Wednesday, January 18, 2017

El Paso: So Excited To Share WLP's New Resource for Children's Initiation

Wednesday greetings from El Paso, Texas. Over a thousand people are registered over the four days of this annual Southwest Liturgical Conference. The conference jumps from diocese to diocese here in the Southwest each year. So proud of WLP's own Peter Kolar, who is coordinating the music for the event this year.

Yesterday, Peter and I set up the WLP booth. Looks great, don't you think?

This is the first conference at which we are sharing our new resource for children's initiation, Children of the Light: Precatechumenate Sessions for Children and Families, by Blessie La Scola.

Blessie is a retired catechist from Southern California, who has been ministering with children in Christian Initiation for nearly thirty years. She is ready to send us the next two volumes. This volume contains a CD-ROM, with lots of handouts and a "Letter Home" for each session. This represents months of editorial and design work. I am so excited that we can share this with the Church; it helps WLP fulfill its mission: "to serve and inspire the singing, praying, initiating church."

More from El Paso as this week unfolds.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Between New Orleans and El Paso

Monday greetings. It's another one of "those days" here in the Midwest; raining with temperature in the mid-thirties. Makes you want to curl up under a blanket.

I spent the past several days in New Orleans. I gave a presentation at the Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference. My focus was on cultivating intentional hospitality in the parish.

I had an interesting conversation with a woman who was in her early seventies. She spoke with me after my workshop. She shared some of her story. She went through the RCIA in the last two years. She decided to become a Catholic after her daughter married a Catholic and became Catholic herself. She decided to become Catholic because she wanted to help be a spiritual guide for her grandchildren, who will be formed in the Catholic faith.

Her description of the RCIA process in her parish was far from glowing. She said that everyone, save herself, who was in the RCIA was there because they were marrying a Catholic. She told me that no one ever asked any questions; they were just there to get through it. When she prodded these young adults, urging them to ask questions, they told her, "We wait for you to raise your hand; you ask all our questions for us."

Once she was initiated, she found that there was really nothing in place to help her become involved in the parish. Her pleas to the parish leadership were either ignored or unanswered. She told me that she eventually went to the diocesan offices to complain and to let them know that, even thought she went through the RCIA, she found that the parish was unwelcoming to this new Catholic!

I asked her to contact me to tell me more of her story. I am hoping to write a new book soon and want to weave some of these stories, as well as successful ones, into it. I am thinking of calling it "How About Starting with Hello?" Intentional Hospitality for the Parish.

This is my only day here in the office this week. I am headed to El Paso in the morning, where I will be giving two workshops and a WLP music showcase at the annual Southwest Liturgical Conference. Feeling a bit weary, but plugging away!

More from El Paso as the week unfolds.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Virtual Journey Together

Tuesday greetings on the kind of day in the Midwest that we all dread here; 41 degrees, raining, raw, and windy; it goes right through you!

I am gearing up for the GO: Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference that will take place just outside of New Orleans, in Kenner, beginning this coming Thursday. I always enjoy this conference and this year they are having a focused liturgy track as part of the conference. I am doing a presentation entitled "Intentional Hospitality: Cultivating the Welcoming Parish." In it, I will tell my own story about "shopping" for a parish once I left a parish of which I had been a member for over ten years.

This reminds me of something that occurred this past summer while I was leading one of WLP's "Sing the Seasons" choral reading sessions. During the break that evening, a woman came up to me and told me that she and I had been on a very similar journey and that she was so grateful that I had been her companion on that journey. I though it was odd because I had never seen nor even met this person. She said that she was a faithful follower of this blog. And she followed my very painful story of having left the parish that I loved so much in search of a new one; a search that was too often so painful and filled with disappointments. She said that at the same time, her home parish, in which she had been the full-time music director for many years, was assigned a new pastor. The new pastor very quickly began to dismantle much of the parish leadership team and she was fired. When she told me this, it was so obvious that this was a keenly painful experience for her. She said that she kind of latched on to my story and, although she felt like she was all alone in her pain, somehow she joined hers to mine and we (unbeknownst to me) became fellow travelers, searching for a new spiritual home.

Folks, I was so grateful that she shared this with me. Social media like blogs and other outlets can be very powerful tools as people move through life. I will never forget this encounter. And I was so grateful to hear that she, like I , had found a new spiritual home and was making music once again.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Old Saint Pat's and the Hokey Pokey

Monday greetings.

Have you ever had one of those Sunday liturgy experiences during which your whole being is just grateful for your parish, for your pastor, for your music director, for your cantors, for the people sitting around you, for the beauty of the space?

Yep, happened to me yesterday at Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago. Nothing particularly earth-shattering about any of the individual elements, although I found the homily particularly stirring. I guess I walked in yesterday with an already grateful heart and so much of what I heard and sang just resonated within me. "O, star of wonder, star of night; star with royal beauty bright!"

I have been accused of "irreverence for the Mass" after some of my talks, when I bring in the idea that liturgical participation is like dancing the Hokey Pokey. You've gotta "put you whole self in!" I did that yesterday and God seemed to have taken me, shaped me, rolled me around, and spit me back out into a waiting world. Epiphanies abounded.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

RCIA for Children: A New Resource from WLP

Wednesday greetings from the home office here in Franklin Park, IL. Most of our WLP employees are back in the office after the holidays. Sometimes I feel like a "Dad" here; happy when all my "kids" are safely home!

A new RCIA resource for children arrived in our warehouse over the holidays. I am the chief editor of the book and this was quite the project. Children of the Light: Precatechumenate Sessions for Children and Families, by Blessie La Scola is a much needed resource for those working with the catechumenate for children of catechetical age. You can find it on WLP's web site, where you can click to find sample pages; we included some of the introduction and one entire session for you to examine. Each session includes a letter to be sent home to the child's parents or guardians. Just snapped this photo; isn't the cover beautiful?

This is the first of two manuals; the second manuscript from Blessie, which we are expecting shortly, will include sessions for the catechumenate period, purification and enlightenment, and mystagogy for children's catechumenate.

The book contains a CD-ROM, where you can find loads of materials to download from each of the sessions, including handouts, worksheets, projects, and those letters home.

Please, please, those of you who have been "hounding" me for years, looking for resources for children's catechumenate, take the time now to look at this resource and consider purchasing it. We would be most grateful.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Immense Gratitude for . . .

Friday morning greetings.

Did you happen to catch Pope Francis' remarks about the so-called "reform of the reform?"

This, my final day of work here at WLP for 2016, is a day of immense gratitude . . .

. . . for the WLP team members who work tirelessly to fulfill our mission to serve and inspire the singing, praying, initiating church

. . . for the managers here, five extraordinary women whose gifts and talents take my breath away every day

. . . for a work environment that is clean and environmentally friendly

. . . for windows in my office

. . . for the gift of music

. . . for our new team members who joined us in 2016

. . . for those who left our team in 2016 to pursue other life dreams

. . . for a caring family who owns our company

. . . for the opportunity to write this blog . . .

Happy New Year to all!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chicago: "Keep Hope Alive!"

Thursday greetings on a cold, but sunny, day here in Chicago.

The New York Times printed a story today about Chicago's rise in murders and violence.

That article mentions U.S. House Representative Danny Davis, my own congressman; Mr. Davis represents the district in which I live.

Representative Danny K. Davis, a Democrat whose district includes some of Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods, said that he believed poverty was fueling the city's bloodshed, and that Chicago needed to make investments 'to revamp whole communities.'

The article goes on. Notice what Mr. Davis says about hope.

"People struggle, and on top of that, in many instances, people have lost hope in their government," Mr. Davis said. "They've lost hope that something is going to change for them. And if we can't keep hope alive, then you don't have to wonder whether things are going to get better or get worse: They'll get worse."

And I didn't realize the following about Mr. Davis and his family.

Last month, Mr. Davis's 15-year-old grandson, Javon Wilson, was shot dead at a home in his grandfather's congressional district. The Chicago police said a fight that preceded the shooting may have been over a pair of shoes, and two teenagers have been charged in Javon's death."

Perhaps the Chicago initiative to end the murder and the violence should be called "Keep Hope Alive."

Feeling frustrated about all of this. Please keep my city in your prayers.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.