Don’t Throw Stones – Build Something Instead

Posted on May 6, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for Seventh Sunday of Easter 2016

bullyingI am currently dealing with my third and youngest child going through middle school. I am convinced that the middle school years are a time of real purgatory on earth. It is also a time that tests your faith in humanity, because you wonder at times, “Can people really be that mean to one another?”

It doesn’t matter what crowd you are in. If you are cool or nerd, tall or short, male or female, all will, at some time in middle school, be made to feel horrible.

Didn’t wear the right shoes today? Laughed too much at the joke? Made the mistake of telling the wrong person about a crush? For these and many more transgressions, you must be persecuted.

Most of us will not be persecuted and killed for our belief like Stephen in Acts 7. But what we choose to say and do to others can sometimes feel like being struck with hard stones, especially when we are young.

StonesAt times in our lives we find ourselves being hit hard by someone’s lack of kindness or even hatred, and unfortunately, we sometimes find ourselves holding a stone.

I can’t change those years of adolescence to make them easier, either for my own children or anyone else’s. And I also know that ignorance and hateful behavior does not always stop when one gets older. People are mean at all ages. But only you and I have control of what we say and do.

As good stewards, may we always be using stones to build bridges and shelter. May we never be found ready to hurl something at someone for any reason. And when we find ourselves on the receiving end of hate, may we have the strength to echo the words of Stephen, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

All the Time in the World?

Posted on May 5, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

TimeNowadays I travel a good bit, which means I am away from my wife and children for periods of time, some short but some long.

But what makes it easier for me, besides being able to share the Good News of Jesus with people all over the country, is that I know I will not be gone forever. I will return and then all will be well again.

I have been called by God to be away from them at times, but God always brings me back.

Each liturgical year we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. The feast speaks much to who Jesus is theologically, but in a very practical way, we also acknowledge that He has gone to be with the Father, but will return someday.

Just as I return after a conference or visit with a parish to those God has entrusted to me and I love, Jesus will return to those entrusted to Him and whom He loves.

But just like when I am away, there are things to be done. Life goes on for my wife and children with school, work, activities, and the basic responsibilities of family. In good stewardship, they are called to give generously to each other and devout themselves to God.

Without them tending to things, upon my return I would find everything in turmoil and disarray. Then when I return, we become one again, and we are about the Lord’s work together.

The Lord ascended into heaven but we are not to sit by quietly awaiting His return. Much needs to be done.

He has entrusted much to us expecting us to be good stewards. If you think that you have all the time in the world to complete the tasks at hand, think again. His return will be when we least expect it. It is time to be about our Father’s work.

Video Ideas for Your Parish Website

Posted on May 3, 2016 by - Catholic Tech Talk

More and more parishes are starting to incorporate video on their website as a way to demonstrate what the church has to offer and to invite more people into the doors on Sunday.

There’s a lot of talk about the need for the Catholic Church to be “more engaging,” but we can’t engage people until they meet us at Mass!

Videos are a powerful way to urge potential or former parishioners to come to Mass, to communicate your church’s mission, and invite people to be more engaged members of your faith community.

To get started, seek out a volunteer in your parish or consider shooting video yourself using just your smartphone. Your videos should be short, around one to three minutes, and you will probably want to host them on a site like YouTube or Vimeo. If you have an idea that will take longer than a few minutes, consider developing it as a series.

Here are a few ideas for creating videos for your parish:
Welcome videos

Many parishes have a written “welcome message” from their priest on the front page of their website, but welcome videos can be even more inviting and show that you’re making an extra effort to reach people. Your pastor can explain the culture of the community, discuss the parish mission, and invite members and visitors to come celebrate Mass.

Here are two great examples. Not only do they show images of the community and feature testimonials and messages from the priest, but they also invites the viewer to “Come, Join Us.” These videos may have been professionally produced, but they offer a great outline of the message to convey.

Video testimonials

Video testimonials are an extremely powerful evangelization tool and are great for your website and social media channels. Record parishioners talking about their faith journey and how it led them to your church. Invite them to talk about how your parish has affected their family life and strengthened their relationship with God.

Here’s a great example from Catholics Come Home:

 

Question of the Month

Pick a different question each month and record parishioners after Mass answering it. Here are a few examples to get you started: What do you love about your church? What does faith mean to you?  Where do you find God in everyday life?

Get creative

When my parish experimented with video a few years ago, the video that received the greatest amount of views was one taken of our priest on Ash Wednesday where he decided to spontaneously offer “ashes to go” and a blessing for anyone who wanted them in the Starbucks parking lot across the street from the church between services. This simple act of showing our priest reaching out and engaging in the community resulted in twenty times the results of any other video on our parish website.

When you’re thinking of great video ideas, try to be as creative as possible. For example, you could hold a contest for your parishioners or school children to create a video about your parish. Parishioners could vote on their favorite and place the winning video on your website.

Here’s a creative Day in the Life of a Priest video from LifeTeen:

 

Other Sources

A number of dioceses and archdioceses have jumped on the video bandwagon, so if you don’t have the time to create a video right now, check those websites to see if there are any videos you can repurpose on your site. If your specific diocese has produced a stewardship appeal or special collection video, embedding them on your online giving page would be a great place to start.

Here are two great examples from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee:


For fun, educational, Catholic videos, check out Busted Halo. They have a huge collection of short videos that cover a wide variety of topics including the meaning of the sacraments and holy days. They may seem basic, but these videos are a great way to evangelize to the people who aren’t at Mass every Sunday.

Here’s a great video from Busted Halo about the Eucharist:

If your parish is currently looking for a website tool that makes uploading and using videos easy, click here to learn more about how our website tool WeConnect can help you build beautiful, engaging websites.

Teaching Stewardship

Posted on May 3, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day and I was thinking about my many teachers through the years. I went through sixteen years of Catholic School and two years of graduate work, so that is a lot of teachers.

Most were female, until I got into my college years when they became mostly male. Of course, they were mostly men and women of faith. Some were priests and religious. Most were middle-aged, with a few either being much younger or much older.

Overall, a great diversity of people.

Did they all love teaching? I wish I could say for sure the answer is yes, but probably at least a couple of them wished they were doing something else. Most seemed happy, but a few seemed pretty angry with the world.

Teacher 1There were those who seemed to love everything about their students. They would hang up creations of their students just like proud parents.

You always felt closest to the teachers that seemed to relish in your work, even if it was more about giving encouragement than it was about actual love for your efforts.

All of these teachers only really had one thing in common: me. They all taught me.

Each one of them touched my life in some way. Even though my interaction with them probably didn’t change them at all, it molded and formed me into the person I am today.

They all taught me, yet little of me remains with them. Yet, they all have deposited a part of themselves in me.

To be able to share yourself with another so as to leave behind a part of yourself behind with that person is a profound. No teacher has the capacity to remember every student they ever had, but many of us can remember every teacher we ever had. That is because, for better or worse, they made an impact on us.

In exchange for that profound impact, most of them work for low wages, long hours, and little support. They give and give, sometimes not only their time but also their treasure.

The good teachers give so much of themselves but never count the cost. They knew what they were getting into but they decided it was worth it. They wanted to help students like me become people who could make a difference in the world. The hope of what their students could become is enough.

Do you want to understand good stewardship? Chances are you can look no further than your favorite teacher. Thanks to all mine that through the years showed me that to give of oneself freely and without counting the cost was a path worth walking.

Ten Tips for Recording Video on Your Phone

Posted on May 3, 2016 by - Catholic Tech Talk

Videos are a great way to connect with visitors to your website and nearly everyone has a powerful video camera in their pocket–their smartphone.

With a little practice and these few tips you can create great footage for your website. In addition to livening up your website, videos are also a great way to connect to visitors on Facebook and YouTube.

Here are ten simple tips for recording videos on your phone

Video

1. Record outdoors whenever possible. Bright, natural light is always better, but stay out of direct sunlight.

2. If you have to record indoors, make sure there’s plenty of light. Just avoid windows or lighting directly behind your subject as it can wash them out.

3. Always turn your phone and shoot horizontally. If you don’t your videos will be sideways when you watch them on your computer or TV.

4. Keep the microphone as close to your subject as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask them to speak up.

5. Subjects should look just off camera and the camera should be at the same height as the person’s head. You don’t want to be looking up or down at them.

6. Be sure there is space above your subject’s head and in the direction they’re looking at.

7. Keep it steady. Phones are light and jump around. Brace your elbows at your side or on a table, or invest in a small tripod.

8. Watch your fingers. Don’t cover the microphone or the lens.

9. Don’t zoom in and out as it often results in poor image quality.

10. Avoid walking or moving shots as they can result in shaky, unstable footage.

 

These are our tips, what are yours? Share in the comments.

 

The In-Between Time

Posted on May 3, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, May 8, 2016, Ascension of the Lord

Image of crosses merging © LPi.

It happens to all of us now and again. We know what is coming, and yet we do not fully understand it: the anticipation of a wedding, or the birth of a first child, a graduation and the new life that commences, or the beginning of a new job. In each situation, we know what is going to happen on a certain date or in a period of time, and yet we do not—nothing can prepare us for the experience that we have been waiting for.

This must be something of what the disciples felt after Jesus’ ascension before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They knew something was to come. Jesus had told them to remain together in Jerusalem, to wait for “the promise of the Father” about which he had spoken to them. Yet, even after the times they encountered the risen Christ, with the reassurance of his promise that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they did not know what to expect.

Throughout the liturgical year, we hear the story of the disciples as they come to belief in Jesus. We hear the accounts of people being healed, mercy and forgiveness given, and encounters with Christ as he taught, shared meals, and showed the love of God through his actions. We know what is to come and yet we are called to hear the stories anew. In hearing the Gospel narratives again, we are invited to take salvation to heart and to pattern our lives accordingly.

Like the disciples who waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, we know what life in Christ is to be: there are sure to be challenges if we truly embrace life as a disciple; there will be moments of disappointment, grief, and fear as there are for all of humanity; we acknowledge, look for, and celebrate the Resurrection and the hope of new life. Yet, we do not know exactly what this means for us until it happens, in the real moments and circumstances of our lives. We understand that the Resurrection means that Christ is victorious over death in all of its forms (physical death of a loved one, diagnosis of a serious illness, the death of a relationship, and so on), yet it is often not until we face death that we really grasp the implications of faith and hope in the Resurrection. We know in our minds and hearts the importance of faith, yet still grasp the Resurrection in deeper and more powerful ways in the aftermath of crisis, such as outreach following the recent earthquake in Ecuador, flooding in the Southern US, and the loving actions of the people around us in our own personal trials and crises. We may say we are followers of Jesus Christ, but do not fully grapple with the call of discipleship until we encounter a homeless person on the street or feel the tug in our heart to respond to the needs of the sick, imprisoned, or lonely through personal action. It is only in such real moments that faith comes to life.

As we near the celebration of Pentecost, let us take time to allow this in-between time to sink in. We are still in the Easter season. Like the disciples who witnessed Christ’s ascension and waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, it would be good for us to reflect on the meaning of the Resurrection and the true and lasting impact of our relationship with Christ in our lives. How are we experiencing resurrection in this Easter season? How will we share the power of the Resurrection with those who need to know God’s love?

Leisa Anslinger

PRAYER

V: God ascends amid shouts of joy, Alleluia.
R: The Lord, amid trumpet blasts, Alleluia.
V: Let us pray. O King of glory, Lord of hosts, this day You ascended triumphantly above all heavens. Leave us not orphans, but send upon us the Promise of the Father, the Spirit of Truth.
R: Alleluia.
V: Only-begotten Son of God, having conquered death, Thou didst pass from earth to heaven! As Son of Man seated in great glory on Thy throne and praised by the whole angelic host, grant that we who in the jubilant devotion of our faith, celebrate Thine Ascension to the Father, may not be fettered by the chains of sin to earthly loves. And may the aim of our unceasing prayer be directed toward the heavens whither, after Thy Passion, Thou didst ascend in glory.
R: Amen.
McLoughlin, Helen. Family Customs: Easter to Pentecost. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN, 1956.

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