Friday, April 26, 2013


The best thing that could have happened to me happened just the other day. Let me explain...

I'm not sure that I've ever told you about my extreme love (perhaps an understatement) for the delightful music performed by Mike Mangione and the Union, but let me tell you:  I love it. I really love it. Theresa Strand (now Krausert!) introduced me to the wonderful sounds back in Freshman year of college when I was still learning how to stand and walk on my own two feet in the college world.

T: "Kelsey, you have got to come to Alpha Omega this Thursday! My brother's friend is in a band and they are sooo good! You just have to see them to understand. I guarantee you'll like them."
K: "Umm, ok."

In all reality, I had no reason not to go so I figured I'd give it a shot. If someone I love suggests something, there's really no reason not to give it a whirl. I remember walking in, sitting down in the pew and watching Mike strum, sing and even tap a foot tambourine, Kristina play the violin like it was her job, and a tall, thin man play a giant bass (the instrument, not the fish, obviously. But wouldn't that be something...) along with the other members of the band doing their thang. I had never heard anything like this music before, and as I sat and absorbed the experience I knew that I would want more. After the show I bought their CD's and t-shirt (which is still my favorite to this day) and signed up for their email list to ensure I wouldn't miss an opportunity to see them live if they came back to Madison. And so, over the course of the next three years I frequented their stops as they came to the same coffee shop down on Willy Street.

Fast forward to this year, and I think I already blogged it up about this, but I have been plotting to try to bring them to Fargo since I got here, there was just never a chance and ND isn't exactly on the way to anywhere else....except Montana and Canada. And from what I've heard those aren't exactly the hottest tourist destinations these days. But anyway, a few months ago Mike tweeted his desire to book more shows and asked for living rooms to play in. I knew it, this was my chance. I tweeted back, telling him Fargo would welcome him anytime and as soon as he responded with, "@kelseymarie1989 ok lets make fargo happen" I knew I was in!! I instantly started scheming ideas with my teammates and before long we planned a slightly but not at all arbitrary date of Saturday, April 20th for them to come play for not only us, but also the other missionaries in the region as we also planned our Great North FOCUS regional gathering for that weekend. That was way back in January and I was already 100% elated for the possibility of a chance. Sharing a CD from MM&U is just not the same as sharing a live, concert-esque experience. I even recall the time Molly and I drove all the way to Milwaukee to see them and couldn't get in because they were playing at a 21 and up venue and we were 19 and 20 years old. Oh, the innocence of the youth.

With plans finalizing of a coffeehouse event featuring my favorite band ever, I began counting down the days until 4/20 months before, and not for the same reasons that some other individuals might if you catch my drift (slight pun, also slightly inappropriate). Cari made some killer signs and we plastered them all over campus and even downtown wherever we could find open places. That included Pita Pit, Spicy Pie, the restrooms (yes, male AND female) at Atomic Coffee, and a few other local gems. I found out after the event that people showed up just because they saw a flyer! How neat is that? Pretty neat.

One of Cari's flyers hanging in an undetermined location :)
Friday afternoon rolls around and the few missionaries actually able to make it showed up for the gathering, and Jenne Forman even came with one of her students, Melissa! Such a huge blessing to have Jenne come, knowing that the next time I leave and come back to Fargo she will already have been living here for three months! I can't believe it. We had a great time socializing, catching up and sharing life on Friday night at my favorite Fargo tavern, Three Lyons Pub. Saturday, however, was the day. I woke up that morning on little sleep as though it were Christmas morning. "Today's the day," I thought to myself. "Mike and crew will be here. Tonight." Without even thinking, the words "Guess what today is! Mike Mangione is coming!!" would slip through my lips at every opportunity throughout the day and the other missionaries started getting a little bit more excited as time went on, simply because I was so beside myself with joy.

We went to Grazies for a big dinner *on the region* (which means we can eat yummy food and FOCUS picks up the tab) but I left early so I could pick up some water bottles (as requested by Fr. Cheney) and still get to greet the band before the show. As I drove all the way back up north from the restaurant I was so excited I was literally shaking and I ran into the gas station--I'll be honest, I'm surprised I didn't hurt myself--left my car running, and couldn't find any packs of bottled water. I snagged 6 large bottles of Ice Mountain from the cooler and clumsily got them to the counter. The clerk gave me a pretty strange look but I wasn't too concerned. I asked for a bag and he shot me a questioning look as if to say, "you got all these bottles up here, I bet you could get them to your car too." Although that's probably not what he was thinking. I threw the bag in my front seat and when I pulled into the Newman Center I reached for the handles and without any hesitation the bottles all tumbled out the bottom through a giant hole in the bag. I laughed to myself but was so excited I just swooped 'em all up in my arms and made my way into the Newman Center to find a 12-pack of Ice Mountain water bottles sitting already on the stage. *facepalm*

After walking in, I noticed Jeff and Mallory already sitting at a table, waiting for others to join them. Jeff and Mal are my friends outside of the "FOCUS world" and it meant so much that they came! The four band members were in Fr. Cheney's kitchen chowing down on some Papa John's 'za. I never
Thomas, Mike, Kristina, and Patrick.
would've guessed that pizza was their pre-show meal, and I've always wondered if musicians had to eat specific foods before performing, but I guess the answer is no. They do what they want.
I was so giddy. That's actually an understatement. TJ mentioned the next day that I "was levitating" although I don't remember my feet leaving the ground. If they did, it was because Cloud 9 had literally enveloped me and swept me away. The social hall continued filling up throughout the course of the night and nearly 150 people showed up, many of whom I personally invited (insert extreme feeling of being loved here). I snagged a seat next to Jenne and the band began to play. As their music filled the large, square room, a certain part of my soul began filling as well. When people affirm me or spend copious amounts of quality time with me, I often refer to my love tank as "filling up." There was a part of me that was so empty I had actually forgotten it existed: a tank that can only be filled
Kristina; she is extremely talented!
with joy-filled, God-centered beauty. I often encounter this beauty at weddings, Italian basilicas and Mike Mangione/other concerts. As my depleted "beauty tank" began filling back up, it didn't take long for my cheeks to be wet with tears. It's hard to describe the moment, really. Something I dreamed about for a long time just, well, happening. Sharing something that has played a huge role in my life with over 100 of my friends. Wow, what a gift.

You might be wondering why I titled this post, "Perspectives" when I have not yet shared my perspective on much, simply that I'm obsessed with this particular band. Well, it came to a certain point in the evening when the Lord side-swiped me with what I shall call a "perspective slap." Jenne still at my left, Marissa had come to sit at my right, Josie and Cari were just in front of me, many of my other friends came just because they love me, and Mike Mangione was singing one of my favorite songs. I desired absolutely nothing else in that moment. This wouldn't have been any better sitting with a boyfriend, a relationship I often desire and convince myself I need right now. As they played 'Wear My Name' I heard these lyrics:
"And I never wanted nothing but that girl to wear my name."
In that moment God shed a simple yet profound perspective into my life. He is not only leading me to my future husband, but simultaneously leading him to me! I often feel a lot of pressure to "find him" (so to speak) and want to take control. Those lyrics encouraged me to trust and abandon myself a little more to God's beautiful and Divine providence. When the time is right I will wear the right person's name, provided that is God's plan for for my life. Now, however, is not that time. Josie and I are reading and discussing a short and powerful book titled, Clean Love in Courtship by Fr. Lovasik, and the other day she mentioned a quote she had read in a different book recently.
"It is better to be single and wish you were married than to be married and wish you were single."
Isn't that the truth? This certainly fits the age-old adage, "you always want what you can't have." But so often we single girls convince ourselves that we just want to be married right now, when in fact the good Lord is giving us the gift of singleness. We have the opportunity to be single-hearted in our love for Him and preparing ourselves for that future someone, while God prepares that future someone for us. We just need to trust Him. What a treasure.

I love these two! Jenne, Marissa and I at the "after-party."
After the concert we had a pretty awesome yet small party with a few people, including Mike and the violin player Kristina (the other two were pooped and headed to the hotel to get some sleep, no judgment there). It ended up being a great opportunity to evangelize for a few missionaries and Josie and I got to hang out with Mike for a solid while just chatting it up on our couch! He even suggested potential people for me to date? Did that really happen? Yes it did. And no thanks, by the way. The last people left at 2 am! That's the latest I've stayed out in a while, and I was in my own home! That deserves a true Fargo "uff-da," especially when the alarm sounded not long after. Let's be real though, even if I would've gone to bed at 10 I would've been so excited I couldn't sleep. I was pretty stinkin' excited.
Genuine joy in those smiles. Ali and I post-concert.
To wrap up, this weekend the Lord said to me through many graces, "Kelsey, I see you. I love you, and you are worth all this and more." He showed me a glimmer of my true worth this weekend, simply with the reception of the Holy Eucharist at Mass on Sunday. After receiving Holy Communion He gently whispered in my ear, "Kelsey, I love you. This was all for you. Even if nobody came, I still would have done this for you."

This is the God I serve and the Father I love! And he loves me too.

Kelsey Marie

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Habemus ebiscopus!

That's right my friends, the Fargo Diocese officially has been appointed a new shepherd to lead the flock!

I suppose I should include here a brief apology for having strayed from all of you faithful readers for a couple of months now (ouch). Many times I have started to write and then just could never get my thoughts all together. Let's hope I see this post through to completion...

Anyway, that's the exciting news of the day/week/month! We are no longer a wayward diocese praying for a new bishop; we are now uniting and praying for a specific bishop-elect, Msgr. John Folda from the Lincoln, NE diocese! I woke up this morning to a phone call from Tim, my old Team Director at 6:46 a.m. I had no idea why he would possibly be calling me until he groggily uttered two words that completely changed the way my day could go: "habemus ebiscopus!" In other words, we have a bishop! He gave me a quick run-down of who it is, where I can find more information, and then hurriedly said goodbye, probably so he could continue calling his other Catholic friends who would be oh-so-excited at such news.

Seeing as I had a pretty late night last night I thought I'd take another peek behind my eyelids, but man, I was so excited there was no way I was going back to sleep anytime soon! Rather, in my excitement I hopped out of bed, randomly did 30 push-ups, put on a pot of coffee (which was probably actually not necessary at this point), cleaned my room, folded and put away two loads of laundry and did a full sink's worth of dishes. All of that was of course after blowing up my twitter feed about the new Bishop and before getting myself ready for the day. Excited much? I'd say so. I honestly felt like a little kid at Christmas! I stopped myself at one point and realized, "Wow Kelsey, this is where you've come. You freaking love the Catholic Church." And then I said to my sarcastic self, "Yes, yes I do."

After holy hour on Mondays we normally have our weekly "team development," but with Cari being gone at a wedding this weekend it's hard to do things without her! FRC (Fr. Cheney, that is) strolled into our office to check the thermostat, holding his usual John Deere mug filled with his deliciously unique brew while Bryan and I excitedly jumped around the office like schoolchildren. Both of us dressed for the occasion: Bryan in his huskerCatholic shirt, me donning the shirt in the picture to the right. The three of us made a last-minute decision to quick hop in the caddy and drive down to the diocesan Pastoral Center in South Fargo for the press conference being held in 20 minutes with the new Bishop-elect. We got there a few minutes before it started and Bryan and I quickly realized how out of place we were, being the only non-reporters and non-clergy present. That's alright though because 1) we got to see Bishop Kagan again, who we just met last Thursday and 2) Valley News Live interviewed Bryan and Fox News interviewed me for their nightly news story for this story!

If you'd like to see the news clip featuring Bryan, and a few smiles from yours truly, click here!

If you'd like to see an article where I'm quoted, click here. Unfortunately I never did get to see Fox's story, but they did pick a line out of my interview for the article--so cool!

We had the honor of meeting Msgr. Folda after the press conference and he told us how excited he was about the work FOCUS does and how much he appreciates us missionaries. Whew! We are officially in with the Bishop before he even gets here! Solid. That is totally fine by me.

So that was the excitement of the week--and so early on, too! A lot has happened since I've last written, so it's kind of difficult to just pick up where I left off. However, I will give you a quick list of least to the best of my ability.
Kristen, Josie, Kelsey, post-Easter Vigil Mass
  1. Theology of the Body study on Tuesdays. This is seriously the highlight of my semester. I'll probably have a feature story about it in my next newsletter, but anytime someone asks me to tell them a story I often refer back to this. Watching the women grow, myself and Cari included, in this important knowledge of the beauty and intricacy with which we were created is completely blowing my mind! I look forward to 7:30 on Tuesday all week, and whenever 8:30 rolls around I'm never quite ready to be done. It's just. that. good.
  2. Lunch with the Bishop. Unfortunately Cari was out of town, but every year team NDSU and UND up in Grand Forks try to get together for a dinner with the Bishop. Last year we all got to chum it up with now Archbishop Samuel Aquila, but unfortunately the Fargo Diocese has been sede vacante since July. We randomly emailed Msgr. Goering, the Vicar General, to see if he would mind humoring us with a meal, and he replied with a most delightful message: the bishop would be coming into town in two days and would be delighted to have lunch with us! Needless to say, we were able to meet and chat with Bishop Kagan of the Bismarck Diocese (our Apostolic Administrator) and he is also very delighted by FOCUS' work on the three campuses in ND.
  3. Easter in Duluth. Josie and I traveled over to Duluth for Easter this year! Kristen, as you may remember, was an inherited disciple of mine last year and she has now gone on to be a missionary (and a mighty good one, might I add!) in Duluth this year. This was her first major holiday away from her family (which is quite large--she has 8 younger sisters!), and Kelly Pechous, a young woman who used to go to school at NDSU but transferred to UMD was getting confirmed during the Easter Vigil. I thought it'd be neat to both witness that and see Kelly as well as be with Kristen during the holiday. A nice twofer, I'd say. It wasn't until the drive home that I realized how our trip up there really stirred up a longing for home within me, and I decided that I'd be coming back home in time for Mother's Day on May 12th. Yay.
  4. Rodeo. That's right, the official PRCA rodeo came into town this past weekend! It was my first rodeo ever and oh-so-fun. We watched a 53-year-old man break the arena record in steer wrestling with a time of 3.8 seconds! If you want to watch some videos check out youtube, I'm sure they're on there. This was my first experience with the "cowboy culture" and boy did I love it. I think my new dream is to save up for a pair of my own cowboy boots, if I could ever get past the fact that I'd be a complete and total poser. Are you kiddin' me? I grew up in Sauk City, WI where cowboys were only seen on my favorite TV programs. But man, what a fun group of people. I knew I'd like it when the announcer opened the evening's events with this line: "They can take it out of our schools, they can take it away from our children, but our country will never take prayer out of the rodeo, let us pray..." and he proceeded to open with a prayer in Christ's name. Nice way to start any evening, I'd say!
  5. Scavenger hunt at the mall. That's right, we pulled it off. We wanted to do something fun and joyful for our April student missionary night, being during the Easter Octave and all, so we racked our brains and came up with the idea of a scavenger the mall! One Wednesday morning the four of us went over to the mall, walking around for a solid two hours looking for ideas of clues we could use. We ended up coming up with some pretty fun and difficult ones, and the 60 students that came to our mountain that night (which is only half, unfortunately!) went crazy! There was also a $50 gift card/person for the group that won, so that was a little incentive to try hard. I was impressed with the students' indomitable spirits as we split them up into arbitrary groups, many not with the friends that they normally hang out with. It was just a really great time, and because we wanted everyone to win, so to speak, we totally clogged up the DQ line in the food court and bought them all ice cream afterwards, much to the employees' dismay.
Many other fun and exciting things have been happening in the past few months, but those were just a few from the past week! I am looking forward to hear about my placement for next year, as I've officially stated my desire to stay on staff as a missionary, and hopefully at NDSU! Please continue to pray for us and our students during this last month of the semester--exciting things are happening everyday!

Peace and blessings,
Kelsey Marie