Ite, missa est

Where my career on the Young Adult Catholics blog began. Big Star Restaurant, Wicker Park, Chicago. Via bigstarchicago.com.

Where my career on the Young Adult Catholics blog began. Big Star Restaurant, Wicker Park, Chicago. Via bigstarchicago.com.

“You do know the young adult group has a blog,” my friend told me.

It was an 85-degree evening in August 2010. We sat in front of a gas station in Chicago’s Wicker Park that had become a restaurant, which is the sort of thing that happens in Wicker Park. We were eating artisan tacos and drinking Goose Island, which is the sort of thing you do in Wicker Park.

A month before, I’d taken a trip to Boston. There, I’d audited a graduate course taught by liberation theology pioneer Gustavo Gutierrez. I was at a point in my life when I was stuck. Upon returning home, I felt I’d been given a huge shove to do something with my life right now, and to do it for God’s justice.

By the end of July, I had connected with Call To Action. I started volunteering there. I proceeded to announce it on Facebook. That’s where my friend saw it. She messaged that we should talk.

She had once worked for CTA. Now she was telling me about their young adult ministry, CTA 20/30. Which, she said, had a blog.

“You need to get a column on that blog,” she emphasized, apropos of nothing. We weren’t talking about writing, or my being a writer, at all. Her instruction came from thin air.  Continue reading

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evangelism: not a dirty word, an important one

The other day I had one of those beautiful moments in my classroom when I had to step back and let God do the teaching. I was trying to help my students understand mortal sin and in my explanation it suddenly seemed very important to emphasize the mercy of God and forgiveness more than death. I told my students how although some people in history have clearly committed sins that may seem to be considered deadly the Church has never declared that anyone is in hell. (Wise move, Church!)

“We can’t fully know,” I told my students, “the power of God’s love. God loves us all so much it’s beyond our comprehension. Think of someone who loves you no matter what you do, and who will always forgive you. If you can’t think of anyone, think of me. I’ll always love you no matter what. Consider that the love that that person has for you is only a sliver, a tiny fraction, like 1/1000th of how amazing and big God’s love is for you.”

My students stared at me in disbelief. The implications of that love started to sink in. And then, like many teenage boys would, they mixed silly with serious, from their worldview. For my students, their worldview is a Chicago south side African-American male worldview. “Would you take a bullet for me, Sister?” “Yes! Of course I would!” Then the devil snuck in and whispered one of his lies about love into their ear. “Would you shoot someone else for me, Sister?” “No, because love never kills.”

At the end of the day, when I reflected on the moment, I realized that I am totally an evangelist, 2010 style. I am so happy that I get to preach about God’s love and share God’s love through my witness. It’s a joy to be an evangelist. And, although preaching to a classroom full of boys that are trying to pass religion class may not be as glamorous as street preaching like St. Francis of Assisi and his brothers did back in the day, it is probably just as valuable.

As a Franciscan, I’m supposed to be living an Evangelical life. That means I am trying to live a Gospel life, a life that shares the Good News. Technically us Franciscans are neither apostolic nor contemplative in the model of religious life that we live, but we live a 3rd type of religious life that is a combination of the two. We’re evangelicals, and it’s fabulous.

Today, in 2010, I still think that us Christians have a lot of evangelizing to do. We really ought to share the Good News in all the ways we can. Let’s convince people of God’s love, and their dignity and that they are needed to help build the reign of God. Let’s help people convert away from greed, violence, and lies about God and Love. Let’s give people what they need to be people of generosity, peace and Truth.

I have to admit, sometimes part of me wants to grab a megaphone and hit the streets in order to holler about Justice and Forgiveness. I just am not sure that it is the most effective way to share the Good News today. Pope Benedict had a great suggestion this week about how to reach the masses with the Good News. Come on Christians, use ye Blogs and Facebooks and Twitters. Let the world know: God loves everybody!

Originally from Northeast Iowa, Sister Julia is a  Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  Her love for God and God’s good world is manifested in her attempts to be an educator, a youth empower-er, an earth lover, and a peacemaker.  She ministers at an inner-city Catholic high school in Chicago.

Reflection on this Blog’s Birthday

I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on this blog and how far it has come.  It was launched about a year ago on Pentecost 2008.  It grew out of a concern that the Catholic blogging world is dominated by conservative voices.  That’s fine, but on a sociological level, it’s only a small sampling of who makes up the American Catholic Church.  We wanted to provide a sampling of the other side of the coin – to show that there are young Catholic voices that weren’t being heard, yet were just as committed and faithful to the Catholic traditions for social justice as others.

Continue reading

NextGen’s Blog: Meeting the “Demand of Justice and Charity”

It amazes me how much blogs have an influence on people of every generation. In the May 2008 edition of US Catholic Magazine’s “The Sounding Board,” a non-scientific poll of readership that is also open to anyone who logs-on to their website, www.uscatholic.org and votes on a particular topic, exemplifies the power of Catholic blogging. The article for reaction this month was “Bring back men in black: Religious clothing allows Catholics to make a fashion statement about their faith, says a young priest who sports the look [cassocks and/or clerics at all times] that a previous generation put away.” In the May issue, the editors decided to show the polling discrepancies between mailed and online responses for the first time because a obviously conservative blog offered a link to the polling page and threw the results to one side: “More than 100 online responses came in just one day after a Catholic blog posted a link to this survey.” As a consequence, the results were quite skewed. For example, in reaction to the statement: “If more priests and religious wore distinctive clothing, more young people would be attracted to those lifestyles,” 32% of the mailed readership agreed, while 72% of the online poll agreed. Certainly this “Catholic blog” had its own agenda (one worth discussing in another entry), but the author made his or her voice heard very loudly in a widely read Catholic magazine through the use of blogging.

As a professional parish faith formation minister, I have been trying to help my co-workers in both my parish staff and the archdiocese understand the power and necessity of the internet: if you don’t have a GOOD and constantly updated website and use email and other electronic outlets, then our parishes, pastoral support, and programming do NOT exist to young adults, and our Church becomes even more out of touch than it already is for many young adults. Our generation, those of us in our 20s and 30s, knows this very well as we log on at least once a day to social networks, favorite blogs, news sources—both real and fictional, videos and our email boxes to keep in touch with people around the world at all times. We don’t just use technology; we take it for granted as a natural part of life. When we move somewhere, we first go to the internet to find out what’s available: housing, restaurants, stores, clubs, and, most definitely, places of worship. Inevitably, we use the internet and blogs to form our perspectives and views of the world while, at best, enlightening our consciences on moral and ethical dilemmas, and at worst, keeping us from developing compassion and empathy that comes from personal contact.

One of the first released, least read, and now most outdated documents of the Second Vatican Council: The Decree on the Mass Media (1963), for all of its currently useless discussion on the world’s “new medium,” television, does offer wisdom, inspired by the Spirit, very relevant to blogging today: “It is therefore necessary that all members of society meet the demand of justice and charity in this domain and that they try, through the media, to form and expand sound public opinion (§8).” All those responsible for media “have the power to direct humankind along a good or along an evil path by the information they impart and the influence they exert (§11).” May the blogging of NextGen always remember its call as followers of Christ in what is preached, and its ability to be prophetic in a world needing inspired and steadfast disciples.

“We are companions given to one another as helpers in doing God’s work.”

-St. Jane de Chantal

Becky Schwantes, a Minnesota native, is currently a Master of Social Work candidate at Washington University in St. Louis. She earned her M.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 2008 and has worked as a parish faith formation minister, social worker and in college campus ministry. Becky also holds a B.A. in Theology and Social Work with a minor is Social Justice and Peace Studies from the University of Portland, Oregon. Her primary areas of interest are Christian Social Ethics, Eco-Feminist Theology, Mental Health and issues of Aging. In her free time, she enjoys traveling the world, walking labyrinths, singing, and laughing with friends. Her favorite saints are Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal.