I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Saturday, October 31, 2015

This is Halloween...This is Halloween...

Most kids prefer trick-or-treating...and most adults prefer costume parties...but me, I prefer pumpkin carving!

Growing up, we never had traditional jack-o-lanterns at our house. Not only were our pumpkins non-traditional, but my dad usually carved two, one for both of his daughters. Bert and Ernie, Gators and Spartans... What a champ.

It comes as no surprise, then, that when faced with my blank canvas (aka newly chosen pumpkin), I am ready for anything but ordinary. In honor of today's holiday of Halloween, I have compiled my 4 most recent pumpkin carvings below. In reading clockwise (starting with the top left), they are as follows: 2011 - Halloween in AZ (cactus and sun), 2013 - St Clement (my parish in Chicago), 2014 - Olaf (from Frozen), and 2015 (Mickey Mouse - this one's for Aunt Marg!).

I hope your Halloween is full of all of the good things you like to do. Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Day By Day

Family Mass at my school parish today - gotta love it. The church was bursting with parents and their children, and the kids even helped at Mass as lectors, choir members, and altar servers.

What I think was the best part was at the homily - Fr. Larry (not our pastor but the one who helps out) invited all of the children to come sit at the altar. And he sat right down with them, giving his homily from there. He explained how Bartamaeus had been blind and had called out to Jesus - he wanted to see him more clearly. After being healed of his blindness, Bartamaeus chose to follow Jesus. (It tells us this in the Gospel!) He told the children that we are called to follow Jesus too - and guess where Jesus is. As much as we may hate to admit it, Jesus is in our brothers and sisters. Do you see Jesus in your brother or sister?, he asked them. He wrapped up his homily by having us all sing the refrain to "Day by Day" - what are we called to do? "See thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly"...when? "day by day - every day!"

As a child, those opportunities really have the potential to stick with you because too many times, kids (and adults too!) are passive participants in the pews. Heck, I still remember being called up with the other children on any given Sunday morning when our "paper bag priest" would deliver (what I now know as) an object lesson - he would take a candy bar or ketchup bottle or some other seemingly random object out of his bag and teach us the message of the Gospel through some thoughtful activity and discussion.

So, yes, God is calling us to love one another as we follow Him. And, yes, that includes our siblings and those hardest to get along with at times. And it's not just for today or for tomorrow but for always. Day. by. Day.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

"Find Your Happy Place..."

It was so good to get away from the hustle and bustle of the day to day here in Chicago by heading out to Starved Rock with my sister and a good friend from church. As the next few weeks get even more hectic with the close of the trimester, I can go to my new "happy place," even if only in my mind:

We also had ice cream after. That pretty much takes any day to the next level...

God is slow...

Just wanted to pass along a prayer I received in my inbox today from Jesuit Prayer. I'd first heard it this summer from one of the ACE teachers I was mentoring, so it was a good reminder that God has a bigger (slower) plan that we may not see if we are constantly hoping for the next thing and the next, not truly aware of our present moments and circumstances:

"The Slow Work of God"

Above all trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and this may take a very long time.
Give the Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Get Excited!!!

Many of my 6th graders were visibly excited to come to Religion class today. (How refreshing!) They remembered that they had a project on stewardship ahead of them for the next two days, so it was time to get to work.

IN A NUTSHELL, here's what their task was… 

Role: Commercial writer/producer and advertiser
Audience: People (of all ages) of a local parish
Format: Want Ad/YouTube commercial
Topic: To recruit parishioners to serve their local church using their unique talents, time, and treasure - What is stewardship and what do the parishioners need to do about it?

(RAFT in disguise - yeah!)

I already saw a TON of creativity in the ways the students created their scripts for filming - some are going to act out various scenarios while others are going to voice over graphics that have to do with stewardship while still others are going to simply speak to the camera.

We have our "commercial viewing party" scheduled for Monday. Pretty excited for that, not going to lie...

Monday, October 19, 2015

You know Kelly's busy when...

...her blogging has fallen by the wayside - 10 posts for September/October (to date) combined? Sheesh.

I was at a school/parish meeting tonight, and in setting deadlines for our upcoming food drive, we all sat there marveling, Where did October go? (Next weekend is Halloween for crying out loud!)

Where has it (and September) gone? In honestly looking at this question, I could tell you the following:

- three to four nights of volleyball games or practices a week
- teacher professional development days, workshops, & webinars
- two incredible theater shows (Side Show & Ride the Cyclone) + one trip to the opera (Cinderella)
- multiple happy hour Fridays
- marathon-watching
- an end of the summer festival
- a one-day retreat
- ministry of care afternoons/evenings
- Bible study meetings
- two Notre Dame football games (Go Irish!)
- trips to the gym and runs along the Lakefront Path
- Etc...Etc...Etc...

I wish I had more time to read. 
I wish I had more time to talk to friends on the phone.
I wish I had more time to just kick back and not be consumed in stuff for school or church.

But, the funny thing is, I like being busy. Not busy for the point of no reason busy, but busy in the sense that I am taking advantage of all Chicago has to offer in  music and culture. 
Busy in the sense that I am spending time with friends/family. 
Busy in the sense that I am engaging in meaningful prayer and service through church.
Busy in the sense that I am watching my volleyball girls develop a better skill set and a deeper love for the game of volleyball on a daily basis.
Busy in the sense that when I hit the pillow on any given night I can drift right off to sleep due to sheer exhaustion.

That's the busy I love - I've found that when I take more time for other people and for church/service that God returns time to me in abundance. (He's so good about that.)

I do hope that November slows down just a tad, though. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Notre Dame, Michigan State, and University of South Florida football wins all on the same day - INCREDIBLE!

While it was a chilly day in the Bend, we had a good time...

Fight on for victory!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What the world needs now...

...is mercy.

I am so blessed to have been reminded of this today on retreat with fellow young adults at a local church. Through prayer, Scripture, witness, Adoration, confession, and fellowship, God's mercy was made truly tangible. For me, it's easy to fall into the role of the older son in the parable of the prodigal son - one who has always followed the rules, doing what he's supposed to do, but in reality not as close to the father as he may think (or want). How many times do I do things because I know they're the right thing to do or because I really just want to check off a box? Said morning prayer - check. Prayed the Rosary - check. But life isn't about check boxes. God loves us and showers us with his mercy in a prodigal (wasteful) way. We don't do anything to deserve this - He has chosen us. He loves us and comes to meet us even when we are a long ways off from him.

And if that wasn't enough, I went with a friend to bring communion to the nursing home after retreat. (Part of me had wanted to stay for Mass, but I decided to go tomorrow - and Marisa came too.) All of the residents were welcoming. One woman told me that she hopes she meets me again in heaven. (I told her that I hope I meet her again before that too.) I hadn't brought communion to anyone outside of the regular Mass in quite some time, so it was a wonderful experience, albeit different from bringing communion to the hospital. I look forward to continuing to go in the weeks to come. Eventually I may switch over to a hospital if that is where the need is.

My life is far from perfect, and it is far from ideal. But it is beautiful because I am loved by God, and I am called to show that love to others in that same prodigal way.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Called to Be Childlike

It's impossible not to notice that in the recent Sunday Gospel passages (October 4, September 27, & September 20, to name a few) Jesus focuses his followers on being childlike (not childish). Yes, children - they rely on their parents to provide for them so they don't have to worry, and they accept faith without reservation (and without letting limited human knowledge try to reason out and prove everything God has done).

So, if the disciples and others didn't get the message the first time, Jesus tried again...and again...

Being a middle school religion teacher, I'm at a crossroads with my students - it's the time of their lives when many of them start leaving their childlike faith for one where, instead, they try to fit God into a box, so to speak. (He doesn't belong in a box, by the way - He's too big for that.) In fact, a large percentage of my 8th graders are probably at a point where they think they know everything, or, if they don't, they at least feel like they need to sound like they have all the answers.

But there are some that are holding on to that childlike faith...

The students just finished their first unit of the year on prayer and the Mass. Their culminating project was to create a children's picture book about prayer - it could be informational (just the "facts") or it could actually be a story that illustrates the ideas behind prayer and having a relationship with God. About 80% of students chose the former format (which was undoubtedly the easier way to go), but the remaining ones opted for the latter. What resulted was incredible - these 13 and 14 year olds crafted stories that could probably only be told by children:

- One girl told the story of a young child who had a special relationship with her grandfather; she would call him, text him, write him, and draw him pictures, depending on how it best felt to talk to him that day. At times she would forget or not have time to call him, and she would feel sad. But, when she finally would pick up the phone again, she would only have to ask him to forgive her, and he would do so because he loved her. (Wow.)

- Another girl told the story of a young boy who planted a seed. He watered it and talked to it, but other kids made fun of him. So, after a time, he neglected it; the plant withered and shriveled up. The boy felt sad. He was sorry, and he tried to take care of the plant after a time...and it started to grow back. Eventually, a flower blossomed, and then many more did too. In the "epilogue" my student explained what everything in the story represented. (Again, wow.)

- One student wrote of a boy who was sick and dying from a disease. As his health deteriorated, so did his faith. At the end of his life, he ended up turning back to God, who welcomed him into heaven with open arms, praising the boy for his courage and faith. In this student's epilogue, she explained how everyone from time to time has challenges with his/her own faith, yet God remains there for us, waiting to welcome us back with open arms. (Holy cow - most adults have a hard time putting such things into words.)

There were other stories like these too. What a wonderful living and breathing example of what it means to be childlike as the Gospels have pointed out.

Again, Jesus is trying to tell us something. Let us be open to seeing as children see and entering into a relationship that is completely dependent on God.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


I keep joking with coworkers, family, and friends that maybe after the 6th grade girls' volleyball season is over I just might have a life. Seriously, though, there have been so many things that have been piling up that I want to blog about, but I just haven't had the time to sit down and do it.

And, just to be clear, I'm not saying that I'm not enjoying and learning from every bit of what life is throwing at me right now - don't worry, I haven't gotten to this point:

If I ever do get here, you'll know - I'll be miserable. :P

Enough about all of that; let's turn our attention to Fall!

Don't you just love the Daily Quipple?

Fall is my favorite season - it always has been, even though growing up in Florida we never had the changing leaves or cooler weather (at least not until January, really). It's football season, and school is still fresh & new. There are apples to be picked (doing that with some friends today!) and coats to be taken out of the closet (need to do that sometime soon). There are pumpkins to be carved and pumpkin treats to bake/taste.

And change is in the air - both changes we're excited about and changes we may have mixed feelings or be sad about. One of my good friends from church just got a new job (awesome!)...in St. Louis (not so awesome). As a few of us (including the gal who just got the new job) were sitting around at dinner last night (see image below for what our sushi looked like), we were talking about how on one hand we are going to miss her a lot but, on the other hand, how it's impossible not to be thrilled for this new opportunity where she will have more job satisfaction than she does now and be back with her immediate family. One of the other girls said something along the lines of "It's not about me. If it were, it'd be easy to say, 'You can't leave. I need you here.' But since it's not, I want what's best for you."

Mixed emotions, there we have it.

But all in all, there is so much to look forward to and be excited about on personal and professional levels. Here are just a few things:

Personal --> upcoming young adult retreat next weekend, apple picking with friends (today!), Chicago marathon cheering, friends' birthday celebrations, CST show...
Professional --> ongoing leadership opportunities with my school's data/school improvement committee, a unit on Catholic Social Teaching with 8th grade, a field trip to the theater with 6th grade, continued collaboration with the middle school team...

So, there you have it: Fall in a nutshell. I hope you find change and contentment in the beauty of this Fall...