What’s Possessing You?

Posted on July 30, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

earthly possessions

My wife is a big Dave Ramsey fan. She loves when he tells people that in order to pay down their debt they need to sell so many of their possessions that the kids think that even they can be sold for the right price. He definitely sees earthly possessions as simply tools to be used and not possessed. This is a tough, countercultural message for sure in the eyes of the average American. Too often, our self-worth is derived from our wealth and the items we own. The size of our house, the brand of our car, and the quantity of our belongings are all gauges of success in our world. For Ramsey, not only can you not truly own anything if you owe money to others, it belongs to God anyway and is only given to us as stewards.

Could you sell all you have right now? Could you walk away from all that you have amassed and be truly free? When Jesus speaks of the merchant who sells all he has to obtain a pearl of great price, he calls us to see the pearl as the kingdom of heaven. Nothing on earth can rival the value of the kingdom. If that is true, why is it so hard to surrender everything to God to obtain it? It can be fear that keeps us from stepping out in faith. It can be selfishness that prevents us from letting go. Whatever it is, we must face the fact that we are possessed by it. The good news is that God does not expect us to conquer this obstacle on our own. But with God, all things are possible.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

The Kingdom of God in Our Midst

Posted on July 26, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The Kingdom of God in Our MidstFor Sunday, July 30, 2017
17th Sunday Ordinary Time

This Sunday’s Gospel can seem obvious, even cliché. We’ve heard the stories before. Man roaming in field finds treasure, sells everything, buys field. Merchant finds pricey pearl, sells everything, buys pearl. “God is worth it!” we hear loud and clear. But this Gospel presupposes something that, to be frank, I don’t think is always presupposed. These people were actually looking for something.

Consider the man in the field. He’s taking time away from tasks to wander a patch of open land. Consider the merchant. He knows what he’s looking for and he’s thrilled to discover it. I wonder, if we’re confronted with the kingdom of God in our midst, will we know it when we see it? Have we given ourselves the mental and emotional space to search? (more…)

Why You Don’t Need a Youth Minister

Posted on July 25, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

youth minister

This blog is Part One of two pieces. Part Two will post on Saturday.

Like many Youth Ministers, I was hired in my early twenties and fresh out of college. Zealous, energetic, and immature, I was handed a floundering youth ministry program in a parish with over 450 high school students on the books. After nine years in that same suburban parish cluster, I still I loved my job. I loved putting on my weekly youth group that we had grown to reach over 100 teens. I loved working with my Core Team of young adults. The mission trips, the World Youth Day pilgrimages, the retreats—I loved it all. But after nine years of watching the vast majority of even our most engaged teens go off to college and stop practicing the faith, I had to honestly ask myself: “Is my work as a Youth Minister effective?”

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Google Your Church

Posted on July 24, 2017 by - Catholic Tech Talk

google church Those are simple instructions, right? Yes, go to Google and find out what information is on the internet about your parish. My hope is that you find your church website as #1 on the list of results, which means you’re doing some things right online.

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A Different Kind of Destiny

Posted on July 23, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

discerning god's willHow time flies! This coming year I will have one child graduate from college, one from high school, and one starting high school. I am exhausted thinking about it. My prayer for all my children is that they take the Holy Spirit with them in all that they do, and call on God to aid them in discerning their future. That is my prayer, but I know that it will not always be easy for them to follow this path. The key will be for each of them, if they choose, to be what God intended them to be, as opposed to trying to be what they want to be.

It sounds great to say to a child, “You can be anything you want to be.” But at the core of this statement is often the lie that true happiness lies in fulfilling your will for your life. I have seen many people in my life that reached their goals only to find an emptiness and longing for something more. The reality is that our ultimate fulfillment and joy is becoming the person, not that we wanted to be, but the person that God created us to be. This does not mean that we are stuck in some predestined situation. There are many ways we can live out our destiny and use fully use the gifts God gave each of us. But it does mean that we have chosen a path based on where God is leading us and informed by an insight of the distinct gifts with which we have been created. At the end of that path is a life filled with joy, peace, and contentment.

This is what I want for my kids. May they find their success by discerning God’s will and becoming the wonderful people that God intended.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

4 Ways to Grow as a Family of Faith This Summer

Posted on July 22, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

summer family faithThe school year is filled with a predictable rhythm. It’s easy to settle into a routine, even when families are balancing multiple children and a diversity of activities. When summer hits, things can get a little disjointed, especially when it comes to the practice of faith. The family is the first place children experience the love of God and formation in the Christian life. Vacation Bible School is a great place to for children to grow, but what about when the week is over?

  1. Take a Family Pilgrimage

Looking for a day trip with a little more meaning? The United States is filled with unique shrines, basilicas, and historic religious sites. Check out this Top Ten list or search sites by state. If the location is a bit of a drive, cross-reference the location with campgrounds or state parks to experience the beauty of God’s creation along with the beauty of the Catholic faith!

  1. Make Mass a Priority

Every day in Catholic churches around the world, the same Mass is being celebrated. If you’re away from home on a Sunday, the Internet makes it easy to find a Mass near you. MassTimes.org has a helpful mapping feature. To ensure that the Mass times are accurate for the summer months, check out Parishes Online where you can find downloadable weekly bulletins.

  1. Get Creative with Crafts

Pinterest is a gold mine for ideas about faith crafts and Catholic activities for kids. The next rainy day, don’t break out the iPad or start streaming Doc McStuffins or Daniel Tiger. Give the time indoors a deeper meaning for young children.

    summer family faith
  1. Serve Together

There are clothes that need sorting, community gardens that need tending, and meals to be served. Many nonprofits have tasks for all ages or specifically designate a “family day” with age-appropriate responsibilities. Grow in giving by volunteering for a local nonprofit as a family. 

Though summer may be half gone, it’s not too late to inspire your family or your parishioners in faith!

The God Who Is Not a Program

Posted on July 19, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The God Who Is Not a ProgramFor Sunday, July 23, 2017
16th Sunday Ordinary Time

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Romans 8:26-27
Matthew 13:24-43 or 13:24-30

I have been working in the Church now as an adult for twenty-five years and I have seen so many things come and go. There were so many programs that promised to completely overhaul your parish and, in turn, change the world. There have been trends brought to us by conferences and workshops, buzzwords that seemed to either bring joy or tribulation to one’s heart, and book after book intending to be that last book you will ever need in ministry or in changing your life.

Today, I am full of hope because of all the talk about the new evangelization and a renewed emphasis on leading people to a real relationship with Jesus Christ. But at the same time, I see many of the same old traps that lead to cults of personality, blind faith in the latest idea or process, and the sin of feeling superior to others. If you are in a particular group that thinks a certain way, you are truly doing God’s will. If you are not, apparently you just don’t seem to get it. (more…)

Discerning the Seeds of Stewardship

Posted on July 16, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Green PlantsOver the years I have wasted a lot: a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of talent. Sometimes I didn’t realize I was wasting these things, but after reflection, I realized I could have done more and accomplished much greater things. Of course, I think that is part of our imperfect humanity.

It truly is easier for us to waste our gifts than grow them into something more.

The parable of the sower speaks about the Word of God that gets planted in our hearts. If the soil of our heart is rich, than the Word will grow and change us. If that soil is rocky or full of weeds, the Word will lie there without any impact, bearing no fruit.

This parable can be applied to living a stewardship way of life as well. As sowers, we have been given the seeds of our time, talent, and treasure. We have a choice of where to plant these gifts. As good everyday stewards, we are called to plant them wisely and prudently. Often times it is not enough to simply give away what we have.

We need to discern the best places to sow these gifts so the maximum harvest can grow. This takes prayer, reflection, and study. Without a solid discernment process, we can find ourselves sowing seeds endlessly without much to show for it. But joyful is the person who has used their gifts wisely, for the bounty of the harvest is great.

Why Radical Hospitality Matters

Posted on July 15, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Hospitalitity I really love hospitality and try never to take it for granted. When someone takes time to create a beautiful environment or greets me with a warm welcome and a smile, I am hooked. My name is Jane Angha, Director of Ministry Blueprints, a little company all about radical hospitality and welcoming in faith communities.

Leading with Beauty 

People often think hospitality is a luxury or an option if you have time, money, and volunteers. Others think it is a waste of resources to fuss with hospitality and things such as décor, environment, food, and how the room looks for an event or gathering. They swear it doesn’t matter to most people and that no one will even notice. I beg to differ. Hospitality is an integral part of setting the stage for an encounter with Christ. Leading with beauty touches our hearts, minds, and souls.

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Who Likes Waiting?

Posted on July 12, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Who Likes Waiting?For Sunday, July 16, 2017
15th Sunday Ordinary Time

Isaiah 55:10-11
Romans 8:18-23
Matthew 13:1-23 or 13:1-9

I’ve heard that if someone waits more than four seconds for your website to load, there’s a 25% chance the person will skip it entirely. When there’s a line at Starbucks, we tap our foot. When the subway is delayed, our eyes repeatedly flick to our watches. When the tinny “all circuits are busy now” chirps in our ear for the fifteenth time, we grit our teeth and debate hanging up. When the promised reward is slow in coming, we don’t like to wait.

On a larger scale, we can see the same impatience for change. Hasty to fulfill campaign promises, the Republicans brought their healthcare bill to the House floor without a guarantee of support and now, as a result, move forward more hesitantly. Of course, all earthly leaders face the same scrutiny. Whatever side of the aisle, we want our promises fulfilled. And we don’t like waiting. (more…)