Advent, Christmas and New Years Greetings!

I pray this finds you blessed and in joyful expectation of the celebration of Christ’s birth.  

What a year 2008 has been.  I am now beginning my 10th month with Catholic Charities and it has been quite an experience.  With an annual pool of nearly 1,000 volunteers, there is so much to do and seemingly too little time in a day.  I have been so blessed in my work interacting with staff, volunteers, the people of God we serve, and the community at large.  Developing a new position from the ground up is exciting, demanding, invigorating and draining.  There are so many people who give of their time, energy, talents and treasure to the ministry of Catholic Charities that I am in awe every day.  We serve around 60,000 people a year – many times those who are marginalized or on the fringes of society.  God is using me in a role that is much bigger than I am, so I must continually rely on Him for strength and guidance.

God has also blessed me with a home.  In early fall I felt led to look for a home to purchase and subsequently found a nice 3-bedroom, one-bath very near the location of our new facility.  I will be able to walk to work when the new campus is complete.  My home was completely updated throughout with new paint, tile, carpet, countertops, appliances, even electrical switches and plates.  It is basically a new home in many aspects.  I have also been blessed with a lot of furniture from different sources.  Each time I wondered how God would provide, He surprised me through the people of God.  I am so humbled to have been the recipient of such kindness and goodness from so many people.

New mailing address:
    P.O. Box 581961
    Tulsa, OK 74158

I have traveled some this year – to Houston and around Oklahoma for my job, to Kansas for the weddings of a niece and a nephew, and to St. Meinrad to graduate with the first of two masters degrees. I am currently writing the thesis for my second degree and, God willing, will graduate this May.  I also was able to witness the deaconate ordination of many of my former classmates at St. Meinrad.  The time of seminary formation has given me vital tools and experiences that have helped prepare me for my current ministry work.  I still play lots of music, both sacred and secular, and get many opportunities to
engage in dialogue/ministry with people.  I continue to pray, “God, open a door and I will walk through it.”  Doors continue to open and I try my best to walk through each of them in God’s will.

May your Advent and Christmas season be a delight, and may 2009 bring you closer to the love of God in all you do.  If you are ever in my neighborhood – give me a call; I would love to host you in my new digs.

In the service of Christ,

John

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A picture of my home!

All my stuff is inside, but it looks kind of like a tornado inside.  This is my new place!

Wow… it is time for an update!!!!

I didn’t realize my last post was all the way back in May.   SORRY!!!!! A lot has been happening in my life for these last months and I have basically had my head down running full speed.

I have been very busy at my job as Coordinator of Volunteers at Catholic Charities.  More and more volunteers are stepping up and our programs continue to expand and evolve.  I have traveled to Oklahoma City and Houston to meet with my counterparts in each of those cities to learn as much as I can.  I have also participated in some conferences and meetings with the local volunteer support group.  There is a lot to learn and a lot to do.  Also, the construction has begun on our new facility – YEA.  I think they are to start pouring concrete very soon.  Sounds like we will be in the new digs by next fall at the latest.

Musically I played at a coffee house in south Tulsa/Jenks every Thursday evening from June through August with my friend Bryan Smith.  We had a good time and made a few bucks along the way.  I have also played in a few different churches and diocesan events.  God’s blessing of musical talent has been a gift I have tried to use to serve also.  I recently played for a Mass celebrated by the Bishop for the Single Catholics of Tulsa and for the kickoff event for 40 Days for Life – a prayer vigil being held 24 hours a day for 40 days across from the abortion facility (learn more at www.40DaysForLife.com/Tulsa).  I have also spent time there in prayer for all those affected by abortion and for an end to it.  There are so many important things we can do that are so much bigger than us, and God has a way of letting us know what they are and when to take action – if we just listen and follow.

I will also be sitting in with the St. Anne’s Band – the band I was an original member of at my old parish – for their annual talent show/dance.  I am just going to play on a few songs, which will be fun, but I am also going to do a talent piece of some kind.  In the past I have done songs with a little humor like “I’m My Own Grandpa”, or “In the Jail House Now”.  I am not sure what I will do, but God will give me an idea.

Now for some big news.  I have purchased a home (well almost purchased – I close next week).  God again blessed me with a place ready for me to move in, low cost, very good condition, and near work – all good things.  New appliances, paint, tile, carpet, fixtures, etc., as well as a house that is in good structural shape.  And I also got very good financing through my credit union so my out of pocket expenses will be minimal, as well as my house payment will only be a few dollars higher than the rent I am now paying.  God is soooooooo good!!

I ask for your prayers for a few specific items.  First, for Catholic Charities.  It is time for our annual appeal and with all of the financial challenges in the economy, we need people to look past any fear and look to God’s work that needs to be done for the poor and needy.  We are also going through transitions from our current location and organizational chart into the new facility and new organizational structure.  God is in control but we all need to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and make wise choices.

Next, pray for the Diocese of Tulsa led by Bishop Edward Slattery.  As we continue to evangelize and serve the people of eastern Oklahoma, the bishop, priests, deacons, religious and laity need strength, grace and wisdom in living the good news of Jesus Christ our Savior.  In a time of rampant individualism and narcissistic tendencies living in love and community does not seem like the norm.  As Catholics/Christians we must stick closely to our faith and the lessons we learn about the dignity of life, the care we must offer those in need, and how we are the Body of Christ, so we must treat ourselves and each other with respect and honor.  This seems abnormal in today’s world when, in fact, this is what the norm should be.

Lastly, I ask you to pray for our government leaders – and for those who will elect many to office in just over 6 weeks.  God has His hand in all that is done in the world, but He also gave us free will to make our own decisions.  We must pray for wisdom and discernment in our decisions and for our leaders to have that same discernment and wisdom in their governing.  Though Washington, DC is very far away from some of us, what is done there affects us all, and especially affects those who are vulnerable and in need like the poor, the elderly, and those with physical and mental challenges.  May we pray for strength to live out our baptismal call to serve those in need, whether the government is a part of that process or not.

Until next time, be blessed in all you do!

Graduate Degree.

I went to Saint Meinrad last weekend to graduate with a Master of Arts in Catholic Thought and Life.  I was one of 45 that graduated (the official announcement is here).  It was great to see everyone again, to be back on the “hill”, and to have some of my family there to share the event and the beautiful surroundings. 

My older brother and sister were there along with most of their families.  I gave some tours, we spent time at the Unstable, I also got to sit in with the house band on Saturday night – that was really nice.  I really had a good time and look forward to going back in October for my class’s deacon ordination.

Now I need to start on the next graduate degree, a Master of Theological Studies.  The classroom requirements have already been met, so now I need to complete the thesis.  Fun stuff – yeah right!!!!  I have the next five years to do it, but I am going to option for the spring, then I can graduate with my original class.

A blessing and an honor.

Yesterday and today I had both the blessing and honor to be a part of something really special.  I would like to share the story with you.

As yesterday unfolded (Wednesday, March 19th) I was spending the morning at the Hispanic Helping Center, learning about their routines and services, how and when they use volunteers, and visiting with staff and volunteers about their duties.  I also had the fortune to join a women’s group, to meet with them, interact with them and their children, and yesterday I even played a little guitar and sang for the young ones.  Since it was spring break many of the mother’s had their children with them.

As the morning progressed one of the staff asked for my assistance.  There was a young family who had just lost an unborn child to miscarriage.  They had the child with them and wanted to know how they could properly bury him with honor.  The staff person called Calvary Cemetery who offers free burial space and services to people who are in need of it.  I also contacted Midtown Tulsa Chapel and who kindly donated a small coffin for their precious one to be buried in.

At Catholic Charities we celebrate Mass every Wednesday at noon, and invited the family to celebrate with us.  The priest, Fr. Robert Dye, celebrated the Mass as much as he could in Spanish, even though he did not have a Spanish Sacramentary, and translated as necessary into either English or Spanish as needed.  His kind words of support to the family, and the community of Catholic Charities staff was really something to be a part of.

This morning I met the family and their social worker at Calvary Cemetery for the graveside service that I was to officiate.  I had my prayerbook in Spanish and did the best I could – God gave me grace.  The graveside was just beautiful.  Calvary had set up the normal all purpose carpet, about 6 chairs, and a small stand for the coffin.  We had our prayer service, then lowered the child into her final resting place, then two of their workers helped to fill in the soil around him.  The family laid flowers on his grave and we said another silent prayer as the mother, father, brother and sister each kissed their fingers and then touched the grass on the top of the grave.

This was such a wonderful way for this family to bring closure to a very traumatic moment in their lives.  Thank you Catholic Charities, Fr. Rob, Calvary Cemetery, Midtown Tulsa Chapel, and especially thank you Jesus for helping all the pieces fall into place.  It was such an honorable witness of Christians working together to care for someone in need.  Truly this is Holy Week!

Well…, it must be official!

I guess it is now official – I work at Catholic Charities! There is an article written about me in the most recent Eastern Oklahoma Catholic; there is an announcement on the Catholic Charities website; I have business cards with my name on them; and I got a paycheck! Whoo whoo!!!!

It has been an exciting 3 weeks. Lots of learning, lots of working, lots of meetings, and I have attended a few industry oriented functions also. There is so much to do that it seems a little overwhelming, but God is giving me strength and direction.

I have also found an apartment, so will probably move in the week after Easter. It is in the same general vicinity of Christ the King Parish, so I guess I will be making a change for Christ the King to be my home parish in the future.

If that is not enough, I am also working on the final exam for my first master degree. It is answering 3 test questions with an 8-10 page essay response for each. I have books piled up all over my room, so I am trying to get focused and get this knocked out. It is due April 18th which is not too far away considering all the other stuff going on on my life.

My plan is to attend graduation at St. Meinrad in May. It will be a good time to go back, do a little visiting and walk across the stage with my advanced degree.

I ask for your prayers during this transition and for clarity in completing the school work. Thanks for all the support you have and continue to give.

An update and some news!

It has been an incredible year of diverse experiences – some of them educational, some recreational, most of them spiritual, and all of them bringing me to new horizons. I pray this finds you in good spirits and blessed, as we are in preparation for the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In December I completed my third full year of seminary at St. Meinrad. It has been a wonderful time of formation and discernment. I have grown so much spiritually, educationally, and in my understanding of the Church, my role as a Christian, and God’s will for my life. It is through this time of discernment that God is leading me out of the path to priesthood and back into the world as a lay Catholic. God has truly blessed, molded and shaped me in these last three years to have a deeper understanding of walking in His will and serving His Church and His people in the way He would have me do so. It is quite a change and has taken a little getting used to the fact that I will not be pursuing ordination as a priest. We don’t always understand God’s methods, but I can see in my life that these last three years were exactly what I needed to bring me to the next step in my walk with Christ.

I have now accumulated 99 hours of credits – plenty for two Masters degrees from St. Meinrad: one a Master of Arts in Catholic Thought and Life and the other a Master of Theological Studies. I must only complete the final papers over the next few months/years to obtain the degrees, so I am beginning that process now. I have also been working around the Tulsa Diocese in various ministries like substitute teaching, youth talks, music ministry, even some website development. The Bishop and the priests of the Diocese have been very supportive as my discernment has continued for my next step in life.

This brings me to my most recent piece of news. On Friday, February 22nd, I was offered and accepted the Volunteer Coordinator position within Catholic Charities of the Tulsa Diocese. I start this Monday (February 25th) and am so excited to be able to use both my ministry formation and business background in this unique role within the organization. Catholic Charities is at a point of transition as we build a new campus to house most of the multiple ministries that are now scattered literally all over Tulsa. This is a very new position so I will be growing and developing it as we go. The new Executive Director is a good friend of mine and I look very much forward to working with him and the rest of the staff as we attempt to follow God’s will for this worthy organization. If you care to visit the website it is http://www.catholiccharitiestulsa.org. It needs some updating (which I will also be involved with) so be patient. I ask for your prayers for me and for all those who are and will be involved in this process.

I am also working with a group of musicians to do more music, both in a church/ministry setting and in the secular world. We call ourselves Miles Christi Rock and Blues Review. To the normal person that has no real meaning it’s just a cool name. But to the faithful “Miles Christi” is Latin for “Soldier of Christ”. We thought we might just do a little evangelizing while we are out there. The band is composed of 2 Catholics (the other is a permanent deacon candidate for the Tulsa Diocese) and 2 non-denominational/evangelicals. We have some good theological/philosophical discussions and are able to reach a broad range of people since we have so many varied contacts. You can learn more and hear a demo at http://www.myspace.com/mileschristiband.

I appreciate your prayers and support more than you know. I will keep you posted on other developments as they happen.

Be blessed!