Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent 2011: A Reflection from Cricket

“Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
saying, ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star
in the east, and are come to worship him.’” Matt 2:1b-2
We know how the wise men knew where to go in their search for the One they should worship. They followed the star. God made it very clear---a bright and shining star that no one could miss, as long as they were looking up---a star that would lead them to the Christ Child.
I was putting up some decorations in our home, trying to get the house ready before family came home for Christmas. Above our fireplace mantle, this time of year, I always hang a wreath with our nativity scene beneath it. The rest of the year a large iron cross hangs there. The center of this cross is a flat circle which I always cover with a picture that depicts whatever Feast day or Liturgical season we are in. This Advent I was looking for a picture of Mary and Joseph
on their way to Bethlehem to place in this center of the cross. But every picture I found of Joseph and Mary included the infant Christ. This is Advent! And I wanted the scene to be about this season.
I found, then, a large sculptured star our son had made for us several years ago. A star! It was much larger than the center of this cross, but I hung it there and it was perfect, covering the
center and reaching out to all the sides of the cross. Now I also had a beautiful Christmas card of the 3 wise men which I had placed on top of our piano. But that didn’t look right---the magi
had to be facing the star I had just hung. So I moved the card across the room.

Then I stepped back and looked at the magi---looked at the star—and looked at
the cross behind the star, and a ‘light’ of understanding shone forth: The wise men know to follw the star. As long as they kept themselves in that direction, they would be led to the King of Kings.
Today, the ‘star’ we follow is the cross. It will always lead us to the King of Kings. It will always draw us to that humble place where Christ can be found, adored, and glorified. Like the magi, we must never stop looking, never give up, or stop pressing on. It is our clear and shining sign that we will find Christ. Christ was born with a bright and clear sign, and He died with one. Let us not forget to follow, to keep our eyes on the sign He left us. Let us not forget, lest we lose our way.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November 2011

Greetings and welcome! This fall, we have been serving more locally, which helps us get ready for our Advent commitments. Our newest CD will be available in a matter of days (watch for announcement!)
To the right is a capture of Archbishop Wilton Gregory celebrating the graduation of many students Jerry had in Theology classes for Spring Hill College Atlanta---this was their graduation and a blessed message and commisioning for them!
We also travelled to Savannah for the Installation of our friend, Bishop Gregory Hartmeyer, OFM! Friar Gregory was Cricket's spiritual director for 15 years as he cared for 2 Fransciscan parishes in the Atlanta area! It was a wonderfully joyous Mass with so many parishioners, former and new, celebrating!
Cricket has become the Spiritual Advisor for a secular franciscan fraternity out east, and we provided a retreat for them in Late October. It was held at a Catholic community retreat center, in St. Joseph's hall, as these pictures show!

This retreat focused on the discernment of our vocations, with plenty of time for walks through the magnificent fall colors and country lanes!

In November, we travelled back to Blairsville GA in the mountains! There we led a retreat for the fraternity there, and focused on Cricket's book Understanding Penance. This was a joyous and highly interactive full house affair! We were so blessed to be invited back, and to serve this ever growing community!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Late Summer 2011

As jerry writes this update, it is the first morning in a long time that a long sleeve shirt is in order! This summer has meant some travel, but we have been home working on new projects that will be part of our ministry this fall.
  • Our daughter Laura finished her PhD and promptly walked 500 miles on a pilgrimage called 'the Camino'. Though she carried very little with her, she did keep a journal. Unbeknownst to Laura, so did her mother. And their spiritual companionship of these journeys led to a retreat given by Laura at Holy Trinity parish. My hope is that this collaboration, with some of my music, will become a new cd or dvd. Stay tuned!
  • Jerry travelled to Arkansas to give a workshop for Methodist Ministers and staff, played a wedding in the Atlanta Cathedral, and did a number of jazz performances including a Knights of Columbus Big Band event at Holy Cross parish.
  • Jerry led a faculty retreat for a thriving High School faculty and staff named for Pope John XXIII. The leadership of this school seeks to continue the peaceful + evangelical catholic spirit of Blessed Angelo Roncalli. Jerry sang at the event with Benedictine Sister Cathy Anne Lepore, and led the group in reflection on growing Catholic Leadership.
  • The Highlight of the summer came in NC at the Annual Regional Gathering. Cricket & Jerry were asked to lead sessions around the content given by Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, primarily on prayer. Cricket's reflections and activities were a blessed complement to Sister's sessions. As the weekend proceeded, jerry felt led to write a song focused on the contemplative exhortation of St. Clare to "gaze on the Cross"; in the way an infant does. Jerry led this song with the entire 325+ members as a choir on the final evening, and this song is on the upcoming cd now being finished. (stay tuned!)
  • Said trip had exciting travel notes I didn't mention. Our trusty little camper gave up on the side of the road in Franklin NC: we were towed to a very small fix it place, and our friend and angel Joan Furst came by to transport Cricket while I stayed with the van (guitar, cd's, clothes, healthy food, you get the picture). In any case, the little shop (within a mile of two secular franciscans we found out later) took a while but did a great job getting me back on the road a week or so later!
  • The new cd we have worked on this summer is called "On a Road of Prayer". It chronicles our travels this year in all original songs sung by Jerry and our daughters. It includes songs that were inspired in many different locations in our itinerant service. Jerry feels the stories of these songs are one with the songs themselves. He played all instruments (but our son Jacob added percussion on the theme song) and includes some mandolin, banjo, & harmonica. There are solos from 3 of our daughters, and Cricket is promising it is our best ever! (I would accuse her of plenty of bias!) Please stay tuned!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer 2011! 3 year ministry anniversary!

It was three years ago that Jerry walked into a meeting with a CEO and said, without a 'plan B', that he and his beloved had felt a call to be full time in service to the Church. Although he has been blessed to occasionally consult on special projects, the call was to be 'on call'--- to 'open our calendar', and to be available where we were needed, to offer our service in teaching, praying, and music. Thank you Lord for our opportunity to serve you!

The spring  included a few trips into NC and FL, as Cricket is working on a new writing project that we’ll talk about shortly. She did lead a couple of SFO retreats in May/June, and continues to pray with people nearby in spiritual direction. Our Lord has placed her at the bedside of a few friends heading to eternal rest as well. Cricket also helped with leading some prayer teams for the Annual Eucharistic Congress Healing Session.

Jerry is completing work on the new CD. It is all original music and has again included our daughters and son on the recording! It is born of our mission and prayer trips, and we will update this ‘straightaway’! Our daughter, Talia, whom you have heard on several of our CD’s, has moved to NYC to do musical theater full time. In her first month there, she was able to sing at the Kennedy Center in DC and other significant venues!  Jerry has also completed most of the work on the deceased family members’ home in FL, and no longer has to take long trips to there. One of many blessings from that project is a small Catholic school and St. Vincent de Paul society were able to use a huge amount of furniture etc from the estate.

Our next trip begins soon, and includes the North and into Canada. Thank you for your Prayers!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 2011!

In mid march we returned to the northern edge of Minneapolis to provide a mission for Saint Patrick’s Church of Forest Lake Minnesota. Some of my photos didn't turn out, but you can see the 4 inches that fell on the last day we were there! But there was nothing but warmth in this parish retreat we led there. Both morning and evening sessions were well attended and the prayers of this community led by Fr. DeGrood and Fr. Joppa and the Deacons were at the core of the Lenten season. We were blessed to stay with Deacon Ralph and Louise for the 2nd time, and were so blessed that Jerry wrote a song called "A Grandparent's Blessing" which he sang one night and will be, yes indeed, on the new cd! Cricket led a special session on Intercessory Prayer and the passion of this parish for the presence of the Holy Spirit is even mightier than the winter winds we left when we came back to GA!

March 2011

In March we were still ‘back home again in Indiana’ (jerry’s boyhood home) and blessed to do a parish mission for St. Louis De Montfort in Fishers Indiana. This team had also done a remarkable amount of pre work; we were guests in two homes and were treated like family! Father Pat and Fr. Jn were so supportive and the themes of the mission and the readings of the daily Mass were strands they helped weave together in unity. The youth director and musicians were also helpful in this integration!There were both morning and evening sessions, and their parish retreat began with a large gathering of youth preparing for Confirmation. When we arrived, we got to see the kids enjoying a full day of teaching and fun from a parishioner who plays for the Indianapolis Colts. Joe emphasizes faith first, then family, and had brought another Colt with him to share their faith with the youth (and adults!)

On Sunday night, the parish rallied as a community for one of their own! The Knights of Columbus sponsored a wonderful supper for a youth group member named Grace (amazing Grace the T shirts said!) as she battles cancer. There were more people, food and joy packed into the parish hall than I would have imagined! It was such a blessing to have our mission kick off with such a stellar example of service to others in a time of need!

Rosie and Jn hosted us the first few nights, and we found at dinner that they had left their careers abruptly years ago---even with a young family, and headed to South America as missionaries! Their children, other couples, and even the parish have been directly involved with continuing that ministry for years! My leaving the corporate world didn't seem all that profound as I listened to their story, and the way it has inspired others. When Jn told me over breakfast that he didn't think it was all that big a thing, in fact he said, "All I said was Yes". I wrote a song based on that beautiful assent and it will be on the new cd.

We were blessed to serve St John Vianney parish of Atlanta with a parish mission.  The Friars of SJV, Fr Gregory and Fr Tim previewed the mission by saying they would be there the whole time because they wanted to renew themselves in Lent as well! It began with a prayer concert for the parish based on "Becoming a Prayer". Monday's sessions included our participation with Christ,  and concluded Tueday night with the Eucharist and Cricket leading her teaching on deepening our experience of the Mass. I hope to have more pictures soon, as this experience was a valuable example of Lenten renewal. On Sunday evening, Fr. Tim told jerry that he believed jerry had 'a song in his heart' for a tender poem Fr. Tim's dad had written about the stations of the cross. Well, he was right. Jerry was so moved by the poem that he put it to music in a short period of time and sang it for the mission monday evening. It will be on the new cd, and Fr Tim will play it for his dad this spring!

February 2011!

February began with a visit from longtime friend bob Halligan of Ceili rain.  He was providing music and teaching for a conference north of Atlanta.  Bob is a catholic artist, and as a signed staff songwriter has sold over 30,000,000 records of songs he has collaborated on or written.  In the middle of February we traveled to Indiana to provide a lenten mission for jerry's boyhood parish.  This was a remarkable time of grace to be back in the church where Jerry was baptized, went to grade school, learn to serve mass, was confirmed, and so many important family ceremonies.  Father Paul and Father Chris and staff had done a ton of work to make this mission bring the Hispanic and English speaking parts of the parish together.  The picture you see above of #8 refers to over 30 discussion groups that were orchestrated each evening and included translators so the Spanish and non Spanish speakers could share their experiences and views on the topics of each evening of the retreat! Franciscan Brother Moises, director of Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese, translated cricket's teachings into his own style and the musicians of Holy Spirit parish also did nearly all the music in a bilingual format.350- 500 people attended each night, and the retreat was structured so that bilingual translators were always a part of the teaching and discussions.  Jerry's brother Kenny, the youngest of his nine siblings, added his wonderful servanthood and humor.  We felt we were experiencing a wonderful fellowship in the Body of Christ!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

January 2011!

January of 2011 was marked by a family trip in the motorhome to the frozen tundra of the University of Michigan to watch our daughter Laura become Dr. Laura!  She successfully defended her dissertation on her first attempt and we had a wonderful celebration with her faculty and friends! 

The month ended with a retreat offered for our fraternity in Chattanooga Tennessee.  We were created thereby two people who separately told us that our retreat for them a year ago had helped them make nearly miraculous changes in their life and attitude.  What was compelling to me about their comments was that their circumstances had not really changed at all, but their lives had!  They felt that they had developed a much better spiritual perspective on their current state, and that we had helped.  This is wonderfully affirming because it is certainly at the heart of the service we want to provide.

December 2010!

December‘s first weekend brought a wonderful ministry to our home. Michael john and Mary Poirier we're giving a couple of retreats in at the Atlanta area; they have had a full Time Motor home ministry for over a decade while raising three children! (they are now off the road). I had contacted them when we first began, and although our ministries are different in many ways, we are able to share a great deal that we have in common. Praying with and learning from their music and message was a highlight of 2010. I have told Michael John he has inspired my music in a brand new way and I owe him a very large cup of coffee! Check the family out at http://www.prayerbreaks.org/   

The following weekend we returned to Blairsville Georgia to provide a retreat for secular Franciscan leadership. This included some time on developing leadership when serving volunteers. Since this topic was at the core of jerry's corporate career, Jerry had designed a couple of specialized presentations/interactions on the different skill sets and styles of leadership.

Although time had to be spent in Florida getting the estate in order, Nika and her family came from Spain and spent another month with us---and were soon joined by all the rest of the family. We had felt for a long time that this may be our last Christmas season in this home as we get it ready to sell.

November 2010!

November began with a wonderful experience of a women's retreat at the gorgeous John XXIII conference center in West Virginia.  Cricket's teaching was accompanied by a prayer concert from Jerry, and we were so blessed to be invited to return for the men's retreat next spring.  Later in the month, we returned to Maggie Valley North Carolina to provide a Franciscan retreat on inner healing entitled “healing the Franciscan within you”.   Thanksgiving is always among our favorite holidays because it is the time the family begins to reassemble in our home for advent and Christmas. 

October 2010!

October began with Cricket and Jerry doing some music and teaching at a Franciscan parish to celebrate the Transitus of St Francis of Assisi. Jerry wrote a song for this occasion that one Friar insisted be on the next cd! But October then became a time heavily involved with Cricket's extended family as her brother Dr. Buzz Stulac passed away after a relatively short fight with cancer. Buzz had spent many years caretaking Cricket’s parents in his home, prior to their passing a few years ago. Recently, he had been taking his 2 well trained St. Bernards to hospices, youth groups, and homes for ‘pet therapy’ for the infirm. His memorial service was held with as many dogs as people! The relative sadness of this event has meant that Cricket and Jerry have spent a lot of time helping with the needs that arise in this way.  

September 2010!

On our return trip from Canada, MN, and KC in September, we visited cricket's high school reunion in St. Louis, where of course, cricket was awarded the’ best preserved’ recognition (since she still looks like she's in high school).  She so enjoyed the Friday night celebration that we returned for Sunday afternoon after a side trip to a family reunion in Brown County, Indiana on Saturday.  Jerry returned to Indiana a week later for his high school reunion.  In grade school, Jerry had a band and the lead singer is now a professor of music at Marian university.  That singer is Dr. Jim Larner, and Jim and Jerry provided jazz music for the reunion on a wonderful Saturday evening in Indianapolis.  (Jerry performs as a jazz guitarist and vocalist frequently in the Atlanta area, especially  as a longtime member of the Sentimental Journey Orchestra, the sjo.com) From there Jerry traveled to Maryland to sing at a wedding and reception near Chesapeake Bay.

August 2010!

August 2010 was a particularly full month of ministry for us. We were invited to provide a retreat for the staff at Sacred Heart Church in South Georgia on the theme of stewardship of time in treasure. This staff had just completed a remarkable growth and construction campaign with heroic results. We were blessed to serve with music, teaching, and interactivity. Jerry still receives requests to speak at corporate retreats (which was part of his corporate background) , and he was blessed to provide an executive retreat on work life balance for a hospital in Southern Alabama. At this same time cricket was in Northern Alabama providing a retreat for the Bessemer fraternity that also focused on inner healing. [Ever since cricket was asked to develop a one day retreat on the inner healing, she has been requested to do it a dozen more times]

The following weekend began nearly a month of travel. Cricket’s book on intercession had traveled from friends to a small intercessory prayer group in Minnesota. The pastor also read the book and ordered 50 copies! Since we were heading for Canada, we offered to provide a retreat for that prayer group, and we were so blessed to do so! [Our connection with his parish was so blessed that we were invited to return to serve them with a parish mission in Lent 2011!]

Since we had a few days before we were to be in Calgary Canada for the UCMVA conference, we took a trip to Northern Minnesota to visit some of the places cricket went as a child, visiting her family’s roots. Among these was a visit a professional photographers’ studio where cricket’sgrandfather helped produce one of the most famous photographs and the world=Grace.

We spent the next two or three days driving across the northern U.S. and Southern Canada seeing very few people but a whole lot of beautiful prairie. Although I have never submitted music or video for the UCMVA (united catholic music and video awards), I have been blessed to be part of the musicians performing there several times. It was quite an honor to get to fellowship and perform with Tony Melendez, Tom Booth, Greg Walton, Dennis Agajanian, Denis Grady, and Bob Halligan/Ceili Rain! This recognition of Catholic artists is international and was broadcast all over the world via the Internet. Cricket gave a teaching on the spirit and prayer of the catholic artist. Jerry not only performed but was part of a guitar clinic. We were all so blessed to give five prayer concerts while we were there.

July 2010!

July 2010 we were blessed to return to the annual regional gathering of the secular Franciscans in North Carolina.  Cricket presented to a breakout session on the Four Allegories of Saint Francis.  This is always a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with great friends and supporters, among whom are people who offer their driveway for our parking our little motor home! Because Cricket’s high sensitivity to wifi and cell tower electronics mean we are unable to stay in hotels, we are housed in a nearby campground where we get to witness on our ministry.