What is your current title and workplace?
This is my second year serving as a campus missionary with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
How did you get involved in this work, and did you see this as a pathway when you were in high school?
When I was in high school, some of my friends attended FOCUS’s national conference — SEEK — in Orlando our senior year, but I was unable to attend because I was committed to basketball practice over winter break. So when I went to college I was mildly familiar with FOCUS when I was introduced to the missionaries on campus at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. I really did not spend much time, nor did I actually know what it was that the missionaries did until my junior year of college when I started leading a Bible Study for the underclassmen in my sorority. Although I attended various events hosted by Nebraska’s FOCUS missionaries fairly consistently and led this Bible Study for my sorority sisters each week, I never felt much of a personal connection with the missionaries. At the beginning of my senior year, I met a missionary who was new to campus. She and I quickly bonded over our involvement in Greek life; our shared dedication to Greek life and our faith was the foundation for a wonderful friendship. It was through her friendship that I developed a daily prayer life and grew in a genuine desire to continue leading those in my life toward a personal relationship with Jesus by an encountering good, faithful Christian community. I expressed my desires to graduate from UNL and begin teaching in Lincoln, but she challenged me to pursue discomfort and consider serving far outside of my comfort zone and submitting an application to become a FOCUS missionary. Just her proposal caused me great discomfort! Honestly the thought had crossed my mind because others had planted the seed in the past, but I quickly unrooted and squashed that seed each time someone made mention of me being a missionary. However, after growing in great trust in Jesus throughout my senior year, I figured I would allow the seed to actually take root and open the door to the possibility of serving in a radical way as a FOCUS missionary following graduation. I experience great conversion and even greater trust in Jesus as I discerned this opportunity and gave my “YES” at the beginning of my final semester of college.
How does your faith play into your role?
My faith in Jesus Christ is present in all that I do as a FOCUS missionary. My days are rooted in prayer and the sacraments. I get to pray alone, with my fellow missionary teammates, and with the college students with whom I have been blessed to grow in relationship. I have the splendid opportunity to attend daily Mass in the beautiful St. John’s Catholic Newman Center on campus in Illinois. Without prayer, the sacraments, and Scripture, I would quickly lose my conviction of the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness of our Church and, therefore, fail to fulfill my role as a missionary. While I grow in the conviction that I play a vital role in the Body of Christ, fulfilling the mission of the Church, I also get to encounter the conviction of the students I serve — their conviction fuels me to continue to pursue Jesus and beg for greater trust in his will.
What do you see in college students that gives you more energy to continue the work, and what do you see college students struggle with in their faith journey?
Like I mentioned before, the conviction of faithful students fuels my own devotion and dedication to Jesus Christ and the Church. College is a launching pad for leadership. I am grateful for the willingness of the students I know to lead — or at least try! However, most students on a college campus do not think to pursue leadership within their faith, because faith quickly becomes a fleeting thought in college when students are inundated with busyness. Busyness is attractive to students because it keeps you going, allows to meet new people, make connections, try new things, etc. but without a greater purpose there is know true fulfillment to each of these things. Students struggle in their faith because they are exhausted by everything else they do — all these things are burdening them because they have lost their identity, lost their purpose. College students need to come to college knowing why their faith is worth pursuing, why the Church is worth being served, and why Jesus Christ genuinely desires each of them, individually.
How do you think this experience will impact you throughout your life?
Many ways! I have had to learn how to live and work with a team of very different individuals — thank God we are all rooted in One thing! Over these past two years, my teammates have taught me in countless ways. I have learned to approach difficult situations and tough conversations with great confidence and awareness of the need for charitable confrontation. I am daily stripped of my pride and forced to ask for humility. I desire authentic friendships — something our world is incredibly lacking — with those in my life; I have great gratitude for actually having the opportunity experience that authenticity in teammate and student relationships. But above all, I trust Jesus more today than I ever have before because I have personally witnessed his mercy and love with great clarity in the lives of those around me, most profoundly in the students that are committed to discipleship with Christ in his Church. He truly is the Author of Life and his will is done perfectly if we choose continuously choose him and his abundant grace.
When not working, what hobbies or activities do you enjoy doing?
There is a wonderful coffee shop in Monticello, Illinois where I love to escape for an afternoon. But when I do not have the time to escape to Monticello, I find the next best coffee shop around to share in the company of another. Catching up or getting to know someone new over a cup of coffee brings me great joy. My teammate and I — who is also from Nebraska — joke that our Nebraska roots have taught us to love just “shooting the breeze.” I also enjoy hosting others in my home for dinner or any sort of party, biking (and running when I am feeling committed), savoring wonderful ice cream, and catching up with friends and family back home.
What memories do you have of Pius X High School?
Although I did not recognize it at the time, Pius X established those initial roots in me to pursue my faith especially in a good and faithful community. The community of friends I was blessed to be a party of during high school set the bar high for my standard of friendship — these friends are wonderful friends who still to this day challenge me in my faith and support me as I serve these college students in Illinois. I am also so very grateful for the faithful truths that were both explicitly taught and also practiced by way of instruction and teacher-student relationships. My four years at Pius X are memory-filled, never to be diminished or forgotten — go Bolts!