How Christian do you think your town/city/community is?
Many news stories in the past several years have addressed the "Rise of the Nones" as they say, that is the growing number of people that indicate in surveys or interviews that their religious affiliation is NONE (as opposed to Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, etc.) For decades, there have been concerns about atheists and agnostics. How many times have you seen such articles or new stories?
And, when you have seen those articles, how many times have you thought, "Oh, that is too bad, but I am glad that isn't around here?"
Not to be a Debbie-Downer, but yesterday (June 5th) Barna Research shared information entitled: The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2019
The good news:
Communities in the Diocese of Youngstown did were NOT listed in the Top Ten.
The bad news:
Youngstown-Warren came in at #63, and
Cleveland-Akron-Canton came in at #67.
As for other cities around us in the Top One Hundred List, we have:
28. Detroit, MI
35. Toledo, OH
36. Pittsburgh, PA
59. Columbus, OH
70. Dayton, OH
71. Cincinnati, OH
Keep in mind that this is surveying all people, of all backgrounds,
not Roman Catholic specifically, but this is the like the air we breathe,
it is all around us, and does include Catholics.
The factors considered were:
To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet nine or more of the following factors.
Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 13 or more of the factors (out of these 16 criteria).
How would you rate using this list?
Parents, how might you address some of these with your family?
I see great possibilities in:
reading the Bible together,
sharing stories of the importance of your faith/God/prayer/Church participation,
and how Jesus is part of your daily life!
College students and young adults with roommates, many of the suggestions for parents above can easily be done with your dorm-mates or roommates and groups of friends.
Side note: in the Catholic tradition, we don't usually say we are "Born Again,"
however, we were at our Baptism...
we continue to each time we say Amen and receive Communion,
and we do every morning that we dedicate our day to God.
"Sunday school" and "Small groups" may not be terms you are used to either.
But are you involved with continuing education sessions,
participate in your parish mission,
go to speaker sessions,
take Catechist Certification courses (including the Youth Ministry Online Trainings),
go to Bible studies,
take part in Ladies Guild, Knights of Columbus, Women's Group, Men's Fellowship,
or participate in Faith Formation programs?
Then, there you go!
Do not let this study get your depressed,
instead, use it as an incentive to find ways to more obviously live your faith.
Remember that old song, "They will know we are Christians by our love"?
Share God's love by doing acts of love every day.
Then, next time Barna does this research, maybe Youngstown, Warren, Canton
and the rest of the diocese will be lower on the list
as we promote Christian living
in our schools,
places or work,
areas of service,
and everywhere we go!
To read the Barna article references, please visit:
To read more about the "nones" from Pew Research, visit:
Recall the words of St. Teresa of Avila:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Ahhhh, as Memorial Day weekend nears,
I can hear the sighs of relief from many
parish ministers, teachers, and families
as another school year concludes.
Another sprint through the winter and spring
are almost complete, and we are celebrating:
longer and warmer days....
graduations from everything from pre-schools through advanced college degrees...
Sacramental Celebrations, especially Confirmations and First Holy Communions...
perhaps Weddings and vacations as well....
"end of the year" retreats, parties and field trips...
the closing of the 75th Anniversary of the Diocese...
In any event, there seems no lack of JOY at this time of the year!
WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?
Really, take a moment to reflect on the question....
sure, jot down the first things that come to your mind,
but then consider if they bring laughter, satisfaction, warm-fuzzies,
or true joy?
Dig deeper.... what truly fills your heart with joy?
Beginning this Friday and running throughout the summer,
the OY&YAM Facebook page/Twitter feed will have posts
from the 2019 Eagle of the Cross Recipients on what brings them joy.
Perhaps, as no surprise, the most repeated answer involved family and friends.
However, service and helping others ran a close second!
Thank you, Coordinators for Youth Ministries for making opportunities
for service and mission work possible as to help bring joy to those serving
as well as those being served.
My point of posting these insights is to help prompt thoughts of joy in all
who will read them... and hope the readers will then share joy to those around them.
Here is the full list, in no particular order (just as I typed them flipping through the
Eagle of the Cross response forms). Possibly, the list will bring you some joy,
and help you tap into the deep joy in your heart,
so that we can continue to be "an Easter people" claiming "Alleluia is our song"
as St. John Paul II said, long after this Easter season has ended.
And as Pope Francis reminds us, "If we live the faith in our daily life,
then our work too becomes a chance to spread the joy of being a Christian."
Please, keep spreading joy in your daily life of faith!
2019 Eagle of the Cross Recipients Joys:
"And the Survey Says..."
Insights from the Diocesan Synod Surveys
At the 2017 Ministry Day workshop with Fr. Chris Luoni and Cindee Case, we discussed some of what we learned through the input of nearly 500 teens, young adults, parents and Church leaders in preparing for the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops focused on "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment."
We laid it out as a bit of a game show, inviting attendees to guess at the responses of the high school teens, young adults (20s and 30s) and sometimes parents/family members of the youth and young adults on a few key questions. The results surprised a few folks.... but do keep in mind that the surveys were completed voluntarily for the most part (a Catholic school religion teacher may not have given an option, and perhaps a few parents may have insisted, but it is mostly from volunteers.) Responses also came primarily from people who are very or somewhat connected to a Catholic parish or school, but I was pleased with some very honest responses on what that connection may mean for the individual.
In any event, why not test yourself? Let me know if the comment section how you did, what you thought, or how a survey result might impact your ministry.
And come back to this blog page for more updates throughout the year.
The Powerpoint presentation is attached below (large file) and has been posted online for quick viewing at: (Click on link address or black button)
On Saturday, July 1
in the Hyatt Regency Orlando,
a couple thousand Catholics gathered for
an Evening Marian Devotion
focused around Mary, Mother of Evangelization
as part of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders
organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Allow me to pause to say that despite my birthday falling on a Marian feast
(Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15),
and my name including a Marian-variation (Marie),
I have not found myself to have a strong Marian devotion.
Not that I have anything against this amazing woman who said YES to God,
gave birth to our Savior and raised Jesus;
I was just raised to believe that I can go directly to Christ with my prayers.
So I didn't "need" Mary as much.
Please do not judge me harshly as I share this only to admit that I may have considered
skipping this Saturday night event....
but I did go,
and I was so glad that I did.
It was a highlight of the Convocation for me.
I left inspired and faith-filled.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS of San Antonio and
Bishop Martin D. Holley, DD of Memphis
each shared their appreciation for and strong devotions to Mary that began during their childhoods,
nurtured them as they grew up and how she assist them now as they serve the Church.
They also discussed that Mary is called upon by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium:
"Mary let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit on a journey of faith toward a destiny of service and fruitfulness. Today we look to her and ask her to help us proclaim the message of salvation to all and to enable new disciples to become evangelizers in turn." ~ EG, no. 287.
We then prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary,
with an amazing couple of twists:
1. a myriad of languages were used to pray the Hail Mary, including English, French, Vietnamese, Igbo, Tagalog, Italian, Creole, Polish, Gaelic/Irish, and Spanish;
2. different styles of songs that connected to each Mystery were sung at the completion of each decade ("The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came," "Mary's Canticle," "What Child is This," "Mary's Song," and "El Perpetuo Socorro," along with "Immaculate Mary" at the end.)
The changing up of languages during the Hail Mary really made one pause and listen to the words,
rather than speeding through it as can happen in some recitations that I have been part of (and even led that way, as though there is a prize for finishing fastest!) and the songs assisted me in reflecting upon that Mystery.
All the while, different images of Mary were displayed on large screens in the room.
This helped to show the various ways in which people relate to the Holy Mother around the world,
and in the U.S.
Together, we prayed through the songs, prayers and images.
It was an inspiring and up-lifting evening that I wished you could have all been part of with us.
However, you can participate in spirit in the following ways:
1. Watch recordings of some parts of the evening devotion:
Part 1 (bishop's talks, Ave Maria)
Part 2 (praying the Rosary)
2. Pray the Special Prayer of Dedication to Mary taken from Evangelii Gaudium:
Mary, Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life
in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”
to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Filled with Christ’s presence,
you brought joy to John the Baptist,
making him exult in the womb of his mother.
Brimming over with joy,
you sang of the great things done by God.
Standing at the foot of the cross
with unyielding faith,
you received the joyful comfort of the resurrection,
and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit
so that the evangelizing Church might be born.
Obtain for us now a new ardor born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman.
Virgin of listening and contemplation,
Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast,
pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.
Star of the new evangelization,
help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
service, ardent and generous faith,
justice and love of the poor,
that the joy of the Gospel
may reach to the ends of the earth,
illuminating even the fringes of our world.
Mother of the living Gospel,
wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,
pray for us.
May Mary, Star of the New Evangelization and Patroness of the Americas continue to pray for us!
Have you noticed that we have a big election coming up soon?
(Yes, that was sarcasm as I am not sure how any American can be unaware even if he/she avoids TV, radio, and social media.)
Hopefully, you are also aware that the Diocese of Youngstown* is sponsoring two sessions on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. Perhaps you have already even registered for the free event (please do so we can have adequate materials prepared for the afternoon and evening sessions.)
As a young adult, perhaps you have not yet voted, or you never heard that the Catholic Church has suggestions on how we can try to balance our beliefs with our civic duty.
"In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue,
and participation in political life is a moral obligation,"
according to the U.S. Catholic bishops
(Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, No. 13).
First of all, please know that Faithful Citizenship is NOT a sample ballot with boxes checked off for the candidates for whom you should vote. No, these are guidelines for your consideration, deep reflection and prayer. Recall that Jesus often taught in parables which elicited the same needs for thought before a decision could be made. It is not easy.... but it is worth the effort.
If you are unable to participate in one of the September 21st sessions referenced above,
please know that there are online resources to support your journey.
A few pages to note include:
Read and reflect upon the bulletin inserts (if your parish does not use them, you can download your own!)
There are two that summarize the U.S. Bishops' document,
one instructing on how to communicate with your elected officials, and
a couple backgrounders like this one on Civil Dialogue:
You can watch a video to learn more about the Bishops' document:
(also available in Spanish, as are many of the written resources!)
Questions to discuss over coffee (or other beverage of your choice):
Ideas for parish young adult ministries and collaboratives:
Session plans for adult faith formation/small Christian communities:
You can pray for others around the country during the Novena --
listen to the podcasts or read the text:
And this is the website for even more resources to assist you form youth conscience as a faithful citizen:
May God bless your journey.
For the people of the United States,
that we may be united in building a society in which everyone can have
the opportunity to live with dignity and hope, we pray to the Lord.
*September 21st events sponsored by The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown Offices of:
Continuing Education for Priests,
Lay Ministry Formation,
Pro-Life, Marriage and Family,
& Youth and Young Adult Ministry
Hopefully, you are all aware of the two sessions being offered by the diocese* regarding "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" on September 21, 2016, and hopefully you will all do your best to participate in one of the sessions....
However, it seems unlikely that many teens will attend, especially since many cannot yet vote. However, during middle school and high school there should be discussions had and prayers prayed. Teens see and hear the mainstream media and the social media and are concerned for their futures. Why not help them learn ways to infuse their faith with their patriotism and civic duties?
The U.S. Bishop's website features session plans prepared especially for middle school and high school audiences (parish and school settings). There are 4 session plans, and they can be adapted to fit your needs. Each session covers a section of the document, so they can easily be used for inter-generational/family faith/Generations of Faith sessions as well (you can find elementary session plans posted as well!)
Be sure to check them out and bookmark the site.
Perhaps your group is interested in devotionals?
Then be sure to check out the Novena for Faithful Citizenship as well:
(Read or listen to podcasts!)
The Bulletin Inserts are also created for discussion...
if your parish distributes these, then by all means, make use of them with your teens! If your parish does not use them, you can download them. There are two that summarize the Forming Consciences document, one that instructs on communicating with elected officials, that these two that might be of even more interest:
> Conscience Formation:
> Civil Dialogue:
Have fun exploring the many resources,
and be sure to continue praying for our country
and pray for all elected officials and for all voters!
Here is part of a middle school/high school session prayer,
which seems perfect to pray together now:
Let us pray.
Father of all creation,
You made humanity in your image and likeness.
May we see Jesus' face in those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, and stranger.
Spirit of justice, help us and all your people to seek respect for the dignity of all people
and work to protect the common good.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
* Sponsored by The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown Offices of:
Continuing Education for Priests,
Lay Ministry Formation,
Pro-Life, Marriage and Family,
& Youth and Young Adult Ministry
Recently, a colleague shared the following Youth Night Outline with me and asked if it could be used at his parish. I told him, yes.... just line up objectives from the The Diocese of Youngstown Curriculum for Catechesis.
Using Scripture with Lectio Divina processing and praying the Apostle's Creed area always good things to do with youth!
With just a quick glance, I thought that the following objectives that could be covered within the session with a few tweaks:
After watching the video, you could also include
Look it over and tell me which other objectives you might include?
What would you do differently to make this session work better for the teens in your ministry setting? (Please use the COMMENT button to add your thoughts and ideas.)
Youth Night Acts of the Apostles
Purpose of the Night
This youth night is designed to give the teens a better knowledge and understanding of the Acts of the Apostles. Our Church is built upon the witness of these very first apostles and we can learn a lot from them. We can obviously learn about the development of church teaching, but more importantly, we can learn how to apply their witness into the witness of our lives.
Bible for each small group
Paper and pencils for each small group
Random items (see below in Preparation)
The environment for this night should depict the importance of witnessing, both by the apostles and saints, but also modern day witnesses. Display pictures around the room of apostles and saints. Also, include some signs with Scripture verses and quotes pertaining to witnessing. Also put up some pictures of witnesses today. These can be well known people, or simply just individuals in our everyday lives. At the front of the room, place an open Bible on a table and large cross with red cloth draped over it symbolizing the blood of the martyrs.
Snacks/fellowship time (20 minutes)
Before diving into the topic, have snacks or even a meal available for the youth as they arrive. Play fun music while youth are coming in. Allow them time to socialize with their friends as well as to meet any new people. Be sure to have yourself as well as any core team mingle among the kids and reach out especially to anyone who may be new. This time would also be a good time for any announcements as well as announcing any birthdays.
Small Group Skits (20 minutes)
Divide the youth into small groups. Gather a bunch of really random items and place the items at the front of the room. Examples of items can include stuffed animals, a role of tape, a golf club, or a coffee filter. Have a representative from each group select three items. Each group will act out the story of Pentecost found in Acts 2:1-4. They will have to incorporate their three items in some way in the skit. Also, each group will act out their skit in a different genre. Genres can include documentary, western, sci-fi, silent film, sitcom, talk show, news broadcast, musical, etc. Write the genres down on separate pieces of paper and have the groups each select one at random. Give the groups about 10 minutes to create their skits and then gather them back to present them.
Introduction of the Topic (5 minutes)
Transition the youth into the main space to begin the night. The youth minister will begin by introducing the topic of the Acts of the Apostles. Explain briefly the importance of the early apostles and their witness in the early church.
Proclamation verse: “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
Opening Prayer (5 minutes)
Reading (Acts 1:6-9)
A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
Heavenly Father, We come before you this day in thanksgiving for the witness of the early Apostles. Lord, come into our hearts during this time that we might be inspired by their witness to live for you in our everyday lives. We ask this in your name. Amen.
(Optional) If you have a musician who can begin the night with a praise and worship song, that could be used as the opening prayer
Explanation Video: “Evidence” (5 minutes)
(This video can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPHe51B7Z00)
Teaching (10-15 minutes)
Choose a speaker to talk to your group about this topic and its importance in our lives. The speaker can be the youth minister, a core member, a parish priest or deacon, a guest speaker, or anyone who you feel may be qualified to speak on the topic. You can use the outline below to provide some thoughts for this talk.
Processing the video:
The importance of being a witness
- When watching this video, how did it make you feel? What was going through your head as this girl was on trial and what were your thoughts on the verdict? Can you relate to the video at all?
- Now obviously, it is not illegal to be Catholic in our country today. However, there are a number of obstacles that we face in our everyday lives that make it difficult to witness to our faith.
The witness of the Apostles
- In Acts 1:8, just before Jesus ascends to heaven, He stood before His apostles and said “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Jesus makes a promise to His Apostles that they will receive the Holy Spirit and will become witnesses to the faith.
- In Acts 2:1-4, we read of the event of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles and inspires them to fearlessly go out and proclaim Christ to the world. The Acts of the Apostles gives us a glimpse into the mission of the apostles following in the footsteps of Christ.
- We hear a number of miraculous occurrences such as the conversion of 3000 people by the apostles right after Pentecost (Acts 2), Peter healing to crippled man (Acts 3), Philip converting the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), Paul restoring a dead man to life (Acts 20), as well as so many more things. On top of this, we also hear of so many stories of heroic virtue as the apostles stopped at no cost to follow the will of Christ which eventually lead to martyrdom for most.
Our own witness in our lives
- In our own lives, we can learn a lot from the apostles and can apply much of what they said and did in our very own life. It’s hard to be a witness. It’s hard to publicly stand up and follow Christ fully in the midst of everything that goes on. Often times, we can feel like we are on trial, just like in the video.
- However, Christ has commissioned us just as He commissioned His disciples. He speaks those same words to us that we find in Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Lord is with us and He freely gives us His Holy Spirit to inspire us to carry out His will. Let us not be afraid to listen to Him and witness to Him in our lives.
Small Groups (15-20 minutes)
Lectio Divina Each person in the group will receive a slip of paper with the Scripture passage below on it and a pencil. The group leader or one of the youths should read the passage aloud. Take about 30 seconds to silently think about it. Have it read again. Take about a minute to silently meditate upon it and encourage the group take notes or underline key words that might stick out. Have it read one final time and then begin to discuss.
Acts 1:6-8 – “When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Small Group Questions
o Was there a word or phrase from this passage that really stood out or jumped out to anyone?
o What is the meaning of this passage?
o What does Jesus mean when He says “you will be my witnesses”?
o How do His followers ultimately respond to that call of being a witness?
o In our lives, we all have the same call to go out and be witnesses in our everyday lives. What does it mean to witness to the faith?
o Jesus calls us to witness to our faith by leaving behind everything we have and spreading the gospel around the world. Some have taken this call quite literally and have become missionaries to foreign countries or other extreme callings. For those of us (the majority of Christians) who do not have this calling, how can we witness to the faith in everyday life?
o How can we be a witness in our school, on our sports teams, within our groups of friends, or within our families?
o Why is witnessing to the faith so important? What benefit is there for us?
o What are some practical ways in which we can witness to our faith today?
Teen Witness (5 minutes)
Gather the whole group back together and invite one of your youth, preferable an older one who is maybe a junior or a senior to share a brief personal witness on how their life has been impacted by the Lord and how they have been called to live out their faith. Meet with them ahead of time to go over their witness. While writing their witness, have them pray with Acts 1:8 to see how their own life can relate to that of the apostles.
Closing prayer (5 minutes)
If possible, transition the group into a separate space to close out the night. The ideal location would be in the church if available. Invite the youth to quietly make their way in and have a seat. The youth minister should take a minute to prayerfully recap the whole night. After the recap, take some time to enter into some silence and allow the youth to voice any intentions they have. Close with reciting the Apostles Creed:.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God,
the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
By the way, did you know that the Curriculum can be found online
(you do not only have to view it in the office of your pastor of Director/Coordinator of Religious Education! You can download a copy or just view it online whenever you wish.)
During the last workshop round at the 2015 National Catholic Youth Conference, I participated in a "What Now" session with teens and adults from the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
A pastor, youth minister and 4 youth shared their experience of the previous NCYC and how they took the energy and learnings back to their parish.
They then invited all participants to consider what they may do after leaving NCYC.... and invited them to select one of the following areas in which to focus:
What do I want to work on after NCYC?
- Improve prayer life
- Improve charitable actions
- Grow YM at parish
- Teach others about the faith
- Liturgical ministries
- Be more active in parish in general
- Overcome challenges in life
- Improve relationships
Teens gathered in small groups around each of these areas and brainstormed ways they can take action back home.
I thought this was a GREAT way to start bridging the experience with some practical ideas, and that while this was NCYC specific at the time, how it can easily be adapted for any large event. Consider it when you are busing back from the March for Life, or before leaving your retreat, or after attending the next Diocesan Youth Convention (DYC) or mission trip.
(It is also not too late to gather your NCYC participants, if you went, to do this activity... after spending a little time reminiscing about the General Sessions, Camp Techakwitha, Prayer rooms, and break-outs, then ask them how they would like to build upon the experience in the New Year!)
I have often seen that a "mountaintop experience" can have a tremendous impact on a young person. We may want to be like Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration who wanted to build a tent and stay there (Matthew 17).... but we must go back home and rejoin our 'regular' lives at school, work and with family and friends.
However, pulling from another chapter of Matthew's Gospel (13), the large events are opportunities to sow seeds. If the seeds of the experience are not nurtured and fed, they quickly die... we must help our young people tend to the seeds so that they can bear great fruit for the individual, but even for our faith communities!
"But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a
hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” (Matthew 13: 23)
One month after my pilgrimage to Philadelphia, I am still processing the experience. There were many blessings!
After the lovely drive across Pennsylvania (even if I did not enjoy that long tunnel with construction going on), I participated in the Catholic Parent Revival on Wednesday, September 23 at St. Peter the Apostle Parish (which also houses the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, where his body now lies in state, enclosed in glass under the altar.) We listened to personal witnesses of married couples who integrated faith into raising their children. Thanks Jenni and Steve Angrisano, Maggie and Bob McCarty, and John Angotti. We were also invited to talk with fellow participants and pray for each other.
To read more about the parish/shrine, visit:
To learn more about CPR, visit:
You can also watch a recording of the CPR session that took place the next night near Philly:
and know that Dave Schmidt, Director of Pro-Life, Marriage and Family and I have discussed adapting the program to support families here in our diocese, so look for more on that in 2016.
On Thursday, after an educational visit to ther Liberty Bell and Independance Hall (hey, when in Philly...), where we saw the preparations for the Papal visit that would take place there days later, we went to the World Meeting of Families and were fortunate enough to see Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, speak with such passion and joy. He discussed how we all have wounds and hurts, which can be great opportunities to rely on God. These woulds also help us to better witness to the saving power of God to others. You can watch a recording of his session, and several other session from the WMOF on their website:
These recordings are great for those who were not there to be inspired and learn from the sessions, and serve as great reminders for those who were there. (You may need to be patient as they begin or fast forward to the speaker you want to hear/see.)
It was interesting to see how many vendors and organizations exhibited at the WMOF. Some of the same I see at youth ministry events, lay ministry conferences and education convocations, while others were new to me. It is reassuring to know that there are so many resources around wanting to support the Domestic Church!
On Friday, I met up with the busloads of Youngstown folks who traveled with Wednt to see the theatrical production of "Joseph." Oh my goodness, the Sight and Sound Theater truly invests in the productions there, with support sound and staging. Also, real animals! The show also gave me new aspects of the Joseph story to ponder. If you are ever in the Lancaster, PA area, this is a worthy investment. Visit their website at:
We then enjoyed family-style dinner at the Hershey Farm Restaurant and Inn near the theater. What a fun evening discussing the play and to upcoming weekend plans with folks from Blessed Sacrament Parish (and others on the bus from there!)
Saturday brought the Festival of Families. This meant creative planning for transportation and packing for the day, but it was all worth it. Security lines moved along smoothly, over 3,000 port-a-pots were available, food vendors lined some streets, and jumbotrons helped those of us without tickets enjoy the entertainment, pray along, and view the parade.
I decided to settle in with a busload from the Solon area at JFK part near the Love Sign. There, we were fortunate to see Pope Francis go by in his Popemobile TWICE! It was amazing! (The picture above gives you one glimpse of my view.)
On the jumbotron, we enjoyed:
Nigeria/Igbo Community @ St. Cyprian Viva Mas
Mutya Philippine Dance Company
St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Community
Jackie Evancho (not sure why some Disney songs, but sounded lovely)
American Dance Wheels
Sister Sledge (We are Family!)
Jim Gaffigan (a few family-themed laughs)
MC Mark Wahlberg
The Philadlephia Orchestra
Comments and pray by the Holy Father
Andrea Bocelli (oh, that Lord's Prayer was fantastic!)
Juanes (although, I will admit, we started to head to the train station during his performance, nothing against him, it was just getting late!)
You can read more about some of these performers at:
We (we being most often my sister, Jenn, by the way, who traveled with me) went to the Cathedral where there was a temporary grotto dedicated to Mary, Untier of Knots, who is one of Pope Francis' advocates. They had strips of cloth on which to write the situation or people suffering with "knots" that need untied. These clothes were then hung around the grotto (or being knit into a tapestry, as you can see in the photo below of the woman at work.) It was a powerful place of prayer.
Sunday brought a lot of time to meet people from all around the globe as I chose the wrong side of the city to enter (retrospect, hundreds of thousands of us did not know at the time what was going on as security checkpoints were moving very slowly, being closed, redirecting people to another checkpoint, etc. for hours... while on the north side, they seemed to get inside in 30 - 120 minutes.) We gave up after a few hours, but not before meeting lovely faith-filled people from many states and countries. We also clapped along and sang a bit.
While I did receive text messages from friends who made it inside, we watched the parade from ComCast Center (where I was interviewed by a Philly paper and while misquoted, they spelled my name right, ha!), then settled in for a while near JFK Park. It was an interesting juxtiposition to have thousands sitting and sitting, attentive to a jumbotron while some vendors still tried to peddle their wares. Latter, we paused near City Hall and the thousands of Catholics who had celebrated Mass there, before heading back to the train station. It wasn't the day I planned or hoped for, and I really didn't fell like I was part of Mass, but I was very much part of a larger community that made the best of the situation and were singing and responding and celebrating!
Oh, I almost forgot, I also did my best to watch some of the coverage of the Holy Father addressing various audiences. I LOVED the address to the Congress. To have selected such different Americans to help make his points was inspired. It was challenging and motivating. Thank you for bringing forth some of the teachings and words of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
I also watched Pope Francis as the prison. Watching a work of mercy on TV was awesome.
If you missed (or want to read to review) any of the Holy Father's addresses or Homilies, know that theey are posted on the USCCB site at:
They also have a few on video to watch at:
I am sure that aspects of the pilgrimage will continue to occur to me, as the messages I heard and images I saw sink deeper into my soul. THANK YOU to everyone who has allowed me to share some of my story, and for those who have shared their experiences as well as that helps me consider additional insights! In any event, may we all be blessed by the visit of the Holy Father to our country.
I'll end this post with the final words of Pope Francis at the Closing Mass in Philadelphia:
Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation. Whatever the family, people, religion or region to which they belong!
May God grant that all of us may be prophets of the joy of the Gospel, the Gospel of the family and family love, as disciples of the Lord. May he grant us the grace to be worthy of that purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel! Amen.
25 C's for Evaluating Religion Internet Sites
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
Development Of The Minister
Synod On Youth
Young Adult Ministry