Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Advice for a New DRE {Tips & Resources}


Diving into the world of parish ministry is certainly exciting, but is also overwhelming.  Turn over for catechetical leaders is incredibly high, and while we could cite several causes (time, expectations, pay, etc.) I think that some of the most common reasons that people leave ministry have more to do with support- from parish leadership, from volunteers, and from parents. I get lots of questions and requests for advice on how to get started as a new DRE, and I try to do my best to answer, but the truth is that my experience is unique and each parish and diocese is different.  I went to my followers on Instagram and asked what advice they would share.  Below I've compiled a few of my thoughts and lists of ideas from the hundreds of people who helped on Instagram.  I hope that some of these ideas are helpful for a new parish worker, but I also think that there are some great suggestions for catechists, youth ministers, and school teachers, as well as resources that would work for parents in their own homes.

Three notes:
-This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
-By supplying a link or a recommendation, that doesn't necessarily mean that I have used that resource or endorse every aspect of the website/program.  I did my best to sort through the responses and give you quality recommendations, but please use your best discernment especially for your own program and students.
-If you have any feedback or ideas that we missed, please comment or email me! I'll happily edit and add to this list as I hear of more resources.

Advice for Recruiting and Training Volunteers
This is a job that is literally impossible to do alone.  Recruiting solid volunteers who love and live their faith and work well with kids can be one of the biggest challenges, especially when you are new to a parish. Make sure you talk to your pastor about volunteers, both for his advice as well as his insights. Build up relationships and start with talking to people you trust, either to help or to give you others to ask.  Make sure you are familiar with your diocesan procedure and policies about volunteer training and background checks, asking for help when you need it.

Some resources for personal formation:
National Directory for Catechesis
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Echoing the Mystery

  • Personal invitation/personal relationship
  • Reach out to Deacons to help with training
  • Parents of kids in the program
  • Past youth who were active
  • Find the person's passions and place where they will shine
  • Development of substitutes and assistant catechists- often will become lead catechists
  • Diocesan training and retreats
  • Remember it's ok to be picky
  • Priest invitations
  • Send letters home
  • Have a ministry fair
  • General announcements rarely work
  • Thank them often
  • Don't be afraid to delegate and share responsibility
  • Ask people to pray about it
  • Get recommendations from pastor, current volunteers, and parents
  • Give specific jobs- feel responsible and will follow through
  • Pray for them specifically- God is faithful and He answers


Ideas for Organization, Schedules, Communication, etc.
There is often a lot of freedom in planning a parish religious ed program, as in you get to start from scratch, but that can also be difficult as you work withing a busy parish schedule and also try to account for area school and extracurricular calendars. Communication is key, and getting out info to families in multiple formats is a big part of a a DRE's week-to-week responsibilities.  As I set the calendar for our year, I always start with the Liturgical Calendar and plan the general outline for classes, Bible studies, and youth group.  Then I add in extra events like family nights, Children's Masses, open houses, etc. For communication, good old email and text remains our most solid way of reaching everyone, but we've also used Remind, Flocknote, fliers, the parish bulletin, and CCD Newsletters.
Here are some other suggestions:

  • Use a planner (Long term planners)
  • Plan by Liturgical Year
  • Flocknote
  • Unison
  • Remind
  • Google Suite Tools
  • Social Media
  • Make lists of specific tasks in your planner, even things like reminders to send emails, etc.
  • Add things to lists in your planner and clean out your inbox every few days
  • Don't forget to communicate successes to catechists, pastor, boss, bulletin, etc.
  • Take home folders for kids to take back and forth between church and home
  • Coordinate and plan long term dates with pastor, other staff, and volunteers
  • Find multiple ways to communicate and over communicate
  • Check all school sports/event calendars before planning big events


Encouraging Parent Involvement
Parent involvement is critical, as the Church teaches that they are the primary and most important teachers of their children.  I have a whole post with ideas about the why and how of involving parents here. Here are some ideas that others shared:

  • Consistent communication- figure out what works best (text vs email, etc.)
  • Family nights (back to RE blessing & ice cream)
  • Encourage parent help (use signup.com)
  • Family Faith Formation Program
  • Help from other parish leadership positions
  • Find what is important to parents and give them those opportunities with their children
  • Use fellow parents to recruit/remind
  • Ask for them to pray in specific ways
  • Get to know the parents, then invite them to be more involved specifically. The better you know them, the easier it is.
  • Send home activities with the kids to do as a family & bring back to share
  • Include in notes to parents what is being studied in class so the discussion can continue at home
  • Get the parish (non parents) involved in supporting families
  • Have mandatory monthly family meetings
  • FamilyFormation.net
  • Show charity and be welcoming, not accusatory
  • Invite them to spend time in the classrooms
  • Schedule adult classes during the same times as the children's classes


Challenges (& How to Overcome Them)
You're not alone.  There are others who have walked before you and can walk with you in this ministry. My biggest advice is to establish relationships with other DREs or parish workers both for help and for camaraderie.  I also highly recommend developing trust and open communication with both your pastor and the diocesan education staff, which will be indispensable when you are facing hurdles big and small. These are some of the challenges (and solutions) shared by other DREs: 
  • Organization (Keep it simple and Liturgical)
  • Difficult kids
  • Getting families to go to Mass
  • Administration (Ask people for help simplifying)
  • Communication (Use technology to communicate with catechists and parents)
  • Teen engagement (Seek experienced teachers)
  • Low numbers (Doesn't equate a bad program.  Seek quality over quantity. Remember leading one soul closer to Christ matters.)
  • Complaints (Involve pastor in decisions so you have a united front)
  • First 18 months are the hardest
  • Burnout (Seek the help and advice or fellow DREs and YMs for questions and issues)
  • Push back from older parishioners and parents (Cultivate respect for leadership)
  • Youth are so poorly catechized at home (Pray the Holy Spirit illuminates your short time in class)
  • Working on weekends- Sunday school, special Masses, retreats
  • Over working (Keep track of your hours even if you are salaried)
  • Temptation to administer instead of ministering
  • Holding on to joy of serving the Lord (Take time off to avoid burnout)
  • Needing a break (Find friends you don't have to talk about ministry with)
  • You can't solve everything (Prayer & lots of time with God)
  • God already saved the world- we don't have to ;)


Favorite Curriculum Series/Texts
Sometimes you have control over curriculum, sometimes it is set by the diocese or parish (or is just established because starting over with a new series can be a serious investment.  I've always advocated first knowing your diocesan religious education standards (here are ours for example), and then teaching from a series as a resource.  The book shouldn't determine everything happening in a classroom, but most catechists are not teachers by trade, so they need a starting point.  Then support them with supplemental resources and activities, especially for the Liturgical year, Saints, and Sacrament prep. Provide a wide variety of Catholic books to be read and used in the classrooms. Make sure to check the USCCB Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series or if a bishop has granted a nihil obstat or imprimatur to any resource you use. Your diocese might also have an approved or recommended list of curriculum or series.


Favorite Catholic Websites and Resources



Sacrament Prep

Resources for Kids with Special Needs


Podcasts & Audio Resources


Other Advice

  • Pray
  • Connect with area DREs for support
  • Ask catechists about what works and doesn't work for them
  • Be careful with videos- if dated, message can be lost
  • Treat your volunteers like family- you're a team
  • Keep in mind that the parents might have a difficult relationship with the Church
  • Make sure you don't make parents feel ignorant- lack of catechesis often isn't their fault
  • Use Google Drive to share resources
  • Allow kids to write down anonymous questions
  • Have a team of 4-6 parents that are your go-to for helping with events
  • Focus on building a small team, then grow
  • The Bosco Conference at Franciscan helps you network and grow
  • Support your volunteers so you don't lose them


Be assured of my prayers for all of you and the students you will minister to this coming year.  Feel free to comment below or send me an email with some of your favorite resources that didn't make this list! And thanks to everyone who contributed your wisdom to bring this post together!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Teaching About the Parables



“Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has received? Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables.”  -CCC 546

Resources for teaching the Parables are one of the of the most requested new topics for the blog, and so today I have some great new printables for you! While we can often find cute crafts about the lost sheep or the lost coin, it is harder find ideas for teaching the rich meaning and symbolism with older kids. 

First up, here's a mini poster (available in 8.5x11 or 11x17) with the Parables and Scriptural references.  (I think I got them all- names of the Parables vary from translation to translation, and how they are counted- in groups or as separate stories- varies as well.) But this would make a great resource to get kids thinking about and reading all the Parables Jesus used to teach about the Kingdom.


I've designed a study sheet that can work for any of the parables found in the Gospels.  It has the same graphic as the poster with the "list" and Scripture references.  It is then intended to be used with just one of the Parables.  The student writes the name of the Parable, its location in the Bible, lists and describes the symbols found in the Parable, writes about what Jesus was teaching, and reflects on how it connects to real life.  There is also room on the back for them to apply their understanding of the Parable with an illustration, poem, story, etc. Lots of means of application, hopefully deepening their understanding of Jesus' rich teaching.

You could use this with your own kiddo as a Bible Study at home, choosing one Parable at a time. Or it could be used in a classroom with any Parable you choose.  Or it could be used with a group of students, each of them studying a different Parable but completing the same task and then sharing with the whole class, which can lead to some great comparisons.  This is my favorite style of handout, two sided and intended to be folded as a booklet, because it is perfect for the students to then tuck in the cover of their Bibles to maybe return to another time.


Click here for the Parables Study handout:


Click here for the Parables Mini Poster in 8.5x11 (or here for 11x17)


And a couple of years ago I helped with an adult Bible Study that focused on the Parables.  The pastor would give a short reflection on the Parable of the night, and then we would read and discuss using Lectio Divina and these guides.  They are all formatted in a similar way, but with unique questions and quotes from Saints/popes/Church documents to add to the discussion.  Although these were created for an adult study, I certainly think they could be used/adapted for middle or high schoolers! Click on the images for the whole folder or the links below for the individual handouts.





Good Samaritan
Judge & Widow
Lost Sheep
Pearl of Great Price/Treasure in Field
Prodigal Son
Rich Man & Lazarus/Persistent Friends
Ten Wise Virgins
Good Shepherd
Mustard Seed/Leaven
Sower & Seed
Talents
Weeds & Wheat
Workers in Vineyard


Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Sheen Corner- Resources for Teaching about Soon-to-Be Blessed Fulton Sheen



Things for my friend Fulton Sheen sure have been exciting this summer! In June, a final court ruling confirmed his niece's request to move his mortal remains to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria, IL.  You can read the press release here. Then last Thursday, Sheen was quietly moved from New York to Peoria and interred in the Cathedral, and we heard that the Cause for his Beatification was reopened (Press release here). Today it was announced that Pope Francis declared that the healing of the son of my friends Travis and Bonnie Engstrom was indeed a miracle, clearing the last step for his Beatification. (Press release here). You can follow along with the updates and the details for the Beatification at the new website celebratesheen.com.

I was able to visit and pray at his new tomb, guarded by the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (he arrived on her Feast Day!), on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  How very fitting that Archbishop Sheen, after spending his life loving and serving our Lord and His Mother. would come home to Peoria on the weekend of the Solemnities of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts.



If you are new to my blog or just visiting because you love Sheen, I wanted to make sure you know about all the free resources I have for teaching about Sheen's life and the things that mattered the most to him. Check out the tab above labeled Teaching with Fulton Sheen for dozens of posts on how I've taught about Fulton Sheen in my classroom over the past seven years.


The ideas are synthesized in this 150 page curriculum which includes the printables as well photos, instructions, and ways to apply the topics.  I've taught these projects primarily in my 5th-8th grade classroom, but also have used the ideas for multi-age activities, CCD classrooms of elementary kids, high school youth groups, and adult Bible Studies.  The concepts Sheen taught, like prayer, Marian devotion, mission, use of media, and the call to holiness, are universal for any age.  The curriculum also includes biographical info and projects on the path to canonization.  There is a lot packed in, and I'll be working on a 3rd edition leading up to the Beatification so that everything will be up to date!


Bonnie Engstrom's book on the story of her son James Fulton and his miraculous birth is up for preorder and will be released in September! You can read all the details of their family's faith in Jesus and their devotion to Fulton Sheen.  I had the privilege of  creating her preorder bonuses, including this printable above, so if you preorder make sure to fill out this form so we can send them your way!


And finally, I'm excited to share that I'm helping with a special feature in The Catholic Post, the newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria.  In each edition's "The Sheen Corner," I'll be sharing a key aspect of Fulton Sheen's life and teaching, as well as how to learn from his example personally and in family life.  Even if you are not a subscriber, you can read the e-edition or posted articles, including the first article here. And if you're on social media, make sure you post your Fulton Sheen book collection with the #SheenStack - I'd love to see what you're reading! 

May the inspiration and prayers of Fulton J. Sheen continue to lead all closer and closer to Christ and His Church. Fulton Sheen, pray for us!


Friday, June 28, 2019

Beauty That Points Beyond- Jessica from TelosArt {Guest Post} (AND the Giveaway!)


In a world that craves the true, the good, and the beautiful, is a joy to host the fourth Why Make Beautiful Things series here at Look to Him and Be Radiant. You can read the original post with my thoughts on beauty here and read all the guest posts in the previous series here. Today I have the honor of sharing the work and reflections of Jessica from Telos Art, maker of jewelry and paintings and my very favorite Liturgical Calendars. I think you'll enjoy reading her wisdom about the WHY behind her creativity. We'll be featuring guest posts all week, and a huge giveaway of beautiful things on Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. We'd love to hear from you here or on Instagram why YOU make beautiful things- Chime in on today's post!!

Throughout life I have been captivated by the visual world. As a child I would often map the layout of a building in my mind or on paper, trying to make sense of each space and how they were connected. Converting to Catholicism was a similar process of piecing together the truths I had heard growing up. After completing architecture school, where modernism was king, Catholicism encapsulated my pursuit for truth, beauty, and goodness...both in my faith and in my aesthetic.

Image Courtesy of  31Four, Inc.

“For all its rooted loveliness, the world has no continuing city here; it is an outlandish place, a foreign home, a session in via to a better version of itself--and it is our glory to see it so and to thirst until Jerusalem comes home at last. We were given appetites, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.”


This quote from Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection, by Robert Farrar, speaks in part to the vision behind my work. The beauty of this world is meant to give us a glimpse of the truth and beauty beyond. While we are just "passing through" the truth, beauty, and goodness still has a purpose.



Visiting beautiful churches, hearing sacred chant, even studying the geometry of seashells can point to something beyond. Something greater. I think we all want more of those reminders in our lives.



The definition of telos is an ultimate end or aim. As Christians, we are called to be a new creation. Many of my necklaces are designed around vintage medals. Taking old, vintage, forgotten jewelry and bring them back to life is not only fun, it's symbolic.



"From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." 
--Ephesians 4:16

This verse from Ephesians 4:16 has always been an encouragement to me, especially when I felt like "making pretty things" was trivial. But being able to design jewelry, modern liturgical calendars, and other unique resources is a joy. I'm so grateful I get to share in some creative acts as my work. Through Telos Design and the Telos Art Shop my hope is to join others in our journey of faith.
If we recognize that our lives are not the end itself, but rather a "session in via to a better version...", then truth, beauty, and goodness each play a part in that journey. And they are anything but trivial. The music we enjoy, the jewelry we wear, or the art we hang on our walls can be an opportunity for us to live for our telos. 

We are all on a journey and the true beauty of this world is a means to a greater end.





I'm honored to get to share Jessica's words of wisdom with you.  Please go visit her shop and social media, and join the conversation here in the comments or on today's Instagram post. And don't forget to come back every day this week for more creative wisdom from a set of beautiful women makers! Sign up for the Telos Art Shop monthly newsletter to receive a liturgical calendar download each month as well as shop updates:
Find Jessica:
Instagram- @telosart
Facebook- Telos Design

Jessica is generously donating a set of her brand new Mysteries of the Rosary window clings to our Beautiful Things Giveaway! You'll be able to enter to win here on the blog and on Instagram



Enter the Beautiful Things Giveaway:
You can enter the giveaway here on the blog, and for more chances to win you can enter on Instagram as well! I hope you enjoy visiting all these lovely and generous makers, and know that they appreciate you following along with them on your favorite social media tools.

The winner of the Beautiful Things Giveaway will receive:
$55 Credit towards a Doll and Guaranteed spot in 2019 from Marcy of Marzipantz
8x10 Sacred Heart of Jesus Print from Tricia of Providential Co.
Red Sacred Heart Tote Bag from Rakhi of Rakstar Designs
Set of Cards and Stickers from Shari of Catholic Paper Goods
Set of Mysteries of the Rosary Window Clings from Jessica of Telos Art
Any In-stock Stamp of Your Choice from Katie of Look to Him and Be Radiant

One winner will be chosen using random generator from combination of entries on blog and Instagram. US only and must be 18 or older to win. Winner must meet entry guidelines. Winner has 24 hours to respond or new winner will be chosen. Giveaway closes at midnight Central time Sunday, June 30, 2019. (And if you're viewing this in your email browser, you'll have to click over to the blog to enter using the Rafflecopter giveaway widget!)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Q & A with Shari from Catholic Paper Goods {Guest Post}


In a world that craves the true, the good, and the beautiful, is a joy to host the fourth Why Make Beautiful Things series here at Look to Him and Be Radiant. You can read the original post with my thoughts on beauty here and read all the guest posts in the previous series here. Today I have the honor of sharing the work and reflections of Shari of Catholic Paper Goods, designer of unique Catholic cards, stickers, and printables (and an amazing growing collection of Saint art!). I think you'll enjoy reading her wisdom about the WHY behind her creativity. We'll be featuring guest posts all week, and a huge giveaway of beautiful things on Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. We'd love to hear from you here or on Instagram why YOU make beautiful things- Chime in on today's post!!



Can you tell us a little about how Catholic Paper Goods got started? You have both a secular and a faith based business. What inspired you to incorporate what you believe into what you create?
I am a graphic designer, illustrator and photographer with 26 years of experience in the industry. Since 2000, I have run my own freelance design studio, Em-press Design (www.em-pressdesign.com). I offer logos/branding/corporate identity, corporate marketing materials, brochures, annual reports, catalogs, sell sheets, t-shirt and specialty item design, trade show graphics, custom wedding invitations and baby announcements as well as portrait and product photography. While I love that line of work and the variety of clients I am honored to help, about 4 years ago, I started to feel like something was missing. When I was little, my dream was to be an artist at Hallmark so I could illustrate and hand-letter greeting cards. In college, I majored in fine arts and received my BFA in painting and drawing and went on to graduate with an MA in graphic design/illustration. I’ve always been drawn to the crisp lines of more graphic illustration, especially combined with elegant, bold typography and/or hand-lettering.



In 2015, I began attending the Walking With Purpose women’s Bible study at our parish and loved it. I am a cradle Catholic revert, the 1970s catechesis of my youth left me… shall we say, lacking!?! It wasn’t until I was almost 40 that I finally clued into how incredibly rich and beautiful this faith of ours truly is! It sounds silly to say that, but I honestly didn’t have even a basic understanding of it or appreciate it until a health crisis led me home. During WWP, I kept feeling a strong nudge to use my design skills for something Catholic, but I had no idea what that looked like. I asked the ladies at my table every week during our prayer time for clarity and kept asking God to please be extremely specific because I just wasn’t getting it! Two years later, I was blessed with an amazingly detailed dream with black and white hand-lettered Catholic greeting cards spread all over my coffee table. I jumped up and sketched them all out so as not to forget. I immediately started to produce all the ideas I was gifted in every free moment I could find for 6 straight months. I’m still in awe of that dream and its impact on my life.



At the end of 2017, I launched Catholic Paper Goods as an Etsy shop with digital downloadable cards, art prints, coloring pages, custom invitations for sacraments and vinyl stickers. I create everything when I can make time around my corporate design work and motherhood. This year, our family is planning a big move from the city to the country where we hope to find acreage to build a home, grow our own food and have chickens again (we had city chickens for a few years until a raccoon massacre). Oh, how I miss fresh eggs! I will also be a first time homeschooling mom to my 9-year-old son, Luke, this fall. He is a force to be reckoned with! He inspires me, helps me and loves it when new sticker designs arrive so he can plaster them all over his bike. He is so artistically gifted, it won’t be long until he contributes his own designs for the shop. Since I began to incorporate my faith into my work, I’ve never been more at peace or excited to create. The ideas never cease and I can hardly wait to keep producing them. I pray that I can continue to build and grow this new chapter and be fully open to the guidance of the Spirit. I am constantly pushed to keep creating and experimenting with new styles and this year, I’m working on more offerings for kids. I just launched the first of many saint and Marian coloring pages in time for summer break and more will be coming.



I'm so grateful for repeat customers and custom orders. The feedback I've received has been overwhelming and I'm so happy to be able to create custom designs for people, especially ordination invitations. My mission is to offer beautifully designed Catholic paper products that are hard to find or needed at the last minute and can be downloaded instantly. I have a sweet customer who recently messaged me about a last minute personalized baptism gift she needed for the the next morning and I was so happy to be able to help her!




How do you think the Church today could better use beauty to convey the truth within Her that is unchanging, while also meeting the modern culture?
I am so inspired by Bishop Robert Barron and his Word on Fire ministry. They superbly use technology and social media integrated with simple, beautiful art and design to convey the truth and that is exactly what I pray to be able to do. I am so grateful that programs like his exist, they are making our job as parents so much easier and richer. We love to watch his DVDs and listen to the podcasts of Fr. John Riccardo and many, many others. We also enjoy Catholic radio and our son is a huge fan of Catholic Answers. All of these offerings are so wonderful for a young person to better comprehend our faith and to form a personal relationship with Christ. My son knows far more than I ever did about Catholicism even in my forties! I recently turned 50 and am super sentimental (read: peri-menopausal!!). I got married at 39 and became a mom at almost 41. I’m so grateful to God for my amazing husband, his endless patience with me and especially waiting to receive the vocation of marriage and parenthood later in life. I wasn’t at all prepared for this in my twenties—God’s plan is always better than mine!


I hope that by expanding my line of digital downloadable artwork, I can offer educators, homeschoolers, young mothers and their kids access to beautiful Catholic art that will enrich their day-to-day lives. I’m such a poor planner, my goal is that moms like me who woke up and either forgot or ran out of time to prepare something for a given feast day can quickly go download a coloring page or art print, etc. and be ready for the day. Using the incredible tools of technology we have in a positive way to inspire our youth and encourage them to live out their faith (and hopefully also be inspired to create beautiful sacred art!) can only help us to grow the domestic church. I pray to design artwork and stickers that young people are proud to display in order to encourage them not to abandon ship as I did at their age, no matter what's happening within our Church, in our country or in the world.



What Saints inspire you most?
I have so many favorites, it’s hard to narrow them down, but St. Dymphna and Pope St. John Paul II are very special. St. Dymphna was of great comfort to me when I went through a medical nightmare as a result of a horrible reaction to a prescription medication many years ago. I experienced mild brain damage that caused severe depression and anxiety and I prayed to her fiercely during the full year it took me to recover from it. I recently completed an illustration of her for her feast day in gratitude and it's one of my favorites so far.


Pope St. John Paul II is special because he was the first Pope I witnessed being elected. I was 9 years old and attending Catholic school at the time, so we had a front row seat to the process and I was fascinated. His smile and gentle demeanor were such a comfort to me as a child and young adult. Even during my time away from the Church, he held a special place in my heart and his pontificate shaped me profoundly.

What projects for CPG are you dreaming about?
I’m designing an ongoing series of downloadable Saint trading cards that I hope will be helpful for educators and homeschool moms. I also want to expand custom invitation offerings to include personalized wedding invitation templates and I’d love to eventually offer t-shirts and more physical products. Most of my items are instant downloads, but I can ship actual prints upon request. I'd like to hear from your readers about specific products they would like to have, I know there are so many ideas out there and I’d like to bring them to life! For example, a customer contacted me asking for a small card to accompany a Mass card for the deceased that explains why Catholics pray for the dead/have Masses said. I was happy to be able to offer her a few versions that are now in the shop. I’m putting the finishing touches on custom portraits of priests either for their ordination or jubilee, they are a more modern style like the saint series and I hope they will make a fun, unique gift. I realize many of my ideas aren’t original and there are many other Catholic artists offering similar products, but I love that we are all so different and offer our own unique styles in how we convey our faith artistically.







I'm honored to get to share Shari's words of wisdom with you.  Please go visit her shop and social media, and join the conversation here in the comments or on today's Instagram post. And don't forget to come back every day this week for more creative wisdom from a set of beautiful women makers!
Find Shari:

And on Friday I'll be hosting the Beautiful Things Giveaway, an amazing collection of lovely items to bring the beauty of the Creator into your daily life.  Shari is giving away this awesome stack of Catholic cards, prints, and stickers! You'll be able to enter to win here on the blog and on Instagram, so check back Friday, 6/28/2019, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart!


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Creating with the Holy Spirit- Rakhi from Rakstar Designs {Guest Post}


In a world that craves the true, the good, and the beautiful, is a joy to host the fourth Why Make Beautiful Things series here at Look to Him and Be Radiant. You can read the original post with my thoughts on beauty here and read all the guest posts in the previous series here. Today I have the honor of sharing the work and reflections of Rakhi from Rakstar Designs maker of original and creative Catholic works of art across media. I think you'll enjoy reading her wisdom about the WHY behind her creativity. We'll be featuring guest posts all week, and a huge giveaway of beautiful things on Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. We'd love to hear from you here or on Instagram why YOU make beautiful things- Chime in on today's post!!

"The purpose of art is nothing less than the upliftment of the human spirit.' ~ St. John Paul II

One of the images of my father etched into my memory is of him with a camera around his neck. He was a seasoned amateur, and he loved capturing the moments of our lives. How grateful I am to the trail of memories he left behind for our family to cherish, and for my family to know him long after he has left this world.



From him, I developed a love of film photography. I loved the mechanics of a camera, the click of the shutter, the accidental effects of double exposure - everything. Sadly, it was not a love that was pursued for a long time as I sought after “more gainful” education and employment. If I had it to do all over again, I would have definitely indulged my creative side with more formal instruction.

Creativity is embedded in our souls, though, and no matter the outlet, it finds a way to blossom forth. Whether it is belting out praise music in the car and shower, making a beautiful meal, writing a heartfelt letter, or creating a product with my hands, I come to life when I am creating. We – you and I – were created to create. From the moment life was breathed into us, we were imbued with the Creator Spirit – the Ruah – and commissioned to make of this life a beautiful masterpiece.



What I have come to understand is that despite the lack of formal training, creating is for me a charism. It is something led by the Holy Spirit, that makes my spirit come to life, that helps me to share the good news of the Gospel with the world. That my work is focused on lettering is only by God’s design, and by a friend’s invitation to take an online course with her. It is then that Rakstar Designs as it now exists came to life.



I have squirreled away quotes and words and phrases since I can remember. I have journals full somewhere in boxes from my high school years. To take words and create a thing of beauty to remind us of our identity as beloved children of God, fearfully and wonderfully made, called to cling to hope and share with others the love of Christ, to find joy and laughter in the middle of our pain, to know that we are not alone in the struggle – it is a holy privilege. This is my goal with all I create.



I earnestly pray when I create that what comes to life shines light into darkness. As my pen and paint hits the paper, as the beads and medals are strung together, as the broken pieces of glass are arranged or the clay is molded into its latest form, or even as I am doodling on my iPad, I pray that someone, somewhere, will come to know how much they are loved and known and seen. I pray that in the middle of grief and loneliness, even if just for a moment, they will know they are held in the Father’s hands. Some days that someone is only me, and I am grateful for that grace too.



My Etsy shop began on a whim after taking that lettering course. What it has grown into is more of a ministry. Every time I want to throw in the towel (because running a small, creative side business is hard and sometimes discouraging), someone reaches out to share how they have been touched by my words or my work. It breathes just enough life back into me to keep going, and reminds me that ultimately I don’t do any of this on my own. Creating is a prayer that unites me with the Spirit and draws me out of myself and into relationship with God and others. I create because it is a connection back to my Creator, who is beauty and truth and goodness and mercy and love.
 



I'm honored to get to share Rakhi's words of wisdom with you.  Please go visit her shop and social media, and join the conversation here in the comments or on today's Instagram post. And don't forget to come back every day this week for more creative wisdom from a set of beautiful women makers!
Find Rakhi:
Instagram- @rakstardesigns
Facebook- Rakstar Designs

And on Friday I'll be hosting the Beautiful Things Giveaway, an amazing collection of lovely items to bring the beauty of the Creator into your daily life.  Rakhi is generously donating this gorgeous brand new Sacred Heart tote! You'll be able to enter to win here on the blog and on Instagram, so check back Friday, 6/28/2019!


 


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Mirroring the Creator- Tricia from Providential Co. {Guest Post}


In a world that craves the true, the good, and the beautiful, is a joy to host the fourth Why Make Beautiful Things series here at Look to Him and Be Radiant. You can read the original post with my thoughts on beauty here and read all the guest posts in the previous series here. Today I have the honor of sharing the work and reflections of Tricia from Providential Co. maker of candles and prints featuring Saints and quotes in an iconic style that is both modern and traditional. I think you'll enjoy reading her wisdom about the WHY behind her creativity. We'll be featuring guest posts all week, and a huge giveaway of beautiful things on Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. We'd love to hear from you here or on Instagram why YOU make beautiful things- Chime in on today's post!!

I’ve always loved being creative. From my youngest memories I was making things, pretending to have my own businesses, and finding great joy in serving others with what I was making. In particular, I remember making a really crazy card for my mom with loads of peach-colored Kleenex. Weird media, but I was so thrilled putting together little flowers and twisty vines and gluing them down on this piece of cardboard on which I had lettered her name and a ridiculous amount of kissy lips. My business savvy was there too when I monetized my bubble lettering “business” in middle school – offering glitter add-ons for 25 cents.


When high school came around, I felt it necessary to hide my love of drawing. I was in the “cool” group and a cheerleading captain, caught up in all kinds of nonsense. Upon graduating, however, I re-embraced my love of art and enrolled as a fine arts major in college. This decision evolved further after I moved to Houston and decided to go to art school. My counselor there encouraged me to pursue graphic design, and I realized I could make an actual career out of all those days of crafting, making comics and zines, and drawing countless portraits of imaginary people.


It was a few years after art school that I realized God had been pursuing me as well all along. Did I make the connection between Him and my love of art at that time? No. That part took a lot longer, but I fell deeply for Jesus and I was baptized as a 22-year-old. Sadly, I came to the wrong conclusion that I needed to give up being a designer to “really” serve God and had a brief stint as a teacher. I loved my students, but it was like a critical part of me was shut off. I missed being a full-time designer more than I ever expected.



It dawned on me that God made me to be a creative. It was there from the beginning, being nourished by my loved ones, and as a place of solace when times were tough. It was deep down part of my identity, because it was ultimately God behind it all. He is the source and this is one place where I meet Him. He is the reason for all of the excitement when I’m inspired, and the feeling of accomplishment seeing a creative process through. I mirror my Creator when I create – how insanely cool is that?!

 

There are some pieces that I’ve made that come to be without my often-over involved-mind getting in the way at all, and there are some that have felt like a mini labor/giving birth, at least mentally. All in all, I’m doing what I believe God wants me to do, with the skills I’ve built over my lifetime. This is not just for me, no. This is a channel through which I can get to know Him better, and a way for others to (hopefully) be attracted to Him who is the source of all beauty and all goodness.




I'm honored to get to share Tricia's words of wisdom with you.  Please go visit Tricia's shop and social media, and join the conversation here in the comments or on today's Instagram post. And don't forget to come back every day this week for more creative wisdom from a set of beautiful women makers!
Find Tricia:
Instagram- @providential_co
Facebook- Providential Co.

And on Friday I'll be hosting the Beautiful Things Giveaway, an amazing collection of lovely items to bring the beauty of the Creator into your daily life.  Tricia is generously contributing an 8x10 print of her stunning Sacred Heart image. You'll be able to enter to win here on the blog and on Instagram, so check back Friday, 6/28/2019, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart!