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This is the blog for Jeff Hedglen - I heard once that good preaching should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I can only pray that the words within will meet this standard.

Missing Loved Ones During the Holidays

Jeff Hedglen

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This time of year can be so hard for families.
 
Even when we know that death is not the end and the heaven awaits us, it is the waiting without the ones we love that is so hard. My mother died in 1991 and I still miss her.
 
But never more than during the holidays
 
For those of you that have lost a loved one this year, I am so sorry for your loss and the painful times you have already had and will continue to have as the days move forward.
May the memories of you loved one sustain you, the love of your friends and family surround you, the prayers of the Mother of Jesus uphold you, and the power of the triune God heal you of your pain.
 
For those who lost a loved one in the past years I pray that as time has passed that the pain has lessened. Even if the pain is not as acute, the loss and the missing are often ever-present.
 
For some, there is guilt for not missing this person “enough.” I have gone days, weeks and months without thinking of my mom and sometimes I feel guilty about this, but think that this is a sign of healing. I am not avoiding thoughts of mom, I love her and miss her like always, but thankfully the pain and ever-present feeling of loss has faded and I take this as a grace from God.

 
For those of you not mourning the loss of a loved one, I encourage you to reach out to your family and friends who have and let them know you are thinking and praying for them this holiday season. 

Listen to them, really listen, no need to tell them “it will be all right” or that their loved one “is in a better place” or that “everything happens for a reason.” Even if all of these things are true, when you are hurting these things do not ease the pain. What helps is asking them to tell stories about the person and listening to these stories. 

Do things for them. Often we say, “If you need anything, just let me know.” That is nice, but it is really hard to ask for help when we are hurting. Instead, think of what you might like in a similar situation and just do that thing. Cook a meal and bring it over. If it looks like their yard needs mowing, mow it. If you are going to spend the day running errands, invite them along. They have errands to do too, and could probably use the company.

Send them flowers (or chocolate); who doesn’t like to get gifts? This idea is especially helpful if you do not live near them.
Sit with them. Sometimes all we need to do is hang out with them, especially if they live alone. Join them for a Netflix binge or a walk in the park or a game of cards. In truth it is not all that important what you do to comfort those in sorrow; all that matters is that you be present in whatever way you can.
 
After it had been a few years since my mom died, a friend’s mother passed away and she asked me: “How long does it hurt.” I so wish I had had a good answer for her. The truth is that it is different for everyone. Be honest with yourself and hurt as much as you need to, cry as much as you need to, pray as much (or as little) as you need to. Get mad at God, God can handle your pain. In fact a full 1/3 of the Psalms are psalms of lament and there is a whole book of the bible called Lamentations, so God is familiar with people crying out to him in pain.
 
For me, what I cling to most is the hope that I will be reunited with my mom, all my grand parents, all my miscarried children, Monika’s father and grand parents and other relatives that I have yet to meet. In heaven Monika will meet my mom for the first time and we will see our children for the first time.  Hope is a powerful thing and I cling to it.
 
Psalm 30:6 says: At dusk weeping comes for the night; but at dawn there is rejoicing.
 
Some times the night is long… hold on, the dawn will come, really it will.

Young adult ministry: no simple answers

Jeff Hedglen

Re-post of a column in the North Texas Catholic

I clearly remember the year I began to feel like an adult. Two events marked this transition. First, I was 27 years old and I was driving in the car with some high school youth, and a great song came on the radio that they had never heard; it had come out when they were children.

The second event happened a few weeks later while having dinner with one of the parish families. During dinner I discovered the parents and I were talking about a topic in which the teens at the table had no interest. I was having a grown-up conversation. These two events signaled that maybe, just maybe, I was becoming an adult.

The struggle to move from being a carefree young person to a responsible, full-fledged, confident adult is hard for almost everyone, and this is why I love journeying beside folks in their 20s and 30s today. I remember the difficult time so well and want to help this current generation navigate the ups and downs; all while helping them deepen their faith.

The task of Young Adult Ministry is a daunting one. We are charged with people from age 18-39. This is a huge age range encompassing many different stages of life: college students, folks who went right into the work force, post-college professionals, young singles, young marrieds, older singles, divorced, single parents, young families, and a few others, all with unique and specific spiritual, emotional, and physical needs.

Another nuance to ministering to this age group is that in addition to the different stages of life, there are differing stages of connection to Jesus and the Church. Some are “all in” and attend Mass every Sunday and Young Adult events, as well as being involved at the parish in liturgical ministries, as catechists, and in other capacities. But this is a small sample of the group of kids who were brought to the baptismal font as an infant.

Most young adults are not attending Mass regularly, if at all. Many have not entered a church since their teenage years. Many would call themselves “spiritual but not religious,” but many others would say they have abandoned faith in God altogether.

This is the reality that we face as a Church. As a matter of fact, I’ll bet a good percentage of the people reading this are parents of a young adult, and you know exactly what I am talking about.

Countless times I have been asked by the parent of a young adult “How can I get my child to return to the sacraments?” Every time I’m asked this question, I wish with all my heart I had a fantastic one-size-fits-all answer. But the reality is that each person has his or her own path back into the arms of the Savior. The best I could offer is that they pray for a person to enter their offspring’s life that can bring them back. Also, continue to invite them to Mass whenever they visit home.

I was very lucky. Three months after I graduated from high school my parish started a Young Adult Bible Study. It was this group that kept me grounded, while the rest of my young adult life seemed to be tossed by one storm after another. It was not an expensive program. It was one man with a passion for the young adult church who gave us an opportunity to gather, learn a bit about our faith, find community, and stay connected to the Church while we found our way.

You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? Well, it takes a Church to raise a Church. We are all called to reach out to the young adults in our lives. 

Whether they are people you sponsored for Baptism or Confirmation, or colleagues at work and school, or even your own children. Invite them for coffee and ask them about the last time they went to Mass or prayed, or thought about God. Send them a spiritual book that has meant something to you. Or just drop them a note or text letting them know you prayed for them that day.

Don’t be pushy, just be inviting, welcoming, open minded, interested in them, and, most of all, be like Jesus when he looked at the rich young man: look at them and love them.

I Sin Jesus Loves

Jeff Hedglen

This is a repost from a Word to Life column first appearing March 15, 2015

Years ago, a student in a confirmation class I was teaching said to me, "I'm doing just fine, why do I need a savior?" His question took me by surprise. It had never occurred to me that these teenagers would have no idea of their need for a savior and, furthermore, I was not sure how to convince them of this need.

After some conversation, the other leaders and I decided that the reason for this lack of understanding was that the young people did not know anything about the nature of sin -- that we all sin and that the consequence of sin is eternal death.

So in the next class I gave a talk on sin. I purposely painted a dark, foreboding picture of the reality of sin and how it affects each of our lives. I offered no hope and no glimmer of light at the end of the darkness of sin in our lives. After the lesson, I gave everyone a piece of paper that simply said, "I sin." I asked them to take the paper home and put it someplace where they would see it every day, and when they saw it, to think about the sins they had committed.

 

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The next week I told the rest of the story of salvation and how, as we read in this week's Gospel, "God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." At the end of the class, I gave them another sheet of paper that said, "I sin, Jesus loves."
 

These four words hold the nucleus of the Gospel message. It is a simple truth that is not always easy to grasp. In a world where we like to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, it is hard to admit that we stand in need of anything or anyone. In the case of sin, our need has never been greater, but the love of God has never been stronger.