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.

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I’ve been having some fun with Canva

One of the really cool things about my job is that I get the chance to make pretty things for the CYFM blog, and also for the retreats that we run. For a few of our retreats we have been making pamphlets for the retreat-ants to use for reflection and prayer time.
So, I took the lead with the help of my fellow CCVs.
Below are a few of the pretty things I’ve been able to make through Canva:

Serve one another through Love

For our family and service retreat

Social Justice Image

Also for our family and service retreat

the beatitudes

For our Lock-In based on the Beatitudes

One of the things that I really enjoy about this is choosing quotes that I think people would be able to reflect with. I’m still perfecting the whole ‘making it pretty’ thing. But, I do love it. Canva is great because most of their things are free and you can work from a template, which makes it super easy to choose fonts and backgrounds.

Life Lately

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Life lately has been filled with retreats, trips to see Jason Evert, free Pizza, and trips home.

Our girls senior retreat was one that I really enjoyed. I loved seeing the senior girls share their dreams with one another.

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Last minute we were able to go to see Jason Evert speak about chastity. This was really great for us, because it was a moment for the CCVs to relax, but also a moment to learn how to better explain chastity for our ministry. The parish also gave us two free pizzas!

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Also, one of the reasons why I fell in love with CYFM was its location. We’re located in the Hudson Valley, so there are beautiful hills and mountains all around us. The fog in the mornings has started, and I am in love.

Also, I was able to go home and I sent pictures of my kitty cats to my community members. 🙂

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Catholic Underground on Saturday night was awesome!

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This past Monday we attended “Fraternity Day” with the Friars.

Fr. Fred was being honored for his jubilee year as a priest. The parish was beautiful!

Love and prayers,
Mary

Apple Picking at Fishkill Farms

On our first night in the Red House, the CCV’s decided to make a bucket list of things to do in the Hudson Valley as a community this year. One of those things was to go Apple Picking. And, of course, I had a place in mind from one of the various blogs I follow here on the interwebs. I found out about Fishkill Farms through Love Taza, one of my favorite blogs. When I saw that Fishkill Farms was near Beacon, I knew that I wanted to visit!
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We decided to make the 20 minute trip on our day off. It was absolutely beautiful!

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We decided to buy one bag to go apple picking (because we’re full time volunteers)
but it was more than enough for the five of us. : )

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The farm also had this sweet little shop. They had coffee, tea, donuts, candy, t-shirts, and also all of this fun organic food.

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I love this place. I can’t wait to take friends and family back to visit.
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And bunnies. They had bunnies. (They also have a chicken coup, but the bunnies were cuter)

Love and Prayers,
Mary

Bonticou Crag

Originally posted on the Cap Corps Blog

Have you ever heard of a Rock Scramble? What do you think of? Keep that image in your head, because it’s probably similar to the image that Val, Sam, and I had on the day we went hiking in New Paltz.

This is what a Rock Scramble is. The Lady CCVs (minus Amanda) were not expecting this. Fr. Tomás was not expecting this either. Once we got started we realized how difficult this part of the hike was going to be. However, it was much harder to go back down than it was to keep going.
This is a view of the Rock Scramble from the top of Bonticou Crag.
As we climbed over boulders, and worked our way through the scramble, we worked together. There was no way we were getting out of that rock scramble without relying on one another. There were a few parts of the climb that were very difficult. It was in those moments that we talked each other through each step and gave each other a hand when needed (quite literally).
This was a team building experience like no other. I don’t think any of us thought we would be bonding so much during this little hike to Bonticou Crag.
The end result was amazing though. The view from the top of Bonticou Crag made it all worth it. We were all grateful for the experience, and the team building that took place.
God is Good.
Love and Prayers,
Mary

DIY Mugs

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When I first decided to look into long-term service programs, I knew that I would want little projects to work on for my relationship with Chris. One of the things that I found through my beloved pinterest was DIY sharpie mugs. So, I went to the dollar store and bought two identical mugs. My dollar store only had green, but I like green so I went for it. I used this tutorial from pinterest, and I found it very helpful.

This particular tutorial called for outlining the design in eyeliner and then going over it in oil-based sharpies. Now, I didn’t have oil based sharpies at the time and I have a pretty steady hand. So I decided to forego the outlining procedure. I did the whole design free-hand with regular sharpies. Then I let the mugs dry out for 24 hours. The next day, I put the mugs in our oven, and then set the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. I put the mugs in while the oven was cold, let the oven be on for an hour, and then turned the oven off at one hour. I didn’t take the mugs out right away, instead I let them cool in the oven, so that there were no drastic temperature changes.

I decided to do the process again since parts of my design faded. So I went over the parts that I wanted to be darker, and re-baked the mugs in the same fashion. All in all, I was pleased with how they turned out. : )

I decided to use a quote from Mumford & Sons, because I thought that it fit with my and Chris’s semi-distanced relationship.

Your eyes they tie me down so hard
I’ll never learn to put up a guard
So keep my love, my candle bright
Learn me hard, oh learn me right

This ain’t no sham
I am what I am

Though I may speak some tongue of old
Or even spit out some holy word
I have no strength from which to speak
When you sit me down, and see I’m weak

We will run and scream
You will dance with me
They’ll fulfill our dreams and we’ll be free

And we will be who we are
And they’ll heal our scars
Sadness will be far away

So as we walked through fields of green
Was the fairest sun I’d ever seen
And I was broke, I was on my knees
And you said yes as I said please

This ain’t no sham
I am what I am
I leave no time
For a cynic’s mind

We will run and scream
You will dance with me
Fulfill our dreams and we’ll be free

We will be who we are
And they’ll heal our scars
Sadness will be far away

Do not let my fickle flesh go to waste
As it keeps my heart and soul in its place
And I will love with urgency but not with haste

Interlaken

Originally posted on Cap Corps Volunteers The Calling of St. Matthew // Caravaggio

About a week ago, the CCVs and staff had the chance to go on our own retreat. Now, as most of you know, our ministry is based around running retreats. So, you can imagine that this was a really nice way for us to bond and get away for a few days.

A major part of our staff retreat was the sharing of our faith stories with one another.

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine

Together we can see what we will find 

You know that song by Mumford & Sons? It’s called Roll Away Your Stone and our community is obsessed with it. It has these wonderful themes that fit so nicely with our faith and with our new found journey with one another.


The Christ Candle

During each session we would light the Christ candle, and pray for one another. Then, one person had 45 minutes to share his or her faith journey.

It seems that all my bridges have been burnt
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works.

Each of us shared how we came to the faith, the hardships that we have endured, and how Christ changed our lives. I think that it takes a lot to share the most intimate parts of your life with people that you’ve known for only a month. Sure, we’ve been living and working together for that month. So we spend the majority of our time with one another, but there’s always a little hesitation in any new situation to share those most intimate moments with one another. 


Lake Cayuga, New York

I can remember feeling very anxious before my story. In my heart I knew that my new community would accept me and love me for who I am and how I got to be where I am today, but my head thought otherwise. I was very anxious. I knew my story. After all, I have lived it, but I still wanted to plan it out. That way I would be able to refocus if I became upset or nervous.


Our dinner table with a view of Lake Cayuga

Each of us shared the most intimate parts of our stories. These are the parts that Christ used in each of us, to touch our hearts, and lead us to a new life with Him. At the top of this post I chose to put The Calling of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio. This was partially because today is Saint Matthew’s feast day, and partially because I realized how perfectly it fit with this post. Saint Matthew, a tax collector, was called by Jesus to follow and live a new life. Each of us, in some way or another, experienced this very same thing. We encountered Christ, and were given an invitation.

It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start

We each decided to accept that invitation. We each accepted in our own way. We each have a different mission, but at this point in time we are called to serve together. 


The CYFM team at Taughannock Falls State Park, New York

I’m sure St. Matthew was very grateful for his encounter, and I am too.

With Love and Prayers,

Mary

The First Two Weeks

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Our adventures with Food have been interesting. We’ve been improvising with leftovers a lot. The retreat center lets us take leftovers whenever they have them. But, we’ve made vegetables, banana bread, banana muffins, and chicken parmesan. We also took advantage of 2$ tacos at a local place. They were wonderful.

The little town that we live in is so cute. I LOVE IT. We’re between the Hudson river and the mountains (i’m not sure which ones…it’s either the adirondacks or the catskills). So far, we’ve been to a coffee house, an ice cream place, and a taco place. All are great.

Our community prayer life is really starting to take hold. As a community we’re required to pray evening prayer together 4-5 times a week, and go to mass together at least once a week other than Sunday. We’ve decided to go to mass together whenever the five of us are together. We have an itty-bitty chapel in our house, but we’re also blessed to be in an area where there are many Catholic Churches. So far, we have been to two parishes.

Tomorrow we head up to Interlaken, NY for our staff retreat. Please keep us in prayer as we refresh ourselves so we can better serve the CYFM community.

Love and Prayers,
Mary

Leadership 2015

Originally posted on the Cap Corp Volunteer Blog

Silly Leadership

When we arrived on Sunday, August 23rd the Leadership retreat felt like years away. Of course it was only next weekend, but we had so much time to prepare during the week.

It was a whirlwind.

We had our first retreat planning on Monday afternoon. I don’t think any of expected to have everything happen so fast. But we planned. And we prayed. And we hoped everything would work out.

I’m pretty sure we all felt worried about the retreat. But I was very worried. I was worried that I didn’t know my part well enough, that I would stumble and fall. I was worried that God wouldn’t use my story or me in the way we had talked during planning. I was worried that I couldn’t be used in this community.

I became so worried right before the retreat but was able to become calm as the team ate dinner together, and teens began to arrive.

My piece on how communication is important to being a leader was on the first night. As I walked up with my partner for the module, I said a quick prayer that I would be at ease, that I would be able to carry out his will.

And He was faithful. Tim and I were able to run through our module and explain why communication can be difficult and what we can do to be better communicators. Then came my witness talk. I felt confident. So I began confidently. Half way through I was overcome with emotion. I guess it had hit me. That moment when you realize how powerful God’s grace has been in your life. I was choked up and I knew if I tried to speak I would begin balling in front of this group of 35 people. So I took a moment, collected myself, and let the tears come, calmly. I finished my witness and felt as though I had shared a deep part of myself with the group. And I did do that. But I didn’t expect to receive affirmation and encouragement from my peers and the teens afterwards. They were grateful, and through that I began to see how He could use me in this community. Coming to CYFM on August 23rd, I didn’t expect to share a part of my story in such an intimate way so soon. But, it was His will and He was faithful.

Although the first night of the retreat was most powerful for me, I felt his grace throughout the weekend. I felt his grace through the mass, our Saturday night prayer service, and through a few teens that He used to touch my heart.

CCVs One

This is an incredible ministry that I feel so blessed to be a part of. Thank you, CYFM for welcoming the CCVs into your community so lovingly. See you all on Friday!

With Love,
Mary

New Beginnings

The first day as a Cap Corp Volunteer at Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries

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Saying goodbye is hard.

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But, new beginnings are exciting. Especially when you’ve only ever lived in your bedroom at home.

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After 24 hours, things are starting to feel more complete. We now have keys to our home.

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And then I was finally able to fully make my bed,

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And eat cookie butter with pretzels,

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And successfully go grocery shopping. We even came in under budget.

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With some down time I was able to write a few good letters.

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Overall my first day was good. We received a lot of information at work, and I’m still processing that. That’s okay though. I have all year to adapt, and get better with the way things work here. My room is mostly unpacked. It feels kind of empty, but that’s probably because it’s much bigger than my room at home. Tomorrow we have mass at the Red House and some more orientation. So, Jesus will officially be moving into our house (he couldn’t make it yesterday).

Lots of love and prayers,
Mary