Dominican Personalities

I’m writing my May reflection from the city of Katowice, Poland, where my mother is undergoing a medical procedure this week. I was blessed enough to have planned this overseas family visit months ago, and now it feels very providential to be here just when I’m needed. The city, some 250 miles away from my hometown, is one of the major university centers in Poland but until just 5 years ago had not had any presence of the Dominican Order, a strange thing given how much the friars in this country desire to be involved with campus ministry, young professionals outreach, and the dialogue between faith and culture that happens in the university environment. This lack was remedied in 2012 when the local bishop invited the friars to take over a downtown parish and create a network of Dominican ministries.

Tonight, since I had never visited this new Dominican site before, my dad and I decided to go to mass there. It was one of their seven Sunday masses, advertised as geared mostly toward young professionals. The church was packed with young singles, couples, young families with kids, and some older parishioners. Beautiful music, prayerful yet ringing with joy, was provided by a four part choir standing with the congregation and praying with their song towards the altar. The Dominican celebrant, a newly ordained friar, led us in the timeless celebration both solemn and laid back (not an oxymoron!), somehow both formal and charismatic. A few jokes followed deep words of wisdom, and after mass everyone joined in for tea and cake, some local variation on the theme of coffee and donuts.

Why I am sharing this story with you? Because in this recently created Dominican parish I felt at home, intuitively knowing that this community has embraced a true Dominican “personality”. What would that personality be? Well, you may read more in-depth about it here and here, but in brief I’d say it’s a certain mix of this-worldliness and other-worldliness, and of action and contemplation. It’s all flavored with a restless desire for authenticity, which is summed up with our simple one-word motto, Veritas (truth), the truth for which in our freedom we are responsible.

Dominican “personality” of parishes often owes to and depends on the Dominican personality of their leaders, and I must say we have been blessed for the last couple of years to have – among others – two very Dominican individuals whom I’d like to mention today since St.Catherine’s owes them and a lot and they will be leaving us this summer. It’s our associate pastor Fr. Peter Hannah and the lay campus minister Julie Bellefeuille. Their Dominican qualities have been an inspiration for me and for many.

found imageI’m excited to introduce briefly Fr. Peter’s worthy successor, Fr. Marcin Szymanski, another very Dominican Dominican who will be joining us from Seattle. He’s been a priest for six years now, four of which he spent in a parish / young professional setting, and the  last two years at a Newman Center. I’m confident that his personal passion for the spirit of St. Dominic will continue filling St. Catherine’s community with the new wine of the Gospel.

Thank you all for participating this last year in our community, and may we all be renewed with all the upcoming transitions in our commitment to Jesus and his Church.

Campus Ministry End of Year Update

Campus ministry has been busy the past couple months with providing the students and the University community with several opportunities for spiritual growth.

During late March, students and young adults went on a “Surrender to Beauty” retreat in Zion National Park. They learned about the spirituality of the Desert Fathers, who were early Christians that lived an ascetical lifestyle in order to grow in prayer and holiness. Being in the desert allowed the early Christians to draw away from the distractions of the world and become more self aware of the work of God in their souls. Going to Zion allowed the students be unplugged for the weekend and gave them the capacity to more clearly hear God in the silence of the desert. They experienced God in the beauty of nature, which is a reflection of God who is Beauty itself. The retreatants also listened to a talk given by Julie on encountering God in times of uncertainty and finding beauty in the unknown. Overall, the students had an incredible time hiking, camping, and reflecting on their relationship with God and each other.

In April, St. Catherine’s hosted Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP, the editor of the Magnificat magazine. He did a Lenten mission and preached a retreat called “Jesus Begs for Your Heart.” Fr. Peter spoke about how the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-26) was looking for fulfillment in power, pleasure, and possessions. True fulfillment and happiness can only come from God. Those three things are temporary, which the love of God is eternal and overflowing. He also talked about Peter and Judas, and how Peter asked for God’s mercy while Judas didn’t believe he could be forgiven for his betrayal. This retreat provided powerful reflections on the love of God and was good preparation for Holy Week and Easter.
Along with retreats, we have been focusing on involving the students in campus ministry and empowering them to take an active role at the Newman Center. They have been running undergrad nights, which is a weekly meeting where they learn about some aspect of the faith and grow in fellowship together. Looking towards next year, we will be encouraging the students to use their gifts and talents to bring Christ to their peers. They will focus on things they are passionate about, like sports, hikes, service, Bible studies, or liturgical music, and use these activities to point others towards Christ. The students have such a passion and zeal for their faith, and I am looking forward to seeing our ministry grow next year.

~Angie Hall~

Finding Peace in God: One Person’s Journey in RCIA

Stephen Jackson joined the Church at the Easter Vigil on April 15th. He reflects on his journey to becoming Catholic and his experience with RCIA.

The birth of my daughter was an enlightening experience for me. When I looked at my daughter for the first time I saw God. I finally understood the kind of love that would move God to come to us, offer himself, and ensure our salvation.  When I held my daughter, I realized in that moment that there was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. In her eyes, I could understand what unconditional love was. Before Audrey was born, I had been going to St. Catherine’s with my wife for some time. She and I were married there in 2010. It took us three and a half years of trying before my wife got pregnant with Audrey. The emotional toll that it took on the two of us was finally getting to be too much and the month before we found out that we were pregnant we had decided it would be our last month of actively trying before giving up. We sat down, held each other, and cried as we resigned to the fact that we may never be parents in the traditional sense. However, the Lord turned sorrow into joy and blessed us with a beautiful daughter.

When Audrey wrapped her tiny hand around my finger and squeezed, so much made sense to me for the first time, including many of those Bible stories I had been hearing during Mass. It was after this point that I decided to join RCIA. Throughout the process, Fr. Jacek brought a passion to the RCIA classes that helped draw us in. He wanted to create an environment reminiscent of the catechumens in the early days of Christianity, when the spiritual calling of Christ, to them, was more important than the risks they were putting themselves in by being present. Fr. Jacek facilitated an open forum where we were free to question and respond as we studied the teachings of Catholicism. Taking a day away from a young baby was hard on both myself and my wife. There were times when I only got to see my family for a few minutes that day. I wondered if I should have waited until Audrey was a little older, but in the end, I’m glad that I went through it when I did. With the events going on in the world now, it is more important than ever to have faith be at the center of my life. Becoming a Catholic has helped me to find a peace that only comes from God at a time that I’ve been struggling to understand the turbulent rumblings of the world.

Ministry Spotlight: Small Christian Communities

If you are looking a great way to expand your faith and interact with your fellow parishioners, I would highly recommend the Small Christian Communities.  We are a book club with an emphasis on faith formation. Over the last year we have read and discussed three books: “The Joy of the Gospel” by Pope Francis, “The Long Loneliness” by Dorothy Day, and most recently “Twelve Little Ways to Transform Your Heart; Lessons in Holiness and Evangelization from St. Therese of Lisieux” by Susan Muto.

With each new session, parishioners start by signing up in the gathering space. Once Father Peter has all the names, the groups are chosen, trying to balance schedules and to keep the groups of equal size. Groups are between five and seven members and meet weekly. Once everyone has had time to purchase the book, we are given our first assignment (usually the first couple of chapters) and off we go.

We read and then get together each week to discuss. That’s when the fun begins. Group discussions are what it’s all about. As the members get to know each other and become comfortable, the discussions take on a life of their own. We aren’t held to any specific goals (and there is no test!) so we are free to examine whatever we find interesting. I came to a much deeper appreciation of Dorothy Day and St Therese from our group discussions than I ever could have by just reading the books.

And that’s the point. Filtering a subject through the faith experiences of others is fun. It challenges self reflection and deepens friendships. And there are usually snacks!  

So if you like to read and think, or if you just want to get to know a few nice folks, consider the Small Christian Communities. We will have another sign-up period during mid May for a summer session, and then again in early fall.

Louis Wilson

Pastor’s Corner: Let the Truth Shine!

Romano Guardini, one of the most influential 20th century theologians, thoroughly researched the development of Sunday celebrations in early Christian communities. Some people looked at the amount of energy he put into this seemingly narrow topic, and asked what practical impact would the knowledge he gained have on the day-to-day lives of ordinary Christians. To that, Guardini responded:  “The longer I worked, the less I was concerned about the immediate effect. Right from the start, at first instinctively, but then more and more consciously, I wanted to make the truth shine. Truth is a power, but only if you do not demand an immediate effect from it.”

Today the Church worldwide is entering the Easter Triduum, which is the three days that changed the course of human history forever. It is a very ancient celebration, full of symbols, rituals, and images. All that we say and do in the liturgy these days reflects the truth of how God’s loving heart, begging for our hearts, did not hesitate to enter the fullness of human experience. He did this in the humble, obedient way he walked into the most disturbing element of our lives, into death itself, in order to destroy its power over us. We Christians believe that this is no longer a myth, a vague longing of the human mind for redemption which has permeated the history of human religion, but we stubbornly hold this to be a fact. The truth. It really happened.

These three days are an invitation for us to plunge into this truth, and to celebrate its depth, breadth, and length. Don’t confuse this with Sunday school. Liturgies are not primarily to teach us about the truth; rather, they bring us into a place where the truth shines. Bathe in its light! And remember, don’t necessarily demand an immediate effect from it – just trust the current of the liturgy, this timeless spring of water flowing from the heavenly temple, and let it transform you the way Christ the Truth himself desires.

P.S. If you would like to learn more about the meaning of the Triduum, read here a reflection by Pope Emeritus Benedict.

 

Catholic Connection Youth Group Update

It has been an exciting few months for the Catholic Connection youth group! In February, we teamed up with St. John the Baptist’s youth group, and took a full bus load of teenagers to Anaheim for the Religious Education Congress’s youth day! At this conference, we were able to attend Mass with thousands of Catholic youth, as well as listen to an afternoon of speakers. This trip was very powerful for many of our teens, and I was honestly very impressed and humbled by the conversations of faith that followed. The Intermountain Catholic also wrote about this trip, which you can read about here: http://www.icatholic.org/article/youth-groups-collaborate-for-anaheim-youth-day-7969780

I have to say, every Sunday afternoon after youth group I leave the youth room beaming with joy, and in astonishment of the passion, faith, and love that these teens have for God and for each other. They pour so much energy and passion into all that they do, and are always looking for new ways to support each other, while also diving deeper into their faith. It is honestly such a privilege to work with each and every one of these teens.

This past weekend, the youth group kicked off Holy Week with an overnight Lock-In retreat at St. Catherine’s, focusing on the theme, “Holy week, Holy You!” They had the opportunity to spend the night diving deeper into their faith through witness talks, small groups, adoration, and confession, as well as spending hours of quality time with each other! We had a blast!

Recently, the youth group elected five of their members to serve as a youth board over the next year. This small group of teens will work alongside myself and Catherine to help plan meetings and events, coordinate service projects, and work within the group to help welcome new members, and communicate among the group. These five youth leaders will be attending Notre Dame Vision, a week-long Catholic Summer program in Indiana this summer, and a few have even applied for and received scholarships for the program!

However, we still need to raise funds to assist with the cost of registration and transportation to the event! We will be in the gathering space after all of the Masses the weekend of April 22nd & 23rd for a “sponsor a student” campaign- please stop by to talk to the teens about their youth group experiences, and if you are able to donate to help them get to Vision this Summer, it would be greatly appreciated! If you will not be around St. Catherine’s that weekend, but are still interested in donating to the youth group, feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Peace,
Michelle

To Be Known is to be Loved: Alternative Spring Break 2017

By Angie Hall

Over Spring Break in March, I journeyed with three students from the University of Utah, JJ Garzella, Zach Little, and Maria Stokes, along with Fr. Lukasz, to Denver for a week long mission trip with Christ in the City. This Catholic organization serves the homeless by sending young adult missionaries to walk the streets of downtown Denver and talk to the people they encounter on the way. One of the mottos of Christ in the City is, “To be known is to be loved.” Often the poor are lonely and isolated from the rest of society. They are ignored by people who walk past them every day. Often they go months without hearing their own name. By forming authentic relationships with the homeless, the missionaries call the poor their friends on the streets in the truest sense. Acknowledging their presence and and having conversations with the marginalized affirms their dignity and identity as children of God.

As part of the mission trip the students and campus ministry staff went on street walks alongside the missionaries. At first, I was nervous about doing street ministry. What if I didn’t know what to say to someone on the street? Would I be safe? Did my actions even have an impact? My first day of ministry all of my fears were put to rest. Most of the people I met were already good friends with the Christ in the City missionaries. I met one man who had a falling out with his family, and he moved to Denver from Louisiana not knowing anyone. After meeting Christ in the City missionaries, he was able to find people who loved and accepted him for who he was. He even found some housing and is no longer homeless. This man’s story is a common one, and I was struck by the number of homeless who are separated from their families. Even though we couldn’t reunite them with their loved ones, we were able to bring them them love of Christ and welcome them into the Christ in the City family.

Another important aspect of this trip was the integration of prayer with service. We prayed morning prayer at 6:30am, had 45 minutes of silent prayer afterwards, and then Mass. In the evenings we would pray Liturgy of the Hours, give thanks for all of the blessings of the day, and lift up to God all of the people we encountered.

Freshman Maria Stokes reflected on how prayer affected her experience. “Participating in truly compassionate service can change one’s prayer life. St. Paul tells us to pray ceaselessly, which if you are anything like me, is challenging. However, service reminds us that prayer takes many forms.

The missionaries at Christ in the City urged those of us who went to reflect on a beautiful image: that of Mary at the foot of the cross as she simply refused to avert her eyes from her suffering Son. Her witness is a perfect form of prayer. Witness and service are powerful forms prayer. When we invest in a conversation or entrust things beyond our control to the Lord, we pray.

Volunteering at Christ in the City not only allowed me to have much needed time to pray, but it spoke to the power of the various forms of prayer. It reminded us of integrated prayer, and how applying intentionality towards every encounter can transform lives.”

If you are interested in supporting our mission trip, we are still collecting donations to cover the cost of the trip. Please talk to Fr. Lukasz or Angie if you are interested in partnering in our ministry.

Holy Week 2017

April 9th, Palm Sunday-Regular Mass Schedule
April 12th-Penance Service 7:00pm
April 13th, Holy Thursday– Tenebrae (Morning Prayer) 7:30am, Mass of the Lord’s Supper 7:30pm
April 14th, Good Friday
– Tenebrae (Morning Prayer) 7:30am, Stations of the Cross at the U of U 12:10pm (begin at our plaza), Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion 7:30pm
April 15th Holy Saturday-Tenebrae (Morning Prayer) 8:30am, Easter Vigil Mass 8:30pm
April 16th Easter Sunday
– Regular Mass Schedule

Jesus Begs for Your Heart: A Retreat With Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP

Join our Newman community for a Lenten Mission with Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP, a nationally acclaimed spiritual author, playwright, and the editor-in-chief of Magnificat. This on-site retreat is intended primarily for university students and faculty, but we welcome everybody who desires to be intellectually challenged in their journey of faith.

Retreat Schedule:
– Sunday, April 2: 6:30 PM MASS
– Monday, April 3: 7 PM PRAYER & TALK
– Tuesday, April 4: 7 PM PRAYER & TALK
– Wednesday, April 5: 7 PM PRAYER & TALK AT THE CATHEDRAL

Each talk is an independent meditation so feel free to come to as many of them as your schedule permits.

Father Peter John Cameron, O.P. was ordained a Dominican priest in 1986. In addition to his work as Editor-in-Chief of Magnificat, he is the chairman of the department of homiletics at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, New York, and the artistic director of Blackfriars Repertory Theatre in New York City. He is the author of ten books. The most recent is entitled, Prayers for the Moment.

Pastor’s Corner: On Fasting and Awkwardness

(Why does the Church ask us to wear ashes on our foreheads or fast on certain days? Doesn’t it make us unnecessarily different than everybody else?)

Is it always bad to be awkward? Without falling into pride I could say that I’m somewhat of an expert in the area of awkwardness. My particular sense of humor aside, what do you think the most frequent reaction to my Dominican garb is when I show up places? AWKWARD. If wearing a long, medieval robe in public for 17 years doesn’t make one an expert in how to handle awkward reactions, I don’t know what does. I also know that being different that way has something powerful to offer.

“You have a speck of something on your forehead, sir!” – have you gotten that comment from people on Ash Wednesday? Or, “are you experimenting with your diet?”, when your coworker noticed your simple lunch on Good Friday? If you have, you know what being awkward feels like. And if it’s connected with those rich symbolic rituals reminding us of the truths that should organize our day-to-day, like God and our need for him, well, I would say it’s a good awkward. “The whole rationale of symbolic gestures requires that they disrupt and disturb the secular order”, writes Eamon Duffy, professor of history of Christianity at Cambridge. He describes in his essay the practice of fasting and how it sometimes is perceived by the secular society as odd. “Their power to witness – not only to others but to ourselves – comes precisely from their awkwardness. The abolition of such observances strikes at the heart of tradition, the distinctive language of belief. Catholic value cannot be expressed without its proper symbolic expression.”

That sign of the cross you make before your meal, that medal or scapular you wear, that abstinence from meat or a work of mercy you take on a Friday – those are the symbols that witness both to you and to others. They mark your experience of time and space with the touch of God’s grace and broaden your openness to his active presence in your life. We are symbolic, sacramental creatures, and the sooner we reclaim the proper language of expressing deep spiritual truths through proper tangible signs, the faster we will grow our mature personality.

Fear not this Catholic awkwardness and particularity. Try some rich “physical” Catholic traditions and practices in this season of Lent and see how they spiritually ground you in the presence of the Holy One. Don’t just have thoughts on how Jesus’ passion gave you new life, but come and walk with us – yes, literally walk! – the Stations of the Cross every Friday at 6 PM. Don’t just feel compassion for the homeless in our city, but go and help distribute meals at a downtown soup kitchen. Don’t just mention vaguely in your personal prayer how much you sometimes reject God’s love through sin, but come kneel in the reconciliation room, and say it out loud in the sacrament of confession. Incarnation means that our God became man, a physical human being, and it is through our bodies and their physical actions within his Body – the Church – that the new life is being so generously distributed.

Blessed Lent to you all!