Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday at St. Stephen's

Yes, Lent has begun! For a season in the Church that involves fasting and almsgiving and is typically seen as a somber time, I am so joyful at the prospect of cleaning out some spiritual junk and deepening my life with the Lord. Not only that, but this time is an exciting period for St. Stephen's because the Triduum retreat and parish mission fall at the end of it. So even though Lent has just begun, my eyes are on the finish line, the amazingly beautiful liturgies and times of evangelization that will happen from Holy Thursday to Easter. Praise God!

The joy that I have was enflamed yesterday at the bilingual Ash Wednesday Mass that was celebrated at St. Stephen's. The first joy came from the choir, which blossomed from Katy and I, with our voices and my lowly guitar, to an additional pianist, flutist, and singer. Man, the piano and flute are amazing instruments. They are really helpful to sing songs that we don't know, which is often the case with our humble choir. Slowly, but surely, the group is growing. The second joy was singing Latin mass parts. If you read a recent column about the parish in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, you will see what a big step this is for the parish. A link to the column is: It's not a great article, poorly written at times, but it gives you an idea of what Fr. Joseph was facing when he arrived here a little less than a year ago. So, while we won't be singing Latin parts for most masses, we've decided to try it for bilingual masses because Latin is the universal language of the Church and doesn't favor either language group. The third joy came from seeing both communities together, worshipping together. The English mass on Sunday has only 30-40 people attending (that's a guess, I haven't yet counted) so to see a fuller church was nice and intimidating from the musical end. Overall, it was a beautiful night and I felt downright celebratory afterwards. Good things are happening!

I entrust to your prayers a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in La Crosse, Wisconsin this Saturday. We are taking the students from the School of St. Paul and a few others for an all-day trip. We have long bus rides and not a lot of time at the shrine so my prayer is that people will receive whatever they need from the trip but especially an increased sense of community between the two language groups. It's already developing. I just want it to continue to grow. That language barrier is the main difficulty.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Social Side of Adjusting to the Twin Cities

God is so good. For most of us this is obvious, but the reason I bring it up has to do with thanking him for the ability to adjust quickly to new people and places. See, St. Paul is the sixth city I've lived in since I graduated college four and a half years ago and only two and a half weeks into the move, I am content with where I am at in life. Every weekend I have had plenty of fun things to do. Between Anne Braum, my coworker Katy, the Cathedral Young Adults, the Frassati Society, and my Emmanuel Community brothers and sisters, I have plenty of people to grow in friendship and brotherhood with and to do things with. I have two great roommates, Jessie who was my roomie for WYD and Lena the talkative cat. The ministry involves a variety of work and it's just so nice to devote my day to ministry again. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I thought about it on my drive to MN. But, just because I'm having a great time doesn't mean I'm planning a permanent move. I still love Denver. It's just good to be happy with where God calls you to be.
Just to give you an idea of the fun things that have happened out here to help the adjustment... Every week I join the four other Emmanuel community members for a night of faithsharing, what we call "household." We usually have dinner, praise, share on the Scriptures and life, and laugh a lot. They are a great group of people and I feel so blessed to be near community members again. There is Fr. Joseph, the only EC priest in the U.S., Anne and Thibaut Solage, who moved here from France five months ago for work, and Marie-Alix, who just finished the Emmanuel School of Mission and is teaching French at a local Catholic college for a year. Two weekends ago, for our monthly community day, we went tubing with the Solage's four kids and then devoted the afternoon and evening to fellowship and mission brainstorming. The day after, with Marie-Alix and her friend, I went ice skating on a frozen pond. That is still exciting for a Cali girl who loves to skate. This Saturday I joined the Solages and their children, Malilde, Gabriel, Jade, and Gregorie, for a day on the ski slopes and a night spent at their house. What a generous family! Then after Mass yesterday, I went over to Katy's discernment house for an afternoon of baking yeast bread by hand (our first time ever) and an evening with dinner and a Holy Hour. It was a full weekend, that is sure.

Well, that's all for now. I'll add a second social life post next weekend. Peace!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A view of the ministry

First off, I'll attempt to update this blog once a week, probably sometime around the weekend. Now that my laptop is back from being repaired and appears to be working, I can do this from home. Having access to the internet through work or the library is not the most convenient thing.
Anyway, I've been in MN for just over two weeks now so I have a better idea of what is happening at the parish. I would like to let you know about it so you can keep us in your prayers and offer any feedback if you have some insights.

The big event of the week, besides Sunday Mass of course, is the School of St. Paul on Wednesday nights. The school is a missionary formation program run by the parish to help potential leaders from the parish encounter Christ and the Emmanuel Community charisms (praise, adoration, evangelization, etc.), be catechized, and then sent on mission in the neighborhood of the parish. I came in towards the end of the encounter stage, which included teachings on praise, the conversion of St. Paul, the Word of God, and fraternal charity. The next stage, Catechesis, will include talks on salvation history, divine revelation and authority, the sacraments, Mary, and one more that slips my mind. The last stage will teach about mission and the new evangelization, practical points for giving testimony and speaking to people about God, sin and mercy, and the question of suffering.

As for the format, the night begins with a praise song and prayer. This is followed by a 30 minute teaching and 20 minutes of sharing. Up to this point, the groups are split by language, Spanish or English. After the teaching and sharing, the groups join in the church for a time of bilingual praise and usually adoration. The praise and adoration last around 25 minutes and after a closing prayer or blessing by Fr. Joseph, the night is over. The whole thing lasts an hour and a half.

I've only had two weeks to observe the program, but it looks really good to me. The first night, a visiting priest who was going to speak to the Hispanic group forgot to come so Fr. Joseph delivered his teaching in both languages. It was the first time the groups had shared a teaching in the same room and while you would miss parts of the teaching if you didn't understand both languages, the general consensus is that the night build community between the groups because we would laugh at the same story and be around each other. This growth in community between the language groups led to an idea for the next week, which was an icebreaker to learn names during the time of praise. While the clump of Anglo names at the beginning proved to be a challenge for the Latinos who followed them, the rapidly listed Spanish names at the end proved to be equally challenging to remember for us English speakers. The exercise was good for a laugh and did what its purpose was, which was to increase communication between the two groups. After the night was officially over, I observed pairs or triplets of people speaking in Spanglish or with translation.

The second big event for me during the week is the Spanish Holy Hour and Mass that happens on Thursday nights. Some of you may be thinking, "Wow, Heather, I didn't realize you were so competent in Spanish to participate in such activities." Well, you are right. I'm not fully competent, but I try and that is good enough for the embracing and forgiving Spanish-speaking community at St. Stephen's. Fr. Joseph introduced me at the Thursday Mass last week, explaining that I was at St. Stephen's for four months to help with the mission preparation, and so many ladies gave me hugs and kisses and welcomed me to the parish. One sweetheart of a woman, Raquel, told me I could come to her house anytime for food or a nap, I just had to give her a call. At least that is what I put together from the parts I understood. What a generous and loving community.

As to what I'm working on right now, the school is making a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in La Crosse, Wisconsin at the end of the month and I have to coordinate the logistics for that along with Deacon Luis Rubi. Today that means making a flyer and printing it in time for the meeting tonight, but first I have to nail down a price for the coach we will be renting. It's always an adventure at the parish and every day is different. Whatever needs to be done for the mission, I'm the point woman.

P.S. Pictures will come soon. Now that I have my laptop, I can load them with the card reader.