Friday, November 25, 2011

Boston, the Bronx, and Bethlehem

The title above sums up my last week.

I had the privilege of going to Boston for a FOCUS interview weekend. There were about 30 applicants there and probably close to 30 missionaries as well. All 60 of us came from across the country for the weekend. Some were from Boston and there was a group of around 10 from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. My role for the weekend was “support staff” meaning that I was not conducting interviews but I was “hosting” the applicants. On Friday night the applicants gave their testimonies. I was so moved and encouraged by their stories. It is so beautiful to be in a room full of people that are so eager to give their lives to the Lord and His Church and the next 2 years of their life to serve Him through FOCUS. It was so clear how deeply in love the applicants are with the Lord, it was beautiful and so encouraging to hear that so many of them experienced their conversion because the Holy Spirit moved them and influenced them through a FOCUS missionary. I got to spend a lot of time with several of the applicants and missionaries throughout the weekend, it was so much fun. I was also humbled. I realized that I am nothing and God is everything. Sometimes I allow myself to think about what a great work that I am doing in FOCUS, the weekend and the applicants help me to realize that I’m not doing anything, it’s ALL GOD. One of the applicants shared with me something she experienced during prayer leading up to the weekend. She said that she just had this revelation in prayer that God does need to use missionaries to convey His message, but He chooses to use them. That really humbled me!

Carts lined up filled w/ Turkey & Thanksgiving Fixins
After a few days on campus I went in to the Bronx to help with Thanksgiving festivities at St. Crispin’s Friary (a CFR Friary) and St. Anthony’s Men’s Shelter (which the CFR’s run w/ the help of several volunteers). I arrived at the men’s shelter on Tuesday night around 5:30, I made it just in time to finish a holy hour with the brothers. Then I helped serve dinner at the men’s shelter. Around 8:30 a large delivery came with many baked goods, fruits, and vegetables for the shelter, the brothers, and for the Turkey handout the next morning.

The next day, Wednesday, started with holy hour at 6am and mass at 7am. I was especially excited to go to mass on Wednesday the 23rd, the feast day of one of my favorite saints, Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S. J. By the time mass was over, the first 140 people in line had received their number to get a turkey. The CFR’s at St. Crispin’s received 400 turkeys to give away on Wednesday morning. The plan was to give a person a number to get a turkey, then they would go into the Church and pray while a CFR gave a reflection and encouraged them in their faith, and while this was happening the volunteers filled the person’s cart or bag with a turkey and 2 other grocery bags with other Thanksgiving meal essentials. I think the thing that I was blown away by most was the fact that the first few people to get turkeys lined up the night before at 2am, which is tough in itself, but it was cold and rainy ALL night! So wonderful for those people to do that all so their family could enjoy Thanksgiving!

After 3 groups of 140 went through the Church and though the line to get their turkey we were out of turkeys, but there were still over 100 bags of other food that was donated, which was good because there were still plenty of people in line who did not get a turkey. The chaos ended around 1pm.

After lunch, a nap, and some time in prayer it was time for a special prayer service for the men in the shelter and their families, the men from the St. Padre Pio men’s shelter joined us as well as the CFR brothers and sisters from almost all of the other friary’s in the area. Towards the end of the service anyone had a chance to stand up and say what they were thankful for. It was at this time that my heart was touched. One of the men from the St. Anthony’s shelter stood up and said that he was thankful for his family, for the CFR’s, for St. Anthony’s for having food to eat, and a warm bed to sleep in. I’ve heard many people give thanks for this before, but I don’t know if I’ve heard someone say they were thankful for that with so much meaning, it was beautiful. After a few others shared what they were thankful for Fr. Benedict Groeschl, one of the founders of the CFR’s stood up and briefly told how the CFR’s and the St. Anthony’s shelter started, he ended by saying that he was thankful for the men in the shelters. What a start to Thanksgiving.

A wonderful Thanksgiving meal followed underneath the Church. Near the end of the meal Brother Isaiah sang a few songs for us, here is a short video.

On Thursday, I was invited to spend the day with the family of one of the baseball players I’ve become friends with the past year, Scott, his hometown is Bethlehem, PA. It was a great Thanksgiving lunch with his family at his grandparent’s house. And bonus, I got to watch the Packer’s game! I finished the day back at Scott’s house as we all dozed in and out of a nap while watching the Cowboys and Dolphins game.

I am so thankful for the last week I’ve had. I am so thankful for my family, the last year and a half that I have served on FOCUS, the relationships I have with friends at home and those I’ve started since I’ve been involved with FOCUS. But most of all I am thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. Without Him and it I would truly have nothing to be thankful for.


  1. Beautiful post. Will definitely tell my daughter to check out ULL

  2. I think a good friend of ours was at the interview weekend. He works for FOCUS at Belmont Abbey

  3. AJ, I love hearing about your work. Yes, God doesn't need us, but He chooses to use us. As we grow spiritually and in humility He has more to work with to attract others to Christ. I am thankful for you and your blog and for all the other Catholic bloggers I get to visit through Sunday Snippets.

  4. RAnn, I hope that your daughter does check it out and that she enjoys it, there is a great Catholic community there (even before FOCUS)

    Renee, Eric is great, I had a great time catching up and hanging out with him last wknd!

    Barb, thanks for the kind words and encouragement. Isn't this a beautful way to share our faith!!

  5. Wow, AJ. What an inspiring post. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us on Spiritual Sundays.

  6. Charlotte, thank you and you are welcome! Blessings to you!

  7. I am thankful for a roof over my head, water, food, clothing, God supplies all my needs and I am well aware I have so much more than many people areound the world who lack the simplest things. Most of all, thank you Jesus, for salvation.