Hey Parents! Your Kids do Like YOU!!!

At the end of most ministry years I survey my teens.  I like to find out what they liked about our gatherings that year, what they disliked, and how I could make our gatherings better for them.

This year I took a little different approach and expanded the survey a bit.  Sharing some of the results with our adult leadership team brought me to tears and I don’t cry in public often.  When I shared this with them, I said, I need to make sure their parents know this. It’s affirming that we have great families at St. Ambrose!

Parents. I asked your kids this question.  I get along OK with my parents: 1 did not answer. 1 said no. 5 were unsure. BUT 55 of our students responded YES!  I’m sure sometimes you wonder as do I.  Your kids love you.  They really do!  Exhale!  You’re doing a great job.  Now, join me in prayer for the 1 student that said no and the other 5 that were unsure.  We’ve got to wrap those families in prayer and let them know that we’re here for them!

I’d also like to share with you some other tidbits of information I gathered from your kids.  One of my favorite stats to share after this survey is that all 62 of those who took the survey responded Yes to: I feel good enough about our youth group to recommend it to my friend.  This stat made me feel ecstatic.  We work hard in making the youth here feel welcomed, loved, connected, and faith filled.  I’m thrilled that they would share this with their friends.  All are welcome!

Another pat on our back for parents or an affirmation none the less.  When asked, Do you come to youth group because you want to, your parents want you to, or a little bit of both:  39 responded they want to, 0 responded that their parents want it, and 23 responded that it’s a little bit of both.  I often tell parents who tell me that they struggle to get their kids to youth group that if they would just get them through the doors most of the time kids end up enjoying their time here.  I think this statistic proves just that.  I’m always o.k. with parents encouragement but I love that 63% of our youth come on their own accord.

Now I have a summer assignment for you.  I do have on statistic that I’d like to work on this summer and next ministry year as well.  I asked our students, I take personal time for prayer at least 3 times a week: Yes-35, Unsure-11, No-16.  Perhaps they weren’t counting Mass as prayer or our hour together at Youth Ministry a prayer or could they just be admitting that they need to work on prayer.  43% are unsure or don’t pray 3 times a week.  I need your help!  We need to foster this prayer life in our homes.  I’m going to make a top 10 list of ways to pray with your teens next week.  But for now, join me in prayer that we can lead our youth to a better prayerful relationship with Christ.

Dear Heavenly Father,  We thank you for the gift of our young church at St. Ambrose.  We are blessed with youth leaders and adult leaders who continually pour their hearts into this young church so that they can foster a closer relationship with you.  We know you desire this Lord to have a personal encounter with each of them so that they may be true disciples of you.  We ask your guidance Lord in helping foster a greater prayer life in our youth who struggle.  Please show us the path that you would like for us to take with them.  Let us be open to teaching them to pray always and in All Ways.  As we work to make our families a place to pray together we just ask your blessings on us as we work to open their hearts to you.  In your name we pray. Amen.

Wrapping up the Year of Grace

I choose a theme word for my ministry at St. Ambrose each year.  We make t-shirts, we paint a sign, and try to use the word throughout our prayers when we gather.  The last 2 years I’ve aligned my words with that of the Pope.  This past year our word has been Grace.

Grace Carry On

Grace has been come to life in so many ministries at our Parish.  I asked our Catechist this year to really ‘Aim for the Heart.’ Last night at our annual Catechist Dinner I was able to hear many stories from our Catechist in how that came to life this year.  What I took away from their stories is that, they were more touched than they thought they would be.  Over and over again I heard that through this catechetical year the hearts of our adults were affected by the youth that they were serving.  Over and over again I heard them say that they learned more this year about their faith and themselves than they felt like they taught.  What a beautiful way for God to share his Grace with us.

Catechist Dinner 2017

There were many moments of Grace in our Parish but it’s so easily reflected in the Sacraments.

First Communion 2017

First Communion 2017-2

These 2 Masses hosted most of our First Communicants.  So much excitement in the Grace of receiving Jesus for the first time through Holy Communion!

RCIA for Children 2017

These three young people came into our church fully.  They were so joyous about finding a home in our church.  God has amazing things in store for them!

Confirmation 2017

It’s very humbling to walk beside Confirmandi.  This group of young people took time to serve Christ, get to know him personally, and reconnect to their Faith.  This is the day they accepted his Grace on their own accord and fully into their hearts. They are sealed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation.  What a beautiful way to witness Grace meeting these young people exactly where they are.

SPRED Mass 2017

I know that I’m not suppose to have “Favorites,” but this is our SPRED family.  It’s Religious Education for children with Special Needs.  These children bring God’s grace to our church like only they can.  This was after an inclusion Mass where one of our student’s made her First Holy Communion!

And this is where I found God’s Grace this year.  The last day of my silent retreat at Abbey of Gethsamane.  I found him waiting for me here at Cross Knob at 800′ of trusting him up the hill but more importantly surrendering to him to help me down the hill.  Throughout my life I’ve had moments of uncertainty but this wasn’t one of them.  I know that God is with me and has my back through it all.  His Grace is all around me, I just need to Trust that he’s there.  And with that friends…I might have just uncovered our word for 2018!

 

Navigating our youth through struggle and failure…

Last week our family experienced a situation of bullying.  On the ride home after school listening to my son tell me what happened that day, tears began to roll down my face.  It was nothing earth shattering and normal ‘middle school’ stuff.  It just broke my heart because I knew that it was one of those things that would thicken his skin.

I had a ton of emotions that I went through for about 24 hours.  My momma bear instinct came out and I wanted to protect him.  I thought of a ton of different ways I wanted to respond.  I had a text ready to send the other child’s parent (which I deleted).  I had a vague Facebook post ready to hit publish (which I deleted).  I thought about giving all our Youth Ministry kids a stern talking to that night about bullying, but I didn’t.

What I chose to do in the end is pray.  I prayed that my son would find true genuine friends.  I prayed for the children that caused this incident to happen.  I prayed for the children’s parents whose child’s behavior wasn’t what I’m sure they would want either.  Lastly, I prayed for my husband and I. I prayed that God would give us the parenting skills to walk with our son during this time of struggle.  I prayed to be empathetic.

Do you know what happened?  Thursday mid afternoon I got a text from my son that said that his friend had sincerely apologized to him and he had forgiven him.  I immediately began thanking God for walking with me through this journey.  I thanked him for being present to all the parties involved with this struggle.

This morning I found this post in my inbox.  It’s worth your time or I wouldn’t have taken a minute to share it with you today.  Inside the post is also a video about empathy vs sympathy that is also worth the 3 min.  Let’s train ourselves to be the parents Christ is calling us to be!

https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/stuck-in-a-pit

Thursday’s Thoughts (10 Fresh Ideas for Lent)

I’m excited to be back to my Thursday’s Thoughts after being out for a while.  I had  shoulder surgery a month ago.  My recovery is going well and I’m able to type better (notice is didn’t say write better). 😀

As I prepared for my Youth Ministry gathering yesterday, I knew I wanted our youth to think about some ‘other’ things they could give up for Lent.  I made them post cards that looked like this.10-things-to-give-up

As we walk the rest of the week towards Ash Wednesday, I pray that our young church takes a minute to reflect this Lent on Fasting from something that can make an impact on their life not their waist line.  If you are an adult reading this, which number would you pick for your young adult child?  If they weren’t at our gathering Wednesday share this list with them.  It’s not an all inclusive lists.  I quick google search looking for fresh ideas will really challenge you.  It did me and I’m still trying to decide I’m fasting from this Lent.

 

Sacred Silence

It’s Advent…it’s a time for us as Catholics to focus on the coming of the Lord.  In the world of confusion and noise we forget to celebrate Advent as we dive into Christmas items at our retailers as early as July (Hobby Lobby, cough cough).

I’m not sure that I ever remember seeing so many peoples Christmas trees up and lit before Thanksgiving as I did this year.  But because my tree shopping and decorating happens the First weekend of Advent, I’m not sure that I’m allowed to comment on early decor.

For Advent, my family and I pray a reflection before dinner around an advent wreath every night.  We go to Mass and attend our church’s Reconciliation Service (December 14th, btw). In a season when there’s so much noise, it’s important to enjoy the silence.  How do I find silence?  It’s in little moments.

  • The drive to work in the morning I turn “off” my radio.
  • Spending a few moments of quiet each morning reading a short reflection.
  • Reconciliation Service
  • First Friday Adoration
  • Sitting in the back of church for a few minutes
  • Taking a walk
  • Examining my blessings at the end of the day

As we take a step back to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord, make sure you take moments of silence to cling to what Christ is trying to reveal to you during this season of Advent.

Take a minute of your day now to reflect as you listen to this song: Sacred Silence

 

Turkey Bowling LOVE

My favorite event of the Youth Ministry year is hands down Turkey Bowling.  We had this event last night.  We set up turkey bowling in our back parking lot at church.  I buy plastic tarps to put down on the ground.  I set up 10 water bottles as bowling pins.  We use vegetable oil to grease up the lane.  The bowling balls are frozen turkeys.  Now before you say what a waste.  I’ll have you know that after the event is over the turkeys are put in garbage sacks and taken to my house to wash and prepare for Thanksgiving.

You can watch our event that was Facebook Live last night here: Turkey Bowling Round 2 and here Turkey Bowling Round 2

I love turkey bowing for the sense of community it inspires.  To be honest I’m not quite sure if it’s the grossness of the oil, the craziness of the event, or conquering of the feat that makes everyone love turkey bowling.  If you watch the videos you’ll see people working together to set up the lanes.  You’ll hear teams cheering each other on and the excitement when they role a strike.  You’ll see silliness with oily high fives and offers of hugs.

For our closing prayer last night, I asked youth to call to mind all the blessings that God has given us.  I couldn’t help but think of how incredibly blessed I am to work with this amazing group of youth and adults at St. Ambrose Church (or high school).  I am proud of how open our faith community is in our youth programs.  They inspire me to spread the message of love this holiday season.

B.B’s squeeze…

I promise to NOT talk election today.

My Grandmother turned 90 in May.  Many of my friends growing up would call her Grandma B as did my sister and I.  My Grandma was a fixture at sporting events, dance recitals, and choir concerts.

When my boys were born we shortened Grandma B’s name to B.B.  I think it happened because my mom was called Meme, my sister when from Aunt T and quickly shortened to TT, and as a result Grandma B became BB.  My nieces call me Cece.  I know…we’re weird.

Our family is blessed that we all attend the same church.  We have a small family but we’re tight.  Dinner on Sunday nights at my moms and church usually on Saturday nights.  At Mass, when we pray the Our Father, our family usually holds hands.  I say usually because 6 grade boys don’t hold each others hands properly or they have a ‘squeeze off’ and end up letting go.  We have 2 of those boys in our family.

I’m not sure when she started doing this but I don’t ever remember not doing it.  My Grandma starts a hand squeeze at the end of the ‘Our Father.’  As a result we squeeze the persons hand that is on the other side of it.

When I think about that squeeze, it reminds me of my Grandma’s love.  That love resonates out through the rest of us.  If B.B. wouldn’t have started the squeeze…that little bit of love would have just stayed with her.

Now during our Youth Ministry nights, when we close with prayer, I have all our youth hold each others hands.  Of course, we have those same quirks and ‘squeeze offs’ that I experience in my own family but it’s my way of spreading B.B’s love and also my love for each of the youth that come to pray on Wednesday nights.

How can you squeeze someone’s hand this week?  Spread the love that God has given you in your heart to others.  You’ll never run out.

 

Novena Answers

saint-john-bosco

This past week I finished up praying a Novena.  I’ve prayed Novenas before.  I even bought a prayer book this summer to pray more Novenas.  Novena means 9 days of prayer.

A couple of weeks ago while at a business gathering of other youth ministers, one of our leaders invited us to pray a novena together for our youth to St. John Bosco.  Each day he would send us an email with the prayers and reflection to pray.  Unfortunately for me I had an interruption in that novena because during Fall Break we were camping and I didn’t have internet access.

Once things got settled after break I knew that I wanted to pray that novena but not on my own.  In our youth ministry program we have 11 adult leaders that work with our young church.  I asked them to pray it with me and started sending them the daily emails.

Most of the days that I prayed the novena I would offer a random personal intention when prompted as well as a youth intention.  I’d pray for my husband to have a good day.  I’d pray that my kids were leaders at school that day.  But I hadn’t prayed for something specific until Friday.

Fridays are typically my day off.  If I’m lucky, my husband will take the boys to school that day and I get to stay in bed a little extra longer.  Friday I was lucky!  I grabbed my phone to check email while in bed and prayed the novena for the day except this time when I got to the personal intention part I added something more specific.  I had a lost item that I hadn’t seen since July and it was something that I really did want to find.  So I prayed that St. John Bosco would help me find it and continued on with the rest of the novena.  A few minutes later I got up and went on my Friday morning walk with my dog, Lilly Rose.

When I came home I continued my workout in my living room.  I was doing sets of squats, push ups and sit ups.  I just happened to look over and guess what I found?  You guessed it!  The item I had just prayed for in my novena.  At first I didn’t make the connection but moments later took time to thank John Bosco for answering my novena intention that day.

I’m going to be honest.  I think most of the time when I pray, I don’t really believe that my prayer is being answered.  I think of all the years I prayed for children before and after I had my boys and nothing happened (that I know of).  I’m so grateful that my faith in Christ has kept me praying regardless and I’m most grateful that last Friday when I asked for something specific Christ answered to remind me that he is in fact listening.

Would you join my in praying a Novena for our youth?  They could certainly use our prayer.  You can access the Novena here: St. John Bosco Novena

 

 

Sorry not sorry +Luke 18:9-14+

I am lucky on Wednesday nights to eavesdrop on 70-80 youth that spend time reading the upcoming weeks gospel.  At our youth ministry program called W.O.W. (Word on Wednesday) we pray a Lectio Divina with the upcoming weekends Gospel reading.

I’ve been called to youth ministry since 2003 when I was hired as a part time coordinator of our youth ministry program.  It’s a long story how I got here but you need to know that I had no background in ministry.  I went to a state college and have a double major in insurance and marketing.  When I grew up we didn’t have a youth ministry program at my church past Confirmation.  What got me hired?  I simply told the interview committee that my goal with youth ministry was to help young people love Jesus.  This statement remains my personal ministry statement.

Through the last 13 years I’ve tried all sorts of programs, events, and boxed kits.  I’ve written my own lesson plans, scoured the internet for cool ideas, and spent many hours planning an hour or so lesson.  Four\r years ago, in a certificate training course, I heard a veteran youth minister talk about how he navigated his gathered youth nights.  He used Lectio Divina prayer style.

After many years of trial and error, I decided to give his approach a try.  On Wednesday nights at St. Ambrose Youth Ministry we meet from 8-9 p.m. in the youth room.  When youth come in they meet in small groups.  We take WOW attendance, Mass attendance, and service hours.  We give small group points for these things.  Then we gather for a game.  It’s not always easy doing a game in 20 min. for 80 youth.  But we do our best to make it relevant to our readings or something similar.  St. Ambrose Youth Ministry is VERY competitive group of students so there is a lot of effort and team work that goes into these games.  At about 8:30 p.m., once our game is over, the small groups reconvene  for Lectio.  Each small group has 1 or 2 adult leaders, 2-4 youth leaders (confirmed Juniors & Seniors), and 10 or so small group members.  Each small group has their own discussions but we provide them some sample questions and background information.  At about 8:50 we all come together for group prayer.  I’m still adjusting this prayer time.  For right now, we are calling to mind our personal intentions quietly and then praying an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be together.

That’s it.  Nothing fancy.  Just time to gather for fun, reflection, and prayer.

Last night, I overheard some of our groups talking about this week’s gospel (Luke 18:9-14).  Many were reflecting on times when someone had apologized to them but hadn’t really meant it.  I started to reflect on this in my own life.  Humbling ourselves to sincerely apologize is not always comfortable.  As someone that longs for an apology from key people in her life, I know that those words if sincerely meant would greatly change my relationships with them.  Its as though I almost know if they could humble themselves to apologize than a great healing would transpire.  In my heart, I’ve already forgiven them.

But it’s not fair to only look at those people that I wish would apologize to me but also to those people that I need to apologize to as well.  This reading forces me to take a deep breath of silence and learn to humble myself to apologizing sincerely.  I need to make sure when I ask for forgiveness from others and from God, that my sorry is not a “sorry, not sorry.” approach.  You know the kind we think in our head, “Well I’m sorry God that I got angry BUT if that person wouldn’t have xyz’d then I wouldn’t have lost my temper.”  Sorry, not sorry.

It’s such a joy to be able to experience Lectio Divina with others.  I think about all the years that I’ve listened to Gospel readings and homilies and haven’t really processed them or applied them to my personal life.  I’m grateful that our young church comes together and tries to apply these readings to their life as well.  And I’m humbled that God has called me to help our young church love Jesus.

In His Mercy,

Chris

 

Your PRAYER matters

prayers-matter

I’m one of those people that have been caught up in the election hype.  I don’t necessarily like to discuss politics and I was sort of always taught that political views were better kept to yourself.  I have no intention on telling anyone how I am voting in this election.  I’ve watched and researched and listened to both sides of the story.  I now know who I will be voting for but only recently did I decide.

What concerns me most is that so much energy is being poured into the presidential election that we as a community are loosing site of our local elections.  This is where I feel I can make the most difference with my vote.

This morning I was “in charge” of our staff meeting.  In order to keep things simple, the person that is “in charge” provides hospitality, leads prayer, leads the meeting, and takes minutes.  So as I prepped for my prayer, I couldn’t help but think we could pray for our upcoming elections.

I did a quick search and found lots of resources here: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship  For our staff meeting we prayed day 1 of a 9 day Novena prayer that can be found at this link.

If you are struggling with insecurity like I am this election season.  I invite you to join me in this Novena.  If we all prayed together I know we would have the best outcome for our community.