Jennifer Bober

Jennifer Bober

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Small-Group Ideas that Work: Be Prepared

Posted by Jennifer Bober on Mar 21, 2022 12:01:34 PM

Running small groups online for the past two years has been one of my favorite parts of my job at RENEW. These groups have offered me community and friendship during difficult times, while helping me to continually grow in my faith.

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Topics: Small-Group Ministry, online community, online small groups

Creating Community Online—Turn to the Nerds

Posted by Jennifer Bober on Aug 10, 2020 7:00:32 AM

When we talk about creating community online, I have to admit that the tagline to an ad from an internet financial services and information company comes to mind: “Turn to the Nerds.”
Now, I have many friends who would proudly declare themselves nerds of one form or another, so I am familiar with the idea of online community. They meet people in online games or in Facebook communities. They talk to their online team as they play a game, or comment about a topic that interests them which leads to a deeper discussion. Friendships form between people who have never met in person.
That can seem strange to those who are used to relationships formed in person. However, to those in these communities, these relationships are real and strong, and we can learn from them.
During the past several months, I participated in an online faith-sharing group that we hosted here at RENEW. Aside from Sister Terry, president of RENEW, there were two people in the group whom I knew in person. Yet, after our weeks of sharing, I feel connected to the other members of the group.
Each week we would log in a bit early and chat beforehand. I learned that one member’s wife and I went to the same college and, in fact, knew several people in common. We discovered common interests, learned about each other’s families, and, most importantly, grew in faith together.
The very definition of the word internet is: “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks.” It is all about connections. Using this medium to help our parishioners form connections with each other and with our Church is a natural progression. While the message of the Church is eternal, the way we communicate that message must evolve as our communication forms evolve.
While creating community through online forums may be new to many of us, it is old hat to many and if we take our cue from them, we can continue to strengthen the bonds of community in our parishes, even in this time of social distancing.
Jennifer Bober is manager of marketing at RENEW International.

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A New Easter

Posted by Jennifer Bober on Apr 14, 2020 8:38:16 AM

Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. Holy Week is exhausting for me as a church musician, and when I add in my family traditions, it leaves me utterly wiped out. I sleep through much of Easter Monday, and yet I love every moment of it. This year was already going to be different as I spent Tuesday of Holy Week in the cancer center of the hospital for my final chemo infusion, but then Covid-19 made it even stranger.
This year, there were no palms. There was no singing of the Duruffle “Ubi Caritas” and procession of the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday. There were no living Stations with choral responses on Good Friday. There was no deacon proclaiming the “Exultet” on Saturday night. There was no choir to join with brass in joyous anthems of praise on Sunday. It was a very different experience.
There were live streams from my parish though, and I would sit with the stream on my TV, the worship aid on my phone, and the YouTube chat window open on my tablet, so I could join with my fellow parishioners in wishing each other peace. I was able to order kielbasa from my favorite Polish butcher and managed to make a babka after my neighbor shopped for me. The Polish parish of my childhood had a blessing of the baskets through FaceBook Live, so for the first time in years, my brother and I were there together.
On Sunday morning, I joined my parish for Mass. Our pastor had asked parishioners to send in photos of themselves so the images could be printed and fill the church. After the Gospel, he asked us if we would like to see the pictures. He stepped off the altar and past the camera, which was then flipped around, and my eyes filled with tears. There was my church, filled with my faith community. Every pew had photos of singles, couples, and families. Our pastor commented that it was the first time he had ever had dogs in church for Easter Mass. We joined in spiritual Communion and, yes, I was on my tablet wishing everyone peace and a happy Easter. It was beautiful.
Afterwards I shared breakfast with dear friends as we had for so many years, even if they were at their table in Albuquerque, New Mexico while I sat at mine in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. I then spent over an hour on FaceTime with my niece and ended the day on a Zoom with my father, brother, and sister-in-law, complete with visits from my cat and my dad’s dog.
I spent Easter alone in my house, and yet I spent Easter filled with love, community and, yes, joy. I could sing the descants for the hymns along with the stream. I could—after months of chemo and a long, scary surgery—feel as though I had been resurrected with our Lord. I spent an Easter filled with hope in the new life that is the heart of our faith. I could feel truly that I am part of an Easter people who will emerge from the tomb of Covid-19 to rise and live in the presence of our Lord.
Jennifer Bober is RENEW's Manager of Marketing and Communications. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.
Photo courtesy of Elsa Garrison/Getty Images.

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The Power of Kindness

Posted by Jennifer Bober on Aug 20, 2019 7:00:10 AM

This morning was one of those mornings. I had not slept well, I was dragging, and every little inconvenience was amplified as I dropped my keys while my hands were full, caught my sweater on the door, and the drive-thru line seemed to take forever. I was fighting hard to not let things get to me.
I was running a little behind and, as I got close to the office, I realized I had forgotten part of my lunch in my refrigerator at home. Okay. I was about to pass a grocery store, so I would run in quickly. When I got to the checkout line, I was the third person waiting. The old woman at the head of the line was talking to the cashier, and it was taking a while. The woman in front of me realized the problem before I did. The old woman didn’t have enough money for her groceries.
Without hesitation, the young woman in front of me pulled a dollar out of her wallet and handed it to the cashier. When the cashier said there was still change needed, I opened my own wallet and grabbed the extra quarter required. The old woman was so grateful. I commented to the woman in front of me that it was wonderful to be reminded that there are good people in this world. As the cashier wished the old woman a nice day, she replied, “It will be now. I am so blessed.”
What a profound truth to be reminded of for $1.25 contributed by two people. We are all blessed, and we are all called to share those blessings with those we encounter in our everyday lives—friends and strangers alike. Simple kindnesses have the power to change someone else’s day, and your own along with it. This morning, God reminded me of that in the best way possible.
Jennifer Bober is RENEW's Manager of Marketing and Communications. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

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The Joy of the Gospel

Posted by Jennifer Bober on Dec 14, 2016 6:00:34 AM

Pope Francis titled his landmark document on evangelization The Joy of the Gospel. It is a beautiful title for a beautiful work in which the Holy Father reminds us how we should truly live as Catholics. It pushes us to consider the question, do we actually live that joy?
On a recent weekend, I went to Mass with my brother and niece. There was a little girl, about three years old, in the pew in front of us. Whenever we would sing, or at the end of communal prayers, she would let out a shout of “YAY!” that reverberated through the church. Her parents tried to shush her, but every so often, she would shout again and giggle to herself, making everyone around her smile.
As we walked out to the car after Mass, my brother commented that there were far worse sounds a small child could make during Mass, to which I responded, “If only we could all be that happy to go to church!”
It made me stop and think. Are we that happy to go to church? Do we come to the altar with hearts full of joy, or do we see our Sunday obligation as just that, an obligation? Have we forgotten the power of the ritual of the Mass, only seeing the routine and the rote?
Every week, we witness a miracle. We see simple bread and wine transformed into our Savior. We receive the very body and blood of Jesus in the miracle of the Eucharist, and this should be a cause for great rejoicing.
We hear the very word of God proclaimed to the community of believers. How do we allow ourselves to forget the wonder and joy this should evoke?
We cannot come to the Mass with the cynical eyes of the modern world. We must come to the Mass with the joy-filled eyes of a people who know they are loved unconditionally by their God—a people who know that “God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son.”
This is our challenge. The next time you walk through the doors of a church, try to hear in your mind, and more importantly feel in your heart, the words of the psalmist: “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”
Jennifer Bober is a RENEW Marketing Associate with both non-profit and publishing experience. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

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Let’s Celebrate!

Posted by Jennifer Bober on Dec 2, 2015 6:00:40 AM

As the fall faith-sharing season draws to a close, we hope that it has been a time filled with spiritual growth and renewal for you. This is a time to come together to celebrate the season in its fullness—challenges and triumphs both.
Take the time to look back and evaluate the season. Sowing Seeds, RENEW International’s resource book for small groups, provides evaluation questions for both community members and group leaders; these questions will help you take a deeper look at what the season has meant to all of you and help you understand how much you have accomplished.
Once you have evaluated those accomplishments, it is time to celebrate them! Whether you celebrate as a parish or as individual groups, you want to come together and share your joy at what the season has meant for all of you, and we want to share your joy!
Take photos or videos and send them to your pastoral representative along with your good-news stories. Sharing your accomplishments in this way is a powerful means of witness. When we share your stories with others they see the transformative power of working in small groups. Your photo, video, or good-news story could provide the tipping point for someone on the fence about whether or not to join a small group.
Think about what your small-group experience has meant for you. Would you like others to have that same experience? By sharing your experience you can help us reach more people yearning to feel the presence of God in their lives.
Jennifer Bober is a RENEW Marketing Associate with both non-profit and publishing experience. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

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Finding Our Strengths

Posted by Jennifer Bober on Oct 20, 2015 7:00:06 AM

Earlier this month we celebrated the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower. She is a wonderful role model for all of us, but in many ways she speaks to the heart of small Christian communities in this regard: It is not always necessary to do great things, but to always do small things with great love.
As you work with your small group many tasks will arise. These will range from the larger job of actually running the group to the small, simple things sometimes taken for granted, such as having your meeting room prepared. It helps a leader to remember St. Thérèse’s philosophy and approach these tasks, and those who accomplish them, with great love.
While we hope to grow and change as we participate in our small groups, we all bring specific gifts to them at the outset. Recognizing those gifts in others and asking them to do tasks in keeping with those gifts, plays to their strengths and allows members to thrive and feel that they are making a contribution. For example, the parent who seems to know every other family in the parish is a natural choice for a group leader. The parishioner with the sunny nature and welcoming smile is a natural recruiter for bringing in new members.
When you ask participants to take on various tasks, tell them why. Affirm their gifts, and explain how those gifts are useful to the greater purpose. By naming and identifying the gifts of your small-community members you make each person feel valued and appreciated for who he or she is. It is a small thing to do, but when we do it with great love it is a powerful motivator. As you move forward and members want to take on new roles, be sensitive to the desire for change and encouraging as they explore new gifts.
When we follow the example of St. Thérèse and approach this small affirmation with great love, our small groups will grow and flourish.
Jennifer Bober is a RENEW Marketing Associate with both non-profit and publishing experience. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

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Participate in the Papal Visit Even If You Can’t Be There

Posted by Jennifer Bober on Aug 23, 2015 7:00:25 AM

As the time for Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States approaches, excitement is building for Catholics around the country. However, not all of us can travel to Washington, New York, or Philadelphia to join in the events scheduled there. So how do we participate in this historic visit from our own homes and parishes? Here are five ways that you can become a part of Pope Francis’ visit no matter where you are.
1. The Francis Effect
One of the reasons this visit is so exciting is the profound effect Pope Francis has had on the Church and the world in the short time since his election. His voice has resonated around the globe, with Catholics and non-Catholics alike, as he calls us to truly live the Gospel. There is a recent documentary, “The Francis Effect,’’ on that very topic. Arrange a viewing of the film as a family or a parish. Engage in a discussion about how to answer the pope’s call as an individual or a group.
2. Read All About It!
Many people are wondering what the Pope might say when he addresses Congress and the United Nations. One of the best ways to learn about Pope Francis is to read his writings. If you haven’t already, take time to read The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the New Evangelization, or his encyclical on ecology, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si'). Engage children and teenagers in the excitement by creating a trivia game from what you learn about the papacy and Pope Francis.
3. Get Social
Share your excitement about the pope’s visit on social media. The Catholic Extension Society has created “Flat Francis,” a simple cutout figure of the Holy Father, and has started the hashtag #FlatFrancis on Twitter and Instagram. You can download and print the image, then take a photo to share on social media. Whether you use it with your family, your parish, or your school, it is a fun way to show your excitement for the upcoming visit.
4. A Family Affair
The Holy Father has arranged his visit to coincide with the World Meeting of Families taking place in Philadelphia. There is a special World Meeting of Families Prayer for the success of the event and for family intentions. There is also a hymn written for the event, “Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom." Ask your parish music director to teach the hymn to the congregation and include it in the liturgies leading up to the visit and the meeting. You can also check out resources for the World Meeting of Families from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
5. Throw a Party
Host a Welcome Day in your diocese or parish, inviting the wider community to learn more about our Church, sharing the joy of the Gospel with all who are interested. When the days of the visit arrive there will be extensive media coverage. The USCCB will be livestreaming coverage of the events as well. Set up a viewing party for your parish. Listen to Pope Francis’ message together and pray that it will not only be heard but taken to heart by faithful around the world.
Jennifer Bober is a RENEW Marketing Associate with both non-profit and publishing experience. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

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