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Clarissa Aljentera :
14 article(s)

Clarissa Aljentera breathes in Chicago’s improv scene like fresh ocean air. Originally a newspaper journalist from California, she now works as the coordinator of adult faith formation and social media resources for the Office for Catechesis and Youth Ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Her writing has also appeared in America Magazine. Clarissa is also the author of The Parish Guide to Social Media, which is available on Amazon.
October 29th, 2015

The celebration of Halloween (or All Hallows’ Eve) comes just before All Saints Day and the Feast of All Souls (or Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed).
Generally, we associate this time of year with costumes, ghouls and trick-or-treating.
This year, though, as we approach the day of spooks and the day of saints, let’s get to know a little more about some of the Catholic saints. The five which follow can add an element of faith … and fright … to your Halloween:

& 2. St. Lucian and St. Marcian: Eye of newt and toe of frog
Saints Lucian and Marcian spent their early years conjuring up magical spells. Their charmed lives came to an end when they discovered their potions had no power when used against…

August 20th, 2015
Tips for finding and getting involved in a new church home

Our brains are in “back-to-school mode.” And generally, churches and campus ministries are following suit. They are rolling out the welcome mat and putting extra effort into inviting you back to church.
If you are new on campus or maybe looking for a church home after a move, take heart, you are not the only one on a spiritual quest. Here are a few suggestions to make your church search a little easier:

Look around your campus or neighborhood and see if there is a Catholic church or a Newman Center (the on-campus Catholic center at many non-Catholic schools). Be on the lookout for special flyers or banners to welcome people like you, who are new to the area or back from summer break.
Search the Internet and social media…

July 29th, 2015

Sharing a home-cooked meal and cleaning up the kitchen afterward aren’t Hollywood’s ideas of a winning Rom-Com, but I’ve found that those genuine moments nurture love and create space for authentic conversations.
Being a foodie, I enjoy preparing meals with my boyfriend. We nurture “us” through food. The simple act of going out of my way at the grocery store to buy ingredients for a new recipe instead of relying on the standard chicken dinner is one example. He keeps an assortment of teas at the ready and offers a hot cup at the end of a good meal.
As we make dinner together, we might share a challenging moment from our day or laugh at our recipe mistakes. We break dishes and clean up the mess together. Even setting…

February 6th, 2015

Climbing is not a sport where I’ve had any success. It has been more like an effort in banging against footholds while harnessed to a rock wall only slightly taller than a two-story building. Based on my experience, it’s no surprise that last month when climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson scaled up the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, the world paid attention.
The two were the first to scale El Capitan’s 3,000-foot face, also known as the Dawn Wall (imagine three Empire State Buildings on top of each other), as free climbers with no ropes to aid them up. They used ropes and harnesses only for safety when they lost their grip or slipped off. This means they used their fingers to find holds on the…

December 31st, 2014

Capturing the imagination of adults is how Gabriel García Márquez made himself known in the literary world. It was the smallest details and the honesty in his writing that helped his characters and the scenes he created of the Latin American landscape come alive.
Gabriel García Márquez, born in Colombia in 1927, was the master of magical realism, a literary genre mixing real-life fiction with fantasy. García Márquez explained that magical realism came from the human suffering, such as hunger or sickness, experienced under the rule of violent Latin American regimes.
It was not magical realism I had sought out in him as an author. It was the way in which he introduced aspects of faith and culture into the text.…

July 18th, 2014
How volunteering provided clarity for my career

Stacking mountains of canned goods might be considered more of a backbreaking activity than a life-changing one. I was not looking for “life-changing” when I volunteered at my parish food pantry in Chicago a few years ago. I had prayed that getting lost in the canned goods would provide some distraction while I figured out my career path.
I signed on for a four-hour volunteer commitment each week. The first day I arrived at the pantry, I was not sure what to expect. Volunteering in a food pantry or a homeless shelter is not an activity I did with my youth group or even as an undergrad in college. Social justice work was what other people did while I was busy pursuing a career in journalism. Through all of my 20s, I was…

May 13th, 2014

Imagine walking into Sunday Mass and finding an extra 500 people crowded in the pews and spilling into the aisles. No, it’s not Easter. It’s a Mass mob.
The concept is taken from the popular flash mobs that invite strangers via social media (sometimes hundreds, thousands, even millions!) to participate in a group action. Flash mobs range from choreographed dances in public places to marriage proposals.
Mass mobs were created to intentionally invite strangers to attend Mass at a designated church. Beginning in Buffalo last November, Mass mobs have spread across the country to churches in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and most recently Detroit. The Mass mobs in these cities happened in older churches with the…

April 15th, 2014

It is easy to share the personal highlight reel of my life, but I will stutter if you ask me the last time I truly felt vulnerable. I enjoy being independent and do not ask for help from others unless I am put in a tough spot. The first time I purchased a car on my own my parents offered financial assistance, but instead of accepting their offer, I picked up extra jobs to save up. When I was in college, I paid for my own tuition with scholarships and by working part-time. Like many young adults, I take pride in my independence and find it jarring to be put in a position where I have to ask for help.
That all changed when I was in a car accident this winter. The wheels that carried me to work and social outings and on road trips were no more.…

September 9th, 2013
Tips for finding and getting involved in a new church home

Fall is often a time of new beginnings. You might be headed back to school or starting your freshman adventure. If you’ve recently graduated, you’re living on your own and settling in to a new work routine (or searching-for-work routine).
Our brains are in “back-to-school mode.” And generally, churches and campus ministries are following suit. They are rolling out the welcome mat and putting extra effort into inviting you back to church.
If you are new on campus or maybe looking for a church home after a move, take heart, you are not the only one on a spiritual quest. Here are a few suggestions to make your church search a little easier:

Look around your campus or neighborhood and see if there is a Catholic church…

August 1st, 2013

Warmer temperatures and longer days mean that summer exploration possibilities are endless. Adventure abounds each weekend with local festivals, picnics and trips to the lake. My inner child fondly recalls trips to the amusement park during the summer months. These particular adventures were rewards for good grades, or volunteering as a crossing guard or altar server all school year long.
As a teenager, my friends and I would get dropped off at the park and spend the entire day slurping down sugary drinks and riding rides. We would run from one ride to the next not thinking about the hours we waited in line to get our 90-second adrenaline fix. At the end of the day we would be exhausted, and our parents would ferry…

April 9th, 2013

Moving twice in my 30s has been difficult and wonderful all at the same time. The two moves resulted in new friends and new hobbies. They also came with fear and apprehension as I began again. Each move was to a different part of the country for the same reason: a fresh start.
The moving itself was quite unsettling and like many who move, the sooner I discovered routine, the smoother the transition would be. I turned to the practice of going to Sunday mass — something that has always grounded me. There was a familiarity in the ritual of mass. Finding a community to worship with regularly became as important as restocking my refrigerator. And both had to be done over and over.
It is like a modern tale of “Goldilocks…

August 27th, 2012

It is a constant struggle to try to find God and peace of mind in a city of almost 3 million people. Living in Chicago for two years has meant discovering unique ways to escape the rumbling elevated trains outside my apartment window and the bustle of foot traffic along Michigan Avenue heading to work.
I rely on public transportation to take me from point A to point B to point C and back to point A. When I lived in California I owned a car and getting away from the noise was much simpler. Finding God oftentimes meant taking a short drive with the windows open, blasting Coldplay through the car speakers, and gazing at the Pacific Ocean mile after endless mile. I inhaled fresh air and hit pause on my life during those drives. There…

May 18th, 2012

Let’s face it. We live in a loud world. Not the kind of loud that breaks the stillness of a bucolic spring day. This loudness emits upward through our iPhones and electronic tablets. It is the glowing screen showing off a friend’s party or Nicholas Kristoff’s Twitter feed announcing his latest column in The New York Times on Anheuser-Busch and Indian Reservations. Or how about the split second it will take to check in to that trendy lounge wine bar where your friends are headed.
We are easily tempted by the social networks that purport to connect us to friends near and far. Not only has it become a need to connect with people via Facebook, Foursquare, or Twitter but it comes seconds after we greet our friends with…

April 17th, 2012
Appreciating faith’s unscripted moments

These days, my spiritual life unfolds like it might on an improv stage. Both improv and spirituality have organic qualities, great depth and playfulness, too. And looking at my faith life through the lens of improv comedy helps me reclaim unscripted moments in new ways.
I began attending improv classes in Chicago as a new hobby. Some of the most basic rules of improv are that you have to listen, you have to be able to become a “yes and” person, and you celebrate your mistakes. In both my prayer life and improv, there are moments of uncertainty and a little bit of fear of what will unfold. I must listen to God, trust in what will unfold before me, and sometimes celebrate my mistakes.
I’m not Second City worthy yet or…

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