We are constantly taking in loads of information. Staff meetings, e-mails, classes, articles, blogs, ect ect. In one day I can easily find myself dealing with multiple tasks, countless problems, and in the middle of reading 3 or 4 different books. The question becomes not what was accomplished, but what was actually taken away? What, after a week of classes, a day of work, or time spent at a conference, was the take away?
Today marks the beginning of the second annual Mid-Atlantic Congress in which pastoral leaders of our Church on the East Coast gather in Baltimore. As was shared in Tuesday’s blog, it is a time of sharing knowledge, gathering tools, and forming relationships. Spending our days in prayer, breakout sessions and collaborative conversations, one is over loaded with wonderful information and useful tools. After three days of being laden with information and experiences the question becomes, “what is the take away?”
I share with you my “take aways” from last year’s congress. These 6 pieces of wisdom have stuck with me throughout the year and have helped to strengthen both my faith and my work as an Apostle in the Church.
Take Away 1: “When I don’t have hours I take minutes” ~Elizabeth Ann Seton. In the business of our lives it is hard to find the hours of contemplative prayer we would like and need. We must be reminded that when we can’t find hours we should not beat ourselves up, but rather take the minutes we do have to enter into prayer and conversation with God.
Take Away 2: “Remember that you are called and chosen, loved and blessed. That you are the one that will bring others to Christ” ~Most Rev. Gerald Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson AZ. The Bishop then went on to say, “I have an ecstasy and terror of having been chosen in Baptism.” All of us in our Baptism were called and chosen to be apostles of Christ and we must remember that in being Apostles we are love and blessed, even in the midst of our own ecstasy and terror.
Take Away 3: “The one handed Gospel” The Director of CRS, Dr. Carolyn Woo, shared Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s “one handed Gospel”, in which Mother Teresa explained that the whole Gospel can be counted on five fingers, “You-Did-It-To-Me.” Every action that we take we do it to Christ, so let our actions be ones of compassion, care and love.
Take Away 4: “Have a spirituality of Resurrection; love beats all- Joy over hate!” Fr. James Martin, SJ. As we have shared with you many times in our blog posts, Fr. Martin again reiterates that we are a people who “rejoice in hope” and that “joy, humor, and laughter feed hope.” In the midst of our struggles and our pains, we are reminded that we are called to be a people of the Resurrection!
Take Away 5: Always come back to the Eucharist! Msrg Kevin Irwin shared that, “the Eucharist says you are accepted and you are not alone. It is what gives us hope and perspective.” Marty Haugen explained that “the Eucharist is radically welcome, radically relational, and radically transformative.” We must remember the gift the Eucharist is to us and the strength it provides us to do the work of God.
Take Away 6: Love the Church! Paul Henderson, director of USCCB publishing reminded us that we are to “love the church…love knows no fear.” Most Rev. Gerald Kicanas, Bishop of Tucson AZ, also spoke in asking us to “strive to love the Church; she is a sinful, graced reality.” In the midst of trying times for our Church, let us never forget to love her and be grateful for all that she has done in showing us what is true and real.
In the midst of this day, you are bombarded with information and details, my hope is that you are able to take away one of these take aways! I ask also that you keep in prayer all those who are participating in the Mid-Atlantic congress this weekend and for our Church at large, that through collaboration and sharing we might be able to live the Pallottine spirituality of reviving faith, rekindling charity and forming apostles.
Pam Tremblay is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
It is once again that time of year for pastoral leaders to be making their way to the Mid-Atlantic Congress (MAC) in Baltimore. Registration fees have been paid, rooms have been booked, and deals on parking spaces have been found. The preparations are well under way for another Congress, and where does my mind go? To the Council of Elrond in Rivendell. That’s right, I am about to compare a gathering of pastoral leaders to The Lord of the Rings. Although the MAC at first glance may not appear to be as epic as Tolkien’s depiction of the Council of Elrond, upon further examination the MAC holds many epic features to it- most notably that of companionship.
The Christian life as we all know is filled with struggles, sorrows, growth, and joy. At times we often feel as Frodo does, torn between the known and the unknown. We may desire to remain in our present scenario although feeling nudged to embrace a challenge that seems impossible. Tolkien portrays this tension when he writes,
“An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo’s side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice. ‘I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.”’ (The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Rings, 303)
As a young adult working in the Catholic Church, I often find myself saying this very line: “I will take the [insert present challenge] though I do not know the way.” As Frodo and myself have both found, this insecurity is the prime opportunity in which to reach out for another and to experience the value and blessings of companionship.
Upon attending the MAC last year, I was amazed with the incredible spirit of companionship that enlivened the atmosphere of this conference. As I walked through the halls of the conference center, I observed reunions between old friends at every turn and new friendships forged as experiences and stories were shared. Ideas were exchanged on how to approach various problems at the parish, contact information shared for future questions, and the knowledge that you were not alone in your struggles or in your joys brought reassurance.
As for me, I was blessed with the companionship of one of my Echo Faith Formation community members. We would scour through the program to find the most interesting workshops, often splitting up so that we could gather even more information to bring back to our collective reservoir of knowledge. This initial companionship gave us the motivation and encouragement to go off on our own, meet new members of the Body of Christ, and return together strengthened in our own relationship. Throughout this past year, we have often thought back to the MAC, appreciating the connections we made, the friendships we began, and the opportunities that we were blessed to experience.
As the Council of Elrond provides an opportunity for Frodo and the other characters to seek direction and as Rivendell bestows a haven of rest and peace, the MAC grants the time and space to discuss the Church in the world today and a place in which to rest and gain strength to continue the journey. As Frodo set out with eight companions to complete his task, one leaves the MAC with several more companions than one started with. Although there will be bumps along the way, the memory of the joy and the Spirit shared at this unique gathering strengthens one during difficult times (as an added benefit, it also provides a great opportunity to network!). St. Paul captures the spirit of the MAC when he writes, “so that I may come to you with joy by the will of God and be refreshed together with you.” (Romans 15:32) Regardless of your ability to participate in the MAC this year, I pray that as diverse members of the same Body of Christ we may come together with joy and be refreshed so that we may be sent out to continue our own epic story as apostles of Jesus Christ.
Amy Winkler serves as an Echo Faith Formation Apprentice in the Diocese of Camden, NJ