Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mixin' and Minglin'--St. Ignatius Style

On Sunday night several Catholic organizations joined Charis Ministries in sponsoring a rendezvous in the tradition of St. Ignatius – back when he liked to party. During the Catholic Open House, nearly 80 people gathered to socialize and find out about young adult opportunities in Chicago.

The Ark Café, a hip new restaurant in Wicker Park, graciously hosted the event in their beautiful and homey dining room and coffee bar. Representatives from 13 Chicago organizations shared conversation and refreshments with both long-time Chicagoans and those new to the Chicago Catholic young-adult scene.

It was terrific to see so many people excited about getting involved in the Church in some way – whether through spiritual opportunities, volunteering, social events, or a combination of all three. It’s energizing to see young adults seeking communities where they can fulfill Christ’s discipleship in our world today. According to many, the Open House was a great way to get them in touch with these communities. As our Program Coordinator, Lauren Gaffey, said on Sunday, “This is like Google…but in person!”

Thanks to all those who joined us for the event – we hope to see you at future Charis and other young-adult events in Chicago soon!

And a special thanks to the following sponsors: Old St. Patrick's, Respect Life Office Junior Board, St. Alphonsus, Catholics on Call, Diocese of Joliet Young Adult Ministry, Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, and Chicago Catholic Coed Softball League. Representatives of Holy Name Cathedral, ReCiL, St. Nicholas, and the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy were also on hand.

-Mary Ellen M

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stepping out of our comfort zones

When I first got the email about Charis’ Service Day on September 20th, I thought to myself “give up a Saturday at the end of summer to do some community service project, forget about it!” As I thought more about it, I reflected on how my parents were married at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in 1970. It might not be a bad idea to go back to the neighborhood where my mom and grandparents first immigrated to America. No longer a parish but now a rejuvenated mission, the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels is dedicated to doing good works to the neighbors of that west side neighborhood.

I had heard so much about Fr. Bob Lombardo, CFR and his progress at the Mission. I freed up my schedule and decided to participate. About four miles west of my house, I have not ventured out to this part of the west side. One hears about the theft and the drugs and the gangs and forgets about the real need of the good people that live in these poverty stricken neighborhoods.

I was asked to help sort and fold children’s clothes that were donated. I can’t say that I ever folded clothes sized newborn to 2T. What does 2T stand for anyway? I always think the interesting part about volunteering your time is that you never now what you will be asked to do. Although I will not get to meet the children or parents that would benefit from my service, I imagine the smiles on the mother’s faces knowing that their children have warm clothes this winter.

God calls us to perform acts of charity, through pure love for Christ. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1822: Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. 1826: Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: "So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity."

I am glad I was able to volunteer at the Mission. I got an understanding of how they are trying make a difference in the neighborhood by having an active Catholic presence. Reflecting on my time there begs me to question: “How can I perform acts of charity on a regular basis, daily basis, continuous basis?”

-Lou S.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Service Trips--Looking Back and Looking Forward

This past Sunday a group of us gathered to remember our experiences from past Charis Ministries service trips. It was a great opportunity to share pictures and memories from the trips and catch up with people whom I haven’t seen in a while. Those of us who went on one or more of the service trips formed a great sense of community with each other over the course of the week-long trips, and it was great to renew that sense of community. We shared a lot of stories about our experiences from the trips, and there was plenty of laughter exchanged. It was fun to relive memories from the service trip to Idabel, Oklahoma that I was part of in 2004 and to hear stories from other service trips that I was not part of.

Several of us commented that sharing our memories from the service trips has inspired us to renew our commitment to volunteering. It’s easy to get burnt out on volunteering or to let a busy schedule get in the way, but getting together with other volunteers to have fun and reflect on your collective accomplishments is a great way to renew your enthusiasm and commitment to volunteering. This gathering was a fun opportunity to reflect on past service trips and to look forward to future trips.

-Jared W.