Regnum Christi

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“Nun-Run” Takes Girls To Visit Five Religious Orders Across Three States In Three Days

Catholic parents are called to help their children discern God’s will for their lives, whether that be marriage or the religious life. But many Catholic girls, especially in North America, have never seen religious sisters or nuns in everyday life, and have very little knowledge of what daily religious and consecrated life even entails. How can they discern a religious vocation when they don’t even know what they are discerning, when they’ve never witnessed it? And if they do feel the call to religious life, how will they know where to seek the opportunities that await them?

 

These are the questions that Regnum Christi member Donna McCall, who has two teenage daughters, recently faced. Unlike most girls their age, Donna’s daughters, ages 14 and 16, were fortunate to have daily contact with nuns, having attended a school run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, and spend time with the Sisters of Reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. These early experiences created in her girls a desire to learn more about religious orders, so Donna decided to organize a “Nun-Run,” where girls could visit several different religious orders in just a few days.

 

Donna and her daughters enlisted the help of Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, Natalia Santos, who serves as the ECYD Girls Director in Atlanta. Together, the two contacted religious orders in the area, and eventually arranged to visit five different congregations in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Free lodging was provided by generous Regnum Christi families in the Nashville and Birmingham areas, who offered up their home or paid for hotel accommodations for the group. In the end, Donna and Natalia, with the help of a mom who generously offered to drive the group in her 15-passenger van, took five girls to five different religious orders in three different states over three and a half days.

 

The Nun-Run began on Friday morning at the home of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi in Cumming, Georgia, with Mass and breakfast. From there, the group headed to Nashville, Tennessee, to visit the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. Upon arrival, they went on a tour of the Motherhouse and learned about the order’s over 150-year history. Following the tour, the girls visited, asked questions, and heard the vocation story of one of the sisters, all over cookies. The group spent evening prayers with the sisters before heading to their first host family’s home for dinner.

 

On Saturday morning, after delicious blueberry muffins provided by their Regnum Christi host family, the group travelled south to the Casa Maria Convent and Retreat House of the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word in Irondale, Alabama. This being a retreat weekend at the convent, the girls got to see the sisters’ Franciscan and Dominican faith in action, and participated in confession, Mass, communal prayer, adoration, and a retreat talk, which, providentially, focused on following God’s plan for one’s life. They also received a tour of the property and learned about the community’s history, and during lunch and dinner with the sisters, the girls heard vocation stories and had an opportunity to ask questions.

 

Sunday morning took the group to Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama to meet with Sister Mary Jacinta, Vocations Director of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. Here, the group was blessed to speak with a cloistered nun, who surprised them all when she pulled out her laptop to share a picture presentation she had created for them about daily life in the cloister. Before leaving the monastery, they visited the grave of Mother Angelica, who herself was a nun of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, walked the grounds of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and prayed at the replica of the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes there.

 

The group headed back to Georgia in time for Sunday evening Mass, after which they returned to the consecrated women’s home where the girls baked cookies with the consecrated and had dinner. They also had the opportunity to hear vocation stories and ask questions, have a tour of the home, and experience adoration and night prayers with the community, as well as stay the night in one of the rooms where the Regnum Christi missionaries live during the year.

 

On Monday morning, the group headed to the Gift of Grace House in downtown Atlanta, a home for women suffering from AIDS run by the Missionaries of Charity. Here, the girls visited the AIDS home and visited with patients. They also prayed in the chapel, held a relic of St. Teresa of Calcutta, toured the grounds, and were able to spend time with one of the sisters, who shared her vocation testimony and many entertaining stories about life as a Missionary of Charity and her encounters with Mother Teresa. After their visit at the Gift of Grace House, the group returned to the consecrated women’s home for Mass before heading home.

 

For Donna, the highlight of this activity-filled trip was watching the girls have potentially and fundamentally life-changing encounters with Christ. “Regardless of why these five girls came, they left spiritually changed in a very beautiful way, and whether or not any of these girls end up joining a religious order, this was a trip of a lifetime, and it will stay with them all of their lives,” says Donna. “For these five girls, nuns, consecrated, and religious sisters are no longer just some super holy women – they’re really cool regular people who have a deep personal relationship with Christ and who fully and completely give themselves to God.”

 

Since the first weekend-long Nun-Run, plans for more are already in the works, and at the end of June, Donna accompanied a group of eight young women on the first Nun-Run day trip, facilitated by Sister Mariam of the Hawthorne Dominicans of St. Rose of Lima. The group visited Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in downtown Atlanta, where the sisters care for terminally ill cancer patients who cannot afford care elsewhere. The group toured the hospital and grounds, talked with patients, and had a Holy Hour, and then had lunch with the sisters where they were able to learn more about the order, ask questions, and hear vocation stories, including the testimony from one sister was once a blackjack dealer in Vegas!

 

And Donna is not stopping there – she feels a great call to continue the Nun-Run ministry, and plans to host at least three day trips and one weekend trip every year. “There is a great need for young ladies to experience religious orders,” says Donna. “It is so hard in today’s society to not feel weird or out of place when seeking God’s will, and seeing others doing the same thing helps the girls feel less alone. They can talk with each other about their shared experiences, and help each other along the way.”

 

Although the nun-runs are an excellent opportunity for girls to experience religious life and can be a step in their process of discerning what vocation God is calling them to, Donna believes that the journey of discernment begins at home. “I think one of the most important things, besides taking our kids to adoration and praying as a family, is simply making vocations a normal option for our children,” says Donna. “We prepare them for the sacrament of marriage daily because they see that lived out in the home. We talk with them about their careers, and we take them on college tours or help them find a trade school or a military recruitment office. But very few families think to introduce their kids to religious orders, or take them to monasteries or convents, and chances are, the kids never thought about it because no one ever asked them. It’s important that we introduce them to this possibility.”

 

Donna and her husband, Chris, have been married for 21 years, and have five children ages 15 months to 16 years. Both having grown up as Air Force brats, Donna and Chris had lived numerous places throughout their lives, before meeting in Virginia and settling down in Georgia, where they now live in Canton, just north of Atlanta. A few years after their marriage, Donna converted to the Catholic faith, and she joined Regnum Christi in 2018.

 

Donna would love to see the Nun-Run ministry spread across North America! If you are interested in hosting a Nun-Run in your own area and would like some advice on how to get started, feel free to contact Donna at [email protected].

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Little Apostles: A Gospel Meditation Podcast for Children

Guillermo “Memo” Buenabad, a parent at the Cumbres International School in Aguascalientes, MX,  used to listen to a podcast with Gospel reflections with his children on their way to school each morning. This podcast was produced by Legionary priests, and in order to discuss it in children’s terms, he paused it, and each one shared with the family what stood out to them.

 

One day, during Mass at the school, the idea occurred to him to make a podcast for kids that was narrated by the children of Cumbres Aguascalientes. He mentioned it to his spiritual director, who encouraged him to go ahead with it, reminding him that the school has a recording studio available.

 

He approached Carmen Ramírez, the school’s principal, with the proposal, and she received it with great enthusiasm and full support to begin recording as soon as possible, and to start this new apostolate directed by children, for children.

 

Initially, the 3rd and 6th grade students and their parents were invited. Later, children from the whole school were brought on board, which guarantees that they have candidates to record practically 365 days a year.

Happy to transmit the Gospel together

As for the technical part, having a newly inaugurated recording studio has made their task much easier, as does its professional equipment. It has a number of microphones that have allowed them to find the ideal combination so that the children’s voices are heard with total clarity.

 

“Some of the children have such gentle voices that they need to have the microphone super close to capture everything, others have very high-pitched voices and saturated the channel at first, but at the school we have learned how to achieve the highest definition in the recordings.” -Mary, IT director of the school

 

The way in which the children have made progress in the recording studio has been very interesting. Some enter very nervous and begin to relax as the activity goes on, while others arrive very confidently and are able to record the episode on the first take. They are already familiar with the dynamic of the opening prayer, the reading of the Gospel, the reflection, and the prayer of thanksgiving.

Enjoying recording with dad.

In general, everyone has been developing the skills necessary for this apostolate, such as reading, and oral communication skills.

 

Memo’s apostolic spirit also involves the parents, both those with children in his children’s grades, and then those of the other grades.

 

“At the beginning, the parents participated with a bit of fear and hesitation, but Memo has made it very easy by being instructive, helping the parents overcome their fear, which has made the parents more and more willing. Drawing closer to the Gospel and participating in the podcast has created a very positive impulse to share with our children and the whole community.” –Sofi Macías, elementary school principal

 

The parents were open to the idea of reading and reflecting on the Gospel as a parent/child dynamic. They are given a guide with the corresponding verses before recording the episode, which gives them a sample script, but ultimately they decide what to say and follow where the Holy Spirit guides them in the moment.

 

“As a parent/child dynamic it is very enriching, since sometimes we don’t give ourselves the time to speak with our children about the Gospel.” –Memo Buenabad

César and his son Diego, concentrating

The recordings are usually made early in the morning, when the students arrive at school with their parents, or a few minutes after dismissal, when the students are picked up. Every podcast episode lasts between three and four minutes, since it is directed at kids and should hold their attention.

 

“Guillermo’s enthusiasm for this type of evangelization is great and, without a doubt, comes from his desire and interest to see his children evangelized. It spreads from him and helps the school be able to engage all the parents. This way we can make the Gospel available to them, because in the end, it is God who evangelizes; we are just instruments and offer means so that his Word touches our hearts and converts us.” –Carmen Ramírez, Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi and the school’s head principal

Mónica and Emiliano attentively reading the Gospel passage

Their next challenge is to increase its listenership so that not only the parents who come in to record listen to it, and not only on the day on which their child recorded, but that they listen to it daily. Therefore, they are making changes to their means of outreach so that it is more available to everyone.

 

For now, the podcast is on Spotify, and one episode is uploaded every day. The next step is to make it known to all the schools in the Regnum Christi Semper Altius Network of Schools, so that it inspires other institutions to do something similar, and that both kids and parents feel involved in the Gospel reflection, which doesn’t have to be complicated, difficult or demanding in terms of time or method.

Reflecting on the Word of God together

The podcast’s future is promising, with growth that enables all Regnum Christi members in Mexico to know it, share it, and bring it to other countries.

 

In addition to being available on Spotify, they are weighing the possibility of uploading it to other platforms for greater diffusion, and they are evaluating whether to involve middle- and high-school students so that they can edit the episodes.

 

It has been reproduced in Columbia and Argentina, and they have grown their audience to include new people who are not from the school communities. This is precisely the goal.

 

Some families outside the school have expressed their desire to participate in the podcast, and although it is an apostolate of the school, it is a Regnum Christi apostolate, which helps the students value what they have received and launches them from the school out into the world.

 

“We aren’t isolated verses; we are all members of the same poem. Everyone here is united in the same mission, those who make the recordings, edit them, put together the podcast, parents and students.” –Memo Buenabad

 

Congratulations to the whole team at Cumbres International School Aguascalientes. Let’s pray that God may bless them with many fruits for this new apostolate.

 

Translated from the original Spanish publication.

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Pinecrest Students Donate Close to 11,000 Items to Parish Food Pantry

For the past six years, Pinecrest Academy has hosted the annual “Elves for Shelves” food drive, a service initiative that began years prior but gained momentum in 2017 when the lower, middle and high schools began competing to see who could stock the most shelves! Each year, the campaign begins just after Thanksgiving and runs through mid-December. The St. Joseph’s Food Pantry at St. Brendan Catholic Church has been the beneficiary of this annual school campaign for several years now.

  This year, close to 11,000 food items were collected by families, faculty, and staff. Students were encouraged to be actively engaged, with some going door-to-door in their neighborhoods, where they encountered many who wanted to help.

“We started doing the Elves for Shelves Food Drive several years ago to meet a need at St. Brendan’s St. Joseph’s Food Pantry, but it has turned into a fun tradition that our students and parents look forward to each year,” said Emily Roman, Director of Campus Ministry at Pinecrest Academy.  “Campus Ministry collaborates with the Deans in each building to make this event a fun contest that serves others. PreK3-8th grade Dean of Students, Jay Lynch, makes animated announcements that include singing each morning of the food drive, giving updates on which class is winning the contest so far.”

Besides the friendly collection competition between schools and classes, at the end of the drive, middle school students make sculptures with their donated goods before sending them to the food pantry.  One class created a stadium this year!

“Our Campus Ministry Coordinator, Karen Gann, organizes high school volunteers to deliver the collected goods periodically throughout the contest because they don’t fit inside the buildings! A total of 11 truckloads of goods had been delivered to St. Brendan by the close of the campaign,” continued Roman.

“Food donations we receive from Pinecrest’s drive will help provide free food assistance for families in need until next Summer,” commented Barbara Gordon, Director of the St. Joseph’s Food Pantry.  “The number of families is increasing weekly.  We are fortunate and grateful for the support at Pinecrest Academy.”

Pinecrest Academy’s mission is to form Christian leaders who will transform society, and giving students the opportunity to put Christian service into action is an important part of the school’s overall educational philosophy.

“All in all, this has become a tradition for our school community, which teaches our students that serving others can be a lot of fun! The team at St. Brendan has told us repeatedly that this drive supplies their food pantry with goods that last for most of the year!  What a blessing to be a part of this great effort,” said Roman.

Pinecrest Academy is an independent PreK3 through 12, college preparatory Catholic school, located in Forsyth County, a suburb of Atlanta, just minutes from Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek, Duluth, and Suwanee. Their mission is to form Christian leaders who will transform society. For more information about Pinecrest, to schedule a tour, or to attend their open house on January 29th, 2023, contact the admissions office.

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Highlights from the ECYD-RC National Conventions

This summer, the state of Louisiana played host to the High School Boys and Girls National ECYD-RC Conventions. Fr. Patrick O’Loughlin, LC, and Amelia Hoover, CRC, share their highlights from this year’s events.

Why We Fight

The purpose of the National Convention is to bring together ECYD and RC young men and women from all over the country in order to deepen their faith and brotherhood with Christ, and to help them to form themselves into real and effective apostles in the world, choosing to join the ranks of Christian warriors and saints who have gone before them.

As the Director of the ECYD-RC National High School Boys Convention, Fr. Patrick O’Loughlin, LC, led the leadership team, which included Fr. Vito Crincoli, LC (ECYD Boys Director of Washington, DC), Fr. Jerek Scherber, LC (ECYD Boys Director of Ontario), Fr. David Spillane, LC (ECYD Boys Director of Houston), and Br. Max Nguyen (ECYD Boys Assistant of Louisiana). Br. Joseph Geiger, Fr. Michael Picard, and Fr. David Parker also participated and helped.

The theme for the Boys Convention was Why We Fight, and was a call to a renewal of the motivation and commitment to serve Christ. Besides daily prayer, which consisted of Mass, lectio divina, and guided morning and night prayer, the convention included formation courses and talks, half-day retreats, and activity days sightseeing in New Orleans, playing laser tag, and cruising through the Bayou and down the Mississippi. The convention also organized a Mission Day in New Orleans where the boys invited tourists and passersby in Jackson Square to reconciliation and evening adoration in the Cathedral, and even set the record for food prep at the food bank!

For Fr. Patrick, the highlight of the convention was the RC Talks that the boys prepared (on subjects ranging from social formation and etiquette to masculinity and evangelizing culture). He also had a powerful experience during one of the sight-seeing tours in Louisiana:

“As we were preparing for our evening evangelization mission, I felt moved to go out of my way to pray at a statue of St. Joan of Arc near Jackson Square. I was stopped there by a woman who desperately needed to speak with a priest. As we finished our conversation, she was just so moved by how the Lord had led her directly to a priest when she needed it the most! The encounter was a reminder of the importance of being attentive to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, in every moment, and made me even more grateful for each of the boys who had attended the national convention, heeding the Holy Spirit’s invitation to take a week of training to be the apostles that our Lord needs!”

Fr. Patrick is looking forward to the upcoming ECYD Middle School Boys National Sports Tournament to be held at Sacred Heart Apostolic School in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, from February 17th – 20th, 2023. You can read about last year’s Sports Tournament here, or register at rcactivities.com/ECYD-TOURNAMENT-2023. The ECYD High School Boys National Convention entitled For the City of God will be taking place July 23-29th, 2023, at the Catholic University of America Campus in Washington, DC. You can register here at ECYD-RC High School Boys National Convention.

Born for This

Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christ, Amelia Hoover, who was on the directive team for the ECYD-RC National High School Girls Convention, was responsible for helping with the prayer, sacramental life, and accompaniment of the girls participating in the convention. The theme of the convention – Born for This – was inspired by St. Joan of Arc’s quote: “I am not afraid, I was born for this.”

The convention provided an opportunity for ECYD and young RC member in high school to receive deeper formation according to the Regnum Christi spirituality. In particular, the convention sought to equip the girls with the philosophical foundations of logic and truth so that they can be instruments of God’s healing and salvation in the midst of the chaos, confusion, and suffering of today’s world.

During the convention, the girls participated in college-level content courses on such topics as bioethics, relativism and truth, gender ideology, and discernment of spirits. They also made a pilgrimage to the various holy sites of saints who lived and ministered in New Orleans, which included a steam boat ride on the Mississippi River and plenty of beignets from Café du Monde! Besides enjoying a mystery night, lip sync battle, and Bob Ross paint night, the girls spent a mission day in New Orleans where they helped pack food for Catholic Charities and a Light the City Mission at the Cathedral in Jackson Square. During the mission night, they invited people passing by the cathedral to come in for a tour of the church and to light a candle. “We were in an excellent location, where many people pass by and are interested in going into the historic church,” shares Amelia. “One young man who was visiting New Orleans as a tourist felt drawn to the missionaries and the presence of God in the church. He had an experience of God waking him up to the call of his heart to get closer to him, and he wanted the girls to know how much it meant to him that they were doing the mission and reaching out.”

For Amelia, seeing the young women seeking truth and desiring to bring this truth into their realities is the highlight of the convention. “It gives a lot of hope to see our future desiring to form themselves to help Jesus in his saving mission.” Don’t miss out on registration for the girls’ upcoming national convention at Catholic University of America this July 23-29, 2023 – register here!

ECYD is currently wrapping up its 2022 ImpactOne Appeal. If you would like to support ECYD youth in their mission to know Jesus, live the Gospel, and share it with others, visit ImpactOne 2022 or donate here.

To find out more about ECYD and their upcoming events, visit their website at ecyd.org.

 

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Hearing His Heartbeat: A video series to help young people listen and respond to the voice of God

When Jacquie Lustig, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi living and serving in Cincinnati, first discovered the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola during her early years of formation, a dream began to grow inside of her. Once she began her role as the ECYD Girls Director in the Ohio Valley, spending most of her time mentoring junior high and high school girls, that dream – to translate the Rules of Discernment of St. Ignatius into everyday language that everyone can appreciate and understand – only became stronger the more she listened to young women talk about their experiences of seeking God.

Jacquie’s many conversations with young women on how to navigate the spiritual life, and reject the lies that keep them from hearing God, confirmed to her the need for an understanding of discernment that could be accessible to all, particularly the youth she was serving. After these conversations, witnessing how learning about discernment and how to hear the voice of God gave the young women she was ministering to the freedom and space to be able to connect with God in a healthy and natural way, she would often walk away wondering, ‘How on earth can I get this to more of them?’.

The answer to this question came to her with the arrival of Ilona Kies, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi who joined the Cincinnati community in the summer of 2020. Before that, Ilona had worked in Germany in the areas of media work and catechesis, and in 2018, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in media design in Cologne. And Ilona’s education and expertise was just what Jacquie needed to make her dream a reality. “Ilona heard about my dream and literally sat me down in front of a camera and told me, ‘Just talk to me, Jacquie!’.” Together, they created the Hearing His Heartbeat video discernment series, which presents the ideas of the Ignatian Rules of Discernment in language and themes that are relevant and easily applicable to young people today.

One of the greatest challenges to discernment that young people face today is real doubt and uncertainty about how to “hear God” in the first place, which can lead to discouragement and confusion, and Jacquie hopes that the Hearing His Heartbeat series will help:

“Sometimes we try super hard to find God, feeling like we aren’t sure if we’re ‘getting it right’. It’s kind of like walking around life with question marks swirling around our spiritual experiences: ‘Was that God?’, ‘Can God even talk to me?’. I hope that through the videos, people catch a whiff of the truth that God wants them to hear his voice, and wants them to feel and be free!”

The Hearing His Heartbeat discernment series consists of six videos designed to help young people become aware of the voice of God in their own hearts and respond to him fully in their everyday lives, but would be helpful for all people who might be seeking more freedom and connection in their relationship with God. The videos offer practical skills for the spiritual life designed to increase the viewers’ knowledge and faith that they have everything they need to hear God’s voice and respond to him in a healthy and natural way. There are also printable journal prompts available in the show notes to guide viewers in applying some of the messages they have received to their own lives in a concrete way.

“Truth really matters, and the truth is, God is sometimes simpler than we give him credit for,” says Jacquie. “Hopefully these videos make a little step forward in teaching some of those simple truths about the voice of God that can lead to a deeper freedom in the heart.”

And for Jacquie, that moment when the young women she is serving discover not only that God is speaking to them, but also that they can truly hear him, is a priceless gift that she feels humbled to be a part of:

“It is impressive, in so many ways and forms, that a soul already knows the voice of God inside her . Sometimes, all it takes is just a few words, or the right question, to unlock that security in them. But always, always, that girl’s deeper heart knows the voice of God. And it’s just such a gift to help her listen to him and believe in his voice.”

Currently, Jacquie is rounding out her ninth year of serving young women and their families through ECYD in Cincinnati. She is also continuing in the theme of discernment, working with a team that is creating an ECYD summer camp for middle school and high school girls that focuses on the voice of God and what he sounds like in their everyday lives. Besides the local work that she loves, Jacquie’s newest surprise has been the assignment to support consecrated vocations work as Assistant Vocations Director. “I am already enjoying working on a wider team of consecrated women in love with God, and have felt many new sparks of life in this recent addition to my life and mission!”

To watch the Hearing His Heartbeats discernment series, visit the ECYD Ohio Valley YouTube channel. You can also donate to this and future initiatives of the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi in Cincinnati by following this link.

 

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Pinecrest Academy Challenge Girls Club serves the most vulnerable in Atlanta

The Pinecrest Challenge Girls Club is a service-based, apostolic ECYD after school club at Pinecrest Academy, a private preK-12 Catholic School in Cumming, Georgia. The group meets regularly in teams to grow in friendship with Christ and with each other, and to undertake apostolic projects to serve their community throughout the year. And this year, the club has spent time learning about, praying for, and serving on of downtown Atlanta’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations.

This past fall, Angie Doxtader, a Pinecrest mom and Challenge Club leader, shared with the Challenge girls about a very important ministry located in the heart of the city of Atlanta, called Out of Darkness. Out of Darkness is a chapter of the anti-trafficking ministry of Frontline Ministry, a Christian-based non-profit organization headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. This much-needed ministry seeks to assist victims of sex trafficking by providing outreach, rescue, and emergency safe housing, and to help to transition men, women, and children out of homelessness. 

After its founding in January of 2014, Out of Darkness began its initial ministry out of local truck stops: educating truck-drivers on how to recognize, prevent, and report sex trafficking across the United States. Shortly after this important ministry was launched, Out of Darkness established a second ministry called Princess Night, which seeks to break the cycle of sex trafficking by sharing the message of God’s love, hope and restoration with the women they encounter. Several Friday evenings a month, adult volunteers go out to neighborhoods rampant with street prostitution to build relationships with the women they meet and to ultimately offer these women an opportunity to escape the bondage of sex slavery and embrace physical and spiritual freedom. Since then, Out of Darkness has added further outreach initiatives, such as a jail ministry, hotline, and, importantly, a new Transitional House that offers a home environment, staff and volunteers, community, and the additional support necessary for the women to gain the skills and confidence needed to gradually move towards independent living.

In the fall, Angie, who volunteers for Out of Darkness, shared with the seventh and eighth grade Pinecrest Academy Challenge girls a short video about two of the women who have benefitted from the ministry, and how they discovered the love of God through others at the shelter. Immediately, the Challenge girls were interested in serving the women at the Transitional House, and decided to work together to make a meal to be delivered to the women in the home. After school one day, they shopped for all the supplies (with the help of their moms) to make a delicious lasagna meal, complete with salad and dessert. This meal was then dropped off at Angie’s home, who delivered it to the Transitional Home downtown. Since confidentiality is an essential part of the Out of Darkness ministry, the girls never visited the Transitional Home themselves, nor met the women staying there; they know only that it was delivered to the safe house in downtown Atlanta along with their messages of love and their prayers for them, and that the women who received it, women who had grown accustomed to being dehumanized, abused, and rejected, greatly appreciated this act of service, kindness, and love that was meant just for them.

“What impressed me about this little service project was that it was simple enough for the 12- and 13-year-olds to do; they learned to cook (which is a necessary skill), they worked together, and everyone had a part to play towards this common goal of serving those in need,” says Denise Madgey, president of the Pinecrest Academy Challenge Club. In addition to teamwork, service, and charity, the girls learned about the dangers of trafficking, and that the decisions that they make in life have real consequences. They were also able to pray for these women and accompany them spiritually.”

Although the service project was relatively simple, Denise knows that this small initiative will have lasting effects. In fact, the girls enjoyed this service project so much that the Challenge group decided to include it as part of their Holy Week Missions and prepared another meal which Angie graciously delivered. “Sometimes it’s the little everyday acts of charity that make the biggest difference.”

To find out more about the Challenge Girls Club or to find a club in your area, visit their website at challengeyouthministry.com. 

To learn more about Frontline Response, of which Out of Darkness is a chapter, visit their website at frontlineresponse.org, or consider joining the Responder Community here.

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Cheshtrek Gives Atlanta High School Boys an Experience of Seminary Life

Just a few months after his ordination in Rome on May 4, 2019, Father Terrance Allen, LC, arrived at Pinecrest Academy, a Regnum Christi school in Cumming, Georgia, where he has been serving as the high school chaplain for the past three years, ministering to Pinecrest students and families, faculty and staff.

In his role as High School Chaplain, Father Terrance had the opportunity to take a group of students on Cheshtrek, an annual road trip organized by ECYD Atlanta, to the Legionaries of Christ’s seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut over the Labour Day weekend (unfortunately, last year’s trip was cancelled due to COVID). This year, 17 boys (15 of which were Pinecrest students) and three dads made the nearly 2000-mile round trip, stopping in New York City on the way to Connecticut.

For Father Terrance, Cheshtrek provides an extraordinary opportunity for boys to experience their faith in action in the lives of men not much older – and not much different – than themselves, who are living an intensely spiritual, prayer-centered life. While at Cheshire, the boys get to experience seminary life and meet the seminarians, who, while deeply spiritual, are ordinary young men just like themselves. “It’s a great experience for the guys to go to the seminary and meet so many other young men living their faith in an intense way, spending many hours in prayer, and who at the same time will go and play sports with them, and are even sometimes better than them at sports!” says Father Terrance. “These seminarians are all young men who are regular guys and yet intensely spiritual, and the boys are always taken aback by how normal they are!”

The trip also provides an opportunity for boys with vocational interests to witness and get excited about seminary life; for others, it is an introduction to a call that they may never have considered. Says Father Terrance, “It’s a really cool experience that the guys usually couldn’t have that takes them out of their comfort zone and introduces them to a new reality.”

On the way back from their trip to Cheshire, the group stopped in New York again, this time to take in a Yankees game. This year, two Pinecrest alumni who are attending Westpoint, a four-year federal service academy in the state of New York, joined the group for the game to connect with their former classmates and friends.

Father Terrance’s favorite thing about his role as high school chaplain at Pinecrest is how he gets to come face to face on a daily basis with the people to whom he ministers. “Every day I arrive to school and there are students, parents, faculty with whom I can share my vocation and serve. They’re always there, to be ministered to, every day!”

You can find out more about Pinecrest and their upcoming events on their website at pinecrestacademy.org.

 

 

 

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Growing ECYD from the Canadian Prairies

This year, ECYD, Regnum Christi’s youth organization, is celebrating 50 years of encouraging and supporting lived personal friendships among adolescents with Jesus Christ and with each other. One of the resources that has been offered by ECYD for over the past 15 years are Conquest and Challenge; these programs are directed towards boys and girls in K-12th grade and strive to form adolescents as Christian leaders to transform culture through a unique curriculum that is virtue based, teen led, gender specific, team based, and service driven. The products and resources, training and support, and access to an international network of ECYD camps, retreats, and mentors is what makes the Conquest and Challenge programs an effective tool to lead adolescents to a deeper relationship with Christ.

One of those ECYD members who has been profoundly impacted by the Conquest program is Donovan Novak, who lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Shortly after Conquest was launched, Donovan’s father, Trevor Novak, established the program in Regina with the help of Regnum Christ members and men he had gathered from Familia and other RC initiatives; the club became one of the first groups in North America to use and implement the Conquest curriculum and be a part of developing its unique method.

Donovan has been involved with Conquest right from the start, as a participant, then as a Team Leader, and now, as a member of the ECYD Life Department. In this role, which he has held from the past two years, Donovan is primarily responsible for the products and resources for the ECYD programs of Challenge and Conquest. Some of these responsibilities include designing and producing Challenge and Conquest curriculum and branded materials, as well as managing the websites and communication. 

Despite this new, larger role, Donovan remains closely connected to the Conquest program that continues to be run out of his home parish. Conquest Regina currently runs all three of the Conquest programs – Junior, Middle School, and High School – and has 50-60 boys attending its weekly meetings. And some of the boys attend Conquest twice a week. “Something unique that we do is that for the first few years of being a Team Leader, the boys come two nights a week – one night they are Team Leader for the younger boys, and the second night they have their own meeting with their peers,” says Donovan. “And we play some of the most intense dodgeball games I’ve ever seen.” Regina also has a vibrant and growing Challenge Girls Club.

Another factor unique to Conquest Regina is its location: situated in the middle of the Canadian prairies, Regina is nearly 500 miles from the nearest Legionary community, in the next province over in Calgary, Alberta. Because of this distance, Conquest Regina is completely run by the families involved while maintaining a close relationship with Regnum Christi and the Legionaries, particularly by bringing in a priest to host retreats for the boys once or twice a year. “Staying connected to ECYD and the greater Regnum Christi community is a bit difficult because we are so remote,” says Donovan, “but it’s also one of our greatest strengths, because we are self-run by volunteers.”

Conquest Regina is currently in the middle of a project called “In the Spirit of Saint Nicholas,” an annual Advent initiative aimed at promoting St. Nicholas’ example of the virtues of generosity and care for the poor. The Conquest boys promote the project at various parishes throughout the diocese, selling Canadian-made chocolates; all of the proceeds of the chocolate sales go to a charity of the boys’ choice, and the club keeps no money for itself. Typically, the project brings in around $4000, and this year, the money raised will be going to the Marian Centre, a local Madonna House that serves the poor in downtown Regina.

Throughout the years, Donovan has been increasingly grateful for his involvement in Conquest and ECYD. “Conquest is an incredible program that has impacted my life immensely and continues to form young men in the faith,” says Donovan. “I have had the opportunity to be a Team Leader for each of the Conquest programs, from Father-Son to High School, and now I have the privilege of locally mentoring an incredible group of young men who give of themselves as Conquest Team Leaders.”

And in his role as a member of the ECYD Life Department, Donovan has big hopes for the Conquest and Challenge programs, and for ECYD as a whole:

“A goal of mine this year, after a year where many clubs, including the one in Regina, could not run due to COVID regulations, is to get as many new programs running as possible. Now, more than ever, our youth need fellowship, a community where they can be themselves, and grow in their identity as a child of God alongside their peers. The bigger vision is that the growth of Challenge and Conquest initiates the growth of ECYD and Regnum Christi – ECYD is what leads to a personal, committed relationship with Christ, and the lifestyle of an apostle.”

From a young age, Donovan knew he wanted to “conquer the whole world for Christ,” and for him, ECYD is the tool that God has given him to do just that. “I believe that the best and easiest way to build up the kingdom is through Regnum Christi, and the best and easiest way to grow Regnum Christi is through ECYD. If we can build the foundation of our Church through our youth, the future has so much more hope.”

In this jubilee year of ECYD, all members of Regnum Christi are invited to reflect with gratitude on the gift of ECYD and its call to a personal friendship with Christ. Read more about how ECYD promotes and emanates the charism of Regnum Christi in the recently published essay, The Pledge of Friendship With Christ and Among Each Other – ECYD: the Regnum Christi Charism Lived by Young People. Learn more about ECYD’s Impact One 2021 Appeal, which is raising funds that go directly to building up the Conquest and Challenge programs in order to minister to adolescents through prayer, formation, team life, accompaniment, and apostolate. And to see more about Conquest Regina, visit their website at conquestregina.ca.

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Worthy of Wearing

Worthy of Wearing: A Movement Guiding Women on the Journey to Self-Worth

The Regnum Christi charism was exactly what Nicole Caruso had been searching for.

Nicole was still a high school student when she incorporated into Regnum Christi at her first Spiritual Exercises retreat in 2004, after a return to her faith just a few years prior. Having struggled throughout adolescence and young adulthood with low self-worth, experiences of bullying, and confusion in who God was calling her to be and what he was calling her to do, when Nicole joined the New York section, she began to rebuild her confidence and rediscover her dignity in the eyes of God. This journey towards self-worth – through Regnum Christi formation, regular spiritual direction, retreats, spiritual reading, and the active pursuit of a friendship with Christ – eventually led Nicole to work in the New York fashion industry, becoming a makeup artist and the Beauty Editor of Verily Magazine, and, ultimately, creating the Worthy of Wearing movement.

The idea of Worthy of Wearing came to Nicole shortly after the birth of her second child. Nicole noticed that she had grown reluctant to wear some of her favorite items of clothing and accessories – pieces that she truly loved and got joy from wearing – and instead was keeping them at the back of her closet, saving them for “another day”, or a special occasion. But for Nicole, that occasion never seemed to arrive. “I was a stay-at-home mom, and my ordinary tasks felt too minimal to dress up or maintain my appearance for,” says Nicole. “Through prayer and reflection, I knew that it came down to my self-worth, and that I didn’t feel worthy of wearing or using those things.”

However, it was Nicole’s young daughter who finally inspired her to think differently about her own worthiness and the role that beauty and personal style might have to play in its expression in her everyday life. “My daughter’s love of expressing herself through beautiful clothing is what made me question everything – she would beat me to get dressed every morning, and wear something truly special,” says Nicole. “I was finding it difficult to change out of my pajamas, and her example to me helped me change my mindset and my habits.”

It was this longing to recognize and express her own intrinsic worth, along with the confident and joy-filled example of her daughter, that prompted Nicole to take action. She started wearing her favorite pieces again, and immediately she felt more confident, and more comfortable in her own skin. Nicole took to social media, sharing her thoughts and personal experiences about beauty, dignity, and self-worth, and an online community was borne, full of women seeking that same transformative confidence that comes from being rooted in Christ.

The Worthy of Wearing community began by sharing month-long challenges on Instagram which encouraged women to wear – and share – something that helped them to feel and express their intrinsic worth every single day, and the movement took off from there. “Women all over the world began sharing their outfits, experiences, and personal journeys with me,” says Nicole. “Over time, the message has expanded to include not only the external factors that make us feel worth, but also how we care for our souls as well.” Most recently, Nicole is launching a brand-new Worthy of Wearing book that will be a guide to uncovering self-worth through personal style and the lens of faith.

For Nicole, however, Worthy of Wearing is more than a website, a challenge, or, most recently, a book – it is a much-needed movement designed to remind women of their intrinsic worth, to encourage them to discover their feminine genius, and to invite them to explore their unique style. “Those who seek the message of Worthy of Wearing have struggled to find their personal style, struggled with feeling completely accepted in their faith community or social community, struggled with knowing their mission and purpose in life,” says Nicole. Since starting Worthy of Wearing, Nicole has heard from a myriad of women who have found the movement’s message of intrinsic worthiness refreshing, powerful, and transformative.

And for some, that message has be life-saving. Recently, Nicole, along with her good friend, Glory Darbellay, a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, presented a Christmas series called The Worthy Novena. For nine consecutive days starting on Christmas Eve, Nicole and Glory provided original prayers, inspired by Scripture, saints, and Catholic authors, designed to accompany and inspire those longing to grow closer to Christ along their journey towards greater self-worth. One young woman who was following the novena reached out to Nicole and told her that she had been struggling with postpartum depression, and had been having thoughts of taking her own life. “During the novena, she felt the strength to reach out to her spouse, and was able to get the support she needed to get through.”

There are countless other stories like these, of women who, through the Worth of Wearing movement, are starting to see their own worth and understand from whom their worth originates, and are learning how to express it outwardly with joy and Christ-centered confidence. “It is beautiful to see Christ showing his love for us through this message of celebrating our dignity, through the simple action of caring for ourselves – body and soul,” says Nicole. “Something as simple as throwing on a favorite pair of earrings, or taking time for prayer and preparing an outfit of the day, can elevate a woman’s confidence and radiate joy. She can then serve in her mission with greater peace when she knows whose she is.”

Nicole’s new Worthy of Wearing book, published by Sophia Press, will be released in just a few months, and will be a beautiful collection of prose and images about cultivating personal style and celebrating the Catholic faith. Nicole continues to be inspired and propelled to share in new ways the Worthy of Wearing message – that, created in the image and likeness of God, every woman is worthy and is called to make a difference in her own unique life, no matter how ordinary it may seem at times. “I hope many more women all over the world can hear and share this message, so in turn we can all pursue our mission, use our unique talents, build our Church, and become saints.”

To find out more about the Worthy of Wearing movement, follow @worthyofwearing on Instagram, or visit the website at worthyofwearing.com. Starting on February 1, the @worthyofwearing Instagram account begins a month-long challenge, and will be posting daily content, re-posting shares from the Worthy of Wearing community, and inviting special guests to do takeovers of the account’s Stories to share what the movement has meant to them. (Find information to get your closet ready for the #worthyofwearing Challenge here.) And stay tuned for the Worthy of Wearing book to be released in early 2021!

Worthy of Wearing: A Movement Guiding Women on the Journey to Self-Worth Read More »

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!