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!

A Week in the Life

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.

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The view from the top of Enchanted Rock

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

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Kayaking in Austin

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.

img_0254Tuesday 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.

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Hammocking in Pedernales Falls

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.

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Watching “Sully” together at the Drive-In

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

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Hanging out (literally) on campus

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!

Welcome Week

What’s maroon and gold and full of ridiculous amounts of fun? Bobcat Welcome Week! Or, more accurately, Bobcat Welcome TWO Weeks.


School officially started at Texas State University on August 29th, and I spent the following two weeks helping to prep and put on various events in order to meet as many new students as I could. The house I live in used to sit on the river before it was moved to it’s current location near campus, and so it’s built up on stilts. We usually park our cars underneath it, but for some of our welcome week events we moved the cars and set up events underneath. We had a party one night, complete with Bluebell ice cream, fancy lights, and two-stepping, and the next night hung up a giant sheet and watched a movie from our hammocks.  There’s also a river running through part of campus (I know, I was shocked too), and we invited some students to play sand volleyball with us in the nearby courts one night.

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Our big finale of events was a hog roast held out on the three-tiered deck behind the men’s house. We handed out over 1,000 flyers on campus, the men stayed up all night cooking the meat, and we made two huge crockpots of baked beans and 24+ pounds of coleslaw to feed around 200 people. It was chaotic and full of energy and new faces, but was a success!img_0357

Even though I was a pretty burnt out by the end of all
our events, I could already see the fruit of our hard work and planning. I had met a number of new girls, both freshmen and transfers, and was able to help them feel connected to the community. Many of them are away from home for the first time, and it was good to see them feeling right at home in our households. I spoke with one of the girls at the movie night, and she told me that this was the first time she’d really felt at home in a group of Catholics her age. It was so encouraging to be able to be a part of that for her!

Since then, I’ve had time to take a break and recharge. It’s been hard trying to adjust to a img_0379new place, new roommates, and a new work schedule all while trying to help others feel welcomed at comfortable at Texas State. Thankfully the people here are all unbelievably
wonderful, and have helped me feel very at home in San Marcos this last month. We’ve had some more relaxed get togethers and it’s been good to see the students I met during welcome week again. I went camping at Pedernales Falls State Park one weekend, kayaked through the skyscrapers in Austin, and climbed up and over Enchanted Rock.

I’ve been able to invite students into my daily routine, show them how to pray morning img_0288prayer, drive them home after a late night of movies and ice cream, or show them how to slack line when we’re hanging out on campus. It’s amazing how God can work through such simple things to make people feel like they belong. One of my favorite things so far has been inviting students looking for friends into our spontaneous adventures. It seems like such a simple thing to invite a freshman to a drive-in movie with us, or invite a girl to dinner at the house, but it’s in those moments that I can watch them relax, laugh, and feel at home away from home. It’s incredible to watch new friendships being built, and I’ve already seen how a few of the girls have been impacted in small ways just by experiencing how we live our lives in an SPO Household.