Return to Chicago, then Arkansas and Kansas City

[If you haven't been here for awhile, be sure to read the "Formation..." post underneath this first]

After we finished our first two retreat in Dearborne, we returned to Chicago and gave three retreats at Greg's home parish, Sts. Peter and Paul in Naperville.

[Note: though slideshow view is enabled for photographs, I strongly encourage you t view them in Picasa web albums, which is available by double clicking on the slideshow, where they are available in much higher image quality, and you can peruse them at your leisure.]

After those, we had a couple days to spend with our families before we took a long road trip down to Arkansas, where we spent several days in retreat, as the group needed some time to understand itself, and also we reflected over the Holy Father's newly released Letter to the Youth for this year.

Unfortunately, the pictures from Arkansas are on my craptop, so they are unaccessible at the moment.
However, Kansas City was very exciting, since I got a shiny new camera!

The Canon Rebel XSi Digital SLR, complete with 18-55mm Image Stabilization Lens, and 55-250mm Image Stabilization Lens, and even a 50mm f/1.8 Prime lens for fast low light indoor shooting.
If you don't know what that means its ok, it just makes photography geeks like me quite happy. I've been taking pictures since I was 7 years old, and have always found photography fascinating, and over the years have gradually stepped up in cameras. I still remember the first one my dad had, in 1995, I think. It was like a large black box, and took pictures at about 320x240 resolution. After that Came one with a fliptop, and then an Afga for a birthday present, which I think was a whopping 1.3 megapixels.
After that I started buying my own cameras. First there were several Sonys, because at the time I thought the cybershot pocketsize was incredible, and I got one of those with 3x optical zoom and 3 megapixels, both of which I thought were incredibly important at the time. Later I upgraded to the 5 megapixel version, but it was still rety much the same camera. All those were good for snapshots, but they all operated pretty much on full automatic modes, so while I learned about composition and getting good lighting, I was still clueless about many of the finer aspects of photography.
It was during the winter of my second year at Thomas Aquinas that I bought my beloved Konica Minolta Z5. My previous Camera, the Sony Cybershot, had had an unfortuante incident with rain. I spent several month researching cameras, and selleted on a compact superzoom, the Z5. Its about as nice a camera as you could get at the time without climbing into the professional range, which I was unable t afford, being a poor college student. However, it served me well for 3 years, and I took thousands of photographs with it.
After having experienced some of DSLRs a few of my friends were sporting towards the end of college though, I realized some of the weaknesses of that camera, the lag of the shutter, the weak flash and batteries, and the lack of the finer controls of a dslrs, ad the small image sensor. This winter, I finally took the plunge and spent the money to get a low end professional level camera (which costs much less than it used to, thankfully the prices on SLRs have been dropping for the past 7 years) and after a month of using it I can say it has bee well worth the investment.
Now it's much easier to control the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focus, zoom, and literally play with the light more before it reaches the sensor, so I've been having alot of fun.
So perhaps you'll see a slight increase in image quality from here on. Hopefully.

[the following are three entries from our team blog, where I do the photos, captions, and rough writing, which is then edited by Matthew]

After our time in Kansas City, we went up to a Benedictine Abbey in Conception, Missouri. The Abbey itself was gorgeous, set in the middle of nowhere on a barren plain with windmills turning slowly in the background. And we also had the pleasure of meeting Novice Adam Burkhart, the son of our host family in Kansas City, who has been studying to enter the Benedictine Order for two years at the Abbey. While we were at the abbey, we helped out with a retreat for the local MI Village, and performed a Lenten drama and reflection.

On our way through Ohio toward New York, we found a cute old vintage store on the side of the highway, and stopped there for some fun.

We were only in Pittsburgh for a day, but after the Little Sisters found out what line of work we are in, we wound up putting on a short day for all the residents there. During the day, we talked to an elderly woman who was born in Japan, and she had been converted to Catholicism in her youth after reading early issues of St. Max's Japanese magazine. As well as some of the lay and married elderly we met there, we also had the pleasure of making friends with several priests: Father Kim Schrek, a newly ordained priest who had with him barbed wire from Auschwitz and a relic of St. Max, and also Monsignor Leo, who was in residence with the Little Sisters of the Poor. He spent a lot of time with us, told us his story, and was a beautiful witness of God's work through the elderly. As we left he gave us one of his world-famous Long Blessings, which he made sure to cover all the bases and wrap us firmly in grace.

Our travels so far:

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