Sunday, April 25, 2010


I am going on retreat with my juniors tomorrow and Tuesday. Well, half tomorrow, half Tuesday because when these retreats were scheduled back before I was on board, they decided that this junior class needed to be separated. But what started as a negative (and remains a negative in their mind--Why are we split up? How could you do this to us?) is actually a positive to me. I don't know much about this class. I've had little time to get to know them over the last 8 months. And yet come September? They will all be mine. So, to me, this is an opportunity for me to start to get to know them--and for them to know me.

The theme of the retreat is service. My school has a unique service program for seniors in which every senior must complete over 100 hours of service in her senior year. They get a day "off" from school to complete these hours. They serve in daycare centers, hospitals, elementary schools, nursing homes, and soup kitchens all over the city. It's an amazing program and the chance to run and coordinate it made this my dream job.

We currently have no formal service program/requirement for 9th-11th grades. Some of the girls are active in the community, others have done a service day here and there, and still others have little to no experience with service. So, going from 0 to 150 or even 40 to 150 is a lot. It's a big commitment. So the goal of tomorrow is to get the girls to think about their own individual strengths and talents, and where those gifts can be best put to use during their service year. They commit their entire year to one site.

I want to know what they think about service--why we as a school think it's important, why THEY think it's important (do they think it's important?) and why I think it's important. I hope to share some of my own experiences with service, about how service is about more than giving; it's about receiving. It's about letting the experience change and transform you, listening to the people you serve, being with them, laughing with them. I've been lucky enough to serve as a tutor, as a house-builder, as an advocate, as a teacher, as a mentor. It's not always easy and it's not always comfortable. Sometimes you're tired, or frustrated, or in a bad mood...and you still have to go. Sometimes you feel useless--and yet you keep trying.

There are so many things I want to tell them--I could fill almost the whole 4 hours with my own voice. But I won't. I want to hear from them too. I want them to discover their own gifts and strengths (which is why they will take a Myers-Briggs test and discover their personality), and to take ownership of the service program (which is why they will work on writing a mission statement for our program).

As I said above, this service program (with all of its headaches and complexities--of which there are MANY) is my favorite part of the job. Hopefully, I can convey that tomorrow, and get the girls as excited and engaged as I am...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

last day

We've arrived at the end of Lent! My daily commitment has ended, and now it's a matter of what comes next. I think I want this to be the place that I flesh out my ideas, come up with a plan. I'm a great "big idea" girl, but I sometimes fall short on follow through. This can be a place for me to think ideas through "out loud" so to speak, to come up with game plans, to talk through the struggles, challenges, and obstacles. (Not that I mean to imply there are *any* obstacles, struggles, or challenges associated with working with teenage girls!! Every day is a joy and a cakewalk, of course!)

I thank my friend D for inspiring me to set out on this Lenten journey...we walked the road together, borrowing ideas and sharing resources--uncovering similarities we didn't know existed along the way.

Friday, April 2, 2010

were you there?

Good Friday. Some 2,000ish years ago, a great man, a prophet, the Son of God refused to deny his truest identity. And so he was mocked, whipped, and nailed to a cross. It is a violent and horrifying story--and yet it is a story that has inspired millions to faith.

I find myself thinking about those that Jesus left behind...this band of misfit believers, frightened for their own lives, confused by what they just witnessed. After all, they believed their friend to be the Messiah, God's Chosen One, the Savior. Could he really have been any of those things? Would the Messiah have simply hung on that cross until the end? What was next? Would the soldiers and the Pharisees come for them? Did the last 3 years of their lives mean nothing? Had they been led to a dead end, literally and figuratively?

An event that could have been the destruction of a faith--that could have caused them all to flee to their separate corners--in fact brought them closer together. These apostles and disciples spent the next days and weeks in the company of one another, trying to decipher the death (and eventual resurrection) of their humble leader and Lord. In this community of believers, they found their voices and the strength to go forward. They continued the work of Jesus, not without fear, but with the knowledge that they were not alone.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

music part 2

I didn't blog yesterday. So close! It was a long day, a not-so-great day, a day where I came home from work and collapsed into bed and didn't get up til the morning hours. I'm on Easter break! Hooray!

So, in my first music post, I didn't address music in ministry--music as a way to connect to students, for students to connect with love and God and each other. Music has played a powerful role in my own faith life. I don't just mean liturgical music, though there are certainly some powerful favorites in there, from the
Offertory based on Micah 6:8 to the traditional You Are Mine that I found myself singing almost daily on the 5 day silent retreat that condensed the lessons of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I don't limit it to Sundays at St. Monica's in Los Angeles and the best sung Our Father you will ever hear. I don't even mean Christmas music, even though O Holy Night is practically a religious experience in and of itself.

What I mean, however, is the impact of (for lack of a better term) secular music/mainstream music in ministry. To this day, the opening chords of the Indigo Girls'
Galileo brings me back to my elementary school library and a youth group meeting, while The Five Stairsteps' O-O-H Child sends me to our college retreat house on Cape Cod following my friend Susie's talk about her struggles during her year abroad. Guster's Window takes me to Cuernavaca, Mexico, while Dave Matthews Band's Pig reminds me of the senior class during my junior year of college. Retreats and weekly Pax Christi meetings were full of music--music that made us think, reflect, smile, and cry.

I have not figured out a way to work music into my ministry yet. I haven't figured out how to pick songs and artists that will connect with my girls in a meaningful way. A challenge for the future, I suppose. I want to find a way to make that connection. I want them to hear the opening chords of a song 10 or 15 years from now and think of their high school experience, think of a story or a retreat or a moment of connection with God.