Category Archives: Faith

Top 10 Rejected Names for FREEDOM

One of the highlights of last night’s FREEDOM 10th Anniversary Event was when Father Mark and I presented the “Top 10 Rejected Names” for the event. All of the items were met wth laughter, cheers, jeers, groans, applause, or sometimes a combo of all 5!

Here is the Top 10 as presented at FREEDOM (big thanks to Mike for many of the ideas, Krissy for helping me order them, and Mark for providing the sweet drum roll and rim shots):

10. Somebody gonna get hurt a-real bad
9. March Badness
8. High School Confessional
7. Sin There, Done That
6. “Oh No,you dinnnnnnnt!”
5. So You Think You Can Sin?
4. The Biggest Loser
3. Come and Tell or Go to Hell
2. Amazing Disgrace
1. Go Ahead, Make My Day (said by Father Mark)

Honourable mentions include: Hell’s Kitchen, Can You Top This?, Learn Not to Burn, “You Did WHATTTTT?”, Confess your Mess and Shock the Priest

Anticipating Communion: Following a Hunch

We received an email at 10am on Monday morning advising us that Cardinal Marc Ouellet would be celebrating Mass in our building chapel at noon. What a blessing…to have the Primate of Canada celebrating Mass for archdiocesan staff less than 24 hours after the big Centennial Celebration at GM Place!

After exiting a meeting, I bolted down the steps and into chapel at 30 seconds past noon (according to my watch). Upon entering the chapel, I placed a host into the chalice (customary at our building Masses) and stood at the back, as all of the pews were full (I guess my watch is a lot slower than everyone else’s). I knew the tiny chapel would be crowded, and sure enough it was a who’s who of archdiocesan staff: Directors, Coordinators, Consultants, Superintendents, support staff, visitors, and a certain web-project-specialist Goddaughter of mine.

Youth ministry consultant extraordinaire Gerard was lucky to scoop the last seat: the old kitchen chair behind the organ (right beside where I was standing). He politely offered his seat to me once, but I politely declined recognizing that he is older than me…haha.

Just before offertory, I casually grabbed 3 more unconsecrated hosts and put them into the chalice without anyone noticing. As 2 of my co-workers took the chalice and cruets to His Eminence at the altar, I was confident in my reasoning: in the rush to get seats, a few people likely forgot to place a host in the chalice. Plus, the visitors may not have known to place a host in for themselves.

As we made our way to communion a few minutes later, Gerard and I were the last 2 people, by virtue of being nice guys and letting everyone else go first. Or more accurately, by virtue of being the 2 guys in the corner. Regardless, just as we began to make our way up the aisle, I turned to him causally and said “I put a few more hosts in the chalice.”

The look Gerard shot me was classic Gerard. For those of you that know him…it was the D-Lo. “Why’d you do that?” he asked quickly.

“Trust me” I replied.

So we approached the altar…the last 2 people to receive the body of Christ. Sure enough, just as Cardinal Ouellet gave communion to the person directly in front of me, he looked down to find no more Jesus. He politely gave me the “hold on a sec, don’t go anywhere” motion with his hands and I obliged as the sacristan rushed to find the key to the tabernacle. As I stood there, waiting patiently, I convinced myself that I would be fine receiving a blessing if they couldn’t find more consecrated hosts.

Alas, the tabernacle was opened, more Jesus was found, and Gerard and I finally received the Body of Christ.

As Gerard and I were leaving the chapel after Mass, I proudly proclaimed my communion anticipation, sharing just 4 simple words with him:

“I told you so.”

Child-Like Faith

I’ve written before about family prayer time at the end of the day. Often, with Gail tending to Kayla, it turns out to be the 3 Imoo boys as I try and settle them for bed. Depending on the day we just had, this can take anywhere between 5 minutes and 5 hours.

Last night had the potential to get ugly, as Jacob fell asleep at the 6:30pm Mass (at around 6:45pm) and miraculously woke up as I was carrying him to the van (just after 8pm). So instead of being asleep for the night, I counted it as a 90 minute nap. Thus, I had no idea what time he would actually fall asleep for good.

So there we were last night, doing our night time prayers. Sean went first this time, and offered up this gem:

“Thank you Lord for the wonderful day. Please bless Jacob and help him not to be such a goof, falling asleep during Your time in Your beautiful house of worship.”

I guess Jake didn’t appreciate being prayed for in this fashion, as he quickly interjected: “Stop it!”

Sean mis-heard Jake’s interruption and therefore the madness continued.

“And I pray for Jacob’s stomach (Sean had heard “stomach” instead of “stop it”) that it may grow bigger so he’s not underweight and so small.”

Honesty, I can’t recall the rest of Sean’s prayer as I was doing my best not to burst out into laughter. I do recall Jake doing a nice prayer offering up our upcoming trip to New York before I closed things off.

That’s why I love kids’ prayers. Children remind us that we can be child-like, not childish, in the way we pray. Praying is easier for children, as there is no embarrassment, no formulas, no clichés, or no religiously correct God words…they just pray whatever comes to their minds. Children tell God what they are genuinely thinking and they understand that God is listening, and that praying is very important.

My hope is that we all become more child-like in our faith, and that we aren’t afraid to offer up simple, spontaneous prayers when needed.

That way, I won’t always be the one saying grace because I’m the designated “church professional!”

That's Why I'm in Youth Ministry

As I sat at Mass last night at St. Paul’s, I was overcome with joy and hope as I witnessed all of the young people singing and praising, all while donning their retreat t-shirts.  As I sat on the altar as one of the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, I looked to my left and saw Oggy in the music ministry.  And straight ahead of me was Father Justin Huang, the youngest priest in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, celebrating Mass at his home parish (after spending 2 years in Chilliwack).

Both Oggy and Father Justin played prominent roles in our Searching in the Spirit post-Confirmation event that we held back in August with the YMO.  There is no greater feeling in youth ministry than to see “former teens” making an impact and doing extraordinary things as “adults” in the church.  It’s both inspiring and humbling.

Oggy served on the 12-member Leadership Team charged with planning and executing the 5-day program for close to 100 grade 7s and their adult leaders.  Oggy teamed with Jeremy to present a wonderful, faith-filled day themed “We are Witnesses.”  As part of his testimony, Oggy shared that it was at a similar retreat with St. Paul’s back in 2000 where his life changed forever.  That experience served as a catalyst for his involvement in parish and now diocesan youth ministry.  In his testimony, Oggy mentioned the many leaders who have helped him and inspired him along his faith journey, including Gerard and me (it was funny because we were both sitting in the back of the room as Oggy was sharing…I hope he didn’t feel like he HAD to mention us…haha). 

I pulled Oggy aside on the last day of Searching, affirming him and encouraging him.  I told him that he is an outstanding young leader, and that he has the ability to draw people towards him with his talent, his humility, his good-looks and his obvious love for Jesus and the Church.  I was struck by some of the similarities between him and me as a 19 year-old (minus the good-looks…and maybe some humility), and I warned him against some of the things that I’ve found challenging over the years.  But most certainly, I told him that he was already way ahead of where I was 15 years ago and that the sky’s the limit for him with respect to his talent and the way he can make a positive impact on young people.  Oggy was receptive to this old man’s advice and we shared a laugh over what Oggy might be like 15 years from now.  In his words, “Hopefully a bit skinnier.”

Father Justin came up on Thursday night and celebrated the closing Mass with us on Friday.  In his awesome homily, he spoke about community and how important it is for young Catholics to worship God and grow into deeper relation with Christ, but not as a lone ranger.  He too mentioned Gerard and me, recalling how he used to go the youth ministry at St. Paul’s as a teen, and how Gerard and I were “younger” and “cooler” back then.  He cracked the participants up by stating:  “Well, they were younger…but I’m not sure about cooler.”

I remember Justin as a youth participant at St. Paul’s.  He was very keen, very smart, and wasn’t afraid to challenge us leaders (respectfully of course).  It was a good learning experience for me, as I was often racing to my catechism or bible after a good discussion with Justin.  As a community, we stayed in contact with him as he studied at the Abbey and then in New York, and we were thrilled when he was ordained in June 2006 at St. Paul’s.  Then, it was great news to hear that he’d be returning to St. Paul’s starting July 2008.  Needless to say, our parish community is very proud and excited.

I don’t mention Oggy and Father Justin just because they mentioned me during Searching in the Spirit.  Rather, it humbles me to see that I, along with many other great leaders, had a small part in their faith formation.  It could have been in sharing our testimonies, in performing a skit, or perhaps during a one-on-one conversation.  Regardless, they are both in strong leadership positions now, and young people in general are the ones who benefit.

There are countless other examples of former teens doing good things. My sister-in-law Julie Ann has served at many archdiocesan events, including emceeing Youth Day and being part of Spirit Day’s Stage Team. Krissy is a regular volunteer with the YMO and even worked for us as our administrative assistant for a year. Alvina, Pam, and Mike and many others are now professional teachers. Young people are making a difference in many other fields: medicine, business, engineering and others.

Youth ministry is about people, not programs. We need to be interested in the souls of young people, and not just their attendance. 

Sometimes, I get too bogged down in numbers:  how many people came to our last event or meeting???

Instead, I should ask myself:  how many souls are we touching?  How many lives are we changing?

For inspiration, I need not look further than Oggy and Father Justin. 

That’s why I’m in youth ministry.



Being Humbled and Enduring Pain: Appropriate for Holy Week

We weren’t able to make it to a Good Friday Service this year (more on that below) so we prayed a rosary together as a family just after dinner but just before the Canucks game. It was a beautiful time, both spiritual and (respectfully) humourous in spots. Jake fell asleep by the 2nd decade, while Sean kept losing count, and he would try and signal me to find out where we were without having Gail notice. Priceless. Kayla meanwhile was babbling constantly throughout…you can guess who she takes after there. It reminded me just how powerful praying with the family can be, and it encouraged us and challenged us to make more time for deliberate prayer as a family.

The reason I wasn’t able to leave the house today was because I am nursing an inch-wide and half-inch deep cut on the back of my leg. I had an abscess removed on Tuesday (remnants of a staph infection I got in late February). My family doctor packed it after cutting it out on Tuesday…it was so painful that I bit a hole through the paper on his examination table! He removed the packing on Thursday and repacked it in a slightly-less painful procedure. We went for dinner an hour later to the Vetters, and I started bleeding out from the wound, soaking the dressings and my pants. Thankfully, Zinha is a Registered Nurse, so she was able to redress it for me (I had to ask permission from her husband Richard that she see me with my pants down…haha) and she recommended that I go to Emergency at Richmond General Hospital. They generously offered to watch Sean and Jake while Gail and Kayla took me to the hospital.

I am so grateful that the Lord had us at that place at that time. I almost didn’t go to the Vetters’ that night, opting instead to just rest at home. I probably wouldn’t have known what to do had I started bleeding profusely with no one to help me! So not only did I get a yummy meal…I got professional care and some peace-of-mind.

It was a madhouse in the waiting room but I was luckily treated within an hour. Needless to say, it was very humbling lying on the hospital bed with my pants off with both the female nurse and female doctor tending to me. Thankfully I was wearing decent underwear. As unpleasant as it was for me, it must have been worse for them as they had to clean, re-pack, and re-dress the wound. The most painful part was actually when they removed the tape (think Steve Carell in the 40 Year-Old Virgin).

While waiting to be worked on, I had a lot of time to think, text, reflect, and pray. I thought it was appropriate that this was happening to me during the Easter Triduum, as I thought of the humility shown by Christ washing His disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, and the pain and anguish He felt on Good Friday. This isn’t to say that my humbling experiences and pain were comparable at all to what Jesus went through…but they certainly were analogous to me.

Here’s one last funny story: in making small talk with the Filipina nursing student, I mentioned that my wife was born in the Philippines. She then asked me if I was Filipino, and I responded “no” but that I could say one Filipino phrase…but that it was very inappropriate for the situation (remember…I was lying there on my stomach in my underwear). She told me to save it for when we were done.

After I finished dressing myself, she asked what the phrase was. I said in perfectly fluent Tagalog: “Gusto mo akong umutot?” She burst out into laughter and indeed thanked me for saving it…as it means “Do you want me to fart?” Quite the ending to my hospital visit!

The injury has affected me more than I thought: I can’t really sit so I’m regulated to lying down or standing. Thus, I can’t drive and I was in an out of the office all week for short spurts. Being a person somewhat of routine and habit, I find that I haven’t been really effective at anything, either at home or at work. So I’m praying that I can recover quickly and get back to business as usual.

Thus, I’m looking forward to the joy and new life that comes from Christ’s glorious resurrection at Easter! And to keep with my analogy…it will likely mean taking the boys bowling or playing hockey outside.

Happy Easter!