By SHEILA OJENDYK
SIMPSONVILLE — The introduction provided a clue about what was to follow. Colleen Moore, representing the youth ministry at St. Mary Magdalene, asked the young people in the crowd to sit with their families. “And, if you don’t have a family here, find one that looks nice.” She then added, “Expect the unexpected.”
The occasion was a two-day “Lighten Up” mission Oct. 29 and 30 by Doug Brummel and his cast of characters. Brummel’s ministry focuses on family unity, Catholic identity, and rich relationships between people of all generations.
Brummel’s first characterization was Sister Simon, a “Beneminican” nun who brought back many memories for those old enough to remember when all nuns wore habits. Sister Simon — who admonished the crowd to sit up straight and keep their feet flat on the floor — quizzed unsuspecting members of the congregation on The Baltimore Catechism and holy days of obligation. “Rumor has it that Canada only has two holy days — in case you want to move.” For those who didn’t remember their obligations on the holy days, she urged them to read their diocesan newspaper.
Sister Simon kept the congregation laughing and gradually steered them to more serious matters. She talked about catching faith, showing appreciation to those who have provided love and guidance, sharing our stories, and listening well.
The next character to appear was Timmy, a young boy with a slinky who told of playing in the fort he made from a refrigerator box — until his teen-aged sister hung curtains in it.
Timmy said he learned the most about God from his dog, adding that dog is God spelled backwards. His dog always has time to listen and never talks back, and “God always has time to listen to you. … Jesus is the best friend I ever had.”
Timmy did not understand why his grandfather had to die, but he loved his grandmother. Not only did she make the best Rice Krispie treats, she also told him stories about God.
Rob, the next character, was a man in his 40s who had been caught up in the “if it feels good, do it” culture in his younger years. He expressed guilt and concern, particularly when his 10-year-old daughter asked him about things he had done when he was younger. In a monologue with God, he asked, “Why can’t we talk about our relationship with you?”
Rob was a busy man with an equally busy family. “I never thought of soccer as a God … whatever we start these days takes over our lives.” He said his family never ate together anymore. His wife wanted the family to sit down to dinner at the table, and Rob asked “what’s the big deal about a table?” Then, he touched the altar and realized “the table is the center of our church.” He concluded, “Maybe the truth is we don’t have to be in everything.”
The evening finished with Old Man Joe, a widower preparing to move from his home into a senior apartment. Joe reflected on the joys and pains of his long life and said, “Most people forget to live while they’re alive. … They should use God’s gifts and talents in this world.”
Joe was not happy about moving out of the house he built 50 years ago. He said, “Change is hard enough for young people. It’s even harder for us old people.”
Finally, the real Doug Brummel surfaced and said, “We’re all a bunch of characters. …We all have our stories. …We are also called to share our life stories with each other.”
Brummel has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and has been involved in youth and family ministry since 1987. His Web site www.dougbrummel.com gives more information about his ministry and missions, and each of his colorful characters has a separate page. He lives in Colorado with his wife and three young children.