Ministry Bonding


One of the best parts of conferences is bonding with other ministers in the field. Here Joe Mazzawi from Cornell and Bryce Roberts from Toledo spend a quality moment.

There’s one thing I’ve realized. I really thrive when I like those I’m around. I need a positive and a non-competitive, more collaborative environment.

Here at this conference, we’ve all found things to bond over: issues we’ve faced, problems that haven’t been solved, sociological facts and how we interact with students and faculty.

I love the Frank J Lewis institute because younger ministers bond with people in the same boat, facing the same insecurities and they hope to gain knowledge from others who are a bit more seasoned. What we often find are similarities rather than differences.

Perhaps that’s why we come to these things. To build indifference. To know that no matter what happens, God will see us through.

We can rest well in that and be joyful because we are all on the same journey, sharing our stories of how we have met the Lord.

Everyone Should Go To This Conference….

To all faithful viewers who are interested in Campus and Young Adult Ministry…

This summer on June 25-26 Fordham University’s Curran Center for American Catholic Studies is holding a conference called: Where Have All the Young People Gone? I would like to personally invite you to attend the conference and ask that you publicize it to all young adults and parish ministry professionals that you know. I’m trying to drive people to the conference to boost early registrations before May 15th so we can guarantee a solid number of attendees for our grantors.
The conference is simply a solid 24 hours on the intersection of Campus and Young Adult Ministry. Jim Davidson, a major sociologist, will have new numbers and facts on the generation and Melissa Cidade from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate will respond. We’ll also have a number of workshops featuring different issues that young adults face during that transition. Lastly, they’ll be two panels featuring the best practices of both ministries and the WORST practices as well.

The conference is only $50 for commuters and housing is $75/night at Fordham. So it’s an easy and cheap solution for a quick continuing education option.

And I’d love to see you besides! So come. It’ll be a good conference and I need good people with great insights to be there.

Below find links for more info:

For more Information on the conference

Register here:


Reflection – Wedding at Cana: The Turning Power of Jesus

So I’ve got a story about a wedding…

Three days before my wedding…I went down to the restaurant where we were holding our reception to check on some items that I had brought down there for safe keeping just a few days ago. Some picture frames of family weddings that we were going to place around the room. A pair of bride and groom stuffed animals–elephants to be precise. And of course no wedding is complete without favors–and so Mike and Marion had M&M’s wrapped in tewel bags as our wedding favors.

All the plans were in place. Things were moving nicely…except when we got to the restaurant the manager asked to speak to Marion and I “in the back.” Anytime someone asks to speak to you “in the back” that’s never a good sign.

And this was no different. Somebody stole our stuffed animals and an expensive picture frame. And the piece-de-resistance the restaurant had stored our M&M’s n a cabinet and that cabinet had been infested by ANTS who found their way into our chocolate treats! And therefore now the restaurant was crawling with ants as well.

What a mess…

My wedding was a mess – Here’s another mess,

Isaiah has been saying that it’s going to be sunshine and rainbows in Jerusalem–but when the people return back from the exile–it’s a mess.

But Isaiah is not going to budge.. and he predicts now that it will be even better than they imagined. He even says that he won’t shut up until the day that Jerusalem will be the crown jewel of God’s kingdom. That God will rejoice over Jerusalem like a groom rejoices in a bride.

And if that isn’t enough we’ve got another mess…They run out of wine at a wedding. It may not be ants in the chocolate–but it’s still a mess. And we all know what kind of messes weddings can turn out to be. Your aunt says something stupid, your uncle gets drunk, your sister is jealous and can’t stand the bridesmaid dress you picked out and is snotty all day.

So in this case…the wine runs out and when the wine runs out…it’s a big problem because the whole wedding is now at risk. One of the families didn’t take care of things. So the whole thing just might be called off. Imagine a broken hearted bride and a family embarrassed. A fight could break out between the two families, an aunt might say something stupid, an uncle might get drunk and a sister might just get fed up because she’s been in that ugly dress for 3 days day and she’s the one who deserves to be getting married anyway. Ugh, what a mess, what a mess, what a mess.

So Mary sees all this and asks Jesus to intervene as she knows that he could. She looks to Jesus and interestingly asks him to perform his first sign not for her, but to help out someone else.

And Jesus’ response “My hour has not yet come” may very well mean “oh so you think you have problems?” Because let’s face it…Jesus knows that this little family squabble is the least of his problems and the least of this couple’s problems. Life is often a mess. Marriage is often a mess. Human experience indeed is messy.

But because Mary asks and more importantly, because Mary has faith in her son, Jesus changes the ordinary water into choice wine. In fact, there is more than enough–at least 120 gallons–the scripture tells us.

So what does this mean for us? Well… life is no less messy today and we need to turn to Jesus and have the faith that He can indeed turn it around. In fact, when you think about it we do this all the time, even unconsciously, because we’re so confident that our lives will be messy that we turn to this church each week and turn not only wine but bread into God’s body and blood so that we might become what it is that we receive. So that when we leave this building, we might experience Jesus working within us–giving us the strength to turn the mess into joy. When we believe that the turning power of Jesus can indeed change the world–well, that’s when the party can start.

Anyone who’s done a mission trip knows exactly what I’m talking about. Because when we are willing to sweat drops of water for others–we become drunk with passion for those we serve. We help others to turn it all around, to be in the mess of their lives, even if for a moment and then become enraptured with concern for those we serve.

And when we experience the “turning power” of God working in the world, we always have more than enough. And we all have more than enough gifts–St Paul tells today that all of our gifts are important–no matter how different they are from one another.

Our gifts are all good enough for God. But we often don’t believe that. And I’m here to tell you that even when you think that you are a mess…that you’re a sinner, or a bad Catholic, or not good enough–that God is telling you that you are choice wine–the overflowing gift of Jesus to the world. You are more than enough. You are more than gifted.

This semester I’d like you to not only believe that you are gifted but also to share that gift with the world–to heal the world of its own mess.

How? One easy way: Haiti.
This week we have heard a lot about Haiti and the earthquake that destroyed an already poor country–in fact, the poorest in the Western hemisphere where 80% of the people live on less than $1/day.

We don’t take up a collection at this mass, but I want to ask if we can be enough for the people of Haiti. Just $1/day, $365/year is often what people live on in this poor country. We usually have more than that to spare. People lived in the garbage dump before the quake hit their country and I shudder to think what a mess their country is in today. Our leaders both political and religious have asked that we take up a special collection for the needs of Haiti tonight. If you have your cell phone and perhaps you’ve already done this –take them out right now and text HAITI to 90999 that will send $10 to the Red Cross disaster relief fund or if you’d prefer, drop some money in the basket. And if you really can’t afford a $1 or $10–pray for the people of Haiti tonight because that’s a gift too–and it is no less important than giving your dollars.

Secondly. I’d like to ask you to do one more thing: Ask yourself what is your gift? What do you have to offer this church and this campus ministry? We need your gifts and talents and while we’re all busy and tied up with our own studies and activities–can we think of just one thing that we can be involved in here? It might be reading or being a eucharistic minister. It might be going on our retreat or our alternative spring break. It might be working on one of our service initiatives or simply taking an interest in learning more about your faith. We’re not just running a Newman Center but we are thinking about what ways can you turn an ordinary semester of water into a party-filled semester of wine.

Whatever it is–pick at least one thing to get involved in this year and I promise to help you use your gifts for the good of this community and for your own spiritual enrichment. Because that’s my gift–ministering to the needs of students. You’ll get a listing of events tonight that our student leaders who have recognized their gifts have put together for you to get involved in as well.

For when we turn water into wine–we experience God in our life just as he experiences us. It is our gifts that we share with the world that allow us to be a sign to the world that we believe that with God’s help we can indeed change the world. That while disasters strike all around us on many different levels. Ants in the chocolate, a crazy aunt, no wine at the wedding, an earthquake…our God can turn it all around.

And when we let ourselves be turned–when our water of our sweat makes us drunk with passion…we can rebuild the city that will be a crown jewel once again–be it Haiti, Jerusalem or Buffalo. When we are turned, we realize our gifts are more important than our sins. When we are turned we are like a groom and a bride who realize that their wedding day is not the stuff of ant ridden chocolate candy but is only about an overflowing commitment to one another.

When we are turned …We become Jesus…and that is more than enough for all of us.

Milwaukee Bound and Updates in My World

Weather permitting I will be at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, the land of my wife’s sister and her family. Looking forward to speaking over the next few days and being near family. We just took part in the grand family Christmas party (pictured here) last weekend which gathers most of my wife’s large Italian family together. Always a fun time.

So I will attempt to do some blogging from the road, time permitting. Some updates from my new work:

Student leaders are poised for next semester and that makes me happy. We’ve done a lot of thinking about next semester and now I feel a bit more confident for the following semester on UB South.

My colleagues on UB North are looking forward to the opening of their newly built Newman Center next semester as well. So that’s exciting also.

I should start pod and videocasting next semester as well. So stay tuned for that. Toying with some names. I own and have a small website tied to it for brief updates from our ministry but it needs more work, thinkest I. Am really considering “Catholics in the Buff” for its provocative name. “Buff Catholics” or simply “U in the Buff” also sounds good to me.

Most of the students are in graduate school so time is of the essence for many of them, so I am grateful to all of those who dedicate just a bit of their time to the ministry and hope that this will grow over time.

UB Students Rock!

A capacity crowd came over for dinner on the North Campus last night and a good deal of students stayed to hear lil’ ol’ me talk about discernment. Great insights were shared around the tables and I felt good about it…this was an abbreviated version of a talk I’ve been giving for the past 9 years but I felt like people were attentive and engaged.

In particular, there is a small group of students from the South Campus who made their way over to the North side who stayed to hear me, their campus minister. Now that’s dedication and a nice vote of support. I can tell that they’ve been waiting for someone to start ministering on this campus. So we’ll hit the ground running this weekend.

My job is going to be challenging as the folks who come regularly will need to be accentuated by others who can bring different gifts and help provide us with some different activities. Then we start to get a critical mass. But the folks who are already engaged are so nice and so dedicated to being part of the ministry that I know that they will be a great help in helping me to engage the rest of the campus.

There are 27,000 students on UB’s campus. 50% of them are Catholic. Take another 50% and that makes about 6750 Catholics on one campus which is a huge pool to shoot for. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

I loved the fact that the students asked me what possessed me to come to Buffalo from NYC. I replied that the job was open and the great Patty Bubar Spear who is our youth minister encouraged me to apply. Another friend Ann Marie from the Center for Ministry Development also has an office at our church, so I was enthused by the possibility of working with them and then when I met the rest of the staff I just knew it was a good fit.

But the real answer is that I’m here for them. That God has led me to realize that I’m called to be a pastoral minister for young people. To guide them in their prayer, to give them opportunities to serve others, to lead them on retreat and to simply give them an opportunity to socialize with people they are proud to be associated with.

We’ll start feeding people soon and then the numbers will start to jump. It will take some time to learn the place but that’s not an excuse. The Spirit waits for nobody and I think it’s already beginning to flourish here. A huge hat tip to Katie Trapp, my colleague over on North Campus who has done such a great job and whom I will have much to learn from and much to share with as well.

Sunday is a big day. I get to do a reflection on the Gospel and on World Youth Day.