Kicking the Year Off With Pie!

When Benedictine College students reached the end of their first full week of the Fall 2017 semester they celebrated with the annual SPO block party! In a joint effort, two student-led households collaborated to create an environment that entertained students, Benedictine staff and their families, missionaries and neighbors.

Anna&Aubs.jpg

The night featured a delectable menu including walking tacos, watermelon, an assortment of pies and more. All guests were invited to bake pies and enter them into a competition judged by Benedictine faculty and staff. Some of the pie entries included key lime, bacon, apple, chocolate and peach. Throughout the evening, block-party-goers played yard games, participated in a watermelon eating contest and danced. The evening closed with a bonfire hosted by one of the women’s households where everyone enjoyed s’mores, live music and fantastic conversations.

37051269685_92083907c9_o.jpg

This environment served as an incredible opportunity to reach new students and reconnect with old friends. Throughout the night, 350 people delved into conversation around yard games, while dancing together and in the food lines. Whether a newcomer or returner, the night was a lighthearted and enjoyable evening where all could experience the joy of our community together.

37051267045_a45dfaf917_o.jpg

A Year of Growth

I sit here writing to you at one of the biggest crossroads of my life thus far. By crossroads, I mean there are highways, sky bridges, quiet winding paths, loud crosswalks, ladders, slides, and chutes, all entwined and splayed out before me. Here I am staring at the end of a college year that I think is my Junior Year 0.5 and I'm feeling the Lord tug in so many unexpected directions on my heart. All the while whispering in my ear that He'll love me and be with me whatever path I choose to take. I think this is the perfect time and place for reflection.
 

I roughly transitioned into this past year knowing that a bunch of big choices lay ahead of me but thinking it was far enough away to forget about. 


I was humbled very quickly by how many things in the JCCC SPO community the new missionaries wanted me to be a part of, but quickly overwhelmed. The one thing I quasi stuck with was the student committee that helped plan something called ReSPOnd. ReSPOnds were something the previous school year put on solely by the missionaries where they gave testimonies in relation to gospel passages followed by a session of praise and worship. This year, nothing was outwardly said about ReSPOnds happening. My fellow students began to groan about this as the weeks flew by, and me, not letting such a thing go quietly into the night, nagged our missionaries relentlessly until they caved in.
Thus, I'm proud to announce that born this year, at 7lbs and 4oz, was the ReSPOnd committee!
Consisting of a few students who wanted to make this happen, we took turns giving our own testimonies in regards to the upcoming Sunday gospels every Wednesday for the first semester. It was something that became a really insightful way to get to know my fellow students that I'd never taken the opportunity to deeply get to know.

Also born this year, was something called City Wide, which takes place the second and fourth Thursday night of every month. Put on specifically for the young adult chapter of Kansas City (but no less inviting for the student chapter) it consists of a speaker who delves into gospel passages more deeply and is followed by a longer session of praise and worship. After that there is a good amount of time for fellowship that has really helped me this year. Not only have I met some awesome people, but I've gotten to know the people around me much better and more quickly. Also, socializing after inviting the Holy Spirit into your heart really does feel different. There is always a high energy abuzz in the room and it's not just the free coffee they provide *cough* *cough*.

Both ReSPOnds and CityWides have helped me stay accountable in keeping the gospel constantly in my life. However, something unexpected this year has really started to change me for the better. 
"Fan into Flame"s are a very special retreat put on once a year per chapter. But me, being in Kansas, there are two chapters close enough together that I have been given the opportunity to experience it twice a year for the past two years. I remember being invited on my first one and everyone was like "HOLY SPIRIT YAHS" and I, being a smug know-it-all was like, "Duh, the Holy Spirit, obviously." I was still anti-charismatic worship being from a traditional Catholic family and I thought my relationship with the Holy Spirit was just peachy, thank you very much.  But someone was able to take me by the hand in my bitter intellectuality and in more or less gentle words tell me that it "wasn't about me, it was about God" and that was how the Holy Spirit actually entered my life. It was then that I got a taste of just how important the Fan into Flame retreats were for reminding people to invite the Holy Spirit into their daily lives. 

Fast forward three more Fan into Flames and you'll land on my most recent experience ( February 2017). 
Spiritual attack, as any of my spiritual confidants will be quick to agree with, is something I experience without fail in a physical way every single time I go on a retreat. Typically in the form of illness that always magically disappears after the retreat. My most recent Fan into Flame I had the privilege of leading a small group that was thrust upon me as I walked through the doors of the Prairie Star Ranch. My motto I chose this year instead of a New Year's resolution was "I am Ready" and boy, does the Holy Spirit like to jump on the spiritual train. Satan, on the other hand, was like "I give you this food poisoning and dehydration, plebeian. Try to lead your girls through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit now." I wish I was joking. 
But something happened in response to my general sickness. My close friend and now Director of Missions, Kimy Garvey, asked if I wanted to get prayed over. Thinking it'd be one or two other women with her I agreed, knowing I needed the Holy Spirit if I was to help bring Him into my small group girls' lives. But when she asked for people to pray over me all these women from both Benedictine, and JCCC, swarmed me. They were all squeezing shoulder to shoulder in their attempt to lay their hands on me and many had to settle with just lifting their hands to me. I was overcome in that moment as these dozens of women prayed over me, for me, to the Holy Spirit and I couldn't help but be awestruck by the Lord's goodness. I had come out of terrible relationship freshman year that left me hating everyone around me, leaving me unable to trust,and essentially without friends, to this: this outpouring of petitions to the Lord from women who loved me. Women whom I loved, trusted, and respected. I was able to see the face of God in each of their faces. It was surreal experience. I was given enough strength to be able to lead the Baptism in the Holy Spirit for my girls with the help of my awesome co-leader. Essentially I got baptized in the Spirit twice that night. The first for physical healing and the second, for spiritual healing.

This second experience is where I really saw the Spirit work. You see, when you get baptized in the Holy Spirit, whoever is leading the overall prayer will at some point ask you if there is anything you'd like to specifically pray about. When I was asked this, I prayed for things I did need help with, but because I was surrounded with the girls I was leading I had this sense of "I can't show weakness through being emotional. I have to set a calm example by not diving into my garbage."  So I sugarcoated and skirted around what had been lying dormant in me for quite some time.  And oh my, was I called out on my bologna. Someone helping lead for my baptism in the Spirit said something to the affect of "Sarah, I think you really need to call out what's weighing down your heart. You need to lay it down before the Lord." It was like the Lord calling out to the stormy sea within my soul to stand down so that he could plunge into the waves to save me as I was drowning from the weight of my wounds. 
I don't think this person realized what a conduit they were for the Spirit or what was weighing on me because it all came out- much to the consternation of the girls around me. It was wound after wound after wound and they just spilled off my tongue. I am so grateful for my small group girls, because despite it being their first ever Fan into Flame and their first ever experience with St. Paul's Outreach, they embraced me during that Baptism and we all were riddled with joy for the remainder of the night. A sweet, sweet gift from the Holy Spirit.
And so those seeds he generously planted within me have bloomed in a desire for daily prayer, a desire for frequenting the sacraments, a desire for Him that I thought would be nigh impossible to retrieve after forfeiting it.

These fruits have helped exponentially with my discernment for which path I should take as they have enabled me to hear the Lord much more clearly and to trust in Him like never before.

I think a good way to end this glance backwards would be to thank all the missionaries and my fellow students of the JCCC/UMKC chapter for the 2016/2017 year. I’m beyond blessed to have grown closer to you all and to be able to make this small part of the journey with you. I wish you all the best in the future,

Sarah Zuchowski

Disclaimer: There is no science behind the weight of the ReSPOnd committee. 

 

Reaching Young Adults Through Tacos

By: Brigitte Pinsonneault

It’s Monday evening after work. What are you doing? In Kansas City, twenty-five to forty young adults are getting together at John and Anna Stevenson's house. This group of young adults, members of Saint Paul's Outreach in the Kansas City Young Adult (KCYA) Chapter, gathers primarily to eat tacos, to play a variety of laugh-worthy games together, and to build deeper relationship with one another. In doing so, they are strengthening the community of Catholic young adults in Kansas City.

The plan to host a weekly evangelistic dinner emerged when our KCYA Missionaries recognized the need for a place where we could invite people from all walks of life. “We were meeting people all over the place, and not all of them were ready to be invited to a worship night. Where was there a place to which we could invite new faces to connect with a community of the faithful in a way that felt completely organic?”

Taco dinners on a Monday night was the answer.

One of the KCYA Mission Directors emphasizes the weight that these Monday dinners have played in the young adult outreach this year.

"Monday night dinners are key to our ministry’s success. With a welcoming and low key environment, we have seen people from various backgrounds coming together to sit at a table. People are inviting others into the community because this is something that they feel a part of now. It is exciting to see the reach grow. Before long we will need another house to fit all the people!"

It seems that young adults are hungering for something that, in part, a weekly taco dinner satiates. They are hungry for deeper connection among their peers, they’re searching for meaning in their own lives, and they are longing to give themselves to something greater, to commit themselves to a people and to a cause.  

In some of the men and women the KCYA Missionaries encounter, these desires have yet to be fully awakened or realized. But when individuals come to a Monday night dinner, they don’t just see a few dozen young adults having a good time: they witness something greater.

They see a married couple selflessly opening their home to a group of young adults who would otherwise be strangers week after week. They see individuals serving one another as, routinely, a handful of men will offer to clean up or do the dishes every Monday after dinner is finished. They see young adults engaging one another in friendship that is self-giving. They see people bowing their heads in prayer before a meal. They see a young adult environment where alcohol is offered but not abused. They see men and women respecting one another, treating each other authentically as brothers and sisters in Christ. They see a group of young adult Catholics celebrating life together.

One Monday dinner attendee remarked, "I am so thankful I have a place to come to every Monday night where I know I can be myself. These dinners provide a space for me to foster genuine, Christ-centered friendships." 

When Kansas City young adults come to a Taco Monday Dinner, they witness an example of the life Christ called us to live, a life poured out to one another in a community of disciples on mission, with joy and reckless abandon.

"Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all." ~Philippians 2:17
MonDinner2.JPG

Kansas Fan Into Flame 2017

By: Alaina Knapp 

Over the weekend of February 10th-12th, Saint Paul's Outreach Kansas hosted about 100 staff and students on Fan Into Flame, a retreat designed to facilitate a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ. The retreat took place at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg, Kansas, a retreat center on the beautiful plains of eastern Kansas. Students, leaders, and missionaries from Benedictine College, University of Missouri Kansas City, Arkansas, and Johnson County Community College came to spend a weekend praising the Lord together.

IMG_0039.jpg

Student Leaders and SPO missionaries gave a series of talks and testimonies over three days that focused on life in the Spirit and expressive worship of God. Attendees participated in small groups where they shared life and encountered the Lord in brotherhood and sisterhood. Father Simon, one of the chaplains of Benedictine College and monk at St. Benedict's Abbey, attended the retreat and offered the students an opportunity for confession and spiritual guidance. Two sisters from the Disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ also traveled from Amarillo, Texas to help witness to the Spirit and guide the retreat attendees to deeper communion with Christ. 

The Students and missionaries had an opportunity to pray with each other for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and a true and powerful encounter with the Lord. Many retreatants expressed that they experienced true freedom in worship and were able to recognize in a new way how the Lord was leading them into relationship with Himself. Fr. Simon shared that the students had encountered a beautiful Pentecost-like Spirit during the prayer meeting on Saturday night. 

The community of students and missionaries were renewed in their spiritual lives and further convicted of the truth of the Gospel. Everyone was encouraged to continue pursing the Lord and to commit themselves to living a Spirit-led life. The Lord truly worked in power in the lives of those who attended Fan Into Flame and He will continue to lead every retreatant to a deeper and more personal friendship with Himself. Praise the Lord! 

A Call for Compassion

By: Sunny Morrill

Today I was sitting in one of my classes, simply listening to the lecture, when I got this overwhelming urge to write this. I quickly ripped a page out of my spiral and wrote what you're about to read: something I'd like to entitle"A Call for Compassion". My fellow humans, a prayer of mine has always been for a more empathetic world, and that is where this post comes from. We are all called to care for one another, and we cannot let a world that believes in hiding emotions destroy that call. 

So, this is your call for compassion. 

Let us inquire two things upon a meeting with someone. 

Inquiry one is the way to the true form of someone. For day by day we simply ask "How are you?", but due to society's connotation of the question, we answer surface level, never connecting in a pure form, never connecting to the heartbeat that runs beneath the surface. I instead urge you to ask "How is your heart?", for that truly shows you want to go beyond skin deep. You want to go for their heart, something much deeper. The human condition calls for companionship. God created us to care and be servants to one another as His son came to do for us, and through fruitful conversation we build strong relationships in Christ. As He created Adam and Eve, we are created to be in company, so I urge you to address the condition of the mind and heart with true compassion and genuine curiosity. 

Inquiry two is meant to be a follow up to inquiry one, but on its own is a beautiful show of sacrificial love. My brothers and sisters, I once again urge you to ask and humble yourself by asking, "How can I best serve you?". How can you best treat someone with the compassion of Christ? Find the condition of your peer and from there serve them based on their needs. If they are sad, find joy. If they are happy, find celebration. If they are angry, find peace. Humble yourself by serving in a society that tells you that you are better and above the person next to you. When we humble ourselves to serve, we become a handmaid like our mother, Mary, whom is an excellent example of surrendering yourself to God. 

So my dear ones, if you desire genuine relationships, do not fear vulnerability. Start by seeking compassion for the mind and heart, and beauty will emerge. 

"When you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love"

 -Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Transforming Our City Through Worship

By: Brigitte Pinsonneault

The CityWide community is enriched during the time to chat and hangout after praise and worship.

The CityWide community is enriched during the time to chat and hangout after praise and worship.

CityWide, the a twice-a-month prayer meeting held in the basement of an old convent in Roeland Park, Kansas, has been pulling in forty to fifty people since it began in early September. Located in a suburb of Kansas City, the lower level of the St. Agnes convent is transformed into an underground worship space that gives the feel of meeting and worshiping "as the first Christians did," observed a recent CityWide attendee.

Hosted by two chapters of Saint Paul's Outreach in Kansas - the young adult outreach and the Kansas City college outreach - each night of CityWide has welcomed in young people from across Kansas City. Local college students and young professionals gather together with the missionaries of Saint Paul's Outreach Kansas on the second and fourth Thursday of every month to encounter the power of the Gospel and respond to the Lord and his word in dynamic praise and worship.

The scripture verse that's been on the hearts of the CityWide leadership team gives insight into the vision for these gatherings. Like the apostle Paul points to in 1 Corinthians 4:20, it is vital to encounter the Lord in his power, in our direct access to him in prayer and in worship.

"For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power."

The idea for CityWide surfaced when the missionaries saw the need for the people they met to encounter the Gospel outside of the walls of a church. Many Christians are used to hearing the message of Jesus within the confines of a Sunday liturgy, but this alone is insufficient for intentional discipleship. There is a need to make consistent and to reveal the relevancy of the Gospel message and a relationship with the Lord Jesus in the daily lives of all people.

When the idea for a CityWide prayer meeting was first pitched to members of the Kansas mission team, SPO Mission Director Nick Redd envisioned, "We want to create an atmosphere of faith where people can hear the Gospel, respond to it in faith, and apply it to their lives." 

Redd continued, "CityWide is a renewal for Catholics in Kansas City, it is a surprise for evangelicals, and it is a refreshing culture of desire and longing." It is here, where our yes and our desire meets our unquenchable desire for God, that our lives are transformed by Christ.

The thing is, many people have heard the Gospel before. They may have heard its message once, twice, or even a hundred times. The CityWide team has seen, though, that each time the Gospel is proclaimed, the power of the word of God makes a fresh impact on the individuals at CityWide. Then, as the body of people respond to the Gospel in praise and worship, the beauty and the intensity of the worship transform the community and Kansas City.

Gospel. Worship. Community. That's what CityWide is about.

Listen to the CityWide messages here.

A Community to be Thankful for: Benedictine College Formation

By Anne Hickerson

With the holiday season beginning and the end of the semester in sight, the Formation community at Benedictine College pressed pause on final projects/tests and premature holiday music to go on our annual fall retreat. As we split into two retreats, men and women, the Lord had a generous helping of truth and mercy for us women. In just over 24 hours we heard a message of love and an invitation to come to Him, to run to Him even, just as we are, without the pressure of perfection weighing us down. 

Yes, the Lord calls us to perfection, "Be perfect, therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:48), but we aren't without hope because Jesus wants to bring order and restoration to lead us to His perfection. Jesus asks to share in our struggles and He also provides community for us to lean into. We were able to leave the retreat with greater confidence in the Lord and His provision through His unfailing mercy and the great gift of sisterhood. 

Back in August, many students from our Formation community attended the School of the New Evangelization. The Lord spoke a word of abundance for our community, during our prayer time together, for the upcoming school year. That word as been confirmed over and over again throughout the semester as our community has grown in amazing ways. We have been going through a study on Christ Relationships and are learning how to create a new culture by the way we relate to and love one another along our journey to unity with Christ. 

I have never been more proud to be a part of anything like the way I am proud to be a part of this community. I am surrounded by men and women who constantly push one another to radically give everything to the Lord. There is a standard of love and respect that goes above and beyond treating others well. This community thrives by honoring one another in words and actions, living out Benedictine hospitality in a way that surely makes St. Benedict smile, and sharing mission to glorify the Lord. The abundance of the Lord is tangible in the light that our Formation men and women bring to the campus of Benedictine College and will surely take with them wherever the Lord leads. 

So as I press play on the remainder of my final semester as a student (!!!) and think about what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving, I place my Formation community at the top of my list. We have a generous Father who always has more for His people. "For I am confident of this, the He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippian's 1:6).