Saturday, December 31, 2011

10 "Good News" moments of 2011

Last year, I celebrated the close of 2009 with a list of the top ten highlights of the year associated with Theology of the Body, Kenosis and Ruah Woods. I always enjoy remembering what God has done in the past 365 days, so I’m going to embark on the project again this year. What opportunities have we been blessed with this year?

10) Brian Butler coming to town

In April, Ruah Woods partnered with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to host Brian Butler’s Theology of the Body for Teens training program. It was so refreshing to hear Brian speak, holding his audiences captive by sharing the hunger of teens for a challenging, beautiful message. It was also encouraging to see how many teachers, DREs, youth ministers and parents filed into St. Peter in Huber Heights and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Anderson Township to learn how to communicate TOB to the youth.

9) Kenosis Discipleship Week

In July we had our first Kenosis Discipleship Week – an opportunity for high school students to receive from the Lord and then to learn how to concretely give of themselves to their schools, parishes, family and friends. We had Mass every day, generously offered by local priests. We spent time in prayer, reflection, small groups and education sessions. We also had working groups, bringing their gifts and talents to the table to see how they can reach others in creative ways.

8) Tremendous range of speaking opportunities

It is such a joy to be able to share various aspects of Theology of the Body with an incredible range of audiences. This year, there were plenty of high schools, parishes, a couple of middle schools, Northern Kentucky University, Marian University, the Edith Stein Project at the University of Notre Dame, Theology on Tap, the first Parrhesia young adult conference in Cincinnati. With such a range of topics and audiences (junior high, high school, college, parents, academics, young adults), I am always given new opportunities to learn and to grow.

7) Kenosis Restore retreat: Encounter at the Well

This year’s Kenosis Restore retreat centered on John 4 – the encounter of Jesus with the woman at the well. It was a wonderful opportunity for the teens to pray, reflect in silence, spend time with other Kenosis teens, and learn about Christ’s thirst for union with each of us as a unique, unrepeatable person. These retreats are vitally important to our philosophy of first receiving God’s love in a relationship with Him, which enables us to give in whatever way the Lord invites us to give of ourselves.

6) World Youth Day

Madrid, Spain was my third (and quite possibly, last) World Youth Day, but my first as a chaperone. It was beautiful to watch the teens’ desire to be open to all that God had for them on the pilgrimage. It was also quite stunning to witness a million or more young people kneeling in the mud in complete silence during Exposition
of the Blessed Sacrament, led by Pope Benedict XVI. This is exactly what people need to experience when they accuse the young of an inability to rise to the challenge of faith.

5) Teaching at the seminary
What a tremendous gift it was for me to be able to teach a Theology of the Body master’s course at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary of the West and the Athenaeum in Cincinnati this fall! It was an honor to be able to teach future priests, as well as two laypeople. I was also given the opportunity to further immerse myself in Theology of the Body and in the more precise theological aspects of the teaching that are not fit for hour-long talks or teen retreats. It is also exciting to see how an “adequate anthropology” might impact future homilies, marriage prep programs, and other parish initiatives.

4) Working with the Kenosis teens on various projects, retreats, etc.

This year, my fellow Theology of the Body education coordinator and I have striven to give the Kenosis teens opportunities to use their gifts and talents to build a culture of life and a civilization of love. We have had a junior core of six high sch
ool students on TOB for Teens retreats. Two teens created an incredible new promo video, which debuted at our September banquet. Some students have traveled with us to speak to junior high students. There are countless opportunities to use gifts of speaking, design, video work, writing, prayer and leadership to serve the youth of the Tri-state area.

3) Hearing a young man at TOB for Teens talk about his sudden desire to become a priest.

During a Theology of the Body for Teens program, one young man struggled to put into words the consistent call he felt during the program: “Even though you didn’t talk much about it explicitly, I kept hearing this voice say, ‘Be a priest! Be a priest!’ Then you brought a seminarian to speak to us, and I felt like he was talking to me. I want to consider going to college seminary next year, because I think this may be where God is calling me.”

2) Called to be More vocations pilgrimage walk

How to summarize one week of walking 150 miles with ten high school students and five adults in order to pray for vocations, discern personal vocations and to witness to the astonishing fact that God always calls us to be more? There were plenty of blisters, sore feet, injured knees and
ankles, long days of walking. But there were also beautiful churches (we stopped to pray in 30 of them), wonderful conversations with people along the journey, a wealth of community prayer and plenty of laughter. Even in the suffering, there
was joy. The teens are still talking about the pilgrimage walk and the ways in which it has impacted them.

1) John Paul II’s beatification

Not only was John Paul II beatified this May 1, but I was blessed to be present at St. Peter’s Square for the big event. How incredible to stand with a million or more people from around the world, as Pope Benedict XVI made the official proclamation. We applauded until our arms ached while they unveiled the portrait of Bl. John Paul II. The beatification gave me the chance to thank a man who I never had the opportunity to meet while he was on earth (though I did see him from a few feet away at World Youth Day 2002). Bl. John Paul II’s influence on my life continues to this day. How fitting to make a pilgrimage in order to thank him and to thank God for sending us such an incredible Holy Father in a unique time in the history of the Church and of the world.

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