Project Miriam

Many of the talks we’ve been hearing this semester in both our Formation Program and our Women’s Nights have focused around what it means to be a woman of God and how our femininity plays into that. This has naturally brought up some discussions in our community
about vocation, especially for some of our juniors and seniors. Through God’s perfect timing, the Vocations Office in the Austin Diocese offered two day long retreats, one for the men and one for the women, to help people understand what it really means to be called to religious life.

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I went to the retreat for the women, Project Miriam, with Courtney and a few of the women in our Households. We spent the afternoon meeting the various sisters who were there and heard a bit about their communities and way of life. There were about ten different communities represented, and it was beautiful to hear how the Lord had brought them to their vocation to Religious life.

We all went to mass together, spent time in adoration, and heard about Mary’s “yes” at the Annunciation. Before she ever gave her fiat — her yes — Mary gave her ecce — her being. She is
the handmaid of the Lord, and gave herself to Him in her very being before she was ever asked to be His mother at the Annunciation. I was struck by that during adoration and it occurred to me that I want to become the kind of woman who doesn’t just say “Lord, what will you ask from me? Because I’m not sure I’m up to the task…” but rather “Lord, when will you ask me, because I’ve already said yes!”

It was incredible to be able to spend time with the sisters and the women from our Households. I went to brunch with the women the next morning and it was neat to hear how the experience had been for each of them. Most of us are unsure at this point where the Lord is calling us when it comes to vocation, but I saw how He’s been opening their hearts to the possibility of Religious life. Spending time with the sisters had helped many of them break down fears and misconceptions about life as a sister.

A few of us are continuing the openness the Lord has begun by going on a weekend-long retreat for discernment. I pray this will bring peace and clarity for each of us, and an increased
trust in the One who desires to satisfy us.

Women’s Night Series: Theology of the Body

This semester we’ve focused our Women’s Nights series on Theology of the Body. These nights are built into our programming as a clear space for women to come together and learn from other, often older, women how to be women of God.

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The first part of our four-part series was an introduction to the Theology of the Body, taken mostly from Pope John Paul II. The talk was given by one of my fellow missionaries, Teresa, and covered the basics of what it means to be a woman, how our femininity and human sexuality play into who we are as daughters of God, and touched briefly on our complementary relationship with masculinity. We had a time for questions and answers afterwards and used them to inform which topics to address in the next three Women’s Nights.

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The second part of the series was a panel discussion hosted at my Household. The panel was three women: Allison, a young, single professional; Rachel, one of the FOCUS missionaries we partner with; and Michelle, a married women with two young boys. They each talked about how knowing Theology of the Body has affected their lives, especially in the discernment of their vocations. The students all had time to write down questions, and I was blown away by how vulnerable their questions were! I think the women on the panel being so open to share had given these students the freedom to ask the hard questions, which was exciting to watch.

IMG_2078Our third talk was given by Dr. Kalamerides, an OBGYN from the Vitae Clinic in Austin. He’s a Catholic doctor who is very knowledgable in the medical side of female sexuality. He talked on various topics such as birth control, NFP (natural family planning), and how young women deserve a new sexual revolution — one that will empower them with true knowledge of their bodies and how they were designed by God.

Next week will be our fourth and final Women’s Night and we’ve invited Dr. Kalamerides’ wife, Heather, to talk to us more in depth on NFP and the Creighton model of fertility awareness. We’re excited to have her with us and I’ve been so encouraged seeing the students engage so well with this material! Many of the women are in our Formation Program where we’ve been talking all semester about becoming men and women of God. It’s sweet to see how all of the things they’ve been hearing have meshed together so well, and I’ve had many great conversations with them about it. I’m praying these conversations continue long after our last planned Women’s Night!

Fan Into Flame

“I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.”

2 Tim. 1:6-7

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The very first weekend of February was our big Spring retreat called Fan Into Flame. We had over 70 students join us out in Caldwell, TX at Crossroads Retreat Center for a weekend full of incredible talks, testimonies, good community, and plenty of time for prayer. This retreat was focused on leading students into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Many of the talks were built around what it means to put Jesus at the center of our lives, and ranged from discussions on reconciliation and worship to receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The talks were spread evenly throughout the weekend, and were broken up by testimonies, small discussion groups, and time for worship and prayer. One of the things that was emphasized over the course of the weekend was the power given to us in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We were reminded of the way the Holy Spirit was given to us first at Pentecost, and how He fills us with His gifts both at Baptism and Confirmation. Many college students we encounter have received both of these sacraments growing up, but have never really owned their faith or put the gifts they received from the Holy Spirit to use. Many students have never actually been asked “why are you Catholic?” or had a need to reclaim the faith they may have been taught in grade school. This retreat provided a space for many of these students to ask themselves why they believe what they believe, and to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle the fire He’s already given them in the sacraments of initiation.

32792180050_9331eadd83_kThis was the first time for the SPO Texas chapter to have a retreat led almost entirely by students. Each one of the staff members was in charge of supervising student leaders, but the students were the ones running registration, writing and giving the talks, and leading all of the discussion groups. This was a huge step for all of us as a community, and we came out on the other side with an unbelievable amount of trust in one another. The student leaders, many of whom live in Households, stepped up well and went above and beyond in their individual leadership roles. There was something very powerful for the other students on the retreat to watch their peers step up and share the way the Lord has worked in their lives.img_1802

Being a supervisor instead of giving a talk or leading a small group freed me up during the weekend to have an eye for some of the newer students who were just starting to get back into their faith. I had a number of wonderful discussions with some of the girls, and was impressed by how excited they were after the retreat to dive deeper into prayer with the Lord, and come back to the sacraments.

I’m excited to see how the Lord is going to continue calling each one of them into a deeper and more joy-filled life with Him. Pray for us as we walk with these students and encourage them to grow in their relationship with Christ!

Jumping into 2017

Version 2Happy new year! Spring semester started up today, and we’re jumping right back into Household life this week. Our community looks a little bit different already this semester; a few people have graduated or moved on, and we gained a new roommate! But despite all the comings and goings around here, we’re determined to dive deep this semester. With only a semester left for many of the graduating students, we’re all hoping to make the most of our time together. I was so thrilled to see the joy and excitement in the students when they came back from break, and I can already tell we’re itching to go deeper — deeper in friendship, deeper in our prayer lives, deeper in our relationship with the Lord, deeper in our zeal for sharing the joy of the Gospel with new students.

We started off the first day of classes with morning prayer together. Once we’d finished the liturgy of the hours, we prayed the litany of trust. It was a great reminder for all of us to take a step back and remember the important things as our calendars fill up. The Lord’s plans are better than ours, He is the only steadfast thing in this life, and He is completely trustworthy and faithful. No matter what this next semester has to offer, we’re ready to face it head on knowing that the Lord has all of us in His steady and gentle hands.

Litany of Trust

From the belief that I have to earn Your love … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security that I have what it takes … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute … Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of Your words and promises … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You … Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will … Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future … Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past … Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking in the present moment … Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love and presence … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands … Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement … Deliver me, Jesus.

That You are continually holding me sustaining me, loving me … Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That you are with me in my suffering … Jesus, I trust in you.
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church
…Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your plan is better than anything else … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You always hear me, and in Your goodness always respond to me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked …Jesus, I trust in you.
That my life is a gift … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will teach me to trust You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are my Lord and my God … Jesus, I trust in you.
That I am Your beloved one … Jesus, I trust in you.

Women’s Advent Brunch

Our Women’s Advent Brunch was last Saturday. Here are some pictures with a little explanation of how the morning went!

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Mini Advent wreath centerpiece waiting to be lit
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Regan and Angelica, my reliable helpers for the event. I couldn’t have done this without them!
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The women began the morning by singing some beautiful Advent songs.
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One of my fellow mission leaders, Teresa, gave a talk on the importance and beauty of the Advent season.
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One of the women lighting the Advent candle at her table.
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There was plenty of food to share!
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Happy Advent! May you enter this season with hopeful anticipation of what’s to come!

 

New Beginnings

“Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now then when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…” [Romans 13:11-12]

Advent came upon us quicker than we expected! We just got back from Thanksgiving break and it’s starting to feel stressful as the semester comes to a speedy close. Finals week is almost here, and my “to-do before Christmas break” list gets longer by the hour. One of the items on my list was to prep for the Women’s Advent Brunch we had on Saturday morning. I’d been caught up in the logistics of planning, worried about the details and all the errands I had to find time to run before the week was out. Before we ate brunch together, we had a time to worship the Lord and reflect quietly on how to wait for Him well during this season of Advent. In planning for this, I was reminded that despite how fast the weeks seem to be flying, now is the time to slow down and enter into this liturgical season well.

“I give You praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned You have revealed them to the childlike.” [Luke 10:21]

As I grow older, adjust to the details of this new job, and become more knowledgable and mature, I lose sight of the simple delights of the Lord. I take my faith for granted and allow the scriptures and the sacraments to become familiar, commonplace, and uninspiring. For the sake of becoming learned, I lose the childlike wonder I had when I first came to know Him. But childlike wonder is exactly what the Lord is asking of us.

When I was young, especially during Christmas, it was easy for me to enter into the excitement and delight of the season. I let my imagination run wild with thoughts of Santa and his reindeer, I watched in wide-eyed wonder as the Christmas lights were turned on for the first time, I stayed up late to see all of the candles lit around the manger at the Midnight Mass. But when I grew out of some of those childish Christmas traditions like Santa and his reindeer, I also seemed to let go of some of the wonder of the birth of my savior. Advent has become a time to start shopping for gifts and even when I do try to reflect on the birth of Christ, it is tainted by the knowledge that the calendar year is ending and my brain starts to skip right over Advent to what comes next.

Even though the calendar year and semester are both ending, the new church year has just begun. Christmas is a time of new beginnings as we celebrate the way Christ came as an infant to begin the work of salvation. Let us take these next few weeks to renew the childlike awe we used to have in His coming. The God of the universe humbled Himself to become man so that man may become like Him. When we allow ourselves to wonder at the greatness of our God, we are able to become like children again  — wide-eyed and eager to receive all He has for us.

I pray you are all able to enter into this season of waiting with a childlike wonder at the God who became man for us.

Fan into Formation

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Last weekend was our Formation retreat. Our Formation program is for the students living in Household (as well as a few other involved students) and is focused on helping them mature in their faith through a weekly series of talks, discussions, and meetings with a mentor.

We took time this weekend to get out of San Marcos for a bit and come together as a img_1114Formation community. We were at a beautiful retreat center called Deer Creek Camp, which was about two hours away from San Marcos, and we heard talks from
some of the mission directors and had time to worship and pray together. The talks were focused on each person of the trinity, and how each of us can begin to understand and relate to them. There was plenty of time for prayer, discussion, and leisure throughout the time we were there. The retreat we put on for them was called Fan Into Flame, which is a retreat SPO does at most of its chapters during the school year.

I’d been onto Fan Into Flame twice before at Ohio State, but it was a little different this time because I was doing the behind the scenes stuff. I was in charge of the snacks and was also the photographer for most of it. It was a little hard at first trying to figure out what my role was because I was so used to being a participant img_1117at the retreat. But it went well and was a great time to reconnect with everyone, to be reminded of the importance of what we’re doing here, and to be blown away again at the depth of the relationships these students have with the Lord.

I think we’re all a little tired still from the weekend away, but I’ve already had some good conversations with some of the students and am excited to see how the Lord is going to continue drawing them closer to Him this year.