June Reflection

Today I had an atypical experience of heading to daily Mass on my own. While presently in Northern Virginia, my consecrated sisters had work commitments which prevented our usual morning common life of prayer. I chose to attend a noon Mass, and while the resulting late start to the morning was nice, I also had a “to do” list that needed doing and was unfortunately preoccupying my thoughts on my way into the church.

So when Father announced that this Mass would be a little different from the typical Tuesday of the seventh week of Easter in honor of a married couple in the parish who was celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, I’ll admit my very first thought was about the inconvenience. Would this add 10 or 15 or 20 minutes to the Mass?

Then a grace prompted me to pay close attention to the prayers of the Mass. I’d never been to a vow renewal Mass before, actually. This could be interesting. And the words were beautiful. I was struck with a realization: This is Easter joy, and this is Church! What better way or time to celebrate union than as the Body of Christ, in the Easter season.

My next realization was that my “to do” list wasn’t all too unrelated to the experience of this Mass. A lot of my time has been spent recently planning for ministry and a particular focus has been on how to have honest conversations with young people about vocation. While of course I want young people to engage more with and be open to consecrated life, I ultimately want young people to see God calls them to sacrificial love in any vocation, and to help them see this in married life, too.

In Father’s homily today, he said to the honored couple, “Your union says that love is possible. Love that is unconditional. That commitment is possible. You bear a special witness of Christ’s love for the Church.” I prayed, Lord, this is what I long for young people to know. This love that comes from you.

The closing blessing contained the words “May God bless you with joy…May He be always with you in good times and in bad…May the Holy Spirit always fill you with His love.” These words were not specifically addressed to the honored couple, but to the entirety of the congregation, the Church, the Bride of Christ. That we are His bride is something He said Himself.
I pray that Jesus would remind each of us in some way of His love and His promises. I pray also that we would recommit our own love to Him and to those He has called us to in our vocations, communities and apostolates; That we would recognize our special witness of Christ’s love for the Church.
May God bless each of you with joy, may He always be with you in good times and in bad, and may the Holy Spirit always fill you with His love.

Sincerely in Christ,
Krysti Patient
Assistant Director, Women Youth Apostles

May Reflection

Alleluia! He is Risen! Last Saturday we gathered with family, friends, and supporters at our 3rd Spring Tea. Moments like this prompt reflection on the work God is doing in and through our community and it was beautiful to see the grace of the Resurrection continuing in our midst today.

The Resurrection was communicated to the disciples in surprising and life-giving ways. Jesus conquered sin. Jesus conquered death. Jesus conquered hell. And instead of the pageantry of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, He sought people out personally, intentionally, and quietly. When I glimpse the awe-inspiring magnitude of the Resurrection, my instinct is to throw a party with fanfare and celebration.

But Jesus came to pour the grace of the Resurrection into hearts and souls, so He appears to women at the tomb, disciples leaving Jerusalem, and apostles in the Upper Room. It is very powerful to encounter Christ and hear a call to share the Good News. But to discover Jesus is doing a similar work in another’s heart is a double blessing because you are able to rest in the assurance that it is His work and not something you are manufacturing.

The joyful power of God’s work imparting new life in ways we could not have generated on our own is something Women Youth Apostles continues to experience in the growth of our community, the work of our ministry, and the renewed support of our family, friends and benefactors. May we all continue to bring the light, joy, and power of the Resurrection in new, hidden, and personal ways to a world in need, and through this may we find ourselves in deeper awe of the mystery of God’s plan of loving goodness!

Sincerely in Christ,
Tiffany Lambert
Directress, Women Youth Apostles

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

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!

Seed, Scattered, Sown

End of the school year reflection by Fatima Perez:

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We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. – Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

As a high school campus minister, this time of the year is always bittersweet. We send a fourth of our student body off to college – kids that we’ve grown with since their very first day of school, kids that we’ve seen develop in character, kids who we have witnessed open their heart to God, to their faith. Today during a very refreshing conversation with a senior, I was reminded yet again of God’s faithfulness and the instrumental work that takes place when we empty ourselves of our own desires or agendas and truly allow His Master plan to come to fruition in His time and in His way.

It’s such a great privilege to journey alongside young men and women while on a retreat but even so on a daily basis while on campus – being present to them in between classes in the halls, during lunches, or simply in my office when they stop by to talk or hang out. Any moments of contact with them in passing or during a weekend’s worth of time on retreat, God truly uses those moments to plant His seeds and I know will continue to do so.

The senior I had the earlier conversation with shared how she was in awe of how the Lord has been working in her own life and even in her boyfriend’s life – and how for a year she had been praying for him to come to know Christ. Even in those prayers she would offer herself as God’s instrument for his life if that’s what God wanted from her. I got teary eyed upon hearing this then I silently said to God at that moment – again, Lord, You’ve outdone Yourself. You are moving. Here You have a daughter who has come to know and love You, and daily makes the decision to pursue You because the hunger she knows that the world can’t satisfy can be found in You. Her prayers for her boyfriend (unbeknownst to him) and the way she lives her life were the seeds that piqued his curiosity of God, of faith. The peace and joy emulated in her life and in his friends’ lives, he wanted. This past spring retreat, which he was encouraged to attend and did, piqued that curiosity even more, which eventually led him to pursue God of his own accord.

So naturally after hearing her story, these keywords came to mind – seeds, soil, patience, time, elements – all leading to eventual growth, a new springtime. Our beautiful faith is meant to be shared, not locked away, but with others. The peace and joy this young man witnessed from his girlfriend and even from his peers around him led him to want to know Who the source of their joy was. A seed was sown on rich soil.

This afternoon I helped out with graduation practice at the Shrine. (God’s timing is so perfect that it makes me laugh sometimes.) I’ve been there countless times at this point in my life and I may know the locations of a particular side chapels or which saints are depicted in specific domes. Today, however, I came across something I forgot was there because it’s not like a major work of art comprised of mosaics, but something small. It was a minor detail, but the significance of it – huge.

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You see the inscription on the ambo? That’s it. The seed is the word of God.

The Parable of the Sower Explained

This is the meaning of the parable. The seed is the word of God.

Those on the path are the ones who have heard, but the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved.

Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, but they have no root; they believe only for a time and fall away in time of trial.

As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit.

But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.

– Luke 8:11-15 (NAB)

The Lord’s Word is what attracts, stirs something in the soul to awaken – it’s what gives one wonder, joy, peace, hope, consolation, meaning, direction. Because the seed fell on rich soil within the heart of my student, it has borne fruit and I pray will continue to.

While spring may have come and gone, and come again but only for a few days because it feels like summer has arrived, God’s Word can still and always be planted. But on rich soil? That’s up to me and you.

Finally, from the perspective of a campus minister who won’t be able to watch them grow as they leave for the next chapter of their journey, it is my daily prayer to know that the seeds planted indeed hold promise, for God is always faithful.