Monday, January 30, 2017

They Should Be Ashamed

I am outraged and deeply, deeply worried for the United States. Tomorrow, several of us are going to visit the refugee family from Afghanistan that we have been supporting. Read more about it here. We partnered with Exodus World Service to reach out to "our family." This is Exodus' statement of response to the executive order signed by President Trump. Please read it and educate yourself about the plight of refugees and the process they go through to legally enter the Unites States and become part of the collective "we."

The president and those who support that executive order should be ashamed. And I do not say this as a political statement of any kind. This is a statement that is rooted in the biblical values of hospitality and welcome to the stranger.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Mobilizing the Christian community 
to welcome refugees.

January 2017

Our Response
Today the U.S. President signed an executive order
that changes refugee resettlement as we know it.

The executive order limits refugee admissions and
restricts travel to the U.S.
from a number of countries
that are predominantly Muslim.

We stand strong with our refugee friends
 and sense God's call on our hearts
to remain steadfast in welcoming refugees with love.


Aren't these changes for our protection?

The security of our country is important. But we believe
that safety and compassion 
are not mutually exclusive
for the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program.

Refugees are among the most rigorously vetted
people who enter our country.
 The refugee vetting process is lengthy and arduous.
God reminds us repeatedly in Scripture
not to live in fear. As Christians,
we must ask ourselves if fear justifies
restricting refugees, some of the
world's most vulnerable people
who also long for safety and security.

Why should we be concerned?
We are concerned about delays for resettled refugees
who seek to reunite with their families.
Hope dims for parents
and children who wait for reunification.
We also grieve for the
well-being of refugees overseas who wait,
 often in the poorest of conditions,
to find refuge and safety in America.

We believe that refugees from all nations and religions are
courageous survivors who contribute much to our communities. 
Please join us in steadfastly welcoming the stranger.

Sign or Share a Statement of Solidarity
Learn More about Refugee Issues
Volunteer as a New Neighbor to a Recently Arrived Refugee Family
Invite a Speaker to Your Church or Small Group to Learn About Refugees
Give Now to Ensure that Refugees Here Receive Help

God of grace,
Watch over all refugees,
Embrace them in the pain of their partings.
Into their fear and loss, send love.
Open our eyes that we might
See You in them.
Open our hearts that they might
See You in us.
Open our arms that we might
Welcome refugees to new homes,
As you stretched out your arms
And invited everyone home.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Re-cap Southwest Liturgical Conference in El Paso

Tuesday greetings from the dreary Midwest.

I enjoyed my six days in El Paso, at the Southwest Liturgical Conference (SWLC) Study Week. Kudos to the leadership in the Diocese of El Paso, who really got the local folks to attend, especially on Friday and Saturday.

The board of directors of the SWLC made a commitment a few years ago to have an RCIA track at each of the study weeks. With the closing of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate a few yeas ago, it is important for organizations like SWLC to take up the mantle and continue offering ministry formation in Christian initiation. A sign of the continued vitality in initiation ministry was the interest generated in our exhibit booth over our Fountain of Life initiation resources. Most of our books were sold out by the end of the conference and we took orders for many, many more. Frankly, it did my heart good (and I know I am patting myself on the back a bit here!) to see so many resources in a series that I have shepherded here at WLP for the past seventeen years. To watch the delight on people's faces, for instance, when they finally found a worthy resource for the RCIA as adapted for children of catechetical age was a particularly proud moment for me. This was the first conference at which we shared Blessie La Scola's new book, Children of the Light: Precatechumenate Sessions for Children and Families. 

WLP and J.S. Paluch sent two of us to El Paso. I was privileged to work alongside our owner, Mary Lou Paluch Rafferty, a true model of servant leadership. Here we are:

WLP's own Peter Kolar led the music for the entire conference. I've gotta tell you, the music was excellent. Peter is comfortable playing and arranging in styles from Bach to Huapango. So many people expressed their gratitude to Peter for a job well done.

SWLC also provides opportunities for fellowship and connection among the publishers. Here I am with Pedro Rubalcava of OCP.

Pedro did a great job playing guitar and serving as cantor at many of the liturgies.

On Saturday morning, the Archbishop of San Antonio, Archbishop Garcia-Siller, presented the keynote in Spanish. I was in a hospitality room above the convention hall and snapped this photo.

The SWLC is by far one of my favorite conferences. You can just feel the flavor of the Southwest, this year the flavor of a border town. There is much fear in this area of our country over the future of immigration policies here in the United States. Please keep our brothers and sisters in prayer.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

El Paso: So Excited To Share WLP's New Resource for Children's Initiation

Wednesday greetings from El Paso, Texas. Over a thousand people are registered over the four days of this annual Southwest Liturgical Conference. The conference jumps from diocese to diocese here in the Southwest each year. So proud of WLP's own Peter Kolar, who is coordinating the music for the event this year.

Yesterday, Peter and I set up the WLP booth. Looks great, don't you think?

This is the first conference at which we are sharing our new resource for children's initiation, Children of the Light: Precatechumenate Sessions for Children and Families, by Blessie La Scola.

Blessie is a retired catechist from Southern California, who has been ministering with children in Christian Initiation for nearly thirty years. She is ready to send us the next two volumes. This volume contains a CD-ROM, with lots of handouts and a "Letter Home" for each session. This represents months of editorial and design work. I am so excited that we can share this with the Church; it helps WLP fulfill its mission: "to serve and inspire the singing, praying, initiating church."

More from El Paso as this week unfolds.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Between New Orleans and El Paso

Monday greetings. It's another one of "those days" here in the Midwest; raining with temperature in the mid-thirties. Makes you want to curl up under a blanket.

I spent the past several days in New Orleans. I gave a presentation at the Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference. My focus was on cultivating intentional hospitality in the parish.

I had an interesting conversation with a woman who was in her early seventies. She spoke with me after my workshop. She shared some of her story. She went through the RCIA in the last two years. She decided to become a Catholic after her daughter married a Catholic and became Catholic herself. She decided to become Catholic because she wanted to help be a spiritual guide for her grandchildren, who will be formed in the Catholic faith.

Her description of the RCIA process in her parish was far from glowing. She said that everyone, save herself, who was in the RCIA was there because they were marrying a Catholic. She told me that no one ever asked any questions; they were just there to get through it. When she prodded these young adults, urging them to ask questions, they told her, "We wait for you to raise your hand; you ask all our questions for us."

Once she was initiated, she found that there was really nothing in place to help her become involved in the parish. Her pleas to the parish leadership were either ignored or unanswered. She told me that she eventually went to the diocesan offices to complain and to let them know that, even thought she went through the RCIA, she found that the parish was unwelcoming to this new Catholic!

I asked her to contact me to tell me more of her story. I am hoping to write a new book soon and want to weave some of these stories, as well as successful ones, into it. I am thinking of calling it "How About Starting with Hello?" Intentional Hospitality for the Parish.

This is my only day here in the office this week. I am headed to El Paso in the morning, where I will be giving two workshops and a WLP music showcase at the annual Southwest Liturgical Conference. Feeling a bit weary, but plugging away!

More from El Paso as the week unfolds.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Virtual Journey Together

Tuesday greetings on the kind of day in the Midwest that we all dread here; 41 degrees, raining, raw, and windy; it goes right through you!

I am gearing up for the GO: Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference that will take place just outside of New Orleans, in Kenner, beginning this coming Thursday. I always enjoy this conference and this year they are having a focused liturgy track as part of the conference. I am doing a presentation entitled "Intentional Hospitality: Cultivating the Welcoming Parish." In it, I will tell my own story about "shopping" for a parish once I left a parish of which I had been a member for over ten years.

This reminds me of something that occurred this past summer while I was leading one of WLP's "Sing the Seasons" choral reading sessions. During the break that evening, a woman came up to me and told me that she and I had been on a very similar journey and that she was so grateful that I had been her companion on that journey. I though it was odd because I had never seen nor even met this person. She said that she was a faithful follower of this blog. And she followed my very painful story of having left the parish that I loved so much in search of a new one; a search that was too often so painful and filled with disappointments. She said that at the same time, her home parish, in which she had been the full-time music director for many years, was assigned a new pastor. The new pastor very quickly began to dismantle much of the parish leadership team and she was fired. When she told me this, it was so obvious that this was a keenly painful experience for her. She said that she kind of latched on to my story and, although she felt like she was all alone in her pain, somehow she joined hers to mine and we (unbeknownst to me) became fellow travelers, searching for a new spiritual home.

Folks, I was so grateful that she shared this with me. Social media like blogs and other outlets can be very powerful tools as people move through life. I will never forget this encounter. And I was so grateful to hear that she, like I , had found a new spiritual home and was making music once again.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Old Saint Pat's and the Hokey Pokey

Monday greetings.

Have you ever had one of those Sunday liturgy experiences during which your whole being is just grateful for your parish, for your pastor, for your music director, for your cantors, for the people sitting around you, for the beauty of the space?

Yep, happened to me yesterday at Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago. Nothing particularly earth-shattering about any of the individual elements, although I found the homily particularly stirring. I guess I walked in yesterday with an already grateful heart and so much of what I heard and sang just resonated within me. "O, star of wonder, star of night; star with royal beauty bright!"

I have been accused of "irreverence for the Mass" after some of my talks, when I bring in the idea that liturgical participation is like dancing the Hokey Pokey. You've gotta "put you whole self in!" I did that yesterday and God seemed to have taken me, shaped me, rolled me around, and spit me back out into a waiting world. Epiphanies abounded.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

RCIA for Children: A New Resource from WLP

Wednesday greetings from the home office here in Franklin Park, IL. Most of our WLP employees are back in the office after the holidays. Sometimes I feel like a "Dad" here; happy when all my "kids" are safely home!

A new RCIA resource for children arrived in our warehouse over the holidays. I am the chief editor of the book and this was quite the project. Children of the Light: Precatechumenate Sessions for Children and Families, by Blessie La Scola is a much needed resource for those working with the catechumenate for children of catechetical age. You can find it on WLP's web site, where you can click to find sample pages; we included some of the introduction and one entire session for you to examine. Each session includes a letter to be sent home to the child's parents or guardians. Just snapped this photo; isn't the cover beautiful?

This is the first of two manuals; the second manuscript from Blessie, which we are expecting shortly, will include sessions for the catechumenate period, purification and enlightenment, and mystagogy for children's catechumenate.

The book contains a CD-ROM, where you can find loads of materials to download from each of the sessions, including handouts, worksheets, projects, and those letters home.

Please, please, those of you who have been "hounding" me for years, looking for resources for children's catechumenate, take the time now to look at this resource and consider purchasing it. We would be most grateful.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.