Freshly Brewed: Episode 6 – Bless Us for the Journey

Bless Us for the Journey

Howdy friends! As Camp Gray continues to have huge impacts on individuals’ pursuits of holiness we decided to hear from the perspective of a long time camper, Erin Moran! Listen here as Chis talks with Erin about the many different programs Camp offers and how each different experience has played a role in how Erin continues to strive for sainthood!

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Camp Gray Summer 2015 Schedule

Camp Gray Instagram

St. Francis of Assisi 

National Geographic Instagram

Mentors for the New Evangelization (Discussion 1)

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After a great convocation with Sr. M. Johanna, FSGM, we (Michelle and Lindsay) came into contact with many folks who were really excited to get started on her book Mentors for the New Evangelization. A handful of them were able to join us last Monday for our inaugural book club to chat about it. Our plan is going to be to share the thoughts and highlights with y’all, and then ask you to respond in the comments section! We look forward to interacting with in this digital media.

Let’s start with the Introduction, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. We’d suggest that you first read this section of the book and then engage with this discussion.

Right from the start, the introduction offered some great insights on some desires common to all men and women, created in the image and likeness of God. Regarding the reflection, beginning on page xv, how can we use the topic of happiness to inspire both students in our classrooms and their parents?
This question sparked some really great conversation during our book club, thanks to John W. (one of our seminarians) bringing this section to light. We were all reminded of occasions when we had real, authentic conversations with folks about this fundamental desire for happiness and where happiness originates from. We know that happiness is most often a result of the pursuit of virtue and genuine relationships, which makes the jump to where our ultimate happiness is going to come from pretty simple. When we abandon ourselves and live in relationship with Jesus Christ our lives will find be filled with the most meaning and true joy. When it comes to presenting this concept to our youth and their parents, we recognized that throughout our life our capacity for happiness grows, so we should work within the parameters of where our people are at, knowing we can increase and deepen our capacity for true happiness found in Jesus Christ throughout our lives.

A reoccurring theme found in these chapters was that of inculturation, as the GDC describes (and Sr. Johanna quotes) this process is not simply “an external adaptation designed to make the Christian message more attractive or superficially decorative. On the contrary, it means the penetration of the deepest strata of persons and peoples by the Gospel which touches them deeply, ‘going to the very center and roots’ of their cultures” (Mentors, 22) . Of all of the examples of inculturation in these two chapters, which impacted you most?
While we certainly discussed how Our Lady’s appearance at Tepeyac Hill was one great lesson for us in inculturation, we spent even more time discussing the authentic ways in which the North American Martyrs helped the Gospel penetrate into the native cultures they came into contact with. In so many of the stories (especially those of St. Jean de Brebeuf and St. Gabriel Lalemant), we read of men who went to great strides to learn the language of the native people, relate to the things they loved, and identify with what was true, good and beautiful in their culture. This inspired an interesting conversation about what we should capitalize on, in order to work on the process of inculturation when it comes to working with today’s teens. A few (beautiful and good) aspects of teen culture that we recognized that we can work with are their desires for authentic, lasting relationships and their desire to give oneself away in service to causes larger than themselves.

What struck you about the evangelization of Mexico, stemming from Our Lady of Guadalupe’s apparition?
Without a doubt, what struck us most powerfully was the shear number of conversions that took place in the years following the apparition. We desire (in a big way) to have Our Lady’s intercession on our (new) evangelization efforts today. This conversation was coupled with appreciating Sister’s reflections on the importance of each individual soul growing closer to or farther away from the Church. There is a lot of work to do!

Regarding the witness of the North American Martyrs, how did their courage, bravery and hope in their eternal end inspire you?
As we talked about the stories of these martyrs, we were definitely impacted by their confidence in their relationship with the Lord and the hope of the world to come. In particular, this quote from St. Noel Chabanel stuck out to us and inspired us in big ways: “What difference does it make if I die or not. This life does not count for much. The Iroquois cannot snatch the happiness of heaven from me” (Mentors, 29).

Like we said earlier, we’d love to have you join us in this conversation. Of course, if you were struck by other things in these chapters, we’d love to hear them. We’ll be moderating the comments and chatting with you on this post all week!

Our next book club will be taking place on Monday, October 13th from 1:30 – 3:00pm at the Bishop O’Connor Center. You are more than welcome to join us in person for the discussion! No RSVP is necessary.

On My Desk: Getting Started Edition

September 1 Full Desk

Happy Monday, y’all. I’m here today to share with you a new series on this blog! To be honest, I’m pretty excited about it. In my life and work, I come across all kinds of resources, quotes, apps, and thoughts that I think about sharing with my co-workers. This is going to be a formal effort to share them with you on a fairly regular basis. I’ll do so by showing you a sampling of what is literally on my desk. Thanks for stopping by to check it out.

Party Party App Close Up

First up is an app called Party Party, created by my favorite bloggers. (Note: it’s only available on the iOS platform. Sorry to leave out those of you without an iDevice of some kind.) It is a perfect for documenting all kinds of action, with youth groups, retreats or your everyday life. You can easily create photo collages, GIFs, and stop motion videos; also, it can transform your phone into a photo booth instantly. All in all, it’s mighty fun. Boost your Instagram creativity with this little purchase! (Check out how we used it at #cgadventureday!)

Side by Side Close Up

Check out this book. It’s a beautiful look into the life of Bl. Mother Teresa and her relationship with Mary. It is a perfect tool for spiritual reading and entering more deeply into the life of prayer. (Thinking ahead to the holidays, it would be a great catechist gift!)
“The busier you are, the more you need an interior life.” This quote is literally hanging on my wall right now. I’d suggest you do the same in your office.

Marker Close Up

And, here is a quick recap of what else is on my desk:
School supplies. Who doesn’t love back to school shopping? These markers in particular are going to be used for a tool to teach my 7th graders in my Religious Ed class about kinds of prayer. A tutorial for this simple tool will be coming this week!
Summer memories. This summer was incredible, right? I hope you are all enjoying the fruits and graces gain from mission trips and camps this summer.
– Thank you to the individuals and Parishes who joined us at our first HS Adventure Day at Camp Gray. It was an incredible day (and night) of adventure, friendship and growth in faith. Be not afraid, my friends! Watch for a full recap post and video right here on the blog later this week.
Getting Started handouts. It’s not too late to connect us with anyone in the parish who may be new(er) to their roles in evangelization or catechesis for this series of training sessions. Find out more here!

I’ll give you more glimpses into what’s on my desk in future weeks! If you have any thoughts or suggestions for this new series, I’d love to hear them. Leave them in the comments below. – Lindsay

Wanderer Wednesday: What’s the Holy Father saying?

Wanderer Wednesday

If you’ve been reading along with Wanderer Wednesday posts from the beginning, you would know that among the sources that I go for my Church-y news the blog, and even more often, the Twitter feed of Rocco Palmo is at the top of my list. Feel free to join me and follow along for the highlights of who’s saying what, which Bishops are moving about and if the Holy Father has been up to anything exciting (which is a daily occurrence).

However, if you find the news wire on such a variety of Catholic related topics to be overwhelming and you are just looking for what’s at the heart of the matter, over in Rome, we have another recommendation. A bonus of looking into this sources of news would be that you will have an unfiltered opportunity to see what Pope Francis has really been preaching, saying and doing, rather than the mass media’s interpretation of it.

1381718_611106608953360_316312886_nPhoto Source:’s Facebook Page

Through the Vatican Information Service (VIS), you can get the latest from the heart of the Church shortly after Roman noon e-mailed straight to your inbox. That convenient timing means you can begin your morning with checking in with Pope Francis! To subscribe, visit the VIS blog, click the Receive VIS link at the top of the page and enter in your preferred e-mail address. While I do not thoroughly read this e-mail top to bottom every day, I make sure to scan the headlines and read what is of greatest interest in my life and of utmost relevance in my work. A few highlights lately include the Pope’s address to catechists a few week’s back, his homily on Mary this past weekend (while he consecrated the world to our Blessed Mother!) and his address this week to some members of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

Enjoy the latest and greatest, friends!

Forming Intentional Disciples: Week 2

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Our sincere apologies for falling behind on these updates. Today we’re bringing you the summary of our discussion from a few weeks back on chapters 3 and 4. During them, we talked over The Fruit of Discipleship and Grace and The Great Quest.

Here’s a look into what we discussed:
– We talked at length about how our high school teens see the disconnect between what the faith calls us to be and the lived experience of faith by many people in their lives, both around their parishes and among their peers. They are not pleased to experience this disconnect, which often leads them to invest just enough to say that they do not value the faith or do not see the value in being part of this community.
– One place where everyone agreed time would be well spent, helping solve this problem, is in catechist formation. We know they are a willing group of adults who may be open to the possibility of furthering their journey as intentional disciples. Visions for this development included monthly meetings, ongoing learning about the faith and developing more intentional relationships with them.
– One of the main themes was on helping people build on the gifts and charisms they have been given from the Lord. In order to do so, and then help them find where the Lord is directing them as a disciple, we need to focus on personal relationships. We talked about positive experiences and examples of parishes who do a good job at starting this process by welcoming folks personally into Mass and connecting with them afterwards. (S/O to St. Thomas Aquinas for doing this very well! They engage many of their staff members in this capacity.)
– We recognized that comfort and evangelization do not mesh well together. We need to be willing to step outside our comfort zones, meet new people and train ourselves and others to share the great story we in the midst of living — especially how Jesus is present in our lives.

And, here are some of our favorite quotes from this session:
– “The Church fulfills her mission when she guides every member of the faithful to discover and live his or her own vocation in freedom and to bring it to fulfillment in charity.” – Pope John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis
– Our parishes need to become places where it is normal for adult Catholics to ask, “What is God calling me to do?”

What thoughts or reflections did you have while reading through chapters 3 and 4? We would love to hear about your insights!

If you’re reading along and interested in joining us for discussion, we will be meeting next Monday, October 21st, to discuss chapters 7 and 8. Book Club meets at the BOCC from 1:15 – 3:00pm.

Forming Intentional Disciples: Week 1

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Over the next few months, Youth Ministers, DREs and other interested adults are reading through the book Forming Intentional Disciples together. While we are doing so, we are specifically thinking of ways in which the content can be applied to our High School teens and working towards the New Evangelization with them. After every meeting, we will post a summary of what we had chatted about. We would love it if anyone who is reading along with us but cannot make the meetings would post comments and discuss out here in the digital sphere!

An assorted collection of notes follow from our discussion on Chapters 1 + 2:
– It was a shock to read the statistics about how quickly people are falling away from the Church. By the time our young people are 18, a third of them have fallen away from the practice of the faith. The number only grows and grows as they enter young adulthood.
– While we slightly disagreed with the estimated percentage (5%) of people in the average Catholic Parish who have a personal, lived relationship with Jesus Christ, it was powerful to reflect on how small the number is and how we want to grow that important statistic.
– In order to do that, we know that we need to work to continually incorporate into our lesson planning, events, sacramental preparation programs and conversations the theme of conversion and turning our hearts back to the Lord, again and again in our lives.
– We should use the language of journeying and growing more often when we talk about the life of faith and walking this path of loving Jesus and His Church more throughout our lives.
– Doug provided us with analogies about fishing; Kevin delighted us with the imagery of a sponge. All of the analogies ended with the same point: cultivating disciples is indeed an intentional matter.
– We want “Normal List” on page 60 to really be the normal in our lives, the lives of our teens and our Parishes.
– In order to accomplish all of this, we’ve got to have the support of the entire Parish committed to living this life and witnessing it to our teens.

Of course, we’re not sure how we’re going to help make all of this happen yet. We do know it will entail a lot of prayer, sacrifice and creativity. As for everything else, we will come back to the discussion in 2 weeks when we meet again. Please do think about joining us. Come caught up on your reading! We’ll discuss Chapters 3 + 4 on Monday, September 23rd from 1:15 – 3:00pm at the Bishop O’Connor Center.


Wanderer Wednesday: Girl Power

First off, if you have not seen it yet, last weekend we launched our newest Year of Faith film. Reviews so far have been extremely positive for this film, and we really think it has wide appeal — with practicing Catholics, those who are not as close to the Church, young adults, teens and adults! There are great cameos by familiar faces, like Blaine Hechimovich and Gina Pignotti, who have inspired the teens of our Diocese for the better part of the last decade through various apostolates.

Second, it’s Friday. As a youth minister in our Diocese put it, it’s okay if Wanderer Wednesday wanders throughout the week. Inspiration can hit at any time — and sometimes things come up, like the incredible MDREO day yesterday on adult formation and the new evangelization.

Without further ado, this week’s Wanderer Wednesday is inspired by last weekend’s rEVOLution of Love event, where Vicki Thorn delivered the truth about the biology of the Theology of the Body. During her presentation, she delivered some lines and inspiration directed just at the high school ladies. She was encouraging them to be strong, bold and faithful women. On that note, the following are two resources to help you provide encouragement to the young women in your life.


How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason and Chrystilina Evert
This book, written by a duo of rockstars on the topic of TOB for teens, is a powerful resource to have on hand for our young women. It puts relationships of young women in perspective, both to the plans the Lord has for their lives and to marriage. It encourages them to do things like find their bridesmaids before their grooms, quit rationalizing, grow a backbone and date with purpose. All messages young women need to hear.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches
Dove did it again. A few years back they demystified the evolution of a real woman in a photo shoot to the pages of a magazine. This time, they have broke open how differently women perceive themselves and how others do. It’s powerful. Please watch and share with the women — young and old — in your life. And, make sure to tell them the truth about how beautiful and valuable they are.

Wanderer Wednesday: Leadership Edition

Well. Today’s Friday. Our apologies for being another couple days late in giving you this week’s Wanderer Wednesday post. Again, it’s been worth the wait, mostly because the editor of this post was on a road trip to Berlin Wednesday night, where there were almost 50 folks at All Saint’s first youth group meeting! We all had a great time learning learning about hope and the virtues. As a bonus, feel free to download the handout we used, and share it along with the stories about the lives of the following saints. While you’re at it, highlight some of the following virtues they exemplify.

Saint Maria Goretti | purity, faith and forgiveness

Bl. Miguel Pro | passion, perserverance and standing up for the faith

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati | detachment, service and commitment

Feel free to use the inspiration as you wish.


Now onto the subject at hand. We’re bringing you some books this week that may help to build up you up as a professional and cultivate your leadership skills. (Sidebar | I’ve heard of a co-worker in a Parish in our Diocese who spends one hour, every day reading for professional development purposes. Any topic, any genre, but always something that will help her become better at what she does and more informed about the faith. What a great example?! It certainly takes discipline in the work day to set aside that time and make it happen, but what great benefits it would reap.)


Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek ($12)
This book is a bit different from the three books that will follow, in that it does not focus specifically on the area of leadership. However, before we find ourselves in a place where we are leading others, we have to recruit folks to work with us. Here’s a taste of what the book offers —

By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

Think of it this way, you could invite people to be a catechist by telling them WHAT you do — try to control a rowdy group of 20 8th graders, work through lesson plans, administer assessments and teach the faith. Or, you could start inviting people to be a catechist by leading with the WHY — we inspire and engage the youth of the Church, so they can lead happier, holier lives and seek to change the world in the future; we form future saints; we engage in one of the most inspiring apostolates happening in this Parish. Obviously the details of WHAT the catechist does follows, but we surely do not have to lead with it. This book inspires the reader to think about how they share their message and mission — and encourages you to start with WHY. (As a bonus, they hold up Apple as an example of how a company implements this theory well. All Mac lovers — or those who know one — will appreciate it.)

Super Staff Supervision by Michael Brandwein ($25)
This book was created for leaders in the camp world to get the best out of their staff, but the principles can carry over well into working with volunteers or a staff in the Church setting. Michael Brandwein has been an inspiration for the Camp Gray staff for years, and his influence has helped so many young counselors develop into great staff members at Camp and beyond, as many of them have landed jobs coordinating apostolates in our Parishes. Highlights of this book include 6 Paths that every person you’re supervising should be following, including adding creative twists to programs and caring for kids’ safety, and very specific examples of what those good leaders say and do when they are leading activities and teaching. Michael is a master at behavior management and staff development. His books typically leave the reader bursting at the seams with good ideas and being ready to implement them!

First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman ($17 + Many used and in great condition for less on Amazon!)
My dad is a very talented, well respected business man who I really enjoy learning from on the topic of leadership development. He is GOOD at it, and while a lot of that skill has been developed naturally, he also has done his fair share of reading and studying on the topic. The number one book on the list he made for me this past year to read on the subject was this one. And, I have loved it. Again and again, it repeats the following mantra —

People don’t change that much.

Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out.

Try to draw out what was left in.

That is hard enough.

A couple things that follow from that mantra are that you have to put significant time and effort in to find the right people for the job. And, once you have committed volunteers or staff, you have to use the strengths, passions and talents God has given them to help them do their job well. Easier said than done. Read the book. Enjoy the learning.

Strengths Finder 2.0 ($14) or Strengths Based Leadership ($16) by Tom Rath
One of these two books are used each summer in the formation of the Love Begins Here Core Team. Both of the books include a code to take the Strengths Finder Test (so make sure to not buy the books used). Upon taking the test and reading over your results, you will learn to see your top 5 strengths in the working world and learn how to develop them. Typically, the Core Team will use Strengths Finder 2.0, and the directors use Strengths Based Leadership. The first is an introduction to the individual strengths and the second deals with how to manage them. These books would be a very worthy investment for any catechist or member of your leadership team, or among co-workers — as long as you take the time to have conversations where you learn about the strengths and how to implement them.

The basic idea of these books, which follows from the wonderful First Break All the Rules, is that you have to let people be who they are. Everyone has strengths. You need to learn what they are and give them opportunities to use them. Only then will teams and leaders find success, especially in the area of helping their people develop and grow.

Wanderer Wednesday: Habemus Papam Edition!

Welcome to Wanderer Wednesday!


Photo from Word on Fire. Click the photo above to visit the original blog post.

HABEMUS PAPAM! Earlier this afternoon, the social media world was totally taken over by the news of the day, the election of our new Holy Father, His Holiness Francis. There is a lot to learn about our new Holy Father, so I thought it would be fitting to share a few more papal resources that will help you navigate the coming days.

First off, not only is Fr. Robert Barron providing correspondance for NBC, but he is also posting video blogs to the Word on Fire website. A few notable things about his perspective includes his evangelical spirit – always seeking to teach while sharing the news and how well connected he is – in one blog post, it sounded like he had hung out with the majority of the super cool (non-Cardinal) Catholics in town at one dinner!

Second, on a non-Pontiff related note, while you’re checking out Word on Fire for news from Rome this week, stick around for a while and see what else they have to offer, such as Fr. Robert Barron’s weekly homily audio recordings. Also, they are producing an DVD to help teach about the New Evangelization, in the same style as their incredible Catholicism Series.

Third on the list of resources to share this week is certainly the most important one you could have access to during the pontificate of His Holiness Francis – the Vatican’s website. While things are in a bit of a transition over there right now, in the coming days we are likely to see a page like the one below created for our new Holy Father. You will be able to access it from the front page of the Vatican website, by hovering over the words “SUPREME PONTIFFS” and selecting his name.

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From this one page, you will be able to read along with everything this great shepherd will say and write in the coming days, weeks, and (we hope) years and years to come. The Vatican website serves as a beautiful witness to the universality of this great Church, as speeches documents are regularly translated into at least five languages making the words and thoughts of our Holy Father accessible to a wide range of faithful.

As the media will have many things to tell us about this new leader of the Church, perhaps today is a good day to make a resolution to care relatively little about what they have to tell us about Pope Francis. Rather, let our new Pope tell you for himself what he is all about, especially as you now know exactly where to find the first hand source yourself.

(Congratulations to Wes for the win on last week’s Wanderer Wednesday Giveaway!)

Wanderer Wednesday: Dolan Edition + A GIVEAWAY

Wanderer Wednesday

Welcome back to Wanderer Wednesday! Today we’re bringing a few recommendations from new evangelization master, Timothy Cardinal Dolan. He knows his people and loves his people. After all, look at how comfortable he is with reporters —

Cardinal Timothy Dolan laughs with reporters after holding a prayer serviceAbove all, he is a man who desires to conform his life with Christ’s and encourages others to do the same. One way he does this is through his twitter feed — @CardinalDolan. He knows how to use 140 characters up well, with tweets like the following:

“Our relationship with the Lord: to nourish it, develop it, intensify it is the goal of a lifetime.”

Another recommendation, especially pertinent to the next few weeks, is the SiriusXM radio channel (The Catholic Channel) where he is giving daily interviews on the goings on at the General Congregations, as the Cardinals prepare for the Conclave. Listening in every day for a few minutes will be time well spent in understanding what is happening and why. Yesterday’s interview covered the question of why the Cardinal’s have not yet decided on an official date to start said Conclave.

Called To Be Holy

The last recommendation today of Cardinal Dolan’s is his book Called To Be Holy. (Yes, it is best read with a cup of coffee drank out of an equestrian themed mug.) This book is a rendition of the first section of his great book Priests for the Third Millenium. Simple, straight forward, spiritually challenging and full of anecdotes is how this great man prefers to deliver his message. With topics such as faith, hope, humility, love and chastity, human formation, patience, penance, joy, obedience and devotion to Our Lady, there is something for everyone who is seeking holiness. (Read: there is something in this book you probably need to hear.)

An example of the great words included in this book, as found in the chapter on hope —

You see, a vibrant hope is contagious and will attract people. Its fruits are calmness, cheerfulness, tranquility, a good sense of humor, freedom from anxiety — and these traits people find very attractive. So, people can be attracted to Jesus and his Church through her hopeful members. This is not some Pollyannish, cheerleading, shallow optimism. This is   a realistic sturdy trust in God based on deep faith, born in experience, and bolstered by reason.

You may understand why “spiritually challenging” was one of the phrases chosen to describe his style. Living the Christian life is not the easiest task minute to minute, day to day, but it is what we are called to do. This book, appropriately enough, is a fitting field map when we want to actively, ardently pursue our call to holiness.

Head over to Amazon and pick up a copy for yourself.

Better yet, leave a comment on this post with an idea of a topic you would like to see covered on a future Wanderer Wednesday post, and you will be entered to win a copy of this very book.

Thanks for tuning in. Enjoy wandering less aimlessly today!

NOTE: Giveaway will be open until Sunday, March 10th at 11:59pm CST!