Opportunities for Thanksgiving
With Thanksgiving approaching I started reflecting on all the things I am thankful for and all the gifts I have been given. My family and friends, my job, my dog, a home, hugs from Pre-K kids, chocolate, wine, etc. Then I started thinking about what I may have forgotten and it hit me: We tend to forget to be thankful for the things that have perhaps shaped us the most, the events or people that force us to grow and stretch. It was a lightbulb moment.
Maybe the things we need to be more thankful for are the things we would avoid if we could. Like loss and waiting and conflict. Fortunately, God knows better and is wonderful at providing us with opportunities to grow in virtue.
These opportunities aren’t all rainbows and butterflies, more like porcupines and thunderstorms. I know my first response might be anger, annoyance, or disheartenment. But, when I really think about it, or look back after struggling through (because seriously how many of us are actually thinking about growing in virtue in the heat of the moment?), I realize I should thank God for all those chances He’s given me to grow. Like the co-worker that really gives me an opportunity to practice charity. Or that student that pushes my patience past it’s limits and allows, or forces, me to stretch it just a little bit farther. It could be getting assigned a work project I really don’t want to do, that invites me to practice joyful obedience. Or, experiencing a prayer life that feels empty or dark, challenging me to grow in fortitude, perseverance, and faith. (If you think you are alone in this you should read St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Dark Night of the Soul.) Maybe it’s waiting for that one thing that I desire above all others, and have been praying for forever, that encourages me to practice acceptance, trust in God’s plan, patience, more patience, and even more patience. Those last two, they’re hard. I’m not at the “Thank you God for these struggles” stage yet, but I’m working towards it.
At any moment these events can seem annoying or even pointless. Yet, these are some of the things we should be most thankful for: the trials and tribulations that offer us daily opportunities to grow in virtue. Of course, we should be thankful for all the wonderful gifts God has given us: family, friends, our health, a home. . . but let’s not forget to be thankful for our crosses too. It is these crosses that provide us the opportunities to draw ever closer to Him. So the next time you are thanking God for all the beautiful things in your life, don’t forget to thank Him for the struggles that lead you to that beauty.
Written by: Katie Garrett, YCP Omaha Parish Ambassador
Deciding for Sainthood
Last week we were able to celebrate All Saints’ Day. This day has become very important in my prayer/spiritual life. Just a couple years ago, I held the perspective that I wanted to be a saint someday, but hadn’t fully decided on when I would get around to it. I thought I would probably try for sainthood when I was old. It wasn’t necessarily a decision – it was more like an assumption. I assumed that the old people who went to daily Mass were probably well on their way to sainthood. I figured when I was older, I would start going to daily Mass and therefore achieve my saintly journey.
God had different plans for my life. Many know that I often pray that God keeps the bumpers (bowling reference) up in my life. I always pray that He keeps me on His designed path and lets me get redirected (no matter how difficult/painful) off the bumpers and therefore keeps me out of the gutter. I’ve realized that God honors that prayer. He has placed bumpers in my life on multiple occasions and, though these bumper experiences have been emotionally painful, I know that He’s been there for me through those experiences.
After my last bumper experience (a broken off engagement), I realized this doesn’t have to be as painful going forward. I was causing the pain. I was hitting the bumpers hard. I needed to cultivate a life of prayer, a true relationship with God, and thus make an effort to stay in the middle of the lane to avoid the painful bumpers. I needed to make the decision to become a Saint. It was then that I decided that I wanted to start striving to become a saint. After that decision, I remember praying “Lord, I’m in. Now what?”
My friends and family know that I often view the world and faith life through a sport’s perspective. Prior to the decision to become a saint, I thought I had to make the Hall of Fame to achieve sainthood. Post decision, I realized I needed to prayerfully say yes to “playing and striving.” I needed to grow my relationship with Jesus and He would help decide my abilities and experiences. I realized I was made to be a saint and God would utilize me in this world as He desires. I also realized that I didn’t need to eliminate passions and desires from my life in order to be a saint – I just needed to share them with Jesus.
As a result of this decision, All Saints’ Day has become a very special day. I wish I had celebrated it by feeling more a part of it in the past. In the past, I celebrated it as a spectator, but this year I celebrated it as a participant.
Footnote: If you want the best imagery for All Saints’ Day – pull up Fr Mike Schmitz’s podcast from 11/01/2015 “Ordinary Time: Ask. Offer. Accept.” Listen from 20:00 – 33:00. This story brings tears to my eyes every time. It also motivates me to work harder to run the race so I can help others.
Written by: Nick Valente, Part of the YCP Omaha Marketing Team
Jesus, I (Sometimes) Trust in You
We’ve all seen that billboard while driving on the highway. That picture of Jesus with two rays coming from His heart and the words “Jesus, I trust in you.” Millions have seen this image, but the significance and beauty of it is often missed. My love for the image of Divine Mercy has grown tremendously over the last year.
About a year ago, while in prayer, the Holy Spirit revealed a deep wound in my heart of distrust. It had been a couple years since the source of the problem, and life went on. I thought I was completely over it and Jesus and I were solid! But God revealed that all I had done was brush it under the rug, out of sight, out of mind, and there was some healing that needed to take place in our relationship.
All of a sudden I had an overwhelming awareness of the hurt, and I HATED it. If I heard “When God says He’s going to do something, He does it. He follows through on His promises,” my mind would respond with “Not necessarily.” The sentence “God provides” would be finished in my mind with “but only sometimes”. Any Bible verses along these lines were heard with this same doubt and negativity. I hated that I didn’t trust Him. I hated the hurt. I hated my skepticism. I hated that I couldn’t just shut it off and brush it under the rug again, and that Jesus was asking me to embrace it. For months I begged Jesus to heal the wound, to help me grow in trusting Him, to restore my faith. For months, nothing changed.
I knew He didn’t want me believing these lies and that He wanted me to trust Him wholeheartedly. I asked Jesus why He wouldn’t just heal my heart already. The response I got was, “Just stay with me.” Jesus was asking me not to run away from it, not to run away from Him. He knew how hard it was for me to remain in the wound, to be patient, and to be still. Another month passed, and it was in that desperation that He led me to the book “33 Days to Merciful Love” by Fr. Michael Gaitley. It’s a “do-it-yourself” retreat in preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy. In short, Fr. Gaitley describes a consecration to Divine Mercy as a self-offering to God (a setting apart of oneself for God) for the specific purpose of glorifying God’s mercy. I thought, “What better way to combat distrust head on than by consecrating myself to Divine Mercy, with the signature phrase ‘Jesus, I trust in you’. This has to work! Right?”
In this book I learned that we all have a trust problem (to one degree or another) as a result of original sin. We doubt God’s goodness and trustworthiness, and that’s why we sin. It discussed Abraham’s and Mary’s examples of faith, how they “hoped against hope”, believed God was faithful even when it seemed impossible, and how God uses Mary to heal our wounds of distrust in God. I learned how St. Therese of Lisieux’s “little way” teaches us that the more broken and imperfect our humanity is, the more God wants to flood us with His ocean of mercy, if only we open our hearts to receive it. It actually pains Jesus when people don’t want to receive His grace and mercy.
This book led not only to healing my heart, but giving me a deeper love and trust in God than I have ever known before! It taught me to truly live and trust God in the present. You see, I’m a planner, and being with Jesus in the present has always been hard for me. But this deeper trust has allowed me to be okay letting go of control, knowing that God will take care of everything perfectly. Doubt may try to creep in here and there, but I can always go back to the lessons of “33 Days to Merciful Love”: Hope against hope. Keep trusting and keep trying. Jesus, I trust in you.
Sometimes God asks us to walk through the fire and wait out the storm. Sometimes God lets the wound remain. But it is only because He wants to lead us to something greater and into a deeper relationship with Him. So, if you find yourself in a place of hurt, lacking faith, lacking trust, or really just about any other circumstance you could find yourself in, I could not recommend enough consecrating yourself to Divine Mercy. Read up on Divine Mercy, read “33 Days to Merciful Love”, or watch documentaries on Formed.org. His Divine Mercy is truly an incredible gift that God has given us! And one that I pray each of you encounter in a very personal way.
St. Faustina, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. John Paul the Great, pray for us.
Divine Mercy, have mercy on us. Jesus, I trust in you.
Written by: Kristin Vankat, YCP Omaha Assistant Director of Finance and Parish Ambassador
Christians Encounter Christ
Like many of our YCP friends, I attended Catholic schools my entire life, including a Jesuit high school and a Jesuit university. My grandparents, parents, and most of my aunts and uncles were all strong Catholics. I prayed every night before going to bed, just as my parents taught me. Going to Mass with my classmates during the week and again with our families on the weekend helped ground me, and didn’t really give me an option to NOT be a practicing Catholic. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started skipping Mass and slowly falling out of practice. Without my family to take me to Mass every Sunday, or a core group of friends who were truly dedicated to holding me accountable, I found it surprisingly easy to just stop going altogether. The only part of my faith life that remained consistent throughout college was my nightly prayer routine – and even that had become less-than-nightly.
After graduation, I became even more disconnected with the Catholic Church. I was living downtown and fully enjoying my weekends in that atmosphere. I had many co-workers who were not Catholic and many new friends who did not practice any religion, let alone the Catholic faith. Religion was not discussed in the office and I did not have any family members in town fostering the development of my Catholic faith. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but when things got challenging at work or in my personal life, I still found myself turning toward prayer and seeking guidance from God. I didn’t realize it then, but I know now that I was deeply missing my Catholic foundation.
After a lot of discernment and over a year of interviews, I made a complete career change and found myself in a work environment that actually encouraged my spiritual development in addition to my professional development. By God’s design, a senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch who helped start KVSS (Spirit 102.7) in Omaha, became my mentor. After our business meetings, we found comfort in being able to discuss Jesus and our common values in the office. Steve challenged me to become more active in my faith life again. In addition to changing the presets in my car to 102.7, 88.1, and 100.7, he suggested a retreat called Christians Encounter Christ (CEC). In the spring of 2017, I eventually took the plunge at the request of another trusted mentor in Omaha, who had also participated in CEC.
By God’s design (again), I went on the CEC retreat exactly 10 years after my Kairos retreat in high school (a very pivotal retreat the junior year of high school in Jesuit schools across the U.S.) and 25 years after Steve and my other mentor had completed their CEC retreat together (neither of them knew we were connected and their invitations to CEC were independent of one another). This retreat reignited the fire inside me to be a witness to Christ and it connected me with 3000+ people who had shared my experience through their own CEC weekend. I now attend a weekly prayer group at 6:00 am on Friday mornings with fellow CEC men who help me stay on track as we do our best to Know, Love, and Serve God. I highly recommend the CEC retreat to any of our YCP family and would be happy to discuss my experience one-on-one at our next speaker series or happy hour event.
Written by: Christopher Tooker, YCP Omaha Parish Ambassador
Our executive speaker in June 2017 was Paul Jeffrey, talking about "Trusting in Christ's Design for Your Life". His presentation took place at the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
Building Our Catholic Community
Earlier this summer, I had the honor of representing YCP Omaha at the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.” This gathering brought together over 3,500 Catholics from across the US to share experiences about the Church engaging with modern US culture. The majority of the US bishops were in attendance, along with clergy and lay Catholic leaders from across the country. Interestingly, this was the largest gathering assembled by the bishops in 100 years – when Catholics assembled in Washington D.C. to craft the Church’s response to World War I.
The Convocation consisted of prayer and discussion, with a number of speakers and breakout panels to address the opportunities and challenges facing the Catholic Church in America. It was powerful to witness firsthand the universality of the Catholic Church. This diverse group of individuals represented hundreds of organizations and apostolates – all addressing specific needs that together make up the body of the Church. The opening processional at Mass gave me chills – over 10 minutes with all of the bishops processing to the altar!
Archbishop Lucas brought a delegation of about 20 people from the Archdiocese of Omaha, and we spent time discussing how we can bring our experiences back to Omaha for the betterment of our diocese. One underlying theme that kept coming up was the importance of building up the diocese at the parish level. It took me several years after college to join a parish, and my reasons for avoidance were numerous: ‘I don’t know how long I’ll be living here,’ ‘I’ll wait until I have a family,’ ‘I bounce around from Church to Church on Sundays,’ ‘I get my share of Catholic fellowship elsewhere,’ ‘I’m too busy to join,’ etc. I’m sure other Young Catholic Professionals can relate.
Personally, being an active parishioner has helped me build a greater commitment to practicing my faith, and meeting others in the community has been a positive experience. St. Pius X Catholic Church’s website sums this up nicely: “A Catholic parish is the single most important part of our Catholic Church. This is where we continue the mission of Jesus Christ. This is where we publicly express our faith, joining together with others to give witness of our communion with God and with one another.”
One thing YCP has made clear to me over the past few years is that we have a very exciting and vibrant community of young Catholics in the Omaha area. Let’s bring this excitement and vibrancy to the parish level and join a parish near you!
Note: Click here for a map and contact info of parishes in your area.
Written by : Nick Nevole, Chairman of YCP Omaha’s Board of Directors
Our executive speaker in May 2017 was Karly Jurgensen-Daniel, talking about "Music & Miracles: Using Your Gifts to Glorify God". Her presentation took place at St. Leo's in Omaha, Nebraska.
My Peter Moment
A few weeks ago, I was discussing faith with a friend. He asked, “Do you think it is important to question our faith by studying other religions, to know for sure that the Catholic faith is the truth?”
“Well, I think God grants us the grace to question our faith during certain periods of our lives, but we shouldn’t seek out reasons to question or doubt,” I responded.
This conversation brought me back to a time in my life where I was searching for answers.
I’ve always been Catholic. I served as a Catholic missionary for three years. I attend Mass and hold true to the teachings of the Church. Jesus has always been real to me. I never had an intense ‘conversion moment’ where I just knew, without a doubt, that Jesus was who He says He is, where I chose Him over the nagging doubt, until March 30, 2015.
That day, my brother decided to stop treatment for his Stage IV colon cancer. I was on the phone with my best friend expressing my doubts and worries about what was to come. Hospice was coming to admit my brother to their care.
“I don’t know, Kels, I’m so worried my family’s faith isn’t strong enough to go through all of this. I don’t know what is coming or where God is taking us. All I know is that it’s going to be the most difficult thing we’ve been through yet. What if this faith isn’t what it’s really cracked up to be? What if, my siblings, nieces and nephews, my parents- what if they walk away? What if they start believing the lie that God isn’t good because he took Scott?”
“Well, Jenne, what about you? Would you walk away?”
Through my tears, I answered, “Where would I go? I know I am too weak to walk away now. If I did, I would have nothing.”
My answer surprised me and continues to today. 11 days later, our Lord called my brother home at the age of 36. He would be turning 39 on September 17. September is a bittersweet month for my family.
Shortly before Scott passed away, he told me that his cancer was a grace from God. Scott never really practiced his faith until after his diagnosis. He said, “All this time, I thought you were wrong and that I was right. It turns out, you were right. Jesus is real.”
Over the last two years, I have learned it takes courage to live your faith well, especially during times of sadness and grief. In our culture of independence and ‘I’ve got this’ mentalities, it takes courage to learn to lean on God in these moments, to admit to yourself and others that you need help. I am grateful to my friends and community that have been there for my family and me. Thank you.
I tell you this because it is in these moments of doubt and questioning that God desires to enter deeply into our lives. These are the moments that God is closest to us. He wants our whole hearts, minds, and lives. . . not just an hour on Sunday. These moments aren’t comfortable at all, and my pride wants me to avoid them like the plague, but as Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) once stated, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!”
It is through leaning on Him that He has opened an area of my heart to allow others to lean on me. One of my many roles for my job is to educate parents on how to maintain a central line. A central line is a long term IV catheter that is pretty intimidating for parents to learn to care for. Most kids who get a central line placed have been newly diagnosed with cancer. I know all too well the look of confusion and doubt on their faces when I walk into their hospital room. Some days, I get to share my brother’s story and faith journey through all the uncertainties that cancer brings. The bonds that have been formed with these families have helped heal my heart as well. This is a great opportunity to be able to witness to my faith.
Every day, there is a struggle for our hearts. Jesus desires all of ours. Are we willing to say ‘yes’ to Him? It takes courage to live our faith well, to stand behind a Church that speaks the Truth to a world unwilling to listen. This is nothing new. Many disciples walked away after hearing a difficult teaching in John 6:60-71.
Jesus turned to his Apostles, “Do you also wish to go away?”
Peter responded, “Lord, where would we go? For you have the words of everlasting life!”
As for my family, we miss Scott. We always will. Yet we know now, more than ever, who God is and where Scott is. God is merciful. He gave my brother 18 months to grow in his relationship with Jesus before Scott was given the grace to see Him face to face.
Start today to grow in your relationship with God.
My challenge for you today is to ask Jesus who He really is and who He says you are.
Take five minutes to sit in His presence silently, ask Him to show you who He is throughout your workday. He loves surprising us! He is faithful.
Be courageous, my friends.
Be His Light.
Written by: Jenne Forman, YCP Omaha Director of Evangelization
Our executive speaker in April 2017 was Richard Herink, talking about "Embracing Mentorship". His presentation took place at St. Vincent de Paul in Omaha, Nebraska.
“How Much Do You Trust Me?”
This summer I had the incredible blessing of walking the Camino de Santiago along the Northern Coast of Spain. I traveled with 31 individuals, ages 17-77, from St. Patrick’s in Elkhorn. Our past chaplain of YCP, Fr. John Norman, pitched the idea of the trip last fall. Father had a profound experience on the Camino ten years ago. Over Thanksgiving, I was discerning whether this trip would be feasible. I shared my interest of going on the trip with a life-long friend, Tessa. Much to my surprise, two weeks after sharing my interest in going, Tessa asked when the deposit was due for the pilgrimage. I was overjoyed by her interest in joining the group! We committed to traveling additional weeks beyond the Camino, including a trip to Fatima for the 100th year celebration of Apparitions. I could hardly wait to embark on this adventure!
My most profound “take away” from the Camino was Jesus gently asking me to give over control. There were multiple instances where this message was made clear. A few examples include: my flight being delayed out of Omaha, causing us to arrive in Spain later than the group; the co-ed sleeping arrangements, especially with camping bunks and snoring throughout the night; and eating warm canned tuna and white carbs multiple times a day. I had to learn to be grateful for these moments when God tested my trust in Him! It was through being uncomfortable that I was reminded to give over control and allow the Father to lead me.
During the pilgrimage, I was dating someone and often thought about this man throughout the trip. I grew immensely in my desire for holiness and knowledge of being vulnerable throughout our time of dating. After dating long distance and making a few visits back and forth, it was made evident that our relationship was not supposed to continue. It was painful to close this chapter of my life, but again I heard Christ state, “Trust me, I want to give you what will make you the happiest”. It was my experience on the Camino that allowed my heart to have certainty in Christ’s timing.
Growing in my trust of the Father led me to a deeper docility to the Holy Spirit. This became more evident to me a few weeks ago during the visit of YCP’s founder, Jennifer Baugh, to Omaha. Jenn has become a dear friend of mine over the last few years. I admire her devotion to the mission and trust in times of adversity. Just before her stay, I purchased an icon of Our Lady of Fatima as a gift from our Leadership team. I wasn’t sure what to purchase, so I called upon the Holy Spirit for guidance. Jenn adored the image. The next morning, she spoke about the image with our team at brunch. Jenn stated, “Rachel knows me so well, buying a Fatima image. Cody and I were married on May 13th!” My jaw dropped. I hadn’t made the connection that her wedding day was on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Naturally, Our Lady would be pulling on our hearts to draw closer to her through one another!
Young Catholic Professionals has helped me gain a new confidence in my abilities. After all, it was through Fr. John Norman’s invitation to go on the Camino pilgrimage that I began to develop a deeper trust in the Father, open my heart to the Holy Spirit, allow the Lord to strengthen me, and encounter Our Lady in such a personal way. Through my prayer life, friendships, and occasional discomfort, I can see that allowing Christ to lead my life is far more rewarding. My “yes” to bringing the mission to Omaha has resulted in life-long friendships and hundreds of lives being touched by the work of the Holy Spirit. I encourage each of you to trust that Christ’s plans will ALWAYS turn out better than yours! Trust that He will always have more for you to experience! St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us.
Written by: Rachel Toner, Vice-President of YCP Omaha Outreach