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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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

The Emmaus Witness

ORBEC Walk To Emmaus #10

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

A conversion of heart occurs in this story from scripture. One of the great things about it is how many times this conversion happens for the disciples, and in how it shows how many different ways this conversion can occur. For me, it is a reminder that our conversion of heart, our encounter with God, doesn’t just happen once, but happens over and over again, until finally (hopefully) we rest with God in his Kingdom. I think that each one of us can think back on our faith journey, and remember our first conversion of heart. Perhaps you are still able to remember that moment. You can remember every little detail about it, the lighting, the smells, and that word, song, or talk that changed your life for the better. Perhaps it was in this very room.

In my story, my conversion of heart occurred in a room very similar to this one. But before we can get to that moment, we need to back up a little bit. My relationship with Jesus began when I made my confirmation in the seventh grade. And since I became a Cap Corps, every week, sometimes multiple times, I get up here to this podium, and tell seventh and eighth graders how I made the decision to follow Jesus at my Confirmation. I can give that talk because it is true. I found a home in the youth ministry program at my parish. I made real friends, and found that I loved learning about my faith. I shared that I had found a true friend in Jesus with the seventh and eighth graders who were here last weekend. And while all of these stories sound nice, and they are; and they can help a twelve or thirteen year old know that Jesus can be a friend to them, that moment wasn’t the turning point for me in my story. My full story is a little different. Sometimes, the story isn’t as pretty and put together; sometimes we’re the disciples running away from Jerusalem after the crucifixion.

In the eighth grade my parent’s marriage began to fail. And while their marriage hadn’t been the best throughout my childhood, it still allowed some stability throughout my young life. There was a routine, Mom got home at 5:30 and gave us dinner, and Dad’s schedule shifted because of his two jobs, but he would come home, eat dinner and watch TV, eventually. But, when my Dad stopped sleeping in his bedroom, my world changed. It was here that I truly learned to pray, and depend on God. Two years later, they finally divorced and my home life changed permanently. Youth group became my stable environment. And while there were adults who cared about me, and true friends who were there for me; I went to that blue door of the old convent, down the stairs to a blue room each week for my “Jesus fix”.

As time went on, the youth group year moved forward. And we began to discuss heavier topics like, the importance of the Eucharist, chastity, and pornography; I began to realize that the guy that I was dating, whom I believed I was in love with and was going to spend my life with, was not treating me right, and the things that we were doing, even though we weren’t having sex, were not chaste or holy. I couldn’t swallow that truth though. I knew that what we were doing was not right, but hearing that truth out loud made it all too real for me. These things that we did made me feel better. I was still dealing with that change at home. I was learning how to live in my house without my Dad, and many times, because of work, without my Mom too. This guy made me feel loved and wanted, I felt as though I had a purpose with him.  So, I made excuses, tried to push the Church’s teachings out of my mind, and eventually began to completely ignore the guilt and the pain that I was feeling.  I threw my moral compass out the window each time I saw this guy, and I began to run away from Jerusalem.

The next few years were filled with your typical teenage drama: heartbreak, angst, but also with depression and anxiety. When that relationship, which I thought was worth throwing my faith away for, finally fell apart, I was distraught. It felt as though I had to relearn how to live. By the time I reached my senior year of 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. I was living day to day, trying to fake a smile, and act as though everything was okay. I knew that I wasn’t though. I knew that I was loved, but couldn’t grasp what that meant, or how it could affect my life.

And so I went on this retreat. I didn’t particularly like going to youth group anymore, but out of habit, I went on the Spring Retreat. I wasn’t so keen on going, and as we opened the retreat I wasn’t sold on the theme song. I had been going to counseling, so I began to get my depression and anxiety under control, and I knew that being a scutch and remaining closed off was not going to be fun for anyone. So, I tried to be open and listen to all of the presentations and participate in the prayer services.

Jesus was walking with me, even though I didn’t recognize him. Friday night we handed whatever was burdening us over to God by tossing a rock into the Long Island Sound. We were asked to quiet ourselves, and to think about what was burdening us. There were thousands of pebbles on the beach, and the sun had gone down, leaving a beautiful blue-green color painted on the sky. We each picked up two rocks. One represented our burdens, and one represented a promise. Then we each threw our burden into the Sound, and held on tight to our promise. I began to open up then. Although I still didn’t recognize him, Jesus was walking with me, and I urged him to stay.  

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.

I sat in adoration of the Eucharist. I remember that moment; it was when everything changed for me. I can remember every detail of that night. The room was dim; the monstrance was beautiful and was surrounded by candles. I remember the smell of the incense burning. Through tear stained eyes, all I could see was Jesus. Everyone else had disappeared. Then I heard the words of a familiar song,

“He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane; I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are, and how great your affections are for me. Oh, How He loves us.”

I had experienced God’s loving grace in the sacrament of confession. 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 rest, to let go, and to come, and follow Him.  I felt an overwhelming sense in my heart that I was loved. Truly, truly Loved.

“And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss… I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way he loves us.”

Suddenly things made sense. Christ was truly present in the Eucharist. Heaven came down to earth each time Mass was celebrated. Each time bread is broken at table, Christ becomes recognizable to us in the most humble, beautiful way possible. That true love, that acceptance and guidance that I had been looking for was there right in front of me:

“The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white host.”

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

The gift of Jesus in the Eucharist, for me, is the most important aspect of my faith. It is why I am Catholic. We are able to receive him every day if we want to. That’s crazy to me. Since my encounter, I started to look at the Eucharist in a different light. I guess you could say that I started to take it more seriously. I went to World Youth Day in Spain that summer, and for the first time in my life, went to mass each day. Being able to receive the Eucharist each day helped my love for Jesus in the Eucharist grow more and more. Seeing young people from all over the world, who share the same belief, reverently, receive the body and blood of Christ changed the way that I receive the Eucharist.

However, as life moves forward, I still get distracted, and forget what gift of love is in front of me. There is another story from the Gospel of Luke that speaks to this:

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

I think that many times, I can be a Martha. And I’m sure that many of you feel the same way. I’m a do-er. I pay attention to the details because in my eyes, without them, whatever you’re trying to doesn’t matter. Like if you’re running youth group, and you forget pens for your journaling prayer station. That’s an important detail! But God still shows up. Suddenly you remember that there are a few pens in this bag, and that bag, and then suddenly you have enough pens for your prayer station. I like to do service projects where I can see God’s grace pouring out to those we are serving. And sometimes, I forget the power that prayer holds.

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Like Martha, I am cleaning, cooking, and preparing for Jesus to enter my home. It doesn’t matter that he’s already here; there is a spill on the floor over there that I need to clean now, because Jesus deserves better. How am I supposed to host him if I don’t have any clean plates? How am I supposed to let him into my heart, unless my soul is in a perfect state of grace? How is he supposed to love me if I can’t love myself?

These are questions that run through my mind when I am brought before the Eucharist in Adoration. Like Martha, I am often anxious and worried about many things. I begin to think that I am unworthy, or that those things I did years ago still matter. And then Jesus reminds us that Mary has chosen the better part.  Just being with him in the Eucharist is enough. He wants us to spend time with him. Fulton Sheen once said,

“The only time the Lord asked the apostles for anything was the night he went into agony. Not for activity did he plead but for an hour of companionship.”

Mary understood the gift of love that was in front of her. (It must be something about the name.)

She chose the better part. Our Lord loves us so much that he humbles himself to become ordinary bread, we receive him and we adore him. In the breaking of the bread, our eyes are opened.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story, and how Christ has touched my life.

*This witness was given on the College and Young Adult Retreat in February of 2016 at CYFM*

Embarking on your Faith Journey

Have any of you ever read a really great book or watched a really great movie or heard a really great story? Now, what did that book, movie or story have that was so great about it? Maybe it had to do with some mythical place, or an incredibly interesting main character. Perhaps you were able to identify with it in some way. Something about that story drew you in. And I can tell you, that each of these stories has something very simple in common. They all have some sort of journey that you as the reader, watcher, or listener follow. It may be a journey to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away, to Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Narnia, Metropolis or Gotham. It might be a journey of self-discovery, or one where the main character saves the world. We are drawn into this story. We are drawn into the mystery.

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I have this map up here. It belongs to my Dad, and it had a prominent place in my home for most of my life. It’s a hand drawn map of Middle Earth, the world that J.R.R. Tolkien created for his famous trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. I grew up staring at it, memorizing the landmarks and physical obstacles along the way from the Shire to Mount Doom in Mordor. This is one of the stories that I was enamored with as a child. I loved the idea of the adventures that took place in Middle Earth. I wanted to meet characters like Bilbo and Gandalf, and I wanted to be a strong heroin just like Arwen.

Now, what if I told you that our faith can be just like one of these journeys.

Just like the ones that we see in our favorite books, movies, or stories.

 You might be thinking I’m a little crazy at this point. But, one of my favorite saints, St. John Paul II is quoted in saying, “Life with Christ is a Wonderful Adventure”.

There is a moment in every story where the main character is posed with a question. Usually that question is whether or not to take on an adventure. Whether they’re off to destroy a ring, find a horcrux, or save the city from eternal doom, there is a moment when the main character consciously makes the choice to do the right thing. And often enough, we learn that the main character was destined to take part in that journey.

So are we.

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This painting is one of my favorites. It’s called “The Calling of St. Matthew” and it was painted by a guy named Caravaggio in 1600. Here we can see a ray of light making its way to Matthew, while Christ is pointing at him. The story of this painting actually comes from a story in the Gospel. The Gospel of Matthew tells us:

 “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

We all have this moment. There is a moment where we are asked to join Christ on a journey. We are asked to accompany him on an adventure that we were made for.

My faith journey started out like many others. It was quiet. I grew up on Long Island, went to public school, lived with my Grandma, Mom & Dad, big sister Julie, 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, kind of like the one you’re on right now. I had had a couple of really rough years in high school. I was anxious, depressed, I had lost friends, and a boyfriend who I was too dependent on, and my Dad had moved out and my parents divorced. 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. I was living day to day, trying to fake a smile, and act as though everything was okay. I knew that I wasn’t though. I knew that I was loved, but couldn’t grasp what that meant, or how it could affect my life.

And so I went on this retreat. I didn’t particularly like going to youth group anymore, but out of habit, I went on the Spring Retreat. Ironically, or not so ironically, the theme of the retreat was “I will Follow” and we had to sing this awful song and do silly hand movements to it. However, I knew that being a scutch and remaining closed off was not going to be fun for anyone. So, I tried to be open and listen to all of the presentations and participate in the prayer services. Friday night we handed whatever was burdening us over to God by tossing a rock into the Long Island Sound. 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 represented our burdens, and one represented a promise. We each threw our burden into the Sound, and held on tight to our promise. I began to open up then. But the true turning point for me was on Saturday night. I sat in adoration of the Eucharist, which is when the Eucharist is exposed in a gold stand called a monstrance for a prolonged period of time. I desired mercy; just like St. Matthew. I had experienced God’s loving grace in the sacrament of confession. 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 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.

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I found Joy on that retreat. For the first time in a long time, I found joy in doing simple everyday things. I even found Joy in getting stuck in the mud of a small Long Island Harbor, after running after my friends onto what looked like solid ground. In case you were wondering, I did ruin my flip flops that day. I had no idea what this journey would entail or what my destination would be. To be completely honest with you, I still don’t know what the destination is. I can tell you, that since I decided to get up and follow Him, my life has truly been an adventure. I’ve gone places, done things, and encountered people that I wouldn’t have even thought possible in High School. But, I had to take that first step and climb that very high mountain. I had to leave my comfortable life behind, and like Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings, I left the Shire.

I started to take my volunteer work seriously. I was a volunteer with the Middle School Youth Group at my Parish. I played silly games along the way with middle schoolers and enjoyed it. I even let a 12 year old do my hair with shaving cream for the “Edge Kids Take Over”. It took a few showers to get it all out.

I went on trips to places I had only dreamed about before. I walked the streets of Dublin and Paris with my Mom and sister.

I took in the beauty of one of the world’s oldest book of Gospels, The Book of Kells, in Dublin, and I stood in awe of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I went on pilgrimage to Madrid, Spain for World Youth Day 2011. I walked along the same cobblestone streets as St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. I sat in the same churches as a Doctor of the Church. As a group, we went to Mass with various English-Speaking Cardinals, and eventually with Pope Benedict XVI.

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We stood and humbly waited in the rain, which was described as a hurricane over the announcer. There was obviously a mistranslation there. And we waited for the Pope to arrive. We met young Catholics from all over the world: Colombia, France, Iraq, Australia, Nigeria, and Malaysia. I found I had a friend in Jesus’s mother after I realized that each church I went into had the image that my Parish is named after, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This still happens by the way.

In college, I continued to follow Him along a path that I couldn’t quite see, and had some incredible experiences. I trudged through Washington DC in 10 degree weather as a witness to the beauty that Human Life is at the March for Life.

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 I studied in Galway, Ireland, after working up the courage to follow the desires of my heart and change my major from something that would secure me a job after graduation, to something that I truly loved: English Literature and Irish Studies.

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 I sat in the middle of a country road in a town where there were more sheep than people, and appreciated the beauty of creation with a sunrise at 4am with some of my wonderful classmates.

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 I took a bus and visited relatives that I had never met and shared in faith and tea and ice cream with them. We drove all over my Grandfathers hometown.  I felt a little silly standing with that tomb stone in the rain, but I knew that these were the family members that gave me my Catholic faith, this was the church where my grandparents and great grandparents worshipped a God who is Love, and so I complied and smiled as a cousin I barely knew took my picture.

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I walked across the Peace Bridge in a city where violence was the norm for so long. I shared in the hurt that my cousins felt from the past, but also listened to their hope for their city and for their home. I quite literally crossed the River Foyle with them and was present as they shared their story and their heart with me.

I traveled in a minivan, and my campus minister was pulled over by cop in West Virginia for going 83 mph, to a place that I had never been. There were mountains there. I served the poor of Appalachia in Beauty, KY with some of the most kind-hearted, loving people I know.

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The Lord helped me break out of my comfort zone by working with power tools and to truly be present with the people of Beauty. I was reminded by a cook that I met from Georgia, just how beautiful my soul was, and how she could see it in my eyes. I spoke of my love for Mother Teresa and the Catholic Faith with a nurse from the next town after she confided in me just how beautiful she found the Catholic Church, even though she was a Baptist. She met me with love, not judgment, just as Jesus had.

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I built a deck and a ramp that week along with 8 of my classmates and mentors. That is something I would have never thought I could do, much less that I would want to. My Dad still doesn’t quite believe it.  Even in the mud that week, I found Joy.

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More recently, Jesus asked me to climb an even higher mountain. He asked me to serve in a way that I had never thought before. He asked me to move away from home to a place called Garrison, and to run retreats where students could encounter Him. I laughed, but after much prayer and a leap of faith, I went. And I could not be happier. Those words that JPII spoke are true, “Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.”

Will you get up and follow him?

This presentation was given on the Sophomore Retreat: Faith Journey through CYFM. 

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

Images for Easter

Acts of the ApostlesDivine MercyEaster People

As some of you know, I run the Cap Corps Volunteer blog. One of my favorite parts of that job is that I have the chance to make fun images for the blog and for social media. I personally like to use a website called Canva. This website is free to use, with the exception of some of the designs. But to be honest, you can get by just fine with using the free layouts and features. All of the images above were made using free tools.

I found Canva through some Pinterest research last year. I’ve also heard good things about an app called Word Swag. I haven’t used it yet, but once I do, I’ll let you know how I like it. 🙂

The three images above were created for the first three weeks of Easter. The John Paul II quote is up on the Cap Corps blog tomorrow for our post on Easter. The Divine Mercy image will go up next week for Divine Mercy Sunday. And the Acts of the Apostles image will go up the third week of Easter as a part of a reflection on the Acts of the Apostles and being a Christian.

Do you have any programs that you like to use to build up your online presence in ministry?

Mary

Life Lately (in pictures)

queen of heaven

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.

maria goretti

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

padre pio

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

skit

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

young adult

Young Adults!

holy spirit

Leaving room for the Holy Spirit

scavenger hunt

Finding Therese’s roses all around CYFM

sfy 2sfytherese

Fr. Fred loves Therese!

youth group

Last but not least, Youth Group.

Such fun. It’s been a good few weeks.

Mary

Lent

This post originally appeared on the Cap Corps Volunteer Blog

It’s that time of year again!  This Wednesday, Christians all over the world are reminded of their sinfulness and of their dependence on the Grace of God. The video above explains Lent and Ash Wednesday in two minutes… only two minutes! Take a couple of minutes, watch, and learn. Often enough, we as Catholics feel that we need to do some extraordinary acts during Lent to show that we are indeed, devout Catholics.

Don’t let your pride get in the way of letting yourself grow spiritually. The Church calls us to pray, fast, and to give alms. What is one thing that you can do to make your relationship with God better this Lent? What is one thing that is keeping you from God? Maybe its netflix, instagram, or checking your phone too much. Fast from it. How can you give of yourself? Whether it’s monetarily, or a giving of your gifts to someone else. Think about it. What would you like to do to share yourself with the world during these 40 days.

Fr. Mike Schmitz has some great advice for what we can do for Lent in this video:

Still not sure what you should do? Check out these resources:
Become a Missionary of Mercy this Lent.
As you know, Pope Francis declared this year a year of Mercy. The Capuchin Franciscans have been made special Missionaries of Mercy for this Jubilee Year. The Mass was Monday. Each Province sent a Friar to be present. Check out the pictures here!
Want more information on how to be a Missionary of Mercy? Check out these links:
Make this your best Lent yet. Prepare your heart for Easter, for the risen Christ by dying to self with Him for 40 days.

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