Week Two Has Begun!

As Sunday morning rolled around and the Core Team gathered back together, the excitement built and things moved along so smoothly, that we could hardly wait for 5 o’clock to come. Not only were 16 or so awesome kids from around the Diocese coming to join us, but we had a seminarian and four awesome adults on their way. Even Nicky, who chaperoned last week, couldn’t get enough and was on her way back for another week. Anyways, here is three quarters of the Core Team ready for everything the week is going to throw at them.

Quickly upon the youth and the aforementioned phenomenal chaperones, we began getting to know one another. Through a very cool, newly invented ball rolling game and a quick game of train wreck, we felt like great friends before it came time for a dinner… well, everyone except for Ned and Brooke who got into a bit of a quarrel when he found out that she’s not a Green Bay Packers fan. Thankfully, this is the only thing even resembling drama that we’ve seen this week.

We were treated to a round of root beer floats after a delightful dinner of lasagna soup, garlic bread and salad. While enjoying gout dessert, we got to learn a bit about MoT (Mother Teresa) and the Missionaries of Charity, who we model the work and prayer of LBH after. The night ended with some nice sharing in Collatio, including some stories about where we have spent time in the darkness away from God’s love.

After going to bed with that on our minds, as well as the new adventures that await us this week, we popped out of bed somewhere in the neighborhood of 5am to take this sight in. How beautiful is that?!?

We chatted for a bit about being alive again and living in the light of Christ, as well as about out theme for the summer of LBH, which is CHOOSE LIFE! We made some plans to choose life all week long in everything we do.

This sunrise session was followed by a great breakfast of pancakes and bacon, as well as packing up our lunches to enjoy at our worksites. We then headed off to a little slice of Heaven, both literally and figuratively. Our host priest Fr. Rick came down to a chapel tucked away in the woods, conveniently on the same property that a lot of our service is happening this week, where we spruced up the area around the outdoor stations and huge rosary walk. Mass was beautiful, as always.

After Mass and learning more about the Kramers who own the property, half of our group got to work there and the other half headed to Blue Mounds to to give a hand to some Senior friends who needed help in their homes or yards. It was an action packed day of service, which everyone approached with a whole lot of enthusiasm!

After our work wrapped up, we stopped for a quick swim and shower, before heading back to Pine Bluff for a much needed rest hour, due to our early morning. While rest hour and rosary praying occurred, a couple of us adults got ready for a serious celebration of our lives. (Happy Birth!! You’re alive!) This included pizza for dinner, birthday cake and ice cream, lots of balloons, some lively discussion of how thankful we are for the gift of life, and a rousing game of saltine cracker eating.

Wrapping up our evening in the best way possible, two seminarian friends of ours taught us about Night Prayer and we gave it a shot. It definitely felt good to wrap up the day by chatting with Jesus about it.

Today has been another great one, but you’ll have to tune in for the update on it tomorrow. For now, please remember all of us in your prayers as we go about serving the poor of our community.

Week one comes to a close.

As noon on Friday of this past week rolled around, the youth may not have been exactly jumping for joy quite like this, as the country side of Pine Bluff was the site to the goodbyes to to our newly made friends.

In the midst of our goodbyes, the leaders heard a whole lot of great things coming from the kids. They watched the lives of others get brighter and came forth out of the darkness in their own lives to truly be alive again. I think it would be accurate to say that we did in fact see the light before the sunrise this past week, if we could take our inspiration here from both St. Augustine and Matt Maher.

With many youth this past week coming into their second week of LBH, many of us knew or had heard from those we knew and convinced us to come on the trip that the week held great promise. But, only God could have clued us in on exactly how bright this world would become and the many new things we would experience. Some of us went whole days or the entire week without complaining, we didn’t update our Facebook statuses constantly and we went without some of our usual comforts – cell phones, iPods, makeup, comfortable beds… really, the list could keep on growing. Through all of that, Mother Teresa’s promises really held up – by living simply, we were able to love others and the One who gave us life more deeply. And, that’s what Love Begins Here is all about.

The Core Team would like to thank all of those who came on this week of Love Begins Here. You growing desire to persevere throughout the week, your love of each other, and your excitement about LBH truly inspired us and is continuing to do so as we are in the midst of our second week.

We would also like to thank those people who helped us out in big ways this past week, including Fr. Rick, Fr. Francisco and Fr. Vernon for celebrating the sacraments with us and for giving us a home. To the Schoenstatt Sisters, St. Vinnies in Monroe and the good people at the Mount Horeb Senior Center for allowing us to serve them and alongside of them. And, a great huge thank you to Tony Butler for being a great example of what it looks like to answer Jesus’ call to serve, being our biggest fan and helping us find projects to work on this week. And, of course, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to you – our blog readers and supporters. Thank you for loving us and keeping us in your prayers.

Speaking of prayers, please keep Madi and her family in your prayers. It’s going to be a long road to recovery, but with people like you all supporting them, the journey will be filled with Christ’s peace.

Stir Fry Kind of Day

Phew, it’s crazy to believe that we’re already halfway done with our last full day of this first week of LBH! Let’s take a moment and check in to see what happened since we updated yesterday.

There was a bit of yawning yesterday as we awoke to a new day of serving the Lord and our neighbors. Fr. Rick, who is our host priest this week, has become a favorite of this crew. Understandably so, as he has given us a home, delivers awesome homilies and celebrates the sacraments for us. Yesterday was much the same, as his words and the Eucharist definitely nourished us for the day ahead.

After all of that goodness, we packed up for the exciting day ahead. Two carloads of servants headed out to the Schoensatts to finish up the last of our yardwork, painting, and hanging of changing tables. The rest of the cars headed to the Mount Horeb Senior Center for some new adventures meeting new friends, disassembling trampolines, cleaning up yards, and delivering meals.

At the end of the afternoon, we could pretty easily say that we saw the hardest work yet. Good thing we got in a quick swim, some friendly diving competitions, a couple games of 500, and a shower before returning for our evening rosary and dinner. Speaking of dinner, Abby and Aaron’s car put together a stir fry for the group, and it was phenomenal. Gina Pignotti, returning Core Team member from 2009, remarked, “I think this is the best meal LBH has ever seen.” Some debate continued.

Post-dinner, we had the fine pleasure of hearing Ned share with us about the awesome Sacrament of Confession before having the chance to experience it for ourselves. These LBHers were definitely feeling the sanctifying grace, as Fr. Rick and Fr. Fransisco (who made the trip from Lodi) spent some very quality time with us. Praise the Lord!

Add some funny stories, peach cobbler, and God moments into the day, and it was time for bed.

Today, we would ask that you would continue to pray for us as we finish out our week. Also, an update on Madi… Her spirits are still super high. Today she is receiving here first chemotherapy treatment, so prayers for that to go well would be great!! Her family and friends are loving all of the LBH pray support.

Offering up our work!

“And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.” – Wendell Berry

Tuesday morning of this week kicked off with a number of blessings, including a beautiful homily from Fr. Rick on making our work great for Jesus and a chance to fuel up for the day at breakfast. As we got off and on the road for the day, we got some rough news, and we would like to share it with our blog readers, so you may off up prayers with us for it.

The beautiful lady on the left side of this photo is Madi. She had been counting down the days until joining us on her second summer of LBH this year. When she came on Sunday, with very high spirits, we knew she hadn’t been feeling all that well over the past couple of weeks, and after one awesome day of work and play, she left on Monday night to see the doctor. That trip led to Madi being admitted to Children’s Hospital in Madison with leukemia, which we found out as we were driving to the sites on Tuesday. The rest of the day was marked by a lot of prayer for Madi and much hard work offered up for her. As Madi assured me on the phone as she delivered the news, she is a fighter and will do everything in her power to beat this! Evidence of that determination is pictured below… She dominated Matt in some intense battles of strength and balance on Sunday night.

Some of that work we offered up for Madi included more weeding, cleaning and a whole lot of gazebo painting. The Schoenstatt sisters are loving the color of the gazebo and our hard work, which they have shown us by baking delicious cookies for us each afternoon for a snack.

The other half of the group returned once again to Monroe for hard work sorting and organizing for the local St. Vinnie’s. Much laughter was shared throughout their day! Here is just a glimpse of the massive work they had undertaken.

After our work was finished, we headed home where a delicious taco dinner had been prepared by the wonderful people in Nickay’s car, which we enjoyed after praying our rosary together. As dinner came to a close, we finished making cards for Madi, donned some brand new Love Begins Here tshirts, and took some group photos. Much success was had in that department, as you can see below.

Following all of that action, we jumped in our cars and paid Madi a visit. As we came home to join each other after a quick stop at the pool and showers, this entire group came to a mutual consensus that we had seen God most clearly in our days during our visit to Madi – she was full of smiles, courage, funny stories and a whole lot of joy.

It was another long day, arduous and humbling too, but we know we arrived home, having continued to begin love.

We would ask that you continue to pray for Madi, her healing, as well as her family and friends who are making the journey with her.

4:45am and a little bit of sacrifice.

As the sun was rising yesterday, so were we. Praise the Lord for being alive! Watching this beautiful sight was a great way to learn more about this summer’s theme: Choose life!

Feel free to visit Deuteronomy 30 to learn more about and hear it from Moses himself. After our early morning adventures, some napping and pancakes were greatly needed. After praying our rosary, we headed out for our day of service. Some of our group made their way to the St.Vinnie’s in Monroe to sort through donated clothing. The other half of the group paid a visit to the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary on the East Side of Madison to help with a variety of projects including painting bathrooms, cleaning and preparing outdoor furniture for painting, encountering scat of various kinds, garage domination, and weeding all over the place. These five spent an extra hour of service finishing the garage domination project and definitely had a lot to be proud of at the end of their day.

Many of vehicles took an almost overly scenic route to Mass after their service projects were finished. However, a slightly late arrival did not keep us from a definite highlight of the day – receiving Jesus into our bodies and having the classic opportunity to have Fr. Vernon encourage us to think and pray hard about our vocations. (Speaking of Fr. Vernon and vocations, let’s keep Greg Ihm and David Caranno in our prayers this week, as they will be ordain priests for the Madison Diocese this Friday. Come Holy Spirit!)

The above photo taken during the day would be an adequate way to describe how we were feeling when it came to eat pizza and veggies for dinner and share funny stories about the day. After a brief period of male and female bonding during a storm warning, we headed to the pool for a good amount of jocularity and playing with crazy pool toy. Our evening was capped off by a reminder of what it means to work as Madison’s own Missionaries of Charity and an opportunity to examine our consciences.

Today has been another great day, but you’ll have to wait for the update tomorrow. Keep up the prayers for all of us and those we are serving. We truly would love to continue bringing light and love to this world.

With an exciting few final weeks of planning underway, the Love Begins Here Team was more than ready to get to work today. Though our preparations today were not without hiccoughs, like forgetting the set of keys in Baraboo and someone forgetting their own pin number while checking out at the grocery store, the Holy Spirit provided in the way of spaghetti noodles and the events of the night going ever so smoothly.

(These ladies from the greater Baraboo area are ready to begin love in Pine Bluff!)

At 5:04pm this evening, 16 of our 21 youth this week had safely arrived, with some super cool chaperones to boot. (No need to worry – we were anticipating the late arrival of the other 5 young people and are still eagerly awaiting out final friends tomorrow morning.). Anyways, as the clock struck 5;05, a group got started on a delightful dinner of Lasagna Stoup, while the other half of these young missionaries headed out sided to challenge each other in various competitions. We even had the chance to learn some of the Native Pine Bluffian language. Lucky us.

(Core Team members Ned and Gina face each other in intense physical competitions.)

Anyways, as dinner neared completion, we took some time to get to know new friends and connect with friends from LBH’s of the past, as well as be inspired to get to work at making our own stories. We had plenty of time to do so over the aforementioned dinner, which got rave reviews, thanks to the hard work of those who prepared it and Rachael Ray for giving us the Lasagna Stoup version of Strega Nona. We may have some left-overs on hand.

(Feeling like legit missionaries, these cousins jumped in willingly for dish duty.)

Post-dinner was followed by more jocularity and a round of root beer floats to celebrate Rudy’s birthday. Happy 15th!! Now that we were all feeling comfortable with each other, we headed to the local crypt. Yes, it is as ballin’ as it sounds. Over there, we did some sharing of and praying about the darkness in our lives and how we can avoid the light of Christ at times in our lives. Despite the heavy topic, our attempt at turning out the lights was filled with much laughter, both from the boys and the girls lairs. With all of the joy we experienced in only our first evening together, there is truly no telling what is to come during the next 5 days.

Please continue to pray for us as we head into the community for our first day of service tomorrow!

Location:Gammon Pl,Madison,United States

5 Days Away

Last night, as Gina and I hung out with Jesus, substantially present to us in the Blessed Sacrament, in beautiful Minocqua, WI, we thought about what we would be doing one week from then. We don’t want to reveal too much at this juncture, especially as some of our readers will be participants in next week’s kickoff of LOVE BEGINS HERE 2010. However, we can tell you that it involved a good amount of fun, some intense math problems resulting in numbers well into the 9,000s, and contemplating a lack of sleep – for one reason or another.

Mysterious. We sure think so.

We have a whole lot of work to do in the hours… days… weeks to come, but we are sure looking forward to doing it all for the greater glory of God. Please pray for us, as we go about this mission, as well as for our fellow Core Team members, Aaron & Ned, as they travel to opposite ends of this fine country of ours, as we are left in the Northwoods of Wisconsin planning our little hearts away. Seriously, they went on vacation this week, and we want them to travel safely home.

If you’re feeling in the mood to pray, we might also suggest praying for the participants during the next couple of weeks, especially that they are ready to work and serve with joy and are open to everything the Holy Spirit has in store for them.

Perhaps we’ll update once or twice more over the coming couple of days, but in case we don’t have a chance to do so, stay tuned next week as things get started and we begin blogging daily about our adventures.

Welcoming the 2010 Core Team!

Over the past two days, the 2010 LBH Core Team had a chance to bond and get started on the planning. It’s going to be a life changing summer, no doubt. Come Holy Spirit!

Given we are 11 days away and counting until our first Mission Trip of the season, I figured it was about time to give a little introduction of this year’s CORE TEAM for the trips.

Lindsay Becher
That’s me. The most common voice of the LBH blog. I have many special abilities, which include always having a story to tell about my roommate Nicky (who gets to experience her first LBH trip this summer), predicting people’s temperments, and always picking the wrong lane to check out in at the grocery store. During the school year, my time is split between evangelizing the youth of the greater Baraboo area and daydreaming about my two favorite summertime activities – LBH and playing at my family’s cabin. This past year, I also took some time to travel about the US and experience new things, like kayaking in the Everglades, marching for life in DC, and running my first half marathon in Madison. I look forward to sharing these experiences and more with those beginning love here in the Madison area this summer!

Ned Lease
Having lived in the Madison Diocese most of his life, this Core Team member has a special love for all things requiring heaving lifting – or in the case of this picture, making sure heavy columns outside of the Bishop O’Connor Center are secure. Having wrestled in college, while attending the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Ned continues to pursue this passion in the realm of High School Coaching. Outside of coaching and teaching tech ed classes during the school year, he spends time loving his family – especially his nieces. Speaking of his nieces, Ned’s dream way to die is by being mauled by a demonically possessed bear (who also dies in the altercation), while trying to save his nieces’ lives. Ned also has a special gift for catching rabbits with his bare hands. We will make sure to report all such occurrences during LBH right here on the Official Love Begins Here Blog.

Aaron Lofy
This new LBH Core Team Member hails from Hartford, WI, though he currently lives in Madison as he anticipates his final (5th) year at the UW. This past year has been a busy one for Aaron, as he has been trying to live life to the fullest, praying and asking for the intercessory help of St. Joseph (his personal fav), teaching catechism to HS students in Mount Horeb, and having fun. Typical summertime activites Aaron enjoys include water skiing, boating, bonfires, hanging out with family and friends, and sunsets. While taking in new vistas this summer, he is quite excited to get to know all of the young people on the Mission Trips and having the opportunity to serve alongside of them. He knows that serving in this way gives him a sense of joy and happiness, which comes from giving of oneself. Check back often to see how this giving of himself goes this summer.

Gina Pignotti
This tap dancer hails from Kenosha, WI, where she still returns often to visit her family, whom she is very close to. Not only does she tap dance, but other athletic persuits she engages in include climbing mountains, playing water polo (which she did at the UW), and dominating on the basketball court. This past year, in the midst of loving and teaching Middle School kids at St. James in Madison, her mad organization skills sure came in handy; however, no matter how organized she was, she never looked forward to correcting the piles of math homework left behind by her students. In her spare time, Gina spends time loving the Blessed Mother, enjoying snap peas and salmon, and getting excited for what the summer holds in the Love Begins Here world. Stay tuned to see what kind of fun Gina has while serving those in need in the Madison Diocese this summer.