Back in the 70’s, Penny Jaworski, my twin brother Dave and I started a prayer community for high school seniors as part of the Institute of Christian Encounter (ICE) religious education program at Immaculate Conception Parish on the Northwest Side of Chicago. The program was called OATS. OATS is an acronym for Openness, Awareness, Togetherness and Separateness, the building blocks of community. Father Joe Van Leeuwen, C.P. was the priest in charge of the whole Institute, and the idea came from a talk given by an unknown Passionist. Brother Martin Bradke, C.P. told us about the talk, and we thought that would be a good guide for our community building. We were Passionist Partners even before there was a formal group called Partners.

OATS was very successful in terms of numbers as well as in inspiring young people to get involved in their communities. One former member is a well-known journalist in Chicago, another is a Chicago Priest, another a Presbyterian Pastor and one former OATS person runs a Teen Drop-In Center on the South Side of Chicago. These are just the OATS people I know of. I suspect there are many more, still going strong spreading OATS in their own particular way. We really didn’t teach any particular way other than OATS.

What we did do however is pray together. We did this at every meeting. After a business meeting, we would go into the Parish Church, sit on the floor around St. Paul of the Cross’s altar and sing some songs and maybe read a reading or two to inspire us. Then we would disperse throughout the Church (it’s a big church) and spend ten to fifteen minutes in quiet prayer by ourselves. We came back together around St. Paul’s altar, sat quietly for a while, sang some more songs and then said the Our Father holding hands. We would end with one of our members giving a blessing.

Before OATS, ICE and I suspect many other programs could not attract juniors or seniors to their religious education programs. By sixteen, teens got their cars and that would be the last we’d see of them until they came around to get married.

What made this work? I’m not sure, but I think there were two key ingredients, collaboration and prayer. Not only did we collaborate with Passionists, we also plugged into the TEC Retreat program, which is where many of the teens came from. Of course we encouraged our Senior High School Parishioners to go on TEC and they did.

I wonder if we Passionist Partners today can learn anything from this model? I wonder if there are other models of successful community programs present day Partners could share?

I wonder if we Passionist Partners today can learn anything from this model?  I wonder if there are other models of successful community programs present day Partners could share?

4 thoughts on “OATS

  1. Five CPP couples in San Antonio were also Passionists before there were CPPs, We have been
    in community for 40 years, starting with Marriage Encounter then a community of 7 families,
    Fr. Clemente was also part of it. The fruit is unbelievable, all serving in many ways now the children are serving similarly, Ricardo & Beatriz Riojas

  2. I think, all of us long for some “type” of community whether we choose to belong to the Scouts, AA, our parish choir, a ministry connected to our parish like St Vincent de Paul, Ministry of Care, HNS or CCW to name a few. Community for some of us was a part of our lives before we ever knew about or how to define community. We simply knew we liked being with people that agreed with us or challenged us to be better Christians. Back in the late1960s, I choose to go to an ALL girls high school. Little did I know of the lifelong friendships I would make, the teachers that wouild become good friends of mine and the continuation of a lifelong connection to the Sisters Of Providence.

    Community there in high school had many challenges of the day: popularity, academics, sportsmanship, acceptance and patience to allow each person to become the person God planned them to be. But as my friendships increased through those four years, I realized that being in a community was the best of all worlds, because each member was free to be him/herself with no strings attached and best all know the joy of unconditional love.

    I count myself lucky to be included in that inner circle of friends and comrades, who didn’t judge you but allowed you to be yourself warts and wounds and all. And I guess that’s one reason why I am proud to be a CPP because I have known the same love and acceptance with in the vowed CP and CPP communities for each one as part of the larger Community.

    As a CPP I am able to be myself and share my thoughts and dreams, as well my frustrations and shortcomings, knowing that these CPs and CPPs will continue to support me through time with laughter or with tears with me, as I do with them. For as we attendees of the CP Sesqui (Philadephia — 2002) will recall “we are the Passionists”, one and all !

    Many years ago I had a friend ( a CPP) who was going through a very rough patch. I didn’t know for many months the degree of saddness, I only knew to pray and I did indeed. Every day for 120 days, whenever I thought of them. It was then I learned the tears Christ shed on the Cross and the love He had for all of us, because Christ listened to my prayers and in time answered them.

    I had learned the power of prayer and the Cross and what being part of community life was about…acceptance without question or pause…

    You might know the charism of the Sisters of Providence is Love, Mercy and Justice.
    It seems to me Keeping alive the Memory of the Passion only enhances that Call to be community for CPPs. I wonder if our founder St.Paul of the Cross and the American foundress of the SPs, St. Mother Theodore Guerin have rubbed shoulders in their past lives? I bet they have, what do you think?

    Nancy Kremer
    CPP Chicago

  3. OATS was a very special community because of the people who were a part of it. While Dan, Dave, Sandy and I were there to create a space for community to happen, it was grace and the Spirit that made it work. The most important thing we did was to pray together. Those moments on the floor in front of the St. Paul of the Cross altar were so important because we shared our lives. Tears of joy and sorrow, ponderings about the future and how will I ever get over whatever is going on right now, were shared with the group. We all received encouragement, support, challenges and most important love. Lives were made stronger, burdens easier and dreams were shared, accomplished and shattered sometimes. I know for myself that I became more focused, more determined. more compassionate and more loving because of the young people who shared so intimately their lives and struggles. OATS met 40 years ago and still today the people of OATS remain friends, more than friends actually because of the sharing.

    Oh we did lots more than pray. We went camping and learned how to live together in very tight places. We all cooked, gathered wood, made a water run and when the day was done, we gathered around a campfire and told more stories about our lives and prayed and sang. We studied scripture, we planned special events.just like many other groups but somewhere in the midst of all that we became a family. So if I didn’t say it then, I’m saying it now loud and clear…thank you, thank you..I love you all!

    Can this happen with the Passionist Partners? Of course it can. We need to share with each other the important stuff of our lives, we need to listen to each other and we need to pray. OATS is still needed. We need openness, awareness/acceptance, togetherness and yes we need separateness maybe more than ever.

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