Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday: Reflection Welcoming as Christ

As I was listening to the first Gospel at Mass this evening (yes, this the one time during the year we hear two Gospel readings), all I could think about what my experience as I entered Mukumary on Monday, March 10th.

The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, 
while others cut branches from the trees 
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
Matthew 21:1-11

We had to drive there from Lodja (small city in the middle of the DRC we flew into) which is 145km south of Mukumary.

Lodja is on the bottom right, Mukumary is the top of the map
The car stopped in sort of the middle of nowhere (but seriously, it was the middle of nowhere)!  Father Emmanuel said, "It's time to get out, they want to welcome you."

Some of the people gathered to walk me to the Church.

They even had palms!
So we got out, and there were two schools of children (the entire elementary school and high school) plus tons of villagers and parishioners were singing and dancing.  They walked me, leading with palms to the Church.  This was the first time I was the center of a parade!

What does 'google' say a parade is?


Here in the states we have parades sometimes; however, I think there are only a few really great, epic, talk about for the ages parades.  I'm not intentionally excluding anyone, but I think of Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, Superbowl parades for the Winning Team, and (although we used to be better at these) parades for Soldiers when they return from War and Service overseas.  These are epic, talk about for decades to come, known to people who weren't even there, parades!

This is the kind of parade, a public procession celebrating a special day - that was the experience Christ had when walking into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his death.  It was an epic parade - one we still remember each year in the Liturgy.  We even are sure that each person in the Church (old and young alike) has a palm to wave in procession.  At some Masses people even gather outside all together to process around the grounds waving their palms.  In Rome, the Holy Father processed around St. Peter's Square in His vestments (the same ones Blessed John Paul II wore on Palm Sunday each year) with a palm branch remembering the person of Christ.


A procession to be remembered for the ages!

I had this experience as I entered the village of Mukumary, the village of Mpete, and the village of Mpama.  A parade to be remembered for the ages in my mind and the mind of the villagers of these places.  It was an epic day.  I brought only me, my smile, and my love.  And it was more than enough for them.  It was more than they were seeking.  They were honored because I was there - not because of what I could do for them or what I was going to do or how I was going to do it.  They had nothing to gain and most of them didn't even know my name!  When I got to the church they had be stand on a table so that everyone could see me.


They have nothing and yet they have everything.  They know what is important in life and focus on the things that matter: God, family, faith, friends, joy!  They know how to celebrate - and while I was there we had our fair share of partying, dancing, singing, and celebrating!  Mass was never under 3 hours - the opening processional hymn at the Church in the village was almost 20 minutes long!  But no one was bored or looking at their watch.  They were humbled and grateful to be able to worship their God.

Everywhere I went they greeted me waving palms, singing, and dancing.  Everywhere I went they greeted me as they would greet Christ himself.  Looking on me with the most profound love.  I'm not sure I can love like they do - unreservedly, unconditional, untainted by all the junk we cloud it up with here.  We love based on conditions - what you can do for me, how you have treated me in the past, how you might treat me in the future, how I feel today, what I want to do, and thousands of other reasons. 

We think you can run out of love - we look at bigger families and think "How can that one mother love all of those children?  They must be deprived of love!"  But they know that it's not possible to run out of love (and so do the mothers of large families).  Love multiplies as you give it away.  It gets bigger!  It also has a universal language.  Most of the people in the village spoke a few languages - their mother tongue is Tetela, the Mass is in Lingala, the official language of the country is French, and honestly - they probably understand more than those three since there are 4 national languages and at least 400 'mother tongues' for tribes in the DRC.  But I really only speak English - understand a good amount of Spanish and Italian, know much of the Mass in Latin, know the letters in Greek, can say a few words in Portuguese, and have tried with all (honestly, some) of my might to learn French (not very good, yet).  Still I can only speak and communicate in English.

But still we understood each other.  I understood when they woman was hugging me how much she loved me.


We are not all as different as we think.  Our situations are different - I fall into thinking that 'poverty' is not having enough money to go out to eat a lot or shopping at Aldi instead of Harris Teeter.  However, poverty in America looks much different - what we have in material wealth we lack in spiritual wealth.  When we have visitors come we don't welcome them with song and dance.

If Jesus Christ was coming to our parish this week would we prepare a program of singing and dancing like this?  Spending our day welcoming Him and pushing away all of the other cares we have to spend this time just being near him and seeing him?  Or would we say "Hey, great that you're here - I'll see you later, I've got some stuff to finish up."?  We're all guilty of it - I'm guilty of it. But I think that we could change the world, change the hearts of the people in the world, if we really saw each person as Christ.  Welcomed each person with our whole being as we would Christ.  Loved each person because of who they are, not what they have or what they can do for us.

video

What if there was a parade in our city each time a visitor came?  What difference could that make in our hearts?  How would it change our perspective?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Greetings from Mukumary (from March 13th)

This is a note I sent from my trip in the Congo after being there for 1 week.




I have been in the DR Congo for a week now and am excited to share some of my experiences with you all.  Everything has been new since I got off the plane out on the tarmac at FIH airport in Kinshasa.  Fr. Emmanuel was there to greet me and we began our adventure.  Meeting family and friends of his in Kinshasa, taking the Historic City tour of Kinshasa, the Capital City, and experiencing the first evening without our 'modern conveniences' of electricity and running water.  In spite of, or maybe because of, these hardships I have been having the time of my life!

On Saturday we flew via CAA airlines from FIH Airport to Lodja.  'Getting checked in and through security' (if you can call it all of that) took a few hours and then we were 'off'.'  After two stops in other villages (one on a dirt runway) we were finally in Lodja where Fr. Medta, the President/Rector of John Paul II Major Seminary, greeted us and was ready to take us to our new home.  Upon arrival at the seminarians came to greet me with song and prayer outside of my room.  To say that it was nothing like I expected would be an understatement.  This entire trip I have been trying to remove my own expectations and although comparison is natural, I've been trying to see the glory of this place rather than compare to America.  We enjoyed a meal and took some time to rest before greeting the Bishop of that Diocese who was to arrive that afternoon.


The following day we ventured into Lodja (the city) to attend Mass with the Bishop and the 1st Year Seminarians who were becoming Acolytes.  Mass was beautiful and long (almost 4 hours) with much singing, dancing, and praying!  During the Mass it began to rain - my first (but not my only) African Rain Storm.  Later in the evening Fr. Blaise, the vocations director for the Diocese of Kole (Fr. Emmanuel's Diocese) arrived and we went by motorcycle to take a tour of the city - seeing the Market, the Hospital, the Church (again), the Prison, the houses, the River, and everything possible. 


On Monday we began the final leg of the journey to Mukumary (the village where St. Clare of Assisi Church is located and Father Emmanuel lives).  By 'land cruiser' it took us 5 hours to go 145km.  From the Seminary we took the side roads, but were soon on the 'highway' - a very wide dirt road that has been carved out by the people of each village.  We made a stop at one village to buy some fruit and vegetables before we finally entered the village.  About a kilometer away from the Church we stopped and were greeted by the children of the schools.  They were singing and dancing, so very happy to finally have me with them.  We walked and sang and danced to the Church where we did more of the same.  I introduced myself (with Father Emmanuel translating of course) and after a bit we came down to his house.


Again I had no idea what to expect - a hut, open air - but I am so impressed with the Church, this rectory, and the accommodations.  I thought I would be without light (and computer/internet) but many people have made it possible to have Solar Panels and the ability to communicate with the world to help further the work of this parish.  So we are able to have light from batteries connected to the Solar Panels, internet through satellites, and more beautiful accommodations that I can imagine.  The village is so peaceful and quiet.


As we got to the house we were able to sit and be greeted once again by the people who continued to follow us here.  They did not want to leave so their teachers struck a deal with them - they could come back at 7pm to sing and dance (and they did!).  After lunch we were sitting out back resting and some boys came over to see me.  Again Father struck them a deal, "They could see Katie if they went in search of fruit and eggs."  And a few hours later, they came back with a bucket of fruit - this is the beginning of people giving me gifts.  Oranges, Bananas, Papaya, Plantains, Rice, Peanuts, Eggs, Tomatoes, Cassava Root and Leaves, and even a few Chickens!  They are so generous and so happy to have me with them!
IMG_1872.JPG
The Church from the Outside

On Wednesday, after finally adjusting to the time difference, we began with Mass at 6am, before the light comes up, and in the morning we had a meeting with the Parish Council.  They are so grateful to St. Thomas Aquinas and the generosity of our parishioners to help them to build their Church and grow St. Clare of Assisi Parish.  With the funds we raised in August they have been able to paint, put up more of the walls, create doors, prepare the floor by pouring concrete, and many more!  Next week I will see the other Mission Stations (31, one in each village) and Pastoral Centers (4 in total) - one being 20km away.  The farthest being 80km away.
School with Mud Walls and a Banana Leaf Roof
Gathering of People to Welcome Me
Lodja City Streets

In their Church they have catechists at each mission station, a Lay Pastoral Associate at each Pastoral Center, someone for youth, a Legion of Mary, and a few more 
ministries. 


Father Blaise and I on the Motorcycle for a City Tour

Today we visited with two different schools.  First the High School (7th to 12th grade) and then the Elementary School (1st to 6th grade).  Each school had a different program to present to me and again more gifts!  The children sang, danced, and presented short speeches and plays.  Then they all went to their classrooms and waited for me to come and greet them individually and for them to ask questions of me.  It was quite fun - they asked all kinds of questions like my name, where I'm from, about my family, what I like to each, if I have a husband or children.  Some things are the same across all cultures!  One class even sang Happy Birthday to me!

We were also able to meet with Chief of this Village, his name is the same as the name of the village - Mukumary.  He brought gifts and greetings for me.  For lunch the Fathers (we have three with us right now - Fr. Blaise is only visiting for a few days, Fr. Charles - Parochial Vicar here, and of course Fr. Emmanuel, pastor) and the Sisters (Christine, Astrid, and Julie) who cook and serve at the house, prepared a beautiful spread of flowers to decorate the table and each wrote a card to celebrate my birthday - singing all day in English and in French.  It might be strange to celebrate your birthday in the Jungle (as Fr. Emmanuel said), but now that I have had this beautiful celebration, everything else will pale in comparison.

Having 'things' does not make one happy and joyful - having family and friends does!!!  I couldn't have asked for a more supreme welcome here in the Village of Mukumary.  Although they don't have many things, they seem to have each other and do what they can with what they have to Glorify the Lord!  I am honored to call them my family!
Displaying IMG_1856.JPG
The Church from the Inside

I've included a few pictures (of the 1,400 that exist)  for you to see some of what has been going on here - I think only a few will be able to be added, but you can see the Church outside, the inside of the Church, one of the classrooms they are made of a bamboo wall framing with mud walls and a Banana Leaf Roof - which leaks when it rains - but look like the next rain storm will blow them all down, Fr. Blaise and I on our tour around Lodja via Motorcycle, one of the city streets in Lodja, another of the gathering in front of the house.  


I will post more in the next few days!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Some Exciting News!

Dear Family and Friends,
Happy 2014!  I am excited to share with you all an endeavor I'm undertaking in March (2 weeks from today).  

It all began about 6 months ago when we had a visiting priest, Fr. Emmanuel, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.   He is in the Diocese of Kole at St. Clare of Assisi Parish in the middle of the jungle in the DRC with 22,000 parishioners in 32 villages.  He and his two assistants say Mass in each village about every 2 or 3 months, which means that his parishioners experience the Sacraments approximately 4 times per year!  They live without electricity or running water nor any of the modern conveniences we take for granted each day.  Yet, they are filled with joy. 
I've been discerning a visit to the DRC ever since I met Father Emmanuel.  It was just something that I felt like the Lord was calling me to do.  Take a risk, leap into the Love and the joy of the African people in this small part of the Congo.  I presented my idea to Father and he eagerly responded with contacts both here in the US and in the Congo to help me get there.  So over the past 6 months I've been figuring out how to get a visa, find reasonable airfare, and settle the crazy thoughts in my head regarding travel safety.
All is coming together and I have my visa in hand and my plane ticket purchased to leave on March 5th (Ash Wednesday) and return on March 28th. It will take me four flights and a long vehicle ride to travel to Father's village (he really does live in the middle of nowhere)! I will then spend about 2 weeks getting to know the people of his parish. 
My return home will be via Rome beginning on March 24th.  The opportunity presented itself to spend some time in the Holy City upon my return giving thanks, so I jumped on just a slight ticket increase and friends who can provide simple accommodations for those nights.
Why am I doing this?  That's an excellent question that I've been working through since the first thoughts of this trip.  When I first wrote about this in my journal my reasons (in stream of consciousness form) were the following.

My Experience With Father Emmanuel: "I was the one to pick him up at the bus station and I believe my life was changed by the conversation I had in the car ride to his host family's house."

Regarding Something Being Different In Me after being in Brazil for World Youth Day: "I don't mean dramatically changed to the point where I am going to sell my stuff, leave everything, and begin mission work; but as I type that, it doesn't seem like the most terrible idea.  I think I mean an even more radical change than that - what if I had my life in perspective all the time?  How could I do that?  What do I even mean by that?"
Doing Mission Work:  "I've been on mission trips before, here and abroad.  In the US, I did service work in Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Charlotte.  I've seen some poor Americans.  Abroad, I have done mission work in Brazil (outside of Sao Paulo) and Nicaragua (near Managua).  The poor I encountered there were much different than those in the US.  But they are still different than the people that Fr. Emmanuel serves in the Congo."
Wanting My Life To Mean Something:  "I want my life to mean something ... I don't want to just go along focusing on how life can serve me.  I'm restless with my state in life, maybe even a little in my job - I love the hours, the freedom it gives my weekends, I've even found ways to occupy myself on Sunday evenings.  All that and I'm not sure I'm making any difference, any contribution to the world, any improvement to the world.  Maybe this job can be a means to an end - it can be the financial funding to what I do that makes a difference, a contribution, a change to the world."
As I write this I can imagine what you are thinking and want to say to me, "Katie, you're life means something.  You've done many things for the community and for me."  But I feel I’m being called to more. I want to make a real difference in this world.  I want to win souls. 
I want to have a joy so deep in my heart that is radiates from my being and others can't help but notice it. When I met Father Emmanuel, he had this joy.  He was excited about life.  I want some of that joy, deep down in my soul.  It may not make a ton of sense, but the Lord is calling and I am responding.
I am asking you for a favor, too. Going to the Congo is going to be an amazing and difficult experience for me.  I'll be living without electricity and indoor plumbing for a at least 2 of the weeks I'm away in Father's Village of Mukumary outside of Lodja.  There's always a risk of contracting a disease when traveling to the 3rd world – particularly yellow fever and malaria.  I'm taking all necessary precautions, but the risk still exists.  So, I'm asking for your time: just 2 or 3 minutes each day to pray with and for me.  I would love to take your prayer intentions with me on my journey, bringing them to the people of the Congo, offering up the small sufferings I have for you, and I would appreciate nothing more than if you committed to pray for me. 
Each year on my birthday I contemplate what journeys I've taken in my life, what I've done for the Lord, how I've served others, and my experiences in general.  This year on my 29th birthday, I'll be in the Congo, 7,256 miles from home contemplating where God has placed me, his purpose for my life, His Will in the Divine Plan for Salvation.  I know that my role is small, seemingly insignificant; however, maybe I will have an impact on just one soul - maybe just my own soul.
If my words have inspired you in any way to give to Father's community, I would ask that you let me know.  I am planning to take an extra 'checked bag' with me that will have small items they need in their village (Father has requested pens, pencils, T-Shirts, reading glasses, and juice powder for the villagers) or if you would like to contribute to their parish mission financially you can send a check to me and I will make one large wire transfer to his bank in the Congo upon my return.  Any funds contributed will go directly toward their mission, not my trip - the Lord has provided for my journey.

We are all part of something greater, something bigger than just ourselves and our community.  We are all part of this great human family.  I hope you, my family and friends, will come with me to visit the members of our family in the Congo.
If you are around Charlotte, I would ask that you consider joining me for Mass on March 5th at 8:30am at St. Thomas Aquinas.  The intention is for my journey and is right before I go to the airport.
I thank you for your prayers most of all and can't wait to share this journey!  Also thank you for reading through this, I know that it is long, but wanted to convey all of my thoughts.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

{simple saturday} ten

Today I am going to visit some great little ones and their momma!  So un-believably excited!

Silas & his siblings are my morning date!
Also going to try to make mac'n'cheese cupcakes - best described as this:

my lunch side item will be what would happen if a cupcake and mac'n cheese got married and had babies. It might be the cutest kid you've ever seen, or one hot mess that tastes delicious!

for more 'simple saturdays' head on over to see Iris
(doesn't look like there's a link-up, but oh well;
I'll leave up the post since Silas is so darn cute!)

Friday, September 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday, September 27th


For More Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

1. Well, I downloaded the new iOS 7 onto my iPhone 4S - and I'm so glad I did!  I really like the new features especially in the camera and the notification center (both the top one and the bottom one).  I like it most especially because I feel like I got a brand new phone without paying anything - except the 4 hours it took me to update last Wednesday!  The price I paid to have it on the day it came out!

2. Roommate and I have participated in two book clubs in the last two weeks and I'm not sure what I think.  I've been trying since I met MG to start a book club, but I can't get anyone who's willing to read the same kinds of books I want to read and have the same regularity of meetings I want.  I've tried restructuring my wants - and I'm still coming up empty handed.  Anyone participate in one or begin one who's willing to offer some advice or encouragement? 

3. Roommate and I have also been watching Downton Abbey, which I realize we are about 3 years behind - but we are on episode 6 of Season 3.  I won't reveal anything, but seriously, y'all have probably already watched it and there would be no spoilers.  But the last episode we watched was very sad - and I'm eager to see how the writers help them deal with the doctor's decisions.  How does one make the best decision for themselves in the case of childbirth?  What's best when and where should you give birth?  All questions women have completely different answers to - I have my own answers, even though I don't have a husband, engagement  boyfriend, or even a date.

4. Jackie Francois Angel is coming to Huntersville this weekend and I'm very excited to hear her speak on Sunday evening!  Almost got to go to dinner, but flights, schedules, and paths are not crossing, unfortunately!

5. Roommate went to New York City with me last weekend and drove the long way home with me on Sunday!  So grateful for a great trip and an excellent car ride companion!  She's a natural born DJ!

6. Lino's book Saint is cracking me up.  I'm only 4 chapters in, but am trying to read slowly to savor the moments.  I was listening to his interview on the Busted Halo Show this afternoon (a rare listen for me) and he was discussing the first chapter.  This one claims that he desires to be the Patron Saint of Kissing when he's canonized.  Well, Lino - this girl needs some convincing ... when you coming to Charlotte?

7. Weekend plans to see baby beek!  I'm so psyched!  Little Silas is almost 2 months old and I can't wait to hold the precious child!  And additionally to see Emma, Thaddeus, Xavier, and Lucy will be such a treat this weekend!  YEAH for friends with kids who like to cuddle with me (the kids not the friends)!

For more quick takes (these were super quick today) go see Jen and the Gang!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Five Favorites {September 25th}


Five Favorites, hosted at MoxieWife.com 

I have been noticeably absent from blogging for a while (except for Five Favorites) - but the reason is because I've been trying to catch up on my book club reading (see below) and that I went to New York City this weekend to purchase a car!!!

So, some favorites, just for y'all!

1.  This is the book club book that is excellent!


But it's keeping me from these great books I just got in the mail (and one I've had for a while, but it's Novena time for St. Therese so it's been brought back out!


 2.  I've been missing Elisabeth this week - and friends from the past in general so I made her famous S'Mac and Cheese for dinner the other night!


Hoping I can turn some of the left overs into little s'mac and cheese cupcakes for book club on Thursday!

YUMMY!!!
 3.  When we were in New York (roommate went with me to keep company on the 635 mile drive), we found this gem right on the street!  It'll help us display our fancy wine bottle collection!


4.  The weather was perfect of a road trip!  Check out our view across the first (of many) bridges!



We also saw Annie!!!  Which was delightful!






5. And once again I am a car owner!  Glad to be driving my 'own ride' and super glad on this rainy day that it has a back windshield wiper!  Great feature!!!  Also, it has Bluetooth, which I love - talking to someone through the car speakers instead of with my headphones is great!

Head on over to Hallie and the gang for some more favorites!  See you later!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Five Favorites {September 18th}


Five Favorites, hosted at MoxieWife.com 

It's been a few weeks, so here are some favorite things or moments from the last month!

1.  What are you teaching the world today?!  This Kid (President) knows how to spell it out!


2. This week's Not Alone Series Link-Up - all kinds of Favorite Mom Blogs!  (this is one of my favorite link-ups - Five Favorites, that is!)

3. New York City!!!  I love going to visit this city and am super psyched to go this weekend to see my baby brother!  I'm purchasing a car - and I lack all of the anxiety that typically goes into that event!  YAY for family!

4. This Recipe - excellent individual cookie serving ... now only if I had some eggs left!


Oops - should have saved that for a Not Alone Series topic that's coming up...favorite recipes for one!  Oh, well!  Too Good not to share now!

5.  And this one too - pancakes!  I purchase the Fage 0% with the flavor on the side and use it for these pancakes - then put the flavor on the top with some Nuetella (or favorite chocolate hazelnut spread) instead of syrup!  DELISH!


1 Container of Yogurt (see above), 1 Egg, 1 tsp of Baking Soda, and 1/2 cup of Flour - mix together and it makes three perfectly sized pancakes in your frying plan (like regular pancakes)!  B-fast for 1!

Check out Hallie and friends for more favorites!

Favorite Mom Blogs {Not Alone Series}

I've been dragging my feet about linking up with Morgan and Jen and the Not Alone Series, but I saw the topics for the next few weeks and feel like it's time to join in on this community.  After all of the support from Cindy a few weeks ago, I've decided I need to do this!  So, my first jaunt into the group...


Favorite Mom Blogs


Well, I have SO many that I think this post could be a series in and of itself, so here goes (as I look at my BlogLovin' subscriptions - of which I have 218 unread posts):

1. Camp Patton: Grace is amazing - she someone keeps it together and still has the cutest little kiddos ever (no offense to the rest of the mom bloggers below, but her Theo looks like a cabbage patch doll!)!!

2. Carrots for Michaelmas: I stumbled upon Haley with the Women Speak on NFP Series post that someone who I cannot remember guest posted for a while ago.  I love that she is trying to be a Catholic Urban Homesteader (or something like that) - I just really like reading her stuff.  And also, I always think I can someone raise my own chickens after reading her posts!  Which is crazy, because seriously - can you see me chopping off a chicken's head???

3. We are THAT Family ...you know the ones:  Not sure how I got to Kristen, but I'm inspired regularly by her work at Mercy House in Kenya, and I'd be lying if I didn't dream about being like her someday!  Also, she rocks at explaining why to do these crazy Catholic things with her kids and how it's making them into better human beings (hopefully).

4. God is Here: She doesn't blog much at all now, but a very good friend knows Maria and I was daily drawn closer to the Lord as I read about her struggle and triumph with Vivian.  I can't do her story justice in a  few words, but the idea that 'children are entrusted to parents' and 'their sole purpose is to get them to Heaven' is explained in her writing during the struggle.  If you have hours and box of Kleenex, head on over.

5. The Big Mama Blog: Melanie is hilarious!  Loved her when I read her book Big Sparkly Green Earrings.  

6. Conversion Diary: Jen is a fantastic writer - and the reason I blog!  So, thanks lovely Catholic woman with 6 children who I've never met but love!

7. People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Jen is new to my subscriptions, but hilarious.  And seriously, sometimes we just want to punch them - hard.  We won't, but that doesn't mean we don't want to!

8. There's More Where That Came From: Paige says it like it is.  There was this one post about coffee a few weeks ago that has solidified me reading her forever!

I think 8 might be it for me - definitely not all of the blogs in my feed, but a good start for you.  Sorry I didn't link to my favorite posts, but well ... there are no excuses.  I will just hang my head down in shame...

Thanks for Jen and Morgan for hosting!  Head on over to Morgan's to see everyone else's great posts on the link up!  Gotta read down my 218 posts so I can add new from all the great gals tonight!