Something I’ve noticed over the last month or so is how important summer is in our year. I have always been a “love the first snow” kind of person. But when it’s still snowing in April, I quickly turn into the “when’s it going to end?” person.But Minnesota winters are what make our summers so amazing. We’ve earned them. We deserve them. Nothing beats a Minnesota summer.
I’ve been thinking of that feeling a lot lately. Even though I am not in school anymore (be right back as I celebrate that feat once again…) I still have those same feelings moving into summer. Setting goals, recharging, and making time to relax and regroup after a long winter.
In many ways, this year is no different. Our winter itself may not have been the most difficult Minnesota winter we’ve had recently, but it was one to remember. Living among a worldwide pandemic tends to alter our sense of normality. Events are cancelled, postponed, or changed to limit exposure to other people. Not to mention how contentious the proper way to protect yourself and others has become… (small plug to wear a mask as much as possible in public places and around other people). With everything that’s different, it’s hard not to reflect on past summers and the things we often take for granted.
The 4th of July has always been a big holiday for my family. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and for decades my grandpa raised the flag every morning at the end of the street as you entered the gates to our community beach club on Lake Erie. No matter the weather or day, he would walk to the corner and raise the flag.
During my grandpa’s last years before he passed our family moved in with him to help him live rather independently and not have to leave the home. Whenever someone asked why he raised the flag for so long, he would answer “for the men and women who didn’t make it home.”
My dad continues the tradition of raising and lowering the flag every day. On the 4th of July, our family leads the community in the pledge of allegiance while raising the flag prior to a celebration at the beach. This 4th of July will be different. There won’t be big celebrations, parades, or fireworks. I wonder if that will allow ourselves a chance to take a step back and realize what is important about our country.
This 4th of July, I challenge us all to spend time with those we love, reflect on the historic time we are living in globally, nationally, and locally, and think of ways we can continue to make our nation a place for all people to celebrate and be free. I also want us to recognize that our experiences are different. We are always learning that our understanding of being free is different than our neighbors. We must actively work towards a place where all people feel included in our nation’s freedom. I say that as we remember the stonewall uprising of 1969 this week and the protests against racial injustice across our nation. We are all stronger together.
The pandemic is still very much with us. I hope the 4th of July is able to convey a small bit of recharging to our summer. Spend time with family, fire up the grill, and think about what the 4th of July means for us as a community and country. If that thought is uncomfortable or not what you want it to be- I challenge you to wake up on July 5th and think of ways to start changing that.
Saint Joan of Arc Peer Ministers
Our Peer Minister's compiled a list of their favorite places to go in the Cities. Here's what they came up with!
1. Raspberry and Harriet Island- Saint Paul
The award-winning Harriet Island Regional Park located on the Mississippi River, as well as Raspberry Island Regional Park, provides stunning views of downtown Saint Paul.
2. Bruce Vento Regional Trails
3. Hidden Falls Regional Park
The park dates back to 1887, when it was selected by Horace Cleveland, a nationally known landscape architect and park planner, as one of four major park sites for the City of Saint Paul.
4. Como Park and Conservatory
The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory and Como Park is full of trails, Como Lake, fields, pavilions, and trees to hammock. The Conservatory is officially open, by reservation, starting today!
5. Lake Nokomis and Lake Harriet
Both lakes are great for swimming, boating, running, and just being with friends outside!
6. Kayak down Minnehaha Creek
7. Big Willow Trails
8. Lone Lake Park
Located in the southeast corner of Minnetonka, Lone Lake Park features views of Lone Lake, including a 1.2-mile loop from the lower main parking lot that offers scenic views of the various ecological areas in the park, including wetlands, woodlands and prairies.
9. Minneapolis Farmers Market
10. Walk Across the Stone Arch Bridge
Have any places to add? Let us know in the comments!
Rose and Brennan
These words are adapted from a prayer service for teens and families.
We condemn the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other black and brown people. When we say their names, we commit ourselves to honoring their memory through advocacy and action.
We are called as Christians to stand with those on the margins, those who are being oppressed, those whom the system attacks and kills. We are called to speak out against the injustice of racism and white supremacy, systemic poverty, and institutionalized violence.
When we stand for justice, we are not alone. We have many role models for this in our faith:
And yet, if we are being honest, we know the Church has not always lived up to its call to be a prophetic voice.
And so I will remind all of you: we are the Church. We are the community of Christ. When we call for justice, when we demand everyone be treated with dignity and respect, when we proclaim that the life of George Floyd and every black person is sacred, we are claiming our birthright as agents of change.
The murder of Mr. Floyd was the latest incident that reflects a legacy of racism in this country. How we choose to respond is our responsibility.
As members of the Christian faith, our call is to bring God’s love to the world. This love is brought to life in care for our neighbors and community. It is brought to life when we demand accountability of those in positions of power.
I want to remind all of you that you are loved by God, and called by God to love one another. In the days and weeks ahead, I encourage you to reflect on how you will choose to show that love to those around you.
Bridgid is a Junior at Hopkins High School and a third year peer minister at Saint Joan of Arc.
I want to preface my reflection by saying, it’s pretty chaotic but that’s just a reflection of how I’ve been feeling these past couple months and especially weeks, so bear with me.
I think that in this time it’s really easy to get caught up in how much this all sucks and how different life is because of the pandemic and everything that has been piling on top of that. Especially this past week. Since I’m a junior I was lucky enough not to miss too many milestones of my school experience but it still is completely uprooting my world, which I’m realizing is smaller than I thought. And just as I was getting used to this new world, thinking it would be the worst it’s going to get, all the sudden there’s also giant killer bees, the sunspots are disappearing, trillions of cicadas are going to resurface and also there might be a parallel universe? And once I was getting used to all of that, the horrific killing of George Floyd took place, reminding me once again just how scary, unjust and unfair this world can be.
And at first it all felt really overwhelming. This is not what I had planned for 2020. I turned 17 on May 24th and I had thought that when I turned 17, it would be my turn to be the dancing queen! Instead, I’m stuck at home, seeing my friends through a screen, and taking AP tests in my basement. When I talk to people about this situation, one of the things that they tell me is that they don’t really remember their junior year at all. And I get that what they’re trying to say, that missing out on these small things is not as bad as it seems right now. But the truth is, this is my whole world right now, school and the experiences that come with it is all that I know. High school is so much more than just the classes that I take and what I’m learning about. It’s more about the people that are constantly around me who are teaching me how to interact in different social situations and how to express myself and what it means to be in community with people that are so different from me. Losing all of that is much more than just losing out on a little bit of school.
And yet everything seems to be so much less important with the events of this past week. I had the opportunity to attend a protest on Sunday and it was a surreal experience to go to my state capitol and see it surrounded by the national guard and other police officers that were fully armed and even had gas masks. It’s such a scary sight, but as my brother pointed out, that fear that I was feeling was nothing compared to the fear that people of color have been faced with for their whole lives. Driving around on our way we were able to see all the shops that had been boarded up and even buildings that had been burned that were still smoldering days later. Seeing the community destroyed like this made me really sad but I feel like as a white person that has never experienced any kind of oppression, it’s really hard for me to understand either side to its full extent. However it has made me feel better to hear that it seems public sentiment is more or less feeling the same things that I’m feeling, that it’s hurting the community to have essential things like grocery stores looted and burned down.
Despite the news of so much negativity, there has also been very uplifting news about how many people are going into Minneapolis and Saint Paul to help clean up the damages and to collect food for the people that had lost their sources for food and other products. Also, especially Sunday night, I’ve been hearing more from the protestors that are peaceful and hearing them express how their only mission is to continue to call for justice for George Floyd and other people that were hurt by police brutality and that they didn’t want any kind of altercations with the police. They continued this mission even when they were surrounded and arrested.
When I went to the protest today, my family stopped by 38th and Chicago, the place where George Floyd died, on the way there. That was a really intense place to be, but it was intense in a good way. There were many people there but everyone was really somber and wanted to pay respects to George more than anything. There were so many flowers around and murals and signs that made it all so special. But at the same time, it was really hard for me to be standing in the same place that another man lost his life in an extremely unjust way. This man was a father and a son and a kind man and what hits me the most is that his death was completely preventable and should not have happened. Especially when he was killed by people that we are supposed to be able to trust with our lives and our safety. When this fact is getting called out and these same police officers and national guard and sheriffs are getting called to intimidate people that are protesting this cruelty, it makes me realize what people of color have been confronted with for a long time, which is that if we can’t trust the police, who is keeping us safe? It feels so scary to be in a place where I don’t know what authority will be able to protect all of us equally when the system that was set up to do just that is completely failing us.
Some people I’ve been talking to have suggested that we need to completely disband the police and create a new system. At first, this sounded really extreme to me, but the more that I am hearing about, the more I realize that the change that needs to come might not be something that we feel comfortable hearing. But if we’re comfortable, we can’t grow! So something that I have been focusing on is trying to lean into my discomfort and figure out why I’m feeling this way. Especially when it comes to my own biases and assumptions that I make, I find that calling myself out on that has been really helpful for me.
So my challenge to everyone for the future is to lean into what makes you uncomfortable. Figure out why, and you might learn something about yourself that you had never considered. Because we need everyone to be moving forward with an open mind and ready to listen, collaborate and create change.
Abbey is a First Year at Roseville High School. She is a talented Volleyball player and is a first year peer minister.
My name is Abbey Hayek and I am a freshman at Roseville Area High School. What people know about me is what I tell them. I’m selective about what I share mainly because I like to focus on the positive and not dwell on what I have no control over. It is fair to say that in the past year my life has significantly changed.
Everyone’s life is always changing. A major change in the past year for me was my family. My parents divorced in June and my sisters and I have been bouncing between houses. Another change was starting high school...it was new school with a new homework load and expectations. Add on sports, peer ministry and learning to drive; the year has been crazy to say the least.
After that came Covid, leaving all of us stuck at home. Being stuck in the same place has allowed a lot of reflection time. I’ve looked back on the past year and realized is was a crazy, emotional year but I am still happy. I try to look at life positively, measuring how good it is by how happy I am. Controlling what I can and not dwelling on the bad.
My parents divorce was a major change, but from that I created a better bond with my sisters and mom. Starting high school was another transition, however I was surrounded by friends and had a fun volleyball season. Being quarantined with my family is fun, we learn something new everyday. Sure we drive each other crazy, and get on each other’s nerves, but there is no one I’d rather be stuck with because they make me happy, and we all need a little happiness in life.
My challenge to you is reflect on your life. What’s making you happy, what can you control? Find it and cherish it and share it with others so they can find their own happiness.
Anneke de Looze
My name is Anneke de Looze and I am a junior at Maple Grove Senior High School. I am going to tell you something that I have not opened up to many people about, not even my fellow peer ministers. I feel the need to share this with the SJA community and I know that I can trust you all (and because writing about is easier than talking about).
I began quarantine at the same time as most people, early March. It was right after my birthday and at first, I was actually excited about the pandemic because I am a huge history nerd and it was so cool to me that I was living through something that will end up in history books. After about a week of being in quarantine, however, I started to get depressed. It was a mixture of needing space and feeling bad about how my body looked. I live in a split level house with five other people, one of whom I share a room with. It was incredibly difficult to find somewhere where I could be alone.
I am an introvert, so I get my energy from being alone. I started closing myself off to my family. If you ask anyone in my family, they will tell you that I love hugs, and I love being close to people. While I was depressed this completely changed. I would not let anyone touch me, and if people started getting too close to me, I would start to shrink back. At the same time, I was growing very uncomfortable in my body. I stopped eating almost completely, I would only eat if I had cooked a meal for the whole family.
My parents tried to help me, they cleared out a room in the basement and set up some old chairs so that I could be by myself. I would go to the basement at around 8 AM and then stay there until 11 PM. I would almost never leave, and in hindsight, I think this made my depression worse. I stopped going outside, I stopped joining my family for dinner, I did not join my family on the daily walks they took.
Once, my mom convinced me to join everyone for dinner and I sat at the table without eating and I watched my siblings mess around at the table. This made me feel sad because it felt to me that they were carrying on just fine without me. It didn’t seem like my siblings missed me at all. Looking back at it, I know that this thinking was stupid, but at the time, it was very real to me. I asked to be excused halfway through dinner, and when my mom looked like she was hesitating, I exploded, saying things like, “I am not contributing anything to the conversation”, “Why do you even want me here”, “I am just making everyone depressed” and as I got up and started to leave I said, “just go back to having fun, you obviously don’t need me”.
This was when I finally realized that I wanted out. I wanted to break through the haze that had surrounded me for the last few weeks. I wanted to have fun with my family but dragging myself out of my depression is much easier said than done. I started noticing that when I cooked and when I went outside, I felt much better.
Over the next few weeks, I slowly started to come out of the depression. I started eating again. I finally came out of it about two weeks ago when I was lying awake at night and I was thinking about what kind of life I wanted to live. I realized that I no longer wanted to hide away in that musty basement. I wanted to laugh with my family again. There were many other things I thought about, and I refer to it as my epiphany. So the next morning I woke up and did a workout. I was more energized than I had been all quarantine. I told my parents about the epiphany, and the first step was giving them a hug.
Now I am back to my normal self (mostly). When something like that happens, it is life-changing. I will never quite be the girl I was before quarantine, but I think that is okay. Since then, I have really cultivated my love for cooking and I join my family on our daily walks. I have found love in planning meals with multiple courses (next week I am making a five-course Indian meal). Now I feel blessed with the things I took for granted while depressed. I call my friends very often and I have 3-hour long conversations with them. I recently found out that I made it into my school’s branch of the National Honor Society. I stay up late with my foreign exchange sister and laugh at the most random things.
This is my story (which I have written with shaky hands and have had to take many breaks from) and it is completely unique to me, and can in no way be used as a mirror for someone else’s depression, but I hope someone finds comfort in it and knows they are not alone. Thank you for taking the time to ‘listen’ to me, and know you are not alone in this crazy time.
Tara is a First Year at Roseville High School and is a peer minister at Saint Joan of Arc.
In this very odd time where you are quarantined with your family it can be very hard not to go insane. But my family have found ways to still have a “fun” time, and I know every family is different. Mine is easier than most. My family that I live with is just my mom and my 2 cats, so me and my mom just have to not kill each other and trust me it is harder than it sounds.
One new way that has helped my family not go insane is playing chess. Recently I got a Lord of the Rings chess set for Easter (I have been looking forward to getting it for a long time), and I was very excited to teach my mom chess. I have known how to play chess for a long time but I never had anyone to play against and I never had a chess board -- which if you have never played chess before the board is a very vital piece to the game.
I taught my mom how to play. She gets frustrated not because that she loses but because chess is a mindset and it takes practice to get into that mindset. We have not played that many games, mainly because she quits after one game and I quote this directly from my mother “my head hurts”. But we still have lots of fun.
Another thing that my family does for fun is taking little drives to the wonderful worlds of the drive thru. We usually end up going outside around lunch time every 1-2 ish days and we end up going to fast food and it is fun (keep in mind I have not seen many of my friends so my bar of fun has lowered by a lot). The car is a magical place to tell stories or talk about memories and it is just so fun when you go on a spontaneous road trip with your family. Not too far away but just 20 or 30 minutes and you can just look at wildlife and it is so much fun.
We also put up our porch swing this past week and we love sitting on it and watching the wildlife together. I think there are some very clear good and bad parts to this quarantine but I really like spending it with my mom and finding fun ways to keep us entertained.
Tom is a graduating Senior from Open World Learning. He wrote this letter to COVID-19 as a prompt for school. Tom has been a peer minister for two years at Saint Joan of Arc.
You really suck. Second semester of my senior year was supposed to be a reward for the 4 years of hard work I put in, and a relief from the stressful college application process.
Instead, I am stuck inside with two brothers who fight non stop and a sister who occasionally emerges from her room to beat me at Mario Kart. When I thought of playing the sport I love with the people I love this spring, I thought of going to state with my friends on the ultimate field, and winning more than one game of volleyball this year. I did not think of playing HORSE, around the world, 3 on 1, and a variety of other basketball related games with my family to keep the boredom at bay.
This was supposed to be our year for ultimate, something I had built up to and was excited about for as long as I can remember. Instead I am relegated to backyard basketball and Zoom calls. I know this will be over, and that it will make for a “memorable” senior year. But I wanted it to be memorable in a different way.
All I know is that if you cancel my first year of college my friend, Jedi, and I are hopping on a $30 flight to the Philippines. Please don’t do that though, the president there is threatening to shoot anyone dead who leaves their house.
The one good thing you brought about is that I really realized how much people mean to me, and how much happiness they bring to my life.
In the immortal words of that one meme: “I would’ve hugged the homies a little tighter if I knew it was going to be like this.”
So that’s what I have to say Covid. Go away.
Daniluz is a Senior at Minnetonka High School. She is actively involved at Saint Joan of Arc as a peer minister and as a member of sister parish.
To say the least, preparing for Easter was kind of a wild ride. There is this need to adapt to the new “normal,” but also amidst this confusion, there is the reality that life still goes on and Easter this year was a reminder of that.
One of my favorite traditions that my family does is the 12 Dishes on Holy Thursday. These dishes symbolize the 12 disciples of Jesus and every year, we would invite people to essentially have a meal with us and socialize with one another. Of course, this year was different.
While it was sad that I was not able to reconnect with people during this time, it also gave me the opportunity to sit down with my family and enjoy a meal that was usually filled with a lot of socialization. The whole simplicity of the evening made me realize how food is not just an essential, but also a symbol of connectedness. It is shown when Jesus shared himself with his disciples at the Last Supper and in any meal connecting friends, family, or community.
Food is a medium that brings us together and while I did not have many people to share a meal with on this day, I still felt that similar warmth being surrounded by the people I love.
Tradition can mean or symbolize something different for each individual. Though it is usually in remembrance of something that is passed down from generations, I am starting to see it as a comfort and hope for the future as well. Traditions help celebrate culture and identity, and especially now, it has reminded me of my ideals and values that I want to treasure and the people I want to share them with.
Easter is the celebration of life and while it is a communal event, this year has given me the opportunity to look introspectively on what it means to me. It has truly shown how meaningful community is to me and how important it is in defining my identity. Even though geographically we are separated, we are not alone and our traditions can still live on as joyful expressions of ourselves and provide grounding and hope for the future.
Tess is a ninth grader at Visitation School. She is active in our parish as a peer minister and is involved in many extracurriculars at school.
Hello peers from SJA, boy is it a crazy time in the world! Although there are so many reasons to feel down in these times of physical isolation, I want to challenge people to use this time to grow within themselves. My name is Tess Cavanaugh, and something I have done during quarantine is start a blog. I started a blog with a friend and leader in our community, Eve Miller. Eve and I started this blog in order to inspire teens to find their purpose and grow in their character to better our world. The blog is called The Ripple Effect (I will link it below) and its message is to help people grow in who they are to make the world better in times of hardship.
Writing this blog is guiding me to find my purpose. Someone's purpose is ever-changing, and being in quarantine may seem to put a dampener on how you make the world better. But you can make the world better in so many ways! My purpose is to bring joy to people's lives. Just because the normal ways I make people smile and bring joy have changed that doesn’t mean I have to stop.
I have found that moving physically has given me a purpose as well. I go on a walk or run every day as well as start my day off with a yoga workout. This not only gets me rejuvenated for the day but makes me get up in the morning! I have set goals for myself and written them down - long and short term. On a piece of paper or my phone I write down the things I want to get done in my day and in my week. Every little thing I will write down because at the end of the day I can look back to see what I’ve accomplished. This gives me motivation because I really want to check everything off that list! Even if the only thing on the list that day is to watch a movie and read a chapter in my English book.
Someone's purpose is such a key thing in life, and in these times of hardship it is even more important to not lose sight of ourselves and who we are. Change can be scary and it’s easy to cut yourself off from the world because of it. But just as God has put COVID-19 into our lives, God has also given us the strength to get through it.
So, I challenge you to find a purpose in these times of quarantine. Get yourself out of bed with a reason to grow in your relationship with God.
Our youth at SJA have amazing things to say. Our goal is to give them a platform to share their thoughts on topics they want to talk about. Their thoughts are uniquely theirs. From politics to faith, school issues to our church, this blog shares their voices with our community.