February 2018


Lent is flying by, and our catechumens have become “the elect” as they prepare themselves for baptism. May their freshness of faith be part of renewing all our Catholics and parishes.

In this issue we are happy to welcome an article by Fr. Bruce Nieli, CSP, long involved in Latino ministry. He will bring us up to date on some of the aspects of the V Encuentro which has galvanized the American Latino community this year. I continue reflecting on Catholic discipleship with a treatment of prayer; this is part of a larger project. We are also happy to have links to helpful information – from the diocese of Joliet on Young Adult Ministry and a timely piece on an Olympic athlete who discerned religious life.

Finally, we have completed the youth booklets for The Journey and urge you to look at these for very powerful ways to engage youth in experiencing their faith more powerfully today.

With prayers for continued Lenten conversion, I am,

Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP

Catholics. Disciples. Missionaries.

This year, the essays in the Evangelization Exchange will focus on how we can help form Catholics as missionary disciples. This series, entitled “Catholics. Disciples. Missionaries.” will offer concrete examples of forming missionary disciples from various pastoral viewpoints, as well as an exploration of the theme in terms of Catholic evangelization and faith formation. Read past articles here.

Catholics. Disciples. Missionaries – Prayer and Worship

by Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP

One version of the joke goes this way: an atheist is out for a walk in the woods, enjoying nature’s beauty. All of a sudden a grizzly bear emerges from the woods, and it looks quite intent on attacking the atheist. “O my God,” the atheist say. “I don’t believe in God and don’t want to believe in God. So let this bear become the believer. It’s not going to be me.” The bear’s attitude suddenly change; he pauses. He bows his head. Then, just before going after the atheist, we hear the bear saying, “Bless us O Lord, and this thy gift, which I am about to receive from thy bounty.”

This often-told joke shows, first of all, how instinctually we think of prayer as a formula of words that we say. Once I have the formula, and then say the words, the prayer will have its effect-almost like magic.

On a deeper level, this joke reveals something about human nature: even the atheist ends up talking to God. Our sense of being connected to God is something that a few scientists even claim is “wired” into our brains. God is not the conclusion of an argument; rather, God is the horizon of our lives. As the old saying put it: “In foxholes there are no atheists.”

So, prayer has to be more than a formula; and it means something more than a vague talking to God. In fact, prayer flows from the heart of our experience of discipleship. Once disciples have a sense of relationship with God, and once we let the Scriptures deepen that relationship, then prayer becomes a way for us to enter into intimate communion with God. We find ourselves open to the deepest levels of God’s presence; likewise, we sense God’s ever-ready openness to us.

Prayer, then, expresses the relationship that we have with God as we put that relationship into action, into the attentive posture of opening ourselves to God. Sure, prayer may happen spontaneously, for example, when we are in the middle of an emergency. But prayer has the most meaning when it flows from hearts that already have become familiar with God.

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Missionary Disciples, Witnesses Of God’s Love: Reflections on the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (V Encuentro)

By Fr. D. Bruce Nieli, C.S.P.

Let’s all get involved in a nation-wide way to implement the New Evangelization! Let’s all participate in the V Encuentro!

As the Secretariat on Cultural Diversity in the Church of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states:

The V Encuentro is a four-year process of ecclesial reflection and evangelization that invites all Catholics in the United States to intense missionary activity, consultation, leadership development, and the identification of best ministerial practices in the spirit of the New Evangelization.

Notice the inclusion “all Catholics!” The very first objective of the V Encuentro is to “call all Catholics in the United States to become authentic and joyful missionary disciples that give witness to God’s love with a prophetic voice in a culturally diverse Church.” The V Encuentro is all-embracing! It is for all of us, Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike!

Its call echoes that of our Holy Father Pope Francis, who, in the first sentences of his landmark Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, exclaims: “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness…I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.”

And notice the word “encounter” (in Spanish, encuentro). The V Encuentro, and Pope Francis’s entire pontificate proclaim the “New Evangelization,” connecting our “encounter” with Jesus to our becoming his “Spirit-filled evangelizers” and “missionary disciples.”

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Fr. Bruce Nieli, CSP is an evangelist and missionary based at St. Austin Church in Austin, TX. As part of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, he was named a Missionary of Mercy of Pope Francis. A native of Long Island, NY, Fr. Bruce was ordained in 1973. He is past director of evangelization of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Fr. Bruce leads parish missions and retreats, and speaks at a variety of diocesan and regional conferences. He is fully bilingual and does presentations in both English and Spanish. “Responding to the Spirit in the Soul, in the Church and in the World” is one of his topics, as is the spirituality of St. Paul the Apostle.

Bring encounter and discipleship to life for youth

The Journey for Youth is now available!

Are the teens in your parish growing into disciples of Christ who will be willing to jump into the game? Help them to grow in understanding and relationship through The Journey!

The Journey is perfect for helping teens in your parish grow in their relationship with Christ and each other. Let The Journey transform the experience of our youth.

Teens meet each week in small groups where they will experience something different. Through sharing, prayer, video, and community youth can experience Jesus in a new, direct way. The Youth Booklet has been specially designed to foster sharing and growth. The video experience makes the Gospel come alive for teens. The Youth Leader Guide will make the process easy for parish leadership and youth ministers!

Through The Journey, teens grow in encounter with Jesus so that they can be reminded of Pope Francis word’s:

“Jesus calls you by name. He loves all of us with a special love; for him, all of us are important: You are important! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.”

Order today to help the love of Christ grow in the youth in your parish!

Order Here

Sparks from Ashes – Evangelization Ideas for Ash Wednesday and Lent

From the Diocese of Joliet Young Adult Ministry Office

What’s This All About? We are asking each and every parish in the Diocese of Joliet to take at least one action step towards evangelizing young adults in their twenties and thirties on Ash Wednesday or throughout Lent this year.

Ash Wednesday is a perfect opportunity for Catholic churches to capitalize on the increased number of young adults who will be returning to church that day.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophet Joel also challenged the religious leaders of his own day to prepare for those who would be returning to the Temple for worship: “Blow the trumpet, Zion! Proclaim a fast! Call an assembly! Gather the people! Notify the congregation! Assemble the elders! Gather the children and the nursing infants! Let the bridegroom quit his room and the bride her chamber!…” (Joel 2:15-16). How often do we look at Ash Wednesday as an opportunity to do the same and prepare for the influx of young adults who will come our way?

In this packet, we have enclosed several suggestions on how to take that one action step towards the evangelization and re-evangelization of young adult Catholics – to truly see sparks rise up from the ashes. Remember, though, that these are just the first stepping stones towards a larger goal of evangelization and mission.

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How a Winter Olympic speedskater changed directions and became a nun

By Martin Rogers, USA Today, © Copyright Gannett 2018

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – At a community ice rink in the northern English city of Bradford, the security attendant had a bit of a dilemma. She had already remonstrated with a group of teenage boys for larking about, skating too quickly and endangering other visitors, and now there was another speedster hurtling around the rink, even faster.

Except that this time the customer powering around the ice, executing gliding turns and weaving in and out of human traffic wasn’t joking around and carried a focused look of remembrance.

And she was wearing a nun’s habit.

Eventually Kirstin Holum, or Sr. Catherine of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, was stopped by the guard and asked to slow down, which she did without complaint.

“Even after all these years,” she said, “I still liked going fast.”

Continue Reading at USA Today