Friday, September 15, 2006

A Note to Father Heft

Father Heft!
My goodness, how time flies. I apologize for how long it has taken me to reply! I am busy most days for 12 hours, and doing homework on top of that...I also went out to Denver over Labor Day weekend for about 4 days to see Mike.
How are you doing? I can imagine how strange it would feel to be so far from the midwest. The west coast is almost a different world! Your class proposal looks great - very interesting. I wish I could take it! Have you had much interaction or chance to form relationships with the USC students yet? I saw you are living with the Vincentians. They seem to keep showing up in my life! First, I got very involved with St. Vincent dePaul society and went to the national conference and fell in love with some of their charism. Then, Mike went off to the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. Now you're living with some, too? What are you doing mostly? I think I remember something about you getting lots of money for their that true? I saw a poster for your talk next Friday - I'll definitely be there. You seem to be the resident expert of politics and religion, you have given many talks about the issue! :)
Life has been good. Busy, as always. :) Last weekend, I led my first retreat at Bergamo, Mt. Saint Johns, for high school seniors from Columbus. I have always loved retreats, and it was nice to see the teenagers learning more about each other and themselves through the times of reflection and such. Unfortunately, however, the retreat barely focused on Jesus or God, or even faith! Later at a meeting, we asked a few of the teens how their faith or idea of Jesus had changed as a result of the retreat. They all just stared at us blankly. Not a good sign, I would say. Also, the other facilitators (mostly college students) cringed at the idea of having mass or reconciliation at the retreats. It's as if they are so afraid of scaring the kids off with religion that they want to make it all about feelings and "bonding". I know there has to be a better way...I feel so passionately about having youth understand and embrace their Catholic faith, and there seems to be a large disconnect between the "retreat experience" and Catholicism. It's difficult, because I know they just want to reach everyone, so they keep it as neutral as possible. When I was in high school, I was in a retreat program that balanced it so well - retreats were full of relationship forming, BUT it was also focused on our relationship with God, on reconciliation with that relationship as well. We had mass and reconciliation, and also a ton of fun. :) So I will just hope and pray that the youth formation at Bergamo can learn to find the balance between attracting teens and not watering down our faith. Well, I just went on a lot longer than I had intended. I guess it was bothering me more than I had thought! :)
A looming issue in my life right now is What To Do After Graduation in May. I feel pressure to decide on a career path NOW for some reason. Although the current plan is to do some sort of service for a year or two before I pursue a graduate degree...just to gain some experience, some perspective, and take a little breather if I delve into graduate work. The problem is - I can't decide if I want to go into education/social work OR theology/ministry. I am acutely aware the needs of our society, especially working with kids on the west side of Dayton for the past 4 months. Their basic needs of education and health seem to overshadow the work I would do in youth or pastoral ministry. But I also long to help instill the gift of faith that saved me as a teenager. I literally remember a day sitting in the chapel as a 16-year-old. I had recently started going to Adoration (with our beloved Eileen Sullivan!) and I was really feeling down about myself. I remember feeling absolutely useless - I had no real talents, I wasn't the prettiest girl in the world, and I didn't have tons of friends. Then, I got this pervading sense of peace, and I felt... "I can't be good at everything - but I can be good at loving Jesus." It sounds pretty corny, I know! But at the time, it was such a relief to feel the burden taken off of me. I want other teens and young people to know their value and their place in the Church. Well, I have lots of discernment to do. And I know the decision doesn't have to be made TODAY, but sometimes it sure feels that way!
As far as classes - I'm taking Ecclesiastical Latin, my hardest class for sure. We get about 100 or so new vocabulary words a week....we just move so fast. And I am one of 3 undergrads in the whole class. I have gotten 100% on our first test and quiz though! Actually, I've gotten perfect scores on all of my work so far. It's a little surreal, definitely the grace of God!! Nice to start off with solid grades, but I'll feel disappointed when they stop being 100s. :) I'm also taking Faith and Justice with Luzzaragga (a new prof, he's pretty fun, but challenging.), Prophets with Branick, Capstone - Religious Pop Culture and Film with Smith (LOTS of silent, black and white films about Jesus...not exactly current pop culture!), and Christian Tradition and Prayer with Sister Angela Ann (a nice chance to pray and read about discernment for homework!). The classes are pretty interesting so far, and it's so relieving to feel absolutely no regrets about not being in education classes. The peace lets me know that God had a hand in my decision. :)
In other news - my family is back in Ohio! Which is wonderful, I had two weeks to spend with them camping and at home before I came back to school. The three siblings at home - 12, 13, and 17 - are having a rough transition to life in the US at public suburban schools. I feel selfish being happy that they are within driving distance because they are pretty miserable at school. But being around extended family is nice for them, though. My mom has 4 siblings around the area, and their kids. Also, my wonderful grandparents are there. :)
Well, I should get going, we're heading downtown to some art shows tonight. This turned out to be a whole lot longer than I had intended! Hopefully you didn't stop reading. :) Have a wonderful weekend!
Prayers and love,

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