lisa helene donovan bacalski

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When there is a school shooting…make sure you know your facts…

Well-written commentary from the front lines

The Thought Bubble of a Multi-Tasking Mom


I have debated on writing about this topic, because it is one of so much controversy. However, as I sit back and see all the rhetoric and memes, I can’t help but wonder if people truly understand the issue at hand.  As a mental health professional, law school student, former social worker, former juvenile probation officer and public school employee, I feel the need to share insight into things the average person may not consider…

1.  Stop the gun banter until you really understand the issue. And stop the partisan politics. I have a gun. My husband has lots of guns.  I appreciate that right.  Saying that, not everyone should be entitled to the same.  Felons don’t deserve gun rights.  Those with serious mental illness should not have guns. Children should not have guns (unsupervised). And no one, other than military and law enforcement, should have assault rifles or any other…

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GUEST POST: Mary’s Intimate Magnificat | Simbang Gabi, Day 8

I was honored that my friend Jessica Dennise invited me to participate in this reflection series…

Leaven in the World


DAY 8: Mary’s Intimate Magnificat | Friday of the 3rd Week of Advent| 12.22.17

Take a look at the readings for today here.  Today’s reflection is based on the Gospel reading. For an overview and introduction of the reflections for all nine nights, go here.

  1. 1 Samuel 1:24-28. Hannah Presents Samuel to the Lord
  2. 1 Samuel 2:1-8. My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.
  3. Luke 1:46-56.The Canticle of Mary

The verses of Luke 1:46-56 may well be the most famous words of a woman in the Bible. The church prays those words of Mary daily in the Liturgy of the Hours, and throughout the centuries musicians, poets and artists have creatively portrayed the bold words of this young girl from Palestine. It is impossible to count the multitudes who have found sustenance from these verses, and yet it is easy to forget…

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GUEST POST: Recognizing Grace | Simbang Gabi, Day 7

“My heart turned over. There was Jesus.“

Leaven in the World


DAY 7: Recognizing Grace | Thursday of the 3rd Week of Advent| 12.21.17

Take a look at the readings for today here.  Today’s reflection is based on the Gospel reading. For an overview and introduction of the reflections for all nine nights, go here.

  1. Song of Songs 2:8-14. Hark! my lover–here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills.
  2. Psalm 33:2-21. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
  3. Luke 1:39-45. Mary Visits Elizabeth

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Katie and her family who welcomed a healthy baby boy into the world just a few days after submitting this piece!]

From our seats at church, on the other side of the altar, I can see a statue of the Virgin Mary. If everything happens as I want it to, meaning we arrive on time and my kids willingly sit…

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GUEST POST: Seeing the Light of Hope Amidst the Darkness | Simbang Gabi, Day 4

“I continued to give all I had, trusting and believing that God’s heart broke for them as much as mine did.”

Leaven in the World


DAY 4: Seeing the Light of Hope Amidst the Darkness | Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent| 12.18.17

Take a look at the readings for today here.  Today’s reflection is based on the responsorial psalm. For an overview and introduction of the reflections for all nine nights, go here.

  1. Jeremiah 23:5-8. Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David.
  2. Psalm 72: 1-19. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
  3. Matthew 1:18-25. The Birth of Jesus

If I close my eyes, I can still see their faces stained with dirt and sweat. The little boy had a small scratch on the right side of his chin that needed tending to. Yet he stood between me and his sister with confidence and strength, determined to not let any harm come to…

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GUEST POST: Let Us Free One Another

Catch people being good and their transformation may amaze you.

Leaven in the World


DAY 3: Let Us Free One Another | 3rd Sunday of Advent | 12.17.17

Take a look at the readings for today here. For some background on this Sunday’s readings from Loyola Press Sunday Connection, click here. Today’s reflection is based on the first reading.

  1. Isaiah 61: 1-11. The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me.
  2. Luke 1:46-54. My soul rejoices in my God.
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks.
  4. John 1:6-8, 19-28. John the Baptist’s Testimony to Himself

“To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.”

In his magnificent book, Tattoos on the Heart, Greg Boyle embodies the anointed one who sets people free. The title of the book comes from an encounter he has with a homie named Sharkey. He tells of being exasperated…

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GUEST POST: Lord, Let Us See Your Face | Simbang Gabi, Day 2

“The manger was within me”

Leaven in the World


DAY 2: Lord, Let Us See Your Face | Saturday of the 2nd Week of Advent | 12.16.17

Take a look at the readings for today here. Today’s reflection is based on the first reading and the psalm.

  1. Sirach 48: 1-11. In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace.
  2. Psalm 80: 2-19. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
  3. Matthew 17:9-13. The Coming of Elijah

It was November of 1997, and I was a mess. I was fresh out of my teens having just turned twenty years old. I was also a single, unemployed, depressed mother of a brand new baby girl. It was also a time of great mercy, however, it seems like every power was working against me to receive it.

Alexandria was born…

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So Great a Cloud of Witnesses: A Devotional for the 9 Nights of Simbang Gabi 2017

So glad to be part of this journey with my friend Jessica…

Leaven in the World

For an explanation of the Filipino Catholic tradition of Simbang Gabi, click here. To take a look at my last devotional (from 2014), click here.

Do you suffer from tunnel vision? I do. I blame it on my kids (whom I love dearly), who manage to make even most mundane of tasks like making a phone call or walking through a parking lot exponentially harder. And so, for the last five years or so, I’ve been hyper-focused on my own little world, head down, nose to the grindstone, sometimes just trying to make it to the end of the day.

Survival mode. We’ve all been there. But when you’re in it for too long, you start thinking the tunnel is all there is, and the light at the end of it is really just a vague rumor. I’ve found that the holiday season can either be a…

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