God in Transition

presented by Fatima Perez, Full Member sister for Women Youth Apostles’ Formation meeting this past August.

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“Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you. All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.”
-Saint Teresa of Avila

Since 2014, the above quote of St. Teresa of Avila has been serving as an important reminder in my life. In 4 years I’ve had handfuls of major life changes. I got engaged in May 2014, then 2 months later, changed youth ministry positions. I got married in May 2015 and less than a year after, had a baby. Four months later, we moved into a new apartment then 2 months after that, made a big career change. Almost 7 months later, had another baby. At the end of 2017, we then moved into our house, then just this past May, I changed jobs again.

Needless to say, I’ve been journeying through transitions like it’s a hobby or something. But in all of what I have experienced thus far, God has shown and taught me many good life lessons. Changes in our life don’t have to be huge ones either; they can also be on much smaller scales as well. Regardless, change can be very difficult, and so I want to share what has helped me in navigating through unknown territories throughout these past four years in particular.

Because I have a fascination with word origins, I looked up the world “transition” in the Dictionary as I was writing this. It is a noun and from the Latin transitionem — “a going across or over,” noun of action from past participle stem of transire “go or cross over”. I believe and see now why the Holy Spirit led me to this thought, because its root – go or cross over – can apply so well into our lives as Catholics. On that note, having gone through several life changes within four years, here are three teachable moments from my seasons of transitions.

Call Out Fear

The first was putting a name to what it was that I struggled with in midst of transitions.  For me, my fears were stemmed from a lack of trust. This happened, for example, years ago when in college and I needed to fully let go of my then-boyfriend (now-husband) Jon, but didn’t. I feared being alone and I feared him diving off the deep end with his faith when it wasn’t my responsibility at the time. And it’s because I lacked trust.

In more recent years post-marriage, I again experienced lack of trust initially when Jon and I found out we were pregnant with our second child, Lucy, only within 6 months of James being born. I feared what people would think or say about us, I feared how we would manage financially, I feared many things that were truly beyond my grasp.

Though I initially lacked radical trust in both instances, it was through prayer and reflection that the lack of trust shifted into the realization that God will provide, which He, of course, did. After completely letting Jon go and trusting in God’s plan for him, years later we both reconnected through ministry, grew in friendship, and years after got married. And now we have our amazing children, James and Lucy. And we are also living in a house. While these changes were not all planned for, we entrusted our entire lives in God’s hands and He time and again showed His generosity and faithfulness.

Moreover, it was time spent in Adoration that I realized the same God who saw me in all my fears and suffering was the same God who saw me in my joys and triumphs. This is the same God who calls us out of our places of familiarity and into uncharted waters. And when that happens, He calls out to us on the water and says, “It is I, do not be afraid. Come to me.”

If you are afraid of transition right now, a helpful question to ponder is “what is it that I am afraid of?” Because if we are unable to put a finger on what it is that we are afraid of, we begin sinking due of our lack of faith, thus preventing the Holy Spirit to guide us to the place where we need to go, to cross over.

Communication is imperative 

Through prayer and the counsel of family, friends and sisters, communication with God and loved ones help us to more totally discern God’s will. Communicating options, addressing fears or concerns, bringing everything to prayer or even asking for prayers all benefit transition. Not only does communication help further you in discernment, but it gives way for peace of mind, and this is a tremendous grace when transition finally occurs.

For those who know my past know that I didn’t pursue a career path with my degree upon graduating. Instead I decided to do youth and campus ministry full-time as that is what God was calling me to. In a personal blog post I wrote in August of 2016, I said: “a week from tomorrow will be my last day working as a campus minister at Bishop Ireton. I recently accepted a position that would finally help jump start my interior design career path and I can’t even put into words how excited and nervous (in a good way) I am. Though I will deeply miss doing what I’ve done as a day job, I look forward to learning and overcoming new challenges in the design world, and being able to provide more for my family – my domestic church.”

Constant communication with God in prayer and with loved ones helped me understand that at that specific point in my life, God was calling me out of full-time ministry and into my career so that I would not only utilize the gifts that He blessed me with, but more so that I would be able to provide more for my family, especially since we were preparing for Lucy to be born into the world.

All I experienced during that transition was an outpouring of grace, understanding, and complete support, all of which helped ease my “cross over”, again.

Orienting towards Heaven

In Hebrews 8:11, St. Paul wrote: “By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living intents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

In our Church’s Liturgical Calendar, there are different seasons our Church journeys through – the New Year begins with the Advent season, then into the Christmas season, then Ordinary Time, then Lent, then the Triduum, then Easter, and then back to Ordinary Time until the Solemnity of Christ the King. Then it’s Advent, again.

These changes in seasons are important to the life of the Church because it draws us out of the routine of our lives and plunges us into the very salvation history we are a part of, which is all about transition, a crossing over – literally Christ dying on a cross, rising from the dead, and having faith in Him coming again. We pray this every day at Mass in the Memorial Acclamation. And so when we bear in mind our salvation and the history attached to it, there will be countless opportunities God presents us with for growth, for challenge, endurance for hardships and steadfastness in suffering – all to prepare us for our Heavenly home. Orienting our life toward Heaven is the ultimate transition, to cross over from our earthly life to our eternal home.

Be Not Afraid

In addition to St. Teresa of Avila’s quote, another motto and very simple prayer of Pope St. John Paul II that has helped me move forward throughout my transitions is “be not afraid.” This was the first thing he said when he was elected pope, and continued to say throughout his papacy; it was his message to be not afraid in times of uncertainty and fear. This cry of JPII continues to drive my mission and to not hold on to fear or anxieties of the future, but to truly allow the Lord to work through and in my life each day at a time, and to “cross over.”

Transitions will happen in our lives, both big and small. Though we are unable to see God’s plans fully, may we never lose sight of His generosity and faithfulness in midst of those transitions, both of which will surely aid us in our daily “crossing over” of our earthly lives to eternity.

Accompanying Teens in Prayer, Charity, and Evangelization

This month’s formation meeting will conclude 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 have focused 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 is called “Accompanying Teens in Prayer, Charity, and Evangelization” and will be presented by Lindsay McDermott on February 28, 2017. 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 (3/1/17): Lindsay was able to share FOCUS’ vision for discipleship and spiritual multiplication. She encouraged us to look ways we can live this out in community and in ministry. Click here for an overview from FOCUS of the path to becoming a spiritual multiplier. What would it take for us to have this kind of impact in youth ministry?

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.

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)

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!

November’s First Tuesday

This month our seminar and discussion topic is “Inviting the Act of Faith” and will be led by Jim Schuster, Coordinator of Youth Ministry at St. Bernadette in Springfield.
With Jim at the helm, we will explore ways in which we can present our teens with what an Act of Faith is from a Catholic perspective, and challenge them to ponder the significance of making an explicit Act of Faith. Jim will also offer us some foundational, practical steps for actually doing this — all within the context of our ongoing conversations this year about the New Evangelization and Evangelii Gaudium.
We look forward to seeing you at Youth Apostles, and as usual, you are very welcome to join us for 7:30 pm Mass, 8:30 pm seminar, and some snacks & fellowship after that. We are looking forward to seeing you there!
 

October’s First Tuesday and Second Saturday Reminders

Just a quick reminder about our monthly youth ministry First Tuesday seminar, which will take place tomorrow, October 7. We look forward to seeing you at the Youth Apostles House! As usual, please join us for 7:30pm Mass, 8:30pm seminar, and refreshments afterwards. Eduardo Azcarate will be leading our discussion focusing on Romans 7: the Flesh vs. the Spirit. We’ll look at how to deal with this struggle in order to grow in virtue, emphasizing to our youth the need to focus on their giftedness and recognize their “fundamental option.”

This month’s Second Saturday topic will be on the “Call to Marriage, Family, and Community.” Mike Paquette will be our speaker. Please read this article on the parents of one of our patron saints (St. Therese, whose feast we just celebrated!), Louis and Zelie Martin. Happy reading! And as always, Mass will begin at 8:30pm, followed by breakfast and formation.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

September 2014 Formation

We look forward to seeing you this Saturday, September 13 for Mass and breakfast followed by formation.  This month’s formation is being led by each of you…your thoughts, prayer, questions, insights on Chapters 2-3 of The Joy of the Gospel (EG 50-175). Here’s a link to the start of that section. Kelly will prepare a brief summary and facilitate the discussion. It is encouraged for everyone to see themselves as bringing something significant to the discussion.