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

As we celebrate the entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, we are given an incredible opportunity over the next seven days, the holiest week of our liturgical year—an opportunity to live our faith through Jesus and to reflect on what Jesus’ journey means to us. 

We immerse ourselves into the Passion of our Lord. Hearing the Passion each year on Palm Sunday reminds us of Jesus’ tremendous love for us. We wave palms on this day in remembrance of Jesus riding into Jerusalem to embrace whatever was to come. We leave today’s Mass with these palms that we will keep with us in our homes over the next year as a reminder of this sacred celebration and what it means to us as Catholics.

As we journey through Holy Week, we begin the Triduum on Holy Thursday. On this night we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and are invited to wash one another’s feet. The act of washing one another’s feet is a reminder that to follow in Christ’s footsteps means to serve one another. It is in serving one another that we further immerse ourselves into the Paschal Mystery of our faith.

On Good Friday, we are invited to commemorate the suffering of Jesus, followed by his crucifixion. The Basilica celebrates three services on Good Friday—Stations of the Cross at noon, a Communion Service and celebration of the Lord’s Passion in the afternoon, followed by the Tenebrae service in the evening. These services are filled with many multi-sensory symbols that bring the story of Jesus’s passion and death to the forefront in the history of our faith.

Holy Saturday marks the Easter Vigil which is the greatest feast in our Church. We celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection. This Mass begins with the Easter fire outside the church, around which all are invited to gather and celebrate the new Easter Light. As the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) Elect and Candidates receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist as a part of the Easter Vigil, we remember our own beginnings in the faith and celebrate that new life has come again into our community.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate! We celebrate that Jesus has risen from the dead. We celebrate our salvation, our joy and our faith. We celebrate with friends and family. We celebrate all that is good in our world. We celebrate the joy in our own lives. And our celebrations last during the entire Easter season.

This Holy Week, may you participate fully and experience all that is Holy Week in our Catholic faith. May our faith deepen and may we be filled with joy as we celebrate together our risen Christ this Easter. 

These past few weeks I have had so many intense conversations with people about where they are in regard to their faith life. These conversations have been so rich and diverse and filled with wonderful stories of how God has interacted in their lives.

One such encounter was with a friend who is my age and who has gone through several tragedies in her life, the latest being the loss of a child. She told me she prayed and prayed for God to do something and heal her daughter; it did not happen and her child died a slow painful death. She was truly grateful for all those who were involved in her daughter’s illness from doctors to family members and friends. She was also grateful for her faith community that surrounded her but the one she had the problem with was God. She felt that God wants nothing to do with our lives and has just left us on earth to fend for ourselves. I tried to suggest to her that God works through doctors and the community that surrounded her with care and concern but she would have none of it. She said that they were responsible for all that, not God. It left me wondering about doubt and what we can learn from it. It also made me remember that sometimes it is easier to blame God than to just see it as part of life. 

There is pain and suffering throughout everyone’s life. That is a very real part of life. Just listen to the news some evening and you will hear about the suffering of many. It seems so unfair and cruel for these things to happen to us. In our anger and loss it is so much easier to blame someone than to face the reality of what happened. I believe this response is part of the process of grieving and the stages of dying. 

Acceptance of a loved one’s suffering or death comes much later on as we go through denial, blame and anger in the mourning process. We experience various kinds of loss—loss of control, loss of companionship, loss of a loved one, loss of trust and sometimes loss of faith. If we feel like we have lost our faith in God that can leave us feeling terribly alone and without hope.

All of these things that we may experience are very normal in the life of a Christian. Just because we have come to the point of thinking that we have lost our faith in God, doesn’t mean we really have. Being filled with doubt is common in many of the lives of the saints. Doubt can be an unforeseen gift…it takes us to the place of re-evaluating our relationship with God. In the darkness of doubt we can be confronted with either despair or hope…two very opposite places to be. Whenever I have come to this place in my life, I find it impossible to pray. Do I really believe that God answers our prayers? 

Perhaps, the reason we pray is not because God needs it but because we do. Praying for ourselves or someone else really is about teaching us to get out of ourselves and think about someone else. It’s about turning our hearts towards loving someone else as much as we love ourselves. I need my faith community around me. Sometimes in the darkness it is my faith community that prays when I cannot. This is the power of community and being part of the Body of Christ. This is the reason why I can’t leave and I choose to stay.

I once heard someone say, “You have to die a little each day so that when death comes, you are ready.” This perturbed me a bit when I heard it. Do I do this each day? Do I give in to my selfish desires or choose to put what I want aside instead? Am I willing to place my trust in the unknown, knowing that the worst might happen? Can I be the one who stands up for someone who is being marginalized, even though I will be rejected? Am I filled with fear when I realize I am not in control of my life? Do I always have to have the last word to show someone else I have power over them? Can I put aside my opinions and ideas to allow someone else to share theirs even though they are different than mine? Do I have to respond in anger when someone says something I don’t agree with? Am I transparent in all my relationships or do I just let others see what I want them to see? Am I always honest, really honest, with myself and everyone in my life?

During this season of Advent, it might be a good time to think about dying, even though we are preparing to celebrate a birth. In order for something or Someone to be born in us, we have to make room in the inn of our hearts. That means letting go, releasing, surrendering, relinquishing, giving in, submitting, renouncing, conceding.

It isn’t easy. In fact, it is probably the most difficult thing to do and that’s because of our strong egos. We resist the right thing to do. We are afraid to be different. We are afraid to go against the tide. We want to be liked by others around us. We take pride in our many accomplishments that we think set us above those around us.

But here we are in Advent. The season of waiting. Waiting for what? I don’t like waiting. Maybe you don’t either. But there are so many things in life we have to wait for, i.e. for the light to turn green; for a test result; for your birthday; for tomorrow to come, etc., etc. We are asked to wait during Advent. We are asked to be patient in our waiting and to be watchful because we know not the day nor the hour. We are asked to stay awake and to be on guard. So we wait. We wait in anticipation and joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, into our very broken world. We need Jesus to come. This is what we wait for in Advent. Let us hope we are truly ready for his coming.

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. 

Pages