Monday, December 9, 2013

"Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise."- Psalm 51:15

Since I've come to seminary directly from graduate school, the academic part of seminary hasn't been as much of an adjustment for me as it has been for some of my classmates who have been out of school for over 20 years. The structured prayer life we have here at seminary, however, has been a bigger change for me. Having Morning Prayer, Mass, Evening Prayer in common every day is very different from what I had been used to: namely, praying on my own whenever I found time and getting to daily Mass a couple times during the week. I like having the consistency of praying at the same time every day, and I hope that I am forming a strong habit that will last after I leave seminary, God willing, as a priest. Of course, there are some times that I don't feel like praying or that my mind wanders during prayer, but it still good to develop the discipline of regular prayer.

The prayers we use when we gather as a community are the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office, and the book they are printed in is called a breviary. The Liturgy of the Hours is, as the name implies, a liturgy just like the Mass. They form the "official" prayer of the Church. While we can pray in almost any way we want when we are in private or with a group, the Liturgy of the Hours is a prayer of the entire Catholic Church, and so it has a set structure like the Mass. The basic outline for each "hour," as the sets of prayers are called, is a hymn, three psalms or other scriptural canticle (fancy word for song), a short reading from Scripture, a Gospel canticle, intercessions, and a closing prayer. It usually takes between 10 and 20 minutes to pray one hour.

Since I first started praying parts of the Liturgy of the Hours a couple of years ago, I have grown to appreciate it more and more. I love that when I engage in this prayer, I am joining in the prayer of the universal Church.  Pope Francis, religious men and women, priests and deacons, and lay men and women all over the world are praying these exact same prayers along with me. I also love that I am praying Scripture - almost all of the Liturgy of the Hours is taken from the Bible, especially the Psalms. These 150 ancient songs are our divinely-inspired hymnal, and they express every emotion and situation we go through in our relationship with God. Rejoicing, praise, anger, suffering, sorrow, mourning, thanksgiving - they are all there. In addition, here at Saint Meinrad we are blessed to participate in the monastic tradition of chanting the psalms. Occasionally the beauty of the words and the chant can be almost overwhelming.

Probably my favorite time of the week is Sunday night, because it is then that the beauty of these prayers comes through the clearest for me. After dinner on Sunday, there is a Holy Hour. Sitting in the presence of Jesus in the Sacrament always fills me with peace, life, and confidence. It is easiest for me to pour out my heart to Jesus when I can talk to him eye to eye, as it were, through His Body present on the altar in front of me. Then, at the end of the Holy Hour, we pray Night Prayer together as a community. Out of all the chant melodies we use, my favorite is the one we use for the Canticle of Simeon with its beautiful antiphon: "Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace." Then comes Solemn Benediction, where Christ himself blesses us as the deacon holds up the monstrance containing the Eucharist. Afterwards, the rector sprinkles us with holy water as we sing the Divine Praises, and we end by chanting the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen). The whole thing fills me with a feeling of rest and comfort: that Christ and his mother are with me, watching over me, and protecting me. Afterwards, I leave refreshed and confident, ready to wrap up any tasks I still need to accomplish before Monday morning, then relax and sleep trusting in God's watchful care.

I say all this not to try to show how holy or prayerful I am, but to show how the structure of the Liturgy of the Hours is helping me to improve my prayer life. Of course, if all I am doing is simply reciting or chanting words without really meaning them, I am accomplishing very little. Prayer is not about what or how much we say, but about being honest with God. Jesus makes this point crystal clear in today's Gospel, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). I can say to God, "Thank you, God, that I am not like other men. I pray three times a day, I say rosaries and light votive candles," but if that is all my relationship with God is - empty words and gestures - then it is worthless. What God wants is honesty: "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." I still have a long way to go with that.

If you are looking for a way to deepen your own prayer life or to become more regular in your prayer, I would encourage you to consider praying some part of the Liturgy of the Hours. There are websites like or smartphone apps like iBreviary that have the texts available for free and put everything together for you. The monthly Magnificat booklets also have a simplified form of Morning and Evening Prayer for each day, along with the daily Mass readings and prayers. Start slowly: pick just one hour (morning, evening, or night) and try to stick with that until you get the hang of it, then you can try adding more. There's no need for you to buy the full four-volume set until you have some experience with the Liturgy of the Hours and are convinced you want to make it a permanent part of your prayer.

The most important thing, though, is simply to pray, period. How or when doesn't matter nearly as much as whether you are doing it or not. Don't get caught up about trying to find the right way or the best way to pray: if you're talking to God, and you're being honest, then you're doing it right.
"May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life."
- Conclusion for Morning and Evening Prayer

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dinner with the Archbishop

In October, I attended the Dinner with the Archbishop.  This was my first time attending this event, and I was very impressed. It was exciting to be with 350 Catholic middle and high school students along with parents, teachers, youth leaders, men and women religious, deacons, and priests from across the archdiocese. It was also great to reunite with some of my brother seminarians who I hadn't seen since the summer. And, as the name implies, Archbishop Kurtz was there as well, having just returned from his trip to Rome with Cardinal Dolan in which he got to meet with Pope Francis. In his homily during Evening Prayer, Archbishop Kurtz said that Pope Francis specifically asked about seminarians in the United States. It's humbling for me to realize that Pope Francis is thinking about and praying for me and my brother seminarians!

Photo courtesy of The Record (Jessica Able)
After Evening Prayer we moved to the gym where a wonderful dinner was prepared for us. (By the way, our archbishop is a trooper: a day after a transatlantic flight, he didn't even sit down to eat during the dinner, but instead made sure to visit with every table.) There were also tables set up by representatives of various religious communities so they could introduce themselves to students and give out information (and candy!). At the end of the dinner, Bishop Chuck Thompson from Evansville, formerly a priest of the archdiocese, talked about his call to the priesthood and to become a bishop. I was struck throughout his talk by his obvious humility. Several of his former brother priests were in the gym listening to him, and he said that he would never understand why he was chosen from among them to become a bishop.

But that seems to be how it always is with our vocations. Recently my mom told me that the smartest thing she ever did was to marry my dad. Many priests have told me that God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called. We often don't understand why we are being led to a particular path. It takes a step of faith to trust that God knows what he is doing with us, even when we don't see any way it could possibly work. For my own part, I remember asking God, "God, are you sure about this? You want ME to consider being a priest? You do know how messed up I am, right, God? I can give you a dozen reasons off the top of my head why I think this is a bad idea that will never work, but you still want me to do it?"

We also see this throughout Scripture whenever God calls someone to a special task: Moses (Exodus 4), Samuel (1 Samuel 3), and Isaiah (Isaiah 6) all questioned God: they all felt unworthy of the role God was asking them to accept. Even Mary asked the angel Gabriel, "How can this be?" (Luke 1). We have to trust that God is fully aware of our inadequacies, but he also knows our strengths, including some we might not even know we have. One of my favorite Scripture verses deals with this: Jesus says in a vision to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God sets a very high bar. He calls every one of us to do more than we could ever do on our own: he calls us to be saints! Thankfully, though, God gives us the grace that enables us to do what seems impossible. By his grace we can bring Christ to others in our families, schools, and workplaces. By his grace we can say yes to his call to marriage, religious life, priesthood, or to generous single life. By his grace we are saved. "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

That night, I made sure to remember all of the young people who attended the dinner while I prayed Night Prayer. I prayed that they would take time to seriously ask God what vocation he might be calling them to, and that they would have the courage to respond with trust and faith. Please keep the youth who attended as well as our seminarians, in prayer, as we discern God’s call in our lives.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Unexpected Journey

My name is Steven Reeves, and I am a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

Not very long ago, I could not imagine that I would ever write those words. I was born in South Carolina, but moved to Louisville with my parents and younger brother when I was seven years old. My parents are Southern Baptist, and that is the faith in which I and my brother were raised. I was baptized shortly after we moved, and I began to take my relationship with Jesus seriously as a result of summer camps I attended with my youth group in middle and high school.

I attended the University of Kentucky pursuing a degree in mathematics. After a period of doubt and struggling with my faith during my freshman year, something happened which, although not evident at the time, began to change the direction of my life in a radical way. I turned on the TV, and saw on the news that Pope John Paul II was dying. For a reason I could not explain, I found myself greatly moved by the events that played out in Rome during April 2005: the crowds keeping vigil outside the dying pope's window, then lining up for miles to pay their respects; the shouts of "Saint now!" during his funeral; and the conclave to elect his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Seeing those historic events created a longing in my heart for something: it was longing to be united to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, although I didn't yet know that. To make a very long story short, five years later I was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church in 2010 during the Easter Vigil at St. Louis Bertrand Church in Louisville.

Even before I became Catholic, though, I began to feel a call to the priesthood. I had resolved to enter the Church and begin RCIA in the fall, when one night the thought of priesthood popped into my head. Try as I might to dismiss it or ignore it, it just kept coming back. I've never been one to rush into things, though. After teaching high school math for two years and returning to UK to get a master's degree in math, the thought of priesthood still hadn't gone away, and in fact was sometimes more of a desire or longing. So at the beginning of this year I contacted the vocations director for the archdiocese, Fr. Jeff Shooner. And now, here I am, studying first philosophy at Saint Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana, at the beginning of a journey that, if it is God's will, will lead to my ordination as a priest.

It's amazing to look back over my life and see all the people, places, events, and circumstances that God has used to bring me to where I am today. It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite books, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. As Frodo Baggins is beginning a long journey, he recalls the advice of his wise uncle Bilbo: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." I feel like the Holy Spirit is like that. If we let him, God will sweep us off our feet and carry us to places we would never have thought to go. It can be very hard for us to let go of our own plans for our life, but God's plans for us are far greater than our own. He wants to sweep us off to heights we could never reach on our own. So open yourself up to the Holy Spirit's promptings, and be willing to let God sweep you off your feet! As now-Blessed John Paul II, the man who started my own unexpected journey, proclaimed so many times: Do not be afraid!

I'm excited to have this opportunity to share with you some of my seminary experiences through this blog, and I hope that it will be helpful to whoever is out there in Internet-land reading this. I'd also love to hear any comments, questions, or suggestions for future posts. Please pray for me and my brother seminarians that we will always remain open and obedient to the will of God for our lives.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Recent travels...

Hey everyone!

I am back at St Meinrad, along with all the other Louisville guys, for the final stretch of this school year. Amazingly, in just 6 weeks, my time in seminary will come to an end! As always, time flies by. I have no doubt that the Easter season will go by just as quickly.

St. Meinrad has, of course, been a place of tremendous blessing for me. One of those blessings has been the opportunity to travel to London and Rome this past winter. For some years now, St. Meinrad has had a tradition of taking the Deacon class on a trip to Rome during the winter J-term period. I was tremendously excited about the trip, but also a little bit nervous since I had never traveled overseas before. Most of my life, I never left the KY/IN area. Needless to say, airports are still something of a mystery to me.

I was very, very taken with London. Many things there are similar such as language, but many things are different, such as having the image of the Queen pop up on all the money and to walk around in the city and suddenly see a castle. We visited many of the historic sites such as the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, the Museum of London, etc. My personal favorite pat of all of this was the Crown Jewels exhibit at the Tower of London. This showcased all the royal jewels, crowns, gold, etc. Seeing all of this was so beautiful it made me teary-eyed at times. Just as importantly, we visited Westminster Abbey, St. Paul Cathedral, and my personal favorite, Westminster Cathedral. Over the course of the days there (about 5 in all), it was brought to light again and again how much of what we saw revolved around the English Reformation. This is an area that I find particular interest in, so it was astonishing to see the physical remains of a 500-year-old period of time. In an era where we have to fight so hard to defend our faith, being in a place such as Westminster Cathedral, that was only allowed to be built less than 200 years ago, was astonishing.

In Rome, we were lucky enough to be staying at a hotel about 2 minutes walk from St. Peter’s Square. Walking into the square for the first time will be a memory that will stay with me forever. I’m not ashamed to admit it; I got teary-eyed again when I walked into the church for the first time. It is so large, so magnificent, and so full of beauty and history, it’s almost indescribable. Over the course of the 10 days we spent there, we saw all of the major churches and sites. St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls (which ended up being my favorite), St Mary Major, the Coliseum, etc. Of particular mention for me were the Catacombs of San Callisto, as well as seeing the tombs of St Monica, Blessed Pope John XXIII, and Pope Paul VI, three people who I am especially fond of.

It is certainly worth mentioning that during the trip, we were able to see Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on 4 different occasions. We attended the Papal Mass at St. Peter’s on Epiphany Sunday. I was lucky enough to be only 4 or 5 seats into the row I was in, so when he came processing down the aisle, I was maybe 10 feet from him. He was so larger than life, so grand and beautiful; it meant the world to me to be so close to such a great, great man. I remember wondering at that moment if someone like him can possibly fathom how much he means to people like me and the millions of Catholics that come to see him every day, much less the thousands of seminarians that look to him as a model and guide. Of course, none of us had any idea at that moment that he would announce merely days later that he was stepping down. I was as shocked as the next person, especially since I had just seen him so soon before. In hindsight, it makes the memory all the more special and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity.

I think that it is especially fitting to make a trip like this during seminary, especially near ordination. Priesthood is, of course, a life changing event that puts you squarely at the service of the Church. That calling may start out local. For us it starts at home, and then spreads to our local parish, and then it spreads to seminary and the Archdiocese as a whole. But it continues to spread throughout the whole world. The entire society of mankind becomes, over time, the Body of Christ. For Catholics, the heartbeat resides in Rome. Seeing the roots of the faith, in all their glory, at the very center of it all, made me all the more eager to travel right back home to our little piece of central KY. I cannot wait to get started.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers during my last 7 weeks before Ordination. You are in mine as well.

God Bless

Deacon Nick

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Meet Our Newest Blogger...


My name is Deacon Nick Brown and I will be doing a few blog posts over the next few months as I prepare for Ordination to the Priesthood. I thought it would be good in this first post to simply tell you a little bit about myself and then later on, I will write about some other things including my recent trip to Rome and also my thoughts about entering Priesthood.

I grew up in the city of Louisville. Until I was 25, I lived about a mile away from St. Barnabas Parish. During the eight years that I went to grade school there, I was lucky enough to have Fr.Gary Davis as my pastor. Although I wasn’t thinking about priesthood back then (at all!), I still remember really liking him and as time went on, he became my model and image of a priest. After I graduated from St. Barnabas in 1996, I went through a period of about ten years when I got involved in pretty normal activities such as working full time and then getting my own apartment. When I was 23, in 2005, I became very interested in Jesus. This initially led me to start attending various churches (Pentecostal, Baptist, etc.) and even to do a year of studying at Louisville’s own Southern Baptist Seminary. But while I was there, I quickly became interested in Catholicism once again and found myself wanting to really delve into it. I wanted to discover what God was calling me to in my life. After some months of discerning, I began the process of joining seminary for the Archdiocese.

In the fall of 2007, I was accepted into the seminarian formation program and started at Bishop Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis. After completing my Bachelor’s in Philosophy, I entered Saint Meinrad Seminary in the fall of 2009. Since that time, I have served in some wonderful parishes of the Archdiocese including Good Shepherd in Portland, St. James in Elizabethtown, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Okolona, and St. Francis Xavier/All Saints in Mt. Washington and Taylorsville. It’s been amazing to be in these parishes. Along with these, I also spent a summer working as a chaplain at Kosair Children’s Hospital in downtown Louisville as part of the CPE (Clinical Pastoral Experience) program.

As I write this, I am just a bit over 80 days away from Ordination, along with Deacon Chris Lubecke. I am very grateful and excited each and every day waiting for this wonderful privilege and calling. I look forward to posting again in the near future.

God Bless,

Deacon Nick

Friday, February 15, 2013

Experiences from MACC, Part 2

Greetings in Christ,

In my last post I wrote about some of my experiences at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio. I would like to continue that train of thought as I reflect on my experience down near the border city of Brownsville, Texas.

Many immigrants who come north in search of a better life end up in small communities called “colonias,” which are usually formed on rather desolate patches of land offered by developers, in exchange for a financial commitment on the part of the one purchasing the property. It is then up to the immigrant, who usually has little or no means, to build a home, and remain current on the obligation to repay whatever loan they have taken on. The monthly payment may not seem like much, usually a few hundred dollars, but to one who has nothing but the clothes they are wearing, it can seem insurmountable. The newly arrived sometimes end up living in tin shacks with no plumbing or running water, and only over the course of many years are they able to slowly construct something that resembles a house, as we know it.

Las Milpas, the colonia that we visited, had undergone significant growth and development since it first began in the early 1970’s: there are paved roads and public utilities now, and most homes have at least some minimal modern conveniences. Many of the residents, however, are still struggling. A community organization known as “Arise” has done a tremendous job of helping the residents in learning their rights, learning processes of government, and helping them to adjust to their new circumstances. One of the principles of Arise is the idea that “we will not do for you what you can do for yourself,” which seems to uphold St. Paul’s admonishment to the Thessalonians: “In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat” (2 Thes 3:10). In my brief time there, I did not meet anyone who was unwilling to work.

Most people who come north in search of the American dream do not want to be dependent on others, except only God, but circumstances sometimes mean that they need our help. Thus Paul’s teaching must be held in tension with what Christ commands in the Gospel according to Matthew: that we must welcome the stranger, give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked…(cf. Mt 25:35-37). As Catholics, we are ‘both/and’ people, and so we must reflect on how best to incorporate both of these teachings into the fabric of our Christian lives.

I do not know what the political solution to America’s immigration difficulty is, and I would not even pretend to address that issue in this forum. But God clearly wants us to both care for ourselves, and for one another. I hope that during this Lenten season, we might take some time to prayerfully consider how best to do that.

May you have a blessed and fruitful Lent, and may whatever emptiness you gain by your sacrifices, be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit!

Peter Bucalo

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Seminarian Experiences MACC

Greetings in Christ from MACC:

For my first ever blog post, I thought I would reflect briefly on my experience of the last two weeks at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas.
As part of our formation, all Second Theology seminarians at St. Meinrad are required to attend the “Hispanic Ministry in the 21st Century” program, a two week course offered after Christmas break, in between Fall and Spring semesters. I was a bit unsure of myself when I arrived, but settled in quickly after being greeted by one of my Archdiocese of Louisville brothers, who has returned to seminary after some time out for additional discernment. It was comforting to see his smiling face as I started to unload my car.

It was an intense two weeks, including six hours of classes every day, as well as daily mass and communal morning and evening prayer. We covered everything from Hispanic culture and spirituality, to immigration issues and pastoral care. We concluded with a little fiesta, and an awesome performance from a local Mariachi band, that totally “Rocked the MACC!” It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun. I feel closer to my seminary brothers, and closer to Hispanic faith and culture. It was time well spent.

One of the most profound insights for me came during our three-day trip down to the border territory near McAllen. We stayed at the hotel at the Basilica Shrine of the Virgen de San Juan del Valle, spent some time with Fr. Amador Garza (a St. Meinrad alumnus) and attended the Vigil Mass for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It was a wonderful example of the Church embracing a variety of cultures, as the Basilica had a Mariachi band providing liturgical music. Though our Mass was in English, the cultural influence was nonetheless palpable; it was electric. One of the most beautiful moments for me was the late arrival of an elderly Hispanic couple of modest means, who came all the way down to the front row, and managed to get settled in just in time for the Eucharistic prayer. They were meagerly dressed, and clung to each other as they knelt for the consecration. I couldn’t help but think of the Epistle of James, which reminds us that, “if a man with gold rings on his fingers and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Sit here, please,’ while you say to the poor one, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?” Though they were poor, their humble faith and sincere piety provided an example for even the richest among us.

Another powerful experience came when we visited Las Milpas, one of las Colonias near the border, and met some of the struggling immigrants who are trying to build better lives for themselves in their newly adopted country. I will offer some thoughts from that day on my next post.

El Senor este con ustedes (I hope I have that right),
Peter Bucalo

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Challenges and the Call

The importance of and challenges confronting ordained ministers are significant. As I prepare to be ordained, I am---to the extent that it is possible---mindful of both. Certainly there is both a Scriptural as well as a doctrinal framework which highlights the important role of clergy. Being vehicles through which the sacraments are realized surely lies at the core of the role. Yet, we know that preaching, counseling, and, yes, administering (dare I say meetings?) are also responsibilities which take up a great deal of time for priests.

At the same time, the challenges which confront not only Roman Catholic clergy but also ministers of all denominations are many. Prevailing social norms and attitudes (secularization, materialism, etc.) often means that priests, like their parishioners, stand as countercultural witnesses to contemporary ways of thinking and living. Scandal which has not only confronted Catholic clergy but again other ministers has created an environment in which respect can not be assumed but rather represents an element requiring continuous nurturing. And, yes, there are also the demands of time and energy which are placed upon clergy.

So, with these and so many other challenges, “why become a priest?” some might ask. For me, the answer is complex and not easily reducible to a blog entry. However, my own response is one which reflects a response to God’s call, truly a reality which has grown during my formation as a seminarian. My “yes” to priesthood also involves a prayerful reflection of the gifts (and limitations) which I bring to ordained ministry. At this point in my life (and I am a bit older than many new priests-to-be), I cannot imagine any other path which gives me a sense of greater excitement and potential fulfillment than priesthood.

There are many unknowns and intangibles which are associated with this whole process of persisting to and through ordination. Ultimately, I believe, it is a matter of trust: in the affirmations received from those around me and, most especially, in our God whose love surpasses all of our understanding. I hope to see many of you, faithful readers of this blog, at my ordination on February 2 (11am at Holy Trinity).

Deacon Steven
Our deepest thanks to Deacon Steven for his contributions to this blog and our prayers and best wishes on his upcoming Ordination. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Happy New Year!

I am the temporary fill-in for our regular correspondent, Jason Harris, who has done a great job with this blog over the past few months. Next up after my brief assignment will be Peter Bucalo, a brother seminarian and a second year theologian at Saint Meinrad.

Having graduated from Sacred Heart School of Theology in early December, I transitioned back home and began an assignment with Holy Trinity parish in Louisville. It was and is great to be back with the Holy Trinity community, always full of vibrancy, joy and commitment.

Most certainly, the biggest news, at least for me, is my ordination to the priesthood which is planned for Saturday, February 2 at 11am at Holy Trinity. The next day I will be celebrating my first Mass of Thanksgiving (also at 11am at Holy Trinity).

To say that it has been an exciting time for me, in this period prior to ordination, would be an understatement. The exceptional efforts of the Holy Trinity parish staff team along with the Archdiocese’s Office of Worship have meant that I have not concerned myself with the details of the event, but “only” with trying to prepare for priestly ministry as much as that is possible. Prayer as well as continued service as a deacon has been the two pillars upon which my preparation has been built. And, as I have engaged in events and activities at Holy Trinity since graduation, I am reminded of the importance of as well as the challenges confronting ordained ministers. More on that topic in next week’s update!

Please know of my continued prayers for you.

Deacon Steven Henriksen

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Which Priest or Religious Brother or Sister Has Most Influenced You and How?

There are many people who have influenced my life as a Catholic. My parents have taught me right from wrong, and my teachers have taught me more and more about the life of Jesus. But the person who has influenced me most would be my fourth grade teacher. She was a religious sister, so she really had an impact on my religious life. Every day after recess, we would pray a decade of the Rosary. Then, in religion class, we would talk about the life of being a religious person or what it would be like if we could see our guardian angels. Over time, I became interested in the life of a religious sister.

Over time, I began to wonder what it would be like to be a religious sister. I used to think that all religious sisters would do was pray and go to church. But over time, that image began to change. I learned that there were many things a religious sister could do. I never thought they were able to play things like tennis or volleyball, or go for walks in the park. I didn’t even know sisters could teach until I had one as a teacher.

Over time, it began to become clear to me that there were many vocations that I could live my life as when I grew to be an adult. All it took was a year with a religious sister as a teacher, and I knew more about living a religious life than I ever had before. I see myself more open to Christ and sometimes I consider choosing a religious life when I grow up. That is how a religious sister influenced my life and how my life has been affected.
This first place essay is written by Olivia Harner.  Olivia is a 7th grader at St. James School and a member of St. James Church in Elizabethtown.  She is the daughter of Michele and Tim Harner. Olivia will be presented with a $100.00 award from the Serra Club at an upcoming luncheon at the University Club.  Congratulations on a wonderful essay Olivia!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Q: Which Priest or Religious Brother or Sister Has Most Influenced You and How?

Sister Michael Marie, the principal of St. James School, has influenced me in ways almost indescribable. Throughout my ten years attending St. James, I have realized how much Sister Michael Marie does for her teachers, parish staff and most of all, her students.

While running one school, Sister Michael Marie has recently directed the planning, building and moving of our previous two-building campus to our new campus with grades ranging from Pre-K through 8 in a single building. She has done everything possible to make the move simple, and at the same time she has tried to keep the school running smoothly. Throughout this process, I have observed a sense of leadership in our principle that has influenced me to take an interest in leadership myself.

After taking this interest, I developed a drive to do more. What do you suppose I mean by this? I currently participate in four academic teams, three sports teams and I maintain an A average. Now that we have moved into the building, it continues to run as smooth as ever, thanks to Sister Michael Marie. I have come to realize the values she has instilled in me throughout my ten years at St. James will carry and follow me throughout my life as a teenager and as an adult.

These are just some of the ways Sister Michael Marie has influenced and inspired me, and I know now that this influenced and inspiration cannot be implanted into so many people by one, sole person, unless that is their true vocation in life. That is the truly special part of any vocation if we can come to understand it. This part being that it takes a distinct person to recognize “their call within the call,” as Mother Theresa would say. I have realized now that many others see the exact same thing that I see in Sister Michael Marie.
Today's blog is the 2nd place winning essay in the Vocation Awareness Essay Contest, co-sponsored by the Serra Club and the Archdiocese of Louisville Vocation Office.  Our author is Kyle Landis.  Kyle is in the 7th grade at St. James School in Elizabethtown.  He is the son of Tim and Karen Landis.  His home parish is St. James.  Congratulations, Kyle!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Do Priests, Religious Brothers and Sisters and Permanent Deacons, in Their Life and Ministry, Bring Christ to Others?

Religious people bring Christ to others through their example. Those people who were called to the religious life show us examples of Christ daily. They don’t show prejudice, regardless of what one’s reputation may be. They give people countless chances to show who they really are.

Religious people forgive others and priests help us with confession to resolve situations in which we’ve sinned and restore our relationship with God. They teach us examples of prayer and how we can become closer to God and make it our life’s mission to live as Jesus’ disciples. They send a message to people in mass or give advice to people that Christ would have given them. Religious people help society as a whole; not just certain social groups. They help the people in pain, suffering, struggling, and those who can’t handle themselves. Through their actions, generations of people see God and are inspired. When they grow older, because they were inspired, those people will become priests, deacons, sisters and people of belief. The faith of God will never die down because of these religious people who are spreading Christianity.

Religious people also go out of their comfort zone, acknowledge the problems our world faces, and try to fix it as Jesus did. They think violence is the last resort and that there’s always a better way to go. They treat all of God’s creations, (people, animals, plants, nature and the entire world), with respect and they know no matter the differences, each life God created is special and should be treated with respect. Through all of their actions, bystanders can see Christ working through them. Religious people’s devotion is so strong that regardless of other people’s criticisms and actions, religious people will do what is morally just.
Today's blog is the 3rd place winning essay in the Vocation Awareness Essay Contest, co-sponsored by the Serra Club and the Archdiocese of Louisville Vocation Office.  Our author is Sydney Blandford.  Sydney is in the 8th grade at St. Andrew Academy. She is the daughter of Joe and Stephanie Blandford.  Her home parish is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  Congratulations, Sydney!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mastery Takes Time

Over this Christmas break, I began reading a book (suggested by one of the teachers at my seminary), entitled: Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment by George Leonard. I have not read it entirely but there are a couple points from the book that I have found valuable.

(1) The first is the title of the opening chapter "The Master's Journey." (This is the reason the teacher gave the book for me to read). I find myself unnecessarily expecting myself to be absolutely perfect at a task the instant that I undertake it. As evidenced by the self-improvement commercials between Christmas and New Year's, we always expect immediate and successful and quick results. The way of mastering any task is long and hard and arduous. There is no shortcut to the way. In fact, the book is helping me to see that the way of mastery is a lifelong process that ends only at one time, your departure into the eternal kingdom. I am trying to begin to enjoy the journey of learning with all the setbacks and "dry-times." This is where life is lived. I have to keep telling myself to "Enjoy the Journey."

(2) On page 28, this quote caught my attention: "Every time we spend money, we make a statement about what we value." The things that we "want" can sometimes possess our thoughts and mind. If I were writing this statement to say "Every time we spend TIME......." because I ask myself this question often..."How am I spending my time? Is it the way that the Lord would be satisfied?"

I just realized that I need to put both #1 and #2 together! I should be spending my time effectively by enjoying the life journey that the Lord has provided for me. HE has given all of us so much to enjoy, so much to live, and such much for our ultimate happiness. I need to wake up and enjoy the Journey.

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