Wednesday, September 23, 2015

#PopeInTheUS: Youth Ministry Activities

There are some great resources for this week’s visit at (and live/ on-demand coverage), but thanks to ideas from the internet (especially the fantastic @fayemccready), these are some activities we’re doing in youth ministry (adapting difficulty levels for middle and high school) to celebrate the Pope in the U.S. this week:

-To model Pope Francis’s love for the poor, instead of prizes for games, students have a choice.  They can either take a piece of candy for themselves or a can of food to donate to our local Catholic Charities.

-We set up a “Papal Photo Booth” with our stand-up Pope and included props like the Vatican flag, the U.S. Flag, the YouCat, a Bible, Our Lady of Guadalupe, soccer balls, footballs, etc.  I encourage the kids to take photos with Pope Francis and share it on social media!

-Using yellow sprinkles to make Papal “Sundays” with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream (pro tip:  get the ice cream already in cups and just add the sundae toppings!)

Icebreakers/ Games from Faye McCreedy:  

-“Ex Cathedra Musical Chairs”   musical chairs, but with a twist.  When the music stops, the student still standing is able to win back a chair by telling the name of an apostle (who hasn’t been named yet) or of a book or encyclical a Pope has written.  To speed it up (depending on the size of your group) you can take more than one chair out of the circle at a time.

-“Papal Flag Memory”  give teens a few minutes to study the papal flag, then see which team can draw it best from memory (can use this as an opportunity to teach about the symbolism of the flag).

-“Pope Mobile Race” - teams of teens drag each other on a  blanket through an obstacle course (we don’t have the space for this, but it sounds awesome!).

I’m sure there will be several great clips from the visit this week at, but we’ve also been watching the first part of this video:, when the Holy Father gives advice to a teen girl. Students of all ages have loved watching it!

I also created two power point/ keynote quizzes to use with the kids that can be found below.

Feel free to comment with activities you’ve developed to celebrate this week!  Sharing is caring!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

#PopeInTheUS: because sharing is caring...

These are two keynote quiz games I've made about Pope Francis to use with my kiddos this week...

A quiz on Pope Francis:

"Pope or Nope" :  How well do you know your Pope Francis quotes?

And if you're too cool for keynote and need them in power point, they're here:
(aka, my work of mercy for the day ;-)

A Quiz on Pope Francis:

"Pope or Nope":

Friday, April 10, 2015

M&M's, Easter and Remembering Grandma

One of my earliest memories of my grandparents is when they were left to babysit me and my younger siblings.  I was probably six or seven- the oldest- and I was aware that the evening's routine was far more relaxed than if my parent's had been there.  I remember watching movies, playing cards and no clearly defined bedtime.

However, the most incredible moment of the night was when we were in the middle of a card game and my grandma turned to my grandpa and said, "Jack, I could really go for some chocolate right now."  I may or may not have tried to find some cookies in the kitchen- but clearly that was not what Grandma wanted.  Grandma wanted candy.

To my amazement, my grandfather drove to the grocery store and picked up both peanut AND chocolate m&m's.  After dark.  When we didn't need anything practical like milk or bread.  "Your Grandfather, he's such a good man."  Grandma explained.  When he returned, they brought both bags into the living room, where we ate them on the floor.  I wasn't even told how many I could have.

Tonight, when I was driving to the grocery store to get cream for my coffee, I thought about this moment with my grandparents.  It's such a great memory- a memory of my Grandfather loving my Grandmother (and his grandkids) enough to go to the store after dark.  A memory of breaking rules about bedtime and eating much candy as I wanted to- and not even having to sit at the kitchen table.  A great memory.

Tomorrow will have been one year since my Grandma died.  So it seemed only fitting that I pick up a bag of m&m's when I got to the store.  Losing Grandma remains one of the most wrenching moments of my life.  Losing Grandma before she had a chance to see the amazing wedding dress I found (on sale- as she had always taught me to shop) and sit in the front row (her space) when I (finally) walked down the aisle (after her many novenas that I would discern my vocation)  was a devastating plot twist in a year that had started out like a fairytale.

But tonight- a year later- I'm sitting here, eating m&m's and thinking about how the resurrection of Christ that we celebrated last week means that I have hope.  Hope that Grandma and Grandpa are together again.  Hope that I'll see them one day, too.  Hope that, united in the mystical body of Christ that transcends what I'm able to see with my eyes, Grandma is praying for me and my family even though we still miss her an awful lot.

"Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Don't get me wrong.  The sting is there.  It's so, so there sometimes.  But it's less than it was a year ago, six months ago, six weeks ago.  And today, as I'm sitting here eating m&m's, I'm realizing that the sting isn't less because I forget.  It's less because I hope.

So Alleluia.  He has risen, and that changes everything.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Adult Swim

Last night Jim and I were comparing childhood memories, specifically summers at the swimming pool.  We realized that while we had grown up in different states, the traditions of community pools didn’t vary much.  There was still a “lap lane” for the competitive types to actually swim laps- away from the nuisance of kids playing “Marco Polo”.  There were still rules about how many people could be on a diving board.  And there was still the tremendous injustice of “Adult Swim”.

This, especially, was news to me.  As a child there was nothing we dreaded more than the last ten minutes of every hour when the lifeguard would blow their whistle and announce “Adult Swim!”  Dozens of kids would have to empty the pool and sit on the sidelines, glaring, while one or two adults would wade around the shallow end, the pool completely to themselves.  We felt it was a tremendous injustice- we only had so many hours and minutes left in our summer vacations and to have to spend it on the sidelines, eating goldfish, when we’d rather be diving for pennies was just so unfair. 

Reflecting on this trauma of childhood, my husband the safety expert pointed out, “well, it probably wasn’t for the adults to actually swim.  It was probably to force the kids to take a break so they didn’t get tired out and drown.”

This had never occurred to me, but it made perfect sense.  Most kids don’t have the discipline to take a break when they’re tired and there are friends to race across the pool, and most parents and babysitters don’t want to be the bad guys who say “come sit for a minute”.  Those ten minutes of rest each hour was a way for everyone to save face.

What a revelation.  This annoyance of childhood may have actually been a safety precaution (or perhaps an unintended one).

This is rolling around my head as I approach Lent this year.  Like any over-confident millennial, I don’t think there’s any room for improvement in my life.  Sure I hit the snooze button a dozen times in the morning and eat chocolate for my 10:00 a.m. snack, but Lent is for everyone else who needs improvement- not me. 

However, today’s gospel reminds me that even Christ “went off to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35) and I’m humbly reminded that if Christ took concentrated time to reflect and pray, maybe I should too.

Lent—forty days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving—are like that adult swim that I thought was totally unnecessary as a child.  A designated time for me to focus on where I’ve grown lazy or complacent in my relationship with God, a time for me to be brutally honest and realize that there are in fact many areas of my life that sin, selfishness and laziness have settled in.

Full disclosure.  I don’t like lent.  I don’t like self-reflection.  I’d rather keep going full speed ahead, with no thought of where or how I need to change.

I don’t like lent, but I need it.

Sunday, December 8, 2013



It’s like shark week.  But better.  The brainchild of the amazing Katie Prejean, this year anyone can join in on this social-media meets spirituality challenge to reflect on what it means to be a sheep.  

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” 
-Psalm 23:1
Here’s how it works:
  1. Personalize your sheep (print out the graphic above and give it your own flair:  bedazzle, duct tape, a stache…  whatever works for you).  Carry your sheep with you for the week!
  2.  Follow the hashtag #SheepWeek13 on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and share photos of you doing the challenges with your sheep.  
  3. Take the following challenges for each day of the week and share a picture of you doing them (with your sheep):
    • Tuesday, December 10:  Spend some time with Jesus (adoration if you can)
    • Wednesday, December 11:  Give something away to someone in need.
    • Thursday, December 12:  Do something something nice for your parents (but don't tell them what it is ;-)
    • Friday, December 13:  Pray for our shepherds.  The Pope, our Priests, Bishops, Deacons and Seminarians.  Write a note to your pastor (or another shepherd in your life) to say "thank you" for their leadership.
    • Saturday, December 14:  Go to confession!
    • Sunday, December 15:  Wear pink to mass and take a #SelfieSunday with you and your sheep swag!  Share a moment of joy from the week.
    • Monday, December 15:  Be a shepherd for others and pray with someone.

Learn from teens (and adults) across the country on how they share what it means to follow Christ, our Shepherd.

Don't Forget to use the hashtag #SheepWeek13 & #SheepWeek2013.

Follow @KatiePrejean, @alisongriz, @cribbs, @perpetualmin, @OLQHTeens, @StCelesTEENS to see what others are doing!  Feel free to share your twitter handle in the comments so others can find you!

Monday, July 8, 2013

figuring out how to be...

Tonight was one of those nights with middle schoolers that I actually brought on myself because I served them soda someone had donated (if only they would donate caffeine free organic chamomile tea, right?) and allowed them to eat the oreos they found at the end of the scavenger hunt.  Then, inspired by the family dinners at Covecrest, I put out some big paper for them to doodle on during dinner.  In hindsight, the combination of caffeine + frosting + magic markers was a bit much.

This resulted in no “discussion” time where deep thoughts were shared and insights into the Christian life were gained.  No, this was a night where I had to actually say, “there is nothing funny about Hitler jokes” and assure a seventh grader that Mark Hart—the guy on the video leading bible study-- was not one of the guys in “Hangover 2”.   One of those nights when lots of words were being said but very little conversation actually occurring. 

It was during one of those monologues that a newer student said quietly, “I’m just still trying to figure out how I’m supposed to be here” and I snapped back, “a good way to do that is talk less and listen more”.  Then I tried to, again, reign the conversation back around to the point about keeping holy the Sabbath that I was trying to make.

It was only an hour later, when they had gone home and I was scraping oreo frosting and frayed nerves off the floor that I realized I had totally failed.

See, middle school youth ministry will make you mental, but it’s also truly a gifted moment to be present in these kid’s lives.  They ARE figuring out how they’re supposed to be.  Not just at youth group but everywhere.  Church, school, family, volleyball…  You name it, in every area they are in a state of becoming.   Tonight, I missed my opportunity and focused too much on trying to control the chaos and too little on the doors the kiddos were opening with their questions. 

Should middle schoolers be allowed to interrupt or make Hitler jokes?  No.  But do they know that yet?  Maybe not.  I forget that for some kiddos, this is the first time they’ve sat at a table of peers and adults and been invited to simply share what’s on their mind and heart.  It’s going to take them some time to learn what’s appropriate and not appropriate to say and do. 

Meanwhile, I need to be patient while they figure out how they’re supposed to be—correcting when necessary but encouraging in excess, realizing that these small moments are a small part of the foundation of who they will be as mature Catholics. 

I also need to portion those oreos.