Merry Christmas! It is upon us.
And there is so much to be grateful for.
I’m grateful for all our many retreatants – many of whom I recently spoke with during our phonathon.
I’m grateful for the new kinds of retreats we’re offering for those who before had no place to make retreat.
I’m grateful for our expanding youth ministry that ministers to six thousand young people.
Most of all, I’m grateful for those of you who sacrifice on the Center’s behalf. You are our partners. All the success of this past year, and all the promise of the year to come, rests with this partnership.
Your financial gifts keep our retreat fees low, help provide scholarships for those unable to pay, and allow us to assist schools serving low-income families. It helps us provide retreats for the homeless, for those contending with addiction, and this past year, for those suffering abuse.
If you haven’t made your Annual Fund gift, I’ll hope you can do so today. And if you can add a little to what you did last year, all the better. It may very well make all the difference to a person – who perhaps for the first time – is trying to put God into his or her life.
May God’s grace be upon you, and your family, in this holiest of seasons.
Congratulations to Pam Elsass on her retirement after 26 years of service to the Jesuit Spiritual Center. Pam served as business manager and hospitality coordinator. Pam brought great wisdom and expertise to her many areas of responsibility. All of us at the Jesuit Spiritual Center thank Pam for her outstanding dedication and commitment to our mission. Truly she will be missed by all of us! Her laughter and calming presence were gift to us all! We ask our Loving God to bless Pam abundantly as she begins this new journey! We wish her happiness and many fun times!
We welcome Edward Geiser to the Jesuit Spiritual Center team. Ed will serve as business manager and hospitality coordinator. He holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with concentration in finance.
Ed graduated from University of Dayton School of Law, Xavier University with a Masters of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Information Systems and Management.
Most importantly, Ed is deeply grounded in his faith and he and his family (wife and four children) bought a farm in Clermont County. Ed looks forward to working in a faith-based environment and sharing his gifts to help further the JSC mission.
My thanks to Pam and Ed for working together on a smooth transition.
Each of us has role models and mentors in our life who we strive to emulate in our everyday life. For me it is whose people who have taught me how to find God during the peaks and valleys of my life journey. These people who have touched my life and helped me grow in my faith are the unnamed saints.
Pope Francis in one of his homilies shared that “everyday saints” are “men and women who put into practice the love of Jesus.” Yes, let’s look around us for people of hope who radiate God’s love.
Often folks at the Jesuit Spiritual Center will hear me say, “That was a God moment.” Even in the midst of struggles there are many God moments. It might be an encouraging phone call from a friend during a difficult time or a pause when through the beauty of God’s creation we are called to absorb the love of God.
Let us celebrate today the saints of daily life. And to each of you, “Happy All Saints Day.” My thanks for being an everyday saint by being a sign of God’s love for all those you meet!
The Spiritual Exercises are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius Loyola to help people deepen their relationship with God. For centuries the Exercises were most commonly given as a “long retreat” of about 30 days in solitude and silence. In recent years, there has been a renewed emphasis on the Spiritual Exercises as a program for laypeople. The most common way of going through the Exercises now is a “retreat in daily life,” which involves a months long program of daily prayer and meetings with a spiritual director. The Exercises have also been adapted in many other ways to meet the needs of modern people.
A few months ago I decided to create a playlist on Spotify called “For praying.” It’s a collection of songs that I’ve found prepare my heart for reflection and prayer, everything from contemporary songs by Matt Maher and Tenth Avenue North to Gregorian chant to the Taize choir. It’s easier for me to pray when I’m in the right frame of mind and heart, and I’ve found that music is a great way to create that space within me. If you’ve ever struggled with getting started in prayer or feeling scattered or distracted, try playing a few minutes of music before you start. It might help!
I always find myself drawn to one song on that playlist more than the others when I’m getting ready to pray —“Garden” by Matt Maher. Its simple refrain is a beautiful prayer in and of itself, but I’ve found a lot of meaning in it recently:
“You walk with me
You never leave
You’re making my heart a garden”
Honesty time: I struggle with letting go of certain vices and practicing certain virtues. And I get impatient with myself because of it. I think that I *should* have mastered this, that, or the other virtue by now, and I have a hard time giving myself grace and mercy for my shortcomings.
Thankfully, blessedly, the way we often see ourselves is not the way God sees us. God doesn’t look at our struggles and think that we need to overcome them by some certain arbitrary deadline or mile marker. We often want to go fast and to progress quickly in our moral and spiritual life, but going at our preferred pace usually only leaves us broken-hearted and empty-handed. Think of the image that Matt Maher offers of a garden: if we tend our garden too quickly and carelessly—if we water it too much or too little, if we over- or under-prune and trim, if we pick or uproot too quickly—it won’t produce much good fruit. No, gardens require patience, diligence, and a gentle hand. So do our hearts, if we want to see them change and become capable of bearing fruit.
But it’s not something that we can do on our own.
“You’re making my heart a garden,” sings Maher.
God does the work and He does it in His own time. It’s hard to give up control like that—we want to bear fruit and to see change and we want it NOW! But we must cooperate with God’s timeline and trust that everything we desire will come to us in due time. Even the things that we don’t think it makes sense to wait for.
“There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens…
A time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant…”
Think about the things you need as you live the Christian life—humility, patience, trust, whatever it might be. Have you been frustrated by how slowly it seems to be taking root in your heart? Give that desire and that frustration to God. He knows what you need, and He’ll give it to you. Trust Him, His ways, His mercy, and His timing.
Another season of the NEXT Internship is upon us at the Jesuit Spiritual Center! The youth team is so excited to work with and form our three interns for the 2016-2017 season, and we are all excited to give you glimpses into our lives as a youth team here on this blog once a week. You’ll see everything from reflections on retreats, thoughts on scripture, videos showing what we do for fun, and much more. We’ll kick things off by allowing our three interns to introduce themselves. You’ll learn more about them, our full-time team, and the work that we do as the year continues!
As I sat in an adoration chapel and prayed Psalm 145, I knew that this internship was to where God was calling me. At 36 years old with a wife, two kids, and all kinds of grown-up bills, it seemed a little unconventional to take an internship. After several years of part-time ministry followed by a decade of full-time parish youth ministry I was given the opportunity to stay home with my daughter and then newborn son. I decided to go back to school and complete a degree in theology with an emphasis in pastoral ministry. It was two of the most peaceful years of my entire life. That being said, I had a sense that God was going to invite me into a new area of ministry as early as this past February. My course work for this coming year is only part-time as I prepare to graduate in May. As soon as that was clear, I began to discern how God would have me spend my time during the coming year. My wife and I wanted to find something for me outside of the home that would give me the opportunity to use my new-found knowledge. Shortly after my discernment started, I was contacted and asked to continue praying about whether or not the NEXT internship would be something of interest to me. My first reaction was that I could not take an internship because I needed to find some way to better support my family. God promptly rearranged several things in our lives to reassure me that this was all in his part of His will.
I have many hopes for this coming year. I truly hope that I might encounter new depths in my faith life. I am also looking forward to expanding my ministerial skill set. It is a truly unique opportunity to work with a team of professional youth ministers and I am very excited for the benefits that it will bring.
Hi there! I’m Jenny, a graduate of Saint Ursula Academy and Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. I left my 9-to-5 job to delve deeper into the spiritual side of life. After over 6 months of personal faith exploration I joined the Youth Ministry team. As a NEXT Intern I hope to further develop my leadership skills and grow both personally and spiritually as I help others along their faith journey. Some fun facts about me: I have 3 brothers, no sisters (I always wanted a sister but being the only girl has its advantages!), a case of wanderlust, and a mild obsession with coffee and brunch. Some other interests of mine include health and nutrition, psychology, reading and writing. I’m excited to write for this blog and look forward to seeing where this internship takes me!
Hey there! I am Shannon, and I am from Cincinnati. I found out about this internship at the Jesuit Spiritual Center through a prayer group that I am part of. The internship was an unexpected opportunity that fell into place, and I am very glad to be a part of the JSC team. I look forward to gaining ministerial skills with youth in the light of Ignatian spirituality and becoming more tech-savvy with all of our A/V equipment so we can continue to make our retreat experiences the best they can be. I am an animal lover, a horseman, and I enjoy expanding my artistic skills by doodling. We get things done with plenty of fun here between retreats and planning! Already, I have worked with a staff member’s dog, and doodled Yoda on the corner of our dry erase board in the office. The doodled Yoda humorously states the fact in a speech bubble, “Luke, your Dad is a meanie!” along with the ever true and serious wisdom of “Do or Do Not…there is no Try…” I promise my team that I simply will not try but will do my best to give my all to this opportunity of working here among the great staff and retreatants of the Jesuit Spiritual Center.
“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” (Bill Nye)
If everyone you meet knows something you don’t, then you should learn something from everyone you meet. Even from the people who are only in your life for one brief encounter, and especially from the people you spend time with regularly.
I can say with certainty that I have learned a ton from my Youth Ministry team.
From Eric, I learned technology tips that will make my life easier…such as how to incorporate videos from YouTube into powerpoint so I can show clips at youth group. I learned about playing the drums. I learned how to set up sound systems and how many chords you need and what they are used for. I learned lots of anti-jokes, including one about Cinco de Mayo and another about genetics.
From Charissa, I learned about growing up in Singapore – the education system, the graduation tests, the weather, the houses, the transportation, the foam snow at Christmas. I learned about the Marianist charism. I learned how to give honest responses and feedback in a “pastoral” way (i.e., kindly and patiently, not forcing your opinions on them or making them feel inferior).
From Joe, I learned about beards. I learned about deer hunting. I learned about sword making and woodworking. I learned about his family’s secret recipe for goetta. I learned about the homeschooling experience and about seminary.
From Sam, I learned about ice cream…especially the deliciousness of Coldstone and of Milford Parlor’s coffee with ice cream in it. I learned more about Harry Potter than I ever knew before. I learned what it’s like to be a “military brat” and live all over the US. I learned things from her pastoral ministry courses, such as the stages of grief, what the difference is between a chapel and a church, and what canon law says about sacraments and other things.
From Steve, I learned how to be more extraverted on retreat. I learned that God is in the interruptions. I learned to remember to think from a “50 thousand foot perspective”. I learned how to play and then how to lead Ships & Sailors. I learned a new way to think about a pray through the Sign of the Cross. I learned how to utilize the flow of a retreat or event, to manipulate the energy levels of the kids by singing certain songs or doing specific types of activities, and how to intentionally set up a space. I learned about the history of youth ministry in the Cincinnati area, and made connections with current youth ministers.
From each one of them, I learned different ways to pray. I learned how to plan a retreat, and all the details to be aware of. I learned how to give an effective and engaging witness talk. I learned how to adapt songs and activities depending on your needs or the theme. I learned how to have fun and be productive at the same time. I learned that how you do something is not as important as doing it all together. I learned about the beauty of being a part of a team instead of going solo. I learned how to be a team player instead of a team leader. I learned to trust the experiences and opinions of others.
I learned how quickly total strangers can become close friends.
And I learned how blessed I am to have this opportunity to know and work and have fun with them.
A few months ago, I was chaperoning my alma mater’s high school team for Night for the Fight, a 12-hour overnight event for teens that raises money and awareness for childhood cancer. We had just arrived and found seats as a group when my aunt, who was chaperoning, too, tapped me and told me that two girls above us were trying to get my attention. They asked me if I remembered them…I had just had them the week before on a retreat, and they had helped with music. They pointed out some other girls from their school who were also there, and I recognized a few of them from yet another retreat we did for their school. They were pumped to see me, and I was excited to see them!
A few weeks ago, I took some pictures on my iPad and then went to the Photos app to view all of them. I had recently transferred photos from my iPad onto my computer, and this was the first time I had taken photos on my iPad since doing that. So, I was only expecting to see these photos. But I was in for a surprise. The first two pictures in my photos library were ones I had not taken; they were selfies of my small group from the previous day’s Montserrat retreat; I had played some music on my iPad during one of the last activities we did, and they must have taken the selfies when I stepped out of the room to get another piece of paper. I grinned, and thought about what a fun group they had been.
A couple weekends ago, I was at Encounter, an evening of praise and worship music, adoration, and a keynote speaker for local teens. Standing in line with one of the girls from my youth group, a girl and her friend got in line behind us. I thought nothing of it until she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hi, I have a random question. Do you work at that Jesuit retreat place?” I said yes, and she said that she thought she recognized me from a few months ago when we did a retreat for her school. We chatted until we got inside and then went our separate ways; she went to find the rest of her friends in her youth group, and I went to find seats for mine.
Eric and Steve had told us this would happen, and shared stories of silly things their groups had done and times when they have been around town and kids they’d had on retreat approached them. I didn’t know it could happen this quickly, but I am enjoying it! It’s crazy to think that everywhere you go, there might be a kid you had on retreat, even if they don’t say anything to you and you don’t realize that they are there. Disney is right, it is a small world!
Anytime someone asks me “What have you learned?” I immediately begin to rattle off a long list of lessons and skills and the likes…partially because I truly learn a lot from every experience I have, partially because I can’t decide what lesson I want to tell them about, and partially because I like to talk and this is an excuse to talk a lot! So, of course, that was my first instinct when I began to brainstorm my response to the above prompt. And I came up with a pretty awesome list, if I do say so myself. But, when I thought about it a little more, I realized that I didn’t want to just write a bullet-point list. I wanted to explore in depth the impact one of the lessons I learned has had on me: learning to share my story.
People who can get up in front of a crowd and share their story have always inspired me. I am inspired by their story, their message; I am inspired by their courage and vulnerability. Since I was young, I have dreamed of having a story I can share with others, and the courage to share it. So of course I was eager to share my story as I shared my reflections on the simple-yet-powerful questions “Who am I, ” “Where Is God,” and “Where am I going.”
I just had no clue how much I would grow and develop from this experience.
I grew as I developed my presentation style. The time I have spent performing on stage since kindergarten prepared me more than I initially realized. As I watched others present, I began to mimic things they did and then to adapt those practices or trash them, depending on if they worked for me or not. I became aware of my audience and how to adapt my story accordingly. I developed a habit of preparing and practicing, and grew to appreciate opportunities to receive feedback and to continually improve my presentation style and the talk itself.
I grew and developed as I wrote my witness talk. I had to explore my past and analyze the events so I could find the common thread that runs through them. I grew in an understanding of how to pick the events that drive a story; all of my past is important and valuable and impactful, but I cannot fit 20+ years into a 30 minute talk and therefore must choose wisely. Through trial and error, I learned how to discern what details are necessary to share for my story to make sense, what to simplify, and what to leave out…and then how to fill in the gaps in what I share with further simplifications and summaries.
I grew and developed in my ability to welcome constructive criticism and ignore the personal digs. I had to learn to let go of the comments that “bash” my story or the message I shared, because often the comment stems from a lack of understanding or an inability to separate presentation style preferences from the story itself.
And I grew and developed my own self-knowledge. There are many lenses through which we look back on our past. We can look into our past while in the context of hearing someone else talk about theirs, and we desire to connect our story with theirs. We look into our past when we are on a retreat, and the retreat theme provides us with certain ways to reflect on it, as well as different moments to explore and questions to answer. I’ve used both of those types of lenses before. Looking into my past with the intention of writing a witness talk was a totally new lens. Seeing things in a new light showed me connections I hadn’t made before, illuminated themes I hadn’t been aware of before, clued me in to the significance of certain details that I didn’t understand before. I learned a lot about myself as a result. This increase in self-knowledge helped me continue to grow in my relationship with God, and even played an important role in much of the healing He has been doing in my life. I reached a whole new level of self-confidence as a result.
Simply learning to share my story led to further growth and development that I never could have dreamed of.
Over my time as an intern at the JSC, I have learned and refined many skills. I have learned how to play bass guitar, I have learned how to set up a sound system, I have learned many aspects of ministry, from how to better give a talk, how to lead a small group, how to plan music, how to use music in its proper setting, as well as many other aspects that are too many to number. If I had to name one thing that I grew in most though, I would say it is in my ability to better relate with a vast majority of people. That is not to say that I am perfect at it now, but I have definitely grown in this area.
I had not had much opportunity for growth in this area up to this point. I was usually only with a small group of people who almost always were like me in some way, and we had at least one pre-established thing in common. Moving into retreats and talks, often there were no sure things that we shared in common, seeing that we get a lot of non-Catholics, and even a fair number of non-Christians and even agnostics and atheists. It was difficult for me to really find a way to relate at first. A lot of these retreats are required, and so some of these kids did not even want to be there.
But I learned some valuable things from this. It is important to find that common ground early on. People enjoy when you take an interest in them and try to find common ground between you and them. It does not have to be anything monuments, it could be the little things. I also learned that sometimes you have to look past the differences and seem to divide you, to get to the things in common that can unite you. And from there you can move forward and begin those discussions that need to happen on retreats.
I know this might seem like trivial things to others, but this was something I struggled with that I was glad to have figured out while I was at the JSC.
While working at the JSC, I have had many cool experiences. I think one of the best was while working one of the all school retreat at Mother Theresa School. Here we are with 800 kids, all somewhere between Kindergarten and Eighth Grade, and they start coming in, and they just keep on coming. It was a beautiful thing to see all these kids coming into the retreat space, and all of them seem to be super excited to be there and excited about their faith. While we led them in praise and worship music, they were all excite and giving themselves totally to the experience.
After this we split into the junior high and the elementary grades, and I went off with elementary grades and we began working with them and to see the great joy and faith of these young people inspired me. It was a blessing to work with them and share the love of God with them.
After Lunch we went into what we call circuits, where we break out into small groups and do a little more focused learning. I was blessed to be able to talk to them about trusting in God. We did a trust activity and then discussed it. It was a beautiful thing to see all of the kids thinking about what they had just did and how it applied to their lives. I am always pleasantly surprised how open and observant even young children can be when it comes to seeing God in their lives. Even the Kindergartners were participating and asking good questions and being super engaged.
This was one of the greatest experiences as an intern. There were definitely other moving times while I was working, and even the other all school retreats were good, but it was definitely one of the best and most moving times.