Thursday, July 29, 2010

a happy first birthday

We celebrated a first birthday in more than one sense - not only did Bernadette turn one year old on July 29, but we also celebrated the first Sealy family birthday in New Zealand. Bernadette was delighted with the festivities, including her "bird-day" cake - a nod to her excitement over all things that fly, but particularly birds and airplanes.

She almost has the hang of blowing candles out, although Maria was more than happy to lend a hand with extinguishing the flame and unwrapping the presents....

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tea with Bishop Dennis

Lighthouse teens with Bishop Dennis (seated, center)

This morning the bishop of our diocese celebrated Mass at St. Thomas More. We were pleased to see so many young faces turn up at 9am on a Saturday morning. Not only did the teens make up a very substantial number of the congregation, but they also sat right in the front. Afterwards, we were excited to host the bishop for another (almost) Sacred Ritual at the parish: morning tea. For about an hour we all enjoyed our first ever tea with a bishop. A quiet, unassuming man, he quickly put us all at ease by asking the youth questions and telling us a bit about what it is like to meet with the Pope! He has been a bishop under both John Paul II and under Benedict XVI, so he was able to share a little of his personal observations about each of these two special men. He blessed us, took some photos with us and left us with a humorous admonition to keep an eye on Fr. Michael, who is "not as young as he used to be." 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

so THAT's a twinkie!

the makings of a great night

The new term began this week, which means that youth group events restarted as well. Our first event was girls' and boys' groups last night. Both Richard and I are doing Scripture studies with our respective groups and decided to introduce the concept of a prayer journal to accompany our studies. Richard thought that the boys' group ("A Few Good Men") would prefer NOT to decorate their prayer journals with floral paper, holy cards and scrapbooking decor. I, however, decided that my group ("Girls and God") would love it. 

holy cards and religious art sent to Kelly for the girls 
by many generous women in the States:
Thank you to Grandma and Yowee, 
Renate, Julia, Karen, Jess, Sarah, Kristi, Catie, Erin & Althea

With this kick-off event in mind, I emailed friends and family in the States begging for holy cards or religious art. The response was amazing. For almost a month I've been thrilled with frequent arrivals of little packages of beautiful, thought-provoking pictures. I saw images I have never seen before as well as many that are universal favorites. Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) sent us several short stacks of identical holy cards with prayers printed on the back. Fr. Michael, Richard and I immediately began to plan when and how to utilize those gifts to teach new prayers like the St. Michael the Archangel prayer, the Angelus and the Memorare. 

with so many choices, not an easy decision!

I had pictured sort of a mad stampede among the girls, all scrambling for the "best" pictures - and was amazed at the dignified, awed gratitude they showed when I opened the doors and revealed the treasures in my living room. Their selection of holy cards was almost prayerful; it was quiet, joyful, peaceful - beautiful. It was edifying and gratifying to watch. No limit was set on the number of cards (since we had such a wonderful abundance!) and some of the girls really stocked up! 

And the finishing touch - a box of Twinkies from Sarah Rozman. It was at the last meeting of the term that one of the girls had asked what Twinkies were like, and it was great fun to pop out the box and offer each girl her first taste of this quintessential American junk food. It was even more fun to watch their initial excitement turn to horror as the overly-sweetened cakes hit their tastebuds. No worries - the boys were meeting next door and inhaled the leftover Twinkies with a roar of joy.

Before I went to bed, I checked Facebook and saw the following post and response:
"Ate a Twinkie!"

I could go to bed. The night was a success. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

dead of "winter"

Winter 2010
(January.  Pennsylvania, USA)


Winter 2010
(July.   Mt. Maunganui, NZ)


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

take a peak....

We finally made it to the top of Mt. Maunganui - with both girls. The view was magnificent, as promised. It wasn't an easy climb, but the effort was made much more enjoyable by the company of Fr. Michael, a number of parishioners, and the four daring young billy goats below.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

how to do ministry AND have a tidy home

in the beginning, when dinosaurs roamed the earth....
(note maria cowering, terrified, against the wall)

then, a fabulous upgrade

so easy, a child can do it 
(she is actually vacuuming)

coming soon: bernadette handling a mop!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

beginning with the end in mind

mt. maunganui

Providentially, our start here in New Zealand has been a look at the end. We arrived just in time to witness the parish's emotional goodbye to our forerunners, Danielle and Kerstin. Yesterday Daniel left as well, bid adieu amidst an outpouring of gratitude. In participating in the farewell rituals for all three, we couldn't help but be inspired by what can be (and had been) accomplished in just a few years by people wholly given over to serving as the Lord called them. We were reminded that we too would leave New Zealand one day, and we will want to know that we too have given everything. Even if no one noticed. Even if nothing as impressive had been achieved. Even if we weren't loved as much. The point, as Mother Teresa often insisted: faithfulness, not success. Just as we arrived, we watched three missionaries leave NZ and all three had been faithful. Their fidelity had borne amazing fruit, and of course, they rejoiced in that - but the fruit, the harvest, was the Lord's and their joy was in Him, not themselves. 

                       danielle & kerstin giving fr. michael a parting gift

Also just this week we met two amazing young men who have "graduated" already from the parish youth program. Each had a conversion story to keep an audience hanging on every word. This too is "the end" which we were glad to have brought so powerfully before our eyes right now, at the start. These two particular personalities are vastly different and their stories begin in very different places. But the sincere seeking of the Lord, the fire, the discipline, the charity - all of the evidence of authentic spiritual maturity in both of these young men, that is the goal. Our purpose here is so simple: to help as many young people as possible attain to spiritual maturity, each in his or her own unique way. There are as many ways to be holy as there are people created by the One who is Holy. We are well aware that our mission is not to cram anyone into a narrow mold of holiness. But there are fixed guidelines and some sure and well-trod paths (prayer, charity, discipline, etc...) - in spending time with these two men, we were able to reflect on the balance we must achieve of illuminating these timeless paths while respecting the different speed and gait of each with whom we will walk. 

                                     daniel (white shirt) with youth

These timely reminders I think conclude for us the period of our mission which we will look back on as "the beginning". The introduction to the youth, the ministry, the country has been accomplished. It feels "normal" to wake up here now, the young faces are familiar, the accent sounds normal. HAHAHAHA! What a lie! The accent will NEVER sound normal! But the rest is true. And that is good. And we are ready. 
God help us.

Friday, July 2, 2010

what's a twinkie?

The cultural exploration continues - and it goes both ways. While new aspects of life in New Zealand continue to mystify these 2 Americans daily, it turns out that there are plenty of riddles of American culture that stump our young Kiwi friends. This week during girls' group, a Very Deep Question was posed to me: "What is a Twinkie?" Apparently abundant references to Twinkies are made in American TV and movies, but nary a Twinkie may be spotted in any of the aforementioned. Trying to describe a Twinkie without ever having actually consumed one was a bit tricky, but fear not, fellow Americans, I think I was able to communicate the essence of twinkie as well as the most patriotic Twinkie eater amongst us.
On a more serious note, the unveiling of the youth library was a smashing success! As mentioned in an earlier blog, we shipped over heaps and heaps of books. This week, we shelved them in the youth room and made them available to the teens. There was a frenzy of literary ecstasy when the announcement was made and many in attendance left with reading materials in hand.
This week begins a longish school break, so Richard and I have our first bit of "down time" since arriving here over a month ago. Our plans are to sketch out the next semester's themes and activities, draft talks and gather supplies. Also, we hope to take at least one day-long excursion - perhaps to Matamata, home of Hobbiton. If a warm day happens upon us, we'd love to finally hike the natural attraction that put the "mount" in Mount Maunganui. Whatever we do, we're sure to learn more about this fascinating country.
Some recent discoveries: There are no pennies in Kiwi currency. Nevertheless, items will be advertised at $9.99 - and your total in a shop can come to $23.67  The letter "Z" is pronounced "Zed" here, as it is in England. The local liquor shop owns a delivery van and boasts, "Call in your order and we'll have it to your house in 30 minutes or less" (sadly, the nearest/only non-Pizza Hut pizzeria offers no such service). One tank of gas costs us $83. A single Hanes man's undershirt costs $19.99, which is of course, really $20 even. There are no "calories" in any food here, only "energy". Potato chips are available in flavor combinations like "lamb and mint". The mall across the street sells Yankees baseball hats (I've not seen any other American sports teams logos for sale there yet and I think that settles the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry once and for all).

So for the next few weeks, Richard and I will be recharging and preparing to charge on. Our hope for this term is to go really deep with the youth - reeeeeaaaaalllllllly deep - so much deeper that we fully expect the youth to start to ponder and comprehend not only the nature of Twinkies, but of Yodels, and maybe even Ding Dongs.

$203 worth of groceries
($1 NZ is about .70 US)