Tag Archives: Ministry

Communion of the Heart

Elizabeth Hascher, Senior Anchor Intern

Just as quickly as my summer began, it was over. Even though I hadn’t been on campus for eight months, it felt like it was just last week that I was loading up my car with storage tubs and driving away, golden dome in my rearview mirror. At first, the thought of coming back was terrifying. I left campus last fall feeling very much ready to leave. It was a semester with a lot of difficult moments, and it left me questioning if Notre Dame was the place for me.

That trying semester did come with some unexpected blessings, however. One thing led to another during the fall, and I was presented with the opportunity to spend my summer participating in an SSLP with the L’Arche community in Spokane, Washington. There are 137 L’Arche communities throughout the world, and each of them provides a home and community where people with and without intellectual disabilities share their lives with one another. They live and work together, form friendships and relationships of faith, and seek to strengthen and provide growth opportunities for their communities.

That all sounds great, but what L’Arche really looks like is living in a house with ten other people and just embracing life with one another. L’Arche is about drinking coffee with your friends in the morning and sitting on the porch for hours. It’s about dancing in the kitchen and praying together after dinner. It’s also about talking with one another and sharing feelings of sadness or frustration, or giving someone a hug after a difficult day. Sometimes it’s even about laughing really hard when someone farts unexpectedly during breakfast.

L’Arche celebrates the Fourth of July together with a picnic.

As I left my L’Arche family and came back to school, I carried this experience with me. Knowing that a lot had changed during my time away from campus, I thought about my time in Spokane and wondered how I would be able to take what I learned and share it with others. How would I be able to explain to people at Notre Dame what a radically different lifestyle L’Arche was, and how it taught me more than perhaps any class? Well, here it is.

Living with people with intellectual disabilities showed me that the way we spend our time says volumes about the values we hold. If we truly let our lives speak, we can learn a lot about ourselves. We may be surprised to find that we may not be honoring our values and beliefs quite the way we perceive ourselves to be. It should give each of us pause to think about times when we have valued worldly things, validation from others, and power over vulnerability, humility, and sharing our lives with each other. My time at L’Arche showed me that if I truly desire to let God work in my life, I must intentionally create spaces in which He can dwell.

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, writes in his book Becoming Human, “Weakness, recognized, accepted, and offered, is at the heart of belonging, so it is at the heart of communion with another.” If we are to invite God in, we must choose to make time for the moments of joy in our lives, but also for those times of pain and sorrow. We must be more open about offering this up with the people around us. It is in such moments, when we give each other even the tiniest of glimpses into what is on our hearts, that we come into communion with one another.

Through this communion of the heart, God enters our lives. God dwells in the spaces of brokenness and weakness, and he is present in times of joy and celebration as well. He is there when we share snacks and tell jokes with our friends, and when we tell someone how tough our day really was. He’s there when we dance in the car and when we need someone to help us get out of bed in the morning. When we share life with one another and become vulnerable in this way, we make room for God.

Elizabeth and Tina go out for community night at a minor league baseball game

God seeks a personal relationship with each of us, and it is up to us to invite Him in through encounters of the heart. This means different things for everyone. Perhaps it is as simple as putting down your to-do list and taking a walk with a friend. Maybe it means sitting at dinner to talk for half an hour longer instead of catching up on your favorite TV show. It could even be simply being physically present to the person next to you. We can’t pretend to know everything that is on another person’s heart, but we can certainly make more of an effort to share what is on ours and be open to receiving that from others.

As tempting as it may be to say that everything is fine or pretend that life under the dome is all sunshine and tailgates, we are closing off our hearts to communion with each other and God when we do so. Jean Vanier also writes, “To speak of the heart is not to speak of vaguely defined emotions but to speak of the very core of our being.” If we are to cultivate our minds and our hearts here at Notre Dame, we need to be more intentional about opening our hearts to one another. It is then that we will begin to recognize God’s kingdom on Earth.

 

Why We Minister: Kayla August

Kayla August, Assistant Director of Evangelization

As he hobbled toward the obstacle course with certain confidence, I realized “why I minister.”

This camper was a boy about 10 years old.   I had first met him a few days before, as his parents checked-in him, his bags, and his brother at the camp drop off location.  The father carried his son’s crutches, wrapped in army duct tape, as this camper cautiously walked up to the camp check-in location.

“You want us to put these under the bus with his luggage?”  I questioned, as his father handed us the crutches along with his suitcases. It seemed to me that if someone took the time to bring crutches, they must want to use them.

“He shouldn’t need them,” his father responded, “they are here just in case.”

At that point, I noticed this camper’s metal leg complete with tennis shoe as he strode away to join the other kids in the main lobby. His name was Dylan, and I later learned that he had lost his leg only a few months before and was in the transitional period of learning to walk in a new way.

This was not a jarring moment because this encounter is not unusual for the camps I work for in the summer.  Camp Pelican, a camp for kids with pulmonary diseases, and Camp Challenge, a camp for kids with Cancer, Sickle cell, and other blood disorders, have become a regular part of my summers. For these campers, the result of these ailments is not only the loss of health but the loss of other things kids are not prepared for: hair, the ability to walk, and the general security of being a “normal” kid. The awkward innocence that is prevalent in most prepubescent’s is replaced with adult considerations like the reality that life may not only be different from that of their peers, but shorter as well.  

When I first started working these camps 13 years ago, I realized that this week gives these kids what their hearts desire most. Not a cure, but that sense of normalcy that the disease takes away in their day-to-day life. The opportunity to not stand out in the crowd but to just “fit in.”

Kayla August, second from right, pictured after the “Stormtrooper Training” course

After an early morning preparing for a new day of camp, I set up an obstacle course for a Star Wars themed morning of physical activities. This course designed as “stormtrooper training” was compiled of tunnels to crawl through, crates to hop over, chairs to dart around, round tire-like objects to step through, and it ended with a Jenga block minefield that was only complete if you passed through it with all blocks standing unmoved.

The majority of male campers that came to the course that day rushed through the course with glee. In fact, it quickly became an intense competition for each one reaching the end asking, “what was my time,” in an attempt to be the best of the day! As each camper went through, I did my part to keep them pumped and excited using their competitive nature as a way to keep them motivated throughout the hour.

But, in my morning effort of creating a course brimming with kid intensity, I had not considered Dylan. When Dylan approached, we started the time as usual. Then, I quickly realized that this was an endeavor where the lowest time was not the prize but completion was the victory.

Accuracy was Dylan’s goal. Dylan started out slowly on the course placing his legs in each “tire” and the determinedly crawling through the tunnel ahead. He was determined but not hasty. As the goal of completion became the forefront, one of his counselors yelled “Go Dylan!” and the boys in his group turned to watch and cheer on their friend. The room was at a standstill, and all eyes were on Dylan as he made his way through the course. While it had previously been a competition, Dylan’s victory would be a win for everyone.

The slow rise of his name first crept in from the voices of the campers behind me…“Dyl-an! Dyl-an! Dyl-an! Dylan!” Then, his name echoed from the mouths of his group mates and his counselors as he steadily walked around the chairs meant for darting, walking over the crates meant for hopping and made his way through the “minefield’ without dropping a single Jenga block. As he crossed the finish line, there was no time called out as before. There was no need. He’d won more than a reduced time. He’d won a greater victory, and with this, he beamed as he noticed no difference between the friends that went before him and his completion of the course. His goal was accuracy and he achieved it with a room of fans cheering his name.

It was this moment that I realized this camp, which I’ve been a part of for almost half my life, was a ministry, and a beautiful one at that! While creating costumes, skits, and activities for the week long sleep over camp experience, I was also sharing with the kids the love of God, and that love is powerful.

For me, ministry has always been about that love. The Christian community contains a family that loves us for exactly who we are, a love that calls us to more than what we thought we could, and a faith that reminds us that we are capable of miracles if we let that love guide us.

Kayla walking with students as she ministers

This is why I minister. That love gives us courage. It gives us hope. It propels us. It gives us the power to complete the obstacle course of life with smiles on our faces and cheers in our hearts. Camp isn’t the only place people encounter the struggles of life. It’s all around us. Our society is filled with hardships, poverty, crime, illness, natural disasters, broken relationships, unhealthy attachments, and unearned struggles that people face which are far from fair but are actualities nonetheless. When a student comes before me in tears dealing with the hardships of life, I am the reminder of God’s love. A reminder that God hasn’t left them, but is instead holding their hand through the Jenga minefield of their day to day struggles. In ministry, Christ is the one screaming their name and I get to cheer them on along the way. I get to be there as they realize the beauty of what God made them to be.

That moment with Dylan reminded me that I’m not just a part of a camp community but a church family and that the power of love and support has been a motivating force in my life. Everyone is welcome to that family, and as Dylan made his way through the obstacle course, the kingdom of God manifested in a way that brought to life a clear vision of the world. One where a pure love was the ultimate unifying source. A world we all want to live in. A world that we were meant for.

Thirteen years ago, this view of the kingdom motivated me to make the whole world that small campsite in southern Louisiana. It showed me what the radical love of Christ can do. Everyone was invited to share in that love and receive the hope it brings.

As the Assistant Director of Evangelization, it’s my job to share that love.  Evangelizing is being able to spread the good news. That this love is for everyone! In my ministerial life, my goal is that everyone comes to know the power of that love. I’m reminded of this as I read the gospels and see the revolutionary way in which Jesus’ love touched and changed the hearts of those he encountered. In fact, after his resurrection, Christians risked death to preach of this life-changing love. The love that not only made the blind see or the lame walk, but also called people to walk away from all they knew to follow a new path of hope.

With each student I encounter, I mirror that love of Christ, so that they may experience it as I have. That inner awakening that resounds in the soul. The love that affirms who we are now and have always been while still calling us to more. The love that unites us all. It is an open invitation that I have the privilege to share, and I watch as that transforming love changes the lives of the students before me. In ministry, I’m blessed to witness the miracles that come from that radical love and also to be the vessel to bring it to those in need.

That love is God. It’s why we’re here. It brings us to life. It keeps us moving forward. It gives us hope. It’s why I minister.

Why We Minister: Allie Greene

Allie Greene, Assistant Director of Liturgy

I sat in the Basilica alone on a freezing winter evening, in need of a quiet place to pray. I chose a pew, sat down, crossed my arms, and glared daggers at the tabernacle. My silent prayer went something like this:

“Really – nothing? It’s been months. Which part of my prayer was unclear? I’m out of patience and so tired of this. No more gentle ‘I trust in your will’ prayers. It’s your turn.”

Both satisfied in my silent reproach of God and defeated that I had come to that point, I genuflected and exited the church. It wasn’t my finest moment of trust in God’s providence and grace.

It was, however, one of the most honest moments of prayer I’ve ever experienced. Before then, I believed that giving my intentions over to God would feel good-natured and graceful, easy to do with answers to follow quickly. I was wrong: it felt more like exhaustion from running out of other options.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart // University Photographer

The answer to why I minister is rooted in my experience of prayer. I try to be a faithful disciple, and I hope to help our students do the same, to grow in faith here at Notre Dame and far beyond. Specifically, my ministry is to help our students to pray well together, and there’s a phrase I use to describe this work: serious joy.

It’s serious because this ministry is no small task: to teach students how to pray and how to lead communal prayer, to offer formation as they plan Masses and prayer services, and to encourage them to grow in their faith long after they leave Notre Dame.

At the same time, this ministry is abundantly joyful. I’m privileged to see what happens when students — while praying together — encounter God. I hear them give reflections on Scripture and listen as their words bring new light to old passages. I watch as students give their time, energy, and boundless courage to lead music during their hall’s Sunday Masses. I see their heads bowed, eyes lifted, hands folded, hugs of peace, and other postures and gestures of prayer expressed. It’s a true joy to pray with, for, and among our students.

I have a personal investment in working with students to plan liturgies because it was in the Mass that God and I first found each other. In effort to grow in faith, I’d gone on service trips, attended many retreats, and prayed with Scripture; however, it was in Mass that I first encountered God and that encounter is what compelled me to return.

At different points in my life, I’ve found great comfort at Mass — even if I’m distracted, even if I don’t know the songs, and even if I only caught the opening line of a homily before my mind raced in another direction. I have strong memories of events that took place in the context of Mass, some monumental and some rather routine: I’ve witnessed my college friends become ordained priests, and received chrism oil on my forehead at Confirmation; I’ve run straight from the lake to church on a summer Saturday, and celebrated the beautiful sacrament of my sister’s wedding. Like my prayer, Mass takes different forms and shapes, but it is a constant in my life. Mass was both fifteen-minutes before starting my high school day and the three-hour Vigil on the night before Easter. Mass sounds like a packed residence hall chapel of women’s voices and like echoing silence after communion in a French cathedral.

Truthfully, going to Mass doesn’t always feel like the most thrilling activity in which I participate. I can’t compare it to rollerblading, kayaking, or watching Notre Dame football. But I don’t go to Mass because it’s always thrilling. I go to Mass to meet God there, again and again. And I keep going back because of what the liturgy compels me to do after: to be God’s hands, feet, voice, and love in the world.

I’m grateful for this ministry in helping students to pray well together. I hope that they will always want to return to God in different moments of prayer, as I do, and never to be far from that encounter.

Student Prayer in Ryan Hall Chapel

About a month later, I felt overwhelming gratitude when I received an answer to my despairing, wintry-day prayer. So I returned to that same pew in the Basilica, this time for a different style of prayer. I found there a place to pray when I was exhausted and felt unheard, so it made sense to go back when I was grateful and filled with hope. I was honest with God before in my pain and confusion, and honest with God again in amazement and joy. I minister with the hope that our students will do the same and find faith in the constancy of God’s love, particularly in the way it is revealed to us through the Mass.

Why We Minister: Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C.

Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C., Director, Campus Ministry

Out into the Deep

As Faith began to wade out into the water, I attached her skis and taught her the basics of what to do when the boat began to pull.  Confident that she had a good enough sense of the mechanics, I told her to sit down in the water and close her eyes.  After a quizzical look, she settled into the water, closed her eyes and at that moment I cupped my hands and splashed her in the face with enough water to get a quick “What did you do that for?”  I looked at her and said, “Most water skiers your age fail not because they can’t pull themselves out of the water, but because the water hits them in the face and they start to panic.” 

Fr. Pete on the water!

With water dripping from her face, she smiled and settled in for her first attempt.  It wasn’t until the fourth try that we hit pay dirt.  Faith made almost an entire loop around the truncated path that my uncle carved out on her maiden voyage.  About 100 yards from shore Faith encountered a set of waves that looked fierce, and in fact they were fierce.  I watched her go up and down, up and down, and then just down. 

Splash!  After my uncle circled back and began bringing Faith to shore I could see her standing on the boat like George Washington on his way across the Delaware.  When she finally made it back, Faith looked over and said, “Now that was a lot of water.”

The key to our spiritual faith is to be equally expressive.  Jesus asks his disciples in St. Matthew’s Gospel to clarify who people think he is.  They respond by saying: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  However, St. Peter filled with faith replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” 

St. Peter, the fisherman by trade, the one who had a documented temper from time to time, who would go on to deny Christ three times, recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus’ response was clear and direct:  “… you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…”. 

Was St. Peter fully ready for Jesus’ invitation?  Debatable.  Yet, the compelling fact about faith is that it never leaves us where we started and rarely offers a complete road map for how to get there.  When Jesus first encountered St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee he didn’t unfurl a ten-point plan on the benefits of following Him.  Jesus simply said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  That same invitation to follow is extended to us today.  How do we respond? 

First, we can stay near the shore and play it safe.  The waves will pose a minimal threat and we’ll have no fear of the water hitting our face.  This lifestyle tends to be more predictable, minimal risk, less stress and a greater reliance on our own abilities. 

Or, we can let Jesus pull us into the deeper water where the waves are bigger, trust and belief are essential and we are reminded that the answers we seek are sometimes too big to solve in a lifetime.   

When answering the question of “Why I Minister?”, I hope that it is because I’m willing to let literal and figurative water hit me in the face.  To be out a little deeper than I’d prefer, but always trust that the one who called and even tugged me here will also see me through.  As St. Paul so beautifully points out in his letter to the Romans, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  For from him and through him and for him are all things.” 

I cannot promise that a life lived with faith will be perfect.  You will fall and fail.  Further, I cannot guarantee that everything will go according to plan: majors will change, relationships will change, priorities will change, and you will change. 

I can promise that lives dedicated to faith will ultimately transform relationships, improve communities and bring us all a step closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.   

Why We Minister: Rebecca Ruvalcaba

Rebecca Ruvulcaba, Multicultural Ministry

“Ministry is a participation in the threefold ministry of Christ, who is priest, prophet, and king.”  ~ USCCB, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord

Pies del Bautizado (Feet of the Baptized),
Picture of my feet after a walk in the Valley of Death. May 2016

What is a minister?
For years I believed that a minister was only associated with a member of the clergy. I never realized that for years I had been an active minister; participating in the “threefold ministry of Christ.” I grew up serving and participating in different parish ministries but I really did not understand my participation until I lived a retreat called Christ Renews His Parish as an adult. My baptism for years was being lived out unconsciously.

I participated in Jesus’ ministry unknowingly (to some extent) because my parents taught me that we must all work for the betterment of society. We must seek to serve others because that is how it should be. I do not remember my parents, or any other mentor in my life, mentioning the fact that because of our baptism we are called to serve as Jesus did and that our ministry in the world is Jesus himself in the world. My understanding of my service was because it was just something we did as good people. I watched my parents give their talents and gifts, and how they loved humanity, and I desired to do the same. Therefore, my active life in Jesus existed without really knowing that He was the one working in, with, and through me

When was the first time I realized I desired to give more beyond just a “job”?
It was the Holy Spirit that moved my heart at the CRHP retreat, and I realized that God had always been guiding and moving me in His direction; serving and “ministering” to, with, and for His people. For many years my “work” was because I desired to give of myself to the community. I had worked in food pantries, with migrant farmworkers (making sure that they had medical assistance), leading girl scout troops, and confirmation classes at my parish.

After living the CRHP retreat in 2009 my “work” became God’s, and my desire to give of myself became Jesus’ gift of self in and through me. I realized that I was His vessel, I was serving and giving God’s love that had become part of me. The only reason I was able to serve at my parish, to serve at my job, and to serve my family and friends was because God’s love had penetrated my being. My life became as the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). My life was of God’s and it had always been. All that I had done in my life was because Jesus lived in me, and I now desired to live more fully in him.

When have I felt overwhelmed and/or consumed by Jesus in ministry? Why?
In these 8 years of consciously serving in the vineyard of the Lord (Mt 20:1-16) I have found myself often overwhelmed and consumed by Jesus. He has filled my heart so much that I often find my thoughts consumed by Him and I have found myself often saying: “Padre Mio, Aqui Estoy” (My Father, Here I Am). There is peace, joy, and an amazing love that consumes me and I desire to give myself to all that He desires. There is a growing fascination I have for Jesus, and I have fallen in love with Him and all He did and does in, with, and through all of us. My heart is so much more compassionate and generous with and for others because of Jesus’ heart in me. I desire a deeper relationship with Jesus. I sit with Him often to listen for His word, and I pray for His guidance and wisdom. As I move in the world, Jesus allows me to encounter Him in all people and I have come to love Him in the flesh through each of them.

In the spring of 2015, I started to have an overwhelming sense that there was something I needed to do that was not academically focused. I had spent four semesters and two summers studying about God and my heart was missing something. I went to visit the director of HIM (Hearts In Motion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the poor in Guatemala) and found myself with a desire to serve the poor in Guatemala. I withdrew from my next summer session and the organization found a sponsor which allowed me to I fly with a team of doctors, nurses, and students to Zacapa, Guatemala.

I thought I was to work in an orphanage organizing a soccer camp for the local children but God had other plans for me. I spent 11 days as a medical interpreter. It was one of the most humbling and moving experiences of my life. I encountered Jesus in every single child that saw the doctors, and I heard the concerns and love in the voices of the parents. I felt His love in every hug and heard God’s voice in the words of gratitude that the people expressed. I had been studying of God but my heart desired to know Him at a deeper level. I desired to be consumed not just intellectually but spiritually.

 

La Cara de Jesus (The Face of Jesus), Interpreting in Zacapa, Guatemala, Summer of 2015.

What called me to Campus Ministry and working with Multicultural Ministry?
As I continued on in my academic studies, I realized I needed to continue ministering in my parish community at St. Adalbert/St. Casimir seeking to encounter Jesus on a deeper level. Nonetheless, there was something more that God wanted from me. As I was approaching my final year of studies, I was confronted with having to discern where God desired me to serve His people in the best way possible. In my years of study in the MDiv, here at the University of Notre Dame, I always believed that I would be doing parish ministry full-time at my home parish. It never crossed my mind to be anywhere else but God had other plans.

I was called to Campus Ministry, specifically multicultural ministry, because of God’s many servants in His vineyard who knew of my experience and work in the Latino community and in the Catholic Church. I came with no expectations and future inclinations to make ND Campus Ministry my place of ministry but God in His boundless wisdom placed me in the path of some of the most amazing and loving young people. For years, my husband and I prayed for children but we were never blessed with our very own. However, over the years, God has given us many spiritual children. I’ve come to realize that here as Campus Ministry I will be able to love and care for many of His young people.

Through the years, I have worked with many different communities and experienced many different ways of life. I have ministered in a large Latino Catholic community and encountered Jesus in a non-Catholic homeless person. I have worked with Jews, Muslims, and Christians on social justice issues and I have ministered in a diverse community on the West Side of South Bend providing food and youth programming. God has guided me here to Campus Ministry and multicultural ministry. I have learned that there is no difference in who we serve. Jesus loved everyone and cared for all no matter their ethnic background, culture, and/or faith background. “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon” (Mark 3:7-8). During His ministry, He reached out to Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, and Romans. I was attracted to multicultural ministry because of Jesus’ example and the call to live the “eternal gospel” which is to preach to “every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Rev. 14:6).

Why do I minister?
I minister because of my threefold ministry in Christ. In my priestly call I pray for wisdom and the heart of Jesus; in my prophetic life I speak through, walk in, and proclaim with the Truth; and in my royal commission, I govern my interior being to be able to serve and care for the people of God. I minister because of whose I am in and through my baptism.

 

“Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” ~ Matthew 28:19