Passover Remembered

Posted: July 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

{A beautiful poem by Alla Bozarth-Campbell}

Pack nothing
Bring only your determination
to serve

And your willingness to be free.

Don’t wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey,
but eat standing, be ready
to move at a moment’s notice.

Do not hesitate to leave
your old ways behind —
fear, silence, and submission.

Only surrender to the need
of the time — to love
justice and walk humbly
with your God.

Do not take time
to explain to the neighbors.
Tell only a few trusted
friends and family members.

Then begin quickly,
before you have time
to sink back into
the old slavery.

Set out in the dark.
I will send fire to warm and encourage you.
I will be with you in the fire
and I will be with you in the cloud.

You will learn to eat new food
and find refuge in new places.
I will give you dreams in the desert
to guide you safely to that place
you have not yet seen.

The stories you tell
one another around the fires
in the dark will make you
strong and wise.

Outsiders will attack you,
and some follow you,
and at times you will get weary
and turn on each other
from fear and fatigue and
blind forgetfulness.

You have been preparing
for this for hundreds of years.
I am sending you into the wilderness
to make a new way and to learn my ways
more deeply.

Some of you will be so changed
by weathers and wanderings
that even your closest friends
will have to learn your features
as though for the first time.

Some of you will not change at all.
Some will be abandoned
by your dearest loves
and misunderstood by those
who have known you since birth
and feel abandoned by you.
Some will find new friendships
in unlikely faces, and old friends
as faithful and true
as the pillar of God’s flame.

Sing songs as you go,
and hold close together.
You may at times grow confused
and lose your way.
Continue to call each other
by the names I’ve given you,
to help remember who you are.
You will get where you are going
by remembering who you are.
Touch each other and keep telling the stories.

Make maps as you go
remembering the way back
from before you were born.

So you will be only the first
of many waves of deliverance on these desert
It is the first of many beginnings —
your Paschaltide.

Remain true to this mystery.

Pass on the whole story.
Do not go back.
I am with you now
and I am waiting for you.


Cannonball Moments

Posted: June 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

I found this little gem of a commencement speech.  It’s the the principal of Xavier College Prep.  I had the honor of meeting Mr. Alling when I visited during their Human Dignity Summit.

Full of Flowers and Music

Posted: June 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

Just Breathe

Video  —  Posted: May 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

Love Thy Self

Posted: May 10, 2013 in love, retreats, self

Well, I just got back from my first ever silent retreat! It was the hardest thing I’ve done in awhile. When I first had to be silent, I felt myself really resisting it for awhile.   Part of me didn’t want to delve into the realm of self-discovery and self-healing.  It was an incredible few days in the woods among wild turkeys and baby geese.  And as an added bonus, it was cool and damp which reminded me of home.

I learned a lot! One highlight that sticks out to me was a phrase that came to me at the midway point:

Love yourself as you love your neighbor.

So many times it is easy to forget about ourselves.  We are busy looking with compassion at others in the world. (Not a bad thing at all unless we disregard our needs and make an unhealthy habit).


Why do we think it’s ok to kick ourselves and put ourselves down when we see how cruel it is to do to another?

“Existential Crises”

Posted: May 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

“History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme”- Mark Twain  

     It’s all happening again, just like it did last year.  I got a few phone calls from friends distressed about what they are going to do with their lives.  Questions of what they actually wanted to do, who they really were. Questions of their beliefs and values.  I did what I could to walk with them in their moments of “existential crisis”.  

    And then, it happened to me.  Because I’m waiting to hear if grad school works out, my overactive imagination began to question if this is what I really wanted to do as my next step. Did I really know what I wanted next? Did I really know who I am?

The same kinds of questions as last year. Self-discovery or self-sabotage?

One of my roomies shared this article to help anyone who is in the same situation:

Habemus Papam!

Posted: March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

We are living in historic times with a Pope stepping down and the election of a Jesuit as the new Pope. While many people are seeing Pope Francis I’s nod to the poor with the selection of his name, my roommate (and his Jesuit novice friend) reminded me of another interesting part of St. Francis’ story– Francis’ call to repair Christ’s Church.

There’s no doubt there are parallels here in today’s Church. The Catholic Church has been rocked by scandals the last few decades and has left a lot of people feeling hurt.

“Statistics for the America Catholic Church are truly sobering. According to the Pew Research Center, one third of all adults raised Catholic no longer describe themselves as Catholics, and 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics. What can we learn from thirty million former Catholics?

Most ex-Catholics leave the faith for two reasons: dissatisfaction with church leaders or the church’s hard line on sexual morality. A study from the Diocese of Trenton broke down this analysis further, asserting that many Catholic left due to the abuse scandal, uninspiring and distant priests, and the church’s stance on homosexuality and divorce.  ” from (


I’m excited and optimistic that Pope Francis I is in a position for greater healing of the Church and world.


Posted: March 8, 2013 in spirituality

During my time at Xavier College Prep this week, I was invited by the students to sit in on a CLC (Christian Life Community: essentially a group who prays and grows together. who knew they did them in highschools!) The campus minister, the man who had invited me to XCP, shared this prayer at the end of the meeting:

Psalm 118:10, 12-13

 All the nations encompassed me…

 They encompassed me like bees,

 They flared up like fire among thorns…

 I was hard pressed and was falling,

 But the Lord helped me.

Sometimes we need just to find a place of refuge amid the demands and duties of our lives. Just some breathing space…

Just a few minutes of peace…

Let us put in the very place that we feel turmoil,

whether it be at our desk at work, or the kitchen or laundry room at home,

some reminder that God is with us, in the midst of all the pressure.

It can be a candle, a picture or a flower.

Allow us to discover a spiritual “break time,” some moments away as we walk from our class or just to the water fountain.

These are times to rest in the knowledge that God is present in the turmoil, not as one of the things crowding for our attention,

but as an inner stillness, a reminder that our lives are meant for what is greater, deeper, larger.

Let the bees of our business buzz away, let the stinging sparks exhaust themselves.

God is in our midst, stronger than the riot, closer than the crowd.

I was invited to come to Xavier College Prep (XCP) to give a Keynote Speech today in the middle of their Summit on Human Dignity.  The school essentially shuts down for the week and has students attend workshops, breakout sessions, keynotes, and small groups which focus on poverty and human dignity  What a concept!  Below are some of the notes and ideas I used in the speech I gave today. Warning! This is a long post. I spoke for 45 minutes before a Q&A session:

When Mr. Tricco first asked me to speak in front of you all, I was honored and surprised.  I’m not some bearded guru coming down from a mountain. In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t been alive for too much longer than any of you have. But I do think my story is important. And maybe just maybe it’ll make you start thinking about what your response to poverty in the world is.

Growing up, I had everything I needed. I lived in a quiet suburb in Ohio. Everyone had a house, a manicured lawn, a stable family, and a good paying job.  It was an easy view of the world to hold.  Everyone was happy.  Everyone was healthy.  Everyone got what they wanted.  The only grumbles adults had were about gas prices pushing $1.00 a gallon.  My biggest gripe was that I didn’t have cable television. Life was pretty worry free worry free.  As a person who grew up in a suburb, the “good life” was embedded in my head as the status quo.  Until one fateful night at the end of my eighth grade year.

My class was assigned a number of service hours to complete during the second semester as a way to prepare for Confirmation.  I did a majority of mine helping out my elderly neighbor rake leaves and clean her yard.  The yard looked immaculate after the countless hours I put in.  And at the end I was proud of a job well done.  The problem was, however, I still had a few hours to write down on my community service list.

With no other elderly neighbors to help, I waited until the last minute to get my commitment done.  A small group of my classmates were going up to a soup kitchen on the Near-Westside of Cleveland.  St. Pat’s was the name of the Church.  The night we decided to venture into the heart of Cleveland was a particularly dreary evening.  We met in the parking lot—silver skies over the blacktop.  All of us packed into a grey Windstar.  I was one of the unlucky ones to be crammed on the back bench.  No one talked.  The adults driving us attempted awkwardly to start conversation with no avail.

I was anxious.  Never before in my life had I been to a soup kitchen.  I didn’t even fully understand what one was.  My mind raced.  Serving the homeless?  I’ve never seen anyone out there who didn’t get what they wanted, let alone what they needed.  What was this unfamiliar group going to be like?

When we arrived at St. Pat’s, my apprehension didn’t subside.  It grew.  There seemed to be hundreds of them, thousands of them.  I tried my best to smile as I handed each client their meal.  Today’s special was turkey, mashed potatoes, broccoli, Jell-O, and corn chowder. Droves kept coming.  I couldn’t fill the plates fast enough.  Hungry stranger after hungry stranger welcomed the plates with a quick glance and an equally quick retreat.

After about a half-hour though, the tension I felt started to melt away.  The line slowed and I began see more and more of the humanity behind the eyes of those I was serving.  After the last individual was served, I grabbed a plate for myself.  Feeling brave I decided to find a seat amongst those I had just served a meal to.

I sat down in front of an older looking fellow.  He was wearing an old cap and a worn winter coat.  He greeted me eagerly and heartily thanked me for volunteering.  He then continued to talk about the condition of the Browns with those around me.  I was struck.  I suddenly came to a simple but profound realization.  The people I was eating beside were just that—people!  They were people who just wanted a warm meal and companionship.  I didn’t totally understand how they were put into their circumstance, but I had a sincere desire to help them in their struggle out.

Sometimes it’s little insights like mine that night that change a person’s life.  My world was turned upside-down.  My bubble of suburban security popped.  There were now people in the world that had actual needs outside of my own.  These people weren’t even a world away.  They lived in my backyard!

This is where the story gets interesting and gets at what I think it the crux of what catholic education is about.  one simple question: now that I’ve seen poverty, what is my response?  Obviously this moment was important in my life or I wouldn’t be sharing it to you all, but do you know what my response was? Coming from a good catholic family, catholic educated, transitioning into a catholic Jesuit school?  I forgot about it.  I saw poverty, had a glimpse into the realities of the world and I looked away.

Like xcp, my high school had mandatory service hours for students. let me first say that I was looking over some of the programs you all are involved with and bravo! Visitation ministry, big brothers big sisters, tutoring children of migrant workers.  Direct experience is at the core to a changed heart.…. It was call sophomore service. Semester-long coupled with a class.  That or you could get it out of the way in the summer, have a free period, and mix it up with the local all-girls schools. So as any high school sophomore at an all male school would do, I went in the summer to be a counselor at the Arrupe summer program. A day camp for inner-city kids from the neighborhood. It gave a lot of them something to do while their parent(s) were working instead of plopping them down in front of a tv.  Kemuel was my little. Tough. Tired from long days of chasing him. But he was happy. There’s that old story about the star fish….explain…but I think it rings true. I started seeing a value to sharing myself.  Started doing more. and feeling like I was contributing. Thing like moving people out of transitional housing into their first house. Making things just a bit easier of a transition, so they could enjoy the moment more.

Now I’ve seen poverty. What was my response? Service.

College I wanted to continue service and get deeper into issues of social justice. Ended up in a program that explored social justice issues in classes and service. Challenged us to make connections, to create our own advocacy projects. To educate.  CLE Urban plunge.  Linked with my 8th grade experience. Tried to get mostly freshmen.  Opened up new questions and new populations for me.  Refugees….tutoring…eating with. Conversations about religion. It just felt right. My response: education for myself and others.

Finally, senior year and I needed to figure out what I was doing with my life…(really the next step but everyone feels like it’s your life).

Program intrigued me. I remembered the teachers etc.  and what spoke to me were the 4 values:

Social justice: education and immersion It may not sound appetizing, but the fulfilling life is not a comfortable one.  How can we sit around being comfortable when you turn on the news and hear story after story of violence? When we can bat an eye, change the channel and not have to feel for the suffering of others!?! God give me a heart quick to sorrow and a courage to know that I can make a difference! Yes you are young, but so am I. Jeremiah quote:

 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord

Spirituality: jesus’ example. Faith that does justice

Community: house and BH. Not a helicopter anymore.

Simple living: poverty? Look at the use of materials. For better connection. To others and God.

This year I am the youth minister at DM. I wear a variety of hats in my job.  Immersion program coordinator (which is how I was introduced to XCP), Confirmation coordinator, I help out with a scholarship program, I write meditations to run with middle schoolers, youth group leader. Through my placement I have seen both the poverty and wealth of the BHs community.  BH is a very poor community in terms of monetary poverty.  DM itself is down the street from the projects and low-income housing.  Many people struggle for their needs to be met.  People become street vendors to supplement their income.  Each week DM hosts a venta or food sale after all of its masses.  Many are put on by families who have fallen on hard times.  The beautiful thing about the neighborhood is it’s wealth of welcome and hope.  People donate what they can to each other’s food sales. One woman, Santa, comes every Saturday night to prepare menudo for the ventas, no matter who is selling.  The walls of DM itself are welcoming to people experiencing hard times. Each night, about 50 homeless men are given cots to sleep on and are housed in the church.  This is faith in action! This is their response to poverty in the area.

A second aspect of poverty that I’ve seen is access to a quality education.  DMC is in BH to serve as a beacon of hope, giving quality k-8 education to the community for a reasonable cost. All the students are on financial aid. Many initiatives have been put into place to make sure they are on grade level. Studies have been done in LA Unified School District that show that if children aren’t at reading level by 3rd grade, that they have a28% chance of graduating HS with a degree.   Couple that with a 45% graduation rate at the best high school in the neighborhood (it was build 4 years ago) and you don’t have a great situation.  DM has prepared students for HS and offers a scholarship program for a few kids to go to catholic schools (98% grad rate). It’s a great start, but when I work with my 17 freshmen, I can’t help but think about all the other kids in BH who deserve this opportunity too.

A third facet of poverty I’ve seen this year is relational poverty—the lack of strong or healthy connections with others. When I first started up the year, the jv before me left copious notes. She was a really organized woman.  Her notes told me that youth group lasted 1 ½ hours each Thursday.  A few weeks into the year, the kids started asking me if they could stay longer. I was confused. They had complained the first few weeks that my programming wasn’t exciting enough—I was new to youth groups having never grown up in one.  But here they were pushing for more time.  I was tired, by the end of the week all I wanted to do was go home, but I extended it to 2 hours, until 8pm.  After that first extended meeting, my co-leader a younger mother of 2 from the community pulled me aside, she said “I know you were slow to extend the time, but thank you for doing that… not everyone wants to go home.” She was talking about the home situations some of the youth face. Not everyone was born into a stable family like I was.  My heart sunk, but I never forgot what she said.  As the year has progressed, I’ve seen the youth group become a type of family for each other. The kids give each other nicknames and wait around for each other to make sure everyone has a ride home. Some hang out on weekends.

DM is a hub of community.  It tries to enrich and care for the community.  They are always looking for new ways to address the needs of people. One such initiative that came out of this goal was the Family Encounter retreat. A retreat that my coworker went on as a youth. She saw the need in the community and planned on replicating the retreat in BH.  She contacted the Miami group, who were so excited to move their ministry that they paid their own way to LA to show us how to run the retreat.  The weekend itself was incredible.  I watched  transformations happen to s kids your age who came in not wanting to be there at all. At the end of the weekend, they were a part of a teary-eyed reunion with parents. They all spoke their minds and hearts.

The different aspects of poverty sometimes bleed into each other.  For example, when many people think about those experiencing homelessness, their thoughts turn to the monetary poverty these folks are experiencing, but there are other dearths they might be facing. Relational poverty being one of them.  this year, the youth group was given the opportunity to host the GHP Christmas party.  My youth were more excited than ever for this chance. Finally something where they could make a difference!  I delegated who would be in charge of once. One youth was the head chef, who told me everything I needed to get. He even was in charge of the parents when they came.  Another family came to DJ the party.  The atmosphere was magical. I walked down the hallway of the school, towards the cafeteria, where the Guadalupanos are fed to hear Christmas music in English and Spanish blasting.  We went all out on food to make it a good time. Large amounts of Texas-style enchilada, rice and beans, desserts galore.  The men talked and laughed and had a great time.  Sometimes its all about inviting others to grown in relationship and providing a space for that.

DM, for me, provides that in so many ways.  It has invited me to look at my own spirituality as well .  Jesus said, “blessed are the poor in spirit”.  He means blessed are those who are able to see their reliance on God.  It’s something I struggle with at times. Last month was a perfect example.  Immersion trips, scholars meetings, retreats. The big bear/Chris Dorner situation. All led up to a weekend where I could barely breathe until we left onto the bus.  I was so stressed out. I set one thing up, another detail would fall through. I’ve gone through so many tour guides since a number went on trips to Mexico without letting me know!  It’s was the worst week for work for me. I was stressed out because I couldn’t control everything thing in the situation.  One afternoon, after my mind raced for awhile, I looked down at a pamphlet for youth day at the RE Congress which I was taking some youth to. It said “keep calm—God’s got this”.  It was such a grace.  That is what we are called toward in being poor in spirit. I came to realize that in order to get through life, I needed to be oriented toward God.

The paradox is that in some way, poverty in any of its forms opens people up to being poor in spirit. This exuberance in the Lord. A true owning of faith. Take for example the CEBS, small prayer groups we have. I was asked to join a group for a day. I showed up. They fed me and we prayed.

We’ve seen poverty. We’ve learned about it. You’ve closed down school for a week to think about it, but now what.  As Jesuit trained students and future  leaders , dare I day current leaders and actors of change, it is your responsibility to find out your own personal response to poverty and injustice.  What can you do to make this world a better place? The good and better news in this. There is a Messiah, but it’s not you. Do what you can, what you’re good at. What gives you life! [Oscar Romero excerpt.]: “This is what we are about: We plant the seeds that will one day grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing  that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects  far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense  of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it well. It may be incomplete but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.”

Where We Stand

Posted: February 28, 2013 in social justice

After graduating, I have continued to learn that much of social justice involves who we stand with.  Jesus gave us his own example to follow as he sat at table with some of the most shunned and despised of his time.  This year I’ve been blessed to work with and live near people who might be considered the “outcasts” of our times.  I’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner with former gang members, worshiped alongside illegal immigrants, and experienced retreats with homeless men.  My experience as a Jesuit Volunteer has shown me the real meaning of what ministry in the Church is.  It is recognizing that we are all part of the body of Christ, together in kinship.  It is a beautiful thing.  Once we recognize our connection, how can we deny each other love?


Who do you stand with?