Friday, March 16, 2018

Fifth Sunday of Lent Reflection by Kate Fowler

Lenten Reflections to support your spiritual journey over these forty days - brought to you 
by Catholic Volunteer Network and the Catholic Apostolate Center.

Fifth Sunday of Lent Reflection

by Kate Fowler, former volunteer with Catholic Volunteer Network, Blog Editor at Catholic Apostolate Center

"Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” 
(John 12:20-33)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus prepares his followers for his impending Passion and reminds them of the type of discipleship they are called to: one of service and sacrifice. 

We meet Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem days before the Passover. Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead and has been welcomed into the city with palm branches and praise—what we celebrate as Palm Sunday. “Whoever serves me must follow me,” Jesus says solemnly. What does it mean to follow Jesus? In this context, a lot. He is about to fulfill his mission on earth through his Passion, death, and resurrection. He knows what lies before him: torture, mockery, exhaustion, and death itself. If we are to follow Christ, he is asking us to do so in a way that involves carrying our crosses. The path to resurrection is filled with opportunities to grow in love and service of one another. Jesus reminds us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” 

This Lenten season, as we journey towards the celebration of Easter and Christ’s resurrection, let us ponder what it means to follow Jesus and what role the cross plays in our discipleship. Are there certain things in our life that need to die in order to produce much fruit? Is Jesus asking us to give something up or work on something more deeply in order to better follow him?

Focus on: Simplicity
Simplicity is fundamental to deepening our lives of service. A commitment to detachment, whether physical or spiritual, frees us in order to better hear the promptings of God and be better disposed to the needs of others. Jesus himself lived a life of complete detachment to the will of the Father and one committed to simplicity. How can you practice a spirit of detachment and commit to a life of simplicity this Lenten season?

Lord Jesus, you said that a grain of wheat must die in order to produce much fruit. 

Help us as we prepare to celebrate your Passion, death, and resurrection to die to ourselves in order to live more fully for you and for others. 

Help us to practice a spirit of detachment and simplicity as we seek to serve and follow you more closely. 

May we carry our crosses each day joyfully with your grace so that we too may experience the beauty of resurrection. 


Service Suggestion:
Are there things in your life that God is calling you to give up or be detached to? Go through your material goods this Lenten season and see if there’s anything that can benefit others, be donated, or recycled. Take this spirit of detachment deeper by decluttering your mental and spiritual lives. Are you over-committed or always on the go? Try to slow down this season and focus on bringing the notion of simplicity into your prayer life by doing a daily spiritual practice and doing it well.

About the Author:
Kate Fowler is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center. She received her M.A. in Leadership for the New Evangelization from the Augustine Institute. Kate did a year of service with the Catholic Volunteer Network as their Communications Intern from 2012-2013 and currently resides outside of Washington, D.C.

Looking for more reflections like this one? We invite you to download our Lenten Reflection Guide in its entirety, available by clicking here. You can find an extensive library of Lenten resources by visiting the Catholic Apostolate Center website - click here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Searching for Charism: Melissa Feito - Loretto Volunteers, Washington DC

“What does the world ‘charism’ even mean?!”

In this podcast, Serving with Sisters Ambassador Melissa Feito takes us on a moving, surprising, and oftentimes comical journey to define the charism of Loretto Volunteers. From conversations with former volunteers in DC to interviews with Sisters of Loretto in Kentucky, what she discovers can inspire us all. Enjoy this podcast, and stay tuned to hear more from Melissa and her fellow Ambassadors over the course of their service year! 


Melissa, a current Loretto Volunteer, will be blogging about her service experience as part of our ongoing Serving with Sisters Ambassadors series. This series is sponsored by CVN's From Service to Sisterhood Initiative, a project made possible thanks to the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sisters in Service: Sr. Connie Bach - PHJC Volunteer Program

In honor of National Catholic Sisters Week, Catholic Volunteer Network will share the perspective of sisters who started volunteer programs through CVN's From Service to Sisterhood initiative. Sisters will share a little more about how they discerned their vocation, why they felt called to create a volunteer program, and what they've learned from living and working alongside volunteers.Today we meet Sr. Connie Bach of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ and Executive Director of PHJC Volunteer Program 

My name is Sr. Connie Bach, Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ from Indiana. I direct the PHJC Volunteer Program, which offers volunteer opportunities anywhere from a week to a year in northwest Indiana and Chicago, as well as limited opportunities in Mexico and Kenya.

I was taught by PHJC sisters as a child and was impressed by their joy, simplicity, fun, prayerfulness and down to earth-ness! I also was inspired by the simplicity with which they live, their community life, the dignity and respect they show for each person and for their listening and openness to the Spirit in their lives. Lastly, I was deeply moved by their preferential option for the poor and marginalized as well as their great respect and care for Earth.

After nearly twenty years in education as a teacher and principal, I then ministered as a music therapist with persons living with special needs ranging in age from 5-95. But I wanted to share my joy and love of the poor with young people. I currently direct our volunteer program which offers single women 18 and older (and sometimes men) unique opportunities in a faith-based context to live out their Baptismal call to share God’s presence in our world.

The PHJC Volunteer Program building community while impacting mission.
I do not have a “typical day!” That is what I love about what I do. Each day brings new opportunities to answer God’s call and to live the gospel responding to whatever needs present themselves to me. Often I am on the road meeting young people at fairs and campuses, participating in vocation events, planning for future outreach and service, and working for my community in whatever way is needed. 

PHJC volunteers in action - changing lives with personal attention.
The volunteers with whom I have worked have drastically changed my view of the world and how they respond to God’s call to serve. I have witnessed profound prayer and contemplation, observed meaningful and inspiring service, and witnessed deep-seated compassion, and tenderness in a broken world. I’ve seen the eyes of those served glimmer with new hope, heard billowing belly laughs, celebrated with warm,  life-giving hugs and reverenced both joyful and sorrowful tears – all because a volunteer took the time to offer a hand, listen, comfort or assist another in need. Volunteers literally become angels for others!

Connecting souls with stillness, silence and listening.
I encourage those discerning volunteering or perhaps a vocation in the church to set aside time each day for SILENCE, to just BE STILL in God’s presence and LISTEN deeply to the voice within. In this chaotic, fast-moving and ever-changing world of ours, God gets pushed to the back burner and yet offers a safe harbor where desires are known, prayers are heard, new paths are shown and peace is cultivated. I also encourage having an objective, mature mentor or spiritual guide to assist in contemplating God’s call to a life of service, whether as single, married, vowed religious clergy or in lay ecclesial ministry.

Most of all, I encourage people to follow what it is they are passionate about and to live with great passion, fully giving themselves in service to something of significance, something greater than themselves that builds the kingdom here among us! “For it is in giving that we receive!” (St. Francis of Assisi).

For more discernment resources, we also encourage you to visit the "Explore Your Vocation" section on Catholic Volunteer Network's website.