Confirming faith

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On Sunday morning, there was an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the altar of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Lawrence, Kansas. This outpouring was brought on by the sacrament of confirmation that changed the lives of several adults. One of whom is very dear to me: my boyfriend. He missed the chance to get confirmed when he was younger, so after I found out I wanted to do my part to help him complete the fourth Catholic sacrament.

If you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, confirmation is one of the seven sacraments that involves saying ‘yes’ to the Catholic faith as a consenting adult. By saying ‘yes,’ you are strengthening your commitment to your faith and deepening your love of Christ by choice. The sacrament of confirmation circles back to baptism, which is the first sacrament of initiation that welcomes you into the faith community as a baby (or as an adult if you join the church later in life).

fullsizeoutput_4e9A key similarity between these sacraments is that during baptism, your parents choose your godparents, and during confirmation, you select your sponsor. Baptismal godparents and a confirmation sponsor virtually share the same role: (a) faithful role model(s) who lead(s) by example and push(es) the baptized/confirmed person to carry out their faith for the rest of their life.

You can imagine how touching it is when someone, who sees you as a faithful role model, asks you to be their confirmation sponsor. I’ve served in this role twice now, and each experience was full of privilege and responsibility. Standing next to someone as they’re being “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” is breathtaking. Right at that moment, you witness the gift of grace ignite a flame in their heart that will help them lead a life similar to Christ’s life, which is the sacrament’s goal. By realigning our life to follow Christ, we will inspire others.

Jesus had 12 disciples, and he wanted them to create more disciples and so on. Of course, the only way we can create our own disciples is to be on fire for the Holy Spirit and serve Christ lovingly within our interactions and decisions. This is why one confirmation ritual is to choose a saint’s name. I chose St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (died 1821, canonized 1975), while my boyfriend chose St. John Paul II (died 2005, canonized 2014). Both are known for their remarkable impacts on Catholicism and encompassed excellent qualities that are worth modeling ourselves after.

By choosing one of Jesus’ faithful disciples to accompany us on our own spiritual journey, we are guaranteed to find more solace and strength during the most difficult times. In the back of our mind, we know that this saint, along with all the saints and angels, is watching over us 24 hours a day. He or she will rejoice when we ask them to intercede and pray for us. This special connection will fuel us to be better Catholics, and that’s what our goal should be: to strive for Heaven.

I really hope this isn’t my last time serving as a confirmation sponsor. ✝️

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I’m a Kansan for Life

Last night, Kansans for Life hosted their Valentine’s Day Banquet. At 7 p.m. close to a thousand people gathered at the Ritz Charles in Overland Park to celebrate the pro-life efforts being made to end abortion in the United States. From toddlers to college students to older couples, it was a very diverse group. I sat with folks from the Archdiocese of Kansas, which included a friend who marched for life with me in Washington D.C. a few weeks prior (Read more about M4L). As a strong advocate for the unborn, it was an honor to be amongst Archbishop Naumann, the Governor of Kansas, Dr. Jeff Colyer, and the Secretary of State, Kris Kobach. These men are going out of their way every single day to speak on behalf of the right to life. I have so much respect for their perseverance and faithful dedication.

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While the dinner was delicious: bruschetta chicken, garlic potatoes, green beans and red velvet cake washed down with exceptional coffee, that wasn’t the part I enjoyed most. It was the event’s keynote speaker, Wesley J. Smith, who inspired and encouraged me to never stop believing that this cause isn’t worth fighting for. Protecting the sanctity of life and human dignity as a whole is the most worthy cause out there, and if I don’t stand up for it now, how will I forgive myself down the road?

Believe it or not, Wesley J. Smith wasn’t the planned keynote speaker. Originally, Sue Ellen Browder was going to speak about her conversion from a feminist, pro-abortion writer for Cosmopolitan magazine to a pro-life Catholic, but was struck by the unforgiving flu at the last minute. Fortunately, Wesley spoke at the KFL banquet ten years prior, and his intelligence and passion were known for dazzling audiences when he spoke on the issues of abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide. We were all excited to hear Sue Ellen, but we quickly shifted our excitement over to Wesley.

“We are all subjects, not objects. We are not here to be used, we are here to be loved. When you use someone as an object, you’re committing evil.”  -Wesley J. Smith

Wesley J. Smith is an American lawyer and author. He serves as a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. We’re very lucky to have him defending life in his work against assisted suicide and euthanasia. He shared a variety of his own opinions and quoted other published works. He excited and scared us with what he had to say. When he tied it all together, his primary point was that the definition of life’s purpose is shifting, and not in a good way. This is why speaking out about the value of a human life is more crucial than ever.

He ended his presentation with a quote by William Lloyd Garrison that chilled the bones of every person in the room, “The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal and hasten the resurrection of the dead.” Allowing cruelties like euthanasia, abortion and assisted suicide to exist is consuming the lives of those who still have value. This kind of cruelty should be behind us, not wreaking havoc on our present society. What would our Founding Fathers say?

I departed from the Ritz Charles at 9:30 p.m. with a whole new motivation for praying and speaking out for human dignity and the right to life for all. 👼❤️

Parish on a mission

In 2016, Pope Francis selected 100 priests in the US to be Papal Missionaries of Mercy. Their mission was to travel to Catholic churches all over the country and spend three nights spreading the Gospel. This year, Father Jim Sichko [sitch-co] from the Diocese of Lexington, KY was assigned to our parish in Overland Park. His “60 minutes for Jesus” sessions lasted from January 29-31. During these hour-long sessions, he stood on the altar making us laugh, sharing real life experiences and giving us lessons to take with us into the Lenten season, which starts February 14.

From the moment you hear him speak, you can tell he has a performance background. His dynamic presence and commanding voice made him captivating and entertaining to listen to and watch. Each night, he filled our church, and I’m not using that word lightly. Our parking lot overflowed and by the second night, they had to put up a projector screen in the lower level so excess crowds would have a place to sit. I was thrilled so many came to hear him, and I hoped they all took away something from his sessions like I did.

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Each session highlighted different topics. He told us new stories and sprinkled in new words of wisdom in the three hours he had with us. At the start of each night, he instructed us to stand and sing “All Creatures of Our God & King”. This older hymn is known for its resounding Alleluia chorus. All three nights, he challenged us to sing out as loud as we could. After the final chorus ended, he would dive into a series of stories and lessons. Since each night was different, let’s go through each one.

First Night: January 29, 2018

He taught us the three steps for being kind. Kindness, he explained, is a simple concept that alludes many in our society. As someone who needs to be more positive, I needed to hear this. He told us it costs nothing to be kind, and by being kind we’ll receive so much in return because kindness can lead to evangelization. Most people believe evangelization is the equivalent of shoving Jesus down people’s throats, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Being kind to everyone is the first step to living a more positive, fulfilled and faith-centered life. After all, we’re all enduring some kind of cross, but the cross isn’t the end and we don’t have to let it damage our life or the lives of others.

3 Steps for Being Kind: Stop being jerks and passing your messiness onto others; stop gossiping and learn to control your tongue; and always give others the benefit of the doubt. 

Second Night: January 30, 2018

After singing the same hymn as loud as we could, Fr. Jim taught us several important lessons like taking risks and trusting that God has our back. He told us that we are guaranteed to fall sometimes, and we need to trust that God is there for us when we do. We also need to do what he asks of us, even if it’s scary. By trusting him fully and giving openly without fear, we will be rewarded twice over. While there were no concrete steps given like nights one and three, Fr. Jim told us two real life experiences that demonstrated the ultimate power of trusting, giving openly and receiving.

The $5,000: Fr. Jim visited a church in Louisiana and found out they were selling $75 tickets. He was outraged and was told they planned on using his mission as their fundraiser to raise $5K for a Mary garden. Fr. Jim took out his checkbook on the spot and wrote them a check for that amount. A couple days later, he took his mom out to lunch at a casino. He put a dollar in one of the machines and won back the $5K. Soon after that, his friend’s 19-year-old son was killed in the crossfire of a gang fight. Upon hearing the news, Fr. Jim called his other friend who ran a funeral home and asked if he would plan the entire funeral for $5,000. His friend agreed. 

The boy with terminal cancer: Whenever Fr. Jim receives a donation toward his mission, he contacts the sender to express his gratitude. Upon leaving one parish, he decided to text the couple who wrote him a $1,000 check that had their cell number included. He thanked them and said he was headed to Pittsburgh, PA. He received an immediate response saying they were also in Pittsburgh to visit their nephew, Russell, who had terminal cancer. Fr. Jim knew right away that he needed to visit Russell. He found out the hospital and sped all the way there, so he could make it back in time for his mission that night. He was soon pulled over by a new cop who did everything by the book. The cop asked why he’d been speeding. He explained he was headed to visit a boy named Russell with terminal cancer. When the officer asked him to repeat the information again, he then informed him that Russell was his younger brother. He then gave Fr. Jim a police escort. When Fr. Jim arrived, he discovered that Russell hadn’t received any of the sacraments. During that visit, he was baptized, received the Eucharist, gave his confession, was confirmed and received anointing of the sick. A few weeks later, Fr. Jim returned to do his funeral. 

Third Night: January 31, 2018

“All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and let us sing …” 🎼 I’m sure we all had this hymn memorized by the third run. Fr. Jim then reminded us that we’re all spiritually-dry people and only Jesus can quench our thirst. Therefore, by giving God 100% of our effort, we will never be thirsty. The essential lesson he wanted us to walk away with that last night was the six steps to follow the Holy Spirit’s call. We all know following the Holy Spirit can be difficult, especially when we’re persecuted for our faith, but that’s where trusting God comes into play. When we take risks and encounter Jesus, it changes everything, as we’ve seen countless times in the Gospel (i.e. the blind see, the lame walk, the dead are risen, etc.)

6 Steps to Follow the Holy Spirit: (1) Be rooted in Jesus Christ; (2) Show gratitude always by giving thanks to God; (3) Keep the vision/ “eye on the prize” and communicate that vision (Jesus) no matter what; (4) Remember that small things matter to Jesus like acts of kindness; (5) Be willing to do difficult things (remember his crucifixion); (6) Attract followers, but do not depend on them or their approval. 

God bless Father Jim Sichko and his beautiful mission. I’m grateful that he spent those three hours giving us tough love, life lessons and memorable testimonies that showed us the power of being kind, taking risks and openly giving God 100% of our effort. 💜