April Reflection

Recently, I took part in a training course on ‘Listening to Understand’. The participants were mostly campus ministry staff, but not entirely, so the approach was not overtly faith-based. In an early group discussion about the concept of respect, I offered the truth of the inherent dignity of the human person which should afford all with a right to be heard and understood, even loved. A woman with no ministry background responded, “that’s… beautiful” with tears in her eyes, elaborating that she had never heard that before. She ached for that truth.

Last month I was with one of seven Alternative Spring Break trips from Virginia Tech’s Catholic Campus Ministry. My group spent time in DC with the Little Sisters of the Poor caring for the elderly poor, and in Alderson, WV with the Alderson Hospitality House ministering to the families of women incarcerated in the federal prison down the road. There was a common thread between each ministry- hospitality. Incidentally our group spent a lot of our evening reflection time diving into our faith and hospitality, into care for the other.

It was clear that the elderly we spent time with in DC knew the truth of their human dignity, thanks to the care of the Little Sisters. One of the sisters referred to a resident with the words, “She is God’s special one.” It was a privilege to offer our own care in our short time with them, and to see the college women on my trip offer this care generously and authentically in the form of conversation over lunch or ice cream or coffee, games, piano playing, wheelchair pushing and arts and crafts.
In Alderson at the Hospitality House, the families we spent time with knew this truth because they hold onto it for their loved ones which the world often forgets or condemns. But they also seemed to ache for affirmation of the truth they believed for their sisters, mothers and wives. It was a joy to look around at the tables at dinner to see my students spread out to sit with each family and the room was filled with laughter and life. This joy was a manifestation of the goodness of these family visits, too easily overshadowed by the hardship of the situation. One of the House’s directors, to a family member leaving for visitation at the prison for the first time, left his work to offer some final words of encouragement. “Enjoy your visit! Have fun!”

My prayer these past weeks has been for the Lord Jesus to show me this joy. I have prayed with such gratitude in my prayer for the hospitality and care others have shown me. I have also prayed that the Lord Jesus would show me the loneliness, vulnerability and fear in those around me and in my ministry; to show me where hearts ache for the truth of their worth, for love. And I have prayed that the Lord Jesus would use me to heal some of that, to provide care in a spirit of joy and hospitality, especially to young people in my ministry. I have prayed that the college women I served with on our ASB trip would desire the same and offer joyful service in their daily lives as they did on spring break.

I pray that in these remaining weeks of Lent that you ache for the joy of Easter, and that this ache would manifest itself in care for those around you who need it. I pray that we would all share this truth of our human dignity which is beautiful and good, especially with those who have never heard it or do not believe it. This is a truth which Jesus came to die for and redeem.
Sincerely in Christ,

Krysti Patient
Assistant Director, Women Youth Apostles

February Reflection

Recently I had to run an errand at Tysons Corner Center on a busy Sunday afternoon. I needed to grab lunch and shortly after sitting down, found myself across from two young college students. They seemed a bit shy but friendly, and I could sense the Lord prompting me to start a conversation. This was confirmed almost immediately as one of them bowed their head to say grace and made the Sign of the Cross. “Hi, I’m Tiffany,” I said with a smile, and the conversation evolved naturally from there.

We talked about where they go to school, they asked what I do for a living, and we talked about where we are from. Having learned they both grew up in Vietnam, I asked them what the one thing they found the most different when they came to the United States. Until this point, the conversation had mostly gone back and forth between myself and one of the girls. Now the other girl answered so quickly and definitely, I was almost startled. “It’s so lonely.” There was a long silence and three pairs of eyes looked down as we digested the honesty and pain in her statement and in our own memories. The words of St. Teresa of Calcutta flashed through my mind “America suffers most from the poverty of loneliness.” “Back in my home country,” she continued, “everyone opens their doors in the morning and you see your neighbors.”

The only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.

–St. Teresa of Calcutta

This is one of the reasons it seems so providential that we have been called not just to form Women Youth Apostles, but have a vision to minister to young people in a way that helps them become community for each other. Please pray that every one of our ministries will continue to help young people see that they are not alone, but rather are known, loved, and have great reason to be filled with hope in God’s promises.

 

Sincerely in Christ,

Tiffany Lambert

Directress, Women Youth Apostles

January Reflection

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! The Christmas Season ends with two beautiful celebrations – the Epiphany when we recall the visit of the Magi and the Baptism of the Lord. Both point to how the Lord can be both manifest and hidden at different moments in our lives.

 At the Epiphany, God intervened in the lives of the Magi with clear and direct signs. The star “that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was” (Matt 2:9). You may have had a particular moment when you clearly knew God’s presence and intervention in your life. Through an extraordinary set of circumstances and as clearly manifest as the words before you now, you knew that God was real and was working for your good. These moments of great grace are gifts we should cherish and recall with love.

 On the other hand, through his Baptism, Jesus allows himself to be completely identified with sinful humanity. He enters into this act of repentance, not because he has sinned, but because he has come to redeem us. Sometimes Jesus’ humility almost allows his divinity to be hidden from sight, seeming to leave us searching with no other guide than the interior light of faith.

 As we enter into 2019, I pray that we are able to both follow God’s clear manifestations with deepened wonder and to continue searching in moments when the Light of the World appears to be buried in the depths of our limited world.

Sincerely in Christ,

Tiffany Lambert

Directress, Women Youth Apostles

 

magi

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!

BLOG: Sacramental and Community Life

In 1997, I was privileged to make a pilgrimage to Paris for World Youth Day, my first time The group that I accompanied was the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and Youth 2000, two communities that were joined only because of the Eucharist and leading youth to Christ. What an awesome experience to be with them and celebrate with the Holy Father in France. After World Youth Day was over we had the opportunity to travel to Lisieux and to the site of St. Theresa’s birth, death and communal life in the Carmelites. What a joy to spend time in prayer where she prayed and lived. Her life was so short but so eventful and prayerful. She literally craved community! She begged the Pope to let her enter community life because she was able to listen to what God had in store for her. Even though she only lived a short 23 years, her love of community and the sacraments were such that it led her to be the great Saint and Doctor she is now.

I read “The Story of a Soul” many years ago and was touched by her discussion of community life and what it was like to be with those she loved and struggled to love. We all know that there are people in our lives that we love more than others and there are those that we struggle to love. After all, God said we had to “love one another” not “like one another” right? She struggled to be in community it appeared every second of every day, yet she stayed there because she knew it was what God wanted for her. Her struggles and joys were such that it led others in her community to be closer to God and even Saints! Isn’t that what we are called to do? Shouldn’t we be doing that in Community as well?

Community life is difficult but the Sacraments can overcome any difficulty. The more we celebrate our community life with one another and join together in the sacraments, the closer we grow to God and what He wants for our Community. It brigs us closer to each other and helps us to love one another even more. As it is said in “Les Miserables”, “to love another person is to see the face of God”.