Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Looking through a Lens of Appreciation

It goes without saying that Charis Ministries offers many life-changing opportunities for young adults in the Chicagoland area in a given year. But this was clearly evident to me at the Charis Ministries Recognition Dinner held in downtown Chicago last Sunday night. While there, I heard about all the incredible projects that have happened over the course of the last twelve months, and even more importantly, the incredible people who made these programs come to life.

It struck me how many young adults had been impacted by Ignatian spirituality by the people in the room that night. Thanks to their efforts, I wondered just how many hearts were turned, how many lives were changed, and how many people felt the presence of God all around them. We may never know, but it took my breath away just knowing I was sharing a room with so many people who said "Here I am, Lord. Send me!"

To cap it off, we heard from Fr. Pat McGrath, SJ, on what makes the Ignatian spirituality that Charis spreads so special. He explained that it allows us to look at the world through the lens of appreciation, which was quite appropriate as we shared our own appreciation for the men and women who have made such a difference in this ministry effort. On a personal note, I thought it was moving that we were able to truly appreciate our friend and colleague Jenene Francis, who has done so much to propel Charis on a national stage. Using this very same Ignatian approach, I can truly thank God for the gift of Jenene over the past five years.

The Recognition Dinner was a perfect way to wrap up one year and look ahead, with the lens of appreciation already in hand, to the months and years that lie ahead.

-Paul J.
(Diocese of Joliet)

Friday, June 6, 2008

What's in your heart?

Last evening on the feast day of St. Boniface, around 35 young adults from around the Chicagoland area gathered at St. Teresa of Avila parish in Lincoln Park to celebrate Mass. As a closing to the 2007-08 Charis Ministries activities, young adults who attended other Charis events throughout the year came together to re-connect and share in a closing event before the flurry of summertime activities begins. With a focus on the theme "What's in your heart?", Fr. Michael Sparough, SJ (the director of Charis Ministries) invited us to reflect on the past year’s Living Ignatian Speaker Series, reminded us of the movement through St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, and encouraged us to focus on the spiritual heart that centers us.

A handful of years ago Charis Ministries first partnered with St. Teresa of Avila parish to co-host an evening vespers service for young adults. Eric Styles, SJ, who is currently a Jesuit scholastic at Loyola University, spearheaded the effort in hopes of offering young adults a different form of prayer by introducing a segment of the liturgy of hours. Over the past few years St. Teresa’s and Charis has continued to co-sponsor a variety of evenings of prayer including vespers, peace and justice speakers, and Masses for young people in their 20s and 30s. In 2007-08, as part of the Living Ignatian Speaker Series, young adults again had the opportunity to celebrate Mass together at St. Teresa’s. These evenings of worship provide an opportunity for young adults connected to Charis to celebrate the Eucharist, and share in informal conversation and fellowship in the Parish Center following the Mass.

Thanks to all who participated in the 2007-08 Living Ignatian Speaker Series, and we hope that you can join us on September 11, 2008 for our kickoff Mass for the next Living Ignatian programming year.

Enjoy the summer!
-Leigh H.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

For the Least 2008

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending the weekend with 47 other young adults who are passionate about issues of peace and justice and how that impacts each of our lives. We had the time to pray and reflect on our own and heard about others’ experiences of living out the Gospel call to service.

Theresa shared the difference between a college service trip to Mexico and viewing the situation as a kind of "science experiment" to the experience she has now of simply being in solidarity the students she teaches. Luke told us a story about JFK and the Cuban missile crisis that influenced him in his commitment to non-violence.

Anita compared her year of service in South America and wanting to "help" people, to spending three years in Africa learning about hospitality, generosity and other virtues from the people there. David took us with him as he shared 3 stories of what he learned from people he met on his pilgrimage to 365 churches in 365 days to nearly 40 countries on 5 continents.

Keynote speaker Nick Lund-Molfese pointed out potential hurdles that those working for a more just world may encounter but gave us time to reflect on how we can overcome them in our own lives and works.

To see some pics from the weekend, go to the Charis Ministries Facebook page. If you were on the retreat, feel free to post some of your own thoughts here.

Be sure to save the date for next year’s retreat: May 1-3, 2009.
~Lauren G