaki pants or blue polos as sort of home and away jerseys.  I remember great excitement in suiting up, similar to that of taking the field for the first time but this excitement can easily wear thin, and I began to overlook the great privilege of wearing the bird on the blue (I allude to the birds on the bat if you are a St. Louis Cardinals fan like myself).  
Recently though I took a good look again at that bird, the dove, representing the Holy Spirit and I am reminded that it is God who has clothed me in this uniform.  Every time my SPIRITUS teammates and I put on those black shirts we are claiming that we are willing to fight and die for Christ Jesus.  We are putting on the armor God has fashioned for us.  I am reminded of the following words of the apostle.
Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6: 10-17
Most importantly, I am reminded to pray to the Holy Spirit for His guidance and direction, to let Him form our strategy and call the plays, so that I may bring the abundant love of Jesus to all I meet that day.
“With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones” Ephesians 6:18

May we always remain in the Love of Christ,
Zachery Feldker

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Catching God Winks

Sweet silence. Finally, we had gotten to the best part of my day: Adoration. I had the best view, I could see Jesus perfectly between two of my teammates, each sitting a few rows ahead of me. It was quiet, peaceful, and...quiet, it was quiet. Ahhhh… Just as i was settling into my pew and thanking God for affording these small luxuries, it happens. The two teammates who had been sitting perfectly far enough apart in order for me to have a clear view of Jesus in the monstrance both started fidgeting.

“AHHHHHH!!!! No! Wait! Stop! I can’t see Him!” The words tied to my tongue, unable to escape. Instead of disrupting Adoration for everyone else I decided to noiselessly slide slightly to the left in order to regain a clear view. The momentary crisis had passed and I could begin praying. Phew! That was a close one, or so I thought, but then it happened again, and again...and again.

After restlessly scooting my keester all the way to the edge of the pew I also reached the end of my patience. “Lord, what do you want from me? Can’t I have any peace?” At that moment it was like the heavens opened and an angel of the Lord descended majestically, kind of like a Michelangelo painting, to give me a clarifying and epiphany inducing bop on the head.

Inwardly there developed a sudden case of the giggles, but being that I was sitting in Adoration it was reduced to a silent chuckle. The silliness of the situation finally sank in; the three of us were slowly wiggling closer to Jesus.
-Annastasia Eftink

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Prayer in SPIRITUS!

     Spiritus Ministries is a great place to continue learning more about our Lord Jesus, His holy mother and the life of the saints. Every day we have mass and adoration. I love going to mass because I encounter the presence of God in my life. During mass I thank God for the gift of this mystery. When we have adoration, we pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and personal devotions. At this moment, one of my closest devotions is to pray to the Sorrowful Mother of God. I found out that this prayer can help people to discern more about the mystery of salvation in humanity. During this time, I also pray for the peace in the world and for an increase in vocations, especially for priesthood and religious vocations around the world. I thank Spiritus Ministries for giving me the opportunity to continue learning more about the mystery of salvation, the beauty of our catholic faith, and the invitation to share everything we have learned in our catholic faith with the youth in the State of Wisconsin. Spiritus Ministries is a community full of faith, love and respect- it is a community committed each moment to share the joy of the lord!

     -René Abrahan Martínez

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Adventure is Out There

Recently, exchange programs and travel opportunities have been growing in popularity at universities across the county and I find my Facebook feed to be filled with breathtaking photos from my “world traveler” friends. With the desire to travel having always been in my heart as well, I knew that someday I to would find myself staring in awe of God’s masterpiece in foreign places around the world, however I never thought that the desires of my travels would be filled in the state of Wisconsin.
A state which to this South Dakota girl was pretty foreign considering I only knew Wisconsin to be a state to be filled with cheese loving, football fanatics who weren’t big fans of my hometown's team, the Minnesota Vikings. During these last few months though, I have found a love for this state as I all too often find myself breathless and in awe of the beauty that lays before my eyes. Remember, adventure is out there and God knows the desires of your heart, so lay everything before Him and allow him to woo you.

     -Anna Haiar

Kayaking at sunset with my fellow teammate Elizabeth Senkyr.

Enjoying the Sunset after a day of hiking with the team at Peninsula Sate Park in Door County.

Spent the day walking through shops and enjoying the vibrant colors of the changing trees.

Driving to mass on a rainy weekday morning.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Patron Saints

Each of us on the SPIRITUS team has been assigned a patron saint for the year. These saints were discerned for us by our leadership prior to even meeting (most of) us, and I for one can attest that my saint was Divinely inspired. St. Rita of Cascia was the patroness of the parish I had been attending in Dallas for the previous 3 years, and over that time her story was slowly but surely infiltrating my life. I first heard of St. Rita, however, when I saw a movie on her life on EWTN when I was about 12 years old and immobilized by a stomach bug for a week. The movie was nearly 3 hours long and had horrible Italian cinematography with subtitles that barely made sense, but what I remember most is being particularly awestruck by her devotion to Christ crucified and thus I began to consider her as one of my back-up patron saints. It wasn’t until I graduated college and moved to Dallas that my admiration of her began to turn into a devotion.

Of course, this was unknown the SPIRITUS leadership in charge of selecting my patron, and I can’t put into the words the amount of comfort I received in the middle of that first week on mission, surrounded by my missionary ‘brothers and sisters’ who at the time were still essentially strangers to me, when they told me my patron for the year was my beloved patron from Dallas.

A photo of a relic of St. Rita I was able to venerate at a local parish

Today, St. Rita is a sign of so many hopeful things for me. She is a reminder of where I came from and the strong Dallas community that helped launch me into missionary work. A mother who never stopped interceding for the conversion of her family, she is a mother to me as I know she continues to intercede for my daily conversion. A peacemaker who ended a long standing vendetta that consumed her entire town, she brings the peace of Jesus into my heart when I feel at war with myself, my fears and my desires. A spouse of Christ in her religious vocation, she is an inspiration of what it means to love Christ in all things and always seek His will. A recipient of the stigmata and a lover of Christ crucified, she constantly draws me out of myself and into the passion of Christ and of those around me.

I ask for your prayers for myself and my team.  Our lives have been insanely busy since the day we arrived, and even the little time we get ‘off’ is prudently used to strengthen our time as community. Below I have listed the names of my brothers and sisters on mission for me as well as their inspired patrons. Please pray for us often, as we are anticipated to give 160 retreats this year to over 5,000 students across the state of Wisconsin.

St. Faustina, pray for us. (Alexa)
St. Elizabeth of Hungry, pray for us. (Christen)
St. Rita of Cascia, pray for us. (Ashley)
St. Claire of Assisi, pray for us. (Annastasia)
St. John the Beloved, pray for us. (Gabriel)
St. Edith Stein/Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us. (Brianna)
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us. (Elizabeth)
St. Josemaria Escriva, pray for us. (Brian)
Bl. Miguel Pro, pray for us. (Rene)
St. George, pray for us. (Zachery)
St. Ignatious of Loyola, pray for us. (Mike)
St. Lawrence, pray for us. (Peter)
St. Philomena, pray for us. (Gemma)
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us. (Anna)
St. Kateri Tekawitha, pray for us. (Mikayla)

St. Paul, patron saint of SPIRITUS, pray for us.

Mary, Mother of missionaries, pray for us.
Jesus, fully present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, consume us.

Veni Sancte Spiritus.

-Ashley Lange