Pray for holy priests!

My friend Jennifer reached out to share some information about the Seven Sisters Apostolate. WOW! Women are amazing. And they can change the world. These women intentionally pray for priests and for their sanctity. A group here in Baltimore has been praying for Father Steven Roth, the Director of Vocations, this past year….and it’s worked. There are over 50 seminarians currently studying for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Baltimore which is the largest group over the past ten years. Please consider joining this apostolate. See the letter from Jennifer below with more information:

Dear Sisters in Christ,
Greetings!  My name is Jennifer, and my son, Karl, has been in priestly formation for the Archdiocese of Baltimore since Spring, 2014.  
I am writing to you today to let you know about a prayer group that several Seminarian moms and I began last summer.  Our prayer initiative is part of the larger Seven Sisters Prayer Apostolate, a worldwide apostolate of Catholic women who seek “to strengthen the Church by ensuring that a Holy Hour is prayed each day of the week for the sole intention of a specific priest or bishop for his deeper conformity to Christ.”
In the case of our particular group, we are praying for the sole intention of Vocation Director, Fr. Steven Roth. Each of us has committed to praying a Holy Hour for Fr. on a specific day of the week, so that the entire week is covered.  Our weekly prayer commitment continues for one year.  As some of our members are now mothers of newly ordained priests and are moving on to other endeavors, we are in need of some new members to keep our group going though the coming year!
All that is needed to join us is a desire to spend time with the Lord and an openness to His leading, as we ask His continued graces and blessings for Fr. Steven in his important work of assisting young men in discerning a call to the priesthood and guiding and forming them into holy priests for the Church in Baltimore.  While many of us are mothers of Baltimore Seminarians, any Catholic woman is welcome to take part!   While seven women is the absolute minimum that we need to cover every day of the week, we would love to have as many women take part as feel called by the Lord to do so.
Also – in addition to our Seven Sisters prayer group for Fr. Steven, an effort is currently underway to begin a Seven Sisters prayer group for the sole intention of Archbishop Lori.  
If you sense the Lord calling you to pray for Fr. Steven Roth, Archbishop Lori, or even both, please join us!  
We will be re-committing to a new year of prayer for Fr. Steven on Thursday, August 22nd, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.   We do not yet have a specific date set for beginning the year of prayer for the Archbishop, but would like to get started as soon as we have a sufficient number of praying women to do so!
If you would like to join us or if I can help with any questions, please feel free to contact me at and by cell/text at 443/243-0996.  More information is also available at
Thank you so much and God bless! Jennifer

2019 GIVEN Forum

It’s Sunday night, the kids are in bed, and it’s been exactly a week since I left GIVEN 2019. It’s been a whirlwind since accepting the position as Executive Director of GIVEN, wrapping up my final days at the Archdiocese, and launching immediately into the GIVEN Forum at the Catholic University of America. I showed up nice and early on Wednesday to make sure I had time to park, fix my hair and makeup, and gather my thoughts before the conference began. And what a beautiful sight to arrive at the feet of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady’s National Shrine! It was a gift to be in her shadow during these five days as if her mantle was surrounding all of us during this time of discernment. A bit of my humanity hit when I quickly realized upon arrival to my room that I forgot to pack towels, sheets, and SOAP! Where was the SOAP?

Clothes hung, hair and makeup touched up, comfortable shoes slipped on and fanny pack around my waist. Now it was time to jump in with my whole heart. In the Pryz, I stood by the registration table and was thrilled and honestly in awe of the beautiful women arriving from all over the country. From over 30 states, Ireland, and Canada, ladies came for five days to be formed in the truth of Catholic femininity and womanhood. These women had completed MIT-worthy applications and were selected to attend the Forum because their Action Plans were something new and needed for the Church and for the world. Each woman came to receive the gift that she is, realize the gifts God has given to her, and then RESPOND with the gift that only she can give. Where else is this happening in the country for Catholic women ages 21-30?

I spent those five days floating from table to table in an attempt to meet as many of these amazing women as I could. These 120 women are show-stoppers. This very diverse group included singles, those considering religious life, those discerning marriage, engaged, married, pregnant, and some young mothers. I was not only impressed by their JOY and SERENITY, but most importantly that there was not an ounce of jealousy in the room. These women were not in competition with one another; instead, there was a spirit of givenness and support. What a breath of fresh air to be surrounded by young millennial women, religious sisters, and seasoned lay mentors who all are seeking the face of Christ and how to make Him manifest to others.

The room was not homogeneous and not your typical view of what you might see at your local Catholic parish. The ethnicities and races of the young women were African American, Asian, Hispanic, White, and American Indian. I met women with disabilities and those who struggled with mental illnesses. They were not the “lonely singles” crowd at Theology on Tap. You didn’t meet the haggard moms who are exhausted from their run-around schedules or spoke poorly of the men in their lives. The 25 lay mentors coming from nine different states included single and married women who are business owners, authors, church personnel, J.D.’s, Ph.D.’s, certified spiritual directors, educators, nurses, CFO’s, and coaches. The talent was mind-blowing. And then the game changer was the religious sisters in attendance. 50 sisters from 13 different communities journeyed through the week with the young women and also served as mentors in the Action Plan small group discussions. Every Sister was wearing a habit and a SMILE. What a joy to be in this room. One of the attendees said, “They kept it joyful, welcoming, and Christ centered. GIVEN was very different from other women’s gatherings and I think they are a big reason why!

Another attendee reflected on the Forum saying, “I can not express my gratitude for having the religious sisters with us at the GIVEN Forum. This was my first time getting to spend time with such a high concentration of sisters from different orders and their beautiful and steady witness made me long to be closer to Christ. I think that they are expressly what made GIVEN so meaningful to me.”

A third woman shared, “The presence of religious sisters was the biggest benefit of the GIVEN Forum. I come from a diocese where young religious life is nonexistent, so to be able to grow in relationship with the sisters was an immense grace. They not only provided me with a beautiful witness to spiritual motherhood, but they also showed me what true authenticity and freedom were. The witness of Sr. Rosary, SSVM, in particular, was life changing. The joy and love she has greatly impacted my spiritual journey and I was blessed to spend the GIVEN Forum with her.”

Beyond the witness of so many holy women, I also was forever impacted by the creativity and gumption of the Action Plans presented by the young women. I am going to share three plans that stood out to me in my conversations:

  • The Pulchrum Initiative – a plan to gather together Catholic women in a metropolitan area to experience beauty together. Pulcrum is translated from Latin to mean beauty. The women will travel to art museums, the opera, the orchestra, and other lost cultural arts to appreciate God’s wonder. The Facebook page states, “We are a group of young professionals interested in discovering beauty in our surroundings by visiting art galleries and museums, learning about poetry and literature, attending classical and opera concerts, doing hiking-reading trips, walking through the botanical gardens and much more. Our aim is to discover and learn about truth through beauty and be inspired by it.”
  • #iAmAProLifeWoman – a social media platform to share stories of unconventional pro-life women. She wants to highlight pro-life women who also identify as liberal, non-religious, secular etc. The stories of pro-life women of color need to be told. Truly, any woman can believe that life begins at conception, and this needs to be a louder message.
  • Chivalry is Not Dead – an after-school club in local public schools for teenage boys. A young teacher at an all-boys school realized that her students kept asking her for dating advice and how to talk to girls. She realized they knew nothing about manners, holding the door open for a girl, and simple ways to show affection outside of technology. Her club is meant to show teenagers that true romance and chivalry is possible which will ultimately lead to conversations about chastity.

I am looking forward to sharing more of these women’s stories and their beautiful imprint on the world. GIVEN is a gift to the Church. I hope you will consider sharing about the Forum, inviting a young woman between ages 21-30 to attend next year, and be generous with your prayers and your financial support. Many of these women needed scholarships to attend being post-college or just coming out of mission work.

Learn more about GIVEN by signing up for our e-newsletter her:

And make a gift today at:

The GIVEN Institute

The Lord has done it again! I am happy to announce that I have accepted the position as Executive Director of The GIVEN Institute beginning June 12th. The GIVEN Institute is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to activating the gifts of young adult women for the Catholic Church.  The GIVEN Institute hosts an annual leadership conference at Catholic University as well as a year-long mentoring program.  I am very blessed to have worked with an incredible team of Regional Directors at the Archdiocese and to have supported parishes and schools this past year.

This isn’t my first rodeo transitioning from one Catholic institution to another; however, I am leaving the Archdiocese of Baltimore after 12+ years of serving various parishes and schools in different capacities. Milestones in life always cause me to reflect on the past and what I can learn for the future. I’m going to summarize below:

Church of the Nativity

  1. Make Church Matter
  2. Empower the Laity
  3. Do something for my kids, you do something for me

Mount de Sales Academy

  1. Academic Excellence in the Catholic Tradition
  2. Retreats, service camps, and World Youth Day provide eternal encounters
  3. Redesigning the definition of beauty with authentic, joyful Christian witness

John Carroll

  1. Teens seek the living Christ, they just need to be invited by someone
  2. If you have a single-sex Catholic school option, choose that!
  3. Always be ready to give a reason for your hope ~ St. Peter

Department of Catholic Schools

  1. Female lay leadership in the Church is powerful and needed!
  2. Catholic schools are closing at an alarming rate due to the decline of religious, rising costs, decline in Catholic birth rates, and not truly teaching the Catholic faith in its fullness. But this can change!
  3. Taking simple steps with incorporating technology in the office will improve efficiency and improve the workflow experience. Stop making excuses!

St. Stephen School

  1. Customer service is critical
  2. Get them to love you and they will follow you wherever you go ~ St. John Bosco
  3. Invite Jesus into your day, children are sponges for the truth

Department of Development

  1. Sometimes it just takes the right person to make the ask
  2. Branding is everything
  3. Surround yourself with smart, honest, hard-working people! Mutual respect is key.

I do truly believe that each location has taught me so much and I hope that I left a mark. There are many projects that I am proud to have implemented that are still in practice today. My prayers are with you, the Premier See! Thank you and May God lead you!

Vacation Bible School

Are you like me and love to send your kids to VBS? Or maybe you are also like me and enjoy sending your kids to camp since they aren’t in school??

Well, I am a fan of hitting up multiple Vacation Bible Schools around the Archdiocese. Not only are they a wonderful way to teach your children Bible stories, Christian songs, and a chance to meet other Catholic families….but they are also CHEAP! 🙂

I decided to make a comprehensive list of where VBS is being offered this summer. I hope this list helps you cut down on research time. Please share with others and get the word out there. Also, some have deadlines of June 1st to register so don’t waste any time!

ParishLocationDates and TimesAgesCostRegistration LinkNotes
Cathedral of Mary our QueenHomeland, Baltimore CityJune 24 to 27 and August 5 to 8 from 8:30am to 12:30pmK-4th grade$75 per child
Catholic Community of Ascension and St. AugustineElkridge, Howard CountyJuly 8-12 from 9am-12:30pmK-6th grade$35 per child, multi-child discount available and 8th graders have different camp experiences, 9th-12th can volunteer
Immaculate ConceptionTowson, Baltimore CountyJuly 22-26 from 9am-12pmPreK4-5th grade$50 per child, multi-child discount available
Resurrection-St. PaulEllicott City, Howard CountyJuly 22nd – July 26th from 9am-12:15pmPreK4-5th grade$55 per child, multi-child discount available
Divine Mercy Midland, Allegany CountyJuly 7 — July 11 from 6-8:30pmPreK-6th gradeFree
Catholic Community of South BaltimoreFederal Hill, Baltimore CityJune 24-28, 9am-5pm PreK4-5th grade$200 per child year olds must be accompanied by a sibling, financial assistance available
Holy FamilyDavidsonville, Anne Arundel CountyJune 24-28 from 5:30-8pmAges 4-10Free served each evening, 5th and 6th graders go off site three nights for guided adventures
Immaculate Heart of MaryLoch Raven, Baltimore County June 24-29 from 9am-12pmPreK-5th grade?Contact to register
Our Lady of Hope/St. LukeDundalk, Baltimore CountyJuly 29 — August 2 from 9am-12pmK-5th grade$40 per child
Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Anthony ShrineEmmitsburg, Frederick CountyTentative July?? Deacon Joe Wolf at 301-271-4099
Our Lady of SorrowsWest River, Anne Arundel CountyAugust 5 — August 9 from 9am-12pmPreK-5th grade$5 per child
Our Lady of the ChesapeakePasadena, Anne Arundel CountyJuly 15th-19th frpm 9am-12pm?? Stacey Beres at 410-255-3677 x102 or
Our Lady of the FieldsMillersville, Anne Arundel CountyJuly 15-19 from 9-12pm and August 5-9 from 9:30am-12:30pmPreK-5th grade$50 per child dates are at School of the Incarnation and August dates are at OLF
Our Lady of the MountainsCumberland, Allegany CountyJune 17-21 from 8:45am-11:30amPreK-6th grade$10 per child
Our Lady Queen of PeaceMiddle River, Baltimore CountyJune 24-28 from 8:45-12pmK-6th grade$45 per child, multi-child discount
Sacred HeartGlyndon, Baltimore CountyJuly 8-12 from 9am-12:15pmPreK3-5th grade$30 per child, multi-child discount available
SS. Philip and JamesCharles Village, Baltimore CityJune 24-26 from 6-8:30pm??contact: or 410-366-4488 ext. 26
St. AgnesCatonsville, Baltimore CountyJune 24-28 from 9am-12pm or 1:30pm-4:30pmPreK3-3rd grade?
St. Andrew by the BayAnnapolis, Anne Arundel CountyJuly 8-12 from 9am-12pmPreK-5th grade$55 per child, multi-child discount available but accepting waitlist registrations
St. AnnHagerstown, Washington CountyJuly 29-August 1 from 9am-12pmK-5th grade?
St. Elizabeth of HungaryCanton, Baltimore CityJune 24-27 from 9am-12pmAges 5-10$15 per child
St. IgnatiusHickory, Harford CountyJune 24-28 from 9am-12pm   PreK3-5th gradeFree   
St. Ignatius of LoyolaIjamsville, Frederick CountyJune 24-28 from ??K-5th grade$40 per child
St. Isaac JoguesParkville, Baltimore CountyJuly 15-19 from 9am-12pmAge 4 through 5th grade$30 per child
St. Jane FrancesRiviera Beach, Anne Arundel CountyJuly 29-August 2 from 9am-12pmAge 4 through 5th grade$25 per child before June 1st for cheaper price
St. Joan of ArcAberdeen, Harford CountyJuly 28-August 1 from ????PreK4-5th grade$25 per child, multi-child discount available
St. Mary’s Annapolis, Anne Arundel CountyJune 24-28 from 9am-12pm1st-5th grade$50 per child, multi-child discount available
St. John the EvangelistHydes, Baltimore CountyJuly 8-12 from 8:30am-12pmPreK4-5th grade$50 per child, multi-child discount available
St. John the EvangelistSeverna Park, Anne Arundel CountyJune 24-28 from 9:30am-12:30pmPreK4-5th grade$40 per child, multi-child discount available
St. JosephCockeysville,  Baltimore CountyJune 24-28 from 9am-12pmPreK-5th grade$40 per child
St. JosephFullerton, Baltimore CountyJune 24-28 from 9am-12pmK-5th grade$35 per child to register is June 1st!
St. JosephSykesville, Carroll CountyJuly 29-August 2 from 9am-12:30pmPreK-5th grade$30 per child
St. Joseph on Carrolton ManorBuckeystown, Frederick CountyJune 24-28 from 8:30am-12pmAge 4-8th grade$25 per child
St. Katherine DrexelFrederick, Frederick CountyJune 24-28 from 9am-12:30pmPreK4-5th grade$45 per child, multi-child discount
St. LouisClarksville, Howard CountyJuly 15-19 from 8:30am-12pmAges 4-10$125 per child
St. MargaretBel Air, Harford CountyJune 24-28 from 9am-12:15pmPreK4-5th grade$45 per child, multi-child discount
St. MarkFallston, Harford CountyJune 24-28 from 9:30am-12:30pmPreK3-5th grade$25 per child, multi-child discount available
St. Mary’s Pylesville, Harford CountyJune 24-28 from 9am-12pmPreK4-6th gradeFree
St. PeterLibertytown, Frederick CountyJune 24-28 from 9am-12pmPreK-8th grade$30 per child
St. UrsulaParkville, Baltimore CountyJuly 15-19 from 9:30am-12:30pmPreK-6th grade$25 per child

Saving a Baby is overwhelming

The most unexpected situation was plopped into my lap yesterday. It was Thursday. I usually work from home on Thursdays, but I’m catching up on a lot of work post-vacation. One of our babysitters is now home from college so I was able to have her come and watch the kids while I went into the office….however, I just didn’t want to go to work. I thought about canceling her multiple times. I wanted to be with the kids, I was too tired to drive downtown again, I have so much laundry to do!!!!! Even when she arrived that morning, I hadn’t showered or made any effort to leave the house. The only reason I went to work was because I had committed to paying her and I know she needs the money.

My day at the office was terrible. Had two priests email me with negative sentiments. Wasn’t clicking with my colleagues. And I had a terrible headache. I thought about leaving and going home multiple times…but I stayed out of obligation to my job. When I left the office, I walked past the Basilica and saw the sign on the sidewalk advertising Thursday adoration. I thought stopping in adoration would change my sour mood.

Back in the car now and ready to head home. I was so excited because the Game of Thrones #TalktheThrones talk show was going to be LIVE at 3pm and I could listen to that on the ride home. About 10 minutes into the 35 minute commute, #TalktheThrones crashed. And almost simultaneously, creeping traffic came to a standstill. A terrible accident caused my commute to last an hour and to top it all off, torrential rain started during the final few miles.

Needless to say, by the time I got home my mood was TERRIBLE! I walk in the door and the babysitter is sitting on the couch on the phone with someone. I’m immediately annoyed because I realize that my daughter is in the basement watching TV while she is chatting with a friend on the phone. Racing through my mind: “I should have stayed home!!! What am I paying this girl for anyway?!?!?”

My babysitter jumps up looking guilty and starts blabbing on and on and on about her friend. She hasn’t talked to her in over 6 years. She went to middle school with her. She is homeless and currently couch surfing (and all I’m thinking is what the heck is going on….is my daughter ok??? I don’t care about your friend!!!). And then the bomb drops.

She says her friend just found out she is 3 months pregnant and doesn’t know what to do. She was calling asking for advice. The father is her ex and a bad guy. She was raised in the foster system and has no family to help her. She doesn’t have a job or a car. She thinks she got pregnant while switching birth controls. Her guardians had placed her on the Depo shot when she was a teen and she just switched not knowing that you should abstain for two weeks to let the new one kick in (and here my mind goes again….I don’t want my daughter to hear all this!!!! I just want her to leave!!!! This is so inappropriate).

Then she says, “My friend just left the clinic and they told her she has two weeks to decide if she wants to keep the baby or else it will be a surgical abortion. And I don’t know what to tell her. I mean she’s literally homeless, she can’t take care of a baby. But she wants to keep the baby because she is worried she might never have the opportunity to have a baby ever again. I don’t know how to help her.”

And then it all clicked. I realized I needed to stop thinking about myself and my crummy day and accept that God allowed this conversation to happen at this very moment for a reason. My babysitter is 18 years old and was raised by a single mom. She doesn’t have any knowledge of or access to resources to help her friend. Her friend called her after not speaking for 6 years, so of course she needed to pick up the phone and of course she needed to turn on a show and to go upstairs so my daughter wouldn’t overhear the conversation.

I can’t say I handled this gracefully. I started stumbling over my words, “Well, no. She can keep the baby. She has options…….I think there’s a center near her. I can’t remember the name…..and you don’t want to be the one to tell her not to keep the baby and she’ll live with the regret the rest of her life. There are people that will help her. I mean, I will help her! I have clothes, toys, gear….um let me look up those places. They can give her a free ultrasound. There’s even places that have housing and can help her get a job. Please let me help. Babies are so wonderful, this baby will make her so happy. And it will be so much better than the alternative.” I sent her a local pro-life Women’s Care Center she could walk to and the information for the Gabriel Network. After she left, I called Gabriel Network but they were closed so I couldn’t find out if they had an opening for housing. I honestly felt so sick to my stomach. What if I didn’t do enough? I don’t even know this girl. What if she’s lying and just looking for money? What did my kids overhear and how will I explain this to them? Should I get her phone number and try to talk to her myself? Should I offer to let her live in our basement? It was overwhelming, sickening, and maddening.

So what did I do? Nothing else. I made dinner for my family, put the kids to bed, and then went out on my deck and prayed a rosary. Before I prayed, I texted a few of my friends and posted on my college Facebook prayer group and asked for their intercession. Almost immediately, one of my college friends reached out and said, “Rachel, we have a spot in Mary’s Home. Call me. We can get her in and she can live here for two years.” At this point, I’m exhausted. I’m emotionally drained. I didn’t call her. I just copied her phone number and texted it to my babysitter and gave her the info. I needed to move on. I almost didn’t want to know what happened because I felt so sick.

Ok, now it’s currently Friday. A normal day. I’m off work, my daughter is at preschool, I’m cleaning the house and finally tackling that laundry. Around nap time, I get on Facebook and notice my college friend had messaged me. She let me know that the young woman is moving into Mary’s Home today. My friend went and picked her up, took her to lunch, helped her get an ultrasound, and saved that baby.

To wrap up this incredibly emotional moment for me, I wanted to write this down so I wouldn’t forget the power of prayer, the power of generosity, the power of networking, and the power of love. Please pray for this young woman and her baby. And if you would be so kind as to make a donation to Mary’s Home to help her, you can do so online at

Thank you dear Lord for saving this baby.


My college friend just messaged me to let me know what it was like meeting the young woman and taking her to Mary’s Home.

“Rachel, it’s two beautiful, new, furnished luxury homes. She will live in one with another woman and her 6 week old baby. The other two residents live in the other home with their babies. It’s AMAZING. She was so nervous and afraid, and the girls welcomed her right away and started telling her about the special BBQ that’s scheduled for Monday, and the cooking classes that they’ll have this summer, and that they’re all going to the pool next week, and are going on a trip to the zoo in June. And they were all so darn excited! And her shoulders loosened as they talked and she got a big smile on her face and said, “Oh my gosh, I’ve never been to the zoo before!”
It’s incredible, the dignity with which they’re treated and the love that is extended to them! There were berries and veggies and healthy food in the fridge and the pantry. She was excited because she had her own bedroom (with a door!), and that she had access to the laundry room – she didn’t even have to ask permission. She came with one suitcase, and all of her clothes were dirty. She shared so much about her life over lunch and it was all I could do not to cry, and she wasn’t even feeling sorry for herself, just talking about life! I just can’t imagine how she’s feeling or what this is like for her. But I know she will be loved here.”

The Catholic Community Center

“So that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:7

What inspired this?

  • Growing up in New Life Community in Bel Air, Maryland
  • Attending a beautiful, cultural event at the JCC in Owings Mills and saying to myself…..why doesn’t the Catholic Church have a CCC?
  • Learning about Ennie Hickman’s ministry in Texas
  • Hearing from so many peers who are struggling due to the present church scandal with one common theme…..we need solid community!

Why Friday Night Dinners?

We love to spend time with friends on a Friday night after a long week of work/school. We are committing to hosting a monthly potluck dinner and time of prayer. This is open to anyone! We see this as an opportunity to support one another and get to know others as Christian believers. This is not just a party, it’s an experience of love and true Christian fellowship. We want to help each other be holy!

Save the Dates!

April 26th Kick Off!
May 31st
June 28th
July 26th
August 23rd
September 27th
October 25th
November 22nd

RSVP on Facebook @catholiCCCenter

The Automatic Customer

I’m in the Church business. Are you?

I’ve worked in some sort of ministry/support for Catholic parishes, schools, and institutions for my entire career. Often, I have noticed that people have been uncomfortable when I mention the “business” of Church. Understandable. If we treat our job as merely business, we lose our sense of mission and purpose. We lose Jesus.

However, many businesses have proven to be successful by adopting Christian practices of self-gift, generosity, trust, and vulnerability. So “merely business” isn’t such a bad thing anymore.

My very first job out of college was at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland. If you have been around Church business for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard of the place. Our pastor, Father Michael White, had us regularly read books centered around strong business practices to then discuss with the staff as a whole. Here are a few that I will never forget inspired me to work harder….for the Lord!

Thankfully, I have continued this practice. It is incredibly helpful to carry effective disciplines from the business world to the Church world. This is the basis of the incredible ministry of Amazing Parish. By the way, they are hosting a conference in Cincinnati in May. You should go.

I recently finished reading the book The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry. This book was written by John Warrillow who founded and a prominent businessman. I want to share a few tips from the book that I find relate well to the customers of the Church….the parishioners, the lay faithful!

In 2008, Centore moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to work as a counselor for a local practice. Within four months of Centore’s arrival, the practice went out of business. Trying to understand why it failed, Centore analyzed how its customers were treated. He discovered that some customers had had to wait days before anyone from the office would return their calls. Patients – many in crisis – were often being asked to wait weeks for a face-to-face meeting with a counselor.

Page 76

Oh man….doesn’t that sound familiar to your local parish office? Hopefully not, but it sounds all too familiar to me. How often do people reach out to a Catholic institution in a moment of crisis and are met with poor customer service? So many times I believe that the staff is overworked and cannot maintain the level of customer service needed. But there is a solution….technology! Using email and setting up auto responses, or having templates set up for thank you letters/notes etc. A simple example of a culture change that I took part in was the installation of the SchoolAdmin enrollment management software in Catholic schools. Having an online inquiry, application, and registration process automated the day to day tasks of the office. No longer did someone looking to schedule a tour get forgotten. No longer did someone who applied to the school not receive an acknowledgement from the Principal personally thanking them. Problem solved, and yet so many Catholic institutions are reticent to implement new technologies and software. Stop fighting it!

The good news is that word of mouth from your passionate user base helps guide and fuel growth by providing free market research. The bad news is that if subscribers flip from happy to dissatisfied, the same powerful force that helps you grow a network model subscription business can start to work against you.

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Word of mouth is critical in any organization. I’ve seen it grow and kill. It is so powerful. What are people saying on the street about your parish? About your school? About your charity? What is your reputation?

We are not ignorant. The Catholic Church’s reputation is the pits right now. It already was hard to admit being a Christian some days, it’s even harder to admit being a Catholic. So how is your local organization fighting against that stereotype? Or are you simply feeding it? Be honest.

Constant Contact has tried hundreds of campaigns over the years, and one of the most successful had nothing at all to do with the Internet. Instead of doing all of its marketing online, the company hosts small, free offline workshops to teach business owners how to market their companies. To scale the approach, Constant Contact hired a group of 22 regional development directors, who each owned a physical territory. These directors approached local trade and business associations about hosting a seminar for their members.

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Outreach is critical. I loved this example from CC. We all know about this business and how successful it is. What an interesting concept that their best promotion was offering FREE training! This immediately triggered another memory from Nativity. The parish hosts free financial planning seminars for parishioners and really anyone in the local community. At first I thought this was strange. Why? What purpose? But as I saw the attendance and the people walking through the doors who weren’t the typical “churchy” people, I realized that this was a ministry reaching people. What can you organization offer to others? There is already so much outreach and service being done, but what brings people on campus that don’t typically come? Would love to hear some examples, please comment below!

By the time the clock has ticked for 90 days – the Customer Onboarding Period – the customer’s lifetime value and profitability will have been practically set in stone. The first 90 days after any new account opening are an especially sensitive period characterized by several important customer experience factors:

– Customers expect high levels of interaction.

– They expect to be asked for personal information.

– They are in “switch mode” and open to new offers.

– They are much more likely to defect before “bedding in”.

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WOW!!!!! Read that again! Every staff member should read that over and over again. Don’t ruin the first 90 days. New parishioners, new families want to be communicated with. They want the personal touch. They haven’t bedded in simply after filling out the parish registration form or simply after registering for school. They know they have time to switch. They know they can pick up and leave at any moment. Don’t even let them have the chance to consider otherwise. One of my favorite examples of a positive interaction was after my first child was baptized. I received a handwritten note card welcoming her to the church from my parish. It was signed by a member of the Baptism committee. No actual name was given, just a member of the parish welcoming my daughter. And the best part was they mailed the note to her attention using her full Christian name. It was adorable! Of course it was the first piece of mail my child had ever received, and being a new parent it was so exciting to find in the mailbox. We felt so loved and so wanted.

Like surfing, part of getting people to adopt your subscription product or service in the first 90 days is to give them a quick win that provides the motivation for them to learn more. Constant Contact started out using a “who, what, when” process for getting a new customer to start using its software. The first part of the process – logical for software engineers – asked users “who” they wanted to send their emails to. This forced new users to start with the tricky process of formatting and uploading an Excel spreadsheet of their contacts. The process of starting with the “who” was fraught with frustrations for the end user, who sometimes canceled the subscription to CC because of the complexity of uploading a customer list.

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BOOM! Another example that reminded me too much of a family or individual trying to register for a parish and being met with the frustrations of paperwork and the “work”. Let’s give our people a win first. Let’s give them something memorable and beautiful. When someone inquires about the parish and how to sign up, send them a card, have someone call them to welcome them, ask them about themselves when they are standing in front of you across the desk, SMILE! I recently had a family member call a parish office inquiring about parish registration and she left a voicemail. You wouldn’t believe it, but the pastor called her back personally to welcome her! WOW! She was overcome with joy and gratitude. They certainly registered.

Making the Kingdom Visible

Pretty exciting news! My first solo campaign in my new job was to raise $200,000 for a parish to replace the roof on their historic rectory in Baltimore City. Not only did we meet goal, but we did it in less than two months!

As Henri Nouwen said in The Spirituality of Fundraising, “Asking people for money is giving them the opportunity to put their resources at the disposal of the kingdom.” He went on to say, “Every time we approach people for money, we must be sure that we are inviting them into this vision of fruitfulness and into a vision that is fruitful. Fundraising helps to make visible the kingdom that is already among us.”

Grateful to my team at SS. Philip and James Parish that worked together through humor, sweat, and a few missteps along the way to reach our goal! We carried a mutual respect for one another to all of our meetings and continually affirmed each other when faced with a roadblock or pause for concern. And ultimately, confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit proved to be critical.

“What was impressive was that we all wanted to work for the kingdom, to build a community of love, to let something happen that was greater than we were individually.”

Henri Nouwen, The Spirituality of Fundraising

What do the Catholic Church, the Supreme Court, and Miss America all have in common?

October 2018 marked a moment of upheaval in three major American institutions:  the Catholic Church, the Supreme Court, and Miss America.  Each of these organizations have a deeply rooted similarity of structure and power.  We are witnessing the clash of the meaning of our bodies & the lust for power and dominance.  As a result, the future of these cultural, political, and religious giants has been tarnished.  

The Catholic Church’s current leaders have lost their moral authority

The Catholic Church has continuously taught the same moral tenets over 2,000 years without falter; however, the practice of such teachings is questionable.  How many Catholics do you know have cohabited before marriage?  How many Catholics do you know that have used IVF?  How many Catholics do you know who have been divorced and remarried without an annulment?  How many Catholics do you know who use artificial contraceptives or have chosen sterilization to make family planning choices?  And I’m only talking about the laity here.  Now comes to light the practices of the clergy who are charged to be the moral teachers, the role models for us in the practice of the faith.  And to make matters worse, the hierarchy of the church spent time and resources in covering up the abuse rather than calling one another to holiness.

But then I think, how often do I call my lay brothers and sisters to holiness?  Especially when it comes to sex.  It is such a difficult topic to bring up and so intimate and personal to one’s heart.  And yet, we see sex everywhere in our culture.  So for something that is so overexposed, why is it so embarrassing to talk about?  I think it’s because our innermost being is meant for union with Christ; and sex, the union between a man and a woman in a covenant relationship, is the outward sign of that inward reality.  We all desire companionship and security.  But when sex takes place outside of the marital embrace, that’s not safe at all.  And then to introduce a power complex into the situation is so deeply invasive to our existence.  Sexual abuse creates a deep wound that hits at the innermost desire given to us at creation, to love and be loved in return. 

This crisis is not winding down either, October has marked the opening of a Grand Jury Investigation in many states including my own.  While I hope and pray this is not going to provide any new names to us here in Maryland, it is going to showcase the dirty details.  How is that going to affect us on the local level?  What is the American church going to look like moving forward as state after state release their reports?  I think it will kill all moral authority of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy unless we start hearing personal stories of seminarians and priests living out chastity joyfully to show a future, pure leadership.  Because the overwhelming answer I am hearing now is, “allow priests to be married!”  When in fact that is NOT the solution because the majority of abuse cases are male priests engaging in acts with post-pubescent boys (80%).  These men don’t want to be married to a woman, they are expressing their same-sex attraction outwardly in a criminal way.  I recommend reading an article from Psychology Today entitled “Separating Facts About Clergy Abuse from Fiction”; however, I think #3 in the article is lacking in targeting only pedophilia which is defined as sexual feelings directed toward prepubescent children (which is only characterized by less than 20% of clergy abuse cases).  I also recommend reading this reflection from Commonweal Magazine entitled “The PA Grand Jury Report: Not What it Seems”.

The root of the church crisis is not just celibacy, it’s not just a lack of female leadership in the Church, it’s not just homosexuality in the priesthood, it’s so much deeper than that and cuts to the core of who we are meant to be: male and female He created them.  

“The human body includes right from the beginning…the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift – and by means of this gift – fulfills the meaning of his being and existence.” ~ Saint Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body address on January 16, 1980

The Supreme Court’s magnifying glass on the war between the sexes

Were you hooked to the TV on September 27th watching the Kavanaugh/Ford hearing?  And were you even more shocked on October 6th when he was confirmed?  Taking sides is brutal in any social circle.  Who is telling the truth?  Who is lying?  Do they just not remember what happened?  The conversation again cuts to the core of who we are as male and female and how we relate to one another.  I feel like I am still reeling from that week in our nation’s history.  I am very troubled that a woman would possibly claim something took place that didn’t.  I am very troubled that a now Supreme Court Justice was overly defensive of his love of beer and did not mention any condemnation of underage drinking or alcohol abuse in young people.  Listening to the hearing was very reminiscent of the feelings I had while watching the series, “13 Reasons Why”.  I am disgusted that the premise of the show is that if teenagers mutually consent to a sexual interaction, that is something to be celebrated.  The themes of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, assault, suicide, harassment, and so much more were highlighted as an everyday reality for teenagers.  Sadly enough, I felt like I was listening to a Georgetown Prep party all wind down to the question of “consent” as being the determining factor of character.  I hold my definition of character to be much higher than that.

The #MeToo movement has wound us up into a tight little ball around the word “consent” and the Kavanaugh/Ford hearing played right into the debate.  Newsflash:  consent is not enough.  A committed covenant relationship between a man and a woman that is free, total, faithful and fruitful is the only safe sex out there.  Don’t be fooled otherwise.  And speaking of consent….I highly recommend reading this article by Simcha Fisher entitled 16 things Catholic girls should know about consent.

“Man, whom God created male and female, bears the divine image imprinted on his body ‘from the beginning.’ Man and woman constitute two different ways of the human ‘being a body’ in the unity of that image. “– TOB January 2, 1980

Miss America tries to embrace feminism and instead she implodes

As a former Miss America titleholder in the local Maryland system, I have been very closely following the downward spiral of this beloved pageant.  Here’s the problem: an email was leaked between the former CEO and Board Chairman of Miss America as well as an ABC producer.  The email included a derogatory comment by the male producer about women and the former Miss Americas as a group.  The male CEO responded to the email, “bahahaha”.  As a result, a slew of former Miss Americas called for the resignation of the CEO and other board members resulting in a complete overhaul of leadership to be replaced by females only.  It worked and Sam Haskell resigned to be followed by Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989 and former Fox News Correspondent, as the new CEO.  

Am I allowed to say, “I told you so!”?  The burning at the stake of Sam Haskell for laughing at a crude joke has resulted in utter turmoil of the Miss America Organization.  While Gretchen Carlson quickly worked towards a re-branding called Miss America 2.0 which most notably eliminated the swimsuit competition, she swiftly alienated her former supporters.  Those who demanded for new leadership were now noticing that new leadership meant an entirely new pageant….I mean competition!  The beloved traditions and history of Miss America are disappearing.  For example, on the live telecast of the pageant this year the contestants (now called candidates) no longer were allowed to introduce themselves as “Miss Maryland” or “Miss New York” instead they just said “Representing Maryland” for example.  The evening gown competition might no longer be filled with elegant gowns, but instead whatever outfit is a personal expression of the candidate (so pant suits accepted).  They removed the runway from the stage so that the ladies do not model their outfits anymore, they simply stand and answer questions.  And finally they didn’t play “There She Is” at the crowning moment.

Didn’t you sit on your dad’s lap as he sang this song to you as a little girl??  Or was that just me….

So now fast forward to 2019….ratings have dropped, local competitions are struggling to find contestants, and the 2018 Miss America, Cara Mund, continues to release her story and expose of Gretchen Carlson’s bullying and manipulative behavior once she took power. Now I don’t know the details and what is truly taking place behind the scenes, but ultimately the Miss America Organization is imploding. And all under the baton of the self-proclaimed “founder of the #MeToo movement”: Gretchen Carlson.

The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God [God’s love for man], and thus to be a sign of it. – TOB February 20, 1980

So what do they all have in common? They all need a little more TOB.

Create Holy Moments

Can one truth change the world? I believe it can. Is it possible for just one beautiful truth to change your life? I know with absolute certainty that this is possible. How can I be so very sure? I have seen it happen before. And I’ve experienced it. The single truth that Holy Moments are possible and that you and I – with all our faults and flaws, defects and weaknesses, brokenness and constant need – can collaborate with God and create a single Holy Moment is life changing.

The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly

On pages 45-50 of this book, Matthew Kelly shares a few very short stories, simple moments, of holiness. These are people just like you and me. These aren’t canonized saints, they are regular ordinary people. I encourage us all to list Holy Moments we see around us.

When I took my kids to a Family Rosary event at our local school, my son was struggling with sitting still and making a lot of noise. I stood to walk over to the side to remove him from the scenario, but this caused my daughter to cry and “meltdown”. She didn’t want to leave the rosary. I’m torn between them and causing a big disruption. Then, one of the aides at the school leaned over and said, “Eva, do you want to sit with me and we can finish the rosary together?” Eva immediately curled up next to her so I was able to step away with my son. That was a Holy Moment.

My mom is currently undergoing cancer treatments. Juggling motherhood and a full-time career is daunting. Then add the fear and anxiety of an ill parent. One day I checked the mailbox and I had a package from a childhood friend. I opened the package to find a note of encouragement filled with Scripture verses in the face of the news of my mother’s cancer. Under the note were all the ingredients to make a few Moscow Mules. That was a Holy Moment.

My in-law’s work closely to support the Mann House in Bel Air. And my father-in-law is an amazing chef. Every holiday, he cooks this incredible spread down to the garnish and homemade Bearnaise sauce. He always cooks too much and we have so many leftovers. I always wonder if he cooks more on purpose, because after he loads us up with Tupperware filled with leftovers, he also packages meals for the guys at the Mann House. This has become a part of our family dynamics. These are Holy Moments.

Try it. It’s amazing to see, experience, and create Holy Moments.