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

The Cross adorned with Yellow Roses

Learning to Let Go

The Easter season has always been a highlight for me in my faith but this year is a bit different. It seems a little weird to be talking about Lent but that is where it all began for me.  Usually when Lent rolls around, I often think of things I could “give up” but mostly, I think about things I can do extra, like more time in prayer. But the past few years I have begun Lent asking God to show me what God wanted of me and what God wanted me to learn and how to grow spiritually. Well, I might have to stop this practice as each of the last few years, God has very actively led me where God wanted me to be and had me learn exactly what I needed to learn! This has not been easy because, you see, I have this will to do things my way and not have anything or anyone interfere with my “plan for living.” And each Lent I have asked myself, “Is this the way for me to go through Lent?” It would be so much easier for me to just give up soda or fast longer and give more alms. Don’t get me wrong…I am not saying these things aren’t good Lenten practices. All I am saying is that for me this is what God has led me to do. 

As I traveled through my own Lenten journey, I was also joined with our RCIA catechumens and candidates. This is always something special for me as they draw their strength from the various scriptures and share their insights into the stories of Jesus and his encounters with many different people in the gospels. They feel supported and loved by our community through your prayers and notes to them, which leaves me feeling inspired on my Lenten journey, too.

Also, and most importantly, God has very clearly been showing me where in my life I needed to clean out the closets of my soul. I knew there were some things that needed rearranging, but God wanted me to clean them out to make more room for God’s love in my life. What a gift this awareness has been. It is not easy letting go of some of these things, like my will or my selfishness or my pride. And they will undoubtedly still pop back up in my life, and sometimes, everyday. But at least I am more aware of when they do and I pray that God will continue to increase my awareness.

This “letting go” has allowed me to be more aware of the needs of others, especially, others’ need for mercy. After all, this year is the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis.  And today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. There are some days that have been better than others. It seems that when I am less open to this process, the more I am faced with instances where my heart needs to grow bigger and my pride needs to lessen quite a bit. And then there are those days in which my faith falls short and I need a bigger God because the things I have done or not done have limited God’s love and mercy in my life. 

At the end of this long journey of Lent comes the moment of resurrection. We are graced because we know the ending to Lent. We know that death is not final. We know the power and strength of the resurrection. And we can rest and delight in the joy of Jesus truly risen within our hearts.

Photo of Divine Mercy Icon

Infinite Love and Mercy

The first two Sundays of Lent relate the story of the temptation of Jesus and his transfiguration. The Church has celebrated these two events on the first two Sundays of Lent since the fourth century.

The desert has a starring role in the season of Lent. It is a place of temptation and a place where the people of Israel were both faithful and unfaithful. The desert is a symbol of communion with God. Those who enter into the desert are free of distractions so that they may encounter God without any trappings or worldly possessions. The desert is also a place where they can lose hope and waver in their trust in God. It is a place of real thirst and hunger for God. 

Each of the three temptations begins with the phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” The devil is very manipulative using this statement with Jesus. He is egging Jesus on, or so it seems. How many times have you been baited to cross the line into temptation by someone or something asking you if you are brave enough, or smart enough, or clever enough, or wise enough. It is such a temptation for all of us and speaks about power and control over our lives and others. It also plays into our self-esteem and our love or lack of love for ourselves. If we are not secure that we are the beloved sons and daughters of God and have not come to love ourselves in a healthy way, then we will be swayed by such temptations. But Jesus was so assured of God’s love that he didn’t react to those temptations. He stood his ground knowing that he was God’s Chosen One who has a mission that he would be true to it till the end.

The good news of this desert story is that Jesus was victorious in his struggle with Satan. The Gospel is a reminder to us today that we are all to stand in the struggle against evil with the understanding that because of our faith in Christ, the power of hell will not prevail against us.

The liturgies of Lent prepare us for the renewal of our baptismal promises at Easter and also ask us to reflect on the power of sin in our lives but also the undeniable reality of grace that overcomes sin. Lent is an extended meditation on our need to turn our lives completely over to God, to express sincere sorrow for the sin in our lives and to renew our participation in the Paschal Mystery of Christ. 

Another important focus of Lent is mercy. Pope Francis called for a Year of Mercy which began on December 8, 2015. He has been talking about the mercy of God everywhere he goes. He claims that he came up with the idea before he was even pope. 

“Humanity needs mercy and compassion. Today we add further to the tragedy by considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven. We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this: we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love, to put you back on your feet,” he states. “We need mercy….God does not want anyone to be lost. His mercy is infinitely greater than our sins, his medicine is infinitely stronger than our illnesses that he has to heal.”

We can all walk into Lent remembering these words and fall into the arms of God who awaits us with infinite love and mercy.

Expectations. We all have them. We have expectations that the stock market will be stable, that so-and-so will understand what your needs are, that someone will behave in a certain way, that another will keep their word, that your job will be there tomorrow, or that there will even be a tomorrow. It seems that expectations are a part of our everyday lives. They seem to be the lens through which we all operate.

But what comes with expectations—especially high expectations—can be grave disappointment, resentment, hurt, anger, fear and hopelessness. Each of us knows this from experience. I remember many times when someone I trusted promised me something and didn't come through with it. I also remember when someone I respected and cared about betrayed me in some way.  These experiences are very difficult to overcome, to try to work through, and, especially, to forgive, if at all. Within myself, it is a struggle between my ego and my conscience. It is also a struggle managing all the feelings and emotions that go with it. I can run the whole gamut of emotions within a matter of seconds. But most of the time I am able to settle down after a couple of hours or a day or two. And then I pray that I have the willingness to respond in a way that is respectful of my integrity and values.

What do we do with the person or persons who have disappointed us? Do we move on from that relationship because it is unhealthy? Do we choose not to forgive? Do we approach them with love and understanding for their shortcomings? Can we forgive them? 

But what happens when the persons who have betrayed us are connected to our church and our faith? The sense of loss and betrayal is much deeper. How do we ever recover from it? Where is God in all of this mess? Can our faith ever be the same?

I believe that for most of us, our faith is extremely strong. When you come to church, look around at all those people who have stuck with it despite the ugliness of what happened to thousands of innocent people. Maybe it is because the people realized that they are the church and that their church will continue and come through this crisis and be stronger for it. Many of us realize that our Catholic faith will always be there for us and our community as well. We are all in this together and together we can support each other through listening, caring, and loving each other. And we can pray not only for the victims, but for those of us who could not stick with it because the hurt was so deep. I think we can all understand those who have left. They need our love and prayers as much as the victims do because they also are victims, as we all are.
During the first four Sundays in November, we will have panel discussions and speakers on Responding to Abuse. During these panels, we will hear about all types of abuse, the effect of abuse on the human person, how to remove yourself from abusive situations, resources that are available for victims and families, and how to find spiritual recovery from trauma and abuse. This series will be widely advertised throughout our Archdiocese. If you or someone you know could benefit from this, please spread the word. Flyers will be available throughout the church. Please pick one up and pass it along.

 

Keeping faith a priority

Well, here we are…Labor Day weekend, the un-official end to the summer season. One last weekend to enjoy the cabin and boat, cross those last items off on the school supply list, help your college student get moved into his or her dorm, do some fall gardening, pull out the Vikings (or Packers!) gear and begin to dig out the sweaters and rakes in anticipation of the leaves that will begin to fall. 


At The Basilica of Saint Mary, the end of summer means lots of preparation for fall programs. Our RCIA process began this past week on September 1. The inquirers along with their sponsors and the RCIA team will meet weekly until after Easter. Our children and youth will be back to programs in a few weeks. (Parents—there is still time to register if you have not already done so.) The fall will see preparation for First Reconciliation, along with the beginning of Confirmation preparation for our youth. The Rock Solid Marriage Team will begin a marriage enrichment series. The Basilica Young Adults (BYA) will continue with their educational, social, and service opportunities—Sunday Night Live, making sandwiches and a fall retreat. We also have a diverse and interesting line up of adult learning program opportunities available this year, many of our programs focusing on the Year of Mercy that begins in the new liturgical year. (Please see www.mary.org or the fliers at the back of church to learn more.


In our homes, autumn may mean a busier lifestyle…more school commitments, more practices and rehearsals, more volunteer commitments, more meetings. fall just seems to be the time of year when we hit the ground running, full speed ahead. At this time of year it is easy to take on a lot, after all, we are all re-energized and rejuvenated after our wonderfully relaxing summers, right? 


While we look ahead to fall, it is so important that we make our faith lives a priority in the midst of everything else that is going on in our lives. There are so many fulfilling ways to accomplish this goal and deepen our faith lives this season. Keep your preferred weekend Mass time sacred—consider Mass to be a firm commitment each weekend. Participate in hospitality following Mass to meet others within our parish community. Carve out time for morning or evening prayer, in solitude or with your spouse or family. Consider what talents you might share with your parish in a volunteer capacity. Commit to signing up for one (or more!) adult learning opportunities offered at the parish this program year. Take time to listen to God…where or how are you being called to deepen your faith? However you are called, listen! Listen and commit! 


Wishing you a happy, productive, and faith-filled season filled with many blessings. We hope to see you next weekend at our Basilica Parish Picnic!

 

 

Not expecting it to be so, this summer has been all over the map with regards to events taking place one after another. It felt like there was breaking news every other day around weather issues throughout the country, terrorist attacks around the world, the ramping up of the upcoming election year, and then there has been so much happening in our worldwide church as well as in our local church. Often I felt myself wanting to withdraw from the ugliness of the news, to crawl back into my personal space or run away to a desert island without any technology whatsoever. To disengage from everyone and everything around me would have been a luxury. 

I found myself fighting off depression and hopelessness some days. And some days I cried out to God, “What is happening in YOUR world?” And God turned right around and asked, “What is happening in YOURS?”

A friend and I had a conversation the other evening about how difficult life can be, wondering how to maneuver through it gracefully, tactfully, and with hope and faith. She stated that the world is very dark and, without faith and hope, the darkness remains. She was lamenting the fact that her growth in spirituality and Christian action was too slow as far as she was concerned. She wondered if she would ever “get it.” I hated to admit it but I, too, have wondered that myself many times. I would like the path to holiness to be straight and on target but that is so not the case. Many twists and turns have always been in the way, or so it seemed. 

It has taken me many years to appreciate all those things that have sidetracked me on my journey. To realize that those very things are the journey itself. Every experience, every person, every event has become my life. They have all come together to help create the person I am today. It is my story and it is unique. Just as yours is. And only by God’s intimate grace, have I come to know God in my story and recognized God in your stories as well. That’s how it works. We live out our story and become immersed in everyone else’s story. And that’s where we find God…in each other’s stories. 

So, to reflect on God’s question to me, “What is happening in Yours?” puts a new spin on this situation. In other words, what am I doing about the poverty, oppression, tragedies, hopelessness, and faithlessness around me? How am I bringing God into our world to make a difference? What have I done for the ones who are in need around me? Was I present to each and every person I met this day? Did I live well today? How have I detached from this world and all its false idols? Do I have any regrets about my day? What would I do differently and better the next time? Have I been selfless today? Have I died to self in some small way today? 

There is a quotation I found somewhere a while back. I wish I could give credit to someone for it but I am not sure who is the author.  “Live in such a way that those who know you, but don't know God, will come to know God because they know you.”

I found this quotation to be very profound and a definite call in my own life. The truth is I cannot live like this on my own. It is only through the Holy Spirit that I am able to try to achieve this. But I have seen God do powerful things with or without me. It does go smoother, I think, if I cooperate with God’s grace. But knowing myself, I don’t always go with the flow. And God knows that about me too. I am grateful that God is patient and understanding because I am a slow learner.

So we come upon another year of beginnings as we move into the season of dying and death—Fall. The season that is so necessary before we can ever get to resurrection. This challenge lies before all of us to live with a difference for others who need God so desperately in our world today. 

 

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