Mass on the Grass 2017

Sunday, August 27th, 6:30 PM

Come, let’s start off a new academic year St. Catherine’s style! We will celebrate our annual Mass on the Grass across the street from our church, to pray for the U campus community and for all our parishioners, especially welcoming the new students.

Mass will be followed by a delicious FREE Italian dinner provided by Valter’s Osteria.

Please spread the word!

Onward and Upward: Newman on the Way of St. James

This past May 28 students and young adults from St. Catherine’s backpacked a part of the Way of St. James in Spain. The pilgrimage on this ancient trail was led by Fr. Lukasz and his Dominican friend from Poland, Fr. Dawid Kolodziejczyk. Read a story by one of those young people, John Esquivel, about what this experience was like.

As you may know, we walked 322 km (just about 200 miles) this past May in Spain in what’s called El Camino De Santiago, the pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint James. We walked as little as 13 miles and up to 24 miles during certain days. I can certainly say it’s been an experience like no other for I learned so much about my community and myself by doing this walk. I will not lie to you; this walk is tough as it takes of a lot of perseverance, faith, hope, and endurance to do.

I learned many valuable lessons for life. This is a walk about learning how to adapt to your environment, how to listen to your body and test your limits, how to train your mind to do things it never thought it could do. It taught me how to be comfortable with being by myself, and at the same time with others and how to properly balance it in order for me to be at peace. It taught me how to just keep walking, and walking, and walking. I learned to not complain and not to think about the walk in terms of “how much is left?” or “Is it over soon?” too much, because at the end of the day, you’ll be with your community bonding over experiences and enjoying mass with them in gorgeous churches. Sometimes you will walk alone, and you’ll have time to sort out your problems and pray, sometimes you will walk and not think at all just walk, and sometimes you will be sharing experiences and enjoying other people’s companies. You will undoubtedly meet people from all over the world, and see why they do the Camino.

In the Camino you will be challenged to reach distances you never thought you could and make sacrifices. You will grow closer to God, but the way you will not be the same as others, just follow the signs leading you. There were points where I felt deep helplessness only to see the end goal nearby and seeing hope and how God strengthened me with perseverance, because in the end it will all be fine. Among the most valuable lessons I learned were how to be enduring, persistent, and resilient in the Camino. God will never forsake you. I learned how to smile after the hardest days, because sometimes people need that reassuring smile. I learned how to get inspiration from people, and how to inspire people to keep going and to realize that we cannot make it to the end goal without others. I feel blessed to say we walked thought it all; rain, fog, cold, strong wind, intense sun, thunder, perfect weather etc. I learned to accept myself and my limitations as well as the good qualities that pulled me through the Way. Things in the Camino will sometimes be disappointing, but patience is key to overcome this.

Finally, while the Camino did not change my life, it gave me the tools to change my life, and for that I am most grateful to God. I was really scared to do this walk, thinking I would not be able to do it…yet here I am talking about I walk I did about a month ago. I strongly recommend doing El Camino de Santiago if you seek personal growth and to grow closer to God and others.

Above: visiting St. Teresa’s shrine in Avila

Above: walking through the farmlands of Leon

Above: Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross), the highest point on the Way. At the foot of this cross pilgrims are encouraged to leave little rocks they have been carrying, symbols of their sins and struggles

Above: celebration of daily Eucharist in Samos

Above: singing Taize chants after a long day of backpacking in the mountains of Galicia

Pilgrimage to Poland

This May Fr. Jacek took a group of Newman Center parishioners and friends to Poland for a 9 day pilgrimage. The first three days were spent in Warsaw where we first learned about the history of Poland, in view of the Vistula River, and under the watchful eye of a Marie Curie statue, a famous Warsaw resident. We toured the Royal Castle, experienced the Polin Museum of the History of the Jews, visited the Warsaw Dominican Priory, and St Hyacinth’s church. We listened to Chopin in the Park and ate pierogis and beer whenever possible. Then we motored down to the shrine of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa and arrived at our apartments, one block from one of the most beautiful town squares in Europe.

In Cracow we experienced the Wieliczka Salt Mines, visited the Saint Maria Faustyna Kowalska shrine, and spent half a day at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Following the extermination camp we made our way to the St John Paul II shrine. The shrine has only been open for one year and sits on the remnants of the quarry where John Paul discerned his vocation. The church is decorated with mosaics and is amazingly beautiful. Here, together we prayed the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy contemplating one of the most horrific events of history along with the stunning work of St John Paul. At St Mary’s Basilica, we saw the gothic architecture of Poland and listened to organ music in the evening. At the Jagiellonian University’s Collegium Maius, we learned about Copernicus and his contributions to math and astronomy in the year 1400. We completed out our visit to Cracow by walking through the Jewish Ghetto and watching the ordination of eight new Dominican Deacons at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Fr Jacek, besides sharing his comprehensive history of Poland, both spiritual, political, and economic, can also take credit for introducing us to cherry vodka, home cooked Polish cuisine, and splendid public transportation. Many thanks to Fr. Jacek for a wonderful trip.

Joyce Barra


Leveraging the Talent: Changes in St. Catherine’s Dominican Leadership


What makes St. Catherine’s different than other Salt Lake City parishes? Some may mention the liturgy, or architecture, or the strong sense of community. One should definitely mention its character as a university parish, a Newman Center. Now, my hope is that along with these features another quality gets listed: that St. Catherine’s is a Dominican parish.

Why does that matter? The most basic answer is our Dominican fraternal life. That fraternal life is what initially attracted me to the Dominican Order, and it is at the heart of our ongoing discernment of the model of leadership that would best suit our community here at St. Catherine’s. Dominicans are brothers together. This means that we live an intentional and communal life, always striving to use each man’s talents together for one common goal: preaching and the salvation of souls. Our fraternal life means that our individual ministries and projects stem out of our shared reflection on the needs of the Church. And in order to answer these needs well, we need to keep leveraging our talents.

So what is happening with the St. Catherine’s Dominicans? By now most of you have heard about our new addition, Fr. Marcin Szymanski, OP. He will be joining Fr. Jacek Buda, OP, who served at Juan Diego Catholic HS last year, and me, which brings the number of Dominican friars at St. Catherine’s to three. Why do we need that many, you could ask? Well, I strongly believe that this is actually the only way to let the specific quality of Dominican ministry do its “magic”. The fraternity with which we approach the people entrusted to our care requires this variety of personalities and talents, so that we can best serve the diverse needs of St. Catherine’s and of the Church in Utah. In order to optimize our performance, we came up with the following model assigning primary responsibilities to each friar:

  • Jacek will be the pastor of the parish, taking care of the sacramental life, faith formation, and the administrative needs of St. Catherine’s;
  • Lukasz will be the campus minister, reaching out to the University of Utah, Westminster College, and Salt Lake Community College, and organizing the faith formation programs of the Newman Center with the help of student leaders;
  • Marcin will work with all the communities at St. Catherine’s, helping with the sacramental life and faith formation of our diverse ministries.

Having said that, I need to add that this division of labor is only an approximation, as the specific tasks each of us will get involved with will depend on both our ongoing fraternal discernment and your continuing feedback.

We are undertaking a division of labor, not a division of love. Each of us will be present to the whole St. Catherine’s community in a way that takes advantage of our talents most effectively. You can expect each of us to celebrate Masses and preach on a rotating basis, each of us to be available for confession or conversation, each of us to be involved with the spiritual, the intellectual, and the social life of the parish. To put it simply, our desire is to divide responsibilities to unite us more intimately in our one goal: to be present and attentive to what our individuals and families need in their journey of faith.

May St. Catherine of Siena with her zealous love of the Gospel inspire all of us as we work together on the shape of our faith community.





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:

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]