Canonization Preparation, Bishop Morlino and a Sweet Giveaway!

Today on the blog, we are doing a little round up of some sweet things that have surfaced in the past week!


First up, Tiffany Topel (the super sweet and talented youth minister in Jefferson) was featured on the Lifeteen blog this week! Go read it! Not only does it feature the story of Bishop Morlino’s visit with her Middle School Youth, but she also shares two important things she learned from the visit. Huge thanks to Tiffany for not only her passionate work but sharing her wisdom with folks in the Madison Diocese and far beyond.

Second, Noah is coming out this weekend, and we have collected a number of things to read, if you are thinking about seeing it. The first recommendation would be to read the actual account of Noah and the ark in scripture; start in Genesis 6 and continue through Genesis 9. (A quick, or thorough, reading will tell you that there must be some additions or cinematic choices made to make the story into a feature length film.) There is a thoughtful review on the National Catholic Register that provides some context for the movie and thoughts on the production and retelling of the story. Catholic Online movie reviewer Scot Landry makes a case for 8 Reasons Why Catholics Should See Noah. And, Catholic Vote has a blog post on 100 proudly Catholic films, whether or not you feel like Noah is going to bring you to the theater.


Third, while we’re still in the midst of Lent, let’s not forget to prepare for the great feast of Divine Mercy that is coming our way one month from today! Along with the great feat in the midst of the Easter season, on April 27th of this year, two canonizations will take place, of Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II. Now is the perfect time to learn about these great saints-to-be. Here are a few suggestions:
– Journal of a Soul: The Autobiography of Pope John XXIII 
– Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert (Learn about this incredible brand new book here! From there you can download a chapter of it, place a bulk order for them in paperback, pick one up in hardcover, and get the links to buy them on your iPad, Kindle or Nook!)
Pope John XXIII Vatican Webpage
Pope John XXIII Beatification Homily
Pope John Paul II Vatican Webpage
Pope John Paul II Beatification Homily

Fourth, thanks to the great support for the Camp Gray fundraiser at Orange Leaf (the Old Sauk, Middleton location) last night. See the recap from the event on their Twitter account.

Fifth, go Badgers!

Sixth, if you want to win a copy of Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, you have a chance to do so today! Just leave a comment with your name and Parish. We’ll draw two winners at 10:00am on Monday, March 30th!

Wanderer Wednesday: We’re back!

Wanderer Wednesday

First up, sorry for the lack of recent blog action. As the spring is about to set in (tomorrow!), we’ll be back with more often updates to the blog and a refreshed look for the blog in the near future. Enjoy the reading and watching.

Are you in need of some new tunes? Planning on seeing Divergent this weekend? We’ve got a couple great links for you to check out today!

Rend Collective, a Christian Irish folk band, released their new album on their country’s patron’s feast day. To hear a bit about the story behind the album, centered around the themes of joy, giving one’s life to the Lord and simplicity, watch the video below.

While Rend Collective is a not a Catholic band, in particular, so many of the themes in this video and their music resonate with our Catholic faith. Among those found in this video, the following are some that really stuck out.
– There are times in our lives, when through God’s grace, we realize just how important Jesus Christ is in our lives. These times of conversion should bring great joy to our lives, so much so that perhaps we too skip through fields.
– Jesus is always doing a new thing in our lives; this is, after all, a great theme of this Lenten season. He really is the peace in our troubled sea and the healer of the broken hearted.
– Let us thank God for Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross and his knowledge of the joy set before him (which was the opportunity for us to spend eternal life with him).
– This Church we are a part of is a beautiful reality. Christ laid down his life for his bride (the Church)!
– It is time to celebrate. We have been created to know God, love him and rejoice in this life. Practice joy as a spiritual discipline!
– The advice to practice for heaven now is priceless. One of the best ways we as Catholics can do so is through the frequent reception of the Sacraments, especially Confession and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. Through those means, we receive this great freedom we are promised.

Go ahead and check out this new album. You will not be disappointed.

© 2014 - Summit Entertainment
© 2014 – Summit Entertainment

This weekend, a blockbuster named Divergent is about to hit the theaters in the teen oriented, post apocalyptic genre. Much like the popular Hunger Games movies, there is a female heroine in the story whose name is Tris. Not to give away too many spoilers for the film, at least nothing more than you have seen in the trailer, but Tris gets into a relationship. It’s not perfect; to be honest, neither is Katniss’ relationship. Take a look at this great blog to see what kind of relationship advice they need. (It’s also applicable to folks living in the real world, too!)

Live with joy today, friends!

Lifeteen Resources + Training!!

Lifeteen Catholic Victor Hugo Inspiration Youth Ministry

Lifeteen is really leading the way in the hip Catholic youth ministry social media world. You can easily share via Facebook or Instagram what they are calling “daily inspiration“. Get on board; the images are full of beauty and truth! They also have a great blog with relevant, also conveniently shareable article relevant to teens, parents and those who work in the Church. You can check out all of them on their website. A few of our favorites from this week include Why Pray?, An Open Letter to My Sisters This Halloween and The Potential Problem with Pink. (We’re thinking that these links can make up for there being no official Wanderer Wednesday post yesterday!)

One thing that really stands out when you spend some time considering Lifeteen’s media outreach is that they understand how to talk with and to teens. Their posts are written with teens in mind, working to challenge the culture and provoke some positive, pure thoughts. Talk about a great movement in the New Evangelization!

If you are intrigued by all of this, are interested in learning about Lifeteen programs and curriculum or you just want to be the best you can be for the teens you work with, we have something wonderful to offer you. A group of awesome youth ministers in the Diocese have arranged for a day of training with a Lifeteen Staff Member! This one day event will cover best practices in youth ministry, including how best to lead a small group and the ins and outs of relational ministry. Come join us on Saturday, November 9th in Oregon!

You can find the poster and more information for this event here: Lifeteen Training Poster.

To register or ask questions, please e-mail Tiffany Topel at

And, for good measure, happy belated feast day to our patron, Blessed Pope John Paul II, via Lifeteen’s Instagram account!

Lifeteen JPII John Paul II Catholic Youth Ministry

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!

Wanderer Wednesday: Instagraming the Diocese


Today’s Wanderer Wednesday post will be a brief one. We just wanted you to officially confirm that Instagram is all the rage, in case you weren’t aware. While you’ll need a smart phone or iDevice of some kind to make use of it, getting on board is not a bad idea! When polled this summer on Love Begins Here mission trips, our Middle School youth told us (resoundingly) that they use Instagram more than facebook and twitter combined.

To help orient you to the coolest Catholic Instagram accounts in the Diocese, the following is a little guide.

Blog, Instagram WW

Go ahead and like all of these accounts, mention us in your posts and tag us in your photos. There’s hardly a better way to evangelize through beauty during this Year of Faith. (If you don’t have access to one of these devices to Instagram on your own, you can view the feeds of these four accounts by visiting For example:

Word to the wise: please use the pre-made Instagram filters sparingly. Natural and unedited is always best. If you feel the need to edit, do so first in an app of your choice. For those in the iDevice world, we would suggest PicTapGo and Afterlight for your editing needs, A Beautiful Mess for adding text and Diptic for making quick photo collages!

Wanderer Wednesday: Hip Videos

And… we’re back. Thanks for bearing with us over those crazy summer months. We’ve still got more to share from the adventures of this summer, what we’ve learned and more. However, today’s not that day. Today is Wednesday, and that means that we’re going to relaunch the Wanderer Wednesday series!

For today, we are keeping it simple. Just enjoy these three videos that could help you in some way this year as you are getting started with your teens and revisiting the story of Salvation History.

Dive In – Cory Heimann

I think this is relevant for the beginning or re-energizing of any catechetical endeavor! What a great reminder that there is so much more to our Catholic faith, and all we need to do to embrace it is to dive in.

Chosen – Cory Heimann

While this was specifically created for the Steubenville Conference this year, it can send a powerful message to any group of Catholic teens about their being created and loved by God! [To access this video, you’ll have to click on the link above in the word “Chosen”!]

Abraham’s Offering – Danielle Rose

While this video is not quite as slick as those beautiful films prouduced by Cory Hiemann, rockstar in the Catholic visual media world, the lyrics to this beautiful song combined with the artwork makes for a powerful five minute reflection on this moment in our Salvation History and what it means to model our faith after Abraham.

Enjoy the inspiration, friends!

Wanderer Wednesday: Get outside and break some ice!

EIGHTY SIX DEGREES. Spring showed up; a few hours later, summer made an appearance. Yesterday was a beautiful day. Today could not get much better.

Seeing as the weather has turned and now summer is completely on our minds, I wanted to share a collection of games and resources to make the most of the time outdoors with your young people this summer.


Spikeball will have officially taken the Catholic youth of the Diocese by storm by the time August comes this summer. Mostly seeing as Camp Gray has already developed a love for the game, and Love Begins Here has three sets of this incredibly fun and active game ready for missionaries this summer during down time. Investing in a set or two for your own personal use or to have on hand when you are hanging out with your teens would be a very good choice. This game is an absolute blast. Get in on the ground floor of this trend.

Find Something To Do by Jim Cain 
While this book has some kind of odd games in it, there are plenty of quick, easy and memorable ice breakers in this book that you can do with no materials in almost any situation. If you find yourself always drawing a blank when charged with the task of leading games for teens, buy this book. You’ll be happy to have it, flip through it and look like a master in the world of ice breakers.

Raccoon Circles
Get your hands on 15 feet of webbing, and you can have hours of fun getting to know the folks around you. You can buy this webbing here. And, then download this PDF or that PDF to learn the ropes. Splitting teens, kids or adults into small groups and facilitating games with a handful of raccoon circles can make for good times. One activity I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of using these is the following.

Create Your Own Life Map
– To begin, tie the raccoon circle into a continuous circle.
– Then have each group member hold onto the circle.
– One at a time, have each group member take turns creating a map out of the webbing, using the other group member’s assistance that shows one of the following…
… where they were born.
… where they grew up.
… their favorite vacation destination.
… where they dream of living.

It’s easier than it sounds, and your groups will have fun laughing while they try to share their stories and work together.

Enjoy this journey into summer. And, please, make plans to make the most out of the time with your teens and loved ones. We hope these few ideas are helpful!

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: Frugal for the win!

Wouldn’t it be nice to bring in the latest and greatest speakers on the circuit for the Catholic teens in each and every parish in the eleven counties of the Diocese? Yes.

Does any youth formation program in the Diocese have a budget with about $4,000 to drop on one of said speakers in a given year? Probably not.

In light of this predicament, today’s Wanderer Wednesday is going to feature how you can access content and inspiration from the best at your very own computer. (And, in light of this Wanderer Wednesday appearing on Thursday, there’s a BONUS resource included at the end of this post!)

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 11.15.45 AM

Jackie and Bobby’s Wedding Prep Blog
Jackie Francios (a talented, faithful speaker and musician will be a keynote at this fall’s NCYC [information about attending can be accessed right here on the blog]) is engaged. She and her fiance, Bobby, are documenting the journey to their wedding day on their blog. It includes a real testimony to the power and grace available to those who are willing to explore and live out the truth behind the teaching of the Theology of the Body. The only downfall is that the posts are sporadic, and it may not be worth your time to be constantly checking for new updates. On that note, please consult the resource below.

| Sidebar Resource |

If you are a regular blog reader or just getting into them, you realize how it can take up a lot of time checking the various blogs you like to read — and if you like to read many blogs, you could forget about some of them time to time and go weeks or months without checking them. To help, the website Bloglovin’ (with simple, compatible apps to use on the go!) is available! You simply create an account, search for the bogs you want to follow (if you can’t find it, manually add it!) and read away. Every time you go to your bloglovin’ homepage at your computer or by using an app on a mobile device, you can see the list of posts that are new since you last visited and mark when you have read them. (Sidebar: There is only one follower for Madison Catholic Youth, two for and 34 for Whispers in the Loggia. Obviously, the Catholic crowd has been slow to reap the benefits of bloglovin’!)

Chris Stefanick’s YouTube
This faithful, dynamic and energizing speaker really knows how to break down what the Church teaches for his online audiences (and in person, if you ever get the chance to see him). Similar to Jackie and Bobby’s engagement blog, the only downfall is how randomly and rarely Chris posts, but knowing about this resource is a must. For a taste, watch the video posted yesterday on the topic of the difference between disagreeing and discriminating. Also similar to J+B, Chris is a master on sharing the truth about Theology of the Body with the masses.

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 11.21.21 AM

Read the Cat
Popular, humor rock Catholic musicians Dan Harms and Kyle Heimann of the group Popple have been reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, along with their friend (and Kyle’s brother) Cory. While reading the Catechism at a rate of about 40 paragraphs at a time, they prepared weekly podcasts, about 10 minutes in length, to discuss and process what they had read. (Disclaimer: They made it through about 75% of the Catechism, and I’m not sure they are going to finish the series. What’s there would take a while to get through, so maybe they will start up again by the time you finish. Or, you may be so jazzed about it that you’ll finish the reading on your own.) This is a great resource to make use of during this Year of Faith!

Bonus: Just for the Youth Coordinators!
re:Build My Church
This is an archived, online set of talks given to Youth Ministers to help them grow in their work and seek out advice from some big names out there. After an initial preview of about a dozen of these videos, I would personally recommend about half of them. The video quality is not very great, some of the speakers’ dynamism doesn’t come across over the computer and I wish they would use a word other than ministry most of the time. On the list of whom to watch first, I would suggest Mark Hart, Bob Rice and Fr. Leo. Though, feel free to search around to see what topics stick out most to you and would be helpful to your work!