Getting to Know Our Missionaries Better...
In March, the four of us missionaries had a chance to take a step back and refresh ourselves on who we are in the Eyes of God the Father through a retreat just for us. Our retreat leader took a completely new spin on the Parable of the Prodigal Son! We were each handed our own copy of Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and were led through it in the perspectives of the younger son, the elder son, and the father. It blew my mind and I highly recommend any of you reading this blog to check out the book! Through it, I learned that even though the elder son never physically left home, he spiritually “left home” in believing that his father favored his brother more than himself. The envy, anger, and sadness that resulted from this belief paved the road away from his father’s heart. I was reminded of the basic truths that I am good, lovable, and an heir to the Kingdom of heaven. You may think that as a missionary I had no need of being told these basic truths, but living a life of endless giving in the ministry field can make me forget Whose I am. The outward ministry flows from this Father/daughter relationship with God. I can’t give what I don’t have. And by March, all us missionaries needed a refuel of truth! What flowed from this retreat was a reset in team life, in personal prayer, and in service.
A couple weeks following the retreat, Ruby and Melanie led an event held for the girls who attended our weekly youth group called Fidelis, as Christian and I attended an Encounter Ministries conference. In the conference, I learned that even though I am a daughter of God, I am also considered a “son”. Why is this? Because only the son could inherit the father’s wealth in Biblical times. Through my baptism, I become a son of God because I am an heir of His! “Everything I have is yours,” God the Father says through the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:31. The son didn’t have to earn his inheritance. It was automatically his just for being born! And the same is true for me! I don’t have to earn God’s approval by working for Him. I already have His approval because I exist! And so do you! You already have God’s approval because you exist!
I have learned over the course of this year that my living in Bremerton was not just about doing but being-being with my teammates, being with the parishioners, and most importantly, being with Jesus. The keys to this year have been love and perseverance. And what better model of love and perseverance than Jesus carrying His cross to Calvary? Our greatest gift was given through the difficulty of the cross! And without the cross, we would not be celebrating the Easter season we are right now!
Happy Easter, sons of God!
“…you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are sons of God, and if sons, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”-Romans 8:16-17
Hello! It has been a long time since this blog has been active, but now that some transitions have been made, you will be hearing from me (Tessa) these next couple months.
Wow, what a year it has been so far! 8 months ago, 5 missionaries from the states of California, Washington, Texas, Illinois, and Nebraska arrived in Bremerton, WA to begin a year of service for Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church. By now, if you are reading this, you have probably checked out the page “Meet the Missionaries” and have learned a little bit about each of us. July and August were months to get acclimated to the area and soak up the sun before the clouds started rolling in to continually hover over Western Washington in the fall and winter! Each of us got to choose which ministry we wanted to be in charge of for the school year. Christian chose to lead the middle school youth group “Sparks”; Ruby chose to lead the high school youth group “Ignite”; and Melanie chose to lead the young adult program “Roots”. Last month, I finished leading the Confirmation program, and Patrick’s role was uniquely his as Hospitality Manager/Parish Special Operations.
In January, Patrick left us to serve with NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries. Along with Patrick leaving us, Sr. Maria Caeli (the former missionary program director) transitioned to full-time teaching at the parish elementary school. In her place is Gabby Herndon, a vibrant former Star missionary, who is making strides in revamping the missionary program.
In late-January, all 4 of us missionaries helped out at the annual confirmation retreat at a camp in the area. We had about 30 youth attending the retreat, not including a handful of peer leaders and small group leaders. All of us had been praying for good weather for the retreat, and that whole week the sun had been shining! It didn’t start to rain until the last retreatants had left the camp! At the retreat, there was a youth who was in the process of converting to Catholicism, and he was able to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time! The Confirmation ceremony was the first time he received Communion!
We celebrated the Confirmation Ceremony on February 20, with Archbishop Etienne presiding. It was a beautiful Mass with packed pews! All the missionaries were present at the ceremony, with one of us sponsoring one of the confirmation candidates.
I will keep you posted as the semester continues, but until then, God bless!
“Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’”-Matthew 28:18-20
A few weeks ago as I was walking up for Communion I found myself asking God the question, “When will I meet my future husband?” Somewhat typical of me to ask, but this time the question got a little deeper. My thought unfolded into, “How could any mortal man ever amount to the heroic, passionate, and unconditionally loving bar you have set for them?” I laughed as the thought began to settle within my heart, these poor men; they have no idea who they are competing against. Not to say it is a competition, but Jesus is the ultimate package. Who is the man who knows me through and through, even better than I know myself - Jesus. Who is the man who never tires of giving me second chances in the midst of my unending hiccups - Jesus. Who is the man who takes every opportunity within my day to speak to me, surprise me, woo me, and most importantly tell me he loves me - Jesus. Gosh darn it Jesus, you’re the best. You are so great, I get nervous you set my bar a little too high.
So the next question fights it’s way to the surface, “Are you calling me to yourself, do you want me to be your bride?” I mean it would make sense, you are the one constant in my life, you have never let me down, and you have been there for the darkest moments of my life - it was you who truly saved me and brought me back into union with your love. This thought soon was pushed aside by the classic, “but sweet Jesus, what about the babies? I love the babies. They are so cute and chubby. Little muffins.” Oh those babies are definitely one of the influencing reasons why I want to pursue the sacrament of marriage. What an honor it would be to serve the King as an educator, a bride, and a channel of God's love. What little warriors would be sent forth from our home. What a panic the devil would have. My babies. Mm.
Alas, this reroutes me back to my original thought-when will I meet my future husband? As I lifted my eyes, bowed before my Lord, and received Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, I felt as though the King himself had kissed my lips and smiled as if to say, “Just you wait.”
Oh, Lord, you know my heart. You see my thoughts from afar. Since I cannot at this moment find clarity in these answers, at least grant peace to my soul. Grant that I may not shy from the opportunities to grow into a faithful spouse, a loving mother, and a hopeful daughter. May my heart rest in your hands at all times and have mercy on me when I snatch it back and try to place it in the hands of another before it’s time. I trust in you, Jesus with my whole heart and I am most grateful for your love in return. St. Joseph, guardian of virgins, pray for us. Mother Mary most holy, keep my eyes on the King and pray I allow him to reveal what I need to know in his own time.
We all come to a point in our life where change lingers in the air and decision stops us abruptly. As many of you know I served with a mission program right after high school and had since then fell in love with the radical duties of a missionary. I got used to talking to strangers, praying in coffee shops, and sharing my testimony everywhere I went. Although I loved the life of spontaneity, I eventually heard the beckoning call to come home.
By December 2018 I was once again back in Illinois working full time and feeling caught in the mundane routine of the everyday. I began to feel as though mission was a mere memory and no longer a part of my life. I felt useless and as if I was disappointing the Lord since I was not doing anything more than cleaning bathrooms and checking guests into their rooms at the hotel. Amid my mundane year of work and rest I brought the following question to prayer: “who am I and where do I belong?” That tiny question begged so many possible answers. The most practical solution I decided upon though was simple: I am loved by a mighty merciful King who has deliberately chosen me to fulfill a part in His grand plan of eternity. He granted me a unique set of skills that are creative, curious, kind, and joyful. Skills that I am able use to help build up His kingdom.
As soon as this truth was re-revealed to me for the hundredth time, I decided yet again to challenge it and apply for a Missionary position in Bremerton, Washington. Here I am only two months later sitting in my new home with a great roomie/co-worker and have a sea (ha, I work at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish…get it ‘sea’) of parishioners who are doing everything they can to make us feel welcomed and loved. I trust the Lord is good. I know His teachings are sound. The time is now to “go and make disciples of all nations”. All those who have received the sending forth blessing at the end of mass are challenged to inhale the change being offered to them. If you desire to know your purpose in life and know where you belong, then seek the one who has given you a life that merits purpose and promises you a place to belong. No mission is to great for the Lord and no soul is to dirty while still on this earth to know and profess the love of Jesus.
I am a twenty-two-year-old woman who is in love with the church and its maker. No matter how many times I find myself in a time of desolation or trial or doubt, I can rest assured I, alike you, am being relentlessly pursued by the Lord of Lords. Take heart and know the Lords plans are for you and not against you. That you at your core are good and with the Lords mercy and grace: YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. Even become a missionary. Check out your local programs: attend a bible study, go to a youth group, join a choir, talk to someone who amazes you with their faith, and talk to Jesus.
Remember that sometimes making the decision is more difficult than making the change. Remember to decide before the opportunity slips through your fingers. Choose to trust. Choose freedom. Defy the decision and know “that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in His presence. Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.” Praise be to the King who has made our destiny secured.
Take Courage, Bethany.
We are wrong when we are bitter. We aren’t doing it right when complaining is easy to do. I’ve seen a pattern in my life. When I feel like whining and being mad about what happens to me, I have been listening to the voice of a lie: the voice of fear, telling me that following Christ means pain and suffering and things that I don’t want. The second we tune in to fear, we forget some very essential things: His way is GOOD. His way is TRUE. His way is FREE. Let me say that last one again: His way is FREE: “I will walk freely in an open space because I cherish Your precepts” – Psalm 119:45. I see the world and I see the problems of others and I see the turmoil in my own heart and I realize that we’re each, in our own ways, individually and collectively, running in circles started and maintained by fear. The start and the end to most seemingly unsolvable problems is fear. When you go to pray, take a look at the seemingly unsolvable problems in your life, and identify where the fear is in them. Is the fear coming from within you? Another? Many people? Society? Ask Jesus for the courage and the humility to guide you to stare at that thing that’s been weighing down on you. If it is unidentifiable, ask Him to help you identify it. He will. In His way and in His time.
When we listen and obey the voice of fear, we completely lose sight of what it means to live and follow the Lord. We should all be able to say with our whole hearts: “I delight to do Your will, O my God” – Psalm 40:8. To do the will of the Lord will indeed mean suffering, which, if it had no purpose, would be a very scary thing. But what we so easily forget is that our afflictions have infinite purpose because of the Cross. Let me repeat that: Our afflictions have been given never-ending purpose because of the Cross of Christ. No suffering, not even the slightest, need be in vain. Our Lord promises not only to take our every affliction upon Himself, but also to redeem it, to make it new! He promises to make it something beautiful, perfect, and better than what would have been had we never suffered at all. Sometimes we see that redemption right away, sometimes it takes years, and maybe sometimes, we will only see from the vantage point of Heaven. I must remind you and myself, then, to not be afraid of what it means to pick up your Cross. To say “I will pick up my Cross” is the same as to say “I choose life.”
Fear, by its very nature, will always remove hope and goodness from the equation of your life. But we must remember that fear is a lie. It will always blind. It will always paralyze. Now what’s the way out? Recognize fear. Call it by name. And do not listen to it. It comes straight from the enemy and it is aimed directly at your destruction. It’s all too easy to make an excuse to listen to fear. We tell ourselves something along the lines of, “It’s natural to be afraid,” or, “It’s too big for me to conquer,” or, “It’s an unavoidable fact of life.” Those excuses do not stand. Fear is very small and therefore must do all it can to make itself look big. It is avoidable, but will do all it can to make itself seem not so. When you hear the voice of fear, call it out and send it away in the name of Jesus. Call upon the Holy Spirit and He will come to your aid, every time. Jesus didn’t say “I have come that they might have life” because He thought it was a nice thing to say. He didn’t say it to give us false hope; He said it because it was TRUE. Every word that comes from the mouth of God is Truth “Since you, Lord God, are truly God and your words are truth and you have made this generous promise to your servant” – 2 Samuel 7:28. So, hear the words of the Lord in the worst of your sufferings, in the stickiest and most hopeless seeming situations:
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race”
-2 Timothy 4:7
Lent is hard. It is easy to fall into the mindset of just complaining about having to fast. But why are we fasting?
The Church didn’t decide that we all need to lose some weight as we head into Spring. We fast to join with Christ in preparation for the triduum. We are all called to fight the good fight, to finish the race. But how do we do that?
As said before, it is easy to fall into the temptation of complaining about Lent, and that temptation comes from the devil’s desire to pull us away from holiness. How should we fight the devil tempting us? Well look around you. These are your brothers and sisters in arms. We are told that where 2 or more are gathered, so too will God be there. When you are struggling, turn to those around you for that support and affirmation. They can lift you back up when you are weak.
There is nothing the devil hates more than to see you pray. And if you are praying for, and with, your brothers and sisters then the devil can hold no power over you.
Now fighting the good fight is only half of what we are addressing here. We can certainly start out strong in a fight, get in a few good punches, but what happens when we start to get tired? Are we just going to drop out and surrender? There are many things in living out the faith that are not easy, that will tire you, and make you want to surrender, but keep in mind the end of the race. When a runner is competing in a race, they don’t just stop halfway through because their muscles are sore. They push through the pain, because they know at the end of that race is something they desire. Whether an Olympian competing for gold, or someone who has been training to complete their first marathon, the end of the race holds a big accomplishment. And there is no greater race to run than that of our journey to heaven. So turn to your friends around you when your muscles burn, think of the glory at the end, fight the good fight, and complete the race.
Lent is just around the corner, and it is time to start thinking about what we are each going to be doing for it. Here are some ideas of what you can do for Lent this year!
1. No Caffeine
Before I moved to the Pacific Northwest I had only had 3 cups of coffee in my entire life. Since moving here I have drastically increased my intake of coffee. Even when I went home for Christmas, I still was weirding out my parents when I told them that I was going out to meet a friend for coffee.
Now coffee can be great. It serves as a nice thing to use for socializing, and it certainly can help a missionary wake up the next morning after a long day on retreat. But in Lent we can offer up that sacrifice and use it to grow. And we can use it to give back to our community as well by taking all that money that you would have spent on coffee, and donating it.
2. Fast – Every day is Ash Wednesday
Now before you all freak out and say I’m crazy for suggesting this, just remember, I’m trying to help you become a saint. St. Catherine of Siena lived off of only the Eucharist for the last few years of her life. She desired to receive nothing but Christ into her. I’m simply suggesting the possibility of keeping yourself from snacking, and limiting yourself to one large meal per day (though if you feel inspired by Catherine, then I certainly won’t stop you).
I really didn’t understand why we should fast for a good number of years, but then I realized how it truly can help with our faith. In fasting we are able to connect more directly with what Christ experienced. Any suffering of hunger can serve as a catalyst for our prayer, to give thanks for Christ’s gift of self to us.
3. No Meat – Every day is Friday
This is one that I have done in the past. After hearing a friend’s experience in it, I chose to give up all meat for Lent, and on Fridays I would eat only bread, and drink only water. This was my senior year of high school, and I wanted to do something that would be a real sacrifice for me. It wasn’t easy; especially when the rest of your family decides they want to have some juicy steaks for dinner, and you have to avoid them. The real graces that came from this were those conversations though. When you go out with friends and have to ask for a what meals don’t have meat, or even among the Catholic community just explaining what it is that you gave up for Lent. If you want to grow in your chance to evangelize to those around you, then I would highly recommend this.
4. Adding Time to Daily Prayer
Lent is often thought of as the time when Catholics will give something up, but it can also be a time to add things to grow in holiness. Something simple that we can do is add time to daily prayer. As a missionary, I have mass daily and a daily holy hour, but I certainly don’t have to limit myself to just that. If your prayer life currently consists of an hour a day, think about adding an extra 30 minutes. On the surface that may sound difficult, but really look at your days, and think about how much time we all spend on social media, or watching shows on Netflix. There is plenty of time in our days that we spend doing useless things, and just think how much stronger our relationships with Christ would be if we spent that time adding to our prayer.
5. Cold Showers
Oof! This one makes me cringe a little. I always start getting worried when the water is becoming lukewarm after awhile in the shower.
Cold showers sound terrible to the vast majority of us, but perhaps that is something that will help us to grow in holiness through sacrifice. As much as they may be unpleasant, a cold shower is sure to wake you up quickly. Instead of taking our time drudging around in the morning to get ready, we can start our morning off with a cold shower to kick start our day, and then take that time that we would still be getting ready to head off to daily mass in the morning, or even just spend some time doing a decade of the rosary before leaving for work or school. So as uncomfortable as cold showers may be, we can certainly use them to grow in our faith.
6. Silence – No Radio
This is what I will be doing for Lent this year. We spend so much time in trying to fill the silence, when we should truly be embracing it. How are we meant to hear God speak to us when we are blasting music in the car, or choose to go to fall asleep with a video or music playing. Trust me, I’m not saying it is bad to be joyful and go crazy with music in the car, or to have some time relaxing with some Netflix, but if we take that time to sit in silence and prayer, then we will develop a far stronger prayer life. When in the car I will choose to have the radio off for Lent. When I am driving alone, this time can be used for prayer, and when I am driving with other people, I will be able to grow in fellowship with them.
Is this a ploy to get more people to come help out with the youth programs? No, but if you aren’t sure where you can offer your time to volunteer, the missionaries certainly wouldn’t be opposed to having you come help out. Seriously though, if you want to do something great for Lent, consider adding time for volunteering. Giving back to the community and those in need is something that we as Christians are all called to do. Not to mention, I have always found myself so much more joyful after serving others, so it is a win win situation.
8. Random Acts of Kindness Each Day
Every day we are presented with many opportunities to perform an act of kindness for those around us. During Lent you may choose to search for those opportunities throughout your day, and act upon them. You can set a goal for how many people you wish to serve throughout the day, and let the Holy Spirit guide you in how to serve them. This is something great for those who struggle to be bold in their faith on a day to day basis. It serves to help build up that confidence to share your faith through how you live your life every day.
God has a plan for each of our lives, but He has also given us all the free will to choose the path we follow. Now sometimes His plan seems to just line up perfectly. You could fall in love with someone, discern the relationship, and get married. And those times are great, because when you feel in sync with God, nothing seems to be able to stop you. However, not every case flows so smoothly. Sometimes we hear God’s call to something radically different than what we had planned for our own lives, and that is where trust comes into play.
To give an example of this, I’ll use my own journey. When I first went off to college at the University of Florida (Go Gators), I started off studying Chemistry, on a pre-pharmacy track. In high school I had always enjoyed my advanced science and math courses, and figured that must be what I’m supposed to do. Turns out I hated it. The more I studied it, the less I wanted to do it. I simply felt obligated to because that is what I knew, and anything less just felt like I wouldn’t be living up to my potential.
I took this turmoil into prayer, and was met with even more of a call away from it. I didn’t understand; God had gifted me with a mind that grasped complex math and science with relative ease, but I kept hearing Him say that isn’t where He wanted me. With much reluctance, I began trying to discern where else He could be calling me, and started exploring in school and in work.
In my discernment, I discovered a love for speaking and writing. Mind you, I still took a job teaching math, but I knew that God wanted me to use these gifts for something. I started taking up leadership roles in campus ministry, and giving talks regularly. I looked forward to going out onto campus to go evangelize in the breezeway. I was excited when I got to talk to people, and even more so when it was about the faith. Looking back now, all of this makes sense as to how I’m called to serve as a missionary, but at the time I viewed it as just a fun thing to do.
This leads me to my main point. Evaluate what it is in your life that gives you joy. Stop reading this for a minute and just reflect upon the things you enjoy and are most free in doing. Got that in mind? Now evaluate what you are doing regularly in your life. If the two coincide with each other, then right there you are on track with God’s will! If not, think about why that’s the case. I know when I gave up my comfortable job teaching math to become a missionary I struggled a good bit. I was going from making a nice living, to trusting all my financial needs in God’s graces. More than halfway through my first year, I can now say that every obstacle that has been placed before me has simply been removed by God. He’ll use the generosity of others to help me through.
Trusting in God’s will is not easy. Sometimes we’ll go through loss of a loved one, or have to deal with an illness or injury that is out of our control. Sometimes he’ll call us to move across the country to serve in ministry. And sometimes His call is what we are already following. All of these cases though rely upon our trust that He desires for us what is best, and that we embrace His plan with joyful hearts.
“Those who know your name trust in you; you never forsake those who seek you, Lord.”
Whether an introvert or an extrovert, most of us hate sitting in silence. We’ll go out looking for others to talk with, or blast the radio when driving in the car alone. We just don’t want it to seem as if we are alone.
Now as an extrovert, who will walk outside to find someone to go talk to when I get bored, I am just as guilty of this. But it is really when I take this mentality into prayer that I hurt myself the most. There have been countless times I’ve gone into the church for a holy hour, only to spend the entire hour talking at God, as opposed to talking with God. Prayer is meant to be a conversation with God, not a monologue.
Now I know what you are saying, “It’s not like God will talk right back to me.” And you know what, you’re right, for the vast majority of us, we won’t hear God audibly speak while on earth. Perhaps you may be one of the future saints who will hear Him audibly speak, and to that I just want to ask if you could ask Him a few things for me, because I would love to get some clear answers.
So if God isn’t going to audibly speak to me, why should I sit in silence for a response in prayer? Well, while we may not hear that audible voice, He can still speak to us. In my own life, there was an occasion I was sitting down waiting for the Eucharist to process in at a FOCUS conference. I was feeling incredibly anxious, and I didn’t understand why. I decided to silence my heart to just prepare myself for Jesus, and as soon He processed in, I felt an overwhelming call to missionary life. It had been on my mind, but never in a way that I thought I should apply and then move across the country for a year, giving up my comfortable job. But I knew in that moment that God had something amazing planned for me with missionary work, and in trusting Him, I am now 3000 miles away from home, ministering to people every time I step outside.
Now that is my experience with silence, but not everyone will be struck with a sudden realization. Maybe you are already serving where God wants you, maybe you’re already following His plan for your life. In those cases you may just be given a gentle feeling of peace in the silence. When presented with a few options for a step in your life, bring the to God. Let Him reveal where He wants you through the peace He gives you with each option.
Now, we are still about a month away from the beginning of our Lenten season, but I wanted to get a head start on figuring out what it is that I should be sacrificing for Lent. I feel that to grow in holiness I can sacrifice my radio for Lent. Instead of blasting music in the car while driving, I can sit in the silence, take the time to pray, and to listen to God speak to me. So I want to challenge you to join me, and spend more time in the silence, so that you can hear God’s will in your own life.
We've been back in the swing of things for a few months now, and as Thanksgiving approaches we wanted to take this time to share what we are thankful for!
For starters, we are thankful for all of the youth, young adults, and families that we get to serve every day. It is truly a blessing to be surrounded by such a warm and welcoming community that is devoted towards growing closer to God each day. When most people outside of the Star community think of youth ministry, they see it as the first real introduction and encounter for teens. Here at Star, we have come to find how deep the knowledge of the faith and love for God is in the youth at Star of the Sea. It is incredible being given the opportunity to delve so much deeper, and have the ability to learn ourselves from those we are mentoring.
Now we wouldn't run the ministries we have without the generous servant hearts of our core teams. All the work they do, helping us plan events, leading small groups, giving talks at programs, and too many other tasks to begin to list, is what truly makes our programs great. These individuals give their time every week to help us serve the community, and each one of them brings their own unique gifts to the table, without which, the ministries would not be the same. So to all of our amazing volunteers, thank you.
And finally, we are thankful for being given this opportunity to serve the community. All those who have made it possible, and continue to make it possible, for us to serve as missionaries have blessed us with this wonderful opportunity. We could never have imagined all the graces that God has been able to pour out on us through serving as missionaries here at Star.
This Thanksgiving, we will be keeping you in prayer, and we hope that you are all able to celebrate this time with loving friends and family.
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