Siena E-Scribe, Newsletter of the Catherine of Siena Institute, Colorado Springs, Colorado


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January 2006


in this issue
Introducing Our Latest Venture
The Institute goes high-tech in an effort to communicate with our friends more easily and more often!

The Parish: Incubator of Vocations
Are we in the middle of a vocation crisis?  Indeed we are, but Sherry Weddell suggests that our crisis is that many are being called but only a few are discerning

A Life on Paper: Patricia Mees Armstrong and the Charism of Writing
A writer from Eugene, Oregon, among other places, lives with cancer (and her husband). Nevertheless, she's 'daring to dance, refusing to die' while continuing to write poetry and short stories.

An Appeal for Called & Gifted Teachers
If you have wondered how you could make a difference in the Church
and travel the country, become a teacher for the Institute!

A Poem by Patricia Mees Armstrong

on the web
The Newman Rambler
A web site containing critical commentary and analysis of current intellectual issues and debates of concern to the laity in their spheres of activity - culture, politics, the economy, and professions.

Sacred Space
A site maintained by the Irish Jesuits that will guide you through a ten minute daily meditation on scripture in the style of Lectio Divina.

Take Your Place
Take Your Place is a dynamic blog that aims to explore the intersection of culture and the lay apostolate to which all baptized Christians have been called. It is maintained by Keith Strohm, a Called & Gifted teacher.

called and gifted workshops
January 28, 2006
Colorado Springs, CO
(Diocese of Colorado Springs)

(Workshop for persons involved in a Formation program)
St Patrick's Catholic Church
CONTACT: Kathy Campbell,
(719) 636-2345

February 3-4, 2006
San Francisco, CA
(Archdiocese of San Francisco)

St. Dominic's Church
2390 Bush St.
Pre-registration required
CONTACT: Scott Moyer
415-674-0422 or email: Scott
or visit this link: St. Dominic's C&G

February 11-12, 2006
Dodge City, KS
(Diocese of Dodge City)
Young Adult Called & Gifted
The Depot Restaurant
English CONTACT: Becky Hessman (620) 227-1500; or email: Becky

February 17-18, 2006
Berkeley, CA
(Diocese of Oakland)
Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology (DSPT)
CONTACT: Ed Hopfner
(510) 849 - 2030, or email: Ed

Canberra, Australia
(Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn)

CONTACT: Fr John Armstrong
phone 02 6291 6688
e-mail: Fr. John

February 24-25, 2006
Napa, CA
(Diocese of Santa Rosa in CA)
St John the Baptist Catholic Church
English and Spanish language tracks CONTACT: Colleen Beasley (707) 226-9379

Philadelphia, PA
(Archdiocese of Philadelphia)
Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (CAMM) Shrine campus/ Germantown
(215) 438-2925

March 3-4, 2006
East Grand Forks, MN
(Diocese of Crookston)

Sacred Heart Catholic Church
CONTACT: Fr. Larry Delaney, Pastor, or the Parish office at
(218) 773-0877

East Melbourne , VIC
(Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia)

Friday March 3: 6:30 - 9pm
& Saturday March 4: 9am - 4pm
278 Victoria Parade
East Melbourne
CONTACT: Clara Geoghegan:
phone 03 9412 3343
or e-mail Clara

March 24-25, 2006
Incline Village, NV
(Diocese of Reno)

St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
CONTACT: Debbie Larson, or the Parish office at (775) 831-0490

March 31-April 2, 2005
Spokane, WA
(Diocese of Spokane)

A training workshop to prepare people to present the Called & Gifted workshop for the Institute.
St Francis Xavier Catholic Church
CONTACT: Mike Dillon at the Institute Office 1-719-219-0056 or e-mail Mike

The Institute would like to acknowledge the tremendous help of Anna Elias-Cesnik of Tucson, AZ, who designed this e-Scribe and provided very patient training in the use of the Dreamweaver program to Fr. Mike, O.P.

Thanks also to Anna Elias-Cesnik and Patricia Mees Armstrong for their help in editing this edition of the e-Scribe.


Introducing Our Latest Venture!
Sherry Weddell, co-Director, Catherine of Siena Institute
Welcome to the first issue of the new e-mail version of the Catherine of Siena Institute’s Siena Scribe.  Since e-mail is much less labor intensive and less expensive than the “dead tree” paper Scribe was, we will be able to send you news and articles about lay formation and mission much more easily.  The e-Scribe will arrive in your mailbox every other month and feature short articles by Institute writers as well as links to news or events of interest to lay apostles and a calendar of upcoming Institute workshops and other events.  Co-Director Fr. Michael Fones, OP is our fearless editor.  We welcome your input.  If you have questions or comments regarding our E-Scribe, drop us a line at comments.  If someone forwarded this e-mail to you and you wish to subscribe to the e-Scribe click on this link: subscribe.  If you wish to be removed from our e-Scribe mailing list, reply to this message with "unsubscribe" in the subject line. 

The Parish: Incubator of Vocations
Sherry Weddell
The Holy Spirit is planting charisms and vocations of amazing diversity in the hearts of all his people.  Just as the gifts of children are in-born and yet must be fostered with great energy by parents if their children are to reach their full potential, so vocations must be fostered by the Church.  Disciples and apostles don’t just “happen.”  Vocations don’t just “happen.”  Weeds happen!  Disciples, apostles, and vocations are the result of an intentional plan and effort by the Christian community.

In this area, we are not asking for too much, we are settling for too little.  God is not asking us to call forth the vocations of a few people, he is asking us to call forth the vocations of millions.  Formation is not just something we give to a few who are already clear about God’s call.  Formation awakens Christians to and clarifies God’s call; formation empowers men and women to hear and respond to the call that is already present.  As Pope John Paul II wrote:  “The fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one’s vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfill one’s mission.” (Christifideles Laici, 58). 

Our problem is not that there is a shortage of vocations, but that we do not have the support systems and leadership in place to foster the vast majority of the vocations that God has given us.  Wherever lay men and women are personally challenged to follow Christ and given sustained, personal formation, priestly, religious, and lay vocations of all kinds flourish.  The answer to our present shortage of priests, religious and other leaders is to systematically nurture the vocations of all. 

Our current practice of conducting the entire process of vocational discernment outside the parish community is part of the problem.  It reinforces beliefs that many Catholics have:
      1)   That vocations are exceptional and are given only to a few
      2)   That only those called to ordination or religious life have vocations
      3)   Therefore lay Catholics have nothing to discern
Our workshops have been filled with young adults sorting out their career options or discerning a possible call to the priesthood and religious life, women returning to the workplace after their children are grown, men and women whose lives have been disrupted by unemployment or divorce, and older adults facing the uncertainty of retirement. 

Almost all are uncertain as to how to discern God’s call.  Few lay Catholics will ever find the support they need unless it is available in their own parish.  If you are a pastor, parish staff member, leader or parishioner who would like your parish to become a center of formation and discernment for all the baptized, consider attending Making Disciples, Equipping Apostles: Growing Extraordinary Catholics in Your Own Backyard in Colorado Springs, Colorado or Oakland, California this summer.  For more information, check out Making Disciples, Equipping Apostles.

A Life on Paper: Patricia Mees Armstrong and the Charism of Writing
Fr. Michael Fones, O. P., co-Director, Catherine of Siena Institute
Patricia and Rich Armstrong have been married almost fifty-one years, and have lived in homes in Vermont, Oregon, California, Arizona, Ireland, Hawaii, Guam and Crete - moving on average almost once a year.  While I was working at the Newman Center at the University of Oregon they abandoned their gypsy ways, and later agreed to reflect on the spirituality of marriage at our marriage preparation workshops. One evening, as they finished their presentation, I had an inspiration.  I remembered Pat’s poem, Pact, and thought it would beautifully demonstrate the bond of their marriage.  When she had finished reading it, even the men were in tears.  Her friend, Bob Welch, who writes for the Eugene Register-Guard, says she can make people laugh and cry in the same sentence.

Much of Pat’s poetry springs from her observation of the everyday world: rain, the birch trees outside their apartment, the ebb and flow of life with her husband on Crete, a forgotten road in Ireland, good causes and warm corners.  When she was living with breast cancer, her poetry expressed the raw, unspoken emotions of many cancer survivors.
Pat says she has always loved words, and, as an only child, filled her time “with imagination and imaginative things,” reading “everything I could get my hands on.”   Reading led to writing, and the writing she says, “was for God early on.”  This is remarkable because she grew up in a fairly hostile environment for faith, with a self-disciplined atheist mother who thought religion was for the weak, and a non-practicing Northern Irish Protestant father.  “In retrospect,” Pat mused, “I was being ‘nudged’ by God all along.”  (She pronounces it noodged; the way, she says, her Jewish mother-in-law would say it)

One of the signs of a charism is found in the positive feedback we get, and Pat has been encouraged to write since a grade school teacher assured her she had a gift.  Her poetry and fiction have won awards from the Oregon State Poetry Association; The Writers' Workshop, Asheville, NC; Portraits Magazine; and Willamette Writers of Portland, OR.  She was a finalist in the International Fish Publishing Competition of Durrus, Ireland, and has received fellowships and residencies.

When asked what it’s like to write, Pat responds, “I can’t not write!  A line will come to me, or an emotion, and then I’ll put it to paper.  Then I’ll edit – counting syllables, even.  I craft it until the rhythm is right.  In creative writing you’re pulling your life into it, trying to express something in a unique way.  That means you can’t write for the market, nor can you write by consensus or committee.” She says, “You write for yourself, and you hope that something you say touches another.  You don’t fall in love with everything you write, but sometimes you can say, ‘Hey, that’s just what I wanted to say, and I don’t think I’ve heard it said that way before.’   That’s a high.”

When she talks, the words spill out of Pat, thoughts tumbling upon thoughts, but writing, she says, takes energy physically and emotionally.  Sitting at the computer and summoning up an original idea is a tough, sometimes lonely thing.  But she does get energy from writing when she’s pleased by it, and given how much she’s published, she must be energized regularly!

What amazes me about people with creative charisms is how often they seem to produce such beauty during brief gaps in an otherwise full life.  Pat taught in public schools for twenty years, worked in public relations for a major airline in Los Angeles, was a book reviewer for a weekly paper in California, served as a teacher/education coordinator for Vermont's maximum security prison, was a consulting educator while living in Greece, Ireland, Hawaii and Mexico, and assisted Rich, her husband, in business in California.  Between all that, besides packing and unpacking, she raised three successful sons. 

Pat’s cancer has returned.  It has invaded her spine and femur and other parts of her body.  Her oncologist has told her, “Mrs. Armstrong, I don’t know why you’re still alive.”  He’s no candidate for a bedside manner award.  Still, Pat can’t not write, and she refuses painkillers that tend to “fuzz her up.”  “I’m not trying to be brave,” she told me, “I’m trying to be me.  Those drugs take away the part of me that’s creative.  I can’t do that yet.  I’m still being nudged.”

An Appeal for Called & Gifted Teachers
Sherry Weddell
Calling all Called & Gifted alumni:  Do you have experience or a gift for  teaching adults?  Would you like to travel and meet enthusiastic Catholics in different parts of the US or even possibly go abroad?  Have you ever dreamed about teaching a Called & Gifted workshop? 

The demand for Called & Gifted workshops is exceeding what our current teachers can handle.  We have a special need for strong female, young adult (20 and 30 something, male and female) and bi-lingual Spanish/English teachers.  You will always teach as part of a male-female team, sometimes with a priest or religious.  Many of our teachers have non-ministry jobs, families, and real lives and don’t have specialized theological training (although we welcome those who do!).  We provide theological and practical training, including detailed teaching notes, Powerpoint slides, and supervised teaching experience.  We cover all the expenses for promising, committed trainees.  Teachers who present half a Called & Gifted workshop as part of a two person team receive an honorarium.  Teachers are given a flexible schedule, although presenting a workshop usually requires Friday through Sunday travel.  If you are interested, e-mail Mike Dillon at  Please include a description of your exposure to the Called & Gifted process and any relevant teaching experience.

©1997 Patricia Mees Armstrong
from Daring to Dance, Refusing to Die, Small Poetry Press

Sleeping and waking     we talk in the night
he moves at my stirring as if I am
the spoon in his bowl of pudding     he is
hungry     I pad to the kitchen under
his remote control from our bed     he wants
2 a.m. cocoa and graham crackers
the sandy crumbs outlast his hunger (we
learn that in the morning)     as he slurps
and chews, I touch his chest and follow the pink
surgical maps zig-zagging directions
We have defined our closeness for forty
years     he says we should prepare for what-the-
gone...he will be the first to go, he says,
and cites the mounting evidence in fat
medical records (hand-carried when we
travel or move or both     those chest maps come
in handy) SO, he asks again, what will
I do when he's gone     he expects me to
joke     it's my way of handling pain at first
(it's all I really have in common with
Reagan, I tell him)     to humor us
both, I say, oh, I'll go back to Crete and
walk my numbed feet on the beach stones and eat
souflaki at Anna's and pretend not
to be a tourist, euxapisto, and
wave at the goatboys who stole our apples
before they ripened.....I'll fend off Stavros'
(the landlord)     passes when I pay my rent
My master listens with low-lidded eyes
I say, dear, I have great ailments myself
remember, Milord, you play doctor with me
every day it's needles and swabs
and the King with the axe and a neat pair
of dead feet takes it all     SO it's MY turn
if I should die before you wake, what will
YOU do     he smiles     he would desert the cold
winter of his loss     fly to Oahu
on wings and play golf until he dropped dead
aloha     seriously, I ask him
really, what would you do if I go first
He turns his head on the propped pillows and
says     I don't know     I don't know    we are too
close     I move to taste the salt on his face
strange     he's on a low-sodium diet
We hold each other and wait for someone
to speak first     he does    he could swear we're near
the ocean...there is sand in this bed and
he smells salt     crumbs and tears make me think hard
I say, do you know what?    I've decided
not to die for now     yeah, me, too, he says

A few of Patricia Mees Armstrong's books can be found online at, local Eugene bookstores, and through Pat herself at Patricia Mees Armstrong