Paula Kaempffer

Director of Learning
Learning

Paula joined The Basilica of Saint Mary staff in 2007 and has been involved in Catholic Church ministry for over 35 years. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education and an M.A. in Religious Education from St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York. As the Director of Learning, she works with the educational programming for adults of the parish and oversees The Basilica’s RCIA process and the Catholics Coming Home program, while overseeing the Learning Department which ministers to the children, youth and young adults in our parish and all those preparing for sacraments. 

Paula Kaempffer
(612) 317-3473

Recent Posts by Paula Kaempffer

A picture of a solid stone cross in front of a clear blue sky.

Our Faith Community

Throughout my 40-plus years in ministry, some have asked me why I have worked for such a long time in the Church. I admit, this question always causes me to pause. It brings me back to the beginning days when everything was new and fresh and exciting. Since coming to The Basilica years ago, it is much like those beginning days. One never knows what each day will bring. Some days are filled with wonderful surprises while others seem laden with painful stories of long-lost faith or times of deep loss. We are all less than human at times and sometimes it shows through a bit more than we would like it to. 

We all know this is not a perfect Church. Far from it. I don’t know of any other faith community that is without its own set of challenges. We all struggle with our growing pains as we journey through the ups and downs of life. Each Sunday when we come together for worship we bring ourselves as we are and sometimes that isn't exactly our best self.

Life just happens to each of us and we don't often react well to some of those many experiences that take place during the week. Yet we bring that with us each week as we gather, and in faith we know in some way that when we leave, we will be changed and nourished to return to the world and in some small way, bring the good news of our God’s love to those who cross our paths. For it is the very God whom we find in each other, whom we recognize in each other’s stories of triumph and failure, that keeps us coming back week after week. 

We know we are not in this alone. All of us are there to offer prayer and hope to each other which enables us to carry the important message with us that we have a God who loves us enough to entrust us with each other’s lives. And that is the miracle of what happens each week as we celebrate Eucharist together. We are a privileged people. We have the responsibility of being Christ for each other.

So when someone asks me why I continue to work in the Church, it is quite simple. I need to encounter the God within you and you need to meet the God within me so that together, we will walk hand in hand to bring that God to those who so desperately need a sign of hope in the midst of the suffering and chaos of this world.

 

Pope Francis is indeed a different kind of Pope than we have experienced in a very long time. To begin with, we have never had a Pope who tweets before. Did you know that you can sign up to receive his tweets each day? (@Pontifex) They are simple reminders of what we are supposed to be about as Catholic Christians. It helps to receive these daily reminders.

The cornerstone of Pope Francis’ papacy has been mercy. Each of his messages is cloaked in mercy. His actions have spoken about mercy far and wide. He has welcomed the homeless into the Vatican, embraced people with diseases, and shaken up the complacent hierarchy. He told his bishops that they should be shepherds that smell like sheep. He is certainly calling all of us back to the “Social Gospel.” He is steeped in Catholic Social Teaching and it seems to guide his every step. His spirituality centers on the poor, the marginalized, and the least of the least. 

A couple of weeks ago, The Basilica’s Learning department staff attended Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, a powerful new documentary film. It spoke about his papacy as one of mercy and highlighted many of the scenes where Francis embraces all different kinds of people. It also spoke about the reason that he chose the name “Francis.” Pope Francis has a special devotion to St. Francis of Assisi. He identifies with his love of the poor, his compassion for all, and his love of the environment. St. Francis has certainly been instrumental in Pope Francis’ papacy in so many ways. 

Recently, Pope Francis, in his most recent apostolic exhortation, Rejoice and Be Glad, wrote about five loves to combat the ills of today’s culture: patience, boldness, joy, community, and prayer. He speaks about having the passion of one who seeks to share the love and joy of believing in Jesus. “Do you let this fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire.” 

Do you ask yourself that question: Have you caught fire yet? If not, what will it take for that to happen within you? We long for that kind of love in our lives…love that has no limits, that is all-embracing, that can change hearts. It seems like that kind of love is not sustainable without a prayer life and a community to support us. 

In my lifetime I don’t ever remember having a Pope who speaks so bluntly and courageously about how we need to act as Christians. This message of his has been embraced by so many in our church and in our world. The whole world has been watching Pope Francis. 

I believe this has made a difference in many areas of our world. Yet there are still those who fear his message, just as they feared the message that Jesus brought. It can be threatening to those who hold onto their lives with brute strength. It can bring freedom to those who are willing to let go of their lives in order to embrace fully the cross with humility and joy. 

The Rite of Welcome

On November 19, this year’s class of Inquirers will go through the Rite of Welcome, also known as the Rite of Acceptance. These Inquirers have already been attending RCIA sessions since September. During that time, some of them have experienced a conversion; others have deepened and strengthened their relationships with God in Christ, and still others have come to know and understand the Catholic faith a bit better. In either case, some of these Inquirers are now ready to publicly declare their desire to continue their journey towards full initiation into the Catholic Church.

During the Rite of Welcome, Inquirers enter at the back of The Basilica, standing between the doors and the baptismal font, symbolizing their initial steps into the community. They are introduced to our community for the first time and are asked to declare their intention and desire from the Church. They are then guided forward into the church where they will be marked with the sign of the Christian to remind them we are followers of Jesus Christ.

Although the Rite of Welcome is only one of the steps Inquirers take during their process of conversion, for many of them it is still a very emotional and spiritually rich step. Some Inquirers may face a lack of understanding or even rejection by friends and family for taking this step and being formally welcomed by its members brings a surge of love and relief. As one author has written, “…the church embraces the catechumens as its own with a mother’s love and concern. Joined to the church, the catechumens are now part of the household of Christ, since the church nourishes them with the word of God and sustains them by means of liturgical celebrations.” 

But as meaningful as the Rite of Welcome is for the Inquirers, it also holds rich meaning for us who are life-long members of the church, giving us a chance to reflect on our own journey of conversion and ponder the rich gift of faith. It reminds us of where our love story began with Christ and where it has taken us in our own faith lived out. 

The Basilica is an especially warm community, and past Inquirers always comment on the love and support they see in the faces of the congregation as they go through the Rite of Welcome, love and support that continues as many of them receive cards and letters from members of The Basilica as they move through their RCIA journey. And even though some Basilica members may never interact with an Inquirer on a personal level, their prayers nevertheless strengthen Inquirers along their journey of faith.

The Rite of Welcome ends and begins another stage in the process and is a powerful experience for Inquirers that clearly symbolizes that they have, at long last, been welcomed into a loving and spiritually nourishing home. Please be sure to be there November 19 at the 9:30am Mass to welcome this year’s group of Inquirers to The Basilica, and to offer your support through your smile and your prayers and your welcome as they continue their journeys toward Easter. This year’s class is a wonderful group of people, and your presence would be most meaningful to them. 

Come and See

“Come and see!” These three words convey feelings of happiness, joy, wonder, and delight. They are a call to see a litter of squirming puppies, a brightly-lit Christmas tree, a giggling baby taking her first steps.

In the Gospel of John, the woman at the well enthusiastically cried to all who would hear her: “Come and see!” Her joy and delight following her encounter with Jesus are contagious as we read her story. Just like those who heard the woman’s call, you, too, are invited to “Come and see!” 

Have you ever wondered what the Catholic Church is all about? Are you an adult who would like to join the Catholic Church? Were you raised in the Catholic Church but for any number of reasons never followed through on confirmation as a child? Then “Come and see!” Through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA, anyone—the curious, the spiritual seeker, or those wanting to be received into the Church through baptism and/or confirmation—may encounter a place to find answers to their questions. No question is too simple, silly, complex, or controversial. Everyone is welcome. RCIA members come from all faiths and backgrounds—churched and unchurched, believers and non-believers. RCIA is a place where questions and doubts are encouraged, and there is never any obligation to join the Catholic Church. The environment is warm and encouraging, with no judgment or criticism. Many find they make new and long-lasting friendships during this time.

RCIA begins with a Period of Inquiry with an overview of the Scriptures and basic Christian teachings. One weekend is devoted to a relaxing and rejuvenating retreat where everyone has a chance to get to know one another better, building relationships over good times and even better meals. This section ends with the beautiful Rite of Welcome into the Church for those who desire it. This rite is a simple yet eloquent enactment of the Church’s welcoming nature for anyone wishing to step inside its doors. 

Next comes the Period of the Catechumenate, where the sessions go deeper into Catholic teaching, the Sacraments, and encounter the character of Christ through both class sessions and the Breaking Open the Word for the catechumens (unbaptized) during Mass. During the Breaking Open the Word, anyone not yet baptized gathers to discuss each Sunday’s Gospel readings on an intimate level, building even closer and sweeter relationships with Christ and one another.

That is followed by Lent and the Period of Purification where we more deeply encounter the person and character of Christ through the Gospels. Finally, with the Triduum, all the drama and passion of the three days leading to Easter is stunningly portrayed, culminating in baptism and/or confirmation of those who desire it. But there is never any pressure to take this step. The RCIA team recognizes that the decision to do so is deeply personal and is a call from God, and anyone who chooses not to do so is never shamed or questioned.

Finally, the RCIA year ends with the Period of Mystagogia where everyone gathers to reflect on the year and are offered ways to match their time and talent to become more deeply involved with the Basilica. A delicious pot luck caps off the year where everyone is encouraged to bring their favorite dish to share. 

If you or anyone you know would be interested in attending RCIA during the coming year, ask them to “come and see” if this is for them. Contact me the parish office to learn more. Sessions begin on Tuesday, September 12. 

World Day of Peace_Dove

Peace Be With You

Since the season of Lent came to a close a few short months ago, I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on our call to peace as Catholics, especially with all of the unrest that has filled our world in the past months. Lent was a wonderful time to reflect on our faith and actively called us to re-center our lives around the Gospel. The reality is that this reflection is something we could be doing throughout the whole liturgical year instead of limiting it to a few months. 

Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days being called away from his message of peace and love towards domination, doubt, and despair. Through his death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled his message. Time and time again, we are called by the Gospel to be fountains of peace and to “love our enemies.” In Matthew 5:9, we are called to a new identity, “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they will be called children of God.”

Creating peace with our very lives is possible. Although it is easier said than done; it goes against the grain and, therefore, is something that requires work and discipline. Some ways we might make our lives more peace-filled is through meditation on the words of the Gospels, being mindful of the presence of God within us, and breathing in deeply of the Holy Spirit. Being conscious of the peace and serenity within us as we encounter Jesus in another person is one of the more powerful ways of spreading that peace. 

Along with creating peace, there is a great need for silence if we are to hear God’s voice. You might commit to some quiet time with God as you bask in the sunlight of summer. Life sometimes slows down a bit in the summer and that can allow us extra time to enjoy God’s presence and peace. Through holy solitude we are able to refocus our life amidst the noisiness of our world and to respond to our call to peace and non-violence just as Jesus responded with love, forgiveness, and peace through his death on the cross.

One of the most powerful channels for peace is, of course, the Eucharist. By showing up each week, we are reminded again and again what it truly means to live as Jesus did: to forgive those who have wronged you, to love where no love is felt, and to bring peace in the midst of conflict wherever you are called to be. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “In the end what matters is not how good we are but how good God is. Not how much we love God, but how much God loves us. And loves us whoever we are, whatever we’ve done or failed to do, whatever we believe or can’t.” We are all made in the image of God and through that we reach for the peace which only God can give. 

Peace be with you during these summer months

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