The Morning Star: A reflection on the Epiphany

By: Lilie Graybriel 

For most of us, the start of a new year sparks up old memories and gets us thinking about what new memories the future has in store for us. Some people even reach a moment of epiphany, gaining a whole new outlook on life or starting to see someone or something in a new light. Recently, one of my students asked me to explain to them the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord; and naturally, I turned to Google for some help answering.  I found that the word “epiphany” comes from the Greek verb meaning “to reveal.” As I explained to the curious young lad what we were celebrating, I couldn’t help but reflect on those the moments when God reveals Himself to mankind, in particular, through Christ’s birth.

The Gospel yesterday speaks about how God revealed Himself to the Magi through the Star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12).  We are told that the Magi have followed a rising star in search of the newborn King of the Jews. Unaware of the true significance of this kingship, they follow the star to the future King of Israel after King Herod sends them to search for the child in Bethlehem. Upon seeing the star stopped above Jesus and his mother, Mary, the Magi are immediately filled with joy and kneel before him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

With this in mind, I couldn’t help but reflect on the appearance of stars in scripture, especially since they made in appearance in my prayer before the Blessed Sacrament just a few weeks ago, and again in a priest’s homily during Mass the very next day. Even from the beginning of time, God created stars to act as a revelation of His glory to mankind.

Genesis 1:15 says the stars “serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.”

In Psalm 8:4-7, “When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you set in place, what are mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.” We are able to reflect on the greatness of God’s creation and how much more He cares for us than even the beauty of the His night sky.

In 2 Peter 1:19, we are reminded to heed the words of the prophets until the day God reveals this message to us as “the morning star arises in your hearts.”

Not mention the perfect revelation in the Book of Revelation! Verse 22:16 reads “I, Jesus, sent my angel to give you testimony for the churches, I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star.”

How could he possibly be anymore clear in revealing himself there?

 
But, Jesus isn’t the only person of the Bible referred to as the morning star. In fact, it’s even one of many star-related names given to His Mother, Mary. Star of the Sea, Star of Purity, Our Lady of the Star, and even Our Lady of Light are all titles given to Mary. Not to mention the countless visions of Our Lady surrounded by light, wearing a crown of stars. Just as she does in artistic depictions of her as the Queen of Apostles.

Mary is the guiding light for each of us, always pointing the way to Christ, just as the Star of Bethlehem did for the Magi. However, she is so much more to us than just a mentor or a guide. She shows us the way to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. She’s our spiritual and universal mother.

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In John 19:26– 27, we are told “When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” This wonderful gift of Mary as our mother comes from God, himself, as he’s dying on the cross for us. There have been countless times in my faith where I feel so distant and lost in my faith and I turn to Mary to bring me back. Praying for her intercession and turning to her as my mother always lights a spark inside that brings me right back to Christ. I could be in tears praying to Our Mother for help and those feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt just start to melt away. It literally feels like I’m curled up in my mom’s lap on the couch. It’s moments like these that I find so important to turn to Mary. Mary gets it. She’s been there. She can relate and empathize with our struggles.

During daily mass one day, I lost myself to my thoughts as I began to feel totally overwhelmed by life’s tribulations and suddenly I look up to see the priest hold up the large host and say “Take this all of you, and eat of it, for this is My Body, which will be given up for you.” After hearing these words for probably the thousandth time in my life, my complaints seemed so insignificant. My struggle paled in comparison to the suffering Christ would endure for us on the cross. I imagine this is how Mary felt every day of her life, giving it completely and freely to God. She experienced extreme suffering and sorrow as she stood at the foot of the cross and watched her own beloved Son be tortured and crucified; yet, she didn’t let this event tarnish her faith in the Lord, but strengthen it. She allowed her sufferings to merit grace for the good of saving our souls.

Saint John Paul II wrote in Salvifici Dolores, his apostolic letter on the meaning of human suffering, “For suffering cannot be transformed and changed by a grace from outside, but from within. And Christ through his own salvific suffering is very much present in every human suffering, and can act from within that suffering by the powers of his Spirit of truth, his consoling Spirit.” Suffering is a feeling of pain, whether it be emotional, mental, or physical. It cant be changed by anything other than God acting within us and through us. Mary allowed God to act in her own pain and unite us all in His consoling Spirit and in turn she is filled with this same Spirit in consoling us as our mother. It is in this same document, that Saint JPII writes of the Divine Redeemer wishing use the heart of His Mother to unite each and every one of us to Christ on the cross. It is truly through her that we are able to be united with him in suffering and allow God to bring about the good that will come from our suffering. It’s through Mary that we are made true brothers and sisters in Christ.

Mary’s virtues of faith, hope, and love, humility and obedience, and desire to bring us to closer to Christ can fuel our faith every day as long as we follow the radiant Morning Star. It is in turning to her, as our mother, for guidance that we are given a tiny glimpse into the glory of God and the love that He gives us. Inspired by Mary’s Immaculate Heart and imitating her love for her children we are given the chance to be filled with an overwhelming joy that we might kneel before Christ offering up not just our gifts, but also our sufferings – allowing Him to work within us, transforming our hearts to love as His mother does.

Delivering the Fullness of Faith

At formation meetings we are winding down a six part series on the process of evangelization. The foundation for this series was laid in August with a presentation on “The Mission of the Church.” It gave an overview and introduction to the process of evangelization according to the mind of the Church.

The subsequent sessions are focusing on a particular stage in the process of evangelization and drawing out, on a practical level, what these different essential moments look like in youth and campus ministry today.FID

Much of what will be covered during this series will be supplemented by reading Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples. As the upcoming topic for each month is introduced we will note sections from this book that correspond with the topic.

This month’s formation entitled “Delivering the Fullness of Faith” will be presented by our brother Mike Filamor. In preparation for this meeting on January 24, 2017 we encourage everyone to read this selection from Catechesi Tradendae. We will begin with Mass and Evening Prayer at 7:30pm.

The full list of topics in the series are as follows:
1. The Mission of the Church (Overview)
2. Relational Ministry and Building Trust with Teens (Pre-evangelization)
3. Apologetics (Pre-evangelization)
4. Proclamation of the Gospel through Personal Testimony (Evangelization)
5. Delivering the Fullness of the Faith (Catechesis)
6. Accompanying Teens in Prayer, Charity, and Evangelization (Discipleship)

Post-meeting update (1/30/17): The presentation from this formation night is available for download in PowerPoint or as a pdf. Mike both showed how catechesis is an essential moment in the process of evangelization and more practically how to determine the essential components of teaching a particular doctrine. The Association for Catechumenal Ministry has a great blog that recaps this process and is a helpful starting place for determining what to teach and some examples.

Building a Community of Love

By: Krysti Patient

The first weekend of December, Girls’ Catholic Life Communities from 5 different parishes in the diocese traveled out to West Virginia to go on their annual retreat. Four sisters of Women Youth Apostles were among the adult moderators there to lead and accompany the girls on this grace-filled weekend which fell in with the diocesan youth ministry theme for this year “I will love”.

I had the great privilege of giving the last talk of the retreat to the CLC girls on Sunday morning. All weekend the girls had been hearing about different aspects of Love, beginning with God’s love for us, and moving to our love for others, a sacrificial Christ-like love, and a love for God himself in the Spiritual Life through deep prayer. The last piece of the puzzle, my talk on “building a community of love” served to show the girls how all of this was meant to be lived out in community, and in particular, the Catholic Life Community they have each been called to.

No room for fear

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photo by Catie LeBouton

I have always found that fear has no place in community. I gave the girls a personal example of my first experience with a faith community while at college, and how my first challenge as a new member of that community was to rid myself of any and all fears. That meant no fear of embarrassment, no fear of rejection, no fear of comparison.  These are big obstacles to young people, and these are conquered only by the power of the Holy Spirit working in community. A community is a place of belonging, a place of love. Scripture tells us “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love” (1 John 4:18)

The power of going on retreat is pretty amazing. I’m not sure I’ll ever tire of watching young people cast away their fears one by one as they immerse themselves into community, replacing those insecurities and hesitations with bold love and acceptance, growing more perfectly in love for themselves, their Lord, and for one another.

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photo by Catie LeBouton

Given to one another

I started my talk with the universal call to holiness and community in The Church that Christ himself established for the purpose of carrying on his saving work of love. This was for the girls to know the true normalcy for each one of us to find our place in The Church and to build that Community here on earth. I believe that in the course of the retreat, as they cast away fear and put on love, part of that beauty and really building that community there for the weekend (and beyond) is also in casting away what we think we know, what sin and doubt and fear have taught us- that it is not normal to long for Heaven. Not normal that we should love our God. Not normal that we should strive for holiness. Not so! In CLC, and on retreat especially, we get to watch these teen girls slowly regain or grow in their ability to see truth, which is that we were made for love, made for God, and made for Heaven- how then, could these longings not be normal?

In Girls’ Catholic Life Community, high school girls make commitments to one another. Community is a place of belonging, and though there are adult moderators to lead and guide, the teens do not belong to the moderators or the moderators to the teens—rather, each member of the community belongs to one another. So many young Catholics grow up in The Church and parish community, but in reaching adulthood fall away. Modern societal messages tell our young people that they need not commit themselves to anything or anyone. CLC provides these teen girls the chance to seek the truths of their faith and to take ownership of it. There are varying levels of membership promises to provide the girls the chance to commit themselves to their faith and to do so with their peers in common. In this communion with one another as sisters of CLC, they live out their commitments in openness, honesty, prayer, and in frequent receiving of the Sacraments.

The girls that feel a call to CLC have a desire to go deeper. They have sensed that there is a greater longing of their unsatisfied hearts and they have sought to know more, to love more. They have sensed their power and their purpose- to be saints, to help one another in this mission, and to love one another towards heaven.

A Reflection on the 3rd Week of Advent

By: Kelly Power

I absolutely love Christmas music this time of year (and yes, I listen all the way from the beginning of Advent to The Epiphany!). Although as I sing the lyrics of these songs on my way to school to drop off the kids or have them as background while we play and decorate, I cannot help but feel that they are doing a disservice to my Advent preparations. Are they helping me to enter in to the REAL Christmas story and encounter the REAL Christ child? These are the lyrics I hear…

“Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm all is bright” and “All is merry and bright,”

“The baby awakes, no crying he makes” and “O Little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie,”

“Tis the season to be jolly,” and “Children laughing, people passing meeting smile after smile,”

All these carols we hear repeatedly throughout Advent are supposed to illustrate the true feelings and images of Christmas. Right? A Christmas that is quiet, jolly, still, peaceful, joyful and frankly perfect. So this is what we all strive for during the holidays.

But as I was praying recently and reflecting on the REAL Advent – Mary pregnant and unmarried, journeying by donkey to Bethlehem to ultimately give birth in a stable, and Elizabeth pregnant and though happy, was very old and I am sure facing challenges from both her age and judgments of others. It hit me as two of my babies were crying, one had a dirty diaper, and I was trying desperately to create the perfect peace and joy-filled Advent experience for them that I was probably experiencing many of the REAL feelings of the biblical Advent that of Mary and Elizabeth. The REAL Advent was full of worry, is was messy, it was smelly, it was loud and far from “all merry and bright.” As someone who just experienced pregnancy and birth and is currently caring for a newborn, Jesus probably cried when he woke up and the stables were loud and smelly, not calm and bright, and certainly not silent at night.

I have been looking a lot at miracles this and how God brought about these miracles – the root of Jesse, the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. He makes possible from the impossible. Mary and Elizabeth experience these Christmas miracles not in the midst of perfect peace, or joy, but Jesus comes in the chaos, the worry, and the mess. “Prepare ye the way,” is a phrase we hear often in Advent, though I began to realize this Advent that as I was getting frustrated, trying to prepare a quiet and perfect Christmas like the ones I hear in the songs for my family, that I was actually missing the miracles – the joy that God was already doing in the midst of my crazy, messy, not so silent nights.

So I am embracing the chaos, the mess, the imperfection and looking for the miracles, the grace, and the joy God is already bringing despite any preparation I may do. He is already here, the REAL Christ child. He brings the Peace, as the Prince of Peace, not me, and He brings the Joy, a joy that cannot be shaken by even the biggest tantrums or my own foiled plans. What all the characters of Christmas knew, whatever their state in life – Mary full of Grace or the rough life of a Shepherd – was that whoever this baby was He was special and they needed Him in their lives just as we all do right now.

So let us not lose sight as we prepare for the coming of our Lord, that He might be right in front of us! He is the only REAL thing we need this season! He is the only one who can bring us the REAL Peace and Joy we desire in our lives and the lives of our families.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Proclamation of the Gospel Through Personal Testimony

At formation meetings we are halfway through a six part series on the process of evangelization. The foundation for this series was laid in August with a presentation on “The Mission of the Church.” It gave an overview and introduction to the process of evangelization according to the mind of the Church.

The subsequent sessions are focusing on a particular stage in the process of evangelization and drawing out, on a practical level, what these different essential moments look like in youth and campus ministry today.FID

Much of what will be covered during this series will be supplemented by reading Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples. As the upcoming topic for each month is introduced we will note sections from this book that correspond with the topic.

December’s formation night is entitled “Proclamation of the Gospel Through Personal Testimony.” In preparation for this meeting on December 20, 2016 we encourage everyone to read Ch. 8-10 from Forming Intentional Disciples. Please note: due to unforeseen conflicts there will not be Mass at this meeting. We will begin with Evening Prayer at 7:30pm on Tuesday, December 20th.

The full list of topics in the series are as follows:
1. The Mission of the Church (Overview)
2. Relational Ministry and Building Trust with Teens (Pre-evangelization)
3. Apologetics (Pre-evangelization)
4. Proclamation of the Gospel through Personal Testimony (Evangelization)
5. Delivering the Fullness of the Faith (Catechesis)
6. Accompanying Teens in Prayer, Charity, and Evangelization (Discipleship)

Ultimate Outing/RALLY 2016 – I Will Love

By: Krysti Patient

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This past weekend, 6:00AM Saturday morning, I drove out to “The Ultimate Outing”, with All Saints and Holy Trinity Catholic Churches. The Ultimate Outing begins with a retreat and ends at Diocesan RALLY. Like perhaps most working adults, my initial expectations were leaning towards a more negative perspective- I was going to be up early, go to bed late, and in the meantime be totally energized, friendly and relational with 40+ teenagers who would undoubtedly be representing the whole spectrum of willingness to participate in the retreat. I knew it wouldn’t be terrible! I simply braced myself to experience all of the challenging parts I’ve become familiar with at youth ministry events and retreats chock-full of talks, small groups and activities. After a particularly busy week (well, month) at the office, I thought, “there won’t be enough coffee in the world to sustain me this weekend!”

rope-swing-krysti-lisbethThankfully, the Holy Spirit is an excellent caffeinator. I had forgotten that the last retreat I went on with teens was a Confirmation retreat-which I remembered fondly, but perhaps was more aware of the mandatory nature of that particular weekend. As a result, I was surprised right off the bat to find many of the teens I encountered at The Ultimate Outing were very open to whatever the weekend held in store. Even if some weren’t totally jumping up and down with excitement, there was a really beautiful surrender that wasn’t a “giving up” but rather a “giving in.”

From the beginning of retreat we introduced journaling as a form of prayer, and encouraged them to journal in places of quiet throughout the retreat, before coming back together in their small groups to share what God was revealing to them all. Throughout the retreat, I was pleased to find that every teen I spoke to was filling their small journal in those quiet moments of prayer. There was even a teen in my small group-who I had thought was fairly disengaged because she would doodle or write in her journal while the rest of the group shared-that later shared with me that journaling was the only way she found that would let her focus and really listen to what others, and also to what God, was saying. She told me she didn’t know journaling was a real form of prayer, or that anyone else prayed the way she did. I could tell this was a big deal for her.

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Later, in Eucharistic Adoration, several more teens who I may have mentally flagged early on as more difficult to reach, seemed to have the most impactful experience of the group when before Christ in the monstrance. Almost every single teen received the Sacrament of Reconciliation that evening. I wrote in my own journal my thanksgiving to Jesus for the gift of their vulnerability, “These young people are braver than most adults I know. Your kingdom truly does belong to such as these.”

kevin-bohli-rally-welcome-messageThat Sunday morning, we had one last talk and journaling exercise before packing up and heading out to Bishop O’Connell High School for RALLY. When gathered together to hear the welcome message, we received an introduction to this year’s youth ministry theme, and a keynote message from speaker Sean Forrest. The youth ministry theme comes from one of The Church’s newest saints-Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “I will love” is a mission statement, a call to make a firm resolution based on Jesus’ sacrificial love. As he spoke about his first experience serving the poor in Haiti, one line from Sean’s keynote stood out. He said, “I was more exhausted than I ever remember having been. That was because I gave all of myself, in love, to those who needed it.”

“And so today, when we have gathered here together, let us carry in our hearts one strong resolution: I will love. I will be a carrier of God’s love. For that is what Jesus came to teach us: how to love one another.” – Saint Teresa of Calcutta in her address to the United Nations on October 26, 1985

Two workshops, inflatables, Sunday Mass with Bishop Loverde, bacon pizza, and a photo booth photoshoot later, RALLY concluded with a concert and Eucharistic Adoration. I watched my teens gather now with hundreds of other young Catholics to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and could see that the retrerally-eucharistic-processionat the day before helped them prepare for a beautiful encounter with their Lord. Most of my teens asked me if we could position ourselves as close to where Jesus would be as possible. In watching each of them give their undivided attention to Our Lord-their love for Him was tangible.

The final time in adoration was everything I needed to see that any extra effort or sacrifice on my own part from the weekend was worth it. I was exhausted, more than I had been in a while. In that moment, I too was glad “because I gave all of myself in love to those who needed it.” This is the true power of this year’s theme, this mission statement “I will love.”

Jesus came to teach us this and He is teaching me this still each day…how to love. There are a lot of things that make loving others difficult. However, if all I had to lose was a little sleep or a little of my time, I will give it all again in a heartbeat for one fraction of that moment with young people in Eucharistic Adoration-the teens knowing they are loved by Christ and watching them respond in love.

Apologetics

During formation meetings we are in the midst of a six part series on the process of evangelization. The foundation for this series was laid in August with a presentation on “The Mission of the Church.” It gave an overview and introduction to the process of evangelization according to the mind of the Church.

The other five sessions will focus in particular on each of the stages in the process of evangelization. And we will draw out, on a practical level, what these different essential moments look like in youth and campus ministry today.FID

Much of what will be covered during this series would be supplemented by reading Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples. As the upcoming topic for each month is introduced we will note sections from this book that correspond with the topic.

The topic for October’s formation meeting is “Apologetics.” This will be the second night we spend on the stage of pre-evangelization, which encompasses everything prior to proclamation of the Gospel. In preparation for this meeting on October 25, 2016 we encourage everyone to read Ch. 6-7 from Forming Intentional Disciples.

The full list of topics in the series are as follows:
1. The Mission of the Church (Overview)
2. Relational Ministry and Building Trust with Teens (Pre-evangelization)
3. Apologetics (Pre-evangelization)
4. Proclamation of the Gospel through personal testimony (Evangelization)
5. Delivering the Fullness of the Faith (Catechesis)
6. Accompanying Teens in Prayer, Charity, and Evangelization (Discipleship)

Post-meeting update (10/28/16): After brief introductory remarks we broke into small groups to spend time talking through ways to handle three typical questions. These discussions bore a lot of fruit in helping us stretch to consider different perspectives or beliefs people may have that would lead to the particular question. There were scenarios in  which simply offering different facts or truths could be seen as a help and others that seemed to required more awareness and understanding before heading down a specific path to answer the proposed question.

There are many questions we could have used but the three we spent time unpacking how to address were:

  • Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest?
  • How do you know God is real?
  • Why does the Church hate gay people?

It was interesting to see how often the discussion steered itself back to an answer to these questions beginning with another question, one that could engage the questioner and hopefully lead to mutual understanding. Ultimately addressing people’s questions is a craft that requires both content and interpersonal insight. This night was a chance to grow in both areas. And we handed out a streamlined listing of these apologetics resources from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology anyone who wanted to strengthen their knowledge to answer these or many other common question about the Faith.

Relational Ministry and Building Trust with Teens

Over the next couple months during formation meetings we will be taking a deeper look at the process of evangelization. The foundation for this series was laid in August with a presentation on “The Mission of the Church.” It gave an overview and introduction to the process of evangelization according to the mind of the Church.

In upcoming sessions we will focus in particular on each of the stages in the process of evangelization. And we will draw out, on a practical level, what these different essential moments look like in youth and campus ministry today.FID

Much of what will be covered during this series would be supplemented by reading Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples. As the upcoming topic for each month is introduced we will note sections from this book that correspond with the topic.

The topic for September’s formation meeting is “Relational Ministry and Building Trust with Teens.” This will be one of two nights that we will spend on pre-evangelization, which encompasses everything prior to proclamation of the Gospel. In preparation for this meeting on September 27, 2016 we encourage everyone to read Ch. 5 from Forming Intentional Disciples.

The full list of topics in the series are as follows:
1. The Mission of the Church (Overview)
2. Relational Ministry and Building Trust with Teens (Pre-evangelization)
3. Apologetics (Pre-evangelization)
4. Proclamation of the Gospel through personal testimony (Evangelization)
5. Delivering the Fullness of the Faith (Catechesis)
6. Accompanying Teens in Prayer, Charity, and Evangelization (Discipleship)

Essential Moments in the Process of Evangelization

Summary of our formation topic from August 2016 and the first presentation in our new formation series on the process of evangelization.

Last week’s formation was entitled “The Mission of the Church.” It was the first in a series during which we will reflect on the process of evangelization. Having looked at the underlying principles given by the Church, in upcoming sessions we will focus more practically on what this looks like in youth and campus ministry today.


This first talk was an overview of the Church’s understanding of the process of evangelization and can be summarized in the following 5 points.

1. The Church “exists in order to evangelize”
The Church’s mission flows directly from Christ who gave her it to her before his Ascension (Matthew 28:19-20). Blessed Paul VI expressed this reality when he wrote:

“Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 14).

Here we see that evangelization is not one task among many for the Church. It is the reason for her existence. And therefore everything that she does, and everything we do as a community, must be evaluated in light of this mission.

2. This plan is born of the Father’s heart
God the Father desires for us to be united in relationship with him. This is the reason why he created us. Even in the moment of our first sin, he immediately responded, promising a Savior. Time and again he reached out to his people through covenants.

The Son makes the Father’s plan possible. Our salvation, our being brought back into communion with the Father, is possible because of the Incarnation and Paschal Mystery.

The Holy Spirit effects the plan through the Church. In some way, it is not enough that Christ rose from the dead. Grace has to be communicated to us and Christ promised to do so through the Church. In the words of St. Paul:

“To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that ht manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church” (Ephesians 3:8-10).

It is breathtaking, and humbling, and incredibly encouraging to see God’s willingness to allow us to cooperate with his plan for salvation.

3. Evangelization has 5 essential elements
According to the General Directory for Catechesis the essential elements of evangelization are: witness, proclamation, teaching, sacraments, and love of neighbor (GDC 46).

Through witness we are present to people and demonstrate, more through actions than words, a new way of living. Proclamation is sharing the basic Gospel message of God’s love and a call to conversion. Through teaching we make explicit the fullness of what God has revealed in Christ. In the sacraments we have access to the grace won by Christ on the cross and the community is built up. And through growing in love of neighbor people learn to share the love they have received from Christ.

“And while each of these essential elements are crucial, we cannot reduce the dynamism and richness of evangelization which calls for them to be implemented in totality” (GDC 46).

We cannot reduce evangelization to primarily one of these elements. For example, there is the all too popular phrase that St. Francis of Assisi never actually said: “Preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words.”

A singular focus on witness that is ultimately opposed to the proclamation of the Gospel creates a false dichotomy. Of course this is often an overcorrection to the negative reaction garnered when Christ is proclaimed with words separated from a life of witness. In both cases there is a flattening and distortion of the “complex, rich and dynamic reality which is called evangelization” (EN 17).

4. Evangelization unfolds in progressive stages
The essential elements of evangelization follow the basic structure of the Great Commission. “Go (be present and witness), therefore, and make disciples of all nations (proclaim Christ), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (sacraments), teaching (teaching) them to observe all that I have commanded you (love of neighbor).

This postcard was created by our diocesan Office of Youth Ministry to give a visual overview of the stages of evangelization.

The General Directory for Catechesis summarizes this progression: “The process of evangelization…is structured in stages or ‘essential moments’ (Catechesi Tradendae 18): missionary activity directed toward nonbelievers and those who live in religious indifference; initial catechetical activity for those who choose the Gospel and of those who need to complete or modify their initiation; pastoral activity direction toward the Christian faithful of mature faith in the bosom of the Christian community” (49).

These stages are not rites of passage that we complete and, as a result, never revisit. In our practice of youth ministry we must be attentive where our teens are in process of evangelization and accomodate our work with them to help them move toward the next stage. And we must keep in mind that these essential moments “may be repeated, if necessary, as they give evangelical nourishment in proportion to the spiritual growth of each person or of the entire community” (GDC 49).

Developing a greater understanding of each of these stages and discerning how to help our youth and youth communities grow in their relationship with Christ is the main reason for this formation series.

5. Marked by liturgy
Finally, as we seek to help young people come to understand the fullness of truth, we must rely on the fullness of grace communicated to us through the Church’s liturgy. The liturgy is the source and summit of the Church’s life. Therefore we must seek to enliven the grace already given to youth in the sacraments they have received and help them prepare for renewed and deepened encounters of Christ in liturgy.

Formation punctuated by discerned, prayerful moments of commitment is a powerful means for growth in relationship with Christ and community. We have seen this in our own journey of becoming members of Women Youth Apostles. And therefore, whether it is offering a more structured model of stages of commitment such as Catholic Life Communities or CLCs, or simply a focused preparation for encountering Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or the Eucharist, ultimately we must place our trust in the work and grace of Christ made most directly available in the Church’s liturgy.


In contrast to the popular misquote of St. Francis of Assisi cited above, there is a true quote from him that can inspire our efforts in evangelization.

“Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing.”

He was a saint, and as such a person filled with hope and joy. So this is not as much a critique of past action, but an expression of urgency in light of God’s greatness, glory, and the mission given to the Church. So with that in mind we look forward to diving into the following topics for this formation series on the process of evangelization:

  1. Relational ministry and building trust with teens (Pre-evangelization)
  2. Apologetics (Pre-evangelization)
  3. Proclamation of the Gospel through personal testimony (Evangelization)
  4. Delivering the Fullness of the Faith (Catechesis)
  5. Accompanying Teens in Prayer, Charity, and Evangelization (Discipleship)

Mary, Queen of Apostles – pray for us!
St. John Bosco – pray for us!
St. Therese of the Child Jesus – pray for us!

A Merciful Pilgrimage

A World Youth Day Reflection by: Vania Dienzo

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For the last few years, I’ve been trying to plan my vacation time with either a mission trip or a pilgrimage. 2016 was a pilgrimage year and I had the opportunity to attend World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland. I’ve wanted to attend this large Church event since Sydney 2008 and I was blessed to be able to go! As excited as I’ve been since signing up to attend with the Archdiocese of Washington back in 2014, July 2016 came around and I didn’t feel spiritually prepared for the pilgrimage. Sure, I knew it’s currently the Jubilee Year of Mercy and frequented confession, but I haven’t reflected more on Christ’s mercy, on what the pilgrimage would mean for me or prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet enough. Realizing this, the week before leaving for the trip, I prayed that God be with me, protect me and open my heart to whatever he wants of me at World Youth Day.

This year’s theme was “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). God’s mercy truly was present throughout the week and it spread throughout the hearts of attendees and residents of Krakow. I’ll share a few of the numerous examples of how I encountered mercy and learned what it is to be merciful.

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St. Mary’s Basilica in Market Square

My group was blessed to have one of our Auxiliary Bishops of our Archdiocese, Bishop Martin Holley, travel with us. If we didn’t have a WYD event Mass, he celebrated Mass for us at a church or in the hotel. I wasn’t able to go to confession before leaving for the trip in the midst of wrapping up things at work, traffic and packing for the trip, therefore I refrained from receiving communion. After Sunday Mass with the entire group, I asked Bishop Holley if he had the time before tomorrow’s Mass together to hear my confession because I didn’t want to wait any longer to receive the Eucharist. At the time, our group was at a lounge in Krakow’s Market Square relaxing before our dinner reservations. When I asked, he happily agreed to do it right then on the side of the lounge. I didn’t expect him to do that right away because we were relaxing and he could have easily scheduled a later time. After he heard my confession, I felt God forgive me in His mercy and remind me that I’m in Krakow for a reason. The grace I received from that encounter changed my exhaustion from the long walking tour day to joy. I’m still grateful Bishop Holley was willing to share that encounter with me because it helped me throughout the rest of the week in preparation for more.

On Wednesday, official World Youth Day events had begun the evening before and everything became more overwhelming . We were at Tauron Arena known as the Mercy Centre for the week for the English Catechesis and gatherings for English speaking countries. There were thousands of people in the arena for Mass and talks, then more movement of thousands of people during the breakout sessions throughout the arena. For the second session, my friend and I wanted to attend the “Biology of the Theology of the Body” talk but by the time we got down to the conference room, it reached max capacity and it was closed off to more participants. God had different plans for us for that next hour and a half.

This gave us the opportunity to go into their large Adoration Chapel, pray in front of Christ and listen to a talk by a Sister from the same congregation of Saint Faustina-The Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. I found this moment to be so profound and beautiful.The room was full of hundreds of people but everyone was in quiet in prayer, most sitting and kneeling on the ground. This time allowed me to pray for the intentions of my family and friends they requested before leaving on this pilgrimage. The talk on Divine Mercy reminded us to practice being merciful in deed, word and prayer and we must strive to live mercifully even in tough times. We must trust in Christ and know that mercy is the response of God to evil in the world. God was so good to let me spend that time right there when I had other plans that morning. For not thinking my heart was prepared enough for this pilgrimage, I had the time to open my heart here. He knew what I needed. Jezu, Ufam tobie. Jesus, I trust in You.

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Adoration Chapel in the Mercy Centre in Tauron Arena

This pilgrimage was most definitely a journey. We drove to local cities by in the comfort of a coach bus such as Wadowice to see Saint Pope John Paul II’s hometown, Oświęcim to see walk through Auschwitz-Birkenau and Częstochowa to see the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa. Yet, in Krakow, we walked several miles everyday to get to our destinations and couldn’t always rely on trams and buses running. Honestly, I did not expect to walk as much as I did. I totaled approximately 70 miles by the end of the pilgrimage and averaged about 20,000 steps per day, way beyond my normal totals. I made the mistake of not bringing the best shoes to walk in with proper arch support. My feet were in pain every day. Everytime we walked to our section in Blonia Park, I rushed to pull out my parachute blanket and have a seat. The most challenging day walking was Friday afternoon to get to Campus Misericordiae, a meadow/field area 8 miles from City center and 6 miles from Tauron Arena where our group started. We walked in 81 degrees fahrenheit with a few breaks and drank large amounts of water to stay hydrated. There were also a million other pilgrims on their way there. Our group prayed a rosary, offered our suffering for those in purgatory and prayed for those we saw on the side who were getting medical attention. Finally, after 4.5 hours, we made it to our section in Campus Misericordiae. We later found out that we were supposed to receive the food packages on the way , so when some of our leaders checked, they already ran out. Thankfully we received free WYD lunches somewhere else. We had a few hours to rest and eat before Pope Francis would arrive to the campus lead us in Adoration.

The sun began to set and Pope Francis was with us. He said this to the pilgrims:

“My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk, of the eternal “more”. Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths. To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy. To take the path of the “craziness” of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbours who feel abandoned. To take the path of our God, who encourages us to be politicians, thinkers, social activists. The God who asks us to devise an economy inspired by solidarity. In all the settings in which you find yourselves, God’s love invites you bring the Good News, making of your own lives a gift to him and to others.”

He summed up our reason for attending WYD. We are called to go out into the world, to be that gift of Christ’s mercy and love to others! This challenged me to reflect on what I can do beyond my comfort zone of youth ministry and catechesis and stop being the lazy person I am. As Christ was exposed in the Blessed Sacrament and everyone – more than a million pilgrims- lit candles, I forgot how much my feet ached and how exhausted I was. I looked around me and was astonished at the beauty of all the people present here for Jesus in our Catholic faith, to keep watch for the closing Mass the next morning.

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Campus Misericordiae lit with candles

All the walking and sweat was well worth the pilgrimage. I hope to attend another year, God willing! The beauty of the universal and Catholic Church was apparent throughout the week in the streets and parks filled with pilgrims from all over the world, carrying their flags, exchanging hugs and high fives chanting country names and cheering for God and Pope Francis in multiple languages. Witnessing this, I am so hopeful for our Church that is constantly attacked and accused of not being merciful and compassionate. Our Church is full of young people who want to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. It strengthened my commitment as a Women Youth Apostle to “do the work of Your Kingdom here on earth” and to “proclaim Your truth and Your sacrificial love.” With the intercession of our Blessed Mother, the Mother of Mercy, and all the Polish Saints we were venerated in Poland, I pray I can be more of a merciful person back home, in my parish, community, work and wherever I go.

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Closing Mass at Campus Misericordiae