Tuesday, November 28, 2006

plane mortality

As rarely as I fly, each time I do it becomes a little bit of a glimpse into my own mortality. I know, I know, every time I get in the car it could be my last time, and the person who sneezed on me today could have been giving me Typhoid. Who knows? But the thing is, you know, flying is a big deal, full of nerves for a lot of people (it's not just me, ya know) and if things DO go wrong up there, it's a long way down.
So before we take off, I'll make sure the cats are in order and all is set here, which is necessary since we'll be away for a while, but a bonus if we never get back.

I think, too, about God's apparent love of ironic headlines- "Catholic Youth Ministers killed in fiery wreck!" and of how whenever you hear about the unfortunate death of people in situations like this, people are quoted in the paper "she was SO excited about this trip. She said it was going to restore her faith!" I mean, really, it's a tearjerker article in the making. Very little editing needed there to make it a heart-string tugger. And now a blog entry! "the woman's last words on her blog detailed her foresight about her own demise..."

I know, I sound gloomy! But like I say, travel like this is rare and significant for me. I don't really expect the worst, and won't even really be that nervous, I bet, but still, it gives one pause. The good news is, if anything does happen, I'll be with Scott, and he's a ringer- heavenbound, if anyone is... and I'll just hold on to his hand so tight they'll have to take me too.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Okay, first, I want to say that I did not choose the location, nor should I be punished for the location, of this national professional conference. I went when it was in Pittsburgh, (and I was pregnant, so I couldn't even eat/drink the fun stuff that everyone else was eating/drinking, so I get double credit!) and just because it's in Vegas, doesn't mean that I'm going to par-tay. Okay?
That said, I'm PSYCHED to go to VEGAS!!! I've never been there before, and I think the fact that I am not a gambler will make it even better. No sitting in a dark corner yanking handles on slot machines for me. (Also, I think they don't even have handles anymore, do they?) I am psyched to just see the sights, and eat at the buffets, and hang out with great people.
I am thrilled at the workshops I can choose from, and don't know how I'll decide! At this point, I'm thinking these:
Round A:
A-3: Developing Youth Inclusive Liturgies OR A-15: Best Methods in Adolescent Catechesis: Faith Theme: "Jesus" OR A-16: Best Models in Adolescent Catechesis: Parish/School

Round B/D:
B-4: The Changing Reality of Youth Ministry (Friday) OR B-5: They Will Know Us By Our Actions: Issues Facing the Professional Minister in the Contemporary Church (Friday) OR B-6: New Directions in Adolescent Catechesis

Round C:
C-5: Creating a Parish Culture for Youth Ministry Through Faith Assets™ OR C-10: Tools for the Vineyard: Empowering Lay Leaders for Ministry in the Fields OR C-11: The Sacrament of Confirmation: Exploring the Ritual and the Journey of Faith OR C-15: Best Methods in Adolescent Catechesis: Faith Theme: "Sacraments"

Round E:
E-3: Pray Who You Are: Creating Innovative Liturgical Prayer Experiences Using Traditional Sources OR E-9: Short Order Cooks, Jugglers, and Hawkeye Pierce: The Great Youth Ministry Balancing Act OR E-11: Will Our Faith Have Children? A Closer Look at the Impact of the National Study of Youth and Religion OR E-12: Inquiring Minds Want to Know -- Sharing Faith with Young Adolescents OR E-16: Rethinking Adolescent Catechesis…A Facilitated Dialogue

Okay, if you read through all those items, I'm impressed! I am totally titillated by them, and will have a hard time dealing with the fact that I can only be in one workshop at a time. We'll be taking the laptop along, so if I get a minute, I'll be able to blog from there, and fill all 6 of you loyal readers in on our doings.

Two more sleeps till we hit the runway!!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

end times

So in two days I leave for a great trip!! I'm so excited, so looking forward to it. The fact that this trip to this great place looms in my future has its effects on all the "departments" of my life. Suddenly, some things are not so important, and some other things have a new urgency.
All the daily drudgery things that annoy me usually, the things that cast a pall over my day and my mood, well, this week, they don't matter so much. I can take two days of the usual because the neon lights are at the end of this short tunnel!
But there's so much, too, to square away. Must pay the bills before we go, cash our spending money checks, do laundry, pack, get the tickets in order, make sure the cats are set.
The weekly Mass readings lately have been talking about end times, which is not an easy idea to wrap my head around. But this week, I kind of get it... I bet with the end nearing, so many things would become unimportant, while others would become important. When the big boom hit last week, Scott said that he thought about all these "end-time" warnings, and wondered "would I be ready?" What would we feel okay about leaving behind? What would we be so sad to lose touch with? (okay, yes, it would be my cats! is that so bad?)
I love the wisdom of the Liturgical year- they make you think about the "what ifs" and yearn for the "if onlys" and then remind you that the "if onlys" already exist for us, in the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Christ.

I heard the great last part of the sermon from Marsh Chapel at BU this morning. I can't vouch for the whole thing, but I loved the final message; The End Is Not Near.
At this posting, the sermon from 11/26 isn't up yet, but do check back:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I dreamed last night...

... that my pastor was going around telling people that he didn't think I was doing a very good job. His housekeeper pulled me aside and told me that he had said the same to her. I was pretty upset because I had just put together a big LIFT-like evening with a crowd of cheering kids and great music and whatnot. Fortunately, the housekeeper was on my side, and told me that she had asserted to the pastor that building a YM takes time. In the parking lot on the way home I saw my supervisor. I said to her, "I need you to fight for me" and she wavered. "Wellllll...." she said. I felt the axe swinging my way, and thought I'd better get looking for a new job.
Think I'm stressed about work? Maybe?
I am so looking forward to the NCCYM. I am seeing it as a restart, a reboot for my ministry, and for my faith. I am so excited to come away from there with new energy, new optimism, and a new direction in which to plunge. I'm dying to get there, to spend time among colleagues, to feel so far away from here, to sing along with 2000 other youth ministers from around the US. It is my happy place right now!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I heard it, and Scott's voice at the same time, saying my name, with fear in his voice. We sat there in bed, listening to it and feeling the house and ground vibrate. It seemed like it lasted several seconds, and it was shocking. We asked each other, "what the hell was that??" I got up to peek out the windows, and we turned the tv on to see if any news was reporting on it, but there was nothing but "TV Diner" on NECN. We thought it might have been a tremor, but it felt different- more of a vibration than a shake. We turned over and went back to sleep, wondering what had happened.
This morning, the cell phones started ringing early, and so I got up to check the news and saw the pictures of the huge chemical plant explosion here in town. It looks like no one was killed, that only a few people were even injured, but that a hundred homes were damaged, anywhere from a blown-out window screen to total annihilation. Scott has a deep theological reaction to this all, maybe he'll gues-post here about it in the days to come.
But the good news is we're fine, all safe and set. Onward we march!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Workshop Accomplished

Well we made it through, and no one threw anything at us. I felt really good all through the workshop and it was a lovely, (large) affirming group who gave us lots of nodding heads and yes-yeses. Scott led the opening prayer, then I kind of presented the theories, then Scott took up the questions and comments at the end.
The DRE's balked a little at my poo-pooing of service hours (and Scott did too, the rascal!) and some (okay, really just one) thought I was saying Mass was optional- and wondered if I agreed that parents should make their kids go to Mass.... (yes, I sure do). But mostly people were pretty agreeable with what we said.
At one point I asked them to imagine an Adolescent Faith Formation program if Confirmation didn't exist... and a huge crowd of them shouted back to me "NOBODY WOULD COME!!!" Sad, huh? And for the most part, most churches, of course that's true. When people named their "challenges" in the beginning of the workshop, they placed most of the blame on kids, families, sports, etc... but nobody said "my program's so boring that none of the kids are getting anything out of it". We told them Jim Rayburn's quote (he "invented" Young Life)- "It's a sin to bore a kid with the Gospel."
I talked too long, and didn't leave enough time for questions and answers. I wish we'd had more time to give concrete answers to their questions, but we didn't. Scott gave the best answer of the day- a woman raised her hand and said "Okay, so how do we talk to kids?" (which I thought was such a wild question! How do you talk to kids? Are there really people leading programs and classes and being perplexed on this level as to what they're doing?) I was kind of stumped, and looked at Scott... who gave the best answer or the day, I thought. He said "You start by listening to kids. Get to know them, show them that you're interested and care about them, and EARN the right to be heard by them." We wrapped by reminding them of the missionary analogy. It fit together pretty nicely!
I found out after the workshop that a Diocesan staffer had been in there with us the whole time- it was someone I had heard of but didn't know. Apparently she had planned to just watch the beginning but decided to stay for the whole thing. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, although when I walked past her later she didn't leap up to shake my hand. I felt a little worried after the workshop that I'd been too rebellious/radical, but maybe that's just a reflection of the fact that I've been in trouble for what I've said so often lately...
So there it is. Next on the horizon is Thanksgiving, and then NCCYM just a week and a half away. I can't WAIT!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ad Cat

Tomorrow we're presenting at the Catechetical Congress down in Randolph. Our topic is "Adolescent Catechesis- Our Mission Field". Here's the outline of what we'll be presenting:

** If you were traveling to Namibia to teach Catholicism, to “form faith”, how would you start?
(Learn about their culture- learn to speak their language or at least to communicate in a way that works for both sides of the conversation. (maybe it’s symbols! Maybe it’s songs, ritual actions, etc…) Find out what their needs are, and show how faith in God can address those needs…)

** Adolescents are a culture all to their own, and it is helpful to consider serving their population as missionary work.

** The effect on the change in support systems that surround kids today is drastic- and creates the culture that our adolescents live in, and which defines their “personality” as a group.

** Have you ever seen an American meet up with someone who doesn’t speak English? After a little bit of trying to converse, what happens? They start to YELL! This is one technique that is often used in catechetical methods, and just like the actual language barrier this technique echoes, it doesn’t do much good. Yelling at someone in a language they don’t understand is a waste of time.

** Curricula are designed nowadays to reinforce what kids are learning at home and in Mass.

** We can move toward empowering one or more of their support systems to take their job back, in supporting and building and reinforcing their faith and learning, (ie Whole Comm. Catechesis) AND we can start taking into consideration the culture we’re serving, set some appropriate goals, and learn new ways to communicate with them.

** We're going to take a look at Confirmation- the history and theology of the Sacrament, what it is and what it isn't... and talk about this theory: Your Youth Ministry should look very much like it would if Confirmation didn't exist.

We think DRE's should set goals, with committees and staff, for the formation of their young people, and then design curricula to reflect and achieve those goals. This is in stark contrast to the pervasive model of buying a textbook series and teaching from them.

Then we'll open it up for Questions and comments, and rounds and rounds of applause.
We'll be available after the talk to sign autographs and pose for photos.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Okay, so I only blog on Fridays.

Tonight I went to a Pampered Chef party in the town where I had my first Youth Ministry job. As I've probably said before here, leaving there was infinitely painful- like a sad, bitter divorce. I now see that it was time, and right, for me to leave there, but I still miss the feeling of being at-home that I really felt there, and the families I was so invested in back there and then.
So tonight at the party, I was startled to see a young lady walk in who had been through "my" Confirmation program back then, almost 8 years ago. Introductions were made and Scott, who was there with me, asked her "oh did you go to St. Paul's? Did you know Margo?" and she said "Margo was a big part of my life back then." She said it really off-handedly, no big deal, but my heart jumped. I couldn't remember her last name- what a nice thing to hear that she felt I'd made an impression on her so long ago. Such a nice, unexpected blessing.
I think one of the hardest things to come to grips with as a YM is how very few are the young people whom one can really effect- in the group of 34 kids per grade level that I had there, I only ever really felt like I got a chance to know very few of them, very well. I don't know how it's possible that I might have made an impact in this young woman's life, but it's nice to think I did.
Then we stopped at the local House O'Pizza to pick up lunch for Scott, who's away at a ropes course tomorrow and will be brown-bagging it. The guy at the counter said "Hey, I remember you, it's been a long time, you used to come in with the kids!" I felt like a minor celebrity. I know, it means nothing, but I really was touched to be recognized by a town guy... in the town I'd left behind. It was a little like coming home again.
Today's been full of blessings, gentle "random" nudges that I might not be wasting my time in this vocation. I'm thankful for that.

Comments! (also, several new posts)

So I was just thinking yesterday that no one seems to be commenting on my blog anymore. How sad! Then just now, SB said "are you not adding comments to your blogs?" and it HIT ME! I never changed over to my new email address on blogger. So now I'm all in order again, and will receive your comments, if you make 'em. Sorry about that!
I've missed you!

So, I have this very groovy neighbor.

He's wonderful- 43 years old, single, wears flannel and brown shoes, has friends with dreadlocks who drive cars that run on french fry grease. Last year he quit his job after his mom miraculously recovered from a health crisis, and decided to live his life in a whole new way.
Today I pulled down the scraggly morning glory vines from the back hedge and harvested the seeds. I was sitting on the front porch step in my pajamas pulling the seeds out of their papery brown pods and putting them into our lovely chrystal glass when my neighbor pulled in. He came over to see what I was up to, and told me about his latest endeavors.
He told me he's been involved in Chrystal Healing, and it's been going very well. I don't know what chrystal healing is, but I smiled and nodded and listened. He said he feels so good to be where he is in life right now- "walking amongst life" is how he described it. He told me about great mentors and inspiring teachers who surround him now. And he told me that he wanted to share this with me because he knew that I'm a spiritual person.
I told him that my relationship with God is mostly adversarial. (Why was I telling him that? The guy just got me to share, that's all, no shame in sharing...) And then, in sort of an odd segue, he said this to me:
One of the symbols of (something nepal-ish that I can't remember) is the peacock, and that is because of this story- in the woods there is a bush with beautiful berries, and every animal in the forest tries to eat them- but when they do, they get sick and fall down. But the peacock eats the berries and says "these are the most delicious berries I've ever eaten". The others ask him how he can eat them and he just spreads his feathers and shows his beautiful plumage. My neighbor said "some people can take the most poisonous things and create beauty."

Invalid Marriage

A few weeks ago I stood at the back of my church and listened as my pastor, in his homily, told the congregation that my marriage is invalid, because I don't want to have kids. Okay, he didn't mention me specifically... but it felt pretty awkward to me, just the same. I know the Church feels that procreation is pretty darned important, and I'm in no means against it. I am pro-baby, and I approve of people having them. I just don't think it's in the Plans for me.
I am the youngest of many, and never was around babies very much- I very rarely babysat (and when I did I was fairly ineffective) so I don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies. We can't afford to have babies, in our current and forever situation of living very close to the financial bone. We are not savers... barely have a plan for ourselves past next week. We live in a one-bedroom apartment full of non-baby-proof stuff... our schedules are ridiculous for child-rearing- we work from around noon to around 8:00pm, and are gone on weekends quite often, doing overnights and trips, etc. It just wouldn't all fit together nicely with a nap schedule and whatnot. Day care costs almost as much as I make.
But ultimately, I feel very clearly called to ministry, (even if the way that works out is less than easy) and very clearly not called to motherhood. Does that mean that I should not have gotten married? I guess, in the eyes of the Church, that this is true, because I've created a non-creative marriage. But I can't believe that God's calling me to ministry means that I couldn't marry my true love... it just doesn't seem like something the God I know would want for me.
So on I go. But as sure as I feel, and surely directed by God, it stings to hear the pastor who hired me declare my marriage invalid because I'm not a mother.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

2 New Posts; or, This Is PMS

I have cried tonight to Grey's Anatomy, and to Desperate Housewives. And picked out most of the M&M's from the Gorp that Sue and Don brought to Friends' Thanksgiving last week.
Now we're watching The Office, and if I cry at that, I will just pack it in for the night.

Have I said this before?

I think God gives us near-misses and brushes with disaster to learn empathy. Going through the pain of losing someone who's not sooo close to me gives me an inkling of the pain that people go through when they lose someone very close. Being pregnant, however briefly, gave me insight into what pregnancy feels like- I can commiserate with the sickness, the exhaustion, the worry, the advice. Losing the baby after only 3 months, (and then again after only a month) makes my heart break for people who lose theirs after carrying them full-term, or at delivery... I understand addiction, and compulsion, at least to some degree, because of my own
In every Lifetime movie, someone says to someone else "I know how you feel", and then the other person screams "HOW DARE YOU SAY YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL?? UNLESS YOU'VE BEEN THROUGH WHAT I'VE BEEN THROUGH YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND!!" I don't believe that's true- I believe that pain is pain. Even if we haven't been in the same situations, we can relate to each others' pain, because we know pain.
Which makes my first point kind of moot, now that I read back. The point is, empathy.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


today I was stopped at a light behind a car with a sticker on its back window, which read "Happiness is being Swedish". I thought to myself, that doesn't seem fair...

To have your happiness pre-set by just being born into an ethnic heritage. How easy!
Lately I've been thinking a lot about happiness. I think of myself as a happy person overall, but I struggle so much at work, and I have for so long. I know I can feel happiness, because I do at home, I do with my husband, I do with my friends, my family, my cats. So why do I struggle so much when I'm at work, doing God's work for crying out loud? Why can't I feel contentment in my vocation? Is it that I'm in the wrong place? Is it that I'm in the wrong church? Is it that I don't really understand what my vocation is? Am I doing things just so wrong? Is it that I just don't like to be told what to do? (I don't.)
I want to be happy, in all areas of my life. Maybe that's just not reality- maybe my discomfort in my work is fair trade for the bliss I feel at home. Maybe that's fair. Maybe I just haven't found the perfect fit yet. Maybe it's just that I'm not swedish...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

Well it's finally, almost, over. The giant sucking sound we hear now is the new absence of political ads from the airwaves. I have to admit that really, the opinions I've formed about the candidates here have been almost purely from their ads. That can't be good, I know. But looking back over the past months, I really can't remember any other influences. I do listen constantly to NPR, but the coverage I have heard about the races has been mostly about the ads- this one is attacking and negative, that one is offensive... I did see bits of the debates, and heard the highlights from them, and those were significant too in the formation of my opinions.
I am due to vote in about an hour, and I still have not made up my mind about the alcohol in grocery stores one. I am honestly torn. I was worried about small liquor store owners (the stores are small, not the owners) and what effect it might have on them, but I actually spoke to one and he said they weren't worried about that. And as I said I'm annoyed with the scare tactic ads, and since I'm from Maine, where you can buy alcohol in grocery stores already, I just don't see it as such a huge deal. Hmm, maybe I have made up my mind!
Anyway, I'm praying today that elections go well, and in the direction I want them to... just kidding. not really.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Friends' Thanksgiving

Five years ago, our friend Ann-Marie suggested that we have a party for all our Youth Ministry friends. She had heard of this idea; it's based on the fact that you never get to celebrate Thanksgiving with your friends, since everyone is with their family on that day. The deal was, the hostess makes a turkey, and everyone else is responsible for another dish; veggies, potatoes, salad, rolls, cranberry sauce. Friends' Thanksgiving was born, and became a beloved (at least by us hosts!) tradition.
I was thinking last night about how the memories from each year's FT marked our progress and changes as a group of friends. Our first year was in Beverly, just newly married, and our friends were at various points in their relationships.There were friends there who have moved away or moved on.
Two years ago, We were unexpectedly (and freaked-out-ingly) pregnant, and laced our apartment with clues to the news- we even stuck the pregnancy tests with their two pink lines up in various places around the house. It was the beginning of a brand new world for us, and for our friends Pete and Keri, who also announced their same exciting news. A year later we were in yet another new apartment, with no baby, me in another new job, and things getting pretty much back to normal. New friends were with us, and some of the friends who had been dating in years past were broken up, and some were married to each other.
This year there was yet another new baby announcement (not from us!) and new love, old friends and new additions to the crowd. We're in a happy apartment, with happy cats, doing pretty well overall. I'm thankful for our good friends, and our life, and the blessing of sharing in our friends' lives.

Two Great Band Names

1. Both Dakotas
2. Various Nefarious

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints

I went to the noon Mass today for All Saints'Day. I got there about 10 minutes early and decided to take it in as a "civillian". Usually I check in at the Sacristy and volunteer to be a Eucharistic Minister, or stand by the doors and greet, sit near the back, or busy myself with some other kind of whatnot.
So I knelt to pray and found myself sort of scrambling for something to say to God. I am not a good pray-er. I chat with God all day long, but when it comes to praying with (as Dave Dumaine urges) my whole heart, mind and soul, I can really only remember doing that a long time ago.
When I was in high school, I was blessed to belong to a parish that took on the great experiment of youth ministry, as it was transitioning from CYO to the Vision of Youth Ministry in all its comprehensiveness. Great things happened to me through my membership in that church. The greatest things that happened, though, didn't happen there. The best thing my parish did for me was to put someone in charge of finding great conversion opportunities for me, and my peers. They connected me with retreats like Search and Gift- similar to the "TEC" retreats that still run here in Massachusetts. The leaders on those retreats told me great things about myself, believed that I already was the great person I hoped to be. They saw gifts in me that I had never heard about before, and encouraged me to trust my heart, because it was good. My parish connected me with CLI, then ACLI, through which God called me to Youth Ministry. And the rest, as they say...
So today when I knelt in the mega-mega church that is the home of my current ministry, surrounded mostly by strangers, older people with grey hair, feeling a bit like a stranger in a strange land, I thanked God for the Saints He'd sent my way. St. Joseph, under whose care Scott and I placed our marriage, our family; St. Theresa, who prayed and guided me through loss in her little way, St. Anthony who helps me find various and sundry things that I lose... (I try not to ask him unless I'm really desperate), St. Jude, to whom my team has turned for help for our Youth Ministry. But also, for Michelle, who told me to trust my heart, for Jim, who shared his joyful faith with me, for Bad Father Brad, for John Roberto and Brian Reynolds. And for the people at St. Charles, whose names I forget... who connected me with these wonderful people. Saints, all.

it's funny 'cause it's true!