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

Today as we approach the Triduum and Easter, we begin the holiest of weeks in our church and in our Catholic tradition. The Paschal Mystery is central to our beliefs as we celebrate the passion, the death and the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Being the youngest of 12 children and growing up in New York City, it was a very big deal for our Catholic family to spend lots of time in Church. And one of the customs was to journey to as many churches as we could between Holy Thursday and Good Friday. It is a dear memory of those times when my mother took my siblings and me on many bus rides throughout the city visiting various Catholic churches. We would spend time in prayer and appreciate the beauty of each unique church. This tradition instilled in me a deep sense of being in touch with what had happened in Jesus’ life during his last days on earth. 

Today this memory brings me back to the importance Jesus’ life and death has in my life today. I once heard a speaker say that by the time Jesus got to the cross, there was nothing left of him to give…he had already given his all for us during his life. And Jesus asks us today to live in that same way—giving what we can to live our lives following in the example of Jesus.

Jesus and what he stood for, what he preached and taught, and how he treated all the people in his life, is the example of total love and mercy—this total love and mercy about which Pope Francis speaks so often. Jesus became a threat to the powers that were in place in the government and in the synagogue. His message was so contrary to what they believed and what they had been taught. “Love your enemies”…that was such a foreign concept to them. “Love the poor and outcast”…that, too, didn’t make sense to them. But Jesus was gaining momentum and people were beginning to listen to him. This made them very nervous and suspicious of Jesus. But they didn’t stop Jesus from continuing to share with them his Father’s love for them—though eventually he was crucified for speaking out these beliefs and teachings that remain central to human dignity and compassion today. 

I often wonder what side I would have been on if I had lived during Jesus’ time. This Holy Week, take some time to consider this question yourself…what would you have done had you lived 2000 years ago and been faced with this decision? We do know that the way Jesus lived his life affected the whole world and still does. 

But the important truth we face today is that we are faced with these questions every day—what will we do today when we are faced with decisions that challenge our faith lives and push us to greater lengths in loving all people? What will we do with that and other ethical questions that arise in our work lives, at home, and in our communities?  

If we can but take his simple example of always speaking the truth and doing the most loving actions possible, then we can believe that his Spirit will always be with us and enable us to live a life like Jesus lived. We have that promise through Jesus’ own resurrection. And through our own baptism, we know that we are called to live a life that will make a difference and maybe change the world.

 

Lent evolved out of the preparation for baptism. Those preparing for baptism were known as catechumens. This word comes from the Greek word which means “to instruct.” A catechumen spent several years preparing for baptism. A sponsor walked this journey with them and helped them to transform their lifestyle to become more like Christ. Catechumens attended Liturgy of the Word with the rest of the Christian community, but when it came time to share the meal, they were “dismissed” because they were not yet members of the community through baptism. 

Many of you may have observed this “dismissal” of our own catechumens at the 9:30am Mass. Following the homily, the presider calls them forward to send them forth to “Break Open the Word” together. A facilitator accompanies them to another room as the Liturgy of the Word is continued with them. They listen to the Gospel proclaimed again and enter into a sharing of faith around the gospel, which concludes with intercessory prayer. This experience of “Breaking Open the Word” is both powerful and deep. To listen to our catechumens, many of whom have never been immersed in the Gospels, share their insights and how they believe God is calling them to live, is nothing less than inspiring.

Our RCIA class is made up of several groups. Our catechumens who have never been baptized, our candidates for Full Communion in the Catholic Church who have been baptized in another faith tradition, and the candidates for Confirmation who have been baptized Catholic but not raised in any faith tradition. There is also a sponsor who journeys with each of them and attends all the sessions, retreats and rituals. Lastly, we have a dozen team members. Each Tuesday, we have 70-80 people at The Basilica as a part of this process.

Like our ancestors, our catechumens and candidates have completed a substantial period of formation and are now being asked to discern if they are responding to God’s call in their desire to seek initiation in the Catholic Church. We have shared the beauty, truth and wisdom of that which we profess in the creed with them and now they must listen in their hearts for the voice of God.

This weekend they spent time together on a retreat which culminated at the 5:00pm Mass where they celebrated the Rite of Sending. We accept and applaud their courage and conviction and send them to our Bishop with our affirmation of their sincerity. Our presider will invite them to sign the Book of the Elect as a symbol of our support and love for them. 

Our community then sends them forth to the Bishop for the Rite of Election to be celebrated on Sunday at 1:30pm at The Basilica. All the catechumens and candidates from the Archdiocese gather together, half at the Cathedral and half at The Basilica, to celebrate the Rite of Election. Bishop Lee Piche, in the name of the entire Church, will accept the catechumens and those seeking full communion with us and exhort them to continue and intensify their journey of conversion in preparation for their reception into the Church at Easter.

And, like our ancestors, the “Elect” will now enter the period of prayer and purification for the Easter sacraments which we call Lent.

Your role in the process of initiation is essential. Your acceptance by your involvement and attention to the rites has had a significant impact upon them; they have shared how deeply moved they feel by your support. We ask that you keep them in your prayers. At the doors of the church are cards with their photos and names on them. Please take one or more and pray for them. You also can communicate with them by writing them a note of encouragement and placing it in the collection basket with their name on it noting “RCIA.” 

We are so blessed to be experiencing so many who want to join our faith because they have witnessed the way you live it out in your own lives. Thank you for being such a credible witness of God’s love for us all.

This weekend we have our annual Parish Picnic and Ministry Fair on the East Lawn of The Basilica after the 9:30 and 11:30am Masses. It is always fun to get together as a parish family and celebrate a kind of “homecoming” each September after the summer months. School begins, most vacations have ended, our programming gears up for another year and the beautiful season of fall ushers itself in. It seems to all meld into the rhythm of life.

And this fall we are adjusting to several new things that have arrived at The Basilica over the past few months. We have undergone quite a bit of construction on our campus within the school building and the Cowley building. We have new lighting on the front of our church. We have a new tenant in our school — we welcome Child Garden Montessori Child Care Center.  We have several new staff members, and we have many exciting concerts, exhibits, and events in store for this coming year.

As a staff member at The Basilica, I find it inspiring to be part of the planning process and see the year take shape as our volunteer leadership and staff work together in creating a calendar full of liturgies and prayer experiences, dynamic speakers and panelists, challenging outreach, and social justice events and workshops that speak to and nourish our spiritual needs.

I was speaking to a couple of members of our parish this week and we were sharing how it surprises us that even though our parish is so large, it never ceases to be a place of warmth and welcome to all those who walk through its doors. So many times I have heard from RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) inquirers that when they first come to The Basilica, they feel immediately like they have come home.  It is indeed a very special place. 

Be sure to stop by our annual Parish Picnic and Ministry Fair on the East Lawn this weekend for some good food, great conversation and comradery, and our vast array of ministries available to you in our parish community.  We do have a wonderfully welcoming parish and we look forward to seeing you in the coming months as we gather many times to enjoy each other and find God within each one of us.

 

In August and September we focus on the stewardship of our gifts at The Basilica. We encourage each and every member of The Basilica community to consider what gifts, talents, and skills they have been given, and how they might put those gifts to use for the betterment of our community — our parish, our city, and our world.

At The Basilica there are currently more than 1500 volunteers in more than 300 volunteer positions. As you consider how you might begin or continue your commitment to The Basilica in the next year, we would urge you to consider as a part of your commitment, how you might focus on enriching your own faith life. To fulfill your ministry to the best of your abilities it is essential that you nurture yourself spiritually. Will you commit to daily prayer? Will you attend a retreat? Will you commit, as part of your stewardship pledge, to attend a program or two within our ongoing adult learning offerings on Sunday mornings?

At The Basilica of Saint Mary we strive to provide opportunities for our community to learn and to grow by working with a number of speakers to offer programming on many varied topics. In the upcoming program year, we will learn not only about some of the great saints in our Catholic history, but also about contemporary leaders of social justice in our Catholic tradition. We will delve into end-of-life issues and offer programs on forgiveness, mindfulness, and meditation. We will offer programming on the Bible and the Qur’an and, during Advent, we will have a presentation on waiting for the Messiah from the Jewish perspective. We hope that you will consider these topics as part of your own growth and development in the faith this year and make the pledge to attend at least one. View the various offerings on our website and see what topics speak to you and participate in as many of these programs as you feel called.

Also, as you consider living out your call, you might consider reading the new book, Stewardship: Living a Biblical Call by Bernard F. Evans. Dr. Evans has spoken a number of times at The Basilica on topics of stewardship, and his latest book highlights the six stewardship themes of biblical stewardship that we focus on at The Basilica. The book “ties the Catholic invitation to stewardship to biblical foundations as well as the social teaching of the church.” Dr. Evans will be at The Basilica’s Parish Picnic on September 7 to sign copies of his book and has included a dedication to The Basilica of Saint Mary within his new book.

Please, take some time to consider how you might enrich your faith life in this coming program year and how you might share your gifts with your faith community. We look forward to our work together!

 

As we celebrate the spectacular celebration of 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. 

On Palm Sunday, we are immersed into the Passion of the Lord. Hearing the Passion each year on Palm Sunday reminds us that Jesus, during his life of selflessness, ended up on a cross. 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.

Spiritually, the celebration of Palm Sunday reminds us that through the crucifixion of the Son of God, we are all given the gift of our salvation and forgiveness. Through our faith, we not only have the opportunity to reconcile ourselves with God in the missteps of our own humanity, but also to forgive others, including our loved ones. This gift, this capability of forgiveness, is central to us as humans and as Catholics. At The Basilica, we will celebrate Reconciliation with a Taize Prayer Service on Tuesday evening.  

As we move 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, ultimately leading to our salvation. 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 salvation.

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 RCIA Elect and Candidates receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist as a part of the Easter Vigil we celebrate that life has overcome death. 

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 in the Catholic faith. May your faith deepen and may you be filled with joy as you celebrate our risen Christ this Easter. 

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