Tuesday, January 25, 2011

my favorite part of the March for Life...

I just returned from our youth group's pilgrimage to the March for Life.  More stories to come, after I wake up, but a quick breakdown of some of our numbers…  34 7th-12th graders, 12 adult chaperones (including two Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist), two of the best bus drivers ever , 25 hours on a bus (round trip), 300 hot hands, 150 granola bars, 50 sack lunches and about 18 hours of sleep spread out over four nights… 

It’s epic, really.

I've mentioned that I was initially reluctant to bring kids to the March for Life and am constantly surprised at what they gain from it and their enthusiasm to return.  My hope is always that they see it not just as a road-trip-adventure (which it is) but as a chance to commit to upholding the dignity of all humans from conception to natural death. 

The experience which confirmed this was before any of our actual March for Life activities took place.  We had just spent the morning touring the Holocaust, Smithsonians and Archives (and learning an important lessons about layering clothes in winter weather) and were herding the freezing, under-dressed youths onto the bus for the Life is Very Good Rally on Sunday night.

My only focus was counting heads, but one of my teens tugged my sweatshirt and said, “Miss Alison, there’s a guy out there digging through the trash.  Can I give him something to eat?”  She was right.  I hadn’t even seen him.  I knew that I had an extra sandwich, so I went to get it out of my bag.  No announcement, no request from me.  I turned around to dozens of kids (and observant adults) passing up their snacks.  By the time I returned to the front of the bus, my arms were full of Capri suns, peanut butter crackers, hand warmers and cookies.  Our driver accompanied the student who offered him the collection; he accepted everything but the beef jerky.  I don’t blame him.  

I had walked right by a man digging in a dumpster.  A 17 year old noticed.  I love youth ministry.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

we love life

Hilton Head high student wants you to know, life is good

originally published Tuesday, January 18, 2011 in the Bluffton Packet
This weekend I'll be taking 38 teens and 12 adult chaperones to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Politics aside, it's a pilgrimage -- a spiritual journey -- that gives the teens an opportunity to prayerfully stand up for their beliefs. In Deuteronomy 30:19 we are told by God, "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you are your descendents may live."
Issues surrounding human life can be emotionally charged, but one teen in our group wrote an essay on her way to a soccer practice about why she was attending the March for Life, and it beautifully captures the notion that the choice for life -- while sometimes difficult -- is good.
By Julee Kuklinski
When I was about 9, my mom told me that we would be adopting a child.
She had tears falling from her eyes.
She told me that she decided that China was the place she picked.
She had tears falling from her eyes.
We found out what the cost of this process would be.
She had tears falling from her eyes.
She found out about the amount of paperwork that she had to fill out.
She had tears falling from her eyes.
We had to move to South Carolina.
She had tears falling from her eyes.
We had to celebrate four more Christmases, Halloweens and Easters without you.
She had tears falling from her eyes.
The people told us that it was our turn for China to pick a child for us.
She had tears falling from her eyes.
We got the picture of you on Dec. 29, 2008.
There were tears falling from her eyes.
We got information on who we were traveling with, when we were going and more very important details.
There were tears falling from her eyes.
She held the tickets from Chicago to Beijing.
There were tears falling from her eyes.
We saw you for the first time.
There were tears falling from her eyes.
During this whole process, there were tears falling from your birth mother's eyes.
When I say "her," I mean your forever mother. And when I say "birth mother," I mean the person who chose life, even though the decision was difficult. That is the reason that I am marching in D.C., for your birth mother. Thanking her for the choice that changed our lives forever. And for all the mothers who are having a hard time choosing which way to go. I pray that my story will want them to be like these two amazing mothers who made a difference in my life.
Julee Kuklinski is in 10th grade at Hilton Head Island High School. She is an avid soccer player, member of St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church and will be attending the March for Life in Washington D.C. with 37 other teens representing St. Francis, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church and the Lowcountry community this weekend.


A youth minister typically lasts about 18 months at a parish...

I've been at my parish part time for two years and am in the middle of my third year full time.  I have, in no way, figured anything out except to pray.  A lot.  However, tonight I talked to some seniors who are graduating this spring-- the first group of kids whom I've watched go all the way through high school.  Listening to them reflect on high school, their choices and where they're going in the future, I realized something.

Catholic teenagers turn into Catholic adults.

If you're a youth minister in your first couple years...  Couragio!  It's not easy.  But so worth it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Dilemma

My friends talked me into seeing The Dilemma  last Friday.  For the record, I wanted to see How Do You Know because I find Owen Wilson endearing, but I was outnumbered and having one of those evenings where I desperately needed to interact with adults who didn’t know or care about Selena Gomez, so  if it meant spending $7.50 on a movie I didn’t know much about or up until that point have any desire to see, I was in.  I figured between Vince Vaughn and a PG-13 rating, I was probably going to be entertained and not too offended. If nothing else, I could catch up on sleep in a room where my cell phone doesn't get reception.

Disclaimer #1:  The rest of this contains a few minor spoilers.  Nothing a smart person wouldn't figure out, and   no one sees dead people, but you get the idea.

Disclaimer #2: I wouldn’t recommend this film to teens, my pastor or my mom.  It’s definitely a rental…  if that…  You will see someone’s naked (tattooed) backside, couples cohabitate and there are no absolute moral lessons to be learned.  Did I just give enough disclaimer to write about it?  No one’s gonna rush off and show it to their youth group cause they saw me tweet about?  We savvy?

That all being said, it was an interesting examination of honesty, marriage and hope.  It was also really funny.  I’ve been thinking about it all weekend. 

Lying and evading the truth catches up with everyone.  The basic plot is that Vince Vaughn’s character—a 40 year old guy, dating a great girl he’s summoning the strength to propose too—discovers his bff’s wife is having an affair.  Distraught over this and it's implications for marriage in general, he doesn’t know how to tell his best friend and doesn’t confide in his girlfriend.  While making for a hilarious plot, many can sympathize with the angst of being caught in the middle of drama.  It’s painful examination of how humans are community and there’s no such thing as a personal sin--  it affects everyone.

Their treatment of the struggles of marriage were sad and secular—you recognize that the couple had given up on each other and the tragic consequences of that.  I also felt that there was an unfair emphasis on the evil of the wife's affair while the husband's visit to "massage parlors" was shrugged off...  However, there was a surprising display of hope (and classic chick-flick cheese, I concede) when Vaughn’s character, rather than succumb to the idea that fidelity in marriage is a myth, decides to propose anyways.  An interesting example of, where sin increases, grace abounds that I wouldn't expect Hollywood to develop but which still gives the viewer a lot to think about.  What makes people persevere, even when they're surrounded by bad examples? Grace, of course...  And Vaughn's character demonstrates a surprising amount of it from overcoming addiction, to fumbling through a prayer when he doesn't know what to do and his ultimate somewhat courageous decision to give marriage a go.

It’s only a movie, but it has had me thinking all weekend about community, sin and grace.  And, ultimately, hope that we haven’t completely lost sight of the idea of marriage… yet.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

pour me some kool aid...

In addition to the day that apparently, the entire  country is shut down due to serious and not so serious threats of snow, is is also the day that *eyebrows up with anticipation* verizon announces it will be getting the iPhone.  I find this exciting.  If you know me, you know that I have a love-hate relationship with the iPhone--  totally in awe of it's powers yet disgusted with AT&T's dismal coverage in my town.  So bad, in fact, that when my friend LD comes to visit we've actually missed entire evenings of socializing because I haven't been able to track her down via phone.  AT&T just doesn't work.  Bryan Murdaugh can offer similar stories of being on Hilton Head and getting schooled in a google contest by my blackberry when the 3G failed.  Constantly.

To clarify, I have never hated the iPhone.  I have hated AT&T for monopolizing it.  I've hated Verizon for firing Chad and keeping their creepy network guy.  (I have explained this to the Verizon employees who have patiently listened to me share how I felt like I could trust Chad, and this new guy is creepy...  They have humored me, agreeing, "yeah, he looks like he drives a van.")  I am sure that Chad,were he still around, would've gotten the iPhone a long time ago.  But that's another story.

Verizon, despite their superior coverage in SC, constantly disappoints.  Their plans stink.  They didn't get the Blackberry Torch.  They got rid of Chad...  I honestly liken Verizon to an abusive relationship that I can just not afford to loose because despite taking my money and rewarding me with an inferior phone, it is a phone that works in every pocket of the state.  That's why I'm not holding my breath that in 82 minutes they will, literally, fulfill all of my hopes and dreams (when it comes to phones, anyways) of being able to play angry birds, words with friends and log my non-existent runs on #runkeeper.

But, if they do...  I'm eligible for an upgrade in March...  and I feel as though I should be waiting with a glass of kool-aid at 11:00 a.m., ready to toast to the end of my days as a blackberry outcast and join your cult.

Monday, January 10, 2011

catch up on your reading...

Praise the Lord, there appears to not be any snow on the ground here on HHI.  As I sit here, downing coffee, nursing a bake-sale hangover, I am somewhat saddened that I don't have an excuse to say inside all day.  For those of you who do, however, here's some columns from the last two weeks:

From the Bluffton Packet: how I finally beat the flower ladies.
From the Bluffton Packet: Spiritual Anorexia
And, from The Catholic Miscellany: that one time I almost died.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


This morning I tweeted:  "teen wants to make a sign for the #marchforlife: "abortionists: whacking babies since 1973". while true, excessive? thoughts? #youthministry"

There have been lots of good responses.  Here’s what I’ve been thinking about all day.

While teens can be apathetic (I once had a girl ask why we bother to help the third world attain clean drinking water when, “they’re used to walking miles to get it anyways”…  Yeah…) the March for Life has served as a catalyst for some passionate discussions and opinionated statements.  As an adult, I'm used to the idea of abortion.  I’m not ok with it by any means, but I’ve grown up with it being legal, know very good people who are in favor of its legalization and have friends who have decided to have abortions.  It’s a part of the world I'm in whether I like it or not.

Kids, on the other hand, are learning the reality of where babies come from, how laws are made and just what is and isn’t legal and for many of them talking about the March for Life and abortion brings about a sort of “ah-ha” moment and their minds—unaffected by the years of trying to say things diplomatically and inch our point across-- recoil when they learn what abortion is.  They are “totally grossed out” that doctors actually cooperate to end human life.  Doctors, in their minds, are like policeman, firemen or Taylor Swift—people who would never intentionally hurt you.  In their minds, it’s black and white.  Doctors are supposed to save lives, not end them.  

Like any issue, the issue of abortion must be handled with love.  Love for babies but also love for mothers and doctors and maybe even Nancy Pelosi…  Our actions and words must first reflect charity and love.  Bombing clinics and hurling insults is no way to win people over. It’s sick and wrong and a total distortion of being pro-life.

However, in a world that is growing more and more apathetic, this teen’s proposed sign made me think.  Would it have been uncharitable to hold up a sign outside of Auschwitz that read, “Nazis Gas Prisoners Here”?  Would it have been uncharitable to hold up a sign at a slave market that read “Owning Slaves is Wrong”?  Did Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Corrie TenBoom and St. Maximilian Kolbe make people uncomfortable?  You bet.  They were excessive, thank God.  They pricked the consciences of those in society who desperately needed it. 

I would never allow a teen to carry a sign condemning women who have had abortions, promoting violence against those who are pro-choice or with a message that’s obscene or profane.  However, when I look at what she proposed, while blunt, it’s not uncharitable or obscene.  It’s stating a fact that makes us all really uncomfortable.  And the group that she is calling out are doctors—  not young couples who are making decisions under the duress of an unplanned pregnancy or even the well-intentioned activists who believe legalized abortion makes the world a better place.  She’s calling out the people who hold the scalpels…  Who know full well that abortion stops a beating heart—and do it anyways.

Excessive?  Maybe.  But her sign—and my resulting discomfort—has pricked my conscience and made me think.  Above all, we love.  But there are many moments in scripture where Christ spoke the truth and made people uncomfortable.  

This makes me wonder… What sign would Jesus carry at the March for Life?


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Confessions of a March for Lifer

I admit it.  I never would've brought the kiddos to the March for Life if Sister Mary Joseph hadn't done it first.  Back in 2009—my first year full-time at St. Francis, she blusters into my room right around this time in January with a scrap of paper she's been taking notes on and says, "hey.  Alison.  Will you be a chaperone for the march for Life?" 
"uh, you mean next year?"  The March was in two weeks.  There was no way she was pulling this off.
"no.  We spent all of math class planning it.  The kids have it all figured out."  She explained.
"You planned a trip to the March for Life, in two weeks, in one 8th grade Math class?"…  This was gonna be good.  And, sure enough, they had.  They had found drivers, chaperones and basically mapped out the whole trip.  That was how I found myself, two weeks later, in a Honda Odyssey with three middle school boys, a Dad and a Dominican (There were girls too…  But I got put in the boys van?) speeding to Washington, DC at 4:00 a.m.
I would never have attempted this trip.  Frankly, the March for Life scared me.  I had gone when I was in college but the thought of bringing kids from Hilton Head to a huge crowd, in a city, in the middle of winter just seemed potentially catastrophic.  Plus, I thought it was one of those things that people would be all like, "oh, yeah, sounds great" and then not actually go.
What initially seemed to be a moment of insanity on the part of Sister Mary Joseph was actually a great trip.  The kids loved the Catholic Youth Rally, seeing the National Basillica and marching with hundreds of thousands through the capitol.  One of the kids, absolutely agog at the crowds asked me, said to me, "this happens every year?"
"yep.  Every year"  I replied.
"then HOW is there still abortion?"  He marveled.
That first group of six kids came home so fired up about the march for life that last year I conceded that maybe we could attempt an organized trip last year.  It was epic.  We had 35 kids and 15 adults sign up to drive all night, sleep on a floor and be freezing.  Plus, the parish supported us in a huge way—everyone told the kids how proud they were that St. Francis would be representing them.  I couldn't believe it.
The thing about the March is that it gives teens—who are very passionate about their beliefs—a forum to express them.  They love the idea of suffering for a cause that they feel strongly about.  They've written great essays and defenses of life, explained to teachers, coaches, bosses and friends where they're going and even recruited friends to come. 
This year we're bringing 38 teens and 12 adults.  I've started having nightmares about busses showing up on the wrong day and kids getting lost in DC, but as much sleep as I loose in the weeks leading up to the March for Life, I think I'd lose more if we didn't do anything.  Seeing the kids get so indignant about abortion reminds me that this law of our land is just not right.  They're enthusiastic and young and many don't understand everything that has to happen for the law of the land to change but watching them I am actually inspired by this naiveté…  ready to chant in the streets of DC, "hey, ho, hey, ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!", ask "what the FOCA?" and, basically, remind the world that life is very good.