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.
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.
After all the craziness of Welcome Week, I’ve finally started to settle into a semi-normal routine. My week varies quite a bit depending on what sort of events we’re planning, or who’s available to meet up with me on any given day. But I’ll try to give a snapshot of what life is like for me lately.
Sundays are typically pretty restful, with some time spent at Our Lady of Wisdom, which is the Catholic Church on campus. It’s less than a ten minute walk to Wisdom from my
house, which is nice, although the hills make it feel longer! Most Sundays are very open, and I’ve used them to go exploring with some of the students. It’s been a great way to get to know people better, and I’ve gotten to see some of the nearby small towns and state parks.
Mondays are my day off since I don’t really get a break on Saturdays. They’re a much needed rest from the energy and work of the week. Most of the time I stick around the house, maybe catch up on some leisure reading, or hammock under my house for a while. It’s nice to get away sometimes too, though, since the majority of my week is spent near households anyway. There’s a big public library I’m planning to visit one of these days, and I’m hoping to drive out to some of the smaller towns to explore.
Tuesday through Fridays I’m up by 6 am (or 6:20 am if I hit the snooze button one too many times…), and pray morning prayer with the girls in my house at 6:45 am. It was a huge adjustment the first week I was here, but I’ve grown to love this time in the mornings in prayer. The front of our house is mostly large windows, and we can watch the sun rise as we pray. We use the prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours, which consists of three psalms, a brief reading, and a time for intercession and singing. I’ve fallen more and more in love with starting my day this way, and it’s good to have everyone in the house on the same page — literally. Some days we sound better than others (morning voices are not always the most beautiful), but we’ve gotten more confident in this type of prayer as the weeks have passed. Our Lady of Wisdom has eucharistic adoration at 8:30 am, so I have about an hour after morning prayer to eat breakfast and prep for the day. I’ve never been a morning person, but getting up so early for prayer has revolutionized my day. I actually have time to wake up and make a good breakfast! What a concept.
Mondays and Thursdays we have dinner together as a household. Two people are assigned to cook the meal each of those days, and we invite other students to join us for Monday dinners. We try to spend an hour at the table together for dinner, even if we’re already finished eating. With everyone’s schedules being so busy, these are a great time for us to reconnect as a house and grow in friendship. There’s always a lot of laughter, and it’s fun to see what each girl decides to make for her meal. Sometimes it’s an old family recipe she’s excited to share with us, and sometimes it becomes the perfect opportunity to experiment with new recipes.
Wednesday nights are Formation nights. All of the students living in household, as well as a few other committed students, come together each week to hear a talk on Christian virtue and how to apply it in their daily lives. Every other Wednesday is a talk, and the opposite Wednesdays are times for discussion.
Thursday nights are typically event nights. Sometimes they’re very planned and take a lot of prep time, and sometimes they’re more casual and relaxed. My fellow missionary, Courtney, and I are usually in charge of all the planning and prep work for those nights, and we’re starting to find a good system for event planning. She’s good at the big picture ideas and dreams, and I’ve found myself jumping into details and logistics. We make a good team, and so far all of our events have been a ton of fun and have given us great opportunities to meet new students.
I also have staff meetings in the mornings, and am leading two small groups each week. Scattered throughout these more regularly scheduled things are meetings with
individual students to get to know them better, make them feel connected to the community, and help them dive deeper into their faith. It’s a lot to keep track of, but a most of what I do is investing in relationships, which is something I enjoy. Sometimes the line between “work” and “fun” gets a little blurred, and it’s a constant struggle to balance all the practical things I need to get done with some much needed down time. Some days have a heavy load of admin work and prepping for events or small groups and feel very much like the full-time job that it is. Other days, however, when I go exploring with students, practice slack lining on campus, or go to a drive-in movie, I have to remind myself that this is my job!
Once our Mission Team Training ended, we moved all of our belongings over to the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota for a week-long conference called the School of the New Evangelization (SNE). This conference pulled together speakers and students from all over the U.S. SNE is built around helping us learn and practice the skills we need this year to be rooted in prayer and focused on reaching new students on campus.
This was my first time, and it was the largest SNE so far with over 400 college students in attendance. Many of the students came from schools with SPO chapters (such as The Ohio State University, the University of Minnesota, etc.) but quite a few came from schools which don’t have SPO staff yet.
Each day of the conference had morning prayer, daily mass, and personal prayer time to help us grow in our prayer life and prepare us for the school year. We spent the majority of the day in various talks divided into three tracks: mission, community, and holiness.
I jumped around between many of the sessions, and often continued discussing the ideas with new friends during our meal times.
I was thrilled to finally meet the students from Texas State University during SNE, and by the end of the week I was finally starting to remember all their names and faces. I spent a few of my free afternoons getting to know the women I’d be living with, and it was exciting to finally know a little bit of the community I would be jumping into in just a few short days.
It was an exhausting week coming right from a week of training, but I learned a lot, got to know my fellow missionaries and many of the students pretty well. I took full advantage of our free time to take some much needed naps, spend time with the students, and participate in the SPOlympics. We finished out the week with an unbelievable talent show, and parted ways to travel to our placements.