Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pentecost Weekend

Well, I am now home, visiting my family in southern Cali, but my last weekend in MN was jam-packed with activities revolving around Pentecost. I posted pictures on Facebook, which you can view at

Friday night was the prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In the five weeks (plus one week for a break after Easter) between Easter and Pentecost, the School of St. Paul covered a teaching cycle on the Holy Spirit and what Charismatics generally call "the outpouring of the HS." We spoke about who is the HS, what is the outpouring, the gifts and charisms, living in the Spirit, and Mary as an Apostle of the HS. The HS cycle ended with the prayer for the outpouring, which consists of you offering a prayer to be shown your charisms or to be strengthened in some area, singing for the Holy Spirit to enliven us, then people praying over you and sharing Scripture texts, images that flash to their mind, prayers, etc. A secretary writes down the passages, images, and prayers so you have a record to pray with later. It can be intense, depending on the passages that are received and what the person is currently going through in life. My passages revolved around exalting in hardship and afflictions because persevering in these eventually lead to a hope which does not disappoint. Way to peg the nail on the head.

Saturday the SSP group took their Holy-Spirit-filled selves to Peavey Park where we had a potluck lunch, praised for 45 minutes, and then had adoration. The park is is a poor area of town so as people passed by, they asked if the food was up for grabs. We said, "Sure," so before we knew it, we had people all around us and were able to share with them about their lives and a little bit about faith. I must say, though, the poor know there is a God because they depend on Him every day to provide. After lunch we praised and when some people approached us from behind to investigate, we invited them to praise with us. After praise, Deacon Luis went off to bring Jesus and then he processed with the monstrance through the park to the gazebo we had assembled. Here comes Jesus! We adored and some of us went off in pairs through the park to invite people to pray if they wanted. It was a great day and besides some wind, the weather was perfect.

Saturday night was my last time with the youth group. I was supposed to give a talk on Pentecost, but instead, they threw me a surprise going away party. I was completely surprised and didn't suspect a thing. How loved it made me feel as we laughed, ate authentic Mexican food made by the moms, and even after they squished my face in the cake (I guess it's a tradition done either in Mexico or Ecuador). And as a true testament that when you give, you receive, I gave the youth group a picture of Jesus that had been with me for a long time and it just seemed right to give this picture to them. Well, after I gave it to them, they said they had a gift for me too. I opened it up and what was it but a picture of Jesus that Rosalba, the wife of the leader, had made for me. When you give, you receive. I was beaming when I joined the EC household later for dinner.

Lastly, on Sunday was our Emmanuel Community day. We get together about once a month for a day of teachings, prayer (praise, mass, adoration), and fellowship (recreation, sharing, and meals). This was a special community day because we invited people not in the community to attend to discover more about the EC. It was a great day. Nothing went according to schedule (the flexible, EC way) and yet people were excited afterwards. As a fruit of the EC day, four people decided to join the EC household that I have just left. And while I've left them physically, I joined them last night by video on skype and it was so joy-giving to see them and to share with them.

What do I see from the joy I have from yesterday's posting of the Pentecost pictures and the household? My call is to be a missionary and the Emmanuel Community is the conduit God gives me to live out my call. Thank you, Father, for this much-needed joy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Long Time Coming - The Mission Report

It's been a month since the mission and I should have written sooner to let all of you know how it went. My mind has been elsewhere since the mission so I apologize for the absence.

Well, how did the mission go? The actual Wednesday night to Sunday morning went amazingly well. Lots of seeds were planted in the neighborhood, but now the hard part comes. What do we have to offer the people who come to the parish for the first time? How do we maintain contact with the people we met while going door-to-door so a relationship is built and through relationship we bring them to the Church? How do we ensure that "the mission" becomes a way of thinking for the parishioners and is not just something we did for 4 days over Easter? Yes, these are the thoughts that fill my mind now as I look at our after-mission plan and see that it is lacking, if not non-existent. How do we reap the fruits of the mission and water the seeds that were sown?

But, back to the Triduum mission and all we did. It really was amazing. I was gone Holy Saturday and Easter so I can report only second-hand for those days, but Wednesday night to Friday was pretty darn great. If I were to write about everything, this post would be really long so I will try to capture the spirit of the mission in as few sentences as possible.

Imagine about 25-30 missionaries gathered in the church basement. This group was made up of people being formed in the parish through our School of St. Paul, people from out of state who did the Emmanuel School of Mission in Rome for 9 months, and friends and family of these two groups who wanted to join us. So we had this great crew and when the 2 hour evangelization time rolled around each day (Thurs-Sat), I'd pair them up and send them out into the neighborhood armed with a map highlighted with the streets they should visit, mission flyers, and loving hearts. Two hours later they'd return and we'd gather in a circle to share about the people we met and to pray for them. People went out into the streets timidly, but when they returned they were so full of joy at the people they met and the witness they were able to give. It was beautiful.
There were other opportunities to witness to the neighborhood besides the door-to-door evangelization. The surprise story of the mission was the Living Stations of the Cross that we did on Good Friday, 3 pm. I had a motley crew of youth, young adults, and adults to coordinate for this project and what a task it was up until the minute we got started. But then, the Holy Spirit took over and did wonders with our unprepared actors. We started with a group of about 100 people from the parish who joined us for our Way of the Cross through the neighborhood. What a sight we made, this large group of people surrounding a guy carrying a large cross, as we walked past a large city park, an art museum, and ended at a smaller city park. People stopped to look as they drove by. Others from the park joined us for the rest of the stations. When it came time for the crucifixion and the guards tied our "Jesus" to the cross and then lifted him up above the people, it was like we were watching Jesus on Calvary. That was a powerful moment for me. And then, once the station came to place Jesus in the tomb, our "Jesus" was placed on a table and carried two blocks back to the church, where he was laid before the altar. Oh, man, it was so great. In the end, what we do is not the important part. God worked through our weak offering and made it beautiful.

The last aspect of the mission that I would like to comment on is the Triduum liturgies. In my opinion it is very difficult for a normal parish to have beautiful liturgies for the Triduum. There is just so much that goes into them: tons of music, unfamiliar rituals, lots of movement among the people. It's just hard for a standard parish to give the preparation time the liturgies need to be beautiful. Granted, I know every liturgy is beautiful if we could see with the eyes of God, but let's be honest. Good singing helps. Well, I only saw two of the four liturgies (Thursday and Friday), but I think we did a pretty dang good job. On Holy Thursday Fr. Joseph processed in and incensed the altar, which had large candlestick altar candles, something you might see at St. Peter's. We could have been in Rome at that point; it was that reverent and holy. Given the history of the parish and the crazy pseudo-liturgies that were happening there before Fr. Joseph arrived, it was all the more beautiful. That sacred space probably hasn't seen such high-Mass pomp and circumstance in a long time. And while I wasn't there for the Vigil, I heard some people described it as the best Mass they have ever been to, even though it was three hours long with only 4 of the 7 possible readings. There were lots of sacraments received at the Vigil.

Well, there is a taste of what we did during the Triduum mission. If you want to know more, I am more than willing to talk your ear off about it. We will have to look for the fruits, keeping in mind that the Lord shows you just enough to keep you encouraged. With only two weeks left at the parish, my mind turns to Pentecost. We will pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the SSP students on Friday night and then on Saturday we have a time of mission in the park, with singing to attract people so we can invite them to adore the Eucharistic Lord. Hopefully we have good weather.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Prayer needed

News about the mission soon, I promise. In the meantime, please pray for me and my confidence in God's plan. I can think of no other time in my life when my faith has been so strongly tested than it has been the past week or two.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing..." - Ps. 23:1

Friday, April 3, 2009

Door-to-Door Evangelization

While the official parish mission has not yet begun, the evangelization of the neighborhood has. On the Feast of the Annunciation, Fr. Joseph, Katy (my coworker), Marie-Alix (Emmanuel Community member), and myself took to the road, located a street with lots of houses, and began knocking on doors.
Before I continue, I know what most are you are thinking: "There is no way I could do that." Well, I bet all of you could. It just takes courage, zeal for souls, the willingness to be rejected, and trust in the Holy Spirit. And a partner to pray while you're talking. That's all. And once you do throw yourselves out there, the Lord repays in spades with joy. That's coming from the girl who considered door-to-door evangelization to be her least favorite form of evangelizing prior to coming to MN. Now, after almost two weeks of being out there and thinking of the people we've met, I'm all for it. There's nothing like the mission high.
Anyway, back to our first day. We arranged for the two pairs, Fr. Joseph with me and Katy with Marie-Alix, to take every other house on the block. However, Fr. Joseph and I got invited into the first house where someone was home and proceeded to have a 45 minute conversation with the man who lived there, while the girls were stuck canvassing the rest of the block in the cold. They were icicles by the time we met up with them again.
This encounter on the first day was great. Paulino is the man who let us in and he could use some prayer. He is Catholic who no longer goes to Mass but might go to a non-Catholic church. He is here from Mexico, trying to provide a better life for his four kids, two of whom are in Mexico. There are family and relationship struggles. We let him tell us about his life and in the end he invited us back to meet the rest of the family and to have a homecooked Mexican meal. Since then, we've stopped by his place once, with a delivery of banana bread, but he wasn't home. We'll keep visiting until we make contact again.
Since that day, we have met all sorts of people. A woman Episcopalian minister. A lesbian Buddhist-raised philosopher who thinks religion is good without believing in God. A homeless man who loves the Lord and is improving himself so he can win his ex-wife back and be a good father to his daughter. A Catholic woman who lives only 2 blocks from the parish but was going to another parish because she didn't know our mass times. By the way, we gave her a flyer and saw her that very night at the Spanish mass. One hopeful contact was with a college student named Whitney who was raised Lutheran or Episcopalian but hasn't been involved in a faith community for awhile. Fr. Joseph and I stopped by her place and in the course of the conversation she said two things that stick out in my mind, "I've been thinking of going to church for awhile now" and "Maybe this [meaning our invite to the Triduum liturgies and a possible young adult group at St. Stephen's (my after-Triduum project)] is just what I needed." Praise God!
Well, I should say goodbye for now. The official mission begins in two days so I entrust it, as always, to your prayers. Like St. Therese, who is the patroness of missionaries even though she never left her convent, you can join us in the mission with your prayers and sacrifices. In a future post I'll run through how we go about evangelizing door-to-door, what we say, prayer, etc. Amy Welbourn, an Augustine Institute graduate, has a great program for this, which I have yet to take. Check her out if you're in the Denver area.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Saturday, March 21, 2009

3 Weeks until Easter

The planning continues. After the initial influx of planning meetings, things have settled a bit, people know their responsibilities, and meetings are progressing at a quicker pace. Amen, thanks be to God for that!
Every 10 days or so the mission planning team meets to discuss how the prep work is going. We now have a mission schedule, which includes two hours of evangelization every day, time for silent and group prayer, homeless outreach, a one-day youth retreat, a Living Stations of the Cross through the neighborhood, adoration in the Garden with Jesus Thursday night, and a rocking praise session after the Vigil. What a time it will be. I anxiously await the Triduum because I want to see how it will all turn out.
Well, it's time to head home after a good evening of planning the Stations and practicing Triduum music so I must go. Soon I will post some pictures. That way you have something fun to look at instead of all this typing.
Pray for us! As well as everything is progressing, the team is very aware of how the devil is trying to discourage us. The ESM reunion that I wrote about last time, I think, has been cancelled so we are looking for a few good external missionaries to sign up at the last minute. Host families and food provided...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Misc. News from the Past 3 Weeks

Sorry for my absence. So much for updating every weekend. Before I get started summarizing the highlights and funny moments of the past 2-3 weeks, two things. First, if anyone would like to discover more about the Emmanuel Community or its particular style of mission, coming up for the mission would be a great way to see the Community graces in action. All are welcome. Second, while the mission will be held during the Triduum, I’m actually ducking out of Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday to fly back to Denver to see my friend Beth enter the Catholic Church on Easter morning. I plan to stay in town for 3-4 days after Easter to visit everyone, go hiking, and hopefully use up the last 2 tickets on my four pack to Copper Mtn. If any of this interests you or you will be town during that time, we should try to get together.
Now to MN life. I went on a Frassati Society trip to Itasca State Park, which is where the Mississippi River officially begins. It’s the headwaters. We faced temps in the teens during the day and who knows how cold at night. I stayed indoors. I got to walk across a frozen lake and climb into a snow house for the first time. I went snowshoeing with a small group and we laughed and laughed at the experience. One girl had shoes that could have been used by the French fur trappers 200 years ago and that provided lots of enjoyment, especially as we went off trail and climbed up a hill. It’s not easy to do if you don’t have crampons on the bottom of your shoes. After this trip, I now know how to play 500, the card game, so I’m ready to join the Mid-Westerners when I return to Denver.
The weekend after the Itasca trip, the School of St. Paul went on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in La Crosse, Wisconsin. We only spent the day there, but we did manage to have Mass in the beautiful chapel (the architecture is a blend of Mexican and Roman styles and the side altars are dedicated to modern saints like Gianna, Maria Goretti, and Faustina) and pray the outdoor Stations of the Cross. The lunch in the bus displayed fraternal charity as people shared their chips, drinks, and tortas. On the ride home, we mixed up the people so they had to interview and introduce someone who wasn’t sitting beside them. It afforded many laughs as we overcame the language barrier to interview and share our new found information.
Since the start of Lent, the mission is ever before the mission team in our thinking. The mission is incorporated into our celebration of the Triduum and as of yesterday, we have four weeks until Easter. That makes most of the mission team anxious about our lack of time, but I’m relatively calm. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it works for me. Right now we are trying to nail down a mission schedule and people have begun work on the individual services they volunteered to take. It is amazing how much preparation has to go into having good Triduum liturgies, let alone when you add times of evangelization, sharing, and homeless outreach. I sure am learning a lot as I go.
There have been some fun/ridiculous experiences related to living in MN since I last wrote. One cool thing before I start in on the joys of having a car during the MN winter, I went to dinner with a friend at a funky place called the Chatterbox. It’s decorated with furniture from the 70’s, including ugly upholstered couches. The best thing about the restaurant, though, was that you can order board games and video games to play while you are there. We played Battleship (1-1 record) and Super Mario Bros. on the original Nintendo system. It is a unique place, definitely worth checking out.
Now to the snow. We had a major snow day a few weeks ago. It was the first time I saw people getting stuck on snow while driving and needing others’ help to push them out. I experienced this first hand when I parked on the street to go to Mass the morning after the snow. I was so pleased with where I parked because the snow was less than in other places so I thought I wouldn’t get stuck. I probably wouldn’t have until the snowplow drove by and shoved a bunch of snow under and around my car. To make matters worse, when I walked out of the church, I saw men in traffic vests beside my car as they were giving me a ticket for parking in the snowplow route. Get this: there are no signs on the side of the road I parked on saying it was a day plow route. The only way you know is that the other side has signs that say “night plow” so my side was day plow. What a scam to get money from parking tickets! Still, as I ran towards the guys and said, “Oh no, is that a parking ticket?,” I was friendly and laughing at the stupidity of it all so they helped dig me out. With my Cali plates, they could tell I wasn’t from around there so they also gave me advice on how to drive on snow or how to get moving when the tires spin. They didn’t take away the ticket though. Sadness.
Other crazy snow stories. I stopped in on Dr. Reyes’ undergraduate class one morning and on my way there, the sun was out with no sign of snow in the sky. Then one hour after his class as I used a computer in the library, the sky opened up and dumped tons of snow. I was so unprepared. No hat, thin gloves, no hood because I had taken it off that morning thinking I wouldn’t need it for awhile. The five block walk to my car was not fun. I discovered just how slippery snow on top of sidewalk ice can be.
Lastly, a few days ago we had snow and freezing rain. Snow I can handle; freezing rain is less nice. Three of us girls walked to my car after a night mission planning meeting and when we went to open the doors, they wouldn’t open. They had frozen shut. All I could think about was my coworker’s story of someone breaking her car door handle off as she tried to pull a frozen door open. I started working my keys in the gaps to try to dislodge any ice, but it was only Fr. Joseph’s experienced touch that got the door to open. It was unseasonably cold this past week so this type of experience is not common for March, but it begs the question, “Why do people live here?” There have been a lot of first experiences out here related to the weather and I laugh at the novelty, but I don’t know that I would want to do this year in and year out. God bless the hearty northern Mid-Westerners!