Favorite Pins and Links

These past few months have been pretty busy! Chris and I got engaged, and we are both in the midst of starting new jobs. Adding in the start of a new semester, one could imagine how busy we have been. And although I’m bummed that we had to cancel youth group tonight due to the weather, I am grateful for the opportunity to rest and to share a little of my life lately with all of you. So, I’ve officially been engaged to my best friend for a month! *cue squealing* That being said, I’ve been doing a lot of pinning and dreaming. So here is a roundup of my favorite links that I’ve come across on the internet lately in preparation for planning our wedding.

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Katie Prejean McGrady’s post NFP: Not Freaking Practical

This, just like every other blog we’ve shared, is a small snapshot into the difficulties of learning an entirely new rhythm to life, while also trying to figure out how to balance a budget together, live together, cook together, and share the covers on our bed (a constant, nightly battle). We took on the practice of NFP because we believe it’s what is best, and we quickly discovered it to be a cross that can be pretty heavy to carry.

I first heard Katie Prejean speak at the New York Catholic Youth Day this past Spring. I was there manning a booth for CYFM and gave a reflection during adoration. Katie was a keynote speaker and I was so engaged by her talk! At the time she was preparing for marriage and added tidbits of her love story into her keynote. Since then I have followed along on her journey through instagram, and more recently through her blog. I love this post because she didn’t sugarcoat NFP. Being that we’re recently engaged, I have been looking into different resources to get an idea and begin to plan for our marriage. Katie’s post made me laugh but was also one of first that I’ve read to explain that NFP a beautiful thing yes, but also a cross to bear.


Spoken Bride’s Not For The Perfect: How I Came To Accept and Value NFP

Though my body is my own, my temple was built by God. And even while sometimes I’d love to change some things about my body, it is beautifully designed. The fact that God gifted me with fertility and breaks from fertility is something I no longer take for granted. It turned out all the Church needed was that running start and open mind.

Spoken Bride has been a favorite resources over the past month or so. This post, like Katie Prejean’s, was insightful. I’m grateful for these resources during the very beginning stages of our sacramental prep.


Spoken Bride’s Getting Real About Wedding-Day Beauty

Fake? Like any other bride, I’d wanted to look my best on our wedding day. But I hadn’t given much thought to any reasoning beyond that, and certainly hadn’t set out to intentionally deceive anyone into believing I had a born-with-it blinding smile. Where, then, to draw the line on bridal beauty treatments, and how?

I’m so grateful for all of the resources on the internet to help us out in our planning and preparing. While the Knot and different instagram accounts are super practical, Spoken Bride is focused on the Catholic Bride. That means sacramental prep, with a few pretty things thrown in too. While we still have a year and a half until the big day, I’m grateful for this site and its emphasis on the sacrament of marriage. Also, I’m not super into makeup as it is, so the fact that this post focuses on our natural beauty makes me so happy.


This post on The Marriage Crucifix

When they interchange the marital vows, the bride puts her right hand on this Crucifix and the groom puts his right hand over hers. Both are bound together and united to the Cross. The priest covers their hands with his stole while they pronounce their promises to love one other in good times and in bad, proclaiming their vows to be faithful according to the rites of the Church.

I first heard about this tradition in this Fountains of Carrots Podcast and nearly started crying in the student lounge because of how beautiful it is. While Chris and I technically weren’t engaged as of yet, we had been talking about marriage for quite some time, so I was sure to store this beautiful little ritual in the back of my mind. I love the idea of searching for a crucifix for this ritual, that will later hang in our home. We’re getting married in June, so the idea of incorporating the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary into the crucifix sounds ideal to me.


Spoken Bride also features the photos and stories of real weddings. I love this. Here are two of their features that I absolutley love:

Becca + Kyle

I pray you make every moment with your beloved and those around you extraordinary, because Becca is right. We are called to heroic love. Becca and Kyle’s relationship shows that overcoming challenges and trusting Christ with our life’s steps is what we’ve been made for in our call to love.

Flowers. Lace. And so many pretty things.

Maggie + Eric

We look back with such gratitude on our wedding day, because what stands out to us isn’t the details we had spent the majority of our time planning–it was that we gave each other a sacrament in marriage, which has been a comfort and a stronghold for us during our first year as newlyweds.

Summer. Roses. And simple beauty.


As Chris and I continue our venue search, I hope to keep some of these pearls of wisdom from my research in mind. Please pray for us as we continue this journey!

Mary

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Life Lately

Life during this semester has been a little crazy. From starting graduate school to shifting jobs to family obligations, fall of 2016 left little to no time to devote to this little blog.

It has been a season of growth, change, discomfort, and joy.

I’ve worked hard this semester, changed jobs, and attended a sweet friend’s wedding. I’ve hiked, prayed, and celebrated. More to come later, sweet friends. Pray for me in this time of transition and grace. I’ll be praying for you.

Mary

On being a cheerful servant

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Student: If you could be any food, what food would you be?

Me: Hmm. I’m going to cheat with this one: I would be a cup of coffee.

Student: Why would you be a cup of coffee?

Me: Because it’s warm, inviting, it’s like a hug in a cup, and it wakes you up in the morning.

Student: I like that answer!

From the time that I was in High School, I have had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. So much so, that during my sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school I would arise ten minutes before I had to leave the house. My alarm would go off at 6:15am, I would then repeatedly hit snooze for a half hour, and finally arise at 6:45am. My Mom and I would then leave the house between 6:55 and 7:00am. I was a master at getting ready within ten minutes. I had the routine down to a science. My bags would be packed with my breakfast, lunch, and water bottle (at this time I hadn’t discovered the sweetness that is a cup of coffee). I would roll out of bed, brush my hair, use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and finally change. This became my routine each and every morning.

As I transitioned into college, this struggle became even more real since I had to do so on my own and drive 30-45 minutes to my college campus every morning. It was during this time that I discovered the wonderful perks of caffeinated beverages. I had a Dunkin Donuts gift card from my summer job and decided to use it each morning during my commute. This struggle of trying to wake up at a decent time has continued to be a struggle through my college and post-college career.

As I began my year of service with Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries, I knew that one of my greatest challenges of the year would be getting up and ready for the day before the students on the retreat. This proved to be especially difficult being that our retreats typically don’t wind down until about 11:30pm. This means that most of the retreatants don’t settle down until after midnight, sometimes much later. Being the “adult” it is my job to make sure that everyone is safe, in their beds, and attempting to sleep. I repeatedly tell them, “You know that I love you all, but do you know what I love even more? Sleeping.”

These odd work hours have become one of the greatest struggles of my Cap Corps year as well as one of my greatest joys. It is definitely the most difficult part of my job this past year. We constantly rearrange our sleep schedule based on different retreat programs. This is physically demanding, and lying in bed until the last possible minute doesn’t work in this field. One of the ways that I know helps me each day is waking up before the retreatants and being ready to wake them up. One of the struggles of this is doing it with a smile.

I realized early on in the year that this would be a challenge for me. In October of 2015, CYFM put on a Lock-In because of an unexpected open weekend. As bright-eyed, baby CCVs, we were so excited to put on a program that we were able to plan from scratch. However, with an overnight program filled with activities came little to no sleep. I believe I slept for a total of three hours during that retreat. The morning came, and myself along with four other volunteers and two friars had to be bright eyed, smiling servants.

As we prepared breakfast, and as the cherubs slowly rose and made their way down to the dining hall, I was actually cheery. To be honest, I still don’t know how this miracle occurred, being that I was actually exhausted. Fr. Tomas, being his normal, joyful self commented on my cheeriness and appearance of alertness. However, holding my warm cup of coffee in my hands, the only answer that I could come up with for him was that I was “faking it”.

This idea, for me, goes back to my time training to be a peer leader when I was in High School. I was a part of a ministry team that would be running the icebreakers, liturgy, and behind the scenes tasks at a youth conference in upstate New York (everything north of Westchester is upstate to a Long Islander, don’t yell at me!). The week involved Discipleship training, as well as practicing skits, games, etc. On our final day of the youth conference we were all exhausted. We rose at 6am to begin preparation for the final day of Ministry, and my youth minister was particularly cheery, as the rest of us were, well not.

I remember looking at him, with tired eyes, and asking, “Tom, how are you so awake right now?!” His response was simple, and it stuck with me (and stayed with me throughout my year of service).

“I’m not,” he replied “I’m faking it,” and he still had a smile on his face.

This idea stuck with me, not because it made my youth minister inauthentic, or made the job of ministry seem easy. This idea stuck with me because it made me realize that my youth minister was a real person, who genuinely cared about our well-being, and our souls. And although we were all exhausted, we were still there to serve, and we were there to be cheerful servants, not grumbly servants.

“Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But, even if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you. In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.” Philippians 2: 14-18

And so, that morning in October, I was reminded of that encounter and the lesson that it taught me way back when.

Whether or not I kept this lesson in mind during later retreats is a different story. However I was reminded of this lesson towards the end of the year at one of the CAM orientation days. We were playing a question game, and one question that I was asked went like this:

Student: If you could be any food, what food would you be?

I thought for a minute and couldn’t think of a food. But, for some reason at that moment, I was reminded of one of my struggles this year: getting up on time, and doing it with a smile. And so, I cheated.

Me: Hmm. I’m going to cheat with this one: I would be a cup of coffee.

When I was asked why, I responded honestly, hoping that these attributes were part of my year. I hope that I was warm, and inviting to each retreatant, and to my fellow leaders. And I hope that I was able to wake everyone up in the morning.

Life Lately

For i know well the

Hello friends,

Since I last wrote a real blog post, a lot has happened in my life. Since April I have:

  • Led my last Confirmation Retreat at CYFM
  • Finished my year of service at CYFM
  • Participated/Led two Outreach programs
    • one local
    • one in Kentucky
  • Drove a very large cargo van to and from Kentucky
  • Said “See you later” to many wonderful, faith filled men and women
  • Traveled as a Pilgrim to World Youth Day in Poland
  • Moved back home
  • transferred Graduate Schools (maybe one day i’ll write about that journey, maybe)
  • Got a Job!
  • had a cold (boo)
  • been to the beach
  • found a cute coffee shop 15 minutes from my house
  • ordered many books for the upcoming fall semester

My August is nothing like what I thought it would be back in April. A lot has changed since then. Since my last real post, I have posted a total six reflections and talks from my year working with CYFM and from previous mission trips. Some of them are a little more lengthy than my regular posts, but if you’re curious about the ministry that I did this year, these talks below are a good example of the work that I did this year, and the heart and soul that I put into my ministry.

The Emmaus Witness
The Jesus Difference
Embarking on your faith journey
A Reflection on Mercy

These posts were talks that I gave throughout this year. While the Emmaus Witness, Embarking on your faith journey, and the Reflection on Mercy all speak to the same encounter they are each catered to a different retreat or program. The Jesus Difference was geared towards a Middle School audience.

Adjusting to life back home, out of the red house is interesting. Perhaps I’ll write to that soon. Thanks for reading some of my ramblings. Expect more posts soon since I have more time on my hands (at least for the next two weeks) 🙂

Mary

A Reflection on Mercy

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St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York

“Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”

Pope Francis sent out this tweet on April 3rd, just a few weeks ago. And for so many of us, these tweets from Pope Francis have become a daily reminder of our shepherd, caring for his flock. This Jubilee year of Mercy is such a gift to the Church. We as Catholics are called to reflect on God’s unfailing, mercy and love.  And when I begin to reflect on this theme in my own life, I can’t help but see how prominent it has been. You see, for the past nine months I have been serving the Catholic Church as a Cap Corps Volunteer, where it is my duty to spread God’s message of love and mercy through my words, actions, and the many retreat programs that Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries runs. Part of my ministry this year is reflecting on God’s grace in my own life so that I may share that witness with the many middle schoolers and high schoolers who come to our center each and every day.

I’m sure that many of us can think of a time when the Lord’s mercy truly changed our lives. And as we sit here in adoration of the Eucharist, in adoration of our Lord, I ask you to let his mercy shine upon you, to let him love you, because he so desperately wants to.

There were many years when I was so afraid to let God’s love into my life. And this is something that I still struggle with from time to time.  However, in high school, all I wanted was to be ‘okay’. The only thing was I wouldn’t let his unfailing love and mercy into my heart. I was afraid to let Love himself in, because of the way others had hurt me. I didn’t feel worthy of His Love.

There have been other people who haven’t felt worthy of Christ’s love. However, one thing always happens. There is an encounter with our Lord, who is Love, and one cannot stay the same after that encounter. St. Matthew was one of these people. His story of conversion is a favorite of mine:

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew- sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” – Matthew 9:9-13

I hope and pray that each of us has this moment, this moment where we encounter a God who is Love. And like St. Matthew, I hope that you’re life can never be the same, and that you choose to follow Him and bring those around to his merciful love. Each of us is asked to accompany him on an adventure that we were made for.

My adventure in faith started out like many others. It was quiet. I grew up on Long Island, went to public school, lived with my family, and went to Mass on Sundays. I played with neighbors as a kid, and loved to draw and write stories. For me, this moment of encounter didn’t happen as a child, at my baptism, first communion, or confirmation, but rather, it happened on a retreat, during Eucharistic adoration.

I’m sure St. Matthew didn’t feel worthy to follow Christ. He was a tax collector, a man who took advantage of people and their money. People were surprised when Christ asked Matthew to follow him. And while I’m sure other people didn’t judge me for following Christ, I sure didn’t feel worthy to receive his love and mercy, and to be a follower of him. I didn’t feel worthy to have the responsibility of doing all that comes with being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I had a few really rough years in high school. I was struggling with anxiety, and depression. I had lost friends, and a boyfriend who I was too dependent on, and soon after that my Dad had moved out and my parents divorced. By the time I was a senior in High School, I wasn’t living a life for Christ, even though I had gone to Church, to youth group, and volunteered my time to the poor and to the younger children at my parish.

For me, life was trying to get through each day, often times faking a smile, and acting as though everything was okay. While on the inside, I was falling apart. I couldn’t see my worth in Christ. I knew that I was loved, but couldn’t grasp what that meant or how it could affect my life, and I certainly didn’t feel that love.

Being a senior, I didn’t want to miss out on any of my favorite High School experiences, so I went on the youth group retreat through my parish for one last time. I had prayed that something wonderful would happen on this retreat. I wasn’t sure if God would hear my prayer, or if anything would actually change in my life. But I knew that I was ready, that I wanted to live a life of Joy again. And although I still didn’t feel worthy, I prayed that somehow my heart would be opened to this love that I had experienced years before. That Friday night we took a walk down to the beach and had a prayer service. We were asked to quiet ourselves, and to think of what was burdening us. There were thousands of pebbles on the beach. We each picked up two rocks, one representing our burdens, and one representing a promise. We each threw our burden into the Sound, and held on tight to our promise. I handed God all that I had been carrying, the hurt and the sadness, and I promised to never deny his love in my life again. My heart began to break open then. God was beginning to answer my prayer. By the time Saturday night came around, my heart went from hard to being broken open by his Divine Mercy. And after receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, I sat in adoration of the Eucharist.

I desired mercy; just like St. Matthew.

And as I sat, for the first time feeling peace in front of the Eucharist, I cried, and felt a whisper in my heart to come, and follow Him. I no longer felt unworthy. Instead, all I saw was the Eucharist, and beautiful light surrounding it. I felt love, and finally understood in my heart, that despite my weaknesses and failures, Christ still died for me. I felt an overwhelming sense in my heart that I was loved. Truly Loved. In that moment, just like St. Matthew, I got up, and followed Him. I was drawn into the mystery.

Each time we are brought to adoration of the Eucharist, we are given the opportunity to gaze upon Love, and to let him gaze upon us. The creator of the world wants nothing more than to love you. Let us always remember what Pope Francis keeps reminding us of, that mercy is the bridge between God and man, “opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”

During this Easter season, let his Divine Mercy break open your heart, so that he may lavish you in love, and transform your life, just like he has done in mine and in so many others.

Mary

This reflection was given to a group of students at the New York Catholic Youth Day on April 30, 2016 at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, NY. I hope that it has inspired you as it inspired the students earlier this week. 

 

That time we toured the North East (and the midwest)

Over the past few weeks I have been in the Hudson Valley, Long Island, Boston, New York City, the Hudson Valley again, Pittsburgh, Steubenville, and then finally back home in the Hudson Valley. It’s been a bit crazy, so I’m going to recap in the pictures below. 🙂

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One Wednesday afternoon, Val and I left our away retreat on LI for Boston, MA. To save gas, mileage, and our sanity we took the ferry out of Orient Point. I absolutely loved it, and would totally do it again. It was beautiful.

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The reason for going to Boston was for an accepted students day (that we both went to) and we were able to go to Mass and tour around Boston. It was nice to see where I’ll be living for the next two years.

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Here I am, in Downtown Boston by the Harbour. And below, by the sign for my program.

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After finishing the accepted students program, we headed back to New York for a family retreat in the city. It was totally worth it because the friary had a cat named Bella. This literally made my week. I miss having pets around.

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At youth group that weekend, we played some silly games (that were really about Easter) and talked about the Resurrection.

The following Tuesday, Sam, Fr. Tomas, and I drove west and spent the night in Pittsburgh. Here we had dinner with Sam’s family and saw the city.

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I don’t have any pictures from Steubenville (we were there for a career fair) but when we returned I went to a poetry reading with Fr. Bob.

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Then it was National Siblings Day, and my sister posted a picture.

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And finally we were rewarded with a Mets game (courtesy of Mary Ellen) and we ran into so many people, including Chris! 🙂

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The today we had a great day retreat.

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It’s been a crazy few weeks– but I don’t think I’ve ever been to so many places in so little time.

Mary

Life Lately (in pictures)

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The past few weeks have been pretty busy, but here are some pictures from the CYFM camera, and from my iphone. These pictures are mostly from Saints for Youth, our Young Adult Retreat, and Youth Group.

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My Saint for the Saints for Youth Retreat was St. Maria Goretti

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Amanda had Padre Pio and Fr. Tomas had St. Leopold (they’re both in the Vatican now!)

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I’m not the best with skits, so I was grateful to have a veteran CCV visit my group.

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Young Adults!

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Leaving room for the Holy Spirit

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Finding Therese’s roses all around CYFM

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Fr. Fred loves Therese!

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Last but not least, Youth Group.

Such fun. It’s been a good few weeks.

Mary

Life Lately in Pictures

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Winter has finally arrived in the Hudson Valley, and it seems as though it is on its way out already!

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We enjoyed our stay at the Esopus retreat center!

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One of my professors sent me a copy of her book! I’m excited to dive into it and feel like I’m back in her class!

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Visited Chelsea Market for a quick bite to eat and was intrigued by this cup! How crazy is that?!

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Ran a retreat in Dorchester, MA and found this beautiful image of JPII and Our Lady. Boston is a fun place for the CCVs to visit and work with the different parishes.

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Mount Beacon looked beautiful with just a bit of snow on it. This was a few weeks ago, now it’s almost 50 degrees and sunny!

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This isn’t the best picture but I recently noticed this cross in the kitchen at CYFM

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The three of us had the opportunity to see the Rachel Ray show in the city. This is us waiting on line.

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Lent is upon us.

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And the Chapel is still beautiful.

Until next time!

Garrison

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As I sat there, feeling down, looking at the blog of an acquaintance from my childhood, I started to feel jealous.

This girl, and others that I knew growing up are traveling around Europe as their post graduation life.

I opened up the main tab of the blog and realized how many places she had been. She wrote about how when she was young, all she wanted to do was travel. And I had this moment where I remembered that, that is all I wanted to do as an awkward middle schooler too. I kept a list of places that I wanted to go, and I would add to it each time I watched a program on the travel channel.

I became really discouraged in that moment. That I have only checked a handful of places off of my list. Sure, I studied abroad in Ireland. But what happened to studying abroad more than once like I had wanted to by the end of high school.

And then I kept reading. And she continued to write about what her dream is for her life. She loves to write. That makes sense since she’s a blogger. But then she said something, and it made me stop.

She wrote that she hopes to write things that touches people’s lives, people she will never meet.

And I was stopped in my tracks.

I had this moment where I remembered that I do that.

I have been published in a major magazine. People commented on the online version about how helpful my piece was.

I write talks about faith, and my faith journey and give them to middle school and high school students every week.

And my hope is, that something I say will touch them and bring them closer to Christ. Because that’s the real goal.

And I realized how silly my jealousy was. Because I am doing something worthwhile. I am giving a year of service to a ministry that touches lives. I have the chance to share my story with dozens of students each day.

I’ll have the rest of my life to travel, but I’ll only be in Garrison for one year.

Here’s to making the most of it!

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Spiritual Reading: 2016

Here it is… I’m making a list that I can stick to for the 2016 year. These are books that have been sitting on my shelf for a year or two that I haven’t made a priority of reading.  So here we go:

  1. My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell (to finish this book)
  2. Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell (to finish this book)
  3. Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge
  4. Wife Mother & Mystic: Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi by Fr. Albert Bessieres
  5. Therese, Faustina, and Bernadette: Three saints who challenged my faith, gave me hope, and taught me how to love by Elizabeth Ficocelli
  6. Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila
  7. St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton
  8. Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly
  9. Jesus a Pilgrimage by James Martin (to finish this book)

    Being that my year of service is ministry based, my personal prayer life is so important to my work. So I’m making it more of a top priority this year to do spiritual reading. This is something I have always enjoyed, but have fallen out of the habit of doing. Here’s to 2016!

*this post was updated on January 20, 2016*