Embracing Epiphany

Epiphany brings an opportunity for reflection, renewal, and the celebration of the divine revelation. While the story of the Magi’s journey to Bethlehem is well-known, Epiphany holds a special place in the hearts of many for reasons beyond its historical narrative. One of the cherished traditions associated with this sacred occasion is the Home Blessing, a ritual that transcends time and culture, symbolizing the light and warmth of faith within the very heart of our homes.

The Essence of Epiphany

Epiphany, sometimes known as the Feast of the Three Kings, marks the culmination of the Christmas season. It commemorates the visit of the Magi, who traveled from the East following a star, and bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor the newborn Jesus. Beyond the historical context, Epiphany represents the manifestation of Christ to the world, a revelation that extends beyond religious boundaries, resonating with the universal theme of divine enlightenment.

three crowns

The Home Blessing Tradition

One Epiphany tradition is the blessing of homes. Each Home Blessing Kit includes chalk for the traditional door blessing and a guide for the home blessing ceremony. Blessed Sacrament provides kits for the parish community the weekend of Epiphany. They are available for anyone!

Significance of the Home Blessing

1. Sanctifying the Domestic Space:

The home is a sacred space where families gather, love is shared, and memories are created. The Epiphany Home Blessing sanctifies this space, inviting God into the very fabric of our daily lives.

2. Renewal and Reflection:

As we embark on a new year, the Epiphany Home Blessing becomes a moment of reflection. It allows us to renew our commitment to spiritual growth, set intentions for the coming year, and seek God’s guidance in our homes and hearts.

3. Community and Continuity:

Participating in the Home Blessing tradition connects us to a larger community of believers. It creates a sense of continuity, as families around the world join together in this ritual, linking past generations with the present and the future.

4. A Visual Reminder of Faith:

The chalk inscription on the door reminds us daily of our faith. It serves as a source of strength during challenging times and a beacon of hope that we carry with us as we enter and leave our homes each day.

image of epiphany home blessing kit

Embrace the Tradition

As we celebrate Epiphany this year, let us embrace the tradition of the Home Blessing with open hearts and minds. The Epiphany Home Blessing is an opportunity to deepen your spiritual connection, foster a sense of community, and invite the light of Christ into the very fabric of your home. May the blessings of Epiphany illuminate your path and bring joy, peace, and prosperity to your household.

In the spirit of Christ’s incarnation, may your homes be blessed, and your hearts filled with the love and grace of this sacred season.

Written by Kristyn Russell

Kristyn is a Midland native who attended St. Brigid Catholic School before heading to Jefferson and Dow High School. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology from Villanova University and a Bachelor’s degree in Theology with a minor in Communication from Aquinas College. When she’s not at work, she’s usually with her dog, Caspian, kayaking a new river, hiking through the woods, or sitting by a campfire reading a book.

4th Week of Advent: PONDER

PONDER – think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion

Today we heard a familiar story from the Bible: Gabriel visits Mary. Here we have a teenager who is engaged to be married, who is going about her daily routine when God springs onto the scene to ask her to be the mother of the Messiah. If you were in her shoes, what would you have said?

I’m not sure how I would’ve responded either. But, Mary’s faith is so great that she said, “Yes!” I don’t know if she was prepared but that didn’t stop her from taking on the greatest role in history: Mother of God.

Mary is awesome. She is the first disciple of Christ. She is our role model because just like her, God has a plan for each of us.

We’re going fast forward for a minute to the birth of Christ. In Luke’s gospel, the shepherds come to visit, think about how Mary and Joseph must feel- they traveled to Bethlehem, they just had a baby, shepherds surround them, and we don’t know Joseph’s reaction, but Luke tells us that Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

This brings me to this week’s theme: PONDER. The fourth week of Advent is a short 24 hours, but take a moment to ponder the miracle that we are about to experience.

Take a moment to ponder all you’ve been given.

Ponder what this Christmas will mean to you.

Take a moment to ponder what God is asking of you.

Written by Kristyn Russell

Kristyn is a Midland native who attended St. Brigid Catholic School before heading to Jefferson and Dow High School. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology from Villanova University and a Bachelor’s degree in Theology with a minor in Communication from Aquinas College. When she’s not at work, she’s usually with her dog, Caspian, kayaking a new river, hiking through the woods, or sitting by a campfire reading a book.

3rd Week of Advent: WISH

WISH: a desire or hope for something to happen

The third week of Advent means Gaudete Sunday! It’s joy week friends! Why is it called “Gaudete Sunday”? Well, the entrance antiphon  (opening song) for Gaudete Sunday, in both the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo, is taken from Philippians 4:4,5: “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”). There’s your Latin lesson for the day!

Today’s theme is WISH. What do you wish for? What does your heart desire the most?

In this week’s first reading from Isaiah, we hear the prophet talk about what people desired from God:

He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God

This is what the people of Israel expected the Messiah to do. This is what they wished for in their Messiah. The way John preached, people thought he might be the answer to their wish. The people John was preaching to were expecting Christ, the Messiah. John answers them:

“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

John, too, was waiting with desire, hope, expectation. He was waiting for this wish of the Messiah to be fulfilled, and he knew that God is good and would send the Messiah, the Christ, just like he promised he would. God is still in tune with our desires, and our wishes.

Again, what is it that you wish for? What does your heart desire the most? Belonging? Patience? Love?

Will Christ’s birth on Christmas make that wish come true?

Written by Kristyn Russell

Kristyn is a Midland native who attended St. Brigid Catholic School before heading to Jefferson and Dow High School. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology from Villanova University and a Bachelor’s degree in Theology with a minor in Communication from Aquinas College. When she’s not at work, she’s usually with her dog, Caspian, kayaking a new river, hiking through the woods, or sitting by a campfire reading a book.

2nd Week of Advent: WATCH

Watch: look at or observe attentively over a period of time.

Have you ever been going somewhere and autopilot just kicked in and before you know it you’re at your destination and you’re like, wait… how did I get here? Yeah, me too.

Sometimes we are so caught up in our thoughts, our mental to-do list, listening to music, etc. that we aren’t paying attention to what we’re doing. Today’s theme is WATCH.

Happy child wait on holiday by window with Christmas lights in winter.

Watch where you’re going. It kind of can go with one of last week’s themes– focus. This Advent challenge yourself to watch and focus on what it is we’re waiting for this Christmas.

In the second reading from Mass this week, St. Peter writes,

But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

If there is fire and a mighty roar it’s a lot easier to pay attention, we wouldn’t have to discern anything because it would be obvious. But Christmas isn’t about the obvious, it’s about a baby coming into the world in a small town, in a stable, to a teenage mother and a carpenter. Nothing about that screams “Watch this!”

It’s our job to watch for the ways to prepare our hearts for Christmas, so challenge yourself this Advent to not just go through the motions, not to cruise through on autopilot; challenge yourself to watch and pay attention to the journey towards Christmas. How is God preparing you?

Written by Kristyn Russell

Kristyn Russell is a Midland native who attended St. Brigid Catholic School before heading to Jefferson and Dow High School. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology from Villanova University and a Bachelor’s degree in Theology with a minor in Communication from Aquinas College. When she’s not at work, she’s usually with her dog, Caspian, kayaking a new river, hiking through the woods, or sitting by a campfire reading a book.

1st Week of Advent: FOCUS

FOCUS: a center of activity, attraction, or attention

Raise your hand if this holiday season has you feeling like you need a pause button in your life?!

Okay, you don’t actually have to raise your hand, but if you’re feeling like me, then you might be feeling like you haven’t stopped going since Thanksgiving. I think that’s why this blog’s theme is so important: FOCUS.

In the Gospel on Sunday, Jesus says: “Be watchful! Be alert!” He could have added, “Stay focused!” Advent is a time to focus on what’s going on and what will happen on Christmas. Why is Christmas so important? Look around at what’s going on in the world and the reason we need Christmas joy is so apparent.

We’re looking for our Savior, Redeemer, and Friend, and when we focus and wait in anticipation, for the coming of our King, maybe we won’t feel like we need a pause button so much because we will be tuned into the waiting and preparation for Christmas.

Written by Kristyn Russell

Kristyn Russell is a Midland native who attended St. Brigid Catholic School before heading to Jefferson and Dow High School. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology from Villanova University, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Theology with a minor in Communication from Aquinas College. When she’s not at work, she’s usually with her dog, Caspian, kayaking a new river, hiking through the woods, or sitting by a campfire reading a book.

NCYC Reflections

On Thursday, November 16, 2023 over 10, 000 high school students and young adults packed into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the opening night of the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), among that 10,000+ were teens from Blessed Sacrament, the Youth 2 Youth Team, and Outreach Team: Dominic Griffin, Ashley Hofmeister, Angie Mechling, Faith O’Connor, Isabel Rudisel, Dan Schneider, Lorilei Seitz, Amelia Urlaub, Alex Yeakle. Plus, their adult leaders Kathy Russell & Dave Pasek.

Keep reading to learn more about their awesome experiences!

Isabel Rudisel, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Member

I went to NCYC expecting to gain a sense of community but I gained so much more than that. While I did gain a sense of community really I gained a family. The people I met were so loving and Jesus-filled. I also gained a deeper understanding of my life and faith. I’m so grateful for going to NCYC because it’s not something that you do for a weekend, you go for a weekend but keep it for life.

Alex Yeakle, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Member

Going to the National Catholic Youth Conference was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I went. Before, I had an idea of what it would be like because I’ve been to the Youth 2 Youth retreat before (it’s also my second year on the team for that). I expected it to be just a larger version of that but it was really a lot different and was more powerful and more amazing. 

Some of my favorite parts were singing and praying throughout the weekend and getting to know an awesome group of people. The best part of the weekend was on Saturday night, the last session was closing Mass. This Mass was the best I’ve ever experienced. It’s hard to describe having 13,000 people all singing and praying together but it was really amazing and beautiful. My favorite part of Mass…Bishop Espaillat’s homily. He was telling us, the youth, to live with joy—joy over fear and taking what we feel here at NCYC home. So, that’s what I’m going to do. That means not just going to Mass every weekend but living the faith. Most importantly, that means living without fear of showing my faith. 

Dan Schneider, Youth 2 Youth Team Member

If I could go back in time and tell myself one thing, right before going to NCYC 2023, I would say this: you’re in for a WILD ride, and here’s why:

The breakout-session speakers were alight with the sparks of the Holy Spirit, it seemed; every word and idea from the keynote speakers were full of clarity and precise wisdom – as if God’s heavenly intellect was speaking through their mortal tongues. God’s calm, caring compassion and his furious passion for our salvation were both present in the variety of keynote speakers that I attended. When we celebrated evening mass, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly beautiful. It was as if the presence of the Lord overshadowed the stadium in his ethereal splendor and sanctifying grace. The like-minded concentration of all 13,000 high-school youth on HIM created a very raw sense of religion, one that I can’t really describe even if I try. 

The musical experience of NCYC was a nearly indescribable symphony of praise and wholehearted prayer. The hymns, spirituals, and chants ignited in me a passionate fire of belief and surrender to God that is presently a swirling blaze of furious devotion to the Lord. 

The mixture of innumerable cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and countless otherworldly aspects of humanity, while I was at this conference was an incredible sight to see. For at NCYC, pigments were washed away by God’s blood of sanctifying grace, language barriers were torn down by God’s hand of salvation, and biases and stigmas were dispelled by the abundant love of God – everyone was one family of God’s children, all giving praise to the Father Almighty.

And that is why NCYC 2023 was such a wild rollercoaster of religious gorgeousness, and I would happily do it all over again, even if I have already experienced it all because God’s presence never gets old. 

Thank you for your time reading this, and God Bless. 

Faith O’Connor, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Team Member

Participating in the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) has been a transformative experience, deepening my sense of community and strengthening my faith. The spirit of unity among everyone created a belonging, making connections that made us forget about geographical boundaries. Engaging with a diverse community of young Catholics allowed me to witness the vibrantness of our shared faith. Not only did we grow together but individually too. Throughout this experience, I feel more connected with my faith than I have in a long time.   

The impactful speakers and thought-provoking breakout sessions at NCYC played an important role in my faith journey throughout this trip. The resonance of personal stories and the wisdom shared by speakers left a lasting impression, inspiring a newfound commitment to living out my faith in tangible ways. The mass was life-changing, receiving the Eucharist with 13 thousand people, you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Together we sang and we danced and that joy is definitely coming home with me. 

Amelia Urlaub, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Team Member

NCYC the National Catholic Youth Conference has helped me to get back into good habits within my faith. Not only has it done that but it made me realize that I find God in my community.  Knowing that there were 12,000 people there for the same thing felt so welcoming.  Day by day I met more and more people that were so similar to me and my situation. Going into the exhibit hall every day was some of the most fun of my whole trip, there were laughs and prayers, and the whole vibe of the place was very comforting. The keynote speakers really stood out to me and got me thinking on a different level.

Ashley Hofmeister, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Team Member

Attending the National Catholic Youth Conference was a profound experience that deeply influenced my relationship with God. The vibrant atmosphere, filled with thousands of young believers, created a sense of unity and shared devotion that was truly inspiring. Through engaging speakers, uplifting worship sessions, and meaningful discussions, I felt a profound spiritual growth within me. The conference provided a space for introspection, allowing me to reflect on my faith, values, and purpose. This communal journey strengthened my connection with God, fostering a deeper understanding of His love and guiding me toward a more authentic and committed relationship with my faith.

 Witnessing the collective energy of fellow Catholic youth, all seeking a closer connection with God, left an indelible mark on my spiritual journey. The shared moments of prayer, celebration, and reflection created a sense of community that extended beyond the event itself. The NCYC became a catalyst for ongoing spiritual growth, prompting me to integrate the lessons learned into my daily life. The experience not only deepened my personal relationship with God but also ignited a passion for sharing the joy of faith with others. As I carry the memories and lessons from the conference forward, I am inspired to continue cultivating a dynamic and evolving connection with God in my ongoing journey of faith.

Angie Mechling, Youth 2 Youth & Outreach Team Member

The National Catholic Youth Conference was an amazing experience where we were able to see thousands of others that have the same beliefs as us. My group was a lot more oriented in meeting new people and we were able to meet new people in many different ways. Whether it was trading hats, putting a clothespin on somebody, or somebody shouting at us to join their picture. It was life-changing to see everyone together for one common goal, to praise God. 

Then again in Adoration, everyone sat there in complete silence. In Lucas Oil Stadium, with thousands of people kneeling looking to Jesus in silence. The fact that everyone at that moment was doing the same thing really struck me. Also, while waiting to go to Confession, we met a girl and she was terrified to go because she was the only one in her group to go, but we were with her, and afterward, she told us how we made her feel so much better about going to Confession. It felt amazing to be able to make somebody more confident to be able to share their stories with God to be forgiven.

Dominic Griffin, Outreach Team Member

I was sick for about half of NCYC, but I still experienced God there, undoubtedly. There were 12,000 Catholic youth, and when we were all in one place, it was amazing! When we were all together at the closing mass, there was a really good bishop,(Bishop Joseph Espaillat, II) who gave the homily. He said that the people can’t expect priests to always do their job if we aren’t doing ours. I thought about how much sense that made; it was very wise. This event was about sharing your faith with other people to make it stronger. We learned about developing a strong faith through people sharing their experiences and how they improved in their faith. I plan on praying more to improve my faith life.

Lorelei Seitz, Youth Ministry Participant

I came into this with a heavy heart and a closed mind. I knew I was distracted from God, and I wanted to feel His presence again. I could feel God with me throughout this NCYC experience and He knew how hard I was trying. I learned that even though it can be scary, I needed to fully put my trust in God and be thankful for the plan, or the path that He has put me on.  It was so nice to feel that love and faith in the stadium, knowing I’m not alone, and there are plenty of people my age who love God and have gone through the same things I did.

One thing that has been stuck in my mind is the phrase, “You are not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be contemplated.” That was so impactful and relieving to hear.  All of the speakers were so impactful and their stories and analogies were beautiful, but the one person who really hit my heart was ValLimar Jansen. She was so engaging and persuasive and she truly loved God and that love shook me to the core.  God’s presence was so strong when she was on that stage, and everyone felt that.

To conclude, I’m so grateful I got to experience NCYC. I love all the people I met, the hats I traded, clothes pins I clipped, but especially, I’m very grateful that my connection with

God is strong again, that my mind is open, and that my heart is filled with love.

Dave Pasek (Chaperone)

One of the small session talks was very impactful for me. Calling us to praise God. And we all can see that and see God in His amazing creation.  All of creation is made to praise God, and we are too. Like the symphony that tunes up all on one note, we need to get in tune and praise God together with creation! Very inspirational.

Also, seeing a stadium full of people, all kneeling in silence and praising God in song during Adoration, and with thousands of young people all together singing at the top of their lungs and praise of our God at mass, filled with joy and energy at the closing song, shouting amens in the stadium with endless echoes.  With funny, challenging, and powerful insights from the funny, deep, and real bishop, (Bishop Joseph Espaillat, II,) was really fulfilling.

I think all ages would benefit from going to an NCYC thing to re-energize and inspire one’s faith.

We would like to say thank you for all of your prayers and support on this pilgrimage to Indianapolis. Without a supportive faith community, this experience would not have been possible. Your support for the young people of the parish and the programs we participate in is greatly appreciated!

~Dominic, Ashley, Angie, Faith, Isabel, Dan, Lorelei, Amelia, Alex, Kathy, and Dave

Creating Your Family Advent Wreath

Advent is a journey towards Bethlehem. May we let ourselves be drawn by the light of God made man.

—Pope Francis

Jump to instructions

History of the Advent Wreath

The Advent wreath has its origins in the Christian traditions of the Western Church and has evolved over time. Its history can be traced back to various customs and practices associated with the season of Advent, which is the period of preparation and anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas.

  1. Early Christian Practices: The use of wreaths, in general, dates back to ancient times, symbolizing victory and eternity. Early Christians in Germany are believed to have adopted the custom of using wreaths during the Advent season, incorporating evergreen elements to symbolize the enduring nature of God’s love.
  2. 16th Century – Johann Hinrich Wichern: The modern Advent wreath is credited to Johann Hinrich Wichern, a Protestant pastor in Germany in the 19th century. In 1839, Wichern created a wooden ring with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. The small candles were lit during the weekdays, and the large candles were lit on Sundays as a way to mark the progress of Advent.
  3. 20th Century – Liturgical Adaptation: The concept of the Advent wreath as we know it today became more standardized in the 20th century. It was adopted into the liturgical practices of both Protestant and Catholic churches. The wreath typically consists of a circular evergreen wreath with four candles, often three purple or blue candles and one pink or rose candle.
  4. Symbolism of the Advent Wreath:
    • Circular Shape: The wreath’s circular shape represents eternity and the unending nature of God’s love.
    • Evergreen Branches: Evergreen branches symbolize the hope of eternal life in Christ.
    • Candles: The candles represent the four weeks of Advent. The three purple or blue candles represent hope, peace, and love, while the pink or rose candle represents joy. The central white candle, often lit on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, represents the birth of Christ, the Light of the world.
  5. Liturgical Usage: The Advent wreath is lit in churches and homes on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Each candle is associated with a specific theme or virtue corresponding to that week of Advent. The first week of Advent focuses on hope, the second week on peace, the third on joy (represented by the pink candle), and the fourth on love.

Over time, the Advent wreath has become a cherished tradition in many Christian households, providing a tangible and symbolic way for individuals and families to spiritually prepare for the Christmas celebration.

Creating an Advent Wreath with Fresh Pine Branches – Step-by-Step Guide

Materials Needed:

  1. Wire wreath form (available at craft stores or online)
  2. Fresh pine branches
  3. Pipe cleaner or floral wire
  4. Four candles (3 purple, 1 pink)
  5. Candle holders or small glass containers if your form doesn’t have them
  6. Purple and pink ribbon
  7. Pruning shears
  8. Optional: Decorative ornaments, berries, or pinecones
advent wreath candles


Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Ensure you have all the necessary materials before starting the project. Lay out the wire wreath form, fresh pine branches, pipe cleaner/floral wire, candles, candle holders, ribbon, and any optional decorations you’d like to add.

Step 2: Prep the Wire Wreath Form
Position the wire wreath form on a flat surface. This will serve as the base for your Advent wreath.

advent wreath form

Step 3: Trim and Prepare Pine Branches
Using pruning shears, trim the fresh pine branches into manageable lengths, around 6-8 inches. Remove any excess needles from the bottom part of the branches to make it easier to attach them to the wreath form.

Step 4: Attach Pine Branches to the Wreath Form
Take a trimmed pine branch and secure it to the wreath form using pipe cleaner/floral wire. Repeat this process, slightly overlapping each branch, until the entire wreath form is covered with pine branches. This creates the lush, green base for your Advent wreath.

Step 5: Add Decorative Elements (Optional) If you choose to add ornaments, berries, or pinecones, secure them to the wreath using pipe cleaner/floral wire. Distribute them evenly around the wreath for a balanced and festive look.

Step 6: Tie Ribbon Wrap a purple ribbon around each purple candle, securing it in a bow or knot. Do the same with the pink ribbon around the pink candle.

Step 7: Attach Candles Place the four candles evenly around the wreath. Use candle holders or small glass containers to secure them in place if your wreath form does not have them. Traditionally, three candles are purple, representing hope, peace, and love, while one candle is pink, representing joy.

Step 8: Display and Light Candles Place your completed Advent wreath in a central location in your home. Begin lighting the candles on each Sunday of Advent, starting with one purple candle in the first week, followed by two purple candles in the second week, the pink candle in the third week, and finally, all candles in the fourth week.

Enjoy the beauty and meaning of your handmade Advent wreath throughout the Christmas season!

The Prayer House

Reconnect with Nature

The Prayer House was built in 1981 near the back of our land.  There have been hundreds of visitors, mostly adults, (lots:  including several middle-school and younger students from Blessed Sacrament).   People can come in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.  There is NO cost. Just email Jeanne Lound Schaller and tell her when you want to come. You can just come for a look to see it and to feel if you want to spend time here. I had several people come for spiritual direction, and that worked well. Also, coming to pray and/or to enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature has been a gift for many. 


“I came only to visit for a few minutes.  I definitely will return.  There is a great peace which envelopes me here.”

“A very peaceful and quiet place where one can be alone with the Lord.  I thank you for your trust in people”

“Nature is my temple and my solitude.  The sound of the poplar leaves –  a deep sense of peace.”

“So beautiful today.  Marvelous to sit and suck up with Mother Nature.”

“I was here with my mom.  Walking and talking.  Breathing and Living.” 


When they walked to the prayer house,  I asked them to go quietly, and they did.

“Here is the place of peace and fun.  The trees dance to music alley in the sun.  The House of Prayer and whisper of trees is peace, harmony and silence. You just want to pray on your knees.”

“I never expected such a small house to hold a big heart and so much diversity.  It’s wonderful.”


Small Faith Group Thoughts

The desire to re-invigorate our Small Faith Group Ministry began back in August of 2021. As a staff, we’ve always been aware that at a parish the size of Blessed Sacrament, it’s often easy to feel like just a number while it can be difficult to take the first steps to joining in the abundant array of ministry and faith formation opportunities offered. When we coupled that hurdle with the fact that we were still battling Covid variants as well as the isolating effects of the pandemic, finding meaningful ways to connect people was a challenge. Because “communion” is central to who we are as Catholics, many of us found the distance and disconnection to be disconcerting, and our hope was that Small Faith Groups would help to bridge the gulf that social distancing had created.

Our theme for the 2022/2023 catechetical year was “We’re Home” which provided the perfect backdrop for the reintroduction of Small Faith Groups. Once it was decided that Lent of 2023 would be our jumping-off point for the initiative, several Lay Ministers and Father Rob met in June and August of 2022 to develop a plan with the help of Kristyn Russell, which included:

  • an explanation and invitation video from Father Rob
  • “A Prayer for Our Home” which we all received and prayed together at Mass on November 12
  •  videos from 7 current small faith group participants
  • an interest survey
  • a “Sign Up Sunday” event

Finally, after eighteen months of discussion and planning, we launched our Lenten Small Faith Group initiative on February 19, 2023. Based on the survey results and the number of people volunteering to facilitate, eight new Small Faith Groups met for the 6 weeks of Lent with 65 parishioners participating. Though the goal was the same for each group, “to make friends and make a difference while growing as disciples”, topics of discussion varied. One group was for caregivers, another focused on meditation, one was a Scripture study, and others used the Mass readings of the week to focus on what it means for them to live their faith in everyday ways.

Help us to create a home where others feel
welcomed…where others are fed.

— A Prayer for Our Home

Feedback from the groups has been overwhelmingly positive! As participants came together to explore their faith, they were surprised by how quickly they grew comfortable with one another and how much they looked forward to the weekly discussion, laughter, and sharing. A highlight for some was the opportunity to pray with one another. Many reported seeing group members at Mass and realizing that this provided a new sense of connection and community for them. It made “big church” not feel quite so big!

Of the eight small groups that started in Lent, 7 are continuing through the Easter season with plans for starting up again in September. The one group that isn’t currently meeting is considering gathering again for Lent next year as a “seasonal” Small Faith Group. If reading this wonderful news about Small Faith Groups makes you wish that you had signed up this Lent, don’t worry! Small Faith Groups aren’t going anywhere. In September, options for joining a group will be advertised, and we will once again be starting new groups for the 6 weeks of Lent 2024.

If you are still on the fence about being part of a Small Faith Group, consider the fact that Jesus wasn’t a “lone ranger.” He could have chosen to travel his faith journey all on his own. If anyone could be successful doing life on his or her own, it would have been Jesus, but instead, he showed us a different way. He gathered a small group and they prayed, ate, and ministered together. Their lives and hearts were changed. It’s exciting to think that being part of a Small Faith Group could do the same for each of us as well!

Written by Lyn Pajk

Director of Faith Formation

Lyn Pajk has been a member of our Blessed Sacrament Parish Family for 21 years and a member of the Faith Formation team for 13 years. During that time she has ministered to elementary families, middle school families, and currently serves as the Coordinator of Adult Formation and as Team Leader. Her ministry focuses on providing opportunities for people to encounter Jesus in their daily lives, reflect on how that encounter changes them, and how they can live out their call as Catholic Christians in the world.

Ways to Pray Series: The Rosary

The season of Lent is a great time to get reacquainted with one of the most identifiably Catholic of Catholic prayers… The rosary!

I remember praying the rosary with my grandma.  My grandma’s devotion to the Blessed Mother was very personal.  Mary was her friend and companion, and she would talk to Mary during the day.  Her rosary was a prayer, but it was also a comfort just to have in her hands or her pocket or her purse.  I recently discovered this quote from Padre Pio, and I feel like it perfectly summed up the way my grandma felt about her rosary… and the way I have come to feel too. 

“In times of darkness, holding the rosary beads is like holding your Blessed Mother’s hand.”

I have a blue cord rosary that I keep in my pocket a lot of the time.  It’s been accidentally washed more than once!  Sometimes, just having it on me, just reaching into my pocket to touch it, is a reminder that Mary is with me… and my grandma too! There is a multitude of resources, both print and digital, about how to pray the rosary and what the mysteries of the rosary are (try this one from USCCB.  And if you’re interested in rosary history, there are a few good resources for that too, like this one from Franciscan Media.

And I just love this recording from Irish priest Fr. Kevin and his sister-in-law Dana:

The Joyful Mysteries
The Sorrowful Mysteries
The Glorious Mysteries
The Luminous Mysteries

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.  Instead, I’m going to share with you a couple of the ways I make my rosary more meaningful.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep my mind from wandering as I pray.  St. Teresa of Avila said of herself, “This intellect is so wild that it doesn’t seem to be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down.” I guess I’m in good company!

So here are a few of my strategies for keeping my mind on track as I pray:

When I meditate on the mysteries of the rosary, I like to imagine myself as a bystander or minor character in the scene, like a bridesmaid at the wedding at Cana, or a Jerusalem resident along the Way of the Cross.  Sometimes I like to think about a quality of one of the people in the scene I would like to emulate and ask God’s help in making me more full of awe like Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration, or more patient like Simeon at the Presentation at the Temple. 

When I pray the Hail Marys, I divide each one into three parts: the Annunciation part, the Visitation part, and the Petition part.  As I pray the words, I imagine one of the many beautiful artworks of the Annunciation, then of the Visitation, then of Mary in prayer.  (Just google “Annunciation images” for ideas!)

I imagine Gabriel speaking to Mary…

…and Elizabeth speaking to Mary…

I try to use inflection when I pray the words, speaking with the awe and reverence Gabriel and Elizabeth would have felt to be in the presence of the Mother of God.  Elizabeth wouldn’t have said, “blessedartthouamongwomen…” but “BLESSED art thou among women!  And BLESSED is the fruit of thy womb!” 

I’ve found that The Hail Mary is beautifully rhythmic, and I’ll concentrate on the rhythm as I say the words, aligning my breaths to the phrases. 

Hail Mary (inhale)
Full of grace, (exhale)
The Lord is with thee (inhale)
Blessed art thou (exhale)
Among women (inhale)
And blessed is the fruit (exhale)
Of thy womb, Jesus (inhale)

Holy Mary, (exhale)
Mother of God, (inhale)
Pray for us sinners, (exhale)
Now and at the hour (inhale)
Of our death, (exhale)


I almost always fall asleep praying the rosary.  Concentrating on aligning my breaths to the rhythm of the Hail Marys and imagining the scenes of the Annunciation and the Visitation keeps my brain from the thoughts that overrun it at the end of the day and keep me from sleep.  St. Thérèse compared herself falling asleep during the Rosary to a child falling asleep in her Father’s lap while talking to Him.  Some say that our guardian angels finish our prayers as we sleep.  I love to imagine my guardian angel finishing my rosary over me as I dream. 

My sweet grandma died just over five years ago.  Huntington’s Disease slowly stole her body and her mind from her.  In her last years, deliberate movement and thought became difficult and then impossible.  But her hand never forgot how to move in the sign of the cross, and her constant mantra was, “I’m so happy.” 

Written by Corinne Cathcart

Corinne Cathcart has been a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament since her family moved to Midland nine years ago. She’s served as catechist, lector, and Eucharistic minister, and during the 2019-2020 year, she served as Coordinator of Sacramental Preparation. Back in Cincinnati, her hometown, she taught second grade at a Catholic school and served as catechist, lector, and Eucharistic minister at her home parish. She’s the mom of a computer-programming, tuba-playing, robot-building freshman at Midland High and the wife of a football-loving, Dow Chemical-working guy she met 25 years ago at Ohio State! When she’s not at church, you’ll probably find her with a book in her hand or singing along to her favorite playlist while she stirs up something new in the kitchen!

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