This article originally appeared on the Archdiocese of Detroit’s website Unleash the Gospel.
Thirty-three years ago, united in the sacrament of marriage, Peter and I began an exciting and mysterious adventure. We charted a course for our life that wasn’t based on romantic feelings or wishful thinking. Although we had financial, career and family goals, we had one principal aim that informed the rest. Our deepest desire was to live with God forever and to help each other, our family and those God placed in our lives to get to heaven. This objective may sound cliché, abstract or in the very distant future, but it is actually concrete and practical, lived out each day in the context of marriage and family life.
The family is the primary social unit in which life in Christ and the life of the church are experienced and lived. Therefore, the church refers to the family as the domestic church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church beautifully describes the Christian family and our role as parents:
“The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith.For this reason, the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity … It is a community of faith, hope, and charity.” (CCC, 1666, 2204)
“Parents are the principal and first educators of their children.In this sense, the fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life.” (CCC, 1653)
“The home is the first school of Christian life and ‘a school for human enrichment.’Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous — even repeated — forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.” (CCC, 1657)
In January, Renewal Ministries welcomed Be Love Revolution (BLR) into its family. Be Love Revolution is an outreach primarily to high-school-aged young women that is led by Debbie Herbeck and a team of young adult women with hearts for serving the next generation.
“I am very grateful—and in amazement—how Be Love Revolution has grown to reach more and more young girls and help them establish strong identities in Christ,” said Renewal Ministries’ President Ralph Martin. “What a valuable service in such challenging times! We are honored to have BLR join the Renewal Ministries family of ministries that are strengthening men and women, boys and girls, all over the world.”
Renewal Ministries’ Vice President Peter Herbeck agrees: “This is a mature ministry that has successfully mobilized young women from elementary through high school and college and is doing a very effective job of making disciples. They are talented and inspiring young women who are hungry to love as Jesus loves.”
BLR officially began in 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with the intention of creating a culture that helps young women develop a personal relationship with Jesus and grow into mature disciples. Its mission is three-fold:
Be His: Help young women know the personal and transformative love of Jesus.
Be Free: Form young women to live freely and confidently as daughters of God.
Be Love: Equip and empower young women to be God’s love in the world today.
Today the ministry “spreads its net wide” to reach large numbers of young women at its weekly event called “Beloved,” which features practical talks, testimonies, small groups, and praise and worship. BLR also reaches large numbers of young women at retreats and Pine Hills Girls’ Camp. An important part of BLR’s ministry, however, is reaching smaller numbers through women’s groups, Bible studies, mission opportunities, and one-on-one mentoring; those smaller numbers are intentional, Debbie explained. In fact, the key to BLR’s success is that it has moved away from a programmatic approach and into personal mentoring and discipling.
“We have lots of girls involved, but I see tremendous fruit from the smaller groups and our more personal times together,” said Debbie. “Girls have a place to share their lives and be accountable to each other. They are growing as disciples, and being equipped and empowered as leaders. It’s inspiring to see the older girls leading retreats, giving talks, and praying and caring for their younger sisters in Christ. It’s an environment of faith where everyone is learning how to love.”
“Accompanying, discipling, and being with girls—it works,” added Debbie, who has thirty-five years of experience in youth and women’s ministry, leading Pine Hills Girls Camp, mission work, speaking, and writing. “In today’s culture, young people need personal care and formation, not just information. Mentorship is not passive; we walk with them day in and day out, helping them to confidently choose Christ.”
“Mentorship is an investment in someone’s life,” she continued, “and it can be hard to do because it takes time, energy, and patience. By being present we want to remind them in a visible and tangible way that they are loved and valued.”
According to one high schooler, “I’ve grown as a daughter of Christ; I’ve learned to face my fears, try new things, and I don’t have to worry about being judged by others.”
BLR was featured on a 2018-19 episode of The Choices We Face. Afterward, Debbie said they received dozens of calls from women who want to implement BLR in their parish or school—which reflects the “hunger and need for this kind of ministry to young people.”
BLR has begun expanding outside of the Ann Arbor area. According to Debbie, there is a fledgling chapter in Maryland and one starting in Lansing, Michigan, that is “ready to go, has the vision, and has the support within the local high school and parish.” Groups in northern Canada, Kansas, and even someone in Italy have all expressed interest in establishing BLR in their communities as well.
Debbie said, “If women have a vision for what we are doing and the ability to not just run a program, but to invest in and mentor young women—to create a culture of love—then they can do what we are doing. Saint Mother Teresa is our model because we believe that loving the person right in front of you is possible for all of us, and this causes a ripple effect. We sincerely believe we can transform the world through a revolution of love—one person at a time.”
This article originally appeared on the blog for the Be Love Revolution, which you can view here.
Many Decembers ago, in a small dorm room at the University of Michigan, a miracle happened. The God of the Universe broke into my selfish and sinful heart. That night after months of searching, my unnamed longing was revealed to me in the person of Jesus the Messiah, and through my feeble YES, faith—as new as the baby Jesus—was born in my heart.
Now as a disciple of Jesus I’m trying to help others, especially young women, to know, love, and follow Him too. My idea of a great week is Pine Hills Girls Camp, being on mission in the garbage dump in Mexico City, an early Tuesday morning bible study at the local coffee shop, and being with my grandchildren.
Yet despite all the good things and God things in my life, I am prone to discouragement, and at times I struggle with HOPE. After many years of following Jesus, I have faced great joy and great pain, triumphs and disappointments, answered prayers and ones that seem to fall on deaf ears. But during the season of Advent there is a truth that has helped me cling to and grow in hope. Hope is a Who. I know this sounds like a Dr. Seuss book title, but hear me out…
When I was pregnant with each of my children I was filled with such expectant hope because I was preparing to giving birth to a real person, not a theory or a concept, but a real, living person with a name (Sarah, Michael, Joshua, Rachel), a face, an identity, a personality, and a purpose. I couldn’t wait to welcome that little person into our life.
Advent helps me remember that God who really exists—not as an idea, a philosophy, or theory—was born into our world as a human person, with a name (Jesus), an identity, a personality, and a purpose. Hope is a Who. My hope is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ and the certainty of what God has promised in Him. My hope isn’t based on my feelings or circumstances which change constantly, or in material things which break and wear out. My hope in others can bring disappointment, and hope in myself incites self-reliance and often ends in failure.
What fills me with hope is Jesus’ unbreakable promise: “I am with you always.” The name Emmanuel, God-with-us, reminds me that I am never alone, that he came to earth to set up his dwelling within me; that he will never leave me or forsake me. True hope isn’t anchored in my word, on wishful thinking or what I want, but on what the sovereign, loving God knows I need, revealed to me in the Word made flesh, and the rock-solid truth of the Scriptures.
Hope has a name and His Name is JESUS. When the light of hope fades within you, like it does in me sometimes, I challenge you to speak, proclaim, and praise the name of Jesus with the confidence of a trusted friend. Let your hope grow—not in what is to come or in what may be, but in Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah who has come to make His home in us. This Christmas, may Jesus, the Hope of the world, find a welcome place in our hearts.
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” – Gerard Manley Hopkins
By Bruce Rooke
After two weeks in the land of saints and martyrs, we touched back down in Detroit.
Peter and Debbie Herbeck, and my wife Julia, and I had hopped through Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, engaging with different leaders and covenant communities; sharing Word, prayer, and Pentecost with students and believers; and immersing ourselves in the deep living history of faith these countries hold.
When you come back from a mission trip, it can be like carrying a candle. You hope the fragile light of those smiles doesn’t flicker out in the rush of your returning and the demands of your to-do lists.
Fortunately, we carried back a bonfire.
The Spirit is strong here. Strong enough to break the iron bars of a dark Nazi cell in Auschwitz and outlast another forty-five-plus years of Communism. But what you remember—what stays with you after you walk the horrors of Birkenau or kneel before the blood-stained cassock of St. John Paul the Great—is not the weight of the crosses, but the resolute joy of St. Maximillian Kolbe and the Holy Father’s echo of the angels: “Do not be afraid!” And even though the people here are now facing many of the same challenges that we face in the West, there is longing for a God who is stronger than their fears, a God who dreams big.
Julia and I got a head start on some of those dreams by going to Budapest first, where we spent a wonderful time with Country Coordinator Deacon Zoli Kunsabo and his wife, Panni, at their “Only One” homeless shelter. The place resounded with transformed and transforming lives, and one chorus was heard over and over: “There was just something different about this place than all of the other shelters.” Deacon Zoli and Panni continue to dream big with God, as they pray with energetic excitement (as only Hungarians, like my wife, can!) for what God has next for them and their community.
After picking up Peter and Debbie, we drove with Bohuš Živčák, country coordinator for Eastern Europe, and another community member, Marek, to Podolínec, Slovakia, where we stayed in a 375-year-old Redemptorist monastery that once served as a concentration camp for hundreds of religious during the Communist oppression. There is a great sense of peace and welcome here.
The same can be said for The River of Life community that makes its home here. Founded by Bohuš and Redemptorist Fr. Michal Zamkovský, it continues to gather in and renew more and more lives. We had the honor of being with them at their amazing new community center that operates like a loving invitation to the abundant life. Children of all ages play together in the large outdoor space (without mobile phones or boredom!), and inside, the worship and deep prayer is somehow both public and personal. But as its name testifies, The River of Life is more than a reservoir, as it now flows out beyond its walls to love the ones He loves: from a nearby Catholic school, where a number of members are teachers (and where Debbie and Peter elevated and challenged both high school students and faculty), to the far reaches of Nairobi, Kenya, where they are now building new relationships in mission.
After a Lord’s Day hike in the High Tatras, following in the bootsteps of John Paul II, we moved on (with aching legs) to Kraków, Poland. We took in the majesty of the John Paul II Sanctuary and its breathtaking mosaics, then went “next door” to kneel before the relics of St. Faustina within the Shrine of The Divine Mercy, bathing our prayers in the red and white rays emanating from the heart of the Merciful Jesus. We were with members of The Voice in The Desert, a vibrant young Charismatic Catholic community in the heart of Kraków. Later that evening, we joined in their bi-weekly open meeting, where 150 young people and families (leaving their shoes at the door!) worship and pray and dance and, yes, even paint their way through the night. Hungry for experienced teaching, they sat rapt as Peter passionately showed them their place in the history of the Charismatic Renewal. The Spirit was especially strong in the hearts of men there, as Peter and Bohuš called them to stand as chosen sons, stop cowering in their hidden sins, and seek the freedom and power that they have in Christ. The Heart of Christ beats loudly in this community, as evidenced by their radical hospitality and the many times the image of a heart is portrayed in the paintings they create, real-time, throughout the worship.
A six-hour train ride then took us to our last stop: Bialystok, Poland, and the Pentecost Life in Freedom conference. Beautifully hosted by the Ezechiasz (Hezekiah) Covenant Community, Peter and Debbie inspired the 300-400 people who gathered, in talk after talk (after talk!) that we are free to live large in Christ because we are chosen, we are saved, and we are sent sons and daughters of The King. Julia and I were privileged to share the testimony of our marriage, which proves, yet again, “jakże w spaniały jest nasz Bóg” (How Great Is Our God). The Spirit descended in the many prayer sessions we had throughout, from praying over the young people there, to the Charismatic call of Father George during Mass, to the many private Unbound and healing prayers that we had the honor of experiencing throughout the weekend.
Behind it all towered a twenty-foot-tall image of St. Faustina’s Merciful Jesus that served as the backdrop for the stage. As we stood dwarfed before it, its size seemed to capture perfectly how we felt throughout this trip: Our God is one very big God indeed.
This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ November newsletter, which you can view here.
During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles prayed:
“Justice is with the Lord, our God;
and we today are flushed with shame,
we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem,
that we, with our kings and rulers
and priests and prophets, and with our ancestors,
have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed him.
We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God,
nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us.
From the time the Lord led our ancestors out of the land of Egypt
until the present day,
we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God,
and only too ready to disregard his voice.
And the evils and the curse that the Lord enjoined upon Moses, his servant,
at the time he led our ancestors forth from the land of Egypt
to give us the land flowing with milk and honey,
cling to us even today.
For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God,
in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us,
but each one of us went off
after the devices of his own wicked heart,
served other gods,
and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.”
(9) For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple,
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the corpses of your servants
as food to the birds of heaven,
the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the earth.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
They have poured out their blood like water
round about Jerusalem,
and there is no one to bury them.
We have become the reproach of our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
O LORD, how long? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
Jesus said to them,
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented,
sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon
at the judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.’
Whoever listens to you listens to me.
Whoever rejects you rejects me.
And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
In the past few months, depending on where we live, we have been warned and cautioned to prepare for life-threatening storms and impending destruction. And in some places, disaster has come without warning, shaking the very ground of people’s existence. Warnings are helpful. Yet often, unless they are direct, firm, and even stern, we can miss and fail to heed them.
Today’s Gospel passage is a difficult one to read, filled with the language of prophetic warning and judgment. It seems foreign and remote. Even as I read it, I find myself skimming; how do Jesus’ words apply to my daily life?I notice in me a very human tendency to avoid His harsher pronouncements and prefer His softer, more tender words. But I’m reminded of 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, training in righteousness.“
So, like it or not, these ancient words are also intended for me. The unusually harsh words of judgment reflect God’s love for us, and His desire that none of us perish. So, what do we have in common with the three Galilean towns to which Jesus announces doom? (Luke 10:13-16)